Tuesday, October 20, 2020

WORD PAINTINGS #104 - MAKING A PAINTING

 

It takes patience and courage to "become" an artist - the truth is you never stop "becoming".  This is the best part! That blank canvas staring at you from the easel is full of mystery and promise. Then again it might turn out to be the ugliest things the world has ever seen!  You will never know unless you pick up the brush, smush it into a juicy glob of paint and give it your best shot!

Working from photographs and sketches (Truchas Peaks above) my greatest adventures have been scouting new source material in the villages and on the backroads of northern New Mexico.  My New Mexico paintings are "heart work".  In 1967 I saw the major Andrew Wyeth exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago. Within days my little family was packed in a car on our way to the alien planet called "New Mexico".  My grandmother was upset because she was convinced I wouldn't understand the language!

What I took away from Wyeth's work was his uncompromising "spirit of place" - the closeness, familiarity and love for one's home.  It took years for me to find my place here - to feel truly at home with the clouds, mountains and sunsets. Many many day trips on the back roads and my special connection to Taos and the Hispanic village of Truchas.  The greater part of my life has been lived in northern New Mexico.....strong and powerful emotions attach to these places.

Pack some snacks, pile in the car and just roam.  Don't have a plan!  Leave yourself open to surprise! (One important lesson I learned was that as you are pointing your camera forward in one direction - turn around and LOOK BACK.  Some of my best paintings (happy accidents) have happened when I looked backwards!  Don't avoid dark, cloudy, windswept stormy days - Light, shadows, DRAMA!

Most important - find your own way. Paint what you love!  Have some emotional connection to your subject matter. This idea may be old-school, but I know it works. This process is much like the excerpt from the "Velveteen Rabbit" - it doesn't happen all at once - you BECOME!

Time for me to make a couple of day trips before winter sets in.  There are two places I want to photograph as major elements for a couple of large canvases in my imagination.  One is the view toward Tres Orejas, a sunset piece. The other are some of the fields in front of Taos Mountain.  I "see" those paintings!  The canvases have already been painted a hundred time in my head.  Then one trip to Ojo Sarco and Las Trampas.  Order my paints and turpentine, set up a new palette and I will be ready to go!

Learning to "SEE" a painting is an emotional experience.  Go for that "AHA" moment - it doesn't happen often.  There will be many paintings in between.  When it does happen, you will know it!

Get a good camera. Go out into "your" world. Explore. Connect to your subject matter.  Learning to paint is a lifelong ADVENTURE!  Find joy! 

Note: My next few posts will describe the elements of First Snow from start to finish.  If you have any comments or questions, just post to this blog.  I will be happy to reply.  DC    

Sunday, October 18, 2020

WORD PAINTINGS #103 - A WANDERING MIND

FIRST SNOW (Truchas, New Mexico) New 40"x40" Original Oil - Sold 

16 October 2020 - Llano Quemado, New Mexico.  Can you believe it? Only 18 more days until the election!  Morning memories, thoughts are sometimes very powerful. Today a connection was made to my childhood comparing that time to these last four years of this presidency.  Daily chaos and confusion.  Am worn down and now I know why - this was my childhood.  Fights, arguments, name calling was the way we lived. Perpetual chaos is abusive. My only saving grace from the age of eight was that box of paints given to me by My Old Artist.  I call it the Donna Bubble.  Sit at the easel,  a blank canvas and a brush loaded with oil paint is all I have ever needed to be transported out of the noise to a more peaceful planet!!  My private world.  Planning to let go of the outcome of the election in order to save what little sanity is left.  Deep down I am a firm believer that writers, poets, painters, artists of every kind can and will create a Brave New World!  

Getting organized this morning - preparing to varnish FIRST SNOW so it can be framed tomorrow.  This painting will go to Taos Crating on Monday or Tuesday to be packed and shipped to Art Friend and collector in Virginia.  Dragged my feet on this one because I love it so much. That little road led to the Hansel and Gretel cottage on the horse ranch in "suburban Truchas".  Experiences on the ranch changed my life.  My Art Gods led me to this place of peace and for the very first time I experienced the importance of "sanctuary".  

