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Entries in Drawing (4)

Wednesday
May232012

Staring at Goats • Farm Art 

Here's looking at you, Kid.

 

When my sister Megan and her veterinarian partner Dave purchased a 75 acre farm in the Palouse area of Washington state, and also acquired 29 goats, I knew that a road trip across the state was in order.  Also, my cousin Richard was having a 70th birthday party, and Phil and I wanted in on the fun.

After a 6 hour trip from Seattle down to the most south eastern part of Washington, Phil and I drove through my home town of Pomeroy and ten miles out on dusty gravel roads to the Farm.

We immediately felt at home. 

And I hauled a chair out to the middle of the field to get acquainted with the Herd. 

Dave and Megan had branded their goats with a no pain method of dipping the bottom of a pepsi bottle into dye and stamping the goat.

The goats were all vaccinated, de-wormed and the boy goats have their balls tied off. Dave has a moveable electric fence (solar powered!) to keep out coyotes and cougars, and to keep the goats moving to fresh meadows.

 I asked Dave what he planned to do with all those goats, and he said he would sell the ones "Megan hadn't grown attached to."  Like remodeling houses and selling them, Dave is "flipping goats".  A much safer investment in this economy.

Megan's favorite goat, Sweetie.

Megan with the herd.

Goat activities mainly center around eating.  ANYTHING.

 

 

Trees, leaves and grass.  Dead branches.  My journal.

The barn cat came over for a visit.  Stand off with goat. 

Magpies hung about, hoping for what–glitter?  Their nest near the pasture is a big clump of twigs, and they enter their nest toward the bottom. A fortress of twigs against the hawks and eagles.

 

Later, my sister Eileen and my brother in law John came out for dinner.  We had several delicious dinners, in fact.  None of them, fortunately, goat or rabbit.

Eileen inspecting the goats with loveslut Mabel, the guard dog.

All the lilacs were blooming.  I swooned in purple and green.  The green back yard, mowed beautifully by Megan on her green John Deere mower, the hills beyond were green crushed velvet, the trees flecked gold green and sap green.  All was a visual wallow of green with mounds of purple.

The back yard.

The side yard.


I helped Megan plant veggies in her garden, and Phil and I went over to check out my cousin Bill and Ginny's garden for tips.  They have an amazing set up.  A very nice easy access house (Bill has the McCabe back trouble) and a huge warehouse for projects and food (dated and stored)/generator/equipment storage.  I told them they were survivalists without being fascists.


I like this photo of Bill wading through the grass in the valley below his house.

My cousin Richard had a grand party....good food, and being Irish, a lot of razzing, jokes and booze.  Jason and Carmen, his kids, really did a splendid job.  I don't have photos because I was too busy chatting and eating and catching up.  Since Richard and his brother John, another esteemed cousin in my huge batch of 1st cousins, owned and operated a morturary home, there were a lot of undertaker jokes.
My favorite was about Richard and a buddy driving with 4 caskets and bodies on a trailer down one of Idaho's precipitous grades when the trailer brakes failed, and they landed in the ditch.  The newspaper, the Lewiston Tribune, headlined the accident with:  Four Dead, Nobody Hurt.

After 4 days, we left the farm.  I took a (sort of) American Gothic photo of Dave and Megan on their front porch and drove into town to stop by to say goodbye to Leenie and John. 

John has grown his hair out now and I must say he looks very "judgely" when he slips on his robes for sitting on the bench.


And then off across the wide open spaces of Washington State to the rainy, noisy, traffic snarled world of Seattle. And our cozy little home and garden.

 

Wednesday
Jan182012

Shining Stars • An Appreciation of my Students

 

Still Life on watercolor with sumie ink                                                                © Daisy Gilman

I think of my students and friends as constellations; glittering stars near and far in the galaxy of my affections.

Daisy, one of my students from my Tuesday class at CandP Coffee, just finished this gorgeous interpretation of a still life we had set up for a previous CandP watercolor event. Here is a photo of Daisy at her very first watercolor lesson three years ago.

 

 Daisy used a previous still life arrangement at CandP for her inspiration.

Daisy has been my student in my CandP Coffee House watercolor class for almost three years, and because she  has the talent, the smarts and she practices, she is progressing by leaps and bounds. In fact, so many of my CandP watercolor and drawing students have displayed such extraordinary advances in my class that I can't include them all.

