Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Figuratively Seaking - Cyrus the Great

6"x6" oil  "Cyrus's Bouquet"
History is so interesting.  Depending on how you understand the events of the past, and what version you are studying, it completely flavors how you see things today.  If you don't know much history, then everything is a bit of a first impression. Although history is made of stories with facts attached,  it always represents a point of view. Still it can be so enlightening to see how events unfold and influence attitudes and opinions that echo way into the future.  In this day of alternative realities, it seems all the more important to tell the stories that represent the closest version of truth available.  Today I have been exploring Cyrus the Great who is attributed with building the largest empire the world had seen up to that point in human history.  He is considered the Father of Iran and still has much influence in the culture and politics of Iran.  He is mentioned in the Jewish faith in having returned the Babylonian exiles to Jerusalem and is also thought by some Muslim scholars to be in the Qur'an.  Many considered him to be a tolerant leader who allowed freedom for the people to follow their own religious beliefs and customs which aided a peaceful transition when their kingdoms were conquered. It will be interesting to see how our current rulers will play out in history.  I wonder if Cyrus had a florist.  That seems like one of those traditions that go far back into history...picking flowers and putting them in a container.  It has no real purpose other than to lift our spirits and bring beauty into our lives.  Enjoy this one.
Below is my 30 sketches in 30 days project all wrapped up....go figure!

Monday, January 30, 2017

Figuratively Speaking - Windblown

I taught a painting session today at the lovely Harvest Moon Restaurant.  We painted a fun winter scene on beautiful slate.  Andrea, the proprietor, provided homemade potato and sweet potato chips and Focaccia pizza, while wine, beer and Argentinian pastries were available for purchase.  A good time was had by all.  After I have been teaching, or have lead a painting group, I always feel rather hyper and it takes me a while to settle down.  This sketch is a self portrait based on my Facebook profile photo.  I am windblown in the sun.  It is rather appropriate for how I am feeling.  This also marks day 30 in the 30 paintings in 30 days challenge.  I am going to continue with sketches for February as I took a 60 sketch challenge but I am also going to do a few paintings as I am ready for color.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Figuratively Speaking -

My boys came to visit yesterday.  We celebrated my baby's 38th birthday (that is revealing) by going to an indoor virtual golf place and played for a couple of hours on a beautiful seaside golf course while it snowed outside. We laughed, teased, and munched on really good tasting but bad for you food.  I felt a little sick after a couple of pieces of fried cheese.  Then we played space miniature golf (all computerized) and I won!  I got a hole in one, a birdie and par.  I was feeling pretty pumped up until Carl pointed out I was last one up and had the advantage of analyzing the play. Being the only woman can be tricky business when playing with men.  There is a spirit of generosity and graciousness until you beat them!  I rarely get to have my boys all to myself.  They are usually accompanied by friends or their family, which is also fun, but I need my mother/son time once in a blue moon.  Virtual golf was a success with this crowd, and we will do it again someday. We usually go bowling once a year and I think it is about time to do that.  I will make sure I am first on the roster so I don't have the advantage of analyzing the other bowlers.....go figure!

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Figuratively Speaking - Cheekiness

I love this cheeky fellow.  He is much taller and can read today, but he is still cheeky. Cheeky:  impudent in an endearing way.  That is the definition I choose to associate with that word.  My son-in-law is from England.  His native vocabulary has worked its way into our family speech and "cheeky" is one of my favorites.  My husband likes the phrase "taking a lie down."  Carl is a bit phlegmatic (cool, composed, calm, and a bit laid back).  I understand that the Prime Minister of England, Theresa May, is visiting the US president today. I wonder what phrases attributed to their respective nationalities and personalities, were being tossed about.  I would like to have been a fly on the wall in that discussion.  That phrase, "fly on the wall" apparently is an American invention from the 1920's.  So back to "cheeky."    It comes from the word "cheek" with a definition of "insolence".  I think "cheeky" is more "tongue in cheek" then insolence.  By the way, that is a phrase of British origin.  I clearly have too much time on my hands to be writing about this.  Bringing it back around to politics, someone who really looked adorable when he was being cheeky was the president who recently passed the mantle ( I won't go into that phrase) .  Here he is, tongue in cheek
....Go Figure!

