Phew! Glad that’s over!

Hurrah and Phew!!   Today I reached my NaNoWriMo goal of 50,000 words in a month. And I am, apparently a winner!  Just like everyone else who made it to 50K words.  My story is not finished, I was bulking up what I thought was the end but wound up adding yet another problem to be solved.  But now that I can actually edit the thing instead of madly writing, looks like it will either be a new cool addition to the novel or axed and I’ll finish the actual story in less than 50K words.

I may post it here in serial form if I get some requests… anyone interested in reading a first attempt sci-fi novel?  The hubby said he liked it, but hey, he is the hubby.  Though I do trust his honesty…. well, you’ll have to judge for yourself.

In addition to my mad writing skills, I took a mandala workshop too.  So, in honor of that, here are the exercises in order as we worked through them:

Day 1, seeing circles and learning about the mystery of the circle!  Medium: twist crayons

20141130_185506 This was a cool exercise in going round and round… I inadvertently made an eye in the middle!  My text above says, once seen, it could not be un-seen.  There I am, on the inside looking out.

Day 1, continued.  The magic of circles… interesting geometrical facts… like how the radius applied to the circumference creates 6 segments that make other interesting shapes when you connect the lines. Medium: Sharpie Markers and colored pencil.



Day 2, we moved on to lotus shaped mandalas.  Fun!!  Wish you could see the copper colored ink.  Medium: Sharpies and copper ink.




Day 3 was a self exploration using collage. Never my favorite medium, but the point was to cover up our affirmations that were written below the images.  No thinking allowed…. a good exercise for me!  Sometimes I need to shut it down or shut it up.  My brain, that is.   Medium:  pencil, magazines and matte medium.




Day 4, just finished.  A Hamsa…. not exactly a mandala, but a wonderful pattern of protection.  Also a fun exercise.  Medium:  Prismacolors, water color pencils, Sharpies.



Day 5…. well, I think I ‘ll save that for the next post.  Always leave ’em wanting more, said the hubby.  Not that he said it first, but still, a very good idea. 🙂

Aerial Home

A Change In Perspective

Ever since moving to this property I have been obsessed with the idea of an aerial image of the place.  I managed to wrangle a small plane ride over our place early on in our history, and though I took snapshots, they were grainy and awful.  It didn’t matter, I was only going to use the photo to create a map of the land.  The snap shots sat on my drawing table for years… mostly gathering dust, never culminating in any sort of accurate representation of what we had been doing.  Maybe what I had been obsessed with was documenting our progress as we took 10 undeveloped acres and built a shed, a house, a barn, a studio.  Once the record had been made, I relaxed.

Years later, a professional aerial photographer took a nice shot and we bought it, hanging it in a spot of honor in our home.  This fired up the old desire to somehow draw the land myself.  Especially now that I had completed my civil technician program which included mapping software and surveying coursework.  For awhile I thought I should use my newly acquired skills to render a plat map of the place.  But I couldn’t get fired up about actually measuring and then working on the computer.  Finally, I realized it wasn’t what I wanted anyway.  What I wanted was the exercise in thinking about what I liked about our home and aesthetically recreating the features.  I wasn’t going for letter perfect accuracy… I just wanted to use my own two hands to creatively “map” our property.  For fun, for the hell of it, and most importantly, for me.

Aerial Home

Aerial Home (North orientation)

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 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


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.

I Am Here

I love maps.  There is just something about them, something about knowing where you are.  The possibilities of where you can go.  Where you have been.  I’ve been collecting maps and even drawing rough maps of my local hiking and riding trails for years.  When we go on road trips, I’m the navigator.  I like to see where we are heading and plan out the best routes. I’ve even dreamt about maps.

Later in life, I took classes on map making, but they were mostly to learn how to use Geographical Informational software, a very complex program that’s replaced traditional drawn maps.  GIS is an amazing piece of nerdvana map geekdom and while fun to use and play with, doesn’t fill my visceral map making needs.  I’ve been thinking about incorporating maps into my art for some time now.  Planning out how and what to map… what I want to show, what kind of information I am trying to impart.  But painting doesn’t really work the same way map making does.  I generally try not to think or plan too much when I am painting.  Exactly the opposite kind of cerebral activity that happens when one is making a map.

A map is ultimately about visual information used to guide someone other than the map maker.  It has to stand alone and be clear and precise.  A painting doesn’t always have all the answers… it may have more questions than solutions.  The two activities seemed to be at odds with each other.  So I was stuck with not knowing where to begin and what I wanted it to look like.

Finally it occurred to me, to try something.  Anything.  To just have a leap of faith… and see what happens.

Here’s what happened:

I Am Here.  A map of my trails in Alpine, OR

I Am Here. A map of my trails.

I started with the roads and trails.  They aren’t to scale and they aren’t accurate by any means… instead they originate from my home (the large orange circle) and they sometimes follow features and sometimes correspond to actual roads.  I wasn’t trying to make a map for anyone else, this map follows an idea of where I am when I hike or ride.  Then I added where I remember the water ways to be… they aren’t accurate either.  The swirls are back, I used them to show differences in vegetation as well as elevation.  They aren’t specific and static, instead they mean different things in different places.  But they mean something to me.

This is a personal map.  And perhaps that’s where I need to go when I marry my geeky map nerd to my far out painter muse. Just close my eyes and jump!


