Sunday, May 28, 2006

Chad said....

"Chad said....
I love your title, by the way. It's vague enough to mean anything, yet apt for describing views on painting, how to read paintings, or even how to create art. Nice work."

Chad left this comment on this blog's May 9th entry. "Finding My Glasses" is the title of my solo exhibit in November. My daughter, Anna, helped come up with the name. It really signifies this new vision I'm discovering through painting, this new way of looking at life. I hope that people will enjoy my "view" through what I put on canvas and that this vision stays unique. (remember, you're unique just like everybody else) It is a new perspective for me. I'm transforming from one phase of my life (stay at home mom, mostly) to a new phase of being a professional artist. I'm "finding my glasses."

But that's not really why Anna suggested the title.

"Sarah said....(my response to Chad)
Also, I spend an inordinate amount of time looking for my glasses. They get in the way, or are uncomfortable, and I take them off and forget where I've put them. One day I found them in the refrigerator."

Just this past week, I "found" my glasses (1) on top of the dryer in the garage (2) in the parking lot at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston (3) on the front lawn of our house at 10 o'clock at night. I had been looking for hours.

Maybe this is just par for the course. All artists have their eccentricities, right?

Friday, May 26, 2006

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Things I've observed while painting today:

1. It's harder than it looks.

2. I forget that it's a bit hard.

3. I move around a lot, and walk backwards away from my painting and trip on stuff.

4. I get messy, and have to clean my hands and fingers because.....

5. I use my fingers to paint sometimes.

6. A beer helps me relax and get in the groove.

7. I hate the minutia of details.

8. It's good to not have distractions.

9. It's great to be back in my studio.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

"Forgive me Father, for I have sinned. It's been 18 days since my last paint session."

I know it's not a sin not to paint, but I feel like this today. That it's almost somehow wrong for me to have waited so long between painting.

May I be ever faithful in service to the King, whatever He puts before me. Soli Deo Gloria.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Myths are powerful. For instance, it is a myth that Van Gogh never sold a painting in his lifetime....probably perpetuated by starving artists consoling themselves when their work doesn't sell. Van Gogh did sell work during his lifetime. His brother Theo represented him in Paris and sold several of his paintings.

A few months ago we were in Gremillion Gallery, and for the first time saw works by a wonderful artist, Lionel Kalish. The gallery who-ha we were talking to at the time said that he was an 80 year old man who painted with a magnifying glass because his eyes were so bad. Last night, we went to an opening reception for Lionel Kalish at Gremillion Gallery. Delightfully I got to visit at length with him. He's not 80, but he is 75. He gave an extensive explanation of his style, technique, his feeling that his art should inspire an emotional response in the was awesome. He graciously answered all my questions.

He asked me and my friend, Debra what we did after a while. I replied that I was a new, fledgling artist, at which he immediately replied, "Oh, I'm sorry." He then asked me to describe my work. This is a toughy for me. How do I describe it? I started with, "It's nothing like yours. It's not detailed (his is very detailed), it's a little messy (his is very neat), representational (his is all from his imagination), sometimes fuzzy (his is focused, for lack of a better word), colorful (his, though colorful, is much more muted than mine), painted in bold strokes (his is very precise). I also mentioned my upcoming solo exhibit. Then an amazing thing happened. He asked me if I would send him an invitation! I couldn't believe it! I didn't want to leave to find a pen because it seemed so surreal. When no one in our group had a pen, he himself went over to the guestbook with me following him like a little puppy dog. He found a pen, and carefully wrote his address on a piece of paper for me. And said again, "Please send me an invitation to your exhibit."

We sat down together for another little visit, and I asked, "So, do you use a magnifying glass when you paint?" Right then and there he said with a sigh, "No, I don't know why they perpetuate that myth. Thankfully, my eyes still work, and I don't need a magnifying glass."

