Yellow almost done

Yellow   almost done

On one of my walks I stayed in a B&B which was a rebuilt farm. It was beautifully done, preserving the farm’s former character. Some of the walls were more than a foot thick – I shot this sunlit china collection in a recessed (ex-) stall window during breakfast. Next is the underpainting and a first tentative sketch. What I wanted to capture was the yellowness of everything, the walls, the teapots, the sunlight streaming in. (The title refers to a song by my current favourite band, Coldplay.)

Early stage

Early stage

Below is the final, I actually like the lightness of the former stage at the top of this post because it comes closer to what I wanted to do. But I like the juiciness of this last version as well.

Yellow done, oil on canvas board

Yellow done, oil on canvas board

For the next painting I revisited some photos of still lifes. I wanted to paint the white cloth and capture all the colours in white in different lights. I struggled with various versions of this one. They say that a painting is never finished, it just stops somewhere interesting.

Acrylic underpainting

Acrylic underpainting

Sketching in first oil layer

Sketching in first oil layer

Apple and lemon, oil on canvas board, many versions later

Apple and lemon, oil on canvas board, many versions later

megabubbles in evening light

megabubbles in evening light

Photo Rende Zoutewelle

This is me playing. It could turn into my new art form – it requires only soap, water, air and light. One has no control over the colours or forms, and it is extremely ephemeral.

You can’t interpret it, you can’t put a price tag on it, you can’t sell it, and you can’t market anything but the equipment used to make it, (which I happily leave to others), or I suppose you could charge for being a performing bubble artist.

As I practice it more, I’m discovering that it really is a skill. You have to be aware of the humidity, and be alert to every nuance of breeze and wind.You can regulate the forms somewhat by opening and closing the loop at different intervals, and can do virtuoso bubble blowing by trying to blow one bubble inside another. When I do it on the street, it makes most motorists slow down and smile – equally important on our road where people constantly abuse the 30km speed limit.

I’ve also been up to some yarn bombing. It was a good way to give some love to a dead tree at the end of our front garden, and once more, bring a smile to the faces of passers by going slowly enough to see it. The first crocheted mandalas started to curl,

how things looked in May

how things looked in May

so I took them all down and treated them with a fabric stiffener (Modgepodge), and now they hold their shape. I’ve sewn the felt leaves by hand, and our neighbour children helped me place some of them.

In order to try to slow down some of the traffic coming through our village, the province placed some  cement obstacles up and down the road. One is so close to our garden, I decided to extend our garden onto it and make it an edible green spot. Unfortunately, despite careful care and watering, the plants (nasturtium, strawberry, lettuce, violas) pined away there, they didn’t like the traffic, the direct sun, the fumes? Who knows? So now I’ve got some hardy geraniums on there to see how they do.

201429mei_1530

Painting has ground to a halt for now. I’m writing, though,  not sure if there will be an end product.But with luck it could consolidate into a book on many of the themes touched on here and on tendingtime, my other wordpress blog.

 

 

Show Your Work book coverIt’s been awhile since I posted here. I have been writing- the intended outcome is a book, but I can’t quite get the words, ‘I’m writing a book’, out of my mouth at the moment. It sounds too pretentious and it scares me a bit.

A lot.
Considering how many times I’ve started and stopped work on this project in the past decade or so.

I will finish the manuscript this time, because I promised a friend I would. But whether it will be anything worth sharing at the end, I don’t know. Anyway, it is keeping me occupied, a recent task being going through every one of the almost 400 posts on this blog, printing the relevant ones out and categorising them. More on all that another time.

Anyway, back to the topic of this post which is a book review.

Anyone who has been reading my posts over the past 7 years will know my anti-marketing stance when it comes to art, so surprise surprise, I am about to sing the praises of a book that could be seen as a book on promoting your art, but which is SO not an art marketing book.

I was cruising Amazon and this title was on the recommendations for me. I immediately liked the format and cover and took a ‘look inside’. I was sold from page one. This was an author who understood my reluctance to make self promotion the ultimate goal for my life on Earth, and who has written a kind, heart-filled guide on how to not hoard your creativity, how to not give up, how to keep your integrity while getting your work out there, how to not turn into ‘human spam’ (loved that), and have a great and fulfilling time doing it.

This book is so lovely in every aspect. It has a smooth cover, silky to the touch, the small square format appeals, it simply exudes friendliness and encouragement. There are loads of keri smith style handwritten pages and illustrations by the author, Austin Kleon (who wrote ‘How to steal like an artist’ which I didn’t read because I already know how and am already an artist).

Almost all the people I look up to and try to steal from today, regardless of their profession, have built sharing into their routine.  These people aren’t schmoozing at cocktail parties, they’re too busy for that. (paraphrased):They are working in their studios, getting good at what they do, and sharing their process.

‘By generously sharing their ideas and their knowledge, they often gain an audience that they can then leverage when they need it- for fellowship, feedback or patronage. (personally, I’ve never had any luck with the last one, SZ).

