Wednesday, April 21, 2010

New work for April

Someone mentioned that a blog is for "works in progress," so I have decided to post some evolving works in this journal. Over the last few months I have focused on a large format painting which rounds out the hedgerow series, a 4 foot by 3 foot painting already up to 6 layers deep with collage. Here is a shot of the work in progress:

This work incorporates all my naturally colored Asian papers and is only partially complete, as I am working on the dead black trees in the foreground. Once I am satisfied with the design I will cover the canvas with some layers of matte varnish and prepare it for hanging. The collage texture commands attention--here is a close up:

I have decided to title the work "Harsh Winter" since the dead tree shapes are the most commanding portion of the design, and I will add more shapes to the image to take away the "split canvas, black lightning" look that the current image portrays.

I have also started a new piece based on a photograph taken from the bow of Jeff Cifka's sailboat in the waters north of Seattle and Camano Island, WA. This work is just on its second layer, still taking shape but you can see the photographic reference for the work on the table behind the canvas. This work needs 4 or 5 more layers of paint and collage to hone the image and bring the textures to the level that I prefer. Overall I want it to be a happy sunny work, with "fluffy bunny" couds and interesting rocks and trees, and very few negative shapes such as in my hedgerow series. The mood should reflect my memories of sailing near the San Juans. I am using Arabic language newspapers for the cloud collage shapes, which supplies an interesting set of calligraphic marks for the underpainting. When I finish it I will post it to the gallery.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Natural Inspiration

Where we live in Western Massachusetts our property butts up to conservancy land with oak and pine and scrub brush providing a wonderful habitat for the local wildlife. In particular, a huge old pine tree houses a hawk’s nest about 8 feet wide. We can sit in our living room and watch the hawk preen on its perch in the higher branches, and it has done wonders in keeping the chipmunk and squirrel population under control. It is a magnificent animal and I have been sketching it and planning new works. Now that the spring is bringing the buds out on the trees, the privacy is increasing and the deer are getting harder to see among the boles and brush. The red tailed fox still cross the yard as if she owns it all, looking well fed and glossy, crossing the ridge line over the stream. It is a wonderful calm space, perfect for contemplation. Natural Inspiration.

Mortality is weighing on me this week: A friend of 27 years died this past weekend. He was my age, a fellow musician and was on hand to celebrate my daughter’s birth and my first published article. When we were young he was a “fun friend,” quick to laugh and joke, and always ready for a good time. Once he took an old lion’s claw table that my Father-in-law had given us and refinished it into a beautiful cherry piece we still have in our living room today. Somehow life led him from fun times to daily drinking to a reliance on the bottle for solace, and over the years he faded into an unhappy shell of his former self. His marriage went sour and he lost the will for steady work, constantly nursing a back he injured as a young man. Over the last few years he grew into the quiet drunk who sat in the corner at the annual New Year’s celebration, and always seemed incoherently inebriated whenever one called. Friends who were able to visit him in the hospital near the end tell me he looked ancient, like a 90 year old man, badly shaved, starved and shriveled and pained from bleeding stomach ulcers. The social network has been buzzing about him the past few days, people remembering, finding old pictures of a happier time, praising his good qualities, mourning the loss. How can we measure the life? He has left only memories, an estranged ex-wife, a sister struggling to make sense of the loss and a deeply wounded Mother who has seen both her sons die early deaths.

Inevitably at times like these, one dwells on our own mortality. What will I leave behind? What is my legacy? What are my accomplishments?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Thoughts for March 18th

The following thoughts were passed to me by a facebook friend and summarize a class given by the Real Estate Motivational Trainer, Linda McKissak:

1) The purpose of a life is to truly live it before we die 2) The purpose of our business is to fund that truly perfect life 3) Don't ever compare your insides to others' outsides 4) For us to live personally and professionally at the highest levels, it has to be done with others.

Great thoughts for today!

Career counciling via personal color selection

OK, I took the color chart test on line and these were my results (no fooling!):

Best Occupational Category
You're a CREATOR
Nonconforming, Impulsive, Expressive, Romantic, Intuitive, Sensitive, and Emotional
These original types place a high value on aesthetic qualities and have a great need for self-expression. They enjoy working independently, being creative, using their imagination, and constantly learning something new. Fields of interest are art, drama, music, and writing or places where they can express, assemble, or implement creative ideas.
CREATOR OCCUPATIONSSuggested careers are Advertising Executive, Architect, Web Designer, Creative Director, Public Relations, Fine or Commercial Artist, Interior Decorator, Lawyer, Librarian, Musician, Reporter, Art Teacher, Broadcaster, Technical Writer, English Teacher, Architect, Photographer, Medical Illustrator, Corporate Trainer, Author, Editor, Landscape Architect, Exhibit Builder, and Package Designer.
CREATOR WORKPLACESConsider workplaces where you can create and improve beauty and aesthetic qualities. Unstructured, flexible organizations that allow self-expression work best with your free-spirited nature.
Suggested Creator workplaces are advertising, public relations, and interior decorating firms; artistic studios, theaters and concert halls; institutions that teach crafts, universities, music, and dance schools. Other workplaces to consider are art institutes, museums, libraries, and galleries.

2nd Best Occupational Category
Witty, Competitive, Sociable, Talkative, Ambitious, Argumentative, and Aggressive
These enterprising types sell, persuade, and lead others. Positions of leadership, power, and status are usually their ultimate goal. Persuasive people like to take financial and interpersonal risks and to participate in competitive activities. They enjoy working with others inside organizations to accomplish goals and achieve economic success.

