Saturday, September 29, 2007

Street Talk -- Getting Down

As the weather cools down, leisurely strolls down the wide green space in the center of my street are more fun. In other places it might be an esplanade, a hana-no-michi, a village green but in our town it has always been called "the median." (When I had a chance, I had it changed to "linear park" in the official neighborhood plan to protect its benches, lighting, monuments and sidewalks, but it's still The Median)

Although the hundreds of azaleas which have brought springtime joy to both hometown folks and visitors, have suffered greatly through some irrational transplanting decisions by city leaders, the heat and drought conditions of two recent summers, and some vandalism, it is still a great place to walk. The oaks, magnolias and gingkos provide dappled shade for stopping to read inscriptions on monuments or just for rest on the concrete benches.

On this particular day, Lucy took a walk and let me come too. We didn't take the stroller. She set the pace and looked at whatever caught her two-year-old eye. She took close looks at things I had not thought to point out while she was sitting up in the stroller.

She tried to climb the slippery light poles to get to the big ball lights added during the 50s.

She watch closely as tiny ants ("the owies") scurried into their houses.

She sat on the cool grass and on an old rough concrete bench.

She "read" the letters on a monument with her fingers and felt the bumps on another.

Sometimes, part of the creative process is 'getting down' to keep from missing the good stuff.

Another good Lesson from Lucy.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Street Talk -- Sunset Walk

The street where I live has historic roots. It was named for General Nathanial Greene of American Revolutionary fame. Come walk with us.

It is the address of the Municipal Building which houses our consolidated City and County governments and the headquarters library of our regional system.

Its Signers' monument marks the burial site of two of Georgia's three signers of The Declaration of Independence. (No one really knows where the third one was buried after a tiny little duel.)

In just thirteen of its blocks, there are two magnificent old textile mills which are now being developed for mixed use, an unbelievable 'deconsecrated' church which is now a community cultural center, a snaggled-toothed array of churches, historic homes, office buildings, empty lots, and 'modern' eyesores along with the Salvation Army and the Bus Station. . . and my neighborhood.

Lucy and I walked the wide green space down the middle of the street just at sunset this week. We only walked four of the long blocks, but we stopped along the way to speak with neighbors, lost a stroller wheel, checked out the monuments and watched a few clouds.

Lucy's Mamma wondered where we were and called.

We were busy taking these pictures with the iPHone.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Street Talk -- Balancing Act

I often complain about all there is to do with the time I have. (I will admit that having a two year old around makes a difference.) I don't seem to control the many layers of my day as I have in the past. I try to decide what is really important.

This week, as I watched the junk man roll down the street with his amazing balancing act, I realized that somehow he knew that the placement was right and that it would not fall over. And while he added pieces to his shopping cart collection, I saw that sometimes it's the little things which hold up the big things. I understood that they keep things balanced and rolling smoothly over the bumpy parts.

Sometimes the big things alone just get too top-heavy.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Rembrandt and Friends

An article in the NYTimes this morning by Holland Cotter begins: "The Age of Rembrandt: Dutch Painting in the Metropolitan Museum of Art is a straight- forward title for a complicated show."

Even if you don't get thrilled over 400 year old paintings, the on-line presentation of this show is thrilling. Cotter takes us through 13 of the 228 paintings (all of which are currently in the Met collection) with gentle humor, enlightening observations and a few 'made-up' words -- well, maybe just obscure words, but there is no question of their meaning. He has chosen these few paintings as his own personal tour, writing "My goals were to find something of everything and to balance the familiar with the seldom seen." He suggests reading the 'exceptional' wall labels when visiting the show or studying the two-volume catalog for more serious information.

I poured a fresh cup of coffee and opened the article in one tab and the interactive map in another so that I could easily toggle back and forth to check out each work as I read about it. I noted that each description had a different focus. I thought it a whole art appreciation course in 13 easy steps -- connoisseurship, technique, style, influences, intrinsic value . . . . What a treat for a Friday morning!

1. “Portrait of a Man” Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669)
The funky condition of painting and what conservators found.

2. “The Visit to the Nursery” GabriĆ«l Metsu (1629-1667)
All the details are present, but it is a genre painting or a family portrait?

