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Artist Block – Don’t Worry, Its OK; It Happens

Part Of Artistic Growth.

Experiencing a bout of “Artist Block”?  It’s OK, it happens to many of us and even some of the greats so there is no reason to quit!

I hope by sharing with you that this is a perfectly normal, of not frustrating, part of artistic growth, then you and I can get through the dry spell with our creative minds intact.

Contemplating Artist Block

“Kitty & Coffee Break in Warm Colors, Study” Contemplating Artist Block…

Maybe You’re Immune.

OK.  First before I get too carried away I’d like to say this: maybe you won’t have this problem of artist’s block.  Its not a foregone conclusion or inevitable.  Maybe you’ll groove through your artist’s life without experiencing “artist’s block” or a period of diminished productivity.  Perhaps your artistic process or natural inclination prevents this problem.  If so, ride the creative wave and have enjoy the experiencence!

Not So For Me.

Or, perhaps you are like me.  From time to time, I have a dip in productivity and nothing seems right.  It happens and its frustrating.  Which reminds me, I ought to define what I mean by artist’s block.

Artist Block Defined.

I looked up the definition of “artist block” on line, naturally.  The “Urban Dictionary” defines it as follows:

“Also known as an ‘art block’, a usually random occurrence in which one loses inspiration and motivation to draw.”  By MonElisa, September 15, 2007

Not So Random – Feelings of Inadequacy.

For me, its probably not so random.  If I were honest with myself, I might look to feelings as the source of the block.  I can be plagued by feelings of “not being good enough”, “I should be better”, “there is too much to learn”, etc.

Or Avoidance and Perfection Dramas.

Another problem for me is work avoidance and there is usually a cause.  Usually its because, well, drawing is hard pretty much all of the time.   Perfection is an additional issue that causes work delays for me.  You know, the attitude that if its not perfect then its not worth doing.  Killer attitude that one don’t you think?  Nothing like making it nearly impossible to succeed.

Commitment Issues.

So, I am working through a slow period.  I’m having trouble completing paintings.  I tease and chastise myself about having commitment issues.  The problem is that I commit to a course of action for about 30 seconds until doubt comes in.  When I think about it, I realize I’m looking for the “one true path” – a sort of perfection that doesn’t exist.

The question for me becomes what to do about the artist block?

Even Picasso Was Blocked – At Least Once**.

Before I move on answering the question about what to do, I’d like to share an antidote with you.  Did you know that even prolific painters, such as Picasso, have periods we might call artists block?  I was surprised when I read about Picasso having a crisis and not being able to paint.   The way he worked himself out of it was by writing.

Working My Way To The Other Side.

As I am working myself out of my artistic slump, I find the fact that Picasso also struggled re-assuring.  Though my inner drama queen was kinda hoping I was the only one who ever suffered in this way.  Darn…its so common.

So, now that I’m among friends, what to do?  The artist block problem needs to solve itself.

Work.

On anything, on everything but just work!  Its our job as artists to get on with our work even if it doesn’t seem to measure up to whatever expectations we impose on ourselves.  Oh my!  Doesn’t that statement say something about my current work situation?

Lets see; note to self:  work without judgement; just work and work a lot!  I’m thinking that ought to be a good personal mantra.

Draw and Paint Anything & Everything.

For me, that means drawing and painting daily.  It doesn’t matter if the results are creative or good.  What is important is practicing, discovering and learning.  And, yes, the results matter too because they can be learned from and lead to starting again.  And again, and tomorrow, again some more!

Perhaps there may be some other things you and I can do to get past the block.   I would imagine the source of the block may hold the key to breaking through to productivity again.  For example, sometimes my paintings take forever and a day to complete.  The process can be tedious and it can be hard to maintain interest.  What if I tried starting and completing a painting in one session, for example?  It would shake things up and get me out of my comfort (and sometimes boring) zone.

Take Aways.

Picasso had artist block at least once so we’re in good company.  And, he got over it and was prolific.

Recognizing that artist block is normal can be step one to overcoming the block.  Next is understanding what part of the process is the stumbling block.

What Next.

I’m laughing at myself because I started this particular blog post about a month ago.  Do you suppose my artist block has creeped into my writing as well?  Could be.

Today, I had a thought and last week I had another thought.  Maybe I’ll talk about what motivates us to draw especially since motivation or lack thereof can influence artist block.

Or, maybe I’ll write more about things to do to get over artist block.  I think its nice to have some ideas to work on in the near future.

Feel Free To Share.

What about you?  Please feel free to comment about your own situation.  Have you ever had to deal with artist block and how did you feel?

Contemplating Artist Block

“Kitty & Coffee Break in Muted Colors, Study”
Still contemplating Artist Block…but making progress

About the Paintings.

The two paintings were done back in 2011.  They were color and design studies based on a drawing done from imagination.  The person and cat could be anyone, though I think it captures how I feel sometimes.  I’m thinking about those quiet contemplation or “space out” moments over a morning cup of coffee with a favorite cat.

Please enjoy.

Selected Related Articles.

