Iris from my garden

20110525230129.jpg, originally uploaded by pejnolan.

Wednesday night I began to carve a block showing an iris from my garden. Last year the plants were purchased from the Gurler House Plant Sale around Mother's Day. Everything I purchased there last year is growing so abundantly this year!

I have gigantic purple iris, medium purple iris, smaller yellow iris, and mini dark purple iris. In front of that is a little stone path with a purple and green sedum, blue speedwell and pink dianthus. Off to the side are crimson mums.

I used differently sized u-gouges to make a pattern of circles that will create a nice gradient using progressively smaller circles.

This Sunday starts my moku hanga class in Chicago! Eeek! I am so excited and scared at the same time. I'll let you know how it goes.


Waterfall Carp Woodblock

Waterfall Carp woodblock, originally uploaded by pejnolan.

This weekend I worked on the "Inspired by Japan" relief effort project put forth by the Baren Forum, and international collaborative of printmakers. It felt so good to be drawing and carving again! It helps my mind slow down and focus on just one thing at a time. Anymore that has been a luxury!

Things are really hectic and stressful right now. Normally I try to separate my art life from family and work, but that has been impossible. Someone said that I have too much drama. Well maybe crappy things just happen and a person just handles them the best they know how:

1. My car broke down and I can't get it fixed, so I have no transportation other than my bicycle.
a. bad: grocery shopping is difficult
b. good: I'm getting a lot more exercise

2. My mom broke both her arms and my dad isn't able to take care of her, so she moved in with my family.
a. bad: It is expensive and stressful for my family to have another member join us.
b. good: I get to develop a relationship with my mom while doing the right thing.

3. My son will not be graduating high school with the rest of his class.
a. bad: I'm too mad right now to list all the consequences as a result of this that will haunt him the rest of his life.
b. good: maybe, just maybe this will make him think about the direction his life is going and he can change it around.

a. bad: expensive, painful, hurtful, relationship-damaging
b. good: I don't see a good side to this one

5. I resigned as president of the Kishwaukee Valley Art League
a. bad: I fear for the continuation of the league
b. good: one less thing to stress out about

There is something to be learned from every hardship and something to be gained from every challenge. This month has been one of the hardest in all my 43 (and one-half) years, but I do know that better times are ahead and I remain hopeful.

Some joyful things that happened over the weekend were that our neighbors had one of their famous parties.

St. Paul's has a Lobsterfest every year in order to raise funds for their church. Well, our neighbors had about 20 huge red lobsters on their patio. After their guests enjoyed their meal, the started opening bottles of champaign with a sword. Each time a bottle was opened there were cheers from the crowd. My bedroom window is right above the party and I really love falling asleep to the sound of their laughter and music. I wish I was there with them, but since I can't, I enjoy their ambiance.

Our neighbors are so cool. They work so hard all year long doing lawn work and catering, then they travel all over the world with the money they earned. They've been to Japan, Thailand, India, Ireland, Scotland and many other countries! They're just plain fun people.

Another good thing that happened is that we planted our small garden. We'll have basil and cucumbers and tomatoes. The basil and tomatoes will be made into Margarita Pizza this summer.

Our flowers are coming up. The purple iris, lavender, pink dianthus, lily of the valley, and honesty plant are all blooming. The holly hocks, sea holly and Russian sage are popping up.

The weather was sunny and warm during the day. Just feeling the sun on my shoulders makes me so happy. I try to have the warmth permeate my body and enter my soul - just trying to soak it all in.

Time seems to get away from me. There is so much that I want to do for myself, my family, my friends; but I am only one person and I can't do it all. I have to tell myself that it is OK to prioritize. Some things have to go by the wayside. Balance is a difficult challenge. Some days I can rise to the challenge, other days I just want to hide. Today is a good day - I had two large cups of coffee!!!


June Bug Idea

June Bug Idea, 5x7, originally uploaded by pejnolan.

