Friday, May 29, 2009

The Last Pansies, May 2009 - Mostly Gone First Half of June

Each year the pansies have to be pulled out, after they get all leggy from the heat, so they can be replaced with summer annuals. Oldest cuts as many blossoms as he can on the last day, arranging vases all over the house. One year I think there were about fifty separate little arrangements. This one struck me as I passed it on the stairwell, so I carried it upstairs for this photo, and to capture one of the pansies in a drawing.

The large one in the center is a pansy, the others are actually violas, the violet cousins from which the larger hybrid pansies were bred. Dearest loves all of these, and plants dozens of kinds every fall, all over the yard. She has to visit several different nurseries over several months to get the variety she wants.

The drawing was for a Mothers Day card for my Mom. Round card stock, about 5 inches in diameter.

Between the job, a long set of meetings out of town, and a family vacation I may not be online at all until June 15th or later... We'll see. It's all good stuff, but the first half of June will FLY by.

See you in a few weeks... Maybe with a few little paintings from the trips...

Sunday, May 24, 2009

New England Barns

Today I needed to do a piece from start to finish. Too twitchy to work on something larger...

A photo in a post on Little Bang Theory, the blog of The Cunning Runt, was the model for this watercolor and ink painting. I drew first, then inked in all the darkest areas, then went with the watercolors. The finished piece is a little over 10 x 14 inches. Click for a larger view.

The light scattered in all the leaves is beautiful in the photo, but it distracts from the larger shapes and patterns of light and dark that made me want to paint this. So I just went for the large dark masses, using blues, violets, and greens.

What I loved about this image is the lights and darks in the foreground - particularly the interplay of the shadows with the black of the windows and all the shapes around the brightly lit gables and dormers. I also love the red of the barn in the center right. And the height and details of the cupola.

And it helps that the Cunning Runt has composed the whole thing so it works immediately. All I had to do was get the proportions correct in my drawing to preserve the feeling I wanted. My page is a little shorter than his, so I do lose a little of the vertical drama of his photo. I was able to restore a little of that by making the cupola look a little more high and remote (size and atmospheric perspective).

Happily I could also edit the image in my head as I transposed it. So I left out details I didn't like, and I could trim the branches out of parts of the barns that I wanted plain and crisp edged. The Cunning Runt might have liked some of the details I removed... or not. But unless you want to get busy with Photoshop or other tools, those details are not something you change in a photo.

This is the second time I have been inspired by The Cunning Runt's photos. Click here for the previous watercolor sketch (of Mount Greylock), and here for his post and photo. Today's effort is more of a finished painting than the previous.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Virtual Art Show at June in Oz' Blog

June in Australia posted the first installment of the virtual art show today. I mentioned her intention in a post about a week ago.

Travel there and see what she has up. Two of my scrap creatures are there - one made for this show, and one from years ago. There is a lot more - from all over the world. I love how the places come through the images.

And I think this is just the start.

Above is the beginning of another scrap creature. I stopped to show the result of my "scribbling" before I start looking for the image it will become. This will need more play before something emerges. About ten minutes for this effect so far.

Rainbows Boats and Stegasaurus

>> Appendix de Grenouille


Here I am with the little moleskine, el pocito, as Etienne calls it, above six months of eraser chaff, at the end of the double rainbow. It is with childlike mental silliness that our artiste friend acquired and arranged these tugboats and ancient lizards. Imagine him in a store approaching the counter with a handful of colorful rubber playthings. No, no. Picture him earlier still, at the big jugs of these colorful rubber items, trying to decide on rainbows of tugboats, or trucks; mixed suaropods or just one kind; insects or bears. His brain nearly exploded from pleasure and the difficulty of the decision. He filled his hands repeatedly, one way and then another, seeking the right set of creatures. Fortunately his daughter was with him to provide a calming effect, or Etienne might have bought the jugs entire. We know how he is about color.

But, eccentricity aside, there is symbolism to be found in these arrangements. The rainbow is how so many see the issue of equality for love and marriage among the genders. Etienne thinks of this double rainbow, running both ways, as representing every direction of love between men and women. He feels it is synchronicity that the crossed rainbows meet at (voila) green, the current color of sustainability and symbol for touching the planet with gentility.

