Haven't heard from me in a while? Here's why...
Here's a link for more information and $20 tickets: winghavengardens.org/events-calendar/2017/9/14/arts-in-the-garden
Haven't heard from me in a while? Here's why...
1. Yes, I'm painting, but not on canvas. I'm getting ready to put our house on the market and making our home look a lot less lived in. Sigh.
2. Yes, I'm making art, but not for the gallery. My final Holy Comforter retreat at Kanuga in the mountains of North Carolina is this weekend and no surprise, I'm leading the art project!! I'm loving my new-to-me mitre saw. Think "Lincoln Logs" meets "Legos" meets "All are Welcome!" I promise pics of the finished piece.
3. Yes, I'm teaching one more class! You can sign up for my Urban Sketching class at the CPCC Continuing Education website. Three sessions, Wednesday nights in September, meeting at Myers Park High School. Join me!
4. Yes, there's one more show where you can find me! Wing Haven Garden and Bird Sanctuary hosts Art in the Garden on Thursday night, Sept. 14. I am one of eight invited artists exhibiting and selling work, with a percentage of sales benefiting Wing Haven. Plants, birds, art, drinks, munchies, music...you know you want to come!
Here's a link for more information and $20 tickets: winghavengardens.org/events-calendar/2017/9/14/arts-in-the-garden
5. Yes and there's all that other life stuff...family beach trip, eclipse watching, packing up kids for college, coordinating with movers, and those happy but sad "final" goodbyes. You know, the important stuff.
My adventure continues with a new plot twist - Kevin and I are moving to Wilmington, Delaware in October! We are incredibly honored that my sweet, smart husband Kevin, an Episcopal priest and rector of the Church of the Holy Comforter in Charlotte, has been elected to become the 11th Bishop of Delaware. Wow, just Wow.
We have known this was a possibility all spring, so this theme has been showing up in my journals for a few months. Funny how when something is on your mind, your hands seem to find just the right pieces!
We moved to New York City when our children were 6 and 8 years old, leaving dear friends at Grace St. Luke's in Memphis to meet new ones at General Seminary. Three years later, we picked up again, settling into a great life at Grace Church in Paris, Tennessee. Another three years down the road, we moved to Charlotte and made Holy Comforter our home for seven incredible years.
This story sounds like just a lot of calendar numbers, but the truest meaning and memories of each of these places are the people who loved us before they met us. We were privileged to become an instant part of their family and we cared for them deeply. We still care for them deeply.
The tears will begin when we pack up the house, and start heading down the road. It's part of the job. But I believe it is the hardest part.
Delaware, we are excited to know you as our new family. We are eager to know what the Holy Spirit has in mind for this chapter of our lives and to discover how we will work together to make the world a better place. We love you already. And we are so happy to add your branch to the Brown family tree.
Spirit Animals was the theme for the May Mixed Media Clambake class. Students chose animal photos and we made four-fold books, exploring the ways that these symbolic animals relate to our lives.
I was surprised to find myself choosing the Snake for my book project. I've often dreamed of snakes (not always a pleasant dream!) and just the day before, I'd found something beautiful that inspired me: a snakeskin on the labyrinth path where I was walking and praying.
A smart Bishop friend once told me, "God speaks to you in the language that you understand." I find that God speaks to me frequently through imagery - flowers, birds, oceans and now snakeskin. I was reminded of a snake's ability to shed its skin and start over; reminded that the snake is small but powerful.
In times of uncertainty, transition or change, it is normal to feel like you are being tossed about and turned upside down. This book project brought me unexpected relief and reassurance in my own ability to use some strong snake mojo!
I always enjoy working with four-fold books. You start with a large single piece of paper and work all over with colors and patterns. Then you make four folded creases, one cut and then with a magical origami-like maneuver, you have a book! The fun really starts as you add imagery and words on each small page.
In my Snake Mojo book, I added my snakeskin taped into clear plastic, a secret message under a cut spiral, and a colorful velum version of my green snake illustration. I also used a bit of green yarn to tie in a card with some of my labyrinth journaling. You can see the full page unfolded below.
