Blue on Blue

PCT in the Goat Rocks Wilderness, WA  A field of blue lupins echo the deepening sky as day turns to night.  (Based on the photo by Gabi Fulcher 2014)

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When I started this painting I had no idea how blue it was going to go.  I had been doing a lot of inner work, thinking about my inner self, my concepts, my ideas, my integrity, my weaknesses.  Why do I think this way, what lessons are there to learn from our emotions… when I get frustrated or upset, what does that come from? Does it come from the situation at hand or from a lifetime of similar situations that make the current crisis seem bigger than it is?  I examined all my inner wounds like a forensic investigator, trying to make a case for guilt, innocence or acquittal.  I had no preconceived notions of the outcome but one word rose to the surface and I followed it like a flashlight in the darkness.

That word was compassion.  That I find the compassion in myself, that I nurture the compassion and choose the compassion rather than the hard edged anger and meanness that was trying to gain a foothold. I don’t like the hard edge… though I admire the strength anger has given me.  Anger is a good emotion, it’s a powerful one, but not one that should be driving my car.  You can’t make anger go away, but you can recognize it’s usefulness.  Anger is the fire that burns away the pain and takes you down to ash so you can rise again, clean and new and reborn.

Anger turned inward is depression.  There were too many times I had taken that anger and smoldered the flame with my body, inhaling the toxicity, allowing depression to take a toehold deep inside. And so, with the gray skies of the Pacific NorthWest dumping their seasonal load upon my home and myself, I found a deep blue streak staining my life. I had a hard time getting into the holiday spirit.  I just couldn’t do it, that blue funk was everywhere.

But then there was compassion.  And compassion led me to stories and places and videos and chat groups and forums and a greater understanding.  I followed every lead, turned over every rock, searched in all the drawers, cupboards and forgotten shelves.  The anger that had masqueraded as depression was swept out and dealt with.  The light began to shine again as we rounded the equinox and the sun literally returned to my part of the world.

With gratitude, I stood before a blank canvas and painted yet another in my Wilderness Of Women (WOW), a series of paintings from the trail.  All paintings are from photos taken by women hikers.  So far I’ve only done one from my own photo, the rest were taken by other women hikers.  This image of the PCT is from the Goat Rocks Wilderness in Washington State. It was sent it to me last winter by the photographer/hiker, Gabi Fulcher.  It’s been hanging in my studio for some time now… and well, now seemed to be it’s moment.

All these WOW paintings have a vivid saturation of color that connects my deep love of these wild places to my heart.  This one was the same in intensity, but different in just one word.  The word is “I”.  As in “I” painted it, because it doesn’t feel like “I” actually did.  I stood before the canvas after sketching it out in my normal fashion.  I was between the 6th and 7th chakra painting in my last series (see previous post) and using the same palette of color I was about to start when I hesitated.  I’ve done this before, and usually with good results, so I trusted the pause.  And I said to my muse: go ahead… you got this one.  Do what you like, I’ll just hold the brush.  And so, she did. Or he… it doesn’t matter, my muse is gender neutral.

Blue on Blue can speak for itself.  It’s so much more than me.  Just like the word compassion.

 

Getting Balanced

I’ve felt somewhat out of sorts lately and have been focusing on getting myself back on even ground.  To do that, I’ve been meditating and learning how to trust my instincts again.  A healthy, mostly vegan diet along with more exercise and physical therapy on old injuries has contributed to getting my  body in better shape. My mind has been occupied with new ideas and philosophies, I’ve been working on old wounds there too, so that just left my soul. Body, mind and spirit are part of the whole and I realized I’ve been neglecting this last part for some time now.

I had been drawing mandalas and coloring intricate patterns as part of a meditative effort to balance my mind. One day I noticed I had used rainbow hues every time I sat down to color; page after page in my book was full of bold and brilliant color.  Suddenly it occurred to me, without even thinking about it, I had been choosing chakra colors. Chakras are thought to be centers of spiritual power within the body; if I ever needed a hint on where to focus my spiritual attention, this seemed a good place to start.

In an effort to blend my art and my soul in a more purposeful way, I set out to paint the 7 chakras. With each one, I focused on the corresponding color and let my muse take ahold of my brush. I really had no idea where I was going with these, but decided to trust the process and see what happened.

