Suze’s Art News September 2020

It’s still pretty strange times.

We are all adapting as best we can. Artwork and time in wilderness give me inner sanity; helping others, whether individuals or institutions, is another strategem.

In roughly chronological order:

Where we watched the eclipse, watercolor on paper, 11″ x 15″

Bend, Oregon’s High Desert Museum’s annual fundraising competition, Art in the West, includes this landscape. The virtual auction is live 8/1 – 10/3/2020.


Bathtub Lakes, watercolor on paper, 11″ x 15″

I’ll be teaching an in-person, outdoor class, “Practical Plein Air,” for Gage Academy of Art 9/12-13 — masked and distanced of course. There’s still room! Here is the registration page.


Artichokes, watercolor on paper on cradled panel, coated in epoxy, 11″ x 15″

Item # 228, Silent Auction 2: in The Museum of Northwest Art’s annual fundraiser. Bidding opens on 9/11 and closes 9/13.


Bark Beetle Book, Volume XXX: Species Distribution. Douglas fir branch, laser-cut wood, laser-print transfers, viscose and silk, Kevlar thread, wood beads. 3.5″ x 32.5″ closed, 3.5″ x 19 *feet* open — the longest book I’ve ever made!

I’ll be giving a virtual talk for Puget Sound Book Artists 9/10 from 4 -5:30 pm. Anyone is welcome to register for it on their site. I’ll be discussing the inspiration and processes of many of the 30 books that sat in the silent and empty exhibit “Gathered from the field: art provoked by the climate research” from early March to mid August this year.


State of the Forest installation (fabric prints of my burned tree portraits). Image courtesy The James Museum, St Petersburg FL and David J. Wagner, curator.

Environmental Impact II, which includes State of the Forest, has moved to Fort Hays State University in Kansas, where it will be on display for the academic year 9/18/20 – 5/15/21. See also my home page and individual artwork page.


Enlichenment watercolor on paper on panel, 8″x8″  SOLD

I was one of 50 contributors to a clever fundraiser called Square Deal–50 Artists for a Fair Vote. While mine is gone, there are still 12 left here.


Bark Beetle Book Volume XXXI: Beetle Graph. Douglas fir branches, laser-cut wood, laser-print transfers, bronze rings. 86″H x 18″W x 3″D. Each branch is a bar from a bar graph of the most destructive bark beetles in Washington State from 2008-2018. 

I’m pleased to be part of the annual ICON competition at Lynn Hanson Gallery. There is a virtual First Thursday artwork on her site 9/3 at 5:30 and a virtual artist reception 9/12 at 2pm. 


Bark Beetle Book Volume XXXII: Obligate Mutualism. Branch, laser-cut wood panels, iron-oxide-dyed and industrial wool felt, linen threat, embroidery floss 8.75″ x 6.75″ x 3″. Certain bark beetles that kill trees carry with them a staining fungus which helps them digest wood. Their characteristic patterns are shown on the covers. The fungi reach into wood with microfilaments, evoked by the lines of embroidery. 

I am once again part of Mighty Tieton’s 10x10x10 competition, on display 8/8 – 10/11. The virtual exhibit is here.


In Headlight Basin, watercolor on paper, 11″ x 15″

This painting will be part of Schack-toberfest, the Everett museum’s fundraiser 9/17 – 11/7.


Lastly, I’ll be giving a talk for Seattle Co-Arts at noon on October 27.

It has been a surprisingly rewarding summer despite everything there is to worry about. Painting outdoors on the Northwest Watercolor Society’s plein air days (which I help organize) has been a real treat. Small alpine landscapes remind me of the most joyous times of my life. This missive is already too over-long to show them here–but if you want to see some of this year’s small pleasures, let me know and I’ll send you a selection. 

Thanks for your attention to all my efforts to support our local art institutions!

Suze’s Art News June 2020

Oh my, how the world has changed! I want to acknowledge that we all are experiencing dislocation and distress – some much, much more than others – as a lame introduction to reporting my art endeavors.

I’m reminded of the scene at the end of Casablanca where Bogart says to Bacall, “I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three [one] little people [person, i.e., me] don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world….”

My bean count: residencies cancelled or postponed — three; individual pieces of artwork sitting in shuttered exhibit spaces out there in the world — 72; upcoming exhibits cancelled — two; and one cancelled watercolor workshop on a San Juan river trip for Great Old Broads for Wilderness. And no doubt more to come….

….but at least I can’t take it personally!