Visual journaling often surprises me like this. I start out with images or words and begin to layer paint and journal my thoughts. It's completely therapeutic! If you want to try it, please come to one of my monthly clambakes. Or check out this book by one of my favorite artists: The Art Journal Workshop by Traci Bunkers.
You can see more of my visual journaling pages here.
After a week of teeny tiny carved lines on large blocks I decided to go more abstract. The woodblock process is naturally layered - but I needed a different kind of layering - something more organic and loose - less planned, less realistic.
I asked Paul to cut my wood (birch plywood from Lowes if you were wondering) into four inch squares. And then the fun began!
I really loved mixing up colors and shapes. It also helped that each little block didn't take all day to draw and carve. And the background color blocks aren't carved at all! Check out a few of my block combo prints below. Can't wait to do more of these at home!
I kept chipping away at my woodblocks last week...making art at Penland is so fun...and challenging!
Here are the 3 color blocks and the black key block. Then I printed -- too much brown on the haystack, so I cut out the blue and red -- that left me with a bright yellow haystack! And a purple needle, of course. Notice how the yellow, red and blue layer to make a beautiful brown...and you probably can't see it here, but there's some gorgeous wood grain happening on the print too.
You know it doesn't matter if you liked it better the first way...you've carved it off forever now! Did I mention this is challenging?
Here I am, in a rocking chair looking out at these beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, energized from a week of non-stop creative work at Penland School of Crafts...life is good!
I'm studying with Paul Roden, a master printmaker from Pittsburgh, learning to make multi-block color woodcut prints. The studio here is wonderful, the people are amazingly talented and I'm picking up lots of pro-tips from Paul as we work together each day.
The basic idea is to create layers of color from seperately carved blocks - one for the key block (usually black) that gets carved first with all the details, then one for blue, red and yellow (or cyan, magenta, yellow as in CMYK.) I have learned how to transfer my key image to other blocks, how to mix transparent inks, how to get perfect registration on the paper - and that carving wood is a lot tougher than carving linoleum!
There are SO many variables to work with in this - the inks, the carving, the pressure of the printing press, the kind of paper - but all that makes it like a big puzzle to solve!
The best way to remember an event or trip is to journal it.
Now that I'm home, it's fun to sit with my "Irish Adventure" journal and fill things in after the fact -- adding ticket stubs and postcards or sketching from a photo. Two of my favorite tools are perfect for this kind of work - the Fuji Instax printer and my collection of washi tape - both too cumbersome to pack in my sketch kit, but great to play with in the studio.
The Fuji Instax Share is a small printer that works with your smartphone to print cute little polaroid type pictures. The real advantage to buying the printer instead of the camera? You can edit the image on your phone before printing and you can print the same photo multiple times to share with your art buddies. Each little photo prints out in front of you and is about the size of a business card (and fits perfectly in an Altoid box!)
My other favorite obsession, I mean art supply, is washi tape. You can find decorative tapes all over now, but true washi tape is imported from Japan. A little piece is a great way to add a border or a splash of pattern and color to a journal page.
Try some washi tape in your next project; you can find an amazing variety now at Target or Michael's. And check out the Instax printer, you will be hooked on this fun little gadget!
Now get journaling!
Both of the following prints are based on inspiring sights in Listowel. The "Castle" was fast and simple; the "Garden" was super detailed and took forever to cut, print and paint. I was happy to see that the Castle print was a big favorite and best seller - an iconic image for the town.
I just can't stay away from birds! They have always fascinated me with their colors and stories.
We learned a new bird story on our trip through the Dingle peninsula. Damian and Ger, our tour guides, kept waving at the large black and white birds we passed. When we asked, the answer was simple; Ger said, "I'm just waving away sorrow."
Though magpies do live in the US, they are only found on the West coast, so I've never seen them or known anything about them. I was charmed to learn this little rhyme about my new bird friend...
