In May, I’m going to be in a pop-up show here at the Art Center in Watertown, MA with artist Maggie Stern. As soon as we got the go ahead, I knew I’d make more of the Sun Record series I began last year—33 rpm “vinyl” records with various (imagined) artists and the words to their hits song written on the vinyl, “spinning” around, endlessly. I like the idea that we can put good stuff out there and it keeps spinning. Now, more. I’ve cut some 45’s out of wood, and some record jackets too. These are both new ideas and I can’t wait to start painting them and exploring. Today primed and sanded all the wood. Will get started on Monday. Stay tuned!
The corner of my studio wall is now filled with small Tantra homage paintings. It’s fun to do them—like having a conversation with another time and space. Of course, I don’t have the deep Hindu references of the artists who did the original abstract Tantra paintings. But I try to keep my focus on the Yin/Yang qualities I see in the original works—expansion and contraction, dark and light, old and new, balance and imbalance etc. The original artists created true harmony and sense of mystery. Their work takes us to a good place.
For me other references keep creeping in—Sonia Delaunay sometimes or Ellsworth Kelly, old friends. I don’t plan, just sit down and begin. It’s a beautiful morning meditation. I like seeing what happens. Some days I paint over one of them that doesn’t feel right or whole the next day. I keep showing up and small paintings are made.
I’m making more very small (4″ x 6″) Tantra Homage paintings. Tantra is an ancient Hindu tradition of beliefs and practices that seeks to channel the divine energy of the cosmos into our human life here. A couple of years ago I found a beautiful book about it, Tantra Song. Inside were curiously modern-looking abstract paintings of great simplicity all made in the 17th century. The artists were anonymous but came from a tradition in which painting was a kind of meditation in which the artist might connect with something sublime and make it manifest.
And so I took to trying. First I altered what I saw, then I took to just showing up each morning and beginning. I don’t plan but work slowly and in silence, like a meditation. In the original Tantra paintings there’s always a focal point, some sense of time in the weathered paper, of accident and purpose, of the artist’s hand. There’s Yin and Yang—expansion and contraction, dark and light, chance and purpose.
I’m quite sure I don’t achieve the exquisite focus of the Tantra artists but am having fun anyway. I never know what will show up to meet me when I sit down to make these paintings so I just keep at it until I feel happy something has. Then I go on to other quite different work.
All good things must come to an end, as they say, and so does my online sketchbook class, Making Art a Practice, via Carla Sonheim Presents. At least temporarily! It was my first time teaching online and it turned out to be so inspiring! We had people from all over the world from the US and Canada, to the UK and Europe, to Brazil and Australia. It was so interesting to see the drawings and paintings everyone made. There are some amazing artists in this world and it was great to see doors opening to new dimensions of art and life as the weeks went on.
And now to plan the next installment! Coming March 2016.
This summer, for a month, I made a small painting almost every morning when I arrived at the studio, an homage to the Tantric art I’d seen in a beautiful book called Tantra Song. Tantra is an ancient Hindu tradition of beliefs and practices that seeks to channel the divine energy of the cosmos into the human microcosm. The book showcases a series of curiously modern looking paintings made of great simplicity that nevertheless hold our attention and create a sense of wonder. They were mostly made in the 17th century though Tantra itself dates to the 5th. The artists who made the paintings in the book were anonymous but came from a tradition in which painting was a kind of meditation in which the artist might connect with something sublime and make it manifest. We artists are always trying to do that, of course.
Seeing these beautiful, simple images inspired me to begin my own experiment: to sit down in my studio in the morning and make one simple painting every day on a small board. I didn’t plan, just sat down and started. And every day something different arrived, often a surprise. I felt happy when I did them. Not Tantra but a small homage.
(Second row, left. Poster by Matt Jatkola.)
Very happy to announce that my new book, The Drawing Club of Improbable Dreams, is now available in the UK and in the US. In the book, I tell the story of the drawing club I’ve been running in Boston for almost ten years. Each week we make experiments in drawing and so often discover more and more who we are as artists. And what we learn in making art we can bring into the whole of our lives. The book tells how to run a club and offers exercises for the first year as well as ways to invent new ones.
Here’s a beautiful quote from Kurt Vonnegut that says it all:
“Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or how badly, not to get money or fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.”
If you’re in the UK, you can buy the book here. And in the US, here.
Class starts October 6th! Registration is now open!
Registration for my new online sketchbook class, Making Art a Practice, with Carla Sonheim Presents is now open! I’ve posted some sketchbook images on the CLASSES page so people can get an idea of the ways we’ll be working. There’s more on the sign-up page as well as a list of supplies.
I believe the simple act of drawing can open us up to all sorts of perceptions and even new ways of being. We’ll be working in the class to both uncover and forward the ideas we discover so we can bring them into our art-making. And, in the process, we may well discover more of who we are as artists. And we’ll learn from each other! I’ll be participating too and we’ll also address questions we all face as artists like what to do about creative blocks and the inner critic, and how we can find our own vision and style as artists.
The class is open to artists of all levels of experience.
Class starts October 6th, 2015 and goes for 6 weeks.
There are exercises to do each week and we’ll all share our work on a private Facebook page.
The code to enter this page and full instructions will be given upon registration.
The first 10 people who sign up will get a free copy
I’m happy to announce that I’ve been invited to teach online for Carla Sonheim Presents which offers online art classes of various sorts taught by Carla and other artists. My class is called Making Art a Practice (just like my book) and we’ll be working with the sketchbook to explore freely and in some unusual ways. The goal is to bring our whole selves into our art through our art practice and to bring art into the whole of our lives. The course is six-weeks long and participants will have a chance to share their work in a private online setting. I look forward to seeing what everyone does and sharing what I do too. In my experience, so many good things happen when we work together in a collaborative way.
Carla works with her husband Steve Sonheim, a photographer, cinematographer and director. They came all the way from Seattle to Boston to film and they do everything in a highly professional way. Together they guided me with great skill through the whole filming process. I confess it can be quite challenging to talk and draw at the same time, live, on camera! But we did it and it was a lot of fun! It was so great to hang out together, and with my husband Allan Hunter too, and to talk about art. I’m so delighted to be working together!
Here’s a few shots in my studio from our four days of shooting—
The class is scheduled to start October 6th. If you’d like to join us, you can sign up at carlasonheim.com. Hope to see you!
When the call came to enter a piece of art into Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts auction, I decided to send in one of my “records” from my Sun Records series. I was really happy to be included and especially chuffed that for a night a piece of my art hung in the museum! Many, many thanks to the wonderful collector who bought it. Love when people buy art and I hope it brings a smile to its new viewers. I’m thrilled that some of the proceeds go to support our great museum here in Boston.
Happy to report that I’m almost done with my new book, The Drawing Club of Improbable Dreams, about how to start and run a drawing club. It’s based on the club I’ve led for the last 10 years just outside Boston at The Arsenal Center for the Arts. It started as a regular drawing class but when we embraced radical support for each person surprising things began to happen. Everyone learned to draw in interesting ways, for one. Better still, we found a wonderful community and a sanctuary on Saturday mornings for wild creative exploration. Some really fine things have come from that.
It’s been such a wonderful and interesting project. And intense too. Most of the book has been done in the last six months which is fast for a book like this. Once again, many thanks to my publisher Thierry Bogliolo at Findhorn Press without whose warm support this book couldn’t be as freewheeling as it is. I’m now in the final days of making and choosing art for the book and inserting it into the design. It’s looking great and we are truly stretching the boundaries of how we can think of drawing. And art too, I hope.
In two weeks, the book will be off to the publisher in France! Out in bookstores in August!