My pandemic project gave me deep focus for the first 41 days. This blog post gives greater detail.

Panels 1-6 of 7 at home lo res

As yet untitled, 6 of 7 panels of varnished watercolor on torn paper, 22 feet by widths from 42” – 49”. I have no place large enough to photograph it all together!


I’m deeply honored to receive a MadArt Artist Relief grant. I plan to use it to extend opportunities for artists less fortunate than me. While not up there yet, the 3-minute application video I created should be viewable on their vimeo page soon.


Besides the Kirkland Arts Center People’s Choice Award that prompted the big tree pandemic project in the first place, one of my artist books received an award at Northern Arizona University’s “May You Live in Interesting Times” book arts exhibit. (Little did they know how soon their title’s wish would be granted!)

TheNarrows

The Narrows, watercolor on paper, 32” x 14”

I also received a small award in the Northwest Watercolor Society’s recent virtual membership exhibit. I was supposed to be the speaker for March, but the meeting was cancelled. Instead I created a short online talk, still viewable here.


UrbanMoonset

Urban Moonset, watercolor on paper, 11″ x 15″, begun as a demo for my last Gage workshop

I am still planning to teach a landscape workshop for Gage Academy June 13 and 20. (Sign up soon!) Portions are almost certain to be online, but I am hoping our city and county guidelines will permit small outdoor groups to paint in parks if masked and distanced. The irony of trying to paint plein air landscapes indoors online has not escaped me!


In my neighborhood a Seattle Opera tenor has been giving small street concerts for the duration. When I listen, I can feel a collective human spirit expressed through art. I’m reminded that while occasions can be upended, indeed vita brevis, ars longa….

 

 

 

 

Plein air peut-être?

The Mona Lisa wearing a mask

Notes from an article originally written for the Northwest Watercolor Society’s June 2020 newsletter with tips that may be useful to others

Most likely you know that plein air means outdoors in French (literally “full air”). It refers to the tradition begun by the Impressionists of going outside to paint from life. It was the invention of small, ready-made, soft-metal, portable paint tubes that made it possible. Peut-être is French for “might be,” or “maybe.”

Little will bring more freshness – and challenge! – to your work quite as much as painting outdoors from life. From Thomas Moran to David Hockney, whenever I see an exhibit that pairs artists’ large studio paintings with their preparatory studies, I always love the studies. They may be smaller, less grandiose and less accurate—but they are so much more direct, personal and free.

I also find that it’s something I have to practice regularly; it’s more like a sport: you can’t expect to score a win if you don’t practice. For many years I have participated in an annual plein air competition in late fall, so I am highly motivated to “train” all summer.

And since this kind of painting is honestly one of the harder things to do, you have to be easy on yourself.

Just as last summer, a group of us are still planning to go outside to paint once a week.   Depending on the state and local orders in force at the time, it might have to be 6-feet-apart, masked and gloved. Or separate in our home gardens with a video meeting afterwards.

NWWS_PlienAir_060519_7607

Suze at Gasworks Park in 2019 (James McFarlane photo)

 

This year there is so much we can’t assume: the parking lots of some city parks are still off limits to parking. Restrooms may not be open. Restaurants, if open, may be only open for take-out. Besides the painting gear outlined below, add masks, gloves and hand-sanitizer to your kit.  We are planning to maintain a sign-in sheet should there be any need for future contact tracing (and will not be used for any other purpose).

Here are some of the tips and practices I have found helpful:

Painting gear:

  • Lightweight folding easel and several sheets of paper that fit on it. Some people bring lightweight folding chairs and paint on a board in their laps, but I like standing because my arm is freer. Some people work in small sketchbook; my preference is separate quarter-sheets.
  • Small closing palette that fits on my easel shelf, with my go-to landscape colors in it (always in the same order so I don’t have to hunt for a pigment)
  • Several favorite brushes – I can get away with only a 1-inch flat, two sizes of rounds and a rigger
  • A camera – I always take a photo between the end of my pencil sketch and starting to paint. Rarely do I ever refer back to it, but just taking the photo allows me to paint more freely knowing I have a backup if something unforeseen occurs. (Yes, there was that time they turned the sprinklers on me at Gasworks when I was only half-finished : – )
  • Water cups that fit on my easel
  • A filled water bottle with a carabiner on its handle; I can clip it and/or my backpack the easel for extra stability if it’s breezy.
  • A pencil case with pencil, pencil sharpener, white vinyl and kneaded erasers, clips to hold my paper to my easel’s board, a Swiss Army knife, pen, and a few business cards
  • A quick snack like some almonds, a piece of fruit or a granola bar. We may go for lunch afterwards if there’s a quorum and a convenient spot, but sometimes I need a boost before well before then.
  • Travel mug – that way you can’t stick your brush in your beverage.
  • Sun screen

