Join me....

I believe that art enriches and informs our lives everyday in many positive ways. Sharing those experiences, whether as an artist or as an appreciator, is part of the pleasure. I welcome your comments and hope you find something of value: a laugh, an insight, a new idea or just a happy moment. Enjoy art!

Friday, February 17, 2017

Flow Chart of a Creative Project

One Sunday in church my brain drifted a bit onto the
plain walls.  "What we need here," I thought, "is some color
and warmth."  Before I knew it I heard myself volunteering 
to provide such in the form of a banner.  And furthermore, I suggested,
why didn't we get cloth scraps from church members from
which to build that banner...?

Oh dear...what sounded like a wonderfully creative challenge took on new meaning as I finally had to admit to myself: Cindy, you have no idea what you are about to do, no idea.  I'm a painter, not a fiber artist, heck, my sewing machine is 40 plus years old....

My enthusiasm begin to wane as the scraps came in.  Not my colors...

As an Austin Kleon fan I remembered a page he had in his "Steal Like an Artist" book:

this is a flow chart of a creative project
naturally I started at "this is the best idea EVER"

Shoot, I was already between "this is harder than I thought" and "this is gonna take some work."

My original idea was to make something beautiful from a lot of random parts, the metaphor being that together we are better, the theme being "We are one in the spirit." But little did I suspect that making all the random parts come together would be such a challenge...rather like some committees I have chaired.  So I had to lower my standard from "beautiful" to "interesting."  (Also like some groups I have worked with!)

auditioning letter styles

Precision is not my strong suit (same deficit as patience) and thus I was as wonky a sew-er as I was a cutter.  And while a couple of folk graciously offered their help I was unable to even articulate what we, or I, needed to do next.  So I bumbled along on the floor of my spare bedroom.

I've now bypassed "this sucks and is boring" and am headed smack towards "dark night of the soul."  We are leaving town and I want to depart knowing the worst is over - so I visit a quilt store looking for advice on bringing my ancient machine up to current standards as well as some "glue" or "fusing" to forge ahead.

oh boy, can I make it work?  With the numerous fabrics all different weights and weaves I've had to "strengthen" some which is a very mind numbing process.  I sorta like where this is headed and if I can get this inner border on I think I can return to it with a little optimism.

Meanwhile, all the scraps that did not make the initial design are begging to be included, they need a role and I am hoping to give them one.  I fully expect another dip in Kleon's flowchart as I approach the phase where I actually have to make three huge pieces come together with machine quilting that is functional as well as adds to the design.  And since this will be a first for me, I may lose my religion before I get to the "will be good to finish because I'll learn something" phase.  But I am determined to make it all the way to "it's done, it sucks (maybe not) and not as bad as I thought."  Hopefully I can pull off "interesting" if not "beautiful."

Stay tuned...more to come!

Plodding Along,

Friday, February 10, 2017

Collaborative Arts

A collaborative post...

If all has gone according to "plan" I am wandering the desert of Big Bend 
National Park in TX.  Sketchbook and watercolors
in hand I am immersed in the wonder of a part of the
world I have never seen.  So until I can share these adventures
stepped in to share the blog space.

painting by Carmen Beecher

Several years ago I participated in an art show called Transformations, in which each team consisted of an artist and a poet who collaborated to produce a painting and a poem. It's amazing how well-paired each team was, because many never met before this project. My poet partner, Jean Shepard, lives in Jacksonville, so we met in Ormond Beach to toss around ideas for our collaboration. 

When I was born, (Carmen writes) we lived in an apartment inside a movie theater, and my father managed the theater. She was fascinated by the idea of living inside a movie theater. She wrote her poem from my father's perspective and also made interesting observations on time and motion. All of this gave me the idea for a painting with my mother in the center, sitting on a crescent moon, surrounded by movie stars.

Here is Jean's poem, "At the Movies."

Being two with the hope of three,
it was all they could afford,
an apartment above the cinema
where for hours each day he was a god
at work, turning day into night,
night into day with a flipped switch.
Where he revealed moments
snatched out of time
and run through a light
for believers who sat in silence below.
When two became three,
they ascended the narrow stairs
carried a pink bundle to an empty crib
watched with fascination
the arms waving, the legs kicking,
the unknowing, introverted face.
But others waited below.
He descended to darkness and the machine,
the sour smell of celluloid,
its tiny pieces of the past
curled on themselves like a  shell.
As he turned the switch on
and watched the relentless streaming
he suddenly saw how we move in the world,
how we run forward while
looking back over our shoulders
caught up in continuous flight.
Then he thought of the pink bundle above him,
the new skin, curled fingers,
the tiny feet that had not touched earth
and he was afraid.

see more of Carmen's work at her website:
or visit her on Facebook

Thanks Carmen!  Enjoy tonight's full moon and know that I am seeing it with new eyes and new respect as Big Bend is one of the (purposely) darkest places in the United States.

