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.