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?