Thursday, April 30, 2009

Life Drawing

I've been away from life drawing for nearly two months. Work, other events, and stress have kept me from going. This week Dearest plainly arranged things with the hope that I could go, and Oldest and I did. I had a good time and it went well from the first time my chalk hit the paper. At one point in the last drawing it seemed to just go by itself, and I just watched the lines and shadows showing up. That was incredible, and I'd like to have that happen again.

These are displayed in the order we did them. All are on 18 x 24 inch newsprint. The first was a two minute drawing, the next several were five minutes, and the more complete ones, with some setting (chair, drapery, etc.), were tens and fifteens.

We had an older model (late fifties, early sixties, I believe) whom we've drawn before. I like the way the bones are implied in her body, especially her shoulders. Her hip bones are less visible than in some of the younger models - it's all fascinating and interesting to capture on paper.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Tall Trees Final

One more time... This is the final version of Tall Trees. Genie Sea actually provided the clue I was missing - she thought the lower left needed a red ball. While I didn't want to go that far (her pieces are bolder than mine sometimes) I did realize that I wanted a warm repeat of the orange curve above. I had been thinking of straight lines and that wouldn't work any way I tried it in my mind. I wanted a curve.

I need this board for another piece I'm impatient to start. And I've got another in progress that I won't show until it's done (it's simple, and it needs to be complete for proper impact).

I still haven't packaged up the CD covers. I haven't had enough time to get to it. I have printed out the addresses and gotten some of the packing material. I'm getting there gradually...

Monday, April 27, 2009

Greensboro Daytrip

Two Saturdays ago we spent a good part of the day in Greensboro, visiting two gardens, eating pizza (Youngest) and other Italian entres at Elizabeth's on Battleground Avenue, visiting Edward McKay's for used music and books (whence the CD post), and finally getting ice cream at an old Baskin Robbins.

The gardens were beautiful, starting with the Bog Garden. The new leaves of bog plants are so lovely. Here we have (from upper left, clockwise) cinnamon fern fiddleheads, mayapple, wild ginger (so shiny!) and the beautiful and unusual leaf of bloodroot (one of the shapes - there are several possible shapes, even all on one plant, all of them beguiling).

We found this little painted turtle trying to cross the sidewalk on its way to the road. Four lanes of traffic to cross... So we carried it over to where it wanted to go, took it's picture, and released it in the little stream on the other side of the road (where the other, more formal Bicentennial Garden is). The turtle hustled into the water, struggled against the current, came back ashore briefly, then swam back out into the current, released a few bubbles to sink, and rested on the cool bottom.

In this second photo you can plainly see the segments in the ridge down its back (click for larger view). Those are the vertebrae under the thin scales that cover everything, including the shell. A shell is a turtle's odd version of spine and ribs. All the tiny details always get me - the miniscule claws, not much thicker than my whiskers, the tiny eyes, which it blinked at us, the little webbed feet, which it paddled in the air, trying to steer its flight just as if it were crawling. If you've never carried a turtle before, out and active, you should try it. Just wash up carefully afterwards - they carry Salmonella, especially the young ones. Big snappers are great fun to pick up, but more challenging, and you have to watch your fingers, or you might be missing a few. This little one won't get much over a foot in diameter, if it has an ideal life.

And the azaleas and dogwoods were beautiful.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Edward McKay Haul

We are greatly tempted in record and CD stores - especially if second hand, when the prices seem irresistible.

So on the most recent trip I came back with:
Way to Blue - by Nick Drake
Liz Phair - by Liz Phair (had forgotten I was looking for this one - pleasant surprise)
Chutes Too Narrow - by the Shins (I have another album of theirs I haven't opened yet - I got into them because Lisa turned me on to the soundtrack to Garden State - I'll be looking for some Frou Frou for the same reason...)
Wilderness - by Archer Prewitt (no idea, but the album art stopped me for the third time and so this time I just went ahead and bought it - no idea if it's any good at all. The girl on the cover is a bird, to me - it's a very strong impression that I can't shake and which fascinates. Something about the overall shape, the shape of the face within the hair (and something about that sweep of hair across her throat), her bowed mouth, and the pert symmetry of the breasts makes her more bird than if they had drawn a robin. I can't explain it or shake it.)
Ocean Avenue - by Yellowcard (was looking for this one)
Dawn Escapes - by Falling Up (not the one of theirs I was looking for, but it was only a dollar - probably not good considering that price...)
EP - a short demo by Verona Grove (only four songs)
Boys for Pele - by Tori Amos (bizarre cover photos - and inside, too)
1999 - by Prince (it's got Little Red Corvette - gotta hear the rest - and I think Prince did the cover art)
The Crane Wife - by The Decembrists (they keep coming up in "you might also like..." lists - but little samples aren't telling me much)

