Friday, November 22, 2013

The Macrina Mural is Finished!

I can't believe that my last post was three months ago! I have been busy teaching in Jordan at the Safi women's handcraft co-op. And working on my organization to bring art and education to Syrian refugee children. But I have finally returned my brain to my own artwork and finished this large painting at my local Macrina Cafe and Bakery in the Queen Anne neighborhood of Seattle.

The painting shows the abundance of the seasons with food growing - from left to right - in summer, autumn, winter and spring.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

I'm Back and Painting the Joyful Abundance of the Seasons

For Macrina Bakery and Cafe in Queen Anne I am painting a twenty foot wide scene of locally grown food though the seasons. My first step, after procrastinating as long as possible, was to bring a tomato plant into the studio and start by drawing it. It took away some of the scariness of twenty feet of white board.

I'm drawing in charcoal and using an acrylic color wash for a playful light hearted look. The silver leaf also keeps things light. I like the sketchiness and the textures.

The tomatoes are for summer - and brussel sprouts are summery too. But I really added them because I love to paint their odd white ribs and the punctuation of the sprouts. 

Next come autumn of course. Pumpkins and pears. And I can't wait for kale in the snow of winter.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

I'm a Colour Nerd

Yes I'm a colour nerd. I notice colour all the time - I work with it after all. But I am also interested in the story of dyes and pigments. You can see the crazed excitement on my face when I visited the old ochre factory in Roussillon, Provence. 

The factory closed in the 1940s but there is a museum and shop there now. And this installation of worker's shirts and bags of ochre.

The ochre was open pit mined and then washed through this flume to let the sand settle out. The muddy water was then drained out through these holes into sludge pools where it was left to evaporate over the summer.

The gift shop was wonderful. 

The town of Roussillon is painted with the locally produced ochres. 

As well as paint I am interested in dyes and was happy to see these oak galls for sale. They are a traditional source of tannin - used for tanning leather but also in dyeing for their reaction with the irons found in ochres. They are made by small worms living on oak trees.

And this funny picture shows the thing that excited me the most. Found not at Roussillon but in the village of Mazan museum. It is an old fork used for digging up madder root. Before imports of the insect cochineal from the New World and the later invention of chemical dyes madder root was Europe's main source of red. This fork was so heavy I could hardly lift it. My charming tour guide said that two men were needed to operate it and the guy who had to use his left hand got paid more.

My friends and I all started to become more aware of colour and two of us decided to wear purple on the day we went looking for lavender. 

We also started to notice strange things like the morning all  five of our coffee cups matched what we were wearing. 

And the morning we went to the market in Mazan - accidentally wearing matching outfits. 

And my favourite colour memory from my trip - the evening the sky matched the colour of my rose wine. 

Saturday, July 13, 2013


A week in Provence with some friends. This was our house on the canal path near Carpentras. 

A warm sunset in a beautiful place, some dear friends, some paints and a glass of pink wine that matched the sky. I can't think of a better definition of heaven.

A scruffy sketch of the olive grove at the house. 

Another view of the house in pen and ink wash. 

And a very quick sketch from our hotel window on Gordes. La vie est belle.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Wendy's Garden

"Wendy's Garden" is finished! Wendy has been very patient with me while I took my time with this piece. I finally signed my name tonight - and misspelled it. I'll fix it in the morning. Huckleberry is not impressed.

The painting measures almost fourteen feet wide and is painted in three panels on canvas using acrylic and gold leaf.

All the plants are from Wendy's garden in West Seattle where she keeps bees. 

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Woad is Me!

It's time to harvest the woad in my garden before it flowers and goes to seed. You can see here that the plant is a brassica related to broccoli. 

After steeping the leaves in hot water to make a kind of tea I added washing soda to increase the alkalinity and then beat the tea to oxygenate it. The liquid was dark green but the foam on top contained indigotin particles and was blue.

I have been having a hard time deciphering the many instructions in books and websites for woad dyeing. I still don't understand the chemistry. I was supposed to let the woad precipitate and get rid of the watery part until I was left with a powder. Then I was supposed to collect a gallon of urine and let it ferment for six weeks. And then add it to the woad along with some other chemicals...Arghhh. I am not a patient person so I just started dipping cotton into the solution. It came out green but I read that rinsing in vinegar would turn it blue. It did!

I know I have done this "wrong" and can hear the natural dye gods tut tutting me from heaven but I feel just about as pleased as punch with the results. It's really blue!

I still want to try the urine thing though. 

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Teaching Art at Zaatri Syrian Refugee Camp, Jordan

While I was in Jordan I spent a few days teaching art at the massive Syrian refugee camp near the border. I have written about it here.