Monday, September 30, 2013

Coming into the Light

"Turn your face to the sun and shadows fall behind you."
                                                                                             - Maori Proverb

When I was a little girl I was terrified of the dark.  I didn't have a nightlight in my room so I would carefully prop my bedroom door open so the light from the hallway would give me comfort. Light brightened my world, warmed me and made me feel safe.

Light and the effects of it are so often used as metaphors to describe how someone can become illuminated, awakened or saved.  Going toward the light and its warmth you will become happier, safer or just simply at peace.  Once you're bathed in that light you will be in that perfect place.

"It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light." 
                                                                                                                                                          -Aristotle Onasis

Coming into the light is another way to describe how you can overcome challenges.  It may be that it finally "dawns" on you that you've been following the wrong path.  Or "in the light of day" your troubles may not seem as bad as they did in the "dark of night."

Focus on that positive future.  Create that list of things you'd like to do with your life and start doing them.  As Paul McCartney says, " . . .follow the sun."

Monday, September 23, 2013

The next good thing.

Recently I've had a run of bad things happening in my life and the lives of my family.  I'm usually a pretty positive person, but lately I'm worrying too much about the next bad thing.  I'm preparing myself for the worst.  And that's got me down in the dumps.

So it's time for me to shift my thinking.  I'm now going to worry about the next GOOD thing to happen.  It may be as simple as a kind person in traffic or a smile from one of my students.  I'm going to focus on any and all good things that come my way.

Positive thinking can make you a healthier person. In a Mayo Clinic article researchers list the many health benefits of the effects of positive thinking and optimism.  "One theory is that having a positive outlook enables you to cope better with a stressful situation, which reduces the harmful health effects of stress on your body," the article states. Turning negative self thoughts in to positive ones is a skill anyone can learn. You just have to focus on the good things in your life.

 "Where your attention goes, your energy flows."  
                                                                                              Jim Bunch, The Ultimate Game of Life

Today I'm going to start a 90 day Gratitude Journal.  I will end each day listing all the good things that have come my way. While I know I still have some hard times ahead, I'm not going to dwell on the bad things anymore.  I'm going to take care of what I can and let go of the rest.  By the end of the 90 days I will have developed the new habit of looking for the next GOOD thing!

Just writing this blog will be on my list for today.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Going abstract

Like most artists I have pile of painting experiments that just didn't go anywhere. This was one where I was playing around with some new colors, mediums and tools.  No plan, no direction, no composition.  In other words, the painting wasn't organized according to any rules.

So I began to add more colors.  I created the round shapes by dipping objects into paint and stamping them on.  I created linear textures by using a grouting tool, scraping it through wet paint.  The rest was just strokes of colors using various brushes.

But the painting got too busy.  The composition wasn't holding together very well.  Too much going on.

I added some lines to see if that would help. The white shapes and lines were supposed to create some rhythm.

Still not working for me.

So I toned the whole thing down with the dominant colors, violet and green.

I began to add some collage items (old book pages) because I like the layers.

Still worried about my composition I decided that I needed to emphasize the triangular shape. I warmed up some white paint with yellow ochre and painted it in some of the negative space.  I also "blurred out" some shapes I wanted to push into the back ground. I used a marker pen top to stamp on some more little circles in dark purple to further develop my pattern.
Moon Dance                      16 x 20
Mixed Media on Canvas Panel
I created an overlap by painting more yellow circles (with white and purple details) over the collage paper pieces and declared it done!

Then I stepped back to evaluate:
1.  What rules of composition did I follow?  The Golden Triangle - very popular in the Renaissance.
2.  What points of color theory did I follow?  Cool colors recede and warm colors come forward.
3.  What Elements of Art are evident in my painting? All: Color, space, shape, value and texture.
4.  What Principles of Design are most evident?  Rhythm & Pattern.

During my next few blogs I'll explain a little more about composition and how to organize a piece of art.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Shhhhh. . . I have a painting secret.

