Saturday, September 24, 2011

Mirror, Mirror, On The Wall: An Irish & A Polish Blessing

The house renovation and the conversion of the carport into a studio space has taken me from the comfort zone of blogging about my own work, because (I say somewhat guiltily) I haven’t painted since I packed up the “porch – studio.”  But today I re-turn with a beautiful piece of art made by artist Ellen West.    I asked Ellen if she would spin her magic spell on the mirror that came from my mother’s solid pine 1950s dresser.  I planned to hang the mirror over the new vanity in our renovated master bath.   I asked her if she could put the traditional Irish blessing on it and if possible the Polish blessing “Sto lat” which means 100 years.  For this project Ellen used antique embossing letters to spell out the blessing, starting at the top left and working its way around to the top right.  

“Sto lat! Sto lat!” is centered at the top.  

I imagine that whoever looks in the mirror will be blessed with the hearty and joyous Polish blessing “100 years” and the beautiful Irish Blessing:

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.

May the sun shine warm upon your face,

And rain fall soft upon your fields.

And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Porch Studio

When I landed in Gainesville eight years ago, the little house we bought in the forest had a wonderful enclosed “porch” with 3 walls of windows, the perfect breezy spot for breakfasts accompanied by birdsong, casual dinner parties at dusk with friends, a cozy read on a lazy afternoon, and a magical place for the Christmas tree – all of the windows reflecting the lights transformed one lighted tree into a forest of twinkling lights.  It was also the only place in the house where I could paint.  And so, in short time, the porch also became “my studio.”   As you might imagine, over the years “my studio” grew and eventually took over the entire space with makeshift storage, paint and brushes and boxes and flat files and mats and a mat cutter and books and bins and canvases and papers and, of course, paintings.  Christmas trees, morning breakfasts with the birds and dinner parties overlooking the garden were a thing of the past.
Although I had been aware for a while that the porch was not ideal for a studio space – where, for example, do you hang your paintings when three of the walls in the studio are glass and the fourth wall is punctured with a door and three windows? – I think it was not until I spotted the perfect cedar rocking chair on a porch in Micanopy that I recognized how twisted it was not to let the porch be a porch that my spouse and I could both enjoy year round. 
The next thing I knew I was doing Google searches for “cost of converting carport into studio.”  I ended up on Service Magic and within a few days I met with contractor, Jason “Tug” Huddleston, the owner of Hudd Construction, Inc.  
When relatives visited last week, I began to organize the studio for packing.  The most important thing was to have a place where we could sit and have lunch together.  So here is a picture of a space that is in between; it is neither "all studio" nor "just a porch" and yet it is both.  
And though our guests had their backs up against flat files and a table full of 
Golden Acrylic Gel Mediums
, and 
High Gloss Varnish, the view overlooking the garden was great. The butterflies were out in full force that afternoon, and the hummingbird showed up on cue.  

Since then I've packed up most of the stuff that defines a studio.  And now the “porch studio” is nearly “just a porch” again.  We’ve had several breakfasts out there already.  

The big mirror on the table? That's a work in progress by artist Ellen West.  I'll write more about that soon.  

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

My Artist's Statement

Finally I have found the words.  Here is my artist's statement.  

Artist Statement

I paint because I am in love with the creative process.   The final product may indeed teach me something about myself, about how I view the world, or about what I care deeply about, and as such each painting stands as a statement intended for me, and, I hope, one that will resonate with others.  But the great satisfaction, the great fascination for me, is the “getting there,” going from a blank canvas to the finished product.  Although I am always present in the doing, I am still surprised by the way a painting ends.  

I especially like the experience of starting with just a few things—three tubes of paint and a thought or some music for inspiration—and seeing what can come of it.  I put paint down and lift it off, I scrape, I carve text into it, I spray it with water and rubbing alcohol, add more paint, I make marks with my fingers, with paper towels and with just about anything interesting I can get my hands on.  In other words, I get into the painting.  This is my “start” and from the chaos that results I “find” the painting by adding layers and by lifting layers, by adding lines and by subtracting lines.  It is this repetitive, intuitive, give-and-take process that thrills me, in part because it is so much fun and in part because ultimately it results in a painting.   I know that a work is done when I realize that if I add or subtract one more thing it will be the start of a new painting.  That’s when I sign it.

