Friday, April 27, 2012

About Beginnings

I have been working in the new studio since Monday. There is still some fine tuning to do: some of the tools I have carefully stored need to be more easily available, and some of what I have close at hand could be tucked away.

But these are minor details in the bright picture; the studio is great. I can see what I want to see on the walls, all of the works in progress that will come to fruition within the loose bounds of the vision I have for them. I work on several pieces at once which for some unexplainable reason works well for me. But always when I am finally finished and satisfied (sometimes more and sometimes less), there will be leftovers which I call “starts”. On my new studio walls now are several groups of starts that I will push home to what I am imagining as walls of color. I like to see the work in groups; the image I have in mind for them is more apparent when there are two, three or more together. Never mind that they usually sell as single pieces (which sometimes saddens me), I will always see them, in memory (and in photos) supporting and enhancing each other.

The last series I painted, the Destinations, were soft and unstructured, before these there was a series of thirty-two clearly constructed pieces called Structures and before these a gentle group of five pieces that were sort of floaty. (These paintings are viewable at my website, The variation owes much to this going back to work that was begun earlier and slipping back into the mood they bring with them.

I plan to bend to my will the starts on my walls now and to play down any structure that remains in them from whatever it was I wanted when I last dealt with them. Paintings often take the lead but these I will tame, say I. They will honor my intentions or back to the holding bin they go.

Here’s writer George Bernard Shaw: Which painting in the National Gallery would I save if there was a fire? The one nearest the door of course. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

Just a short note and for the first time in my blogging history, no image.

This is the final stretch of putting the studio (and my working life) back together. I am blessed to have work that is so satisfying and cursed in that without it, I am out of sorts. (I’m not sure what “out of sorts” really describes but I think it suits my meaning. I remember the expression from an old radio commercial for a laxative. Advertising was more discreet back then.)

Saturday will make three weeks from the day we (my daughters, son and some friends with little help from me), moved the contents of two large storage units into my clean and ready new studio. And what an unholy mess it became. After days of sorting and thinking and arranging (again with lots of help), it is almost what is was destined to be: a functional, comfortable workspace.

The fine tuning is happening now and by Monday my life will resume. Thanks for hanging with me. Next week there will be photos of the studio, and real life and better blogging will resume.

Friday, April 13, 2012

About the Whole Picture

I see my children today as every version I have ever known of them. They are the totality of the infants and toddlers and teenagers they were and the adults they are now, in all their moods and guises. The picture I have of each is a compendium of all their years. It follows therefore that the picture I hold of anyone who inhabits my landscape would be of a size commensurate with the time and depth of the relationship.

My two brothers, whom I have known longer than anyone else on this earth, are pretty big pictures. Not quite as complete as they might be as I missed a lot of their lives while I lived away, and because our paths took us in very different directions. Still, they are amongst the few lives that exist in my memory that include childhood. The children I knew when my own were growing up were left behind in Venezuela. There are nieces and nephews in Spain that I don’t know as grown-ups. My American nephews were teenagers before I knew them.

This is some of my thinking as I contemplate this weekend’s birthday of my elder brother. He will be eighty years old. You are only as old as you feel. So they say. Well, excuse me, eighty is old. It’s a long time to have been on this earth. A long time for a body to carry on in reasonably good style which both my brothers are doing. Take it from me — old is old, no matter how you feel.

But I’m finding it difficult to integrate this number into the picture I hold of this dear brother. I see him as the boy sitting on the stairs counting his collection of comic books, in the basement of our house setting his hair on fire while he played with his trains by candlelight (no harm done). He exists for me as the teenager who was causing worry, as the young man who shipped out with the merchant marine, who later became a lawyer and then a judge. But eighty? How did that happen?
From poet Emily Dickinson: Old age comes on suddenly, and not gradually as is thought. 
The image above is Lotus ©2006, Mixed Media on Canvas, 35” x 40”

Friday, April 6, 2012

About Good Fortune

I believe that we are the captains of our ships. As always, I speak of this time and place, and of our not extraordinary lives within this culture. But the plotting we do is only one of the factors that add up to a lifetime. The forks in the road that require decisions are usually up to us. But the splendid surprises, the unexpected obstacles or possible shocks that await, we don’t get to predict with any accuracy.

What I mean to say is that a great deal of the path through our days is not under our control. Accidents, illness, the natural disasters that await with treachery, they are all potentially ahead. This morning I read of a woman hospitalized with “serious injuries” who was caught on the road by an sudden hail storm. That’s horrible bad luck. I’m not much of a driver, but I imagine there’s little you can do when your car spins out of control before you are even aware of the storm.

So I am almost always aware of not only how good I have had it, in spite of making a number of totally impractical decisions, but of what a miracle of good fortune my history has been. My mother died of cancer at forty-seven, her mother of the same illness at thirty-three. I expected the same fate and wonder how it was that I got to have so much life. I have four children, all in good health and well able to deal with what their lives deliver. When they were small and bloodied themselves with falls followed by emergency room stitches, I sometimes thought survival was a lot to hope for.

Not very long ago I would have found it difficult to believe that I would be where I am now. My house is warm and comfortable. My studio, still getting organized, is the best I have ever known. Soon I will be able to get back to work. The only thing I would like to have now and cannot is the energy I had in my forties. Alas.

About the image above: The studio is divided into work area and this storage room that is just beginning to be put in order. The tubes are used for shipping rolled canvases, the table for assembling frames and for packaging. That fifty inch wide roll of etching paper on the floor is a purchase I made years ago. It is a thick, velvety etching paper that makes a glorious surface for acrylic paint and is weighty enough to support collage elements. I was told when I protested the price that if I ran out of money this paper was good enough to eat. There have been some tough times but not of paper-eating magnitude.

From writer Francois de La Rochefoucauld: The only thing that should surprise us is that there are still some things that can surprise us.