Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Holiday In Oregon or Recovering From An ArtFest

What a great day our friend Donna gave us today in and about Wilsonville, OR.  The Monday following an art festival is always our "hangover" day - sleeping off the effects of standing on our feet for 10-12 hours, chatting with prospective clients, smiling, smiling and more smiling.  The idea of course is to give the art festival goers the impression that we are completely relaxed, happy to be there, ready to explain our techniques and styles to the inquisitive, even if it's someone's five year old or a would-be artist wanting some info about tools, colors, how did you get this or that effect.  So, by Monday we are shot.  No two ways about it.  Mostly we don't have the energy to research the area we are showing in so we don't know that there is a terrific museum or a trail to a swimming hole or a collection of antique sculptures of miniature crab apples (just kidding - don't think I would go out of my way for that).  So, when we stay with Donna and she plans the Monday for us, makes omelets for breakfast, does the driving, AND takes us to wonderful places to just "be"with the natural beauty that is Oregon, it's pretty special.

Here is a place that was not only nature at its best but an artist at his best, as well.



This is Jim Barton's Pudding River Studios, Aurora, OR...but we didn't know that we were doing anything but walking down a forest path....until we began to come upon these beautiful wood sculptures, mostly done from fire damaged wood.  They stood as guardians of the forest, sentinels, plates of a sort of Buddhist armor on healthy trees, silent prayers of Quan Yin, invitations to wander further...and then there he was, standing at the edge of a large fork lift which held the rough beginnings of a long table bench, filling a small crack.  Tall and skinny, shaded by the canopy above him, he smiled and gestured for me to come closer so he could hear me.

The sculptures speak for themselves.

 Jim is open and sharing, at home with both trees and people. Read some more about him in this article from Conversations. From his property we walked on through his neighbor's (with her permission) only to be delighted by a different kind of nature - acres of mown pasture that was home to many sheep until a flash flood of the Pudding River p them.  No signs of the misfortune remain except the water line high up in the trees.  Today the pasture was alive with singing birds, dandelions, and about a half mile of wild blackberry bushes grown high above our heads.

 I think I picked (and ate) enough berries for a large pie!  There were no cell phones there, no iPads, no ear phones...just blackberries, sun, the river and a good friend who wanted to give us a special day.  Thanks, Donna.

Sunday, July 8, 2012


 Summer, glorious in all its steamy heat and languid nights, is full upon us.  Greens in deepest shade are darkly purple, midnight blue, cooling our sun-shot eyes and bringing a moment's respite of breeze through the leafy canopies.  Salmon pinks, coral reds, butter yellows, cadmium orange with lemon and glaze of alizarin in riots of poppies, hibiscus, roses, honeysuckle, daisies, and lilies in a myriad of variety fill us with love for  this season of endless visual delights.  We breath in the perfume of summer wishing we could store it to warm ourselves come those cold November nights.  I am compelled by blooming Nature.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Artists & Health Care

People often ask me if the dust and particulate from the gourds I work on is toxic.  Do I wear a mask, they ask.  Yes and yes.  I am self-employed and have been for many decades.  I work in a field that is woefully unsupported by the corporate luxuries most people have experience with in their work-a-day worlds.  Though I am now old enough to be on Medicare, and grateful to be so, I was totally responsible for my health insurance until Medicare.  I take good care of my health but my insurance was still over $600/month pre-Medicare.  I bring this up because I opted to carry insurance regardless of the cost.  I have collected Unemployment Insurance once in my life in my twenties.  I pay my taxes.  So, yes, I am thrilled by yesterday's confirmation of the Affordable Care Act by the Supreme Court.  Below is a link to an article about artists and insurance.  

