Sep 09 2014

Breaking Through a Creative Funk

artichokes-6

I’ve been having a little bit of a struggle getting back into my painting as of late, and this has been going on for quite a while now. This happens to me whenever I am encountering a lot of transitions in my life, and for the past few years, I’ve been in constant transition. Part of it can be attributed to my jewelry business, which takes up much of my creative energy, while an even larger significance is the many geographical moves I’ve been doing. Every time I re-settle, it takes a while to get my bearings again, with setting up a new studio and practice. So I’ve attempted to break through by starting out with some drawings and collages and by creating background surfaces for paintings. I have a number of ideas running through my head, but I was having trouble committing myself to anything that I could run with for a while. I was getting so frustrated at one point that I just decided that I had to do ANYTHING to break out of my current funk. I’ll describe here how following my wild impulses led to my current exploration. (All pictures in this post can be further enlarged by clicking on them).

 

I was coming home from a community concert one night when I realized I had a huge amount of energy surging through me. I wanted to paint, but couldn’t decide which of the dozens of ideas in my head deserved my current devotion, and my energy was a bit too chaotic to do anything but smear paint around, so that’s what I decided to do. I wanted to be outside instead of in my (very hot) garage studio, so I taped some paper down to the pavement just outside of my studio (with plastic sheeting protecting the cement from spills). I actually started by drawing with chalk, using the full stroke of my arm to make abstract gestures. I even threw some dirt onto it, and rubbed the chalk and dirt into the paper, picking up some of the texture from the pavement. I then started pouring acrylic paint onto the paper. I poured some acrylic pouring mediums over the paint and started pushing it around with a brush. I then put some plastic produce bags into the paint (to be peeled up later). To add more texture, I also added some caulking medium into parts of the painting. All of this was done in a state of ecstatic frenzy, with no concern as to whether this was going to be “good” painting, or even anything that I was going to keep. I simply needed to feel the joy of painting with no intention outside of play. Here’s the key: PLAY will set you free!

After removing the plastic wrap that was embedded in the acrylic paint, I attached the painting to a solid piece of plywood (using acrylic gel medium, and rolling it out to get rid of any bubbles). The surface was covered with another board, then weighted overnight. I did some washes of acrylic color to fill in some of the empty gaps (where the paper tore). I set it aside until I got an impulse for my next steps. In the meantime, I worked on several other painting backgrounds (also to be used later, until their continued progress reveals itself). I started to accumulate a number of background textures, but was still feeling frustrated about what steps to take next. I realized that I needed a bit of structure to keep the progress flowing, so I decided to enroll in an art class as the local college. It felt a little odd to sign up for a beginning art class since I have over 25 years of painting experience (and a Masters degree), but I decided that what I needed most was to pretend that I am a beginner, and to allow myself to be led by some assignments. I got permission from the instructor first, to make sure that it was okay to take a personalized approach to the class (i.e., altering the assignments as I needed to, to allow maximum personal expression).

artichokes-1st-steps
 

The first assignment was to create a “Still Life Self Portrait”, where the objects chosen for the painting somehow relate to symbolizing the self. I am not particularly interested in still-life objects (as in objects arranged on a table, per se), but I do like to paint plants, and I have been having a bit of an obsession with these huge artichoke plants that are growing in my neighborhood. The artichoke blossoms towered above me, 6-8 feet tall, and they are so gorgeous that I took several photos of them, to record their forms, and the light and shadows that fall on them during my evening walk. By the time this class started, the blossoms had faded and were cut down, laying in my neighbor’s yard. So gathered a couple to bring to class (since she wanted us to paint an object from direct observation).

artichokes-still+photo
 

I looked at all of my various background textures and decided to use the one that started me on the path of my current exploration, as I still felt a connection to that wild night of outdoor painting. We were also allowed to alter the observational painting by studying a reference photo, so I chose this one where my shadow was also a part of the composition. This also brings out the “self-portrait” aspect of the assignment. I at first painted the shadow a bit too large, so I’m showing how I adapted the design where she becomes a less prominent part of the composition. This might also lead me to explore the idea of “shadow” in a new series.

artichoke-laststeps

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Aug 27 2014

Revelations of an Alopecian (a journey into self-acceptance)

Published by under healing

expose

This post is a departure for me, in that I normally limit my musings to those directly related to the subject of art or teaching. But to some extent, my art has always been related to self-exposure in one way or another. Usually it is about turning myself inside out: revealing the dreams come come through me. And for some time, I have been in a bit of a “stuck” phase. I understand many of the reasons this has been true, and I think it’s a common problem for artists. I am working my way out of it, and I would like to use this blog to document the steps I am taking in overcoming my creative blocks… perhaps as a means of helping others to do the same. Before I get around to that, I feel that I need to make further progress, so that I can fully immerse myself in the process of feeling vulnerable within my process before too much self-exposure on that front.

 

There’s another aspect of myself in which I’ve felt quite vulnerable throughout my whole adult life, which now seeks to be fully expressed and released.  Since I was a teen, I’ve had alopecia, which caused me to lose my hair.  Alopecia is an autoimmune disease where the body’s immune response is to attack its own hair follicles, as if it were a foreign invader.  It is estimated that approximately two percent of the population will be affected by alopecia at some point in their lives (around 5 million people in the United States alone). So it’s really not incredibly uncommon, though many have never heard of it because a great number of alopecians hide their loss.  Examples of famous alopecians include Humphrey Bogart, Princess Caroline, and Christopher Reeves.  It can be emotionally debilitating to lose your hair, and most of us are not comfortable revealing such vulnerability publicly.  Fortunately for most, the loss is temporary…  and for the great majority (98%), the loss is partial (alopecia areata).  I am one of the rarer cases for whom the condition affected my whole scalp and body (alopecia universalis), and its effect has been quite permanent (35 years of my life, so far). 

