Monday, December 31, 2007

Cheers! 2008

Well, it’s New Year’s Eve here and WWIII...at least that’s what it sounds like, or will soon outside. There’s a time honored tradition in The Netherlands to light many many huge, and I mean HUGE firecrackers on your home soil. Stuff that in America would be way, way illegal. It is SPECTACULAR, OVER THE TOP lights, color and screech, bang, pop and sizzle. Kids start with the small stuff during the day and it mounts to the crescendo at midnight till probably around one or so, trickling pops and bangs throughout the night and into the next day.


Leon, my English Springer, brave soul that he is in any other situation, is TERRIFIED. Since he heard the first one a couple of days ago (just practice, mind you) he has been waking me up in the middle of the night several times for comfort. Tonight I walked him at the last light while firecrackers were set off at unknown mysterious locations, seemingly under his feet. Must have been, because he was bouncing up and down all around the block. Kisses, pleading and body blocking were also tried to get me to turn around towards home. Our original purpose for walking was forgotten for the one all powerful, getting to safety! We made it home and he is now lying asleep in his bed, safe. How can he sleep, you ask? Well, he had a little chemical help, plus today we went on a nice walk in the park (where no fireworks were being exploded).

Actually, he’s more relaxed than the cat, Mokimo. I think animals become sensitized to these things, because this is the first year, after five of living here, that she decided there must be a Cat-Eating Dragon outside. She’s keeping low to the ground and alert. I have explained to her that no Dragons will get past me so she’s staying nearby.

In spite of it all, at midnight I will go outside to brave the Dragon and bombs to say Happy New Year to my friends and neighbors, then run back inside to my safe furry family and husband, now to be known as the Oyster Opening Champion. As I write he is opening two dozen oysters to the sounds of Willie Bobo in happy contentment. So CHEERS! and here’s to a peaceful, productive and fufilling New Year, one and all!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Home Improvement

Today was spent choosing flooring for our new apartment, well, just two small rooms of it. What does this have to do with art, you might ask? Well, nothing except that is what I'll be doing the next few weeks, getting things ready for the big move. Next is buying paint and then, painting the walls. Not all of them, thank heavens. Just the orange bedroom and the two small rooms.

Hey, some people like orange. When I was about, um, ten I wanted my room to be painted orange, bright orange. I settled for some sort of plaid with orange in it, and lime green. Cheerful. Somehow though, later in life I got a little too much of orange and now I just can't deal. Maybe it was teaching art and having a room with orange shelving on Halloween when everything becomes orange, or maybe it's that orange is the National color in the Netherlands so I see a bit too much of it. This is a nice orange though, a kind of burnt orange. I could see it with some deep turquoise somehow, but perhaps not in the bedroom. One of the small rooms has giant daisy wallpaper. I could live with that maybe, but the office is going in there, so perhaps too much going on. Lovely for a kids room though, which is what it was.

So, what color does an artist paint her walls? Well...I think I'm going for an off-white, eggshell. Not so exciting, but you have to realize that paintings and other art is going up there, so it mustn't clash. Sigh...there goes all the books I've bought on faux painting and wall textures. Maybe I could do something creative to the water closet. Like you could walk in there and feel you had been transported to a different place...hmmm...I'll have to think about that.

My favorite bathroom was designed by my old roommate, Bill Stufflebeem. He made it kind of South American Catholic kitsch, including rosary. It was off of the kitchen, which was like the interior of a Chinese restaurant. Definitely one of my favorite places to live in. I moved in because, when I went for the interview, the place smelled like patchouli. I kinda have a thing for that smell. Like a moth to a flame. Then I saw the decor and knew it was for me. Not to mention that the garden was a wonderful Eden thanks to Bill's green thumb. The balcony was like being in a green cocoon. On more than one occasion, I awoke to find a new Ikibana arrangement he had made in the nite. And once, on a bad day I came back to my room to find a perfumed arrangement of Magnolia blossoms. Now that is one guy with a sense of beauty. He once told me that when he stayed in hotels he would rearrange the furniture and make a flower arrangement. If they were smart, the hotel people left it.

