A Story to Tell

CowEncounter2

A few days ago, I was out walking in the morning. Mr. Whicker has bought the land on the back side of our neighborhood and has cleared out the brush, put up a wire fence, to make a lovely pasture (one of several he has on his land) for his cows. I’ve been visiting this back field all summer (a painting of the view here) to see if the cows have been allowed out to graze. This was the first day I’d ever seen them there.

The area surrounding the fence is overgrown with kudzu. Yuck! So I waded into the knee-high kudzu covered brush to get right up by the fence and take a few pics of the cows out in the field. All the while, I was hearing a munching, crunching sound over to the left not far from where I was standing. I did not see anything, so I didn’t pay much attention as I took pictures.

Then, I saw him. One ear, peeking around as he munched on the leaves and kudzu of a small tree only about 10 feet from where I was standing. I began clicking away, capturing the cow as he ate him morning meal. He did not see me for a while…and then…as it dawned on him that someone was standing there disturbing his breakfast reverie, his eye got bigger and he bolted! The sound of his huge girth pelting the ground as he ran away down the hill, is something I’ll not forget. He let out a howl and alerted another cow, apparently also enjoying a kudzu covered tree right next to him, whom I had not seen. The two of them dashed down the hill to join the others, all of them looking back at me, as if to see whether I would join the chase.

This is just one of many things I LOVE about living right next to a farm. Oh my…what stories I have to tell!! And I love to try telling them in my drawings and paintings.

ShyCow

I created a piece from one snap of my camera where he is still munching, oblivious to me. I am absolutely tee-totally having fun with watercolor and collage! Remember this one? Oh my…I feel a series coming on!

But what excites me even more is that I’m going back to Skool!!! Yes, folks, I’ve signed up to take a class, actually SIX of them, starting October 3rd!! I CAN’T WAIT! The same day this encounter with the cow happened, I saw THIS VIDEO on Danny Gregory’s blog about the upcoming semester of Sketchbook Skool…I drooled. Seriously.

Not only do I get to be taught by a couple of artists whom I have greatly esteemed for several years now, Veronica Lawlor and Melanie Reim, but I also get to have a day of sketching in Paris with a French artist, and of course, a class from Danny himself. All 6 of the teachers in this series are teaching about STORYTELLING, and oh boy am I excited about this!! The price for these classes seemed too good to pass up!

So be watching here, as I post my learnings, my homework, and whatever else gets stirred up as go back to Skool! I. CAN’T. WAIT.  Did I say that already? 😉

 

Let It Flow

FlowyWatercolor

Finally. I just received my copy of One Watercolor A Day in the mail! But I’ve only had time to read Veronica Lawlor‘s introduction. When I got to the words, “Let it flow…” I knew I was going to love this book! So after teaching yesterday and after dinner, I sat down to my drawing table with just watercolor. I didn’t have a plan or an idea. I just wanted to swoosh watercolor around on the page and let it flow. What ended up happening was a delightfully fun exercise in play I thought I’d share with you:

1. Choosing colors you like, literally swoosh the paint around, with an eye toward there being several boxes (or only a few!) on the page. Try not to have a pre-conceived notion of what it will be.

2. Make puddles, calligraphic marks and lines, some organic, some geometric. Allow colors to flow into one another.

3. Splatter colors all over the sections on your page. Not only will this add richness to the colors you have painted with, but it will also tie in colors from other “boxes”.

4. Let this dry completely.

I went to bed at this point, and woke up this morning to look at the random watercolors with a fresh eye. And then…

LetitFlowPage

5.  Look at each box. Really stare at it. What do you see? What colors/shapes suggest things to you? Do you “see” flowers? windows? doors? fences? people? landscapes? animals? imaginary things? or simply designs?

