Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Bare (sic) Facts

5" x 7" watercolor on 140 lb Fabriano Artistico hot press paper

For several mornings at approximately the same time, I parked my car at the same place at the edge of a park. There was a large tree that intrigued me and I wanted to try to capture it on paper. I also liked the way it framed everything beyond.

So I painted the tree and when I was about halfway through, with the tree complete, I showed it to a friend. I had tried to portray all of the many shades and textures I saw on the tree, including a large knot.

She looked at it, and then squinted and leaned closer.  "What's that?" she said, "Is that a bear?"

I looked at the picture again. And then I saw it.

There it was where the knot should have been - a bear.  I'd had no idea the bear was there.

If you didn't see a bear the first time you looked at the picture, then look again, and there it will be. And once you see the bear, you cannot unsee it.

Now with a few dabs of water or paint and some subtle changes I could have banished the bear from my tree, and I considered doing so.  But I kind of liked the old fella - he had a friendly smile - so there he stays.

So now it's my bear tree.

I had fun with the scene beyond.  There was a house off to my right just beyond the far side of the park and I decided that for my composition it would look good on the left, so I put it there.  And now the bear guards that house, I suppose.

And those are the bear facts, as I see them.

At the end of each of my sessions, I'd snap a shot of the picture, to evaluate my progress and consider what to do next.

And here is a slide show of those shots:

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Mortality and Rebellion

"Mortality"  10" x 8" ink and watercolor on 140 lb Fabriano Artistico rough paper
My employer of almost 11 years passed away this week after a long battle with breast cancer.  She was relatively young, 48, and left behind two children and a husband.  It was very sad.  A night or two later I dreamed of the above painting.  I think abstract art may be a way to wrap your head around such concepts as mortality when these facts are hammered home.  As it is related in style and subject matter to the painting in my last post, "Organic/Inorganic", I'd say that it is the second in a series if there can be a series of two.

The idea is that the center section is life with all of its many activities and experience.  It is bordered by the period before birth on the left, and by death on the right.

I have some representational works to show you as well, including an acrylic painting I am especially excited about.  I still remain primarily a representational painter so while this blog has taken a bit of a detour, it has not careened of the road.  Really.

My most valuable critic thinks this work is horrid.  Does it have value as art?  I don't know.  But it has meaning to me.

I have not been posting often enough for my taste.  I considered a sabbatical, but I have too much to share.  So I may have a bit of a Summer Souffle', with short and airy posts, more frequently submitted.  Maybe.

A few of you saw the brief flash of another watercolor I had done that swiftly vanished from the web.
It's the first time I recall pulling a post, and vestiges remained on the web.  My MVC didn't like this watercolor either.  I think it lacks something compositionally, and yes, yes, it is the most boring watercolor I've ever done.  But it was a good exercise.  I also couldn't get the colors to show quite right with the scanner, despite repeated tries.  But for those of you who asked, here it is.

Coral Gables Women's Club 6"x 6-1/4" w/c on Arches 140 lb cold press

About two months ago, Jennifer Edwards of Drawn2Life was gracious enough to award this blog not one, but two, awards.  Thank you Jennifer for thinking of me, and for your kind comments about my blog.  Jennifer's blog is fabulous, and for anyone that has not read her marvelous lessons, you should visit here.


I created a whimsical post with an imaginary awards ceremony.  That is the post I pulled.  My MVC thought it was too, I don't know, contrived, derivative, maybe even offensive.  It was probably all of the above.  I mean, how do you make answering questions like, "What is your favorite color?" interesting otherwise?  I was having some fun.

Maybe I ought not show any posts these days to my MVC in advance - you think?  [A note here:  The reason my MVC is my MVC is because my MVC is virtually always right - so at least I get all of the crap out of the way in one post!]

So in a grand gesture of rebellion, if you'd like to read it, you may tumble down the rabbit hole here...

Awards in hand, I contacted the paparazzi to tell them about a special gathering that I would hold in order to announce the answers to the questions that I, as a recipient, was duty-bound to answer.   I tried to book a room in the state-of-the-art showplace arts and culture auditorium, the Arsht Center, or at the Gusman Concert Hall in downtown Miami to no avail.  But Frank's Old Folk's Home in Hallandale took me, so I gathered my helpers and went there a few hours ago.

When I arrived the place was packed!  I was thrilled. The secret servicemen wouldn't let me through though.

When the President finally left, the vast space was left mostly empty except for five elderly men, scattered throughout, three of them in wheelchairs.  They stared straight ahead in rapt attention.

So I got on the stage with my troupe.

I brought  a young woman with me to ask the questions, petite, about 4'6" tall, but I knew she had a deep thundering voice that belies her size.


The trumpeters I brought then played the fanfare.  This is a video taken at the event:

"Blue," I announced with great flourish.

One man coughed.  Another clapped very slowly.


"23!" I said.  Yes I am vain enough to have the day of my birth be my favorite number.  "Oh and I like 11 too!" I added.

11:11 is my favorite time of day.  One friend told me that when I catch 11:11 on the clock (which happens all of the time) it means my muse is with me.  I like that. 

The other day I went to a small workshop at the Museum of Contemporary Art Institute.  My goals were to (a) get out of the house, and (b) stretch my boundaries.  Our instructor told us about the artist Joanne Greenbaum who uses numbers in her work, some of which you can see here.  She builds in layers and uses shapes and numbers.

Then we were to use her approach as a guide and make our own, non-imitative work.  What fun!   Another of the wonderful things about the workshop was that they had all kinds of mediums available that I had never used before - oil pencils, watercolor crayons, inks - I used everything.  I also used watercolors and acrylics.  The result was a bit of a mess, but oddly engaging.  Probably not post-able.  My meaningful numbers were scattered throughout the piece so it is not to be discarded, not matter what it looks like.

When you check out Joanne Greenbaum's work, you might react by saying, "A child could do that!" and then  you try it and, like me, will probably proceed to find out just how wrong you are.  Of course, you are not a child, so maybe you'd have made a point.


"I have  ..," I had to pull my mike back because of feedback.  I started again.  "I have given up my favorite drink, Diet Coke, which is, I have read, apparently responsible for all of the world's health scourges, including heart attacks.  The idea of a heart attack was the last straw for me.  So now I drink tea."

An orderly wheeled one of my audience away.  Now there were four.


"The dolphin, er, not the kind you eat"



"Well I have Facebook, a personal account - I'm hardly ever on it though."



At this point one of the elderly men in the audience stood up from his wheelchair and exclaimed, "I can walk!!  I can walk!!  It's a miracle!!"  And left.


"Thanksgiving Day," I said.

At that time I felt it important to engage my audience - "How many of you three like Thanksgiving?"  I raised my hand as an example.

No one raised his hand.  One red-haired gentleman tried to touch his nose with his tongue.



She gave me a steely stare.

"Okay," I said sheepishly, "the dancing lady Orchid."  Sigh.



"Why art, of course, what else?"

And that says it all.

When I packed to go and sent my troupe on its way I realized that I am supposed to give these awards away to some other folks.  And I may, only not today.  I am too busy playing canasta with my audience.  Fortunate that we all fit at the table.