O Fortuna…

Last night I learned that a friend was in a terrible car accident a couple weeks ago — his car vs. a truck — on the highway that runs north and south through Colorado, but only a few blocks from me. The victim is the junk sculptor I interviewed last month. I’ve always liked him, but didn’t know him until I got the idea of interviewing him for Colorado Central Magazine. That led me to a two hour chat with him in his work shop last month. We had a blast. As I left — thanking him — he thanked me for the interesting conversation. 😮

I tried to keep the interview focused, but he and his workshop made that difficult. Neither of us is very linear and the interview was 2/3 interview and 1/3 random discussion and discovery. I sent him the draft of the article. He liked it and wrote back, “Thanks for understanding my art.” Anyway, I contacted the magazine last night and told them. They’re going to put the article up online with the GoFundMe link. John’s going to make it, but his care and rehab will be incredibly expensive and slow. And, as he said, “I only have 3 circles.” He works on a potato and barley farm and that’s his portion. John is kind, authentic, friendly — a whole lot of good adjectives. A lot of things in his body were broken and repair was touch and go. Godnose how rehab will be. I hope he’ll be able to come back to his shop and put more things together as he loves to do.

I don’t really want to say the same old thing, “We never know,” because we all KNOW we never know.

OTHERWISE, to my immense surprise, Bear wanted to go with me and Teddy yesterday. It was balmy for late November and the light was beautiful. As we were on our return, I saw two people approaching — a very tall man and a very petite woman. These are the only two other walkers I ever see out there. They are very nice and the love the dogs and the dogs love them, so there was much petting of dogs and chatting and “I always love to see you out here!” Apparently last time Teddy scratched the woman’s arm and that led to an infection. We agreed it was Teddy’s nails, the dirt from the road, and his overweening enthusiasm. The critical moment for socializing Teddy was 2020. He never jumps on me, never, ever, ever, but he doesn’t generalize from “Martha” to “human beings” I think because I was more or less a unique entity during that important juncture in the development of his hyper-active Aussie brain. I felt really bad about the scratch and infection, but the woman felt bad about my feeling bad, so… I held Teddy down so she could pet him because she really wanted to.

Then we were on our way. It’s an interesting thing that they — and I — go out there for the quiet and solitude and are very happy to meet, and chat with, others who are out there for quiet and solitude.

There isn’t much snow left and, of course, what’s there isn’t real snow but what snow evolves into after a week of deep cold, heavy frost, and sun, but Bear was happy when it was her turn to smell and wander. My fitness app (grrrrrr) tells me that when it’s Teddy’s turn, we walk 3 mph (and he’s pulling). When it’s Bear’s turn, we walk 1.2 mph and, for some reason, Teddy isn’t pulling. I think he understands. Here’s the snow angel Bear made in what’s left. No, not the shadow. That’s me.

Reconstruction

At the invitation of Chris I joined a group on Facebook that posts drawing prompts. I just did my first one. It wasn’t easy, but it would have been easy four months ago. It took two tries. It’s OK, but not exactly “me.” That said, I’m happy with it because I learned something from it and it’s not ugly.

There’s a book by Laurence Durrell that’s very inspiring to me as an artist — that is the last book in the Alexandrian Quartet: Clea. Every artist has obstacles within him/herself. The most common is fear. But there are skill obstacles (which are frustrating but IMO fun to push through), vision obstacles (both objective and mental), intellectual (putting the idea of how something should be in front of what it IS or wants to be), and something else which I don’t have a word for. I discovered when I was trying to put together Rainbow Girls in Wheatland Wyoming soon after I had Covid. I couldn’t do it. It wasn’t that I didn’t think I could paint/draw it — I did draw it. It was something else that I had not experience before, it was that I couldn’t “see” the painting in my mind’s eye. I don’t know how to explain that, but it’s a real thing. I paint TOWARD something which is, for me, like starting a relationship. “Hi, my name is Martha,” kind of and the painting answers and we “talk” in colors and images and there it is, a kind of dance or dialogue.

Now, for me, it’s like sitting at a dinner with people who are talking around you, even to you, and you understand maybe two words out of five? Not enough to make a sentence or get the big picture. As I was working on this little watercolor/watercolor pencil piece, just a small still life of a dish that has a lot of meaning to me, I could feel it. I could feel the brush saying, “Are you there? I can’t hear you clearly.” I don’t need to relearn the technique of painting. I need to FEEL the relationship between my eye, my mind and my hand.