What I ask is that next time you are thinking of buying a piece of art for your home, remember that we who are professionals in the field have expenses and take risks that you may not ever have to think twice about.  We choose to be in this field.  We choose it because we love what we do.  We are willing to pay the price.  So, enjoy the work you purchase, but remember the person who created it for you and remember the others with whom you have exchanges when you cast a vote this year.  Ask what corporate entity makes the luscious paintings that hang in your living rooms, the sumptuous handwoven throws over your ottoman, the bronze sculpture at your entry.  None.  Just a lot of dedicated, passionate, driven, self-employed artists committed to making the world, theirs and yours, a place of creativity and beauty.

And thanks.

"Under the ACA, states will set up group exchanges by 2014, which will organize the insurance market and allow individuals and small businesses to band together to form groups, just like if they were part of a large corporation. "


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Giving A Hand To A Friend

Meet my friend, Pam Creamer.  The picture is not the "real" Pam.  It's Pam With Lyme's Disease.  The "real" Pam is a talented painter, lover of animals, vivacious, energetic, loving, generous, independent, gracious, FUN, loyal....and....painfully ill with Lyme's Disease.  She has fought it for years, handling it on her own (with her partner, Anita) until all of their income and savings, including their business, is gone.  But here's the thing...she has begun a series of IV treatments in NYC because her friends have opened a website  to help raise funds for this staggeringly expensive treatment.  There have been so many, many donations and she is moving through the treatment protocol like the champion she is - it is very painful and debilitating, but it is working!  This is an ugly disease that takes a horrible tole on the body, not to mention the mind and the spirit!  But Pam is a fighter!  We believe she will conquer this and be able to paint again - and painting is how she has always made her living and paid her bills.

The thing is, and why you are seeing this on my blog, is that we have stalled out on the donations, and we have a little ways more to go to finish the treatments.  So, I am asking all of you reading this, all of you who have loved my work, supported me with your purchases, taken classes from me, been inspired by my work or my words, to please show that today by clicking Pam's picture, and making a donation to this wonderful team effort to get Pam well.  I know we all get asked all the time to donate, donate, donate.  But, if you will make a donation of $10 to Pam, I will send you a packet of greeting cards with pictures of my gourd sculptures as a huge thank you for joining our team (that's a $20 value for your donation of $10 - not a bad deal).  Just leave a comment here on my post or email me through my website and I will get the cards in the mail to you.

Think of this as paying it forward, of being an angel, of sending some love like a pebble thrown in the pond - making ripples that go on forever.

Thanks for your help!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Paper Exhibit At SECCA

If you are in or near NC, make it a point to visit SECCA, the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art, in Winston-Salem.  "Paperless" is the name of their current exhibit of art made of paper - not paper as a surface for painting and drawing, but the material for concept.  On opening night they allow the audience to take photos, which I did, though my camera wasn't up to the low light challenge.  A few are in the slide show on the right - hopefully enough to tempt you to visit this very interesting facility.  There is also an accompanying exhibit of large sculptural cast glass work done by Stanislav Libensky and Jaroslava Brychtova in the 70's - 90's I believe.  In addition, on the way from the paper exhibit to the glass upstairs, one passes through an experience which I will leave for you to find by yourselves.

This piece of cut paper was in many ways, the most beautiful and the most thought provoking for me.  I am always struggling with the question of what beauty is and what makes it so.  The artist has created a seemingly simple cut paper work, but asks the question, "what draws us more? The image/absence (in other words, the living position of the colorless negative shape) or the presence/specter (the living color of the dead positioning of the poppies)?" (Italics are my words.)  I kept returning to this piece, aware each time that the upright position felt more alive to me, though somehow sad.  I liked that what appears to be simple and beautiful was not just so.

Monday, April 30, 2012

The Music of Art

What does an artist do when she is not going to art shows or festivals? Go to a music festival - what else? Along with 16,999 other people on Sunday, we spent a gorgeous NC day in Wilkesboro at MerleFest listening to Alison Krauss and Union Station. See that tiny bldg way at the back of the picutre? That's the stage. Fortunately someone in the reserved seating up front didn't show up to exit me from their seat that I borrowed, and I could actually see the group, and see them close up on the big screen.  Which begs the question, why would a huge festival like MerleFest not have a screen on both sides and perhaps one mid-way back as well?  Woulda been nice.  Nevertheless, hearing them live, and seeing Jerry on the dobro was too good!