Now that I am writing about my art, I find that I am thinking about the process of creating art .  Not only current artwork, but projects from the past.  I’m starting to see trends and themes that I never really saw before.  When you have a body of work to pull from, you will invariably have threads of your creative process that show up in more than one place.  Thus the title of this post: Swirls.

I had just finished an incredibly realistic painting of a wolf howling, so detailed, you could see his breath and practically every hair.  It’s nice, but I think I painted it to prove to myself I could be “tight”… it was an exercise in skill.  How good was I?  Well,after it was done, I thought, pretty good!  Here it is, judge for yourself:

Full Moon Song Oil on canvas board 18"x24"

Full Moon Song
Acrylic on canvas board

It was a painstaking process and after I was done, I felt the need to loosen up.  To stretch a little, as it were.  I built a large canvas out of unbleached duck (a grade of canvas) and set it up on my easel.  Hmmm, now what?   For some reason, I didn’t prime the canvas.  I don’t remember what possessed me not to apply gesso… maybe I was out.  It was a long time ago and we were barely scraping by, living in a run-down (read death trap) trailer and sleeping on a mattress on the floor.

I stood in front of the raw canvas and closed my eyes for a minute.  Took a deep breath and hoping something would come to me, did a mini meditation.  Nothing.  Another deep breath and this time I said, “Ok… Whatever is in me or around me that paints through me, now’s your chance.  You can do whatever you like… I’m tapped out of ideas right now, you give it a go.”  Or words to that effect, it was (literally) decades ago.

I put some paint on my palette, picked up a fan brush (which I never use, so that was new right there) and began painting these swirls.  I scrubbed paint into the dry and porous surface, rubbing in every bit, letting the canvas soak up the pigments and oil.  I hardly used any turpentine, just some linseed to help the paint flow in places.  I scrubbed and scrubbed and wore the brush down to a nub.  By the time I was through, this had emerged:

The muse painting.  Oil on Canvas 2.5'x3'

The muse painting.
Oil on Canvas


It was pretty cool and very different from anything else I’d done before.  I liked it!  But life got in the way after that.  I set aside my paints as we moved, got new jobs, had a baby.  I poured my creativity into other outlets.  I gardened, sewed baby clothes, drew small illustrations, took up basketry and jewelry making.  One day I realized it had been almost 10 years since I had painted… how on earth had that happened?! Well, enough time had gone by, so I built an easel, set it up in my laundry room and got back at it.  I painted a couple of horses and some small landscapes.  And you know what?  Those swirls began to pop up where I least expected.

Oregon High Desert Oil on Canvas 24"x18"

Oregon High Desert
Oil on Canvas


The above painting used to be twice as wide and featured my horse running in the desert.  But it wasn’t very good… and to top it off, I had some issues with that particular horse.  One day, in a quasi exorcism from him, I cut up the painting and cut him out of my  life.  The best part of this painting had never been him anyway.  It was this half with all the swirls and flow.

We moved again and now I had my studio set up in the one car garage.  I worked small but I kept swirling about.  An avid backpacker,  I began to paint where I’d been.

Mary's Peak Oil on Canvas 12"x18"

Mary’s Peak
Oil on Canvas

The Steens

The Steens Oil on Canvas board 8″x10″



Three Fingered Jack


I even hid things in the swirls.  See if you can find the three sisters… they’re not hidden very well.

Three Sisters Oil on Canvas 22"x28"

Three Sisters
Oil on Canvas


It looks like I went through a landscape phase here.  The swirls began to get more prominent.

Oil on Canvas 24"x36"

Purple Leaves Oil on Canvas

I even explored some illustrative themes.  I rarely paint people.  The 3 Sisters were a place, but also something spiritual. With that in mind, I painted this next piece.  But it’s somehow too personal… the figure looks sadly troubled.  I probably should stay away from people… they never are quite what I expect them to be.  This one seems to be ignoring the spiritual wisdom that is being doled out to the fish in the stream.  Yes, yes, lots of symbolism here.

Fishes and Wishes Oil on Canvas 12"x16"

Fishes and Wishes
Oil on Canvas

Throughout all this, the bristles on my brushes got smaller and smaller.  But I kept working on prepared canvases, ones where the surface is primed.  I decided to see if I could recreate the original flavor of that first swirly painting.  So I stretched out a couple of huge canvases and decided to return to the original raw/scrubbed in format.  By the time I got to this point, my husband and I built my studio.  Right on top of the garden.  I was actually kicking tomatoes out of the way as we measured off the space.  Gardening took a back seat and rightly so.

Orange Swirls Oil on raw Canvas 36"x48"

Orange Swirls
Oil on raw Canvas




Rainbow Swirls Oil on raw canvas 36"x48"

Rainbow Swirls
Oil on raw canvas


I was feeling pretty good about these, though they are somewhat overpowering when hung in a small room.  Especially the rainbow one.  So I toned it down with some smaller paintings.

Blue swirls. Oil on Canvas 18"x24"

Blue swirls.
Oil on Canvas


Small Orange Oil on Canvas board 8"x10"

Small Orange
Oil on Canvas board


I did a few more small ones, where I explored purple and green, they weren’t very exciting, so no pictures.  Believe me, you aren’t missing much.  I think I was running out of steam for pure swirls.  I returned to painting horses.  The Red Flame horse is a prime example of swirls in my work (you can find it in the horse art gallery).  They continue to slip into my paintings, so I know my muse is still with me in spirit.  She does not disappoint.  Most recently she returned with, well, not a vengeance, but with a will!

Kingfisher Oil on Canvas 16"x20"

Oil on Canvas