Oui, this is no coincidence. The way forward is revealed in the rainbows.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Stolen Meme

I borrowed the stolen meme from Linda.

I intend to answer at least one thing in each category in some detail - my twist on the meme.

LAYER 1: Tell us your...
* Name: Steven Joseph Emery (Steve)
* Birthday (month, day): April whatever (that's how I celebrate it these days - though it's really in another month, and I really celebrated it in May this year).
* Birthplace: the Hudson Valley of New York
* Current location: the Triangle area of North Carolina (Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill - I've lived in all three of those towns).
* Eye color: Brown (from Sicily - no other brown eyes in my immediate background but from the Sicilian grandmother and my mother)
* Hair color: gray and silver - used to be dark brown, almost black
* Height: 6 foot
* Righty or lefty: Righty
* Zodiac sign: Sagittarius

LAYER 2: What's...
* Your heritage: Hungarian on two sides (3/8), Sicilian (1/4), Austrian (1/8), German (1/8), English (1/8)
* The shoes you wore today: ugly clog-like loafers (comfort, not looks) and athletic sneakers (for support)
* Your weakness: Food - can't seem to go long at all without it, and love to eat nearly everything.
* Your fears: That I will fail or disappoint people who trust me. That people will yell at me (hate that).
* Your perfect pizza: this is a hard one... I like white pizzas, pesto pizzas, deep dish pizzas... I love traditional Itialian pizza (American) toppings, but also all sorts of odd things, including ostriche and rattlesnake sausage (I've always thought that a fun image). I'd have to say, though, that the best I ever had was a very deep dish pizza in Chicago, smothered in mushrooms, basil, italian sausage, and very fresh roma tomatos. It was two inches thick, like a crisp, chewy quiche, almost. Man, it was good!
* Goals you’d like to achieve: I'm actually doing what I want. Huh. I'm not sure I realized that until just now.
* Your first waking thoughts: Almost always something about work - the project I'm working on
* Your best physical feature: my eyes - or my voice
* Your most missed memory: being able to fly - I could once, I know I could. I distinctly remember it. It comes back sometimes in dreams. I am going to fly up to the last lit spot in the clouds on a gorgeous autumn sunset someday, and land there and look West at all the glory streaming past me.

LAYER 3: Do you...
* Smoke: never a puff
* Cuss: Only when really angry or needing to make a point. I enjoy it when I'm alone and working on something mechanical, when it comes out in long streams that are traditional in one branch of my family. I inherited that gene.
* Sing: Yes - in the church choir for a while - I have a nice baritone/bass voice. I am known, though, as a whistler - I do it to raise my spirits, when I walk, or when I'm overflowing with energy or a tune in my head. I sometimes like to improvise blues or baroque when I whistle.
* Do you think you’ve been in love: Oh yes - still am. I am living a great romance. I am astonishingly lucky - and we also work hard at it.
* Did you go to college: yes but I quit and went back later. My BA degree is in Philosophy, with enough additional credits for majors in Studio Art, Art History, and Classics. Not one course in computers or business - but that's where I make my living. I use logic every day - though the only time I used the heavier stuff was when I altered a program to do the supposedly impossible by applying DeMorgan's law to convert "or"s (the impossible in that case) to "and"s. It was not a big deal, but it was fun.
* Liked high school: My senior year (new school - where I met Dearest) was good. The rest was an emotional mess - mostly cause for long angry walks in the woods with the dog after school.
* Want to get/stay married: Very happily married
* Believe in yourself: lots, except when I don't. I'm an INFP - full of self doubts.
* Think you’re attractive: Yes
* Think you’re a health freak: No
* Get along with your parent(s): Yes
* Like thunderstorms: Love them! I sit in the open garage door and watch them blow in from the West.
* Play an instrument: None - I can't make my hands work that way (fingers independent) - I'm lucky I could learn to type. My hands like to work with all the fingers together. And I do not have a reliable sense of rhythm.

