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Work zone, reduce speed

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This studio of mine is humming with work right now, which is why it’s been so long since I’ve posted anything. I have a backlog of about a dozen posts I want to write, including a long conversation I had with Jim Mott recently, as well as an assortment of random thoughts, some long overdue praise for a long-gone Thiebaud exhibit I saw at Aquavella,  and hopefully something about the fine new show of quasi-Tonalist contemporary work at Oxford Gallery right now, if I can pull away from painting long enough to focus on this blog. I’m almost done with work for my two-person show in March at Oxford, but still have plenty left to do–slowly and steadily–which generates a bit of anxiety as time grows short and the work proceeds at its own insistently careful pace. I’m loving the work though.

I’m also going to do a series of posts in reaction to my impulse purchase of The Birth of Tragedy, through the Kindle app on my tablet. I’ve been devouring it over the past few days. It’s an incredible book, very short and dense with original thought, and it’s hard to believe it’s so early in Nietzsche’s career, his first published work. The thinking is so subtle and complex, and the compression of his thinking reads like something from late in a philosopher’s career. In it, he questioned the role of science long before it became clear that technology could actually replace human beings, as it appears ready to do, and he went back to Greek tragedy to find a creative focus around which he could cluster glancing insights into art, philosophy and religion–in opposition to the notions of progress and rationality that arose with Socrates. I was softened up for a rereading of something by this German thinker after listening to so many podcasts from Entitled Opinions (whose host regularly revisits Heidegger’s interrogation of Western civilization, a project he inherited directly from Nietzsche, whose name also comes up regularly with guests on that Stanford University program.)

Now that I’ve reread this book, I think Nietzsche might actually have disapproved of the sort of painting I do, and that itself might be worth a post, because I would have something Contra Nietzsche to say on the matter, but he’s making me examine the assumptions underlying what I do. Very little of what’s so powerful in this book relates much to the notions for which Nietzsche eventually came to be known: the ubermensch, eternal recurrence, and so on. He returns again and again to the effect of music in classic Greek tragedy: how it unveils an entire world and obliteration of the self in a kind of cosmic sorrow and wonder that employs the events and characters of the drama as a shield through which that sorrow can be experienced as joy. His thinking strikes me as insightful when it comes to how the cleverness and conceptualism of art in the past century has broken it free of its moorings. The loss of those moorings is what he was lamenting just as modernism was coming to life–without being able to express directly what that central impetus was. So much to write, so little time . . . but I’ll be able to get back to posting soon.

a new day

January came with sunshine this year.  

After two months of rain I loved this return of the sunshine like a friend I had thought I had lost.  

I've been working on my book for North Light, and am now almost on Chapter Seven.

This is a all consuming job, but I wouldn't trade it for the world.

 

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What I have noticed is that when you love a subject, the words and the art pours out. I have also learned how to use my husbands Nikon, especially when I take photographs of my art. But my trusty Cannon is still best for still lifes and outside photographs!

But last weekend I was finally getting over an awful chest cold and I needed a break! Much of the work I do, and like many of you,is alone… being an artist is a solitary life. That is one reason why teaching and taking workshops is so important, to be with like souls and share your passion.

So I called a friend and we went to a workshop I was intrigued by, Shibori Dyeing taught by the beautiful and energy-filled Sharon Kifoyle.

Lorri Scott hosted this workshop in her studio high in the Santa Cruz mountains. Lorri's studio is one of my very favorite places to be.

I love being a student.

 

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Here are some of the things I made using silks and cottons,dyes, discharging and even Indigo dyeing.

 

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And our lovely teacher resting after the second day, with some of her own samples hanging behind her.

 

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This is some of Jan's work,

 

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And Lorri's…

 

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The processes were colorful and exciting to watch.

Bubbling and sizzling,

fizzy and frothy concoctions were brewed.

 

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I'm really excited about my projects.  From the beginning I was thinking of dyeing fabric for my books and my collages, (and to share at my worshops of course!). These will probably be cut up and stitched over…

 

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The process is actually quite complicated, soaking, dyeing, watering down,rinsing, heating, clamping, discharging and re-dyeing.  All repeated until you get the desired effect!

I love working on the vintage velvet and raw silk the best, but cotton, muslin and other silks are wonderful too.

 

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Now I am ready for this new year, and my wish for you is that spring will come soon,in your garden and in your heart!

Vist here to find out about my workshops… and here if you would like to friend me on Facebook!

