Monotypes Made by Children

“…and still I do not know: am I a falcon, a storm, or a continuing great song?”

—Rilke

Here are some of the monotypes made by the kids during Sunday School recently. Once a month, I lead an art class for the Sunday School at Trinity Church, and I’m constantly amazed by what the children create!

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The Seeker

I live my life in ever widening circles,

each superseding all the previous ones.

Perhaps I never shall succeed in reaching

the final circle, but attempt I will.


I circle around God, the ancient tower,

and have been circling for a thousand years,

and still I do not know: am I a falcon,

a storm, or a continuing great song?

—poem by Rainer Maria Rilke,

translated by Albert Ernest Flemming

Here is the bulletin board full of monotypes, a small sampling of what was created.

Here is the bulletin board full of monotypes, a small sampling of what was created.

Secrets to Happiness: Journal After Italy (part 2)

“Art that is deeply felt and valued is the energy source for all art-making.”

Peggy Campbell, friend and poet

Sequel to Journal After Italy (part1)

Oct. 3, 2017

I wish I could lose sight of myself, my ego, my fears, and just paint, explore, take risks…

“let it grow on it's own…” as Nancy Bossert suggested when I interviewed her for the Irregular.

Well, it will happen. I’ll have days like today. I just need to honor my studio hours and trust that good things will follow.

Oct. 10

So today I painted for 3 hours and I don’t feel satisfied with what I made. But, that’s ok. I mean, painting is learning. I’m not always going to crank out shining pieces of art that people are eager to buy. What I keep stumbling up against is this realization that the chiaroscuro work feels boring to me. I can’t seem to accept it, and I keep choosing to do it rather than other things, because it “feels safe.” But I can’t shake this feeling that it’s not what I’m supposed to be doing.

I know I’m afraid of messing up and making bad art, but that’s OK.

New goal: Make some bad art while growing and exploring!

“ Morning Alone”  painted paper collage, 4x6 inches

Morning Alone” painted paper collage, 4x6 inches

Oct. 19

3:30 pm, waiting in the sun for the schoolbus. It’s warm and it smells good: warm autumn smells. I’m looking forward to seeing the kids again, loving them! Hugging them! Listening to them chatter. I love them so much!

The trees across the street wave so gracefully in the warm breeze, so gently, their beautiful greens are so interesting. I think about how I might mix those greens. Tomorrow I’m going to paint outdoors…

I feel like I’m settling into a good autumn rhythm, finding space in each day for all the important things.

my family, reading (see    Storytime Sketches   )

my family, reading (see Storytime Sketches)

Oct. 20

“Art that is deeply felt and valued is the energy source for all art-making.”

Peggy Campbell, friend and poet

“Depth takes time.” —- ibid

Oct. 21

I feel so miserable. I cry at red-lights. I’m so sad. Will I always be sad? My heart hurts so much.

Oct. 22

Utterly overcome by sorrow.

I can’t really fight these emotions. I just have to be gentle with myself.

Later…

[I modeled for an art class at Lafayette College, taught by Ed Kerns.]

Ed Kerns, the professor, had a brief yet stimulating chat with me before class. He had some good observations about me as an artist.

“You’re authentic,” he said. “You’re physical. You want it. But you have not stepped up to your next level of mentor. You want the painting to be so friggin’ good, and it can be, but you gotta be physical with it. You gotta go bigger.” He advised me to get a canvas size closer to gesture size. He also told me to look up the artist Ying Li (whom he could connect me with, if I wished.) She is a juicy painter, driven by natural processes rather than a subject. Her drawings are searching, her art is hard-won (like mine.) A lot of physical scraping and moving, Ed explained.

I was so moved and inspired by my short conversation with Ed. How can he know me so well? The things he said were like bursts of light illuminating the darkness within me…

Where St. Francis Walked (by      Ying Li     )   2006, oil/canvas, 30x40"

Where St. Francis Walked (by Ying Li)
2006, oil/canvas, 30x40"


I miss Italy. I wish I could be there again, walking the hot streets, looking at lemon and cypress trees growing in people’s yards, and all that good food…

Lemon tree in someone’s yard in Civita Castellana, Italy…

Lemon tree in someone’s yard in Civita Castellana, Italy…

Oct. 26, 2017

Secrets to Happiness:

Everyday:

  1. go on a long walk outside

  2. Make Art

  3. Rest

  4. Spend time with family and friends

Nov. 1st, 2017…

At noon I walked to the college art building and Ed Kerns met me. We talked a bit. Then he GAVE me two large canvases! (30x40 inches)

“Make good paintings,” he said.

I nodded like an idiot.

When I got home I practiced the piano. I’m learning two Tchaikovsky pieces, and I let my mind clear. When I’m playing music, and also at times when I’m painting, I have that wonderful freeing sensation of forgetting myself.

I’m so scared to paint large. But…. I have done other scary things. Like…

  1. Giving Birth (twice!)

  2. travelling alone to Italy

  3. calling myself an artist

So, I can do hard, brave things.

Journal After Italy (part 1)

I have been reading A Writer’s Diary by Virginia Woolf, which is an invaluable guide for creative people. Inspired by that, I started re-reading some of my own diaries, starting with my return from Italy in August, 2017. (Casa Bella Città Bella) I decided to publish some excerpts on my blog (my diaries are much too lengthy and private to publish unabridged.) Even so, what follows is Part One of many parts to come.

