Monday, December 22, 2008

Happy Holidays

I thought you all deserved some particularly tasty treats for the holidays.While I recuperate, paint, and get ready for the transition to the new site, oh and do the holidays... here're some goodies just for you. I want you all to know how lovely this year has been just to have you stopping by, maybe saying hi, or sending a hello by email. And how much fun it is to visit your online homes. I really appreciate my online community. I wish you all the best the season has to offer and all good things in the New Year. I'll be around, just in the "studio cave" awhile catching up. Feel free to say hello, or send an email. I'll stick my head up every now and then until I get caught up. My love to you all. I wish the wishes that you all have, could be mine to give to you. Happy Holidays.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Santa Baby

As promised, the House on Eagle Street. Forget the Mansions on St. Charles, the City Park Stroll, or the late Al Copeland's Lakefront extravaganza. Head over to Carrollton near the bend in the river for some truly good and soulful Christmas lights. In years past this house has also had Elvis on the near side, but it looks dark this year. No problem, it looks like he has put a pirate ship right in the front with Santa and the reindeer. Must be all those pirates off Somalia who can now be pursued on land, (according to the latest Marine newsletter). I think he could take them.

Every year, I looked forward to seeing this house. The man has been doing it up for years. I suspect he has grandchildren, or maybe he just does it for his own fun. I have seen him stringing the lights, but never had the nerve to ask. In any case, I love the faceted lights showing through the bevels on the doors on St, Charles, and it is marvelous to ride under the oaks and through lights in City Park, and yes, the Copeland house was as loud and brash as Al ever was. But there is something about this cozy house, just off the tracks on Oak Street ( home of the recent Festival of the Sandwich) that makes me smile. Every time. We turn the radio to some local music and cruise slowly by. Smiling and looking to see what he has done this time.

Then off we go for gingerbread and a beverage and people watch a little as the streetcar goes by near the Camelia Grill. Not Manhattan, not Main Street. Just Eagle Street. And an unknown man with plenty of holiday cheer.

Do you have a certain house in your part of the world that is just fun to see all decorated?

( Thanks for all your email and comments. I am slowly recuperating. )

Friday, December 12, 2008

Santa Came Early

Delight, sheer delight is so rare, but here we have it. This is what folks woke up to yesterday in New Orleans. While my body tries to heal itself, I hope you will just sit back and think about the magic of a clean fresh snow in a semi tropical town where some children have never even seen it.

This is the house where I rode out the storm. It's only a block from the river, but has the unique distinction of being nine feet above sea level. That nine feet is very significant. My friend whose family owns this home, sent me tons of happy photos of the snow. And told me my little McGehee Girls were out on St. Charles laughing and playing in it. The streetcars are draped now with holiday greenery and big red bows. Snow was gently falling.

It is a magical place, New Orleans.

I can almost smell the gingerbread. And I am promised pictures of a favorite decorated house off Oak Street.

So a little delight. More tea and tissues here. And me wishing you a lovely weekend. Yep. Go find some naughty. I'll be here with the tissues hopefully painting a bit too. And smiling at snowflakes dancing.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Life Won

Ahh, those pesky lungs of mine, we're waiting for tea water to boil. On days this happens, or weeks, I have to just do one thing and then the next and treat my self rather gently. I am sure anyone can relate.

There you are rearing to tear into a million things, and your body just says, uh, nope. So more tea, more apples, more meds. I would rather be painting strawberries, or splashing in watercolor puddles. Or even writing content for the new site. Or phoning up that curator, or that gallery owner. Humph.

What do you do, when your mind is willing,but your body says no? Sheesh, that fluffy pillow is looking mighty good.

Harrumph, AND hmph. We do not like this at all. Oops, the tea water is boiling...gotta go.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

What Will Win Today?

Transitions are rarely smooth or easy, no matter what they say. Believe me, I have been through a gazillion of them. You would think it would get easier. It does not. Only the ability to recognize them and deal with them as such does. What's hard for others to see sometimes, is what the underlying map is. We' re talking about art here right?

Yes. And no. We are talking about art, everything is about art with me, except when it isn't. ( Smiling at that.) A working artist's work is always in movement, one hopes. Who wants stale? We want finished, but not stale. The pumpkin cake won yesterday, partly. The cream has to dry so I can finish the whitest white up on top. And that strawberry thing is so talking to me. Mouth is watering. And while I am painting cakes, the larger work is still in attendance, and all those other things I alluded to. So what wins on days or weeks like these, when everything is in motion, everything is calling for your attention and things are changing?

What do you choose to do? Especially when the stakes are getting higher? And do you take the time to blog about it?

Hm, sipping tea. Thinking. And I am thinking. You stay the course and modify, just a bit. And so here you see an honest look at competing elements of an artist's life. What wins today? Well, Pen has been waiting patiently. Brush is chomping at the bit, and Pencil has me on a schedule. And life, well, life is calling too. I think the best, any of us can do, is show up, do our best, and hope there is a little bit of cake along the way. Yep. I think the best thing we can shoot for, is to remember to be kind to ourselves and remember what is important. That goal. That why we do it. And just do one thing, then the next and then the next. Now, you better believe by the end of the day, those strawberries and that cake...yep, they'll be gone.

So what wins today? I'm hoping I do.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Deep Cleansing Breaths

These things you see, the tea, the apple, will be gone soon because I am munching on them as I sit and write this morning. Life and stuff won yesterday, not the cakes, not the paintings. Those I get to do today. But here's what's cool: I finished two big tasks that I had promised myself I would. And that feels so freeing. So good. They weren't easy, but they were a step forward. You see, there are changes coming.

