Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Memorial Day Weekend

Probably the most important thing about this weekend was that I got plenty of sleep. The best thing, though, was that I got to go out painting with my good friend Del once again. We went to People’s Park down at the Spokane River, just below the Browne’s Addition.
It was a beautiful spring day and the lilacs were in bloom. The idea was to do a picture with the beautiful, fragrant lilac bushes prominent in the composition. There were plenty of bushes, but finding the right composition, well, that was a bit trickier. It’s not uncommon, though, to spend a lot of time looking for the right place to paint, and it’s actually one of my favorite parts of doing plein air work. I love to explore and see all of the possibilities - try to imagine how my painting will look in various compositional arrangements, etc.. The problem, of course, is that one is racing against the clock while looking for that perfect place to set up the ol' easel.
The sun is a major factor, naturally, and it’s best to get started before it gets too high. The optimum time for working out-doors, in my limited experience, is between 11am and 1pm. This is the time that the sun’s effect is most generally the same (depending of the time of year, naturlich). In early morning and late afternoon the shadows change too rapidly. If a particular effect is wanted, say, capturing that wonderful, golden late afternoon light, one must return to the same spot at the same time for several days in a row (and hope that the weather cooperates).
We were able to start painting at around nine fifteen or so and worked until a little past twelve. In three hours the sun changes quite a bit, and it’s probably the limit one should shoot for while painting outside. By the time we wrapped things up, the light had changed enough that the subjects began to look like a totally different painting altogether.
I sat my easel up next to Del so that I could, hopefully, learn a few things from him; which I did … at least in my head I picked up a few things … putting them to practice will require some work (as usual). I wasn’t altogether displeased with my painting, but I can definitely see things that need to be changed. However … I would rather start over with a new but similar subject, rather than try to fix something that needs too much work. This week I hope to accomplish exactly that. I plan to get at least a few things painted this week – hopefully sleep won’t be a factor this week (I bought myself an air mattress and I think it’s going to make a world of difference for me).
After a wonderful meal at the Gish home (and seeing Bren and my sweet little kitty, Pfeffer), I stopped down at the Equestrian park where they were having the annual Civil War reenactment. I had gone a few years ago and really enjoyed it. My old boss, Don, from the park service is a member of the organization and had told me about it. I did some watercolours from some of the photos that I had taken back then and I thought that maybe this year I will do some oil paintings if I could get some decent shots.
It was a nice diversion and I took about two hundred pictures – of which I think I have a few that will make nice paintings. I wish that I could drag my easel down there and do some painting, but things move just a little too fast during the actual “battles” that they put on. It would be a great idea, though, if I just went down there and camped all weekend next year and did portraits of dudes in their uniforms and ladies in their finery. If I do go next year, I’ll dress as a painter from the period … maybe find an artist on line who was prominent in those days and play the part. If so … I’ll try to do the whole weekend as if I were in that period; no digital watches, no ipods, no digital camera … screeeeeeeeeech, oops, no, wait … that’s not going to happen. I need the camera. Perhaps I’ll have someone come down there and take pictures FOR me so that I don’t have to climb out of character.

One of the pictures that I took looks like something that would be in the newspaper or something on Memorial Day ... after the battle ended there were scores of wounded and dying all over the place. A trumpet player walked out into the field and began playing taps while women dressed in period clothes stood in front of a cross and bowed their heads. I have one with the trumpeter in the background, but the figure is real small. I may be able to alter it a bit on the computer to make a decent composite shot ... who knows?

I spent some time with my brother, Chip … watched a movie, went out for dinner, and had a nice time.
On Monday I allowed myself to get some real sleep. I got up with a whole list of things that I needed to get done, but when I really looked at it, there was but one thing pressing … and that was changing my space out at the gallery. So I went back to bed and slept as if I hadn’t slept most of the night and had hit the sack at 8. I slept until 2 – which is when I’ve been getting up anyway … then I headed to the gallery where I moved my things to my new spot … in the front room! I wish that I had a bunch of new things to show … (I’ve got plenty of things in storage … just need to get some of them framed) … but I’ve got almost two weeks before the next “First Friday” to get them up.

