” A writer is dear and necessary for us only in the measure in which he reveals to us the inner working of his soul.” –Leo Tolstoi, Russian author, 1800s. When young, while eating breakfast each morning before getting on the school bus, I always had a couple of favorite books handy for entertainment. Cereal boxes only had so much content and this was in the days before digital stimulus. I actually LIKED studying for spelling tests. Something about words: their meanings, sounds, and placement engaged me. Was I a budding writer? The day an English teacher in high school read my fiction story to the class as a quality example sent a flush of excitement through me and planted itself in my memory. But, I didn’t choose writing, I chose art. The writing, however, tagged along. I have a trunk full of journals, several story starts, and then…I started writing captions to go along with the sketches I post each day. This book, “The New Dictionary of Thoughts” has been a faithful companion in that process. It was published in 1936 and contains quotes from “thinkers” prior to that date, of course. I find the language usage elegant. It also helps that the topics of quotes are arranged in alphabetical order. Autumn and Avarice are right next to each other, lol. How cool is that! And one can not simply walk into the Mordor of writing without the research assistance of the Internet. What an astonishing age to live in! Posting on Instagram has helped me keep my musings condensed, valuable to whittling the words down to their essence and essential in a world of short attention spans–myself included. The writing has become as important as the sketch. That was unexpected. When I look for a subject to sketch now, there must be a concept to go with it. Keeps me on the edge of my intellectual seat. When the visual and the writing come together there is that same “flush of excitement” I felt in my English high school class so many years ago. A few more recent and favorite postings follow:Day 506: BEAUTY or BURDEN? No kidding, standing on a low wall I looked down on some rocks and a desert plant in our yard and from that slightly different perspective I saw this head and shoulder adorned. BEAUTY: Move over Marie Antoinette updo, Marilyn Monroe’s glamour waves, and Princess Leia’s side buns! BURDEN: Or perhaps this is a cactus to bear, an opuntia around the neck, stickers on your back, a prickly conscience. Just a little artistic fantasy to badger the point: BEAUTY (or BURDEN) is in the eye (or heart) of the beholder?Day 520: Traveling the earth tiny Earthlings? I see your excited faces inside that little blimp. Taking a risk to see what’s around the corner? Got toothbrushes and quarters to call home? No, wait! Quarters don’t work anymore. Got your phone chargers? Take lots of pictures! Don’t forget clean underwear and an extra pair of socks! “Rather see the wonders of the world abroad than, living dully sluggardized at home, wear out thy youth with shapeless idleness.”–Shakespeare.Day 523: Simple food and drink, simply put, is not simple…now. These essentials of life have brewed and bred a world of complexity and memorable quotes: A Dish Fit For The Gods; All You Can Eat; Chow Down; It Is Meate And Drink To Me (Shakespeare again); Let Them Eat Cake (Marie did NOT say this); and the growing harvest of study indicating that YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT. (Unless, of course, something is EATING YOU. Think GRABOIDS, “This valley is just one long smorgasbord!” And DINOSAURS, “Let’s get this moveable feast under way!” I digress.) Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow you may have to count your calories, measure cups of vegetables, ounces of water, and be sugar free.Day 593: Oh, the CRAZY things you could find on the Internet today!!! The U.S. Army has NOT discovered how to teleport people. The National Air and Space Museum has NOT begun breeding tribbles. Archaeologists at Vanderbilt University have NOT discovered the skeleton of a 39 foot tall squirrel. The British Milk Council is NOT selling unicorn milk. Sony has NOT developed a slime resistant proton pack. Verizon is NOT connecting your eyeballs directly into your social media accounts. There are NO pizza scented candles, No T-rex line of T-shirts, and No 3D-printed clam chowder. Dang! Happy April Fool’s Day anyway, lol.
