Monday, January 31, 2011

Moroccan Mosaic Designs

I spent the bulk of the morning at the passport office in Seattle to replace my passport that was stolen by three Artful Dodger types in the Paris subway. Watch out on the line by Sacre Coeur (Cathedral of the greatest magnitude and the greatest thieves!)  

Time has eluded me today. (I am working on getting healthcare - really a full-time job for someone recently unemployed.) So, today has become a research day for making the templates for the Moroccan tile designs I saw most often while living there. I must have left behind the one pattern that most resembles the mosaics I saw most often. 

If anyone would look through the art files I left, and find a pattern like the one shown here, I assume it would take months to mail it and actually get to me in the States. So, let the art files languish for now. The teachers there have so much on their plates. It's a good opportunity for me to be resourceful. I've put the pattern up to the computer screen, and created a lightbox of sorts. Before one knows it, a pattern emerges!

I hope to use these patterns in the Moroccan series. I am thinking of putting the first ones behind the little Moroccan boy I painted a while back. I think the purple tiles need to disappear. 

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Back To Morocco

Well, not via airplane, but via art.  (My old travel buddies are breathing easier.) I am hopeful I can finish painting number 6 this week, the Medina, and then start on a painting using some of the mosaic designs I saw in Morocco. I have copies to make templates, and I am hoping to move to oils...painting outside by the lake. Hmmmm. I think I'll need sun for that! 

It has been nice to have taken a sabbath rest today. My artist friend, Jackie, and I drove to Widbey Island for a few hours. We enjoyed touring a gallery together with a show on the theme "Saints and Sinners." Some really thought-provoking pieces were beautifully displayed. I especially liked the confessional that had two confession areas, and it did not have an area for the priest. It was more like, "Confess your sins one to another."

 We also enjoyed a volcanic chocolate cake bowl, pudding in the middle topped with vanilla ice cream, at a cozy bistro right on main street in Langley. We warmed our chilled hands with hot cups of fresh-brewed coffee. To complete the afternoon, we were able to see Mt. Baker in all of its splendor as we waited for our return ferry. God displayed what an amazing artist He is, as always, moment by moment, holding everything together. Always takes my breath away.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Italian Plums

I have busied myself, when not holding a baby or grandson, working on yet another painting I began a few years ago on a summer trip through Italy. I ended my travels in Italy on the Italian coast, in the Cinque Terra town of Monterosa. I stayed at a farmhouse, and had so much fun getting to know the farmer and his wife. That's another story! Since I am not at the Lake House, I am having to take a break from my Medina painting. My grandsons and I have had fun drawing horses and then working on our own pieces. I hope to return to my Moroccan series tomorrow.

I am selling this original watercolor to help support my missions trip to Nicaragua.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Medina Continued .....


Giclee print for sale.
I have had to reconsider if I am really unemployed. A couple of days ago, I asked my missions pastor if I could sell some artwork to help pay for my upcoming trip to Nicaragua. He said sure, but to try it on Facebook. Ever since then, I have busied myself by posting, all my prints that I have dragged to and from Morocco, on Facebook. Yes, I dragged a lot of art to Morocco, and happily, some of it stayed there. But much did not.

Another from the black portfolio.
I was not too certain anything would sell, but I know people are praying, and I am, too. Believe it or not, I started getting donations for artwork! Trust me, in this world of instant art, colored printers and cheap prints, along with a recession, original art isn't selling as well as it used to. (Not that I've ever peaked or anything.)

So, I have been running around buying bubble wrap filled mailers and culling through every piece or print of art I have made in the past couple of years. If you could see my sagging, half-dead portfolio case, you'd wonder what good could come of it. (Don't judge a book by its cover, nor my portfolio bag:-) That poor black bag got stuck in a snowstorm in Frankfurt, Germany on December 18th, so I am amazed I even have it today. Inside, it turns out, are little art treasures for dear friends who support me.

