Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Happy Cactus

This painting is going as slow as... wait for it.... watching paint dry.  However, it's not boring to paint!  I am having great fun with it. Now and then.  Getting a chance to work out here in the studio has been tough lately.  However, this school year will be over soon and hopefully I will have some time of my own again.  Soon.  Really.  This is how we keep ourself motived around here.
A few petals and fruits at a time and this will eventually get done  

Adding the marker lines has turned this into a no-pressure, bright and happy project.  Just what the Dr. ordered.  Between a nasty pink eye episode, tending grandkids while their mom had surgery and getting all of the student work fired, glazed, fired and kept track of I am running around like a brainless idiot.  An I-wander-around-looking-for-things-I've-just-put-down-and-find-they-are-still-in-my-hand sort of idiot.  But, it will end.  I will emerge intact.  Slightly more wrinkled and grey-haired, but still here.  Okay, more than slightly, but none the less, you get what I mean.  Right?

Thanks for stopping by! Alice

Monday, April 25, 2016

A Stereotypical Puzzle

Have you seen the little "Homies" action figures?  My daughter found a bunch at a thrift store recently, bought them and gave them to me.  I am fascinated and charmed and repelled by them all at once.  For some reason, I keep getting them out and looking at each one and giving them names of my own choosing.  Of course I decided to look them up and see what's behind their creation and how people feel about them.  What a variety of opinions I found! One either sees them as promoting gang violence and lifestyles or celebrating the diversity among latin communities.

Homies, Mijos and Homie's bobble heads
Creator David Gonzales first dreamed his characters up as cartoons.  Published in Lowrider Magazine, the cartoon characters soon became little action figures.  Created at a 1/32 scale, Gonzales claims they are meant to take Latin American stereotypes and claim them for Latinos in a humorous way.  Controversial among anti-gang activists and the law enforcement sector, the figures are selling like hotcakes amongst urban latinos, particularly kids.  Gonzales creates profiles for each character showing how appearances are sometimes deceiving, like the figure representing a former gang member turned highly-educated youth counselor.  Asian and African American figures are also included in the collections.

The distinct personalities are fascinating to me

Gonzales has created an anglo set of characters called Trailer Trash and is in the process of making an Italian family of figures as well.  What all of these characters have in common is- each in some way echo cultural or racial stereotypes.  In an ultra politically correct society, this is a bold thing to do to my way of thinking.  I am not typically interested in art that makes political or social statements, but these have caught my imagination.  Maybe this is because so many of these figures look like students I love.  Will they be limited in their lives because of the cultural stereotypes they may have accepted about themselves?  Can they gently laugh at and claim this culture and move in other circles as well without losing their familial ties?  For that matter, can those who may identify with the "trailer trash" figures?  I'd be interested in your thoughts.  If you want to weigh in but for some reason can't comment, send an email to and I will include it for you.  I could use some other thoughts on these as I work to understand my reactions.

Thanks for stopping by! Alice

Friday, April 22, 2016

The Soldier

Son, Parker Webb has finished his semester with this project. He took a sculpture class for fun and relief from his other classes. Good grief, what the boy could do if he ever took this seriously. 

The personality of this guy tickles me. As Parker worked through his semester, sculpture class gave him a place to express himself. And he came up with something wonderful. 

Thanks for stopping by- Alice

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Get Big Magic

Part of pulling myself out of the stupid-fog I've been walking around in lately was coming across a good book. As I posted before, I have been reading a lot lately, but this has been by far the most helpful thing I've found. Written by Elizabeth Gilbert, "Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear" seems to have been written just for me in just this moment. Elizabeth, if you somehow ever see this post, thank you. I needed to read what you had to say. 
Creativity is a joyful and wonderful expression of our inner selves until it's not. All of us hit those low spots once in awhile. Even if you're not in one, there is so much in this book for you, too. This is thought food. Some of it funny, some of it provoking, this challenged and intrigued me out of my funk. Here are some quotes from Gilbert that I've been working over in my mind:

When we feel stumped and out of ideas- " Go walk the dog, go pick up every bit of trash on the street outside your home, go walk the dog again, go bake a peach cobbler, go paint some pebbles with brightly colored nail polish and put them in a pile. You might think it's procrastination, but- with the right intention- it isn't, it's motion. And any  motion whatsoever beats inertia, because inspiration will always be drawn to motion."

She talks about passion, about curiosity, failure, attaching a monetary value to the worth of our creativity and so many more issues humans tend to have as they develop the creativity within. 

