Artist & Teacher

Posts tagged “The Bishop’s Ranch

Prepped & Ready

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Example of encaustic collage piece to inspire this weekends participants

I’m teaching a two-day Encaustic Collage workshop this weekend at The Bishop’s Ranch where I am the Resident Artist.  This class is one I’ve taught many times, so I have a good idea of how to organize the space and materials for success. One thing that I think makes everybody happy is to have things arranged and ready to get creative.  While the creative process itself can sometimes feel magical and loose, for me at least, the magic comes from having everything in order, so my mind is free to be inspired. I try hard to give that balance to my students too, I want everything to be at their fingertips with stimulating materials and careful demos to guide them to finding their genuine, creative voice in a new medium. Wish me and my 12 art adventurers luck!

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Examples and demos all ready and materials laid out in orderly chaos!

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Each student’s place is ready with materials and instructions to get started!

In the busy mix of the weekend I’ll try to take some action shots of my students at work to share at the end of the weekend. Hope you make some time for your creative self too!


Welcome

Welcome to Spring, welcome to this day, welcome to this moment. This is it! This is all there is! Invite this moment in, welcome it.

Welcome

Here is a new piece commissioned for the office at The Bishop’s Ranch retreat center office. I hope it welcomes the guest into the beauty of the moment and the wonder of life flowing in and around them.  24×48″ mixed media on wood panel


Giving Thanks for Steamed Pudding & Time

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I went for an early morning walk today. I was on a mission to pick persimmons to make steamed persimmon pudding. There are several persimmon trees here at The Bishop’s Ranch and as always there was an abundance of persimmons. Yesterday I noticed that most were gone or fallen to the ground, or pecked to the stem by grateful ravenous birds; birds who can’t believe their luck to find such a treat just days from a solstice dark night. This frosty morning I realized that if I don’t get some now I wouldn’t be able to make my Aunt Lorraine steamed pudding.

My Aunt Lorraine turned 90 this October and I brought her some stone hard persimmons as a gift. As a thank you she sent me her recipe for steamed persimmon pudding… and in her Christmas card I got this week she asked me if I’d made it yet. So you can see I felt duty bound to honor this women with the making of a steamed pudding!

As I often do I started making the recipe before reading through the entire directions. My batter was made before I realized I’d need a “6 cup greased metal mold” – opps – I could picture what I think I need, my grandma had all these copper decorative pans with fluted sides – I think that’s what I need – all I have is a Bundt pan – it will have to do. As I read on I realized I need to fit this Bundt pan into a large kettle – it just fits! Uh oh how do I get it out? I need to put water in the bottom of the pan… with a bit of kitchen twine and some knotting skills I managed to rig a string lift to check the water. Now I’m ready to go! What? “Steam for 2 ½ hours”. With time on my hands I did this little painting of some persimmons waiting on my windowsill. Still more time and I’m writing this blog and connecting with you… still 59 minutes to go, I guess I should clean the kitchen now. But not before I give thanks for persimmons, and family recipes, and the gift of time for this disorganized cook to paint and ponder and reach out to you.

Be well this holiday season and take time, however it presents itself, to give thanks for all the beauty and love swirling around the long dark nights and short crisp days of Solstice.

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This is my Aunt Lorraine’s recipe, I can’t say how it came out because it’s still on the stove… but the batter was tasty! 49 minutes to go and fingers crossed that I can get it out of the Bundt pan!


The Presence of Absence Revisted

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Buttercup prints

I went for a hike along the trails here at The Bishop’s Ranch yesterday morning. The sun was bright and warm, tempered by a brisk spring wind. As I walked through the heirloom apple orchard the nearly century old trees, twisted and bedraggled with dead branches, persisted in blooming, they resist the urge each year to give in to winter and choose instead, with what energy they have, to embrace spring. Thanks to the abundant winter rains this year the trees are surrounded by carpet of green dotted with delicate, bright yellow buttercups. As I bent down to pick a few a sweet memory flooded through – forty-five years or more ago I bent to pick these same buttercups. That day I stood in a meadow with my sister. The meadow had a little creek that ran through it and housed two fat ponies and a burro. While they grazed idly by we picked buttercups. We picked buttercups not by the handful but by the armful. We truly filled buckets with buttercups to bring to the house. We filled every nook and cranny with buttercup bouquets.