In Durrell’s book, the character, Clea, is a painter, but (in her mind) something has always been missing from her paintings. The book is set in North Africa in WW II and if I remember the story correctly, Clea loses a hand diving in the bay and hitting a mine. I don’t remember why she was doing that — but that’s I believe what happened. Her hand is replaced with a prosthetic hand. She has to learn to paint with it and, to her surprise, she is able to paint from her authentic self with that hand, something she had never been able to do. Durrell’s books are wonderful, unforgettable, but I read them a long time ago and don’t have them any more so I can’t check my memory or put something beautiful here to share.

Covid affects the brain and the connections between the brain and bodily functions — digestion, breathing and thinking. I don’t know why I got “long Covid” but I did. Grrrrrrrrrr…… 🤬 Anyway, I can’t let this beat me out of the ONE thing I have fought for my whole fucking life.

The Land of My Childhood

As I was reading through all the great blogs I follow, I was captivated by some words on “I Didn’t Have My Glasses On.”

“there is no land like the land of your childhood.”-Michael Powell

I guess there might be millions of Michael Powells, but I wondered if this one weren’t one of my all-time favorite filmmakers. A lot of his films are in black and white, made during WW II. I imagine his most well-known film now is the Red Shoes which is an amazing film, but not my favorite.My favorite is A Canterbury Tale.

Even if those are not the words of “my” Michael Powell, they are magical. They made me think of a Christmas card I drew a long time ago of my brother and me sledding through the forest near our home in Nebraska, a small fragment of the forest that grew along the Missouri River. The woods were our playground, and we spent as much time in them as we could.

Part of “our” forest is still there and I’ve even navigated through it on Google Earth. As Michael Powell said, “There is no land like the land of your childhood.” The only way I have to return there is through art. I know now, as an adult, that part of what makes the land of childhood is that it is a land of the mind as much as a land on this planet, so art is a pretty good mode of travel to reach it from this distant point in time, 60 or so years on…

Here are photos we took in “our forest.” My dad let us take the camera. I found the pictures when I was scanning the China slides a few years ago, and I was very happy to see them there. The first photo is me in the grass that filled a big meadow that is no longer there. The middle photo is my brother on the trail that led deep into the woods. We sledded on our Flexible Flyers through this, weaving our way through the trees along a ravine for a short while. The trail ended in a neighborhood of very good sledding hills. It was one fast ride, thrilling, dangerous and fantastic. Where we ended there were always a lot of other kids on the sledding hill. The hill was reached by skying over a low retaining wall. Our parents never knew what we were doing which was for the best (for us). All we got when we got home was, “Did you have a good time?” Luckily we never lost any teeth or broke anything… That would have raised OTHER questions…

The forest belonged to the Columban Fathers. The photo of me standing was taken from the top of a concrete grotto that was one of their Stations of the Cross. The forest was beyond their monastery. I wanted to share the drawing of “the land of my childhood.” 💚

The Shadow Knows but I’m Not Painting It

Light and shadow are a painter’s stock and trade and not my strength. My paintings are, in general, kind of flat or would be if it weren’t for perspective. Light and shadow have been studied and systematized which is good because they are explainable. I just got so bored learning about them that I didn’t learn about them. It isn’t that they aren’t effective in a painting, they’re beyond effective. They’re necessary. Where I live now, however, they’re pretty furtive things. The light is so bright and absolute in this high valley, that shadow has to retreat into the, uh, shadow. I get the fundamental idea and apply it, but…

I haven’t been much of an artist lately but I’m hoping that’s going to change soon. Yesterday, tired and mildly under the weather from the vaccinations, I decided to get down and dirty with printing note cards here on my printer. I did OK with two, one of which will be my Christmas card. I could see how, at this point, a person would say, “Well damn, I need a laser printer!” and there would go the savings won from printing at home. I have a really nice inkjet printer, but so far it hasn’t done a great job reproducing my paintings on any of the stock I’ve tried though it prints photos beautifully. I got a sample card stock set from a fancy paper company and ended up very disappointed. I could see me heading out to the big world of expensive things and buying photoshop, a laser printer and a good camera for this thereby defeating the whole economizing gambit. I’m telling you; the Man is keeping me down.

Over all, the system is pretty nice for drawings, even colored drawings, and a nice thing about this option is that I can print custom cards very easily. Still, it’s not painting.

“Color is a power which directly influences the soul. Color is the keyboard, the eyes are the hammers, the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand which plays, touching one key or another, to cause vibrations in the soul.” Kandinsky

I know you’re all concerned about how I’m doing with my two vaccines in one day — no big problems except a little tired and loss of appetite which is only supposed to be a side-effect experienced by kids. OH well. As they said in the beginning, “We really don’t know,” and that’s the truth.

I was thinking of my blog earlier this morning, and a line from the movie Naked Lunch went through my mind. The William S. Burroughs character says, “We all live boring lives, but some of us write reports about it.” That was his explanation for why writers write.

