Bridging the Gap

I've been tucked into my studio for the last couple months, drawing jade plants, diverse succulents, taking notes and obsessively printing gelli prints. I’ve filled a notebook, and in the process, found a rhythm and perhaps some answers to a problem I've been trying to solve.

For the past couple of years, I've worked on a series called Shift, in which I explored my ecological niche of Davis. As the series progressed, I became more interested in the unusual shapes of plants I found visiting various botanical gardens. I began another series of collage works I called Botanical Dreams, inspired by the 30 paintings in 30 days  challenge presented by Leslie Saeta.

I’ve wanted to continue this series and I wanted to wed the monoprints of Shift with the collage, but after several months of trials and lots of recycled prints, I think I’m trying to make an arranged marriage. Shift needs to be one series and Botanical Dreams another.

As I write this, I realize that actually, I'm the bridge. I think that it's hard to leave the safety of a known series and decamp to another largely unknown territory, but the connection lies simply in my own two hands.

Poppies, Lupines and Printmaking Too!

MOO7 Many years ago in graduate school, I was introduced to a form of printmaking called monoprinting, or sometimes, monotype. I'm a person not well suited to the long and meticulous craft of printmaking. But I did so love the notion of placing paper onto plate, applying pressure and seeing the creation of a whole new piece. It appeals to the alchemist in me.

Through the years I've experimented with different kinds of plates: glass, plexiglass, even the plastic surfaces of cutting boards, but I couldn't find a decent, printable surface that worked without the aid of a press. Then, one day several years ago, I visited an open studio event of a friend. She gave me a tour, and there, in one of the other artist's spaces, it's colorful package glinting in the sun, was a gelli plate.

As I touched its soft yielding surface (much like a batch of jello), I considered the possibilities. My friend offered to show me how it worked and we had several weekend workshops including other interested artists. I was hooked. Now several years and a number of plates later, I'm still experimenting, trying to push the limits of what the plate can do.

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Next month, I'll be teaching a gelli printing workshop at our local Pence Gallery: Saturday, May 14 from 10- 3. There are still a few spots left, so whether you're new to gelli printing, or you'd like to stretch your printmaking  boundaries, I'd love to have you. I'm super excited about the planning--and look forward to sharing what I've learned about the simple beauty of this process.

Gelli Printing Workshop_flyer

 

Discovery of a New Series

Sometimes, a project ends with fireworks and celebration, sometimes with the feeling of quiet satisfaction of a challenge met and completed. In the case of 30x30, I found the latter but also, the opening to a new series of work. In Kauai, I was captivated by the foliage and flowers; the variety of colors and the fantastical shapes of the leaves. One day, riding down to the beach, I twisted my head around to stare at a tree whose branches and needle patterns wound around in an elegant spiral. I made the decision to return to the island this fall for an artist's retreat; a time to study, paint and draw the plant life. Until then, I think I'll be spending a lot of time at our local botanical garden, haunting my favorite, the Australian section, the closest cousins we have to tropical plants.

Below you'll find a convening of the 30 days--I was excited to make them into one giant collage; a celebration of the challenge.

 

 

 

 

Day #18, 30x30, Total Immersion

After I've been in Kauai for more than a few days, it's easy to feel like I've been swallowed up, head, heart and hands. Even if I hold back, there are the mountains, the  mist and the sea, beckoning me with their hands out, and slowly drawing me in. Once immersed, I want to stay forever! I'm returning to my sweet home in Davis, California tomorrow, but all of these days will come back in the form of art. And if you'd like to share in the aloha and own one of them yourself, don't hold back! Each piece is $100, mounted on cradleboard, $150 with cradleboard and frame. You can contact me at hkhunterarts.com

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Day #15, 30x30, Talk about blessings!

Attachment-1(5) I'm straying again from my theme of Botanical Dreams, for good reason. This morning our family traveled to one of our favorite beaches to explore. I stopped in front of the crashing waves and offered a short prayer for the day: for protection, for grace and for generosity and walked off towards the lava rocks.

I stopped to put on my Keens, knowing the danger of lava cuts. As I bent to pull on my sandal, a man appeared and began to warn us of the 40 foot waves. My mind took in the information, but as it did, a huge wave flipped me over and dragged me out. There was nothing I could do, but shout for help.

