April 8, 2017
Yikes, calligraphy. Here’s me about 10 years ago, (looking a lot younger than I do now 🙂 ), doing some heebie jeebie work for a friend of ours’ church. I’m including it and a certificate done for the same person to show basically what my commissioned work was for 40 years or more. Precise, traditional, nerve racking a lot of the time. If you make a mistake you can start all over.
It took years to free myself up from the calligraphic, graphic design, and typographic training I had, to begin to find my own voice. Evert van Dijk, a dear friend of ours and fine calligrapher/artist was instrumental in helping me to get away from obsessive perfectionism and to find my own writing styles and rhythms. Also, the work I did with master typographer and calligrapher Jovica Veljovic helped me to allow small imperfections to appear in the work. He taught me that, if executed with knowledge and experience of spacing, letter weight, etc, the overall impression would be of competence and the little glitches wouldn’t be noticeable.
Well, I’ve recently had a chance to do some lettering again. And Jovica’s tip really came in handy. Rende and I made some signs for our local edible garden. I wanted them to be nice, but since there is a fair chance of them getting stolen or damaged, I didn’t want to spend hours and hours on them. So without lines, no sketches, no preparation except 3 layers of varnish, I just took a loaded brush and lettered them freehand. You will see that they are not perfect by any means, but (especially because they are read vertically) they make a convincing impression of good lettering.
The signs are to label the beds for crop rotation, which happens over a period of 4 years. The idea is the first season, to plant the vegetables (like potatoes) which take the most nutrients out of the soil in one bed, and the next season to plant much less demanding plants in that bed, moving the potatoes to a new bed. The translation of the Dutch is:
Vaste planten= perennials
Aardappels= literally Earth apples or potatoes
Peulvruchten= legumes like peas, beans, snowpeas, sugar snaps
Koolgewassen= cabbage-like veg, broccolie, brussels sprouts etc
Bladgewassen= lettuces and other leafy greens including squashes
Wortel & knol= root veg, like carrots, onions, celeriac
And now for something entirely different. I was inspired by a friend’s book of poetry and photographs to pick up my pens and brushes again for some freehand calligraphic art. Here are some of the results. And here is Jörg’s website (German language).
The style used here is inspired by my piece, ‘Wage Peace’ which you can see and read about here.
March 11, 2017
photo Rende Zoutewelle
Painting has been low key for awhile. I’ve tried showing up at the canvas anyway, but end up just rehashing stale ideas. It is a period where I need fresh input, so I’ll be giving it a rest until inspiration comes again.
Meanwhile, I’ve been working on the little guy above. I’m not quite sure what got me started on making felt birds. I had made a flock of them as brooches several years ago.
Maybe it is because the birds around here (northern Europe) lift my spirits. Not only do I regularly see blue cranes on my walks, but also flocks of geese stringing across the big skies chattering and calling to each other; and that rare treat, a swan family, whooping above with the wonderful whooshing of the wings. You just feel like you got blessed when they have passed by.
My husband has rigged up several bird feeders close to our large dining room windows and we’ve come to know the regular visitors well. Sparrows of course, coal tits like the one above, chaffinches, blue tits, ring doves, and English robins are the main ones. I just love the coal tits with their neat little black fronts and soft yellow bellies and sides. They like sunflower seeds best and will perch at the feeder tossing out everything else until they get to a prize, then they retreat to a higher branch and crack it open by holding it between their claws and pecking at it until they get to the meaty part. Chaffinches and robins will sit on the ground gratefully picking up the rejects thrown out by the coal tits. Watching the interactions between the birds is also entertaining.
So basically I made these birds to keep me company upstairs in my studio. The chaffinch is kind of crude, it was a first prototype . They definitely have some kind of presence, though, because our dog is jealous of them!
photo Rende Zoutewelle
If I do make more (not for awhile, they are So Much Work) I’d do a sparrow next. They are incredibly beautiful when you stop to look – with soft grey feathers and reddish chestnut caps and streaks of black, and various browns on the head and wings. There are also white accents, bringing out the contrast of all the different feathers. And did you know there are dozens of different types of sparrows? I didn’t until recently.
Anyway, the weather here is more springlike, so instead of sitting inside making felt birds, I’ll be out in the garden enjoying the real ones!
