Travel can be limited these days. Thankfully, art awakens memories. My latest monoprint collage series considers reflecting memories. I use a matrix that evokes the shape of skyscraper buildings with numerous windows to create artwork that encourages memory of other places and times.Continue reading “Art Awakens Memories”
Can’t travel this summer? Art can have a transformative effect on your surroundings and therefore your mental health. Remembering past travels or dreaming about future trips can lift your mood and brighten your day. My latest suite of monoprint collages considers the beautiful destinations of our world and captures them along with patterns in nature, thanks to images I’ve taken on past travels.Continue reading “Art for when you can’t travel”
The pictures you take on vacation say a great deal about you. What are you interested in? What do you want to remember? My phone isn’t filled with the traditional sites, but rather with patterns and shapes I want to remember. A recent long weekend trip to Chicago yielded no “Bean” pictures; instead I focused my lens on patterns…Continue reading “Your vacation pictures say a great deal about you”
The New Year has dawned…and I’ve been on the road. I am fortunate to be in several group shows this winter, two of which are in the southern part of greater Chicagoland. Because my work is large and heavy, shipping is not an option.
Woody Guthrie and I
My first car load of work was headed to a show at the Victorian House Art Gallery of Olivet Nazarene University, which is located in Bourbonnais, Illinois — a village of Kankakee. All along my drive, I just couldn’t get the “City of New Orleans” lyrics out of my head.
“All on the southbound odyssey
The train pulls out of Kankakee
Rolls along past houses, farms and fields…”
With temperatures in the single digits, plus wind and blowing snow, Google Maps took me on a journey across very rural parts of Indiana and Illinois, and got me safely to my destination. The patterns of the corn stubble against the snow gave me ideas for new work, although relying on the white of the paper to represent snow can be tricky….
And more framing!
Back at home and I need to get more work framed. Because of the expense of the large frames, I will often switch out the work depending on what is required for a show. I use acrylic (or plexiglass) to frame the largest work, requiring the use of our dining room table to open things up, switch the work, and seal things up again. It has been tremendously cold in the midwest this month, making the house so dry that I would swear lint from the neighbors’ house wanted to leap into the frame. Quite an exercise in patience for me, and my mensch of a husband.
Another trip north…
With the RAV4 loaded with three large works and six medium-sized, I set off another morning for the Tall Grass Arts Association Gallery in Park Forest, Illinois. Warming temperatures and snow covered fields meant most of the eight-hour journey was completely white with fog and clouds. Thankfully the sun finally broke through during my last hour of the drive.
With everything settled in their galleries, I now have time to devote to a new commissioned work instead of heading out on the highway again. I’ll be watching the weather carefully, hopefully driving again on January 20th for openings for both exhibits. If you are in the greater Chicagoland area, here are all the details:
Water. Fire. Ice. Earth. Air.
Tall Grass Arts Association Gallery
376 Artists Walk, Park Forest IL
Opening Saturday, January 20 from 1 – 3pm
January 19 – February 24, 2018
(impressit) A Group of 8 Printmakers
The Victorian House Art Gallery
577 S Main St, Bourbonnais IL
Opening Saturday, January 20 from 12 – 2pm
January 9 – February 7, 2018
Emily Carr must have been quite a woman. She smoked a pipe and sometimes swore at her art pupils, ran a boarding house and bred dogs to earn money, and spent her life learning and growing as an artist. A Canadian artist who lived between 1871 and 1945, she is well-known for her work documenting the people and totems of the First Nations of the Canadian Northwest.
Much has been written about Emily Carr, from various biographies to the somewhat fiction of Susan Vreeland’s The Forest Lover. Carr wrote prolifically herself, from autobiographical works to a hilarious book of cartoons chronicling a trip to Alaska with her sister. The facts of her life are a bit of a mystery — she sometimes contradicted herself in describing her incredible life. These are fascinating reads to be sure, but what I love about Emily Carr are her trees. I had an opportunity recently to go to Vancouver, B.C. and see some of Emily’s trees in person.
Capturing the feeling of the forest
The Vancouver Art Gallery has a substantial collection of Emily Carr’s works. Her immersion in the forests themselves came during the last part of her painting career, after she spent many years painting the totems and villages of the coastal Northwest.
If you have ever visited a forest in the Pacific Northwest, you will know that they feel intrinsically different from the forests of eastern North America, and distinct still from the dry mountain west. These forests have plentiful water and lush vegetation. During Emily’s time, their isolation from logging meant that she was able to experience the overwhelming green presence of the forest as its own living, breathing entity. This is what she captures in her earlier forest paintings.
Part of her success in capturing these feelings comes from her unorthodox use of materials. She was constantly economizing so that she could continue to paint prolifically. So that she could go paint on site in the forest, she invested in manila paper as a substrate and made a cardboard hinged portfolio that was easy to carry. She used “good quality white house paint thinned with gasoline” so that her oil paints flowed like watercolors and dried quickly, but were also opaque and felt substantial.
