Art Weekend 2020

Every year my husband gives me cash to spend a weekend in a local hotel to make art. Two whole days and nights to myself, to be able to follow my thoughts without interruption and be creative. This year, I spent my time drawing coyotes. I thought about working on another project as well, but I just kept drawing coyotes. I have a vision of hanging them all in a small gallery as if surrounded by a pack.

Since moving to our current home in Evanston, the coyotes in the area have flourished. We used to hear them howl occasionally at night – now we often hear a whole pack yipping and barking, especially when the sirens wail at the firehouse. I love waking up to this sound in the wee hours of the morning. My son and I see them on the golf course, looking lush and happy, feasting on the local rabbits and rodents. People often complain about them on social media (protect your little dogs!) but I feel it’s a good sign that predators have returned and are thriving.

This project is far from done. I plan to do something more with the drawings and add text. I also want to make large ceramic discs (or plates?) with more coyote drawings on them. They will be smaller than the life-size drawings, so perhaps they will form a cluster off in the distance.

I have to say, I hate drawing fur. I usually prefer to draw sea life or birds, the textures and forms are so much more interesting, but sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do! This is one project I just have to do to get it out of my head.

Ceramics and the Sea

Ceramic horseshoe crab artist book

Draining blood (flood)

Copper blue (queue)

Cut in half (laugh)

Assembly line (mine)

Six hundred thousand (fend)

Blood donors (loaners)

A third depleted (meted)

But not dead (ahead)

Spawning wild (piled)

New moon light (night)

Mounting milt (silt)

Whetted sand (land)

Ancient ones (suns)

Helmet head (led)

Bookish gills (fill)

Telson tail (hale)

Will remain (wane)

In the sea (plea)

Following paths (maths)

Wandering free (eternity)

I have been experimenting with making horseshoe crabs with clay. The first one (above) was sculpted from a solid block and hollowed out underneath. The top was a bit thick and it exploded during bisque firing so I threw it out. Later, after sitting in the trash box for a week, I decided to reassemble and glaze it. If it didn’t come out well it would at least be a good glaze test piece, and actually I was quite happy with it. The cracks and losses look like the shells found on a beach and give it a nice texture, so I decided to go ahead and add the paper gills and text. In the meantime, while I thought this was a total failure, I decided to make a new one out of a slab of clay (below). I sculpted it as it was draped over a plaster form and then carved the underside in low relief. Although, not as sculptural as the first, it worked out well and I was quite pleased with both glazes.

Horseshoe crab built from a slab

I have also been making bowls and plates with paintings of sea life. I begin with a thin coat of glossy white glaze with some of the brownstone clay showing through and then paint with black underglaze. I thin the underglaze to look like an ink wash painting. Once fired, it sinks into the white glaze and becomes glossy.

Small snack bowls
Haiku on the outside of the whale eye bowl
Hand formed dinner plates with painted animals and carved kelp
Smaller bowls for sauces

The Big Humpback on the Big Tuna

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Mysticeti, prior to final tweaks and inking.

On Saturday, September 14th, I spent the day in Nashville, printing with Big Ink at Hatch Show Print. Lyell Castonguay and Carand Burnet from BIG INK showed up with their expertise and the ‘Big Tuna’ press to help seven artists print oversized wood blocks. Lyell inked all the blocks and ran the press, while we cleaned the blocks, loaded the paper and helped lift and hang the print. We definitely needed many hands to complete this project. Thank you to BIG INK, Hatch Show Print and all the participating artists, including Jen Wright, Duncan McDaniel, Jennifer Garrison, Lauren Medford, Randy Stewart, Juan Rojo and Catherine Maldonado! Also thank you to Daniel Lonow the Haley Gallery manager for hosting, and for giving my family a tour of Hatch and the hidden parts of the Country Music Hall of Fame. It was so great to meet everyone and spend a day making beautiful prints!

Photos from the event were taken by my lovely husband, Venkatesh Gopal.
Lyell Castonguay from Big Ink, inking the blocks.
Lining up the inked blocks on the ‘Big Tuna’ printing press.
Lyell getting ready to print.
Signing the first print.
I caught a big one at the Haley Gallery at Hatch Show Print.

Mysticeti Wood Block

Since returning home from the beautiful MacFarlane Studio in Friday Harbor, I have been working in the home studio carving text. I am pacing myself to keep my hand from getting hurt, but now I’m heading for the home stretch. The first block is done (except for some tweaking) and the second block is nearly finished. I spent many hours carving over the weekend and I try to carve at least one word per night. I hope to be done next weekend!


I also have an artist book in the Boston Printmakers Biennial at Wellesley College. It’s in the same building where I took piano lessons when I was in grade school! I have so many memories of Wellesley College, my sister’s wedding, fishing in Paint Shop Pond, and swimming in Lake Waban. How strange it will be to go there again after many years!  I had a lot of fun stitching in this artist book, Integumentary. Please come by on the 8th if you’re nearby!

Big Ink project

I’m at the Whiteley Center for almost two weeks working on a huge block for the Big Ink Project at Hatch Show Print in September. I’m very excited about participating, and I’m working hard to get the block done in time. It’s been a while since I carved anything this big and although I knew what I was getting myself into, I’m realizing that this is going to take a lot of work and dedication! Back and neck ache? Sore wrist? Scraped knuckles? Yup, Advil may be needed.

Day 1

Day 2


Day 3

Writing backwards

A Room of One’s Own

Having a room to yourself can not be underestimated. I have been given this beautiful studio at the Whiteley Center for two weeks, and the thought that I have complete freedom to do what I want with it is so freeing. I settled in on Sunday, sweeping and arranging furniture to my liking. On Monday my wood blocks arrived on schedule and I’m ready to start drawing my whale for the Big Ink event. Big Ink is traveling to Hatch Show Print in Nashville for the weekend of September 14th and 15th and my work has been accepted for printing. Needless to say I have my work cut out for me! Pun intended ;-).

I have to include a ‘before’ shot of the blocks, 40″ X 90″.

 

Yesterday was my birthday and I also went for a long walk in the woods with Ashwin. University of Washington has the only old growth forest on San Juan Island. The woods are deep and varied, moving from open meadow-like areas to deep dark forest bordered by the Salish Sea. Any path taken on the right side of the trail ends up on the shore. Along the way I stepped off the path into the woods once, to take a photo at the base of a large tree. I heard an odd sound and when I looked to my left, there was an owl about 15 feet from me on a low branch. He flew up to a higher branch and we continued to look at each other for a long time. Ashwin was wearing a yellow kurta and the owl seemed particularly interested in him. I believe he is a Barred Owl.



What a lovely day, I can’t think of a better place to celebrate my birthday.