This morning I painted this one thoughtful pig
On Dharmmaseed.org you can listen to Ed Brown’s talk on Self Worth. I must have heard it 20 times so far and think I might sometime really hear what he’s saying there. He seems to say we each have this inner voice vs. an imposed from outside idea of what you should be and what you must think in order to be that. Familiarity with that voice means you can see the boundary between what is really you and what is fictional. Acting from a stripped voice is a bit like reenacting the Sisyphus story. Painting can be putting the voice in its undeniable uniqueness out there so that it can’t be missed or paved over. It’s apparent, then what do you do with that? How do you see it? Equanimit-able (from equanimity) familiarity can grow. Of course meditation is the way to grow this. After 4 and 3/4 degrees including a masters, plus an additional more not-for-credit classes than for-credit classes, mindfulness practice has had the most profound effect on me of anything I’ve ever studied. And here it even seems to have a comment on a way forward to paint. Thinking of its concept of no solid self or no self, a true painting would always rely on listening; it’s not – I paint in bright colors because I always do, it’s listening and proceeding with that. Interesting to think the habit could have an effect on the way we walk thru life, either more authentically or trying to smoosh ourselves into a box.
“If you can set aside being good and set aside being bad, what about being an ordinary person. Just an ordinary human being…just being you, just being an ordinary person…and we’re able to connect because we’re not busy with how I look” Ed Epse Brown, zen master
The fictional idea that we make up about who we ought to be and how we match up to that image can create a lot of needless misery…”so set aside your arrogance and take a look around…the daily sense of damage comes to an end…a million suns come forward when I sit in that light” Kabir
Thank you Chef Adeline Grattard, your words inspire this post (Chef’s Table series via netflix). “Now I can feel that a cuisine [you make] reflects what you have inside of you. It’s an expression of your inner life…It’s really about giving something from the heart and giving something from your personality…It’s the story of our lives…” She also warns of becoming too dependent on recipes, that this will stifle and not be alive. She seems to listen to herself in that moment to know what it will be right to create, I mean what she has in her to create in that moment. Does that make sense?
If I follow all the rules I’ve read in so many art books (for one thing they conflict so it’s not possible) then the product can be rigid and dead. Of course I listen to all the teaching I can get through the books for technique and ideas but that is where it stops. Sometimes I have to think pretty hard to get a painting where I want it to go and I have to be willing to fail. I discover along the way and so sometimes the direction necessarily changes. When I look into the eyes of the pig I’m trying to paint, I can think out loud humanity’s relationship to that pig. What is that really about and what are all the possibilities? Can we completely change the way it is popular to see a pig? Can the story be rewritten? Of course it can. Anthony Bourdain can become so bored with his cuisine that he can become vegan. He is curious enough I think, it’s possible.
Back to method, sometimes a subject is so daunting I can only do pencil/paint sketches, color studies and thinking for hours and hours over many days before my sureness and confidence comes around that I know which way to try. In the end whether it is liked or not, technically skillful or not, it’s our personality coming out. And we’re all constantly creating – thoughts, conversations, intentions, opinions (tons of those) – we’re all creative all the time.
If we don’t take the time to listen in, the project can get away can’t it? The more listening, the more sureness. Then accepting it’s all you have – you are going to put you out there. There’s a limit about that but also there is a kind of infinity too isn’t there? Because that is living. If we give a formula, it’s dead right? We can’t listen to those because there is nothing being said.
A note on painting the pig:
After a week of color studies for the pig I realized there was something more I was looking to this painting for. The idea of greed and calling an action piggy etc. Was coming up. It was right after Christmas and a three day meditation retreat. I want to free the pig from being villain-ized, to reflect that. I’m also unconvinced that villainizing our greed helps us find ways to free ourselves from it.
Artists you can give your work to a cause for money. It may take a while to see the fruition but it can happen. Thank you to Heartland Farm Sanctuary and the great people there. My art will go in to a silent action, the event was put together so skillfully (maybe it’s ad below, can give others ideas on how to do this; also I made cards of my art to get the word out about the farm, 3 sets of these cards auctioned for hundreds at a previous auction – thank you donors! I gave the farm 17 originals and 13 were made into cards).
best wishes to everyone. [follow-up after the event: 5 pieces (of the 17) were set out for this action, the sold for ~$1k. Others will sell at the bigger Galla planned for later.]
here’s the invite:
Get your tickets now for Clucks in the Courtyard – a fabulous time for a great cause that you won’t want to miss!
