Friday, December 19, 2008

It will be a white holiday...

Well, I have a couple of new paintings I wanted to post, but the light has been too poor to take decent pics today (I always use natural light). Today, instead, I decided to post a few photos of what it looks like here.

Right now we are getting yet another snowstorm, expected to go on through the weekend. It is beautiful out there, and though it means that yet again the townplow will block me in, this time I am ready. Yesterday I did marathon shopping-- groceries to last well into the new year, plus everything for our traditional Christmas Eve dinner.

So no need to go out, except to the barn for firewood. That's the way I like it. Maybe tomorrow I will hike to the Nature Preserve and go snowshoeing. Take my sketchbook and maybe some pastels.

I took the first photo last year on a bright day, but otherwise this is pretty much what the front of my barn looks like right now. Except that last year I didn't have a woodstove, so there isn't a path crunched through from the house to the barn.

A peek out my dining room window at the 20 foot tall lilac bush that all but obscures the view (of a neighbor's house) during the summer. In this photo, most of the branches are outlined with snow, creating a second layer of lace on the other side of the lace curtain: double tracery. I love the almost ethereal look it gives.

In my living room. I have the drapes and blinds drawn to help keep the heat in: it is dang cold out there! I had the woodstove put in early this fall, and it is wonderful to sit in front of it on days like this. Mona the Magnificent is in her personal spot behind the stove. She has abandoned my lap as the preferred source of heat.

I have a loaf of bread baking. Fresh bread with soup for supper, on a snowy evening, in front of a woodfire. Mmmmm. What could be more perfect?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Summer Squall

oil on linen panel
12x9 in (30x23 cm)

I've been oil painting for at least several hours almost every day recently, experimenting with color mixing on and off the canvas, brushwork, and learning learning learning. A lot of what I paint gets wiped off, and then I try something else. Others get set aside, perhaps to work on later. I'm not sure I've painted anything I feel like framing yet: a lot feels like exercises. But some appeal to me.

A lot of the time I just choose a color scheme and then think in terms of how to compose those colors, and how to use my brushes for different effects. That's how basic I am right now. I like to paint real things as abstraction shapes, with just enough to suggest what they are, so when the design triggers a memory, I let it happen.

That is what happened here. As I merged the yellow and blues, I began to re-experience a remarkable afternoon I once spent on Puget Sound in my kayak. When I dropped my kayak in the water, the day was calm and sunny with a light breeze. I paddled out to the end of the inlet, and began crossing the channel toward Squaxin Island. Abruptly the breeze turned into a sharp wind from my back, the sky turned black, and the water turned into a heavy chop. Water was sheeting off my paddles-- never a good sign.

And suddenly I found myself caught in 12 foot swells. I needed to turn so that I was headed into the wind-- otherwise I was in danger of being swamped by the wind and the deepening swells, which were just starting to break at the crests. There was another danger too: as the swells lifted me, I could see the rocky shore of the island not far ahead, and could see the water breaking over them. I needed to turn NOW!

As the next swell rose behind me, I had my paddle up and ready, hoping to time a deep starboard thrust so that my kayak would turn at the crest, and I would slide down the back of the swell bow first. If I failed, I could be caught sideways as the swell went down, which would almost certainly swamp me. Though I wore a drysuit and flotation device, there would be no way to upright my boat in that water, and I would have to do an underwater exit. If I lost the kayak, I'd be at the water's mercy.

Geez, that sounds melodramatic now, but the fact is that people die every year on Puget Sound in less extreme conditions. Let it be known that this squall came out of the blue: no one expected it. I would not normally have ever gone out if there were even the suggestion of something like this.

Somehow I managed to make that turn, a perfect 180 degree swivel as the crest lifted my boat so that only the midsection was on the water. If I'd been an onlooker, it would have been a thing of beauty. As I was not an onlooker, it was simply a big release of fear.

With the boat facing into the wind, all I could think was "Keep paddling. Paddle as hard as you can." I was so focused I have only dim memories of the sound of the wind. I was barely holding position: as I rose to each crest, I could see a small point on the island just in my peripheral vision, in the same place on my right. There was a fishing boat tossing at anchor in the lee of the tiny cove it formed. The sight of that boat somehow reassured me: I just hoped the pilot was aware of me, too, in case I capsized.

Then suddenly I was making headway. The wind abated, the swells turned first into a heavy chop, and then back into a light chop. I kept paddling until I reached the middle of the channel, where the water was beginning to return to the smoothness it had had, and the grey of the sky lightened. Then I turned to see what in the world I had just been through.