Many in my class have started as beginners and have all forged ahead in their own directions.  I give an assignment focusing on a concept and a technique for each lesson with a side look at specific artists who used these approaches in their paintings. Then each student comes up with their own version.     

Once we worked with Elizabeth Kinkaid's book, Dance with Light, and worked with masking and slowly building brilliant color in flowers. (or whatever else we wanted to paint, for that matter)  At the end of the unit, Elizabeth kindly allowed us to visit her Kirkland studio.

            

The students started with a careful drawing, masked off the flower shape and gradually built their glazes into a fully convincing iris, radiant and ruffled. (with a few tulips thrown in)

Another time I introduced the concept of granulation in pigment, and since it was Easter and this technique would work for any furry beast, the students painted rabbits. (with a good look at Durer's lovely hare)

 

And Mary painted a polar bear as well!

Polar Bear                                                                                           ©Mary Ross

Sometimes I even (gasp!) go out of West Seattle to teach.  Here's an Idaho workshop where students who suffered from FEAR of WATERCOLOR (a common psychosis) actually had a good time creating leaf designs.

 Cameron, proprietor of CandP Coffee and patron of the arts.                                                                                                                                                   .

Watercolor, in my opinion, is the most challenging of all paint mediums.  With my commercial painting business, I have worked with all sorts of paint vehicles from encaustic to making pigments from mushrooms, and I have a great respect for artists who are fluent in watercolor. And, as a teacher, it is so satisfying to watch a student advance with confidence in this difficult medium.  
   Wendy and her magic palatte

 

Adam is ready to start his painting.

 

Basic drawing skills are the backbone of any art program. These students worked with me on the concepts of line, negative and positive space, value and composition.

Drawing teaches how to SEE and effectively translate these perceptions to the 2D surface of paper.

When the weather is good, we go down to Lincoln Park and paint among the trees.  Here Joan is assessing the light shining up from the bay.  Mmm.  How to do it? What's first?

We also took field trips to exhibits. (ahem)  My painting on the right!

Jill and me at the Pacific Northwest Watercolor group show.

I am now mentoring five artists in private classes in my home and studio.  Classes are arranged at our mutual convenience and set up so the student can choose half hour or hour sessions.

Teri working on an assignment in my studio.  Atelier session, right?  Every once in a while I come around and rap her on her knuckles.

I have taught and made art for all my adult life, and many times my teaching has supported me and my family so I could pursue my personal creative work.

I'd like to honor my students in this blog and thank them for the many opportunities they gave me and continue to give me for growth and opportunity in my own art.
 

Patricia painting in Lincoln Park

 

Me teaching English in the barrio....Peace Corps 1965-1967


It is so true that a teacher learns more about her field when she teaches it, and I can vouch that as a young student graduating from an art department where abstract expressionism and gesture were the paramount concerns of the faculty, I had little or no experience with drawing or design.  Teaching art at all levels from kindergarten to freshman college drawing and painting classes helped me hone my skills in those areas.        Again, THANKYOU…from my first teaching experiences up to today.

Shine on, you stars of the art firmament!

 

Wednesday
Nov092011

My Life with the Saints (continued)

  

                     Sailing out                                                                      ©Jennifer M. Carrasco

When I was 15, I lost my faith. After reading too much Dostoyevsky and agonizing over impure thoughts (what else do you think about in your early teens), I decided being a good Catholic was too exhausting and just went through the motions to keep my familly off my back. In time I was able to achieve the really important aspects of teen life.  Namely cute clothes and boyfriends.

Later, I added my feminist objections, a hardheaded suspicion of dogma and a general bloody mindedness to the list.  Now my impure thoughts have faded (somewhat) and I stay away from "Crime and Punishment".

But the Catholic upbringing shaped and sustained me in many positive ways as a person and an artist.  Discipline and deadlines. "No excuses!" snapped Sr. Mary Eugenia, as I whined about my long division homework. If I stole or copied or cheated and and didn't make recompense, I would go to hell. (Create your own stuff or Mother Superior will lurch into your line of vision and shame you in front of the class).  Long hours of sitting still in pews taught me to be patient in traffic jams and committee meetings.  Giving up candy and movies during Lent taught me (mostly) to avoid temptation and keep plugging toward a goal. Eating fish on Friday taught me to despise certain colors, i.e. the particular brown and puce of salmon loaf.

And,  I genuinely respect those who support the religious community and seek spiritual guidance and comfort.  There's something out there.  It's just that I'm not sure what it is.

