| 20 May, 2012 14:00
When I first began to paint, I used color freely. Painting is about color, right? For many years, I enjoyed the liberal use of cadmiums; yellows, oranges, reds. My subjects were varied; people, cityscapes, landscapes, pets, most of them from photographs.
One day, many years ago, I set up a little still life, lit by north light, and was transported. I had found what had long been missing in my previous work. Light. Since then, I have been absorbed by working always from life, simply observing how light describes form.
My still lifes were colorful. Then, I saw the paintings of Volkert Olij, a contemporary Dutch artist. At first viewing I felt something like a punch to my solar plexus. (Always a good sign.) He paints simple, tonal works of bottles, funnels, oil cans. I was inspired. I discovered that I also am intrigued by shape and form, and light and dark. I realized that one can't have it all. A riot of color overwhelms the expression of shape, negative space and design. Or so it seems to me.
Since then, my paintings are mostly monochromatic as my beloved grays support the expression of the beauty of shape and tone. But, now, I am noticing a touch of color creeping back into my compositions. I seem to be reintroducing color, little by little, almost as one would add a precious and potent ingredient to a casserole, bit by bit, tasting carefully as one goes.
It will be interesting to see where this leads. Will I come full circle, finding myself back at my beginning? Older and wiser? Who knows. I just stay true to messages from my solar plexus.
| 12 May, 2012 18:29
I feel "itchy" if I'm not at my studio. Its not that I am having lots of fun painting as most folks assume, rather I am torturing myself as I struggle to make the painting work. It is rarely good enough and I feel I can never paint well enough. I suppose I could say that I am in search of perfection. Impossible task you may say. But then, I can name several living artists that are achieving just that. However, when one talks to them, they seem to be having similar struggles. I am beginning to understand that it is the struggle that counts, only that. To follow one's inner direction, honestly without tricks or formulas. Just me painting what I love...what I totally love. Shapes, and tones and subtle notes of color. Color that is rationed carefully, not to be squandered. I want to paint Truth. I want to spend the remainder of my life trying to find a way to express the beauty, and stillness of light touching form.
| 12 May, 2012 18:21
Agnes Martin, the well known,Canadian painter, was quoted, in the book about her thoughts and teachings, (and I paraphrase) as saying that one should recognise oneself in one's work. I try to use that statement as the guiding light in my own work. This takes courage. Whether I admit it to myself, or not, there is always that small voice warning that others may not like what I am doing. I think the great artists among us, past and present, can attribute much of their greatness, to their total disregard for any need of approval or recognition. So, I timidly follow my inner voice that nudges me toward tonal, minimalist work and away from the colorful, decorative still lifes that people love. I am now 74 years old with no more time to dally. Do or die, now or never, sieze the day... So, my resolution is to commit to painting what feels right to my solar plexus, otherwise what's the point? I could, after all, be hanging out in the pasture, chewing on the flowers, like the true Taurus that I am.
| 06 May, 2012 14:05
My seven year old granddaughter comes to my studio every Saturday for her art lesson. I set up her easel, paints and brushes and a large, white piece of paper. She has her snack, puts on her smock and away she goes. No hesitation. She knows exactly what she wants to paint and attacks with generous sweeps of a loaded brush. Occasionally, she will stand back to assess her progress and then presses onward like a miniature John Singer Sargent. Inevitably, there are mistakes, the paint will drip or smudge. Oh oh! Not to be daunted, she will turn the disaster into a happy accident. The drip becomes an extra ribbon on the heroine's hat, the smudge another character in her 'story.' Suggestions or gentle directions by me, her teacher, a professional artist, are politely considered and frequently rejected. "Thank you, Nana, but that is not what I want to do."
Such belief in oneself is to be envied. What happens to us? When do we become the tortured, self doubting, comparison shopping, painters that we are. The work seems never to be good enough. Years ago, I stopped painting for a long time, after being awed by the Rembrandts in the National Gallery. I couldn't paint like Rembrandt, so why bother. Idiotic thinking, indeed! Fortunately, some years later, I came to my senses.
I teach adults to paint. Much time is spent in encouraging them and reassuring them that 'mistakes' are part of the process and giving them permission to mess up as they work to learn technique and struggle to discover their creative voice. But, first they must overcome their fear of that daunting, blank, white canvas.
