Foolish Sketching and Big Nature

fools gathering

Fools flocked and chattered in Occidental, California on Saturday April 4 for a traditional Fools celebration.  Susan Cornelis, Carole Flaherty and I went out to sketch from life.  The subjects were moving and in crowds, for me the toughest kind of sketchbook challenge.

 

Carole Flaherty sketching
Carole Flaherty sketching

Susan and Carole have been participating in Bay Area Urban Sketchers Sketchcrawls.  Carole had a lovely setup with her self-designed travel watercolor set and everything clipped and attached to a small drawing board.  Susan loaned me her tiny Pocket Palette to try.  I’m terrible at this kind of sketching, so it was good to do it on a Foolish day when everything was allowed.  This sort of sketching from life takes plein air to a new level.  It is meditative and process-oriented. My style tends to be more of an illustrated journal, with writing and collage.  I kept a sketchbook through Spain, and at other times,  but am entirely untutored in the finer points of more realistic rendering, and am hoping to improve.

 

Fears of Sketching

I might as well make a checklist of my sketching fears, and get them out of the way as soon as possible.  On Saturday I accomplished all of them.

  1. Fear of doing a really lousy sketch.  Check.  Around 5 times.
  2. Fear of doing a really lousy sketch while others sketching are doing better ones.  Check.
  3. Fear of just not being up to the task— moving figurative subjects.  Check.
  4. Fear of messing up pages in a bound notebook.  They will always be there as flubs. Check.
  5. Fear that if I share the messy process of learning, I will be seen as less accomplished in my painting.   Check.

I was happy to have some of my sketching doctors give me a critique, over Prosecco and prosciutto at the Underwood in Graton.  Here are some of Susan’s sketches from the day.  My Rx:  mechanical pencil, slower more continuous lines in ink, some media suggestions.  (I’m hearing that a new-to-me brush pen favorite is the Pentel.)  I’m taking an online sketching class from Marc Taro Holmes which is really excellent.  There is a new wave of arts education and it lives online.  What if we all came to art school with many skills and techniques, and the ways and means, spiritual and practical, of living as an artist were taught by generous, seasoned masters?

I want to sketch people in life, not in a figure class.  I think my best sketches recently were done in DMVs.  It took me 3 tries to get a replacement for the license which was lost or stolen.  Learning to sketch is a metaphor for letting a new identity emerge.  And it’s not always comfortable.

Big Old Nature

fools blog redwoods

My artist friend Laura Foster Corben and I went into a grove of coastal old-growth redwoods on a misty, rainy day.  It used to have the worlds tallest tree at around 380 feet.  Now taller trees have been measured, but these seem tall enough to me. I was struck by the primitive nature of these trees.  Inverting the black and white lets me see the almost palm-like form of these titans in Montgomery Woods State Natural Preserve.

A sunburst or natural altar of giant roots.
A sunburst or natural altar of giant roots.

fools standing stone ring

The eerie magic of the giant redwood forest puts those sketching fears in their proper, tiny place.

 

Creative Manifestos and Monolithic Maidens

The “creative manifesto” is a popular idea right now.  You’ll find a good variety, and they’re fun.   But I have a problem with the word manifesto, which has a political agenda.  A manifesto is to unite a group under a banner, to inspire.  I suggest a creative “declaration”, from the old Latin, to make clear.   The root has implications of brightness, to call out clarity,  to make a contract– thus “declaring” taxes. It is a commitment, not a call to action.

Rather than another bullet point list, it’s challenging to try to condense your artist statement into a sentence or two. This should be a statement that will always return you to the authentic reason why you make art.

