Overdue Apology?

Parents often speak of the joys of parenthood, and there are many, but there is one that most don’t speak of. That is the joy of annoying your teenager. Some may think me cruel, but despite the many people who see me as not having a sense of humor, I can actually be quite funny. My sister Marion once told me that for her I’m sort of a female Bob Newhart, dry wit that comes out of nowhere. I can be very quiet, and still at times painfully shy, but when I am comfortable with the people I’m with I open up a bit. I’ll never be the type who can dance on a table top, but who would want to see uncoordinated me do that anyway? (I’d compare myself to a blossoming flower, but at my age I think the only thing I could be compared to is something that blooms in the fall…like cabbage) I digress…My children are no longer teenagers, but full-fledged adults. It is very difficult to annoy Jessica. She is such a sunny pleasant person that it is hard to find an angle, and as a teenager she studied voluntarily. (Where did I go wrong?) I remember once finding her studying the Periodic Table of Elements. I asked if she was having a test. Her response? “No, I just thought I should know these.” Supportive and proud mother that I am, I called her a weirdo. (Just kidding Honey, love you!) Brian is now twenty-three. He is intelligent beyond words, which is really interesting since he hated, and I mean HATED school. It is my firm belief that he charmed his way through school. He is very charming. Well that and he once asked me to bake a cake for a teacher. He didn’t tell me his grade was bad and that he was buttering the man up, only that his teacher like strawberries. We fought about school from about the sixth grade when he announced that he would no longer do homework. Schoolwork was the teacher’s job, and if they couldn’t do the job in six hours it wasn’t his problem. I’m sure you know I had a lot to say about that. We butted heads through most of his teenage years, arguing about just about everything. He was so stubborn. (Gee, I wonder who he gets that from?) I fought back the only way I could, sarcasm and humor. I knew he didn’t think I was funny, but I thought I was funny, and better yet I knew it annoyed the crap out of him. (Forgive me Brian, but it was my best defense!) My favorite story, and I hope he thinks it’s funny now, is when he was into existentialism. What? I know, when he told me he was an existentialist I said, “I don’t even know what that is.” He explained that we might not really be here, that the bed we were sitting on might not really be here, that we had no way of knowing what was real. (This is where the fun starts.) “I know we are here. I know you are here. I know that because I gave birth to you and pushed out all eight pounds and nine ounces of you. Trust me I know you’re here.” He was very upset with me. “You have no respect for my feelings!” Conversation over. I thought I was hilarious. He of course did not. I knew he was searching for his identity, and maybe I could have been a little more understanding, but he wouldn’t do homework or clean his room. A mother has to have satisfaction somewhere, right? I really am sorry Brian for not taking it a little more seriously.

Today’s work is for my Brian. I love him dearly and am very proud of the kind and compassionate man he is. He recently moved out and I offered art for his new place. He is a different kind of guy, so I thought he needed a different kind of art. I knew from the onset that I was going abstract, a style which I am very new to. It pulls me way, way out of my comfort zone, because I reside in the land of “supposed to look like”, this isn’t in my territory. Abstract forces me to let go of control to a certain extent, and lack of control is a very scary place. I wasn’t exactly sure until today what existentialism was (I just looked it up), but I thought about the universe and nothingness, and what might be happening out there in the cosmos. In my vision it is darkness, bursts and flashes of light, and more stars than you can possibly imagine. This is my Universe.

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Following The Thread

Believe in yourself. That has been my journey in the almost year since I started my blog. I didn’t begin with that as the intent. I actually don’t think I had anything in particular in mind when I began, only inspired to start a 365 day project, I forged ahead. Today I was reading through posts of some of the blogs I follow and throughout I began to see a thread that connects us all. Self doubt, and far too many that mentioned fear of rejection. Are we so programmed from birth to fit in that we fear that what we do, what we create, doesn’t fit? I looked through some art today as well. Some of it I didn’t care for. Does that make it bad art? I used to argue with my son about music taste. There was a time when he was quick to condemn music he didn’t like, he criticized others for liking what he didn’t. I always held to the argument that everyone is entitled to their opinion. Just because I don’t like a song doesn’t make it a bad song. After reading through the posts this morning I looked at some of my own, both art and writing. I realized that I was in many ways rejecting myself. I almost wrote a comment today to someone else, but then I saved it for myself. A little bit of advice that I was about to lay on another struggling artist, that is until I realized that there was some wisdom there for me. “There will be those who love your voice, as much as there are those who won’t.” I need to believe in my work, to stand by what I do, to understand that rejection is nothing more than the opinion of someone else.