And now:

  • Hand sanitizer, mask, gloves

Clothing:

  • Cathy Gill so rightly says, “First the artist must be comfortable.” Dress in layers you can put on or take off, depending on the weather. I always have a spare lightweight jacket and warm hat with me, as I get cold easily standing still whatever the temperature. Sometimes I’ll wear long underwear if it’s less than 60 degrees and breezy, as well as fingerless wool gloves.
  • Sun hat with a big brim that shades your eyes and covers the back of your neck. I don’t like to wear sunglasses because they distort my color perception, so that hat is really important. Picking a location where your board and paper are in the shade and not reflecting glare into your eyes helps too.
  • As it gets warmer, one of my layers is a big white long sleeved shirt, so I only have to put the sun-goo on my hands and face.

Useful practices:

  • I like to walk around a little and review possible subjects before I settle on a particular one. This is one reason it’s nice to have an easy way to carry your stuff: I use a backpack; some folks have rolling carriers.
  • If possible, orient your paper and board 90 degrees to the scene you’re painting. That way you’ll be reacting to your painting at least as much as to reality.
  • Especially early and late in the shoulder seasons, reverse the usual light-to-dark watercolor practice and paint the shadows first because they’ll be changing the fastest. You can also do a quick value sketch to fix the darks before they’re changed positions.
  • I always ask myself, “why is this going to be a painting and not a photograph,” another reminder that I need not be a slave to the reality in front of me. Or, as my colleague Spike Ress once said to me, “you can lie…”

I can’t tell you how much I hope to see you out there, because it means I’ll be able to get out there too!

Suze Woolf

Art in the Time of Coronavirus, or, “The Big Tree”

AnimationDay01-28It will not surprise you to hear I made myself a massive, hunker-down, shelter-in-place project, now nearly three-quarters completed.

In January I received the people’s choice award at a local juried show. One option for the award is an exhibit on a large wall above the checkout counter at a nearby public library. Before the lockdown went into effect, I made it over there to check out the space. One side of the wall is 24 feet wide, with about 6 feet of vertical space. There is also a smaller wall on the other side of a central doorway.

I’ve always meant to try one of my burned tree paintings on the lengthwise axis of a roll of watercolor paper — but been intimidated by the time commitment required. With my beloved wilderness off-limits, I knew I needed something demanding to do.

When completed it will be 22 feet long (not quite an entire roll  of 30 feet : -) Since I don’t have room to work on something that big in my studio, I’m doing it in sections that will hang abutted. I figure if John Grade’s immense Middle Fork sculpture was created in sections, I can do it, too.

I’ll mount them so they can be hung either vertically or horizontally, though I expect most venues will need it to be horizontal.

Panels 1-6 of 7 at home lo res

Panels 1-6: I don’t have enough floor space in the largest room I have to lay them out!

Two friends independently dubbed it “Water Lilies of the Anthropocene.” While it’s nowhere near the size of Monet’s largest water lily paintings, it’s the largest of my 12-year preoccupation with wildland fires, as their remains increase in frequency and severity in our warming climate. The library is excited about it and plans to do some programming around it. I’m excited because lots of people will see it — whenever we can visit libraries once again.

I’ve just starting panel 7 of 7, at ~18.5 feet now. Between that and varnishing and mounting, I think it will take another 3-4 weeks. The animation at the top of this post represents 28 painting days, with 7 panel prep days as well.

We have all had plans and dreams interrupted by the virus. I wish us all good health, an easing of the stresses and strictures, and a chance to show what we’ve been working on during this pandemic siege.

UPDATE May 1, 2020:

Big Tree Final (4096x783)

The Big Tree,” Watercolor on torn paper, 49″ x 262″ (21’10”)

The painting portion is finally finished (there’s still varnishing, creating shaped boards to mount them on and mounting them to do).

My photos don’t quite do it justice — it is too large to lay out in any contiguous space in my studio, so each panel has been photographed separately and digitally composited. The color-matching across panels is more accurate in the painting than in these photos.

It’s fun to see it in its possible vertical orientation, too. One thing that surprised me: the panels also look surprisingly meaningful as separate side-by-side pieces.