Going through these journals has been helpful to me , allowing me to reflect on my life and see my art journey with more clarity. Perhaps they will be helpful to others, too!

sunset over Florence, July 2017

sunset over Florence, July 2017

Aug. 23, 2017

I can’t believe my time in Italy is over. It feels like a dream. I worked on my poems today. I think they are ready…

Aug. 30

I’m so unhappy… I’m terribly, terribly sad. I cry all the time.…Wretched is the perfect way to describe myself. Just. So. Wretched. I want to throw up, I’m so unhappy…

my sketchbook, a detail of a fresco in the    Uffizi   , in Florence, Italy

my sketchbook, a detail of a fresco in the Uffizi, in Florence, Italy

Sept. 7th

Intentional Loitering.

There is a different kind of work that will arise from working this way.

So, here I am in my studio. All I did was organize it today, and putter around. But that’s important too. Just like when I was in Italy. I have to stop being so hard on myself. This resistance, this puttering, is part of my process…

I was walking around town doing some errands, it was a lovely sunny day, and I felt keenly aware that any moment some inspiration might strike me, something that wished to be a painting, or a poem, or a story. Deep breaths. Being in the moment. I don’t want to be so scattered as I used to be.

I just know I will thrive in a schedule. A schedule supports my practice. It is not rigid, but supportive and dependable. So I’m trying my best to do the studio 10 am- 3 pm each day. So many other things to juggle (exercise, housework, cooking, family time, friend time, business side of work) but I have got to keep the studio sacred.

I have to have the grace to forgive myself. To work with life. It’s like I’m weaving such a complicated tapestry, and I have so many threads in my hands, it can be quite confusing.

Even though I didn’t paint today, I feel very happy in the studio. I feel happy about getting it perfectly organized so that everything is how I want it to be. It’s my space

set up in my studio, beginning a self-portrait

set up in my studio, beginning a self-portrait

Sept. 8

Ok. Time to get to work. I will lay out my colors. My tantalizing, beloved colors…

Sept. 17

I feel peaceful inside. I feel as though I am on the edge of many worlds. Each world is Art…it’s more like a peaceful opening of doors. A hallways of doors, opening one by one.

“Self Portrait” 14x11 inches, oil on canvas

“Self Portrait” 14x11 inches, oil on canvas

Sept. 27

Today I went for a bike ride with Ian (dreamy) and then painted for 4 hours. I felt like I was in a jungle, some unknown territory of painting, because I couldn’t bear to do another small still life in the chiaroscuro style, with all that damn blending.

But I don’t know how to proceed: I’m flailing about with a palette knife. I did a self portrait of myself at the easel with a blue shirt and some flowers. I scraped away a lot. I don’t know if it’s good. It’s not. But I feel like I had to do it.

Later At [my son’s] soccer practice. Just turned on my laptop and wrote my novel for an hour. It’s slowly coming along. I asked Morgan if it would be weird for him if I set up my easel and painted during practice. He said yes. It would be weird. Oh well.

children playing soccer (sketchbook)

children playing soccer (sketchbook)

Sept. 30

Getting ready to go dancing. My orange-patterned skirt doesn’t fit me; I have gained weight. I’m feeling unattractive. I’m breaking out and notice signs of aging. It’s hard to keep exercise and healthy-eating a priority.

I’ve been so tired lately. I’m emotionally exhausted. I’m doing too much, again. It’s nearly impossible not to. I’d love to curl up with a good book and read all day long under a blanket. Art is hard. Painting is hard. There are these sneaky, unsettling questions at the back of my mind that threaten to bring the whole facade down. Stuff like:

  • “You have nothing to say.”

  • “You’re not good.”

  • “This is all ridiculous.”

I’m trying to set aside my anxieties about money, and my emotional troubles, and just feel grateful for the everyday moments. I’m looking forward to a quiet family day tomorrow, and a cozy evening with Ian, to reconnect with a glass of wine and some time together…

“Vino Rosso” 7x5 inches, oil on board

“Vino Rosso” 7x5 inches, oil on board

Toddler Encountering a Puddle

To see a World in a Grain of Sand And a Heaven in a Wild Flower, Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand And Eternity in an hour.

— WIlliam Blake

folds

“…the remains from the process of mining memories…”

—Ellyn Siftar, artist

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My good friend Ellyn Siftar is a senior at Moravian College, where she will graduate this spring with a major in Philosophy and minors in Art and Biology. It has been a joy to watch Ellyn grow and blossom as an artist over the past few years. I’m constantly inspired by her honesty, passion, and courage! Ellyn is a true artist.

Ellyn will have her first solo show at Moravian College this Friday night, March 22nd, 6-8 pm, in Studio 105, the Student Gallery, South Hall, First Floor, South Campus. “Folds” is third in a series of weekly exhibitions by students in the Senior Studio Thesis course. Exhibition will also be on dispaly for Art Club meeting on March 20th at lunch. I hope to see you there!

Here is Ellyn’s artist statement:

“Folds,” an artist statement by Ellyn Siftar

“Folds”, a solo exhibition in Space 105, includes a series of sculptural artifacts; the remains from the process of mining memories. The work is informed by personal experience, notions of the uncanny, as well as Robert Corrington’s concept of sacred folds which project the semiotic material valuable for the process of “selving”.  Further inspiration for my daily studio practice, choice of materials, and ideas for installation came from a query into the artworks and practices of Louise Bourgeois, Janine Antoni, Robert Gober, and David Ireland. By revisiting the past I was able to reimagine and recreate it in empowered and novel ways.  This process of recollection and manipulation provide a way forward that is life-giving and full of promise rather than static and anchored in a past time and space. 

