Sea Turtles in Full Color

It’s taken some time, but I’ve learned that creating art intuitively is the very best approach for me. Not to say that it takes less effort or discipline, but the overall process is more enjoyable! Listening to my inner art voice is usually smart. Sometimes it guides me to trust myself… go in a different direction or be brave in my choices. The “process” of art making is why I make art after-all, if it’s not enjoyable, then I’m doing something wrong. These 2 turtles are a good example of starting a new piece intuitively. In the midst of playing with a very bold palette they appeared 😊. They are on their way… lots of collage and paint to come.

Working with Teenagers

 

I just finished my “residency” in Dr. Susan West’s classroom at Viera High School. 7 days, 150 students, 5 classes, lots and lots of paint, paper and glue. The plan was for me to teach my mixed-media technique of painting paper and creating a collage incorporating the paper and acrylic paint.

Day one: First of all… school starts early! I’m not really a “morning person” but managed to organize myself and wake up early to get to school on time each day. Time is limited! By the time I explained a little about myself, showed some examples of my work and talked about the project… the bell would ring. Wow… how in the world can we make this project happen within the 2 week plan.

Day two: I went home day one after 5 classes seriously considering a nap. Today was our project start day. I explained the process of painting layers of pattern on paper to provide for materials for collaging. Dr West had pre-cut their work surfaces (watercolor paper) to size. They decided on their subject choosing from a variety of Florida wildlife, sea-life or flora. They sketched 2 thumbnails of their chosen subject in their notebooks.

Day three: Today they prepared their background papers by deciding on their palette to contrast their background and foreground. They applied washes of acrylic to their backgrounds.

Day four: Finally… today we paint paper! Some of them really didn’t understand the necessity of these papers. My instructions were to just layer pattern in paint, fill up the paper eliminating the majority of white. Paint 3 to 5 pieces. We switched from paint brushes to small roller to speed up this part of the process. 30+ students in each class, with rollers and trays and lots of paint… I loved it!

Day five: Some of the students thanked me for coming to their class and teaching them. I really was enjoying this. Most of the students were on board with the project, making changes, thinking forward and being very creative. A few were avoiding eye contact with me… lol. I loved talking with them about their artwork. “Tell me about this”, “and why are you painting a green piece of paper with green paint and your animal is going to be green”?

Day six: We are painting paper and gluing and changing backgrounds. They are realizing now why they needed 5 pieces of painted paper in their different palette colors. It’s quiet. They are really engrossed in their projects.

Day seven: My last day. The goal was to continue with collaging the subject, adding collage elements to the background, correcting, refining etc. They had been required as part of their lesson plan to submit questions pertaining to being an artist, art education, art marketing etc. So today I answered some of the questions while they were cleaning up their spaces. Dr. West also emailed me a list of questions which I answered. They will be using those answers to write an article about the experience of having me work with them as an artist in residence.

They are still working on their projects… for a few more day. A lot of the artwork I saw them producing was excellent! I cannot wait to see all the completed projects. It was so interesting, getting to know them. They had very distinct personalities but were all pleasant and welcoming to me.  I enjoyed working with them and talking with them each day.

I applaud you teachers! So many requirements, restraints… I can also see the appeal of teaching. You have such an impact on young lives.

 

The process took me several years to develop with lots of trial and error. It’s not a one-step thing.

ps.

1. Thanks to the bubbly, positive, kind girl in period one that ask everyone how they were, complimented their outfit and just cheered everyone on, every morning.

2. Thank you to the quiet young woman at the first table on the left who thanked me several times for coming to teach and share my art and helping her with her project.

3. Thank you to the young man doing the turtle who I didn’t think was at all interested in the project because he was working so slow. Thank you for coming up and asking me if I was returning this week to work with the class.

4. Thanks to Dr. West for inviting to come.

 

Artist In Residence

I’ve been in my studio this week doing a little sorting and exploring and remembering. I used to be so good with names and memory recall… Not so good anymore. I’m leaning on the theory that highly intelligent, creative thinkers brains prioritize memories to best utilize brain function… something like that :) lol, I can’t quite remember.

