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by Teresa Williams



Devil's Bridge II

Joseph Mallord William Turner from St. Gotthard & Mont Blanc
Sketchbook [Finberg LXXV], The Devil’s Bridge, near Andermatt,
Pass of St. Gotthard, Switzerland, 1802.






*The Devil’s Bridge


Blue twilight
of ash
washing
the weathered mountains,
a single goat-bell
clangs
disrupting
the high silence.
The traveller stops
in the middle
of the narrow stone bridge,
her listening is
lonely.


Beneath
the bridge,
dark water
rushes and falls;
tangled serpents
pushing
the frenzied depths
of time’s black core
down
the ravine’s
bottomless hollow;
a night heron
swoops over
the churning,
red eye widening
seeing through
to the place
where the snakes
lie still.


A sudden wind
blows
from the nostrils
of the mountain,
as if
to extinguish
all hesitation,
dark rocks
crumble down
filling the air
with a scoured-out echo
that waits
for what must cross.



The traveller steps forward
calls out,
no response
no sign
for what it is
she wants to know;
who made the bridge
and is she
the first to cross it?


The twilight
deepens, quickens
the pause;
the traveller looks ahead
her eyes fierce
and determined,
she steps forward
again
and the cold light
leads her
further than she
ever imagined
and
without turning back
she enters
a new silence;
it is in the not knowing
that makes her cross
it is in the knowing
that stops her.




*Legends tell us that bridges throughout the British Isles, Scandinavia, and continental Europe were built by the devil in return for the sacrifice of the first being to cross over.


_________________________




About Teresa: Teresa Williams is a psychotherapist, poet and translator in Seattle, Washington. She has been writing and trying to live poetry for as long as she can remember. Her love for travel and the Spanish language has called her into translation work. She is also an active member of Grupo Cervantes, a bilingual writer’s group and literary community in Seattle.

Teresa’s poetry has been featured at births, weddings, funerals and several talent shows held by the closest of friends. Her first piece on red Ravine, Sound Falling From One World Into Another, was published in August 2010 and featured the poems: Swans, Two Coyotes at Dawn, and Tarot.


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Minnesota State Fair Poster Art, detail of art by painter Leo Stans, St. Paul, Minnesota, June 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 
 

The century-old Grandstand stood quietly in the distance when I rounded the corner by the historic J. V. Bailey House. I was driving to St. Paul for an ice cream social at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. The occasion was the June 11th unveiling of the 2009 State Fair commemorative painting by Belle Plaine artist Leo Stans.

Summer cottonwood flew through the air when I lined up for my root beer float. A few minutes later, I walked into the historic Bailey house and literally bumped into my friend Teri who works at the Fair. She introduced me to her coworkers, we talked a little Minnesota State Fair history, then she led me over to meet the artist.

Like poet Ted Kooser, Minnesota artist Leo Stans started out as an insurance salesman, dabbled in art, and began painting full-time in 1980. He painted wildlife, golf courses (he’s an avid golfer), and eventually transitioned into historical street scenes. In a newspaper quote, he said: “My thinking was that if you wanted to buy something nostalgic or historical, the only thing being offered was small towns and barns. I thought I would create a niche.”

According to an article by John Brewer in the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Stans said he had been trying for the last 5 years to get a booth at the Grandstand to sell his work during the Fair. Ironically, that led to his applications making their way to the Fair staff and to his being awarded the 6th commission in the commemorative series last November.

 
 

Artist Leo Stans & MN State Fair 2009 Commemorative Oil Painting, St. Paul, Minnesota, June 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Minnesota State Fair Commemorative Oil Painting (Detail), St. Paul, Minnesota, June 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Artist Leo Stans & Minnesota State Fair 2009 Commemorative Oil Painting, Minnesota State Fair Commemorative Oil Painting (Detail), St. Paul, Minnesota, June 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 
 

I shook Leo’s hand and immediately began asking him about the 28″ x 42″ oil painting. He said he did the research for summer’s “Great Minnesota Get-Together” in the dead cold of a Midwest winter. It took him 3 weeks to sketch it out, another 3 weeks to put paint to canvas.

He explained to me that the painting moves back in time as you walk from the Grandstand to the Ferris wheel, blending clothing styles of the past with those of the present. And like Hitchcock who appears in many of his films, Stans paints himself into all of his paintings. (If you stare long enough at the top photograph, you can spot him walking down the Midway.)

For many, the Minnesota State Fair is about making memories, a family tradition going back for generations. By choosing the 100th birthday of the Grandstand as the central theme for 2009, and including other historic icons like the carousel and mascot Fairchild, Stans captures and brings those memories to life through paint.

