Yesterday was the Solstice! The longest day of the year has come and gone already? How did that happen? We have been so busy putting in our garden that it slipped right by me. Ah, summer....days when the sun shines bright in Oregon and I feel less called to be in my studio. It's just too much fun getting flowers into all the pots and trimming up the bushes who all grew into each other inspite of our record snow falls last winter.
The Cecile Brunner roses we planted last summer along the garden fence all burst into bloom all at once....so beautiful. They promised Mr. Bill when he dug those five big holes in the ground that they would do their best but they didn't bloom last summer. We stood around and said: "Well, there's lots of green." Then, this year, thousands of tiny pink buds appeared all at once and exploded into bloom!
I didn't even know that calla lilies came in this wonderful shade of pink! This one will go into the ground at the end of the summer but right now she is part of my "flower bower" which Mr. Bill creates for me each summer on the deck just outside my studio.
I was so inspired by this pink calla lily that I decided I wanted my entire flower bower to be pink and white next year, so Mr. Bill obligingly dug two more huge rose holes and planted two white climbers at the entrance to the deck. I can't even imagine how lovely this will be eventually.
There always seems to be lavender in bloom around the studio deck. I think I'll put a pink hydrangea into that turquoise pot. When she gets a bit bigger she can go into the ground right there in that spot. I find this is a great way for an amateur like me to find the right spots for various plants. I let them tell me over the summer if they like where they are.
I am mostly a flowers-in-big-pots gardener. Mr. Bill has to dig fewer big holes that way!
I love pink geraniums and white petunias mixed together. Next year I'm skipping the red geraniums and just going pink-pink-pink with lots of white petunias! Imagine that with the tiny pink Cecile Brunners and the white climbing roses.....yum!
Summer wouldn't be complete without being able to watch your roses bud and bloom. I think the one below is a Chicago peace rose but I'm not sure about that. Can anyone tell me why the wind always springs up just as I snap the shutter on my camera?
I have to confess--I did not want to buy a rose called "Dick Clark." But guess what? He is our most prolific and spectacular bloomer! This is why it's important to overcome one's rose prejudices early in life.
I know there is a great love affair behind the name of this rose: Sheila's Perfume. This rose has a huge fragrance that wafts up into your nose and makes you think you are in love (even if you aren't...at the moment.)
If I have a second most favorite flower, it would have to be hydrangeas. They leave me speechless with their generosity. Blue, purple, pink (sigh), and lavender--what I say? Nothing, only swoon.
That's all the news from my flower bower. Imagine me sitting out here, dreaming my little dreams and embroidering squares for what I hope will be a quilt. Just big and little squares of this and that. Mostly my own designs. With a big glass of lite cranberry juice and ice. My little Buddha will keep me company peacefully meditating in a ring of impatiens.
What's going on in your flower bower this summer? Have you set aside some time for dreaming your dreamy dreams? They are important, you know.
In my last post, I shared some of the wonderful dolls and paintings from the studio of my long-time friend, Jean. There were so many interesting things to share with you that I decided to do a second post. Isn't it just the greatest fun to visit the studio of another artist and marvel over what they create? On my list of favorites it is very close to the top. In the photo above you can see three of the shadow boxes Jean has made. She has a way of doing it that makes the figures in them seem almost alive; many of them feature small dolls or angels. Years ago I saw a little "doll room" she had made from an old small dresser drawer that she had rescued and placed on top of a chest. It was so alive! The little dolls in it looked very cozy and content. In a certain way, it was nicer than any commercial dollhouse room I've ever seen. It seemed to say: "Don't you see? I'm not just a drawer--I have lots of other possibilities!"
Jean uses small boxes, the sides of kleenex boxes, beautiful old letters, re-purposed cotton and stretch velour (which she loves to find in childlike pastel colors of pink, aqua, lavender, pale blue), wooden blocks, old corks (see above) and gold candy wrappers in her art. What she is able to create out of her ability to see common things in a new way always amazes me! The little shadowbox above is perched on a window sill in her kitchen. As I walk through her home, I see many of these shadowboxes here and there and am drawn into their charming little scenes.
The imaginative and childlike simplicity of Jean's dolls and shadowboxes is also a characteristic of her ceramics, though I often see a kind of mystical dimension to many of them too, like the ones above and the dove below.
