Monday, January 2, 2017

Painting #10 Terrain: Anatomy of a Mistake

Terrain 36" x 36"

Terrain. When I painted this I thought I liked it. It looked like land viewed from above. Now I am not sure what I was thinking. It just looks kind of unfinished and it is going into the canvas paint over pile.

This one started with so much potential. It was one of the two I'd started in Flora's workshop and I was proud of where it was going--the potential of it. I was definitely reaching for something that I sensed was there, and alternately trying to have no expectations and going with the flow. This painting obviously got caught in the crosshairs of two diametrically opposed philosophies.

Below is the progression from where it started to where it ended up. I find it frustrating as a painter to have a vision of what I want to achieve but not know how to get the effects I'm going for. I think Terrain is a result of that confusion.

The left side layer was a myriad of marks--lots of fun at this point. In the right layer I attempted to make sense out of the chaos.  That was my first big mistake--to try and make anything out of this.

The next left layer is somewhat interesting, I was using black lines but trying a little too hard to find that elusive something I wanted it to become. On the right, I tried to let go and do a bold move with a large swatch of pale teal. Didn't work. 

The left layer seemed like it was starting to go somewhere. The lighter colors were effective in subduing the various shades of orange and terracottas, and toning down the wild turquoise blue hair and beard of the old man with the hooked nose. On the right, I'd reached a stage I liked. From here it was downhill as I ended up with the "finished" version above.

I am not someone who disses myself to get attention or sympathy, so that's not what I am doing here. It's my attempt to figure out why my painting took such a drastic turn into bland and uninteresting, and the fact I thought it was interesting and finished, is a conundrum. But the cool thing about painting is I can paint over something I don't like and since I still have a major learning curve I'll chalk this one up to experience.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Painting #9 Adobe Vines

Adobe Vines  24" x 30"
Black lines again! I am hooked, not sure why but it is an art style that really attracts me. I know when I buy books for my classroom I am particularly prone to those with black line drawings and lots of juicy colors. Like the illustrations by David Diaz, in children's author Eve Bunting's books Smoky Night and Going Home. So gorgeous! Follow this link to see some of  David Diaz's work. Follow this link to find out more about Eve Bunting and the 250 books she's written!

Lately I've also been getting into my doodling roots--I've been an avid doodler since I was a kid and doodle all over everything. And doodles are slowly but surely creeping into my paintings--like the leaves with the designs. I find doing this kind of detailed work focuses me and pulls me into the painting in a way that nothing else seems to.

I love the colors in this painting. Very Mexican town-ish. The turquoise and terracotta contrast well and add to the overall feel of the piece. The finer black lines and spirals in the vine leaves and flowers, help to create movement and flow. I used a bumpy piece of cardboard from a cupholder to stamp brown spots on the large vine stems, to create some texture.

I sent a text picture of this one to my brother. He'd seen some of pictures of my other work when I was in Seattle and we were visiting our mom. I had showed him a picture of Fernz and a few others, which he liked. When I showed my mom the pix of Fernz, she blurted out, "That's disgusting." We cracked up. I am not sure what mom thought she saw, but I was afraid to ask for clarification. Somethings you really don't need to know. After all, everyone has their own tastes, especially when it comes to art. My brother on the other hand, text me that he thought Adobe Vines was and I quote, "frigging awesome!" Good enough for me, so I sent it to him for a birthday present.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Painting #8 Ladders

Ladders 24" x 30"

Bold black lines! I don't know what attracts me so much about black lines in paintings and drawings. This painting started with great marks. However, once I began filling in areas with pink, chartreuse or green, it wasn't really going anywhere. This is a usually a stopping place for me in most of my work--the transition from beautiful chaos into becoming the painting it wants to be. I listen for hints and whispers of inspiration. This canvas was very loud about the black lines. So I grabbed a mid-sized brush and dipped into the black and just let my arm go. This was more angular than I expected, but I  liked where it was going. It was fun because I was still fresh from Flora's class in Portland and remembered her sage advice to focus in on a small area that you liked. I did that over and over moving from one area to the next until it just seemed to come together. It became a thing to add ladders or steps to connect all areas of the painting. So if for some reason I became really small and fell into this painting I could climb anywhere. Bizarre, I know. I was tempted to name this one "Crooked Streets" but ladders was a theme so that's what it became. I really like how the perspective shifts in funny ways. Overall, it is interesting to stare at, my eyes continually rove. I have to say this is one of my favorites.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Painting #7 Kristen's Daisies & Painting with the Grands

Kristen's Daisies 4"x 4"

Kristen's Daisies is a tiny little 4" x 4" painting I did for the wonderful woman I work with for her birthday. You guessed it, her name is Kristen. This is our last year of working together, after nine good years, as I am retiring and she is going to graduate school. I was experimenting with painting very small. This was one of my first. I've started 3 canvases that are even smaller, 2" x 2".

