Wednesday, November 8, 2017

A Time For Appreciation


As I enter into this decade of my life, a multitude of things take me longer to accomplish, not least of which is finding time to do my blog. I get the greatest ideas for blog entries, in bed, in the shower on a plane or the road. Seldom do they appear as I sit to do another entry. But it’s beyond time to do another, so here goes.

This fall has been a flurry of comings and goings. I flew to New Hampshire to see my sister and stayed about a month hoping the foliage would turn. Very few leaves cooperated while I was there, I missed peak by about a week. But I did paint a bit, one covered bridge and a few buildings. Corbin Bridge is in her town and easily accessible with good vantage points, so I painted that. It was an exercise in pushing color as the trees were still mostly green. 


Corbin Bridge, NH
I also painted on the Rockefeller estate in Woodstock Vermont. That was a fun day. I got to speak French with a docent and we visited grandly… I do miss it. I also painted the Woodstock library as light was breaking behind it and over the hill top. Met a leaf peeper (as the natives call tourists this time of year) off a bus with the same last name as mine. Now that doesn’t happen too often.

Then after my return home, I was out camping with my husband and two friends in Arizona. I painted there as well, but that presented challenges of a different sort. Challenges of composition in making a straight on view of a cliff face work. I also tried to make my translation of it more abstract than rendered detail. Challenges of wind and cold were a reminder that winter is supposedly on its way. It was colder in AZ than in NH, imagine! A curious squirrel did everything he could to entice a morsel of food from me, but I had brought nothing with me to share.

Fool's Hollow AZ


All this travelling about got me thinking about seeing my surroundings with a fresh pair of eyes. New England, Arizona or New Mexico, the wonders of this land and the works of we the people are amazing. I really felt a connection to all the places I was in. Surrounded by granite in New Hampshire or lava flow in Arizona, the impermanence of our time here becomes inescapable.

This tends to make me even more impatient to catalogue what I see in the time I am here. I sometimes wonder if the kids will have a garage sale and toss the paintings that I have agonized over after I am gone. I hope not.

I don’t write so well that posterity will find any deep thinking of value. But, I hope I paint better than I write. I hope that people who view my paintings get a sense of the reverence I have for this land and appreciation for all the sacrifices that our fellow citizens who came before us willingly performed.

If you have read this far, I thank you. Not all my blog posts are this serious. But painting this land has settled a feeling of thankfulness in me that I hope I never lose; one I hope I can hand on to someone else through my work.

"In the moment of appreciation we live again the moment when the creator saw and held the hidden likeness." (Jacob Bronowski)

Monday, August 21, 2017

There's a reason why I haven't posted in a while...

Why you ask?
For one major reason. I wanted to see if anyone actually noticed if I didn't post. So far, only three people even mentioned it. I am wondering if this is wasted effort.

Lots has happened since running after the decoration sugar balls on the floor, while baking cookies. We had the holidays. Grandkids graduated and got into college. We bounced back and forth from CA, Colorado and here. 
I went to the plein air convention in San Diego. That was like coming home. I took a workshop with my cousin Paul and Kim Casebeer in Evergreen Colorado. Wow, was it ever beautiful. Made a few new friends during the process and loved every minute. Moral - you can and will windburn even if you are slathered with sunscreen. Second moral - ALWAYS have a jacket in the car!


Balboa Carillon - Sold

I taught a workshop here in Silver and have been painting up a storm. I was asked to judge a plein air competition and did a defensible job. That was an honor, and was asked to judge two more, but what with travelling and family events could not do them.

What have I been painting? Mostly landscapes. Mostly plein air work. But I have revised several studio pieces that have hung around bugging me no end. Because something just did not ring true in them. I have one more piece, a pastel, that will undergo a face lift in one area. Then the backlog of those that can be saved will have been. Others will not be allowed into the lifeboat. I cringe when I see an older piece that today I would not have allowed to live. 


Morning Walk - Gila
11x14 Available
The best painting is always your next one. The worst ones always behind you. You hope. But I am learning to look with a more critical eye. Teaching a workshop really made me think about my process. What do I KNOW works. What is the major stumbling block to good solid work? I found, for me, the answer was concept and composition. I can forgive a color I would not use. I can forget a brushstroke that might be too exuberant. But bad composition, and loss or confusion of concept are fatal flaws, in my mind. What do I consider a success? Solid concept. Strong motif. Enticing composition. Defined, clear values. Finally, enhancing color and a deft execution of edges. Easy list right?

Bearpaw Bloom 8x10 oil - Available

My students told me it was one of the hardest and best workshops they had taken. It was my honor. I felt pretty much like a mama duck watching her fledglings toddle off and swim with the big boys. The body of their work, when compared to what they had done before was stunning in advance of quality. It was hard teaching plein air in a pouring down rainstorm. It actually washed away a layer of paint on my support! But we slogged on through and got some amazing paintings. 

Monsoons in New Mexico! I don't think I could give them up.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Let It Go!

Let it Go!

We missed a good chance to win some money from AFV this past week. All it would have taken was a short clip of me decorating the Christmas cookies I made for my grandkids.



