March 12, 2018

Plastic is in EVERYTHING!

Plastics and synthetic polymers are slowly invading every aspect of our lives, to the detriment of ourselves and the planet we live on. I'm sure that you have seen images and video of the massive amounts of plastics that end up buried in the earth and floating in the ocean. 

Embarrassingly enough, it takes me a while to fully comprehend this fact in regards to various aspects of my life. Even my clothes are made of plastic and won't biodegrade?! Oh.....

"What about my art materials?"

I started using acrylic paints when I was in High School (in the 1980's), and it certainly did not cross my mind to question my art teachers or even consider that this was actually non-biodegrading plastic. 

The fact is, every time someone pours water, filled with unused acrylic paint, down the drain or into the earth, it doesn't "go away".  Although it is labeled "non-toxic", it does not return to a basic chemical that micro-organisms can consume to enrich soil. These tiny particles will enter our water supply, and we will drink it. Would you drink the water that you've cleaned your paint brush in? When you think of the fact that all house and commercial building paint, both interior and exterior, are made of acrylics and have been for well over a decade, you may already be drinking plastic particles. 

 "What did we do before plastic?"

It is a strange thing to have lived long enough to be able to answer this question, and even stranger still to go to the hardware or art supply store looking for the materials of your youth to see that it has been replaced by a synthetic polymer or is simply no longer being made. 

I have noticed a disturbing trend in art supplies. Acrylic paint is now being re-marketed as watercolor, gouache and even oil paint. "Water based" oil paint is simply re-marketed acrylic paint! Oil and water never mix. Don't be fooled!  

Yet, I have used acrylic paints for years and plastics are still a part of my life. Well, now I am going to try other ways to create my art. I will be sharing my experiments and experiences here. 

Stay tuned...

March 4, 2018

A New Painting of a Beast

Most of the time, when I paint in oils, I create something that looks somewhat realistic. I often have a particular finished piece in my mind as I begin. This time, I decided to simply let the creative process decide what was going to happen.  But what subject should I paint? A Beast, that's what. 

This is the Whozeewhatsit.

This is one of the more abstract Beasts that might transform into an interesting painting. 

I love the smell, texture and rich colors of oil paint!

The Beasts are rather small. They rarely are taller than 6 or 7 inches. This painting is 14" x 20", which is large for me. Because the Whoozeewhatsit is mostly white and black, I decided to use a great deal of white paint in this piece, which is also unusual for me.

Here is the beginning:

 I wanted to let the painting happen as it wanted to, and I found that it took far more time than I had thought it would. Painting is a process of endless decisions. Yet, the colors were chosen intuitively. I found myself mixing bright, vibrant colors which reminded me of the children's illustrations of the 1960's and 70's. They were so bright, geometric and boldly colorful.

Here is the finished painting.

A detail:

October 8, 2017

Summer With Georges Bête 2017

Georges Bête and I had a wonderful and adventurous summer! We went on nature walks all over NYS, ate at interesting restaurants and swam a lot.

In the depths of nature.

Georges is very patient about me asking him to pose for pictures. He is also an artist, so he understands, completely. 

We found a room for him in a tree stump. 

This is NYS! I felt like we were in the forests of Endor!

We decided to "hike" from the northern end of Central Park, NYC to the southern end. Neither of us had ever done that before. In the North Woods, we found this rock carving! Georges wanted his picture taken next to this renegade, public art.

We saw many famous parts of the park that we'd known of through children's books and paintings, but had never visited. Here is the pond with remote controlled sail boats. Nearby is the sculpture of Hans Christian Anderson. 

Beautiful and delicate public art that had obviously been repaired many times. 

Then on another spontaneous trip, we stumbled upon an unusual restaurant. It was called The Toadstool Inn. 

At our table. 

Georges especially liked the place because they had the same bowl that he, himself was gifted by Laura Bortman this summer. 

Great meal!

Off again, to Shaupeneak Ridge

For swimming!

Thank you, Summer 2017!

