Autumn Feeds My Soul

Perhaps it’s because I’m an October baby.

Perhaps it’s the sight of skinny scarecrows in their denim & flannel, standing watch over dried cornfields.

Perhaps it’s the growing darkness & thinning of the veil that lets us receive messages more clearly from those who have passed.

For all those reasons, and more, October feeds my soul.  I feel a greater connection to all that is across time & space, a humble sense of awe for the beauty around me, & a quieting of my spirit.

My sister called with a very simple wish to fulfill… “We need a traditional fall experience.  Fi and I will be there Friday night.”  She need not say any more.  I knew exactly the kind of experience they would love– a crisp, cool day on a farm.

Farm 6

The next morning, we parked near the farmhouse surrounded by orchards dotted with bright red apples & fields dotted with bold orange pumpkins of all sizes.  A John Deere tractor, pulling a wagon, stopped so we could climb aboard & sit on hay bales as the driver took us up to the orchard.

Farm 2

Armed with empty bags, we jumped down & wandered among the trees, looking for apples to pick.  Not all of them made it into our bags… one apple the size of a grapefruit tempted us too much.  Like three Eves, we took enormous bites, letting the juice run down our wrists & soak our sleeves.

We munched leisurely & made our way to the pumpkin patch.  Men & women of my generation will understand the reason why I immediately pictured Linus hugging a blue blanket, waiting patiently for the Great Pumpkin to arrive.  (Secretly, I want to see him, too.)  Choosing a pumpkin was difficult, for how do you choose the perfect pumpkin when they are all perfect?  A young man with pruning sheers clipped the stems of our chosen pumpkins & we rolled the orbs into our arms, trying hard not to spill the bags of apples.  Now we were both sticky & a bit dirty but isn’t that what it’s all about?… enjoying the moment to the fullest?

Farm 4

By now, our cheeks & noses were as red as our apples & it was time to go but not before my sister & niece posed for one last photo.

Farm 5

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”  LM Montgomery

Shades of Green

The grey of a coming storm brings an electric sizzle to the air & an unrivaled brilliance to colors in my back garden, especially the greens.  Like a photographer arranging a neutral backdrop to enhance the colors in her subject, Mother Earth enhances the hues in nature by rolling grey clouds across the skyscape.

rainy day 1

As the most recent storm approaches, I stare out the window of my sunporch, marveling at the greens & laughing at my inability to name them all, despite growing up with the world-famous box of 64 Crayola crayons with the sharpener in the back.  Let’s see, there was green-blue, blue-green, yellow-green, green-yellow, olive green, sea green, forest green (like that’s one color!!), & just plain “green”. 

rainy day 2

I run outside in the first fat raindrops, absorbing the countless greens of the entire garden at their most vibrant.   I get closer to my viburnum shrub, still countless shades of green on one plant.  Zooming in, closer still, I see countless greens in just one leaf.   

rainy day 3

Grey days are anything but dreary!     Grabbing my camera, I make a vain attempt to capture the many shades of green in my garden before the clouds shift & take some of the brilliance with them. One hot, summer day in the not too distant future, the attention-seeking sun will bleach many of the greens, turning them to dry browns.  Rather than lament the loss, I’ll cheerfully count the reds of berries & blossoms or the yellows of peppers & squash.  There’s always something wonderful to experience in the garden, every second of every day of the year.

 

Roots: Art That Grounds Me

I’ve started a new series of paintings collectively called “Roots”.  While hiking last autumn, I marveled at the intricate root systems jutting out from trees growing on the hillside along the trail.  The roots meandered in & out of the soil, animating trees that seemed so solid & stoic.  I took several photographs, knowing they would be subjects of later artwork.

Roots 1

Roots 2I find a comforting familiarity when Mother Nature speaks to me through the chirping of birds, the look in a doe’s eyes, or the rustling wind in the fuzzy limbs of a fir tree.  As I walked the damp, leaf-covered trail that grey autumn afternoon, these roots beckoned me to come closer & hear their message.  “Stay grounded & rooted in the present.”  In my energy work & shamanic practice, I completely understand the importance of being grounded.  Roots are the perfect symbol for that message, being both roots and “rooted” & reminding me to stay connected to all that is.

When thoughts and emotions run high, leaving us in a state of “dis-ease”, we can find comfort in nature… standing barefoot on the land…gazing at the clouds… letting snowflakes settle on our upturned faces… listening to the rain with eyes closed…  allowing ourselves to be children again.  This sacred connection to the earth can relieve symptoms of dis-ease before they manifest in the body as disease.

