Gorilla House LIVE ART: Return to the Battles

My living space is still in chaos, so I’ve been piecing things together since my return from Ontario.  Bit-by-bit, the little cubbies are being gleaned for what’s to save, what’s to give and what’s to pitch.  Then, before anything is put away again, a good wiping and voila!  This process is painfully slow and I certainly can’t see the impact this process is having on the large spaces…yet!

Interspersed with such activities, I’m taking hikes with Max and pouring over my summer notes related to my family history.  Next blog post will have something to do with my trip to Hamilton where my family tree has some serious roots!

I debated whether I had the energy to paint last night, but really miss my Gorilla House community, so a little late, I threw my board and materials into the van and headed down.

One amazing artist who became my friend through Gorilla House took on a 365 day self portrait project and I was inspired to paint her Shoulder: Day 218.  Belinda Fireman is an inspiring woman and I miss sharing two hours a week with her.  She keeps a blog, Drawn From the Fire and her work has been featured in a book, Journal It by Jenny Doh. So, I tossed any of the themes that were selected before my arrival at ‘the house’ and sat and painted.  Belinda paints with brilliant colour, life and line and so I tried to incorporate those elements into my quick sketch.  I did not over-think my piece, simply slathered on the colour. Thanks to Shannon for the purchase of this piece at auction.

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Gorilla House LIVE ART: January 23, 2013

When I went out to the studio to pick out a board and some paint to get a ground slathered on before the art battle, I noticed that my sister-cousin-friend had a book set out next to her studio space.  It is titled, Creative Paint Workshop for Mixed-Media Artists: Experimental Techniques for Composition, Layering, Texture, Imagery, and Encaustic by Ann Baldwin.  I looked at the opened pages and thought about the fact that the book made a terrific effort to explain a process that, for me, feels always so spontaneous.  I wondered what it would be like for me to slow down my process and analyze the goings-on as I painted for the evening.


Wasn’t to be.  (insert laugh here) Had I not left my camera at home for the evening, this might have been a ‘go’ and I DID capture some of the decisions while applying my ground.  Then, I had to abandon my archive until next time.

Given that the LIVE ART battles are an intense two hours in length, I have discovered that it’s important to sort something…anything…out, in my head, prior to arriving at the Gorilla House.  The concepts are often so bizarre, that one really never knows what subject matter might be relevant, but I make certain that I have a few things in my toolbox before I go…things other than the regular art supplies.  I carry along a whole collection of references that are of interest to me or images/magazines/photographs that have recently sat with me, occupying a space in my head, agitating and delighting me, both.   I’ve noticed that several artists who are more objective with their work, pull out their phones and use references from the internet.  I don’t have that sort of phone.  So, I tend to drag junk down to the house with me.

Next, I carry along sources of text…quotes, biblical passages, books of interest to me.  I have no idea what I might access until I hear the results of the spin.

Before attending, I commit to a colour scheme.  I have found that if I don’t have a palette in mind before heading down, I have become very wound up once I begin to paint.  Under such a time restraint, there is little opportunity to mull over ideas.  So…then, the application of a ground.

I think I’ve written before about the fact that it’s easier for me to work on a surface that has been activated.  I apply a ground of gesso initially and this leaves the surface white, and seals the piece for a healthy tooth (this provides a surface that the paint can literally grab on to).  When I make reference to ACTIVATION, I simply mean that the white surface is a blank page…intimidating to some degree because there is no interaction between the surface and my mind…it is saying nothing back to me.  I activate the surface, knowing full well, that the statement there, through the course of my painting, will disappear/evolve and become an underpinning for something else.

It used to be that for every painting, I would apply five coats of gesso, alternating the direction of each coat and usually sanding and perfecting as I went.  Now, I apply my gesso in a very free form manner, in the hopes that some of the valleys and mountains remain to inform other layers.  This has been a huge progression in my work and makes, for me, a very entertaining process.

A ground, then, is simply that colour or texture that is added to the surface and provides a place for a painting/collage to happen.  For this week’s LIVE ART, I chose to use ultramarine blue, mars black, gloss medium and because we’ve enjoyed two days of remarkable hoarfrost in the river bottom, I decided to attach a layer of printed tree images…cheap paper…cheap ink…Here are some images and my very brief remarks.

