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.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Back To the Paint

"Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more...Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood...Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide, Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit
To his full height...-Henry V~ Shakespeare

That passage, in its entirety is pretty blood and guts. Seriously life and death, as Prince Hal urges the bloodied English through that wall at Agincort yet again. I'm pretty pensive this week, not at all mercurial, but I gotta splash some paint around fearlessly. The first line kind of popped into my head as I set about setting up the day. We need to feel passion for a performance. Which in the end is what art is. I don't need to be in the heat of a bloody battle, but just dial up somewhere between I am newly discovering this with the brain of a beginner and damn I love that blue, or vermillion, let me at that again, watch how it flows. I need, and we all do need, to summon up our juices when we are doing what we love.

And I am not unconvinced that it works when we are doing something that we may not exactly be thrilled to be doing at the moment. I've had a few of those days too. Getting through one more hour with a particularly chaotic group of young ladies in a project could try the best of my art loving patience. Just say the name Jessica to me and watch me wince. But even the Jessica's of the world have their lessons. ( She actually became a favorite. )

And so today, as I go back into the now dry ( and fully okay after the gremlin thing) Godiva painting, I am needing that passion. I let the painting sift and sit enough that it is fresh again. There's no hint of accident lingering. In fact, I now have the opportunity to do something I had not planned to do, but may in fact work better. And I have something in mind for a new piece that I had pushed way to the back and now comes up to the front after just looking at this piece for awhile. That's what happens when obstacles present themselves. Sometimes that wall is an opportunity. Things change, present themselves differently, sometimes in the form of an obstinate little miss and sometimes in unexpected events. Sometimes those very things turn out to be the victory you were after all along.

So Prince Hal, meet Brush. Ahh, this feels and saddles people, boots and saddles....

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Curating One's Own Self

Yesterday I gained a whole new respect for curators. Oh, I appreciated them before, count some good ones among my acquaintances, but it has gone to a brand new level of awe. You see some art writers I can totally do without, and some gatekeepers could be kicked to the curb, but a good curator that is worth the name, creates a memorable experience with an exhibit. That one, that one makes the exhibit breathe, come to life, and sometimes changes the audience's perception. And that is powerful. Even if it is done in a subtle way.

I owe the late J. Carter Brown at least a half a dozen debts of gratitude for impacting my work in a huge way. One mark, one sequence in presentation, one tidbit of unexpected context, that kind of brilliance is priceless to me. Or the mounting of a particular show at a particular time and place. Sometimes it seems as if that show was meant specifically for me. I learned a lot in school, but I learned more by going to some incredibly well done exhibitions and museums. Some of them changed my life. One mark on a Cezanne "Bathers" canvas created the foundation for most of my work. A show that Brown fought for, sued for and produced, changed my way of looking forever. It happens.

And this week, I find myself in the awkward position of curating my own self. Artists do this to a certain extent when doing a show, creating press materials, doing those gallery presentations. There is usually a message, a core theme. But this time the theme was escaping me. Everything is so, so unsettled. There's the before the storm, the during, and now the seemingly endless adjustment, the after. I was looking for a finite, closed presentation. A nice neat tied up in a bow kind of thing. And that just wasn't happening. That is until I realized I was actually trying to curate my own self. So I started nosing around. I began to look at what exactly a curator does. I read some interviews with some of the greats. And before I am done, I know I will research some more on my favorite, J. Carter Brown. Maybe email David Houston at the Ogden for his view on his role there.

But here is a nugget that I got from a world renown curator Hou Hanru after his shows in Beijing and in Paris:

Exhibitions first and foremost have to be experimental, and should do their utmost not to repeat things that people have seen before - they should give people a new visual experience. That said, a purely visual experience is not enough, there should be new experiences for the mind and body as a whole. Perhaps the most important element in any successful exhibition is its orientation to a certain time and place, its cultural backdrop, its significance within its locale. For me, an exhibition is a special activity, a special event. It is not simply a matter of taking existing works and hanging or installing them. From the choice of theme, artists, and artworks to the actual realisation of the exhibition itself, all of these things represent a living and breathing process.

Well. There. No neat and tidy necessary. In fact that lack of neat and tidy might even be the theme, because that is the truth of the matter. There it is again... the things I don't know, the random, and uncertainty. Seems counterintuitive for a tight piece of presentation, something meant to impress, but it seems like an idea that has become more of a constant. Hm.

I was safely tucked away in my neighborhood, living a life that I so cherished for its cultural richness, the people I saw everyday. I don't know a lot of things. I don't know what's next. But I do know that I am an artist and that's the way, I''ll figure it out. I always thought the work itself should stand alone. And it should. But relevance, meaning, those huge things in the art world, that comes from the context as well. So here we go again. More stories, more writing. Sheesh. We used to save that for talking, over beverages, or dinner...or at a gathering. Storytelling to go with the paint? Who knew?