Friday, January 27, 2017

Figuratively Speaking - Time Dilemma

There seem to be more moments in life when we are either wishing time would pass more quickly to get to an exciting event or to avoid an unpleasant one, or wishing it would slow down because there isn't enough time in the day to do whatever, or the babies are growing up too fast, or I just wish I could sit on this beach for a few days more.  Rarely it seems do we actually live in the moment and appreciate it fully by breathing deeply and letting our senses and feelings just savor the moment.  I think it is true that time seems to speed up as we get older.  Maybe it has to do with coming to terms with our own mortality.  We know we have a limited amount of time left...how are we going to experience it?  I was doing yoga the other day and the instructor  was guiding us in relaxation.  She said, "go to your happy place."  Immediately the image of my grandkids came to mind.  They were climbing on me, and snuggling into my lap and then my mind went to the garden and we all were dancing.  I can't say this was the most relaxing image.  I could feel my muscles responding to the image, but it was an authentic "happy place."  I don't think we have to sit still to really be in the moment.  I know artists who talk about being in the zone when time seems to stand still.  I think this happens to us all in different situations.  It helps us to live life to the fullest by stretching out those moments when we are really in tune with where we are.  I hope you enjoy your moments today.  I am going to conscientiously walk down the stairs and start the laundry and really be in the moment with my detergent and dirty clothes.  Go figure.....

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Figuratively Speaking - Self Critiquing

 I have been really paying attention to values lately...dark, light, and mid-values.  It makes for a better design I think, and really defines the light.  However, I see that the strong shadow cast by the fan, in this drawing, is too solid looking.  It has too much substance.  I think I need to go back in and use the eraser to lighten it and give it more of a transparent look.  This process of self critiquing is really important.  Rather than feeling frustrated by what doesn't work, I am trying to think it through logically and make real decisions about what changes need to happen.  Of course I think this applies to everything...our everyday lives.  Self critiquing, not criticizing or self promoting, is a worthwhile pursuit and will, hopefully, in the long run make us better people.  Keeping the good....getting rid of the not-so-good...refining...polishing. We need to check out our own values to see if they are a transparent filter in which the world views each of us, instead of a solid object that we turn into a soap box to stand on.   Self critiquing is a good process, don't you think?  Go Figure....

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Figuratively Speaking -Ethan Allen and the Girl in Fringy Shawl

In 1777 Vermont was declared an independent state in Westminter after 36 years of squabbling, and worse, between New York, New Hampshire and the Green Mountain Boys (rebels) headed by Ethan and Ira Allen.  The United States government did not recognize it at that time and there were secret negotiations about joining the British through Canada.
Vermont really is just a sliver of land.  My husband calls it a state park with lots of villages.  The population is about 1/2 million and the largest city is only 38,000.  Montpelier is the only state capitol to not have a McDonald's (you won't find a Walmart or a Starbucks either). 
The Green Mountains run north-south like a spine, down the center of the state.  The Taconic Mountains border the southwestern border, Lake Champlain the northwest border and the Connecticut River runs the length of the eastern border.  It has traditionally been a conservative state (Calvin Coolidge) but in recent history, it has leaned seriously left politically.  You may recall that Bernie Sanders represents Vermont.
I love our good food, gorgeous scenery, generous attitude, focus on health and exercise, access to arts and culture and education, entrepreneurial spirit, and of course the lovely young girls in fringy shawls!  It provides a lifestyle worth defending and I am glad that Ethan Allen was a fiery radical who helped carve out this forest and make it into a state.
Just in case you wondered.....go figure!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Figuratively Speaking - Chasing Shadows

