Thursday, April 30, 2009

What is Your Favorite Subject Matter?

Katherine Tyrrell recently conducted a poll on her blog, Making a Mark, regarding artist's favorite subject matter.

Here are the results of the poll for which 173 responded.

24% Portraits/Figures
18% Scenes-landscapes/urban/interiors
16% Animals/wildlife
15% Anything and everything
12% Flowers/Botanical art
8% Still life
5% Conceptual/symbolic
3% Narrative (main-focus, story)

Katherine Terrell's analysis of the polls:

Portraits / Figures are the most popular subject for artwork. Around a quarter of the artists like drawing and painting people and figures best of all.

Add in animals/wildlife and creating portraits of living beings accounts for some 40%of respondents

The second most popular subject are scenes - whether these are landscapes, urban scenes or scenes of interiors - 18% prefer 'the big picture'.

People whose favourite subject is Animals and/or wildlife accounted for 16% of the responses.

In the middle of the poll, we find that 15% of the artists like to draw and paint anything and everything. This figure could have been a lot bigger. However I rather suspect that some of who tend to draw or paint more than one subject had to make a decision about whether we said we genuinely had no preference (ie anything and everything) or whether we did have a favourite.

Drawing or painting flowers or producing botanical art attracted 12% of the poll - which is 50% more than the number who voted for still life as being their favourite subject (8%)

Only 5% are motivated by ideas and involved in the development of conceptual or symbolic art. I'd expect to get a much higher percentage than this if I was asking full time professional contemporary artists. I'm wondering whether this very low percentage is because most readers of my blog are people who don't routinely produce art based on an idea.

Even fewer (3%) had any sort of narrative commonly running through their art.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Scribble Drawing

Taking an art class can be intimidating for some people, basically for adults who have not done much art in their lives. It seems that at some point in the growing up years either someone has made fun of one's art or the notion that I am not good enough has ended further pursuit of art. Yet, creating art sounds intriguing, so let's sign up for a class!

These are the folks I meet in class. BRAVE SOULS! Ready and willing to tap into their creativity. It is a treat to teach these people who show up.

My favorite first activity is to have them choose a color marker and close their eyes. I invite them to scribble all over their paper. Do you know there are many individual ways to scribble? I am amazed by each person's unique way to scribble! I ask them to stop scribbling and to look at their paper from all different angles to see what images they find. When they find something, I ask them to use the various colors of markers to bring the image or images out.

What fun they have! Scribbling is the very first stage of artistic development. Do you remember scribbling as a child? Or do you remember being told NOT to scribble? This art experiential that I use with my art classes seems to connect people with a sense of play. Maybe they get in touch with their inner child? But one thing I know for sure is that everyone enjoys it.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

World View of Mandalas

What is a Mandala?

The word "Mandala" is from Sanskrit, a classical Indian language developed over 2,300years ago. Loosely translated to mean "circle," a mandala is far more than a simple shape. It represents wholeness, and can be seen as a model of the organizational structure of life itself-a cosmic diagram that reminds us of our relation to the infinite, the world that extends both beyond and within our bodies and minds.

Describing both material and non-material realities, the mandala appears in all aspects of life: the celestial circles we call earth, sun, and moon, as well as conceptual circles of friends, family, and community. Tibetan Buddhist believe that the mandala is "a matrix or model of a perfected universe," says noted Buddhist scholar, Professor Robert A.F. Thurman. "Every being is a mandala.... We are our environment as much as we are the entity in the environment."

The integrated view of the world represented by the mandala, while long embraced by some Eastern religions, has now begun to emerge in Western religious and secular cultures. Awareness of the mandala may have the potential of changing how we see ourselves, our planet, and perhaps even our own life purpose.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Discover the Artist Within

This evening was the first class of "Discover the Artist Within" which I teach at Evergreen. It is always fun to see who shows up and why they are there.

Tonight's group recognized the power of art to heal as many students found themselves pleasantly distracted from the chaos of their lives. One student mentioned that she felt transported to another realm and it felt good.