Enjoy fantastic appetizers from the folks at Black Locust Cafe, Barolo Wine Bar and Julep, and quench your thirst with a fine wine, beer, or “pigtail”!
[image of little lamb] Meet Sherman!
Plus! We’ll have a beautiful art auction, live music, and Heartland’s own Sherman the Sheep, Percy the pig and chickens Calvin and Dot will be there to say hello!
Clucks in the Courtyard is Saturday, October 22nd from 12-3 PM at Robinia Courtyard in Madison, WI.
And Badger fans, don’t fret! We’ll be broadcasting the game in the all-new Black Locust Cafe!
Get your tickets today – $20 for adults, $10 for kids! [via Heartland Farm Sanctuary website]
At last A breakthrough with the beauty in using squirrel hair brushes. There’s a letting go of the hyper-control available in a kolinsky and a dropping into gentile softness as well. Maybe this is my first done entirely with squirrel. Aside: The farm series is progressing at 17 completed so far. It’s nice working for this; a concern is how will I frame them all. I found a place that will scan nicely for cards, a book, maybe prints, etc. I want to complete 40 before all that.
A few birds I painted/drew this year; in 2014 I start to really enjoy the elegance/feminine gentile-seeming nature of birds. Even though I know they can be ferocious, they still physically embody something light and inspiring and beautiful. Balancing and correcting in mid-air, their quickness and color and the feathers – some kind of genius! Wild turkeys are frightful, and even kept chickens can try to kill a miniature dog; I get how they are dinosaurs that would love to eat you if they could. Still they inspire. Now we have the advantage of being able to paint from photos of them in flight. I’ve started painting those, but I don’t see any photos of those paintings on the computer so I must not have taken any yet. Maybe I’ll post those later. It really is a bother to me to be on the computer when I want to be with family instead during this time at home. So I’m off! Enjoy the paintings and take care.
People would like to see the attempt so far – ~250 photos taken/filtered/edited/flagged for use in a hopeful series to benefit Heartland Farm Sanctuary. Thanks MaryPat for the spark a couple years ago and all the inspiration from everyone! Each animals story is on their site.
Sitting in a whole foods eatery I opened my sketchbook and getting my pencil out the kind gentleman behind me looked over my shoulder saw the art and asked, who are you? I said well that is a complicated question, people write books about it I think, we smiled. It turned out I was having the honor of meeting Jack Hernon of a drawing circle led by Susette Sides. Being all free to be spontaneous and quick about it since I fly home tomorrow, we all went to Susette’s house where she led a journey through a few random journals (of sketchbooks she’s filled; did they say hundreds of sketchbooks? they were everywhere, it was awesome).
Countless drawings of the orchestra up close in rehearsal; also nudes, portraits, I photoed rather furiously after (somewhat accidentally) disassembling a lamp for good lighting. Her skill is AMAZING. A retired medical illustrator she leads drawing groups in Winston-Salem, NC and it is all about the experience of sketching…I have the feeling I could learn from her for years and only just be beginning.
Alas she is not online at home, although does have an email. I will ask if she’d like me to splash the photos onto a webpage for her and add her email the way Roz does on her super fun and inspiring Rozwoundup blog. Then thought I’d like to tell the simple process that I would pick in case it is useful to anyone. One thing I am is software savy after four degrees (including a masters) and decades of computer work…lalala anywho. Here is what I would do saying keep it simple or it doesn’t happen. If anyone finds my method lacking, I’m a little open to it but mostly exhausted by such a busy life…oh goodness I have to go (I get to draw my mom quilting!) so quickly here it is…
I found scanning is just too exhausting to tackle large volumes of sketches. Photographing is VERY FAST. For example, I recently pushed 100 of photos of my favorite sketches into a large snapfish book. They have a binding that lays flat (option only for their largest sized book) and the quality was really fine. To photo, I binder clipped open some sketchbooks and clamped lamps onto the klopenfenstein easel. Mostly I could just hold them open with one hand and snap the camera (in auto mode) with the other. If it isn’t simple, it doesn’t happen. And now instead of piles of journals I could never find my favorites from, I have a book, always reprintable or editable in snapfish, donesy! Also kudos to wordpress.com which has been my blogging friend for over a decade now. I understand typepad is also a good option. It makes taking those photos and pushing them into a website a complete cinch. Blog=website same thing. It’s free and with “wordpress.com” stuck onto the end of the URL no one tries to steal your website name (wanting the name for their company, that happened to me with one of the over a hundred websites I have made). What I really want is for Gregory Danny to swoop down from the heavens and interview her and publish some of her work in one of his books. Here that Gregory? oh, I may have to email you directly right! Best to all sharing their work and experiences! BEST!
