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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

What time is the right time?

A friend having doubts about his art, made me think of my own self-loathing and self-doubts.  My father was categorically against paying for college if my ultimate goal was a subject and career he was sure would bring me failure and starvation: art.  We compromised for a while but he could see I was really passionate about the art and my college possibilities soon ended.  I married and had children and art seemed something I would never be able to get formal training in again.  I went to the library and checked out everything I could get my hands on concerning my passion: watercolor, oils, acrylic, printmaking, biographies, etc.  So basically I became self-taught. 

Years later when the kids all left home, the idea of finishing a college degree seemed ludicrous at my age.  My opportunity had passed me by and that’s life, right?  Wrong.  When the online classes presented themselves to me I thought that it may actually be possible to get my degree after all and not be laughed off a college campus.  I loved it so much I didn’t want to quit with just a BA so I began working toward my Masters as well.  That doesn’t mean I don’t have moments of self-doubt and the voices in my head, saying “who do you think you are, at your age.”  I just refuse to listen to them. 

One of my professors wrote: “Frankly, I feel I was a late bloomer and my success ultimately arrived in the field of Fine Art, rather than illustration, and looking back, I received my education at just the right time, for me.
In a study of the Great Masters of art, success arrives at different times and ages for artists.  Some peaked young, others old.  Just when the right combination of skills, ideas, life experience, etc... all combine at the just the right time, happen at a different age for everyone, and culminate in each artist's greatest potential.”  Warren Chang, Academy of Art University

So I’m not upset about the lost time, because as my professor says, I am obviously learning the right thing at the right time, bringing the right life experiences for me.  All the ducks are finally in a row for me and at 61 I’m not done.  I’m just beginning.  I have many things to bring to the party: experience, determination, age, wisdom, some aches and pains I didn’t used to have, but excitement at the fulfillment of a long lost dream.  Forget about age; all things are possible if you refuse to give up the dream.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

3 Interesting Things I Have Discovered

First: I am beginning to build up my children’s book library and get very excited when I have a few dollars to buy a couple more books.  Today, three more arrived in the mail and I just sat here reading and turning the pages like an excited 6 year old.  Perhaps I never really grew up inside, or perhaps I can appreciate the dedication, work and tears that went into each book and each illustration.  My husband came in and caught me laughing out loud at Click, Clack, Moo, Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Betsy Lewin.  The story is about cows that find an old typewriter and decide to leave a typed note for the farmer that their barn is cold at night and they demand electric blankets, or else no more milk.  That is absolutely genius.  I wish I had thought of it.

Second:  I love to read right before bed.  It is relaxing and calming (usually) depending on my reading choice.  I don’t read long; just about half an hour and a few pages.  However, in this way I have read hundreds of books.  Biographies, mysteries, historical novels, YA novels, fantasy and sci-fi.  When people tell me that they don’t have time to read, I usually think that I don’t either, but I manage to read about a 60 to 70 books each year.  It adds up and keeps me sharp.  I read all of the Mocking Jay series before the movies came out.  I was able to know whether I would love or hate the movie before I ever went.  It keeps me up on what is new and what is old but favored.  Sometimes I will tackle books I always wanted to read but never found the time before.  Right now I’m reading through all of Maya Angelou’s biography books.  They are fascinating and enlightening.

Third:  For those who wonder if great and lasting friendships can be made in online schools, I can say, amazingly yes.  This week I had a friend who writes me regularly tell me about the loss of her son.  I have never met her in person, but we have been close friends for 4 years now, having met at in an online school class.  When she was expecting her first child three years ago, I knitted and sent her a baby blanket.  She always remembers my birthday and I remember hers.  She even sends me a sweet message on Mother’s Day each year.  Isn’t that sweet?  This past month has been very hard for her.  She was expecting her second child, a boy this time, and I sent her another baby blanket and some booties.  Her due date came and her son was stillborn.  The tragedy has hit me harder than I would have expected.  I mean, I never even met her before, but I love her just the same.  I feel like I am grieving with her.  Online friendships are much deeper than you would think.  We have worked at it, never letting too much time go by between letters/emails.  Still, it is amazing what can be accomplished even long distance.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Fatigue and High Blood Pressure

Fatigue is a real problem with artists because we can often get “in the zone” and forget time and people around us.  It can cause us to work much longer than we even realize.  I know I used to fall into that trap and look up as my husband walked in the door from work, suddenly realizing the whole day had gone by and I hadn’t noticed.  I didn’t have dinner cooked or housework done, and he would often beat me for it.  That was my first husband and gratefully I eventually left him.

