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!
I’m proud to share that I’m one of six artists from Portland Open Studios chosen to participate in this year’s PDX-CSA. The concept is similar to buying shares in an organic CSA farm, but for art! Just as you choose a farm because you like what crops they grow, give them money in the spring to cover costs, and receive your food a few months later, with PDX-CSA you choose artists whose voice you like, give them money to support their creation, and then receive the art in a couple months. It is a perfect combination between choice and surprise.
You’ll be involved in the process from concept to completion. Once the art is made, you’ll be invited to the reveal party to pick it up, or if you’re from outside Portland, the work will ship to you with no handling fee. In the past, work has shipped all over the world!
PDX-CSA offers you the opportunity to support the creation of new artwork by providing artists with funds upfront. You support artists’ creative freedom and in return you get exclusive, high-quality artwork and you get to follow the artists’ process for creating the artwork from concept to completion.
You can buy a pairing and save $ or choose just one of the projects. It’s a great way to support my work as an artist and to see a series evolve from start to finish. The work in this series is only available through PDX-CSA.
This project is separate from my other series:
Working with cold wax’s ability to hold objects, Ruth Armitage will incorporate found objects in her paintings; these textures and patterns emerge from and recede into the swathes of color. Her abstracts are detailed environments, packed with marks and forms, shifts in scale and movement; intense primary colors become permeable hazes, layers are worn away and incised to reveal artifacts and further layers.
Click the image below to see my partner’s work, and the work of the other 4 artists. I’m excited to get started with these new works and to keep you updated on the progress. I’ll only be making pieces for those who invest upfront, and this is a limited opportunity. Sales end September 17th, so get yours now!
Finally, it would be great if you could share this with friends and family who might need some affordable art. It’s a unique idea, and we’d love to have the whole community know about it!
In my fantasy world owning contemporary fine art would be commonplace. The public would obsess about artists the way they follow the careers of musicians, movie stars and athletes. The press would report on local artists, young and old, celebrating milestones like changes in style, important awards and acquisitions. Parents would teach their children that collecting art is a luxury to crave. They’d prioritize collecting contemporary art over clothing and accessories, cars, travel, concerts and gadgets. People would compete to own the newest work in a series by their favorite artist, like they stand in line these days for the newest tech innovation.
It’s not difficult to imagine a world like this. Today digital communication and mass production have made individuality rare. How often do you receive anything hand-written these days? Hand-made and unique items are prime for a renaissance of popularity. What else can you buy today that no one else has? I’m sure that one reason that our former home sold so quickly is that artwork was displayed throughout. It created a comfortable atmosphere in every room, not just above the fireplace.
I celebrate artists and their collectors: those who make the world more beautiful. It is great to be able to self-publish here on my blog, not because I want to glorify my own talent, but because it gives me an opportunity to share ideas. I hope that by sharing my dreams about the future of contemporary art, you’ll start to see it as something attainable, cool and sophisticated!
“As entrepreneurs, we must constantly dream and have the conviction and obsession to transform our dreams into reality – to create a future that never existed before.”
– Clara Shih
Below, please enjoy contributions from a few folks who took me up on sharing their art for this 9th anniversary post. It’s fun to look back and see the growth and changes. You can see other anniversary posts by clicking the links below.
First, Margaret Stermer-Cox is an artist from Southern Oregon. We connected on the internet through our blogs. I’ve also had a chance to get to know her a bit in person through the Watercolor Society of Oregon. Here is her work “Hang up and Read Me a Story.” Visit her website here: https://stermer-cox.com/
Finally, I want to share an interview I did with one of my friends: art collector Kim Madey. Kim definitely makes the world more beautiful! She shares her lovingly curated home and collections with friends and family. Her parties are legendary, and I’m looking forward to an Elvis-themed bash this summer. (Costume suggestions appreciated!)
I so appreciate Kim’s support of my work. We share a common bond through the art that makes me feel understood. There is no compliment higher than a return customer! I hope you’ll enjoy this peek at some of my work hanging in her place, and getting to hear why and how she came to collect contemporary fine art. You can explore more videos here!
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.
Most serious Artists and Collectors agree that focus is important for an artist’s body of work. Focus provides continuity from one painting to the next, and allows the work to hang together when presented en masse. But how does one go about creating a focus in their work? And for collectors, how does one amass a collection that works together? Here are a few ways to cultivate or create focus.
1. Focus on Subject Matter
Probably the most common way that collectors create focus is to concentrate on collecting a particular type of work. Some are drawn to landscape, while others prefer abstract or figurative paintings. Similarly, artists often gravitate toward particular subject matter.
My own work has always focused on narrative, despite the genre. The earliest still life paintings incorporated objects precious to me that told a story. The “Haunting Aunties” figurative paintings also tried to convey a sense of storytelling about family history and bonds. My current abstract work is also based upon narratives surrounding my rural upbringing and connection to the farm where I was raised. Because I know what my main interest is, I can delve into sub-plots and explore different stories in an in-depth way.
2. Focus on Design Elements
One thing I try to convey in my workshops is that each artist may be drawn to different means of expression. Some artists prefer to emphasize color, while others may be more interested in using line. Collectors may also have some of the same predilections. One patron may prefer to collect work that is bright and colorful, while another may prefer black & white photographs or drawings, yet another person may be drawn over and over to primitive pattern work or sculpture.