Am back into almost total isolation except for my friend and helper, Doug.  Bringing some nachos from Orlando's today as a treat.

18 October 2020 

First Snow is all varnished and framed.  Wondering why in the middle of this piece I just wanted to quit and not paint again!  What a confession! Many times a painting is so personal it hurts to let it go!  However the reaction to this photo has lit the spark one more time.  Taking the day off to regroup and prepare to complete "Lazy River Dreaming"  this week.  Returning to my old habit of posting color notes on my Art Journal.  Using a really diverse and changeable palette somehow works.  Also have promised a few people online that I would share my process in making this painting.  Today am planning how to detail the making of one of my paintings. It feels somewhat tedious compared to those artists who can just sit down and finish a painting in one day.  (I still love alla prima painting!) Never intended to get this complicated, but sometimes art imitates life, doesn't it?   Stay healthy; stay tuned..... 


Friday, September 25, 2020

WORD PAINTINGS #102 - MAKING SPACE TO CREATE

Creativity begins with the heart and mind....however there is so much more to making a painting than hopes and wishes..... 

Here is the first in my series of "sharing my painting secrets" blog posts.  Back in the day I created and taught a very popular workshop called "The Craft of Painting".  Artists and newbies came to Santa fe from all over the US - even Canada and Mexico!  They were introduced to nuts and bolts methods of how to make a painting.  This continued off and on for seventeen years.  The premise of these workshops was to lay the foundation of a good painting. The spiritual drive to create is only a wish your heart makes unless decide what to paint - prepare canvas, mix paints, clean your brushes.  I've had three good teachers - Mr. Dodge, freshman year in high school, Jan Herring's Workshop in Cloudcroft, N.M. and most influential all the artists who ever lived to create work that touched my heart and soul.

One painting in particular was "A Donor and Five Saints" by the Italian Renaissance master Mantegna.  Have searched far and wide but have been unsuccessful in finding a photo anywhere now.  Back then when I worked in the Prudential Building and would make weekly ritual visits to that painting.  I  visually took it apart to understand why it was so strong and powerful.  I didn't know it then, but Renaissance painters worked with transparent colors called "glazes".  I didn't even know the word, much less that dark transparent colors created the "light" in these masterpieces.  It was my fervent desire to be an artist.  That painting spoke to me and I understood there was a lifetime of learning ahead! It has been a long and winding road from the late 1950's til now.  All I can tell you is that I am still learning at the ripe old age of 81.  

Where to start? Whatever or however you choose to paint on any given day, make it simple. Dedicate a space in your life conducive to creativity.   A comfortable working area -  a place to paint anywhere at anytime. The permanent set up is the goal. My first "studio" was a large bathroom in a small summer cabin on Holbrook Road in Homewood, Illinois. There was a cabinet under the window and that is where I "worked". I was 20 years old - newly married with a full-time job in Chicago's Loop. I became a "Sunday painter". Persistence pays. Painting has been my life for over sixty years now. Where there is a will, there is a WAY! Your space does not have to be large - room for an easel, a moveable painting cart - with your palette on the top.North light if possible. If not, a good painting light will work. There are special light bulbs - do some research. I am a studio painter - a comfortable chair set at the right height to easily access the palette is essential. A sturdy easel - a palette full of fresh oil paint and your imagination - does life get any better?!

Stay tuned, stay healthy - there is more to come!  DC

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

WORD PAINTINGS #101 - SECOND THOUGHTS

9/23/20 (Llano Quemado, New Mexico) - Yesterday the United States reached a turning point of over 200,000 deaths from the Corona virus.  It was 191,000 when I wrote the following blog post on the 9th.   In light of all the losses this year - jobs, incomes, fires, hurricanes and all the ever-emerging human tragedies at this time, I am discontinuing my "memoir".  I want to bring life into the present tense.  Have always believed that art heals and brings us to a better place.  My plan is to share the virtual painting lessons I will send to my granddaughter with the fond hope they can transmit some bright colors from this little corner of the world.  This blog will be open to all questions and comments about my painting methods, some of which are not traditional, but personal adaptations from many, many years at the easel.  Hope you enjoy this transition.  Stay healthy!  DC        

"FROM THE OVERLOOK" 20"x20" Original Oil on Belgian Linen - Online Gallery/Store


9/9/2020 (Llano Quemado, New Mexico) - Howling winds last night, welcome drenching rain and this morning - Snow on Taos Mountain!  It's cold - lazy low lying clouds floating around the lower mountains in front of my kitchen window.  A very grey day - so rare and beautiful - a silent peace.  