Daughter and Dearest came back with some CDs, as well, filling in some Billy Joel we only have on tape or record (Turnstiles is the treasure in that group - I still think "Summer, Highland Falls" is possibly his most poetic lyric, and one of his best assembled numbers, period - and it will be wonderful to listen to The Stranger all the way through again - I came of age with that album in the background, along with ELO and several other late 70's groups), an earlier Elton John album (Captain Fantastic), a John McCutcheon we did not have yet, some Tokyo Rose, and Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness by The Smashing Pumpkins.

Plus an Alanis Morissette album (So-called Chaos), and the second Lily Allen Album (It's Not Me, It's You) both lent to me by Daughter (look what you started, Alex - thanks - and let us know if you want to borrow any).

Nearly half a gig of music files on my studio laptop.

Unlike my usual hoarding and nibbling, I am loading the entire great heap on at once and I intend to be a musical glutton for weeks. I am going to get painting again and achieve some balance with this work project (which will now continue in high gear, instead of warp speed, for the next year or more).

Daughter just walked out of here with the entire stack - so we'll compare notes later...

Just back from three days in VA, and not much left of me. Tired in a thoroughly physical and pleasant way. More on the trip later. But I can comment here that the Yellowcard, the Liz Phair, and the Archer Prewitt are all turning out to be the favorites. Tori Amos, Alanis, and Nick Drake are also working out well. Nothing yet that I've wanted to just skip.

Off work tomorrow - I plan to package up all nine CD covers for delivery, start some paintings, and mow the lawn.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Neno's Award

Liberality gave me this award. It came without rules! Hooray! But it does seem to require you to express why you blog, and it is about blogging for friendship.

And that hits one reason right on the head. Actually that's not why I started blogging, but it is why I continue. All of you.

The other is that I find this a ready and congenial audience for my art. Like Susan (of Phantsythat) or Linda (of Vulture Peak Muse) I feel right now that this is all the audience I need for my painting. I'm painting for me - but I can't JUST do this in a vacuum - it would seem silly. And your comments do encourage, instruct, and guide.

Many thanks to Liberality and to all of you.

My Work as Honest Scrap

The Utah Savage has given me an award - and, like her, I'm pleased by the honest muscularity and gritty reality of the image and the concept. My recent self portrait was up close and honest, and I strive to be open and real, like an old restaurant or movie theater that has nothing to prove, and is confident that it's filling its proper role. I'd like to think I'm aging into some honest scrap.

The rules of this award are:

1.You must brag about the award.
2.You must include the name of the blogger who bestowed the award on you and link back to the blogger.
3.You must choose a minimum of seven (7) blogs that you find brilliant in content or design. 4.Show their names and links and leave a comment informing them that they were prized with Honest Weblog.
5.List at least ten (10) honest things about yourself.
Then pass it on with the instructions!