*Artist Block, Urban Dictionary

** Picasso, Master of the New Idea.  Marie-Laure Bernadac and Paula Du Bouchet, 1993; Discoveries – Harry N. Abrams Inc, Publishers. New York.  English Edition.  Page 91.

Art & Fear; Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Art Making.  David Bayles & Ted Orland.  1993.  The Image Continuum Press Edition.  Santa Cruz CA & Eugene OR.

“Advice From Artists On How to Overcome Creative Block, Handle Criticism, and Nature Your Sense of Self Worth”,  by Maria Popova, Brain Pickings Website, 2014

Art Blocked? The Anatomy of Art Block, by zack-sr on DevianArt, December 15, 2007

 

 

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Travels To Asia; Paintings of Souvenirs

Connection To Asia.

I have traveled to the continent of Asia twice, once to Japan and once to Saudi Arabia.  In this blog post, I’d like to tell you about my travels and share some souvenirs.

Asia - Japanese Souvenirs

“Taka Geta” – wooden clogs and “Netsuki” replica (rabbit)

Converging Events.

You might think this an odd subject for the middle of December, but two events converged in my life.  Next week is my oldest sister’s birthday and I needed to create a birthday card for her.  My sister was a high school exchange student to Japan back in the early 1970s, so I usually create a birthday card using souvenirs she sent me.  This is my way of honoring her gift and sharing a connection.  I am including two “cards” that I’ve painted.

The second event in this convergence is a blog post by Candace Rose Rardon titled “The Geography of Connection: A Second Call Out for Your Stories”.  My brain saw “call out” in the title and it caught my attention.   Ms. Rardon talks about travel, connection, and stories.   In this call-out, readers are asked to share stories and connections if they have to the continent of Asia.

Oh, and, she creates cool, artistic maps!

Asia in 1990.

Well, in 1990 I traveled to two different countries in Asia: Japan and Saudi Arabia.  At the time, I was an officer in the United States Army and my travels were duty related.

Sendai, Japan.

I made my trip to Sendai, Japan in early 1990 with a team from the 6th Infantry Division (Light) out of Alaska.  We were to participate as part of IX US Corps in an exercise called “Yamasakura XVIII” with the Japanese Northeastern Army.  It was fun and enlightening.  During the day, we participated in the exercise.  During the evening and time off we participated in social events or explored Japan.  The intention was to foster good will between the two Army’s.

Regarding connections, I met many Japanese people.  We exchanged gifts, shared meals, drank Japanese beer and enjoyed each others company.  I didn’t speak Japanese and they didn’t confess to speaking English…though I’m betting they did.  When traveling, I have found that it is best to be polite and on my best behavior and Japan is no exception.  I would believe that most adults understand some English but are reluctant to speak it.

We did have translators, but during social time, they were over-committed.  Instead, all of us, Japanese and Americans alike, shared our smiles, photos of families and gifts.

Asia: Japanese Souvenirs

Asia: Japanese Hat Dancer Souvenir

No Photos, Just Souvenirs.

All of the photos I took while in Japan were destroyed.  I’m not a good photographer and the 1990s  was a time before digital cameras and smart phones were readily available.  OK, like the amateur I am, I accidentally exposed ALL of my film.

However, I did bring back souvenirs, most of which are in storage.  But I have left a few on display around my home.  Periodically, I like to get them out to use as subjects for a still life set-up. I am including a study I did of a “Japanese Hat Dancer” that given to me.

Such gifts were typical and I treasure them.  I was taken by the kindness of people who did not know me.  For the brief period of time we shared a wonderful camaraderie…and lots of good Japanese beer and Sake.

I was saddened when I heard about the Japanese earthquake close to Sendai in 2011.  The Sendai I visited was such a fascinating, cosmopolitan city.  After scanning the recent news on line, I understand the people have rebuilt their city.  It wasn’t the first and I imagine not the last earthquake or tsunami.

In the Desert, Saudi Arabia.

Later in 1990, I travelled to Saudi Arabia as part of a transportation unit out of Kentucky. We were part of the XVIII Corps (US Army) deployment to Desert Shield and Desert Storm.  During the deployment, I was a transportation officer and worked in transportation operations.  Our unit worked primarily in the northeastern part of Saudi Arabia.

Because of my work, I did not make a personal connection with the people of Saudi Arabia.  Were the situation different, I would enjoy connecting with the people of Saudi Arabia, particularly the women.

I did see a fair amount of the desert.  I grew up in the desert Southwest of the US.  Our desert is vastly different from the Saudi Arabian deserts.  Granted, I only experienced the  Saudi desert from October to June.  However, the vegetation seemed sparse in compared to the deserts of SW New Mexico, my childhood home.

Still, beauty can be found anywhere.  The colors of the desert have there moments.  And, oddly enough, I did notice the birds, particularly the shore birds.  I don’t know how prevalent they were, but there were some puddles and salt lakes – or at least I think that is what they were.  Stilts, avocets, and I think flamingoes were among the birds I saw, though the flamingoes were from a distance.  I did see camels wandering the desert.  That’s something I don’t see every day!

No Photos, Just Memories.