I’m a history buff and drawn to his dreamlike Twin Cities street scenes. The 2009 Fair painting has much the same feel and has been reproduced on postcards, posters, and buttons with proceeds benefiting the Minnesota State Fair Foundation. (The State Fair has a long history of being independently funded and has not received government appropriations since 1949.)

 
 

  Minnesota State Fair Postcard, St. Paul, Minnesota, June 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. Minnesota State Fair Poster Art (II), St. Paul, Minnesota, June 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Minnesota State Fair Postcard, Minnesota State Fair Poster Art (II), St. Paul, Minnesota, June 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.
 
 

The Minnesota State Fair 2009 begins August 27th and ends September 7th. And if you become one of the Friends of The Minnesota State Fair you will receive exclusive benefits including gate tickets, pre-sale access to Grandstand shows, bricks, benches, and more. Purchasing a $50 Yellow Ribbon package by August 1st, 2009 grants you the following:
 

  • Friends of the Fair card
  • FunFair news
  • Invitation to annual pre-fair event
  • Hospitality invitation to J.V. Bailey House during the State Fair
  • 2 State Fair and/or parking admission tickets
  • 1 State Fair annual pin
  • 1 Blue Ribbon Bargain Book with 100 great State Fair deals

 

There are also Green, Red, Blue, Purple, and Silver packages to choose from. Liz and I are looking forward to this year. Happy Fair going!

 
 

Belle Plaine Artist Leo Stans & MN State Fair Commemorative Oil Painting, St. Paul, Minnesota, June 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 

 

Thanks to Leo Stans for permission to photograph him and his work, to Teri for reminding me about the art event, and to John for providing me with the newspaper clipping from the June 12th St. Paul Pioneer Press article by John Brewer – Painting Celebrates Fond Fair Memories.

 
 

Minnesota State Fair Space Tower, St. Paul, Minnesota, June 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 

 

Below are links to past red Ravine posts and photographs about the history, foods on-a-stick, and fun available to all at the Minnesota State Fair. And if you check the comments on several of the posts, they are dripping with little-known Fair facts, trivia, and nostalgia from a mutual friend of ybonesy’s and mine, Teri Blair. For more of the Fair experience, you can also view my Minnesota State Fair Series on Flickr.

 
 
 

 

-posted on red Ravine, Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

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warbell slight contrast

 
Warbell (from the POISONED WORLD series), mixed media on wood, 47″ x 48″ x 3″, 2006, painting © 2006-2009 by Cathy Wysocki. All rights reserved.

 
 
 
Cathy Wysocki’s pieces fill the main gallery of the Harwood Art Center in Albuquerque. Gripped: Excerpts from Poisoned World does exactly that. The works of art, many three-dimensional, come at you from the walls, grip you by the shoulders and shake you out of whatever state you might be. They collectively caution you to never deny nor forget Suffering in the world today.
 
 

Cathy Wysocki paints discomfort and dark worlds, twisted and refigured. Like a visionary chronicler of the times, her expressionistic and surrealist imagery is dramatic & disturbing, conveying a beauty in the horror portrayed.

~Spring/Summer 2009, volume 14, issue 1/2, Harwood Art Center

 
Struck by the raw power and originality of her work, we were curious to know more about Cathy. Who is she, what has been her journey as an artist, and what moves her to produce the art that she does? We sent Cathy a list of our most pressing questions, and she wrote back with answers.
 
 
 

Nineteen Questions with Cathy Wysocki

 
 

Q. How long have you been painting?

A. I have been painting — doing mixed media work — for 30 years.
 
 
Q. How has your work evolved over time?

A. I think my work has evolved over time through my expanded use of media and text within my paintings and the growing complexity of the imagery, but more importantly, I have gone from a more personal mythology, let’s say a micro-cosmos, to a more universal, world view, a socio-political macro-cosmos.
 
 
Q. Who are your influences?

A. Living in the world is THE influence. But if you want to know who…key influences…I’d say foremost would be the Buddha because of how the teachings have illuminated my path in the world. Then I would say my husband and friend for 29 years, Wayne Hopkins, who is an incredible painter and printmaker — dedicated and always pushing the edge. He has been an enormous supporter of my work/vision. Also, my brother, Michael, had a very strong influence on me during my high school and college years, introducing me to a bigger world and a way to freedom for my creativity and ideas, setting me on my path.
 
 
Q. What living artists do you most admire?

A. Sue Coe, Louise Bourgeois, Neo Rauch, Anselm Kiefer, Thomas Hirschhorn, Lee Bontecou. Unfortunately, there are many more dead artists that I admire/connect with, such as Edward Kienholz, Leon Golub, Jörg Immendorf, Francis Bacon, Philip Guston, George Grosz, Otto Dix…well…all the German Expressionists, the Surrealists, and Art Brut artists: Adolf Wölfli, Martín Ramírez, and Carlo Zinelli, to name but a few!
 
