Tuesday, January 31, 2012

An Interview with Gayle Sleznick........by Joyce Oroz

Today I have the great pleasure of interviewing a very accomplished watercolor artist and lovely person, Gayle Sleznick. She is an active member of the Aromas Hills Artisans. Gayle frequently and joyfully shares her newest painting techniques and materials with the members—along with her regular students. I know you will enjoy the answers she gives to my questions.

Gayle, who in particular has inspired you?

One who was my real inspiration was Muriel Doggett, an artist from Livermore, who pulled me out from under a bush my first day at Asilomar, where I was trying to paint something/ anything, shaking in my boots, knowing it would be critiqued by Millard Sheets that evening. Muriel Doggett was a powerful woman and artist in her own right. She spun me around and said, "nonsense, Millard will love this", and he did. Later a friend and student of Muriel's, Marge Alderson, joined us. Marge was one of the founders of the Torpedo Factory located in Alexandria, (an art complex, built in what had been a torpedo factory during the war, housing 250 artists who work and sell out of their studios, has two galleries, teaching space and art supply store). It revived the Old Town of Alexandria. We three roomed together, painted together, went to other workshops, always pushing each other to do our best. Muriel died of cancer 27 years ago, but, her constant yammering in my ear, with solid instruction, remains with me today. Marge instructed for Flying Watercolors and ran workshops from the Torpedo Factory. I continued to join her as a roommate and helped where ever needed when she was instructing in England, Bali, France, Italy, Mexico or Ghost Ranch. Another fine lady, Miriam McNitt, who lived at Yosemite, was a stitchery artist of renown and an accountant. She insisted I pursue my passion to painting along with helping me set up my books. Her large murals can be seen at Yosemite. Richard Nelson, who lives on Maui, studied under Joseph Albers at Yale, introduced me to painting with the three primaries. Since I was traveling to Europe to paint at the time, limiting my list of colors seemed like a good idea. It was and has been my method ever since. Some of these friends are gone, but they set my course.

Why do you paint and teach?

I paint, because I cannot, not paint. It is a complete part of me. It defines my personality. Once you have been exposed to so many fine teachers and methods and have become rather competent yourself, it is time to give back. Learning an art form is difficult in a structured classroom. I have always felt the Arts are best taught in a mentoring or apprenticeship format.

What do you enjoy the most, painting or teaching and why?

•I love the painting part the most. It requires discipline, but where I go with the brush is for me. It is me.
•Teaching is more structured and makes one really understand the subject by putting it into words. It is for the students. With a teaching background, I want to be prepared with an outline and course of study, to give them the most for the time we have together. That takes time and thought, but nothing is more fun than to see the visuals that come out of those who suddenly not only look at things, but actually start to see them.

Besides watercolor, do you like any other mediums?

They say oil painting is like a dog. Watercolor is like a cat. I tried oil painting. Guess I am a cat person. I tried stitchery, macramĂ©, stained glass (love the end product) ,sculpting, but watercolor became all consuming and the easiest to pack up and move and we were moving a lot. Drawing is a part of a watercolorist’s world. The use of pencil, ink and pastels are a recreation to my painting. With over 35 years of painting I have explored all sorts of water based paints, mediums that change the surfaces of the paper and every color imaginable and multitudes of new brushes on the market. I have gone from realistic to loose renditions, colage, abstract and back again. Not sure I have gotten any of it right, yet, but all the possibilities keeps me going.

Gayle, what is your best advice to up-starts in the painting business?

If you decide to paint, never consider it a hobby you might enjoy. Push towards professionalism from the beginning. Taking on watercolor is not a frivolous medium. Understand it will be costly to gather supplies. Start with the best paint, brushes and paper. Student grade will only be a handicap. Expose yourself to master painters early on. Colleges offer classes and a place to start, but the true painters, who are in the business, give workshops. California has some of the best. Set yourself up to many methods and subjects. Drawing is just as essential as Painting. Do not expect success immediately. Watercolor is done in layers. Your learning follows the same path. You are you and no one else contains your background which will definitely show in your painting, if you stay true to yourself.

Go to art shows, museums, subscribe to watercolor magazines, buy books on watercolor. Look and look and look some more at paintings.

