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yellow coffee pot oil on board

These two paintings were done recently, after a realistic series, to regain some of the freshness of my work in other media. I also kept as much of the scratchiness of the acrylic underpainting as  I could.

orange in blue bowl, oil on board

Right now I’m working on another painting of the lilies, it is much juicier and is moving in the general direction I want to go. It is quite rough when you look up close, but holds very well as a realistic painting from further away. And there is more attention paid to the paint surface rather than just trying to get the objects right.

After a long period of working quietly on my own projects,  my professional life is becoming active again. Here’s what’s up, and some of them will merit  a separate post later on:

  1. My book, Chocolate Rain will be published in German!
  2. I’m also in negotiation with a Dutch publisher about the Dutch language rights, and if it works out with them, the book will be out in Dutch as well. If not with the present one,  I really feel it is only a matter of time before some publisher here picks it up.
  3. John Killick’s wonderful new book is out, Playfulness and Dementia, a Practice Guide, Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
    I’ll be reviewing it here before too long.I have a chapter in it.
  4. I’ve been invited to take part in a symposium on art and dementia in Newcastle UK in November as one of 11 practising professionals in the field. This is sponsored by several organisations including National Association of Writers in Education, and  ArtWorks, a 3 year project on participatory arts in Britain.
  5. When I’m in England for the conference, I’ll be speaking to Susanne Burns,  the project director of ArtWorks, exploring ways I can work with participatory arts  here in Holland.
  6. Once in a blue moon I accept a straight up calligraphy commission, this is a diploma for my friend Brother Hugo who will be taking his vows as an officially certified religious recluse in the Roman Catholic church.
  7. In the works- restoration of a 100 year old sundial in a heritage garden here locally. Another lettering job in collaboration with colleague, painter Ties de Vries.

Meanwhile  I have a nice full group of oil pastel and drawing students here at home once a week.
One unfulfilled wish of mine is a course space here, but for now the dining room and part of the living room will have to do.

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We got this rice paper lamp for the shop from Ikea. It was open on the bottom and the light bulb glared through. I solved the problem by searching for an interesting piece of similar paper to seal the bottom with.

The decision was easy when I remembered Annet’s wonderful letter to me when I finished work on my book. It was written on her special ‘Applause’ paper (the description is in Dutch, but the image gives the idea).
The cleverness of this product plays on a Dutch pun-  clapping is ‘Klap’ in Dutch. Coincidentally, the poppy flower is called a ‘klaproos’, ‘roos’ means ‘rose’.
How are these related?
In her ingenious concept, Annet printed the word ‘klap’ repeatedly on the paper along with images of clapping hands. The paper is specifically meant for sending someone a letter of applause for something they have accomplished, or simply a letter of appreciation.  The punchline? (and why it doesn’t translate into English), is that if you then PLANT the letter and give it water, it sprouts in ‘klaprozen’or poppies. If you look closely at the first photo, you can see that the paper is full of tiny poppy seeds.

I felt bad about cutting up the beautiful letter, but since it was meant to be planted anyway, it was ok. I should have copied it, I suppose, but the words are planted in my heart, so I don’t think I have to add more papers to my ever growing pile of memorabilia.

Also, using words and handwriting from friends in collage projects like these gives them an extra charge of love and connectedness. Every time I go in the shop, every time someone admires the lamp with its tiny books hanging down, Annet willl get a little shot of ‘applause’ right back again!!

Spoonful feature

May 4, 2011

 

Balloon by Jesophi, Jewellery Designer

I’m thrilled that the shop is featured on the blog of a delightful little zine I ordered, called Spoonful, a happiness companion. Thanks Anthea! It is, as the title suggests, a bite sized helping of food for the soul.  There are hearty little snippets of literature, art, and musings on happiness, enhancing the everyday, creativity and more. 

I ordered it to include in my shop as part of the mission of bringing in inspiration from all over the world into this tiny little village where I live. There are just so many wonderful things happening on a grass roots level in the area of creativity and community building that people here would never get exposed to without a guide. So I guess that is what part of the function of this shop is.  Anyway, Spoonful is reasonably priced and beautifully presented, with a nice layout and colour artwork. I’m enjoying, after having read my 3 issues, dipping in and following some of the links, to say, Denise Sharp a creator of whimsical works in paper and calligraphy. Have FUN!

Click for Jesophi Jewellery designer’s Etsy shop

What Evert taught me

March 22, 2009

evert-book-inscription

Book inscription from Dutch calligrapher, Evert van Dijk

One of my oldest and dearest friends here in Holland is an impassioned calligrapher and retired teacher of handicapped children.