Someone has a book out about frogs and tackling the hard things. I think the idea is to do the tough stuff, get it over with and then do the next thing. Behind the scenes I have been doing just that. I am not a technical wonk, I am an artist. So I have some great guys doing what they do to make me a better virtual home. I am hoping you will bear with me during the transition. It may take a bit of doing. I have no idea what exactly is involved, but it is going to look so much better and will be easier for people to use.

So yesterday, Pencil won. We did things that involved orderly ducks, or ordering ducks, or , oh, just getting the big ducks on their way. But Brush and Pen are wanting a rematch today. Yep. So here I am, sipping tea, eating an apple, taking deep cleansing breaths, while they are pleading their cases. Both are very good at it...yes, I hear you.. and on the other hand.... uh oh, Brush is opening the refrigerator... no fair...

Pen how are you going to top that?

Honestly, it's like central casting around here, diva, diva, diva...demanding little buggers. No we are not ordering from Craft Services. This is NOT Hollywood. Seriously. Yes, we can have music...Okay , I 'm coming...gotta go folks...they're union scale, but pushy...

Monday, December 8, 2008

No Nuns, They Had No Nuns

When I went to Main Street Bakery yesterday, they had sold all the Chocolate Nuns. Yes, there was a run on nuns in Dallas this Sunday. Hm, could it be the yule tide rush? Would it, could it, be some special religious zeal? Or just a chocolate fetish? No matter. We found these: Pumpkin Cheesecake and , oh yes, Strawberries...on a sweet buttery cake... more red, but even juicier...Yeah, Brush is jumping up and down. Spoon is at the ready.

"Hey, it's Organizing Monday, we have ducks to get in a row," Pencil says, tapping me on the shoulder.

"Yep, you have some copy to write for the new site, very important stuff. And oh, life is calling too. AND what about those other paintings?" Says, Pen.

So I am looking at these tasty treats, and thinking of all the stuff, that stuff you know that makes the week go and absolutely positively MUST get done. All the projects. 3 Most Important Tasks and all.

Hm. Cake or stuff? How disciplined am I?

We'll find out won't we?

Friday, December 5, 2008

Naughty Friday Red

Red Orchids, 40" x 60" Watercolor on d'Arches Paper

“I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn't say any other way - things I had no words for.”~Georgia O'Keeffe

Red has passion, power, and life. It is one of my favorite colors to paint. All of my major series have a portion of red. Except the wetlands series, but it has orange. My earliest Fortuney Series is based upon a luxurious piece of red and silver Italian watered silk. The Orchid series, the series this piece is from has two dominant pieces in red. This one and one I keep for private collection. Both passion pieces, both benchmark works.

This painting was purchased by a man for his wife, he bought it for its vibrance. I painted it because of the light on this flower in this place at this particular time. The Hymen Conservatory was in Audubon Park. Built and funded by private funds, the greenhouse was one of those old fashioned oasis, open to the public, cared and tended by an orchid master, who taught me some of the names, and brought this one to my attention. It was a rare and lovely place in a park designed by Olmstead, he of Central Park Fame. The Conservatory is gone, replaced by the new clubhouse to the upgraded golf course. The orchid master retired. He and I met afterwards many times, when he cared for my friend Abby's orchids at her house. We three were captured in the web of orchids. Anyone who collects them knows what I am talking about.

But on this day, the red was aglow in a peaceful haven. I sat immediately, began to sketch listening to the birds. Hearing the orchid master pad about, watering this, feeding that. I was focused on the strength of this amazing array. The color pulled me in. The shapes held me in awe. I came back and back to capture this. I used the photos too. But the days in the conservatory, that oasis in the park, are really what I was painting. Treasure. Red lighted treasure in the middle of my park. It was like painting a tide pool of life.

Take some time and look at all the parts, all the variations of reds. There's life and death, still and moving, reality and abstraction. Then notice too, that smack dab in the center is a very still green leave. Dead center. I was experimenting with a Matisse challenge at the time. Composition and dynamics. Can you organize a dead center composition and make it dance?

Well, yes, yes you can.

Now go be naughty your own selves. And put some red in your life.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Raspberry Twists

Raspberry Cheesecake with White Chocolate Star 100.00 plus shipping 5" x 7" oil on archival linen board

Raspberry Knockout ( sold ) 5" x 7" oil on archival linen board

"Painting is not only to copy the object, it is to sieze a harmony between numerous relations."~Paul Cezanne

Raspberries mounded under a glistening glaze, nuts in profusion, and finally red. And cobalt violet. Two cheesecakes, two forms, two similar color families. But again, a difference. So they give a slightly different message. To me the first one looks contained, full bodied, but only bursting out at the top. Potential. The second one, the party is in progress. And let everyone join in. Nuts are spilling out all over the place. Yeah, probably some champagne involved.

Painting is relationships. Each stroke is interlinked with all of the others. And they all feed the central idea of a piece. I painted these one right after the other and finished up the light touches this morning after the darker bits had dried somewhat, so the whites would leave the pinks and reds alone. The oil is very buttery and it flows. But I wanted to paint them as close together as I could, the palette is the same. However, those bits and flurries of all those nuts, are almost formless, random triggers of disruption on the surface. On the other, that surface is smooth, calm. It is an exercise in syncopation. You know, everything is almost the same, but scooched just a bit toward a variation. Being able to make that kind of change within a restriction, is very important to me.