Any suggestion for a title welcome!

 

 

 

 

 

Suze’s Art Doings, March 2020

I am truly excited about Gathered from the field: Art provoked by climate research opening March 9 at the University of Puget Sound’s Kittredge Art Gallery. Together with Anna McKee’s WAIS reliquary installation and other works, 30 of my bark beetle books will be on display there until April 18. There is a reception and “Art + Sci” salon March 26 at 4:30 pm, including my collaborators Dr. Diana Six of the University of Montana and poet Melinda Mueller. Afterwards, join us at one of the “Night Out” tours of UPS’ Slater Museum of Natural History.

Vol 30 half open detail 2 (1024x665)

Bark Beetle Book Volume XXX: Species Distribution.
Artist Book 3.5 in. diameter x 32.5 in. long closed, 3.5″ diameter x 19 feet open. Douglas fir branch, laser-cut wood, laser-print transfers, viscose and silk, Kevlar thread, wood beads. [The almost-tree-long book features galleries of the beetle species that chew on Douglas firs.]

It’s my pleasure to report that Goodell Creek Cedar, the 41st of my portraits of individual burned trees, won the People’s Choice award at Kirkland Art Center’s recent Threshold exhibit. The award is in the form of a future exhibit; and I am plotting something humongous!

Goodell Creek Cedar (1024x868)Goodell Creek Cedar
Varnished watercolor on torn paper, 52 in. high x 44 in. wide.
[The Goodell Creek fire shut down transmission from Ross Dam in 2015. I am fascinated by how cedars seem to both rot and burn from the inside out.]

CoCA’s annual juried members’ exhibit, 20/20 Visions, opens March 5, during the Pioneer Square Art Walk. As in other years, I’m honored to be selected for the smaller gallery show. Come vote for your favorite!

Dendritic Rhyolite with Case (757x1024)

Dendritic Rhyolite
Artist Book and Case, 4.5 in. x 7.25 in. x 2.875 in. Stone, laser-cut and laser-etched mat board, modified Coptic-binding with linen thread. [The shapes of the rock covers, as well as the iron stains on them, are interpolated from front to back through the book.]

I’m also pleased to report I will be teaching a watercolor landscape workshop, not only at Gage Academy June 13-14 in Seattle as is typical for me, but on a 5-day 4-night May river trip on the San Juan for Great Old Broads for Wilderness. The trip is full; I’m looking forward to spring time on the water in canyon country.

BlacktailCanyon1 (726x1024)

Deep Time (sold)
Watercolor on paper 30 in. x 22 in.
[The Great Unconformity, 1.2-1.6 million missing years, is at the lower left of the painting.]

That’s all for now. I hope we can stay calm and productive in times of such tremendous stress and upheaval. I know that art can be both a goad and a balm.

SuzeFontSignature

 

Winter News 2020

Happy New Year!

First up, Threshold at Kirkland Arts Center. This juried exhibit will include the largest burned tree painting I’ve done yet — a cedar tree from the starting point of the North Cascades’ 2015 Goodell Creek Fire. I’m always struck by how cedars seem to rot or burn from the inside out. Many times the center is completely gone yet the tree still lives.

The exhibit is on display January 7 – February 15. The opening reception is January 10 from 6 – 8 pm and I will be there.


Goodell Creek Cedar, Varnished watercolor on torn paper, 52″ high by 44″ wide (2019)


Next, Gage Academy in Seattle is having its 30th anniversary exhibit at the Washington State Convention Center Phyllis Lamphere Gallery. I teach the occasional weekend workshop at Gage, so I’m happy to have three of my burned tree paintings up from January 9 – April 13, 2020. Update: The reception date has been changed from the evening of January 31st to February 9, 11-1pm; I still plan to be there.


Stehekin Sentinel, Jolie laide and De-Limbed; Varnished watercolor on torn paper,
all 52″ high by various widths, (2014, 2017 and 2014)


Several of my large landscapes are hanging at the Lynnwood Convention Center’s Northwest Landscapes exhibit, now through June 30. There will be a reception February 19, 6-8 pm, but I will be away and unable to attend.


Young and Old Alike, Watercolor on paper, 22″H x 30″W (2008)


Three of my artist books will be at Northern Arizona University’s Art Museum for a book arts exhibit, “May You Live in Interesting Times” February 4 – April 18, 2020.


