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Invitation to Dionysia Reception at Wine Emporium, Friday Oct. 5, 5-8PM– and another great opening a block away!

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I’d like to invite you to stop by on Friday for my opening, Dionysia.   Dionysus is not only the god of wine and parties, but of organic form and growth, a fundamental premise of  intuitive painting.   James Haug, proprietor of the Wine Emporium,  is a great host and discerning patron of the visual arts.  There will be live music by Johnny Harper, hot American roots guitarist.  Wine, art and song are a time-honored recipe for a good time. You can find more details in my Facebook Invitation here.  Remember, Friday, 5-8, Wine Emporium!

Dionysia  is the real name for yearly wine festivals in Greece.  They are often accompanied by theatre, but in this opening the tragicomic  themes will be provided by the musicians, including new original songs by Sharyn Dimmick. You can enjoy a few of the Four Hands Painting Collaboration pieces that Susan Cornelis and I worked on earlier this year.

I’m showing some paintings that have never been exhibited before, several on mythological themes.  Obscure Greek mythology always pokes its fingers into my paintbox.  Point Reyes Dawn is based on seeing Bouguereau’s Venus at the DeYoung Impressionism exhibit a day before going to Limantour Beach at the Point Reyes National Seashore. The odd aqua pastels reflect the somewhat  tweaked sentimentality of the painter, but the pink spotted whale is all mine.  It’s the greenish painting in the slide show.

Bouguereau’s Venus, not mine!

There’s another great reception right down the road at Retrospect, 4 x 4 , with 4 pieces each by  Art Moura, Todd Barricklow, Judson King Smith, and  Gregory Odle.  It’s at 125 Petaluma Ave and it’s the same hours.  I ‘d have to be shizophrenic to be at both, but I’ll try.  You can find the Retrospect 4 x 4 FB invite here .

I like to paint in the fall and I’ll be posting some absolutely new paintings soon. Meanwhile, join me for some fun this Friday.  It might not be as fun as the gathering in Bougereau’s Venus, but then again you never know.    Suzanne

What It Took for “Upside Down”

Upside Down by Suzanne Edminster, 36" x 48"
Upside Down by Suzanne Edminster, 36″ x 48″

Artists are often asked how long it took to make a painting.  Less often are they asked about materials, techniques, theme, and concept.  I’ve decided to tell you what it took.  My story is not unique; every artist has hundreds of these stories.  Most artists are polite enough not to bore you with them.  Here goes!

Materials: Golden liquids.  Flourescent Nova colors.  White acrylic ink and gesso.  Huge to tiny brushes.  Canvas prepped in 2010-2011 with gesso, lightweight spackle, and hand-carved forms.  Masking tape to establish horizon consistent with previous series of 10 paintings. Then swaths of translucent red, then swipes of flourescent red-orange.  Allow canvas to sit for 14 months to mature, and because you don’t quite know what it wants to be. 5 books on Hindu motifs, 2 books on symbols, 2 hours of research to establish authentic Warli painting examples.  Notebook with notes.  Film called “Upside Down”, an Indian movie not yet released in the US. Brushes borrowed from Karina Nishi Marcus.  One glass of cognac drunk in her studio.

Techniques: pouring, stamping.  Gesso applied with gloved hand, no brushes, for smooth yet organic texture.  Mixing of whites to achieve varying translucencies for folk painting.  Wiping back with variety of materials. Acrylic inks applied with brush and pen, water-soluble wax crayon scribbles, and 2 different varnishes, one spray and one applied by brush.

Experiential and conceptual development: one marriage, 1991-1998, in which I lived in Bangalore, India for several years and collected both fine and folk art.  Conversation with Indian woman who decorated the threshold with gorgeous rice flour designs daily at 4 AM so that her husband could step through this blessing on his way to work at dawn, her paintings destroyed and rebuilt day after day.   Color vocabulary from photographs and memories of India.  Conscious decision to paint naively.  Memories of circus and thoughts of Ganesha,  a major presence in South India. Wanted to use a sort of ‘tumbling down the rabbit hole” theme used in previous paintings, where animals float and turn in a metaphorical world, Chagall-like.  Mythic theme for paintings and series size established in the Terra Incognita series, 2011. A sadness over a  recent death and a desire to use forms drifting up and away, or birds to symbolize soul in release and  in captivity.  Threw out color balance and let the colors blend randomly, as in India.Memories of elephant festivals and ecstatic dancing.

