Saturday, July 18, 2015

The universe is full of magical things...

The Universe is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper. 

 -Eden Phillpotts

My husband and I went camping at the coast for a couple of days this week, and I was feeling a bit wistful remembering camping trips from years past when our daughters were small. As soon as we would pull up to the campsite, they would spill out of the car and start running all over, exploring, finding treasures and building things. For them, the world was an endless source of magic and delight. I said, why should that be just for kids? Why can’t I run around and discover magic in the forest?

So I did. And I built a fairy house.

I noticed three trees growing in a circle. They reminded me of the three Norns, the Fates of Norse myth who control the past, present and future.  Their names are Urd (What Was), Verdandi (What is Becoming), and Skuld (What Shall Be). They live in Asgard, under Yggdrasil, the World Ash Tree. 

I made a circle on the ground underneath the three Norn trees and built the fairy house from bark that had fallen off a dead tree. I put moss on the roof and pinecones around the circle. Later, my husband and I took a walk to the beach and I picked up some colorful rocks that I added to the circle. I made a cairn standing in front of the house, and placed a shell on either side of the door.   

I also placed a stick shaped like the rune Algiz (Protection) on the circle, should any Wee Folk decide to move in, so they will be safe in their new home.

My fairy house delighted me. I expect the next time we go there it will be gone, but transience is the way of the world. And so is magic.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Start where you are

So I haven’t posted here since last August… I had all sorts of plans for fantastic blog posts. Last fall I did a couple of paintings of Persephone based on one of my favorite myths, and also lots of work on portraits and various other things. I traveled to Thailand for a month in January/February and I was going to do a post about the trip, complete with lots of photos. But I didn’t get any of that done, and now I am burdened with the feeling that I should catch up on all the uncompleted things before I can talk about what I’m doing now. An infinite regress of “can’t do that until I do this first, but can’t do this until I do something else first” resulting in a paralyzing inertia. 

Perhaps I will eventually write those posts, perhaps not, but I am going to break out of the stuckness and just start where I am right now.  This spring I enrolled in 21 Secrets 2015, an awesome online art journaling workshop with 21 different amazing teachers. You can do the classes in any order, and I jumped in with Roxanne Coble’s class called Fragments and Mysteries.   
My natural tendency is draw and paint realistically. Realism is fine but it also can be restricting, and it’s really hard for me to loosen up.  Applying Roxanne’s techniques of unplanned abandon has been so freeing and exhilarating. Blobs of paint, collage elements, ephemera, random marks with pencil, pastels or whatever comes to hand, and then doodling on top to tie it together. She teaches to create without fear: if you don’t like part of it, just cover it up and turn it into something else. I’m very pleased with the results of my first attempts. 

The top photo is my latest effort, called The Second Horseman. It wasn’t planned at all, but I love the photo of Pegasus that I got out of a magazine, and it ended up being the focus. At the top, the background appeared to be on fire, and it reminded me of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the second being War.  Here are some details:

Prior to that, I did this two-page spread in my art journal: Disintegration 1 and 2.  

These two fairly well illustrate how I've been feeling lately: disintegrating, coming apart, yet filled with raw energy and potential. I've let go of a project I was pursuing for the past 5 years. I started it with a great deal of enthusiasm and high expectations, which gradually turned into disappointment and it finally ended up being unbearable. I am so glad to be done with it, and making room in my life for other things. I feel a sense of urgency; there is no time to waste on things that make me unhappy. Time to start where I am and move forward.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Chagollum: Marc Chagall meets JRR Tolkien


Marc Chagall is one of my favorite artists. I love his mysterious and sometimes baffling work, a visual feast of magical realism populated with violin-playing goats, people riding on chickens and lovers floating through the air. Faces are often blue, green, or multicolored. Figures and animals appear seemingly at random. 

Much of Chagall’s imagery comes from his own memories. He was born in 1887 in the village of Vitebsk, Belarus. His hometown appears in many of Chagall’s paintings, as does his beloved wife Bella.