My sister and the gentleman had to wait for the water to go out before they could reach down and pull me to safety. My next thought was for my daughter and her boyfriend who had gone on ahead. I asked the man, who appeared ocean savvy, to go with my husband and find them. Which they did.

But the story wasn't over. My leg was fairly cut up from the lava and my husband also scraped his foot, trying to help. We stopped at a local store for band-aids and Neosporin. My sister, who was still in shock from the incident (as was I) ran in without her wallet. When she got to the cash register, she discovered she'd forgotten her wallet. Another protector emerged in the Australian woman behind her in line, who simply said; "I'll get it." Amy promised to pay it forward.

After two such incidents of grace what can one do but be thankful?

 

Pretty Wonderful!

Shift 15, ©2015, 12' x 24, I recently retired from my university job as an art therapist. I decided to do this on my 60th birthday as a great gift to myself. I loved many aspects of the work but years of witnessing trauma, illness and death had taken their toll. Despite all the self-care I engaged in, I found myself prey to a variety of ailments which grew worse over time.

I love art therapy; that desire to heal is an innate part of my personality, but the balance is going to shift. Now, I'm spending most of my days in the studio making art. Occasionally,  I'll still facilitate art therapy groups, in particular the Young Adult Bereavement Art Group, which I helped to initiate.

Friends ask me how retirement is going and I answer--fabulous! I find myself as busy as ever, without having to commute and I get to devote the time I need to the craft and business side of art, as well as to the craft of art therapy.

One of the surprising joys of this transition is the ability to take time for things as simple as washing dishes. What used to be a drag after 10 hours away from home, now feels like playing with bubbles in warm water when I need a break.

In a few weeks, I'll take part in an exhibition curated by Sara Post at the Davis Art Center. Titled "Material Worlds," the exhibit looks at the materials that go into artists' work and the ways in which these materials combine with ideas to bring art into being. An enticing notion, I'm excited to see what will emerge. I'll be showing three different works, which take the botanical monoprints cut into trapezoids, rectangles and squares and piece them together, quilt like, on a hardboard panel.

Although I didn't anticipate it, perhaps the piecing together of these papers is a metaphor for taking my life into my hands and  reshaping it. So far it's working and my ailments are melting away.

Bookends

Paradox, ©2015, 26" x 32," Monoprint I was lying in bed the other night, almost asleep, when very softly, these words began to play in my head:

Time it was/And what a time it was, it was/A time of innocence, A time of confidences/Long ago it must be/ I have a photograph/Preserve your memories/They're all that's left you.*

In just a handful of syllables, the song, Bookends, captures the fleeting nature of time; the ever changing landscape of a life. When I first heard the song many years ago, I thought that the words referred to adolescence. Now, I know they refer to any collection of moments in life.

Up in my studio, I've been trying to capture, as in a photograph, this same transience. I gather the plant materials and know that the tender, tiny leaves of the Nandina will be gone in several days, replaced by tougher more mature leaves. The sprigs of jasmine buds that I'm printing will yield to the fragrant white blossoms.

Earlier in my series of prints, which I call "Shift," I was celebrating the plant forms of the Sacramento Valley. In any series, the more you explore, the more nuances are revealed and this spring is no exception. I am enchanted by the way plants pile new life onto old. New green stems push their way out of seemingly dead branches. A flirting shoot of jasmine twirls around a twiggy, yellowing stem.

I look forward to witnessing how this element of surprise plays out as the season continues to unwind. I'll be preserving them in prints.

* Bookends, Simon & Garfunkle, 1968

In Praise of Journaling

Monoprints based on recent journal ideas. Not long ago, I rediscovered my journal. I can't say that I ever really left it, but I was definitely peripatetic. What a great word! Peripatetic means traveling from place to place, especially working in various places for relatively short periods of time. Well, I travel all right, but for a number of years, my journal stayed home.

In a recent art class, the teacher emphasized the value of writing in order to process ideas about artwork. "I know, I know," I thought to myself. I say the same thing to the art therapy groups I facilitate; "journaling is an excellent way to process grief."

Upon hearing this truth again, I felt resistance. "I process what I'm working on in the studio as I walk back and forth along the corridors of the hospital. It's a great place to sort out ideas," I thought.

