Saturday, December 20, 2008

Jack Frost is eating us alive in Seattle!

Although I should be used to this, having grown up in The Windy City, almost 35 years in Seattle has turned me into an official Pacific Northwest weather-wimp. But really, this weather is pretty tough even by Chicago standards. And then there's the hills here...Wow!

Thursday morning we all awoke at 5am to an incredible explosion- the house frame shook and many folks up on Beacon Hill thought that it was a plane crash or a terrorist blast. It was Thundersnow - that's a first for me. The weatherman says to expect more tonight plus up to 70mph winds. Hope we're still here tomorrow to complain some more.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Paper Place Contest

The Paper Place has put together the ultimate Chiyogami sample pack, 637 patterns in total, (retail value $1911.00). 

I could look at this stuff for days!

Burnt Plate Collagraph

Experimenting with Collagraphs

The collagraph print above is one of the first of a few experiments that I'm having fun with this winter. The plate is very simple, a shallow, sanded rectangle of pvc sentra. The darkest lines and dots are the result of burning into the plate with a woodburning tool. The other textures are modeling paste painted on with a brush and/or sponge pressed into the paste. Those deep burnt lines create a lot of burr and hold a lot of ink. Not a bad first print...stay tuned for more experiments and the addition of some color. Only one negative, it's about 4x harder to ink up intaglio than it is block prints, 
and a whole lot messier.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

"Conundrum", Colored Pencil with Brulage, 16 X20 inches

Burn, Baby, Burn!

It's 6 pm on a lovely evening in late fall and my 19 year old daughter Jenna bursts into the kitchen in characteristic high drama, "Something's burning! Mom!? Do you smell that? Somethings on fire!!! And so it is. It's my lovely colored pencil drawing that I've just spent the last month or so working on. I'm sitting in my studio bent over my work with a small wood burning tool. As I carefully singe the drawing perimeter, occasionally stamping out small areas that burn too fast, ash is flying thither and yon. If Jenna thinks I'm crazy, my kindhearted girl keeps it to herself, accepts my explanation and moves back into the safety of the world outside my studio door.  

What has brought me to this? It started a couple of years ago while I was working on a large colored pencil/collage project for a restaurant  in Alaska. The piece included several small vignette drawings mounted on a larger drawing of Mt. McKinley. I wanted something to give the piece a rugged, antiqued look and suddenly that old image from Bonanza popped into my head - remember the burning map accompanied by the theme music? Remember Hoss and Little Joe? Remember Dinah Shore singing "See the USA in your Chevrolet"?
Anyway, back to my project. Inspired by the Bonanza map, I got out my handy little wood burning tool and set to work. I liked the effect I got on the Canson mi tientes paper. Since then, I've used this burning (brulage) technique on many of my block prints and several colored pencil pieces as well. 

The piece above, "Conundrum", is a good example, as well as being one of my favorite recent pieces. In this piece, colored pencil was applied in gentle vertical strokes on Lama Li paper. As the paper is quite fragile, I had to be very careful to limit the number of colors that I layered. Too much and the paper would tear. Once the colored pencil application was complete, I sprayed the surface with workable matte fixative and set to work burning the edges. I have tried many different type of papers and the Lami Li burns the best. Occasionally the "burn" takes off in a glowing creep. I usually let it go a bit to see what kind of interesting shapes evolve and then quickly stamp it out when I feel it's run it's course. (It's important to keep a small fan or a breeze from an open window going, to keep from inhaling the smoke.) Also, very important to occasionally blow the accumulating ash off of the paper and the work surface. Once I'm satisfied with the results, I turn the piece over on a clean sheet of newsprint and carefully tap and brush the loose ash off. The finished piece is then sprayed with acid free adhesive, applied to mat board and pressed under weights overnight.  

It's not a quick and easy procedure but I really do love the effect it gives and it works especially well with small block prints. Actually, if truth be told, I love the process as well. The act of painstakingly destroying a portion of something I've just created is quite satisfying. I wonder what a psychotherapist would have to say about that? Well, that's my burnt paper story and I'm stickin' to it.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

"Sisters", Colored Pencil, 23 X29 inches

Commissioned portraits,... I love 'em, I hate 'em

  There's nothing as motivating as starting a new portrait. A new project, a new face, and no doubt, a new set of challenges. Fearlessly (and sometimes a bit recklessly) I launch forth on my latest project, all confidence and optimism....
 "Can you make me thinner?" ...But of course!
"We like Emma's eyes in this photo and her smile in that one. Can you do that?" ....Not a problem.
"Can you, can you, can you?"...yes, yes and YES!! 

Reality check! I have just blithely committed myself to many hours of tortuous and tedious extra work that is definitely NO FUN!
And then there's the matter of photos that don't show enough detail when enlarged to a workable 8X10, or the little boy who looks  like a different kid in each of 20 reference photos. "Will the real Kyle please come forth?"