Brothers                      9 x 11
Watercolor on paper

Most novice artists are put off from watercolor painting because they're afraid their drawing skills aren't good enough. So I'm going to let you in on a well known secret among art teachers.  Sometimes we just skip the drawing lesson and use a light box or, in my case, a window.

1.  Print out your picture on a full sheet of paper.
2.  Tape it face down to the back of a piece of watercolor paper

 3.  Tape the paper to a window.
4.  Lightly trace the outline.
5.  Take the picture off the back and crop the photo with tape.

Now the painting part.  Colors needed:  yellow ochre, cadmium yellow medium, cadmium red light, opera, pthalo blue, ultramarine blue, sap green and burnt sienna.

1.  Wet-on-wet wash of both blues on the water above the surf.  Wet-on-wet wash of yellow ochre on the sand and the figures.  Leave the surf white.  Blot some yellow off of the shoulders of the figures. I also dropped some opera pink on the left figure"s (Peter) shorts.  DRY
2.  On the right figure (Eric) I painted a clear water then dropped in some burnt sienna and cadmium red on the shorts.  I left a light spot on his hair, shoulder and arm.

3.  I added some burnt sienna and pthalo blue to the figure of Peter also leaving some light areas on his shoulder, arm and shorts.  DRY
 4.  I wet the water and sand areas and dropped in some more colors.  Blues and greens on the water and yellow ochre and burnt sienna on the sand.  I sharpened up some edges on the surf and dropped a little bit of blue into the white surf and the shadows by the boys' feet.  DRY

 5. I added another layer of the original colors to the figures to darken the shadows.  To Peter's hair I added burnt sienna mixed with ultramarine blue.  To Eric's (my redhead) I added a little burnt sienna mixed with yellow ochre.  DRY

6. Eric's shoulder needed a better highlight so I took a clean, stiff bristle brush with clear water and scrubbed gently. Then blotted with a clean tissue.  DRY

7. I put some yellow ochre on the sand to redefine the edge of his shoulder.

8. I wet the sand by their feet and dropped in ultramarine blue to develop a deeper shadow.

9.  I sharpened some edges with a black created by mixing burnt sienna and ultramarine blue and declared the piece done!

Last summer, about 22 years since the original photo, I bribed the boys into recreating the pose. Aren't they cute!

Saturday, September 14, 2013


Today is my baby boy Eric's birthday. He was born at 9:15 on September 14th, 1988.  My doctor brought a boombox into the delivery room and inserted an Eagles tape into the slot.  The song Hotel California was playing as Eric was delivered into this world. A very bizarre set of lyrics to be associated with a birth.  But if you knew Eric it wouldn't seem too odd, just unique.  He's a one in a million kind of person.  

Eric's always energetic and enthusiastic. He lives his life with no regrets and handles challenges with grace. His face is a showcase of emotions. He makes everyone laugh. And he makes everyone feel loved.

I've painted many pictures of Eric and his brother, Peter, (one is on the wall in the picture at the top right corner of the collage) but I don't have any with me here in Texas.  They were, and still are, two of my favorite subjects.  I think I'll work on a new portrait today.  I  have plenty of expressions to choose from.

Happy 25th Birthday Eric!
So Happy Birthday to my Icky-Poo! My life has been sweeter just by having you in it.  I miss your face so I think I'll go paint a picture!
I'll post a step-by-step soon so you can get some inspiration to paint a portrait too.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Playing bridge

Suits          8 x 10
Acrylic on canvas
 There aren't many people who play bridge in Texas.  I moved to Houston in 2007 and have yet to be able to get up a game.  I have two other players ready to go but we can't play the game until we find a fourth.  I've asked many, many people.  The responses I get range from, "Is that like hearts?" to "My mother plays with a group at her nursing home."  I guess it's time to go to the senior center.  Because middle aged people in Texas play a lot of poker and pokeno, but not much bridge.

