I’m an artist / maker

fallshow2cardFall has always been my favorite season – the crisp air, fallen leaves crunching underfoot, the incredibly blue sky, the promise of new beginnings (linked I suppose, to the start of school for so many years).IMG_3871Now, however, it’s my busiest time – shows abound and I’m in the studio 8 hours+ on a daily basis. I’m whining (sort of) and I love it as well. I am an artist / maker and creating gets me going. IMG_3870Stitching, collage, photography, encaustic – all fulfill my need to MAKE.IMG_3865Visit me during Portland Open Studios – I’m #64 / Community 6 in NE Portland. You’ll have the opportunity to work with beeswax and make your own small encaustic collage AND see my newest artwork. I look forward to sharing the joys of art making with you!

 

 

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When does your year begin?

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Last summer, in Paris I secretly photographed this gentleman and his faithful companion, waiting patiently in line at a boulangerie. Wonder what a day is like for them and does one season melt into the next? Does their year begin after the Summer Soldes?

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When does your year begin? September is often a marker for many of us. The first day of school: new clothes, new supplies, new friends and new experiences. January is a logical starting point as well. My August birthday has always been my “beginning.” And while celebrating my birthday always brings up many emotions, mostly positive (I’m starting another trip around the sun!) and a few negative (my dad, Merrill May died four days before my 11th birthday (quite some time ago – obviously – but still the memory is bittersweet), I use this yearly marker to assess where I’ve been and where I’m going.

Art wise I’m becoming more confident in my processes and mediums – encaustics are more or less turning out as I envision them – working with hot wax, while still challenging, is more predictable.

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Cold wax, not so much. Learning to mix oil paints and create abstract interpretations of my inner visions is still a struggle. Work is often put aside until I can figure out where it needs to go, as in the piece below, “In the Distance.” Can’t begin to tell you how many variations this work went through (or how many layers of wax and paint exist under the topmost one). It’s like an archeological dig – scrape the surface and surprises await!

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When not in the studio, the rest of my life continues on a pretty even keel. I travel, eat great meals and share good times with family and friends. At a recent event I took many photographs of these lovely koi – gracefully swimming under and around lily pads. I love how they shared their beauty and were unaware of what was above them or where their lives were going. Totally blissful.

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This wall exists here in Portland and I love textures and peeling paint. It’s old and still hanging in there. Nuff said.

Is it done yet?

IMG_1765Working with cold wax and oil paint is challenging me daily. As someone who likes getting stuff completed in a timely fashion, oil paint demands that I play by its “slow down” rules. When I put paint to board, layer upon layer, I have to wait for stuff to dry and patience has never been my strong suit. Until recently I’d had no experience with this medium and it sucked me in just like hot wax (encaustic). Damn (and thank you to) those bees! This piece was started in early March. The birch panel was first covered with gesso and then a layer of Venetian plaster was laid down. The size alone was intimidating – it’s the biggest board I’ve used to date (18 x 28 inches). Using colors generally not in my color palette made me uncomfortable but I wanted to push myself. Subsequently, I was overwhelmed and put it aside for a month.

In April it went back on the easel and I attacked the surface with more paint, cold wax and lots of scraping and scratching. I kinda thought it was done, but wasn’t crazy about the result, so back in the closet it went.IMG_1782

Upon my return the East Coast (and the 11th International Encaustic Convention) I felt renewed and wanted to see what I could now do to this large panel. More layers and mark-making, a new color-way and finally a sense where this work is headed. And, while not done yet, the end is near (or so I think).IMG_2652

Another work that I thought was “done” and it wasn’t . . . IMG_1785

Thought it was done again but wait . . . IMG_1973

Now I think so.IMG_2645

 

Captivated by beeswax!

fullsizeoutput_31d6Saturday, February 25 from 12-2 pm, I’ll be demonstrating how to use cold wax and oil paints (on both paper and board) at Artist and Craftsman Supply in North Portland – 2906 N. Lombard Street. Drop by, check out the store (it is artists’ heaven) and learn about this way-cool medium. Additionally, I’ll be answering questions about the 2017 Portland Open Studios Tour – the Call to Artists is open now with an entry the deadline of March 3rd.

fullsizeoutput_3214Beeswax! It’s amazing. When combined with Demar resin and heated you end up with encaustic medium, which is used hot. When encaustic medium is combined with Gamsolheated and then cooled you end up with cold wax medium, a paste-like substance which is used cold.

fullsizeoutput_2983Until recently, I focused on creating encaustic artworks, having taken several excellent classes from Portland artist Linda Robertson. I love utilizing iPhone photos, pan pastels and colored encaustic oil pigments, using a heat gun and pancake griddle to heat things up. After spending two days working with the talented artist and teacher, Serena Bartonlearning about cold wax, oil paint, Venetian plaster and more, I am totally smitten with this method of using beeswax.

