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Living Tree, Oil pastel on Cansons pastel paper (SOLD)

This is an older work of mine. I’m including it to show the different textures one can get with oil pastels, and also because working this way-  ie more fantasy-like, is very close to me and is what I am missing with the more realistic oil paintings.

Trying to keep an open student mind/beginners mind I did a looser crop of my bottles, then let it dry a bit and worked into it with oil bars and oil paints, keeping in mind my oil pastel techniques. I’m happy with the direction, it has promise.

My bottles, close crop, first stage, oil paint on canvas board

My bottles, close crop, later stage, oil paint on canvas board

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The longer I do Tai Chi the more I value it.  I love that you can keep going deeper and deeper, forever discovering new things.

In the beginning, 15 years ago,  the focus was on externals, mastering the basic  movements in the form (I do Yang form)  and being concerned about how good they looked-  how good I looked doing them!

But eventually you get over that and Tai Chi becomes your discipline, something private and priceless, and it is down to you and your practice and no one else, except maybe your teacher.

The 15 minutes a day I devote to my practice are precious because they focus me on essential things that tend to get lost in the everyday rush. Maybe I’m impatient before I start because I want to get going with my lists, plans, tasks.  But just the act of stopping, consecrating the space and time needed to go through the slow, meditative movements already calms me down.

I become aware of my breathing, my body, my feet standing on the ground. I move the energy down to my legs and feet and breathe deeper down in my belly. I come into my body and get out of my head. I am aware of how I am standing, how my weight is distributed, I feel the soles of my feet on this holy earth, anchored here, receiving. And I feel my upper body opening to energies coming from the sun and other cosmic forces.

As I start on the familiar, graceful sequence of movements, I feel whether my body is in balance or not, I sense my connection to the space and place around me, I feel my joints, I feel tension flow away as I take steps and move my arms in slow circular arc and dips.  I feel this moment of being in a body, in life, on earth  under the sky and concentrate on how the weight shifts, how a single movement can be a strain or effortless depending on your awareness. How some movements torque my body into uncomfortable poses, and how the next move releases the twist in a powerful but controlled counter movement.

Gathering energy, releasing it, dancing and fighting in slow motion. Tai Chi has its basis in martial arts. So while it looks like a gentle prayer in motion, engaging with a well executed movement could throw an opponent across the room.

I emerge from the continuous undulating rhythm of movements, come to rest and breathe.

I am in a completely new ‘place’ physically and mentally, ready to start the day rooted in the things that count. Hoping to bring that quietness and powerful intention of internals into the external world of things and doing.

Why website?

May 26, 2012

I would like to ask you, the small group of regular readers, or anyone who happens to drop by this blog for suggestions on the following:

My present website, ArtWell was created 5 years ago, and reflected my activities then. It also represented what I thought a website should do. It was my first site and has not been fundamentally changed since it was made. I don’t speak fluent HTML and though I can manage the text, structural stuff like adding pages and slide shows is beyond me. So it is very much out of synch with where I am now; for example, I don’t offer the whole range of dementia services outlined in that category. And the shop isn’t effective at all.

I have been working on a replacement site on Weebly for awhile, and it is OK. It obediently shows an overview of my main work areas with short texts to go with them.

And it totally bores me.

So, what questions would you like me to answer on a website? What can a website add to this blog, which is an up-to-the-minute log of my thoughts, activities, and work in progress?

At the moment I just don’t see the point, yet at the same time it might be an opportunity for something new. I know it might be nice for people to be able to easily navigate through my several portfolios, ie.- harpsichord soundboard painting, oil paintings and oil pastels, and letter work. I guess that would be the reason to maintain a site. But so far it doesn’t really get my bells ringing.

Thoughts appreciated.

Creating community

May 24, 2012

Group dining together (Source)

The issue of community has been up for me recently, it is always a concern of mine, but something has changed.

Our international online artist’s group is doing a joint project called Space, Place and Story. We were all asked to answer several questions about what ‘home’ meant to us, and how the place we lived in affected our art.

In answering these questions my usual story surfaced, of feeling displaced here as an internationally oriented American in provincial northern Holland. And the feeling of loss I carry around with me having left several communities behind in the states and in Scotland, so far not being able to recreate an intimate sense of community locally.

It turned out that many in our group were dealing with similar feelings of being an outsider.

As my contribution to the project grew, primarily through some compassionate and perceptive questioning by one of the project leaders, Sibylle, my ‘usual’ story began to change. I saw how, though it had been uncomfortable, the breaking down of my professional identity here in Holland had made way for a deeper, more inclusive kind of art sensibility. I’ve been infinitely enriched by being here in another culture.

