Friday, June 29, 2012

About an Honest Day's Work

I am so glad to be back at work. I wonder sometimes about retirement. Most of the people in my world who consider themselves retired go on being productive in some way. Some were not happy to stop doing the work they were paid for. With unemployment rampant as it is now I suppose some room needs to be made for the youngsters entering the work-force. Otherwise I can see no reason to force retirement on experienced and effective elders. 

The way I see it, most people like to do something with their time. After all, how much leisure does anybody really want? Well, maybe there are those that can be content to loll about on beaches or in chairs with books for the rest of their days. But they are certainly not the majority. A well-earned rest after digging in the yard or producing marvels in the kitchen or studio seems to me far more appealing than days of swinging in the hammock. Though some hours of that here and there might be nice.

Once, long ago, when my aging father visited us in Caracas, I tried to persuade him to stay. I took him to see my doctor when he had some health problem and later spoke of him with that same MD. When I mentioned my plan to keep Pop with us he asked: “And what would he do?” Good question. My father was a worker. He had been a policeman and always had a well equipped wood shop in our basement where he could be found when not on duty. (He later lost an eye in a saw-table accident and was retired as a cop.) He was never content to be idle and took pride in his craft. So I stopped nagging at him about remaining with us. At the time he lived with my younger brother and kept busy doing some cooking and grocery shopping and housekeeping. That was a life superior to what he could have with us.

I have an image in mind of old people working in the rice paddies of Asia. There are paintings of elderly gleaners from times when retirement was not an option. You worked until you croaked or could do no more. And then the family either fed you or put you on an ice floe. Or something. No retirement communities or homes for the aged.

The photo above is my retired friend Mike Yanke (my prints on the wall behind him) who wears himself to a frazzle making more beautiful an already beautiful property in a wooded area a bit north of my home. And as you might discern from the photo, he keeps busy indoors too. His retired wife is an accomplished glass artist often engaged at a kiln.

From anthropologist Margaret Mead: “Sooner or later I'm going to die, but I'm not going to retire.” And here’s athlete Bill Copeland:Before deciding to retire, stay home for a week and watch the daytime TV shows.” 

Friday, June 22, 2012

I can be alone now in my studio. It is a private place, a place of solitude. I surrendered my cherished seclusion when I moved to this new setting. I needed the help of my family, my friends and the contractor with his crew. I needed their abilities to make real the home and workplace I planned to occupy for the rest of my life. I even had help in improving on the plan from all of these kind and generous people. Almost every bit of labor and problem-solving that they provided was not within my area of competence.

When it all came together, and that still seems nothing short of miraculous, I opened the door of my new workspace to those who were interested and/or curious during our annual county-wide open studios. These were lots of friends, and strangers too, who quickly became known through the intimacy that comes from talking of what I do and how. And sometimes even what it's about though I don't think I have ever made that clear enough to myself. I met some of my afore-unknown blog readers which was a treat. I am grateful to these helpers and rescuers and visitors and readers. I could not have what I have nor do what I do without them. I could not cover expenses without the sales nor deal with the solitary work without these connections.

And now, finally, I am repossessing my space. I have put away the framed and finished works that were arranged around the studio and have put my materials within easy reach. Less visitor friendly, not quite as tidy. I am refining my plan for finishing the "starts" that are hanging on the walls. The hiatus was good for pushing me into a new view of their future, the "vision" as it were.

I am very happy.

The image above, Little Pink House ©2012, is an updated version of the little houses that I have been making since childhood. They are safe places. I realized when I saw a little house by Rebecca Stauffer that I don't include doors and windows in mine. How's that for seclusion and safety? I must, however, admit that Rebecca's house is the more cheerful of the two.

I wrote an apology for not providing a blog essay last week and hope that it reaches those who don't go to the blog site online along with this newer one. Mea culpa.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

My apologies. I pride myself on doing what I say I will do. Yesterday's blog essay was the first one that  I have missed since I started writing it in 2009. Well, I guess that's where pride gets you. 

Yesterday was a family birthday and there is a family visit happening and my routine, which was already seriously impaired, was forgotten. Obviously there are a few things that are more important than one's commitments and time for painting. But the only one I can think of at the moment is this family and the joy there is in having the kids with me. Even if it means chaos and the loss of one's usual orderly regimen.

Stay tuned, please. This blog will be back on track next week.

The photo above is the birthday girl and mother.

Friday, June 8, 2012

About the Talk

I think this is going to be a short piece of writing. I got caught up this morning in making little hearts for this weekend’s open studio event. They are fun to do and if I had nothing else on my schedule today, I would go on and on. Never mind that I don’t need more than I already have. I don’t, and the world probably doesn’t need more little hearts. It’s about the pleasure of being totally involved in making something. And using Photoshop to mess with my paintings is like having a magic wand.

Photographer Robert Adams, author of Why People Photograph, comments: “Art is by nature self-explanatory.” He goes on to put forth the reasons that artists are reticent, why they are disinclined to speak of their work. “Part of the reason that these attempts at explanation fail, I think, is that photographers, like all artists, choose their medium because it allows them the most fully truthful expression of their vision… as Robert Frost told a person who asked him what one of his poems meant, ‘You want me to say it worse?”

A lot of the artists I know are shy and prefer to keep their thoughts to themselves but many delight in talking about their work. (Count me in that group.) When amongst themselves, even those less comfortable with an audience will often be happy to speak of the project in hand as a way to get some response that might be of value. But what I find most interesting about this photographer, and a fine one he is, is that he doesn’t seem to be short on words. Google him. He’s written a number of books and you’ll find quotations, comments in his own words, all over the place. He writes well too.

What he’s talking about is explaining the work. I have to admit to having some trouble with that. I can speak of the vision and I can describe the process without difficulty. But if my interviewer wants some kind of rationality behind the making of the little hearts, or anything else I make in Photoshop or paint in my studio I admit that there is none. I have to believe that there is some need for art in this world. There certainly is the need to create. It just never stops, does it?

Friday, June 1, 2012

About Opening a Studio

Turning a workspace into a visitor-friendly environment and still being honest about the usual look of the space is the challenge. As my friend Richard used to say: “Nothing to it, just a lot of hard work.”

I am blessed with the unsalaried assistance of my youngest daughter. She is an engineer; her brain works in ways that mine cannot and insurmountable problems are surmounted in a flash. She has done all the framing of the smaller pieces and is tireless. Ah, youth.

We open tomorrow. I hope my readers, those that reside within reasonable distance, will give serious consideration to visiting. I am excited about welcoming guests into my new studio and showing new work. The event will take place on two weekends: June second and third, and June ninth and tenth, from 11:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. on all four days. More information, my address and information about other participating artists can be found at North Coast Open Studios 2012 -- Humboldt County, California. Or email me at

In addition to some paintings that I have just had framed, I have made some new prints. I also have some larger prints, meticulously made by Joseph Wilhelm of Meridian Fine Art. The image above, Toledo, originally painted in 2004, is one of these.

Here are two quotes from sculptor Anish Kapoor, a man after my own heart: 

“One does afford oneself the luxury to come into the studio and all day, every day, spend one's life making aesthetic propositions. What an immense luxury.” 

“I used to empty the studio out and throw stuff away. I now don't. There will be a whole series of dead ends that a year or two down the line I'll come back to.” 

About this last comment: visitors will see the walls to my studio lined with dead ends from my past. I propose to make marvels of them before the year is out. Propose, I said.