Have fallen into the abyss - the isolation due to the pandemic, the election that could turn on a dime and we would be cast into more darkness and corruption.  Truth be told I am trying to hold my own in an increasingly crazy world.  Have lost my sense of discipline and am starting to give in to the temptation to stay in my pajamas all day! 

 Oh, Donna - Wake Up!!! Slap me silly!  Celebrating my 81st birthday has been a shock to my system. TIME - tick tock, tick tock....This morning's death toll from the pandemic is close to 191,000....and a doctor predicted that number could rise to 200 or 300 thousand before we see a vaccine!  There is no road map on how to navigate old age or the spectre of a deadly virus and the sudden rise of facism.  Dammit!! It wasn't supposed to be this way.  I didn't count on arthritis either!

Take heart -Taos Mountain is right there  - her ancient peaks are covered in angel clouds and new snow. That beauty   inspires - sunrises, sunsets - comfort and strength.  Truth be told winter hibernation is my happiest time of the year!  Snuggle in - get warm and cozy.  Order my art supplies, put a pot of soup on the stove, work all day/every day and emerge in the spring to welcome another New Beginning.

Where do I begin?  First of all an attitude adjustment!!  Count my blessings.  Went out to the studio this morning - my large painting now on the big easel "First Snow" is almost completed.  20 blank canvases staring back at me - Paint Me! Paint Me!  Made a birthday pact with myself to complete 30 new paintings in the coming year.  Shipped "Hunter's Moon" to its new home in Massachusetts.   Due to recent corrective surgery, I can see without glasses for the first time in 30 years!  Cocooned for the winter.  I can't stop the virus, nor can I control how the election turns out.  The only way out of my pajama existence is to perk up and PAINT!   Purpose and meaning....

Give myself a haircut, take a good long shower and make a double batch of Italian spaghetti sauce.  Set up a new palette - finish First Snow.  Light a candle to my Art Gods - thank them for all my good years at the easel - ask them to walk me through the next 30 paintings.  A lot of hard work; do it joyfully....be grateful.

Stay healthy out there!  Herd immunity is pie in the sky BS - wear your mask and keep a safe distance.  Looking forward to a time when we can see our friends' faces and give each other some great big bear hugs!  Stay tuned!     
  

Sunday, August 23, 2020

WORD PAINTINGS #100 - TODAY IS ALL WE HAVE

DON GREGORIO'S WINTER FIELD - 48"X36" ORIGINAL OIL
 23 August 2020 (Llano Quemado -Taos, New Mexico) - Life is uncertain.  Taos Mountain is obscured by smoke from the raging fires in California and Arizona.  The Medio fire that began in Tesuque near Santa Fe contributes to the soft blurry haziness.  My neighbor's forty or fifty doves landed in the field across from my kitchen window to have their morning meal.  An ordinary and uneventful beginning to a peaceful Sunday morning.  Tragedies all around our country feel distant and unreal. For a moment it is easy to forget the suffering in every part of our world.  Fires, double hurricanes, a fierce and terrifying pandemic have forever changed the way we live our lives.  How do we begin again?

Had given up on our blood and guts politics. The growing dystopian darkness has left me limp and I had decided not to watch the Convention.  Turned on the TV looking for a good movie. The Dems were the only game in town and got caught up in the new virtual reality.  It was a definite change from the meaningless hullabaloo politics of years past. No silly hats - very little confetti and only a few balloons. This time in our country is too critical for senseless frivolity.  Contributions and stories from ordinary people were honest and meaningful.  A refreshing dose of reality! I was hooked and watched through to the end. A ray of hope shone through the darkness.