In the esthetic arena, there are many I can count many Catholic influences.  I like the flash of gold...the crowns on the Virgin, the monstrance on the altar and the golden chalice.......

                                                                Crown by Carrasco

 The poetry of the liturgy of the Mass, the spare elgance of the Gregorian chant I sang as a child, and the litany to Mary, "Rose of Sharon, Tower of Ivory, House of David" still resonate. Drama and mysticism makes the hair on my head stand straight up. I wanted to have visions like Bernadette at Lourdes when I was a child. Now I often try to express the idea of spiritual ecstasy in some of my paintings.

Woman Singing Gregorian Chant (Detail)                                                               © Jennifer M. Carrasco   

When I went to the Philippines as a Peace Corps Volunteer, I encountered another brand of Catholicism; a potent mixture of Spanish and animistic Malay/Chinese beliefs, and this too affected my art. As a naive country girl, I was fascinated to see believers lining up in Quiapo church to kiss the feet of the black crucified Christ, or to note that one could buy charms and herbs insuring both abortion and fertility for sale in the churchyard. I would sit on the balcony of rectories and chat with provincial priests and their "housekeepers" ( and his children.) I was enchanted and repelled by the life sized statues of Mary and Christ staring out of glass enclosures in the living rooms of prominent families. 

(the following images are sketches scanned from my 1981 sketchbook journal)

The statues of the Saints were not only life sized, but elaborately dressed and given real jewels.gold crowns and sceptres, and placed on elaborate palaquins hoisted up and paraded by men on feast day processions around the barrios and cities. I was fortunate to see a very elaborate  procession of  Virgins in the old Walled City of Intramuros in Manila in l981.

 Joan Orendain had told me about it, and we took our little boys over to stand on the top of the parapets to watch the statues of the Virgins emerge on their thrones from the darkened cathedral ..all brilliant in the lights of their thrones and jewels.

  There were about 15 of them, all dressed and displayed as displays of a Manila family's religious devotion, and followed by crowds of women in black dresses and mantillas, children dressed as angels, young girls in their traditional butterfly sleeved dresses accompanied by men in their best embroidered barongs. Priests and acolytes were swathed in incense and the smell of burning beeswax, and a company of  dogs and cats trotted along as well.

We looked down on the Virgins as they slowly paraded between the old stone walls. Generators surging as the lights glowed and dimmed. Exquisite details like hiding a statue with a jeweled painting, with all but her face peeking out of an opening in the canvas, or the long blond hair of one  Holy Maiden held down by glittering silver clasps and chains. And several statues were almost eclipsed by huge sun haloes of gold surrounding their faces.

When the procession finally circled back to the cathedral yard, the statues were gathered in a line facing out at the crowds. All was dark and quiet except for the radiant statues on their glowing sedans. Then, all of a sudden, the bells of St. Augustine's cathedral rang out, and churches all over Manila began ringing as well. Fireworks and firecrackers began to sizzle and pop.  And the Virgins remained in the middle of the noise and dazzle,tranquil, assured and glowing.

.

And of course, being the Philippines, there had to be a note of humor at the end.  We followed a red Fiera Ford pickup as it jiggled it's Virgin and her minder all the way home to her glass cage in the family sala.

Procession of Virgins

The statues lurch from somber gates

on the backs of sweating men.

Feast of the Assumption,

Tonight,  Manila frees

God’s mothers

from their glassy cages 

in the family salas.


Ave, Maria de Santa Rosa, the Virgin of Sampoloc.

Oh, Queen of Sorrows from Binondo,

you and your sisters show pale faces

like the tilted eye of God,

ivory ovals in a radiance of crinkled hair and diadems.

 

My childhood saints were plain.

My church , a part

Of pleasant neighborhoods.

Mary was our patron saint

of varnished pews.

Sexless, she and Jesus smiled

on farmers and their women;

the mothers soothing babies,

crying in the back.

A flash of gold along a hem.

A crown of flowers from the yard

Were our Mary’s only ornament.

 

Where you, Maria, your Spanish shimmer casts

 a retinue of comets in the dark.

The generators surge, electric candles

urge light across moire, along your goitered neck,

and snag on jeweled ears, the lace at breasts and cuff.

 

 Your light slaps facets on the sweating walls,

spins glamour out of filthy ground

and clothes the beggars squatting by canals.

You scatter glitter in the streets

where day shows only garbage,

circling dogs,

and slinking rats.

