Monday, June 15, 2015

Earth Medicine

If I told all the stories of the months between the last time I came here -
the story of an exceptionally challenging winter: deep, deep snow, arctic cold, 
storm after storm, roof raking, food poisoning, sledding a new cord of wood over 
the enormous snowplow mound to the woodshed, a major flood in the house 
when the washing machine overflowed (luckily missing the new bamboo floor) 
burn out and exhaustion -  it might explain my absence here, and how, 
when spring arrived and school ended, the only thing I wanted to do was to 
be outside reveling in the sensual medicine of the earth. 



I appreciate the emails from people wondering if all was OK. I am very much 
better than I've been in a few years, but, coming out of a very long, dark, 
underworld journey has meant a shifting so profound that, in my emerging, 
I am blinded and taking time to refocus. As anyone who has gone to 
the underworld knows, there are great gifts to be mined if one stays in the 
dark mystery, trusting that it will be done only when it is done. 


Being quiet, with my hands in the earth planting, moving stones and gathering 
them from the river, listening to frogs and birds and the gentle ringing of Japanese 
Temple bells in the Medicine Garden is replenishing the places that felt hollowed 
and emptied. 


I haven't been painting, all my creative energy is going into nurturing myself 
and the plants and finishing projects in the Medicine Garden. I have forced 
myself to do some of the business end of art, with a goal of finding a few 
new galleries to represent me as I am shifting away from the ones I've worked 
with before. Like most artists, this is my least favorite part of it all, but to balance
it with so much outside time is good. So if I am not in the studio, I am creating
beauty in the garden, and, for me, it is all about beauty, in the many ways 
that it can be defined. 







Rhu Bear is a big kitty now, just over a year, and over ten pounds. He is really
quite a character, mostly well behaved, but sometimes very, very naughty. He 
has obviously come here to fill my heart with joy and to throw in an occasional 
monkey wrench in case I'm getting too comfortable. 




Though these paintings were made while the snow was still waist deep (which 
actually wasn't that long ago!) I just got them back from my photographer and 
wanted to share them with you as I don't believe they were posted here yet. 
We'll see what happens when I get back into the studio, which will be soon, 
but I was finding lots of pathways to explore with these last ones.  

"Blue Shadows" watercolor on paper, 15" x 22", V. Claff, 2015

"Winter Forest" watercolor on paper, 15" x 22", V. Claff, 2015

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Deep Winter

"Moon Night", scratbord drawing, 11" x14", VClaff, 2010

Deep in the forest, on a moonlit winter night, I am curled under 
wool and down, a young cat curled into me, dreaming. I sometimes
 wonder if he dreams inside my dreams, or me inside his.  

"Two Trees in Snow", scratchbord drawing, 8"x10", VClaff, 2010

Cold days are upon us, though there has been a cycle of warming 
up just as the snows come, bringing sleet and freezing rain and lots and 
lots of ice. I have not taken my icegrips off my boots all winter. While 
I walk here, I do not dare wear any other shoes. 

"Moonlit Maple", scratchbord drawing, 7"x5.5", VClaff, 2010
Having pulled these scratchbord drawings out for my open studio,
I've been looking at them and seeing the deep dark they contain, 
thinking how they are just right for this moment. They are now 
listed in my Etsy shop in this deep dark of winter. If you'd like 
to take a look, go HERE

"Moonlit Birch", scratchbord drawing, 6 3/4"x 3 3/4", VClaff, 2010
"Moonlit Hemlock", scratchbord drawing, 11"x9.5", VClaff, 2010

"Glow", scratchbord drawing, 11"x8 3/4"", VClaff, 2010
 Getting back to work has not been smooth. The heat is working 
very well, but I've been busy with school and other projects and distracted, 
often, by Rhu who is still young and has lived here only five months and 
I still keep an eye on him while he is out, as much as I can. But I 
have begun, and that is good. 



Always when I am in the studio, and especially on a sunny day, 
my gratitude for the space is deep. If you are new to here, you might 
not know that in 2011, I received a grant to build the studio as I 
would not have been able to do so on my own. I think that sometimes 
I feel I am abandoing this living, loving space when my 
full life keeps me away, and though I try to banish it, 
guilt can find me. Its not useful, I know, but it finds me still. 



Last weekend in the studio, I did begin to find the place I want 
to travel in with new work. Something about the icy winter, 
the storms, the cold and the mystery at the core of being.  

small mystery study, VClaff, 2015

small mystery study, cropped

I can't see the studio door from my worktable, but I can sense him. 
When I go to look, there Rhu is, looking in, wanting me to go out 
as he has not quite yet transitioned into studio assistant. I believe 
he is afraid of the ceiling fan, thinks its a bird of prey, as Pasha 
did at first. Its taking him a lot longer to adjust to coming inside, 
so, I am distracted. 


When he manages to pull me away from work, 
there are trees to climb,


and owls to impersonate, 


and deep snow to romp in, 








video

and sunshine to warm up by, once back inside, 
before the afternoon nap. 




Friday, January 2, 2015

A Warm Studio & Rhu's Winter Adventures


What better way to celebrate a working heater in the studio,
than to invite folks to come for a visit? The day before Solstice, 
I hosted an open studio, a wonderful way for me to engage 
once more with my work and see some local folks.  





I showed my newest paintings and also some older drawings that will most 
likely appear in my Etsy shop sometime soon. 


After not having painted in such a long while due to the lack of heat 
in the studio, I felt a bit rusty doing a painting demo, but I seemed 
to pull it together. Here, I am demonstrating how I use a very sharp, 
wet brush to pull tree and branch shapes out of a wet wash. 


Here, I am adding a layer over a dry wash. 


Here, I am answering questions about my work and 
generally looking teachery, I think. 


Thanks to my former and VERY talented student, Olivia for 
the painting demo photos. Go HERE to see her amazing jewelry.

I printed calendars to sell at the open studio, and they are 
now listed in my Etsy shop if you are interested. 





Little Rhu Bear has settled in well to life at RavenWood, a little wild 
as kittens will be, now a master at climbing down trees without falling. 
However, poor little guy met a porcupine in a tangled root-cave at 
the bottom of a fallen tree, and, clearly, the porcupine 
didn't want to share her den. 


Of course, it was a Sunday, so, when I'd finally managed to 
gather up the wildcat (with the help of a student who'd just arrived 
for a lesson which never was), I whisked him off to the Emergency 
vet for some help removing the barbs. 



Turns out that its a rare event, indeed, for kitties to get quilled, so the 
vet asked permission to do a Facebook story on Rhu - he's a famous little 
guy now. A few other names have been added to the ever growing list 
of kitty names. Lately, he's been going by Sir One-Sock due to his neatly 
shaved leg post vet visit. Auto-correct changed his name to 
Hu Ear in a comment on the vet's FB post, hehe, though I 
may not use that one much.  


Rhu's adventure didn't seem to phase him much, and he was out 
the door and up countless trees the following day, though, thankfully, I 
noticed that he avoided the fallen tree under which the porcupine might 
still be sleeping.








We had a bit of snowcover for a time, much to my delight as I 
wandered in the late afternoon on Solstice to greet winter
and sing to the trees and the dreaming bears somewhere 
under the snow. 




Dad and I had a lovely visit, and, thankfully for him, just the right 
amount of snow and cold - not to deep and not too frigid. 
He spent a lot of time relaxing and reading by the fire. 




Life here, of course, would not be complete without a few owls 
now and again. This barred owl was sighted on my travels about 
town while gathering supplies for festive, holiday feasts.



Here's a small clip of her flying off into the forest carrying 
Happy New Year messages to all of my friends. 

video