Friday, 29 June 2007

"O, Mighty Tiki"

For work, I had to produce a number of tiki decorations for a party this weekend, one of which will be installed on a grassy slope, flanked by tiki torches and up-lit. This tiki head is done in pastel on gatorboard and took only a couple of hours to make. I'm so pleased with the way the pastel worked, that I may adopt this medium for props that require more dimension than detail. I can't wait to install this in my backyard when the event is over :)

"Let's put on a show!"

When I was five, I used to eagerly await the 5 o'clock hour every afternoon. If the television set was behaving and cosmic forces didn't interfere with the telecast, I'd get to watch a couple of episodes of "The Little Rascals" --- an hour with Spanky, Alfalfa, Buckwheat, Darla, Porky and, of course, Petey were my version of a playdate and nothing short of a potential spanking could tear me away from the our television set.

I can't remember whether it was Spanky or Darla who actually said it, but the phrase "Let's put on a show!" has popped into my head a number of times this week. Despite the fact that I've been producing art for a number of years, I've never actually had my paintings hanging in a public place with my name on a placard next to it. With the prodding (and great marketing and PR skills) of my friend Karen, who has always had more confidence in me than I have in myself, I will have several paintings and drawings on paper hanging in our local coffee "institution." I kinda feel like Darla or Spanky, decorating their clubhouse like a theatre and scribbling SHOW on a piece of scrap wood. Hopefully, I'll be able to execute a show with a little more finesse!

The show will feature all new paintings and works on paper and I'll publish posts about the process over the next few weeks. In the meantime, this is the poster that will be hanging around town...

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Inspire Me Thursday: Wood

With so many different ways to go with this project, I had a hard time narrowing it down. It seems that everywhere I looked, there was yet another source of inspiration... my battered rattan deck chair abandoned on my too-hot deck, the wooden salad bowls at Crate & Barrel, the branches trimmed from our bushy walnut tree.

Here's a project that I completed some years ago, which currently serves as a headboard, but has spent time in the past as a desk, dining table, and wall art. My passion for Art Deco marquetry is, sadly, unfulfilled because it is priced way beyond my modest decorating and collecting budget. Instead of raiding the kids' college fund, I've created a modern version using stain-grade oak, an array of wood stains (from American cherry, golden oak, and english walnut), and an x-acto knife. This is the result...

Thursday, 14 June 2007

Crazy Week...

It has been such a crazy week, with a lot of deadlines to fulfill, that I haven't been able to sit down and indulge in creative "play" (that's what painting is to me). But I've been so inspired by all the artists participating in "Inspire Me Thursday." The work that's being posted is so soulful and personal, and I love the stories and poems and song lyrics that accompany each beautiful piece of artwork.

Instead of paint, paper and canvas, today I'll be using cake mix, superfine sugar, and food coloring to create fairy cakes... five dozen! I'm not a baker by any stretch of the imagination, but I had such success a couple of years ago with these fairy cakes that I've decided to do it again for the 2nd grade and kindergarten classes at school. Nigella Lawson presents these in her book "How to Be a Domestic Goddess" and I've done the quick and easy version with cake mix.... Yummy!

Saturday, 9 June 2007

Silhouette Project: Part Two

The school year is coming to a close, and I can't believe how quickly it flew by. In the course of ten months, the children cover so many areas, both academically and socially, and by the end of the year, they are different children from the ones that entered last September.

This piece will help me remember my daughter's handwriting, her love for her pet mice (all fourteen of them), her favorite school subjects, and her growing passion for crochet.

Friday, 8 June 2007

Inspire Me Thursday: World Traveler

I can't believe it's been four years since I was in Paris. Newly divorced and eager to start "la nouvelle vie," the kids and I took an opportunity to visit France for a few weeks with a school group. Traveling with two small children (ages 5 and 2) was certainly not easy, but the journey proved that we could stand on our own and still enjoy life. Our series of adventures (enjoying the basket swings at the Luxembourg Gardens, savoring dessert crepes in Brittany, riding the trains through the countryside) and misadventures (losing a shoe on the Metro and trying to find a laundromat in La Rochelle) allowed us to build up our confidence after a year of struggle.

