Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Seeing Like an Artist, part 2

Recently I shared this thought with my friends and followers on Instagram:

Spending time in close observation of an object in pursuit of a faithful drawing is a little like gazing into someone's eyes. Like a deepening compassion, I found my understanding of the form growing with every drawing I made of these origami peace cranes in different positions as birds in flight. 

Click through to Instagram to see two of the series in their final incarnation as miniature paintings. "Aloft #1" and "Aloft #2", each 6" x 6" acrylic painting on canvas.

One of those friends, who has been an inspiration to me in both art and motherhood since I met her when my oldest child was still a toddler, had this sweet observation to make:

"like gazing into someone's eyes... 
that's cuz the world is made of love when the eyes of the heart see it"

After the tragic events in Charlottesville, VA this past weekend it feels important to me to return to this idea of seeing the world through the eyes of the heart. In that spirit, I want to share with you the linocut art of Imprints of Love and artist/poet Valencia Wombone.

In her artist statement, Valencia writes:
"The images on our currency tell the stories of our white men ancestors who left legacies of domination, violence and occupation.  In response to this money story, I began to make linoleum block prints of ancestors who left legacies of love to be expanded upon in our lifetimes.  I used scavenged paper and materials to illuminate the universal availability of love currency.  Motivated by the life, struggles and triumphs of Sojourner Truth, I started divining an A-Z compendium of ancestors who have left their guiding legacies to the current movements of love and liberation in my own life."
                                                                                              -- Valencia Wombone

Friday, July 7, 2017

My First Group Art Exhibition

Today I am celebrating!

A local art gallery where I have taken several classes, artEast in Issaquah, WA is putting on an exhibition of work developed by art students and the artists who taught them. I submitted two of my relief prints and one of my acrylic paintings and all three were accepted to the show.

It is so incredibly exciting to have my art hanging in a gallery for the first time!

relief prints by Julie Bazuzi exhibited in artEast gallery Issaquah, WA

"Sunset Fox"
relief print, 8x10 framed
artEast Gallery exhibition

"Port Townsend Pier"
relief print, 11x14in framed
artEast Gallery exhibition

Artist and teacher Jacqui Beck (left) and me (right)
at the artEast Teach: LEARN exhibit opening July 2017

"Trail Walkers"
acrylic & mixed media, 11x14in
artEast Gallery exhibition

I've been thinking a lot lately about a post I wrote at the end of last year: Art, Synchronicity and Saying Yes. I'll share again a wonderful quote from The Artist's Way:

"We like to pretend it is hard to follow our heart's dreams. The truth is, it is difficult to avoid walking through the many doors that will open. Turn aside your dream and it will come back to you again. Get willing to follow it again and a second mysterious door will swing open."
-- Julia Cameron

After the harrowing experience this past winter of having my son spend five days in the ICU and finding out that he has a medical condition that will be with him the rest of his life, it took me a while to start making art regularly again. He and I have both come a long way in the last six months since I wrote about our challenges and blessings. He's adapted incredibly well to all the new protocols, and finger pokes, and injections.

His maturity and cheerful spirit have made it possible again for me to find time and space in our days to get back to making art. So when artEast gallery put out the call for student art, and then both my teachers, Leslie Nan Moon and Jacqui Beck, sent me emails about the exhibition as a past student, I felt that mysterious door swinging open.

Who knows where it will lead?

I'm excited to find out.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Nature-Inspired Relief Printing

Sometimes I wonder why I am such a magpie when it comes to art forms, materials, and techniques. I flit from painting to pen and ink to relief printmaking to figure drawing to colored pencil to Zentangle... And I've mentioned before that whenever I go into the art store I want two of everything.

I wonder when will I settle into a primary focus, if not for good then just for a period of time long enough to create a cohesive body of work? Then the other day I came across this quote by Kandinsky:
"The artist may use any form which his expression demands... A deliberate search for personality and 'style' is not only impossible, but comparatively unimportant."
--Vassily Kandinsky
Kandinsky's statement that "the artist may use any form which his expression demands" is reassuring to me. Rather than unfocused and spoiled for choice, perhaps I'm just stockpiling materials and techniques, so that whenever inspiration hits, I have what I need right at hand.

On that note... I took a second workshop in relief printmaking in April with Leslie Nan Moon and after this fun refresher I finally bought myself some lino blocks and softkut, carving tools, and relief printing inks. Since then I've been working on a collection of nature-inspired designs.

sunset fox linocut relief print art card
Sunset Fox
relief print,  5" x 7", ink on paper

black crow linocut relief print art card
relief print,  5" x 7", ink on paper
These prints begin life as a drawing, either in my sketchbook or directly on the block. Next, I carefully hand-carve the block to remove everything but the design to be printed.

carving lino block relief printmaking tools
carving my fox design into battleship gray linoleum
block using Speedball carving tools

I choose my colors and roll a thin layer of ink onto the block, aligning the paper gently on top. I apply pressure to the back of the paper by hand or with a Japanese bamboo barren to transfer the ink from the plate to the paper. Often I burnish a second time with the back of a metal spoon making sure to catch all the details.

red yellow ink rainbow roll relief printmaking
Here I have rolled out a thin layer of red and yellow ink,
carefully creating a smooth blend that reminds me of a sunset.

ink brayer barren spoon tools for relief printing by hand
tools for relief printing by hand (from left to right):
Japanese bamboo barren, softkut carved block,
spoon, brayer, ink and inking plate
Finally, the magical moment arrives as I peel the paper off the block to reveal the print. Each print is an original work of art. Small variations show the hand of the artist and make each one unique. Then the prints hang to dry for several days, or even a week if it's especially cool or humid.

relief prints hanging to dry
relief prints hanging to dry

I've even found a home for lessons learned from Zentangle by using line and pattern to create texture, like in these ocean waves.

