Saturday, January 31, 2009

Camp Craft

When my sister and I get together be it at my house or her house we always have fun. Days are generally spent in very active pursuits like four-wheeling or hiking or power shopping. Evenings include Yahtzee and Casino tournaments and what we term camp craft.

Camp craft can be making our own spruce Christmas Wreaths like we did in November or beginning a new crochet project or stringing beads. In the photo above I did the three necklaces on the left and my sister, a new convert to the hobby, did the rest. It required two trips to Mama's Minerals for supplies and a couple evenings of dedication.

I am not sure what about stringing beads I find so relaxing but it begins walking through the racks of beads and continues through to the finished product. It is almost like Zen meditation. I don't think that would continue to be the case if this was a business for me as opposed to just a hobby or camp craft, but recently I realized I had strung up far more necklaces than I can wear. Yes, friends have gotten some for gifts in the past. And upon occasion I don't like my creation and cut it apart and begin again. I have been known to do this even with jewelry I buy - suddenly seeing them as supplies.

And with every project I always seem to be left with beads enough to compose another creation. Often I like the second better than the first. All this lead me to take some into the gallery that handles my paintings recently and see if she would like to see if they sell. I just want my costs out so I can do some more. Hmmmm, this may be where I began on mask making almost two decades ago. Or even painting more recently. No, that was wall space issues.

What camp crafts do you do? In the creative journey I think it is important to tithe some of our energy toward play. Stringing beads is play for me.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Visiting Memories

Visiting Memories

Somewhere near here
We used to fish
I was just a kid then
More interested in the color of doors
Than the next turn to take

Dad did the driving
To another secret fishing hole
We three kids sat in the back
Playing I spy or I claim that
But the poor towns had nothing we wanted

Still even then
With an undeveloped artist’s eye
I recorded the patchwork of roofs
The weathering of wood
The windmill with missing blades.

Was it this town
Or the next village
Where the car would go first right
Then left through a gate left open
Across a field.

The pond was large
For a pond but small for a lake
The important thing was the quiet
And the empty shores
As we fished.

But where was the right
Is this the village
Where we left the road?
Is the pond of my youth
Just beyond those cottonwoods?

Or the next town?
Or the next right turn?
Is that the windmill that always squealed
When the wind came up at noon?
Is that the house I remember?
Tin for roofs now rusted
Windows all cracked
Doors swinging ajar
Was it that way then?
Has the pond blown away too?

Gone like the residents
Of yet another ghost town
Leaving behind just memories
Of a child in the back seat
Going fishing.

(c) J. Binford-Bell January 2009

Monday, January 26, 2009

Finding New Inspiration

My sister had sent me a picture of this church from the front but yesterday as we drove past on our way to a picnic and short walk I had to stop and take this photo of the back. Some of the old adobe churches just look so good from the back. There is a sense of mass that seems to echo the cliffs and canyons in the area. I am definitely painting this view minus the chain link fence and in my version the structural renovations will be finished. (Those poles on the left are bracing the walls. On the right they are half-way finished with the buttresses.)

As you can tell by the cars in the distant right this church is still being actively attended by the residents of this little mountain community. Settlement of this area goes back to the 1600's and the Spanish occupation of what would be eventually New Mexico. We did not get statehood until 1812 I believe.

This view was only one of 70 pictures I took yesterday. Before departing Angel Fire I was finalizing some sketches of churches that have been in my "portfolio of subjects" but it is always nice to have new fodder as it were. For this artist that means getting out of the studio and doing "research" with the digital camera. Such fun.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Enticing the Muse

I have, it turns out, about eight sketch books of varying sizes if you don't count the little ones that fit in purse or brief case to take with. At the moment most of those eight are leaning open around my studio with a sketch of one sort of another with the Conte' sticks mentioned in the previous blog. Yes, I have been having fun. I even made another trip to the art store (this can be rather like a pilgrimage to Mecca) to get various shades of gray Conte' pencils.

And I am about to conduct an experiment on canvas surfaces. I use watercolor canvas for my paintings and have been using prestretched canvas. A watercolorist of my acquaintance uses gessoed canvas like people that paint with oil and acrylic. And another when she cannot get the size she wants in prestretch watercolor canvas applies absorbant ground to regular canvas. So I got two regular gesso surfaced canvases and am going to apply absorbant ground to one and not the other and paint two churches on them using the same pallette of colors.

But I am not through drawing. Or should I say playing? I think the danger as artists is to take ourselves too seriously from time to time. I generally find that occurs for me after a round of successful sales. The temptation is to produce more of what just sold. But art is a journey and not necessarily a destination.