 
Top: The Last Iceberg, laser cut mat board, rub-on type, acrylic paint, varnish, linen thread; acrylic mount. 17”H x 10”W x 2.5”D (2016). [Rotated]
Above left: Rockbound Book: Elephant Canyon Volume.
Book: Sandstone, laser-cut mat board, elastic thread binding;
Case: wood, laser-cut mat board, paint, polish. Case: 7″L x 6″W x 3.5″H (2015).
Above right: Rockbound Book: Snowline.
Book: sliced snowflake obsidian, mat board, non-woven viscose;
Case: wood, paper, cord, casein paint, shoe polish, hardware. Case  8″ x 5″ x 4″ (2015).


In March-April, Anna McKee and I will be showing our work in an Art+Sci exhibit entitled Gathered from the Field; art provoked by climate research at the University of Puget Sound’s Kittredge Art Gallery in Tacoma, WA. It will include her installation, WAIS Reliquary: 68,000 Years and I will have ~30 of my bark beetle books. There will be a reception March 26 6-8 pm. Not only will Anna and I attend, but our various scientific, literary, audio and other collaborators will be there as well. Update: The reception time has been changed to 4:30pm-6pm at the Kittredge Gallery.


Bark Beetle Book Vol. XXVII: Survivorship. Log (likely white bark pine) with mountain pine beetle galleries, laser-cut bamboo, offset-printed text with inked-in mountain pine beetle galleries, brass binding post. 9.5″ diameter, 6″ H.

Based on a paper by Six et al.: ~7% of white bark pines in a research tract survived mass attack by mountain pine beetles. DNA analyses of the survivors showed “quieter” encoding for certain VOCs that the beetles perceive. The interior pages of the book have been printed with “ASCII art” of the mRNA encoding for monoterpene synthase. The proportion of dark, low-contrast (“quiet”) to light, high-contrast (“noisy”) pages in the book is 7/100.*


On March 24 I’ll be the speaker/demonstrator at the Northwest Watercolor Society’s March meeting at Daniel Smith Art Materials, 4150 1st Ave S., Seattle, beginning at 6:45 pm. Here’s what I said I would talk about (from page two of their newsletter):

“Painting landscapes in watercolor, both in the studio and from life, has led her in many directions Some are fairly predictable, like artist residencies in national parks and coordinating last summer’s NWWS plein air outings.

Other impacts have been more unexpected – learning to use tools such as pyrography (drawing by burning), paper making and casting (sculptural paper pulp), technology (software interpolation, laser cutting, digital printing on fabric), bookbinding and woodworking.

Another surprise has been deep creative collaborations with scientists, writers and poets. By spending time outdoors painting and living in remote parks and art colonies, she becomes aware of the issues affecting the landscapes she finds so inspiring.”


In other news, my State of the Forest installation continues to travel with Environmental Impact Sequel, opening in Asheville, North Carolina’s Arboretum in February-April. Update: owing to an unforeseen conflict on their part, I will NOT be visiting to give a short talk in late April.

I hope that the commencing decade is productive and joyful to all of us — I hope to catch up during one or more of these events!


*My colleague Iskra Johnson informs me this brief description is difficult to understand. Here is a more expansive attempt:

The beetles sense and take advantage of some of the tree’s own defenses. Some of those defenses are the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that it makes – semi-toxic gases, really – that the beetles re-synthesize as aggregating pheromones to call all their friends. Remember turpentine comes from tree resin. So the messenger RNA for the gene for monoterpene synthase, one of those VOCs, turns on its manufacture by the tree, but ironically, strong monoterpene synthase is something the beetles sense and use. 93% of the white bark pines made enough of it that they got attacked. 7% didn’t, they were less “visible” to the beetles.

C-A-T-G (cytosine, adenine, thymine and guanine) are literally the base pair components of DNA and RNA. I made the “ASCII” art from the c-a-t-g sequence for monoterpene synthase. You might remember in the early days of computer graphics people made illustrations out of text fields:   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ASCII_art

I used an “ASCII art converter” to make the base pair text field have beetle trails running through it. I printed the pages in both positive contrast-y, color-on-white, “noisy” versions in the same proportions (the 93%)   as the trees that were killed, and negative/low contrast, white-on-black “quiet” pages —  the 7% that survived.

 

 

Willowtail for the Third Time

I recently completed a third visit to Willowtail Springs Nature Preserve near Mancos, Colorado. (See also Colorado-Utah-Colorado and Willowtail Springs Residency.) It was a very productive time for me: I was able to complete three of my individual portraits of burned trees in relatively few but long and intense days, compared to what it takes me at home.

