Wednesday, January 28, 2009

An Interview with Dianne McNaughton

Dianne McNaughton is a painter living in Cape Town, South Africa. She writes the blog Intuitive Painting which many of us have come to love reading. In this interview Dianne shares so much of her life which has made her such a beautiful person and a beautiful artist. I hope you will enjoy the many lovely things she has to say.Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I was born in the south of England and then spent most of my life in Africa, in Zimbabwe and then Cape Town. By the age of nine, I had attended school in three different countries. I was a shy child and found making new friends quite difficult, I felt “different”, being an immigrant child and was often on the edge, looking in. Another challenging aspect of my makeup is that I have a learning disability, Attention Deficit Disorder. This gives me a poor short-term memory and a low tolerance for anything repetitive or boring. At the slightest whiff of a boring lesson at school, I would be off into my very active imagination, or “away with the fairies”. The upside of this is I think it contributes towards a strong creative need, I love anything new, inspiring, and experimental. I have always been at my happiest, right from a very early age, when I have a creative project on the go. As a child, I constructed models, loved drawing, singing, acting, dancing and music.
My family is typically English; we are all very polite to each other and rarely express how we feel, typically, “Stiff upper lip”. I thought that how I felt inside, deep down, was of no consequence. I have an intuitive nature, which lay dormant and ignored for many years.
Half-way through my primary education, on arriving in Cape Town, I was sent to a lovely school, Greenfields Primary, where the principal was a like-minded soul who loved the visual arts. We staged quarterly major productions in which the whole school was involved, with singing, poetry, dancing, acting, music etc, requiring loads of rehearsals, set building and costume production (mostly mums!). These wonderful concerts were staged in the school’s own amazing theatre. I have such happy memories of these productions and it has given me a life-long love of artistic expression in its very varied forms.
My high school years were as barren as the Sahara Dessert; they were devoid of any kind of creative spirit. I was discouraged from studying art and ended up in the Latin class.
I would have loved to study art at college, but without a high school art education this was impossible. I promised myself I would learn to paint when the time and the opportunity arose.
I was drawn to a career in nursing, I felt it would be worthwhile to spend my days doing something beneficial for those less fortunate. When I had a spare moment, I sang, danced and acted with an amateur dramatic group, where I met my Scottish husband – we were partners on the stage!
My husband is highly expressive, a typical Scotsman, you can tell how he feels just by looking at his face. Isn’t if funny how opposites attract? Something in me recognized a quality in him that was so underdeveloped in myself.
I retired from nursing after 14 years to spend more time with my growing children and to have a look at my “wish-list”, learning to paint being high on this list.

Oh Dianne, this is so beautiful. We are very, very similar in many ways. I love this story of your early life and can imagine this wide-eyed little girl who could see the most amazing things, however would not share them.

When did you realize you wanted to be an artist, and when did you seriously begin working toward your goal?

About 16 years ago, I went to my first painting lesson and was totally, intoxicatingly hooked, I felt a rush of complete passion course through me, I had come home. I set about getting myself an art education, reading art history books, visiting galleries and going to lectures at the local university and art society. I quickly realized that input from one art teacher would be limiting, I would glean as much information from one teacher and then move on. I learned to paint using watercolours, oils and pastels. I started writing my art journal, keeping notes, so worried that my ADD would make me forget something important.
I was given a huge confidence boost when, my paintings were selected for the South African Society of Artists Annual Exhibition in 1994. This was the first time that I had hung up my work for public scrutiny. My paintings were initially very realistic in style and I felt in my very gut a longing to express myself in a more abstract way, I just didn’t have a clue how to go about this.

You know I hear similar stories from other abstract expressionistic artists. It seems as though we all have to have that element of realism and structure which in some ways irritates us until we have to break through. Art is so much more than technique, isn’t it?

Technique, well bedded down in my subconscious, has given me versatility and confidence to experiment and explore new territory.

It is interesting for me to note your science background (which is so much more structured) come out in your painting with technique. Even with your abstract expressions, your need to completely understand and document various techniques seems to me to reflect back to the detailed record keeping a scientist needs to do. Then maybe it is just my personality type which closes down my creativity with this kind of awareness – which I sometimes pay for, I might add. Do you see this?

Isn’t it strange that we can’t help bringing all that has gone before in our lives into our art-making? I have never really thought about this need of mine to understand and document all that I do as being any different from what you might do, Kim. I think it stems from a need of some kind of security and stability in the face of experimentation. During my creative process, I create without conscious thought for a few hours and then spend another few hours contemplating what I have done and try to understand its significance! I can’t help but swing between the two modes. It is so interesting to become aware that the creative process can be so varied according to our personality type, each person has their own personalized path.