Over the island there was a squall cloud, black below, highlighted gold above by the mid-afternoon sun. It was headed north, with an edge of wind-pushed drenching rain that obscured all but the shore I'd just left. Lightening bolts darted from point to point around the edge of the cloud. It was beautiful, but intimidating. I sat, my paddle at ease across my bow, feeling stunned and awed, realizing that I'd just passed through that. And knew how lucky I was, both to have made it, and to have witnessed it.

Then I got a gift. As I turned again and headed toward my inlet, a patch of sunlight broke through just to one side of me. A pod of dahl's porpoises broke through the surface of the water, and danced through it, leaping almost as if they'd choreographed the whole event. I laughed with delight. They circled my kayak, gave another leap in the sun, and went on their way.

By the time I reached the opening to my inlet, the sun lit up everything again. I turned to look at the island one more time, but the squall had passed on, and the water was flat and calm all across the channel. I waved at the fishing boat as it chugged up the channel, but I doubt he could see me.

So that is where this painting took me, or I took this painting as it evoked the memory of that day. The moment that emerged is just when the wind had begun to pick up, with the edge of rain approaching, the chop beginning to form into swells, and that strange yellow light that precedes these kinds of storms.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


oil on linen panel
12x9 in

NOTE: see Feb. 9th posting for revised version of this painting.

For the time being, I have set my pastels aside (for the most part--my love of them won't let me stay too far away). I'd started noodling around seriously with my oil paints, trying to get a feel for them. It felt like a battle. Painting is usually almost a meditation for me, but this was a struggle. Dozens of unfinished or unsatisfying paintings, on heavy watercolor paper, hardboard, even linen. Most of the ones on paper I not-so-cheerfully put in the trash. Most of the board and linen will eventually be repainted in one way or another. But I was baffled about how to deal with my frustration.

I finally decided to just give myself a no guilt break from it. No sketching, no peeking at supplies online, nothing. For weeks, I read book after book, novels, history, biographies-- but no art. I wrote friends, and talked to them on the phone. I got reacquainted with all the shops downtown (but stayed out of the galleries).

In the midst of this, I attended the art show and film event I talked about in my last post. It was a marvelous success. I was so impressed with all the work that the organizer, Linda Marcille ( put into pulling it together. I ended up staying over, tucked into the corner of a suite with several other Lyme folks, talking into the night.

The next morning, with the entire day in front of me, the weather good, I decided to drive across the southern Vermont mountains to the Clark Institute in Williamsburg, MA. A special hanging of paintings from their collection by John Singer Sargeant and Winslow Homer had been held over, and I wanted to see the paintings while they were together.

Layered paint. Colors built up through glazing and blended, scumbled. Color mixed on the canvas. Texture suggested. Up close, the appearance of meaningless brushstrokes. Step back and it all pulled together into a whole. Oooooh. Representation and abstraction both. Not really impressionism, something beyond it. I was entranced. That's why I've been struggling! I need to learn how to do that with oils. It's one of the things I love about pastels. In this case it wasn't a matter of seeing, of visualization, but one of not having the technique I needed to make it work in oils.

When I was studying painting in school (a very long time ago), the rage was color field/hard edges, and a kind of brittle hyper realism that. did. not. appeal. to. me. period. Little instruction available for oils--everything was acrylics, which would not do what I wanted. That's when I shifted to doing 3 dimensional stuff and meandering around writing poetry and essays. I'd never had the chance to learn how mix colors on the canvas, though I understood the technical stuff. Time to put the two together.

Play time. Rules: Subject doesn't matter (paint whatever pops into your head). Don't get overly picky about details. Or fuss about composition. The only thing that matters right now is finding out how pigment bound with oil behaves, and learning to control it so it evokes my subject. Oh, whew. It's fun again. And I'm stepping back even from my failures with a sense of accomplishment, because I am learning something, and I know where I am going now.

The little scene above is several attempts into my exploration, and the first that I'm willing to expose to public view, mundane as the subject is. For the record: I used ultramarine blue, azo yellow, quinacridone red, and titanium white. That's it. And more brushes than I needed probably, but what the heck. I didn't have to keep wiping them, at least. It was done alla prima, and took 4 hours. Oh, yeah, there was the spatula with which I removed sections to repaint....