Have you ever been to an exhibit that just knocked your socks off? Changed your perspective?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

"I See Potential For Virtual Assistants Already"

That sound you are hearing is the big guffaw that I am having over myself. I am at that point where rubber meets the road, And I am afraid there are going to be tire tracks all over my back. Seriously, see this small mountain of non painting that I need to do so the painting can get to market? It is not the only stack. There are two notebooks there and 5 more on the shelf, not to mention the other two shelves of "source material" that I need to wade through for "content".

So I was checking the photo to see if anything that should not be public was readable. Oops, potentially one right there. That little blue note on the bottom right hand corner...see, yeah, just down there, the long horizontal sky blue one. It reads: "I see the potential for virtual assistants already. " DUH. And an in person one wouldn't be bad either. Nope not too personal. Just true. I had to laugh. Because the note echoes my feelings at the moment. I am shaking my head, and actually thinking about what Karen Swim said yesterday in comments in response to my routines and ladders post. And I am thinking about those ladders.

When I made the decision to "write " in public, I really did not know what I was getting into. It began as another experiment. Why write? Because throughout my career that has been a sticking point. Artists always need writing about them, about their work , about their process. It was a weakness of mine. Hated that part. I have friends who are writers, very good ones. Pulitzer nominated good. And I had a dear friend intimately involved with publishing the New York Times ( my favorite paper as you know which I STILL haven't read from Sunday and is probably why I am so , uh, out of sorts). Writing and good reading are a huge part of my life. Just as painting is and good art in any form.

So that note made me laugh. It was telling me , hey, you ARE a little swamped. It is okay to feel a little overwhelmed. ( I wrote it to myself after Nick Cernis's review of VA's. ) It is a note to self. So here's the kicker. In painting when I sense a weakness in my technique, or a preference against a certain palette or art form, I try to go toward it. John Scott, (my MacArthur Genius Award mentor ( so he's smart right? ) always said go toward what you don't know, there's where the good stuff is in your work.

So here I am swamped, in the middle of pulling the painting out no matter what is going on. Rebuilding, relearning, readapting to just everything and I am considering this: writing a 50,000 word novel in the month of November. WHAT?! She is absolutely bonkers. Am I nuts? Well I am very tired of all this uncertainty and want to get over myself about this writing thing that has plagued me my entire career. I am going to blame Sean and James and Harry of course. For even putting it in front of me. And maybe all those swaggering alpha male writers I know. We all know they are trouble with a capitol T.

Somehow, it is very tied into the painting. Maybe it is the path to integrating this chapter of my life. I am uncomfortable, I am swamped, I am bursting to get to the next place. The work is stirring around inside me still. Begging to move up a notch, move forward, change, or perhaps just intensify. Perhaps, wrestling a few thousand words will ease the way while I paint. We'll see. I think it is a ladder against one of the walls I'm scaling. And I want that paint, those marks to flow with certainty and confidence born from that place of experience I could not have tapped into a year ago, or even a few months ago. I am kind of shaking at the I must be on to something. Sheesh.

How do you deal with things you aren't so great at, but need for your work?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Ladder on the Right Wall

"To Do is to Be"~Nietzsche
"To Be is to Do"~Kant
"Do Be Do Be Do"~Frank Sinatra

I recently saw these quotes together in a little book by a former Neiman Marcus executive. Yeah, I liked the third one too. It's rolling around in my head at the moment. As little Ninja and I do our best to get rolling this Monday, he's thinking let's get to it. I am thinking, sheesh, last week was tough. It's kind of chilly, couldn't we have cocoa and stay under the covers today? Nothing went as planned this past week. Even my Sunday was not ordinary. Nice, but my usual ducks in a row stuff was hijacked.

Here's the thing about artists. We like routines. Love them. Oh, not in the studio necessarily, but all that other stuff, we like that to go smoothly. That way, chaos in the studio is fun and creative. No worries. But if there is chaos outside, then that is the day I am most likely to want to sharpen pencils, take an inventory of materials, line up my notebooks, get a grip. You get the picture.

Oh, I got significant things accomplished this past week. I like that. That short order art shelf has thinned quite a bit. And I'll take some time today to line up those ducks, get the 3 Most Important Tasks chosen. But when I don't get a chance to even crack open the Sunday paper, or plot out my week, uh, everything feels off. Routines. It may sound dull and boring, but it is actually the key to getting a lot done. And here's another, making sure the ladder is against the right wall. The one you're trying to scale.