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Left is the negative space print from around the buttercups on the right is the ghost print

Yesterday I brought my bundle of buttercups to my studio. I am preparing for a mixed media nature journaling class I’m teaching in May here at the Ranch (class info). I have been experimenting with printing organic objects. So I inked up my printing plate and placed my buttercups down, laid the paper on and rubbed. When the print is lifted what showed is the negative space around the buttercup. Then I gently peeled up the buttercups and made what is called a ghost print of what was left behind under the buttercups. I found these negative space prints and their ghosts to contain a simple quiet beauty and while I was making them I began to think of my father who passed away last fall. I have been working on a slide show for the celebration of life we are having for him next weekend. While I have done the best to find images of him throughout is life from birth to death, to somehow encapsulate who he was in one slide show, I know is folly. There are gaps of course, missing pieces things he loved not captured in film, people whom he loved and loved him not pictured. The gaps and missing pieces in this slide show are like the negative space buttercup prints- they depict the presence of absence the space around the life. And like the ghost prints it is just a whisper of the vibrant life he led. I am grateful that his memory comes to me in many ways through photos and celebrations, and quiet buttercup prints reminding me to leave space for the presence of absence.


Art-filled Weekend

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Encaustic Collage Weekend: my crew – all smiles!

I just wrapped up a great weekend with 16 adventurous creative women, who in two days learned a bunch of new techniques and made a vast array of interesting, personal, playful and insightful art. It is always rewarding to share what I know and then see the different directions that one medium can go. In just 2 days I could see each student find their voice and unique style.  I always learn something along the way too, a new twist on something I’ve been doing for ages or in answering a question I never thought to ask before.  So I give thanks to these women who trusted me with their creative hearts and dared to go on a creative adventure with me!

 

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Wandering, Wondering & Pondering the Eightfold Path

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The Eightfold Path from the Signs &Symbols Series 24×48″

I have been wandering and wondering both artistically and spiritually for a long time – probably my whole life. I am always working out a new puzzle trying a new technique and making it my own. In some ways that makes me a nomad in the art world. People ask “What do you do?” – what they want in reply is something they can get their head around like, landscapes, or still life, or abstract, or some medium they can pin me down on, but I never have a good answer. I am always trying new things and by the time my audience gets used to where I’m at I’m usually moving on. I don’t think this has helped my art career much. People here at the Bishop’s Ranch still tell me they miss my landscapes – and sometimes I’ll still paint a landscape for them – but after some 100 plus landscapes of the Ranch surrounds I was itchy to move on. Over the years I’ve explored printmaking, collage, encaustic, watercolor, fabric art and I have enjoyed them all and dug in deep enough to teach a class and share what I’ve learned. Right now I like the loose label Mixed Media artist. I doesn’t really mean much to anyone and that suits me fine – that way I’m never in a box I can’t paint my way out of!

Spiritually my trajectory has been more a meander than a direct path as well. I consider myself a Christian (I got baptized at the age of 23, a young adult wandering and wondering). I am a nodgie, scab-picking Christian – full of doubt and wonder at the same time. Over the years yoga and tai chi have offered me comfort in my times of need and I have come to enjoy what Buddhism has to share though I have barely scratch the surface of it’s depths. So when I stumbled upon Stephen Batchelor in a interview with the amazing On Being host Krista Tippit, his wandering and wondering spoke to me. He has published a number of books including Buddhism Without Beliefs and Faith to Doubt. In this interview (OnBEING interview with Stephen Batchelor) he spoke of the Buddhist core concept of the Eightfold Path. The Eightfold Path was taught by the Buddha and are as follows: right view, right aspiration, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration. While I was listening to the interview I began to doodle a folded roll of cloth, eight folds on top of each other, eight birds, eight growing plants. Later when I googled, eightfold path images they all came up as compasses with 8 crossing strands and ships wheels with 8 spokes. It’s funny how I didn’t see it as 8 crossing concepts but one concept folded in on itself, anyhow that is the origin story of this painting in my new series of work I’m calling Signs & Symbols. Like all the other artistic wanderings I’ve done I don’t know how long I’ll stay here but I feel like I have lots to learn and explore and I am excited to share that exploration with you.

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Detail from Eightfold Path

 

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Rock On…

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Women’s Quest rocks this mandala meditation session

Lately I have been designing mixed modality meditation workshops with a variety of different groups that come to The Bishop’s Ranch.  This week I had the opportunity to work with Colleen Cannon and her Women’s Quest retreat (Women’s Quest Site).  Colleen leads women’s empowerment retreats and takes women all over the country to go on “adventures for body, mind and spirit”.  She asked me to design an art meditation for her group during their stay at the Ranch. Last night I got to work with this delightful group of women.  During the day they had biked for many miles around Sonoma county and after dinner joined me in a meditation session that lead to these beautiful intention filled stones.  Each color on the stone relates to an intention or goal.  I had them each make two stones, one to take home with them and one to leave in a little meditation spot here at the Ranch-  I plan to do this project with all the summer campers this year and as the summer passes the rock cairns of good intentions will grow!


OM….

