There are all kinds of art. Painting, sculpture, singing, writing, acting, architecture. All of these consist mainly of a set of skills combined with a desire to explore or show the world in a certain way.
I am not particularly good at any of them. I can draw a cat that looks like a cat if I have to, but it isn’t my strong point.
And, I’m realizing, that doesn’t preclude me from being an artist. Just like so much of what I enjoy in the world are combinations of things, the way images are arranged or layered, can be a work of art.
This is where collage, mosaic, and assemblage come in. The arrangement and layering of paper, images, and objects as a work of art that explores the way the artist sees the world.
To me, it feels more like playing with tinker-toys. I find bits I can manipulate and put them together to make something pleasing to my eye that says, well, whatever I want it to say. And, for want of a better word, I will call it art.
I have learned something absolutely new from my friend Ruth Inman. She has found a way to re-use acrylic paints that dry on the palette.
Back when I first started painting, I was dismayed to learn that acrylics, unlike watercolors, become plastic once they have dried. Adding more water doesn’t dissolve them back into paint. This means that once that acrylic is on the palette, you need to use it, or throw it out. For my frugal self, this was bad news. But Ruthie discovered a way to make use of this dried paint.
First, prepare a background for your piece with acrylic paints. Any color combination that is complementary to the colors on your palettes will be fine. Let that dry.
Next, choose a few plastic palettes with good layers of acrylics on them. I use plastic food lids, so they sit around a lot and get re-used. Give the palette a spray of water. Make it wet, even a bit puddly, and let it sit for about 10 minutes, until it starts to wrinkle.
Using your fingernail or palette knife, gently ease the edges of the paint layer up. If it is a nice thick layer, it should peel up in one “skin”. But even if it tears a bit, it is useful.
If the skin is too big for your purpose, use your fingers to tear the skin into smaller bits. Look at both sides of the skin; the prettiest may be on the bottom.
While the bits of skin are still sticky and wet, press them down onto the background. Press firmly, but don’t worry if the edges are not all flat. The raised frills add dimension. They will stick once they have dried.
The trick to this sort of art is not to get fixated on what you intend the picture to be. The leaves of red flower on the yellow background was going to be a bit of landscape, but looked more like leaves. I turned it ninety degrees and added the flower.
These flowers looked better apart, so got trimmed and put on cards.
The irregular and colorful nature of the skins lends itself to flowers and leaves, but could also work as feathers for birds or maybe even mountains and landscapes.
I am happy with the results and will keep experimenting.
When I was teaching, we talked a lot about creating ”life-long learners. In talking with the students I have kept in touch with, I see that I was mostly successful. And I was very successful in becoming one myself.
Since I have been retired, I have had lots of time to learn new things.
I have studied the histories of Paris and Portland, The Monarchs of France and England, How to write mysteries, and The history and structure of Broadway Musicals..
The inspiration to learn something new can come from anywhere. A random “Why on Earth…?” can lead me down a internet and library rabbit hole for a week or more.
And sometimes the inspiration comes from you, Liza. Our Sunday Evening Art Zooms give me reason to draw something I normally wouldn’t, and stretch me a bit.
I have drawn Anime characters while you told me their stories and then drawn a robot and then made up a story about him. And everytime, I learn something new about faces, or color, or composition.
This has been a good week for figuring stuff out. Whether that is because of the new brain exercises I have been doing or not, I think I will keep up with them. A happy brain makes a happy Grandma Judy.
Drawing pictures with my non-dominant hand has made my whole body work harder. My left hand is figuring out how to hold a pencil, my right hand makes a fist, thinking she should be doing something, and my brain works overtime, making sense of the whole situation. It just seems to wake everything up!
This week I have gone on more walks. The sudden sunshine after weeks of rain is part of the reason, of course. Blinding sunshine through winter trees is just good for the soul.
But there’s more! For the Art Journal, I have made art I really like. Mapping my day as a board game and planning my ‘dream houses’ (yes, there are more than one!) have kept me happily introspective.
