Sketch from the Alcazaba, Generalife Gardens, Alhambra, Spain
It’s been two weeks since returning from Spain and my reentry into the Black Hills has been green and glorious! Spain surpassed my expectations. It is a gorgeous country steeped in art, ancient architecture, and landscape that was at once familiar, yet totally new.
What do I mean by that? As one who documents my travels, I am accustomed to observing landscape in a detail-oriented way. The rolling plains viewed from the train on my way to Madrid shifted from the oak-covered hills of California to rolling cropland of the mid-west. The light on the Sierra Nevada Mountains above Granada was familiar from my backpacking days in the Rockies. And, the ancient Moorish village where I stayed during the workshop could be mistaken for my favorite town on an island in Greece.
However, what was astounding were the details of three major religions which could be seen, and one of the reasons I had been planning to travel to Spain for years. I have always found inspiration in the classical world and how cultures develop, overlap, and clash. In fact, my on-going series of monotypes inspired by trips to Greece, Italy, and Turkey has changed and become more universal through my interest in gardens as a common denominator.
One of the objectives of going to Spain was to see the Alhambra and the Gardens of the Generalife. Another objective was to study with the internationally renowned Danish artist, printmaker, and the developer of non-toxic printmaking, Henrik Boegh.
My adventure started with a flight cancellation for my connection out of Barcelona into Granada. Due to that, I was a day late for the reservation I had made in March to tour the Palace of the Alhambra. Heartbroken I pled my case and was allowed to tour the Generalife Gardens, where I spent a full 8 hours.
Prior to my trip, I had been walking daily while listening to Spanish lessons on Pimsleur. However, the language barrier was at times amusing and at others made for stressful times that I can look at in retrospect as adventures.
This Saturday, August 24 I will be at Inside Out in Hill City, South Dakota from 3 – 5. I’m bringing my press so I can pull some prints. And, I’ll talk about the processes of intaglio and how this technical revolution in printmaking is a game changer! And of course, regale you with stories of my trip.
It’s a big weekend in Hill City with lots going on throughout town.
I hope to see you there!
Travel Journals, a lifetime journey
Travel Journals: Your Personal Epic
I always practice journaling and sketching on location when I travel. Now that I have retired I love to continue teaching by conducting workshops. Please contact me if you'd like one on one instruction or if you'd like to get a group together.
My philosophy is that you need to give yourself permission to create art, it's half of the struggle! The other half is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Join me and I will teach you some keys to help you on your road to success.
My dual background in museum work and studio art allows me to offer a unique perspective on teaching. While the curatorial profession taught me to uphold the highest of professional practices and explore intellectual endeavors, studio art’s emphasis on creativity taught me to value personal expression. The intersection of these two worlds is what I offer to my students.
Here's a preview of what I’ve learned from over 25 years of teaching studio art to non-majors while maintaining my own studio practice.
Prepare yourself before you start your trip, whether it’s the city park or Prague. Don’t wait until you’re on your way out the door! Do a few sketches at home and in your neighborhood to test drive your equipment, supplies, and the concepts I will teach you! Have a designated bag you can carry or a box for your car. But, don’t give yourself too many options or you may become paralyzed with indecision! I have always asked my students to think about drawing and painting in terms of Manual/Visual.
Manual = materials, supplies, tools
Visual = Concepts, ideas, thoughts, skills. (Yes, I realize the skills I’m asking you to develop are also considered “manual”)
Physical preparations, i.e. Materials, supplies, tools, or the mechanics of making art outside in sometimes less than ideal conditions! Have everything ready to pick up the moment the sun shines, a flower blooms, or you see an amazing light condition!
Visual preparations: Hone your observational skills, think, practice, and read about concepts such as value, shape, texture, and contrast. Don’t worry too much about ideas yet. That will come through working! Conversely, don’t allow a “grand idea” get in the way of doing a sketch, drawing, or painting.
The most exciting thing about travel is all the new things you’ll be seeing. If you study and observe where you live before you leave home then you can ask yourself, how is the light different here, compared to where I live? What kinds of vegetation, architecture, colors, etc. are new to me?
Let’s get out in the field together where I will help you “see”! In my classes and private lessons, I encourage personal expression on a foundation of basic technical skills. My goal is to lead individual temperaments to express their natural abilities and find self-motivation and confidence.
Thoughts on Mother's Day 2019
Thoughts on Mother’s Day, May 12, 2019
There were many times I disappointed my mother but the one thing she never mentioned was my conscious decision not to have children. My mother was studying art when she met my father and I still cherish the artwork she created at Leslie College in Boston. (circa 1939) .
Her mother was a naturalist and a respected watercolorist in their retirement community. As was the custom, both women sacrificed their abilities, in order to raise children and further their husband’s career.
And like many on Mother’s Day, I thought about the sacrifices she made for me. I also took stock of how much my Mother influenced me artistically. There was always beauty in our home, flowers, art, music, and amazing food. She introduced me to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts where I spent many Saturdays studying mummies and their jewelry. I was quite sure I’d become an archeologist and study in Egypt. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, the Museum’s Saturday class in printmaking was a defining moment.