Jean has made all the beautiful lamps in her home and on the walls are many ceramic platters which she has hand-painted and fired.
Every artist develops, over a lifetime, a vocabulary of iconic images which are uniquely their own, and one of the aspects of Jean's art that I enjoy so much are her "signature" motifs of stars, angels, birds, leaves, flowers, birds, sun faces, clowns, dolls, small children, trees, and hearts. These are not complex images but in Jean's hands they are so individuated that I would recognize something Jean had made anywhere I saw it. For me, they are the essence of her gentle soul.
The tile above perfectly sums up Jean's art for me--that kind of simplicity requires a discipline and restraint that is hard to come by. So often we art gals feel as though we need so many art supplies, so many colors, stencils, stamps, pens, pencils (guilty as charged!) and lose sight of the impact of one simple image. Jean's art supplies are simple ones, and she is unique in this way among my many art friends. She doesn't need a huge cache of stuff in order to convey meaning in her art. She knows that the art is inside of her. If only we could teach that to every grade school child!
I know that I promised to show you the painting I made in Jean's studio when we painted together all morning. We were painting on cardboard with acrylic craft paints--nothing fancy. It was so much fun, just experimenting and adding stuff and then painting it out and going in a new direction. Finally my painting settled into this:
I just love my little fish--she has two friends with her too!
While we were painting together I remembered a night I spent at Jean's little farm home 30 years ago. It was in the middle of an Ohio winter and there was snow all around. We were warm and cozy inside. When I looked out the window, I could see the moon shining on the snow; my 13 month old baby was asleep in the next room and Jean and I sat up and planned the perfect dollhouse for little hands. We designed it to a scale of 12" dolls (which Jean made for me) and thought up all the rooms we wanted. It had to have a big kitchen, three bedrooms, and on the third story would be the nursery and playroom. That dollhouse got built and is sitting in my studio today as the Red House at River Bend, where the little bears live!
Never will I forget that night, when I realized that I had met an artist whose heart and soul so resembled my own--and that our imaginations delighted in the same things. Such an art friend is one of the great treasures in this life.
When I was on the East coast recently, I had a wonderful visit with Jean, a wonderful artist and friend of 34 years, and we spent a sweet morning painting together. I thought you might enjoy a tour of Jean's studio and a look at some of her dolls and ceramics. So let's walk through her studio door together!
The first thing my eye falls upon are two German dolls from the early 1980's sitting in a pile of plastic chairs. Don't they look cozy? Jean has always had an almost magical ability to create an environment around herself which is full of the richness and wonder of early childhood. Over the course of her lifetime she has made hundreds of different dolls; they have a simple and charming style which is unique to Jean.
She often recycles pieces of old clothiing as part of their clothes, like this man's shirt cuff. Her newest dolls have been made of clay but she has also made many cloth dolls.
Look at this monk--he looks as though he strayed in from some monks' choir. Love that dreamy expression.
Then there was this little freckled face--too cute!
In addition to her dolls and ceramics, Jean makes beautiful greeting cards and paints icon-like images of the Madonna in all her variations. I call this one the "Green Madonna."
Now for some glimpses of her art-making world:
I wish I could share some of Jean's greeting cards but how would I pick just one or two from the dozens and dozens I have loved over the years of our friendship? Her valentines are awesome!
Like all us art-making gals, she has placed many of her brushes, colored pencils, and other tools in open containers where they are super handy when she wants them.
It is a difficult aspect of Jean's studio to describe, but even her storage choices reflect her aesthetic:
What you see above are old printers' boxes recycled for art supply storage!
I liked this painting so much that Jean and I decided to do a painting session! So we started out with putting down some colors on cardboard, which is a great way to practice painting. Here is my beginning:
I thought it would be two palm trees but then, gosh, it morphed into two fishes! At some point I stopped trying to make an image and started just messing around--the results were much better. I will unveil my progress in my next post, and also share some of Jean's ceramics. Stay tuned. It's going to be fun!
I was very impressed when she was able to lift the lid to the caran d'ache watercolor crayons by herself. Together we marveled over all the gorgeous colors.
"I want to try it!" said Emily Rose, with great enthusiasm. So she tried it:
"I think I'm pretty good at this," she said. I had to agree.
