Thursday, July 31, 2008

Finding beauty in chaos

Finding beauty in chaos
Oil on Panel

"You need chaos in your soul to give birth to a dancing star."

Friedrich Nietzsche

This is my piece for the Tahoe Lost and Found project, which my friends Melissa Gregory and Becky Bell (TAMC) are organising to raise money for Angora Fire victims. Everyone around Tahoe can tell you where they were when they first saw the fire, mesmerised and horrified as we all were at the time.

Taylor and I had been fishing at Hobart Lake on the Carson side of the mountain, so the first we saw of the smoke was the pretty sunset as we descended towards Carson City. I had been taking photos of the burnt trees in that valley - the trees made for very dramatic, black vertical repetitions, with diagonal shadows cast down the steep hillside. The imagery appealed to my more abstract leanings, and I took lots of cropped photographs before we descended a little further and saw the smokey skies for the first time. I wasn't sure at first what we were seeing - a hazy sky brought on by the blistering heat? But it quickly dawned on us that the haze was indeed yellowish smoke, and the hot pink sky behind it was disappearing.

We got home to Tahoe after dark, and from our deck high above the basin we could see the Angora fire raging. The mountain was on fire, and the glow illuminated the night sky. We could see individual trees bursting into flames through binoculars, spiraling upwards with ferocious speed. It was like the horror film you can't stop watching.

I did the abstract paintings the next day, but they are so black I don't know if I'll ever show them. I used to do a lot of very dark work, back in my student days. I try not to engage that side of myself these days, inspiring as it can be to plough the less colourful aspects of my imagination.

I think this painting has enough hope in it to show the world. As far as the theme of the project goes, 'Tahoe: Lost & Found', I think it fits somewhere in the 'found' category - finding beauty in chaos.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The ole' apples and pears

Apples & Pears
Oil on Panel

"The painter who draws merely by practice and by eye, without any reason, is like a mirror which copies everything placed in front of it without being conscious of their existance."

Leonardo Da Vinci

It's funny how even when you might imagine you're secure enough in your career choice that a small knock or two can wreck your motivation to paint. I've had to really talk myself back into the studio again after a series of confidence shaking events, and yesterday I finally began a new big painting. It's a self portrait, a reluctant one, because I had the concept a while back but wanted someone else to be in it. It didn't work out that way so I had to take a picture and work with that. Hey ho. I've also just had a small surgery on my chest, so can't really stretch or lift for fear of ripping my stitches so that's hampered me a bit too.

Today I felt like I needed a 'warm up' so I got into the fruit bowl again, and came up with a little pun which led to a painting I'm quite proud of. I needed a side story - even a joke would do - to motivate the still life, in advance. Most often, the title or anthropomorphism comes during or after the painting, but this time I needed an 'in'. There's always some dialogue between the objects or people I paint, which is open to interpretation by the viewer. Today, the simple pun using cockney rhyming slang was enough stimulus to initiate the painting, and the dialogue evolved by itself. For my American readers, 'Apples and Pears' is rhyming slang for 'stairs' i.e "I'm off up the ole' apples and pears, I'm knackered."

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


This was actually done at Valhalla during my residency - I've been too busy to post much work lately. I was showing my work at the Art, Music & Wine Festival at Squaw Valley last weekend, and it always takes longer than I think to prepare for it.

I swore off outdoor shows last year, and somehow managed to convince myself that it would be ok to do just this one....well, will be my last unless I take the plunge and invest in a proper heavy panel set up. Taylor and I made concrete weights for my tent, and I thought I had it wired so that the wind wouldn't destroy everything, but that was just wishful thinking on my part. A huge gust hit with a woman inside my booth, screaming "I didn't do it, I swear!" as glazed paintings smashed to the floor from both sides. We ran in, trying like cheap entertainers spinning plates, to catch all of my precious artwork as it flung from the walls like a scene from The Exorcist. It was rather stressful to say the least, and my husband is a saint.

It rained on day two, the tent leaked, and the resolution was complete - never again.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Marji Gallery, Santa Fe

Here's my work at the Marji Gallery on Canyon Road in Santa Fe!! Very exciting to be hanging my work in such a cool place. You can see two of my Kokanee paintings in the photo - the two blue ones.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Two Apples

Two Apples
Oil on Panel

This is the first painting I did at Valhalla, using this gorgeously vibrant combination of turqoiuse and red.

I'm still enjoying the studio, but have had no visitors for two days and it's getting a little frustrating. The forest service owns the property Valhalla is on, and they decided for no reason that I can find out to padlock the gate so people can't drive in. I signed a contract already to be there so I'm kind of stuck now. They had a wedding on at the Great Hall on tuesday which might have been fun but it started as I was leaving. There was a memorial on yesterday, and since I paint by the open window, it was is if I was in there. It's hard to stay motivated painting in the middle of a funeral.

I painted a piece for Tahoe Lost and Found yesterday. This is a project my friend Melissa Gregory and Becky Bell are organising to raise funds to replace library books burned in the Angora Fire last year. They have asked local artists and other creative souls to contribute a piece which sums up for them, the experience of the massive fire which destroyed almost 200 homes in the Angora area of Lake Tahoe. The piece will be auctioned at Valhalla later on in the year. I'll post my effort tomorrow, and explain a bit about it then.

If you would like to submit work for the art auction, visit for more details.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Residency at Valhalla

I'm the 'artist in residence' at Valhalla Historic Monument this week. I've got a beautiful little studio looking out over the lawn and the Great Hall, with french windows. There's a huge stone fireplace behind me, and it reminds me of being in Wales. It's amusing to me that American tourists come in to the studio just to look at the dry stonework - beautiful and rustic though it is - they're pretty common where I come from, in fact most of the houses I've lived in are about the same age as this! I really get a perspective on how 'new' America is at times like this.

A little bird came and sat on the tree you can see poking through the window yesterday - I feel so close to nature in there. I'll post the painting I did yesterday later, the bright apple one you can see in progress in this photo. I don't want to leave this studio already, they'll have to evict me by force if I stay too long!