Oh, I did take photos.  You might have guessed, they’re all in storage.  And, they’re mostly about trucks and soldiers.  Come to think of it, another wonderful experience with camaraderie of fellow soldiers.  Lots of personal connections and memories, but not so many photos.

I did some drawings and, guess what, they’re in storage too.  My favorite was of an Army truck… perhaps you can imagine one.

Asia: Japanese Souvenirs

Wooden Dolls and Clogs

Travel to Asia – Excellent Experience.

Whenever I travel, I feel my life experience is so much richer for having seen and encountered people who live differently.  Realizing that I have only visited two countries in Asia, isn’t it fascinating that they bracket the continent?  One to the east and one to the west – or near east and far east.

What about you?  Have you traveled to Asia?  Please feel free to share your story in a comment.  I would also like to invite you to go to Ms. Candance Rose Rardon’s blog and read other stories about travels to Asia.

 

 

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The post Travels To Asia; Paintings of Souvenirs appeared first on Margaret Stermer-Cox.

Angel of the Deep On Display

Angels Show.

I’m pleased to say my latest watercolor and gouache painting “Angel of the Deep”  will join other artworks in the Fourth Annual Angels Show at GoodBean Coffee in Jacksonville OR for the month of December.  GoodBean Coffee is located at 165 S Oregon St in historic Jacksonville, OR.

Angel Of The Deep by M. Stermer-Cox

About the Show.

Hosted by GoodBean Coffee Company, Hannah West Designs and Southern Oregon Artists Resource, the Angels Show features artwork by local artists using a variety of media.  You are invited to see the display of fine art daily during normal business hours (6am to 6pm).

Opening Reception.

The show’s special opening reception is on Saturday, December 3rd, from noon to 4pm.  If you are in the area, your are heartily invited to come in and join in the festivities.  You will be able to meet many of the artists while enjoying stories of angels and, naturally, the artwork.

Angels Show Quote by Hannah West

About My Mermaid-Angel.

I created my mermaid-angel design just for fun.  To explain, I enjoy seeing what my imagination can come up with once an idea pops into my head.  I have a dialogue, so to speak, with my pencil, paper and paint.  We work together until the crazy idea of a mermaid-angel starts to take shape. And, the more I think about my subject, the mermaid-angel in this case, stories form in my head.

Consider this, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to be at home at sea or in the air; to swim, or fly?  My mermaid-angel can move between air, land and water, which I think would be exciting.

And, what would a mermaid-angel do?  I think of my mermaid-angel as an empathetic care-taker and protector of the oceans and all the sea creatures.  I can see her helping turtles, dolphins and other animals caught in nets, for example.

A Little About the Painting.

This is one of the few paintings I’ve done where I use gouache along with watercolor.   I had a moment of inspiration, a “what if I do this” moment.  So, I pulled out a tube of gouache and started painting away.  Fun!

For those of you not familiar with gouache, it is an opaque watercolor and mixes well with “regular” transparent watercolor.  I used it on the wings and on the figure’s skin.

Oh, yes, I framed the painting and you may purchase my mermaid-angel during the show for $275.  Happily.  *Update!  My “Angel of the Deep” is sold!  Thank you Hannah West and GoodBean Coffee!  (Woohoo!)

 

Please Stop By.

I do hope you will stop by the Good Bean Coffee this December and see all the festive angels.  I’m closing with the official publicity poster for the Angels Show.  Thank you Hannah West for permission to include the poster!

Angels Show

 

 

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“Mermaid With Net At Night” At The “Icons” Exhibition

Mermaid As Icon

I am pleased to say that my painting “Mermaid With Net at Night” is showing at the Rogue Gallery and Art Center in Medford, OR.  To clarify, it is one painting among over 60 works of art in the Annual Member’s Exhibition.

Mermaid With Net At Night by M. Stermer-Cox

Most of all, if you are in the area, I invite you to please attend the artist’s reception on Friday, November 18th from 5 to 8 pm.

Should you miss the opening reception, you may see the exhibition through December 21st.  Plus, you can see the exhibition multiple times if you wish!  If you might like more information about the exhibition, including location and hours, please see the Rogue Gallery and Art Center’s Website.

To explain, every year the Rogue Gallery has a Member’s Exhibition from mid November through mid December.  For fun, creativity, and consistency, the show has an assigned theme.  So, the theme for this year’s member exhibition is “Icons”.

I’d like to share with you the show statement by the Rogue Gallery is as follows:

” Icons as signs, symbols or personalities can signify the eternal, a particular time, or the ephemeral. In the 2016 Annual Members’ Exhibition, over sixty artists present their icons using a variety of media and styles”.

I like that the gallery encourages a broad interpretation of “icons”.  I can hardly wait to see how other artists interpreted this particular theme.

Icons, Symbols or?

I had a difficult time with this particularly theme.  In my mind, I kept seeing Byzantine era icons.  So I tried to brain storm for new ideas.  Then, I had the problem of deciphering what is a symbol or icon.  Or, how about the word “iconic”?  Iconic women of myth?  Or modern day female icons?  Or, really are they symbols or metaphors?