Music - the great meditational, mind bending, universal touch of muse - the way IN, the way up and the way down - the road to sin and salvation. For those times when I'm stuck in a  rut, too bogged down by the relentless sadbad news spewed out of any media source one picks, stuck in the pressurized kettle of show deadlines, I turn to music for a quick exit.  Doesn't matter it it's Union Station, Bach, Elizabeth Kasius & Heard, Motown, or Mississippi blues - it's all good, it all transports me somewhere, it all ignites the spark.  My profound thanks to all musicians, players and writers, anywhere and everywhere for adding to the sound of the universal muse.

And, by the way, check out MIM in Scottsdale, AZ for a remarkably memorable museum experience!www.classicalarchives.com/bach.html

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Couch Surfing in Denton, Texas

Couch surfing has become our new way of traveling across the country, meeting new people, sharing what we do and learning about what they do.  CS has been around for about 30 years, bigger, I think, in Europe than here in the States.  Syed got us started on it last year by trying it out in Nashville.  With no small amount of skills of persuasion, he got me to agree to host our first couch surfer in our home in NC.  Our guest was 50-something, about to get married, and on business here in Salisbury.  In the morning he made us omelets and fruit for breakfast.  Our next guest was a lovely woman on a driving adventure throughout the southeast.  She was 60-something and a wonderful conversationalist.  We got so engaged in conversation that after a few hours we were surprised when her phone rang...it was her son, worried that she hadn't called to say that her host family (us) was safe and ok!

It was, therefore, no surprise to find that we were enjoying ourselves immensely with our hosts Chuck and Ginger in Denton.  They had opened their home, a small apartment, not only to us, but to another guest, Anne, a journalist from Sweden.  And of course there was Ruby (almost 3) and her brother Enzo (almost 2) who clearly loved having the company.

Couch surfing is a casual B 'n B (breakfast being optional on the part of the hosts) type of hosting travelers.  No money is exchanged.  It's a pay-it-forward kind of deal.  One's bed may be a real guest room with bath, or as basic as the couch.  It's up to the guest and the host, via the website, to come to an agreement regarding the stay.  Everyone puts up their profile and both guests and hosts write reviews of their experiences on the site.

Our conversation in Denton ranged from school systems in the States and in Sweden, our respective jobs, learning Spanish, living in Amsterdam, photography, music, raising kids in a foreign country, GMOs, organic food, the Midwest, and so on.  Chuck and Ginger are about 30 and their enthusiasm for living a simple life, spending lots of time with the children, and for the work ethic made me feel fortunate to have met them, and hopeful that we will again cross paths.  We'd like to count this family in our circle of friends because it feels like knowing them would add immeasurably to our own lives.

Anne is traveling around the States, interviewing folks on a whole range of topics, taking photos, getting a feel for America.  To be both outspoken and light hearted is a magical combination and so I hope she will take up my offer to contribute to this blog while she is here.  She expressed disappointment in how little many people seem to know about President Obama's accomplishments, or how well he is viewed in Europe.  And to hear her speaking about paying her share of taxes in Sweden as being part of her community made me wonder (not for the first time) why Americans are always complaining about high taxes while they scream about all the good roads, good schools, good parks, good postal service, etc. that they want their government to pay for.  We can seem a selfish lot to those looking in.  She isn't criticizing us, merely observing.

Here are a few pics of our trip home - bicycle wheels decorating a tree in one Couch Surfing host's back yard, Syed changing a flat on the way to Denton, the Denton town hall, Syed with our new Couch Surfing friends in Birmingham (lovely breakfast!).  Now we're here in Salisbury and ready to start working but wondering if we'll get a request for hosting a Couch Surfer soon.  Check out CouchSurfing.com.

