I love this essay by one of the greatest poets of our time: Mary Oliver. It reminds me that I MUST ignore the trivial, everyday, monotonous tasks sometimes in order to accomplish what makes me an artist.
As Mary says: “My loyalty is to the inner vision, whenever and howsoever it may arrive. If I have a meeting with you at three o’clock, rejoice if I am late. Rejoice even more if I do not arrive at all.”
I must paint. Recently I’ve started heading to the studio first thing in the morning. The other tasks eventually get finished in odd moments. My first priority must be to paint, or else what is it all for?
A Giveaway for Loyal Readers
I’d love to give you an opportunity to see the great artists and studios on the tour this year. You can enter to win a free tour guide below. Best of luck to you!
Join me for a non-traditional, watercolor workshop on Maui this fall. This November workshop has been full for months, but I’ve just had a cancellation! This workshop will be a great way to remember your trip. You’ll be making memories and art in this intimate class. Get all the details on my Workshops page.
5 full days of instruction – Monday through Friday, 11/6 – 11/10/17 – only $499 includes welcome reception and lunch 3 days.
Private, poolside studio with ocean view. Class size limited to 12. We’ll be painting in the studio and on location.
We have secured a great group rate at the Lahaina Shores, right on the beach.
Sign up today: Don’t miss this opportunity to nab the last available spot! Contact Ruth
Summer seems to hold a thousand things. Vacations, family, visitors from out-of-town, gardening, art shows, memories, smells, food, beach trips, river trips, concerts, each day is crammed full! If you’re not careful, there is no time left for painting. Thank goodness for art classes. I’m getting ready to teach a week long class at Menucha – a fabulous retreat in the Columbia River Gorge. Two spots just opened up if you’re free next week!
From Lines to Finished Work
This painting began in a workshop as a demonstration of using different types of line. At one point it was even more chaotic. I settled quite a bit of it by covering some of the marks with the dark turquoise at the bottom and the mint green in the top 2/3.
A good title can often be the impetus of a painting, and this one is no exception. I keep lists of titles in various places… sketchbooks, phone notes, post-its in the studio, etc. Often when looking back at old sketchbooks I’ll find one that I still want to paint. Sometimes the inspiration comes from reading, listening to the radio, a movie or a quote. But most often it comes from really concentrating on what I want to say about a subject.
Why A Thousand Things?
In this case, it was an attempt to convey how full my heart and mind are with images and memories of my parents’ farm. Although I’ll sometimes try to distill my painting into just one element of the feeling or memory, here I wanted to imply deep layers. I wanted to pile up some of the emotion memory and soul that the place conjures for me.
Our sense of place can be portrayed in so many ways: smells, sounds, words or music often take us back. I love looking at aerial photos of farmland. That is how this whole series started. Expressing this place in my own hand, my indecipherable script, feels satisfying.
Finally, if you’re not reading this post on my website, click on over… I have a new random quote generator on the sidebar that is a lot of fun!
My new painting, Breath of Spring, began as an experiment with line in my workshop at Sitka Center for Art and Ecology. One can’t help being influenced by the landscape there. However, in keeping with my series, this work was inspired by memories of the landscape on the farm. Spring breezes always brought out scents of the season…. Mud, blossoms, fresh grass and a chilly breeze are things that I thought of as I worked on this painting.
The gold colors of the background remind me of bare winter branches covered with lichen and moss. Linear elements refer to tree branches and wetlands.
A New Discovery
One of the things I love about teaching is that because I am not trying to make a finished painting, I often take more risks than I would normally take. In this particular painting, I had borrowed a ‘coke bottle’ pen from fellow instructor Rebecca Wild and I tried using it with sumi ink. That wild experiment was so chaotic that I used a brayer to roll the light gold color over most of it, allowing only hints of it to peek through. The resulting texture was so attractive to me. Another discovery occurred during one of the line exercises I set in class. The small, staccato-like white marks grew out of that exercise.
Give it a Try
If you enjoy painting, you might like to try the same exercise.
Assemble as many mark-making tools as you can find: brushes, pens, pencils, sticks, pastels, crayons, graphite, charcoal, black and white paint, etc.
Begin by making marks that vary from thick to thin.
Experiment with clustering the lines together, and then letting a few stand alone.
Vary the direction of your lines.
Use some broken lines and some continuous.
Try for a wide variety.
As you work, you might consider veiling or obliterating some of the lines that stand out too much.
Restate some of the lines with a different media.
Change medias frequently.
Listen to music as you make lines inspired by the rhythm.
