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musings from the studio and beyond ~

dawn chandler’s reflections on art and life. . . .

 

“the wood I use houses pain, as do I, as we all do”

In deepest Wisconsin winter, on a bitterly cold day in the middle of February, on the seventh floor of a massive concrete building in the middle of a busy city block, I walked through a wispy, ethereal forest.

700 trees planted neatly in seven rows. Or rather 700 trees suspended neatly in seven rows.


The arborist is my nephew, Ian VanDeventer Chandler — “Ian Van D.” The forest is his breathtaking graduate thesis project.

You know what a rubbing is, right? It’s where are you take a thin piece of paper, place it on a textured surface and then rub graphite, charcoal or a crayon on the paper to capture an impression of the texture underneath. It’s a fun, cool thing to do with things like tombstones or manhole covers. Or, in the case of my nephew, an eight-foot walnut board.

In a Herculean effort, he took a roll of tissue paper and chunks of graphite and rubbed 700 impressions of that walnut board.

Then he took 700 clippings of twine, tied each into a loop about a foot in diameter, and attached the top of each tissue paper rubbing to a loop of twine. Then he suspended the 700 paper rubbings from a grid of rope 8 1/2 feet above the floor.

And created a forest unlike any other I have known. Yet also created a arboretum that feels utterly familiar to me. A moving, ghostly gossamer forest of paper, graphite, twine and heart.

Detail of N 700 Scarecrow County art installation by artist Ian VanDeventer Chandler. Photo by artist Dawn Chandler.
Detail of N 700 Scarecrow County art installation by artist Ian VanDeventer Chandler. Photo by artist Dawn Chandler.
Detail of N 700 Scarecrow County art installation by artist Ian VanDeventer Chandler. Photo by artist Dawn Chandler.
Ian VanDeventer Chandler's artist statement for N. 700 Scarecrow County.

If you are unable to view the embedded videos, try viewing this page in a different browser,
or view the videos individually via these links directly on Vimeo: Ian’s Forest 01 & Ian’s Forest 02

The artist glimpsed through paper trees of N 700 Scarecrow County art installation by artist Ian VanDeventer Chandler. Photo by artist Dawn Chandler.
N 700 Scarecrow County art installation by artist Ian VanDeventer Chandler. Photo by artist Dawn Chandler.

Artist Dawn Chandler in her Santa Fe studio.

Thank you for being here and reading my musings. If you appreciated this post and would like to read more, I invite you to subscribe to this, my blog.

Meanwhile, find more of my stories, insights and art here on my website, www.taosdawn.com. Shop my art via my Etsy shop. And please consider joining me for Tuesday Dawnings, my weekly deep breath of uplift, insight, contemplation & creativity. You can find other ways to keep tabs on me here.

Stay safe. Be kind.

Peace on Earth.

~ Dawn Chandler

Santa Fe , New Mexico
Free from social media since 2020

another cup of tea

close up of steaming tea in a ceramic vessel. photo by artist dawn chandler.

I get to….
fix myself hot tea
hold a steaming mug in my hands
pull a wool shawl around my shoulders
shift my weight in my cozy chair
sip and gaze out my window
unbroken by bullets

I get to
step into the shower
turn on the water
adjust the temperature
let hot water lavish my body
as I lather with lavender

I get to
squeeze toothpaste
brush and floss my teeth
rinse my mouth with cool, refreshing water

I get to
make my bed, smooth flannel sheets, fluff my pillows
choose my clothes, change my socks, put on shoes
decide on earrings

I get to
spritz my paints
dip my brush into yellow, into blue
paint a little heart, then another, and another

I get to
write morning pages
jot a haiku

I get to
turn the page

I get to
turn on the news
I get to
turn off the news

I get to
make a list
rearrange my list, cross things off, add more, scribble little stars and notes

I get to
pay my bills, pay my taxes, order needs, order wants, order gifts

I get to
unwrap packages, fold up boxes, take out the trash

I get to
pull thyme from my cabinet
chop onion, garlic, celery, carrot

I get to
hum a carefree tune, stir the soup, ladle into bowls
wipe my lips with a clean napkin

I get to
misplace my keys
I get to
find them again

I get to
walk out my door,
lock it securely behind me
scatter seed on the ground
be distracted by three ravens
watch them crow and call and dance and soar

I get to
notice tiny purple crocuses popping up shyly from brown earth
listen to birdsong, to finches, to robins

I get to
walk down the lane
pause at the elm tree, admire curving branches, tiny green buds

I get to
pause at the rock wall, wonder how long till the orange roses start to come in
the iris
the lilac

I get to
cross the street
wind my way along the path
stroll across the bridge
with easy confidence, roam
without fear
of being shot down
left to lie and die there,
a crumbled mass of denim, pink nylon, down,
flesh and bone
pooling in blood
with three other bodies — two
children
and a family friend

I get to return home
I get to write these words
I get to breathe
I get to live

I get to make myself another cup of tea

tea in a ceramic vessel with images of cranes. photo by artist dawn chandler.

