I had for the first time in a very long time a lazy afternoon. I’m a fidget-er, one who cannot sit still. Like some who talk incessantly with the need to fill the air with words, I am one that needs to fill every moment with activity…and often in total silence. On my lazy afternoon (which was actually forced on me by a medication induced upset stomach), I watched a movie, Words and Pictures, with Juliette Binoche and Clive Owen. The movie wasn’t a box office success, and after watching I read some on-line reviews which weren’t stellar, but I loved it. Yes it was cliché, but aren’t all romantic comedies clichéd? Aside from the two very appealing leads, it was the subject matter that grabbed me. A battle between two teachers, the Honors English and the Honors Art teachers about what is worth more, words? Or is it pictures? As an artist/writer I have strong opinions on both sides. If I were asked to make a list of my favorite things, art and words would be part of the list, they would actually be at the top of the list. I know such lists would often cause people to choose something more tangible, and although art can be something we hold and touch, it can also be something quite transitory. Art is all around us, and while exquisitely captured on canvas, or on film through movies and photography, I need only look out my window to see art that I will never be skilled enough to reproduce. Words? Yes they can be written down and leather-bound, or recorded as I do in this moment, but think of the fleeting words you hang onto in your life. The first “I love you.” The first word spoken by your child. The last conversation with a loved one. I loved this movie because it opened an internal dialog in my own mind. To choose between two things I love so much would be difficult. I’m sure at some point we have all thought about those who have either been born with, or lost one of their senses. We might wonder if we had to choose which it would be. To never see again? To never look into the eyes of someone you love? To lose your hearing? To loose the sound of laughter, the rustling of the leaves, or a cry for help? For me the ability to express myself in words is like breathing. By the same token the ability to produce art allows my soul to breathe. This movie inspired two things in me. I opened up a new canvas two days ago and have yet to put a stroke on it. Now I feel like painting. I was inspired by the work in the movie to want to produce something. And here I sit at the keyboard the words bursting out of me as the credits rolled. I don’t care about whether someone thought the plot was silly, or the actors had no chemistry, I would watch it over and over if it made me feel what I feel right now. So, I choose not to choose. I do however wish to ask what everyone else thinks. Words? Pictures? Where do you stand? The decision is yours.
Last night was the first in a year when I didn’t post. I actually took a day off, and you know what? It was sooo hard. To begin with I started to feel guilty, like I wasn’t doing something that I was supposed to do. (It’s the whole Catholic thing, its ingrained in my brain) I was working on something creative, all day in fact, but it wasn’t something I can share as of yet. It’s a gift for someone, a very involved gift, and its a surprise. Late in the afternoon I began to feel the pull of the blog. Feeling the need to produce a piece of art to put up, and then I realized I didn’t have to. I’m dead serious, I was feeling like a bad person because I hadn’t produced anything. It may be time for an intervention. I’m still in the middle of my very involved gift, so for tonight more of my retrospective of a year’s worth of art. Paintings in oil and acrylic, and one pastel. Tomorrow the last of the retrospective and new art!
Waterlily’s, because every artist needs at least one right?
Another Waterlily in oil.
Old work, oil on canvas with a great story to go with it. (If you are interested, “A Little Tale”, posted 12/11/13)
Acrylic. Palette knife once again.
Oil. La Jolla, California, from a photo I took. My favorite piece from the entire year.
Today is day 365. I did it, a year of writing every day, of not giving up on myself, of pushing myself on days that I didn’t want to do anything, and keeping my promise to create every single day. In retrospect there are days when a bad mood, a bad attitude, laziness, or frustration presented itself in the work I produced. I can tell what days those are by looking at the work. I can also say that I am proud of myself for what I’ve accomplished. This blog evolved into a much more personal diary than I had ever intended. I have more to say about all of this, but as I’ve so often mentioned here on these pages, life sometimes takes turns that you never expect.
There was a tragedy in my family today. My beautiful niece was in the beginning of a new relationship. The young man was killed early this morning in a car accident. My heart breaks for her, I love her like she is my own daughter. I have no words to comfort her, and I am too far away to wrap my arms around her. I didn’t know this young man, I only saw photographs that showed two young people happy, and read messages on Facebook that made me aware of just how crazy he was about her. His brother was injured as well and is critical, he is the father of two young children. My heart bleeds for this family. I have asked for prayers before. I’m asking again. This time for some people I don’t really know, and for my niece. Ask God, whatever God is yours to help them through this terrible time, to bring them peace, to help that young father heal. As I told my niece a short time ago, hopefully she can find some solace in knowing that her boyfriend passed away at a point in his life when he was happy because of her. It is a day like today that puts so much in perspective. My life isn’t perfect, far from it, but many miles away from me is a lovely girl with a broken heart living a nightmare, and parents who are mourning the loss of one son, and praying for another to survive. I cannot even imagine their pain.
