Tag Archives: painting

The Temple of My Imperfection

—that moment when you finally realize that all your efforts toward achieving perfection will never be enough.

Seizing the Wabi-sabi

 Wabisabi (侘寂) represents a comprehensive Japanese world view or aesthetic centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. -Wikipedia

crProbably wabi-sabi was first named for what happens to pottery subjected to the hellish temperatures in kilns, around 2,000ºF (~1100ºC). During the firing, the intense heat vibrates all the bonds that hold the minerals together until they come apart, and their constituent ions and molecules cruise around in a melted bubbly mixture that resembles lava, an igneous rock.

The kiln cools, and the pottery solidifies. Sometimes a gas bubble in the glaze pops at that moment and a little crater forms. Or maybe the glaze didn’t come out with a uniform color, or part of it dis-adhered from the pot and crawled away. Or the tea bowl sagged into another pot.

Classic wabi sabi, telling the story of a unique and unrepeatable moment of creation, fired and frozen in time.

Such wabi-sabi moments manifest keshiki–the landscape of the clay; these imperfections do not in any way interfere with the functionality of the piece, and it would be enormously wasteful to throw something useful away because of a surface imperfection.

One over Infinity

SphericalCow2I like to think of firing pottery as a sort of ‘backyard metamorphism’ that changes the pottery, essentially a sedimentary rock, into a metamorphic rock.

I have even made the statement publicly, that kilns are science laboratories in which ceramic artists perform experiments in thermodynamics, which is a branch of science that deals with the advanced secrets of the Universe. <Click here for Out of the Periodic Chart and into the Fire>

We have learned a great deal about the behavior of matter through experiments that rudely resemble the actual physical universe, tweaked by precise mathematical equations that ignore much of the almost infinite variation therein. Somehow we get close enough that the pieces fit together in rude sorts of ways.

Potter’s kilns on the other hand, much more closely approach the actual imperfection that brought us all the rocks on Earth. And the universe. With a great deal of faith, you consign your piece to the kiln. The wabi-sabi is impossible to know or quantify. There are no round frictionless cows.

Pray to the gods of fire, electricity, gravity and magnetism, that what comes out resembles the vision in your mind. Let me take a moment to calculate the likelihood of that.

One over infinity.

There’s always some wabi-sabi.

A Wabi Sabi Moment with Georgia O’Keeffe

O'Keeffe-(hands)I grew up looking at O’Keeffe art—being that she lived in New Mexico, where I was born and spent most of my life. I’d seen her paintings in books and posters for years. Standing in front of famous paintings in real life—no photograph holds a candle to that experience. It’s not just the colors being more alive, or that you get the true idea of the size of the painting. You are close, very close to the act of creation.
And once, I stood mesmerized in that very moment, as close to a painting as the cops at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe would allow. I could not take my eyes off it: a single paintbrush hair embedded in a stroke of color. I felt as if I was there in that one moment when Georgia O’Keeffe stood before this very canvass. A million brush strokes in her long life of painting…and there’s this one that put in that single, unique moment of exquisite wabi-sabi.

It was breathtaking.

I’m glad she didn’t see the hair; surely she would have plucked it out. I would have, in the name of flawless perfection that is found only as a concept within the part of the human brain that dreams of round frictionless cows.

Imperfection: it’s what makes the world

The Hope Diamond
The Hope Diamond

Not even crystals are perfect; they all have wabi-sabi.

They found this one really big chunk of blue diamond, cut all the wabi-sabi away, until it was perfectly huge. Hugely perfect. They called it the Hope Diamond—hoping for another humongous one like it.

One over infinity. It happens. But it’s all the other instances of imperfection that comprise the whole dang universe. The perfect parts are so few as to barely exist at all.

I’ve never made a perfect pot, never wrote a perfect book, never been a perfect anything. I’ll continue to put it out there, though, as long as I have a heartbeat. I am but a fragment of the whole wabi-sabi universe unfolding.

I just don’t know what else to do with myself.

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Custom Book Covers and Interior Formatting by Mary C Simmons

Words of Art

The art on the cover attracts me to a book in the first place. In the absence of eye candy, I am drawn to catchy titles—kind of like at the horse races. I cruise the racing form for the cool names like Mickey Blue Eyes, or Quicksilver. Queen of Swords. Names that inspire me to squander a few bucks on a completely random outcome. But I hardly ever go to the races….a whole other story.

