Stop, Drop, and Clean????

Space for the Spirit to breathe.

Rainer Maria Rilke

This past winter my sessions in the studio could best be described as a blitzkrieg affair, with me dashing in whenever possible, averaging only 3-4 hours per visit. Not ideal, I know, but I believe that you do as much as you can, when you can, and that by piano, piano, piano, things slowly get accomplished.

Work area before Spring cleaning.

With this approach it meant that my time had to be maximized: visiting with office neighbors kept to a quick hello, eating with a sandwich in one hand, paint brush in another, getting down to work ASAP and, except for cleaning the  brushes, not accomplishing much in the ways of house (er, studio) keeping. Oh, the occasional swoosh of the vacuum now and then, and emptying the trash every session, but not much to write home about unless you count a quick scrawl in the book shelf dust. With the conclusion of the winter/spring semester (and, yes, sigh, summer session is now underway) there’s the urge to do some late spring cleaning in the studio. Part of the that was the need to corral the clutter, and really clean the floor surrounding the easel (are those cracker crumbs at my feet? Oh, surely not confetti!?). Another part of urge to clean lies in the much-needed psychological lift I feel when I organize my surroundings. Like Rilke noted: “Space for the Spirit to breathe.”

I know artists who have said that the fact that they can constantly and instantly see what’s on hand, and thus they don’t need to look through drawers and files to find anything, aids them in being more creative; they find both comfort and efficiency being surrounded by their “stuff”. However for me, my mind thinks better and my spirit feels calmer and I am more focused when my environment is somewhat organized.

Ah, breathing space!

Now please don’t think I’m a regular Clean Martine. When deeply involved in a studio project, organizing is not a priority. Once I’ve determined what color palette I’m using, and what brushes and tools are needed, I leave everything out within reach. Only once the artwork is done do I truly tidy the work area. While I clean and regroup, putting caps back on the paint tubes, returning pencils to the drawer, scouring out my coffee mug and errant eating utensils, my mind wonders and wanders. I daydream, plot and plan my next creative undertaking. It’s a lot like the feelings I get when doing the annual yard clean up at home before the garden gets planted.

Now as I am going into the summer season, I feel ready to give expression to the artistic seeds that have laid fallow all winter. My supplies are replenished, my brushes clean, my studio feels in harmony. In regards to my spring cleaning at home, please don’t ask. I just now found my missing shoe buried in a pile of sweaters and I swear I can hear mocking sounds coming from the closets!

This Week in the Studio

Happy to announce that work delivered for jurying in the Detroit Society of Women Painters and Sculptors (DSWPS) latest show proved fruitful. I had two mixed media sculptures accepted into the exhibit, “Soliloquy”,  June 10-30, at the Anton Art Center, 125 Macomb Place, Mount Clemens, MI 48043. Opening reception Saturday, June 11, 1 – 3 p.m. Then the works travel to Crooked Tree Art Center September 17-November 19! Huzzah!

Nest 7 - Upward Bound

The Pathway

Well, Aren’t You Just Like Michelangelo!

“I live and love in God’s peculiar light.”


When my son, the Heir Apparent, was a youngster he asked me who I liked best: Donatello, Raphael, Michelangelo or Leonardo?  What a clever boy! (Indeed, I wondered how to casually let slip to the other moms what a genius my son was.) Yet a small niggling thought made me hesitate. I couldn’t recall sharing a single story, children’s book, or television program about these particular artists with Andrew. So I asked the precocious tyke where he learned about these giants of art. In the way that only our children can humble us, he sighed deeply, rolled his eyes and said, “Mom, they’re not artists, they’re Ninja Turtles!”

Well, there went my bragging rights on the playground.

I often retell that story and from time to time, I wonder how to answer the “who do you like best” question. All these years later I still answer “Michelangelo”.


