Monday, October 17, 2011

Cezanne, Cezanne – he’s my man….

"An art which isn't based on feeling isn't an art at all ... feeling is the principle, the beginning and the end; craft, objective, technique – all these are in the middle."

"Style is not created through servile imitation of the masters; it proceeds from the artist's own particular way of feeling and expressing himself."
"Genius is the ability to renew one's emotions in daily experience."

Over the course of this past summer and into the fall,  I’ve been doing more and more small ‘sketches’ like the one above  -- 4-6 per week since June.     While immersed in the act of creativity, I feel truly happy, even though I’m living through much unhappiness at this point of time in my life.  When people ask me how my work is going or what I’m doing, I tell them “Experiments.”  Which makes me think back to Cezanne and some of the paintings that he called his ‘experiments.’

Some things I’ve learned:  My experiments are exercises in showing up & doing the work, even if an experiment.  I’m using up available space in sketchbooks from the past.   I’m using time spent in not working for $$’s.  My paintings are small and start simple.  In recent months I’ve been enjoying beginning my paintings not with a pencil but with brush and paint, inspired by Chinese Brush Painting videos on YouTube.   It’s quicker, saves time while time is flying.  It’s more spontaneous and lively.  It’s a lot of fun, more fun than figuring out how to improve my score at Angry Birds.

I go for the essence of what I sense is in the scene before me; color, form, perception of what is viewed and what value it has in what I see….  I think that my ‘essence’ is similar to Cezanne’s ‘sensation.’   I’m enjoying getting to know Indigo.  And Sepia.  I’ve stopped listening to the Drawing Police, Perspective Police and the Color-Mixing Police; if I’m having a good time that’s all that matters.  When the sketch is complete, it is what it is.  A kind and loving critique from self is Acceptable; demeaning Criticism & harsh judgment  is not.    

When I review these small sketches I remember what I was feeling when I did them.  The form and the color open channels into my memory, as if snapshots in a photo album.

Since I’ve been thinking back to Cezanne and his ‘experiments’ I decided to Google to find the quote I had in mind. I didn’t find that particular one but I did find the ones I quoted here.  I’ve always loved Cezanne’s paintings and have read much about the man, himself.  In the artist family I’ve created for myself, he’s the Father.    The quotes I selected struck a chord within; I feel validated.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Quote for the day: DH Lawrence

Sketch for October 10, '11

"If we think about it, we find that our life consists in this achieving a pure relationship between ourselves and the living universe about us.  This is how I "save my soul",  by accomplishing a pure relationship between me and another person, me and other people, me and a nation, me and a race of men, me and animals, me and the trees or flowers, me and the earth, me and the skies and sun and stars, me and the moon:  an infinity of pure relationships big and little....This, if we knew it, is our life, our eternity:  the subtle, perfected relation between me and my whole circumambient universe."  

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Day of the Paint Out

Sorry about the lousy photo -- I forgot to take a picture before I put the painting under glass

I was up early this morning, way before the time the alarm was set, feeling alternately anticipatory then anxious about going to the Paint Out today.  It's a long-ish drive to Kent -- 45 minutes -- and I got there at quarter of 9.  There was no one around except the lady who was checking people in.  Everyone else was already out and working.

I'd planned on painting at the Congregational Church in Kent because other than the Art Association, it's the only place I really know in Kent as there's a great Thrift Shop next door I used to visit regularly -- before the economic downturn in this country hit me so hard that going to a Thrift Shop is now something I only dream about.  When I drove by the Congregational Church, on my way to register at the Art Association,  I noticed that they were having a Farmer's Market and already, so early, there were many cars filling the parking lot and lining the street.  After I signed in at the KAA, I got back in the car and went south for a few miles but couldn't find a place that suited my needs.

I like to find a safe place to park for me and my car.  I like sun/shade, seclusion and a place where I feel comfortable setting up camp for many hours.  Nothing appealed to me so I thought that I might as well turn around and go to Kent Falls, a State Park with a very pretty waterfall as the central feature.  By the time I got there, I was looking forward to being there as there's some good places to set up camp with inspiring scenes to paint plus Doolies -- which are far superior to bushes.  When I pulled up to the kiosk at the entrance of the parking lot a state worker asked me to pay $9 to park in the lot, sit in the park, use the doolie.  I thought for about 2 seconds and then declined and headed back down the road until I came to a cemetery I've often noticed but never investigated.  Cemeteries are usually secluded and more often than not, the parking is free.  So, that's where I spent the day, at a very old cemetery called St John's Acres.  No doolie, but plenty of privacy, so not a problem.  I could see my car from the top of the tree-shaded knoll where I spent the day.  It was parked in the grass on the side of the road and no one came along with a complaint or a request for me to pay a parking fee.  Quite often during the day, I felt I was back home -- the sound of distant sirens and the call of nearby crows.