Nature inspires me in all of her wondrous forms.  Roots are no exception.  Here are the first two stages of my artistic process.  I hope to share the finished work with you soon.

Root Project

Caran D’Ache water-soluble pastels are perfect for sketching directly onto canvas.

Roots in progress

Playing with color combinations… with varying degrees of success.

Let the Sun Shine In

Let the Sun Shine In — a celebration of creative energy on a 12-inch square canvas!  It’s been a few weeks since I returned from my retreat at the Omega Institute yet only now am I beginning to communicate that experience visually in my artwork.  The image of the sun seems the perfect symbol for this exciting new phase in my life.
Let the Sun Shine In

As you can see from a page in my sketchbook, I knew the composition almost immediately but had a “traditional” (i.e. boring) color scheme in mind.  When I started rummaging through my fabrics, paints, & beads, the vibrancy of the materials inspired a new direction with a bolder color palette.  I released my preconception of what the piece “should be” & allowed myself to go forward with a greater sense of freedom & pleasure in the process.

A page from my sketchpad.

I made the multicolored rays using bits of fabric but intentionally saved the more ornate beadwork for the core of the sun, the source of the energy.

The sun has been a source of inspiration for cultures since the beginning of time, symbolizing creation, energy, & transformation.  We, like the sun, carry that positive energy inside of us &  it’s up to us to shine our unique light into the world.  Namaste!

Check out the art I have for sale at www.etsy.com/shop/PureSusan

Playing with Color

Last weekend was cold & rainy, perfect for playing with my art supplies on the enclosed porch– listening to the rain, watching the birds chase one another, & looking at all my colored pencils, paints, & markers.  On this grey day, I needed color.

It’s so hard for me to decide what to play with first.  I’m addicted to it all… opaque watercolors, Prismacolor pencils, paint markers, acrylics, metallic ink,… the list is endless!  I feel like a child in a toy store every time I enter an art supply shop. Don’t even ask me about handmade papers, soft bristle brushes, & sketchbooks.  My imagination takes flight just thinking of the possibilities.

After a few moments of contemplation, I decided to use the opaque watercolors, fine tip markers, acrylics, & a corrective pen on bristol board.  My objective:  simply to PLAY.  I used some of the techniques Alisa Burke mentions in her on-line class “The Art of Abstraction” and combined them with other techniques that spring to mind as the color spreads across the white paper.

Here are the results.

It started with tangerine. Then, I added lime and raspberry colors for a fruity, fresh abstract piece painted with acrylics. Black is added to lead the eye around the paper.

I absolutely adore Prussian Blue!! That was the first color I chose before adding maroon & deep green. I painted strokes of black & white for contrast. The corrective pen gave me some fine white details.

Opaque watercolors were painted with a wet, sloppy brush so they could run in different directions. Black added with a fine tip marker & smudged with my finger. White swirls & splashes dance across the paper. I love the lighthearted feel to this piece.

These pieces are intentionally quick & emotional, quite unlike my usual collages & paintings.  By playing with the materials rather than starting with a plan (a vision of the finished piece in my mind), I could let things just happen.  I could be surprised.  I could have FUN.

When is the last time you had fun for fun’s sake?  Set some time aside soon.

I’m a Tree

I’m a tree when it comes to my art, rooted in the solid earth of knowledge & experience

while reaching my limbs to the sky for inspiration & a fresh outlook.

Although I have professional experience in such diverse areas such as screen printing, collage, glass engraving, & graphic design, I’m always willing to learn more about my craft.  I love what I do but I want to keep growing creatively.

Where can we go to grow?  Local colleges, art associations, & community centers offering adult ed classes are good places to start the search.  On-line workshops make it possible for us to study with artists from around the world.  Right now, I’m sitting on the East coast while studying with Alisa Burke, a West coast artist.  “The Art of Abstraction”, one of her on-line workshops, is giving me the opportunity to revisit some old skills in a brand new way.  Check out this class & all of her others by clicking here-  Alisa Burke workshops

This class is exactly what I need, a reminder to “PLAY” with color, line, & form.  Alisa doesn’t ask me to forget my BFA degree or years of experience; she asks me to let go of the rules & let my intuition take over.

What do you need for personal or artistic growth?  Whatever it is, I hope you find it, too.

Little Feathered Muses

I absolutely love every season of the year, appreciating the beauty in snow hanging on tree limbs, fireflies glittering in a summer night, & autumn leaves blanketing the park where we love to hike.  But what gets my creative “sap”
flowing after months of tired browns & greys are the energetic pastels of spring– joyful blues, yellows, greens, & pinks.  My senses celebrate every fresh breeze, budding tree, & blooming daffodil.  This past week, I’ve especially delighted in soaring, swooping, singing birds– my little feathered muses.