The subject? My memory of standing atop one of the parallel ridglines of the western mountains, looking across a mist-filled valley between. That mist means there is a lake or a good-sized river in that valley. I know this without even being able to see it. My next painting like this is likely to lean a bit more to the abstract side. One thing at a time.

PS: That lumpy thing at the middle top? That's the edge of the canvas holder that I forgot to move out of the way. Please ignore it. This is the only photo that didn't come out with too-much fresh-paint glare. I'll take another one when it congeals a little more.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

What It Feels Like

"This is What It Feels Like"
Fused glass mounted on resin-treated barnboard, old nails added
(glass: 5x6.5 in; overall dimensions about 8x14 in)

Trying to get some things ready for exhibit and catch up on everything else all at once-- and naturally I am way behind. This is a piece I should have shipped out Friday at the latest. The silicone I used to mount the glass is still not cured (it is supposed to take 24 hours; 48 and counting....*). I hope I'm not too late too late to make the exhibit. Nonetheless, the mount came out pretty much as I'd hoped. The final touch will be the wire on the back so it can hang on the wall (it is propped here).

The glass piece grew out of my need to express what it felt like when I was sickest with Lyme disease. I created that part a couple of years ago, when I was just starting to do art again after over 16 years. I am mounting it for an art exhibit in association with a showing of the film "Under Our Skin", a documentary about people whose Lyme disease went overlooked or who were denied appropriate treatment, and the devastating effect that had on their lives. I hope I manage to get this piece there in time to be included because that is what happened to me.

The barnboard had to be stabelized with resin because it was falling apart: a metaphor for what happened to my life before I was finally diagnosed and treated, and started putting my life back together. And then got it again. Oh, well. I am almost back.

Watch those ticks, and do regular tick checks. I am serious.

Now back to the framing room to finish getting a couple of paintings ready for the gallery...

* PS: Which law is that, the one that says when you are up against a deadline, something will go wrong? The silicone (premier brand) proved to be defective and never set! Late Sunday, I scraped it off, cleaned the back of the glass, and used a different silicone compound, which I had sitting in my house repair drawer. By Monday morning, it had set up nicely and the piece is ready to ship. I notified the show organizer and she is holding a prime spot for me. Though the show opens today, the reception is Friday, and it will be in place. Yay!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Day before leaf-fall

soft pastel on sanded matboard, 5x7 in. (13x17 cm)

A challenge in pastels: blue, red, yellow, and any two sticks of your choosing. Instead of painting from one of the photos provided, I decided to paint a simple plein air of the view across the street. I wanted to catch the glow from the late afternoon light. I picked out the pastel sticks quickly so that I wouldn't lose the light, and inadvertantly picked out only one extra, a pale grey, so this was actually done with only four sticks of color. I held the piece of matboard in my hand, and worked quickly before the light faded-- about 15 minutes, with a little touchup the next day.

This was quite fun. And I like this little piece. I'll do more of them. And try more challenges like this.

And yes, the leaves began falling the next day, which was yesterday. My daughter and I stacked my firewood in a glory of falling leaves. By afternoon, the ground was red and orange.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Horse, # 48

Soft pastel on archival paper, 14x18 in (26x46 cm)

A brief explanation: my computer crashed. Right after I fell and badly sprained my ankle. I am just now getting all my software and stuff working and organized. It wasn't quite as high a priority as catching up on all the things needing done before winter once I got back on my feet. So that's where I've been.

While laid up (with my ankle in an air cast and elevated-- no standing at easels), I kept my sketchbooks handy and drew randomly, mostly in charcoal or soft graphite broad pencil. I drew memories, odds and ends around the house, and sometimes, images that crept out of my dreams.

I had been repeatedly dreaming (and still am) variations of a big-boned, muscled filly, many times with the sensation of being astride her. Rarely any but partial images: muscled haunches, tail flaring, the curve of her neck as she heaved upward, a flank, hooves pushing against dust-roiled earth, odor of equine sweat and dust. I felt compelled to capture the intensity of these images, and drew them again and again. I wanted to get out to one of the stables nearby to study and draw horses, but was unable to. I looked up pictures of horses and studied them to learn more about horse anatomy (not having been a horsie girl in my youth). I wanted to capture the sense of mass and movement and struggle that feature so strongly in my dreams. I am gradually getting there.

I've lost count of how many sketches I've made. She started coming together about a dozen sketches ago. I'm still working on her. The composition I have in mind of the final painting is quite different, more dynamic, but first I needed to see her whole, welcome her into my consciousness. For in some way, she is me.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

So where was I?