The cell service was good, too.  During the day I took a few calls, sent a few texts.  It was weird, but fun,  talking on the phone in the middle of nowhere.  I think I started sending texts because late in the day I felt kind of bored.

I had a hard time getting started with the painting because the stones were so close together that they appeared as more of a solid wall than scattered grave markers.  Many were inches apart.  I did a few sketches and finally worked out a composition where I got the main stones and left out a whole lot more.  I liked the way the foreground stone appeared against the sky and I loved the tall pines in the background and all the other stones were props.  I also loved the fence in the background.

Around 2:30 I gathered up all my things and trekked back to the car.  I had plenty of time to get to the art association before 3 so put my painting in the matte, then in the frame, got out my point driver and closed up the painting on the trunk of my car.  I did the papering and wiring back at the art association.

Between 3 and 4 was the time everyone was supposed to be back with their paintings and do the final details & register their paintings before the auction began at 4.  A few people were late and the auction began at 4:15.  I'd signed-on to be the runner, the person delivering the paintings from where they'd been hung on racks on the porch, around the building to the back door and hand them to a person inside who lined them up and then handed them to the auctioneer when he was done auctioning off the previous painting.  Another woman offered to help and we had a good time schlepping the paintings and talking.   That took up about a half hour.  There were 40 paintings in all and by the time the auction was over, only 3 were sold.  It was a lacklustre sale.  Mine wasn't one of the ones that was sold.  Bummer.  The woman who helped me run the paintings around to the back door, her painting didn't sell either.  Double Bummer.   

A few times in the morning I felt anxious enough to want to scrap the plan for the day and head home but after I finally reached my little knoll in the cemetery and got into the sketches, I was fine and am glad that I stuck it out for the day and the auction after.

The best part of the day was after the auction.  There was a lot of leftover good food, punch & cookies and a good time hanging out with other people who had helped put on the show.  I also got a napkin full of goodies to bring home.  Chocolate chip cookies are no longer in my budget or diet, so I grabbed quite a few for company coming tomorrow.  A good day and I'm glad I worked through my stage fright and went.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Canary in the Coal Mine theory on the Arts and How I Spent My Summer

“I sometimes wondered what the use of any of the arts was. The best thing I could come up with was what I call the canary in the coal mine theory of the arts. This theory says that artists are useful to society because they are so sensitive. They are super-sensitive. They keel over like canaries in poison coal mines long before more robust types realize that there is any danger whatsoever.”
-Kurt Vonnegut

I haven’t blogged in many a month, mostly because I’ve been sunk into the silence of myself as things go from worse to worser.  The quote from Kurt Vonnegut has been strong in my mind throughout, is what I think of when I think about whether to write in my blog – or not.

There’s been precious little paid work and making ends meet  in the midst of rising prices is difficult.   To say the least.

Those who support the Arts and Artists,  don’t so much, lately.    

But, I say to myself, I’ve been here before, the country I live in has seen  peril and hard-times  before, I’ll just keep putting one foot in  front of the other and hope for the best.

The best  has been that I’ve had much time to spend and much of it has been on my Art.

In the midst of these hard-times, I’ve spent much more than 2 hours a day working en studio.  I’ve designed projects that require no expenditure.  I’ve spent much time playing with paint in sketch books from the past where pages were left blank  when I stopped using them and went on to another. 

There was the surprise of finding a brand-new sketch book I forgotten I had.  

I’ve filled these sketch book pages with small paintings.   A few weeks ago, in the spirit of keeping it simple, I began sketching my composition with brush and paint, which has been a constant source of amusement, for me. 

