Japanese maples in springtime are perhaps even more striking than they are in the autumn. I did this watercolor a few years ago--it was inspired by a maple I saw at the Arboretum. It almost looks like fall color, but the pale scarlet is the glow of new leaves.
In my recent trip to NY I discovered some artists I'd never heard of, and some of them I absolutely loved, including Fortunato Depero, an Italian Futurist whose work is on exhibit at the fantastic exhibit on Italian Futurism at the Guggenheim Museum. What a perfect venue for this exhibit! This is probably one of the best art exhibits I've ever seen in a museum. This is saying alot because I don't agree with the Futurist agenda--but the presentation of history and design was so well-done, and then my discovery of Depero made it well worth looking at all the other art. In 1917, Depero created stage sets and designed marionettes for a theatrical event called "My Balli Plastici." It featured new music and was poorly received by critics, but the author of the Futurist Manifesto, Marinetti, loved the production. As a visual feast it must have been simply amazing. The Manifesto was a very controversial document, but some of the art and design that came out of Futurism inspired decades of artists, architects, typographers and designers. Some of it, 100 years old, still looks very new. I love Depero's work and how he looked at folk art and made something new out of it. There is a magic in his work that really speaks to me! Below you can see a canvas he painted which contains all the characters from "My Balli Plastici."
Yesterday I taught a workshop at Daniel Smith Artists' Materials; the work the students created was fantastic--this was perhaps one of the most enthusiastic groups I've ever taught there. Today I want to share some of their work; these first 3 are by Kevin Walsh, who also studied with me in the first workshop, and he's been working steadily at it since February. The first image employs different markmaking technqiues in a most creative and convincing way!
Kevin and several of the other students were very impressed with the power of black and white, so I am sharing the black and white prints today and tomorrow will proceed to color. Other students will remain nameless (my apologies, as I didn't get last names!)
Earlier this week I saw a lovely flowering currant beside one of the ponds at the Magnuson Park Wetlands; I know from one in my backyard that hummingbirds are drawn to them. Birdsong is audible everywhere, and alot of quacking from the waterfowl.
I took a picture of this Northern Flicker on one of the dead trees that were strategically placed when they re-designed the wetlands. I think I will bring it to the printmaking workshop I'm offering this Saturday at Daniel Smith Artist Materials in order to share with everyone how I use my photos and drawings to create prints.
This is a recent print that I created, using the techniques I will be teaching next Saturday. You can call the store at (206) 223-9599 to register for the workshop. Times are 11 to 4:30 and cost is $85. Last week while I was in New York I saw a very moving exhibit at the Neue Galerie entitled Degenerate Art. In 1937 Hitler had an exhibit of sanctioned art in Munich, and then across the street another exhibit of work deemed "degenerate", called Entartete Kunst, which featured artists whose work was inspired by the primitive, like much of the vanguard art of the 20th century. Well-known artists included Max Beckmann, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Oskar Kokoschka and Felix Nussbaum. Some of the earliest work inspired by African and Oceanic art was done by Die Brucke, a group from Dresden founded by Kirchner and another lesser known artist, Karl Schmidt-Rotluff, and woodblock prints were a very important part of their exploration of the power of the primitive. I've always admired the prints from that era. Each room of the Degenerate Art exhibit is disturbing in its impact as it juxtaposes state-approved "classical" art (very academic and hackneyed) and the much more powerful "primitive" art of the German Expressionists-- in each room text, photos and short period movies show how this culture of hatred set the stage for mass annihilation-- one room in particular has stuck in my mind: the Dresden room. On one side is a wall-sized enormous black and white aerial photo of Dresden before World War I, serving as a kind of wallpaper, with a beautiful oil portrait of the founders of Die Brucke by Kirchner. On the opposite wall is another enormous photo of the ruins of Dresden after the bombing of 1945. On that wall hang several woodblock prints by Schmidt-Rotluff depicting the life of Christ. Once again, the juxtaposition of imagery is deeply upsetting. It's an exhibit that I wish everyone could see. To know history is crucial.
This beautiful two-color print is by Linda McPherson, who tragically lost her life on Saturday in the Oso mudslide. Linda joined me as a student several times at the North Cascades Institute; she created this iris in a printmaking workshop last May. Before her retirement a couple of years ago, she was the librarian at Darrington Library (part of the Sno-Isle Library System) and generously hired me to drive up from Seattle and give programs there for the Darrington community; I usually came up in the spring and we always had a wonderful time and a great turnout, thanks to Linda's enthusiasm. We painted trees, and flowers, and mountains and in the last times I came up, we both marveled at the spectacular view of White Horse Mountain, which she dearly loved, from the new library. I will miss her bright and inquiring mind, and the beautiful work of her hands.