Now, back to the Morocco Medina....I still have a few hours left to paint. I'll post a photo later.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Medina Continued and Unemployment Musings

People may wonder what unemployed people do all day. I don't know. I never used to wonder about that. Now, I am one of them, so I am in the thick of it, so to speak. (Thick of what, you may ask.) My brother, Marc, thinks I am in the second stage of my epic novel: Pray, Eat, Love. He thinks I was praying like crazy in Morocco (correct), I am going to eat like crazy on our family trip to Italy this summer (correct), and I will go to a third country for love. Hmmm. I hate to copy other's epic novels.

I tell him I may be writing a slightly different epic novel. How about Pray, Eat, Art?  I kind of like that, but it doesn't sound very epic. Still, I like it. Maybe God will make it epic?

Well, back to what I do all day. I don't stay in bed all day, in case you were wondering.(My dad is relieved.) I spend much of my day doing things preparing for employment, at a slightly slower pace. Oddly enough, my body is still trying to hurry, even though it's going nowhere at 6 a.m. like it used to. 

I find myself racing around my bedroom at the peaceful Lake House, and then saying to myself, "Hey, why are you racing around like an idiot? You are unemployed. Relax." But....I've got to get my shower, get dressed, check email, make breakfast really fast. Really? Who cares if I shower at 6 or 8 or 11 for that matter? No one. No one is going to ask me to get a sub for my unemployed life at 5:30 a.m. 

Stay tuned, I may get a job yet.

Waiting is uncomfortable because it devastates the delusion that you are in control & calls you to submit to the control of Another. ~ Tripp

And yes, I worked on the medina painting. 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Medina - Painting Six

Casablanca Medina
I just have to share up front that God has blessed me with an amazing place to live, make art and prepare for my next steps. The story of God's grace, mercy and love in creating the home where I am now living is astounding. (I just finished reading the story.) This home and its story is true artwork. It is true beauty - what has happened in this place. All I can say is I am shocked that I get to be a part of it; God's love is truly amazing. (My travel buddies from Morocco would be very happy.)

I have new, heavy watercolor paper out, and I am beginning the large painting of the medina in Casablanca. It is the old medina, and it is quite typical of the medinas I visited throughout Morocco. I am captured by the scene I hope to paint because the woman I photographed seemed happy. That was a little rare in my experience wandering the narrow alleyways of medinas, so I am thankful to have captured her smile. I have many other people to add, but I worked carefully on the flow of these three people in the development of the drawing.

Monday, January 24, 2011


Today has been a day of supply-gathering and a speaking engagement for me on Morocco. First thing today, I enjoyed seeing all my fantastic students at my former school during chapel. I happily shared a powerpoint presentation with many pictures of people and places in Morocco. I shared the beach and ocean, the  school and the children, and I shared some of the local culture. I taught them the few phrases of Arabic I remember, and shared about my interesting and amazing experiences in Morocco. (Favorite Arabic phrase - "Ana Fanana" which means, "I am an artist.")

I wanted to have the whole school break for Moroccan mint tea afterward, but math and reading took precedence. I very much enjoyed seeing all my colleagues from a wonderful school that really values the arts. They are precious friends.

Next, I headed to Daniel Smith art supply store for my heavy weight watercolor paper. I found plenty of it, one of the few places to have 300 pound weight, and I found a good book to use with children and adults for watercolor projects. It's hard to leave a good art supply store without hauling most of what is in there away. Hmmm. No money is a great deterrent. 

Now it is time to start drawing out my next Moroccan to follow later today.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Woman Grinding To Make Argan Oil

I'm sitting in a Starbucks in my little town in the USA thinking about all those men who sit in the cafes in Morocco, waiting for a call for some sort of work. The cafe is their office. So is mine now.The coffee does taste a little burned, sorry Starbucks fans, but the wi-fi is good. I am sitting near the fire, but at a table, trying to think I am actually working, not lounging. 

I have gotten a good chunk done on painting number five in my series of twenty Morocco paintings. I know I need to push the lights and darks just a bit more. (I am nearing one fourth finished with my goal!) I am hoping to get painting six up and running this week, even though I have a speaking engagement and a move to my more permanent home all happening almost immediately. While driving around with heavy, cumbersome piles of all my worldly goods, odd shoes and boots, I feel homelessness to some degree. I even had to seatbelt in my items on the passenger side so the alarm would turn off! 