 
Q. Describe a typical day.

A. An ideal typical day is waking up at 5 a.m. to read a Buddhist text while I drink a cup of decaf coffee. Then practicing sitting meditation for 50-60 minutes. After which I walk my dog for 45 minutes, come home get the caffeine brewing, get the music pumped up, and start working — stopping later to put on more coffee, have toast/breakfast, then back to work until about 3pm. I am much more productive in the earlier part of the day.
 
 
 
 
 
El Bruto, mixed media on wood, 59" x 72" x 8", 2009, painting © 2009 by Cathy Wysocki, all rights reserved
 
 
 
               Unrelenting, mixed media on wood, 61" x 72" x 3", 2009, painting © 2009 by Cathy Wysocki, all rights reserved
 
 
 
                              Enough, mixed media on wood, 50" x 63" x 7", 2008/2009, painting © 2008-2009 by Cathy Wysocki, all rights reserved
 
 
From the POISONED WORLD series, El Bruto, mixed media on wood, 59″ x 72″ x 8″, 2009, Unrelenting, mixed media on wood, 61″ x 72″ x 3″, 2009, and Enough, mixed media on wood, 50″ x 63″ x 7″, 2008/2009, paintings © 2008-2009 by Cathy Wysocki. All rights reserved.
 
 
 
 
 
Q. What drives your art?

A. Initially, my art is driven by my intuition and imagination, but that is factored into living as a sentient being in a world of suffering.
 
 
Q. What messages are in your art?

A. Currently, my series of work is called POISONED WORLD and it is about the three poisons in the world referred to in Buddhism — greed, hatred, and ignorance — and from them the consequences that abound and devastate. It is my hope that my work can bring a startled awareness to such issues as war, shameless consumption and waste, complacency, self-absorption, and to inspire reflection, compassion, and action.
 
 
Q. Who are your favorite writers?

A. Right now I am reading 2666 by Roberto Bolaño and I think his writing is unbelievably great. Idiosyncratic, insightful, dense, sharp, witty, dark — all characteristics I love in a writer. Other favorites are Franz Kafka, Thomas Bernhard, Kurt Vonnegut, Gogol, Dostoyevsky, Flannery O’Connor, Kenzaburō Ōe, and Ajahn Chah and Ajahn Buddhadasa for Buddhist writings.
 

Q. Favorite foods?

A. All things vegetarian.





Count Rade and Princess Ula, mixed media on canvas, 24" x 18", 2002, painting © 2002-2009 by Cathy Wysocki, all rights reservedMagnolia, mixed media on canvas, 18" x 14", 2001, painting © 2001-2009 by Cathy Wysocki, all rights reserved


From the FLOWERS, ROYALTY, THE COSMOS, & MORE series, Count Rade and Princess Ula, mixed media on canvas, 24″ x 18″, 2002, and Magnolia, mixed media on canvas, 18″ x 14″, 2001, paintings © 2001-2009 by Cathy Wysocki. All rights reserved.





Q. Where do you go for inspiration?

A. That depends on the series I am working on. As for the current series, POISONED WORLD, my inspirations are found in observing the consumer culture around me, the devastation of our planet, and the sadness, anger, conflict, and injustice in our society. To compound and intensify that inspiration I read books and articles, as well as watch documentaries on such topics as corruption and corporations; the former Bush Administration; the Iraq and Afghanistan wars; genetic engineering and food; human, animal, and water rights. Music is also a big inspiration — Tom Waits, Bob Dylan, Perfect Circle, John Lennon, Leonard Cohen, The Kronos Quartet, Messiaen’s Quartet For The End of Time. So I guess you could say my work is the bare bulb shining the light within the depths of the darkness.


Q. You’ve been told your work has an “Outsider” quality. Do you consider yourself an Outsider artist?

A. I would say I am a self-taught artist. The art classes I took in college were free-form, I didn’t have any technical training in painting, drawing or sculpture, and I just followed my own vision, did my own thing in my own style, often obsessively. I was not, and am not now, concerned with art trends or commercial viability.


Q. Do you feel inside or outside the art scene (New York City, San Francisco, etc.) and does it matter where you are relative to that scene?

A. I definitely feel outside the art scene here in New Mexico. It does matter because I would like to get the work out there — to broader audiences, more responses, more dialogue — which could be New York, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Berlin. Who knows where my audience is?!





