Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Oh, My Stars!

A new shape is coming out of the kiln—8 point stars. I finally solved the riddle of how to put one together, and found I can make a nice little 4-plus inch star. There should be lots of great color combos possible, even though they're a bit constrained by the desire for symmetry. In the first one I wanted to try and combine lime green and cranberry. That turned out a bit harsh and unsatisfying, but the addition of a few contrasting colors—aqua and pale gold—blended them together in a way I really like.

I ended up having to fire this one twice, because two of the pieces crawled apart as they melted instead of joining together. Oh well. I would just as soon learn all my lessons now before I move on to bigger, more complicated pieces.

I tried a second star on Christmas Eve, in a mix of reds and ambers that has become one of my favorite color combos.

Everybody stayed put this time, and I loved the way it turned out. I love the small irregularities in shape from the varied shapes of the chips, the subtle color changes from the overlapping hues, and the way they look like melting, colored ice. The light reflections off of every rounded edge and the perfect smoothness of the glass makes them really fun to touch, too. I'm beginning to have thoughts of the possibilities of three dimensional texture I might have with even this simple layering process.

Fun fun fun!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The 12 Days of Solstice

Our Hardy Plant Society chapter had our solstice party this afternoon. We contemplated the confusion about today being both the start of days getting longer (that's GOOD), and also being the first day of winter, which will last for the next three months (that's BAD). Not that bad, really, because the hellebores are starting to sprout, the pieris and heather and rhodies are all covering themselves in fat buds. In just a "few" weeks, the witch hazels will start blooming, then crocus and daffodils will start popping up, and the next thing you know, it will be spring!

We sang a song today that I really enjoyed, and I wanted to share it with you. So with permission of the talented Carol Koshkarian who wrote it, here is "The 12 Days of Solstice":

On the first day of Solstice, Apollo gave to me...Rain and 40 degrees.
On the second day of Solstice, Apollo gave to me...two muddy boots,  (...yadda yadda yadda...)
On the third day of Solstice, Apollo gave to me...three thousand slugs,
On the fourth day of Solstice, Apollo gave to me...four soggy beds,
On the fifth day of Solstice, Apollo gave to me...five Golden sunbreaks!
On the sixth day of Solstice, Apollo gave to me...six ponds a-brimming,
On the seventh day of Solstice, Apollo gave to me...seven lawns a-swimming,
On the eighth day of Solstice, Apollo gave to me...eight streams o'er-flowing,
On the ninth day of Solstice, Apollo gave to me...nine molds a-growing,
On the tenth day of Solstice, Apollo gave to me, ten gutters leaking,
On the eleventh day of Solstice, Apollo gave to me, eleven culverts seeping,
On the twelveth day of Solstice, Apollo gave to me, twelve gardeners weeping....

Enjoy the lengthening days, the holidays we have to celebrate, and the rest of 2011! Best wishes to you all!

Conquering portrait anxiety

This is Boomer. His family are my friends at Meadowcroft Farm, whose garden I painted last year. They were agreeable to having me try some portrait work of their three dachshunds. She sent me some photos and I quickly picked Boomer, the senior partner, as my first try. I hadn't done a portrait in 25 years, human or canine, but I grew up with pet dachshunds from when I was 7 or 8 till I left for college, so I felt like I knew them well enough to be able to do it. Plus, Boomer and his other housemates were friends of mine, and I thought I had a chance of getting a good likeness for that reason.

I was determined to do a fairly loose study, and started with some pencil sketches. With those under my belt, I grabbed my liquid acrylics and threw a head sketch onto a small canvas panel. I took all of the sketches to my friends, and he looked at the acrylic and said "that's him". But the next time I picked it up to work on it, I went into panic mode. If the acrylic was the one they connected with, I had to continue with it, I could never get that lucky again (that was my line of thought). Then I discovered that the reference photo of Boomer was very faded out around his paws—the trickiest, most complicated part of a dachshund's anatomy. None of the other photos showed a paw in a similar enough position for me to use it. I went to the web looking for references and still didn't have any luck. All of my confidence and conviction fell flat, all the (hot) air squeezed from them by my fear. I knew I could never meet their expectations, so why even try?

About that time I fired up my glass kiln for the first time in five years, and for the next two months I didn't want to do anything but glass, so Boomer lay on the shelf, alone and footless, while I pushed down my guilt over not having at least made an attempt to give him some paws. At the beginning of December I ran into my friends at a party, and he remarked again that he thought I had really gotten Boomer's look. That statement somehow gave me the courage I needed to go back to work on the painting. I spent a few hours photoshop-playing with the original photos until I believed I could see what the the missing paw pixels had to look like, until I could construct an image in my head of how that lumpy, amorphous arrangement of bones and skin and fur would appear. I was determined, at that point, that I would just keep reworking it until I got something I was happy with.

As it turned out, I had to rework several areas, and it certainly is not a great painting. But I'm still happy with it, because when I look at it, I see my little friend, Boomer.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

December Art Sale On Etsy!

All the works I have in my Etsy shop are now on sale—25% off!—for the entire month of December. So if you're looking for a really special gift of art for yourself or a loved one, please check out my offerings there. The coupon code to use is DECARTSALE2010, just enter it when you make your purchase to receive the discount. I'll be putting some of my glass pieces up there soon, as well.

I'm sorry to see my friend, mentor and supporter Annie Howden closing up her beautiful gallery down on Washington Street. Not one to be down long, she'll be opening a new framing shop up the hill in upper Oregon City around the first of the year. I'll miss my regular visits to see all the works by other county artists and chat with Annie and with Kim Walton of King's Raven Winery at the tasting room there. But I did manage to trade a couple of my Garden Jewelry pieces for a couple of great bottles of Pinot Gris!

I started working on my Christmas card design yesterday and I found that my glass work is already influencing both my color choices and my design approach when I'm doing paint sketches. The first thing I did was start putting my favorite bright colors together in an abstract arrangement—exactly what I do with the glass—and when it started looking like a landscape, I went with that idea. What I ended up with wasn't exactly a Christmas card, but it was fun to do. When I started with a second sketch, I started with a design first, but again I found myself going to the bright colors, in combinations very familiar to me from the glass work. I've always felt inhibited in my color selections and too concerned with choosing "realistic"ones, so I'm thinking this is a good step. I think anything that helps you break your own self-imposed and unconscious boundaries is not just beneficial, but enlightening.

Here's the first sketch, just for fun:

Yes, it's true—I like to play...

But you know what? Last month I was interrogating my muse again about where new ideas and inventions come from, and the answer I finally got was—from play.

Works for me!

And, I'm taking on a small glass project—when I was in the local Goodwill last week, I came across a great wrought iron candle stand I'm going to convert into a glass-and-wire-and-iron garden art piece! Oh boy—my first sculpture! I'll let you know how that goes.

Stay warm!