Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Twilight Strata and Making Art with What You Have

This is a detail of one of the paintings I have finished recently. There was a time, not even a year ago, when I would have found a 10 x 20" piece of paper to be completely intimidating. Now I feel comfortable working at that size. Gradually I am working larger. There was a time when anything over 5x7" was intimidating.

Also, just in case you wanted to paint or draw or create some other kind of art and were waiting for the perfect moment, supplies, space, studio, ETC. I just want to tell you that you do not have to wait. I live in a tiny studio and I painted this painting on my lap on top of the lid of a tupperwear bin. sitting at my couch. And it worked out fine. So I suggest that if you were waiting until the time or place was right to stop waiting and just go. The worse thing that can happen is that you make some art that you don't like - and honestly that happens to everyone. Even famous well-known artists make art that they don't like. And they do the same thing you should do - they toss it and keep going.

Twilight Stata
10 x 20"
watercolor and ink on paper

Monday, August 27, 2012

Heron in the Mist

heron in the mist by megan_n_smith_99
heron in the mist, a photo by megan_n_smith_99 on Flickr.

I have a couple of announcements. First, for the next 3 months I will have paintings on display at award-winning Dream Clinic Massage at their Queen Anne location inside the historic MarQueen Hotel. The MarQueen is absolutely beautiful - old-fashioned and romantic.

I am also getting ready for my next show - which will be at Miro Tea in Ballard (Seattle) in October. I will be giving you more details about that soon.

This painting is my latest:
Heron in the Mist
9 x 12"
Watercolor and ink on paper
Available on Etsy.

Be sure to follow me on Etsy - you can also follow me on Twitter for news, updates, and quotes and thoughts about art and creativity. I'm also sharing art and inspiration on Pinterest and going on about this and that on Facebook.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Khasim & Magical Realism

Khasim by megan_n_smith_99
Khasim, a photo by megan_n_smith_99 on Flickr.

Khasim- A Desert Wind
2012, 9 x 12"
Watercolor on Arches watercolor paper
Inspired by, or in honor of, someone i used to know.

Last night I pulled out a favorite book that I have read many times but not in a few years. I think It is time to reread it. The Book is Saudade by Katherine Vaz. Katherine Vaz is Portuguese American. Her family came from the Azores - which sounds like a truly magical place. Her style of writing is very lush and somehow feminine. It's classified as magical realism - but I have not read anything else like it.

Dictionary.com defines magical realism as: "a style of painting and literature in which fantastic or imaginary and often unsettling images or events are depicted in a sharply detailed, realistic manner."

Some of the best known writers in this genre include Gabriel García Márquez, Isabel Allende, Laura Esquivel, Salman Rushdie, Angela Carter, Italo Calvino, and Jorge Luis Borges. If you are interested in an introduction to the genre, these are my personal favorites:

Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez
Innocent Eréndira, and Other Stories by Gabriel García Márquez
Strange Pilgrims by Gabriel García Márquez
The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
paula by Isabel Allende
Little Big by John Crowley
The Man Who Fell in Love with the Moon by Tom Spanbauer
Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin
Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie
Burning Your Boat by Angela Carter

And here is a little quote, a little taste, from Saudade:

"Do not plan or worry beyond this present instant in which i am with you. In which I am art and music and words with you. Let us sculpt this moment to be everlasting like no other. For here is the seal from which all grace comes: We must create Pietàs in or order to live. Flesh that is torn, flesh that is dead or dying, even as it is rotting through your fingers--hold it next to your heart. Find ripe and tender flesh too, and hold it in your arms, because your life depends on it. Whatever you chose, hold it for as long as you can, and ask for its blessing."
--Katherine Vaz, _Saudade_, 1994

Near The Shore

Near the shore by megan_n_smith_99
Near the shore, a photo by megan_n_smith_99 on Flickr.

This is a photo of one of my paintings manipulated in Instagram. I still have not gotten tired of doing that. It's like having multiple words inside one painting. This painting is actually not quite done - I will show it to you when it is. It is in color but I am enjoying the way it looks in black and white also.

I've been cleaning and organizing and getting rid of some things. I think I am on day 6 but I need a break because I am tired and sore. I have no idea why it could take so long to do this given the size of my space, but I do take breaks because my body has never been good as sustained physical activity. It will be good to get it done.

I know some artists claim to thrive in chaos - and I do like having some random baskets of current projects and art supplies out. The way the co-mingle is inspiring, but I don't need to have my space overrun by paints and beads and yarn and fabric. I am certainly more productive when my space is more serene. When I am done it will still look like a pack-mouse lives here - just a somewhat slightly tidy pack-mouse. Martha Stewart will never be consulting me for organizational ideas.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

My Own Desert Places

My own Desert Places by megan_n_smith_99
My own Desert Places, a photo by megan_n_smith_99 on Flickr.

