March 26, 2015
This mobile was created from dried out daffodil flowers and their still green stems. It was near impossible to photograph since the air currents in the house kept moving it. And because it was against a window with a lot going on visually in the background, the photographer had to wait until evening to shoot it- and of course there is less light, necessitating a longer exposure. This in turn makes it a challenge to get something so prone to movement in focus, so thanks to my woodworker husband whom, luck has it, is also a professional photographer.
Below is reminder of the separate components before I strung them up (see post before this, Nature art). And below that are a few similar projects using natural materials, from previous posts, either here or on my other blog, tending time
March 24, 2015
Starting at the end of January, we’ve had a continual oasis of blooming spring bulbs on the dining room table. As one pot reaches its peak and fades, we replace it with a fresh new one.
Rende got fascinated with the dried up mini daffodils (in background), and made some great photos of them awhile back.
I was idly sitting at the table a few nights ago and picked some of the dried out flowers and stems and started playing with them. The results are below. They eventually inspired a mobile, which I’ll post soon.
March 10, 2015
From the wood I turned south and began walking out along the sea wall. Swallows scudded overhead in twos and threes, moving with fast wing flicks…Inland were vast fields, on which three or four black barns sailed like barges. To the seaward of the wall were the marshes, tinged purple.
-Robert MacFarlane, ‘The Wild Places’.
It has been awhile since I was this moved by a non-fiction writer. Moved in the way the best art moves us: to quote Lewis Hyde, from ‘The Gift’: A work of art that enters us to feed the soul lets us experience a gifted state, and depending on our own abilities, we respond by creating new work (it doesn’t have to be art, but inspired by the artist we may find we can suddenly make sense of our own experience). The greatest art offers us fresh images that light up our imaginations and open up alternatives for our own lives.
The last time this happened I was in the middle of my career as an artist and calligrapher, and for years, I calligraphed one quote of Barry Lopez’s continually. Here is a straightforward handling of this particular quote-
But I also used the text as a starting point for work dominated more by imagery than by letters.
And I also did a series of collages, I think from the same book by Lopez, ‘Crossing open ground’.
So anyway, what I’m getting at, is that for the first time in years, I feel inspired by MacFarlane’s writing and sensibility to start to combine letters with my imagery again.
Anyone who loves walking, nature, history of place, or
good great writing should read this author. He sets out on these walks which take him and the reader to surprising places, both literally and internally. He’s exploring the theme of how landscape acts on us and we on it, and how outer landscape is formative for one’s inner psychic landscape. His experience resonates in a deep place with me, though I’m not drawn to emulating some of his other adventures – sleeping out on mountains and moors, by the sea and in dunes- sometimes in the winter!
I’ll leave you with some more of his words- here he is speaking about how being connected through technology has replaced and so robbed us of direct physical contact with the natural world:
We have come increasingly to forget that our minds are shaped by the bodily experience of being in the world- its spaces, textures, sounds, smells and habits- as well as by genetic traits we inherit and ideologies we absorb. A constant and formidably defining exchange occurs between the physical forms of the world around us, and the cast of our inner world of imagination.
The feel of a hot dry wind on the face, the smell of distant rain carried as a scent stream in the air, the touch of a bird’s sharp foot on one’s outstretched palm: such encounters shape our beings and our imaginations in ways which are beyond analysis, but also beyond doubt.
There is something uncomplicatedly true in the sensation of laying hands upon sun warmed rock, or watching a dense mutating flock of birds , or seeing snow fall irrefutably upon one’s upturned palm.
March 8, 2015
Watercolour sticks are affording me a new freedom. Believe it or not, the drawing/painting above started out as, ‘Beet still life with pomegranate’, you can see the shadow of the open pomegranate in the top right quarter. It was acceptable still life, but is was boring, so I rubbed it all out with water and just worked into some of the shapes that were left.
Next, a magazine photo caught my eye and I did a quick study using the watercolour sticks full strength.
So, the medium can be used to create powerful forms and light and shadow. I refrained from working on this too much.
Next, I drew a loose grid in the way I usually start my oil pastel drawings- filling areas in as I went. The main influences were the books I am reading right now- Robert Mac Farlane’s wonderful, ‘The wild places’, and ‘Women who run with Wolves’, by Pinkola Estes.
In the lower left corner, a little fox makes his first appearance. And there is a lighted house in the woods where the old lady sits near a roaring fire, waiting for the tired wayfarer to come in and be held and healed.