 

I feel compelled to tell the story of this loss… and of my growth into acceptance primarily because I know that we all struggle with self-acceptance to varying degrees.  To finally accept myself exactly as I am is a great blessing that I feel is liberating me in ways that I never would have expected. I just turned 50, and at this age many women begin to feel a declining sense of self (at least, if they have not found something deeper than their appearance to create their sense of self-value).  In contrast, I feel that I am finally growing into myself. I feel more beautiful, braver and more self-aware.  I think I am also less likely to let things upset me which are of no great importance.  But it has taken the journey of many years to get here.  Here is my story.

 

I was all of fifteen when I started noticing unusual amounts of hair falling off into the shower, or left in my hairbrush or comb.  The first spot was dime-sized.  When I started to develop several, I cried to my parents, begging them to take me to a doctor (we didn’t have health insurance, so our parents rarely took us to doctors unless we were really sick).  I thought it was odd that no blood work was done, no tests to determine what caused my condition.  I was simply told that I had “alopecia areata”, that it is an auto-immune condition, and that there was no known cause or cure, but that since I had more than 70% of my hair (at that point), that there were some things they could try.  So began the experimentation with steroid injections, doses of rogaine, and topical ointments that made my scalp burn and itch, in attempt to stimulate hair growth.  None of it did a bit of good and I continued to chase bald spots around my head.  Some spots would grow back in, only to be replaced by other spots, so I tried to cover them artfully by combing my remaining hair over,  and pinning in place.  Eventually, I lost more hair until I was completely bald.  My worse fears had been actualized, and no one could provide me any comfort or hope. 

 

I started wearing wigs to simulate some sense of normalcy. To go to high-school wearing a wig is the ultimate challenge. Everyone knows its a wig, and no one dares speak of it, unless they are a bully.  And there were a few.  More than that, I could hear whispers and laughter.  I felt humiliated, and I couldn’t do anything about it.  Except to withdraw.  Needless to say, my social growth was a bit hampered during my teens and twenties.  I had a few friends and a loving family who accepted me as I am and who helped me feel acceptable, but for the most part, I survived because I found myself in my self-expression through art.  If I had not found a means to express the beauty within myself, I am certain that I would have fallen into an inescapable depression.

 

And that’s not to say that I didn’t succumb to occasional bouts with depression.  It’s not easy being different, especially when that difference makes you feel like a space alien.  To reveal this difference was simply too challenging for me for many reasons.  For one, I am generally shy.  I don’t like having a spotlight on me, and this is something that would definitely make people stare if I went around uncovered. There’s a whole range of stereotypes that go along with hairlessness, including cancer (undergoing chemotherapy), being radical, an anarchist, or being butch/lesbian. I don’t identify with any of those stereotypes which is part of the reason it has taken a long time to embraced this fully. To have your hair fall out is quite a different experience from making the decision to shave it.  This is verified by the testimony of many cancer patients who state that losing their hair was THE most difficult part of their treatment. You would think constant vomiting would be more distressing, but no… seeing yourself visually “fall apart” in such a dramatic and physical way is completely devastating, especially when you have no control whatsoever. (At least cancer patients know that the hair loss is temporary, whereas alopecians don’t have this certain comfort).  And each variation of loss is a new struggle: from patchy loss to complete baldness, to losing eyebrows and eyelashes. Each loss needs to be grieved.   And to be told by doctors that there is no cure and that I should just “get over it” and wear a wig for the rest of my life was the ultimate condemnation.  

 

One of the most horrid clinical experiences happened early on, soon after my diagnosis at the local teaching hospital.  I was sitting in one of the patient rooms, my scarf removed, and was waiting for the doctor to return to the room when, without warning or permission, he brought a dozen interns in to witness the “alopecia case”.  Being bald to strangers as a teen was about as vulnerable an experience as being completely naked.  The doctor apologized when he saw the terrified look on my face, but I never got over how terribly unprepared some doctors are in regards to treating people with anything more than clinical interest. After years of ineffective “treatments”, I gave up on doctors and decided to pretend there was nothing wrong with me.  This may have been escapism, but at the time, it was the healthiest thing I could do for myself.

 

I learned to live with hair loss, but I was still hiding for many years.  The wigs made me feel more normal, and many people didn’t know the difference.  There are some people who didn’t know about my condition until I revealed it years later.  At the same time, there were many who knew something was going on, yet they felt shy about confronting me as to why I was wearing a wig, and they could see that I wasn’t comfortable talking about it, so it became the elephant hidden under the rug.  Eventually the pain wore off and I could speak more openly about it. Transitioning from wearing wigs back to wearing scarves made it easier for me to approach the subject because I no longer felt like I was hiding.  It feels more natural for me to wear a scarf.  It is more comfortable physically, and I can still pretend the long tail of my scarf is my pony tail (in various and changing colors!)  And I suppose I am lucky that as an artist, I am not expected to look any specific way.  I don’t have to fit into a corporate image of what is considered acceptable attire.  I have a rather bohemian style, and enjoy that this has become part of my personal expression. 

 

 I wish that I’d been able to find complete acceptance at an earlier age, as I could have avoided a lot of pain.  But the psyche opens up to things only when it is ready.  One cannot force a seed to open or a flower to bloom.  People sometimes tell me that it’s great that I’ve learned to see the beauty within myself. But the truth is that “inner beauty” is not something I’ve felt challenged by. Maybe I’m lucky, but I’ve always seen my inner beauty. What has been difficult for me is to see myself as beautiful outwardly. Evidence to this fact has been my life-long avoidance of mirrors. To accept that I am beautiful is not vain… it is to truly challenge the stereotypes that culture places on us, and changing that perception is a very difficult thing to rise to because we are surrounded by it daily, because it is human nature to be self-critical, especially for women.  