I've got to change the header on this blog. "Day by day" works for living, but I sure haven't applied it to my postings. So what have I been doing?

Well... recovering from Lyme disease, for one. I've had it for years, do pretty well most of the time. I do routine tick checks because I am PARANOID about them. Last fall, duh, guess I missed a tick and got a whole new Lyme infection. Babesiosis too, which I did NOT have before. So there went a couple of months while I went through the early stages of treatment (I'm not done yet). Never stopped sketching, but for a while some days that was all I could do.

In case Babesiosis as much a mystery to you as it is to most folks, it's caused by an amoebic parasite that is carried by the same black-legged ticks that carry Lyme. It's a lot like malaria, though the two aren't related. Aren't you glad you know? You should be, 'cause you could be next. Be careful out there, and do those tick checks!

Okay, once I started feeling better, I became a delegate to my state's Democratic convention, and since I seem to be stuck living where I am instead of moving back west, I infiltrated the local planning commission. Got a batch of paintings ready for the gallery spring changeover and a couple more for the Vermont Pastel Society member show. Did a radio interview with a clueless producer and host. Hate those.

Then the weather hit. This is Vermont, not Georgia. Why are we having 90 degree weather with humidity to match and nights that don't cool off in early June? Oh, yeah... global climate change. And to think some people still think it isn't happening. Go figure. They do NOT live on the same planet as the rest of us.

But today was lovely, and my flowers are blooming. Tomorrow will be even more lovely, and I can finally get some work done in my vegie garden.

I did do some pastel work while I was under the weather (in both senses of the phrase). No, not work: playful experimentation. I thought I'd share a couple here. You'll have to scroll down, because I'm going to date them the days I did them. But to make up for all these words with no pictures, I'll stick in a couple photos of my lovely flowers.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Imaging Chelan

pastel on archival paper, pumice ground
38x51 cm (15x20 in)
Lake Chelan is a narrow 50 mile long lake mysteriously located in the desert mountains of Central Washington. Oh, sure, geologists have figured out why it's there, but that doesn't change the mystery of experiencing it. The place is stunning, and changes character with the seasons and the time of day. It is only partly accessible by road, and the far reaches can be reached only by boat in the summer. It is one of the most beautiful places on earth. This painting is far from a literal rendering. It is my imagining of the lake from a memory of a long ago kayak trip, nearing sunset.

(Note: this painting was difficult to photograph and to color correct for the screen. It looks a bit garish here. I'll try again later and see if the subleties of the color can be brought out better. Addendum, Feb. 3, 2009: in addition, I've since worked more on this painting, so it looks quite different.)

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Cobbled together old house

pastel on achival paper, sanded surface
30x30 cm (12x12 in)

This is my "cobbled-together-old-house", pretty much as it is in real life, but taken down to its most basic form, as if filtered through memory. Perhaps my granddaughter might hold a mind's image like this of grammy's house when she is my age. I carry one of my grandmother's house in the foothills of southern Oregon. The image in my mind is like the one shown in pictures of the house, but with layers of memory that create an entire complex lens through which I see it, and gardens and fields around it.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Ebb at the Flats

pastel on sanded hot press
10x8 in (15.5x20 cm)

There is a memory here: a child poking around in the exposed flats, looking for special treasures. Happy birthday to my youngest daughter, no longer a small child, but a grownup, still with a sense of wonder and exploration. Thank you for all the delight you have brought to my life. I love you.

After a month of doing mostly other things, like knocking crumbling plaster off walls and finishing up matting and framing for a show, I really needed to get my hands dusty with pastel again. Something immensely satisfying about painting with pastels. So last week I did several, and thought I'd post this one here.

When I know a place as intimately as I know this one, I have a tendency to put in too many details as the place comes back to me. Then I take out what I need to in order to convey the essence of the place. I spent a lot of time here when I lived on Puget Sound: one of the many places where streams ease their way into the Sound, creating rich estuarine flats where shellfish thrive.

In the flats, on calm days when there is no wind to disturb the surface, you can see the bottom as clearly as if through glass. As the tide ebbs, water level simply drops, the only apparent flowing where water drains off exposed slopes. But if you look under the surface at the channel, you can see the patterns where water is flowing out, bending seaweed and moving particles of sand.

And out on the open Sound, as the currents from the various convoluted inlets gain force, they collide, creating debris lines and sometimes raising ridges as high as a couple of feet. Sometimes you see sea lions and kayakers playing there.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Playing around again...