Bicycle Art In A Tree

Denton, TX Town Hall

Syed, Richey, and Yao in Birmingham

Monday, April 9, 2012

Dramatic Glass Work by Syed Ahmad

As we work our way across the country to Syed's next show in nashville, I watch him sketching ideas for new series based on weather and another on trees.  The drawings are very much in the vein of graphic design.  The color is in his head until he gathers multiple sheets to begin the cutting and layering process.  I try to cut curves and get shards.  He cuts curves and gets undulating forms, moving liquid, rippling light!  You can see him at www.SyedArtGlass.com.

"Weather" One section, approximately 20" x 11" - May be used singly or in series for larger installation.

"Schooling" 15" x 15" x 4" each piece Ten pieces in the series.  May be hung in horizontal line or randomly spaced as a larger installation. 
"Flame" 10" x 24", relieved from wall 3"

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Last 2 Days at Celebration of Fine Art - Spirit of the Warrior: A Reliquary on Display

Check out the slideshow (in the column to the left) to see the entire process.  We'll have this beautiful piece here at the Celebration of Fine Art today and tomorrow.  Find us at the corner of exit 35 off the 101, on Hayden Rd, in the Big White Tents. Let us know you saw this on my blog! Thanks!

Spirit of the Warrior: A Reliquary
2012 Collaboration from Joe Woodford & Whitney Peckman 

View of top of Spirit of the Warrior: A Reliquary

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Sculptures Completed At Celebration of Fine Art

Completed at the show and on the floor now!  Only two weeks left in this year's show, so come and see this work first hand.  We'd love to chat with you. Don't forget that the show has moved to the corner of Hayden and the 101 loop, one mile east of the old location on Scottsdale Rd.  Easiest way to get there is from the 101 - exit 35.  Both pieces on mounted on revolving stands and so are meant to be viewed from all angles and sides.

Behind the Garden Shed
36" w x 32" h

Three Varieties
approx 10" w at  center point,
22" spread at top,  30" h

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Gourd Translations

The Celebration of Fine Art gets so many visitors from all over the world that I often find myself at a real loss when describing the material from which I do my sculptural vessels.  So, here is "gourd" in a wealth of languages!  And some pictures of fine art gourd sculptures I now have at the Celebration.

Full Bodied
Red Red Poppies

In A Poppy Garden

Translations of 'gourd'Kernerman English Multilingual Dictionary 

Sense 1: a type of large fruit, or the plant on which it grows.
 gourd in Afrikaans: komkommer, karkoer
 gourd in Arabic: يَقْطين، قَرع

 gourd in Bulgarian: кратуна
 gourd in Brazilian: cabaça

 gourd in Chinese: 葫芦
 gourd in Croatian: sušena tikva

 gourd in Czech: tykev
 gourd in Danish: græskar
 gourd in Dutch: pompoen
 gourd in Estonian: pudelkõrvits
 gourd in Finnish: kurkkukasvi

 gourd in Farsi: هر گیاهی از تیره کدو
 gourd in French: gourde
 gourd in German: der   
 gourd in Greek: (νερο)κολοκύθα

 gourd in Hebrew: דְלַעַת 

 gourd in Hindi: कद्दू के वर्ग की सब्जी
 gourd in Hungarian: (dísz)tök
 gourd in Icelandic: grasker
 gourd in Indonesian: labu

 gourd in Italian: (frutto delle cucurbitace
 gourd in Japanese: ひょうたん
 gourd in Korean: 박과(科) 열매의 총칭

 gourd in Latvian: (pudeļveida) ķirbis
 gourd in Lithuanian: moliūgas
 gourd in Malay: labu
 gourd in Norwegian: gresskar
 gourd in Pashto: اونورو شيانو په حيث كار ځ

