Sunday, April 14, 2013

Crossing Boundaries

Busy times! Keeping me off the streets. Keeping me out of trouble. I had to edit my enthusiasm a lot, and still I found thirty-two photos of artwork to show you. Just artwork; no cute kitties or handsome husband enjoying front porch wine while the sun sets. (Weather has been a bit problematic for that, but soon, I implore, soon!)
No, the late arrival of spring has mostly kept me inside and focused. As has my loyalty to my class assignments, and the momentum that "The Year of the Giraffe" is bringing. I often stop in the afternoons for a bit of unbridled motion with my Zumba DVDs, and lust after the bods I will never again own, but generally I am grateful for my fitness and good health, and truly thankful for my daily dose of art.
Although I haven't had the time to do as much as I'd hoped so far, I did toy some more with the Sketch Club program for my iPad during the mixed media giraffe month of February, producing a digitally altered image of two of my conte crayon sketches from January/draw. I know I will eventually love having this medium in my arsenal, but right now I am back to mostly old school.

On March 1, Strathmore Artist Papers started their series of online month long workshops with something really new to me and appealing, lessons with Robert Joyner on "Abstract Fine Art Painting". Unfortunately, after the first week, and the purchase of a beautiful wood easel, I ran out of time and energy to keep up. I WILL be going back to these lessons soon. (Remind me I said this. I should say that the easel, taking up good space and sitting by my elbow as I type, keeps reminding me.) 

Week 1: Getting to know the materials

About the same time, my creative arts ringleader, Carla Sonheim, foolishly waved at me the chance to repeat some of her classes I had taken previously (and loved) for FREE! It felt like an opportunity that could not be missed because I was a bit needy for concrete direction, even though I like to go my own way within the guidelines. Good chance to start to weave my arts into one big theme: "giraffe world." From now on I was going to find a way to connect things, to cross boundaries and find my themes, my symbols, my inspiration. Trying to move from technical learning to ART. It's a process, but I'm feeling progress. First off, "Faces 101".
I made eight of these and, like a mother, I love every one.

Meanwhile, month three in Year of the Giraffe was all about sewing. For many classmates, this was a completely new challenge. For me the challenge was letting go of perfection, trying to design as I went and accept what happened. I still managed to make a character who is neat and precise and sturdy, but she is a character and I was very pleased with the results. (Maybe someday I will learn to make a "rag" doll, but  it so goes against the grain for me to sew sloppy when I've had a lifetime of learning perfection.)

We received suggestions, but mainly we designed our own patterns.

I had to learn how to make a mostly flat figure 3D by adding a gusset.

Meet my darling Stasha!

She has nose-trals and a tongue and she's somewhat flat so she only has one ossicone.

Here she poses in front of a garden painted armoire.

The second of the repeat classes was "Flower Crazy." Because Carla has the class research flower-like shapes both in nature and man-made objects to use for inspiration, I figured there was nothing more perfect than giraffe parts to fit the bill.

Spots, ossicones, and ears...

eyes and tails (in a field of bubbles).

Working on some gesso-first textural pieces inspired by my journal sketches of parts.

A swirl of leaves in the shape of giraffe eyes with long lashes.

Less obvious influence, but still more stylized than last year's .

In week three we did our painting on birch plywood and I took a break from animal parts to look for traditional floral inspiration. This change in style coincided with the beginning of the "What If? Diaries" on Jude Hill's private blog and class, where we are contemplating "white" as a design and materials source. The progression of paintings I did that week took me to a less colorful finish as I thought about the mysterious nature of white and led to a painting chosen for Flickr Explore that I am getting prepared to add to a white "What If?" art cloth.

Inspired by an antique tin ceiling tile.

The riot of watercolor is hidden under the gesso texture.

The final painting is a bit more neutral, dark and moody than most of my work, but it feels clean and exciting to me.

In week four, collage served as the basis for finding our flowers, and yet I was able to see a giraffe in the first one and some eyelash and ossicone inspired plant shapes in the second.

In April, our giraffe art has turned to writing, actually storytelling, in the form of   four one week assignments that for now are including drawings. Week 1: "Giraffe Invention" is detailed in two journal pages, then illustrated below. the crossover this time is a big one. I have just joined an eight week class with Jane Davenport and Teesha Moore called "Mermaid Circus". The story below has me taking my Stasha and some beloved hippos (a lifelong muse) to join the circus. And even though the class begins with the premise of mermaids, there will be giraffes and there will be hippos in my art!

My wonderful group of textile design companions, Designing Women, took on the project last meeting to work from a favorite print fabric and "ghost" the design outward in paint and stitch. Since I wasn't totally into this concept but wanted to work on something similar that could be applied to the White concept class, I chose to explore a personal symbol of sunrise/sunset in small pieces of hand painted (with procion dye) charmeuse, and create a series of three "poems". I am excited beyond all expectation with how they are coming along, ghosting the lines from the inspiration pieces, and yet moving on to something much more complete and yet abstract. They are speaking to me and yet they are not literal, and this is something I have been trying hard to learn. I believe it is that crossing over of boundaries. Pulling ideas from everywhere that help me find what I want to say and how to say it.

The backround fabric is from a silk broadcloth shirt, the assorted other pieces and bits from a session with rust and one with flour paste resist.

In this piece and the next I am using some procion dye drawn linework from a challenge project with Melly Testa.

And finally, the "Mermaid Circus" has begun. We have had a spellbinding first week of art and friendship and stirring the pot to mix and match and look for our own inspiration. You know what mine will be, but neither of us knows where the alchemy will take it. Come back soon to see my first painted books as they progress. I promise there will be magic!


  1. Wonderful, wonderful work! I have to take one of Carla's classes soon. You seem to be having such a great time. It's a joy to see the results of what you've been up to!

    1. Thanks, Annika. I am so enjoying having this yearlong (giraffe) muse with a variety of expressive outlets. Now I also have mermaids and circus as themes. None of these would have been my own decision, but they all are working (and intertwining.) (And of course, I am bringing in hippos, too!)

  2. All absolutely fabulous! You have a great range of artistic talents, just wonderful.

  3. Love everything you're doing. Amazing! I have to rest now you've exhausted me.

  4. Wow!you done so much. What fun. Looking forward to seeing your work from the class. Please post it on EDM.

  5. I love the giraffes! :) Actually it's one of the nicknames I've got, and I just love them really! Great post!

    1. Thanks so much, Alex. I am having the best time getting to know giraffes! Why, may I ask is it you nickname? Very tall? Long lashes?