"I Kissed the Sun" - acrylic on crescent board, 15.25" x 20"
A little abstraction in the midst of my other projects was just the thing to loosen me up this week! This piece was inspired by a Hafiz poem (he was a 13th century Sufi poet) in which he "kissed the sun." I could just see his lips, stained by sunshine, lighting up his face. It made me smile.
I suppose we are all in love with the sun in some way. As a teen, I worshipped the sun's ability to make my skin a glorious bronze. Of course, I now equate sunbathing with certain peril! But at the time, it was a summer rite of passage, along with the delicious smell of coconut oil and glossy magazines.
There is a Portlandia episode in which a group of people are tailgating wherever the sun peeks through the clouds, hastily shifting their belongings as the clouds move to reestablish their camp:
Now maybe we don't go to the same extremes here in south Florida as they do in the Pacific northwest, but we do stop and turn our faces to the sun on a beautiful morning.
Wherever you are, I hope this day brings you sunshine. And perhaps a little kiss.
"Unfettered Horizon" - ink on aquabord, 16" x 20". Ready to frame.
After many months of creating small abstract landscapes in ink, I decided to try a larger one. Working with the inks on a large surface was delicious. I am certain to do it again. The graphic impact of a larger piece pleases me, and aquabord is my favorite substrate. So big aquabord is even more magical!
This weekend we took a trip to visit my dad, who is recovered from heart surgery and living in his own home once more. He has turned his home into a juicy gallery of his vibrant art - a bachelor pad of swirling color and wall-to-wall paintings. This is a complete transformation from its former look, with many fewer paintings. mostly sedate in soft pastels. It suits his personality perfectly now, and it is a visual smorgasbord of color for visitors.
A year after my mom's passing, dad has finally opened up the exterior building which housed her art supplies (she was a life-long artist) and has begun adding her tools to his. He invited me to peruse her stash and nab some pieces for myself. If you can imagine wall-to-wall shelves, closets, cupboards and boxes, you have some idea of how long my mom created art and how many different mediums she played with. I found pastels, watercolors, oils, acrylics, stained glass, embossing tools, seed beads, quilt supplies, collage materials, knitting, sewing, sketching, sumi brushes and inks, india inks and many things I didn't even recognize. It was overwhelming. So I picked out a small stack of things I knew I would use now (stamps, books, inks, brushes, paper) and showed it to my dad in the main house.
Here is where the fun began. My dad, thinking he was ready to part with a bit of my mom's things, was suddenly overwhelmed with emotion. I could see he didn't really want to part with even one of the 850 million things in that building. So I suggested the stack was perhaps things he might want to use in his art and keep near him. With an herculean effort, he paused, then suggested we take turns picking from the stack. In a 45 minute exchange which resembled kids after trick-or-treating, we began alternately choosing items. Then the rule creating began: if things were high value, he would automatically have first dibs. If you moved an item near your stack, you had to take it and couldn't change your mind. If you touched it too many times in deciding, you had to pick it. You get the idea. It was the most hilarious exchange of art supplies, super competitive and high tension like the most intense of chess games, except we kept verbalizing our strategies as we went along. My husband moderated this exchange with a good hearted smile.
In the photo are the pieces I brought home after our exchange. Before our next visit, I throw down a challenge for us each to create a piece with our stack of treasures. A western-style art showdown with brushes drawn, shoot-out style.
"Flurried Dreams"- mixed media on canvas paper, 12" x 16". Ready for framing.
It's full moon Thursday. Which means I've been up since 3 a.m. Because the moon wants me to get up and play with her instead of sleeping restfully. And who am I to argue with the moon? So this little pink-haired sweetie fairly leapt off the palette this morning, sleepy headed and still dreaming of snow flurries. Her wistful countenance makes me smile.
What is it about silent snowfall that is so magical? Is it the muffled crunch of my boots as I break through the crusty top layer? Is it the hush of huge, soft snowflakes gently falling like sleeping fairies onto eyelashes and noses? And why am I contemplating snow in April in south Florida? I blame a dear friend who sent me photos of Colorado snow last week. Those images have lingered like the wobbly outlines of a snowman past his prime, one eye slipping down his cheek during the inevitable melt.
This week I've changed up my daily routine to incorporate 30 minutes of nothing. Now I know it is impossible to literally do nothing. I mean, even when we aren't away we are sleeping, breathing, creating new cells and sometimes dreaming. By "nothing", I mean sitting in one spot, gazing at whatever is around me, allowing my thoughts to go where they will. If you know me at all, you understand this is truly a herculean task! I am always doing something. But what I've learned after many days of this new practice is that my brain is truly recharged, inspired and rejuvenated after 30 minutes of cloud-gazing or watching waves. Solutions to problems appear in my head - things I might have struggled with for days, suddenly simplified. Bursts of inspiration arrive like Cinderella's carriage - decked out in fanciness and high-stepping horses. And after 30 minutes of nothingness, my body and brain both relax a gajillion percent for the rest of the day.
