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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Seven Laws of Spiritual Success on DVD

On January 9 of this year I commented on one of my favorite books, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success by Deepak Chopra. I listed my version of the seven laws, which you can read by searching "seven laws" on my blog. Yesterday I watched the new DVD of The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, featuring Chopra and Olivia Newton-John, along with others who have been blessed by the message in the book. For the most part, it's a lovely presentation. Newton-John's music, which she felt compelled to write in part to express her gratitude for cancer survival, creates a beautiful ambience for stunning images of nature and the manmade environment that serve as a background for commentary by Deepak Chopra, Newton-John and several people who have experienced the impact of the seven spiritual laws. The hour-long presentation is a fine introduction to spiritual principles and practices that govern all of life. The DVD doesn't replace the book, especially if you're an obsessive reader like me, but it's a good way to start living the seven laws of spiritual success to create a more satisfying life.

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Monday, May 28, 2007

"Nothin' "

This week I've been hard at work on the new book. The art is coming in, so I'll be busy selecting what I want to use in the book. Also, the slides from the Montana Watercolor Society will be arriving shortly, so nothing else will get done until those are on their way back to Big Sky country. Our granddaughter was here all afternoon on Thursday and we had a delightful time together. We didn't really "do art," but she tends to get to her little table and scribble something before she leaves. At the moment, the scribbles are little faces with big smiles. I love it! She was here this afternoon, too, and we did paint-blot pictures with tempera. How she loved the effects of the prints on the folded paper! She designated a giftee for each picture, aunts, uncles and cousins, plus the always included grandparents. A friend of mine stopped by while Jenna and I were out in the yard. As we talked, Jenna moved to the yard behind us and quietly played and danced a little dance by herself. Later, I asked her what she was dancing and she said, "Nothin'." Her little secret.

I had an email from an e-friend, Annette, who is also having fun making art with her grandchild. Check out her blog entry of the other day: http://bushstrokes.blogspot.com/2007/05/big-word-is-wow.html

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Book Review: Living Artfully

Living Artfully: Create the Life You Imagine by Sandra Magsamen is a wonderful guide to finding the creativity within you and setting it free to enrich your life. This book shows you how to make your life a work of art by thinking and acting creatively in everything you do, from family celebrations to everyday chores at work, in your home and garden. Everything she suggests is doable, fun and friendly. The book helps the reader to become more aware of the importance of nurturing herself so she can inspire and nurture those she loves. You don't need to be an artist to benefit from the important message in this book. I love her ten principles for living artfully--they reflect and supplement my beliefs, which are scattered throughout The New Creative Artist.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Tinting strength in watercolor paints

Last week I started a chart in watercolor class that illustrated the differences in tinting strength of pigments. The definition of tinting strength is "the power of a color to influence a mixture." A lot of artists have trouble with paint mixtures because they're trying to change a strong color with a weak one and can't get the results they want. This is true in most color media, because the pigments used in all media are the same with different binders. I finished the chart this week and indicated how you can select from one end or the other of the continuum of colors in any hue and the colors will work together. On the chart, the weaker colors are to the left of the rows, moving toward the stronger colors at the right. So you mix weak colors for delicate effects and powerful colors for strong statements. Sometimes you can mix weaker colors with middle-strength colors or middle-strength colors with powerful colors. But not weak with strong.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

View from a mountain top

When I was in college, over the summer of 1953 I attended the University of Colorado with my older sister, a school teacher working for extra education credits. I studied Shakespeare's plays, contemporary poetry and square dancing (PE credit). At that time they had a wonderful Department of Mountain Recreation that sponsored mid-week hikes up Flagstaff Mountain in Boulder and weekend mountain climbing for novices and amateur climbers. The guides were experienced climbers and also experts in botany (wildflowers), geology (rock formations) and more, an interesting mix of people of all ages and walks of life. My sister had a boyfriend, so I got into the mountaineering, one of the greatest experiences of my young life. I went on many trail hikes and climbed three mountains by the easier routes: first Sawtooth (12,303 feet, then Neva (12,814) (I'm at left in the photo) and Jasper (12,923), which are connected by a ridge. On Jasper we experienced a hail storm with thunder and lightning, the scariest thing I had ever experienced. To descend, we jumped off a cliff sliding down a rope until we landed on a huge snow field. Then we "skied" on our feet to the bottom of the snow field and continued our hike to base camp. Everything about the trip was awesome, but especially the feeling at the summit when I looked out over the majestic Rockies instead of up at them. My little Everest.