3. “A Country Road” Salomon van Ruysdael (about 1600-1670)
Setting the mood with "the dramaturgy of weather and the theatrics of scale."

4. “A State Yacht and Other Craft in Calm Water” Jan van de Cappelle
A marine painting where "light was its yin and yang." (one of my favorites)

5. “Still Life: A Banqueting Scene” Jan de Heem (1606-about 1684)
A "big, sloppy lobster dinner" with a mystery.

6. “Young Herdsmen With Cows" Aelbert Cuyp (1620-1691)
An armchair traveler, this artist would have loved the Internet.

7. “Old Woman Cutting Her Nails” Style of Rembrandt
Checking the name on the label.

8. “Apollo and Aurora” Gerard de Lairesse (1641-1711)
A reminder of the Baroque influences as "Poussinian idealism and Dutch realism meet."

9. “The Dissolute Household” Jan Steen (1626-1679)
"Situation comedy and moral rebuke" depicted with panache.

10. “Interior of the Old Church in Delft” Emanuel de Witte (1616-1692)
An architectural rendering or a personal statement?

11. “The Crucifixion with the Virgin and Saint John” Hendrick ter
Brugghen (about 1588-1629)
Influences on the mystical art of an altarpiece.

12. “Study of a Young Woman” Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675)
The known and the unknown.

13. “A Brazilian Landscape” Frans Post (1612-1680)
Creative documentation.

This week, I finished a paperback book which seemed old in my hands with its yellowed and brittle pages but which seemed new and fresh with its treatment of today's social issues and political climate. I was surprised to see that it was written more than thirty years ago.

After reading Holland Cotter's descriptions, these four hundred year old paintings also seemed new and fresh with artists facing the same issues and kinds of influences as those of today. Thanks, Mr. Cotter!

View more of the paintings and read related articles at Met Museum.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

Color of the Day - Red Pears II

In some of these images, there are only subtle differences; in others, there are major changes. BUT, there are no secrets -- I just found a description and clicked!

While there are challenges to learn technique and explore creative ideas -- every flower, barn and landscape can be painted a hundred different ways -- a photo editing program like Photoshop allows me to try out some results without the work!

"Secrets" with rough pastel added through the magic of Photoshop.

Joyce has recently done The Work (and with pears!) on her daily blog. See examples here (watercolor and ink) here (Klimt pear) here (Mosaic) and here (Cubist). (Or just start with the wc/ink and click on 'newer posts' to see each in the series.) No gimmicks; just pure painting. I love her daily paintings. Some are more successful than others; I think because she is willing to take risks and try new things.

"Secrets" with poster outline and cross-hatching added through the magic of Photoshop.

When I am teaching, I am dismayed that students will select a photograph or a sketch and never consider other options for their use. And we're not talking about a different point of view here! They just want to copy what's there. They are afraid to take risks and try new things. Maybe that's why I see so many dead paintings.

"Pick on Somebody Else" enhanced with drybrush through the magic of Photoshop.

I must admit that I refused to allow graphic design students to use their computers until they understood WHY they were doing things. They thought I was old-fashioned; I thought they needed to know more than technology. I wanted them to learn design and explore creative ideas so their technology bones would have some substance.

"You Smell Nice" transformed into cut out shapes through the magic of Photoshop.

Today's technology opens our eyes to so many ways of doing things and getting them RIGHT! It seems decades ago that it was radical to just put a small painting on a copy machine to check the values in the resulting black and white copy. Who knew what we'd be able to do today?

"Whadda Ya Think?" with sharpened edges through the magic of Photoshop.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Color of the Day: Red Pears

The pears were ripened and ready for lunch when I realized that had not taken any photos of them.

I decided I just wanted to record their shapes and colors with little concern for lighting.

Of course, I didn't bother with a tripod. Silly me. Some of the resulting images are out-of-focus, but the pears themselves seem filled with animation.

As I started to delete them, I realized that this would be an opportunity to try some basic Photoshop tricks. I'll share some of my experiments later.

Meanwhile, here are the regular photos of the red pears in their 'counter encounter.'

