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Tag Archives | landscape

My Relationship with Art

California Coastal vineyard and boat with Pinot grapes

I have a never-ending stream of ideas running through my head. Sometimes it’s a good thing, or even entertaining. Sometimes it’s a stumbling block that keeps me from moving forward.

I’ve always loved pattern. Pattern takes all that chaos and puts in into some kind of pleasing order. As a designer, I always preferred brochure design the best because I could take words and pictures and make something orderly and logical out of them. In painting, I have much more freedom and often too many possibilities, making it hard to start. Thankfully, I have found ways to jump that hurdle. This is how I tackle a painting:

Stage 1: The Anxiety Stage
1. Develop a concept, sketch or at least some basic idea of where I want to go.

2. Don’t think about that scary blank canvas. Just start putting stuff on. I have evolved my painting style specifically to move me out of anxiety and into action. I embrace the chaos.

3. Slowly start to refine large shapes, color themes. I start to tame the beast, which moves me into…

Stage 2: Conflict Management Stage
4. As the large shapes take form, I break them down into smaller areas, make decisions about which will be light or dark areas, develop the “story” of the painting. I have learned both from teaching art and making art that art doesn’t lie. It can’t. It’s creative, from the Creator, pure love. If you make something you truly love, it is truthful, even if some don’t understand it. This is the stage where the rubber meets the road and I use my technical skills make life or death judgements. I should note that this could easily be an area full of self-criticism (I’m not good enough; what if they find out I really don’t know what I’m doing?). All par for the course in the creative process. I have learned to block this out. This is fear, not love. By stepping way from emotion and returning to my practiced skills, I can walk through this wall.

Stage 3: Euphoria
5. This is the stage where I can get lost in details for hours, adding texture, refining colors…all the romantic, emotional qualities that make the piece uniquely mine. I am mesmerized in the making of patterns that have formed from my earlier chaos. This is the stage most non-artists think we makers live in all the time. No, you only get to come here after going through the other stages. Sometimes Stage 1 & 2 can flow more quickly…say if you’ve been divinely inspired. Most of the time, you’ve got to do the work. And yes, art is work.

Art is a bit like life, don’t you think? If we all had the chance to make more art, maybe we’d be better at life. I’ll be showing some of my latest Work at my next Open Studio on May 12 & 13, 2012 and I hope you can come.

The piece above is a sample of one of my paintings…filled with the patterns of the vineyards that grow in the Santa Cruz Mountains near me. This piece is titled, “Coastal Pinot and Chardonnay” and is being used by the Santa Cruz Chamber of Commerce as their 2012 graphic. With coastal fog and a warm climate, the Santa Cruz mountains are known for their Pinot grapes…and “Chardonnay” refers not to the grape, but to the boat passing by…the Chardonnay Cruise that runs along the Santa Cruz Coast!

You can purchase a print of this artwork here. Please contact me directly to purchase the original.

A Little Cottage on an Emerald Isle

Irish Cottage painting by Jen Norton

When our daughter was about 9 months old, we traveled to Ireland (for the second time) for the wedding of some very special friends. Their family owns a traditional Irish cottage in the Cork countryside where we stayed for a week. It’s been renovated for traveling guests and now boasts a modern European kitchen and electricity. The indoor trench formerly used to wash out animal waste, should you have to bring your cows indoors during inclement weather, has been removed. The thatched roof has been replaced by a newer, less-upkeep version. It did, however, still have the meat hooks hanging from the ceiling (as it turned out, we never needed them). Each morning the proprietor would come down and light our fire for us, warming the 5-foot-thick-walled house up to a nice cozy temperature. We were traveling with other family members…enough that we needed a large van to carry us all from place to place. My husband, being an ambulance driver and the only non-drinker, got the job of primary chaperone. It’s not an easy job in a land with narrow roads and left-side driving. On some country lanes, one must pull in his side mirrors and inch by oncoming farm trucks, narrowly missing collisions on one side and the hedges on the other. It’s safe to say “shoulders” on a road were not an Irish invention. Then of course, there were the times you just have to stop and wait for a heard of sheep as they cross, just like the picture postcards! The real fun happened after our van broke down and the only replacement we could get was a 15-passenger manual transmission van! NO ONE but my husband could maneuver it…and he had to do so with a new mom (me), his own mother and a nun screaming behind him at every bump and tousle. He held his stress in check, but I know if he were a vengeful man he would have unleashed the cry of a Banshee on us during that trip! Oddly, each night he gladly volunteered to walk our colicky time-zone-traveling baby around in the quiet sheep pastures while I slept. I’m sure he was secretly regaining his calm out there in the midnight fog. There is nothing like removing noise and distraction to reconnect with your soulful self. In the end, we all survived, our daughter cut her two top teeth and took her first step, and the trip was remembered as lots of “good craic” had by all.

You can buy my little Irish Cottage painting here, or a print of it with an Irish Blessing here.

My little cabin in the woods.

Cabin in the Woods painting © Jen Norton

Cabin in the Woods on Aluminum, 6x6"

Today’s Advent reflection is on Psalm 27:1-4

One of the best places I know to “dwell in the house of the Lord” and “behold His beauty” is at our family cabin in the Sierra Nevada mountains. My grandfather built it in the mid- 1950s, and I’ve been going there since I was small enough to be held in one hand and bathed in a tupperware container (my mom has pictures). It really hasn’t changed much in all that time. There’s still no TV or phone and it takes a continuous roaring fire to keep it warm in the winter. It is used by almost every member of our family for weekends with friends, care-free holidays and a get-a-way for needed respite. It is our safe place.

A few years back, a serial killer was temporary kept in the Ranger Station, which is in walking distance of the cabin. While he actually committed his crimes about 2 hours away, it still creeped me out that he was kept there. My safe place seemed less safe. Innocence lost. Even now, probably 15 or 20 years later, I still think about it as I pass the station. Would I come up here alone? It gets awfully dark at night. I’m not sure.

But in some ways maybe that slight chink in my imaginary armor of safety is OK. It makes me more aware of what God offers…not necessarily safety from dangers, but safety from overwhelming fear of the dangers. I will not let one evil person destroy my love for our cabin.

A few years ago, I read a moving book called “Left to Tell” by a woman named Immaculée Ilibagiza who survived the Rwandan Holocaust by hiding in a small bathroom with seven other women for 3 months. Her story, and the intense fear she and the other women lived with is incredible. Even more amazing is her account of how God revealed Himself to her more and more and the danger grew. She learned of God’s promise, composed in today’s psalm by King David, firsthand. If you’re heading off to a cabin and in need of an inspirational book, you might check it out.

Today’s painting was not painted today. I decided to re-show an older piece, now printed on aluminum so I can catch up on some other tasks I’ve been neglecting while writing this Advent blog! New art tomorrow, I promise!

• You can purchase the 6×6 art here. (1 left in stock. If it is sold when you read this, contact me to order. $24 + shipping and tax)

• This art is also available as a 3 x 4″ aluminum ornament here. (1 left in stock. If it is sold when you read this, contact me to order. $8 + shipping and tax)

• This art is also available in a 12 x 12″ size. (None in stock. Contact me to order. $45 + shipping and tax)