I just returned from teaching a 5 day silk painting workshop as part of Sacred Arts Week with some other incredible faculty at the Grunewald Guild near Leavenworth WA. It was a wonderful time of silk painting, pottery, exploring the connection between image and word, and creative journaling, not to mention labyrinth walking, chatting late at night, bridge strolling and worshiping together. Vonda Drees, one of the directors, took these photos and made them into a slide show. Songwriter and Guild member Cheryl Branz wrote the accompanying song.
The overarching theme of the week was “Wonder, Discover, Begin”. This gave us a chance to delve into the creative process first by sharing how this theme applied to individual faculty’s creative and spiritual lives. Hopefully this sharing strengthened everyone’s courage to create boldly. I think it worked, based on the new artwork displayed at the end of the week.
Here’s the classes taught and the faculty facilitating:
I so enjoyed painting this set of banners for Easter Lutheran Church in Eagan, MN.
The goal of these banners is to lift up the natural habitat near this St. Paul suburb as God’s sacred creation. In order to do this I had to remember back to my childhood and early adulthood roaming the beautiful hardwood forests in eastern Iowa and the more northern birch forests of Minnesota. I am sure my first experiences of the sacred occurred from early childhood forrays into Grandma and Grandpa’s woods near Decorah, IA., later as a teen and young adult canoing in the Boundary Waters of northern MN, and then during collage years taking refuge from aceademia in the Nerstrand Woods near Northfield MN, a last remnant of the historic Big Woods of Wisconson and SE Minnesota.
As a full-fledged adult living rurally in North Idaho and remotely in the North Cascades Wilderness at Holden village, and still today near Bellingham WA I search for peace, for life lessons, for beauty and awe-inspiring power and inevitable change of everything, even rock. I search for that which is greater than me in the forests. If I’m really lucky, very still, or completely dumbstruck by what I experience in the wild, once in a while I can sense the God of Martin Luther, in, with, and through all things.
If I am very, very lucky, God’s creation is a door that leads me to Tielhard De Chardin’s Sacred Millieu, where the veil thins and I glimps the sacred.
Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
A large silk painting project starts simply, with either a watercolor sketch or colored pencil sketch. However, a lot of work goes into these small pieces, mostly communication with the people commissioning the work.The first step in any commissioned project is to determine what it is the clients would like these silk paintings to be. What is the message? The purpose?
I love to work with a group of people to pull these design ideas from them. I believe that art “from the ground up,” with ideas from the community, rather than “from the top down” giving all authority to an artist unrelated to that community, promotes deep thinking of that community and a greater sense of ownership of the art. My hope is that people can see their influence in the art that they worship with, in their sanctuary, and that the artwork is meaningful to that group of people in particular.
So one of my jobs in any commissioned project is facilitation of a group process to come up with these ideas. I do this communication work sometimes by traveling to the site to meet with people, or through phone calls and email, often attaching current sketches. I listen carefully to themes the group is wishing to portray and look for an overall feeling, and particular desires about color and size etc.
If there are artists in the group I ask for their involvement with sketches, etc. Sometimes there may be an artist within the group who may be able to come up with the design themselves. In this case I act more as a facilitator. In other congregations people are looking for a professional artist to accomplish this, and then I do the sketch myself. Often there is a mixture of these. I try to adapt to the needs of the group as best I can.
In the present project for Easter Lutheran Church, Eagan, Minnesota, the conversations by phone were particularly constructive. What I heard from them was that they wanted a vision of sacred creation, especially native Minnesota nature. No humans or symbols or words! This is a chance to lift up God’s sacred creation and fits so well with my own call:
“My artistic mission is to communicate the sacred presence of God in all creation, by connecting the rhythms, stories and images nature has to offer with liturgical rites and rituals through art.”
So as you can see, a lot of preliminary work went into these two little pencil sketches. They are 12″ x 4.5″ each. The finished silk pieces will be 12 feet by 4 feet 6 inches.
After the final approval of the design I projected both of these images onto newsprint paper cut to the finished size of the silk banners, adding to and adapting them as I saw fit. This means increasing the size of the design from 12 inches x 4.5 inches to 12 feet by 4. 5 feet. Here below you can see these drawings and some of the details.