“Drawing may be the most intimate and honest of all art mediums. Its lightweight materials enable artists to work almost anywhere and often give their efforts a truth-telling transparency that exposes the very nerve endings of their talent. Sometimes drawings function almost as a kind of signature, distilling an artist’s sensibility to its essence. Sometimes they express gifts visible in no other medium.” (New York Times, WeekendArtsII, C21, Friday April 19, 2013.
When you can show up, arrive in an uncomplicated, unburdened way, as fully present as possible, into a space, you have a chance at drawing an honest, authentic reflection. Your experience in the space can still rise to the top and come out the pencil. You bring so much with you into the space and then drawing brings more into the space. So there’s a lot happening.
Cleaning a paintbrush and fiddling with color choices takes you away. It’s distraction as though you put makeup on your drawing, you cover up. When you only show up with a couple pencils and a notebook, it’s just you and the experience, you didn’t add something else to come in between. Now you can be more with what you notice, since there is less to take in. It is like you just can go very deep noticing new things when there is so much to take in.
Thank you Danny Gregory for helping me relax into drawing. re: the monkey (critical mind) in his recent post: if you can be friends compassionately approach the monkey with love, it will sit down playing quietly beside you. if you critique the monkey to get away from critque-ing, you further develop the habit of mind of critique-ing.
A couple tree sketches one where I was drawing negative space and one not.
This sketch was fun because I could not really see the page or the room or the palette since it was dark outside (I was on the porch). It was fun to see the surprise result afterwards in the light. Doing it was nice because I never painted in the dark before and because I didn’t feel attached to the outcome.
Blessed with some time off work, a spring break stay-cation – at last a chance to dig in, here is one of the fun things that came out yesterday, enjoy.
Once again I find I can’t stop drawing, it feels like such an odd thing to do for me so it is great to “meet” others with the same affliction via Gregory Danny’s interviews. I feel less strange then. Why can’t I just read a novel? Anyway here I am with all my media out, always simple, these days with a few watercolor and other pencils, pans (thoroughly researched and chosen using Handprint back in ~2001), two bottles of ink (brown and black), only two nibs / dip pens which I am having enormous fun with (one is super fragile and one is a goat- it can digest cans).
Odd to only just begin to realize this: years ago, reading Tolstoy’s What is Art? I recall his saying you know doing art is painful, difficult, you don’t get it right and suffer, etc. I am sure he said more I have forgotten. That part stayed with me realizing how true it is. The point is, IT IS ONLY TRUE IN SOME MOMENTS – that I kind of forgot. When my art professor said he felt I could have an art career I said no thanks, I felt my best art came when I was depressed and why would I want to cultivate that. Those years, I was working difficult concepts into art (death, materialism, hierarchy, etc.). Since then, I realized I can just do art that people simply smile at, and why not? Life has enough difficult stuff in it, I don’t have to add more. Now my work in mindfulness over the past 9 years brings me to working with drawing whatever is in this moment (the vacuum, the chair, people, pets; it doesn’t matter, it is just about the experience of that moment in that moment.)
I had a surprise seven months ago. I was drawing a group of flowers on break at work. Someone just peacefully watched me, not my art, standing in front she was watching my expression. Then, thoughtfully she put, “you look so happy”. I thought: no. wait, really? She was right! I have since noticed a soft smile on my face while drawing. So sometimes (of course likely most times I guess) I must be quite good there. I hadn’t noticed.
We all bring habits into our lives that generate happiness in a simple non-harming way, bring the energy into the spaces and places and people around us. The energy, it mingles.
Our sketching just where ever, however may have the capacity to bring this. The more years you draw, the more confident you get and you just don’t care so much if someone judges your work peering over your shoulder. If the result is a mess well you know its not the final word.
