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Tag Archives | painting

Artist Feature 1: Yao-pi Hsu (countdown to Open Studio 2012)

Cool Summer Salad © Jen Norton

“Cool Summer Salad,” 20 x 20", Acrylic on canvas

Hi Art Lovers and Fans…

I’m getting all my art ready and planning my booth for my Open Studio this weekend, May 12 & 13, 2012. Today I put the hanging wire on this fun piece called “Cool Summer Salad”. Doesn’t it just make you want to eat healthy? And one of these days I’m going to design some fabric with this pattern…wouldn’t that be awesome to put on my table under my cool summer salad?

I also want to introduce you to some of the other artists I’ll be showing with this weekend. There will be 14 of us in all, set up on a beautiful property at 19880 Lark Way in Saratoga, CA. I’m going to feature one artist each day this week to whet your appetite. You’ll just have to stop by the show to meet the rest of the artists!

Today’s featured artist is my friend and photographer Yao-pi Hsu. Her work was recently selected for the Chief Curator’s Choice Award by the Chief Curator himself of the Triton Museum of Art, Preston Metcalf. About her work, he said, “It is not always the case that a photographer has the eye of a painter, but Yao-pi Hsu does, and she composes her photographs with a delicate of form and color…”

See you this weekend!

Tulip © Yao Pi Hsu

“Tulip” by Yao Pi Hsu

 

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.

In the Beginning was the Garden

Today’s reading, John 1: 1-5, was much more comforting than yesterday’s. Yesterday was all trials and tribulations. Today is about the Light that outshines darkness. Thank God.

Today, my darkness was time. I ran out. I needed more time, but I don’t have it, so I’m going to post what I have. I see things I want to edit, but I’m not going to obsess.

Plant A Garden © Jen Norton

Plant A Garden

My daughter turned to me the other day in the car and started one of those “car conversations”. You know the ones…deep philosophical questions that hint at your kids trying to figure themselves out. She stated (in a somewhat condescending manner), “You seem like one of those people who’d be happy living in the country. Is that true?” Yes, it’s true. I notice geese flying, color shifts in the sky and leaf patterns on sidewalks. My 13-year-old just rolls her eyes. She’s all about pop culture, make-up and things that are shiny and pink. She’s always been that way. I’ve always been a nature girl. She loves to dress up. I love to stare at trees. It’s just the way we are.

I know that we both have our place in the world, as do the million different kinds of pink flowers. Or the other million kinds of yellow flowers. Creation is abundant and there is room for all. Each has its purpose. I have always found the presence of God in the patterns of repetition and variation in nature. I don’t know how the beginning began. I still can’t figure out how something could have always existed and I’ve been pondering that concept for 46 years. (I guess I’m a bit sheltered, having only lived on Earth.)

But I observe the passing of the seasons. I know that springtime, with its myriad of flowers, follows the dark winter. Simple science can explain the How. Not sure anyone can explain the Why. Except that God is an artist, and a fellow artist I know you cannot continue to create beauty unless you are loving the process of creation. He’s found a way to remind us yearly that life is a cycle. President Lincoln’s speech writer once penned a line for use in good times and bad: “This too shall pass”. Everything we know will pass away someday, but I take comfort in knowing that something that is alive in Christ will live forever. He has created a priceless work of Art and Love that will last through Eternity. Death and darkness will not overcome it. Sometimes I doubt. But then I go work in my garden and I find the truth again.

This painting turned into an abstraction, painted with a palette knife, which offers very little control. It features a quote by writer Robert Brault, used with permission. I see things I’d like to change in the composition, but hopefully the meaning will overcome its faults. I’m too close to judge, and I’m not going to obsess.

The quote reads, “Why try to explain miracles to your kids when you can just have them plant a garden?” —Robert Brault. I like this quote and will probably paint it again differently. If you’d like to buy this piece, I’m offering it for a great price here.