The beautiful patchwork Irish landscape is criss-crossed with hedgerows and dotted with sheep. We can't help but fall in love with all the shades of green and those sweet sheep faces! Here's another of my new pieces, a carved linoleum relief print. I'm using a new ink (Caligo) that is oil-based but washes up with soap and water; it takes a couple of days to dry, but then it is waterproof and easy to paint on with my watercolors and paint pens. This is the view from the park in Listowel.
Need more sheep??
An Irish priest lost his favorite Bible while he was walking home from the pub one night. Three weeks later, a sheep walked up to him carrying the Bible in its mouth. The priest couldn't believe his eyes. He took the precious book out of the sheep's mouth, raised his eyes heavenward and exclaimed, "It's a miracle!" "Not really," said the sheep. "Your name is written inside the cover."
Not baaaahd enough for you?
An Irishman goes to the movies sits down next to a sheep eating popcorn. "Are you a sheep?" asked the man, surprised. "Yes." "What are you doing at the movies?" The sheep replied, "Well, I liked the book."
I am happy to report that the weather in Listowel is much warmer than when we first arrived. The sunny skies have gotten us out exploring the large parks in town and along the River Feale. And if that weren't enough to bring a smile, it seems that every spare patch of grass is full of happy daffodils!
Perfect inspiration for my first linoleum print! I hand-colored each one after printing and hung them in the gallery window along with Olive's beautiful daffodil paintings.
You know you are someplace special when you are chatting with the window washer man about the weather and how much you love all the daffodils, and he begins to quote Shakespeare:
"Daffodils, that come before the swallows dare, and take
The winds of March with beauty” (Winter’s Tale Act 4, sc. 4)
We are clearly taken with all the Irish beauty here - and don't even mind the March winds these days!
We had our first visitors to Listowel last week! Emily Brown and David Calvert, both juniors at North Carolina State University, joined us on our Irish adventure for a week of history, castles, hot tea, cold wind, driving on the "wrong" side of the road, pubs and pints, Dublin and Dingle, and best of all, Mama time.
We toured Bunratty Castle near Shannon and Ross Castle in Killarney and decided that we preferred life with windows and central heating. We also learned that Irish weather can change in a minute - we arrived at Ross Castle in the driving rain (watching the birds fly backwards) and moments later, the sun was shining on the lake. We especially loved a trip into a moss-covered forrest in Killarney National Park to see Torc Waterfall. We didn't see any fairies or leprechauns but we knew they were there!
Everyone said it was beautiful, but the Irish landscape here is gobsmackingly gorgeous! Amy and I were lucky to have a chance to tour the Dingle peninsula with the two finest tour guides around, Damian Stack and Ger Greaney.
"What is it about the Americans and the sheep?" Damian murmured between history lessons and terrible jokes...
You might spy an Amy flower in the window too - they are starting to grow amid the Irish daffodils we see everywhere!
March 1st - our residency in Listowel began and the season of Lent began with the services of Ash Wednesday. First, Amy and I got down to business to make some art. She collected scrap metal and tools, I sketched and started carving some linoleum. And we adjusted to the cold temps! Now we know why the Irish drink tea all day, it's to keep warm!
When there was a break in the drizzle, I walked to the town square to sketch. I'm afraid my delicate magnolia sensibilities didn't last long - but I did manage a quick sketch of St. John's, a former Church of Ireland that is now an arts center.
That night, we headed to the only other church in town, St. Mary's Catholic Church, for the imposition of ashes. And sensing that our Lenten discipline will be unusual this year for many reasons, we decided to mark the occasion with a pint of Guinness. For strength, you know.
I've made it to Listowel, Ireland, friends!!
And so the adventure begins...and the magic is already happening!
The amazing Amy Hart, sculptor and welder extraordinaire, and I are the Olive Stack Gallery Artists in Residence for the month of March. We rolled off the plane yesterday and didn't stop until nightfall and our eyelids couldn't stay up any longer.
