Pueblo Pottery

Pueblo PotteryLast fall I had the privilege of taking Pueblo Pottery at the University of New Mexico with Professor Clarence Cruz. At the time I enrolled I anticipated that it would be a special class but I had no idea of the actual depth and the full extent of what we would learn. We started by going into the countryside and harvesting the clay from the earth.

A prayer and offering of thanks.

A prayer and offering of thanks.

Before touching the earth we said a prayer of thanks and made an offering.

The clay was left in buckets of water to soften and prepare for the next step.

The clay was left in buckets of water to soften and prepare for the next step.

Professor Clarence stressed the importance of treating the earth with respect and reverence and so we were careful to leave the land as close to how it had been before we arrived. We carried out only what we thought we could use and carted it back to the studio to soak, strain, dry and prepare for use.

Different colored clays drying before we begin to use them.

Different colored clays drying before we begin to use them.

The actual process of preparing the clay is quite elaborate and requires patience and time but the end results and satisfaction achieved by working so closely with the earth are worth it. While we allowed the clay to dry, we also ventured out to collect rocks to use as pigments on the clay. This too was quite a process and I will share more about this in my upcoming post.

As a child I had found this beautiful vein of clay running through our backyard in Costa Rica. I remember shoveling some of it up and while it was still moist my father and I sat around forming it into small pots and miniature fruit sculptures.

Although it seems quite logical, I was surprised to find the clay here is all dry due to the climate of course. It looks quite different in the earth and you can find one type of clay just feet away from another color. The diversity and richness of the land is something we seldom have time to fully experience but in doing so I think I have been able to be present with myself and the earth in a new way.

Grief, growth and letting go

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Color abstract

-24/1000, oil on paper, 29″x21″, $150

As I look at my very first oils from two years ago, I find myself reflecting on change, grief, letting go and then opening up to the present. What I imagined would happen during my move to New Mexico and what actually came to pass are very different. I both underestimated the challenge and the joy this whole process would bring.

Moving to New Mexico, with all its hype and “glamour” was also filled with grieving my past life and letting go of being near family and friends. More than anything, that classic dream of taking off and seeking your own fortune in “foreign” lands is not necessarily as easy as it sounds. Well, at least for me it was not. I had never lived further than two hours from my family and lacked the foresight, in spite of it appearing pretty obvious, to truly understand how different being 26 hours away (4 hours by plane) would feel.

The truth is that letting go of the past is the only thing that frees us to fully engage in the riches of the present.

Now, two years later, after spending a glorious week in Florida visiting friends and family and then returning home, I was caught by surprise by my own grief about having moved away.  The strange thing about grief is that when you think you’re finally over it, something triggers it, and you can feel the exact same sadness you felt the very first day you were grieving, as if nothing has changed. The good news is that over time, these recurrences lessen and become shorter for most of us. The truth is that letting go of the past is the only thing that frees us to fully engage in the riches of the present.

-26/1000, oil on paper, 29"x21", $150

-26/1000, oil on paper, 29″x21″, $150

By immersing myself in the things I love, like painting, I was able, in part, to paint my way through the process. So I enrolled into a painting class at the University of New Mexico and learned how to paint with oils.This was really the thing that pulled me out of my sadness over leaving home, getting back into art and into painting. It is impossible to paint without being present.

One of the things that has helped me the most with this is letting go of the old stories. We all have our stories about our lives…”oh poor me, I had to move away from home, or I only paint with acrylics, or I have this terrible job, or I have to (fill in the blank). So being present with what feelings bubble up is essential but letting go is equally so. Part of my learning to paint with oils did depend on my letting go of the comfort of using acrylics.

-25/1000, oil on paper, 21"x29", $125

-25/1000, oil on paper, 21″x29″, $125

The funny thing about oils, is that unlike acrylics, which are synthetic, oils are organic and thus, their feel is much more organic as well. It is much more like working with clay in that way. Oils flow much more easily than acrylics and in a dry environment like New Mexico, that is definitely an advantage. There is a sheen to them that suggests life. And in part, by relishing in the beauty that oils bring into a painting, I was able to let go of the grief, open my eyes once again to the beauty around me and truly begin the adventure that has been New Mexico.

Painting people

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22/1000, 18″x18″, acrylic on canvas, N/A

A memory that sticks with me to this day is when my grandfather shared with me that for him the most elevated form of painting was when you painted people. He elaborated by telling me that the most valuable thing one could communicate in a painting was human emotion. That if someone was able to feel or be moved by human expression, then your piece was a success. Even though I did not necessarily agree with him, his comments made a lasting impression. As I admired and still deeply value what my grandfather, Julio Montesinos, passed on to me, his words still echo in my mind to this day.