LAYER 4: In the past month have you…
* Drank alcohol: yes - Most recently a tequila shot, last night, to make my brain STOP after work. My mind had been doing the mental equivalent of hyperventilating, or of an engine dieseling after the ignition is turned off. But I only drink two or three times a month, and never more than two or three drinks - usually beer (2 or 3) or wine (seldom more than two glasses).
* Smoked: Never
* Done a drug: Never - scared to death to play like that with my brain. I like my brain the way it is.
* Made out: Yup - always happy to do that with just one person I know
* Gone on a date: No - we are probably in the busiest time of our parenting years, and savoring it.
* Gone to the mall: no - I go five or six times a year - sometimes just to "people watch."
* Eaten an entire box of Oreos: I'm not an Oreo fan. They're OK...
* Eaten sushi: Three times - love it
* Been on stage: No
* Been dumped: No
* Gone skating: No
* Gone skinny dipping: No (only twice my whole life, actually - the thought of getting caught ruins any pleasure for me)
* Stolen Anything: No

LAYER 5: Have you ever…
* Played a game that required removal of clothing: No - sadly no opportunity when I might have found that fun...
* Been trashed or extremely intoxicated: No - but I have had several episodes of bed spins from dehydration the day after a night of too much beer or wine (college). But not trashed or out of control.
* Been caught “doing something”: Not really...
* Been called a tease: No - I've been teased...
* Gotten beaten up: Only as a kid and not badly
* Shoplifted: I can't recall, but it's the kind of thing I might have tried once or twice as a kid and then forgotten. I know I would have felt guilty about the object forever afterward, and I would have needed to get rid of it eventually. I have an overbearing conscience.

* Age you did get/hope to be married: Barely 20 - It feels crazy to me now - I'm so glad we did it.
* Numbers and names of children (either you have or want): Oldest 21, Daughter 17, Youngest 10 - all planned (Youngest was carefully planned when we realized we would be done raising kids far too soon).
* Describe your dream mate: I already have her. Check out her blog...
* How do you want to die: I don't. Unless when I'm depressed, when I want to do it with the flip of a light switch and have it be done just like a light going out.
* What did you want to be when you grow up: a scientist, a philosopher, an artist, a lover. I'm really quite close to all that, in some altered ways.
* What country would you most like to visit: Italy

LAYER 7: Now tell...
* Name a drug you’ve taken illegally: There isn't one - see note about my brain, above.
* Name a person you could trust with my life: My wife or either of my two oldest children. I think Youngest will be in that list when he's older.
* Name a favorite CD that you own: Impossible to choose, and it changes... I do have some CDs that I think are never going to wear out for me... Synchronicity by the Police, Vivaldi's concerti, Say I Am You by The Weepies, This is Where You Belong by The Summer Obsession, Come on, Come on by Mary Chapin Carpenter. Other artists are also favorites, but their CDs aren't quite so perfect (love maybe half of each).
* Number of piercings: none
* Number of tattoos: none
* Number of times my name has appeared in the newspaper: 18? 20?
* Name a past experience that you regret: Telling a very innocent and devoted friend (who may, in retrospect, have been attracted to me beyond just being a friend, but I'm not wired that way) to get lost. I doubt I could have made that friendship work, but I could have been far gentler. I was a teenager, and not patient or experienced with such things.

Feel free to pick this up and do it yourself, as well.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

More Dunny - Mwahahahahaha!

So I opened the last one I had tonight. Rough coupla days at th'office, ya know, and I just felt entitled.

As soon as I opened this one it seemed to need the brown ape beside it. They're so perfect together (and both velvety, like fuzzy plastic kids Christmas ornaments from the 70's) that I have moved them to their own place in my work table.

I still can't figure out the draw of these for me. I have a weird craving for them - for the uncertainty of which one is in the box, for the way the different graphic designers have played out their little stories on the same oddly shaped canvas.

I would buy blank ones (only if they were this little) in a red hot minute to do my own playing.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Mothers Day Trip to Blowing Rock NC

Last Friday we took a day trip to the mountains for Dearest - a week late, but it was for Mothers Day. We had thunder and rain all around us all day, but never had rain while we did our favorite outside things. We started with a picnic at Price Park, by the stream.