“My creativity feels like a divine gift to me, and I honor the gift by making my art about Spirit. I want to express the numinous quality of life, where the elements of nature and the stories and the stones and the places of power come alive and speak to us on a deeper level. ”     Caren Catterall

“I paint from a longing to give form to what is hidden, even to me, until I paint it.”  Susan Cornelis

“I work spontaneously to grow paintings as Nature creates, looking through the visible world to the undercurrents of inner forces.”  Karina Nishi Marcus

And mine:

“I explore archaic worlds to forge ancient metaphor into contemporary vision.”  Suzanne Edminster

Suzanne Edminster Saltworkstudio Mixed Media

As Americans, we can’t hear the word “declaration” without the word “independence” implied.  But these concise declarations, with their brevity, clarity and commitment, are at the foundation of creative structure.  Fuzzy, overused “creativity” differs from demanding, grounded creation, where the spark is made, however imperfectly, manifest.

A thanks to Melanie at Catbird Quilt Studio for bringing up the idea of creative manifesto!

Art from Art

In Santa Rosa Junior College’s beautiful print show, 30 Years of SRJC Printmaking, I came on students doing drawings of Caren Catterall’s Giantess series of prints.  They drew in the manner of illustrated journaling, with notes and impressions on the page along with the sketches.  Art ripples out.  You can see the prints on Caren’s website.

 

 

From Camino to Collaboration

Four Hands Susan Suzanne
Four Hands Painting Exhibit Information and Facebook Invitation
Dear Friends,

This is a belated thank-you note for following me on my Camino  journey, both inner and outer. Many of you have asked how the Camino has changed me. I am just three months out of it now, and have resumed my art life. Events have “followed fast and followed faster,” as Edgar Allen Poe would say.

What changes are showing up at this point after the Camino?  I feel lighter and more complete with my life as it is.  I am more able to celebrate who I am, rather than mourning who or what I don’t have, or focusing overmuch on my mistakes.  This change seems subtle but profound.  I have created some new paintings, filled with gold leaf and gold light, that  may have emerged from the many gilded churches of Spain. Projects are coming to completion, including the Four Hands Painting collaboration with knockout artist and close friend Susan Cornelis.  Our show is called The Golden Thread– the thread that leads us out of the labyrinth.

It’s not all sweetness and light, though.  My world seems to be full of beautiful, artistic women who have contracted cancer.  If I were the kind of person who reads omens– and you know I am– I would say that life is issuing a kind of Carpe Diem announcement, a Tempus Fugit warning.   I remember the wonderful Franciscan chapel of Rome filled with little skulls and hourglasses of time flying by, made of browned bones mounted on sky-blue crypt walls.  Scott and I visited this crypt, and I was surprised at the beauty and delicacy of the art.  Part of my life feels like this.. a skull with butterfly wings.skull with wings

So what’s it to be?  Bliss or bones or golden thread,  skull or butterfly wings, or some delicate combination of all these?

I’m glad to be on the road with you again.    This time, the road is my life. Yours, Suzanne

Back from Camp Winnarainbow

A wonderful post from Susan Cornelis. I was lucky enough to share a week with her, Wavy Gravy, Laura Foster Corben, and many others. Metaphoracards were as wild and unruly as ever; strange how random images glued to little paintings catch the little idio-synchronicities of our lives! Bravo, Susan!

campwinn1

watercolor and Uni-ball Vision elite pen in 5 X 8″ Strathmore Watercolor sketchbook

Q:  What did the earth say after the earthquake?  

A:  Sorry, my fault!

Q:  How do you keep a bagel from getting away?

A:  Put lox on it.

Yes, this third grade humor helped to set the tone for the last week of adult camp with Wavy Gravy, where it’s never too late to be a kid again. But there was the Hip Hop dancing and the singing and walking the labyrinth and trapeze and stilts (I watched) and painting and Zen clowning and well, I guess you had to be there.  Each morning Wavy on the rainbow stage got us chuckling and I had moments to do a bit of sketching.  So here they are – of Wavy – and the backs of other campers as they sat and listened.

campwinn2Wavy read Neruda’s poetry each morning…

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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

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

How We Built the Trojan Horse: A Four Hands Collaborative Painting Process

Trojan Horse, "Final" Version. A Four Hands Painting.

