Thursday, July 30, 2015

Northwest Inspiration

I recently took a trip to the Northwest, as I do on a semi regular basis, to visit my folks. It was a very creative trip for me.  I was newly finished with Tracy's e course. I saw the place with my new artist eyes. And I fell in love with snails! As they would creep across the paths after a rain I would get down on the ground and take their pictures. I love the beautiful spiral and deep color of their shells.  People find it strange, and frankly I find it strange that I am so entranced by snails suddenly. But maybe you will appreciate their beauty too in these photos.

I noticed on this trip what a calming effect the view of the water and nearby islands had on me.
Don't get me wrong. I love the desert. I lived in the northwest for years and became a poster child for seasonal affective disorder. But this trip was different. I appreciated the water so much more. And really noticed how it affected me in positive ways. And also how I felt home. Partly due to my brother, his wife and son being there as well. It felt like where I belong.

So I ended up making some photo collages of some of the images that I really liked. This is a combination of snail images, a photo of the water and some of my mom's handmade paper.

Here's another little photo collage- just playing with the images I like.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Line drawing and brain musings

From my previous posts and photos you may have gathered that I enjoy color. And I tend to think more is more. I Pauline Agnew called Flower Power. She introduced the class to Ellsworth Kelly and his simple botanical line drawings. Now normally this wouldn't be something that would interest me much. But she had such enthusiasm for him I took a closer look. I particularly like these.
saturate the heck out of photos. I'm generally not a fan of the subtle. But... I've found myself spending a bunch of time lately just doing plain old line drawings and really appreciating this practice. I'm taking a great e-course right now with

So I've been working on my own line drawing, sometimes filling in with some colored ink but often just enjoying and appreciating line drawing. And mostly with my non dominant hand. Seriously, sitting out in the garden and drawing with my non dominant hand is like instant anti anxiety medication. Try it.  I stop thinking and begin seeing. Maybe this is related to the language center being on the left side of the brain. When I start lighting up the right side of my brain, by using my left hand, all the words in my head stop. Therefore the worrying stops, the thinking about the past and future stop and I find myself in the present just breathing and drawing. Here are some examples:

Speaking of the brain, I did a little more research after my blog post "Strange Appearances." In that post I wrote about how I see figures and animals in random painting and mark making and that is often how my paintings evolve. The 25 cent word for this is pareidolia- referring to how the mind perceives a face where none exists. This explains seeing faces or figures in clouds,  seeing the virgin mary on a grilled cheese sandwich that gets sold on ebay for some crazy sum ($28.000 in 2004), seeing the man on the moon, and seeing figures in rock outcroppings. Apophenia is a more general term for seeing patterns, not just faces, in random data.  Although tell me this isn't an elephant. 

 Leonardo Da Vinci wrote about this phenomena. From wikipedia, 

"In his notebooks, Leonardo da Vinci wrote of pareidolia as a device for painters, writing "if you look at any walls spotted with various stains or with a mixture of different kinds of stones, if you are about to invent some scene you will be able to see in it a resemblance to various different landscapes adorned with mountains, rivers, rocks, trees, plains, wide valleys, and various groups of hills. You will also be able to see divers combats and figures in quick movement, and strange expressions of faces, and outlandish costumes, and an infinite number of things which you can then reduce into separate and well conceived forms."

Stephen Sondheim, the composer says, "Art, in itself, is an attempt to bring order out of chaos." My feeling is good art does this and then throws a little chaos back in. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Becoming Real

I love this truck! It's in my neighborhood, in an alley. The colors are great and the lines. It just has so much personality and soul- I love everything about it- the plants growing all around it, the way it is integrating into the landscape and slowly decaying. I love the broken window and the old withered sunflower in the front grill. I finally went out early one morning with the intention of photographing it. Here it is in it's true glory with no photo enhancement, just nice morning light.

I come back to play with this truck image again and again. I'm photographing new stuff all the time but I just haven't found anything I like as much as this.  Some of the things I've done to this truck include: saturate the color heck out of it, add flowers, add animals, run it through all sorts of painting apps, collage it into other pieces. In this one I put it through the detangle app. Love detangle:

This picture is almost believable:

This one is probably not so believable:

 Look closely at this one- I put my cat in the driver's seat and my two crows from my recent wall painting on the hood and fender.

Here it is collaged into my Artist Journey piece:

Shiny new stuff doesn't seem to hold much appeal to me. The soul and realness happens with a patina of age. Hopefully that is true with me as well. I love this quote from The Velveteen Rabbit, a children's book.

“Real isn't how you are made,' said the Skin Horse. 'It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.'

'Does it hurt?' asked the Rabbit. 

