This is my first post that's going out as a newsletter, and I know I should be talking about art, but here's something beautiful for you instead!
This was happening in my front yard, all over the place! Butterflies everywhere. (Yes, I took this picture. I feel like a National Geographic photographer. Where is the "smug" emoji when I need it??)
Every year I wish I had a great big flower garden and then I mope around about my fatigue getting in the way.
But then August comes and the wildflowers take over and the butterflies come out to play and it's like God said, "VOILA! Wish granted!"
I filmed it, too. I love the part in the middle where the bee is bumbling around in the jewelweed. Here's a direct link in case the video above doesn't work: Butterflies and Bees.
So that is all... no art for now... but I hope this bit of Nature has brightened your day. It certainly inspires me to paint!
This is my first piece in the new "Shibori Amori" series, and I'm already loving it.
As I've explained before, shibori is a traditional Japanese method of dyeing fabric, usually with blue dye on white fabric.
A striped effect like this one would be achieved by folding the fabric and clamping it between wood blocks, like this:
Only the edges that stick out would be dyed, although the effect is sometimes softened by the watery nature of the dyebath.
But since this is a watercolor painting, that's not how I did it! I painted the stripes onto paper, naturally. And first I laid down some calligraphy, which seemed appropriate since this piece is inspired by Japanese art. Here's a work-in-progress shot, with a bonus sneak preview of my next piece:
In fact, the calligraphy in that rose is what gave the piece its name. I like the relaxed curves.
I'm really liking this blue, too. I love me some bright colors, but this blue is so restful. The stripes remind me of a duvet I had once. It makes me want to chill out and maybe take a quiet nap. (Possibly because I had insomnia last night, but that's another story!)
Could you use some rest in your life? If so, take another look at this one. It might be just right for your bedside table.
Sometimes I ask God the "hard question:"
Hey God, if You're so great, why do You allow suffering?
(I've been asking that one a lot, groaning aloud at 5:00 in the morning after long sleepless nights.)
My interpretation of the Bible suggests that the answer is that we humans can't hear the complete answer to that question, because we're too limited to understand it. If we could answer that question, we could answer every question. It is the essential question.
But we get a few partial answers, like these beautiful passages from 1 Peter 5:
13 Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you:
So the answer is to trust. Trust that God knows what He is doing. Lay yourself in His hands.
When I finally did that, I fell asleep, surrounded by a feeling of love.
My last series, "Agate Agape," led right into this new series. When I was looking at the Agate Agape paintings as a whole, one jumped right out at me because of its wonderful color. Take a look and see if you can guess:
I have lots of favorites in this series, but see that blue one in the upper left? That one is called "The Tide of Love," and it was inspired by blue-and-white porcelain. Here's a better view of it:
Thinking about the color blue naturally led me to think about other blue-and-white things, especially shibori. Shibori is the traditional Japanese method of dying cloth using "resist" methods. You can think of it as tie-dye. Although it's a bit more than tie-dye, it was the inspiration for the trippy hippie fabric that became popular in the Sixties.
Here's a few examples of classical Shibori fabric, from "Katie" on Flickr, via Wikipedia:
There are lots of ways to make a shibori pattern. The "tie dye" way is to tie the fabric tightly in bunches with thread or rubber bands, so that the dye doesn't go where the rubber band is. Another method is to pleat the fabric and clamp it between two pieces of wood. Only the part that sticks out of the clamp gets dyed. And there are many other methods.
In Japan, shibori is traditionally done in blue-and-white, although I have done it myself in red and yellow. Although this skirt looks like hippie tie-dye, I actually sewed the fabric closed with a needle and thread, which is what created the honeycomb effect in the middle of the sunflower.
Although it is often used to make a casual pattern, shibori can also be very formal. Here's a fragment of a 17th-century kimono:
Wowsa! Having tried this myself, let me tell you that this took a lot of skill!
So that's the "Shibori" part of this series. I decided to give it a catchy title, and "Amori" is the Italian word for "loves," so it seemed like the perfect combination.
(And according to a casual internet search, it's also the Esperanto word for "lovemaking." Now you know! Tell all of your friends. They will be impressed by your mastery of a dead language which hasn't really lived in the first place.)
And meanwhile, stick around. There's lots more fun to come!
Some people say my art is too sentimental. I can't imagine why...
Oh wait LOL yes I can. This is one of my favorites, and it's definitely sentimental. (In a good way, I think.) But to my critics I say, there's a good reason for all this love and roses.
Let's talk about pain and suffering and despair.
That's right, I'm going there. Look at me. Don't I look happy, and young and healthy? Doesn't it look like I'm living the sweet life? Are you jealous yet??
Sometimes this picture is true. Sometimes I am really happy, and I feel good. I have a great dog, a great husband, a nice house, enough to eat, clothes to wear... a lot to be grateful for.
But other days it's more like this:
Yeah, that's a cute picture, but what it doesn't show is that I didn't sleep last night. I finally fell asleep at 6 AM and snatched a few hours of snoozing this morning. And for weeks I haven't slept well. My joints hurt and I'm tired. I'm probably writing this blog post on adrenaline, which is more or less how I live my life, and I JUST WANT ENOUGH ENERGY TO DO THE DISHES. I miss household chores, for crying out loud! I want a normal life, and I have a chronic disease, so I don't have a normal life.