Sometimes I get too serious about it all. Here's a reminder I needed, "Pure creativity is magnificent expressly because it is the opposite of everything else in life that's essential or inescapable (food, shelter, medicine, rule of law, social order, community and familial responsibility, sickness, loss, death, taxes, etc.) Pure creativity is something better than a necessity; it's a gift. It's the frosting. Our creativity is a wild and unexpected bonus from the universe. It's as if all our Gods and angels gathered together and said, "It's tough down there as a human being, we know. Here have some delights."

Oh!  Well!  Okay then, I will!  With gladness and relief. If you need a good read this weekend, I'd suggest you try this one out. It's delightful. 

Thanks for stopping by! Alice

Monday, April 18, 2016

Black Velvet Striper- A Real Workhorse

Paintbrushes are some of my favorite luxuries.  You don't have to spend a fortune on the very best sable to get great brushes, either.  For watercolor, some of the best brushes around are made by Silver Brush in their Black Velvet line and they're not high priced.  You can see more about their brushes HERE.
A stock photo from Dick Blick art supply shows the great shape

When I was painting the bare mesquite branches in my recent painting, "Dusk Falls On Buckhorn," I fell in love all over again with my 1/4" striper.  Just for fun after work today, I filled the belly of the brush with pthalo blue paint and began a line on a piece of printer paper just to see how long it would hold out.  As you can see from the photo, you can get a lot of line with one dip.
A continuous line made from one dip into blue; this brush is a great pal to have in brush can

I know I sound like a commercial.  Oh well- I was so glad someone told me about these brushes when I began to get serious about painting so am passing it along to you.  If you have already discovered these treasures, I'm sure you can attest to their quality.  Happy painting!

Thanks for stopping by- Alice

Saturday, April 16, 2016

A Cactus Teaser

One of our grand-daughters, at the ripe old age of 5, was telling us about kindergarten.  She said it was, "Bo-wing, bo-wing, bo-wing, blah, blah blah."  She'd already learned all that stuff at home and had gone there with the idea that she was going to learn about cool stuff, like blood and guts.  While I felt bad for a teacher who had to meet such grand expectations, it was funny and hard not to laugh.
Underpainting in watercolor, then adding line work for visual interest- well, that's the official version.  It's just plain fun, that's the true story.  

Today, though, I realized the same thing has been keeping me from working on the latest cactus piece.  It was boring- the thrill of seeing how far I could take it was gone and it was just a chore to finish- like laundry.  I hated to throw it out or hide it away to nag at me with its unfinished-ness, but I wasn't doing a great job of it.  Besides, that paper cost a fortune; who pays $20.00 for a sheet of paper, anyway?  Then, I spotted my markers and decided to go for it.  Why not?  Well, why not indeed!  It's my paper, my painting and only has to make me happy.  So, here's a teaser of what I'm playing at.  If I ever finish the enormous thing, I'll share it with you.  In the meantime, there is some serious fun happening here.

Thanks for stopping by! Alice

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Dusk Falls on Buckhorn

This little painting has been keeping the flow of progress blocked in my studio for weeks now.  Tonight I decided I had to do something about it.  So, I did.  And now it's done and I can take it off of the watercolor block and move on.  What a relief.
Dusk Fall on Buckhorn
Watercolor on 300lb. Arches
12" x 16"

The color palette I chose for it was not my favorite, but probably would be fun to work with if I weren't such a control freak.  However, I am.  Too bad I'm not this uptight in my every day life; I'd have a much cleaner house.  However, I'm not (and that's a relief)!!

Thanks for stopping by- Alice

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Mrs. Webb Learns Pottery. Sort of.

All of this school year I have had the knowledge that I'd need to teach clay to my students at some point bugging me like an itch.  The kiln has been lurking in a back room under a layer of dust, mouse droppings and black widow cobwebs the whole time- mocking me.  It's not like I live where I can bring in a local expert to teach me and/or the kids, either.  This is a you're-on-your-own-lady sort of problem.  Well, not completely, my husband has been encouraging me and looking things up for me.  Bless the man.
Today I had a spare hour and tried the wheel again.  It's a kick wheel and every attempt had failed till today.    

It took me years to get brave enough to learn to use a pressure cooker.  I am a confirmed coward, see? If it can blow up, you can count me out.  I'll be outside quavering.  And I had to figure out a great big scary kiln.  What if I ruined all the kids hard work?  What if I burn the school down?  (Okay, that thought wasn't entirely unpleasant) However, the thought of getting electrocuted was also hovering there. 