I'm not living in my car, so I smile and think, I am blessed. I have helpful, loving friends and family. I have girlfriends.

It is just like the women in the Atlas Mountains in Morocco who have banded together to form a co-op to make money for couscous, carrots and maybe a new scarf. They have each other, even though they have no husbands, and their lives are working out because of their female friendships. The nuts they grind produce oils that are made into health and beauty products. 

There is wonderful nut butter for sale in another room at the complex. And there is a wealth of creams, lip gloss, wrinkle removers and soaps all made from the oils these women make. They grab a handful of nuts at a time, and grind them on the central stone in the device placed on their laps as well as a supporting stone. On the floor of their little structure, they sit and survive. I think they are beautiful.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Two Pieces of Art Found

As I was packing up to return north, I came across two of my favorite watercolors I painted last year. I know this has nothing to do with Morocco, but it is lovely to see summer flowers in the dead of winter - especially in gray Seattle! Just for fun!

Grinding The Argan Nut

I hope to add watercolor after the grandsons head for bed. Here is a widowed or divorced woman, living high in the Atlas Mountains outside of Marrakech, Morocco.  She is grinding the Argan nuts into oil that will be used for all sorts of nutritional and beauty products. 

Hopefully, to be continued later today.....

My grandson Caleb thinks it's interesting the Moroccan woman is grinding nuts on the floor with some of the equipment on a rock. 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Leaving My Moroccan Girl For Now

I have worked on greater detail on my little Moroccan girl, but I need to lay her aside for a few days and then look at her with fresh eyes. The watercolor needs to rest as well. I know there needs to be a bit more contrast of darks and lights.

I am now beginning a drawing of a place up in the Atlas mountains where a co-op of divorced and widowed women banded together to make a living. No social security up in those mountains. The women were making oil from a special nut. They were working on the dirt floor with tarps and cloths about them. Tomorrow, I will begin painting their story.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Moroccan Girl Continued

I still have more details for completion of my Moroccan girl, but it is late. There were babies to hold, dishes to wash, sharing to explain. My daughter has needed a bit of encouragement, and she said to me it is an answer to prayer that I am here. 

I hope to work on all four paintings that I have good starts on during the remainder of the week. I'm wanting to start a new painting, so that is probably good. I haven't lost my drive for this series. I think it is time to go back to a couple of landscapes, and I hope to work a little more loosely. Hmmm. Someday, I'm just going to put streaks of brightly colored paint on canvas and call it a day. (Sure you are.)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Moroccan Girl

Being a "successfully producing" artist  or even a slightly successful artist is being totally sabotaged by my amazingly active and creative nephew, Caleb. He is practicing his home-made sling-shot on me while I try to draw and prepare to paint a Moroccan girl. The pencil he is using, often pokes through my clothes and brings forth cries of pain from me. "Now, how does that feel?" he asks. (I need to re-watch that "Boundaries" video.) Obviously, drawing on the right side of the brain is slightly hampered here. Bringing Morocco to life through my painting seems to have a multitude of hurdles!

My Moroccan girl is becoming representational of girls and women in Morocco. Many of my female students were not covered, but most women and some girls were always covered in my little town of Dar Bouazza.

I'll try to add some color after Caleb goes to bed tonight! ......The grandkids are all tucked in and I am starting to lay some paint in the girl's face. I am trying to soften the anxiety in her face, but, to some extent, it typifies a look on the part of some of the women I met. Women were to be indoors, not outdoors. It is more of a bit of shyness, in a way. I'll keep adding layers tomorrow and see how her face comes about. 

Monday, January 17, 2011

Moroccan Student - Finishing Up

I had a quiet couple of hours painting this afternoon while my youngest grandson, Calvin age 8 months, slept. The rest of the family went on an adventure to find donuts and fresh cider because everyone is off from work and school today in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King. I added some background color and suggested mosaic tiles of sort. 