Yes!!! And it is reinvigorating to the creative process. I noticed my neighborhood filling up with children as new families moved in. Conveniently, a yellow bus stops at the corner of our property each morning of the school week. After my initial excitement that there would be more trick or treaters for Halloween (one of my favorite creative holidays), I contemplated inviting the children on our block over to paint. Could be daunting…but these three possibilities came to mind: 1. Spreading goodwill in the neighborhood. (Well, that certainly could make a difference in the world.) 2. Paying it forward. (Sharing what I know about art. I have spent a few years learning about it, lol.) 3. Assisting a budding artist to find their way. (So many teachers, mentors, associates, artists, friends…have contributed to my art journey.) Let the fun begin:
I invited 16 children over to paint two days before Halloween. 12 came. The youngest was four. The oldest was 11. Set up three tables with a painting spot for each child: masking taped down 8 x 9 inch pieces of nice watercolor paper, cup of water, brush, paper towel, and a small paper plate with a wet paper towel folded on it for the palette. Put a small dollop of primary, secondary, and white color acrylic paints on each palette. Black is very popular. No brown. They have to mix that one…
Yes, exploring the medium and tools of the trade. The brush survived…barely. Amazingly felt peaceful when one of the water cups hit the floor. Cement floors, yay!
Painting a monster face was a suggestion. The children could paint whatever they wanted to. Requested that they fill in color all the way to the edges of the tape…getting rid of all white paper. Hayley’s (age 11) monster face.
What is it about a frame that puts the finishing touches on a piece of art?! The children left their paintings with me overnight for a good thorough drying. The watercolor paper smoothed back to flat. Slowly and carefully removing the tape leaves a white border.
Ian is also 11. I don’t know what he was thinking, but I could see huddled figures and a wild sky. Some of the pieces look better with ragged edges, of course. But the next day when I met the children at the bus stop with their nicely bordered art pieces their expressions of oohs and aahs washed over me with such a feeling of well-being that I will probably keep inviting them over, lol.
Ian’s piece with a white border. The next step in this creative process will be playing with words and giving their pieces a title.
Kyle is 6. He spent more time and focus on his piece than any of the other children. I was intrigued when he made statements like, “I wanna see what mixing these two colors together makes.” Again and again he painted and repainted his piece until he got just what he wanted. Mmmm…I thought, is he a “budding artist” I can mentor?
Gotta take better photos! Kyle’s piece was terrific with a clean border. The colors were intense. There is a purposeful mind at work here.
Invited the children back during the week of Thanksgiving. They now have the drill down. I spent an hour setting up. They painted for about 15 minutes. Clean up took about an hour. Reminded me of Thanksgiving Dinner: you spend hours cooking a meal that is consumed, on average, in about 15 minutes.
Jonathan is 6. He also has an energetic and colorful approach to painting. Good thing he gets it down quick because he can’t sit still for very long, lol. His rendition of a turkey. I like the blue texture strokes in the background.
All cleaned up and ready for display on his mom’s refrigerator door!!!
“Your face is a book, where men may read strange matters.” – Shakespeare. I think he was on to something! Much about the artist is always revealed through the art they make. So it was with the children and the masks they made. In September of this year I taught two classes of fifth graders how to make a simple mask. In 45 minutes it was easy to see a connection between their personalities and their created mask-faces…even though they were all strangers to me.
Materials used: 1. Brightly colored and black cardstock. 2. Glue sticks, scissors, staplers, and colored pencils. Instructions: 1. Choose a vertical (hot dog) or horizontal (hamburger) mask face. 2. Close your eyes. Put your hands on the sides of your face and slide forward to your nose. Notice that your face is not flat. 3. Fold your cardstock in half to begin adding a sculptural 3-D effect to your mask. 4. With your cardstock folded in half, tear or cut through the two layers from a corner near the fold, diagonally to its opposite corner. You have now created the jawline shape of your mask. 5. Where do you want your eyes? Mark with pencil. Poke a hole in the cardstock with the tip of a pair of scissors. (Beware of poking too hard and jabbing your fingers.) The hole you poked is for your scissors to have a place to start cutting from. Cut fabulous eye-shape holes!
