Sunday, February 25, 2007

"Fruit Bat Water Bottle" -- oil on canvas -- 28x39"
Last weekend I decided I just HAD to paint bright red! Bright yellow! Something other than the pervasive sour owlshit brown and icy, gloomy SE Michigan landscapes. I really hadn't painted a large still life in quite a while, and I was itching to do so. I'm still working at Ford Wixom during the day, so I only get to work on paintings a couple hours in the afternoon, while the light still holds. It's painted on a custom-size canvas I prepared to fit into an ornate, antique, gold-gilded frame I rescued from a consignment shop.

The central figurine was a clay reproduction of a fruit bat water bottle that I haggled for while on my last Peru trip. Our group had been on a tour, studying the customs of the north coast shamans and visiting the various ruins. I fell in love with the pottery! My only regret was that I didn't buy more of these odd, interesting vessels. But alas, there's only so much you can stuff into a suitcase.

The two large, black feathers are condor feathers. I bought them from a shaman's assistant, who assured us the condors were not harmed in any way. He knew families who lived up in the mountains, in the area where the condors nested. We learned bits about how to use the condor feathers in ceremony.

The conch shell is the weirdest conch shell I'd ever seen. That came from a redneck garage sale a few blocks from my house. I've used this shell in a number of paintings. Just love it!

That's a genuine black panther figurine from the 50's. I bought that and the matching lamp at a garage sale last summer. I love it for its marvelous reflective qualities.

The succulent cactus is actually an epiphyllum I rescued from an estate sale last spring. The guy had dozens of them -- and they were all dying -- he never watered them, only misted them. I talked him out of this one (which was so dry it was brown!), brought it home and soaked it in my pond for 2 hours. Repotted it and now it's green and, as you can see, loaded with new growth. I'm waiting for it to set spectacular blooms!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

"Frozen Lake -- 2-24-07 -- oil on canvas board -- plein air study 11x14" -- Margie Guyot
Beastly cold again this morning, with a wind howling nonstop. So glad I had my heavyweight down coat and fur trapper hat! After a few teasing days of sunshine and temperatures in the 30's, we were all ready to pull out our thongs (ha ha). But it was back into the teens this morning, with more of the dreary, dark skies, so typical of Michigan winters. My buddies and I parked at the Kensington Metropark Farm Center and lugged our gear down the hill to the lake. I've grown quite fond of my "bag lady wire grocery cart", although I've found it to be troublesome when trying to lug it through crusty snow. Like dragging a dead horse.

I painted a small scene of the icy road, looking up at the farm buildings for my first painting of the morning. Then I turned around and did this view of the frozen lake. I love to look at the swirls and patterns of the ice with patches of snow. You wouldn't enjoy skating on a lake surface when it's like this. For one thing, you might fall through the ice this late in the season. It's pretty rough, having melted and re-frozen a number of times. I used an old, previously painted-on canvas board for this painting. Normally I'd sand it flat to get any impasto brushwork smoothed out, but I hadn't done it with this one. The textures helped convey the ice's roughness.

Further over, about 1/4 mile, there were a few open patches of lake. White swans were sitting in that water -- you'd think they'd be cold! Occasionally a squawking sandhill crane would fly over, complaining loudly about the return of the bitterly cold weather.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

"Secret Weapon" -- oil on canvas -- 48x48"

One of my friends asked me to put up one of my surreal pieces. I enjoy doing them, but I can't paint them all the time. It takes a special degree of angst for me to paint one of these. Usually most of mine have been inspired after I'd broken up with some dude. Art therapy, you could call it. But this one was done right before the start of the Iraq War. I was so upset and fearful. The hunt was on for Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. Why couldn't they be found? I'm not a fan of war, and I was very upset. So I did the one thing I could do: I painted the solution. Yes, giant attack accordions, manned by madusa-heads of my favorite dog puppet heads. They're searching out the 2 villans and shooting down deadly bolts of blue lightning. Just for the hell of it, I also threw in some turquoise Ford Thunderbirds, flying around. I work at the plant that made (yes -- past-tense!) the Thunderbird. The accordion was from an unfortunate judgement made on eBay a few years ago. Well, I put it so some good use at least in this painting! As I said, I just can't do this type of painting all the time. If I was at the emotional brink it requires to paint these all the time, I'd have been committed to the funny farm years ago. Which probably explains why I've SO been into painting landscapes. It's like when you've seen just a bit too much --- you want to retreat into the safety of the non-controversial. There were a few years where I was really into shamanism and traveled to Peru three times with study groups. We were immersed into native shamanism a little too deeply. I saw things that upset me greatly. So I've retreated to things like "The Power of Now" by Eckhart Tolle. Nothing bizarre there, for which I'm grateful.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

"Country Road" -- plein air oil study -- 12x16" on stretched canvas

The sun was out today but it was about 15 degrees and windy. We'd had a fresh coating of snow overnight and it was like powder. 6 of us "Polar Brush Club" members showed up this morning at Kensington at 8. One of the guys wanted to go paint at a nearby covered bridge. It was on a very narrow road with no parking, so we all jammed ourselves and our gear into 2 vans and drove over. 6 people with Carharts, goosedown, special snowboots and hats, plus all our painting paraphenalia kind of filled up the vans easily. And afterwards there were 6 gooey paintings and 6 gooey palettes, so it was interesting.

Only one or two of us felt the covered bridge was interesting enough to paint. I kept seeing images of Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood in that movie about the star-crossed lovers ("The Bridges of Madison County") and felt I just couldn't stand there and paint such a tear-jerker of a scene. Just a little too much drama for me at that early hour. So I plodded through the snow and up a little hill to find this view. I really liked the sun and shadow patterns in the road. Everybody back on that road had a 4-wheel drive SUV.

Big, puffy clouds were blowing by and sometimes I had to wait a few minutes for the sun to peep out again. This area appeared to be a rabbit haven. Lots of bunny trails in the snow. The nearby bush was casting lots of interesting shadows across the road. This is not a manicured-lawn area, and all the grass was in big clumps, weighted down by the snow to look almost like a field of marshmallows. And there was a surprising amount of color: the red osier dogwoods in the back, warm ochre browns and yellows in the bushes and weeds. The red cedars turn shades of plum-purple in winter. And it seems there is no really white snow. It's either pale blue (reflecting the sky) or pale yellow/gold (reflecting the sun).