Saturday, June 17, 2017

Where in the HELL Have I Been?  2017-W24

That is well-asked. As I begin this post, I don't even know yet how long since the last post... is it nearly a year, a bit over a year? We'll all soon see once I log into the blogger. Update: it's been almost 11 months. Wow. But heck, at least under a year.

I haven't done too much art in that time, but during the hiatus I did start (and eventually complete) today's painting which is the next in my Paintbox of Horror series. Every Halloween I plan to do one, and often I do do one tho in this case I don't think I finished it until around Easter time. I'd like to complete another 18-20 paintings this year (not to mention some sketchbook work), and more would be... more than welcome.

I have a bunch of other art reboot schemes underway, or under contemplation. Is this all a delayed-onset reaction to the madness that seems to have descended on the world? Maybe it's nothing that deep, but still, I am looking forward to taking a retreat into a world of my own making for at least a few hours a week. [Let's be real, twice a month for re-starters.]

Perhaps the idea of "reset" will soon be shaping larger events -- and we need it after the recent string of violence and mayhem. Case in point: I can't call myself a fan of Ted Nugent (nor most of his body of work), but I have to give him some respect for coming out in public to say that maybe everyone should be dialing things back a notch, starting with himself. Alright man, let's do it.

That's enough of current events for one blog, and I won't unfurl a newsletter-style update of what I did between last July and today. But I may take an interesting highlight or two from those eleven months and weave them into some blog posts down the road. I have been fortunate to be doing some work lately that is very rewarding emotionally.

With that, I guess let's turn back to today's painting, which I like looking at — and not just because it's me. I enjoy the contrast in how, on the one hand, I appear vaguely like an upper echelon member of the Catholic hierarchy. Whereas of course on the other hand I'm a dimestore Beelzebub*. I know many people who would say with emphasis, "you're both". But would they mean figuratively or literally? I've heard solid evidence from both sides of that case.

Besides today's painting, you can see other entries in the Paintbox of Horror series in my historic gallery by using the link up top/left. While we'll have to wait on the next in that series, fear not for I have a bunch of Banshees that I can bring to life for that series, and not to mention some future landscapes from Cape Cod and the great state of Maine. Thanks for stopping by, and enjoy!

Paintbox of Horror V: Hell YEAH!

*Very literally a "dimestore Beelzebub" owing to the fact I bought those horns at a Woolworths in England many years ago

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

One Down, Many to Go  2016-W29

Let me first say Gretchen Carlson isn't the impetus for the Banshee series I've been painting of late. But yes, she's been floating around the overflowing pool of potential subjects — those generally blonde females who comprise the blathering talent at Fox News. Prior to last week, I'd still be laughing now if you'd told me that Gretchen would soon earn my grudging respect.

But she has done. She must have known that to come forward with her accusations against the powerful predator Roger Ailes, she consequently would have to prove her case and at the same time fight back attacks on her character and her reasons for doing so. Because that is often the way it plays out in America when women accuse men of sexual misconduct in the workplace. I don't know if I like much else about Gretchen Carlson, but I admire her courage. Best of luck to her as she presses her case.

Which brings me to the other player in this drama and to another series I painted circa 2011: the Faces of Evil. For this series, I selected (evil) people of whom I was aware but (it turns out) the public at large were not. Sure, they knew Dick Cheney and maybe one or two others, but nobody ever correctly guessed FoE #4... Roger Ailes. I suspect that after the events of this week, they might do better — at least in the short term.

Time will tell if Ms. Carlson prevails in her legal actions against Mr. Ailes et al, but we didn't have to wait long to see Roger's fall from the top of the Fox News mountain. What all this means for America remains to be seen, yet one can hardly imagine it could be anything besides a change for the better.

The other Faces of Evil can be seen in a special section of my online gallery. As for Roger Ailes, who knows what he might do or where he might be seen next? (Probably in courtroom sketches.) With that said, if ever they decide to remake The Maltese Falcon, I urge the producers to consider Mr. Ailes to take on the role of the despicable Kasper Gutman...  "the Fat Man". I smell Oscar.