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I painted this painting on Mother’s Day – time in my studio was my gift! This 24×24″ painting and a 24×48″ painting from this series both sold this week along with two art quilts!

I haven’t written in awhile… sorry….when I got fired from my teaching job in late March I imagined so much time and space to make art and blog with you and meditate and ponder the meaning of life.  But as Aristotle said, horror vacui, or nature abhors a vacuum, and while I was worrying about how to make money when my job ended I caste a fist full of seeds into the universe.  Well I guess a lot of those seeds found fertile ground and now I need to consider thinning my crop down to the things I most want to do. I saw a Venn-diagram recently with 3 overlapping circles; one reads what you are passionate about the next reads what you are good at and the third reads what people will pay you for…..and where they all cross over is the sweet spot – where talent, passion and marketability meet.  Simple enough in theory but harder to find on a day to day basis.  When I finished teaching April 1st I felt like this was an opportunity- I was just given some space to find the sweet spot- but in my fear of no income I have been filling up my every minute taking on every job that comes my way.  I have taken on more graphic design work, more work at The Bishop’s Ranch, more workshop teaching, more sewing jobs…. you get the idea. In some ways it feels good, I know I can make the money when I need to, but now I need to pull back and do that thinning of my possibilities garden I was talking about before and find the sweet spot in my personal Venn-diagram.  This week I got a little clue about which way to wander.  On Sunday I taught an Encaustic Collage Workshop for 12 wonderful women- they had a good day I had a good day and I felt financially well compensated.  Also this week, kind of by accident, I sold 4 pieces of art- big pieces- and when told the prospective buyers the price no one flinched.  So I think I’m beginning to zero in on my talent, my passion, and what people will pay for. So here’s to searching for the sweet spot and listening to what the universe is telling you!

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I painted this smaller 8×10″ piece at the same time as the Buddha above

 

   


Color Me Excited!

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I am excited to share my latest adventure – a coloring book!  I am inching on to my 20th year living at The Bishop’s Ranch, in that time I have had the great privilege to soak up the seasons and the scenery here.  Each season arrayed in it’s own palette, from vivid greens to golden brown, the hills and fields change their colors in a beautiful circle of fecundity and fallow that never ceases to amaze.

The coloring book has twenty pages of Ranch scenes both on the grounds and in the backcountry.  I drew the images on my iPad in black line.  Now the owner of the book can choose the season make it spring or fall at their whim – something of a visual choose your own adventure book. Coloring the pages can put the artist right back here to the Ranch, in that way it is both a coloring book and a memory book.  For those who have yet to visit the Ranch it can be an enticement of things to come. Please follow the link to purchase one http://lisathorpe.com/shop.html

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A peek inside!


Taking Time to Stop and Paint the Iris

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Watercolor sketch in my journal of one of the iris in my yard

Here in my little slice of paradise spring has long sprung (sorry you guys in cold climes) and now it is iris turn to stretch out her long neck and open her beautiful face to the sky. The iris come in an awe-inspiring color palette that surprise and delight every year. Some time ago a friendly acquaintance asked me if I wanted some iris rhizomes (they look like a ginger root gone mad) he was digging out of his yard. I picked up a bucketful not really knowing what a treasure trove I had. The following year blooms of impossible beauty shot tall and sturdy in my yard. I have this purpley-pink  bloom (above), and a surprising periwinkle blue one, there is a pale creamy yellow one and one that is a deep cabernet red and another that is a purple black of astounding darkness standing like the night sky facing the full sun. The flower itself is a delicate fluttering silk butterfly but the stalk it opens from is tall and sturdy and strong giving a wonderful jux of position. I have been admiring these beauties that rise from my garden with seriously no help from me now for at least 10 years. They rise and bloom and slowly fade and fall to burrow again in the comfort of the ground and spring forth strong and beautiful again each year, a good reminder of beauty and strength and resilience. Thank you iris, for standing as a bold reminder that I too can grow and bloom and fold fallow ready to bloom again when the time is right.

The painting above is from my watercolor sketch book- I’m teaching a Wine and Watercolor class this Sunday at a local winery Campo Vida website. If you have ideas of places I can teach or contacts with organizations or businesses that you think could pare well with a watercolor class, let me know and I will reach out to them.


Spring: living forwards and backwards

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The Bishop’s Ranch in full Spring.  My latest painting.  Full of life and promise.

