Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Drove the Jeep Today

I escaped from my icy prison in Black Lake and headed south to visit my sister. She has a Jeep Rubicon and so in addition to shopping and dog training (my two and her one) we have been out off roading in the Manzano Mountains. They got snow too but it has melted into mud in some spots and frozen into icy sheets on north facing slopes making for tons of fun and driving challenges. And Debbie let me drive.

Drove the jeep today!

Over hill, over trail
Through snow
And Mud
Oozing dark mud
And puddles of thick soup.

Free wheeling and no wheeling
Sliding down slopes of snow
I would not wish
To walk
Back from the woods.

This definitely is not my mother's 63
Must be more my father's child
Slipping and sliding
Rock and rolling
Giggling with my sister.

(c) J. Binford-Bell

Every once in a while we need to slip our bonds, traipse over our normal boundaries and explore our inner child to find and renew our creative voice.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Upon this Winter Solstice

This Yule I gave time to a distressed former friend. She had been there once for me. I figured this was a gift to her in return even given her betrayal this summer. Since then I have kept my distance. Centered myself on my studio completion and the striving to reach a level of achievement within myself with my art. I invited her with others to my studio opening last night.

It is All About Her

I sat
And listened to my old friend
And saw her not hearing what she said
Of excuses and reasons for her behavior.

She talked
of DNA and genetics and the latest research in favor of
She heard not a word
Of what she repeated of teachers.

I watched
Someone I no longer
No longer wanted to know
On any level but chitchat.

She sat
Across from me in the morning sun
Talking nonsense she should would not once have believed
And giving it too much weight.

She'd grown
Less and ponderous but without weight
The sun streamed through the windows
And touched her not.

I tried
To listen to her excuses
What she thought meant so much
But saw only what she had once been.

Have has she become just reasons not
For the inexcusable
All about her surrendered soul.

For your very souls
And give up all hope
Of being more than just yourself.

Is a nurtured hope
Of one's soul to itself
Excuse for less is but death.

(c) J. Binford-Bell Winter Solstice 2008

I drew three runes for direction this solstice. I got Growth, Transformation and Opening. Auspicious beginning for the new solar year. But with growth comes leaving behind those people and things that limit us.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Path

The Path

One by one
They go away
Stay away I find I pray
What made me find them
Good Company
So interesting once but not now?

One by One
They drop behind
Or did they take a different turn
Or I
Why did I once find her
Why did I seek her company?

Little by little
He ceases to call
And we have less and less to chat about
Him I used to love
To whom I was once married
Could I really have been in love?

Bit by bit
My friends are changing
Becoming alien things
That has changed so much
Me that walked away on another path?

One and Two
And stop to buckle my shoe
Move along now I have things to do
of importance
All of which do not include you?

One by one
The come again and go
Talking nonsense that seems to bore
Did I once so raptly listen
Was I as shallow as you?

Why, oh why?
Did I once like you and you and you
Seek out your
Have I grown so far beyond
Or just stopped to let you pass?

By and by
We all do change
Choose our own and different path
Set another
Don't you notice how I stare at you
Wondering why you are still here
on my path.

(c) J. Binford-Bell December 2008

Monday, December 15, 2008

Neatness and Creativity?

Studio Work Space with Handmade Table

I devoted some of my time yesterday to unearthing my work table. I have this tendency to get all my brushes out and all my jars of watercolor and mixing trays and spread them all about even though there is a pull-out flat file to the right where all of this stuff is suppose to live. I made the desk this spring to my own specifications. Working in water media requires flat surfaces.

I have finally committed myself to an "open studio" party this coming Saturday to show off my studio to my friends. I have made myself a hermit while finishing the studio following the firing of the contractor a year ago July. The studio is now open informally but in May it will become part of the 3T's Art Tour here in northern New Mexico and I will have to keep minimal regular hours. I am rather looking forward to that next summer.

However, I am not sure I am looking forward to the neatness it will require. I spent blocks of time yesterday cleaning up after a spate of painting and the making of Sailing on Solar Winds. Today I need to clean up my desks from designing and printing invitations and making Christmas ornaments for the tree. I am not a neat person. One flat surface gets too crowded and I just move to another. And the new studio offers tons of flat surfaces. Some even are on rollers and slide out for my convenience.

And artists (well, at least this one) seem to seldom toss anything out. Never know when you will need that colored pen or that jar or that single earring of a pair you used to love or the great piece of drift wood. For projects like my mobile this treasure trove of shells, branches, charms and crystals was invaluable. I am sure it is all about just storing them correctly so they can be easily found and accessed. Like I stored the rice paper I still cannot find. I seem to lose things when I put them away. It is not like you can file them under "C" for collectibles in a file cabinet.