Now sitting for 30 minutes isn't exactly meditation. My eyes are open, my thoughts are wandering and I am not even trying to corral them! But it is something. Which, I suppose, means it isn't actually nothing. Hmmmm.
"Mom" (a study in watercolor) - 12" x 16"
Last week marked the one year anniversary of my mom's lost battle with metastatic breast cancer. I wanted to mark the day with something special, and set out to paint this watercolor portrait based on a photograph of her taken when I was about 18 months old.
The photo depicts something we didn't see much in our house - my mom with a big smile on her face. She was a beautiful woman, always meticulously dressed, but had her own way of approaching the world which did not include many smiles. As I spent time with the photograph, I felt such light and ease radiating from my mom that it was quite cathartic for me. It reminded me of the hidden gems inside every person, sometimes captured on film.
Our children will grow up with something we did not have - oodles and oodles of photos. Finding a good photo of my mother was like treasure hunting without a map. She didn't like being photographed, and there weren't instant or digital cameras when she was younger. Most of our photos are of times she would rather we forgot - the last years of her life during her battle with cancer. I felt her approval as I chose this radiant picture of a youthful mom in her pink dress with pearls.
In the plethora of selfies and digital pics, I wonder what our children will find as their favorite photos of us one day. I can think of many I wish would permanently delete themselves! But then again, they may find something in the photograph that I would not have, and may cherish it as I do this particular one of my mom.
I'd like to think I will make this a tradition each year going forward. Or at least for as many years as there are happy pictures of my mom. She may not be here physically any longer, but I am pretty sure she would make her presence known if I dared paint one to those photos she disapproved of.
"Sweet Naomi" - mixed media on canvas paper, 12" x 16"
This month seems to be filled with magic! New adventures, new people, new energy. Like a shifting tide of positivity! It is welcome after what seems to have been months of struggle and frustration. Do you feel it? Are doors finally opening in your life? Are things coming a little easier for you? There is a palpable positive charge in the air here in south Florida.
Naomi appeared on the canvas as this tide shifted. She sweetly welcomes new energy into her space with a "come in" gesture. She is dressed in her power robes and ready for new mojo. A reminder to me to open the door when opportunity knocks (even if I am still in my pajamas). And to use my manners.
My son is on a world tour of a gap year, which included a stop in the Netherlands and a week of butlering at a renown butler school. The folks there were a bit dismissive of Americans because of their lack of manners, which offended my son (a polite and gracious young man). The truth is, there is a lot of rudeness in our country. On the news, in the stores, at the dinner table (if dinner is even eaten at a table!). And it has apparently become our reputation in some parts of the world. Now I am not saying we should dress for dinner a la Downton Abbey! But a little please, thank you and excuse me goes a long way.
Perhaps there will be a resurgence of politeness in America - like Polaroid cameras, high-waisted pants and big hair, a return of manners as a social trend, #pleaseandthankyou, #gentlemenopendoorsforladies, #excuseme, #ilovemanners.
Now where are my white elbow gloves?
The final day of the Lynn Ferris workshop and it is filled with birds! In today's magical class, we fine-tuned our ability to paint from shadows and create rounded forms. Not as many layers as yesterday (only 7 today!) but more detail and more planning behind when each step happens for best effects.
So this month I took a vacation from everything, and followed it with a creative vacation from my own work and studio. This is the perfect formula for recharging all batteries, artistic and otherwise. I plan to do this again, in just the same order.
There are hordes of broods of new baby geese in the lake behind our house just waiting to be painted, and I have some juicy new supplies to paint them with! Now if I could just get them to hold still for longer than 5 seconds...
Another fabulous workshop day following the light! In this series, we created a shadow map from a photograph and then used it to plan our painting. There is no local color in this piece, just shadow painting. I am in love with the abstract grooviness of this style, and have oodles of ideas for using this in the future. As with my favorite watercolor book, Urban Watercolor Sketching, today's exercise allowed us to use the full strength, bold pigment effect of many layers of watercolor (about 12 layers over a 6 hour time-span in this piece).
When I first began doodling and collecting and making marks, my eyes became trained to see patterns everywhere. I couldn't leave the house without interesting patterns appearing whereverI looked. Years later, I still see patterns, but now try not to be distracted like a crow with a shiny object. After this class today, I can already see shadows in a new way. Just another reason why I should not be allowed to paint and drive at the same time.
Back from a lovely vacation in the Keys, and jumping right into an art workshop with the amazing Lynn Ferris (check her out at www.lynnferris.com). The progression above is day one of a three day workshop on infusing your art with light sources. After five days soaking up the biggest light source of all, it seemed the perfect time to tackle this workshop! Also, it is another reason to play in the paint. :)
Jen Walls and her imaJENation