I mentioned a few days ago that I had been trying to work on a series of autobiographic paintings and had gotten hijacked by a cute little owl. Well, that happened. However, having appeased the owl, if only briefly, I was able to make a foray into my own depths. Ok, the shallow end, anyway. Or I stood on-shore and got splashed a tiny bit and called it good.

I knew these paintings were not going to be autobiographical in a narrative way - or possibly in a way that anyone but me could actually understand. I think they are more visual expressions of some things it's hard to even find words for.

This is the second one, My Own Desert Places, inspired by a poem from Robert Frost.

My Own Desert Places
9 x 12"
Available on Etsy.

The inspiration:

Desert Places
by Robert Frost

Snow falling and night falling fast, oh, fast
In a field I looked into going past,
And the ground almost covered smooth in snow,
But a few weeds and stubble showing last.

The woods around it have it--it is theirs.
All animals are smothered in their lairs.
I am too absent-spirited to count;
The loneliness includes me unawares.

And lonely as it is that loneliness
Will be more lonely ere it will be less--
A blanker whiteness of benighted snow
With no expression, nothing to express.

They cannot scare me with their empty spaces
Between stars--on stars where no human race is.
I have it in me so much nearer home
To scare myself with my own desert places.

Beadspiration - Earthenwood Studio

beadspiration by megan_n_smith_99
beadspiration, a photo by megan_n_smith_99 on Flickr.

People often ask where I get my beads - and the answer is everywhere - but most of the ceramic beads and cabs I use come from Earthenwood Studio. The owl and the nest shown in this photo are from Earthenwood. They are having a sale right now, 15% off - check it out on their blog.

Happy Beading!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Portable Monsters - Everyone Loves a Yeti

Yeti Dolls by megan_n_smith_99
Yeti Dolls, a photo by megan_n_smith_99 on Flickr.

It is almost back to school time. Every time I walk into the drug store my heart quickens as I survey the shiny new notebooks, pencils, and especially the huge boxes of perfect crayons. For some reason the smell of new crayons, Play-Doh, and Elmer's glue fills me with hope. I guess I have always had a bit of a passion for school supplies and art supplies. Sometimes that was the best part of going back to school.

But I think what one really needs when contemplating a return to the halls of learning is a portable monster. I know I certainly could have used one on the days I was feeling insecure and being picked on by the bigger kids.

These monsters, yetis to be exact, are completely portable. At 7 &1/2 inches tall they will easily fit in a backpack. They also are at home on dorm beds and in lunch sacks.

Step right up and get your yetis HERE!.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Rocket Monkey

Rocket Monkey by megan_n_smith_99
Rocket Monkey, a photo by megan_n_smith_99 on Flickr.

Yesterday was my god daughter's 5th birthday. She was so excited. She received 4 disney princess party dresses and 5 pairs of shoes. I knit her a princess crown and gave her this painting. Her little brother really liked this painting too, he's my little monkey.

I did not pick the monkey randomly as the pilot. Before manned space flight, monkeys became the first primates in space. In total 32 monkeys have made it into space.

The very first monkey in space was sent up by the US --Albert, a Rhesus monkey, blasted off in 1948. More monkeys followed Albert into space as part of the US Space program, in the 50s, 60s, and one trip in the 80s. France, The Soviet Union, and Argentina also sent monkeys to space.

Other animals who have been sent off-planet include fruit flies (the very first animals in space), mice, dogs, rabbits, frogs, rats, cats, wasps, beetles, tortoises, fish, newts, shrimp, crickets, sea urchins, and jellyfish -- actually far more animals have left the Earth than people! Sadly, not all of them made it back, and some made it back in poor health. Fortunately scientists learned a lot from these experiments and the later flights with animal astronauts were more successful, leading up to the first human in space, a Russian astronaut named Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin in 1961. Yuri was followed up by Alan Bartlett Shepard, Jr., the second person and first American in space, also in 1961.

Just a little something to think about next time you look to the skies.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Red Planet

Red Planet by megan_n_smith_99
Red Planet, a photo by megan_n_smith_99 on Flickr.

Well, Mars has been on my mind this week - for obvious reasons.

Mars is also called the Red Planet - due to the iron oxides on its surface giving it a reddish color. It's named after the Roman god of war.

In many ways, Mars is similar to Earth, though smaller and less massive. Mars has water as ice at its poles. There is evidence that Mars may once have had seas. There is also evidence that in the past Mars had a magnetic field and plate tectonics like Earth. The highest known mountain in the Solar System is on Mars -- Olympus Mons (Mount Olympus), at 27 KM tall. It's extinct now. 27 KM is three times the height of Mt. Everest, the tallest mountain on Earth.