I was delighted that Chagall was one of the artists featured in Studying Under the Masters, Jeanne Oliver’s splendid class that I took a few months ago. (I wrote about it here.) 

I was making a copy of one of Chagall’s paintings for the class, and as we are big Lord of the Rings nerds, my husband came up with the idea of “Chagollum” and suggested I try creating a Chagall/LOTR mashup. 

There are some obvious correspondences between motifs in Chagall’s paintings and LOTR.  Admittedly, the chicken is not one of them, but I just had to have Gollum riding on a chicken. The floating lovers of course had to be Arwen and Aragorn. Gandalf and Frodo worked as little peripheral figures. As for the tower on a hill, well, duh. And although I don't think Chagall painted any erupting volcanoes, I couldn’t leave out Mount Doom. This was done in acrylics on a 16 x 20 canvas.

Here are some of Chagall's paintings that inspired me. These were found at

Artist Over Vitebsk 1977

Laid Table with View of Saint-Paul de Vance 1968

King David's Tower 1971

Monday, July 21, 2014

Great Explorations

So I am having a fabulous time with these angel paintings. I have learned a whole new technique: painting on boards that have been coated with plaster. I really like the effect. It's easy to do, just coat a 1/8 inch birch board with drywall plaster (joint compound), let it dry, then sand it. You can make cool textures and patterns with stencils, and put on several layers. Then coat it with gesso before you paint. It turns out looking sort of like a fresco, and you can't quite predict what's going to happen. (Which is always the case when I do any type of art, for good or ill.)

The one above is called "Blood Moon Angel." I'm pretty happy with it, but I think her face could use a bit more work. It was done on a 16 x 16 inch panel, so the face ended up being quite small. Faces are difficult enough, but small faces are really hard.

Below is the last one I finished, called "Three Fish." I used two different reference photos, one for the body and one for the face.  Also, this one was my first successful attempt at gel transfers. I was so excited that it worked!! Gel transfers are a cool way to put photographic images onto your painting. You find a photo you want to transfer. These photos of hillside villages are ones I took in Cinque Terre, Italy.  Print it on a laser printer. The image will appear backwards when you transfer it, so you may need to flip it horizontally first. Wet the paper with water, and put a fairly thick coat of matte medium on the surface where you want to transfer the image. Lay the wet paper image side down, and press out all the air with a brayer. Let it dry thoroughly, then wet the paper and rub it off with your fingers. The paper will come off and the image will stay behind.

I'm working on another painting now. It's a larger face, but I'm having a bit of a struggle getting the eye to look right. I need to buckle down and practice drawing facial features. I want to just hop in with the paints, but drawing practice is necessary to really understand how things look.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Ganesh, Remover of Obstacles

I was afraid this would happen, I wouldn't keep up with this blog. I intended to post at least once a week. Not to say it's not been on my mind, nagging and niggling, like a sore tooth.

A few weeks ago, I was thinking about Ganesh, or Ganesha, the Indian elephant-headed god, known as the remover of obstacles. I had been feeling stuck, as usual. So I decided to paint him, in hopes that he would do his job, and I do believe he did. I have made a fair bit of progress on my novel, and I've also been doing a lot of drawing and painting.

I'm taking another online art class, this one is Kate Thompson's Fractured Angels class. I'm a huge fan of Kate's art, and I am so excited to be able to learn from her. So yeah, keep that path clear for me, big guy. I have a lot of work to do.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Exploring Faces

I’ve been doing some work practicing painting faces, and I’m quite enjoying it. Here’s a mixed media piece I just finished; it's called "Secret Keeper." I used torn paper and alcohol ink in the background, and acrylics for the face. I’m fairly happy with it, although I don’t especially like how the nose turned out. Noses are so difficult. 

I'm still trying to find my own style. I'm attracted to more impressionistic, looser paintings, but when I paint, it tends to want to come out more realistic, and then I can't capture what I want so it gets frustrating. But the process is what's important, and to keep creating.