Lightening my load

In an earlier life, thirty years ago, I was a fiber artist.  Most of my readers know me as a painter and a teacher, which is my current life. In those early years, I designed garments, mostly sweaters, in a one of a kind series, making over one hundred sweaters a year.  I showed locally at Folklife and Bumbershoot, at the Seattle Center, galleries and at the American Crafts Council’s shows in the east.  Try taking orders from galleries for sweaters in June in West Springfield, MA when the temperature is 97 degrees and the humidity is just as high.  Winters in Baltimore with well below freezing weather was a better venue.

I handspun yarn from angora, baby camel down and silk, specialty wools, ramie and more were my specialty.  I won awards for my yarn designs.  I definitely won awards for the sweaters, some costing as much as $1000.  One was hand dyed from herbal materials including onion skins, walnut husks, chrome (yuk), alum and more.  It was an order for a man who was a historical reenactment buff.  It was handcarded, handspun, hand dyed and hand knitted in natural white, two shades of yellow from the differing mordants, and brown from the walnut husks. Remember this was in the 80’s.

Many sweaters used as many as 30 different kinds of yarn in related colors in the Kaffe Faucet style.  A full length opera coat lined with matching silk satin lining was over $900.  It was a limited market, but it did make me a good wage.  Winters were spent making and stocking inventory. Summers were spent going from show to show and trying to build inventory in between.  It was grueling.

In 1995, my wonderful husband decided that hauling a truckload of inventory to shows around the state and the country was more than he could handle.  And bless his soul, he told me when he turned fifty, I was going to have to get another helper. He mentioned that he would give me a year off to find myself, or I could continue with a hew helper.

I took the year off.  I tried to decide on a new career.  It was difficult.  What would you do if you were allowed a year to change your life? While I was trying to decide, I wrote a cookbook.  It was published that year, 1995, The Artist’s Palate, which went to a second printing. But what would I do after that?  I considered going back to school and getting a degree in Architecture.  I was already designing houses for people.  It was a good option, but I needed to brush up on my math.  I took a math class at the local community college and was flummoxed to discover it was all theoretical and none of it covered the Plane Geometry I needed.

Other options were opened.  The community college offered me a job teaching art when they saw my induction information.  I taught art there for twelve years until they phased out my department.  I moved on to other venues and still teach it twenty six years later.

But….my husband and my sister suggested that I take a watercolor class from Eric Wiegardt.  I did and I have been painting ever since. But that is not the focus of this missal.

All the materials that I had left from my former life as a fiber artist have been languishing up in my attic since 1995.  Now I received news of an artist’s and crafter’s garage sale.  I signed up.  I started with one table, but when I began pulling the materials from nooks and crannies I discovered I had over five hundred pounds of stuff.  I just gave away over one hundred pounds of fabrics I had left to a lady that sews quilts for veterans. https://q13fox.com/2018/11/14/giving-to-the-givers-whidbey-quilters-are-stitching-up-local-veterans-old-wounds-of-war/

I now am left with several hundred pounds of wool which has been washed and carded, some made into roving, to sell.  I have about one hundred fifty pounds of commercial yarn to sell. I have three knitting machines.  I cried while I was gathering it all. There are thousands of dollars of materials here which I will sell for pennies on the dollar.  It has been sitting for twenty three years.  Why am I so attached to it?

I have another life as a painter and teacher.  I have had this life since 1996.  Why do I not want to let go? I am trying to divest myself of superfluous baggage.  But this baggage was a big part of my younger life.  I must let go before all this detritus molders away in the attic.  Give it up and get onto a less cluttered life.  Be free of the crap that bogs me down.  I have had wind of several groups that look for this material, schools, craft classes for kids, educational groups, groups that have thrift store that support the homeless, the foodless.  Hopefully after the sale, I will be able to support these folks by giving them the remains of the day at the artist’s and crafter’s garage sale!

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Today is the BIG Day

email BIRD--GOLDFINCH

Once a year I hang my show at the Braeburn Restaurant in Langley, Washington.  Today is the day.  I will be hanging it after hours, so tomorrow will be the first day that you will have the opportunity to see it.

In the past I have featured, trucks, barns, old gas stations, larger-than-life food items (peanut butter sandwiches 18 tall), crows and this year the feature is birds.