I recently read about the Art Abandonment Project and thought it would be fun to try it with the little paintings. The idea for the project came from Michael and Andrea Matus deMeng's book of the same name. The project revolves around artists of all types creating random acts of art and leaving their creations in various locations around the globe. Sometimes with little messages and sometimes not. I always liked the idea of finding treasure but the idea of leaving treasures for others is even better! My goal is to make a few and leave them around Hilo town during Christmas time.

This past October I had the pleasure of spending 5 days with my granddaughter, Kiana, her husband Andrew and their two kids. Pua is 3 years old and Kekai is 5 years old. I took a big bag full of paints, brushes, canvases and other fun stuff to make art with the kids while I was there. 

Kiana & Pua painting together.
During our first painting session, the kids choose the colors they wanted and did their thing. They definitely had their own ideas of how and what they would paint and I realized right away they did not need my direction.

Pua's Painting #2 above and #3 below.
Pua choose warm bright colors as her palette: reds and yellows. She liked mixing pink when we added some white so that became one of her trademark moves. She also liked using lots of water with her paint, the biggest brushes I had, and the foam roller. Her pictures usually had puddles on them but once they dried were beautiful.      

Kekai liked all colors and had a great mixing style. He would add each new color on top of the old one and mix away with his brush. Each new color was an exciting discovery.

Kekai mixing purple in painting #2.

Kekai's finished painting #1.
Kekai showing his favorite animal cu

Kekai's painting #2:
more color mixing and etching on canvas

We also made fun crazy cut-out animals with scrape pieces of paper and marker pens. When you hang out with little kids all they want to do is play! I had such a fun time. I can't wait to go back and do it again.

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Saturday, October 22, 2016

Floating Heliconia #6

Floating Heliconia 18" x 24" 

Floating Heliconia continues my tradition of painting bizarre plants inspired from my yard and neighborhood. Part of my thing is I am not a realist--in any sense of the word! In this case, meaning I can only paint things that look like their counterpart in the physical realm with a lot of grunt and effort. Painting then becomes un-fun very quickly. So, I paint my weird interpretations of what I see 'out there' filtered through the lens of my inner eye.
I had a lot of fun painting the marks on this canvas. I was attached and didn't want to cover them up. I had outlined many large heliconia leaves so I had a good excuse to show-off all my cool marks. The overall feel was crowded and out of balance. I slowly, with sighs and resignation covered them up. I did give myself all the little circle shapes as a consolation prize and was able to make some of them part of the heliconia flower and others, floating seedpods. You may have noticed in my paintings (or you will in the future) circles and spirals are some of my favorite shapes to doodle.
Although there is a lot of pale turquoise in the background, I attempted to break it up with texture and some pink paint. I like this painting, I think it is interesting to look at and think about. When I finished it a few years ago I was not so sure how I felt about it. When my neighbor, Judith saw it and said she liked it, I gave it to her. Now it hangs in her house and when I visit I always enjoy saying hello.

On a different note, it has always bugged me that when I did my blog on my second painting Palmz that I didn't have the photo of the early morning sunrise through the palm trees that inspired me. This morning on my way home from checking the surf, (which was wild and pretty junk so I didn't go out) I saw this in my rearview mirror and stopped and took this photo. Feels good to finally have the picture posted.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Cosmic Tree: Painting #5

Cosmic Tree 18" x 24"

The inspiration for Cosmic Tree came from a leaf my cat brought me. "Whaaat, your cat brought you a what?" I know, sounds crazy, but the deal is I have a cat named Mr. Chubbs whose main job in life is to bring us (my husband and me) leaves. From the time Chubs was a year old he would find a leaf in the yard and bring it back to the house yowling the whole way to announce his latest acquisition. He collects a variety of leaves from all over the acre we live on. Today I was finally able to get a picture of him with the leaf in his mouth. Sorry, it's a little blurry but I've been trying to get a picture forever. He usually drops the leaf as soon as he sees me but today I had my phone ready and snuck out, aimed and snapped. It's not a great shot but it'll do. Today's leaf was from an avocado tree. The leaf that inspired my painting was a kukui nut tree leaf.