Somehow or other, these little glitches never wave any red flags for me 
in the beginning and I end up tearing my hair out as a result. Fortunately, 99% of the time, the challenges are conquered and the end result is what I had visualized in the beginning (while I was mindlessly nodding my head to the can-you questions). I've had one portrait returned for modifications. Yes, you guessed it, the elusive Kyle. So I put the portrait aside for a couple of weeks and came back with a fresh eye. Eureka! The real Kyle did come forth, the changes were made and we finally closed that book to a happy ending for all. 

I do love portraiture but I'm going to make an effort to really keep myself in check next time
by adding a "but"....
"Can you paint Laura without her double chin?" Yes, but...

A new puppy and getting to really know my backyard

Lola is our new puppy. Over the years, I tend to forget how much work some things are,-like caring for a new puppy. Housebreaking. So much fun, up in the middle of the night to stand, freezing, in my backyard while muttering words of encouragement. Or waking up, groggy, to a vaquely funky smell only to discover a chewed-up pig hoof 2 inches away from my face. Sweet dreams.

It was only five years ago that I went through all this puppy stuff with our other dog, Roscoe.
He was a real the time he gobbled up a pound of gingerbread cookie dough off of the kitchen counter. Bad dog! But I quickly forgive and forget, and I invite him to come along for a car trip later that day. Midway through the trip, he's acting mighty strange in the back seat. Maybe I'd better stop to let him out... he might have to "go". Too late- he already "went". In fact it looks like someone took a ketchup squirt bottle and did a Jackson Pollack number over the entire car interior. Ah, yes, good times with dogs.

However, it's payback time for Roscoe. He's got Lola, the mini-canine albatross, hanging from his neck (literally!) 24-7 now. He does love Lola, but she sure is a pain; she takes his toys, she hops around, she spins in circles, she rushes over to hog all the cuddles and pets he gets. 
Now you know, Roscoe.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Jenna and Carolie

Carolie and Noel

Inhabitants of the Studio on the Hill

A fascinating array of characters calls this place home. Well of course,there's me. In addition to artist, I'm also mom, mentor, friend, cook, dog trainer, housekeeper, and, oh yeah..., work a full time job as an ExecutiveAssistant in downtown Seattle. It's a good thing I'm a type A.

My daughter Jenna has been an inhabitant of Studio on the Hill since she was born 19 years ago. She is wonderful and terrible, happy as a lark or shooting murderous looks that stop you in your tracks. Beautiful and smart, funny and so much fun to be around, she is my baby and I do baby her. She knows how to take care of herself but explains that everything is so much better when mom does it for her. Jenna is a rare and exotic bird poised to take flight. She will complete Community College courses in the next year and will move on to the next phase of her life at a four year college. I can't imagine this place or my life without her.

Like her sister, Jenna, Carolie is beautiful, spontaneous and mercurial, but in a different way. At 23, Carolie has matured light years since shewas 19. She now has 2 years of life in Manhattan and 1 year in Denver under her belt and has learned volumes from both experiences. Classes at The New School brought her to Manhattan and love took her to Denver. She is currently back home with us in Seattle along with Noel, her great love, although they will no doubt be moving on in a year or so, possibly to New York City to complete their Bachelor degrees.

Noel Sinclair Boyt is now an inhabitant of Studio on the Hill. Noel is one in a million. He's an amazing artist himself and he fits right into this happily dysfunctional group. Talented, devoted, adaptable, funny and entertaining, Noel is the kind of person that you feel like you've always known and are certain will always be a part of your life in the future. Without Noel's calming influence, Carolie, Jenna and I would be embroiled in weekly, if not daily, bloody battles over the smallest things; a look, an offhand comment, food eaten, clothing borrowed, and on and on and on it goes.

Don is the original inhabitant of Studio on the Hill who now lives in the cottage off of the alley. While he is family, he likes his seclusion. He grows wheatgrass and organic veggies, he builds pyramids, he does not believe in rules, in fact, he's determined to break every rule he can;
Seatbelts? way.
Leash your dog? ...what for?
Get a building permit? don't need one, unless they catch you.
Don's a maverick all right but you can almost always find him at home and chances are, if you know what time it is, you'll know exactly what he's doing at that moment.

Finally, there are the four legged inhabitants of my world. The senior staffer is Tars, the 17-or-something-year old cat that looks like he's lived under a rock in the alley for most of his life, instead of sleeping and scratching in my favorite chair for 22 hours a day. He doesn't rock, but he does rule. Second in seniority is Roscoe, our 5 year old gnarly pit mix who started life at Studio on the Hill as a darling 7 week old "beagle-sharpei" mix. He's a good watch dog and is Don's shadow. 
The newest addition to our cast of characters is Lola, the Frenchbo puppy. A mix of French Bulldog and Boston Terrier, she's a firecracker. Pretty cute, even when she's chewing up my best watercolor brush, all the woodwork and even barfing on my bed (only cute in retrospect). Everybody loves Lola.

Welcome to my studio...'s not a very organized studio and it's spread out between two rooms, the kitchen table and the dining room table, but that's how I work. Some might call it scattered and disorganized but I prefer to think of it as eclectic and inspired. Well, I love it and it's where I do my creative stuff. Focused, in the moment - happy. It will never make the pages of "The Artists Magazine" but it works for me for now.