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