Thursday, March 27, 2014

a mass painting update

 I'm really not sure how I forgot to share my paintings all summer (with the exception of some in-process shots of Herb). Okay, here we go. There are prints of most of these available on my Society6 page; please click here if you are interested in purchasing one of them.

Okay, here we go! Above: Study. 16"X20". Oilbar on linen. 2013.

This was never actually meant to be a serious painting. I tore a page I liked out of a magazine, and used it as a practice-work (a study!) to get used to painting again after the two-year hiatus of dissertation-land. I thought this would be a good exercise in loosening up; there was no way my clumsy, chunky oilbars could reproduce the intricate details of the patterns in this kimono-style dress. Well, that exercise didn't exactly work out; instead of loosening up, my type-A obsession with details took over and I didn't exactly produce the impressionistic patter I was hoping for. Oh well. It's still pretty. My husband loves it. =) No prints on this one, sorry; I don't have the rights to this image - as I said, it was never meant to be a serious painting, just a practice. I had no idea it would be so popular.

The Immortal. 24"X30". Oilbar on canvas. 2013.

Norah. 24"X24". Oilbar on canvas. 2013.

A couple of years ago ... years ago ... no ... EIGHT YEARS AGO (how on earth does that happen? Where does the time go?), I painted a portrait of our friends' eldest daughter as a birthday present before we left for California. By the time we got back, they had another daughter, and a third came soon after. I'm not quite caught up yet, but I'm one step closer! No prints on this one; this is just for old friends.

The Poetess (Diaries of a Hedgehog Feminist #1). 24"X30". Oilbar on linen. 2014.

This is the first piece in a series of paintings (there's another below) that I'm making as part of a collaborative project with my friend Amal (who appears above, as the titular Hedgehog Feminist). Amal is a truly gifted poet; her words are by turns graceful, generous, gently teasing, and sharply sardonic. There's a kind of deceptively soft quality in her writing; she can turn a phrase around suddenly and it has TEETH! Or, perhaps, I should say, spikes. By way of introduction to Amal and the project, I included two excerpts from Diaries of a Hedgehog Feminist along with this portrait at my current (until Saturday!) show in Ballard. Wouldn't you like to read them, too? Here, meet my amazing friend, via her words:

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Someone asked me: “Why do you write in English? “For practical reasons,” I replied. “My Arabic has the grammar of hip-hop and the syntax of short compositions. My Hebrew is academic and aggressive— perfect for filling tax-forms and answering security questions. I save my Spanish for reading love poems and revolutionary manifestos. And my rusty Italian has enough vocabulary to order an espresso and compliment a man.”

Monday, January 21, 2013

When I was 4 I asked my father: “How come there are no women prophets?” He explained: “Being a prophet is a tough job, because a prophet has to travel and deal with very difficult hardships, including the tough mission of convincing people and changing their hearts and minds.” For years to come my father would refer to this question to remind me that this was when he realized that I was a smart girl. For me that question marked the birth of my feminist consciousness. My realization that women were absent or excluded from certain domains happened before I was able to read books. And after a PhD that kid is still asking: “How come there are no women in….?” 

Nea And Hellebores
. 24"x36". Oilbar on canvas. 2013.

Sarah Ryhanen is a virtuoso florist, founder of Saipua, and a new farmer, based in New York. You can check out her blog, with her humorous and thoughtful musings and insanely beautiful photos (of her equally insanely gorgeous floral arrangements), by clicking here. Sarah was kind enough to give me permission to paint her dog, Nea, a year or two ago - I only just finally got around to doing it. I love Nea's scruffy, motley dogginess. She reminds me of Golden, my childhood dog.

Last but not least, The Muse (Diaries of a Hedgehog Feminist #2). 30"X30". Oilbar on canvas. 2014.