 

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Lithia Park – Paintings From A Different View

The Park

Lithia Park is an historic place Ashland, Oregon.  Its a beautiful park designed by the same person who designed Golden Gate Park.  It has lots of varieties of trees.  A creek runs through it.  Rhododendrons and azaleas bloom profusely in spring.  There are two duck ponds.  But, I chose a different viewpoint – looking down at my feet.

Autumn In Lithia Park

The Challenge

My choices for day five of the 3 paintings/day for 5 days FB challenge* date back to 2003.  These early paintings are still among my favorite, plus I think its instructive to see them again.  I contemplate how far I have traveled on this artistic journey.  The four paintings and drawing in this small series were purchased as a collection and I am happy knowing that they are together.

Autumn in Lithia Park

Back to the park.  It is a favorite place to visit for my husband and me.  One day in October of 2003, we were walking along one of the park trails and there were butterflies and baby skinks (a type of lizard) all over the place.  It was like a final bursting of life on that autumn day.  The coloration of the butterflies and baby skinks was similar to the colors I used in "Autumn in Lithia Park".  The butterflies were dark, almost black with orange and white spots.  The baby skinks and bright blue tails and yellow stripes running down the body.  What glorious color.

Autumn In Lithia Park II

Oddly enough, I have never seen the skink and butterfly combination in such profusion again in Lithia Park.

I did not draw on location.  I didn't have paper or pencil.  Instead, I took mental notes and when we returned to our hotel room (we had been visiting), I quickly drew my impressions and notes of what I had seen.  From these notes, I created four designs that became the paintings and drawing shown here.

Autumn in Lithia Park IV

A Word About the Colored Pencil Piece

Oh, I almost forgot, in the early days of my art "career", I worked colored pencil side-by-side with watercolor.  For the past five years or so, I have focused on my watercolor work.

Retrospective

I have enjoyed doing this mini, on-line retrospective of my work.  In thinking about my drawings and paintings, I am reminded of my goals and intentions I set to paper back in 2002 when I first started my artistic journey.  I have wanted to express what I see and feel in a personal way.  Inspired by nature, people, relationships and pets, the paintings are my own vision.  I suppose that's not particularly profound.  I'm thinking this is pretty much true of any artist.  We can't help but paint our own vision.

That being said, I've learned tremendously from other artists and I hope to continue to do so.  

Thanks!

I hope you enjoy the four views of "Autumn in Lithia Park".  Thank you Myrna Wacknov for inviting me to take part in the three-for-five FB challenge.

Autumn in Lithia Park III

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The post Lithia Park – Paintings From A Different View appeared first on Margaret Stermer-Cox – Watercolor Artist.

“Torsten On Bass” Watermedia Painting Series

Challenge

Welcome to Day Four of the 3-paintings-per-day-for-five-day (3-4-5) FB challenge!  Today I'm featuring my "Torsten on Bass" series, and for a blog bonus, I'm adding a fourth piece.  (Thank you Myrna Wacknov for inviting me to participate in the challenge).  

 

Inspiration

The paintings in the series "Torsten on Bass" were inspired by photographs my husband took of some of our musician friends from Germany.  We lived in Germany during the 1990's.  We met and became friend with a local rock and roll band.  They called themselves the "Lunatics United".  I would say they were not "lunatics" but they were a fun, hard rock band.  They had a vocalist, two guitarists, a bassist and drummer.  Torsten played bass.  

Lesson Learned

These paintings were done in 2008.  I learned a lesson during the process of developing the designs that has served me well.  I started by drawing from the photograph.  I became frustrated because the drawing from the photograph did not express what I felt about the band or music.

After a few drawings, I put the photographs away.  I created new drawings from memory, imagination and as a response to how music makes me feel.  Oddly enough, the first "Torsten on Bass" has as much to do with the blues as it does with rock and roll.  I liked the resulting figure and the muted colors.

After successful design number one, I naturally had to do some more.  In designs II (Rock and Roll), III & IV, I thought about going to rock and roll concerts, the heat of the lights, the sound of the music and how it made me feel.  Plus, I took more liberties with the figure.

What did I learn?  By drawing from life or photographs first, I get the feel of the subject.  Then, I let myself loose with memories, imagination and emotion.  I create something that says what I feel about the subject.  Plus, I have a great time.

Exhibiting

I have rarely shown these works, although "Torsten on Bass" was exhibited in a juried show in Springfield, OR.  In looking back at the images, I am pleased with the work.  I wonder why I stopped!  

