Saturday, January 31, 2009

Collages : Two New with Red

I tried putting these collages on the scanner, and I have had good results doing that with small pieces of artwork before, but I think with as much time as I spent after tinkering with the images , I could have just set up the tripod and photographed them.

I'll still have to do that; the color tones or saturation or intensity...or something...isn't quite right.

These, like the previous four, are 6x6 inches on a 10x10 heavy watercolor paper.

Friday, January 30, 2009

New Collages

I've been painting for the past several months and not doing any collage making, but I guess I got the collage bug from artist Mary Buek, whose blog I read. She usually does paintings, and posts a picture of a daily piece of artwork. The last month or 2, she has been on a collage binge, and I have been looking at her experimentations and works of collage art almost everyday.

So, the last couple of days I got out lots of sheets and small bits of paper, including a number of painted and otherwise marked papers, and created some collages. The pictures are not very good, pretty bad actually, but show the general idea of what I am doing.

I made the mistake of using colors I like in the last two collages, and when I finished I started thinking, Hmm, I kinda like these. Bet they'd look nice framed and hanging in my living room.

I learned a long time ago to beware of making much blue jewelry; I always want to keep it.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Go Mosaic, Sand Mandalas and Making Matte Glass, I hope

I just had to post this picture of the mosaic that R made from the pieces of her Go game.

It isn't glued down, of course, so it is probably more correctly a Go mandala, like the sand mandalas often made and destroyed, usually by Tibetan Buddhist monks.

Also, this one wasn't destroyed by its creator, but, uh, messed up by me...but it had set out on the kitchen table for several days intact. I think that was pretty good. But R wasn't too thrilled when my sleeve drug across it.

Sand Mandala, Tibet 1993
photo by John Hill

Sand mandala created for the visit of the Dalai Lama 2008

from Wikipedia: Ritual destruction

The destruction of a sand mandala is also highly ceremonial. Even the deity syllables are removed in a specific order, along with the rest of the geometry until at last the mandala has been dismantled. The sand is collected in a jar which is then wrapped in silk and transported to a river (or any place with moving water), where it is released back into nature. For this reason, the materials keeping with the symbolism are never used twice.

Several months ago I was working on this mosaic and could never find the right pieces to fill in the background. I placed 2 orders for mosaic tiles that just wouldn't work. So, this morning I cut up some little pieces of white opaque to semi-opaque (it's a bit swirly) stained glass and put them in my daughter's long abandoned rock tumbler. I want all the glossy to go away. I can't wait to see what happens. If they won't work for this project, I'm sure I can use them for something else...just like all the other rejects I have stashed away somewhere in my studio.

(Mandala photos from Wikipedia articles "Mandala" and "Sand Mandala")

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Painting Angst: Process of a Work in Progress

Maybe it wasn't such a good idea to decide I would chronicle the progress of 2 paintings I was starting simultaneously Friday. Maybe it made me a little self-conscious and stilted, maybe a little bit more critical as I was painting.

Friday was an absolutely gorgeous day to be outside painting. It was 80 degrees, and I was on the deck barefoot and in a tank top, having shed my oversize paint shirt. (As a follow-up to my last post about Texas winter weather, I want to add that Saturday was a windy 31.)

Anyway, I thought it would be fun to track the stages of the two canvases. Here's what I got:

Making early color choices, starting to define areas with blocks of color

This is the beginning of the "Ahgg, I don't know if this is working" stage.
My little helper in right top corner, usually a skittish, fairly wary cat, was fascinated by the movement of the paint brush. Later she came up onto the canvas to play.

Well into the "I think I hate this painting, what can I do to fix it" stage.

I can see now that by this time, things had started to get better, forms had taken shape, I'd
made some good changes, but I think at the time I felt like the painting, as Edward put it, "was kicking your butt."
You can see that between this photo and the previous one, the kitten had been replaced by a glass of wine.

I had to walk away for a couple of hours, then I finally decided that this one is finished.