Artist Dawn Chandler in her Santa Fe studio.

Thank you for being here and reading my musings. If you appreciated this post and would like to read more, I invite you to subscribe to this, my blog.

Meanwhile, find more of my stories, insights and art here on my website, www.taosdawn.com. Shop my art via my Etsy shop. And please consider joining me for Tuesday Dawnings, my weekly deep breath of uplift, insight, contemplation & creativity. You can find other ways to keep tabs on me here.

Stay safe. Be kind.

Peace on Earth.

~ Dawn Chandler


Santa Fe , New Mexico
Free from social media since 2020

enchanted color and a small bit of wondrous truth

Hand-painted color swatches specially painted by Dawn Chandler for her Enchanted Color Art Experience at Bishop's Lodge in Santa Fe.

To view this post with its intended layout flow, view it on the website via your browser.

This is the fourth installment of a four-part series on my creation of my Enchanted Color Art Experience for Bishop’s Lodge Resort in Santa Fe.


Now the challenge was to create my own color-centric collage papers.

Somewhere in my research I learned that newsprint — the unprinted off-white paper used for newspapers and packing material — cuts and pastes really well. It also takes acrylic paint beautifully.

I started with green. It’s impossible for a painter to have a favorite color; I love them all. But if I were pressed by the Keeper of the Bridge of Death to choose my favorite color, it would have to be green. The color of forests, of trees.

A dozen sheets of forest green. Then a dozen more of bright sun-dappled light green. I mixed cerulean with viridian and cream and yellow: fifteen sheets of sage.

Next came blue: Horizon blue. Midnight blue. Ultramarine, phthalo. Back-and-forth with my paint brush across my work table pushing colors of clouds… horizons… Sky.

Earth colors next: Burnt sienna. Transitions of tan into orange. Hints of rose. Colors of adobe.

Mixing acrylic paint for hand-painted papers.

Yellow for daffodils and forsythia. Springtime. Purple for lilac and desert shadows.

Deepest red of apples, cherries…willow…blood. Dark grey for rain, for sorrow, for cozy wool slippers. Magenta for hyacinth. Teal — my mother’s favorite.

Soon my studio became a jungle of colorful papers. Hundreds of sheets of 16″ x 20″ hand-painted papers.
Eventually these would be torn into much smaller swatches.

Dawn Chandler's studio as freshly painted papers lie on racks to dry.
Stacks and piles of hand-painted papers in Dawn Chandler's studio.


The swatches were then stacked and divided into packets of several dozen colors each. The packets are distributed to my guests — my students — as we set out to explore color. Added to these packets are an array of other papers I’ve painted, multi-colored and various in visual texture.

Multi-colored hand-painted papers collage projects in Dawn Chandler's Enchanted Color Art Experience at Bishop's Lodge in Santa Fe.

Key among the exercises my guests and I do together is noting how colors interact with each other; how colors change. It’s a small bit of a wondrous Truth that has fueled and delighted my eyes all my life as a painter: Color is relative. Meaning it changes depending on what’s next to it, and what kind of light or shadow it’s seen under.
We’ll also notice the ways color has touched each of our lives personally, how we each carry within us an autobiography of color. to celebrate this, we’ll each fill a little book with these exercises — our own “color journal.”
And — close to my heart — we’ll consider the colors of landscape, how light and distance effect color. We’ll especially note the colors of New Mexico; the enchanting colors of the Land of Enchantment.

Maybe most important of all? We’ll be reminded that skill and experience aren’t necessary for creating art: all it takes sometimes is a bit of glue and few tiny pieces of paper.

And time, of course. Pausing in the midst of our busy lives and just doing it. Simply beginning.
Just as I’ve done these cold mornings away from home, by carving out a few moments away from distraction and filling myself with the warmth of creativity in gluing tiny bits of paper.

Sketchbook musing: Collage evoking birch trees in snow and a red cardinal, by artist Dawn Chandler

This is the fourth installment of a four-part series on my creation of my Enchanted Color Art Experience for Bishop’s Lodge Resort in Santa Fe.
I: how to teach your passion?
II: have art, will travel
III:
tiny little pieces

Some of the colorful materials used in Dawn Chandler's Enchanted Color Art Experience at Bishop's Lodge in Santa Fe.

