The Artist's Master Class; A Study in Values

Shift, ©2015, 8 I've been working closely with Lisa Call in her Artist's Master Class for the last 6 months. A combination of coaching, goal setting and support from fellow artists, the class has challenged me to examine the parts of my life that do NOT support my art/life.

Broken Nandina, 2015, 8

I've taken classes with Lisa before and the pace, challenges and comradery are exhilarating. I had expected the same approach in the Master Class. But initially, I was frustrated-- I wanted to move full speed ahead with my artwork. Instead, I discovered all the things that got in my way.

On the short list for roadblocks were my health and my job. My health was suffering because I was burning out from the intense pace of hospital art therapy. All the self care that I could muster; yoga, therapy, exercise, massage, you name it, didn't seem to budge my exhaustion or my myriad collection of maladies.

Lisa invited me to slow down and piece together the elements that weren't working. Then, I was to imagine what might help me grow stronger. I put down my ideas: acupuncture, more time with friends and more travel, less time in the studio. A couple of the myriad maladies began to melt away as I put my ideas into action.

My favorite exercise is one that cost nothing in time or money; a values inventory. I thought about the values that circumscribe my life: intuition, stewardship, tikkun o'lam*, healing, acknowledgement, responsibility, respect and compassion.

After coming up with my list, I decided to bring each of these values, one by one, into my art work. I was amazed--because I actually began to relax.

Nandina With Words, 2015, 8

Although I have deadlines for exhibits. I've began to be more thoughtful in my process; less let's get it done! and more  what is it that I'm doing?

And slowing down is good. It's hot, it's summer, but beyond that I'm simply enjoying the ride, curious to find out how my ideas about art will change as I do.

How do your values affect the art you make?

*A Jewish principle that means to heal the world, to fit the broken pieces together, and in modern terms to talk about fixing what is broken in society.

The Pleasures of Collaboration

Attachment-1 (23) 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.

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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.

Gel monoprint with fennel

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.

Bleeding Heart Leaf, 2015, Linda Clark Johnson, Matted Monoprint

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.

Circle Game

Panels with an underlayer, pre-circles. Work in progress from the There are  many things for which I count down--the time 'till I get to hit my studio again, a few days off or a get together with friends. My favorite: thinking about transitioning from the role of art therapist to that of artist and teacher.

I've used the circle in my work for many years and in my new series, Counting Down, I'm using the circle as a symbol to represent the act of counting. In Counting Down, the circle functions as a clock form, in which the circle is divided into four parts, each part slightly offset from the other.

The various circles function as a series of crazy clocks in which time flies both forward and backward; into the future and back into the past.

The pieced together circles are made using monoprints. This process serves a double function. I save many of the prints that don't quite turn out right. When I print over them with a solid color, you can see the shadow of images below--as if through a screen or a veil. They have an ethereal quality--as if you could almost touch them, but not quite, much like the future for which we conjure dreams, but can only guess what it will really feel like.

And I love the irony of the series title and the process. When I think of counting down, I'm looking at time passing, but I'm not in the present (how can I be?) Yet, on the other hand, the act of putting together the circles places me squarely in the present, neither reaching backwards into memory and history or ahead in the time that is yet to come.

Work in progress from the

This is what I love about art. It has the ability to transport us; as a viewer into the past or future, or, as the maker, directly in the place in which we stand.

Mercury Goes Retrograde in the Studio

Attachment-1(1) Recently, people have been talking a lot about Mercury Retrograde. An event that takes place 3-4 times a year, the planet Mercury appears to slow down and actually move backwards. It's an optical illusion, because the planet continues to move forward, its just doesn't look like it from Earth's point of view. It's like when you're in a slow train and a much faster one speeds past. It seems like you're not moving at all.

One of my favorite commentators on astrological events, Cathy Coleman, wrote the following about Mercury Retrograde:

Mercury symbolizes communication, and its retrograde motion beckons us to pause and re-think, re-organize, and purge the Inbox and remnants of lists undone rather than start new endeavors. Communication can get snarled and confused, so be patient with mistakes and with those who make them.