Any suggestions from other creative people out there?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Solar Winds Sets Sail

Sailing on Solar Winds

I hung my first ever mobile yesterday at the apex of my studio. This "dreamcatcher" is a "charm" for my studio and my work. Its hull contains "offerings" to spirits on the Solar Winds. That is the uniquely personal part of the project.

But on a totally artistic level this mobile was an interesting venture. Making a mobile is not easy nor is photographing one. They move. They are designed to move. And there are all sorts of balance issues to be considered. It is not just a matter of equal weights but of pivot points and counter-balance.

I really think I want to make more mobiles. I certainly have the ceiling to display them on. And I have always enjoyed ventures into 3-D art. I may even make some mobiles to sell but this one is mine. I made it for me from the cutting of the willow to the tying on of the crystal given to me by my mother. I made it rather like a wizard makes their staff.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


I am working on a mobile for my studio. I have a 14' ceiling peak in the room and it looks so empty. I just had to fill it with something. Then at a fair I saw some rice paper creations by a couple friends of mine and the ideas began. Their mobiles center around women on ladders and flying kites but they had one style which used a boat. My mind immediately started developing variances to their design.

I considered trying to explain what I had in mind and having them do it for me. First larger, two with outriggers. Oh, and it must have a sail. And I think no figure at the "helm" as it were. And red willow. Can you get red willow.

What I wanted truly was a "charm" or "spirit guard" or "dream catcher" for my studio. Years ago a friend made me a house spirit to guard my home. It has been to several homes since then but it always guards well. One of the features of this creation was a hallow bone that I insert offerings of flowers and grasses into. My new studio spirit had to incorporate that aspect as well.

When I began that was all I knew. It is by no means finished but the above photo is my beginning. It is 18" tall and 30" long. And while I have some ideas of where I am going - it seems to control the direction.


I am not sure
Where I was heading
What direction I had chosen
It seemed more about
Just keeping on
One foot before the other.

I have not stopped
Of late to check the distance traveled
Or the path I'd chosen
Seems a while since
There has been a fork
A choice to be made.

I have not questioned
The course I have taken
Or the heading plotted
Or where it is I want to go
It wasn't always clear or easy
Just a way to travel.

I never considered
Turning back or pausing for long
If asked I might have said
It seemed the way to go
Though to what destination
I still am not sure.

I never thought
Stopping was not an option
It was a journey
I never questioned
Toward a goal
I ill defined.

So imagine
Finding the path you are on
Is going where you want
And where that is
Is closer
Than you had ever thought.

(c) J. Binford-Bell

Friday, December 5, 2008

Shadow Life

I am first a painter. I see photography as a tool for painting. I go out with my cameras and take quick photos that I will later use as a base for paintings. But every so often I get one of those photographs that stands alone as just a great photograph. I think this candid shot is one of those. I call it Shadow Life.

A friend on another blog said I should enter it in a competition. I am so out of touch with the photography world I haven't a clue. But I do think I will print this one out and frame it to hang on my wall because it pleases me. I think art should not be always about sales and competitions. So I consider photography and my jewelry making like tithing. And what I gain from those experiences help me to refresh my creativity on my painting. Gets me out of paint to sell mode.

Art should be about expression. Customers should buy works because they connect to what you were trying to express with that particular work of art. But they do buy because it matches the room decor. And they avoid work that can be disturbing. One viewer of this photograph though it less than happy.

Yes, and that is why I like it. It makes a statement about life.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Reflections on Evergreens

The custom of evergreen trees in the house around Winter Solstice was brought to England from the north country of Europe. There they were not about Christmas Trees until then, but considered good luck for a favorable winter and a sure spring.

Winter's Companion

Out in the snow
Surrounded by trees
Looking for just one
One tree that sings to you.

Snow graced pines
Some tall, some small
So many too big
To lug home and erect.

Blue spruce, white pine, bristle cone
Ponderosa with needles so long
We're all looking
For that one special tree.

An offering from nature
A gift of the mountain
To bring into our homes as a promise
That winter will pass.

Our gift to self and spirit and home
To cheer our winter days
Decorated with lights
To illuminate the long nights

Oh, singing evergreen tree
Upon which we hang
Beauty and hope and memories
Companion through the the darkest of winter.

(c) J. Binford-Bell

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Revisited Painting

Castle Rock 16 x 20 Mixed Media on Canvas

Finished the painting I was revisiting. I am not sure I am happy about the name of it. The name comes from the real place upon which the painting is based. I still much like the composition of the painting but am still not totally convinced I like it. Though in its defense the first person to see it seemed quite struck by it.