I’m still working on Maddie’s portrait. I redid entire portions of it, but I won’t be posting it tonight. I decided instead to go through this past years work and choose the pieces I’m most proud of. A retrospective if you will…later… I began to look at my work, and I did more pieces of work that I love than I was aware of. Tonight on a night when I think about life and it’s sometimes very sad turns, I will post portraits and figures, but on this page the three that mean the most. My son, my husband, my daughter. I love you all and thank you for your support and encouragement over the last year. A second post to follow with the rest.
Honestly, nothing seems important right now. I just want to say to my niece, “I love you. I wish it were in my power to make this all better for you. To change the last twenty-four hours. To give you whatever you need to heal. To give those two young men back to their families. I am praying for you all.”
Several months ago I wrote a post about my feelings of hopelessness due to our situation here. I received quite a bit of religious advice from people who read that post. At the time I said I appreciated the thoughts,prayers and support, and of course I still do. I bring it up because of some thoughts I had today. We spent most of the day in the car. We drove out into the desert to a place named Pioneer Town. It’s east of Palm Springs. Old westerns were filmed there in the 30’s and 40’s and the structures still stand. The scenery was starkly beautiful, pale sands, sage brush, and rocks and boulders changing color with the sun. Later we drove back to Temecula through a mountain back road, and again I marveled at beautiful skies and lush greenery. Finally we headed to dinner towards an incredibly beautiful setting sun. I do consider myself a spiritual person, it is just that like almost every other place in my life I am quiet. There are so many people who want to share their faith, or their version of faith with others. I am happy for anyone who has spirituality in their life, but I find that for me my spirituality is in the world around me and within me. I can sit in a church obeying laws of holy obligation, but my mind wanders. It is out in the world where I see, and hear God that I feel my faith. I have written quite a bit about feelings of poor self-worth, or lack of self-confidence in my artistic life. Tonight as I looked through photos I took today, and as I marveled at the magnificent sunset, the thought occurred to me that there is one way that my work will always be inadequate, but it isn’t because of lack of self-esteem. I just know that despite my talent, and no matter how hard I work, there are strokes of greatness that exist in nature that are beyond this world.
I didn’t have much time to work on art today. I worked a little bit on Mia’s portrait from last night, and a very small watercolor. I do however have a few photos from today’s beautiful drive.
I painted today. Rejoice, right? Nope not that kind of painting. As many of you may know my son recently vacated the premises, AKA moved out, left the nest, I’m sure you get the idea. That left me with an empty room in my house. Worse yet, an empty undecorated room. That just can’t be tolerated. I have a show coming up, one that I am in no way ready for. Dan and I decided yesterday that we would postpone the painting of the room formerly known as Brian’s room until further notice. My studio is entirely to small for the amount of crap in it. It is busting at the seams. We decided I would use the extra room to work in until after the show. I began to move things in there, wait! Not so fast. I am a person who cannot eat at one of those throw your peanuts on the floor, and allow the waiter or waitress to be rude to you kind of restaurants. I encounter enough rudeness in my every day life as it is, and as for eating with a dirty floor? No way, no how. I can’t do it. I am a publicly admitted slob, I said so myself right here on these pages, but only when I’m creating. That means that when I cook the kitchen is a disaster that will later be cleaned by my minions. (Although now that I have an empty nest I have no minions. That’s a problem.) When I create art there is paint/paper/pastel dust/brushes/etc…everywhere. I clean that mess up by myself. (I haven’t discovered any art minions as of yet.) Dan was gone most of the day. I thought, “I’m going to paint.” What I intended was art, what happened was decorating. I went into the spare room, which had the studio overflow everywhere, and I began to look for what I wanted to do and realized I couldn’t. The room was worse than peanuts on the floor dirty. I just couldn’t work in there. I did the only thing I could. I went into the garage to look for paint. I had some blue, but not quite enough, found some white and, voilà another custom blend. I didn’t even bother to empty the room. I pushed everything in the middle and went to work. That was five hours ago. I’m finished. Sometimes it’s good to be a painter’s daughter. Brush is washed out, roller wrapped up for touch-ups in the morning light, and I’m beat.