En Plein Air Spring 2017

In late spring 2017, I took a vacation specifically to spend time around waterfalls to study how water moves. I started working with oil paint, but I ended with pencil drawings.

This was painted at Skaneateles, NY, and is of a stream. The reflection on the water from the overhead trees was so green, that it looks like a carpet rather than moving water. 

Skaneateles, NY

A closer look.

This was painted in the Catskill Mountains. What a thing to drag all the necessary items for oil painting through the woods while climbing over rocks in the streams! 

Catskill State Park. I spent a long time at this spot. It was chilly, with a steady wind flowing over the cool water. 

Catskill State Park

Devil's Tombstone Campground, NY

Painting and drawing outdoors is a joy. I find that it's easy to get overwhelmed by all the detail in nature. So, I have to remind myself to just start and keep at it and resist impatience. 

Frog Sculpture

This sculpture is called, Honor to the Frog.

Many years ago, I had been a member of the 171 Cedar Arts Center in Corning, NY. At that time, I enjoyed using the ceramic studio and that was when I'd made this frog head. I happened upon a wonderful glaze that was brown with mottled blue / green spots. I thought that would be perfect for a frog. Gratefully another artist was in the ceramic studio at that time. She told me to apply the gaze heavily in order to get that effect. I would not have known! So, the chin and underneath is a light glaze while the rest was applied thickly. 

It had always been my intention to put in glass frog eyes, and I'd recently taken a porcelain doll making workshop where we learned how to affix eyes into doll heads. Unfortunately, there had been a slight bump in the ceramic frog, which kept the glass eye from sitting in the socket correctly. I very nervously used an electric sander to smooth it down. I was afraid that it would break the piece!

The oil painting on the base illustrates the transformation of tadpole to mature frog.

The base and feet are made of wood, and the underside is covered with copper foil. The foil will change color over the years, which somehow seems very frog like.

Size: 6'' x 3'' x 5.5''

May 22, 2017

Puppet Making for the Center for Symbolic Studies

Every spring the Center for Symbolic Studies holds a special festival to celebrate Beltane.

A bit like a miniature Renaissance Faire, people attend in their colorful finery and we all sit on the grass to listen to musicians and watch the Vanaver Caravan perform the annual pagent. Every year, a new theme is chosen for the pagent, but there is always the banishing of winter and welcoming of summer. 
Many wonderful, larger than life puppets have been made by various people, but especially Robin Larsen. They are used during the procession or sometimes in the pagent itself. 

Last summer, I decided to create a new puppet. I offered two designs and the Jester design won. Well, it took a lot longer to make that puppet than I had thought it would!

When I decided to make this puppet, I imagined him dancing around the crowd, telling jokes and making fun of people. 

I didn't expect that he would be in the pagent, or that he'd be one of the main players! I also didn't expect to be the actor IN the puppet!!!!

In this year's story a prince is on his way to court to be crowned the new King of May, but the he does not know the way. The Jester lies to him, saying that he knows the way and leads him into the forest. 

When the times comes to crown the new king, he is nowhere to be found, so the Jester suggests that riddles be told to chose a new May King. Three riddles are told, but no one knows what the answers are. The Jester says, "I know a riddle!" and whispers it into the riddle master's ear. 

The riddle is, "What's in my pocket?" and the Jester says, "I know....a sausage!" and since he knows the answer he is crowned the new King, but the May Queen is instantly suspicious. 

The New King, admits to being a Fool, and so says that he needs an adviser and chooses... the Winter King (puppet)! Winter comes back bringing a Blizzard Beast (stilted puppet)! The May Queen's champion challenges the beast and vanquishes it. From the dead beast springs a youth who does some pretty amazing gymnastics (especially from the back of a horse!) and they both ride off together. 

The Queen decides that this sillies must end, and she calls her dancers to do a special staff dance that thwarts the Winter King, and as he lays down, we discover that the lost May Prince was underneath the Winter King the whole time and is under a spell. The Queen kisses him, and he returns to our world. 

The Jester's crown is taken from him and places on the head of the rightful king. The Jester shrugs and says, "It was fun while it lasted!"

