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.

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 :)

 

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!

Backdrop

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For the past two weeks, I’ve been posting photos of my latest jewelry creations.

I wondered if any of you had noticed the backdrop?

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Did you guess right?

I found this crate of children’s blocks in a dumpster behind a kids consignment shop.

Yes. I was digging through a dumpster.

No. I have nothing else to say about that ;)

When I looked in the crate, these weren’t modern-day made-in-China building blocks.  Instantly, I could tell these were made by hand.  Each piece was not perfect.  You could tell which blocks were cut from the same piece of wood.  But my favorite attribute was the color/paint/patina.  These blocks have a wax finish, so as they have been played with and toppled about, they have gotten even prettier with age.

I mention this , because it’s darn hard to make jewelry photos look interesting.  I was hunting around the house for dishes and boxes.  I pulled out some fabric to try to create an interesting backdrop, but they were all boring.

Then I remembered the crate out in the garage. Blocks.

Blocks?  Could I?  Should I?  Hmm… they are just the right size for jewelry.  I can build with them which will allow my pictures to have visual depth.  This might just work…

Scroll back through my last few posts and take a closer look at the backgrounds.  Then look at the photo in this post where I scale back and you see the jewelry on my table in a pile of blocks.

I think I got some pretty cool effects.  All it took was thinking outside the box and a little dumpster diving.

You might want to try it.  Just sayin… :)

 

Walk Like an Egyptian

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Is anyone else obsessed with all things ancient Egyptian or is it just me?

I can remember in sixth grade when it was finally time to start studying Mesopotamia.  Everything was fascinating. The architecture, papyrus drawings, science, culture, they had it all.  Why did they always seem like they may have had it better?  How did they get their entire civilization to work towards common goals? And because of this, look what they manifested.

My grandmother’s formal silver tea set had eagle talons, a Sphinx bodice and ancient hieroglyphic patterns on it.  It was the most exotic thing I had ever seen.  How did my grandmother wind up with this archeologist-inspired tea set?  Well I’d later learn about Tutmania.  In the 1920’s King Tut’s tomb was discovered.  The first undisturbed burial chamber ever (most had been plundered over centuries).  The jewelry, pottery, artwork and sarcophagus were remarkable.  Soon clothing around the world showed ancient Egyptian influence as well as jewelry, architecture, artwork and literature. Many art-deco pieces look like objects taken straight from the tomb.  This is how my grandmother’s tea set came to be.

When I got to college I would take every Mesopotamian class I could find.  In fact I wanted to be an archeologist until enough people talked me out of it.  apparently my chances of digging in Egypt were pretty slim and digging in dirt is not all that it entails?  Alas…I put my curiosities aside and worked towards other things.  Now I occasionally watch Indiana Jones to continue the fantasy as well as running into some weird pharaoh stones in the jewelry mills.

To me, they’re a reminder that I’m not alone. There have been generations before me equally fascinated by Egypt.  Fascinated enough to adorn themselves in cultural images reflecting thousands of years of culture before them.We are the recipients of all of the knowledge and accomplishments of those that came before us.

The continuity of humanity is amazing. It leads to other questions.  What will be our legacy to humanity?  Gulp.

When they dig us up and ask the questions, I hope we rose to our capabilities.

Actually, I pray.

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Creepy Crawlies

This post is devoted to all the strange animal findings I collected this trip.

A crab.  A deer head with antlers?  Owls & birds.  But my favorites are the insects.  Probably because I’m an avid gardener.  All the creepy crawlies are my friends.  Boy, do I miss them. Weird right?  I love digging in the earth. smelling it. Watching every inch of my yard teaming with life.  Our fence has carpenter bees boring throughout.  I know, I know, I’m supposed to get them exterminated, but it is amazing how they go into the hole and a couple of minutes later you can actually see them push the saw dust out.  If they were attacking my house, that would be one thing, but the fence is like a science channel show.  I love science channel shows! Here’s another one: I still remember watercolor painting outdoors sometime back and a baby praying mantis the size of a popcorn kernel was hanging out on my painting.  For at least two hours this tiny thing was running back and forth on the paper.  I couldn’t kill it.  I didn’t want to swat it away because how often does a praying mantis hang out on ones painting?  So I just worked around it.  Kind of laughing.  Totally amused.

Oh and birds.  The birds. Yeah, birds are my other FAVORITE.  I’m a little obsessed.  I nearly run myself off the road staring up at the hawks and blackbirds that seem to be in the sky every time I drive.  I guess I probably shouldn’t admit that one :)

In a nut shell, I love nature.  I love color. I definitely love sparkle.  Creating jewelry with the occasional grasshopper. Totally awesome!

 

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