Faces of Evil:  Roger Ailes

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Too Much Time  2016-W26

I've been off work for the past two weeks, but don't ask me what I've been up to because the answer is: besides gardening, not much.

I don't know if a universal truth underlies this experience, but in my experience too much time inhibits progress. To wit, I have found that when I have all the time in the world to do something I often end up doing nothing. Or at least I will procrastinate until suddenly there is only just enough time to get done whatever it was needed doing.

Three loads of laundered and line-dried clothes sit in my dining room awaiting folding... but I can do that later. While I watch TV. Or tomorrow. Because it might rain and can't do much gardening when things are wet. And so on and so forth. Now it is a week later and the clothes are still very tidily awaiting the overdue fold-n-stow process. In my defense, I haven't yet worn anything I've peeled directly off the folding queue, except for some sweatpants (it got very chilly here the past two days) and besides they were already folded and on top, ready for the drawer.

In this same vein, I have been procrastinating writing this blog post for a few weeks now. To get started, I figured I would need some synonyms for "procrastinate" and there are some good ones: Delay. Loiter. Putter. Fritter. Trifle & Dabble. And my favorite: Loaf. I don't mind plenty of the latter after a good productive day. Occasionally however, I make Loafing the primary output of my day's efforts. To paraphrase an old didactic aphorism, any job worth not doing is worth not doing well.

I have been diligent about keeping after all the pent up yardwork and some re-work while I'm at it. In fact I thought I'd take some pictures and use the "art" of my garden as fodder for the post. Sadly, when I signed in I see that I have already did that last post.

Which brings me to the painting I want to show you today but which I did a few weeks back now. It continues the Banshee series and I really like a lot of things about it. Seasoned painters can often look back and identify breakthroughs in their artistry or technique and I don't want to be premature or pompous but I do feel like the last few entries in the Banshee series have been a breakthrough for me, artistically. I need to say "enough" with the garden and get back to painting. And folding laundry and whatever else has "gotten sidetracked" (another good, passive synonym for procrastinate — thanks Z).

In closing, let me note that Banshees are female figures in Celtic mythology and so all to date have been women. But I fear that gives the impression of misogyny so the next marcher in my parade of banshees will be male. In fact, the painting is ready to get started on. If only I would stop procrastinating...

Banshee X

Sunday, June 5, 2016

You Can Only Win Battles  2016-W23

A year ago this time, I undertook a career reinvigorating learning experience that consumed every spare waking hour from June through October. I was either working, doing school work, or taking the train home to sleep. Then back the next day and that's it, those four things. No weekends... those got devoted to schoolwork. Ah well, I'm better for it (I think).

Which brings us to today, where in the war of Back Yard vs Mother Nature, my forces have been slowly reclaiming territory that got overtaken during the Lost Summer of 2015. Technically, the "lost" time extended well into the fall so garden cleanup chores went undone as well. To understate, Spring 2016 found me with a lot of yard and garden work to do.

Humans have proven themselves more than capable of thriving and expanding the reach of their territory, and the garden has many similar species: lemon balm, rose of Sharon (which I just learned is the national flower of South Korea), vinca — and my arch nemesis, the white poplar. All are prolific, some spreading by seed and one, the heinous poplar, by sending up baby trees from points along its massive root system.

Each tree-let has to be dug out by hand, some go quietly and others really fight to the death. As the process requires a lot of jumping onto a shovel to drive it through a gnarly root, I can only manage so many in a day. But this year, I unleashed a secret weapon: the Hofer. My new neighbor wanted to pitch in with the yard work and took to the poplar task with zeal...  as I knew and he discovered, it is oh so satisfying when each moment of triumph arrives and another (former) young poplar joins the pile of uprooted wannabes awaiting disposal.