What type of art do you make? If you use many styles instead of just one...please explain why.

As a painter, I have worked with every type of drawing and painting media I can get my hands on, I love to experiment and get very bored with repetition.
My method of painting continually changes so I will talk about my method at this time. At the moment, I am painting, using my imagination and my intuition. I am painting to please myself, it is a bonus if others enjoy the painting as well. I start in a purely abstract manner, using mainly acrylic paints, dealing only with line, colour and texture. I start my work devoid of any subject matter, allowing the images to be revealed rather than dictating the direction of the painting. As the painting progresses, it may germinate thoughts, ideas, feelings or dreams which need to be transformed into visual images. During the process, I get a sense of what the painting is about, I love to tap into the subconscious and bring up images that have a strong association for me. The painting may take many transformations, until the work arrives at its destination and is complete.
I have been a member of a Plein Air painting group for the last six years. I am now trying to look at reality before me and transfer this into some sort of abstract expression. I have found if I only take huge brushes out with me, I can’t get into too much fiddly detail. It is all about simplifying and getting to the very essence of the subject.

This is wonderful. It sounds to me as though you abstract when you are painting with your Plein Air group, but when you are in the studio the emotions completely take over. The thing is in reality, anything which is abstract has to come from within, do you not think?

I think when I abstract from reality, it is usually an emotional response to something in that realistic image that moves me. Abstracting from reality is a whole different process.

Okay, so I understand. When you paint Plein Air, your abstractions are simply an emotional response to your environments – well, not so much simply, but clearly an emotional response. I think that is really wonderful and you make me think how exciting it would be to paint this way.

I think your horizon series may relate to this type of painting. I read on your website that this series was a response to living on a “Small island”, i.e. Britain after coming from the huge continent of America. You were aware of water being all around you and you created these works. Is this not abstracting from reality?

White Petunias

What or who inspires you to create?

Recently, my circumstances completely changed the way I painted:-
In 2007, my husband and I spent eight months in Sharjah, The United Arab Emirates. I thoroughly enjoyed living in a different culture, meeting people who lived their lives in a way so very foreign to me. I was fascinated talking to women who were one of four wives, we had many questions for each other! As an artist, I struggled to find suitable subjects to paint, high-rise buildings sprung up like
mushrooms on the flat desert sand, so close together, they blocked out the light. Almost nothing growing, just the odd palm tree encrusted with sand grew limply in the 44 degrees and 95% humidity. Frequent dust storms and humidity obliterated the sky for weeks. I felt trapped in air-conditioned rooms where a sensory deprivation set in - no music, nothing visually inspiring and nothing to smell or hear. I realized that I need to have a connection with what I am painting; because everything was so strange and alien to me, I couldn't find a subject to paint. I have painted in an abstract manner before, but I did not understand really what I was doing.I started painting in a purely intuitive manner. I had no external inspiration and so was forced to look within myself for some sort of subject matter.
I lay the unstretched canvas on the floor, squeezed out some acrylic paint and just played around with it on the canvas. My spirits were lifted just by splattering on the paint and moving it around in a sensory manner. The strange thing is, I didn't really believe that what I was doing was valid in any way. I wasn't painting with an end in sight, somehow it didn't matter, I was simply diverting my mind by doing something that I love. I continued to work on two pieces over the next few weeks and I would spend time just gazing at the paintings and images would appear. As I progressed, images would come and go - this process amazed and delighted me. I began to wonder if others would be able to respond in some way to my "doodling". The paintings, "Meditation" and "The Dance" are the two works completed in Sharjah. They have sent me on a new and exciting journey.

These two paintings are amazing without a doubt. I just love this story so much. To me, it completely shares the essence of Abstract Expressionism. If you really think about it, the story is very similar to that of Jackson Pollack when he called to Lee Krasner (his wife) to ask her if what he was doing was art. Like you, he questioned what he was doing, doubted it and kept doing it anyway. I love that about artists.

Out of all of your works, which would you say is your favorite?

Meditation, this is my breakthrough painting from Sharjah. It is intensely meaningful regarding how I was feeling at the time. It was a time of introspection and isolation, this painting is about those feelings.

I can understand how this can be so special to you…a good reminder of a breakthrough time.


What is your time management secret?"

A lot of challenges come along with being a female artist. I have so much to do to keep my home environment ticking over, besides finding time to paint. I find I am pulled in many ways by my friends and family, I almost feel selfish demanding time to paint. I would love to paint every day but find myself allocating some days in the week as full painting days and during the rest of the days, I paint in between my other tasks. I paint while I am cooking – I set my cell phone to ring when something has to come out of the oven.
I think the most important aspect of time management, is to have an abundance of energy. Malaise is my worst creative enemy! The only way to keep the energy levels high is to maintain a healthy life-style, eat a healthy diet and working out regularly. I spend an hour every second day working out in the gym. A great spin-off is that I do my creative thinking while exercising; I often have to go home quickly to write down the thoughts before I forget them.