No one I pick should feel that they need to follow those rules - I often don't. I usually don't choose, but given where my day job has been lately, I'm in a selecting mood. Some of the blogs I would have chosen the Utah Savage already chose... So I choose:

Moominlight - because I love the quality of work she has sustained over there for so long, and because her blog has moved her into my world more - composition. She's taken a number of photos I wish I'd taken. And I'm really curious to see if she can surprise me with even 5 of the 10 things. We don't keep secrets from each other - we can't.
Lisa over at That's Why - because of her creative writing, and because I'm wondering what additional interesting things I'll learn if she takes up this challenge.
Leah at Creative Every Day - for her beautiful blog, and the beautiful revealing material she puts on it. I have one of her prints in my office at work.
Linda at Vulture Peak Muse - because of her intense honesty, her photos, and mostly her very personal painting and the way it deeply inspires me. She and Moominlight push me the most as an artist.
Distributor Cap - because many of his posts are researched and crafted like articles I enjoyed in the old Smithsonian. Pretty incredible work for us to read for free. Go look at his most recent post about China's part in the long story of the Jewish diaspora, and the Chinese response to the Holocaust. He takes me places I didn't know existed. And they're all subjects he CARES about.
Susan of Phantsythat and Adventures Ink - for sharing her fascinating life and her unique paintings (on silk or paper) and drawings. And I think both of her blog names are among my favorites on the Web.
Summer at Phoenix Berries - for her honesty and the amazing combination of erudition and straight talking Texas sense that run all through her fascinating blog. Read her short sermon (homily), for example... I was sorry I couldn't come hear her preach.

And now - ten honest things...

1. I am uncomfortable in small spaces or crowds, and this is getting worse as I get older. I will use the small downstairs bathroom and then open the door before washing up because I don't want the door closed any longer than absolutely necessary.
2. When the stress gets to me, and I feel like I am letting everyone down, I fantasize about running away, changing my name, getting a no-stress job, and living with almost nothing but dreams and sunlight in the sonoran of New Mexico. Of course then I would be REALLY letting everyone down, so this fantasy has the lifespan of a soap bubble.
3. I bought a pummice soap for the shower and I hate and love the way it feels like it's tearing my skin off, but actually leaves not a single red mark on me anywhere. It makes me feel like a cry baby and a tough guy all at once. I will be glad when it's gone. I'll miss it.
4. I feel that I am a dilettante, dabbling in many things but doing none of them with the discipline they deserve. When the learning or practice requires deep discipline, I get bored and find something else to do. It's the other edge of intelligence - a particular form of intellectual laziness which is relatively easy to hide (which just makes me even more uncomfortable with it - it feels sneaky, on top of lazy).
5. I love to set up my bed in some different room of the house, where the lights are off for me, but I can see lights in other rooms, and hear distant conversation or someone working on a computer keyboard. It feels like it did at Nana's house, tucked in on her couch with grown-ups still up and talking in her kitchen.
6. I hardly ever draw in my moleskines, but I want to. OR I want to be the sort of person who draws all the time in his moleskines. But I'm not. I'm a painter, not a sketcher. I bring it along on trips and never get it out. Oh well. My little moleskine is called "El Pocito," though inside the cover it says he's "Poco Uno."
7. I can't have anything bothering my wrists or the soles of my feet. I prefer to wear socks and shoes (except in bed and shower) for this reason, and I like sleeves either totally off my forearms, or all the way down onto the upper part of my hands.
8. I often don't like to shave, and I often don't like my beard. Because of the type of beard I can grow, I have to put up with some of both. But I wouldn't really change either one - I haven't enough chin for one extreme, and I look like a mangy werewolf at the other.
9. I do not like to ever cause conflict, and I get violently, cussingly angry when I'm put in a position where I have to confront someone about something. If a neighbor or co-worker is doing something that requires me to complain to them in order to resolve the issue, I get REALLY angry that they've put me in that position. Manners, people! Courtesy! I shouldn't have to come tell you!
10. I can't stand the smell of a milk bottle long closed up on the counter, waiting for a rinse before recycling. I also can't resist the urge to see how bad it smells when I open it to rinse it. What a dope! But to make the story quite accurate, others in this house are good to do almost all the dish duty. I seldom have to do any, and I appreciate that. Dishes and laundry (my two least favorites) - nearly never. I would rather clean toilets. I suppose that was TWO honest things about me in this tenth spot. But I came home with a migraine from the work this week, and the wild ride today in particular, and with this absolutely stupid section of a Madonna song stuck on 10 second re-loop in my head, so I washed it all away with one big glass of red wine and EVERYTHING seems better but wobbly now. So I've lost count of how many honest things there are in this last item of this post I'm finishing now. Only 9 and 10 were written this evening; I could never have written this whole thing in my current state. Grammar is hard. Whoa!... typing is hard.

