I started painting this spring. It made sense to paint flowers because are a pleasant, familiar image and, the way I did them, pretty simple. I had not realized that I was painting flowers BECAUSE it was spring. (Yes, sometimes I am a little dense.)
This weekend I looked back at my paintings as the seasons shifted. Even when not working from a seasonal prompt, the pictures kept progressing.
And the latest batch have accidentally proven my point. My spring flowers have given way to frozen landscapes. I have not set out, in most of these pieces, to make a picture of the season. I sit down, look my paints, and pick what appeals to me. I guess my brain is more connected to the wet, dark Oregon winter than I thought. Winter has certainly arrived, and I am feeling it heavily this year.
Maybe today I will try and find spring again, if only in my art, and paint a flower. Or would that would be out of synch, like wearing shorts in the snow?
I am not sure. I have had such fun just painting what comes to mind, I don’t want to irritate the Muse. I’ll see what happens today, I guess.
When I was starting to paint this year, my goal was to make something look like I wanted, making the picture on the paper match the one in my head. I practiced with flowers and faces, going literally from finger painting to things that mostly looked… right.
And now that I can do that, I am experimenting more. The circle cutter Auntie Bridgett loaned me has been my latest toy. I love circles, and am enjoying grouping them together, layering them, and even painting over them.
This week I started with some orange and blue watercolor, then lay down some softly colored circles. It sort of looked like sunset-y clouds. To make it look even cloudier, I put white acrylic paint on very softly with a textured meat tray. It was pretty, but what if…..?
I wanted to keep going with the layers. This is where I am noticing my change in attitude. Instead of thinking “what if I mess this up?”, I realize that so far I have invested a few hours of quarantine time, some old magazines, and a tablespoon of paint. So if I mess it up, NO BIG DEAL.
So I lay on another meat tray textured layer of blue, then a few more circles. I loved the layers and texture, and it was starting to whisper to me as to what it could be. Instead of making the picture in my head first, I was letting it lead me along.
I softened the colors with a bit of white acrylic and added a “hillside”of white tissue paper. The pink circle was in the right place to be a setting sun, but it needed to be more orange. A circle cut from a tea box fixed that.
After staring at what had become a snowy hillside at sunset, I saw that it needed some silhouetted trees. I studied other folks’s work and Auntie Bridgett gave me some pointers, and I went for it. After putting in some close up trees and some further away, adjusting my sky color and putting in some shadows, I am pretty happy with it….. for now. I’ll go do something else and have a look later.
So I guess my lesson of the week is to not limit myself as to “just” the pictures I see in my head. The ones that emerge on the paper can be so much more!
We have a lot of birds in Portland, but our most visible and noisy feathered friends are the crows. They are comfortable around people and don’t mind sharing our snacks or their opinions.
There is a healthy flock (called a ‘murder’, in crow jargon) in our Lone Fir Cemetery, and a lady who comes to feed them every afternoon. She says she doesn’t know if she is their queen or their slave.
All this avian beauty is inspiring! I have photographed dozens of crows, and other artists have honored them, as well. Julianna Paradisi, a Portland artist, created the wonderful “Quickened Towards all Celestial Things” in 2018. That same year, I photographed it at the Artbar downtown.
Browsing old photos for inspiration yesterday, I found it again and hoped to reimagine it as a collage. I must admit, in my “I’m not an artist” days, I had assumed that artists just picked up a brush or pair of scissors and ‘whoosh!’ Art happened. But during my ‘quarantine art education’, I have learned there is a lot of making mistakes, starting over, and just keeping at something until it looks right.
This crow took many sketches and lots of staring and trimming before I was happy with it. Cut out of black card stock, it joined magazine clippings, the remainder of a few envelopes, and just enough paint to make it interesting.
My friend Ruth Inman gave us an odd list of things for our mixed media challenge this week. Threads pulled from fabric. Large envelopes. And a ‘page extender’, a flap or a fold-out section to make the page bigger.
As usual, I read the list before bed, so my brain could be working on it while I was asleep. I have a very self-motivated. brain, I guess, because when I woke up I knew just what to do.
Since I have been obsessed with trees lately, that’s where I headed. I drew a hillside with watercolor pencils and pulled some threads from some grey and brown fabric and slowly built a winter tree trunk and bare branches. This was tricky, because after a while the thread wanted to stick to my glue-y fingers instead of the paper, but I slowed down and got it all where I wanted it. I love how it looks and feels. Very nubbly and bark-Ish.
Next, I taped down a flap that would be the Fall part of the tree, and started putting on the orange and brown leaves. I used crumpled pages from magazines and an old Manila envelope.