Listowel is beyond charming and our hostess Olive is the embodiment of Irish hospitality. We will mind the gallery four days a week and make art in the studio upstairs. I'm planning to work on linoleum carving and prints - and Amy is going to make her found metal sculpture (she has already had me dumpster dive with her and is meeting all the local farmers and hardware store owners to find her tools.
Right now, I'm nibbling on my "rock pile" scone from the bakery across the street and watching Window Theater. Each floor has a lovely window that looks out onto Main Street and all the action in town - it's wonderful entertainment with a nice cuppa tea!
So you've all been asking to see my workshop journal...here it is! As I look at the pages, wonderful moments of the trip come flooding back to me. That's what sitting and really looking at something will do for you, better than any quick photograph. Not that we didn't take hundreds of those. We all have PLENTY of source material to work with for a long time! I can't wait to print out some photos and use them as new inspiration (that was our last day's lesson, after all!)
My final day in Italy, I made my pilgrimage to the Church of Renaissance Art History, The Uffizi Gallery. I arrived before opening, with advance ticket voucher in hand and STILL met lines and lines of faithful art lovers there before me. But all was revealed in God's time, and I was face to face with the great masterpieces in all their larger than life glory.
Like most museums, you move in chronological order, observing artistic developments in progression. From flat, wooden Medieval altarpieces with stylized faces to the introduction of perspective and suggested depth to the fully understood workings of human anatomy and light, I delighted in pulling the bits of remembered art history lectures from the cobwebs of my memory. Names like Giotto, Filippo Lippi, Caravaggio, Bronzino and of course Botticelli and da Vinci.
And it must have been Heaven, because almost all of the paintings featured Jesus, Mary and assorted Saints in their majesty. Like any good icon, these religious paintings were a conduit towards the divine, an inspiration and a recognition to me of God's life and incarnation in the world, working through the hands of his creative artist children. And I wondered, as I navigated the crowds of tourists from many countries, did these images hold anything sacred for them? Or were they just another stop on the bus through European masterpieces?
I sketched as I could in the museum, taking as many photos of the people as I did of the art. After a marvelous morning of art, I retired to a nearby cafe, eating the best Italian panini EVER, with a refreshing glass of vino bianco, and painting my own small homage to the day.
As my Bishop from West Tennessee once told me, "God speaks to us in the language which we understand." And I was hearing the chorus of angels all around! Alleluia! Thanks be to God!
I'm sad to say that the shortest week ever, my week teaching a stupendous group of students in Cortona, has come to a close. Just when we knew how to order Vin Santo y Cantucci for dessert! Some of us added onto the journey with trips to Rome, the Amalfi Coast and myself here in Florence. A few of us added to the adventure in the Amsterdam airport, to their dismay, but made the best of it with a day free for museums. All of us will return home changed. The experience of living in a new place for a week, really studying the landscape and all its wonderful details, and sharing meals and laughs and hurts and hugs was a gift to me. And we all made great art! I am truly grateful.
Look for a survey from me soon, about art travel trips and future dream destinations. It can be a stretch to set aside the time and resources for a journey like this, but it's something I can't recommend more highly. I would love to be your creative guide in far-off lands!
And don't worry, I will share more art from my sketchbook, too! But right now, I'm going out to see and sketch more on my last 2 days in Florence! Ciao!!
A wise man (Paulo Coelho) once wrote, "Accept what life offers you and try to drink from every cup."
We have certainly had our taste of wonderful wine and adventures here in Italy this week as we drink from every cup and a variety of glasses! We have visited two beautiful wineries and become experts on Chianti Classico (with the Black Rooster seal of approval) and the local Sangiovese grapes. Our new favorite for after dinner is Vin Santo, wine of the Saints! It's a strong, sweet little drink that's often served with biscotti to dip into the wine.
Yesterday was windy but sunny during our visit to Le Terre dei Cavalieri, a gorgeous villa near Cortona that grows fields of sunflowers (past bloom now unfortunately) and grapes. Today we had rain for the fields while we toured the Chianti region, stopping for lunch and a tasting at Il Molino di Grace, part of a large collective of organic vintners, with rows and rows and rows of grapevines.