I wanted to create a kind of beginner’s manual for this way of operating, so here’s what I came up with, a book for people who hate the very idea of self promotion. An alternative, if you will to self promotion…Imagine if your next boss didn’t have to read your resume because he already reads your blog. Imagine being a student and getting your first gig based on a school project you posted on line… Imagine turning a side project or hobby into your profession because you had a following that could support you.

Or imagine something simpler and just as satisfying: spending the majority of your time, energy,and attention practising a craft, learning a trade, or running a business, while also allowing for the possibility that your work might attract a group of people who share your interest….

This little book is full of original, funny, insightful, wise advice that can help anyone gather the courage and get organised to share their work more. And who knows where that could lead!  Whether you are a writer, crafter, artist, or hobbyist in anything at all, give yourself a present and go buy it.( And, no, I’m not being paid to say this!)

 

Robert is gone. I thought I’d post the letter I, and thousands of other artists received, since it so beautifully conveys the generosity with which Robert graced the world. I never knew him personally, but his being in the world made a big difference to my life. This letter is from his daughter, Sara:
May 30, 2014
 
Dear Sarah,
On Tuesday morning, at 10:20am, Dad passed away. He was at home, surrounded by his family. My brother Dave’s Airedale, Stanley, lay on the floor nearby. This day was also my, and my twin brother James’s, birthday.
A few evenings earlier, Dad and I were sitting up together, discussing a favourite piece of music. “Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana has the ability to take you from placidity to power in one sonic breath. It is music of dignity and strength, with primitive, energetic passages, evoking absolute beauty from the simplest of phrases. It brings up something that has everything to do with significance — squeezing joy and motif that you just can’t drop — it stays with you.”
I tapped along on his laptop as he riffed a stream of consciousness, his sense of wonder twinkling, then sparkling, his voice growing ever softer, his hand squeezing mine when we paused. “The thing about art is that life is in no danger of being meaningless,” he whispered. I remembered, again, the wonder of nearing the summit plateau at Lake McArthur, rounding a corner to the West Coast Trail’s packed, silvery strand and, moment by moment, the unveiling of the magic hour on the Bois d’Amour in Pont Aven, Brittany. A few more steps, a couple of breaths to our destination: a silent sharing in the marvel.
I thanked him for the millionth time. We all thanked him as he slipped away. “Thank-you, Daddy, thank-you.”
And what about your twice-weekly letters? This ardent epistolary friendship, this living commitment, a connection and conviction to the imagination and creative heartbeat, and to lifemanship? Dad wrote to you last October, after receiving his diagnosis, and since then we’ve solidified our intention. He wrote:
“From the get-go we have been aware of the value of these twice-weekly letters to artists and others. Sara has helped me with many of them. We’ve shared our artistic journey together and have often talked about this day. One of the ideas we’re tossing around is that she start off by writing once a week. The other letter would be a favourite previous one of mine. If we ran all my previous letters once a week, they would last for 27 years! Finding ourselves at new chapters in our adventure, we sincerely hope we can continue to be of service to you.”
And so, I’ll write to you. And you’ll get Dad’s letters, too. It will be my honour to do so, and will continue to be with the deepest gratitude to you, his friend in art.
Sincerely,
Sara
PS: “Over the days of this journey, a kind of energetic serenity has set in. Something happens with the mixture of space and time. I feel a sense of story. Others have told me you can feel it in your brush, and I do now. A family of mergansers swims close by — the young are almost ready to fly south. Perhaps you have felt it too — it has something to do with purity.” (Robert Genn, on the Mackenzie River, 2000)
Esoterica: Dad’s dream has been to reach artists of all stripes — individuals with a common joy, journeying in this life-enhancing, inexplicable affair of the heart. He wrote, “We have no other motivation than to give creative people an opportunity to share ideas and possibly broaden their capabilities — to get more joy and understanding from their own unique processes.” With this dream in mind, please forward this letter, or letter of your choice, to someone you think might find it of value. If one, or many, chooses to subscribe, we will exponentially widen — as a diverse and generous community of worldwide artists. “To float like a cloud you have to go to the trouble of becoming one.” (Robert Genn)
“Art is something else. Art is fluid, transmutable, open-ended, never complete, and never perfect. Art is an event.” (Robert Genn)

“We live our short spans in the vortex of a miracle, and while we may not be the center of that vortex, it is magic to be anywhere in there.” (Robert Genn)

“Love me truly!
Remember my constancy.
With all my heart
and all my mind
I am with you
even when far away.” (Anonymous text, Carmina Burana)

Subscribe, for free, to the Robert & Sara Genn Twice-Weekly Letter.

‘Gifting’ has several different meanings these days, the way I’m using it is simply the making and giving of gifts. People have been especially appreciating my packages lately, calling them, ‘a typical Sarah’ gift. I receive so much pleasure in making and presenting them that I thought I’d spread the wealth.

