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, January 25, 2019

In ancient Roman religion and myth, 
Janus is the god of beginnings, 
gates... passages, and endings. He is usually depicted 
as having two faces, 
since he (she) looks to the future and to the past.
(this tidbit from Wikipedia)

I've been looking at the past a lot this month, reflecting on what I'm most proud of doing and on what I wish I had done better.  Not just in 2018 but for a hunk of time, chunks of years...we do that as we get older and realize the days ahead are numbered!  And just like the Roman god Janus, a part of me is also looking forward....eagerly S T R E T C H I N G into the future full of new ideas and challenges. 

But as they say "somethin's gotta give..."

And thus I write my last regular Friday blog.  

After more than 9 years of rarely missing a Friday, after composing and editing over 505 submissions, after searching for new and different ways to make art interesting to non-artists and artists alike...well, it's time to take a break.

I think I will miss this writing effort a whole lot more than any of my readers. Deadlines held me accountable.  Sharing has a way of keeping one honest: in work, production, stories and mission.  Reader feedback gave me raw appraisals not only of my art work but on ideas I tried to articulate.  Knowing you were "out there" kept me on task!

I have waivered....just as I made a "firm" decision to quit, I got a note of appreciation from a Florida reader who thanked me for giving her, a non-painter, a new understanding of art and a new way of looking at it.  Then a note came from someone sharing that her painting of mine looks grand in her new home.....what was I doing cutting off all this warm and fuzzy contact?? Am I crazy?

Maybe.  But just as I had no idea what to expect when I wrote about 50 words on that first blog entry almost 10 years ago, I have no idea what this opening of possibilities will bring down the road.  I just feel that I should do it.

I won't say good-bye.  Unless you delete your subscription it will remain active and when, if, I do have something exciting to share I will blog about it and you will be the first to know.  We just won't be having coffee together every Friday.  

If I can remember to update my webpage you can also see any new stuff there...or you can write me and I'll send you a personal update.  Meanwhile....meanwhile....who knows where this will lead?  I have some thoughts on the drawing board, some ideas on the project table but mostly I'm looking forward to some serious mulling.  

Now that the month named for Janus draws to a close I hope your own looking back and looking forward has provided new insights as well.  Change is good.  Let's jump into 2019 together making a huge splash (or a gentle ripple) and see where we come up.  Stay in touch.


Friday, January 18, 2019

Pushing Parameters

Last week I talked about trying to push the
personal envelope of conformity, i.e. trying to see
the subject at hand in a new way a la Larry Moore and
his book, Fishing for Elephants.

Last week I shared two starts to a painting of a bridge. In reality those two beginnings looked pretty much as if they would lead right down the same path when completed.  So I summoned up my grit and made myself crop, slice, dice and otherwise reshape the composition at hand to produce some new compositional formats.

Here is a page in my sketch book where I drew out a very simple black and white (notan) thumbnail of the 3 different compositions:

I numbered them 1-3 and you will note that each is a different support size.

Then I got busy transferring some of these designs to canvas with neutral colors in oil trying only to get 3 tones laid down.

The darks always seem to photograph a lot blacker than they really are but you get the idea here of where the shadows are going.  It is easy to sit and look at it at this stage and see that it is slightly unbalanced even though I want the right side to be dark.  Fortunately, at this point it will be an easy fix.


This is a very verticle canvas which meant the expanse of bridge would be cropped out but I think with the skinny tree in the foreground that will be ok.  There is not as many deep tones in this rendition and while they move nicely I do want to connect those darks in the water to the bridge shadows.


The final composition focuses on the far side of the darkened bridge but will offer some growth in the foreground.  I want to move the eye from the front left to the center right and then back to a spot of light beyond the bridge.  This will be a trick but I think it is very doable.  I just have to remember to paint the forest and not get lost in a few prominent trees!

Each of these is taken from the same photograph but offers a slightly different perspective on the scene.  I want to stay loose on my interpretation - after all, doing 5 of the same bridge should result in at least one rendering that is client-acceptable and 4 that are arty in their own way.

Cheers for Experimenting,

Friday, January 11, 2019

Two - new - Beginnings

I am reading, working my way through
Better, I am doing this with two fellow creatives!
And as I force my 'stretch' gene I realize
that I must actually experiment with some of his advice
 for it to move me forward.