P1090350In this case, I used an old paint brush, an inch and a half wide.  I dipped randomly into the blue and black squeezed out onto my palette, not concerning myself with mixing on the palette or where I would apply it to my panel.  I do notice that my marks went in a horizontal journey, arching slightly.  Notice that bits of the panel are still evident, uncovered by the dry coat of gesso.  Choosing ultramarine blue, instead of pthalo, I had pretty much determined that I would not be including in my painting, very much in the way of yellow…yellow and ultramarine blue don’t make an exquisite green like pthalo and cad yellow medium do. P1090351The drips tell you that I was, indeed, being generous with water.   Water added to acrylic paint, creates both transparency and fast coverage.  Again, I don’t add a set amount and mix…rather, I dip here and there…and back and forth I go.  My blue is purchased by the jar, but is also available in tubes.  Notice that I use a number of cottage cheese lids for palettes.  I like that this way I can keep my colour families clean and separate of one another.  Imagine what would happen if I had a blop of red on this particular palette.  Would I be able to find a dollop of pure red to apply to my painting?  Nopers!  It would be a puddle of brown before I knew it.  I use a cadmium red medium/bright red…and because it is WARM on the spectrum of reds and because blue is the complement of orange/orange-red, the two colours, together, create a warm brown….not so good if you are looking for a nice red and a nice blue. P1090354I use a student grade rather than professional artist grade paint…some artists really disagree with this and that’s ok. Some artists love a particular type of brush.  This is very personal and you learn this by using lots of paint and lots of different brushes. I have a favourite sort of brush…never use fan or round…always flat.  I can get a consistently thin mark with my brush…and a wide mark as well.  Most of the time, I use a rag to apply paint in huge and random marks.  This is great for variety.  Unfortunately, I won’t be able to capture one of those marks as a photo archive until the next piece. P1090356

This is gloss medium…it also comes in matte.  I use this for application of collage elements and I’m very generous with its use for a variety of things.  I only like this sort…it’s viscosity is perfect.P1090357It is easy to tell that these marks have been made with a brush…how?  It is a good practice to make a collection of marks in your sketchbook.  While some folk become compulsive about making a single type of mark, the more marks you have in your toolbox, the more dynamic will be your art! P1090358 This is a close-up of my palette.  The yellow and other colours are dried pigments from other painting experiences.  They won’t be a bother at all.P1090359I begin to apply the collage bits…random…undecided…intuitive.  I don’t worry about what may appear to be a mess…drips…changing values.  I do, however, pick out dog hairs.  It’s just a thing I do.  If your work is very fine and smooth surfaced, you may wish to always keep your surface clear of little flies and dog hair and such.  Given my experiences en pleine-air painting, I gave that up some years ago. P1090360Gloss medium appears to be white when you apply it, but dries as a clear coat.  I don’t smooth it to a consistent surface…but leave it in interesting medallions here and there. P1090361 You should be able to see the bubbles here…these are not good.  I use the edge of my hand to push these outward, until the air/extra medium squishes out from under the collage.  I use my brush, with paint in it, to tint and move pigment through the collage bits as I apply them.  Up to this point, I had worked on the panel for about fifteen minutes.P1090362 P1090363 If a big bubble persists, I literally, rip it open…apply some medium…and seal it up again.  I like the cracks and lines created in this process.P1090364Bits of collage will tear away and land somewhere else.  Good!  leave these bits!  They will eventually contribute to the overall interest of the piece at some point. P1090366 P1090368Then, I fixed some dumplings and let this dry…knowing I had to head to the core from the burbs in no more than 30 minutes.

P1090374 P1090375Once I arrived, I was so grateful to reconnect with the folk who have come to mean so much to me.   I got my easel set up, did a bit of dancing, a bit of visiting and then it was time for the spin.  The three concepts for the evening were…First, from Skeleton Creek by Patrick Carman, “time to clean up the mess before my parents come upstairs.”  Second, from The Lazy Intellectual: Maximum Knowledge, Minimal Effort by Richard J. Wallace, James V. Wallace, “His plays were representative of Greek Old Comedy, in which cutting invective, personal attack, absurd situations, and extravagant burlesque were important.”  And finally, from a book, The Circus, Venuses of the Age.

I had been thinking about my daughter…her recent move to Vancouver, a dance production titled Bloom and her classes in burlesque.  I thought about her exploration of the ocean views and her discovering of nature.  I found this quote, in Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass…To Old Age and included it in my painting.

“I see in you the estuary that enlarges and spreads itself grandly as it pours in the great sea.”

I am grateful to Belinda Fireman, my painting buddy, who generously purchased this at auction.  It was good to meet you, Rose.  Congratulations to Karen on a beautiful exhibit and gratitude to Elijah who has done such a professional job with the exhibit space.  Thanks to the public…when we come out of our painting frenzy, it is such a warm and wonderful thing to see all of your faces!