In the artistic development of children, the first art representation is a scribble drawing. I have found that starting adult students off with a scribble drawing, eyes closed, helps them to reconnect with childhood and reopen that door to creativity. It was interesting to note that a couple of students were uncomfortable with this lack of control and realized the parallels to their life. Another insight was the felt need to fill the paper and frustration that the art medium, colored markers, caused because it was not capable of doing this. Where did this need for control come from?

By the end of the class, there were several "ah has" and a unanimous "this was fun!" I find it curious that adults forget how to have fun.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Latest Watercolor Painting

Some paintings take longer that usual and this watercolor painting that I completed recently has been on my drafting table for a good month or so.

When I was at Sanoviv, Mexico, I was drawn to the ice plants which cascade down the cliffs to the ocean. I liked the spots of bright red, pink, orange, and yellow of the flowers contrasted against the green and red of the plant.

In a crack of the stairs to the patio over looking the ocean was an escapee small plant with one bloom. As I painted my rendition of the plant and scene, it came to symbolize the concept of "alone" and drew me closer to my feelings of being Motherless. My father died about 13 years ago, but my mother died just recently. This watercolor painting went through several transformations as I have and will. And when finally completed, it makes a bold statement to the meaning of "alone."

Friday, April 24, 2009

Olympia Arts Walk; April 24th & 25th

Tonight downtown Olympia, Washington, celebrates the arts in our community at the 38th annual spring Arts Walk. For artists, art lovers and the art curious, this event is a wonderful opportunity to embrace the arts in all forms! Maps with listings of venues and artists are available at participating locations. The Luminary Procession starts at 9:30pm on Friday night.

Saturday is the 15th annual incredible Procession of the Species Celebration beginning at 4:30PM. Last year's was an entrancing kaleidoscope of brilliant colors, delighted by 27,000 smiles beaming together. It is a parade not to be missed! Beginning at 3:30pm, 7,000 pieces of colorful street chalk will be handed out along the entire Procession of the Species route for people to draw the art of one's individual spirit in the streets.

In addition, at 2:30pm, featured Arts Walk artist, Heather Taylor, will be on hand to lead the creation of a "Hold the Earth Street Mandala." A beautiful street mandala large enough to fill the intersection at Legion and Capitol Way! Heather will need help to fill all of the colors in...chalk will be provided!

I will be showing my watercolor paintings at the Tea Lady which is on the corner of 5th and Washington in downtown Olympia. I will be there on Saturday and a couple of hours early Friday evening. Along with watercolor paintings, tiles, cards, and prints will be available for purchase. The show will be on display for a couple of weeks.


Thursday, April 23, 2009

Watercolors, a Second-Rate Art Form?

I just read a highly charged letter to the editor of The Artists Magazine (January/February 2009) where Tom Herzberg of Chicago, Illinois discusses his opinion of why watercolors is a second rate art form. Here is what he said:

I've been a watercolor painting instructor at the American Academy of Art in Chicago since 2001, and over the years have seen my share of watercolor shows. Pretty much without exception, they are interchangeable collections of beautifully crafted images: still life, landscape, figure, etc. Once you get past the technique, what's left? Nostalgia? Don't you ever feel that if you see another bowl of fruit you're going to wreck something? There are many painters in other media who deal with the "pretty," but there are a great number of artists who are out there creating images that are intended to make us think - to enlighten us, to scare us and make us ask questions - image with content that we can agree with, disagree with, be revolted by or find great joy in. I find it hard to believe that so many talented watercolor artists are only interested in creating images of decoration. I'm also amazed at how revered this practice is within the watercolor community; it's like a self-perpetuating type of inbreeding.

Maybe it's the show scene reinforced by the "how to" art book publishing industry. Maybe the watercolor painters of content are more common than we realize, but the watercolor establishment seldom exhibits them. Perhaps it's the notion that unless a piece is pretty, it won't be accepted in a watercolor show, so why pay the fee and go through the trouble of entering it if there's no chance a provocative painting is going to be accepted, much less win a prize? Yes, you will see the occasional watercolor appear in broader or specialized art shows, and there are even the occasional watercolors that show up in museum shows. But I'm afraid that the passive contentment for the status quo continues to cause watercolor to be marginalized by the greater world of art as a second-rate art form.