How fun is that!?!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

No grumpy oldster for me!

Listening to an interview on KCRW last week, I was not surprised to learn that there is a direct correlation between the perception of achievement of one’s personal life goals and satisfaction with the aging process. It seems there is scientific proof now that, as we age, if we don’t believe we have achieved our goals in life the frustration that results influences our degeneration into grumpy old men and women, and this pickling process accelerates as we move from late middle age to old age. Additionally it has been found that the drop in our sex hormones, precipitous in women at the point of menopause and over a steady decline in men, increases our tendencies toward becoming a member of the cantankerous elderly. This evolution into grumpy old people is so common that it has almost considered to be the rule.
Now, the doctor in the interview had also gathered supporting documentation that proved that satisfied individuals who heartily believed they had accomplished their life goals were often happy in their twilight years, the jolly old folks who we all aspire to become, despite the inevitable drop in hormones and the creeping decrepitude of the aging process.So what does this have to do with us, as artists, as people? Happy elderly never stop growing, never stop having goals, never stop trying new things. I am reminded of a management tool I have used for years with personnel where, recognizing that we cannot motivate people unless they motivate themselves, we ask people to make a list of the 50 things they would like to do before they die (and then we tie their personal goals to company goals). This is usually a very difficult project for many people! Most of us never think about our mortality or try to list accomplishments or goals, but I can attest this is a fascinating process and well worth doing—the physical act of writing down your desires and plans makes them a covenant, a commitment to oneself and to the others who read the list, and it is amazing after 5 years if you review your list you will find how many of the goals you have set have been accomplished. This is also one of the fundamental self change processes employed by professionals helping individuals overcome afflictions and stagnation. It is time for me to rewrite my list as I have achieved most of the list I wrote down 7 years ago—and if you have a spouse or significant other, compare lists as it is often illuminating and sometime life changing! And if you are having trouble finding items for your list, start dreaming. Artists dream and artists create—we can make our world and never become grumpy old people!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Lots of working this week...

I have spent the last few weeks working on marbling my canvasses through collage, working primarily with natural colored papers full of fibers and occlusions. The canvas begins to look like marble after the fourth of fifth layer, where the paint splatters begin to peek out of the torn collage like veins of a rock and the natural colors blend into each other and form an interesting background. As usual, while the tree shapes and landscapes continue to dominate my best work, I still work on abstractions and figure studies, practicing as Alex Powers taught, using my eyes and sketching as much as possible. It is hard to keep the effort up as the demands of every day life continue and one does need to keep commitments to home and work. It is an interesting time for the amateur artist. Recently there was a story on NPR detailing the exhibit in the Getty Museum comparing Rembrandt van Rijn’s drawings to his students, and the key indicator of student work is the “over-worked” quality of the image, where the master captured the expression and nuance of the subject in a clean drawing, with little re-work, re-drawing or erasure. This subtle freshness is one of the fundamental differentiations between the student and one in command of their medium. So, the best work is clean, defines and smartly executed in a single pass.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Quotes for the day!

“Real Freedom cannot exist without Discipline. By Discipline I mean all those things that are synthesized in a mature personality: understanding and love, honesty, control and order, self criticism and above all the ability to see reality without fear…” Maricio Lasansky, born 1914, Argentine-American print maker

“Less is a bore.” Robert Venturi

“There is no right way to do anything.” Raoul Duffy

“Shape is a chord, line is the melody.” Gerald Brommer

“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than success, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill. It will make or break a company … a church … a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we embrace for that day. We cannot change our past … we cannot change the fact that people act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have and that is our attitude … I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you … we are in charge of our attitudes.” Chuck Swindoll

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Painting and Spirituality

Unless you are painting ambiguous abstractions, all paintings are symbols, or a collection of symbols. In my work I have been trying to synthesize texture, rhythm and color into symbols of nature, to imbue a transcendent landscape with symbolic significance. It is my desire as my work progresses and my skills grow, that I begin to capture a calm sense of spirituality in the images, despite the heavy collage and calligraphic marks that are clear upon close examination. This focus on a transcendent symbolism and spirituality is of importance to me as an individual and artist.

Famous artists such as Mark Rothko devoted an entire body of work to capturing Spirituality. The famous monochrome painter Robert Ryman, when asked what a painting should communicate to the viewer stated “An experience of…enlightenment. An experience of delight and well being, and rightness.” While these artists focused on large color fields and the treatment of edges, they both grasped the fundamental experience of a painting as a spiritual symbol.

So why paint landscapes to symbolize spirituality? Properly captured, an idealized image can transport a viewer and reflect a calm, inner beauty that resides in all. Pictorially, the Tree has symbolized Nature with a capital “N,” strength, growth, ecological commitment, sometimes a barrier, and the obvious Christian symbolism. As an image, it can be manipulated to present mood, humor and intent, and therefore it provides a solid symbolic reference for a landscape.

I am not alone is seeking to portray a spirituality through my painting, and in the future I will highlight some of my favorite fellow artists who strive to paint the spiritual, whether abstract or concrete, realistic or through personal imagery.

The past month my spare time has been devoted to actually painting, so I have had little time for this journal. I completed 4 paintings and started 4 more, which gives me a sense of accomplishment. The four finished works were “Sentinels,” “Autumn 3,” “Spring Morning,” and “Storm Cloud,” all of which will be posted on the site as soon as possible. These recent works depict a broadening of the symbols to include new shapes and landscapes. I hope you enjoy them. Happy New Year!