Saturday, May 29, 2010

Kansas City with Mary Buek

On May 18, I had the joy and privilege of touring the best parts of Kansas City with online art friend, Mary Buek. I have admired her photographs of the interesting places she goes on her photo walks, and when I learned I was going to be in Kansas City, I asked her if she would mind letting me tag along. She was very gracious and even picked me up at my hotel. At first, she gave me a driving tour of the Plaza area where we were staying. We drove by the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art and saw some very interesting statues of heads coming out of the ground. No photos, but I don't think I will soon forget them.

The first stop we made was in River Market. We stumbled on a great old brick storage building that was being torn down, brick by brick. The photo ops were fantastic. We scrambled over bricks and skirted mud puddles to take photos of rusty equipment, chain link fence in a pile, empty doorways, and much more. There was even a wrecking ball just waiting to have its photo taken

Our next stop was West Bottoms. Where we stopped was filled with old brick buildings. Some looked occupied, most not. There was wonderful graffiti everywhere. We didn't wander too far, but the small area where we wandered was filled with incredible eye-candy of my liking. I discovered a large drain pipe on the side of a building that had broken in a few places. It created a very cool waterfall. There were several puddles of water where the buildings and the graffiti reflected hopefully. Here is another photo from that area.

After leaving West Bottoms, I was hungry, so Mary took me to a great Mexican restaurant where I had avocado enchiladas. They were really great. I am going to make them at home, if I can. After lunch, we walked across some train tracks under a freeway to an old brewery. I fell in love with what I saw there. If it hadn't been getting late, I would have wanted to stay there longer, in spite of the drizzle. Here are a couple of photos from there.

Our last stop was a grain elevator. So cool. I had a fantastic day with Mary exploring the parts of Kansas City I wanted to see. One day, I hope she will come here and I can show her where I found the rusty car in the woods. I leave you with one final photo from the grain elevator. I have many more to process, but these are some of my favorites.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Something new

Take My Broken Wings . . .
10 x 8 mixed media on canvas
by Miki Willa
While I was doing some waiting a couple of weeks ago, I started to think about a new painting I wanted to try. I wanted to work in acrylics on canvas with some collage elements added. I wanted to create depth and texture with the paints. I used techniques that were very new and experimental to me. This is the result.
I started with a canvas I had been adding gesso to over a period of several months. I think there were four or five coats, at least. I started with a basic premise and sketch. From there, the painting took over and decided what was going to happen. I used a sponge to apply the first several coats of acrylic to get the colors mixed and feathered the way I wanted. Then I used a piece of plastic mesh as a stencil for the outside texture. On top of that, I used the inside of a Seattle's Best coffee cup protector sleeve as a stamp. I used my fingers and acrylics to create light shadows around the edge of the "netting." While I was waiting for the layers to dry, my muse went wild with ideas for the rest. I have made notes for future pieces as I knew I couldn't use all the ideas on this one small piece.
During the week that I worked on this piece, I found several small metal pieces on the ground as I walked in several different places. I knew I would use one of them on this painting (the circle with star bottom right). The papers for the collage part basically chose themselves. The gold mesh ribbon practically jumped out of a drawer to be included. Of all the paintings and collages I have done over the years, this one is one of the most exciting to me because I allowed the joy and passion of the process come first.
What is it like for you when you let go of the original idea and let the piece itself take the lead?

Friday, March 19, 2010

New Etsy Items

6 x 6 inch mixed media collage
by Miki Willa

I created this small collage as I was working on the larger visual ode collage, Morning Calm (see last post). I decided to create small collages for each piece in this series. I like the idea of having smaller companion pieces I can post to the Etsy store as I decided what I want to do when the series is complete. For this one, I used some of the same papers plus an image transfer of an ancient temple in downtown Seoul.

Kyoto Spring
8.5 x 6 inch mixed media collage
by Miki Willa
This piece was created as a companion piece for the visual ode to Kyoto. The larger piece is in process now. For this piece, I used handmade paper, washi paper, and pages out of Japanese text books and a novel. Both of these pieces are now in my Etsy store.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

#1 in Visual Ode Series

Morning Calm
11 x 14 inch mixed media on canvas
by Miki Willa
I have finished the first in my visual ode series. This is an ode to South Korea, where I spent some time in the late 1960's. I fell in love with the language, the alphabet, the colors, the markets, and the people.
On the evening of July 20, 1969, I was in Chicamagua, Georgia with my grandmother, and we were watching Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins prepare for and make the first manned landing on our moon. The next day, I left for an adventurous trip to Seoul, South Korea via Fairbanks, Alaska and Tokyo, Japan. My first view of Seoul was as we circled the airport in preparation for landing. There were tall buildings, a gray river, and rice paddies and vegetable fields as far as the eye could see. When we landed and started down the stairs (no nice covered hallways in those days), I was assaulted by the strong smells from the "fertilizer" used in the fields. After finally clearing customs, and learning that my golf clubs and two suitcases of clothes were missing, I was taken to my new home with my father and step-mother. It was the start of a wonderful stay in the Land of the Morning Calm.
Our home was in a European complex of homes on a small hill north of Seoul. We had wonderful views of traditional homes mixed with more modern structures. The city was in a transition from the ancient to the modern place it has become. My father was doing work for the US government at the time, so I had access to the military bases there. I soon joined the FASCOM theater group and made several good friends. I also decided I wanted to go to university while I was there and take some art classes. Some of my father's friends pulled some strings and I got into Ewha Women's University where I took figure painting and traditional Japanese scroll painting. This was a Methodist university founded for young Korean women. It was a unique and rewarding experience to attend classes, go on field trips, and visit some of my classmates in their very traditional Korean homes. My figure drawing skills have not improved since my attempts at this fine school.
One of my other favorite things to do was to go shopping at the old market centers near the ancient gates of the wall around the city. I loved the colors, the smells, and the excitement of the markets. I understand all that has changed now. I am very glad I have these old memories.
When I decided on Korea as my first subject for this series, I knew I wanted to focus on the alphabet and the old. I had never been in anyplace so old before, and I was so enamoured of the rich history of place. I have combined current text from a recent newspaper and copies of ancient text found in a recently unearthed burial. I chose colors that I find very calming, for the nickname of the country. The image transfer is from a photo my father took of a farmer pedaling water into his fields the ancient way. I printed it in black and white on special paper from Johathon Talbot for making image transfers with ink jet printers. I applied it by coating the collage surface and the photo with gel medium, waiting until it dried, then rubbing the paper away with water. I is a bit hard to see in the photo, but I am pleased with the results. I used stretched canvas as the base and have painted the sides dark gray.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day