Corparboreal 26, mixed media on wood, 14" x 9", 1999, painting © 1999-2009 by Cathy Wysocki, all rights reserved Corparboreal 16, mixed media on canvas, 36" x 32", 1998/1999, painting © 1998-2009 by Cathy Wysocki, all rights reserved


From the CORPARBOREAL series, Corparboreal 26, mixed media on wood, 14″ x 9″, 1999, and Corparboreal 16, mixed media on canvas, 36″ x 32″, 1998/1999, paintings © 1998-2009 by Cathy Wysocki. All rights reserved.





Q. What are the pluses and minuses of living the artist’s life?

A. The plus of living an artist’s life is the freedom to create and express your visions. That plus is so huge it is plural! As for a minus: having to generate an income!


Q. What is your favorite city?

A. I don’t think I have a favorite city. I loved San Francisco when I lived there many years back and I love New York City for all it has to offer culturally. Vienna also left a very strong impression on me as well. I need to travel more!!


Q. If you could live anywhere, where would you choose and why?

A. I don’t have a specific place at the moment, I am in search of it, but I do know there would be an ocean or sea nearby, lots of art museums and galleries, and some great vegetarian restaurants and cafes!


Q. How old were you when you knew you wanted to be an artist?

A. Early on, around the age of four, I had a very rich internal world — active imagination in thoughts and words. However, up through junior high school I didn’t really express myself visually; it was in words and speech. In high school I found the freedom, invention, and originality in visual expression. It became a necessity.


Q. Did your family support your chosen vocation, and if so (or not) how did that affect your path?

A. No, they did not support me being an artist. Perhaps that gave me a stronger drive, subconsciously seeking their approval or support? Regardless, I knew what I was meant to do. Doing something else for their sake would be a false life.





Coming or Going, What's the Difference, oil on wood, 48" x 48", 1991, painting © 1991-2009 by Cathy Wysocki, all rights reserved 


                                                             Altitude Without Dimension, oil on paper, 44" x 30", 1990, painting © 1990-2009 by Cathy Wysocki, all rights reserved


From the BIRTH, DEATH, & REBIRTH series, Coming or Going, What’s the Difference, oil on wood, 48″ x 48″, 1991, and Altitude Without Dimension, oil on paper, 44″ x 30″, 1990, paintings © 1990-2009 by Cathy Wysocki. All rights reserved.





Q. Where do the themes in your work come from?

A. Earlier on I mentioned where my current body of work derives from, but some past series have dealt with such issues as the cycles of birth, death and rebirth inspired by the deaths of both of my parents; a series called CORPARBOREAL, images of tree beings inspired by all the walks with my dogs in the woods of New Hampshire and Massachusetts; and a series of paintings with short tales that I wrote called FLOWERS, ROYALTY, THE COSMOS & MORE. It sprung from finding a collection of old fruit packing labels, and it was about compassion, generosity, right choices. Those are a few examples.


Q. What comes next? Or are you still steeped in the current themes?

A. Yes, I am still currently immersed in the POISONED WORLD — not that there won’t be some toxic offshoots that may metamorphose into another body of work!





Gripped by Cathy WysockiAbout herself, Cathy writes: I was born and raised in northwest Indiana. With great excitement I departed to the West Coast for college. First to Immaculate Heart College in Los Angeles for a few years, then I transferred to San Francisco State University for a change and to get my BA. My time in California was transformative, clarifying my personal vision and actifying my presence in the world. This was in the late 70’s.

A friend of mine suggested a move to Boston to get studios. Another change. I figured I could always get back to San Francisco. Well, my friend never got there, but I ended up in Boston and the environs from 1980 until 2003, another transformative time, solidifying and strengthening my creative discipline.

In late 2003 I moved to New Mexico. Yet another change in location. New Mexico is fine, but I feel another change in location coming within about 10 years. California?

During my time in San Francisco until the present in New Mexico, I have always worked in my studio and exhibited.

I have had several solo shows, most recently in May, 2009, at the Harwood Art Center in Albuquerque, NM. I have also exhibited extensively in the Northeast and Southwest in group shows at museums and galleries. Recent group shows I have exhibited in: “Mass Consumption,” Mesa Art Center, AA; “Binational,” Museums Of Art in El Paso, TX and Juarez, Mexico; “Cautionary Tales – A Visual Dystopia,” 516 ARTS, Albuquerque, NM; “Originals 2007,” Harwood Art Museum, Taos, NM.

Cathy’s latest show, Gripped: Excerpts from Poisoned World, closes today at the Harwood Art Center in Albuquerque. However, you can keep apprised of Cathy’s works by following her on Flickr.

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Tossed away.