So, if you hear from me, and you just might, be indulgent as I go through the trials and tribulations of feathering my nest, or rather, building it so that when the feathers fly all will settle in a cozy configuration.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Watch the Bouncing Ball

Bounce, bounce, bounce...yes, I dropped the ball for a while, but hopefully I can get it back in play. Everything became very intense when I got back to the Netherlands. A huge cold set me back on my painting for three weeks so when that was over I was bent to the grindstone for some time. Just finished it...keep posted for the picture to come. I'm having some trouble with my optimizer on my resizing now. I learned tons! My friend Hakim has asked me if I am satisfied. My answer, "I feel I can do better." Still, I'm not completely dissatisfied with the the results. When I get it up here, I'll give you a list of the things I think I learned and what I might do better next time. I know, it's a bummer waiting...

In the meantime, the New Year is around the corner and so is our big move! Two more weeks...aaagh! Got that painting finished just in time. That's three, now four, times I've typed "time" in this short post. I guess that's on my mind. "Time keeps on slippin'...into the future." So true, even if it is cliche. I'm trying to remember to be "in the moment" or "mindful". When my head stops spinning I can do it. I find that a cat on your stomach helps. Something about that is so "present". Of course that requires reclining and she's warm and comfortable so that is conducive to napping...snorrrrre.

Whoops, so much for the present. I'm off to dreamland. Which is weirder and weirder, if that is possible. I'm one of the lucky few that actually remembers all the details of her dreams, including taste, touch, and smell, yes smell. Lots of flying of late. Hey, it's the quickest mode of transportation in dreams. Guess I'm in a hurry these days. Ok, question, for those of you who dream of flying, what is your modus operandi for take-off? I used to flap my arms, then there was jumping till I got so high I reached the sky (d'ya think that was inspired by Miss Mary Mac?), and now I just seem to glide off. I can do some amazing soaring and daring-do in the air. I used to get a kinda nervous excitement about taking those big swoops from great heights, but I seem just to be enjoying it more now. Of course there are dangers, like nets and interwoven tree branches. Still, overall it's a great way to travel.

Well, back to the "moment". Here I sit in front of the computer while nature is beckoning me outside, so I'm off for my morning walk. I'll post pictures soon, really, really. I have so much to show you! Now, where did that ball bounce to....?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Revelations

I'm back from America and my grandfather's funeral. This is not my first touch with death by far, though each time it is a journey, at times arduous but in it's own way life-giving, for how much more can one appreciate life than when faced with it's final chapter? We have this vessel, into which we pour all our experiences and then one day the vessel is empty. Where does all that experience and knowledge, wisdom and folly go? The very nature of existence has caused man to invent answers and defend those answers sometimes by the sword.

When I was six years old I lost someone whose presence I never doubted to be in. In that moment I awoke, I began to see and hear and know the miracle that we are alive. To be given the gift of awareness of one's own existence at that age is a revelation.

That we live in this form that breathes, thinks, creates language and so many, many other things, is truly a privilege. Forget how or even why we are here or what happens when we are not, and see this: that we exist, now, in this moment in time. Open your hand in front of your face and look at it, look at the space around it, feel and hear the air come into and go out of your lungs and know that at this moment, right now, you are here. Amazing.

So I choose, at this time of grieving, not to dwell on what has been lost, but what was given, giving what I can in return, and accepting gratefully this gift of life, filling this vessel. My goal is that my glass will be more than half full, it will be brimming over, and in the end when it is spilled, know that I have savored every drop, bitter and sweet.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Life and Death

My grandfather, the patriarch of our famil, died yesterday. As always with these brushes with death I think, or rethink, what I am doing with my time, my life. This moment. Well, this moment I am writing to you, an invisible audience, in my effort to make sense of it all, life, the Big Picture.

Recently a friend of mine was having to make a major career/life decision. I gave her the best advice I ever got: Ask your self "What if I knew I was going to be run over by a truck tomorrow(ie. die), what would I do today?" Those words, said to me by a mentor years ago when I was also struggling to figure out what to do with my life, are the reason I'm doing art today. So, in light of these present circumstances, do I still feel that way? Yup. More so. I want to put my whole heart into it, I shall, I do.