"I want to try something else!" I told her she could pick anything she wanted. There were a lot of choices.
She decided she would like to paint. So she painted for a while. "This spot is used up," she said. I told her it was OK to move around the page.
"Can I have the crayon back? I have to make another orange place." I handed her the crayon.
"I think I'm done with this painting." I told her I thought her painting had a sort of "zen" feeling to it.
Then Emily Rose began to explore everything on my work table.
"These paper clips are huge and they go with my dress! Is this what they mean by color-coordinated?" I assured her that was exactly what they meant. Next she wandered over to my box of Inka inks. She was fascinated by all the bright colors.
I explained to her that Inka inks are creamy like make-up and you can use them with stencils to make beautiful designs.
"Is that like finger painting?" she asked. "I'm good at finger-painting!"
"Well, not exactly. You dab it on the stencil with a make-up sponge."
"I like sponges. Sponges are fun in the bathtub. Can I pick out a color for your journal page?"
Emily Rose picked out a dark luminescent blue and she helped me to stencil a journal page with it. "This stuff is so shiny!" she said.
She decided to climb up on top of a jar to watch me work on some more journal pages. Occasionally she would offer a helpful suggestion. Most of her suggestions involved using more Inka inks.
"Let's use pink next. And then purple. Maybe some green. I like those Inka inks. They're all shiny and pretty!"
These suggestions continued through several journal pages:
Emily Rose especially liked this page:
Emily Rose likes to play hide-and-seek. I went to get more coffee and when I came back, all the Inka inks were stacked up, displaying their colors. A little voice said: "You can't find me."
I said: "I will come and look for you as soon as I take a picture of all the Inka inks. Someone stacked them up and they look so beautiful together."
"That was me," said the little voice.
"I'm going to look behind the stack after I take the picture because I think that is the hiding place for my little Emily Rose." Then I snapped the picture.
"You won't find me!" said Emily.
Sometimes a camera is a useful tool, because in my picture I saw Emily tip-toeing away to hide behind the sewing machine. I said:
"Where, oh where, is Emily? I can't find her! Oh, I am going to miss her so....I wish I knew where she was."
I put my hands over my face so I would look very sad.
"Here I am!"
"Oh, I am so glad you're back--I was so sad without you."
"You're always sad and you miss me when I'm gone, don't you?" said Emily Rose. Then she laid down and put her feet up.
"I'm tired. I'm going to take a rest."
"Will you let me read some of your journal? I know some words. Papa taught me."
I told her she could start reading as soon as I finished the last page.
Such a busy little person she is, my little Emily Rose!
Dear Readers: I am having technical issues with the size of the blog format and the font. Please bear with me while I try to resolve these difficulties!
Two weeks ago I was searching through some things in my studio closet and found this little journal which I started in 2010 a few months before I moved from California to Oregon. It measures just 6" by 6" but it is bursting with flotsam, photos, drawings, memories, and ephemera. It's a tiny but mighty journal! I decided that I could now fill the second half of it with my present life in Oregon and spent two happy days just doodling and diddling in it, cutting and pasting and painting. Here are some pages from it's past and present:
Nothing fancy here! Just a memory of a rainy day and a page I downloaded from the journal of Judy Wise which I kept for inspiration purposes. These ordinary, everyday type pages are the ones I always most enjoy reading years later. Why? Because they are the days I have forgotten! I bought this tiny journal with some pages in it from the scrapbooking designer, Rebecca Sower, but I have added half again as many pages.
This is the second or third journal I have done in this style because I like my art-making to be very spontaneous. I don't know what I am going to do until it has gotten itself under way; I can thus be freshly inspired moment by moment. I use scraps of scrapbooking paper, snippets from the magazine Parabola, ribbons, string, sometimes buttons. I like the way it bulges with stuff hanging out of it. I love the sense of fullness I can get with this journaling format.
Another great thing about this type of journal is that I can make differently sized pages, punch holes in envelopes and stick them in with "secrets" in them, and not worry about how any one individual page looks....because if I don't like something, I just turn the page and something else pops out at me.
Sometimes I recycle parts of engagement calendars or just make pages with washi tape. Often I paint on a page of watercolor paper. It's all fun!