Jacopo del Conte's Portrait of Michelangelo
Jacopo del Conte’s Portrait of Michelangelo:

I think it’s because I relate to Michelangelo Buonarroti in ways that I can’t with the other big guys. Based on what I’ve read about Michelangelo, he had shortcomings that were beyond my understanding. By most accounts, his personal habits were slovenly enough to cause comment (and this was at a time when everyone’s hygiene, was shall we say, a wee bit on the stanky side.) He was antisocial, paranoid and had such a quick temper that one of his nicknames was Il Terrible. (His other well earned moniker was Il Divino.) He was a complicated individual living in a complex, volatile society. Still, here are five reasons how most of us artists, not just me, can relate to Michelangelo:

  1. Family

We hold family dear but let’s be honest, sometimes when you are trying to accomplish something artistic, doesn’t their wants and needs get on your nerves a tiny bit? Although he never married, Michelangelo understood trying to balance work and family obligations. After receiving a letter from his father asking once again for assistance, Michelangelo complained that he didn’t have the time to take away from work to deal with family issues. Inspite of his annoyance, Michelangelo continued to lend considerable help when needed, just like we find ourselves doing.

2. Dealing with the Boss 

Adam_na_restauratieWe’ve all had to navigate the expectations of a boss or client. Imagine dealing with the demands of a Pope, at a time when Papal authority was absolute, literally, “do or die”, and then multiply that by nine! Yep, from 1505 on, Michelangelo worked under nine consecutive popes. One, Julius II, had the temperament and ambitions that matched the artist, earning Julius a similar nickname, Il Papa Terrible. One can only image that their encounters were like the Clash of the Titans! Think about that the next time you are asked to modify a piece, or change direction on a job. After all, it is likely no one recently told you knock off the tomb idea and go slap some paint on a chapel ceiling.

3. Find Success Where Others See Failure

Michelangelo's_DavidOkay, who hasn’t been told at least once that an idea or process won’t work; admit it, you bowed to the naysayers. Imagine if Michelangelo had listened when everyone said that a certain piece of Carrara marble was too flawed to carve. In fact, two other sculptors had tried, both abandoning the marble due to imperfections and leaving it exposed for over 25 years to the elements. Michelangelo saw the possibilities in the stone, and with a firm belief in his own skills, he undertook the commission from Opera del Duomo, and produced one of the world’s most recognizable sculptures, the much beloved David.

If Michelangelo could turn an unusable block of marble into something magnificent can’t you and I find success when we are confronted by small challenges in our artistic practice? Darn right, we can! Now hand me a chisel!

4. A Bad Beginning Doesn’t Mean a Bad End

We all have moments that we are less than proud of, particularly if we had an impetuous youth or fell under the influence of someone who had something other than our best interest at heart. Did you know Michelangelo began his career as a forger, carving and then passing off a sleeping cupid as an ancient Roman sculpture? Some suggest that Lorenzo de Medici was behind the scam in selling the work to Cardinal Riario, and that Michelangelo was equally duped, while others believe Michelangelo was complicit in the arrangement. Either way, the fraud was uncovered; but like a really good fairy tale, Cardinal Riario ended up being so impressed by Michelangelo’s talents that the rest, as they say, is history.

No way am I suggesting that committing a misdemeanor is the way to jump start a career, but learning from past mistakes seems a worthy lesson. Speaking of learning, this takes us to one of Michelangelo’s most endearing virtues:


5. Keep Learning Until the End

Michelangelo,_pietà_rondanini,_1552-1564,_05It’s unlikely that “Ancora Imparo”,  a quote attributed to the 83 year old Michelangelo, was actually ever uttered by him. He may not have said the words, “I am still learning”,  but he lived them. He considered himself a sculptor but he learned to master painting. At age 74 he was called upon to supervise the ongoing work at St. Peter’s Basilica, a project he continued to work on for the next 14 years, right up to his death at age 88. Two days before he died, he was still working on his final piece, the Rondanini Pietà. If the great Michelangelo could keep learning, who are we to assume that all we need to know, we know?

So now’s is your turn. Donatello, Raphael, Michelangelo or Leonardo? Turtles or artists, you decide!