Wintry tree with Fall flap
I realized that my tree was going to be pretty stumpy on top, so I taped yet another flap on and kept adding leaves until I was happy with the height. I needed to leave a slight gap so the page could fold.
Of course, a taller tree needed taller branches, so more threads got added to the Wintry tree. This sort of unexpected drift of a project can be frustrating, but is also exciting and fun, adjusting to what is needed.
This project ended up taking longer than I thought, because I had to wait for layers of glue and paint to dry, and having two flaps instead of one! Here is a picture to show how it is put together.
This website won’t post videos, but I have put one on my Judy Drueding Facebook page to show how the flaps open up. Go take a look! And if you don’t do Facebook, write me a comment and I’ll send it to you.
Learning and doing new things is a wonderful way to stay young. Doing the Art Journal challenge with Ruth Inman every week is making me be a better artist, too.
This week I decided to use the mixed media items (address labels, box tops, and can labels) to make a picture that wasn’t about the collage. Let me explain.
I have usually made collages where the paper itself is the feature. The Tootsie Roll wrappers in my bouquet, though bright and fun, never looked like anything other than what they were.
My new challenge was to make a real picture using collage bits. Since I am getting better at faces (by practicing a lot), I decided to draw a face with watercolor pencils, then build the environment with collage.
Once I got the basic proportions in, I built my cityscape background from junk mail. I made them very vertical so they looked like tall buildings. Auntie Bridgett showed me how to make the perspective.
Then came the hard part, making the face. Auntie Bridgett suggested making my character monochromatic, or all one color. I chose blue.
The more I drew, the more I liked it. Shading cheekbones and eye sockets is something that definitely takes practice! Putting in sky and what I thought was a street made it more ‘real’.
He needed a face, so I made eyes out of box tops and junk mail, with eyebrows from address labels, and lips, mustache and goatee from security envelopes.
His hair is made from address labels, with a little black acrylic sponged on to make it more uniform in color. I kept liking it, so I put some details in the background with an Elegant Writer and a few clouds to give perspective.
Looking again, I realized the ‘street’ really looked like an overcoat, so I put in some lapels. And voila! I call him Georges, because he looks French, stylish, and a bit paranoid. I hope when you see this, you will try making a collage picture, too!
I have been practicing drawing faces. My first one was Frankenstein, who is pretty easy. I mean, he’s make believe, and already dead, so that helps. Faces of people who aren’t make-believe or dead are harder.
I will show you my other faces, if only so you will see how difficult they are to get right!
There are proportions that are supposed to be used when drawing a human face. The eyes are halfway between the top of the head and the chin, the bottom of the nose is halfway between the nose and the chin…. someone said these are ‘just guidelines’ but it turns out, if you don’t pay attention, things go really wrong, really fast.
For example, Lips should be human sized, not muppet inspired. These are size 10 lips on a size 6 face, I think. Eyes should … well, I’m not sure what they should do, but these are clearly wrong.
I got frustrated, and took a few days to play with collage, and, following Ruth’s advice, made some backgrounds. I felt better and strong enough to try another face.
Okay, I said, this is better. The eyes still aren’t quite right, but she definitely looks human. There may be hope. I liked her well enough to cut her out and tried placing her on my newly painted backgrounds.
She sort of disappeared into the pink, so I gave her some more shading and tried her in a darker setting. She not only looks human, but also like she is in a place, maybe out for a walk or solving a mystery.
I feel like there is reason for hope and I will continue to practice and learn. Here is my lesson from this: Most things are really hard at the beginning. You will sort of stink for a while. But if you want to get better, don’t give up.
Hello on the day after Election Day. It was a very long, bumpy night.
Yesterday it rained here in Portland, so when Auntie Bridgett and I went to run errands, we drove. In and out, as they say, and no one got wet. Quick like bunnies, we were home.
I had my ZOOM Art group with Ruth Inman, where we experimented with techniques for making backgrounds for pictures. That’s good for me, since I am trying to practice painting human faces and they usually need something to make the picture look finished.
But for now, my most successful “human” picture has been Frankenstein. It needs a background, but I can’t decide what it should me. Maybe a purple sky and a faraway castle in a hill…
After lunch I baked the flag cookies I put together yesterday. Grandpa Nelson wanted pinwheel cookies, but flags seemed better for Election Day. I played with the cookie dough like it was clay and came up with a simplified flag. I could have made them red, white and blue, but I really like the chocolate!
It seems that our across-the way-neighbors have been stress cooking, too. They gave us a pint of yummy apple pear butter, which we swapped for some flag cookies. Thanks, John and Stacy.
Dinner was turkey sandwiches while watching Stephen Colbert’s show from last night. By then the polls were closing back East, so we turned on the news. I had some wine for my jangled nerves, and there was a certain amount of pacing.