Wandering in Color,

Friday, February 3, 2017

The Great Blue

The Great Blue Heron is actually
very grey.  It can stand over 3 feet tall and
spread its wings nearly 6 feet wide.  I think it is one of the most elegant
creatures around and I found this one in the Florida Everglades.

The Great Blue possesses a dignity like none other.  We had one that often visited our front pond and when he (or she) arrived I would stand, captivated and in awe, silently at the screen door watching it.  I never grow tired of sighting these majestic birds.

Revisiting some travel photos I came across this heron spotted in the Florida Everglades.  I took several pictures including one of his sentinel-like posture in full statute.  But this one appealed to me to paint.  Tired, hiding? Resting? I'm not sure what was on his mind but his self assuredness was still evident.

Great Blue Sentinel, oil
available, rustic grey barn wood frame

And speaking of travel... my bags and paints are once again packed for adventure!  In addition to going off grid somewhere in the bend of the Rio Grande, I am also headed overseas for some colorful sights and scenes.  I say this since depending on when and where I can get a whiff of internet, my blog may become somewhat irregular.  Your interest and support have been so important in my writing; so never fear, I'm still on it albeit at the mercy of those invisible wires!

Color Full Wishes,

Friday, January 27, 2017

Combinatory Play = Big Magic

So there I was in a coffee shop with my day planner, my goals list,
my computer, my year's evaluations, my hopes and my dreads...
to plan a new year.  And a best bud to help make sense of the
questions...something had to give to make room for...?

It's a process I usually enjoy.  For years I have gotten a certain satisfaction in reviewing the year past and setting goals and routines, however flexible, for the new one.  Blank calendars hold such promise.  But lately I have been adding and adding and adding....and, well, something's gotta give.

In frustration I laid down my pen and sighed, "Guess I just have to give up chasing shiny objects."
(Call it dabbling, call it distraction, call it crafty fun but I have a well earned reputation for going off on tangents.....)

...which doesn't even count the days spent felting, fermenting, canning, or trying pottery.

My very wise friend looked at me over her glasses and replied calmly, "But, my dear, THAT is who you are."  

BIG MAGIC to the rescue.  The book that is.

Not having solved my scheduling problems, I picked up my copy of Elizabeth Gilbert's book and randomly turned to page 253 where she references "combinatory play."  (You know the adage that you get certain info when you really need it?  Well, obviously I had read this before but now I really needed it.)  Combinatory play is the act of combining two seemingly unrelated things often resulting in the creation of another.  Or, as Gilbert puts it, "opening up one mental channel by dabbling in another."  Dabbling.

Einstein used to play the violin while his subconscious worked out heavy formulas on mass and energy.   I know you've read the story about Steve Jobs and his calligraphy class, but here is a review.
There is even a corporate adviser, Think Inside the Box, that professes the value of play.  And if you remain unconvinced give a gander at this white paper, To Think Without Thinking.  I'm getting the picture here.

If my goal for 2017 is to find new ways to express my art, develop more reliable methods of painting, and to offer up better paintings in a constant effort to improve the quality and quantity.....then I better not stop playing.

Cross pollination can be valuable, distraction can be relaxing, dabbling can occupy the hands while the hamsters run the treadmills problem solving.  A day spent digging potatoes and gathering flowers eventually birthed this

a piece I love for the sheer memory of that wonderful day on a friend's farm.

So now that we are convinced that "play" is not only scientific but necessary to the development of creativity, how do you plan to play in 2017?  I know that I certainly intend to continue chasing shiny objects....but time on the calendar?  hmmm, I think it is obvious that cooking and cleaning be eliminated to make way for creative break throughs.  You?

In Combinatory Color,

p.s. don't miss periodic updates from the studio, go here and "like" my FB page

Friday, January 20, 2017

Titling Art - follow up insights

I recently offered a blog exploring the
importance of titles to artwork.  Review it here.
I asked for your opinions and you didn't let me down!
Herewith I am sharing some of your comments:

I start with a compliment:
Certainly to titles. I think they should not merely be, but add - as in causing you to go dizzying about trying to figure out why the artist chose that particular title. As in the one you picked for this painting. Way to go! (I also have done market research to confirm that a title can draw a judge's attention-poetry or painting.)
and briefly:
I like titles as long as they are not too abstract. A title helps me understand what the artist was thinking.

a friend shares:
 Sometimes I think I just can’t come up with another title for a seascape; however, I frequently have a painting named the minute I conceive it. Like “Femme Fatale” or “Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens.” I had a photographer friend who did a photo of a man on a street talking to a clown; yes, a fully-costumed clown. The clown was pointing down the street. The title of the photo was “So I Stopped and Asked Some Clown for Directions.” I saw the photo in 1983 and I never forgot it because of the clever title. 