So Ninja is rearing to go, he thinks we're pointed in the right direction. ME? I'm thinking that paper and some cocoa, might be just the thing. It won't be leisurely, but it will feel right. Maybe just a section here and there. Yeah, this day needs to be two days packed into one. Hm, definitely feels like Monday, organizing to be done. And we are so not allowing gremlins by any name to come near any art.

Now Brush, one marshmallow or two? No, get out of the covers. We've work to do, but we can have hot cocoa while we're at it.

Routines and ladders? Sure. Don't you work that way?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Oops, Don't Panic

"Don't panic and always carry a big towel."~Douglas Adams

Yesterday , the electronic gremlins that had plagued me the day before, leaped over to the painting. Yep. Not to worry the spill has been cleaned up and the Godiva painting is drying. Did the dark grey spill in an area where it was going to be painted anyway? No. Did it spill on the pristine almost lightest light there is on the piece? Yes. Now here's another reason I love 300 lb. paper: sometimes you can clean up a disaster before it ruins hours of hard work and an entire painting. As you watch the pigment invade forbidden territory, first rule is DON'T PANIC. Second rule is add water immediately and be glad you were not using Alizarin Crimson. Then there's the towel part. Glad it was handy near by.

Next part. Drink heavily while the painting dries. Not really, but it couldn't hurt. So Godiva is probably going to be fine. Me, I am taking deep breaths and looking for my happy place. Om. Wash the towel. Deep breath.

What Brush? Oh yeah, definitely crush some ice. It's Friday, time to get OUR naughty on. The gremlins... out, out I say. We'll just work on a nice little design project today. What could go wrong with that?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Une, Deux, Trois, Chocolates

Et voila, the chocolates. Since every electronic thing I touched yesterday was wonky: the camera , the computer , the was a frustrating day. So painting chocolate was a good foil. Just water and paint. And chocolate. Not much to say about it. You can see for yourself, they are related, but each is different. Kind of like suedes and satin in chocolate brown. Might have to do some detailing in that sprinkle of nuts in the second one. They need some depth.

I want to get back to work and wrap this piece up by tomorrow. I have some shadows to paint, some details and that big deep grey background that will change everything. So I will leave you with les trois chocolates for today. And yes, Brush and I devoured the raspberry one. Rewards, you know I believe in those. Let's just hope the electronic gremlins have had their fun and gone.

Please tell me you reward yourself too. We should you know.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Amy Likes Passion Tea

Yesterday was a business and design day. No Godiva for you today. But Amy likes my photographs and Tazo Passion Tea. If I were still in New Orleans, I'd ask her to stop by or meet me at Still Perkin’ and just chat about nothing for awhile. She wrote an interesting "rant " yesterday about the nets again. And I found myself thinking once more about what it is we get from this connectedness. After the conversations I had this weekend, it is on my mind.

I am an introvert mostly. Can go for days on my own. Lots to do, plenty of inner life. But one of the key ingredients of home, was a little spot two blocks away, a hub, a coffee shop. And my "hood" was a walking one. So there was every reason to expect to meet someone neat if I just stepped out my door. Tourists , locals, friends, acquaintances, some regulars known only by sight. But if you were there, chances are you were okay, except the ones who weren't. But that's another story.

Oddly enough there among the celebs and semi celebs and the just "plain folks", there was an unspoken rule. Everyone was just anyone, just after quality of life. Of course Courtney Love did not last too long, that was never going to work. It is like that in "my adopted hood" in Santa Fe too, although there it's a little different. Surprisingly a little more closed off. And Gerald Peters, never saw him on walkabout, just the peacocks in his yard. My aunt had those too. I thought maybe he's a Southerner. But no, no home baked muffins or an invitation to brunch. He was mostly on his airplane or off selling the Astor Childe Hassam.

What's the point of all this rambling about neighborhoods? Well, Dallas is paved, suburban. People stay in cars. I walk, but it is on a paved and orderly Bike Path that goes through the neighborhood. It's nice. It's comfortable. It is safe. It is dull. But...Amy is in Chicago and shares her wit with me. She would fit right in my Garden District Hood. And there are others, places that I go around these nets, to find that flavor that is missing. That engagement so necessary to my life. She raised the questions yesterday about friendship and faux friendships on the web, about social media, and has come up with this delightful "cut the crap o matic." Yep, she would fit right in.