This one is close, but the amount of yellow at the very top near the left still bugs me and will probably be messed with some more. When I get out the paintbrush, who knows what else I may tweak...

It's almost 4 am (still kind of Saturday to me, since I only slept a few hours), and Edward leaves noon Sunday for a week in Iowa, so I am going to try to sleep some more now and be awake for his last few hours at home.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Winter or not? Texas Gardening and an Essay on the Hose

This is a confusing time for gardeners in Texas. My mother said this week, I just want to get out and buy some seeds and plant some plants. Yes, it is the middle of January, but with all the nice weather, who can blame her. It will be 80 degrees again today....BUT, then the winter wind will kick in and it should drop to 37 tonight and only get up to 45 tomorrow (Great weather for R's soccer game! Brr.)

Rapid changes and temperature drops notwithstanding, there are still some things that are doing great in the garden through the winter. The fennel is still growing, and we have carrots in the ground that we go out and pull as needed. We have Swiss chard, a little romaine, a few tiny mixed lettuces whose seeds were evidently taking their own time to sprout and several herbs that are thriving through whatever January throws at them, even the ice storm. Earlier this week I planted arugula, and we won't have to wait long for the tender young greens to come up. Arugula is the most instant gratification a gardener can get.

The one unexpected gardening problem is that I have to water, in January. I believe this is the driest fall and winter I have ever encountered. But, on the subject of watering, while going through documents on the computer yesterday, I ran across this little essay R wrote last year:

My Favorite Garden Tool

Every day when I get home from school, I run to the end of the hose to turn on the presser. Then I dash to the other end and point it at the beautiful birdbath in the middle of the garden and fill it to the brim. Then I direct my tool towards section one filled with lettuce, spinach, and cauliflower. I spray until the vegetables and their roots are completely moist. When I stand back and marvel at the work I do every day, I am pleased with the marvelous outcome of my work every day.

It's kind of funny, but you know, she's right. If you garden in Texas, your hose or water barrel IS your most important tool.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Hope, the Inaugural Address and Being Counted

This is Thursday, and I am still thinking about Tuesday's inauguration and the inaugural address.

The world watched us on Tuesday.
Image from Google satelite

My first thought is that I am still feeling kind of amazed that this has actually happened and that we now have Barack Obama as our president. Truly historic. I am glad that my daughter and her classmates were able to watch the inauguration at school. Of course, a week before the election, the students at her school chose Obama for president by a landslide. It appears they were ready for change even more than the entire country of adults were, and are.

I liked the inaugural address, and I appreciated that the president did not gloss over the seriousness of the situation in our country, but appealed to the citizens to use their strengths to work to overcome the current difficulties.

I liked that he called upon science and was excited to hear him promise to use wind and solar energy, saying not just that we can, but that we WILL do it:
We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. All this we will do.

But I think the thing that surprised and encouraged me the most was this:
For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

Watching the inauguration from work Edward immediately wrote on his Facebook page: Edward is happy to know that his president counts him as a citizen.

A couple of friends commented in agreement, but it is something that didn't make too big an impression if you are someone who has never ben marginalized by your government. A friend of ours wrote later that she had watched the whole speech, but had no idea what we were talking about. I responded: just have probably have never had your president state outright that he doesn't even consider you a citizen or another say that you are unAmerican because of what you do or do not believe, so Obama's inclusion today did not make the same impression on you. Somehow, if you believe in Jehovah but not Jesus or Jesus but not Vishnu or in Buddhism but not Jehovah or Allah but not Jesus you are considered a more moral and decent and, evidently, valid person in this country than if you frankly state that you just can't believe in any of these supernatural deities or religions. Polls have found that regardless of experience and ability, people in this country are less likely to vote for an admitted atheist or agnostic than ANY other group. So, that President Obama in his inaugural address referred to the patchwork that makes our country strong and included "non-believers" was amazing and very heartening, and really quite a breakthrough. I'd almost say unprecedented, except that this non-believer/atheist hate and distrust is a fairly modern phenomenon in our country, as the founding fathers and the majority of our first several presidents were not Christians or even theists, but deists.
When Obama started his list of the different religions that make up our country, I stopped and held my breath, but didn't really expect or hope for what he said. When he included non-believer with Christian and Jew and the rest, that meant a lot to many of us.