Two of the pieces are in private collections:  "Torsten on Bass – Rock and Roll" and "Torsten on Bass III".  "Torsten on Bass IV" has never been shown, oddly enough.  I did more drawings, but all of them are in sketchbooks put away in storage.

Its wonderful to be able to pull these paintings out and share them with you.  I hope you enjoy them!  Thanks!

 

The post “Torsten On Bass” Watermedia Painting Series appeared first on Margaret Stermer-Cox – Watercolor Artist.

Still Life With Toy Pony – Three Watercolors & A Drawing

Toy Pony Series

On day three, its three paintings and a drawing from my "Still Life With Toy Pony" series.  Day three refers to the "three paintings a day for five days" challenge being carried out on Facebook.  Artist and friend Myrna Wacknov invited me to join in on the fun.

I chose "Still Life with Toy Pony" because I have worked on this particular series of paintings since 2009.  It has been a major part of my artistic growth.

The series followed the "KittyKitty" series.  This series is a creativity and design problem.  I borrowed the idea from artist Mike Bailey, who I discovered through Mryna Wacknov's blog.  

Here's the problem. 

Pick three things that are alike and one thing that is different.  Set up a still life.  Develop 20 designs.  Develop 20 more.  If you're really into the problem, draw 40 more.  I think Mr. Bailey is over 100.  

What you learn.  

By doing the same subject 20 times, you force yourself to start being creative.  To use a phrase from Mr. Bailey, you go beyond the obvious.  You start being experimental.  Simplying, stylizing, embellishing, reorganizing: these are the types of approaches that went through my head.  

What I Did.

I picked three "geometric" items hanging around my house.  The espresso cup – because I like espresso.  The candlestick was a wedding gift.  The vase was a little clay thing I picked up in Germany.  They have the "cup" type form in common.  They're variations on a column.  I added one "organic" shaped object – a small toy pony I picked up in San Francisco's China Town when visiting in the late 70's.  Its made of satin.

I started drawing and numbering each as I went.  After a few drawings were done, I enlarged my favorites and started painting.  (The first drawing is included at the bottom of the page).

Eventually, I started looking at design considerations to create variations.  I learned about formats, colors, values, shapes, repetition, lines, patterns.  I did 80 drawings of which 19 are paintings.  I used watercolor primarily, though there are a few mixed water media pieces.  If you'd like to see most of the collection, I invite you to see it on my website Dancing Clouds.

Three Paintings

Today's three paintings were chosen because they each have some personal significance.  I am also including drawing number one so you can see the starting point. 

The green variation is the first painting of the series and was based on drawing number four.  You can easily see the still life objects:  espresso cup, candlestick, vase and toy pony.  There is some stylization.  This paintings was done in 2009.

The next one I chose was design 53.  I painted this one in 2010; it pre-dates the painting of design 39, the third painting (2012).  The still life shapes in design 53 are flattened, but you still get a feeling of three dimensional objects.  With design 39, the objects are flattened and may be hard to recognize.

If you look at the three paintings, you will notice that I shifted from color schemes being dominant to value patterns being dominant.  ("Value" here refers to the relative lightness and darkness of shapes).

I chose the paintings specifically to illustrate the kind of artistic growth one can gain by studying in this manner.  I hope you enjoy them!

 

 

 

 

The post Still Life With Toy Pony – Three Watercolors & A Drawing appeared first on Margaret Stermer-Cox – Watercolor Artist.

Winter Writing & Wine at EdenVale Winery

Winter is upon us and a new weekly writing group is forming. Warm yourselves with story in front of the fire at the Voorhies Mansion at EdenVale Winery. We will gather with inspiring prompts, delicious snacks, wine available for purchase, and a supportive, encouraging environment for every writer.
 
Winter Evening Writing Group
Five Thursdays
February 19 – March 19
6:30 – 9 pm
EdenVale Winery
$125

Three Lighthouses – Watercolor Paintings

The Challenge

Lighthouses are my theme for Day Two.  This is part of the art tag challenge on facebook:  Three Paintings a Day for Five Days.  (My thanks to artist Myrna Wacknov for inviting me to participate in this challenge).  

Lighthouses & Childhood

I grew up in a house with lighthouse paintings.  My father had done several paintings of the subject and they lined the walls of our house.  I think some were of lighthouses in Maine and some in Spain.  In any case, I thought they were exotic, fascinating paintings.