When you combine his youthful zeal and his many-pound weight advantage over me, the Hofer is a poplar slaying machine. In two days he cleared away the mini-forest, a task that this year would have taken me at least a week. And his partner proved herself quite adept at uprooting the hundreds of miniature rose of Sharon saplings that filled most of the available space between the dozen roses in my rose bed.

In the meantime I focused on clearing out and rejuvenating the herb border and I think once I plant some new thyme and lavender we can call it done. And I would already have done that except for the RAIN. All our yards are flush with green. Anything that was already in the ground has been flourishing because of all the RAIN. But unfortunately, you cannot till or plant in wet earth and because it has RAINed every other day, it has been a challenge getting things planted or transplanted.

But we press on. The goal this year is to plant out about a third of the beds and then renovate the remainder. After a couple of decades, this seems overdue. Just as I've transitioned life stages, so must the garden! I need it to be more self driving so I can better tend what needs tending. And at the same time make it even more hospitable for the birds, bees, and butterflies that visit us in droves. I haven't seen the rabbit yet this year —I hope the feral cats that pester our neighborhood haven't killed the poor thing. I wonder if I can plant anything to kill the cats?

For those who wonder (which may only be me), I didn't see Old Red in bloom this year but I did find his leaves so let's hope he'll be back next spring for his 23rd appearance. In what, fingers crossed, are somewhat more attractive and well-planted surroundings. When and if he does pop up, Old Red will see me hard at work... in the war with Mother Nature, you have to win every battle you can even though we know she ultimately wins the war.

Spring flower studies
Since I las posted, the Salon deWinchester gathered a couple times to paint and I used the opportunity to be inspired by spring and to experiment with some new paints and stuff.

The wee tulip study I made using watercolor markers, which I think is the new "thing". I learned I wouldn't use them for a full work, but they'll be great for adding linear elements. Which is something I've wanted to explore... along with a dozen other things.

Moving on, the more vivid (lurid?) study is made with paints that use polymer binders instead of the traditional gum arabic. Thanks, NASA! Don't know if I am a fan but these paints sure pack a lot of punch I will say. A little goes a long way.

I will wrap with a tease... I have a great new banshee painting that I'll publish next week together with a more thoughtful, less anecdotal posting to accompany it.

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy both of today's studies as well as the splendid (albeit soggy) June weather. Since it RAINed overnight, no planting today. Instead, I'm off for coffee with some 2015 school chums. See you soon!

Aforementioned Herb Border, Post-Rejuvenation.
Visible are Thymes, Sage, Lavender, Tarragon, Savory, assorted Mints and Marjoram, Chives,
plus Sweet Alyssum and Cosmos for a bit of flowery color; Lemon Balm, Oregano
and Rosemary are hidden from view.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Conceit  2016-W17

Perhaps based on interpretations from the Bible, or perhaps merely arrogance, some humans harbor a conceit that we are the only "animal" that can feel or express certain emotions — human emotions, if you will. Many other humans know better; further proof was delivered by a moving episode of PBS program Nature, where we see a number of reunions between animal orphans and their carers.

The reunions happen after the animals have transitioned to partly or fully lived lives in the wild. We aren't so surprised by the gorilla... after all, they're primates as are we. As it happened, the gorilla seems rather "matey" and waved his horde of wives in to meet his old friend and carer. More surprising were the elephants. And the man who raises elephant orphans, whose devotion inspires. In this reunion, we see not one but two excited young elephant ladies and a bit of a girl fight over their long unseen carer.

Very surprising to me was the cheetah. Long story short, she allowed a human to be near her litter of cubs. And even let them clamber and explore her human friend as he lay back. Whatever emotion she felt toward him is nothing we can fathom — we aren't cheetahs. But what is clear and incredible: her emotional bond with the human put her at ease in a situation where she by nature would be her most vigilant and dangerous self.

