073:365 Winter Aconite

073:365 Winter Aconite

Yesterday, I enjoyed playing with color in the footsteps; creating an expressive if imperfect rendition of my morning’s walk. Today, the weather is much nicer, but the drawing carries on that theme of painterly emotional color.

And it's Spring again! Gotta love Michigan!

When I was in second grade, we had a drawing assignment to make a pattern on 1″ square grid paper, and my art teacher chose mine to put into the school art show at the public library. My grandma and her friend came down from the big city and hob-nobbed with all the doting parents, grandparents, teachers, and librarians while nibbling bits of cheese and drinking the complimentary grape juice.

It was a formative experience that allowed us students to feel like we mattered in the adult world as creators. A way of participation by suspension of disbelief in the cultural world of grown-ups. The teachers tried to pick everyone’s drawings at different times for the various shows throughout the year so that most if not all the students got to have this cultural moment with their families, so this wasn’t the only time my grandma drove down from Detroit, but it was the first.

When I was in fifth grade, there was a period that I was obsessed with Van Gogh’s Impressionist-Expressionist paintings, and I tried to reproduce them in oil pastel. My mother still has the “Starry Night” that I drew. It doesn’t look anything like Van Gogh, but it was a relatively sophisticated drawing for my age.

The year of Van Gogh, the art teacher was presenting a unit about symmetry. She wanted us to use radial symmetry, branching systems, and reflections in our art works. But from Van Gogh, I’d gone on to admiring Matisse’s and Gaughin’s floral and fauvist drawings of flowers. So I did the assignments as quickly as I could, and went back to drawing Brazilian jungle flowers, and sunflowers; tulips and roses.

That year, maybe because we were in fifth grade, and both fifth and sixth grades were graduating to middle school, she picked less drawings from our class to go to the year-end exhibit, now no longer at the library, but instead at a beautiful gallery in one of the university’s buildings. And maybe because I didn’t listen to her and spent time on my flowers instead of on the symmetry drawings, she didn’t choose the beautiful purple flower that I had perfected and presented as my submission.

Instead, she told me that she could sneak it in as a background drawing with no label, but only if I changed my idea and did something more experimental.

She took my beautiful purple flower, the best version of it, and cut it into pieces. Then she took the second best and third best and cut one of them into pieces too. She told me to glue them down, the whole one, and the two cut-up ones, so that they looked like they were falling into place from disintegrated beauty at the top to the whole drawing at the bottom.

She didn’t ask before she cut them.

It was a cool idea, and I think her experiment is one of the contributing factors that has made me want to try new things and push boundaries in my artwork. I’m not afraid to destroy things; to fold paper; to rip up cloth.

But at the time, I was so hurt and angry that I only grudgingly attempted to finish the drawing by coloring in between the lines on the mat-board we glued it to with ombre’d colored pencil.

Maybe it was the texture of the oil pastel, or the way that the layers took long enough to get right that it felt over-worked until I added more, whatever the reason, when I finished this drawing today, it reminded me of that one from long ago that can never be reconstituted, and I felt a wave of nostalgia, maybe even sadness.

You the viewer won’t feel those things, they aren’t in the drawing, but in my association with layers of oil pastel. Those emotions, the ones that inspired me to make this drawing aren’t linked in your memories to bright drawings of flowers. You will see something different.

Art is like that: though we artists try to control the message, sometimes the baggage doesn’t carry over to the viewer, or vice versa resonates more with the viewer than with the creator.

What do you see in this Winter Aconite?

039:365 Fingerprint

039:365 Fingerprint

A circuitous drawing today that began as an exercise in winding, but became more like a fingerprint.

I’ve often felt like it is an amazing phenomenon that we should have exactly the twists and curves on our fingers that we do. It gives me an almost mystical feeling that of all the ways chemistry could have resolved itself into my hand, that these particular swirls and whooshes should have been the ones that are my fingerprints.

Urban Desert

Getty Cactuses and LA Skyscrapers

Los Angeles can feel like an urban desert.  Things are far apart, and people are ambitious in a way that makes it hard to break the ice sometimes.  Having a dog helps, but it’s taken me awhile to get my nerve up to try some of the things that I know are out there.

For my birthday, my aunt was visiting from Northern California, and we went to LACMA.  Yesterday, H and I finally went to the Getty.

It is an Urban Oasis.

Unlike many other art museums I’ve been to, LA museums seem to be an EVENT in and of themselves.  I’m not sure if it is because of the climate, or because the ones I’ve visited are on somewhat isolated campuses.

The gardens at the Getty are beautiful and labyrinthine, and the little wheeled cable-car that goes up the hillside turn the whole thing into an adventure, like a visit to Cercedilla.

The courtyard vibrates with energy, and people sit and chat in the breezes next to fountains.  The whole thing is enclosed by the views of city and ocean.  I say enclosed because the location makes it seem wrapped in the surroundings rather than exposed to them.  Maybe it’s the way the courtyards are stacked and interwoven with smallish buildings.  Maybe it’s the way the carven rock walls jut out here and there.

It’s hard to put my finger on exactly why looking at pre-Renaissance paintings was more inspirational yesterday that it has been for me for years.  But I felt some of my old attraction for the slightly stilted paintings in egg tempera on gold ground.  And even more for the hyper detailed Flemish and Dutch trompe l’œil panels.

Plus the collection is pretty impressive.  A few paintings each by Rembrandt and Titian, plus a lot of unusual more minor painters.  A couple by Bruegel and Van Dyck.  Although it was surrounded by a group of sketchers, I thought I spotted a Caravaggio.  A smaller collection than some, but full of stellar beauties.  It makes me wish I’d spent more time at the Prado when I lived in Madrid.

Instead of riding the tram down the hill, we walked.  Seeing the encinos with their little bellotas* reminded me of walking in the hills of Segovia with W,C, & B.  It provided a nice few moments to process all the visual input of the previous two hours.

Visiting museums, especially places like this, brings out lively ideas in my mind.  Museums activate me and spur me to look more closely at the world, at myself, and at what I can do.

*The Spanish always insisted that they were acorns, and since I’d never seen an encino in the US until I moved to California, I’m not sure that is the correct word, though bellota is an acorn on an oak as well.  


The view from the top

Being in a new place has its advantages.  You can go see something you’ve never seen before.  You can experience the wind on your skin from a new perspective.

One of the reasons I like having Sydney around, is that she is even excited about sniffing the same spots, day after day.  I love walking in the park with her and feeling the wind from the Marina in my hair.

The last couple days, we’ve been doing some exploring and some re-visiting of spots we like.  Some places never lose their novelty.  Like the End-of-the-Runway In-n-Out by LAX.  It’s a spot that is pretty awful in some ways.  I wouldn’t want to live there, but it is fun to go and visit.  Seeing the planes take off and land is pretty interesting.  They all make different noises.  Yesterday we went there after our mundane trip to Trader Joe’s, and there was a BIG plane landing, right over our heads.

The day before yesterday, we went exploring in the Santa Monica Mountains, and found a beautiful vista.  It was on a path that was probably not official, since it went straight up– dangerously steep.  It wasn’t the absolute tallest thing around, but it was pretty tall!  There was all kinds of beautiful smelling brush, probably rosemary and sage, growing wild.  H commented that he’d like to build a house there.

Some things are exciting because they are novel, some things because they are beautiful.  And novelty isn’t always different.  Sometimes novelty is just a dynamic.  Things that move too fast can be fun, but it is hard to maintain an enthusiasm for them because it is the movement rather than the structure that makes them interesting.