Monday, April 20, 2009

I Dream a Jungle

I dreamed we lived in a huge green place, with rolling hills and long vistas of blue distance, dappled by cloud shadows. Each day after school I would fly my bike over my favorite route, taking me past the great trees on the bluffs overlooking the valleys, and down long winding dirt roads through fields of tall green grass rippled by the wind. The sun was warm, the rays were long and low and golden.

And at the end of each day's ride, as the shadows were their longest, I passed the edge of our continent, where it hung out over the sea like a long shelf. Cliffs near the edge rose from a narrow swampy place, hemming it in. The low thin strip of ground was overgrown with huge ferns, trees hung with lianas and orchids, and mossy boulders and fallen trunks. It was a place of ominous quiet, mystery, and beauty, and I always got off and walked my bike past it, right on the edge of the shelf, with the sea a short drop to my right, and the narrow one hundred foot wide strip of jungle to my left, with the cliffs rising behind it.

The first time I passed, there were frogs in the trees and turtles on the moss. Nothing out of the ordinary. Bright birds flew silently through the trees. But the next time I passed the birds and frogs were gone and the trees were hung with large constricting snakes. They ignored me, and I somehow knew that they couldn't leave this narrow place - the rest of our land was safe from them. The next time I passed the snakes were gone and the tree trunks were hosting sleeping crocodilians of a prehistoric breed, something I knew would grow to be much larger than the eight feet they had already attained in my dream.

I told my Dad about the alarming changes in the jungle swamp, and he told me not to worry. It would be all right.

But the next day I swam off the shore and under the jungle was a submerged cavern, and in it were larval crocodiles, all feathery and bristly and beautiful, but frighteningly many and they were starting to drift out of the cave into the open sea, and out of the swamp...

It wasn't until my walk this morning that I realized this was a dream about my Dad's rare cancer. Medicine is holding it at bay, for now, but it keeps sneaking into other parts of his body, requiring new intervention.

The illustration above is the first watercolor I did when I resumed painting after being blocked for over twenty years. It's called "A Summer Day." More on that here.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Wrinkles and the Grey

In that same artistic weekend, I did another self portrait all in one sitting. Click on image for a frighteningly larger version... This is larger than life size, about a foot square. It's all watercolor except some white acrylic when I changed the eyes at the very end. It was painted from a photograph, and done entirely upside down (right brain finds it easier to get the upper hand that way - learned this from the book, "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain" many years ago). Family says this is intense, but possibly my best likeness so far. I particularly enjoyed painting my age - "painting in the wrinkles and the gray" as the line goes in "Adam at the Window."*

I am preparing, finally, to try some other portraits (besides me)... We'll see.

*This song is about a painter, and has some of the most sensuous lyrics I know. Maybe you have to also hear it sung, so beautifully the melody goes with these words:

Door blows in behind him,
Floral pattern summer dress so gay,
Burning in the sunlight, too late to wait.
The darkness won't delay to steal her cherry lips away,
And while the careless tongues of sunlight
Slowly trickle down,
The curve of hips, her fingertips,
In kissing sips we drown,
In kissing sips we drown,
And Adam will have his way.
Adam will have his way...

Here it is, sung by Mary Black, who did the studio recording we have.

Like the amazing pairing of words and melody in "Perfect" by Eliza Carthy - but that's another post.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Painting on One Weekend

The work shown here, and in the next post, was completed in a tiny island of art in a sea of other more abstract mental creativity for my day job. I loved the entire thing, the island and the sea. The larger work was intense and overwhelmingly complex. I had built my skills for decades to be able to do this, and here it was. It was like being a greyhound, let off the leash and told to run as hard as I could, barely able to make it in time, but knowing from the first leap that I would make it. It was hard. It was joy.

But during my one deliberate break in the five week rush, I completed the Conducting painting, above. It's all watercolor. All but the audience in the bottom were completed months ago, but I suddenly knew how I wanted to finish it, and I did. Had to have fish, too...