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”
― Søren Kierkegaard

I came across this quote a while ago and stuck it in my “food for thought folder”. Something about it rings so true. When we sit in the fresh days of new spring – living forwards – we experience it in the moment –yes- but we really understand it only by looking back, the blooming narcissus, the bright smiling daffodils, the flittering birds, the dancing young cows– remind us of what is coming– our knowledge of springs past informs our anticipation of the coming warmth and the regreening of our world. The anticipation invites a regreening of our hearts that is particular to spring. The circle of time, the renewal of the seasons year after year allows us to straddle the moving forward and the looking backwards. To experience the tingle up the spine and scalp as the new spring sun warms your back for the first time in months is about that particular moment but also about every spring you have ever known and every time you have felt that first warming, thawing, melting moment and your heart and body knows that spring is coming again- all praise to the universe- the spinning earth around our warming sun- welcome back spring thank you, thank you, thank you.


A Fresh A Fresh Start: something old is new again

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I painted a new landscape. That doesn’t seem like much of a proclamation but for me it sort of is. Let me give you a bit of background. As a young artist fresh out of art school most of my work was social, emotional, and spiritual commentary mostly figurative and mostly female figures. Then about 15 years ago a friend and benefactor, John Weaver, decided I should go to an artist retreat in the south of France to paint landscapes. I’m not sure why he felt so strongly about it but he just thought it would be good for me so he donated some money to The Bishop’s Ranch for staff education and made sure I was the first one to use it. When I got to France I hadn’t painted a landscape since I was a child water coloring in a Yosemite meadow along side my mother. To be perfectly honest I had a little art school snobbiness about beauty. I liked to wear the angsty artist label as much the next art student and create “meaningful, challenging” art which is code for not pretty and god forbid not cute! But by this time I had lived in the beauty of The Bishop’s Ranch for five years and to be perfectly honest my life was so lovely and charming that there wasn’t much reason to make angsty art. So I surrendered to the beauty of the landscape in France and put what I learned to use at home, churning out painting after painting, for a while painting a landscape a week! My catalog has over a hundred landscapes of the Ranch and surrounds. But suddenly I was bored I had over done it. The landscapes felt like an expectation, and I began to feel trapped. So I took a hiatus, diving into collage, encaustic, digital art, quilting and any other medium that wandered my way. But lately, the last 4 or 5 months, I’ve been thinking longingly of landscapes. Going for hikes taking photos thinking, that would be a good landscape, so when I found my phone full of such photos I thought the universe was trying to tell me something- PAINT A LANDSCAPE – and so I did. And you know what- I loved it. The process of translating a beautiful vista into a beautiful painting, reconnecting with my personal painting style and the comfort of my old friend Golden paints, a lovely number 2 round brush and number 4 flat – well it was like old friends meeting up after years apart and getting along like we’d never been apart. So you my faithful blog followers get the first look –November  Fog and Frost. I hope you enjoy seeing it as much as I enjoyed painting it… more to come, but definitely not one a week, I’m going to pace myself this time!


The Tenacity of Life

Pleasure is spread through the earth in stray gifts to be claimed by whoever shall find.

-William Wordsworth

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The view from the Ranch where I walked today. I painted this painting a few years back on a day much like today.

I went for a walk this morning with my old dog Lucky. She sniffed and barked at birds and phantoms, and followed the scent of last night’s fox or bobcat or stray cat with her stout short legged body bolting with such vigor and speed that seems impossible as seen prone on the couch- belly up and snoring. We walked the open pasture that rises up above road and looked out long across the valley of vineyards in full fall color. The hills and paths are just springing green, only an inch or so of rain has fallen in this drought stricken place, but the seeds that have lain dry and waiting were ready, sinking roots into the newly dampen earth to start a fresh green journey through another cycle of seasons. You my dear readers who don’t live in California and are always in the greening life, may not understand what a dramatic switch this is. We Californians like to call our hills golden in the dry hot summer and fall, which they are for a while but then they turn a brown grey like a burro’s back, waiting, waiting for rain. It came last week and this week the green has returned. Visible at first only in the mowed paths now showing more as the weeks advance stretching above the bent brown heads of it’s fallen parents. And today I was here to claim this bright, tenacious gift of exuberant hope.


Flying High: the next step

Ariel photo of The Bishop's Ranch that I took last weekend

My drawing done on the iPad using the photo as the beginning but not the end.

My drawing done on the iPad using the photo as the beginning but not the end.

This is just a quick post before I run off to teach art to 48 kindergartners later. I had a nice relaxing labor day weekend and spent some time drawing on my iPad. I used the photos I took last week from the plane.  The challenge is to take the image from photograph and edit and enhance and imbue it with something of the feeling of the day and of the place.  You can’t leave in all the details but you need to leave the important information so it still reads right. Any how here’s what I came up with, I like the feeling I got – the pop and I hope the wonder too1

Photo of the Estero de San Antonio (I think) taken last Monday

Drawing of Estero de San Antonio

Drawing of Estero de San Antonio

For you iPad artists out there I drew the images using the Brushes app.  Then imported my drawing into Photoshop for iPad then into Phototoaster – these help to rough up the image a bit from the smooth lines of the Brushes image – and also manipulate the color to saturate and make it pop!