After it dried out a bit I decided it needed decorated. It may look childish, but let me tell you, this silly little thing is a major victory.

Finally, I dragged the boxes of clay out from under my desk and showed them to the kids.  I confessed that we'd be learning this thing together.  It might work and it might not.  They weren't even fazed. "Let's do this thing, what are you being such a chicken about, Mrs. Webb" was their attitude.  So we did.We learned to wedge our clay.  We learned pinch pots, then coiled ones and some of them even made art pieces.  Then the dreaded day came when it was time to fire the green ware. See how I just use these clay terms off like I know something?  Yeah, that's me.  A clay teacher. No big deal.
A pinch pot, an insignificant thing to be so much fun
Except it was.  I loaded the kiln between running into the other room to read another web page about firing for complete idiots.  And then turned the thing on with my eyes closed.  And it turned on!  It hadn't even occurred to me the dang thing might not even work.  Thankfully, it it did.  And does.

All of our glazes are total mysteries as we have no charts and most of them are no longer made.  This one sounded so pretty on the label.  LOL, It looks like I painted it with poo...
In fact, I'm writing this from my classroom because we are on our third, yes you read that right, third firing so far.  And so far, the school is still standing and I am, as you can see, alive and kicking. And I'm learning to use clay. The first things I made are simple and pretty juvenile, but I'm getting better at it. And I absolutely love it.  Who knew?  The coward triumphs!

Thanks for stopping by- Alice

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Function Has Beauty, Too

A few weeks ago, I wrote about a tiny house we bought to fix up.  You can see the post HERE.  It's time for the first update on progress.   The little house is starting to breathe on its own again.  
The living room was only 9 feet wide so the wall between a third bedroom and the living room was removed to make a more useable space.
I love watching my husband take something that appears worthless and coax it back to a useful, beautiful life. It is his art; where he best expresses what he believes and who he is.  
The arch theme will be repeated throughout the house, giving a graceful line to punctuate the rooms with.
Sometimes, Tom says, function has a beauty of its own.  Form is not the only indication of creativity.  Being what one was created to be, and in the case of this house- a home, projects a spirit of calm and peace to the user.  Then, adding beauty of form to the function only increases its ability to do the job.  

The dining room and doorway into the kitchen, before...
Making a useful space where before was only chaos is highly satisfying.  While he loves a vacant lot and a pile of materials, he is at his best when helping a wrecked house rise again.  I love this quality of his.  It is the poetic side of him made visible.  

The dining room and kitchen doorway now.  Same space, better flavor.  

He could just slap some paint on it and replace doors and windows, but then the little house couldn't speak as well to you when you came inside- offering shelter and protection and grace.  Are we overly sentimental?  Some might say so, endowing a pile of wood and glass with a life force of its own.  However, I side with Frank Lloyd Wright when he said, "Buildings, too are children of earth and sun." Although a humble little house, this one deserves to fill the measure of its creation.  And it will.

Thanks for stopping by! Alice  

I'm Still Here, El Guapo!

This title is one of our favorite lines from a Webb family movie favorite, "The Three Amigos."  One of the silliest movies ever filmed, it made our kids fall all over the place laughing. The line is one the bad guy's sidekick, Jefe, says just before he goes down. The kids still quote it, even though they are grown.
Like Jefe, I'm still here!  I hope for longer than he was...  I've decided I'm going to survive.  You know, I don't get overwhelmed very often, but when I do, I do a great job of it.  This past couple of months have been pretty heavy.  That's all part of life, though, isn't it?  Everyone goes through ups and downs.  The important part is working through the downer parts back to the good times.  Reading, praying, looking at the work of others- all seem to have helped.  I'm starting to wander back out here to the studio with curiosity again.  I imagine I'll be picking my brushes back up any minute now.  I can feel it stirring, and it feels like.... well, it feels like spring!

Thanks for stopping by- Alice

Friday, April 1, 2016

It's Silly, But...

This week I made two examples of work I was introducing to my students.  I have to admit, I had a great time doing these pieces.  It felt like play, and handling the materials was fun and lighthearted.
Pastel on black construction paper, 18" x 24" 

An idea I saw on Pinterest, this bird was a big hit with the second grade.  The kids were delighted to think that art could be funny.  Their versions are fabulous.

Neither project matters a fig in the grand scheme of things, but working on them gave my heart a real lift.  I'll file them away for next year and move on to the next idea next week, but they both helped me feel the joy making things should bring.  And that does matter.

Thanks for stopping by! Alice