Saturday, December 30, 2023

A Poem: Instructions for Painting

 Instructions for Painting

Immerse yourself in the dark

As it makes its appearance

that by nature absorbs all the light

Explore the dynamic

As it bleeds out its rivulets toward light

Let go, no need to control

Protecting the precious places

That sometimes conspire 

To be essential to the composition

But also stop the whole from reaching its potential.

So grieve the beauty that was there, 

declare it right 

For another and different painting

Go back in as much,

As often as you need/desire/explore/see differently

Expose another dimension,

Another aspect of your truth

When you hit the wall

Sit and rock, watching your painting, and ask

“If I were going to make one more mark, where would it be

What color,

What mark-making tool to use?”

When the answer emerges

Trust and do that

Do not be fooled by aspects of

elements that bug you

Nag you

Catch you up and lie unresolved,

There’s trickery in convincing you

they work

trickery that belies a truth.

Some part of it will continue

calling out for attention.

Eventually you will heed, 

What won’t be denied,

hear them telling you what 

They need. 

You will see a way toward resolution

And follow through.

Celebrate the moments

Adding into spans of time

As you spread the paint,

Making your mark.

Immerse yourself in the now,

Engage with what is,

Flow within spirit-canvas-paint

Exposing your truth.

Let yourself into the becoming

With All That IS, 

Has Been

Or Will Ever Be

Learn when to stop

when to begin again

when to start anew

Stay curious

Trust your process

Remember who you are doing this for

Maintain your integrity

Stay truthful

Keep doing it

Even when it seems absurd

Seems meaningless

Keep doing it

It saves your spirit

Redeems your life.

So live these instructions

For creating/

For life.

     --karen frances 10/21/2023

Sunday, November 12, 2023

Through the Spyglass 1

Through the Spyglass 1
18"x18" acrylic and Posca acrylic pens on canvas

I am re-working a series of 4 paintings that were initially created in a time of chaos. But the paintings were too chaotic to find a way into and throughout. They were composed of light gesso washes, gesso, perfect grey, red, violet, and a little gold. They were created in a time when I felt like the universe was taking me for a nauseating spin. So they were not easy paintings for anyone to look at. Created years ago, no one even commented on them as they hung on my studio walls. 

So recently, I had the idea to cover the compositions with blue-green that I had mixed too much of for my last completed painting. I felt calm, like I could create something meaningful from the chaos. Since the compositions were circular in form, I had the idea that it was if I were looking at chaos through a spyglass. I broke down the larger forms with small marks using the Posca pens. It was fun to spontaneously follow the acrylic paint marks that lay under the surface of the blue-green. Interlocking forms emerged in the light-dark dynamic. There's a lot for me to learn in the process. (I'm calling it "exploring the spontaneous quirk.") There's a lot for me to learn in seeing and accepting the chaos, in transcending and transforming.


Wednesday, September 20, 2023

ferox virago~Reimagined for Whatcom Museum's National Call to Artists: Acts of Healing and Repair

"ferox virago" 28"x12" mixed media on stretched canvas and acrylic pen on teabags attached to canvas panel (currently on exhibit for art studio events)

I first read of the Whatcom Museum's Call to Artists, months before the deadline. So many of my paintings deal on one level or another with healing that I thought choosing what to submit would be easy. It wasn't. I did think of two paintings as possibilities to submit, but I also was contemplating the word "acts" as I thought about my paintings. How could I create an "act" of healing, I wondered. One week before the entry deadline, I had the idea. I would adapt, and make prominent, the drawing of ferox virago that I had created during the covid period of lockdown and isolation in early 2020. I made that drawing to represent protection for us, particularly during that time to protect us not only from disease, but also to help us transcend and transform during this time of extreme uncertainty that amplified collective and individual fear. It has symbols of the triangle, spiral, stillness, world spirit, the scarab, the turtle, head of spiral horns, and hooves. (See the blog entry from 2020 for details about the inspiration, creation, and meaning.)

Loving glyphs and cave drawings, I decided to use Golden's Coarse Molding Paste with its sandy texture to suggest a rock-like surface. I painted a foundational color I made to look a bit like pinkish-orange feldspar (is my college Geology class paying off?), thinking I could add blue-green veins as I finished making this look as if it was taken from a cave wall. I played with ideas of what to add to the left of the predominant ferox virago, glyphs I had copied from symbolism books and ancient symbols I could find online, as well as what I had seen in rug and embroidered motifs. Some I made up as I played in my sketchbook. This was grand fun and left me with the delicious problem of having to be selective. I think I would have loved doing a whole wall of these. I drew the glyphs and ferox virago with watercolor crayon and went over these drawings with matte medium to stabilize them. 

