Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Our Wee Organic Harvest

A planned meeting for our Organic Community Garden provided us to reap some of what we've sewn. Don't worry, we didn't come with big boxes to fill up. We have 2 teeny 2 x 8 raised beds and, to be honest, we've not pampered them.

So following our meeting (grief, meetings are all alike, no matter if they are with artists or with gardeners, aren't they?) . . . anyway, we huddled around our lil plots, viewing our harvest. You've heard me comment on this year being a rather "weird" year for growing things. And we received some consolation in that none of the other, more seasoned (sorry for the pun) gardeners have had any better luck.

I do have to say, the whole Community Garden looks lovely. The flowers and greenery are flourishing. Yep, our flowers too (the Coreopsis and Marigolds to ward of insects) are so happy. But then, you turn to our sorry tomato plants, eggplant (hey, we have ONE blossom!) and pathetic basil. Our tomatoes have sunburned sides, diagnosed by our peers, as not having enough foliage to protect them. In fact, most of our garden was meekly leafed. I believe we need more Potassium for foliage . . . but it may be too late this year.

But we cheerfully brought home a dandy colander full of gorgeous color. If nothing else, I'll use this image for a fun still life sometime. Aren't Mother Nature's colors unbelievable? Roland dug out the basil plants and they are drying upside down in the garage for pesto etc. Our yellow tomatoes are sweetly delicious (we wondered if they contain any lycopene - since they are not red?) and we've not yet sampled our jalapenos. You'd laugh at our sole Pablano pepper - it's not even big enough to stuff. We left her on the plant - remaining hopeful :)

So it's been an adventure . . . isn't life just yummy with all these things to sample?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

A Journal Vantagepoint followed by PleinAir Workshop

Now I hope you won't be bored, so I'll make this entry brief. I've finally caught up my journal and it, of course, had to contain images from that story of one of my sweetest days of recent. You know the one, August 15th (see previous post) with the title, "Breakfast with Fairies, then Tomato Harvest"? Well, here's my journal version of that . . . and

. . . the recent Plein Air Painting Workshop I did in concert with Silvia Trujillo is on the opposite page. This is one of my participants who has fallen into love with my favorite "Thalo Blue by Schmincke". She pushed to dark value in her piece pretty much just using that pigment ~ its juicy rich!

Then, there was this charming frog too, who entertained us sitting on this stone. He crawled up and basked in the sun, using his big toes to gently clean and polish his face. Just like we'd been invited into his home . . . well, guess that is where we were!

So, for now I'm caught up . . . but we know . . . life and visual journals never end . . .

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Nights on the Town

Funny how the definition of this phrase changes when your focuses change. It used to be that a "night on the town" was wild, often blurry and barely remembered whereas now, it's beautifully in focus, sensitively felt and a memory I want to savor.

So my journal now gets to hold such fine reminiscences. One such evening, I'd made mention to my hubby, an intriguing sounding talk at the nearby Rogue Gallery in Medford. It was an African gentleman who's written and illustrated children's books. But what interested me more was that he'd done all his illustrations first in ceramic form, some in clay pots, some on flat tiles. We voted to go and hopped into the car an early evening and arrived in time at the gallery to tour the current show that was up. It was "Dancing with the Muse" and had some very fascinating pieces.

I especially was impressed with what the new director had chosen to do to improve the display and presentation in the gallery. Not only did it look more professional, but it seemed to have grown in spaciousness with the changes. The display of our guest speaker, including his ceramic ware and his wide variety of children's books were a joyful collection. African art is so straight forward and playful, how could it not adapt to children's books perfectly. Bubba Wagua's presentation was more educational than I'd anticipated. He included tales of how and where he was raised, Africa, France and finally the U.S. in addition to history and geography of his village in Africa. Following the tender and funny stories he sweetly read from his books, the slide show he presented taught us that Timbuktu (what we Americans use to infer a "nowhere" land) really was, and still somewhat is, a bustling trade center between Egypt and the Mideast. I don't know if it was his intoxicating African accent or the magic of his stories, but I could have listened to him all night.

Now I'll divulge the wilder evening on the town. All summer we'd talked about adding more live music to our life and finally, come August 5th (hey, the summer isn't quite over) we did. We agreed to meet friends at the Eden Vale Winery (also the grounds of the lovely Voorhies Mansion) for their weekly free Thursday music night. This evening presented the powerful and award winning local blues singer, Karen Lovely. We arrived a tad early, and good thing, as the tables with sun shading canopies were all already taken. We positioned ourselves with a nice view of the stage and nested in to indulge in the Eden Vale food offerings. We shared a chicken salad and a salmon en croit. Both pleasant for a winery menu. Mid-meal Karen took the stage and began warming up the crowd. She's brassy, balls-ey with an incredibly beautiful "Janis Joplin/Bonnie Raitt" voice.