Various themes and imagery tend to run throughout my work: the theatre, dance, spirituality, and family.  My 12 years of parochial school education, my background in dance, my studies of the theatre and my career as a theatre teacher, my practice of Cosmos Qigong, and my deep love for my family all inform that imagery.  I paint to explore and to celebrate these things that matter to me.  It is my hope that I paint them in a way that reminds the viewers of something that matters deeply to them. 

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Chi Filled, The Flowers Re-Turn

When this painting began to appear on the paper, I must admit that I had some resistance to it.  I had pretty much abandoned painting flowers two years ago, or maybe it would be more accurate to say that the flowers abandoned me.   So I was surprised a few months ago when all I could see emerging in the initial abstract start of a painting was flowers - big bold colorful flowers. Did I dare pursue it?  And if I did decide to “go there”  how would my current painting habits and my past topic mix?  Would it be possible to incorporate text into my painting?   Could I make symbols?   Would I be able to justify a re-turn to flowers?   Well, why not try it and find out. 
            I had a great time painting this.  And after a few sessions I stopped working on it and waited about a month or so before finally deciding to sign it.  You know, painting with acrylics on paper opens the way to many layers of paint and endless revisions.  When to stop can become problematic.  Making an adjustment often leads to another and another and another ad infinitum until you end up with a totally different painting.  So it was a great moment for me when I was able to acknowledge that I liked this painting just as it was and that I needed to seal the deal by signing it. 
When it came time to give this painting a title, I thought about the ways this floral was different from those I had done before.  The flowers, though completely imaginary, seem far more robust than any that have appeared in my earlier paintings.   I like to think that, like me with my 3 yrs of Chi Kung practice, “These flowers have been fertilized with Chi!”
Hopefully, this is the beginning of a series of new florals.  We’ll see how things develop! 

Saturday, June 4, 2011


Hello out there! Carp Paints has been a sparse blog, has it not? Two posts followed by silence for 26 months. How do I get back in your good graces after such a long absence?
I found the beginnings of my last blog attempt and I thought I’d start by reflecting on that which I wrote two years ago.
My art is constantly surprising me. I used to think that I was starting all over again when I started painting, but since I've started painting with acrylics (and doing Cosmos Chi Kung) I'm feeling like it is not a new beginning but rather a real continuation of the same journey, focusing on the same underlying questions about knowing... how do I know... how do I interpret the world I inhabit... how do I create meaning. I don't really think of these things before I paint, but after. I look at the painting and then say "Oh! Really!" Interestingly enough I have this one painting that I am fascinated with. It started with my thinking about the scene in Romeo and Juliet the morning after they have their only night together... he hears the lark and she argues that it's the nightingale... I wrote those lines into the painting. Well, as the painting evolved it seemed to resist me-- sort of had a mind of its own if you can imagine that. - Jan 23 2009
At first glance I’d say that the underlying threads in my reflections on the creative process have not changed much. I’m still fascinated and astonished by the process, still looking at the connections between what I do now (paint) and what I did before (theatre). I’m beginning to understand that the creative process is essentially the same whether I’m directing a play, inventing a lesson plan on how to approach one of Shakespeare’s plays, writing fiction, or painting with acrylic on paper. Happily, this painting, “The Nightingale…The Lark” seems to be an appropriate painting for my re-turn to the blogosphere. The painting was -- at one stage in the process -- a literal depiction of Romeo and Juliet, with Romeo looking out at the landscape and Juliet at his feet pleading with him to stay. It wasn’t working… at least, Juliet wasn’t working-- so I decided to take her out altogether with isopropyl alcohol and a paper towel. It was only then that the standing figure on the right began to emerge. I thought about the implications of this new figure and how it affects the meaning of the other figure staring out at the landscape. I think it lifts the painting out of the specifics of the play and moves it in the direction of the allegorical.
And so, here I stand, awake and ready to walk into the blogosphere again, sharing my questions about the creative process and what it is like for me to be in it.
"The Nightingale... The Lark" was on exhibit in the 2010 Thomas Center Galleries Regional Juried Exhibition, July 17 - September 13, 2010.  For more information click here.