When my show was taken down last year, I started thinking about what I would show for 2018.  I decided to do local birds.  These paintings are in watercolor, not my usual medium, which is oil.  The really unusual thing about the paintings is they are not painted on paper, but on treated panels of medium density fibreboard (MDF). Another unusual thing about them is that they are loosely painted, not the usual photorealism of my oil paintings. This makes them more spontaneous and whimsical than my usual works.

There are twenty-five birds, a few dogs, and, yes, some trucks!  I would hope that you could visit the show sometime between July 14 and August 31. You may purchase any of the paintings and take them with you, which is nice if you are from out of town.

The Braeburn Restaurant is located at 197 D. 2nd St. Langley, WA 98260. They serve breakfast and lunch.

Their phone number is 360-321-3211. https://braeburnlangley.com/

email International grille

 

 

The Golden Hour

Hot air balloons at sunrise

Lighting during the golden hour is soft, diffused, and warm. Image by Martin Sojka.

The Golden Hour

It is fall and it is time for doing clean up around the yard, harvesting fruits and vegetables and splitting wood.  However, summer is still upon us here in the Puget Sound Basin.  We have been having temperatures in the high 70s and low 80s.  Most everyone is complaining.  I love it.

We also have the addition of lots and lots of wildfires to the north, east and south of us.  Though the weatherman predicts high temperatures, they are tempered by the largely overcast sky.  The sky is overcast with smoke.  Ashes rain on the land.  My car was covered yesterday morning when I got ready to leave. The advantage, which many don’t seem to realize, is that it is keeping the high temperatures down.  It would have been ten degrees warmer if we didn’t have the high altitude smoke. Occasionally you can smell it, but it isn’t bad.

This morning I split firewood for a while and was bathed in the “golden hour.” Normally the golden hour is only a short while during the day when the sun is above the horizon, but is shrouded with particulate matter near the horizon which causes a golden glow to happen.  It isn’t usually an hour, but that is its name.  Photographers and painters just love it.  Being a painter, I am really enjoying it.  The shadows cast upon the ground all have very orange edges.  The light, though not bright, has the orange/golden color.  I would love to be able to capture this on canvas.  I am taking lots of photos so I can paint it later as I have the wood splitting/veggie harvesting/yard watering and cleanup work to do.  Somehow it is more pleasant during the golden hour which is lasting all day.

Yesterday when I went out I noticed that sun was an orange ball in the sky.  You could look directly at it without endangering your eyesight.  Too bad we didn’t have this condition during the eclipse, we could have all viewed it directly.

For those of you who are experiencing this phenomenon appreciate it while it lasts.  The heat of the day is tempered by it; it gives a wonderful feeling and makes work seem lighter.  It is seldom that we have the opportunity to experience it.  Enjoy it while it lasts.

 

 

Thank you Martin Sojka for your photo.

Summertime

rasp 1

Summertime

Since it is summer and the weather is finally warm, I guess I have some excuse for not writing as often as I should.  Needless to say there are many distractions outside these days.

The yard needs mowing.  We keep it fairly long so we don’t have to water and it will still stay green.  Wonder of wonders, it has been almost a month since it last rained.  This is unheard of in maritime Washington State.  We could use a little rain right about now.  Not only would it green up the yard and wash the dust from all the leaves, it would reduce the danger of fires.  Fires are not usually a problem here, though we take precautions like burn bans and mowing the sides of the road to protect from careless cigarette smokers, but last year eastern Washington was devastated by fires.  This year already over 50,000 acres have burned by the end of June.

My vegetable garden demands a lot of time.  I had promised myself that I would reduce the size this year so I wouldn’t be driven crazy with trying to keep it up.  Also a large garden requires more water and since we must collect all the water we use for it, I probably should have reduced the size.  We are half the way through the first barrel which holds 1500 gallons.  We still have a barrel with 350 gallons and one with 2500.  Hopefully we will make it until the end of the season. I was going to plant half a row of beans, but my husband mentioned that we were just about out in the freezer and we had a whole row last year.  He doesn’t remember that we gave lots to the food bank last year but we will probably  have enough to do that again this year.

It is now raspberry season so I am making raspberry wine and jam and shortcakes.  Picking and processing them takes time.  They need to be processed almost immediately after picking or they will mold and if I don’t stay on top of the picking, the birds get them.  I am happy for them to have some, but I want the lion’s share.