And luck.

Questions?

Studio Note:  You can see “Upside Down”, both my painting and the film, at the Santa Rosa International Film Festival, which runs Sept. 12-21.  Visit http://www.sriff.org/ for more information.

A Contract with Creativity: 5 Tips on Time for Art

I am secretly annoyed when people ask me “How do you do it?”  I have a job.  I make art.

My first thought is that any young mother is ten times as busy as I am.  It’s just that she doesn’t get the public accolades of an art show.  Her project is her child.  How do young mothers do it?

Here are a few hard-won ideas on how to make time for art.

  1. Do your art first, before anything else.  Use your best time of day.  Twice a week I go to the studio and work from 6AM to 7:30, then go to work.  I have an alarm clock set in the studio to remind me to leave, just in case I enter flow time or art trance.
  2. Keep notebooks everywhere, not just in your home or studio.  That’s right, have duplicate or triplicate notebooks.  You can do some studio time in a notebook, but it has to be there.  Sketch and write down poetry, daily junk, and ideas. It’s not important which notebook is your art notebook and which is a daily journal.  Mix them up.  The important thing is writing in them.
  3. Remember that even if you had more time, you wouldn’t necessarily do more art in it.  Work in what you have right now, rather than get lost in a resentful dream state about your “other” imaginary life, which has both more time and more money, and in which you are better-looking.  This is easier said than done.
  4. Make a contract with yourself or another person.  That’s what the Caerus Artist Residency is all about: a simple support structure for art time and work for two weeks.
    Caerus, god of opportunity.

    Impose a commitment and yes, gasp, a few limitations on time and energy.  Be accountable to yourself and a few other people as well.

  5. Stop work when the painting (or your art form) is going well.  Leave it in a good place.  Do not work until crazed exhaustion and retinal eye spots begin to appear.  If you stop when your time is over, and the work is going well, you’ll have an eager feeling when you hit the studio again.  JUST PUT THE PAINTING DOWN AND LEAVE THE ROOM.

Don’t over-dramatize or over-romanticize the time needed for art.  Routine is not a dirty word for creative work.  It’s the fuse for the fireworks.  I know you know this already.  Just sayin’.

Book recommendation:  I found The War of Art by Stephen Pressfield  incredibly useful.  We make war on our own resistance.  Though I don’t like war and warriors as a metaphor, he uses it beautifully, and it’s one of the best books on artistic discipline I’ve ever found.

I liked this recent article by Aimee Bender called “A Contract of  One’s own.  You can read it here.  Both authors are professional writers.  I’ve often wondered about the difference in time needed for writing and painting.  Painting, I found, requires more time and more “stuff.”  Anyone else have an opinion on this?

My Summer Artist Residency

I always wanted to be offered a summer art residency.  You know the dream.  It involves perfect food at a lovely dining room table or magically appearing at your door.  You have a cozy little cabin or an urban warehouse studio in an exciting part of a large city.  Ocean, desert, mountains, lakes, or forests surround you.  You have no real responsibilities except to your art. A convivial group of  fascinating, talented artists would provide incisive feedback and hilarious, refreshing evening play.  And of course I would blissfully, effortlessly, and ceaselessly create my new theme.  And the Art Gods would say, “It is good.”

I wanted the feeling of leaving home, but underneath that, what I sought was a support structure outside the ordinary for creating art intensively for two weeks.  Heck, I’m an artist, with a good studio and great arts community.  My job is to create, so why not create my own summer residency? My colleague Karina Nishi Marcus  and I devised the Caerus Artist Residency.

Caerus runs from July 8 through July 21, 2012.  It’s a work-in-your-studio residency, shared virtually.  I was inspired by a Philadelphia artist who created his own summer residency in his own studio, and Nanowrimo, National Novel writing month, when writers all over the country commit to writing 50,000 words in a month period, receiving support and sharing online in a specified pocket of time.

Caerus (Ky-russ)  is a lesser-known godlet.  He’s the slippery opportunity in time, as opposed to the linear clock.  We might call him inspiration or flow.  Artists seek him.  Sometimes it seems that time for creating art is being devoured  in our consumer culture.   We need to invite Caerus, or Kairos, sacred time, into our studios.  Who knows which windows of inspiration might open for us?

We’ll  focus on creating time for art for two weeks, minimizing other commitments as we can.  At the end of two weeks, we’ll celebrate.  You choose how much time you can devote to your art and fill in the free application form to join us.  Caerus will be a forum for posting comments and photos on your process.