When I was in London in January, staying in my aunt’s flat after her death, I remembered a similar time 13 years earlier, staying in the same fifth floor flat while my mother was in her last days. There were several things that comforted me at that difficult time, one was looking down on a row of garage rooves and sighting a little fox curled up, resting after a night’s hunting in the city. He had made a nest of leaves on the warm roof, under some overhanging branches. I always looked for him after that, and derived an extraordinary sense of peace from seeing him safely ensconced in his little refuge.
I found myself looking for him this time as well, silly after 13 years, of course. No fox.
But one morning a few days before I left, I looked down and there was a fox, sleeping in the same place as his predecessor (well, who knows? How long do foxes live?). He returned every day, late in the day, secure in his little warm place under the branches, curled up with his soft bushy tail wrapped around him in the weak January sun. So he became a sort of totem for me, and an important part of my time in London. I decided to draw him, and what emerged was a sort of visual journal after the fact.
There was already a peacock appearing, (top right) which led me to the next drawing -of the Kyoto Garden in Holland Park. My grandparents, aunt & uncle, and mother all lived very close to this wonderful park. It has been as much part of my psychic inner landscape as anywhere I’ve ever lived. After my mom had died, I stayed in the Holland Park youth hostel, also right in the middle of the park. One more letting go for me- this past trip, I went to visit some of the staff who had become friends by now (hi Sally and Simon), and the hostel had been closed down.
Peacocks run wild all over the park, my mom and I, and later my aunt and I always walked though the gardens, wandered through the formal Kyoto garden, looking at the carp and waterfalls; we smelled the roses in the rose garden, looked in wonder at the gorgeous meters-long mural near the Orangerie, and stopped for a cup of hot cocoa in the little café.
March 1, 2015
An artist I respect recently thought of a scheme to get people to buy her work. She sells inexpensive sweepstake tickets and has a draw, giving away several artworks a year this way.
It is clever. Artists need to be as creative in their promotion techniques as their work these days.
I am still enmeshed in an ongoing moral dilemma about doing the promotion needed to sell my art or not. Early in my career, selling went without effort. I had a show, I sold work. People came to visit, they saw something they liked they bought it. I had a stand at a quality juried art fair and sold work easily.
For some reason that all changed when I moved to another culture. Here in Holland, it was years before I created a good social network, but even then it couldn’t compare to being naturally embedded in my home town, Pittsburgh, where the people I and my parents knew, loved and valued art.
Here in the Netherlands, the shows I had sold little, people walked past my stands at the various mediocre standard fairs I did attempt to do (and then mercifully stopped with) , and there is only one friend of ours who, every few years, sees my work and falls hard for a piece and actually buys it.
Because I’ve known a modest degree of professional recognition and success, I refuse to take the low sales figures personally. My work, if anything is growing in quality and depth. The factors have more to do with a different mentality here in northern Holland about art, and buying art. And many artists I know are fighting an uphill battle with this and the fallout from an ongoing financial crisis here.
In the last years, I’ve argued that the path of selling art was not for me, but it never really feels resolved. I hear about my friend and her sweepstakes tickets, putting in everything she has to be able to make her art, and I feel doubt about my own stubbornness in refusing to use the social media, in promoting my work more actively etc. One main difference is that strictly speaking, I don’t have to live from my art anymore. People who have chosen to survive from their art have harder decisions to make. But I do miss the feeling of having something the society values and will pay for. And it would certainly make my day if my work were to start selling again. Unlike most socially engaged artists, I still seriously paint and draw. And this creative work is the source I draw on to move out into the society and share my skills, and knowledge of the creative process. It is fundamental to it.
Yet writing this makes me realise that I’ve made a healthy decision for me- I’ve stopped doing things which weren’t working, and which didn’t make my heart sing. But doing so also has severed me in some ways from my old tribe of struggling artists. It landed me in ‘the place between’- when the old wasn’t working and the new hasn’t yet materialised. But I think each of us who rejects a path that no longer fits us is forging a new way, for ourselves and for others to follow at some point. Each step on the invisible path creates a new way forward. But on days like today, it is lonely and uncomfortable.
Luckily there are artist friends I can still toss these dilemmas around with. And also people who have arrived in a similar place to me like Milenko Matanovic who says,
Long ago I decided that making art for galleries and museums was not going to serve my notion of making communities and society more meaningful, liveable, and beautiful.