I’m going to be the Artist in Residence at Viera High School, here in Brevard County next week and have been thinking about my current creative processes. With 24 years as a practicing artist there are a lot of experiences, workshops, materials and creative exploration that have brought me to where I am now. This will be an important message to share with young artists. Experience and exploration is just as important as profiency in specific techniques. I love teaching… sharing information and my personal experiences. My number one goal is to express the excitement of living a life that values the beauty and wonder of everyday.

Good Stuff to Share

  • The “Golden Mean” and why it is so “golden” thanks Greg Grant for the best introduction into art!
  • thin darks, thick light, thin darks, thick lights… thanks to Greg Grant for repeating that over and over. I say it at least twice in my painting class every week.
  • limited palette… mix your own colors
  • create obstacles to explore and conquer!
  • we are not re-creating a photograph, we are creating an illusion of the image with paint, paper, charcoal etc.
  • layer, layer and layer some more… then start your composition
  • paint 100 paintings of something… then you will start to understand that thing… paraphrased but one of my favorites from teacher Frits van Eeden.
  • Don’t be afraid to show people… artists, art snobs, your mod podge! Or your foam plates. Mod Podge is archival. Use new stuff and old stuff and never before stuff…but less talk, more play please. If you are talking about paint colors or if an isolation coat is necessary… you are not in your “right brain”.
  • Don’t get attached before the 5th layer! As soon as you LOVE something you’re working on, fear of “messing up” can kick in. Try to discourage that for as long as possible!

Wish me luck… my husband says to “be on guard, don’t show any weaknesses or they will devour me”. I say, “these are budding artists, we are all sensitive, emotional, expressive people… we speak the same language”.

Updates to follow!

Remembering

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No Tangerines Here

My friend Marti gave me a treasure for my birthday years ago — a Meyer Lemon tree. I have had years and years of successful crops of lemons! My husband Jay wishes so much that it was a tangerine tree…

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Renee’s lovey lemon tree

Meyer lemon trees are scraggly. They don’t grow in a regular fashion but prefer to spread out. You can even espalier them to the side of a house or trellis. I tell Jay it’s a great attribute of the Meyer Lemon tree. Our tree is growing sort of sideways right now, reaching for full sun; it annoys Jay. When I told him this morning that I had harvested some beautiful lemons and preserved them in jars with salt and spices… his response: “imagine if that was a tangerine tree and your out working in the yard, sweating and you walk over a pick a nice juicy tangerine.” Me: ” But lemons are so beneficial! ”

Over the last 4 or 5 years my annual crop is around 70 large Meyer lemons. Not the little tiny California grown Meyer lemons either, but big Florida, size of a grapefruit, lemons. I’ve canned jars and jars of lemon marmalade, cherry lemon marmalade, lemon fig marmalade, lemon honey jelly and preserved jars and jars of  lemons.

Preserved lemons are made with lots of salt and I like to add the suggested spices; cinnamon, cloves, coriander and peppercorns. You wash your lemons very well since what you will eventually be using is the peel. Use sea salt or good canning salt and layer the lemon sections, spices and salt in canning jars; squeezing the juice from the sections into the jar as you go. Once your jars are filled, you put lids on, not too tightly, and set them in a dark place (my pantry) to start the fermenting process. Every day or two open the lid to release built up gasses and gently shake them up to re-distribute the salt. After a week or two the fermenting process has created a funky, lovely, exciting aroma :) Now you can stick the jar in the refrigerator to slow down the fermentation. The great thing is… you can keep your preserved lemons for a year or more in the fridge and use when wanted.

I use them for seafood soups and stews, my version of Moroccan chicken with lemons and olives, seafood marinades, vinaigrette… etc.  To use the lemon you remove the sections from the jar and rinse well to wash away the salt. You also remove the pulp and discard, leaving the soft aged peel to chop, mince, dice — whatever you like.

Another great benefit of having a Meyer Lemon tree… their lovely purplish blooms have one of the best fragrances and your whole yard will smell heavenly. Bon Appetit and happy gardening!

lemon bloom