My idea of "act of healing" was to draw the image of ferox virago onto a teabag with my pin type black Uni-Posco acrylic pen. I ended up attaching these to a tea-dyed, raw canvas panel with one stitch taken with the teabag string. The idea is that the viewer, for whom the art and the ferox virago image resonates, creates the act of healing by removing one of the drawings from the canvas panel and takes it for themselves to their homes or to pass on to another. 

I finished the art piece late the night before the deadline (took as good of a picture as I could given the poor lighting situation) and submitted the work. On September 1, I participated in Downtown Bellingham Art Walk and gave "ferox virago" a test run. About 10 people took one of the teabag "ferox virago" images home with them. Viewers overall seemed receptive, and we had many rewarding conversations around the art. In addition, one person told me that the act of pulling the stitched piece from the canvas gave her a profound positive feeling. I am grateful for that feedback and all of the feedback I received.

So whether the art is accepted into the show or not, I am most grateful for the inspiration I got to create it. And that came from reading the "Call to Artists" and contemplating the theme.


Friday, July 21, 2023

July 2023 Bellingham Old Town Art Stroll~Because walls require art


A lot of my paintings are hanging on the common walls at the Waterfront Artists Studios for this month's Art Stroll.  For titles, details, dimensions, substrates, you may have to go looking through old posts. Or, if it's easier, you can contact me and describe it.
(Edit 12/2023: Some of these paintings are no longer in inventory)

Thursday, September 15, 2022

"...the Teacher Will Appear" and Maureen Kane's Ekphrastic Response

Resolved painting issues 08/2023. Every time I looked at this painting I was bugged by how crowded the forms looked. The pilgrim form was bumped up against the panel on the left, but not interacting with it. Because I'm not used to working with figures that are intentionally part of the composition--as opposed to those who mysteriously and, as part of the composition process, suddenly appear--I was a bit daunted by how to proceed. I wanted the pilgrim to be touching the panel, but how to suggest an arm, how to suggest a hand, did I want a defined hand? All those questions and more delayed the actual resolution process until I just told myself to "do something, anything; just move the painting forward." 

So I suggested an arm, working slowly so that this part of the painting didn't look overworked when compared to the spontaneity of the the rest of the figure. I also changed the shape of the pilgrim a bit in the process. I also had a more defined hand touching the panel. But then I asked my friend and artist Ria Harboe if the hand made the painting look too contrived. While "contrived" might not have been the right word choice for her, she did say that it was defined a bit too much. I thought on this, and it occurred to me that creating more of a dissolution of the hand into panel and panel into hand would be closer to what I wanted to convey. (Dissolution became the solution!) The truths of the glyphs on the panel now become part of the pilgrim. I like that. I wonder if that's what is conveyed to the viewer--when we reach out intentionally for truth, it changes us. Ria also suggested I extend the left arm of the pilgrim's guide. I had to admit that always sort of bugged me, too, and that I had rationalized that bugginess away. Now the arm is fixed. Perhaps by making the contact between the panel glyphs and the pilgrim more interactive, the painting doesn't feel so crowded. 

(I decided this painting is incomplete and am in the process of resolving its issues.)

"...the Teacher Will Appear"
(title is a completion of the phrase, "When the student is ready...)
12"x9" acrylic on canvas

When I posted an image of this painting on social media, I received an ekphrastic response from poet Maureen Kane. (Isn't "ekphrastic" a good word?) Her poem...


Under the waves

under the cloak

felt and rarely seen

a wordless language emerges, 

tasteable not speakable.

Alight with inspiration

muses ignite the air.

Dervishes dance, seeds burst into blossom.

Selkies song, siren song

behind, over, around,

another way calls.

The prayer wheel spins, letters blur,

Fires dance

and the unseen whispers secrets.

My cells understand, but cannot speak it back to me.

The world of art,

the home of prayer.

Seeds of creation arising and dissolving.

The ecstasy of almost touching it,

the exquisite longing to pierce the veil.

To be on the other side.

The artist dips her ladle into this cauldron, 

scoops out what she finds 

and puts a frame around it,

so the rest of us can peer into the space

where Mystery plays hide and seek with herself.

-Maureen Kane

I was completely overwhelmed, not only because she took the time to write and revise and send to me, but also because of the emotion I felt when I thought of how intensely close she came to uncovering a great deal of what I had been thinking and feeling during the creation of this visual communication. She completed the cycle for me and entered the dialogue. In her poem, Maureen provides a precious gift for me as artist, as human being. 

Maureen is a healer through her poems and professionally as a mental health therapist. And she's a wonderful human being. I highly recommend her book The Phoenix Requires Ashes: Poems for the Journey

The Painting Process

The painting began with the idea of a block of made up text on a gold panel and a blue-green wash in the background. Asemic writing intrigues me. So I began there. I used gold gesso and black posca acrylic pen. Then the painting sat. What next? I looked at the painting like this for ages. I even wondered if I could leave it where it was. Or should I cover the whole thing with other gold panels and text? I still might do that one day in another painting.