You might think this a little self-absorbed (as writing a blog is too somewhat) and it is. And it isn't. On the self side, it keeps me sane, brings me a sense of peace, meditation, equilibrium. It can also challenge me and frustrate me, but, call me crazy, I think that's fun. On what I hope to be the more altruistic side, I hope that it makes me a better person to others and also that I am contributing to beauty in the world, though that is of course debatable. My ego isn't so fragile that I can't take a few punches there.

I am indeed thinking how I can give more though. I do feel a need to contribute and believe I can do so through teaching. When, to whom, and how I need to decide. I'm lucky enough to have a venue now, so that main part is at least not a worry. Anyway, in the meantime, I'll be taking a week off to visit family, so it might be a bit before I get back to this blog. Not that I'm the most regular in posting. I think I'll use the time off to explore this teaching idea and a few other goals. We're only here a short time and as long as my truck hasn't passed yet, I'm going to be doing art and sharing what I can from that trip.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Courage

Ok! I started this entry this morning and, thanks to my usual computer karma, am just now getting back to the keyboard. Yes, I am one of THOSE, technologically challenged. As soon as I get near a computer, poltergeists from far and wide rush to the aid of our normal house poltergeist (the one who misplaces important papers) and cause havoc never before seen on our system. Luckily, I have a patient husband who is not challenged and can unravel the damage done. And it's not just our computer. I once went to buy train tickets and ALL the computers in the ticket office SHUT DOWN. Watches also tend to stop working when worn by my sensitive electrode-producing skin. I once worked as a cashier also on a computer-operated cash register. When first learning the workings of the machine, it broke down. This is apparently normal with newbie cashiers. What was not normal was that it took ALL the managers to fix it, each one commenting that they had NEVER seen such a problem before. Coincidence? I think not. Nonetheless, I brave the odds and continue to post here and elsewhere. I should really be wearing a juju.

Now, where was I? Oh yes, I wanted to touch on the subject of courage. Normally, one might think of that word for feats of strength, endurance, emotional and physical. What I'm looking for is the courage it takes to face EVERY DAY. Ok, that's easy, you say, first get out of bed... Yeah, yeah, when you have a "real" job to go to. (Not that I'm sayin' that's easy either, but you kinda hafta go or lose your job and get a new one.)

I'm talkin' 'bout the entrepreneur, farmer, painter, the one who is her/his own boss. Even when you're a farmer you have someone depending on you to show up, plants or animals. But what if all you have is a canvas, empty or begun, to face? I'm tellin' ya, it's like looking into your face for hours and examining who you are in minute detail. There's all those voices in the background, the ones that say it's not good enough, that you're wasting your time, that you should go out and get that coveted "real" job. (Why not? In America, when I told people I was an artist, the response was always, "and what do you do for a living?") Granted, I am one of the lucky ones. I don't have to live, for the moment, off of what I create. But I do have that as a goal, albeit secondary to making really, really beautiful art. (Those that do have to make money have that extra pressure of making it saleable. )

That's where art is like religion. You just have to BELIEVE. Believe it is worth it to make more beauty or make something that reaches out to others and makes them think and/or feel and believe that you, yes you, are the one that can do it. Some days, it ain't so easy folks. Days when it is grey and rainy (pretty frequent here in the Lower Countries) or you're just a little tired, or your feet hurt from standing on cement all day (the floor in my studio). Some days you just have to go. The pay off is that once I'm there, all that stuff becomes a blur as I paint or draw, create. So, I guess what I'm sayin' is yeah, I'm lucky to be an artist, lucky that I can do that all day, but it takes COURAGE. Worth it though, definitely worth it.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Dressed for Success

This weekend I began the big chore of getting rid of things before the move. Starting with my closet. Most people who see me today would think I only own a few jeans and paint spattered sweatshirt, t-shirts and a few dress clothes. Wrong. In college I began an addiction to buying clothes second hand. Lots of these clothes have come with me and also ones that I have been given. Mostly, in the last, I don't know, twenty years I haven't spent much on clothes.