Emily Carr as environmentalist
The appetite for raw lumber in British Columbia was voracious, with much of Vancouver Island being decimated by clear cutting during her final painting years. Thus, Emily’s later work becomes an environmental commentary. She anthropomorphized trees, calling the tree stumps she captured in her work “screamers.” Last week, the State of Indiana unnecessarily sold nearby older growth forest land for clear-cutting, so her characterization resonates with me.
One of my new favorite works of Emily is Above the Trees. As a result of her painting logged forests, she became more aware of skies. My non-flash image does not do this work justice — the intensity and activeness of the blue sky makes me think of a heavenly fingerprint above tree spirits.
Emily Carr is now a celebrated artist both in Canada and beyond. She has a school of art named after her, and her life is now the subject of much scholarly discourse. But throughout her life she was mostly alone and unappreciated, living at the edges of a society that did not support women as artists. For her tenacity in every day life and for her dogged pursuit of her vision, I am eternally grateful. Nice to see you in person, Emily.
Late summer is a time of letting go in the college town where I live. Parents drop off their students and have to walk away. They must trust that their children will eventually find their way by themselves. From experience, I know this is difficult to do — so much is unknown. It turns out that this experience is similar in showing my artwork.
Letting go of artwork
I have been invited to show work in two upcoming shows, located in Lafayette, IN and southwest Chicago. I loaded my RAV4 with three large works laying flat, and five small pieces tucked behind the front seats. I set off with a friend to begin delivering this work. Instead of speeding north, we were eventually detoured onto back country roads, where we spent an hour with intermittent cell service, snaking our way past orchards and through state forests. “What does this have to do with making art?” I thought to myself.
Delayed more than an hour, we finally drop off one piece and begin the longer part of the journey toward the Argonne National Lab outside of Chicago. Instead of the swift journey forecast by Google Maps, we experienced more delays… and trucks!
After seven hours, we finally pull into the Argonne National Lab, and are greeted by large brick gates, lots of fencing, and a tiny visitor’s center. This is as far as I can go with my art. There is a small area to leave the artwork, which will be moved to the lab’s gallery later in the week.
Now I’m nervous. I have carefully transported my larger work flat, to avoid stress on the frame’s corners. All I can do now is prop them gently against a wall, and pin a note explaining how they need to be moved.
Letting go and trusting the process
When I deliver artwork, I usually bring the work into the space and meet the people who will be installing the exhibit. Argonne National Labs is a collaboration between the University of Chicago and the U.S. Department of Energy so in retrospect it makes sense that we left the artwork outside the facility as we were not cleared by security nor escorted. My friend later suggested that the art would be inspected as well. Just as parents cannot find out information about their student’s classes, professors and grades, I must trust my artwork in the hands of others. Not an easy thing to do.
Dealing with loss and change
What do you do when you must let go? Empty nesting parents redecorate, or go on a much needed vacation. The accidents and congestion faded away for our return drive, and we were treated to Simpson’s clouds as we neared the Indiana line. A stop at the Albanese Candy Factory — home of the world’s best gummy bears — lifted our spirits and made the journey home a bit sweeter.
I hope to get back up to the Argonne National Lab to attend the opening. Like Parent’s Weekend this will be my opportunity to convince myself that the artwork is doing just fine without me.
My trip to the Southern Graphics Council International’s conference in Portland, Oregon was transformative. The conference is a combination of traditional academic activities (keynote speakers, panels, etc.) along with demonstrations, lots of gallery shows and a vendor fair. Since I am neither a student nor an academic, I delighted immersing myself in only the activities that I chose — a rare occurrence in anyone’s life. Several demos provided new ideas to me, and I will share them briefly here. If you wish more information, please use the link provided to visit each artist’s website.
Elise Wagner, assisted by Master Printer Jane Pagliarulo, demonstrated creating encaustic collagraphs. The melted encaustic medium (a special blend of beeswax, resin and titanium white that Elise has created) is applied to a plexiglass sheet. Using both heated tools and other implements, Elise created a dynamic matrix that she used to print an image onto damp paper. Because petroleum will react with the wax, she used Akua Intaglio inks and a wiping method similar to intaglio. I found this new option appealing. Creating the plate is much faster than with linocuts, but you have much more control and can take your time in creating — different from when you print wax directly onto paper in encaustic monotypes. I came home with a can of Elise’s medium and am looking forward to giving this new technique a try.
Fake Chine Colle: Alternative Adhesive Processes
Throughout my artistic practice, I have wanted to use other papers and elements in my work. Traditional chine colle requires a delicate and skillful dance of making wheat paste, applying just the right amount, and drying flat. My efforts have only been marginally successful. And I find when I try to glue with anything water-based, my support paper buckles. Masha Ryskin demonstrated how she uses Gudy-O and Gudy-V adhesive films to create chine colle and collage elements in her work. These films — which can be obtained from Talas — are expensive, and a bit tricky to use, but when adhered are invisible, archival and permanent. You could even print over the collage elements you have created.