Because this was a family venue, there were numerous groups, some families, other groups celebrating birthdays etc. We were seated near the group celebrating a birthday and of course, the aunts and uncles brought their wee ones. Some were all over the dance floor but, there was one adorable lil' dancer who choose her dance floor right next to us. In her pretty, pink and white polka dot dress she swayed and twirled ~ sending smiles across the audience. I couldn't resist sketching her. I have to admit my friend actually did get me up on the dance floor too. Its been awhile since I bounced and swirled around a dance floor - - but honestly, it really did feel good.

And that's about as wild as it gets . . . sorry to disappoint those of you looking for a racy story. But my life is more filled with simple joys that happen on a daily basis. And I find that very satisfying :)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

My Process at Plein Air Workshop, Start to Finish

Just to give you an idea of how I work in a Plein Air situation . . . I've show a sampling of the two pieces from the recent Plein Air Workshop at Lithia Springs Resort in Ashland.

The first image I chose was of this ivory gazebo. I am constantly attracted to high contrast . . . so you can see the dark background furnishing that perfect subject for me. I wanted to portray the gazebo in the focal area so it was going to catch sunshine and I moved a red rosebush (sorry gardeners, it's an artists privilege) over to the right corner of the steps. I'm thinking, "compliments against the green foliage" and use my wax crayons to sketch them into place. You also can see some of the white wax crayon indications on the edges of the aspen trees where they catch high lights and some dark purple wax crayon in the deep shadows at the base of the gazebo. These serve as great reminders of my original value study (which you can see the corner of in the top left)! The Aureolin Yellow includes my foreground area and bright yellow areas that I want to glow through other pigments that I will layer with. I've also added an imagined shadow in the foreground to lead you into the painting and create dark/light/dark progressions from bottom to top.

As I work on the piece, I add variation in shape and add dark value pigment colors in the shadows. I fill in details of the flowers and sharpen the architectural edges in the building. One of the final things I do is bounce around the entire painting adding color accents to help balance all the color over the entire piece. I mean, there really is no reason why there is red sprinkled in that aspen tree in the foreground . . . other than I like it there. Again, isn't it fun having the artists' prerogative?

Don't worry, I did not finish this on site the first day. I got to the initial stage above (working, perhaps 30 minutes after I had the drawing done) and then, took the piece home to spend about 3 - 3 1/2 more hours on it. Finally feeling it was complete.

The following day, my vision was of this more complex pond/bridge scene. I'd planned for sun to play lots of different darks and lights for me - - but, remember, it was a cloudy day. So I set to accent the color rather than the value. You notice in both 'starts', I tend to get basic planes determined with yellow, then blue (of course, saving exaggerated whites) and then, move into exaggerating the darks. I have to say, that is what starts getting me excited (remember, I'm a contrast junkie!). And I usually just start bounding around adding bold colors. But in the case of the a demo, I stop to work with the other participants and really don't get much farther. I just have to get back into that 'zone' of reacting back and forth between the painting and my palette and the magic takes over again.

But you can see, I've not ventured there - yet - with my second day's painting. I believe I will take it in to the Ashland Studio for our upcoming Ashland First Friday Artwalk, September 3rd, and work it there, right before your very eyes. So, come watch if you like. Otherwise, I'll post it here, once she's done.

And now, go out and give the out-of-doors a visit for your plein air experience. Remember, it can be just as much about being in the beauty and marvel of nature as it is about creating a painting. Enjoy the experience . . .

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Plein Air Workshop

At first, I approached this weekend with some trepidation . . . not because of the new students nor the spontaneous on-site painting, but because of the 100 degree plus temperatures that had been predicted for these two days. But the five of us, four watercolor participants and myself, showed up with brushes in hand anyway.

First, we toured the lovely, cool (at that time) grounds projecting where we'd comfortably locate and what we'd like for subject matter. As best we could we considered where and how the sun would move during the day so as not to get placed in direct sun! I'd chosen the shade of the buildings, looking across at the contrast-y white gazebo against the lush shadowed greens (you know I'm a fan of strong contrast!) for my demo. I got the basic yellows and blues, to separate the foreground and background, then started going very dark (can't help myself).

The remainder of the day was traveling around from each working artist to artist. Each of them worked diligently and I'd make suggestions, but mostly compliments. These artists were all invested in their work and some launching into Plein Air for their first time. And they did a darn good job! I was honored, in that one of them was even a watercolor instructor . . . I wondered what could I teach him . . . but I just have learned to trust the Universe with her wisdom in the out comings of all (well, almost all) things.

We all worked til just around 12:30pm, when we'd agreed to stop and meet for lunch and a short sharing. Just at the moment one of the resorts sprinklers turned on and spattered two of my participants. That certainly put an end to their painting sessions and we dabbed them off and got settled into a dry spot for the gentle critique/sharing.

Most everyone realized something positive and individual about their perspective and what they brought to their painting. Some were gutsy with color, some were meek and sensitive with delicate washes and others were bold with new pigments. All brave souls who ventured into new experiences and still had some time to put in to complete their pieces . . . but successful in their efforts! And you know, we didn't even notice the day starting to heat up til around 1:30. We'd beat the heat, at least for Saturday!

