And, of course, we will be witnessing and photographing all the beauty we can grab - fodder for future paintings and creative endeavors that haven't yet been imagined.
On the easel, just completed, this selfie-inspired portrait (what to do when you've run out of inspirational models!) in oils. Underneath the portrait is a full failure of a painting, which became a lovely base of texture to keep things from becoming too precious. Beginning with a notanized photograph, I roughed in a sketch in blue oil pastel. Then a liquin-thinned wash of white mixed with ivory, grabbing the blue pastel edges and thinning it all into the beginnings of flesh-tones. The requisite 80 million layers of paint, this time with a very small brush (usually I opt for something large to keep things loose). The small brush allows some natural mottling and texture. The hair was roughed in with a rubber brayer, some chopsticks and the occasional shirt-sleeve (unintended)
The last painting of summer. And now....fall!
Have you ever completed an impossible task? Overcome the un-overcomeable? Done the thing you didn't believe you could do? I'll bet you have. I think we all have bone dogs in our lives - a symbol of our own tenacity, resilience and determination. With perhaps a little magic, serendipity and the love, support and encouragement of others. When I think of the things I have done that I didn't believe I could do, I feel a little sparkle.
And so this piece - a dog made of bones - a talisman for the impossible. Which we know, you and I, is sometimes very possible, likely, probable and done.
About the art: beginning with a thickly gesso'd wood panel and an oil pastel sketch of a dog skeleton. Adding the requisite 80 million layers of oil paint. Coming over the entire skeleton with thick lime green paint, then scraping away, leaving deposits in the bones. Adding back the details, allowing paint thinned with Gamsol to run down the piece. Adding a light pink sky in a thin wash with a rubber brayer.
Somewhere in this odd couple of pandemic years, we began reading aloud each afternoon. A bowl of popcorn, a couple of popcorn-hungry pooches and two humans transported by words to places far, far away. The places, the stories, the juicy descriptions and words - oh the words! Words to look up, savor and roll around the tongue. Words to contemplate and share and deliciously place into sentences. Words to forget as aging brains leak a portion of what we glean every day.
And this lovely ritual contains both learning and loving - Clarke's formula for happiness.
It also leaves two artists with brains stuffed full of adventure, creatures, planets, people, conundrums and endings. It cannot help but spill over into the art.
About the art - using oil paint palettes still wet from prior pieces and inverting them over a wood panel. Sliding, scraping, blotting, moving the palette against the wood until the wet paint has transferred. Finding shapes and worlds within the paint and jumping off from that place using only rubber wedge, soft cloth, fingers and chopsticks.
At first it's difficult to draw a hare that is anything but sweetness. But now I admit to being a wee bit obsessed with the creepiness of these creatures, and find myself sneaking up on this painting after dark, just to be slightly startled and delighted. More to come along this path, I think.
Just so we don't encounter him on an actual path. :)
About the art: beginning with a wood panel gesso'd thickly and with random texture. Initial sketch in oil crayon over the gesso. Slowly layering thinned oil paint and allowing the underpainting to dry thoroughly. Applying then a thick layer of varying blues over the rabbit and dragging the paint with rubber wedge and squeegee. Allowing liquin and paint-soaked brushes to leave trails through the drying paint, then adding back a few details. Check out a process video at Instagram.com/jenjovanart
Thanks to COVID 19 (in all of its many, multiplying forms), we hike. And not just hike, but go to the places where others are unlikely to go. Over the last two-plus years, this has replaced movie theaters, restaurants, shopping, concerts, plays and all the things that used to be entertainment. Something wondrous happened inside of me because of this - a deep, intimate connection with the wildness of "out there" (wherever it may be) and a feeling of calm, peaceful ease inside my head as our feet go up and down for mile after mile of wilderness. Even when the rain falls hard upon us. Even when the brambles leave legs lacerated and stinging. Even when the way seems harder than we can do.
I try to bring this back into the regular world, where sometimes things feel too hard to handle, even though my butt is in a chair and the air conditioning is keeping me cool and nothing is pushing my heart and lungs to near bursting. Sometimes this works. But little reminders help.
We collect treasures - bone and stone and shell and feather, wood and moss and branch. There are little altars everywhere - vignettes of the wilderness. They are reminders of what matters, this connection between soul and landscape, as Oliver says, that we need. And I do love the thought that it needs us.
About the art - oil paint on black gesso over wood. A crescent moon holding our bare spirit, ready to receive treasures gathered along the way.
NUDGE-SHOVE is open through the end of August. We hope you'll explore, linger and love the experimental art we've created, and the idea of PUSHING ourselves in response to the words of Sylvia Plath and world events. Thanks for your support!
Artists!!! Interested in participating in future collaborations? Express your interest here.
We haven't solved any of the world's problems here.
But we have found a way to take the chaos of everything out there and use that energy for something else - to connect, inspire, commiserate, encourage, listen and see.
