Saturday, March 29, 2008

Stumbling along, whining.

No one ever misses the chance to tell you you can’t make a living as an artist. OK, so I ignored that. But the thing nobody tells you is how damn hard it is to keep pushing your work, to make sure you don’t just keep circling the same end of the pool, let your ideas go stagnant. There is value in working in a series, to explore the same or similar subjects, to follow a path til it runs out, or you find its end.

And then once in a while you wander off the path. And that’s the hard part. Sometimes really hard. I’ve been trying to figure out where things are going. I get a glimpse, and then I lose sight of it. All the time I spent driving the past few weeks, I was thinking about it. By the time I got home, I was good and frustrated. I may even have been feeling sorry for myself.

So, we plow through Easter weekend, lots of family stuff. Darb sneaks in a visit to the barn, and sees the first foal of the year. Wait til you see him, he’s so cute, she says.

She thinks they're all cute. Like puppies.

So I’m at the studio on Monday, head over to see him. And damn, he is so cute. And his legs are encased in pvc pipe and duct tape. ??? Turns out he came out of the oven a little early. Ten days or so. His cartilage hadn’t hardened. His ears were floppy, and his joints were flimsy. He had to have his legs wrapped to keep them in position, waiting for the cooking to finish. He couldn’t get up or down. He had to be stood up every hour to nurse from his mom. 24 hours a day. Kim or Rene or Bridgette or a few other volunteers had to be there all the time. For ten days. It all started on St. Patrick’s day, so he’s Dublin. He’s doing very well. Splints only on the front legs now. Prognosis is very good.

And I was feeling sorry for myself because I am having trouble with my thinking/conceptualizing/painting? Not so bad, really, by comparison and all. A little wake-up call is good on occasion. I wasn't even around to take an overnight shift.

I am my father’s son. Well, I hope I am anyway- he’s a really good man. But the point here is that I’m a worker, like him. Maybe too much so, on occasion. So if I can’t figure out where I’m at with some of the paintings ideas, but I want/need to work, maybe a change in media.

Printmaking is the production of an image on one surface, then printing it on another - in this case paper. I have used monotypes as a vehicle to explore and push my work before. So I decided to try it again.

I have had an idea for a series of animal images before, and this seems like a good time to get started.

Monotypes. Image size 4 x 4 inches.

Friday, March 21, 2008


Just home from Florida, a little art selling, a little paddling, a little fishing, and a bit of beer drinking. So time for a fishing story. Sort of.

Last spring, the Cape Crusaders, a group of aging smart asses who follow the Professor around Cape Cod harassing Stripers with fly rods, were heading out for a striper jaunt. As we sailed down I-90, we crossed into Massachusetts, and the Professor yanked the rig into the first rest-stop. He sprinted, (he would call it a sprint, Magic and I would probably say fast hobble or scuttle), disappeared into the store, and came back quicker than I would have expected given his exit. He had a bag of ice in his hand. Emergency ice stop?

He reentered the van, yanked the top off the small cooler, and poured the ice over our arrival beers, saying, The jangling was driving me nuts!!!!

Jangling? I hadn’t noticed anything. I don’t think Magic had either as he burst out laughing the same time I did. Dr. Bombay and Ready Kilowatt looked puzzled.

Of course we had all regressed to approximately 8th grade, and the level of harassment and noise were - well, sustained would be a reasonable description. I hadn’t noticed any jangling.

The Professor writes code for a living. I think he even has a decoder ring. He is a problem solver. He’s really good at it. When faced with a problem, he solves it. I don’t think he can help himself. Borderline OCD. Or maybe just cloaked OCD. At any rate, he’s great company and a good friend, excellent fly tier, all ‘round mother hen and puts up with the jangling Magic and I produce. And we’ve had some great adventures. A few with problems he couldn’t solve. Swim, Professor, swim.

I grew up in a big, active, loud family. It might even have been described as jangly. I think it conditioned me early to operate in the middle of a level of chaos. I prefer fishing fast pocket water rather than spring creeks, pushy steelhead rivers rather than placid lakes, rough weather at the Cape rather than sunshine. When kayaking I will pass by a glassy surf wave to surf a big, trashy, pulsing, beast. I love Black Tongue and the Waikiki waves on the Ottawa. I did a good share of my studio projects in college on the family kitchen table, with siblings watching television, playing, harassing, hustling to finish before the table was needed for dinner. It wasn’t without a level of stress, but I got some things done. I, like anyone, can be bothered by too much distraction. But I like some jangle, probably more than just a little. NPR in the background. Music. It keeps the parts of my mind engaged and connected that might otherwise run off on their own, actually helping me focus on my work. Idle hands are the tools of..... who was it? My idle gray matter is much the same.

One persons jangling is another persons texture. All the things I love to do are the things that make me feel connected to the texture of my life. Painting, drawing, making stuff, paddling, fly casting, skiing, riding, reading. Being with family, friends, the dogs. It is the feeling of connection and grounding that texture provides that make me feel part of something. It is when I am faced with just one thing, one problem I have to focus on, to the exclusion of all else, that I can get a little nuts. Like bookkeeping. As April 15th rears it’s ugly head.

Or maybe I’m just ADD. I’m really envious of the Professor’s ability to focus.

People have been given nicknames - well, not to protect the innocent, but ‘cause I can’t help myself. If you hang around with me enough, and do something revealing/notable, I’m probably gonna tag you. The only rule I have for nicknames is you don’t get to name yourself- how many Slicks do we need? And you shouldn’t hate it. The namee should get a kick out of it, too. Mr. Price? Are you listening? Fisher? Remember,The Skipper actually tagged you.

Monday, March 3, 2008

On the Road Again

Everglades Moon, oil on linen, 20 x 26 inches

I don't do many Florida paintings- the landscape is too flat for me. And hot. The contours I look for in the land are not there- possibly explaining why I spend more time lost in Florida than all other places combined.

First show of the year - The Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival- is weekend after next, the 14, 15 & 16 of March. I spent the last two days packing the Juggernaut, and, well, ok, frantically tying another couple dozen flies. I head to North Carolina tomorrow, visit with my folks for a day, then head to the Everglades for a few days fishing and paddling before the show.

Shows are always a mixed blessing. I like visiting with people and catching up with friends, and on my reading, but the interruption to my work process is very frustrating. Even that might be a blessing in disguise- all the time I spent driving last year kept me away from the easel, but not away from thinking about it. Many of the things I am trying to address now- scale, paint handling..........fractals- OK, I would say surface quality- are a result of all the thinking/driving time from last summer. Given the opportunity, I am my father's son- I work. So, the self-imposed exile of the shows may be a benefit, whether I like to admit it or not. Winter Park is a treat for me because Darby comes down and we stay with her folks, who spoil me to no end at the dinner table.

It will probably be a couple weeks before I get to post again, as it is more of a tech hassle than I can usually deal with on the road. Unless the fishing is really good. Might have to crow a bit, if I haven't jinxed myself by saying this. Never mess with Spedis.