Cabin Fever Art

My September in Costa Rica continues to inspire and so far I like what’s happening with the resulting art. I’m also working on a Bay City snow scene, which I’m not liking very much so far, and a portrait, which so far I do, if I don’t ruin it. That’s one of my frequent mid-project fears: When I’m halfway through a book or a painting, I either love it so much I don’t dare try to finish it, lest I do something to spoil it, or I can’t stand it and want to give up. At times like this I invoke my artist’s mantra: PROFESSIONALS FINISH!

I’m calling my palm trees “Cabin Fever” which seems to give me permission to get hysterical with color and makes it sort of Michigan relevant at this time of year. Titles do influence lookers (and buyers), I’ve discovered. I have an artist friend on Beaver Island, Cindy Rickskers, who has a genius for giving abstract paintings irresistible titles. I’ve always envied her this talent. You’d think, my being a professional writer, that I could fling titles around with ease, but Cindy’s still better. She beats me at Scrabble, too.

“Cabin Fever 1″ is acrylic on paper, with a border as part of the painting, 19″ x 21”. Click on the image to enlarge it.

Painting Like Mad

What fun. I wish I were more focused–I like the idea of doing twenty paintings on a theme, which makes for a cool show. I could easily do twenty paintings on Costa Rica, and I might, but meanwhile other ideas pop into my head–a full-length portrait of a beautiful friend whose radiance I find irresistible; or families on a traditional Bay City sledding hill after a pristine, Saturday snow. The colors don’t really go together, nor do the subjects.

But as usual, I do what I love. In the end it will be fine, just like my home, where I do not decorate but simply surround myself with loved paintings, textiles and objects both d’art and practical. They seem to enjoy each other, celebrate diversity, and welcome visitors to make themselves at home.

So here is a painting I’ve been working on since September. I don’t think it’s such a great one and it took me a long time because I got tangled up in all the leaves, but I love looking at it–it’s the view framed by the kitchen window in my Costa Rica studio. There were many more exotic views than this one from larger windows in the same studio, but this one, featuring the side of the next-door studio and a row of flowering shrubs, kept changing color and shape with the moving sun.

“Costa Rica Kitchen Window” is acrylic on paper, 16 x 20. Click on the image to enlarge it.

Parrot Girl

I emailed a jpeg of this painting to a friend who’d done the trip with me and remembered this girl as one of the most beautiful children she’d ever seen. The child’s smile had hunger in it, I thought. She’d clearly posed for the tourists before.
Her home was one of many small thatched roof homes surrounded by flowering shrubs and located between the many banana plantations owned by companies like Delmonte and Dole.

This is the second painting I’ve done of Costa Rica since my month-long stay last September.

Click on the image to enlarge it.

One-of-a-Kind Designer Necklaces

I had found a great sale on polymer clay about six months ago, bought a lot of colors and then forgot about them until I thought I might make Christmas tree ornaments for the holiday season. But I didn’t really like what I came up with and began making beads just for fun.

The beads took over. I made all sorts of beads, experimenting with various polymer clay techniques described in several books I happen to have. Interests sometimes start that way….a slow accruing of related materials until one day, an idea combines them in some exciting way.

The necklaces delight me. Each one is different, made of my own hand-made and hand-lacquered beads, then carefully designed and strung. They average 20 to 30 inches and sell for $47.50 and there are only two dozen: Call 989-894-5925 to order, for more information, or more examples. Here are four starters.

Click on an image to enlarge it.

Solitude, Mostly

I had taken the precaution of painting two of everything–one for him and one for me. I’ve discovered that often people don’t really value a little painting that comes naked and unceremoniously in the mail, so I always make one for myself.

Here are a couple of passionate visual descriptions of our 2,000-mile-apart  love affair. I’ll put  all fifteen on their own page when I get to it. They seem to describe my life as much now as then, even though I’m no longer in a committed relationship. I’m calling the series “SOLITUDE, MOSTLY.”

We’re still phone friends, at least I hope we are (do forgive me…you know who you are), and I did find the picture I’d been looking for, finally, after also discovering a bag of original watercolors for my next book and a lost recipe for oatmeal.

Click on an image to enlarge it.

At last, a New Fish Painting

The problem was a too-rough surface–my reds/yellows/pinks/oranges weren’t blending, and the shading just blobbed. I’d painted over the pleasant mountain scene originally contained by the frame so I could paint something I thought would go with the wonderful carving. But it was on plywood, very hard, very rough.

I was complaining about this recently to an artist friend who, off the cuff, suggested I cover the whole thing with a transparent medium and then paint on that. What a great idea! It gave me a more versatile surface, and although the painting never did look like the one in my head, I like it.