 

Here’s a story that revealed to me just how important hair is to most women:  I was standing in a check-out line at a grocery store when my eyes fell upon a picture of Demi Moore on the cover of a magazine.  She was completely bald, as it was for a role where she had to shave her head.  I stared at it because I’d never seen such a beautiful, bald woman (save for Sinead O’Connor, perhaps).  I think I may have muttered “Wow, I can’t believe she did that!”… and the cashier decided to share her opinion that she couldn’t either, and that she would NEVER shave her head.  I responded that it was for an acting role and she was probably paid a lot for it, to which she responded that she wouldn’t do it for a million dollars!  So I’m left thinking, “Really? You wouldn’t suffer a temporary loss of your tresses for a million dollars? Is that how much our hair is worth to us?  No one paid me, and I have to suffer this permanently.”  With that thought, I really wished I had pulled off my wig and left her jaw dropping.  I wasn’t ready to do this at that point in my story.  Much later, I did it at a party once, and I can tell you that EVERYone’s jaw dropped!  It was quite liberating, and one fellow told me he couldn’t get over how sexy it was! That was the first time I ever felt that having a bare head could be sexy to anyone, so it was another small step in self acceptance.  Still, exposing this vulnerability for a brief moment while tipsy at a party is not the same as going around exposed all the time.  I still choose to cover up with scarves, but I am feeling more inclined to take it off more often, when in comfortable company.

 

Here’s another story which illuminates how important it is to be surrounded by those who love, support, and accept you when you are going through anything that is as challenging as hair loss.  By the time I reached my 30s, I had a group of loving friends who wanted to ceremonially celebrate my baldness because I had expressed that I was still challenged in my acceptance of it (even though I had dealt with this problem for half of my life at that point).  So my friends gathered around me and painted flowers on my head, while playing music.  It felt so good to be celebrated!  But there was a fellow there who I didn’t know, who was staring at me critically from the corner of the room the whole time.  I felt unnerved by his presence.  Finally he asked why everyone was painting my head and I said that they were celebrating me.  He simply couldn’t understand why anyone would want to celebrate my lack of hair and said so (he was a long-haired man himself).  Years later, that was my primary memory of that event.  Even with several people loving me, the one voice I heard most is the critical one.  I still ask myself why it is more normal to take in the critical voices than the accepting ones.  It’s simply an internalization of the larger society’s prescription for what is acceptable.  Time to turn the table on that one.  I choose to love myself now and forever.  Through this self love, I have so much more to give to the world!  

 

 I have noticed other women within my social circle have been going through their own struggles with self image (as expressed in occasional facebook posts, for example).  From this, I realize that my struggle is not completely unique.  We are all challenged by the media representations of what we are supposed to look like.  There are expectations about what is considered attractive in regards to hair, skin, size, age, etc.  And if you don’t happen to fit within the constraints of socially acceptable parameters, you are made to feel less than, or ugly.  So I share my story as a means of example.  We all need to look within ourselves to find our inner beauty and to bring that out into the world.  Because truly, that’s what flavors people’s perception of you most.  And of course, it is important to take care of ourselves…. to treat our bodies with the respect they deserve by getting regular exercise and by eating well.  But beyond that, we just need to learn to love what IS and to not try to fit anyone else’s prescription of what you are supposed to look like.  We are not our hair, our skin, or our bodies.  No matter who you are, you will never be able to meet that standard of “beauty” that is imposed by a culture that is contrived to sell you things that will make you more perfect, beautiful, and sexy.  Learning to love what is YOU, to nurture yourself and to walk bravely in self-knowledge is the ultimate beauty.

 

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September is Alopecia Awareness month!  Feel free to share this article with anyone you feel may benefit from learning about alopecia (or self acceptance, in general).  To learn more about alopecia, or for support for anyone experiencing it, please visit: National Alopecia Areata Foundation

 

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May 19 2014

Back to the Drawing Board…

I regret that I haven’t had much time to create art lately, but I am finally starting to get back into it. Drawing seems to be the best way to get going, so I decided to create some drawings that were inspired by my recent collages.

cactus-girl2 cactus-girl

This first one is a study from my collage titled “Cactus Girl”. I intend to create a painting that includes this image along with some cacti and birds soon, as this is the one that I’m most inspired by currently.

native-dancer flower-goddess

A couple more studies. Obviously, I am inspired by images of women/girls from indigenous cultures right now. I had an opportunity to use the image of the Native American dancer last weekend when my community had a fundraiser for the local Waldorf school. It brought a lot of people to the plaza to support the school, listen to live music, and see the artists’ work.

redwood-remedies-muralCAM02414

Ukiah businesses were asked to contribute funds to support the event by renting squares on the plaza sidewalk. Artists volunteered to draw an image in chalk to advertise their sponsor for the occasion. My sponsor was “Redwood Remedies”, an herbal company. I discovered that it was much more difficult to draw on rough pavement than on a smooth surface, but it was a lot of fun to be able to contribute to the event. It took only a couple hours of my time. When a child told me how much she liked my drawing, I asked if she’d like to help. She drew some flowers and sky, with her mom’s permission. She said she wants to be an artist when she grows up, and I said that she already is one!

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Apr 25 2014

Image Quest Through Soul Collage

collage-table

I felt I was onto something with my last collages… and I was excited to begin some drawings based on them, to create more personal interpretations before digging out my paints. But my drawing table was full of hundreds of collage images so I had to clean off the table before I could make room for drawing. As I began sorting through the images to put back into their respective folders, I was pulled back into trying different combinations. I ended up making several more collages.

native-born-webIndianBoy-web

Collage is a very seductive medium for someone like me, who is attracted to the idea of combining images out of context.  It provides a means to play with the relationship that images can have to each other.  When drawing or painting, one needs to commit rather quickly to the composition.  You can always paint over or erase as you work on a painting or drawing, but nothing provides as many possibilities for multiple compositions as collage.  Picking up images and placing them down on top of or adjacent to other images is a seductively simple.  Sometimes the perfect combo of images easily find each other.  Other times, it requires reworking the ideas over and over again.   Sometimes the perfect combo requires only a few images, whereas others require a complex composition.