The Heart of a Servant

“Preparation” by Jen Norton

“Preparation”, Acrylic on Canvas, 24 x 24"

I’ve been busy putting together my Open Studio show for this weekend, which is much like putting together a big banquet. Each piece must find it’s spot, hung in agreement with the work next to it. Loose artwork must be framed or varnished, dressed up and ready for the party. I want patrons to feel they’ve arrived someplace special and we’re happy they’re here! With the theme of table-setting in mind, I thought I’d share my painting “Preparation” with you today. This piece is all about doing everyday, mundane tasks with a spirit of service. It’s about the unseen workers who put their heart and soul into their work so others can experience something new and wonderful. It doesn’t matter if it’s a concert, a product launch, a benefit event or a simple dinner for your family. To make something out of nothing, someone had to put in time and effort to make it happen. And if they did it with love, they just might create something bigger and better than anyone expected. In my perfect world, we would all strive to approach life from the point of view of a servant.

 

Imperfect Love

Imperfect Loveseat by Jen Norton

“Imperfect Loveseat”, Acrylic on Gessobord

If you’ve ever been to a Christian wedding, you may have heard the reading from 1 Corinthians 13:4-13.*  Real love IS perfect. The ability of humans to practice it, however, is a bit flawed. Stay in any relationship long enough and you’ll find out that egos, insecurities, selfishness and a host of other human impairments get in the way. Like a well-worn favorite chair, what once was fashionable and new can seem a threadbare eyesore. The loveseat in this painting belonged to my grandparents who lived to be 99 and 101 years of age, and were married almost 70 years. By the end of their lives, it looked to be at the end of its as well. The upholstery was tattered, the stuffing was thinner than my grandfather’s favorite extra-crispy bacon, and one leg was threatening to break off. But when I think of it, I remember all the family holidays, sitting with my cousins and sisters on the couch. I remember my grandma reading me stories on it, and then holding my daughter 30 years later while we took our 4-generation-of-women picture. And like their marriage, its bumps and scrapes marked cherished memories, it’s faded cloth told stories of love and support. When I remember the loveseat, I am reminded of enduring love. Their love was as perfect as it gets. Perfect in its imperfections.

*Love is patient; love is kind. Love is not jealous, it does not put on airs, it is not snobbish. Love is never rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not prone to anger; neither does it brood over injuries. Love does not rejoice in what is wrong but rejoices with the truth. There is no limit to love’s forbearance, to its trust, its hope, its power to endure. Love never fails. Prophecies will cease, tongues will be silent, knowledge will pass away. Our knowledge is imperfect and our prophesying is imperfect. When the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away. When I was a child I used to talk like a child, think like a child, reason like a child. When I became a (wo)man I put childish ways aside. Now we see indistinctly, as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. My knowledge is imperfect now; then I shall know even as I am known. There are in the end three things that last: faith, hope, and love, and the greatest of theses is love.

 

Smart Apples

Smart Apples by Jen Norton

Smart Apples, Acrylic on paper, 12 x 12"

Apples and school just go together. I don’t know how many kids still bring their teachers apples now that we have Starbucks gift cards, but the correlation still holds. This piece is acrylic on paper and meant to play up the school-apple connection. Remember learning Cursive writing? And that brown-ish ruled newsprint paper? I performed my “Art Triage” and painted this over an older piece, using it as a base. I love the freeing quality of destroying what no longer suits me, and painting into something that isn’t sacred and white. And in researching apple names to include, I found lists with hundreds of varieties to choose from! Creativity and abundance, it seems, is unlimited in the fruit world. This painting will be available at my Open Studio on May 21/22, 2011.

Brown Bread for a Green Day

Irish Brown Bread Painting by Jen Norton

Arán Donn (Brown Bread), 30 x 30, Acrylic on canvas

 

We were treated to some warm, delicious home-baked Irish Brown Bread upon returning from a long, drizzly day of sight-seeing while visiting our good friends in Ireland a while ago. Topped with cream cheese and smoked salmon, or just plain butter, it’s quite a treat. I had to paint the recipe of “Arán Donn”, complete with locally-grown apples and the magpies you often see along the road. There’s an old superstition about the meanings behind the number of magpies you see together. Two is for Joy! Beannachtaí na féile Pádraig…Or, if you’re not up to speed on your Irish, Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Want to try it for yourself…here’s the recipe:

6 oz / 175g  whole wheatl flour
2 oz / 50g plain white flour
2 oz / 50g   steel cut oatmeal
1 oz / 25g   wheatgerm
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 large egg
10 fl oz / 275ml buttermilk

mix dry stuff in big bowl
whisk egg in the buttermilk
mix dry and wet stuff
put into buttered bread tin
make a deep cross on top and prick the four corners to let the fairies out! (very important, I hear)

Bake in a pre-heated oven at 375F for 50-60mins

Let me know what you think!