I am also drawn to wine and beer by the art—color and imagery—on the label. A practice that is no doubt every bit as effective as how I choose the horse most likely to win the race. The image is a powerful tool….being worth 10,000 words, they say.new

803707_553f_625x1000Color is worth at least that many words, as it conveys volumes of information and activates emotional responses to the environment. Lots of animals see only the colors of their food in the landscape, but we humans see myriad colors—perhaps because we are omnivores and therefore our food can be of any color.

And, the color of the horse would probably figure into my calculus of who might win the race, if I got to see it first.

I’m into words too—as is evident by this webpage and a published book. I love Art also. Capital A, my whole life, just about (thanks Ma!).

I love it all, do it all. Painting. Pottery. Jewelry. Textiles. Book covers. They’re canvasses, you know. What a perfect place to be…making words of art, and pictures of words.

Indie authors, Indie Covers

The first of my cover designs was for my own book, Corvus Rising — a book about a mysterious island of talking crows who enlist the help of a few humans to save the island from a developer’s bulldozers. It’s a fairly low-tech cover as they go these days, meaning minimal computer graphics. I had a specific vision of the cover that I splashed out into the world, using mostly traditional methods to create imagery in my head: water color, pen and ink drawings.

Since then, I’ve been in the business of making covers for other authors. Following is a list of them. Click on covers and bolded text for more information.

 

As I Recollect… a memoir by huck Gaylord (2017)

I laughed out loud many times as i formatted this book. Author huck Gaylord recounts his life as a horse-logger, Viet Nam war vet, and the decades-long love affair with his wife, Mary.  Find it here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1542914205

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Facing Up—a Patient’s Guide to Healing the Face, by Lois Hawk  Todd (2016)

facingup

With truth, humor and compassion, Lois Hawk Todd chronicles the highs and lows of two catastrophic injuries to her face. She tells the story of her arduous journey of healing through multiple surgeries—with some wise words for all of us who walk this Earth, with or without such injury.
The bravest woman I know…

Find Lois’s book here:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01LX28O0C/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

 

Bound for the Western Sea—the Canine Account of the Lewis & Clark Expedition (2016)

Adobe Photoshop PDF

A well-researched story about the Corps of Discovery led by the famed Captain Meriwether Lewis and Second Lieutenant William Clark in the search for the Northwest Passage.
And Meriwether’s loyal, intelligent and sage  Newfoundland hound, Seaman.

Find Laura Lee’s book here:

https://www.amazon.com/Bound-Western-Sea-Account-Expedition/dp/0997349107/ref=sr_1_cc_1?s=aps&ie=UTF8&qid=1483640239&sr=1-1-catcorr&keywords=bound+for+the+western+sea

 

U Got To Have You Some Fun, by Andrew Harkless (2014)

UGottaHaveUSomeFun_PODThis book tells a story about an ordinary man on a cruise, and how the people he met changed his life.

I used a very large amount of imagery in the form of photographs from the author, the editor, and the internet. We were able to find a number of sites where images are really free, giving the author a completely custom cover for a very affordable price.

The people on the ramp are all characters from the book, and the guy with his back to us—that’s none other than Andy Harkless, who sent us this fabulous portrait of his backside. I had to Photoshop him a bit, making him look more like the kind of guy who runs a desk, rather than, how shall we say, a more active man.

Thank heavens for computer graphics and the internet!

They came from everywhere, the passengers of this cruise. These are the random folks in life, the ones you never choose to spend a lot of time with, but who make a lasting impact on your life. Do go on a cruise, or a backpacking trip or a raft trip down the Grand Canyon. You’ll see what we mean.

I say ‘we’ because a custom cover like this one is a group effort that involves the author, the cover designer, and the editor/publisher. Together, we worked to get this book published.

UGotTo_Paperback-Cover-2.12.15And then ‘we’ redesigned U Gotta, as I came to affectionately call this book. The author had always cherished the idea of a painting of a cruise ship…and we delivered.
Find Andrews’s book here:

https://www.amazon.com/Got-Have-Some-Fun-ebook/dp/B00O4EJ1M6

 

L’Orange Fire, by Michael McLarnon (2014)

L'OrangeFireCoverFinal_688A psychological/mystery thriller of a time in the near future, when the city of Los Angeles and Orange County have merged.

