Every day I will be proud of my creative choices

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Portrait Society of America Conference Insider Article

Here is the article I wrote for the Portrait Society of America for their 2013 conference.  I was looking through my computer and came across this, so I thought I would post it.

  In presenting my chapter for the Conference Insider I wanted to show a few of my recent drawings. I am so happy that the Portrait Society has included drawings into the competition since I believe this will go a long way in showing artists and collectors that it all starts with—and sometimes ends with—drawing. I want the world to see drawings as great examples of fine art on par with an oil painting, watercolor, or sculpture. 
I am so moved by the simple gesture of a line or the soft edge of a scratchy texture on paper—rendering some parts to extreme finish and leaving empty or abstract spaces to challenge the viewer's imagination with that which has been suggested but unstated. 
Most of my drawings take me a long time even if they don't look it. I put in and take out over and over and over again. I wonder if I will ever learn to get it right on the first take! But I know that this is my process and am resolved to it, frustrating as it may be. Maybe I oscillate back and forth between defining and then softening and then redefining yet again because I am learning some deeper truth about the form and emotion of the subject through that process. As I draw, I feel myself slowly soaking up the story that I am attempting to convey through the shapes and values that are the simple, but surprisingly powerful, tools I have chosen to communicate with. 
It is difficult describing in words my technical process since it is so gradual. I use a light touch and build up the pigment slowly, constantly softening with my finger, a viva paper towel or a paper stump as I go. The image comes into focus—then I blur it—then I bring parts into focus again—then I soften again—etc. I do this until I reach a point where I can't soften anymore and I have just the right balance of finish and sharp detail in the center of attention. I am still inspired by the challenge of creating drawings especially because I am still learning about that tension between what I should give the viewer and what I should hide from them. Very often in my work, what I decide to take out and simplify is even more important that the things I include since it is that editing that makes for a more powerful statement.
I also wanted to talk about my progression as an artist in the public eye. For years I hid behind Scott since he was confident enough to share his work. He was great at doing public demonstrations and clearly speaking his thoughts. I would be asked to participant in paint-outs or demonstrations and I would nervously laugh at the suggestion—somewhere deep down inside I didn't believe I was worthy of that spot light. 
The first major demonstration I did was at the PSOA two years ago with Michelle Dunaway. Her serenity and calm manner really helped me get up on that stage. I want the next chapter of my life as a teacher to be of service to artists who are facing that same fear of putting yourself out there, so they can reach the full potential of the artists they can and should be. 
Conferences like these are a true blessing, but can be overwhelming at times, especially for people like me who live somewhat isolated and who's main connection with other artists is through Facebook. I hope that more people will share their journeys so all of us we will become aware that we are not alone in our struggles as we enter our studios and that voice whispers you are not good enough into our heads. It was a great help for me to realize that every great artist has faced that doubt and overcome it over and over again.
I hope that more conferences, websites, books and movies will focus on how we can all lift each other up. Art is not a zero-sum competition and another's sucess can be the inspiration to finding your own as well. 
Too often we concentrate only on the technical aspects of art and forget what the real goal is. Here is a quote from a book called, The Way of Mastery, that puts my thoughts on art well. "How can I look lovingly upon what my physical eyes show me, so that I discern or extract the good, the holy, and the beautiful, and therefore, give them to myself." 
With my new sense of transparency I wanted to talk with other artists about their journey. I hope to participate in a larger effort of artists bravely talking about why they are artists and why it's important to connect. I don't think it matters how polished or not each individual speaks while conveying their inspiration and struggles, only that it is from the heart. My first attempt is a video with my good friend and amazing artist Michelle Dunaway. The simple video Scott and I made of Michelle and I discussing art and our inspiration is freely available through the below link on YouTube. If you feel inclined I hope you take a look.  