You may give away some of your earlier paintings to family and friends, but once you sell a painting, you have to set yourself up with the Board of Equalization. At that time, you know you have gone professional.

Once an artist is properly trained in the fine art of painting, she feels comfortable breaking the rules now and then. What rules have you broken-if any?

Classes in formal school teach rules, the student parrots them back and those rules lead to correct answers. The painter has rules called the Elements and Principals of Design, but the choices of color, how to lay down paint, use of surfaces and the final product is unending. If you correctly follow the rules you may NOT come up with an answer. For a Mathematician, this would be frustrating. For the Creative person, this opens up all possibilities. I do feel comfortable with a brush, but hopefully never feel comfortable with what I know. This is what pushes me to learn more and try more directions with a creative twist.

The Impressionists were the first to go outside to paint and come up with images which were not just as they looked in life. They opened the freedom to constantly experiment. After painting pure watercolor for years, it was a break away for me to go abstract, using opaque paints and transparent watercolor together, sand, glue, rice paper, stamping, plastic wrap...anything I could find. A total change in approach for me where the happenings on the paper pulled images and shapes out of my head instead of the scenery in front of me dictating the direction of my painting.

I enjoy keeping the mindset of breaking rules in most everything I do. Alter a recipe, use a piece of furniture differently than its original format, add or take away from jewelry, alter clothing and their use, use a scarf more than just around the neck (and I don't mean hanging myself if my painting bombs). Creativity allows everyone to break the rules and it saddens me that it is not the center of our educational world.

I know you are an active and valuable member of AHAs. How has the organization helped you?

I had been in San Benito County for almost twenty years before I discovered AHA. From the first meeting, I was impressed with the variety of mediums and the professional work and attitude among the members. The easy, friendly way of the meetings, was a breath of fresh air. Artists can hold egos and none of it was there. Just the simple evening of members sharing their work at AHA meetings brings me pleasure in seeing their accomplishments and jogs a direction for creativity within me. Setting a theme is brilliant in pushing all of us to come up with something within the month. Meetings are never boring since each month is led by a different member. The events throughout the year give all of us opportunities to show, sell and share our work. It is an impressive family.

Gayle, where can we see your paintings?

I have a wonderful working studio and gallery in my home, open to the public to visit and tour whenever I am home.I have hung my work at Ella's restaurant on two occasions, my painting grace the walls of the clinic here in San Juan Bautista. This month I have paintings hung in the Valle del Sur show at the Art Alliance in Gilroy. This show comes down February 4th.

• Paintings hang in the permanent collection of the Office of the White House Historical
Association, Washington DC in memory of Ronald Dickson, architect to White House for
25 years, Wheeler Hospital in Gilroy, Hazel Hawkins Hospital, Hollister, CA., Hollister
Sister City of Takino, Japan and Magadon, Russia
• Christmas ornament by Sleznick, representing Pinnacles National Monument, hung on
2007 White House tree. The ornament is in a box, being stored at the Smithsonian.
• Watercolor of Pinnacles National Monument graced the Holiday Cuvee label for ChaloneWinery

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Choosing the RIGHT Career.......by Joyce Oroz

Today I want to share something I recently wrote for "Career Day" soon to be held at the local Junior High and High School.

As an impressionable twelve-year-old, I remember distinctly a "paint-day" with my uncle who was a teacher and professional artist. Using oil paints on canvas, we each painted the same forest scene. Uncle John gave me his finished painting and I gave him mine. I painted passionately for the rest of my life because of that one experience--until I retired and discovered writing. I believe we should expose children to as many career choices as possible. Finding the right calling in life can mean happiness and prosperity.

Writing Your First Novel
By Joyce Oroz

Writing is something you can do between other things such as school or work. Chances are you will not write a popular novel right away. It could happen, but most likely you will have to study and write, work and write, think and write, keep writing and hope that you will be “published” some day.

I don’t mean to sound bleak, but there are millions of “writers” in this world struggling to get their work noticed and published. It does not matter how fast you write, it matters that you are like the turtle—you don’t give up. Anything worthwhile is worth working your fingers to the bone and then some. Writing isn’t “work” if you enjoy doing it.

