Sunday, March 29, 2009

One Month Down

What a great weekend! I enjoyed instructing a great class of artists on Saturday at the Minden Opera House. Those folks accomplished a great amount of learning in just a few hours, and I admire their willingness to jump right in and get to work. The Opera House is a terrific place for workshops (hint hint) and it appears that people around that part of the state are eager for the opportunity. (More hint hint.)

This Monday, Mavis and I begin our fifth week of daily painting. This idea of finishing a painting every day has been around for about 4 or 5 years. Today there are hundreds of artists taking on the challenge of showing up at their easel every single day and completing a painting or project
(Please note, I asked, begged and pleaded for weekends off. My idea, not Mavis'.)

By Friday, the 20th day of our project, I was sucking wind. Seriously. Who knew? Who knew that those mere 5 x 7 paintings would take so much out of me? If you've been paying attention, you know that the compositions aren't that complicated. The size is not overwhelming. So why am I bent over gasping for breath?
It's because I'm showing up. Every day, rain or shine, busy or not, I'm there. You're waiting to see what I've promised I'll do. I'm thinking, really hard, and I'm learning. And learning, at least for me, is exhausting. I mean, those brain cells are vibrating faster than they have in a long, loooooong time.

So . . . what have I learned since my last post on the subject?

It can be summed up in three words: just for now.

A very smart lady told me this once. Just for awhile, do it. Not for a month or a year or a lifetime, but just for now. Don't paint the 80th or the 90th piece, just paint the one in front of me. I don't have to get all anxious that for the rest of my life I'll be up in my studio, like Rapunzel in her tower, painting all day and missing out on everything fun that's going on. Just for now I will focus on one small canvas-covered board and enjoy the task. When today's piece is done, it's done. This simple thought quiets my mind and allows focus. My heart, all a-quiver with anxiety over the thought of another painting, calms and slows. I'm doing this one painting, now. Not forever. Now.

Once this sunk in I feel stronger and more capable about this project. Last week I was imagining all kinds of excuses, really good excuses, for not being able to keep up with this commitment. You know, the dog ate my canvas, I'm just toooo bizzzzzy, I have to iron handkerchiefs...
Tonight I'm looking forward to starting day 21. Afterall, those handkerchiefs get all wadded up anyway, and we don't have a dog, and that other stuff can wait.

For now.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

It's Spring!

This Thursday celebrated the vernal equinox, the balance of night and day, the signal of spring to come.
And not a moment too soon.
The weather has been typically spring-like lately. In Nebraska that means we've had temperatures from 20 to 80, and winds from zero to 40 all in the course of 48 hours. We have a saying in Nebraska: If you don't like the weather, wait a few minutes and it'll change.
We celebrated the arrival of spring by heading out to a nearby lake for a day of fishing (by the fellas) and painting (by me). It was wonderful being outside without the burden of multiple layers of coats and scarves. The sun was lovely and warm in amongst the still-bare trees and tall grass. Beavers had made their mark on many of the trees by the lake, chewing completely through the trunk of a few of them. Being outside on a day like this is heaven for me.
After the hustle and bustle of the Home & Garden Show, I was ready for some peace and quiet.
I'm just not used to saying that many words in one day. It was lovely to share the first 15 "Off The Highway" paintings done so far, and reaction to them was positive, which is always good for the ego. "Bird's Nest on Linen" went to a very good home, and I'm pleased about that. But I was also pleased today to be alone with my easel, and paints and brushes, and thoughts about how to tell the story of this bare tree, bent under the sun and the wind of the central plains, and the warm tall grass beneath it reaching for the sun.
Life is good.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Whut I lurnd in skool 2day

As I work on these Off The Highway daily paintings, I've been making a list of the specific things I'm learning. Thought you might want in on the process. It might just save you a few steps.
Probably the most important thing I'm learning is to Let It Go.
I'm not talking about personal baggage here (that's a post for another day). I'm talking about the stuff in my non-painting hand. Let It Go. Put It Down. At one point in my painting frenzy my left hand held 4 brushes, a palette knife, a wad of paper towel and a big blue blob of paint which I quickly wiped off on my nose. It's not like I don't have 2 tables, a stool and - egads - an honest to goodness brush holder that swings off my easel to put these things in. I'm not sure if my psyche is hanging on for dear life or what. Lesson: put that stuff down.

