I was on an amble on Franklin Street in Astoria, Oregon last weekend when I came upon this remarkable rock wall below a Victorian home. Little pink flowers were growing from the cracks of the stones of the wall. Had I been in a rush, I would have failed to notice this striking little art gallery. Here are a few examples of natures hand on a city side street.
in cracks of cold stone
Last week I had the honor of reading my prose piece, “TheOrchard by My House is Gone” at the book release celebration of Paper Gardens the annual literary journal of Yamhill County, Oregon. I was joined by other local authors that had their work published along with family members and members of the community. The most memorable part of the evening was when adults shared the stage with writers of all ages including those as young as second grade. We were all writers in different stages of our journeys who took the risk to submit our work to be judged and perhaps rejected.
A close friend asked to see my entry and I emailed it to her. She read it and then responded that how much she appreciated me sharing my work with her. Doing so gave her a window into my life and how I view the world. She remarked in her email that a long-ago friend was a painter but would not allow anyone else to view her work and that “would potentially impact the way she felt about her art.” I also have an acquaintance that ceased painting her stunning watercolors as she never sold them at the one event where she exhibited. Paintings are especially challenging to sell as it’s not only if a person likes the piece, it has to fit and match one’s décor.
I find both these situations very sad. We are always under the scrutiny of others- the way we think, dress, or otherwise live our lives. I don’t make art for economic gain anymore. What is imperative is that my creativity provides a spark to my life, joy in the process of its creation, and serves as an avenue for self-expression. There lies the attitude of non-attachment. There will be some that don’t care for what I write or create, yet there will be others who resonate with it. It’s not a deal-breaker as I am out to please myself. It is the nature of bringing creation to the world to see. If I am pleased with my work and it is well-executed, that is enough. It’s like hiking. I go out and have a beautiful day among nature and if I see wildlife, so much the better.
I recently divorced Instagram. This last year or so was the big social media Instagram experiment. Almost everyday I posted the off-the-cuff doodles I draw on the right side of my day planner under my tag @almostdailydoodle (still there!) The upside is that it makes a tidy little record of my innocuous art online. The downside is how much time Instagram was sucking from my life with all the posting, checking, liking. I thought I was above all that- I guess not.
Doodling is my morning creativity workout. It has become my main art form as of late, downshifting from ceramics and printmaking. It is fun to show my art now and again so I thought I would post them here occaisionally and see how it goes in a blog format.
Every now again, one of my doodles becomes the star of a greeting card- or even a zine. I’ve been making my own cards for years now and have found an amazing amount of material by mining my sketchbooks or my doodle journal. Animals, especially cats, are prime subjects but then I’ve also focused on teapots and Isosceles triangles. Anything can be copy in the right context.
Lately, a series of valentines morphed from my sketchbook. I decided to sell them to help fund the native plant garden that I just started in my yard. I took a design from my sketchbook, copied, cleaned it up, photographed it, put it into my graphics program, and then printed them four per sheet of paper. From there I cut them out and glued them onto good quality kraft paper card stock.
See them or even buy them on my Etsy site. You might be too late for next year (even though I can put a note from you inside and send them on) or be uber prepared for next year!
My only big regret in life is that I didn’t take the time to document my experiences more. I’ve kept a journal on and off since I was 16, which is admiral, but I wish I had expanded my entries to snippets of sensory experience and fascinations other than just emotional spew. But, in my defense, I was a teenager and I avoided language arts classes finding them tedious.
Looking back even recording one thing that made my day would have been such a precious collection to look back on. No one told me then that those little vignettes from my life in Alaska, raising my son, and those hilarious “kids say the darndest things” moments teaching 6th-grade science would be so longed for. Of course, I have hundreds of photos but without some words as accompaniment, they are incomplete memories. I was always too busy, thinking I would remember everything. Then “poof” those clear memories vanish like steam. The same goes with some solution to a nagging problem or those creative inspirations I get as I drift off to sleep.
I enjoy working with clay bodies other than white (see my post The Color of Clay). In my work, mostly sculptural, glaze functions as an embellishment rather than the main attraction. This comes from my aesthetic and my dislike of the glazing process! I find the contrast between the glazed and the unglazed piece quite interesting, especially with a toasty or reddish clay. Two years ago I started working with this black (actually a deep chocolate brown toned) clay body.
Clay gets its color from certain minerals and pigments. Iron oxide is what makes terra cotta clay red. In the case of black clay, the color is from burnt umber. It is a pigment in short supply these days so a bag of clay will cost you a few dollars more. Any highly-pigmented clay is messy to work with and this is like working with black mud. Wearing a good apron is key. Regardless, the end result of this clay is worth it.
Two years ago I started a daily doodle practice after challenging myself to do something artful every day. I’ve written about this before on this blog but I thought it worthy to bring around again being the New Year .
I decided about the only thing I could successfully commit to doodle in the 2” square of my day planner since it wasn’t being utilized for anything else. The ground rules I made- use pen, no erasing, no self-criticism, go back over it later and add to it if you want. Be spontaneous and just see what comes up. Often I only see the merits of an entry until I let it sit for a day or weeks later. Sometimes I take the previous day’s idea and make a different version of it.
This is the painting I wake up to in the morning and go to bed to at night. It brings me a sense of peace and order when I look at it.
Why did I paint this?
The migration of birds fascinates me: What inspires them to leave? How do they navigate their journey? How can their tiny bodies withstand travel of thousands of miles of such rigorous travel? Then there’s nature- always an inspiration.
In this painting with a base of sponged, brushed, and stenciled acrylic on a 12 x 12” dimensional artboard, we look down on a flight of white birds over forest. Stenciled ferns are below the abstracted trees. The symbol of a river is collaged on the upper left quadrant and the collaged 4 negative triangles in the lower left quadrant symbolize direction. Most of my collage papers are made up of “failed prints.”I bless my failures as they never fail to add the perfect touch elsewhere. Rain is represented in the upper right quadrant by stamping a painted piece of corrugated cardboard.
To add a little sparkle I added a bit of gold leaf at the top. A stamped Asian symbol on the lower right quadrant adds a zen quality to the piece.
I took a larger cradled artboard, flipped it over, and painted it black. Then I mounted the painting inside of it to add a dimensional frame. This is an intuitive painting meaning I paint by what inspiration shows up at the time. The color palette was inspired by another artist’s work and then I tweaked it to make it my own.
Even when I can’t travel, I look at this painting and I can go somewhere else. I’m so glad no one purchased this at my last studio sale. It is called Spring Migration.
I confessed that I had a burning desire to be excellent, but no faith that I could be”.
Martha said to me, very quietly: “There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. As for you, Agnes, you have so far used about one-third of your talent.”
“But,” I said, “when I see my work I take for granted what other people value in it. I see only its ineptitude, inorganic flaws, and crudities. I am not pleased or satisfied.”