My series of fantasy landscape blocks will be in an exhibit of landscape art here at Lincoln Street Center in Rockland Maine for the month of December. The opening reception is December 5th, 3-6 pm. This group show takes place at the Jean Chalmers Gallery. You can read the article about the "XX" Landscapes at Lincoln Street Exhibit.
There is a story to these mixed media blocks, which I made back in 1985? I used to live by the entrance to the Holland Tunnel in New York City. One year they were re-landscaping it. I salvaged these blocks, ends of 2 x 8 planking that had been used to build something in the new design. I was always on the lookout for pieces of wood suitable to paint my fantasy landscapes on - like the old tempera paintings from Medieval times. Painting landscapes inside of broken crockery or small boxes was another format for my art. My favorite blue calico earthenware china, being earthenware, was subsceptible to easy breakage by playful cats. When a mug broke just in half, it seemed a good fit for a landscape inside, like a peephole Easter egg. Another version was a miniature paper mache window/box painted in the blue calico pattern.
There were also fantasy landscapes on canvas in mixed media collages using gift wrap paper of Medieval patterns. The blocks range from collages of these gift wraps, to papers I hand painted first in the blue calico, then in simpler calico floral patterns of my own designs. I wanted to create the effect of looking through a hole of the broken edges of china into another world. It's also a bit like looking through curtains.
At the entrance to most tunnels we cannot see the light at the end. We will only enter that tunnel if we have faith somewhere that there is a light at the end of it, or that we can find our way back out where we came from. And certainly only children might believe that we can dig a tunnel through the earth to China. And yet....
Would you like to see cards of these blocks?
You can see a collection of Blue Calico China from England at Amazon.
From a recent letter to old friends:
..Perhaps you remember the little cat in the sea storyboard of thumbnail sketches I showed you so long ago. It has been languishing hidden away in my storage boxes for years and years. Occasionally I pull it out and look longingly at it. ( I always associate you two with this set of sketches for some reason.) Initially after doing that first plan, I had drawn up a few images and turned them into cards which have been favorites with people all these years. But, I had learned back then, that children's stories were just not supposed to end with "and then he woke up." No 'it was all a dream' stories. I never could figure out what to do with the ending of the story, and so the project remained unfulfilled. It was stuck for years, though two of the images have gotten plenty of mileage. People always ask if they are part of a children's story and I must confess how I just got stuck with it.
The other day, perhaps even prompted by your initial contact, I came across the sheets of thumbnails again. (I was actually in search of something else.) This time it hit me - I could just scan those thumbnails, rough as they are, and make them into a very loose type of book. And, in such a rough form, this ending can stand as it is - or - alternate endings could be created by readers/viewers. (And, after opening my mind to this solution, I did get a slew of other ideas for stories with this cat character as well as endings for this story.)
I've now scanned all the thumbnails as enlargements. I'll either put it together as a little booklet myself or use one of those POD printers as a simple production. I want to have this as an object in my hand which can be passed on/shared if desired. Even more basic and elemental though, which also just came to me, is that stories used to be only oral. I would love to use my story in that way as a companion to my kids drawing classes. It is good to realize, once again, that prescribed ways, are not the only ways that things have to be!
I'm attaching the sheets as they've been all these years. They're reduced in size but I think they're big enough to look at. Boy are the thumbnails rough. I think I was experimenting with some 'brush' marker. I hate the squared off edges those strokes make. A real brush would have been so much better in being able to form less fractured backgrounds. But I want to put it together anyway, just to bring the germ out to the light of day in a whole form. The prospect of this is gives me such ideas...
In Catinka's Animal Notecards for Cat & Dog Lovers you can see the two images that became cards.
December 2, 2005 This morning I was doing yet another idle google for 'Maine watercolors' to see if my site would come up in the top 20 search results yet. No. (I know, top 20 is pretty meaningless - who would go that deep to find Maine watercolors?) But whenever I do such a search I do check out anything that catches me eye. I cannot remember why I checked out the site of Maureen Mullarkey but thank goodness I did. And I don't remember how she connects to Maine watercolors. (She's written reviews of various Maine artists.) But her site and her painting just floored me. She paints the figure with such a strong sense of the magical. The paintings are modern day versions of Medieval Art. I am so inspired because this is a vein of imagery/painting that I've left aside for so long and looking at her paintings I'm longing to return and feel quite moved to do so. In any case I start at least by writing this here.
And that reminds me - the other day I got a call from a dear long lost friend, Susan L. Schmidt. She is a painter who lives in Mexico City. I told her I've been googling for her work for ages and can hardly find it. She does have a website, Schmidteditions.com, and her work is also magical and figurative but more surrealistic. Her most recent work seems to have a strong connection to the artist Rene Magritte.
Having Magritte on my mind therefore, the other day in the cafe we go to after the watercolor class I teach, a book on Magritte caught my eye. (They now have a bookshelf from which to browse and/or buy) I took down the book and came upon his paintings "This is not a Pipe" and "This is not an Apple". The paintings, and his commentary about them, I thought would be such perfect illustrations for my students of this issue that I'm having such a hard time communicating....
February 20, 2006 ...But now I cannot express exactly what that connection is. That is why I have left this post as a draft for 2 1/2 months. I've been hoping it would come to me. And now I put it to you dear reader (should there be any of you) to leave a comment.
October 25, 2008 - More than two years later, in hopes that I can clarify the connections. Magritte means with his pipe and apple paintings that the painting is not real, it is an illusion. My students want so much to paint something that is 'real'. Until one understands that the 'realness' of something comes from another plane than that which makes the illusion of realness, one cannot hope to convey any kind of realness. Capture spirit and magic first because only that is truly real. I'm still not getting this in words. So be it.
As for large figure paintings that I thought I'd be doing after the inspirations of Maureen Mullarkey - I am at least making large demonstration drawings for my weekly library drawing workshops for kids. The subject matter is often from the inner world of the imagination, so there is a bit of an outlet for that interest of mine. I want to go much more that way though. Let this be my declaration that I will take steps in that direction, small as they might be.
Today I set up at Owls Head Harbor just to do some drawing or ink wash painting. I started out hoping I could draw directly with brush and ink to make a line painting that could also be a coloring page. Instead I worked first doing a study in tonal grey wash. Then, still with a mind to making a coloring page drawing, I did a pencil tonal drawing. The pattern of negative shapes and shadows were so fascinating though that I didn't get to doing a linear image.
One thing I love when working at a working waterfront is to be able to hear the banter and stories of the guys on the dock. If I heard right, the lobster catch is finally starting to pick up.
I'm usually painting alone or in the company of students. This time I was painting in the vicinity of another artist. When I got out of the car to set up with my gear and put my stool down I was surprised by the sight of another painter down below me on the beach set up with easel and large canvas. It was very hard not to ply this fellow with questions about his story. I finally had to ask. "Are you part of a workshop, or here painting because you just do it?" We exchanged our brief painters' stories. You will enjoy the paintings of Colin Page at colinpagepaintings.com.