My own adventures have been limited to garden variety computer glitches (how come I can't log into the electronic medical records with the same password I've used for 2 years?) the i-phone (no matter how many pics I delete, I still can't take any more??) and my favorite one, the studio.

When I made it up to the studio this past weekend, I thought that I'd successfully set up four panels with monoprint collage bases. I used 12-4"  squares on a 12" x 12" panel and 24 squares on a 12" x 24" panel. Um hmm. I completely forgot that those squares I planned to turn into segmented circles were actually supposed to be 6." I didn't remember that part of the plan until I'd glued on almost all of the circles, and dammit--they looked really small!

At that point I had a choice, freeze up and curse and jettison the whole lot or...pause.  I thought about a passage I'd just read in Pema Chodrons's book Comfortable with Uncertainty.

The central question of a warrior's training is not how we avoid uncertainty and fear but how we relate to discomfort. How do we practice with difficulty, with our emotions, with the unpredictable encounters of an ordinary day?...We regard disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, jealousy, and fear as moments that show us where we're holding back, how we're shutting down. Such uncomfortable feelings are messages that tell us to perk up and lean into a situation when we'd rather cave in and back away.

Indeed. I calmly peeled away all the little quarter circles, measured and began again. And here's what I found. Rather than screwing up my plans, the confusion between my math facts lent the work in progress a kind of complexity that I could not have planned. Working with the difference between multiples of 4 and 6 was like working with music in different time signatures--fun, exciting, stimulating. So I'm going with it. Leaning in and discovering what happens when I welcome the random challenges of Mercury Retrograde.

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Tiny Desk Art

One of the first squares; Chinese text and monoprint papers, 5" x 5" How does an artist keep making art when the flow of life brings a series of not so fortunate events? That's what's been happening to me lately. From a fractured foot to a persistent virus, not to mention getting rear ended, was life conspiring to keep me from the studio?

With little time and less energy, it seemed that the obvious solution was to make smaller work. "But I don't want to make smaller work!" an inner voice whined. "O.K.,"-- I answered the voice, "but smaller work can add up." It occurred to me that I could use the same journal format that I'd been practicing in my recent work.

I approach my work in an additive way anyway, creating one print or collage and building on that with the next one, and so on; day after day. At the end of a run (determined by season or plant material), I curate them into a composition that adds up to more than the sum of its parts.

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This time, although the size would be smaller, I could still use a sequential format. Then, the words "Tiny Desk Concerts" came to mind. I remembered that these were intimate musical events  performed live at the desk of one of NPR's music hosts, Bob Boilen.

Great idea! I figured that I could work the same way. During a break at the hospital or lunch, I could stack the key board on my computer monitor and employ the resulting 13" wide open space for art making. Tiny desk art indeed. But my patch was large enough to fit a cutting board. And where would I keep my materials? I slid open my file drawer, revealing a box of jasmine tea, some almonds and chia seeds, and added a pencil box of collage materials and a folder of colorfully printed papers.

There is a sequence of 3 letters: prn, medical shorthand for the Latin phrase: pro re nata, or, "as the thing is needed."

I love that phrase "as the thing is needed," meaning not always, not every hour or even every day, but when you need it. And that, for the time being, is how I'm making art.

One of the recent squares, vintage origami text and monoprint papers, 5" x 5"

Generosity & Creative Deed 365

Attachment-1 (1)An online project, Creative Deed 365,  got me thinking about generosity. What makes someone want to give? The project's creator, Gretchen Miller, decided that she wanted offer a project/challenge that involves "...making small pieces of art (3 x 2.5) to randomly gift to others as acts of kindness and to spread creative goodness to others in the spirit of 6 Degrees of Creativity’s 2014 Creative Deed Project.  I want to dedicate 2015 to sharing this process with others and give all the art away with year long positive messages of hope, inspiration, and possibility."

