On Seeing NATURE: HINTS OF A NEW WORLD

As part of a spontaneous outing with my friend Judy, we stopped by the Opening Night Framing Services & Gallery for the artists’ talk on “Nature: Hints of a New World,” an exhibit featuring the works of Hazel Belvo and Marcia Casey Cushmore. Who knew we had happened upon such a momentous occasion! The exhibit was not only a grand representation of the women’s travels all over the country and world, but also the very last show to grace the walls of Opening Night—its owner is retiring and closing the business’s doors after forty-four years. Yes, we stepped into something very special.

It’s apparent that both Casey Cushmore and Belvo revel in the gift of color. Their works range from painterly renditions of bold and bright flower gardens, to gnarled and textured trees, to modular landscapes, to all-out abstracts. I loved every single piece in the exhibit—and even more so after learning more about the artists and their perspectives on art, life, and our precious natural surroundings.

Looking closer at “Gratitude” by Casey Cushmore

Marcia Casey Cushmore
Casey Cushmore’s portion of the talk was a tribute to the beauty and necessity of trees. She helped us consider how trees not only sustain our lives, but also serve as our best examples of community as it should be. Life-giving. Sheltering. Concerned about the wounded. Trees embody these positive qualities, and we humans can pay homage to trees—and, in all likelihood, save the world—by reflecting this kind of beauty ourselves.

My favorite works by Casey Cushmore were of trees painted with incredible texture. On closer inspection, the paintings were composed of small shapes and splotches of various colors, some of which were outlined with darker hues. My takeaway? I would love to try this technique using knitted items as my subject matter.

Belvo filled an accordion journal with drawings inspired by The Overstory.

Hazel Belvo
Belvo continued the conversation with musings on the “Spirit Tree;” it’s located among the forests of Minnesota’s North Shore and has inspired much of Belvo’s work. Along with Cushmore, she recommended The Overstory: A Novel, the Pulitzer Prize-winning and tree-inspired book by Richard Powers. Belvo showed off a delightful hand-drawn accordion journal showing the progression of seeds to sprouts to seedlings to full-out trees—her tribute to The Overstory.

“Seascape Triptych I” by Hazel Belvo

I obviously have another book to read. In addition, I was intrigued by Belvo’s triptychs, each made up of one abstract landscape paired with two complementary paintings showing the detail of tree rings or another related pattern or texture. I’ve added a similar triptych to my list of assignments

What a treat to be in the presence of both of these women—through my meeting them and seeing their art, it was apparent they bear timeless talent and big hearts for the future of humanity and the system of which we are a part. Theirs is a noble pursuit indeed.

p.s. Hear from the ladies yourself! Listen to Ampers interview>>

On Learning WATERCOLOR PAINTING

I dig free stuff. Even more, I dig free stuff with priceless, life-changing rewards. Such is a free online watercolor video series by Maria Grossbaum. I swear I learned more about watercolor from its mere forty-ish minutes than I did from a lifetime of experiments in and exposure to the craft!

Also, I so appreciate instructors who see the beauty in happy little accidents and the element of surprise, versus those who adhere to the rigidity of the “right” techniques and “must-have” supplies. Grossbaum presents a class that definitely advocates for the former, thus I was pulled in and remain eager to try watercolor painting as she presents it. Thanks to her, I know exactly what I need:

Water, water, water
Before applying any color to the paper, Grossbaum puts gobs of water on it, front and back. Then, throughout the composition, water continues to be used liberally to get the translucent tonal effects that are special to successful watercolor paintings. “WATERcolor”—I certainly get the complete meaning of the word now!

Gradients
Grossbaum offers a couple practice exercises before instructing us on making full-fledged watercolor landscapes. One exercise is on gradients done in one color, then two colors, then more. Gradients become the foundation of her particular brand of watercolor painting—and her style seems doable for me, too.

Calligraphy nib
Grossbaum uses this untraditional tool to put the finishing touches on her works of art. What a brilliant idea compared to messing with teensy-tiny, less controllable brushes. I’ll make sure my studio is stocked before pursuing my own watercolor project—I’ll get back to you soon on my progress!

Artist Date: “Art Attack” – Nov. 2, 2018

Featured image: Works by Ashley Mary

I discovered the artist studios of the Northrup King Building last spring through “Art-a-Whirl” and fell in love with the environment—with the creative energy pulsing through all four floors of the hundred-year-old warehouse. It was a thrill to return for “Art Attack,” another special weekend when the artists open their studios to the public.

