What a difference a day makes to a cat: October 28
Setting this cat in a bunch of neighborhoods is NOT like setting a cat among the pigeons. He is there to remind us all that we all look better, perform better, laugh more, and do our best work when we are surrounded by those from whom we can learn, which is a corollary of “every piece looks better because of the pieces that surround it.”
I finished the pencil drawing on October 28, covered it with Liquitex Clear Gesso, and started to paint on October 29.
The Neighborhood Cat is on a 16×20 stretched canvas. His face, yet to be determined/designed, makes him part of the Clowder of Cats. “Clowder,” as you may know, is the collective noun for “cat.”
As you might imagine, Max-the-Cat — model, muse and snacks manager — is the Model for the entire Clowder. Some of the original clowder paintings are for sale. All are available as prints ($25) or cards-with-envelopes ($4 each). Contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Billed through PayPal.
This found art turned up when I put things away after the Mystery of Cats Art Festival. I hadn’t seen it in two years, and its simplicity was striking. After having spent seven months creating intense and dense patterns for new cats, the plain shapes in this piece have an appeal. I painted in some blanks and now call it “possibly finished.”
With luck, I may create a really big (22×33) painting with solid shapes, one with a combination of patterned and solid shapes, and a few small pieces. I’d also like to make something like this in three dimensions. Creating a new dimension expands the meaning of “found art” and circles back to one of the goals that I set years ago as a protege in the WARM (Women’s Art Resource of Minnesota) mentor program: Work in 3D. (Note: WARM is going strong; the mentor program is on hiatus.)
Having been making paintings since 2009 and having limited ability to dispose of anything — I suspect that a serious sort-and-organize project will unearth plenty of found art possibilities.
Two bits of random (non-lethal) auto injury made me realize that Art is the Best Revenge.
Two weeks ago, my beloved 1999 Honda CRV was murdered in a hit-and-run. She was legally parked on Lake Street in Minneapolis, and was collateral damage to the work of an Evildoer, who smashed a car into mine.
The estimable staff at Bobby & Steve’s carefully explained the damage. GEICO, my insurance company of 37 years, said “Totaled.”
Cars near me for $1000
Acting like any 21st century gal, I took the $1100 insurance check, Googled “CARFAX, cars near me for $1000,” and went to Luxury Imports Auto Sales, North Branch, MN. Waiting for me was a 2003 Mazda Protege Rustbucket. “I have purple duct tape,” I said, and declared that it would become an Art Car.
Based on a favorite stained glass design that I often paint, I made a plan. I started researching rust management, auto painting, and industrial glues that could attach a plastic bib covered with recycled plastic bits. Why not make the stained glass designed out of recycled colored plastic? How will I do that? Why not learn something new every day?
Add injury to injury: a broken window
Two days after first parking in my underground locked garage, either a random vandal or a heretofore unidentified Force of Nature attacked the Art Car and broke her passenger-side window. This is not something that you want to encounter before your second cup of coffee.
Again, Art is the best revenge
Tiny glass bits were everywhere. Beautiful tiny glass bits were everywhere.I had never noticed how beautiful tiny bits of safety glass could be. After calling GEICO, the police, and the glass company, I scooped up as much as I could and made yet another plan: Embed glass bits into paint. I can’t wait to work them into tiny random shapes, whimsical wildlife, and as-yet-unimagined art pieces.
NOTE: As many of you know, when I turned 65, I abandoned activities requiring safety equipment and liability waivers, which means no tile cutting, no glass cutting, and no bungee jumping. I am making an exception for working with glass bits: the glass is pre-cut and tweezers don’t count as safety equipment.
The Blue-eyed Cat is part of an inter-species series of creatures who were delighted (in the nicest possible way) that I spent some of 2018 somewhat uninspired. Pushing on, following the “make art every day” principle, I made sheets and sheets of tiny abstract designs. I had an Artist Epiphany in October (an odd thing for a Jewish person, but an epiphany nonetheless), and realized that even if my Dear Departed Mother were to come back to life, that no one would buy any of these patterned sheets. Luckily enough, as a Whimsical Wildlife Documentarian, I am surrounded by creatures who were delighted to say “thank you for making our new body parts.”
Calling this exercise “exploring plaid,” demonstrates the folly of research-free design. I looked for a path that would be different from my design comfort zone (random). Marching forward with no data, I imagined that I could insert horizontal and vertical lines of color and make “plaid.”
Anyone who knows anything about plaid, knows that there are different types of plaids, and each has historic and cultural significance. This may be a Joyful Jumble, but it is NOT plaid.
It is, however, an example of #everypiecelooksbetterbecauseofthepiecesthatsurroundit one of my favorite Instagram hashtags.
