welcome back, rothko

Apr 30, 2012

 Rothko (Taschen 25th Anniversary Special Edition) by Jacob Baal-Teshuva.  The Portland Art Museum in the background.
Mark Rothko (1903-1970)

Mark Rothko and I have a few things in common.  We both taught art, have a fascination with Matisse's Red Studio, and we have roots in Portland, Oregon.  In fact, we attended the same high school- Rothko, 65 years prior.

I am a huge fan of Rothko's signature color-block paintings.  So, I was thrilled to say the least when I first heard that the Portland Art Museum would be showcasing 45 of his works this spring.  It was at the Portland Art Museum where his first one-man show took place in 1933.

I decided to go the Rothko exhibition on my birthday last month.  I wanted a quiet evening with my husband, and looking at art in a museum is about as quiet as you can get.  For a moment, time was forgotten as we slowly moved from one painting to the next.  The works in the show span 40 years of Rothko's art career, so there was a lot to take in and process.

I like to study paintings up-close.  I try to decrypt the layers of paint and sequence of brushstrokes.  By understanding the creative process, I feel that I have a better grasp of the artist's emotions involved.  Rothko himself encouraged viewers to look at his art at an intimate proximity for this very reason. 
"The people who weep before my pictures are having the same religious experience I had when I painted them. And if you, as you say, are moved only by their color relationship, then you miss the point."

Hickey Robertson.The Rothko Chapel

If I'm ever in Houston, Texas, on my must-see list is The Rothko Chapel.  The non-denominational chapel was completed in 1971.  Inside are fourteen Rothko paintings.  What a beautiful space to go to for spiritual reflection and meditation!

My week

Apr 22, 2012

i am in love my new hand-dyed scarf and pouch from driftwood & fossil

what a great project for kids!
i bought this dinosaur topped jar at a school fundraising event last weekend

a dear friend of mine is in Uganda for the year to help children of the AIDS epidemic 
she sent me this wonderful recycled burlap bag she found on a recent trip to Rwanda
much love and thanks, T!

glorious weather this weekend
everyone's out and about enjoying the sun, at last
this photo was taken on a walk through Tryon Creek Park 

magnolias . . . one of the reasons i love spring so much

started a new 11 x 14 painting
i'm working on six pieces for an online show coming up
more info to come in a few weeks

painting on plastic film

Apr 19, 2012

What is it about a shiny surface that is so appealing? Case in point- my kitty's been attacking the shiny friendship pin on my sweater all day. I tend to be a matte enthusiast myself, particularly regarding photography.  But, I do have a weak spot for glass-like finishes on paintings.  If it weren't for its toxicity, I'd be all over epoxy resin.

So, for the past three years, I've been experimenting with different finishes and products.  I do like the natural matte of wood, but sometimes I'm looking for more of a pop in color and detail.  And that's the advantage of a high gloss finish.   

The last couple of months I've been reading up on a product called Dura-Lar.  It is an archival polyester film, and it comes in a variety of thicknesses and sheens.  Since I use a multitude of mediums in my art, the Dura-Lar Wet Media Film was the best fit.  Both sides of the film are treated, and it accepts any water-based medium.

My painting process usually involves layers of transparent color.  The use of clear film in my art allows me to preserve subtle tonal changes or finer details that may otherwise be muted by the underlayer.  The white lines on the river, for example, would not be as defined and bright if I had painted them on the wood surface.

Here is another piece I created with Dura-Lar on wood panel:

To adhere the plastic film to the wood panel, I use an acrylic gel medium.  Some artists use double-sided tape (sold in sheets).  For added protection, I use the same acrylic gel medium over painted areas on the film.

Now to experiment with the transparent film on a bigger painting . . .

cute distraction

Apr 15, 2012

Meet Dublin, our new kitty.  My husband calls him my mid-life crisis. 

Ahem, at least it's just a kitty.

back at it

Apr 12, 2012

summer in the mountains

After an unexpected sickcation, I'm painting again.  And the sun is finally coming out, the birds are chirping, and there are starts in my veggie garden.  So things are definitely looking up. 

Spring is my favorite season.  The cherry blossoms and magnolias are absolutely stunning.  And I love the smell of the air at this time.  It smells fresh, particularly after a rainfall, and sometimes there's a trace of sweetness from a flowering bush.