Micah came home and said the wall behind the student looked like a bathroom, so I laughed and said the Moroccans love to put tiles everywhere. I think I achieved what I'd hoped for. He was a little troubled that it was not exactly like the photograph, so I was able to speak with him about the artist getting to decide what to put in a painting and just using a photograph for a springboard.

I think I need just a few more touches of darks, and then I hope to begin a Moroccan girl. I have a piece of paper the same size, so that would work well during this "relaxing", child-filled week living out of a suitcase.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Moroccan Student - Painting #3

I have taken a little pause from Painting #2 as it is really large, and I am the wandering artist these days, and I have no fixed spot in which to paint. The portrait I am working on is smaller. I'd like to also add some oil paintings in this series as soon as I get settled more. I think a portrait in oils would be nice.

It was fun working on the eyes of this little one today. Micah, my grandson, wondered why he was wearing the hat. Well, it is a Moroccan hat for a little boy, I explain. He enjoys seeing the progression.

Thank you to all who are cheering and praying me on.

My Moroccan adventure continues!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Moroccan Student

A friend in Morocco wrote and asked how I was doing with re-entry back to the USA. Should I tell her how vast and overwhelming and absurd Costco is? I mean really? They made me buy two loaves of bread even though I only wanted one. Should I tell her it's no big deal I am here and not with my students. I'm cool. Let it roll off my back. I wish I could write like Flannery O'Connor or Donald Miller or best of all, CS Lewis. I'd write about missing my students in a way that would be incisive and dramatic and profound. As CS Lewis, it would be epic.

My friend can just know I miss my students. I was hoping to do something sacrificial and important and honoring to God in Morocco when teaching the children to draw and paint and enjoy creating in their own unique style. Instead, I am drawing and painting them.  A bit of a bend in the road. 

I'll try to add paint to this dear one tomorrow.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Window on Morocco

I have been working with the blues in the window within the window today, but have added oranges in the deep wall to make the darker blues. This layer needs to dry and then I will do more. Maybe I can get another hour in after the grandkids are tucked in bed tonight. I need to add some bits of detail once the washes dry, but I hope to keep it loose.

Tomorrow, I go to see the Picasso exhibit in Seattle with a friend, Kari. Just a couple of months ago, I was in Madrid seeing all sorts of Picasso paintings! Now, they have come to me. Should be an inspiring day.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Painting #2

Micah, my grandson, age 6, Rooster
Lately, it's been a whirlwind of travel for me; since returning from my father's house, I've been slipping in visits with old friends, attended a meeting where I spoke, I've made some art of my own and given art lessons to my grandsons.
Whew! I thought I'd be lazing around without a job or housing, but things seem to be going at a pretty good clip.
Micah, age 6, Camels
 Here are two pictures that my grandson, Micah,  painted this week.

And yes, I did paint a bit as well, but there is always a tension, less time, if one is trying to teach and make one's own art as well.

I have completed two steps on my second painting of Morocco. (I am dreaming of studio space somewhere on the planet!)

First, I lightly drew out what I will be painting. For me, the creativity really picks up when the paint starts to flow. It sometimes has a mind of its own, the paint that is, and it has to be corralled back from some wild escape or has to be wooed into a spot in which it needs to go. This all sounds a bit crazy to a non-painter, but this really is the life of a painter and his or her paint. It's when the fun really gets going!

After I sketched out the window, which is in my former apartment in Morocco, then I masked, with masking tape, a few areas to achieve the sharp lines of the window. I really like how the window within the window within the window seems a bit mysterious, just like some aspects of my life in Morocco.