Flying High

Up top is Jim and his sweet plane, below starting on the left is The Bishop's Ranch, then the folds of Russian river valley vineyards, next the bridge on Hwy 1 just south of Jenner, then a river wending west from Petaluma

Up top is Jim and his sweet plane, below starting on the left is The Bishop’s Ranch, then the folds of Russian river valley vineyards, next the bridge on Hwy 1 just south of Jenner, then a river wending west from Petaluma

Just a quick post to say I had a fun, high flying morning today. I got a chance to fly over part of Sonoma County today with Jim DuVander -THANKS JIM!  I took oddles of pictures, below are just a few.  As my loyal followers you know I’ve been creating art quilts using photos I’ve taken from commercial planes as my starting point.  This was my first chance to fly over my own back yard in a small plane, nice and low!  I’m really looking forward to getting to work on my iPad drawing with some of these images as my jumping off point.  When I’m done I’ll blow them up big, have them printed on fabric at Spoonflower then go at it with some free-motion quilting…..So much fun to be up in the air on such a beautiful day in such a beautiful place!

If you want to look at some past examples of high flying iPad drawing and art quilts click the blog posts below.

August 15th post of iPad drawing

February 12th post of stitched quilts


A Stitch’n Week

Quilter, friend and blog follower doing some hand work - A long shot of the Pavilion with machines and fabric everywhere!

Quilter, friend and blog follower doing some hand work – A long shot of the Pavilion with machines and fabric everywhere!

I spent the last 5 days stitching till I dropped. The Bishop’s Ranch hosted it’s 4th annual Quilt Retreat and the place was packed with sewing machines, fabric, thread, creativity and inspiration. The retreat is designed so folks come and work on any project they want there aren’t any instructors or product pitches each person does their own thing if you want input there are lots of skilled women to give their two cents worth but if you just want to stitch and do your thing no one tells you you’re doing it wrong. For the 3rd year in a row my mom came to sew, she worked on a quilt top of beautiful batiks I of course brought a huge stack of things to work on. Those of you who have followed my blog for a while may have seen some of these images. In the last year I have had the chance to fly an number of times and started taking photos out the window at take off then I spend the flight drawing the aerial view using the Brushes app on my iPad. These I had printed on lovely cotton Sateen at Spoonflower.com, then I stitched and stitched and stitched……they are about 30×40 inches and I think they look great. I need to block them, all that stitching made them a little warped an wonkie (if any one has some tips on blocking please, please share!) When I have them flattened out I’ll trim and bind and make them ready to hang. I have about 4 more aerial images I plan to have printed up large….maybe even bigger I’d love to show them somewhere so if any of you have ideas on that too let me know. I’ll post some pics when I have them all done. I’m so glad I gathered with all these wonderful women for the week and got a surge of stitch’n energy!

Aerial View of Alexander Valley - Close-up of stitching

Aerial View of Alexander Valley – Close-up of stitching

Aerial View of Willamette Valley - Close-up of stitching

Aerial View of Willamette Valley – Close-up of stitching

Aerial View of Salt Flats in SF Bay - Close-up of stitching

Aerial View of Salt Flats in SF Bay – Close-up of stitching


Getting Graphic in the New Year

Well the New Year is almost 3 weeks in and I haven’t gotten much time in my studio. I have lots of ideas and lots of inspiration but time hasn’t been on my side these past few weeks. So I decided I should show you a little bit of work related art. As many of you know I am the resident artist at The Bishop’s Ranch retreat center in northern California. In my role I teach some classes, but mostly I do graphic design work. There are invitations, cards, flyers, posters and mailers, but in January I get to do a bit of logo/image design which is always fun and sometimes daunting. The way it works is a committee comes up with a theme for the year then they hand me a slogan for both the Annual Fund drive and Summer Camp and cut me loose. Sometimes I’m stumped for a while but then in some quite space (usually on a hike or in the shower) it comes to me, an image to illuminate the words. Sometimes I have to take a few stabs at it but usually it moves pretty quickly once the idea comes. These past few weeks I’ve been working with this year’s theme; here they are. I’m pretty pleased with them.

summer camp 2015 logo- I love the retro feel with the colors and font

summer camp 2015 logo- I love the retro feel with the colors and font

Logo for Annual Fund - I feel good about this star map with a little constellation of the Ranches beloved Chapel of St George in the center.

Logo for Annual Fund – I feel good about this star map with a little constellation of iconic Ranch chapel in the center.