fullsizeoutput_308fThis encaustic piece combines three iPhone photos (the clouds, the house/field and the crow). All three images are inkjet printed on archival card stock and collaged the cradled birch panel with PVA glue. Warm encaustic medium (both clear and tinted) is applied via a natural bristle brush and then heated with an embossing gun between layers, pan pastels and encaustic pigments are used as embellishments. Again, every time something is laid onto the surface, heat is used to melt the layer into the one below. Having the chance to use my photographs, create imaginary landscapes AND the added bonus of warm beeswax scenting my studio is divine! These pieces do require a certain amount of planning and preparation – what layers go down first, what photos need to be cut, what paper should I print on? How much more wax should be added? My graphic design background comes in quite handy.

lake1Encaustic medium cools so fast – brushing hot wax from one side of a board to the other – it’s cool. Working with cold wax is TOTALLY different and I’m in uncharted territory. Never having used oil paints before (yes, they are used in a diluted form in encaustic), I was unprepared for the ‘drying’ time issue.

fullsizeoutput_313dfullsizeoutput_326ffullsizeoutput_31e2Layers of cold wax and oil paint (mixed at a 50/50 ratio) can take several days to dry, especially in our rather damp Oregon climate. These three abstract works are all painted on cradled birch panels with a base layer of acrylic gesso and a thin coat of Venetian plaster.

Needless-to-say, they are QUITE different from the encaustic medium works! Layering and scraping away, incising the paint with various tools – bamboo skewers, Starbucks® cardboard jackets, forks, paper-towels, a palette knife – whatever I can grab that makes a mark. Even with the element of waiting for stuff to dry, the process is very spontaneous. Inspired by “true life” images and then creating abstract compositions with depth and movement is both challenging and rewarding and so much fun!

A BIG SHOUT OUT to the bees for making such a wonderful product that, whether used hot or cold, allows me not only to expand my knowledge but also adds to the joy of my continuing artistic practice!

Time well spent

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Family & friends – what could be better? Being with them at the beach in Manzanita! The “Robin & Bob Memorial Birthday Weekend,” a long-standing family tradition, was celebrated with gusto: delicious food (fabulous dinner at Blackbird), tasty beverages (French 75), good conversation, vigorous bike rides and sandy walks.

Our friend Betty contributed paper napkins for Sunday evening’s cocktail party. I snagged one and ripped it up, then embedded it in beeswax to create this encaustic collage, commemorating time well spent. Wish you’d been there too!

Wish I knew every photograph’s story . . .

 

 

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After my mother’s death in the fall of 2007, my brother and I emptied her Florida home. As we sorted through stuff we were surprised to find out that our mom, Audrey, had some major packrat tendencies. Phone books dating from the ’60s and ’70s took up a corner in her closet. She had 14 bathing suits in various stages of decay (she walked in the community pool with her “noodle” every day, weather permitting). An antique marble-topped dresser next to her bed was crammed with papers, pictures, cards and more.

Our baby pictures and color photos we’d sent her of our daughters throughout the years shared space with small black & white snapshots of high school chums, girl friends from her art school days in New York City and dapper young men in WWII army uniforms. Report cards from our elementary days were in folders next to numerous typewritten resumes (with carbons). They belonged to our father, Merrill, who died in 1964 when I was 10. Job inquiries, yellowed newspaper clippings of her fashion illustrations, matchbooks, her wedding announcement with the Crane’s engraving plate and other documents that were obviously precious to her were nestled in the dresser. Our history mingled with hers in four wooden drawers.

Most of her belongings; clothes, furniture and knick-knacks were sold, while paintings, silver and china were shipped west to Portland and Seattle. Audrey’s small red rolling suitcase was filled to capacity with the treasure trove from the bedside chest.

Yesterday, when I opened it, looking for items to copy to incorporate in my encaustic art, I was struck with how little I actually knew of her life. We didn’t have a close relationship so I know the big stuff, but who are these saddle-shoed teenagers she’s goofing with? Who’s the bearded old gentleman in the pith helmet next to the plow horse? What are the pictures of clouds about? The tiny details that make up who she was are lost to me and what I’m left with are images of people and things that mattered most to her. I could be cynical and liken all the items in the dresser to the phone book cache – stuff she just never got rid of – but I don’t think I will.

Great freedom in being a beginner

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I like to reside in the comfort zone of competency, using skills that I’ve already mastered (or so I believe). Being a beginner, listening to that pesky inner demon camped out on my shoulder, hissing “this is SO easy, why can’t you figure this out?”, “you’re doing it wrong”, “who DO you think you are?” is not my idea of a good time. Looking at “experts” in a particular medium can be overwhelming.

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Having embarked on “the encaustic journey” embracing and coming to grips with my “beginner status” is an eye-opener and much to my surprise I’m having a blast. There’s great freedom in not knowing exactly how to do something. I am following the basic instructions, especially those involving safety – overheating the beeswax, having stuff catch fire and burning down the building would be a bummer for sure. Daniella Woolf, Lissa Rankin and Patricia Baldwin Seggebruch, all encaustic artists and book authors, have become my new best friends even though they don’t know me!

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Familiar images, handmade papers (crazy love for Indonesian batik dot paper), relatives’ & my own handwriting all meld together and the scent of beeswax is so intoxicating (yes, there’s adequate ventilation). The process has me hooked.