Note: all Michelangelo images from

This Week in the Studio 

IMG_2099 2Took a break from studio work to tie up the flotsam and jetsam of the winter semester and prep for summer teaching. But not all was work, as we managed a couple of days away for some R and R. Of course, every adventure has to include art! Here is a photo from a visit to the Grand Rapids Art Museum’s exhibit on Maurice Sendak’s classic masterpiece, Where the Wild Things Are, because inside every artist is a little bit of a wild thing!



To Be or Not to Be (an Artist), That is the Question

“An artist cannot fail; it is a success to be one.”

Charles Horton Cooley

My name is Martine and I am an artist.


“Hello, Martine”

Yep, that’s me alright; I admit it freely. And I ain’t sorry. However, there are times when I do wonder, as any reasonable person might, why.

Why be an artist when the financial rewards are so slim?

Why be an artist when you must decline invitations and limit social gatherings because you need the time to create?

Why be an artist when you must forego the friendship of certain people because their demands, craziness and drama, however exciting, detract and drain you from art making?

Why be an artist when there are hundreds, no thousands, of other artists out there, making art more accomplished and innovative than yours?

Why be an artist when you can find programs and websites and technologies that will  produce “original” artwork for pennies on the dollar?

Well, as we say in Italian class: Perchè? Perchè! Why? Because!

True, most of us aren’t making enough money selling our work to support a flea. If we are lucky we find jobs in art related fields, or otherwise we work at something to pay bills. We may occasionally sell a piece or two. So if we set aside financial reward as the mark of success and look to the success of a task well done, to the best of our abilities, then why not be an artist?

Instead of thinking of all the times we say “no” to social invitations, perhaps we should see that those “no-s” are the times we say “yes” to our creative spirit. When we are so fortunate as to be able to say yes to spending time with our Muse, that gracious being, then why not be an artist?

There will be relationships that impede our artistic undertaking. We then wish those individual peace and Godspeed, leaving space to open our artist arms to those who feed our souls, encourage our undertakings and provide us with needed emotional support. With such folks in our corner, why not be an artist?

Out in the great big world there are artists more accomplished in technique, salesmanship, and luck than you. If you know that you are doing your best work, find joy in the process, and create something that resonates with another human being, then why not be an artist?

Technology and some markets provide cheap labor, producing an inexpensive product that looks like original art. Accept that it is not your job to try to undersell either them or yourself, and somewhere there is someone who can’t live without your work. With such knowledge, then why not make art?

How fortunate as artists to be given both the creative hunger and the means to satisfy that desire! You will always find plenty of reasons why you can’t or shouldn’t be an artist. Like a newly found shiny penny, flip the excuse over and see the answer to the question: why be an artist? The answer: why not?  Why not indeed!

This Week in the Studio

Slow week in the studio as we  wrapped up the Spring semester and began plans for the Summer sessions. Still–made progress on the Mondrian inspired self-portrait, and worked on the honey comb  and pineapple rondel.

IMG_3186 bees, in progress







If At First You Don’t Succeed, Fail, Fail, and Fail Again

“Would you like a formula for success? It’s quite simple, really. Double your rate of failure.”

Thomas J. Watson

The curtain rises on the studio space, skylights above, drop cloths below. The maestro begins the lesson with a gentle but stern lecture on the years it will take to master the tools and techniques of the craft. You, overcome with genius, passion, and an innate talent that will be ruined by academic guidance, touch the brush to the canvas and the magic pours out. Wait, what is that sound? Could it be the choir of Muses, singing your praises? Is it the maestro, weeping to have been so fortunate to have been at the birth of such genius? And not just that painting, but success each and every time at the easel! Bravo, kudos, roses!

Sigh. If only the road to mastery was so easy and the one to success so consistent.

My advice this week, is this: if you really want to make something worthwhile, plan on failing, quite a bit. This truth can be hardtack for some artists to digest. A class or workshop under the old belt and, if the experience was positive, success is expected on a regular basis. If the experience was not up to expectations, then one might as well throw in the paint brush because the art fairy must have skipped town on the day talent was dispensed.

But struggle– not the sort that wears and tears and defeats, but the struggle that resultPatricia Barness in gaining real understanding– is critical for artistic growth. If every creative encounter results in success, you aren’t reaching high enough; it is the stumbling that builds strength and endurance.