Some of my favorite titles are derived from songs, like the one you did here.

from an artist:
I always hated to name my drawings, didn't want to influence the viewers interpretation. But at an art show, if a judge picked it for judging it needed a title, sometimes a real struggle ...(see judge reference in first comment!)

a two-step method of viewing:
A title should add, I want to be able to enjoy the piece "on my own terms" first and then be able to turn to the title for some insight into the creator's thoughts.

another artist:
 I like my titles to say something about the piece, even if it is a personal memory that someone else might not understand.  That often allows the viewer to ask about it, or perhaps dream their own interpretation.  I don't understand some titles; they are almost like the artist stuck it on as an afterthought, as in a piece with circles within squares and the title is "Forest"?  But then, maybe that is what the artist actually sees.  So titles to me are very important but I'm sure that's not true for all artists!

I mentioned that some artists just prefer to number their pieces, which I think, gives me no reference at all as to their thoughts. And "untitled" to me is just lazy; apparently I have like minded reader:
As for numbering systems, I think they have their place, as in Earth Study 1, Earth Study 5.  I do not like them as indicative of the number of pieces an artist makes.  And I am flummoxed by pieces titled "Untitled".  Surely it evokes something in the artist, else why did he/she make it!  Where did it come from?  What does it evoke?  That just blows me away.  So that is my two cents, for what it's worth!!

more to chew on:
Hi Cindy,

I think titles are important, since they can often give the viewer insight into what inspired the artist.  When I look at art, I first study it and then read the title.  I want to see if I got anywhere close to figuring out the artist’s intent.  Sometimes the title will cause me to look again and notice something new.

... I’m not keen on predictable titles.  Although I’ve used them (and will probably continue to do so, at times.)  But, I prefer a title that’s a little more poetic.  Something that sort of circles around the main idea.  Like my recent quilt with 3 large tomatoes.  That could have been the title, but instead I named it “Vine Ripened.”  Still not earth shattering in its creativity, but much better than the super obvious.  

Thanks to all who responded and/or thought about this topic, it was fun to read and share your opinions. I'll close with this delightful non sequitur sent in:

For some reason this topic reminds me of what Ogden Nash had to say about eels. 

The Eel
I don't mind eels.  Except as meals. And the way they feels. 

In Titular Color,
have you seen my FaceBook page?  to keep up with pieces as they come off the easel
LIKE ME here.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Painting in High Key

Painting in high key is a lot like
singing in a high key: some of us do it better than
others and some of us just can't do it
at all!

When one refers to a painting as being rendered in "high key" or "low key" they are alluding to the range of lights (tones) to darks.  Imagine a piece reduced to a black and white photo; put your finger on the darkest dark.  Now imagine that dark tone on a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being white and 10 being the blackest black you can mix.  If your dark is at 5 or below, the middle of the scale, the painting would be in high key.   If the lightest color used checks in at 5  (a midtone) and the darkest color registers a 10 (or pure black), it would be low key.  Read more here.

Of course I am simplifying something one could write volumes on.  My point is that artists usually favor a certain key over another if even subconsciously.  I know I love to get in the mix with deep darks and usually a lot of them.  I can even find myself in a "low key" quagmire where I suddenly realize I can't go any darker even though I need to.

To this end I attempted recently to paint a "high key" piece.

See the red browns off to the left? I couldn't resist, and this may have led me astray...Still I did a decent job of blocking out the scene in relatively light and mid-light tones.

Skies are almost always one of the lightest pieces in a painting and I did fine keeping this in the  2-4 range of tones.  I still could not resist laying in some "definition" telling myself I could adjust it along the way.  (Note to self: no, you cannot adjust, you must correct immediately!)

The tree shapes are ok but I better watch those blue shadow lines getting close to the brownish road definition.  I just might slip into the abyss of the dark side. But really, I am getting far more concerned at this stage about giving a credible rendering of the trees and their gradual shapes than I am the tones.  I know I need to see the trees before I can easily chase the light of the sun.

So about now I decide that the colors on my palate will have to suffice and I just "go for it."

Here it is currently and while I see more "tweaking" to be done along the lower tree trunk  line and the closer branches, I think I did ok in keeping it relatively high key, at least for me!  

While I work to finish this piece I am also going to find other scenes I can practice painting while staying higher key.  There is nothing wrong with using the range (say all 10 scales of the black and white tones) but there is a mood that can be created while working in one extreme or the other. My tendency in paint coloration is a lot like my personality: outspoken, loud, bold... definitely not quiet, demure or soft.  Maybe learning to hold the line in colors will influence my persona presentation??  I'll let you know!

Lowering the Color Key,