Early Spring Bog Meadow
oil on linen panel, 9x12 in (23x30.5 cm)

So... it's been a whole month since I posted. What in the world have I been doing all that time, anyway?

Well, here's part of it. (Get ready, I'm about to embark on another story...)

I love doing landscapes. I paint from photos only if it is a photo I have taken, of someplace I know and have a feel for, because photos simply don't capture that. I like to paint from life. So I decided I wanted to start doing plein air someplace other than my back deck. I'm not particularly enamored of hauling pastels around, and the more I hung out around plein air folks, the more I admired what they could do with oils. Now, I haven't painted with oils in a very very very long time. I quit using them because of an extreme sensitivity to either turps or mineral oil, or both.

But as I listened and read, I realized that neither of those are really necessary. Finally, I took the plunge, and along with a small plein air easel, I ordered some basic oil painting supplies, some canvas panels, and selected a limited palette of colors to work with.

Colors! Brushes! The day they arrived was so exciting-- until I realized that I had not the slightest idea what to do. Oops. I had to relearn mixing colors, how different brushes work, oh, my gosh, where do I start? I don't even know how to start a painting anymore!

Calm down. At the beginning. Play. First, make color charts. One for each color, so eight charts, each with 40 squares. Well, for some reason, the first one had 56 squares; I'm not sure why. After that I decided squarish blobs were perfectly adequate and a lot less bother. More fun, too.

Believe it or not, color swatches are fun. No pressure, just color, and good practice wielding the palette knife (with an occasional oops). You can make messes and not worry a lot about outcomes other than color. (Except it helps to develop a methodical approach, for reasons that may become clearer below.)

Watching the magic of colors changing each other, new colors emerging. A feeling of accomplishment from entering the results in my studio journal. And then scraping up all the goop left after doing a chart and seeing what kind of mud color I got from it. Using it to tone one of my panels and setting it aside to dry. Cleaning the palette and starting a new chart.

This painting came after my second chart. This was the chart with yellow as the base color, Um, I had a lot of extra paint left over. Way too much to just tone a panel. I didn't realize how far Azo yellow could go. So I made this painting, using a photo of an early spring bog meadow at the base of a hillside as a reference. I chose that photo because, frankly, it was a scene I could do with what was on my palette! My personal challenge was to use up that paint and then quit. So I tended to work pretty much all over the canvas, and at the very end, used my palette knife to add foreground detail in the winter-ravaged rushes, leaving the background hillside kind of vague.

I think I only broke one major compositional "rule", too. Well, two. I doubt Edgar Payne will roll over in his grave over it, though. After all, it is only my first oil painting since most people on earth have been alive. It's here so I can come back in two years and say, "Oh, wow, I've come a long way since then."

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Teetering on the Brink

Kiln-worked glass, 7x10 in unmounted
1/4 to 3/8 thickness

Actually, I've been catching up on this weeks' posts all at one go. All week, I've been busy painting, shoveling snow (my PT released me for heavy duty as long as I don't overdo), and trying to figure out which frames to order for which paintings. Oh, yeah, and doing glass.

I have a few small sheets of System 96 glass and some boxes of scrap left over, so I decided to use them up before I start using the boxes of Bullseye I've got waiting for me. They are not compatible for kiln work, so using up the 96 will prevent confusion and ruined pieces. Nothing against 96, I just got a great deal on a load of Bullseye-- and the colors are... mmm.... mmmm.

I decided to use the 96 to make a series of small panels to mount either on a backing for the wall, or set into bases as small scultural pieces. This one is on the whimsical side, and it was a lot of fun to do. Using my scrap box, I cut many small pieces and fit them together in a playful way. Here it is assembled in the kiln for the first firing:

Yeah, all those little pieces are a bear to deal with. There are two layers, some overlapping, some stacked, some little teeny weeny strips layed side by side. I laid it up on a thin piece of clear acrylic, used thinned tack glue to hold it more or less together until I could slide it off onto the kiln shelf. Unfortunately, the design of my kiln does not allow me to simply set the shelf straight down in place, or I'd simply build my designs on the shelf. (I really really want a bigger kiln to play with.)

I programmed the kiln for a tack firing, which would allow the pieces to fuse and the edges to soften, but still retain their shape and texture. The firing took about 13 hours, and then a few more for cool down. I program the kiln to shut off when it drops to 300 degrees and let it cool naturally to room temperature. If I start by noon, it is off by the time I go to bed, and cool by morning, ready for another load.