Now the final touches! 6. Use your scraps of left over cardstock or trade with your fellow student to get a mix of colors and shapes. Bend, curl, fold, crumple, tear, or cut (paper is such marvelous stuff) these scraps and attach to your mask with the glue sticks (if the pieces are small) or stapler (if the pieces are bigger). Always try to get the paper scraps to stick out from the mask. This contributes to a 3-D, sculptural effect. Much more interesting than just flat. 7. Decorate with fancy colored pencil lines, squiggles, shading, cross-hatching, dots, and dashes.
Now go look at yourself in the mirror! When you take these home, don’t put them on the refrigerator door…push pin them on a bulletin board or wall space somewhere. The key to keeping them 3-D is to fold slightly so your mask sticks out from the wall and then push pin it in place. Do not pin it flat to the wall. When your art is 3-D it will cast interesting shadows. You can always put more decoration on your mask. Think of all the possibilities in your mom’s or grandma’s craft drawer!
On the evening of June 13, 2014, WE THREE: (left to right) Barbara Edwards, Roxane Pfister, and me, Dilleen Marsh, did have a great time. (We are all wearing jazzy patterned scarves, a gift from Roxane that she picked up on a visit to Greece earlier.) It was the opening reception of an exhibit of our work. Friends, family, even our high school art teacher, Bob Whitney, as well as two of our college art teachers, Glen Edwards and Marion Hyde, came to pay their respects…or just to see if their art instruction had made a difference, lol. It did. So did all the practice we three “girls” have put in over the decades since public school. What an honor to show my paintings along with two dear friends in a bona fide art gallery! Even with the common neighborhood roots and art instruction we have shared, our painting styles are unique from each other. Consider that the soul of the artist does, indeed, show up over time. After an evening of chatter, sharing stories behind paintings, deluge of the children on the refreshment table, posing for photos, and catching up with old acquaintances, we tallied the financial side of this art business. Nothing had sold. Weeks later Barbara sold one of her 6×8 inch still-lifes from the show. Most of Roxane’s paintings were NFS (not for sale) because she is determined to put together a collection of strong pieces to pursue a broader representation. I had completed a painting for the show titled, “Wistful”, (shown below) that was seen by two magazine designers, garnering me two illustration jobs in the months that followed. I also felt that with all the painting, running up to the deadline for the show, that I climbed a plateau in my abilities as an artist. Sometimes there is nothing like a deadline to make you produce. And there is certainly value in the hours spent practicing those brush strokes!
Barbara Summers Edwards, artist, in her Smithfield, Utah studio.
Roxane Mitchell Pfister, artist, in her Logan, Utah studio.
Dilleen Humphries Marsh, artist, in her Hurricane, Utah studio.
In May of this year a Canadian artist by the name of Robert Genn passed away from cancer. For decades he produced an art newsletter that could be freely accessed on the internet. He blessed the lives of thousands of artists with gathered and personally experienced…wisdom. This quote from him particularly spoke to my heart: “We live our short spans in the vortex of a miracle, and while we may not be the center of that vortex, it is magic to be anywhere in there.” From those first drawings in 8th grade to our three woman show in a gallery, WE THREE have been in the vortex of art. The center of that vortex has been friendship. And it is magic…
We Three update May 29 (to see the poster for our show).
WE THREE 3 woman show will run from June 13 to July 5, 2014 at Logan Fine Art Gallery, 100 North 60 West, Logan, Utah. Opening reception is June 13, 2014 from 6 to 9pm.
Maynard Dixon (1875-1946) was a 20th century American artist whose work focused on the American West. WE THREE are fans and one day while we were “retreating” in southern Utah we saw a brochure advertising a tour of Dixon’s home and studio in Mt. Carmel. Goodness! It wasn’t that far away. So we zipped on over. Found out that a knowledgeable and generous couple, Susan and Paul Bingham, had established a mecca in the desert for us Dixonites. http://www.thunderbirdfoundation.com/ In 1938 Dixon had written to a friend: “Big news is we are going to quit Calif. & build us a log house in Utah, far from any large town. Mormons are simple honest farming people. We like them. Beautiful country, but cold in winter. Don’t know if we can make a living there, but take a gamblers chance.” For one week, each year, for the next six years, WE THREE retreated to his “log house” and under the influence of Dixon’s artistic spirit, we practiced the art of painting.
