Sunday, October 9, 2011


Tashlish is a part of the Days of Awe. It is a short, sweet ceremony which most traditionally is done after services on the first day of Rosh HaShana. One goes, usually with other people, to living water such as a river or stream and names sins one is repentent of while throwing small bits of bread into the water. Usually the bread will be bits of challah, that most beloved of Shabbat and Yom Tov (good day/holiday) meals. I have usually participated in this ceremony with people from my congregation shortly after services end.

For some reason this fall, there has been a very present part of me which has needed to be in the country alone. The same was true throughout the holidays. On the first day, I did not participate. On the second day, the congregation was doing it again; someone commented that, while it was traditionally done the first day, Tashlish can also be done any of the 8 Days of Awe.

That clinched it for me. I gathered a bit of challah and set out for the moraine. Of course, it started raining. I eventually gave up the idea of making Tashlish that day as it was too wet for much wandering. It did make for some good photography, though.

That was a Friday. That Sunday, a gorgeous day, I went back with the intent of performing the ceremony while out. I forgot the challah. I stopped for a hot dog at one point and decided to save a bit of the bun for that. Of course, I was on auto-pilot and snapped the last bit of bun into my mouth. I'm faced with buying another sandwich, a loaf of bread or something to complete the ceremony with.

Later I stop again and review my choice of breads. Somehow it seems wrong to perform tashlish with Wonder Bread, I don't find a traditional bread/roll to use. I end up buying a lovely loaf of chocolate almond pumpkin bread.

I drive around until I'm tired and in pain. Whenever I stop, I cannot get close enough to the water to ensure I can toss the bread successfully into the stream, the water appears stagnant or is covered with weeds.

Eventually I drive back into the city. I drive around some more. Finally, I end up in a park. I name my sins and toss a few bits of bread. The ducks and geese immediately start to head in my direction and stop, confused, after I quit tossing these very few small bits.

Did I wander from a strictly traditional way of performing this ceremony? Definitely. And yet, I think I was the most honest with myself and felt more regret than I have when doing it with others in the past. I'm just that masked in the presence of others. Did G!d mind? I doubt it.

One ideas, two expressions

I am trying to do some redecorating and freshening up of my apartment without spending a lot of money. In the living room, I am using a rose, chocolate brown/burnt umber and cream theme. Without thinking of what I have in storage, I began to do some art for the walls.

I have been incorporating more recycled materials into my work and have made several substrate by collaging pattern pieces, book pages and other material. I have lightly gessoed on some and left some plain. For the top image i used one of those. I first covered that substrate with various colors: ultramarine, burnt umber, greens. They were very dark and intense, so after they dried, I laid down mulberry paper and washed it with a very light coating of white watercolor. This set the basic colors at the right saturation. While working wet, I then began painting the flowers in various colors of rose and crinsom while using a spring green on the stems/leaves. I did this several times, letting layers of colors dry inbetween. Since I moistened the paper for the initial painting in, the colors spread, making a dreamy image. They were then clarified with drybrush layers of colors. The yellow in the center was the last accomplished step. I think I need to add in some stamens.

Although there are 4 flowers, I think the composition is still interesting since one is a bud and at a very short height in comparison to the rest.

The second piece is done in a similar way. However, the substrate is a piece of white watercolor paper washed with ultramarine, burnt umber, spring green and permanent green. The same roses are used for the flowers. Then a layer of rice paper was added and the color layered in a wet fashion before the drybrush to clarify the images. If I work in my normal fashion, there would be at least one more layer of paper and color. At this point, I may add more washes of color over each other as well as do some more detail at the center of the open flowers.

The first one feels more organic and the color is richer as it already has more layers of colors than the second one. The second one has the benefit of being much 'cleaner looking' with less layers. The image is more distinct overall. I know which one I am drawn to more; how about you?

Elul: the bright blessed day

This is the last of this project I finished during Elul and the first part of the Yamim Nora'im (High Holidays); while there is certainly more to the song, those images involve faces and I definitely need to practice my faces on the muslin--and in general--before I can finish the whole song.

These I will string with the lyrics incorporated. I think they will be great Sukkot decorations, as that is a time when we celebrate the harvest and G!d's bounty.

Monday, September 19, 2011

process flag

In this little flag, I laid down colors as I do in my rice paper collages. Something about coating the back of the fabric with acrylic gel medium allows me to have multiple layers of colors without the paper layers; I find myself getting the same layers and blending effects as I do with the collages.

elul: red roses, too

I still am learning how to handle representational art containing recognizable images with the rice paper collage watercolors. If you look at the sky bordering the rose, you can see that the red bled into the sky. It was too much to really be able to cover adequately when using transparent medium. I will probalby try this again at a later date to work on that and on volume in the internal petals of the rose...