And you need to commit to the time needed to fail, evaluate, relearn, try again and repeat as necessary. Just ask my friend and colleague, Patricia Barnes, whom I have the great pleasure of working with in our Open Print Studio. It took Pat about two years to get comfortable and consistent with screen printing, with many fits and starts along the way. Finally, and proudly, Pat submitted her screen print and collage for the Student Show, an entry that was met with oohs, ahs and “how-do-you-do-that?”.  Well done, indeed!

This Week in the Studio

This week, I experienced moments of pure happiness while painting; happy with cadmium yellow and making the perfect shade of green, happy pushing paint, happy having time for lose and find myself. Happy. Here’s this week’s progress:

Me and Matisse

Painted the next layer on the Matisse background in the yellow, orange, green and the black squares and black on the sleeves. Next up: the blue and red in the background, and modify the hands.




For the rondos: Made progress on the pineapple, rabbits, fossil and roughed-in the bees. Next up: refine the bees and honeycomb, finishing touches to the other 3 and begin tackling the romanesque.


Me and Mondrian, in progress

Worked on repainting–again–the black grid in the Mondrian background. Added more to the hair, adjusted some of the skin tone. Next up: redefining the background shapes, particularly adding a layer to the blue.



A Road Forward and Back

“True teachers are those who use themselves as bridges over which they invite their students to cross…” 

Nikos Kazantzakis

As a Mid-Century Modern, I remember the time before Al Gore created the internet and what it meant to be stuck in a bind because a missing piece of information was needed to complete a project, research an idea or learn an artistic technique. Myself, I’ve used the “www” to learn the history of saints (for my mixed media relics), the anatomy of bees (a painting I am currently working on) and formulae for oil paint medium (still referencing). How was knowledge ever transmitted prior to the 1990s?

Well, yes, it sometimes involved trips to the library and searching through the stacks for the right book, crossing your fingers that someone else didn’t take it out before you. Subscriptions to art magazines were another good source, with their “how-to” articles and tips and techniques. But far and away the very best way to know the ins and outs of a thing was, and remains, having a mentor and teacher.

Lucky the students whom the fates conspire to put the right teacher in their path at the right time. When I went back to college, itched by the possibility that I might find a place in the arts, my teacher Jim Pudjowski encouraged me to go to graduate school at Wayne State University. There professors, with manners direct and no nonsense, encouraged, pushed, advised, counseled and otherwise helped launch me towards my lifelong vocation, each adding, bit by bit, to my artistic formation. Best of all, although it has been over 16 years since my graduation, I can still call upon any of them with a question or request for feedback or artistic advice.

A teachable moment.

In the classroom I often tell stories of my own trials as a student and the different techniques and philosophies learned from my teachers. Once, at an exhibition opening, I had the great experience of having one of my prior teachers and a former student visit at the same time. After introducing them to each other, we got to talking about the lineage of teaching, tracing tradition backwards from the student, now an artist herself, to me, to my professor, who then shared who his teacher was, and who his teacher’s teacher was and so on. A veritable genealogy!

It’s lovely to stand on the road and look both forward and backwards, feeling that as a student and a teacher, you are part of a grand lineage. That thread is something that the digital universe, with all its access to information, just can’t duplicate.

This Week in the Studio

I’m still working on my small rondel paintings and am making fair progress on those as well. Hopefully I will have a completed one to post next week!



On Holiday: A Visit to Asheville

“Art is all around you”

street painting: Asheville, North Carolina

12494782_10205899619917606_7910882265048209098_nEaster week found me away from the studio on a trip to Asheville, North Carolina. There, my sister Josephine and I, along with our very understanding spouses, spent time researching family history, going to cemeteries, and visiting the local county historical society. Genealogy is one of my sister’s long held passions and one of the site visits she was particularly looking forward to was an afternoon outing to the Earle-Chesterfield Mill Company. The mill, built c. 1890, was situated along the Norfolk Southern Railroad and the French Broad River in Asheville’s industrial area. It was there that our great-grandfather, leaving the family’s mountain farm, found employment.

