Sunday, April 14, 2013

Deep in the Forest

"Late Winter Forest",  watercolor, VClaff 2013

I've come to an important moment in the development of this new work. I've explored the possibilities of the technique, found its limits and understand a little better how to achieve a balance of allowing and controlling. Last week was particularly productive as I had a day off from teaching, which doesn't sound like much, but allowed a four day stretch to focus entirely on painting. 
"Winter Mists",  watercolor, VClaff 2013
All the small explorations have given me a confidence about what is possible, 
especially in the first wash layers. This week I began to play with sublte details
in the other layers as I get a clearer understanding of where I want to take the 
imagery. I also invested in a new brush (more expensive than you might think) 
which helps me achieve the detail I desire. I love the new brush, and now 
need a few more! I'm reminded of a chalk board in my father's woodshop that 
for years had the words - don't use cheap brushes - written on it. I completely 
agree. I have a good stock of very good brushes, but each way of working demands
specific tools, and as this work develops, I need different tools for different 
details. In the case of these paintings, each layer of paint demands a different 
kind of brush. 

"Winter Marsh",  watercolor, VClaff 2013
In the three paintings above, I'm getting at the essence of technique and image
In the top two, the subtle addition of dimensionality in the darker layer of trees 
suggests many directions I might go in. It seems the further I go with this work, 
the more expansive I feel. I am deep in the forest now, navigating by my intuition 
and possibly with the assistance of an unseen tree-spirit or two. 

Pasha is always there to guide me, too, though the last few days of cold and 
frozen percipitation, had him a tad on the grumpy side. On a particularly raw 
and wet day, I found him perched on the gas heater, enjoying the heat radiating 
off of the cast iron. 

 In contrast to the unfriendly week I posted about last time, this week has brought 
some lovely surprises! A gift in the mail from Grace at Windthread really made my 
day... a Grass Woman to add to the magic of my studio. She was placed on the 
windowsill temporarily until she finds her permanent place. When I looked at her 
later in the day, I noticed that she hadn't quite liked the position I had chosen for 
her, so instead, had leaned over and grabbed the candle holder. She is keeping 
company in the cozy corner with my sculpture Root Grandmother. I'm sure they are 
sharing many an important story about roots and grasses together. 

I'll leave you with a series of images from my walk yesterday... I walked slowly 
and found great pleasure in the last of the winter garden stocks and the vibrant
mosses now visible again as the snow melts. 

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Sancturary In a Room of One's Own

"Mists", watercolor, VClaff, 2013
For one reason or another, the world hasn't felt like a friendly place of late. 
Journeying through these months of grief, I feel like a raw egg without a shell, 
and not as able to let the unconsiouss and lately downright unkind behavior of 
others slide off me. My studio has been a sanctuary of inspiration and solace, 
I am so grateful to have this room of my own. For those of you new to my blog, 
you may not know that I received a grant to build the studio, and my gratitude 
for this gift is ever deepening. (as always, click on the images to see them better)

"Winter Marsh", watercolor, VClaff 2013
I continue to explore the forest paintings with great enthusiasm, experimenting 
with bleeding techniques, layering and both the square and long rectangle formats. 
Each painting unfolds mysteriously as I watch how the first wash layer dries and 
suggests mists or light or something altogether undefineable, which is fine with me. 

"Mystery", watercolor, VClaff 2013
"Winter Trees", watercolor, VClaff 2013
"Trees - study", watercolor, VClaff 2013

Study, watercolor, VClaff 2013

Study 2, watercolor, VClaff 2013

Study 3, watercolor, VClaff 2013

The image below gives you a sense of the scale of the smaller paintings I begin
the day with, and below that, some of the larger pieces on the pinboard. A full 
sheet of watercolor paper is 22 x 30", and the largest I have made these so far. 
(BTW - the paper in the above images is NOT pink... I think I need to re-shoot these!)

Last week I slowed down my production of larger work as I waited for an order of 
watercolor paper to arrive. I took some time to sit outside and listen to the wind, 
watch the sunlight move around the studio, and dream a bit with the stones. 

Pasha and I sat outside the backdoor, finding a melted spot to enjoy the sunshine. 
Warm days but very cold nights has made the snow melt very slow, but I am beginning 
to see the tops of stones long buried. 

I thought I might try to get one of those "Artist in the Studio" pictures, in case I 
ever need one... I'm wearing my favorite wool hat that a friend gave me in graduate 
school many years ago. It seems to be a standard on studio days, and I'm sure you've 
seen it before. 

Today I ventured out into the forest to dump the ash from the wood stove. 
The snow had melted just enough for Pasha and I to walk a bit, avoiding the deeper 
snow still up to my knees. We were called to sit on logs and listen to the joyous singing of chickadees. Pasha, as usual, clambered up a tree and enteratained me as I sat and listened to wind and birdsong and the roar of the distant river, full with spring melt. 

Sitting listening on a mossy log, I was inspired by the texutres and colors and 
noticed a little owl face looking at me from a tree, do you see it?

Pasha went off exploring, but came to my whistle when I found a very large 
paw print in the snow. I must be a bit rusty with my tracking these days, as I 
can't quite identify this track. Its old and a bit melted, but looks maybe like 
a large cat who had long since passed through. 

Just as we were thinking of moving on, a chickadee came to a branch quite close 
to sing a bit. We stayed and listened as more and more birdsongs filled the forest. 
It may be cold and still quite snowy, but the birds are full of enthusiasm and 
I think they may be letting us know that warmer days are just ahead.