mark making – on the fly

Mid-June: I drive through the streets of El Paso, TX, my home-town, with my brother. He takes me through the warehouse district to look at murals and graffiti walls. Returning to Phoenix, I regret not taking photos.

End of July:  For years I noted street art. El Paso nudges me. I’m curious enough to mess with it now.

Though not complicated, I admit, I don’t know what I’m doing. I cut out
stencils and pick up black aerosol spray paint. I cover my mouth and nose with a light-weight face mask. Quickly I learn I love (love) the graphic image. No delay of gratification with this medium. The experience is intoxicating to say the least.

And it’s toxic. It doesn’t help that it’s summer in Phoenix. I am just about done with it when someone gives me color aerosol spray paint. Before the weekend is over I pull out a high-quality mask with mouth, nose and eye protection and I wear long sleeves and gloves.

And so it goes…

I don’t have the language down. Is it a tag? A stencil? Because I am a printmaker at heart, my preference connects to mark-making.

No title, no signature, no sense of permanence, less is more.

Marking space, on the fly.


Afterthought…
Perhaps things begin with wanting to take the jaguar I am painting in studio, out of studio. One early morning, a few weeks ago, I go outside to photograph the painting. The shadow of the tree animates the composition in such a way, I naturally want to see the big cat outdoors.

He roams.

Today: back to painting in the studio with the plan to finish my jaguar in August.  I feel  satisfaction with last week’s roll.

Though I feel I should give it one more try…and play with the political. It’s crazy out there…

jaguar – panthera onca – big cat

Presence of a jaguar(s) in the Sonoran desert determines I will someday draw the big cat. First things first, I need to cross paths with one.

Last weekend, a visit to the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center with artist Carolyn Lavender, brings the opportunity. We attend an evening Bat Netting. Excited about the bats, I don’t think about meeting the resident jaguar.

Before the netting, our guide walks us through the facility. Each animal has a rescue story. (Humans…one really has to wonder about some of them.)

A jaguar walks towards us, slow and elegant. Two fences sit between him and us.  I want to push aside a young boy that stands between me and the feline (but I don’t). I want a closer look.

The large cat and the guide interact, they know each other. We look at the majestic creature. He looks at us. He lays and rolls in the same way my cat does when she’s feeling secure.

Our guide makes introductions and explains Leonardo, bred for entertainment, was born in a cage. His canine teeth and his claws, pulled out. You can imagine how not having canine’s has effected him, including the facial structure necessary to eat, consequently effecting diet and proper nutrition. Declawing is not recommended (considered abuse) for cats (big or small) and in this case, the careless job leaves the jaguar with pain.

I stay behind as people move on to the next wild creature.  When he lays eyes on me, I am thrilled (to say the least).

Leo, respected and made whole, enjoys a good life these days.

Leonardo’s story points to the value of the Conservation Center.  The facility houses many animals including coyotes, wolves, lions and bears. While the goal is to rescue, rehabilitate and release the animal back into the wild, in the case of some animals (like Leo) where condition does not permit, Southwest Wildlife becomes home.

Back to the studio…This summer, I draw a jaguar.

As I begin setting up a composition, I realize I must consider how to lay in both anatomy and unique markings. I will need to decide how to balance the anatomy and the striking pattern. (I had a similar challenge a few years back when I painted an armadillo.)

The jaguar head is a 16 x 16″ collage and mix media panel. A study of materials, method and subject that will help me lay out a full anatomy study of the grand feline.


The Southwest Wildlife Conservatory is a non-profit organization that rescues and rehabilitates wild animals. They provide a home-for-life in their accredited sanctuary for animals that cannot be returned to the wild.
For more info and/or donation (they have a wish list)  → Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center

eddie in profile, my brain draws conclusions

More on the brain. And my random notes…

  • you use all of your brain, at different times (not just 10%)
  • nerve cells are the basic building block of the brain
  • nerve cells (neurons) generate electrical signals (action potentials) which allow them to transmit information over long distances
  • glial cells (glia) are essential to nervous system function, though mostly their job consists of supporting neurons
  • we don’t really know how many brain cells we have
  • we can never really determine what is going on in someone’s head (only he or she can)
  • left brain controls right side of the body, right brain controls the left, but logic and creativity stem from both hemispheres
  • 1/4 of our brain is connected to our visual perception (can we really know this? i don’t believe so)
  • the visual system is understood better than any other sensory system

I draw Eddie.