Then there was the nude from the sketch I did in a life drawing session. I'm not totally happy with the results of this - but I can't get further without the model to get more detail. So I learned a lot, enjoyed this struggle, and I've moved on, stretching a new piece of paper in its place - maybe for one of those seven painting ideas that came on my epiphany walk.

I also kept working on the tall trees painting, all watercolor. I was able to strengthen the structure without losing the power and spontaneity I liked in the original rapid sketch. But I have to do something to balance the lower left. I haven't figured that out yet. I keep putting the painting at the end of the hall, where I can see it from here a good twenty feet away, and I think about possible changes to that section. It will come eventually - I'll wait for it.

Next post: another self portrait...

Remaining Three CD Covers

Here they are. First come first serve - one per customer. Read the comments, and if any of these three are left and you want one, claim it in a comment. Tell us all in the comment which one you want. They are The Fish/Bird, The Birds, and The Mustache.

No e-mail addresses or mailing addresses in the comments, please.

Then, if you win one, please e-mail me at arnly7, at that famous e-mail site that starts with a "y" and is a Western holler (if that hint doesn't work for you, you can find it on a link on my gallery site,

Send me your mailing address in the e-mail. And tell me if you want it cut to CD size, or left with a border. And if CD size, tell me if you want a title on it.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Pressure Cooker

I'm back... for now. I'm pretty wiped out, and I've had two days of post event depression, but I'm getting over that.

We colored Easter eggs last week. I'm not usually home for this, but working on my big project from home, I took a short break, shared a set of wax pencils, and did a few eggs. These are some of the completed eggs, before I cracked some for egg salad Sunday. My favorite of mine is the yellow one with the red tulips. But my favorite egg is the Hundertwassesque one with the browns, greens yellows, and red edges (lower left), done by our youngest, using rubber bands as a resist, and dipping the egg carefully in sections into the different dyes. I wish I'd colored that egg.

The project I've been working on for my day job, which is fascinating, but also under tremendous time pressure, kept me occupied nearly every waking hour for the last five weeks. It was a vast exercise in imagination and analysis, both, and I enjoyed it. It also exhausted me and pushed me into some odd creative places.

One day I took a walk with my Dearest in the brilliant late golden clarity following several days of storms. I was reaching the climax of the project, and I was two days behind schedule. I was in the mental equivalent of a runner's high, and elation overtook me. I was aglow with dreamy visions, and the real world around me took on added dimension. The light on spring trees, against brilliant late day blue, and the glory and grace of the tree bones in silhouette, made me literally hop and dance in the street. I wrote down ideas for seven different paintings on that walk, all on the back of my life drawing ticket, the only piece of paper I had with me. I haven't looked back at those ideas yet.

On Easter Sunday, with the project's first phase over, and my work completed and shipped off to the next person in the chain, I tried to relax. Everyone else was at church or out playing, and I was alone in the house. Morning light flooded through the windows and intoxicated me with peace and languor. I took the longest and most sensuous shower I've had in years, soaping up and rinsing repeatedly, shampooing my hair three times, breathing in the different fragrances. I curled and cozied in the warm stream, and closed my eyes and still saw and felt the sun pouring in. After the shower I got out a thirty year old English Leather talc that I have kept for such moments, and I briskly rubbed it all over me, deeply enjoying the old familiar scent, and the memories of my late teen years which come with it. For the remainder of the day I kept catching hints of the essence, and they made me smile and relax all over again.

In the middle of the project I did five 18 hour days in a row, where I barely kept ahead of the team I was leading. Each day we worked eight hours on the project, spinning structures and discussing alternatives, then I would work for ten hours alone, into the night and again in the early morning, preparing for the next day's session. It was exhilarating and as much fun as I've had at work, but at the end of it I was dangerously close to losing perspective, and of being unable to stop. So I slept late the following Saturday, drank some tequila to reboot my mind, took long walks and talked with my Dearest and with other members of my family, and painted. It was a productive painting time, though it was so brief. But that's another post (or two).

The first six CD Covers have found their owners (or vice versa) and I will be delivering them shortly. That means the last three can also be posted for "first come, first serve" requests.