Moore wants us, as artists in any field, to push further, go farther and be more creative than we currently are.  When you get in an artist rut everything begins to look the same and every approach is similar (I guess some folks by default call this "a style.") But as he breaks down the work needed on an idea before it even goes to a canvas (or a wheel, or a music sheet...) I realize that complaining about a failed pass at something is a bit naive.  Thus,

A self-assignment: complete a painting of my brother-in-law's favorite bridge. 
Moore encourages defining the parameters of the problem ("Feeding the parameters", p. 94) before one even begins sketching.

Since this is a gift (not a commission piece) the "parameters" are of my own choosing:   
             it will be in oil, 16ish high by 20-22ish wide, may be executed in any technique I choose but based on a reference photo I have, the bridge must be recognizable but strict adherance to reality is not required 

So far I have two "starts" and to me they are rather similar:

basic underpainting on white gessoed board


more monochromatic layout on indian yellow
toned canvas

Knowing me I will complete both pieces and they will look similar - as in you could tell I executed both of them.  I need to divert, push the envelop, get outside the lines.....

Maybe I need to crop and fold the reference photo?
Change the parameter of the support size?
Totally go off kilter with the "local" color selection?

I think this is where Moore is pushing fish for some elephants with new bait.  I may not catch any but the act may have a residual affect when I return to finish these.

So, back to the pencil and paper to make notes as to specific ways I can change this up....for my creative stretching benefit.  Of course I'll present my brother-in-law with a couple completed pieces to choose from, and hopefully I'll have several others that don't make it past the pencil stage.
So if I am MIA a bit you know where to find me.

Happy Fishing,
P.S. - I loved hearing your reactions to the "word for the year" blog.  So many shared their chosen word and I promise it ran the gamut from "dwell" to "celebrate" with 'contemplate', 'bold', and 'action' in between.  Remember that the word only has to resonate with you personally; sometimes I find myself drawing near to a word that years ago I would not even have considered.  Happy wording.

Friday, January 4, 2019

New Year New Word

I chose the word and let the energy of that word 
guide and shape me.  I engaged with it.
 I took actions based on it.
CEO of Uplevel You

Readers may recall that years ago I ditched writing new years resolutions in favor of choosing one word of the year.  This is not original to me, I learned it from a friend who learned it from a friend.  But I have found it so much more effective than a long list of lofty goals that seem to fizzle as they are written.

The quote above is from a woman who has taken the "word of the year" science to a new level even offering a (free) download as a guide for choosing your word.  Check it's a link. And I found it in even another blog on the subject.  But none of this lessens the value of choosing only one word to sum up your intentions for the next 365 days.

I've never had difficulty choosing my word....they seem to start auditioning themselves as the days get shorter and the year comes to a close.  Most often they fly in and out of my head with a few of them "sticking" around for consideration.  By mid December the words have self-sorted and one stands out as the winner.  

Before I reveal my 2019 word let me add that some years the words are more "successful" than others, that is, they seem to resonate sincerely with my life; other years, not so much.  It is not a magic wand or a guarantee of any outcome.  Sometimes I am disappointed at my efforts or even my choice.  But I can say that it is a much more satisfying process for a fresh approach than any other I have tried.  So with that disclaimer, here we go:

Yep.  That's it: stretch.  
And while right this minute I interpret it literally (as in these bones could use some regular stretching) and somewhat figuratively (as in I need to challenge the boundaries of my comfort zones), the real beauty is that I am not at all certain where this word will take me.

I need to look at some of the tired ways I've gotten comfortable painting and: STRETCH.
I will be confronted with a challenging decision and need to: STRETCH.
I may be afraid to try a trip to the unknown that taxes me physically and need to: STRETCH.
I shall deal with persons whose opinions I do not share and I will need to: STRETCH.
Who knows?

Since I like to have the word visible first thing when I awaken I stretched to make it unusual:

just an old board, time to paint it

I made myself use up things I had laying around -
stretching to make the sign

hung over my door frame so it is the first
thought I see when my eyes open...

My husband's ritual is to tattoo his word on the inside of his arm so it is at the ready but I really like my method.  Put yours wherever you will see it several times a day.  Share it with others or not.  I love finding out what friends have chosen and why...and don't assume you understand the "why" of someone else's words.  We've had a great time discussing the meaningS and applicationS of a variety of just has to resonate with the choser.

