Monday, February 19, 2007

Preparations Begin for the Show

This painting isn't quite done, but I wanted to post it anyway because it's my first attempt at a big pastel. This is 22x45. It's for the Machias Show, and I plan to do another of the same scene in the summer. The idea is that Demeter is goddess of agriculture and she quit doing her job when Persephone was abducted..........hence, winter. It's amazing that this succeded at all because I had to do the sky all over again after I had a whole different one done. I didn't like it, so worked it completely over again on top of the first one. As far as I can tell, it works, but I haven't seen it in the daylight.

I had to rearrange the studio to accommodate this big piece of paper. I have no board big enough to put it on, so I couldn't use the easel. I tacked it to the wall and worked on it that way, but before I could do it I had to clear a wall. That meant moving all the paintings I had to make room, and then to rearrange the junk that was propped up against the wall I needed to use. I did all of this yesterday, as well as painting the paper blue. So today I was ready to go. I did it in the same length of time it takes to do a little one, including reworking the sky. Of course I don't klnow how long I will work on the finishing touches, which sometimes are another whole day.

I ran out of fuel today. I am on automatic delivery, but somehow they made a mistake. I didn't discover it until I noticed I didn't have any hot water. I had to call the company, and they had to send a man to restart the furnace as well as deliver the oil. As I was investigating the problem, I found out how to set the temperature of my hot water, which has been so hot it will cook eggs, as well as burn an unsuspecting user. No one has been able to tell me how to reset the temperature, but now that I know, I am sure to save fuel. Some good comes from everything, I guess.

Tomorrow I will see Alice for the first time in over a week, assuming she goes to work. I won't be surprised if the clinic calls and cancels in the morning, but if she is there I am expecting bad news about her medical condition. I feel that I am prepared for this, but who can tell until it actually happens. My guess is that she will have to have surgery, and therefore will be out of work for an extended period. If so, I have no idea what that means in terms of my sessions. I am anxious.
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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Valentine Flowers and ER 33

Yesterday was Valentine's Day. I got a bouquet of Tulips from David and Thom, which was a surprise and very welcome. We had the first blizzard of the year and the flowers were wonderful against the backdrop of howling wind and snow. They were a remembrance of Spring. I find it hard to think of the coming Spring this time of year. Besides, it is wishing time away not to embrace the present. So instead I look back fondly on other Eastport Springs when the flowers come up on their own and the trees blossom so abundantly their aroma fills the town. These red tulips in such contrast to the whiteness of the snow outside were a pointed reminder of the difference between the seasons here. It must be very boring to have the seasons change so little as they do in some places in the country and the world. I love the rythmn of extreme change within a predictable cycle.

Familiarity and reliability are the hallmark of the seasons. The arrival of the tulips was a surprise beat, out of sync, an antidote to complacency. Their blazing color stirred me out of my tendancy to believe the present will last forever. They reach out from the past and the future to remind me that, for better or worse, nothing stays the same. They are a gift from the summer in the middle of the cold.
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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Later the same day.........

Of all the useful things I could have done this afternoon, I chose to do yet another pastel. I have another piece of paper prepared for tomorrow at Sydney's. After that I may begin a big drawing for the show in Machias. Elizabeth suggested that I do one of winter and one of summer that I could include in our joint exhibit about Demeter and Persephone, since Demeter controlled the seasons. This is a pretty loose connection, but if it satisfies her, it satisfies me. It will be fun to try this subject on big paper. All of these are just 11X15.

Alice continues to cancel our appointments because of illness. Painting is the only thing that really keeps me from worrying about her too much. I know that her condition is potentionally very serious (i.e. fatal) and the thought is unacceptable to me. There is no way to even consider such a possibility, so I turn my head away.
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Killing time because I can't think of anything constructive to do, I looked up some other blog entries. I found these listed in the margin of one of the blogs I regularly read. I clicked on several with intriguing titles and read sme of the entries. The writing was astonishingly similar among them, sprinkled liberally with the words "fart" and "fuck." I remember performing this same experiment when I first started my blog, with similar results. Apparently this is less a conscious effort to create a certain kind of public personality, as I once thought, than a way of thinking. These kinds of words seem to be the mainstay of language perception (is there such a term?). What I'm trying to say is that thought is related directly to language, and the writing I read indicates severe paucity of colorful or creative thought, let alone variety.

What is the most interesting to me is the fact that these writers are mostly well-educated and working in influential positions. I don't know how to respond to this except to say that the world is different from what I imagine it to be. The fact that I am looking back and have very little exposure to more than a few people, all of my own age, is probably significant. Perhaps people don't have time to make more than general observations now. It could be that "fart" and "fuck" are all the vocabulary they need to describe how they see the world. Too bad, so say I, although I have to admit there is less need to find subtlety than I had previously thought. Complicated evaluation of ordinary things is a luxury. There is too much to see. Generalizations and homogenization of what one observes is necessary if one is in a hurry.