I consider the sub-conscious (the unconscious) as I collage a brain, using a city map of El Paso, Texas, into the composition. I focus in on the general vicinity where Eddie spends  much of his youth (Sunset Heights). I choose the ground work to place into his mind/brain. The truth is Eddie could (probably would) choose differently and it might not be the city in which he grew up. It could be something that connects to a particular person, place or thing I know nothing about.

I like how the collage map compositionally sets the 1-10 highway to run from the eye-ball to the back of the brain (occipital lobe). See the red ↓ line, it follows the path of the real optic nerve. I don’t plan this. How does brain science explain serendipity?

This week I listen to Charlie Rose’s The Brain Series. While working on this drawing I listen to The Acting Brain.  

  • The acting brain devoted to movement (the motor system) needs a visual (internal representation) of the outside world (a particular act). The motor system begins with this internal representation. 
In order to act (to move) one (the brain) needs to know where to move. It needs a plan, a decision, a want, as well as a willingness to execute the plan. There is a whole hierarchy of function that must occur in order for one…to act/to direct action/to move (sounds to me like goal setting).
  • The (entire) brain is set up for movement. Really…the entire brain? Did I hear this right? Do I understand correctly?

 

Notes on the Complexity of the Brain, Mixed media on paper 8×8″

I meet Eddie in a ceramic art class in high school. He enjoys careful forming, making and perfecting objects with clay. Between the desire to create, a mechanically inclined and practical sensibility (logic meeting creativity), it’s no wonder he ends up in the engineering field. He (brain and mind) thrives on solving a problem. You understand I draw a conclusion here because only he can say for sure what is true.

it’s all in your head

I want to map and label a brain. But before I do, I decide to look more closely and try to understand the areas (oh boy! there’s so much!) of the brain. This small study lays out general regions of the brain and some of their activities (I’m bound to do more).

The drawing begins spontaneously after brief conversation with a friend. I respond to a feeling (probably in the frontal lobe).

My jumble of notes include random sentences and words:

  • Brain: 24/7 watch dog
  • Control center for sensory and motor activity
  • controls thinking, memory, emotion, auditory and visual activity
  • interprets sight, hearing, taste, smell and balance
  • emotions are not feelings but are biochemical properties that produce feeling
  • automatic
  • somatic
  • plasticity
  • dynamic
  • genes
  • environment
  • architecture
  • every single thing you do makes your brain different.
  • it has enormous creative ability.
  • creativity originates in the brain.
  • is a creativity machine.
  • creativity receiver (via eye)

Other things influencing the direction of this study…

  • Quick back and forth, in the early part of the week, with a friend, about memory (that’s her in the portrait).
  • I am (still) thinking about pattern making and Aboriginal artwork.
  •  I speak with someone in the medical profession about wanting to understand something fully. She responds by saying no one understand everything fully, especially when it comes to the human body.

Is this really what she said? I can’t remember. I should have written it down.

It’s all in your Head, Mixed media on paper, 8×8″

A note about brain health…
The work is mostly copper and gold ink. On a different note, based on what I understand about brain health, copper is a nutrient at low levels. Among other things, the body uses it for bone growth, nerve conduction and hormone secretion. In high concentration it is linked to cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease.

 

on circles and other things vital

Circles are absolutely vital.
― Juan Filloy, Op Oloop


Remember my last post – I’m messing around with images for a little while.

I hand-paint the artist proof of an Intaglio print I made a few years back.

I think about vitality.
I think about framework and structure / skeleton and grid.
I think about circuitry, gold, silver, copper (conductivity) and motherboards.
I think about the body as a vehicle for enlightenment.
I think about the four elements – earth, water, fire and air (tierra, agua, fuego y aire).
I spend 2 days drawing circles and for a moment, I wonder about Aboriginal art.

Serendipity…
Before the day is over I am invited to teach a workshop that will be held during the run of a painting exhibition titled Marking the Infinite (Contemporary Woman Artists of Aboriginal Australia).

Now I think about the forming of the body and pattern making.

The 10 x 8″ mixed-media print (can this still be called a print?) is untitled as of yet.