Lastly the chimpanzees, and as with gorillas we expect them to act like us. They practically are us, after all. While those reunions unfold as expected, the stunning surprise here arose from a different situation. As she was caged, being transported for release to the wild, a chimp was comforted by a woman the chimp had never met, and only knew for the hour or so that the boat ride endured. Ashore and released from the cage, the chimp explored this new space and then leapt atop the cage, near the woman who gave her comfort. And then the chimp hugged this woman so tenderly. A virtual stranger who made an immediate emotional impact on this animal.

We can never know exactly what this chimpanzee was thinking or feeling. We can't say what message she meant to convey to her source of comfort. But we can say that what the chimp felt was the equal of any of our more lofty human emotions. Maybe "human emotion" should be retired as a meaningless phrase.

I'll tackle another meaningless phrase in the next post. Meanwhile, here's a recent abstract study. I think at the time I gave it a jokey name like Square Planets in a Warm Galaxy but I withdraw that. I enjoyed deciding which side was up... see if you agree!

Abstract Study

Sunday, April 10, 2016

That's More Like It  2016-W15

Last week/last blog I stopped painting at a point where I liked what I had about as much as I thought I could like that particular painting at all. And I liked it well enough but in short order I decided to do it again this week and I'm much more satisfied.

As I started to write the blog, my 20-month old neighbor let rip with quite the volley of noes before launching a level four wailer of a meltdown — not sweet, but it was short — and after it ended I again felt satisfied. (She's moving soon and I'll miss seeing her toddle around in the back yard. Good luck, little lady!)

In the week between versions of the ninth banshee, I had two lunches. Each with a former workmate who's now a friend. Always nice seeing them, and even more so this week as I shared how much I enjoy doing the work I'm doing now. That was satisfying.

It sure is nice to be back on the sunny side of the street. I'm looking forward to the coming week. Hope yours is a good one, and enjoy (or don't) today's painting!

Substantive Variation on Banshee IX

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Damn Right, Linda!  2016-W13

Recently I was YouTube surfing one evening — as you do — and I can't recollect if the all knowing Google recommended this video, or did I just stumble acrost it? Never matter, the point is I watched it all the same. So what was it?  Near as I can tell, it's an hour of raw footage of living legend Linda Ronstadt being interviewed for TV circa 2012. If you don't know who she is, GET OUT NOW.

Along with the heartbreaking news that, due to her Parkinson's she no longer can sing, I also learned that she is a voracious reader and (I think) has a very good head on her shoulders. But that isn't why I landed on her as today's topic.

More than once in her interview, she said emphatically that everyone should sing. Brilliant artists — and she named several but excluded herself, even though she dropped 8 straight platinum albums, boom — brilliant artists exist to inspire the rest of us. And we enjoy their great talent but that should never stop us from making our own music as best we can.

I sing not so great. Fortunately, as long as my youngest brother is nearby I have plenty of scope to avoid being dubbed "worst singer present". (If not "ever".) And the same goes for painting. I have previously written posts on my painting motto, which is: keep up the bad work!  If you do, eventually you make one that's pretty good. So very satisfying when that happens.

Still, even the bad ones have their charms. After all, I'm the only one who could have created them. I was startled to hear that Linda rarely listens to her own music, because each recording is a static snapshot of art that she feels evolves each time it is performed. She hears all the flaws in her recording of Blue Bayou, which I think most other music lovers would call a triumph. Even baseball fans recognized its genius: "Linda Rondstadt" is now synonymous for a fastball. Because, you know, it "blew by you". Har har.

We all of us should pay heed to Linda's admonitions and keep singing, or dancing, or painting, or whatever it is that you're not world-famous for. Life is too short to worry about how it will be received by others; what's important is that you put it out there.  As for Linda not loving Blue Bayou, well that's just Crazy — which is my favorite of her many brilliant solo recordings even though it was only the B side on the single. Go figure.

Today's subject is a hate monger but ineffectual so I decided to not name her and deny her that empowerment; she isn't nearly as pretty as the painting. I had planned to take today's painting a bit further but stopped here because it felt right. I don't know if I'd call it A-side material, but even if it's a B side I like it and I hope you enjoy it too.

Banshee IX