Monday, November 30, 2009

Arting with Gravity

Just Hanging Around, digital photo

While others were shopping, diligently working on paintings, or decorating for the holidays, I was playing with a tangerine bag. It began several weeks ago when I didn't cut the bag into pieces (for animals' sake) and left it lying on the counter. At first, I thought it might make a nice hat--with that little tassel. It did; I looked a bit like an old elf and considered wearing it to holiday parties. I then noticed the similarity between frozen turkey breasts and heads. I thought it might be cool to take a photo of a head in the bag. The memory of a photo--Mussolini hanging upside down--brought gravity to mind.

After several days I had a plan. I would wait until my husband was out of the house (explaining my project would have been impossible and I didn't want an audience). I chose a small Danish leather-topped table; I moved the dining table to make sure I had enough space, set up a light, set up the camera--a cereal box stood in for my head--and I lay across the table. Anatomy (and a couple of fused disks in my neck) made it impossible to get all of my chin below the table top. With my left hand holding the bag tightly behind my head, I snapped the shutter with my right and waited in place for the timer. In some photos I forgot to remove my glasses (they were hanging on my forehead); in some I inadvertently used the flash (I wanted shadows); in some I am without the bag (I look like a gray-haired Dracula); and in others I am laughing too heartily.

I chose a photo and with Corel Photo/Paint was able to remove my arms and the table legs, clone my missing chin, enhance the turkey-look of the skin, and add the carrying strap. I think the contraption on the right represents a scale--$2 per lb. Lesson learned: If you're in your sixties and want to hang upside down, a net bag is handy for holding face parts in place. Gravity is awesome.

I am usually very serious when working on a painting. Playing with digital photos is just great fun; I don't think of it as art but as "arting around." I'm still looking for a model.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Retrieving the Wild, acrylic, 24x18

Expression has been a recent topic in blogs that I follow: Kathy's and Margaret's --and I pay careful attention to Don's insightful comments on those sites; he has a great self-portrait on his blog and his Thanksgiving entry was powerful. Margaret's entry from yesterday asked if we could identify when we found our artistic voice. I found mine easily when I was in my twenties but it was with sculpture.

In 2001, after 35 years of sculpting, I switched to painting. For some reason I felt that I needed to paint because I could no longer express myself with sculpture, such a slow process--whether clay, wood, or stone. I've since learned that painting (my painting, anyway) is not necessarily faster. Getting the nod of approval was important when I began painting so I chose my subjects carefully and stayed close to realism.

In 2006, I awoke from a dream and made a sketch. In the dream I had unearthed and retrieved something important and a bit gross. I interpreted the dream as a message--don't shy away from the strange. (Yes, people--for many years I kept a dream diary--great fun-- & have actually tried programming my dreams. It sometimes works.) I also acknowledge the book "Women Who Run with the Wolves," which says we often leave our wild side behind in order to conform. (To Heck with that!) I felt this painting was my announcement that I would take more chances with my work.

I am fortunate--I have good friends and family who enjoy and buy art; they provide approval and support. They don't necessarily like everything I paint but they see it as progress. Close friends who are neighbors bought this painting at my summer show; I visit it often. Lots of my paintings have not made it off my street!

Thursday, November 26, 2009


I celebrated Thanksgiving on Scuppernong Hill with my brother, my sister-in-law, and with friends who have become family. A sunny November day, great food, good people--for this I am thankful.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Dying Lucky Bamboo, Inktense pencils on w/c paper, 12x9
This was my first attempt at Kathy's 20-minute challenge. My usual method of painting or drawing is to work for 10 minutes, then ponder for 30. Why I thought I could record this scene with speed (not in my DNA) is a mystery. My timer ticked annoyingly and I couldn't read the names of colors on the pencils--all the leads looked alike. When the buzzer sounded, not much was done so I continued--for at least another 60 minutes. (A friend gave me the vase with three bamboo stalks five years ago. In Feng Sui, 3 is for happiness--one died two years ago; 2 is for love & marriage--I'll wait and see; and 1 has no meaning listed.)