My childhood home was in the desert Southwestern United States.  The ocean and lighthouses belonged to a different world and fired my imagination.  I wanted to visit lighthouses and own a painting or two myself.

Since childhood, I've seen and visited several lighthouses in this country and abroad.  

Grays Harbor Lighthouse

There are many along the Washington and Oregon coast, where I live these days.  Also, a friend gave me an ornament of the Grays Harbor (Washington) Lighthouse.  The lighthouse became my model, along with some broken sea shells from the beaches of Grays Harbor.

Naturally, a little Peggy-style Cubism creeps in to my design as does a lot of imagination.  There are more versions.  I think these three have a sense of the storms that visit the Northwest United States Coast.

A word about my naming system, "D" in the title refers to "design", as in "D10" means "Design 10".  Thanks!

The post Three Lighthouses – Watercolor Paintings appeared first on Margaret Stermer-Cox – Watercolor Artist.

Three Lighthouses – Watercolor Paintings

The Challenge

Lighthouses are my theme for Day Two.  This is part of the art tag challenge on facebook:  Three Paintings a Day for Five Days.  (My thanks to artist Myrna Wacknov for inviting me to participate in this challenge).  

Lighthouses & Childhood

I grew up in a house with lighthouse paintings.  My father had done several paintings of the subject and they lined the walls of our house.  I think some were of lighthouses in Maine and some in Spain.  In any case, I thought they were exotic, fascinating paintings.

My childhood home was in the desert Southwestern United States.  The ocean and lighthouses belonged to a different world and fired my imagination.  I wanted to visit lighthouses and own a painting or two myself.

Since childhood, I've seen and visited several lighthouses in this country and abroad.  

Grays Harbor Lighthouse

There are many along the Washington and Oregon coast, where I live these days.  Also, a friend gave me an ornament of the Grays Harbor (Washington) Lighthouse.  The lighthouse became my model, along with some broken sea shells from the beaches of Grays Harbor.

Naturally, a little Peggy-style Cubism creeps in to my design as does a lot of imagination.  There are more versions.  I think these three have a sense of the storms that visit the Northwest United States Coast.

A word about my naming system, "D" in the title refers to "design", as in "D10" means "Design 10".  Thanks!

The post Three Lighthouses – Watercolor Paintings appeared first on Margaret Stermer-Cox – Watercolor Artist.

Make it timless, not new

Chaucer, as new as he ever was

I was browsing through the squibs in the front of the most recent The New Yorker fresh from my mailbox, hoping to find something to see on a quick trip to Manhattan where Nancy and I, along with a couple friends, have tickets for the Matisse show at MoMA. I spotted three things that stood out, not for what they were critiquing, but for the thoughts expressed in these A.D.D.-friendly five-sentence reviews. Here they are:

1. Museum of Modern Art: “The Forever Now: Contemporary Painting in the Forever Now.”

“The ruling insight that the thoughtful curator Laura Hoptman proposes and the artists confirm is that anything attempted in painting now can’t help but be a do-over of something from the past, unless it’s so nugatory that nobody before thought to bother with it.”

(But my first response to this was: I will see your nugatory and raise you a negatory. Yes, history has run its course for visual art. The notion of progress is dead. But I have some humble qualifications that fly in the face of what I this show’s apparent tone and spirit. More below.)

I turned the page and found my counterpoint already put into words:

2. Marcus Roberts

While raising money on Kickstarter for his latest project–recording a suite of music that he wrote some twenty years ago, called “Romance, Swing, and the Blues”–the pianist and composer declared that “all great jazz is modern jazz–whatever the age of the piece, we make it ‘modern’ (relevant to our own time in history) when we play it.” This multi-stylistic dictum informs his work with his new twelve-member band, Modern Jazz Generation, which recently released a double album of the material.

(Obviously, right? The individual performer makes it new. Anyone who has heard a great cover knows this.)

3. “The Contract” 

In the European Union, artists receive a royalty each time their works are resold. The U.S. has no such droit de suite, but in 1971 the curator-dealer Seith Siegelaub drafted a rarely used contract to guarantee artists fifteen percent of profits from future sales. The conceit of this show is that all the works in it . . . are subject to the agreement. Is this premise better suited to an article or a symposium than it is to an exhibition? Probably, but in this turbo-charged art market the show has the rare virtue of subordinating speculators’ profits to artists’ welfare. (The show, at Essex Street, was over on Jan. 11, even though this issue of The New Yorker is dated Jan. 12. Which is typical of these notices in The New Yorker: some seem to sit in the queue until after their use-by date.)

