The inspiration for the above painting titled “1959 Revisited” came from these wonderful toys recently rediscovered in my husband’s childhood home. Stored in the attic for nearly 50 years these colorful plastic and metal playthings have been resurrected and now enjoy a new friendship with our four year old grandson, Otto. Without the benefit of preconceived notions, Otto’s cowboys give native american indians a ride to work in the old battered metal truck. The Civil War soldiers are employed as doctors who care for WWII soldiers after they have fallen off a cliff while hiking. Spacemen build houses and firepits for their neighbors so that they can share a meal of blue flying fish together. I watch him play and participate while allowing him to guide me through his plastic new world. Guns are drawn when Zombies begin to attack the village.
A piece of my husband’s past is now becoming a part of what will someday be Otto’s childhood memories. Those old family photos, grandmother’s finely tatted lace and great-grandmas comfort food are the things we display and hold dear. Most importantly, we pass them along and share the stories that go with them. One lifetime inevitably folds into another and hopefully, when a great grandchild is someday wondering where his icy blue eyes or dark red hair came from, he will have an answer and a story to accompany it.
I am working on a new painting that will include my maternal Grandmother’s depression-ware dishes. I never met her and have only seen one photo of her. She passed away when my Mother was young so there were no stories to share. Honoring her legacy in a painting is all that I can do and I like to believe that she would be pleased. It is not the first time that I have incorporated a meaningful family heirloom into my work and it won’t be the last. From the studio…..painting and passing it on.
Recently we attended an artist Q&A session with several abstract painters. I am not, nor will I ever be, an abstract painter but I found the session to be a wonderful insight into what makes these folks tick. There was a lot of discussion regarding line, shape and use of color. Inspirations and methods also came into the conversations. I was enjoying the insightful commentary until one of the artists, while discussing the difference between representational art (a.k.a. realism) and abstract noted that “In realism people paint red barns….you could see a thousand red barns and once you’ve seen one red barn painting….you’ve seen them all.”
Wait….what? I’ve painted barns. Red, white and worn out weathered wood barns. None of them look alike and I have had different feedback from many different people regarding each one. I love barns…dammit. I suppose what bothered me the most was that in this open forum I had to listen to another artist bash my style. A little voice in my head told me to calm down, remain quiet and listen.
What I walked away with was a renewed notion that creativity comes in many different shapes and sizes. Much like people and politics, we all have different views and each one needs to be respected. I start a painting with a definate plan and follow through all of the steps it takes to completion. In the end I may have a red barn but most of the brush strokes that got me to that point were abstract shapes….placed with great care. The abstract artist places shapes and color freely but in the end titles the piece which lets the viewer know what they were thinking, thereby giving it validity and guiding the viewer into their completed work.
Abstract and representational artists have more in common than not. Opposed political name calling seems to be the fashion of the day but when it comes to art it is possible to find a common ground. Let’s keep it clean folks and appreciate that fact that we are all striving to understand each other. P.S.: My current painting features an old weathered barn wall….just sayin’.
I have been an acrylic artist for many years and since 2007 I have been honored to have my work accepted into numerous juried exhibitions. I am primarily self-taught with the exception of a few months of private lessons which I took in 2006. Those lessons proved invaluable in learning some new techniques that helped to enrich my work. Eight years later I am still learning by experimentation, research and most importantly, observation. I have always been that person who questions a process or a function in a never-ending quest to understand. If I live to be 100 you will never hear me say that I’ve got this painting thing down pat. Ever.
Perhaps that is why, when asked in the past, if I would consider giving art lessons I always said no. There were the obvious time constraints but also my own sense of inadequacy. I suppose that I am not the only artist who feels that way….in fact, it seems to be a qualifier in this profession. We are always reaching for perfection but the reality is, it constantly eludes us. Case in point….when I have decided that a painting is done and the last brush stroke has been made I varnish it as soon as I possibly can so that I can say without a shadow of a doubt….”There, that’s done.” This allows me the freedom to move on to the next project without the temptation to fiddle with it.
This brings me to my current project. I decided recently to take on a few students for private lessons. I came to the conclusion that I may NEVER be done learning this medium but I have enough knowledge at this moment in time that may be valuable to someone else. Yesterday afternoon I gave my first lessons to a father and his young daughter. We worked on some basic drawing skills and I got a clear sense of their eagerness to learn. They both tell me that they are very much looking forward to the next session and they seemed pleased with their accomplishments.
Little do they know that I spent the rest of the day feeling my own sense of accomplishment. Sharing the passion is just one more step of this artful journey that I am on and I am so glad that I finally did.
“There, that’s done.”
This winter season has been unreasonably cold. The desire to hibernate and burrow under deep quilts begins to sound like a siren call on these bitterly cold and dark days. Recently, in an effort to drive away the “winter blues”, I decided to work on a painting that recalled the warmth of a late summer day. The painting featured above titled “Sentinel Shadows” was the result of this effort.