So where do they all come from? Well, Mom was a great seamstress and decided to make me a bunch of skirts before I went off to college. I still have those, plus a skirt she made me when I was sixteen. I'm pleased to say I still fit in all of them, but would I wear them? Well, first the skirt from sixteen is going. I will never wear orange paisley, let's face it. Then there's a print skirt I took from Mom's closet when she died. Most of her clothing wasn't salvageable because she was a major smoker, but this was. Thought I would wear it. That was, what, five years, six ago? Haven't worn it, it's going. Then there's a myriad of clothes I got second hand with a kind of wistful nostalgia for the faded, which has now also faded. Then there's the belts Ron gave me before he died, which I said I would wear. Didn't, out they go. And the list grows.

I still need to be tougher with myself. I read that it's a good idea to cluster groups of clothes that go together. That's the next step. I'll put together a few outfits that I think I really will wear. What is truly at issue here is a question of identity. Just who do I think I am? Well, most of the time I'm a painter so most of these clothes are just silly. Still, when shopping or going out with "normal" people, a few less paint streaks might come in handy. I mention the shopping because I went to get some hair accessories from Claire's boutique one day. There were two prices on the package, one more than the other because it was a transfer from pounds. Anyway, the cashier pointed out to me the higher price was the right one and then waited...as if I couldn't afford it and I would put it back. Fooled her though, I bought them. Afterwards, I saw myself in a mirror and realized I was dressed for the studio. Not that I care about how much money people think I have. I actually found that fun.

Then there's the fifties-style dresses that I got second hand, or handed down. Those are the tough ones. I love that fitted bodice and bigger skirt. Still, I haven't worn one of those since living in DC! Basically, I'm looking for comfortable but not too sloppy in neutrals though sometimes with a little flash of color. That kind of knocks out many of the skirts mom made me. They're more for business. Maybe one or two of the best would be enough to "suit" me.

Finally, once I get it all pared down, there will be nothing else left to do but...go shopping! (This, folks, is very tongue in cheek as I haven't been much in the last years, as I mentioned, and basically go into cardiac arrest when I see the prices, promise myself to become a better seamstress, and run home.) But, for now, I'm off to the studio, so...on go the paint-stained jeans, holey t-shirt, and frayed sweater...aaah, now that's who I really am. Fashion mogul I'm not, but ready to do art, yes!

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Distractions

This summer has had a lot going on so I'm hoping Fall will give me the time to reflect and get back to what is primary to my existence, which is making good art. I forget that sometimes, life throws me these curve balls and I follow their direction till, before you know it, I'm way out in left field. June and July were full of personal issues and then in August we went on vacation. I got that painting done which you see posted, but little else art wise. Well, that's not true really...I thought, read, and took photos for painting reference. But not real production. That brings up the question of whether constant production is the only way to improve. Many serious artists say yes. I think so too, though time is needed to feed the creativity machine. Not too much though.

Now it's September and we're in the process of obtaining a new place to live, though in the same city. Whew! This, one week after getting back to the Lower Countries. My head is spinning! Kinda like channel surfing but not having the remote all the time. Time to get back to the center. The place where I can see clearly. Lately I've had this feeling of awareness of being yet one small dot in the whole universe, not a feeling of insignificance, but one of being part of a greater whole. This really helps to put things in perspective. All those little worries and distractions seem so much less significant. I'm going to share here a sort of poem I have kept for many years on my bulletin board. I found it while going through some papers though I'm not sure where it came from. It helps me when I lose track of what is really important.

Eskimo Song

And I think over again
My small adventures
When with the shore wind
I drifted out in my kayak
And I thought I was in danger
My fears
Those small ones
That I thought so big,
For all the vital thinks
I had to get and reach.

And yet, there is only
One great thing,
The only thing:
To live to see in huts and on journeys
The great day that dawns
And the light that fills the world.