 

“Submit”,  a small sculpture of sand, syrup, and soapstone, sits immediately upon entry, at the threshold of the gallery. A small pile of sand fanning out and into space, the soapstone carved into a diamond-shaped receptacle, collects syrup, impressions in the sand from a kneeling figure having hovered over the form. It is a work made for the grandmother I have never known. She gave birth to eleven children and was constantly on her knees:  cleaning floors, planting in the garden, tying and buttoning children’s clothing, and praying.   


“Alluvial Fan” utilizes my father’s military parachute.  It’s a relic of war games but has also functioned as a gauzy fort for children.  It’s both necessary for survival when serving in its military sense but the threads that once kept it airborne are now cut and braided by the hands of two generations of children.  It gathers up and accrues.


“A Song for Malcolm” excavates memories of loss and grief. An ovoid soapstone carving lies underwater at the bottom of a copper wash tub, submerged and burdensome.  After the death of twenty friends in eighteen months, I am in uncharted territory and I am drowning. There is promise in the sky.


“Stone Fruit”, a golden nest cradles a soapstone peach and rests on the chair’s cracking leather seat.  The chair was a gift from my mother before she moved to the west: a solid place to rest. The peach is a poem for her.

Other guest blog posts by Ellyn Siftar: Flirting with the Sky and Mary Magdalene as Melancholy

“Folds” will be at Space 105, at Moravian College in Bethlehem. Space 105: Space 105 is a gallery on campus at Moravian College dedicated solely to student exhibitions.

Moravian College

344 Main Street (near Foy Hall )
Bethlehem, PA 18018

Campus Map

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Light of the Firefly

“…only light and wind before us…”

more poems and paintings by John David Wissler

“Near the Beginning” oil on panel, 12 x 12 inches

“Near the Beginning” oil on panel, 12 x 12 inches

Light of the Firefly

cloud, broken, gray, blue, purple.... hint of orange,

red sky, green against cadmium orange, Naples yellow...

sun descending,

descending, revealing its size

brightening the sky

touching the clouds, its color moving towards me through haze,

atmosphere brightening, filling space with color,

earth darkening,

masses merging, shadow passed and enveloping

dampness rising...filling my nostrils with moisture and smell

bare feet touching the now wet grass

time without comprehending, only feeling,

light now dim, star, cloud,

birds sing there ending, jubilant (my eyes close)

light of the firefly...... rising...lofty..holy...

“Until Tomorrow” oil on panel 12 x 16 inches

“Until Tomorrow” oil on panel 12 x 16 inches


The Brilliant Light of Dusk

facing toward the brilliant light of dusk

wind, cold, crisp, clear

seeing, as if the first time, into our future

knowing what has been

cherishing what is

relishing the future (with trepidation)

loving friend, there by our side

loving family, there with us

loved ones there, on our left ...our right..only light and wind before us.

God is there, not just light and wind!

faith tested, strong, by our side

friend, family, steady the coarse

you, there for me,

I, there for you,

not knowing, but there, always…

“A Shared Ending” oil on panel 12 x 12 inches

“A Shared Ending” oil on panel 12 x 12 inches

Chill in the Morning Air

chill in the morning air,

sun begins its trip as I wander through the field behind my studio

looking for the beauty of things

light...color...tree...earth...green...

turning, I see the edge of my studio, red in the clump of pine

painting...collecting

empty, this morning I am empty

empty can be good...for it can be filled...this morning

just

empty.

I stop walking, knowing I must soon get my coffee and ride to Lancaster,

working at the gallery...while my head is out here

walking in the field

looking...wandering

just want to keep walking,

days like this...you know!

just keep looking, wandering, collecting what I see

filling myself...my mind,

not sure of it all,

wandering...wondering...looking ...painting…

life is empty today, and so am I,

no paint...no marks... (in the studio paintings turn to mud)

there is beauty in the chill of this air

the sun raking through the pine hitting the red studio wall

I will enjoy the coffee... seeing the folks at the gallery

I begin to fill…

“Beyond the Cove” oil on panel, 12 x 24 inches. This painting will be part of my show, opening in April ( 4-5 ) , at  Lancaster Galleries .

“Beyond the Cove” oil on panel, 12 x 24 inches. This painting will be part of my show, opening in April ( 4-5 ) , at Lancaster Galleries.

Pierced By Stars


darkness, pierced by stars

ink, alive and moving

night, pierced by stars

brush, scraping and flowing

my day .... fulfilled…

fulfilled in darkness,

fulfilled in ink,

alive and moving…

“Eyes Wide Open” oil on paper 4.5 x 4.125 inches

“Eyes Wide Open” oil on paper 4.5 x 4.125 inches

Additional blog posts containing poems and art by JD Wissler.

Edge

Stars Make Their Own Space

Piano Memories

“..they both looked shyly toward the piano…”

—Rainer Maria Rilke, “A Childhood Memory”

A Childhood Memory

Advancing darkness lent a richness to the room

in which the boy sat hiding, waiting silently.

And as the mother entered, dreamlike, suddenly

a glass kept trembling in the silent cabinet.

She sensed the room’s betrayal of her presence

and saw her son and kissed him: Are you here?…

Then both looked shyly toward the piano,

where many an evening she had played a song

that strangely moved and touched him deep inside.

He sat quite still. His wide gaze never leaving

the hands that seemed quite bent down by her rings.

As if they were through heavy snowdrifts ploughing

while traversing the whiteness of the keys.

