Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The agony of an Artist Statement

I have been working in watercolor some more. The new paintings are different, and I am not sure how I feel about them yet. I guess I will post one now. I am not even sure if it is finished, although I like it right now. So maybe it will have to sit for another day or so first. This painting measures 12 x 9 inches. I think it will be called "Ravine". Maybe.

In addition to painting, I have been putting together a couple more portfolios to take to galleries. Part of this involves writing the dreaded "ARTIST STATEMENT." For those of you who aren't familiar with the artist's statement, it is how an artist describes their own work. I don't think I am alone when I say I would rather have someone drill a hole through my head than have to write an artist's statement. It is important, I know, I know, Alyson! I re-write mine ALL THE TIME. I could probably write it over again every single day. The reason it is so difficult, I suppose, is because I am trying to WRITE about something that is not about words. It is about color, form, IMAGE. Also, I am a painter, not a writer. Yet, this is an essential part of being able to talk about my own art. And so I perservere.

This is the most recent version of my artist's statement (re-write #5 for the year 2008):

The utmost concern for me in the finished painting is harmony of color. I love rich, yummy colors you can sink your eyes into. The reason I prefer to work abstractly is because I feel our lives are already too involved in the physical - that which can be seen, heard, touched or tasted. This art is about the spirit and the soul. The soft transition from one color to another offers a path leading from our busy lives to the realm of the spirit. These paintings provide a serene space with visual elements to intrigue and arouse curiousity. The geometric elements, such as the circle, oval or square, are a reference to ourselves, and how we fit into this place of meditation. I feel it is important for us to recognize our connection to all that is around us.

So there it is. My current artist's statement. I still think it needs some work, but I am going to see if any of you have helpful comments or suggestions. Does this make you want to look at my art? Does this statement provide you with an understanding of how I see my own art? Does it help you understand it? I am open to suggestions, at this point. Keep in mind I have more than one statement. This particular statement is for the most recent body of oil paintings and monotypes. Thank you for any input you may have!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Second day of camping

The remainder of our camping trip to Mammoth was pretty eventful. We did a lot of exploring. I have never really spent much time near the Mammoth area. There is so much to see, and it is beautiful there. We drove up to some of the nearby lakes, and there was still quite a lot of snow. Pono was elated to see the snow. He loves snow and cold weather. He ran right over to the first big patch of snow he could find, plopped right down and rolled in it, biting and eating it as he rolled.

We explored some old mining cabins, and hiked around near the trail head to some of the higher mountain lakes. There was way too much snow for a hike up to those lakes, but it was a beautiful day, and it was fun to be up in the mountains, feeling the brisk air and smelling those trees.

I had an interesting revelation about my abstract art, on one hike we did. We hiked up to yet another lake for some fly fishing, and on the hike I noticed the slope of the mountain side. Now maybe I am a slow learner or something, but it was the first time I realized that I have been incorporating the landscape in my abstract paintings for a long time. I just hadn't realized it, because my horizon line is always at an angle, just like the slope of that mountainside. I guess I just had to get out of the mountains, live somewhere else, and then go back before I noticed this! Perspective is everything. Since I have spent most of my life in the mountains, I am sure my horizon always had a slope to it. It amazes me how the subconscious mind works.

We had intended to stay away three nights, but on Wednesday the weather became windy and much colder, so we began the long ride home. It was still a wonderful trip, and I am glad we got to do it. We are hoping for more camping excursions this summer.

I did some watercolor sketches of the figure at the life drawing session on Thursday night. I haven't worked from the figure with watercolor in a while, so it was a nice change. I will be listing more of them in my etsy shop over this weekend, so take a peek if you are interested! This is my favorite one, called "Perched". It measures 12 x 9 inches.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Camping trip to Mammoth

We have returned home. Fortunately, the weather here has cooled down, so we didn't come back to more of the over 100 degree F heat. We all enjoyed a little taste of mountains, trees, cold streams and snow. I did my best to get inside of the VW photos, however, I will admit, they leave a little something to be desired. Hopefully, you will get the idea. When the top of the camper is open, there is a space at the top of the van to lay down. You can see it is not particularly roomie, but it does work. We usually sleep in sleeping bags, but you could also just have pillows and blankets, if you preferred. I also took a photo of the tiny stove and sink. It is so nice to have them, built right in. There is a tiny refrigerator under the stove, but we usually bring a cooler as well.
(Priya, let me know if you get enough info from these photos, or if I should try again. I know they aren't that great! It is such a small space that I am finding it difficult to get far enough away so you can see how the space is used.)

Here is a photo of our first camping site. Those trees smell SOOOOO good!