I think I would have to take a notebook with me, even to the gym. J I have to agree with you about being a female artist with a family…tough to be sure, but we would not have it any other way. Maintaining a very healthy lifestyle is also imperative as we cannot expect the best from ourselves without providing ourselves with the best.

What has been the biggest artistic risk you've ever taken?

The biggest risk was deciding to stop painting realistically and to forge ahead expressing myself using my intuition and imagination.
Another big risk for me was coming back to Cape Town and exhibiting my works done in Sharjah. It’s great to paint experimentally, but very hard to put them up for public scrutiny.

You are right, but an artist pushes and challenges themselves in this way. I think blogging has given me some of the greatest comfort with friends who are there as support when others do not understand works. With some art it truly takes another artist (of some type) to connect with it.

You are right, Kim, blogging has provided me with a co-operative virtual studio, I have found artists who are able to connect with my work and give me encouragement and the confidence to proceed.

The other thing is they can be there when you need them and not there when you need some quiet. I create better alone but also love the interaction.

What is the most unexpected side effect of your success?

Finding the real me – coming to understand who I am and finally accepting who I am without wanting to make any changes at all…. this is me…
I have come to realize I can express myself in a unique way and that I do have something to say.

I have come to understand that my work is valid because it is genuinely a true expression of myself and that it shouldn’t matter if others like it or not (I am still working on this…)

Art really helps move that aspect forward quickly. Some people spend a lifetime trying to get to this place and never quite get there.

What do you consider your greatest accomplishments to this point?

I would say my greatest accomplishment today is that I have come to understand myself and accept who I am and be able to live my life in a way that fulfills all my dreams. As a child, I was shy, introverted and living with a poor self esteem. Being hypersensitive with ADD made me put up a wall around myself in an effort to protect myself from hurt. I rarely allowed others to get too close and so isolated myself. I have learnt to accept who I am and love the real me.
I taught myself to concentrate and pay attention! While attending lectures during my nursing training, I realized that I would have people’s lives in my hands and so I had better concentrate and learn what needed to be learnt. I timed myself initially for 5 minutes, to listen and not think about anything else. I continued to train myself, until I could concentrate for 45 minutes without letting my mind wander. As a result, I was placed 2nd in the whole of the Cape Province in my 4th year of study!

I have learnt to value my feelings, listen to what they have to say to me and express them in written words, paint and conversation. I have learnt to listen to my intuitive voice as my inner guide when making important decisions.
I have maintained a good relationship with my husband through 31 years of marriage and raised two children who are considerate and caring members of the community.

Congratulations on these wonderful accomplishments. Many people have not and will not ever see even one of these. I think you are so right to note them as your greatest, indeed.

Genetic Connections

I really love your abstract work. Will you share with us the mediums you prefer using?

I tend to work in acrylics when painting my abstract works. I seem to work in layers and so I need a medium that will dry quickly. I have experimented with mixed media where I have used collage papers and acrylic inks. I also paint in watercolours and pastels and hope to create abstract works with them, but am still trying to find a way of using them in an abstract mode.
I have also worked in oils but find I suffer from terrible headaches and nausea after a painting session, even after using water soluble oil paints, so I have decided not to work with anything that is toxic to my system.

We do have to be very careful about the toxic issues. I might recommend oil bars or oil sticks (which are oil paint in stick form and different from oil pastels as they dry harder). As you know I also have issues with inhalants, and art materials are notorious offenders.

Thanks for the recommendation! I have tried oil bars since stopping oil painting and had no ill-effects. I think we are lucky that our bodies tell us when we come in contact with poisonous chemicals.

I feel lucky to have an artist-nurse-friend who understands these issues.

What do you think was most influential in finding your artistic voice? Is there anything you wish someone would have shared with you early on in your artistic career?

Spending 8 months in Sharjah, isolated in an air-conditioned room, 16 floors up, in 44degrees Celsius outdoors, in the dessert with only high-rise buildings and having no friends to support me nearby, I retreated into myself and found my artistic voice.

I wish someone could have stood up for the 12 year-old me when I wanted to study art at high school. My wishes were swept aside and I ended up in the Latin class, which I hated with a vengeance. I look back and wonder why I didn’t stand up for myself more.

Because you were twelve and because you, in some way, knew you needed these other experiences in your life in order to be the artist you are today and value these wonderful lessons you now hold so dear. I was the same as a child (a very different person from my family) and yet I know I had to do it this particular way for some reason. Does this feel true for you?