On the painting, I outlined the leaf shapes on the right and then filled in the background area with the terra-cotta-orangish color, some chartreuse and white. I used my finger to lay on the paint and blend and smear the colors. The long thin shape next to that felt like a tree trunk to me but seemed a little plain. I was inspired to put in little doodle shapes--triangles, lines, dots and suns. I have been a avid doodler since I was a little kid so this spoke to me loud and clear.

The more the painting progressed, the more doodley things happened. I love how free I feel when I am doing these small details. They are not in all my paintings but I feel they are definitely a part of my developing painting style. Not sure how it all fits together but I like these details, the way I am inspired to paint them, and how they look.

I was basically done with the outside areas but the middle was a black hole. Then I saw the face and realized it was a cosmic tree spirit. She is holding a basket of stars and a galaxy, maybe the Milky Way. (BTW, she is a doorway to the Universe. Trees are access points to enter her domain.) Most of her face was already on the canvas, and I just added the eye and the mouth. Once I had her face, her body and her cloak of the universe fell into place. The whole vibe feels very southwest Native American. I am not sure where that came from as I don't really have any connections there. However I received it, I appreciate whoever sent it. It is my favorite painting so far! 

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Diving into the Rest of My Life & Kelly Rae Roberts

Diving into the Rest of My Life  11"x14" wooden board
I've been subscribing to Kelly Rae Unscripted for the past few months. Kelly Rae Roberts is a wonderful mixed media artist, and a lovely person. Her art is a soul-full collage/painting mix of angels or little ladies with great, deep quotes that makes you smile and feel good when you see it. In the Unscripted weekly video she creates a piece of art, all the while chatting about life and things. She is joined most times by her sidekick and office manager, Nicole and her dog Lulu. It is not a painting lesson but more of a "let's hang and create together and be art buddies" kind of experience. During the video I am working right along side her. I made the above piece while my art buddy, Kelly Rae, worked on hers. You can find Kelly Rae at

Queen of My Heart  5"x7" flat canvas

Another little piece I did is called "Queen of my Heart". It is a birthday present for my granddaughter, who just turned 26 years old. This is her in the first grade celebrating her birthday at school. She was queen for a day. It is one of my favorite pictures of her. When I go to the mainland next week I will see her and the family. Can't wait to give it to her. I love sharing art!

The inspiration for Diving into the Rest of My Life came when I was driving to the beach one morning and thinking about retiring. This piece of a quote rolled through my mind, "diving into the rest of my life" and I knew I wanted to use it in my art. Also being inspired by Kelly Rae, I knew I would make a collage and use it on that. So below is the collage part. I put in pictures and words for all the things I want to be doing once I retire.

Diving into the Rest of My Life Collage
Lots of art making, writing, (I'm finishing up 2 books at the present moment: Swims: Adventures with Hawaiian Spinners and Hawaiian Spinner Dolphins. My goal is to finish and publish both by end of 2017, when I retire. I am really close.) photography, sailing, (Norman, my husband, dreams of sailing to all the surf spots in the Pacific Ocean.) surfing, traveling, and living and loving life! I had a lot of fun doing the collage.

Using a black sharpie, I drew the girl diving and waves, bubbles and sun. Then I gessoed over most of it. I got this technique (collage, black sharpie drawing and gesso) from a wonderful and free tutorial for kids on the Internet. I have searched for it but can't find it yet, and don't remember the artist's name. When I find it I will credit her. I put a little too much gesso and covered up more than I really wanted but by the time I figured that out it was already dry. So, I sanded it with fine grit sandpaper and was able to subtly uncover stuff. I added some color, sanded some more and stamped my phrase and words in the bubbles.

Even though you can't really see the collage anymore, I know what's underneath and love looking at my vision of my future each morning when I roll out of bed.