The Trojan Horse was surprising to both of us.  Just how did this image develop, seemingly independently of plan or will?  What was happening behind the Oz-like curtain of the studio process?  Follow us through our start and stages.

Trojan Horse Part 1: The Start. A Four Hands Painting

The Start: We poured ink, gesso and paint. What a figure emerged! I named him The Prophet in my mind. It was off-balance composition, with emphatic marks and lines hovering like bats, and Halloween colors. Edgar Allen Poe might have been proud.  We had agreed that we would work with large curves,  a vertical or upright form somewhere, and calligraphic marker lines on this series, and all those forms were there– but– like a “bad” child, acting out.   It wasn’t pleasing from the very start the way some of the abstract pours were; it was not initially not beautiful. However, it did invite radical action, which was fun. 

 Each Four Hands painting seemed to have its own soul or being trying to emerge.  When two people work together, control is lessened and gaps are created where fate or luck can enter.

Trojan Horse Part 2: The Development. A Four Hands Painting

Each “problem” became an invitation in the next stages.  Too warm?  Add purple shapes.  Periwinkle violet rectangles began to pop up.  An “arm” of the form was eliminated.   More gesso was combed on with one of Susan’s notched forms and a “coliseum” emerged.  Horse + ruins =… oh dear, a Trojan Horse was emerging, that gift that kept on giving.  The foreground aquired areas of blue and white as well.  Torch forms, cakes, candles started to light things up with red.  The canvas was very messy at this stage, with many distracting marks.  Time to remove and transform.  Heave-ho!

Susan had been exploring horses in her work, and I had just returned from Italy, where I bathed in Greco-Roman art and lost civilizations, so I supposed both of these elements emerged.  Like a dream, though, it was more than that.  The painting seemed related to Timeline in style and form, and was grouped with it in the show.  Trojan Horse and Timeline share some aethetic of “event” or chronology, time on wires.  You can see them together in the show.

Trojan Horse, "Final" Version. A Four Hands Painting.

 More blue added, orange cut back, violet reduced, pure red accents.  Opaques calm . A few greenish and brownish neutrals to rest the eye, and an iconic horse moves, as Joni Mitchell put it, on the “carousel of time.”  Or a child’s hobby horse thumps through a field….What do you see? For another Four Hands painting, visit Susan Cornelis’ Conversations with the Muse.

I’ve posted a picture of the Four Hands Collaboration below and an invitation to the event at Phantom IV Gallery this Saturday afternoon and evening. Come celebrate with us if you can.

Mirror Neurons and Painting Neurons: Reflections on Four Hands Painting

Four Elements, 36" x 36", by Susan Cornelis and Suzanne Edminster

Susan Cornelis and I have been passing paintings back and forth in our collaboration, getting our mirror neurons working. “Mirror neurons” are really highly speculative, as far as hard science goes, but are a seductive concept. We are made to imitate and to share knowledge, to mimic. Our brains recreate what we see as our own experience. When we see someone pick up a lemon, our taste buds start. In our case, we have at times in the collaboration consciously tried to mimic the other: to use a Suzanne color or make a Susan shape. Some of these paintings are turning out to be the “best” ones.

It makes me wonder if paintings– and all art– actually encode the experience of the painter, or, in our case, painters plural, into the paint itself. When we look at the Mona Lisa, do we start to resonate with da Vinci’s beautiful brain? He wrote all his notes in mirror writing, so maybe he cracked the code centuries ago, as he did with flying machines and submarines. Why are some of the collaborative paintings powerful? Here’s a question for the ego to gnaw on, and one we’ve discussed. Are the collaborative paintings “better” than our individual ones?

You can come to our show and find out. The painting shown here, “Four Elements”, is a good mirror painting example: Suzanne paints with Susan’s cool palette, Susan tries Suzanne’s odd forms.  Let us know what  you see in this work.