Write what you know about, your experiences, thoughts, beliefs. If your character is going to the Congo, research the Congo thoroughly. Want to include a fox terrier, research it. Be able to describe its bark, the color and length of its hair, etc. You must be able to convince your readers that they are looking at the thing you describe. Show how the thing looks, smells and runs—make it seem real even if it’s a three-headed toad wearing miss-matched socks.

I have been writing a journal for ten years. Writing about the days events helps me to honor my own life experiences, no matter how minor. Some of those experiences will end up in my mystery stories. Your life experiences are all your own. Draw from them in your writing. The habit of writing for five or ten minutes in a journal every evening will help to form a habit of writing which will carry over to your novels and a lifetime of serious writing. Just think, if you wrote one page a day—every day, you would have a 365-page book in one year. Set realistic goals and follow through.

When you take Creative Writing classes (which I recommend) you will be encouraged to write an outline or a time-line of your story before you begin the first chapter. Most writers do this, but not everyone. It is helpful to know your plot in the very beginning. I wish I could come up with an outline, but the plot doesn’t appear for me until I am halfway through the book. Instead of giving up, I created my own methods.

I write mystery stories in an unconventional way. When I am ready to start a new book, I think up a quirky or unusual murder which usually happens in the first chapter. I spend months and many chapters trying to figure out who, why and how this murder happened.

Example: In the first sentence of the first chapter of my fifth book, my protagonist’s neighbors’ house blows up in the middle of the night. I am only on page 92 and the plot is starting to reveal itself to me. I think I know who murdered the neighbor and why. Of course I can always change my mind. My characters tend to lead me where they want to go.

In my head I am the protagonist searching for clues, wondering what happens next. Usually I set up three or four characters who might be the murderer, dropping clues along the way. At some point, I decide who’s guilty, but Josephine and my readers don’t find out until the end of the book. By that time the plot is clear to me and I can push it to the finish line.

Simple rules for writing an interesting book are:

1. Set realistic goals and follow through.

2. Start the action early so the reader is quickly drawn into the story.

3. Everything you write should push the story forward.

4. Showing what happens is better than telling what happens.

5. Create a good mix of dialogue and narrative.

6. Create characters readers will “love to love” and “love to hate.”

7. Take Creative Writing classes—daytime, evening—whenever you can.

8. Learn to write a perfect query and synopsis.

9. Write about what you know and write, write, write!

If your book is published without doing half a dozen rewrites and your walls are not papered with rejections—you are one-in-a-million! Good Luck!!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Solow recommends "Shaking In Her Flip Flops"

Did Santa give you a Kindle? If you're not afraid to use it--download my latest book, "Shaking In Her Flip Flops," recommended by Solow himself and have a shaking good time! Here is a little preview.......

...... putting it all together—I realized that Inez had piloted a classic Mustang through dozens of redwood branches, narrowly missing their deadly trunks and finally landed in an unsuspecting oak tree with no one around to see her do it. No clapping or bands playing for the little lady who landed her craft like an ace. I looked back over my shoulder toward the road, through a clear path of destruction that ended in a miracle......

Monday, January 23, 2012

Solow writes.......

A basset mind is a terrible waste
I’d rather chase a rabbit
Than Google, cut and paste
Thinking is not my habit
I’d rather run in haste
After that crazy rabbit
The one I almost faced.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Steve Snyder In His Own Words.......presented by Joyce Oroz

Steven W. Snyder is a 59 year-old photographer & printmaker from Aromas, CA. He is an invaluable member of the Aromas Hills Artisans, an outstanding self-taught photographer and an all around nice guy! Steve specializes in giant, colorful canvases of microscopic worlds found in nature such as rocks and ice. He has mastered landscapes, seascapes, Yosemite, oak trees in the mist and so much more.

It is my great privilege to share Steve's story with you today…….while he vacations in Death Valley in the middle of winter! Did I mention how dedicated to photography Steve is? Here is Steve in his own words………

……..my desire is to make large canvas prints that look like detailed paintings. Examples of my work can be seen at the Framer’s Corner in Prunedale and the Dragonfly Gallery in Aromas.
Since I love bold colors, I search for scenes rich with color and contrast. Although much of my photography is of local landscapes such as Point Lobos State Reserve and Big Sur, my most recent work involves microscopic pictures of polished stones (macro landscapes). Most viewers think these macro photographs are abstract paintings.

