Sunday, August 16, 2015

Traditional Clay Pottery Lesson

Time in Ghana has its own very unpredictable rythym...and it does not feel linear, so it makes sense to me while I am here that my posts may be a bit out of sync

...slept until 7 am amazingly. Awoke to a rooster crowing...
Sitting outside, with the ocean crashing quietly in the background, with Ellie, Talk True, Ben and Aviva, a ceramicist who teaches art at a high school in Israel and is staying in the room next door. We discuss education and all have similar philosophies and issues...teaching is not all that different across countries and continents.
Breakfast, prepared by Talk True, is scrambled egg whites and veggies and a platter of the sweetest white pineapple and mango. 
After breakfast we learn how to make traditional African clay pots right on the ground. The woman who teaches us makes them look as if she threw them on a wheel. Small children come and go, laughing, playing and singing softly.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Arrived in Ghana at night...and promptly went to bed Aba House.
My room, which has a small bathroom too...only cold shower

Arrived late in the evening, 9:30 or 10 Ghana time, Ben K and a taxi driver brought me from the airport. On the way from Accra we passed many homemade structures, shacks selling food and stuff, much like Jamaica but more densely packed.  It's dark.
Palm trees, overcast muddy blue-orange night sky, and the smell...smoky, dusty, a bit of gas, a bit of food, a bit floral...unique. When we arrive, Ben K showed me to my room and closed his eyes and raised his hands and said a blessing for me to have a safe, healthy and enjoyable stay here in Africa.
My room is super rustic, but with a small bathroom-only cold water-and a light bulb hanging from the ceiling. I wish for a beer or someone to talk to but it appears I am the only one here or the only one awake. I am happy for the electricity. I can hear the ocean outside my screen window.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Tonight I leave for Africa!

The Republic of Ghana is unique in so many ways. On March 6,1957 it was the first African country to attain independence from colonial rule. It is an English speaking country surrounded by French speaking Togo, Cote D'Ivoire and Burkina Faso.

The southern border is a stretch of beautiful coastline with inviting beaches. Each of its 10 regions offers a different experience-from infamous slave castles and traditional artisans, to game parks and the only canopy walk in Africa.

Originally a fishing village, Accra is now a cosmopolitan capital with an international airport.

Ghana is near the equator with warm and humid temperatures, a summer rainy season, and a beautiful spring like August.
"Feel Free" is an expression you hear often in Ghana. It means that you are free to be yourself and to explore what interests you. The people are known for their friendliness and hospitality and Ghana has a democratic government that makes keeping visitors happy a priority.

Although Ghana is a small country, about the size of Oregon, the indigenous crafts are collected worldwide and there are many festivals and activities that celebrate its rich culture and heritage. From Cross Cultural Collaborative 

Saturday, April 25, 2015

New Guest Artist! Jelena comes to us from Ames, Iowa

I love Jelena's paintings... textural, colorful, abstract...looking at them inspires in me a sense of well being!

Read on for a wonderful conversation with a very insightful artist...

Web sites, social media etc:

Jelena, tell us a little about what you create:

ARcoTexturePaintings are abstract, architectural, tectonic, textural oil paintings, which I dare to share with art lovers worldwide on etsy J.  I find enormous joy in art making and have experimented with various media and techniques both traditional such as figure drawing and ephemeral such as fruit salad.  My abstract paintings allow for conversational and contemplative moments without requesting a commitment on the part of the beholder, and therefore truly allow for open and free participation in art regardless of who we are.

Would you like to give us an inside view of your process or technique?

