My Favorite Time of the Year

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My first jug has come out of the kiln and I am IN LOVE.

The flowers find their place in it perfectly.

Both pieces above feature my hand-crafted stamps. I keep gushing about this, but it really makes it feel so personal. LOVE.

No faster than I could park my car, was I in my garden finding the perfect buds.  This is my absolutely favorite time of the year, especially as a potter.  I get to take my pots from form to function.  I get to bring the beauty of the outdoors – in.  It is simply delightful!

Here’s a few more pots out of the kiln:

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Seriously though, the jug below here is my FAVORITE.  I generally don’t keep much that I make because my darling cherubs break them all, but this one might be a keeper.  I’m holding off though, I have two more coming out… you never know ;)  They might be winners too.

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I’m crossing my fingers!

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#I SURVIVED – I Thought this Painting was Going to Kill Me!

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I think I may have overdone the amount of objects in my still life because this one seriously almost killed me!  It took me practically 4 weeks to finish.  I don’t even want to count how many hours that would be… (Don’t think… don’t think…don’t think about that!)

Here is a progression of photos depicting how I chose to tackle it.

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Fruits of My Gardenwatercolor 22×30

Here are some of my favorite areas of the painting.  In a way it’s like 4 different paintings in one.

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I think half the reason the painting took so long is because the paper was terrible.

It is totally my fault.  I went to the RISD store to buy some good paper and when I saw the beautiful pieces for $20-$50 each, I cheaped-out and bought the $5 sheets.  YES.  YES. YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR.  A good sheet of paper is like cotton.  You drip some watercolor onto it and it sucks it up and spreads like a plant drinking water.  A crap piece of paper is a whole ‘nother ballgame.  You puddle some water on it, add the paint and the paint goes – um… NOWHERE.  It just sits on the surface never becoming one with the paper.

Another horrible feature of this paper comes from the fact that a big part of water-coloring is the ability to lift, blot, rub and remove paint from the surface.  This is how you get the areas of reflection and sunlight.  When I rubbed the surface of the cheap paper, it literally crumbled and created holes.  A quality paper is tough like fabric.  It can take everything you throw at it. Look back at how many areas of sunlight there are in this painting and just consider how many battles I had with deteriorating paper. Oh yeah, I got what I paid for all right.  A complete and total nightmare! 

And I’m just too darn stubborn to walk away.  I did work with the crappy paper and I have a few more sheets of it too.   I’ll probably cheap out and use it “because I already paid for it” even though what I should really do is THROW IT IN MY CAMPFIRE!

What I really need to do is hand my credit card over to a trusted love one, have them enter the store without me, ask for the best paper in the joint, buy it and promise to never tell me how much it cost.  Hmm… I should take this advice! Mom? Husband?

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On the pottery front I just started making these jugs.  I will have to admit that most of my good ideas come from 100% selfish motives.   I hope these will be out in time to fill them with all the flowers about to burst in my garden. I’ll keep you posted on how they turn out.

OK. When I hit the publish button on this post, I will have officially earned my “clean slate”.  Now, to figure out what I want to do next…

woo-hoo.

Bowled Over

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I have quite a few good-sized bowls coming out. Thought I’d share.

I’m also plugging away at another big watercolor.  They take a ridiculous amount of time…I’m trying not to ask the question if they are quantifiably “worth it”.  If I were to be paid by the hour, these paintings would be incredibly expensive (like Trump might hang them up next to his golden toilet expensive).  Whether I get paid at all is the hard part of justifying why I do what I do -ever.

I just have to quiet my mind and say “don’t think… don’t quit… this was the gift God gave you.  God didn’t give you accounting skills, corporate feistiness or amazing memorization… All you can do is show up everyday and use what God gave you… have faith… have faith… Listen to your inner voice… there has to be a reason you intuitively know how to do all things artsy… don’t quit… don’t quit…

Yes. Yes I do.  I talk to myself all day.  You don’t?

I also tell myself to shut-up all day too…  What, you don’t?

Ha.  OK.  On with the show…

Here are some pieces that came out of the kiln this week.

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As I look at these, I am reminded I should make some more of my own stamps.  I like how soft and non-mechanized they look.  They make my work more personal. Note to self – make more stamps…

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Here is the new painting I am working on.  I challenged myself to quite a funky perspective.  I am looking down on the subject matter.  I hope I can pull it off… still so much to fill in/block off… boy that’s going to take A LOT of time…

It’s been cold and wet for well over a week.  I find it so hard to motivate myself. I am going to have  to revert back to talking to myself just to get myself out of this chair.