Click on the thumbnails to get full-sized images from this gallery.
Here are pictures of each banner from a couple of days ago (below). I am now working on the lower part of both banners, including most of the waterfall. This section will go lots faster as there is much less detail involved. Then I will scroll back up to these top sections to finish some detail and connect the upper and lower parts after the water is finished. Stay tuned! I’ll post pictures in the next couple of days for you to see.
Now all the pieces in the 13-piece set Kennewick Christmas are finished. It took me a lot longer to sew each piece, some by hand, than I thought it would!
I’ve been thinking a lot about the Syrian refugees as paint this set, and how, to a refugee in a stranger’s land, any space that is warm and dry can seem fit for a king. Even a manger meant for a place to hold food for farm animals is desirable if it’s the best place available. And that was the best place Mary could find to set her King of Kings, the baby Jesus, the night he was born.
Joseph and Mary must have been worried, anxious, tired and dirty from their travels and from the emotionally exhausting process of bringing a baby into the world. Yet I’ve depicted them both as shining with halos, basking in the sacred Light of God.
I Iwonder if you and I can see the sacred Light of God reflected from the homeless strangers we encounter in our daily lives today?
It was fun to work with the idea of light shining onto the manger, and illuminating the straw. And to carry the theme of sacred golden light throughout the banners and paraments. And to depict the Light of God shining on all of us through the halos on the stoles.
I thought I’d get a few pictures of how the stoles look when worn. Unfortunately the only model available was me. So here they are:
I’ve been working on a commission for Lord of Life Lutheran Church in Kennewick WA. It is a set of banners, paraments and stoles to celebrate the Christmas Season. The colors of the season are gold and white…I chose to use varying golds from darker to almost white, to represent light streaming down from the Star of David onto the Christ Child, Mary and Joseph.
Here you will see pictures of the finished paintings on silk. The fabric to decorate the font and the lectern have not been cut and hemmed yet, but they’re on their way.
First the stoles:
Following are two wall banners, to be placed at either side of the altar:
And two longer narrow banners to hang from the rafters, symbolizing the light of God within the sanctuary:
Material for the Lectern parament and Baptismal Font paraments, yet to be cut and hemmed:
The focal piece of the whole set is a simple manger upon which the golden Light of God is shining. I am unhappy with how this painting turned out and am in the process of re-painting it. I will add it to this post when it is finished.
Here are some other photos to give you a sense of the set and of them being created in my studio.
I am grateful and honored to have been asked to design and make these banners, paraments and stoles for Lord of Life. Thank you so much for the opportunity. I will do more writing on this post when I am finished with the whole project, so stay tuned until I finish all the sewing involved!
Last Sunday I returned from teaching a week long silk painting workshop at the Grunewald Guild, August 3-9 2015. We had a wonderful week with 11 students, many of those returning students and a few brand new silk painters. We all learned from each other, pushed our own boundaries, made wonderful friends, enjoyed someone else cooking for us, and saturated ourselves with color.
Our class, entitled Color in the Wild, focused on seeing color combinations that nature provides and learning about these combinations with the help of a color wheel. We talked about complementary, split complimentary, and triadic color schemes, use of neutrals, and dominance, to name a few color thinking structures.
Each student was asked to choose a primary triadic “pallet” from colors they saw in nature, and reproduce it with the dyes we had available on the above grid.
You will see from the photos below how diverse each person’s work was. Whether a newby or a seasoned silk painter, I was very proud of the depth of challenge each person took on.
Here are some pictures of the work we did last week. Be patient; it’s a slide show with 6 seconds in between pictures.
And here we are below, all working in the Fiber Arts Building.
One more tidbit for you: A short video that Susi Franco made for our class
We missed you Janell!!! , and all those unable to come. Hopefully you will be with us next year.
It’s been a long process, and now we are reaping the rewards of patience, focused work and group process. The silk mural “Tree of Life” is now installed and doing its job at Faith Lutheran Church, Bellingham, WA
From Revelation 22
1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.
