Monday, January 28, 2013

things I collect

heart rock daily sketch
watercolor, pen sketch

I don't know exactly when I started, but I like collecting rocks. One memory that blazes in my mind is the time I was in London with my boyfriend. We both went over with our university for an entire Spring semester and were in the class that required us to attend a list of Shakespeare plays. We were in a tiny theatre sitting on bleachers at the top. I don't even remember the play but the audience was quiet and we were all focused on the actors. I got hot and took off my coat and laid it down beside me. A few seconds passed when I heard a tink, tink, tink which continued to get louder and seemingly unending as the pocket full of rocks in my coat's pocket emptied itself. By the time I realised what was making the noise, it was really too late to make any difference.

That experience hasn't stopped me from collecting rocks. They come in so many shapes and colors. Once I was even lucky to find a fossil! I've moved quite a few times, so most of these rocks get liberated, and then I begin again.

The rock above was found during a time of transition in my life. I was walking along a rocky beach and happened to spot it standing out, red against all the greyish rocks. I like to imagine that it travelled from some far away place, shaped by it's experiences and hardships, finally landing on this island.

Maybe that is why I like rocks. Experience makes them more beautiful and defined.

Are you wondering what happened to that boyfriend? We got married the following year. And to this day, he doesn't bat an eye when he sees me putting a rock in my pocket.

Friday, January 25, 2013

goldfish sumi e ink painting tutorial

sumi e brushes and ink stick
sumi ink stone and brushes

A man's work is nothing but this slow trek to rediscover, through the detours of art, those two or three great and simple images in whose presence his heart first opened.
Albert Camus

Many many years ago, we moved to Sapporo city on the northern island of Hokkaido from winterless southern California. I remember quite clearly how the recruiter described the island as "cold as Siberia." We left sunny California on an April day and landed in Sapporo in the middle of a snow storm. It was more of a shock than I had anticipated.

It took me a couple of years to acclimate to the long winters, rainy seasons and extremely short summers. In the end, I left as a better person with loads of warm memories and the spring board for my art, that being sumi-e brush painting.

Much of what we do, can be done without thought. Automatically, we know our routines without having to stop and think about it. It's only when we step out of our routines that we're forced to think about what happened.

preparing the Sumi ink
rubbing the ink stone

Working with sumi ink is all about slowing down and rediscovering those lost moments. It's doing the automatic gestures and thinking about what's happening.

I'll admit that it can be tedious. Who wants to spend several minutes making a pool of sumi ink when you can buy it in a bottle? But then I'm reminded of what my sumi-e teacher taught me: you're leaving behind the thoughts of the day and focusing on your breath, the movement of your body. You're leaning into the now.

sumi ink blot
sumi ink in white dish

So as I lean, I am letting my senses be my guide. I listen to the scratchy sound of the ink and notice the musty scent as the water and ink stone pool into a black, molasses liquid. I've grown to love this slowing down, the scratchy sounds of the ink stone, and the scent of freshly made sumi ink.

Goldfish Tutorial

Supplies: small dishes, asian brushes, water, sumi ink, and rice paper

Place a bit of ink in one dish. With sumi-e painting, black is not just black. The amount of water and the hue of the ink will allow for variations in your painting. So you'll have the undiluted ink in one dish and a puddle of ink in another dish that you'll use for diluted hues.

Wet your brush until all the bristles are soaked and then wipe off excess water. It will take some practice to understand the relationship between the wetness of your brush, the ink, and how they will react to the rice paper. My teacher advised practicing on newspaper to save the expense of the rice paper.

brush and sumi ink
sumi ink and brush 

In the picture above, the dish holds the puddle of ink with a few drops of added water. I am taking my brush and running the edges of the brush along the diluted ink to get a "notan" effect. The tip of the brush will have the darker ink while the upward bristles (being fuller with water) will have a greyer ink.

sumi ink  goldfish wip

Above shows how the ink varies in color from grey to a deeper black. The center of each ink blot is a lighter grey where the upper bristles have touched. The amount of ink that meets the paper will not only depend on how much of your brush lies on the paper, but also on which side of your brush touches the paper. The side of the brush that rested in the ink in the dish versus the side that didn't are both used for painting.

sumi fish on rice paper
goldfish sumi e painting

The image above shows the distinct lines where I've taken a thinner, drier brush loaded with full ink to outline the fish. This is the finished rice paper painting which has been adhered to it's backing and is ready for framing.

This is just an introduction, and I think a video will help with making the process easier to understand. Stay tuned for a step by step video.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

daily hopes and giri

maple key
maple keys

Sometime we must begin, for where there is no beginning there is no end ...
- Eleanor Roosevelt

I have two simple resolutions this year:
  1. a daily sketch 
  2. read a page from a paper book
The daily sketches are more a release then purposeful. Although, they tend to mark what I'm thinking at the moment or experiencing, sometimes they've been pure "giri." Giri is a Japanese word that roughly refers to "duty" or "obligation" such as returning a gift because you were given one and not because you care for the gift giver. In one sense, it keeps things balanced.

Each day is a gift and it's easy for me to forget, especially when I haven't slept well or other life stresses catch up to me. So on those low days, the giri gift that I give back to the day is this daily sketch. On a good day, it's more than giri. In either case, I am happier because I did it.

one every day
one everyday, art journal page

Yesterday, I worked on making a journal which is a sewn collection of abandoned drawings which will get covered up with each journal entry. Today, I completed my first journal page for january.