For the second firing, I added some elements to the base as embellishment and to fill in some bare spots. The second firing is the same as the first, but with a longer hold time as it enters the anneal phase, because it is now thicker in some spots than others.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Jagged Edges: City Sketch

Pastels on Tiziano with pumice ground added
30x23 cm (12x9 in)

This is another piece of the Tiziano. Happy with the first firing of the glass piece (you'll see that tomorrow, after it comes out of the kiln for the second time), I approached the paper with a feeling of adventure. I've had images of downtown Portland, Oregon, where I used to live, moving around in my head for some time. I decided to do a freewheel sketch with the bright colors of the Nupastels to see if I could capture a little of that feeling of city movement and light and energy. Whatever it is, it was fun to do. Makes me remember the fun of being young and involved in a city full of lively art.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Island Eclipse

Pastels on Tiziano with pumice ground added
30x23 cm (9x12 in)

Remember that oversize piece of blue Tiziano I was supposed to be doing something with? It turned out to be the wrong background for what it was intended for, so I brushed off the pastels and used something else. It's just been sitting around here, bugging the devil out of me. So the other day I used alcohol to set the base, and cut it up into smaller pieces. One of those pieces went through several iterations, leaving me with massive frustration and an even odder looking foundation after all those brushings off of pastel dust. Now, I know the reason I am struggling is because something is trying to emerge, and I just am not there yet.

Trying hard to ignore the paper, I got the first stage of a glass piece ready for the kiln, and set it cooking. Then I couldn't avoid the paper. I just got my new set of Nupastels, and decided to use the darn paper just to experiment with them. Looking at the outlines of what went before, I turned the paper on its side and started laying in blocks. Guess I was influenced by the lunar eclipse, and thinking of how pretty it might have looked over Puget Sound from one of the islands, because that is what eventually emerged. Not the direction I feel myself moving in, but it has a certain appeal. And it got that piece of paper off my easel.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Vermont Geology

Float glass, 5.75x9 in, unmounted

This piece came out of the kiln this morning. Looking for a background to photograph it against that would show up the texture, I found that an earth color worked best. It gave me an idea for mounting it- on a piece of weathered or stained wood. I'll see if I can find the right piece of wood for it.

In the meantime, going nuts looking at frames for my next batch of paintings to go to galleries. I'm still using narrow black gallery frames, but I want to use a wider frame with a little more elegance for some of my paintings. Oh, the choices! Oh, the torture! Oh, the expense! And what color???

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Slightly Strange Orange, a sketch

pastels on Canson Mi-Teintes yellow
5x6 in (10 minute sketch)

I get it now! Okay, so the shadow isn't quite right, but that's beside the point. I can fix that.

Frustrated with false starts and pieces that just didn't work, I took a break and read, cooked, and baked for three days (very good thing to do anyway with the chilly weather we've been having). Then, trying to get myself back in art frame of mind, I started organizing and cleaning up my studio area. I came across a couple of little "how-to" books for beginners that had come with a lot of pastels I'd bought from someone who had decided they weren't her medium. I'd just tossed them into a pile of miscellaneous odds and ends.

As I leafed through the little books, I recognized many of the exercises as things I'd done a loooong time ago learning the basics of art. You know what? They were fun things to do. And random play is exactly the kind of thing to get the juices going.

Also in that pile of stuff was a pad of Canson Mi-Tientes pastel paper that I'd tried and hadn't liked. At all. Yes, it comes in wonderful colors, and I admire what some artists are able to do on it, but I could never make it work for me. So, because I figured I'd never use it for anything serious, I decided it could be my sacrificial lamb to play on. Got out some of my harder pastels, and set to.

Well... I surprised myself. Playing away, not thinking about the outcome, just seeing what happened when I followed this or that exercise... and I suddenly understood what makes Mi-Tientes work. I fell in love with it. Not for replacing my other papers and surfaces, but for itself, because it has a quality of its own that works with certain kinds of techniques and styles. None of the exercises I did produced a piece of art I'd frame and hang-- but it taught me some things that had eluded me before, and got the dust back on my fingers. I think I'll be exploring Mi-Tientes more. I'm so tickled that I decided to post the breakthrough orange, even if it's kind odd looking and the shadow is off!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

February Pasture

soft pastel on hotpress, pumice ground added
41x32 cm (16x12.5 in)

Last Saturday, anticipating the series of storms headed our way, I drove to the food coop about 16 miles away to stock up. I like to drive back roads whenever possible to enjoy the scenery without the distraction of traffic. It was about mid-afternoon, and the first of the storms was moving in as I passed through an area of open farmland along the top of a ridge. This scene caught my eye and captured me. Oh, I wished I had thought to bring my camera and sketchpad with me! I was too task oriented when I left, I guess.