Our youngest son loved the Colorado mountains passionately because of our frequent visits to my parents, who had retired to Boulder. We registered him for a survival course with Colorado Outward Bound the summer he was sixteen. My Ohio friends were aghast that we would let him climb mountains at such a young age. I wanted him to experience that feeling I had on top of the mountain and he was thrilled to go. It was a life-changing adventure for him. He eventually went to Colorado Mountain College in Glenwood Springs and finished his degree at Fort Lewis College in Durango, where he now lives.

Along the way, he kept on climbing mountains--too many to name here--and eventually became a part-time instructor, then a course director for Outward Bound Wilderness in Colorado. Recently he was asked to teach courses in rock and mountain climbing at Fort Lewis College. Talk about a dream job....

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Making grids for enlarging art

Someone on an art list asked about making grids with PhotoShop. The instructions sounded too complicated. I make grids with WordPerfect tables. You can do the same thing with Word. Set margins at .25 on all four sides (ignore if it says margin is too narrow). Define a table with 8 columns and 10 rows. Size columns and rows at 1". (With squares you don't have to worry about the proportions of rectangles.) Set the line width for the borders and table. Voila! A perfect 8" x 10" grid.

I also made a page with two smaller grids, one 5" x 7" and another 4" x 6". I selected the number of grids I wanted from the 8" x 10" grid and did a copy/paste. I saved both files so I wouldn't have to redo the tables every time I wanted a grid. You can do any size you want. It takes about ten minutes.

I print them on inkjet transparency film.


Sunday, May 13, 2007

Book Busy-ness

I've been busy all week getting together a mailing to artists for art for the new book. This is a big job, since I use so much outside artwork for all my books. There were 104 artists in The New Creative Artist. There won't be so many this time, but more art from each of the contributors. I visit galleries, shows, web sites and look at magazines and books to find art or styles I can use. This time I contacted all but two of the artists by email to see if they were interested, and all but one responded.

Now I'm preparing a mailing that includes a cover letter describing the book, a form giving permission for use of their art, and a two-page information sheet on photographing their art for reproduction, which took me most of Friday to put together.

I've verified most of the mailing addresses, but when I tried to print them, my Epson printer didn't print the format right. The file was created for my HP, which ran out of black ink yesterday, typical when you're trying to get something out the door. So, of course, I missed the deadline on the postage increase.

I've been using the computer since I started my first book in 1983 and now the range of tasks I can do is amazing to me. The internet helps a lot, too. All this technology is great--until the printer runs out of ink or the internet connection locks up. Well, I'll get this mailing out the door soon and can get back to writing the last three chapters of the book. Not much time for blogging, though.

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Charley Parker on Edward Hopper

Charley Parker has another great blog, this time on Edward Hopper, with lots of links for more information and images. I couldn't begin to put together all the links Charley does in his informative essay. Thanks, Charley!

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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Pigment intensity in watercolor

For my watercolor class yesterday I demonstrated intensity, which is the difference between bright and dull colors. For some reason this is hard for a lot of artists to understand--that paint in a tube is high intensity or low intensity before it is mixed with another color. Several have used yellow ochre as the only yellow on their palettes and wonder why their paintings don't seem bright.

This chart shows what I did. I painted a swatch of yellow ochre at top-center. Then I made a swatch of gamboge to the far left leaving a space between them. The difference in intensity was obvious. Between the two I made a swatch of quinacridone gold, which they could see is brighter than ochre, but not as bright as gamboge. (Just below the gamboge is a cool lemon yellow, but I didn't emphasis the temperature difference, as that will be a later lesson.)

I continued the comparisons at the top-right with bright vermilion and low-intensity brown madder. In the lower left corner I painted indigo at left, phthalocyanine blue red shade to the right of indigo and indanthrone Blue just above. Again, the differences in intensity are obvious. But this was a revelation to many students, who hadn't previously observed this in their paints.

The mingling at the lower right shows how I test color schemes to see if I like the combinations, which I do when I begin a painting. I drop a little of each color onto damp paper, then push them around a bit to see what mixtures they make. This combination uses the low-intensity colors: brown madder, yellow ochre and indigo. I dropped in a tiny bit of vermilion to jazz up the brown madder. The low-intensity colors surrounding it make the color sing. This looks like an exciting combination for a painting.

Note: The colors on your monitor don't match the paints perfectly, so you need to do your own swatches. Also, brands may differ greatly in pigments having the same name.

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Pink-tailed squirrel

I've been trying for weeks to get a good photo of this dude. He is one of six or eight resident grey squirrels that nibble and tussle under our bird feeders. Note that I said "grey" squirrels. They are all uniformly grey--no fox squirrels anywhere around. I suspect that one of his parents is an albino squirrel that shows up from time to time. In certain light and when he has his tail bushed out, it's very pink--you can see both red and white hairs in it. I wonder if this is as unusual as I think it is. He seems to be as frisky and healthy as the others.