Last night as I was typing away at my computer, I could hear the softly muted trills of the screech owl's song. I was so very glad to hear it because our neighbor's had cut down the trees that the owls and owlets used in the evenings and I had thought they might not come back. I'm so happy to be wrong.

After the owl came a June bug. "Hey Mr. June bug, buzzing at my window, don't you know it's May?" I said quietly, chuckling to myself. My Aunt saw this posted on Facebook the following day and said the phrase sounded like a 1920's flapper song. I like the sound of that.

The nights have been uncharacteristically warm. The air is soft and feels good against my skin. I just felt at ease for the first time in a long while. I haven't had many quiet moments of reflection lately. My life has gotten too busy. I need to pull back, reassess, center myself and cut out some stressful areas so I can breathe deeply once again.

My last post was about wanting to combine the transparent Akua Kolor inks with the opaque Graphic Chemical inks similar to Francis Gearhart. I've been rolling ideas around in my head and came up with the little June bug. I'm excited to get started. Scared and excited.

That feeling is good. It means that I am stretching and growing as an artist. The nervous energy, when harnessed, results in some good learning. The physical end result may not be fantastic, but what I will have learned through the process of trying is invaluable.

This is just a digital drawing. By doing it this way, I am planning out the color combination and placement. It is the same as drawing it out on a sheet of paper, but this time I just chose to do the sketching on the computer using layers in Photoshop. Of course, the amount of detail will depend on my wood and tools. I'd like to get pretty close to this - maybe just more stylized using patterned cuts for the trees and a light pattern background pattern for the warm, peaceful wind.

I signed up to study Japanese Moku Hanga with Matthew Messmer at Spudnik Press in Chicago. I can't even tell you how nervous I am. I've never really taken public transit before. That may sound silly to some, but I'm just a small town girl. The town I grew up in doesn't even have a stoplight! We had to travel to a road construction site at another town to practice for the driver's license test. Turn arrow? Forgettabout'em. My husband is coming with the first day to show me the ropes, then I might be able to get a ride to the train station from one of the other students after that.

It will be a good experience not only for the educational aspect, but for the networking as well. It will be so nice to be part of a group of people interested in Moku Hanga. It starts May 29 and runs for five Sundays, 1 - 5 pm. Another adventure begins!


Frances Gearhart (1869 - 1959)

I was just speaking with a friend about how much I love the crispness of the water-soluble Graphic Chemical ink while at the same time admiring the transparent, watercolor-like washes that Akua Kolors provide. I wanted to find a way to combine both looks. That conversation was a week ago, and wallah(!) another friend from my local art league gave me the story of Frances Gearhart.

See where the dark outlines are used in the foreground as outline and as shadow in the back treeline. In the farthest distance the line has been removed. The broken line work showing the reflection from the mid-ground rocks adds energy while the reflection in the foreground is flat black making the creek lazily wind 'round the stones. Also, the green gradient of the creek is perfect to show perspective. 
Ms. Gearhart was from Southern California and lived with her two printmaking sisters each of which taught in the Los Angeles public school system. They studied with other artists such as Charles H. Woodbury, Henry R. Poore and Arthur Wesley Dow. In their home they held regular gatherings for the Print Makers Society of California.

The brushstrokes in the lake are so delicate and contrast nicely against the dark, stark foreground. I like the directional cut paths at the base of the center tree.
Her success came starting in 1919 when she joined and showed with the Print Makers of Los Angeles. In 1920 the Print Makers Society of California commissioned her to make a print and in 1923. She had her first solo exhibition in Los Angeles. After that, she showed nationally in places like the Brooklyn Museum and the Smithsonian.

What can I say? Magnificent! The texture, the patterns, the shapes and colors... just wow!
Although all three sisters were contemporaries, each had their own unique take to the artwork both in subject matter and technique. But, despite these differences, they collaborated on a children's book titled, "Let's Play" which was started in 1923. The prints were created, but the manuscript remained unfinished. Today the book is held by Princeton's University Library. Forty years later, in 2009, the book was finally published.

