Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Teaching Adventure

Heading back to the east coast in a round about kind of way. I will be teaching "Painting with Pastels: Pushing Powder" at Common Ground on the Hill July 1 - 6th. It is held at McDaniels College Westminster, MD. A two week art & music experience with a festival in the middle.

I have found over the years I like to share. For me sharing is a form of teaching. So, I like to teach. Each person has their own special touch when it come to their art - their hand. I share style, technique, information, tricks and tips.

I work in a very old style, it was being used during the Renaissance. Working with handmade cotton rag paper I tone the paper, using a kneaded eraser I work the mid-tones and beginning of my highlights, this starts to bring out the forms. From this point the drawing can go in many directions, using charcoal pencils to makes it illustrative, adding color, the painting. It can stay monochromatic, giving it a soft effect. There are so many options, this is why I like this technique. Nothing really new, just continuing to teach people that the past still has much to offer.

As for getting to MD, we leave AZ head into NC. Why would we go to NC, well we left our car there. When we brought our cats out to AZ we needed to find as direct a flight as we could. Since there are none leaving from our part of VA, NC was the closest option. We will then drive up to VA for a couple days. Then to MD, meet with friends, family, fellow artists & students.

On our way back to AZ we plan a little side trip - San Francisco. Marilu has been accepted into the International Society of Scratchboard Artists Show in CA. She will be there for the opening and for some workshops. Life is full of opportunities and adventures. We will meet Marilu & her husband Dwight and find an adventure.

Here's a quote by Bill Keane creator of "Family Circus" that I have always found inspiring.                  "Yesterday's the past, tomorrow's the future, but today is a gift. That's why it's called the present." Take those presents and enjoy!

Toned paper technique 1-2-3

For more info on Common Ground go to: http://www.commongroundonthehill.com

And for the ISSA check out their new site at: http://www.scratchboardsociety.com

learn the rules -  make them your own - break them as needed

Monday, June 25, 2012

Overland route

When you are on a road trip the schedules are more open ended. We try to come & go different way to see new things. Sometimes finding lovely surprises. Heading back to AZ, the roads did not always have signs to tell you this is your turn but with a good guess here and there we made the right choices.

Stopping to check out Canyon de Chelly (shay). It is one of those places that gives you hints of what's to come. As you pull up to the look-outs your view is far and down.  We saw the "white house" and "spider" tower. On a different day, later in the year or earlier in the morning we might have walked down to some of the areas for a closer look.

One of the nice surprises once we got back on the road was seeing a small herd of horses running across the land with the mountains in the background. The other was a small park featuring part of the painted desert. As we decended in elevation we kept an eye out for the change in cactus, that was our sign that we were getting close to home.

AZ - NC - VA - MD - CA coming soon!

White House Canyon de Chelly

Spider Towers Canyon de Chelly

Painted Desert

Sunday, June 24, 2012

What's a Mesa?

Over the years we have been to many locations that have Mesas. I knew that a mesa was a flat topped mountain type formation. I always like to research my facts. What I found was a mesa is a Spanish word that means "table". That mesas come from plateaus, buttes are smaller then mesas and as they continue to erode the smallest formation is called a spire.

All that being said, Rick & I stopped at Mesa Verde National Park, Mesa Verde, CO to view a mesa up close. You drive into the park about 15 miles with views all around. You can walk down into cliff dwellings. We went down into Spruce Tree House and did some exploring around Cliff Palace. Rick went down into Cliff Palace while I sat and did a sketch. As we drove out we passed through an area that had been through several fires over many years leaving a field of beautifully ominous trees.

On our way back we stopped at the little town Mancos. We discovered it was a wealth of fine art. We stopped in the Artisans of Mancos, one of the nicest cooperative galleries we have ever seen. Around the corner was Nathaniel's Master Hat Maker, he has made hats for many famous people/movie stars. Nice man, lovely shop. Several galleries are tucked into the main street area, along with cowboys on horses and a horse drawn carriage...which had received a emergency phone call on his cell and his dog was hanging on his ever word. 

We headed back to Durango for the evening to pack and head out in the morning. One more walk around town.

For more information on Mancos oe Mesa Verde check the web site: www.artisansofmancos.com
www.nateshats.com       www.nps.gov/meve

Spruce Tree House

Cliff Palace

Mancos, CO

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Historic Durango

Continuing on our recent road trip we arrive in Durango, CO. Marilu & her husband Dwight have been there before and just loved it, so much so that Marilu would happily move there. It is a larger town then either Rick or I expected. Durango was founded in 1881, old architecture with modern road ways. There are horse drawn carriages, cowboys on horses, old trains rebuilt and running. Along with the young hippies. Are they still called hippies? They look like they came right out of the 60's. An interesting variety of people and everyone is friendly. Lots of art galleries, pubs, coffee shops and fun little places to look into.

