Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Pastel 104 - Birds?

This was very satisfying to draw, but I have no idea why.  Sort of an ape bird - the rings on the fingers are the point, somehow.  I love it when I don't understand yet I know just what to do.

And if you haven't seen the paintings in our Kickstarter, I hope you will go look.  I would love to know what you think and we would be grateful for your support.  You can also help by passing it on to anyone you know who might be interested, and asking your friends to also pass it on...  Many hands make light work.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The "Baby Book"

About eight years ago I was just starting to paint again after 20 years of being blocked.  I was posting a few images online, to have a low key audience.  Some of you were witness to that, and have read this blog all along.

I got an e-mail from one reader inviting me to illustrate an extended version of Rock-a-Bye Baby.  I wasn't sure I was ready for an assignment, having just come out of being blocked and that obstacle had been largely triggered by college attempts at studio painting.  I did not know who she was, or if the request was legit.  But something about the project and the request seemed perfectly timed and genuine.  So I gave a non-committal answer while I experimented, to see what I could do.

I tried at first to come up with a baby in a papoose that was hung up - and it morphed into a monarch chrysalis, but it was rendered too tightly, not a style I wanted to tie myself into, and not something that seemed to go anywhere special.  I have that image somewhere, and I may post it.

So I tried again, with a new approach, just going with my lifelong love of trees, wind, leaves, and sky.  The baby took me into uncharted territory and required me to look at a LOT of sleeping babies on the Internet.

The hound was a complete surprise.  That was one of the first examples of what many of you see every few days when I post a new Pastel.  This is familiar to me now, but then it was new to me to have a drawing run off on its own.

Over eight years ago I sent the image below to Candide without much preamble - just "Image 1."  Fortunately she loved it, and the project took off from there.

After eight years, during which the book grew in length (Candide extended the poem even further) and the book industry changed dramatically, we have all the pieces assembled and Candide launched a Kickstarter today to turn this into a real book.  Candide also reached out to Laurelyn Dossett, an accomplished NC singer/songwriter who has composed and recorded a number of lullabies, and Laurelyn joined the project to add the musical dimension which completes it.

Learn more about the Kickstarter, here, and please spread the word.

(My family and I referred to this project as "The Baby Book" for the years I painted these images.  It will be published as "In the Tree Top.")

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Pastel 102 - The Headland and Light

This is the other one currently standing in my office (no wall room, so they are leaning against the wall under my whiteboard) along with The Surfer.  I like the ambiguity of some of the passages - where does the water end?  Is that sand?

And I feel this has taken me a few more steps back to drawing with the spontaneity of a child.  That makes me happy.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Pastel 99 - The Surfer

Often when these images emerge I work on the composition and shapes without much verbal recognition.  I "see" what's there and what they mean to me later.  So I was surprised at the finish of this one to see that the surfer's face reminds me of a great white shark, and the surf board is a basic shark shape, as well.  This one is displayed in my office at work at the moment, along with The Headland (Pastel 101).

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Pastel 98 - Running away from Home

Tonight as I post this I am reflecting on the powerful and emotional day I had.  A friend gathered up the various threads of a project over eight years in the making, spun them together into a wick and today we lit that wick.  There will be more details soon.

And as I pulled the pastel that was the next in line for posting here I discovered it was this one, "Running away from Home."  When I began the pastels I had hoped they would somehow lead me into the walled garden inside my heart.  Several of them seem to come from there, and this is one.  As a teen I ran away twice, but both times returned before causing any alarm.  Both felt like this to me - like plunging headlong to be away and out of sight, but also like dropping into a deeper dark and unknown, like losing the road, like losing my way, and I realized both times that it was a mistake.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Chicago April 2015 - The Walkers

I was in Chicago this week on business and had time, the day of my departure, for a quick dash down North State Street to wander around the river area and beyond.  I love the bridges, the views from the bridges, and the architecture.  When I walk around Chicago I feel as if I'm recharging my batteries on the designs of the buildings and the crazy juxtapositions of gothic and modern and art deco.  I draw energy and life from the El, and the other trains, and the wall of buildings facing the park, and the cloud gate, and the sculptures, and the Chagall mosaic, and the lights and shadows and noise and hustle and grit and fresh air from the lake...

The other place I use the same way (to refill some part of my soul just by walking through it) is Charleston, SC.  It's completely different, but also a glorious layering of years and styles and color and shape with a unifying sensibility that seems almost self aware.

This trip I had more than my usual share of the gritty side of Chicago on the train from the airport.  It was about 9:00 PM in the middle of the week.  I boarded a nearly empty car at O'Hare.  One stop later I heard the clicking of someone cutting their finger nails a few seats behind me, and glanced over to verify what I was hearing.  When the sound changed recognizably to toe nails, I did another quick check, but the smell was a stronger confirmation.  I left the train when the announcement said that Washington was a transfer to the Red Line, but as soon as the train pulled away I saw the signs saying there was no transfer to Red, and I should have stayed on the train to Jackson.  During the ten minute wait for another Blue Line train, a busker who played loud guitar and sang only one note was moving his way along the platform harassing people with his playing and pressing them for money - the train came just before he got to me.  In my haste to board and depart I failed to notice that this new car smelled like someone had taken a dump somewhere - the other passengers were breathing into their shirt collars.  I decided to not sit - I was only traveling two short stops.  When I got to the Red Line platform a woman was haranguing the entire crowded platform about some guys who had sold cigarettes to another passenger on the platform.  She was also moving steadily in my direction and boarded my car when the train pulled in.  Though dressed in a unique style, she was well groomed and seemed sober...  she gave our car a lecture about the benefits of using acrylic paints (rather than oils).  I was relieved to finally reach Grand and leave the CTA behind for the quiet of my hotel room.

But this, too, is Chicago, and I like the whole thing.  I could never live there, but I love to visit.  The train trip was like a stray anchovy on a pizza - I didn't order it, and I probably only need one, but when the pizza is gone, I'm glad that anchovy had been there.  Afterward...

On my final morning, when I got to wander into town, it was wet and blowing and in the 40's.  After a few miles of quick walking through some of my favorite streets, intersections and parks, I took refuge in an Argo Tea shop, and thawed myself with an Armenian Mint tea and watched the passing crowds through a huge window.  I became curious about some of the patterns before me.

First I wondered what portion of the walkers had ear buds (80 out of a random 200 - 40%).  Then I wondered what the average age was of those wearing the ear buds (I had to guess ages - only 3 I thought were over 50, 5 between 40 and 50, and 32 who appeared to be in their twenties and thirties).  Then I noticed that nearly everyone was walking alone - (out of the next 240 passersby only 16 were in 8 pairs having conversations - this surprised me).  And finally, how many were carrying a beverage - (only 15 out of 200 - I would have sworn, prior to actually counting, that it was one person in 5).

My favorite sight was the tall young woman walking with an ICE coffee in one hand and a large (over 400 page) hard back book in the other, turned to the last 20 pages, oblivious of everyone around her, walking in perfect sync with the crowd.  I hope she got to finish prior to arriving at work.

(Photos from a prior trip - in 2010)