Friday, July 17, 2015

A Week in Art-making and Writing

This has been an interesting week. My art and writing came together more than usual. I headed out to a forest preserve and felt as though I could feel my character Yolanda lurking about there. The forest is her element. I was sucked in, wanting to learn how to enrich her story. While there, I drew this:

Thatcher Woods, River Forest #1 c. 2015, Stephanie Rose Bird

Many of Yolanda's Magical Realism scenes take place in the wood and since I grew up among them as well, I felt very drawn to this place. This piece is in chalk pastels. Upon returning to my studio I wanted to revisit my story of Yolanda in "No Barren Life." Quickly enough, I began revising some of the environmental settings for her.

 "Larkspur Quartet," oil pastel, c. 2015, Stephanie Bird


Our weather has been iffy this week. Rainy, windy, cool and today very hot. My larkspur are starting to get beaten up and are losing their flowers from the stormy weather. This oil pastel was done before much of that happened. Hopefully, another larkspur plant will surprise me and bloom. I realize this is doubtful but it doesn't hurt to be optimistic.

As for today, I'm going to head outside and work up some echinacea on black pastel paper and then onto more writing and revisions, revisions, revisions and reading which inevitably leads to more revisions. Then the opening reception for the exhibition "Drawn to Nature" at Gallery 2506 in Chicago.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Sunday's Brush with Nature

Yesterday, painting at Emily Oaks Nature Center, in Skokie, IL, was wonderful! The site is inspirational as you can see from these pictures:

Beautiful Wetland Pond

I got nestled into this quiet nook and stayed there all morning, working on a single pastel painting.

                                          Cattails, a work-in-progress C. 2015, Stephanie Rose Bird

Next time I must connect with these lovely primroses

Friday, July 10, 2015

Drawn to Nature (Paint Party Friday)

When I look over my artist CV, I'm noticing a trend. There are primarily exhibitions with titles that include the word "nature." I'm glad to have found just the right niche to place my paintings and drawings, someplace that also resonates with my writing.

In a couple of days (Sunday, July 12th) I'll be demonstrating my drawing skills, while also enriching my portfolio at an outdoor event through the Skokie Park District, held at the Emily Oaks Nature Center called "A Brush with Nature." I'll most likely be perched near the wildflower garden. There will be around 50 other artists there, spread through the center's grounds. I can't wait to see all of their different styles and techniques. Fingers crossed it won't rain.

A week from today (July 17th) is the opening for "Drawn to Nature." It is an multimedia exhibit of artists working with diverse materials, while sharing an intimate experience they have had with nature. Here is the invitation card to that exhibit. I hope you can make it to the reception if you're local.

I am very intrigued by the painting on the invitation card and can't wait to see it, and all the other work at the actual exhibition. It's nice that these sorts of exhibitions are going on to reflect indoors, what we can also see and feel outdoors.

I know you've seen this here once before but in relation to the show, here's the piece I'm exhibiting:

Dandelion Puffs with Allium Flower, c. 2015, Stephanie Rose Bird

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Getting Fed Up

A few weeks ago my family and I watched the documentary Fed Up and have had an ongoing conversation about it ever since. This is an important documentary, especially to those struggling with being overweight or obese. It was released in the spring of 2014 and was directed by Stephanie Soechtig, with Katie Couric and Laurie David as executive producers. Katie asks some very deliberately cutting questions in this film and it makes me respect her ever more than I did.

Fed Up came tumbling into my mind yesterday as I was partaking in my guilty pleasures that I really need to end: watching the Barefoot Contessa (Ina Garten) followed by Ree Drummond, also known as the Pioneer Woman on the Food Network.

You may recall last year I wrote the post Inclined Towards Dessert, sparked by yet another documentary, from PBS Frontline, called All of Me. That documentary was about how a group of women went through the process of losing very large amounts of weight, mostly through weight-loss surgery. It was also about body awareness and acceptance. I also found that documentary compelling, and yes, I'm inclined toward dessert.

Lately though, when I watch Barefoot Contessa and/or Pioneer Woman, I am offended and repulsed. Quite quickly I get disgruntled. I think the two women are lovely and make no mistake about it, they're very different from one another. I enjoy the lifestyle aspect of each show but the cooking, now that's another story.

