Sunday, June 28, 2015

Blackwood Farm - All My Life... - Pastel 111


Last weekend, in the 95+ degree heat, we checked out Orange County's latest park.  Due to the generosity of the two last Blackwood sisters (Mary and Nannie), and after years of dialogue and debate with the county, we now have another beauty spot near Hillsborough.  The Blackwood Farm has been preserved for hiking, events, and history.  The place has a peaceful spirit over it, and a breeze under the huge sugar maples surrounding the old house, which lured us into sitting at a picnic table for almost half an hour, watching towering clouds form above the tree line across the rolling fields.

All my life, since I was a small child, I have wanted to be able to take in a place, a feeling, an event, and have them emerge from me in colors on paper or canvas.  These last few weeks it has begun to happen.  We came home from Blackwood Farm and I stood in our garage, sweating profusely as the late afternoon sun flooded in the open door, and drew this in about an hour and a half.  It just poured out of me onto the page.  It's incorrect in all sorts of ways, if you compared it to the real place, but it's Blackwood Farm.  I showed Laura what I was doing and she exclaimed, "That's where we just were!" and I pointed out the wrong placement of pond and buildings and she also agreed that somehow this was more true than a literal image could have been.

I have several more pastels that have been completed lately, and I skipped them to show you this one. I'll show the others soon.


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Women and Girls - Pastel 108 Out of Order

I am posting this out of order because I've been waiting several months for this one and it finally arrived.  I am deeply moved and angry about the treatment of women and girls in our world.


I feel that regardless of the progress made for equality, our society (men and women both) is finding new (and renewed) ways to treat women as objects and handicap them in ways that are pervasive.  Of course this happens to all sorts of people and groups of people, but while I hate injustice in any form, I am particularly invested in this subject through my relationships with my wife and with my daughter.  This issue has sunk its teeth deep into me, and I expect more images, and with the images, more conversations.

Several things aligned to make this pastel happen.
1. I finally have a fast enough and open enough practice to allow the inner images to emerge.  As far as I can recall, I have ALWAYS wanted this channel.  I never actually made the effort to open it.
2. I've grown recently alarmed at the way cultures (including our own) treat women and girls.
3. I realized that for the first time I had an emotionally charged theme that would also inspire my images, and I began to think about that often.  I started some conversations with family and friends about it, as well.  I made the connection between the emotions and the art.

The result is that this first image about our society and women emerged this weekend.  The piece happened in the usual way, but after over a month of no pastels (mostly being so busy at work, home, and Kickstarter).  With some encouragement (nudges) from Dearest, I stood before the page, drew a mess of pen lines and this began to rise to the surface.  I finished it in a single hour long white heat (literally, because it was about 95 degrees in the garage where I have to do these).

The trigger moment, as is often the case, was one indelible real memory - another image.  At the Saturday Solstice Party of our wonderful neighbors one of our other neighbors arrived late to the evening poker game, freshly showered, having put her 3yo to bed and baked her a birthday cake, and dressed in a strapless sundress.  The memory of her shoulders and neck rising up out of the dress, and the slender delicate beauty of them as she stood near our poker table were evoked by the lines on the paper that became the left hand figure's right shoulder and tilted head.  As I saw that one fragment and in a flash of memory recognized the human figure it would become, the rest of the piece emerged as if the lights were being turned up in a dark room.  Mind you, this piece is not directly related to that neighbor, but the memory of her shoulders and neck were the recognition point for the first figure to be pulled from the pile of random lines I had put on the paper as a start.

And as the other figure emerged, and neither of the women had arms, I knew what this was.  Then I got out of the way and let my hands and my cold rage finish it.

I hope this happens again.  And again.


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Pastel 104 - Birds?


This was very satisfying to draw, but I have no idea why.  Sort of an ape bird - the rings on the fingers are the point, somehow.  I love it when I don't understand yet I know just what to do.

And if you haven't seen the paintings in our Kickstarter, I hope you will go look.  I would love to know what you think and we would be grateful for your support.  You can also help by passing it on to anyone you know who might be interested, and asking your friends to also pass it on...  Many hands make light work.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1213017766/in-the-tree-top-childrens-book

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The "Baby Book"

About eight years ago I was just starting to paint again after 20 years of being blocked.  I was posting a few images online, to have a low key audience.  Some of you were witness to that, and have read this blog all along.

I got an e-mail from one reader inviting me to illustrate an extended version of Rock-a-Bye Baby.  I wasn't sure I was ready for an assignment, having just come out of being blocked and that obstacle had been largely triggered by college attempts at studio painting.  I did not know who she was, or if the request was legit.  But something about the project and the request seemed perfectly timed and genuine.  So I gave a non-committal answer while I experimented, to see what I could do.

I tried at first to come up with a baby in a papoose that was hung up - and it morphed into a monarch chrysalis, but it was rendered too tightly, not a style I wanted to tie myself into, and not something that seemed to go anywhere special.  I have that image somewhere, and I may post it.

So I tried again, with a new approach, just going with my lifelong love of trees, wind, leaves, and sky.  The baby took me into uncharted territory and required me to look at a LOT of sleeping babies on the Internet.

The hound was a complete surprise.  That was one of the first examples of what many of you see every few days when I post a new Pastel.  This is familiar to me now, but then it was new to me to have a drawing run off on its own.

Over eight years ago I sent the image below to Candide without much preamble - just "Image 1."  Fortunately she loved it, and the project took off from there.



After eight years, during which the book grew in length (Candide extended the poem even further) and the book industry changed dramatically, we have all the pieces assembled and Candide launched a Kickstarter today to turn this into a real book.  Candide also reached out to Laurelyn Dossett, an accomplished NC singer/songwriter who has composed and recorded a number of lullabies, and Laurelyn joined the project to add the musical dimension which completes it.

Learn more about the Kickstarter, here, and please spread the word.

(My family and I referred to this project as "The Baby Book" for the years I painted these images.  It will be published as "In the Tree Top.")

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Pastel 102 - The Headland and Light


This is the other one currently standing in my office (no wall room, so they are leaning against the wall under my whiteboard) along with The Surfer.  I like the ambiguity of some of the passages - where does the water end?  Is that sand?

And I feel this has taken me a few more steps back to drawing with the spontaneity of a child.  That makes me happy.

Saturday, April 25, 2015