Some scientists think that Mars may have had living organisms in the past - though there is a lot of debate about that. If there was once life on Mars it would have been long ago when there was liquid water on the surface and likely would have been primitive single cellular organisms similar to the earliest life on Earth.

Mars is pretty interesting, so I may be doing some more paintings and blogging about it more. Stay tuned!

Red Planet
Watercolor and colored pencil on arches watercolor paper
8 x 8"
Available on Etsy.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Various Things - Ink Stream of Consciousness.

08112012art1web by megan_n_smith_99
08112012art1web, a photo by megan_n_smith_99 on Flickr.

I think this drawing might be like my week. I feel sort of scattered. I did not feel very well this week, hence my being so quiet. I did do some art but spent more time reading. I did not leave the house much, which was not really a good thing. I am going to try to think of something interesting to do today. and I am going to my favorite 5-year-old's birthday party tomorrow.

I did draw in my sketch journal. It's not really what most people seem to mean when they say "art journal" - though in theory there should be as many of types of art journals as there are people to create them. Mine is entirely in pen and ink and it's not so different from this drawing here - something like ink "Stream of consciousness".

I just got curious about the phrase, "Stream of consciousness" so I looked it up --"the continuous flow of sense‐perceptions, thoughts, feelings, and memories in the human mind... a method of representing a blending of mental processes in fictional characters, usually in an unpunctuated or disjointed form of interior monologue" It was coined by psychologist William James in a publication from 1890.

I like the idea. It's as if we are all connected by out own little artesian wells to the same vast underground river -- the "Collective consciousness" -- "the shared beliefs and moral attitudes which operate as a unifying force within society." -- coined by French sociologist, Émile Durkheim (1858–1917).

And this is just a little bit of flotsam and jetsam washing up on the shores of my underground river.

Various Things
5 x 13"
Available on Etsy

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Little Monkey & More on the Oregon & NW History

Little monkey by megan_n_smith_99
Little monkey, a photo by megan_n_smith_99 on Flickr.

This photo is of my little monkey of a fairy-god-child. He's developed quite a fascination with Curious George and spends what I would consider a fair amount of time for a 2 & 1/2 year old looking at the pictures. He has a fairly decent attention span. I myself had a stuffed Curious George as a child. I hauled that poor thing everywhere until both his face and feet started to disintegrate. I remember patching one of his feet with yellow felt but I am not sure what happened to poor old George. He had a good life, though. He was loved.

I babysat my fairy-god-kids yesterday and they were pretty good, though the little boy dumped a whole jar of parmesan on his dinner - I turned my back for just a second I swear - and his sister drowned her food in hoisin sauce. She's 5 and knows EVERYTHING. It was too hot to eat much anyway. We lay around pretending the living room was the Moon and the porch was Mars. The Moon is quite pleasant at this time of year. I may not have been the fun energetic babysitter but our imaginations got some good exercise.

Speaking of long voyages... back to the Oregon Trail. I have more to say about that. Here is the suggested list of provisions to be taken per person. I am not sure where this list originated but I have seen it in several books, all obviously quoting the same source. There were some general guides for emigrants that are now in public domain, so it was probably from one of those.

Mind you, this is PER PERSON:
*200 pounds flour
*150 pounds bacon
*20 pounds sugar
*10 pounds coffee
*10 pounds salt
various amounts of: cornmeal, cured meats, dried beans, fruit, tea, baking soda, vinegar, pickles, and mustard.

I think what creeps me out the most is the 10 pounds per person of salt. That is a lot! But I suppose they may have used some of it to preserve or cure game meat that they shot on the trail. The fruit was often taken as dried fruit, and it was taken because the pioneers knew they needed it to avoid getting scurvy. Some of the supplies were also probably to get them started once they reached their destinations. Once they left Missouri there were only a few places to get supplies along the way -- Fort Kearney, Fort Laramie, and Fort Bridger.

It's hard to understand now what a huge step they were taking. They were leaving their country and setting off into the wilds. At that time the land West of Missouri and Texas was not part of the US. California and a lot of the land around it belonged to Mexico. Oregon was not yet a US Territory. Oregon became a territory in 1858, then became a state in 1859. Washington State was not much explored by white settlers at that point and was not even a territory. At first it was called Northern Oregon. Later it was called Columbia, after the Columbia River. When the early settlers of Washington started lobbying to become a territory and then a state, they had wanted to call the state Columbia, but officials in Washington D.C. thought that would be confusing because the District of Columbia had just been set up, so they changed the name to Washington, in honor of George Washington. Apparently it did not occur to them that giving a state the same name as the nation's capital might ALSO be confusing. Washington State does have the honor of being the only state named after a U.S. president, though. Washington became the 42nd state in the United States on November 11, 1889.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Little Village... & The Oregon Trail

Little Village... by megan_n_smith_99
Little Village..., a photo by megan_n_smith_99 on Flickr.