I have never thought of it that way! I might have had my, “Artist’s voice” completely squashed by insensitive lecturers if I had studied art formally as a young impressionable teenager. By studying art as an adult, I was able to nurture and guide myself in the right direction and avoid those negative people that love to crush emerging artists.

Oh yes, I can understand that, since I had my fair share of watching that happen in design school. Today, I think maybe it is a matter of the program, but that was not the method 20-30 years ago. I am sure there are others out there who can identify with that, too.


Will you talk about the color selection process for your abstracts? What influences the colors you use?

I feel the need to work initially with a very limited palette. I make a conscious decision about what few colours I would like to use on a particular canvas. As the painting progresses, other tints may creep in and then be obliterated or become the dominant colour. I think this is very much part of the intuitive approach, I have favourite colour combinations that I work with on a few canvases at once.
I am fascinated by the way colours can represent certain emotions and feelings. I sometimes paint in very high-key colours and at other times, my colours are somber and dark. I am sure they relate to my emotions and would like to study this aspect more thoroughly, perhaps studying art therapy.

I also think this is an incredible field. In interior design we study a great deal about how colors can affect the emotions and the body (along with light without which you could not see color), and this was the most interesting part of that practice.

I would love to hear what you have learnt about colour and emotions, Kim.

Mmm, you make me think the subject might make some good blog posts. I can tell you my designer self approaches color in a different way than our colleagues who studied fine arts. I will give some thoughts to posts about color and emotions.

How do you like to work? Studio conditions, frame of mind, etc.

I love to play relaxing, classical or contemporary music in my studio, it seems to get me into the painting frame of mind.
My method of working continually changes, so I will tell you how I am working at the moment.
I usually paint flat on the floor, using large brushes. I sometimes use stretched canvasses or otherwise I have a roll of canvas that I cut a piece from … I can then choose my format there and then and not be confined by what I have in stock. I strap the canvas to a board so that I can stand it up to view it from a distance. I use polystyrene fruit packaging to mix up various tints and colours, these I store in plastic food containers with air-tight lids. I recycle other containers from my kitchen to store colour glazes.
I love the random marks made by splatter and spraying, so I have a large drop sheet that covers the carpet in my studio/3rd bedroom. Texture is fascinating to me and so my paintings usually end up with multiple layers of paint taking weeks or months to be complete.
I can spend hours gazing at my work, turning it around, looking at it from all angles, from a distance, until an image emerges, I then get an idea of what the painting is about and proceed in that direction. This idea may not work and I obliterate some of the work and continue in an abstract way until I find a new direction.

I love this idea of working flat on the floor. I have done some of it from time to time, but not often. I also like the idea of working on un-stretched canvas, but then stretching it stops me. You can call me a wimp.

I have some great young guys down the road who make stretched canvasses to order and also stretch paintings onto stretchers - they fetch and deliver free of charge!
My knees have been playing up a bit, so I have been using a trellis table to work on over the last few days, as I say, my method of working adapts to whatever is needed at the time.

Oh you lucky girl, you! Now I would go with some huge paintings if I had this option available to me!

These guys make enormous canvasses, the trouble is, you need to hire a truck to transport them! I see some artists are creating huge images using six to eight similar size canvasses that are hung close together to make up one large painting.

Eeek, you do have to be careful of those joints. Maybe some knee pads gardeners use could be helpful, too. So this trellis table is a low table?

This trellis table has seen a lot of action. I used to make toys out of bits of material and sell them at local craft markets, this table was my trusty sales surface. No Kim, it is not that low – I find if I can move all the way around it, I can still paint in a similar way.

Are there other artists you admire – living or not – and what makes their work/lives appealing to you?

I find the process of working and reason behind the work is equally important as the finished painting in the artists I admire.
I love artists that are able to express their thoughts, feelings and emotions in their work. My taste ranges from realism to abstraction, the underlying thread being the emotional content, the baring of the soul and working from the heart.
There are so many that I admire, but would love to talk about just the few below:-

Frida Kahlo painted for herself for many years without any thought of exhibiting her work. Her surrealistic paintings tell stories of her daily life and many of her paintings really hit me in my gut, they are so expressive! One that really stands out for me is the painting of her sitting on a chair with her hair all cut off and lying around her. Her husband has just left her – she feels an acute sense of low self esteem and loss of desirability and so cuts off her hair. The painting is incredibly powerful.

I love Vincent Van Gogh paintings and letters. He manages to express his emotions in his choice of colour and expressive brush-strokes. He wrote wonderful letters to his brother describing his life and painting process. I seem to be drawn towards tortured artists!

