Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Another Title Change: "Bind, Bond"

I saw my good friend Anthony tonight. I brought all my canvases with me. He's good at listening and asking questions because it's part of his job. Our mutual friend Paul insisted that I should take my last piece to show him.

I had two-and-a-half hours of deep conversation with my friend about the artistic life. I revealed each piece in the order of creation, March, April, June. When I handed him the last, he hesitated, removed his glasses, wiped his eyes. It meant something to him—he saw the story he had written. And before I even revealed the title to him he said, "It's a bind and a bond." Yes, that was exactly right. So in that moment the piece got renamed. It is "Bind, Bond". It makes sense to me.

He said he'd buy it, but I'm not ready to part with these things. I suppose sometime I'll make too many pieces and I'll get tired of piling them up. Who knows?

I left smelling of incense and feeling like I had people who could hold my work in their heart. I am eternally grateful. Anthony, if you're listening... thank you.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

"Bind, Mend": Complete

Well, this has been an interesting journey. Sometimes it seems I start out saying one thing and then end up saying something completely different. No one can doubt that the beginning and end of this piece are like night and day. Let's review, shall we?

The creative process is both extremely painful and unbelievable thrilling for me. And taking the photos—well, I just know that where I start is not where I'm going to end, so I have this need to document the journey. I guess it's to help remind me that all the steps (even the bad ones) need to be there.

I've said so much about this painting that it will seem repetitive, so I'll just post my final picture and talk a bit more about the creative process, I guess.

My friend Paul has been looking at my posts. He called me yesterday and, not trying to influence me or anything, told me what he saw. We did a storytelling event on Saturday, and a dear friend read a story that, well, it could pretty much be represented by this image. I didn't even think of it, and I was right there hearing the story. I made this a couple of days later. Yes, it's a lot like that story, but I don't think it's that story. Still, it's nice to see that it has some universal qualities to it.

I'm always a little sad when the work starts to come to an end. I have this feeling that I want to start up a second canvas right along side to see if I can hang on, keep the energy going, but I can't. I have to go into a kind of dormant period. Maybe I'll make marks and glue things down, but they'll probably end up all covered over. That's fine. It's part of the process. And there's always this fear that the creative fire won't come back, so I worry a little. Maybe you worry, too, like you'll never be that good again.

When the painting is done (and I think it is) I start to want to just sit with it, as if it were a friend of mine. We'll hang out in the studio and I'll look at all its parts to make sure they're right. Hopefully I'll get a chance to do it tomorrow. I'm starting to lament not having more wall space in the studio. Maybe it's time to take down some mirrors.

I'm not going to be modest here—I'm really pleased with the way this (and the two other paintings) have turned out. Somehow, I can't believe that I made them.

Friday, June 17, 2011

New title: "Bind, Mend"

So I wasn't really happy with the title Outside. It was okay, but didn't quite seem right. Yesterday, while I was working, the title Bind came to me. Then the word Mend. So the two are now together in the title Bind, Mend. Let's hope that sticks.

I've realized that it's important for me to share these pieces I've been making. Somehow, the sharing keeps me from drowning in it. Nobody came to the studio the past couple of nights, and I found myself getting sucked into the visuals that I've created, the art zone. Having people around helps keep reality in check.

Here's a picture of the painting in my currently-sloppy studio. What a mess!

A friend suggested an interesting idea—that I invite writers to tell me the story that I've created. So, I can't tell you the story, but you can tell it to me. I'm sure it would be a fascinating collaboration. If anyone is interested, I'll be happy to read.

I'm nearly done, but I'm not sure when I'll know for sure.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

"Outside": Step 7

A lot of struggle with this last night. Maybe it's because nobody came in to distract me. Again, I stayed much longer at the studio than we're supposed to. But it's hard to leave it when I think there's still something I can do. I prefer to leave when I'm just thinking about it. I think that's enough to say about this.

Oh, there is one thing that is very striking about this collage—it's amazingly luminous. When I see it from across the studio it just glows.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

"Outside" the next visit

I'm already at the point where I'm pushing and pulling with this piece. It seems hard for me to imagine that it's close to finished, but when I start being careful, it's a sign.

Last night I went to the studio and worked until after I was supposed to be gone. A fellow artist stopped in rather late—I thought I was alone in the building—and took up a badly-upholstered seat to talk to be about life for a bit. I suppose it was another good distraction. She said she enjoyed watching me work. Yes, it's fun watching other artists make their stuff. It seems a bit like magic, even to those of us who like to make stuff.

I have a series of images here of how the piece progressed through the night. I put some pieces onto the canvas, hesitated, and ripped them off. I put something else in their place. Then I decided it was a mistake to have removed them, so I put some back. I put in an image that I like—a girl walking down a path, her back to us. It seemed to follow some of my edges. It was there, but slowly faded away. The skirt took a hit.

I don't know where this is going, and I sure as hell don't know what I'm doing. Still, I'm right here... doing it.

My friend Paul says I put holes in everything. I don't have one in this yet. I wonder if one will show up. I won't force it.