A subset of my doodles on FlickrIn fall of last year I had an opportunity. A gallery owner in New York City saw my doodles on Flickr and invited me to join a group show in spring 2009. (Several artists on Flickr were asked to join.)

I rejoiced in being invited yet hemmed and hawed about whether I’d accept. In the end I signed up, making a vague notation in my brain about April being a key month for getting the paintings done. Then I went on with my life.

Thanksgiving and Christmas came and went, as did the new year. I made the intention to Finish what I start. President Barack Obama was inaugurated. I rejoiced again.

I bought canvases for the art show, gessoed them, set them aside in my writing room. Looked at them most days, noted that it was time to begin painting, procrastinated.

In early February I decided to get serious about starting the pieces. I cleaned off my work table, filed three months’ worth of bills. We took on a Mexican exchange student from February 7-21. A pinched sciatica kept me in bed for almost two weeks.

By the time I sat down to paint, I had frittered away four months. I looked up the date when the paintings needed to be in Manhattan. February 28. The show was in early April. I missed the deadline. 


Second chances.

A subset of my doodles on FlickrI have a new opportunity. Our community, which boasts an inordinately large number of artists and craftsmen, holds an annual art studio tour. This year the tour happens the weekend of May 2-3. I will be showing in a gallery with a handful of other artists—real artists.

Here is my chance to make the leap.

When Obama was inaugurated, I did a quick doodle. As soon as I finished it, I knew I wanted to do a series of Obama faces on 12″x12″ canvases for the New York City art show. My problem was never a lack of ideas; rather, it was a lack of follow through.


Showing up.

I picked up the paintbrush in March. When I started, I painted to the tempo of a little voice saying, I don’t know how to do this. I’ve never painted on canvas. If gessoed, I figured, canvas should act similar to gesso on wood. I was wrong.

Painting is a process. This painting, the first in a series, is a work in process. I thought it was almost done, but then I realized that I hadn’t learned how to control—or, rather, let myself lose control—of the paintbrush. 

When I began thinking about painting on canvas, QM suggested that I do a post about my process. I agreed even though I had no idea if my ideas about process would work. I’m not done with this painting, but I can tell you this—it’s not the actual process that’s important. What matters is that you have one. 


Learning process.


My original "quick and dirty" Obama doodle, pen and ink on graph paper. I enlarge it to fit my canvas and drew the outline onto tracing paper.

My original "quick and dirty" Obama doodle, done with pen and ink on graph paper. I enlarge it to fit my canvas, add a background, and draw the outline onto tracing paper.





Step One: Transfer the image outline to canvas

I transfer the image outline to the canvas using good ol' carbon paper, the kind used in days past for typing mimeographs. This prep work takes a lot longer than I expect, about half a day.





Step 2: Paint first layer of gouache (watercolor) on canvas

I paint the first layer of gouache (watercolor) on canvas, starting with Obama's face. I don't like this color of blue; it's too purpley. I still haven't figured out how to mix colors to find the right one nor how to use my brush as a tool versus an obstacle.





Never working with watercolor on canvas, I'm afraid to make mistakes. I notice when I'm bold with color, I end up going too dark, such as the brick red portion of the circle behind Obama.

I paint slowly. I'm afraid to make mistakes, and I notice that when I go bold I end up adding too much paint, like in the orange portion of the circle beside his head. I need to dig in but I'm stuck at not wanting to mess it up. I procrastinate again.





I add more paint and texture to the face, going in dark and then using lighter paint to emphasize shadow. Now that the face is coming into focus, my ideas about the background are changing completely. Good thing gouache is maleable.

Finally, I pick up the brush after a hiatus. I add more and more paint and texture to the face. To create dimension---shadow and light---I go in dark with shades up to black and then use light paint to take away the dark. Now that the face is coming into focus, my ideas for the background are changing. Good thing gouache is maleable.





While watching American Idol, I find that I loosen up with the paint. I'm also trusting that I can fix mistakes, that nothing is permanent. I experiment with using the brush the way I would a pen.

While watching American Idol, I loosen up. I'm trusting that I can fix mistakes, that nothing is permanent. Also, if the room is kind of dim, I have a better time seeing contrast. I notice that I have too much light paint on the tip of Obama's nose. I'll go in next time and put in more shadow at the bottom.





In my original doodle I forgot to capture Obama's mole next to his nose. I got it this time, although I'm not sure if I'll change it to blue to match the rest of his skin.

In my original doodle I forgot to capture Obama's mole next to his nose. I got it this time, although I'm not sure if I'll change it to blue to match his skin. I notice his eyebrow is too dark, but I can go in, lighten it and add texture to make it look more natural. (Although, is "natural" a consideration when his entire face is bright blue?)