The author provided a high quality photograph of an original abstract painting by Gilbert Plante, of Quebec City, Canada. The rich reds and yellows gives a sense of intense flames superimposed over an image of downtown Los Angeles.

Find Michael’s book here:
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00NADW6OC/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

 

An Abduction Revelation, by Thomas L. Hay (2012)

Cover6.8_C-Kid1

A story of the Comeback Kid and his trips through time on a flying saucer, where he witnessed the construction of such notable wonders of the human hand and brain: Stonehenge, the monumental statues of Easter Island , the Sphinx, the Great Pyramids of Egypt…

All the elements of a space odyssey.

Find Thomas’s book here:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B009OMF7FS/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

 

 



Secret Testimony, by Barbara Ann Payne (2012)

SecretTestimony_POD_Cover.1

An autobiographical story of childhood abuse, suffering, redemption and hope, author Barbara Ann Payne made this book cover as personal as her story. She provided us the photo of herself, and selected the other images for the cover.

Find Barbara’s book here:
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00HUX9704/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1


 

Corvus Rising, by Mary C Simmons (2013)

CorvusPOD_BookCover

The background is one of my watercolor paintings, and depicts an island under a sunset sky. A flock of crows in open and ink flies above the island, while Charlie the blue-eyed crow (an altered photograph) looks on, perched on a branch of a ghostly tree.

A multi-media event made digital, thanks to Photoshop.

Find my book here:
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00HDQKRUM/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

 

The Judas Crow, by Mary C Simmons (2014)

JudasCrowCover2

My eShorty (Kindle) about an injured crow who cannot escape his fate: to lure other crows to their deaths. The cover comprises several altered photos and original ink art drawings of crow silhouettes.

Find it here:
https://www.amazon.com/Judas-Crow-Story-Epic-Betrayal-ebook/dp/B00IELTQ0C

 

 


 

I would love to create a fabulous, affordable Custom Book Cover for you!

Contact me for information and pricing:

TheBookMidwife@gmail.com

Living in a Painting…

FirstCut
First Cut

“You live in a painting!”

That’s what my friend Nina said when she saw this photo of the pasture after the first cut of hay.

It’s true. I live in a beautiful landscape of mountains, hay meadows, peach orchards, and small farms on the Western Slope of the Rocky Mountains.

That’s Lamborn Mountain on the left, behind the tree branch, and Landsend Peak on the right; the two peaks form an iconic backdrop to the North Fork Valley—the North Fork of the Gunnison River.

Lamborn Mountain and LandsEnd
Lamborn Mountain and Lands End

Lamborn Mountain rises 11, 397 feet above sea level, and almost 6,000 feet above the valley. The two peaks are part of a laccolith—where hot magma oozed up and intruded the Mancos Shale, an organic-rich clay layer, and baked it into coal. Erosion over the millennia has removed a lot of the Mancos Shale, revealing the igneous core of Lamborn Mountain.

Nearby and up the road, the geological picture includes three coal mines, though they’re not in this painting. But chances are good I’ll be taking my camera up the road toward the mines in the very near future.

By the way…diamonds are not formed by squeezing the bejesus out of coal. Click here for more…

Freeze
Irrigation Water Ice Cubes

Spring run-off was pretty incredible this year, starting in mid-April with more snow meltwater than anyone has seen in 40 years.

It still freezes around here in mid-April, though not hard enough to freeze the water in the irrigation pipes, it got cold enough to turn it to ice cubes as soon as it spewed out the gates. There’s just a little snow left up in the high country. Now our hopes are on the monsoonal rain.

Mount Lamborn
Mount Lamborn

 

 

Lamborn and Landsend are photogenic at any time of year, or day. And totally paintable, though I have not. Yet.

Lamborn and Landsend at Sunrise
Lamborn and Landsend at Sunrise

 

 

 

En plein air, for sure.

My Mother, My Art

Rita
Self Portrait, ~1950, Rita M. Simmons

Thanks to my very creative mother, Rita M. Simmons (1921-2004), my childhood was steeped in a variety of creative enterprises and the permission to make messes. She faced it, back in the 1950’s: creativity is untidy. She even organized a neighborhood puppet-making project in our garage that engaged the children of the whole neighborhood.