Sketchy

I’ve had a painting — or something — in the back of my mind for a while, trying to figure out how to do it and what it would be. It’s a dog painting, but this time the dog isn’t Bear.

Yesterday — it rained all day — very strange, And one day of rain is about my limit and by late afternoon I was all “Rainy days and Mondays…la la la.” I went into the studio to consider the whole thing. For some reason, it’s never a rainy day in the studio, even when things don’t work out. I decided to sketch it even though ONE thing I learned from “Rainbow Girls in Wheatland, Wyoming in 1957” is that sometimes a sketch is all (all?) a work will be. It made me a little hesitant to draw because I (think) want to paint this scene.

It’s kind of a “wet” scene, too, so pencils seem just too hard, and too dry for it to capture it. But a rainy day will drive a person to dangerous lengths.

During the time I was cleaning out my journals, I found one that is really a sketchbook. There were only a few pages that had been “journaled” so I ripped them out and saved the book. The paper seemed just right for the project I was thinking of sketching, so I pulled it out and drew.

I have had some amazing experiences out there with my dogs. This is my dog, Molly (half-Aussie, half-Malamute), blue merle, up in the Laguna Mountains (3/2000). There was about 18 inches of snow at the top — about 5500/6000 feet. You can see in the drawing what a snappy dresser I was back in 2000, taking skis up to the mountains to carpe the diem. It snowed in Southern California, a lot sometimes, but it melted quickly. We skied down about 1 1/2 miles to the pond which was in a completely different season. It was spring there.

The pond sits at the top of a ravine (it’s a small, dammed farmer’s pond kind of thing) and the air currents from the Pacific run right up that ravine. They were carrying snow = moisture. When the fog from the ocean hit the pond, which was warmer than it was, it drifted toward the water in beautiful veils of mist.

A little higher, the fog hit the Jeffry Pine trees and coated the needles in ice and then further up, snow.

Molly and I went back and forth from winter — about 1500 feet above the pond — and back to the pond several times. It was an amazing moment.

And drawing Molly? Wow. I could almost feel her beside me.

Right now, I don’t know if it’s ever going to be a painting. The ephemeral experience might be best depicted just like this, and maybe no one needs to see this image but me (and you!). I don’t know yet.

Molly

Repair Finished

Impossible to fill all the cracks but I kind of like it that way. I let a little of the wood show through on the cranes because it matches the mud they put on themselves for camouflage. I will need to varnish it in a couple of days then back to Montana!

Garden Sign

One of the people to whom I sold a garden sign a couple of years ago sent it back. She had hung it in a place that made it very vulnerable to the elements (elements being sun and sprinklers). I try hard to paint my garden signs so they’ll withstand a LOT, but that sign got in a vortex of evil. I asked her to send it back so I could fix it. It’s a somewhat complicated painting on exterior plywood, more painting than sign. It was painted with good paint on high-quality exterior primer, but that didn’t save it.

The painting had peeled (tiny peels) in an interesting pattern with the wood grain that I kind of liked. All I could do was sand it to get the loose paint off and hope I didn’t lose the painting. It got more interesting as I sanded.

After sanding…

This is what I started with when I began the repair work. I was happy my sanding didn’t remove everything because I wanted to keep the image as much as possible. If I had to paint it again, I thought I’d just use a panel or a canvas. She going to hang it inside now anyway, so… but I thought that would lose something, especially the back which has a message between us about the day I finished. It was the day Biden’s election was certified.

As I worked, I felt a small connection to those heroes of song and story — painting restorers — a tenuous connection, but still.

I decided to work my way backward toward the mountains and use the acrylics I inherited last year. The colors in the photos are not right; shifted to red a bit because of the hanging over the window… Especially in the featured photo which is how I left the sign at the end of the day. The foreground, middle hills, mountains and sky are more-or-less finished. I no longer have the same paint I used originally for the sky but I think that’s OK.

The comparatively rougher wood grain adds a challenge to this that didn’t exist when I painted it the first time. There are small cracks. If I were painting a new painting on the panel as it is now, It might be less detailed or I’d take the belt sander to the wood.

Today I hope to paint the cranes.

Limitations

September — ahhhhhh….. The Sainted Scarlet Emperor Beans have already given me 3 beautiful seeds and there could be more, depending whether frost is lurking around the corner. Yesterday, thinking about freedom, I thought about limitations. As an artist, I find liberation in limitations. Maybe that’s a paradox, but the limitations tell me what I can do, what is possible. For now I have abandoned the Rainbow Girls in Wheatland Wyoming, 1957 because I don’t know what it is. I can’t see it any more. Maybe I will see it down the road (ha ha). I hope so because I really love the idea, but I’ve learned not to force anything. Moments like this are as important as moments spent painting because sometimes you just DON’T KNOW.