As I shift from realistic and representational to abstract, often non-representational work and back, my process and techniques also change.  For abstract paintings I present at ARcoTexturePaintings, I use different palette knives, wedges, and various “tools” and “stencils,” which I occasionally make myself.  In the painting process I use these tools to spread the buttery paste of oil colors over canvas, but also to lift, scratch, press, impress or otherwise manipulate color.  As I have a full time job, using knives instead of brushes is very convenient because I do or not need to worry about cleaning brushes, while knives also do not allow for high precision and hence allow for more relaxing, free, and not so much controlled process of painting.  I love watercolor for its immediate happiness, have tried acrylics, but it is really the brilliance, smoothness, smell, and viscosity of oil colors that I find most invigorating and at the same time most resilient and forgiving; or simply put, from a total mess and disappointment it is relatively easy to achieve some satisfaction by over-painting either sections or the entire painting I was not happy with at some point.  I love to paint in full speed wet-on-wet, but recently started to experiment with the layering process that can last for days and months, depending on the painting.  In this layering process, which also can be described as sculpting with colors or archi-tectonic process, sometimes I use cold beeswax.  Beeswax adds matt and textural quality to the painting and can subtly subdue the glowing explosion of rich colors to reveal the multilayered happiness of oil paintings. 

What did you study and where, or are you self-taught?

I am trained as an architect and art and architectural historian, but am self-taught in painting; really had a few art classes as an undergrad student of architecture.  Drawing and painting were always part of my life, though with breaks that could last in some cases for several years.  During these breaks I often supplant my need for manual art by making excursions in photography.  

Where do you do your creative work?

In my kitchen because there I have windows, water source is handy, and it is easy to clean the mess from the floor after a painting session.  As I have a need to paint larger and larger canvases (perhaps also because as they are both increasingly more physically and mentally demanding), I hope to be able to have larger space in the future – perhaps to move to a house where I will be able to make my own studio.  For now, I am quite happy with my working space in the kitchen; I most often stand when I paint, do not have an easel, and am comfortable to put the canvas on a kitchen counter, on the dining table, or on the floor and paint with both hands if needed, or simply to hold a small-sized canvas in one hand and paint with the other.

How often do you get to do your creative work?

Due to my hectic life and busy regular job, sometimes I manage to paint almost on a daily basis (usually weekends or late nights) but more often I have to make longer breaks… then I simply dream that I paint or dream of and in colors J.

How do you get started?

It is pretty simple.  I just spread the drop cloth I buy at local hardware store, turn on some music, take a canvas, and start (or continue) …

How do you define art or creativity?

For me, every art has an aesthetic and spiritual appeal.  Rather than originality or a condition of a person or a thing, for me, creativity is above all a process of making meaningful connections and relations among people and/or things in the realms of ideas and forms… 

What motivates you?

People and places around me as well as search within me …

Do you find drawing or sketching to be an integral part of your process, why or why not?

Depending on the type of work.  When I do representational work, drawing or sketching are critical at least in the early stages of work and at least for the purpose of the composition; for abstract work, quite often the composition emerges on its own … perhaps my training in architecture and years and years of drawing by hand or on a computer (where the "surface" can extend without limits) also allow me to sometimes “speed up” the process and “skip” the sketching part, quite often really relying on a tiny diagrammatic scheme through the entire process; occasionally I also use the segment of my previous painting, to develop a new one … at the same time, I have realized that my need for geometry and drawing is often reflected in the final layers of my paintings where geometry and linear drawings emerge as a kind of connectors that seemingly aim to return the painting “back to order” … in my abstract paintings, I am now trying to completely free myself and to paint just by “sculpting” with colors; in this process, sketches are actually an impediment for me …

Are there any particular artworks or artists that surprise you, inspire you or repulse you?

So many to name … for example, last summer in Munich, I was surprised how relatively small-sized Gustav Klimt’s Music is, an intimate oil painting from his early carrier … and yet, what was I expecting from an emerging young artist who lived in poverty? I later thought… Obviously, despite all training in the field of art history, somehow I was not prepared to see a "small" painting by a big artist; such is the power of art and artists … various other “art surprises” can happen … wherever I travel I visit art museums and art shows; but art can happen literally on the road; … Etsy, which I have discovered recently, is where in a virtual space and on a daily basis I also discover artists and artworks from around the world that move me and inspire me …

Who are some of your favorite artists or artwork?