I hope to get in my studio next week and have something to show you but until then check out the link to the retreat I’m leading at The Bishop’s Ranch in February. Creativity Bound class info and registration. I’m working with poet Laurie Glover and we will guide you in writing a poem and creating a collage accordion book. It will be a wonderful process where images inform words and words inform images. Hope you can join us. If you are coming from far away arrangements can be made to stay over at the Ranch for extra nights, hope to see you then!


November is racing along, when does time slow down?

November View

November View

It’s past mid November and yikes the holidays are almost here! I had a busy teaching filled October and had some idea that the days would go by a little slower in November but that doesn’t seem to be the case because here I am wondering where the days have gone. When I imagined my empty nester life – as my son went off to college – I thought that because there was one less character on the stage in this little play I call life that time would bend a bit, slow down, be less hectic….but it’s not. Umph! Time is ticking and the days are passing and one thing on my todo list that I haven’t gotten to is to tell you dear readers about the art calendar I have made for 2015. There is a strong dose of irony here I must say – I am selling time in the form of a calendar but can’t seem to keep track of where the days have gone. I know you’ll love these beautiful images of the Russian River Valley from my wonderful perch here at The Bishop’s Ranch as much as I do. The practice of creating a calendar is a good one, it makes me mark the month in color and light, leaf and bird, forces me to sit and observe what the essence of each month in this place. Here I’m giving you a sample of images November, above, and February, June and September below. Hope it helps you mark time.

Won’t you join me in holding dear the days? Here is a link to order a calendar for you and a friend – they make great holiday gifts too! http://lisathorpe.com/calendar.html

February the mustard blooms

February the mustard blooms

June days bursting with color

June days bursting with color

September golden grasses fill the pastures

September golden grasses fill the pastures


Something Fishy Going on Around Here

found art leads to quilt

found art leads to quilt

Inspiration is a funny thing sometimes.  For me sometimes it has to shift and settle a bit before it comes out in the form of new art.  This fish story is one of those instances.  Months ago my husband and I were walking around Guerneville, a little rundown Russian river resort town, and came upon these wonderful koi fish spray painted on the sidewalk in small swimming groupings.  We saw about four or five schools of fish spread out in different parts of town, the one pictured here is on the main drag in front of a restaurant.  I was very taken with this bit of artful graffiti and immediately took out my cell phone to take a picture. I have to say the best thing about the camera phone revolution; you can always capture inspiration wherever you find it.  The photos languished in my phone for a while until I synched my phone and computer up and these little sidewalk muses reminded me of their charm.  So I got to work making my own stencil.  I’ll tell you I have used this stencil in a number of ways and will share more koi with you as they evolve but today I want to share the quilt I finished a couple of weeks ago at The Bishop’s Ranch quilt retreat.

The fish inspiration merged with an urge to do some experimenting with fabric dying.  I had been reading about ice dyeing and wanted to try it.  The basic idea is you crinkle up your fabric and shove it into a dishpan or tray.  Then you cover the whole thing with crushed ice and sprinkle powdered dye over the ice…. And that is it!  The ice melts and the dye spreads and makes fantastic organic beautiful results. That’s how I created the background fabric.  Then using my fish stencil I stenciled on this relatively new product called color magnet and dyed the whole thing a light grey.  Where the fish were stenciled the color magnet grabbed the dye and made them a wonderful charcoal color.  I then stenciled the fish outline with a color removal paste that basically bleached out the fish outlines.  I love how this all turned out and decided to make a quilt with the fabric during the quilt retreat.  I free motion quilted in a swirly pattern using variegated blue thread, then outlined the fish in loose sketching lines in white.  I had now idea how amazing the back with the white on the bright blue would look.  I know I’m going to do more of this thread drawing on plain fabric in the future.

the  finished quilt, front and back

the finished quilt, front and back

So one inspiration leads to the next and the next in a meandering path.  So lunch in a sleepy town leads to a wonderful quilt and who know what else.  So keep you camera phone close and like a scout always be prepared to be inspired!


Birds & Other Beautiful Things

Center Pieces for this weekends Annual Forum at The Bishop's Ranch

Center Pieces for this weekends Annual Forum at The Bishop’s Ranch

This weekend I get to do one of my favorite things in my role as Resident Artist at The Bishop’s Ranch, make things pretty.  We have a big event that starts today called the Annual Forum.  It’s a time when supporters of the Ranch gather to get in touch with what the Ranch is up to and join together in community.  I get to decorate.  I get to make floral arrangements on the tables in harmony with the theme (this years theme is Creation Speaks and I choose to interpret that as birds singing). This years tables will be decked out in mason jars filled with beautiful tufting grasses growing here at the Ranch along with some Abutilon and Love in a Mist flowers from my yard.  Each Jar will have 3 paper birds communing.  I like to put poems on the table for people to take with them. Here is one of six that will be on the table:

How Birds Sing

-Kay Ryan                                                                                        

One is not taxed;

one need not practice;

one simply tips

the throat back

over the spine axis

and asserts the chest.

