Tuesday, October 12, 2010

So Tired.

I'm tired today - can't think of much of anything to say.
Not a single thing. Not even these words. The thoughts fly away
Like sound-startled birds. Like wind-blown balloons
That follow no path, that delight or confound, maybe usher a laugh.
The thoughts don't know when. They don't even know how.
I don't know what I'm saying so I think I'll stop now.

[Psst.. that's right. My poem has absolutely nothing to do with the ink and watercolor sketch of this poor, unsuspecting family above. It just goes to show - there is truth in poetry. .. Now, off to bed.]

Saturday, October 2, 2010


September trudged by and became this blog's first (and hopefully last) silent month. Blogs, as you know, should not be silent. Blogs should be boisterous.

So here I am - boisterous.

Although my September brain couldn't seem to wrap around blogging, I never stopped breathing or sketching or painting - this body's essential functions. See, for example, my contribution at my joint blog with Raena, 2'nFro, if you haven't been there already.

I was attracted to the above still life because of the challenge of the transparent and white objects. Most of the objects were painted on site, but since I didn't have time to finish I snapped a quick photo and completed it last week. Lucky for me, this week's Everyday Matters challenge is "Something Made of Glass".

This is how it went down. I was visiting family in Central Florida. At my brother's lively home, my nephew Jake and I planted ourselves in the kitchen. He set up a tomato to paint with his watercolors, and I put this complicated arrangement before me. In 10 minutes - poof - Jake was gone, painting done, and onto his computer, and I was still absorbed in the process of drawing the arrangement. During the ensuing hour or so, my brother Neil, my beautiful nieces Emma and Ashley, and my sister-in-law Denise all swirled around and about me, visiting, talking, eating, and occupying themselves in a flurry of other activities. Delightful.

About halfway through this little watercolor, there was a drip of purple stain in what was meant to be part of the uneventful background. It could not be removed, and I just kept painting. I'd worry about it later. There are no mistakes - only occurrences I can use. Concealing that stain ultimately resulted in the three frames outlining the still life, which makes the piece more interesting, I think.

As you know from the last post, I read the book "O'Keefe" by Britta Benke. I was struck by how she would create near-abstracts from reality. Georgia O'Keefe's magnification of familiar objects had made them almost abstract. I had never looked at her paintings in that way before. One sketch I did in my moleskine under the influence of her book, is this one. It is hardly abstract, but a closer perspective on the tree than I might have done otherwise:

In 1916 O'Keefe was told about a book just translated into English, and she was still referring back to the same book at age 97. So I just had to purchase it , and I found it on Amazon for 98 cents (yes, you read right). It is "Concerning the Spiritual in Art" by Wassily Kandinsky. I am not sure that I would recommend it. It is a lofty, egotistical, rambling, opinionated historical manifesto at the birth of abstractionism. Kandinsky discusses the "inner need" which I can relate to (as a "hunger", more like). Towards the end of the book, he said:

"The artist has a triple responsibility to the non-artists: (1) He must repay the talent which he has; (2) his deeds, feelings, and thoughts, as those of every man, create a spiritual atmosphere which is either pure or poisonous. (3) These deeds and thoughts are materials for his creations, which themselves exercise influence on the spiritual atmosphere. The artist is not only a king, as Peladan says, because he has great power, but also because he has great duties.

If the artist be priest of beauty, nevertheless this beauty is to be sought only according to the principle of the inner need, and can be measured only according to the size and intensity of that need.


Observing O'Keefe's works with some better understanding from the reading of this book did something to my head. I had taken the following photo for Shadow Shot Sunday:

I was attracted to the shapes and fields of color and felt compelled to paint it in my moleskine, the idea of abstract from reality and simplification floating around my mind. Nevertheless, at this point in my development I am a representational artist and couldn't resist molding the tree and adding texture.

My MVC ("Most Valuable Critic") had a visceral reaction to this one. She said it looked like it contained blobs, mistakes. That I could do better. In truth, I didn't want the words "Lab Tests" (I mean, who would?), and did exactly what I intended to do. My MVC is right, of course, it doesn't work. But experiments and explorations don't have to work. They can even be ugly.

I have spent the better part of September and into October reading a wonderful book that had been recommended and reviewed by Katherine Cartwright (my art philosophy guru), at her blog. It is "The Art Spirit" by what I imagine to be the most wonderful teacher of painters ever, Robert Henri. He is the opposite of Kandinsky in philosophy, but there are similarities too, and we can learn from both. He says:

"An artist's warehouse, full of experience, is not a store of successful phrases ready for use, but is a store of raw material. The successful phrases are there, but they have been broken down to be made over into new form. Those who have the will to create do not care to use old phrases. There is a great pleasure in the effort to invent the exact thing which is needed. Use it. Break it down. Begin again."

And off we go!