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Monday, June 20, 2011

When you are running in circles, which way is forward?

As I sit here in my studio, working on my latest attempt at a painting, I am stuck. When I started this canvas, I knew just what  I wanted to do, the feeling I wanted to project. That was my first mistake. As always, the paintings tend to take on a life of their own, they dictate to me what they want to be (never underestimate the power of a stubborn painting). They are like teenagers, you know whats best for them, but they  have other plans.....evil little buggers these canvas's! So my earthy purple gray background has all these unexpected colors, like a Franz Marc painting, so much for subtlety.

 It's times like these when I need to step back and take it in for a minute, breath, observe, think. Stand back and listen to it...because sometimes, even stubborn teenagers have a point.

 I have to remember that it is sometimes necessary to deviate from the original plan....and listen to my canvas.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

My Dad.

For me to properly write a summary of my fathers life and adventures, it would take years. I would instead like to write just a few little things about him.
 This coming January my father will be turning 80 years young. You would never know it if you met him, he is a very young 79. He goes to the gym, shoots hoops with his personal trainer, tends to a massive vegetable garden, raises chickens, is learning to paint, and dabbles in music. Tonight he will be performing with his music teacher in Byfield Ma.
 If you were to ask him about assisted living, or condo communities for retirees, his response would be "It's all OLD people!". Unlike most his age, he chooses to live his life fully and continue to learn new things. He has led a pretty impressive life. One of 8 children, he grew up in a large family with 6 older sisters and one younger brother. His parents taught him about honesty, accountability, and fairness (my grandfather was rumored to have had all 8 children memorize The Optimist Creed). When he was too small to be invited to play baseball as a boy, instead of feeling sorry for himself, he and his siblings built a baseball field of their own and invited neighborhood kids to join them in games. They only had a few rules, anyone who wanted to play could play, and no swearing  (or as he would say "cussing") or bullying allowed. 
 His father was the owner of a successful bricklaying company, and it was expected that he would follow in his footsteps. Dad had other goals for himself. He was a very bookish kid, extremely smart, and  a daydreamer. After he attended College he wanted to go to graduate school to get his  PHD. His father wasn't so convinced, but after pleading his case he went on to attend Harvard University, taught at Wesleyan, Harvard, and BC and later became a respected and prominent Economist (he would correct my facts if he read this, so I won't quote too many). While stationed in Newfoundland with the Air Force, he met our mother (who was stationed there from England a a nurse) and married her, had five children, and 50+ years later they are still together. Theirs is a true love story (she moved to the U.S. leaving her family behind).
 There are so many gifts he has given me through the years, his love of gardening, The Boston Celtics,   his love for jazz, hiking, American history, and a very mischievous sense of humor (no lack of teasing in our house growing up).  He has faced and overcome many tough obstacles throughout his life (which I won't get in to), and still remains an optimist.  I'm proud to have been blessed with a dad like him, and tonight I will go and listen to him sing, and be grateful for the moment.

Ode to My husband on Fathers Day as written by our daughter Elizabeth.

The following is a series of funny stories about my husband that my daughter wrote.

 On morphine  (after 7 hour spinal fusion) my dad referred to himself as "Rugged Man".... His drugged up delusion of himself couldn't be more accurate. At one point in his life he could lift twice his own weight, balance himself on steel beams seemingly miles above groun...d to weld ABOVE his head (if you have ever tried that you know that it is not only terrible but REALLY difficult), and run, no joke, EXACTLY as fast and comically as Forest Gump. To me, my father was/ is as close to a super hero as a person could get. It is very impressive and comes in handy on moving day, but, it has many disadvantages as well: picture Italian stubbornness combined with physical might: as you would guess, the result is dilutions of immortality and invincibility. It was common place to have him come into the house with his hand in a blood soaked towel insisting that a cut from a chain saw was not a necessary hospital trip, or a phone call where he is recounting a recent incident when his head was hit by not one but two steel support beams on scaffolding while, in the same phone conversation he is trying to give orders to his employees and forgetting in mid sentence (again not a necessary hospital trip). Thankfully my mother's determination always got him to the hospital (once she had to steal his shoes knowing that he wouldn't walk on a hospital floor barefoot to escape - germs) resulting in a quick recovery every time. Finally his comic hero-like injuries caught up with him when an x-ray showed that his back pain was caused by a break that happened at ONE POINT IN HIS LIFE (he does know know the exact time). Think about this... Could you imagine your back mussels being so strong that you could break your back and A. not know it, or B. be able to function as an athlete and iron worker with no problems!? Sadly this resulted in his needing spinal fusion surgery which inhibited his ability to lift twice his own weight and forced him, for the first time in his entire life, to -take it easy for a while.- In the hospital he forgot the effects of morphine would interfere with his ability to articulate work calls and his cell phone was confiscated when he was placing steel orders and forgetting about them. He also told the nurse that he couldn't take benedrill, when she was concerned about an uniformed drug allergy he replied " no! it makes me to drowsy." (he was thinking about work, in a hospital, after having his insides literally removed and then returned.) For months we had to succumb to heated arguments and trickery to get him to relax and recover. For all of my family's sake this was almost two years ago so everything is close to normal at this point, in fact he just celebrated his 50th birthday where many of these stories were recounted during a hilarious roast. In my father's words "you can't hurt steel" and in his case I think he is right, it can be scratched and dented but it is still strong none the less.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Tea and creativity.

  Perhaps it’s the influence of my British mother, or that it is inherently so ingrained in me, I’ve noticed a reoccurring theme of “tea” in my creative process. You might ask yourself, “What does tea have to do with painting?”, allow me to explain.
 When I am alone in my studio, working on a project, the steps are complicated. My technique often involves many layers of pigment, sealing with varnish/acrylic spray, and collaging with various found objects and handmade paper. It takes patience and thoughtful contemplation. Between each layer or step, its vital to stop, step back, and think. Observation, critique, and analysis are crucial to a successful outcome.
 One of my methods in achieving this, is to take a break with a cup of tea, stand back and observe my work. It rejuvenates me, and clears the cobwebs that come with “brain overload”, something that happens when I get too absorbed.
 When I teach, I always have tea and homemade cookies available to my students. It nurtures them, as well as forces them to stop and analyze what they are doing. By doing this they are learning the art of observation. I find it to be a good cure for the impatient overworking that often comes with novice painters. We live in such a fast paced society, with instant gratification and constant stimulation becoming the norm. A cup of tea brings with it the gift of slowing  down, and simply enjoying the moment.

The subtle use of sentimental objects in my work.

As a continuation of my “Tea and Creativity” theme, I wanted to point out some ways that I use found objects in my collages. It all began with my putting some fortunes into a painting I had done (“Good Fortune” in the private collection of a friend in New York”). The response was interesting, and friends started to save me their fortunes (as well as tea tags with fortunes or quotes). I started to put them in my Orchid Queen series, and other collages. It felt as if I were somehow weaving these friendships into my work. I liked the symbolic nature of the fortunes, representing  various things, thoughts, dreams, advice. I also liked that each fortune, tea tag, or string from a teabag represents a meal enjoyed, and a cup of tea (and quiet moment) had by someone that I care about.
 So where you might just see some strings on a painting, or fortunes cut in shapes, I see so much more. It’s as if I am able to incorporate experiences of friends and moments shared into the work that I am creating.