I’ve chosen to commit four hours a day in-studio.  I’ll be working on the large pieces of the Dionysian project, and a new project I’ll  reveal during the residency. As in a residency, I’ll have special arrangements for food and recreation, and minimize my other life duties.

Come on, it’ll be fun.  Whether your studio is a computer or a dining room table or a beautiful atelier, whether you have 15 minutes a day or 8 hours a day, you can participate in the Caerus Artist Residency.

All we have is time to give our art.  Join us.  Apply for the Caerus Artist Residency here.

Metaphoracard Collage Play at Camp Winnarainbow for so-called Adults

One of my cards.

What the heck is a Metaphoracard?  Laura Foster Corben and I invented these small (5″ x 7″)collage paintings on matboard to provide art play for Wavy Gravy’s Adult Camp Winnarainbow.  I’m the Metaphoracard Girl and Amuse Grove Reader.

In the tradition of side amusements for The Players– the musicians, clowns, dancers, arialists, stiltwalkers, magicians, storytellers and poets of the cosmic, comic Circus– the cards provide diverse diversions, a little taste of trickster mind at play.

As in my Saltworkstudio classes, we work  in series, doing three at one time, and follow one of the Almost Unbreakable Cardinal Rules–Paint First.  Getting the mark of the hand, paint, brush or ink down before applying images is vital.  I’m not sure why, but it seems to transform the cards from stiff constructions to flowing, “wavy,” spontaneous combustions of dreamy image.

They are meant to be entertainments, in the way that some novels are called “An Entertainment.” There is no number to the deck.  The deck is temporal and temporary, created in time by a group, played with, and dismantled after.  Because they call forth a certain bubbly synchronicity, their accuracy can be astonishing, but unrepeatable.  Like an appearance of a Loch Ness Monster, they leave splashy traces, but can’t really be nailed down or captured in a net of a single meaning.  And they dissolve after the week at camp, each player claiming their own trading cards of vision, dream, and just plain weird stuff.

A little handful of art magic to play with.

Since Camp Winnarainbow emphasizes fun, play, and performance, we wanted to create a recreational visual art form  that would give satisfaction in the both in the making and in active use after.  The cards were read by a raggle-taggle Amuse group in the temporary Amuse Grove you see below.  There’s a Cosmic Phone for when we get stuck.  We just dial up the Demigods to get an anwer. The chairs are decorated with old wedding gowns from the Costume Tent.

Instead of the Muse Grove, the Amuse Grove.

Metaphoracards require a community.  You need a group to get a deck, and you need someone else to read your card. It’s the rule of the Cosmic Trickster that you can’t know what your image might say.  I puzzled over my image of Faulkner, doggies, and a flower, until my husband Scott said, “That’s easy.  It’s Power: dog power for the body, Faulkner power for the intellent, and the flower is pure vegetative power, an idea bursting out.”  Huh, and wow.  Flower power?

But… are they serious ART?  I absolutely hope not.

My thanks to Wavy Gravy, Jahanara Romney, and Laura Foster Corben for sponsoring me  as a Guest Artist at Camp Winnarainbow. Take a look at the cards the talented Susan Cornelis made. Towards the fun!

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Art Collage Box Cleanout

Spidermen Original Holga Photo, Suzanne Edminster. Pre-Instagram!

As I was going through my overcrowded art storage area, I came upon my nemesis– the art collage box.  It was full of things I collected at one time.  I was sure I would use them some day.

 I won’t tell you everything I found, but there was Monopoly money from a broken antique set,  German fortune-telling cards, a work on rice paper by an artist from Bangalore, India,  and Mexican loteria cards.  Out fell ancient notes and antique photos, a Virgin of Guadalupe print and a Holga photo of Spidermen, and a paranormal magazine I got in Prague in the 90’s.

Collage Box

I thought I might tell you what I kept and what  I discarded, but I found I was reluctant to list things I threw away.  Hey, it felt like a taboo.  Why?

I’ve always said that collage itself had some connection with destruction and death, the dark side.  Things are dismembered and removed from their original space, time and context, often by cutting  or tearing, actions that have an air of violence.  There’s an air of secrecy about them. That box felt like a  coffin for dead ideas combined with  a treaure box, a graveyard for things that had once compelled me.

