Wednesday, July 15, 2009

National Steinbeck Center :: Margo Mullen

Ahh, yes, as you have all seen I have taken a small blogging break. Well, 'Welcome Back!' I say and now back to our regularly scheduled blog.

For the past few months I have been knee deep in wax, sun, and learning experiences. In one of my prior posts I discuss about my living transformation, this event called 'change' and how I need to learn how to just keep working. Well I do. I keep working. I keep creating. I keep learning. One of my new tasks was to learn how to set up an outside studio with what I had available. My regular set up would no longer be sufficient as I have moved my encaustic work in a larger direction. I have moved from working 18x24" which was the largest at the time, to working 2x4' that means, a larger table. O that ALSO means larger pots of pigmented wax, it also means, more bees wax, and more damar, and more patience, time, and energy. As I am working outside, on a slight hill, the tables and I play a dancing game about every three days... ok, this is level...zoooooom! A pot of wax makes a break for it, he jumps off the hot palette. His waxy butt takes a nice slide down the table, KA-BOM, onto my drop cloth. Sigh. I let the wax cool and scrap off what I could to save my wax, my nicely pigmented wax I worked so hard to get to the correct hue. So, I move the tables again, and again. I believe I move them a few more times. I actually moved them two days ago and Im sure I will move them more. I like dancing anyways.

Alright, Let's move on to more important things like, Art. O Art, how I love him. This, my friends, is my true love Art, he is amazing and is quite the water boy! He loves the Monterey Bay Kelp Forest too! He is always there for me when I need him and right now I need him to be my backbone for a little bit.

Ok, lets get the rest of this studio together and get workin'

Well with the studio set up and ready for creations it was time to dive into the land and get inspired inside and outside my home.

A studio, is a studio, is a studio. Different types of studios have different rules. Being originally from Sacramento which is home to 100 plus degree weather in the summer, I tend to believe it never gets hot here near the coast. Well, I don't think that any longer. Nor do I forget any of my works in progress and prototypes outside. Rule Number 3.

During my process of figuring out what I need and how to setup I discuss with local artists about outside studios and working large in this medium. I come to discover my lack of power. I was all ready to roll. I had my power cords, heat gun, heating mat, electrical wok, my hot palette, and my fire extinguisher. So away I went.Turn that on and this on, 180 degrees this, bees wax that, turn that on, OK, that's on, that's on, that's on, and here I go! Within about 1 minute everything shut off. 'Crap' I think to myself. So I walk over to find the circuit breaker, flip the switch, OK, lets try again, maybe it is just a minor malfunction. After I turn everything off, flip the switch I go back and turn everything on again and start it back up. Unfortunately I find out I was going to have to toggle between 2 outlets. So I have to pick and choose my tools carefully. So now I am at a point where I feel like I am playing PLINKO on the Price is Right. I decide to go with the electrical wok for my medium and, well, the hot palette. So I bust out my torch and use those three tools for the majority of the work. I also change my hot palette. As seen below. During my inside studio days I would use my long and temperature controlled hot palette. Once I moved outside, I soon realized this would not work for me. When the wind blew, the wax would be too cool to lay down on my panel. So I invested in a smaller hot palette that did not have a temperature control on it so when the wind blew or the sun was not out I was able to keep working while my face and fingers could feel the cool breeze, my wax did not. Having been mostly an indoor artist, unless working on outside murals, I use to have the habit to leave the studio with my supplies out. This is no longer a practice of mine. I am more conscience of where my supplies go and how I organize them. I set up and heat up, work, cool down, and pack up and organize.

Well, the title of this post is National Steinbeck Center (NSC) :: Margo Mullen, so as you have seen the Octopi Collective worked with the Steinbeck Center and had a two weekend workshop. The Octopi had a workshop that taught children how to create their very own hand made illuminated manuscripts. This is all in preparation for the Steinbeck Festival (which spans four days) and the Octopi's exhibition at the NSC with the theme of one of Steinbeck's books, "The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights". This is a big event for the Octopi. We are the first group of artists that will be showing in the large gallery that do not have MFAs. J.R. Uretsky will however be leaving the day after the opening reception to UCONN to obtain her MFA in Studio Arts. In between the workshop, reading, eating, sleeping, I was painting on average 10 to 12 hours a day. I have documented the whole process of this work and will be showing the process a few days after the opening reception.

I am a painter who loves to work large. Working with movement and strokes that are as large as I am, gives me great pleasure. Although I am 5' 9" and my panels are 2x4', the whole body of work spans 12x6'. Working with six panels to create one larger visual image is very different than painting a mural on a 100'x16' wall. As different as it may be I still utilize a similar thought process and work ethic while creating a large scale piece. The work must look great from far away but it must also keep the eye interested while looking at the work up close. This large scale encaustic work was created with the NSC and the book of Steinbeck's specifically in mind.

During my creative process I thought about the characters of the book and the interactions they have in the forest. My inspiration for this work comes from the setting of the forest. Just prior to physically creating this specific body of work I moved to the summit of Laureles Grade. The drastic living change took me from living in a crowded apartment complex and creating work in a kitchen to rolling hills, a view of Castle Rock, and an outside studio. This particular body of work was created in Steinbeck Country. I share my studio with the quails, deer, bugs, bees, and the occasional rabbit and mouse. Instead of listening to sirens and people talking, I now listen to the sound of the tall grass dancing in the wind while the horses in the distance prance and neigh. There are no words for me to describe what a transformation I as a person and a fine artist have been going through. It is such an amazing experience to be able to live where I do and to have read Steinbeck's book to inspire this body of work. Every night I go for a walk in the forest area. I watch the light change as the sun goes down. The sun sets behind me and I see the change of color and the many shades that are cast on the mountain and forest. My body clock has changed, I rise with the sun and set with it as well. There is no greater joy then waking up with the sun to watch it rise from the mountain tops and be in complete awe of the fog lingering in the canyon watching the early morning light dance with the forest and play with the fog. I have completely immersed myself in these surroundings often times on my walks I imagine that I might come across an errant knight who is adventuring. As I read the book I pay very close attention to the specific color palette Steinbeck describes. Many stories and much of the action that happens in the book, happens in the forest and so does my painting.

The opening reception for the exhibition is on Friday, August 7th from 6-8pm at the National Steinbeck Center located on Main Street. This is my second showing at a museum. I am excited to show you all the work and can hardly wait to see you there.

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