Yes, we call all picture our favorite works of a particular artist like Starry Night for Van Gogh or Nude Descending a Staircase for Duchamp or Gernica for Picasso but it is wise to remember that none of these was the end of his journey but just a step in the trip. And to be able to continue our journeys we have to entice our muse to stay involved.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Outside My Box

When I designed and produced Mardi Gras masks I would take a month off after orders were filled and devote it to developing of new masks and new techniques and trying out new materials. I called it Lab Time.

Since I have been into painting primarily I have not officially set aside such a period of time. Sure this time of year there are calls for entries for various fairs and exhibitions and some of them are based on themes and that gets one thinking a bit out of the box. But I was finding myself wanting to brave newer territory. So at the art store recently I purchased some Conte Crayons.

I have not drawn with these sticks since I was a college student. So today was a lot about playing with the shape and the shading possibilities. And to complicate matters I made myself do quick sketches. Remember them from art classes? You have two minutes to record this subject. Capture its essence.

I normally sketch with pencil and with eraser in the other hand. No line can remain if it is not in the precise position. So "scribbling" with Conte sticks was definitely loosening up for me. I began by resenting the messiness and then liking the freedom. And I began to remember the ability to put down broad shadows in one or two strokes. Concentrating on shape and mass and not line.

I am not sure where this is getting me exactly with my painting but I think I will explore the direction a bit more. I have in mind a series of landscapes using extremes of shadow and light. This may be a way to get a sketch done that will translate into a painting of more weight.

I think it is always good to go outside your box from time to time and just play or explore. I had a writing teacher that called it tithing. Said it was very important when you were selling pieces to upon ocassion write something totally unsellable. So maybe that is all my sketching with this unfamiliar medium is - tithing. Giving freely of self with no hope of return.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Busy, Busy, Busy

Wish I could find the tranquility of this painting at the moment. It is January and I seem to swing from total inertia to frantic. Yesterday was frantic.

I finally got to the to-do list I put together for these "quiet times" in the art world. But they are not really that quiet because fair prospectuses are generated and mailed at this time. And I am also on an art council that puts one out as well as decides on its entire yearly calendar now.

While doing the inventory spread sheets for the gallery here I decided it was a good idea to reformat my personal inventory. I thought that was on the laptop because it goes to shows with me. But all I could find there was June 24th. Lots of sales, interchange with galleries, and new paintings since then. Off to the Desktop where I found an October 8th version. But then there was a Holiday Market in November. I always (well I try always) to update an inventory before a show. Evidently not this time. In panic look for "the notebook" where I manually make notes of new paintings and sold paintings until it can be computerized. Found new paintings. No notes on sold.

Look for sales receipts. Box with sales receipts. Folder with credit card records. NO. Then I remember my panic reordering of everything before the studio party on December 20th. I had a grand scheme so I would not lose anything being well aware that tax filings are in my immediate future.

Stop. Desist. Clear the mind. I did not throw any of this stuff away. It will be revealed to me.

I am such a right brain creature that left brain organizing is a real chore. And when I get a stroke of inspiration about it I really out to make a note in "the notebook."

Any tricks other right brain creatures reading this blog can give me will be gratefully appreciated. Left brain humans probably will not even understand this.

Note: Above painting is Passage into Night. It is 24 x 30 mixed media on artists' canvas.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Painting in Our Minds

During my college days I would be assigned a term paper and rush immediately to the library to begin research, narrow my topic, and start filling out countless 3x5 cards. This fury of activity would last about a week and just when it would look like I could have my paper done months in advance I would stop to now work actively again until two to three days before it was due.

My "style" did not change when I was doing freelance writing. I had to chew subconsciously on my topic for a while. Yesterday when I seemed to be avoiding sitting at my painting desk in the studio I realized I was essentially doing the same thing.

My research is photography. Traveling back from my sister's house on New Year's day I took some interesting but uninspiring photos of dawn's light hitting the mountains I was driving through. And on January 2nd I took the above photo from my studio door. My paintings thus far have been of rising full moons or the sun above the horizon. Now my mind is chewing on dawns with no sun in view. How to paint such a sky? Or the mountains being painted gold on their east facing tips?

I saw a painting today of a Palestine cliff face being hit but the "off stage" sun and added that to my mental 3x5 cards. I don't spend a lot of time doing sketches or thumbnail color studies because by the time I am ready to paint what my mind has been chewing on I have painted it in my head. I may do one "study" on a smaller scale. To achieve this sky I will play with colors on a smaller canvas. I will do a sketch that is part Ortiz Mountains and Palestine cliff. I will look again at my "notes" - the photographs I have taken. Then I will paint what is in my mind.

Until then I seem to be avoiding that corner of my studio.