An Australian self-taught sculptor, Ron Mueck, creates these fiberglass sculptures of people that just blow me away. I visited his exhibition in Edinburgh three times, I couldn’t keep away! His hyper-realistic figures are never life size, always slightly exaggerated – his aim is to get an empathetic, emotional response from his viewers. He tries to capture the key moments in our passage through life, dealing with the themes of birth, infancy, youth, adolescence, sexual maturity, middle-age, old age and death.

His figures emanate feelings of joy, introspection, anxiety, depression, detachment and self consciousness. Truly amazing! His figures are often enormous, filling a whole room or can be tiny, never life-size. Have a look at the link, although his work needs to be viewed personally to get the full impact.
A South African, outsider artist, Helen Martins lived in a tiny Karoo village, Nieu Bethesda in her own work of art, The Owl House. Her transformation of The Owl House was entirely motivated by the desire to create a space with expressive significance and personalized meaning. As an undertaking, it was obsessive, spiritual and celebratory. She had no formal training and created her work from unconventional materials, mainly cement, broken glass, bits of wire and even parts of abandoned cars. She hired an assistant to help her with her work, never regarding herself as a fully-fledged artist. It was a private and personal endeavour, a form of self-searching, of personal creative discovery and never created for public viewing.

Oh, these are going to be so much fun to explore. I know this is one question which leads so many people down paths which they may not have ever traveled before. I know it is true for me, too. Thank you for these lovely introductions and reminders of other artists.

Let the Winds of the Heavens Dance Between You

I have been drawn to a great deal of your writing on your blog. Do you enjoy writing about art?

Thank you Kim, I am so pleased you have been able to connect and relate to what I have to say. I have never considered myself a writer, but have found recently that I really enjoy expressing myself in words. I love to express my thoughts and feelings relating to my creative life, I feel the writing has become an extension of my art-making.
Since I started painting, 15 years ago, I have kept an art journal where I have recorded my thoughts, relevant quotes from books and teachers, experimental techniques learnt at workshops and photos of all my paintings. I have a poor short-term memory and was worried that I would forget interesting and important information. By recording my creative journey, I have been able to build on every experience and bit of relevant knowledge.
So many artists fall into the trap of finding a comfortable style of painting and then just repeat themselves, never moving on, never experimenting. My journal doesn’t allow me to do this!
Initially, my writing was wooden and impersonal, but with time and practice I have learnt to write how I really feel and be genuine about my choice of words. I sometimes write a paragraph and when I read it back, I think, good grief, where did that come from? I love the way the words can sometimes just spill out onto the page. There are so many similarities to painting!

I also love my journal. I think I may keep one a little different from the way you keep yours, but it is also a lifeline for me. I just want you to keep writing and keep sharing those lovely ideas. I have found so many visual artists rely on their journals and so many creative writers rely on being able to express themselves visually to keep things going…I find it so interesting. Do not stop writing, though.

Are there other things you would like readers to know about you, your art or your experiences?

Kim, I think I have rambled on enough!

You make me smile…I could listen more and more to what you have to share. I think sharing what is true for us helps so many to begin to evaluate what is true for them, too.

Thank you so much, Dianne! I have so enjoyed our conversation so much and know readers will enjoy getting to know more about your work and your process. This has been a wonderful experience.

The Dance

Monday, January 26, 2009

Getting Lost and A Conversation this Week

Since I shared with you the testing I had done on the acrylic paper, I thought you might like to see what I did with the rest of the pack. You can clearly see the ones which have the pearl powder pigment. One I did as a weaving and that did not work well since the paper is just too stiff. Now I added something to the red paint, but now I cannot remember if it was pearl acrylic paint (not powder) or inference. That is so like me, getting into the moment and not "thinking" about the process. So what good are these experiments if I do not remember? If anyone has insight or can tell from the photo, I am eager to hear your thoughts.

I really have to do better with recording my experiments, but I do get so lost in not thinking when I am in the studio. I know Elis has also brought up this subject, and she is trying to stay present. Do you have any suggestions on how I might accomplish this challenge? Do you get lost in your work while you are working? I would love to hear from you.

Stay tuned this week because I have another Conversation to be published. I will be talking to Dianne McNaughton on Wednesday. Dianne writes Intuitive Painting which is a wonderful, contemplative blog. She is not only an artist extraordinaire, but has a wonderful life in South Africa to share with us. Please come back to enjoy this wonderful conversation. I think you are going to be very happy with the insights Dianne shares with us all. I think you will find it an exciting read.

Have a Great Day!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Exploring in the Studio

I wanted to share this with you since I thought it turned out kind of nice. Like many of you, I get going sometimes with trying different things to see if I might use them for larger pieces in some way.

