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Monday, April 28, 2008

The quarter-acre woods

Lenten roseWhat is it about wildflowers in the spring? I didn't fully appreciate how much I missed the flowers that were decimated by honeysuckle over the years. Now they're coming back, and I can scarcely leave my kitchen window; I gaze across the woods and down the hill, where blue and gold flash throughout the day, interspersed with purple and white. My five-year woodland project is into its sixth year, and it has been worth all the hard work. I envision the woods looking more beautiful every year.

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Saturday, April 12, 2008

A Magic Eye

Children see magical things in the ordinary, but it's uncommon for adults to be so bewitched by the mundane. Sandi Greene is a grown-up with childlike vision and her skill with a camera enables her to capture on film or digitally what she sees. She transforms withered plants, well past their season, into fairy rings and storybook characters, such as the Big Bad Wolf in drag, scurrying through the woods after Red Riding Hood. Every page is a wondrous trigger to the imagination.

Sandi's book, Seeing Evangeline. is a visual meditation that slows you down to search the images for faces, figures, graceful limbs and flowing gowns. Each figure or group has a name, the clue to finding the image. Accompanying the name is the botanical name of the plant and where she found it: a park, a friend's garden and public gardens, mostly in Canada.

Sandi attended my creativity workshop in Calgary, where I first saw her wonderful book. She tells me she did not Photoshop her images, except to enhance contrast where needed. Sandi also says that she is surprised by what people see in her photographs, other than what she herself sees. A brief text at the beginning explains how her journey into this magic kingdom of plants began and where it has taken her. End pages include line drawings of the figures she sees, along with common names of the plants.

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Friday, April 11, 2008

Spring Tonic

After the weird winter, I'm surprised that the wildflowers in my quarter-acre woods are doing so well. The Dutchman's breeches and bloodroot are coming in little colonies now instead of single plants, several in places where I don't remember planting them.

Today has been a peak April day, in the mid 60s with alternating sun and showers. I ran out between showers to take a few pictures. I don't photograph all the flowers because I have a complete record on my web site. Now it's more fun to amble through the woods and see what surprises lay at my feet with every step.

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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Faces of concentration

My Calgary "Exploring Art and Creativity" workshop was one of the most enjoyable I've ever taught. Right from the start, when each of the 23 students introduced herself and told why she was taking the workshop, they seemed to be of a single mind about their desire to be more creative and their dedication to their art. It felt good to be part of this community of artists.

All of them entered into the spirit of the creativity activities with enthusiasm and appeared to enjoy the fun and the serious parts equally. They embraced collage and monotype wholeheartedly and shared their experiences with new materials--and their materials--freely. The critiques were illuminating; every piece was unique and personal to the artist who made it.

The group included teachers, artists, an engineer, an accountant, stay-at-home moms, a university administrator, a census taker, a couple of bookmakers (read: "makers of handmade books"), an author and photographer, an art materials dealer, just to name a few. At times the room was as still as a library and sometimes laughter and conversation bounced off the walls. I thought one group was goofing off and found they were deep in conversation about setting creative goals.

On Saturday we lunched at a funky restaurant where they prepared a delicious meal in spite of a power outage. We ate by candlelight. Our tables were in a loft decorated with Victorian frippery and art deco objects under an embossed tin ceiling. Lunch began with clinking glasses in a toast. Some got a little giddy over setting their cell phones so they wouldn't ring during class, hence a silly joke circulated about their "vibrators." We returned to class and had a productive afternoon.

I've experienced many memorable workshops over twenty years, and this was one of the best. Kudos to my Canadian friends, eh?

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Free Hugs

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Creative Renewal

For me the best kind of workshop to teach is one where I feel like I'm learning along with the class. This was a great four days. The twenty-three students were among the most responsive I've ever worked with and very sharing, as well. We covered so much ground. In fact, this class got the five-day workshop in four days, including creativity, color, collage, monotype, plus daily critiques, slides and individual conferences. There was a brief power outage yesterday and nobody missed a beat. Everyone came with an open mind--this became clear when they introduced themselves. I think each artist has discovered something special that will help her move ahead, to be and feel more creative. Ladies, start your vibrators. Ummm, I meant to say, mute your cell phones.

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Saturday, April 05, 2008

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

I'm in Calgary this week, teaching a creativity workshop. This morning I pulled the drapes open at my hotel window and found myself looking at a tree whose branches were piled with snow. The roads look clear, though, and it's supposed to stop and get warmer this afternoon. Meanwhile, back in Dayton it's nearing sixty degrees and the wildflowers are popping.

The workshop is great. The sponsor is Leading Edge Workshops. I've taught several classes for them in the past under different management. The center where classes are held is roomy and well lighted. I wish all workshops had this kind of facility. There are 24 in the class and they're working hard. We had some great collage pieces to critique yesterday afternoon. Today we're doing monotypes, messy but fun.

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