Cezanne said that the way to paint an orange is to paint several of them at once so that the whole is revealed just a bit in each one. Raspberries. Red. Add them to a rich cheesecake and you have a potential license to licentiousness. Passion. That's what is being painted. It would be fun to do a large piece using raspberry dessert variations from Laduree. Hm. The overall impact would be almost too much. It's the succulence of red, and then he does such things to them. Hm. There's a thought.

These two small pieces are little bits of passion. Glimmers, touchstones, a slightly sinful gift to delight one's palette. And I like them. They are a hint of possibilities. I like to paint red. I like to play with proportions of it. Too much, not enough, how far from red of passion to red of anger, or red of patriotism. Red of church. Red of vibrant healing.

I think tomorrow I'll show you a large red piece I did, that a husband bought for his wife. Red. One of my favorite colors to paint.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Sugar and Spice

Chocolate Praline Cheesecake (sold) 5" x 7" oil on linen archival board

Gingerbread Angel Spice Cake (100.00 plus shipping) 5" x 7" oil on linen archival board

It is beginning to feel very much like the holidays, we have cake. These are from yesterday's work. Some chocolate dripping and an angel I think about to go singing. Both a romp with form. Delicious buttery oils. Each distinctively different in feel.

Someone emailed me over the weekend asking if I really did a painting a day. He was having some problems finishing pieces at that rate. Lots of sketches, but not so many paintings. Finishing them and staying inspired was his concern. I said yes, these small pieces are done in a day, sometimes I do more than one piece depending on what's going on. But that's the scale and the scope of this particular series. They are a la prima pieces intended to be quickly complete, whole , not extensively studied. The time frame is part of the design.

Working like that demands the impact of the piece be known in the first 30 seconds, maybe a minute. Just like quick gesture drawing of nudes. Those first moments with the pose or the subject, determine the impact, the attitude of the entire whole of the pose, or the piece. You nail it right then before making a single mark. Read that again. The entire outcome is decided in 30 seconds, maybe a minute. That essence.

On a nude it is the shape of the spine, the line it makes, everything leads from that. On a simple cake (some not so simple) it is the attitude or an idea, a summary. In these two pieces one is more like Puccini's Tosca, dramatic, the other is barely there, more like a whisper or a promise of a song to come, softer like Debussy. One commands the space, dares you, one invites you in to dream, hides the spice beneath the calm. Those ideas are in each color decision, each stroke of the brush. Sometimes it is the absolute presence of color, sometimes it is the restraint and what you do NOT paint. Believe me, choosing not to paint something, retraining is as much a part of the process as the painting. Sometimes even more important.

I chose these two to kick off our foray into the series this time to show you: Same amount of time, same basic shape, worlds of difference. Equally very much themselves. Their essence. Sugar and spice. Looking. More importantly, SEEING is as important as using your brush.

( Don't forget, you can email me a selection from the archives if you've something particular you'd like to have.) today? Yep. Raspberries. Our favorite.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Ahh, The Land of Cake

Art collectors buy touchstones. They buy trophies. They buy art that reflects some part of themselves. It sets up a resonance. Look on your walls. You will see parts of yourself looking right back at you. I started painting cakes over a year ago. Who knew that people really needed and wanted cake in their lives and on their walls? Well they do, and we do. Look at art through the ages. You'll find ample supplies of food paintings. Rich, abundant, succulent food, painted by the masters.

All art is food of a sort. It is there when we most need nourishment, renewal, fortification. Inspiration. Support for an endeavor.

These cakes are special cakes, made by request. They will serve a most important purpose. That is between my client and me, but let me just say this, they will serve this client as they served me, because they are actually more, much more than cake. They are the idea behind the cake. And there's the challenge. Yes, cake, but transcendence too. So they will be especially embued with as much spiritual, exuberant content as I can muster. Form and color, textures, contrasts, choices, all come to the service of an idea. A delicious one at that.

And yes, I now have something Rrred to paint. We're smiling here. Brush is just finishing his Tai Chi, " Ahhh, cake", says he, "Let's get to it."

What kind of talisman do you have near you? What kind of art do you live with?

Monday, December 1, 2008

What is True?

Or better, what is real? A photograph, a journal entry or the memory not recorded, yet experienced hands on? For an artist, the better question is what is true for me? That is really what we're after. Just as in great works of fiction, great works of art deal with a truth, in time, in place, and in the person of an artist. Hm, That's kind of serious thinking for a Monday morning isn't it, Jan? Well, yes, it is. That's what I get for falling asleep reading Susan Sontag.

We're really just about to venture back into cake land. Cause there's truth in cake too.

But I spent most of last week ( when I wasn't feverish, miserable and in bed) working in my archives. Documenting, sorting, and putting source material into respective work categories: drawings, oils, watercolors, special projects, collage, like that. And I tagged some of my journals for location so I could mine them for narration on the work as well as dig for meaning in the current work. This is something that is not easy. Used to be, isn't anymore.

Well, the truth is, this is Monday. And it is way too early to be so serious. While one part of my brain is wrestling with such matters of truth and themes, another part is oddly excited because I am going to be painting cake. Pure sensual pleasure. It is probably the effect of the nasty cold I caught. These will be for sale for 100.00 each plus shipping during December. First come first serve. ( Hah.) A client has commissioned several so I thought I would do a few more to offer up to all of you. But only for the next couple of weeks.

So for Organizing Monday, I am heading to the bakeries....yes, top of my 3 Most Important Tasks is to buy a Chocolate Nun. If you look through the archives here and find a piece from the Let Them Eat Cake series you would really like to have, email me and I will work it in. Raspberries, wanting to paint raspberries, something RRRed.....