I am off to a figure drawing session, or I would write more. There's always tomorrow!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Another camping trip

It has been hot in the desert these past couple of days. This is only a sample of the summer to come. To save the dog (and ourselves)from this heat, we are departing for another camping trip this morning. We are driving the VW van up to higher elevations, where the temperatures will drop accordingly. This will probably be the last trip for a while, since Matthias goes back to work Friday. We return Thursday, so I decided I should leave you with one more watercolor painting. This is another postcard sized painting, measuring 4 x 6 inches, on cold press paper. Even with scanners and fancy image editing software, I must say, these never look as good as they do in person. I guess computers do have shortcomings!

I will post photos of the trip when we return. Until then, my darling readers.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


I am still enjoying this watercolor kick I have been on lately. Watercolor is so airy and fresh looking. Not to mention the easy (no) clean-up. It is perfect for the mood I have been in lately. This painting, called "Spring Fling" has just been listed on my etsy site for sale. If you are interested, hop over and take a look by clicking here.

I have been visited by jackrabbits in our back yard lately. It is hard to get a good photo of one, since they are fast and scare easily. Despite this, I feel compelled to try. The dog and I stand side by side (well, I squat, since I like to be at his level), looking out the window at the rabbits. I, with my trusty little camera, and he, with his wet black nose. What a pair we are!

I am happy to announce that I have just surpassed 5,000 visitors on this blog!!! Granted, I did not begin counting when I first began posting, but since I got a counter I have been amazed to watch the numbers go up. I never would have believed I would have over 5,000 visitors! So thanks, to all of you who regularly read my blog, and to those of you who only stop in every now and then. I appreciate it.

Monday, May 12, 2008

More Desert Tortoise photos

I have been excited about the prospect of seeing the desert tortoise after our first encounter a week or so ago. On Friday, Matthias, Marti, Mr. Pono and I went to the same area as our first encounter for the morning run/walk. I had my trusty camera with me, of course. Fortunately, my desires to see one were realized. In fact, we saw two! The first one was alongside the road, and pretty much had retreated into its shell. The second one was not as shy, and with my trusty tiny zoom lens I did get a couple of photos.

To answer some questions about this creature, the desert tortoise is an herbivore. It gets most of its water from the plants and cactus that it eats. An adult tortoise can live for a year without water. (Impressive!) It survives the desert heat by digging burrows. It hibernates for 95% of its life. The burrows also protect this critter from the cold in the winter. It is a relative of the turtle, who lives in water. The tortoise is a land dweller, which is obvious when you look at its legs and feet. If you would like to read more about the tortoise, click here. I am quite infatuated with them.

As promised, I am posting two of the tiny new watercolor abstracts. These are postcard size (6 x 4 inches) and were painted on cold pressed, 140 lb. watercolor paper. (For those of you who aren't familiar with watercolor paper, cold pressed paper tends to have a bit more texture than hot pressed paper. 140 lb. paper is pretty heavy paper, heavier than most card stock. There are more of these coming. I am having trouble with a title on this first one. For now, I am calling it "Sienna and Blue." Not a particularly compelling title, is it? The second one is called "On the Edge." Since these are so tiny, I am considering using them as studies for larger paintings in oil. The first one is my favorite of the two, but I think they both have potential.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

More desert delights

Another hot and sweaty day in the beautiful spring desert sunshine. We went for a long hike this morning with Marti and her two dogs. After a bit of lunch, I went out to plant some more perennials in the front yard. The courtyard is becoming a rock garden, but I am enjoying the process. The flowers add a lot for me. Pictures, soon, I swear! I got too hot to finish today, plus I think I was a bit worn out from the hike. Matthias had some errands to run, and I nearly went with him. I am glad I stayed home.

After I got overheated outside, I came in and did a bit of watercolor painting. These are all quite small, and I am not pushing myself too hard. I want them to be playful and airy. It will be another couple of days before I post more of them. (I know, all of this teasing. I'm sorry!)

Instead of other things, you are getting even MORE flower shots, today. I am also including photos of some of the other denizens of the desert. A lizard, who was feeling particularly brave, and a king snake (not harmful - to humans, anyway).
I promise if you stick with me, you will see other photos soon. PROMISE!!!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Even more flowers

Another day spent mostly in the front courtyard, planting perennials and shoveling gravel. We are nearly done with this project, but I was getting sunburned. So even though I wanted to finish, it was time to get out of the sun. Photos will happen when I feel like it is completed!

It has been interesting, watching how the desert wildflowers seem to bloom in waves. First, there are a few certain varieties blooming. As they begin to fade, others emerge, taking their place. Now, even more new varieties are blooming as the first flowers are drying up and turning to seed. It is so exciting! This first one I have looked for in two different books, and I still can't identify it. I'll have to go up to Marti's house and see if maybe she has it in one of her books. Still, it is lovely. I am referring to it as the "yellow pom pom".