(Here are some drawings I'm sending to you, with some thought to go with each.)

first drawing

"Watching the Flock "  Charcoal on 400 series strathemore paper
I saw this young girl while on a trek in Tanzania, Africa. She was tending to her flock of goats. I love the movement of the fabric and her far-off gaze. I worked with a very soft charcoal which made it hard to keep the darks dark enough if you rubbed them at all. It is always a little bit of a game to find the right fit between the texture of the charcoal stick and the tooth of the paper. Since I tend to soften my edges a lot working with super soft willow charcoal sticks, it can be tricky.

second drawing

"Masaai Girl"  Charcoal on 400 series strathemore paper
This young girl is also from Tanaznia although she is wearing their traditional stiff necklace and tall white hat. She was part of a group of dancers that came to our campsite around dinner time to perform for us. The Masaai can walk up to 40 miles at a time with no thought—they must have heard trekkers where in the area and just showed up. I was so tired from the day's walk that I just sat on the ground while they danced around me. I kept this drawing very simple, leaving a lot of detail out—just focusing on the essential darks to hold the solidity of the figure together.

third Drawing

"Young Man Cruze" Pastel pencil on brown paper
I met this boy of 10 while Scott and I were in Taos, NM over the holiday season. We went there to experience the dancing and festivals at the Taos Pueblo. Cruze's father grew up in the Tao's Pueblo and his mother is a Chictaw Indian from Canada—he lives half the year up in Canada and the other half in Taos. His family is really into traditional Indian dancing and music. His older brother danced in a few of the ceremonies and Cruze hopes to participate in the future. He will take eighteen months off next year to stay with his grandmother in the Pueblo to immerse himself in the traditional Indian ways. They say he can not eat or watch anything from white culture for the entire time.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Taos and Santa Fe for the Holidays

The first day we arrived in Santa Fe we drove by the Fenn gallery and saw a poster out front with a Leon Gaspard painting. They had a huge show of his work. I love the texture and shapiness of his work. 

We stayed over night in the Sage Creek Apartment and the next morning we had breakfast in the little quaint bakery restaurant in the La Fonda Hotel building. After we ate we walked through the historical lobby of the hotel and saw lots of big sketchy paintings from Gerald Cassidy. Below is a photo of him standing next to one of his pieces. If you can see the painting below was done in 1922 so this photo of him must be from the 1940's or 1950's.

I was inspired to work on brown paper because of these, so I looked through the internet for large sheets of acid free brown paper.   

                                                     We arrived on December 23rd and stayed our first night in the basement apartment at the Sage Creek Gallery on Canyon Road in Santa Fe.    
Sande and Gary are the nicest gallery owners, we love visiting with them. We hear all the time that they have the best gallery in Santa Fe. 

Dec 24th
We drove to Taos and arrived around 11 am, picked up groceries and settled in to the studio we are renting for two weeks. We had plans to visit with the Martinez family in the Pueblo. Joe Martinez was the older man who posed for our workshop in Taos a few months before. He was such a great model and his daughter and granddaughter offered to pose for us when we came back over the holidays. Joe grew up in the Pueblo and still owns the home right on the main square. We got to the Pueblo early just before 4 pm we were told all about how amazing this evenings festivities were going to be so got there early to get a good parking spot. Tourists were arriving and walking around the grounds when we got there. We ran into Sherrie McGraw and spent sometime talking with her. We only got to see Joe Mariniez and his family for a few minutes before the Bonfires started. There were about 12 wood stacks spaced around the big main open area of the Pueblo. Some were huge about 15 feet high and some were only 4 feet high. they would light them separately so it let some burn down, then they would start others so they were all burning down at different rates. 

          This is the view from the balcony of the church. The procession starts and ends at the church.

Dec 25th
Went to see the Matachines dance on Christmas day, it was a little hard to know what was going on and where the dances would be held in the Pueblo. There is a lot of  tourists standing around and watching to see if anyone else knows anything, of course we are all doing the same, so it looks like a lot of people in limbo. The dances pop up in different areas of the Pueblo, you just have to watch where the locals are walking and follow them.
It is a colorful dance that is rooted in Cathalisism. We heard that we weren't supposed to take any photos so we didn't. I guess we could have taken photos because this particular dance was not rooted in the Indian religious traditions, but in Cathalisism.