I am pumping the color of the wall, and I have sponged it on so it comes across as a wall. I'll try to lay in the complementary blues tomorrow in the smaller windows. I hope to achieve the window within the  window, but those pesky watercolors may want to do something else. Stay tuned as Morocco #2 comes to life!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Settling Back in Seattle

I have returned home. Even though it is currently snowing, it is supposed to rain soon, of course. Whew! We wouldn't want to deviate from normal weather. Please take note of the dates on this shirt I spotted at Pike's Place Market  - really handy to get the weather report here.
:-) Ah, home sweet home. I'll return to painting tomorrow. I hope to go to one of my favorite art supply stores to find a mat and frame for my first Morocco painting. That's all part of the process.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Final Touches

It has been interesting to visit many art galleries this week, and I have had the pleasure of speaking with many producing artists who are quite successful in Utah and beyond. They shared that at some point they had to decide between teaching along with making art or making art and promoting their work either in a gallery, through shows or exhibitions. One bemoaned the fact that he wasn't teaching, but he saw he could not do both. I've definitely been given much to think about this week. 

I am letting this Berber house painting rest for a bit, and I'll be heading home tomorrow. I hope to draw out painting two in the morning before my flight. I kept adding touches and layers to this painting today.
It's been a nice, peace-filled, art-filled visit to Utah.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

You Make Beautiful Things Part 2

Today, I received a beautiful gift from my friend Gail, a teacher at my former school, and her students. They made me a video about art , and I'd like to share it here: I hope you enjoy meeting some of the students I had as artists in Morocco! I miss them and love each of them. The video has one of my most favorite songs playing in the background: You Make Things Beautiful.... out of the dust of the ground. Thank you, Gail.

Today, I also added more color layers to the Berber house after a great church service at My dad's church. It was good to return to painting after a bit of a break. I like the high contrast of lights and darks and hope to keep going in this direction.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Processing Through Poetry

Adding ivy using watercolor mask today.
My dad and I had a little poetry workshop today. I decided to process my experience in Morocco, the part at the end when my workload was not being understood, and I was being asked to do more than I could possibly do well. Many of us have had similar experiences, and I do think that it was God who helped me to be brave, since I did not want to leave my students.
Being Brave 

Rowing hard steadily
wild river tugging me.
Lurking stealthily 
beneath my keel
rocks like sharks
try to steal
the momentum of my heart.

 Sharp wind slaps my face
who will plead my case?
Using crossed oars to lift,
and escape this rift,
being brave,
firmly seal
the momentum of my heart.

Marcia Carole

Psalm 121 says: ‘The Lord will keep watch over your coming and going’ (vs. 8).

Friday, January 7, 2011

Lights and Darks in the Berber Home

I went hither and yon throughout the local art scene in Salt Lake City today. I met two local masters, with kind introductions from my dad's wife, Janet.  She had taken classes from them and she was still remembered. The local art heros welcomed me into their studios, seemed fascinated at the news I had been living and teaching art in Morocco. They wanted to hear my story and seemed to have all the time in the world.

We also went to an art supply store, an artist's second home, and breathed more easily because we were by our supplies for creativity. There, one tries a new pencil, marker or new oil pastels. "Gee, I should get back into oil pastels," one muses. I got a few tubes of water color, some watercolor mask...not for my face, and a cool new brush. Brushes for artists are kind of like a new necklace or sweater or cozy slippers for others. With great remorse, we left the store without a new easel or ten tubes of expensive oil paints.

We also stopped into a eclectic art gallery filled with beautifully varied styles, and we met artists who had studio space on the second floor. The gallery owner was friendly and welcoming and very interested in hearing about Morocco. I shared about the art show I caught in Marrakech not so long ago.

Eventually, back at my dad's home, I slipped back into my world of the Berbers through watercolors.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Berber Home

What a rich experience I had with my travel buddies, Lynn, Jill and Judy, while exploring the Atlas mountains outside of Marrakech and meeting Berber families. Our Berber host was most cheerful, friendly and welcoming. He explained we were visiting the cozy stone home of one of his wives. It's low ceilings, dirt floors in most areas and rustic door openings made me feel I was in an ancient home of these nomadic people. His wife was busy cooking, preparing the tagines while he showed us around. A few other fellow travelers were having sweet, mint, hot tea near the fire. A fresh water stream, meandering through the home, easily afforded one to scoop up fresh water from inside.

When our host mentioned he had two wives, Jill asked if it would be OK for her to have two husbands. That seemed to be a no-no in the Berber's mind. (We were just having fun with him.)