There is a little story behind this piece. I spent the entire evening working on something in clay that broke as I was painting it. I had no project for today. Dan suggested putting up the broken pieces. I couldn’t. I grabbed a couple of things, not sure what to do. I painted a little on a mirror. Not feeling it. A board. Nope. I began to play with my pearl Martha Stewart paints on a small canvas.  Brushing on, wiping off, brushing again, not sure where to go, and then a break though. Break Through will be the name of this piece. I was pulling paint away and began to see something. I was talking to my Dad earlier. Another snowstorm in Chicago. I had been thinking about Spring trying to break through the snow and ice, and here it was in front of me.  Ice and snow, and color, that is Chicago in the Spring.  Memories of the purple crocus popping through the retreating snow.3 1 14

 

 

 

 

 

Impatient

Not my best day artistically. I think I’m still running on empty from our trip. I scraped the paint off of a canvas not once but twice today. Things were just not working for me. To be honest I gave a moments thought to taking my scraped off canvas and turning it into an abstract. Unfortunately and fortunately for me I just can’t be a sellout when it comes to my work. The one and only abstract piece I’ve posted with this blog was an inspired piece, actually the only abstract piece I’ve ever created. That one was inspired by a piece of burnt copper, no matter how long and hard I looked at that scraped canvas today it gave me nothing. I finally walked away from it. I looked through my studio and found one of my old orphaned paintings. It was flat and lifeless. I threw it on the easel and began to work with the paint muck I had created with my scrapings. It had turned a very strange sort of lavender. I just went with it, I didn’t want to waste the paint. As always I was much too impatient, the “muck” began to get muddier. I had to pull myself back, wipe off my brushes and begin again. I found what worked for me eventually was to go with a more impressionistic stroke,  in the end I feel like the painting has too much paint, but on the positive side it isn’t flat! And I didn’t give up. I have to admit that today was the first time in a while that “I’m not good enough” snuck back into my brain. It all comes down to oils and my lack of patience. I keep making the same mistakes and expecting different results. I’m going to let the scraped canvas cure and attempt something with what remained on the canvas. I hope for better results the second time around.9 17I may have had a bad artistic mojo day, but I did empty the photos from my phone. In previous blogs I have mentioned both Prairie Crossings and McDonald Woods, both north of Chicago near my Dad’s house. We had the opportunity to grab a few early morning walks before my Dad was awake last week. The McDonald Wood photos are in Dan’s  phone and I’ll have to grab them tomorrow, but for tonight a few from Prairie Crossing.IMG_1371 IMG_1376IMG_1355A little slice of heaven on the prairie.

A Smear Of Inspiration

We had friends coming for dinner tonight, which we know of course means that I need to clean my house within an inch of its life. It also meant that I needed to get a piece of art finished before they came. As always I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. I have more than a few pieces that need to be finished, including the biggest hurdle, the portrait of Jessica. It has been sitting on my larger easel in the garden, I just need to bring it in and get to work. I have to admit that I have been avoiding it. I haven’t been hearing the “not good enough” voice in my head lately, but there is something about that portrait that allows it to creep into my mind. There is nothing that forces my hand like a promise, I am one of those people who always do what they say, so here goes…I will work on that portrait tomorrow, that will be what I post tomorrow night. That’s it, now I have to do it. Well, now that I committed myself….back to tonight’s saga. I decided to paint in oils, grabbed a photo from my computer, one I had taken in Giverny of a house and garden. I started to paint and it just wasn’t working. Normally this would be where I gave up, I didn’t. I took some paper towel and wiped the canvas clean, but as I looked at the smeared colors I felt inspired. I began playing with the color and building on what was there, after a bit it began to look like water to me, and since my head was still in Giverny I decided to add waterlilies. I was really pleased with my results, not that it’s the greatest painting I’ve ever done, but I love that I just dove in and did it. I need to keep that healthy attitude with me tomorrow when I climb the hurdle of the portrait of Jessica. Actually, I need to carry that with me every time I paint. One of my complaints to Dan over the years was that I couldn’t get what was in my head on the canvas. There was also my need to depend on photographs, mine or others to paint from. Tonight it was all me, no photo, just inspiration from a smear of paint. I’m still having days where I struggle, but more and more I am excited about work yet to come, and hopefully with time it will come easier. And yes, I did a recent blog about the Van Gogh and Monet’s that all artists must attempt, I can honestly say Monet was nowhere near my head when I did this one.