Friday, January 9, 2009

First Painting of 2009

R says it goes the other way, horizontal. Of course she had a whole story about a house by the beach, or maybe on an island, with lots of detail about what all the elements are. I always enjoy her interpretations of art and her great imagination. My own thoughts on the different bits in the paintings and usually of the meaning or subject of the painting itself are almost always a lot more vague, more open ended.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Garden Clean-up, Winter Weather

We've been enjoying some of the most wonderful weather for the beginning of 2009.

On Friday, R and I went for a long walk, she in a little cotton skirt and I in sandals. About halfway through, R suggested we walk on the other side of the the shade.

Saturday afternoon (82 degrees) Edward and I tackled the clearing of the garden, cutting down the big woody okra stalks and pulling up tomato vines, the eggplant and the poblano pepper, all of which had pulpy fruits that had been caught in an earlier freeze still hanging on them. We even found a few tiny red and green pear tomatoes protected under a cover of leaves.

Swiss chard, arugula, 2 small plants of romaine lettuce and fennel are growing in the garden, and we still have several carrots in the ground just waiting for when they are needed in the kitchen.

Edward and I worked in the garden until just after sundown, more than comfortable in t-shirts, and he in shorts, me in sandals.

So, obviously, it was time for a little sleet and freezing rain.

Monday afternoon, tiny iciles hung from every branch and twig.

Green leaves on the rosebush encased in ice

Poor little frosted fennel

R managed to get a perfect leaf imprint in ice


R went back to school today after 2 1/2 weeks of holiday madness, and I am hoping that I can get back to painting.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Cheese, Bread and Julia Child

Yummy cheese, photo from Zabar

Edward has good cheese karma; I have to start with that. He chose a lovely taleggio he had never tried to take to my mother's in October, and last night he came home from Central Market with this Alta Langa Cravanzina. It is from the Piedmont region of Italy and a lot like a brie, maybe a little earthier, maybe a little tangier...I don't know, it's hard to describe the difference. Very, very soft, very delicious.

From Zabar's in NYC: A delicate and lovely little round from the Italian Piedmonts; in the "paglia" family of cheeses, so named because they are aged on beds of straw (paglia = straw). Covered with a bloomy rind, the voluptuous paste is mild, creamy, buttery, and a little musty. Eat it quickly, otherwise it might run right off the table - not that something this good will be around for that long.

He also brought home a big, lovely pain de campagne, which was almost identical to the rustic bread, with a touch of rye, that I made from the America's Test Kitchen cookbook - still my best home baked bread effort.

My bread, also yummy

I may be thinking about matters of food and cooking more than usual (nahh), because I just finished Julia Child's memoir of her years in France, mostly Paris, (1948-54) and the trials and tribulations of cooking school, testing, writing and publishing her first cookbooks and the (accidental) beginning of her career as a TV chef. She and her husband didn't even have a television when she made her first TV appearances.

I love her absolute enjoyment of food, and the exacting detail that went into her preparation of her recipes - truly hundreds of hours of research and trials to perfect a single recipe that would be foolproof to American cooks and housewives of the 50s and 60s who knew nothing of French cooking but wanted to learn. And her sense of fun.

Unfortunately, I now want to buy most of her books, particularly From Julia Child's Kitchen, a cookbook that also includes comments and stories, my favorite kind. "Unfortunately", because I know most of these early books are full of recipes that I will NEVER make or eat, eel, tripe, brains, rabbits...crazy foods, foods that I wouldn't have considered cooking or eating even if I had not become a vegetarian and also just a lot of beef and chicken recipes and recipes heavy with absolutely perfected French sauces full of butter and cream. And now, even though the holidays are over, and I am ready to trim back on the cooking and eating and shed a few pounds, I am pretty sure that I will be researching the one or two Julia Child cookbooks that I simply must have.