Mixed Media

Cliff Gifts Series: Western Offering, 12X24X2inches on a cradled panel

What medium to call this image? Is it a collage? Is it an assemblage? Added to the surface of a watermedia* painting is a folded paper envelope, which would put it somewhat into the “collage” category. But also added to the surface are a stick and a twig with painted cotton string wrappings, clay and glass beads and a metal disk which could tip it into the category of “assemblage.” Generally I prefer not to use the term “mixed media” because it is so all-inclusive and can mean just about anything from paint and fabric to clay with embellishments.
Actually using anything to get to the expression I want to depict is my favorite way of working. I don’t like to be limited to a “watercolor painting” or an “acrylic painting” or even to “collage ” which is closer to my way of creating. I want to be free of labels. But I must say I love words and I do indeed give much consideration to my titles, searching my mind as I work as to what “name” the image needs. (By the way, “The Cliff Gifts Series” now contains over 100 images.)
I don’t have a “Mixed Media” page here on this website for reasons mentioned above. That leaves me in a quandary of where to post such images as the one above. I’ve put it on the “Paintings” page. Where do you think it belongs?
*”watermedia” is a term used for acrylics(used much like watercolors), watercolors, goache and other media using water as the medium for mixing.


Wind, wind, WIND……….a gale has been blowing all through the night and forecasters say it will continue throughout today and again tonight. The Soleri sandcast brass bells are ringing, some on the front ramada and others from hooks on the “breakfast tree” behind the house. The studio calls to me. There, despite the din of the wind and the thumping on the roof of the last pecans being blown from the trees, there is calm. The tiny paintings I’ve been working on are definitely a contrast to what’s happening outside. I suppose they speak of my hopes for blooms and blossoms and the peace of springtime. I see in them still waters and ways to experiment with floral shapes that show up when I scrape paint down the surface with the colors randomly deposited and see what has stained the archival illustration board. From transparent hues to deeper ones and opaque ones, the images emerge. Such fun! They carry me on adventures of assurance that springtime peace and joy are nearby!

“Still Waters” (information about this tiny painting is on the “Paintings” page of this site)

the Tablets continue….


On the “Clay Page” of this site I have explained a bit about the inspiration and development of the “Tablets Series.” Yesterday I completed another in the series, “More Words.” As with several of the other tablets, the overall shape suggests a cathedral window which suggests worship. Letters are spilling down the center of the tablet, maybe attempting to make more words, with tiny delicate bits of vegetation rising up below them. Of course words are the medium of expression the world relies on. I contend, along with others, that words are not necessarily the best means of expression……at least not in every instance. Is not music a universal medium that is understood in the intuitive mind, even when there are not lyrics accompanying it? So also are colors, textures and shapes used by the artist for expression.
“More Words” has a quotation from Josiah Cullen on the back:
Love bigger
Live Louder
Judge Lesser
Lift Higher
Josiah was diagnosed with severe autism in his toddlerhood. He does not speak but at age 10 or so he typed on his ipad, “God is a good gift giver.” He has continued to use his ipad to express his inspirations. The story of Josiah has been written by his mother Tahni Cullen in a book entitled JOSIAH’S FIRE. She says of him: “Autism stole his words, God gave him a voice.” When the book was recommended to me, I could not put it down. You can learn about Josiah online. He is a miraculous inspiration.
“THE TABLET SERIES: MORE WORDS: the full image can be seen on the Clay Page on this site. Thanks for reading my blog.

Innovative Watermedia/collage Workshop, 2016

Watermedia/Collage Workshop 2016 is fresh on my mind. It happened last week in the Carlsbad Area Art Association’s ROBERT S. LIGHT ARTROOM, behind the Artist Gallery. Busy! it was a busy class. The students were enthusiastic, chatty, positive, and eager. Each exercise I suggested was welcomed with willingness; some remarkable work showed up on their papers; and a generous spirit prevailed as they shared ideas and processes.
Leslie Smith-2016 class-3A favorite quote of mine from Robert Rauschenberg: “I like to have the maximum lack of control so things can happen that I can’t think of.”  I consider “think” to be a key word in this quote. Letting go of rational “thinking” processes and trusting the intuition to guide does truly cause things to happen, allow for surprises, and let some “gifts” develop on the paper.