No art that was created today, unless you count the abstract art on my hands and face (like I said, slob). Instead I am posting an old one, a painting that I did a very long time ago. I had gone out with a friend for coffee, she was an actress, I the artist, and we had a wonderful afternoon talking all things creative. When I got home I was so inspired that I painted the following piece. Now I am off to rest my weary bones.
Ever have one of those days that really just suck? I mean just when you think things can’t possibly get any worse they do. Last night I wrote about our troubled days. Well lets add one more. Monday we got some not great news. Tuesday morning we woke with purpose and sort of figured things out. We were semi-happy. Tuesday afternoon we did our taxes (no need to explain I’m sure) and we were very, very unhappy. Monday plus Tuesday equaled abject misery, oh but wait there’s more! It was now Wednesday morning, overcast and gloomy (just like me), tired from bad restless sleep, but still trying to come up with a plan. We decided to go for a walk, stress relief, good exercise, etc…I sit in our living room in a spot I don’t normally sit in and look up. (I never look up) “Dan, what’s that on the ceiling?” A giant wet spot, no two, no wait, three giant wet spots. Brian’s bathroom is above the dining room. Crap!…Crap, crap, crap!!! (or for my older audience F%#K!) Are you kidding me? What else can happen to us? I predicted today that we will have a major earthquake soon. Why? Because it’s the only thing left. Happy New Year to us. Since January…still no job, brakes go out in the car, car needs new tires, car needs new plate sticker, I need new glasses, my dental implant loosens, my truck needs smog testing, oil change, plate sticker, and new tires, iffy news on possible job, tax bill is monumental, and toilet in upstairs bath has a leak and ruins the floor in the bathroom and the ceiling in the dining room. Earthquake anyone? I’m done, I can’t and don’t understand. Bad juju, bad karma, we were shitty people in past lives, someone please tell me. Tonight I unleashed my mood on canvas in acrylic, Stormy Skies. I can’t write anymore. I am going now to pull the covers over my head and I’m not coming out until this all goes away, either that or the floor starts to shake.
Tonight I did a countdown on my calendar. There are ninety-nine days (including tonight) until I will have completed this three hundred and sixty-five day project. It has been quite a challenge coming up with the time, the projects, and the inspiration, but I have struggled through, not always happy with what I produced, but always happy that I did indeed produce something. In truth I have created more art in the last two hundred sixty-seven days than I have in my entire life, and I think many of the pieces are the best work I’ve ever done. There are a few projects that I phoned in, there are two missed days, one due to illness, one from absolute exhaustion and lack of time, and those damn fairies. I’ve actually assigned myself an extra day (in case you were counting), on April 13th, the one year anniversary of the first project, I want to create something special. I don’t know what as of yet, I don’t even know what medium I will choose to use, but I want to mark the occasion with a piece of art. I also want to challenge myself in these next ninety-nine days to push myself even harder. I still have Jessica’s portrait to finish, and I won’t feel that this project is a success without it. As for tonight, my title says it all, “Lessons Learned”. I took on another orphan tonight. A few years ago while at a Starbucks in San Francisco I noticed a young woman sitting with her back to me. I love Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks”, it’s a favorite of mine. Something about the singular woman sitting at the counter was reminiscent to me of the solitude and loneliness that Hopper’s painting evokes in me. I snapped a few photos of her and put them in my “someday I’ll paint again” file. It must have been at least a year before I looked at that photo again. I sketched it out on a canvas and began an oil painting. I didn’t last long. I had the figure a little more than half painted, had given up completely on the background, and I had decided that it wasn’t good enough. It went into the pile of half done work, my orphans. I hadn’t yet learned my “lessons”.
Lesson 1. One of the things that this project has taught me is that my art isn’t meant to be a xerox copy. Art is meant to evoke feeling, my paintings don’t need to look like an exact copy of a photograph. I need to detach from perfection and paint with emotion.
Lesson 2. Texture, texture, texture. My old work was so one-dimensional. I’ve learned to enjoy painting without feeling the need to smooth out the rough edges. I’ve done a couple of paintings using only my palette knife, they are among my favorites.
Lesson 3. Art doesn’t have to be finished in a day. I’ve learned to let work evolve, taking time to let the work speak, the brush speak, and to not rush things.
