Sure, the big picture is important, the overview, but there is joy in the details! I've been having so much fun in my new studio! I'll post an album of my recent work, but, in the meanwhile, here's a preview...details of my newest paintings.
I can't imagine a more scenic road system than the one we have here in Juneau, Alaska. No billboards allowed; instead, attractions include shimmering waterways, majestic mountain ranges, a busy fishing fleet, and the salmon themselves, jumping free of the sea only to slap down hard again. The seals poke their heads up from the sea and the whales spout in the distance. For a Plein air artist, there is nothing more satisfying than to take a little bit of all that home with you; the sights, sounds and scents, are all wrapped up in the painting of the day.
For painting watercolors outdoors, the weather this spring has been wonderfully cooperative; it a tricky medium in rain country, and I've yet to find an umbrella that will stay put in the usual accompanying winds. But, no worries this week! The weather continues fair for the holiday. Have a safe and happy Fourth of July!
A collection of my small watercolors will be shown at Kaill's next First Friday event, July 6, 2018.
In a weaving, one set of fibers is strung on a loom in a consistent parallel spacing, while the other set wraps around them, creating a design or pattern. The warp is the steady constant; the weft is the variable element; the options are limited only by the imagination of the weaver.
My new paintings are a different kind of weaving; the variable element comes in the initial color glazes as pigments blend, pool, travel and interact. After guiding initial washes by tilting the board, blotting, brushing, and drying, I weave in specific, structured, and representational imagery. The warp and the weft here are color and image, the weaving is a blend of abstraction and represention.
Coppa will feature my new paintings and the paintings of Barbara Craver on First Friday, June 1st, 2018. There will be an opening on that date from 4:00 to 6:00 pm and the paintings will be on display through the month of June. I hope you can stop by.
It's been only a few weeks since Spring Equinox and already the days in
Alaska have become luxuriously long. Suddenly we have more hours of
daylight to work and spend outdoors. A recent stretch of sunny dry weather,
following what seemed like a particularly long dark winter, brought on a
fury of activity-- in the home, garden, and studio. At home, I tackled
Spring Cleaning at a frantic, fevered pitch and in the studio, I dealt with the sorry
half of "win some, lose some," that unfortunate stack of paintings I'd
accumulated over the winter that just didn't work. I hauled them into the yard to determine what might be saved. For work on canvas, sometimes only the stretcher bars can be salvaged, but Gessobords can be sanded down to the original surface and re-gessoed to make way for new and better work.
Inside my new studio, I've installed shelves and a pegboard on the wall in
the eternal quest for organization. I washed the windows, cleared drawers
of junk, and sorted and cleaned brushes. Best of all, I've assembled a
travel kit, hanging by the door, ready to grab and go. In it I've packed
paint, brushes, easel, water, sketchbook, pens, pencils, and bug dope in
anticipation of the next sunny day. The fever is broken; it's time to ditch the broom and dust cloth, and venture out with those beautiful new painting surfaces, so full of potential and promise.
Sure. Yes. Live in the moment. But...I also need to set goals for the future! Goals are what motivate me. In my work as an artist, it is thinking ahead to scheduled shows that gets me into the studio. Life is a playground of distractions: books to read, a garden that needs work, cleaning and organizing, meeting friends for walks and swimming; activities that require living in the moment, being physically and emotionally present.
Yet, once I'm at work at the easel, living in the moment, the moment slips right out of the space/time continuum and I am nolonger present. Deep into a painting, I disappear into what the work demands. I see and obey. The painting requires color here, lines there,shapes here and there, more color, more lines, more, more, more, until it's three in the morning and I've had no sense of the passage of time.
And when I return to the studio and see the painting, I study it in wonder. How
did I do that? How did it end up the way did? How? The answer is inexplicably simple; the painting told me where to go and what to do, and even managed to stop time while I was working at it. Weird! Awesome! Hard to get started. Hard to stop. If not for working toward the future, I would never experience getting so lost in the moment.
Forget painting in the quiet evening sunset by the side of a slow flowing canal, trees swaying in unison with the passing of a warm breeze; forget painting outside the café, sipping strong coffee, watching the light change on the cathedral across the square or on fields of grain and haystacks in the sunset. Of course, Monet did it all, and so well, in the loveliest of circumstances...well, okay, he did have the pressure of needing to feed a large family by brush alone. But, forget Monet. Who goes painting en plein aire in Alaska in December
My art buddies, that's who! Sometimes it takes more than one artist to make some paint come out of the tube. That's where the art buddy system comes into play; our mantra, "If you'll go, I will, too," is really put to the test in winter.
