June 28, 2017 – Stone Soup Art

“Kaleidoscope – the work of: Robin Bentel, Sondra Blake, Jean Brady, Cara Brown, Niz Brown, Shannon Brown, Karen Burkland, Maria Carlile, Sue Devinny, Velda Draper, Ann Eichhorn, Paulette Engler, Heather Hughes, Ann Jessen, Virginie Kortekaas, Suzie Lahr, Pam Marcucci, Madeleine Meyer, Win Normandi, Janice Pinkston, Sue Rink, Adrienne Rogers, Marielee Rogers, Susie Rosenberg, Valerie Showa, Lenore Stormes, Gwen Toso, Tania Walters and Pat Windom.”

The Magnolias – the artists who paint at 537 Magnolia Avenue in Larkspur – have made our first collaborative painting.  It started on the last day of March – a Friday.  Adrienne Rogers, (who has been coming over to Marin from Lafayette in the East Bay to paint with us most Fridays since the very first Friday in 2012) and I were chatting about what we might do – creatively, as a group.  We have been tossing about the idea that we might all make a painting from the same image.  This would be interesting – to see how each of us would make paintings that reflected our individual style and inclinations.  But then I’d be concerned about the tendency to compare – especially those who have not been painting as long.  We can be so hard on ourselves.  Then… another idea popped up.

I recalled a project I helped do with a friend’s son’s fifth grade class.  We drew an intricate drawing of a tree on a large piece of art paper.  It had lots of branches and roots, lots of shapes to play with.  Then we divided the drawing up into squares, giving each student one to paint.  Putting the squares back together made a really fun and exciting piece of art.  Adrienne is a retired school teacher and has an adventurous creative spirit – she loved this idea.  She got really enthusiastic about it which energized me.  So, right then, we went in search of an image.  We wanted it to have interesting shapes throughout – without large sections of background with nothing going on.  I gathered a few flower photos and showed them to the group that day, expanded on the wall with the projector.

The image we chose and the little photos sitting on their squares – ready to paint.

We landed upon this white dahlia whose photo I took in my friend Leslie’s amazing Pearl Street garden in Sausalito.  By the next Tuesday, I had drawn it and divided it into 36 5”x5” squares – numbered so that we’d know how it went back together.  I made a print on my giclee paper of the white dahlia and cut it into the corresponding squares.  I sent an email out to 36 artists – all who paint with some regularity in our space in Larkspur on either Thursdays, Fridays or Saturdays.  I invited each of them to participate and claim a particular square if they wanted one in particular.  I asked them to honor the whites, the lights and the darks within the shapes of the drawing; beyond that, I encouraged everyone to use color as they were so inspired.  The regulars on Thursday and Friday jumped right in, with a couple of artists painting their square that first week.  A few of them took a bit of cajoling to step up to paint one.  A couple of relatively new painters were afraid their square wouldn’t measure up.  But I wanted for everyone who was at all inclined to play.

It was so fun watching it grow!

It was so exciting to see it start to take shape.  Each individual square is quite abstract; many of them are not even recognizable as part of a flower.  So, in order to see the flower as a flower it took having a certain number of squares completed.  As more of them came in, I got more and more excited – and more impatient!  But, we had to wait for the monthly Saturday group to meet – and for a few who were away to return.  I sent two squares off in the mail – one to Valerie Showa (Thursday evening group) in San Francisco and another to the cattle ranch in Kansas, where Jan Pinkston (Friday group) spends part of her time.  And Velda Draper (Friday group) came back from wintering in Arizona just in time to paint a square.  Not all 36 of the artists on the original email signed on to the project so several of the regulars did two squares, and the end result was the work of 29 different artists including my mom, Niz, and me.

Once every square was in hand, it was time to have it framed in a way that really showed it off.  We played with different sized spaces dividing the squares.  At first I had them too far apart; it was amazing to see the difference bringing them closer made.  To float each square separately, I spent a lot of tedious time making slightly smaller squares out of foam core and attempting to adhere one to the back of each square.  The first type of tape I used didn’t work, so I had do re-do it all.  They still kept popping up – the squares are on thick, 300lb paper, which after getting wet when it is painted, doesn’t like to be flat again.  The painting spent the night under glass and then another under stacks of books, which helped a lot.  I stuck the squares in the correct order on to a large piece of foam core and took it in to be scanned and framed.

I tried flattening the paper under a sheet of glass. It was so great to see all the squares back together.

We – as a collective – entered it in the Marin County Fair Fine Art Exhibition – and it has been accepted! They have a special category called Kaleidoscope – in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love – for abstract and psychedelic art.  When I read the name of the category it seemed a fitting title for our creation.  I took it to the fairgrounds to be juried over the weekend of June 17th, and the people who run the fine art show were mightily impressed with it.  It will be so fun to see it during the fair!  (For those of you who plan to go, it should be in the Exhibit Hall where our flower show was – where they hang the special theme art – not where the main exhibit is.)

This piece of art has increased my already deep appreciation for this group of women, these artists who have constellated around me and our art home in Larkspur.  It’s a tangible representation of our connection – and even those who didn’t paint a square cheered the project on.  We had no idea how this project would turn out.  In fact a couple of people confessed they had doubts about it from the start.  The range of experience in the artists, with their differing styles and color choices was a wild card.  The thing is we don’t ever know if a piece of art will work or not.  We generally start with great hopes, but the creative process has its own life – and this one had even more variables.

I always loved the story of Stone Soup my mom read to us when we were little.  It took faith and a bit of audacity to say that delicious soup can be made of stones.  This painting feels like that – that these little pieces of art paper, each on its own is a bit interesting, but neither does it say a whole lot, but brought together, the group of them has such energy!  The bringing together the 29 minds, hearts, souls and hands that created and it has made magic.

Ann Jessen (Thursday evening group) suggested that we do one of these every year.  I love this idea!  I also thought that it would be really amazing to do another one including artists who aren’t local.  I mailed squares off for this one, so why not mail them all out?  If you would be interested in participating in something like this, let me know – and stay tuned!  If you are local and plan to go to the fair, stop by to see our creation!  And yes, it is for sale.  Let me know if you are interested!

Love to you all,

Cara

One comment


  • Angela Koch

    Cara thanks for the amazing share. I am in Brazil and have a number of artist friends here – some of them rather famous — that might participate in an international project like this. I think a Brasilia to Bay Area international effort could be amazing. Trying to think of the electronic means that one could send off the grated original and let people print and paint their cube themselves – (as mail is less reliable?). Are you interested? Best. Angela

    June 30, 2017

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