Above is one of my favorite pages--a little square of embroidered linen I cut from a vintage napkin. Isn't it sweet?
Often I have little snippets of old photos or poems or quotes lying around on my desk that I don't want to throw away. They are perfect for these tiny journals.
Above is my favorite poem by Billy Collins and inside the vintage envelope is my favorite photo of Mr. Bill.
I seem to have stopped working in this journal when I moved to Oregon three years ago, so one of the fun things in adding my present life to it is seeing how my style has changed and how my new pages don't look much like my old pages. We are always learning and changing, even when we don't realize that we are.
I discovered early on in this process that I loved having a pair of warm red pages pop out at me every once in a while, so I learned from these simple ring journals how to use my palette of colors to underlie what I put on the page. Usually if the content is a spiritual one, I use pale pastel colors which are more ethereal and if I am writing about family or my home my palette will be much warmer. I didn't intend to do it that way--I simply discovered that I was unconsciously doing it that way. Even my simplest, just "messing around" days of art-making have taught me some amazing things.
A journal like this one, in which the individual pages might not be dazzling, still conveys the cumulative, bursting sense of life and color which gives even a tiny journal a wonderful energy.
All the journals I make reflect and contain my many loves. They are doorways to my secret world which I create for myself alone. Here I put what delights me or what contains some wisdom which I do not want to pass out of memory. Here I can meditate on my world and be free.
Mr. Bill and I recently went back to school together! Our local junior college offered a photography class for beginners with digital cameras. We learned about f-stops, shutter speeds, apertures, and ISO. These are the four elements of photography and the way they interact determines what sort of photo you get. So Mr. Bill and I went on "photo dates" to practice taking photos. Of course, the "auto" setting on the camera was out-of bounds. We had to shoot each photo manually.
Taking photos of the natural world has always been my favorite subject. Right after I took this photo, Mr. Goose got into a terrific fight with his chief competitor for Mrs. Goose's favors. Now that would have been a great photo! (I couldn't figure out the shutter speed fast enough.)
I love to photograph plants interacting with light. When sunlight strikes a plant, even the commonest weed, the plant is transformed into something achingly beautiful. I think the way plants and light interact is a metaphor for human love.
We were supposed to look for interesting textures and also try to compose photos with interesting angles, like diagonals. The tree above was my attempt at that. We were also supposed to do a landscape shot so I thought the pond near our house would do.
Then I went happily back to shooting plants, my uber-favorite!
According to my photography teacher, most of my photos are slightly out of focus. I guess I need to work on that...or get new glasses. One or the other....maybe both.
Mr. Bill and I then went downtown to look for a different sort of subject matter. We wanted to photograph some common sights in new and interesting ways. It is so interesting on a photo date to see what your partner might want to photograph versus what you choose. In our case, the choices were so different that it was more fun to see downtown through his "photo eye" than mine. He seems to have a gift for photographing things over his head.
Having a camera in my hand helps me to slow down and see things I might not pay any attention to otherwise. Interesting patterns, lines, and grids. Repetitions.
I began to see a lot more design in the buildings, brickwork, tiling, and signage than I usually notice.
My last photo was of an some parasols--out of focus but sort of artsy, don't you think, especially since that guy on the right is eating lunch with a stone statue reading a book?
It was so much fun going on a "photo date" with Mr. Bill! We spent the whole morning shooting photos and then went out to lunch. I heartily recommend it.
Home again, and hard at work cleaning up my studio, but still taking breaks on my bike. I thought I might re-enter the blogging world by sharing some pages from my bike journal. It has been so much fun to see how many variations I can find to depict my bike adventures...and keeping a bicycle in every spread!
The illustration above is from a greeting card someone sent me. I love the whimsicality and quirkiness of this artist's work. His name is Sam Toft.
On the day Mr. Bill shaved off his moustache for the first time in forty years, we went for a ride together along the river path. A day henceforth to be known as Moustache Day.
