in the beginning…is the line

“Drawing takes time. A line has time in it.”
-David Hockney

In this first assignment based on inner and outer contour, beginning students draw a complex natural object. Our college campus grounds are full of pinecones. They walk by them most every day. Now, I ask they study one.

They work a number of days on this one drawing. I particularly note the group’s patience and concentration as we move through the process. They arrive on time, grab their pinecone and draw. They appear careful observers from the start.

The first critique of this new year goes well. We talk about the quality of the lines,  general composition and all various challenges it took to compete these striking studies.

Here are a few…

Angelica’s Pinecone

Gisela’s Pinecone

Julyssa’s Pinecone

Aday’s Pinecone

Alex’s First

Luc’s The Pine Cone Maze

Juan’s Pinecone

Janera’s Pinecone

The class includes a group of returning students ↓ who get to pick their subject matter and work in mixed media. Basically they pick up where they left off last semester. Naturally they include various elements of design in their compositions including value, though they need to emphasize line/edge.

And they do a fine job holding the afternoon critique.

Edith’s The Dried Flower

Angel’s Duality : Typo Phobia

Angel’s in-class assignment ↑ is in mixed media drawing while her homework is the same seed pod completed ↓ in marker. Good idea Angel, I could start assigning this set up to future classes.

Angel’s Lotus Pod : Duality, marker

Seb’s Avalanche

Eamon’s Now That’s What I Call Pod Racing

Aine’s Artichoke

Basically students learn to look closely and see their subject matter. I ask they always  consider the lines they use to describe what they see. Most of them (Drawing 1) do this with a variety of fine markers and no eraser.  All the while coordinating eye, hand and brain…process is key.

Good start everyone!

label and separate


Label and Separate, Hand painted Intaglio Print, 10 x 8″, 2007

In the last few weeks I had opportunity to connect with several individuals (unrelated) working on oral history projects. The focus:  art and culture – on being an artist and on being Mexican-American.

I enjoy one meeting in particular because the focus is on Arizona artists and the particular discussion includes labels like Chicana/o, Latina/o, Mexican-American and Hispanic. Robert (who is creating the project) and I talk about why we might take on or resist such labels – or connect with some and not others.

I’ve had intelligent and worthwhile conversation about culture and labels in the last few years, with a number of people. While willing to discuss, I may or may not always know  where I stand. To add to things, I recently contacted a museum in El Paso (my hometown) and noted I was an El Pasoan, and soon I realized – I am not. At least in the eyes  of someone else – I am an Arizonan though I come from Texas.

I was born in El Paso, Texas and attended the University of Texas. I moved to New Mexico where I received an MFA. My husband and I came to Arizona so he could continue his education. We never imagined 20 years later, we’d still be here.

I am female and I am artist – lucky for me, those things are clear if not always simple. I am … I am … I am.

Sometimes I prefer to just stop at  the I am.

I believe at our very core we are creativity in motion. And we are like that bucket of water that is for a short time, separated from the ocean. The question always becomes – are you the bucket of water or are you the ocean it came from? As artists, there are moments we are aware of that vast ocean.

In terms of education and recording history, the discussion and the connections are valuable – they serve a broader purpose for what was, what is, and what may be. I appreciate the ebb and flow. That’s life, things change. Am I American?  Latina? Chicana? Mexican-American? Hispanic? We label and separate, only to come back with a clearer vision of who we are.

I think about this often. I appreciate the discussion. I look forward to giving you more info as the project unfolds.

side note:
A few years ago I worked on a series called Another Mental Concoction  that  posed the questions :
Who am I? What am I? What is this world and what is my relationship to it?
I come back to this over and over. It serves a purpose.

Click on the image to see the work.

who said

I Am – Yo Soy

a virtual artist residency

Back in June of 2013, Tempe Center for the Art’s Michelle Dock approached me with this project:

The Gallery at TCA is getting ready to collaborate with several local high school art teachers and ASU professor Dr. Mary Erickson to conduct an innovative art education project. We are calling the project a “virtual artist residency.”