But we were 21 years too late. A fire in April 1995 destroyed both the Earle-Chesterfield, and extensively damaged the Asheville Cotton Mill, originally built 1887. While that discovery was disappointing, our spirits rallied because we found out that whole area is now designated the River Arts District! Now just how cool is that for an artist on vacation, especially one who loves visiting other artist’s studios?

Beginning in 1985, the rundown area underwent urban renovation. Where once abandoned and rundown buildings stood,River's Arts District the former economically depressed area is now vibrant. Today 22 historic industrial buildings and warehouses provide more than 200 artists spaces to create and share their work. Our self imposed time limit meant that we couldn’t visit all, or even a significant number of studios, but our quick in-and-out visits refreshed and inspired. A perfect complement to the time spent with one foot in the past.

Now I’m back on home turf, playing catch-up in the studio and classroom, thinking and dreaming about current and future work. Without a doubt, Asheville, and other cities embracing the arts, show how art and artists possess transformative qualities.


IMG_1954   IMG_2949



This Week in the Studio
I have been able to spend some time in the studio since returning home. Next week, I’ll share the small increments I have accomplished. Perhaps, the Muse willing, those increments may be of significant size. As usual, stay tuned!

A Witness to a Painting

“So, you see why I like the history of art. It’s the study of how to observe life with complete attention. It’s the history of love.”

 Aidan Chambers

The man looks forward, gaze directed toward the viewer, his torso balanced between profile and three-quarters. He appears, at this point, just past middle-age. There is no indication of location, of place, of what he is seated upon, stool or chair. Except for his hands and face, the predominant color scheme throughout is burnt umber, dark and earthy green, lighter in the upper left corner, shading into darker hues, almost black in the lower right corner.

For students enrolled in my academic classes, this is the point in the semester when their written assignment comes due. It’s a fairly straight forward task: visit a museum, select a piece of artwork, and write an essay that describes the work. No research or analysis, only writing objectively about what they see in front of them.

The figure takes up most of the space, a reversed “L” shape, slightly off-center to the right, his hands clasped in his lap. A soft large beret, perhaps wool, pillows his head, with a beaded circle of gold between the narrow brim and the top of the cap. Softly curling grey hair peeks out below the cap, shorter in the front of the ears, and collar length behind.

I tell them to imagine they are talking on the phone to someone who doesn’t have access to internet or an art encyclopedia. The only way that person can “see” the artwork is by their description. Some of them begin to feel challenged and fall back on “research” instead, their favorite source: Wikipedia.

His coat collar is upturned, covering most of the jaw line on the right side of his face, chin nestled between the u-shape lapels. A shawl is just visible on the left side of the collar. The pattern indistinct and colors muted, it emerges on a diagonal from the right shoulder, just past the bent arm, its progress arrested at the hands, hands which are painted with soft broad strokes and bordered by the sienna tinged furred cuffs of the brown coat. 

To really look at a painting or a still life, or even the face of the beloved, requires attention and concentration. Trying to describe without metaphor or simile is not easy; to analyze objectively and not emotionally takes practice. Doing so makes you a witness to the painting itself. As Joe Friday use to advise–just the facts, ma’am, just the facts.

Softly lit from above, with slight shadows cast from the cap, brow and nose, a great luminosity emanates from the face. Thick impasto brush strokes define deep-set eyes (green? brown?) and a bulbous nose; the small narrow mouth is surrounded by a mustard-grey sparse mustache and goatee. The paint sculpts deep furrows between the brows and lines in the forehead, grooves from the side of the nose to the lips form soft folds on the cheeks. Warm ochres and reds, carmine and vermillion, are the dominant colors, in places a peachy hue. Grey, mauve, and hints of green, are seen in the shadows and flecks of highlights, almost pure white, are on the tip of the nose, left cheek and top of the forehead under the cap.

Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1606 - 1669 ), Self-Portrait, 1659, oil on canvas, Andrew W. Mellon Collection
Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1606 – 1669 ), Self-Portrait, 1659, oil on canvas, Andrew W. Mellon Collection

The next time you visit a museum or gallery exhibit, find a piece of artwork that engages you and give this exercise a try. Not visiting a museum? Try it with the work from an artist friend, or even your own. You may be surprised at your observation abilities and your skills as a witness.

In the plain background, just left of the man’s cheek, easily overlooked because of size and subtlety of color, is the name Rembrandt and the date, 1659.

And here’s the artist himself, in a self-portrait from 1659. How did I do with my eye-witness account?



This Week in the Studio

Spent most of the studio hours working on my next piece, finishing up the underpainting for the five small rondos. Wondering, might I need just one more rondo??

Have you guessed who is the influence behind this work? Not telling yet!

Fibonacci in progress

A Table of One’s Own

“A woman must have money and a room of her own. . .” 
Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

Cutting the Heart AsunderFirst published in October 1929, Virginia Woolf’s extended essay, A Room of One’s Own, has served as a feminist rallying cry and a raised banner for what artists need in order to accomplish their calling. For Virginia understood that in order to produce creative works, one must have the means and the space to do so. Her ideas still resonate with me; although at one time there was little money or room. What could I do?

When my longing to be an artist was crying out not to be a downy dream but manifested in reality, I was a mother with young children. I worked part-time, contributing much needed income for household expenses; there was not a lot left for extras. Our 1930 era home, though comfortable in size, did not have a finished basement, nor a spare bedroom, and had a living room, but not an extra family room. My interest at the time was in the book arts, and occasionally I would garner a commission, be in an exhibit, or sell small work. Any creative endeavors on my part were carried out on the dining room table, in the midst of family activities, in snatches of precious moments.

That table was the settings for meals, the kids’ homework, crayons and puzzles, toys and books, and that same table had to be cleared after every activity and be made ready for its next use, including my current art project. At least half my creative time was spent setting and cleaning up, and I often felt cheated and frustrated.

What to do? My first step was to get a folding table and I left my “stuff” out at all times, easily at hand. When I had a bit of time, when the kids were occupied or asleep, I could get right back at my work. The second thing I did was to break down every project into steps that could be accomplished in small segments of time, anywhere from 10-30 minutes. Third, the table was off-limits to small and big hands alike! In such a matter, on my little studio table, I was able, bit by bit, to produce artwork.

In time, I cleared everything out of the 5 x 5 foot breakfast nook, claiming it as my own. Eventually, as a Wayne State University grad student, I got my first “real” studio space. When the kids got older, and money less tight, and we converted some unused space into a home studio. Finally, I outgrew the “Happy Place” and with money earned from teaching, and by sharing the rent with another artist, I took on my first public studio.

IMG_2110Now in my current location, The Office, I look around and think how far I’ve come from the folding table in the corner of the dining room. These days, I’ve come to the conclusion that what I really need is a warehouse to call my own! Haven’t convinced my husband of that. At least not yet.

This Week in the Studio


I’ve been working on a concept that I’ve carried around in my head for some time, a mixed media piece, oil on board and canvas, it will measure 12″ by 48″. There will be 5 small rondos mounted on the longer board. The two pictured paintings here are in the underpainting stage. Can you guess my influence?

The Sometimes Long and Winding Road

“Art results when there is nothing that can be added, but when there is nothing that can be taken away.”

James O. Collins

“Professor MacDonald, how long will this painting take me to do?” Now and then one of my students will ask the “how long” question. I know they are hoping that the answer is going to be “oh, not too long at all!” Instead I tell them about the time, when I was in school for my formal art training, I worked on a drawing assignment that took 16 whole hours to finish. Man, oh man, did I think I was something! Little did I know that was nothing compared to the amount of time I would spend on later work.

Time TravelerThat was especially true when I was working in colored pencil, a medium that practically lays down and rolls over for the obsessive artist. I once calculated that I could tear through a colored pencil work at the speedy rate of one inch an hour! Work like Time Traveler, seen here, might take several months to a year to complete, with the finished size measured in inches rather than feet.