Here are some links if you are intersted in learning more about this artist:

Frances Gearhart.com
Los Angeles Times: Behold Frances Gearhart
Art and the Aesthete, Frances Gearhart


The Morel of the Story

Morel, originally uploaded by pejnolan.

Last weekend was just beautiful!  One of those times when everything just ran smoothly for one whole day. Ahhh, that felt good.  Paul and I rode up to Door County to deliver a batch of prints to Chad Luberger at Plum Bottom Gallery.  Angela Lench was there, too. After business was out of the way, we all had a nice visit. Chad showed us how he is building a huge kiln without any mortar. It was amazing. Why didn't I take any photos?!? (palm to forehead, "stupid, stupid, stupid!:)

Angela showed me these beautiful gold wire crochet earrings with carnelian which is one of my favorite stones. Gosh I wish I could have purchased them! 
 As we went outside to leave, we were shown stone sculptures by a new artist at Plum Bottom. Faces were carved into the Door County stone - some white, others gray. At first I might have said they were whimsical, but then upon closer inspection they were anything but. There was an unsettling sternness in their features, so of course I loved them. They were also interesting because they looked the same as the other rocks in the garden, so much so that seeing the faces startled me a few times because I didn't expect them. 

Let me share with you a list of all the cool things I saw that day:

A rafter of 12 wild turkeys: They were so silly. We spotted them down a gravel road that was obviously not often traveled. It was like the turkey's didn't know what to do. They were running this way, then that, then into one another. Finally they decided to head towards the trees. It was hilarious!

Two sandhill cranes: One flew overhead as we were walking at Toft's Point. They have such a loud, croaking call. The second was foraging in a field right next to the road, oblivious to our presence as we drove past.

A muskrat: It was flattened like a pancake on the road in Manitowoc, but its fur was still beautiful - so it counts. No photo. You'll thank me!
Morels: We walked out into the woods looking hard for any sign of morels, and didn't spot any until several yards later.
Then we turned around and saw that we had almost stepped on many of them as we walked in. There were several dozen! My first official morel sighting "in the wild." I'd tell you where they were, but then I'd have to kill you.
A blanket of lichen: This was on one of the alternate paths at Toft's Point. It was a light, pale pastel green and looked so soft, I wanted to curl up and lay down on it. When I touched it though, it was rough and scratchy. I wondered how long it took for the lichen to grow so high. Lichen grow less than a mm/year and these were about 4" high!
A Canadian Goose nest on the rocks of the Bailey's Harbor Marina. The marina was going to be dredged in the next few weeks. I hope it doesn't make the parents leave their nest. It wasn't very well built. Maybe they were first time parents. There were feathers all around the eggs, but the eggs themselves were laying right on the stones. The eggs were much larger than I thought goose eggs would be!
Green: I saw on the shore of Lake Michigan at Toft's Point, the most vivid, incredible green as I looked into the water. The sun was shining on it in just the right way to make everything glow. Beautiful!
A few other things of note from the last few weeks:
• The wood ducks are back in the old tree down the street. It still cracks me up to see ducks in the trees.
• I saw the first worm of spring trying to cross the sidewalk after a cold rain. I picked it up and put it in the grass to help it along.
• The magnolias are in full bloom as well as the forsythia, daffodils, tulips, grape hyacinth and bleeding hearts. The color just makes my heart sing. I wish I could capture the colors in a bottle to release during the dark, cold winters. 
• I had my credit card number stolen. "Dear to-whom-ever-stole-my-card-number: You must be pretty bad off in order to steal from another person. I hope your life gets better and you get back on your feet."  

The moral of the story? After a marathon road trip to Door County, I feel more inspired and excited about creating. New ideas are swirling around in my head and that's a good thing.