Monday, January 4, 2021

The Myth of the Monoliths

The Myths of the Monoliths
20"x20" acrylic on canvas

I'm interested in monoliths because, usually, they're created by ancient cultures. That taps into my very being--I feel the soul connection. Lately, monoliths have been part of the political discussion, as in "We are not a monolith." As a white woman over 65, I feel that declaration when stated by individuals who are part of another group of beings.

I am also interested in the word "myth," which can mean a widely held but false belief or a truth of a people. This election season revealed both aspects of myth. Oh, the stories we tell.

The monoliths in my painting do not stand completely separated from each other. They each have elements of the other. There are places where overlapping occurs, where foregrounds flow into each other. 

Step 1 was perfect grey applied with a brayer and then wiped off in places. This layer took about seven minutes, and it was so tempting to call "done." But where's the fun in that? The working title was "Feeling Some Kind of Way." Once I started working on it, though, monoliths emerged. I miss some of the white that's in the beginning layer but not in the finished piece. But, at the same time, I love what I replaced it with in the finished piece and don't wish those details/colors/forms gone. Ah the decisions, the settling in, the letting go. Pervasive part of the process. Some would say it's invasive rather than pervasive, though. Ha!

No Words


No Words 
8"x8" watercolor crayon, matte medium, acrylic on canvas

For this, I began with a grid form that I came across--the blanks created when cardstock game pieces were punched out. I rarely work with squares in my square paintings, so this was all an experiment. I'm a little bugged by all the even numbers of squares, down, across, in total. The size seemed right for how I wanted to play at it, so there you are. 

I began by making marks with the watercolor crayons, layer upon layer. The initial marks were different, more intentional forms that gradually lost their shape as layers were added--in part a result of applying matte medium which naturally smears the marks. So be it. I had originally thought to do this exclusively using watercolor crayon with the acrylic medium to stablize, but it looked rather flat. To create dimension, I had to add the black detailing within each grid section and then the white to the grid lines. Made a tremendous difference. And it took a significant amount of time--way more than I thought this little painting would take. But it was a rather meditative process. And the amount of time a painting takes has little to do with anything.

The "No Words" idea came because I was wanting this to look a bit like ancient text with some parts stronger than others, a time pre-letters and more in the time of glyphs. I also think of the beginning of the creative process, the spark, as something that occurs in the non-lingual part of the brain--if there is such a place--so that articulating what the painting is about comes way later and is never fully explained--not to my satisfaction in any case.

Their Numbers and Gravity of Their Cause Pulled the Structure Down


Their Numbers and Gravity of Their Cause Pulled the Structure Down
8"x8" watercolor crayon, matte medium, Posca paint pen, acrylic paint

This was painted during the time of The Great Racial Reckoning, the peaceful protests that occurred after the murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, when "Black Lives Matter" was declared across the globe. The outrage alone is enough to bring down societal structures that continue to oppress people of color and define race in terms that do not serve humanity. If only making systemic change that seeks to raise up all people were as easy as putting watercolor crayon and posca pen to canvas. Pull it down. Pull it all down.

Friday, July 31, 2020

2020~Something Polymorphous This Way Comes (Art in the Time of COVID Pandemic)

Step 1 and 2 spontaneous mark-making with watercolor crayon (black and ochre) layered with matte medium to stabilize.

2020~Something Polymorphous This Way Comes 
24"x18" watercolor crayon, matte medium, acrylic on canvas

My intention when I began this painting was to make marks with the watercolor crayon and to honor them when I added paint. I challenged myself to be as spontaneous as possible (mostly because I've been missing spontaneity in my life during these lock down days). I promised this painting that I would work quickly and in whatever way it told me to work. 

My initial marks were the tower on the left that began as asemic writing. Tower completed, I moved the crayon across the top and down the right side. When I went in with a paintbrush to add the matte medium to stabilize the watercolor crayon marks, the black and ochre smeared and came onto the brush, into the medium, and became part of the new marks as I moved down the tower of writing. I knew it would smear, so I took enough time with this part of the process to notice how that happened and what could come of it--how the original marks changed, were enhanced or slightly disappeared.

Then came the adding of the colors. Admittedly, I'm really into blue and orange these days, so they dominate. I was also wanting to mix the blue and orange on the canvas to reach an appreciative brown. I'm satisfied with that. I have purchased some cadmium free yellows and red (Utrecht from Blick) to play with and used these freely in the creation of the shades of orange. I applied the acrylic paint using my fake chamois. It's almost as if the paint could dissolve away with the change of the wind or water. I rather appreciate the effect this had on the canvas and in the composition.

In the end, this painting made me laugh. And then I struggled with the title. I could see a reference to the local marina where I had been a couple of days before beginning the painting, the mountains in the distance, the dock, the wabi sabi of the abandoned vessels, the water, the beautiful colors and shapes of the oil slicks on the water (in spite of their environmentally ickiness). 

But I wondered at what that creature/thing was at the top center of the painting, that thing that's leaning in and placing/removing one of the bits. I wondered at what was moving in toward the tower...was it a good thing...was it a bad thing...was it just a thing...another variable to be dealt with? Then I thought of a line from Shakespeare's "Macbeth": "By the pricking of my thumbs/Something wicked this way comes." And I started to laugh--as much as finishing my painting made me laugh. "This is like 2020," I thought. Then I became somber about it all: We did not see this coming at this point in time, along with everything else that we've got going on (if you're paying attention, you know what I'm talking about). So I changed Shakespeare's line a bit and exchanged "Polymorphous" for "wicked." It's a horrible, multi-dimensional, shape-shifting thing that has come our way. So much loss of life, of loved ones, of ways of life, ways of being. Resources stretched to limits. Societal contracts broken. 