So with my grandfather’s sage advice in mind, I have attempted to paint several portraits over the years. It’s interesting posting images that I finished so long ago. It gives me both an appreciation of where I’ve been and how far I have come. This is my sweet niece Lydia when she was about three years old. I absolutely loved getting to paint her sweet face and trying to capture her wild and fresh spirit.

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After that my friend Vera requested a portrait of Queen Esther.

23/1000, 16"x14", acrylic on canvas

23/1000, 16″x14″, acrylic on canvas

During my painting I class I got the opportunity to practice portraying the human form one more time when I painted a self portrait. Still much to learn in this arena but a fascinating process for sure. And in hindsight, after mulling over my grandfather’s sage advice for several decades and after taking on the challenge of capturing the human spirit on canvas myself, I can say that I do agree with what he was saying, at least in spirit. That if a piece of art can move a human being on a deep level, if it can open someone up in a way that everyday life fails to do, if it allows them to reach or see into their own soul in a deeper way, then you have aspired to the best that art can give.

27/1000, acrylic and oil on canvas, 34"x20"

27/1000, acrylic and oil on canvas, 34″x20″, $340.00

It’s been too long

IMG_7520It’s hard to believe that a year has gone by since my last post. Since then art has continued to happen but a lot of life too. Needless to say, after many things, including buying a new house, I am finally settling in and dreaming about painting again. Also, thanks to a dear friend, Laura, who recently started an awesome new blog, desertobservations, I am inspired to start posting again. There is a lot of catching up to do so I will be getting to the details soon.

However, the truth is life never happens as we planned, and for most of us, that is no longer news, ha! Not that I am making excuses, but it really takes a strong and focused resolve this day and age to stay on task. Especially when important stuff comes up like my sweet nephew Owen’s premature birth. I am happy to say Owen is now one and doing wonderfully and I am so glad I was able to just drop everything and be there for my brother and family. Then there are other fabulous distractions like Facebook, TV, dusting, yes I said dusting because living out here in New Mexico, I think I could fill my days with something as banal as that if I chose to.

However, there is also something that we tend to neglect and devalue in our culture and that is taking time to let things rest, mature, ferment, grow and develop. I have to say, that I have also taken this time to sit, meditate, journal and pray. It has not always been easy to accept this as an important part as my life, but I have never taken real time to do this at any other time. Thus, part of my absence from the blog was also by design.

Fortunately, since my last post I have taken two painting classes at UNM and private lessons with a fabulous teacher. I’ve learned so much and yet there is so far to go. I will soon be posting more about this and my fabulous teachers.

Now, I am feeling incredibly blessed to be taking Pueblo Pottery Materials with Clarence Cruz. This class could become a blog in itself. We have been traveling the state finding and processing clay and pigments. Finally we are starting to work on the pieces and there is a certain magic that happens when you work with clay that you have painstakingly dug out, wet down, strained, dried and wedged. But that story is for another day.

For now, I can say that I am glad to be back.

Transformation

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21/1000, acrylic on canvas, 24″x24″, N/A

It has been a long time since I have posted anything as I have been busy painting and traveling and now I find myself in a quandry. These are some of the pieces I created for my show in 2011, just over a year ago, and they are so different from what I am doing now. My first inclination was to just scrap them or just shove them under the bed metaphorically speaking, pretend that they are not there.

It is in the percieved imperfections that we all carry that really captivate, fascinate and liberate.

Funny how when we change and grow it is easy to undervalue all we have been. All we have experienced in the past, is exactly what has transformed us into what we are now. So after a while of sitting with my reluctance to publish these, as well as my fantasies about just painting over them and starting all over (which is still a possibility but would be kind of amusing as one is hanging in my parents’ dining room), I came to a realization. What is so interesting and inspiring about posting these 1000 pieces I have committed to paint, is in the witnessing of the evolution and transformation.

A friend of mine who is also taking Painting II at UNM this semester recently commented to me how different my pieces look now than they did not even a year ago. Yes, it is really in the embracing of all of ourselves that allows the beauty and wonder of our nature to shine. So, I am happy to share two paintings that will become part of the story of the adventure I have embarked upon, blemishes and all. After all, it is in the percieved imperfections that we all carry that really captivate, fascinate and liberate.

24/1000, acrylic on canvas, 24″x24″, $275.00

Going further inside

I’ve slowly been making my way through Julia Cameron’s 12 weeks of recovery in The Artists’ Way. This is an excellent book designed to help individuals from all walks of life, not just artists, reconnect with their creativity. The truth is that we are all born creative and at some point, usually during our childhood, lose touch with that inner spark.