Having fun with art-making is mostly a matter of getting out of your own way and letting your Big Self (not your ego) have its own way. Following the ever flowing river of choices and keep asking yourself: "What if.....?" I find that my ego wants to keep things too controlled and stiff and my Big Self wants unexpected meetings, a little chaos, something messy, surprises, and "whoops" experiences. Let's take the glitter experiment above as an example. I envisioned a glittering silvery title, and it was Martha Stewart glitter so it should have been cool but most of the glitter fell off--whoops! When I got used to looking at it, though, I decided I liked it better sort of half-baked. So you never know. And as one of my early art teachers said: "If you don't like what you are looking at, well, what the heck, just turn the page. Keep working!" I've always found that to be very good advice. Don't get attached, lighten up and let go. That is what I tell myself when I am making art, because the years of doing it have taught me I have more and more and more art in me than I will ever be able to manifest....and so do you!
It's been busy around here! Rhododendrons bursting out all over, rainy spring days, sun and showers, and much activity in the studio.
I found an old journal I started in 2011 and discovered it was only half done, so I couldn't resist the temptation to work on it a bit. It's the small ring journal lying open just above the washi tape in the photo above. Then there is my bike journal and all the entries I have done there....and oh, wait, one more book! I have been taking Julie Fei-Fan Balzer's class "30 days In Your Journal." Of course, I had to start a new watercolor book for it. What a fun online class--I am having a blast! I've been stamping, stenciling, masking, painting, collaging, and drawing. It's kind of a return to what I love best after all the work I've done on the theatre.
My special friends have been helping me finish the curtains for the Little Moon Theatre. They want me to show you how neat they look as soon as I return from my trip to Wisconsin. Wisconsin? You're thinking: "Who goes to Wisconsin for a vacation when it's spring in Oregon?" Well, someone whose younger daughter is graduating from medical school this week! One of those great mother moments. So I will have to wait until I return in two weeks to share all the fun I have been having in the studio.....until then, a bit more spring?
I could have spent the day photographing luscious rhododendrons. They are huge beautiful "boomers" energetically. They reach out and squeeze my heart to see if I am grateful for the amazing show they put on! And yes, I say. Profoundly.
Adieu, my readers. More to follow after the 20th of May!
That special time of year when all the iris bloom at once has come again. As the iris is the flower of creativity, I decided to go out this morning on a bike ride to photograph all the iris I could find. I thought it would be a beautiful way to say hello to all my readers on Mothers' Day!
The iris is said to have a deep soulfulness which is in touch with the higher realms. As an archetypal flower, it signifies and references radiant and inspired vision.
Our fathers show us what it is and how it works. Our mothers show us what it means and how to relate to it on the feeling and soul levels. Our mothers help us to bridge a rainbow bridge between spirit and matter. Anyone who had a mother who loved flowers knows this to be true. Flowers have always been part of womanlore and herbal healing practice. They have always been present at important ritual occasions which mark significant events, especially threshold events like birth, marriage, and death.
Don't you love the one above? She is a real show-stopper! In the flower essence world, iris is given to those who have too mechanistic a view of the world and whose souls lack vitality. Iris essence inspires the soul to cultivate and appreciate beauty. The iris is said to have restorative and harmonizing qualities for the union of spirit and matter. It is the flower of artists.
All week it had been raining, with alternate periods of sun and blue sky. The rain would stop and the sun would come out. I would instantly feel better and more expansive--for fifteen minutes! Then the rain would begin again for an hour. I guess it was what we would call "May showers." Today was the first day in a week of sunshine and a perfect blue sky. Little puffs of white clouds. A red bicycle. Bliss.
Many of the iris had been damaged by the rain but if I stood in front of some of the larger stands of iris, I would eventually find one that was still pristine. Iris blooms are huge, but fragile, unlike the orchids they resemble. What a gorgeous day it has been.....just ambling along on my little bike in the sunshine, stopping every now and then when I found a beauty (or beauties) I could not pass by. Only nature could think up a color scheme like the brown velvet iris or the tint of that peach iris!
The iris below had a beauty that was almost unearthly, but looking down at the base of the plant, I could see the knobby rhizomes poking out of the dirt. She had grown up out of the dark earth to express herself in a nearly transparent angel white bloom....
When I was eight years old, my mother taught me to embroider. When I was ten, I learned to knit from her, and later, when I was in junior high school, she taught me how to sew. Those early experiences were the beginning of a life of art-making. So to all the mothers and daughters who do these things together, a Happy Mothers' Day! And I hope that in your garden you have an iris blooming for vision and inspiration in the art-making that you share.