Teaching still takes up two afternoons of my time and painting and writing the rest of my time.  I am working hard toward the goal of publishing my book about my life teaching in Beijing.  It has been a struggle and I have promised myself to have it ready for a publisher this summer.

At the moment I have three shows with over a total of forty paintings on display.  I sold one in the first week it was showing.  Yeah!  Now it is county fair time and I just took three more in for judging yesterday.  I still probably have over one hundred stored in my studio.  I should have a burning party and get rid of the old stuff, but it is summer and I would probably burn down the countryside as the MDF I use burns VERY hot.  Better save that for a winter project.

I have a lot of excuses for not keeping up with the blog, but I really enjoy it when I have a chance to do something on it.  I certainly encourage everyone to have a place to write about their day to day life.  Journals, blogs, or whatever.  I will work harder to try to keep you posted on rural living.

Have a great summer!

Experiments in Painting

Poor Reception

As most of you know, I am a painter, an artist, a teacher.  I try to stay focused on being an oil painter, but sometimes I go off and experiment with different media (types of art).  Recently I had a show in Langley and showed some work that was an offshoot in a different direction.  I sold eleven pieces.  This made me ponder.  Was I working in the wrong medium—oil? Why was the new medium so popular, was it the subject or the medium? Or is it the price?

I am still asking myself these questions as I now have just hung a new show at the Flower House Café in Bayview on Whidbey Island.  I will see what kind of response these pieces receive in the new location.

My experiment is with encaustics, a form of painting on a rigid substrate with wax.  It is a very old technique, but one that is new to me.  I have experimented a little in the past, but not tried to sell any until last summer when I did a series on crows.

I know, crows are popular subjects and maybe the popularity of the paintings was because of the subject and not the medium.  Crows are the thief that stole the sun according to northwest native legend.  They have always been mysterious.  People actually like them, city people.  Farmers like me find them a nuisance. They get into the chicken house and steal the eggs, they steal the kitchen scraps I give the chickens, they eat the friendly garter snake which is a beneficial member of my garden’s ecological community, they steal bird eggs and baby birds.  They steal shiny objects (like the sun). They are messy. They wash their “kill” in my birdbaths leaving body parts and entrails to pollute the water. Yuk! Right now they are fighting over a rabbit carcass in the street. I can hear them inside my house over the howl of the wind outside.

Be that as it may, they were popular paintings and sold well, so I have created more and they are showing until the beginning of June at the Flower House Café (http://www.bayviewfarmandgarden.com/flower-house-cafe.html).

Since encaustics have drips around the edges and I like the look of the drips, they become problematic for framing.  I mount them on a painted black board to feature the irregularities of the edges.  It works for me and keeps the framing costs to a minimum, thus I can sell each piece cheaply, which may be another reason why they sell so well. My oil paintings need to be framed and are considerably more expensive.  We will see how it goes.

If you have a chance, be sure to see the show.

Summer Fun

 

In his sites

(this crow is made from tarpaper embedded into the wax) (titled: “In His Sites”)

Well the calendar says it is summer.  It is raining and almost the end of July.  Last week, however, we did have some moderate days of sunshine mixed, intermittently, with clouds.  Since it wasn’t raining and it wasn’t too hot, I decided to work on an outdoor project.

As I have mentioned before, I am an artist, primarily a painter, though I dabble in printmaking and other art forms.  I also teach.

One form of painting that I practice, from time to time, is encaustic painting.  This is melted wax to a board.  For color I use various materials including oil pastels, crayolas, powdered graphite, powdered pigments and more.  I often imbed objects, bits of paper, old subway tickets, playing cards, and other refuse into the pieces.

Over the course of two weeks, I completed sixteen paintings for a show that will hang in mid September.  The theme is crows.  Some of the crows are painted with oil pastels and melted into the wax, some are cutouts in tarpaper that is imbedded.  Some of the crows are tissue paper imbedded.

I use a heat gun, and electric griddle and a blow torch to melt the wax. Depending on the effect I want, I will paint on melted wax with a brush, maybe push it around with the blow torch.  The ends of my fingers get encased with the wax and I tend to rub them together, crumbling the wax which falls to the ground, consequently, I don’t want to do this in the house. I would track wax crumbs into the floors and rugs, which is not a good thing as it is slightly sticky.

I am fond of using crayolas in this process as I can melt them on the griddle and paint them into the wax with a brush, or I can color onto the cooled wax and melt them.  They move around a lot.  Oil pastel tends to stay where I put it.