His mouth needs work; it's clownish looking to me, and I've barely touched his teeth and gums. But I am enjoying his cheeks and those deep crevices he gets when he smiles. Also, I experiment using the brush the way I would a pen. Amazingly, painting is not that different than drawing.

His mouth needs work; it's clownish looking to me, and I've barely touched his teeth and gums. But I am enjoying his cheeks and those deep crevices he gets when he smiles. Also, I experiment using the brush the way I would a pen. Amazingly, painting is not that different than drawing.




Overcoming fear.

Here’s what I know. I’m the only person who’s ever stopped me from realizing my dreams. I’ve gotten out of my own way this time. Next time I might be right back in the middle of the road with my hands out in front of me yelling STOP! But not today.

My goal is to paint six pieces for the early May show. I have less than a month to go, and I can only paint in the evenings and on weekends. I went to a carpenter and asked him to make me wood boards to paint on. Canvas works, but I still like wood best.


Just painting.


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Gouache postscript.

Thanks to QM’s curiosity, I’m adding these excellent links on the topic of gouache.

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By Carol Tombers



Shamanic Series 1, Egg tempera with earth pigments on Arches Rag 400 lb. paper, 23″x30″, painting © 2008 by Carol Tombers. All rights reserved.



It is my desire for color that calls me to the studio. Essentially, color is a vibration and its energy is stored in the mineral pigment. I am drawn to put those different vibrations next to each other and listen to how they speak to one another. And I am curious to bring together colors that are rich beyond daily visual experience.

Painting is like a meditation for me. It almost always produces a calm and alert state of mind, and puts me in touch with a universal sense of well being. It hasn’t always been like this. For many years the primary test was a struggle with what subject matter to depict.

Now I try to include all of the subject matter that interests me at once, and the challenge becomes how to represent it in a way that might be meaningful to the viewer. The image, then, is closer to how I experience the world and this gives me a sense of satisfaction.



Shamanic Series 4, Egg tempera with earth pigments on Arches Rag 400 lb. paper, 23″x30″, painting © 2008 by Carol Tombers. All rights reserved.



Five years ago I began to take classes in Medieval egg tempera painting from a master icon painter in the Russian Orthodox tradition. The theology underlying the images engages me in a mythological way rather than a spiritual way. My own studio painting changed as I began to understand that every aspect of the painted icon is reflective of a particular concept of the theological tradition. No brush stroke is made, nor color mixed, that it not significant to the theology.

For example, when an icon is gilded, the artist first applies bole, a mixture of red clay and glue, to the prepared surface. The bole (essentially dirt) symbolizes the most base aspects of human nature. The bole is polished to a mirror-like smoothness, a symbol of the spiritual work of the human. Next, the icon maker breathes a deep breath onto the bole to make it tacky before laying on the 24K gold leaf, a symbol of divine perfection. The idea of these materials symbolizing a spiritual process inspired me to put my personal mythology into my work.

About this same time I began to study shamanism, first in the tradition of the Mapuche people of Chile, and later in a more general way. It is through shamanic “journeys” and other meditation practices that I come to the imagery of my paintings.



Shamanic Series 3, Egg tempera with earth pigments on Arches Rag 400 lb. paper, 23″x30″, painting © 2008 by Carol Tombers. All rights reserved.



The paint I use is made from “earth pigments.” These minerals and plants are ground and mixed with egg yolk, water, and a drop of vinegar to preserve it. The beauty of egg tempera is that it is translucent and that light passes through the paint and bounces off of the white ground, giving an effect of a painting that is illuminated from within.

The pigment can be laid down on the painting in a pool of water so that the different mineral colors fall to the surface of the painting in patterns similar to the bottom of a dry riverbed. Up close a tension can be seen between the various pigments; but stepping back your eye blends the color together to see it unified. So there is an exciting variation in the appearance of the materials, depending on proximity.



Shamanic Series 5, Egg tempera with earth pigments on Arches Rag 400 lb. paper, 23″x30″, painting © 2008 by Carol Tombers. All rights reserved.



To support my studio work, I make color studies, practice brush strokes, and collect color combinations. I paint about six hours at a time, two or three times a week. I look at other paintings. I keep painting. I learn about what other creative people think about. I keep a journal of color combinations and their recipes, lists of books to read, and images to track down on the web. I don’t often listen to music while I paint because I want the right hemisphere of my brain available for painting. But I do listen to audio books and pod casts while I work.