'Sometimes,' said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. 'When you are Real you don't mind being hurt.' 

'Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,' he asked, 'or bit by bit?' 

'It doesn't happen all at once,' said the Skin Horse. 'You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand.” 
― Margery WilliamsThe Velveteen Rabbit

I do have a new photo image I like almost but not quite as much as the truck. It's an old house. Kind of haunted looking and falling apart. But all sorts of soul.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Painting the outside

I have had this plan in the works for about a year. I put primer on a section of cinder block wall on the side of my porch this spring and I've been planning on painting it. Looking out from the porch on gray cinder block felt too gloomy. So I took matters into my own hands. I've come a ways since painting my garage wall. I'm a little more free and confident now. But I still have my moments of fear and doubt- will it turn out? Does it look too much like a 5 year old painted it? Should I try to be a  bit more detail oriented? (challenging when painting on cinder block- it's a pock marked surface with indents in between the blocks so it's hard to get a good line.) But then I just think... trust and paint my heart. And it's only paint. Here it is.

In process:

And the new view from the porch:

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Wild Natures

On my morning walk today I was attacked by a pit bull and bitten on the stomach. It broke the skin but wasn't deep. I spent the morning talking to animal control and at the doctor's office. I love dogs and I'm not a pit bull hater at all. And actually I think the dog who attacked me is probably not an aggressive dog by nature. It was in a yard with two other dogs I am familiar with who were doing their usual bark-y thing as I walked by. I had never seen the pit bull before and it turns out he's the new girlfriend's dog and they didn't realize it could get over the fence. After it ran at me and bit me I turned to it and said in my best alpha dog voice "no!" and it totally backed down. It all happened so fast. I walked away and called 911 and eventually felt pretty shook up in the following hours.

But it was an experience that put me in touch with my own wild nature. And my wild nature is of the female fiercely protective kind. I felt first protective of any other people walking by- I especially didn't want a child or an older person getting hurt. And then I felt protective of the dog who bit me- I didn't want it treated unfairly due to it's pit bull- ness. And then my wild nature also guided me to retreat and sleep and rejuvenate before going out in the world again. I took a little walk tonight and felt tired and sore but wild things heal quickly and live in this present moment and so shall I.

So I painted a little today. A wolf showed up. I'm going to work on it a little more but here it is so far:

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Workshop weekend

I had the really good fortune this past weekend to attend a photo and mixed media workshop taught by Corrales, NM artist, Holly Roberts. Her blog is great- called One painting at a Time.

I thought about formatting this blog in the same way- talking about one painting at a time... but I seem to get too distracted by other things to write about. This is one of Holly's mixed media pieces called Horse Resting:

I love it of course. She is an amazing artist and a patient, kind and generous teacher. I learned a lot. I did three pieces over the weekend. This piece was my AHA! moment piece.

We started by creating a painting. Holly doesn't just consider this painting a background. She really wants the painting to be great and to stand on it's own, even though we collage and image transfer over it.

I was happy with the underpainting and then decided to use a photo of an old truck I had taken recently. But I got stuck when I was cutting it out to use for collage. It just didn't seem to fit until Holly said to me, "Make it your truck." I was trying to cut true to the shape of the truck. I needed permission to break the rules and color or cut outside the lines.  When it became my truck the whole piece came together for me. As I worked I realized making it my truck was a good metaphor for my creative journey and my life journey and the transformation process it all is.

I also did the piece below by photo transferring onto a painting and then collaging the middle bird and transferring the other birds and adding a little stencil.

Thursday, July 9, 2015


I mentioned in a previous post I traded my inky elephant piece for a piece by the amazing photographer Bill Mohr.  He does a wonderful photography series combining butterflies and graffiti. Check it out.

I recently finished an e-course with Flora Bowley, a bold and intuitive painter. She got me thinking about graffiti when she mentioned that one of her inspirations for her art is graffiti. She also reminded me about Banksy- the British graffiti artist. I've always liked this one by Banksy:

I live in a neighborhood with no shortage of graffiti. Sometimes I find it inspiring but most often it's gang related and annoying and disrespectful. But then this appeared nearby:

This graffiti brings you right into a story. And then the wider view of this picture has "wolf!" written underneath it. Is it a response? 

I enjoy the work on tall buildings of the rainbow warrior graffiti artist in Albuquerque.  I didn't take this photo. It came from this website. 

This is a very intriguing little piece of graffiti in an alleyway I often drive through. It's actually a painting on plywood. It sums up my sentiments but I wonder who put it there? When I showed it to my mom she wondered if CYRD is a man or woman. I am thinking man.

