Playing Around

Dear Liza,

With the weather being so nice and sunny, I have not been making art as much as I did when it was cold. My creative juices have been working to decide what to plant in the allotment. I have even re-designed my garden plot. Here is my new idea, with veggies planted in bunches instead of rows.

New plan for the allotment

But this morning, I got inspired. I wanted to make a flower in a different way, without actually painting a flower. I had gotten inspired by watching Ruth Inman make backgrounds using acrylic paints and old credit cards.

First, I cut a stem, a rose, and leaves from heavy paper and glued them down to the page. Once they dried, I dabbed some yellow, white and blue acrylic paint around. I wasn’t too fussy about where the dabs were.

Then I took an old credit card and used it like a palate knife, scraping the paint around a bit. This mixed the blue, yellow and white together to make some interesting new greens.

I liked the way it looked, but it needed more.

As I put more paint down and scraped it around, I began to despair. It got too dark! It lost the definition of the stem and leaves!

But when I hate a picture, I keeping working until I don’t hate it anymore. I got more delicate and laid in a bit of red and pink for the rose, using a small corner cut from the card for better control.

Better….

I was liking it better, but it wasn’t done. I knew it needed more but I had gotten wary. Was I just going to make it worse? I stepped away for a while. We had dinner and worked on the new jigsaw puzzle.

Close up of the chaotic, joyous effect!

I was in pajamas by the time I figured out what was needed. I pulled out the art supplies and worked for about five minutes, laying down a scraped bit of white here and there around the leaves. Now I liked it.

I really enjoy this new way of painting! It is unpredictable and surprises me with colors and textures. One color will cover another, or reveal it, and it makes my eyes sing. I love staring at a picture I painted and seeing things I didn’t expect.

Who knew?

Love,

Grandma Judy

Stepping Away from the Map…. For Now

Dear Liza,

A little over a week ago, I pulled out an old project to work on. It is a map of Portland done in appliqué and embroidery. I have been adding and adding, trying to recreate the intricacy I see in my head, on the fabric.

The East Side

Oregon Poet William Stanford was once asked, “How do you know when to stop editing?” He replied, “When it stops feeling creative.”

And that’s where I am, for now, with my map. In the last ten days I have added dozens of buildings, streets, and trees. I have gotten braver and freer with embroidery. I even think I know what I want to do with the river.

The West Hills, Downtown and the Willamette River

But it has stopped feeling creative. I feel like I am adding in desperation, thinking this next tree will make the difference. And it just isn’t. So I will set it aside again for a while and come back to it later, with fresh eyes.

Mouse likes to be right in the middle of the creative process!

That ‘later’ may be next week or next year. But it will be waiting for me.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Layers and Layers (Part 2)

Dear Liza,

The other day I decided to see just how loosely I could start a picture. The only decision I made was ‘blue’ and ‘circles’.

I swished these down and and left them to dry. An hour later when I came back, they looked pale and flat. I gave them some darker swooshes, and, while they were damp, some splatters of plain water.

Seeing that my scheme was working, I headed to the kitchen and collected my circular implements of art…. a shot glass, a tiny bowl, a bit of Tupperware…. and a tube of chapstick.

Once the paper was completely dry, I started tracing circles in dark blue water color pencil. I wanted to lay down colors in layers, so no black. Yet.

The tracing needs a steady hand, and I did a lot of drawing, stopping, and staring. I wanted it to be interesting but not chaotic, balanced but not symmetrical. I wasn’t trying to make planets, or wheels, or anything, really. Just interesting and pleasing to my eye.

I added a few more circles, the. realized it needed contrast, so some pink and fuchsia came out of the pencil box.

It was going in a good direction. But it was still too pale. Now was the time to get the black out. Auntie Bridgett gave me a size 005 micron pen, and I used it for details.

I think I am almost there…. some more black and maybe some white to pop out a bit, maybe.

I love art! After thirty years of classroom teaching and having to be absolutely sure about everything, it is nice to say “ I don’t know how that’s going to turn out” and be okay with it.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Layers and Layers (Part 1)

Dear Liza,

As I typed that title, I thought of how I am dressing nowadays, and making the bed: Layers and layers. We have had very cold nights and may even get snow tomorrow! But that’ s not what I’m writing about today.

Cool diagonal lines at the beach…

I am still learning about how to make pictures look like I want. I will usually start with some idea or shape I am inspired by.

Plus circles!

Or sometimes I just throw down some color or lines, and go from there.

One of last week’s Art Journal challenges was “Circles”, which I love. I took the diagonal lines of the abstract photo from The Coast last week and added pinkish circles. I liked it!

Better…

But when I looked again a few days later, it looked unfinished. It needed contrast. So I filled in the spaces with blue and black, and I like it better now. It might be done. Maybe. Are the planets dark enough, or should they be filled in?

I’ll let you know when I know. More about layers tomorrow!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Seeing Things Differently

Dear Liza,

There is nothing like art to change your world. I don’t necessarily mean it changes the world on the outside, although that could be nice.

Shapes and reflections in Van Gough

I’m talking about when looking at art changes the way you see the world in general. Spend an hour or so in an art museum, staring at shapes and shadows and reflections. Then go outside, and what do you see? More shapes and shadows and reflections, art forming from reality right in front of your eyes.

It is wondrous, and it has happened to me many times.

Shales and reflections in a town square

Making art is a newer experience, but it has the same effect of altering my observation. It’s like my brain has created a new network that allows me to connect different parts, seeing a new whole.

My creation, “Paradisi Crow”

A few weeks ago I made a collage based on Julianna Paradisi’s “Quickened Towards all Celestial Things”. I wanted the shape of the crow to be just right, so I cut a prototype out of cheap paper and then traced that onto card stock for the collage.

Just being a crow…..

Then I had this perfectly good template. Just sitting there. Being a crow.

I kept looking at it over a few days, knowing I wanted to use it but not knowing how. Over the last however-many-months of quarantine I have learned that if I take my time, the right idea will come. Finally, it did.

Starting with watercolors and working up to acrylics, I laid down some patches of color and then used an old toothbrush to flick paint, layer by layer, around my crow stencil. It took days, flicking and staring and adjusting. And last night, it was finished. The background layers of crow silhouettes became dense enough just as the built-up speckles on the crow became dark enough. So I glued the crow in her final position, and …. done.

I wish now that I had taken pictures of each stage, but I think I was afraid of jinxing the process. This sort of creation is still new enough to me that it feels like a delicate magic.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Orange

Dear Liza,

A few weeks ago I painted a bunch of bright orange cards. I have never really cared for orange, but with the skies dark from forest fire smoke, I needed the brightness.

My first ORANGE!

And I liked it! Orange is a bright, cheerful, aggressively happy color. How had I not seen this before?

I discovered my love of orange just in time. Ruth Inman’s friend Jody Tockes ran a class where we used torn paper to make a sunflower. And guess what? More orange!

And this week, Ruth is running an “Art Journal” class, and I got inspired. Of course, the class isn’t until tomorrow, but I felt the need to get an early start.

First layers of crayon and watercolor wash…

As usual in watercolor, I was disappointed by my first layer. It looked pale and boring. But Picasso said that unless you hate a piece somewhere in the middle, you will never make something you love. So I kept at it.

More crayons and watercolor…

I got some purple in and laid in some more layers, and liked how it was looking. I decided it needed some words, so I browsed magazines for whatever seemed appropriate.

And words….

As always with art, I’d do a little, walk away, then come back and see what it needed next. I fiddled a little bit more and was done. But that’s okay! There are lots more pages in the book!

Love,

Grandma Judy