Monkey, dressed in finery

Desert Rose
Another one that went into Gypsies, Vagabonds & Wild Mad Women (currently showing at TactileArts in Fannie Bay, NT, until the 7th of May,) although I photographed this in-progress, and then didn’t bother to take another when it was done. Her fingers are in the final work, and a bird perches on the window ledge.

Not a painting, at all, but something I did to fulfill my quota of pieces for the group show.

With so much repetitive pattern going on, this is actually a sly deception…it’s a zen tangle pretending to be a painting. The difference? In a painting, every mark is—ideally—placed with purpose…even in (or I should say, especially in) abstract paintings. Nothing is put in carelessly; a good painter doesn’t just fling his brush wildly at the canvas while he’s watching The Bold and the Beautiful over his shoulder. No mark is superficial, or accidental. In the world’s serious art schools, a mark is defined as having a beginning, and an end. Even the smallest mark moves in a definite direction, carries a weight. A mark finishes as strongly as it began, and plays a part in balancing the whole. A successful mark is one that, if removed, would ‘unbalance’ the painting…rather like a judicious comma in a complex sentence. Painters make their marks intentionally, consciously.

Pattern making, on the other hand, is a form of hypnosis. It is avoidance of The Present. It lulls awareness to sleep. It is the hand running on autopilot, making repetitive marks, while the mind floats away. It is—ironically for those who look to aimless pattern-making as meditation and to stay grounded in the present—quite the opposite of mindfulness. It is more like nail-biting, chewing gum, or swinging your foot to a fro incessantly when seated: a nervous habit that the body fidgets with, unconsciously, as the mind sneaks off to wrangle in thoughts of the past, the future, or engages in monkey chatter with itself.

The deception is upon myself. My monkey is very sophisticated. I should know better…I have read many books on mindfulness; but then, so has my monkey. Something like this picture can seem so much more ‘purposeful’ than nail-biting, or watching television, or scrolling through Pinterest for four hours. At the end of my doodling, Monkey has produced something colourful and attractive…to the unpracticed eye, it looks as though I have been very creative with my time. But making this was no more creative than hours spent on a colouring-in book, staying within the lines. I know Monkey was behind it, all along, because I produced this like an automaton, and at no point did I feel like I was putting any of myself into it. I used the heavy allover pattern-making to fill the void, to avoid real engagement, the hard work of being honest with myself. I let my monkey distract me from the challenge of really looking, from working with mindfulness and with all of myself present.

Don’t think I am feeling “down” or beating myself up, please! And no, I am not fishing for compliments. Trust me, I know what it is that I have made. I am writing this down partly as an apology for including it in an exhibition…it was not honest enough a work to be shown to others. But in the end I didn’t have enough pieces, and didn’t want to let the other artists down by not producing my share of work.

More than all this, I am amused, and glad that I caught my clever little monkey at her tricks. I am someone who enjoys discussing all the ways in which I deceive myself, and catch myself, deceiving myself. It makes me laugh. I will be more firm and honest with Monkey, next time. Every crappy thing I make is a chance to learn and grow. They say that every starting painter has a thousand shitty pictures inside…to arrive at the good stuff, she first has to paint out all that rubbish. I have a LOT more paintings to do…

I called this canvas “Desert Rose,” though its real name should be “Monkey, Dressed in Finery”.

The ♥ is curved like a road through the mountains

The ♥ is curved like a road through the mountains

Inspired by a two-week trip among the volcanoes, lakes, and colorful mountain villages of Guatemala’s lush highlands. And an ode to chicken buses. I love chicken buses.
The ♥ is curved like a road through the mountains

What are you waiting for? Hit the road and have an adventure! It is later than you think.

This is a new art print, available in my Society6 store.

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A different kettle of fish : : Sopa de Sirena

Sopa de SirenaWhen Kris brought this old brass cauldron home from the flea market, I knew that I would paint it. After I had lovingly painted the cauldron (and the bas-relief wooden flowers in the background) the question was then: What would one cook in such a special pot? Something mythical and rare…

I’m afraid a black sense of humor took hold of me, just then, and I ended up making a poisonous-looking green soup in the brass kettle…along with recognizably fishy pieces, and sinister bubbles. A sprinkling of iridescent blue-green scales in front of the pot completed the brew. Voilà, Mermaid Soup was born. Except that it’s called Sopa de Sirena, because it was born in Venezuela (and was partly inspired by all the Sopa de Mariscos that we have been enjoying here.)