In a little book called, ‘The Community of Kindness’ from Conari Press, there is a story of how a woman always used to spend her childhood summers at a lake where other families would come year after year.  That ended when she reached adulthood.

‘The experience of being part of a community can be so powerful that iits absence feels like a deep wound. That’s useful because the pain reminds us that it is important to be connected to others. But at the same time, we can get stuck looking backward, mourning what is lost or even  trying to reconstruct something that cannot be put back together again.’

This, and the project with my artist’s group are opening new perceptions for me of what community could mean if I stop trying to recreate what I’ve lost, but look instead to what is here. The truth is, that in searching for my fixed idea of a close knit community of like minded people, I may have overlooked some of the many chances for connection that I have closeby.

Realizing this has also opened up a question about how my art could relate more to the issue of community and connection, and I’m asking myself, ‘Is there a way to enhance this?’

Dirty painting

May 21, 2012

This morning, to experiment with applying paint thicker, and to jolt myself out of the perfectionistic path I was travelling, I decided to copy a Morandi. The composition is straightforward as is the matter of fact application of paint.
(There is nothing wrong with my previous series, I’m satisfied with it, but I miss the playfulness and abundant colour from my other oil pastel and mixed media work).

I mentioned in a previous post that the, ‘De Ploeg” paintings I’d seen at the Groninger Museum looked quite ‘dirty’, not in the smutty sense, :-)but literally full of bits of dirt and sand, and who knows – studio floor sweepings!?  And I loved the texture it added.

So when scraping off the remains of old paint from my palette, I decided to mix those in with the paint I’d use for the Morandi copy.

old oil paint shavings

I gave myself about an hour and used thick paint and large brushes, and I didn’t allow myself to correct and smooth. There are ‘mistakes’ but I loved working this way.

Copying Morandi’s composition and subject

And here is a close-up of the painting surface with all the bits of old paint mixed in.

Detail of surface of painting

It is difficult to be a professional, and even more difficult to profile as a professional, and still keep a beginner’s mind.

The term ‘beginner’s mind’ comes from Shunryu Suzuki’s classic book,’ Zen mind beginner’s mind’, and it refers to the open mindedness needed to experience life anew each moment. It is also about the humility needed to refrain from the, ‘I know this already’ attitude, and to keep learning.

In the most recent period of my ongoing oil painting journey I reached the point where I have some handle on the technique. And I’m at a cross roads as to where to go after the last’ bottle series’ painting.

I could keep repeating more or less successful bottle paintings, but that doesn’t light my lights. And I was already beginning to feel restrained by the realism. My original inspiration to paint again was Elizabeth Blackadder”s oil paintings, and they play with simultaneously touching realism lightly and letting it go.

Blackadder painting, ‘Still life with Chalice’

Blackadder still life

I really miss that student state of mind I had at art college. We’d get an assignment and just leap in to see where it would take us, experimenting all the way.

So I am trying to retrieve that and break away from what I’m already doing to see what I can do.

OK, now the hard part. Do I show my process here? As a professional who certainly intends to sell some paintings further on down the line, do I risk creating an image of myself as an amateur by showing my failures along the way? Or do I put all that aside and share my journey honestly, trusting that when I settle on a direction, it will be strong and convincing enough to attract serious buyers?

I like sharing my process, that is how we inspire and learn from each other. So this morning’s experiment is in the post above, ‘Dirty painting’.

Bead feed

May 18, 2012

When I’m at ease, free of deadlines,  then before too long, the craft supplies come out.

The annual bead and jewelry fair was in Groningen last weekend, I thought I held back fairly well.  In one stall, there were about 400 (!)colours of size 11 seed beads to choose from! Here is a portion of my purchases, filling in the pink, hot red colurways. And a beautiful range of sage greens, metallic and frosted forest greens, as well as some misty greys and pearls.

fun at the bead fair

And below is a part of my existing seed bead collection.

Mostly tending towards blues, purples and aubergines

And what do I do when I’m let loose on all these gorgeous materials? Below, Evelyn’s necklace in progress.

Multi-strand necklace in progress

My aunt wears a lot of beiges and pastels. My sense of the colours was an antique, cameo feeling, soft golds and ochres, and shell purple and dusty pinks. I finished the multi-strand, then including some hand blown glass beads from Eastern Europe, made a separate strand to wear with it or separately.

Finished necklaces

Here below is my current project, inspired by bracelets I saw at the stall where I got my seed beads, for Dutch readers, Monique’s website is definitely worth a visit. I purchased the directions from her, I”ve never done this particular type of beadwork before and am enjoying the meditative work of threading this (late) mother’s day gift for my mother-in-law.

Some of the bracelets on display were fairly bling bling qua colour, I chose smokey blues, greys and irridescent blacks instead.

Tanny’s bracelet in progress

Detail