Over the years on my artistic journey, I have seen over and over that my art is not something thing “I do”, rather it is an expression of my life and spirit. My expressions and processes take twists and turns just as my life does. Seasons of art, ups and downs, like the tides, like the passing of night and day. Sometimes I just get up on the “wrong side of my art bed”. The secret is that I must continue to make art with or without an strong inspiration and then as I continue the creative juices will begin to flow. A lot like what I have seen in relationships with those I love, a lot like my life of faith. Sometimes I just don’t feel like loving, or putting the effort into relationships and faith. But when I make a small effort wonderful things happen.
With my mother’s passing in April I found myself “fired” from my long term position as “caregiver”. After that came many emotions, experiences that I was not expecting. I did not realize how much of my life revolved around the role I had as daughter and caregiver.
I thought I was too sophisticated to have a “mid-life crises”. Long story short, as I look at the art that I produced since the loss of my mom I am surprised to find that I had put the bright colors aside and subconsciously chosen, silvers, grays and darker metallics. Possibly because for several months I walked in the presence of an ancient one and accompanied her through the valley of Death. Seeing my mother’s small form lying in her bed of passing, I could not help but face my own mortality.
Epiphyllum oxypetalum “Queen of the Night”
Growing up in Southern California my Grandma lived next door and tended a marvelous garden. One of her prizes was her Night Blooming Cereus. I remember as a child the excitement surrounding there rare blooms in the dark of night. My Grandmother was even known to invite guests for the sweet-smelling experience. With my Grandma’s passing, my parents tended the night bloomers and continued the celebratory traditions. Living in Ohio, I do not have a single gorgeous night blooming cactus to my name. However, as I look at my art garden, I cannot help but think that I am growing my own night bloomers. Creating and tending lovely flowers to bloom and smell sweetly in the evening of my life.
Thank You Nancy Reyner……
Artists may have many defining moments in their artistic journeys, times when new doors swing open and the artist is lead in fresh directions. These defining moments can look very different from one another. Some are obvious and even dramatic, while others are recognized only with hindsight. There are those moments when the lights go on, bells ring, doors and windows fly open, the red carpet of understanding is rolled out and the artist knows that they will never be the same.
I had that experience a couple years ago when I watched Nancy Reyner’s wonderful tutorial on how to apply metal gilding. For some reason, I was apprehensive about trying my hand at gilding. Nancy’s teaching video was perfect for me. The instruction was direct and clear, the technique, supplies and process were covered in simple, precise language. When the video was over, I felt like I knew what to do. site. My artistic journey took a wonderful turning at that moment. Gilding has become an integral part of my artistic expression and a wonderful technique for expressing my enthusiasm for all things colorful and “shiny”. I am able to communicate in a new way, a little like learning a new language. My collages have taken on a unique character and I have discovered wonderful new colors and many surprises. I have found many of Nancy’s teaching videos to be very helpful, along with several of her books. Thank you Nancy for opening the Gilded Doors for me. www.nancyreyner.com
The business of the Holidays is over, A few lights still hang and remind. Now the center stage is for Winter. Pure and simple Winter—Winter without holidays. A solid, unmanaged winter. In the woods we are very familiar with winter. Every stone, limb,log and creature is the intimate of winter. Friend and foe and very familiar. This year my thoughts are on how winter is an important part of my relationship with the woods around me. As in the natural world,all relationships have seasons. In every season I can choose to grow, learn and survive or wither and die off.For me, as a collage artist, I find an inspiration in the Bleak Mid-Winter that I find no where else. In these cold and frozen months I find myself chasing after subdued and frosty colors and textures. Something I would never consider in the warmer months. Winter is a master artist teaching me anew to find the joyful patterns and pathways of the frozen times. I must try to remember this in my relationships also. Always to reach out to beauty in its many forms.
“Whistling for Rodger”, paper collage, acrylics, metal gilding, by artist Helen Wilson
This past summer and autumn I have several new pieces in my studio. Their themes all seem to revolve around the idea of ABUNDANCE. Living on the edge of the woods we are constantly surrounded by Nature’s Abundance. So many leaves, so many grasses, flowers,tress, stones and living beings. Everywhere and always. This abundance fascinates and inspires me.
“Skylark for the Artist” paper collage, acrylics, metal gilding by artist Helen Wilson
Summer’s abundance has come and gone, followed by Autumn’s generous spirit.
Now we are on the border edges of winter and Nature’s abundance takes on a new face.
I am often asked where I find my inspirations for my paper collages. I have to say that my themes come from many different and often unexpected places. I often find inspiration from nature, music, and my reading.
Each winter, living on the edge of the woods, I find myself fascinated with the inner workings of winter plants. I look out the window and see all these trees, grasses, and shrubs stark, snow-covered, grey and bleak. They appear dead. Memories of their autumn splendor, spring time awakenings and summer abundance run through my mind. How can these vibrant plants just stand there, day and night for months, appearing dead and yet still carrying within them the spark of life? Against all evidence they are not dead.