( And thank you all, I am feeling better. )

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Ugh, Caught A Cold

Bleary, itchy eyes and enflamed throat, and a Riverdance of Elves with ice picks dancing inside my head. So it's tissues and tea for me today. And that not yet released noir, called , ironically, The Little Sleep. Which is what I had last night.

Very funny.

Crawling back under the covers 'til the shivering stops. Forcing juice and liquids and looking for good drugs. Something that will kick a little ice pick wielding elf butt.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Late Night Emergency Editorial Meeting

""What is a village but a cafe, a school, a pharmacy, a bakery and a city hall? "~ Daniel Perry owner of the Cafe du Crucifix in Crimolois

My editorial staff convened a late night emergency meeting after reading this disturbing article in the New York Times yesterday. French Cafe bars are in trouble. The French are drinking in their homes! Pinching euros. And saving time. I am sure some productivity coach is behind this all.

According to Edouard Etchverry, known simply as DouDou, times are tough.

"He pointed to a customer sitting alone at a table drinking a glass of tap water. "That's our new customer!" he shouted. Then he turned to a group of bank employees at another table and said, 'You see, they got 386 billion euros from the government, but they can't spend a cent when they come in here!" "

I am sure he gesticulated along with his words so you should probably shrug gruffly, slap a clean damp bar towel on your counter and let out an exasperated sigh to get the full effect. Furrowing brows could work too.

We have furrowed brows here. Staff and I. The demise of the cafe bar in France is unbelievable to us. Why? The demise of culture and art , literature and general idea generating conversation. Might as well say, we're unplugging the internets, only real. We see the potential crumbling of culture and society as we know it.

In London however, the Sloan Rangers have returned to their center of culture, thanks to new cafes, museums and concert halls. Hm. Business is booming. Maybe there is some British cultural initiative afoot. Or maybe there is a a back plot to all this shift of money and bruhaha ( love that word). Maybe it IS possible to be too productive and frugal in a hurry , hurry world. Hm.

Staff and I are thinking. This week's Zone is Archives and Personal. That means we focus ( while still painting) on the documentation area of the business, content, narration and maintenance of the work. And any personal things that need attending. (Correspondence, personal projects, maintenance, like that, ) We think that somehow we need to do something to show our support for the cafes. Half my ideas come from cafe time. Still Perkin" was my alternative studio/ office / living room back in the hood. I am worried that we are over scheduled, over efficiently working our way right out of everything that actually makes culture, well culture.

I do not know what I can do yet... but I am thinking...Hm, there is a cafe at the Nasher...and it is a holiday weekend..NO way would I go to a mall on Friday, but, I could go to a museum cafe, or even one in an arty center. Yep. Putting it up there as one of my 3 Most Important Tasks this week.

How about you? Spent some cafe time in a cultural center lately? Huge Return On your Investment. For all of us. Take a friend.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Purple Showed Up

Purple came on to the scene yesterday, I blame it on Kelly's party boots. And Brush and the gang are all wanting to be hip like these guys in the video. Me, I am just sticking with the paint. But later, I am taking five to see where my character is now, in the novel, don't cha know. Last time I saw her she was in a nice warm bath sipping Napoleon brandy. Which is sounding pretty doggone good at the moment. Should there be snow flurries outside? Hm, dunno.

So while I am being lead by my buddies here, and while I splash in the paint, dip into the words and doodle away, I hope we all remember to find some Naughty to get up too... Like who's handing Remy that towel and refilling her brandy snifter? Pen's not saying yet...but we are looking forward to finding out.

Augh Brush, I got the berets already, you want those pointy shoes and skinny pants, too? AND the glasses? You know Elvis Costello has already done that look. How about something more like Paris, you know cafes', poets, handsome writer men...? Yes, I 'll buy the brioche...Oh, Pen if you dance in the fountains, you"ll catch cold, and you've been watching Fellini again haven't you? Pencil, where's Pencil? Practicing the Tango? Sheesh, when it flows, it flows. C'mon guys we have work to do...yes, you can still have the brioche.

Go on, get Naughty. Like Vonnegut says, we are dancing human beings. So go do some dancing yourself.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Brush Won Yesterday

"To me living and music are all the same thing. And I keep finding out more about music as I learn more about myself, my environment, about all kinds of different things in life. I play what I live. Therefore, just as I can't predict what kinds of experiences I'm going to have, I can't predict the directions in which my music will go. I just want to write and play my instrument as I feel."
~ McCoy Tyner

Thoughts like these are why I love listening to jazz musicians talk about their work. Somehow in the articulation of notes with keys and reeds and strings and sticks, they have words down, too. And when words fail, they have scat. Sound words. Which is kind of a poetry of rhythms and glides, of hip and of hop across a tune.

Brush and I went hippity hop across some more space yesterday. And in some spots we had glide. We had short jumps and some sizzle. Look at that red. It just had to be heard. And we scooted on over to fly with some yellow before we dipped into the blue. Pencil was keeping a beat on the drums. Pen kept quiet, but smiled, bobbed his head with the beat. Tapped his toes. And today they all want berets.

Yeah, silly, but we're just listening to the paint here and this is where it went.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Spaces In Between

"We are dancing humans."~Kurt Vonnegut

I am not painting this painting, it is painting me. Really. I think I am sitting down to do one thing and marks come out, a color calls. That's where I go. It is echoing the novel writing. And like scenes in the novel, or the draft of one, one mark leads to questions, and then more. I puzzle, but I don't worry about the answers....yet. I just keep putting the marks down. Pure color, a call and a response. These are the spaces in between.