She painted. I opt for the third dimension. Far and away from my childhood steeped in the odors of oil paint and turpentine, my mother’s paintings inspired me from the hidden places of memory and imagination. I put my hands in clay and evoke the landscape, the dancer, the flowers that grace the Earth. As she, my mother, did before me, on the flat canvasses of her vision.

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Abstract Landscape, Acrylic, ~1970, Rita M. Simmons; Ceramic Sculpture Cylinders, 2005, Mary C. Simmons

The paintings and ceramic sculptures herein were part of a recent art show at the Church of Art, in Hotchkiss, Colorado.

In 1999, I received a Master of Science degree in geology, which also has exerted a profound influence on my art, both in design inspiration and technique (seeMaking Paint from the Desert Landscape & Bones of Earth, Bones of Clay…)

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Ceramic Sculpture Cylinders, 2005, Mary C. Simmons

I taught geology for 4 years in Indiana, and spent the summers in dry New Mexico, where the Cylinder Series happened, 22 of them, comprised of high-fired stoneware and porcelain.

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Skeletal Cylinders, 2005, Mary C. Simmons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Platter1
Textured Platter, 2014, Mary C. Simmons

My latest passion in ceramic art: bright, beautiful colors and intricate textures in low-fired earthenware clay.

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Textured Bowls, 2014, Mary C. Simmons

At last, I am painting. Like my mother, who by her example, made my life an open space for art.

Thanks, Mom.

 

 

 

 

Haunted from the Inside

QueenNightAn excerpt from Corvus Rising

Jade’s face broke into a smile. “It’s Queen of the Night, Willow B!” she cried. She set the painting on the arms of the chair above the cat and stood back, savoring the memory of painting it in those early days of her romance with Russ. “I fell in love with him under this flower. God, who wouldn’t have? A gorgeous flower that blooms but once, at night, under a full moon in the desert …”

Pale and luminous, the white flower took the entire canvas. Spear-shaped petals of opalescent white enclosed dozens of delicate, pale yellow stamens swayed that undulated around the solitary pistil. Layer upon layer of sinuous shapes of translucent hues awakened memories of love lost and found.

“I love this painting,” she murmured.

A sudden clap of thunder ended her reverie and she frowned out the window. “Where did that come from?” she said. In reply, big fat raindrops pelted the window and streaked down the slippery glass. Lightning flashed as she reached for another painting.

Frowning at her own handwriting, “12:01” scrawled across the paper wrapper, she tore it open and propped the painting across the arms of Willow B’s chair.

Black birds clung to the brittle branches of bare winter trees against a cold, gray sky. A distant clock tower haunted the scene, its hands frozen at 12:01. “Remember that clock, Mr. B?” Jade said to the cat sleeping on the cushion underneath the painting. “It haunted me for weeks. Always stuck on the same time. One minute after twelve. Pretty well says it all.”

Time runs through your life like water to the sea.

The memory of her apartment when she was in college enveloped her, with the clock centered in the window where she couldn’t miss its reproachful face. Day after day, it had rebuked her, “You’re late! You’re late!” mocking her every moment. She had tried closing the blinds to shut it out, but it haunted her dreams every night, taunting her with the eternally missed deadline. Always running, forever late, never arriving.

Night after the night, the same dream had played over and over again: millions of clocks in many colors, all showing the same time—12:01. The clocks started out randomly and then each slowed or quickened their minute hands until they all ticked and tocked in unison. Tick, the clocks scolded her. Tock, they upbraided her. But the time never changed. 12:01. She buried her head in pillows, but the relentless tick-tock only grew louder.

“You did hear it, didn’t you?” Jade whispered. “It drove me insane, the tick-tock-tick-tock.” Willow B turned an ear sideways. “Remember how I opened the blinds, and the ticking and tocking stopped? And when I closed them, it began again?” She glanced nervously at the window as the tempo and rhythm of the rain changed. Tick-tock-tick-tock-tick-tock…

“Damn you!” she had screamed as the clock smirked coldly at her across the treetops, its face split in two by the hands stuck at 12:01.

She dragged her easel across the room and positioned it in front of the window. She attached a canvas to it, just large enough to block out that hateful face. “Ha!” she had said and stuck her tongue out at the clock she could no longer see.

But the white canvass tortured her with its blankness and commanded her to pick up a brush. She painted feverishly all day and all night. Exhausted, she flung herself on the couch and slept. When she awoke, the sun had gone down, and she flicked on a light. Winged shadows swirled around the room until one by one, they dove into the painting in front of the window, flying around the clock tower until at last they found places to roost in the gray branches of the winter trees. The clock condemned her with lidless eyes, its hands pointing to her doom. 12:01.