And here's the takeaway. I once was told to have good friends, you must be a good friend. And that has always worked for me. If you are doing business on the net, it is like business in real life, courtesy, respect, goes a long way. But above all, I have no interest in being anybody but me. So today, I know that when Amy sees this photo she will smile. Can't sell it. You cannot see it. But it is there. In my hood, that smile and simply giving someone pleasure would be a good thing. Like a nice visit, or sharing a cup of tea. So that's my painting today. Just a smile on Amy's face.

Come on Brush, we need to finish up those chocolates...yes, and paint them too....

Do you think "social media" is any different from real life?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Chocolate At Last

Starting to shine.

Deep dusky truffle .

A glimmer of gloss.

Almost there.

Rarely have I shown this kind of step by step in watercolor. And it seems funny to show an unfinished watercolor, but here we are. Many steps along the way. I held my breath yesterday when I added the sepia wash over the two layers of color on that dark left hand box. It goes on much darker. Will the layers show through? Well, look. Beneath the sepia that green and purple are hidden, but they are the cause of the glow. And the "red" top to it is actually a mixture of brown and a red violet wash over the magenta and cobalt violet. That makes the top and bottom both related yet contrasted. And there's depth. Look at the reflection.

I couldn't wait any longer to go into the chocolates. The ones inside the box still have some finishing to go. You can see I am using warms and cools. But there in the front, we have a 5 inch or more puddle of wet in wet sepia truffle. There are hints of some local color within it. And it waits for its raspberry stripe. That was water laid down and tube color added to disperse, just gentle guidance. Like playing in a creek.

On top of the golden box, the shadows beckoned and that sharp shaped bon bon said paint me, paint me. Those shadows are part of a flow down the front of the brighter box, through the seal, and the shadows that will be painted below that. Analogous yes, but look at what they can do with just a subtle shift of hue. Yes, all yellows and cadmium orange, some violets, some green. Secondary harmonies. Each color is found elsewhere in the painting, too, so again, related, but contrasted and shifted into another context.

More, there's just a bit more to do. Golden washes, more chocolate, and that dark background which should shift the colors again. But here you have us where we are. With the shimmer beginning to fall into place. And chocolates asking for their own kind of browns. And me wondering if that dark I thought I would do is the right dark to make it all pop. We will see, won't we?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Thank You from the New York Times

There was a surprise in my Sunday paper yesterday. No not the mea culpa headline from Cisneros for the subsidized housing project we are now underwriting. THAT we should have had long ago. No, there was a thank you gift tucked inside. A gift of thanks to me for having the paper home delivered. Those are note cards with cool photographs on them from New York Times photographers. I have long been a subscriber because I love to feel the paper in my hands. The newspaper was a ritual when I was a little one. One I carry on. My dad and my grandfather used to sit me on their laps as they read the paper, and teach me how to read. And it does kind of bring the world to your doorstep. But how cool it was to get a simple gift of thanks from them, a useful one that gave me pleasure.

And that little bracelet in the photo, is a thank you from a five year old, for visiting her school on Friday. It was another pleasure for me and yet I got a gift of friendship. I liked that too. And yes , I wore it home. Look at all those colors. It is a very happy bracelet.

And yesterday I strayed from my routine, but I got the gifts of conversations with people I had never met: Some ladies, one of whom is a Dallas Public School teacher ( they are going through some lay offs due not to the economy, but to mismanagement of funds); A Palestinian businessman who now lives in New York ( wow, try that one, I will probably be talking about that again); and an interior designer ( we met over a dad and his crying baby, she offered to connect me here in Dallas with her colleagues.).

Oh there's lots of stress and things to do. Yes, we all have those. And the clock is ticking, but I think I'll take some time this week to send a few thank you's of my own. Yep, one of my 3 Most important Tasks, it's going on that to do list. Because I am thankful for it all, especially the conversations: the chill I got from the public schoolers when I even mentioned private schools, the Palestinian who talked about sometimes when we need an enemy we invent one, and the lovely Paige who actually may have a client for my work here in town. The note cards, the bracelets, and conversations....each are impacting my thoughts this week. I suspect there's a muse at work, gently intriguing me. Leading me to explore something.

So I am letting these thoughts sift. Yes, it is Organizing Monday, here's another work filled week. The lists, I am attacking those. The paint, well you will see more of that. But sometimes, a simple series of unexpected pleasures can be a reminder to relax, just take it in. Listen. Pause a moment in between the work. And maybe send some thank you's out myself.

How about you, have you ever gotten an unexpected thank you that made a difference in your day?

Friday, October 17, 2008

Out Being Naughty

I am out being naughty on this fine fall day...yep...unplugged. Although there are a gazillion five year olds involved. We might just eat dessert first today. So here. Join us. Field research does have its perks.