I’d like to shake the hand of anyone who has managed to see everything on display and for sale in that building. I managed to get to two floors and maybe a couple dozen studios of the 200 tenants. It comes as no surprise that I was especially drawn to the color-rich, abstract/impressionist works by the following local artists:

  • Megan Bell – I was first taken in by her choice of colors, which she says are inspired by the “colorful big skies, lakes, woods and prairie lands of my home state of Minnesota.” Her compositions, though completely controlled by her hand, remind me of the effects of pour painting.
  • Anna Dvorak – As an abstract landscape artist, Dvorak uses gorgeous hues of turquoise and green and gray to achieve striking impressions of horizons. I love the experimental spirit of her work, embracing how the paints “interact and intersect.”
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    My favorites by Anna Lowenthal Walsh

    Ashley Mary – Whimsical shapes. Vibrant colors. There’s a happy and playful, yet very complex, feel to her work. I’m not surprised that her aim is to “put the goodness back into the world” through her art. It shows.

  • Anna Lowenthal Walsh – I’m especially in love with Lowenthal Walsh’s bold geometric designs: stacked blocks and a pattern reminiscent of a log-cabin quilt block. I used to knit the latter; now I’m eager to try the design again on paper or canvas.
  • Katrin Schroeder – From a distance, Schroeder’s work may look like very clean and traditional still lifes. However, upon closer study, one notices that she throws some interesting drips into her portrayals of tidy flowers and applies the palette knife quite wildly to her landscapes.

It’s so fun to explore the work of others as I chart a course to my own destination as an artist. My list of “influences” only continues to grow.

 

Artist Date: Finger Painting – Oct. 11, 2018

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The end result of my “finger painting”

There’s nothing like an art class to strengthen the bond of friendship. In that spirit, my friend Sara and I made plans to take an art class together, eventually landing on “Adult Finger Painting” through Robbinsdale Community Education.

Finger painting conjures up images of stick figures and really basic shapes, but grown-ups have taken it up a notch making it all the rage in their adult circles. After spending a couple hours with our star instructor Kris Holtmeyer, I must admit that I’m totally on the finger-painting bandwagon, too! Here are just a few of the lessons I learned from trying my hand—including my fingers, of course—at it:

Draw upside down – I’ve heard of this being done, but I don’t recall ever doing it myself. I chose to use a photo of a bird as my model, but I fear my drawing would have hardly resembled a bird had I tried to actually draw a bird. By turning the photo and my drawing upside down and dissecting it into quadrants of basic shapes, the finished product turned out okay.

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It all began with breaking the canvas into quadrants, then drawing the picture upside down.

Find the tool that works for you – Kris brought a grand collection of acrylic paints and latex gloves—that’s all a finger painter needs to put a concept to canvas. But she seemed to know that some of us would gravitate toward other tools beyond our fingers. Though I depended on mine for the background, it felt more natural to add thicker textures with a palette knife.

Fall in love with white – I heard it over and over again in the instructor’s critiques of our work: try adding white, use more white, fall in love with white! And what a miraculous “color” it is indeed! White created light, depth, contrast, etc. Kris suggested that no one needs more than four colors in his or her paint collection: the primaries of red, yellow and blue, as well as the biggest tube of white one can find.

With other art classes, I’ve often left feeling defeated and not at all impressed with what I take home as a finished product. Add to that the bill of supplies, and I get especially woeful. But this finger painting class was altogether different. I’m eager to keep at it!

Artist Date: Pour Painting – May 19, 2018

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A dry canvas and mixed paint are ready for my first pour painting project.

Pour painting. It seems to be all the rage right now, and classes are popping up all over the place for people to try their hand at it. That’s how my husband, Terry, and I decided to explore the technique.

We found a class in Stillwater, Minnesota, led by Sharon Weiser, an accomplished painter and art instructor. Terry and I spent a couple hours with Sharon testing two different kind of pours.

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Terry tilts his canvas to arrive at swirls and cells of different colors.

The first pour was on a dry canvas. Using acrylic paint, a flow agent and water, we mixed a few different colors until smooth and drippy. Upon achieving the right consistency, we added just a few drops of silicone to each mixture. Before pouring, we layered each color into a new cup, not stirring it, but allowing the colors to sit upon each other. Then we poured the paint and tilted the canvas to see what design and “cells” would appear. A blow dryer helped with developing the latter.

The second pour was on a wet canvas, which means we applied a thick solid color of paint on the canvas before mixing and pouring like we did the first time around. It was amazing to see how this simple extra step changed the effect pretty drastically!

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My finished pour painting projects, one on dry canvas and one on wet.

The cons of pour painting? It’s pretty messy, and you never know how it’s going to turn out. The pros? You never know how it’s going to turn out—there is joy in surprise! Terry and I look forward to experimenting some more, even using some of our old house and wall paint and possibly trying some different surfaces—metal, wood, etc.

In addition, I couldn’t help but notice that the older students at our daughter’s childcare center are doing some pour painting on three-dimensional block sculptures. That would be fun, too!