I purchased my first digital camera in 1997. The digital camera’s instant feedback renewed my interest in photography and allowed me to experiment without worrying about film and developing costs. Upgrading to professional digital cameras and high quality lenses improved picture quality enough to allow for making very large prints.
In 2002, my acquisition of a large format Giclée printer and hours of labor making test prints, resulted in a big canvas print that met my high expectations. With the encouragement of family, friends and co-workers over the next 2 years, I made and displayed many canvas prints and joined Aromas Hills Artisans. I began publicly selling my photos on canvas in September 2002.
Steve Snyder’s work has been displayed in shows like San Juan Bautista Open Studios, Black Sage Gallery, Cherry Bean Coffee shop, Sand City Westend, Bargetto's Winery, Aromas Day, San Juan Bautista Art and Wine and Popular Photography (contest)

Look for Steve's work at the Dragonfly Gallery in Aromas!

Thank you, Steve for sharing your story and your talent with us today!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Kan't Fail Kale......by Joyce Oroz

Don’t bite the hand that feeds you greenery, better known as vegetables. Your Mama pushed them on you, your doctor pushes them and your grocer peddles them. I recently met a new vegetable friend … rather stand-offish, deep green and curly. Turns out—lots of people have run into my friend, kale. In fact, these people have convinced me that I should eat kale for good health. Great. How does one eat Kale? After a bit of experimentation, I came up with a delicious way to prepare this new mineral-packed vegetable. Here is my recipe for Kan’t Fail Kale………makes two servings—double it if you want more.

3 cups leafy kale, chopped
2 cups grated zucchini
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
4 tablespoons grapeseed oil (or olive oil)
1 tablespoon water
Salt to taste

Combine all ingredients in sauce pan, cover and simmer until kale is limp—five to ten minutes.

Kale Basics
In Season: Kale turns sweeter in cold weather, so it's at its best from mid-fall through early spring.
What to Look For: Choose kale with firm, deep-green leaves, avoiding any that are wilted or have yellow spots.
How to Store: Keep kale in the coldest part of your refrigerator, loosely wrapped in a plastic bag. Though it seems like a sturdy vegetable, kale will quickly wilt and turn bitter

Saturday, January 14, 2012

J O Phone Home.....by Joyce Oroz

Remember when phones were expressly used for verbal communication? Wow, I just dated myself. Actually, I can still remember the wooden-box-phone hanging on the wall at my grandfather’s house. It was the phone that didn’t work because years ago Grandpa told the phone company he didn’t want a new-fangled phone so they cut off his service. He left the old phone on the wall, maybe thinking Mr. Bell would be hard up for money someday and hook up his phone again.
There is no time for human nostalgia over phones these days. We barely have time to learn about the various apps and such before it’s time to turn the thing in for a newer model that does twenty more unnecessary things, that is, if you can learn to do them before the next trade-in.
I am obviously speaking from the mature and seasoned adult view. Young people are free to explore all the wonders of a little pocket phone. They use their phones to text, take pictures, check the mail, order pizza, look at life on Mars and even talk on the phone if they wish.
I have to admit I like the phones photo feature and love to share my pictures with you—especially when it’s a picture of my grandson taking a picture.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Crunchy Caraway Kraut....by Joyce Oroz

I recently learned about the health benefits of homemade sauerkraut. And it just happens to be delicious! Luckily I had a daughter and granddaughter to teach me how to make the stuff. We chopped up five cabbages and dumped it all into a plastic bin (slightly bigger than a breadbox). We added one and a half tablespoons of pickling salt and a small handful of caraway seeds. (fennel seeds are good too) We took turns kneading and scrunching handfuls of the mixture for about twenty minutes—until the batch became “watery” and shouted, “Uncle!” We stuffed the mixture into three canning jars—two medium and one large. We pressed down on the cabbage over and over until the liquid rose above the cabbage. A plastic lid was placed directly on the cabbage with a bottle of water weighting it down. A couple hours later we put tops on the jars and waited three days before opening the jars to burp them (open and close the lid to let air out). The jars rested at room temperature (ideal is 67). We sampled our work a week later to see how the kraut tasted. The sauerkraut can take from one week to three weeks to arrive at perfection. Just taste it now and then and when you like it, put the jar in the fridge. It will still be good a year later! It is not only delicious and good for digestion—it’s indestructible!