PoppyGirl-webgarden-child-webwonderland-web

A friend of mine recently commented on the fact that I seem to have unlimited sources for imagery.  I guess this is true, as I have been collecting photos for painting inspiration for years.  I have one of those portable filing boxes that I have hanging file folders in, with separate folders for many categories (birds, flowers, trees, landscapes, faces, figures, as well as separate folders for textures in various color ranges). I also have folders full of painted papers for some of the backgrounds. For these recent collages, I also harvested images from my Pinterest page (where I have a similar category system for my boards).  So I downloaded many of the images I gathered there onto my computer and printed them out at a laser printer (unlike inkjet, the images never fade). This also allows me to play with some of the images by sometimes shifting the colors, mirroring images, changing scale, etc.  Of course, most of the images are fairly low resolution since they are for the web.  Since my aim was to create small collages to inspire paintings, this doesn’t bother me (the finished size of these collages are usually within 8×10″). Also, if I like a collage and want to see it larger, I take a photo of the finished collage, transfer it to my computer and print a higher resolution image. Then I can tweak and adapt the image even more. 

weirdthing-web wild-rose-webcold-swim-web

I have SO many images that it was necessary for me to limit the categories of images I’m exploring, to develop a theme.  For this set, I am exploring primarily images of flowers, birds, women and children (the latter mostly from vintage photos).  Representing the images in an unearthly scale (where birds or flowers are outsized compared to the figure) shifts the psychological content… where it becomes obvious that the unworldly landscape might represent the person’s inner life.  One reason for using vintage images instead of contemporary ones is for copyright purposes, but I also feel strongly attracted to these classic images.  I think they have a timeless quality. 

bluebird-web offering-web  

I recently wandered into my local bookstore and stumbled upon a copy of “Soul Collage” (by Seena B. Frost). I realized that I’ve been creating soul collages for years, and I bought the book for further inspiration.

Because collage is a form of art that is accessible to nearly everyone (one does not need to have the technical knowledge of drawing or painting), it is a perfect tool for people to explore images that they connect with on a soul level.  The book inspires the use of collage less for artistic expression than  as a personal development tool.  The author explores the idea of archetypes within each collage image, such as the “Creator”, the  “Warrior”, the “Wise Old Woman”, the “Great Mother”, the “Shaman”, the “Hero” or “Heroine”, etc.  By creating a deck of cards from self-created collage, one has a handy divination tool that is very specific to it’s creator.  I have not yet used my collage images in this way. 

IntoTheMystery-webFloating-web

I don’t know what my images mean to me yet, and perhaps if they were analyzed, many might belong to the same or similar archetypes, such as “earth mother” or “inner child”. Perhaps I will explore this later, but for now I am more interested in exploring my collages as a way of finding out what I want to draw and paint.  Also, I’m not honestly certain if all of these are going to be developed into paintings yet. Right now,I am thinking of them as “working sketches”.  Some of them call me to bring them to further completion more than others.  And while none of these are completely finished in my mind, I feel a strong desire to share them and bring them out into the world. I expect that some of these images will continue to be reincarnated in a variety of ways, through drawings and paintings…. whereas others might exist only as collage.  I welcome your interpretations and thoughts about soul collage or the use of collage as an image development tool for art-making. (All of the images on this page can be enlarged by clicking on them).

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Apr 09 2014

a few new collages

CactusFlower-web . giving-birth-to-flight-web

I’ve been busier than expected with keeping up with my jewelry business after my move to Ukiah. I guess I half expected that once I stopped advertising or contacting stores, orders would stop coming in and I could have a little artist retreat. Actually relieved that business hasn’t slowed too very much, as I had to purchase a new computer this month. Tax preparation is still looming over my head, but I felt an urgent need to get a little creative work done, so I’ve been plugging away at these collages. My intention was to do some “quick” collages to get the ideas flowing. True to my perfectionist nature, the creative process rarely comes quickly for me. I tend to deliberate over and over about which images to commit to before gluing down. So I decided to alter my process a bit. Did a lot of cutting up and pairing of images, then scanned and altered the images on the computer. I now see that I really need to purchase a Wacom pad if I continue to do creative editing on the computer since using a mouse is a very clumsy tool. But so far, I am liking how these are coming along. Hope to get back into painting soon!

SpringPortal-web

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Mar 30 2014

Remembrances of Oakland

Published by under artisan markets,chaos,home,travel

Oakland SunsetMy blog was completely deserted after moving from Portland to Oakland two years ago. I guess it stands to reason that I was preoccupied with resettling into a new environment, then with running my business in the high-rent district that is the Bay area. Most of my time was consumed with creating my line of art-jewelry and prints, making connections with stores, filling orders, and staying on top of business concerns. I realized soon after landing in the bay that stores were less receptive to being directly approached than they were to finding me at a wholesale show, so I put a lot of energy into learning the ins-and-outs of that market while I continued to do juried street shows as well as “guerilla vending”.  It’s been a good experience, and I’ve learned a great deal about retail and wholesale marketing, and what it takes to maintain a profitable art business.

After pushing pretty hard at getting established in the market, and gaining a lot of new accounts, I started to feel a bit dissatisfied at the fact that my personal artwork had taken a backseat to the commercial end of my art. I craved having more time for painting, but the demands of making a living made it difficult for me to refocus my priorities.  My personal situation also changed, in that a 10-year relationship collapsed in Oakland.  I have no regrets regarding the energy put into either the relationship or the business.  Life lessons can be difficult to go through at times, but once you’ve completely stepped through the door of big changes, the energy needed to refocus and move into your new life is realized.

I decided that during this time of big personal changes it would be a good idea to regroup emotionally by moving to Ukiah, California… to be close to my sister who lives here.  I’ve spent a little over a month so far getting my new living situation and studio set up, exploring the natural environs, and applying for college-teaching jobs in the area.  I miss teaching and being in an educational environment where I can mentor younger artists while staying focused on my own inspiration as well.  We’ll see how the applications pan out before I decide if I’m going to hang up the business or not.  So far, I’m still getting enough wholesale orders to keep me fairly busy (without advertising or contacting my stores).  Not having to do both the wholesale and retail shows gives me a little more time to catch up with my own priorities.  I admit I do miss walking around Lake Merritt just a bit, but I’m liking the more naturous environment and the slower pace of life here.  I’ve started some collages and have lots of painting ideas in my head that are ready to pour out (after doing my taxes).