 gourd in Persian: هر گیاهی از تیره کدو
 gourd in Polish: dynia

 gourd in Portuguese: cabaça
 gourd in Romanian: tigvă

 gourd in Russian: тыква бутылочная
 gourd in Serbian: tikva
 gourd in Slovak: tekvica

 gourd in Slovenian: buča
 gourd in Spanish: calabaza

 gourd in Swedish: pumpa
 gourd in Taiwanese: 葫蘆
 gourd in Thai: น้ำเต้า

 gourd in Turkish: su kabağı
 gourd in Ukrainian: гарбуз
 gourd in Urdu:ی پیٹھا، گھیا، لوک
 gourd in Vietnamese: quả bầu; quả bí

Images of 'gourd'Inappropriate image? 

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Maya Angelou & Inspiration For A Painting

(This is a re-post from last year.  The painting is hanging at the Celebration of Fine Art, Scottsdale, AZ until Mar 25, and is available for purchase.)

Inspiration is a full and varied thing, sometimes young and twitching, other times a vibrational note struck on a crystal glass.  It is a muse dancing in your dreams, a wood nymph catching your eye from behind the twilight lit forest.  It is shattered light from a glass clad urban high rise tossing itself across the candy apple red of your car hood.  It may be a grand philosophical book, read in fits and starts, embedding something unforgettable in your brain, or something inconsequential – a scrap of paper caught on the breeze, landing in your lap like a message from a parallel world.

Last fall I was reading Maya Angelou’s poem, I Know Why the Cage Bird Sings.  I had, at the time, been struggling with unresolved ideas for a series of large paintings about women and the patterns of their lives.  The original idea was not coming clear for me.   About to abandon the whole concept and taking a few days to get away from what I was feeling was a stuck spot, I closed the jars of paint, cleaned my tools and left the studio.  Landing on the sofa with a pile of books, I settled in for some quiet time.  Maya showed up. 

The measure of a good metaphor is how well it connects to the human condition.  The caged bird seems nearly limitless, as does the meaning of “singing” or voicing what is within.  The voice of inspiration nearly deafened me.  Books fell from the sofa in my rush to the studio.

Who knows why the Universe graces us with taps on the shoulder?  Not I.  But I do know, after 30 odd years of being an artist, that these gracious or raucous or accidental taps are better acknowledged and noted than ignored.


Begin.  The surface lies before me – the caged bird sings of freedom -  I scoop texture paste onto the board and with the largest trowel I have, spread it in quick broad strokes, leaving trepidation behind – the free bird leaps on the back of the wind – trails and rivers, paths and raindrops show up under the tool, taking me somewhere, bringing someone to me – I feel a door opening – light? Quickly I mix a wash in creamy pale yellow – pour it on, catching it in the river/paths/raindrops – the free bird thinks of another breeze – and warm lemon curd yellow floats into my world.  Are you there?

Waiting.  Slow drying, but surprises appear.  I tape the poem to the wall, print big enough to make out as I work.  So many images surface in my mind’s eye, call to me, then drift only to be replaced, crowded out by others.  Returning to my work, I see a delicate head wrap, in tiny pattern, and then a sleeve, richly embroidered.  She’s here.  Waiting for me to give her voice.  Where is the window from which you watch?  A swallow brings you an offering of berries.  You gaze at me, Madonna of the Swallows.  I hear your voice.
Madonna of the Swallows
48" x 84"


The universe sends Muse and Inspiration to whisper in your ear that there are fantastic things for you to do – soulful songs to write, luscious colors to mix into unpredictable combinations, elements and molecules to construct the never before seen.  There are birds to be let free and voices to hear calling.  

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Husband/Wife Collaboration

After 23 years of marriage, Syed and I have finally collaborated on four artworks!  Amazing!  Not that we've actually been negotiating all these years...just that we finally got it together and figured out how to make two very divergent styles work.  And we did it without arguing...at least he did it without arguing... I, of course, had to argue a little.