The cedar on the right is the largest burned tree I’ve done yet; at its base it’s nearly as wide as it’s tall, and presents a raft of new storage and presentation problems to solve : – ).

I did a few hikes in the Lizard Head Wilderness with its first few inches of snow, and managed to start a few small landscapes from those hikes as well. I got together with my collaborator Lorena Willams, who wrote the stories that appear in the “State of the Forest” installation now on tour.

While there, I wrote this short essay on the value of their residency program:

What is the value of an artist residency to an artist?

It is the opportunity to think and work surrounded by peace and beauty — with very little distraction.[1] Like any traveler, being in a new or less familiar place is refreshing and liberating; seeing new sights can literally change a point of view. For an artist, this can result in fixed ideas or long-term directions being altered or upended or in others a renewed commitment to a body of work.

For me, three visits to Willowtail have been primarily the latter. I have two bodies of work relevant to its southwest Colorado environment – an eleven-year series of large paintings of individual burned trees and a three-year series of artist books about bark beetles, using the wood and bark of their target trees as medium. Since these are preoccupations for much of the region, I found not only a personal welcome but professional interest in the work.

What is the impact of the residency on the artist and more widely?

Something I have experienced in every residency is some surprise I could not have predicted. Two years ago, Willowtail received a Winifred Johnson Clive Foundation grant to foster a collaboration. I was paired together with Durango author and wildland firefighter Lorena Williams, enriching and deepening the burned tree body of work. Her stories, together with my paintings, have resulted in several exhibitions not only in traditional art venues, like galleries and museums,[2] but also in downtown storefronts[3] and community centers.[4]

Some 30 of these paintings have been digitally printed on three layers of fabric: a transparent, a solid and a black or black-plus-text layer with Lorena’s stories on half of them. This installation, called “State of the Forest,” is currently touring regional art and science museums around the U.S. and Canada for the next 2.5 years.[5]

Why do you come back to Willowtail?

I’ve already mentioned peace and beauty. The quirky décor, living conscientiously on the land, and facilitation in the local art community are also appreciated. But more importantly, Peggy and Lee Cloy offer something unusual in the artist residency world: deep personal interest. In large programs an artist can feel a bit  like a transfer student in an overcrowded high school. Here the sense of belief and support of the specific individual’s endeavor is appreciative, consistent and tangible.

[1] By my estimate, I am ~200-250% more productive than in my own studio.

[2] Plasteel Gallery, Seattle; Arnica Gallery, Kamloops BC; Lake Country Gallery, Vernon BC; US Botanical Museum, Washington DC; Museum of Northwest Art, La Conner WA; San Juan Islands Museum of Art, Friday Harbor, WA; Kirkland Arts Center, Kirkland WA; Green River College, WA; Seattle City Hall, WA and others.

[3] Shunpike Storefront grant, amazon HQ Republican Street windows, Seattle; summer 2018. See https://storefrontsseattle.com/ near the end of the page.

[4] “Conversations through the Smoke” toured small towns in Idaho as part of a University of Idaho/US Forest Service community fire resiliency campaign. https://www.nrfirescience.org/event/conversations-through-smoke-traveling-art-exhibition

[5] The itinerary is here: https://www.davidjwagnerllc.com/Environmental_Impact-Sequel.html

 

Eating my Vegetables

It began in one of the workshops I’ve been teaching at Gage Academy in Seattle. It’s a big jump to go from learning about the paints to doing a landscape, even from a photo, so I’m always looking for ways to bridge that gap. One day I brought in a few items out of my fridge. I asked each person to pick one, place it on a white sheet of paper and point a small desk lamp at it. Then I gave a demo:

Class kale (674x1024)

Class kale, watercolor on paper, 11″ x 7.5″

There’s something humble and unassuming about some leaves of kale.

I’m fond of saying that often people draw the Platonic “class” of an object instead of the “instance” that is there in front of them.

Or, as fellow vegetable-loving painter/instructor Lisa Goren says, “I always use chard for my teaching. I use it because, unlike flowers, [students] don’t have as fixed an idea of what it looks like in their heads. So I think they look more carefully and are more focused on the task rather than the outcome.”

Chard (1024x759)

Swiss chard, watercolor on paper, 11″ x 15″

Our correspondence about this shared pedagogy made me think hard about why I am finding painting vegetables so liberating.

There are relatively few examples of “Great Vegetable Works from Art History”—whereas try to paint sunflowers and a whole famous field’s worth is glaring at you!