The wings and the rest

compress a musical

squeeze which floats

a series of notes

upon the breeze.

We are also having a church service to honors some special friends of the Ranch.  This too requires a floral arrangement.  I love wandering the Ranch with pruning shears and a bucket of water to gather flowers and branches to make a big bold beautiful arrangement that takes peoples breath away.  But wait there’s more…we are  hosting a Pool Dedication Party tomorrow for 200ish (what is with people not RSVPing these days) anyhow my Resident Artist job description covers, ribbons for ribbon cutting (including decorated scissors of course) and a floating sign for the pool with a train of rubber duckies announcing “ $125,000 more to raise”.  These along with the less exciting but crucial name tags, parking and bathroom signs are all part of my job description and on my to do list.  But I love a good problem to solve and if I can make it pleasing and beautiful to boot well then that is a job waiting for a creative answer. So wish me luck I’m off and running.

Congratulations to all you grads & parents of grads have a fun this weekend too.

Lucky dog: Resident Cutie

Lucky dog: Resident Cutie

Wouldn’t know it I discovered Lucky has worms today on our morning walk (I know that’s probably more information than you wanted) so it’s off to the vet this morning too! Ugh, BAD DOG! Too cute to be upset for long!


Singing at the Threshold

Aging Apple Tree in Bloom

Aging Apple Tree in Bloom

I took a walk this morning with my dog Lucky.  My goal was to exercise the dog and myself and get on with my day, but as I powered through the antique apple orchard here on the back property the floating petals of the apple blooms had other ideas for me.  I hadn’t even noticed the blooms on the trees, my eyes so intent on the path that had it not been for the delicate petals pasted to the muddy path I might have barreled through without looking at all.  But the petals persisted so I stopped, turned off the music in my iPod, and looked and listened to the ancient wisdom of the trees and the birds.  The bird chorus was dazzling, each species of bird greeting the day and praising the beauty of the apple blossoms with their own song, some sweet and lilting some bold and commanding.  The old apple trees are nearly a century old, gnarled and twisted, broken and worn, but still coursing with the same old desires to burst forth from the long bare winter dressed in such finery that even Downtown Abby’s Dowager would cluck her approval.  These old ladies of the orchard know how to put on a show.  Soon the white will turn to green as the pattern of life and destiny wind around another year.  These old branches will shelter and feed the chattering birds that flit about the orchard fulfilling their own cycle, true to their own destiny.

While observing these gracious trees I can’t help but think of the human journey, the patterns of fallow, blossom and fruit that run through our lives like a twisting river that wends it way through the river valley, curving to touch the east and west hills but ever flowing to it’s final destination – the sea.  This week, here at The Bishop’s Ranch, we are honored to host the Threshold Choir.  Threshold Choir has chapters all over the country and is growing internationally as well.  Their mission is to sing at the bedsides of those at the threshold of life, those who are terminally ill; they bring comfort, company, and caring through song.  Here at the Ranch representatives from various chapters come to share, and renew and bring back that renewal to their chapters. We are honored to have them among us.  I bring them up because they seem to me to be like the birds in the ancient apple orchard, singing the journey on its way with a lilting song of praise, comfort and joy.

Apple Blossom

Apple Blossom

I was gratified to learn this week from a women at the conference that someone in her chapter found out about Threshold Choir through one of my past blog posts.  It is wonderful to know that I may have played a small part in someone’s journey thank you for sharing. Link to Threshold Choir

my walking companion, Lucky

my walking companion, Lucky



Art as Everyday Object

Left: “Super-Cloth” made with layered dictionary pages and stenciled and stamped surface design on Tyvek construction sheeting. Right: Belts and bags made with cloth for upcoming sales.

I have been playing around with a new surface design technique for the last few months.  As long time blog followers know, I love to experiment and try new things.  Last spring I got my hands on a book published by Interweave Press by Kelli Perkins called “Stitch Alchemy- combining fabric + paper”.  Of course as we artist are want to do I quickly abandoned Kelli’s directions and went off on my own tangent but her ideas inspired mine.  I had a roll of Tyvek sheeting (used in construction as a moisture barrier) left over from a camp kite-making project, and I’d been itching to do something with it.  The surface is smooth and very strong and can’t be torn but is easy to cut and thin enough to sew.  I had been making banners and garden flags but was searching for a more durable substrate.  Tyvek was the answer.  I love words in my work and I am forever cutting up books to use in my collage.  I decided that layering dictionary pages on the Tyvek would be a great background from there I kept piling on the layers using both commercial and hand made stencils and stamps.  This created a gorgeous and durable “super-cloth”.  But what to make?  Really the question is what can’t I make?  I introduced this technique to the families that attended The Bishop’s Ranch Generations camp last summer and it was very successful.  Every family made banners or mobiles with their cloth.  Now I’ve been dreaming up what else to do.  I love to make wearable art and artful, useful objects so I turned my eye to functional fun.  This fall I’m have three sales I’ve already made a ton of fantastic jewelry (something for another blog) and this week was devoted to my yards of super-cloth.  I’ve made about 25 gorgeous belts, and about 50 zippered bags of various sizes; I’m experimenting with wallets and luggage tags too!  Why should art be confined to the wall, let’s wear it, and share it, hold it and give it.  I hope the folks who come to my upcoming sales feel the same way!