Rather than spend gas & put un-necessary wear and tear on car and tires,  I’ve been staying home, painting from my windows, front porch, from my lawn chair somewhere in the yard around the house….  Home Beach, I call it, and a wonderful place it’s been for me these past many months.  With the sound of the brook running through the culvert out back, the sound of crows and other birds ringing through the air in the peace of this neighborhood, I can well imagine myself at Southford Falls, a place where I love to be for the pond & brook feeding the pond, the open land around it, trees and few people.  There have been people on my Home Beach and the encounters with them has been part of the fun.


Since The Internet,  George Bush and 911 I’ve been more politically active than I was since the years of the Clinton administration;   this past summer, I’ve doubled my online activism and in my own way, have strengthened the power of my voice and my vote.  I am glad to see that People have begun to act up, speak out and stand up for the power of their convictions.  For the first time in ages, I feel a sense of hope that the 99%’ers will be able to make a change that we 99%’ers so desperately need.   I'm with them in spirit.  

Off and on this past summer I’ve been thinking about participating in a Paint Out at the Kent Art Association, where I’m a member.  Sometimes I think Yes, with a great deal of confidence.  Sometimes I think NO, it’s too public an event and my stage fright is overwhelming.  On this topic, I feel that I’m on the high diving tower at Sandy Beach, vacillating and hesitant to dive into the water or go back down the ladder.  I also remember how good it felt to let go, dive in and do it over and over again.  I haven’t  yet signed up as an entrant in the Paint Out but I did sign-on as a runner for the auction later in the afternoon on the day of the Paint Out, so I’m that committed.  The weather looks good for next Saturday and I discovered a ¼ sheet of watercolor paper so there’s a good chance I’ll be in Kent next Saturday,  Painting Outside with all the experience from practicing all summer at Home Beach.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Here's my 9/11/01 story.

I remember the day well because I saw what turned out to be the 2nd plane to hit the World Trade Center.  We crossed paths on the top of Sharon Mountain. 

I was on my way to Millerton.  I went early to the place where I work let in the guy who was installing a dishwasher.  Much earlier that morning my computer crashed and I lost the entire guest list for a show I was doing in Woodbury in one month.  I also lost all the information for a grant I was applying to in ten days.  I was in a dark & horrible mood as I drove from Litchfield toward Millerton.  Somewhere around Warren, I noticed that it was a gorgeous day and that I wasn't appreciating it with my dark mood and thoughts, so decided to let it all go until later and enjoy the beautiful day.  As I drove up Sharon Mountain I could feel my positive mental energy coming back.  When I got to the top of the mountain the 1st thing I noticed, coming my way at an angle from the right,  was a huge commercial jet cruising low over the treetops.  It was so close I could see the windows and the insignia on the tail.  I gasped from the beauty of it because it was so low & reflecting the early morning rising sun which made it appear to be pale pinks, yellow, orange....   It also seemed to be going quite slow, just cruising slowly at a low altitude.  It was approx. 8:10am and the encounter probably took less than 10 seconds. As the plane crossed over the highway, I drove through the shadow it cast on the road.  It didn't appear to be in trouble -- no smoke or parts falling off....  It was huge thrill -- uplifting! -- to see it, as if I'd spotted a rare and hugely unusual bird.  I thought to check out the 6 'o' clock news that night to see if there was any mention of a plane flying low over nw CT but as it turned out, I didn't have to wait that long.

I drive to Millerton every week and every week at the spot where I first spotted the plane, I always think about the encounter and remember that day.  My thoughts and prayers are for all the souls that day who experienced the planes in a less innocent way and for the rest of us who are no longer innocent of the threat of terror. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Arrangement of Pigment on Flat Surfaces

Wed, June 29, ‘11

Life has been busy in recent weeks and with one thing or another, I just haven’t written.  One of the things was computer meltdown, another, an out of town friend in town,  more social life overall now that spring/summer’s here and more employment , some of it teaching, some of it a calligraphy commission and the resumption of a cleaning job I’ve held for many years.

Because of the computer melt-down I'm back to using my Netbook, which isn't as satisfactory or as fast as my former laptop.  It's painfully and woefully slow.  Trying to get anything done with this tiny computer seems to take forever and blogging with it isn't a very appealing feature.  I'm saving my pennies for a new laptop.

The difficulties of last winter are fading.  I told that to a friend today.  He said, yes, they are but don’t forget that next winter is looming.  Well, I haven’t forgotten but today I choose to worry about today and let next winter take care of itself.  It’s a beautiful, poetic June day.   Around here, we’ve had more rain and gray days than sunny so the past 3 or 4 days of sun and balmy air is making everyone giddy.

