Searching for Letters Abroad

letters-abroad“There are places I remember
All my life though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I’ve loved them all”  In My Life” – John Lennon

Of late, the Full Moon has been my time of introspection. Urged on by the changing of the seasons, so it was again this month. The feeling of melancholy surrounds me as I see the leaves change colour and begin their spiral dance to the earth. And the progression continues with change as the only constant.

I have mentioned how much the Artistcellar Labyrinth series has inspired my work. Believing in Synchronicity, they came to me just when I needed them most. This time my chosen stencil to work with was Gonzaga. I love the clean straight lines. It would be a superb counterpoint for the elements I collected for the collage.

A new medium for me is the Deco Art Media Crackle Paste. Application is easy and all that is needed is a palette knife and patience to allow for an adequate drying time. I picked a piece of copper metallic writing paper for my substrate. As I spread the paste through the stencil I wondered how it would hold up. Would this technique be its demise? It’s an interesting process to watch. The thickness of application varies the size of the eggshell cracks. And like magic…there they were. I pulled the stencil away from the paper and started my clean-up. I’m happy to report, as with all Artistcellar products, cleaning was easy and the stencil held up beautifully. Quality, quality, quality!

Hearing “In My Life” on the radio brought back so many wonderful memories from a time before email. It’s no secret that I am a passionate lover of the written word. Letters, postcards…anything in the mail is nourishment for my Muse! I relish the anticipation as much as the delivery. Just to see an address in a familiar hand is uplifting. I wanted my theme for the collage to be the art of correspondence.

I admit I find it difficult to meditate. So many ideas, so many images interrupt what should be a place of quiet and wonder. By using the labyrinth as the focal part of my work, I am getting closer to quieting my mind. The Labyrinth pulls together my random thoughts. So the work you see here is an attempt at stream of consciousness meditation, for lack of a better phrase.

It was time to complete the collage. Drawing from my Book of Backgrounds (aka the Strathmore Mixed-Media Visual Journal) I selected other stencil designs I created: Halftone Dots, Seafoam, and Open Works from the Blocks series. Placing the images went smoothly…as if they knew where they should “live”. I allowed myself to feel, and to journey looking back at what once was with a definite optimistic view of the future. I recognize that accepting change is an integral part of the progression.

In my life all these places had their moments. And for that I am grateful.

Shameless Plug: The Labyrinth Series in addition to other works incorporating Artistcellar Stencils will be on show at the Oyster Mill Playhouse, Camp Hill, PA November 4 through November 20, 2016

MATERIALS USED:

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Agecroft Hall and Sunken Garden / oil

My palette knife is in my hand as much time as my paintbrush.

My palette knife is in my hand as much time as my paintbrush.

When I get to my location, it always takes me 1/2 hour or 45 min, to mix up my colors for the day.  I decide what area to work on, then mix light medium and dark values of the colors I want to use. By mixing my colors on my palette with my palette knife, I get them closer to what you see with the naked eye, and avoid the problem of the colors mixing too much on the canvas and coming out muddy.

But one thing I really enjoy a lot, is making thin lines with my palette knife. It’s easier to scratch a skinny line than it is to paint one. If you can get a clear enlargement of this photo on your computer, maybe you can see where I scratched all around this painting to make lines and give it texture.

The way I did the brick wall, for example, was to paint the colors of the mortar first. I painted the wall with two shades of gray in the places I wanted there to be light and shadow. So, the whole wall was gray. Then, when that dried, I blobbed in brick colors on top of the gray and scratched through the wet layer to show the gray mortar color coming though as lines. You get bricks without painting every brick. But people see the detail, and might imagine I painted every brick. It works if you paint in the couch with Maroger Medium and glazes.

I also like to scratch through my brushstrokes to feather the edges, and add texture. For the trees behind the house, I blobbed in three shades of green and scratched through the wet paint so the edges of my brush strokes wouldn’t be sharp, but a little blended. Visually, that helps the background trees recede a little. The trees in front of the house got scratched on the trunks but not the foliage.

It took a long time to finish, and I could still keep on working on it, but I’m not going to. It looks like I painted a lot of detail, but I left out the detail I didn’t want to paint, gutters and downspouts, a planter with nothing blooming, and whatever else you might notice is missing, if you have a photo to compare it to.

It seems like I worked on this painting at home as much as I worked on it at Agecroft. A lot of times, I can mix up some colors there, and paint at home on the more time consuming parts of the painting.