As it happened our neighbor, Ture Bengtz, was head of printmaking at the Museum School. We lived across the street from the Bengtz’s and our families spent lots of time together. Ski trips, backyard grilling, and swimming on Cape Cod. My family members were models for his lithographs, paintings, and photography. My father commissioned him to paint this portrait of my mother and followed up by carving the frame.
Gardens and flowers were a big part of my mother’s life. She would offer to do the wedding flowers for young couples in her church who didn’t have much money. I can still see the garden path she created with hostas bordered with broken lithography stones from the printmaking department that were a gift from Ture Bengtz.
My mother gave me an education in culture, while Grandmother instilled in me a love of nature and I’ve always felt as if I have “one foot on the boat and one on the dock”. So, in my 20’s it was off to the wilds of the Pacific Northwest to live in a cabin. It was an interesting experience of raising goats, encountering grizzly bears, trolling for salmon in the Georgia Straight, hitchhiking upstream on the Salmon River in a jet boat, pristine hot springs, cowboys riding horses through the bar, and backpacking in the most spectacular land I'd ever seen.
One year I made a trip home wearing my handmade elk skin boots carrying my watercolor landscapes along with my brush quiver carved from the heart of a red cedar tree. She begged me to stop into Portland School of Art (Now Maine College of Art) to see what they thought of my work as I traveled back to Idaho.
My appointment was on a Thursday. When my interview wound down the professor told me “This is the first week of classes. So, if you want to attend school here you need to be in class on Monday.” When I called to tell my mother, she didn’t hesitate, she told me to do it. She breathed an audible sigh of relief and I swear I could hear her murmur, Thank God! She was so glad to have me back in civilization.
Without her love, support, and her belief in me I most certainly wouldn’t be where I am today. The series “Gardens I’ve Known” is a tribute to her memory and her love of gardens.
The monotype Mediterranean Summer, monotype, 2016 in my portfolio is part of the Gardens I've Known series.
Blog Post 4/4/19
A Woman in the Men’s Room, by Siri Hustvedt, writing for The Guardian.
The Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven. The real creator of Duchamp’s Urinal?
In this morning's article, Hustvedt claims that it's time to rewrite history the same way the Baroness claimed its time to rewrite the rules for women artists.
I’ve always had a love of Dada and many years ago (1987) I curated the exhibition Dada Documents for the Nora Eccles Harrison Museum on the campus of Utah State University. I was working towards my MFA in printmaking and was a graduate assistant in the Museum as well as a Summer Intern in Paper Conservation at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
The premise for the exhibition was to map the various cities where the “zines” of Dada were published and show how they cross-pollinated their ideas over great distances. While in the City during my Internship I was fortunate to be able to meet with a curator on the Museum of Modern Art and ended up borrowing several documents. I also secured loans from the collections of Northwest University in Illinois as well as from the International Dada Archive at the University of Iowa.
Seeing the Hustvedt article today has given me a lot to think about. I went down the rabbit hole and found a second article about the Baroness from 2014. I hope you check out these two articles. They are fascinating.
Blog Post 3/31/19
A sleepy spring morning in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Coffee in hand I pull up Hyperallergic and there I find a feature about the paintings of Claire Sherman. I am so excited to show you her work. In 2017 I took a watercolor workshop with her at Haystack Mountain on the coast of Maine.
Her canvases are huge! They literally go from floor to ceiling. Her subject matter is the natural world in all it's lush variation. They are thickly painted with rich surfaces. It's as though you could walk into the environment with all the cognitive abilities of an adult but in an infant-sized body. An astounding experience.
I had never really worked much in watercolor, but it was a blast.
She was a wonderful teacher and her critiques were substantive while being kind. I woke up before everyone, stumbled to the dining hall for coffee and was off to paint in the early morning hours. It was an immersive experience. It was also meaningful for me as I used to go to the coast of Maine every summer. It was like "old home week" seeing and painting the diversity of flora and fauna so different from the Black Hills.
I've spent so many years teaching, now that I'm retired I can't help but want to continue, but on my own terms.
I plan on sharing the work of interesting artists, the local music scene, tips for collectors, behind the scenes in my studio, and art history while I travel to Spain this summer.
Alex Massa rockin' the house!
Alex Massa rocked the audience of Black Hills Bureau of SDPB on Thursday night. What talent! And, if you're lucky you've already purchased your tickets to catch him tonight at the Blind Lion Speakeasy in Rapid City, SD.
Many thanks to South Dakota Public Broadcasting and Deb Lux, (DLux Blues) for making Rapid City rock.
South Street Studio!
In May 2018 I retired as Professor Emeritus from 19 years of teaching from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. With an additional 15 years in curatorial practice and teaching before I found my way to the Black Hills of South Dakota. I'm very excited to devote time to my own artwork, traveling for inspiration, teaching out of my studio, doing art appraisals, and consulting for artists and collectors. And of course, riding my motorcycle. Please let me know if you'd like to be on the mailing list for my newsletter and come along on my journeys.