I did this sketch today based on a few photos taken in Paris exactly 4 years ago. Enjoying the sun in the courtyard of the Louvre; the children getting messy with pastels after viewing the masterpieces; the majesty of the architecture and the the simple pleasure of feeding the birds --- moments like this make all the challenges worthwhile.

Thursday, 7 June 2007

Inspire Me Thursday: Roots, Part 2

Ever since last week's prompt on Inspire Me Thursday --- "roots" --- I've had an image in my head that simply won't go away and I should probably act on it. The way I imagine it, it's a picture of plant or tree roots, some thick and some thin, all tangled and twisted, intertwined with one another. My vision is not colorful, but dark and oppressive.

In my current mood, I guess I'm more likely to entertain the darker, more sinister side --- how roots can sometimes be strangling and binding, how they keep you in one place despite your desire to escape, how you never really know how deep they can run, lurking under the surface and spreading unbeknownst to us. Rather ominous, I know, but sometimes things are like that.

Charcoal sounds like a good medium for this type of project.

More on the Silhouette Project

Last night, my son "graduated" from Kindergarten. The auditorium was decorated with artwork that the children had done throughout the year, and all the parents were there armed with cameras and big giant smiles for their little ones.

What made the evening truly memorable was that the teachers said something special about each and every one of the students. One teacher even wrote a poem about each child in his class. My son's teacher explained what she would miss about each child and what she would remember most.

I realized how fleeting each moment is, and that all the things that made him special this year are different from what was special about him last year. I'd love to keep him small, and never forget how his eyelashes frame his big brown puppydog eyes, and how he says "me come in?" before he squirms into bed with me for one last snuggle before going to school.

I had a silhouette of my profile when I was kindergarten, and I think he should have one too.

Beaming with Pride

The other night, as we sat around watching a little television before bed, my 8-year-old amused herself by cutting up one of my magazines and making a collage. Now, I have piles of artwork made by the children --- handprints from pre-school, their first representation renderings (trees), and a myriad of school projects ranging from a butterfly made from tissue paper to a lump of clay painted black.

However, I was totally blown away by this particular piece because she seems to have distilled my favorite things on one sheet of paper --- birds, words, the New Yorker, collage, recycling. I forget how observant children are, and how they do process all the inputs (positive and negative) that they receive in a day, constructively and sometimes not.

Watching her, it was all so effortless, and I was momentarily jealous :)

Wednesday, 6 June 2007


Painting tends to be something I do in fits and spurts. Unlike others who have trained themselves to work at something every day, I tend to leave my brushes alone for days, sometimes weeks, at a time.

This portrait was done during one of my middle-of-the-night spurts, abandoned in the back of a closet for a few months, and is now looking for a home on my cluttered walls. So far, it's been propped on the floor against my dresser, hung on the wall next to my bed until I couldn't stand to look at it anymore, and is now waiting for a nail in the upstairs hallway.

Seems rather self-centered to have a self-portrait hanging in my house, but who else would be a willing model at 1 o'clock in the morning?


I ran across this painting I did a couple of years ago and wondered what it would be like to be twenty-nine again? Hmmm, endless work under fluorescent lights, commuting an hour each way to work on L.A. freeways, lunch at my desk... not so good. But traveling, that was the up-side. Arriving in a foreign country with no hotel reservations was exciting, not scary. Having no itinerary was liberating, not inefficient.

Oh, to be twenty-nine, impulsive, and fearless again.

Today, I'm too responsible & careful... I tend to always be preparing to do something, rather than just doing it... like scouring "Real Simple" for tips on organizing the house, rather than just grabbing some bins and trashbags and getting down to business.

This is something that needs to change... On that note, I better get off my bum and go do something!

