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On the March

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Turkeys strutting it along the boulevard in front of my urban studio! I’m a lark, an early riser.  I swear that you see the most interesting sights in any city in the morning.  This fellow was preening, opening his tail, and doing a mating dance for a stopped car  as I went early to the studio to prep for my art class.

In Bodrum, Turkey, I saw sheep being driven into the surf at the beach at dawn to wash them off, baaa-ing in the foam.  In Naples, Italy at dawn, the gentle sound of sweeping of the stoops and streets in front of the stores fills the air. This meditative cleanup of ancient byways readies space and soul  for a new day of commerce.  Later in the day this vanishes, filled with shouts, songs, scooters, and swearing. Continue reading → On the March

Small Work, Big Impact: 40 venues go small at SOFA Sat. Feb 2, 5-8 PM

Suzanne Edminster, Sea Garden, acrylic on paper, SOLD

Small does not mean diminshed  intrigue or impact. A good small painting reads big.  I remember that in the Denver Art Museum that you could see the Georgia O’Keefe small painting from across a vast room, before we could even identify it as hers.  It just shone.  I’ve been working on larger pieces for a while now. It’s an interesting lesson: large is NOT small scaled up somehow. The dimension changes meaning. This one will be on display this Saturday.

Confession: the very small works are often traces of projects that lead to larger works for me. My own sense of detail is not robust; I prefer the BIG. Even my handwriting is large and scrawling. I like to work small on paper– it feels more open and free. But sometimes I do “smaller” canvases: 10″ x 10″ is one of the smallest. I like mixed media on smaller canvases to make more of an impact. Everything is small-ized now. Just think of your Iphone and Ipad.

Suzanne Edminster, Days of the Dead, combined media on canvas, 12 x 12 inches
Suzanne Edminster, Days of the Dead, combined media on canvas, 12 x 12 inches

Small can be very expressive. I did the piece above when my dad was diagnosed with cancer. I wanted to make a response that expressed sacrifice and rebirth as his living spirit started to transition.  The Little Sun Cow below was just pure play and joy.  We all have our art totems.  Cosmic and regular cows are  mine.

Suzanne Edminster, Little Sun Cow, acrylic on paper, SOLD

One artist who has a great sense of the small is Susan Cornelis.  You can see her latest cool “fossil” smalls here. Come visit me this Saturday, or, better yet, start your own  small series. Small can lead  to big things. Surprise yourself!

SOFA Small Works

Jung, Creativity and Play

Europa, Suzanne Edminster, acrylic on canvas, 36" x 36"
Europa, Suzanne Edminster, acrylic on canvas, 36″ x 36″

“The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the objects it loves.” 

C.G. Jung, from Psychological Types

This quote made me pause.  When we lose play, and give it over to force, we lose our contact with the creative world.  On the other hand, the “inner necessity” has to include work and bringing the play or fantasy to  fruition.

“The creative mind plays with the objects it loves.”  This painting is called Europa.  I wanted somehow to play with the Greek myth of the bull swimming with an abducted river maiden— and play simultaneously with abstract form.  I experienced both these desires in a visceral, childlike way.  I wanted to physically play with the figures in the myth, like playing with dolls or action figures, and I wanted to splash paint and watch it pool and run.   The two plays came together in this painting.  (Sometimes they don’t.)

This painting, an abstract mythic narrative, will be shown at The Gallery of Sea and Heaven in their upcoming  Myth and Legend show opening February 16.  They took two paintings.  The other one is a private narrative , where the visuals construct a strange story; it did not exist until I collaged it.  In other words, there’s definitely a story, but I don’t know exactly what it means, like the  stories and plots of dreams.

I think of Jung with his Tower on the lake and his mandalas.  He loved to play, and having a rich wife didn’t hurt the cause of “playing” with architecture .  When we play, we always trust that the practicalities of survival will take care of themselves, like children. What “objects” do you love to play with?

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?