                                                   The cemetery for the Taos Pueblo.

                                                        Dec 28th
We went to lunch at an Italian restaurant down the street from the Blumenchien Museum, while eating the only other people in the place were these two older charactors with awesome hats and jewelry named Toby and Pepe. I knew right away that I wanted to paint these guys, I was too nervous to go up right away but  Scott didn't have a problem so he went up to them, we struck up a conversation and got an invitation to meet Toby's Indian friends and Pepe's Ranch.
That evening we went to an opening at Total Arts Gallery. The gallery had some beautiful work and it was nice to hang out with the gallery owners.

Dec 26th
George a guy who posed for us during our workshop in September came and posed for us in the afternoon. We listened to Blood and Thunder a book about Kit Carson and the western Indians.

Scott's painting

                                                            Dec 27th
                                  I got two of those multi museum passes so we went to the Millicent Rogers Museum, The Fechin house and the Kit Carson home.

Fechin House and Museum

They had a few original paintings by Fechin hanging in one of the rooms.

In Fechin's studio in the back yard they have turned some of the space into a gift shop and a place for traveling shows. The show that was hanging had dozens of wonderful etchings, paintings and drawings from a women artists named Eugenie Fish Glaman. I loved her work.
It was hard to take good photos because of all the glare.

Inside Kit Carson's home

                                             Dec 29th,
We woke up to really cold weather and falling snow. It had been warm so far, I didn't want to drive to Pepe's ranch in this weather, I had visions of taking photos of him with light hitting his property and it was so dark and cold out I just stayed in the studio. Scott went and spent all morning talking with Pepe and his girlfriend. He got some cool shots of him inside his home.

Below we are siting outside of Toby's home a few blocks from the Fechin Museum. He introduced us to an Indian family that lives with him when they are in Taos. The father grew up in the pueblo but married a Chictaw Indian women from Canada, so they live half the year up in Canada. They have four children, two boys and two girls. We knew we had to paint the boys and so we planned on a time for us to take photos of them in Toby's huge workshop.

Dec 30th
Painted Rhoda  ( Rhoda is another model we met during the workshop)  with Sherrie McGraw then went over to Toby's to take photo's of the children, we especially wanted to photograph the boys and Cruze was excited to wear the big headdress.

Scott's painting

George found us a great local guy to model for us, it was the first time he had every done this. His name is Pablo and he works in construction, his family has been in the area for generations. 

Scott's painting

We told Sherrie about him and we were happily surprised to see a drawing that she did of him for the Prix de West show in Oklahoma City. I had to do a double take because he wore the same hat in her drawing.

                                                                           Dec 31st
     Went over to Toby's again today around noon to take photo's of the girls Lucy and Chas ( the two sisters ), spent about 3 hours there.
     Picked up a pizza and went over to Laura Robb's house for New Years Eve. We didn't stay late, got home around 9pm.

I thought it was so cute, Laura Robb's cat lives in her bathroom on an old chair. She loves animals and has about 5 rescue pets.

                                                               New Years Day   2014
     We woke early as usual, got to the car at 7, the clouds were cotton candy pink over the mountain. There were only a handful of cars at the pueblo so early to see the first dance. We both were so excited about all the interesting faces and colorful blankets, it was a good day to reign in our enthusiasm because it was forbidden to take photos.  We all too often look at our trips through our camera lenses.  A line of men, about 40 in all ranging in age from 60 to 10 years old came walking through the center of the main opening of the Pueblo to stop and dance in front of the church. They stand in line facing towards the middle with no shirts on and just a skirt and moccasins. A lone drummer sits behind them, they sing and shake rattles made of animal skins. The dance lasts for about 20 minutes then they walk to 4 corners of the opening, facing each direction. They take a break and repeat about 5 times through out the day, for the last dance of the day around 4:30 pm they add fancy colorful skirts, ribbons more feathers and jewelry. People come and go and the biggest crowed is in the middle of the day, but the most enchanting times are the first dance and the last dance.
     Toby would give us all the history behind some of the outfits and ways of the Pueblo people. He took us over to the house in the Pueblo of the Grandmother of the family that lives with him. She was gracious and feed us some of the feast that was to celebrate her son and grandson participating in the dance.
     Saim our friend from Kauai, Hawaii came to town at lunch time, we met him at a restaurant then took him over to the Pueblo, we got there for the last two dances.
     Watched BBC's BleakHouse on Netflix then went to bed.
January 2nd
We had a delicious dinner at Sherry McGraw and David Leffel's home. Sherry is an amazing cook and their house is as beautiful as a museum.
January 3rd
Joe Martinez's daughter posed with her two month old daughter on her lap.

Scott's painting

Saim and George painting with us.

I loved her new born's expression and wanted to do a drawing of her.

Eating breakfast at the famous Michael's diner with Saim, Toby, Michelle Dunaway and Scott.
James ( a friend of Saim's that came to town) is taking the photo.

Michelle and me at the Martinez Hacienda. This is an old building that has been restored, you can see old bedrooms and lots of artifacts.

Saim and Michelle playing around.

I asked Michelle to pose for me outside near a big door.

Saim, Michelle and James an old friend of Saim's

I couldn't enlarge the photos below. Here is Saim and me and then me taking photos of Saim posing like a bandit.  I love playing dress up and playing make believe. 

Me taking photos of Saim playing dress up. It was way too much fun to play around, the place was deserted and it was super cold outside.

Rhoda posed for us twice the second time she wore a white scarf on her head.

Scott's painting

Susan's painting

                             Scott and I saw this tacked to a community board in downtown Taos.

We left Taos on January 7th, Saim and James came to Santa Fe with us. Michelle went home because she had some deadlines.  Kyoko a friend of Saim's from Hawaii arrived in Santa fe.  

Visiting Galleries back in Santa Fe with Saim and Kyoko. I am resting in the beautiful sculpture garden at the Fenn Gallery

Gary and Sande ( owners of SageCreek Gallery )
wondered if we would like to hire any models, we told them we would love to get a flamenco dancer. Gary called a local dance school and we got 6 dancers right away. Wow, I couldn't believe how easy that was. I choose Janira below because she was so dramatic.
She came in full regalia and I couldn't stop bouncing around with excitement. We took Janira down to the adorable apartment that Gary and Sande have for visiting artists. We set her up by windows and under the strong spot lights int he ceiling.

After taking photos we all painted her in the gallery above. She was amazing and didn't move a muscle.

                                                             Kyoko joining us for the fun.

Scott's painting   ( it was hard to get a good photo because we just took it on the spot and left it at the gallery )

                    We left Santa Fe to spend some time with Michelle in Albuquerque.

Saim met some artists that live in the Laguna Pueblo about 45 minutes west of Albuquerque in Hawaii and contacted them about us visiting them. Scott wasn't feeling well so he stayed at Michelle's place.
Michelle and me walking around the little town before we knew where the gang was

We met this beautiful couple who have modernized one of the homes in the pueblo. He is a famous jewelry artist and his wife does beautiful paintings.  Sandie Rosifer joined us to paint

                              Michelle loves doing these panoramic view shots.  Very cool :-)

My tiny little painting

                  Scott's painting of Janira the dancer we met in Santa Fe. This painting is 60 by 30 inches

Scott also did a little painting of Janira  12 by 10 inches

Scott's painting of the two Indian boys  from Taos, 60 by 30 inches

Susan's drawing of Janira

Susan's Pastel drawing of Cruze