Reese and I had been so amazed at the original telling of this 80 year old man using a magnifying glass to paint, that we had repeated it several times. I came home and told Reese what Lionel had said, that it was a myth, and Reese said that he heard the same gallery who-ha telling someone the same story she told us that same night, not five feet from the truth.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

In a previous phase of my life, I was a competitive runner. With running, or at least competitive running, it helps to have a good coach. A good coach takes a no-talent, and by the end of the season, with drills, time, and encouragement has produced a real athlete. I thrived with good coaching. Even after I had my fourth daughter, with a good coach, I was able to run my best college times. (not anymore)

My favorite art coach is Miss Joan. Miss Joan was our family art teacher when we homeschooled our two youngest daughters 5 years back. She invited anyone in the family to join this class geared toward supplementing our education efforts. She was always cheerful and quick to praise. We worked on everything from paper mache to wire art to that mosaic I told you about before.

But seasons of life evolved, and family art lessons went by the wayside. So when Joan called me and told me about this oil painting class she was taking, I said,

"You take the class, and then come here and teach us what you learned."

This of course was in keeping with how we operated---her teaching the family, and us reveling in her praise. She insisted that I join her.

"I don't have any paints, or paint, you take the class and then come teach us."

She said that she would loan me everything I needed if I would just come take this one class. How could I resist?

We made arrangements to meet at the class. She said that would let me borrow all her supplies and she promised to stand beside me. But she was late. The teacher, Bruce Williamson, motioned for me to come inside....Which I did. He said to get my palette ready as class was about to begin. But I didn't have anything. He was in the process of loaning me his supplies Joan arrived. Alleluia!

What they do in class is set up a still life, all the artists gather in a semi-circle, the teacher does a little demonstration, and then says, "Paint."

Are you kidding me? What?! Art speak is a different language. I had no idea what he was saying. All I heard was, blah blah blahblahblah....(or in Arrested Development, Bob Lob Law) I kept saying, "I have no idea what you're talking about."

That's not all. At the end of the class guess what happens? Everyone lines up their paintings in the front of the class and the art teacher critiques them!

Talk about nervous. I tried to beg off saying it was just my first painting, and I didn't want to put it up front. I didn't want to know what he thought....especially if it was negative. I didn't want anyone else to see it.

But up front it went. Along with the others in class... When you are at the starting line in a race, you sort of look around and size up the competition. And then you stop, turn inward, and just focus on your own race. Everything else sort of blurs as you concentrate on running your best race. That's what happened to me that day. First, I looked at all the other paintings in the class, and sized them up, if you will. Then all that blurred as I looked at what I had painted and tried to focus of what I needed to hear about this "race." Bruce was amazed that I had never painted before. He was not overly effusive in praise, but he definately had no criticism. The other artists in the class were murmuring approval. Joan was grinning, standing in encouragement beside me all the way.

I was near tears when I got home from all the nervous excitement. My adrenaline must have been pumping overtime. Reese saw the painting and about flipped. We went out the next day and he bought all the supplies for me to take the next week's class, the next starting line in a new race. And who did we "run" into at the art store? Miss Joan, my favorite art coach.

Friday, May 12, 2006

There's a quote that I thought was attributed to William Turner, the British landscape painter. But I can't find a source to verify my story anywhere. Whether or not he said it, I have embraced this quote as part of my art doctrine.

"A painting isn't truly finished until the artist has abandoned it."

The story I heard, (again I have no proof of this other than a foggy memory) is that William Turner was often not satisfied with his completed paintings. The story goes that he would sneak into the British Museum, paints in hand, and start touching up his own paintings. The British Museum! Can you imagine? A little old man with paints, pallete, and brushes painting right there in the gallery? The guards had to chase him out! (That's how I heard it)

"Please! No! Wait!...Just a touch of cobalt blue by that tree!"

Did the guards expect him every Friday? Did he wear a disguise? How did he conceal his supplies?

For me it's not a far stretch. Sometimes I have to live with one of my paintings for a while before I notice something that I am compelled to "tweak." I've dreamed about my paintings....before, during, and after painting them. For the most part, what you see, the photos of the paintings on the website, (or in person) is what I imagined it to look like as a completed painting.

All that said, the painting I worked on last week is finished. However, "Magnolia" has not been abandoned.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Last night Sam posed an assumption about art and the creative process. He supposed that artists use a particular brushstroke to convey a feeling, or choose a color to force a mood. Have you done this? Gone through museums and galleries trying to figure out what the artist was thinking/feeling when they painted this or that? Art books are full of stories and explanations about art. There's this one Matisse painting called "Harmony in Red." It began it's life as "Harmony in Green," then was painted over and transformed into "Harmony in Blue." Someone bought it as "Harmony in Blue," and after they had owned it for a year, Matisse persuaded them to return it, and then he painted over it a third time and it became "Harmony in Red." What the heck was Matisse thinking?