This is just a 5x5 piece of what I purchased as Acrylic Paper. I am not sure what that means, but I will not purchase kind of seems like a plasticized paper to me. That aside, I want to share with you what I did to get this effect. The acrylic paper was painted with acrylic paint (in this case a blue) and while it was wet I sprinkled pearl powder (this was Jacqurd PearlEx brand) using a few layers of gauze. I then allowed that to dry. The powder was still easy to remove from the surface, so I did not want to use a brush to move it around because I liked the effect. What to do to seal it? Mmm, I was not sure, but what did I have to loose? I spooned the clear acrylic glaze into the middle of this piece...spoonful by spoonful. Yes, it was tilted the paper until it seemed smooth over the surface. If you click on this image and look around the edges, you can see where the glaze did not get to every edge of this paper. Once it was spread out to the edges, I left it to dry for a couple of days. Now you can see the final result.

While I will not use the acrylic paper for anything but testing (and will not buy more), I will use this technique again without a doubt! What do you think? Would you consider trying something similar? Do you think it would work out with other base colors, too? Do you have any other ideas for sealing the powder on the surface?

Now, are you planning a fun weekend? I hope to get a bit of creative time in sometime this weekend!

Enjoy Everyone!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Photographing Reflective Paintings

Many of you have seen this painting before. It is 30"x40" gallery wrapped canvas (staple-less) in acrylic. The first layer of paint is black, then I dry brushed a layer of acrylic pearl. The other paint which what poured, dribbled and flung also had a bit pearl acrylic blended in. I call this painting Considering Pearls. You can imagine the difficulty I have had in photographing this surface with all of the reflective paint. The image above was taken without a flash. On my computer it looks pretty good, but it is darker than the actual painting and the colors are not as vibrant. I also hand held my camera which is heavy, so I may not have been as still as I could have.

Now I have a new strong tripod and a flash diffuser. The photograph below was taken in the same location with the same natural light conditions. I used the white diffuser (there are also a green and a yellow) over the flash to spread that burst of light about. Clearly the tripod held the camera more steady than I could. The photograph below is the result:
These came out very different, although I still do not have the lighting right for these reflective paints. The diffuser seems to create a darker edge to these large canvases with that burst of light (although not glaring) towards the middle. The edge of this painting does have a bit more of the black appearing through the pearl, however it is not as pronounced as this shows it.

So an exact image this is not. I think it shows some of the details a lot better, however. Do you have ideas about photographing these highly reflective surfaces? Do you think I need to purchase a very expensive, adjustable flash for my camera or do you think a couple of lamps would do the trick to adjust aside from the camera?

I love working with these reflective products (including the heavy clear glazing), but I feel I do need to be able to photograph them better.

I do highly recommend a good tripod (even if you have a light camera). I also feel I will make very good use of this flash diffuser, although I wish it had of worked better for this particular painting. Maybe it is a matter of the size, so I will keep trying and keep sharing what I learn here. Please let me know your thoughts and suggestions on this subject, though.

I also wanted to let you know I will be doing a very special Conversation soon with Dianne McNaughton from Cape Town, South Africa. She has some beautiful and exciting things to share with us. So stay tuned for an exciting first Conversation of 2009!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

I Have Been Interviewed

Suki has interviewed me! It is an exciting opportunity to be interviewed if you would like (see below). Suki sent me 5 questions and below you will find my answers. Remember to read all the way to the end to see how you can also be interviewed.

1) You have moved a lot and lived in many different places. How has this affected your artistic self? You know, it is difficult for me to imagine not moving around. I am one of those rare people who love it. With each move I have a different perspective with my art. For so many years it was very structured, however looking back on that structured time I can see how it continued to loosen up with each move. Actually, my friend Lesley McIver is the one who pointed out to me how much my paintings had changed with this last move from England back to the United States. The move before that from Virginia to England oddly gave me the gift of working large and really challenging myself with lots of exploration of paint. When we moved from Texas to Virginia I moved from drawing (pens, pencils, pastels, etc.) to the freedom of abstractly and lyrically expressing myself with paint. It is not to say I would not change my work when I am in one place, however it does open a different door. How has it influenced your life perspective? Moving has opened a whole new world for me. As you can imagine living in different settings and meeting different people has helped me to clarify just what it is I need and want in my life. I see lots of different ways of looking at issues which are important in my life – education, sustainability, healthcare, relationships, etc. It has also helped me to understand what it means to be a woman no matter what your experience. I think moving has help me to understand we all have a story and we all deserve to be heard and respected. I have also learned a lot of patience, because I often have no idea when the next move is going to happen and how fast or slow it might happen. Forcing what is to be is something which has not worked out well in this life I have.

