Category Archives: Painting & Design

Good Intentions for Art

I intended to write in this blog frequently, but other projects, such as my Read to Write Books blog, have competed. I have also been painting in preparation for a 3-person show at Falkirk Cultural Center in San Rafael, California, with artists Cynthia Jensen and Susan Bercu. The opening reception is June 11, 6-8 pm.

I learn these aspects of creativity again and again: I tend to overcommit; I have more good intentions than I can fulfill. But this is okay. It’s important to keep imagining, keep working. These past several months, I’ve put energy into my painting instead of a blog on creativity — a clear case, in this instance, of right brain winning out over left. Once the work is finished for the upcoming show, I can backtrack through my sketchbook/journal and share some of the process, as well as my continued investigations into nature, creativity and art.

"Come to Me," Oil on Canvas, 52"x44"

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Howdah

I learned a new word today: Howdah. It’s a carriage or seat in which people ride on the back of an elephant. It’s not one I’ll use often, but wish I could! 

Not howdy. Howdah. I was at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco with my East Bay College Fund mentee, scholar Emely Srimoukda. There was an actual howdah exhibited, as well as howdahs pictured in art on the walls. You could yell howdy! from your howdah if you had one perched on top of your elephant as you swayed down the road.

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Starting Small

A new acquaintance Dani Antman comes to visit my studio and take a walk. She’s wanting to set up a studio in her home and start painting again. I tell her about “starting small,” the way a teacher of mine at the Kansas City Art Institute, Michael Meyers, once suggested: “Do whatever you can finish in the amount of time you have, use whatever you have—your name in script, for instance.” In those days I was holding down several teaching jobs and came home tired every day. I began making one-inch square, colored pencil drawings from cursive shapes. They soon demanded more from me and I gave it; I drew, fueled by the work, while listening for hours to classical music every night. One-inch drawings became six-inch grids became two-feet layered plexiglas acrylic paintings that I exhibited in my first museum competition.  

This is what we can do for one another: inspire the starting small with the belief that deeper engagement will multiply our efforts many-fold.

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Island in time

The San Francisco Airport Museums has an exhibition space in SFO’s United terminal that you pass through on your way to the gates. You can walk the wide carpeted concourse with Plexigas display booths on either side, or you can be conveyed on a moving belt past the displays. The exhibit this past weekend was painted pottery from Santa Catalina, an island off the Southern California coast. I walked the concourse.

On any given day, our senses are bombarded with more than we can take in. Those United passengers on the people-mover probably didn’t see my favorite tile nestled in its display with a panoply of others. The tile was exactly like the one that I had sketched in watercolor while visiting Catalina twenty-three years ago. In the main town of Avalon, colorful tiles wrap the quaint public square, which was built in the early 1900s. The small sketches I made there inspired a large group of oil paintings called Island Songs, which I worked on for two years following that Catalina trip. They were exhibited at the Plaza Gallery in the Bank of America headquarters building in San Francisco—124 paintings wrapping a contemporary public square. There’s much I could say about those paintings and may in future posts, but this post is a contemplation on a six-inch square piece of glazed clay. 

The tile triggered a rush of memories: a bright sunny day; white-washed, decorated stucco; a romantic island getaway with my husband. (I called him on my cell phone to reminisce.) I thought about how artistic inclination—seeing the tile, selecting it from all else in my vision, choosing to paint it—leads the artist to deeper exploration. In this instance, that first glance led to a series of 157 oil paintings, 20 x 20 inches square.

On the plane, I wrote a bit about the tile in my journal, then forgot about it during the weekend in Vail with my sister. Returning to San Francisco, I walked from the gate, thinking the thoughts of a disembarking passenger—baggage, shuttle bus. I came around the corner and whop! There it was.

The art that had transported me back more than twenty years did it again. The little tile beckoned, “You are older now, are even stepping into your own new decade, but you are timeless with me.” I had traveled 2600 miles to Colorado and back, but I felt as if the bigger journey was taking place in the concourse, standing in front of a display case, gazing at a fragment of clay made by an unknown person’s hands, long ago and faraway.

Watercolor of Catalina tile

Watercolor of Catalina tile

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Women Impressionists

In San Francisco’s Palace of the Legion of Honor, the lower level galleries were filled with paintings by four women Impressionists: Berthe Morisot, Mary Cassatt, Eva Gonzales, and Marie Bracquemond. I toured the exhibit with my long-time friend Sally. The biggest surprise for me was the brushwork in some of the Morisot paintings — so lively, fresh. A hat in the grass, the flower pattern on a dress, or the draping and ruffles of a white dress were like small expressionistic paintings— holding their own as a collection of strokes, color, highlights, and shadow. 

When leaving the museum, walking toward pedestrians crossing from the parking lot which has a large, circular pool, I was reminded of “There’s Your Trio,” a painting I made years ago with a view from the same vantage point. I had the benefit of a polaroid camera, which the four women Impressionists did not have. They were limited mostly to interiors, parks, and gardens or other places. A reputable woman of the late 1800s couldn’t depict street life, as could the men painters.

There's Your Trio, 96" x 72" oil

There's Your Trio, 96" x 72" oil

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