 

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Van Gogh In The Closet

The last time I discussed Mr. Van Gogh he was appearing in my coffee cup, not tonight. To begin with it is only (hold on to your hats!) seven in the evening and I am posting. A full three hours earlier than usual. This morning I was searching through my photographs for pictures for my daughter, for our joint label design. The client wants some changes, and I was looking through old work and photos for inspiration. She had mentioned that she might like a sunflower and I knew I had a few shots. Well, actually more than a few. By the time I was done sending I think Jessica received seven emails from me, and all before ten a.m., poor girl! I don’t usually know what I want to paint or draw until much later in the day, it’s actually a very last-minute decision most of the time. But as I looked through my photos the sunflowers started to call to me. I have a painting I did a few years ago that I hate. It’s not a horrible painting, but very ordinary, something I referred to as Kirkland’s art. If you don’t know about them, they are a chain of home decor stores. They have those paintings that are reproduced by the hundreds and sold inexpensively. I felt like this one fit the bill, that is until I decided to get a closer look at  my work by cropping the top off. You know what? It really is better than I remember. The sunflowers are beautiful, what I hate is the blue vase I painted them in, and the arranged fruit and napkin at the base (which I won’t be showing you!), to quote Lili Von Shtupp (Blazing Saddles), “Oh, how ordinawy”. I don’t want to create the kind of art that is sold for cheap, now if Christie’s or Sotheby’s came calling that would be a different matter. OK, now that I have gone on and on for far too long, I decided that today I would paint a sunflower.

 

 

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Cropped portion of the top of my older sunflower painting.

New train of thought…this is where Mr. Van Gogh comes in. Do you think that every artist feels the need to paint their “sunflower”, or their “waterlily”? Do we all as artists aspire to be Monet or Van Gogh? Do we all have a sunflower lurking in the corner? These are questions that keep me up at night. Not really. So here on this early Friday evening my new “Sunflower”, oil on canvas, inspired by annoying my daughter before her coffee. Love you Jessica, and I love working with you.

 

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Something Old And A Little Something New

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This will be a very short post tonight, it’s Father’s Day and my attention needs to be elsewhere. I did a very, very quick sketch, and I did a little work on my wood burning project for my friend. I won’t bother to show the project tonight, not enough to show. I actually thought that I might take the day off, but I can’t. I read someplace that if you exercise for six weeks it gets in your system and you want and need to do it. (It never happened for me) I have been writing my blog for about eight weeks. I have to admit it, I’m hooked on the project. I have to keep my promise to myself. I feel incredibly good and positive about the direction this has taken me.  So here is just a little something new, and since it was so quick, a little something old, an oil inspired by the area I live in.DSC03388

Beginning The Adoption Process

I mentioned all the “orphans” in my studio, those half done works of art left waiting for my attention. There are also a few “finished” works. Paintings that qualify as finished only because paint covers the entire a surface of the canvas. They are pieces that I felt were not representative of the kind of artist I want to be.  One of the biggest issues, one that I have mentioned before is that the work is flat, dimensionless, lacking in texture, (can I think of any more adjectives?) work that I felt wouldn’t evoke feeling when looked at. I have seen a number of works of art in my life that make me feel, make me want to be in a place, or make me want to rush home and pick up a brush and paint. That is the kind of work I want to create, work that inspires feeling, or more than that, work that would want someone else to follow their creative dream. When I went into my studio today to decide what to do,I chose painting. I enjoyed the exercise yesterday, and my favorite critic/fan (Dan), loved the result. I wanted to use a smaller canvas, I still wasn’t sure of the subject matter, so I grabbed an 8×10 from the shelf.  It was an orphan, a finished one. A canvas that I had painted and then shoved back on the shelf to paint over. If there’s a benefit to painting too flat, it’s that it is that much easier to cover. The painting was a simple one, just a sky and water scene. It had some texture, but it was boring, no movement, nothing. Instead of covering it up I decided to give it new life by using a style similar to yesterday. I changed the color just a touch, using the paint that was still on my palette from yesterday. I didn’t take my glasses off this time, although I wasn’t working in the best light possible. I’ve posted both, a before and after. I see the difference, and better yet this time I feel a difference. It is only the first of many, many half done, or hidden works of art. Now I just need to prepare myself when I’m ready to let some of my finished work go, when I do my first show.