As I read further, I discovered that Gretchen was leaving the cards in coffee shops, tucked in bookstore shelves, at bus stops, almost any public place you could imagine.  Each of them had the following message on the back:

Creative Deed 365 | Creativity in Motion

I was inspired by Gretchen's idea and wondered how I could adapt it for myself. I knew that I couldn't keep up with one card a day (although I tried). Instead, I began to make cards in odd moments in the hospital, using them to process an interaction, or in an art therapy session, and as a means of self-care.

Attachment-1I wondered what to do with them, how could I offer them to others as a means of inspiration? I wanted to provide a place where people could look through the cards, choosing one that felt right to them. But where would that place be?

The idea, when it finally arrived, was simple. As I prepared my studio for our town's open studio tour, I thought about how when I visit artists' studios, I want to to leave with something tangible, something that preserves the beauty I've seen. The problem is that most of the time, I can't afford the art work.

I decided that in my own studio, I would take that obstacle away. Although much of my work would be for sale, I would give away small "365" pieces of art.

And I did. I watched people looking over my work: the prints, the large wall pieces, the gift cards and I could see at certain points, a small moment of longing cross their face. At those moments, I offered them a card. They took the process to heart, leafing through them as if they were tarot cards, searching for just the right one.Attachment-1 (3)

After that, I couldn't stop making the miniature offerings--although I don't know where the next drop off will be, that's all part of the surprise element.

If you are interested in joining Gretchen's project: Make a request to join the Creative Deed 365 Group on Facebook and contribute your own art in the spirit of this effort.

It All Adds Up

Paradox, detail ©2015, 26" x 32," Monoprint One week left to the Davis Art Studio Tour! This past weekend I cleared out so much unwanted "stuff" that I'm certain I'll feel psychically lighter for the next 6 months.

I love the spacious white feeling of my studio. Now, like materials are stored with like (easy on the memory). Unlabeled boxes have large black letters stating their contents. Artwork sits stacked, ready to be hung, displayed and sold.

For all this, I owe kudos to my sister, Amelia, who helped me to carry heavy objects down the studio stairs, cast away unused collage fodder and grab pictures of my leaf collection. Her openhearted support helped me to keep a stiff upper lip as I carted numerous armloads to the recycling bins.

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The act of clearing a space is of course both a physical and mental task and requires me to take a stand; I'll let go of this and hold onto that. And, when it's all done, I can focus on "closing the circle," returning to where it all began; the artwork itself.

I'm happy and excited to share the prints that have come off the Gelli plate in the last year. There are many of them and some wonderful cards that they've inspired. I'll have two of my good friends serving as wing persons so that I can show you just how how the magic happens.

If you're in the Davis area, I'd love to see you this Saturday or Sunday!

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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

Opening a Studio

  Studio entrance, facing north

I wrote earlier about how I jumped at the idea of joining the Davis Artist Studio Tour. It didn't take long until I got into the nitty gritty of the details. Oh my gosh--I'm out of storage area! Time to comb through books and framed pieces and empty frames. Four bags of books head off to the library sale. Several obsolete frames and posters make their way to the ASPCA. After dusting the shelves, there's literally more room to breathe--and more room for art making.

When you take on a group project like the Davis Art Studio Tour, you invest some money up front. This could be a disincentive, but for me, its already proved its worth. Widening the circle of the artists I know has been wonderful--as well as practical. DAST divides itself into committees in order to organize the event and I found myself on the social media committee with artists Betty Nelsen and Adele Shaw, both talented artists and amazing human beings.

In addition to meeting new folks, there's the super plus of group energy. When you have 30 artists all planning "save the dates,"studio shots and art shots for Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, there's a lot more incentive to jump in and go with the flow.

So I've taken the jump and ordered a print rack as well as a complicated device called a "transfer gun 3M adhesive dispenser," which allows me to mat prints at a good pace. I'm excited. I've also discovered new Ampersand panels that I can use for mounting prints and all I need is a good weekend to dig in and begin to stockpile my work. Perhaps this one is as good as any!