Brush and Pencil have scooted off too. But we will all be back on Monday. Go on...leave work early today, it is way too nice to stay inside.

Naughty. Don't we all need it? Have a great weekend.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Slowly But Surely....

The Godiva Painting is progressing. Finally, we have some hint of chocolate. Yesterday was not a painting day. It was an incredible look around a community united by one topic. When you get a chance click on that Blog Action Day logo, or go visit some of the commenters posts. They will lead you to others. It is worth your time.

Here, today, we are diving into the paint. The chocolates are beckoning. And there are at least 7 other 22"x 30" watercolors waiting in the wings behind this one. So today will be a brief post. Then I have to get to those "floor plans" for the others, the next part of some pre painting for them. I am thinking if I bundle that activity to one day, well, I 'll be that much closer to getting them underway. It's my own anti poverty program you could say. I have a huge amount of "inventory" to replace and get to market.

Some details of the painting are starting to take shape. It is important to stay large and simple before getting into those, paint the whole of this piece as I go. But now I can zero in. So more chocolate, more specific reflections and the inside of that open box....that's where I am going today. It's raining outside so it's a nice cozy day to splash around in some golds and dive deeper into extending the sepia range. But first I want to say thanks. Thank you for your emails of support. I really appreciate them. And thank you for stopping by, taking time to say a few words and sharing a bit of yourself.

Well Brush? Yes, time to get to work.

What's it like in your part of the world today, rain...cold...sunshine? Are you doing something fun?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

When Did You Last Show Anyone How to Fish?

"Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime”—Chinese Proverb

Today is Blog Action Day and the topic is Poverty. Those words in the proverb, most of us have heard it before, probably agree with it. So my question is, when or how was the last time we taught anyone how to fish?

Poverty is such a huge thing that we could end up chasing our tails taking about it. What is the good in that? Talking about it I mean. I looked around for some facts, some figures, some riviting quote to put out there. That time spent in itself is a good thing. There is some interesting information out there on poverty in the USA. I focused on us because it is too easy to look at the so called third world. How glamorously distant and poetic it is to travel to an exotic place and scoop up a child of Poverty. I am not saying don't do that. I am not saying there aren't enough poor people in the world. What I am saying is it gets a little tougher to put the romance to it when it might be closer to home.

Here's something I found: 18% of our children under 18 are living below the poverty line. That's about 13 million if I did the math correctly. If you are a kid, move to New Hampshire or Wyoming. Do not live in the District of Columbia or in Mississippi. Over 50% of the children in DC are poor if I read those charts correctly. And Mississippi, well don't get me started about those lovely, but poor children. New Hampshire had the lowest per cent as did Wyoming. Louisiana and Texas have about the same 24-25%.

I get upset about this topic, I get overwhelmed because it is pervasive and ongoing. Hey, you all saw those rooftops, those masses of poor in the Ninth Ward. You think we weren't aware? Think again. It was a constant awareness and a constant frustration. If the Ninth Ward was in Kenya or Darfur maybe it would have had more global romantic appeal. And more press sex appeal. But one more black male with a gun in his hand is really hard to get all squishy about. And no not all the poor people there are criminals, don't take that the wrong way. But locally we really hated getting shot at, robbed, held up, murdered in our homes and then have the whole thing blamed on poverty, circumstance, or history. That disrespects everybody. Blame does not get anyone anywhere except to more finger pointing, rhetoric and a continuation of the status quo. And more people on rooftops. Action begets more action.

Locally some of us were on it. Look this up. Look at the return on investment for cultural and arts dollars spent. Last look it was 8 to 1. Yes, for every 1 dollar invested in the arts or culture there is a return of 8 dollars. Talked to a broker lately? Got anything comparable? Here's what I did:

I realized I did not have the big answer. But I did know a few things. And I had access to some resources both public and private. So I designed an Artist in Residence program, pitched it, got the gig. And not for anything near what it is worth. But lets not talk about how the arts are valued here. Here's the point. I did it anyway, in spite of the time and effort it cost me. That Artist in Residence program, that effort, touched over a hundred kids, poor and rich. And it is replicable. We worked together. Let me say that again: with public and private resources we worked together creatively using the arts and literacy to impact over a 100 children and their sense of community. Take a moment. Reread that last sentence.

Now here's something important to me. As a favor, in addition to the ongoing Artist in Residence program, I was asked to design a joint project that would have somewhere between 60 -100 kids work inside an hour and a half in rotation to complete an art activity on one particular day. Something memorable. Something that would be a culmination of their time together after this school year of shared learning, field trips, and projects. 10 year old girls and their teachers asked me to do this as a favor to them. They would pay for the supplies and supply some parents as volunteers. I came up with the idea of a canvas mural of their year. We would paint and collage a symbolic map of what they had lived. It would be a personal cultural icon and record for them. These are second and sixth graders remember. And this was extra ( not paid). This is where you walk the talk. Here's where you show what an investment in a child's future through the arts means.