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Sunday, May 06, 2007

A surprise every day in the woods

When we first cleared out the honeysuckle in the woods in 2002, it looked hideously barren and I was afraid we had made a big mistake. About a month later, a lone Ohio spiderwort bloomed, which gave me hope there might be more dormant wildflowers just waiting for some sunshine. The next year there were two spiderwort plants in different places. They never multiplied until this year. Now there are five. What a treat!

The wild geraniums are also apreading robustly from one small clump at the back of the woods and are now found in patches along with the bluebells and toothwort. They are so colorful and fill in after the bluebells have finished blooming. They are surrounded in some places by may-apples, whose little nodding flowers are just beginning to open under their green umbrellas.

Some critter ate my merry-bells, which now may be gone forever. But it missed the wild columbine, an intriguing flower. I made a rough, winding path through the woods, bordered by wildflowers that are spreading from the top of the hill to the base. Each day I'm finding only one or two garlic-mustard plants getting ready to bloom, but I have to be vigilant. I was told that this pest releases hundreds of seeds and every one of them is viable, so even one plant can do a lot of damage. My neighbors are helpful and are pulling them from their gardens before they set seeds.

See my woods and my wildflowers on my web site.

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Book Review: Geometry of Design

Geometry of Design: Studies in Proportion and Composition by Kimberly Elam (2001) is one of a series entitled "Design Briefs: Essential Texts on Design" published by Princeton Architectural Press. This book has helped me to understand how the golden section works in fine art and design. There are diagrams on every page showing the golden section in nature, ancient art, human proportions and contemporary design. Many pages have transparent overlays showing how lines of the golden section triangles and rectangles fit onto the scheme of an effective art piece or design. I wrote about design grids in connection with Emily Carr on February 20, which was also enlightening. I can see many benefits from thinking about design this way, although I'll admit it isn't easy to do the math. I don't think it has to be exact, but it does help to find hot spots for major and minor focal points in art and to understand why some formats are more pleasing than others to look at. I think the little Elam book will be a handy reference for me in the studio.

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Saturday, May 05, 2007

Book Review: Yale Book of Quotations

The Yale Book of Quotations, edited by Fred R. Shapiro (2006), is more than a simple reference book for snappy quotes. The book contains more than 12,000 quotations, with sources and corrections of oft-misquoted remarks. From the front flap: "It is unique in its focus on American quotations and its thorough coverage of items not only from literary and historical sources but also from popular culture, sports, computers, politics, law and the social sciences." Dear old "Anonymous" has a section to him/herself and is also included in listings under folk songs, advertising slogans, film lines, television catchphrases, and proverbs, which are very entertaining. Aside from looking up specific quotations, the YBQ is reader-friendly, interesting and fun to pick up and page through. Not a beach book at 1067 pages.

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Friday, May 04, 2007

Edward Hopper in Boston

Holland Cotter of the New York Times today reviewed the Edward Hopper show at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts May 16 through August 16. I have the distinct impression that Cotter doesn't care much for Hopper. Personally, I like the big shapes and the way Hopper uses strong values and directional lighting. It isn't always a joyful light, though, as there seems to be a sad, sometimes frightening drama to Hopper's compositions. Edward Hopper, the MFA catalog of the exhibition, includes more than 150 reproductions of his art in various media. "High Noon" shown here is in our Dayton Art Institute and has long been a favorite with visitors to the museum. I love the directness of Hopper's watercolors, too.

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Thursday, May 03, 2007

Book Review: James McNeill Whistler

James McNeill Whistler: Beyond the Myth by Ronald Anderson and Anne Koval (1994) is a compelling biography revealing details of Whistler's life and cultural influences that are often overlooked. Whistler began with lackadaisical military training at West Point and evolved an amazing career of artistic innovation and achievement in London and Paris. He was a consummate and prolific printmaker, as well as a much sought after portrait painter. Many of the stories that resonate in the public perception of the man were outrageously exaggerated and circulated by Whistler himself, who was witty and unrelenting in attacking his critics. He consorted with many of the Impressionists in France in the early years, when their dissatisfaction with the Academy was just beginning to surface. His own rebellious nature put him at odds with both the great Academy in Paris and the Royal Academy in London. There are a few illustrations and photos in the book. I brought some Whistler monographs home from the library, so I could study the paintings and engravings in the context of this comprehensive biography. I've always liked Whistler, but this book gave me a much greater appreciation of his talent and vast accomplishments.

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

"I may not know much about art, but I know what I like."

People who use this tired cliché don't realize that they're actually saying, "I like only what I know." They're missing the rich experience of art by not opening their minds to art of all kinds. The more I learn about art, the more art I like. I visit websites, museums, galleries, art schools, art fairs; I read magazines and art monographs to see works that have stood the test of time and new works on the leading edge of the visual arts, experimental work by developing artists, and current trends in fine arts. My appreciation of all types of art has grown by leaps and bounds.