6.  Using a fine liner pen or other marker, add a few lines here and there to “clarify” what you see.

7.  Draw a box around it.

8.  Title it (if you want to:).

9. Sign it.

This could be a great warm-up exercise to your drawing/painting session, or something for those times when you’re too tired to concentrate on realistic drawing (as I was after a day of teaching). It only takes a few minutes. In fact, make yourself do the watercolor part very quickly. This will keep your brain from trying to “make something of it” and just let the watercolors flow, like Veronica says in her book. I’m looking forward to seeing what exercises they have for us to do in this book! I know it will be just as fun!!

Birches

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(22″x30″ watercolor, 1990? Birches on Granville Dr.)

For some strange reason, every autumn, my brain starts thinking in rhythm and rhyme. I pull out my well-loved copy of Robert Frost’s poetry and I’m dazzled by how beautifully he paints with words. We’ve had birch trees in the yards of both houses we’ve lived in. I love birch trees. And I love them even more because of this poem by Frost. Enjoy!

Birches

BY ROBERT FROST

When I see birches bend to left and right
Across the lines of straighter darker trees,
I like to think some boy’s been swinging them.
But swinging doesn’t bend them down to stay
As ice-storms do. Often you must have seen them
Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning
After a rain. They click upon themselves
As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored
As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel.
Soon the sun’s warmth makes them shed crystal shells
Shattering and avalanching on the snow-crust—
Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away
You’d think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.
They are dragged to the withered bracken by the load,
And they seem not to break; though once they are bowed
So low for long, they never right themselves:
You may see their trunks arching in the woods
Years afterwards, trailing their leaves on the ground
Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair
Before them over their heads to dry in the sun.
But I was going to say when Truth broke in
With all her matter-of-fact about the ice-storm
I should prefer to have some boy bend them
As he went out and in to fetch the cows—
Some boy too far from town to learn baseball,
Whose only play was what he found himself,
Summer or winter, and could play alone.
One by one he subdued his father’s trees
By riding them down over and over again
Until he took the stiffness out of them,
And not one but hung limp, not one was left
For him to conquer. He learned all there was
To learn about not launching out too soon
And so not carrying the tree away
Clear to the ground. He always kept his poise
To the top branches, climbing carefully
With the same pains you use to fill a cup
Up to the brim, and even above the brim.
Then he flung outward, feet first, with a swish,
Kicking his way down through the air to the ground.
So was I once myself a swinger of birches.
And so I dream of going back to be.
It’s when I’m weary of considerations,
And life is too much like a pathless wood
Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs
Broken across it, and one eye is weeping
From a twig’s having lashed across it open.
I’d like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.
May no fate willfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return. Earth’s the right place for love:
I don’t know where it’s likely to go better.
I’d like to go by climbing a birch tree,
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
But dipped its top and set me down again.
That would be good both going and coming back.
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.

Source: The Poetry of Robert Frost (1969)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA(from an older sketchbook of the birches in our back yard here in Kernersville)

Awesome Quotes

BigPlanter

A favorite artist of mine, Ian Sideaway, posted on his blog a couple of terrific quotes by other all-time favorite artists of mine:

“I cannot rest, I must draw, however poor the result,
and when I have a bad time come over me
it is a stronger desire than ever.”
(Beatrix Potter)

I so identify with Potter’s statement. As this week and weekend are packed with so  many wonderful things, I find myself wanting to draw more and more and more. The above drawing was made a few weeks ago at the Ciener Botanical Gardens and I am planning on being there tomorrow morning! I know I will be tempted to back out and do some of the many things I need to do to be ready for the Craft and Artistry Bazaar on Saturday. But I “need” to draw even more than all those things … to reset my heart’s rhythm to an even pace, hopping off the whirling  merry-go-round to drink in Beauty with the straw of my pen. Yes. Ms. Potter had it right.