Blue Sky Wave linocut art card
Blue Sky Waves
relief print, 5" x 7", ink on paper
If you'd like to know more about various types of printmaking with and without a press, I've found the videos by Belinda Del Pesco to be a valuable introduction.

You can also see more of photos of my relief prints on Instagram:

Thursday, April 27, 2017

How I Start Making Art Again

I'm back to painting again, finally! It's almost always in the back of my mind... color, pattern, ideas that slip through my thoughts often too fast for me to hold on to them. So often gone by the time I manage to carve out some time to get out my paints.

acrylic painting abstract figures work in progress
Beginning with an abstract background, I use negative shape painting
to carve out abstract figures. This work in progress will go through
several more layers and stages before it's finished.
I do my best when the paints are always out, taking over the dining room table for days at a time and I can walk right over and start painting without any set-up time. But then life and family need the space again and I pack everything away. I want a space where I can keep the paint out all the time, and I'm slowly transforming our spare room into a space where I hope that will happen.

In the meantime, one of the best things I do for myself when I'm in a creative rut (or just having trouble taking time to myself away from the responsibilities of family) is to sign up for a weekend art workshop. In March I took a class on Expressive Acrylic and Mixed Media with artist Jacqui Beck.

Jacqui was a delightful and very knowledgeable teacher. The time flew by and I would definitely take more of her classes. I'm already somewhat familiar with a variety of mixed media techniques but I learned several new tools to add to my repertoire. Below you can see the start of a painting using techniques taught in Jacqui's class. We started with layers of acrylic paint enriched with a variety of mark-making in order to create an abstract background. Paint is applied by brush, brayer, with custom-carved stamps, through stencils. Marks are made by drawing on top of the paint and by scratching back through layers with chopsticks, plastic forks, or even sand paper.

acrylic painting abstract background layers
Beginning abstract layers of acrylic paint to create an abstract background.
Paint is applied by brush, brayer, with stamps, through stencils. Scratching
back through layers with chopsticks, plastic forks, even sand paper.
The most exciting thing about the workshop to me was on the second day as we moved into exercises to help develop the rich, textured, abstract mixed media backgrounds into a cohesive and expressive painting.

One exercise was to take a photograph as inspiration and to recreate the subject matter of the photo, to capture the shapes, lights, and darks on the ground created in class the day before in order to create something totally new. I chose a black and white photo from her collection of a figure walking out of a dark room through a doorway into bright sunlight.

acrylic painting on paper windows and doorways
Windows and Doorways
11" x 17" acrylic on paper
The other exercise was to attempt to recreate a painting created by another artist that we admired. Like art students of yore who copied the masters as part of their study, this exercise encouraged us to ask ourselves, "how did they do that?" and then explore and experiment. I chose a painting from Cathy Hegman called Red Flags from her series The Weight of Balance. Here you can see where I tried to recreate the composition and the mood, using my own color palette.

acrylic painting exercise based on work by Cathy Hegman
painting exercise based on Red Flag by Cathy Hegman
A note on intellectual property:
In the first exercise, the finished painting is such a drastic abstraction from the original photograph that I believe I can safely call it my own. In the second exercise, even though my painting doesn't have the same deftness and artistry of Cathy Hegman's original, it is still quite obviously a copy of her style, subject, and composition. This exercise is for learning only and I do not in any way attempt to portray it as my original work.
It's been such a relief and a joy to start making art regularly again. There's a sensuality to exploring the relationships between colors and a very satisfying sensory experience to scratching back through layers of paint to unearth  what was buried beneath. I'm so grateful that there is a wide variety of art workshops available to me in my area to help me rejuvenate my creative energy and remember how to take the time to give myself the gift of art practice.

If you are reading this post because you wonder how to get started making art again, I want you to close your eyes for just a minute and imagine giving yourself the gift of a truly delightful art-making experience. Just meditate on what that experience looks like for a moment.

Are you carving a linoleum block at the kitchen table? Are you sitting on your favorite park bench sketching the view? Are you in a class with fellow painters learning new techniques together? Are you in a pottery studio, hands muddy with clay?

Now that you have an image in your mind of what would make for a truly delicious art-making experience, go make it happen! Don't think about the outcome, or get stuck in whether the art will be "good enough." Just take that step towards having a memorable experience, where you feel some true satisfaction at the end of your day.