As you might imagine, I can twist my brain in knots for a long time over the entire “icon” theme.  Do you suppose that is why the gallery gave artists a year to think about the theme?  So, yes I’m still thinking!

Icon or symbol, regardless, I am happy to have my mermaid share gallery space with so many other fine works of art.

Artist Statement

My own artist statement about this particular “Mermaid with Net At Night” is as follows:

“What can be more romantic than a mermaid alone at night?  I imagined that a mermaid in today’s seas would find lots of debris, some being quite useful.  In this case, she is examining a net.  Is she using it for herself, or is she caught in the net?  I expect that the story might go either way.

I like to think that my mermaid is protecting her fellow creatures of the sea.”

Details

Now for a little bit of technical data, I painted my mermaid with watercolor and the image size is 10×7.  I have enclosed it in a white mat and black frame.

If you would like to collect my mermaid, you may purchase the painting through the gallery for the next month.

And, naturally, you may always contact me if you’d like more information!

In the meantime, please enjoy my painting and thank you for your time!

 

 

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The post “Mermaid With Net At Night” At The “Icons” Exhibition appeared first on Margaret Stermer-Cox.

“Mermaid With Net At Night” At The “Icons” Exhibition

Mermaid As Icon

I am pleased to say that my painting “Mermaid With Net at Night” is showing at the Rogue Gallery and Art Center in Medford, OR.  To clarify, it is one painting among over 60 works of art in the Annual Member’s Exhibition.

Mermaid With Net At Night by M. Stermer-Cox

Most of all, if you are in the area, I invite you to please attend the artist’s reception on Friday, November 18th from 5 to 8 pm.

Should you miss the opening reception, you may see the exhibition through December 21st.  Plus, you can see the exhibition multiple times if you wish!  If you might like more information about the exhibition, including location and hours, please see the Rogue Gallery and Art Center’s Website.

To explain, every year the Rogue Gallery has a Member’s Exhibition from mid November through mid December.  For fun, creativity, and consistency, the show has an assigned theme.  So, the theme for this year’s member exhibition is “Icons”.

I’d like to share with you the show statement by the Rogue Gallery is as follows:

” Icons as signs, symbols or personalities can signify the eternal, a particular time, or the ephemeral. In the 2016 Annual Members’ Exhibition, over sixty artists present their icons using a variety of media and styles”.

I like that the gallery encourages a broad interpretation of “icons”.  I can hardly wait to see how other artists interpreted this particular theme.

Icons, Symbols or?

I had a difficult time with this particularly theme.  In my mind, I kept seeing Byzantine era icons.  So I tried to brain storm for new ideas.  Then, I had the problem of deciphering what is a symbol or icon.  Or, how about the word “iconic”?  Iconic women of myth?  Or modern day female icons?  Or, really are they symbols or metaphors?

As you might imagine, I can twist my brain in knots for a long time over the entire “icon” theme.  Do you suppose that is why the gallery gave artists a year to think about the theme?  So, yes I’m still thinking!

Icon or symbol, regardless, I am happy to have my mermaid share gallery space with so many other fine works of art.

Artist Statement

My own artist statement about this particular “Mermaid with Net At Night” is as follows:

“What can be more romantic than a mermaid alone at night?  I imagined that a mermaid in today’s seas would find lots of debris, some being quite useful.  In this case, she is examining a net.  Is she using it for herself, or is she caught in the net?  I expect that the story might go either way.

I like to think that my mermaid is protecting her fellow creatures of the sea.”

Details

Now for a little bit of technical data, I painted my mermaid with watercolor and the image size is 10×7.  I have enclosed it in a white mat and black frame.

If you would like to collect my mermaid, you may purchase the painting through the gallery for the next month.

And, naturally, you may always contact me if you’d like more information!

In the meantime, please enjoy my painting and thank you for your time!

 

 

Share

The post “Mermaid With Net At Night” At The “Icons” Exhibition appeared first on Margaret Stermer-Cox.

Contemplating Nature and Titles

Contemplating nature – as in spending a few days out camping, being quiet and thinking about life, trees, birds and painting titles.

While contemplating, an exciting thing happened.  I had a moment of insight in how titles can suggest different meanings for paintings.  I wondered, how had I not had this insight before?

 

Contemplating Nature: Young Pine Hyatt Lake, Southern Oregon

Contemplating Nature

So, to explain, my husband and I spent a few days last week being out by ourselves camping up in the mountains of southern Oregon.  It was wonderful!  We had our favorite spot on one of the small lakes nestled among the mountains.

I think the “contemplating nature” statement might need some elaboration.  Before we went on our camping trip, I read John P Weiss’ blog post on embracing solitude.  I took the idea of embracing nature and solitude with me on our trip.  The words rolled around in my brain looking for a place to sit and add meaning.

No Television, Cell Phones Or Computers

In the meantime, it was a pleasure to be away from television, cell phones and computers.  I was engaged instead in watching the behavior of the birds, of which there were plenty.  We saw a bald eagle, and an osprey.  Also, several herons, egrets, cormorants, white pelicans, geese, ducks, flickers, juncos and yellow rump warblers graced us with their presence.  We were greeted in the evening by the snorts from deer and hoots from owls.

