Charcoal for mystery and depth, Knowth Ireland

IMG_1784Interior of Knowth passage grave co. Meath Ireland.
Basin Stone now found at the Newgrange visitor centre.

Again, I found this in a drafts folder so I am publishing it now. My earlier posts were about using inspiration and creating volume with charcoal. One of the most inspirational times in my life have been discovering the ancient archaeology of Ireland. I have heard it said that once the neolithic gets into your blood it never leaves. There is something about visitng these sites that is so moving. I guess it is a reverence for the work of the ancestors now preserved in stone. Obviously there is a ceremonial usage to these sites and I have always been intrigued by veneration. The dead were as much apart of life in 3000bc as were the living. Large amounts of time were invested in creating these sites to honour the dead. It was a huge commitment of labour and it often took a full generation to complete a space. Knowth had two entrances oriented to the dawn and sunset of the Equinox. The basin stones held burnt bones . They were ancient crucibles for those gone to the Sky.
To create and emphasize the carved out nature of the shape I curved the charcoal lines toward the centre.
The smudgy black and white lends mystery to the picture. It is pitch dark in these subterranean places so you can imagine the fire light of the torches on the walls . Now much of the passage makes room only for crawling until the inner chamber is reached. The inner spaces of Knowth are not open to the public but there is still much to see outside. There are standing stones, small stone circles, and the impressive site of the huge green mound can never be forgotten.


Beach , Sun and Sea

ocean floor
I find myself remembering walking on beaches , in Florida, California, Mexico, and Ireland. I am yearning for the sun and
the sound of waves. We had a few nice days here. The yearning for the Summer months began. This photo is the floor of a sculpture called Shipwreck-Sunken Treasure.It is an environmental piece about the Sea and how the creatures in it create homes of almost anything floating down. It is about re-cycling our treasure and about loss and transformation. The sunken ribs of the ship( not shown) are interwoven with copper sea weed, and pieces of jewelry that were once treasured by me. The net is a beaded crochet square made by a friend who is a glass artist. It is a kind of reliquary or timeline of lost items. Some pieces I cast myself in silver and some are made with applied and fused enamel. There is a diary with it . A book about each item , where it came from and what it meant to me. Each one is sacrificed to the sea. It took me three years to complete it. Its most important resident is a hand made clay mer woman in the bow of the ship, resting on the floor you see here. She rises like a masthead. More about her later. The sea is calling.

This is one I wrote a while ago and I  found in Drafts, since then I have spent a weeks holiday in Lanzarote, Spain swimming in the sea and watching the waves make designs on a volcanic beach.

Summer is finally here

I saw my first wisteria flower blooming today. I have not written anything since March. it was a cold Spring and because the chemo therapy left me with a sensitivity to cold I just withdrew and huddled with my sketch book trying to do one free form sacred art mandala a day. I have always resisted symmetry because I like the freedom of not matching one side to the other. I have surprised myself with the result of taking one or two shapes like a crescent or a triangle and adding to them while flowing outward from the center. I am now finally back in my welding studio and have laid out a new wall sculpture with elements of a more geometric approach. It is called Origins and it will probably be the last in the series of work using the river fossils. Who knows really what will evolve later on in the season.The chi gong classes have started up again here at the Mill and there will be a Summer Solstice workshop and a Summer two day retreat on July 20th and 21st that will also have a sacred site tour on the last day. I won’t add a photo today because it takes so long to load them onto the post.

Art lesson -Tonal shading

ImageOne of the most important and enjoyable techniques to practice is the freedom and fun of shading. You have heard people say  I cannot draw a straight line. In shading you do not have to. There are many ways to shade in a form with the side of a pencil or repated strokes to create depth. This is called crosshatching but it requires some continuity of application which can be demanding. The best way to learn about shading is with charcoal. Because of our education process, where we are taught in school to use pens and pencils, it is more difficult to free yourself while drawing from self criticism . Abandoning the pencil is an effective practice to achieve new levels of creativity and expertise. There are stumpy pieces of very black charcoal and longer pieces called vine charcoal. There are charcoal pencils but it is difficult to keep then sharp. I love the sound of vine charcoal on the paper. To create a 3-D shape find the light source and be consistent in applying the charcoal to the side that is not getting the light. In this picture of the interior of Newgrange passage tomb in Ireland I was not concerned  about a light source because it is  an interior without light. I am using the charcoal to create mystery and volume from my own imagination.  Charcoal can be smudged in with the side of a finger and eraser or a paper wadded sharpened wand. If you haven’t tried it  do begin  and enjoy the freedom it can give you.