We started with a playful
application of paint, not thinking of anything but enjoying the paint, experimenting with it’s flow, checking out our brushes. Then we began to look for tiny compositions, discovering that the paint had indeed deposited some gifts we could work with:Renee-2016 classThe class moved from this tiny start to more complex layers of paint and papers, preparing collage papers, making stamps to use for creating texture and holding off on composing. Yet, keenly watching all the while for shapes, directions, values of color that would appear  from the intuition and guide us, we moved toward a composition. Rich layered and textured surfaces were created and compositions inviting final details called for completion.                                                                                                                  RB2-2016 class
Ginger 2016 classLeft:Ginger Price, experiment


Right: Renee Boyd, experiment



Gerri-2016 classLeslie-2-2016 class




Left: Gerri Mattson, experiment                                                                                              Leslie Smith, experiment

2016 class - 12016 class - 4




When artists gather and stretch to see new ways of expressing, good things happen. There was talk of meeting  to create/paint/collage together. A gathering of artists working, no instruction except feedback and encouragement from one another. What a splendid idea!

Judy L-2                                              Judy L-3

Judy Lanier, experiments






Karen V.-1 Karen Veni, experiment

Innovative Watermedia/collage Workshop

Discussion with DemoIt’s been several years since I have taught a class or a workshop. Early this year Frank, the workshop chairman, for Carlsbad Area Art Association asked me if I would teach. Without really thinking, I heard, “sure, Frank” come out of my mouth. The possibility lay quietly, but not exactly silently in the back of my mind for a long time. I wanted to teach, I’ve taught a lot over the years, I like to teach and I don’t like to teach, I have a lot of experience and I don’t have enough experience, I have worked hard, not hard enough, and have learned a lot I can share. I had my doubts that anyone would be interested in my quirky ways of creating, and I doubted that I had the physical stamina. Sometimes  I listen to my critical self yammering in my mind. Round and round the thoughts went but the creative spirit (The Holy Spirit) reminded me that I had said I would teach and that whatever I have to offer would be sufficient.
Then I encountered a Lubbock artist who asked me about teaching, and encouraged me to offer a class. Within days she had spread the word that I was considering a workshop in Carlsbad. Other artists called saying they would come. I set a date in September, chose a title: “Innovative Watermedia/collage Workshop” then vascillated between cancelling and pulling it all together as I witnessed the enrollment numbers rise.
On September 10, 11, 12 the class became a vital, creative, moving reality. It was amazing to see the enthusiasm of 15 diligent artists who listened to my suggestions and worked with such intensity. We all checked our critical selves at the door and let the spirit flow. From day one when I asked them to paint along with me and put paint randomly on the paper, keeping it in light to middle range of values we progressed through painting-along to experimenting, and into a variety of explorations and demos with discussion. I offered techniques and materials and suggestions to play with. The move of  the creative spirit was obviously dynamic whether the students were grappling in confusion, happily creating stamps, gingerly painting tissues for collage material or testing their eyes to see what might be showing up on the papers.

Fuss Size Render, Carol H.                                              Experiment by Carol Hammond
It’s a non-rational, intuitive way of operating that comes out of a part of the brain and heart that is absolutely trustworthy. Learning to trust it is like no other experience…..it has no language, no system of orderliness, is usually not logical. Often, and dramatically so among beginning students, it feels like chaos. It is pulling images confidently from our histories, from our heritage, and sometimes seemingly from no where. Sometimes the paints begin to show us recognizable representative images and sometimes the colors challenge us with abstract shapes that intuitively communicate wholeness. When we become like children and play with materials we allow ourselves to paint the worst painting in the world without judging whether it is a keeper or not, and we also allow ourselves to paint the best painting in the world.
Collage, Renae Winters                                               Experiment by Renae Winters