                      ©Jennifer Carrasco

 

Sunday
Oct302011

Painting the Saints

 

It's been a long hiatus from my blog.  I've been working for the past month in (very) Eastern Washington in Holy Rosary Church in the town of Pomeroy, Washington (1000 plus people), patching and painting the statues of the saints, the stations of the cross, and faux marbeling the pillars on the altar.  The town of Pomeroy is where I grew up, and the church bell in Holy Rosary Church was bought and shipped from "back East" by my great grandparents. 

Pomeroy is surrounded by high rolling hills that are planted mostly with wheat.  The top soil there is in some places, almost 100 feet deep, and was deposited by giant sand storms millions of years ago.  A surreal quiet beauty I didn't appreciate until I left it.  This is how the hills look in the spring.

This is how it looks in the fall.

I always like to start with the land.  It is the strongest connection I have to any place I have traveled.  If I can't get out of the city or off a bus or stop the car and walk across a field, wade through a creek, or pick up stones on a beach, I feel like I have missed the spirit of a place.

My home town of Pomeroy is in one of the valleys Lewis and Clark traveled, and there is a little creek that runs through the center of town called the Pataha Creek.  When I was a child, my Dad worked with the Wild Life and Game Commission to stock the creek with rainbow trout and limit the fishermen within the city limits to kids under 14. (There always seemed to be a lot of Dads "helping" their kids on the day fishing season opened.)

I spent all summer sloshing up and down this creek , fishing and dreaming under a canopy of willows and dappled summer sunlight.  I saw muskrats, rats, water beetles, water striders, minnows tad poles, frogs, crawdads, humming bird nests, blue herons, and caught my share of trout. The creek was too brushy for casting, so I used grasshoppers or worms I'd catch for bait. Sometimes I would even hook a pretty little native rainbow, but usually I let it go.  They never got very big.

I was baptized and confirmed in Holy Rosary Church, sang gregorian chant at Mass every day there for the first 8 years of my education, and now I am a very retired Catholic. However, my life has been shaped by my community, my religious training and family, and I was honored to be offered the opportunity to do some repair and restoration for the church. The church committee was very organized and gave me a notebook book full of possible projects.

The church will be repainted in the colors of wheat and grass and blue sky.  My designer friend Betsy Stalker and I came up with the concept, and the Altar Society and Father Robert Turner approved it with some additions of their own.  The livid blue, included the blue and stenciled gold pattern on the main altar and the carpet will go. (Whew!) 

I noticed this sign in the sacristy.  Made me laugh.  No gum for the altar boys/girls.

My first project was to add more green in the main altar faux marble pillars.  I had done the faux marble finish on the pillars in a lighter shade fifteen years ago, but the committee wanted me to bring out more of the green. I winced a bit when I looked at what I did before. I'm a better painter now.

 

While I worked on the pillars, the committee…Mary, Donna, Carol and Dwyla…cleaned the statues of the saints.  St. Joseph, Mary, The Sacred Heart and St. Teresa of Liseux were shampooed and rinsed. There were lots of nicks and damage.  The Sacred Heart had a badly mangled hand, and all the saints with the exception of St. Teresa had damage to the folds in their robes.

Mary worked on the Sacred Heart after removing his arms and Dwyla, Carol and Donna worked on the Virgin Mary. They used a specialized cleaning product from a conservator site, and worked from bottom to top so there wouldn't be streaks. I patched the saints with a dental stone plaster, sanded them and matched their colors with casein (reversible).  Under St. Joseph we found several touching requests scribbled on scraps of paper.  "Pray for me, I have cancer" , "Please give my son a job", or "Please find me a job"  Sad signs of the times.

My next job was to work on the Stations of the Cross, fourteen of them, which had been cleaned and were waiting for me in the old Catholic school…in the same room where I attended 3rd, 4th and 5th grade classes taught by the Holy Names Sisters.

I had never really looked at the Stations, since they were so high up on the wall and we really never did much with them except on Good Fridays, which seemed intermidably long and gloomy when I was a child.  After looking at them closely, I am pretty sure that someone painted the backgrounds a dark grey with some sort of folk art acrylics sometime in the 70's or 80's. 