The Florida teeter-totter kept my stomach in knots, then let me down completely. Vermont and Maryland, California, Oregon and Minnesota going solidly for Joe helped. We watched Stephen Colbert’s Live Election night special, alternating with CNN’s coverage, keeping track of Senate seats, Presidential electors, and trying, trying, to be patient.
By the time both candidates had over 200 electoral votes and CNN said it would be well into Wednesday before the votes were tallied, it was after 10:00 and time for us to hit the sack.
But my worries woke me up at 1:00 in the morning, and what did I see? Mr. Trump, doing exactly what he said he’d do, declaring victory and insisting that counting any more votes would be ‘stealing’ the election.
This morning, Grandpa Nelson is confident that Mr. Biden will be able to to eke out a victory, if all goes well in Nevada, Wisconsin and Michigan. But then what? We would still be in a country where half our fellow citizens have seen Trump’s lying, ignorance, and denial of human rights, and say, “Yeah, that’s just fine.”
I am sad and disgusted and feel like looking for a new country.
Saturday was Halloween! It was a clear, stunningly bright day, and just a tiny bit chilly. After breakfast and crosswords, Auntie Bridgett and I had some things to do.
First, we drove over to St. Stephen’s Church on SE 41st Street for their Harvest Parade and Food Drive. Grandpa Nelson and I had seen the signs about it the day before on our way to Zach’s Shack, and I really wanted to see kids in costumes.
We chatted with the teachers in charge as a few families began to assemble, gave them our donation for the local food bank, and walked down the block. This time of year makes Portland so pretty! The trees changing, the flowers giving their last blast of color…. it takes my breath away.
As we wandered, a very friendly black cat hopped her fence to come say hello. She rubbed and purred with us until another person came down the sidewalk. “Gotta go, bye!” She seemed to say, and headed off for more pets.
The parade was very low-key, with kids and families organized by grade levels. They had a scavenger hunt of things to look for: black cat (check!) spider webs, pumpkins, and such. Everyone was in costume, but we seemed to be the only non-school people watching. We sat on the corner across from them and waved and clapped, telling everyone how great they looked. Some even waved back!
When I had seen enough happy kids to hold me for a while, we headed to the grocery store. With Election Day coming and Portland tending to over-react to politics, we thought it wise to stock up. We didn’t want to be running out of cream if protesters are out.
The Art Journaling Secrets Unleashed challenge was Orange. I didn’t feel very inspired, to be honest. As much as I have come to appreciate orange this Fall, the color reminds me too much of Mr. Trump’s fake tan. I thought of trying a portrait of him (it would certainly be orange) but I didn’t like the idea of spending all day with someone so unpleasant. So I decided on a collage page, with his silly pumpkin head having a tiny role to play.
We listened to Vince Guaraldi’s soundtrack for “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” and had a quiet afternoon. Dinner was tamales from Safeway, which were tasty, though we still haven’t found reliable, Salinas-quality Mexican food here in Portland.
We played Presidential Trivia and watched Steven Colbert, then Neil Simon’s mystery spoof, “Murder by Death”, and it was time for bed. It was certainly the quietest Halloween I have ever spent, but it was Covid-appropriate.
On Thursday I got to try something I didn’t even know would work. The “Art Journaling Secrets Unleashed” challenge topic was “Candy”. I love candy, but I didn’t want to try and draw a piece of candy; it felt too hard and no fun at all.
We have LOTS of candy around the house, so I looked at the wrappers and decided they looked like flowers. Maybe I could make a collage out of them?
But the wrappers are waxed paper… can you collage with waxed paper? I didn’t find anything about it online, so I just jumped in on my own. Figuring that the main problem was the wax itself, I put the wrappers between layers of an old towel and ironed them to get some of the wax out.
Then I cut out some square bits from miniature Tootsie Rolls, and flowers and leaves from Tootsie Pops and fruit chews, and laid them out to make a vase and bouquet. It looked….. okay.
After lunch, I took another look and realized it needed some context. A place for the vase to sit, a background for it to sit in front of. I was sure happy I hadn’t glued the pieces down yet! Since my flowers were all bright pinks and oranges, I made to table and background cool blue and purple.
Then came the real test: I glued the still- waxy wrappers down, using Modge Podge and a brush, and sure enough, they stuck!
I put in some shading and lines with colored pencils and a micron pen to make the edges stand out more, and I was done. I was pleased and surprised. I learned something new and discovered a whole new set of materials to play with.
Tomorrow’s challenge is “Masks”. That should be fun! Paint, crayons, collage, fabric…. the possibilities are endless. Maybe even candy wrappers. Yum, yum, yum…