Special thanks to the many friends who offered guidance, insight and encouragement as I developed Enchanted Color. Key among them: Joan Fullerton, Heather Snyder, Lisa Pounders, Ginnie Cappaert, Alexandra Merlino, Kathryn Wyatt, Cecilia Ciepiela-Kaelin and, of course, My Good Man. ❤️


Thank you for being here and reading my musings. If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, I invite you to subscribe to this, my blog.

Meanwhile, find more of my stories, insights and art here on my website, www.taosdawn.com. Shop my art via my Etsy shop. And please consider joining me for Tuesday Dawnings, my weekly deep breath of uplift, insight, contemplation & creativity. You can find other ways to keep tabs on me here.

Stay safe. Be kind.

~ Dawn Chandler


Santa Fe , New Mexico
Free from social media since 2020

Pictured left: One of my favorite of my early collages made entirely of magazine cut-outs.

tiny little pieces


To view this post with its intended layout flow, view it on the website via your browser.


Early collage by Dawn Chandler made with early 20th-century bookbinding, dried teabag paper, 19th-century print, 19th-century signature, magazine clippings.

What amuses me about my little travel art kit quandary mentioned previously is that it was nearly identical to the quandary that kept me awake for nights on end a year ago. That’s when I was trying to figure out how to create an art experience focused on color for the guests of Bishop’s Lodge. What I sought then was a transportable, non-messy medium with an enticing array colors, that is easy-to use, and requires minimal prep and clean-up. Yet none of my “usual” art mediums — oils, acrylics, watercolors, crayons, colored pencils, pastels — met the criteria. Hence my insomnia: What to use? Mind you “insomnia” isn’t hyperbole here; I really was losing sleep over this.

Until I remembered collage.

Collage — the cutting, arranging and gluing of papers and other materials — has been around for centuries (think 17th-century herbariums and 19th-century scrapbooks). Yet it wasn’t recognized as a “real” art form (at least not by the “art establishment”) until the early 20th century. That’s when George Braques and Pablo Picasso began cutting and gluing cubists compositions with miscellaneous papers lying around their homes.

Below, collage through the ages:

Seventy years later, collage was the means through which I began to really learn about color. It was also my gateway into abstraction. Like those early Cubists, my first collages were made with papers I found lying around my environs. What artistic fodder I found in art school trash bins, secondhand stores, and sidewalks! Newspapers, magazines, old letters and used books, calendars, fabric swatches, wall paper, old photos, wine bottle labels, dried teabag papers and more were my medium. If I could glue it I could use it. My studio overflowed with baskets of found papers as I filled tiny books with my collage creations. My final graduate thesis project was the month of February in collage: Twenty-eight collages presented in 24” x 24” frames in a huge calendar grid on the wall.

Below, among my early explorations in collage, c. 1992 – 94. All of these are just a few inches in scale. From top: Evoking landscape with magazine clippings; collage of brown paper, fabric, 19th-century envelope, etching; collage made with early 20th-century bookbinding, dried teabag paper, 19th-century print, 19th-century signature, clippings from fine art calendars. Also, the image at the top of this post is one of mine made with found papers, including floral wrapping paper and a teabag.

One of Dawn Chandler's early collages evoking landscape, made with magazine clippings, 1992.
Early collage by artist Dawn Chandler made with brown paper, fabric, 19th-century envelope, etching.
Early collage by Dawn Chandler made with found papers including wallpaper and a teabag.

Even now as I paint I approach my canvases (the semi-abstract ones, at least) with a collagist’s eye, as I merge dissimilar elements into a cohesive, lyric composition.

But collaging found papers (papier-trouvé to use the lyrical French term) remains a foundational and much loved form of artistic expression for me.

Yet I knew that for teaching a class in color, using papier-trouvé would not work well; there’s just no continuity to them. I considered pre-packaged bundles of “Collage Papers” sold in art stores, but they, too, lack continuity and consistency. I needed papers of identical texture and sheen, easy to handle without being too fragile, that can take glue well. AND they have to come in a wide range of rich colors.
I couldn’t find anything that matched my criteria.

🤔

Then I hit upon an idea:

Make my own.

This is the third installment of a four-part series on my creation of the Enchanted Color Art Experience for Bishop’s Lodge Resort in Santa Fe.
Read the earlier installments:
I: how to teach your passion?
II: have art, will travel
iv: enchanted color and a small bit of wondrous truth


Thank you for being here and reading my musings. If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, I invite you to subscribe to this, my blog.