Valentine for Tom
10 x 10 mixed media collage
by Miki Willa
Happy Valentine's day, everyone. I created this valentine for my husband and actually framed it. It is the first collage I have framed. It is created with five layers of wonderful hand made paper, two hearts of scrapbook paper, and one of wrapping paper. I had great fun selecting the papers, hand tearing the hearts,and figuring out an interesting layout. There was no stress to this project, just joy. All creative projects should be this way. That is a big part of my artistic goals for this year.
Speaking of goals, part of my life coaching group homework this week is to work on setting a goal and creating a plan to achieve that goal. I am excited about creating a series of visual odes (see this post) about places I have visited or lived in that left a strong impression with me. In addition to the visual piece, I want to share a story or two about the place. As I get more clear about the goal, I will post about it here. Part of the plan will include an accountability piece. When I was doing a painting a day, I set up this blog to keep me accountable. I think this will be part of my accountability system for this project as well.
I am still working on my artistic freedom manifesto. I will have more photos in the next post.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Artistic Freedom Manifesto

As promised, I am finally getting around to posting my Artistic Freedom Manifesto beginnings. During the fall, I was working with Leslie Miller as my life coach. For more about Leslie and life coaching, visit her coaching blog here. I was struggling with breaking away from some old studio habits and exploring a way to nurture a new artistic freedom for myself. We came up with several ideas to try, which were very powerful for me. In December, I was entering a wonderful new place creatively, and I wanted to continue to nurture the growth I had been experiencing, and the rekindled passion for creating. Leslie and I came up with the idea of putting together something that I could turn to when I felt that feeling flagging. I wasn't sure what it would look like at first, but let the idea germinate until I found the right format.
Several ideas came to mind, and I played with each of them in turn. At first, I thought I would create a set of tags with inspirational quotes on the back and art on the front. This was okay, but it didn't quite spark for me. Then I started reading back issues of ArtsyFartsy News by Robert Burridge. He wrote about beginning each studio visit with small practice pieces. I was intrigued by the idea, and it came back to me when I started creating the manifesto. Then I saw some cute ideas people made with playing cards at the local scrapbooking store. That is when it all came together. I would create a deck of cards with different ideas, techniques, and styles that could be used to inspire me when my muse was off drinking tea. I started by making a list of things I already enjoyed and adding things I wanted to learn more about, and good practices. The six cards at the top are the first ones on the list. From top left, clockwise, they are Create freely; Focus on images; Zentangles; Speed Collage*; Asian influence; and Cruciform layout.
*Speed collage was one of the things Leslie and I designed as a way of creating very freely, without planning, and just experiencing the joy of creating. I created ten collages in two hours. It was very freeing and I wanted to make sure it was in my manifesto.
These small pieces are created on playing cards and are wonderful fun to make. I try to make one or two every time I am in the studio. For me, this is working. When I am done, I will have a wonderful reference of all the work I really enjoy doing. It will nurture me in times of creative doubt. It is not a manifesto in the true sense of the word, but it is for me.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Creating visual odes

Ginko - Ashland - 2009
7 x 5 mixed media on mat board
by Miki Willa
Lately, I have been creating small collages to commemorate times and places that have become important to me. I love the ode as a written expression of praise. I have decided to call these pieces visual odes.
This piece reminds me of a three day retreat I took to Ashland Oregon last summer with a wonderful friend. We spent time wandering into shops, creating art, and seeing a play. We found great inspiration everywhere we went. We went into a Tibetan import shop. I found a wonderful shirt and pants there, as well as the prayer flags I have been wanting for a long time. We saw beautiful art, yummy yarn, delightful jewelery. We tasted fantastic food. We walked in the park. Along the way, I picked up these ginkgo leaves from the sidewalk. I pressed them and have been waiting to use them in a collage.
For this collage, I used pages from my extremely old and well used Norton's Anthology of English Literature. I have had this since early college days. I used a variety of other papers, including a round disc I found on the driveway in a rain storm. I wanted to try the cruciform layout as a starting place. I didn't know I was going to use the ginkgo leaves until I realized this was the perfect place for them.
I am also working on a deck of inspiration. I will share the first few on my next post. Another name I have for it is the Creative Freedom Manifesto. Curious? I will tell you more next time.