I was in a mood to play when I was working on it. And to that end I experimented with some techniques and colors I have not used before. Do you find it takes a while to integrate a new color into your palette?

I am in the process of switching over totally to Dr. ph Martin's Hydrus liquid watercolors. And I still have some liquid watercolors from another company that has gotten out of the market. These precious few colors I have nursed along have no direct Hydrus equivalent and so I am trying to find the correct mix to achieve the same color or replace it with a color I can be as happy with. With this painting it was raw sienna to replace the Luma burnt orange. It takes some red to do that.

The dark stormy sky was on the original watercolor on paper I was revisiting. It had been introduced on that work to hide a mistake I had made. Watercolor on canvas behaves differently than watercolor on paper and my experience with stormy skies on the former is limited. I feel I need to practice more. Still we all start somewhere and this is an interesting stepping off point. No doubt the composition will be revisited again. Maybe next time in a goddess theme.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Holiday Market

Holiday Markets are a long standing tradition in the United States. I don't know but they probably predate the general arts and crafts fairs. Here in the mountain west there is an interesting melding going on between arts fairs and Holiday Markets. The producers of the summer arts and crafts shows have all added a holiday version, but a lot of the local communities still put on the little fair in their community and artists are inclined to participate in the small local shows as opposed to travel in questionable weather.

I do big fairs and local little ones. I do both basically for advertising first and sales second. This year sales at the local fairs topped those of the big ones I had to travel to. For the holidays there is nothing that quite beats little local fairs. One, I know all the vendors. It becomes rather like a party from setup time to take down. This is accentuated by the fact I probably have not seen these people for at least a month or two. We are either out and about at the big fairs or holing up in our studios or grabbing a chance to vacation before the winter tourist season hits or doing all those fall things that have to be done before winter hits in earnest.

Two is you don't have to do this whole set up thing in a big rush. Today is early setup for the locals. Fair opens on Friday. So I personally am taking just my "booth furniture." I will bring my paintings on Friday morning. It will be fun then too before the fair opens. Friday setup is when you get to party with the friends you have not seen since last Holiday Market. It, incidentally, was a grim one because the community center director decided to move it to another weekend when nobody was in town and a lot of artists had other fairs them were committed to. It is back on Thanksgiving weekend for which we are all thankful.

Three, this fair is generally where I do my holiday shopping. This year, probably more because of the economic situation, I will likely be looking for trades with other artists. But even without trades we almost always offer each other discounts.

Four, no travel expenses. I have five miles to go. The shoppers travel to us. And if I had doubts about the economy one look at the parking lot of the local market let me know that at least all the vacation home owners are back in town. So glad gas prices lowered. It will give everyone just a bit more to spend. I have upped my inventory of small paintings for this show - Christmas giving size.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


When I was majoring in fine arts at the University of New Mexico we were frequently given the exercise of copying a work of art by a great master. It was never clear to me exactly what it was my teachers wanted me to learn. Not that I did not learn a great deal, but I always felt they had some higher purpose that I was missing. Something more than how to make white paint look like lace collars on a Hals or the reflections on glass of a Rembrandt still life.

I do still upon occasion study the work of another of my contemporary artists and try to mimic how they got a particular look. But lately I am copying my own work. Or rather revisiting it.

Like many artists I have gone through many phases. In those UNM days I was a traditional watercolorist and when I began to paint again I began where I had left off. It was right after my ski accident and I was not very mobile so I pulled out my old works and redid them. I was happy with my ability to recreate them and I thought improve upon them. It was a good stepping off place for me. And step off and out I did. My style and pallette has changed dramatically in the last year.

I was rearranging things in a portfolio and ran across a watercolor on paper I had done before I moved to watercolor canvas. It was a painting I thought I had blotched. Don't we all have a couple of those. At the time I had tried to rescue it and was never much satisfied with it. Not enough to frame it. But upon finding it in a portfolio of sketches I discovered there were aspects of it like the composition and actually my attempt to rescue it that pleased me. So I decided to revisit it.

Not copy it because it was my colored pen and ink stage, but translate it into my current style. The trouble is letting go of the old painting clipped to my shelf for reference. I have that trouble with plein aire too. I want my painting to look like the scene before me, to copy it, but if you paint surrealistically that is very inhibiting. I finish plein aire sketches in my studio. So I put my old painting in a drawer and let myself paint the new painting today.

I think I like where it is going entirely on its own though its relationship to the model is fleeting. Maybe when revisiting former works I need to keep my visits brief.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Oh, if he had never smiled

Oh, if he had never smiled

There was something once about the way he'd smile
I see it now only from the side
Side by side we used to stand
Defending our position against the world
Now the world is ignored
As we stand against each other.