2) You have a great respect for process, for noticing the small steps that go into making things whether in art or in life. Where did this sensibility come from? Oh, I am not sure where that came from. I have always been curious and would drive adults around me insane when I was younger (so I learned to keep my thoughts to myself). Even as an adult I had trouble finding people who would “wonder about things” with me…everyone wanted answers not questions. I suppose blogging has given me a platform for my wondering and blog readers are dealing with years of pent up curiosity. Or put another way who or what influenced you in this respect? I wish I could put my finger on a person or group of people who prodded me along that path. I just cannot do that.

3) You were an interior designer at one time. What do you miss about that world? I miss the opportunity of creating environments which made a difference in the lives of people. However that is also the part which became the most difficult because usually those kinds of environments were very rarely realized for one reason or another. Does your early experience with interior designing influence your paintings of today? Absolutely…it makes me just the artist I am now. Interior designers have to completely understand the elements and principles of design which are also the elements and principles of art. The nature of design school in the late 1970’s was learning to appropriately design on a 2 dimensional surface so it translates well 3 dimensionally. In my case, I have been a student of art for well over 30 years. It is funny the first thing I think of when I stand back from a painting is the space where it will look the best. I never, ever think of it hanging on a white wall, it is always with color behind it. I also think of how it might be presented in a different way with all of the elements of an interior space supporting the art and the art supporting the vision for the interior environment.

4) What are your favorite books on: art, child raising or education, and interior design? I read Mothering Magazine when the kids were little, but mainly I listened to my own inner voice about raising my children. Basically respecting the people they were and not trying to make forceful changes in their personalities was really important to me. I loved reading John Holt’s ideas about education. Both David Gutterson and John Taylor Gatto had a great impact on our decision to homeschool our children, however.

My great loves in interior design (aside from applying my creativity) is the psychology of design and design sustainability. Here are a few interior design books I really love:

A Pattern Language: Towns-Buildings-Construction by Christopher Alexander, Sara Ishikawa, and Murry Silberstein

House as a Mirror of Self by Clare Cooper Marcus

Sustainable Architecture White Papers. By Earth Pledge Foundation

The Power of Place: How Our Surroundings Shape Our Thoughts, Emotions, and Actions by Winifred Gallagher

Archetype Design: House as a Vehicle for Spirit by Vishu Magee

Cradle to Cradle by William McDonough and Michael Braungart

The New Natural House Book: Creating a Healthy, Harmonious, and Ecologicaly Sound Home by David Pearson

Home: A Short History of an Idea by Witold Rybczynski

Healing Environments by Carol Venola

Sacred Space by Denise Linn

And these I consider support books which are not design books, but helped me to shape ideas about design:

A Natural History of the Senses by Diane Ackerman

The Creative Journal: The Art of Finding Yourself by Lucia Capacchione, Ph.D., A.T.R

A Place of My Own: The Education of an Amateur Builder. By Michael Pollan

Art books are fun for me, but they are few and far between. Often I focus on abstraction and process books. Here are a few of the Art Books I love:

Abstract and Color Techniques in Painting by Claire Harrigan

Abstract Painting: Concepts and Techniques by Vicky Perry

Beyond Realism by Brian Ryder

The Tao of Watercolor by Jeanne Carbonetti

Acrylic Revolution by Nancy Reyner (note: this book was clearly commissioned by Golden Paint Company)

Arteffects by Jean Drysdale Green

Art Escapes by Dory Kanter (this is a daily exercise book, however I do not use it that way)

The Artist’s Quest for Inspiration by Peggy Hadden

Inspiring Creativity edited by Rick Benzel, M.A. (this is an anthology of insights and ideas)

The Encyclopedia of Acrylic Techniques by Hazel Harrison

Art From Intuition by Dean Nimmer

Spiritual Doodles & Mental Leapfrongs by Katherine Q. Revoir

Spirit of Drawing by Connie Smith Siegel

Colour by Victoria Finlay (I purchased this book in England, so in the US the title may be spelled differently. It is also more of a history of color than anything…I highly recommend it, though.)

Why A Painting Is Like A Pizza by Nancy G. Heller

Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards

The Artist Way by Julia Cameron

5) Music is important to you in your creative process. Can you talk a little about that and list a few of your favorite pieces or CD's? I do listen to music while I am in my studio. When I am painting large works…basically standing at my easel..I like to move around a lot to the music (dancing in my own way). I will listen to all kinds of things when I am doing that from Queen to Willie Nelson (which is as country as I can go). When I am doing small paintings or just messing around with little bits I tend to listen to softer music which more or less blends in the background (if it stops, I usually don’t even realize it). I only know the music I love and am not at all a music head. I adore my little iPod and use it often. Here is a bit of what I love:

Electric Light Orchestra

Carole King

Dan Fogleberg

Elton John

Five for Fighting

Fleetwood Mac

Jim Croce


Cold Play

Josh Groban

Kenny Loggins

The Moody Blues

Rolling Stones

Savage Garden

Simon and Garfunkel

There are so many more I listen to, but this gives you a flavor. While music is important to me, so are all of the arts. I find it is often the arts which influence my painting and it might be music, but it also might be a poem or a novel which I am reading. I honestly only tap into my emotions when I paint, but I also recognize a lot of the time the arts pull my emotions out.