When Erin was home last summer, she spent a lot of time on facebook. Sometimes she would leave the windows open, and if I just so happened to walk by...and see some things, well, she would have closed the windows if she didn't want me peeking in, right? One of her dear friends, Lillian, had a GREAT photo of herself on facebook. I was enthralled the moment I saw it. It had mystery, beauty, light, and shadows. We (and by we, I mean Reese) copied, pasted, saved, and printed Lillian's facebook portrait in a 4x6 size so that I could use it as a guide for a painting.

I like how it turned out. It was a great photo that translated into an interesting painting.

Months later, Summer Rudd, with the American Cancer Society, asked if I would donate a painting to their Starlight Gala. Flattered, I initially decided to donate "Lillian." I temporarily re-titled it "Ever Hopeful" because...."the painting is symbolic of life with cancer...longing for an idyllic future, and seeing glimpses of it, but firmly planted in the here and now. One foot in shadow of cancer, and the other anticipating a brighter day. It can relate to one someone's personal battle with cancer, or pertain to looking for a cure within the medical community (which is what the evening is/was about!)"

Turns out that having a story to go with the art was not high on the priority list for the Starlight Gala silent auction. No matter. I'm still figuring out the business end of all this. Two huge positives were that the money raised went to a great cause, and I had the opportunity of having a piece in Gremillion Gallery for a day. (I still have the Lillian piece---donated something else)

I think Matisse just changed his mind. Apparently red worked best with the harmony he was trying to create on canvas.

And it was really better for "Lillian" to stay "Lillian."

So yes, some things are intentional, and no, some things just are what they are.

Friday, May 05, 2006

I'm preparing to do another mosaic. My third one. The first one was HUGE. For beginners especially. Miss Joan suggested we do a stepping stone mosaic for the family art class. Instead, I cut a rather large piece of plywood to top a coffee table that was missing it's marbles, ahem, marble. When we rolled, tugged, lugged it up 3 flights of stairs for class the next week, Miss Joan said,

"That's going to take a while."

We also brought a lot of our own tile and pottery pieces. Instead of throwing broken plates away, like normal people, I had been thinking of using them in a mosaic some day. So I was delighted to get started. It did take forever. At least 2 months, maybe 4... it was a while back. We even ran out of studio time and had to bring it home to finish. Which I did since excitement for the project had long since waned. I swore I would never do a mosaic again.

But like giving birth, you forget the pain when you are enjoying your new coffee table so much. And I did a second, smaller, simpler table top. It's 98% finished, (the 2nd one) even though we have been using it for a year.

I found this great iron coffee table base around 6 months ago. Somebody was throwing it out. It was begging for me to rescue it, breathe life into it, help it live again. We just so happen to have broken quite a few dishes lately, too. See a pattern? So yesterday, I mixed up some of my paints to get the right color (I'm calling it Aunt Mary green) and got the base painted. It's VERY wet. In order to get a smooth consistency for painting on iron, I probably added too much linsead oil. Very wet. It will probably take a good two weeks for it to dry enough to touch. Did I mention that this is in our den?

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Matisse's "Still Life with Magnolia" is/was supposed to be my inspiration today. As the painting was taking shape, and still in the sketch stage, it actually looked pretty good, like Matisse's later, more simple works. Since magnolias are in bloom, and it's a southern favorite for painting subject, I THOUGHT that now would be a good time to try. I've been planning the set up for a week now, tweaking it at the last minute to look more like the Matisse. The more I do to it the messier it looks.

So, I'm taking a break. And hoping the flower holds it's shape. And trying to figure out what to do next.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Being an artist, for me, has altered life as I knew it. Since 1985, I've been a mother, and since 1991, a mother of four. That involved learning how to cook, creating a pleasant home for my family, a little psychology, gardening, painting (the walls, not a picture), plumbing (installed a toilet), electrical work, general carpentry (added a room to the house), tile work, landscaping (designed and installed patios and footpaths), and entertaining, among other things.

Now, I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about and creating art. Most of it indoors. By myself. Not that there's anything wrong with that. It's just different.