Put another way, we saw lots of action!

Watercolor & Ink

Naturally, while we were out camping I had to do some watercolor and ink studies.  We have camped at this particular sight three times this summer.  So, after setting up, I drew my favorite young pine (above), which I have posted previously in July.   If you take a look at the previous posting, you might notice that the vegetation was nice and green earlier this summer.  This time, the grasses and vegetation around the young ponderosa were all shades of gold.

Summer was ending and fall was beginning.

Ponderosa Pine And Hornet Trap

Yes, the young ponderosa pine has a hornet’s trap attached to one of its lower limbs.  It seems that the hornets come out in August and September.  At least, that’s when the young pine was adorned with a hornet trap.  If you look at the drawing below, there is a squiggly line with some yellow to indicate the hornet trap.  If you’re having trouble seeing the trap, look at the lower right limbs.

The first drawing of the day, (see above) I deleted the hornet trap as part of “artistic license”.  When my husband looked at the pine, he suggested a title of “Hornet Trap”.  But, I hadn’t drawn any indication of the hornet trap, so I thought I best draw it again.  This time, I drew some squiggles for the trap.

Contemplating Nature: Hornet Trap On Young Pine, Hyatt Lake Reservoir, Southern Oregon

Titles And Meaning

Huh?  And hmmm.  The suggestion started a discussion about titles.  Does a title of “Hornet Trap” make one think a little?  Does it change the meaning of a painting of a pine?

In front of our camp site, there was a field of drying mullein.  Beyond the mullein was the lake with a row of snags.  Robert suggested a title of “Abandoned Water Wells”.

Abandoned Water Vessels or Mullein and Snags

What?  Abandoned water wells?  I don’t see any water wells, I thought to myself.  And, then, I got it and I liked it.  Yes, there are lots of abandoned water wells right in front of me!  Didn’t the mullein collect water from the earth by its roots and carry the water to its crown?  How about the snags – when they were living trees, did they not transport water up the tree to the leaves or needles?  I was beginning to see!  And, the more I contemplated the life of the mullein and the snags, the more I smiled.

Doesn’t “Abandoned Water Wells” sound more interesting than “Mullein and Snags”?  We played with words a bit and decided on “Abandoned Water Vessels” since plants are vessels.  That is to say plants are containers or receptacles for water.  Plus, the water is carried up the plant to the top by vessels.  Kind of exciting; isn’t it fun how word can have multiple meanings?

Contemplating Nature: Abandoned Water Vessels

Applies to Blog Titles Too!

The discussion had me thinking about titles and how they can add meaning or cause us to look at the subject different.  Speaking of titles, the same thought might apply to blog titles, titles of books or songs; pretty much anything that has a title.

Oh, I just had a thought, does the inverse hold true?  What I mean is, does a painting without a title lose potential meaning?

Good Bye Summer, Hello Fall

I wonder if the relative solitude of the lakes and mountains added to our free-thinking discussion about titles and meaning.  It certainly seemed to help.

All in all, embracing solitude and contemplating nature was an excellent way to end the summer and greet the fall.  I came home rested and happy.

PS: Website Update

Since we have come home, my husband has been working hard at updating my gallery website, Dancing Clouds.  I’d like to invite you to take a look and I hope you enjoy the view!  Thank you!

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The post Contemplating Nature and Titles appeared first on Margaret Stermer-Cox.

Contemplating Nature and Titles

Contemplating nature – as in spending a few days out camping, being quiet and thinking about life, trees, birds and painting titles.

While contemplating, an exciting thing happened.  I had a moment of insight in how titles can suggest different meanings for paintings.  I wondered, how had I not had this insight before?

 

Contemplating Nature: Young Pine Hyatt Lake, Southern Oregon

Contemplating Nature

So, to explain, my husband and I spent a few days last week being out by ourselves camping up in the mountains of southern Oregon.  It was wonderful!  We had our favorite spot on one of the small lakes nestled among the mountains.

I think the “contemplating nature” statement might need some elaboration.  Before we went on our camping trip, I read John P Weiss’ blog post on embracing solitude.  I took the idea of embracing nature and solitude with me on our trip.  The words rolled around in my brain looking for a place to sit and add meaning.

No Television, Cell Phones Or Computers

In the meantime, it was a pleasure to be away from television, cell phones and computers.  I was engaged instead in watching the behavior of the birds, of which there were plenty.  We saw a bald eagle, and an osprey.  Also, several herons, egrets, cormorants, white pelicans, geese, ducks, flickers, juncos and yellow rump warblers graced us with their presence.  We were greeted in the evening by the snorts from deer and hoots from owls.

Put another way, we saw lots of action!

Watercolor & Ink

Naturally, while we were out camping I had to do some watercolor and ink studies.  We have camped at this particular sight three times this summer.  So, after setting up, I drew my favorite young pine (above), which I have posted previously in July.   If you take a look at the previous posting, you might notice that the vegetation was nice and green earlier this summer.  This time, the grasses and vegetation around the young ponderosa were all shades of gold.