Someone would be sure to ask, “Why did you throw that out?” Even worse, they might say, “You could have given that to me.  I would have liked that.”  I would be responsible for disappointing someone.  Another person would become implicated and entangled in my decision.  I’ve encountered this a lot.  People really do not like it when one simply disposes of things. A taboo has been broken.  Improper burial?  Disrespect for objects?  Then the discarded object comes back to haunt you through the remonstrations of others.  And now, with the advent of eBay, all junk has been acquired a false patina of consumer value.

I bought this in Bangalore when I was rich. Now I’ve lost the artist’s name. Perhaps Rashika Thakur?

Each item is really the representation of a certain dream, experience, or longing.  An object then has become a literalized metaphor, carrying meaning far beyond itself.  If I discard the object, do I discard the idea?  Or does the object become a substitute for fresh experience?  Each item becomes a love letter from a past idea-affair.

Nowadays I use only two kinds of collage: text and black and white non-copyright photocopies of drawings or my own photos.  Often the collage vanishes completely, or is torn to become an area of texture that may have figurative associations for me, but not for the viewer. I’ve never liked using “old” or “failed” paintings as collage parts.  It seems disrespectful to the original impulse, a Frankenstein construction that I am forcing to life.

I think I’m just as happy putting this flotsam on the floor and photographing them, and then letting them drift back to the strange ether of discarded objects, or the garbage.  But then, again…

There, I’ve revealed my collage underbelly. What’s in your boxes?

Six Phases of Creativity

Worktable with 3 “Drafts” for Larger Paintings, Saltworkstudio

Where am I now?  What’s next?

I’ve been incubating this Dionysian series for a while. I have three 2 foot by 4 foot canvases waiting for paint to develop these themes, colors, and forms.  The starts shown above are meant to act as “thumbnails’ for the next phase of larger paintings on canvas.

I have the best luck with my finished pieces when I am purposely experimental, uncontrolled, and unfinished in my draft paintings. I’m groping in my own darkness when I paint.  I don’t want the whole process to happen even before I hit the canvas.  I don’t want  to pre-paint it in my head, my notebook, or anywhere else.

I found a useful new metaphor for thinking about any creative project, whether it’s painting or cleaning out the junk room. These ideas are from The Path of the Everyday Hero,  a book about mythic themes played out in life.  The six phases of creativity are preparation, frustration, incubation, strategizing, illumination, and verification (or manifestation).

Dignified, precise language allows us to reframe creative pauses or lapses. It’s interesting that frustration comes immediately after preparation, right at the start.  Frustration is the failure stage, the belly of the whale, the so-called “block”. What now?

My friend Karina Nishi Marcus is very clear on the idea that “block” should be eliminated from the artist’s vocabulary.  She says creativity is more related to nature metaphors, like “low tide” for the ocean, or “fallow” for the land.  It is a necessary part of the creative process.

“Noble Bull”, acrylic combined media, Suzanne Edminster

Frustration stops us from action, and makes us incubate our ideas, like an egg.  It’s on the back burner, in the nest, warming, passive on the surface but active underneath, mysterious, the seed under the ground.  To incubate properly we also need to strategize, to try things that might nourish or warm the invisible idea.   Some might work, some not.  But the passive time is needed, yin to the yang of action. Paintings can stay successfully in this stage for a long time, even years.

“The Great Ones”, acrylic combined media, Suzanne Edminster

The painter or artist may have to go back and forth in the frustration–incubation–strategy realm for a while, then illumination, the “aha moment” strikes, and elevates the venture to a different level, perhaps to completion.  The creative round, like the phases of the moon, will start again with a new idea.

“We Have Purposely Kept It”, acrylic combined media, Suzanne Edminster

These paintings are not done, but after some months of incubating, I am strategizing.  The notebook helps keep me on track.  When you find your way through an art dilemna, the solution often seems absurdly simple.  Still, it took time to get there.  The cycle may play out in one painting, or in series spanning decades.

The Dionysian metaphor is one of unbounded spring growth and ceremonial theatre, among other things.  Perhaps I should drink a glass of wine to Dionysios, and return to the paintings.    A flash of lightning,  a sprouting vine, or a Greek chorus might illumine the way to the next act of painting.

Mythic notes:  The Dionysian mystery cults tried to loosen the bonds between the worlds through sacred intoxication, theatre, dance and ritual.  The Pompeii Murals, with their glowing Pompeii red, were thought to have depicted aspects of this.

Pompeii Murals, probably showing Dionysian cult ritual