Rainer Maria Rilke, “A Childhood Memory”

“A Childhood Memory (2)” monotype, 5x5 inches

“A Childhood Memory (2)” monotype, 5x5 inches

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about Rilke’s poem, “A Childhood Memory.” The images from this poem have been lingering at the edges of my consciousness for quite awhile. It’s almost as if they have an actual presence, like they are people longing to become visible to me. And yet, if I turn to face them, they hide, obscured by shadows that shift and change. So, rather than forcing the creative process, I’ve been courting these images in a playful way by making monotypes. My belief is that these monotypes will lead me to something new and surprising, possibly even a series of paintings. Here are some of the results of my explorations so far:

“A Childhood Memory (3)” monotype, 5x5 inches

“A Childhood Memory (3)” monotype, 5x5 inches

“A Childhood Memory (4)” monotype, 5x5 inches

“A Childhood Memory (4)” monotype, 5x5 inches

“A Childhood Memory (5)” monotype, 5x5 inches

“A Childhood Memory (5)” monotype, 5x5 inches

“A Childhood Memory (6)” monotype, 5x5 inches

“A Childhood Memory (6)” monotype, 5x5 inches

“A Childhood Memory (7)” monotype, 5x5 inches

“A Childhood Memory (7)” monotype, 5x5 inches

* 100% of the proceeds from “A Childhood Memory (1)” will go to help buy new sheet music for the students at Ridge Street Elementary School, a public school in a high-need community in Newark, NJ. My sister Karen is a music teacher at this school (K-8). Please consider contributing to this good cause which helps bring music to children!

Stars Make Their Own Space

more poems and walnut ink sketches by John David Wissler

The Light of Evening

the light of evening catching my eye

dancing through a row of trees

I turn to see where you are

familiar but not the same

time as light passing

dancing

shining through that which is

through that which was

shining , yes , still shining

familiar and somehow new

you are

we are

those we love, family

those who gave us life, loved ones

those who give....and never ask

I focus now

the light changes

sun, below the ridge

below the row of trees

majestic, solid, no.... ethereal

together we are in this life

friend, family, sister, brother, Father , Mother

always the same

never the same

color... radiant, known and unknown

love... full shining

surrounding , no, enveloping who we are

together , all of us touched by the other

stars beginning to emerge

I turn to see where you are

be strong my friend... I am there to hold you up....

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Holding My Breath

holding my breath....alive in the moment

seeing the moon through a vale of dappled cloud

color...is...light

light ...is ...color

stars make their own space

shining through the vale like precious stone

light bathes the earth

hitting faces turned upward

Sun Descending

sun descending

descending , reveling its size

brightening the sky

touching the clouds, its color moving towards me through haze

atmosphere, brightening, filling space with color

earth darkening

masses merging, shadow passed and enveloping

dampness rising... filling my nostrils with moisture and smell

bare feet touching the now wet grass

time without comprehending, only feeling

light now dim, star, cloud,

birds sing there ending, jubilant (my eyes close)

light of the firefly......rising...lofty..holy...

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Smith College Art Museum

“Color directly influences the soul, color is the keyboard, the eyes are the hammer,

the soul is the piano with many strings.”

—Kandinsky

“Autumn Impression” by Kandinsky

“Autumn Impression” by Kandinsky

Over Presidents’ Day weekend, my husband and kids and I took a road trip up to Easthampton, Massachusetts to visit with friends. We had a really great time sharing meals, stories, playing games, and going on walks together.

One very special thing we did was a day trip to the Smith College Art Museum in Northampton.

Here are a few of my favorite paintings. Please forgive any shortcomings in my phone-photos.

Enjoy!

“Surf Fisherman” by Milton Avery

“Surf Fisherman” by Milton Avery

“The Seine at Bougival, Evening” Monet

“The Seine at Bougival, Evening” Monet

close-up detail of the treeline in previous painting, “The Seine at Bougival, Evening” by Monet

close-up detail of the treeline in previous painting, “The Seine at Bougival, Evening” by Monet

“The First Leaves” by Dwight William Tryon

“The First Leaves” by Dwight William Tryon

“Trees by the River Gein” by Piet Mondrian

“Trees by the River Gein” by Piet Mondrian

“Rooftops” by Bonnard

“Rooftops” by Bonnard

Related Post (Art Museums):

Mother-Daughter Trip to the Met

Solitude’s Trespass: a poetic response to the Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun exhibit in 2016 at the Met

A Childhood Memory

“…where many an evening she had played a song/ that strangely moved and touched him deep inside.”

—Rainer Maria Rilke, “A Childhood Memory”

sketch for a painting, 4x6” gouache on envelope

sketch for a painting, 4x6” gouache on envelope

This month I am working on a painting inspired by a Rilke poem, “A Childhood Memory.” I’ve done bunch of sketches for it, and I plan to do some monotypes next week. (This week isn’t working out because school keeps getting cancelled due to weather, and I’ve been distracted with kids.)

I’m haunted by the image of a boy’s wide eyes in the shadows, and a woman, also in shadows, playing the piano at night, the piano keys gleaming white, like the moonlight.

Here’s the poem:

poem by Rainer Maria Rilke, translation by Albert Ernest Flemming

poem by Rainer Maria Rilke, translation by Albert Ernest Flemming

Here is one of the pencil sketches I did in preparation for the painting:

“A Childhood Memory” pencil sketch

“A Childhood Memory” pencil sketch

So, this post is just a little glimpse into my process. Hopefully it will be interesting and/or useful to someone! It’s all I have time to do today. Now I’ve got to take my kids outside to burn off some energy! The sun is shining, and it’s a good day for a walk to the library.