Paula Deen has been under fire for her buttery and fried up recipes, among other offenses but really just about every show you watch on Food Network or the Cooking Channel is capable of slinging the butter right along with her. My two former favs, Ina and Ree are no exception but I watch them so I can speak to their recipes. If memory serves, pounds of butter are used in a week of shows along with probably a full 5 pound bag of sugar; not to mention the red meat, dairy and gluten-rich flours. So yesterday, when I saw a recipe calling for 4 sticks of butter (a pound here in the US, for my UK friends) I switched off the TV. I felt dirty. Like I'd been partaking in food porn and needed a walk or a shower--maybe both.

I thought back to Fed Up. The guests, including Michael Pollan and Mark Bitman, speak a lot about the evils of sugar and I know you've been bombarded recently, hearing about sugar detox, so I won't take it up here. Fed Up focuses more around the sugar industry than the sugar in your kitchen but still. I was looking for ideas for dessert for last night. Why oh why did I watch the Sugar Network, oh, I meant to say the Food Network, for ideas.

Now last week, I created the yummiest fudgy cupcakes using a roasted beet base and cacao powder. This was inspired by one of my new fav bloggers, Dana over at Minimalist Baker. Alas, I do have a "safe" cookbook for these times when I get Fed Up with mainstream ideas that literally make my body and mind sick, it's called "Choosing Raw" by Gena Hamshaw. I absolutely love this cookbook, if you can call it that since most of the recipes require food preparation rather than cooking. Anyway, Fed Up as I was with seeing foods slathered up with butter and heaped up with sugar and wheat flour, I turned to Gena and came up with this:

Sugar? Wheat flour? Dairy products? Cooking? Not here...there are just 9 ingredients. This is a dessert called a Fig Bar. I just changed its shape slightly to make it pie-like. Delicious and this morning I added the leftover fig water to sweeten my oatmeal. Altogether yummy and without the guilt at just around 164 calories.

With our growing middles, diabetes rate and doctor visits, it's about time we all get Fed Up. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Current Weather Conditions

Hmm. Current weather conditions didn't use to matter all that much. Now, they are controlling my work flow. I've always enjoyed sun and warmth but now all the variables in between are of keen interest. This is because I'm doing plein air painting.

"Tiny Clover Blossoms" oil pastel, c. Stephanie Rose Bird, 2015

"Tiny Clover Blossom" was painted on a sunny Sunday morning. Some how, because of the sunlight, it reminds me on some of Gauguin's work in the South Pacific. It uses a very warm palette with just a touch of blues.

"Garden Daisies" oil on canvas, c. Stephanie Rose Bird, 2015

"Garden Daisies" was done over the period of a month or so. It started in all warm colors, mostly red and then was over painted a number of times to achieve an impasto. The weather and light changed so many times during its painting that the light comes from within the painting, rather than from above.

"Larkspur #1", colored pencil on paper, c. Stephanie Rose Bird, 2015

Now, I'm onto a gorgeous set of larkspur flowers that have come up in the garden. I'm working with them under varying light and weather conditions with various art materials. This one, "Larkspur #1" is rendered in colored pencil on a fairly sunny day.

Today my plans had to change yet again as we are experiencing a blustery aka windy/cold-for-July day outside. It all started yesterday in the late afternoon.

                                             Larkspur #4, oil pastel, c. Stephanie Rose Bird, 2015

My drawings and I barely escaped the downpour. I caught some sun and rendered it in this tiny drawing but the one which came afterwards is grayish in tone and portrays the oncoming storm more clearly.

So now, each morning over our respective cups of coffee, my husband and I, for varied reasons, keenly listen to the weather report. In many ways weather controls our activities for most days.

Today, is looking like a houseplant sort of painting day. On to the gloxinia...

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Finding that Sweet Spot

One of the most invigorating and strengthening things for a writer is inspiration. I believe inspiration comes from the muses and enjoy actually writing about them in character form as well. They make a cameo in my work-in-progress, "Out of the Blue," a novel. I've had fun researching everything I could about the muses, as they are so essential to my writing practice. Anyway, when you are inspired as a writer, it is hard to feel insecure because you are in your zone--you own your sweet spot, and there words flow. In your sweet spot you are secure.

When thinking about blogging this morning, knowing it is the first Wednesday of the month, the designated day of the month that we bloggers involved with the Insecure Writer's Support Group, post, an old soul song with just a hint of gospel, came to mind. I'm leaving you with it this morning, as inspiration for your writing practice today. When the Inspirations lyrics refer to "her" I would envision your writing muse.


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