Thunder rumbled across the sky and the rain picked up its tempo as it beat upon the window. She dropped to the floor on her knees and stroked Willow B, asleep in the armchair. “That clock started it all. Like a big eye that never blinked and never stopped staring at me.” She felt a distant purr deep within his sleeping bulk. “I’m sorry I neglected you.”

In a frenzy, she had painted every waking moment and dreamed about painting when she slept. The imaginary boundary frayed between physical reality and the realm from which her paintings sprang. The completed canvasses morphed to life around her, and painted images became companions and critics that paced the room with her, argued with her, cried with her, laughed at her, comforted her.

The entire population of her psyche clamored for immediate voice and she gave in to the irresistible siren song. For days she had done nothing but paint, stopping only to stuff her mouth with crackers and wash them down with honeyed tea. When she slept, the beings that populated her paintings lived again in her dreams. There was no escaping them. Waking or sleeping, the voices owned her life.

 “And then I crashed,” Jade murmured. Willow B woke up and yawned. She scratched him under his chin. “You were there, Willow B. You saw it all. I lost track of everything—when to eat, when to sleep, when to go to class, my friends, time. I was alone in another world until the real one finally banged its way in.”

God, it was loud.

When they found her in her apartment, she was thin, malnourished and speaking to no one but Willow B and the voices in her paintings. Her foster mother, Chloe, took her home and nursed her back to health. “It’s as important to eat as it is to paint,” Chloe had said as she poked another spoonful of food into Jade’s mouth.

She wanted to paint sometimes but couldn’t bring herself to actually pick up a brush. Fear stopped her; painting had opened the door to a terrifying descent. Just after Thanksgiving had passed that year, she took a brush in her hand and stared at a blank canvas. Nothing. Deader than a doornail, that place inside her that once demanded her to paint. Half dismayed, half relieved, she worried. What if it never comes back … what if it does?

She shook the memory out of her head. “But it did come back, didn’t it, Willow B?”  She stood up and stuffed 12:01 into its quilted pocket.

The late afternoon sun broke through the clouds and illuminated the cat, sleeping in the chair.

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Corvus Rising is now available at the Amazon Kindle Store…click here…

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-for a limited time (thru February 9), download a FREE Kindle version. Click <here>

Don’t have a Kindle? Click <here> for free app for your computer, iPad, tablet, smartphone…

Crows—Inspiring Painters for 15,000 years

I love crows. They inspired me to write a fictional book about them. In doing so, I learned that they are smarter than our species gives them credit for. A lot smarter. They plan dream, love, raise new generations. And they notice us.

But they don’t make art. We do. And we make a lot of it about them.

Though some fear and loathe crows, many of us honor and revere them as intelligent, sentient, creatures; to some of us crows are a source of inspiration. Stroll through my Gallery of Crow Art in its many forms, from famous as well as unknown artists, poets, and writers, living and dead.

Paleolithic Cave Art

Lascaux-Broken
Paleolithic Cave Painting—Lascaux, France
Unknown Artists ~15, 300 B.C.E.

My interpretation of this cave painting: a crow on a perch overlooks a fatal encounter between a human and a big beast. Gored by a spear from this upstart Tool-maker, the beast prepares to impale the naked, hairless human on his horns, while his guts pour out onto the Earth. The crow is waiting for dinner. If it’s not about the Food Chain, it’s just not that important.

Or is it? Many believe the Lascaux cave paintings are star maps of Gemini, Orion, Taurus and Sirius.

lascaux_stars
http://www.timothystephany.com/stone.html

Wheatfield with Crows, Vincent van Gogh, July 1890

800px-A_Vincent_Van_GoghArt historians believe Wheatfield with Crows-painted just weeks before his death-was van Gogh’s last work.

 “Crows interest themselves in everything, and observe everything. The ancients, who lived far more completely than ourselves in and with nature, found it no small profit to follow, in a hundred obscure things where human experience as yet affords no light, the directions of so prudent and sage a bird.”—Jules Michelet, a favorite author of Van Gogh

Woman with Crow, Pablo Picasso, 1904

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Picasso painted Woman with Crow during his Blue Period, at about the same time he moved to Paris. The portrait features Marguerite Luc, whom he knew as Margot kissing and caressing a crow. Margot was the step-daughter of a cafe Picasso frequented.

