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.


  1. I LMAO (I typed that out first then decided it was more lady like to abbreviate) the audience banter was perfect. Thanks for cheering up my otherwise dull morning.

  2. Ah Dan... you are the artist... your fans adore you... the MVC may be right, but perhaps doesn't understand that we as artists NEED to make bad stuff from time to time... to get to the good ones... and it helps the rest of us struggling with no awards to find out even DAN sometimes does a painting that just doesn't work.... it gives us hope that if even Dan has these problems, and we know from the accolades and awards how great he is... well if Dan can do it... so can we... the little people with no talent LOL... Like Mary above... I'm LMAO thanks for the chuckle Dan... and sorry to hear about your friend and co-worker.

  3. Heartfelt condolences to you! I am sorry about your employer/friend. 48 and with children! has to be hard on everyone. I do love the painting you did in her honor. It is rife with meaning.
    The best thing about your blog is how you shoot from the hip. You write, I assume, like you a visit here is like sitting with you for a spell. I like how you use a lot of words and pictures. Your critic can always be consulted, but I like that you disobeyed her and posted your painting and your jokes "anyway". (BTW, I never accept those blogger prizes, I have been accused of being dismissive and hoity-toity as a result, but we all have our style...and mine is a pretty "plain" style). Anyway! Your blog stands out for how you just lay it out there, your honest thoughts...and it is refreshing in that way.
    What do they do at the Coral Gables women's club? Interesting architecture!
    Thanks for the fanfare video...and the ceremony. (My favorite number is 7. Unoriginal...but there it is. :)

  4. Wonderful painting in memory of your employer Dan. Interesting that you dreamed it! How amazing.
    Have a good Sunday.

  5. So sorry to hear about your employer - as a soon to be 48 year old with children myself, I feel particularly the gap she will leave - to be able to paint out some of your feelings (I love the abstract, and am glad you gave us your translation of its significance) is all to the good. Keep painting. Today I read on BrainPickings that Thomas Merton said 'Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.'
    Jane x

  6. So sad to read about your employer. Art has a strange way of cropping up in life, as with your dream.

  7. Your painting is very heartfelt and moving. I'm sorry for the loss of your friend .. She was much too young. Your humor (along with your art) never disappoints. Thanks for the giggles! nancy

  8. Oh Dan, I'm so sorry for the loss of your employer and friend. Words aren't adequate so I'm sending a virtual hug....
    Your art is wonderful and I think it's beautiful to use it in such an expression of feeling.

    Your painting of the the Women's Club is fabulous and I hope you are very proud of it. I don't find it at all boring.
    I did enjoy your comments and glad you shared them.

    Glad to see you back and hope to see more. Take care DZAN and art on!!! A little rebellion is good for the soul even if your MVC has your best interests at heart.

  9. I'm sorry to hear of the loss of your friend. Dreams have a way of leading us into interesting art.

    Your Coral Gables painting reminds me of a nude woman (probably the color, the columns and triangular overhang)--could be x-rated and I like it. I read this entry before you pulled it. Those four audience members are probably not much older than I; be kind to your elders.

    Always rebel!

  10. Sorry to hear of your employer/friend. Art can be a great escape, even if it comes through in our dreams. I am looking forward to seeing your latest acrylic painting. My first thought when I saw your non-objective watercolor at the top of this post was that it would make a fantastic painting in acrylic! These detours are fun, and you never know where you'll end up! I enjoyed reading your acceptance speech - congrats on the awards - well deserved!

  11. I always think abstract art is what the viewer wants it to be, your painting flows and moves just like life itself. Sorry to hear about your friend and my sympathy to the family she left behind.

  12. I like your life and death abstraction. I like that life is centered in the foreground and is clearly defined, while birth and death fall back and are vaguely represented. I'm sorry for your loss. It is so sad when we lose someone so young and so vital and so needed to such a horrible disease.

    As for the watercolor. Have you tried to section off the good part--the door way--the left side looks like something to save. And really, the whole thing looks like it just needs higher contrasts to bring to life. Don't be so hard on yourself Dan.

    I'm glad, after your loss and what you consider to be a failure, that you still have your sense of humor. Great post. Congratulations on your awards.

  13. Hi Dan, Sorry to hear about your loss. We had a neighbor taken by bone and lung cancer recently, sadly. I find your visual explorations of loss to be most compelling. I rarely worry about whether something is "art" any more. I think you hit on the entire point: it has meaning to you. I find abstraction can be particularly powerful in conveying deep-felt emotion.

    Oh, and I love your sense of humor! Especially the fun you had with the award. :)

  14. Thank you all for your kind and caring comments. I am pleased that a few of you found meaning in my abstract, as well.

    Addressing a few of your remarks:

    Captain - Aw shucks. You are eloquent, however, as always.

    Celeste - I hope I talk the way I write - that would be good. When I am comfortable, I probably do. I hope you and I can sketch and talk together one day, and we can find out. Anyway, I plan on becoming hoity toity too. These personal awards, while appreciated, are just too much. Hence the ceremony. A bit tongue in cheek, don't you think?

    Jane - I cannot thank you enough for turning me on to Brain Picking dot org. Wow - what a blog!! I love it! Thank you.

    Hallie - I have tried and tried and cannot see a nude woman there - what's a guy to do? Very frustrating. :) Re the elders, you know, that was the "offensive" part of it all that made me hesitate to post, and still makes me wonder whether I should have. The last ALF I was in was my father's, and he was one of the staring multitude. It's very sad. Age is a moving target, so I will be there some day. So I just have to poke a little fun and laugh, knowing my ultimate destination. It's all with the utmost affection.

    Linda - Neat idea to crop it. I think it would improve. But look at Hallie's comment - I'm afraid I might chop off some poor woman's head!

    Peggy - I am so sorry for your loss.

    Thanks all, again.

  15. How sad to lose your boss. Condolences to you and her family.

    Absolutely loved the way you handled the award ceremony!! We need you, don't ever quit posting.