Even if I don’t hang anything new, I was pleased with my new space and the way that I arranged the things that I had on hand.
Great weekend – although, it did seem a bit short.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The State of Paprika

When I moved all of my stuff in late April, Paprika was one of the last to be loaded into my rig and taken to the storage unit. Goldfish don’t really like to be moved about that much to begin with, but it was also very cold and I had to leave him in there for several days while I found a new home for him. I checked on him daily … but was beginning to be a little frantic about his well being. For several days in a row he just lay on the bottom of the tank and his usually flowing tail was looking rather pathetic. I rigged up his pump and fed him … but I was sure that he was a gonner. I wondered how to go about giving CPR to a goldfish. Do you do rescue breathing? How would that work? I might accidently swallow the little guy while taking a breath … then who would give me the rescue breathing? And what about last rights? I don’t even know what fish believe in? Could it be a Protestant fish? Are ALL fish catholic … or just the Holy Mackerels? I looked on the internet but couldn’t find a thing about their religion. Could they all be Pagan? Worship some weird fish-god? Well, why wouldn’t they?
I wasn’t ready for Paprika to go to the big whale in the sky just yet, though, and I asked around to see if I could find him a temporary home. My friend Bill was excited by the idea of having another goldfish stay with the two that he already has. I thought that it was exactly what little Paprika needed – some friends and a bigger tank.
The poor little guy was on death’s door by the time I got him over to Bills. We had no net, so Bill just reached in and plucked Paprika from his tank. I’m sure that it was all very traumatic for him … but moments later the two goldfish of Bills, were checking him out and he seemed excited to see them as well. The change in the little guy wasn’t only immediate, it was electric. He swam round and round playing with the other fish … I swear I heard him giggle once or twice.

There was a pecking order to establish and it seemed to take some time. The smaller of Bill’s fish didn’t seem to want the bigger one to take an interest in Paprika and chased him away or always insinuated himself between the two. But, by the next time that I came over for a visit, there didn’t seem to be any animosity between the three of them.
Bill has taken to calling him “Bubble-butt”, for obvious reasons, which Paprika seems to have taken in his stride. In turn, Paprika calls Bill “Gill”, so I think that they’re even. I may be anthropomorphizing a bit here, but I’m pretty sure that he’s as happy as a little fish can be. So, everyone can sleep a little easier now, knowing that the Great Whale in the sky will just have to wait a while longer for Paprika (aka Bubble-butt) to swim up the river Styx.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Cliffs of Insanity

One success often begets another ... and so it was that on Monday, I headed to the cliffs overlooking the Bowl and Pitcher again ... this time to paint. I've often tried to find a place along there to paint ... there and Rim-Rock drive which overlooks Spokane itself. But I've never really found a good spot that with enough of a "hook" to inspire me to paint there.

This time, though, just being there was enough. I didn't care what the painting turned out to look like ... I was going to end the nasty dry spell and paint!!

I used the little Pasche` box that Del and I made a couple of summers ago. I'd forgotten how fun it was to use. It's really a great way to do quick paintings. I'll be doing several this size in the near future ... I may even try taking it to work and doing portraits at lunch if I can find some willing victims.

It wasn't the best plein air work ever ... but it was definitely not my worst either. It was the perfect spring day for it too and I thouroughly enjoyed communing with nature and God while I worked.

I may touch this one up and frame it for the gallery, but, more likely, I'll go back to that spot and paint again ... make a real nice work of it ... finished in the studio.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Figures and that crazy Maslow guy

If you’ve ever had the opportunity (or misfortune you might say) to study Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, you’ll understand how things may be developing kinda slowly for me lately.
Since Gabriel, holding his flaming sword, evicted me from the Garden of Eden a few weeks ago (or so it felt, anyway), I’ve been rather lost (to put it very mildly). Falling apart was not allowed. I’ve done that in the past and it may be cathartic in some aspects, but I don’t think it’s really all that helpful, and I refuse to let myself go there. Mostly I’ve tried to stay busy to keep my mind off of things … but I’ve found that the things that I can do to keep me busy can’t be too dependent on either emotion or intellect … or any sort of prolonged concentration.
I’ve been chiding myself and trying to push myself to paint lately. Every time I go to start, I practically panic. It’s an odd phenomenon, really. I’ve had blocks before, sure, lots of them, but usually of very short duration. Right now, though, it’s really starting to worry me … or, rather, was worrying me.