Indian Blanket Flowers, Laurel Weathersbee                                           Experiment by Laurel Weathersbee
Experiment - Judy Lanier                                                         Experiment by Judy Lanier
I would love to publish more of the student experiments here but alas, I neglected to take pictures when we put our works out on a common table to share what we had accomplished. I have put out the call to the students to send me pictures but when students leave the classroom, life envelopes them and the demands of home and work and play rise to the forefront and sending pictures to the teacher drops to the bottom of priorities.
Grace Lipps, collageCollage only, Carol Hammond






              Collage by Grace Lipps                                                     Collage by Carol Hammond

Below is a demonstration painting I worked on in the class. I will post other pieces I started with my students as I get them completed and photographed. They will be  on the pages of this website.

For this Cause, corrected                             “For This Cause” (watermedia collage, 22X15 inches)

Join me in San Antonio, May 2-3

Not really in San Antonio, but almost, and not really in Boerne, but almost. It was an invitation from Chicago, from Crystal Naubauer  a collage artist I have admired for a number of years. It was also an invitation from Laura Roberts, (aka Hasty Pearl) gracious hostess with the innovative idea of having an art workshop in her home. Laura: artist, collector, gardener, who lives in a wooded area on the outskirts of San Antonio welcomed participants to her exquisite home and gardens with handmade name tags, delicious lunches, and a garage/workshop that could compete with any studio/classroom.
An eclectic group of artists reveled in the delightful setting and especially in the gentle/kind/generous/creative/ spirit of Crystal Neubauer. By her, we were led through a number of mark-making/drawing/painting/stamping/collaging exercises designed to assist us in accessing the intuitive artist within. Her quiet/rich/deep/confident personal nature, nourished by the Holy Spirit, established a comfortable working environment. The heady atmosphere of nine working artists fed each individual artist as we grappled with materials and ideas and stretched ourselves to let go of control and trust our  intuitive natures.
Below are photos of our expressive attempts. I apologize for my quick shots, some of them may be presented sideways or upside down, (which is a good test for artists to see the quality of composition) and unfortunately I cannot credit the individual artists with each of these experimental works of art:
Art Pieces 8Art Pieces 9Art Pieces 4!Art Pieces 5Art Pieces 11Art Pieces 3Art Pieces 7Art Pieces 1Art Pieces 10Art Pieces 2Pregnant with possibility? Some of them seem to have a full delivery of expression already. Only two days together, yet bonds were formed and each artist went home with several “works” or “starts” and an impromptu handmade paint brush culled from Laura’s garden:IMG_2291IMG_2292Fun? Fun! not a frivolous zany kind of fun, but a fun that had within it some Texas hospitality and an overflowing cup of creative juice, mixed gently with spoonfuls and tidbits and pinches of new ideas. I’m charged anew with energy for creative endeavors in my studio. Thank you Laura and Crystal!

Laura Roberts and Crystal Neubauer



Thirty and Thirty

I must say the thirty days of September have been flying along and my works and I have been flitting along with them. I think I will actually have 30 new works, maybe even a few extras! Two or three are larger pieces which have been developing alongside of the smaller ones. I’ve been saving the finished pieces in the studio, not consigning them out to galleries, so I can look at them altogether. Although they seem to be a hodge-podge without much of a focus, I can see clearly that they are mine. In the early days when I heard concerns among fellow artists of “developing a style,” seasoned artists advised that it shouldn’t be a “concern.” A “style” would develop naturally over the seasons of practicing the craft of expression. I have found that to be good advice. My ways of expression have truly become mine. Some of the works continue to pursue ideas that I have been exploring for some time: newness, beginnings, strength, endurance, words, fragility. Others have landed on the papers without much context. Maybe they are invitations to explore new realms.
Because tomorrow is “change around” at The Artist Gallery here, I plan to hang many of them. It will give me a new view of them, grouped together on a wall (I don’t have space in the studio to hang them all). So, “take note” if you who want to see what I’ve been doing. These are some of the latest:
Autumn Cycle                                                                
                                           (acrylics on cradled panel, 10X8X2 inches)

(acrylics on a cradled panel, 10X8X2 inches)