I started with the root chakra (red) and progressed upwards from there. Each one became more and more complex, unfolding before me. As I worked through these small canvases, I noticed a change in myself.  I felt lighter, happier, more relaxed. Information came my way and seemed to reinforce what I was learning about myself during the process. Even difficult issues leveled out and didn’t knock me out of balance.

I finished the last one the other day, and as I hung them together for the first time I noticed the changes from one to another.  From simple to more complex, one flows into the next. I think of this series as a personal workshop for my soul, an exercise in returning my energy centers to a state of equilibrium.

But because of the blog scroll, to show them to you in the order in which I painted them would be to misalign them.  So, to counter this, here they are in a top to bottom orientation. Just to note, they are opposite of the order in which they were created.

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The Wilderness of Women

This winter I’ve been collecting images from the wilderness; photos taken by women.  I’ve made some wonderful connections with women hikers (good old Facebook!) and this has fueled my desire to get back to the back country.  I don’t have much to say about it other than I noticed a trend in these paintings.  That is, I seem to be recreating these images with intense, vibrant colors.  Far exceeding the photos sent to me, the hues are saturated, brilliant, strong and deep.  I suppose I am expressing my own personal intensity when it comes to these remote places even though I have not been to these specific locations.  Yet.

Anyway, it all came together without the fuss and drama I had experienced with Spectacle Lake.  I have no idea why!  Maybe I was just in a better “head space” when I got into it… seems like life is on track right now and my own personal dramas have been smoothed out.  So without much fanfare, musings or stray thoughts, here it is, Mile 2330 on the PCT.  It’s the fourth in the series, based on the photo from “thru hiker” Jocelyn (Patches) Songer.  Thank you my fellow Yankee!

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Mile 2330 on the PCT Oil on canvas 12 x 16

 

In the Eye of the Beholder

Though the artist must remain master of (their) craft, the surface, at times raised to the highest pitch of loveliness, should transmit to the beholder the sensation which possessed the artist.

~Alfred Sisley

I’ve pondered these ideas… is the art in the eye of the beholder, or in the artist’s rendering of that thing, that image, that concept?  Is it both or neither? Is it, as Sisley suggests, a vehicle of transmission?  Art being the thing that carries the sensation, the feeling of the artist to the viewer who can then somehow share in what it was that possessed the artist?

Well, lots to think about there.  And many have.  For me, art is a very personal thing… you, and only you, know what you like.  Sometimes you know right away, and sometimes it grows on you, but regardless which way you fall in the spectrum of like or dislike, no one should tell you what to like.  It’s up to you to decide. For me, I gave up a long time ago trying to please my audience, because that’s an impossible task really, and so, I decided to please myself.

The other side of that same coin is, sometimes, in my own personal work, I may not care for a piece.  If I hate it, I will paint over it so I can get some more miles out of a canvas.  (Most artists are into recycling… even the old masters did it, it’s not a new concept.)  Or I will stash it away as a reminder that not everything I do is gold… far from it!  I really should get rid of some of the old crap, but I’m rather nostalgic about the old stuff… even the bad old stuff.  So, I keep it for me, and show it to no one.

BUT, one day, a friend was in my studio and she gushed over an unfinished piece that I happened to think of as bad enough to recycle. There it was, propped up against the wall waiting for a coat of gesso so I could stop looking at it’s horribleness.  I really disliked it.  However, much to my surprise, she loved it!  Something about the colors spoke to her and when I gave it to her she was thrilled.  I made her day with something that meant very little to me, but meant so much to her.

Now, rather than focus on the part about me handing over something I had no attachment to (as if that makes my gesture less than noble and then less than worthy) focus instead on the part about Maria.  She loved it.  She was happy.  She was so pleased to adopt this little wayward canvas and give it a home.

This was the third time this happened to me.  It took this happening three times before the significance of the act held any meaning.  And that was this: for me, even as a creator of art, am not the sole person to judge the value or beauty of my own work.

While I am making it, while I paint and create, I get something intangible.  And if, at the end, that thing pleases me, then great. If it doesn’t, then that’s ok too.  I still got something from the process.  BUT that thing that I don’t care for aesthetically does not mean that it’s bad.  In fact, someone else may love it.  More than one someone… maybe even lots of someones!

