It's the hot hazy days of summer here with temps scrolling over the 100's, grass crisped to a dull gold, trees and bushes thirsty for whatever moisture may come their way. The best places to cool off are low at the ocean or high in the Sierra. Failing that, I'll take my studio, fortified with air conditioning, glasses of ice tea and mineral water.
Recently, my friend Linda Clark Johnson* joined me there for an afternoon. Hauling her Mary Poppins bag of art supplies up the stairs, she commented on the virtue of stairs as an exercise device. We'd planned this day together for a month and neither of us stinted as we placed double lines of acrylics, brayers and paper on the tables. Linda sifted through prints with primary layers, pondering her next move for each, while I tore thick, white sheets out of my notebook.
There's something wonderful about sharing a space with another artist for a few hours...a time of no specific agenda, no attempt to forward the "serious work," simply experimenting, to see what might happen working side by side.
Walking down my back alley to gather plant materials, we discovered some bounty of the Central Valley spilling over the fence: grapes, figs, oranges, and pomegranates.
Wishing I could simply place a ripe fig on my printing plate and squish it, I experimented with dried seed heads of fennel, using color combinations of mustard, tangerine and rose.
Linda enjoyed some time with fuchsia and pink, bringing in purple shades, which reminded me of the dusky blue grapes ripening on the hot wooden fence.
We worked until we'd covered a good portion of my floor; we noted the hits, the misses and the sweet surprises. I discovered that the seeds of the fennel created little spots that remind me of using salt with watercolor. Linda tried out a new color, warm gray, and found that it worked elegantly as a top layer for the subtle underpinnings of purples, blues and greens.
Later, harvesting a bag of succulent figs for Linda to take home, I reflected on the afternoon, thinking how important it is to make things in the company of others. Perhaps the artistic variant of jamming, working together stirs up ideas, offers new perspectives and a rich exchange takes place. What kind of artist jams carry you away?
*If you'd like to see more of Linda's gorgeous prints, you can catch her at the Sacramento Open Studios Tour, the weekend of September 19th and 20th. to find out more information, click here.