At home, I thought about how I wanted to capture the impression it made on me. Next morning, I painted this. It is more complex than it seems. This is one I'll frame for the gallery. (Some paintings are destined for the grey box in the closet.)

Painting and kiln-working glass make a good combination. They feed each other without either getting in the way of the other. This seems to be true for many kiln-workers. And it gives us something to do while waiting for the kiln to do whatever it is going to do (opening the kiln often reveals surprise results). I had set up another small experimental composition of float glass and put it in the kiln just before I began this painting. Now I have another painting to frame, and -maybe - another glass work to mount.

I need to set up a photo booth so I can take presentable pictures of my glass. Stuff is notoriously difficult to photograph.

Saturday, February 2, 2008


My first commission... sort of. I asked my granddaughter what she would like me to paint for her as a gift for her eighth birthday. "A painting of my cat!" Aha. No surprise. So here is Sophie, matted and framed, held by my granddaughter for the camera on the grand day:

soft pastel on hotpress, unmatted image 20x20 cm (8x8 in)

And to share with you the occasion itself, here is a photo of Keely blowing out the special candles her daddy bought to go on the cake her mama made and decorated:

Keely, celebrating her eighth birthday

(Note to myself: do not do pet portraits. Addendum: unless requested by children I am related to. The problem is... most pets are covered with hair. Hair is harder than faces. I'll do the turtle next.)

Monday, January 28, 2008

Glass and doggone fate...

Winter Stream
Fused float glass with silver inclusions, 7x10 in, unmounted

I have been playing in my glass studio, making some small fused panels using float glass scrap. In this case, basically high end window glass-- the stuff left over from framing my pastel paintings. This is the first time I've tried working with float, and I like what's emerging. This is one of the pieces that came out of my experimentation-- just leaning against crumply white paper so I could take a photo. Reminds me of an ice skimmed winter stream.

I'd like to mount this and one or two other pieces made of float, plus some I had made earlier using colored art glass. I've been developing ideas for designs for vertical welded mounts, and mounts combining rock and metal. I want to learn how to create my own mounts, and go futher in exploring how glass and metal could be joined artistically. I had planned to take a course in welding this spring--something I've wanted to do for a long time.

Best laid plans and all that. I thought the shoulder I'd injured while trying to shovel heavy plow in December was sprained. Weeks went by and it wasn't getting better. It was getting worse. Turned out it was dislocated, and though it is now back in its proper place, the soft tissue around it are significantly damaged. The doctor stopped just short of saying the "s" word (surgery), but I know it is on the table. After I heal a week or so by resting, I'll be going to a PT for evaluation and to see if therapy will strengthen the weakened tissues that hold the shoulder joint in place.

I can paint for short periods, but it is hard to to keep my arm up, even with the elbow tucked. I can still work on glass for short periods, making just short cuts so I can keep my elbow close to my body, and stopping before it gets sore. Even typing is possible by supporting my elbow.

But dang, that welding course is out. So thinking of other options for mounting. But... I got to thinking. I can leave the big stuff til later. I don't need to know about TIG and MIG and all that fancy stuff (I don't like the sound of things that go "bzzzzt" anyway). All I need is a small brazing torch and somebody who can teach me the basics. Hmmm. Gonna start asking around. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Waiting for Papa

soft pastel on 300gsm hotpress, pumice ground added
30x28 cm (11.5x12 in)

The other day, I was standing at my front window watching the snow come down. It reminded me of a night a long time ago, when my eldest was a toddler and her sister still a baby. We lived in a college town in the foothills of the Siskiyou Mountains in southern Oregon. I was going to school in the morning while my husband watched the kids (they all slept in). After I came back from my classes, we all ate lunch together, and my husband went to his second shift job in the valley. In the evening, we all waited for him to come home so the kids could spend some time with him before going to bed.

On this particular night, a mountain snowstorm crept unexpectedly down from the mountains into the valley. The snow fell heavily, and piled up quickly. The phones were out, and the lights flickered, though never went out. The streetlamp across the street cast a cone of light, but the snow was so thick we couldn't make out the large church behind it.