I managed to get the image uploaded to my Society6 shop, too, and there are 30 hours (or so) left to avail of Free Shipping via my Artist’s Promo link. You can also click on the image, above. I’m so pleased to be able to offer something new along with the free shipping, in one go.

Tuck in!

Personalised canvas tote bag

personalised canvas toteWas binding a dozen or so journals today, for a craft market later this month; at some point the books went between boards for pressing, and waiting for the glue to dry I started on this little project. It was so much fun that the books are still in the book press, several hours later! I just decided to keep going with the canvas bag until it was done.
personalised canvas toteThese handy canvas artist’s bags were on special at work, so I bought one. They’re a good size (you can fit an A3 sketchbook into one of these, as well as lots of art supplies) with three roomy pockets, and a whole row of narrow brush or pen pockets on one side of the bag. I want to use it as my art tote when I am traveling (I am going to make more of an effort to paint, or draw, while I am out and about, than I have before now. Yeah, right.) But the bag needed some colour, I thought…all that plain canvas just begged for some paint.
personalised canvas toteI used a black Posca brush-pen to doodle the designs, then painted in with acrylics. I fooled around with glitter fabric paints, too. When the paint was dry, I loaded some flow acrylics into a gutta applicator bottle, and put in fine details like faux stitches and stems and leaf veins. (Note: want to give this a try? Everything you need for this project is available at Jackson’s Drawing Supplies)

personalised canvas toteI used the same applicator bottle to write the text on the reverse side of the bag…after trying to use a Posca marker and not getting the desired results (you can see the pink lines here and there).

personalised canvas toteThis is just going to be something that I drag around with me, getting dirty, battered, and worn, so I was just playing around with the doodles, not planning ahead, and not trying to get anything perfect…I acknowledge that my writing could have been spaced better!

personalised canvas toteI couldn’t resist giving the little painter dude an easel, a canvas, and an unimpressed nude model…and throwing in a bit of naughty humour, too.

personalised canvas toteBefore you try something similar, please note that I broke all the rules about painting on fabric with this one: I didn’t wash the bag first, and I didn’t mix textile medium with my acrylics, or use fabric paints. No idea whether it will all come off when the bag is washed, someday. I will let it dry for 24 hours, and then iron the bag underneath a layer of baking parchment, for what it’s worth, to try and heat set the paints. But it doesn’t have to last, so I don’t mind; it was just a bit of fun, and something to do while my books were in the press. 😉 

personalised canvas tote

The Pocket Alpaca

pocket alpacaCouldn’t resist sharing this funny guy with you…he’s one of 9 strange-ified animals I’ve done, so far, for a group show in the middle of the year. Other characters are a Spangled Jerboa, a Scaly Marmoset, an Arctic Salmon, an Omniscient Raven, an Elizabethan-Ruffed Lemur, a Panzer Wombat, a Wooly Armadillo, and a Firehaas (or Firestarter Hare). They all began life as a left-handed drawing, which I wrote about in the post Sinister drawings. (They were painted with my right hand, though.)

A playful bunch, and so much fun to make!

So it hasn’t been all family drama and birthday cake…I’m chugging along steadily, making things, doing things…just not blogging about things, much, because we’re still having problems with our solar power on the boat. If you see the sun, tell him we miss him in Darwin.

A few more…

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Whatever is happening is the path to enlightenment. —Pema Chödrön

More feathers, because it’s what I happen to be doing at the moment. A path lined with feathers is not a bad path to be on!

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Getting a bit bolder with the color combinations…orange thread over yellow green paint, complementaries, that sort of thing.

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May have over done it with the red-violet feather on emerald green…that one looks a bit muddy. Too many different kinds of thread. Too many colors.

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When the work starts to get slick, polished, ornate, precise, or needlessly intricate, it’s time to step back and empty the mind of what it knows, again: time to dig up the real feather that started all this, and really look at it.

Starting from zero, studying the feather as if for the first time, and proceeding with attention and praise for it as an individual and miraculous thing. Which, of course, it is.