“Drawing is the artists most direct and spontaneous expression,
a species of writing: it reveals, better than does painting, his true personality.”
(Edgar Degas)

Oh, how true this is! I agree with it 150%. Long before I kept a sketchbook of drawings from my life, I always loved my sketchbook for the spontaneous, unfinished drawings that were merely a stepping stone for “proper paintings.”  I have also loved the sketches and drawings of famous artists more than their finished paintings. Degas’ quote is why. If you ever have a chance to look at a book of Andrew Wyeth’s paintings, take special note of his sketches and drawings of Christina’s World. They are so moving and achingly beautiful. I would almost say I prefer them to the finished painting … they record the first blush inspiration, the imprint of a human hand, and the decision making he went through in composing the painting.

And you would do well to look at, study, and enjoy the drawings of Ian Sideaway. Wow, that guy can draw! Love, love his line work.

A beautiful day to all my dear readers, near and far!

 

Deux Collages

TulipCollage

My mom and I have been drooling over Mark Hearld’s work for several months now. Definitely check out this video of him…it is delightful! I think I got his book back in early February and have attempted some collage works based loosely on how Mark Hearld works.

I love the fact that all the images in his work is taken from his growing up years on a little farm in England. He has loved nature all of his life and this shows in the wonderfully whimsical collage/paintings he creates. Much of his work is a lovely layering of a watercolor painting with collaged papers on top. He even incorporates his lithography work.  Many of the collaged papers have been previously painted and then cut up into the shapes he wants.  I was trying more of that in the collage below.

RosesCollage

This collage was made a few months back, whereas the first collage (tulips) was made just last week. I’ve discovered that I’m an impatient collager.:)  I really don’t enjoy spending time painting the papers I’m going to collage with…I’d just prefer to use all kinds of papers as they are, whether decorative or “junk”, cut ’em up and glue ’em down! Of course, I love the watercoloring bit.

The first collage has been added to  my ETSY Shoppe for sale! (***As of this very afternoon, this collage has already SOLD! My. Thank you so very much!)  Also in the Shoppe is a recent watercolor, titled Tulip Dance, which you can see in this post here.  The same day I offered this painting, I also offered Purple Tulips, in this blog post, but it was scooped up pretty quick.  I’ll try to alert you when I’m adding artwork to the Shoppe as soon as I can. Thank you, thank you, for your interest and purchases!

Perhaps you’d like to try your hand at collaging like this. Here’s a step-by-step suggestion for you:

1. Swoosh some watercolors around on a fresh page, not mingling the color too much, but allowing them to oozle and wazzle with each other. (These are highly technical art terms, you  know!;)  A floral piece works well with this, since the somewhat random watercolors suggest foliage and flowers in the background!

2.  Cut shapes of found and purchased papers to suit what your subject is.  Vary tones of one color, or choose different colors… it’s fun to explore lots of approaches to this.  Maybe you would like to paint or draw on the pieces of paper before cutting them.

3.  Glue them down according to your idea and vision.

4.  Take other media, such as oil pastels, watercolor crayons, markers, pens, soft pastels to add any flourishes or designs to your collaged piece.

Et Voila! Enjoy!

**Oh, and one more thing…would you like to see the photo I worked from to create the first collage?? Here it is. See if you can find the 2 tulips I looked at while assembling their shapes. 🙂

IMG_0455

“The Fringes of a Dress…”

PurpleTulips

Where Dwellest Thou?

O what is it that wanders in the wind?
And what is it that whispers in the wood?
What is the river singing to the sun?
Why this vague pain in every charmed sense,
This yearning, keen suspense?
 
Often I’ve seen a garment floating by,
fringe of it only; golden brown as it lay
On the ripe grasses, fern-green on the ferns,
And in the wood, like bluebells’ misty blue
Whitened with mountain dew.
 
I laid me low among the mountain grass;
I laid me low among the river fern;
I hid me in the wood and tried to hold
The lovely wonder of it as it passed,
And tried to hold it fast.
 
It slipped like sunshine through my eager hands;
See, they are dusted as with pollen dust,
Soft dust of gold, and soft the sense of touch,
Soft as the south wind’s sea-blown evening kiss;
But I have only this…
 
This dust of vanished gold upon my hands,
This breath of wind blowing upon my hair,
Stirring of something near, so near, but far,
Glimm’ring through color’s fleeting preciousness–
The fringes of a dress.
 