 Afternoon Peace                                                             AFTERNOON PEACE
(acrylics on a cradled panel, 8X10X2 inches)…..sold
Clothed in Splendor                                                    CLOTHED IN SPLENDOR
(watermedia/collage on paper, 18X14 inches)

Gether Up                                                                    GATHER UP
(watermedia/collage on paper, 14X9 inches)

Earth Angel                                                 EARTH ANGEL, WITH STAMPS
(painted clay)



Playing in a “series”

Clay Mail Grouping A

Clay Mail Envelopes
(painted and embellished clay)

In April this year, I posted a blog about working in a series. I have strong emotions (opinions?) and a powerful commitment to my way of working with an idea until I have made it my own. The exploration continuum has taken me deeper into visual expression than any efforts to capture new imagery with each creative session. A rich and meaningful poignancy has mounted up over years of probing around, into, and through a series.

Within the last couple of years I have unbuckled my work from schedules, commitments to others, to classrooms and students and from shows and festivals. Released from the avenues of work, what I am now doing in the studio romps, mostly, in the fields of play. Skipping out of my painting studio often and showing up at the co-op pottery studio surprises me with a compelling invitation to play.  With an archaic childhood memory of mud pies returning to my consciousness, I have tossed clay up in the air, pounded it with force and rolled it flat. Drawing shapes, folding, patting and pinching clay harken to the girl that hasn’t entirely disappeared from my persona. Though I’m surprised, no one else finds it unexpected that I would continue to play “in a series.”  These recent years of playing in the dirt have yielded numerous envelopes, probably more than a hundred angels, and a myriad of boxy pieces I call “altars.” Staying with a series of related pieces indeed seems to be my way of expression and I make no apologies for “sticking with it!”
Group 2Clay Mail Envelopes
(painted and embellished clay)

I haven’t made any clay envelopes in a while, I don’t know if that series is over or not. I think it may be meshing with the clay angels. I call the clay angels “Earth Angels” and have included some of them on the “Clay” page of the website, and a few more here.
3 AngelsAngel Duo




Word AngelAngel with rabbit fetish

Angel with rusts and browns Earth Angel-bird with bird fetishes, detailBelow is a smoke fired angel that I embellished with an envelope, making me wonder if the angels are meshing with the envelopes. I liked it so much that I have begun to experiment with cutting a place in the body of some of the angels and putting an envelope there. I will post more of the continuing playful series of Earth Angels on the “Clay” page when they are finished.
smoked, contrastDSCM3614, detail

Working In a “Series”

Several days ago I spoke with an artist visiting The Artist Gallery in Carlsbad, NM where I live. He talked about his works in acrylics, his techniques, and his imagery. He referred to himself as a “streaking” artist, which he described as streaking from one thing to another. He enjoys trying new things and his interests are widespread, in subject matter and in technique. He was quite surprised when I told him, I seem to be more of a “pedantic” artist, dwelling in one series of images for long periods of time, and although I use a wide variety of techniques there is definitely an “HGwinn” quality about them. When I told him my “Envelope Series” contains well over a hundred images, he was stunned. I wonder how he would have responded had I told him about Mark Gould  who now has over 900 images in his series entitled “My Neighbor’s House.”

My Neighbor's Houses #808 “MY NEIGHBOR’S HOUSE 808”
acrylic painting on panel,24×30 inches
Mark Gould, artist