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Mar 19 2012

Big Changes Ahead…

Published by under art

Hope Springs Eternal, by Robin Urton

“Hope Springs Eternal”

I am taking a break from packing today just to let folks who might not know already that I am MOVING to the BAY AREA!!  Yes.. Portland has been a good transition and I feel that I was guided to be here for the past 6 years.   There are many reasons I now feel guided to move south.  One is that I am in need of more sun, and I think the artistic climate of the bay will benefit me.

Since I’m trying to decrease the possessions I have to pack, it’s a fitting time to put a lot of my older, heavier, and more fragile works at huge discounts.  I am also selling some newer smaller pieces at low prices.  To make things easy for potential collectors, I’ve separated the pages on my website for paintings above $400 and paintings below $400.  This is a really good time to invest in my career by helping me through my move while getting a really good deal on my amort!  I expect a larger market for my art in the bay, so this is a rare opportunity to buy my original art at these low prices.

 

Vintage Setting Pendants by Robin UrtonFor those of you who are not able to collect original artworks, it’s also a great time to get some jewelry or prints of my art.  I’ve recently added a whole new line of vintage style pendant necklaces. I am pretty excited about these. They combine the 30mm or 30x40mm oval glass cabochon glass with distinctively styled settings of your choice. Each are paired with antique style chains with your choice of clasp. The chains normally hang mid-chest, but can be customized to your desired length.

 

Wire-wrapped Pendants by Robin UrtonI’ve also updated the section of my site for my wire-wrapped pendants.  The ones that I am now selling are slightly smaller than those that I was selling last year, and they are also more perfect circles, with no flaws.  All designs have varied color choices, using silver, gold or copper metallic leaf.  The glass measures 30mm diameter (1-1/8″). Each pendant is paired with your choice of matching 18″ cable choker or serpentine chain.  (I’ve just added all of my new versions of these pendants to the site, but I haven’t had time to add the oval or triangle-shaped ones that you see in the image to the right.  If you’d like to request one, just send me a note).

I’ve also added some new cards to the site.  These are the most recent:

New Cards

“Buddha Garden”, “Good Day Sunshine”, “Hope Springs Eternal”, and “Everyday Blessings”

For the “Buddha Garden” you have a choice of a cropped or full version of the painting. The other 3 cards have the option of text across the card (all cards are blank). I will be adding these 4 images as 8×10 prints soon.

Well, as you can see I’ve been spending a LOT of time on website updates lately and it is now time for me to get packing! Once I land in the bay area, I plan to be very busy selling my work to stores, in street fairs and in galleries. If anyone is aware of stores or galleries that you think would be a good fit for me (anywhere in the US), please send me a message. This is the year of the dragon, and I’m expecting big changes in my career!

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Nov 29 2011

Garden Buddha… and New Jewelry!

I was recently commissioned to create a seated Buddha painting, which was a really good thing for me because my creative juices hadn’t been flowing much in the two months since I had moved households.  Being a home-based Canceran, I seem to take an extra long time to move through such transitions.  Focusing on creating a contemplative-based painting has helped me to feel more stable.  This is a cropped photo of the composition. It’s still not quite finished, but close enough to share.. and hopefully in time for a studio open house that’s happening this weekend  I am in the midst of several other unfinished paintings, so hopefully having an occasion to show off my stuff will give me the extra verve needed to help these reach completion soon too. (If you click to enlarge the image, you’ll see more detail of the thousands of tiny dots that comprise the background of this painting). Prints, cards, and mounted prints will be available soon!

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I have also been working on some new jewelry I’m fairly excited about.  I have added vintage settings to some of my glass pendants, and started a whole new line of earrings made of lucite floral and leaf beads, paired with glass, crystal, and metallic elements.  Though all elements used are new, the jewelry has a very vintage feel since these beads were very popular in the 40s.  I feel that they pair pretty well with my pendant jewelry, and the flowers even remind me of elements of my paintings.  Just had to start experimenting with this before the Christmas buying season was over.  So far I am just selling them locally at my co-op art gallery (Six Days Art) and to FB friends, but plan to be introducing them to my stores, my website, (and etsy) soon.  You can view more designs on my Facebook album here … or, if you are not on facebook, see my flickr photostream (these will be replaced with more professional photos later).

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If you are in Portland, please come to the open house event that is being put on at my co-op studio THIS Friday and Saturday, Dec. 2 (5-9pm) and December 3rd (12-4pm) at the historic Troy Laundry Building.  18 artists will be opening their studios to the public.  Located at 221 SE 11th (between Oak and Pine). 18 artists are participating. Visit me in my studio (#10)  to see what’s new on the easel (or to buy a print or jewelry!)

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Oct 20 2011

Everyday Blessings

"Everyday Blessings", by Robin Urton Last night I dreamed that I was a new apprentice to some sort of spiritual shaman.  Though I cannot remember many details, one of the few things I do remember is looking at animals and seeing the energy transmitted between us through a web of pulsing light.  In particular, I recall staring into a bird’s eye (it’s head cocked to one side so that I’m viewing only one of his eyes).  The light was swirling between us in the form of an infinity symbol (8)… flowing back from me to the bird and back again.

The painting pictured here, “Everyday Blessings” was finished a couple of months ago, but it reminds me of this dream.  The more I inquire into the world of my dreams, my art, and my spiritual growth, the more I see how they relate to each other.  Magic happens every day.  It is important for me to remind myself of this especially when I am feeling a lack of connection between my reality and dreams.

