Watercolor Process – The Birth

“Iron Dragon” from the Reef Series

People often ask how I create my watercolors. Next time I perform this process I will make a video but here is a description in the meantime.

I cover the floor with as many pieces of high quality watercolor paper that I have room for. I thoroughly wet the paper(s) with water by either using a spray bottle or large 4″ brush. This wetting is a throwback to a time when I soaked paper for printmaking. Next, I mix the colors I that feel or look good to me at the time. No planning, but I do select color based on how I am feeling at the time. I use the tools at hand, literally my own hands work the large washes along with huge mop brushes, but there are fingerprints, and a sleeve dragged (possibly) through the work during the original throwdown of paint onto paper. The brush does a loose dance and my fingertips direct the magic. I allow the wind, sand, bark or other fragments of the life from Gaia come into the work. Mother Earth has her hand in the painting as she allows a leaf to settle or insect to walk across the paper. Often I find objects or materials to use as resists. Some resists are added supplies from the kitchen–often an experiment and sometimes products that I have used before. Salt is a common additive, but oats might be chosen instead.

I allow the paint to pool in deep rich colors or pale watery shades. Then I leave. I rest and let my creations solidify. Usually, I sleep and dream about what is brewing on the paper, my dreams are strongly connected to the work at hand. I have contemplated how much my dreams direct the paint but it is speculation. My imagination though is given wings to soar from the dreams which in turn helps the creation move further along. Sometimes, at a point of partial drying I check back and add more pigments, squeezing the drops out of the brush and allowing them to fall, gravity does the work. Although I often work in series, every piece has its own method, its own manner of coming into being even though they are pointed simultaneously. They are living creatures that continue to thrive under my guidance. It is an intuitive process. I feel connected to the work and allow the paintings to emerge–letting the melange of images come forward and speak out. But its only the beginning. They need time, to flower, to open: to be interpreted further. After all the paintings are dry they are stacked and weighed to keep them flat until I am ready to proceed with adding ink. In Part 2 I will discuss the next layer – Inkwork.

You.

When I was a kid I drew. And painted. Everywhere. I am born to make things. Kinetic. Creator.

In progress - watercolors, acrylic mono prints, ink pen and eraser.
In progress – watercolors, acrylic mono prints, ink pen and eraser.

I never thought about where the objects I made would hang. Never cared if they sold. Those concepts never entered my mind. All my life I made art to make it—no choice–more like a compulsion. Last Thursday, I went to the NYC gallery where my painting is on display. Friends and family were with me and that made it more real for me that my work is hanging in NYC. I’ve heard others describe it as a dream they always wanted even from childhood. Odd that it never crossed my mind as being that important although I exhibited a few times in the 80’s because I was invited to do a small show.

Until a few years ago. I turned 49 and was on the upswing to 50 when I made a decision that I would exhibit again. I called it Aurora The Third Act. Aurora is goddess of the dawn and what a dawn this has been these 4 years. I am so pleased to be accepted into NAWA and have work in the annual exhibit. And pleased that I create work that brings pleasure to so many people. Although it can seem like it is about me, the artist, its not. Its about the viewer. You. Its about what you see and how you feel and where it leads you when you view the art I make. Together we make art an experience.

This photo is a picture of my tools and work in front of me. I work at a constant pace on paper and reserve my longer bits of time for larger paintings. The small work gets me through rough patches when time constraints are pushing me to and fro, or space is limited and I am on the go. Much like a knitter takes their work along, I take small paper drawings and pens. This work probably won’t end up in a gallery setting but I make it anyway. I use all my skills to create the best possible work at any given time or using any medium.

Lately, string is pulling me into hours of reverie, inventing images in my mind about what I might make with a crochet hook. I have a painting on an easel at home and one in the studio. Yet I don’t feel inspired to go to work on them. Summer was a series of trips and events that took me from home interspersed with the death of 4 people I know. Their passing has left me feeling very bereft and I think of them several times a day. I can’t see them again and have conversation or ask questions, smile with them, hold their hand. Mortality is rearing its head and I am interested in how that plays out in life and art. Life goes forward. So will the art.

Free Labor?

Hands in Cave

A few days ago, artist Gregory Coates shared a wall post on Facebook by Takos Boikat about how artists should be paid. I shared it out on Facebook– and of course I champion the cause. I saw a few reactions to it on Facebook from artists about working for free–how often they are asked to do something in the name of getting exposure, or a famous artist/person will bestow a favor later. Often later never comes around, or the exposure turns out to be little if anything that really drives a career. I have had fellow artists ask me to help them find artists to work for free for them—or work for sub-standard wages. And sadly, I cannot count the number of fellow artists who tell me they work for very little or free.

Gregory’s post is very timely. A society must value the sensitive creative people in the culture—the ones who create are the ones with the ideas, the real drivers of culture and how the future will play out rests on the shoulders of the artists. It is a heavy burden. Risk takers, inventors, social engineers, visionaries, and the creators, this is what makes us extraordinary. Not always knowing the outcome of what we do, we take up the challenge and forge new paths, new ways of seeing, hearing and feeling. 

The caves show work thousands of years old—the work of artists. There are arguments that the work might be spiritual—but we cannot know if the paintings were done for pure joy or for shamanic purposes. Whatever purpose the painters had no longer matters, what does matter is that they left images for everyone to see. Artists matter to society–lets reward them for their labor.


The Artist does it again

Originally published August of 2010, this is revisited February 2012.

The Artist. A Title. A venerable title that holds so much promise, yet is born out of deep pain or resonant joy, each work is a reflecting pool of a life, a time, a dwelling, a bond, a collaborator or partner. Ever The Artist. I have dragged The Title kicking and screaming all the way, sometimes losing sight of it, putting others needs before The Title’s needs. At times The Title gets complacent and waits, whirring and worrying, behind me shadow-like, and then feeling trapped it gnaws off a leg. And it lets me know every time that it is weary of being flouted and it gets angry. That is how The Title preserves itself. What if I die before It gets It’s work done? How dare I…so I step aside again and let it chew off a limb or kill a part of my life so we can get to work again.
The Artist has just killed again.

Recurring theme – surfaced again, I had to visit this again to find the essence of the work. Its always a bloody event, visceral and real, takes me down to a bare bones emptiness. Yet out of it comes something so clear and pristine that I gasp as I feel the new power surge through me.

Darkest of Nights

There is a color that almost imperceptible in the night sky.It is more blue than black, more violet than blue.Clear skies make it have a deep pile carpet-like feel.Hazy nights have a vapor that lingers, celestials steadfastly riding amid the mist.
As easy as it might seem I am not able to easily reproduce this color in paintings, I can get close, but the luminous clarity is always just an edge away. The natural world is bewildering.

AuroraDate 9.1.10

A sliver of light, still twilight, still nightshade with a resonant glow of the sliver of pink light is just across my horizon this diffused morning. A night of half sleeps, Aurora begins on this date. It is too early, it is also too late in some ways. Never really too late, but we regret waiting for good change and feel the too-lateness-of-it-all.
There is work, so much work, always the work, like Larkin’s Toad it can feel heavy and yet I actually thrive when I have a place to direct my mental energy. So let the dawn arrive in my life, I am anxious for it to begin, yet hesitant to have it actually start, I am not ready, I am beyond ready oh let me just enjoy this feeling of standing at the edge–it may pass too soon.