Further Reading: Piano Memories

"Edge," and other poems by JD Wissler

“I often find myself there…”

ink wash by JD Wissler (sketchbook)

ink wash by JD Wissler (sketchbook)

Edge

edge

standing there looking 
toward the horizon
toward that which holds you...keeps you from moving
keeps you looking

edge
edges
perceived...painted, drawn , remembered
edges

I often find myself there ( or is it here?)
standing and looking
painting , squinting , remembering
edges.....life

edge
being there is life 
distant and vital , at the same time
holding, and moving , at the same time

I often find my self there.......

monotype by JD Wissler

monotype by JD Wissler

There, in the Meadow

there, in the meadow 
sound, moving
wind steadily louder

shutters begin to tap on the bricks
I glance out the window, into the dark
I look at mom saying, just stepping out to feel

feel the chill
wind, enlivening the skin on my face
my hair moving

my eyes turn to the night sky
between the clouds.... stars
between the clouds.... moon

wind every where
surrounding moving 
sounding through the bare branches

I suddenly know the cold (no coat on )
I smile thinking of friends together painting...looking at the night sky
turning toward the porch...toward the door

now in the warm
the wind still sounding outside
reminding me how lucky I am

Lucky to have feeling
to have time to see
to experience

there...wind in the meadow......

Emily

artist Emily Nelligan (1924-2018)

Her quiet soul fills the island air 
hand moving over paper 
as tide rises and falls

spirit touching each stone
again ...and ...again
light , dark, horizon, sea

she is the island 
the island is she
kindred, kind soul

whisper in the darkness
Emily.
emily........

drawing by Emily Nelligan

drawing by Emily Nelligan

Stay Present

“Don’t try to control it. Stay present with whatever comes up, and keep your hand moving.”

—Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones

Morgan reading comic books.  charcoal, 18x24 inches

Morgan reading comic books. charcoal, 18x24 inches

It’s Wednesday and I’m having a hard time building up momentum in the studio. On Monday, my son was feeling sick, so he stayed home from school. He sat in my studio and read comic books while I sketched him.

Morgan reading “Wings of Fire, Book 6” pencil on paper, 18x24 inches

Morgan reading “Wings of Fire, Book 6” pencil on paper, 18x24 inches

He perked up and did some painting of his own while I set up a still life for myself. (not shown)

Volcano in process.

Volcano in process.

Yesterday there was no school (snow day!) and I did ZERO art. We went to the park and played in the snow.

Today is ANOTHER snow-day…

We shall see what happens!

Persephone

“If only we are willing to give right names to things, this is no harm that has been done, but only love …”

—Ovid (Metamorphoses)

“‘No regrets,’ she said.” 11x14 inches, oil on canvas, now hanging at the  Baum School of Art  until February 7th.

“‘No regrets,’ she said.” 11x14 inches, oil on canvas, now hanging at the Baum School of Art until February 7th.

"No regrets,” she said…

I’ve been asked many times to explain the title of this painting. First, I have to tell you about one of my favorite Greek myths, the story of Persephone. In the version I know best, Persephone was the daughter of Demeter, who was the harvest goddess. When Hades, the god of the underworld, saw Persephone picking flowers in the springtime, he immediately desired her for his queen, and he kidnapped her. Demeter had a fit and finally she convinced the king of the gods, Zeus, to intervene and bring Persephone back to the land of the living.

However, Persephone had already eaten six pomegranate seeds, and because of this, she had to remain in the underworld six months out of the year. She could return to her mother and the warmth and sunshine during the other six months, thus explaining the changing of the seasons.

Hades offering his kidnapped bride a pomegranate , pen and gouache sketch, 8x10”

Hades offering his kidnapped bride a pomegranate, pen and gouache sketch, 8x10”

“If only we are willing to give right names to things, this is no harm that has been done, but only love … But if you so greatly desire to separate them, Persephone shall return to heaven, but on one condition only: if in the lower-world no food has as yet touched her lips. For so have the MOERAE decreed." (Zeus to Demeter. Ovid, Metamorphoses)

“Temptation” oil on canvas, 5x7 inches, January 2016

“Temptation” oil on canvas, 5x7 inches, January 2016

This myth could be interpreted in two extremely different ways. On the one hand, it could be a story of regrets and shame, and of a woman giving into temptation, making a poor decision which condemns her to a life of misery and darkness, and even shame, like Eve.

OR…

On the other hand, it could be a story about a woman claiming her power and her full self. The Underworld needn’t be a hateful, hellish place. Rather, it could be seen as one’s unconscious, or creative inner-world, the dark side which we all have, which is a part of us. This could be a story about a woman claiming both sides of herself; light and shadow, and literally becoming a Goddess.

And so she says to herself, “No regrets,” either because it is true, or because she wishes it to be true. She knows it is pointless to harbor regrets and shame, because the fruit needed to be eaten. The seasons needed to change.

She was ready for this change.

And, perhaps she truly loved him…

“ Eve ” 14x11 inches, oil on canvas.

Eve” 14x11 inches, oil on canvas.

Further Reading:

Eve: the concept of felix culpa (blessed fault), and the portrait of my friend Heather (above)

Poems about Painting: Part 4 (comparing Eve and Persephone)

Persephone: an interesting website I found

Hades Welcomes His Bride: a poem by A.E. Stallings

Persephone Writes a Letter to Her Mother: a poem by A.E. Stallings

(both poems are from the book Archaic Smile)

Ellen Sapienza

“…draw on everyday life for inspiration, and look for the interesting and the unexpected

in the flow of mundane or routine experience.” —John Schmidtberger

Ellen Sapienza “Cluttered Table” 32x28 inches framed, $900

Ellen Sapienza “Cluttered Table” 32x28 inches framed, $900

On Sunday afternoon, I gave my first “Artist Talk” ever at Schmidtberger Fine Art Gallery. Ellen Sapienza also spoke with me. Sapienza is my fellow artist and partner in the current two-person show, “Here in This World.” During the talk, I was struck by some of the things Sapienza had to say about her process, so I thought I would write them down here to keep them with me.

