Merry, Merry

From "A Christmas Memory" by Truman Capote

Well, I'm disappointed. Who wouldn't be? With socks, a Sunday school shirt, some handkerchiefs, a hand-me-down sweater and a years subscription to a religious magazine for children. The Little shepherd. It makes me boil. It really does.
My friend has a better haul. A sack of Satsumas, that's her best present. She is proudest, however, of a white wool shawl knitted by her married sister. But she "says" her favorite gift is the kite I built her. And it "is" very beautiful; though not as beautiful as the one she made me, which is blue and scattered with gold and green Good Conduct stars: moreover, my name is painted on it, "Buddy."
"Buddy, the wind is blowing."
The wind is blowing, and nothing will do till we've run to a pasture below the house where Queenie has scooted to bury her bone (and where, a winter hence, Queenie will be buried, too). There plunging through the healthy waist-high grass, we unreel our kites, feel them twitching at the string like sky fish as they swim into the wind. Satisfied, sun-warmed, we sprawl in the grass and peel Satsumas and watch our kites cavort. Soon I forget the socks and hand-me-down sweater. I'm as happy as if we'd already won the fifty-thousand-dollar Grand Prize in that coffee-naming contest.
"My, how foolish I am!" my friend cries, suddenly alert, like a woman remembering too late she has biscuits in the oven. "You know what I've always thought?" she asks in a time of discovery, and not smiling at me but a point beyond. "I've always thought a body would have to be sick and dying before they saw the Lord. And I imagined that when He came it would be like looking at the Baptist window: pretty as colored glass with the sun pouring through, such a shine you don't know it's getting dark. And its been a comfort: to think of that shine taking away all the spooking feeling. But I'll wager it never happens. I'll wager at the very end a body realizes the Lord has already shown Himself. That things as they are" -her hand circles in a gesture that gathers clouds and kites and grass and Queenie pawing earth over her bone- "just what they've always been, was seeing Him. As for me, I could leave the world with today in my eyes."


Week 7 - Final Stop on the Abstract Tour

This final compositional idea is very loosely based on "Golden Sections" placed in a Fibonacci series positioned to create a logarithmic spiral, or nautilus. That's tech-talk for my black and white diagram at right.
Some background: Leonardo Fibonacci, in the 12th century, discovered a numerical series that, starting with 0 and 1, each new number in the series is the sum of the two before it. That is the foundation for the mathematical relationship behind phi but is also visually linked to the "Golden Section', rectangle, mean or what ever you want to call it. To read more, Google "Elements of Dynamic Symmetry", "modular", or "Golden Section".
The great 20th century genius designer and architect, Le Corbusier linked the spiral and its ever expanding compositional space, to its natural counterpart the nautilus.
As with most compositional ideas that I use, this starts with dividing the space into thirds to create the grid (the one loosely based on the "Golden Section") to hang our spiraling points on. This device can also be used in a landscape or still life by placing defining elements, maybe where 2 lines meet or complement colors sit side by side, on the points of the spiral. The idea is to subtly lead the eye of the viewer to the center of interest. In non- representational paintings it creates order in what may appear to be chaos. The points like bread crumbs, lead the viewer to the center of interest. Sometimes it is quite subliminal;
and we thought that only happened in advertising. . . . . . . .

Final Stop on the Abstract Tour- Class Work

My hope, is not to leave this journey in the past or create an "I was there" scrapbook of paintings (this was my WACKY period), but to let the work of probing the more intuitive side of our brain and using the strict compositional themes, to inform every new piece we create.
We (everyone in class) have all enjoyed that sense of pure creative activity, characterized by free flowing process; we also got in touch with the real discipline it takes to tame it.
For this class session we stuck to a very tight set of colors and rules and found that sometimes a short leash is good. This flies in the face of the non- artist's idea - that great non-representational work comes from some out-of-mind experience; in fact it is the work of staying out of just part of your mind at the right times.
I recognize that this may not be commercial work - and to quote a friend and fellow "plein air" painter "people like work they can understand"
- still, as explained in the post above, there is method to the madness.
Having said that, can it really be characterized as madness?
These pieces were done by
1. Karen Hartney,
2. Josie Perea
3. Judith Greenwood
4. Judith Greenwood
5. Gina Quintana
6. Gina Quintana

You are now free to choose your medium and move about the painting universe.


