A Life of Varied Endeavors

Category Archives: Art – Getting My Education

Painting the Spirit


Prepping copper – blank slate


I’m reading a book by Ellen Eagle: Pastel Painting Atelier.  It’s lovely to read and beautiful to look at (even if I am looking at it on an iPad.) I plan on saying more about it later, as it is full of beautiful insights.  Her paintings touch me deeply. Her writing is  beautiful.

Recently, Tina Koyama posted two sketches she did, and mused that one of them seemed to capture her subject’s essence, while the other didn’t.  I thought of that when I read Ellen Eagle’s book.  In discussing genres, she says (my excerpt),

“No matter what genre an artist works in, the task at hand is to weave a seamless fabric of form and content.  The content is the feeling that stirs within the artist, inspired by the subject. The form is the shape the artist finds to convey the vibration of feeling.  …. The way the artist orders the shapes and color conveys the spirit of the event and the relationship of the parts to the whole.  A great painter is always painting the spirit.”

A small copper piece to hold

Copper leaf pattern

Copper leaf pattern

Earlier this year I took a  workshop ( my second) given by Candace Beardslee at Pratt Fine Arts Center.  She teaches chasing and repousse using small Japanese chasing tools called dashitagane.  My experience this time was that I was finally getting the hang of using these tools, and I love them.

Dashitagane are small steel tools that give me the ability to do things with chasing and repousse that I could never accomplish with the usual chasing punches and tools.  For me, that means making small lines, shapes, and textures:  more refined and delicate and “intended” than with other chasing tools.

This time, inspired by the amazing work of Julie Blyfield, I started with an idea about making something I thought I’d really like (for a change – I’m usually not too fond of a lot of flat chasing and repousse pieces, especially beginners’ work like my own).

I really didn’t know where this piece would end up. In fact, where it ended up wasn’t revealed until the last “fold”.  The picture above shows the pattern I started with, in a flat sheet of copper (probably 22 gauge).  Below is the result.  A small, rounded object, folded and shaped, lots of texture inside and out.  It’s about an inch and a half in all directions (4cm).  Feels good to hold, feeding ideas for other things…..

Thank you authors, and the King County Library

Click on images to enlarge

A goal of mine in 2013 has been to begin an art education that I think has been sorely lacking all my life.  I went to a “college preparatory” high school (I don’t know if they still call things that), my father was a banker, and I became a CPA.  “Art” in all it’s forms has not been a large part of my life, except as wishful thinking.  Yes, I’ve dabbled in things and been creative.  I’m not discounting all the wonderful things I’ve made.

But I want to understand concepts, rules, contexts, techniques, materials.  It’s like going back to the start. This year I’ve begun to understand what “visual language” means; I now can tell ultramarine blue from cobalt blue, and sap green from perylene green; I know what “value” means to an artist, rather than a politician; and I have a new use for the concept of “tone” other than “tone of voice”.  I’m sure I’ve learned a thousand new things, and I have a long ways to go.  My art education involves study and practice, with a self-designed meandering, immersive approach. And it’s a little choosy: so far I haven’t caused myself a lot of pain and heartache!

A tremendous amount of help has come from books.  I’ve borrowed dozens from the library.  The pictures above include books I currently have on loan.  I’ve been able to download some electronically (borrow from the library, read in Kindle and other apps).  A few of the above I’ve owned for quite a while; a couple of them are now permanently here, since they were so meaningful I ended up buying them.  Honestly, I try not to buy any of them, for the money and the space, but almost all of the ones I borrow would be worth owning.

I think that writing and publishing books is often a thankless and unprofitable task in the end (or so I’ve sometimes heard from authors), but I want to THANK all the people who do write these books and share their knowledge and expertise.  What you do is invaluable!

And thanks to the King County Library, one of the best in the country.  I paid our property taxes recently, and using the pie chart included with the bill, I estimated that we pay about $99 a year for the library.  That seems to be a tremendous “value” ( :) ) compared to, say, the size of a monthly cell phone bill!