In fact the slow methodology of colored pencil made me feel that I Promise: American Skyscapecouldn’t get my ideas out fast enough and I eventually turned to painting. If I thought I could just hurdle some paint on the canvas and call it a winner, I soon learned otherwise. Most of my paintings still take several months to complete, only now I obsess on a larger scale. Sometimes, there are those magical paintings that take just a day or two, such as Promise, seen here, a 3′ x 4′ landscape of a Texas field. But then, to keep me humble, I’ll go ahead and do something like Bone Breakers, a piece I wrote about in an earlier blog. This painting wonder, 2′ x 3′ in size, took about six months or so to complete. Bone Breakers

And what have I learned from all of this? That the creative process, like household renovations, always takes more time than the optimistic artist thinks they will. That the final size of the work really doesn’t matter; small paintings can take just as long as larger ones. That you can’t go against your fabric and if you work slow, then slow is how it is going to go. And of course the most obvious lesson of all, the one I give to my curious student, is that it takes exactly as long as it takes. As artists we work until arriving at that point when neither adding more, nor presenting less, makes a better picture. Sometimes that process is measured in minutes and hours, sometimes in months and years; but we get there in the end, we surely do!

This week in the studio

Continuing to work on a new piece, and hope that by the end of next week I will have something of interest to share. Until then, keeping it a little bit under wraps.

As far as the self-portraits go, I finally figured out why the black paint wasn’t drying. It seems that the masking tape I used to block out the grid actually left behind a gummy residue that when combined with the paint resulted in a non-drying medium. I had to carefully scrape away the grid and am at the repainting stage. In my perfect world I may be almost finished by the end of next week.

Oh seriously, who am I kidding. It will take as long as it takes. In any case, pictures next week!





Watch the Birdy!

“Beep, beep.”

The Roadrunner

When I was pulling together the Mixed Media Gallery, I was surprised by the number of times, and the diverse ways, that I have used a particular subject matter. Among the many instances is this mono print, and a three-in-one colored pencil drawing:

The Prophet Cometh IBeing-NonBeing

Plus, there is this gallery installation, and then this guy shows up in a mixed media piece, and here’s a fellow incised in stone.

                      Memory, Thought and Desire Minnin, Munin, Hugin Edgar, of CourseSometimes He Dreams (Detail)

Oh, there’s more, lots more. All I can say is, great balls of feathers, I think I’m going to the birds! While I haven’t deliberately set out to be a bird illustrator, (that I will leave to those who follow in the wingspan of John James Audubon), it appears that I have come down with an avian attachment of sorts.

Artists commonly produce multiple works of the same subject matter. Think of  the magnificent Georgia O’Keeffe, repeatedly using flowers and bones as subject matter, playing with composition, color and scale, series nested within series. Still, why do artists perseverate on a theme when there’s an infinite number of subjects to tackle, notching each completed image as a tick on a bucket list?

Sometimes the subject is one that resonates on a symbolic level with the artist. So the moon becomes a stand-in for the Feminine Divine and the painter explores several versions of what that might mean. For another, form has a strong pull on the artist’s sensibilities, therefore she completes several drawings on the mutable of clouds to fulfill that urge. Or it can be something more indefinable, such as the quickening “oh my” when encountering the beauty seen in the structure of trees, and there is hunger to capture that time and again.

Keeping that one constant, the repeated image, allows freedom to explore, and the subject, like a music motif, dances, changes, circles back around, spins off into new directions. And so I’ll keep flying with birds, symbols of strength and delicacy, seeing where they take me as I venture into new places in 2016.

Meanwhile, this week in the studio:

Red!I felt very productive as I finished preparing cradled boards for upcoming projects, going so far as to actually apply a cadmium red ground on them. Oh, joy! Oh, red!

As for the self-portraits, they continue to vex as the painted grids remain wet, preventing cleaning up the interior of each rectangle. Perhaps it’s a combination of Mars black with too much oil medium and the cool studio air temps. I’ve decided to set them aside and let time take care of the curing process. But the hats are done! Huzzah for small victories!