Today our painting prompt is to imagine your own wine, design a special label for it and write a review. I can't wait to see what these creative, wine-loving women come up with in their journals!
I wish I could pass you some wonderful wine through the computer. All I can say, is così delizioso! Saluti!
...Are the LUCKIEST People in Italy!
Day 5 (already?) began in Pienza, another lovely hilltop town about an hour from Cortona. On the way we passed beautiful vineyards and vines heavy with grapes, olive trees and cypress trees in stately rows, and fields of sunflowers that were dry and brown and ready for the oil press. Every time I passed a villa, I thought, hmmm, I could live here!
Our lesson was the dreaded "painting people." There are seven billion of them out there in the world, so you have to paint them eventually! Our spot in the sunshine was perfect and we attracted lots of cameras and smiles (even the attention of an artsy cat!) We made a new friend, Erica from Verona, who posed for us. And we told ourselves that, YES! We are Artists!
Just when we thought the food couldn't get any better, we met Chef Donatella and her daughter and translator Luccia. Mamma Mia! The food was amazing and all used simple, organic ingredients from their farm. We made Panzanella (a salad with stale bread - sounds weird, tasted delish!); Maiale all male verdi (pork with green apples that smelled SOOOO good while it was cooking); Pici all'aglione (hand-twirled, dumpling-like pasta with fresh tomato sauce); Rappini (simple boiled greens with olive oil); and the piece de resistance, Torta della Nona (Granny's cake, a divine concoction of 2 sugar cookie-like rounds of dough, rolled out and nested into a giant pan, with a layer of creamy egg custard between them.)
We are definitely in food heaven!!! Donatella, grazie mille!
Bongiorno from Cortona! I don't think there could be a more lovely place to live and paint for a week! I haven't been here a full 24 hours, but already I am smitten. The town is perched on the hillside and has only one flat street. Everything else is either up or down.
Today I begin teaching eight wonderful women. We will work in our journals each day outside, en plein aire, to capture the essence of the moment and really really LOOK at what is around us.
We began last night, meeting our guides Patrick and Angela of ToscanaAmericana, who hosted a wonderful dinner at a charming little restaurant.
But now the bells in the Piazza are ringing and it is time for some of that amazing Italian coffee. I cannot wait to see the creative joys that come out of this week together. Stay tuned for more pictures - sketched, painted, and photographed!
You may have the universe if I may have Italy. Giuseppe Verdi
Only two more days until I take off for Italy! I have spent the last few days working on lesson plans, packing supplies and making handouts for my eight travel companions. We will be staying in the Tuscan hill town of Cortona, just south of Florence. Every day we will venture out for plein aire painting, journaling with watercolors, pens, pencils and anything we can find to collage with.
What a fabulous gift this is to me! I have to keep pinching myself, saying "I'm getting PAID to go teach in Italy!!"
I thought that a trip this grand deserved a new paint palette and a new journal. In England earlier this summer, I took my itty bitty Altoid box of paints, but now I'm going whole hog on the colors! Yes, I may have gotten a bit carried away on the Daniel Smith website, but why be limited when you are surrounded by Italian light!?
In case you were wondering, here's my list of colors, going around clockwise from the top yellow:
Winsor Yellow, New Gamboge, Quinacradone Gold, Cadmium Yellow Deep, Cadmium Red Light, Cadmium Red, Alizarin Crimson, Cadmium Red Deep, Quinacridone Magenta, Opera Rose, Quinacridone Burnt Orange, Sepia, Burnt Umber, Carbon Black, Paynes Grey, Moonglow, Amethyst, Winsor Violet, Cerulean Blue, Cobalt Blue, French Ultramarine Blue, Pthalo Blue, Cobalt Turquoise, Pthalo Yellow Green, Permanent Sap Green and Olive Green.
Yes, there are some wacky colors in there - Moonglow, Amethyst, Turquoise and all those Pthalos and Quinacridones - but they make super beautiful, intense shades when mixed with the old standbys.
One more day to pack all those less important things, you know, my clothes.