 

The figures themselves don't seem to have been touched since the original paint.  I would hazard a guess that they were painted with oils, since they dated at least since the early 4o's.  They almost looked airbrushed in many places and are exquisite with delicate details like tiny eyelashes, tears and very thin lines of red along the lower eye lid.  I followed the advice of my friend Lynne Rutter www.ornamentalist.net and had my crew paint a layer of BIN (tinted white shellac) over the background just in case. (Shellac is a barrier and can be reversed) I had it tinted a pale grey blue, since it would be a good base for a simple sky background.

I mixed a combination of raw umber, burnt umber, a little yellow ochre and titanium white casein to touch up the damaged sides of the Stations and their finials, and it really worked well.  My crew of Mary, Carol, Donna and Dwyla did a fantastic job.

 When they finished with the base coats and the touch ups, I blessed them all roundly and told them their work was done.  Then I got busy with building up oil paint glazes over the BIN background  for the "skies".  Mary suggested that I start with a lighter blue and ochre and madder sky and work up to a green and plum and ochre sky as the Christ figure approaches his death on the Cross and internment in the tomb.  I tried out some clouds, but thought it too fussy, and the committee and Father agreed.  Keep it simple.

I turned on my new Ipod touch with my downloaded library audio books and painted away.  What did I listen to?  Moll Flanders, some novellas by Jim Harris, and Sons and Lovers. The spiritual and the corporeal.

 

My next job was trying to help the Dayton Parish Mary and St. Joseph. They were badly damaged.  The hands of the Virgin were NAILED in through her sleeves and wiggled ominously.  When I moved them, her right hand slid out, fortunately, into my hand.  The wrist section that fit into the broken sleeve had crumbled into pieces around the wire armature, and both sleeves were already fractured and broken. Baby Jesus was missing a whole shoulder and part of his back. Joseph's face was falling off.  On both statues, the paint was cracking and falling off in sections. 

I suspect that about 80 years ago, a painter had applied oil paint on a surface that had not been properly prepped or dried long enough. No doubt a client was demanding, like Pope Julius ll with Michelangelo, to hurry up and finish the job!

 

I ruminated, patched and sanded and painted, and did my best.  I am not a conservator, but I have been careful to use reversible techniques and materials, so in the next thousand years a restorer will not say something sniffy about the stupid amateur who worked on these poor saints.

I fixed hands, noses for a few, shoulders for Jesus and tried to give St. Joseph's scarred forehead a luminous glow. I discovered that a tine on a plastic fork worked well for applying plaster, and I found that a bag of dental stone plaster kindly donated by Pomeroy's dentist, Dr. Smith, worked very well for repairs.  I tried to contact the same dentist a few days later for a little riffle file, but I think he had gone hunting!  So I did the best I could on the centurion's nose. I forgot to get a final photo of Mary and St. Joseph, but Donna is a technical wizard and is going to send me some photos from her Iphone.

It was complicated getting an Internet connection. I have a pay by minute cell that I rarely use unless I travel so no phone connections for me.  Usually I would go to Meyer's Hardware and Tommy or Kay would make me an excellent Americana and I would set up my laptop on a little table and tune in, visit with teachers and farmers and lawyers who came in for paint, widgets, etc. but stayed for coffee and conversation, and read my e-mail.

 

Oh yeah.  I also did a Pomeroy Elementary school residency with the esteemed Ms. Shari Curnett, art teacher, and the 6th grade and the 3rd grade classes.  Will have their finished work up soon.The 6th grade each did a tapestry on Roc-lon canvas donated by Darlene Saunders and the third grade did all the pets they could paint (one little boy told me he did a "distinct" dinosaur) and they tied them on yarn leashes and glued them to a big sheet of craft paper for the hall decoration.

And I did an all day watercolor and acrylic painting workshop in Lewiston, Idaho (30 miles over the Alpowa grade and across the Snake River). Verrry successful, I must say.

 

Then Mary took me over the back roads and the Snake River bluffs to her ranch in Peola where she houses three horses, 30 cats, a great many outbuildings, a studio in her dining room and a very handsome husband named Steve.

And every day I came home Megan, my dear sister, would have a beer ready. And dinner and tea and sympathy even though she had back surgery.  And her partner Dave would walk me and their dog Rosie in the morning. And Eileen, my other dear sister and wonderman and husband, John, would ply me with good whisky, give me rides, and feed me good food. And find stuff I left in places.

And at night, me and Rosie and Megan and Dave and I would relax, and I would draw and watch Dancing with the Stars and call foul because loathsome Nancy Grace and charming but awkward Carson were still in the contest.

 

That's it.  I am back in Seattle and Lying Low.