PS: You can purchase prints of this piece here. Contact me directly to inquire about the original.

 

Oatmeal Can

John McCann's Oatmeal can painting

McCann's Oatmeal by Jen Norton, Acrylic on Paper

In my quest to paint everyday objects and food related themes, I recently rediscovered my “John McCann’s Steel Cut Oatmeal” can while preparing breakfast. Oatmeal is a great way to start the day. I love it with brown sugar and butter, or topped with nuts and berries. When I’m feeling especially healthy, I’ll add in a little flax seed. But one shouldn’t overlook the other true gem of John McCann’s…the can itself! A veritable Who’s Who of the historical oat world to study while your cereal simmers (and it may take you the whole-grain-30-minutes to read it).

The 200 year history of the Irish oats, including their award in 1893 for “Uniformity of Granulation” can be found here. Doesn’t sound like the most exciting competition to judge, but good for good ol’ John. I personally appreciate his attention to granulation.

Just in case you ever get an oatmeal question on Jeopardy, I’ve provided the text on the historical sections of the can for you. Let’s all pause to remember the lives of the oatmeal men listed:

Side One:
World’s Columbian Exhibition, Chicago, 1893
John McCann’s Steel Cut Irish Oatmeal
Certificate of Award, Uniformity of Granulation
Approved: N.B. Critchfield, President of Departmental Committee
Signed: Chas Keith, Individual Judge
Approved: John Boyd Thacher, Chariman Executive Committee of Awards
Dated 28th June, 1894

Side Two:
International Exhibition 1876
Certificate of Award
John McCann Steel Cut Oatmeal
Group IV
United States Centennial Commission
(In accordance with the Act of Congress)
Philadelphia, September 27th, 1876.
John L Campbell, Secretary, A.T. Goshorn, Director General, Jos. R. Hawley, President

By coincidence I was introduced to The Sweet Beet, a blog about food origins, just after I painted my oatmeal can. They have a good discussion of the health benefits of various oatmeal styles here.

May the “Men of Oats” live on in our creative imaginations, blogs and breakfast bowls! Now, if I could only get my husband to eat them. What’s your favorite way to eat oatmeal?

Orange is the new White

Jen Norton with her painting of oranges and persimmons

“Four Persimmons” by Jen Norton

One of my favorite things about living in California is the winter oranges that ripen just around the holidays. Our tiny tree went nuts this year, over-producing a juicy sun-kissed crop. Over the last several weeks, we’ve been picking and squeezing the most delicious orange juice, keeping us all healthy through cooler weather. Now the poor tree is almost empty (and perhaps relieved of the added weight), and all those oranges inspired a painting celebrating the orange hues of the season. (it’s the one I’m working on in my home page video!) I think I will call it “Four Persimmons”!

My dog Pattie often works as my in-house critic. Here she is offering her opinion of the piece in it’s early stages. She may have been more interested if the work involved meats.

Pattie critiques my work.

Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day

Rome wasn't built in a day

“Rome Wasn't Built in a Day” by Jen Norton

Before traveling to Rome, I had always imagined the crumbling ancient ruins of the Coliseum and Roman Forum being somewhere outside the modern city, carefully protected from vandals and pollution. Far from it… the icons of past civilizations were not removed from current life, but right smack in the middle of it! 3000-year-old structures surrounded by streets teaming with traffic, and tons of fashionable, wildly-driving Romans on Vespas. In Rome, you can see the timeline of Western Civilization before your eyes. My intent was to play up the rhythms in the patterns and combine shapes to emphasize how life is connected both in the layers of past-to-present, and within current time. The Roman numeral for 2007 (MMVII) floats through the atmosphere, marking the year I painted this…my point in time.