Blue Lakes and the solace of creating

This has been a difficult winter for us at the apartment attached to the studio. I’ll tell you about it at some future date. For now, suffice to say, we are dealing with unhappy things, and the least of my troubles is that my nearly decade-old Mac computer finally broke down. I write this on a loaner PC (thanks, Mom), and due to various techly things I’m not coping with right now, I can’t upload any of my new photos to prove that I’ve actually been doing stuff. So… whatever. On the scale of things, the computer is annoying because it doesn’t matter, but it does interrupt.

I’ve been working on paper sculptures of eggs and rabbits, naturally, because yay-spring. Also working on my occult detective novel – again. And that one ambitious project. They’re all coming along rather nicely. I wish I could show them to you.

Instead, I’m adding some spring-ly works to the Shop, beginning with four small landscape paintings, the Blue Lakes. They are kind of misty and moody, and they speak both to my state of mind and the time of year. I used paste-paint on paper and improvised with folds, blots, pulls, and mark-making. In some you can spot finger impressions, creases, and other flaws helping to build the image of a watery landscape.

The Blue Lakes Series

Every so often this March, look for more paintings and collages to the Shop, in celebration of the season.

Someone I admire recently observed that creative work is therapeutic. It takes one out of oneself. It’s true. These past few weeks, the meditative ASMR of my pen on the paper, and the brush applying layers of paste and paper, and birds jumping around in the tree by my window has been my refuge. Engaging all my senses in my materials – the textures, sounds, smells, colors – making adjustments as I go along, not overthinking things but just floating in the process – it’s pretty much the only thing that lets me forget my cares for a while, lets me feel just free and existing.

It doesn’t last, but the work is always there, waiting, anytime I need a break. There’s a life-lesson there, after this traumatic year. If you have something that gets your mind off yourself, that feeds your senses, and leaves you with something positive at the end of the day or hour, indulge in it. It’s medicine, and we all need it, as surely as we need a vaccine.

Take care and take it easy, everyone.

Gray Light and Working Cozy

JFries snow branches border

It’s been all snow, ice, mellow jazz in the background, warm soft clothes with big fluffy scarves, bird watching, art puttering, and spiced chai with cream since last I posted. In keeping with February in Massachusetts, my view has been largely inward – spring cleaning the junk inside my head as well as in my rooms, and avoiding the freezing damp. I hope you are all keeping well and warm, despite storms and craziness.

I’ve been working on a new-to-me water-media technique, using soft pastels like watercolor. I started doing this on small sketches sometime last year, and it was kind of a breakthrough for me. The graininess of pastel pigments gives the paintings a subtle, impressionistic texture compared to watercolor. There’s a dreamy effect that I’m falling in love with. Plus wet pastel adheres to the paper well, as long as you don’t lay it on too thick or in too many layers. No dust floating off.

For tiny drawings in my sketchbook, I just lift color off the stick with a wet brush, treating the sticks like pan watercolors. However, the pastels won’t flow as freely across a surface, so for larger paintings and washes I need to experiment a bit.

Some artists grind pastels to powder and mix them with additives and binders to make them into proper paints. I’m way too lazy for that. But then I thought a stick of color is rather like a stick of ink, isn’t it, so I turned to Chinese and Japanese brush painting, for which solid ink is ground with water on a stone to make liquid ink of the desired consistency. This monochrome study of branches was done by grinding a pastel stick in that manner.

JFries branches 2.2021
Inspired by the dogwood outside my window

I am quite pleased with this method so far. It suits me. The grinding provides a meditative moment to get into the head space. I need to work on the mis-en-place arrangement of tools, play with colors, put together an equipment kit, and so forth. I’ll keep you posted on progress. Meanwhile, this small painting will be available in the shop shortly, along with other works that put me in mind of the season.

That’s all for now. Remember your masks and all that, and take care of yourselves.


January/February Photo Journal

JFries snow dogwood 2.2021
The dogwood
JFries worktable 2.2021
Getting ready, this time to make the new sketchbook
sm JFries SA Scipio 2.2021
Staff meeting with Studio Assistant Scipio
JFries doves in snow 2.2021
Meeting members of the wildlife division for lunch
JFries snow street 2.2021
The view from the studio for the past several weeks