Legends of St. Francis

Slumped acrylic sculpture painted by Jo Myers-Walker with legends of St. Francis

The finished Canticle sculpture displayed on an easel
(Photo courtesy of Lisa Schmidt — click image to view larger)

Before my knee surgery in October I needed to be grounded to have a successful outcome. I had been working on the Mercer project and was worn out and having knee pain. I started reading some of the legends surrounding St. Francis of Assisi, who knew how to talk to birds and animals. Those stories are very calming for me as he would praise all things created by God. It got my mind off my knee as I started symbolizing the characters using my interpretations. I painted these on a 36″ x 63″ slumped acrylic panel for the Sisters of St. Francis in Dubuque, using the legends beginning with a joyful Francis and Clare dancing.

  • In the legend of the tail flapping fish (in the center) that Francis let go after catching, the fish was allowed its freedom, allowed life, a chance to heal joyfully.
  • The friendly falcon (on the left) would wake Francis in the mornings by flapping his strong wings. One morning he knew Francis did not sleep well so he took his time. I think our cats and dogs know when we need a little attention as they can tell when we are in danger or sad.
  • The cock and the chicken (on the left), the chicken is life giving whereas the cock is boastful, needs to be the center of attention, lacks humility, with good intentions however.
  • The wheat symbolizes the bread of life, it has to fall to the ground so more wheat can grow, we have to “die to self” to be created anew over and over.

Details from Canticle sculpture by Jo Myers-Walker with legends of St. Francis

Details from the Canticle sculpture:  the Friendly Falcon; the Noisy Swallows

  • The noisy swallows (on the right) would not let Francis speak. so he asked them to quiet down and they did. I have to tell my monkey brain to stop talking, keeping me absorbed in my own thoughts, and out of control instead of letting go and letting God.
  • Brother Sun (on the left) warms me, helps grow things and gives me hope for a new day.
  • Sister Moon (on the right) lights my way at night, she is loving and chases away the dark, I think it is a rebirth and I make an action plan for the morning. She understands the universe and I trust her.
  • Sister Death (on the bottom) I drew as acorns that the squirrels plant and then new life emerges as a strong oak tree. I have to “die to self”/set aside my ego so something new can emerge, not just my ideas but God’s.
  • The doves (on the left) show freedom, beauty, peace and it starts by forgiving myself so I can forgive others.

Detail images from Canticle sculpture painted by Jo Myers-Walker with legends of St. Francis

Details from the Canticle sculpture:  Doves; Acorns and leaves

  • Sister Water is useful in all things, cleansing, grounding, refreshing and sustaining me. I am a swimmer and find water very comforting and healing.
  • You can see butterflies as they are resurrected and transformed, sometimes I need to go into my cocoon.
  • The cicadas sing their songs every 7 years, this shows me patience. Let it be and there will be a way revealed.
  • The cricket is sometimes noisy but some say lucky, it teaches me to appreciate people for who they are, noisy and all!

May the year 2018 be one of Hope.

Update — see also:

Posted in Studio Snapshots

Scenes from the Eastside Artists show

Members of Iowa City Eastside Artists 2017

Eastside Artists group photo
(courtesy of Patti Zwick)

This year I became one of the tenured artists with the Iowa City Eastside Artists, pictured here at the 2017 show earlier this month. The group invites 2 or 3 juried artists each year to exhibit alongside the 20 tenured artists. The Eastside Artists Show and Sale is different than an art festival, buyers can purchase unique small gifts representing the artist’s larger works. All the artists participate in advertising, setting up and breaking down, hosting, and as clerks and baggers.

I’m letting go of my walker as my knee continues to recover after a knee replacement in October. Lucky for me I could work my shift and take my new knee home for a nap and ice, or others stepped in for me if I needed to rest. It is a very friendly group all working together.

Jo Myers-Walker's booth at the 2017 Eastside Artists show and sale, with small watercolors, prints, cards, pillows

My booth at the 2017 show and sale

Pillows digitally printed with watercolor designs by Jo Myers-Walker

Pillows were popular (digitally printed with my watercolor designs)

Posted in Studio Snapshots

Mercer mural revealed

Brightly-colored cityscape in the new Lexan™ mural at Mercer Park Aquatic Center

Detail of the new mural

People at ribbon cutting for the new mural at Mercer Park Aquatic Center in Iowa City

Folks at the ribbon cutting

Thank you to everyone who came to the ribbon cutting for the new mural at Mercer Park Aquatic Center! The mural, a colorful cityscape, is made of Lexan™ panels with interactive moving parts inspired by STEAM topics (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math). On the upper panels I drew downtown Iowa City with the Courthouse, Old Capitol, and Clock Tower. I also painted the sun and moon, and a mosque, synagogue, church and temple as I saw people feeling safe to play.

The mural was a collaborative project — I worked with artists and engineers from the University of Iowa College of Engineering NEXUS Program, Iowa City Parks and Recreation, and more members of the Iowa City community. The ceremony program (shown at bottom left, click to view larger) gives special thanks to some of the people most involved, and this article in The Daily Iowan does a great job of describing the collaboration:

I’ll show more of the process of making the mural in future posts. As my artist’s statement says, “For me this was a gift to celebrate joy and playfulness and to be creative during these disturbing times of suffering. Creating art is meditative, reflective and helps ground me. I experienced a sense of oneness with the Mercer family and the Iowa City community that gave me a sense of grace and solace.”