Do you believe that there is a status quo in watercolors?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day

In honor of Mother Earth, I decided to spend as much time possible in her company absorbed in all her beauty.

This morning Ebony and I took a walk in our beautifully wooded area listening to the birds. I was feeling grateful and appreciative.

In the afternoon having completed a watercolor painting I had been working on for several days, I returned outdoors to reconvene with Mother Nature. I traveled via skates (Landrollers) along the Chehalis Western Trail with Ebony at my side. Along this trail are several ponds and plenty of wildlife, so once again I was enraptured by the beauty of my surroundings. Unfortunately, a gray squirrel crossed our path and I forgot to let go of Ebony's lead. CRASH. Good thing I wear padding.

When I was tutoring this evening, I asked my student what they did in school for Earth Day. To my astonishment she said they did nothing and asked if it were a day to recycle. Schools have dropped the ball; how disappointing. Where else will the younger generation learn to care for our planet?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

What Is Art For?

Having read an article about Ellen Dissanayake who explained why we need art, I decided to find her book, What Is Art For. Today, my art therapy client and I began reading and found some very thought provoking ideas.

Here, Ellen talks about what she calls the "advanced, western" notion of art.

It is not to be denied that the larger portion of people in modern Western society may have imprecise and undiscriminating attitudes toward the meaning or range of a concept of art. Yet for the past century or so, among those directly concerned with making, perceiving, and understanding the arts (the "art world"), it has been generally accepted that artists are more interested in their works as entities in themselves than they are in their success in representing some aspect of reality or ideality outside themselves.

Today as well, it is assumed by the art world that a work of art has its own autonomous value, apart from being useful(a goblet), or skillfully made (an engraved snuffbox), or impressively carved (a monument). An art object need serve no purpose other than its own existence as something for aesthetic contemplation. In this view, art is "for" nothing except itself. It need have no other justification - such as accurately depicting reality, or putting the spectator in touch with eternal verities, or revealing phenomenological or emotional truth. The primary value of a work of art need no longer be that it edifies or instructs, that it is rare or uses costly materials, that it is well made.

Yet neither in classical or medieval times, nor indeed in any other civilization or traditional society that we know of, have works been made to serve as "art objects," to be judged by aesthetic criteria alone, or appraised primarily for their power to evoke aesthetic enjoyment. Even though aesthetic excellence in a work may have been obligatory, this was so because the object or performance was already intrinsically important for other reasons and thus required to be done beautifully, appropriately, or correctly. Until the nineteenth century, beauty (at least in the man-made world) was not its own excuse for being.

Although Western philosophers of the past certainly discussed beauty and art (in different senses than today), it was first in eighteenth-century Britain that a subject called aesthetics began to be regarded as a distinct matter for study (Osborne, 1970).

In fact, with our detached, aesthetic attitude we can view objects from other cultures and civilizations and presume that they are "art" in our sense, even though in their own context they served instrumental purposes and were never regarded, as we regard the, "purely aesthetically." We are mistaken to assume that such regard is universal.

Art, Ellen believes, is a culturally loaded concept. This book is fascinating!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Life is Art by Jim Rohn

Jim Rohn has been called the modern day Will Rogers. He is an extraordinary human being who's philosophy can enhance the quality of life for anyone who exposes themselves to it.
I LOVE Jim Rohn!

Here is a piece by Jim Rohn that I can really relate to, can you?

In my years teaching people to be successful, I have seen that basically people break their lives down into two major parts: Wealth-building and the rest of their lives. Having done a lot of reflection on these two topics - wealth and life - I am coming to some new conclusions about how to perceive the two.

Until recently I thought that there was a significant difference in how we should tackle the two areas. In fact, I thought that the two topics should be addressed in almost opposite fashion.

You see, wealth-building is just math. While life -- Life is art.

Think back with me to high school. Most of us were required to take math and most of us probably took art as well.

Now, think about your final exams in the two areas. Your math paper was graded on hard facts:

Ten times ten is always one-hundred
Thirty divided by three is always ten
Seven plus seven is always fourteen
Fifty minus twenty-five is always twenty-five

There is always just one answer in math. The answers are hard fact, set in stone. Math is a science. It is formulaic. You can know the outcome before it happens, every time.