This last image is just a detail shot.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Collage "Outside": Step 5

My friend Paul decided that he'd come and see my older works and what I had been painting while we were on the phone. So that's what we did last night.

He's a writer—a storyteller—and he came with some short pieces he had written. I had a chalky yellow canvas and snippets of images that I was hoping to use at some point for something or other. So while we talked and I listened to his stuff, I tried pieces of paper out on my chalky yellow board. Again, the distraction of his art kept me from having to drown in my own, so I was at the periphery again. And it was fun letting him watch the process. I tried not to behave any differently then I would have otherwise. He'd toss words of encouragement from time to time. And though I couldn't see it because I was all up in my piece, I was actually making something.

This is the fourth or fifth direction for this piece, but I think I finally have a bite on the line. For now the working title will be "Outside", but that may change if a new title reveals itself. It's hard to say that I like or don't like these pieces I've been making—they're not easy images. I guess I feel like this is coming together right.

Collage, Step 4

A few nights ago I went into the studio and started trashing my collage again. Out came the Sharpie® marker and I began to do a critique right on it. I wasn't very kind. I didn't bother photographing it because it included a lot of four-letter words.

On Sunday night I started covering up everything. There was a lot of dark there, and I didn't think I had earned it—you can't just go painting dark randomly. So there I was with my cheap paint brushes, using gesso as white (I love how chalky it is), and some of that burnt yellow that I never bother to remember the name of. I also decided to turn the thing horizontally.

My friend Paul gave me a call, and while we chatted about a storytelling event that we had done at ArtSpace Maynard, I painted randomly. It was a good move. I wasn't trying too hard. It was like I was painting in the periphery.

Collage: Step 3

I felt like I was getting too caught up in trying to make something, so I opened up my book of fairy tales and just started pulling pieces and gluing them on. In the end, I had "Mary Had a Little Lamb" in the center and Monsters and bits strewn all about. I didn't really like it, but hey, it's part of the process. It certainly was a big difference from the last iteration. I never said I knew what I was doing. I think I'm just going through some motions until something just feels right. It's as if I were a patient fisherman waiting for the pull on my line. Bear with me.

New Collage, Step 2

After the first trashing of my canvas board, I started adding visual elements. I wanted to include some bones, so I took my anatomy book with me to the studio. It was not long after this that I really had to get ready for, and attend, Paradise City Arts Festival, so it got put on hold.

Time for some more collage: Step One

Paradise had me busy, so I couldn't actually finish a collage that I had started about a month ago. I'm ready to really work on it now, which means I can start posting images of it.

First step: Choose the appropriate old (college?) painting to trash. With that task done, I pulled out my Sharpie® marker and started to insult it. It's cathartic.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

After the Show

Well, Paradise City ended more than a week ago. As much as I love doing the shows and helping people try on hats, it's exhausting. But it was a great show, if unbearably hot—in the 90°s and no air conditioning. I have to feel a little grateful that the tornadoes came through Western Massachusetts after we were already back home, safe. (My family's out in that area, and fortunately, they're all okay.)

Of course everyone at the show wanted to talk to me about the royal wedding and all the hats. Literally, anyone who came into my space mentioned it. It had its benefits. It meant that people were more open to the idea of wearing hats. I didn't seem to have to drag people into my space, as if I were a dentist, as has happened in the past. I invited them in, they mostly came, they didn't bother trying to resist me—it's pointless, anyway.

The show opened on Saturday, May 28th, and I sold more hats in a single day than I ever have before—sixteen to be exact. I guess all the serious art buyers know to show up on the first day. I had made a lot of new pieces, and some were spectacular. After selling that many hats, and each one-of-a-kind, I felt like my space looked a little bare. I usually take about eighty hats with me. This time I had about sixty. The holiday weekend progressed and my sales diminished along with my stock—they still happened, but it was more typical. On Monday people were still coming and telling me how much they loved my work, and I'd say, "I wish you could have seen all the stuff I had on Saturday." But that's how it goes. I can't complain about something good like record sales.

There are usually some memorable moments at each show. The best moment came, not from the woman who bought three hats, but from the woman who didn't buy a single one. I wish I knew her name. She was looking at my work and I invited her in to try something on. She insisted that she looked terrible in hats and that everyone said so. And I let her go on and on for a little while about how unfit for headwear she was. Finally I asked, "Can I just put one hat on you? Just one?" She sort of shrugged as if it was useless and she was going to teach me a lesson. So I gave her face a good look and grabbed a lovely straw that I knew would suit her. I had her stand away from the mirrors while I put it on, and then I brought her to see herself. She was quiet for just the briefest moment and then a soft "Oh," escaped her lips, and I knew she could see it. She knew she looked fantastic. She didn't buy the hat, but I didn't care. I had helped change her mind about herself. It was pure bliss. So why didn't she buy it? It doesn't really matter to me. She took my card—maybe I'll see her again. As for the woman who bought three hats... She bought them for herself and her two daughters, aged four and six. I'm sure they were going to make some special events up just to wear them. What an amazing way to create a mother-daughter relationship!