Abstract patterns – Ink and Watercolor

I’ve been spending time thinking about patterns – how can we form good habits, why is the world the way it is and are recent events a repetition of past events?  The world around us is built on patterns and we look for them in all branches of science.  Our bodies respond to this arrangement; they adapt and become calmer when a pattern is recognized, even if it is subconscious.  Some patterns are so large that when we observe a small portion of the pattern, it seems chaotic instead of controlled.  The work below is my response to the patterns I’ve been observing.  This is the entire piece; I intentionally worked to the edges of the paper to give the impression of obscured sections.  This way the viewer is aware that they do not have a clear view of the array and to add an additional scale.  I began this work around the middle of December and it took me approximately fifteen hours to complete.


Large and Small Patterns - ink and watercolor, 9" x 12"

Large and Small Patterns – ink and watercolor, 9″ x 12″

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Update on Current Work

I’ve been working hard on some personal projects and I wanted to share some of them here.  The most recent piece, which I just finished today, is shown below.  It can be easy to focus a lot of time and energy into something that doesn’t help you achieve your goals.  I personally find that mindless internet surfing often feels relaxing, especially after a long day at work.  However, I don’t feel recharged or satisfied afterwards.  Usually, I feel drained, or wanting even more.  Then, I feel that I spent so much time on that wasteful activity that I’m even more behind on my responsibilities and that there isn’t time for the activities that make me feel whole.  We can’t do everything, and we only have so much time available to us.  So, I decided to create this painting as reminder of where I should direct my time and energy.

Watercolor, watercolor pencils, Strathmore 400 series coldpress watercolor paper

Watercolor, watercolor pencils, Strathmore 400 series coldpress watercolor paper

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Lancaster Museum of Art: Elizabeth Osborne – Veils of Color

I started this morning feeling distracted.  It was difficult to bring myself to the present as I drove down 501 towards Lancaster.  The day was cool; a fall cold front approached the clear atmosphere.  Going into any city on a week day is different from a weekend.  On a Wednesday, you see the real, working face of the neighborhood.  The weekend pretends to be something else, it caters to tourists and is full of one-time events.  I admired the architecture of downtown Lancaster as I made my way through the city.  When I passed locals on the street, I thought about how they get to see this beauty everyday.  On the edge of Musser Park is the Lancaster Museum of Art.  The museum is in a mansion surrounded by open space, set apart from the clusters of 1800’s brick businesses and homes.  The inside is intimate – the reception desk is in the hallway that runs to the back of the house and there are fireplaces in the two high ceiling galleries. The curator has chosen to arrange complimentary pairs of Elizabeth Osborne‘s paintings on opposite walls.  This creates a dynamic viewing experience as I find myself turning and walking around the room.  Her grand, bright paintings are reminiscent of color fields, but we can see she is expressing specific objects and landscapes.   In one of the pairings, the paintings are in separate galleries, so the viewer must gaze across the hallway.  The size and boldness of the paintings command the rooms, so you can feel that they are meant to be viewed from a distance.  Her imagery has a softness, like wet on wet watercolor, though the medium is oil.  Where humans appear, there are sharp details to the faces, especially the eyes and nose.  These become focal points as the details of the rest of the body and surroundings fade into impressions.  While I am not usually drawn to pure landscapes, Icarus, one of her “floating landscapes” was mesmerizing.   What I love about going to see art is the clarity that my mind feels afterwards.  Focusing on the experience that has been created helps me to redirect my thoughts to the present.  Osborne’s vibrant work will be on display until November 13th.

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Book Review: Slow Stitch: Mindful and Contemplative Textile Art

A few months ago, I won a of copy of Claire Wellesley-Smith’s Slow Stitch from TextileArtist.org.  It has a soft, fabric cover with an image of one of her indigo stitched experiments.  The photography is colorful and inspiring – a great picture book.  I’ve found myself picking it up many times to read sections of it, but then I end up staring at the pictures instead because they are that good.  It’s an inspirational journey book for textile artists, both new and experienced, and focuses on exploring historic techniques, repetition, and simplicity.  Themes that surface here: beauty of weathering, time, ancestry, and location.  She teaches artistic exploration and process for its own sake and the meditative states that can be entered while stitching.  The process of creation is connected with the seasons – spring, summer, fall for planting, growing, and harvesting dyestuffs, and winter for stitching.  Her use of simple, repetitive stitches helps to showcase the nuances created by the natural dyes of the fabric.