But what about your final art project? Art is much more subjective. "Beauty," they say, "is in the eye of the beholder." There is no one right answer.

Think of the different styles of the famous artists:

Renoir. Monet. Picasso. Rockwell. Warhol.

Different people find different styles beautiful, and that is what makes art, art.

So how does this fit with wealth-building and life? Wealth-building is like math:

If you add $1000 to your retirement account each month and gain seven percent interest over twenty years, you can know now how much you will have then. It is math. If you buy a rental property for $200,000 now and it increases in value by three percent a year, you know exactly how much you will be able to sell it for in ten years. The beauty of math is in the knowing. You can work the system, set it on auto-pilot and the math does the work for you, and you know the outcome.

But life? Life is art. And that is the beauty of life. You do not know how it is going to turn out. Life, like art, is always changing. Different people provide different colors. When you make a mistake, you can go back, erase it or even paint right over it. You can change the scenery. Life, like art, is ever evolving, and what looks good to one person is of no interest to another. And that is what makes life beautiful.

Another lesson I think we can draw is that in life we should do our math, of course, but life isn't made up of just wealth-building. Wealth-building should serve our ability to live our lives. Jesus, the master teacher, said that our lives are not made up of the abundance of our possessions. He didn't mean that possessions aren't good, just that wealth isn't what life is all about.

So let me ask you: Are you spending more time on your math or your art? Do your math. Everybody should do their very best at their wealth-building plan so they can take care of themselves and their families.

But life is about the art. What does your canvas look like? What kind of picture are you painting? What kind of pot are you creating? What kind of statue are you sculpting? Take your time, make bold strokes, use brilliant colors, and make of your life the most beautiful masterpiece that you can.

In other words, do your math so you can focus on your art.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

On The Road Again

I was traveling again this my new sports car! I brought along my watercolor pencils. They are the best medium for travel because of their easy portability.

I sat in my son's backyard near the lovely newly replanted flower beds enjoying the sunshine which was plentiful this weekend in Washington. YES!

I have not done a mandala painting in a long time. What appeared to me in the center as I drew was the image of a tree. I played with that tree image and thought about the tree of life. I felt gratitude and appreciation for my life and it is expressed in the mandala.

The Tree of Life Mandala Painting

Friday, April 17, 2009

Spring Thoughts......

A few nice spring-like days and my mind travels to gardening.

How about you?

There is something special about the earth connection and helping things grow that is so heart warming. Similar to the human connection to personal growth.

Are you growing?

What nourishes your soul?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Teapots with an Attitude

I will be showing a series of watercolor paintings with a "tea" theme at the Tea Lady during the spring Arts Walk in Olympia on April 24th and 25th.

I enjoy the expressions of hands in the ceremony of having tea. As I was composing these paintings the teapots started to take on a character of their own. Tearing the shapes from former watercolor paintings I create what I have coined watercolor collage paintings. This technique adds a particular charm to the teapots, what do you think?

You can view more on my website.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Daughters Helping Mothers

As the saying goes, we learn from our children for they are our best teachers. I must admit I grew up along side of my daughter. She was the first born.

Today, as a young adult, Michelle is still guiding me along.

Recently we had lunch together and then she took me to her favorite tea house, Teahouse Kuan Yin in Wallingford which is north of downtown, on the other side of Lake Union close to the University of Washington. A cozy little shop that has been around since 1990 and sells bulk teas, teaware, light meals, desserts, and hot or iced tea in a fun and relaxing atmosphere. Michelle's favorite tea is Jasmine and I love the smell. Unfortunately, caffeine and I do not get along, but they have a huge selection of herbal teas. We had tea and chatted.

Michelle had suggested to me that I might contact the owner about hanging my paintings on the walls. I came ready with portfolio in hand, but the owner was not present that day. I diligently did my follow-up and contacted him by e-mail. Marcus was quick to respond, and we have set May 9th as the day for me to hang my watercolor paintings.