Ellen Sapienza “Flowers on the Mantle” Oil on Canvas 26″x30″ SOLD

Ellen Sapienza “Flowers on the Mantle” Oil on Canvas 26″x30″ SOLD

  1. Sapienza paints large, on un-stretched canvases attached directly to the wall. She often paints several at a time, moving between them as she chooses.

  2. Because her paintings are not stretched, she can decide later where she wants her edges to be, which gives her more freedom with the composition.

  3. There is no rush to finish a painting. Ellen sometimes waits 15 years before returning to something unfinished, and completing it. It’s not a race.

“Interior, Green Table” oil on canvas by Ellen Sapienza. 24”x30” $650

“Interior, Green Table” oil on canvas by Ellen Sapienza. 24”x30” $650

4. Ellen starts with observation and response to a subject, but later, memory plays a role in her creative process.

“Still Life in the Studio” oil on canvas by Ellen Sapienza. 40”x30” $1100

“Still Life in the Studio” oil on canvas by Ellen Sapienza. 40”x30” $1100

John Schmidtberger, the gallery owner, said that both Sapienza and myself “draw on everyday life for inspiration, and look for the interesting and the unexpected in the flow of mundane or routine experience.” I’m so pleased by the comparison, and also I’m excited to expand my own creative practice, but taking my time and going slower on my paintings, and being brave enough to try my hand at some bigger work.

So, thank you Ellen Sapienza, for showing your work with me, and for inspiring me to try new things!

Storytime Sketches

“When you honor the ordinary moments of life, you bring balance and joy to your family.”

—Shea Darian, Seven Times the Sun

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For almost three years, I have been sketching my family in the evenings while my husband reads the bedtime story. When they were younger, we used to read picture books, but now we have moved on to chapter books. (Lately we have been reading the Prydain Chronicles, a series of books I loved when I was a kid.)

Anyway, since Thanksgiving is tomorrow, I have been thinking about how grateful I am for my family. These sketches bear witness to this gratitude.

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Ian reading to Morgan in the Living Room, gouache on paper, 6x9” I think this is an afternoon scene.

Ian reading to Morgan in the Living Room, gouache on paper, 6x9” I think this is an afternoon scene.

And finally, here is the most recent sketch, from last night!

And finally, here is the most recent sketch, from last night!

Happy Thanksgiving to my blog readers! I hope that you find time to spend with the people you love.

Here in This World

“But what is it then that sits in my heart…?”

—Mary Oliver

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"But what is it then that sits in my heart,
that breathes so quietly, and without lungs--
that is here, here in this world, and yet not here?"


--Mary Oliver, "The Leaf and the Cloud" excerpt

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I’m really too busy to blog this month, but here are some paintings and works-in-progress to show you that I’m still alive. I’m preparing for THREE shows in the next two months, and feeling a little insane. I have never worked harder at painting in my life, and I’m totally exhausted, also I keep losing my keys and glasses and falling asleep. Aaah!

Soon the shows will be hung and I can resume a more sustainable pace!

Please come to the first upcoming show: “Here in This World” which is a two-person show including oil paintings by Ellen Sapienza and myself. Opening reception is Saturday, December 1st, 5-7 pm, at the Schmidtberger Fine Art Gallery in Frenchtown, New Jersey.

I’m soooooooo excited!

on the easel: a pat of butter #workinprogress

on the easel: a pat of butter #workinprogress

Ok, back to work!!!

Monotype Workshop

“Don’t worry about it too much. Just do it.”

— John David Wissler, artist

“Field at Kings Oaks” one of my first monotypes! 7x10”

“Field at Kings Oaks” one of my first monotypes! 7x10”

On Saturday, I got to participate in an all-day monotype workshop at Art at Kings Oaks in Newtown, PA. Leading the workshop was the amazing artist, JD Wissler. (You can hear an interview with him on the Savvy Painter podcast.) JD is one of the kindest people I have ever met; he inspired me with his genuine joy and goodwill.

Here is a picture of JD demonstrating the monotype process.

Here is a picture of JD demonstrating the monotype process.

JD also showed us books containing monotypes made by his friend, the artist Emily Nelligan, and also Degas. I was amazed by how much feeling was expressed with such simplicity.

This is an Emily Nelligan monotype. (The other monotypes in this post are mine, from the workshop!)

This is an Emily Nelligan monotype. (The other monotypes in this post are mine, from the workshop!)

I had never made a monotype before; it turns out there are different ways to do it, and JD was showing us his favorite way. The nice thing about his method is that it doesn’t require a press, which is expensive. Monotypes are prints made by painting or drawing on a smooth, non-absorbent surface. We used plexiglass.

Small square of plexiglass 5x5”

Small square of plexiglass 5x5”

Step 1. Paint on plexiglass with oil based, black speedball block printing ink.

Step 2. Draw on the plexiglass, either with a brush, or wiping away with a rag (subtractive painting), bits of cardboard, sticks, grass, sandpaper…. whatever! experiment and have fun.

Step 3. Place the paper on top of the plexiglass and rub it down vigorously and thoroughly with a bone folder.

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Step 4. Ta-Da! Lift up the paper and see what you made! It’s such a fun surprise!

Step 5 (optional) You can paint over it later, or work into with pastels, or use it for ideas for future paintings!