There, I feel better already. Don't you? Ciao, Kim

Friday, August 31, 2007

It's All In The Details

Here's some details from my previously posted painting, "Secret Garden":





Spent the day working again on my chili painting. Almost to the stage of adding color. Just a few more touches on the dead layer. Then I'll be finished and I think I'll take a short break by painting some small studies for my upcoming Open Studio day. It's the end of October so that gives me a good deadline to get the chili done. This is all theory though and of course the painting will tell me when it's really done. Already thinking of my next in this series of food/recipe paintings. Not telling yet, but I think it'll be a Fall theme. Missing painting outside in the sun already. As predicted, the rain has come so that has put a damper, so to speak, on plein air for the moment. I did pick up some nice acorns and acorn shells on a walk through the park with Leon though. Plenty of flowers still out but Fall is in the air. My favorite season, not to hot, not to cold, just right. Goldilocks ain't got 'nothin on me.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Secret Garden


Good Morning all. I'm back from a five week vacation and up with the birds again. Sky is blue with some clouds, no rain...yet, but then, I'm in Holland so that is soon to come. A stark contrast to the sun that drove us to afternoon siestas in Provence. The drive in the van was a huge success. I got all my art supplies in and guess what, used about one third of them. But I had it all with me, just in case. What I took: stretched canvas, drawing paper, watercolor paper, pencils, a few conte crayons, erasers, my new French easel, paints, rags, small watercolor kit, brushes, Liquin and a small bottle of turps, plus a couple of small extra jars and my two old camera bags for carrying stuff, digital camera and even some acrylic paints to try out. What I used: One pencil, eraser, sketch book, digital camera, one canvas, oil paints, brushes, rags, jars, camera bag and easel. Oh, and I forgot my stool and sun hat. That probably isn't even one third. Next time I go lighter, but you have to understand...I had a van! I could have four times all that stuff. But it's a drag loading and unloading, so I won't. Next time.

Once in Provence, Apt to be specific, I wandered around for a few days looking for spots. I stuck near the house at first, but soon strayed. The farthest I walked was over a hill/mountain, about an hour. I discovered a nice garden with a very friendly dog. We got to be pals as I sketched some ideas out. He almost followed me back home so I was obliged to discourage him. Definitely a message from Leon as this dog had the same character. Leon once followed a hiker to the top of Le Revard to get rewarded by chocolate (big no-no for doggies). But I digress...

Finally I decided to drive out and up to Caseneuve to check things out. This is a quiet village with a castle as its central point. Wandered around there a bit and was just ready to give up and try another spot when I found this charming garden in a sort of alleyway. Then I remembered, yes, that is what I like about these villages, the small personal gardens people make for themselves in little niches. Their little corner of the world. This little corner became my corner for two weeks. Actually, my first intention on vacation was to do small quick studies, but we all know about intentions. I found a great spot for my easel, protected from too much sun and wind in a corner of two walls. I could also get up on a step an look down at it from a distance. What I didn't forsee was direct sun on the canvas and the shadow of the phone pole, both of which got me into a sort of dance as time went on trying to evade them to see my canvas and paints.

I wonder, is there any such thing as the perfect spot? Probably not. What made this spot even more perfect were the nice neighbors. They stopped regularly by to see what I was up to. And it wasn't on the main tourist roads so, though I got a few tourists wandering through, traffic wasn't too heavy. Nicest of all were the neighbors who were right next to me. From the beginning they were very encouraging, even putting off their trimming of the hedge so I could work in peace. One cold morning, yes it got cold a couple of days, with the Mistral, they lent me clothing to keep warm as I was painting. I guess the sight of a shivering painter was too pitiful. Later, we had tea and they even let me take pictures of their kitchen, with all it's French country charm. (I'm taking a series of photos for study of various kitchens.) In the end they bought the painting! Who could ask for more?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Smile


Here's a drawing/study that I did of Leon, my best friend, a few months ago. It's not EXACTLY what I want, but a good reference. I think I'll probably do it again. He's a happy dog today because he got a shower and a bone. For those of you who don't know Leon's story, and want to, here's the gist:

Leon showed up during our first year living in France. He was abandoned or lost and almost a year old. He smelled too nice to have been gone for long in the wild. For about five seconds he hesitated to come see me, but when he saw I had steak on the way back from the grocery store, he didn't wait long. Leon has had abandonment problems ever since, severe separation anxiety. It didn't help we were going back and forth to the States every three months and leaving him with someone. But he wasn't unhappy, he got walks and had a fine life in the countryside.

Four years ago we came to Holland and that was a major change! No more country. The lake turned into a big sea where you couldn't see the other side and there were dogs everywhere! Along with Leon's S.A. he was also an alpha male and very dominant. We spent the first two years here together working on his behavior (and by we, I mean Me and Leon). It was tough going but with irresistible treats, time, repetition, and patience on both sides we managed to change an aggressive dog into a friendly dog, not to mention better behaved (more or less).