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Pomegranate collage

A collage of pre-colored rice paper over sheet music. The pomegranate was created with more of dry brush technique than I usually use, which does make creating the image easier. Instead of layers of rice paper, I could layer the colors directly over each other when the paint is dryer. I am not sure if this little piece is finished yet...

The pomegranate is a symbol, and symbolic food, for Rosh Hashana

Elul: the rainbows in the sky

The rainbow in the rice paper collage provided a different challenge than 'green trees'; in this case, the color saturated really well and were almost too bright when I laid down the first coat of paint with 6 shades. I had to try to provide more variance and less intensity of color to have this painting fit the series. I did that in two ways; in the final layer of color, I added more shades of each primary color inthe rainbow stripes. And I left the last paper layer plain rather than painting on it to help lighten the coors a bit more. I did try using some white for clouds as well, not only to mute the colors, but to remind us that even the vision of rainbows can be muted by the clouds in our life.

Elul: trees of green

No matter how long you work with a technique, occasionally it does not go as plan. I did two of the rice paper collages (top pic) as I was not satisfied with the first one. When working non-representationally, as in my first post, I can lay the colors down any way I like and I can work as many layers as I like. I am finding this to be less true when trying to create an image.

The second time, I laid down the same colors on two layers. Then, without adding another layer of paper, I put in the other colors in to create more depth and texture. This helped bring out each individual tree better; all that green laid over each other at random tending to cause the image to lose definition.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Elul: skies of blue, clouds of white

Usually in watercolor, white is 'created' by not painting over an area on the paper or by scraping the paper to remove the paint in a certain area. The rice paper collage process does not allow for white to appear due to all the layers and my very wet painting process which allows colors to bleed in many different ways. However, for this piece, I could not figure out any other way to achieve clouds without using white. I am more pleased than I expected to be.

Thursday, September 8, 2011


Sometimes, there are pretty scraps left over from the rice paper collages. What to do? What to do?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


I've always loved to take a few things I've gathered and collage/assemble/arrange them. Here is one using several paper cranes from my bat mitzvah. The background is a page from a book with pattern piece collaged onto it. Then I very lightly brushed some gesso over it before applying the cranes.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Elul: the dark sacred night

Elul is the Hebrew month preceding Rosh haShana, the Jewish New Year. It is a time of preparation for the Yamim Nora'im, or Days of Awe. During this month, many people will try to atone with family, friends and others as well as contemplate what the upcoming holidays mean.

Rosh haShana is the birthday of the world, or the 8th day of Creation, when all was completed and G!d already had a chance to rest. This is a favorite idea of mine to contemplate. It gives Elul a special flavor of creativity and fertility.

In a second line of consideration, Judaism considers the world with all it's wonders to be the best and ultimate proof that G!d exists.

This month, to contemplate this, I am trying to visually interpret the lyrics of Louis Armstrong's song 'What a Wonderful World'. I love this song and it was part of my bat mitzvah last summer. Here are interpretations of the line 'the dark sacred night'. In order to reflect the wonder and awesomeness of night, I tried to capture a little feeling of the northern lights.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Primary Process

Since the mid 1990s, my primary process had been watercolor rice paper collaging. I paint between each layer and can achieve a subtle variance of colors and shading as a result. The work tends to be non-representational and represents a deep, intuitive, non-verbal part of myself.

Another Blog?

This is officially my fourth blog; I started with 'Live In The Layers' on WLS (now uploaded on wordpress). I have 'The Examined Life', which while helpful in some ways, failed to capture the joy of my life. Of course, there is HRH's blog, which is pure fun....isn't that the usual way with alternate worlds?

Blogger opened several new virtual worlds to me, including the many catblogs and blogs by artists; I only wish I could find more with openly Jewish content. So why this one? Because I'm finally getting brave enough to share more of my artwork than my photography. Because I want to be out in the world more that way. Because my artwork is probably the purest expression of my contact with G!d. Sometimes, as in my watercolor/rice paper collages, my work expresses internal process and contact. Other times, as in my photography, I'm reflecting the glory of G!d's world; in Judaism, the clearest and most obvious proof of G!d's existence. Some work straddles both experiences.

I've never written an artist's statement before; will probably amend or addend to it in the time to come. The first work I will feature here will also be submitted to 'The Prayer Flag Project'. My camera's batteries are dead, so I will have to wait until I replace those before going any further today.