And here comes the payoff, actually one of many. At the very beginning of that hour of madness and potential chaos, I put a paint brush in a second grader's hand and said you get to be first, "Here's the paint, here's the brush, there's your river." This is a young boy from that "poorer" school a few blocks over. The look on his face, his surprise and delight to be given that tool and the freedom to use it to paint his still is pretty hard to describe for me. I touched his life. He told me he had never been allowed, or had the tool. I got down on the floor encouraged him, but let him do it all on his own. Watching that boy paint with as much enthusiasm as I had at that age was like watching a door open to a new world for him and for me, convincing evidence that it was priceless, that investment. That moment is a touchstone for me. That brush stroke from his hand and the sparkle that radiated from his eyes, the huge smile on his face....will stay with me forever.

In the scheme of things it may not sound like much. But I made sure that our effort got it's due. We exhibited at the city's Children's Museum so the larger world could see what we did. His parents came to see the mural, as did a lot of the parents. The mayor did not...Ahem. The lt. Gov. sent his regrets, but also his support, he has been on his own Cultural Initiatives mission for some time now. I got Whole Foods to sponsor the refreshments. It was very cool. You should have seen the faces. The pride and the excitement. The ripple from brush strokes can be huge.

When the resume is asked for, when my credentials are perused. That's one of the things that I would put at the top. There's no way to measure just yet if my river painter will beat the odds. But he knows how to use a brush now.And he had such joy, such a sense of, hey that mark is mine. Yes, there was strutting. So I am thinking...that's kind of like fishing. He can paint paintings or a house. It really doesn't matter. I hope it just showed him, there are options...choices and along the way, some help if he needs it.

One at a time. We can do it one at a time. It ripples you know. So that is my little give a man a fish or teach him how to fish story.

Do you have one?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Primary Colors Put To Work

Last seen on Friday. ( When we should have been being naughty. )

A magenta layer over the cobalt violet on the box.

The beginnings of the violet blue reflections over that earlier green.

And now gold and shiny. The stage is set.

Working in stages like this on the Godiva painting, results in several color shifts of the overall piece. Early on it looks like clouds and blues, then light golds and early cools. Here it looks like a primary color trio dominance. But most of this piece will in the end be brown and neutrals. The background is dark grey, the box on the left is brown and that is filled with dark chocolates . But I want depth. I want those neutrals each to have their own character. I want them to be a part of and yet differentiated from what is next to them.

So I am pushing with some complements. Those reflections in the box on the right are connections to the rest of the painting, just as the reflections that are soon to be painted in that last golden truffle sleeve connects it to the golden box surface below and the truffle sleeve next to it. No truffle or box is an island? Well, they kind of are, but related ones.

And you can see I have begun to intrude inside the box on the left. A totally dark brown area, but the highlights are blue. Cool so they recede, but the same blue of the sleeves that are closer and lighter over all. So what? So this will unify them. There are little calls and responses between elements that will make this piece work better for me. Small things maybe, but good things. And that under painting of green? It's related to the eventual grey that will go in the background to the right. That red ? Watch for the forward bon bon's little red stripe.

So whatever it is that I am painting is also a bit of the elements around it. Call it local color, call it unifying the composition, call it "call and response". Colors work in relationships. I like to use them to get what I want. We'll see how that works out.

Pick a piece of art, any piece of art...and look for the arrangements of complementary colors. Even subtle ones. Our eyes crave them actually. Kind of like Brush is craving getting on with this piece. So we better scoot.

Look around at what you've placed around you. Any complementary colors in the mix?

Monday, October 13, 2008

The First Billion Is The Hardest

That is the name of T. Boone Pickens's new book on his comeback at 80 years old. This is an oil and gas man. A legend here in Texas and on Wall Street. He and Warren Buffet amaze me. And they are buying in, not panicking, not running the other way. These are guys I can relate to. No, I am not a billionaire, not by a long shot. But these are guys who know where the boats are. And those are the guys I want to weather a storm with. For those of you who may not know me. Knowing where the boats are is a big deal to me. Having good common sense is another. So far the main take away from Boone is the importance of fundamentals, and working hard. Oh, and staying fit. Says THAT more than anything will keep you young and on top of just about anything. And then there is that part about the calculated risk.