Make lines that imitate letter forms, but are not legible.
Use your non-dominant hand to draw several lines.
Make a few lines to convey anger, calm, confusion, movement, etc.
After about 15 minutes of work, step back.
Decide which lines felt most comfortable to you, and which ones are new to your vocabulary.
This exercise is adapted from Steven Aimone’s Book “Expressive Drawing.” I seem to have misplaced my copy 🙁 If you have seen it, please let me know!
Finally, last call to submit images for the reader’s gallery! I appreciate your time and readership.
I have been interested in the idea of intention for years. It indicates focus, committment, and drive. I have not thought of it as an agent of growth before though. I have been looking back over the history of my website and blog this month. It’s my 9th year of blogging, and my 10th anniversary of the website. I am amazed, looking back, that I stuck with it. When I first began, I was lucky to have 10 viewers per day. Those statistics went on for over 5 years. I rarely recieved comments, and facebook was not a phenomenon.
Now, 9 or 10 years later, this blog and website sees an average of 500 views per day! That is not much, compared to some of the huge sites out there, but it is progress! I’m still mostly interested in keeping it up as a record of my thoughts and intentions for my art. I love looking back over the changes I’ve made through the years. I am able to search for dates and events when I need them, and revisit inspiration that sometimes comes up again in a new way.
My intention for the blog and site continue to be one of the strongest drivers of my business. It is both a record for me, and for my collectors. The blog also serves as a reference for my students. Though it hasn’t gained as much ‘traction’ as it could have, I’m pleased with its progress.
I invite you to help me celebrate this anniversary. I’m planning a blog post to thank readers of Art is Truth. Send me your image of a painting, either one that you own or one you’ve made. Let me know the title, media, etc. and I’ll post a gallery of readers later this month. You can use the Contact form to send the information.
Intention is also interesting to me because of the content of artwork. I’m always interested in the difference between the artist’s intent and the viewer’s perception. In abstract art, especially, the two can be very different. What fascinates me, is how often viewers get it right, given very little information.
Sharing My Intentions and Inspiration
I taught 3 workshops this month, and time after time, those watching my demonstration paintings seemed to intuit my feelings about the works in process. I’d like to thank Sitka Center for Art and Ecology and the Astoria Art Loft for hosting me as an instructor. I felt supported and encouraged to share my work and methods with students. And they were very enthusiastic!
Here is one of my recent paintings that resulted from one of those demonstrations. I’m interested in your comments… and please feel free to share with your favorite social channel.
I love this quote by Mary Oliver about patience and fulfillment, shared by one of my students in last week’s ABC’s of Abstraction workshop. I think adult learners often forget the years of practice that art-making entails.
“The hour of fulfillment is buried in years of patience.
It is what I was born for –
to look, to listen –
to lose myself
inside this soft world –
to instruct myself
over and over…”
The quote seems particularly appropriate for my students, because I was attempting to help them find their own way, their own aesthetic and their most comfortable way of working. Exploring outside of their comfort zone took patience and commitment. The reward was the fulfillment of finding new ways to express themselves!
The group was varied in their experience with working abstractly, but I think there was something new for everyone in the approach. I was particularly pleased to see how abstract many of them became after just a few short days.
Finally, I was also very happy that none of these artists tried to emulate my work, or each others’ work. Each artist’s work stands alone: as individual as they are.
Student work and comments:
“Thank you for sharing a deeper introspective process for creating our work. You are a fabulous, knowledgeable teacher.”
“What a joy it has been to be with you these past few days; to have you open up new doors for me. Thank you for being so giving.”
Sarah “So glad to have shared this experience with you. The impact will be long lasting.”
“Thank you for a great class. I’m ready to continue to forge ahead.”
“Thank you for your generosity in teaching us and guiding us into greater freedom and possibility in our work. A wonderful class and a joy.”
“Thank you so much for the space you created in our workshop – specific, yet expressive – focused, yet light hearted. I have gained so much in just a few days!”
Catt “Thanks for helping me move out of my comfort zone and try something new!”
“Thanks so much – you’ve opened so many doors for me!”
Tom, taking a bow! “Thank you for revealing all I didn’t know about abstract painting. My fear level has decreased and my creativity is surging!”
I worked on something a bit different in my demonstration paintings. This is still in process, but let me know what you think – leave a comment!
You can’t just dance or paint or write or sculpt. Those are just verbs. You need a tangible idea to get you going. The idea, however minuscule, is what turns the verb into a noun — paint into a painting, sculpt into sculpture, write into writing, dance into a dance.