And So It Begins…

Pearly Everlasting
Pearly Everlasting; Great name, no? I found this beauty growing as if planted purposefully on a friend’s property. Hard to believe it’s considered a weed!

Happy Chinese New Year!  Nothing like a shot of Auspiciousness to kick start a fresh beginning! I’ve decided that February is a much better month for new ventures anyway.  (You can read the About page for the reasons for starting this blog!) After a January filled with paperwork, the flu, paperwork, and more paperwork, I am hitting the studio with a renewed sense of direction and appreciation!

In mid-December, I finished a massive push to complete six new etchings and the second linocut in my Arboreal Series in time for my first Artists’ Reception at Collector Art Shop in Berkeley.  I was surprisingly invigorated by the late nights / early mornings preparing for the show, which seemed to take up every waking hour and the majority of my dreams, too!  What I wasn’t anticipating was the hollow feeling afterwards!  I was completely devoid of all creativity in the immediate aftermath of all that demanding & frenetic activity.  Nor was I feeling the Holiday spirit or the urge to do anything related to the season other than to sample Christmas fudge.

Knapweed
A winter rainstorm brings out a delicate beauty in even the least attractive specimen, such as this Diffuse Knapweed.

So the family decided to escape for a few days to see the progress Tim was making on our long-term project, the House/Studio-In-Progress up in the Sierra Foothills.  Not to work, but just to play in the snow, visit friends, relax!  Like a charm, the Sierras worked their magic, easing the tension, filling the voids, providing new inspiration.  While up there tromping about a friend’s acreage with my camera, I unwittingly cemented a new focus I had been edging toward in the last year.

I seem to have developed a fascination for flowering weeds, especially those commonly found thriving along the roadsides.  The ones I find the most beguiling are those with multiple seasons of interest, especially those with blooms that keep displaying throughout the winter .

Common Mullein, Sierra Foothills
This clump of Common Mullein sits on the hillside above the studio in the Sierras, 30 minutes south of Yosemite.

Take the European invader, Common Mullein, which happens to grow in colonies in a few spots around my Foothill studio.  Its soft, lambs-ear-like, blue-green leaves start as rosettes in the Spring. By Summer, they put out impressively tall, but somewhat demure flower spikes, each dotted with bright yellow flowers.  In the Fall, the dried flowers remain upright and mine have grown past six feet high.  They act as seed silos for finches & grasshoppers, keeping many birds fed throughout the winter months.  In 2011, my linocut Cassins & Mullein was the first piece to incorporate one of these undesirables.

Though I have several copper etchings featuring Artichoke Thistles and Diffuse Knapweed in the works, I have decided to concentrate on a series of linocuts featuring California native ‘weeds’ that also double as the real deal in the garden.  Doveweed or Turkey Mullein (Croton setigerus) will be my first.

Cassins & Mullein
Cassins & Mullein, Fine Art Linocut, 2011

I already have some sketches, made from plants that were growing next to the crop of Common Mullein at the Sierra studio.  Both mullein thrive in disturbed soils and since we frequently cut back the tall grasses for fire control in the Spring, they are to be found there nearly every year.  I’ll be documenting my process with Turkey Mullein from start to finish in the coming days & weeks!

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