Do you ever feel like you are chasing shadows?  I live in ski country and so the phrase is used by enthusiasts to describe a bright day with the sun to your back casting shadows to guide you down the hill.  That can be a slippery slope if you don't keep your eyes and body facing downhill.  I understand there is a TV crime series with the same name about a missing persons unit.  Go figure. The internet seems to be the place where otherwise sensible people seem to air their most controversial and ugly underwear and opinions.  That, some would say, is leading to a more transparent culture.  I just wonder though.  We are spending a lot of time chasing these shadows and I am concerned we might miss what is really going on.  Do you feel that way?  I should probably stick to painting and leave deep thoughts to the philosophers...figuratively speaking.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Figuratively Speaking - Changing Times

In 1789 Samuel Williams moved to Rutland,Vermont, very near where I live.  He was known as a clever fellow who graduated from Harvard at the age of 18 and became  a Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy at his alma mater.  He left this job for what could possibly be unethical reasons and brought his talents to Vermont.  He left his mark in significant ways.  He bought the newspaper and named it the Herald, which is still its title.  Recently there was a big change to the newspaper.  It has been sold again, and has reduced paper publishing to 4 days, with online publishing every day.  It is a sign of the times I guess.  They do publish a special suppliment on Thursdays that is delivered locally for free.  It features articles about local people and things happening here.  It is a worthwhile read and I like that they cover the arts pretty thoroughly.  Back to Samuel.....a possibly more significant impact that he had on Vermont is that he is considered Vermont's first naturalist as he did experiments and published articles about the forests and our impact on them.  He rallied against clear cutting of the forests because among other things, it dried up the land and streams and warmed up the land.  He was an early voice about climate change.  Today, there are record numbers of forests in Vermont which is part of its beauty and popularity although there are still issues concerning developments on the mountains and flat farmland.  If you have stuck with me this far, I am sure you are wondering what the point is to all this.  No point really, it is just that this week marks the historic women's walk across the nation and over seas and it made me think about what influence we have in this life.  228 years ago a young man came here and changed things including highlighting the importance of conservation.  I wonder what effect the march will have.  I also wonder what effect this administration is going to have on the issues that concerned Samuel Williams.  Not sure how my artwork fits in to all of this.....I just keep trying...go figure!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Figuratively Speaking - Meditation and Boredom

Meditation is a good thing.  I heard someone say recently that if you can't meditate for 20 minutes then you need to meditate for an hour.  I know people who say they can't meditate or do quiet exercises like yoga because their minds are going too fast.  They say it like it is a badge of honor, like having a mind speeding out of control is a positive thing.  We are all made a bit differently so what do I know?  I cut my finger kind of seriously and can't get in the pool until it heals so instead I have been walking on the treadmill.  Now I know the painful boredom of repetitious walking without going anywhere.  Some people love it, I guess because of the endorphins released when they start to sweat, or something along those lines.  I tried listening to music, watching a video, reading, but honestly, it was still a really mind numbing exercise for me.  I couldn't get into the "now" of it.  I just wanted to escape.  I do like yoga, meditation and quietly painting in my studio.  I can sit by the creek and write or just inhale the visual beauty around me, and I know the elegance of being really present.  However, the treadmill (aptly named) is my undoing.  How can I feel critical or superior about someone saying they can't slow their mind down, or don't even want to, when I am overcome with the nothingness of the treadmill?  Opportunities for humility are to be found everywhere!  Go figure....

Friday, January 20, 2017

Figuratively Speaking - Quick sketches 12-18

One of my goals for 2017 (well...actually for 2016, so it is a recycled goal) is to draw more.  Leslie Saeta's "30 Paintings in 30 Days" challenge is the perfect kick-start that I needed to get going.  These drawings reflect days 12-18.  Until today I have been doing very quick sketches, capturing the gesture and light, but not so much making them look like a specific person.  I hope to post tomorrow what I accomplished today.  As you can tell, I am a little behind in my postings.  Then again, I am my own boss, so no one else is forcing me to post everyday.  The mind games we play with ourselves.....go figure!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Figuratively Speaking - I Don't Need It