The thing is, whenever I feel resistance, I know there might be something good and juicy hiding behind my resistance.

I began journaling at age 16 in a poetry class, and I took to it as a tool of comfort during the storms of late adolescence--then the trials of graduate school--then the late nights of early motherhood. Later, as the kids got older, the kind of non-stop thinking it took to keep them on track and still do my artwork didn't leave a lot of time for writing.

Do you remember Dr Seuss' "Oh the Places You'll Go?" Here's my moleskine mini, ready for travel.

But the yearning to journal never left. I needed to find my way past, through, around my resistance. Recently, on the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, I saw my opportunity.

In her excellent blog, Rabbi Yael Levi says of Shavuot: "The journey began with Passover and the acknowledgment of our narrow places—the habits of mind, body and spirit that kept us bound and unable to move forward into our lives.  Passover implored us to imagine a leap into the unknown, to find the willingness to leave behind what had enslaved us.

This journey continued into the Counting of the Omer. For 49 days we counted each day calling forth the healing and discovery that comes through awareness...How do we live from the experiences of this time?

As Shavuot ends... we are urged to take on practices that will keep the fire burning. So we listen and wonder: What is a commitment to practice I can make?"

Journal in situ

I leapt and decided to write in my journal each day. And I noticed when I did that, things began to fall into place in unexpected ways. For me, thinking by itself cannot produce the multiplicity of solutions needed when I try to solve a problem of imagination, creativity or technique. It is the physical act of writing that enables my brain to connect from one thought to another and from there, to a whole cluster of ideas.

I haven't kept my resolution perfectly--but I've kept it enough. Enough that I now recognize my worn black Moleskine as a friend and confidant. Enough that I now invite my worn, black Moleskine over a cup of tea and a talk.

Gelli Interrupted

As I mentioned in my last post, I was set to take an online Gelli Plate Printmaking class this week with Carla Sonheim, a gentle and humorous soul, whose generous manner makes even the most embarrassing flops seem like a blessing in disguise. I felt excited about the class; I knew it would be fun and that I would meet any challenges that arose with open arms.

Clearly a woman who knows her way around a print studio, Carla packed a lot of information into every day of the 5 day course. I headed off to work afterward each day repeating her words over and over like a mantra, "thin, thinner, thinnest, watercolor" (referring to how you can stretch out an application of paint on the plate.)

We worked on a suite of 8 prints and each day, we could, if we wished, post our work on Flickr.  I played with the colors, enjoying the sensation of the brayer (hand roller used in printmaking to spread ink) on the plate and the soft 'squish squish' of acrylic on the gel plate.

Day 1 and 2

Day 1 and 2

Day 1 and 2

On Wednesday, we worked with the same 8 prints, adding layers onto them with stencils--and it got a little trickier. In the first roll out, the paper is a blank landscape and anything goes. When adding additional layers, there's that familiar feeling of discomfort and simultaneous attachment. What happens if I screw it up?

Like any kind of change or alteration, with printing, it's safer to stay with what's familiar, even when it limits how far you can go. Fortunately, the process leads the way. Apply a stencil on paint, put paper on the stencil and whole new horizons open up.

Gelli 3 and 4

Day 3 and 4

Day 3 and 4

I looked forward to the final day, when Carla told us that she'd share some ways to continue developing the prints--even when the next step wasn't clear.

Unfortunately, fate intervened in the form of boiling eggs accidentally left on the stove by a guest. My husband came home to a house filled with smoke and a shrieking chorus of alarms. We learned that we would have to move out until the microscopic deposits of burnt protein on every surface in the house were removed. I wasn't able to work on the last lesson.

The nature of gelli printing is also filled with blips, spots and full on bloopers. Mistakes are made. Carla noted that one of the best things about these "accidents" (besides consigning them to a sludge pile) is to study them. Pick apart what works and what doesn't. Where are the values too similar? Where does more texture need to be added?

As I witness and experience the effects of this forgetful mistake upon my family's life, I find myself examining our own "virtual prints." We've been asking ourselves questions and finding that there is a lot we can let go of: clothes, papers, attitudes and attachments. A few shifts in attitude are powerful.

I marvel at the correspondences between art and life. Are mistakes truly the way we find our way to change?