…Get up.  You don’t have that much time…If you don’t work on this thing you’ll never finish it…   No.  sitting on the couch wrapped up in a blanket bingeing Netflix is totally out of the question…You’re an adult right?  Adults do responsible things all day?  Go do something “responsible”…

What? Oh come on. You do talk to yourself too right?

I thought so. Totally normal ;)

Oh Happy Day

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I am so excited to be done with this painting!  I have no idea why it took so long, but it took the majority of three weeks.

I don’t know… is it bright enough? lol

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I LOVE working large.  Seeing all that color gives me a burst of energy.  I think my favorite part is the leaves, well, close second is the sunflower.

I just got my mulch delivered.  I get so psyched this time of year.  It’s like I get to move from paper and canvas to earth’s canvas.  All the flowers in this painting, I helped bring into this earth. I planted them from seed, weeded, watered, nurtured and then you get to watch their beauty unfold.

Painting and gardening are very much the same thing.  Nurturing something until you can bring its beauty out.

ok. I’m officially done…  I can’t wait to start again!

Pitcher Perfect

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Greetings.  May the 4th be with you.

I have a ton of stuff that has come out of the kiln, but I’ll start with some pitchers/vases I created.

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These vessels have wheel thrown bottoms, stamped slab-work on the tops, under-glazes for the colorful parts and classic ceramic glazes as a topcoat over the entirety of the piece. In essence, they have a little bit of everything which is how I like to work.  Why choose one technique when you can choose them all right?

I feel like I’m back on track making colorful, quirky, yet functional pieces.

It feels good :)

Out of Time

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Out of time I am.

I’ve been working on this watercolor this week and now the week is over.  Headed out on a much anticipated vacation next week, so I thought I’d check in before I disappear for a while.

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This watercolor is 22 x 30.  I love giant sheets of watercolor paper. I feel like painting everyday objects larger than real life opens them up to a bit of abstraction.  objects become color blocks.

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I’m wondering what you guys think of the drawing.  I went REALLY loose.  Dare I say to the point of considering it a contour drawing.  Objects wind up looking a little less realistic.  They tend to wiggle and move giving everything a little more personality.  I  think I like it.  The last painting I did was a little more calculated and measured.

Being alone all day painting, I wind up looking at things way too closely and for way too long.  Because of this I can’t be very objective.  So help me out, what do you think.  Drawings:  Go tight or keep it loose?

I’m looking forward to seeing this one done. Oh well, guess it’s going to have to wait :)

 

Living Room

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Living Room  18″ x 18″  watercolor

Now  can you see why I love watercolor?

It’s translucent.  I can create very light lights, very dark darks and very bright colors.  It’s been almost 3 years since I played with watercolor and now I’m remembering what I loved so much about it.

I’ll take you for a walk through the method of my madness:

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First I tackle what I see as easiest.  It calms my nerves because there are areas of a painting I have absolutely no idea how to tackle.  The couch and table are nice big blocks which define the space and allow me to avoid the bouquet which I am still really thinking about…

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Next, I go for the pillow and carpet in the back. There’s a lot of detail in these.  I will even go on to fix them later, but it still seems like tackling these are going to be a lot easier than tackling those flowers.

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Next, I tackle the houseplant.   Do you get the sense I might be avoiding something?  I lightly block out the vase and sketch the flowers in pencil more thoroughly because I know I’ve reached the point where I have to tackle the flowers whether I have a game plan or not.

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The thing I’m so freaked out about is how am I going to paint the green sedum plant? 

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Now, this might make sense only if you are a painter, but let me try to explain it to those of you who are not.

With acrylic and oil paints they are solid, opaque and you can paint many layers one a top of the other, building up your image.  So if I were using acrylics to paint sedum, first I would  paint a dark background of green, then I would add the medium tones of green as layers on top of that and finish with layers of a light green. The top layer would be composed of tons of tiny light green dots denoting seed heads.

However, with watercolor it is the complete opposite.  The whites and the lightest shades of the green would be created by the absence of paint.  Those areas of the painting are simply the whiteness of the paper, not white paint.  The entire time you are painting, you need to not paint where you want it white (i.e. the white pillow is mostly composed of leaving the paper free of paint.)  So, if I want really light green seed heads, I have to not paint there.  That now means I have to create dark areas and medium areas around every single seed head.  As you can surmise, that’s pretty difficult.  There are thousands of tiny seed heads!

This is what made me tackle the bouquet last.  The solution I came up with, was to simply tell the quivering little chicken in my brain to SHUT UP and dive in.  I didn’t have an answer, I’m not even sure how I did it, but I got the paint to closely resemble the green sedum plant the best I could.

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From there my anxiety quieted down.  The little chicken in my brain stopped screaming “the sky is falling!  The sky is falling!” and I was able to push on to the zinnias and vase.