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Up To My Old Tricks

When I began this blog I wrote about how shy I was as a child. There is still a lot of that inside me. I think it is why I enjoy solitude so much, and that more often than not my paintings, and photography reflect that. People who know me now are often surprised when I claim to be shy. I work really hard at being friendly. When you are a shy child, and particularly one who is the brunt of all the grade school jokes, you learn compassion. Dan knows that if we go to a party I will find the loner in the corner and stay there for the night. I cannot stand to see anyone lonely, or to sense that someone else is struggling, I need to help them. When I was in high school I was forced to take a speech class. I dreaded it. Speaking in front of a single person can be difficult enough, put me in front of a crowd and I’m terrified. At the end of the semester we were required to stand on the stage in the school auditorium and make a speech. The subject matter could be anything we wanted, the only restriction was the amount of time. For weeks leading up to it my stomach was in knots. I didn’t know how I was going to get through it. I came up with a plan. The first thing to do was to pick a subject for my speech that I was familiar with. I chose Wicca. It was an interesting choice, considering that I was at an all girl Catholic high school run by Benedictine nuns. I  had an interest in witchcraft, nothing to speak of, I think for the most part it had to do with my childhood fascination with Bewitched, and my all-time favorite movie, “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. Fortunately, the speech teacher was a lay teacher, a man, and he didn’t seem all that upset with my choice. I knew we would be required to look up as we spoke and not check our notes too often. That part was easy, I knew my subject well. I talked off the top of my head for the entire speech. The hardest part was facing the crowd, well a crowd of about twenty-four. On the few previous occasion when I spoke in class, my classmates had to critique me. Every single time they pointed out that as I stood there choking out words the podium was shaking. The night before the speech I was really nervous, and of course like most kids, trying to figure out what disease I could possibly come up with on a moments notice so that I wouldn’t have to go to school the next day. Nothing worked and the moment was at hand. Then a brainstorm. I’ve been wearing glasses since I was thirteen. Blind as a bat. All I had to do was to take off my glasses, from the auditorium stage I couldn’t see my audience. I big blob of color. I was still nervous, and I did shake a little. The speech went well. My teacher said it was good, just a little unorganized. Not bad since I didn’t really write one.

That brings me to today’s painting. I have mentioned before that I love Impressionism. Strangely enough since I have the perfection issue. The thought occurred to me that all I need to do is to take my glasses off. Trust me, the world at large is one giant Impressionistic scene when my glasses are off, and as long as I’m going down this road I am doing my own waterlilies. A photo taken in Giverny in 2009. I have to admit I’m struggling as I look at it. I do believe I may be revisiting this one. Image Do you think it’s possible that there would have been no Impressionism if eye care were better in Monet’s day?

No Surrender!

Tonight’s project is a small oil painting, but before I get into that I want to be really honest here about my struggle today. I’m actually working on several projects, most of them have to do with refurbishing flea market finds. I’ve been putting those projects ahead of this one, thus the late night art work and posting. I’m fine with that because it isn’t about avoiding my art, it’s about earning a living. My struggle today was with the very same issues I addressed last night. I almost did it today, I almost walked away from this painting. Oil painting is my biggest obstacle. It is the art I am most drawn to, and the one I have the biggest issues with. To begin with I really am an “instant gratification” artist, when I want something done, I want it yesterday. I’m also a bit of a control freak, (A bit? I don’t like to fly, I hate it actually, but as I have told Dan repeatedly, if I could fly the plane there would be no issue) anyway, oil is not a medium for control freaks. It directs the time line. Things were not coming out the way I wanted and the canvas only had paint on half of it. I put it down and went in search of my watercolors. I decided what to paint, but then I stopped. I made myself go back to the oils. The struggle continued right on to the end. I won’t give in to it. I have to keep pushing. No Surrender!

Whew! Got that out. The painting…

Struggle Part Deux

My other problem, I have no style. Not personally of course, that is if you consider jeans and a shirt of some form roughly three hundred fifty days a year a style, but a painting style. Again the lack of lessons has left me clueless in the use of materials. Just before I started writing I told Dan that my paintings are flat. My Dad was a house painter by trade, it’s sort of how I used to paint. No dimension, like painting with a brush on a wall. When I go to art museums I am as close as legally allowed to paintings, always studying the strokes and texture of the paint. My paintings looked for the most part lifeless. The other issue (there’s more?), is that I can’t decide how I want to paint. Realism? Yes and no, too much precision. Impressionism? More yes than no, love Impressionism, first place we went to in Paris was the Musee d’Orsay, the Impressionist museum. It’s a difficult style for me because I’m still a little hung up on the “it has to look like it’s supposed to look” issue. I love Grant Wood, Edward Hopper and Andrew Wyeth. Particularly Hopper. I’m just not sure who I am as a painter. I just decided to post two pictures tonight. The one I did earlier this evening, and another older one. In my efforts to get over myself I figured out a little trick. I had put a soft focus filter on a photograph to blur the lines. It helped me get past the “has to” nonsense. I only needed to do it one or twice, but it really helped. Once I realized that my “not exactly as it really looks” paintings were something I liked, I was able to move past some of the crap in my head. (The older painting was actually in part a photo from Gourmet magazine. Just want to make sure I give credit.)

So tonight I was playing with style and texture. I didn’t work from my actual photograph, which was from a sunrise I photographed in Virginia Beach, but from what I saw in my mind from looking at it earlier in the day. Not entirely pleased with the results, but happy I didn’t give up.

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