I had an epiphany the other day. After work that morning, I had parked my truck in a little out of the way place – on top of the cliffs overlooking the Bowl and Pitcher (a rock formation on the Spokane River). I slept there in the back of my truck for a few hours (lately it’s all I seem to be able to get). When I climbed out and took in the sight, which I had only glanced at in my sleepy state earlier, I was filled with wonder and a kind of gratitude that I could still appreciate this kind of beauty. As I walked along the great precipice, looking down at the raging river below, it suddenly hit me: Maslow.

In Abraham Maslow’s theory he discusses the human needs and has them in a prioritized pyramid. Without turning this into a paper about Maslow’s theory, which many of you probably had to suffer through already in management classes and such, I just want to point out how I found that it applied to me. If you want a more in depth look at his work, wicikpedia has a decent summation of his theory.

The four lowest levels of Maslow’s pyramid are called the “D-needs” or Deficiency needs: physiological, safety and security, love and belonging, and esteem. With the exception of the lowest (physiological) needs, if these "deficiency needs" are not met, the body gives no physical indication but the individual feels anxious and tense.
I suddenly realized that I was reverting back to the lower end of the pyramid. I was sleep-deprived, eating improperly, had no one around me, and felt depressed. Of course I did. I’ve just gone though a tough thing. It doesn’t matter, really, that Brenda and I are still on great terms and that I can go and visit her and her family at any time. There was no Archangel evicting me, really, everything is, more or less, the same with my relationship with all of them, but it’s still a huge change in my life.
The fact that I’ve chosen to live a little “unconventionally” doesn’t help things. I shouldn’t beat myself up too badly for not painting up a storm, I simply need to concentrate on getting the lower end of the pyramid fulfilled a little better so that I can go on to the self actualization and the “self-transcendence” that Maslow added near the end of his life.
I need to become more self disciplined, and make myself do some of the things that I need to do. I know that I’ll feel better once I do them. One of the things that I’ve been putting off is getting back into shape. By joining a fitness place I’ve forced myself to start doing exactly that (it also gives me a place to shower without having to feel like a schlemiel by showing up at people’s doors to use their facilities, or going to work smelling like the south end of a north-bound moose).
Another thing that I’ve been putting off, for one reason or another, is going to figure drawing. I’ve missed it for the last three years. Part of that was because I had my own model, but, really, part of that was because I was too busy or too lazy. A model at home is not the same as a model that’s hired to pose; I don’t care how good the model at home is. In my experience, it needs to be a professional setting, and it helps if one is surrounded by other artists.
And so, I went to the Cat’s Eye Gallery on Thursday last and truly enjoyed the experience. It’s true that some of the things that I didn’t like about this particular group still remained – there is too much chatter and not enough concentration, and there are very few who are very good draughtsmen. My drawings, for the most part were rough and a bit awkward; I’m out of practice. I did do one that I liked, though, and was very pleased with the model and to overcome some of the psychological things that keep me from moving forward.
On Friday I had to step up even more by dragging my easel to the Relay for Life in Cheney. I did caricatures for donations to the cause. Setting up for a crowd of people is a very tough thing to force one’s self to do. To me, it’s very much like stage fright. It’s not so much the work at hand because once I start, I’m alright; it’s the day or two preceding the event … and that long drive to the gig where one wonders aloud over and again why they got themselves into this thing and if they can get themselves out of it.
I went, I did it, and I felt better for it. And soon I’ll be painting again as I keep moving forward.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

New Studio

As you probably know, my life has taken a new deviation. It’s not exactly the adventure that I had planned for this spring/summer, but I am determined to “keep moving forward” as Walt Disney always urged his artisans. Life is what you make it, right? No use dwelling on the negatives and all of that.

So, I’ve moved into a new “studio” and am in the process of trying to organize all of my stuff. It’s a little cramped, but I have a place for painting, for printmaking, and a little office area too. I hope to be back to doing a lot of artwork in the very near future.

Stay tuned.