January 14, 2017
These two images were a departure of sorts for me, they are based on some photos I took in high summer last year. I don’t get inspired much by the idea of painting landscapes, it feels too limiting. But these two small format pieces on panel were done with a large brush to keep from getting caught up in details, and I like their freshness.
Every day I walk through these wide open Dutch skies and fields. There is a lot of water where we live, giving movement and direction to the flat, spread out landscape. I am constantly moved by the land here, how the light hits trees and fields, the changing colours throughout the day. It would be a natural painting subject if it weren’t milked ad infinitum by good and bad local painters. I have rarely found an ‘in’ to painting my surroundings because I like to use lots of colours and I need room for fantasy as well as reality.
Here is another realistic one from the same series:
This piece, done more recently, is more in line with what comes naturally to me. I love how the landscape elements creep into the still lifes, or is it the other way around? It is also large, 50 x 50 cm.
This one below was more successful to my eye, I knew more about where I wanted to go with it.
I love the small boat in the upper left corner, floating on a sewn sea with little red stitches. These pieces definitely have their own rhythm and structure if I step aside and follow where they want to go.
The latest in the series:
There were lots of surprises here, it is quite large, 50 x 70 cm. The little boat has returned to a more prominent place. The beet is kind of archetypal and the spirals please me.(There are elements reminiscent of some of Bob Knox’s work. A fellow artist from Findhorn who taught me by example, just how fun art could be. If you google him you’ll probably come up with a lot of his beautiful New Yorker covers.)
Leading on from here, ‘Garden’ is my new theme, I think. I’m totally inspired by our community edible garden and the work of Fritz Haeg.
December 7, 2016
I’m writing this one off the top of my head, no research, not a lot of links, etc., though I’ve written about the topic extensively in my book in progress.
A very young child appears on Idols or on YouTube and a talent is discovered. Take Jonathan, a three year old at the time the video of him was put online, ‘conducting’ a Beethoven symphony in the living room. It was hysterical, but also so fresh, so open and completely uninhibited. Picking his nose (gratefully most of that was cut out), and at the end, losing his balance and giggling uncontrollably on his back on the carpet as only a 3 year old can.
Couple of years later- Jonathan at 5 in a tux conducting a real orchestra, very serious.
First of all, a disclaimer here- in J’s case, I think there is a genuine desire to conduct, and the hunt for fame and money doesn’t seem to be the motivator. There is truly music singing in this kids veins. So please, if any of his relatives see this, don’t be offended. I’m sure he’s maintained a lot of his original purity.
I’m actually thinking less of him and more of the kids that appear on Idols, with their pushy parents, greedy for the recognition and money the kids talent can be used to gain.
What I’m trying to point out here is that important things get lost when what starts out as a gift gets turned into a commodity.
Having the ability to sing, conduct, dance, etc is a gift. It is connected to intimate internal values like life path and purpose. It needs time to develop and mature and become one’s own. Gifts are connected as well to the larger whole, our gifts are gifts to our community as well as for ourselves. In many non Western societies, the gift is how money and goods move around, and there are clear guidelines for how a gift is handled. Is it kept or passed on? Is it used up, is it used as a diplomatic gesture? There are myriad ways a gift travels and as many ways it influences what it comes in contact with. Gifts are powerful, they can awaken forces which contain the potential to incite or heal, to create or break connections, and more. They engage the imagination and call to unseen powers to participate in the giving and receiving.
In many folklore tales, hoarding a gift for one’s own enrichment is often the first step on a road to calamity. And we feel this- we know why when something for the the good of the community is appropriated for personal use, it is wrong.
Lewis Hyde says that every artist labours with a gift. He names 3 ways an artist and gift interact: first is the gift of talent the artist has; the second gift aspect is developing the talent and engaging in the creative process, the artist moves to a new place; and third, the result or product of this process is also a gift. Hyde acknowledges that each artist needs at some point to find out how to keep the qualities of the gift amidst the inevitable pressure of interacting with a purely commercial system.
When young Idols winners, or young, undeveloped art talents are pushed into the spotlight before the talent has matured, before the person himself is mature enough to understand the nature and application of their gift, then we all lose something precious. The artist and their work become links in the commodity chain, and the values change from giving, gifting, freedom of expression, taking risks, doing something for the love of it- to ‘What do I get for it?’ We all know what that looks like and there is really nothing new to learn from it. Same old same old buy and sell.