Over the past 6 years, I’ve turned a barren backyard into a wildlife sanctuary full of native plants, bird feeders, & a stone birdbath hoping to provide a habitat for birds who, in turn, provide inspiration for me.

I laugh out loud, watching songbirds & robins inspect the 18+ birdhouses I have scattered around my property.  They’re looking for the perfect place to have their babies.  They flit from one house to another, peering inside, considering their options.  Location, location, location.  I’ve seen Househunters & Househunters International on HGTV but I can only imagine a series called Househunting for the Birds 🙂  The comical scene inspired me to grab my sketchbook & get cozy on the sunporch.

I just bought Grumbacher’s Opaque Watercolours so I turn my favorite birdhouses into a quick watercolor study so I can play with my new art supplies.  First, I wash yellow ochre over each house.  Then, I go back over them with richer colors.  Lastly, I use a permanent black fine-point marker to add an outline & details.

A light wash of color makes the composition cohesive.

Rich, earthy colors give the piece interest & depth.

A fine-tip marker gives detail.

Inspiration isn’t far away when my muse is in my own backyard.

Artists Are Inspiration

My soul sighed with satisfaction this past week because of the abundance of inspiration around me.  It’s been wonderful!  First, we watched the 2006 BBC miniseries, The Impressionists, on DVD.  This well-written, breathtakingly-beautiful series is told from Claude Monet’s point of view.  The series is based on letters, notes, & diaries so the information is highly accurate.  I learned that Monet ocassionally painted more than one canvas at a time so he could continue to work as the light changed the appearance of his subject.  Each episode is full of gorgeous scenery that makes me completely understand why Money, Renoir, & the others found it so inspirational.  The series also shows their actual paintings so you can see how the scenery was interpreted by each man.  Highly recommend this for anyone whose eyes hunger for beauty & vibrant color.

Second, a friend shared Van Gogh: The Life by Steven Naifeh & Gregory White Smith with me.  As soon as I saw the book (that she had to lift out of her totebag with both hands), I exclaimed, “Ooooh” out loud as my eyes opened wide with wonder.  It’s a massive biography at close to 900 pages but it, too, is full of photos & works that I had never seen before.  I bought a copy so I have time to read it before my artist friends & I take a trip to Philadelphia to see the Van Gogh exhibit next month.  I’m about 100 pages into it & have to say that it is extremely detailed.  For example, I didn’t know that Van Gogh was working in Paris at the same time the Impressionists were shaking up the art world.  (Gauguin was a stockbroker in Paris at that time, too.)  All that brilliant talent coming together in one place at one time.  Synchronicity… destiny… fate.

Lastly, a dear friend sent me the following link that shows 500 years of the female portrait.  Take the time to watch; you’ll be amazed!

http://www.angelfire.com/ak2/intelligencerreport/portraits_women.html

Each of these has been a feast for my eyes & nourishment for my soul.  I hope you find what inspires you this week.

A Muse for My Art

Muses are the people, places, & things that are important to me– from baby turtles hatching on a beach to the mourning dove cooing in her nest.  Fi-Fi-Fiesta is a piece inspired by one such muse– my sassy niece.  Staring at a blank canvas, I thought of her, a “child of light” (those are her words) & asked, “What colors represent Fi’s free spirit?”  I swirled & twirled summer-sky blue, tangerine orange, & sunny yellow over the canvas in large bubbles– effervescent like she is.  Notice I don’t call colors by the names on the tubes.  For me, it’s not about Prussian Blue or Cadmium Red… it’s about an inky night sky or eating a candied apple at a fall festival.  Color is about emotion & capturing the spirit of my subject.

I thought of the girl who beckons the sky for rain, sings at the top of her lungs when we’re kayaking, & picks herbs from my garden to put in a pouch so she can smell them long after her visit with me is over.  This piece is about energy, her zest for life.  I put a pop of color at the top of the canvas & cut up bits of paper to sprinkle like confetti all over the piece.  Something still isn’t quite right.  I take an Exacto knife & carve two large patches in the canvas.  I’ve never done this before but it seems right that this piece is multidimensional.  The two holes look like flames of a candle.  That’s it!!  Her phrase, “child of the light”, rings in my ears.  I adhere gold brocade to the back of the canvas.  Now, her light shines.

Check out the art I have for sale at www.etsy.com/shop/PureSusan

Fi-Fi-Fiesta: inspired by my niece