But the smile I remember it
Amid thoughful things said and thoughtful things done
Once I basked in that smile now given to others
Now I wait and look and find it naught
Did you turn or I take flight first
And why won't you face me but to disapprove?

Once you smiled upon me
And we agreed on separate lives together
Independent souls in common nest
Nest feathered with books and pictures and photographs
Peopled with dogs and cats and friends of note
And you now say you've that enough
And I say I will go
But how to separate what must go and what must stay.

How does one divide the memories and those smiles
Once coming in seemed to make going so easy
And now that the time is here I don't know where to start
Or just where to go
For one smile I would stay
But you've given all them away.

But how do you separate nine years
Divide the delta of a river of silt
Nine years of memories and dreams and smiles
Does one lodge a custody battle over dead hopes and aspirations
And what is the saddest thing
Is going has made me wish I had never come
That you had never smiled at me.

(c) J. Binford-Bell 2008
From that journal of long ago

Saturday, November 15, 2008

One of the new paintings

On A Midnight Clear
12 x 9 Mixed Media on Artist's Canvas

This is one of the paintings I was having problems with. Yes, I have done churches. And I have done churches at night. But I had never done a church with ice and remnants of snow and luminarias. I had decided to do four or five small paintings of churches with a "Christmas" theme for the holiday market here in Angel Fire. And if they turned out good the thought was to do cards for sale.

I finished a total of four church paintings today. This is not my favorite but the first I had done with the Christmas luminarias. Silent Night to the right I like better for its simplicity.

Painter's Block?

You do hear a lot about writer's block but not much about painter's block but surely any creative activity must be subject at times to the lack of flow. Why else would the Greeks have talked so much about muses for various arts. I began my musings about this crisis on my 360 blog and figured I would go into greater depth here on the subject.

I have been in a painter's block for about three to four weeks. In a flurry of inspiration I began work on three new paintings back then. All three were departures on one level or another from my general subjects and for a while I blamed that for my stagnation on finishing them. But in and around the same time I enjoyed the sale of seven of my paintings. Seven! Not huge paintings but still seven! Nothing is quite as scary as success, and that seems to be true even in small spurts.

Clearly I needed to replace these seven paintings before my Thanksgiving weekend show. And I already had three begun. Piece of cake, huh? But I just stared at those three paintings up on their little ledges for work in progress over my painting desk. I even took to actively avoiding them. Doing anything but painting - even cleaning the house, rearranging the plants in the studio to allow for a Christmas tree, spending time looking for my Christmas tree stand unused for 10 years, cleaned up my computer desk and arranged my new library table, put up snow fence, built a woodshed, cut up scrap wood for kindling . . . well, practically anything but complete those three paintings.

The muse had checked out. Left the country. Stranded me in my beautiful studio.

Then a fictional character in a novel I have been reading (did I mention reading was one of my avoidance methods?) says that they felt there was no such thing as writer's block. It was merely fear. And that fear was ever more present after success whether public or private as in turning our a great chapter. Was that what was at play with my painting? This fictional character's prescription was to just do it and keep judgment out of the process.

Thursday I decided to give it a try. Tentatively I began with three new sketches and their enlargement for available canvases, ordered frames optimistically for those that would require them when finished and began painting again on two of the three long awaiting my brush. And tried to pay attention to the monkeys playing in my mind while not letting them stop the process.

Yes, for me fear of not being "good enough" or up to the standards of the seven that sold was in the background. And whether I was selling out and producing just proven work or moving forward on an evolving surrealistic style. That was something I never was concerned about before. It was part and parcel of painting for me, but now there is also this need to paint for them. Them being the people that have bought my work or just appreciate it.

So yesterday much progress was made on the three new paintings. Two of the old ones are reading to sign and seal. Today I am looking forward to getting back to work in the studio; monkeys or no monkeys.

Do you get painter's block? And what works for you?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Old Friends


My old friend
Talking of songs we sang
Of games we knew and played
Old friends
For years and years and, yes more years.

Talking of trips we took
Of the time the well went out, and no heat
The burnt lintel soup
Laughing to tears
Crying over the years.

Screaming Yellow Zonkers
In a Volkswagon micro bus
Singing off tune the words we didn't know
From Gallup to Fresno
Just old friends trying to stay awake.

Who could know so much
About each other and our pasts
Talking is so unnecessary
But we seldom stop
Chattering friend to friend of the old times.

Old friends
Sitting at the breakfast table telling tales
Of the years and the memories shared
The highways and byways traveled together
Just old friends.