She explained it would entail artists making themselves available via email to a small group of high school students during a 2-week period.

All of the participating students will be given a TCA workbook. The workbook will help them research the assigned artist, develop interview questions and ultimately lead to the making of their own artwork inspired by the residency. Each artist will be assigned to one specific art teacher and that teacher will assign the students to each artist.

Having worked with both Michelle and Mary before, I trusted it would be a worthwhile experience. Though I had no idea what to expect, I accepted. Art teacher Kathy David coordinated the email correspondence and we completed things the first week of December 2013.

Two months later I am pleased to introduce you to the work of Neilly, an IB Visual Arts student. Her list of questions to me were thoughtful and well-prepared. I had to step away from the computer regularly as I carefully considered my responses to her. I won’t give you all the details of the Q and A (because it really is 2 weeks worth of emails!) but I will share a few topics we covered and show you pages from Neilly’s journal.

Martinez Page 1b

Neilly began by asking about my Latino background, childhood experiences, and any traditions I might still uphold.  Who might be the audience for your work? she wanted to know. What is it like living in both American and Hispanic cultures? Neilly is Filipino-American.


We discussed some works at length. A drawing titled Gluttony (2008) caught her attention and she questioned how the image reflected American and Latino culture. In addition she wanted to know the media. At her request we covered artistic influences and media specifically in relation to Mexican culture.

Martinez Page 4b

She was curious about a community workshop I designed called  the “Who Am I?” project. The questions I ask participants to consider are: Who am I?, What am I?, What is this world and what is my relationship to it? What are ‘your’ answers? she inquired. Eventually I would learn her answers.

Martinez Page 2b

We discuss my current body of work titled Nothing in Stasis. She made associations to the work of Gustav Klimt. She watched one of my process videos on YouTube and asked about the background music which I’d composed with another artist.

Clearly Neilly had done a lot of research about my work. I had to wonder if given the opportunity to communicate with an artist, at her age would I have been so astute? 

Martinez Page 3b

Finally I ask about her work.

I’m thinking of painting a figure surrounded by persimmons, pomegranates, roses, and grapes – but I will be using a vintage television as my canvas.

We move into a conversation about humanity and technology and the nature of relating in this way. Interestingly enough at this point she brought up a painting titled The World Stage, a play in finite acts – and the phrase Summum bonum. I explain summun bonum is Latin and translates to the highest good.

Martinez critique 3

Here are parts of Neilly’s planning and completion of her artwork. I learn how I influence the final composition. She says it’s with the hands. Hands are powerful symbols.

Planning Pageb Process Pagesb Reflectionsb

Before we end the residency Nelly asks about my thoughts on religion and spirituality. She shared her thoughts with me too. The conversation included qualities about humanity as well as the animal world. She shares with me a Japanese symbol called the Red String of Fate and her personal take on it after our residency. It was wonderful insight into what she might have gathered from our interaction.

Neilly and I had the opportunity to discuss general and personal things – that’s what art allows us to do. I am impressed with her ability to communicate and with her curiosity about the ebb and flow of life.

Critique Martinezb

As you may know I teach drawing at Phoenix College and I teach the occasional art workshop to art students throughout the valley. This experience was a very unique and rewarding one.

Neilly came to me very directed and well prepared. I thought we were going to be discussing materials and compositional elements and while we did do that, we covered so much more. It ended on my end as quickly as it began. I didn’t know what to think. I could not have imagined that a few months later I would receive these wonderful images and a video based on the outcome of the experience for her.

I am pleased to note Neilly has been accepted to the Brown University / Rhode Island School of Design dual degree program. Best to you Neilly. I trust you will do well. Bravo!


no woman is an island….continues

Occasionally people contact me for permission to use images and/or posts from this blog. These are three outcomes ranging from across the globe. I note the different type of organizations and the connecting thread to educate.


Melissa Marquez, a freelance graphic designer out of Albuquerque, NM – interning with the National Hispanic Cultural Center – contacted me this summer. She specifically requested to use a border from a painted ceramic tile piece I created. Above (and below) is her take on the simple design. It will also be used to border areas in the gallery space.
The upcoming exhibition is titled “En la Cocina with San Pasqual.”