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The final part for me, is going back through with a clean wet paint brush and “lifting” paint out of the areas I want the lightest. Lift means to pull up and remove the paint on your paper.  Take a look at the photo below.  Can you see how I create stronger contrast in the green houseplant and the pink flower petals? I lifted some of the paint out to make white reflections.

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With acrylic paints I would simply add some white paint to create highlights, but for water colors I removed the paint to reveal the white paper.

Totally,  different theories and applications.

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Painting can be like a large puzzle that hurts your brain to figure out.

But I have to say, that must be what keeps me coming back :)

Total Rip Off

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Have any of you painted a watercolor before?  

I have to say my absolute favorite part is removing the tape that holds down the paper while painting.  Crazy or am I right?

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Ya see, the entire time you’re painting you have this ugly tape wrapped around your image. Especially this one.  I have bright green and blue tape glaring at me.  Then you paint over it and it just looks messy.  Maybe you’ve painted a room in your house before?  It’s the same thing.  At the very end, when you’ve committed to being done, you get that chance. The chance to peel off the tape and glance at a clean white border (insert music depicting God shining through majestic clouds Ahhhh…)

It’s the small things you know. It always is.

Watercolors for some reason come pretty easy to me.  The use of color, pushing and pulling the water and creating transparent objects – Dare I say I actually find them fun and frustration-free. A couple of years ago I walked away from doing watercolor still-lives altogether.  I struggled to see the point.  Again, It was my never-ending saga of trying to figure out what I was communicating to the world.  That constant gnawing question or should I say mind-ramble: What does an observer learn, contemplate or experience through my art?  The answer couldn’t simply be beauty.  There has to be more to it,  right?  Existentially speaking, there has to be more to art-making.  Like what is my purpose on earth?  To be an artist?  How/what does an artist contribute to its society?  For those of us who want to live a life of service, what am I giving to the world?    I thought still lives were too basic. Too boring, obvious, and trite. This art-making must be harder and more complex than still-lives right?  And there I went yet again, down the rabbit-hole abandoning one thing in search of the thing not known…

This very question has left me wandering aimlessly for the past three years. And still, I have not found the answer.  I have in the mean time frustrated myself, pretty much made pennies on a dollar, suffered a pretty bad bout of depression and I’ve come out with fewer answers and direction than I came in with.

I’m tired.  I have no answers, but I do still LOVE to make art.

I’m in a state of surrender.  I can look back at this time and say I have been thinking my way through the answers.  Instead of feeling my way through or knowing.  Feeling and knowing are quiet practices.  The quiet place where intuition lies.  I don’t do quiet very well.  I don’t practice stillness very well.  Dare I say I have doubled-down on their opposites.

It’s welling up from within me though.  Not the answers that I am seeking, instead that I am going about it the wrong way.

Surrender. Get quiet. Be still.

I can no longer drown them out and hit acceleration.  I need peace.  I need reflection time.  Meanwhile, I shall continue to paint.  I guess watercolors are the most peaceful way for me.  At least for the moment.  They require a lot less thought and a lot more just-Do.  Like a practice.

Well, on that long-winded note, let me show you the painting I did last week:

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Peaches 16 x 24

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I left my feet in the photo to give you a reference of size and proportion.  I love creating everything larger than actual-life.  Mainly because it gives me great big spaces to swirl paint around.

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There were a few things I forgot since I last water-colored.  Instantly, I realized I had the wrong paper.  I used watercolor paper but it had a smooth-tooth to it.  The water and paint stayed on the surface instead of absorbing and bleeding which I prefer.  I suffered through this painting, but  went and bought new paper for future work.

The other mistake I made was buying a watercolor brush set on-line.  The brushes wound up being synthetic and could only hold a third of what a high-quality horse-hair brush can carry.  The brushes I started with were so bad, I literally put down the brush, picked up my keys, drove 40 minutes to the closest art store and hand-picked some real beauties.  Totally worth the drive and delay.

So I think I worked out the kinks. I now have the right paper and the proper brushes. I’m ready to dive in to some more complex subject matter and we’ll see what I come up with. All the while, I’ve turned off my radio.  No music. No news. No podcasts (my go-to distractions).

I’m sitting in silence and taking some much-needed deep breaths.

Back to baby-steps…

 

Putting off the Inevitable

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Are there any other potters out there that truly despise glazing?

I let the rack pile up with bisque-fired pots, until I can no longer ignore them (like there might be an avalanche!).

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I usually wheel throw 6 pots at a time and then hand-build them into something more interesting. Next I take them home from the pottery studio and I under-glaze them. Under-glazes are very much like acrylic paints.  you can mix the pigments up and get pretty much what you were expecting.   Red + yellow= orange underglaze.  They go on while your pottery is still wet or the term greenware which means it has not been fired at all.