I was worried. My toddler refused to go to bed until her papa got home, so we all stood in front of the street window, waiting, long past the time he usually arrived. I'd told her that maybe the highway was blocked and Papa would stay safe in the town in the valley. But she insisted that "Papa is coming".

Finally, well past midnight, he did come. The highway was blocked by snow and accidents and traffic backed up from the mountains (the freeway hadn't yet been built). But he'd followed a county plow on a back road almost the length of the valley to get home-- the advantages of knowing a place the way only someone who has grown up there can. My young daughter excitedly jumped up and down and said "I told you he'd come!"

We spent the next few days building snowpeople and snowcats, walking in the snow, and drinking hot chocolate in front of the stove. And being happy in each other's company.

I envisioned this painting just as it appears. It is a memory, and I wanted it to look like one.

Friday, January 18, 2008

A difference of perspective...

In the Shelter of Tsé Bit'a'í
pastel on 300gsm coldpress with added pumice ground
16.5x16.5 cm (6.5x6.5 in)

This outcrop in the southwestern United States is a wonderful formation, a worn, jagged line of basalt arising from a miles-long vertical dike cutting across the desert. This little outcrop juts up just to one side of the 1800 foot high volcanic core known to the Navaho as Tsé Bit'a'í, "Rock with Wings", and is considered part of one wing.

The shadow cast is of the huge rock herself, a craggy almost vertical mount that looks from a distance indeed like an immense flying creature just landed in the midst of the desert. She is a reminder to people to care for each other and their community.

In Navaho tradition, it is seen as the mother rock. According to the old stories, Tsé Bit'a'í was originally a great flying beast, perhaps a bird, perhaps not, who bore people to safety after they emerged from the lower level.

Every culture names things by what is important in their way of seeing. To whites, the rock looked like an ocean going clipper, thus they named it Shiprock. Which is how it appears on maps, a symbol of dominion.

I painted this last night after a strange interaction with some neighbors, people who make a point of referring to themselves as Christian but seem to have some trouble living the teachings of that faith. Too wound up to sleep, I painted to relax, and this emerged. Then I could sleep, having put something to rest.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Sweetness on my table

pastel on 300gpm cold-press, pumice surface added, 20x20cm (8x8 in)

Poor magnolia, broken by the plow, which tore off three branches and left the shrub kind of lop-sided. Clearly the town has some problems with the way they plow: the shrub is four feet tall, more than four feet from the sidewalk, and got completely buried the same day they blocked me in before Christmas. The magnolia not only lost branches, but has some trunk damage as well (the plow ran right into it).

Two of the branches were pretty well trashed, but when I dug the snow out, I found one branch that was broken off but mostly intact. Magnolia stellata flower buds form in the fall and look very fragile, but survive through the worst winters. So I brought it in and put it in a large bottle/cum vase on my table to see if the buds would open. They did, and though the flowers are not as well-formed or fragrant as they would be on the shrub in the spring, it was pleasant to see them open.

I needed to give them some sort of memorial, so here they are. Nothing in my dining room is red or pink: that's just the way it came out. Think I'll frame it in white, and hang it in my bedroom. My morning smile.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Wetlands (and everything else)

pastel on sanded paper, 27x16.5cm (10.5x6.5 in)

Um, yep, I really like wetlands. This one, a series of beaver ponds, is tucked away in the Black Hills of Washington state, just south of where I once lived at the south end of Puget Sound. I actually painted this during the snowed in days last month, using half a dozen reference photos taken one soggy NW winter to jog my memory. But something seemed missing to me, so I set it aside.

A few days ago, as I was going through my paintings to decide which to frame, I suddenly realized what was missing: raindrops. Or rather, the evidence thereof. So there they are, as they should be. I got pretty wet that day. This was, after all, winter in the maritime Pacific Northwest. Wet R us.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008


pastel on sanded paper 13x16.5cm (5x6.5in)

Sometimes I miss the west a great deal, and when the homesickness overtakes me, I find myself rummaging through my box of photos, triggering memories. This is an interpretation of one of a series of photographs I took in a small desert canyon in Nevada, where I camped for several days.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Lingering Beech

pastel on sanded paper, 13x16.5cm (5x6.5in)

This little American beech is in the same Taconic wildlife refuge as the stream and wetland in the painting I posted on November 11. I came across it in the upland as I meandered through the forest on my snowshoes. They always amaze me: they hang onto their leaves all winter, and seem to shimmer even on overcast days, gold against the snow. I've had photos and sketches of this one for two years, and finally, I "saw" it in pastels. It painted very quickly once that happened.