Monday, September 30, 2013

Variations on a Theme: Dance!

As I am getting ready to teach a class in collage, I am looking through old files and photos of collages created over the last few years. I came across the Dance series for which I had not only created 4 visual pieces, but also a text to go with each one. So....I decided to post it on my blog.

The Dance Series started with a pile of discarded sheet music found in a wastepaper basket at Cultural Resources Council, now known as CNY Arts. I was immediately intrigued by the endless possibilities presented by contrasting the music with all of its obvious implications, with abstractions; color, shapes, and patterns. Whether or not the abstractions related in any way to music was not important initially, however as my idea began to take shape, music again became important as the driving force behind each piece which represents a different style of Dance.

The series consists of four pieces White Ballet (Ballet), Nairobi Night (African Dance), Guts and Grace (NIA) and Steppin’ at the BB (Irish Step Dance).

White Ballet: The term for traditional ballet, graceful, flowing, uplifted and ethereal, all fluffy white and pink tutus.

Nairobi Night: African Dance, earthy and grounded, fiery colors, movements driven by the insistent drumbeat.

Guts and Grace NIA: or neuromuscular integrative action is a fusion of modern dance, martial arts and the healing arts and a study in contrasts. Complimentary colors, positive and negative shapes, linear and rounded, flowing and staccato all at once.

Steppin’ at the BB: Irish step dance. Linear, uplifted movement, the staccato beat of hardshoes on wooden floor all represented by the straight edge of the watercolor abstractions. The torn side, edged in gold, a representation of the soft side,ghillies and intricate patterns across the floor.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Keeping a Lookout

Keeping a Lookout was painted over two consecutive weekends at camp. I started out by lightly sketching the herons (mother and babies) and several of the sticks which make up the nest, then covering them with masking fluid. My plan was to use the poured method for applying background color and since this method can yield rather random results as colors blend I didn't want the birds and nest to be influenced by whatever color ended up underneath.

After pouring my some green, yellow, blue and red over various parts of the painting and letting the colors mix, I decided that what I really needed was more texture. I wanted to give a sense of the wilderness surrounding the nest without actually painting it. And I didn't want to detract from my focal point. So I placed a crumpled plastic bag over the wet colors and let the paint pool around the folds and wrinkles of the bag. After the paint dried I removed the bag to find a series of wonderful but subtle lines networking across the background.

I left the painting in progress and all art supplies for the following weekend. Throughout the week I gave some thought to how I was going to handle the colors for the birds and nest. Both would call for lots of grays and browns, colors I usually make from mixing complementary colors. When I returned to camp the next weekend my first order of business was to check on my painting. I had peeled off the masking fluid and was ready to paint!

Taking my cue from the very yellowy undertones in the green background, I selected yellow and its complement, purple to mix to create the various browns and grays. I used yellow ochre, cadmium yellow, purple and rose in various combinations to achieve what appears to be neutrals, but are actually full of color. A bit of Payne's Gray was mixed with purple to create some of the dark shaded areas in between the branches of the nest. I used a small pointed brush to paint the added sticks jutting out of the nest.

 The herons and nest were all painted in the wet on dry method. The background was painted in the wet on wet method; very runny color over very wet paper. I like the contrast in styles in this piece. I also like the branches arching out of the nest and into the wilderness, perhaps pointing the way for the baby herons when they eventually leave the nest.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

On the One Year Anniversary

Today is the one year anniversary of my mother's death. After she passed I received many cards, email condolences, flowers and dish gardens from family, friends and co-workers. And one very unexpected gift, a small potted Rose of Sharon to plant in my garden in my mother's memory. In the days after the funeral the plant sat in its pot on my deck, showing off its beautiful purple flowers. I named it Betty in honor of my mom. But as days passed into weeks and the flowers died I began to wonder where in the world I was going to plant it. November was approaching, the weather turned cold and the plant needed a home, a place to put its roots down. Literally. Now my house is 23 years old; we had it built for us on a windy hill (hence the name of my studio) where there is absolutely no topsoil to speak of. For the first few years we had very little grass, no shrubs that would last through the cold windy winter. We were grateful for anything that was green and would grow. Over the years I have learned the hard way what will grow and what will not thrive in that poor soil. And when something did grow...I just let it go because at least it was green! So, 23 years later we have a yard full of some really nice plants and some things that we just let grow because at least they are green! The challenge was finding an empty space in our very overcrowded (and green!) yard. I finally found a place for Betty, next to a very aggressive Pussy Willow which we have been hacking away at for several years. I planted Betty in mid-November and hoped for the best. After the winter and spring passed, and summer rolled around we finally saw some life in Betty. (Rose of Sharons never really look too good till the end of July or early August). Betty bloomed in August with beautiful pinkish purple flowers. I hacked away at the pussy willow to give Betty some more light and space to grow. I'm happy to report that on the one year anniversary Betty looks wonderful and has held her own against that aggressive pussy willow. Well, my mom never did like cats anyway.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Daybreak........The Privilege of Waking up at the Lake.

I got the idea for using the poured watercolor technique after seeing a few posts and video tutorials on Facebook. The videos gave step by step instructions and it looked like a lot of fun, so I thought I would give it a try.

We have a very recognizable group of trees on one of the islands at the lake. They stand like sentinels guarding a small thin strip of an island that contains nothing more than the remains of a dock and a fire pit and of course the trees. The trees are the scraggly type of pitch pines that grow in the Indian River Lakes Region and the Thousand Islands. I love their silhouettes and thought they would look great against a soft ethereal background. The poured watercolor technique just about begged to be used to help achieve this effect.

 I lightly sketched in the silhouettes of the trees and the shape of the island. I didn't mask the trees or land because I planned on letting the poured color become part of the final color of those area. I was thinking of the colors of the morning sky, yellows, pinks, purples and dashes of blue. After mixing a few colors and lots of water in Dixie cups, then getting my paper nice and wet, I poured the colors onto the paper, and let them run, mix and form new colors. I blotted up excess color and then left the painting to dry.

A few hours later I came back to the studio to look at the painting. I was very pleased with the soft veils of color, pinks and purples layered over one another and the yellows shooting through like the morning sun just breaking over the horizon. The trees and land received a few more coats of paint to make them stand out against the background. A soft line of trees, more implied than actually seen stretch across the background adding to the illusion of depth.

Every time I look at this painting I think of what a privilege it is to wake up at the lake. Seeing the mist lifting slowly off the water, hearing the loon's call in the distance as a lone fisherman casts his line into water so still, barely making a ripple. We are so lucky to have this privilege. And with this privilege comes a responsibility to insure that it will be there for future generations. Does the lake belong to us or do we belong to the lake? When we first bought our camp, I felt that the lake belonged to us. Right now I feel that I belong to the lake. And each morning that I wake up at the lake the privilege is renewed.