(c) J. Binford-Bell

Note: the opening photo is of the two chairs I just finished redoing. I bought them for $5 almost a year ago and finally got around to painting and recovering them to match my art studio. A new look for two old friends.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Dealing with Chaos

Feeling a bit overwhelmed at the moment. This state of affairs struck me at 3:30 a.m. when I realized I hadn't a clue where my mortgage statement was for this month. It would have arrived shortly after I returned from my big fair of the fall with all the unpacking that entails.

Then the gallery I was in gave up its lease in one building and put art in storage until it reopens in December. That means I took some of my work home to have for a local fair on Thanksgiving weekend. The gallery moving also meant I was able to get a library table for my printers and scanner in the office to replace a door I was using balanced on two file cabinets. A neighbor gave me a reading chair for my living room and yesterday I installed the last baseboard heater in the studio.

All this meant moving stuff from point A to B and sometimes C. And they all happened in such a short period of time that I believe there is a D in there someplace but I cannot remember where that was - the twilight zone?

This leads me up to the reason for this blog entry: I have not finished three paintings. I stare at them and cringe. They are good beginnings and I can see where they are going but my soul is not quiet enough to paint. Some order needs to return to my physical space to allow order in my mind. So today I am getting out of my house to gain perspective as well as make a list of what needs to happen to allow my creative muse to return.

While out I will shop for a couple little things that will help me organize - or re-organize my spaces. Saturday will be devoted to that re-organization. And hopefully Sunday I can paint and draw and create again.

What upsets your creative balance?

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Sitting Here Awaiting Day

Sitting here

Sitting here in the cone of light
The dark before the dawn
Erasing the world outside
Life a newly cleaned slate awaits
For us to write the day upon it.

The fog puppet sits staring at me
Sits upon the frog tray in the center of the light
I star back not knowing
What to write upon the clean surface before me
The white of the journal's page
The black of the new day beyond the window.

My mind is hallow
Like the frog puppet's head
And yet too much within it swirls
Like the cream in my coffee
The new day outside has reached a cusp
All is past and all is future.

Present is this cone of light
The frog puppet, my cup of coffee
A pen, a journal.
This blank page with thought unorganized
For the day which awaits
Just beyond the black slate of night.

(c) J. Binford-Bell 2008

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

All Souls Day


All souls day
The balance of the year spent
The day half dark
Half light

The Wiccan says
Greeting of the pagan
New Year

Glorious day
Sitting upon my stoop
The day not hot
Not cold yet

Oh, if I could
Just cast a spell
To hold this delicate balance
Another week.

(c) J. Binford-Bell

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I Lived Here Once

Lived Here Once

I lived here once
Ten, twenty, thirty
Was it, could it be
Almost forty years ago
My wild and crazy youth.

The best of years
Or the worst
Oh, so very hard to say
Can a block of time
Be categorized so simply.

Or was it not the place
Or even the companions
Some band and some good
But an age, the times, and yours
The seventies and your twenties.

Yes, I lived here once
In so many ways so familiar
And now at times so strange
I've looked at those vistas
Driven that road.

It was once so much narrower
But weren't we all
Our trim days of youth
Spent drinking tequilla
Smoking pot.

Where did those dangerous curves go
On both the road and our bodies
Our flaunting of speed limits
And societal norms
We have grown up and the neighborhood out.

Oh, Yes, I lived here once
Before Bella Vista was torn down
And when the Triangle Market was at the triangle
When Pete's was Pete's
And we all wished for a deli.

It isn't Salsalito just yet
But getting oh, so close
The rebels are hard to find
But no longer too far out to invite for tea
There are three delis now

Tequilla and brownies
Are now wine and cheese
Coffee and bagels with lowfat cream cheese
Once seven bars and one church
Now the reverse, is that good?

Thirty eight years ago I moved here
Thirty two I moved away
Taking memories
Some good, some bad
Which don't always fit with my returns.

Yes, I lived here once
And parts of me have moved on
But some of me lingers
Reluctant to leave
There were good times here.

My rebellious youth
Has also gone the way of the neighborhood
My bell bottom figure belled
Too many delis and cafe lattes
Too little speed.

I lived here once
The neighborhood is not the same
But then again neither am I
The 60's are not my 20's
The 70's are long gone.

(c) Jacqui Binford-Bell

The opening picture is called Rural Route and is one of my "hill and dale" paintings. They are of no place specific but just generally northern New Mexico rural areas.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Poetry Wednesday - Jane

What to say about Jane
An old friend

Jane and I have history
A new friend said

Jane and I have tales to tell
of each other and to each other
Tales going way back

A past
With secrets Jane and I share
Which we can reveal
Or not.

Was the answer before
What difference does that make

Of a thousand things said
And only a few

Make us sick
Or keep a friendship

Or not
Is our present
Based on that secret

It seemed so not to matter
A favor to not share

Jane curls in upon herself
Like a tree around an ax strike

Was it mine to keep inside
Or hers she kept from me

Sits between us now
Is it too late to excise
This wound?

