Monday, January 31, 2011

The Long Walk and a change of direction

The Long Walk
This particular work is another departure for me into my dark side. Previously I have only painted a random number of darker paintings and then because they are so few been unable to integrate them into a fair display. My goal this winter is to be able to do one of three walls of my booth with darker works. And with this one I was able to submit three somber pieces to a local exhibit.

This work is based on the Court House Towers at Arches National Park and on the Long Walk of the Navajo in 1864. Though actually I see this painting more as a celebration of their return. On June 18, 1868, the once-scattered bands of people who called themselves Diné, set off together on the return journey, the "Long Walk" home. This is one of the few instances where the U.S. government relocated a tribe to their traditional boundaries. The Navajos were granted 3.5 million acres of land inside their four sacred mountains. The Navajos also became a more cohesive tribe after the Long Walk and were able to successfully increase the size of their reservation since then, to over 16 million acres.

On one of my first extensive visits to the Navajo reservation researching Navajo rugs I stopped in Olijato which means Moonlight water and heard the story about how the Dine returned tired and thirsty and out of food and water to their homelands and collapsed exhausted upon the rocks not knowing how they would go on. As the sun set and the land cooled the moisture in the rocks rose into the small depressions cut by the wind in the sandstone and the moonlight shone on the water alerting the peopleso they could quench their thirst.

Olijato is near Monument Valley than Arches where Court House Towers is but artists must take some artistic license from time to time.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Creative Process - Dancing with the Muse

Progress photo
One of the subjects I devote space to in this blog is the creative process, or at least my creative process. I cannot speak for other artists. I have been having "issues" with my new skies. Issues not unlike a woman goes through when she dyes her hair a new color and all the clothes in her wardrobe just don't go right. This may be why artists become very comfortable with a palate of specific colors and do not change it.

I had done the skies and the moons, always where I begin, and then put the first wash of color on the Court House towers and stopped dead. My standard cliff wall color scheme was just too rude. I walked away - literally - and for the last week have ignored the paintings in the studio. I had left brain art business things to do anyway.

January is when artists must make decisions about exhibitions and shows they wish to enter. This requires photographs of your work formatted as requested by the shows or for Zapplication (ever more popular thankfully). Since I had the infamous computer crash meaning lost images (some residing on FlickR), and a new computer with Windows 7 requiring a new photo editing software (Corel Paintshop Pro - sorry Adobe but you really have priced yourself out of my market) this was not as easy as it could be.

But all the time I was in my left brain getting business done my right brain was dancing with the muse, as it were. Finally, yesterday, I let the muse lead me back to the studio with a "color scheme" in my mind for my two paintings of the Court House towers. As I have used the same blues in the water and sky on the other canyon scene I will no doubt use some of the same colors on the painting in the upper right.

I am eager to get back to painting this morning because I now know where I am going though I don't imagine the path will be as easy or clearly marked as when I am working with a more familiar palate. This has all served to remind me that my creative mind is working even when it appears I am totally blocked. The key is to not force it. Let you muse take the lead.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Magpie 50 - Change of Direction

First for those of you I sucked in with my previous Magpie the link to more of The Skating Party. I have decided to post weekly episodes (let's hope weekly) to my other blog Sidetracked Charley as going back to short story writing from poetry is a sidetrack. But then going back to poetry from fiction writing was a sidetrack too.

I digress, on to this week's Magpie.

Change of Direction

Slow going
On a snow packed road
Fighting her way back home
Storm or no storm
Weary from the struggle.

Then the arrow
Suspended in the air
Before her windshield
As the sun finally broke the storm
Directing her right.

She pulled into the lane
Just to shake the fatigue
Getting out into the cold air
Feet sinking in the snow
Before Derek's house.

She had not come before
When the black wreath on the door was new
Unable to face him not returning from war
She had stayed in the city
With her memories of his life.

Now she cried
For him
And the parents
She came to bury.

Jacqui Binford-Bell 2011

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Mag 49 - The Skating Party

The Skating Party
Since this photo was posted on Magpie Tales I have not been able to get it quite out of my mind. It seems at least to require a short novel or a very long short story. If a poem it would have to be the length of the Iliad to give it justice. Justice, of course, means mystery, so I have opted this week for merely the opening sentences of what I hope to make into a short story.

The Skating Party

Clarice Anna Hobbes found the photo where it shouldn't have been. Her mother, the story went, and snapped the photo of that ill fated skating party with her Kodak box camera when MaMa was but seven. The camera was a gift that Christmas day from her namesake and great aunt in the center. By the end of the day Clarice would be dead, the camera and film confiscated by the police, and the skating party relegated to whispered memory at family reunions.