Ever since I saw an interview with Kurt Vonnegut last week, one phrase he said has stayed with me: 'We are dancing humans." He was standing in front of his paintings in a gallery and offering an explanation of sorts. I smiled. This is a writer talking about his paintings in terms of dance. I liked that a lot. It feels like a dance sometimes. Painting has rhythms and movement and some of my work is even done to a specific musical "soundtrack" ( dwarfs not included). This week it is jazz.

Hm. Yep, I can see the rhythms in these. Pure color rhythms.

I was listening to another interview Sunday. This time with jazz great McCoy Tyner. He played with Ellington and Coltrane. Piano jazz. And we all know the thing about jazz is to set up a structure for improvisation. He talked about open chords, with space in between. I have always loved those. I took a few notes, an idea for a piece. Made a note to self to get more of his music. It does nice things to my work. So the rhythms and colors here make an abstract sense to me. Echoed by his words. I've set up a structure on this piece, but these spaces have a mind of their own. A music that seems to be playing, asking me to just go with it. Okay, I'm in.

Vonnegut and Tyner are with me this week, the colors and marks seem to call, and all I can do is the dance in between. I am just the one with the brush in my hand, responding. And the one with a pen, scratching my head. Not judging, but I do have questions. Like isn't it awfully flat? Where's the depth? Are we there yet? What the heck am I doing? Hm. Time to turn up the music and quiet that kind of talk. Just follow this song til it's over. Then we'll see what we have.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Loaded Brush, Sharpened Pencil, Flowing Pen

“Before enlightenment; chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment; chop wood, carry water.”~Zen Proverb

What every artist wants is flow. That place and mindset where the chi moves in an unobstructed way onto what's before them. Look closely at the photograph. Those beads of water on the brush just happened to show up. When I discovered them, I smiled. Flow. A simple trio of words came to me this morning: "Loaded Brush, Sharpened Pencil, Flowing Pen." The words came, not all at once. First one, then the next, and later the other. But they are significant . These little guys are all working for me right now. All primed. All good, all recognizable. Comforting. And exciting. It feels really quite fine. And it's because of the writing.

A working artist works, flow or no flow, but when that gift of freshly primed and especially fluent creativity comes forth, we celebrate. And work. But happier. Every artist has to master fluency. We have to become our own best coaches, gurus, and friends because there is every reason in the world for artists to stop. Just stop. What would the world lose after all? But for those of us who know that any other way is wrong for us. We don't. We work through, or pause, or zig to bring the zag ( that works a lot.) There are lots of days of just taking the next step, then the next. You can sharpen pencils, clean a table, take a walk, work through the night if need be. Change a routine, or listen, breathe... and work.

Because that's what everyone who deserves the name artist does. We work. In flow, or out. Whether the work is actually on the canvas, or the finished piece, or in development, we work. Even in our down time, you can bet the wheels are turning, the pauses and the activity, are just yin and yang. So flow, when it happens is as welcome as rain. That's what the struggle, the transitions, the pushes, are about after all. Flow. That's when a loaded brush, a sharpened pencil, and a flowing pen come in especially handy. Very special friends indeed.

Yes, that's them, glowing and getting all big headed.. next thing you know they'll have agents and demands. Oh wait too late. Brush get over yourself...I am not building a cabana...c'mon, time to put that cadmium orange on your tip to work. What? Pen wants to go first? Huh, Pencil, you want to doodle some ? Sheesh... I am all zen and suddenly we have divas.

Monday, November 17, 2008

In Zones

Yesterday I spent some very mellow time listening to local radio and working through some source material. It was a nice way to spend a chilly Sunday afternoon. Between the creative writing and the music, some decent flow is happening. And I can build on that. This is "Active Projects" Zone week on my calendar. That means I bring development pieces to the next step, work hard to bring current pieces along, and in general, pay closer attention to the studio aspects of my work. The artistic hermit is called into play.

Zone System. It's an idea that kind of acts like an assistant/ event planner/ permission giver all in one for the working artist. And is meant to solve that perennial problem we have of not being able to be all things at once. Each week has a name for each Zone or area of focus and I know what the direction is for each Zone because I have my goal setting template all nicely completed for each of these areas. So even though the week may require some out of the Zone on demand actions ( every week does), the majority of focus is still in that particular area. Over the course of a month, each Zone repeats. Bases are tagged.

I found the focus and names for my Zones by looking at the important things I spent untold hours doing. The ones I felt nag at me when I was doing one and not the other. Know what I mean? If I am in the studio, what about marketing? If I am bringing things out of development, what about the finish work? And what about invoicing, cover letters, shipping and cold calling , and building relationships, maintaining the ones I have.... and and and. And at the time those other things, like designing successful and FUN residency projects,and fundraising for my community, archiving, competing, and uh, painting, and going on location, which drives it all...See what I mean? Anxious making. ( And was there anything in there about necessary down time? Or a personal life? Notice that too?) How could I manage them all? Zones. Once I had things fitted into those nice little Zones, lots of that nagging, uneasy feeling went away. And I actually got more done.

So yesterday was a mellow day, ( Just proofing that last paragraph made me flutter. Yikes, there is so much to do) But this week, this week is all about "Active Projects". There are some really cool things that come out of these sessions, the kind of juice that drives the work. Without it, there would be no need for any of the other Zones. No, not one. Brush and I are pleased about the scribbling and the radio. The other things had to be quiet, take turns, so we could go forward once again.

So here we are on Organizing Monday. Paintings need to be finished, To do list items need checking off, and I have some new goodies that percolated up, from the good spot...that would be a happy dance you're seeing.