I told you there was another! Here's the entry for this one:

After a decade of reading and studying critical theory and literature, I often ponder the difference between the critic and the artist. Like a professional critic, my questions arise from the ways that academia taught me to ask. I repeat all the necessary prefixes and suffixes. I insert context as needed. Sometimes, I pass. Sometimes, I impress. Sometimes, I get bored! And on some days art happens. Without heavy lingo and notes in hand, the muse knocks on my shower door. “Kill the academic and keep your towel on,” she whispers, “We have work to do!”

Okay. So now we're all caught up. Sorry about that; I won't let it happen again. I'm currently nearly done with Hedgehog Feminist #3, so that should be done within a week or two, and I'll snap a photo and post it for you. If you don't see it by mid-April, remind me of my promise!

Monday, March 24, 2014

project 52:26 (midpoint!)

(lino block and acrylic on watercolor paper)

Here we are, week twenty-six: halfway through project 52. Can you believe it? I really can't. In some ways, I kind of feel like I've been doing this forever.

This project has been great so far. Sure, there have been stressful weeks, when things haven't turned out and I've scrapped ideas and started over - and every weekend there is that growing urgency around the question, "what am I going to do for this week's postcard?" But, by and large, this project has been great. I'm exploring media I haven't used a lot, or have never used before. I'm getting a better sense of what works, graphically, on such a small canvas, and it's just plain good to complete something every week. I also feel like it's doing the real work that I hoped for: building connection with my sibling.

Week 26 is another lino block carved and printed with an acrylic printing ink/paint (I don't quite remember, other than it's meant for printing). As I printed test swatches, Cass looked and said, "it needs something green," which is funny, because that is exactly what I had been thinking as I'd been carving the block. Seriously. So I painted - rough and loose and fast - a kind of free interpretation of a delta maidenhair fern (one of my favorites) over this, using acrylic paint that I'd thinned with acrylic medium.

The semi-transparent effect resulted in a card that could barely be photographed well, much less scanned, but I found it interesting, and I think it totally works. Of course, cards that scarcely be photographed, much less scanned, are, obviously, not cards that can be posted to Society 6. So you know what that means, kids: no prints again this week. Hopefully next week, depending on what happens in the next 24-48 hours with this week's card!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

a good cause

So, it just so happens that a handful of former students of mine (some from a decade ago!) all work with (indeed, they created it!) Boundless Arts Performance Collective here in Seattle, a nonprofit organization that works with local foster youth, providing them with "an environment in which [they] can realize their creative potential, build self-confidence, and discover their personal strengths." Next Thursday, March 27, Boundless is hosting a charity event, "Home is Where the Art Is," to raise funds for the organization. I can't say enough good things about the intelligence, determination, and good hearts of the women I know at Boundless, and so I was honored when they approached me and asked if I would consider contributing a basket of goods to the auction.

So, I got to work: above, I lined a little wood box with a piece of Cole and Son's popular "Woods" wallpaper, and painted eight heavy watercolor postcards with sherbet citrus hues.

The postcards were all printed with my "moon phases" lino block.

I made a pair of pretty earrings from rose quartz and hand-hammered brass, with simple 14k gold fill shepherd's hook earwires. (I'll be making more of these for the Months and Years shop, by the way.)

That pretty soft "scarf seven" that I posted last week joined the pile, and as a final touch, I put in two jars of marmalade - one made with Seville oranges and vanilla bean, and one made with bergamot.

And here's the finished contribution: it's kind of like a lovely little Easter basket of handmade indulgences for a grown woman. And if you're in Seattle, don't forget you could take this basket home on Thursday night - so come to Fremont and join Boundless at their charity auction! It's all for a wonderful cause!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

spring flowers

Happy Oestara, everyone! Here are some flowers to set a springtime mood (of course, this morning we woke up to find everything covered in sparkling frost!): tuberose, daffodils, lady's mantle, waxflower, carnations, and some forsythia branches. Already the cherry trees are blooming in the quad on campus; I'm hoping we'll make a trip on Sunday to go see them (or maybe Saturday morning).

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

and two more!