I have a strong bias toward using color. Warm and cool contrasts have always captivated me, and my eye is always drawn to new color combinations. I’m currently focusing on using subtle color contrasts wherever I can.
3. Focus on Style
Even if an artist decides that they will focus on the landscape, for instance, various works may not be cohesive in a body of work because of different styles. For instance, a single realistic black and white landscape would stand out from a group of colorful abstracted landscapes. If an artist is true to their own vision and pursues a style that fits their temperament, the work is more likely to be cohesive. By committing to working in a specific style, the artist’s work will gain focus. Collectors often prefer to purchase work in a certain style as well.
Currently, my focus in on an abstracted, almost non-objective style. Within the spectrum of abstraction, I tend to fall toward the very abstract, even though much of my work originates in a very real subject.
4. Focus on Medium
Many collectors prefer to collect the majority of their work in one medium, such as watercolor or oil or sculpture. Artists, too, can often be known for their work in one medium.
Personally, I have enjoyed exploring watercolor, gouache, collage, drawing, acrylic, encaustic, cold wax and oil. Although my work spans many mediums, my application of the various types of paint or pigments often makes it difficult for viewers to tell what the medium is. This is because my brush-work, palette and shapes are fairly consistent between mediums.
5. Focus on a Series
Many artists make work in a series, each individual piece relating to the broad idea and yet differing from its companion pieces in varying degrees. The individual pieces may focus on different facets of the idea or different conditions. The artist Claude Monet is an artist who worked on different series during his career. His most famous may be the Water Lilies – a series of work inspired by the lily pond in his garden. He also painted a series of work exploring different light conditions on haystacks and on Rouen Cathedral.
For me, painting work in a series give me an opportunity to experiment with color and to explore different facets of the broader idea of my farm upbringing. My earlier series the “Haunting Aunties” explored the influence women, especially women in the family, have on each others’ lives.
An example of focus in a series
Here is a peek at how working in a series helps me to refine my ideas. Below are three paintings, all of the same subject. These paintings all began in my workshop in Springfield – The ABC’s of Abstraction. They became increasingly abstract as I worked on them. I began with the idea of painting my dad’s shoe and pant leg from memory. He used to keep cigarette butts in the cuff of his jeans to avoid fire danger in the summer. This idea is a potent memory of my dad.
I began with the image on the left. It focused on the leg of Dad’s Levis, and you can see the white cigarette butts in the cuff shape near the bottom. The second image shown is actually the third painting of this subject. In this painting I decided to focus more on the shoe, even though the cuff and cigarettes are still there. I also emphasized line more in this image. The third painting is titled Effigy. An effigy is a symbol of a person, often used as a monument and sometimes the ‘butt’ of angry demonstration. I thought the title fit the almost iconic representation of this symbol for my dad. I feel this image still has echoes of the previous images, but I like the abstraction – how the paint is beautiful on its own without the subject matter.
How have you found focus in your work or your art collecting? Click below to leave me a comment or share with a friend.
The Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art hosts “Pour It On! Watercolors from the West.” This exhibition features work from the Western Federation of Watercolor Societies and the Watercolor Society of Oregon.
On view from April 8 to June 19, 2017, “Pour It On!” is three shows combined into one.
The Watercolor Society of Oregon’s 52nd Annual Spring Exhibition
Work by Jeannie McGuire, this year’s juror for both shows.
Work on view explores the range of water-based media, including acrylic, casein, collage, gouache, tempera, and translucent and opaque watercolors. Here is a link to one of the paintings I’ll have in the show.
The exhibition will open with a free, public reception on Friday, April 7, from 6 to 8 p.m. I hope to see you there! Invite a friend and share this post on your favorite social media. On Sunday, April 9, at 2 p.m., McGuire will lead a tour of the exhibition.
This project has occupied my time for the last five years or so. I’m thrilled to see it coming together in such a fantastic way. Each year, a different regional member society hosts the Western Federation of Watercolor Society’s annual juried exhibition. This is the first time that the Watercolor Society of Oregon will serve as the host and we are excited to help bring this show to life.
About the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art
We are grateful to the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art for its support of the exhibition. The University of Oregon’s Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art is a premier Pacific Northwest museum for exhibitions and collections of historic and contemporary art based in a major university setting. The mission of the museum is to enhance the University of Oregon’s academic mission and to further the appreciation and enjoyment of the visual arts for the general public.The JSMA features significant collections galleries devoted to art from China, Japan, Korea, the Americas, and elsewhere as well as changing special exhibition galleries. Additionally, the JSMA is one of seven museums in Oregon accredited by the American Alliance of Museums.
The Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art is located on the University of Oregon campus at 1430 Johnson Lane. Museum hours are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesdays, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for senior citizens. Free admission is given to ages 18 and under, JSMA members, college students with ID, and University of Oregon faculty, staff and students. For information, contact the JSMA, 541-346-3027.
Watercolor Society of Oregon
To top it all off, WSO also sponsors their bi-annual Watercolor Convention in Eugene, April 7 – 9, including watercolor workshops, lectures, paint-outs and more. Ms. McGuire leads a 5 day workshop March 27th – 31st. Finally, more information is available on the WSO website: www.watercolorsocietyoforegon.com or on the WFWS website: www.wfws.org.