2015 in Motion!

From the Davis Open Studio Tour 2015 website I feel like someone with a diary--who hasn't made an entry in a looong time. Which usually means lots has been going on. In December I wrote about my fear of preparing for my open studio. Like many things one fears, it turned out to be far easier, much less stressful and a whole lot more fun than I imagined.

So much fun in fact that when my friend, Sara Post, told me about the Davis Art Studio Tour coming in April, I signed right up. I felt like a kid who'd just gone down a slide, saying "Wheee! I want to do that again!"

So here I go, the Studio Tour is a cooperative of 30 artists, and like a well oiled machine, each person has their part to play. I look forward to this collaboration; working with Linda Clark Johnson on the December Open Studio was a huge learning curve and definitely a friendship deepener.

Linda and I caught framing up a print.

Kim Tackett and Linda Clark Johnson at our Open Studio in December

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In order to prepare, I've been making loose plans; plans that will become more detailed in the days ahead.

In the meantime, my family and I just returned from time spent in one of my favorite places; Kauai. I've established the habit of bringing art supplies along with me and I spent all the time, when I wasn't hiking swimming or walking the beaches, immersed in plant materials and nice gooey acrylics. I want to make sure that some of the Studio Tour artwork includes and reflects the richness of this beloved island.

I'll be sharing more about the Davis Art Studio Tour as the next couple months unfold. Now, up to the studio!

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Open Studio as a Practice

Nandina 1, ©2014, 8" x 10," Monoprint on panel When you're in a yoga class, the teachers often refer to "your practice," a phrase that both personalizes one's practice and places the responsibility for it squarely on one's shoulders (or should I say palms and feet?) When  my teacher was directing a complicated pose the other day and used the phrase "if you have it in your practice," those words that simultaneously reassured and challenged me.

I'm taking them to heart and applying them to an event that's just up the road, my first Open Studio event in several years. I always get excited about the idea of an open studio, but as the date gets closer, the idea of opening my house to people feels like the proverbial dream where I look down and realize I've forgotten to put on my shirt. Exposed.

But here's the thing: I love being up in my studio and making my work, watching it fill up the walls. But there's another part to the process of making art that I struggle with: sharing it. Its a way of completing the circle, to bring what is internal out and allow the world to see it.

I do want to share it, but that feeling of exposure is uncomfortable. And that's where yoga comes in. Perhaps, I thought, I could see the whole thing simply as a continuation of my art practice,  something that is actually a natural extension of making the work.

In a practice, whether it's an art or yoga practice, the important thing is to show up. As I thought about this, I began to feel more confident and I got curious about this idea of practice. I read different yoga blogs to get a feel for what different teachers meant by practice. While they generally agreed on the physical benefits, I collected different tips about how to maintain a practice:

•Set an intention or goal and set aside time for that each day. • Stay positive -- know that it is possible. • Be patient with myself; honor my body. •Acknowledge my accomplishments, big or small. • Continue my practice. Combine these points with a heaping portion of non-judgement and compassion, and I've got a good recipe.

So far, so good. I've been staying tuned into Art Hannah. I think that the most exquisitely difficult and simultaneously most rewarding part of the practice is this: I can't make my art or my home or myself anything other than 'what it is' or 'what I am'Holday--and that if I am completely myself and my art is too, there isn't any better place to be.

 

Ruth's Table

Clarion Alley, SF. From left, Monica Lee, myself, Linda Clark Johnson and Leslie Flores

I recently met a new friend, Monica Lee, a San Francisco photographer and artist-in-residence at Ruth's table; a place and a space where people of all generations can meet and explore the arts. The organization was named after artist and sculptor, Ruth Asawa, and is situated in a senior housing facility in the Mission District.