Summer was ending and fall was beginning.

Ponderosa Pine And Hornet Trap

Yes, the young ponderosa pine has a hornet’s trap attached to one of its lower limbs.  It seems that the hornets come out in August and September.  At least, that’s when the young pine was adorned with a hornet trap.  If you look at the drawing below, there is a squiggly line with some yellow to indicate the hornet trap.  If you’re having trouble seeing the trap, look at the lower right limbs.

The first drawing of the day, (see above) I deleted the hornet trap as part of “artistic license”.  When my husband looked at the pine, he suggested a title of “Hornet Trap”.  But, I hadn’t drawn any indication of the hornet trap, so I thought I best draw it again.  This time, I drew some squiggles for the trap.

Contemplating Nature: Hornet Trap On Young Pine, Hyatt Lake Reservoir, Southern Oregon

Titles And Meaning

Huh?  And hmmm.  The suggestion started a discussion about titles.  Does a title of “Hornet Trap” make one think a little?  Does it change the meaning of a painting of a pine?

In front of our camp site, there was a field of drying mullein.  Beyond the mullein was the lake with a row of snags.  Robert suggested a title of “Abandoned Water Wells”.

Abandoned Water Vessels or Mullein and Snags

What?  Abandoned water wells?  I don’t see any water wells, I thought to myself.  And, then, I got it and I liked it.  Yes, there are lots of abandoned water wells right in front of me!  Didn’t the mullein collect water from the earth by its roots and carry the water to its crown?  How about the snags – when they were living trees, did they not transport water up the tree to the leaves or needles?  I was beginning to see!  And, the more I contemplated the life of the mullein and the snags, the more I smiled.

Doesn’t “Abandoned Water Wells” sound more interesting than “Mullein and Snags”?  We played with words a bit and decided on “Abandoned Water Vessels” since plants are vessels.  That is to say plants are containers or receptacles for water.  Plus, the water is carried up the plant to the top by vessels.  Kind of exciting; isn’t it fun how word can have multiple meanings?

Contemplating Nature: Abandoned Water Vessels

Applies to Blog Titles Too!

The discussion had me thinking about titles and how they can add meaning or cause us to look at the subject different.  Speaking of titles, the same thought might apply to blog titles, titles of books or songs; pretty much anything that has a title.

Oh, I just had a thought, does the inverse hold true?  What I mean is, does a painting without a title lose potential meaning?

Good Bye Summer, Hello Fall

I wonder if the relative solitude of the lakes and mountains added to our free-thinking discussion about titles and meaning.  It certainly seemed to help.

All in all, embracing solitude and contemplating nature was an excellent way to end the summer and greet the fall.  I came home rested and happy.

PS: Website Update

Since we have come home, my husband has been working hard at updating my gallery website, Dancing Clouds.  I’d like to invite you to take a look and I hope you enjoy the view!  Thank you!

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The post Contemplating Nature and Titles appeared first on Margaret Stermer-Cox.

Contemplating Nature and Titles

Contemplating nature – as in spending a few days out camping, being quiet and thinking about life, trees, birds and painting titles.

While contemplating, an exciting thing happened.  I had a moment of insight in how titles can suggest different meanings for paintings.  I wondered, how had I not had this insight before?

 

Contemplating Nature: Young Pine Hyatt Lake, Southern Oregon

Contemplating Nature

So, to explain, my husband and I spent a few days last week being out by ourselves camping up in the mountains of southern Oregon.  It was wonderful!  We had our favorite spot on one of the small lakes nestled among the mountains.

I think the “contemplating nature” statement might need some elaboration.  Before we went on our camping trip, I read John P Weiss’ blog post on embracing solitude.  I took the idea of embracing nature and solitude with me on our trip.  The words rolled around in my brain looking for a place to sit and add meaning.

No Television, Cell Phones Or Computers

In the meantime, it was a pleasure to be away from television, cell phones and computers.  I was engaged instead in watching the behavior of the birds, of which there were plenty.  We saw a bald eagle, and an osprey.  Also, several herons, egrets, cormorants, white pelicans, geese, ducks, flickers, juncos and yellow rump warblers graced us with their presence.  We were greeted in the evening by the snorts from deer and hoots from owls.

Put another way, we saw lots of action!

Watercolor & Ink

Naturally, while we were out camping I had to do some watercolor and ink studies.  We have camped at this particular sight three times this summer.  So, after setting up, I drew my favorite young pine (above), which I have posted previously in July.   If you take a look at the previous posting, you might notice that the vegetation was nice and green earlier this summer.  This time, the grasses and vegetation around the young ponderosa were all shades of gold.

Summer was ending and fall was beginning.

Ponderosa Pine And Hornet Trap

Yes, the young ponderosa pine has a hornet’s trap attached to one of its lower limbs.  It seems that the hornets come out in August and September.  At least, that’s when the young pine was adorned with a hornet trap.  If you look at the drawing below, there is a squiggly line with some yellow to indicate the hornet trap.  If you’re having trouble seeing the trap, look at the lower right limbs.