Thank you, Michelle for your encouragement and insightfulness.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Ix-Chel, Mayan Moon Goddess

Having visited Isla Mujeres (“Island of Women”) recently, I learned that this island was devoted to the worship of Ix-Chel. Comfortable with all phases of life, she was honored as the weaver of the life cycle. She protected the fertility of women and was also the keeper of the souls of the dead.

As an ancient fertility goddess, Ix-Chel was responsible for sending rain to nourish the crops. When fulfilling that function she was called “Lady Rainbow”. She helped insure fertility by overturning her sacred womb jar so that the waters would flow.

Though sometimes depicted as a goddess of catastrophe (the woman who stands by as the world floods), many of her myths show her in a more benevolent light—as a goddess who refused to become a victim of oppression.

This was a woman who, when faced with adversity, took charge of her life and turned it around! Ix-Chel encourages us to acknowledge the negative forces affecting our lives. And she prompts us to assert ourselves fully in the face of physical or emotional violence that would diminish our sense of self.

I created a watercolor painting of Ix-Chel

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Colorful Women of Isla Mujeres

I wanted to share photos of the Mayan women and families we met at Isla Mujeres. It was fun making purchases from these woman and practicing my Spanish. I love the fact that children are always around while Mom works.

We visited The Beading Collective

Met these fabulous seamstresses

More colorful women and children

And the colorful market

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Hummingbird Encounter

This morning I was honored to hold a hummingbird!

The poor little creature hit the window and landed on the ground in front of my cat. Quickly, I picked up the hummingbird. The little thing weighed hardly anything and sat in the palm of my hand looking at me. We talked for a while.

I placed the little guy (he had a touch of red on his throat; probably an immature male Anna Hummingbird) on the deck railing where he sat for awhile. I grabbed my camera as I have never had a hummingbird pose before.

When he decided to take off, unfortunately he crashed into the window of the door and ended up in the house! My cat was very excited now. I gathered the little hummingbird in my cupped hands and took him outside. After some deep breathing the little guy was ready to fly. I guided him towards the nearby trees.

I do not know which one of us had the most amazing encounter?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Why Do We Need Art?

One of my art therapy clients can no longer create art with her hands so we read and discuss various art books together. Today we learned about an amazing woman.

Ellen Dissanayake who synthesized art history, anthropology, psychology, and ethology and came up with a paradigm-changing theory: Art-making evolved as a behavior that contained advantages for human survival - and those advantages went far beyond what Charles Darwin ever imagined.

In the late 1960's art was still defined mostly in terms of objects, beauty and the experience of the viewer, reader or listener. Ellen considered not the viewer but the creator. She defined art as a behavior and came up with a two-word phrase that captured the activity in its broadest permutations: "Making special." "We don't have a verb, 'to art,' but what are artists, dancers, poets doing?" she says. "They're taking the ordinary and making it special." In her book, Homo Aestheticus, she says making art gives us "the ability to shape and thereby exert some measure of control over the untidy material of every day life."

Definitely thought provoking!

We have decided to get a copy of her book "What Is Art For?" for our next reading.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Mayan Women in Isla Mujeres, Mexico

I just returned from a Women's Retreat at Isla Mujeres, Mexico. Isla Mujeres is an island just off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. Isla Mujeres is Spanish for the island of women.

Other than dodging the snow, hail, and rainstorms in Washington, what I really enjoyed was meeting the Mayan women. We visited with a group of Mayan women who have created a small beading collective. The women support themselves and their children from the beading collective sales. They sell their crafts in a tiny shop up island and in the town square during fiestas and holidays. The purchase of one small bracelet, handcrafted with traditional Mayan designs, provides the equivalent of three day’s wages for these women and their families. Most of the women are indigenous culture, and speak Mayan and Spanish. Their children and grandchildren help them with written Spanish. With the proceeds, life’s necessities are purchased, school tuition for their children paid, and the fee for them to study at a new English language school is possible.

Another Mayan woman, Hortensia, sewed whatever style clothing you desired from the beautiful fabric at her shop. She looked at you, took a few measurements with the fabric in hand, and the next day she had an outfit that fit perfectly.

And Cecilia, this colorful woman, carried her merchandise and sold to those on the beach.

What a treat it was to meet these lovely Mayan women and to support them with our purchasing of their art.