Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Porch Sitting

When I was 10, the bookmobile came near my house. I always brought home all the books than I could carry and stacked them on the front porch next to my favorite chair. Even though I knew there would be no more for two weeks, I read them all in just a few days while shifting into the kinds of contortionist positions I can only dream of now. I went to worlds beyond my imagination in those marvelous books. Now I don't have to wait two weeks for the bookmobile, I can make the trip to the main library which is just five blocks away and I still have stacks of books by my chair.

Fifty years later, I discovered another way into imaginary worlds and now I spend way too many hours on my computer soaking up images from museums, having conversations with artists and dreaming of places I'd like to go. And, with a laptop, it can all be done on the front porch.

One of my most used sites is Artcyclopedia.com Its statistics show 8,407 artists listed; 2,278 art sites indexed; and access to about 180,000 works of art. And now, I've discovered that I can have the Art News page connected to my blog subscriptions -- more worlds -- does it get any better? I think I'm a kid again!

Comment: This fast loose sketch (4.5" x 5.5") was done with a simple pen and a waterbrush while I was waiting for friends. I was interested in the reflections in the door, the black-green wicker and the swing chain, so perspective is mostly OFF and the chair just got in the way.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Keeping the Wonder

I can't keep up with technology. It seems to me to be like bubbles floating in the air.

I was puzzled by a whole variety of computers with those big ol' floppy disks, then those little 3" ones, and then CDs. I was confused by the alphabet soup of a tiny little 'starter' website in WYSIQYG, by a 'better' website, my own domain name and HTML codes and, now, by a BLOG. I was interested in the results from my little PhD point and shoot camera and then a bigger zoom model . . . and now I'm fighting the digital curve. I just learned to do most of the stuff on my cell phone which it seems may soon become 'gone' as I check out the prices for the new "Chocolate." And that doesn't even consider the changes which technology has made in the painting process and pigment which made my little watercolor book obsolete.

I have watched the bubbles of new stuff float by and have tried to keep up. I love all the capabilities of computers although I depend highly on my resident techie. I enjoy the combination of a website and a blog even though sometimes I forget to update them. I love the pictures from my old camera. I even love the surprise that comes when a roll of film gets tucked away and doesn't get processed for a while -- like these five month old shots of Lucy which I thought were the photos of her first birthday! -- but a new digital would be so-o-o convenient. I am satisfied with my rhinestoned cell phone even when I forget to charge it but I'll suspect I'll transfer that bling-bling to a new one which might just do it all.

So what is it about the bubbles of puzzling new stuff? Why do I keep trying to figure out the new technology which is floating by?

The smile of wonder on Lucy's face is reason enough.

I want to keep that wonder within.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Does It Matter What I Look Like?

As I count the days to my 65th birthday, I keep looking at my goals for the year which include weight loss, exercise and walking. "My clothes will fit better." "I will have more stamina and flexibility for standing at the easel." "I will not get as tired at the computer while working on writing projects." Reasons enough, I thought.

Now comes this!
"Do women have a tough time getting noticed in the literary world and, if so, does looking good give some women an edge over their competitors?"
Written for subscribers to the Writer's Digest newsletter, these words jumped from the email. Could it apply to women painters as well? Is a gallery director more inclined to look closer at your work if you look "arty?" Will there be better opportunities for publicity if you photograph well? Should your work "look like you?" Is this a consideration for men?

And this!
"'I remember a friend telling me that her publicist had said she was pretty enough to go on television, and I was horrified,' says Lisa Selin Davis, author of the novel Belly. 'I assumed this was one industry where it didn't matter what you looked like.'"

In the end, the words carry the book and the art makes the sale, but. . . .
I think I'll go do some stair-climbing . . . . Just in case!

Read "Does This Book Jacket Make Me Fat?"

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Tiny Lessons Learned

I learned a lot from these four baby sketches -- each is 2" x 2" and was timed for 5 minutes. I learned
--that it is not easy to get good depth in such a small space,
--that I don't like to do chairs,
--that looking up is harder than looking out and
--that sometimes 5 minutes is too long; other times it's not enough.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Oprah Says, "There are no Coincidences."

I'm not so sure. Things seem to come together at the oddest times. What do you think: coincidence or something else?

Last week, Robert Genn's Twice Weekly Letters addressed which was more important in Judging -- "Mastery or Spark". I replied to his letter with the formula I have developed over 25 years of judging art. http://www.painterskeys.com/clickbacks/mastery-or-spark.asp The timing seemed coincidental since on Labor Day, for the third time in 15 years, I will be returning to judge the Powers Crossroads Festival near Atlanta. I began to think about my judging and this question of excellent technique vs. inspired creativity. I began to hope there would be many works which would include both.

Then, over the weekend, my long time friend, Joanna Ellington, called from Florida to say that she would be the second judge and would share the judging duties with me. Were there judging vibes in the air or simply another coincidence? Oh, dear.

Joanna and I have paid our dues as festival exhibitors, so we will be sure every exhibit gets a good look - we remember the snooty judges who just passed by. We are painters, but our art purchases have most often been from the potter or wood carver or metal sculptor or quilter -- we learned the difference between excellent work and the work of a friend. We honed our skills by preparing slides for watercolor society exhibitions, 'selected our own shows' before sending the entries off to the real juror, and often argued later with each other and the absent juror when comparing lists -- we understand the place of both the traditional and the avant-garde.

In spite of our similar backgrounds, we bring different styles, tastes and experiences to the job. I expect some differences of opinion as we select the winners and I wonder which will affect our choices for the 20 awards in the wide range of categories: Mastery, Spark or Compromise. I'll post the winners in September.