He is working circles around me. Seriously. And I haven't taken a day off in quite awhile. His offices are just over the way as I understand it. Two main streets over and down the way. That's all. Right now there is an 80 year old guy beating the socks off of me in just sheer stick to it- ness, enthusiasm, and conviction, and he's over there more likely on his treadmill, oops nope, probably done by now and on to the market reports. Ready to turn more millions into billions, or to do whatever it takes to play with everything he has. He has this thing about stockholder value and how THAT should be the mantra for every CEO, not prestige, perks or power. I like that.

And then there's that article about Jackie Kennedy falling in love with the Mona Lisa and giving it renewed meaning in the height of the Cold War. Moved the French, Andre Malraux to be exact, to let her have the painting here in the States when they do not do that for ANYONE. It was a global event. A graceful one with cultural meaning that impacted the power balance of the time.

And last, there are my pencils all sharpened, my little Buddha, and my striped lists. The little Buddha as usual is saying nothing, but he always reminds me that life is choice. Hm. I knocked quite a lot off last week's "Short Order Art". That kind of steady accomplishment feels very good. Right now, my shoulders ache, my back is tired and my eyes are just about glazed over....but there's this 80 year old on a treadmill just a few streets over giving it all he's got. So I am going to jump in the shower, get my 3 Most Important Tasks nailed down... and try to keep pace with him....and maybe have a little grace while I do that.

What's up for you today? Anybody you look to as a "lead pony"? Who inspires you to dig deep, reach down and pull out the best in yourself when the going gets a little tough?

Friday, October 10, 2008

Let's See Where Were We?

Steady progressions in blues and golds, that's where I spent most of yesterday with this Godiva painting. Nope, not into the chocolates yet. Still establishing the second wave of lights: insides of paper sleeves, the broken gold seal, some light shadows. And the golden progress on right hand box and the bon bon sleeve that sits upon it has begun. Brush loves to paint blues, and I love to paint yellows and golds so we were smiling there.

You'll also see some of the under painting on the darker box to the left. And another glaze on the front of the gold one. These are the beginnings of some compliments going to work. Color families I'll play in as I work toward the middle tones and the darks. I can't wait to put the next layers on those. Brush is warming up already.

One thing I want in a painting is depth. That can happen in several ways. In the drawing of course. ( Compare the size of the central players and those truffles still in the box.) Easy one there. Another way I get depth is in value changes. And another is to play compliments off one another. There are a few more options to play with too. Those will show up as we go along. But the point is if I want my painting to "pop", to have impact, I better have a good grip on those basics. Why? So I can push them to work for me.

Do you have favorite colors on your palette that you like to paint, or colors in your life that you can't live without? And do you learn the rules so you can bend them a bit?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

First Washes-Barely There

These beginnings are barely whispers. Since values play an important part in this Godiva painting, I began with the faintest, lightest spots. I have to say up front that that is not how I always start a painting. Sometimes with a watercolor painting, I jump right in with the spot that interests me the most. But sometimes there are other considerations so I am going more of a traditional route on this one.

Like what considerations? Like I am practically panting to dive right into the deep dark chocolate parts like the one in the second photo. It is the darkest bon bon, but the pigment I will use almost full strength from the tube for the chocolate, will run if it gets wet when I am doing the adjacent sleeve. So the sleeve comes first.

And besides, I want to set up some early differences in the key players. That is easy to do in the lightest of lights. In the third photograph, the inside of that sleeve is the lightest light on the whole painting. It won't be touched again. So it is very gently painted wet in wet with the slightest of nuance in a cobalt blue. Different from the lavender of its neighbor.

And that third sleeve, the one in the fourth photograph is that same cobalt blue, but it is a flat wash. So what? It so subtle it will barely show. That is merely the highlight color in the inner sleeve. Well, it will show to me. And yes it makes a difference. So 1, 2, 3, whispers of washes, the beginnings of personalities. The hard part is letting them fully dry before attacking my favorite spots already.

The other light surfaces, the foreground, the boxes, those too are established with underpainting. Again setting up relationships, families of color to play in. But mostly set up to keep that value progression working.

Delayed gratification, keeps a tension going and also an anticipation, at least it does for me. You can bet, I am chomping at the bit to get to the "good stuff", but I want what I want out of this piece. Yes, Brush is looking longingly at all the yellows. I am eying more blues and lavenders...and that chocolate, sigh.... and orange. I am going to have to reward myself soon. Staying in the moment of each piece, giving each part its due, that's a part of painting too.