Faith Lutheran Church does a lot of work with those in need in the surrounding neighborhood. They have a beautiful and productive community vegetable garden, whose produce is served in meals to any who are hungry. They have several programs designed to serve people in pain and in need, and to welcome the outsider into the fold. In other words, they aspire to provide fruit that ripens twelve months of the year, and leaves for the healing of many in their midst. They are like a tree of life planted in the street of the city, and look to that image for inspiration and strength.
Last Sunday’s service included a dedication for these banners. It was the first day on the job for this artwork. Colored light from the stained glass windows streaked across the banners illuminating the painting with a magical and ever-changing light. At times the light on the painting was almost overwhelming, then it changed in an instant to be more gentle, then the light fell on the wall a foot behind and between the two panels and onto the cross, and then raked across the space again in a new unpredictable way. The effect was one of impermanence and transparency, and of an external power influencing the piece. Theologically it was perfect, seen as the Light of God that illuminates and creates all.
What is not apparent from a frontal view as you enter the space is that the wooden cross actually hangs several feet in front of the silk, and the silk hangs about a foot from the wall. This allows for movement of the silk, and a three-dimentionality with the wall and the cross. When you approach the chancel from different directions you sense depth in what originally seems flat.
Here below is a picture from all the way back in the nave. I am pleased with how the painting fits in the the architectural space.
Thank you Pastor Sharon Swanson, assistant Jessie Twigg-Harris, and the congregation of Faith Lutheran Church for giving me the opportunity to do this work for you. My hope is that this artwork will do its job to acknowledge, uplift and inspire your already vibrant and growing mission to feed the hungry, to welcome the stranger, and to bring in the Reign of God here and now, right here in your Northwest Avenue neighborhood.
The silk mural “Tree of Life,” composed of two 25 foot by 4 foot fabric panels, is ready to be hung in Faith Lutheran Church. Dedication will be Sunday July 19, 2015 at Faith, 2570 McLeod Rd, 10:00 AM,and promises to be quite nice. Please join us if you are in town!
If you recall from previous posts I used rollers on each end of a frame to paint 9 feet of fabric at a time. When the piece was finished I was able set only 10 feet of each panel next to its partner, enough to tell that the sections match pretty well, but not enough to get a sense of how it will all look finally hanging in its new home. That will have to wait until the new pulley system for hanging this and other banners is completed, soon. I am anxious to see how it looks!
I’ve photographed this piece in my studio as best I can. Since it is so long I was only able to get about 10 feet at a time. Below you will find 6 photos, 3 for each panel starting with the left panel, from top to bottom.
In the last post on this silk Tree of Life project for Faith Lutheran Church, Bellingham WA, I showed you how I transfer a 10″x10″ pen and ink design onto large paper to make a pattern 8 feet by 8 feet. This makes up only one third of our 24 foot long pattern. I transferred all the rest of the watercolor design to paper using a grid system since the pattern shapes are so large that they get distorted by the projector.
Putting the silk and pattern both on the frames is the next step. My husband made two rectangular frames out of straight 1x lumber, both 4 feet by 9 feet interior dimensions, and added legs. Then he rigged up a roller system, very much like a loom, so I could load the extra silk onto each end.
In the picture above you can see the silk loaded on one of the rollers, and the paper pattern beneath it. Under both the silk and the paper are hung clear acrylic panels that allow me to raise the paper pattern to the right height below the silk. It helps very much to put a shop light underneath the frame, which shines through the clear acrylic to show my magic marker lines from the pattern through the silk. I use a resist called “gutta” to draw the lines, following the pattern, using clear gutta in some places and black gutta in others. I am using black gutta to help the piece echo leaded stained glass of the Chartre Cathedral North Window.
In the foreground of this picture you can see the black magic marker pattern underneath the silk. In the background you can see part of my studio. It is in a re-modeled attic of our 120 yr old house.