Georgia O’Keeffe, painted crows too. More than once. She painted Canyon with Crows during the time she lived in Texas and depicts Palo Duro Canyon, whose Permian-aged iron-rich ‘red beds’ became the focal point of the painting. Just before your eyes jump to the crows flying in freedom above the red rocks.

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Canyon with Crows, Georgia O’Keeffe, 1917

After O’Keeffe returned to New York, she painted Lake George with Crows.

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Lake George with Crows, Georgia O’Keeffe, 1921

 

Oil paint, real feather. Wish it were mine.

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Crow Painting (Is it Mine?), Jacqueline McIntyre, 2010

The crow is in the painting, the feather is on our side of the canvas. That’s how my imagination works too. Crows step back and forth between it and the world of physical reality. I find their feathers everywhere…
Another unabashed crow-lover:

Crow2
Two Crows, Kristin Fouquet, 2010

Kristin Fouquet’s photograph, Two Crows, graces the cover of Full of Crow – “an independent online literary magazine that publishes poetry, fiction, flash, reviews, interviews, articles, art, photography, and more…”

I could go on. And on and on and on….about the ways and means that crows have inspired our species.  But do go ahead and continue looking…Google ‘crow art’ – 62,400,000 hits.

Landscape Paint and the Chemistry Blues

419px-Johannes_Vermeer_(1632-1675)_-_The_Girl_With_The_Pearl_Earring_(1665)Alchemy reigned at the time Johannes Vermeer painted Girl with a Pearl Earring in 1665. Back in that day, before the Periodic Table of the Elementswhich didn’t show up in until 1869—painters made their own paints from the powders of ground minerals by mixing them with linseed oil.

lapis-lazuli-rough
Lapis lazuli

The pigment in the blue scarf around the head of the Girl with a Pearl Earring, for instance, was made from lapis lazuli, a beautiful but rather expensive mineral to be grinding to a powder.  Unfortunately, linseed oil made the fabulous blue color of this beautiful mineral a bit cloudy.

Linseed oil did that to most of the mineral powders, but there was no way around that in 1665. The mineral powders would be chalky-looking and would not flow onto the canvas smoothly without being mixed with linseed oil.

Better Living Through Chemistry

The Periodic Table going public in 1869 moved the job of creating paint from artists to the laboratory chemist. These days, few artists mix their own paints, or even know what’s in them. I’m a big fan of chemistry, for without it, there is nothing. No rocks, no clay, no paint. And I wonder how they make vivid yellow as well as intense red paint from the same thing. Not a mineral, but an element from the Periodic Table: Cadmium.

Modern painters can thank French artist, Yves Klein and a few French chemists, who created a rich luscious blue paint that retained the brilliant blue hue by suspension of the dry pigment in a synthetic resin, avoiding the murkiness of linseed oil.

They called it International Klein Blue. Yves Klein used IKB, as this patented pigment is known, to paint Blue Monochrome, part of a series of one-color paintings he had been creating for several years.

BlueMonochrome
Blue Monochrome, Yves Klein, 1961

IKB represented something profound to Klein: le Vide-the Void. Not a vacuum or terrifying darkness, but a void that invokes positive sensations of openness and liberty, a feeling of profound fulfillment beyond the everyday material world. Standing before Klein’s huge canvases of solid blue, many report being enveloped by serene, trance-like feelings.

That’s how the Southwestern desert landscape makes me feel.

the-surreal-rock-formations-were-created-over-thousands-of-years-as-water-and-wind-eroded-the-navajo-sandstone

The iron-stained colors of my native land inspired me to make paint from it, in the old way—grinding the minerals to a powder and mixing them with linseed oil. Perhaps because these paints are made from desert clays (see my previous blog Desert Paintings), linseed oil did not make them murky.

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Crows Across the Sky, Mary C. Simmons, 2010

 

Paint from the Desert Landscape

Making Paint From the Rocks

I can easily IFlose myself in Earth’s landscapes, especially the rocky ones. The textures and colors tell a story of chemistry, weathering and erosion. And, if providing a scenic backdrop to my life is not enough, I understand these rocks well enough to make pottery and glazes from them.

And paint.

The color palette is generally limited to oxides of iron: brown, reddish-brown, tan, yellowish tan, greenish tan–e.g. Earth colors.