Artwork that flouts academic standards or offends public taste usually attracts a lot of attention, but is it art? Is it good or bad? In spite of all the rhetoric for or against, only time will determine what is "good" or "bad" art. Ignore what the critics say: decide for yourself what you think about art. Don't stop looking at art because you're afraid of what you might see, and don't limit yourself to viewing art you already know you like. You might miss something wonderful. Study art history, and look at art at every opportunity. Visits to exhibitions greatly enhance your appreciation and understanding of art.

A work of art is more than a visual sensation. An artist's personality, technical skills, and knowledge of design merge to reveal that artist's unique concept in visible form. Sometimes the only way you can begin to decipher an artist's meaning is to overcome your own misconceptions: First, the idea that you have to like it in order to appreciate it; second, that if it isn't similar to your art, it has no merit. People who feel threatened by new art are stunting their own growth. Artists who try to validate their art by finding fault with art that's different are doomed to mediocrity. Those who think they have "arrived" are probably nowhere.

Whether or not you "like" a certain artwork has no bearing on its merit as art. Art isn't always pretty. Some is difficult--even painful--to look at, yet it succeeds because the artist has used the tools of art--design, materials, and technique--masterfully to underscore a deeply felt truth. Try to see beneath the surface of the object, to imagine the artist's experience while making it, his or
her unique viewpoint. Your own struggle to become an artist gives richer meaning to what you see and allows insights into processes and possibilities. Enter the experience with an open mind and you will leave it with a fresh perspective on your own art.

"Art is an experience, not an object." Robert Motherwell

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Book Review: Painting Faces and Figures

Painting Faces and Figures by Carole Katchen is one of my favorite people-painting books. Katchen shows wonderful examples of creative poses in different media by a variety of artists. There are elegant, classic styles and quirky, comedic ones with a lot in between. Working methods are described and there are some step-by-step details, but on the whole, the book is more about personal style than techniques. Carole's web site is worth a visit. Her personal style is distinctive and colorful.

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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Collage Lamination

Someone in my watercolor class requested a lesson on applying rice or mulberry paper to watercolor paper to create a textured surface to paint on, so that's what we did yesterday. Students brought in unryu or other lightweight Asian papers, some with fibers running through them and others plain. We discussed terminology first: is it rice paper or mulberry? Rice paper has become a generic term describing papers that may be made of rice straw, mulberry, bamboo or hemp. Here is a helpful article in Wikipedia with more information on rice papers.

dawn Canada geeseI crumpled a piece of rice paper into a ball, then flattened it out. To adhere the rice paper, I brushed fluid acrylic matte medium liberally onto a piece of 140# cold press watercolor paper. Then I placed the rice paper on the surface, allowing some of the wrinkles to remain. I patted it down with a damp sponge so the rice paper would make contact and bond with the watercolor paper. I usually use a soft brayer for this, but didn't have it with me yesterday. That's all there is to it. Wait until it is dry so you don't get acrylic medium in the hair of your good watercolor brushes. It's fun to see what watercolor paint does on this surface, crawling into the ridges in some places, making dark crinkly lines and almost disappearing in other areas.

You can also lay thinner rice paper on the support and brush the medium directly onto it. The medium will soak through and adhere the paper to the support. In a technique called "overlay" you can adhere rice paper to a watercolor painting to create a misty effect or to tone down aggressive colors in a background. For these techniques it's best not to use sumi-e papers, which have a smooth surface on the back that might prevent the medium from soaking through the paper.

These techniques are all shown in Creative Collage Techniques: A Step-by-Step Guide.

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Book Review: Romare Bearden

The Art of Romare Bearden by Ruth Fine was published in conjunction with a retrospective exhibition of his work at the National Gallery of Art in 2004. This is a wonderful book with essays on his life and work, as well as many magnificent illustrations, which include oil and gouache paintings as well as the collages for which he is best known. Many years ago I walked into the Gerald Melberg gallery in Charlotte, North Carolina, and saw Bearden's collage work, which had been part of a recent show. Later, friends took me to the public library to see an impressive piece he had done. I was especially interested in showing something of his work in the collage book I was working on. Unfortunately, the attorney for the estate was uncooperative, so I couldn't use the wonderful transparency Mr. Mehlberg had sent me. Nevertheless, I was so pleased to have a student bring this book to my collage workshop last year and I "had to have it" for my library. I've read the interesting text, but mostly I just love to browse the pictures. Bearden's work shows influences of his African-American experience in the South as well as the Harlem Renaissance and a post-World War II residency in Paris. I love his brilliant patterns and colors.

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