Case in point,  Purple Repose:

Purple repose

Purple repose

I hated this painting.  In fact, I was planning on recycling it but while I was waiting for the paint to dry I changed my mind.  My husband saw it and liked it, so, with a shrug, I kept it.  I hung it in the house and after a while, it grew on me too.  I came to like the blue colors, the broad strokes, the way the horse’s shoulder bumped out.  Later that year, I included it (as a print) in a series of blank greeting cards.  It became one of my best sellers.  People loved it!

The same thing happened with Walker Pass, only in reverse:

North of Walker Pass

North of Walker Pass

By reverse, I mean, this is by far my absolute favorite painting (right now).  I LOVE this piece.  It only got a couple of dozen Facebook “likes”.  Granted, this painting has yet to make it out of the house, but still… my dog snapshots get more “likes”.  I didn’t take it personally, because I truly believe in my heart and soul, that art is a personal thing.  I may take it personally if you tell me you hate it and why it’s awful and say other mean things about the thing I love, but hey, I’m only human and that kind of behavior is mean spirited and small.  You are entitled to your opinion, just keep the details to yourself if you hate something (or someone!) I love.

On the other hand, my next piece, I just didn’t love so much.  It’s not recycle worthy, not by far… you’d never see it if it was.  And I still wouldn’t post or show any piece I found embarrassingly bad, or trite or derivative or unworthy.  So, just because I don’t love it, doesn’t mean I don’t like it.  I may just think of it more as a second runner up.

But, it was a challenge.  I worked hard on this one.  The drawing was complex, the details, intense.  It is the 3rd in my series of images from the wilderness, photos taken by women hikers on the CDT or the PCT.  I’m calling the series, The Wilderness Of Women.  Now, here is where I love social media.  On Facebook, I asked women hikers if they would share with me (for the purpose of painting) photos from their hikes and I got an amazing outpouring of images to choose from.  So, choose one I did (thank YOU, Judy Flexer) and got to work.

Sketch for Spectacle Lake

Sketch for Spectacle Lake

I thanked Judy online and somehow, I don’t recall how it happened, but Judy kindly sent me a high resolution image of her photo.  I thanked her politely, but inside I was worried.  All those details… how was I going to block out all those details?  “Oh, buck up, Sky… you’ll be fine!” I told myself.  But I was worried.

And so, I bucked up and promptly fucked up.  It became a horrid mess of tiny, detailed, muddy strokes of paint.  Not the sure and swift flight of color that signified I was “in the groove.”  I bravely soldiered on, slogged up one muddy hill and down the next… madly mixing, swiping, swooping, adding, subtracting and aaarrrggggg!!!!  Nothing was working.  I was in utter despair.  So I did the only thing I could do.  The thing I have never done before.  I almost couldn’t believe what I was doing.  I took it off my easel, laid it flat, and poured turpentine over the entire painting.  I took a rag and wiped it clean.  All of it.  Even the sketch.  Gone.

I waited two days to go back into the studio.  I just couldn’t bear to look at it.  I had never scrubbed out a canvas before, it felt like a failure.  But two days later, I was ready to get back to work.  I followed the faint leftovers of pencil lines that were under the first orange outline and redrew the sketch.  Instead of the high resolution image, I went back to my original Facebook clipping.  That picture, I altered to be bolder, more saturated in color than the photograph Judy had taken.  I made it small and took off my glasses to blur the details.  I needed to see blocks of colors, not every single rock and tree.  I put on a favorite CD and lost myself in Spectacle Lake.

This second go round was tricky… I still had some issues and some personal demons to slay, but it finally came together and I was satisfied.  I signed it today, so that pretty much means it’s done.  It may not be a favorite, but it’s good, I’ll say that.  And when I posted it to the woman hikers page on Facebook…. well, it got 75 likes, right off the bat.  Goes to show you… beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Oil on Canvas 14x16

Spectacle Lake on the PCT
Oil on canvas, 14 x 16

 

 

 

Upside down?

When I paint, especially non-objective art, I am seeking a balance of design.  Simply put, the shapes and colors can’t be too heavy or light or bunched up in one corner… as if they had substance and would tilt the painting just by looking at it.  Even if a painting is asymmetrical in composition, it still needs to be balanced.  The shapes, colors, shadows and lightness of the composition should lead your eye through the work and not off it’s edge and out of the frame.  Roads should lead in to the point of interest, arms should tip your eyes back into the frame, curves should lead you back, not out.

Often times I take my work and rotate it on the wall or easel and step back for a wider perspective.  I turn them upside down and on their sides to see if it all works.  Then I adjust accordingly.  It should balance out no matter which way you hang it.  Paintings with subject matter need a top and bottom, sure, but they ought to be balanced in shape and color.