I were to speak of it now
Could she even admit

Would the wound thus opened
Be larger

An opening coming
Way too late for us
For Jane.

(c) J. Binford-Bell

Monday, October 6, 2008


Latest painting. Number 17 of those I have done since my last big art fair. This one is only 11 x 14 and like many of those of that size probably a study for a bigger one at a later date. I like the surrealistic view of the world and especially the canyon lands of where I live.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Of an Age

Of an age

Friends, time, seasons
An age
All bud, ripen, fade
From the branches of life
That once supported them

And even those constants
Our lives
Flourish like the Blue Spruce outside my window
Grow taller, branches longer
Alee the winds

Our lives unchanged it seems
As we look
Avoiding the refection
Of age
In the mirror

We notice not the passing
of summer
Till frost turns the leaves gold
Then fall
About our feet

I wish
As I speed from age
to age
The world would pause for me to reflect
Upon my slower passage up the stairs
Wait for me to catch my breath

Ponder where spring went
And my youth
Mother would say she was
Of an age
When elder statesmen and stars
And are then gone
Like shooting stars

There is not time it seems
In the moment
To taste the ripe fruit
Count our friends
of an age
Or measure the height of the trees
We planted so long ago

It has all changed
in a day
Friends and time come
and go
Season’s pass with increasing rapidity
And before I know
The snow blows
(c) Jacqui Binford-Bell

About the Picture: Miner's Church on the Hill. In addition to my surreal canyons I enjoy painting churches. Old churches in the fall of their lives. Here in northern New Mexico there are all manner of old churches about from the early settlement of the Spanish and the pioneers that came here to mine or farm or ranch. This church is in Madrid, New Mexico and was built by the miners that went into shafts to take coal from the earth.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

A Changing Landscape for Artists

Gallery reception last night and I was one of two featured artists showing their newest works. The other was a jeweler friend of mine. She normally draws a huge crowd and garners quite a few sales as her jewelry is very fetching and reasonably priced. But only a small handful of people showed up for free food and wine and those had to rush back to watch the debates. There is so much anxiety over the economy and nowhere more than in the art community.

Despite what some people may think when they view the price tag on a painting artists seldom get rich. Generally we would like to make a profit above the costs so we support ourselves or at least our addition to the process of creating.

That is getting harder. Galleries are failing daily. Those that are not are treading the deep waters by trimming back on advertising, taking a larger percentage from each sale, or charging the artist for "wall space." This, of course, changes it for the artist. Price higher so you still get what you need out of a painting when it has gone from 50/50 to 40/60 in the gallery's favor? Or go lower so you sell more? That could be the answer where you have to pay a certain amount each month for the wall space. This is running from $50 to $200 a month in a current sampling of galleries in my area. I certainly cannot afford the latter unless they can guarantee lots of sales. But in this unstable economy that is not the case.

There is no longer a middle class market. They are too involved making mortgage payments and putting gas in the cars. The well off seem to still have it to spend but they are being a whole lot more selective about what they do buy. Oddly they are going for the high priced art so lowering prices to sell more as suggested in the paragraph above may be self-defeating.

There are various counters to the bailout schemes being considered in congress this week. I have not crunched the numbers but one friend that did said if instead of bailing out the cheating fat cats we divided the money up among the legal adults in the US it would be a huge sum each. And likely people would pay off credit cards, mortgages paid ahead or paid off, new cars purchased, etc and wouldn't that benefit the economy and even the investment banks more?

So what would I do if the government gave me $40,000 or more? Pay my mortgage a year in advance, build my deck on my studio and have my house painted to raise its value in a declining market, put at least $10,000 in gold bonds, and $5000 where it could be reached easily for a crisis (not sure I trust banks yet so under my mattress?). If the government made it taxable unless you put a certain percentage in savings it would stabilize banks.

So what would you do with $40,000? I would hope some people would buy art. But this is probably just a very creative dream because the government always bails out the crooks and rich and never the regular people honestly trying to make a living. It is all trickle down and not trickle up. I would have thought we proved that theory wrong with S&L scandal, Erron, and now the investment banks.

But what do I know? I am just an artist trying to figure out the changing landscape.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Just a photograph today

I have been taking pictures of trees and bushes lately in order to add variety of shape and color to these details in what I call my "Hill and Dale" pictures of the northern part of New Mexico. It was such a lovely arrangement of shapes, textures, and colors. And the early morning light coming over the walls of Embudo Canyon added to it.