Speaking of everyday art, don’t forget to get your 2013 calendars, here is the link CALENDAR.


Quilting in Community

Still Life with Peonies, 16″x20″
This is an iPad drawing transformed to art quilt, the image was printed out on fabric and free motion quilted this week  (thanks for doing the binding Janelle!)

Last Sunday I arrived back at the Ranch in the wee hours after a belated birthday trip to Chicago with my husband.  We loved the city.  We spent most of our time walking and exploring the wonder neighborhoods and the vast lakefront park a tootling down the river in a water taxi with the mighty city tower overhead on either side.  It was a wonderful adventure and lovely to spend time with just my husband and I, no agenda but to be together and enjoy our time together in a new and exciting city.  So when I noticed on the calendar that the Ranch Hands Quilt Gathering was happening starting Sunday I decided there was no way I could participate this time around after just being away.

Still Life with Oranges and Tulips 16″x 20″
Drawn on iPad then printed on fabric, with free motion quilting. This quilt is included in the Quilting Art Magazine online extras for the Oct/Nov issue

Now let me back up a little and explain what the Ranch Hands week is. I’ll start with what It’s not: it’s not a teaching week, no one stand up front and leads the group in learning a technique; it is not an exclusive group, you don’t have to be a part of a quilting guild or club, people come on there own or with friends from all over the Western states; and lastly the participants aren’t all quilting in the same way, there are art quilters, and traditional quilters, people working from kits, people are sewing on everything from Mocha brown Singer Sewing machines to bright shiny machines that would put the space station to shame.  While there is definitely no one star performer teaching a specific technique there is a lot of accumulated knowledge in that room.  With 45 quilters spread throughout the beautiful airy pavilion you can find the answer to just about any question and thread to match any fabric you might pull our of your stash.  So even though I was jet lagged and hassled by my boundless email inbox I couldn’t resist the allure of all that creative energy.  So I pick up my sewing machine and a couple of projects I’d started months ago and set up my shop in the north wing of the Swing pavilion surrounded and supported by millions of hours of accumulated knowledge about fabric and quilting.  When my 16 year old son saw me dragging my stuff across the acre of lawn from my studio to the pavilion he asked “can’t you just sew in your studio?”  I could, but where’s the fun in that… what would I learn?  So despite my time limitations and the need to run off for three hours a day to teach art to k-2nd graders in town, I choose to sew in community.  I am so glad I did.  Everyone there is working on their own thing, everyone there has something they want to accomplish but there is also this wonder sense of time slowing down, time to wander the isles of sewing machines with quilt design walls propped up against every wall, time to wander and watch, to talk and ask, to kibitz and praise.  When one person was vexed by tension troubles another person came by and helped resolve it, when one quilter was dissatisfied with her blocks on the design wall, other came to give feedback and helped move pieces around while she stood back and found the order she was looking for.  When I hand sewing the binding on my fourth small art quilt of the week and poked my finger raw needle finger once again a friend and long time hand quilter offered to finish the binding for me!  I gratefully handed it over.  All this and some much more could never have happen alone in my studio.  I am grateful for the opportunity to soak in such energy and goodwill and will return to my little studio renewed and inspired.

The Bishop’s Ranch is offering a Quilt Retreat in February 2013, form the 10-14th.  As with the quilting retreat I described this is a time for all levels and styles of quilters to bring ongoing projects or start new ones.  Everyone bring their own sewing machine and supplies, but community cutting tables, design walls, and ironing stations are set up to share.  Of course all around is the beauty of the Ranch outside every window, and lots of open space to wander and shake off the sewing machine shoulder hunch.  And don’t forget the most fabulous food you would ever want to eat.  Here is the link to the Ranch website I am going to be at this retreat it would be great if some of you were there too! Bishop’s Ranch Quilt Retreat

Janelle sewing the binding on my Still Life with Peonies panel for me, Thanks Janelle!

Me at my trusty old Bernina