So many favorites to name … Was blessed in my life thus far to travel a lot, to meet many artists and architects in person, and to experience many artworks one-on-one; some of these artists and many of these artworks are featured in standard art textbooks… With some artists and architects that I met in person, there were situations when nothing had happened; sometimes we would have a chat, and even a dinner or lunch together; sometimes we talked about art but more often about other topics as our discussions developed; in some cases, we were silent standing in front of the artwork or enjoying fantastic space … 

When and why did you decide to start your own business?

It was my birthday. I had just come back from yet another draining meeting. For a moment, there was a feeling of resentment.  Instead, I wanted to do something nice for myself and for my family and to do something nice for the many nameless others and to spread love and joy … I love to paint and love to share happy moments with the others; I heard from some of my friends about Etsy … By the end of the day, I went on Etsy, opened a store, and put on sale some paintings I did for the past few months on my leisure time...   The vibrant Etsy community inspired me; it helped me learn about starting a business, and how to develop policies for my shop.  Inspired by some artists on Etsy, I then also opened a section called “the Deal of the Day” where, for a limited time, I put on sale artwork that is heavily underpriced, which simply means that the price is below the cost of the painting materials I used.  “The Deal of the Day” rotates and results from my belief that everyone should be able to enjoy and look at art -- as the platform on Etsy allows -- but also that most people should be able to purchase art if this is what would make them happy.  Surprisingly, thus far I sold 10 paintings from “regular” sections but not a single one from the “Deal of the Day” … Such is an unpredictable world we live in…

How did you choose the name for your business?

ARcoTexturePaintings is a neologism that contains words ART, Paintings, color and Texture – and this is what it is about

What is your most treasured possession?

There is no “thing” that I could not part from …

What are you currently working on or have recently completed?

In addition to my regular job, I currently work on 17 paintings at the same time – 2 relatively large canvases (larger than 36x36 inches), 6 mid-sized or as I call them “hug-sized” paintings, and 9 small-sized or “happy tiles” (8x8 inches).  Of these, one hug-sized painting is the “yearly painting,” which I paint for my husband each year. 

What is the most interesting thing about you?

I am just an ordinary person who loves people and life and enjoys art and architecture.

Here is a selection of artwork and artists statements:

"Little Ship Jole is a large-sized painting, which had been prepared and layered for months, and then the last layer was finished in one take in some nine hours without break during one long night when my nephew Jole was born.  A friend who was visiting while I was working on the painting asked me whether I would really sell it because I put it on Etsy the day after the baby was born.  Of course, I could part from the painting – it brings happiness to me, and would be nice to bring happiness to someone else regardless of the story behind it.  Despite how much we can be emotionally attached to paintings and “things,” this “exercise” of putting on sale a painting I am very much attached to, is also for my personal improvement as I wish to always put human condition and human relations first.  If I ever sell this painting, money will go with all my boundless love to my nephew, hopefully before he realizes how much money rules our society. "  

"Heavenly Leader is a large-sized painting done in oil colors and bees’ wax on gallery stretched canvas. Inspired by the seventh-century treatise the Ladder of Divine Ascent written by a monk John Klimakos and by Byzantine icons, this painting is my interpretation of the urban ascent and descent. "

"Winter in Iowa is a diptych I worked on for months during the first winter when we moved to Iowa.  Winters in Iowa are long and brutal; the winter light, however, is brisk and most divine.  This diptych done in heavy gesso, oil colors, and gold leafing, tries to catch this winter light-ness, though unsuccessfully …" 

"Happy tiles are intimate paintings that can fit into hand or sit on your desk or a shelf and bring a lot of joy despite their small size.  I always sign them on the side (somehow people love signed artworks ;) so to allow the beholders to play with them and to rotate them as they wish.  I have selected a happy tile “dancing square” and rotated it four times and combined these positions to demonstrate what I mean by the playfulness of happy tiles.  Similarly, several different happy tiles can be grouped and assembled and reassembled in numerous combinations.  The happy tiles are very reasonably priced and I can see that buyers are most comfortable in purchasing these of all my paintings, perhaps also because they are so playful and not a huge commitment."