I feel the need to examine something further and I know if I draw it I will see things I never would see otherwise. If knowing is loving, if drawing is knowing…ah yes then drawing is loving! LOL
I am actually going to miss winter since that is the time you stay out of the superficial. The beautiful bright shining reflections and waving shadows of leaves, the heat on your neck and feet, it is all so good, even though somehow it takes you out and fills you with a distracted view of the world. The tree limbs are no longer available for drawing; what will I do to draw all those crazy leaves this year…for fun.
Our happiness with it may be related to our being more fully in the moment in some way. Drawing is not exactly mindfulness meditating, it can be very close. We can bring mindfulness practice there when we focus entirely say on the shape color scale of a vase, rather than our mind resting deep in a day dream fantasy or deep in a worry about the past or a should about the future. We are in the moment of that vase, of our experience of that vase.
Biggest thanks to my mom for always telling me it was a gift I should treasure. I love you mom!
Lastly, Gregory Danny thank you thank you for putting the habit on a nice platform. After reading your work, I set aside my spiral bounds, picked up a bound journal and it felt like a crazy act of a revolutionary to just draw right over the book gutter! I thought lightening might strike – when it didn’t I had so much joy!
One effect of working in hardbound journals: This is where you must play. There is no feeling of a need to work for money here, like oh maybe I will end up selling this final piece better follow some rules. No it is stuck in this book which will get stuck on a shelf, maybe scanned, but seriously just play it doesn’t matter. That can be fun, sometimes a fail, but the more years you play like this the more you can command a result if you really want it and don’t want to play in another new direction.
A quote from Roz Stendahl in Danny Gregory’s new book (he also has a cool interview with her on his blog) “I draw when I travel for the same reason I draw all the other times I can’t stop myself from drawing—because something catches my eye and grabs my interest. I want to remember it; I want to savor it; I want to understand it just a little bit better; I want to acknowledge what I just saw. At the same time all this is happening, when I’m drawing there is also a physiological change within me when I draw. I am more calm, more alert (hyper alert), and filled with wonder. Drawing activates a direct switch to my sense of wonder. I feel that to draw something or some place is to ask questions about that subject—how is it made, why was it made, what does it stand for, how was it used, or how does it live in these circumstances? (That last is something I ask as I draw pigeons the world over.)..…”
56 sec. demo of a software 3D stippling effect (you can see the limitation that each dot has the same darkness).
It seems you still need an artist for the effect to come off correctly, making each choice about each dot and hatch line. One of the Wall Street Journal artists says they spend ~5 hours stippling a single head portrait (its still done manually sans computers).
With my limited experience enjoying stippling, it is clear to me that a single dot darker than another in certain key areas can relay different information about the thing being drawn.
See some beautiful medical drawings from an 18th c. surgeon / great artist Cheseleden :
I created this a few years ago, glad I can share this one minute video of it.
Just want to spread the word, Cathy Johnson has such fun and helpful watercolor videos on youtube you have to check out her channel. She is so real and her videos have a spontaneous, informal relaxed way that makes you not worry about painting. Plus you learn neat things. So much that keeps us from painting I think is all the hang-ups about the product and the tiny judgements collecting in our head. It is fun when I drop that and just move on into the next sketch or painting.
I remember its not a concern that image after image I make gets tucked away in another sketch book on a shelf. Artist’s journals for me are unlike my stacks of written journals (with words only). I found over the years I do make time to get back to my artist’s journals and when I do I just smile and it is so simple. Sometimes to de-clutter I pull my favorite sketches out and put them in books of clear plastic sheets. Then I can toss the rest of the sketch books. It makes room for new sketchbooks.
Judgement can drop away with the habit of observational drawing. Today I drew many sketches of horses as they wondered here and there. These were all very quickly made and the products really weren’t the goal. The habit of mind though, that is interesting. When you draw something quickly from real life you have to focus all your attention on a kind of measuring. Like if you were going to measure your dresser, you’d get the measuring tape and for a moment you’d stop any judging mind about the dresser. It makes sense that drawing for a while at a time this way really wears a different neuronal path in the brain. It habituates a pattern of thinking.
