There. I said it. Grief is a sneaky bastard and I feel like I have the right to call it like I see it. The last two years have been full of loss for me. Not looking for sympathy here, just stating the facts. The most significant was the passing of both of my grandfathers and my teaching mentor Karin Baker.

Grief is tricky. I cried and cried, and I guess I thought that while I’d be sad the active part of grieving would be done and I ‘d get on with it. Somehow like I’d get to cross it off my to do list. Turns out, grief is a bit more persistent and sneaky than that.  Some of you may know this already, but I guess I just hadn’t experienced so many losses so close together to feel like before I had healed from one another happened.

So yesterday I was finishing up my lesson plans for summer camp at the New Children’s Museum. I haven’t taught camp in a couple of summers, mostly because San Diego Museum of Art closed down their program in 2009 and that was the primary place I taught, plus I had stopped teaching most programs so I could paint more.

As I was writing my lessons and coming up with the game plan, grief knocked hard on the door. “Who would you most like to call right now?” it asked. Karin Baker. She would know the best plaster recipe, the best place to buy the electrical wire and probably know how much it would cost, plus tax of course, and she would loan me her hard to find Calder Circus video.  But unless I can get AT&T to place a call to heaven, it isn’t going to happen.  And that’s when it hit me, teaching kids brings back the grief of losing Karin.  She was like a mother and a mentor to all of us who taught at one time or another at SDMA and her loss hit all of us really hard. Most of my colleagues have continued to teach kids, and in fact most are classroom teachers and do it every day. I had left that behind to pursue painting full time and don’t think I realized how closely teaching kids was woven together with my love for Karin.

Thinking about what to teach, materials to use, making sure I have a good mix of media, that women artists are represented, looking through the art supply catalog, all reminds me of Karin. I remember the first time I placed an order for materials to teach 4-6 year olds. I wanted googly eyes for a puppet project. I got a brief email back from Karin, who I hadn’t met yet, which just said, “no googly eyes, and by the way don’t order glitter either. Ever.” Classic Karin, and I can hear her giggle as she hit the send button. Turns out, we had glitter, but it was called “dreaded glitter” and was brought out in only the most dire of teaching situations. And that’s the part that makes me laugh, remembering Karin and her wicked sense of humor, her calm ability to deal with any classroom catastrophe, and her forever generous mentoring. And then comes the grief, the missing. So I sit with it, just as I am doing now as I write this.

I’ll be processing through this more in the days and months to come. I’ve got a new adventure ahead, not quite ready to reveal it yet, but let’s just say it’s a dream job and I’d love to call Karin and tell her all about it.

You’ve heard of emotional eating right? Well, I think I am an emotional cooker.  Today is my grandmother’s 90th birthday, and for a variety of reasons I couldn’t make it to the party this weekend in Denver. So, thinking I’d be calling between breakfast, lunch and the party, I called my sister. But I called during brunch. So everyone is there, having a great time and chatting away. It’s not a bad thing, but certainly makes me wish even more I was there. I am the only one left on the West Coast now, and once every now and again, okay frequently, I think maybe it’s time to move closer. I got “passed around” as it were, chatting with my extended family as the cell phone got passed from person to person. Almost like I was there, without the 36 hour turn around flight.

My consolation prize? Quiche.  Today is quiche day.  I’m making a “what things do I have on hand” quiche. So, it’ll have oven roasted tomatoes, ham, scallions and onion, caraway, thyme, provolone and mushrooms. That’s what I love about quiche – you can pretty much put in it whatever you want and as long as the egg/cream ratio is correct, it’s a success.

Cooking is my solace – it’s nurturing, creative, spontaneous and since you have to eat it’s also a necessity.  So while I am not where I’d like to be today, I’ll be eating a fabulous quiche in a bit and taking comfort in planning what’s for dinner.

This has been the theme of late – delayed gratification.  Delayed, sort of like my blogging, but I digress….

Small Flower New Mexico II, 7x21, monotype

Turns out I sold two monotypes that I created almost, gasp, 8 years ago. Another monotype that I made almost 4 years ago was just selected for a large scale hotel project. I never would have guessed it – nobody told me that it would take so long sometimes to sell art. I still really like the pieces, and I suppose somewhere along the way I figured they might never sell and I was happy to keep them. Happier to sell them though!

So back to blogging, I’ve recommitted to getting back to a routine.  It’s not that I haven’t had anything to say, just that I found when I had it to say I couldn’t break away to get it written.  And thanks to the couple of people who actual made a point to tell me they missed my posts. I promise not to make you wait so long between posts!

If you read my blog post yesterday, you’re aware of my current studio conundrum.  If not, you can read it or take my word for it,  I’d rather be printing than painting. For a variety of reasons, however, I feel I need to get back to painting. I have tried to understand exactly why I feel this push, but I don’t know why exactly and so I’m going to use my brain power for better purposes.

Luckily, my gut just gave me permission to ignore my head. I am in love with the new monotypes and excited about where they may go. Believe me, I feel more like a passenger of sorts when I print this new series. I have an educated inkling of how the colors are going to mix and what exact hue will appear from the marriage of the layers. Not knowing exactly feels like I’ve been let out of solitary confinement all of a sudden.  Free to play and layer ink sounds like a fabulous idea to me right now. I know I’ll get back to painting, maybe sooner rather than later, but for now I’m having fun and since it’s not illegal yet, I’m going to keep on printing.