Fascinated, I decided that visiting Ruth's Table would be a perfect artist/art therapist field trip. Securing a professional leave day, I planned an excursion with another artist, Linda Clark Johnson, Monica and her artist friend, Leslie Flores. Monica made a list of artistic destinations and we set off early on a Tuesday morning, all meeting up at the Ferry Building.

After our first compulsory stop at Dick Blick to pick up art supplies, we stopped off at the Andrea Schwartz Gallery to view the work of artist, Wynne Hayakawa, whose landscapes of trees, frozen in a moment of stop motion, provided a perfect first stop.

Wynne Hayakawa ©2014, Oil on canvas

Wynne's worked intrigued me; the size of the works was large, probably 4' x 4' and they made an impression not unlike that of virtually driving through a forest, looking out the window and trying to secure the images as time and the car moved on.

We also dropped in at San Francisco Center for the Book, a bookbinding and letterpress studio that promotes traditional and experimental book art forms. Walking into the vast open studio space was like wandering around my undergraduate days in the letterpress studio at the University of Iowa. Since then, I thought the art of handset type had almost died out. I was happy to see the trays of type, the Vandercook presses and the exquisite display of books by the Hand Bookbinders of California.

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I was also astounded by the landscape of San Francisco and how much it has changed since living there some 30 years ago. It was as if bulldozers had leveled street after street, replacing the old dwellings with newer, trendier but hopefully more earthquake safe townhouses.

However, I needn't have worried that the entire city was remodeled. Our next location was tucked away in an old warehouse district off of Army St. SCRAP, or Scroungers Center for Usable Art Parts was a feast for my recycling eyes. Sprawling in a San Francisco School District warehouse in the Bayview district of San Francisco, SCRAP is the country's oldest creative reuse center, and has been diverting waste from landfills for use as art supplies for over 35 years. According to the website, each year over 200 tons of redeployed junk avoid the fate of the land fill. I'm here to say, that you could create an infinite number of installations with the goods provided there.

SCRAP, an art scavenger's paradise.

After a delicious lunch of fresh fish tacos, served on heavy timbered tables at a Mission taqueria, we made our way to Ruth's Table.

As we entered, Monica explained that the idea for Ruth's Table was the idea of director, Lola Fraknoi. After meeting Lola, we were treated to a tour and entertainment by an older, blind gentleman who had simply walked in off the street and begun to play, quite beautifully, on their grand piano. It was a beguiling scene; the white grand piano (donated by Princess Cruises) set in a spacious gallery with an exquisite calligraphic exhibit and this maestro of the moment, bent over the keys and playing his heart out.

A grandmother and her granddaughter walked in and Monica introduced us to them as two of her students. Monica had recently learned about gelli printing and wanted Linda and I to do a quick demo. We happily obliged using dog fennel that I'd gathered at SCRAP and some plants that her students had picked on their way over.

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A quick half an hour later, we were covered in paint and a handful of prints displayed our efforts. Monica dropped Linda and I off at Megabus, where tired and paint stained, we climbed aboard with our backpacks, stuffed with memories of the day.

Summer Fruit

Shift 5, ©2014, 12" x 12," Monoprint on panel The purple figs in the alley were ripe last week, dropping all over the street and and I wondered why I hadn't noticed them sooner.

Why, when something is almost right in front of our eyes, don't we take notice? There are all kinds of answers, but I've been thinking about this one: What if we're just suffering from "habitual landscape," stuck in a fixed framework, unaware of the bigger picture?

I've been pondering a similar situation in my life: Summer. After moving to Davis, CA some years ago, I began to long for a way out of summer. The sun is hot and and the air is dry--the temperature can sit on us over 100 for days on end. Like today: forecast:101 degrees.

For one reason and another, our family rarely leaves the valley during these extreme months. Frustrated, I imagined vacations in Maine or British Columbia.