We walked at the Cone Manor, around the Bass Lake (or course - this is possibly our favorite walk on planet Earth) Here I am looking back at the carriage road over one half of the heart pond.

Raindrops delicately clung to everything, softly accumulating from the mist. Here wild strawberry leaves, cow vetch, and a buttercup make up the principle players.

This is our beautiful Daughter, looking out over the Bass Lake from the bench near the dam. The leaves on the trees were five or six weeks back in time from what we have now in the Piedmont.

Bluets covered the top of the bank on one part of the opposite shore. I took a number of photos, trying to capture the simple profusion of these light blue flowers all over this bank. Click images for a closer view.

Here the bluets are up close. They're also called Quaker ladies.

At the end, before going to get pizza and ice cream at our favorite eateries in Blowing Rock, Dearest wanted to at least hike up to the bridge on the Rough Ridge trail. I stayed below with Daughter (whose healing ankle was not up to more steps and climbing) and so I could take this picture of the others when they got on the bridge. I believe this is one of the most beautiful bridges in the Southeast, for the lovely arch, the simple construction, and (mostly) the setting. The water streams quietly over this steep, but gently curving rock face covered with mosses and plants. Everything about this area is like a garden, so lush and beautifully arranged.

Before we visited the Rough Ridge trail head, we walked out from the overlook towards the Linn Cove Viaduct. This shot was from that walk - the puddles of former rains reflecting a cloudy sky. We felt like we got away with something, like we had our pleasure all day under the very eaves of loud thunderstorms, and never got wet. It rained most of the way home, when we were in the car and it no longer mattered.

Happy Mothers Day, Dearest.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Scrap Creatures

June Saville, in Australia ("June in Oz") commented on my "Drawing" post with an invitation to contribute to a Microsoft Paint gallery. She's created some images of her own, and posted them along with the challenge for us to try our hands and contribute them for a virtual show. Genie Sea regularly creates paintings using virtual paint, though she is using more sophisticated software. MSPaint is very simple, not even a lot of color choices, and no complex shading tools. Just spray paint, lines, basic shapes, and cut/paste tools. I think the limitations are part of the fun.

So this afternoon I created a little image with my mouse (not shown here). Oldest and I used to call these "scrap creatures." Back when Oldest was about six, we would sit together at the computer and make these. We would scribble all over, spill virtual paint and spray randomly around, then cut and paste and scramble the drawings. We even turned them and flipped them, looking for the tell-tale signs of what they would become. Some we did together, like the one above ("Dog, Cat, Fish"). Others we made with my hand on the mouse, but both of us "seeing" together what emerged, and deciding as a team what to bring out of the background. I haven't thought about them for years, but the method is amazingly like what I do now with real paint. Weird (that I forgot that).

So here are several of the old ones. I sent June the one I created today, for the opening of her virtual show, and I sent her our favorite example of the old ones, too (not shown here - saving it for the show, of course). I am also bemused at seeing how much I was into ultramarine blue back then. That was fifteen years ago, and during my artistic blockage (no real painting or drawing). How little things change...

What about you? Here's a chance to do some drawing, and show it in a crowd of others. It's a bit like singing in the chorus - it's a lot less scary than singing a solo. It doesn't have to be complex or smooth - simple often has more impact. For instance, I like this last one of ours ("Bear and Toad") just as much as the others shown here, though it's a lot simpler.

Check out June's post (link up above) and send her something. What comes out of your mouse hand?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Drawing and Painting

When do we stop thinking we can draw? When do we stop singing in public? When do we stop expressing our life in art? Why do I get responses like, "Really!?" when I tell people I paint, and that I show my paintings online and sell them... (I've discovered I have to throw in the "I sell them" part to get people to take it seriously.) I have learned that I need (for me) to stand up and say I'm an artist. I'm getting better at it - more fearless, more gleeful. But why is this so hard? What do I have to stay in practice (saying it)?! Why do people shudder if I suggest they try to draw?

I think everyone can draw.

Quit shaking your head. We all learn to write. We all make marks. We have characteristic handwriting. I'll quote Professor Hill from The Music Man : "Singing is just sustained talking." Drawing is just sustained writing. And I believe we all can and want to express ourselves this way. Some of us have deeply suppressed that desire.