I learned to play bridge close to 20 years ago with a group of women.  Our teachers were patient and kind as this is a complicated game to learn.  There are so many nuances and rules.  Once you get the basics and establish your etiquette you can play anywhere - as long as you can find 4 players.  I'm not a particularly skilled player.  In fact my bridge friends have called my playing "kamikaze style."  I love to take risks with mediocre hands and either win the round or go down in flames. I highly recommend that anyone wanting to learn the game needs to purchase The New Bridge Complete by
Charles H. Goren.  It was and still is essential in my bridge education.

My bridge group in Virginia is comprised of some of my favorite people.   Eight of us met twice a month, rotating between members houses.  The evening was full of fun, fellowship and food.  My 3 favorite things. But now I'm only a substitute member.  Whenever I'm in town I make sure to send an email around noting my availability.  Or I schedule an "alternate bridge" night with a table of 4.  I love the game, the chatter and the friendly competition.

My goal this year is to find that fourth and create a Texas bridge group.  Let me know if your interested. Just know I bid a short club and love to be left in no trump!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Remembering 9/11/01

The tragic events of 9/11 forever changed our world.  We no longer believe we're untouchable. But we also learned that when a horrific attack happens in our country we rally together with a common purpose.  To protect what is ours and take care of each other.

Twelve years ago I remember hearing about the twin towers on my radio as I drove through my small town in Virginia.  Then the Pentagon and the field in Pennsylvania.  Full of shock, fear, sadness and an overwhelming need to be with other people I went to my church.  As the priest concluded his remarks we began to sing:

America the Beautiful
words by Katharine Lee Bates
melody by Samuel Ward

O beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain.
For purple mountain majesties above the fruited plain!

America! America!  
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
Remembering 9/11                            14 x 22
Mixed Media on paper      
From sea to shining sea

O beautiful for pilgrim feet whose stern impassioned stress.
A thoroughfare of freedom beat across the wilderness.

America! America
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm they soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law.

O beautiful for heroes proved in liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved, and mercy more than life.

America!  America!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness 
And every gain divine.

O beautiful for patriot dream that sees beyond the years.
Thine alabaster cities gleam undimmed by human tears.

America!  America!
God shed his grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea.

Today I'll close with my new favorite video of this beautiful song. It reminds me of the resilience of our American spirit and the bright hope I have for our country's future.  Enjoy:

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Trash to treasure

I hate to throw anything out. Like most artists I have a box full of watercolor practice pieces or paintings that were never finished.  I love to use these paintings as the basis for something new.  I pulled out this one today and began to play.

1. I placed a cup on the paper and painted a thin wash of yellow around it.
2.  While the yellow paint was wet I dropped in some red. DRY

3.  I added another circle on the edge and painted the inside of it with some blue, red and burnt sienna.

4.  It needed a third circle so this time I dipped the cup into some blue paint and stamped it on the opposite edge.

5.  I doodled with a little more color to sharpen edges and create some linear patterns.  To get the multi-color lines I put a puddle of color along the edge of the circle and dragged a wet brush through it.

Spin                                                    7 1/2 x 10 inches
Watercolor on paper
While I'm not sure it's a treasure (there's a crease down the middle) I enjoyed the process of developing this little painting.  I loved watching how the under painting interacted with the pattern I designed.  This exercise is a great way to warm up for a big project.  Or maybe just to clear out my cast off box.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Traveling with women

View from the porch
In September on the weekend after Labor Day, the annual meeting of the Hollywood Bridge convenes.  The society has been in existence since at least 1997 meeting at my friend Jeannette's house on the Potomac River in Hollywood, MD. The group started with 8 women who loved to play bridge.  It soon grew to 12 and the annual meetings became events that no one wants to miss. Being one of the founding members I have attended all but one meeting in the past 16 years.  I missed the meeting in 2007 because I moved to Texas. I refer to that year as "Black September," because I looked forward to those trips as a time for renewal.  Traveling with other women is so much fun, relaxing and rejuvenating.