Time to Get Out in the Cold

There have been several storms blow through recently leaving lots of fresh snow - just what I have been waiting for. We have about 4 inches on the ground in Alamosa but much more on the western side of the valley. My painting friend, in all things "plein air", Sue McCullough, has been busy working/slaving on her studio all season (check out that progress on her blog), but we agreed to go out once there was snow . Well, a snow fall and some sad business took us up to South Fork where we picked up paintings and commiserated with Jan Bock who ran the Mountain Artisans Gallery there. A sweet little gallery that represented over 30 artists had to close suddenly when the landlord decided to close the real estate office that shared the building. She had less than 2 weeks to clear out - and right before Christmas; a sad day. We stopped in Del Norte and painted this little church - fortunately, in the middle of the day when the temps got up to about 15. We were a stiff, understandably, this was our first day out in the snow since last spring. In the summer and fall, you forget - just how hard it can be: to paint with mits, stand in 10 inches of snow - drag very stiff paint over the panel.
I also forgot how quickly things freeze and when I added water to the acrylic that I use for an under painting, my panel instantly became a skating rink - Hmmmmm.
Oh yes, it is all coming back to me now.
Note to self: next time thin the paint with your coffee.


Stop #6 in the Abstract Universe

The compositional idea for week #6 is another repeating shape; this time based on circles as shown in the sketch on the right. Also shown is the "color wheel" (I am using the term loosely) we have been using. Not a real color wheel for mixing color but a set of colors chosen for this exercize - and, frankly, I'm getting really bored with them. This week we broke with the idea of one dominant color and one subordinate color. We chose instead 3 analogous colors (3 colors that are next to each other on the wheel)- the 3 blues and added any 2 colors across the wheel to act as subordinate or secondary colors.

Class Work at Stop #6 in the Abstract Universe

Did we really stop or are we adrift in the cosmos and peering into deep space? These paintings seem to share an 'exploding universe' quality - beautiful and mysterious.
From the top, they were done by Karen Hartney,
Judith Greenwood and
Gina Quintana

Karen Hartney, friend, physical therapist, and fellow artist will soon be leaving the San Luis Valley for an new universe in South Carolina - we will miss her.

Early Christmas Gifts

Christmas Cheer came a little early this year. The Solo Exhibition of my studio work at the San Luis Valley Medical Center closed this week and I was thrilled (I mean screaming thrilled) that the largest piece in the show, 48"x60", "Into the Woods" SOLD. - WOW!
Next, I received a very welcome check from Earthwood Gallery in Estes Park for sale of "Aspen Glen"; a 12"x16" plein air piece from Rocky Mt. National Park and the SPACe Galley sold 6"x8", "Aspen Walk" at the Gift of Art Show going on this month in LaVeta. Interesting - trees seem to be the flavor of the month. . . . .
Even in the best of times, I could never take a sale lightly but in times like these, it means so much more. I feel blessed, indeed.


Week 5 - Abstract Land - it can be heaven, or not

I am finally sitting down to add some copy to these photos; and it's not 2 in the morning. Yay!
Week five's compositional idea is a repeating shape and in this case it is the rectangle- or square. My sketch is there at the bottom, and very linear, but it is only a starting place.
The orange painting was the first - shape after shape after shape. In the blue piece I started with black shapes, obliterated them, built new shapes and did the same; about the time it became too busy with tedious little shapes I would cover it and build it up again.
Last week I talked about trying to stay process focused, and actively working with the right side of the brain. That would be the part considered most visual and certainly the most perceptual and intuitive. Non-artists think that this is where artists live - I wish. Art is not magic. In reality, creating art takes concerted effort, technical knowledge and some idea about putting it together; things that the left side of the brain is better at. But there are times when art seems like magic. This could be either, when it is flowing so well you can't believe it or so not-working, you think you've lost it. So we swing between the two poles that are moments, sometimes even minutes, when the music takes you away and paint flows for pure pleasure and that sudden blip in the creative flow that can stop you cold and grip you with fear.

Week 5 Class Work in Abstract Land

In class we have gotten in touch with some things I need to mention: -first, making non-representational art is hard - harder than it appears to the novice. Any of us who ever said or suggested that a "5 year old could do that"- will never say that again.
There is also an idea that doing abstract art will loosen you up (artistically). "HA!" That ain't happenin'. During class one can almost hear the sound of brain activity, deep concentration and under the breath muttering- "this is hard; this is so hard."
The pieces shown here belong to:
1. Gina Quintana, at the top
2. Josie Perea, below
Click on the image to view it larger.