Picasso, Braque, Susan, Suzanne, and the “Squirrel”

Painting Start by SE / Cornelis Edminster Collaboration

Our painting collaboration (Susan Cornelis and Suzanne Edminster)  is finding squirrels,  squawking bird things, skulls, and stubborn winged beings  in  our  paint .  Are they vermin or rare species?  Should they  be conserved or eliminated?  Here’s a wild start on a 24″ x 24″ canvas.  These starts are ephemeral: this one no longer exists, but has already changed.   Check the left corner.

Karina Nishi Marcus told me about Braque, Picasso, and the  Squirrel.  Picasso found a squirrel form in the middle of one of Braque’s paintings, and Braque struggled for 8 days trying to get rid of it.  I’ve included the story in a link below. It’s interesting that Picasso told Braque to kill it, get rid of it.  Braque’s squirrel was living in a painting of tobacco, pipes, cafe glasses.  Picasso said the squirrel didn’t belong there. On the other hand, Picasso, with his autocratic personality, might not have  ever allowed something to appear in his painting that he didn’t plan, sanction, or control.  

Our wild things emerge from splashes, spatters, and a short discussion of media and possible compositional forms.  Keep them and develop them?  Paint them out?  What about this fellow?

Detail, Upper Left Corner, "The Bird"

He absolutely hijacks the whole composition.  Paint him out in favor of more balance and harmony?  Here’s a detail of what we did to the painting.  The “squirrel”– the bird in the corner– is still there.

Detail, stages 2 and 3, of painting start Cornelis Edminster Collaboration

A lot of you are painters out there.  What do you think?  Thumbs up or thumbs down to the Bird Thing?

Mythic notes:  Read the full story of the Picasso, Braque and the squirrel .   These painting apparitions belong to either the world of projection and psychology, or the world of the dream.  Painting is dreaming out loud, lucid dreaming.  Change the dream?  Is it nonsense or an omen?  Do we let it pass like a cloud, and onto the next dream, or painting?  See more of our painting day from Susan Cornelis’ point of view.

Studio news:  Karina Nishi Marcus is having an opening at the Wine Emporium in Sebastopol this Friday.  Come and enjoy her masterful work. 

Artist’s reception for
Karina Nishi Marcus
Friday, February 10, 2012 from 5-8 pm at “The Wine Emporium.”125 N. Main St. · Sebastopol CA 95472
Phone: 707-823-5200 
 
http://www.the-wine-emporium.com/calendar/event?eventid=11995

Plan to meet the artist and enjoy excellent food, wine and music!The Wine Emporium is located at 125 North Main Street, in Sebastopol, a few doors North of Hwy. 12. Karina Nishi Marcus’ paintings can be seen on the sets of major motion pictures and TV shows including, Mad Men, NCIS, Parenthood, CSI: NY, Monk and House.

A Quick Peek at a Painting Collaboration Process

Ever had one of those brilliant midnight ideas and let it drift away?  Well, painter Susan Cornelis  had one and made it a reality, that rare bird,  a painting collaboration. Encouraged by B.L.T., the collaborative project of Lisa Beerntsen, Tony Spiers, and Bob Stang, Susan asked me to be her partner in an a collaborative painting series with abstracted themes.

We began on Saturday in Susan’s studio.  Making it up as we went along, we decided to start with smaller paper pieces to get a feel for a larger series on canvas.  Here’s a start by Susan Cornelis:

Susan Cornelis Gold Start 6

As you can see, the starts were so beautiful it felt very risky presuming to “finish” them!  I “finished” the start you see above  with this version below.

Suzanne Edminster Gold Finish 6

 Here’s  another one of Susan’s brilliant starts:

Susan Cornelis Gold Start 4

 And my finish below:

Suzanne Edminster Gold Finish 4

A secret: this kind of painting is addicting, riveting, and fun.  To see more of the project, including a few of my starts and Susan’s finishes, visit Susan’s blog, Conversations with the Muse.   Cooperators are standing by, so more to come.