Is there anything you would like to add?

Many thanks, dear Sue for inviting me to your art page. I wish you great success and fulfillment in pursuing your art.  Best wishes to all artists, aspiring artists, and art lovers.  I extend special thanks to everyone who reads your interviews.

Thank you Jelena, for a thoughtful and thought provoking interview!

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Our newest, special guest artist, Debbie Durnwald, comes to us from Alpharetta, Georgia!

I feel so lucky to have met Debbie, she is as sweet, kind and generous as she is talented! 

Her photos will make you want to get right on a plane and visit the places she has been.  Meet Debbie!!

Business: Petite Pastiche Photography

Social Media: Facebook- Debbie Walker Durnwald
          Twitter- dwdurnwald
          Pinterest- Debbie Durnwald
          Instagram- DEBBIEDURNWALD

Location: Alpharetta, Georgia USA

Debbie, tell us how all this wonderfulness began!

Although I took a photography class in college, at the University of Georgia, I am mainly a self-taught photographer.  I have always loved photography, but I became seriously interested in pursuing it after a trip to Paris, France in 2004 and 2005.  When I returned home from my trips,I would sit for hours editing the many photographs I had taken.  I found that each photo would bring back a flood of memories from the trip and that alone was worth every crazy angle I positioned myself in, in order to get the best shot.  I then put my favorite images on a bulletin board in my home and was surprised when people would comment on the "beautiful postcards".  It was at that moment, when I thought it might be possible to sell my photography.  As a longtime Etsy buyer, I thought that Etsy would be a good venue, in which to try it out.  I started the business in October of 2012 and since then, I have met the most incredible people through this process.  Every day I get to interact with so many talented artisans from all over the world.  I am on Etsy teams with artists I greatly admire, like Sue and my customers are treasures that have come from many different parts of the world.  I have been fortunate to have so far sold my art in the U.S., Canada, Israel, Ireland and France.  

Corresponding with these customers has given me so much joy.  It is such a pleasure when someone tells me that they are buying my art for a wedding gift or as a special gift for someone who has overcome a serious illness.  It also makes me happy when someone purchases my photography as their special art selection for a main room in their home, or purchases a piece that reminds them of their travels with a loved one or family. To know that what I do, can make someone happy makes it all worthwhile.  

Before I was able to travel extensively, I loved looking at photographs from various parts of the world.  Now, I feel like I can bring that same enjoyment to others through my photographs and it is such a rewarding feeling.  When someone tells me that they look at my photography as a means of a happy escape, or as an armchair traveler, I couldn't be more excited. Just to know that something that I do, can make someone feel that way, makes my day.  Above all else, this is what motivates me.

My only regret is that I did not take photography seriously at an earlier date.  I so envy someone who senses their passion at a young age.  Thinking back on the interesting places that I have been and seen, it makes me sad that I didn't take the opportunity to capture those images when I could.  As a matter of fact, I was in London once at the Trooping Of The Colors Ceremony, when I literally stood about 10 feet away from the Queen Mother and Princess Diana.  I was on cloud 9 thinking that I had captured a great photo of the pair, only to find out that the camera had no film.  Oh well, you win some and you loose some.  

Can you talk about your process?

My process is that I take pictures anytime I travel.  I also like to go to various places near my home to take photos, as well.  I am probably the most relaxed and happy when I know that I have terrific places to shoot.  After a day of shooting, I can't wait to load my pictures onto the computer so I can see the images enlarged.  Seeing a photograph come alive, whether on the computer or in a darkroom, has always fascinated me.  

How did you come up with the name of your business?