Then finally, I told myself, just do something. I started working around the gold panel with orange posca to make it more dimensional. That was fun. But then I took the white posca and did a variation in the center of a form I often doodle. I think of her as a woman on a pilgrimage. To what? To where? Always moving closer to self and to truth. And she always wears a hooded cloak. Is it protection? A way to anonymity? Instead of the usual long curving lines I usually doodle my quester with, I scribbled form with the white acrylic. That was fun. And she emerged. 

As I looked at the two forms together, the panel of asemic writing and my quester, I noticed to the right, in the way the blue-green wash held to the canvas, the form of another figure emerging from the ether, sort of ghost-like. So I used the same white acrylic pen and the same scribble method to enhance this form’s presence. At the time, too much was going on in our world, as is the way these days. Women are losing their rights to their choice for health care and, in fact, to save their very lives, along with their right to privacy. I was looking for a touchstone, some foundation that told me we would not only survive this bloody-battering, but also emerge with stronger resolve to keep moving and keep our spirits intact. I was reminded of a lecture I attended once about the female quest. We need to share our quest stories, to talk within our communities about our experience, what led us to the question, the helpers, the low point (nadir), the rise through the ordeal and return to ourselves. And in reality, women were learning to share their stories. So what is written on the panel in this piece? Is it the stories of those who have come before? Does it provide the key to progressing through this particular challenge? It was at this time of working the painting, I published it on my fb page and called it “A Ghost of a Chance.” There was a slim thread of a chance, yes, but with it, the threat of it all unravelling, yet it continued to hold form on my canvas.

At this point, I was again tempted to call the painting done. It said some bit of what I was cogitating on. But it didn’t communicate as a composition. It didn’t tell enough of the story. So when I asked Margo, a member of my art pod, if it was done, she told me I needed some purple above the gold panel. It was working that when the spirit-ghost form told me that the colors swirled from her hands. I was in love with the negative space between the spirit and my questing-being form, so I was motivated to preserve that as a part of the composition. But I also wanted to communicate the power and swirl of colors coming from the spirit hand. As I worked that swirl of color within the finger forms of power, the panel of asemic writing started morphing. Was it solid gold panel? Or was it growing to solid, or were the truths written on parchment that was disintegrating? Is the truth ephemeral? Is the Way something only to glimpse in a moment? Will it destruct upon touch? Is the touchstone, the pillar of truth untouchable? 

And then the painting sat for weeks, trying to tell me some thing, some way to move forward. Finally, I started adding color to the center form, the female on her quest. Her shawl became tattered—a result of the tests she had endured along her quest. The melding between the orange layer on top and the blue layer underneath became vein-like. I liked that idea.

Then I realized that the guide on the right that either created the pillar or energetically illuminated it for the questing being had her own emergence from within, behind, and through the blue background. The guide came swirling from the dark underneath, the rending of the colors from beyond the blue background. 

And that was it. When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.


Saturday, July 23, 2022

Contemplation~What IS at the Center of it All?

Contemplation~What IS at the Center of it All?
16"x8" acrylic on canvas

I started this one ages ago. It did not satisfy. It was mostly red and green with gold in the center, and turned 180 degrees from this orientation. So when I had some of that lighter blue paint mixed and used in another painting, too much to waste down the sink and not enough to save, I smeared it on this painting with my hand. I started loving the result and worked it more, then turned the painting upside down. 

I was working this as the great leak occurred: Roe v Wade was going to be overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. So the form at the center of this painting kept asking "What is this?" and the response was different variations of "It's not anyone's business." So I'll have to think on the title further. Titling paintings is a process. It takes some gestating and a knowing all the nuance of the process. It's ultimately up to me, though, right?

As this shift has occurred and the ramifications of the decision have reverberated into peoples lives, and more importantly, into the lives of those who most intensely bear the responsibility, the question became more clear: What IS at the center of all of this upheaval that continues on, this need for control of another individual's life and decisions, this ultimate fear that becomes pervasive and threads its unhealthy perspective across the nation? I am feeling, more than ever, the need to center myself, to be clear in my understanding and continued search to determine what it means to be human on this planet at this moment in time. What other people do and how they choose to live is none of my business until it bumps up against my individualism and my community. More than ever, I strive to acknowledge this moment and move forward out of love. 


Saturday, June 11, 2022

At the Waterfront Artists Studios: Art Walk June 2022 in Shared Studio with Ria Harboe


(Ria Harboe's paintings are on the panel to the right in the photo. Mine are on the wall)

(My paintings are on the panel and a corner of one is on the floor next to the panel. Other paintings in the background are Ria's.)

(Ria's painting is on the panel, mine on the wall.)

(As you enter our studio, Ria's painting is on the panel on the left and more are in the back 2/3 of the studio. Mine are in the front 1/3 of the space.)

(In the hallway with Ria Harboe's and Dan Brooks's paintings. Mine are the three in the middle.)