But next time you see a conductor lost in the spirit of the music, leading his orchestra to new heights, or an artist working on a project making urban wildlife habitats purely out of love for the animals, or anyone at all using their hands and skills for love and/or betterment of something, try to see what that does to you.
My experience every time is that it opens a place of generosity and inspiration in myself.
Isn’t that what we really need more of?
October 1, 2016
It has been a challenging summer dealing with various health issues. But now I have energy again to share some of my life with anyone interested.
Making artwork has never really stopped. Some weeks after the op, I was already painting a copy of a Matisse stillife. Spring inspired me to paint trees, then I got sick in June and things ground to a halt for awhile. Around that time I started sewing a quilt by hand, having bought 2 packs of beautiful Tilda cotton squares on sale. I liked the slow pace and the kind of mindless precise work.
Fall brought new inspiration. My last post had been in June and, with the onion paintings, I had broken through to a new way of working, .
It was kind of intimidating to try and pick that up again, I’d tried and failed a few times. So I decided to ease into painting again by doing something familiar. I feel most comfortable working in defined areas, like patchwork really. My oil pastel drawings tend to begin as grids, so I chose a few of my favourites and began copying them in acrylics.
It is so true that just working, regardless of being inspired or not, most always opens up the next step.
Even though I stopped again after completing these 2 below, doing them launched me into a new phase in my painting. More about that in the next post. Meanwhile…
When stuck in one medium it is often helpful to go to another. I decided to make collages out of some old oil pastel drawings. I did one a day for a week, here they are:
take care, til next time.
June 5, 2016
To the loyal handful of followers, thanks you make it worthwhile. And to new passers by. thanks for dropping in. It feels good to be sharing my joyful discovery painting mystery tour with you.
Continuing with the ‘Spirit of Trees’ series, I took on an unfamiliar subject this time- landscape/architectural. This painting is a lesson in overworking, and why it is so compelling, even though 9 times out of 1o it goes wrong. Below is a version I found ok but too fussy (with the detailed roof tiles). I wanted a yellow tree per se. And I wanted to keep it painterly and fresh. But I kept trying to get the whole thing looser, and eventually, I feel I lost the sunniness of this version. See painting under this one.
In my search to use my own colours rather than the given ones (see that the warm terracotta from the rooves is replaced by greens), I feel I lost something of the warmth of the first version. It kind of looks eerie, like the light before a bad storm moves in.
Between this phase of the painting and the previous one, I had also painted the sky soft yellow, you can see the remnants of that behind the buildings. That move killed it, so I reinstated the blue. You know what?, it began not to be fun any more, yet I’d started it with a wonderful sense of excitement. I’ve learned ( I hope!!!) to stop when the joy goes underground and painting becomes about trying to ‘correct’ something, or ‘get it right’. The fatal flaw in this painting was that I started with a concept (yellow tree) and didn’t listen enough to the subject or the painting.
A few days later, I got inspired by a photo I’d made of two onions on my work table. I took an old painting and drew right ontop of it, then started in painting rapidly, leaving some patches of background exposed. I loved it so much after the initial blocking in, that I didn’t dare to work on it any more.
So I put it aside and started a new one ontop of yet another old painting. I listened better this time and kept the freshness. It is mostly done, see below.
Here is what I learned, the lessons are particular to my own trajectory toward an intuitively sensed goal of where my truest work lies. So maybe they will be applicable to you, maybe not, but here they are:
- let parts of the painting remain unfinished if that’s what looks right
- cherish the roughness, don’t try to paint ‘beautifully’
- don’t try to have everything make sense
- follow the painting, not my original ideas about it when I started
- don’t describe, dance.
- the goal isn’t to get the subject right, but to get the painting to feel good, true
By the way, I feel that this tutorial taught me more in a few minutes than several advanced painting workshops I’ve taken. And buying a brush similar to the one this woman used was also a revelation! Materials help or hinder so much.
Here is the second onion painting, almost done. It makes me very happy.
April 27, 2016
I’ve been working on the Spirit of Trees series. Though none of these are finished, I thought I’d show them in progress anyway. These guys above are massive trees, beeches, I think (?), growing on our neighbour’s patio. They have such presence.
Above are colour experiments inspired by the art of Alexey Kvaratskeheliya, see a previous post of mine for details. I’m inspired by the combinations and you can see I’ve been trying out some of them on the foreground of ‘Grandfather trees’.
I’ve worked further on ‘Before trees’, here below:
And the third one in progress is this little one: