Monday, November 16, 2015

Last weekend my pastel painting "Garden Dance" won the Best of Show award at the Northwest Pastel Society Exhibition on Vashon Island WA. I didnt go to the opening because it is a long drive home on a dark and rainy night. I really had not considered that I would need to be there to accept an award.  I had no thought that I would win anything. I enter shows because it keeps me engaged with the art community "out there". I like seeing shows and how the juror chose the paintings and how the work looks hanging together in one place. I enjoy seeing my work combined in a show. Of course winning is great but I have learned not to think about that.

"Garden Dance"

Choosing paintings to enter in a juried show is an interesting process. I enter what I like, what I think is a successful painting. It is easy to get into trying to second guess what the juror will like and to send a painting based on that. I know people who paint for shows. That amazes me. I also don't believe in sending in a lot of images of painting hoping one will catch the jurors' eye. What matters most is what I think and feel about a piece.

Garden Dance is a special piece to me. It was one of the first abstract paintings that I did here. I painted it last spring after doing a little oil study of my back yard. I loved the winter colors and the oil study was just a lot of brush strokes and color. I used that as a study for Garden Dance. I liked it. I entered it in the big annual juried show here my little town. It is a regional show and there were a zillion entries. Garden Dance was rejected. I actually remember laughing and reminding myself that for me showing "locally" is much more difficult than showing nationally. I didnt take it personally because I have done this for so many years. It is challenging not to feel disappointed but it is just one persons' opinion of an image on a computer screen.

oil study for "Garden Dance"

Competitions become all about a lot of judgement. We love to make judgements about who won, who didnt win and who should have won. Art Receptions are full of it. There are a lot of people who just love to see the paintings and to learn from seeing a show and to think about why certain pieces got awards. A good juror will often explain her choices and thoughts on why she chose as she did. But the bottom line is that it is all subjective. Shows inspire people to make art or buy art or just to appreciate art.  The juror has an aesthetic like all of us. She likes certain colors and shapes and subject and styles. Who wins is actually one person's opinion on one day. I am so grateful for my award. In my mind the piece deserved recognition mainly because it felt authentic to me. I liked it and am pleased that other people can see what I wanted to say in the painting. But I also realize that I was fortunate. Does it make the painting a better painting because it won the top award? No, of course not. I had a good day. That is the truth. It was my day to win. And, yes, it feels really good! I am thrilled. The painting also was sold. Lets not forget how wonderful that is! No matter how many paintings I have sold in my life I remember that someone actually paid money to buy a piece to live with and to look at every day. That is very cool and makes me happy that I am sharing a piece of who I am.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Ancient Marks

I love color. But I really love lines. Lines and marks are as exciting to me as color ever can be. This summer I chose to let color go for a while because I needed to get back to a simple expression. In this new personal  exploration of making marks without color I have thought a lot about the artists that I have always been drawn to.  I have always been fascinated with the paintings in the caves in France. I have looked at every image that I could find of the caves at Lascaux and Chauvet. These are drawings of such power and beauty that you can't believe they were created 32,000 years ago. What I see each time I look at them is the quality of those lines. They are sophisticated and raw all at the same time. They are so contemporary and powerful but most of all they are so beautiful!

When we draw we come from some ancient place of our humanness. As children we draw. Drawings are often prefaced with the word "just". I have heard it many times. "It is just a drawing" or "It is just a sketch". No, it is the human voice. It is in our DNA.

In deciding to draw again I have chosen to explore different surfaces and drawing mediums. It is an interesting search for what is really strong and feels good to me now. As I have been drawing I have followed the lead of the drawings. I have been allowing the drawing to tell me where we are going. I see what mark feels good and I will often find an area that I really like.When I do find that wonderful area or even one mark that makes me excited it is time to sit and look at the drawing and ask myself why I like the part that I do. I am seeing those raw areas as being important now. There is a rawness in this process of finding my voice at this point . In not judging what is happening in the studio I am finding unexpected surprises. In this way I am learning more about who I am as a painter. It is the raw beauty of the cave paintings that I think about. It is our humanness that connects us to them. Those voices echo through those caves and we can understand them even now. We are moved in such a deep way by their power. I love this journey from the literal to the internal. I see new parts of me that I didnt know were there.

"Against the Tide", Oil stick, 2015

Tuesday, November 3, 2015


Authenticity is a word that artists use a lot.  It really is what we strive for. We strive to find our authentic voice. We want our work to be "real", to speak about who we are.

We can't be real in our art if we aren't real in our lives. My struggle of the last year has been an opportunity for me. Things had changed.  I couldn't do the work that I had done before. It just wasnt happening no matter how hard I tried. Now that I was starting to heal from the past I was on my way to a new way of seeing and a new way of being with myself and my art.  If I could say any one thing to someone going into a dark and painful place it is that you will come out. It doesnt seem that way but you will. My head was telling me it would never end, that this WAS the end. Now I know it was a breaking apart so that a new life would emerge. It is a life of new understanding. But here is the catch---You have to look deeply into yourself and see all the things that you really want to ignore. You have to be honest. That is the challenge.

 I have spent a lot of time in the last year reliving my life and regretting many things and seeing only the failures and pain and bad choices in my life. It all looked bleak. I blamed myself and mourned for what might have been had I made different choices. I saw how I had lied to myself and other people because I was afraid. I wanted to be loved and accepted so I lied. This was my breakdown. But, it was in the reliving of my life that I started to know myself. I couldn't help what was happening. My mind and thoughts were out of my control. I remembered so many things. I saw my judgement of all of it. I made myself a villain and a victim all at one time. This was the thought that stuck in my head. I saw myself as a victim. Bingo!  I saw myself as a villain! Bingo!. I was judging every thing I had ever done and who I was. I was worried about everything. I knew that if I continued to see my life this way I would live a sad and meaningless life.

 My dear friend Randy sent this to me when he knew I was writing this blog. Perfect!

From then until now much has changed but what I now see is that I had decided to become real. I had decided to be authentic. In becoming real you must own it all. I had to own the pain, the disappointment and loss but I also had to own the joy and wonder and power of my life. I have lived on this planet for 64 years and my life has been rich in amazing experiences. I have lived and loved and laughed and seen amazing things. It all matters. I also had been petty and mean and had lied and had done stupid things. What I had to focus on first was acceptance.  Here I was, my life had been what it was. It sounds very simple doesnt it? I knew that I had to accept and forgive myself not just for things in the past but for what I was doing to myself now which was tearing myself apart with guilt and remorse and fear.  I needed to accept that I could not change the past.  I believe I always did the best that I could do. I see that who I am is not just the sum of the good parts. It is all the parts, all the imperfect parts. I made a choice to be kinder to myself and to focus on healing. I knew it would take some time. This is not easy but once you can step out of the past things change. Then it becomes easier.

After the small drawings in the studio I felt more confident and bought a big roll of paper and tore off a large piece and tacked it to the wall. I did several big drawings with oil sticks. I drew lines. I drew big, dark strong lines. I explored line and tone in a raw sort of way. Wow! It was great. It was so freeing, so much fun. And, lo and behold--- I didnt give a fig what anyone would say. Now that was freeing. That was exciting! This was about being in the moment. It was about being real.