And last, but not least, stay tuned for more painting updates and a new post on linoleum block printing some time next week, just in time for my one year blogiversary!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Love and Kindness

This week I channeled the Diva's Challenge #302 to use Hamadox by Diana Shrurer, CZT into a heart shape in the spirit of love and kindness. We could all use a little more of that in our lives every day, don't you think?

A little graphite shading to round out the Hamadox elements plus a little Printemps in red as a backdrop and I'm pleased to present this Zentangle valentine.

zentangle heart hamadox hamail paradox printemps
Hamadox (Hamail + Paradox) and Printemps
for Diva Challenge #302
In my last post, I invited people to print out a copy of the Zendala I created for Diva Challenge #301 and to add their own touches with color or shading. Here's mine using colored pencils. Can you tell I've got spring fever?

zentangle zendala mandala diva dance paradox color shading
Diva Challenge #301 Zendala in spring colors

It's not too late to give it a try! If you do, please post it on your blog, Instagram, or other social media site and leave the link in the comments below so I can see it.

How are you spreading love and kindness this week?

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Challenges and Blessings

It's been quite a while since my last post. There was the usual busy rush of holidays of course, compounded with seasonal colds and the cross-country trek we make each year to see our extended family. There was an unexpected hitch in our plans though, when one of the twins got so ill that we needed to take him to the hospital.

We received the news that our son has Type 1 Diabetes, which is an auto-immune disorder where his body attacks its own insulin-creating cells in his pancreas. Apparently brewing silently for some time, the stress of being sick plus the rigors of travel triggered a crisis for his body and the Type 1 Diabetes announced itself with a five day stay in a children's hospital 3000 miles from home.

The last two months have brought some of the biggest challenges since I became a parent as we learn how to measure his blood sugar, calculate and inject doses of insulin, and generally learn a whole new way to structure our lives.

But despite these new challenges, the holidays have brought some blessings as well:

It's very much a manageable health condition, and my son is doing a wonderful job acclimating to this life-long change.

When my husband and I were in the hospital with him, our other two children were safe and happy with cousins and Aunts and Uncles.
When he was finally discharged from the hospital, we had a week long stay with my parents who were a great help and support.
As far from home as we were, we got great care.
We have wonderful health insurance, which is an indispensable blessing I wish for everyone.
The twins just turned 11 years old and are safe and happy.
Our child can continue to do all the same things as other kids his age, albeit with a bit more planning and preparation.

And I even received an art blessing over the holidays, as my father passed on to me some beautiful drafting tools he's had since his college engineering days. You can see them here, next to the zendala I created using a compass from the set.

zentangle paradox diva dance zendala mandala
zendala for Diva Challenge #301
There's something very satisfying about the high contrast of black ink on white paper, and it was especially soothing to blend the mandala-style radial symmetry with the organic nature of Diva Dance. I'm so grateful to finally carve out time to create again and to return to the meditative process of Zentangle.

Let's try something new for the new year. Here is a version of my Zendala that you can print out and color or shade as you wish. There is a little space next to my initials where you can add your add your own as you put your mark on our collaboration.

If you try it out, please post it on your blog, Instagram, or other social media site and leave the link in the comments below so I can see it!

zentangle zendala diva dance paradox coloring page
PurposeWorks Coloring Page #1

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Art, Synchronicity, and the Power of Yes

I recently accepted a friend's invitation to go through 12 weeks of journal-writing and creativity exercises together using the book The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. I'm three weeks into this intriguing process and in the third chapter Cameron discusses the idea of synchronicity, "We like to pretend it is hard to follow our heart's dreams. The truth is, it is difficult to avoid walking through the many doors that will open. Turn aside your dream and it will come back to you again. Get willing to follow it again and a second mysterious door will swing open."

I know I'm not alone when I say that this is an incredibly busy time of year. I've been busy with the usual holiday preparations but also very busy making new art and accepting new art opportunities when they arrive.

This week the Diva gave us all a second chance to try out the ideas of Reticula and Fragments. There's that door swinging open again, and this time I'm saying yes.

Diva Challenges #294 and #295 

reticula and fragments
for diva challenge #294

reticula and fragments in offset grid
for diva challenge #295

I've been wishing for more chances to connect in person with other artists and hopefully meet mentors for my art learning journey. An internet search for local art classes a few months back helped me discover the nearby artEAST art center. They have a variety of classes just as I was hoping to find, but they also have opportunities for sharing studio time with other local artists. Yes!

I've already posted about the wonderful evening workshop on printmaking I took last month but I also enrolled in a colored pencil realism class that meets once a week. The class size is so small that everyone gets one-on-one time to be mentored by the instructor.

Realism takes a lot of time but I have some work in progress to show. I like how you can see the various stages and layers that each petal will go through from just the wispy beginning of an outline to fully saturated with color.

purple hydrangeas, work in progress: colored pencil

tulips, work in progress: colored pencil
I have been wanting some guidance in getting better at drawing people and places. Craftsy, a resource for online crafting and art classes, has been offering a ton of holiday specials lately. I snatched up a few drawing classes on urban sketching and capturing likenesses. Here's some of my "homework" (click the thumbnails to see a larger version).

I've been dreaming, and I've been practicing, and synchronicity has been bringing me opportunities to practice and dream some more. What are you saying yes to?