Now many years later, I have a problem with blood pressure.  Of course they give you medication for that.  Who knew it causes problems with your hands cramping.  I surely didn’t know it would do that.  At first I thought maybe I had carpel tunnel, or a neurological disorder but when I ran out of blood pressure medicine the cramping and numbness in my fingers went away.  My doctor prescribed a different medication that helps a little but my fingers will still go numb after gripping my stylus for a few hours.  What this means for me is frequent breaks.  My fingers insist on me noticing the time and relaxing for a little bit.  It is quite annoying when I want to get lost in my work as always, but the frequent brakes make me back up and see how I’m doing overall.  They make me notice fatigue setting in and maybe that is a good thing after all.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

What I Have Learned From Chiaroscuro

I was nearly all self-taught.  I read many books from the library on different artist's methods, so I had picked up a little of the 5-value system but had no idea it had a name... or how to pronounce it before taking a class on Chiaroscuro.  It is an Italian word, I believe, from the Renaissance meaning light and dark.  I think my vocabulary has improved as much as my technical skills.  
I used charcoal before decades ago but never heard of vine charcoal.  What a revelation.  Vine charcoal is extremely soft and can be nearly erased away by wiping it with a cloth or using a kneaded-gum eraser.  I always resisted charcoal because of the mess and what I thought was a lack of control.  Now I see certain merits in it and even feel I could complete frame-able art pieces with it. 
Believe it or not, I think my favorite part was the fabric drape exercise.  I could use plenty more weeks just playing with the shadows and folds fabric makes when draped over things or on things.  I loved drawing from the plaster head model more than the torso model.  Somehow, the torso gave me the most problems. 
My biggest frustration is my own tendency to deviate from the actual set-up and put in what I think should be there instead of what I see is there.  Even now, I see myself doing it.  It's a hard habit to resist.  I also find I have to rest between stages more because my hand begins to cramp.  Either carpel tunnel is setting in or I am holding the charcoal pencils wrong/too tightly.  I would work on for hours at a time if this didn't slow me down.  However, even this annoyance is not a bad problem since it forces me to stand back periodically and "see" how I am doing structurally.

Seeing your work through someone else's eyes is helpful.  Thanks to everyone who leaves comments.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Copiers or Creators

I am a Christian.  I believe that God created the heavens and earth... etc.  I believe He created us to be like Him... creative.  However precious few of us have CREATED a planet or heavenly bodies of any type.  We can only copy what He has already created, add to it, subtract from it maybe, but technically as Plato says, we don't really do more that mimic what already exists.  Oh yes, we try to be original by using color and form in different ways, abstract, etc. We can add our unique voice to the narrative but it isn’t really new.  But all color and form has already existed.  We are simply reshaping it.  It has all been done before.  And somehow, I find comfort in that.  Because we can still find a unique voice even creating a copy.  Just my opinion.
Michelangelo was very focused on the creation of inspired forms, creating the best through God’s   He felt that only a true artist listening to God’s voice, guiding form and concept, will be able to make something of God, of Beauty, that is successful.  That seems very profound and very realistic.

I must say that we all bring our own Point of View to each piece.  A group of friends and I went out to the same lake location to paint.  Several of us painted the same spot, same medium, same time of day, but each painting turned out slightly different.  We can all look at the same thing and "see" it a little differently, colored by past experience, emotional turmoil, and personal mood, adding unique brush stokes that become fingerprints.  I think that's what makes art great.  We are copying, in a sense, what already is, but each one is unique.  That is how the art experts tell a fake or forgery from an original.  And today we have DNA testing as well.  Thomas Kincaid put a drop of blood, varnished into the original, in the corner of each painting so it could be authenticated as his unique work.  If Van Gogh had known about DNA, perhaps he would have done the same thing, and there wouldn't be so many forgeries of his work floating around today.