My first monotype! 5x5”

My first monotype! 5x5”

Not only did I learn this delightful, new art-making method, but I also got to spend time with my dear friend, the artist Kristen Peyton. I met Kristen in Italy during the summer of 2017, where we were roommates at the JSS in Civita painting residency. (Read my Interview with Kristen Peyton, Reflections on Resonance, and Story of My Trip to Italy.) Kristen was in town, visiting from Virginia, because she had several paintings in a group show at Art at Kings Oaks, where the workshop took place. (The show was fantastic!!)

Anyway, here we are together on Saturday, taking a selfie during the monotype workshop:

Kristen and me!

Kristen and me!

Making monotypes involves a serious letting go of control. It felt like just the perfect thing for me, as lately I have been struggling so hard to “paint well.” Monotypes balance chaos and control in a lovely way. No matter how hard you try, there is always an element of surprise. Wonderful things might happen by mistake with the ink and the paper, that you didn’t plan, but are actually better than what you planned. The important thing is to just do the work, and allow the process to happen. (This seems like a pretty accurate metaphor for Life, too.)

Here’s a photo of the teacher, JD, giving some guidance to Kristen.

Here’s a photo of the teacher, JD, giving some guidance to Kristen.

“Don’t worry about it too much. Just do it. See what happens.

Doing is the way to understand it.”

— JD Wissler

Bend in the driveway. 5x5”

Bend in the driveway. 5x5”

I had so much fun making monoprints! I just kept making them, one after the other. I got such a “high” from lifting the paper up to see what had happened, usually nothing like what I thought it would be, but just a delightful surprise. I felt like I wanted to make a hundred, or three hundred of these, or more!

Field No. 1 (one of my early efforts) 5x5”

Field No. 1 (one of my early efforts) 5x5”

I asked JD if there was a way to translate this joy into oil painting.

“Keep that spontaneity,” he said. “It will inform your painting.”

Field No. 2 5x5”

Field No. 2 5x5”

JD continued to emphasize the importance of the process. He explained how his last painting always inspires the next one.

“I’m never satisfied with my work,” he said. “My last painting always answers some questions, but asks more questions. That drives my work.”

We made monotypes all day. I had a blast!

Small sample of class work!

Small sample of class work!

I’m deeply grateful for the opportunity to participate in this workshop. I feel so lucky to be able to learn something new and I’m bubbling over with all the possibilities! And I’m even more grateful for the chance to spend time with other artists and talk about art for hours in a supportive environment. What a gift!

Field. No.3 5x5”

Field. No.3 5x5”

“There’s something good about finding something you love to look at,

and returning to it over and over again.”

—JD Wissler

Two Trees.  Monotype.  5x5”

Two Trees. Monotype. 5x5”

Girl With a Flute

“The workshop made me question, what is an artist? What is the definition of an artist? Are you an artist because you are paid, or are you an artist because you like to draw or paint?

And…I think I’m an artist. I’m an artist! I am an artist!!!”

— Irene Tatariw Trindle (my Mom) during a recent phone conversation

Finished collage by Irene Tatariw Trindle, inspired by Vermeer’s “Girl With a Flute” (acrylic painted paper and glue)

Finished collage by Irene Tatariw Trindle, inspired by Vermeer’s “Girl With a Flute” (acrylic painted paper and glue)

A guest blog post and photos by Irene Tatariw Trindle (aka Mom):

Last Wednesday, I signed up for a weekend collage workshop led by Rotem Amizur, a talented artist from Israel. This workshop was an unbelievable opportunity for me to learn how to do collage. It happened like this: I read about it last week when I saw a link for the workshop on Facebook. The workshop was presented by Art at Kings Oaks in Newtown, PA, not far from my home in New Hope, and it was to take place in a few days: October 13th & 14th.  I wasn’t thinking of taking the class; I did not consider myself an artist. So, I “Shared” the link on Facebook in order to spread the word to others.

My artist-daughter, Lauren, kept telling me that I should sign up for it. She said, “You can do this, Mom. I know you can do this.” She felt so strongly about it! She kept telling me to register for the workshop.

Example (from Facebook comments below the workshop link):

Lauren Kindle (my daughter): Mom, you would love this workshop, you should take it!  I wish I could.

Irene Tatariw Trindle: does one need to be an artist to take this workshop?  I would think so…

Lauren Kindle: No need to be anyone but yourself.


The next day, text messages…

Lauren (texting):  Please do it or I'm going to self-destruct with angst.

Lauren (again): The suspense is unbearable.

Irene: Do not self destruct.  There is an opening.  I am in the workshop.,


It made me question, why is Lauren saying this? Why is she saying I can do this? My daughter’s positive energy motivated me to sign up; I had no choice, I had to register for the workshop!

My painted paper (on the left), from the Rotem Amizur workshop.

My painted paper (on the left), from the Rotem Amizur workshop.

Registration was very easy using the link.  I also called the telephone number to ask if non-artists could enroll, because I would be a collage beginner.

“Do you have to be an artist to take this workshop?” I asked. “Is there an opening?” I was told that there was an opening and that I was welcome to register for the workshop.

And so, I arrived at Kings Oaks in Newtown, PA, where I was warmly greeted by Clara Weishahn.  The first thing I said was:  "Sorry I'm late!"  And, Clara said:  "You are an hour early.  Come to the Gallery and take a look at our current group exhibition.  Take your time and enjoy.  Would you like coffee or tea?" The group exhibition is of 26 artists from across the United States, France, and Israel. 