I chose the name Petite Pastiche mainly because I am a Francophile and I really wanted to use a French name.  I liked the word pastiche, because it simply means some of this or that.  It can also be interpreted as imitating another's art, and that is what I do.  I capture beautiful scenes that have been made by God or man.  As for petite, well,  I take photographs of a "little" of "this and that" and it is usually of "something that someone else has created", whether it be nature, architecture, gardens, etc. Anyway, it just made since to me. :)

Who would be an artist you would most like to have dinner with?

Vincent Van Gogh.  Although, my favorite artist is Paul Cezanne, I have read that he was grumpy, so no dinner for him.  Instead, I would like to sit down and tell Vincent Van Gogh's tortured soul, that he indeed became one of the most famous, popular and well respected artists of all time.  It pains me when artists die without knowing how much their art affected other people and how well loved they became.  

Have you read any books that changed your life?

The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer.  I have a tendency to be too empathetic at times, especially to those I hold close.  In other words, if my loved one was unhappy, I was unhappy.  This book showed me what a destructive and meaningless waste of life that is.  It helped me to try to give up trying to control every situation and basically to "let go and let God." I highly recommend it.

What are some of your other creative pursuits? 

I do like to paint in both oils and watercolors and I was an interior designer for 8 years.  

What are you currently working on? 

I just got back from a trip to Seattle with my husband and I am currently editing the photographs from the trip.  I try to leave my photographs as natural as possible, but sometimes angles need to be tweeted and cropping needs to be done.  I've also had several people suggest a showing of my photographs at a gallery, but I haven't had time to pursue that path.  It would be wonderful though. Also, my dream would be to have my work published in a book.  

Saturday, March 28, 2015

This Week's Guest Artist, Malia Zaidi, comes to us from Pittsburgh!

Web sites, social media etc:

I met Malia through Etsy's Arteam, she is a fellow Etsyan artist and has been a pleasure to interview. Upbeat, fun, optimistic and thoughtful, and she loves to read!!!

Malia, tell us a little about what you create:

I paint oil landscapes in an impressionist style. My work is often inspired by places I have visited or photos I see, which leave a lasting impression on me. I am particularly interested in creating something that conveys a sense of openness and liveliness through color and composition.

Would you like to give us an inside view of your process or technique?

I generally paint using photos to give myself at least an outline of how the painting should be composed. A thinly tinted wash of pigmented linseed oil is the first layer, then I paint more thickly onto the wet canvas. I started out with acrylics, but found that I like the texture and malleability of the oil paints better. Once I have painted the larger areas, I use small brushes to add details, such as a stroke of white for the sail of a distant ship, or flecks of red and yellow, for fields of flowers.

What did you study and where, or are you self-taught? And/or How did you get started?

I actually studied German and Global Studies, and as an artist am self-taught. I have been painting for quite a while, but my interest in making art began with charcoal drawings.

Where do you do your creative work?

I work in a room in my house, which has many windows and good light (the windows are great, also, to get rid of any oil fumes!)

How often do you get to do your creative work?

I try to complete about one painting a week. It depends on the size. If I am working with very small canvases, such as the 6x6 inch ones, I tend to paint two or three.

How do you get started?

Nowadays, with the internet, it is so great to be able to peruse photos of different places, and to do a bit of armchair traveling for inspiration. I also like to do small sketches to test how an idea might look, without setting it down on canvas.

How do you define art or creativity?

Creativity doesn't have to mean artistry, as far as I am concerned. There are many types of creative thinking and endeavors. Scientists are creative, just as painters or writers or actors are. It is as much about making something as it is about the idea of doing so. I am very flexible when it comes to defining such an elusive concept. A cook can be creative in preparing a family meal, just as (or sometimes more than) an artist, or someone typically associated with creativity.

What motivates you?

On most 'painting days' I do not need special motivation. Painting is relaxing and enjoyable for me. I do it for myself and for my family, not necessarily for my business, thought of course if all three align, that is quite exciting.
The sensation of mixing oils, of finding the right consistency, and even the motion of working my brush against the canvas, serve as motivation to remain consistent in creation of new work.