I believe that we humans are put on earth to create, in whatever area that fits our individual selves. Upon watching my granddaughter, at her easel, I see how inborn, how natural that is to us. I am dedicated to protecting her from anything that might inhibit her spontaneous and fearless urge to do just that.
I am grateful for what she is teaching me.
| 29 April, 2012 14:46
I was one year old when World War Two began. The war years were chaotic. I lived in Hull, a north east port, for most of them. We were bombed every night as the Germans wended their way home after hitting London. Later, we were evacuated to a nearby town for a while as there was an unexploded bomb in our street. My father had gone to war and then was proclaimed missing, presumed dead. We discovered that he had been captured in the siege of Tobruk and finally ended up in a prison camp in Italy. He escaped over the Alps into Switzerland where he had, by all accounts, a high old time. He deserved it.
I recall my mother as being quite histrionic throughout all of this. No 'stiff uppper lip' for her. I dealt with all of this turmoil by retreating into myself. I became a withdrawn and anxious child. Looking back I can name several circumstances which rescued me. I loved my pets. Often I would "rescue" a kitten that wasn't lost, sneaking saucers of milk into our front room. Inevitably, my mother would spot the goings on and return the kidnapped animal to its rightful owner. I had a cat, a dog and a pet caterpillar. The latter didn't stay too long as it magically flew away one day. Then, there was the owner of the candy store at the corner of my street. She was always kind to me and would give me the occasional treat. Most importantly there was my drawing. I had a set of colored pencils and would draw. I drew picture after picture of beautiful princesses decked out in all of their finery. My way of escaping the grimness of my working class life in the midst of a war.
When my father came home, he engaged in the Black Market, going out several nights a week, in his van, to secure meat to sell to the butcher. He would tell us he was off to "rustle cattle." Thought himself a right old cowboy. Meat was scarce. We were warned to only buy rabbit if it still had its head as there were fears that the rabbit may actually have been a cat. Horrors! Maybe thats why I am a vegetarian.
When I was twelve I took an exam to qualify for admission to the High School of Art and Crafts. I passed the written exam and then was summoned to personal interviews with faculty and told to bring samples of my art. All I had were a few bits of paper containing the images of my princesses. As I waited for my interview I became increasingly embarrassed as I noted my competitors proudly holding their extensive portfolios. I wanted to run out the door and escape the humiliation. Unbelievably, I was accepted.
I spent several happy years there making art and making friends. When it came time to graduate, one of my art teachers told me that she would recommend me for the College of Art. I asked my mother if I could go. She responded by saying "You are a girl, it would be a waste, you will only get married. If it was your brother it would be different." I wasn't even angry. We had few resources and this was prior to women's lib therefore I agreed with the logic of her argument.
Off I went to nursing school where the government would pay me a stipend for the duration of my training. For that I will always be grateful. It released me from the destiny my working class background had determined for me, and gave me, eventually, a ticket to the US.
More on that next time...
| 28 April, 2012 02:11
I am honored to be accepted into the 2012 National Juried Exhibition of Traditional Oils to be held at Evergreen Fine Art Gallery in Evergreen, Colorado. Show dates June 22 through July 21, 1012.
The selected painting, Studio Chair, 30x24, oil on linen.
| 26 April, 2012 02:33
For many years I have been in search of the perfect brush, believing if I found it I would then paint like Rembrandt! Just as I was about to give up, believing such brushes didn't exist, I believe I have found them. Michael Klein, the superb, realist painter, named them on his materials list. I ordered them on-line and today I tried them out. What a pleasure. They are Silver Grand Prix, extra long filberts. Brushstrokes feel soft and expressive and yet the bristles hold plenty of paint. I am about to try out Rosemary & Co Series 278, mongoose, again, in long filberts. They were also recommended by Michael Klein. Rosemary &Co is located in the UK. The brushes are handmade but not too expensive. A catalog is included with the order within which several prominent, US artists have provided testimonials. They make brushes of all shapes, sizes and material. Can't wait to order lots more! My search is finally over. Now if I can only find the perfect, stretched, oil-primed,linen canvas!