How did the sepia print, in an envelope with 10 others, come to be taped under her late Uncle Jacob's dresser drawer.

To be continued . . .

Monday, January 17, 2011

Lab Month - New Skies

January and February are often months to experiment with new techniques and subjects and colors. A mask maker friend of mine used to call them lab months. One of my goals this month is to work on more dark mood paintings of which the three above belong. But I am also working on different ways to handle the skies.

This painting is merely a different color of blue sky. I mixed Cobalt blue with carbon black to give it a darker night look. Other than the color the technique of pouring the sky remained the same. The larger painting below in the top painting I used Prothero Blue with the carbon black but did not like how they played together. I came out far too busy for what I wanted to do with the foreground. Dark mood paintings should not have dancing skies in my opinion.

So I put a wash of the original color over the sky and then brushed in a subtle texture with a barely wet brush. I am very fond of the finished effect - well, not finished as there will be stars added.

This sky is a Prussian Blue water based oil. I am working on the assumption that since it stays wet longer I can work the sky longer on bigger canvases. This one is 21 by 36. A friend thinks I can get a more even sky color with the water based oil but only when you add oil to thin and not water. Something I also need to play with no doubt.

BTW the little painting on the top right of the opening picture is more water than sky. I plan to experiment with an iridescent wash over the water to enhance the "liquid" effect. Not all experiments in Lab Month work but I will let you know my successes and failures.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Other than Flowers - Georgia O'Keeffe for Art Sunday

Outback of Marie's No. IV

I decided to return to an old blog tradition of Art Sunday. And to kick it off I thought I would feature some of the lessor know paintings of Georgia O'Keeffe. Yes, Virginia, she did paint things other than flowers and skulls. In fact I rather hate her flowers. I get the same visceral response to an O'Keeffe flower as I do to a howling coyote. Not only did she over do them but every almost every print maker and aspiring artist also did.

I think it is a crime that her landscapes have gotten lost in the mania after her flowers. I live in New Mexico and when to college here majoring in fine arts and did not become aware of her landscapes until nine years ago. I was recovering from a head injury and a friend gave me an O'Keeffe coffee table book which I thanked her for and ignored for months. I figured it was just more of her flowers.

Her landscapes explain why it was she was so drawn to the Ghost Ranch area of New Mexico. Her colors and sense of light are fantastic to me. And inspiring but I seldom mention her when I am talking about artists who made a significant impact on my own painting because everyone just thinks flowers.

Red Hills with Bones
Behind Marie's

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Mag 48 - Sorting Out

Sorting out

Looking through the boxes
Things once too precious
To toss out
Put in boxes labeled
Memories and keep sakes.

Photos of people I don't remember
Out of focus ones of those I should
Theater programs for plays I was cast in
Christmas cards from relatives long dead
An address book with no zip and area codes.

And a couple scraps of paper
Inscribed with first lines of poems I didn't write
Sheets of music I never played
Pieces of a person I loved once
Who somehow escaped the box.

Jacqui Binford-Bell
January 2011

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Business of Art - Exhibitions

Before the economy took a nose dive most artists serious about trying to make a living with their talent focused all their attention on getting into art festivals and fairs. You began small and worked your way up the feeding chain. At one time I was doing about eight big shows a year. I have friends that do between 18 and 32 a year. It is a huge investment in energy, time and money. And the bigger the show the more money: entry fees, electric fees, booth fees, booth furniture, booth lighting, travel expenses, etc.

I have another friend who went an alternate route: Exhibitions. She stays home and sends her work off to exhibits. I think there is still a huge investment in time. There is no shortcut for doing the work and taking (or having taken) good photographs of your work to be formatted and submitted to a jury for selection be it a festival or an exhibit. But once selected she merely has to box up her work and ship it to the exhibit venue. And unlike most fairs most exhibits have cash awards for Best of Show, 1st Place Painting, etc. The awards, unlike fair participation, look really great on art vitas and help you go to the next level which is seeking gallery representation. And you don't have to acquire all that booth furniture and lighting.

A lot of public funding organizations like arts councils put on exhibits as well as festivals. Moreno Valley Arts Council, of which I am a board member, buts on both Artsfest, and Arts about Town, a small entry level fair,  and this year the Winter Invitational which we are promoting on Facebook. BTW if you don't belong to an arts organization or two it is hard for the IRS to take your art deductions seriously, but more importantly art organizations are great resources for exhibits and fairs etc. And Facebook Fanpages are becoming a good resource. Also Google call for entry websites and chambers of commerce in areas you might light to visit.