The original design → here.

Melissa Marquez is a freelance graphic designer → website.
National Hispanic Cultural Center → website.

SanPascual_invite2Using a detail of one of my works on paper, below – Lesley Grecco designed a postcard for a workshop titled Bodywork for Voice and Movement Practitioners. Initially Lesley contacted me because she wanted to use images for a lecture she was giving to medical personal about Craniosacral Bodywork. Coincidentally I’d become interested in the body work and she directed me to valuable resources.

Lesley Grecco lives in Toronto, Canada, here is her → website link.

IMG_4938 IMG_4939

Amira Robinson from New Zealand requested use of photos from a drawing class – on contour study.  The article was for a Student Art Guide that helps art students excel. The photos below are her specific choice. They are only a few of many interesting works in her article.

I should note this one link brings my blog daily traffic, from all over the world.

Amira’s → article.

drawing-pineconesThe internet is one interesting medium. I’ve been invited to give a virtual residency. If things go as planned it will be next month. Let’s see how that goes.

working in pastel

preparing a value scale

This post results from a note a drawing 2 student, who worked in Pastel, sent me. He asks if I can tell him what the technical term for working with pastel is called, precisely. I’d referred to it as drawing [with pastel], during the course of the semester. A drawing teacher, could say this. After his experience with it, he wonders if it might be more technically correct to say painting [with pastel], or in fact, could he be sculpting. I loved the question. He knows, he says, he is not pasteling. I understand he’s put his whole self into the process and experience teaches him much.

He picked up freedom with this medium, that he hadn’t been able to find with marker or charcoal. When he draws with pastel, his arm seems to glide or dance across his paper.  I say to him his instincts / his feelings, in fact, are all correct. Any of the technical terms he uses, could be accurate.  He could be drawing, he could be painting, and yes, he very well could be sculpting, on a 2 dimensional surface, with the medium of pastel.

learning local value with pastel

He notes that whatever it’s called…he absolutely and joyously loves it. With that statement, I decide since my semester with him is technically over,  I can write what I really believe he’s doing.

I tell him he is engaging in joy, thru the medium of pastel, on a 2 dimensional surface (paper/canvas).
I humorously add, I think the Dalai Lama would approve. I believe he just might.

I choose to continue, and discuss practical things, because I feel one can never know enough about safety, especially when it appears, on all counts, he’ll continue using pastels.  He’s bought himself several Rembrandt sets. (He does use both regular and Oil Pastels throughout the semester. Most everything I write here is referring to regular soft Pastel.)

I mention the importance of safety while working with the medium of pastel. By its very nature, it creates dust. Too much dust is a problem, to the lungs especially. Pastels are made of pigments and a binder, and pigments can be hazardous, the dust, specifically. Cobalt and Cadmium are beautiful, the blues and reds, and are highly toxic to the lungs, and kidneys.  Inhaling or ingesting is not wise. Another pigment, Yellow Chrome, contains led, and can be absorbed thru the skin.  Metals like gold, copper and silver can do the same thing. Mask (nose and mouth cover) and gloves are important with continued use of pastels.

The other thing about working in pastel, is that it is not a stable medium. Artists tend to fix it with an aerosol fixative.  Caution should always be taken with any fixative.  If you don’t have a ventilation system in your work space, go outdoors to spray, and still cover your mouth and nose.

Probably if you’re going to be working large, and drawing for long extended periods of time with charcoal, you might consider covering mouth and nose.

setting a ground

careful observation

almost complete

My students assignment is to reproduce an old master.  This is his rendition of Vincent Van Gogh’s, Skeleton Smoking A Cigarette.
Don’t get me started on cigarettes….

I suggest when working with pastel (or any other art medium), to research the material. A good book to have in ones studio, The Artist’s Handbook of Materials and Techniques, by Ralph Mayer.  BTW, according to my copy, working with pastel, would technically be called painting
I still think he’s engaging in joy. Approached with thoughtfulness and care, it could bring many long years of happiness.