I am including official instructions in case I forgot something.

Things You'll Need
Mature cabbage heads
Pickling (non-iodized) salt
Large mixing bowl
Table spoon
Large sharp knife
Kraut cutter or Cabbage shredder
Measuring scale
Large plate
Jars of water - weight
Muslin cloth

The Recipe: Sauerkraut is a mixture of 3 Tbs salt and 5# cabbage.
The salt frees cell water from the shredded cabbage leaves. The cell water and the salt forms a brine that aids in fermentation and preservation. Batch size is limited only by krock size!
Remove the cabbage outer leaves. You want a clean firm head. Quarter the cabage. Cut out the core.
Shred the cabbage. This can be done with a sharp knife. Large amounts of cabbage can be quickly shredded.
Weigh the cabbage. (Remember to deduct the weight of the bowl!) Add (3) Tbs of pickling (noniodized) salt for every (5) lbs shredded cabbage. Mix well.
Place salted cabbage in the crock. Pound down thoroughly. You can use your fist, a potato masher, or the end of a baseball bat. Be sure whatever you use is clean. Brine should begin to form as you pound down the shredded cabbage.
Repeat this process until your cabbage is gone or your cabbage is 3" - 4" from the top of the crock. You should now have a layer of brine 1" - 3" deep on the top of your compacted, shredded cabbage.
Press a large clean plate into the top of the cabbage. The plate should be an inch or so smaller than the crock. The idea is to force the cabbage down below the surface of the brine. The brine protects the fermenting cabbage from the air.
Add a weight to the top of the plate to hold it down and keep the cabbage submerged. Any clean heavy object will work. Grandma used a nice smooth stone she kept just for the purpose. We use (4) quart canning jars filled with water.
Cover the top of the crock with muslin cloth to keep it clean. Fermentation will begin in a day or so. Bubbles will form as the cabbage ferments. Skim off any skum that forms every day or two. After 3-4 weeks the bubbles will stop. Your sauerkraut is complete!
Sauerkraut can be stored in the same crock in which it was fermented. This is how the old timers stored sauerkraut. We process ours into canning jars.

Tips & Warnings
· Good sauerkraut starts with good cabbage. Mature, firm, dense, clean heads make the best kraut. Be sure to remove any damaged areas.
· Be sure to use canning or pickling salt. Canning salt does not contain iodine. Iodine can make canned products mushy and discolored.
· Take the time to mix your salt thoroughly with the cabbage to insure uniform distribution.
· Spoilage is rarely a problem if the cabbage is properly submerged below the brine. However, discoloration or mold is an indication of a problem. Discard this material. The remaining material is fine in our experience. (Mold can form on the surface of the brine if you wait too long between skimming.)

Friday, January 6, 2012

Tina Baine's article....

Tina Baine writes a very interesting column for the Santa Cruz Sentinel. She searches out and talks about new and unusual "how to projects." Whether it's painted, taped, glued, sewn, hammered, quilted or knitted, Tina is trying her hand with great success. She especially likes to turn old materials into new useful items. Tina just happens to be a valuable member of the Aromas Hills Artisans. Today I am posting one of her recent articles where she talks about three craft books. I hope you will join her on her blog, tinablaine.blogspot.com and enjoy her colomn in the newspaper. Tina writes......