Some of us have no choice (I'd feel like I'd lost my arms and hands if someone told me I could never draw or paint again). But most of us are embarrassed to try. Or we're afraid of the discouraging feeling we'll get when we can't draw immediately what we see. Discouraged. Embarrassed.

Actually, so am I. Regularly embarrassed to show my art to others because it isn't as good as I wanted or pictured it to be when I started. Why would I show people all my misses, even when they're near misses? "Look! The arrow is in the next circle out from the bull's eye! Do you know how hard it was to even get it into that ring instead of missing the target altogether?!" I don't think that's newsworthy.

But I think we're getting it wrong. Drawing is not about the end result on the paper - it's about seeing. It's about using more of your mind and some of your body to see something inside or outside of yourself. And drawings are also messages in bottles, sent from down deep to the surface. Art can be a communication from our lost child self to our adult self. The adult shouldn't edit or critique those messages - the adult needs to read them. They're personal.

And that implies two further things about drawing. First, it's not supposed to be a replica of reality - it's supposed to be a free interpretation made by a complex and simple inner self. The more free we can make that, the more satisfying the results, and the more complex the messages that can be conveyed. Like learning a language. And second, it's not necessarily supposed to be shared. It might be just for you.

But sometimes it's sharing the drawing that makes it breathe and gives it a greater existence, and that expanded existence might be what's needed for the message to get through. Through to the artist. Oh, it might reach other people, too, but that isn't the point.

It's not about whether it "works" or whether it's "good enough" or whether it's "realistic" or whether some part of it is "right" or "wrong." The best drawing is not the most realistic or professional - it's the most in touch with the inner workings of the artist.

And right there I think I touched on what makes it really hard to draw or paint. And maybe that's what we're afraid to do. I know I was for many years. I still hold back.

Can you open up and let your inner child play? Can you "Just draw"?

Everyone can draw. We just don't all want to (we don't all dare to). Some of us do it "prettier" and so it's not such a "dare" for us, but the pretty drawings are not the most important ones.

Drawing is about seeing.

Drawing is your inner child's chance to talk to you as an adult. You need those messages.

Drawing expands it's voice, breathes (like a bottle of wine) when it's shared. Find a friend you can trust.

Do it for you.

Lisa at That's Why wrote a daring post, a post that's already over the slippery slope, beyond "I can't draw," and into "Why not?" (That question is contiguous with her blog title...) As Randal commented, we're all going to keep after her now until she does it! I had wondered why she's so fascinated with the art of others. The Pagan Sphinx is another on my list. Many people who take photos look to me like the camera is a step toward a more radical tool, toward a more basic way to make images, toward making expressive marks. I wonder if people keep coming by the virtual studio because they're lured there by something inside themselves. I think we're lured by art the same way we're drawn into conversations as adults or toward play as children. We know we're meant to join in. We recognize that this is part of our kingdom. We're meant to live there.

So when you picture yourself creating images, what do you see in your hand? What kind of marks do you want to make? Pencil? Ink? Pen? Brush? Chalk? Do you want to sculpt, instead? What's keeping you from doing it?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Emotional Highs

I was driving back from SC yesterday, listening to new music, after an emotional couple of days at work out of town. The light was low - that rare illumination immediately after a late spring sunset, when the sun is gone, but the reflection from clouds is still casting a warm glow over everything. I was overwhelmed with a feeling of time slowing, the moment suspended, as the trees and hills slowly rolled by on each side. This was one of those moments when I felt completely present, when the emotions were all aligned and the inner voices stilled. They're rare for me. I'm usually a dervish of ideas, music, images, intentions, readings of others around me, and struggles with whatever I'm currently suppressing or postponing. Time normally roars past like a storm, sandblasting memories and scouring my past so only isolated images are left.