The origin of the Easter Bunny

I love mythology. When I was in school it seemed hard to believe that reading stories of heroes, and gods and goddesses was a subject to study. I have always been intrigued by the origins of things. The Easter bunny and eggs seemed a bit strange but great fun to decorate and to see them hopping about holding baskets of eggs on cards and candy wrappers was a welcome sight after a long winter.  Lately I heard that the Easter Bunny legend comes from the goddess Oeaster, the ancient goddess of Spring.  She had great sadness while looking at a barren field where there was only one lone wren surviving the freezing  winter. So in her mercy she changed the wren to a rabbit . Rabbits were plentiful in the field.The wren was carrying eggs inside her little body so then also did the rabbit. So there you have it the Easter Bunny.

My garden taught me why the colours of Easter are lilac and yellow. Crocus, daffodils, may flowers,(marsh marigold)  heather, lilacs, wisteria, lungwort, dandelions– you can think of more I am sure.

Childrens Art

 painted princessesChildren love to draw. It is one ot their first modes of expression. The best way to help them is to provide paper and pencils. Markers are a neat and colourful tool to encourage them. Messy is ok. It is best not to draw for them or ask them to copy something . Children have a developmental sequence of creating their own schema. To interrupt this schema with our preconceived formulas for things will inhibit their imagination and their adjustment to their world. It is important to just let them go. Asking them questions about what they are doing or dialoging with them is very good. Let them describe their drawing. They will readily share their process. When I was studying Art Education at a University in the U. S. this was the most important thing I learned. I believe and trust that all children have their own unique process .
Most people love children’s art,that is why there are so many children’s art contests. Children have an innocence and a way of going to the truth of things. I think all children deserve a prize if they have worked hard on their picture. They deserve as much time and stimulation as they can get to make their art.
I am not entirely in favor of art contests but I love to see children’s art displayed. Remember, that with any kind of contest it is important for the parent or the teacher to explain to them that everyone’s art is good and deserving of a prize. It is the effort that counts. This is a lesson for all of life.
I used to love to read to my classes and then they would draw or paint their favorite picture from the book. Listening to music and then painting with colour is a wonderful motivation. Drawing also helps to process grief and loss. More time should go into the motivation than the instruction. Helping children develop their art making abiltiy is a wonderful gift. Encourage them as much as you can. In subsequent blogs I will give some examples of fun motivations. There will be some tried and true stimulating approaches to broaden the child’s experience of art materials.

How To -2- If You are Stuck

Often in the creative process we get stuck. It all seems monumental and failure ever present. One of the best ways to get unstuck is by doodling.
Take a square of paper and draw a squiggle line. You can even close your eyes. Continue the line with your eyes open. Use different pressures. If you want to scribble with anger that is ok. Scribble awawy. Move out of the line and cross over a few times to make some freeform shapes. Keep going. Sometimes you will start to see shapes emerge into something recognizable. If you do that is fine,

Let yoursel go and do a doodle

Let yourself  go and do a doodle

but it is not a necessary part of the process. If you have bright colored markers the next step might be to colour these shapes. The more you work on it the more your mind will release tension. I have whole collections of large pads where I have  done my doodles. I started this process years ago during a difficult time and kept up with it till I could begin again.The large doodle in the post was done during this time . Your inner critique is silenced with this. Why? Well, because the mind cannot  label the result and it gives up. You end up with a fun collection of drawings that you cannot judge as good or bad. So start doodling and have fun.

How to Paint – 1

Dragonflies as big as your hand

Dragonflies as big as your hand

While I was walking up the path the other day I was thinking about how many people would like to be able to paint the coming of Spring. In my classes I would always stress the need to start a sketch book. This book contains little drawings of what you want to refer back to. Learning to draw is important if you are trying to paint. A light pencil drawing or a wash of yellow ochre to outline your shapes to help with your design is the best way to start. Drawing is practice. We are all born with the ability to draw. It is part of our human heritage. The ancient caves of  Lascaux still never fail to awe those who see these beautiful bison leaping across the stones. If you stopped drawing in third class this is where you will start. If your drawings are childlike , honour that child artist and build your skills with practice. I know you can draw a daisy . Now draw a group of daisies. Take photos, refer back to them as you work in your sketch book. See how you improve the more you try.