Next morning, Sunday, Mother Nature had blessed us with cloud cover, keeping the morn near chilly. I was grateful and optimistic for the day ahead. With a smaller group than the previous day, the group was more intimate and located within each others site. This time, I wanted to let the artists get settled into their chosen positions and start their sketches. This way I could assist with suggestions and/or ideas early on. Once they a "beginning" down, I called them over for my brief demo. I'd chosen the canna flowers in front of the white bridge crossing the pond.
This more quiet day, blanketed by cooling clouds seemed to magnify the nature around us. Or was it we were more attuned to it the second day. Around the pond we watched the miracle of these water lilies, puckered tightly in a bud when we first got settled, opening moment by moment wide into these magnificent blossoms!!

Later in the day, as some blue sky began to poke out thru the clouds, we noticed this giant frog! First he was hiding in the reeds, but later, provided us picturesque shots. Like this one next to the lily pads and the real tender sight of him later, opening up his padded little toes to rub his face like he was smoothing his cheek. He was fascinating! Have I told you about my fondness for frogs? Well, perhaps that's another post.

Because we were such a small, intimate group, we decided there was no need for a critique. We'd pretty much spent the day watching one another's progress already. So, casually we munched our lunches and then gathered up our workings.
It was rather sadly sweet to end the weekend, having felt like we'd woven this sweet little painters community in just these few hours.

It set me to pondering what it would be like to live in an artists community like so many artist legendaries have . . . now wouldn't THAT be magical? Think about it . . .

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Breakfast with Fairies, then Tomato Harvest

I coaxed Roland along on my early morn visit to the place I'm teaching my Plein Air Painting Class in tandem with Silvia Trujillo this weekend. I wanted to preview the light and the different possible painting images at 8:30am. So ahead of the class time, I'd have an idea what to recommend for sites and know what image I wanted to demo.

So we arrived when the air was cool and the lawn moist from early morn waterings. I got some very inviting shots and material for participant suggestions, then we were off for a treat.

Roland loves to eat breakfast out . . . well, I'm more of a protein drink so I can get on with my day girl. So today, we luxuriated in an Ashland breakfast out at The Morning Glory Restaurant. I'd heard it raved about so had some expectations but was overjoyed at the atmosphere especially! It's an old historic house just across from the university (OSU) and is jammed with a lively, young energy. The architecture and the vivid murals dancing all over the walls was energizing. Not only were the colors fun but the quality and imagination of whomever the artist was ~ was amazing. Just sample the close-ups here! Aren't they a delight?
Now I have to admit the food and service were fabulous too (what an inventive menu) but, to me the atmosphere created by the artistic surrounds was what fascinated me most! But, you know us artists types? ! ? ! We couldn't even eat half our our huge serving size breakfasts and piled the other half in the doggie box (and actually became the makings of our entire dinner).

On the way home, we pass our lil' organic garden plot in the Blue Heron Park and actually harvest some of our very first tomatoes. Our raised plots seem to be slower for growing when compared to the ground plots. In fact, the flowers, marigolds and coreopsis are flourishing. But peppers, squash, basil and eggplants are tiny . . . with a few blossoms :( Oh, well, we never claimed to be successful farmers - but we're learning. So we surely are going to enjoy our beautiful first harvest tomatoes.

Aren't some days just so delicious you look back at them and smile? Hope you're having lots of those kind of days . . .

Thursday, August 12, 2010

My Dream Comin' True!

Ok, you all know how passionate I am about my sketchbook/journaling, right? Well, the biggest reason I teach is to sprinkle around the joy, value and personal rewards available when one chooses to express this way. So when I get this kind of email from a peer artist, with this comment, it makes me jump for joy!

"You've inspired me to start my own journal. I checked out a book from the library on how to keep a sketchbook journal and read a lot of it today. I bought a new small sketchbook 5.5 x 8.5 and experimented with drawing flowers in watercolor pencils ... very fun! It's my first time using watercolor pencils and just a plain ol' pencil is my favorite medium.

Thanks for being an inspiration to me."

The even greater degree of compliment for me, is that Wendy is an accomplished artist and freelance illustrator-graphic artist in her own right. Born and raised on a ranch in Lake County California and acquiring her BA Degree from the Academy of Art University. Her inspiration comes from the psychedelic era of the sixties and art nouveau. She's shown with Lee Conklin, Wes Wilson and Stanley Mouse and has clients like the San Francisco Public Library, AARP Bulletin and several Festival Organizations.

To move an artist like this along to a new endeavor, I'm quite thrilled. Well, it's actually beyond thrilled . . . it's watching my dream come true of stewarding individuals to become more acutely aware of their world, to appreciate who they are and the stories of their lives and just to be more conscious and creative. So, in a more deep way Wendy, I have to say, "My hats off to you for taking on an endeavor that will really uplift humanity by you becoming an even more aware human being!!!"