I have also figured out how to re-write my blogs so they can be printed. I sigh big sighs as I hunt up photos from years ago and cuddle up close to the feelings that they conjure.
All of these are good things. Art, writing, figuring things out, and sunshine. I am enjoying them, but also very aware that I am using them as emotional armor against what seems like an approaching storm in our country. In the coming weeks, I am going to need all the joy I can get.
The funny thing about making art is that you never know exactly what a piece is going to be before you finish it, and you don’t know when it will be done until it suddenly is. The artistic process, if you let it, causes you to make choices about ‘what comes next’ that are surprising.
My ‘ Islands’ are a case in point. They started with watercolor splodges, and evolved into painted, intentional pieces. “Tim’s Island” , for my fishing-loving brother, was one of these.
Then, because of a misunderstood suggestion from Elaine, I painted Hawaii’s Big Island on fabric. I liked it, but needed a little something more, so I embroidered a bit. I liked it even more.
My next island, Tom Sawyer’s, also got painted on fabric, but in a more abstract, topographical style. Besides the stitches to show trees and peaks, it also needed something extra, so I added waves.
I think my next island will be bigger, so I can show more detail. I am hoping to paint Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, complete with Billy Bones’s hideout.
As the Corona shut down continues into summer, the world outside continues to get more beautiful day by day. We have had an unusually cool summer so far in Portland. I remember our first summer here, with temperatures of 111 degrees for a few days, and am grateful that we are enjoying mostly mid-70s . This, plus a few random showers, have made the flowers very happy.
Being inside most of the time, I have tried my hand at water coloring different types of flowers. I started with daisies and moved onto sunflowers, shading them with colored pencils as needed. The other day I found a great picture of some coneflowers online, and worked to paint them.
I was pleased with my first attempt, and am working on my second. The slight tremor in my right hand isn’t getting in my way as much as I expected and I am feeling more confident.
Then yesterday, or our way to the market, we met this fabulous specimen! A real, live coneflower! I took her picture and will use it for my next attempt.
Art imitating life imitating art imitating life….. It’s a perfect cycle.
In March, for my birthday, you and your family came up to help me keep a long-overdue promise to MY parents, to put their ashes into the ocean. We all drove over the mountains to Seaside, made a sand castle, and placed them in it. High tide would take them where they wanted to be.
I started baking with more skill, with new equipment and confidence.
The summer came, and fall…
In September we took the train to Vancouver, BC, and Seattle, Washington, and enjoyed what those cities had to offer.
Auntie Bridgett kept painting, working hard as a member of SideStreet Arts.
This year also saw the young people growing into wonderful ‘older’ people. Cousins Kyle and Jasper got to know each other and became buddies, bonding over Dungeons and Dragons and video games.
As for me, I am still working on my story. It has grown from being a story about a CITY to being a story about a girl living IN a city.
I never knew writing a book was so complicated, but I am learning, and I think that as long as I take time and don’t give up, it has promise.
Last year, I kept my promise to my parents. Maybe this year, I can keep my promise to me.
This weekend we got to meet some more Portland artists!
Auntie Bridgett and I walked through a light rain to Dona White’s house and met her, Kass Battin and Bobby Mathews, and had a wonderful chat while enjoying their art. The art looked especially fine hanging against the bright wallpapers.
Dona White paints in many styles; abstracts, figures, and a wild, fun Impressionism.
Bobby Mathews paints people, animals and country scenes with a light, humorous style. Some are taken from old family photos and others from visits to farms that surround the Portland are.
Kass Battin is a woman after my own heart, a quilter. She and I chatted for quite a while about sewing machines (she has a fine Bernina) and fabric shops ( we share our love of Cool Cottons). I loved her use of bright colors contrasted with black and white prints.
We enjoyed our visit very much, and headed out into the nearly clearing skies and made it home in time for lunch.