Oh, it's so so fun. Above, shot in a rare bit of spring sunlight (what is THAT?), I made this warm red-brown, purple-spattered beauty last week.

And last weekend, I made this one, which is another super-favorite of mine. It's palest robin's egg blue with a warm golden bronze, shot through with intense bursts of bold pink. It made me think of the sea: cool water and warm brown sand. Cass says it reminds him of a cloudy autumn day - or a cup of tea with cream swirling through it. And the good news? This beauty will be for sale. I'm going to put it up in the etsy shop when I open it - so even if you aren't shopping for baby (or if you are!), there might be something pretty to catch your eye at Months and Years. And on that note, I pledge to get back to work on that second baby dress tonight. I spent some time this weekend hand-sewing the detailed scalloped-edge sleeves to their silk linings.... oh, it's going to be so pretty! 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

project 52:25

colored pencil and acrylic on paper

Almost halfway there! A few days ago, Cass and I went for a sunny evening walk in the park, after the Daylight Saving changeover. The redwing blackbirds were singing; I love their calls; they always make me think of high summer and dry, golden grasses.

I haven't really played with colored pencils since I was a kid, but I wanted to try working more color into what would otherwise be a rather flat and simple picture. And while I definitely have more to learn, I think this works! And of course, while working on this, I was listening to covers of Paul McCartney's Blackbird - because who can resist that song?

No prints this time; the scanner washed out the colored pencils in the worst way. But I think it's better that not every postcard becomes a print; some things should only be one-offs.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

burning the west wind

A friend of mine recently wrote to ask if I could find a source online where she could purchase a print of "The West Wind" by Ann Brigman, an early 20th-Century American photographer who was famous for photographing strong women in the nude in the Californian landscape. I had never heard of Brigman before, and I'm so glad that now I know her name, and know a little of her beautiful work. In my mind, I am grouping her together with Frida Kahlo and Georgia O'Keefe as women whose lives - as much as the objects they made/produced - were forms of artistic personal expression.

I would love - LOVE - to get my hands on a copy of her book of photographs and poetry, titled Songs of a Pagan, someday - but they seem to go for a lot of money on the vintage/antique book market.

Anyhow, I failed to find a place to order a print or copy of Brigman's photo. And in the meantime, my friend slipped on some ice and broke her wrist. I wanted to do something to cheer her up while she was in pain and dealing with the frustrations of limited mobility. So, I decided the next best thing would be to take this old 11" X 14" wood panel I had lying around that I hadn't used for anything, get out my woodburning tool, transfer the basic image to the panel and burn away.

It is out for delivery now, apparently in blizzard conditions. I hope it makes it to her! - And that she likes it!

Monday, March 10, 2014

project 52:24

acrylic glaze (white) over ink (pen) on watercolor paper

I've had this snippet from Grimm's Fairy Tales (in Philip Pullman's new translation) on the brain for the past few weeks; it's such a striking combination of visual images and sounds, in such a brief phrase:

"the moment she cut the lilies the cottage disappeared and the twelve brothers were changed into twelve ravens that flew away over the trees with a dismal cry"

Wow. What a phrase, huh? It's actually the inspiration behind my next baby dress for the Months and Years shop; I've cut almost all the pieces (I just have to cut three pieces for lining the bodice) and I hope to get sewing this week. I have a very time-consuming applique plan for this one, so I want to dive in before I feel too overwhelmed or daunted by the prospect of it.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

and four more

Scarf dyeing continues in earnest around here! Above is a basic immersion-dyed scarf ... that I'm thinking of overdyeing ... it's gentle and soft, in ecru, seafoam and gold ochre. It's like the first daffodils, in scarf form. But it might be too gentle, too subtle, too ... complaisant? I'm debating going back and trying to give it some kick. I had a bit of a breakthrough last night, technique-wise, and now I want to go back and re-do a lot of my previous stuff.