Last things first. I wish I’d seen this show just to have been in a place briefly where someone was trying to overturn some tables in the financialized temple of art. The show comments sardonically on the fusion of art and finance–it’s a funny way to nudge buyers, suggesting the work on view would be rapidly rising in value and be irresistible when faced with a chance to resell it–as well as a great idea to further enrich any living artists who aren’t already making a fortune at the art fairs by selling work purchased as a substitute for, say, oil commodities. As if anyone whose work is that hot needs a royalty from future sales . . . but still, it’s a gesture in support of creators rather than speculators. Precisely the same favoritism ought to be applied to the world of business in general, tipping the scales in favor of Wal-Mart floor workers over Wall Street bankers. But fully established artists these days are one-percenters themselves so . . .

Now, about this MoMA show. Arthur Danto announced the end of the history of art long ago, and I’ve been dutifully pointing out here that there’s nothing new under the sun in art, in the old sense of “new” as an advance in art’s scope toward greater artistic freedom and power. Anything can be art, since Duchamp and Warhol. There are no new frontiers. Get over it. We don’t need sophisticated shows at MoMA to point out the obvious. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing new in painting, in a sense that really matters. What that “newness” actually is remains inexpressible the way that your children’s worthiness of love will remain something that doesn’t require a theory to elucidate or justify.

When it arrives, spring is as new as it can ever get up in these parts on the lower shore of Lake Ontario, where winter becomes a cowl of cold gray vacancy overhead that siphons the color out of everything for four months. The newness of April is exactly the newness embodied in the opening lines of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales which are so old that they are virtually incomprehensible, English has changed so much. It’s the newness of the first robin’s song in the trees once spring has arrived. That spring, and that robin, are identical, in almost all respects, to every spring and robin that have arrived here for a thousand years. And yet they are new. Absolutely the same as they ever were, but new and alive. Figure that out and you’ll know what it takes to make painting new.

It isn’t about theory, or art history, or putting an ironic spin on the Old Masters or, God help us, painting things that say Painting is Dead. The challenge is that, as art becomes more and more a matter of investing one’s whole individual being, one’s entire apprehension of life, into a painted image–having left behind the need to belong to a school or period of style of making art–there is even less and less to analyze and say about the work. This is why you have shows like this at MoMA. It gives the surrounding people something to do, now that there’s less and less to say about the act of making art. It’s about seeing, not saying. It’s an entirely interior, secret, human transaction between two people who know how to see what makes the slightest little things joyful in life, and it isn’t about money, nor about finding a market, nor about anything but this attempt to make the act of building a painting sacramental, friendly, a gesture of kindness and generosity, one person to another, or, for the lucky few, one person to a million (one at a time). Newness is a religion for marketers. What matters in painting seems to have become completely withdrawn to a region inaccessible to theorists and appraisers. But in reality it’s where it has always been, at a level where you can’t quite get to it or can’t pin it down, can’t explain exactly what it is, anymore than you can do that for life itself. But you can definitely see it. When it’s there, in the work, it’s as thrilling as the sound of a wood thrush who has gotten lost and found his way into your backyard, miles from the woods where he belongs and where few people go.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three Cats

Cats are one of my favorite subjects. I think it most appropriate that I start of my "FB Art Challenge" with some kitties.

I was tagged to do the challenge by artist and friend Myrna Wacknov.  The challenge is to post three paintings per day for five days.  I get to tag other artists each day.

I think it will be fun curating a micro show every day, going through my various collections.

Today's watercolor paintings are from my "kittykitty" series which features a cat.  The cat was my Aunt Mary's cat.  She was a quiet, elegant being who liked to lie around with an air of deep knowledge.  Or, perhaps she was just a cat staring out into space.

 

"Kitty Kit…" my new painting is unusual in that I added text.  I wanted to imply that the cat is being called by someone off painting.  The cat is sitting on a pillow, comfortable and will move if and when she desires.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The "KittyKitty" painting series has done well for me.  Both "Groovy Kitty" and "Seriously KittyKitty" have been accepted into juried exhibitions.   Just as important, the series became a good vehicle to study design and style.

I have done at least 30 paintings or watercolor studies.  They're fun!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More soon!

 

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