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Through the Looking Glass

What a surprise to find myself on someone else's blog! I'm sometimes linked to or quoted or mentioned, but this is ME -- a description of me! My friend Robin has touched on my appearance, my peculiarities and my personality in 50 words or less! Oh, my Goodness! It's not often we get to see ourselves as others see us.

She wrote:
Just when I thought I had caught up - me with my pro digital camera, my three pro printers, my new computer, updated software and Photoshop plugins, my lcd TV and digital music system. Just when I thought I was, well, not on the leading edge, but at least keeping up, my artist friend one-upped me. Annette Bush of the flowing silver hair and attention getting hats, Annette of the high heel sandals for sightseeing, of the feathers and felt and family stories for every occasion. Annette bought an iPhone. It's too big to fit in her bra, she says, but has so many cool features she'll find another place for it.

I'll never catch up.

Who IS this person? Certainly, it's not who I think I see in the mirror every morning. It's a view from the other side of the Looking Glass. It feels very strange.

And yes, I bought an iPhone. And yes, it is cool. And yes, it does fit.

Besides, it's a little nod to my new goal of living with "Joyous Naughtiness."

BTW, my friend Robin doesn't need to catch up. She is way ahead of the pack. Her wonderful blog is here. (Be forewarned; just reading about her daily creative output is exhausting.)


Monday, September 10, 2007

An International Line-Up

Last year while preparing for the residency in the South of France, I thought how cool it would be to put together a chronological list of the great artists who worked nearby. Of course, I never did.

Last week, my friend Ellie Clemens who lives there emailed some info about her friend Gail's workshop. I poked around the website and was delighted to find -- ta da! -- THE LIST. I was a little disappointed that I was left off, but there are quite a number of excellent painters anyway!
Addendum: Along with the usual suspects of Dali, Picasso and Toulouse-Lautrec, the list includes Matisse, Gauguin, Derain, Poussin, Braque, Chagall, Van Gogh, Magritte and others.

It's a good link for a Monday morning . . . even if Art History is not your thing and . . . even if you are not going to France.

(Photo shows Karen and me making connections with the First Century while painting in France.)

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Color of the Day -- Not the Blues Blues

I don't have much to say about these images. Just wanted to share the color today.







And did I mention awesome?

Not a single one gives me the Blues!

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Two Words to Live By

Labor Day Weekend was probably the last of the reading-in-the -hammock days until next summer and I chose a typical "beach read" -- one of those which doesn't lose its train of thought during a nap.

There was a slight breeze and the sun sparkled down through the canopy of leaves. It was quiet and I became drowsy as I read. Then two words just popped off the page, "Joyous Naughtiness."

Oh, My! What would happen if my life, my paintings and my writing were filled with those two words?

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Finding The Magic

As the extremely HOT summer raced to an end, I wanted to find time (and a cooler day in a string of triple digit temperatures) to share The Stickman's sculpture in the South Carolina low country with my daughters.

We sat at the breakfast table on a Sunday morning and decided the time was right. We just gathered the necessaries for the little ones and got in the car. We drove on some of the same back roads which I took in April (Stolen Day Part I) We found the restaurant which has views of the marshland and boats, the giant fish carvings and the tank full of amazing fish. We stopped for a little shopping at a string of outlet stores, of course, and then made our way to see the sculpture. We felt like typical tourists on holiday but we wanted more.

I wasn't sure if the magic would be there this time. I certainly didn't know how my daughters would feel about the place or the sculpture. We found the turn-off from the main highway and meandered through the pines and marshy foliage. At the end of the road, we parked by the old village square and walked across to the 'Domed House' which Patrick Dougherty built. We were not disappointed.

In the months since April (Stolen Day Part II) , the fantasy has settled and weathered. . .

Its limbs seeming to take up residence along with the surrounding ancient oaks. . .

Its 'windows' opening onto the grassy lawn and taking in the vista across the bluff. . .

Its sticks rattling in the breeze off the May River...

Its magic settling over us in the late afternoon sun...

We entered the fantasy. Is this what art does?

Monday, September 03, 2007

A Quote for Labor Day

Mr. Samuels was interviewed in 2002 for his 100th birthday. He had this to say about his work ethic and his long life. "Try to stay out of debt. Don't worry. People worry about stuff and die."

(He must have been worrying lately. He died last week at 103.)