And I don’t know…

Limitations are directions. It’s like a maze. If you hit a dead end here, you go another way or you stop and reconnoiter. A long time ago, after I’d had my one person show in Denver, and I felt that, for then, I was done, I started doing linoleum cuts mainly because I was terrible at it and there was only so much I could do with linoleum. I had been inspired by seeing Picasso’s linoleum cuts in the National Gallery. It was fun not to have any sense that I could possibly do well. Ironically, I kind of did do well, but it was a different kind of doing well. When I came back from China I did some more (featured photo) and cheated a bit (features on the baby’s face).

But right now my limitation is I will soon be having house guests, one of whom will sleep in my studio, so the challenge is to renegotiate the space so there’s somewhere for him to sleep.

In Covid news, it seems that the hip problems are really gone. THAT was a long battle there. 2 1/2 months, but this is fine. It’s in time for all the important things — fall cranes and later, if it snows, Langlauf.

R-e-s-p-e-c-t

Just now I was packing up a painting I just framed — not one of my favorite paintings but it has some merit and some people like it very much. So, if I get a chance to exhibit, I will exhibit it. As I packed it — knowing I’m not crazy about it — I thought of how I honored it anyway. I tried something and had joy in the attempt. That’s a WHOLE lot, and, out of my not-very-large income I provided materials for it to exist.

Then my mind wandered to an open show I hung a few pieces in last year. I respect my work very much and I respect the work of other people. I can’t judge what goes into their work, but I can’t imagine it’s anything less than goes into mine. This is irrespective of whether I like what they’ve done or not. As I struggled with the painting to get bubble wrap between it and the sides of the box it hit me.

I really hate being disrespected. Doesn’t everyone?

Last summer when I went to pick up the paintings from the show (a three hour drive each way) the people who ran the museum/gallery/school whatever it was said, “Oh yeah go get your stuff.” I had carefully boxed each piece and left the boxes there assuming that they’d take the show down and put the work into the boxes and get ID from the artists coming in to claim their work. None of that happened. I would have done that, at the very least brought the boxes into the gallery for the artists — but maybe I was the only one with a long drive? I don’t know. I certainly would have ID’d the people who came in to be sure the paintings they were taking belonged to them or they were representing the artist? Maybe I would’ve thought the work was shit, but that would have been irrelevant. I would have felt that the facility owed the artists respect if for no other reason than that for 6 weeks they’d had a show with no effort on their part.

I was angry.

I thought today also about my “friend” Perla, the talented fabric artist. Sometime in the next couple of weeks Colorado Central Magazine is going to run an article about her and her work. The article was my idea and I thought, “This is great. Perla will get publicity and I’ll get to write an article. The timing is perfect; right before a fiber art festival in the town of Salida where the magazine is published. Perla participates in that show.” I queried the article, got an OK, interviewed Perla, wrote it, sent it to Perla to review, and I submitted it. It was sent back for “more personal” stuff.

Then…

I got Covid and my brain hurt a lot; I suspected I was contagious and my ability to focus was registering in the negative numbers — if that’s ever measured. I texted Perla and told her what the magazine wanted but also said I wasn’t up to another interview. I asked if we could do it in writing. Sure no problem. I sent her questions (6 or 7) three weeks before I needed the responses. She immediately answered, “Good questions. OK.” I never heard anything back. I thought, “Well, she said she liked the questions and would get back to me. I’ve already put at least 8 hours of my life into this. This is for her benefit. Why should I chase her down?” I didn’t care much at that point (as I was still sick) if the article ran or not.

Then, the magazine wrote and said, “We really want that article.” I pondered contacting Perla again about it and decided not to. Why?

I felt totally disrespected. Because I want the byline, and I hate leaving things unfinished, I did research and a rewrite. All is well, and Perla will get the publicity, but she’s lost a friend.

But respect. I’m a ridiculously gullible person, and I don’t notice these things quickly, but when I do? How do you deal with this kind of thing if it happens to you? I won’t deal with the gallery, but a friend?

I’ve also realized (today) that what has disturbed — disgusted — me most about Old 45 and all of that still going on is his and his followers’ total lack of respect for our government, for the people in this nation, for institutions that have made this the world’s oldest continuous government (it is — our government existed before anything anyone would call American culture), disrespect for education — everything. It’s personal to me just as the disrespect shown my work by that “gallery” and my “friend.” I realized today that the reason I used to beat up the kids who beat up my brother was that; they did not respect him. Wow. 70 years old and now I know the Red Button of Martha Ann Kennedy.