How do you deal with competing demands on your time and attention? One task until complete, or do you have a system for juggling?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Rhythms, Paint and Words

NaNoWriMO is an unlikely name for an artist's muse, but permission by any name is not to be underrated. I am at almost 11,000 words in the novel. The goal is 50,000 for the month of November. And the quality of the words is insignificant. That you get them down IS. What began as tentative, a trickle, a scene here and there, is becoming intuitive, flowing. Suspension of judgement is key. Notes to self are allowed, you can come back to those later, say after 30,000 words or more. Hm.

Naughty little thing, weaknesses. Even perceived weaknesses. Writing professionally about my work has always been one of mine ( Kelly is going to smile at that again. ) Writing has not. I have journals, notes, and heaven forbid I run out of ink. I have sketches and maps, clipped photos, source materials out the ying yang. I have communication skills, ask my friends. ( I see you all smiling there.) What I did not have before was permission. So I gave it to myself.

And you know what? The paint is responding. Yep. How could I have forgotten, that one of the ways I opened up that flow, was through my private writing. I had never done this in *public*. Very private person you know. And announcing to the world that I was going to attempt a novel. Hah. And besides, I know writers, real writers. And they are good. I couldn't do that, could I ? I have seen them struggle, go into their caves. The guys all grimace, grumble, don't shave. I am an artist after all. Give me a brush. Or a pencil, or pen. Or a camera, I am great with a camera.

But I am sitting here in my robe. Not showered, not perfumed, still in my slippers. I wrote over 2,000 words yesterday. Oh no, this the cave? RUN! Sheeesh....naughty guys, trying to sucker me in. Brush, is running the shower now. Slathering is called for, and I refuse to discard the perfume. But I think my Novembers are changed forever. NaNoWriMo, who knew? Rhythm, paint, and words...Yeah, Brush... it's kind of nice. We like it.

Given yourself permission to do anything different lately? Did you get a surprise?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Hi Ho Hi Ho

Grumpy: [watching the Dwarfs washing themselves] Next thing you know, she'll be tyin' your beards up in pink ribbons and smellin' ya up with that stuff called, uh...”perfoom".

Cleaning your work surface will lead to all kinds of mischief. Like wanting EVERYTHING to suddenly be tidy. Loose ends cleared up, Questions answered. And all works in progress completed. It doesn't exactly happen as we would want, but I do have a few "pink ribbons" that I'd like to use, and yes, we so like good perfume...very tempting.

However, dwarfs might be easier to handle...( Am I really writing about dwarfs? ) Sometimes in the studio and beyond it does seems like we have at least 7 dwarfs all going in different directions. All wriggling and stubborn. (Okay I am smiling at that one too.) Paintings and the business of art have their own little dance and wriggle they do. Sometimes it's practically a chorus line. And then there's life. Ooh, but that's another story.

Well, Brush is lacing up his hiking boots, we're still going in on the piece just begun, but while paint dries, there are others to attend. So it's off to work we, it would have been cooler if we landed in that wizard film... you know the one where the brooms and dishes all magically dance around and everything ends up nice and neat? But dwarfs, I got dwarfs...and grumpy ones at that.

Well, Hi ho Brush, Hi Ho....c'mon. Skip? You want me to skip? Sheesh. Not likely, I think I need more tea. Who is running this show anyway? No, I am not the grumpy one... stop whistling either.. I heard you...Is that Pencil humming? What mischief is this?

Don't cha hate it when a certain song gets stuck in your head first thing in the morning?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Far From Ideal

"...a sense of centrality of art in our lives. It is not a frill, it is not peripheral entertainment, it speaks deeply to us as human concerns, speaks to us better than arguably any other way can. "~ J. Carter Brown

I firmly believe that ideally art has exactly that capacity and place in our lives. We are crazy to think otherwise. In that quotation, Brown was speaking of "Rings: Five Passions in World Art", his exhibit that accompanied the Olympic Games in Atlanta some years ago. He wanted to pull together an experience that spoke to things we all have in common. So he chose themes of passions. Five of them, and brought together master works and less known works that could speak across any language barriers. Love, Anguish, Awe, Triumph, Joy. He chose those. And it worked. I was not there, but the reviews were glowing. It is said that some people even left the exhibit in quiet tears. Others exuberant. Art can do that.

Think about it though from an artist's perspective and it becomes akin to alchemy in the making of it. Do you go in to work each day wanting, no needing, to stir the core of human emotion? Think a minute on that. Think of how you set out each day. Underlying an artist's day are some questions like this: Does that brush conjure up the impact I am after, or perhaps do those chords move across the heart as someone tries out a new riff? How about those words for a writer, do they move anyone to anything? For a dancer, is that dance the one that leaves an audience breathless?

Hm. Can be daunting. Especially if judgement comes in too early. If I were to judge this piece that I worked on yesterday, in these very early stages, I would tear it up and start over again. It felt unsteady, strange, uncomfortable. Oh, the first bits of yellow ( I needed that yellow) were exuberant, free. I like those. But others, felt tentative, different. It was not until I got down in the lower left corner that I suddenly heard the brush as it stroked across the paper. I dipped once more into some terre vert, mixed a dab of ultramarine and dragged in some sepia too. I slowly smiled as I heard the sound, those strokes beating out a rhythm. It's a cheaper brush, some paint I had not used much lately, terre vert can be quirky, and yet there in that shaded part, the heart beat started.

Not pretty, a little edgier, and with shapes that are still flat. And the paper is way too small. But a heart beat. A pulse. It's beginning in the shadows. This piece is pure instinct, pure just showing up and moving paint around. It feels odd. Somewhat familiar, and yet also strange. Not finished , not polished, not even drawn. But that sound, that sound I recognized that.

And I can build something on it.