I realized I have a perennial problem: without a surplus of money and bonus time, how do I find acceptance for where I am? Like the preschoolers on a recent NPR report, I decided to opt for flexible, fluid thinking. I was struck by Michelle Trudeau, the author of the report's words:

Children try a variety of novel ideas and unusual strategies to get the gadget to go. For example, UC Berkeley psychologist, Alison Gopnik says, "If the child sees that a square block and a round block independently turn the music on, then they'll take a square and take a circle and put them both on the machine together to make it go, even though they never actually saw the experimenters do that."

This is flexible, fluid thinking — children exploring an unlikely hypothesis. Exploratory learning comes naturally to young children, says Gopnik.  Adults, on the other hand, jump on the first, most obvious solution and doggedly stick to it, even if it's not working. That's inflexible, narrow thinking. "We think the moral of the study is that maybe children are better at solving problems when the solution is an unexpected one," says Gopnik. --Preschoolers Outsmart College Kids in Figuring out Gadgets

I decided to try and solve my problem by diving deeper into the very environment that frustrates me. Thus began my "Shift" series; a monoprint series using plants gathered within my immediate surroundings; first in my own back yard and then, broadening out to my neighborhood and beyond.

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Initially, the process felt abstract and remote, but soon enough, I became an avid collector of the most common plant species in my neighborhood; what one gardener described as "top 40" plants. Top 40 or no, it didn't seem to matter. Their shapes made elegant tracings in the acrylic paint and their signatures on the paper made me want to stay in the studio and do more and more.

Soon, I had a collection of prints; postcards of my explorations, but I also noticed that my attitude had changed. I was no longer trapped in the heat of the Central Valley. Instead, I was released into my own ongoing exploration/vacation.

These days, I'm taking those prints and cutting them up, piecing together collage prints. It's still hot and I still spend only the early morning hours outdoors, but instead of Maine, the studio is now my refuge.

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Of Figs and Gelli Plates*

Shift 3, ©2014, 30" x 24," Monoprint I've been on a tear the last couple months, collecting all kinds of plant specimens that grow around my house, sorting them and then printing them using a gelli plate.

From left: Manzanita, rose, oak, alstromeria, oleander, nandina, and upper right, a sprig of creeping hydrangea

I'd taken some professional leave during that time which  allowed me to dig deep. I had a blast and a taste of what it might be like to dedicate myself to my art work full time.

And something happened--something to do with the gelli plate. For some time I've wanted to work larger, but couldn't find the vehicle. The gelli plate in all of its simplicity turned out to be just the ticket.

Its innocuous presence (so not intimidating), the squish of the brayer as it rolls out ink, the sucking sound as the paper is pulled away from the print, and the surprise of lines and curves and color; all are a sensual pleasure that I can wade in for hours.

The biggest discovery was learning how to curate the prints once they were completed, i.e., discovering a way to put them together. I like to lay them all out on the table and play with them, moving the contenders in and out of place until I feel that internal tug that says: "this is it."

Shadows of Nandina falling on Nandina prints

Although I'll be working full time at the hospital this summer, I'm looking forward to the weekends, filled with buzzing insects, sleeping cats, and gelli prints of summer flora. Perhaps a frozen yogurt at the end of a studio day.

Oh, and did I mention, the ripening figs? Nothing like them when inspiration is needed!

Looking forward to these!

*My apologies for sending out 2 versions; I accidentally hit the publishing button while editing:-)

 

 

What I'm Learning in my Fifties

Pruning, ˙2014, 5.5" x 7.5," Monoprint I recently read an article in the New York Times entitled, "What You Learn in Your Forties." A humorous article, it included such tidbits as "There are no grown-ups. We suspect this when we are younger, but can confirm it only once we are the ones writing books and attending parent-teacher conferences. Everyone is winging it, some just do it more confidently."

That got me thinking it might fun to consider what I've learned in my fifties, because, as my office mate reminded me this morning, we'll both be turning 59 this year.

The term "synaptic pruning" springs to mind. This term refers to the brain's regulatory processes, in charge of pruning the neural structures in the brain, and thus reducing the number of neurons and synapses in order to create more efficient synaptic connections. This tends to occur in younger folks...

