Sunday, July 29, 2012

keeping kool

Keep your kustom kake and ice kream kold in this kooler. I was looking at some of my work from the past few months and there are more than a few ice-cream-related paintings. I suppose there always have been. I am currently working on a new one which is 36"x36". Large, more signage. When I'm not eating it, I'm still thinking about it. Although I never drink soda, and am still drawn to old soda logos. Today I made a peach-nectarine-plum-raspberry-blueberry crisp for my family which we ate with scoops of vanilla. 

12"x12", acrylic on box-canvas

6"x6" oil on canvas

Thursday, July 26, 2012

talking head

This evening someone came to my studio to film me for Chronogram magazine, for a short film that will be shown on their website, and it was easily one of the most challenging experiences of my life. Note I did not say 'excruciating', but I feel completely worn out, also giddy with relief that whatever I said, it's over and it's up to the filmmaker to whittle it down to something watchable. This is sort of how I felt after the interview for the short article for same publication, which went very well, but being in front of a camera with a bright light is rather a more alien experience. Though I haven't really been interviewed before either. This relative media blitz is to accompany their August cover on which my Ice Machine painting will be featured! I may well have mentioned this previously; I am excited about it, as it is a widely distributed magazine in the Hudson Valley, and my sneak preview of the cover assures me that the painting looks good.
Anyway, after I welled up, melted down and cooled off, I was able to pull some words together to discuss the cover image and my work and thoughts. The guy was amazing throughout all of this, and once I got going I was all right. I'm not sure why it is so difficult for me, I wonder if it might get easier if I did these things more often. I hope the opportunity does arise more, as it would mean that I had stuff goin' on, that more people were seeing my work and perhaps finding something in it they like. Thereby making it possible, even if it necessitates more talking, for me to keep painting.

Monday, July 23, 2012

firing up the neurons

I just read the recent book Imagine: How Creativity Works, by Jonah Lehrer. Full disclosure, I listened to it, which at least in this case gives me a different experience of the text. Certain concepts and phrases reverberate in my head, but I can't easily flip back through the pages to reread what I particularly enjoyed, or didn't fully comprehend, or missed while executing a maneuver in traffic, or noisily inverting a wheelbarrow full of wood. For I have begun stacking firewood again. I discovered that listening to a book is a brilliant way to engage my brain while my body is physically exerting itself with the work. I don't know why I never did it before. I spend hours thinking my own thoughts enough as it is, which can be constructive and entertaining, but can play itself out and make me emotionally vulnerable to circular meanderings. I've become increasingly better at redirecting my thoughts in order to maintain equilibrium. This doesn't mean I've reduced my daydreaming, just that I'm more aware of its effects, and its varying degrees of usefulness.
This idea of mindful daydreaming leads me back to describing the book. I have referenced a few reviews (here's one from the Times worth linking to). Lehrer employs diverse and interesting case studies and explains neuroscience in a way that I find accessible; call it pop science, but it's popular because of how fascinating we find the idea of demystifying human creativity: How do insights happen, how does this translate into everyday applications?
"Drawing from a wide array of scientific and sociological research... he makes a convincing case that innovation cannot only be studied and measured, but also nurtured and encouraged, revealing creativity as less a sign of rare genius than a natural human potential."
"The book doesn’t offer a prescription for how we are to become more imaginative, but it does emphasize some key ingredients of a creative culture: taking education seriously, increasing possibilities for human mixing and cultivating a willingness to take risks," to not only seek inspiration but to recognize and welcome it when it comes. Not to mention the power of daydreaming and nonlinear thinking. The many anecdotes relate how others "transform practice, frustration, insight and persistence into artistry and industry."
One of the interviews I especially liked was with Milton Glaser, the legendary graphic designer, whose "Art Is Work" motto (and book) I appreciated years ago at SVA. When I was at the Vermont Studio Center in Feb, happy to be painting but mentally and physically weary due to life upheavals, focused but feeling disconnected, a friend wrote me some simple words I found comforting, among them, "Try and relax and produce. You need not feel like an outsider, you are an artist and have work to do. Keep making stuff." I did.
As I expected of Imagine given the complex subject, I perceived inevitable contradictions, occasional redundancy and a sense of inconclusiveness. How could it be otherwise? Does one mainline stimulants (not that this is encouraged, but is a common device)? Isolate oneself or be among others? Be relaxed or challenged? Energetic or depressed? What of the role of the Internet, its brimming potential for inspiration plus its spectacular ability to numb and distract? The obvious point that there is no singular path, as naturally the workings of creativity and the brain are ever shape-shifting. Considered by many to be smartly researched and very readable, the book provides everyone with something to chew on. Yet a kind of mystery still pervades. I felt that the contents of my mental toolbox had received a good polish; I could see them more clearly as they caught the light.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