Creativity Thrives on Route 15 in Pennsylvania!

rt-15-way-of-art

Does your heart beat a little faster when you hear the words: Mixed media, painting, pottery, sculpture, photography, jewelry? What if we added tasty local wines, deliciously inventive meals, and cozy, relaxing lodgings to the mix?
And what if I told you these features and more are here for you to explore and experience when you journey through the heart of Pennsylvania by following the Route 15 Artisan Trail?
The newly launched website, Rt 15 By Way of the Arts, is your ultimate guide to all art and tourism events held along the Trail. The website makes planning your journey quick and easy by arranging artisans and events by county. Updated by four daily newspapers, The Williamsport Sun-Gazette, Sunbury DailyItem, The Carlisle Sentinel, and The Gettysburg Times content is focused to bring you the best in uniquely flavored regional arts and entertainment.
rt-15-map
Looking for a special gift? Why not interact with the artist as they create? Searching for a charming location to rest, relax, and rejuvenate? It’s here for you on Route 15.
I admit I am biased. I live along the Route and have explored many of the destinations. For this reason I am so excited to share this with you. Even if you can’t journey with us physically, I hope you will take the time to experience what our area has to offer.  The website is a showcase of galleries, theaters, festivals, artists and more.
Creativity thrives along Route 15. Hope you’ll come along for the journey!

The Flying Lesson / mixed media

This is my illustration for a book my daughter, Sarah Hill wrote. An excerpt is posted below.

This is my illustration for a book my daughter, Sarah Hill wrote. An excerpt is posted below.

“Hey Mom,” she said, “Can you teach me how to fly?”

Diana looked up at her and grinned, relief flashing in her face. She clearly wasn’t up for more talking either.

“You sure that’s where you want to start? It’s kinda scary…” Diana trailed off for a moment. “But a lot of fun.” Kayce grinned back.

“Yea let’s start there. I mean once I master flying, I’m pretty sure I can handle anything, right?” Kayce asked nervously. Diana raised her eyebrows, but the smile stayed on her face.

The teenager and the woman stood up and walked out of the room, Diana’s arm over Kayce’s shoulder. “Well it’s not quite that easy, kiddo.” She said, leading the way to the back yard. “But this is definitely the fun part.” Kayce’s heart raced, both thrilled and surprised her mother was so willing to let her attempt such a dangerous lesson right out of the gate.

“Don’t be scared,” Diana said, reading Kayce’s mind. “On Falconera they dropped us off of cliffs when we turned 15.” Kayce’s jaw dropped and her mother grinned and winked. Together the two of them entered the secluded yard, which backed up to the woods and fanned out in a wide, pie-piece-shaped property that hid the other neighbor’s houses on the cul-de-sac behind protective thickets of tall pines.

A few moments later, Diana was standing in the middle of the yard, legs hip-width apart and crouched, her arms out as if preparing to be tackled in a football game. Excitement shone on her face, as if she had been waiting to share this with Kayce her whole life.

“The first thing you need to learn is landing,” she said, still crouched. “Getting up is the easy part, believe it or not, but landing softly isn’t. Falling is not fun.” Kayce assumed the same stance as her mother, and the two women looked as if they were about to start a wrestling bout. Diana crouched low and jumped high in the air, but peaked no higher than a normal person of her stature. However when she was on her way back down, it was almost as if an invisible force was slowly lowering her to the ground.

Kayce jumped experimentally. She landed with ordinary gravitational force.

“It’s a mental thing,” Diana said. “Philippa, Anna, and I all taught ourselves to fly and land differently. I imagine landing on a giant deflating balloon where I can control the pressure. If you picture something sturdy beneath your feet, your body will react that way.”

Kayce concentrated and jumped again, this time with force and effort. Same average rise, same average drop.

“Philippa imagines jet boosters on her feet like rockets. Anna pictures a hook picking her up. I can’t really explain what makes it work. You just have to get there in your mind.” Kayce scowled at her mom and jumped, trying to imagine her mother’s balloon raising and lowering. Then she imagined jet boosters, hooks swinging her into the air, nothing worked. Her heart rate was starting to pick up with the physical effort and the frustration.

When Kayce’s feet touched down again in yet another ordinary jump she let out a frustrated “ugh.”