Red Leaf (753x1034)

Red leaf lettuce, watercolor on paper, 15″ x 11

It’s hard to get to over-invested in painting a vegetable—compared to, say, a beautiful landscape you’re sentimental about. Since you don’t have so many hopes and expectations attached to it, you paint more freely and the results are fresh. (Mind you, they still require careful observation!)

Long radishes (1024x767)

Long radishes, watercolor on paper, 11″ x 15″

Or maybe it’s a jolie laide or underdog thing? Even in the foodie world they’re usually not the star of the meal…

Artichokes (1024x757)

Artichokes, watercolor on paper, 11″ x 15″

Perhaps it’s also my own semi-conscious interest in getting people to look at what isn’t conventionally considered “art worthy.”

Plus I get to eat them afterwards… Or at least most of them:

Lungwort Lichen (1024x751)

Pulmonaria lobarium, watercolor on paper, 11″ x15″. Lungwort lichen is a vegetable to the deer and moose that browse on it!

Update: this page on my website has more of the series.

[Note: a number of these small paintings were in a solo exhibit at the Food Art Collection opening July 14, 2019. Rather than traditional framing and glazing–which just didn’t feel right when I hope they end up in people’s kitchens–they are mounted on panels and coated with epoxy–so the spatters from frying up those potatoes can be wiped off!]

 

 

Suze’s Art News June 2019

(This is the most recent newsletter update I sent to my mailing list. Sign up if you’d like to receive it in your inbox!)

Hello, it’s been a while.
This is an overdue update of everything happening now and a look back at events past. 2018-2019 has been a whirlwind and I am excited to share that with all of you. Thanks for your interest!

Workshops
“Watercolor on the Move: Practical Plein Air”
Gage Academy Workshops
July 20-21
Saturday-Sunday 9:30 A.M. – 4:30 P.M.
For those in the Seattle area, I will be teaching watercolor once again at Gage Academy. Sign up for the workshop if you’d like to learn more about how I go about doing plein air — painting outdoors from life.
Top: Zion Light, watercolor on paper, 11″ x 15″ (sold);
Bottom:
The Three Little Pigs (Gasworks) watercolor on paper, 11″ x 15″

Above the Checkerboard Mesa Viewpoint (1024x754)
Gasworks
Upcoming Shows
Davenport Cellars, Woodinville WA
June 5 – early September 2019
The theme is “beautiful and disturbing landscapes,” scenic views of the public lands contrasted with burned-over landscapes.
Top: Frisco Again, watercolor on paper 11″ x 15″
Bottom:
The Landscape of Fire (rotated) 52″ x 15″
Frisco Again (1024x760)
TheLandscapeofFireRotated
Puget Sound Book Arts (PSBA) Annual Member Exhibit 
June 6- July 31, 2019
University of Puget Sound, Tacoma, WA Collins Library
Two of my bark beetle books are on display.
Top, Volume XXIV: What the Beetles Wrote
Bottom
: Volume XXI: The Curve of Loss
vol xxiv composite (764x1024)
VolXXIcomposite
Food Art Collection, Seattle
The quiet existentialism of discrete fruits and vegetables
July 14th, 2019 Opening 1-3 P.M.
In July I will be showcasing something new, a series of vegetable paintings. I began them as class demonstrations and soon realized that the process of trying to free up my students’ work was freeing up mine. Apropos to none of my other work, but enjoyable and satisfying. Come see what we serve up at the opening! (See this meditation on why here.)
Top: Swiss Chard, watercolor on paper, 11″ x 15″
Bottom: Long radishes, watercolor on paper, 11″ x 15″ (sold)
Chard (1024x759)
Long radishes (1024x767)
Anacortes Arts Festival 
July 27 – August 4th, 2019
Opening July 27
The annual juried exhibit; this year Joanna Sykes is the juror. Three of my bark beetle books will be on display. (Recipient of the T Bailey Corporate Award)
Top: Bark Beetle Book Volume XXV: Outbreak
Bottom: Bark Beetle Book Volume X: Encyclopedia Beetletainia
Vol XXV Composite 3 (1024x458)
Vol X Encyclopedia Beetletania composite
State of the Forest Installation in Environmental Impact Sequel
James Museum, St Petersburg, FL
August – November 2019
This is the first stop on a touring exhibit that focuses on the environmental impact of climate change. Thirty of my burned tree portraits will be suspended, in floating fabric media to evoke the fragility of forests. Fourteen of them have Lorena Williams‘ fire stories printed on the back layer of the set. I look forward to presenting my work in this way.
Top: State of the Forest, 10 of a 30 tree installation. Bottom: Detail of the three layers for each tree, black, solid print and transparent print (Jonathan T. Bishop photos)
State of the Forest 10 trees-2 (1024x683)
Tauromachia fabric detail (1024x683)
Slash & Burn
Seattle City Hall
September 5 – November 5, 2019
If you missed this repeat exhibit at Green River College earlier in the year, “Slash & Burn” will be presented again at Seattle City Hall. I’ve contributed several burned tree portraits and bark beetle books.
Top: Okanagan Iridescence, varnished watercolor on torn paper, 52″H x 20″ (rotated)
Bottom: Bark beetle book Volume XII: Buprestid Katakana
Okanagan Irridescence rotated
Buprestid Katakana 2 (1024x785)
Columbia City Gallery 20th Anniversary Book Arts Exhibit:
The Book as Art: The Page and Beyond
Seattle, WA
September – November, 2019
This show will focus on finely crafted books that explore a variety of structures and books that can challenge traditional notions of a book and page.
Columbia City Gallery logo
All Stitched Up
University of Puget Sound Collins Library
Tacoma, WA
September 3 – December 11, 2019
A recent bark beetle book will be exhibited.
Volume XXII, Scolytid Lifecycle
Vol22detail