And during that moment of stillness and wholeness I realized how hungry I am for moments like that. I was reconnected to a chain of them flowing back into my past, like the intermittent peaks of other mountains, in a long line into the distance, in the clear light above the racing storm clouds that obscure everything below. I recalled the long savoring of melancholy and artistic awe during many afternoons in college, either in the studio or in the poetry stacks. I remember afternoon breaks in the deserted cafeteria at Wachovia, looking west into the late afternoon sun from the ninth floor, writing a poetic setting of Jorinda and Joringle. I reviewed moments when I was suddenly still like a huge ear or a huge eye waiting quietly, and some event would happen and joy would spring up like a torch in my soul and set every part of me ablaze. I thought of many times lying awake holding Dearest, feeling that if I contained one more atom of joy I would explode into hot white particles of angelic song and divine laughter.

Like the highest peaks, though, we can't stay there long, and an hour further on my drive the light had changed, I was tired, and my hands ached from hours of steering and from weeks of keyboard tasks. I was content, comfortable, happy with what I have ahead of me, interested in my life and my work, pleasantly spent. Invested in the right things.

When I got home I carried my luggage into the garage, and noticed all the space. I wondered what car was missing, then froze as I realized the car was right there on the other side. Oldest had cleaned up the entire garage, and had swept. It looked terrific. It had been one of many neglected chores that weigh me down. I was grinning and grateful as I entered the house. He did it particularly for me, and I got that message.

Today while I replaced the attic fan motor, a job that has taken two weeks of gradual work and careful study to get the right parts, to loosen fasteners that stubbornly refused to turn, and considering the wiring options, Youngest took advantage of the clear garage floor to disassemble another motor, from an old electric weed trimmer. He always carefully wears eye protection for these jobs, and resorts less to the balpene than he did when he was younger. Though he's only ten, some of his tools, chosen in many cases on trips with me to home improvement stores and lumber yards, are better than mine, and he uses them with care and precision. Today we discussed the electrical field magnets, and the interesting springs he discovered in their assemblies. There is always something interesting going on in this house. In a few moments I will work with Daughter to hang venetian blinds in her windows.

The abstract at the top of this post is just play on the way to something else - I have no idea what, yet, though I think it will be human. It was fun to lose control of this piece, then regain it again... only to bury it partially under something else.

Life is very rich right now. And layered. Like baklava or lasagna.

I'm hungry - I wonder what I'm making for dinner tonight.

Blinds first...

Whirl, whirl, whirl. Wheeeeee!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Permissive Gardening and Wind

If you check the back of my figure drawing ticket with the ideas written on it, one of the ideas just says "The Wind."

This is what I started with, after a lot of drawing, erasing, and redrawing (click for larger image). The hard part was getting the figures placed and drawn enough, but not too much, and it took me the longest time to get the central tree's branches the way I wanted them. I'm still not sure I won't change them further.

Then I laid in some light washes, not being as finicky as usual. I expect this to end up in acrylics, so I can go back and touch things up as needed, and that means I can be loose now that I have the contour drawing to contain any chaos. I'll probably put down a lot more color, experimenting with values, foreground and background, and then move to acrylics. I think I'll push it too far, and then bring it back under control with the acrylics. That's the idea right now, anyway.

Yesterday we gardened (Dearest and I did too much, and we've been paying for it today with soreness and a little dehydration). But it was a beautiful afternoon today, and I put out Debbie (she's a spitting hippo) and added some company from the garden animals we haven't set out yet: the frog, and the toad Globose.

And the chicken. The chicken that talks to them all continuously. The chicken that Grenouille watched one entire afternoon to see if she ever stopped and took a breath. He said he couldn't be certain. This photo of the same four fountain friends, is from last year.

The title of this post mentions permissive gardening. That's my name for letting plants act out. Plants show up where they will, and while we move some, usually to prevent conflicts, others we leave be. One example is the way I mow around plants that have escaped from the flower beds - like these ox-eye daisies. The stone wall on the left is the edge of the bed; so the daisies are a good two to three feet out into the front lawn, heading for the street. I'll mow them later, when they stop blooming. Next year they will have traveled a few more feet.

I'm encouraging their road trip dreams.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Gotta Get to It

I'm thinking about my next paintings and realizing how much the human figure is getting into my artistic future. More and more I'm moved as never before by the human face and the human body in paintings and sculptures. I was looking at the blog of Annie Bissett, a print maker and deeply thoughtful artist, and her latest post made me realize how much I want to dream this same way, over allegories and the human condition, and use the figure in the resulting artwork. The Pagan Sphinx's series called The Friday Evening Nudes (more examples here, here, and here) has something to do with it, too. And so do my self portraits, where I get lost for a while in the complexity of a human face.