We took a day off from travel and boarded the historic train for a ride from Durango to Silverton. We got up to Silverton for lunch with a little time to look around this small old mining town. Now geared for the tourists. We were in the last car of the train, the seats were arranged to look out to one side. But, with room to stand and move around. As you come back you are on the opposite side so you don't miss any of the amazing views. I found myself jumping up and leaning out the open air windows. Which you need to look before you do that as you come within 8 inches of rock walls and trees. It was hard not to take tons of pictures, some just as memories of the trip others will be used for future art work. I had just taken my zoom lens off when Rick yells - BEAR! Up on the hill side was a brown bear, a very large one at that but he was really too far away to get a good picture. I took one with the short lens but as I said not much there. But, fun to have seen another bear. We have seen them in Frederick, MD, in the mountains of VA, at Katmai, Alaska and now somewhere between Durango and Silverton. Good spotting dear! We saw areas where the beavers worked, some birds but no eagles and a few humans flying through the trees. There is a section that is set up for zip lines with people taking to the air as if they were birds.

The trip back into Durango was a bit more relaxing as we knew the areas that had special scenes coming up, like waterfalls and grand views. It is an all day trip and the last hours like all trips you are ready to get off the train. Next on our road trip Mesa Verde and a surprisingly artsy little town.

Welcome to Durango

Durango Train 

We'll be coming 'round the mountain...

We'll be lettin' off some steam

It's a bird, it's a plane, it's some crazy guy on a zip line.

Silverton Stagecoach

Waterfall in between cities

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Rocky Roads

Life, travel, work always come with a few rocky roads. Sometimes there is beauty in those rocks...mountains. The first part of our road trip started out a little rocky but as we continued to move from New Mexico into Colorado the rocks got bigger and more beautiful. We were moving forward one mile at a time. We drove along Ghost Ranch where Georgia O'Keeffe painted many mountain views, she referred to Pedernal as "...my private mountain," there are so many beautiful mountains in this area I do not know if I could claim one as my own.

Crossing over into Colorado the landscape went from reds & yellows to greens & blues. The mountains took on a different look with little touches of snow still hanging on till winter comes again. We arrived at Durango, a town we have heard much about over the years. It did not disappoint.

New Mexico near Ghost Ranch

New Mexico

Colorado - cattle - grass - pines - mountains -big sky

Colorado Chimney Rock

Monday, June 18, 2012

Here there everywhere

The last week has been filled with changes. With some moments when life gets in the way, Rick & I left  Monday afternoon heading to Santa Fe. I got a piece of work into the "American the Beautiful" juried show at Huey's Fine Art Gallery in Santa Fe, N.M. Rick suggested we deliver it and from there take a little road trip. Which we did. Dropped off the work on Tuesday, a nice gallery space at 129 W. Palace Ave., just off the main plaza. The opening reception is July 6th. I will not be able to attend because I will be on the east coast teaching a pastel workshop through Common Ground on the Hill. We don't let any moss grow under our feet!

After dropping off the work we walked around and check out more galleries. Here is the piece that got in the show and a few shots of Santa Fe.

Monday, June 11, 2012


Here is a good one for all you word game players. Xeriscape - noun: landscape method for arid climates utilizing water conservation.

There are many small parks in Phoenix Scottsdale area. I have been hearing about this one called Xeriscape Garden. It deals with using drought tolerant plants and minimal irrigation requirements. Something in the desert that is necessary.

When I first started coming to AZ many people ask why, it's so brown? Compared to the rich lush greens in MD and along the east coast. It is truly different but I don't see it as brown either. There is always something blooming in AZ. The wildflowers are smaller and closer to the ground. The root systems of cactus, succulents and some trees work in a different way. Staying closer to the surface to absorb more water when it does fall. As with anything beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I love the red rocks, the yellow flowers, the smells of the plants and of course all the birds.