My encounter with him when I first came to live here changed my life as an artist irrevocably.  Evert saw my dilemma clearly. I was no longer growing artistically because I was caught in the prison of the  prevailing aesthetic in the middleclass American  milieu where I grew up. I’d  learned that art had to be ‘beautiful’ and that my calligraphy had to be as close to perfection as the human hand would allow.

Evert, with his wonderfully ebullient personality and outspoken views, blasted through that shell of pretense and released my authenticity. I think this is the task of all true teachers and mentors.

This altered view is also what releases calligraphy from craft and lifts it to art. My letters and mark making became much more expressive of who I was, and this had a ripple effect throughout my life; one I am only truly coming to understand about 20 years later.

In the article I am writing about art and dementia care, this theme of authenticity keeps reappearing.
Artists accept people with dementia as completely whole, viable, interesting human beings, and therefore often elicit lucid repsonses where trained staff have failed.   In an art session, the person ‘s markmaking is seen in the context of authenticity rather than conventional aesthetics.  I am not after a pretty picture (this would expose the person and me to the potential of ‘failure’)  instead, I look for interaction and engagement.  The rules change, a person’s  raw and spontaneous line becomes the new context for  ‘beautiful’.  The Japanese have a philosphy of aesthetics based on this called Wabi Sabi*.  

It is the ability to see the worth in something or someone just as they are without requiring that they fit a preconceived ideal.

 

*Wabi Sabi is an asethetic of the fragile, weathered and transient. It is the opposite of the Western tendency to aspire to the imposing, large and powerful. We idealize a perfect rose in bloom, Wabi Sabi cherishes the rose past its prime:  a chipped flea market wooden table with flaking paint as opposed to the latest design statement in glass and chrome.

Continuing the insights from the previous post, ‘Enchanted Vessel’, I am always struck by the universal principles that seem to run through all arts.  The deeper you go into disparate arts like painting, calligraphy, singing and Tai chi the closer they come to one another in their essence.

In Tai Chi beginning students usually get caught up in the fancy arm movements without realizing these are grounded in combat sport. If you watch a Tai Chi master execute the form (a ritualized series of movements) , it is filled with power and a controlled tension, as well as a fluid grace. If you try to just imitate the graceful arm movements you get only empty decoration. But if the movements originate from your center, they begin to contain power.

In singing, novices try to create volume and resonace by ‘doing ‘ something with their throat or mouth. But true resonant sound comes from deep within the center of the body and from the connection between  resonant membranes in the entire body. It can’t be forced or faked.  

In painting, beginning and even experienced painters can get caught up in imitating a certain style.  But usually , a style is a set of techniques combined with a visual vocabulary that an artist has evolved over years of consistent work. The power of an artwork is intimately linked with the artist’s passion and dedication. Imitating a style will give a trendy quick fix with no depth or staying power.

Calligraphy and tai Chi are very similar. When we start, we want to be able to make all the fancy letters and swirls, but without grounding in good letterforms and consistent spacing, these will look weak and unconvincing. The power in a piece of calligraphy comes from mastery of form, then comes the freedom to improvise within that form.

In all of these disciplines I constantly learn that periods of effort give way to letting go and letting it happen. Trusting the body, to make a sound, a stroke, a movement. Sidestepping the ego’s sense of, ‘Aren’t I doing this well’  to being in service of the art. To put in enough hours with humility, that maybe one percent of the time, excellence can emerge unbidden and effortlessly.  And even more important that excellence is simply, truth. That I may make true tai chi movements, sing true notes, draw true letters and use true colours.

And when you give up all sense of needing recognition, or returns or a sense of being special, all of a sudden,whatever the art form it becomes one’s own totally unique expression,  who I really am is recognizable in that form.

Cross with woodburned letters

November 24, 2008

 

I took these pictures one morning in a flush of well being at having materials in my hands again. Despite the sadness of the commission ( a beloved family member of acquaintances of ours had passed away), having clear-cut craft work to do always lifts my spirits. There were tracings spread out all around the studio, I had my pens and inks out, and the smell of wood smoke (from burning the letters into the wood) let me fantasize for a short moment that I had a fireplace!

This cross is an example of one of our joint projects. Rende made the cross from iroko and I designed and burned the letters.

I had never burned letters into wood. The tool used for this is called a pyrograph, and Rende ordered one for me especially for this job. He gave me a large block of wood to practice on, and after several hours, the technique started to come naturally.

Iroko was chosen as an alternative to teak because it is forested in an ecologically  responsible way as opposed to teak, and it weathers well.  

It has a lot of little pits and grooves in the grain which made it difficult to letter on, but for some people this actually adds to the appeal of the burned letters. 

According to the family’s wishes, the quiet design and plain letters were very much in character with their mother and wife.
It was a satisfying job for us to do,  and I hope the family and friends of Mrs. B will derive some comfort from it when they visit the grave from time to time.