I've experienced a similar kind of pruning in my 50's. As we grow, we make choices and those choices close off certain possibilities--while others open up. It is true that I will never climb Mt Kilimanjaro or become a lawyer, however, in the areas in which I've chosen to focus, the possibilities appear to be growing.

Pruning 2, ©2014, 5.5" x 7.5," Monoprint

I've been pondering a new series I've just started: "the ecology of place”–or, “my ecological niche”: a series using plants gathered within my immediate surroundings, to create monoprints exploring the relationship between me (the human) and my environment (my yard).

As I thought about pruning choices, I realized that it was no surprise that I’d chosen this theme. I’ve had an ambivalent relationship to staying in one place for a long time; the result of moving frequently as a child. Although I truly love my small Central Valley town, there is always a part of me that wonders "I wonder what it's like in…"

This little thought keeps me from living fully in the present, in Davis, CA on Olympic Dr., in my house, and probably in any number of places I frequent. What better way to settle in, than to make a series out of it?

I look forward to sharing this work with you as it unfolds, both in my backyard and beyond.

6 Degrees of Creativity Rides Again

Artist Trading Cards made during 6 Degrees of Creativity In the summer of 2012, I had the pleasure of participating as an instructor in a workshop/project called "6 Degrees of Creativity 2."  Sponsored by the Art Therapy Alliance,  Six Degrees of Creativity is an on-line art workshop and community and included six different workshops, each offered by a different instructor from the art therapy community.

6 Degrees of Creativity unites concepts of social networking, connecting, collaboration, art-making, and creativity into an engaged global community of artists exploring transformation and using art for good.

My workshop, Still Point in a Changing World: Creating a Mindful Studio Practice was a wonderful means to bring awareness of the area of studio practice and I loved connecting with so many art loving people located all over the world.

Recently, Gretchen Miller, the creator of 6 Degrees, told me that  6 Degrees of Creativity will be offered again as a 10 month (wow) on-line workshop running from March 2014-December 2014 and all 6 workshops will be taught by Gretchen herself.

With such delicious sounding titles as: Everyday Creativity,  The Creative Deed Project and Creative Goodness, It's in the Cards, the workshops sound like a great way to charge up your batteries during the depths of midwinter or take time during a summer break to indulge in studio madness.

As a wonderful bonus, she told me that I could invite a guest to take the workshop, free of charge. I thought of many ways that could happen, but landed on you, my blog readers as the most enjoyable way of participating. Soooo...If you would like a chance to take 6 Degrees of Creativity, meet a bunch of extremely creative people and find inspiration and imagination for your art, drop a comment in the comments section. Let me know what you'd enjoy about taking 6 Degrees and I'll put all the names in my hat at the end of the week and select one. On Saturday, I'll let you know who the lucky workshop participant will be.

However--if you'd like go straight to registration, pass go, and collect many incredible ideas, you can register by clicking here.

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?

Gelli Plate Printing +

Blue Leaves, ©2014, H. Hunter, 6" x 7.5," monoprint 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.

View of the pali, Kauai, 2014

Wandering outside, I gathered a number of leaves with interesting shapes and began printing--and printing and printing.

My impromptu studio, Kauai, 2014

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.

Leaves; stacked and printed!

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.

Red Leaves on Yellow, ©2014, 6" x 7.5," monoprint

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.

Turquoise Leaves, ©2014, 6" x 7.5," monoprint

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.

Pink Stem, ©2014, 6" x 7.5," monoprint

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!

My One Word

"Start," ©2014, 2.5" x 3.5", Collage and monoprint There's a New Year's practice that I've often read about on various blogs: choosing one word to guide one's actions for the coming year.

I'd forgotten about it though, until I read Alyson Stanfield's post this morning entitled "Clarity."

I skimmed the article and while walking down the halls of the hospital where I work, I began to internally audition my own lettered candidates.