.......I decided to seek my own artistic inspiration from some unlikely sources. I chose three new books as my point of departure, and created three crafty projects. Here are the books—all of which I highly recommend—and the results:
"The artist is a receptacle for emotions that come from all over the place: from the sky, from the earth, from a scrap of paper, from a passing shape, from a spider's web."—Pablo Picasso

Book #1: PARIS PORTRAITS by Harriet Lane Levy
When she died in 1950, Levy left the San Francisco Museumof Modern Art a trove of art, including La Fille aux YeuxVerts (The Girl with Green Eyes) which she bought fromMatisse in 1908. I used Web images of this painting and severalothers to create Matisse-inspired pendants on Scrabble tilesor in small frames.My favorite movie of 2011 is Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” in which Owen Wilson’s character is magically transported back 100 years to a romanticized Paris where he meets and hangs out with the likes of Picasso, Matisse, Degas, Dali and many other artistic giants of the era. San Francisco native Harriet Lane Levy had her own real-life close encounters with Matisse, Picasso and other legendary artists when she and Alice B. Toklas, joined their friend Sarah Stein in Paris in the summer of 1908. Levy recalls her 2-year Paris adventure in, “Paris Portraits: Stories of Picasso, Matisse, Gertrude Stein, and Their Circle,” a beautiful little memoir that has not been published in its entirety until now. In it, she recalls the eccentricities of her Paris friends, her regret at not buying a $50 Picasso from Sarah Stein, and learning to love modern art—Henri Matisse’s paintings in particular. Like Woody Allen’s movie, “Paris Portraits” is an enchanted portal to a time of unequaled charm and luminosity.

Project #1: An audacious pendant
When Harriet Lane Levy died in 1950, she left the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art a trove of art, including “La Fille aux Yeux Verts” (The Girl with Green Eyes) which, when her friends declined it, she bought from Matisse in 1908 while in Paris. Like Harriet Levy, I didn’t initially take to Matisse’s modernist style; but the joyous, audacious color in his portraits of women gradually won me over. So, I made pendants using printed images from Matisse and Matisse-inspired paintings, reduced to a size tiny enough to fit on the back of a Scrabble tile. There are several websites and YouTube tutorials that show you how. Just Google “Scrabble tile pendant” or “resin jewelry” for instructions.
"The torpid artist seeks inspiration at any cost, by virtue or by vice, by friend or by fiend, by prayer or by wine."--Ralph Waldo Emerson

Book #2: JUST MY TYPE: A BOOK ABOUT FONTS by Simon Garfield
Simon Garfield likes to tackle topics that make people wrinkle up their nose and ask, “How could that be a good book?” Among other historical topics, he’s written about postage stamp collecting and the color mauve. Reading his latest book “Just My Type: A Book About Fonts,” I found myself unexpectedly absorbed in the history and evolution of the ampersand, the controversial switch by Ikea from Futura to Verdana, and a typeface called Gotham, that has been embraced by both President Obama and Sarah Palin. Fonts carry a wide range of subliminal messages that go way beyond mere words, and Garfield has wisely included lots of visual examples to demonstrate the subtle powers of type.
“Retrofonts” by Gregory Stawinski is a good follow-up that allows you to simply bask in the lovely inventiveness of over 400 classic 19th and 20th century fonts. It includes a CD with 222 featured fonts, although many of these can be downloaded for free from the internet.

Book #3: TRASH ORIGAMI: 25 PAPER FOLDING PROJECTS REUSING EVERYDAY MATERIALS by Michael G. LaFosse and Richard Alexander. Origami can be complex and intimidating at times, but the projects in this book are refreshingly simple and practical. The authors show you how to make useful objects such as boxes, checkers sets, photo cubes, bowls and envelopes out of found papers. At a time of year when calendars, catalogs, gift wrap and greeting cards are quickly filling up your recycling bin, Trash Origami offers these paper products—and just about any other kind of waste paper—a great second life.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Will Solow's party ever end?.....by Joyce Oroz

Just because Solow is still celebrating the new year, doesn’t mean we should be happily looking forward to 2012 with no regrets. Josephine is still stressing over the mistakes she made in 2003. True, she doesn’t always make the best choices, but she spends a good deal of time worrying over them later.
Josephine loves to read Winnie the Pooh stories to Solow, who understands Pooh’s message. Pooh exhibits less stress and more trust, less struggle and more giggle, less strife and more friendship, less worry and better sleep. Josephine read the stories, but Solow “got it.” So, party on, Solow, and have a very happy new year.
If you are wondering about the mistakes Josephine makes, just read a copy of “Secure the Ranch” or “Read My Lipstick” or “Shaking In Her Flip Flops,” by Joyce oroz