Category Archives: Creative Process

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Loss and Laughter

I’m drawn to sad songs. I call them Canteloupe dog songs. You know, melancholies or ‘Melon Collies.” I explain this on stage between songs and it usually gets a groan, but it’s still true. I love a sad song — and yet in my visual art I’m compelled to create whimsy and humor.

Why the dichotomy?

First I want to think about sadness and loss for a minute. I think since we’ve all suffered loss, there’s a feeling that people will understand and identify with ones expression of sadness. For one who is young, the losses may be minor but the feelings are stronger, possibly because that feeling is so new. The older one is, the greater the losses, but also the greater the understanding that life piles on the losses over time. So we sing to that–our voices rise in harmonic sadness, noble in the acceptance of what is now gone from us. I don’t welcome the losses. Yet we sing to the truth of what we’ve lost and how that feels.

In one of my new favorite songs, John Gorka writes, “It’s tough before the aftermath, waiting for the sky to rain.” To me this is so true — it’s when you realize that there will be an aftermath that shock sets in, and you may be waiting for rain – for the tears to come along and then the rain that washes the pain and sorrow away. While waiting for the rain, your chin curls down into your chest, drawing into itself like a pill bug, protecting the soft inner core with your spine – the only hard shell you have on your body besides fingernails. You live with the loss, and then time and acceptance come in and feel like sheep’s wool on a cold Northwest winter day. This is when life starts to open up again – it goes back and forth. Open a little, then close up. Smile then sadness, comfort and forgetting.

ThoughtfulAnd now let’s think about the whimsy and humor in the art I make. Well, I suppose that’s the yin/yang of life. I think the humor comes directly out of the sadness.

These actors. I know exactly where they come from, and I’m excited to see where they are going. More often funny than sad, they usually have names with some humor or word play. For example, there were the twins: Illuminaughty and Illuminice. I don’t have fully formed stories for each, but that’s OK, they are meant to carry meaning to the One who takes them home. Each person who claims an actor can cast them in a play of their own making. The meaning comes as the play unfolds.

Both art and music may be a way of working through some issue, and BOTH are good for that. Or it may simply be to make a smile in my day. A painting or a song are often a reminder of someone dear – someone who used to laugh with us, or someone who still laughs with us.

I have a friend who finds deep meaning in the most common of things. She finds spiritual solace or guidance in the simplest things. She also makes her cat speak as if she’s a human and she says the most ridiculous things. I don’t do this with my cats, but I think I do with my actors. And what could be more fun?

6 painting series

6 Paintings, comin’ right up!

I started a 6 painting series, 6 compositions borrowed and cropped from old photos, all will be 16″x20″. They will be collages and paintings, and more colorful than what you see here, but it’s a good start, getting the drawings done and some values in place.

I’m excited to be working on this series, solidifying some methods of working out compositions and textures, and integrating people into an abstracted environment. Starting with cropped photos that move the focus a bit off center, or just outside the golden mean balance point. So then the problem to solve is how to balance the off-balance-ness. I think I can do it by moving other things around, like the colors in the background.

6 painting series 3 6 painting series 2 6 painting series

Poppies

Stories Add Depth

I’ve often thought there was a story behind many of my paintings and collages, but I seldom wrote them down.

I recently read about and purchased a book, Significant Objects, 100 extraordinary stories about ordinary things. The idea behind the book was that narrative adds value. And while they were using monetary value as their metric for determining the “value,” I have always liked the idea of adding narrative to visual art. It’s not that I think the art won’t stand on it’s own without the narrative, but that cross pollination of art forms, writing and visual art, allows for a fuller experience.

So when applying for the Kenmore Art Show coming up in June, there was a space for 200 character description, rather than describing the technical process or materials used, I got started thinking about the the story. 200 characters is a challenging limitation, but also freeing. Here are 4 pieces that got short (nearly microscopic) stories.

LHensley-Friend of the Family - Web

The cat has come to visit our warm fire-lit living room. As a highly domestic cat, she fits right into our highly domestic setting, even as far as curling her tail into our couch’s Greek wave motif.