A few years ago my husband and I took a Sunday drive through the lush farm lands that surround us. Baer takes the helm on these trips so that I am free to jump out of the car at a moments notice with camera in hand….he also plays crossing guard and keeps me from getting run over. With camera in tow I decided that when the sun started dipping in the west I would begin to document a few scenes that were bathed in what I refer to as “golden hour” light. This early evening glow saturates everything in its path with vibrant color and lengthens purple shadows that dip and dive along the landscape.
After locating the photo in my files I began the process of sketching and then laying down a monochromatic burnt umber underpainting on the canvas. As I began to squeeze out the palette of titanium white, cobalt blue, yellow ochre, red oxide, emerald green, hookers green, paynes grey and dioxazine purple I could feel the chill begin to lift. I began by laying in a hazy blue summer sky. Ah…that’s better….who needs light therapy when you’ve got paint? By the time I finished glazing over the roof area and the painted barn wood I had removed my cardigan sweater and fuzzy slippers. Working in the grassy area of the foreground was a pure delight and I swear I could smell the sweet odor of warm hay.
There are other golden hour photos in my files that may make their way onto a canvas one day soon if this winter doesn’t loosen it’s grip. In the meantime I’ll be painting, making soup, wearing cardigans, fuzzy slippers and a faraway look in my eye while dreaming of warmer days.
Last Friday evening my husband, Barry, and I attended the Catharine Lorillard Wolfe Art Club 117th exhibition dinner which was held at The National Arts Club, NYC. My painting “Red Rose and Roosters” was on display along with some of the most amazing work of female talent in the country. The CLWAC is the oldest women’s only art club in the US. During the dinner, artist awards were presented and various speakers took the podium. One of those speakers was artist Claudia Seymour who had been named “honored member” of the month.
During Claudia’s speech she was thanking her supporters who consisted of friends and family but most of all her very loving and devoted husband. It was at this point that I was nodding my head vigorously and was tempted to give her words a standing ovation.
As an artist with my very own devoted husband I understood her meaning perfectly. We artists have our supporters, those people who praise, encourage and follow our accomplishments. But we can all point to that one person who goes above and beyond the call of duty to make sure that we stay on track and keep creating. For me, that person is my husband who I will forever affectionately refer to as “Baer”.
Baer is the one who makes sure that my marathon weekend painting sessions can happen without interruption. He answers the phone, does the house cleaning, laundry and will even cook a delicious dinner when necessary. He has carried my paintings in and out of galleries, taken photos at exhibitions and driven me through the worst traffic that New York City could throw at him. He has pushed me out of creative slumps and has had to listen to the occasional cursing tirade that flows from the studio when the paint just isn’t cooperating. He opens letters from juried shows (because I’m too nervous to do it myself), lets me know the results and either celebrates my acceptance or comforts me if a piece has been rejected. He does these things willingly, without being asked, because he believes in my ability. His faith and optimism knows no bounds and I am forever grateful that he is in my life.
Please keep these things in mind the next time that you are introduced to an artist and be sure to thank their spouse or significant other for supporting the arts because no one does it like they do.
The painting shown above is titled “Background Music” and features my husband, Baer, with his Martin OM28V model guitar. I recently donated a limited edition print of this painting to be auctioned off to help support an online forum that is designed to bring Martin guitar owners together to share their love of the instrument and music. These talented folks from around the world make a pilgrimage once a year to a little town called Nazareth located in Pennsylvania which is the birthplace of the Martin guitar. Baer and I have been attending for several years now and always enjoy the experience. The auction went well, I’m always happy to help a good cause and in this case music and art melded just right.
Baer plays and sings beautifully. Me….not at all. In fact, sometimes, while driving my truck down a country road, I’m inclined to sing to a favorite song at the top of my lungs….only to see small animals run away in terror. I’m convinced that it is not the sound of that Chevy engine that is making them flee, but the harsh wailing coming from the cab that has penetrated their wooded bliss. And so it is that my husband and I co-exist. He sings but cannot paint and I paint but cannot sing and yet….sometimes…the two overlap and a piece such as “Background Music” is born.
Baer acquired this guitar a few years back by trading a Rolex watch that his ex-wife had given him. He justified it by saying that he was trading bad mojo for good mojo and I agreed with his logic. He conferred with an instrument dealer in Virginia and the deal was struck. And so it was that the Rolex was packaged up and shipped, sight unseen, to the dealer and the dealer had the guitar shipped, sight unseen to Baer. The two items crossed over each other in transit somewhere along the east coast and both arrived at their destinations in fine condition leaving both parties thrilled with their acquisitions.