I thought this paper was really interesting. It's handmade paper, though I can't remember what kind. I need to go back and check. I did not make it myself. I did take paper making in college - a class that has prepared me well for facing the real world, let me tell you - but it's been years since I made my own paper and I am not entirely sure I have all the tools I would need (or at least would like). I am happy to buy paper other people made, though. And actually I did love that class even if it did not prepare me to be financially independent. I took 21 credits of art in my 1st year at Green River Community College. At that point an advisor pointed out to me that I was not planning to major in art and should knock it off and start taking math and things. So I did but sometimes I wish I'd just kept going with art. It's still here, though, every day.

This drawing is:
Little Village on the Hill
5 x 13"
Available on Etsy.

I've been reading like a fiend for the last week and a half or so. I got on a pioneer / covered wagon kick. It's hard to imagine living that way - setting out with all your belongings loaded up in a wagon, often without so much as a compass and only a rough map. The later groups found their way more clearly marked - by deep wagon ruts - some of which can still be seen today. (The ones you can see today are cut into sandstone, not sand or earth.) There were many times when people got lost, often when trying for a short cut. Disease was widespread, especially things like cholera, rocky mountain fever, dysentery, and hypothermia. People ran out of food, water, money, wagon parts, and more. They abandoned their belongings along the trail as they realized they needed to reduce the weight of their wagons. Until the 1970s you could still find artifacts, and maybe you still can in some places. Often the pioneers would bury precious belongings, hoping to return and retrieve them later, though I doubt many ever did. The covered wagon period only lasted about 30 years. On May 10, 1869, at Promontory Summit, Utah, the "Last Spike" was driven in for the transcontinental railroad. After that the traffic on the famous Oregon trail (and others) was greatly reduced. I am sure a lot of people preferred taking the train over walking and driving a team along the 2,000 mile long Oregon trail (and California, and other cut-offs). About 40,000 people did emigrate to the west following the trail. In the beginning the average trip lasted about 160 days but that time decreased towards the end of the period as the road conditions improved a little. But a trip west on the railroad could last as little as a week and cost as little as $65 a person. It cost between $500 and $800 to outfit a wagon for the trail. That cost included constructing a wagon sturdy enough to cover the territory, purchasing oxen to pull it, and the cost of food, tools, and supplies. Also there were ferry fees to be paid at many river crossings. I think I'd have chosen the train too.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Central Asian Ikat

Uzbek Ikat by megan_n_smith_99
Uzbek Ikat, a photo by megan_n_smith_99 on Flickr.

Yesterday my mother, my sister, and I went to The Seattle Asian Art Museum to see their exhibit of Central Asian Textiles which closes on August 5th. The photo here is not from that show-- photography was not permitted-- but this ikat is similar to the ones we saw. This image is in the public domain, from the Smithsonian collection, via Wikipedia. It's an Uzbek weaving from the mid 19th century.

In Ikat, the warp, weft, or often both, are dyed before the piece is woven. They are dyed using wax resist techniques to create patterns. It has to be done very carefully and precisely to achieve the intricate patterns as shown here. Originally natural dyes were used, but in the late 1800s commercial dyes started being used. The show also including samples and information about natural dying. That part of the show had been put together by Michele Wipplinger of Earthues. If you are in the Seattle area you can visit their store / studio in Ballard. They also offer classes in natural dying techniques.

from SAAM's website:

“Everybody wears a coat like a rainbow… No matter how humble or hungry a man may be, and even if he has but a single garment, it is made of the most brilliantly colored material he can find.”

- William Eleroy Curtis, 1911

The Central Asian countries featured in the exhibit - "The Silk Road" were on historical trade routes so they artwork was the result of the blending of a number of cultures - Indian, Persian, Russian, and Chinese. One thing I found very interesting is that the linings were as colorful as the outsides of the robes - often utilizing brightly colored stripped fabrics.

The show also features images of some other Central Asian art - notably architecture, tile work, and carved wooden panels. It was interesting to see the clear relationship between the motifs.

My mother is a weaver, and my sister has traveled a lot in Central Asia, so we all enjoyed the show.

I thought the show might inspire some paintings - it might inspire me to do some more pieces in my Minaret series, which is inspired by Islamic architecture.