So on the drive from the stable we drove past a barn I have seen many times. Still in my drawing mind, I was quite glad thinking how much fun it could be, the experience of drawing this barn; taking in its surroundings, the trees and shrub shapes, the slight hill, the fence. I was thinking how it might be to bring those shades and shapes onto a page in some way as we drove by. Then I noticed, wait I have seen this same barn many times and I remembered an old story I had played before about the terribly chipped paint and how the owner must have to deal with that and what a pain for them, and how awful it looks with so much missing paint and the wood must be rotten now, maybe this barn isn’t wanted anymore, wonder what’s the state is of its owners, etc. LOL
So here I was this time in a very different place with the old barn. Really delighting in it; taking it in as it was sans story lines with great curiosity for its shapes and colors and surroundings. It was very interesting to notice that, with all the training I’ve had in mindfulness practice, I never saw this “drawing mind” explored much. It is not the same drawing mind that draws from the imagination. That is nothing against the delightful dragon you can draw and the flight it can take you on. It is just to say drawing has more than one mind.
Very often an adult hawk comes to visit the 3 babies and I have been sketching them all, see the cam: http://metobs.ssec.wisc.edu/aoss/cameras/hawkcam-flash.html
I spent many years drawing models in art classes, so it was lots of fun to draw these birds up close like this! I want to note how much fun I have had discovering sketch artists’ stories from around the world via books (Cathy Johnson;s Artist’s Journal (excellent teaching on how-to and inspiration); The Illustrated life (Gregory Danny); the Art of Urban Sketching; etc.), Youtube (of course) and vimeo (I really enjoy Gregory Danny’s video: The Art of Breakfast, see: http://vimeo.com/26850647).
I love sketching everything around me in a carefree way. In the book the Creative License, Gregory Danny notes “Keeping a [art] journal is a way to focus your life, to extract what is meaningful about each day…[touching] your reptilian core. Making pictures is pre-verbal so it brings enormous clarity…non-judgemental, completetly present, [letting go] of fear and judgment…believing in yourself (p.61).
Also, I finally framed one of my favorite paintings I ever made, enjoy the goat:
There are more however this is plenty, good gosh don’t you think so?
Most of these I have scanned images of on a hard drive somewhere in the house. For simplicity I just snapped some photos.
At the moment I can’t find my favorite goat painting I did with this one a while ago. Hopefully I will add some of my other older fav’s here before getting into a routine of adding new ones as they come. I learned I need to use my own photos to avoid any potential copy right issues if I ever end up prolific enough (and with enough time) to want to start selling. Its been fun taking photos at the zoo and places we would go anyway. This was one hungry goat:
Wow, been a while since I posted here. Painting is still happening for me. I added some images to my free art website, which I am thinking of ditching now since it is a bit of a mess to edit and the ads are getting obnoxious! Well yes, it seems like I could just put the images here instead…Yes, I think that’s the way of it. So here it goes, my effort to place 2012 watercolors here. Click on any photo to enlarge.:
Recently I have discovered how the free spirit of a three year old can stretch your own art mind to relax and make adventure. It is hard to express how deeply one can be inspired working with someone so uninhibited. She (our most amazing three year old) paints the water glass, the bottom of her foot, the table, the sticker or tape she put on her paper, everything is game and it really is about the freedom.
I also want to add the renewed experience of finishing a work in one sitting and how freeing that is. Drop the judgement and pre-planning, instead here is your moment and it may never come again so get to it. The down side is I eventually get so into my own painting progress I may miss when her painting has suddenly turned to the wall or carpet, etc. It is a gift and I thank her often.
I don’t know why I am bothering to post about this, I guess I hope others don’t make the same mistake I made of waiting so long to get a strong easel (like a Klopfenstein H-frame or something as strong and mobile as it), even if you are working small. And I don’t get why when you look for stronger easels, every store is selling primarily expensive flimsy wooden easels, maybe I will find out why one day, still whenever I go up to a typical wooden H-frame and just tap them lightly they shake. I should say I have seen one that looks a bit like a tree, immobile and like it weighs a thousand pounds, I just don’t want that behemouth in my house so I haven’t tapped it. Otherwise, are we supposed to just wait between paint strokes for the wobbling to stop? I don’t think so.