And then I went back to our photos of a weekend trip to VA Beach (two weekends ago - it seems like months ago...) and I was knocked out all over again by two artworks we saw on that trip. One is this Tiffany stained glass window in Saint Paul's church in Norfolk (the only structure in the city that survived the Revolutionary War - the British destroyed every other building). The church community's symbol is the phoenix - up from the ashes - and this window is of the three women at the tomb - the ultimate phoenix story. The way the light is handled in this, and the women's faces, poses, the relative ages of them, all so poignant and beautifully rendered and in glass. I think it's hard to do this in paint! Click on the image to see it closer.

And up top is the huge and powerful bronze of Neptune on the VA Beach boardwalk. We stayed three hotels down from this, and it drew me like a magnet when we got down on the boardwalk. In late afternoon light it's magnificent. This is a recent work, 2005, by a VA Beach based artist, Paul DiPasquale. I'm so glad I got to see it. And there is plenty of humor and fun in the animals all around it. Octopi, in particular, feature prominently, and they are rendered with more care, to my eye, than anything else on the sculpture.

So I've got to quit my on-line stuff now and jump into my next paintings. One from that list on the back of my figure card, and one with something figurative.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Birthday in May

So I celebrated my birthday late. It was supposed to be in April, but that didn't turn out to be convenient. But since it's actually in December (week before Christmas - such a dark and stressful time of year) and I moved it to April several years ago, I figure can have it whenever I want. Not my birthday - just my family's celebration of it. Hot dogs on the grill, eating outside, flowers in the gardens... After 40+ years of celebrating within days of the shortest day, I went for something different. So here we are in our "front room" which looks west to the afternoon sun, up our cul-de-sac. The circle is so often full of kids on wheels of some kind - skates, scooters, skateboards, bikes (with and without training wheels). It's amazing. Our street (our neighbors) are amazing. Hotdogs are on the grill off to the right, and we're getting them off as we eat them.

Here is my stack of presents from Dearest. She knows what kind of paper I like - colorful. We all like the animal paper - sold to us as part of a scout or school fund raiser by the boy next door. We carefully cut it off presents and re-use it on other presents. It makes favorite paper last a long time, getting smaller and smaller until they end their usefulness on a CD or a small toy... Other paper we rip! Well, some of us do.

This is what was inside. The Complete Paintings of Vincent Van Gogh and the Guide to Drawing the Head... Sometimes I like to let loose and paint like a child - other times I want to use technique I don't possess. This is to try for more of the latter. We'll see what happens. I'm impressed with the details I see in this book. The CDs are some expected and some surprises. I will stash these, since I'm still enjoying the newness of my Edward McKay heap. The lamp, a design from Provence, was a complete surprise.

Here's the lamp lit inside later in the evening. We're going to enjoy this in several settings, I think - inside and outside. The candle holder comes out the bottom, making it easy to light the candle and put in into the lamp without getting soot on the glass. It's a lovely design, and a pleasant surprise - something quite unexpected and I loved getting it.

And since my children say they no longer know my age, because I've confused myself and everyone else about it, I got "whatever" for the number of candles. Actually this very fudgy brownie (I'm not usually a chocolate dessert guy - but I've been craving this brownie recipe lately) was still pretty warm from the oven, and it would have melted the candles. So I got the birthday train (yay!) and that means six candles no matter what age you are.

For those who need to know these things, I was 48 last December.

In the evening we watched X-Men III. I love Ian Mckellen as Magneto, and he gets to chew up a lot of scenery in this movie. My favorite moment might be when he smiles and turns away after the woman locks the car door...

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Napkin Lists

I end up writing on whatever I have with me. I also draw on napkins to explain things to people at the table... ask my friends and family.

This shows the back of my life drawing ticket. I ended up with six or seven painting ideas on it (that walk mentioned in this previous post). Now that I've posted the one I didn't want to hint at before it was done (the moon and birds) I can show this. This is the earliest germ of paintings I've ever shared here on-line - I'm curious to see what happens, if anything.