The End

P.S. There were a small crew of people who contributed to the making of this puppet! It was tremendous fun to participate in every aspect of this character, from the making, story development and even performance. The hilarious voice of the puppet was done by Carl Welden.

October 17, 2016

The Concrete Beast is Finished!

This is the latest Beast! It is 3 feet tall and made with styrofoam and layers of concrete. 

I had wanted its arms to move, but with the guidance of artist and builder of many wonderful things, Mark Girard, we decided that the arms must be securely attached...with aluminum nails...really long aluminum nails. And all the seams were filled with caulk.

At the location, where the beast will live, I built added height to the foundation

and covered it with layers of concrete! It was my first time working with this medium. I used Mortar Mix type N, and the first two bags had a super fine aggregate, like sand, which resulted in a super smooth layer. But the last bag, which was the last layer on the entire sculpture, had large grit in it. This made a more rough exterior. Oh well.

I was very proud of my accomplishment!

Knowing that this process would take weeks, my dear friends created a tent from a tarp to keep off any rain.  

Well, although there were some misty days with a drop or two, it didn't really rain. We are in a severe drought. Please may it rain.

Ken - tent maker extraordinaire. 

Jessica - beast friend extraordinaire.

Then came the day when the beast form arrived at the site. 

I began by working all of the undercut sections. First a slurry of concrete, then fiberglass mesh (the concrete oozes through the space between the fibers, holding it in place, and the mesh gives an additional layer of structure. 

To my dismay, I discovered that concrete does not adhere to undercut areas well AT ALL! Just when you think you've finally got a layer stuck, and you trowel that whole layer falls off! Gah! Sometimes it's great to be wearing a respirator on your face, because people can't hear you curse! (It's important to not inhale concrete dust.)

Maybe there's a secret that I don't know about, but I stuck with it and sloooowly I got layers to stick. 

The beast is looking a bit uncertain!

Where are my legs? Well, I knew where they were all right. Working so close to the ground, I crawled, stooped, squatted and actually lay down to apply concrete. Afterwards, my legs had something to say about all of that stretching!

Here's an example of a spot where the mesh needed to be covered. The fingers were a particular challenge as gravity wanted to pull any concrete I applied to the ground. Over and over again, I'd gently tap some concrete onto the form, hoping it would stay put. I found that using small amounts helped. The fingers ended up far more bumpy than I would have liked, but at a certain point, once I had them covered, I was afraid to look at them let alone touch them! Even a swift press of a trowel would have undone painstakingly slow work. 

The beast was all covered, but then suddenly, I knew there needed to be toes. I had always felt that this beast wanted toes, but when I had made them out of styrofoam for the basic form, it hadn't looked right. So, I'd thought, "Okay. No toes." But the beast thought otherwise! Concrete toes. 

Sometimes the expression of a beast takes a lot of trial and error before it appears. Not so with this one. And I would never had expected this look!

I used a white primer to seal it up. 

Suddenly the sculpture had a Presence. Still, it looked anemic, and just like making the first mark on a fresh piece of beautiful paper, I was nervous on what colors to use and what the overall look would be.  Jessica had mentioned that she liked the color of the styrofoam beast. So, I took a scrap to the local art supply store and looked at the spray paints. 

I have never used spray paint before, and I was looking forward to doing so! Tricky to chose paint color based on its tiny plastic cap! I wish that when I told the guy at the art store that I was a newbie, he would have mentioned that the nozzles can clog with paint! I got down to one nozzle that I had to switch between cans of different colors!! It was silly. 

I worked my way into a frenzy of paint application! Back and forth between two different blues, white and silver. 

I was so in the mode of painting, I didn't stop to take pictures of my progress. When I first applied the blues, they seemed so bright and colorful! However, the end result is a rather light pastel thing. The face was the last to be painted, and the pink spray paint was too forceful. I could not get a soft gradation, so I opted to work with paint brushes. I sprayed a piece of paper, and then dip the brush into that. 

Once those rosy cheeks were just as the beast wanted, I knew that I'd done my job. This project began in June, and now, 5 months later...finished.