Monday, February 12, 2007

#31 and Counting

Today I worked on Epping Road between other activities, producing this next winter scene. I am just as excited about every one as I was in the beginning and wonder when this series will lose its appeal. Certainly I am learning a lot about pastel and how to create different light effects with it. I ordered some Sennelier pastels from Dick Blick Art Supplies in the lighter colors I need for maximum brightness. These expensive pastels are well worth the money, though I don't need them for much of the painting. They are so soft that I wouldn't be able to layer color the way I do now without making a mess. I do this out of necessity, since I don't know what color I need to get what I want directly. It's the way I work in other mediums, though, playing around until things look right. Though I admire the direct approach, I can't seem to see things in my head enough to go right to it.

I haven't published anything for awhile simply because I have been engaged in activities that haven't inspired me to write. I've been reading, and teaching myself to play the alto recorder. The shrieking of my soprano has begun to wear on me, and I decided to switch. It is difficult to make the transition, since the same fingering plays different notes. I am committed, though, and persevere. Reading was inspired by a book review I read in the paper describing Norman Mailer's latest novel. I ordered it from Amazon and got it last week. It is somewhat interesting--a telling of Hitler's family and his early life. I have always been fascinated by Hitler and thought it would be interesting to me. So far, though, the talk is of Heinrich Himler's sexually oriented bizarre philosophy. Well, a little of that goes a long way. I abandoned the book temporarily to read another novel much more to my usual taste by Kaye Gibbons.

Carrie and Gabe visited this week-end and we celebrated Christmas, at least the gift-giving part of it. It was a very nice visit, though too short. Our pleasant conversations ran the gamut of everything from contemporary politics to memories of Carrie's childhood. Strangely, what stands out in my mind is Carrie's report that I refused to buy leg warmers for her when she wanted them. That seems very unlike me, and I chose to believe that my motive stemmed from fear of Phil's wrath. He was always so against buying luxuries that I probably couldn't bear the argument that would surely ensue. So many of my memories of our marriage involve arguments about money. The one that stands out in my mind and seems to epitomize the difference in our philosophies was when I insisted on buying window fans for the kids' rooms one hot summer. We ourselves had been sleeping in cool comfort during a heat wave because of the room air conditioner he had bought for our room. His lack of concern for the kids' comfort compared with the price of the fans infuriated me and I refused to comply with his wishes. He was, in turn, furious with me. Ah, marital compromise...........I was born to be single. Thank goodness one of us (Phil) realized that our marriage was not worth saving.

Anyway, the visit was wonderful. I am always happy when I have a chance to spend time with them. Seeing my children as adults, and getting to know them as they are now, is one of my great pleasures.
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Sunday, February 04, 2007

Sunday's Work

Dogs can do a lot of damage with one stick of red-violet pastel.
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Saturday, February 03, 2007

Thoughts on Representational Art

At Sydney's Wednesday I started this pastel and then finished it today at home. It seemed rather non-descript for awhile, but I fussed with it until I had given it something to make it special--in this case the road with its tire tracks. Every one of my Epping Road paintings has something I consider to be unique to that individual work, something that makes it stand out. I enjoy making something like this plowed road with its dirty little plowed banks into something beautiful. I congratulate myself for not taking the easy way out and simply making the snow pristine. I really think it is quite trite to paint things as you wish them to be rather than the way they are. These fields are so beautiful without alteration that if I could teach viewers anything it would be to simply look and see the beauty that is already there. It is tempting to be so judgmental about what looks good and what doesn't. Taking "artistic license" is just another way of denying the ability to find something worthwhile in reality. It reveals a lack of observational skills and the heart to use them. Representational art can transform the viewer as much as anything else provided the artist can expose how to look at the world. It is necessary to suspend stereotypical views and approach a scene as if for the first time, free of prejudices. It's the artist's skill, knowing how to look, how to see. Artistic talent lies more in the power of observation than in mechanical expertise. It is the artist's duty to force the viewer to experience something in a new way, not to call on on-tap responses.

Well, that is what I believe now that I am engaged in this series. A year ago I would have said that there was no real reason to paint a "pretty picture." Do I alter my philosophy to justify my obsession? Or am I responding to a revelation concerning representational art? Or am I loving this project just because I am learning a new medium, enjoying the feel of chalk on paper? Is it that I feel some exhaltation over discovering the wide range of color after so many years of using only primaries? It's anybody's guess.

I know that I have never enjoyed doing anything ordinary people (non-artists) could understand and like. It made me feel banal. I had a severe case of artistic snobbery about it, very elitist. Doing this series is giving me a new way of thinking. I am probably no less a snob, but at least I have different reasons.
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