Akua Colors take on Natural Pigments
Akua Ink creator Susan Rostow did an interesting demo where she compared modern synthetically derived inks with the pigments they are designed to imitate. She personally collected the pigments she was working with, including the tiny cochineal beetles that make up a purple-red color. You could clearly see that natural pigments could not create the same intensity of color that the new inks could. At some point, she said, the amount of pigment in the transparent base was so high that the ink would become chalky. I have some very old Akua inks that I believe are past their prime, but the kind folks at Speedball (which now mass produces the Akua Inks with Rostow’s collaboration) gave me a sample of new inks, and I am eager to try them out!
Learning about Pochoir — Making the Stencil Brush Fabulous Again
Pati Scobey used both the positive and negative parts of a polyester plate to demonstrate the technique of pochoir — or stenciling. She used watered down acrylic gel medium, plus salt and carborumdum, to create textured plates. From these plates she cut out shapes, using the cut outs printed positively, and using both the shape or the negative space to print gently around a shape using a stencil brush. With these techniques, Pati creates repetition of shapes, patterns and textures that she uses to create handmade books. Here you can see a selection of her finished work, ready to be bound.
Gamblin Inks — Carefully crafted by Chris
Gamblin very kindly hosted an open house for the conference one evening. Here is a very tiny video of the Gamblin process for creating their printing inks. The pigment and the burnt plate oil are mixed together and are then fed into a three roller mill which slowly pulverizes the pigment to the consistency that printmakers need. Use your imagination to see Chris on the right side of this machine, gently guiding the finished ink down a short metal slope into the familiar Gamblin ink cans. He fills each by hand, and will do between 200 and 400 cans each day. Thanks Chris!
Now my brain is full of new ideas, and I must decide which new technique to try first… Stay tuned for the good and the bad of my latest experiments.
At the end of March I am headed to Portland, Oregon for the Southern Graphics Council International’s annual conference. This is the first printmaking conference I have ever attended, and as a person without the official blessing of an MFA, I’m a bit nervous. When I registered for the conference, one of the options was to participate in a print exchange.
Printmakers are among the most generous artists I have encountered. They readily share their secret ways of registration and are eager to problem solve with you in Facebook groups. Since they can make more than one image, they share those as well. For the exchange, I needed to produce an edition of 13 images with the paper size of 11 x 14″, and consider the event’s theme of FLUX. I found this theme baffling. Take a look at my finished image — draw your own conclusions — and then I will explain my thinking.
The only thing flux brought to my mind was Doctor Emmett Brown’s time traveling DeLorean in the Back to the Future movies. The conference suggested I think about urban change, the DIY culture and the places where the past and the future flow into each other. Not exactly what I do…
While reading definitions of flux, I found the ideas of energy, change and force fields most illustrative. I finally decided on a stylized tree cross-section. This tree trunk has experienced rapid change, as evidenced by the change from concentric circles to waves. Because of the importance of forest products in the Portland area, this was a nod to a change from clear cutting to a more responsible way of growing and harvesting trees.
The colors of the linocut were inspired by dogwood blossoms, with reddish tips and green interiors. I first printed a flat shape of pale yellow mixed with titanium white. I then added a blend roll of pale pink on the edges, and used a dauber to add green to the center.
Carving the concentric rings was a pleasurable way to spend an afternoon. Gold ink created the rings, with a final addition of textured purple around the edges that represented bark.
The best part is that when I leave the conference, I will have a portfolio of ten original prints from other artists to enjoy. Isn’t sharing wonderful?
Time for our Back to the Future marathon…
July was walk-about month for me and my family. I look forward to these trips because they are a time to look at new things, have different experiences, and generally refresh my artistic brain. We decided to go to two very different European cities — mostly because they offered activities that would please both forty-something parents and newly-minted young adults.
Our time in Amsterdam yielded two museum experiences that I enjoyed. A Matisse paper cut-out exhibit at the Stedelijk Museum felt so familiar, as I remembered the reproduction that hung on my bedroom wall throughout my adolescence. I admired Matisse’s use of white space. An early morning visit to the Van Gogh Museum took us through the artist’s development from dark and realistic, to brighter colors and abstracted perspectives. I could clearly see the influence of Japanese woodblock printing during one period of his painting, where shapes were darkly outlined, as if in an homage to a key block.
Lovely to see… but not earthshaking. We then traveled by train to Berlin. In a past life, I studied political science, took Russian, and learned a great deal about Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. Our AirBnB 1901 apartment was in Prenzlauer Berg — an area that was part of East Berlin. I imagined the people living in this apartment — with its soaring ceilings and thick walls — during the second World War and the time of the Stazi.
Our first real site in Berlin was an evening trip up the dome of the Reichstag. The former dome burned in 1933 and provided the impetus for the Nazi party to seize political power. The current glass dome was not completed until 1999, nine years after German reunification. Access to the site is free, but requires advanced tickets procured with your official documents. Inside it is quiet as people gradually ascend up to the top, where you can lean back on a circular wooden bench and watch the clouds go by. In a country that has known such conflict and pain, the dome provides a sense of peace and a hope for clear-eyed action in the future.
|A view of the ascending and descending ramps in the dome of the Reichstag in Berlin, Germany.|