Back to the Xeriscape Garden, it is a little over 5 acres of easy walking paths. They have landscaped it with areas to relax, sit, or walk in meditation. Looking forward to going back in the spring when the Palo Verdes are in bloom as there are many. There is one area that is sculpted to create the effective of a water fall using a stair-step technique. There are shade canvases, which are used a lot out here. Big colorful triangles of fabric to create not only shade but an artistic feature between the land and the sky. Some of the trees and plants that I took note of are: Mesquite (Velvet & Chilean), Eucalyptus, Palo Verde's, Fairy Duster bush, Creosote bush, Desert Willow tree, and so much more.

nest in Palo Verde tree

Palo Verde path in Xeriscape Gardens

Hummingbird on Palo Verde branch

Saturday, June 9, 2012

A Garden Walk in the Morning

This week Rick, my husband and I went to the Desert Botanical Gardens for an early morning walk. We got there around 7ish. It is comfortable at that hour in AZ. Our intent was to see birds and enjoy the morning. The garden offers bird walks with a guide. We missed that it only happened on Mondays.

It was a successful morning. We saw birds there that we had never seen before. I know that there are many birds that stop over on the way north or south throughout the year. But, our biggest surprise was to see peach faced love birds just flying all over the garden. We talked to one of the volunteers and she said that they were native to South Africa and that someone most likely had them as a pet. Once they were out in the wild they established their home and created a family. Now there is a large family of these birds flying around AZ.

We saw many cactus and succulent plants in bloom that we had not experienced before. Each season we visit the gardens we see so many different things. Tucked in a cactus were two baby roadrunners, Mom had been feeding them and was off hunting for more food. Maybe the next time we go for a walk I will take my sketchbook along with my camera, take a few minutes to draw.

I found a new place to walk and draw, Xeriscape...more on that tomorrow.

spiny lizard (males have blue on their necks)
peach faced love birds

baby roadrunners still in their nest

Friday, June 8, 2012

Point of no return

I think it is done - the ravens - except for the name. Will have to keep playing with words to see what fits. Sometimes the title comes before the work is done, sometimes it is the title that makes the work happen. This time it was a photograph I had taken when my husband and I stopped in a Bird Rescue Center in Vermont. There were these two ravens, they were sitting on a branch, turn and grabbed each others beaks. Nothing aggressive, nothing amorous, like two little kids who both grab the same toy and neither are willing to let go first. The people that worked at the center said they have never seen them do that before. I took several pictures not knowing what I would do with them but the more I looked at it the more I knew I needed to draw them. When I left they were still holding on to each other.

I had a piece of handmade paper 22X30 inches that I had toned with colors that had accumulated at the bottom of my pastel container. I often take the particles of pastel dust and blend them on paper. Usually get a beautiful grey color. This paper was a heavy texture and kept the color in place,  I just added more of the same color and let them blend together. Once I did this I did not know what to do with the paper so I put it away for a long time.

This spring I pulled the paper out put it on the easel and just looked till I saw something in the abstract colors. I saw the ravens. I pulled out my pictures and did a couple quick studies. As I started working on this hand made paper the pastels did not want to make a mark. I tried very soft, medium soft and very hard. I found the medium hard seem to work the best. I use pastel pencils and charcoal pencils to do the line work. Again a bit of a struggle, the medium to hard pastel pencils worked best but the charcoal I used 4B & 6B soft and dark. As I continued to layer the colors and black on, the paper accepted the pastel and charcoal better.

When I got to the point I thought I might be done, I took it outside, sprayed some workable fixative on it and took some photos of the work. Looking at the photos I did not like some parts of the work. I left it over night, looked at it the next morning. Turned it up-side-down and re-worked the areas that needed softening. Let it go till the next day, took another photo and worked a little more in one area...finally looks ok...bumped up the whites/highlights and sprayed it again. Working on the spraying technique to see if I can slowly seal in the pastels without melting them and causing them to darken. I am at the point of no return...I think it is done.
ravens pastel & charcoal on handmade paper

Friday, June 1, 2012

Promise to myself

I made a promise to myself that I would work on and try to finish the ravens piece by next week. I started it before I came back east (May 3rd) to pack & move most of my studio to AZ. Everything is pretty well unpacked and at least in some order.

I even told my family, Friday & Sunday are mine. I am not an early morning person, I have been told that I like to walk into the morning. So be it, I had my coffee with my cats and camera outside this morning. I took pictures of the birds enjoying the fruit that the saguaro provides after the flowers have gone. I am wrapping up my morning computer time with my blog. I think this is a lovely way to start my day.

The afternoon I get to spend in my new studio working on the ravens piece. If you look closely at the studio pictures you can get a sneak peak of what I am working on and hope by next week to post the finished piece. It is a good day to stay inside as AZ may set a new record today hitting between 112 - 115 degrees.

Plus I have a challenge before me and Marilu has her paper prepared to start too!

New studio in AZ

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