O Wearer of that garment, of its hem,
Hardly perceived, can thrill us, what must Thou,
Its Weaver and its Wearer, be to see?
Master, where dwellest Thou? O tell me now,
Where dwellest Thou?
 
The grasses turned their golden heads away,
And shyer and more wistful stood the ferns;
The little flowers looked up with puzzled eyes;
Only the river, who is all my own,
Left me not quite alone…
 
But mixed his music with my human cry,
Till somewhere from the half-withdrawing wood
Sounds of familiar footsteps: Is it Thou?
Master, where dwellest Thou? O speak to me.
And He said, “Come and see.
 
-Amy Carmichael
from a collection of her poetry titled, Toward Jerusalem.
 
**May you enjoy this poem today and walk through the day’s moments with an awareness that they are but fringes of His dress.  

Responding to Rutenberg: Drawing vs. Painting

ID #110

“Moments”

Brian Rutenberg, in his Studio Visit #18 , quotes a German artist, Walter Sickert, who said, “Drawing is about captivity. Painting is about freedom.”  This one little quote has stuck with me and caused all kinds of back & forth in my brain as I consider what’s being said here. I don’t think Rutenberg is in any way pitting the one against the other to somehow say that one is better than another.  He is merely putting forth a fundamental difference in the ACTION of or the RESULT of drawing & that of painting.

He says, “I’m really invested in that notion of capturing something and using that as a springboard into the process of abstraction.”

I love that.  Brian calls himself a Painter.  Every time I hear him say that, I find myself wanting to say…”And I am a Drawer.”  Which doesn’t mean that I do not paint…I do and love to paint! But fundamentally I love to capture the Beauty of the world around me whether it be recognizable things, places, people, or events which are inherently lovely OR whether it is something I’ve had to hunt for in the midst of the mundane in life, or even in the painful places of life.  I feel it is my job to look for and capture any hint of Beauty by drawing it in my sketchbook or on larger pieces of paper or canvases.

I absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE Brian Rutenberg’s drawings of trees (you can see a few of them in the documentaries).  They are exquisite.  I have done a fair amount of drawing/painting trees and they are some of my favorite works.  As I look at his “drawings” of trees, they seem very painterly to me.  This distinction between what is considered “drawing” and what is considered “painting” is not a black and white issue to me.  I believe one can paint with a pen, a pencil, and with charcoal…mediums that are typically associated with drawing.  And I believe one can draw with watercolor, acrylics, and oils…definitely paint substances.  Is it merely the presence of line which marks a drawing?  Is it the evidence of brushstrokes which denotes a painting? Or is it a massed-in approach (blocking in the large shapes before the smaller ones) which deems a work a painting?  Or…what?  I’ve settled on it being a fuzzy area and which really doesn’t need to be defined.

But if I go with Sickert’s definition here, I have to say that I am definitely a DRAWER.  My eyes are constantly on the lookout for things/people/events/places that I want to capture in my sketchbook or larger papers or canvases.  Yet even Sickert’s definition may be fluid.  As I capture these moments by drawing them, I experience a sense of freedom.  As if, the simple act of drawing (or painting:) sets me free to say “yes” to the moment, to accept where I am, and to fully inhabit the gamut of life’s beauties.

So…was I drawing or painting the first image?  How ’bout the tree…did I draw it or paint it?  It really doesn’t matter.  I was definitely capturing something, whether it was an idea about the tangle of creative thoughts or an assertion of the wisdom and experience of an old tree.  In capturing these, I was also freeing them to exist somewhere other than in that space and time AND freeing me to embrace all the wonder that life has to offer.  I do enjoy thinking about these things.  It seems that Mr. Rutenberg does also.

Thank you, once again, Brian.