Things I like about traveling with my girl friends:
1.   No one has to be reminded to empty the dishwasher.
2.   Cooking is a group activity.
3.   No body complains about the food. And everything tastes good.
4.   Sometimes we skip dinner and eat dessert only.
5.   Only one person needs to bring a hair dryer.
6.   The toilet seat is always down.
7.   If one person cries the whole group does.
8.   We laugh a lot.  And we're really funny.  Just ask us.
9.   If you don't want to hang out no one will make you.
10.  We shop together. And help each other spend too much money.
11.  Someone will always comment on your clothing, hair, jewelry, etc.
12.  We take care of each other.
13.  We know how to keep secrets.
14.  We may not see each other often but we can catch up in minutes.

I'm sure there are many more reasons, but these are enough to make my point.  If you want to be pampered, comforted and renewed you need to take a trip with some girlfriends.  My good friend Julie attended the Bridge weekend 2 years in a row incapacitated with her leg in a cast or post surgery.  But she was in good hands and didn't have to lift a finger the entire trip.  We kept her in drinks, food, and anything else she needed.  In fact we took such good care of her last year that she won the tournament!

Our group has changed many times through the years as some people move on or move away. We've supported each other through many life events.  We've celebrated marriages, struggled through divorces, anxiously awaited births of children & grandchildren, grieved for loved ones lost, supported many through illnesses, and accepted each other with unconditional love. Sometimes we disagree and not everyone always gets along, but we find ways to work through those bumps. Because we come together for three common purposes:  To play bridge, eat good food and reconnect with our friends.

The memories from the annual meetings of the Hollywood Bridge Society get me through the tough days. And I know we all have some very difficult days ahead.  But I know if ever I'm ever in trouble, need help or just want to laugh I could call any one of those women.  "Winter, spring, summer or fall, all you have to do is call.  And I'll be there. . . " - Carole King

My view of the river.
1.  Wet on Wet with blues and yellows.
2.  More wet on wet with some more blues and burnt sienna
 3.  Establish a waterline and painted clear water where the river is and dropped in some blues and greens.
4.  Above the water I started with greens and blues then added some reds and browns.
5.  A city skylight appeared in the back ground so I defined it a little more with some pale blue.

Finished view and my photo inspiration.  Even though there wasn't a city skyline in the photo it appeared in my painting. So even though I live hundreds of miles away, my friends, and the river are there for me.


Thursday, September 5, 2013

Playing with paint

I love to experiment with paint.  It's fun to have no plan and just begin to play!  No stress, no rules (except dry your paper thoroughly between layers), just paint and paper.

1.  Using painters tape I blocked randomly created shapes on my 15 x 22 watercolor paper.
2.  I wet the paper and dropped in yellows, reds and pinks.  DRY

3.  I pulled up the first pieces of tape and put on some new ones.  I repeated painting with yellows and oranges but forgot to snap a picture.  Sorry! DRY

4.  Next I put on more tape.  This time I created thicker lines by doubling and tripling the tape.  I wet the areas and dropped in blues and greens. DRY

5.  This is what it looked like after I pulled that tape off.
6.  I taped index cards to random areas making sure I touched at least 3 sides (a suggestion in composition)
7.  I then loaded a fan brush with different colors and splattered paint on the paper.

8.  I took off the cards and doodle in and around all of the rectangles but one.  I left the one with the most yellow blank to create a focal point.  (another suggestion in composition.)
9.  I put an index card over the yellow one and splattered a little more yellow paint.

Linear Windows                                           14 x 20
Watercolor on paper
10.  I doodled a little more dark blue paint on some edges and declared the painting done.

Tonight I'm traveling so I may not be able to post until Monday.  But I packed lots of supplies and plan on being inspired by my trip!