Meanwhile, find more of my stories, insights and art here on my website, www.taosdawn.com. Shop my art via my Etsy shop. And please consider joining me for Tuesday Dawnings, my weekly deep breath of uplift, insight, contemplation & creativity. You can find other ways to keep tabs on me here.

Stay safe. Be kind.

~ Dawn Chandler


Santa Fe , New Mexico
Free from social media since 2020

Pictured left: One of my favorite of my early collages made entirely of magazine cut-outs.

have art, will travel

Wrapped in a wool blanket, I take a sip of warming tea. I look out the window and take a deep, satisfied breath as I study a tangle of black branches etched against a frosty golden sky. The falling snow is so fine I can barely make out the individual flakes sifting down, hazing the sunrise into a sort of peach-tinged arctic fog. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. Is this an effect of the lake nearby lake on the light? I wonder.

I check the temperature: 3°. Twenty-two degrees colder than my home 1000+ miles southwest of here. I pull my blanket in a bit closer around me, take another sip of tea, and turn to my writing desk. Dozens of colorful papers are scattered across the surface, inviting my consideration. I gaze over them, my eyes pausing here and there as I make a mental survey.

A selection of Dawn Chandler's colorful hand-painted papers for collage.
A simple winter landscape made with hand-painted paper collage. Artist Dawn Chandler.

Then my fingers begin to move. I find a piece of paper painted first with yellow, then soft orange over it; it glows warm peach. One edge is torn exposing a white band of the paper’s pure white base. I turn the roughly square-shape paper so that the torn edge is on the bottom, and suddenly that torn white edge conjures a horizon line of snow-white mountains.

My eyes search the other colors scattered across my desk and narrow in on another — this one painted cool blue, with a wash of white across the surface, then a smattering of random grey speckles. It looks like winter rain or snow. My fingers pluck the color from the array and place it underneath the glowing peach color. A landscape emerges: Sunrise glow over an iced-over lake, with snow-covered hills in the distance. Taking a glue stick in hand, I turn over each paper bit, apply glue, then arrange and paste them in my journal.

In a moment I find another piece of warm peach-colored paper. This, too, has a torn edge.
My eye searches, then delights on a slate-blue color tinged with brushstrokes of gold. I arrange them into another composition, another landscape with a gold sunrise sky, distant snow-covered mountains, and a foreground of icy shadow-blue water dotted with gold reeds.

A simple winter landscape made with hand-painted paper collage. Artist Dawn Chandler.
Detail of a hand-painted paper collage. Artist Dawn Chandler.

With these hand-painted pieces of paper and glue, I’ve just created in my journal tiny winter landscapes. They’re not masterpieces, nor are they intended to be. They’re simple and a little coarse with their torn edges. Yet to my eye there’s an elegance in their understatement. They make me smile; I feel the warmth of satisfaction in making art.

What I’ve done is I’ve “painted” just now without using a brush or paints. Instead I’ve used paper and glue: I’ve made collages.

Whenever I travel my Muse requires that I pack some means to make art, ideally something with color. But for this trip, limited to carry-on bags, I was uncertain what to bring. I didn’t want TSA to confiscate my pricey watercolors. While that seemed unlikely, the risk was too great. Besides, my current watercolor set-up is a bit bulky for my limited baggage options; same with colored pencils.
Then it occurred to me: Collage.

In the midst of packing I ran into my studio, opened storage boxes and filled an envelop with dozens of pieces of colored papers. I added a large glue-stick and Voila. I had my traveling art kit.

Now, a couple days into my weekend getaway to the upper Midwest, I’ve spent several hours in the warm blissful flow of creation, as I’ve filled pages of my journal with colorful conjurings of winter.

The title of this post hearkens back to my father’s favorite TV show. The title is the only thing this post shares in common with the show!

This is the second installment of a four-part series on my creation of my Enchanted Color Art Experience for Bishop’s Lodge Resort in Santa Fe.

Read the earlier installments:
i: how to teach your passion?
ii: have art, will travel
iii: tiny little pieces
iv: enchanted color and a small bit of wondrous truth


Artist Dawn Chandler in her Santa Fe studio.

Thank you for being here and reading my musings. If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, I invite you to subscribe to this, my blog.

Meanwhile, find more of my stories, insights and art here on my website, www.taosdawn.com. Peruse and shop for my art via my Etsy shop. And please consider joining me for Tuesday Dawnings, my weekly deep breath of uplift, insight, contemplation & creativity. Find other ways to keep tabs on me here.

Stay safe. Be kind.

~ Dawn Chandler
Santa Fe , New Mexico
Free from social media since 2020