As the seasons change, so does my color palette.  I'm moving away from dark, wintery colors to warmer and softer tones.  Here's a snapshot of what I started yesterday:

It's Mont Blanc.  I was going through some older photographs, and I found a black and white picture I took of the mountain in '98.  Mont Blanc is a beautiful mountain.  There is a feminine nature to its rounded summit.  I can understand why it's sometimes referred to as La Dame Blanche (The White Lady).

press- now and then

Apr 10, 2012

I woke up to a nice surprise this morning.  Elle Decoration Indonesia featured my blog in their new "Online" section, and they sent me a pdf of the page.  How wonderful!  Curious to know what the accompanying text said, I headed straight to Google Translate.  Here's the translation:

small works of Cathy McMurray
illustrates the force of nature
unique and crafty

It's almost like a haiku.  Love it.  

As the saying goes, "all press is good press," but I was telling a friend this morning that a magazine feature is usually more exciting than internet press.  The internet just can't replace the feeling of holding a magazine in your hand.  

However, when you're wanting traffic to convert to sales, digital media trumps print publications.  I learned this first hand as a shopowner.  When one of our products was featured in a magazine like Lucky Magazine, we would maybe get a phone call or two from interested shoppers.  When Design Sponge showcased one of our limited-edition products, we had 5000 hits and sold out within a few hours. 

Our Portland shop was featured in Lucky Magazine a few years ago.  My 8 year-old daughter was so proud of me, she circled my picture and wrote "my mom" above it.
Even though wide exposure may not equate to huge sales, it's an esteem builder.  I don't need accolades every day, but it sure is nice when the world notices my work from time to time.  So, thanks Elle Decoration Indonesia for making my day. 

I heart Portland

Apr 6, 2012

Just when I thought I made it through Portland's damp fall and winter without falling ill, I caught a bug this week that has kept me in bed the last few days.  Ugh.  No fun at all.  I try to make the most of it by watching a lot of funny clips from The Ellen Show.  I figure laughter is the best medicine. That and spicy Korean soup.

I don't have any new works to share with you all, since my art production is at a standstill for the moment.  But I did have an idea for a new monthly series called I heart Portland.  I was born and raised in Portland, so I like to think that I know a few things about the Rose City.  Did you know, for example, that there is a volcano (granted, a dormant one) in city limits?  Thanks to a three week unit on Portland in my high school history class, I have a wealth of fun and trivial facts like this. . . all to be revealed in due time my friends. 

[unless noted, all photos by me]

It's April, and that means tulips.  Lots and lots of tulips.  Just 30 minutes south of Portland is the Tulip Fest in Woodburn, Oregon.  It's a spectacular display of flowers that lasts for just a month. 

Portland has some of the greatest cheap eats around.  Here's one of my guilty pleasures.  Poutine from Potato Champion

"Keep Portland Weird" is a popular bumper sticker in town.  Portlanders take pride in being "different."

[images: crafted-systems.com]

Crafted Systems is the brainchild of Portland-based designer Aurelie Tu.  She partners with the local YWCA shelter to create her modern home collection.  Each product is made from 100% natural wool felt and is handmade here in Portland. 

new projects

Apr 2, 2012

Painting on a vintage platter.

I tend to jump from one project to the next, which usually means I'm taking on a new material or concept every few weeks.  My latest idea- painting on tableware.  I have been wanting to paint on porcelain for awhile now, and then there was the serendipitous find of a Pebeo Porcelaine paint set on clearance for $5. 

This little bowl was my first experiment.  The paint goes on a little thinner than I was expecting, but you can get some neat effects with layering colors.  To set the paint, all you have to do is heat the item in an oven for half an hour.

My second piece was a vintage platter I found at an estate sale this past weekend (first photo).  I applied the paint much thicker for an opaque look.  Although you can feel the raised surface of the paint even after heating it in an oven, the baked paint has an enamel like finish.  I did a scratch test with my fingernail, and no peeling!

I also have an exciting collaboration I've started working on.  I will reveal more details in upcoming weeks, but I thought I would at least give you a glimpse of what's been keeping me busy lately.

spring thaw

And I'm still adding one-of-a-kind pieces to my Etsy shop on a regular basis.  Spring thaw got snatched up pretty quickly, but here's one that was uploaded just this morning:

vintage notecard art, no.4

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