To enter an exhibit you need to find the exhibit, download the pdf application (it is all going digital these days), and carefully read the application. There are various restrictions as to size of finished piece and format and size of digital images (almost always jpg and cropped to the unframed image). This is really easy if you are a photographer. More difficult if you are a jeweler or painter. But you should be maintaining a digital portfolio of your work from day one.

With MVAC's Winter Invitational and the 18 Days Exhibit I just entered, applications can be filled out on line, paid on line, and images submitted on line. Certainly beats the days when you had to have your film images translated to slides and labeled and mailed. Then you wait the decision of the jurors. A lot of time I do not frame a piece until it is accepted. Framing is the pricey part of art. Photography requires matting and frames and it is definitely easier to store on CD's. You will read the phrase "gallery acceptable matting and framing" often. If you have a question about that visit a gallery or two and check it out. But the economy is even effecting that. Gone is the need for elaborate heavy frames. Paintings on artists canvas with painted edges can even be unframed as in our Winter Invitational.

I personally have decided after cutting down the number of festivals and fairs I do to concentrate more on exhibits. It gets my work out before the public while I sit at home and man my studio. And interface with other artists and art organizations to seek out those exhibits I want to enter.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Mag 47 - The Talisman

The Talisman

It had sat on her father's desk
For all her years of memory
She would climb into his chair
And feel it's cold smooth surface
When he wasn't there.
She would ask him what it was
When he was
He never gave her the same answer.

Worry beads he said to her once
When she caught him handling it absent mindedly
A paper weight he would answer when clearly distracted
But it had been a part for a nuclear device
One link in a chain crafted by Hercules
A turnbuckle for ropes
An object that dropped from a UFO.

It was there still unnamed on her father's desk
When she went through his things after the funneral
Now it sat on her desk
Next to her calendar
She would hold it at times
Until its cool surface warmed
Then set it back down it its place to watch over her.

J. Binford-Bell
January 2011

tal·is·man  (tls-mn, -z-)
n. pl. tal·is·mans
1. An object marked with magic signs and believed to confer on its bearer supernatural powers or protection.
2. Something that apparently has magic power.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

That Time of Year - And the times they are a'changing

Welcoming the Dawn
It is that time of year for visual artists when we must consider shows, fairs and exhibits we would like to participate in. I have one downloaded prospectus for an exhibit in Santa Fe that I am considering what art to enter. Believe me it is not as easy as your three best pieces. This particular juried exhibit has a maximum and and minimum size.

The minimum of 18 x 24 is giving me no ends of problems as it is one of my most common sizes. And I have of late been working in odd sizes like 14 by 46. Big enough one direction but below the minimum the other way. I finally came up with three possibles like the one above. The one below has actually been too large for a couple exhibits. But both of these works are currently at a gallery representing me and if they are accepted I have to take them out which means replacing them with other work.

The number of possible submissions for this show is three and it makes sense to submit that many in hopes of getting at least one juried in. My third will be a previous prize winner in another exhibit. Always wise to watch that because some shows preclude paintings that have received awards. For Lamentation of the Spirits it was a Best of Show.
Best of Show
And another frequent restriction on submissions is date of creation. No work created before January 2009 in this case. Just one of those reasons that why artists with studio walls full of art are still painting new work. Well, that and artists must paint. But even for those fairs and shows you have routinely been juried into you must have new work to submit - generally 3-5 new pieces. And for some of the top shows those 5 pieces are projected on a wall simultaneously and so must be a cohesive whole.

Electronic submissions are the growing trend these days with being one of the leaders. I need to log on this week and check for exhibits that are accepting entries in the next month. I worked on some very interesting sketches yesterday and given the size minimum I ran into with this show I am applying for I may want to paint them larger. Tuesday is my day journey to my art store to buy more stretcher bars.

But it isn't just Zapplication engaging in electronic submissions, calls for entries, etc. Even some Facebook Fan Pages maintained by galleries and art councils are getting into the electronic game. Learning all the left brain tricks isn't easy for right brain artists. As a board member of Moreno Valley Arts Council we still get calls asking where their mailed application is for Artsfest. There is no mailed application. It is on line at our website and available to download.

I was frankly thrilled when art fairs began the shift from slides to CD's with digital images especially as slide film got hard to find. But digital images mean a digital camera or a hired photographer and a computer to copy them to the CD's or a service (don't do Wal-Mart) to do it for you. With Zapplication you format your images to their specs and post them on their site. You even apply for fairs from there. With the show I am entering these pictures in I will go to their website and electronically apply, submit and pay. All of which makes the entire process of applying for shows faster. The deadline is January 9th and the notification of acceptance is January 14. All accepted work must be framed and in their hands by February 4th.

Clearly the times are changing. And artists are having to get with the program.