Pears on a copper plate, pastel pencils on w/c paper, 9x12
This was last night's attempt at the 20-minute challenge. Now experienced, I limited myself to five items--three pears, a copper plate, and a woven leather place mat; I set them under a single overhead light and chose conte pastel pencils because the colors are easy to identify. Using the microwave timer (no ticking) very little was recognizable at 20 minutes. I kept going--for a total of 45 minutes, even with the elimination of the place mat!
I will try the challenge again and I almost have a plan: I'll stick with the pastel pencils and tackle maybe one lemon on a white paper plate (no reflections). Speedy is not my nickname but this is fun.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Sad Painting

Entropy, acrylic, 24x18
In the early 80's, I read the book by Jeremy Rifkin--it stuck--and became the working title for this painting (partly inspired by a tank baffle I use to hold a bird bath). The painting was almost finished when ABC evening news reported on Kenya and its lack of rainfall--no rain for a year. The people, their livestock, and the elephants are dying. The report aired on the same day we discovered a major water leak under our house. Gallons of water had been wasted; the plumber said he worked in at least six inches of murky water. (We had heard what sounded like a motor running for several days and thought the problem was our new heat pump system--part of which is under the house. The noise was gushing water; our water pressure was a bit low but no other sign of a leak.)
I was upset not at paying a high water bill, but, at the unfairness of life. For a month I could not go into my workshop and face this painting without tears. I stayed in the house and worked with pastels or drew with pencils; I sent a small contribution to help Kenya. Yesterday I got back to the painting and finished today. Each night I ask that rain be sent to that area, and this painting will always remind me of thirsty people, livestock, and elephants.
I usually stick with humor--I couldn't find it this time.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Unidentified Calla, pastel, 14 x 11
aka: Calla from my other Planet
It began as a calla from a photograph--I ditched the photo. After looking at hundreds of calla images of all colors on Google, I went with my imagination. Why not?
My book on using pastels is in hiding; reviewing might have helped--this is my second pastel work and it's on Ampersand pastel panel. I worry that if I sneeze this painting will disappear.
Do your eyes go directly to that red sphere? Thanks to today's entry "Balance: Weight and Direction" on Kathy's blog, I now know the reason--actually, several reasons. My thinking was much simpler: "Hmm......I think I'll use that red pastel and make Mars."

Monday, November 9, 2009

A Challenge

Conched out on my pillow, graphite
A 200-minute sketch
I follow the exceptional blog of Katharine A. Cartwright, a wonderful artist who is unbelievably organized. A recent entry explained her "twenty minute challenge"--in twenty minutes, she paints her surroundings. Among other things, these small paintings have provided a record of her travels when she's teaching. Many of her readers found the concept interesting so she has set up a "Twenty Minute Challenge" blog. Since I've always drawn my environment (and there's no requirement to work daily, to travel, or to venture outside), I may join. Stopping after twenty minutes will be my challenge. Information on The Challenge is here.

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Drawing Room

Drawing with a No. 2 pencil is one of my favorite things. Supplies are stashed everyplace--even in my tiny bathroom tucked under the eaves. A small desk was a perfect fit in the strange corner under the low ceiling (HGTV designers haven't thought of this yet). The post-its? Left: "bathroom art." Right: web addresses for Holbein, RI School of Design, a street address for Good Will in Danville, the name of a woman who makes good pies, and one written in invisible ink. I consider the upstairs loft truly "a room of my own."

I have been following Van Gogh's blog; a wonderful site that contains his letters and drawings. His Bedroom paintings, with the strange corners and slightly skewed furniture, have always made me smile. We should enjoy our surroundings and be grateful.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Found One of my Marbles

One of my missing marbles--I found it on the counter near the kitchen sink. (This confirms my suspicion that housework causes brain damage.)

I'm learning to use my new camera--actually reading the manual!

From my sculpting days, Marbles Lost, Marshmallows Retained, ca. 1990, sold to a couple from Germany--they saw it in the D.C. gallery.
When a visitor at the Montpelier Cultural Arts Center in MD walked past my resident studio and saw the sliced head on my sculpture stand, he was not sure he wanted to meet the artist.