The last gifts I made were small thank yous for the volunteers who aided our traffic action group, Line 30. They helped make the children’s day we organized a huge success. Rende had taken beautiful photos of all the activities and I organized them into a tiny book in InDesign. I printed them and cut them out, then Karin and Els came over to help fold and glue. I can show the process sometime, for now I want to focus on how a simple strip of paper with photos was made into a lovely object to give and receive.

My main tip on making even simple gifts special is to have lots of decorative material at hand. Start collecting stickers, washi tapes, papers, gift tags. I’ll list my sources below. I notice that having all these things within hand’s reach in a plastic basket makes it easy to wrap just about anything in no time at all. Here is a collection of some of the things I always have in my studio.

 

So basically, you can put your little gift into a transparent or translucent envelope, letter the tag,  seal the envelope and attach the tag with a piece of washi tape. I use the stickers for address labels when posting gifts, or occasionally to decorate the envelopes or an enclosed card.

Gift tags  This Etsy shop sells a huge selection of tags at reasonable prices

Glitter stickers   Papaya art is a scrumptious site to browse, I love their stuff.

Washi tape- I buy locally, most craft and hobby stores have it.

Waxed envelopes- office supply shops stock them in different sizes

A future post, Gifting strangers- Spontaneous gift giving on the street, in buses, and public toilets!

Tulips and fruit

Tulips and fruit, oil on canvas,  40 x 50cm  (16’x 20″)

This one was a challenge with the various subjects and the rivers of cloth, but I am basically happy with the result. I’ve been working on two in this series simultaneously and this is the second one. The first one is much larger and at the moment is getting a bit too stiff and caught up in details. That’s the challenge when working with patterned cloths- how to indicate the richness of colour and texture as well as the movement of the folds without becoming stuck in rendering just the surfaces.

I liked the boldness with which the cloth in the foreground is painted.  I took some tips from my 37 minute paintings (an exercise from Robert Genn’s workshops) and just got on with painting what I saw in a general way without going back much to smooth and model. I am learning through doing that the trick lies in suggesting, not drawing with the brush as if it were a pencil. Personally I am not at all attracted to super realism, I love seeing the breathing in the painting.

I am happiest about the luminosity of the whites on the right hand part of the painting, and the general glow. My work is getting much closer now to what I sense it wants to be, which is saying that the technique is finally catching up with everything else. I am starting to feel a more natural rhythm to the brushstrokes and am understanding which brushes to use when. Also I am discovering the infinite colours that can be mixed  for shadows. For example, for warm shadows, raw sienna and permanent rose with just a touch of turquoise to cool down the orange. And to warm it up again for ares catching a bit more light, some cadmium red light.(See the shadows on the cloth near the vases).

I mentioned when I posted the underpainting that I wanted the darks to lead into the painting. This was kept in mind.

 

genuine (no tricks, promise) 4 leafed clover found on last walk

genuine (no tricks, promise) 4 leafed clover found on last walk

I just want to mention that I have 2 other WordPress sites.

Tendingtime is my transition blog- the story of my personal reflections and experiences as I navigate a period between life phases, professional identities, and lifepurpose. At first I chose to locate it away from artcalling because it really wasn’t about profiling as a working professional, but rather a more vulnerable venue for musings when moving away from a particular professional identity.

I also still meet prospective customers who want to see what I do, and was not quite ready to publicly reveal my profound sense of alienation from previous design, illustration and calligraphy commissions and deadline work on this blog.
Anyway, I paint regularly, teach and write, and am involved in some activism locally, so it isn’t as if I no longer work.

Now I am more certain of the kind of work that beckons me, I am less concerned about coming across as less credible to the aforementioned type of customer. I sense that my future work will take the form of collaborations with other artists and creatives in a similar phase to my own, and that once and for all any kind of professional posturing won’t be demanded of me.

So maybe I will in time, move tendingtime over here. It is an increasingly important part of my life and reflects honestly where I am on the subject of alternative paths for the arts. This last subject is why I started artcalling 7 years ago.

My other wordpress site, Artwell,  contradicts nearly everything I just wrote, and is a showcase for my work. As well as being a gallery for my current oil paintings, I see it as a document of past achievements which I am proud to share. There is calligraphy, harpsichord decoration, oil pastel drawings, etc.

I wish Tendingtime had more of a readership. Having been spoiled on this blog with over 200 followers last time I checked, I’d forgotten how long it takes to build up a readership without being on Facebook or Twitter. What excites me though, is that that blog is connecting me to others with a similar philosophy and experience. Those are such rich connections and I am grateful for them. Rather one of those than 100 of the ‘I follow you will you follow me?’ kind.

So please go over to Tendingtime if you are interested. I am also using that blog to document walking ‘The Pieterpad’, my 480 km journey (in phases) from the northern to the southern tips of Holland.

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