Lately I’ve been feeling a bit disconnected from my dreams, my art, my passions in life.  Feeling too busy, I’ve been trapped in a warped sense of reality where I never feel quite caught up.  Part of this is because I’ve been in a whirlwind between doing art shows, keeping up with wholesale orders of my prints and pendants, moving my household, filing my taxes, etc.  Now, as I ready myself for cranking out salable artworks for the coming holiday season, I ask myself if I will ever have time to truly return to my original passion of painting without always thinking about sales and survival.  I long to have nothing to do but explore my dreams, my art, the stirrings of my creative imagination.  I think this dream’s purpose was to remind me of this creative fire and the fact that it is still very much alive within me.

Here’s a couple more paintings that I created in the past few months.  I hope to have many more to come soon!

"Good Day, Sunshine", by Robin Urton

"Good Day, Sunshine"

"Jay's Blues", by Robin Urton

"Jay's Blues"

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Jul 19 2011

Mixed Media Class Progress

My mixed media painting class ended it’s 8 week reign just last Tuesday, and I’m finally getting around to posting some photos of the students’ progress. These first photos are of Linda Nagy, who really impressed me with her ability to integrate her poured and splattered acrylic paint backgrounds with her chosen photo transfer images. We explored several methods of transferring photographic images, primarily via painting acrylic gel mediums over laser photos, then removing the paper layer so that the underground surfaces showed through the images.
Linda also created this wonderful painting, where the silhouetted figures work so perfectly against the poured and dripped painted background, with the addition of an image transferred image of a fish eye, which acts as an eerie sun… where the figures play in the sand.

Another student who made great use of the drip and pour techniques was Nina Kirby, who chose to paint over a painting that she’d done before the class began. Unsatisfied with its progress, she freely poured the paint over the painting, thus re-creating its new direction.

 

Here’s another amazing painting by Nina. She began with the texture at the bottom of the painting, created by pressing crumpled tin-foil into joint compound. After having a dream of this figure coming out of the ground, she continued with the drip painting background, painted the figure, added molding paste for the tree trunk, and used glass bead paste mixed with paint for the hair. Well-done, Nina!

While working on one painting, Nina has a habit of working on a second (abstract) painting that utilizes any mixed paint that is left over from the first.  This way, she doesn’t waste any paint, and is able to work on something else while waiting for layers to dry.  An example of this is below:

Another student who made a lot of progress in class was Tamara. She really enjoyed getting some interesting textures through the use of joint compound. She was also excited about integrating acrylic image transfers. There is a wonderful sense of subtlety in the following works:

 

Ann added the class half-way into the session, but was able to achieve quite a lot of progress in 4 short sessions:

The first image above was created by using collected fragments of plastered paint material that had crumbled off some walls… which she found on a trip to Mexico. The second image was from a “failed” image transfer. Somehow the image of a swarm of butterflies didn’t quite turn out, however, there is more subtlety in the partially revealed image.


The background of this last image was created by creating a texture from joint compound, with layers of acrylic paint worked into the texture.  The next layer is some kind of shiny metallic paper, covered with another  lace paper layer.

I’m waiting to get a few more images from a couple other students who took the class.  I am supremely proud of my students, and already looking forward to my next mixed media classes, which will probably begin in September.  If you (or someone you know) is interested in taking classes, please visit the classes link on this site

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Apr 21 2011

Process of a Painting: “April’s Crown”

Just started this painting a couple nights ago, and it’s progressing quickly, but not quite finished. The color scheme wasn’t entirely deliberate, as it was determined primarily by the fact that I had a panel in my studio that was pre-primed in yellow ochre. As it developed, I decided to elaborate on the yellows, contrasting it with red-violet shades in her facial shadows and clothes… then adding veils of turquiose blue to cool the temperature and add more balance.

For now I am enjoying continuing a theme of women with flowers and/or birds in their hair. It allows me to focus on all three of my favorite subjects at once. This lady was inspired by a small vintage photo that I found online. An ornithologist friend tells me this is an English robin that’s perched on her head (apparently the red breasted robin is only in America?) The flowers are entirely from my imagination, and are likely to change soon.

I’m attempting to work a little faster than my usual mode.  For one thing, I tend to get so caught up in the details that I feel that sometimes my finished pieces lack the spontaneity that exists at the beginning of production.  I want to keep some of that initial excitement of fresh paint instead of getting too bogged down in my usual tendency towards over-refinement.

Update, May 31: Though most of this painting was created during April, I have finally pulled this one together by adjusting the colors and refining some details.  I’ve decided to call her “April’s Crown”, as a commemoration of Spring.

 

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Mar 24 2011

Spring: Looking Up and Moving Forward!

Published by under art,art classes,creative process

Spring MorningWinter is always a difficult time for me, as I generally have less energy while Portland moves through its long season of darkness, cold and rain.   This winter in particular has been a time of many transitions which have taken much of my time to get move through.  I’ve moved my residence and art studio (again), and started a new business based on selling my reproduction art, Dreambird Art. I’ve been spending much of my time trying to connect with stores or dealing with health issues, resulting in little time or energy for painting.  Now that I’m through the big push of getting the word out to hundreds of stores (and had parathyroid surgery), I have more energy for spending  time in the studio again.  And now that I am fully in production mode, I’m realizing how much I’ve really missed it!    I’ve got a lot of images in my head, ideas for a new series.  I’m looking forward now to warmer weather, longer days, and lots of creative time in the studio.

My new studio is more than twice the size of my last (shared) space, so this makes it easier for me to work on several projects at once.  Right now I’m gearing up for the Spring and Summer art shows by working on several small paintings.    Included in this post are the first two of a series that use vintage photographs as reference material.  There’s something evocative about the expressions of these Victorian ladies, and since they are small reproductions printed in b/w, they give me just enough reference info to let my imagination fill in the details. I’m going with a “Spring theme” for now, including references to flowers and birds.