I've just returned from a trip to New York City where I visited family. I walked in the Ramble at Central Park, and stopped by the Ramble Arch which I always pay homage to when I am there. This time I noted the dramatic cast shadows on the Arch. I also made a special point of photographing the allee of elms on the way to Belvedere Terrace, written about most movingly recently in the New York Times. Here, too, the cast shadows were quite notable later in the afternoon, and in both the passage of time was marked by the position of the shadows. In winter in the Northeast where there is little growth or color to catch the eye, the shadows seem more important, and that reminded me of the shadows cast by architecture that I saw in Italy, in particular the long shadows of the Torre Mangia in Siena, which acts like a sundial in the Campo. It occurred to me that in winter in the midwest and northeast parts of the US, deciduous trees perform that same sundial function.
One of the highlights of the trip was getting to see Waiting for Godot at the Cort Theater on Broadway, starring Patrick Stewart as Vladimir and Ian McKellen as Estragon, with Billy Crudup as Lucky and Shuler Hensley as Pozzo. I loved how warmly Stewart and McKellen played off each other--they brought such a sweet humanity to that friendship. I also thought Crudup was amazing as Lucky with his beautiful crazy soliloquy. We stood in line with lots of young people to get less expensive rush tickets to a matinee and it was so much fun to watch the play with them. They responded to the great performances with alot of genuine laughter. It was not the darkest interpretation I've ever seen! And I loved the set, by Stephen Lewis, with its graceful tree, which I thought created a less forbidding wasteland. I don't see why the play has to be interpreted so grimly...for me there is alot of lightness in it, beginning with the ridiculous vaudeville humor. The lighting direction, too, was wonderful (by Peter Kaczorowski)--times of day were obvious from the cast shadows of the tree. The changes in the tree, with cast shadows marking time and the growth of a leaf from day 1 to day 2 were infinitesmally small, but significant anyway, markers of hope. I felt very privileged to see this remarkable production!
I recently finished a watercolor painting of new dogwood blossoms that I encountered in late April on the roadside in the North Cascades. Each year I take several trips up Highway 20 which traverses North Cascades National Park. This year once again I am teaching for the North Cascades Institute's Environmental Learning Center; a list of the workshops follows. I was honored to share the painting with the marketing folks at the Institute to help promote the Nature of Writing for spring 2014, speaking events they are co-sponsoring at Village Books in Bellingham. Often when I am up at the Learning Center I see something amazing; these blossoms were among the more unusual sights that April day. Before that I didn't know that native Pacific dogwood blossoms were so green and delicate when first opening. I also loved how they looked against the huge granite boulder, with mahonia and moss alongside. The following is a list of the 3 workshops I am teaching this season at the Institute; you can read about each of them on their website and registration is now open.
Printmaking with Ink and Watercolor, May 23-25
Landscape Watercolor in the North Cascades, June 20-22
Autumn Palette: Painting the Flora & Fauna of the North Cascades, October 17-19
I just finished teaching a travel journal class, and created a small sewn signature sketchbook, with the help of Claire Russell who taught the class with me. We used Fabriano 90 lb. cold press watercolor paper and I've probably filled up almost half the sketchbook already. I like the way it accepts ink, and this sketch pictured left shows Santa Maria della Salute in Venice, where I'll be teaching through Il Chiostro in October of 2014. I started with a small pencil sketch, went over it with fine point pen (I'm using Pigma Micron .01 size), and then tinted it lightly with watercolor. The size of this journal is perfect for sketching on location--it fits neatly in my purse. It's going to work great in Venice when we find ourselves in the major piazze and more crowded locations. Many artists have painted the Salute, but Mark Van Doren in his wonderful book An Artist in Venice says that many have failed to achieve the proper proprotions of the 3 domes. He names Turner and Moran--only Canaletto succeeded, and he says it may be because he used the camera obscura. I totally enjoyed sketching this--proportions were not my major focus--it is the beautiful color of the blue domes that called out to me! Henry James wrote that it was the ...destiny of Venice to be painted...and painted with passion.
Here is a photo of my small sketchbook, covered with beautiful paper made by Il Papiro.