 

Willowtail Residency
Willowtail Springs Nature Preserve
Mancos, Colorado
In late October I make my way back to Mancos, Colorado, for my fourth return to Willowtail Springs Nature Preserve. I’ll have an opportunity to work with author Lorena Williams on the stories that accompany the State of the Forest installation above.Zion Centennial “100 Objects – 100 Images”
Zion Plein Air Invitational
Zion National Park, Utah
November 6-10, 2019
I am honored to be invited out for my 8th season during the Centennial of Zion National Park and Zion Plein Air Invitational. The Centennial will be celebrated through the art and history of this magical place via the exhibition “100 Objects – 100 Images”, beginning September 15th, continuing through and during the traditional plein air week. I look forward to sharing more as the year goes by so stay tuned for more details.“Word | Image | Object”
July 2019 – January 2020
An artist book exhibit organized by Abcedarian Gallery in the main Denver Public Library. My small beetle-chewed branch books contain Melinda Mueller poetry about bark beetles.
Bark beetle book Volume XIX: Poetry Sticks
VolXIXcomposite
A Long Overdue Recap of 2018 and Previous Events

booksaboutbarkbeetles
Thank you, friends and followers, for seeing me through another year, and I hope to catch you at home and out in my travels.
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Iteration = Inspiration

My respected colleague Iskra Johnson recently posed a question in her blog, “Who Is Your Muse?” in which she tags her mother as an ongoing source of inspiration.

I found myself thinking of my inspiration as coming from multiple gods rather than a single muse—that is, each work in a series builds on the previous one. When I worked with a team of program managers and software developers, at the end of every project we held a post mortem in hopes of gaining even better results on the next project. While every project had different parameters — context, deadline, team members, audience and so on — one finding was always the same: “I wish we had/allowed/planned for more time at the end so we could make more than only “must-do” fixes.  We didn’t know we’d have these better ideas until we saw the first (alpha), second (beta), third (final or release) version…”

The practice of iteration is sorely underrated. Defining imagination as an ability to envision that which doesn’t yet exist, most people — even artists — have less imagination than they think do. But the great thing about the self-directed practice of fine art is that you can keep iterating, if you acknowledge it as your muse

Seeing how the last creation came out is often the prompt for the next idea… 

Sometimes those ideas never seem to stop! Below you see my third artist book made from bark-beetle damaged wood and my twenty-fifth…. This video explains some of my inspiration, process and collaborations.

Bark Beetle Book Vol III: Bug Ruts

Bark Beetle Book Vol. III: Bug Ruts. Pine-beetle-bored bark in epoxy resin, laser-cut iron-oxide dyed felt pages, wire-edge bound with wooden “worry” beads. 9.25″L x 5″W x 2.5″H plus strings

vol xxiv composite (764x1024)

Bark Beetle Book Vol. XXV: What the Beetles Wrote. Wood with mountain pine beetle galleries, hand-made paper-cast from mountain pine beetle and other beetle galleries; iron-oxide dyed non-woven viscose book cloth. 11″H x 9.5″W x 7.5″D