So, this is how it went.  After a couple of years of trying to figure out how to actually mix our media (glass, metal, gourds, painting), we moved on.  Mixing all those things just seemed ridiculously forced and a little silly.  Next, we spoke about gathering mixed materials for the re-purpose style and mixing that with glass.  Appealing at a casual glance, but it just didn't come together.  Next we tried on the idea of me painting the glass.  Not.  How bout working bits of glass into paintings?  Really?  And we moved on.

This year, inspired by a young woman doing stencil work in Salisbury, we were able to see how my drawing and Syed's abstract glass and metal could come together.  This is just the tip of the iceberg.  We could easily see how to develop it after these first four were finished.  I won't talk about those developments, just to say that a door has opened and we can see the highway before us....it's going to be a great fun trip, and you will be seeing more of us in the future!  Till then, come in and see these pieces - jump off into an adventure with us - we've got some great ideas for larger pieces as installations.

Wildflower Series
Ranuncula Series

Monday, January 30, 2012

She Thinks In Color

 In my world of art I do a lot of things.  I paint, carve and sculpt, assemble collages from scraps of my paintings, work with mixed media, and time permitting, I like to build memory books for my family. So I am never really surprised when people come into my studio, look around and say, "Is this all you? You do so many things," with a somewhat quizzical look.

Does it all look like me, I ask?  They look again.  Well...yes. But, but there are paintings and the gourds and pots and....

And all that is true.  So what is the unifying principle?  What is it that drives my work?  By what am I compelled?

Color.  All surfaces, all materials, all combinations of media are there for just one purpose - to be brought to life in living, breathing, passionate, subtle, intense, complex color. I dream in color, and am aware of color as I breath, move, talk, eat, think.  Pulsating sunsets come on the heels of days full of colors as simple as creamy white milk on silver dusted blueberries, the many hues of ochre and grey walking across the parking lot, the shades of lemon and grapefruit yellows in the glass cylinder on the desk at the show.  Then I am mesmerized by the complexity of transparent hues that create the moving sea or air that I find in Adolfo's work.  And on it goes all day long, until I head for home while the sun turns the desert air into streams and rivers of striated cadmiums, laced in violets, tinges of lime and all there to burn into my memory for resurrection in my dreams.

So, the next time you look into an artist's studio and see a variety of medium or technique or color, ask yourself what is the thing that unifies the work?  Is it the palette, as with my work, or is it something else? Is it subject matter - landscape interpreted in many styles, perhaps, or animals in paintings and sculptures, or abstracts in many colors and materials held together by the shapes used, or is it line that is the common denominator?  So many possibilities.  Just like with color.

So much experimentation to do.  So little time.  Back to work....See you soon!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Collaboration of the Celebration Kind

Here's a little tale of a happy combination at the Celebration of Fine Art - I started working on a little gourd with a new technique of layering 10-15 glazes for a dimensional effect in a floral design with a little yellow bird included.  As I worked I was thinking of how to finish the raw gourd top...the design seemed so elegant that the raw edge clearly wasn't right.  I had found an interesting old Victorian brass back plate for a door knocker while I was in San Diego over Christmas.  Just the right size and fit!  But, what to do about the hole...now that seemed unfinished.  You know, these "simple little projects" sometimes get away from you!  So, I wandered down to see what my friends Donna Armstrong and Donna Bernstein thought.  We all mulled it over.  Came up with some great ideas, but the best was to ask Kevin Powers if he would blow a small stopper for it...and so, back to the other end of the tent, where Kevin was working away on his glass.  Gracious guy that he is, he said, sure, let's do it...and after the show closed last night, he blew the sweetest little stopper with a delicate yellow flower in the center, just the exact colors of the work I had done.  And here is the  glass blowing process and the finished piece!  Sweet! Sweet! Sweet!