This went on for hours, Kayce and her mother hopping in the backyard, Diana periodically demonstrating flight on her own, Kayce’s teenage temper flaring after many, many failed attempts. The two of them were both sweating in the summer heat, their dark ponytails frizzing in the humidity and their stomachs rumbling. Diana was just about to suggest they break for lunch, which should have been several hours ago, when Kayce let out a low, angry scream.

“Maybe I can’t fly” Kayce huffed, refusing to meet her mother’s eyes when Diana sat down across from her. Kayce glared at the ground, wishing for some kind of reassurance from her mother but not knowing what she wanted to hear exactly. Up until now, Diana’s mothering tactics have been very positive. Lots of, “You can do it!”s and “Keep trying!”s but Kayce could tell by the silence that her mom didn’t want to lie, and with the exception of Kayce’s inherited super hearing and whatever that was that happened at the hardware store, they had no idea if she had any other capabilities or if she did, what they were.

“We don’t really know what you will be capable of. You might not be able to fly. So much of it we’ll just have to wait and see. We already know you have some pretty amazing hearing, and that thing at Home Depot was definitely speed.” Diana said kindly.

Kayce picked at the grass and tried not to be disappointed. She was a plain old ordinary teenager this time last week. It shouldn’t be that big of a deal to her that she can’t fly; she just found out that was even a possibility.

“Come on.” Diana said, reaching out to her daughter and helping her to her feet. “I have an idea. You have to trust me on this, okay?”

Diana turned Kayce around and wrapped her arms tightly around Kayce’s ribcage. Her face pressed into the back of Kayce’s sweaty neck, and together the two rose slowly into the air, about six feet up with Diana carrying Kayce.

“Mom…” Kayce said nervously, gripping her mother’s hands. Diana tightened her grip reassuringly, and then lowered another foot or so.

“Is this better?” Kayce swallowed and nodded quickly. “Now I’m going to let you go. If you fall, it won’t hurt you, maybe just a bump or a bruise and I owe you a new pair of earrings or a gift card or something. But whatever enters your mind in the instant I drop you, hold onto that, okay?”

“No wait… Mom I can’t do this.” Kayce’s heart thudded and she was sure her mom could feel it beneath the grip on her chest.

“Just try, Kace. I’m not going to let you get hurt.” And with that, Diana let go.

Immediately, Kayce’s back and shoulders warmed, like they had been hit with a direct beam of sunlight. The world was suspended. The hot breeze that was blowing through the trees stopped but all Kayce noticed was the force of what felt like giant wings on her back. Invisible, powerful wings had emerged from her back, right below her rib cage and held her suspended in air. The air did not stir, but the force was there nonetheless; leaving her suspended in midair, inches from her mother’s still arms.

Move up, willed Kayce, and the invisible wings propelled her, carrying her belly-first a few feet up and away from Diana.

Now down, she thought, and she lowered, but lost control and fell too quickly. Her stomach plummeted and her heart raced and the thought of the strong, sturdy wings was replaced with panic as the world resumed its normal pace and she crashed to the ground.

Diana was at her daughter’s side immediately.

“Oh baby I’m so sorry!” She cried, quickly inspecting Kayce’s limbs for broken bones, her skin for scratches. Kayce held her head for a moment, she definitely hit it pretty hard on the ground, before sitting up and saying,

“Mom I think I did it.”

Diana looked skeptical. “You dropped like a rock, Kayce.” Diana said, then realizing the statement sounded harsh, asked, “Why do you think you got it?”

“I don’t know. Everything just kind of stopped and I was able to clear my mind and concentrate for a minute.” She paused, afraid what she was about to say is going to make her sound crazy. “On wings holding me up.” Kayce stood up and brushed off dried grass and dirt. She subconsciously clenched her fists by her sides and looked determinedly ahead at her mother, who looked back at her with eyes full of doubt and pity.

Wings, thought Kayce. I have wings and I can fly.

Her feet left the ground and she saw the shock and delight on her mother’s face, but ignored it, her focus not even broken by the rush of adrenaline and fear.

Up, Kayce thought, and she slowly lifted a few more feet off the ground. Diana flew up to match her level, one knee lifted, her excited smile showing the slightest hint of worry as she studied the intense look on her daughter’s face. Kayce wanted to tell her mother that she knew what she was doing, but was afraid speaking would break the connection to her wings.

Okay, down, Kayce thought, and she started to fall she quickly like before. Slower! She thought, slower, slower… and sure enough, the imaginary wings slowed and she gently touched the ground. Diana touched down next to her.