I tried out various words; self confident, aware, determined, acceptance, safe, secure, peaceful.

I noticed different body sensations. Safe and secure felt contracting (although they are not necessarily so). Self confident felt a bit too other-oriented and acceptance--well, I spend a lot of time with that already!

I checked back with Alyson's post and came across this line: Your word of the year should inspire and motivate you. It provides focus without limiting you.

That provided the 'Goldilocks' moment and the 'just right' word popped into my mind: FAITH.

Faith covers it all. Faith in my self, faith in my art making, faith in my practice of art therapy. Also faith in my ability to be present as I encounter the uncharted territory of 2014.

How about you? Do you have a word or intention or new practice you're beginning? I'd love to hear about it.

Postscript: Many thank to Gretchen Miller. The word "START" in the collage comes from one of her revo'lution pieces, which she shared as a PDF for readers of her blog, Creativity in Motion.

David Hockney: Diverse Perspectives

"WOLDGATE WOODS, 26, 27 & 30 JULY 2006" ©2006, David Hockney I spent Sunday in sparkling  San Francisco, traveling there to see the much anticipated David Hockney "A Bigger Exhibition," at the deYoung Museum. I'd read about the exhibit, but was unprepared to enter a virtual (and I do mean virtual) wonder of the world.

At a time when we complain about memory lapses and gray hair, this 76 year-old master lives life to his fullest and shows no signs of slowing down. After navigating through a labyrinth of grand halls, I emerged renewed and astounded.

Much of the work originates from Great Britain, in the county of Yorkshire, near where Hockney grew up. There were two rooms in particular that struck me. He had chosen a spot in Woldgate Woods and in a quartet of pieces, painted this same spot in spring, summer, fall and winter. I could stand in the middle of the room, turn 90 degrees and watch the world ripen and die away throughout a year! The works were massive; six panels, each the size of a large painting in its own right. Immersion is putting it mildly.

The next room revealed another 4 pieces, in 4 seasons, on 4 walls. But this time, each one was a carefully constructed montage of 9 video screens, slowly advancing down a country lane, shifting in and out of synchronization and overlap (yes, some our party found it a bit dizzying).

"Still from Woldgate Woods" (November 26, 2010) is nine digital videos synchronized to comprise a single artwork. Photo by Spencer Michels/PBS NewsHour

The video images were created by placing 9 different cameras on a van, all filming the same scene from slightly different points of view. Once back in the studio, Hockney edited the footage to create the composite perspective in the piece above.

I had read much about Hockney's use of the iphone and ipad, but mistakenly discounted the authenticity of the media; thinking that a mark of the hand on paper is genuine and somehow more significant than gestures on a screen. I was taken aback as I entered yet another huge gallery, this one containing ipad drawings from Yosemite National Park, each enlarged to 12 feet tall. (The drawings were blown up in sections, printed on separate pieces of paper and reassembled.)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             The  drawings were done in a sweeping and general way; the swirls and lines of cloud and tree reminiscent of Chinese landscape painting. The docent, whose tour I'd joined, invited us to approach each painting as if it were a roadside vista, stop 18 inches away, and "look up."

I obeyed, wondering what might happen. As I tilted my head up, I felt uncannily as if I were standing at the bottom of Half Dome, staring up into the gauzy clouds. If you've spent any time in Yosemite, many of the views are unmistakeable. As I looked over to the next painting, the swoops of cloud, which from standing afar, are clearly the artifacts of touch on an ipad, merged into a sort of luminous fog, obscuring the boundary between the depicted rock wall and the wall of the gallery.

Exiting the exhibition and then leaving the city, the green trees of The Presidio rushing by, I had the sensation of inhabiting an endless Hockney painting--the incredible gift of the painter and his works--and I wondered what the world would be like if we all tried a bit harder to study it from multiple perspectives.

To see more of Hockney's works,  you can click here for a short video that he made for the Royal Academy of Arts in London.