The picture, including the frame, measures 25″ x 16″.
Click on the image to enlarge it.

Wesley’s Merganser

Dewey discovered Wesley, an older man who lived with his wife in a trailer east of Mount Pleasant. Dewey built Wesley a little studio at one end so Wesley could continue his work after he’d been ill and couldn’t get around quite like he used to. Wesley’s wife has since died, followed recently by Wesley himself. I met him a few months prior, just before Christmas, about a year ago, when he gave me a blackbird he’d carved. He was in a wheelchair by then, but cheerful and hospitable. I was moved by the modest circumstances in which Wesley created such prolific and impressive art.

I have always loved Wesley’s work–usually carved life-size, or even larger–and I’ve seen quite a bit of it, from the woodpecker Dewey gave me many Christmases ago to full-size bears to sharks to porcupines, all carved roughly and painted without much fuss, but oddly winsome. I don’t usually like carved animals, but Wesley’s charm me way past resistance.

This merganser was the only Wesley that I could afford in the Tamarack that day, but I fell in love with it. For one thing, I knew what it was and I was pleased that Wesley must have known as well. (So many people see Mergansers flocking on Lake Michigan but never really look at them.) I think I paid under a $100 for it. It must be a hardwood–quite heavy for its 16 x 14 size. I think he has a look in his glass eye, which I didn’t quite catch in my painting, that says he knows something he knows I’d like to know, and if I hang around long enough, someday he might just tell me.

A New Project

I’ve decide to do a little watercolor of each thing I love and write the story of how I got it (or made it), and why I keep shlepping it from coast to coast, house to house, through my meandering life. This is a way for me to pass along my art with the merest of storage requirements.

It should take quite a long time for me to paint everything, which is as it should be, as I intend to enjoy all this stuff for years to come. But perhaps it will be easier for me to let it go when eventually I will have to if I’ve made a record of it.

I’ve started out with a 9 x 12 size, which I can reduce in PhotoShop to whatever I like if I want to print it out. It’s just hard to paint on anything smaller when I’m doing large objects.

My first experiment is a bowl my own mother made when she was a girl. A singer who mostly makes music, she rarely produced anything else in the way of art, so this is a rare treasure. I can’t remember when she gave it to me, but I’ve had it for at least fifteen years. I love the rich deep glaze and treasure it especially because I don’t think that I have any thing else she has made–the things she sewed for me when I was younger unfortunately no longer fit me. The bowl is signed on the bottom, without at date, “Ruth Enss.”

 Click on the image to enlarge it.

Kawkawlin River Clean-Up

I don’t do much but function as the photographer, artist, and general recorder of things, occasionally fishing out a beer bottle, plastic trash bag, or even rooting out a tire or two from the cattails. As last year, I was a passenger in Tom (known as Toad) Starkweather’s dingy, The Toadtanic, featuring a 2 horsepower motor that threw up at the slightest contact with the pervasive weeds.

This year I tried something new: a new friend who buys for the Saugatuck Historical Museum in Saugatuck, Michigan, Judy A., gave me a lovely Arches 6″ x 10″ sketch pad called a Carnet de Voyage Travel Book. It’s 15, 140-lb. pages easily take watercolor sketches on both sides. Judy suggested I use an extra-fine sharpie to draw, which amazingly does not run, even when painted on top of.

I find I prefer to paint first and draw around the color shapes and then write on top of that, but on the river everything went by so fast that I drew first and painted afterwards. So far I’ve only painted two: one of the river and one of our friend Bill, who joined us for the first half-hour. Please note that I did these in a rocking boat! Those two big men plus me in the boat made quite a load, but there were places so shallow that I got out and pulled those two guys myself!

Click on a picture to enlarge it.

Koi Paintings

I have some really large sheets of heavy, glossy paper that feels like cover stock or really heavy photo paper that a friend gave me but we don’t know what it’s made of. It handles paint in interesting and unexpected ways. Regular watercolors float on it and, unless they’re a staining variety, can be wiped away–almost completely erased–which is very un-watercolorlike. (A spray or two with fixative makes watercolor permanent.)

Dr. Martin’s radiant watercolors stain and are permanent from first brush.

Acrylics float if thinned out but eventually stick tight.

The paper is so tough that I can scrub away at it, finding wonderful effects without tearing the paper. It’s the perfect stuff for water and fish, so slippery and unexpected and fun.

I tried a large painting on this paper–25 x 30–but ended up not liking the composition, so I found and developed several smaller paintings, using that as a base. I call them One Koi, Two Koi, and Three Koi.

Click on a picture to enlarge it.