Hensley_Lynette_GreekChorus

The play’s the thing, and these five were cast as the chorus in a Greek play. I hope it’s a comedy. Remember, there are no small parts, only small actors.

Poppies

Poppies have an attitude. They rise up and stand tall, and then sport their wilty petals — proud and sorta wimpy all at the same time. Sometimes a flower just demands to become a painting.

LHensley_House_of_Fools

Ah the grand parade of people who peer and parade, who scoff and snicker, who look and linger, who query and quickstep along the promenade, and then there are the people who watch.

LHensley_Girl-Couch

The cast: Girl, Daddy, Bird, Couch, Legs, Chair, Door. I was a 3.5 year old girl, dancing and swirling with the artist Joan Miro, who stayed just behind the curtain off stage right. The first in a series. What fun!

EdouardManetFlowers

Edouard Manet’s flowers…why does this painting work?

Breakin’ the composition rules, and still winning. This painting by Edouard Manet has two strong circle shapes side by side, almost centered, which is generally not advised for a great composition. Then add a strong line going off the edge of the canvas — whoosh — eyes are in danger of leaving the picture. Yet a subtle pair of stem snippers at the left pulls eyes both off to the left AND back in, and the even more subtle table top/horizon line brings eyes back to the center and the subtleties of shading in the flowers.

Economy of color, stroke, subject, shadow. It’s big contrasts, and some subtle tricks that make it work.

Yep. He wins.

Girl & Girl

Merry Christmas 2014

Yesterday was Solstice, and that my dear friends, begins to bring relief to the darkness of winter nights. I choose to live in Seattle, where the light is scarce anyhow, and in the winter, it’s scarcer still. But solstice brings the light around again, and hope for warmer weather in a few months, and I compulsively make plans for the new year, and the next season of art work and shows. But that seems way too practical for me on this first night after solstice.

Tonight I want to pause and be grateful for the dark. In the dark I see less, and don’t get distracted by details. I can stop to thank God for the gift of loving people that surround me. For my mother who noted early on that I had a special art gene and nurtured all creative pursuits throughout my forming years. Mom is in nursing care, so I’m grateful for the nurses that care for her daily. I’m grateful for the chance to travel 5 hours by gas powered car on a smooth road with all the cars going in the same direction so I could see her eyes and make sure she knows I love her.

In the dark I can close my eyes and focus on my husband’s grayer-than-last-year bearded face with the curled mustache that makes him look like he’s permanently smiling. I’m grateful for my husband who always supports our mutual and individual creative pursuits, and participates in wordplay with me when the art is ready for naming.

In the dark I can consider how much light and joy my grandchildren bring to my life. Through the babies, I am reminded to wonder about things, and not just think I already know them. Through the adolescent ones I’m reminded to be passionate and move ahead with confidence, even if I’m mistaken. Most of the time it doesn’t matter anyway, but life is much better with passion.

In the dark I can imagine about the ones that are gone, and I hope that we will see each other once again, in some form, be it solid or ethereal. I imagine we will take the form of something that flies, like a bird or a cloud, but that doesn’t matter either. They are loved, and so am I, and the memories are enough.

Lynette

 

Pinterest board

Morgue File

What is a morgue file?

I used to keep a collection of images, a mini library of cuttings and photos to inspire and inform my costume design work. Standard practice for artists and designers, many fellow designers had impressive collections depending on their interests the projects they had worked on, and the space they had available for storage. When I was costume designing it was not unusual to need to research multiple time periods, locations, economic classes, cultures, and art styles, and of course this was before computers were used to store images and files. My hard copy collection consisted of interesting clothes, bodies in poses useful for rendering costumed characters for dances and plays, makeup ideas, hairstyles, undergarments, clothing for everyone from kings to clergy, and soldiers to peasants. I had sections for colors, fashion periods, hairstyles, weaponry, accessories, poses, animals, art styles, architecture, furniture. Really, anything of interest. As you can imagine, it could easily get out of hand.