I’ve been busy traveling, printing and teaching this summer. I try to do monotypes during the summer so that I can work in cooler temperatures. Turns out my concentration breaks around 85 so I find that I can print in air conditioning to my heart’s content.  But here’s where I’m beginning to run into trouble: now I want to paint.

For some reason, I’m having a difficult time switching to painting from printing. This usually happens organically for me. I run out of ideas for monotypes, I burn out and then I am fresh to paint. After all, they aren’t that different in my mind, at least in the way I tend to approach both mediums. I see each as a process of layering. The same imagery shows up in both painting and printing and my color palette is about the same too. Until two weeks ago.

I was teaching monotype to a small group of students for the La Jolla Athenaeum. Since it was a smaller group, I ended up experimenting. I have always been curious about the 4 color process – layering yellow, red, blue and black on the same print to achieve a broad and deep range of tones.  Curiosity turned into pay dirt.  I was instantly attracted to the range of tones and color and so in the next week I experimented some more.  I came up with some new, very exciting to me monotypes and I knew that I was on to the next substantial series of monotypes.  

So here’s the dilema: do I continue to struggle to paint and print at the same time? Do I just accept that I’ll be printing into the fall and not paint quite as much as I think I should? Is it that I like to focus on one thing at a time more than I have realized to this point? When I print I tend to go until I run out of paper. Obsessive? Slightly. But I subscribe to the idea that quantity leads to quality. I know that not every print will be a winner, and over the years I’ve learned that I bat about 60%, which is more than enough to make me a happy camper. When I paint I try to shoot a little higher, like 100%.  A bit extreme I know, but I feel like the material and the panels and the effort into each painting means that I need to work on it until I get it right. Maybe that is a part of the hiccup?

I’m not sure where all of this leaves me in getting painting again. I’d like to think that my desire to get going again will be enough to trip the switch inside to find my painting groove. I’ll be continuing the series of monotypes throughout September despite the fact that the weather is turning and the wax is calling my name. Will this time be different? Will I be able to work simultaneously on both? I don’t know, but I’ll keep you posted.

I have decided that I am a compulsive cutter of paper. This should not come as a surprise to anyone who has actually seen my work. It’s pretty obvious from the go get that collage and paper is a pretty big part of my work. What people may not understand is just how big and why.

One of my biggest thrills as a kid was to find unruled drawing paper. Since my Dad was and still is a lawyer, we had plenty of yellow pads of lined paper around but the unlined stuff was much harder to come by. This was back in the day, too, that you didn’t have Office Depot to go buy a ream of paper. I usually had to settle for some kind of freebie pad of paper that we got from somewhere with some kind of ad on it. So when I found paper that was pure, virginal, void of any and all marks, I was in heaven!

Ironically, now I use paper for their inherent markings and symbols and the ideas and ideal that I think they represent. But what hasn’t changed is my need to collect, draw on, cut up and preserve the paper.  If you don’t believe me, here’s a picture of my cutting station in my studio along with the two giant drawers in my flat files that keep all my precious “bitties” as I call them. I am really concentrating on sewing pattern paper and their instructions right now, along with my new interest in the actual packaging with images of the completed patterns. The patterns for me represent some kind of fabricated idea of womanhood and a path that I was supposed to take but didn’t. I love their practicality and the fact that a pattern would help you turn fabric into something but I feel an internal rebellion into thinking that somehow the pattern creates multiples of the same thing. I am constantly thinking about all of the layers of what these patterns mean and how they connect me to the women in my family and women in general.

So to continue to process through these discoveries I manipulate, cut up, mark on, tear, stain and soak paper with wax. I try to reassemble the paper into some new and unique usefulness in my own mind. I want to make them into something new without obliterating what they were to begin with.

I think there is something precious in paper. We use it to send love letters. We make to do lists. Well, some of us do.  We sign legal documents made of paper. We doodle, we draw and we dream on paper. I’d like to think that by including paper in my work I am including all of the history that has touched that paper into my art work. So, I confess right here that I am a compulsive cutter and collager and if there’s a twelve step for that don’t bother inviting me.

I was lucky enough to have four amazing women in an impromptu printmaking session last week.  We were working with carborundum collagraphs and monotype. Since it was only two days, we really tried to pack in as much as possible, with almost everyone bringing their lunch day two so that they could work straight through lunch.

It’s funny when you have such a short period of time to work.  Sometimes it works in my favor – the pressure makes me focus and be efficient. Other times, I cave to the pressure to produce and get very little done and feel quite frustrated, which usually leads me to call a friend and talk about getting a job at either Costco or Home Depot.  This was one of those times. I needed to get a commission done and I just wasn’t feeling it. It could have been because the series is about 4 years old. I’ve moved on and it just doesn’t excite me anymore. I also didn’t really feel giddy about the color palette, I remember that I made the work in the early spring and since it’s summer the palette didn’t feel right.

My friend and fellow artist Maite was in class and I think the morning of the second day she felt about the same.  She asked me to step outside and see if I could find her mojo, that it had mysteriously disappeared from the day before. I suggested that maybe my mojo left with her mojo to go get a cocktail?  In the end, I decided to put on some Sinatra and see if that didn’t cure it. By track 2 or 3 I was reminiscing about my honeymoon, the day we sailed around the Dog Islands wing on wing and anchored off that private island that drew the attention of the security guards that interrupted our turkey sandwich lunch….

Anyway before you know it we were both back “on” and working with less angst, especially Maite, who produced out some super amazing work by the end of the day. Was it Sinatra that brought back the mojo? I can’t say for sure, but the next time I get stuck you better believe old blue eyes and I are going to be belting out “I’ve got the World on a String” at full blast!