This was actually the second scarf I did. I had a sunny afternoon and I wanted to experiment with sodium alginate (a thickener) and see if I could create a thick gelatinous dye that would sit on top of the fabric and dye it in blobs rather than seeping into it. The problem is that the scarf had been soaked in soda ash first ... and my dye definitely wasn't thick enough. There are still spatters, but it's more of a droplet-texture in what turned into a very bubble-gum-pink scarf. Might overdye this one, too, though I'm kind of taken with its saccharine sweetness.

For my fourth scarf, I got to folding (with Cass' help). It was a real pain, but the results are wonderful, so graphic and bright and geometric. I like it. I want to do more of these. Next time, I think I might fold the scarf (with some help from the iron) before soaking in soda ash solution; although that might make it difficult to fully saturate the scarf. I don't know, these are things to think about and experiment with.

And then the fifth scarf, which is currently my all-time favorite dye job. This is not an economic way to dye scarves, as it uses a lot of dye, but I love the intensity of color. In person that peach is so bright as to almost seem fluorescent - and that's applied OVER gunmetal. This scarf is like a stormy sky shot through with brilliant orange. I love it. The color combo is great. I'm attempting a duplicate now, and mulling over other color combos that might turn out so brilliantly together. I guess this is just proof that you should always keep experimenting!

Friday, March 7, 2014

back in the dyeing saddle

Last weekend a friend asked if she could buy some of my dyed scarves; she thought they'd made good thank-you gifts for some friends who had recently thrown her a fantastic party. Of course I jumped at the opportunity! I told her I'd given all the ones she'd seen away, but that I could dye some more. I ordered another dozen scarves (figuring it would be better to dye a bunch and then let her pick and choose her favorites), which arrived on my doorstep a couple days ago. I started dyeing yesterday with the green-purple-rose-bronze one you see above (forest green  + warm black, who knew?).

I'm currently experimenting with the next scarf. I had an idea last year about using sodium alginate to thicken the dye to a jelly consistency and then throwing it across the scarves a la action painting/Jackson Pollock. As it's sunny out today, I figured there's no time like the present to give it a go!  A little bowl of dye is setting up in the back room as I type. I'm going to try combining this with the low-immersion technique and see what happens! More soon!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

project 52:23

ink and acrylic on watercolor paper
Prints of this card are also available for purchase: click here.

Last week my cat got sick all of a sudden on a Tuesday night. We'd been treating her through late December and into January for a UTI (TMI?) and thought she was clear in early February. Then Tuesday night, all of a sudden it was back and worse than it had ever been before. We were at the ER until almost 3am Wednesday morning, and they packed us off with more than antibiotics - they also sent little doses of kitty painkillers - an opiate. The opiate came in tiny syringes of clear liquid that had to be washed over her gums (HA!), under her tongue (HAHAHAHA IMPOSSIBLE!) or tucked into the little pouch of her cheek (okay, slightly possible). So for the first day, while we waited for the antiobiotics to start kicking in, we kept her dosed up on morphine. She spent the day with a slight wobble in her step. I watched her stop and really calculate basic leaps (like from the floor onto the seat of a chair) before attempting them, and then  miscalculating once - luckily I was able to catch her before she really fell and hurt herself. It was a little funny and a little sad; but either way, I was glad that the painkillers dulled the pain and discomfort that had driven her to the litter box every five minutes.

That afternoon, as I cast about for some topic for my weekly postcard, I figured, "why ignore the elephant in the room?" I grabbed the camera and snapped some shots of our glassy-eyed kitty. I painted her using a bottle of calligraphy ink and a brush. It was kind of fun, actually; I've never really played with ink (real ink/not-in-a-pen-ink) before, and I particularly enjoyed going back over the ink with a wet brush and achieving a gentle watercolor effect. I couldn't leave it at black and white, however; her summer-sky-blue eyes are one of her most striking features. So I added a little acrylic wash of blue there.

I sealed it with fixative, but I have no idea if this one made it across the country intact, or if moisture along the way caused blots in it. Hm. I should ask my brother and find out, before I play with water-soluble media some more.