Here is a view the other direction:
I have divided the work on this project into three separate parts. First I am developing the mandala-like stained glass window design, as that is the central focus area with a lot of detail. Almost every other part of the design supports this section. Second I will develop the background sky and waterfall, down to the horizontal pool of water. This second section is all connected by muted and more neutral colors with soft edges. The colors will gradually change down to the waterfall area behind the foliage. Lastly I’ll work on the waterfall, the bottom third of the piece. This area will repeat blues, purples, greens and whites in the areas above, but also contain some of the darkest colors in the rocks. This area will include gradual blending of colors along with some hard edges, and maybe splattering or other techniques to represent flowing, falling and splashing water.
Lots of work must be done before laying in the first colors. But now that the gutta for the round folliage area is ready, I will begin the most fun part!
I am happiest with a paintbrush full of color.
It takes a lot of time to fill in all of those spaces, and this part will be only half-done until the background gets filled in.
Below you can see the ghost images of the fruit yet to be, with the blackberries coming along nicely.
Now to develop all 12 of the fruits that ripen one a month, so that none may go hungry!
Spring brings new life, and with it an exciting new Tree of Life project for me. I’m happy to be working with a local church, Faith Lutheran Church in Bellingham WA.
Here’s the full view of the design. The finished piece will be 24 feet long and eight feet wide, on two long silk panels 4 feet across each.
The cross will not be painted in, but in this sketch represents the church’s existing wooden cross (9 feet by 6 feet) that hangs the ceiling. The silk mural will be behind the wooden cross.
I will use colors on the tree that echo the wood colors of the existing cross to make a metaphor: The Cross is like a tree that is alive, blooming, and abundant with food in each season, and its leaves are for the healing of the nations. (Rev. 22 vs 2)
Faith Lutheran Church has a big wall behind its alter that is blank except for the wooden cross and colored light coming from long thin windows at the side. Unfortunately I only have a black and white photo. The carpet is a muted purple, paraments at the time are olive green, the walls warm wood color. The wall looks like it needs a stained glass window behind its cross to me. So I designed the foliage of the tree with the underlying structure of the North Window of Chartres Cathedral in France. At times during the day light from the stained glass windows on the side will enliven the Tree of Life painting in a lovely way.
The collaborative process for designing this project was conducted over a period of time, with input from a fairly large group of people from Faith Church. We met 3 or 4 times, and after each meeting I used their input to make changes in the design.
Below you can see the same sketch without the cross. This is the actual design that I will be painting on silk.
Things are going well. I just finished another couple projects and have cleared up my plate of tasks: so now it’s full steam ahead on this project. I’ve been anxious to get started and it’s really fun.
So far I’ve prepared the silk by hand-washing, line drying, ironing. Then cutting the width down to the right size and applying “fray-block” on all 50 feet of cut edge. The frames are all ready to receive both the pattern and the silk, and right now I’m finishing up drawing the pattern life-size on big paper after making a more careful drawing of the rose window/tree foliage.
UPDATE: April 8, The silk is now on the frames and I have been transferring the design to the silk with a resist from the rubber plant, called “gutta.” I will show pictures of this in the next post.
Following are some pictures of how I make this 30″ x 10″ watercolor sketch into a life-sized pattern for an eight-foot by 24-foot silk painting.
The first step was to refine the round Chartres foliage portion of the piece on another smaller drawing. I like this pen and ink version. It is 10″x10″.
The second step is to enlarge the whole sketch onto paper the same size as the silk would be. I use big roles of newsprint cut to the right size. Most often I use a projector to throw the image onto the paper, but with a round and highly geometrical pattern like this I had to transfer it the old fashion way. I made a big compass out of trammel points and measured carefully to get all the geometrical forms just right.
After this geometrical pattern is finished I can project the details from the pen and ink drawing onto the pattern, knowing that there is no distortion if I adjust the projector to fill the shapes on the carefully made pattern. It’s lots easier to work upright on a wall than bending over on the floor of my studio.
I found it easier to transfer the large tree trunk and background imagery using a grid instead of the projector since they are such large shapes and easily distorted. So the only practical way to use the time-saving projector as a guide was doing all these leaves and the fruit inside the circles. LOTS of detail here.
I’ll keep you posted on my progress during the weeks ahead. I’ll show you the silk on the wonderful frames my husband makes for me, and what it all looks like with each step. Maybe you can come and see everything in person if you live nearby. Stay tuned!