Friday, August 11, 2006

A Year of the Unfamiliar

Today marks Lucy's first birthday.

It has been an interesting year both with my first grandchild and with options in the studio. As she explored the new things in her world while clinging to the familiar, in the studio so did I. While she was trying scary new things, so was I. Not everything she did was successful and that was okay, but she tried again; I have not learned to do this. We will celebrate tomorrow with a large cake covered with butterfly frosting.

As she goes into her second year with the usual bumps and scraps, dusts herself off and tries again, I will do the same. Successful changes for both the tiny redhead cherub and the white-haired grandmother painter will come with practice and determination.

NOTE: In the photo, I introduce Lucy to the piano. What fun when she realizes SHE is making the sounds. Maybe later, I'll teach her to play - more practice and determination.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Sound and Fury

Yesterday was another of my long days at the polls. There was a run-off from the primary elections of last month. Voters did not make a clear decision in three of the races, so we went back to the polls. Or should I say, the election workers went back to the polls. In my precinct of more than 2800 voters, only 171 made the trip through the neighborhood to cast their ballots. There were a number of phone calls, mailings and ads for each candidate -- all filled with sound and fury signifying nothing. For the eight of us on duty for the twelve hours, it was a long and boring day.

I think sometimes painting is like that. The equipment is ready, the choices are outlined but the ideas just don't come and participate. For the painter, it is a long and boring session.

For an election and a painter to generate enthusiasm, there must be more than sound and fury.

Monday, August 07, 2006

"Art Can"

On Sunday, I put on my favorite straw hat -- the one with all the flowers -- and drove 90 miles to a birthday party and show at the State Botanical Gardens. The cake was exactly right for an artist's birthday. The paintings were light and airy, full of color and energy and perfect for the space. The paintings were not what I had come to expect from my friend of thirty years.

An established painter with a grand following for both her originals and her reproductions, Judy had decided to go out on a limb and try something new for this show. She was rewarded for her bravery with excellent response from the 100 or so friends and patrons and a number of those coveted red dots. She knows that whatever she wants to do: "Art Can."(Her website is http://www.judyjarrettgallery.com; her work is also at her ArtCan Studio and Gallery.)

I wonder how often I stay in my rut because I fear the new and unknown? How often do I stay with the tried and true because I am "too old" to change directions? How often do I stop the creative energy which lends excitement and new expression to my work? Maybe I should I put on my flowered hat, have some cake and punch and view my own paintings. Maybe I'm not brave enough.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

And the Choir Sang

Sketches can be made anywhere. This was done during a short piece. Later, added the flowers. I wish I hadn't.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Shining Stars?

This was last week's cover on our weekly creative rag. An intriguing headline. Don't just you know every one rushed to the feature article to see if their favorite artist was included?!!!

With an article titled "Fame in their future - 18 Augusta artists poised to make their mark on the world," the writer had a wealth of information which could be used. She settled for long descriptions about 9 artists and a mention of 9 more -- some are well-known, others are not; some are good, some are not; some deserve some recognition; some do not; some deserve respect, some do not; some have earned their reputations, some have not. I was in Very Good Company among the Un-Included.

As I skimmed the artists' information, I realized that this paragraph in her opening essay may be the most powerful one she has ever written. Most of her readers . . . and most of the artists. . . will miss it. She wrote
"The ability of artists to gain recognition and reputation is what puts money in their pocket, and thus art in the public eye. Materials are expensive and creating is time-consuming, but art is one of the many important things that help a community to thrive. It lifts us, inspires us, talks to us and sometimes shouts at us."

Stacey Hudson promises to illuminate more artists in the future. I'll be watching.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

In the Light of the Sun

Yesterday, the topic of 'reunions' came across my desk from two directions. One in an on-line discussion of whether to attend or not. The other from a member of a committee which is planning the annual 1954-1960 classes reunion from my local high school.

After my class's 45th reunion, I created this painting, "Rivals for the Passion of the Sun" -- hidden under the sunflower leaves is a big 59 for my class. Most of the things in the painting respond to the light of the sun -- as did our class.

It was a beautiful day when the old high school class gathered in reunion on the hillside by the barn. So many years ago, each of us had walked that auditorium stage in our own little bubble, yet knowing that our class was touched by the sun. Now we came with a better understanding of our places in the universe and the absence of some made the presence of others even sweeter as we reminisced. On this day, we understood that, for some of us, the sun's fiery passion is fickle. Late in the evening, we left that glowing place by the light of the moon.

Two observations about reunions:
One of the most disappointing things about reunions is who doesn't come -- usually the locals. Folks who have been out of touch, but who have often wondered about others, make the journey with anticipation only to find those who only had to drive a few miles weren't there. It's really why they came -- to see those who kept the 'homefires burning.' As one friend said, "You opened a door to my past. Thank you."

Secondly, it is often surprising who has looked forward to seeing whom. At our 45th HS reunion, I was surprised at those who said, "I hoped you would be here. I couldn't wait to see if you were the same." and then they added an anecdote which I didn't remember, but which was important to them. I found that the 'sameness' they were looking for was not in appearance, but in personality.

The committee would like to use the painting and it's accompanying quote in the souvenir booklet for this year. Interesting request. Before giving permission, I need to decide if the painting/quote will be memorable for the 1000 or so who will attend the barbecue or if a photo of classmates would be more appreciated in the space. I have learned that exposure of my work is not always a good thing. Will having the painting in the brochure open doors to the past, will it make someone feel that I am just the person I used to be, will it make more good memories? Or not. . . .