>>>> Appendix de Grenouille <<<<

Etienne should be painting now. But it is hot, and he and his cheri played in the dirt of the gardens for several hours this morning, and he is tired and feeling relaxed and happy. This leads to a healthful langour. This is a time when you should let the flies come to you, instead of hopping about trying to go to them.

His cheri, his companion in the garden and the one who wisely keeps him engaged there, is a lady of great sensitivity and wisdom, and she feels things deeply. The passing of the pansies (oui, I am among them in this illustration) will be too quick this year, because of the sudden onset of the heat, and she mourns this. It is one petit example of the passion and power of her soul, and part of what makes her an eternal fascination to Etienne. He is prone to still his heart and feel nothing, because it is easier, makes less trouble... but this makes him feel dead. And so the heart of his cheri is his most precious possession, and he is happier when she holds his, because she knows better what to do with it. To him, hers seems to move like a bird of paradise, with deeply colored plumage and long graceful sweeps of feathers and plumes, everything made real and vital and felt fully. She does not let go of things in fear or to keep life neat and simple. He does. Or he would, but she is there to hang on, and he cannot let go either if he wants to stay beside her... and there is nothing he wants more, so his courage is pressed into action, and he must feel what he must feel. This is difficult for him, but he much prefers it and knows he would not do it alone.

She makes him tres rich - while Etienne alone would be impoverished by his fears of life, of feelings, of loss, of change, of risk.

Moi, of course, I do not need this sort of help. I feel everything as it comes, preserve it for several slow amphibian beats, and then it rolls off my rounded back. My heart is very small, but it works well, merci. I never installed an off switch like Etienne says he has on his. So I am independent and resolute without a lady frog to help. Etienne says I do not know what I am missing, but, voila, my blood is cold while his is hot. It cannot be the same for grenouilles. And while I also mourn the passing of the pansies, it is mostly because they attract the most delicious, tres petit bees.


This is one of the images that came to me on that walk a few weeks ago, ideas for which I wrote on the back of my figure drawing ticket. This idea has been in my head a while, but it came back louder on that walk. It's simple, but it wasn't easy to paint and get what I wanted. I'm pretty happy with this.

19x19 watercolor. It's softer and a little more pink/violet in real life. Branches were all left white, then painted dark, leaving the highlights where I wanted them. Painting between the branches and leaving the soft influence of the glowing birds was the hard part, but it also led to the irregularities I like in this kind of painting. Some parts of this got seven or more layers of pigment, before I reached the color or value I wanted. The birds were assembled from dozens of photos, to get the different poses. I drew them all in a few hours a week ago. They're trickier than they look, too - we read so much into the figures, and the smallest mistakes on contour or angles make them look pretty terrible. I probably drew twice this many, but had to erase a lot and keep adding more until I got the number and movement I wanted.

Maybe tomorrow I can start on one of the other images from that walk. I did this one as a warm-up for the one I REALLY want to do. I might be ready to tackle that one next...

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Tiny Still Lifes

When we were in the mountains last October we had one hike that Dearest and Oldest son wanted to take, but Daughter and Youngest son wanted to skip (quite tired already). So I hung around the parking area for the trail head, and the younger two stayed in the car and read books. While I hung around I took my camera and searched the ground for these little compositions in the fallen acorns. All of these are not cropped and not arranged- they're just how I found, framed and shot them at the time.

The oak leaves in this part of the Blue Ridge Parkway were oddly full of holes. It seemed only to affect the white oak group - white oak and chestnut oak, in particular.

Looking at these more than six months later, I'm not sure why I liked them so much. And I have the strong feeling that these could be turned into paintings, but I would sharpen up the compositions and motion in each. It's some measure of where I've traveled internally in those six months. Then I got an itch from these as I saw them - now I have a feeling how I could scratch that itch if I chose.

And I have a feeling that another six months would find me somewhere else. While the differences probably seem subtle to others, and my work might seem pretty similar in style to observers, to me the changes are larger, feeling like some kind of drift in taste or in internal fashion.