Figuratively Speaking- Quick Sketches #11
My grandson asked if he could go to a cafe with Mimi (me) and Papa for a bagel snack for his birthday celebration, since we were going to miss being with him on the assigned day.  We had a wonderful time at Spring Hill Cafe in Oregon City.  It has a growing wall inside (fun) and an art gallery.  After devouring a chocolate croissant the size of his head and a bagel, we walked around the gallery and talked about the art.  He loved a piece with parrots on it and some little handmade sketch books.  I asked him which one was his favorite and he didn't hesitate to grab the book that caught his fancy.  I said we could get it and he could use it to carry with him to sketch (something he likes doing).  He put it down and said to me, "Wait, let me think about it."  He decided not to get it; his reasoning was that even though he wanted it, he didn't need it.  He is only 6, and very wise.  Go figure!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Figuratively Speaking - Twists and Turns

Quick Sketches #9  -  Graphite on Paper
I have been out of my studio in New England for more than a month, spending that time with my grandkids on the west coast.  We experienced an unusual snow event and had snowball fights and built some pretty adorable but wimpy snow people.  We played games, took long walks, visited museums, sang songs and danced around, built magical kingdoms and did a lot of drawing, painting and art projects.  My life was filled with love, hugs, kisses, and creativity but no painting of the type I do for myself.  Drawing is a segue for me back into painting.  In drawing with my 6 year old grandson I noticed he approaches his subjects like a contour drawing.  His eyes follow the Twists and Turns of the edge of whatever motif he is looking at.  He constructs "made up" drawings with large geometric shapes that represent the feeling of the posture of his subject.  These both seem like fairly sophisticated approaches to drawing and it will be fun to see if this develops into an obsessive interest, like his Grandma has.  Capturing both an interesting representation of an object and the spirit in the drawing is really the challenge.  I think that comes with letting intuition instruct and practice inform....a bit of inspiration applied to a formula.....go figure!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Figuratively Speaking - Procrastination Occupations

Quick Sketch #9 Waterfalls  -  Graphite on paper
It can seem so sweet and practical that voice of procrastination.  "Clean the refrigerator, especially those crumbs under the drawer that no one will ever see and while you are at it, clean the entire kitchen, reorganize the pantry and then go out to the studio."  So, a few hours later and feeling like I have accomplished much, I head out to the studio and am feeling a bit uneasy about what to work on, and whether I am equipped to do a good job when my friend, procrastination reminds me to sweep and dust the studio so I can have a calm mind to proceed.  Honestly this conversation can go on and on and I can indulge this cleaning muse until the stars come out.  The logic is unfailing.  The reward is tangible, but the problem is that ultimately it is motivated by my own insecurities. Until I face those, I will not be able to create.  Creating is what satisfies me, gives me a voice that often surprises me, and creates a bridge from what needs to be done to what is possible. Go figure....

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Figuratively Speaking - More Good Habits

So many habits - good and bad - crammed into such little time....brushing teeth, changing clothes, exercising, eating healthy foods, talking to loved ones, planning for the future, entertainment, feeding the intellect and then there is creating.  Creating is made up of a lot of little habits and a bit of inspiration.  Sometimes it is all too much!  January is one of the 30 in 30 day challenges months and I have been traveling and now am catching up, planning for classes and starting new commissions, finishing up projects that weren't completed in 2016.  One habit I want to get better at is quick sketches so this is the perfect project for me for January 2017.  Since I am just getting around to posting today, the attached sketches represent days 1-8.  I am trying out the new pencil I got for Christmas which is a mechanical lead holder (5.6mm, grade 2B) purchased through "Art Alternatives."  I love the pencil so I am motivated to test it out.  I am just doing the sketches in a little sketch book and I am not spending much time on them.  These first drawings are just to get a feel for the pencil.  I hope to develop to the point that by the end of the month I have a few really good drawings.  It is all about developing good habits - go figure!

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