And on a side note: Silver is more electrically conductive than copper or gold.

summer drawing – no body/yes body

Every summer  I spend time working on a small series, usually about 5, connected images.
In general, I get away from whatever I’m working on, I try not to think so much, and I opt for spontaneous, quick(er) and fun design. A few years ago, the small insect studies emerge this way.

This summer I think to get away from the body. Nope, not happening…

Tuesday I go to the eye doctor. I come across 2 big eye-ball models sitting on his desk. I know before the week is over I’ll draw them.

The appointment is followed by a visit to Made Art Boutique where I find a 3.5 x 2.5″ metal frame. The project won’t resolve how I hang any of my 2-sided mylar drawings – but the kitsch quality appeals to me. I can see a few more of these ex-voto like objects happening.


The 10 3/4 x 9 3/4″, mixed-media collage on paper ↓ combines text, drawing, and an intaglio print. I like the words – The Approach of the Intuition Versus The Approach of the Mind and Spirit and Form go Into Conflict and Appeal to the Heart For Balance.

I want to include a brain but I don’t think it through in terms of space. That’s what happens when one is not thinking (too much). For the record neurons take up space in the composition. I layer the finished piece with a Casein varnish.

The title for now is Emergence of the Heart – the name of the chapter the words come from.

Let’s see what the coming week brings…

 

anatomy of arousal

“I didn’t hear words that were accurate, much less prideful. For example, I never once heard the word clitoris. It would be years before I learned that females possessed the only organ in the human body with no function than to feel pleasure. (If such an organ were unique to the male body, can you imagine how much we would hear about it—and what it would be used to justify?)”
― Gloria Steinem, The Vagina Monologues

 

“The clitoris is pure in purpose. It is the only organ in the body designed purely for pleasure.”
Eve Ensler, The Vagina Monologues


Christine, based in London, is completing a training (here in the states) to become a Fertility Awareness Educator. Interested in using my artwork (the reproduction system) as teaching material, she contacts me.

While the work is grounded in scientific medical illustration, it is also abstracted. I use symbolic color and line suggesting the subtle energy of the human body. As it turns out she is also a Massage and Craniosacral Therapy practitioner and understands why I explain – it may or may not work as traditional teaching material.

We share some goals, in this particular case, to educate and empower women.

I admit since beginning our correspondence, I’ve learned what (almost) feels like a new language! Christine asks if you were to draw something up from scratch for us – for example the internal anatomy showing the full anatomy of arousal, what is your rates? I respond in a practical way giving general information for a commission and prices.

Though all the while I’m wondering…what exactly is the full anatomy of arousal?

Eventually while speaking with her (where are my notes!) I realize I think sensual as she clarifies sexual anatomy. She explains more and I really do feel like I am hearing a foreign language.

She emphasizes the clitoris, crura (2 legs extending 9 cm into the pelvis), and bulbs of the vestibule (two – one laying to either side of the vaginal opening). She directs me to reference material, including images and books.

I respond to the information Christine sends. The plexus of veins and the arteries (like a hammock), and the nerves among all the forms also catch my attention. I know they will make for added (and beautiful) detail, shape and texture.

I am further educated by my friend Tara, a Pelvic Floor Specialist. I say to her, I don’t like pink, I don’t want to paint anything pink. She explains color indicates health (pink it is). Once again she lends me her medical pelvis model with ↓bladder, uterus and colon (I plan to include). And she too, provides me with reading material.

I start to organize a composition and I can’t help but recall The Dinner Party and the work of Judy Chicago ↓. I am further reminded of the politics of the female body as I continue to research other artist’s work.

Judy Chicago, test plate, 1978 National Museum of Women in the Arts (photo by C. Lavender)

Right now the study sits on my drawing table. I might add one more element. And then I’ll consider the title of the small painting on mylar.

I leave you with a few interesting facts…

  • The clitoris has at least 8000 nerve endings (a man’s penis has about 4000).
  • The clitoris and the crura are referred to as the wish bone because their structure resembles one.
  • One single gene on a Y chromosome and a clitoris (female) becomes…you guessed it…a penis (male).
  • Clitoris is Greek for key. It has only one job.

I plan to ask Christine if she wants to say anything about the anatomy of arousal. If she agrees, look for a future post.

There is so much to our body – take care to know it.