Does my latest fractal painting work regardless of orientation?  I test it out, but still, my mind finds a top and bottom… somehow it just resonates with me to be hung a certain way.  Here are two images… which way do you prefer?

Upside down?

Upside down?

Or right side up?

Or right side up?

Finally, I decide.  Somehow, I just go “aaahhh” when it’s oriented this way. True North!  So for me, this is it:

 

Somehow, I just go "aaahhh" when it's oriented this way.  True North!

Now that’s more like it!

A Gathering of Artists

I just returned from an artist potluck party.  Well, not exactly a party… not sure what to call it… a gathering sounds good.  Some very nice artsy folk down the road from me put together a once a year “gathering” at their place whereby artists and craftspeople can hang out for the day, eat good food, chit chat and do what they do.  I’ve been invited before, but this is the first time I actually went.

I generally feel that getting together a group of artists and artisans are like herding cats.  Sure, it can be done, but do you really want to?  Cats don’t really “gang together”.  Well, maybe lions do, but I’m thinking of domestic kitties… the kind that tolerate each other and are nice enough so long as they have a full bowl of kibble.  Since the lure of food works for hungry cats, it’s an effective way to assemble a group of artists.

Yeah, I know some artists are very sociable and I am painting with broad strokes here, but that’s the kind of artist I am… social sometimes and more of a dog lover than a cat person.  Anyway, off I trooped to the event, looking for a social connection, a good meal and perhaps a spark of inspiration.  For me, art is more of a solitary endeavor but I was game so I packed up some supplies and drove over.

After I arrived and made all the necessary pleasantries, I tucked myself in a corner of the property and got down to work. Most of the other guests were having a group spin… weavers and knitters and workers of wool.  They all seemed to know each other and were happily chatting so I found a shady spot away from the chorus to explore a new idea that had graced my doorstep recently.

It’s very simple… and familiar.  We see it every day, even though we don’t know it by name.  Fractal Geometry. It comes down to this: Z=Z squared +C.  What that means is simplified repetition of design, or in fractal terms: a self similar pattern. This has got to be the coolest bit of mathematics I have come across and I am on a mission to purposefully blend my art with fractals.  I could probably go on about this for awhile, but really, the studio is calling and I have GOT to get in there and put this stuff on some canvas.   Here’s a Wiki link if you want some general knowledge on the subject  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fractal of course, there is TONS more about fractals on the internet, but Wikipedia is a good place to start.

Fractals are a part of nature, it’s the repetitive design we see in trees, ferns, textures, coastlines, blood vessels, musculature… it’s everywhere and it is awesome.  They call it the “thumbprint of god” which is poetic and mind expanding.  Whatever it is, I’m feeling very dazzled by the beauty of this mathematical concept.

I’ve unwittingly used this concept in some of my other art.  The Orange Swirls are loosely fractal in nature, but it’s there nonetheless.

Orange Swirls Oil on raw Canvas 36"x48"

Orange Swirls
Oil on raw Canvas
36″x48″

 

But now I am purposefully exploring with just a little more knowledge.  Looking forward to the results, so back to work for me.  For now, here’s the sketch I came up with at the Artist’s Gathering:

 

My first official fractal.  This is an idea that needs exploring.

My first official fractal. This is an idea that needs exploring.

Fine Art America!!

Finally!  A page on FAA.

http://fineartamerica.com/featured/the-muse-sky-evans.html?newartwork=true

The muse painting.  Oil on Canvas 2.5'x3'

The muse painting.
Oil on Canvas
2.5’x3′

I just downloaded one image but it was a client request… so that’s something.  Just wanted to share.  I’ll be posting more about this later after I get the whole gallery downloaded.  Hopefully this pans out. If you want to buy art and support an artist, Fine Art America is the place to do it.  Well, I know there are other places…  I keep thinking of things like Kickstarter too and wondering what kind of amazing project I could do… hmmm.   What is a muralist to do???  By all means, weigh in.  I’m willing to do community projects with fundraising venues.  Actually now that I think about it, I have done my share already.  But they usually involved teaching.  Time for something large, noteworthy and very, very interesting.  It’s been awhile since I crawled up on a roof and painted something seen from the local airport!

One should probably not bring children up there.  That would be just fine.

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