My sister is a serious photographer. I was once. Now I am a serious painter, and I use my digital Nikon SLR as a tool. I will likely print out this picture and tack it up in the studio with other photos I took lately and use it for inspiration and reference, but it is a lovely photograph in its own right.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

I Left - a poem

I Left

I’ve left
Without saying goodby
Quietly in some silence
I turned off the lights
And tiptoed through some door

I left the key
Inside in the dark somewhere
It lays there in the silence
Unlooked for
I closed the door behind me.

Goodby I said just I to me
And looked down the long hall
For some place to go
Some other door to open
And was relieved
To find the hall silent.

I had to go
I could no longer stand the noise
So while It was quiet
I left through a door
Not the one I had entered.

I never even packed
I leave now with less
With fewer dreams and hopes
What I take with me
I found outside the door
More precious
Than that I left behind.

I give you all I left
But just leave me go
For I am gone
Nothing can hold me now
For while you slept with your dreams
I left

(c) Jacqui Binford-Bell

There are so many ways of leaving. Sometimes we just leave in our minds. A leaving that would have been routine for some reason becomes significant. Not just lovers but friends, places, hotel rooms, jobs, even issues. And our old selves. We turn a new leaf and walk out.

Monday, September 22, 2008


The Source

Mixed Media on Canvas
20" x 16"

I said I would post the revised painting after I made the changes and rephotographed it. In the 20 x 16 painting I find the changes dramatic and knowing where to look on this photograph I an see the advantage of the changes but can you?

I used to do a lot of freelance writing of articles and won some awards for fiction writing. Taking a course in fiction once the lecturer was talking about the "thump" that can disengage the reader from the alternate reality you have created. I a good painting is an alternate reality and the wrong line in the wrong place or the wrong intensity or color can be the thump that causes the viewer to disengage.

I have a gallery reception on Friday and I get to see patron reactions to my works. I love it when they just stare as if mesmerized because that means they have been lured in. A frown can mean they hit that thump. Are all people susceptible to the same thumps?

I don't think you can please all the people all the time. Sometimes you get the frown almost immediately as they pass by to the next artist. Some people love my churches and New Mexico landscapes but are almost afraid of my canyons and the goddesses in them. Flowers would be safe but too many artists in my area do flowers.

Friday, September 19, 2008


I sat down at my computer this morning to crop and size some photographs of two new works in my Goddess series of paintings. I thought they were done. I had, after all, signed and photographed them. But in working with the images on my computer screen I found that not to be true.

This painting, The Source, was missing a line. It seemed so obvious when seen on the computer. A small line. Perhaps an insignificant line, but it was in an area of the the 20 x 16 picture that made me feel uneasy. So on the computer in Photoshop I added the line. YES! So I quickly whipped out to the studio and added it to the real work.

The other painting I thought I was totally satisfied with. And yet on the computer screen a couple missing elements were immediately evident. One was my signature ravens that go into every daytime sky like the spirals that go into the night skies.So those will need to be added and the work rephotographed before my exhibition at Artspace Gallery the 26th of September.

I seem to have this issue with knowing with larger works. No problem with the 8 x 10's or the 11 x 14's but from about 16 x 20 up I seem to be overwhelmed by the painting itself and it is not until I can see it reduced on my screen that I notice tiny, but seemingly critical to me, details that must be added. Perhaps it is the distance the screen creates between you and the painting.

Early in my artistic apprenticeship as it were - studying fine art at college - I would give my parents pictures I had painted for Christmas and birthday gifts. They lovingly accepted, elaborately framed them, and hung them around their home. I would come home for Christmas or semester break and immediately want to take them all back and fix them. I was so embarrassed by the "unfinished" paintings in my parent's home that I would blush when neighbors made compliments. And upon the liquidation of their estate following their deaths did not take a single one of my own works to be mine again.

Numerous friends of both my parents and myself wanted specific ones and I gave them graciously provided I did not think I was ever going to visit their houses. So the question is knowing. When do we know a work is complete? Or is it ever for an artist complete? Like I mentioned in the blog before I have subjects I constantly re-visit. Is this my current version of "oh, let me take that back."

I will sit at a fair or an exhibition surrounded by my latest completed works and immediately see what I want to change. Fortunately this is generally with just one of the many filling the booth or gallery and often I will whip it off the wall before it can be sold in its imperfect state. And it seems it is often only something I see. So is this basic insecurity specific to me or are all creative individuals wanting to add another line, another word, another note?

Oh, and since seeing this posted I have made other changes. Stay tuned for the final version.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Dawn's Early Light

My view of Park Avenue on Arches National Park. I have painted this scene numerous time and each time it is different. Perhaps this is to me what Chartres Cathedral was to Monet.

Do all artists have a scene or subject that haunts them?