This morning I turned on my Scheherazade CD and decided to read up on just what plants are doing in the winter. As the music began I found myself imaging the inner workings of plants set to music. What interesting ballets or concertos could be based on these themes. I thought my horticultural reading would be uplifting and poetic. I imagined with the music in the background and the frozen grasses outside my window that I would be transported in some lyrical manner.
Unfortunately that did not happen. As I began to read i discovered words like tracheids, xylum, vernalization, extraorgan freezing, extracellular freezing, conduits, desiccation and freeze-thaw cycles. Not very inspiring I am afraid. Many words even my spell check did not approve of.
So I closed the book, turned Scheherazade up louder and went back to admiring the frozen swaying grasses. As I watch their winter dancing, I imagine a tiny flame of life deep within them held lovingly by the plant’s dreams of summer days to come. And I imagine them as ballet dancers swaying gently to the evocative strains of Scheherazade.I lovingly pick up my scissors and papers and continue to collage my thoughts about the inner workings of plants and I join the grasses in the music of the spheres.
Over the past few years I have discovered that Winter is an ideal time to create art. When I am forced to stay in is a wonderful time for me to take an artistic journey. While the woods outside my window seem still and dead I find my creative juices going strong. Winter invites me to creativity in it’s own quiet way. I find myself once again learning from both the Natural world and the world of Paper Collage.
Winter in Ohio this year has been like a difficult eleven month pregnancy. Nature is waiting, and we wait with it. When will the snows come? The grasses and weeds stand waiting in the fields. The bare trees stand as waiting sentinels. The cold woods are like a waiting room, filled to capacity with well-wishers and wonderers. When will the snows come?
The old wait in concern and dread: how “bad” will it be, will I survive? The young wait with restless anticipation…will there be enough snow to use my new sled: will the schools close? Those in the middle- wonder what will the roads be like; and like the squirrels with their nuts and seeds set aside ,do we are have all the shovels, mittens, vitamins, salt, blankets, that we need?
Winter is a time of waiting and deepening. A time to ponder, reflect and think. This is Winter’s invitation to all of Nature and to us. “Take a break”. “Take a chill pill.” Now that Christmas is over i know that before long the Spring Garden catalogues will begin appearing in my mailbox. From past years experience, I know as soon as I open the first Spring Garden Magazine, I will close the book on Winter and wait for the coming of Spring.
I will find myself dreaming of spring before I have learned all that Winter has to teach me. This year I resolve to try to stick with winter until it passes the baton to Spring. Until I hear Spring grasp the stick in its Merry hand and swiftly run on. Winter is a teacher with millions of years of experience. Winter can teach us to let go and to not be afraid to be empty and barren. Winter has lessons about endurance and fortitude that any General would benefit from. And Winter is an expert instructor about the Powerful Art of Waiting. The woods look dead, beyond hope and lifeless. But that is simply Winter’s great trick. Deep within the rivers, the fish sleep, and the frogs dream. The trees are not dead lifeless things-within their walls the insects and animals are refueling and remaking. The owls and turkeys perch in silence and the squirrels sleep and dream. The plants look dead, many cannot even be seen. And yet both deep within, and barely beneath the surface, the triumphs and glories of the Spring are waiting and and rehearsing for the Great Spring Extravaganza.
Over the summer I had the wonderful opportunity to attend a Western paper making Class at the Morgan Art of Papermaking Conservatory in Cleveland, Ohio.
This is something I have wanted to do for several years and finally it happened! Two wonderful days just hanging out with gooey hands, slightly wet feet, an enormously unattractive plastic apron, and a big smile on my face. In my artwork I use paper in many different ways and I have encountered a multitude of types and characters of paper. How little we consider its source and creation.
The process is simple, messy and ancient. I was intrigued by how one takes the wet slurry mixture of fiber and water, scoops it artfully into a deckle, or frame, lets the water run back out, and then “couches” the sheet onto a soft resting place. Then with time and a little pressure and paper is born.
As usual, there are all sorts of different fibers to use, interesting colors, additives, and so forth. And as usual I got carried away experimenting and discovering. It really is a very meditative art. I was reminded how things in life can be changed from one form to another. How the seasons change, water changes form, and how relationships change and how I change. I was reminded that change takes patience, time and sometimes a little pressure. Paper making is a little shadow of giving birth. It is wonderful to create something which has never before been. An encounter with the divine. Have you hugged your paper today?
And then at the end there is a terrific amount of clean up. Doesn’t that always seem to be the case? And as the sponges were being propelled, the buckets emptied, the trash deposited, the tables and counters wiped, supplies replaced to their spots and the mops came out… I couldn’t help but see the simple beauty in a well organized cleanup job.