I also have discovered this really unusual fungus of some kind. I never thought I would see a mushroom in the desert, but doesn't it look like a mushroom??? I mean, what ELSE could it be? It's even purple! It looks like something from Star Trek, don't you think?

My favorite of the current bloomers is the Mohave Indigo Bush. It is covered with these tiny bluish-purple flowers. Beautiful. My favorite color is purple, so it should be obvious why I love these so much.

More watercolors are in the works.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Switching to watercolor

A Fun Photo of Pono in the driver's seat of the Vanogan! He loves the "Gordita"! Oh, and I will post some photos of the VW interior soon, for Priya.

We have been working on landscaping the front courtyard for the past week. We bought gravel and flagstone, and we are trying to make it look pretty. Don't worry, you will have before and after shots. Just not today, because I am too tired to get them off my camera and post them. Flagstone is heavy. Oh, and also I think part of my problem is that I started running again yesterday, after a hiatus due to Denver trips and a hurt foot. So that is also contributing to my fatigue. Why am I telling you all of this? Because I felt that it was important I posted a bit more frequently on my blog, and this is what is on my mind right now.

Rather than more of this whining, I will post a photo of a new watercolor I completed last week. I did several, but I believe this is my favorite one. I find it interesting how I always return to watercolor at some point. I started with watercolor (the first painting I ever did was watercolor), so maybe it just feels like home.
More soon.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Camping, Day 2

I said I would post day two of camping "tomorrow", but since it is now FRIDAY, I guess that was wishful thinking on my part!!! Sorry about that. I hope I didn't disappoint anyone.

I took so many photographs of our camping trip, it is unlikely that I will be able to post even half of them. It has taken me several hours just to sort through them all, and choose a few for this blog post. That's what vacation is for, though, right? Taking a zillion photographs that no one really wants to see anyway. So at least our getaway fulfilled that photograph part of the bargain. It seems like no matter how many photographs I take, it is hard for me to really capture what it felt like to me, being there. I am finding this is especially true for the desert flowers. I mean, they are spectacular and all that, and I do think I have gotten one or two decent shots. However, the way I feel out in the desert, surrounded by these clumps of unexpected color is just impossible to relay to you with a photograph. Maybe it's because when we first moved here, I was inwardly appalled at how dry and desolate it felt. Everything looked dead, hot, dry and shrivelled. Now, I am getting to know the dust and shrubby stuff intimately, and suddenly, with what seemed like hardly any rain, I am surrounded by this unexpected display!!! It has caught me by surprise. I had no idea a desert could look like it has this year. And of course, as I have mentioned in previous posts, this is an exceptional year for flowers.

After we left the Trona pinnacles, we headed up through the Panamint Valley and on to Darwin. On our way through the Panamint Valley, we stopped by the road to let the dog out, and I came upon the blooms of the Southwestern Thorn Apple (Datura Wrightii). Magnificent!!! It is quite a large blossom, about 6" in diameter, and the tips of the petal are lavender in color. It is a member of the Nightshade family (Solanaceae).

After Matthias got sick of waiting for me to photograph a flower with a bug on it(a photo that didn't even turn out, as it happens), we headed up a winding, steep road toward Darwin, and as we were winding our way up, we looked up to see 3 other VW vanagons sitting on an overlook above us! So of course, when we got to the top, we had to go and join them for VW comparisons. They were a delightful bunch of people, from California and Washington States. Matthias became engaged with one man, talking about Vans, whereas Pono and I climbed down a bit of hillside to be shown by a few of the others what geocaching is all about. I had never heard of it before. I won't go into it here, but if you are interested, you can click here. Fun!

After our little rendez-vouz with the other vanagons, we continued toward Darwin. We did a little hike to the top of Ophir Mountain. We could look right down on the town of Darwin. We also visited an old mining claim. It was actually claimed, even though it didn't look like it was still being used.

We camped at Cactus Flats, where we had camped once last fall. It is so pretty there, and the flowers were really spectacular. As I told you, despite taking almost 50 photos, I really don't think I convey the wonder. Nonetheless, I will share a few photos. There was one shrub in particular that I became enamored by. I have not been able to find it in my flower book, but it looked like it started a yellow green color, and then changed to a deep reddish pink. It was wonderful, the color of this bush amid the other reds, greens, yellows and blues. I took many photos of it. The flower that stole the show was the Indian Paintbrush. It was so vibrant, it overpowered the other flowers. It seems like red is a rare color, when it comes to wildflowers. Yellow seems to be the most common color.

We spent a cold night in Cactus Flats, since it is a good deal higher in elevation than Trona. I woke up with aching joints, having spent the night curled up in a tiny ball trying to stay warm. It was still a wonderful camping trip, and we remain happy with our "Gordita" - little fatty.