Do you find drawing or sketching to be an integral part of your process, why or why not?

I like to draw, but I do not do more than a rough sketch, or often just an outline of what I intend on painting. Independently of painting, I like quick gesture drawings or smeared charcoal sketches, just to toy around with other media on occasion.

Are there any particular artworks or artists that surprise you, inspire you or repulse you?

Good question! I am a docent at the Carnegie Museum of Art, and have, through my studies there, been able to gain a grudging appreciation for a fair amount of contemporary art, which previously puzzled or irritated me. Nonetheless, my favorite artists remain the big name Impressionists and Neo-Impressionists: Monet, Renoir, Sisley, Pissarro, Van Gogh. I am also quite fond of the ethereal Pre-Raphaelite works by Leighton and Waterhouse, as well as some Rococo artists such as Fragonard (his 'Girl Reading' and 'The Swing' are definite favorites).
Essentially, color, light, and movement are all aspects, which make a work of art intriguing to me.

Can you tell us about some of your successes and challenges?

I think there is almost always a point when I am painting, where all I see is flat planes of color, and I feel certain this one can be scrapped. For the most part, that feeling changes, once I start applying details with smaller brushes, or add texture, but I think some uncertainty is not such a bad thing. I tend to feel a painting is a success when my family enjoys it, and I am very fortunate that they are an encouraging lot.

When and why did you decide to start your own business?

Sites like Etsy and FineArtAmerica make sharing art and creative projects a communal experience, which I found intriguing. Deciding to put my art up on these sites was a decision initially motivated only by the desire to share, to receive feedback, not so deeply focused on the business side of things. That being said, I think my paintings can appeal to people simply because they are cheerful and bright, and my hope in creating them and for people choosing to have them in their homes, is that they will function almost as a small window to a place with a blue sky and sunshine.

Is there an artist or person either fictional or real you would most want to meet? What would you want to do with that person?

Good question, there are so many. I suppose it would depend a bit on my mood:-) I would like to meet J.K. Rowling, because I grew up reading her books like so many of my peers, and it would be fun to just have tea with her and chat about books and all sorts. The artist Andy Warhol would also appeal to me, as someone who seemed clever and witty, and who didn't take himself or his art too seriously.

What book are you currently reading/or/ do you have any favorite books or books that "changed your life"? What did you like about it/them?

A dangerous question for someone who is as book-obsessed as I am:-) It is hard to choose just one, but a few of my favorites are Pride and Prejudice, The Princess Bride, and the Harry Potter books, which were a big part of my teenage years. I am a writer, too, so reading is very important to me. I am constantly reading and looking for new books, which can have a considerable impact on creativity and imagination. I look for strong, intriguing characters. If the plot is intersting, that's another plus, but for me it's about the characters and their development.

Tell us which artist either currently living or from history would you most like to have dinner with. Where would you eat, what might you order and what would you talk about?

I think I would perhaps meet Gustav Klimt. We would go to Café Central in Vienna, and have cake and he could regale me with stories about his sitters, all those society ladies, and their secret affairs:-)

What are you currently working on or have recently completed?

In terms of paintings, I am working on seascapes inspired by a recent trip to Cornwall, England. I love painting a broad expanse of blue sky meeting blue sea, and adding a quick white dash for the sail of a ship or the long craggy shore with a small patch of the beach and fields of green and yellow beyond.

Do you have any other creative pursuits/outlets?

I am also working on getting my first novel, a historical mystery called, "A Poisonous Journey" published, which hopefully will happen by summer. So keep an eye out, please!

What is the most interesting thing about you?

Oh, I don''t really know what to say... I was born in the US, but spent much of my childhood in Germany, where my mother is from, which has certainly shaped who I am. We often traveled, and go back every year, and it is from these trips that I often get my inspiration for paintings.

Is there anything you would like to add?

Thanks for reading! And thank you, Sue, for featuring me on your blog!

The pleasure is mine Malia! Thanks for your fun and thought provoking answers.