Thank goodness for Pinterest, Evernote and Dropbox now.

Pinterest board

How I use a morgue file now

Now I have a morgue file for painting inspirations in Pinterest and Evernote. I use Pinterest mostly for the visual inspirations, and Evernote for the writing and notes. It’s not that different from my old morgue file, except for the storage space. Here I collect poses, faces, hands, compositions, painting styles, color schemes, concept ideas. In Pinterest I’ve kept some of my boards secret, others are shared. I refuse to steal, but I do participate in the time honored artist practice of responding to the work of other artists whether it’s borrowing a method of applying paint or trying on a composition that worked for someone else. There are trends, after all, and I always offer my own personal spin, colorway, palette, and hand to the project. I find inspiration in other artists, and images, and refer to them from time to time as I’m doing my own work. It’s a natural extension of being a theater designer!

edmonds waterfront

Fun at the Edmonds Waterfront – An Art Demo Day

EAFArtists in ActionSunday, July 27 I was with 3 other artists at the Edmonds Waterfront, demonstrating how I make and use some of my tools for my art.  I was showing how I hand carve rubber stamps, the papers that I stamp to create pattern and textures for collage materials, as well as some finished and in-progress collages. Kim Day, NW Polymer Clay Guild member — working with polymer to make beads. www.nwpcg.org Lynette Hensley, collage artist and painter — hand carving stamps & show how she uses them. lynettehensley.com Carol Meckling, acrylic painter — happily drawing a pet portrait for you!  carolmeckling.com Betty Melhoff, NW Polymer Clay Guild member — creating buttons from Polymer clay. www.nwpcg.org On this beautiful sunny day, we were entertained by some college jazz players right next to us, and there was a steady flow of curious lookers! Thanks for coming down to beautiful Puget Sound to have a chat! And thank you to the Edmonds Art Festival Foundation for the opportunity to show a bit of our processes right there in the public eye. EAFArtists in Action3Artists in Action 2014 Photos by Meredith Arnold

original-copy

Art and Childhood

I recently uncovered some of my kids childhood art, and at the same time, some of my own as well. My mother kept a xerox copy of some drawings I did when I was preschool age. Judging from child development research, I was probably 4 at the time. Mom has used the word prodigious, and also precocious to describe the drawings. I don’t know — but I do know that they are fun images. Birds, furniture, daddy, all with circles for feet and drawn with youthful abandon, with no thought about a horizon or the relationship between one thing and another on the page. I liked one of the pages so much that I posted it on facebook, and threatened to make it into a painting. mutant hamsterMy 28 year old daughter took that as a challenge and digitally re-made my drawing into a colored field, morphing the couch into a frenzied rodent, a spontaneous collaboration, one might say!

The original drawings were themselves a collaboration I suppose. On another page of drawings my mom had drawn a bird, a girl, and I used those to jump off and draw what I knew. I produced a domestic scene, couch, chair, doors, daddy, birds. I would venture to say that this means good things about my childhood, that it was overall peaceful and secure.

Several things I take away at this moment I decided to make a painting from my youthful drawings:

  • Artistic development never ends. I’ve been telling people that this painting took me 54 years to complete. Ha!
  • Parental encouragement and support of creative endeavors is priceless.
  • A parent’s PRESENCE with a child, not taking over, or imposing adult ideas on childhood exploring, also priceless.
  • Mom felt this piece of paper was important enough to keep for over 50 years. Very special.
  • Asking an artist about their work, then listening and accepting what they say allows the one-who-looks to know more about the artist.

Girl-CouchNow after a stroke, my mom is in assisted living. I still see the spark in her eye, still hear her encouraging words, and am grateful for her life, her entirely individual ways and her attention to me throughout my life. She is experiencing challenges forming words, but I simply admire her will to keep trying, and even her curiosity and interest in what is happening with her in spite of the frustrations. Always curious,  very intelligent and inquisitive, she’s now set up with books on tape and her knitting…and I’m sure this will be an adventure too. May this phase be as peaceful and secure an adventure as my own childhood apparently was. This one’s for you, mom.