“Well done, Kayce!’ Her mother was beaming. “I am SO proud of you! It took me months to do what you just did!” Unable to help herself, Diana pulled Kayce into a close, tight hug.

About the story;

Sarah wrote it for the intended audience of teenage girls. She worked at Emory University a few years ago in their outreach program for teens. Teenagers need to see how good relationships work so they can have their own good relationships in life. Reading helps teens figure things out when they don’t get enough guidance from adults, or don’t have good role models at home.

The mother is like Wonder Woman, from another planet. The girl’s dad is Human. The story’s teenage girl is a human, alien hybrid who is discovering she has some super powers.

About the collage.

Sarah told me she didn’t want angel wings on the girl. I agreed, but couldn’t decide how to do the wings. I had it in mind for months, then saw the Latin Ballet and was blown away. They had dresses with yards of pleated fabric attached to sticks which they held in their hands. The fabric was attached to the back of the dresses at the other end. I wished I could examine the dresses more closely. They were so beautiful and graceful as they floated across the stage with their wings. Then I had the idea for the wings, but couldn’t decide how to make them shiny and almost transparent. I considered mylar, but couldn’t find what I wanted. Sarah suggested nail polish and I thought that might work for the wings.

This collage has acrylic on canvas board. acrylic on mineral paper, pastel on different types of pastel paper, oil paint and nail polish

 

Rembrandt

I was so happy to find this painting online.

I was so happy to find this painting online.

It was in a show at the Getty Center titled ” The Promise of Youth; Rembrandts Senses Rediscovered.” They have a great article with some more paintings Rembrandt did when he was young.

The reason I was excited to see it is because I saw it before at the VMFA and tried to sketch it. I was stopped before I finished the sketch by a guard who told me no sketching was allowed. The reason I was told, was because they didn’t have the permission of the owner of the painting. It sounded weird to me because I saw an exhibit of Rembrandts at the High museum a couple years ago that was slam packed with people, and artists were in the crowd trying to sketch. I couldn’t even get close to the ones at the High. At the VMFA, I was alone in the gallery with these small Rembrandts, except for a few visitors. And when they came in, I backed up so as not to hog the Rembrandts. And yet, I was stopped from sketching this in graphite pencil here in Richmond, but there it is online for anyone to lift. I don’t get it.

 

Agecroft Hall and Sunken Garden / underpainting / oil

on a violet tinted canvas

on a violet tinted canvas

I mixed up 3 shades of blue gray for my underpainting, so I could plan my lights and shadows. I decided to use cool grays for this because when I go over it with layers of warm glazes, they will visually lift off the underpainting. It’s fun to work on a violet tint. If you want to experience”lift” you should try it. The violet is kind of transparent and seems to rub off on your hands, even if it’s dry. You can tell when you paint on top of it that it’s coming right through the underpainting colors. That’s ok, because as I’m building up layers on top of the violet, I can totally kill the violet if I want to, or I can let it show through in places. I like when it shows through. I don’t know if others can see it in the end, or if I’m the only one who sees it because I put it there. But the violet continues to influence the glazes on top. If I let it show through in the shadows, it will be muted violet, not VIOLET!! haha. You know what I mean.

It’s a fun color theory experiment, and it works.

Black Eyed Susans / pastel study

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I worked on my sketch in the shade at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden for a while, then came home and worked on it again. It’s for a collage I’m doing for a show titled “Entangled”, happening at the Petersburg Art League, Fri. Oct. 14.

The theme Entangled is a collaborative show with visual artists doing an illustration for an author, and the author writing a poem for a painting. It’s always good for artists and writers to get together and exchange ideas. Artists find a lot of inspiration in in the other art forms.

I’m entered with my daughter, Sarah Hill, a writer. She wrote a book for teenage girls. The story is about a girl who’s mother is like Wonder Woman from another planet, and her dad is a normal human. The daughter has some super powers too, and the scene I’m illustrating is the chapter where the mother teaches the girl to fly. It’s a real fun subject to illustrate. And Sarah is writing a poem for one of my paintings. The poems and the paintings will be hung together.

I need to cut this sketch up into clumps of flowers for my collage, and arrange them in among the trees in their back yard. Then I can work again on my 2 figures floating slowly down to Earth. Doing the figures is kind of like making paper dolls for this collage. Fun stuff!!

If you’re in the area, you should make it to this opening. It will be great. People will be reading poetry and there will also be Latin Jazz and Salsa music.

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