As I glanced back into the small, stone house, I noticed the bright light streaming into a corner of the back room, and took a photo with high contrasts of lights and darks spilling over bright green plants. There were a few varied tiles on the floor which made this area seem a little more modern. As I sit and begin placing layers of paint down over my yellow paper, I hope to maintain the brightness of light streaming into and washing over one section of that friendly Berber home in the Atlas mountains. To be continued......

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

You Make Beautiful Things

Michael Gungor and his band sing about how God makes beautiful things out of the dust of the ground, out of us. 

Morocco, where I was, on the Atlantic coast, was one dusty spot. I am thinking through the story I am trying to share about Morocco as I listen to the song by Gungor. 

The landscape, architecture, designs, mosaics, archways, mosques, contrasts of earth tones and aqua or orange are all there in my photographs. 

However, today, I am thinking about the people I met as I concentrate on narrowing down photos.  The old men are sitting by the mosque talking, or outside by the cafes sipping mint tea and smoking. Where are the women? Tucked inside for the most part.

What do I want to say about the women and the children? I remember the artists who were painting pottery, my beggar ladies, and many children wrapped on mothers' backs. Each from the dust of the ground.  There is a continual contrast of dusty earth tones and bright color and life. I think the story is starting to come together.

Top Twenty

My fellow artist friend, Jackie, suggested I paint twenty paintings from my experiences in Morocco. When we spoke about me becoming a real artist in the Seattle area, she explained all the steps that would have to be taken to get to certain levels or points in art world here. I embraced all she shared with me and began sifting through my photos from Morocco.

I asked my daughter to help pick shots that resonated with her, and she pulled out 19 of my photos. I added the dye vats of Fes as the twentieth. So, I have a working library, of sorts, of ideas for paintings. It takes me a good week or so for a painting. It suddenly began to dawn on me that this project might be a year long project rather than just a couple of months.

My son-in-law told me about an artist in LA who promoted a major art exhibition (his) using nothing but hype, advertisement and some smoke and mirrors. Said artist put up quotes from other artists about his work, that they didn't realize he would use for such a show, on a giant billboard. People were lining up for blocks trying to get in because of all the hype. The actual work was average, but the publicity ramped up the works' value tremendously. I don't think my son-in-law was suggesting I do the same; I think he was kind of explaining how fickle the whole art world really is.

My daughter suggested I focus on five ideas right now, that twenty was a little overwhelming. (Whew. I validate that completely.) I think I'll prioritize my ideas today, and try to remember I am trying to tell a story about Morocco with this series. Not fame and fortune in LA.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Hopeful Yellow

I had an artist first grader last year, Eleanor, who said she always puts the yellow sun or stars in her paintings. Because they are hopeful. I remember our conversation just like that. That always impressed me.  She is such a happy, hopeful little girl.  She often stayed after school. People asked me if I liked having her hang out in my room after school. How could I not just love having hope in my room like that? I've missed her this year.

I usually begin a painting with a layer of yellow. To me, it is like Eleanor's sun or stars. It is cheery and hopeful to me, and it seems to put hope throughout my paintings. I am beginning my first Moroccan painting by beginning with hopeful yellow. Photographs by Caleb, age four. And fond remembering of Eleanor.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

New Beginnings

If you start reading from the beginning of this blog, you know that I have been living and teaching art in Morocco. Since returning home, I have decided to make art in order to tell my story of some of my experiences while in Morocco. I've always told my students that art is a language we can all speak, being created by a creator, artist God. So, it is the close of one chapter and the beginning of a new one for me as I get out my paints. I'm hoping to paint each day, and write about it occasionally.

My story in Morocco was filled with life, sharp contrasts, suffering, beauty, ugliness, redemption and hope. My goal is to share these themes and my interaction with them in my art.

"In a society increasingly devoid of meaning, hope is a precious commodity. If redemption and hope are deep and genuine, experiences in our own lives the hints will be there. We will take them with us where we go - and that includes into our art."
- Art & Soul, by Hilary Brand & Adrienne Chaplin