I was placing the tiny white sugar balls on the cookies with a pair of tweezers when the cuff of my shirt caught the lip of the jar. Had I put the cap back on? Heck no! 
What followed was a wave of tiny white balls rushing to the edge of the table as I yelled S^*%! They moved faster than the Israelites running through the parting of the Red Sea!  Trying to stop those balls were like trying to herd cats.  My husband came tearing down the hall coming to see what had torn such emotion from my lips, when I cautioned him to not step into the dining room. One look of the floor told us both we had had a snow storm of immense proportions. White balls were everywhere!  Suddenly I started to laugh….the idiocy of the situation was full in my face. How could I not laugh? I let it go.
I drew a parallel this morning as I was driving into town to get the one package I sent off this year. The care I had taken with the cookies was painstaking. The time was spent hoping to make my family and friend’s holidays a bit brighter, one bloody ball at a time. Sometimes painting is like that. You agonize over an edge, a stroke, a poorly drawn form, a seemingly false color value in the wrong place. The problems with some paintings just do not give you peace, even at night as you lay there thinking what on earth could you have done to have made that painting better. The stroke by stroke replay can leave you tossing. So when you view the painting in the morning you are determined to fix it or kill it. The painting, that is. Because by then you have deduced that the problem with your sleep pattern is not the too bright moon, the too late dessert, that last cup of coffee, no. It is the obsessive nature of a painter who demands from themselves that which their mind sees, but that their hand is not yet capable of producing. We all paint masterpieces in our minds.
What is the healthy direction then? What resolution is there for this obsession?  I have decided that it is to do the same thing as I did with those fugitive white balls. Throw it/them away. If I cannot improve it…..I can destroy it. Thereby keeping my sanity and maybe finding a new way to work. By not placing a label of precious on the thing, it has abdicated its power over me. I become the one with the power to create, refine, change and if desired, to destroy. Let it go. See no work as precious.
The cookies are done. Decorated with all their little doodads intact. The frosting has hardened and set…

The cap is on the jar of white balls. Tightened down. Twice.




Merry Christmas and a Blessed Season to all.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Concentrate On One Thing At A Time


My kids sometimes call me Dora the explorer. Why? Because I often seem to go off in tangents, forgetting what the heck I was doing. I really think it’s that my mind works in flashes. The more insistent the flash, the more brilliant and beckoning it seems. So off I go. Then comes the fall back to earth. I experienced this when we held a paintout weekend in Hillsboro NM last week.

I painted, very patiently and logically the light on three old building remnants. One was a shed, one was a crumbling jail wall, and the last was the arch of the old courthouse wall, the only indication of what is reputed to have been a gorgeous building in Hillsboro, when it was the county seat. All are working their way to being vague memories. Relics is the title I gave this small but intricate light study. It is pictured below. An 8x10, it is small, but full of information.

Relics
Oil 8x10 Available

Finishing the piece I started to pack up my gear. Then Dora’s head popped up! Behind me, aglow with light were absolutely glorious wildflowers! Their passing would definitely not leave relics of their time in this world. They demanded to be recorded. So back out came the paints. What resulted is a small 8x10 painting that I call Morning Glory. It definitely was. Not only that, painting it served to loosen me up after so very carefully painting the crumbling walls and the arch of the courthouse.

Morning Glory
Oil 8x10 Available

This fall back to organization and reality can be tiring in its emotional intensity, or on that rare occasion, insightful and insistent to the point that it MUST BE obeyed. 

I used to be organized, logical, methodical, and I think, totally boring. Not so anymore. I wear purple far more. My white hair makes people a little more forgiving than they were when I was the same age and dyed it. I think my lifelong admiration of the greeting card character Maxine has caught up with me. (Watch out world). So, creatively, I think flashes are good. Liberating, routine smashing, creative, and even desirable.

Squirrel??? Where???

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Did She Really Say That?

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I cannot be the only one who plays back conversations in their mind. I often know after the fact, EXACTLY what could have been said in reply. But how many of us play back what the other person said and wonder what they truly meant?

I am talking about taking classes and workshops. I have read too many books about art to list here. Lots of positive self-help stuff, because as most artists, I am plagued by wondering if anyone really appreciates what goes into painting. Especially plein air which I liken to painting on steroids, or the Olympics of painting, for the sheer effort that sometimes can be required. I have read what not to take into the field, but figure there’s a reason why I drive an SUV. I am not a backpacker, hiker or any of those young buff type advocates. I am looking at the looming end of my sixties with a real appreciation of being able to do this at all. Physical things take longer to bounce back from. Heck I don’t think I bounce at all anymore.