                       For me it is rare (but it does occur) that I complete an art piece and  feel it is  a full expression. When I finish a painting I commonly feel both content with the completion and a question in my mind about parts of it. Could I have done that shape better? added or reduced the amount of texture? Have I brought a wholeness into the design? Are the compositional details coordinated? Is the content, the imagery, compelling? Is there more to express?
In the late 1980’s when my daughter went off to college, we communicated mostly by letters…..now called “snail mail.” It was in the days when there was no email, cell phones were barely being heard of and long-distance phone calls were costly. It wasn’t long before I was aware that we were communicating more clearly through the written word than we had during her adolescent high-school days. I was loving to find an envelope in my mailbox with her return address on it. Soon envelopes and letters began to turn into imagery showing up in my mixed media paintings. Today the “Envelope Series” has nearly 200 pieces in it and has morphed into the “Cliff Gifts Series.” Tiny packets (envelopes of a sort) are packed and secured into the painted/collaged cliffs of this series.
Cliff Gifts Series-Amber CanyonCLIFF GIFTS: AMBER CANYON
mixed media painting, 20X13X1.5 inches
Helen Gwinn, artist
The Cliff Gifts Series currently contains more than a hundred pieces. While it seems to be waning in my focus, another series, “The Nests,” is developing. These images of freedom, of nurture and refuge are important elements for me to express. Although birds and nests have been important symbols throughout my days of painting, they are now dominant and demanding my attention.
mixed media on panel, 16X12X2 inches
Helen Gwinn, artist



Nest Series - Luminis                                          Nest Series: Luminis
(watermedia/collage, 18X18 inches)

                       Refuge, protection, safety, newness, hatchery…….these are a few words of symbolism I attach to the recent series of art pieces I’ve been working on. My new show, entitled THE NESTS will be featured at the Weems Old Town Gallery in Albuquerque throughout the month of May.  Last week I delivered fourteen new mixed media paintings and nine clay “Earth Angels” for the show.
Earth Angel 5 detail







My studio has become a comfortable nest over the years. When I began to work in there in 1979, and the materials started to pile up around me, my husband made some wry comments about my “nesting instinct.” I’m not sure how instinctual it is, but there’s no question that the clutter of colors and textures and shapes are a hatchery, an incubator if you will, for my creative endeavors.
Several years ago my co-teacher, Lynette Watkins, and I began to talk of “new beginnings” as a theme for the class we would teach at the La Romita School of Art in Terni, Italy. That’s when the “nest” symbol began to make itself known in my work along with eggs, which are poignant symbols of birth, hope, creative purity and expectation.  In Lynette’s work symbolic “gates” and “keys” emerged.
Dramatic and powerful changes were happening in my personal life. Some of them seemed not at all like new beginnings but rather like endings. Changes occurred that were making an end to the life I had known and expected to continue knowing. My 36 year old son suffered a devastating stroke that left the right side of his body paralyzed and took away all, ALL, ABSOLUTELY ALL of his language. Two years later I was rushed into emergency open heart surgery for mitral valve replacement and multiple by-passes.  Much changed but I experienced, in the depths of heart-break for my son, and the fright of my own physical broken heart, a rock-solid foundation in my relationship with God. A tiny newness began to nestle around me, a secure and steady glory-of-hope, a nest (if you will) of beginning, the commencement of a new level of living in grace. Imagine that! express that! I needed to.

Nest Series-Packet of Remembrances      Nest Series: Packet of Remembrance
(watermedia/collage, 13X10 inches)

What color is a “new beginning”? and what shape is it? What texture does it have? Creative expression helps to make sense of happenings in my world….. is that what vocations are? or pre-occupations? or “callings”? Are they methods of making sense? I love words and sometimes, often actually, put them in my works. Also I journal, journal, journal. I carry a journal with me at all times, loading book after book with drivel, thoughts, snippets of information and sketches that help me keep my bearings. But when I sit down to string words together into sentences for someone else to read, they aren’t big enough, fitting enough, or just right.
Nest Series - Nesting Notes                             Nest Series: Nesting Notations
(mixed media on a cradled panel, 24X12X2 inches)

And often the creative expressions (paintings, collages, assemblages) miss the mark also, they’re not big enough, or should I say “deep enough” or “expansive enough”? Some of them get close. The creative expressions in the THE NESTS SERIES are my attempt to make sense of the refuge, the safety, the hope, the newness, the expectancy I am experiencing in my life and the life of my family (which includes not just my husband, daughter, and son but also my extended family of relatives and friends, fellow travelers on my life’s journey.)

Nest Series: By GritNest Series: By Grit
(mixed media on a cradled panel, 12X12X2 inches)
Additional images from the Nest Series may be seen on the pages of my website. My son is making a superb recovery. He lives and works in Austin and gets therapy at Austin Speech Labs.