Can you imagine flying to a Hawaiian island, then driving up to a small house on stilts and setting up a studio for 2 weeks? That's exactly what I did earlier this month.Read More
I recently visited Hawaii with my family. It's something we try to do once a year, so, with the aid of frequent flier miles, we headed off; my husband, my sister, my daughter and my daughter's boyfriend--and me.
I'd taken care to pack my new favorite art medium; a gelli plate; a kind of squishy gel surface that serves as a printing plate and allows people like me who treasure immediacy, to create monoprints using stencils, plant matter, and what have you, together with acrylic paint.
I'd ordered some new acrylics and as I packed, I made sure to put plenty of bubble wrap between them and my swim suit.
Each day at art time, I set up shop on the dining room table, which was spacious, overlooked the mountains and had plenty of light.
Wandering outside, I gathered a number of leaves with interesting shapes and began printing--and printing and printing.
Over the next several days, I played with the vagaries of acrylic pigment, strange flora and experimented to find the means to capture the outrageous color and patterns I saw everywhere around me.
I divided my days into warm colors, cool colors and days when I layered both together. Naturally, my guidelines only lasted a couple of hours until I threw them over and just started adding color by feel.
My intent was to enjoy my time in Hawaii and explore the island through paint, paper and leaves. I learned to tolerate the uncooperative elements and to welcome the surprise that the textures of the leaves created when they met the squishy plate.
Often there was an extra treat; the print on the cover pages I was using would transfer to the printing paper, adding yet another layer of meaning.
I honestly didn't believe that these experiments would lead anywhere. I made a bunch of prints; grist for the collage mill upon my return, I thought. However, one fine day when the rest of the family was out exploring the island, I found myself exploring the web and discovered the perfect Gelli class.
I'm so excited because starting today, for a week, I'll be exploring Gelli printing in Carla Sonheim's Gelli Print Printmaking course. I'm using some extra professional leave to get a few more hours in the studio and look forward to sharing my progress with you. Gelli ahoy! A hui ho!
Landing in Kauai, I assumed I would magically relax into a state of being where one activity flowed into another--not the hurried hula I find myself performing on most working days.
While there were indeed many delicious activities; ocean walks, tropical flowers and rainbows, I was surprised to meet up with some of my oldest and most familiar demons; the ones that incessantly wish to compare myself to others who seem to be more, do more, achieve more.
A hold-over from childhood, these thought pests seemed more intense than usual, even creeping into my dreams. My sister, who had joined us, noted that sometimes in Hawaii, it seems that one’s stored up issues just seep out like lava--a kind of “detoxifying” if you will.
While the gremlins nibbled and morning doves cooed, I tried to set up a studio practice--sparer than my normal routine, but something to do in order to counter my inner detractors. I decided to sit down for an hour a day with watercolors and just paint something. I picked the simplest forms I could find; lemons and limes picked from trees growing in the yard and tiny birds of paradise that grew by the outdoor shower.
As I painted, I observed my initial antipathy to mixing the color green. It brought up memories of phthalocyanine green oil and viridian oil in undergraduate school and my messy complicated affair with oils). I persevered and, finally, loosened my association of mixing colors which matched my mood and began instead to evoke a feeling of relationship with the fruits I studied.
What I also observed, as the days peeled off, was that after painting I experienced a feeling of clairvoyance--clairvoyance in the French sense of the word, which literally means: “clear sight.” The fabulous leaf and flower forms that surrounded me seemed heightened, standing out as if I were staring at an intricate Indian miniature. I experienced an intensity of seeing similar to the high that practitioners of yoga describe. I felt loose and clear headed. I breathed effortlessly.
I’d like to claim, after this time away, that I’ve returned to normal life with no worries, sustained clear sight and a pack of good watercolors. But reality, like river water after a storm, is muddy. Spending time with transparent colors and resplendent foliage allowed me to see the landscape through the mist; there are always more layers--I understood again that we can never really remove ourselves from the complex relationships of people and situations, the endless rich entanglements of this world. However, like finding a blossom in the Hawaiian jungle, I can always locate something to focus on.