I had the pleasure of working with both the H-frame and A-frame Klopfenstein easels at a large University that provided them for classroom use. These easels are so strong the strength seems to seep right into the work. You feel you could swing from these not just lean on them like a strong shoulder you might lean on for comfort. Just recently I finally decided to order one (H frame), I can’t think what took me so long to come around to that after working for so many years on the flimsiest of A-frames. The Klopfenstein is a mountain and I am sure it will actually expand what I am able to do.
I am having such a time painting some alligators I photo-ed in the zoo, I will have to get some photos of it up soon. It is clamped down to a 6 pound wooden board (also a mistake I need a lighter gatorboard or incredible board as DickBlick calls it that weighs about 1 pound). I like to be free to quickly yank the board up and move the paint around by tilting the board. Also I wanted to say drafting board types of easels that tilt back don’t work for me because I can’t adjust them fast enough and don’t want them tilted back when I work, with me leaning over them cranking my back into knots, how relaxing can that be? I just want to stand up straight or sit up straight and see the whole thing flat in front of me along with my taped up paint study and light/dark sketch I have created for the painting and the photo if I have to work from a photo.
Finally finished the big birds painting; my last working working from a professional photo – this one from Dorling Kindersley’s new huge Birds book (now that I am wise on copyright issues). I just framed it, so big! It was a little scary working framing something so big, I measured and cut the mat myself with the bare minimum tools (a simple ruler, cutting mat and x-acto knife). It is kind of expensive to work big, big mat, big frame, big paint brush, big drawing board.
It turns out I was so happy with the end product – I was floating. I still am a bit when I think about it. It is so big and clean and white and the contrast and lights and the angle of the waters edge and getting it to look like water and the conversation among the birds, the detailed birds and the simple, loose almost asian-painted birds, it turned out so much more than I expected, I am kind of in a happy shock. I really had no idea working that big and the final work would have this impression. So much about the painting itself was challenging and felt overwhelming at times. Many times I felt so lost and like I was painting in the dark. It was bigger than I am used to and I really got the chance to get free and loose while still having some detail, it was like combining my style of 10 years ago: all-imagined subjects-“just go for what you see on the blank page” with the more recent style: imitate a photo with significant detail and lots of color study and planning and layering (with analyzed/researched technique). In this painting the two styles finally got the chance to flow together after all these years. It is more difficult to be impulsive and bright and loud and high contrast with watercolor. With an oil crayon you know what you are getting and you can just let go and start marking up the page. With watercolor, practice and experimenting help you get that loose and still get the effect of bold and free and almost reckless moments in time on the page. Another challenge was the 6 month respite in between when I left this painting and re-startred it. I was naturally in a different mental place when I started and that came out on the page and yet I am seeing the “two” styles compliment and flow on the page. Sorry I don’t have the measurements handy. Here is the image in parts:
At the moment I am so busy I haven’t painted in about 6 months. Wow, and I am starting to feel that familiar wish to do something again. I left in the middle of the largest painting I have done in eight years and it has lots of details and glazing and is based around a conversation some birds are having around a murky pond. We see them on their eye level and they are small storks.
I had frustration when I learned via the WetCanvas forum that I can no longer rely on my favorite method of the past 5 (?) years of working from professional photos without concerns of potential copyright issues. It is just taking some adjusting in my head and ultimately I think I will be thrilled to be painting photos I took that hold memory for me of a time and place in my life.
So I will be turning a new page. From the past few months of in frequent photographing I already have some great photos that I took at the zoo to start working with. Because of that success I have some hope, I still have to get the images printed and see how I feel about their detail. Still I want to finish the large painting I started. I feel some real frustration about not having painted for so long, life is just so busy now and that is just the way it is. Still I am hoping to squeeze in a little time to get a re-start somewhere before the summer is over. Sometimes that means getting up at 4 am and taking flight in my studio. It is such a passion and there is so much yet for me to learn. My goal is to continue focusing on learning techniques and color studies to create final projects before I explore with pure creativity straight out of my head images and/or still life and really have fun. I think that work for me would aim toward Shirley Trevena’s. Peggy Macnamara is still my role model for my staying focused on technique and color study and I love the products too so that is fine. Right now the sky in the bird painting I have been working on is full of looseness and whimsy, splash and dash, bleeding of colors in streaks and light bouncing from everywhere. Just need a little guts to get set up again…