There's still the S.A. A bit better now, I can leave him to go see the neighbor for about 45 minutes, though sometimes not. He's only barking now, not howling as if he lost his best friend (which according to him he does every time) and no more tearing things apart and complete panic. Not bad for a thirteen year old. He goes every day with me to the studio and is disappointed if we don't go. He's there to make sure I don't take myself too seriously and to remind me that I am loved. Someone told me that an animal in the studio is a bad thing for painting karma, but I find it just the opposite. His constant presence is a gift to me. Ok, sometimes I'd like my freedom, but I've come to rely on his companionship almost as much as he relies on mine. This sketch is the beginning of what I hope to be a series of drawings and/or paintings of my buddy. More to come!


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Inspiration: Sha Sha Higby

A good friend of mine has asked me who inspired me, so I thought it would be fun to explore this, being that I have a wide range of interests that make my imagination spark. I do wish I knew how to put their images here, but for lack of that, I will put links to their sites/work.

Just off the top of my head comes Sha Sha Higby. http://www.shashahigby.com/
She makes the most amazing life size and larger sculptures/puppets which she uses in performance art and dance. Her pieces are multi-media and nearly impossible to describe, using paper and gold leaf with ceramic masks. Definitely worth a look. Check out her Movies section to get a glimpse of what she does. I was fortunate enough to see her work, though not her performance in Washington D.C. several years back. If I could be reborn as another artist, it would be her. The child in me who has always loved marionettes is absolutely awed into silence and wonder at the sight of her work. It is magical. Her masks are split in the middle revealing more inside and within the "being" she creates are other entities. It all seems so fragile, like gossamer wings of a strange undiscovered insect life morphed with human, like "The Fly" but much more beautiful. There's almost too much information there, but instead of being overwhelming, it makes you want to look closer and see what makes it tick. That these sculptures can be worn and move is even more amazing and she brings them to life in an eerie, surreal dance of sorts, combined with music of the same tone that makes you feel that you are witnessing a chrysalis. To experience an actual performance must be something beyond supernatural. That's just one of the many artist to whom I am thankful for the inspiration.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Artspeak

Art is a language. From now on when I tell people what language I speak, I will respond "Artspeak". Thinking about Gombrich's point about how each of us has images that words conjure up. I can say chair and you might see a different chair from me. When I teach and when I paint, I attempt to turn off that part of the brain that names. It gets in the way. If I say chair, I am no longer looking at the chair in front of me, but "chairness" as I know it. But if I forget the word, or rather put it aside, I can see the object in front of me, the shapes, the lines, for what it is. The Egyptians wrote in images and that is what art is, a return to our ancestry. Not necessarily Egyptian, mind you, but something much more primitive.

Words are wonderful and beautiful in what they can express, but they are limited. Limited in a way that my paint colors are limited to describe the colors and values in the visual world. If I show you something though, then I am showing you show much more than what one word can describe. I'm showing you the world as I see it, as I want you to see it, and you see it as you interpret the world around you according to who you are, the schema inside your head and the emotions you attach to the objects you see. So much more information is implied there. When I create a painting I think about, not just the objects, but what I am saying with the objects, what is my story. In fact, I see myself not as a painter, but as a visual storyteller. The story is mine, but it is also yours.

Coming from America, my current painting, that I'm referring to "Chilli" for the moment, has different connotations than perhaps in another country, Mexico for example, though that is perhaps not so different given our rich mix of Mexican community. I grew up with Mexicans in California so I don't start thinking right away of Texas chili, so there is the local interpretation also. Point is, there are multiple layers in what I'm saying, it's not just about the chili, the food, but what it means to you, what it reminds you of, the smells and emotions you connect with it. That's one of the reasons I'm doing this series on food/cooking. First, because it has a connection in my life, I love to cook.