How do you work through your projects? Are you a jump right in or a building sort?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Godiva Grid

Placement, angles, and scale are important to me on this Godiva painting so we're on the Godiva grid today. I am using a traditional grid technique to transfer my image to a piece of 300 pound D'Arches watercolor paper. Yes, that is a nearly 6 inch bon bon in the second photo. And how fun is that? Huge truffles. I have 3 key players. Not only do I want them to have their own personalities, but I want them on their marks. And their contextual framework has a specific geometry that captured my attention. So out comes the grid. All this is because that dance of light and reflection moves in a way I like.

What's a contextual framework? Everything else that supports the chocolate goodies. If this were theatre we would call it the set. In this case, the geometry and angles are a wonderful foil for the chocolates. That, like color, is something that can also be pushed. I can compare and contrast them. Let them in their differences, describe the other. That will also show up along the way.

What's in that last photo? A value map. I did a quick sketch and coded the darks in 3 steps and the lights in 3 steps. There are more steps. I tend to deal with all 10. It's my Zone System background in photography. But here's the point. What I want in this painting is a solid grasp of the relationships in light. That is a also a key player in even wanting to paint this in the first place.

Why do all this? Why bother? Because I want to play, but I want particular results. I know what I want out of this piece. I know what spoke to me. And I know where I can play. So I am creating a framework to do just that. It has challenges and restrictions and places to let go. I chose to grid this, draw it in more than I usually do for wetlands pieces for a reason. While I was drawing I found little spots that are going to be so much fun and others that will challenge my skill. Watercolor can be fickle you know. It has a love for accident, for spontaneity of its own. Well this, this is a structured playground with wiggle room for that.

So here we are Brush. We get to look at all that white paper. Pre-painting is a rehearsal you know. Painting it in our mind. Yes, it gets painted there first. It is very tempting to rush in. But this pre-painting can make a huge difference when the truffles are so yummy and big. I know what I am after here. I can hardly wait.

Do you visualize, pre-paint when you're after something important?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

How Can I Push The Color?

Watercolor is a superb way to play with color and light. That is what it does best. Master that and you have it nailed. Since I have no interest in merely reproducing what is in front of me, I do a little homework in the beginning. Some color and light analysis. Find out how much fun I can have playing with the physics of art. After all, it is there to serve my spirit.

Huh? Physics, art, analysis? Yep. What set my wheels into motion was not the chocolate. Oh, that's a lie. It was the chocolate too. But those truffles, face it, are little balls of brown. Or are they? Well, that's where context comes in. And my ever loving fascination with light and those places in between. If you take a look at any of my large paintings they do have a subject, but for me what they have is that space in between.

If you look at that painting plan that is roughly drawn on the graph paper you will see me setting up relationships, looking for interactions of the major forms. While the major forms may be a box, a bon bon, a wall, or a table....what I am seeing is what connects them. How we move from one to another. And I see a river of light and color that practically shouts at me. Paint this!

And I know to listen. As I look for key players in shadows and reflections, and for complimentary color interactions, I find myself uncovering the spirit of the piece. And what I discovered surprised me. Then made me laugh at myself. No not saying, it will become clearer as we go along. And why spoil your discovery? Today is for nosing around a little bit more, and putting the grid on the heavy weight paper, get the real drawing done. And test some more glazes that now must speak to the heartbeat of what I found.

What do YOU look for when you are looking at a painting? Or making one yourself?

Monday, October 6, 2008

Short Order Art

Paris Breakfasts requested this photo of my next actions, I said it looks like a short order window. So here it is. It's great to be organized and have long range plans. Lay out goals, or use a template. But none of it means anything, if you don't follow through. Using time and location prompts is a good thing to do. These notes are right at eye level right above my Command Central. There's even a little Ninja ( in white ) to urge me on. They are pulled from my notebooks's next actions. Do this now kind of things.

No thinking involved, just grab the first note and go with it. That's a Dave Allen trick, do what is right in front of you, then the next , then the next. The priorities have been set already so I know that no matter which note I grab, I'm good. It's a variety of areas to work, some studio, some marketing, some research, some archiving and narration, and more, but each one is essential to get to the next step, to get me closer to my goal.

Since I have to really step it up in the studio now, move things out of development into execution, it is easy to let the other areas slide. But they have equal importance in the distribution of my work. Art is a business. Artists wear a lot of hats. So consider this another one of my "analog" assistants. I do all the upfront planning and strategies, establish the steps, then execute. So the prompts keep me on track. This is only a partial view. They're fun though...I kind of like pulling them off when completed, I have to admit.

So yes, this is Organizing Monday and welcome to one of my little tools. As you can see I have some color tests to do so I won't linger here. My 3 most important tasks this week? Phew. To work steadily through these little goodies, to treat myself well as I am working in this challenging week, and to have fun with puddles I am going to make.

Do you use any time and location prompts yourself?