We dress in layers, layers, and more layers, and end up looking very much alike in our long coats, multiple scarves, hats, and gloves. All but one of us, one who is impervious to the cold; she who sits at her easel wearing a jaunty straw boater as the wind whips the icy cold water on the channel into tiny cyclones that speed north toward town.
The rest of us, after a walk up and down the beach and around the old mining buildings, beat a retreat to the relative warmth and shelter of our car, there to devour a picnic of scones with jam and butter, a treat provided by our good friend and neighbor who knew better than to actually join us.
We took photos, made sketches, and banged our hands together in futile attempts to get our blood flowing down to our fingertips while our intrepid friend completed her small oil painting. Not a lot of art was committed onto paper or canvas that day, but, dazzled by the beauty of sunshine sparkling on the water, ice on the beach, and fresh snow on the mountains, we went home with our fellowship confirmed and our heads full of imagery that might someday become paintings, but that was already securely locked into our memory banks.
There is a corner of my little lot that has an unsurpassed view of Mt. Juneau. From inside my home, you can't see the mountain at all, but from that corner, the view is spectacular. I've been planning a little studio/view room for that corner for years. I have files and drawers overflowing with careful drawings of floor plans and elevations, photos from magazines, and books about cabins and tiny houses; I've talked to builders, looked at portables, DIY kits, and searched the Internet for ideal little structure. Then, one day on Craigslist, I found a little building for sale that would suit me perfectly. The roof line matched that of my home. It was well built and in my budget. Most amazingly, the seller would help me move it to my home.
This simple 8'x12' structure came to me like a life ring. Cast out of my studio downtown because of remodeling, I was without a decent place to work. Having infinite possibilities and a minimal budget had left me petrified; there were too many choices and there was not enough moolah to make any of them from scratch. Before my new studio came to me, I was trapped in the Paradox of Choice.
In the process of preparing the foundation pad, my energy reached new heights. In the cold rain of October, I built a frame, dug out the soil, and filled it in with three tons of gravel and four tons of sand, wielding my my little shovel and pushing my wheelbarrow with real joy. We pulled the building off the trailer with a truck and pushed it across the yard on scavenged PVC pipes.
After years, literally, of planning so many structures, it was a huge relief to be presented with a simple, ready made, solution! I'm so grateful to the young man who sold me this building and helped me move it with infinite care and a hearty can-do attitude. I've added insulation, and got myself back in the habit of showing up for work! Come spring, I'll add a few more windows, and pull in some more of that spectacular view.
Juneau isn't Barrow; even in the middle of winter, we get relief from the darkness. We see the sun from time to time, but, mostly, we live in a light diffused through the mist of light rain or fog. It can feel like winter lasts forever, but there is something comforting about it too...that cocoony kind of feeling that says, "It's okay to stay home today and read your books, sip your coffee, and just watch the world from inside." Never mind that you're wearing your long underwear and at least two layers of down...and that's with the heat on!
I really don't mind the winter. If it gets bad, I can go visit my sister for a week. One week in the dense population and high-speed heavy traffic of Seattle is enough to cure me. It won't be long til Spring!
Letting go of stuff isn't easy; it takes practice. The goal is simplification...getting down to the essence of life, the bare necessities. I've been trying to unclutter my brain, my home, and the paintings I've been working on.
Nature is an animated clutter of animal, vegetable, and mineral...a weaving of life that can be hypnotic and overwhelming. For decades, I've looked at the vast complexity of nature and tried to capture that in my work, so, for me, it's a new challenge to work on simplification of forms in nature; to let go of the big noisy picture and focus instead on the quiet curl of a spent fireweed flower or the color of sunshine passing through a dark cherry leaf. It's like trying to reduce a great classic into a haiku. I'm loving the challenge.
There are times in life when it's easy to fall off the tracks; when wandering is the default; the main path is obscured. Detours on tangential journeys may or may not lead toward joy and fulfillment; at every fork in the road, all choices seem to have the same potential. You can't know until you've gone as far as you can or dare, whether or not you've chosen wisely.
My residency at the lighthouse in Norway...rewarding, but isolating...led to a time of wandering. After my residency ended, I spent time traveling with friends and family. I enjoyed visiting new places but after being away from home for so long, I felt untethered. Returning to Juneau, happy to be back in Alaska, I found that my lovely studio was about to become a stairwell; it took some time to find a new place to work, but, at last, I've stumbled back onto the right path. I have a studio again. I'm painting. Life is good. The world is beautiful. I'm back on track.