No this piece is far from ideal. But there is sky that is light and whispering already. Here will be a gentle flow. Brush, put your boots back on and listen, listen carefully. Stay close, we're going back in. Looking for that heart beat and some passion...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Soothing Places

It's still rainy, still overcast. I am back again with my tea, pausing for just a moment. We had storms all around us last night. Um, sip. I am aching to pull a pencil across paper,get the rest of the watercolors begun. First I have to clear a table, pull the paints back out. I have put my character ( in the novel) at a hunting lodge near water's edge. Of course it is complete with spa. She finds peace there, and invigoration. HAH. Don't we all?

I am hoping as she hikes, comes into herself, that my pencil and paint will flow. It's a hope. Well, one that I think has a good chance of happening. Yum, mint tea, nice and warm. I look out the window. Yep, I have about 10 watercolors in the pipeline. Yes, 10-22' x 30's that I have on my plate at the moment. And that directive that came in the night. Connections and continuity.

Dallas is urban. Nice urban and I do urban okay, love to do urban in Manhattan and San Francisco, but I don't paint urban. I am looking, I have some ideas, but nothing so far is calling to me. I am thinking to go down to the Nasher later on in the week. I sometimes find myself there. So it's a little back and a little stuck, and a little forward. And I need to flow. I need to connect. And there has to be some kind of continuity.

So I have put my character, by instinct, in a place that I need to go. And that is just puzzling and weird to me. Is this what writers do? The words flowed yesterday, something clicked with me. I want to quickly put paper and paint in the path of all that. I am picking one of my soothing places to pull me further in, but the hope is that the work will go someplace even better than before. I am just showing up, we'll see where it can go. Hopefully, forward...and near a spa. Okay, you know I am smiling at that, right?

Come on Brush, grab your boots. We're hiking today.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Trying A New Scent

For the past two or three days two words have woken me up. Connections and continuity. I would have gotten up and written them down then, all kinds of brilliant thoughts accompanied the words, but it was our first chilly morning here and the down comforter was more convincing in its arguments for no. Not just yet. It was still way way dark outside. In fact, yes, one of those 2am calls again. Brr, Dark and cold. Yet the thoughts lingered. Eventually I fell back asleep. Seemed innocuous enough. Nothing earth shattering, startling or new. I snoozed.

This morning was even chillier. The words came back. The comforter comforted. I slid further into my pillow, but I listened a little closer. Hm. Nothing remotely dramatic. Just glimmers wrapped in down. I do have a small rule about these things. If something presents itself to me repeatedly, it's probably something I should pay attention to. (See Nabakov) Hm. As I typed his name a virtual whoosh made me pause once again. Aha. Possibly one of those moments.

I came into this day listening for further clues. Longing for the paint. It is raining gently and I am wearing all black. Cozy, warm. Almost purring like a cat. Hm. Look, a new sample of scent. I smiled, "Notorious." And there's my current journal. A slight curve lifted the right side of my lips. No, we can't go there, or can we? Connections and continuity. I peeled the scented paper back and rubbed it on my wrists, my neck. Yum. I like it very much. I looked again at the photo of the scent. Tilted my head just a bit. Looked back to my journal. Thinking.

Well, what do you know, I thought. Maybe it IS possible to let a little out. Hm, maybe, as I sit here with my tea, just maybe... Oh, I'll organize. It's Monday after all, but this scent is growing on me. Hm, let's see... that night long ago at the Columns... or the weekend in Dripping Springs... Connections and continuity. Have I locked up way too much? I am so smiling.

Yep, Organizing Monday. No one said it couldn't be fun.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Laughing Buddha Naughty Friday

I still can't get this little guy to answer any questions, but he smiles encouragingly ALL the time. Or is he mocking me? I had to laugh a few minutes ago when I glanced over and noticed he was perched on top of my fancy paper clips. I am at my desk today, shifting some content around, centering after a very uncomfortable and hectic week. So the music is on softly, some Carly Simon I got as a gift. A Starbucks purchase I think. I lit a favorite candle, it's kind of like sitting by a fire. Old tricks for focus I used in my studio. Creates a hearth of sorts.

Ideas are bubbling up again. Works in progress are shifting. And I have some odd images that keep making their way into my brain. Totally a next generation. Some of these will shift and sort, some of them will fade. Some of them will be real solid pursuits. But they all clamour for my attention. They tend to appear, like characters in a novel.

And that's a funny thing. The novel. I am not blazing any trails there in word count, but people and events just appear as I type. I write a little each day, in scenes. And I am intrigued. The two kinds of creativity are talking to each other. Some visual questions I had put to myself are just appearing too. Some with answers. Some with, uh, uh, not yets.

So out comes Little Laughing Buddha, and the candle, and some quiet time for capture.

And since it's Naughty Friday, I wonder, perhaps a naughty scene?...huh,, still nothing. But he's smiling.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Peace of an Island

Sometimes, as in this week, I want the peace of an island. It doesn't have to be a barrier island, or a tropical one. It doesn't even have to be a land mass. But it does have a few requirements. A view. It has to have a view. And quiet. And fresh foods and the possibility of a refreshing walk. Sound dull, boring? Not to me.

One of my best friends and I laugh that my beach house (the one I would like to build) will have a moat. And the bridge will only let down for a few select people. Yes, I have all the makings of an artistic hermit. I should probably develop a few eccentricities to go with that.

