When life gives you lemons, draw them, 11 x 14 inches dry pastels, graphite on paper

"When life gives you lemons, draw them". (Nikki)

"Trust your intuition, it's just like goin' fishin'; you cast your line 'til you get a bite." (Paul Simon)


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Perpetual painting

Monday, October 5th, 2009

Like music

where silence between the notes sets the rhythm,

not painting is half the work.

Neighborhood Heron, 11 x 11 x 3 inches acrylics on canvas, gallery wrapped, $350.00 For all artists, the most mysterious question of all might be “is it finished?” , but for the sake of clarity and the examples here I’ll just refer to painters. One popular opinion is that the best painting is one that’s finished quickly; one that retains the artist’s first fresh impressions, otherwise it should be painted over or tossed in the garbage and a new one started immediately. There are solid reasons for not lingering too long on a painting, but in matters of the Art I’m always suspicious when I hear the word should being used in a sentence containing advice. Some art rumors are accepted as absolute when they could stand some explanation. It can be confusing enough for the experienced, but especially for beginners looking for ground rules and a map to follow.
In Art though, for every should there is another option. The same suggestions don’t work for everyone. Have you ever felt guilty or embarrassed – even ashamed – because you took a painting too far? I have, but it’s only when I’ve compared my work and methods to others’ judgment that I should’ve quit while I was ahead…and guilt has no business hanging around in our daily work if it isn’t useful! (Frustration can be an excellent motivator if it’s allowed to be, but that’s another topic).
If it’s going to make sense – not exclusively the sole intention – every painting reaches stages where we need to make the call to leave it alone and say it’s finished, or proceed; stages where placing one more mark means the entire painting has to change and be brought up to par around it. If things that need correcting are not dealt with honestly, the work will not be as successful as it could be. There are phases in each painting that are truly intimidating, when painting is anything but leisurely; when we’re faced with: do we climb that mountain or not?

Myrtle at the Zoo, Crepe Myrtle branches, Phase 01, 20 x 34 x 2 inches Acrylics on canvas, gallery wrappedMyrtle at the Zoo, Crepe Myrtle branches, , Phase 04, 20 x 34 x 2 inches Acrylics on canvasMyrtle at the Zoo, Phase 11, 20 x 34 x 2 inches Acrylics on canvasMyrtle at the Zoo, Phase 15, 20 x 34 x 2 inches Acrylics on canvas

A lot of Plein Aire artists swear that their methods of painting outdoors on-site produce the highest quality work. The limitations of sunlight, location, outdoor temperatures and so on, mean that to finish successfully they need to splash down a lot of information within a short period of time. Doing so, when the thinking brain is disengaged and just responding to the subject, a lot of amazing unintentional surprises show up in the painting. Spontaneity and spurts of enthusiasm for being fully in the present tense can bring great results that need no further efforts at the end of the day. Plain Aire artists are in a field of their own (literally too!).
It’s a curious thing how creativity warps and reforms into amazing things when pressure is applied. Many people who aren’t artists will agree that the greatest ideas can occur when under pressure to produce them. For those who have orders to complete, at its best the challenge is like a beautiful sort of panic, where there’s an understanding of the time restrictions while fully trusting that whatever needs to happen is going to be successful. The abilities are less trustworthy when the pace and demand for finished work increases, time allotted decreases and the quality of the product diminishes. If this imbalance continues over extended periods of time, like years, sloppy and care-less habits take hold too easily. If there is work that must be accomplished though, these things can be controlled to some extent –this is one benefit of pushing personal boundaries: it puts tenacity to practice – but creativity is fickle and that’s a fact.

What has all that got to do with the question about finishing? The best paintings are not necessarily those that are finished in a few hours or a day. There are other purposes for painting besides finishing it to admire, be admired or to sell. Nothing replenishes the quality of our creative energy like being lost in the timeless, pure enjoyment of study and detail for no reason in particular. “The Zone” is like an addiction where the high is fairly elusive but we’re compelled compulsively to track it down again and again, discovering and rediscovering the source of it all. One painting could be someone’s lifetime of work.