Primavera I had begun “Primavera” a month or so ago.  Though I used actual flowers to model her “spring headdress”, her face began completely out of my imagination.  As a result, there was something awkward in her expression that I couldn’t quite figure out.  I then found a vintage photo that reminded me of her, so having a  photographic reference really helped me with the proportions and shadows.  There’s a bit more painting left to do on this one, as there is still some distortion in her face.  Painting faces is definitely one of the most difficult subjects, as minor details can made a big difference in the emotional expression.  My ladies almost invariably look just slightly sad (or pissed off!)  Such expressions are never my complete intention, though I’m also not into painting cheesy grins.  I think there is more emotive power in an expression that leads one to wonder what the subject is thinking.

Poppy Love, by Robin Urton

Here’s one more painting I’ll share with you, which I created last month.  “Poppy Love” was painted partly in preparation for having a card to offer for Valentine’s Day. The poppies are painted in reverse on one side of a thick layer of glass.  The figures are added to the front side.

As I continue to create new works, I am making them available as notecards and mounted prints on my Dreambird Art site.  If you are interested in seeing more of what’s in the studio in future months, please check back.  I plan to begin posting at least bi-weekly in future months.

Also, I will begin teaching small classes in my studio over the next few months, so if you’re in Portland and interested in that, check out my classes page!

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Oct 05 2010

So Many Things….

Alas, I have been neglecting my blog for far too long, and a good number of things have come to pass or are currently emerging… to the extent that I’ve been more than a little overwhelmed and have little time to write about it. To prevent myself from further procrastination, I’ll start with an outline of current and recent developments (not in chronological order):

* Two of my artworks have been published in the recently released 2011 WeMoon Datebook, and one was selected for the wall calendar!  (“Aquabird Dream” was chosen for the month of April of the Wall Calendar, and it is also represented on page 149 of the Datebook.  “Blooming Meditation” is presented on page 146).

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* My business plan for my art reproduction company was approved and I received a matched savings grant to help me pay for the printing of thousands of prints and cards of my artworks.

* I received an RACC (Regional Arts and Cultural Counsel) grant to help me pay for a brochure to advertise my new company to over 1000 stores.

* I co-designed the brochure with my graphic designer (fellow artist, Amy Livingstone) to create a 4-fold presentation, which required new photographs of my work and many hours of diligent consideration.  If you’d like a brochure, email me, and I’ll be glad to send you one.  Also, if you know of any stores that you think would be interested, please send me their address!  Here’s a web version of my 2-sided, 4-fold brochure:

* I personally created a new website, dreambirdart.com, which is now almost finished! I just need to finish setting up the shipping info and add vouchers which will allow new customers to receive 10% off their first order (as well as a way of offering wholesale pricing for retailers). The site is expected to launch by October 10th, but anyone can log in to register now and add items to a “Wish List”.

* I had an opportunity to move out of my shared art studio into one which offered me around 3 times the space.  I’ve already started several paintings there… and recently finished 5 new ones.

* I am currently the “Featured Artist” at my artist co-op gallery, Six Days Art.  Here’s a snapshot of my display:

One of the paintings not displayed above is in the gallery’s window.  It’s a favorite which I titled “Emergence”.  The image began with an experimental method of creating texture by painting first onto a plexiglass surface, then transferring it to the paper.  When I pulled the paper off of the plexiglass, it created a most amazing rippling effect.  Within this texture, I saw the image of an owl… so I articulated it further.

I find it interesting that, without any direct intention, 3 out of my 5 recent paintings have focused on the subject of owls.  I had actually intended to respond to the theme of next year’s WeMoon call for art, which is supposed to respond to the subject of “Chrysalis”.  But these are the images that were flowing through me, so that’s what I needed to follow at the moment.  All 3 of the owl paintings still respond to the theme in a tangential way, in that they seem to be about “protection”, or a sense of ‘guardian spirit”.   I did create one painting in this recent series that spoke more specifically to the “Chrysalis” theme.  I called this “10,000th Incarnation”:

To see more of my new series of paintings, please visit the Paintings 1 gallery of my website. (I also lowered prices on several of my paintings by up to $200, to help stimulate sales… as a result of the economy and the fact that I’ve had very little cash flow while I’ve been concentrating on starting my new business!)  Please also visit my new website for Dreambird Art!

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Jun 06 2010

Dreambird Art

Published by under art,Portland

6-prints

I’ve spent most of the entire month of May writing a business plan for my art business.  I didn’t think it was going to be all that hard.  I’m pretty good at visualizing what I want and I’m a decent writer.  But figuring out every little detail of every expense that will propel me into a profitable art business… in this economy….. well, that’s hard.  Especially when you have to reconfigure every calculation whenever you change your mind on something.   So I’ve spent almost every waking moment of the last few weeks researching and writing, re-writing, visualizing, re-visualizing, editing, calculating, and re-calculating this thing.  Alas, I think I’m done and I’ve done a pretty thorough job.  My plan is in review right now, so I hope they’ll say I’m good to go and can get the money needed to start my business soon.

Here’s the basics of my plan: I am going to expand my current sales of my prints, cards and pendants into a wholesale business.  I’ll be targeting bookstores, boutiques, metaphysical shops, and card stores.  I’ll begin with 6 of my best-selling images to create offset runs of my cards,  prints and mounted prints (until now, all of this has been hand-produced, so limiting the number of images will allow me to get a larger number of prints done for each of the images, adding new images every few months as sales pick up).   There will be a focus on sustainability, using Portland companies that use recycled paper and soy inks.  And I’ll hire Portland artists to help me with the production on things that are more labor-intensive (mounted prints and pendants).  I’ll also improve the process of creating my pendant jewelry by wire-wrapping them instead of adding glue-on bails.

Now that I’m done with the biz plan, I’ve spent the last few days refocusing my attention towards making product and doing a couple of outdoor shows.  On Wednesday, I stayed up past 3 a.m., making mounted prints and glass pendant jewelry.  The following day was First Thursday in the Pearl district, so I packed up all my display stuff and put up my tent and gridwalls, and once I had everything set up, it started to rain. And it rained… and rained… and didn’t stop raining.  If I’d left 1/2 hour after setting up, I would’ve made all the money I was going to make for the night.