I have bad days. And bad nights! I wonder why God is doing this to me. I wonder if this is ever going to end. I wonder what I've done to deserve this. I wonder how my husband can go on being so nice to me when I feel so mean. I wonder if I'm going to die young and childless. I wonder if I'm ever going to get my strength back, if I can ever go out dancing again, if I can ever paint large pictures again, if I can ever go hiking in Nature again.
And when I have bad days, and I can barely move, and I ache all over, and I look young but I feel really old... all I want in my life is beautiful things, and love.
Beauty is healing, and I need it.
Do you need it, too? Do you have bad days? Days when your tire goes flat in the pouring rain? Days when someone you love is gone and you're lonely? Days when you wonder why you're here? Stressed-out days? Tired days? Broke days? Worried days? Sick days?
Do you need beauty in your life? Do you need LOVE? If so, then my art is for you.
There, I said it. I feel much better now. Thanks for listening.
And the great thing about this painting is that (for once!!) it just all came together exactly like I planned it.
I love it when a plan comes together.
This picture really straddles the line between funky and romantic, which means that it looks good just about anywhere that needs a punch of color.
I was laying in bed the other night thinking about this painting and wondering what to name it. I kept thinking of the horizontal gray stripes and how they remind me of all the fantastic scenes in film noir full of smoke and stripey shadows. Like this great still from "To Have and Have Not" starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall:
Bogie fell for Bacall in real life while they were shooting this movie, and the chemistry is SMOKIN HOT. Hot dog, Humphrey Bogart, I love you (#HopelessCrush) and if I ever grow up, I would like to be Lauren Bacall.
(There are other influences from other eras going on here, too. Like the pointiness in the letters, which reminds me of 80s film credits. But that's another story.)
I was working on this at night, lit only by a desk lamp, so here's a noir photo of the studio.
I have other associations with this painting. My husband said it reminded him of a cave, so it also hearkens back to the two desert paintings I've done so far.
But most of all I picture it in the background of a sweeping drama about true love versus deception, with shades of meaning in every line.
"The next morning, she walked in.
She told me she loved me, but I wondered whether to believe her."
Poseidon is, of course, the Greek god of the sea. He married Amphitrite, so maybe I could have called it "Valentine for Amphitrite." But maybe that's too obscure.
I named this painting after him because the colors remind me of the interiors of sea shells. Oysters, perhaps, or abalone.
However, it was still inspired by agate. There are many kinds of agate and other banded stones, and some of the specimens I have seen have a certain translucent clarity. When they are sliced thin, they let in a bit of light, and they have broader bands color. If only I could find a photo of the sort of agate that inspired me! I wonder if I imagined it...
I painted this on a beautiful sunlit morning. You can see the beginnings of another painting here, too. It didn't turn out, so you will probably never see it. Only the best for you!
This painting seems to have picked up some of the peaceful qualities of that morning. Despite all of the bands of color (or perhaps because of them) it seems to bring in the rhythmic tranquility of the sea.
I really struggled with this one, but I finally like it.
I was bound and determined to do something with neutrals. After "Southwest of Love" I wanted to do another painting about the desert, and I wanted to work in the gray and taupe of the desert rocks. It was easy at first:
Then it was time to fill in the leaves and letters, and I thought I would never get it right. I finally ended up going over the watercolor with conte crayon, which is the same chalk that I used the last time I was really struggling to get a painting right.
And at last, I got the look I was going for. Now I keep thinking of old cowboy songs. "Cowboy Rhythm" is the one that keeps coming into my mind... I know it from the Boswell Sisters, but this version by Randy Erwin is pretty great, too. Dig that cowboy yodel!
This one looks great with a distressed wood frame. It reminds me of weathered fence posts.
I had many different ideas going into this one, but mostly I was thinking of blue-painted porcelain, which I love. (I used to have a whole set of Blue Willow, but I gave it to a friend because I also have a whole set of handmade pottery and I just had too much beautiful stuff!)
But after I put in the blue, I couldn't think of how to integrate the yellow rose. Then I thought back to the colors of the Chinese vases which I have often noticed in my art books... they add pink and green and yellow to create a little rainbow of colors. So this painting is sort of like a wilder version of a Chinese vase.
Later I came across these photos on Instagram and they pretty much capture my ideas. Or close enough.
I took a little video of myself painting one of the lines on this piece. Then when I published the video, it somehow ended up playing backward (!?) so you can experience the strangely soothing sight of me unpainting this picture.
I came up with about a dozen titles for this painting. "Blue Waves Receding." "Ripples in China." And so on.
But I like "The Tide of Love" because it reminds me of this most excellent song by the Paragons. (You may have heard Blondie's version on the radio, but trust me, the one by the Paragons is worthy.)
So if you want to be swept away by love... or maybe if, as in the song, "the tide is high but you're holding on..." then this is the painting for you. Click the button to get it!