I’ve been spending more time doing calligraphy and selling Serenity Prayer’s on eBay.  That’s been an interesting experience and also a lot of strengthening in my hand.  With every Serenity Prayer the lettering is a little stronger, a little tighter, a little more uniform overall.   I didn’t/don’t make a lot of money this way but every little bit helps and it helped a lot when gas was up over $4. Per gallon.  I’m calling it paid practice.

Other than sketches, I haven’t been painting.  And other than the early preparatory stages, my calendar sits untouched.  I’ve accepted that I’m in a phase of Stop, Look, Listen and am going with that for now.  Until further notice.

While I haven’t been painting, I have been doing a lot of sketching and am going to share them here.  They’ve been a great source of amusement, pleasure and learning for me.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Some thoughts on Calligraphy and Ink

For many years in the past, I pursued an interest in calligraphy.  I'm largely self-taught but got to the point where I took a few classes as well as a year long workshop with a well-known calligrapher, Annie Cicale.  I did OK, did a lot of documents and Wedding Invitations plus some well-paid and interesting work for a poet. for more than 8 years.  When The Poet became ill and moved to a nursing home, I no longer had interesting & well-paid work to do illuminating and transcribing his poetry so I let it all go and spent my spare time pursuing my interest in Plein-Air Painting.  Recently I offered to address wedding invitations for a nephew’s wedding and in order to do a good job, began to practice my calligraphy.

I’ve long known that my supplies were short but decided to make-do with the best I had.  A friend had given me a huge package of pointed nibs so I decided to use those rather than purchase the kind I’d rather have.  I’ve really enjoyed learning to use these nibs which are most unlike the chisel-type nibs I used in the past.

A few weeks ago, as I was practicing my lettering skills with one of these nibs, I calmed down my racing mind with my mantra, the Serenity Prayer.  Which got me to thinking along new lines that went somewhat like this; if I had a nickel for every time I’ve slowed down & balanced my mind with the Serenity Prayer I not only wouldn’t be as calm or relatively sane. I’d also be quite well-off financially.  While I thought these thoughts, I started writing the Serenity Prayer.  The new thought was if I had a dollar for every time I wrote the Serenity Prayer, I’d be better-off financially. 

One thing I’m enjoying is the freedom to make mistakes and allow them to remain on works that I’m selling.  I’m working on one of my Stumbling Blocks, Perfectionism.  Were I to upload a copy of a ‘perfect’ piece, I’d still be re-working my 1st one and I doubt my mind would be calm or ‘sane.’

I’m also enjoying using the equipment and supplies I’ve had on hand for many years, making-do with what I have and not feeling that I have to invest in new.  I’m enjoying re-inventing my skills and use of.  Today I used 2 Schaeffer calligraphy pens that have been stored away for years.  Someone who tried their hand at calligraphy and felt they’d failed gave them to me, thinking I might be able to use them.  Little did they know....  Well, in the day when I bought 10 or 15 new nibs to make sure I’d have enough for a particular job, I inwardly turned up my nose at one of these pens.  Today, I’m loving them.

I’m enjoying the practice; it’s a good discipline for me.  I’m enjoying thinking about all the things I can make on decorated watercolor paper with a few pen nibs, some ink and a paint box full of gouache.  I’m enjoying learning to break my well-established rules of semi-rigid perfectionism & recipes for failure, enjoying the honest work of art that come out of my daily practice – ‘warts’ and all.

I did purchase a bottle of new ink to use on the Wedding Invitations.  It was to me, somewhat pricey, but it sounded good – matte black, waterproof – which one needs to use on outer envelopes in case the mail carrier delivers it in the rain.  As it turns out, I struggled with this ink through 95 addresses and have come to the conclusion that it’s horrible ink that I wouldn’t recommend to anyone for any purpose, unless maybe you’re into Graffiti Art and need a fast  splash of black –  which would finish off what’s left in the bottle. 

This morning, I shook the bottle before using and commenced dipping my pen into the ink.  The ink positively would not flow.  I looked into the bottle and what was there was the consistency of pudding.  I watered it down a bit so I could finish what I’d started,  constantly dipping and wiping a lot more than I did actual lettering.  It took me a very long time to letter the above Serenity Prayer

A thumbs-down to this ink.