Wednesday, February 29, 2012

the Artist and the Naturalist

Last week, a friend loaned me a book by Hannah Hinchman entitled Little Things in a Big Country- an artist and her dog living on the Rocky Mountain Front. She writes about the change of seasons on her ranch near Augusta, Montana. Her wonderful drawings and artwork make this little gem a visual treat. Each chapter begins with a hand drawn map the describes where she is. Her illustrated maps are one of my favorite parts of the book along with her descriptive text.

Her book reminds me of another favorite book that chronicles a time and place. Henry Beston wrote The Outermost House about his experience living on Cape Cod in the 1920's. Both books made me realize how much I am drawn to artists who are also naturalists- whether poet, painter, writer, photographer or other visual artist.

Poet John Caddy's website, Morning Earth, explores the relationship between expressive art and the natural world. For years, I've admired the work of the artist/naturalists listed here and others. They inspire me and provide a focus for my own artwork. Here's another one of Hannah's books A Life in Hand- creating the illuminated journal.

She was one of the first artists to popularize keeping an illustrated journal as a daily practice. Cathy Johnson attributes Hannah's book to changing how she keeps her own sketchbooks. Cathy is presenting a free online Watercolor Sketching Workshop through Strathmore Papers this month. Her workshop is the second one and starts March 1st. You can register anytime.

All of this inspired me to sketch again. Maybe it's the longing for Spring. I want to become an artist and a naturalist- to be outdoors, write and illustrate my own urban landscape.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Flora Bowley's e-course

I'm taking Flora Bowley's online e-course called "Bloom True". She's one of my favorite painters and lives here in Portland. I love how nature inspires her paintings and her use of color, the contrasts of light and dark. Her paintings have a very organic, feminine feeling.

You might ask how do you take a painting class online? Each Tuesday and Friday, we paint with specific instructions. It's all very abstract with many layers. I started a notebook for the class and made the above cover with a couple layers of paint. It's a Strathmore watercolor notebook. I painted a layer of absorbent ground on the shiny surface, a layer of watercolor paint and then a layer of acrylic paint.

This week, we concentrated on inspiration. Here are a couple of my sketches.

Nature inspires my artwork and is a common theme I like to explore.

Midway through the course, here are my two canvases. For me, they are large- 24x30 inches. I bought a sturdy table easel that holds up to a 39 inch canvas for the work. At this stage, both canvases have six layers of paint. Flora says her painting often have ten or more layers.

The scary part comes next. To use all the techniques we learned to create another layer that brings the painting together. This is where courage comes to play and I just have to go for it.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Calligraphy Class

I'm taking an Italic calligraphy class at the Multnomah Arts Center with Christine Colasurdo- a writer, teacher and calligrapher. She gave us the above quote the first day of class. It reminds me to be a beginner in all that I do- to see with fresh eyes, to practice a lot, to make mistakes, to be patient with myself, to grow and learn.

I've wanted to learn a calligraphic hand but thought I didn't have the time to practice. I'm finding the repetition of letter forms to be very meditative work.

From the lowercase letters to the capitals, there is a beauty in the pen angle, letter slope, shape and spacing.

This summer, the International Calligraphy Conference will be held at Reed College. The Portland Society for Calligraphy will host the event. The conference is my motivation to study and learn more. I already signed up for Spring term. It will be great to experiment with adding calligraphic writing to my artwork.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Making 2012 Visual Calendar

Here it's already February 1st and I'm posting my 2012 calendar. You can see other visual calendars HERE. I made it bigger this year so it measures 8 x 9½ inches. The format is different, too. I decided to keep the calendar grid open and create an illustrated calendar with my artwork, practices, books read and favorite quotes.
The calendar starts with a table created grid. The left hand side is Sunday through Wednesday and the right side is Thursday through Saturday.

I used to photocopy and collage the covers of the books I read for my calendar. This year, I'm making my own books-read illustrations. Jill Berry's new book, Personal Geographies- explorations in mixed media mapmaking, offers lots of information about maps and ways to create your own. Checkout Jill's blog for arty cartophiles.

Maps fascinate me. I want to know where I'm going and where I've been. A friend shared with me map quotes from the Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear. These quotes are from her book The Mapping of Love and Death.

I chose the word focus for 2012. Sometimes I feel like I go in too many directions with my artwork or don't concentrate enough to learn one skill well. My hope is that by selecting this word, I'll be able to complete projects and find purpose in my artwork.