Words are only words until they hit you in the heart.  When Joe Biden spoke of losing his son Beau, I broke into pieces.  It has been almost six years after losing my beautiful son John.  How does one survive after such a loss?  How do you heal that wound?  His answer was simple - Purpose.  Through your grief you go to the core of your being and find your purpose.  Time - it takes time....one small step, one day, one year....out of the ashes....

There will be a time when the fires are extinguished, the hurricanes are only breezes and the election is over - each one of us will be challenged to find our purpose and begin again.  Because of the pandemic and our self-isolation we will be challenged to look inside for what remains of us.  What do we value? What is worth keeping?  What is our purpose?  

Whatever is happening now, the future for all of us is Unknowable....a blank canvas.  Dreams will change and new doors will open - we can't give up now.  In the meantime - I wish you Peace...

“The images of peace are ephemeral. The language of peace is subtle. The reasons for peace, the definitions of peace, the very idea of peace have to be invented, and invented again.
Children, everybody, here’s what to do during war: In a time of destruction, create something. A poem. A parade. A community. A school. A vow. A moral principle. One peaceful moment.” From the Fifth Book of Peace - Maxine Hong Kingston
  
 

Saturday, August 8, 2020

WORD PAINTINGS #99 - LISTENING TO MOUNTAINS V - Birthday Girl!

COSME'S OAKS - Friend Cosme Romero Mayordomo of Truchas for many years
LLANO QUEMADO - TRUCHAS, N.M. - September 3, 1984....We had a party! My 44th birthday celebration. Made pots of green chile and posole, nachos, tortillas - and many, many margaritas.  Pedro Ribera Ortega the local geneologist and historian sat under the portal for most of the afternoon and regaled us with his colorful stories of village life in Santa Fe and Truchas.  Friend Beth Couse visited from Taos.   A nurse at the Embudo Treatment Center she would later play an essential part in my recovery.  Eventually over 20 friends and relatives helped me celebrate a truly happy day!  When the cake arrived with 44 candles, I made a wish - a hope - a request that I could have another forty-four years of this new life! 

The Romeros - Cosme and Carmelita their daughters Susie, Nora, Cecelia and Mary Helen, including their son Henry eventually became my adopted family.  Closest in age with Susie, (only a month apart) we became good friends.  Even though we were in our mid-forties, Carmelita hovered over and protected us from any "unwanted advances". I was so comfortable and at ease with my new friends that it felt as though I had been born and raised in this village.  Being raised in a close-knit Polish neighborhood it felt as though I had "come home".

The garden grew, the horses foaled...Radiant Wind's little boy was sleek and beyond handsome.  My son visited regularly visited from Santa Fe; this was the summer he learned to drive.  Pedro stopped in every so often for a cafecita.  On Sundays we would drive to Santa Fe to attend the little church where we first met.  Everyone joining hands and singing that last song "Let there be Peace on Earth" was the best feel good moment of the week.  Good visits with old friends during the coffee and cake after the service sealed the deal.  Life was Good! 

That summer a huge financial surprise appeared when a lovely old lady named Doris passed away and left me a very welcome bequest in her will.  She had been a client at the law office and once owned the first Santa Fe Art School on Canyon Road.  Her partner had died tragically and all I did was listen to her loneliness while she waited in the reception area.  In that document she mentioned how much she appreciated the kindness.  Beyond grateful.   

Bills had piled up and the money went fast. Rather than revel in domesticity and our daily happy hours, it was time for me to work!  Having the bills paid made a huge difference - clarity and focus were my new best friends. A growing familiarity with my surroundings inspired these new canvases.  So exciting to discover and nurture my relationship with this vast and powerful landscape!

Finally I had some breathing room.  After some adjustments, my paintings became my first priority.  Never had I given myself permission to put my work ahead of everything else.  It was intense.  

Coffee cup in hand I would head to my "studio" at the mobile home early every morning. My significant other resented the time I was spending in front of the easel. Although the words were left unspoken, the yellow brick road was gradually disappearing into the wilderness.  Began to notice worrisome changes in my partner.  He would take off for Santa Fe with the stated intention of going to an AA meeting.  That was okay with me.  Our differences were becoming obvious and very uncomfortable and I very much appreciated my time alone to work. Often when he returned from a day trip his eyes were unfocused and he would be very combative.  