The above page began with writing the words one every day in white crayon and applying washes of color and salt. That was followed by maple leaf seed imprintings, stamping, collage pieces, gesso and pen line drawings.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

la comida

comer comida
la comida, acrylic mixed media painting, 6 x 6

I never got into cooking when I was growing up or newly married, but later in life I learned it was more about time then anything else. Cooking had always had the sole purpose of answering a growling hunger after a long day of work.

I think back and have no idea how my Mom managed working full-time, being the driver for our one-car family, running daily errands, and always giving us a home-cooked meal. All of that has left me with fond memories of car rides, her stories of her work, and the amazing Mexican dishes with colorful names and those rolling r's.

Although, I haven't been able to come close to the deliciousness of her chili colorado or her chili verde, I have managed to be good at making her frijoles de la oya, tamales and tacos. I could live on those dishes alone:) And my husband has gotten used to my serving the same dish for consecutive days because that's what I crave.

I have time now. Along with that I've come around to cooking and mentally thumbing through those memories that rise with each childhood dish.

For the above art work, I applied acrylics to a dried corn husk and pressed it onto my background. I then added more layers of color, stamped images and a cut-out with the word comida from a Spanish-English dictionary. Comer is written with a micron pen.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

crayon and watercolor tutorial

white crayon

Have you ever done a painting that didn't work out? I painted several sumi ink line drawings a few months ago. I didn't like how they came out, so I set them aside in the supply drawer.

Today I picked up some crayons and a plastic stencil from the second-hand shop. I wanted to mess around with a crayon-resist technique I heard of and dragged out those failed ink paintings.

I cut them out into aceo sized cards. The sumi ink was completely set so layering it with watercolors would be fine.
circles aceo duo
two aceos, crayon, sumi ink, and watercolor

You can see the circled lines that I drew with the white crayon on the art card on the left. The right card has some white squares that are subtle but visible in the lower left corner. I used the plastic stencil for filling in the circles. Before the watercolor had dried, I lifted the color with a paper towel. If I wanted the color darker, I'd go over the circle again with another wash of color.

Techniques that are used in monoprinting can also be used with crayon and watercolors. Instead of using a paper towel to remove the paint, I could use another sheet of paper to take off the paint. You'll then have a ghost monoprint.  If my paper is thin, I can place it over a bumpy surface and run the crayon over the paper.  The crayon will only pick up the protrusions.

Using a white crayon makes it difficult to see where the lines are unless you tilt the card at a angle. Of course, any color is up for grabs, and I've got a whole set to toy with still! I also noticed that if the crayon's layer is too thin, it will not stand out against the watercolor.

Tascha has a fun video on youtube showing this technique. I got a kick out of seeing her two kitties pop in to view throughout her demo. A search for crayon and watercolor art will bring up more videos and websites offering more examples.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

What's New

daily sketch jan 3, 2013
jan 3, pen, crow, line drawing

new year resolutions
Simply: one daily sketch and reading one page from a book.

The sketches have been a good spring board of inspiration. And the reading gives me a good break.

This week my interest has leaned toward crows, and the sketches have lead to pen drawings with watercolor.
crow and sky II
 crow line drawing, pen and watercolor

art journal
I'm also working on my first art journal. Last week I bought a stitch-bound book at the second hand store. It's still in the beginning stages and I've been glueing and gessoing a little bit each day, and reading the book as I go along. Hopefully, I'll have some first pages to show next week.

What's new in your week?

Saturday, January 5, 2013

my travels, aceo, leaves

leaves  aceo
leaves, monoprint and collage, aceos

Not I, nor anyone else can travel that road for you.
You must travel it by yourself.
It is not far. It is within reach.
Perhaps you have been on it since you were born, and did not know.
Perhaps it is everywhere - on water and land.

Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

I found this old "my travels" book at a local outdoor market this past summer. It's about pocket size and has these lovely, beige pages inside. They seemed like a perfect background for monoprint leaves.

The other two aceos are a collage of papers that I had kept in a jar. I hadn't planned on these being a set. As I was thumbing through them, I realized the colors and shapes go really well together. Now, I've just got to frame them and they'll be a bit of sunshine on a winter morning.

Friday, January 4, 2013

art journal and daily sketches

mason jar pen drawing
first sketch for the year 2013, mason jar

My goals this year are to complete a mixed media art journal and sketch daily.

I often sketch in journals, notebooks or whatever I have on hand. Years later, those quick sketches, sometimes with added notes, allow me to look back at what was happening in my life at that time.

Doing quick sketches daily takes the pressure off of being perfect because I'm not drawing for my next art piece. It doesn't matter if proportions are off or the subject is uninteresting. These sketches are purely for the act of mind to hand and they often communicate more than I ever intended.

On the other hand, art Journaling is a mystery to me and often seems unapproachable. I've been eyeing this goal of creating a mixed media art journal for a couple of years now. Like a high school crush, I've been stalking the art journaling books at the library and on-line, daydreaming about how wonderful it will be when I finally come face to face with that blank art journal.

So I've decided that this magic is going to happen in 2013. Luckily, last week I checked out Traci Bunker's "the Art Journal Workshop" from my local library. She covers choosing a book for your art journal, materials and then offers art journaling prompts. This was just the push that I needed.

She has this cool technique for tinting gesso with pastels which she demonstrates on youtube here.

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