Food is a big part of my life, not less so for having married a Frenchman. Living in France made me realize even more the connections we make with food, and with one another through food. It is yet another creative process and in a way I'm attempting to marry the two, painting and cooking. In fact, I've become a better cook since I became a painter. Something about the process of intuition and putting things together. Before, I was completely ruled by my recipe books. Little by little, I changed recipes and now I just look at stuff, and think about how it will taste together and the colors mix.

Cooking with a Moroccan friend, I learned a different way of combining tastes and that influences my food. Now cinnamon, nutmeg, and curry play together in my chicken dishes, as well as others. Her language has become mixed up in my language of food. Maybe that's where we've gone wrong, in trying to understand each other, different cultures, different beliefs, we've all defined it into words that, instead of being diplomatic, become weapons. Perhaps we've identified the wrong tools of mass destruction. But then, tools are weapons only depending on the wielder of them. I can use a hammer to hit a nail or I can use it to destroy an object. Images are the same. Will we ever understand one another? I suppose nothing is simple for us humans. In the meantime I go on speaking a language that I am also learning, hoping that I am telling you something, a secret, a feeling, a taste, a place. Let's meet on the canvas in the world without words.

Friday, July 06, 2007

First Light

Here I am, bright and early! It's 5 am, first light is bringing out the grey outlines of red brick buildings, making them a grey-blue brown. This is a special moment for me always, when nature begins to waken while many are still toasty in their beds. Gives me a feeling of new beginnings, peace, hope and a sense of wonder.

Early morning memory: I'm six. Picture wide-eyed golden blond-turning brown and sun-kissed. Ok, my eyes aren't so wide at this moment because it's early... and I'm wearing a heavy cotton night gown. Probably one of the red, green, and white ones that we got every Christmas, only it's Spring. I'm in this magical farm house that has a stairway to nowhere if you open the closet door. Looking out the window, everything is covered in dew, the grass is a grey-green, the barn in front that same grey-blue brown, only a bit more reddish, I think. There is the goat house on my left, light-grey in this light because it's white. Definitely I'm not quite awake, and a bit afraid because I've woken up in a strange place after being in my own bed the nite before. My stomach does a few flip flops. I must hurry because the day has begun for my uncle who has begun his chores, which we will accompany him in today. But just for a few seconds, I have this moment, while my sister is not quite awake in bed, looking out the window at a new beginning, the unknown, and the experience is thrilling in calm way, like a slow gathering hummmm....

This is the moment I like to begin painting in. I wake early in the morning and rush to the studio, just to keep this feeling. The world is a bit more awake by the time I get there, but not yet in its full speed. I think of moms packing lunches in brown bags and kids sleepily forcing their limbs to dress, brush teeth and grab school bags. Actually, this is just background music. Things are still fairly quiet and I don't yet have to plug in my music box. I can spend a few moments contemplating the previous days work, seeing what needs improving, what needs developing, feeling my space take me in, recognize me and envelope my spirit. It's been waiting and it enlarges me. The first stroke, no, the idea of the first stroke, is intimidating. Once there though, time is erased and there is only seeing and unfolding what I see on the canvas. This is why I come to the studio. This is why I get up early. This is why I breathe, breathe in this moment, as morning light spills out touching everything, bringing color, definition, life, a resurrection of all that was lost in slumber in the night. Begin.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Morning Song

It's been raining non-stop here. Summer storms mixed with constant rain, and just a peek of sun at times. Nonetheless, at 4 am, with the first light you hear the blackbird joyfully singing away. No complaining about spending the night out in the cold and wet, but a "here comes the new day" cheerfulness. One could learn a lot from the blackbird.

Here's what I wonder, why don't they pick more cheerful art in hospitals? Maybe it's the lighting, I'm sure that has something to do with it, and the overall decor. Ok, I know, it's a Hospital, but, couldn't there be some sort of community group who pushes for funds to make it a happy place to be? But then, you'd have to define happy and please everyone's tastes... I guess it's too hard. There is artwork in the local hospital here, most of blending in with the walls. While you wait, you have magazines to flip through or you can stare at the walls. Suddenly you notice, hey there's something on the walls. Oh yeah, art. And it would be nice to have a sort of explanation. Who's art, maybe educate people as to the kind of art. Or are people just mostly took sick or wrapped up in themselves to enjoy it? Well, maybe I'll see what the exhibit schedule is there and see if I can arrange something sometime. I know that in DC there's a great program with art at the Children's Hospital. My dear friend, Ron Paul, was working there when he passed on. Of course, there's the monetary angle, who's going to administer such a thing, etc. Deserves looking into.