But behind that moat it is sybaritic (ooh big word, I must still have a little sanity left). Behind that moat is spa and magically delivered meats from Niman Ranch, fresh foods from a green grocer, and lovely concoctions to sip by the fire. If it it snows we don't care. Rain. Nope not a problem. I have boots. No, as long as the internet connection is intact, I 'm good. I have something great to read, and paper. Some pens. Some paints. There I can sit, I can dream, I can draw. By the fire, as it burns softly and sparks crinkle and snap in the air.

Oops, there's a knock at the door. It is either that cabana boy I ordered, or an interruption to this dream.

Please tell me about your islands. You know you have one. Where do you go to retreat?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats

I would like to congratulate our new President Elect. Not my candidate, but nevertheless a man I can respect and wish well. Two more gracious candidates, I can't recall. Honor was the theme of my candidate's concession speech. Hope and willingness to do what needs to be done, the theme of the winner's. Historic is the understatement, no matter how this came out. The bridge between them is not a long one, but one that we must all be willing to cross. Because a rising tide lifts all boats. And that my friends is not a bad thing at all.

So here, here is a painting of mine called 'Big Chief" to send out my best wishes. I look forward to seeing what we all can do. And hey, the girls get a puppy to take with them to the White House. How fun is that? Now if we could just get a civil media....Nah, that would be asking too much. Have you noticed already they have been saying that the promise is impossible to fill? Bah, I say to them.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

"Managing Expectations"

Hm. Did you ever hear a couple of words that kind of stopped you in your tracks, made you think, gave you one of those ah ha moments? I did. Yesterday. On the phone. With someone whose opinion I respect. We were talking about an important design project, but these two words, common business terms I expect to him, gave me pause:"Managing expectations. "

Apparently, somewhere between enthusiasm and reality is a sweet spot of reasonable expectations in business and media (his background). This is a pragmatic and practical man. Oh, he has his flaws, but that is a different story. When it comes to certain areas of my life, I trust him above all others.

Hm. I create. So I know that it IS possible to make a lot of things real, out of practically nothing. That's what I do. I realize ideas, turn 'em into something tangible. Or I capture something out there that exists and say, hey take a sec, look at this. I see possibilities, potentials, connections, everywhere. EVERYWHERE. Yeah, gets kind of noisy and distracting if I let it. So selection is important. Dialing back is part of the job. Letting go another. Leaping faithfully another.

So why did his words speak to me yesterday?

Sometimes, okay a lot of times, I expect a lot. Especially from myself. So those two words from this one person, who knows me so well, have made me think. Hm. Sometimes we are toughest on ourselves. And sometimes a cigar IS just a cigar.

I have been trying to get over my own self by going right toward my weaknesses and bringing them into some kind of presentable shape and I am kicking things up a notch in other areas. Moving on. Pushing, digging, going right toward the difficult parts to get to the other side. And I am expecting a lot from every day. A lot. Because I want restoration. Total. Total integration and magnificent restoration to something even better. There. I have said it.

It's hard. Restoration. Probably one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. And I am one hot mess of nerves at the moment. Phew, I said it. I am one hot mess of nerves. Not all bad ones, but enough to be on edge. And that affects my work. It's part of process too. I have some good projects going on. Some I am excited about. But I realize, wow, my expectations are way up there. I said to him, my media man, "I wish everything weren't so important to me. I wish it did not matter so much." His voice was reassuring, confident. Right on task. And in two words reminded me about myself and the projects at hand.

I look at that pan of color up in the photo, and I see an oasis, the sirens of my work. Colors. Pure possibility of flow. I also see things and events that I really don't want to see. But they are there. Real. No you can't see them. But what I paint lives, it breathes and all that was or is to be carried on is there too. I am invested, fully invested in the what behind what I paint. I am trying very hard to paint right past the ghosts. And to find something local, something not fraught, not so difficult. And I am trying very hard not to be so very hard on myself, but also to keep that standard held right up there, high. So the sweet spot, that sweet spot of reasonable expectations. I am looking for that today. Want to bet, I 'll be painting a bit of my island?

Thanks media man. Walls...we just push on through.

Brush, I hope this made some sense. Augh, Brush just held my hand. Come on buddy. Let's just go play with color.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Art By Committee

At this very moment, my editorial staff is undecided on what should actually be the 3 Most Important Tasks this week. I think it is a sugar hangover from all that trick or treating this past weekend and the parties...and that time change. And I am thinking while they wrestle over the concept, I will just do a Dave Allen today and start with the first thing , then the second, then the next and so on until that pile on my desk is reduced to a memory. Never mind my inbox. Sheesh. Working on it.

By the time I reach the real surface to the desk, a clear order will also appear. Yep, another one of those not quite my routine weekends has just passed. Better though, I actually got through some of the newspaper. And I got some new market research info for Dallas, some leads, mingled a bit. So I need to hit that desk hard this morning before I can get to the painting. And the staff is needing more tea. They were planning a field trip for Friday last time I popped in. Tut is in town you know.

So art is by committee this week....demands are in many directions, other people involved. But my core tasks, those will fall right into place, just as soon as I clear some space. No, Brush, do NOT give staff donuts. Get them through the agenda and put them back on the shelf. Wind them up again and we'll never get done.

How do you manage that committee in your head? Get it all put into form. I need quiet, do you?

Friday, October 31, 2008

Naughty Friday Chocolate Truffles

The Godiva painting is 95% done. Just some adjustments to make in a few of these places, some crucial bits of detail to be finished. Phew! But I am liking it. At the later stages of a piece, sometimes it is a small stroke here, one there, and lots of hands off to make it all come together. We'll see the finished piece with that last and crucial 5% completed next week, but I wanted to send you off to your weekend with some golden delicious goodies.

Bon bons for all of you, you deserve them. Happy Halloween.