Another graffiti/mural that I enjoy is this one. It kind of reminds me of my bird in the header of my blog above. I like the way they painted on the cinderblock wall and then just painted on the fence when they ran out of room... or maybe it was planned that way. All this graffiti tells a story and makes me wonder a bit. I'm happy I live in a place with plenty of street art.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Strange appearances

Check out this great peek into the creative mind of Mel McCuddin on youtube. He's an artist who works by putting down a random underpainting and then finding images to paint within that. Nothing is pre-planned. The images instead appear on the canvas to him.

This idea of finding images in what we paint is so magical to me. It is a process like dreams. I don't know where my dreams come from... except I know somehow they come from me. But they can also feel like they come from somewhere else... the subconscious, the divine, I don't know.

Most of the time I paint by creating a first layer- fingerpainting, dripping paint, making marks, making layers of paint... and then looking, and looking and looking to find who or what is in there wanting and waiting to be painted. I turn the canvas, look at it at different times of day, look at it in different places in the house and then...something will eventually appear. And it is always surprising to me.

I find this a wonderful way to paint. I think our brains are hard wired to find meaning and make sense of things and to create order from chaos. Perhaps our brains are also hard wired to find faces. I hardly ever start out to paint a face- but faces are what often appear on the canvas. The more I exercise this part of my brain the easier this activity becomes. Here are a few before and after photos of some surprising appearances.

This is a very surprising meditating man wearing a cool hat:

From this piece a horse leapt out.

This moose shape also surprised me. 

And he became the celestial moose, floating about the sky with the moons and planets.

I just never know what might pop out of my paintings and that's what makes it all so curious and interesting.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

A connection with the Wild

I keep an inspiration notebook of images that I come across that move me for some reason. I try to write down why I am drawn to each image- is it color or line or pattern or composition or emotional power? An image I find profoundly moving and come back to again and again is this one:

The photographer is Asher Svidensky. The girl is Ashol-Pan, a Kazakh girl living in the Altai mountain range in Mongolia.  These people have been hunting with golden eagles since the 15th century. Check out more pictures here. You must. The landscapes are haunting, the people are beautiful and the Mongollian ponies and golden eagles are stunning.

Boys are trained to hunt with the eagles starting at 13 years old. The girl in the photos, apparently is the daughter of the leader of the people. His son was killed and so permission was given for her to learn to hunt with eagles, though girls are not usually allowed. And she is truly amazing. The photographer says about her, ""To see her with the eagle was amazing," he recalls. "She was a lot more comfortable with it, a lot more powerful with it and a lot more at ease with it."

Why do I love these images besides their beauty?  I love the image of the girl hunting with the giant bird because it connects what is wild outside with the wild inside. It is an image that at once is about freedom and strength and courage and  connection. Connection with the natural world, connection to our inner sense of truth. It is an image of true power residing in a young girl. This is not a picture we are often shown.

The look on her face in the picture above... it makes me ask myself, what are the moments in my life like that? What is my standing on top of a mountain and letting a huge bird fly free off my arm moment? What gives me that sense of joy and freedom and connection and aliveness?

These photos remind me of the 2002 movie Whale Rider about a powerful young Maori girl with a connection to nature. There is no lying to a hawk or to a whale. There is only authentic hawk and whale and authentic you. In that authenticity is power. These are images that young girls should see. And the rest of us as well.

This is a little pen and ink sketch I did inspired by the Mongolian eagle hunters.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Ghost Elephant in a Cloud

July 2, 2015

So I told you the story of the elephant on my garage. Now I want to further the story. I am loving combining photos and paintings. This photo of the painting I did of an inky elephant  has been great for combining with other backgrounds. I did this piece in Tracy Verdugo's animalitos ecourse- an awesome course.

So I have combined this inky elephant with some different paint backgrounds, added some text and had some fun with that. But the image that turned out the best, to me, was this one of the giant inky elephant appearing in my now familiar backyard along with the painted garage elephant.

My brother made me laugh at his perfect comment when I posted this on my facebook page: "So it's like the ghost spirit elephant came off the wall and walked into your garden...dude..."  I wanted this piece to convey a ghost like but real feeling. A real ghost. I think I succeeded. I also am struck by how I made this image... from planting the garden, to painting the garage wall, to taking a photo of it, to painting the elephant, to combining the images together. No one could have made this image but me. And that is super cool.

There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost.
- Martha Graham

I ended up trading the original ink elephant piece for a beautiful photo from the talented photographer Bill Mohr. His work can be seen at his website:

Sometimes I think how weird it is that my ghost elephant and many of the other pieces I've worked on exist only digitally. I have no hard copy of these, though I could print them. But it is kind of cool that they only exist in a cloud- it's another way this image is part real and part ghost.