Glazes go on after the pieces have been fired once, which is called a bisque-firing.   Glazes are nothing like paints.  They’re more like chemistry experiments.  You cannot take a red glaze and a yellow glaze and expect them to make orange.  Each glaze is made from natural mineral compounds that do their own thing in a fire and each have different chemical reactions when combined.  A red glaze plus a yellow glaze could wind up creating a white/purple/brown reaction which is nothing close to a color wheel orange.  What I’m getting at is that all my knowledge as a painter is completely useless as a potter.  There are all different rules to the game and so much to experiment with and then hope to memorize for future use.

In a nut-shell, pottery glazes are highly unpredictable.  You either go with the flow and accept the good experiments with the happy little accidents or you fight to the death for control over the wild beast that usually winds up biting you in the rear and dragging you out into the forest (or the dumpster!).  I would be the latter.  I’m a fighter.  I’m always trying to figure out how to ignore all the knowledge that has come before me and try to do it differently  .I use under-glazes because I can control the colors I want to see, I use regular glazes like grout – filling in all the crevices with glaze and then wiping the rest off.    The inside of my pots is where I take the most risk.  I will mix 2-3 glazes and let them run and drip however they want.  This way each pot has highly controlled areas and an area or two left for some magic.

I’ve tamed the beast enough to occasionally get bitten, but mostly, I stay out of the forest of no return.  Crazy-fighter actually works for me.  For the most part I don’t have to dump too many utter-fails and I have created a unique style.  My own method-to my-madness you might say.

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Either way, glazing day still makes me flinch.  It’s do or die time.  For all my hard work, it is the one step which will make or break the pottery piece.  That can feel like a lot of pressure.

But, in order to succeed, you have to play the game.  So, I play.  I take the gamble and hope for some cool finished products. Plus, who doesn’t want to slay fantastical beasts?

 

I’m walking Away

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 I’m at that point.  The point of giving up.

I’ve been incredibly frustrated lately.  Mainly, the ideas in my head aren’t matching up with what’s physically manifesting on my canvas.

After six months of painting abstract acrylics,  I can look at this body of work and say:  It’s not translucent enough (the pieces are kind of muddy in color) and they don’t really communicate a significant message to my viewer (I don’t know what they communicate!).  These were some of the goals I had set for myself and I sort of fell short of them.

With that said.  I’m ready to walk away.  Throw in the towel. Maybe even create a giant pyre and throw all my paintings in it.

Ok. That might be a little dramatic.

I’m not feeling that bad, but I am frustrated darn it.

I am walking away, but really I’m just walking into a different room.  A room filled with watercolors and paper as opposed to acrylics and canvas.  My hope is that if I walk away, I can let everything I learned in the last 6 months synthesize into my brain somehow.  I’m hoping with time I will be able to mentally separate the processes I liked from the ones that didn’t work for me.  Or who knows, maybe with a little bit more time I can simply check acrylic-abstract-painting off my list.  – Check.  That one’s not for me.  Let’s go try something else.  That could be the case.  I don’t know.  Hopefully time will tell.

I do know that I love painting.  I can’t quit.  I won’t quit.  You’ll have to pry that paint brush from my cold dead hand.  I do sure hope I figure out where I shine technically before I am cold and dead.  Gulp.

So here’s to another go.  A different go.  Wish me luck :)

No. Seriously.  I mean it. Right now.  I wouldn’t mind a little prayer.  You could send me some positive Ju-Ju.  I’m a believer of that kind of stuff.  Send it my way right now I’m waiting!!!

Here were the last paintings I finished in this series:

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These canvases were roughly 16×20 – 18×24.

It’s hard.  I feel like I would NEVER bring one of these paintings to a gallery or art association for exhibition.  Mainly because they don’t look like ANYTHING I see on their walls.  Mine are playful and crazy where as everything I see there seems so serious.  That definitely weighs into my cruel critique. I don’t feel like these are “show”-able.

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I do have to say though, when I hang them in my house, I very much like them.  They are colorful, happy and create a cheery atmosphere.  That puts me in a strange conundrum.  I want to make art for the world not simply for myself.  Will I ever get there??? 

Deep exhale….. I hope so.

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As we speak, my brand new set of watercolors has arrived.

My old set is probably ten years old.  It’s been on rocky car rides where the pigments got mixed all together.  It’s filled with cat hair, mainly because my cat won’t leave me alone! It’s a complete mess.  Ta Da.  A new set with new paint brushes.  It’s like artist Christmas.

Well here I go.  Off to give these new puppies a try!  Hee Haw! Yipee!