The following year I decided to create the painting and started working on it in April. In late May my father (who loved seeing my work in progress) stopped by for a visit and asked what I was working on. I brought the painting, half completed, down for him to view and he loved it. My father also loved to hear Baer play and sing so I suppose it was no surprise that he liked the painting. As it turned out, that would be the last time my father ever viewed my work. He passed away a few weeks later suddenly and unexpectedly. It would take another four months before I could bring myself to enter my studio to finish this piece and when the final signature was laid out I burst into tears with the knowledge that my father would never see the completed work.
A few years later Baer decided to embellish his guitar with a small ivory heel cap. He asked me to sketch a 1×1 inch bear paw track which was then emailed to Bob Hergert, who is a master micro-scrimshaw artist in Oregon. Baer commissioned Bob to scrimshaw the paw print sketch onto the small ivory piece which was then fitted onto the heel plate of the guitar by another master in his craft, luthier David Musselwhite. Once again, music and art were intertwined.
My husband has told me on more than one occasion that I have taught him how to “see” things differently. That sunset. That tree. Or a simple glass of iced tea. In return he has taught me the names of nearly all of the separate parts of a guitar and the nuances of the musical note in his splendid voice which will forever be the background music of my life.
In 2006 I submitted, for the first time, a painting to be juried into a national art exhibition. I held a newly found, tentative confidence in my artistic abilities. I screwed up my courage, filled out all the necessary paperwork, enclosed a slide labeled with the required information, licked the envelope and dropped it in the mail. A few weeks later I received a response from the organization and it went something like this: “Thank you for submitting your artwork for our upcoming exhibition, although your work was not accepted at this time, we hope that you will…yadda, yadda, yadda. And then it happened….I went into what my husband still refers to as the infamous “funk”. I did not lift a paintbrush for the next six months.
I can only explain it like this…that the rejection letter to an artist is like a “Dear John” letter to the lovelorn.
Eventually I picked myself up, dusted off my damaged ego and when I finally did re-enter the studio I felt rejuvenated and passionate again….and I painted like a mad woman. The following year I entered another piece in the same exhibition and it was accepted. Not only that, but upon arriving at the gallery I discovered that the painting had sold. My confidence returned and I have been in numerous juried exhibitions since then.
This brings us to yesterday when I received another rejection letter. My second one in seven years. I responded this time by immediately entering not one, but two, paintings in a different national exhibition.
Damn the torpedoes…full speed ahead. And that goes for you lovelorn folks too.
This past Friday evening at our local art league, I had the honor of presenting awards for their Spring Juried Exhibition of which I was the juror of entries and awards. Given the terrible events that began last week in Boston and West, Texas, I felt compelled to address how important it is that we, as artists, keep creating beauty. I may not have stated this as eloquently as I would have liked but I think everyone understood my meaning.
My husband has often said to me, “You have to keep painting, keep creating beauty…because there is too much ugly in this world.” He’s right, of course, because there will forever be no shortage of hate, anger and violence on this planet. Those beasts have reared their ugly heads since time began and unfortunately, will continue to do so.
While we, as artists, spend many solitary hours in our studios lost in creative endeavors it does not mean that we are not connected socially. On the contrary, our art is the thing that brings us closer and helps us process the bad stuff when it happens….then we hang it on a wall and hope it helps someone else.
Keep pushing paint, carving stone, chiseling wood, blending graphite and shaping glass as many have done before us in the midst of madness. Temper the Beast….with Beauty.
This past week while working on a small painting I realized that something wasn’t right. After studying the piece for some time I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t in love with the composition. It wasn’t balanced enough. I usually make these discoveries before I ever set paint to canvas but that wasn’t the case this time. I had just completed the underpainting which would be my “road map” for every glazing layer of paint to follow. My studio time is very limited so the idea of starting over did not appeal to me. Dilemmas….what to do? I decided to sleep on it. I was awakened at 3:30 a.m. with a dream in which the painting was displayed. Immediately my mind started working on the problem at hand. Seriously? What am I doing wide awake at this hour pondering this problem? I finally dozed off without ever finding a solution.
The next day it occurred to me to just crop it. Why not? Photographers do it all the time. It just so happens that this particular piece was done on gesso board so I did some research on how best to cut the board with the least amount of damage. I do not own the particular type of saw that was recommended so I contacted a friend who came to my rescue and agreed to do the deed for me. I took a piece of plain white paper, measured out a “frame” to the dimension I wanted and after cutting out the inside of the paper frame I placed it over the painting and moved it about till I found the composition that worked. More measuring, marking and taping ensued and I finally was ready for my friend to chop this thing up. And she did. Beautifully.
I suppose that there are those who are cringing at the thought of cutting up a painting no matter what stage it is at. I have no such reservations. To me, this was no more upsetting than trimming the mold off of a chunk of cheese or skimming the lumps out of the gravy. If it’s bad stuff it’s gotta go or you will never find peace with it.
Oh….and the painting? I finished it up a few days ago and have slept like a baby ever since.