Suki, thanks so much for doing this. As you know I feel the process of sharing is so important to me and now I feel as though I have been interviewed, too.

Here's the instructions:

1. Leave me a comment saying, "Interview me".

2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. (I get to pick the questions).

3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.

4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.

5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Still Trying To Get Stuck In and Donating Art To Charity

I know you have seen this painting before. It is one I did a long time ago, but I no longer have it here. No, it did not sell (it seems not a lot is selling these days), but I have donated it to a charity. It sold at auction and sold well. It is currently hanging in someone's vacation home on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.This painting was painted in England during Bonfire Night, so you can understand the inspiration.

Many bloggers do wonderful giveaways, and I need to take a page from their blog book. What I am wondering today is do you donate your art to charities?

Today I commented on Andrea's blog I am having a difficult time getting the things I am doing photographed. No, not because I have technical problems but because I have head problems. :) I have enjoyed working in my studio and have been making my mark each day, but I have not been photographing what I am doing. I promise to get to that as soon as possible so you can see what is going on in my art world. I was given some new, helpful photographic tools for Christmas (new, strong tripod and a flash diffuser) so there is really no excuse for my behavior. Do you have problems getting stuck in with some little parts from time to time? What do you do to get yourself out of it?

Everyone have a day full of love and grace. Those of you in the Northern Hemisphere...keep warm!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Magazine Submissions and A Tag

If you will remember I posted an opportunity to submit to a magazine called The Truth About The Fact. I decided to take that opportunity and submitted a few images (photos and photos of art work) myself. One of the submissions was this photo taken in a Stockholm, Sweden hotel bathroom. I had never seen this before nor since...granted, this was not a 5 star hotel, but it was not a 1 star, either. :) I think it is not only funny, but clever. It is in black and white because that is what the magazine needed for the submissions.Now I have also been tagged by Jessica Torrant. The tag is to list six unusual things about myself and tag six other people letting them know they have been tagged. I am also to link to my tagger. So here are my six things:

1. My son says I am made of surplus parts :)
2. I love the movie What Dreams May Come
3. I love Marmite
4. I am really into Victorian novels written by women at the moment
5. Snowy winter days in front of a fire with my journal, a good book and cups of excellent, strong English tea is very appealing to me.
6. My sweet husband usually leaves "Sunrise Earth" on the tv for me to watch when I first get up in the morning (if you do not know it you should find it. The photography is excellent and it is only soothing music.)

So there you have it. Who do I tag...every reader who would like to take the challenge. Now visit Jessica's are going to enjoy her very much!

Have a Great Day!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Art Process, Nature Process and Life Process

I love watching the development of work from other artists. I find the process of art making fascinating to say the least. Andrea knows this and a little while back she sent me an envelope with some of her process bits and pieces. I thought you might like to see two of them today.She featured this little bear on her blog last year. Isn't he the cutest?
This is one of my favorite things, however there were quite a few in this particular packet. I love, love, love seeing the marks Andrea made as she was working...and making notes to herself, too. I hold things like this very dear.

While I am talking about parts which make the whole I thought I would share this brush stroke nature made for me one day. I pulled this apple out of the bag and lo and behold there was the nicest stroke of the brush just for me to enjoy. Well, I could not keep it for myself, so here, you enjoy it too.

Do you find great joy in art processes in general...yours, others or natures? Do you cherish small bits which are supportive of how art is made?
While I was off playing with my family, blog friends Suki and Dianne did a tag I thought was wonderful. Dianne encouraged me to take the tag and go with it, so I thought I would do that now. If this interests you, please feel free to take it and go along with it, too.

I am supposed to list five things I do daily to keep my spirit happy and healthy. So here we go:

1. I wake slowly allowing me the time to contemplate how my day may unfold, then do a bit of yoga (the sequence is never the same).

2. I will do a short meditation at the beginning of each day.

3. I make a connection with friends via email, blogs or phone.

4. I make a mark every day (this is a new thing which Andrea has encouraged me to do).

5. At the end of the day, I will journal and note 5 things I am grateful for that day. Reminding myself to always be grateful is critical for me.

So there you have it...I think there are probably many more things, however the tag was for five. I would have added art making, however I do not always get to that each day. What do you do each day to feed your spirit?

Have a Beautiful Weekend!