It is our sincere hope that our art and words will touch you, dear reader. We hope to hit a nerve, strike a chord, make a little splash. Maybe, if we're lucky, it will inspire other small experiments in the world - nudging and shoving until our kind multiplies (Plath).
Art is about seeing.
And the sun is in Leo: See and Be Seen. 21,915 days as a human being. And still the way I see is changing.
I've been stuck in my head, mired in the negative nonsense of the number of years I now am. How I saw myself (in the mirror, in my mind's eye) was not always flattering (and now and then downright unkind). Until someone who loves me showed me how I look through his eyes and camera lens. It was (is) the greatest gift. Thank you, my love, for seeing this me in me.
This all started because I challenged myself to be exceptionally vulnerable about turning sixty. (You know well, dear reader, how much I value vulnerability and all it brings). Which included being wiling to put my very self out there the same way I do my art, risking rejection and ridicule but going for it anyway. Because when I am ninety and look back at sixty, I want to know that I was sixty without reservation.
What I didn't expect was to be changed by the experience.
I did not expect to feel exhilarated standing nude on a mist-shrouded beach in freezing water. I did not expect to feel self-love cover me like a warm blanket, and the weight of inhibition to fall away like unwanted detritus. I did not expect it to be so awkwardly and wonderfully delicious.
Days later, upon seeing the final photos, I did not expect to be overwhelmed by tears.
What I saw in those (these) pictures was not the me I knew. What I saw was a woman much and gently and gracefully loved. I wanted to be her - and I was (am) her. How could this be, that I never saw this me?
There are tears as I write these words. To be seen changes how I see.
Mark Nepo's words have illuminated my experiences for some years now, and these words (which I have quoted here before) are just the thing, I think, for this:
“We waste so much energy trying to cover up who we are when beneath every attitude is the want to be loved, and beneath every anger is a wound to be healed and beneath every sadness is the fear that there will not be enough time.
When we hesitate in being direct, we unknowingly slip something on, some added layer of protection that keeps us from feeling the world, and often that thin covering is the beginning of a loneliness which, if not put down, diminishes our chances of joy.
It’s like wearing gloves every time we touch something, and then, forgetting we chose to put them on, we complain that nothing feels quite real. Our challenge each day is not to get dressed to face the world but to unglove ourselves so that the doorknob feels cold and the car handle feels wet and the kiss goodbye feels like the lips of another being, soft and unrepeatable.”
Here's to sixty, dear reader.
Here's to not covering up who we are, to ungloving ourselves.
(with deep gratitude to my partner for the gift of his skills as a photographer and artist and all the things.)
NUDGE-SHOVE opens right here on August 1. Sign up for email notifications (in the column on the right).
Sometimes, as a storyteller/artist, I don't even know what the story is until someone like you, dear reader, comments on how the piece feels to them. And then there is a little AHA lightbulb - it is often spot-on. We are complicit, you and I, in these tales woven in paint. I like the idea that we're conspiring together.
About the art: beginning with a heavily textured and gesso'd canvas, painting a portrait in oil paint (this one inspired by a photo of a coal miner). The underpainting was allowed to dry for several days. Then adding thick, loose oil paint (mixed with Liquin) in large brush strokes all over the face. Moving the paint with squeegee and rubber wedge from left to right. I returned to the details with a small brush to bring out the eyes and face highlights again. Then, a Gamsol-soaked wet brush dragged along top edges and allowed to run through the wet paint, leaving delicious texture. Want to see it in action? Head over to my instagram for a little video.
It might be a response to the world. Or maybe a way of working through to the words I long to have. Or just a delicious journey of destruction.
Whatever the reason, there are more to come. And once you get started down this rabbit hole, there is no stopping.
About the art: beginning with a black gesso'd canvas, loosely sketching a portrait and building the layers in oil paint. Moving the paint with squeegee and rubber brayer, then back in with more layers of detailed definition and shadowing. The final layer is mixed with a generous helping of Liquin to keep the paint very wet. Moved horizontally with squeegee and wedge.
Want to see it in action? Head over to Instagram.com/jenjovanart for a video
And while my thoughts are fermenting, the art is expanding. A new show is coming (shhhhhhhh! It's a little secret! Details soon!) and it's pushing me in the studio. If you'd like to be notified when the show begins, subscribe (in the column on the right) and you'll get a little notice in your in-box. :).
If you've also been struggling for words lately, leave a little comment below. Maybe we can all help each other figure out exactly what words might be best right now.
About the art: beginning with untreated Arches watercolor paper and sketching with charcoal, then blending in acrylic paint to form the structure of the portrait and basic values and colors. Using rubber wedge and large brushes, going over the acrylic with oil paint and allowing it to move and slide and blend. I'm delighted to be working in oils again!
Jen Jovan and her imaJENation