And that's just the beginning...

The Spirits Appeared Via Experimental Techniques (Art in the Time of COVID Pandemic)

 Dwelling Spirits 8"x8"
 Keeping the Spirit Alive 8"x8"
And the Spirits Moved Through 8"x8" (no longer in inventory)

 Acrylic on canvas with Posca pen used for drawing details. 

I had this idea of experimenting with using a brayer to apply the first layer of the paintings in this series. I globbed the paint onto the canvas and spread it with the brayer, spraying water to thin the paint in areas and using the brayer to spread that applied water around. I definitely fell in love with the created textures and, perhaps because it happened so fast, I look forward to creating more brayer paintings, using that at different stages of the painting. 

After the first layer was applied, though, I had to sit back and let the paintings each speak to me. And they definitely had their individual voices that eventually came together for a series. With each, I used the PC-1MR, black acrylic Posca pen (0.7mm, pin type application). I just started drawing shapes, circles, lines, following the texture and letting the concentration of paint determine where I added detail. I had no plan when I started--in fact, I was working so close, I had no perspective, either. I just knew that I wanted to honor the textures in the paint that the brayer left behind. 

Because of COVID times, I know that I have had the survival of humans on my mind, that I've wondered if this would bring out the best or the worst in us as we tried to "avoid the plague," as the saying goes. In the early days, some were so hopeful that we would transcend the tendencies we have that are leading us to our extinction, that we would transform ourselves into beings of higher consciousness because we would finally grasp some understanding of our place on this planet. 

But you know, we can't get out of our own collective way. So that was the spirit that found itself in the lines and concentration of drawings I created on that first layer of paint in each painting. As I look at these finished pieces, it's seeming like our collective house is on fire, and we keep moving further and further back into its recesses, until we are gathered into it's most ancient and rawest form, searching for a way to transcend and transform. 

Still Being~Being Still Series and ferox virago (Art in the time of COVID pandemic)

Still Being~Being Still 1, 2, 3
Acrylic on canvas w Posca pen, each 9"x6"

During our time of attempting to stay physically healthy during the pandemic by hunkering down in our living spaces, I and so many of my artist friends, found ourselves challenged to find ways to continue creative expression while so many other thoughts and emotions were inhabiting our beings. Finally, after days and perhaps weeks of distraction, I broke through and into my creative expression by getting out my sketchbook and drawing ancient symbols onto the pages. In one of my researches of symbols, I found a Goddess Against Disease*
This goddess, as well as symbols for stillness, world spirit, scarab, spiral, were drawn into the paintings that I was finally able to create. I had originally intended that these marks be suggestions of what might be found in cave drawings, so that the paintings were to give us a sense of place outside the cave with a glimpse of what's inside the cave. It was only later, while looking at the formations of the outsides of the caves, that I realized that these were actually self-portraits--my head and depictions of my being during this time. They reflect my concern for not only humanity across the globe, but also for the thriving of and connectedness of our humanity. 

I had been looking back at expressions of earlier cultures and was placing myself into their connectedness at the same time of trying to stay present to the currents swirling in our world at this time. While ancient cultures expressed their values via cave drawings and rock drawings, in today's culture, we were on social media reaching out to stay connected, sharing our humor, our fears, our bringing of our creative spirits to make sense of how our instability/stability were being being exposed. Ultimately, this series is about holding space for connectedness of past to present to future, holding space for contemplation, holding space for being.

*Originally, I gave thanks to the North American tribes who gave us "Unkatahe, Goddess Against Disease" as I used her in my art. Later, I thought it best to create my own symbol for protection. Hence, "ferox virago" Latin, meaning fierce female warrior
I use "female" here as acknowledgement of the Divine feminine, accessible to all, rather than as a delineating reference to gender. ferox virago carries the symbols of the downward pointing triangle, circle, spiral (in beginnings are endings; in endings are beginnings), stillness, world spirit, scarab (eternity), water, and the tortoise (longevity, perseverance) as familiar, at the crown, powerful, spiral pronged antlers, all solidly balanced on pointed hooves. I drew her often on subsequent days, drew her on rocks, posted her on social media, imbuing her and she me with sustainable energy of being.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

"Variant" by AeTopus (Bryan Tewell Hughes) CD Cover Art "MythMakers" Series

MythMakers~Altar 3 (no longer in inventory)
MythMakers~Altar 1
MythMakers~Altar 3
MythMakers~Trove 3
MythMakers~Trove 2
MythMakers~Trove 1
MythMakers~Spiritscape 1
MythMakers~Spiritscape 2
 Altar and Trove pieces are 18"x18", Spiritscape pieces are 16"x20", mixed media and acrylic on panel board, CD art for AeTopus "Variant" planned for release August 2020. 

When commissioned by Bryan, he gave me the titles of the cuts for the CD and shared with me the concept of an ancient culture sitting around the evening's fire telling stories of their mythology. He gave me the drawing of the skeleton and skulls with feather. And I took it from there. I kept that narrative as well as the titles in mind as I worked, adding the idea of altars being created by the members of this culture and the pieces of the altars coming from a trove, collections of rust and bones and ephemera. The two last pieces, created for the back cover and inside back were inspired by Cappadocia formations--a combination of nature and human structures. This was created to reference the landscape/spiritscape where this ancient culture lived. The Variant, as conceived and depicted in the art, is the skeleton with the addition of the copper wire snake to represent the life force and what became known as the kundalini in later civilizations.

For more information about the music and other CDs by AeTopus, check out, Spotify, and YouTube. I am a devoted listener of AeTopus music and play it often in my studio as I paint. This music is well valued and appreciated among the music community and has received awards and nominations--and rightly so. Such a delightful collaboration, a coming together of art and music.