Our first Dixon Retreat was in May 2008. It was COLD!!! We were getting our “retreat” sea legs that first year and made some “field notes” for future reference: bring a blender for our morning shakes, don’t forget the bug spray and sunscreen, warm AND cool clothes, more wet paintings storage, ODORLESS paint thinner (we had a spill of smelly turp in the car), be up at 6:30a (hard for Barb and me, no prob for Rox) , and someday paint a night painting. Fabulous southwest scenery, HIGH quality art in the Bingham Gallery, plenty of rock cliffs for me and Rox and plenty of horses for Barb. This view, above, is across the street from the Bingham Gallery.
Dixon Retreat #2, May 2009. Now it is WAY warm! Location, location, location…the Dixon site was only 45 minutes from Zion National Park. At one time we had a goal to stop and paint at every car “turn out” on the road through the park. We hit quite a few. This is Barb and Rox painting in a wash, waiting for a flash flood to cool us off…lol.
Dixon Retreat #3, also in May, 2010. We explored surrounding areas a little more stopping at Pipe Springs National Monument ranch, photographing people in western costume in Kanab, painted at the spooky “mystery pond” (Google Montezuma’s treasure in Kanab), and saw the full moon rise over the Coral Pink Sand Dunes. Every shared experience is still a unique and individual experience. In the photo above, Rox and Barb are standing by the old TV film set for Gunsmoke (series ran 1955 to 1975). We got permission to climb over the fence, carry our supplies a short trek, take photos, and set up to paint in the atmosphere of this (fake) old western town. Light good, temp not too bad…but the wind was unpredictable and kept blasting us. For Barb it was one of her worst “retreat” days. She just about gave up the sport of “plein aire”. For me it was one of my best “retreat” days. I love ghost towns and old wood, memories of my father’s dedication to Gunsmoke, and loved the sound of the wind in the trees.
Dixon Retreat #4. We thought we’d try the end of June into July for some warmer weather. Way hot!!! Except in the morning and late evening. WE THREE got smarter. Barb stayed in the Dixon studio to paint and I got up early with Rox to go out plein aire painting. We joined Barb in the studio for midday. Then we went out again at dusk. One morning Rox and I set up in Barracks Canyon by the side of a dirt road under a tree for shade. Could not understand why a herd of cows began to gather around us. Art critics? They continued to gather, bunching in so close that we had to “shoo” them away from upsetting our paints. We finally noticed that there was hay strewn around our feet. We had set up in their feeding spot. They thought we were there to feed them. Rox (above) and I got lots of “cow” photos that day, I can tell you.
Dixon Retreat #5. The first part of June 2012 was perfect weather. WE THREE are standing outside of the Maynard Dixon home that we stayed in each time we came on “retreat”. Continued our “smarter” regimen of Barb, a studio painter, painting in the studio, while Rox and I got up early and at dusk to paint outside. We gathered to work at midday and then at night we watched DVDs on Rox’s laptop while discussing great themes and solving the world’s problems…as well as sharing the adventures of growing children and the maladies of getting older.
Dixon Retreat #6. The last week of June in 2013 was part nice temp and part hot temp. Fluctuations in conditions just go with the artistic life. The serenity and support of being with friends while working on the passion that has “dogged” us all of our artistic lives can never be over valued. This photo is of Barb and Rox working in the studio. We thought Maynard worked here, but found out he preferred to work outside under a tree in front of a shed by his house. Finally, that night, I set up to do a “night” painting and painted where Dixon painted. My compatriots had gone to bed so I was alone. Night creaks and rustlings, I will have to admit, made me a little nervous. Interestingly, I found comfort in the sound of trucks driving the nearby highway, both of us working into the night.