I will be having a show of these works at the Braeburn Restaurant in Langley, Washington, https://braeburnlangley.com/ September 19th through October 14th, 2016.  I hope that some of you are able to visit the show.

PS: My students are having a show at the Braeburn July 25th to September 19th and another educational exhibit at the Island County Fair in Langley, August 4 through August 7, 2016 http://fair.whidbeyislandfair.com/

Poor Reception

(titled “Poor Reception”)

 

An Artist’s Eye

email Girl with the pearl earring with frame--Deon Matzen

Above  Study of Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring painted by Deon Matzen

What is an artist’s eye? Someone posed this question to me recently and though I have been thinking about it, I was flummoxed as to what it actually is. Having done some research I am now prepared to make some comments.

As many of you know, I am an artist.  I studied art in college and, off and on, over my lifetime I pursued an artist’s career.  I know that I am probably more susceptible to color than the average person.  I also know that I see more than most other folks.  In the past, I put this down to being more observant of my surroundings, but it isn’t just that.

My students often comment, “How did you see that?”  I will be helping them with a painting and point outa missed detail or a misconception on their parts and show them, either through a sketch or an explanation, what I see in the scene.  They cannot believe they have missed it as it becomes obvious when I point it out. Many have commented, after studying with me for some time, that they are now much more observant people.  They see the world differently.  Maybe the artist’s eye is something that can be trained.  I think this is true, though some of us are born with it.

Often times I tell my students to leave their brains out of seeing, that the mind and logic only serve to misrepresent the truth.  It is true.  Our preconceived ideas of what objects should look like ruins our ability to really understand what they look like. If I ask you to draw a horse from memory, using your brain and memory, and then ask you to draw a horse from a photo or real life, which is the better example of a horse?  The one you imagine or the one you REALLY looked at and drew?

In beginning drawing classes my students use large drawing tablets (18 x 24”) to draw large works.  Often times I ask them to draw objects bigger than life.  Sometimes I ask them to draw with their non-dominate hand to force eye-to-hand coordination to come into play.  They concentrate so hard on making the hand work that they cannot use preconceived impressions of the object (the mind and memory) to draw the object; they must focus on the object and the movement of the hand.  Most students will complete a more accurate rendering of the subject than when left to draw in the usual manner.

Other times I will have the students cover their work while they are drawing, not allowing them to see what is happening on the page but making the hand follow the eye as it moves around an object.  Mostly this results in a much better drawing than if I just let them draw while looking at the page.  If left to their own devices, many students will spend more time looking at the page, trusting memory—the weak link—while seldom looking at the object and thus misremembering it. I have watched the new artist work. Many times, a student will spend about ninety percent of the drawing time looking at the drawing and not the object.  Those who spend most of their time looking at the object while continuing to move their pencils will become the better artists.  It is a hard habit to break, watching you hand draw.  After many, many years of being an artist, when I draw and when I paint, I spend most of my time looking at the object(s) and not looking at my work, mostly  using my peripheral vision to guide my progress.

Do I look at the world differently, being an artist?  I guess I do.  I see the details.  I notice the colors and how they relate to one another.  I understand how bright light can cause my pupils to constrict, causing shadows to lose details. Lightness and darkness (value) are important to me and I am constantly aware of how shadows play out in a scene.  How dark or light are they?  That tells me how dull or bright the daylight is.  I am constantly aware of this.  Maybe the average person is not.  I see textures in the scene and am aware of them, the smoothness of water and how reflections waver or not, the patterns made by the leaves of various species of flora, the forms and shapes of rocks and how they differ from one another.

While researching the subject, I came across a good article by By Sadie F. Dingfelder. Monitor Staff.,2010, ,Vol 41, No. 2, Print version: page 40. (http://www.apa.org/monitor/2010/02/artists.aspx) In this article, they seem to come the closest I can imagine to describe “the artist’s eye.”  For some of us this is an instinctual thing, something we have always had, something that has allowed us to see the world more clearly and in greater detail.  For others, my students, it is something I have trained them to do.  Some of the unsuccessful are frustrated about learning something that seems too basic and simple to them, learning to see. I tell my students that all I am teaching them is to see and eye-to-hand coordination.  They laugh at this, but, really, it is as basic as that.  But remember to leave the brain out of it.