The first drawing of the day, (see above) I deleted the hornet trap as part of “artistic license”.  When my husband looked at the pine, he suggested a title of “Hornet Trap”.  But, I hadn’t drawn any indication of the hornet trap, so I thought I best draw it again.  This time, I drew some squiggles for the trap.

Contemplating Nature: Hornet Trap On Young Pine, Hyatt Lake Reservoir, Southern Oregon

Titles And Meaning

Huh?  And hmmm.  The suggestion started a discussion about titles.  Does a title of “Hornet Trap” make one think a little?  Does it change the meaning of a painting of a pine?

In front of our camp site, there was a field of drying mullein.  Beyond the mullein was the lake with a row of snags.  Robert suggested a title of “Abandoned Water Wells”.

Abandoned Water Vessels or Mullein and Snags

What?  Abandoned water wells?  I don’t see any water wells, I thought to myself.  And, then, I got it and I liked it.  Yes, there are lots of abandoned water wells right in front of me!  Didn’t the mullein collect water from the earth by its roots and carry the water to its crown?  How about the snags – when they were living trees, did they not transport water up the tree to the leaves or needles?  I was beginning to see!  And, the more I contemplated the life of the mullein and the snags, the more I smiled.

Doesn’t “Abandoned Water Wells” sound more interesting than “Mullein and Snags”?  We played with words a bit and decided on “Abandoned Water Vessels” since plants are vessels.  That is to say plants are containers or receptacles for water.  Plus, the water is carried up the plant to the top by vessels.  Kind of exciting; isn’t it fun how word can have multiple meanings?

Contemplating Nature: Abandoned Water Vessels

Applies to Blog Titles Too!

The discussion had me thinking about titles and how they can add meaning or cause us to look at the subject different.  Speaking of titles, the same thought might apply to blog titles, titles of books or songs; pretty much anything that has a title.

Oh, I just had a thought, does the inverse hold true?  What I mean is, does a painting without a title lose potential meaning?

Good Bye Summer, Hello Fall

I wonder if the relative solitude of the lakes and mountains added to our free-thinking discussion about titles and meaning.  It certainly seemed to help.

All in all, embracing solitude and contemplating nature was an excellent way to end the summer and greet the fall.  I came home rested and happy.

PS: Website Update

Since we have come home, my husband has been working hard at updating my gallery website, Dancing Clouds.  I’d like to invite you to take a look and I hope you enjoy the view!  Thank you!

Share

The post Contemplating Nature and Titles appeared first on Margaret Stermer-Cox.

Get to the Morgan by Sunday

Judas Returning the Thirty Pieces of Silver, Rembrandt, oil on panel, detail

Judas Returning the Thirty Pieces of Silver, Rembrandt, oil on panel, detail

I rarely go out of my way to see a Rembrandt. He’s one of those painters you assume you know inside and out. What more is there to know? Yet, every time I spend time with one of his paintings, I walk away almost in disbelief at his genius and his flawless skill. Nothing about Rembrandt’s approach to painting appeals to me, personally: the staging and use of darkness to create cinematic effects, the way in which his chiaroscuro banishes most color from his palette, except in subtle concentrations, and even then it’s usually a world of brown and gray. I don’t live in a world that looks this way unless I’m glancing around a room lit only by the glow of a flat-screen TV. Yet when you stand before one of his great paintings, it’s jaw-dropping and almost dumbfounding. I felt that way in 2014 at The Frick, when I saw Simeon’s Song of Praise, a small canvas depicting a scene that feels enormous, and I had an even more intense reaction last week to Judas Returning the Thirty Pieces of Silver, on view until Sunday at The Morgan Library. The two paintings were completed two years apart, the latter when Rembrandt was only 23. How does a kid paint something this masterful, not only in technical skill but in its depth of understanding and empathy? When I saw this painting, it finally struck me that Rembrandt belongs in that cohort of rare, black swans who achieved effortless perfection at the earliest ages: Mozart, Rimbaud, Hendrix, Keats. In the case of both paintings I was astonished, the way I was six years ago when I saw how El Greco rendered the faces in The Coronation of the Virgin in a show at Onassis Cultural Center–overwhelming emotion and thought conveyed in faces that required, at best, a couple square inches of painted surface.

This show is built around only one painting, as the Frick show was primarily a way to offer the public a view of  Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s show in 2009 offered access to his Milkmaid. In all three instances, the exhibitions were devoted to work on loan from European collections, and they all gave a single painting its own stage supplemented by collateral work that helped put it into historical perspective. Of the three, the Morgan’s is the most effectively curated. More than two dozen drawings and prints line the walls around the central painting, and they are equally exhilarating. It’s one thing to know that Rembrandt was a masterful draftsman, but it’s another to see evidence of his preternatural facility repeatedly, in one drawing and print after another.