But I do take classes and workshops. I truly try to grasp with both hands what the teacher is getting at. I will try anything, go anywhere, if I think there might be a breakthrough at the end. There’s lots to learn and my time to learn it does not stretch out limitlessly. Nobody’s does. So even if it’s well after the notes have been taken and reread, that when I am standing in the shower, soaping up my head (or whatever), that when a revelation hits, I stop and think. Gosh I’ve even gotten goosebumps standing there all wet. But I have come to realize that not all of it sinks in. It’s often like watching runoff after a drenching rain. The earth is parched, but the water runs off. Likewise, my mind is hungry, but only able to take in and digest what it is ready for. But there are times when you are ready… times that stand out as that AHA, I’ve finally gotten it, moment.
  • Do Thumbnails – Yes I mean you! At least three variations.
  • Use a limited palette – That means learning EVERYTHING that primary colors can do.
  • How many greens can you mix? How many variations and temperatures are there in one color family?
  • Tone your board with an overall tone – NOT brilliant orange
Twisted Oak Winery, Sunkissed

That’s what happened when I took my first Kathleen Dunphy workshop this past April/May. I saw how wise counsel, trying it all, and saying “what the heck” can get you. It’s not the vast number of paintings I did (I only did three, and of those would only show two). Rather, it’s the willingness to fail, to throw caution to the wind and try everything she suggested, that brought me the best return. Everything she said I had heard before, read somewhere before and never really accepted.  I figured if it works for her, what the heck? I am so glad that I left my stubbornness at home and really listened. I feel that there is real substance in this approach for me. I am going to give it a good try for a while and just see if there is a difference at all in my work.

Soul Refllections
Here’s to growth. It’s not just for kids you know.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Winter In New Mexico - Southern Part

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This February has been more like Tucson than Silver City. We are so very much higher, and cooler. So it is with surprise that we experienced 72 degree days this month!
Perfect for plein air painting! And no snakes yet!

My friend Gay and I went 'sploring on down the road in the Mimbres Valley, just East of Silver City. What we found was an area whose accessibility was determined by the rate of flow of the Mimbres River. Many people live on the far side of that river and rely on four wheel drive, lifted vehicles. Some leave a car on the city side to get out and do routine things like shop or get gas. We didn't have one of the aforementioned vehicles, so we stayed on the tame side. But we still had views that were varied and just downright gorgeous.

The motif

I started my piece by rubbing a tone of a violet all over the board. (I have been watching Shana Kuntz" new video). Its great for making you think and start a little different from your normal starting point and method. Its that thinking differently gives you different results thing. I love the friendship of violet and greens, not to mention the love of yellows for violets, resulting in some of the most rich offsprings possible. We were at riverside and the water was so noisy that we couldn't hear each other talk unless we yelled. Somehow that just was gauche.



The block in


Locals drove their monster tired trucks by ever so slowly so as not to dust us. Who says locals are indifferent to their surroundings? Its so nice to have such a kind and thoughtful welcome.
We painted until we got the sense that we were both starting to dink around with it. For me that is the moment that I think " I can make it better if I just do this", and then the last stroke kills all sense of immediacy - it kills the " I am there" moment. I wish I had a guardian angel who could break my arm before I do that.


In The Shadow Of Cooke's Peak

This was what resulted from one of the nicest days in the sun, with a lovely breeze and friendly people. Mimbres Valley is rapidly becoming one of my favorite places to paint.







Saturday, January 30, 2016

He Did Not Have The Time

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The air blew out of my sails this morning. Somebody I knew, though not as well as I would have liked, is gone. Saim Caglayan posted this morning that Ken Auster is no longer with us. Click here to see his work.

About 15 years ago, I called Ken in his Southern Ca studio just to tell him how happy his paintings made me. I could not, nor did I think I would ever be able to afford one, but just seeing them made me happy.  When I told him how I had a visceral reaction to the paint quality in his work and the simple happiness of being alive in his lighting, he was absolutely tickled. The man was gracious to a fault as I interrupted him that foggy morning. I could feel the smile in his words.

Due to the fact that I was working over 50 hours a week, keeping a house going and watching over my aging mom who was living with us, taking a workshop was not going to happen. So I talked to him and bought his first DVD. It was one of the first art lessons on disk I had ever bought. I have watched that lesson over and over. I tried a month of using his limited palette, and could not figure for the life of me how that alizarin crimson got onto my skivvies! The fact that he used an ironing board and wax paper for a palette was typical of somebody who painted with passion, who could not afford being distracted by the small stuff. That small stuff just got rolled up and stashed in the bin. There’s a lesson there. I told myself I had time. After all, he was younger than me and I knew where he was.

Seeing Ken at the PACE conventions made talking to him very easy. He remembered who I was, that crazy artist lady who lived in San Diego County and loved his work, and who tried to paint. I asked him why he had not done a DVD on painting cities, streets, buildings. I had emailed him requesting one too. He replied that he had said all he had to say, and he smiled. Not true. In the past two years, Streamline released the second of his DVDs. Subject, city streets. When I saw Ken after that, I told him that I was thrilled. For someone who cannot get to a workshop for either time or money constraints, a DVD is the next best thing. I could do that, after all, I still had time to get to his studio and take a workshop. 


This morning brought home the fact that we do not have a promised tomorrow. We have today. So to my artist friends I say, take that workshop. Go the distance.


It never occurred to me that Ken did not have the time.

Should the two links above not work for you, just go to www.kenauster.com