That's the thing, trying to combine all my ideas and get my work done too. I'd like somehow to marry this idea of community and art with my own personal painting goals. Might not be this year though, as I've still much to learn and produce! In the meantime, I'm rolling this thought around in my brain, art as healing, art as a medium for health in society.

Here's a a really great site I just found that has some of the same thoughts:
http://www.artashealing.org/

and here's another one I keep having the intention to do something with:
http://www.art4development.net/

and, while I'm at it, I don't want to forget someone who is outstanding in her efforts of combining art and community:
http://www.virginiaspiegel.com/NewFiles/ACSFundraiser.html

So it's out there, opportunity to get involved, heal, help with art! It does take time and it does take effort. I'm the first to say I'm guilty of not taking either one. But it's on my back burner and I hope I can get it to the front soon! It's all in tune with a philosophy of community and helping each other and we all have something to give. Even if it's just a simple song at first light.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Free Admission

Good morning! So nice to have this way to wake up. Not a coffee drinker, or tea for that matter, so a little grapefruit juice and I begin to verbalize, slowly... Yet another rainy day here in the Lower Countries, but it's ok for grisaille. Actually, that's one of the reasons I'm working this way. You only really need good sunlight when you add the color! Of course it is good to have light to check out the values.

It has occurred to me to explain to you all a bit of what I'm doing. About a year and a half ago I began learning painting with a friend. If you read the archives here you can see a bit of history there. I'd done a bit of oil painting in college with a good teacher, but didn't pursue it as I got into textiles. I did enjoy it but I think the truth is that I didn't want to work that hard! I was putting myself through school with a full time job and just barely making it. No regrets though, because the textiles took me on a wonderful journey and in the end I was working hard because I loved it anyway.

When I got here to the Netherlands, I started drawing more and more. Mostly it was to improve my textiles but it took on a life of its own. But there came a certain point where I knew I needed help and had to set aside ego and go get it. I've been a self-educator for a long time and still believe strongly in that and continue to read like mad to learn, but sometimes it is just better to see what someone else can show you and cut a few roads to the main one you want to go down.

Long story, but I decided oil painting was a good idea. Part of it was also because I could see that it was more marketable than textiles. But that is something I've let go of now. Money should never be mixed with the idea making good art. If you have to live on it, ok, that's another kettle of fish and you should think of the best way to do it well and be prosperous, but if you can, don't think about the money while you're making it. Think about beauty, think about fun, think about making art, but think about the money and marketing after. Well, it's my mantra, it doesn't have to be yours.

Back to the story. So I began learning the basics all over again. I've been teaching art for a while so I figured I had that down, but no. Realist painting really won't forgive anything halfway. Sure I knew one point and two point perspective on an elementary level, but that wasn't, isn't, enough. I'm still wrapping my head around that. And value and hue and chroma...all of it. It's quite a challenge. The biggest difficulty for me though was to let go of this tendency to get involved in detail. My friend calls it "looking only partly". I get so fascinated by the small intricacies of each object that I forget to look at the whole picture. This, I think, is finally starting to sink in. It took so long because, well, I'm stubborn. I have my ways and, I suppose because I'm older, am a bit stuck in them. Not that I wasn't always so. It's ironic because I see myself as very open, and yet when it comes to changing habits, it is a struggle.

The best part of learning painting is how it has helped me to view life. One, not looking partly. Looking at the whole picture. I know of a few, more than a few, politicians who could benefit from learning this one rule. Also, that you just can't force life. Creativity, life, has it's own speed, it's own path, and jumping ahead only means you have to eventually backtrack or lose your way. (Though sometimes losing your way is one way to find it.) Best of all about painting is that I'm always learning and know I will keep on learning with this medium for the rest of my life. What a wonderful challenge, exercise, meditation. Painting is a key and I'm using it to unlock all the doors and secret chambers that lie hidden in my mind and in my world. I'm planning on leaving them unlocked, so feel free to drop in for a visit. Admission is free.