Now as I start my new painting, which is focused on the concept of going deeper within, it seems apropos that I also begin my week of “reading deprivation”.

The rose is the path, the door, and the crow leads you there, into the depths of the your soul. Have you the courage to enter?

A week without reading means more time to be available to what is really going on inside. What have I been avoiding or ignoring by filling my time with distractions? That space is where the real stuff happens. That is how we get to know ourselves.

Art lies in the moment of encounter: we meet our truth and we meet ourselves; we meet ourselves and we meet our self-expression. -Julia Cameron

According to many, that is when art happens.

Path to Your Heart

20/1000, Path to Your Heart, acrylic on canvas, 24"x24", sold

Here is a piece I sold at my show last spring and it is one of my personal favorites. Roses have served as spiritual symbols for many different cultures and religions throughout history and in modern times have come to symbolize love.

For me, a rose symbolizes our connection to our own hearts. The spiraling rose petals lead us to the center, our core, our soul, which is what allows us to recognize our own divinity. When we are in touch with who we truly are, we are able to be present with ourselves and in turn we can then be present in this world. With our eyes now open we can see the preciousness of everyone and everything around us. The rose is a connection and a door to the beauty, sacredness and higher calling within us all.

 

Getting over painter’s block

19/1000, 14"x11" acrylic on canvas

So it has been 6 months since I last painted, but today I finally picked up my brushes, pulled out my palette, and dusted off my canvas. Recently I have been wondering why I have shied away from the luscious acrylic colors all sitting in a box ready for me to use. Over time, many excuses have come up for me: I just exhibited my paintings, I moved, I needed to prepare for my pottery show. All great excuses, but not the real reason for my absence from the canvas.

After working on Julia Cameron’s The Artists’ Way for a few months, it finally occurred to me that I was having painters’ block. The real reason I was not painting is that I was not satisfied with the results of my 19/1000 hearts painting. I felt it lacked depth and soul, in short, I thought it was not good enough and I did not want to post it.

Now you may wonder what “good enough” means to me. It would be way too easy to give in to a fantasy of perfection and attempt to force good paintings to happen. That has not worked for me so far and I doubt it ever will. In order to be able to ever finish or show a painting I have had to let go of my desire for perfectionism. In place of that, perhaps more importantly, I have to feel a piece carries with it a message, or better yet, a soul.

She Owns Her Wisdom, first incarnation

For me, she, the unnamed girl on the canvas, lacked depth. She appeared shy, quiet, and way too demure. Her adolescent looks and weak smile conveyed doubt and fear. I started wondering if this is where I was coming from when painting faces. Indeed, I do struggle with fear and doubt about my abilities to paint, especially the human face and form. This painting had captured my fears exactly, and when I looked at it, I only wanted to run from it, ignore it, and forget about painting.

This is when I realized that if I was to get over this block, I would have to face this girl. I knew that I would have to sit with her, get to know her better and find out what she asked of me. With that in mind, I spent some time meditating and journeying and hoped that I could find the answer within, thus solving the mystery of this woman. So as I studied her features and looked into her eyes, a confident woman emerged. As I looked deeper while I worked on her expression, I could see that this woman did own her wisdom. This woman is able to see her own uniqueness and connection to the Divine. This woman can witness her own divinity.

Holiday Pottery Show

In spite of the bad weather, my first pottery show in years was a great experience. Wonderful to be among so many talented and kindred souls.

It has been a rough 72 hours weather-wise in Albuquerque with school closings and people hunkering down to stay warm. For me it has been a whole new learning experience never having lived where it can snow or go below freezing for any sustained period of time. Needless to say, I still have plenty of pieces to share. I have decided to postpone opening my Etsy shop for now but will make my pieces available through this site. I will be posting more photos of individual pieces very soon.

In the end, it is a good time to remind myself of this Les Brown quote:

Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss it you will land among the stars.

Ready for the studio show at McCracken Pottery

 

It never ceases to amaze and excite me when it is time to open up the kiln after a glaze firing. You just never know for sure what you will discover when you crack open that slightly warm and heavy lid and take your first peek inside.

6" diameter, hand built stoneware

Regardless of the number of times I have done it, the thrill is always there, and especially now as it has been so long since I have worked with clay. Even when you have finished forming the piece and bisque fired it, you still do not really know what it will look like until that glaze firing, that final passing through the flame.

Hand built stoneware, 6" diameter

Looking forward to seeing those that can make it to the show tomorrow and saturday and for those who can’t, I will be posting more pictures very soon.

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