Opus Verbi viriditas
Hildegard of Bingen
(The work of the Word is greenness)
Last Summer I wrote about celebrating the color Green and being healed by its visits. And here I am again living on the edge of the woods at the “ Greening Time”. Everywhere I look I see GREEN in its many shades and hues. In our home every window and every door leads to the GREENING. And this year because we had devastating flash floods in our area last month I am seeing that Green is the Child of Sister Water. Green tells us that water in one of its many forms is present and replenishing.
ALL AROUND ME I AM SURROUNDED BY THE Hopeful MESSAGE OF GREEN
ALL THE MOSSES, GRASSES, SHRUBS, TREES AND FLOWERS JOIN TOGETHER TO GIVE AN ENORMOUS GREEN GRADITUDINOUS SHOUT OUT TO SISTER WATER AND ALL HER REPLENISHING WAYS.
THE WORLD AROUND ME IS SWALLOWED UP IN ONE HUGE HALLELUJAH CHORUS all in the chord of GREEN
Viriditas is a term used by Hildegardof Bingen , a mystic and Abbess of the 12th century. It means greenness , and the greening power of God. The tremendous green around me helps me consider the garden that grows within me . Our current society often seems to be so focused on technology that we see the natural green around us and then ignore it. The Green I believe is calling out to us to consider life, consider our gardens within, and the gardens which dwell in our relationships. These inner gardens, do we tend them or ignore them? I want to be a friend of Green, a student , a listener. In the spirit of St Francis I would say, Sister Green speaks a joyful message of life, replenishment and hope. In Northeast Ohio, after a harsh winter, I would say that Sister Green is here to remind us of second chances and redemption.
I am fascinated by paper and paint. Where did they come from? In whose grey cells did they first originate? What inspired the invention of paper? It occurs to me that paper was invented because of human relationships and out of a desire to communicate and to share. And Paint? Paint was also born out of a need to communicate and to express something. And the union of the two together? It speaks of the deep innate human need to express and to share thoughts and ideas. In this technological age when computers do it all and never a pen is lifted or a brush dipped, these ancient images are powerful to me. Consider all the stages, choices, errors and triumphs which must have occurred before paper was a solid sheet, rather than a pile of mush. I wonder if the people who looked on at the inventors of paper thought they were wasting their time playing in the mud! I wonder about the first natives who dipped their fingers or sticks in a bowl of berry juice and drew a picture. Did their family think they were a little crazy? And yet a spark of the divine inspired these two priceless inventions.
As a collage artist I have found myself as a citizen in the world of paper and paint. It is almost like a parallel world. This is a place where I can travel, refresh, take inspiration, receive wisdom and be healed. It is a form of meditation for me. My whole body is drawn into this meditation and it becomes a part of me. All my senses, thoughts and prayers are given a new perspective as I walk among the papers and the paints.
And then we add the spirit of color! Color is another world all to itself. It goes on and on to the heights and depths. Where man, gravity, heat, cold, sound, light and water cannot go…color goes on. I believe that color is a powerful , silent force in our world and that most of us are missing the point. Color invites us in and its message is that life is deeper, eternal and joyful.
A subject of recent interest to me is the area of handwritten letters and how they symbolize the “more gentle age” in which I grew up. A time when people were not all in a hurry, but were willing to take the time to sit and write a letter to friends and loved ones. I enjoy incorporating pieces of these letters in some of my works in honor of their wholesome beauty.
I have always thought that art was sort of a safe pastime. I realize that many of our human pastimes have unseen dangers in them but I always thought that art was an exception. Boy, was I wrong. In my last post I mentioned that my creative juices were flowing and I was having a wonderful time creating in new and different ways. This has been going on for several months now. Last week I was surprised to see that I was cutting collage papers in the kitchen while I waited for the soup to thicken or the water to boil.
Then, a few days later, the inevitable happens:
“Mom, you won’t believe this but there is a collage paper in my soup”
and the very next day another child exclaims:
“Mom, you won’t believe this but I just found one or your collage papers in my casserole!”
Actually, I was only mildly surprised! Art can be dangerous!
It is not good to let a passionate artist cook you dinner and it is even worse to let them drive your car!!! As I am innocently driving my car, through the woods, suddenly I will see a color or texture which captures my imagination. And I mean “Captures”. I find myself planning collages, the woods become splintered in several different pieces of paper, the colors start to roll and swirl though my mind, the color of the sky is not quite right, needs a little more grey….
and then with a little divine intervention suddenly I am called back to reality. I suddenly realize that I am driving a car not creating a collage!
And then there are the odd and unusual urges that seize me out of the blue. At Church, I begin to notice the lovely textured purple jacket of the woman in front of me… as, what would it be like if I poured some New Gamboge (yellow) paint over that deep purple. Or I wonder what would happen if I pulled a few yarns on the nubby sweater on the woman to my left…. So far I have been blessed and caught myself before I have caused a public nuisance. Maybe tomorrow I will not be so fortunate. Art is a very dangerous sport.