Pour Into the Great Sea 4 Aaron

Pour Into the Great Sea Photo Credit: Aaron McCullough

Pour Into the Great Sea3Aaron

Pour Into the Great Sea Photo Credit: Aaron McCullough

Pour Into the Great Sea 2

Photo Credit: Belinda Fireman

Pour Into the Great Sea

Photo Credit: Belinda Fireman

Weekend Blessing #2: Inspiring Art Journals

One Book One Calgary, sponsored by the Calgary Public Library offers a whole range of wonderful programs and session surrounding this year’s book selection, The Book of Awesome by Neil Pasricha.  I chose to attend a session Saturday morning, along with my cousin, at the Thornhill Branch…Inspiring Art Journals.  What a blast!  the Session presenters were Meredith and Jann of the Fibre Optics Group.

It was so generous that we were each gifted a visual journal through the One Book One Calgary initiative.  Then we received a whole variety of hands on activities and approaches to creating our own personal art journals.  It was a very relaxing time and an hour and a half swooshed by so quickly.  I’m posting here some pages that I found particularly beautiful in both Jann and Meredith’s journals.

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A wee site that might be of interest to the natural doodlers in my reader list, might be this one.  This was my initiation into the concept of zentangle.

From this session, Margy and I headed to the Calgary Waldorf School for an afternoon exploring crafts, woodwork, art, fabrics, wool and pottery.  We had a great time looking at all of the beautiful home made products and chatting with the artists and artisans.  It was spectacular.  One of my main reasons for heading up to this event was to support my friend, Belinda Fireman, who is an exceptional artist who I’ve connected with through the Gorilla House.

Belinda is a featured artist in the book, Journal It! Perspectives in Creative Journaling by Jenny Doh.  I was very excited to purchase one of these books and a couple of other knick knacks at her booth and what a remarkable one it was!  Thanks for the inscription in the front of my book, Belinda!  I’m going to have a blast exploring some of the ideas.  I love it when words and art connect!

Photo Credit: Belinda Fireman

Gorilla House LIVE ART: August 29, 2012

Last night a large contingent of artists waged LIVE ART battles in front of a generous and enthusiastic audience!  I found the three energizing concepts a tad challenging, but then again, I enjoy the complete surprise of these each and every week.  One topic was definitely going to be helpful to me…’transparent layers as achieved with tissue paper’.  Wowsers!  This was the first night I thought to pack a bit of tissue in my back pack!  So…PERFECT!

One of the other topics…red knife (hmmm). I decided to interpret the red knife as a person’s bloodline…where culture and family take us.  This was going to work well with the concept of layering and finally, I incorporated all sizes of bike wheels, in order to somehow capture the third topic, “midnight bike riders”.  I thought of the wheel as representing travel, growth, mobility and change…going places.

Small details included the incorporation of a small bit of collage that exemplified a gorilla in a house…a gang of bikers, riding…and a discarded poster of a beautiful woman that I had picked up, water damaged, at a Women In Need shop.  I used the image of the heart…something that artists and audience members wear as a FOIP release each evening at the Gorilla House.  In my piece, I included three of these hearts within the composition.  Finally, I included the moon and a pocket watch, both capturing a sense of time passing.  The time, in Roman numerals, reads midnight.

I went about using red to create concentric and parallel lines over the contours of the woman’s body…beginning with the water mark that has its origin in the bottom third.  I wanted to surround her in her ‘bloodline’.  To create a dynamic, I then used my pthalo blue in various tints and shades to create the circular wheel structures.  It is always a fun thing to explore balance and composition while incorporating paint and collage.

Thanks to Janice Beaton Fine Cheese for providing an assortment of treats again.  That is a welcome treat after two hours of focused painting!

This week, my piece was purchased at auction, by Vilimiria.  Thank you!  Photo Credit goes to friend-artist and blogger, Belinda Fireman.  I’m grateful to have met you!

Other folks…I really treasure each of you for the fun we are having, creating together!  I regret that I didn’t capture a photo of each and every piece…it was so fantastic.

Last week, we enjoyed the inclusion of dancers during our LIVE ART battles.  This week, we had a visit from musician and blogger, Ethan Collister. I enjoyed the privilege of propping up his lyrics (LOL) as he sang an original piece of music titled Midnight Riders for performance AND auction.  Excellent writing and a truly beautiful performance!  Thank you, Ethan!

Photo Credit for this image is once again, Belinda Fireman, with her awesome i phone.

There is creative reading as well as creative writing. Ralph Waldo Emerson