Yesterday was the first truly sunny day for weeks, so I thought, GREAT… everyone will be out and sales will be good for the First Anniversary Celebration of my Sellwood gallery (Love Art!).  So I set up a couple grid-walls in front of the gallery (minus the tent because I didn’t want to block the view of the bands that were setting up).  Once I got all my art up on my grid-walls, a wind came and knocked the whole thing down, damaging some of my mounted prints!  I put the whole thing up again (this time securing the walls to a huge metal sculpture).  Was there all day, enjoyed some great music and company of some friends… and got a sunburn (just to prove I got some sun).  Sold 2 things all day while I watched the traffic jam push past the gallery.  I think everyone was headed out of town because they knew it was their one day of sunshine for a while. 

I guess one thing I’m learning about all this is to take things more in my stride.  It used to be I would be totally pissed off at spending so much time prepping for and sitting shows.  Now I just figure, “You win some, you lose some”… and at least I’ve got some stock to put back in my stores (minus the ones that got damaged!)  I count the people I meet as part of the reward of doing these shows too.

Another thing that’s stimulated is that I’m thinking more about how I can create art that’s practically damage-proof, waterproof, ecologically sustainable, and light-weight (for reduced shipping and ease of transportation).  I have a few ideas and will see what ends up being the best solution.

It was hard to decide what would be the name of my new business.  I had several ideas but my brain went back and forth between several ideas.  So I put it out to a poll of my friends.  I thought it was interesting that, given 6 possible names, around 21 out of 30 responders picked the same name, “Dreambird Creations”, so I decided this was best because it gives a sense of the dreamy quality of my work.  Since I paint a lot of birds and my name is a bird, that’s fitting too.  After writing out ‘dreambirdcreations.com” in an email, I realized a shorter name of “dreambirdart.com” might be better (still deciding on this one).  So far, I’ve decided the 6 images heading this blog entry will be my first group of open editions.

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Apr 30 2010

the aesthetic appeal of birds and biology

Published by under art,art community,mixed media

self-portrait-w-bird1

My recent move to a new residence took the wind out of my sails for a bit, especially since I fell prey to a cold almost immediately following my landing. The necessity of making the bills always prevails, so there’s been more time catching up with web clients and planning classes than in the studio lately. Whenever I can’t get into the studio much, I set myself to achieve at least some small accomplishments there, so I finished this little self-portrait that I began earlier last year (above).  It’s not a perfect semblance, but it feels like me.  The little bird floats above the abstract patterning of dendrites (the branched projections of neurons that communicate with each other through electrochemical stimulation).   My father was a biologist, so I’ve always had a fascination with the subject, though my understanding of it is more mystical than scientific.  (Incidentally, it doesn’t bother me that tree branches are reflected in the glass of this photo, as it seems to add to the theme in this context).

Part of what forced me to complete this little painting is that a collector of my work wanted to purchase it. They also bought a painting that I created earlier in my career:

captive_heart

“The Captive Heart” was created shortly after I finished an artist’s residency in Colorado, so I think the date goes back to 1994-5. I have to admit that I’m a rather poor chronological-er of my own work. During my early career,  it was enough for me to remember to sign my artworks, much less put a date on them.

captive-heart_detail2A little about “The Captive Heart”:

First of all, the theme (as one might guess) is one of emotional vulnerability, of feeling that one’s heart is exposed. The figure of the woman is inspired by an image of a Mexican sculpture of Mary… and I’ve place her in a room flooded with water (symbolic of swimming in an emotional space).  A mocking-bird flies within this captive space, delivering a flower.  The sticks with holes drilled in them are a reference to a little illustration I found in my father’s Scientific American magazine.  The referenced article was illustrating the path of a bird as it collected seeds in a controlled experiment (i.e., the flight-line represents the path the bird took when either collecting or depositing seeds within the branches).  As an added mystery to the story-line of this visual puzzle, a man is portrayed outside the window, collecting branches.  I leave it to the viewer to decipher the meaning of all this personal iconography.

Some of the things that continue to inspire me is the similarity of the patterning of branches and the branching of arteries/veins.   And birds… which are ever-present in my works, for reasons that are not entirely clear to my self.  I suppose I see them as messengers of spirit.

Another important note (for me) about this painting is that it was the piece that signaled a change in my way of working.  Though it is painted on illustration board, the “open heart” and window gave me the idea for painting on layers of plexiglass, which gave me a way of creating images behind images (or images above and below, on separate panels).  Today, I go back and forth between painting on wood panels and painting on plexi.  I love the 3-dimensional layering that’s created in my plexi-paintings, but it is also something that slows me down and forces me to be more precise.  For this reason, I’ve decided to limit its use to my smaller paintings in the future.  When I want to work more spontaneously, I’ll work on larger panels or canvases.

The couple who bought this piece also bought one other earlier piece of my work which was also a step in my development towards painting on different levels, rather than a singular flat surface.  “The Connection” was painted around 1993, while I was an artist-in-residence at Anderson Ranch, in Colorado.

theconnection

I had a strong desire to break out of the picture plane, so I used a scroll-saw to cut the shapes of the tree , and the aveoli that makes up the woman’s body.  (Alveoli are tiny sacs in the lungs that perform gas exchange, allowing the body to get rid of carbon dioxide and convert it to oxygen).  Her lungs are actually fed by the tree (the branch on the left turns into her veins)… symbolizing this exchange of carbon dioxide to oxygen.  Behind them is a sky filled with stars and a red curtain (the theatre of life)…  a sculpture (borrowed from some cathedral?) that represents the idea that this life can be cut off at any time…. also a man witnessing the scene, and a couple doves with vegetation and flowers.  The woman’s face seems Victorian (if not Queenly).  I don’t even recall how I arrived at this theme.  I tend to be a gatherer of images… and even if I don’t glue them down into collages, I often borrow a “little of this, a little of that” from various sources, allowing myself to re-sort them in ways that make sense to my painter’s hand.  Thus, science, mythology and art history are synthesized within my aesthetic realm.

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