Silhouette Project

I was working with a room full of 2nd graders recently on a self-portrait project using pastels. The project involved tracing the children's figures on large sheets of butcher paper, on which they would then draw their faces and clothing. What struck me as interesting was how expressive the outline, devoid of details, was. Despite the absence of facial features, each child was completely identifiable. I could even tell what their mood was... happy, tired, antsy, shy.

I went home that day thinking about how to use this revelation in my work, only to realize it's been around for a long long time. Silhouettes have been part of the visual arts since time immemorial... from the elegant paper cut-outs in English drawing rooms to the shadow puppetry of the Far East.

When I was in kindergarten, my teacher Ms. Ancona enlisted her husband to come in and make silhouettes of the entire class to be used as Mother's Day gifts. I remember how mine looked exactly like me, and despite the absence of detail, it captured the cowlick on the crown of my head, and the way my nose turned up. I could even tell that I was pouting when the photo was taken.

Today, I'm starting a project which will explore the silhouette as a medium of expression. The trick will be to find a way of incorporating my love of detail into the piece.

Off to the drawing board...

Inspire Me Thursday: Roots

"Inspire Me Thursday"s prompt for this week is "roots." For me these lie primarily with my family, uprooted from their country 35 years ago and transplanted here. We're lucky... we've been able to thrive here. When I think about what my parents did so long ago... deciding to venture out of the small town that was their home; moving, not to another city or state, but, to another continent altogether; facing an uncertain future in a foreign place that they had never even visited before moving; doing this with four children in tow... I marvel at their tenacity and courage. When you look at them today, they are simple, unassuming people and you would never think they had it in them. My mom rarely ventures out of her garden. Perhaps she'll take a walk around the block to get a little exercise and look at other people's gardens. And my dad is difficult to find these days, but chances are he's cultivating a forgotten corner of the backyard or attempting to train the nasturtiums to climb a garden obelisk.

What they did would be like me selling everything, packing my bags, loading up the kids, and moving to...say... Germany or Greece or Brazil. For me, moving to another country would be to fulfill my fantasy of living a cosmopolitan, expatriate life; for them, it was simply survival.

Though I've lived here since I was three, the roots of my culture and family history were firmly planted. You can't see them. They're underground, but they support me in a way that is very difficult to explain to someone who has different roots. At the same time, the part of me that's had to live in "this place," the part is above ground, has thrived, blossomed and flowered... I hope.

I realize that my kids will never have an organic connection to another land, unless they too uproot and re-establish their lives somewhere else

I'm glad they come from good strong stock.

Bon Voyage

I just dropped off these paintings as my contribution to a silent auction which benefits our local schools and I'm torn about sending them off into the world having no idea where they'll end up. I really need to get over this separation anxiety.

Perhaps I'm especially attached because these photos depict places where I was very happy. The first is a view down the Rue de Seine in St. Germain des Pres in Paris. The kids and I were tired after a day of tromping through the Louvre. The sky was so very blue that day and the buildings, for some reason, were so very grey.

The second painting is a view at the Parker Palm Springs, where decadent weekends are just a couple of hours away. I love the color of the front door with the oversize handles, and the way the shadows strike a bold contrast to the hot glare of the sun. Standing under the portico before entering the hotel is heavenly, with the breeze blowing through and the orange/red door beckoning you forward.

I hope their new owners will enjoy them as much as I have.

Artist's Way....hmmmmm

At the urging of my friend, I started reading “The Artist’s Way” tonight. I can’t believe this book has been sitting on my shelf since 2003 and I’ve bothered to read beyond the introduction. I guess all the gobbledygook about god turned me off. But when I got to the part that talked about the Censor which is responsible for our blocks in creativity... that got to me. I recognized that I hear that voice all the time. My work isn’t original interesting engaging beautiful... why am I bothering... there’s so much art out there that’s good and I’ll never be able to measure up... etcetera, etcetera. I guess going through the process will help turn this voice off and unleash (ta-da!) my creativity.

I’m now at the part about the “morning pages.” I guess I’ll learn more as I keep reading. The idea of writing three pages every morning is daunting to me. I wonder if writing at night would defeat the purpose?

Let’s see where this takes me...