Let me know if you do this and share your word if you choose.  Best wishes in your own stretch for 2019.


Friday, December 28, 2018

Stepping Out...Mangroves

I'm convinced that just about any kind of healing takes energy.
Recovery, physical or psychological, will use up
every ounce of energy you can give it and recognizing that there
might not be much left to spread around on other things is good.
I haven't felt too creative lately...not in the "bam!
thats a great new idea" way.  So I'm easing back into the studio
being kind to myself, making it easy...

I've painted from this photo of mangrove roots previously.  I'm always amused at how each root looks like a leg that's stepping out of the pack to find new space.  I had sketched this out on a black canvas in chalk pre-surgery.  It was the perfect place to begin my ease back into painting.

Acrylic was good for short painting sessions and it also would encourage me to play with the underpainting colors.  So I sat for a spell and roughed it out.

Later I went back and gave it some more attention, again using acrylic paints.

It's got a long way to go but I like what is down so far so my next pass will be in oil.  I have made some notes here about edges, barnacles, colors and so on....but nothing that can't be corrected or fixed with oil paint.  The challenge will be to leave plenty of the "fun" color showing and not to get too tied up in fine details.  I'll share as it progresses.

And speaking of challenges, two great articles came to my attention this week.  Both were about not taking ourselves too seriously in all pursuits.  It is so hard these days to divorce the work ethic from our play time and not turn everything we do into a contest for perfection.  

The first is from (now deceased) painter Robert Genn who always had wise advice to share.  Read how he admires his friend's efforts to paint here.  And the second, In Praise of Mediocrity, is from the NY Times and is a perfect new years read for a new attitude in 2019.  Check it out here.

Thanks to friends who shared them with me, I think they are well worth your time and attention.

I recently learned about an Appalachian Mountian custom I wish we could still practice.  During the week between Dec. 25 and Jan. 1 folks would move the furniture off to the side and dance every night...a different homestead each evening.  They brought their instruments, their pot luck and their energy to stave off the cold and dark and to celebrate together.  It was called "breaking up Christmas" and there are several fiddle tunes appropriate to such.  Who wants to start?

Wishing you a Color Filled New Year,

Friday, December 21, 2018

Life in the Slow Lane

Today marks the winter solstice, the shortest day of our year.
Tomorrow there is a full moon, a symbol that
never ceases to make me pause and ponder
the wonders around us.
It is time to slow way down, take our cues from nature...

No doubt you have guessed this blog is a long way from being about an art technique.  Except that it can be, you decide.

All my life I have moved at breakneck speed: so much to do and learn and so little time in one life.  I could multitask, work with both hands and get in and out of a meeting in record time.  This speed translated to other parts of my life like rapid fire speech, a desire not to "waste" time and a heightened impatience with those that didn't run the same track.  Shame on me.

Lately I have been moving in the slow lane.  Forced there by elective surgery, I am anticipating more of the same.  It takes forever to get out of the car and cross the lot to the mall entrance.  I can't get to the doorbell (or the phone) rapidly and I have lots of time to sit idle in strange places since my schedule is not always in my hands.  And I find that pain causes one to be very cranky. So?

So the view is completely different here.  Totally different.

Slow movers have time to catch the eye of strangers who smile and nod in kindness.  I've had pleasant exchanges with folks in line who were apologizing for holding me up (holding ME up?) and I've come to admire those other slow moving folks who are at least making the effort to get out and about.  God love them.

I've had time to sit and watch the snow...really watch it and to wonder how the trees feel and where the birds are and to see those heros who come out in the worst of times ready to plow the roads.  When I can push the cranky aside I try to appreciate the forced slow down and embrace the lessons I should/could be gleaning from this experience.

So art?  Yes, it has made me think a lot about slowing down the art...taking more time to decide what to paint, why to paint it and then not to be in such a hurry to execute.  I'm not a production center, my next meal thankfully does not depend on my next sale.  Moving slowly has revealed new nuggets of pleasure, maybe painting slowly will deliver its own surprises. We will see.

Enjoy your solstice.  The light will be longer tomorrow, just a little more each day until we can hardly remember this cocoon-like darkness.
Embrace your holiday traditions, share the joy....but as an experiment, even if just for a day (or a week) move on over to the slow lane.  Intentionally walk slowly. Turn off the blinkers and move at a different pace.  You may be as surprised as I am.

Merry Christmas,