I was listening to a dialogue between Leonard Cohen and Philip Glass from the Aurora Forum at Stanford University. Leonard Cohen said you (artists) have to keep going because it isn’t until near the end of the work that the brilliance of it comes out. So I urge my strategic mind to fixate on color combinations and other art elements and principles, rather than the evaluation of my work in a realm beyond my control. This allows me to keep going.



Shamanic Series 2, Egg tempera with earth pigments on Arches Rag 400 lb. paper, 23″x30″, painting © 2008 by Carol Tombers. All rights reserved.



About Carol:  Carol Tombers was born and raised in Minnesota. She began her artistic career at the age of eight by painting a picture of the garage on plywood with house paint. Later she earned a BFA from Minneapolis College of Art and Design and an MA from the University of St. Thomas. She is especially delighted by travel, and has done visual research most recently in Barcelona and Bogotá.

Carol has taught visual art for ten years at The Blake School and will begin a seven-month sabbatical in January 2009. During that time she will be studying historical color systems and painting in Mexico and Colombia. Her work has been shown in Hong Kong, Tokyo, Taipei, Seoul, and Ohio.



To learn more about the Russian-Byzantine Tradition of Icon Painting visit The Prosopon School of Iconology. To learn more about shamanic healing in the Mapuche tradition visit Luzclara — Chilean Medicine Woman.

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By Gail Wallinga


Gossamer, 36″x 24″, acrylic, oil, tissue paper, & bristles on stretched canvas, painting © 2007 by Gail Wallinga. All rights reserved.

Gossamer, 36″x 24″, acrylic, oil, tissue paper, & bristles on stretched canvas, painting © 2007 by Gail Wallinga. All rights reserved.



Breathless, 36″x 24″, acrylic & oil on stretched canvas, painting © 2007 by Gail Wallinga. All rights reserved.

Breathless, 36″x 24″, acrylic & oil on stretched canvas, painting © 2007 by Gail Wallinga. All rights reserved.



Second Skin, 36″x 24″, acrylic, oil, & tissue paper on stretched canvas, painting © 2007 by Gail Wallinga. All rights reserved.

Second Skin, 36″x 24″, acrylic, oil, & tissue paper on stretched canvas, painting © 2007 by Gail Wallinga. All rights reserved.



I paint to bring visual form to emotions, interactions, and psychological states that I experience in life. For the past 3 years, I’ve been working on a series that is loosely about the theme of connection. How do we connect or not connect with ourselves or others? What is going on at the point of intersection. Or in the space behind the connection.


Here & There, 36″x 24″, acrylic & oil on stretched canvas, painting © 2007 by Gail Wallinga. All rights reserved.
Here & There, 36″x 24″, acrylic & oil on stretched canvas, painting © 2007 by Gail Wallinga. All rights reserved.



Where We Meet, 36″x 24″, acrylic & oil on stretched canvas, painting © 2007 by Gail Wallinga. All rights reserved.

Where We Meet, 36″x 24″, acrylic & oil on stretched canvas, painting © 2007 by Gail Wallinga. All rights reserved.



Sometimes I have a specific feeling or situation in mind when I start a painting. Other times, I start by spontaneously reacting to the materials that I’m exploring. But either way, the finished painting tells a story or represents a voice in the bigger picture of my theme.

My training as a graphic designer has taught me about color, composition and trusting my decisions. When I paint, I bring all of those skills to the table. I plug into the creative stream where the designer meets the artist to create something that pleases me visually and contextually.


Gypsy, 36″x 24″, acrylic & oil on stretched canvas, painting © 2007 by Gail Wallinga. All rights reserved.

Gypsy, 36″x 24″, acrylic & oil on stretched canvas, painting © 2007 by Gail Wallinga. All rights reserved.



Approach, 36″x 24″, oil on stretched canvas, painting © 2007 by Gail Wallinga. All rights reserved.

Approach, 36″x 24″, oil on stretched canvas, painting © 2007 by Gail Wallinga. All rights reserved.



I paint once a week for at least 4 hours. Sometimes I’m able to paint twice a week. But I’m often thinking about and working on my paintings while I’m not in the studio. The creative process is fed by my experience as a designer, and is constantly going on in the background of my consciousness.


About Gail:  Gail has been a graphic designer for almost 20 years, and principle of her own business, Wallinga Design, for 14 years. She designed the logotype for red Ravine and is the graphic designer of choice for our various mastheads. Besides her painting and design, Gail has passion for contemporary furniture design, photography, acoustic folk/pop music, and Godiva chocolate.

If you’d like to view Gail’s work in person, she will be participating in the Annual Autumn Show of The Rain Collective, a Minneapolis based confluence of artists. The show is taking place this Saturday, November 3rd, 2007, from 4:00 pm to 8:00 pm in the Casket Arts Building, 681 17th Avenue NE, located in the infamous Nordeast Minneapolis.