Which brings me to the Proper Place. That place is not the clothes dryer (laundry is what I do when I don't know what to do), not the bathroom sink counter (where I got another glass of water to delay making a decision), and certainly not balancing on the edge of my palette where my brushes will certainly land in either a) the wet paint piles on the inside of my palette, or b) the floor, carpeted of course, which I recently uncovered, being quite certain I would never, never drop a paint-loaded brush. Lesson: put brushes, paper towel wads, painting knives and paint blobs in their proper place so you can find them when you need them.

I learned that Nebraska skies are some crazy kind of blue for which I may never have the recipe. Lesson: spend more time in the hammock staring at the sky. Call it "homework".
If it ain't right, it ain't right. I'm on the 10th day of this project and have had to surrender on just one painting. That's pretty good. I tried, honest I tried, but that one little piece had me beat. No amount of fiddling or adding paint was going to fix it. Lesson: know when it isn't working, wipe it off and give it back to the universe.

I've learned I do not like my #6 filbert "Brand$&##@*$Name" synthetic bristle brush. I paid good money for that thing, but it simply does not hold it's shape well and leaves nasty marks in the paint. It's outta here. Lesson: just because a piece of equipment has a fancy name, and even if you paid a good sum for it, if it doesn't do the job, get rid of it.
The last thing I'll share is this: Wearing gloves keeps your hands clean. They do not, however, keep everything else around you clean. Paint comes off your gloves onto your pants, your furniture and your doorways just as easily as it does your hands.
That's a tip I'll share for free.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

One Hundred Daze

Minden Opera House, downtown Minden Ne.

Right off the bat, I want to thank those of you who attended the opening reception for my solo exhibit, "Marking Time" at the Minden Opera House. We packed the house and had a great time. I was honored and humbled by your presence.

The gallery entry is to the back of the lobby. A beautful start!

My Monster Fan Club

I hinted at a new project in last week's post. Now that the MOH show is up, I'll give you the skinny on the new deal.
My friend Mavis and I have jumped on the bandwagon, joined the crowd and gotten on board with the "Painting a Day" game. For 100 days, starting March 2nd, we have promised each other - and you - that we will create a 5 x 7 painting every weekday for 100 days. (C'mon, I gotta have weekends off.) Our theme is "Off the Highway". We live in different time zones and use different styles in our artwork, but we' ve got highways, both physical and electronic, that link us to each other.
What's the point? (Besides all the cool kids are doing it?)
For the same reason there is Mount Everest and hot dog eating contests at the county fair.
Just because. Just to see if we can. Just for 100 days. Just 100 little paintings.
It seemed like a good idea at the time?
Reason 1.It's show up or shut up time. No whiners allowed. Put down the paper, ignore the crossword puzzle and stride purposefully into the studio. Laundry can wait. Trust me on that.
Reason 2. Learn. There's no way I can paint that many pieces and not learn something. I may learn I don't like to paint every day. I may decide I want to paint larger. I just might find I love it...who knows?
3. Make it count. If the goal is to finish the painting in one day, my decisions had better be good. No more diddling around. Mix the paint right the first time. Make the brushstroke say what it must the first time.
4. It's only one hundred days. It's not a lifetime. Granted, one hundred days is longer than some marriages or careers, but it's doable for me.
5. Learn to see. It'll be interesting to see what opens up for us as we find new subject matter for 100 paintings.
Check in on us from time to time. Comments welcome.
One hundred days, one hundred paintings.