Occasionally a little copper shows up, coloring the clay softly green or blue. Pottery glaze colors depend on these denizens of the Periodic Table. And so did paint, once upon a time before IKB.

I started with several gallon-size zip-lock bags of reddish, greenish and one highly yellow clay. The colors are the result of a certain degree of iron oxidation, and finely ground turquoise, which is a copper mineral.

I sifted out all the rocks, twigs, animal bones and other detritus, and let the colored clay settle in large jars of water. After siphoning off the excess water, I poured this clay slurry onto large pieces of gypsum board to dry. The mud cracks were amazing art pieces in themselves.

CuMudHLimonitePM

Painting with Clay

After the clay slurry completely dried, I crushed and sieved each into a fine powder. I added a little linseed oil to the colored clay powder and in a frenzy of inspiration, I painted

The Paintings

SandiaSunset2 What else can I say? Inspired by rocks, enchanted by Earth’s landscape…

Follow this link to Desert Paintings…http://wp.me/P3Fsq9-in

Science Meets Art: Intelligent Design

Blessed by the exquisite anatomy of our hands and the infinite crossing points between the so-called right and left brain, we blend the vision of the imagination with technical know-how. We are the God Kings and Queens of Tool-Makers, and with these hands we make everything…

Art Meets Science: Glass

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Blown Glass Baskets, Dale Chihuly

Discovered thousands of years ago, the science and technology of glass continues to enthrall and astound us. Quartz in the form of silica-sand is the primary constituent in window and art glass. Various oxides of calcium and boron, as well as colorants are added to the silica sand to give the glass the desired properties.

The first glass blowing techniques were developed in Syria over 2,000 years ago. Not much has changed in the methods or equipment since then, though the understanding of glass and melt behavior has certainly increased.

Click here for a short history of Glassblowing (http://www.seattleglassblowing.com/glass_history.html)

Peacock Window, Lewis Comfort Tiffany

Science Meets Art: Porcelain Pottery with Copper Red Glaze

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21st Century Copper Red Vase, Heather Mills, Christo Giles, New Zealand

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Red is a difficult color to produce in a glaze (which is nothing more than a glass) but the Chinese discovered the technology ~5ooo years ago. Oxygen atoms are stripped from the copper oxides in the glaze during the reducing atmosphere of wood-fired kilns. Not only that, the copper particles suspended in the melted glaze must be approximately the same size as the wavelength of red light, or the color will not be red. Too small particles gives no color at all, and too large particles give a fleshy color that is only occasionally attractive. Click here or on the image above for more information about copper red glazes.

Art Meets Science: Red Paint

Cochineal Beetle

Back in the day of the Alchemists, before the Periodic Table of the Elements had been invented, artists made their own paints, by grinding minerals from the landscape (or bugs) into powder, adding a binding agent, and voila! oil paint! Red and purples were beastly difficult to make. Red dye could only be produced by the crushed carcasses of the insect Cochineal, found mainly in Mexico and South America. The famed Red Coats that Paul Revere warned the countryside about had been dyed with Cochineal.

These days, artists use commercially-prepared paints. Red? No problem! Cadmium, from the Periodic Table is used to make both red and yellow oil and acrylic-based paints–another technological innovation in painting https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acrylic_paint.

Art Meets Science: Yves Klein International Blue

Back in the late 1950’s, the French artist Yves Klein, with the aid of Edouard Adam, a Parisian paint dealer, developed a pigment known as IKB (International Klein Blue). Using an alternative to the traditional linseed oil base, which tends to cloud the color, Klein produced a paint the color of the mineral lapis lazuli.

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Lapis Lazuli
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IKB – International Klein Blue
Klein’s purpose was not only to make a better blue; he wished to evoke the “authenticity of the pure idea.” Prior to IKB, his monochromatic paintings had been of a variety of colors and people reacted to a gallery showing of them as if they were each a part of a mosaic. Not what he had in mind…read more here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yves_Klein)

Science Meets Art: The Art of Science Competition, Princeton University

In 2011, 20 university departments submitted 168 pieces of art to a competition sponsored by Princeton University, around the theme “Intelligent Design.

Click on image below to view 11 of the 56 works chosen. Nothing more needs to be said, other than: “Where are the other 44?

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Model of Earth’s Magnetic Field Reversal