I’m saying that if you personally feel you’d like to keep going with a painting for days or years… or never finish, then you ought to follow your own intuition about it. I’m not saying you should. I just recommend considering what other artists say, but also consider each painting as a new experience with new rules, new goals and new circumstances.
Experience, masterpiece to failure, will always apply to future work somehow. That’s the great thing about painting: no time spent searching for answers is ever wasted. It’s all recyclable material! Every decision about finishing – or not – is relative to individuality, and relative to each new painting as it develops your way.


Iguana on a Strangler Fig

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

Iguana on a Strangler Fig, 11H x 11W x 3D inches acrylics on canvas, wrapped sides painted

Iguana on a Strangler Fig, 11H x 11W x 3D inches acrylics on canvas, wrapped sides painted

Earlier progress below. Today layering thin washes of pale yellow, placing the iguana more into the background. Some of the details of the Strangler Fig growth that are now covered up will be brought back into focus since this is more about the tree than the iguana. Posting the painting on the blog is helpful because it’s viewed differently than while painting or studying it..it’s somehow easier to see areas that still need change when looking at it on-screen.

The Strangler Fig is a parasite. Seeds sprout in moss or decaying matter among the branches of rainforest canopies. Roots gradually extend downward and over time completely surround the host tree, which dies while nourishing the Strangler Fig growing in its place.

Strangler Fig and Iguana, phase 1 work in progress Strangler Fig and Iguana, phase 2 work in progress Strangling Fig and Iguana, phase 3 work in progress

Strangler Fig and Iguana, phase 4 work in progress

March 14th, March 13: above thumbnails, Phases 1, 2 and 3

March 18: searching for a way to help this not look so mediocre; I may do as in Myrtle At The Zoo and define some Strangling Fig leaves in the foreground then blur the Iguana and other background details.


Strawberry Fields?

Sunday, May 25th, 2008

Green Anole living indoors near my computer. Green Anole living indoors near my computer.

I wonder if the Anole that lives indoors with us thought it saw lunch when it climbed near the two photos of strawberries, pictures of my sons when they were two and three years old.

5:41 a.m.

Wednesday, May 21st, 2008

May 21 Morning Sky, 5:41 a.m.

Office help

Tuesday, May 20th, 2008

Anole sitting on the stapler on my computer desk.

Today my little friend helped with the paperwork.

Today’s Nik-Pics

Wednesday, May 14th, 2008

Reflections - photography, sun poking through between storms.  Sunflower-heads, red variety, the plant is very healthy with plenty of flowerheads appearing.  Reflections #2 - Photography - Green Anole eating insects off of a spider web.

Reflections – Sun poking through between storms. Sunflower-heads, red variety – the plant is large already, and very healthy with plenty of flower heads appearing. I’m taking photos in sequence and will post those together when the plant is in full bloom. Green Anole eating insects off of a spider web, window reflection.

Little green feet

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008

                  Green Anoles mating 

I see more little green feet in our future…

                  Green Anoles mating

Single eggs, .25 inches small, are laid every two weeks between March – October and abandoned, hatching after 5-7 weeks.

Every day is Earth Day

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

                  Green Anole - digitized sphere, photography

Caring. It’s that simple.

For facts about Green Anoles and other reptile care and conservation: http://nationalzoo.si.edu/Animals/ReptilesAmphibians/Facts/FactSheets/Anole.cfm

In the garden

Saturday, April 19th, 2008

                  Anole, mating season - photography 

My hopes are that the Anoles will expand their family here, and that they eat fire ants!


Portulaca: low-maintenance, sun-thriving, cheerful colors.

                  Garden sculpture of a heron, made of vines and grasses. A sparrow borrows some material for its’ nest.

Homemade garden sculpture of a heron, which I replenish the shape continually throughout the year with branches, vines, and grasses. This morning: a sparrow borrows some material for its’ nest.

The lizards are back

Tuesday, April 8th, 2008

                   Green Anole, male

The little Anoles come out on the warmest days now, sporting their finest green skins! I watched this male do courtship ritual posturing, and hoped to capture him fanning out the red flap of skin under its’ chin (dewlap), but I guess I wasn’t pretty enough for him!

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