An art journey up the mountain

I recently traveled from my  busy Raleigh home into the rolling city of Asheville to pick up my artist-friend Donna from Toronto and ventured to the winding elevations of western Carolina, the foot of Cullowhee Mountain, where we were taking a class with Stuart Shils, "Perceptual Craft and Life Painting Studio".

My revered teacher Steve Aimone (Aimone Art Services) always reminds, "the only failed painting is the one beginning with rigid expectations as to the outcome." Why didn't I realize this truism can generally be applied to life, as well as workshops? 

By the end of the week, after painting many 5 and 20 minute figures with opaque acrylic applied with a soft round brush ~ I NEVER WORK THIS WAY ~ and analyzing size and placement of colors and shapes within the paintings of masters ~ A FANTASTIC STUDY OF COMPOSITION ~ and listening to copious words and generous sharing from Stuart about his process, experiences, feelings about art ~ I LOVE HEARING THIS BUT I WANT TO EXPERIENCE IT AND THESE FRAGMENTS ARE OVERWHELMING ME~ my creative muscles were aching!

This workshop was not as I expected, as if I had climbed miles up a mountain without training; I was feeling the burn.

And this is just where he wanted his students to be, Stuart declared.

Now that the burn has had a chance to calm, the mountain experience for me is to realize that the fragments that I want so seamlessly to fit together just do not. It is in the commitment to making the climb each day,  receiving what the path has to offer without having to know the outcome. 

Below are images of our lovely model, a demo by Stuart and his thumbnail, and my attempts at a set of four thumbnails.I can feel a mind shift in the way I see and think about the picture plane from doing these exercises. It is another tool to add to the process-toolbox

Faith not a blueprint

First Breath, 2016. Acrylic on canvas, 12 x 12 inches.

 The ground beneath my feet started sinking several years ago when I was asked if I ever taught art. I have a masters degree in education, but when I thought about teaching art, I  panicked. My process of art-making was so far from the process I used as a teacher in a classroom. In creating my art I often had no idea why I did what I did; and much of the time, my painting results not reproducible.

I started to analyze, become aware, study and experiment. I wondered what if I layered medium upon medium? What if I mixed quinacridone red instead of cadmium red with cobalt blue or pthalo blue? What if I painted on raw canvas instead of primed canvas? But the answers of the masters were eluding me and I was always questioning! 

"I think therefore I am"....isn't THAT the truth? To think through a process, create a blue print, fine-tune steps to be taken in logical sequence,  knowing exactly how to get from point A to point B and then to the preconceived outcome?

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. " Hebrews 11:1

All along I was mistakenly thinking my search was to render an answer, when all along my search was the answer. It is in the experimentation and questions and awareness that my process lives. To trust myself as an artist means I must live within the question, not knowing the outcome but believing nonetheless, to assume a posture of faith. Painting is a metaphor for living, and believing each day is a new gift to be unwrapped.

If I am quiet and open to the "what ifs" it is amazing what the Creating Spirit speaks through art!


Maine Event....Very Expressive....

I had an art adventure that took me to Maine! A non-objective painting workshop with Steven Aimone.

The purpose was not to document or narrate any information with representational imagery. Rather, the purpose is to think about the elements on the picture plane, how they relate to one another, and from an intuitive place respond to the process. That's the story.....intuition and interrelationship and how a viewer then experiences.

This really fits with my ideas that viewers bring their own emotions, memories and perceptions  when viewing a painting. It's about the experience of being with the painting, more than what I, as an artist would like to convey about the subject.

Oh, I get my fun during the process of creation. But once the painting is our in the world, then you get your fun experiencing!

Its a shift for me, but one that resonates deeply....we will see where the adventure, and the process leads!

We worked in a HUGE gym in the historic Thomaston Library....our workspaces were approximately 10 x 10 feet....our roundtable seating in the middle!

We worked in a HUGE gym in the historic Thomaston Library....our workspaces were approximately 10 x 10 feet....our roundtable seating in the middle!

Some of my work from the week...I can "feel me" in some of it, others....who knows where it came from....but that's  part of the adventure of working intuitively!

Some of my work from the week...I can "feel me" in some of it, others....who knows where it came from....but that's  part of the adventure of working intuitively! "arty" friends...

Many thanks to Greg Huddleston over at The Piedmont Virginian Magazine for telling our story in the Arts in the Piedmont edition.... 

For a couple of years I've been meeting monthly with 8 other artists.  We are two photographers, six painters, and a musician.   We range in age from 30-something to 50-something and just happen to all be women. We evolved into "Synergia."

Our round-table meetings grew out of a workshop sponsored by Piedmont Council for the Arts with Jessica Thayer acting as facilitator helping the group meld. We cover all things art-related...both technical, such as "color" to more philosophical, "what is art? what is success as an artist?"

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Piedmont Council for the Arts invited us to exhibit in the Spring of 2013. In the months proceeding this exhibit our support of each other's individual art-making took on a communal focus as we worked together to create our group show, which we named "Synergia: Artists Evolving."

Synergia was born to support each individual in professional growth....but the individual commitment to meeting monthly, listening and empathizing with one another, and working together on our group show bore more fruit than just for the individual. We are friends evolving. 

I'm posting a link to The Piedmont Virginian Magazine, where we are featured among Arts in the Piedmont. Many thanks to Greg Huddleston and his good co-workers at The Piedmont Virginian for being interested in Synergia's evolution.

Synergia is Meg West,  Stacey Evans, Peggy Harrison,  Tammy Reynolds Citron,  Madeline Holly Sales, Ellen Hathaway, Julia Kindred, Judith Ely, Margaret Embree.


I was recently featured on a friend's blog, Confessions of a Former Beauty Queen. It was a humbling experience, and surprising to see how another views me! Lyn boiled our talk down to some lessons for art and life....she said she should post them in her studio....hmmmm....thanks Lyn for being a beautiful mirror for me.

I think I shall post them also as I move forward!

Lesson 1: Begin something....SOME THING

Lesson 2: Give up the struggle...loosen that grip baby! 

Lesson 3: Step back and reflect before charging ahead  ....this is when we can invite that critical voice...but only if she is constructive!

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