Happy Thanksgiving

Tag Again- Your IT
Now for some more tagging: Chuck Sale, his wife Teri and I used to paint together in California; both are amazing artists, now working in photography and design. The blog is beautiful, educational and always a good read. Thanks Chuck.
Urban Sketchers is another blog I go back to again and again - for the pictures. Can't get enough of it.
Finally, the Gaffney Journal, random thoughts on art, faith, movies- always smart and thought provoking.
That's about it for now. Surfing the blog world always makes me wish I was a better writer. Alas, only ever having been an artist I must persevere at what I do the best. According to the Tag Game rules I am now supposed to put up 7 interesting things about myself. Instead, I will post my latest offering: a 7"x 5" oil done today on clay board. I ordered some clay board mini panels because everyone raves about how wonderful it is - and I am definitely a panel girl. Normally, I paint on panels gessoed with a foam brush - flat with almost no texture.
My first impression of the clayboard is good but it is hard to tell on such a small sample. One thing is for sure, clayboard is very absorbent; almost sucks the glow right out of the oils. Almost immediately I could see low spots appear.
I will keep you posted.
Look for Week 5 in Abstract Land, coming up. No class this week because of the holiday.
Thanks for reading, commenting, and supporting art. Blessings this Thanksgiving.


Hearts & Stars Show in Taos

Last night at the Wilder Nightingale Gallery in Taos Sue McCullough and I attended the Hearts & Stars Miniature Show and Fund raiser for the Coalition to End Homelessness. We had paintings in the show and Sue sold one at the party -Bravo! The Wilder Nightingale Galley is always a welcoming place and one of my favorite Taos galleries; add amazing food, art, company, with the same good cause in mind and it's a good party. Some of the other artists involved were Michelle Chrisman, the primary organizer, Kemper Coley, Alan Heuer, and Elizabeth Jose, who closed the evening with some jazz vocals. Wow an artist who sings. Why am I surprised? I also found out that Alan Heuer is a classically trained clarinetist.
The show will hang until November 26th at the Wilder Nightingale Gallery in Taos. The miniature shown here did not go to Taos but I hate to post with out a visual aid.


Tagging in the Painting Playground

I have been tagged- that's a good thing, I think. Eldon Warren is always running ahead of the pack, encouraging (me at least) to expand my blogging horizons- and it's working.
I am supposed to Link to the person who tagged me, then tag seven bloggers (that I follow), comment on their blog and add a link to their blog; then see if I can get them to pick up the baton. Do I even know 7 people to tag? We'll see. Participation is voluntary so here goes. One more thing: List 7 unusual things about myself. Hmmmm.
First there is Eldon Warren, who I have to point back to as one of my favorite artist-bloggers. There is so much to be learned by just looking at his work, it is practically required reading for my student painters.
Sue McCullough, my good friend and an award winning plein air painter. I am so lucky to have her as a painting buddy. Sue has gotten me to paint out in 10 degree weather; what an inspiration. Right now she is blogging about a studio in process- check it out.
I also follow the work of fellow High Desert Painter from North Carolina Jana VanWyk. I have Jana to thank for getting me blogging.
Judith Greenwood is a beginning blogger but no babe in the art woods. Long time designer and professional artist, I want to encourage her blog in every way.
Well, that's a start. NOW get thee to the studio.


Week 4 - Abstract Mania

Well, I didn't go home with paint all over my shoes this week - maybe I should have....
This week the compositional idea was made up of horizontal shapes and lines - very landscape-like;
- funny, in the landscape, I only see shapes; in these shapes,
the landscape appears.
Here is my sketch, then the first brush strokes to establish the compositional idea - and the final at the top.
I did concentrate on staying in the right side of the brain, and that means actively working with the visual, spacial, and perceptual information. It helps to stay process focused and not product focused. View the class's paintings below.