And here’s a quote by Edgar Degas I came across recently…good stuff to think about:

“Drawing is the artist’s most direct and spontaneous expression, a species of writing: it reveals, better than does painting, his true personality.”
(Edgar Degas)

Encouragement from Across the Ages

I came across this quote on Ian Sideaway’s fabulous drawing blog:

“Do not fail as you go on to draw something every day, for no matter how little it is, it will be well worthwhile, and it will do you a world of good.”
(Cennino Cennini)

In case you do not know who Cennino Cennini is (like me), click here to familiarize yourself with this artist from the 14th-15th centuries.  It is incredibly amazing to me that we live in a world where the voices of artists who have gone before can still be heard.

I am also encouraged by knowing and drawing with artists who have been at it for years longer than I have.  My friend Susette (drawn above and here: second drawing; and here: second drawing again) is just such a person whose life-long love of and commitment to drawing has continued to inspire many in our area to draw together.  I first joined up with the Drawing Circle she started years ago in Winston-Salem.  I had two young children then and it was my getaway day on Saturdays to draw with them in the morning.  Sometimes I brought my kids for us all to draw.  Many of these artists still have their drawings of my kids and of my third child, when she was born and brought in her car carrier to Drawing Circle.  Susette has now begun another group on Tuesdays where I’ve been drawing at Barnhill’s Bookstore.  I’ve loved reconnecting with her and the folks who draw on Tuesdays.

Encouragement to draw can be gleaned from so many inspiring people!

A Must Share!

Something about my little beach drawrings made me think of Maurice Prendergast, an artist I’ve admired for years.  This was only after the fact, not something I was aware of while drawing at the beach.  But it made me google him and read more about him as an artist when I found THIS!

You simply must download this for yourself! You’ll love it! A peek into one of his very own sketchbooks, circa 1920-23.

Prendergast-Sketchbook

Responding to Rutenberg: Limitations

ID#102

In Brian Rutenberg’s Studio Visit #16, he begins the talk recounting some casual banter between friends over dinner one evening.  The subject was “limitations”, which he says “Every artist has” and that he is continually inventorying his. I nearly fell out of my chair when I heard him say this, wondering what, if any, limitations to being the artist he wants to be, he might have.

It was incredibly encouraging to hear an artist of his stature speak of limitations.  Though his list of limitations has largely to do with ways in which he would like to expand artistically, I nevertheless found it amazing that he often goes through the ways in which he feels limited and yet finds a sense of “spaciousness and comfort” there.

What I find myself listing as limitations in my art is largely in the categories of station in life (ie. motherhood), resources, and opportunities (living in a small town as opposed to an art mecca such as NY).  Nevertheless, I was encouraged and inspired by Brian to think of these boundaries or limitations as places where I actually can find freedom and “permission”.

He says, “Because perhaps it’s the intensification, the concentration of those limits, that give our work its truth and its humanity and its vigor…and content.  It’s that continual longing to break from those inescapable things, those limits, to get better, that I’ll never be good enough, that it’s the longing to get better, the longing to speak more clearly, more directly, with less, that keeps me going.  It’s very comforting, these notions.”

Wow.

To say that his words were encouraging would fall short of the affirmation I received on hearing that all artists struggle with, or are at least cognizant of, limitations. And then, to be inspired to think of these limitations as places of “spaciousness, comfort, and permission” is something I’m carrying with me every day as I go about all the motherly and household duties, as I go about teaching art to young children, and the myriad of other things that seem to come between me and being the artist I long to be.  He goes on to say:

“So for me it’s not the question, “Are there limitations?” The question for me is, ‘Do I inhabit my limitations?’ And I think that’s the really important point: one must utterly inhabit their work.”

These final words on this subject were incredibly centering for me.  I now have this wonderful call to INHABIT my limitations each and every day.  To embrace them, and to create works in my sketchbook that continue to grow out of those limitations.  I may not be working on huge canvases and exhibiting them in galleries and shows, but I have the same call to create art and I must inhabit the life I have in order to create works which contain even a grain of “truth, humanity, vigor and content”.

Thank you Brian Rutenberg.