In conversation with Lawrence Weschler, for a catalog that accompanied his 2005 watercolor show at LA Louver in 2005, David Hockney rhapsodized about the irrevocable brushwork, the once-and-done, Asian quality of a single Rembrandt drawing,  A Child Being Taught to Walk:

Look at the speed, the way he wields that reed pen, drawing very fast, with gestures that are masterly, virtuoso, not calling attention to themselves but rather to the very tender subject at hand, a family teaching its youngest member to walk. The face of the baby: how even though you can’t see it, you can tell he is beaming. This mountain of figures, and then to balance it all, the passing milkmaid, how you can feel the weight of the bucket she carries in the extension of the opposite arm. All of it conveyed, magically. But look at the speed, the sheer mastery. The Chinese would have recognized a fellow master.

Hockney called it “the single greatest drawing ever made.” This show will evoke the same kind of superlatives over and over, as you move from one drawing and print to the next. One technique Rembrandt file_0001used consistently was to drench a focal point in bright light by doing nothing but line drawings of the figures–outlines, almost cartoons, while rendering everything in shadow with a grisaille of light and dark. At first glance, you think, it’s unfinished, but then you realize that it simply indicates that the shaft of light is so intense that it washes away nearly all the detail in the spotlit figures. The contrast it creates makes the drawing seem even more spontaneous and alive. Ironically, Rembrandt had to fall back on only his unerring sense of line, without modeling, to show all he needed to show when it came to the most crucial individuals in the depicted event.

Colin Bailey, the Morgan’s director, in an interview with Leonard Lopate, pointed out that Judas Returning the Thirty Pieces of Silver went through many revisions as Rembrandt painted. Xray studies of the painting have shown how he changed his mind about the composition even in the advanced stages of his work on it. The intense light streaming into the scene from the left, which is fundamental to the entire image–the light source is what visually unifies most representational images, after all–was a late modification, at least in the way it makes the open Bible the brightest object in the painting and highlights the coins strewn on the floor. Everything in the painting is rendered with magical skill, from the faces of the participants–somehow the likeness of Judas is so distinctly individuated that the tiny features reminded me of Ezra Pound’s profile–to the little bits of glinting chain link dangling from the bottom of the mounted shield or breastplate overhead.

In reference to the fact that this painting has rarely been available to the public, having belonged for years in a private European collection, Lopate asked: “How does someone like you respond to some pretty great paintings hidden away in warehouses? It seems to me to go against our whole idea of what art is about–if people buy it as an investment and keep it in a warehouse as a way of avoiding taxes–Van Gogh, Picasso, Leonardo, works that should be seen. That has to cause pain for someone whose life is devoted to exhibiting.”

Bailey said: “Whatever we think of these warehouses, the works are safe and are not deteriorating, but from the museum’s perspective, public access is something we’re committed to. The depth, vitality of the Morgan is interdisciplinary. It’s an encyclopedic institution in miniature.”

I’m drawn more and more to The Morgan when I come into the city, on the strength of the shows I’ve seen there: William Blake’s work in A New Heaven is Begun, in 2009, the sui generis Emmett Gowin show last year, Hidden Likeness, and now this exhibition. If you want to see the outcome of concentrated curatorial passion combined with deep insight and archival resources, The Morgan is the place to go. From these shows, I come away feeling as if I’ve connected more deeply, not simply with great art, but with myself.

Showing Peggy’s Ladies At Rogue Gallery

Announcement

Greetings!  I’m happy to announce that I am showing three of my ladies at the Rogue Gallery and Art Center in Medford, OR.

Showing: Peggy's Three Ladies

The Members Gallery will hang the ladies through January 10th, 2017 and the paintings are available for purchase.

About The Ladies

Ladies: I Can't Hear You

I Can’t Hear You,  Watercolor, Image Size 15×12

This painting was based on my ninth drawing in the “Just Sayin’…” series.  I am fascinated by how the use of a cell phone has effected our culture.  One of the more amusing gestures I notice is the finger put to the ear in order to hear better.   In this painting, my thoroughly modern lady is talking on her cell phone, using the thoroughly modern gesture of finger to her ear.

Ladies: Just Sayin'...V8

Just Sayin’…V8, Watercolor, Image Size 10.5×7

The “Just Sayin’…” series of paintings is inspired by the ubiquitous cell phone.  One can scarcely be in public without noticing someone talking on the cell phone and overhearing the conversation.  In this variation, my subject is an “upscale” lady, perhaps dressed for a special occasion like afternoon tea.  Even she has a finger to her ear as she talks on her cell phone.

 

Ladies: Irish Maiden

Irish Maiden, Watercolor, Image Size 10×7

With Irish Maiden, I wanted to combine symbols of Ireland in a Cubist-inspired designed.  The maiden’s crown eludes to the triple spiral and triskel, symbolizing unity of mind, spirit and body.  Naturally, I included shamrocks, the easily recognised symbol of luck.  The shamrocks and the color green together remind me of every St. Patty’s Day in elementary school.  Green was my favorite color and I made sure to wear plenty of green clothing.  Add a shamrock pin and I was ready not to get “pinched”.

Third Friday

If you are in the southern Oregon area, I hope you will stop by the Rogue Gallery and view the paintings.  Every third Friday of the month, the gallery holds a reception.  This is a particularly festive time to visit the gallery.

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