I've been making more tiny pieces- collage/paintings- using my old road maps and other pictures. Here are several, 2" or 3" square. I like doing them but am aware that if I hope to fill the decent-sized gallery at Hudson Beach Glass in Sept, I need to be making some larger work. As I've said, these can provide ideas for other paintings, from palette to composition. Though I have also learned that what is perfect small doesn't always work when revisited on a big surface. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

look who's chalking

 Here's photos of my work at the Perry Chalk Art Festival. On Friday I hung my show of 15 or so paintings at the Arts Council gallery there and held a reception in the evening (it will be up through July 27), and yesterday was chalking day, along with the farmers market, live music, vendors, and an outdoor food-tasting event. I hadn't fully planned my 5' square beyond a general idea of drawing an abundance of 'brain food', possibly engulfing the rusty Coca-Cola sign.
After chalking my fingers off for 5 hours in the sun (with a break to gobble 10 small plates of food), I started to wonder what on earth I was trying to convey, and all my fruits and vegetables started to look like other things. My brother helpfully pointed out that maybe that, in itself, was the (subtle) food for thought, to which I assented, gratefully.
I gulped bottles of water, crawled dustily around my square clutching bright pastel stubs and wondered if I'd bitten off more than I could chalk. I followed through with my Coke logo in hopes of highlighting the nutritional chasm between these elements. I suspected I should have gone with one of my non-food-related ideas, but I suppose I just wanted to draw a lot of stuff, and I wasn't the only one who had fruit on the brain. Summer= abundance. The milk was also because this area is home to many dairy farms. I like the detail shots, each one is a mini-composition. This morning's rain washed much of the chalk away, leaving colorful ghostly streaks on the concrete, and the memory of a good day.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

ice cream or rust

 While driving upstate to the NYFA follow-up session at Golden Artist Colors on Saturday (which, while a good experience that I will soon address, is not what this particular post is about) I passed Man Cave Antiques. Old signs piled up around the entrance and a tired-looking truck parked out front. I vowed to stop there on my way back. I entered to a roomful of more signs, mirrored or metal, old bottles and glasses, some faux-vintage which makes me shudder, and a friendly owner who, once I mentioned I liked painting some of this stuff, engaged me in a conversation about the inconsistencies of art pricing. "Take this one," he said, pulling out a ludicrous Renoir copy. "I know a guy who..." he began, as I nodded and shrugged, nearly straight-faced.

I wandered outside and after asking permission, took a few photos. We talked about rust. "Rust is a must," he said, and then his brother came by and repeated the line, so it might have been a motto for their collection. "That was our first sign," he said fondly, pointing out a tattered Quaker Oil. He said he was in baseball (this was near Cooperstown) but happened into this everything-you-need-to-furnish-your man-cave business. I used to think the term man-cave was pejorative, but it is clearly as legitimate as 'kitchen' or 'living room'.
Today I did a painting of an ice cream sign I found there, on a square canvas shaped like a box (3" deep) that someone gave me 4 years ago and I never knew what to do with it. I'd had the vague idea that I would paint it to look like an actual object, and even though the sign was flat, it kind of looks now like you could open it up and dig in your spoon. If this frozen dessert thing seems like a preoccupation, it is, but let's call it a 'theme' of my work rather than a                                                      curious fixation. Then it is art.

Monday, July 9, 2012

on the stick

Got to get on the stick.. the popsicle stick, that is. I made this painting (12"x16" acrylic on wood) for the talented and generous King of Pop (believe it or not, I didn't come up with that particular play on words, he did) who let me exhibit my work at his popsicle shop during Beacon Open Studios. I go in there and peer down into the case at the array of beautiful handmade paletas stacked this way and that in their boxes, at least 2 dozen varying flavors, with colors ranging from pale to bright. I tried to get the impression of that sight, at least, if not the density of layers. Mixing the muted hues, before I decided to outline them, made me imagine what a case of popsicles painted by Morandi might look like. More elusive to capture is that feeling of anticipation which accompanies the gaze, in that moment before you select between fruity or milky, bracingly tart or creamy sweet. Today mine combined the two in a vanilla pop loaded with fresh cherries. 

A still life by Morandi, 1948

Also, to clear up any confusion (or to smooth any smirking complexions), to 'get on the stick' means to get busy, get going, and alludes to starting a car using the stick shift. However, fewer and fewer people learn to drive a standard transmission, I've gathered. I'm rather proud that I can drive one. Even though these days the main thing I feel like clutching is... a popsicle stick. Or an ice cream cone.

Sunday, July 8, 2012


 This image on the left probably has a little something to do with why I ended up not posting this past week. I was visiting a friend on Nantucket for a few days, having a wonderful time that went by too quickly. Most of my non-loafing hours were spent scribbling out the action plan I ought to have been thoughtfully completing over the past 3 weeks, in preparation for the Bootcamp follow-up yesterday. (It still went well.) I did not demonstrate the best time-management, an ongoing challenge which I helpfully noted to myself in a long and optimistic paragraph. However, I gave myself credit for the other things I managed to accomplish in June: inclusion in the great circus show at Mad Dooley Gallery in Beacon (197 Main, through next Sat); preparing two solo exhibitions for July (after opening Fri, the Vegas one was mentioned briefly on this Arts Vegas blog, and the Perry one goes up this week); and submitting a painting for the Aug cover of Chronogram. So I felt okay lounging in the sun on that breezy beach on the 4th of July, later heading out to watch fireworks over the ocean.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

whatever happens..

Paintings arrived safely in Vegas. The poster for the TastySpace show:
I spent yesterday afternoon painting many little faces at Beacon Riverfest. I love the moment when I hold up the mirror so they can see their painted face and they break into a big smile. Sometimes they are shy (the small kids) but I can tell they like it, and it makes me happy too. The sun was hot, the music was good, and the balloons I blew up (helium) bobbed in colorful columns by the entrance. Tired by day's end, unexpectedly emotional, but everything dissolved after an evening dip in a friend's pool beneath the moonlight and a cold beer. Plus a tiny impromptu dance party, solid friends, and conversation on the corner of East Main by the dummy light at one a.m. in the warm summer night air.