I enjoyed viewing the works because the artists' works were very different from one another yet they came together beautifully in a colossal historic barn.  It was worth the trip just to look at the barn!  There is also a stone chapel on the property; it is lovely!  I then met Alex Cohen, an artist/curator and Clara's partner.  I gushed over how lovely the exhibit was and that I was looking forward to the workshop. Participants started to arrive and we met the teacher, Rotem Amizur, a beautiful young woman, inside and outside.  We went to our classroom; a perfect cozy  room with lots of windows and wonderful light.  

Rotem Amizur leading the art workshop!

Rotem Amizur leading the art workshop!

We were given 14+ sheets of plain printer paper. We were told to paint them in pairs with the same colors; there should be two painted papers with the same color. We should have a mixture of light and dark colors, and, warm and cool tones.  We used a 1" brush to paint each paper and supposedly, the first paper would be dry by the time we finished painting the last paper, that is, except for me.  I painted them so thickly that Rotem had to get a fan to blow on my papers so that they would dry in time for the next step.

Then, we were supposed to paint over the dry painted papers, using their opposite.  So, the paper that I painted yellow, a warm color, would be painted over with a cool color such as blue or green.  But, I could not paint too thickly, the brush needed to skim over the palette to remove excess paint.  The paints need to "breathe" on the paper;  that means after I paint the yellow paper a cool color, I should be able to glimpse the yellow under the blue or green paint.

People around me were painting very quickly producing many sheets of painted papers.  Consequently, they had a huge palette to work from.  I was able to do the minimum.  This was my first time working with acrylic paints.  I could not wait to do the “real” art.  However, it was mentioned that preparing these papers was real art, too.

Vermeer’s painting: “Girl With a Flute”.

Vermeer’s painting: “Girl With a Flute”.

Rotem showed us a book on Vermeer, the painter.  She asked us to look at the darks and the lights in one of the paintings, and the colors underneath the darks and the lights.  She had many lovely Vermeer reproductions that were spread on a table. The reproductions were flipped over and mixed up so that we had no idea what reproduction we were going to select. We had to pick one.  I did not like the one I picked.  I did not like that it was a portrait and I did not like anything about the young girl in the painting. It was called "Girl with a Flute" (1665-70).  I wanted a reproduction of flowers or fruit; I thought those would be easier for me to "manage".  But, I got the “Girl with a Flute.”   

Rotem told us to look for the largest areas of dark and lights in our painting reproductions.  She said we should identify them and we could call the largest one “Pair One”.  Then, look for another pair, and that would be “Pair Two”, and, finally, “Pair Three”.  She said paintings could have more pairs but at this stage we would just identify three pairs.  A pair would be a dark and a light. We used pins to tack our plain white paper to a piece of foam core.  This plain white paper was our "canvas". 

Starting the collage…

Starting the collage…

My girl in the painting was wearing a dark blue dress and I happened to have a very dark blue painted paper.  So I used my scissors and cut a piece of the paper. I used pins to attach my cut painted paper to my "canvas".  The only cuts allowed were straight cuts.  No curves.  This was hard to do.  I wanted to cut the paper so it looked just like her dress but that was not to be.  Straight cuts, only.  The dress had highlights in it, so I had to pick one of my colored papers that would be the pair to the very dark blue that I picked for the dress.

I would stare at my "canvas" trying to figure out what to do next.  Others were working busily and were starting on their second collage.  The other participants were more skilled and experienced than me. Rotem kindly told me that if I had time, I could do a second collage, but it was ok to just do one.  That took lots of pressure off me.  I would spend lots of time just staring at my attempts. So by the end of the first day, my "painting" did not look like anything but a few pieces of cut out papers.  So, not only was I an hour early on the first day, I stayed 1.5 hours after the workshop ended, hoping to make progress. 

Day 1, End of Day 1. Work in progress by Irene Tatariw Trindle

Day 1, End of Day 1. Work in progress by Irene Tatariw Trindle

I went home and reframed my thinking.  I said to myself, “from now on I am going to just work on one area and complete it, then go on to another pairing, and then my final pairing.”  I was going to pay attention to what Rotem told us. The next morning, armed with a renewed outlook, I approached my "canvas" and told the Girl With a Flute that I really liked her and we were going to make this work.  I told her that there were lots of things that I liked about her, and that I loved her.  

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Rotem said:  "Look at your ‘painting’ from a distance.  Squint.  Look at your ‘painting’ from a distance again." She also advised us to work with the largest areas first.  It’s ok to layer your papers.  Cut straight lines.  Build papers on top of papers to make curves.  Each piece of paper is attached to the foam core with the straight pins.  So the longer one worked, the more pins in the foam core. 

After all the papers are pinned to the foam core, one needs to glue them to one another, layer by layer.  Just put glue on a small brush and then put glue over the paper and just under the edges.  Then, work around the edges of the paper below that, and so on.  As the papers are glued, the pins are gently removed.  The girl's hat had darks and lights, so I ended up cutting very thin "straight" pieces of paper to help it look lighter. I got into it!

And, then, Rotem said:  "This is beautiful, Irene.  Lets pin it up on the wall with the others."  I was not sure it was ready but Rotem said it was.  After Rotem pinned "my girl" next to the other finished ‘canvases,’ I almost cried with joy.  It looked good.  It looked beautiful.  It looked really wonderful next to all the other completed collages. 

I was so happy;  I could not stop smiling.  

My Mom and the workshop leader, artist Rotem Amizur! (Thanks, Rotem, for making my Mom smile!!)

My Mom and the workshop leader, artist Rotem Amizur! (Thanks, Rotem, for making my Mom smile!!)

Wonderful work by the students in Rotem’s workshop!

Wonderful work by the students in Rotem’s workshop!