I've been playing around with a new series that I'm titling Shibui. This Japanese word refers to a particular aesthetic of simple, subtle and unobtrusive beauty. These pieces are created with paper, light and shadow (sometimes watercolor). I'm trying to capture a quiet and austere feeling. I work on these images at the same time I’m working on another series that is laborious and very detailed. These pieces give me a break and they are quick/spontaneous to create. I rely on the natural light that comes into my studio in the afternoon. I sometimes use scrap mulberry paper that I have been painting on. They can not be labored on or fussed with - they either happen quickly or they do not work. To labor on them would kill their quiet and simple energy.
While my daughter is at swimming practice I spend the time with my sketch book. I actually enjoy being
in the big, humid, and chlorine filled room. I like the colors and oddly enough even the artificial light. Sometimes I just doodle and other times I paint (watercolors). Recently I’ve been cracking myself up
with a Speedo (Saint Tropez Truffle Duffle, Miami Meat Tent, Grape Smuggler, Brazilian Ball Bag, Banana Hammock etc) series. The truth is I’m not ogling at the Speedo clad boys because I rarely draw from life but rather paint what’s in my head. I quiet appreciate this time because it’s loose, silly and fun.
I recently saw the Agnes Martin show at the Guggenheim, the ideal place to see her work, and it was the best remedy for this heart breaking time. Somehow I became cleansed of anger and distractions. There are a few things that are still rolling around in my head about this perfect exhibit. The main one being the ability to really look and be present with a work of art. While meandering up the ramp I saw this gentleman (photo below) intently looking and studying the work. He seemed completely immersed with the art in front of him. One of the reasons I love Agnes Martin's work is that you have to slow down and show up. Her work can really only be viewed in person as photographs can’t capture the subtlety and nuance. But sometimes when something is very familiar you stop looking because you think you know or have already seen it and I miss out on learning anew for my present day perspective. The gentleman reminded me to slow down and really look. I needed this show to give me calm and joy, and that it did.
I share this poem from the exhibit:
The ocean is deathless
The islands rise and die
Quietly come, quietly go
A silent sway breath
I wish the idea of time would drain
out of my cells and leave me
quiet even on this shore
Much of my work is inspired by water and at the moment it seems like water, specifically the ocean, is on my mind all the time. Perhaps because it’s summer and I grew up wallowing in the ocean from June till October and I miss it. I’m trying to figure out if I can fit ocean swims into my weekly schedule. I’m convinced that I would be much healthier if I did. There is nothing more relaxing and meditative than a body of water. Water quiets the noise, eliminates distractions, and connects you to your thoughts. So with my water series I’m trying to capture part of that feeling.
Here is a excerpt from the Blue Mind, by Wallace J. Nichols, that I’m currently reading: “It turns out when we do put ourselves at the edge of the water, visually our field of view is simplified. Auditorily our world is simplified. Your sensory input gets simple. It doesn’t completely turn off. It doesn’t go away. But the patterns become more clear. ... Then you give up the gravity. The hundreds of muscles that were holding you in the position that you were standing in no longer need to do the work. And the brain regions that were taking care of that aspect of living on land get a break. So auditorily, visually, somatically, you’re getting a break. You’re getting a rest. So what happens is you go into what is often referred to as the default mode or the default mode network is activated which is a more contemplative, self referential perspective.”
I have a thing for dried, fallen leaves. I collect a few on my walks and bring them home to admire. There is something in their dying beauty that I find visually captivating. They are somehow heartbreaking and inspiring at the same time.
I’ve never been into sewing and I remember fighting with my elementary school in the 70’s to allow me to do shop instead of Home Ec (home ick). The last thing I wanted to be was a homemaker. I did win that battle and I still have the project I made in that shop class. So it comes as quite a surprise at how completely I am drawn to and inspired by stitching. Last weekend I took a workshop with Jody Alexander (love her work) called Boro (Japanese word meaning jagged, mended and patched - Boro textiles were usually sewn from nineteenth and early twentieth century rags and patches of indigo dyed cotton) I like the simplicity of the stitching, the limited color palette and the idea of mending, patching, bringing back to life. The process and look of sewing/stitching is making its way into my work. The meditative qualities of sewing are similar to what I experience when I’m painting and drawing.
“Flow” was created for the conference room of the new Ronald McDonald House at Stanford. The mission of the Ronald McDonald house is to provide temporary housing and support for families of hospitalized children. “Flow” is quiet, comforting and calming, and represents a transition from darkness to light, to create a message of hope.
Everyday I doodle, draw or watercolor in my sketchbook. I say doodle because it feels like daydreaming when I'm doing it. It's completely mindless, mostly repetitive and meditative. Below are a few excerpts.
I did a series of sketches for the painting. This is the final sketch before starting the actual painting.
I've been working on a series of paintings called Flow. Water is the core inspiration. While working on this series I've started to get obsessed with the blue dots I use in the paintings. I cut out circles from Japanese Mulberry Paper and then I paint each circle with a variety of blue watercolors. Right before I'm about to use them I put them in stacks according to their blue hue. I've been taking photos and I find them to be beautiful in their simplicity and meditative quality. This is the start of a photographic series.
When I'm working on new pieces I'm not always aware of where the inspiration for the piece comes from but often when I scroll through my photographs I can see the connections and why I have chosen to go a specific direction. It actually seems so obvious in hindsight.
There are many forms of inspiration that I subconscious gather for my paintings. I'm may not be aware in the moment that they will find their way into my work but after a piece is finished I typically can trace it back to something I've seen or been drawn towards in nature or on the street.
Shadows feel like poetic dances. There is something about the simplicity and play of light that creates these visual treasures. I keep taking photos of shadows but the reality is that a big part of their charm is the movement so recently I started taking mini videos of shadows. They are also starting to creep into my recent works.
Yesterday was the opening of Wabi Sabi at the Ohanlon Center for the Arts in Mill Valley. I was one of the artists in the exhibit. Below are a few of my favorite pieces from other artists. I wanted to be a part of this exhibit because I connect with the Wabi part of Wabi Sabi. Wabi comes from the root wa, which refers to harmony, peace, tranquillity, and balance. It has come to mean simple, in tune with nature. Wabi (subdued, austere beauty). I strive for simplicity and beauty in my work and I’m inspired by nature.
Wabi-sabi is the Japanese art of finding beauty in imperfection and profundity in nature. It’s simple, slow, and uncluttered - pared down to its barest essence.
I started a series call Street Art which is literally taking photos of unintentional beautiful moments on the pavement. Art is everywhere. I’m amazed at how many beautiful visual moments there are in a 10 block radius from my house. I never used to look down but now that I have found all these street treasures, I’ve become obsessed with looking carefully while walking slowly. I love my neighborhood and all of it's visual gifts.