Lost in Abstract Mania - Week 4 Class Paintings

Part of this "abstract" discussion has led us to thinking about how we function creatively. Art tends to be non-verbal, perceptual, spacial, intuitive and often paradoxical - characteristics embraced by the right side of the brain. Though we don't all process information that way,
with practice, we can help our brains get better at it. Isn't that good to know?
One of the best books on this subject, and creativity in general, is "Drawing on the Artist Within" by Betty Edwards, who also wrote, "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain".
The paintings to the right belong to the artists in this order:
1. Karen Hartney
2. Gina Quintana
3. Dee Bartee
4. Jerri Everett
5. Jerri Everett

More week 4 Class Paintings

I found this wonderful quote in Betty Edward's book, originally from The Art and Science of Creativity, 1965, "Creativity, as has been said, consists largely of rearranging what we know in order to find out what we do not know. ...Hence, to think creatively we must be able to look afresh at what we normally take for granted." George Kneller

Whoa, George, you just said a mouthful.

About now - both sides of my brain are tired; time to sign off on the posting for week 4.
The paintings to the right belong to the artists in this order:
1. Josie Perea
2. Judith Greenwood
3. Judith Greenwood
4. Judith Greenwood
5. Judith Greenwood
Scroll down to the post And Now For Something Completely Different to read my general guidelines for non-representational painting.

High Desert Painters, On line SHOW

I am very excited to announce the first High Desert Painters, On line SHOW.
On view is the best of what this international plein air group produced at our annual Ghost Ranch paint out, this last October. The group includes: Ann Templeton of Texas, Jana Van Wyk, of North Carolina, Janis Loverin of New Mexico, Nelson Hubley from Novia Scotia, and Judy Howells and Nita Harper, both from California, and myself.
All plein air painters, we have painted together for several years. Our varied places of origin and distinctive painting styles create a breadth in the group from traditional to contemporary. Check it out by scrolling up to the right to the LINKS and click on the High Desert Painters Link to view the show.


Commercial Break for Hearts and Stars

Party Alert. We never need an excuse to go to Taos but if you do - here is a good one: this Saturday night, November 22 is the Hearts and Stars Miniature Show and fund raiser to benefit the Taos Coalition to End Homelessness.
Festivities begin at 5 pm at the Wilder Nightingale Fine Art Gallery, 119 Kit Carson Rd. in Taos, New Mexico.
There is a small donation at the door but this party is the best combination of amazing art, atmosphere and great food. Artists represented by the best galleries in Santa Fe and Taos are involved and the show will hang until November 25th. Come out, do some Christmas shopping and support a good cause at the same time.
These two pieces are my miniature offerings; both are 6"x 4" and were created specifically for this show.


Week 3 - Look Mom, No Hands

In class we have be exploring ABSTRACT painting.
In an effort to get away from traditional paint application (brushes) I tried to concentrate on making the paint do what it does naturally as a result of gravity. I ended up with paint on my shoes, the floor, my hair, - etc, etc.
The compositional idea at work here is sometimes called Steelyard,  also known as Mama Bear-Papa Bear, Baby Bearor Asymmetrical Composition or  Off Balance Composition.
I am sure there are other names but it is essentially a dominating element and a relating-subordinate element. Very often the dominant element is larger and the focal point as well. The small lower photo shows my dominant element and related subordinate element. I also made a strong statement as to the color that I wanted to dominate the painting.

Week 3 - Class Work - ABSTRACT

The use of dominant and subordinate shapes is very common in landscape painting:  for example - a big group of trees and a smaller isolated tree. 
But the idea of dominant and subordinate ELEMENTS is also common in abstract work.
Using some formal element, such as shape, line, color, or value,  gives us something to hang our hat on - something to build the painting around.  If I am working with the ELEMENT of shape - repeating that shape is a good way to go. 
Repetition of color, or any design element -  can be used to create a dominate idea with a subordinate to balance it.
This is how the members of the class handled the idea of a dominating element and a related subordinate element. Click on the photos to enlarge the view.
From the top these pieces belong to:
Jerri Everett,
Cathy McCurdy,
Josie Perea,
Gina Quintana,
Dee Bartee

Scroll down to the post And Now For Something Completely Different to read my general guidelines for non-representational painting.


Don't Miss the GIFT OF ART Show in LaVeta

Time for a shameless commercial break - But there is a party involved........
PARTY and highlight of the holiday season for the Spanish Peaks Arts Council. The GIFT OF ART Show at SPACe Gallery in LaVeta will include work of local writers and musicians as well as the best ART of the Spanish Peaks region. Reception for the artists is Sunday, November 16th from 4 - 6 pm and the show will hang through January 3rd, '09. These 3 pieces from my fall plein air outings will be in the show and Judith Greenwood will also have work featured.
Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.