Our sunset cocktails were no longer happy hour but fueled some intense arguments.  We were on the edge of losing Paradise.  Apologies all around and life would quiet down for a week or two and then his restlessness took over and he was gone again  My first reaction was panic at being left.      Although I had experienced a lot of drama, I had never really lived alone!!!  It was also becoming obvious that alcohol was no longer my best friend as little signs of chaos were popping up everywhere.  Deep and powerful life changes can be quite scary.....  

Monday, August 3, 2020

WORD PAINTINGS #98 - MONSOON!!!!

7/18/20 - MONSOON CLOUDS - LLANO QUEMADO, NEW MEXICO

3 August 2020 (Llano Quemado, N.M.) 6AM - The kitchen window is open about 6 inches - very cold air is pouring in - thinking that it will only be about five weeks before there will be the first snow on Taos Mountain and Truchas Peaks. A perfect cup of coffee. Except for my neighbors' roosters greeting the sun, all is perfectly quiet.  A short and intermittent monsoon season - so grateful for the rain!  Unbelievable sunsets due to the storm clouds.  The reds, oranges, purples - pale lavenders - definite heart palpitations - quiet blessings.  

About two weeks ago I deleted this blog because I was so close to the truth of what happened on the horse ranch.  In that time I reached my one year anniversary in this new studio which still feels like a gift from my Art Gods.  Pure Grace. It isn't easy to expose the truth of me.  Still feel an obligation to all my "she-roes" - Betty Ford, Ann Richards, every woman I met in recovery - their strength and courage.  It is important for women to know there is a way out of abusive relationships and addiction, but it can't be done alone.    God bless the Helpers!....women who openly share their stories - experience, strength and hope. The decision to be live a life of sobriety is the first step in a lifelong journey of healing.
            
One morning recently in that hazy still half asleep waking up time everyone came through as though in a dream to remind me of their influence in my life.  My first husband the college professor, Ernie, my parents - and my third marriage partner.  It was almost as if they were passing by in some crazy Memory Parade.  Finally I knew their importance.....each one gifted me with a reason to reshape my purpose and to change course toward greater health and stability.  All the pieces finally fit and I realized how each one offered me a definite path to healing.  After years of struggle to forgive the pain I felt a quiet acceptance for everything. My burden basket is empty! 

My first husband's infidelity brought me to Santa Fe.  In the beginning Ernie offered his protection and gave me some studio space to support my beginning work.  I loved him.  My third attempt at a happy and creative relationship crumbled abruptly; in the end it became quite dangerous.  He offered a temporary escape from reality and we were drinking buddies.  We pretended to have a spiritual connection, a popular trend at the time.  It was definitely a grand adventure.  I would never have gone to live on a horse ranch by myself!  Even though he is long gone, my deep love for Truchas has lasted through my paintings for 40 years! 

Fate, destiny - whatever you want to call those strange mysterious coincidences, this man had been a long-time member of AA and introduced me to some meetings in Espanola. Still in denial over my own excess, my first reaction was that I was "going along to get along".  I was completely shocked by this turn of events and felt threatened by this new twist in our relationship.  Although it took another year for me to wake up, this surprise introduction to recovery saved my life.  There are no accidents!

Next month I will arrive at my 81st birthday.  Mine has been a long and arduous journey of healing.  A few weeks ago I saw work by Ruth Homer  a Navajo weaver in Arizona.  Had such a strong reaction to this piece with four Yei Bei Che dancers during a sacred healing ceremony. I made immediate contact with Ruth's granddaughter for the purchase.  It was greeted with tears on arrival.  Soft wool, tightly woven - I felt loved by the woman who made it.  Still weaving at the ripe old age of 90, Ruth has inspired me to begin a new body of work.....surprise, surprise!  To be continued....     

YEI BEI CHE - NAVAJO WEAVING BY RUTH HOMER (90 Years of Age)

WORD PAINTINGS #104 - MAKING A PAINTING

  It takes patience and courage to "become" an artist - the truth is you never stop "becoming".  This is the best part! ...