Night, you gentle seducer
What comforts do you offer me
But dream made long ago
And those which may never be.

For those I leave this fragile reality
To wander with the moon gods
Across clouds of wonder
To a world I make for dawn to destroy.

Kiss and dreams and snowflakes of happiness
Scattered about my life
Like so much glitter from an old valentine
For such is the substance of moonbeams
And yet I take this luminescent hand to my night's bed.

To kiss and dream while snowflakes fall
Like winters ago in his golden head
To yet embrace this fragile happiness
And awake with glitter in my arms.

Oh night, seduce me again
Lead me from this tarnished day to the playground of moon gods
And let me play as a child again
But let not the dawn take me home
To clean the glitter from the floor.

(c) Jacqui Binford-Bell

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Art is Not About Straight Lines

Nor is writing about spelling. Mother always discouraged me from writing because I could not spell. Thank you spell check.

When I was just recovering from my closed brain trauma almost seven years ago I could not draw a straight line. Isn't that what your friends always say when they compliment you on being an artist, "You are so talented. I can not even draw a straight line."

Fortunately for me there are not a lot of straight lines in art. But another interesting thing happened too - I saw the world differently. I tried to make myself conform to the colors and styles I had learned in art school but that was not easy so I gave up. I wrote it off to personality changes because of the CBT but now they are doing a bunch more research on that with the returning soldiers from Iraq coming back with more head injuries.

Any injury to the left side of the brain seems to result in a burst of creativity. The left side keeps the right side in check and under control. I had clearly lost that control. I tried to get it back just because a friend had said to practice what I did not want to lose. Then it dawned on me that much of my "creative" past had been plagued by too much control. I had been able to draw a straight line. I excelled at perspective and detail and process. But as one art professor in college put it, I lacked that creative spark. I think I had the spark. But my left brain kept putting the fire out.

The opening photo is of my picture Rainbow Passage. It is my view of Rainbow Arch in the Lake Powell Park. In college this painting would be a very faithful rendition of that landmark. But today I paint what it is I thought I saw.

We all get home from vacation and look at our photos just a bit disappointed because we thought there was more color in that one scene, or this feature was more pronounced but it can barely be seen, and surely the full moon was larger. Why does it all look so different? We used to blame it on film processing. Digital cameras ruined that.

This one painting also has very few straight lines. There are not a lot of those in nature and perhaps it is the ability to see that there are no straight lines that makes some people artists. The CBT threw a curve into my life, and into my art.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Once upon a frog

I am an artist and a sometime poet who came to Blogspot initially to find a home for my more serious and creative blogs and expressions and to link to my website- Binford-BellStudio.

That blog - Travels with Charley - seems to have gone into politics.That sounds as if the blog did it without my compliance. And maybe it did. I cannot say I have not enjoyed my excursions into the political issues that have plagued us this last year. Though initially I merely set out to explain the primary process to my European Internet friends.

Whatever the reason that blog became mired in essays of issues and politics I have found of late that I am missing a spot to post my paintings and poems, and essays about the creative process. Some do get posted on my 360 blog but I also do a lot of social networking and playing around with other themes there. My intention is to make this new blog: Creative Journey about just that. And so I begin with one of my more recent mixed water media paintings: Grand Procession. The inspiration was Monument Valley in Arizona.

And a poem that has nothing to do with the above painting: Once Upon A Frog.

I found, in an old journal, just three lines that I had scribbled down in my haste thirty some years ago and never developed further. The lines were:

As the lonely maiden dreams over crumpets and tea
Seeking a surfeit that comes not of eat and drink
But from the kiss of a frog that loves you only.

I re-wrote the lines into my current poetry journal and thought about them. What they meant perhaps thirty years ago and what they mean now. And the following is the poem they generated:

Once Upon a Frog

Once upon a youthful day
A lonely maiden dreamed over crumpets and tea
Seeking a surfeit that comes not of eat and drink
But from the kiss of a frog that loves you only.

But frogs, especially those that turn into princes,
At the kiss of a princess are but fairy tales
And once past thirty we know that fairies often lie
By forty we know for sure fairies are lies.

Oh, but were it true
Those things told to us as children
If wishing on a star could give us our dreams
And bottles rubbed brought us service of a genie.

But alas the lonely maiden knew as she sipped her bitter tea
Crumpets cannot fill us up
And inclined to make us fat
Nor do frogs, two footed or four, love just one princess truly.

(c) Jacqui Binford-Bell 2008

And perhaps this particular blog is all about the fact that the creative journey is often haphazard or totally unplanned. We set out for one destination and arrive at another be it a blog, a painting or a poem. Are we guided or misled by our muse?Or do creative people just have trouble staying on one track?