What a great art weekend.
Thursday was the opening of the Siren Nation art show Paths to the Pacific Northwest at Albina press. Friday was Red Dot's PDXTRAOrdinary show. Then Saturday I used my two free tickets to Sitka Art Invitational (thank you to abstract artist Ruth Armitage for passing them along at PDX Open Studio!) Armitage had a few incredible pieces in the show, and I was introduced to a few new artists who's work was fantastic.
Oh look at that patterning! Pattern is clearly a big element in her work, and it's somehow calming to find a successful artist who clearly loves pattern as much as I love pattern. O'Donoghue has found a way to weave it into her work in an interesting and playful way.
Her work looks great in the digital sphere but you can't see all the rich layers that are so apparent when you're standing in front of it live.
Also bonus: She paints in acrylic.
This owl. What is it about owls that are so intrinsically heart warming? What I love about this piece especially is the economy of stroke. So sure, there are a lot of strokes, but because this is monoprint, you can really see the patterning in the strokes in a way that is delightful. Potter's work encourages me to get back into owls after last week's owl fiasco.
All of her paintings are wonderful and clearly she has put in the hours drawing, but there is something about Thru the Mist that captures everything I hope to paint some day. You can tell what it is but it's loose in an incredible way. Not abstract art but only a few steps off. That hair. That shadow under the nose. I should book mark this painting so whenever I feel astray, I can come back to something that so captures how I hope to paint some day.
I’m slowly building a list of exercises, some quicker than others, to do when I need an official art warm up or something with low stakes to get me into the studio.
Here’s a great one from Jane Davies. If you don’t follow Jane, go do so right now. I met her years ago when we filmed her at Creative Catalyst productions. She’s an incredibly generous teacher.
Here Jane is doing five minute paintings. She says, “I don’t want to feel rushed here. I just want to make a relaxed kind of visual statement.” I love that idea. I also love that she’s still painting relatively large at 19x25 inches. What a great way to get the body moving.
Portland Open Studios is a four day basically Christmas holiday for Portland artists. I’d meant to go for years and then had a taste last year. This year I did half. Next year I’m marking out the entire four days on my calendar to wander all over the city and meet the amazing artists taking part.
Artists are juried in and then they generously open their studios and their practice to the public. It really is an amazing opportunity to take a peek inside the lives of some of Portland’s best artists. Here’s a bit of what I learned:
(Image below: Yesterday Today Tomorrow, Ruth Armitage)
I’ve loved Ruth Armitage’s work for years but it was only when the WSO show was held in Albany that I realized that she’s an Oregon artist. It was a kick to meet an artist I’ve for so long admired. She lives out in beautiful West Linn and at times I thought I was going to be wandering the wilderness forever (oh look at me, such a Portlander) but it was worth the extra driving. She has three dogs. The puppy is the softest dog you’ve ever petted, and as I talked to her about where I am in my career, she gave me some really good advice:
- Skip the small shows and work to get into the big ones. She said it took her many tried before she got into some of her big shows, but it was worth the wait. She suggested Art in the Pearl and the Salem Art Festival. I’ve never been to the latter, and her daughter (who is also really great) suggested I go next year and do reconnaissance.
- Before starting an abstract make some basic choices. Is this painting going to be warm or cool, colorful or neutral, busy or calm. She writes these choices down so that when she’s at decision junctures, she reminded of her original goals. This will help me a ton in both my abstract work but also my non abstract work.
- Armitage creates incredible abstracts and she said they are based on tangible things like memories. An in studio example she gave was of a walk she took one night as a child. The lines represent the path and there are elements in the painting that represent fronts and the night sky. This helps give her a guide.
Whatever style I have, it’s nowhere near mixed media artist Danielle Donaldson’s. But I was on one of those “grab aaaall the mixed media books” in the library, and hers fell into the pile. I’m so glad it did. First, there is something relaxing about reading a technique book that has little to no crossover with your own style. The part of my brain that is constantly buzzing with, “careful not to copy” could just stay the hell out of the room while I enjoyed reading. It was nice to have the peace and quiet and read Creative girl: Mixed Media Techniques for An Artful Life.
Donaldson paints primarily in watercolor and includes elements of paper, text and stitching. Her main subjects are cute girls although she paints way more than only cute girls. Here’s what I loved most about her book.
1. She encourages you to be creative all the time.
While I was doing art part time, there was this constant voice in the back of my brain saying, “You’re starting too late, you’ll never make it.” It’s a voice I know well as it is a voice I’ve heard all my life. It’s the voice that keeps a lot of us from trying. That fear that we’ll never make it because we’ve started too late. The irony is that for those of us who hear the voice (does everyone hear it?) it starts when we’re incredibly young. It starts when we still have time to try, and it can keep us from ever taking the leap.
This is why I find artists like Lisa Congdon so particularly inspiring. Congdon didn’t pick up a pencil and start drawing until her early 30s. And since then she’s built an incredible art career. I didn’t realize how badly I needed these types of stories, the stories that defy that inner fear of starting too late, until I heard them.