She encourages the reader in exploring these themes as well, which has led me to attempt dying fabric for the first time.  I have some Swiss chard in my garden that I thought would work well for this.  When chard leaves are sautéed, the resulting liquid is a meaty Merlot that I love.  The other night I had steamed some leaves for dinner and the leftover vibrant stems seemed perfect.  The book lists suggestions for dyeing, but I didn’t have any alum, so I decided to look for an alternative.  For my recipe, I used these instructions: http://www.diynatural.com/natural-fabric-dyes/.  I found that the stems do not seem to throw off as much color as the leaves and the dye bath began to lose its brightness after an hour of boiling.  However, this is probably a property of the  Swiss chard, so the next time I try, I’ll only use the leaves and heat them at a lower temperature for a shorter amount of time.


The bath is brownish-orange.



Two blocks of linen were dyed, one white, the other peach. An edge of the peach is visible on the left side.

The result was a slight darkening of the linen, a subtle effect that gives it a more natural look.  The difference is obvious in person, but not photographically.


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Nature Meets Technology: Susquehanna Art Museum

Today I spent the afternoon in downtown Harrisburg at the Susquehanna Art Museum.  The main gallery on the second floor had a split display.  As you walk through the glass doors, broad photographs of the Susquehanna River by John Pfahl set the tone.  A small map next to each image informs the viewer of the location.  Two walls have been added to square off the presentation.  This creates an intimate space which allows the viewer to be immersed in the photographer’s world.  The Susquehanna glows in these images, and the shadows show how the river has carved the land.  Locals are familiar with this subject, which connects them to others across our state and into New York and Maryland.  The world feels large and close at the same time.  The neighboring exhibit brings the closeness into focus.  Beth Galston‘s installation works take small bits of the natural world, then multiplies and enlarges them.  We go from Pfahl’s trees captured on paper to actual leaves trapped in resin.  “Ice Forest” allows viewers to walk through a field of suspended translucent rose stems which reflect the directed light and create delicate shadows along the walls and floor.  In a second darkened room, awaits Luminous Garden (Wave).  Resin cast water chestnuts become glowing flowers that fade and bloom again.  These two exhibits compliment each other: nature interpreted through technology.  However, the tools of each artist do not overpower the message of natural beauty, but instead directs and focuses the viewer’s attention.  The Luminous River: photography by John Pfahl and Recasting Nature: selected sculptures by Beth Galston will be on display until September 18th.

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Good Art, Bad Art: The Myth of Spontaneous Talent

There is a myth that great artistic inspiration and talent can flow out of an individual without prior experience or need for editing.  This isn’t possible.  No one becomes an Olympian or a physician, without years of training, so why would the arts be any different?  We are constantly influenced by our environment.  We lean on our prior experiences in order to make decisions.  The more frequently we have an experience, the more confident our actions become.  This is why, when you compare the artwork of an emerging artist and one who has practiced for many years you can see the confidence in the strokes, proportions and color selection.  It is also evident when examining an artist’s body of work.

Artistic talent is cultivated privately, in a good environment, through practice.  It is not inherent, or supernatural.  A lot of poorly executed and unsatisfactory work has to be produced first, before a good piece might be made.  Fascination can help an artist work through the time spent making sub par art.  Fascination with the subject matter and with technique.  This interest draws the artists attention away from the finished work and redirects it to the present.  The satisfaction of studying the moment becomes most important.  The act of creating art should be meditative and deliberate.  And joyful.

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Watercolor: Bowl of Fruit

This painting is based on a picture I took of a bowl of fruit a friend of mine created when I last visited her.  The colors were so vibrant and fresh I knew I would want to attempt a painting of it.


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