My interest in gemstones was sparked during a trip to see The Hope Diamond when it was introduced into the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in 1958. My Mother bravely packed her station wagon with Brownie Scouts, and we joined the mobs who lined up to see it. We snaked through the museum through the Hall of Gems, which was filled with what appears in bodice-ripper fiction as “dripping with pearls.” Inspiring and breathtaking.
But ever-so-slightly disappointing. It was billed to the public and to my tiny 8-year-old brain as the largest blue diamond in captivity. Not knowing that the key word was blue, I expected to find a diamond the size of a softball. To my immense disappointment, it appeared to be the size of a quarter.
I missed the career off-ramp to “gemstone cutter,” and now that I’m hewing to my 65th birthday vow of avoiding activities requiring safety equipment or liability waivers, there will be no glass cutting, tile cutting, bungee jumping, and now, no gemstone cutting.
Whimsical wildlife documentarian paints gemstones
It is well within the purview of the Whimsical Wildlife Documentarian to paint gemstones and to apply a 2019 version of Painstaking Exuberance. I have paintbrushes, and I am not afraid to use them.
Multiple advantages of painting whimsical gemstones:
No insurance penalty for using dangerous equipment: paint brushes, even the tiniest, are not lethal unless you are in obscure parts of mystery fiction.
No need to consider the Laws of Physics: I never took physics, so I can plead ignorance.
No need to consider colors that might not exist in nature: in my experience as an artist, nature’s color limitations are highly over-rated.
No need to be limited by cost or size: a real five-pound amethyst crystal would be outside my art supply budget, it would pain my arthritic hands, and diamonds and rubies are out of the question.
No fear of making a costly mistake: the ever-real possibility of dropping and breaking a valuable stone was always a deal breaker.
I was searching through images from the past few years and found this image, Big Neighborhood 2. I opened it in Photoshop, hit “invert,” and now celebrate the one-click Big Neighborhood Happy Accident.
Big Neighborhood 2: part of a series
This painting is part of a series of nanoscapes abstract paintings and paper mosaics whose tiny shapes and tiny pieces come together with two purposes: to create joy and to spark conversations about what it means to be in a neighborhood.
In these “Neighborhoods,” as in life, each piece looks better because of the pieces that surround it. Creating each tiny piece is unalloyed pleasure, and a meditative practice.
I have done this work in watercolor, acrylic, and paper mosaic. I was fortunate to be able to work on a collaborative, colorful and inspirational mosaic mural project with the Class of 2017 6th graders at Alice Smith Elementary School in Hopkins, MN. If you are in the neighborhood (Hopkins), drop by and see it.
Creativity and the Happy Accident
The creative happy accident can flow from:
A thought. A gesture. A sunrise. A sunset. A crazy cat. A beautiful bug. A sound (or lack of sound). A “mistake.”
Lucky artists’ preparation for the Happy Accident
Have an open mind. Have good tools and take good care of them.
Learn how to use and manipulate your tools. My one-click Happy Accident is the direct result of my constant exploration of Photoshop’s features.
Have a camera or sketchbook handy. Don’t be embarrassed to stop and sketch.
Don’t be afraid to try. If your idea doesn’t work as you imagined or planned, begin again. Recycle your creative materials. Paint over the canvas (that’s what gesso is for); rework the clay; melt the glass shards; rip out the knitting. Cut things up. Make collages. Use glue. Find a hammer or electric staple to make new surfaces. You, too, may have a Happy Accident.
Availability: The original Big Neighborhood 2 has been sold. Prints of Big Neighborhood 2 Invert are available at etsy.
Celebrate the magic of watercolor with Northstar Watermedia Society’s members. Artists’ Market runs from May 19-21 at the Fine Arts Building at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. Every artist begins with a tube or a block of paint. Every artist’s work is different. Come to be astonished. Enjoy free parking.
Learn how to add this feature to your work. On Sunday May 21 at noon, I will be present a demonstration focused on this feature of Golden High Flow Acrylics, and showing off the powerful colors of this line. I will also (again) thank Bonnie Cutts, our Golden Brand Artist in Residence, who reassured me that the fern feet were an actual feature of this paint that I’d picked up from a discount table at Dick Blick. I thought I’d gotten a bad bottle.
Paper Mosaic: Not Ceramic
The other part of my Sunday demonstration will be a step-by-step guide to creating mosaics from paper that look like ceramic tile. In my demo kit: gesso, watercolor and acrylic paints and mediums, TerraSkin, Golden Self-Leveling Clear Gel, offset spatula, scissors, and a heavy dose of imagination.
Multi-colored antlers did not appear in a fevered dream. Rather, in late April, I began a deep dive into Golden High Flow Acrylic which became Multi-colored Antlers.
High Flow is is magical paint that makes my favorite effect — fern feet (above) — and it has a double-plus-fabulous bonus of providing beautiful, clear colors that work as paint-from-a-brush, in markers, as a glaze, and anything you might imagine.