Lesson 4. This is a big one. Walk away! I have ruined more pieces in my artistic life from not leaving well enough alone, often seeing something really beautiful happening only to second guess myself and destroy it in the process.
Lesson 5. (If you are sick of hearing me talk about my wonderful husband you can skip this one) Dan is amazing. I have always known that he loves me, but in the last several months he has proved to be my biggest supporter, cheerleader, and all-round best partner I could have. He is always there to make sure that I have the time to work on my art. He cooks meals, falls asleep on the couch waiting for me, and is willing to lend a hand on anything I need. He has encouraged me through the tough days, and helps me with honest criticism, and even posted for me when I had pneumonia last June.
My orphan is still a work in progress tonight. When I took this painting out of my studio tonight it spoke volumes about how much I had given up on myself, how I gave in to my feelings of inadequacy, how often I half-finished things in fear of judgement. It was flat, it was lifeless, I think I was feeling a little of that about myself. I unfortunately didn’t take a photo before I started working today, but here is my solitary woman in progress. She will have to wait a few days to dry until I can finish, but I’m really pleased with where we are both headed.
Merry Christmas Eve to all. Quite some time ago I posted about my orphaned paintings, work I started but never finished in fear of being judged. I pledged at the time to rescue some of the orphans and see them through to completion, I did a few, but then I moved on to other things. Today I have rescued an orphan. Consider it to be straight out of Dickens, a rescued orphan. You may also consider it my ghost of Christmas Past. My son is now twenty-three years old. The painting is of him…at eight or nine. It’s obviously been awhile. One could almost hear the cries from my studio, “Please Ma’am, won’t you finish me?” I have made a gift for everyone in my family this holiday season except for Dan. I had something particular in mind for him, but alas time hasn’t allowed me to do what I wanted. This painting was also for Dan. He has been waiting for many, many years to see it finished. Well, Merry Christmas Honey, it’s done. For Christmas Present, I’ll try to knock off something tomorrow, maybe something for myself. Christmas Future? I have been writing about moving ahead with my work. Getting ready to present my stuff to the world. I’ve been writing about it, but I haven’t been doing it. I had a doctor appointment this morning for the mysterious pain in my side. (I’m not dying or anything, graceful girl that I am it seems that in my efforts to stay healthy, when I walk I am not doing it right. I am pulling muscles in my thigh or something…only me. The doctor asked if I stretch before I walk. My reply? “Why would I do anything the right way?”) Back to the future…I began a conversation with a lovely woman who works for the doctor. She likes art, she has a friend who opened a gallery in nearby Escondido. As if it were meant to be. Just last night when Dan and I walked I spoke of trying to sell my art…do you think maybe someone is trying to tell me something? I need to get there, I need to get somewhere. It’s time, and there’s no time like the present, and wouldn’t be wonderful to think about the future and feel cheery and bright.
It has been a very long day, actually a very long month. I have been working more hours than I care to think about. Hopefully it will all pay off this weekend, so again I ask the universe (that means you, people who are reading this) for good karma for Saturday. I have checked the weather, no rain this week, it is predicted to be 73 here in Temecula.( I’m really sorry to all my East Coast friends and Midwest relatives, you have my condolences on your weather.) I spent the day on fairies again. I have more than one hundred and ten right now. Needless to say I did not get to any artwork today. I will instead tell you a funny little tale about my daughter and show an older painting of mine. The painting doesn’t actually exist anymore. All I have left is a photograph.
When Brian was a little boy he did all kinds of funny, naughty things. He also gave us the trip from hell in Disney world. He threw a tantrum in every country in Epcot. He didn’t have terrible two’s, he had horrific three’s. Jessica was always a sweetheart. We always laughed about the funny, naughty things Brian did. One day she asked me if she had done anything wrong. I think she was feeling left out. To be honest I had a hard time thinking of anything. There were small things like unrolling the toilet paper through the house, or the time she fried the remote in the microwave, but probably the worst thing she did was ruin a painting. The funny thing is I wasn’t mad when she did it. She was small. To be honest I’m not sure exactly how old she was, but I caught her writing on the floor with marker. I sat her down and explained that we didn’t write on floors or walls, only on paper. I had weeks earlier finished the painting that I’m posting here tonight. I walked into the room to find Jessica, a red permanent marker, and my painting. You do the math. That’s right, red scribbles all over my beautiful painting. How could I be angry? No walls, no floors, she drew on what she thought was paper. Or maybe she had early leanings towards becoming an art critic.