What influences what we become? Who do we travel with? How are we affected by what we see and experience? It is insightful for me, having arrived at my 60th decade, to have plenty of history behind me to look back on.
WE THREE started “retreating” south. In March of 1996 we drove to Moab, Utah. Thoughts of painting outdoors evaporated, however, at our first painting stop. It was really cold, foggy, windy…and then began to snow. Silly us, we thought going south in March would give us a jump on the painting season. I ended up painting a still life by lamp light in our hotel that night.
Not to be daunted, we tried it again the very next year in the same month, March. It was 1997 and this time the weather behaved. What is an “art retreat” without some exploring? We saw the sign for Delicate Arch and took a hike. Wondered why the crowd dispersed early around us and then realized that we had stayed too long at the arch and would have to hike back…in the dark. We are not seasoned mountaineers and I don’t remember if we even had a flashlight with us, but this walk back became one of my cherished memories. The moon was full that night, the temperature perfect, and the comet Hale-Bopp could be easily seen with its distinct streaming “tail” with our natural eyes. Walking along in the moonlight conversing with friends…powerful poetry.
In 2002 Rox and I drove to Jackson Hole to witness Barb being honored with multiple awards at the Arts For The Parks competition that year. Barb was painting and getting in galleries, Rox was teaching math and statistics at a university while taking art workshops, and I was making a living as a magazine and children’s book illustrator. Divergent roads.
In 2005 WE THREE traveled south again. Thinking we were being adventurous, we stayed a night in Mesquite, Nevada. After scoping out the casinos for something to paint…they don’t even have chairs you can sit in to sketch the patrons from, we turned in for the night. Our room was on the ground floor and we didn’t sleep, what with the all night drunken shouting and swearing and flashing police lights through our window! The next day we packed up and fled to St. George, a much calmer place conducive to painting. We set up in Snow Canyon and I began to really see the beauty of the desert cactus.
WE THREE have a fondness for the artist, Maynard Dixon. On an excursion to the MOA (Museum Of Art) on the BYU campus in Provo, Utah, later that 2005 year, we paused at his “Forgotten Man” painting. Little did we know that Mr. Dixon would have a significant influence on our “retreating”. Saga to be continued…
Now 16 days away from our “WE THREE”, three woman art show reception on June 13 in Logan, Utah, my “looking back on” continues…
Our first WE THREE official retreat. 1988 at Teton National Park. We froze, we fried, we painted. The Grand Teton just would NOT sit still…clouds kept drifting in front, light was constantly changing, it was sunny, then it began to rain. Plein aire painting was still a new experience.
WE THREE: Barbara Edwards, Dilleen Marsh, and Roxane Pfister are three weeks away from our three woman art show at http://loganfineartgallery.com/. As I am “assembling and retrieving” art…I am thinking of “retreating”. Lol, not as in “escaping”, because I am thrilled and honored to show work with my dear friends. But in “remembering”. As I said before, WE THREE have gotten together more than 20 times over the years to RETREAT: a period of seclusion, esp. for spiritual and artistic renewal. Just wanted to share some of those memories…
July 1991 WE THREE got together in Logan, Utah. I have paint on my mouth. Why does it sometimes look like artists are eating their paint or making comments like, “that color looks good enough to eat”…? (Actually, we DON’T eat our paint, very toxic, but we do get messy.)
Logan, Utah, July 1991, Barb and Rox. By this time we all had children. Sometimes they came along.
Yep. Sometimes the “kids” came along. This is 1993 on an art retreat at Barb and Glen Edwards’ cabin in Star Valley, Wyoming. I am on the left and Rox, on the right, is holding her fourth and newest child, Devon.
But most of the time we left the children for a bit to concentrate on the painting. This “retreat” was in June of 1994.
WE THREE “retreated” to Barb’s cabin several times in the 1990s. Fields of flowers, the comfortable warmth of a potbelly stove, and a short hop, skip, and jump from the art mecca, Jackson Hole. I am on the left and Barb is on the right.