See the August 2018 Newsletter for “Behind the scenes: Making the Mercer mural”

Special Thanks page from unveiling of the mural at Mercer Park Aquatic Center in Iowa City

Program from the ribbon cutting,
plus a few extra thanks
(click image to view larger)

Jo, Whitney, and Grace shown collaborating on the mural for Mercer Park Aquatic Center in Iowa City

With co-conspirators
Whitney and Grace

Posted in Studio Snapshots

IWS 2017–2018 Traveling Show

Watercolor painting of country house after rain by Jo Myers-Walker

After the Rain, We Play

The Iowa Watercolor Society’s Traveling Show is a selection of works from a variety of Iowa artists, chosen each year from the Society’s juried exhibition. I’m honored to have one of my paintings (After the Rain, We Play, shown here) in the 2017–2018 show.

Update:  My painting has returned from its journeys, and a new set of artwork has gone on tour around the state. See the Traveling Show page of IWS’s website for this year’s schedule plus a preview of the exhibit.

Posted in Upcoming Events

Painting roses in Amana

Watercolor paintings of roses by Jo Myers-Walker showing progressive layering of color

Joan brought her last roses of the season for us to paint.
We worked on finding the shapes first, let paper dry and added the petals.
It made for a very good lesson on layering using 3 colors.

Posted in Studio Snapshots

Demonstrating on the Ped Mall

Jo Myers-Walker demonstrating watercolor painting on the pedestrian mall in Iowa City

Demonstrating watercolor painting near Iowa Artisans Gallery in downtown Iowa City.
On the right:  Showing off my new fashion statement, the knee scarf! (to support my knee)
(Thanks to Mary Maxson for taking the photos)

Posted in Uncategorized

Return to the country retreat

Artists at a workshop near Nevada, Iowa, looking for subjects in nature to paint

From the workshop in May, looking for what to paint
(Photo on the left courtesy of Mary M. de Baca)

Sketchbook on table with view of farm home's yard through a window

View from the Coverdales’ window

During our workshops at the “Coverdale Art Institute” Mike says he hears a lot of laughter as people are relaxed and following along. We begin looking at the yard with a view finder, noticing the light on trees and flowers, birds etc. This is the meditation part to bring us into the moment of the Coverdales’ beautiful yard and letting go of our daily lives.

We start painting with a sampler of the techniques we will be using for the day, usually involving chickens to show color mixing on the paper, then trees with foliage, lifting out fences, tree limbs, finding the big shapes in the flower garden and individual flower techniques. The artists go home with a painting they are proud of.

(Photos are from the May and July workshops.)

Watercolor techniques demonstrated in sketchbook

A sampler of watercolor techniques

Watercolor painting of yard in the countryside by Jo Myers-Walker

A painting of our surroundings

Artists at work around a table during watercolor workshops near Nevada, Iowa

Around the table in May (left) and July (right)
(Photos courtesy of Mike Coverdale)

Posted in Studio Snapshots

Following the shade

Sketching on the ped mall in Iowa City, July 2017

Sketching on the ped mall in July weather, we kept moving back into the shade ’til
it just got too hot and we stopped into Heirloom/Java House for lunch and sharing.
(Photo on the right courtesy of Mary Maxson)

Posted in Studio Snapshots

Another window view

Watercolor street scene of downtown Iowa City seen from above by Jo Myers-Walker

(Left)  Window view with Chauncey building construction
(Right)  Detail:  My imagined rooftop café will have a great view of the park

Another window view, painted when I was supposed to rest the knees. I am watching the construction of the Chauncey building which will be next to the parking ramp shown on the left. Staging for the construction has taken over Chauncey Swan Park, the closest part of the area next to the ramp. It will be redeveloped as a park space when the building is done.

The scene is very active as the brick building shown on the right has been a French café, dance studio, Realtor office, piano studio, and now houses the Community Foundation of Johnson County among other offices. For this painting I invented a rooftop café, then found out there have been two different cafés on the second floor, so I wasn’t too far off! The roof just seemed liked wasted space. When the redeveloped park is finished across the street, a movie screen may be put up on the side of the parking ramp, so I thought what a great way to sip wine and watch a movie.

Posted in Studio Snapshots

Plein air in June

Fellow path pedestrians watch Jo Myers-Walker sketching in Iowa City

On location with my walker

Artists sketching en plein air along Iowa City path

Artists sketching along the path

A group of us got together to sketch en plein air in Iowa City, following along a walking/biking path through the east side area. We could see from the path into the back yards as neighbors were gardening. I gave the others a viewfinder with these directions:

“Sketching” is a grace filled moment, a time to see the natural world that surrounds us. We see the birds, the plants, and even the stones as they come alive to tell stories and memories, reminding us who we are and what we value. Note everything is not perfect; there is a crack in everything, and that is how the light gets in* to illuminate the beauty. This is how we learn to truly see and be in the moment, letting the daily care be set aside for a bit.

My knees have been affecting my mobility so I am using my walker as a sketching surface. It is great as I can wheel around carrying sketchbook, a little paint, brush, and water in the seat and then stop wherever to draw/paint.

* (From lyrics by Leonard Cohen, and an earlier quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Plein air drawing and painting in Iowa City

My walker as easel

Watercolor sketchbook and written reflections

Sketchbook and thoughts on plein air

Posted in Studio Snapshots