For contact information, Artist Statement, and to view more of Gail’s work, see her Rain Collective profile.

              Postcard for The Rain Collective, Annual Autumn Show, 8.5″x 5.25″, designed by Gail Wallinga, photographs Ryc Casati, postcard © 2007 by Wallinga Design. All rights reserved.

Postcard for The Rain Collective, Annual Autumn Show, 8.5″x 5.25″, designed by Gail Wallinga, photographs Ryc Casati, postcard © 2007 by Wallinga Design. All rights reserved.


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Diebenkorn Leaves Taos, Taos, New Mexico, July 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Diebenkorn In New Mexico, Taos Mountain in the background, Taos, New Mexico, July 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


When I was in Taos in July, we carpooled over to the Harwood Museum of Art to see Diebenkorn In New Mexico. When I was looking through my Taos photos last night, I realized I had wanted to do a post on Richard Diebenkorn after I got back. Time has rolled on without me.

The exhibit is moving to the San Jose Museum of Art and will open there Sunday, October 14th, 2007. If you are in the area, it’s worth checking out this period of Diebenkorn’s life (1950 – 1952).

 Natalie's Favorite, Diebenkorn In New Mexico, July 2007, Taos, New Mexico, photo by QuoinMonkey, all rights reserved.       One Of My Faves, Diebenkorn in New Mexico, July 2007, Taos, New Mexico, photo by QuoinMonkey, all rights reserved.

Playing Favorites, Diebenkorn In New Mexico Exhibit, Harwood Museum, Taos, New Mexico, July 2007, photos by QuoinMonkey, all rights reserved.


It was in 1950 that Diebenkorn enrolled in the Masters of Fine Arts program at the University of New Mexico, leaving behind a teaching position at the California School of Fine Arts (now known as the San Francisco Arts Institute). It had been at the California School of Fine Arts that Diebenkorn crossed paths with artist, David Park, who became his mentor and friend.

Natalie wrote about Diebenkorn in her book about painting, Living Color: A Writer Paints Her World. (It’s one of my favorites. Read Chapter 1, How I Paint at this link.) So she was thrilled to take the class of 50+ students to the Harwood to see his work. In preparation for the visit, she told stories about her chance meeting with Helen Park Bigelow and a series of strange twists and turns that led her to learn that Helen was David Park’s daughter.


Though I missed Helen’s August lecture at the Harwood last summer, her introduction explains:

After the Diebenkorns returned to the Bay Area from New Mexico, they and my parents became best friends. I was married and living nearby, and it was during those years, the fifties, that my three children were born. I was in and out of my parent’s house, where I saw Dick and Phyllis often, and got to know them and love them and also got to know and love Dick’s works. Through my father, Dick and the third player in that important friendship, the painter Elmer Bischof, those years gave us what became known as Bay Figurative Painting, and the emergence into national recognition of David, Dick and Elmer. As I observed the three young painters, Dick and Elmer in their thirties and David in his forties, their passion for work left deep impressions. For my Harwood Talk I will share stories and insights from those years, with a focus on the friendship, competition and recognition the three painters shared.

The last few times I have visited museums with Natalie’s classes, she has had each person slow walk around the exhibit and view the work (it was O’Keeffe last December in Santa Fe). When she rings the bell, we stop – and choose our favorite painting, the one we would love to take home, by standing directly in front of it. Then we describe what we like about the piece.

It’s another form of practice that Natalie teaches, to slow down and take in each piece of art in silence. I call it museum walking. Other people viewing the exhibit usually join in with the class. It’s a great exercise in seeing.

And, for me, I find that the painting I like the most is not necessarily the same painting I could stand to live with for the rest of my life! There are many things to consider when choosing art for one’s walls.


Harwood Museum Of Art, Taos, NM, photo by QuoinMonkey, all rights reserved.Diebenkorn In New Mexico was organized by the Harwood and highlights a little-known period of Diebenkorn’s work. But it was a time that had a lasting impact on his career.

The exhibition brings together 50 paintings, works on paper, and sculpture that have never been seen together before.



We’d love to know which piece you’d take home. But be prepared. Museum walking makes the guards quite nervous.


-posted on red Ravine, Tuesday, September 25th, 2007

-related to posts: Mabel’s Dining Room, A Reason To Be In Taos This Summer



Diebenkorn in NM, Taos, NM, July 2007, photo by QuoinMonkey, all rights rewerved.

Continues Upstairs, Diebenkorn In New Mexico Exhibit, Harwood Museum, Taos, New Mexico, July 2007, photo by QuoinMonkey, all rights reserved.



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