Sunday, March 28, 2021

WORD PAINTINGS #107 - WITH EYES TO SEE...

 
28 March 2021 (Llano Quemado, New Mexico) - By definition I am a "studio" painter - which means I bring my source material back to my easel and stay with the work until it is finished.
 
There must be a million ways to make a painting.  the key is to just start and once you begin Never Stop!   I am also an "episodic" painter - three or four months of fury, then some rest time to organize my thoughts and gather my source material.  My last painting was Cielo Azul which was completed last month.   The restlessness has set in and now it is time to begin again. Preparation.   All my canvases are "gessoed" with a toned ground.  My source material has been painted in my head many times.   However it is so much easier to "imagine" a painting than it is to do it.  Life intrudes.  Shutting down in order to  set up a new palette and begin again.  A reminder that I am sharing my process, this is not dogma.  Finding your own way is an essential part of the journey.  

Each blank canvas is a wonderful, mysterious adventure!!
 
 _______________________________________________________
 
Excerpted from a previous post:  Spirit of Place - Andrew Wyeth
   
I dream a lot. I do more painting when I'm not painting. It's in the subconscious.
One's art goes as far and as deep as one's love goes.
It's all in how you arrange the thing... the careful balance of the design is the motion.
-Andrew Wyeth-

Chicago 1967 - The Chicago Art Institute mounted a major exhibit of Andrew Wyeth's paintings. 
 
Rushed over to the Art Institute - the line was quite long - eventually it would stretch all around the museum and almost reached Lake Michigan!  Bought my ticket and was informed that it would be a moving line because of the crowd.  The guards saw to it that we did not dawdle!  

Unaware that this was my last visit to the home of my Art Gods (the following week we were on our way to New Mexico!), I moved through the line, absorbing the essence of the paintings.  There was no time to study the brushstrokes, only enough to "feel" the essence of the work.  Perhaps that was the best way to view this man's work - it is so strong and deeply emotional.  I felt the familiarity with which he painted his neighbors and the landscape....sombre colors - browns, black, ochres.  His limited palette amplified his familiarity with his subject matter. Took the train back to home in a dreamlike state, still feeling the wholeness of my experience!
 ________________________________________________________________
 
To start purchase a good camera with a wide-angle zoom lens - LOVE YOUR  SUBJECT AND LOVE YOUR CAMERA!  Open your eyes - FEEL the time and place, point and shoot! 
  
My best paintings are brief moments in time - truly "happy accidents" - being in the right place at the right time. Favorite times of the day to scout for new source material is very early in the morning, stormy days and late afternoon to early evening.  The richest source for my work are the back roads of northern New Mexico. I wander and look. My happy places!!  This part of my process is intuitive - I can actually "see" the composition of the painting through the lens of the camera. Storm clouds, snow squalls - an early spring sunset.  Who knows?  There are always surprises out there just waiting.  On rare occasions  I will take my camera and head out to a specific location, otherwise I just roam and LOOK!  Rarely do I come home with less than 100 photos.  Put them through Photos.  Usually I will find four or five that could be paintings.  I pull them up and tweak them in Photoshop....and run a copy through my printer.  The entire process is my creation.   From this point forward, I am free to "tweak" the image in order to make my painting!
 
 

 
Many years ago when I first arrived in Santa Fe (1967) and became acquainted with a few of the local artists, none of them would admit to using photographs as source material.   A friend gifted me with a new Canon with a zoom lens.  There was so much negativity around artists using a camera! Shame, shame, shame! Guilt! Then it was revealed that one of the best-selling painters of market scenes went to Mexico and Central America with his camera - and a lens that would take photos over his shoulder while he was pointing the camera away from his subject.  He was using his camera as a tool in his creative process.
 
Another moment of Grace when I met Van Deren Coke in the law office where I worked on Cathedral Place in Santa Fe (Sommer & Lawler).  Mr. Coke was the founding Director of the New Mexico Art Museum in Albuquerque. During a short conversation he mentioned his new book (pictured above).  Revelation! Free at last!!!  I could roam the back roads of New Mexico without any self-imposed guilt - recognizing that my camera was merely a tool - I was the artist! The finished painting was my creation from start to finish! 
 
Get vaccinated - stay safe, stay healthy! DC   

Saturday, March 13, 2021

WORD PAINTINGS #106 - AWAKENING

13 March 2019 - Llano Quemado, New Mexico.....8:30 AM.....Taos Mountain obscured by heavy clouds, hazy poetry.  Brief weather forecast last night - snow in the mountains. It snowed in Denver yesterday.  The weather is changing, the time changes on Sunday - everything is Change!  Went to the clinic yesterday for my second vaccine - easy peasy.  Lovely nurse named Destiny (an omen?).  Thanked her for saving lives and said "God bless you!" We connected and had a  lovely moment there in the parking lot.  My old comfortable sweatshirt waited for me at home- a lie down, a deep sleep nap and later a grilled cheese sandwich.  So far so good. No reaction.  Settling into the quiet.

Have no illusions that I need time to regroup and recover.  Time to take an inventory of life as it is now. Waking up from a bad dream - Politics and the Pandemic! Could be the title of a book!  Only one certainty seems to prevail - life will never be the same. It is time to reset my course to a new normal.  Each day a New Beginning.

Still miss my son John.  He's been gone for six years now.  The grief comes infrequently, but it is still with me.  It comes in waves when I least expect a visit - always a surprise.  I open the door, invite it in and let myself feel! Sadness is a part of me and I don't judge whether it is "good" or "bad".  Nothing is ever the same after losing a child. Life continues with or without my participation.  Today's lesson from that time...life changes -  Where to begin again?

Life looks so different this morning - more hopeful.  Another blank canvas...many blank canvases and empty frames.  Have maintained a strict isolation since last March.  A trip to Santa Fe for eye surgery in September, a follow up visit to eye doctor.  First time in thirty five years without glasses! All my studio business is online - no visitors! Isolation is an artist's best friend!  Time to think. Imagine images and colors - I can see!

The painting above is Cielo Azul - Blue sky at Abiquiu, New Mexico.  From start to finish it was as though some alien being took over and all I did was hold the brushes!  A wonderment!  Such a rarity in all these years of painting!  Pure JOY! 

Spring is almost here.  Thank you Moderna! I am renewed! Went through my closet this week.  My daily uniform - a grey cotton shirt and very old black jersey pants splashed with oil paints. Came to the conclusion that my wardrobe is colorless and dull.  Went online and ordered a bright red shirt covered with poppies.  Much needed personal upkeep!  A new book awaits - The Emergence of Frank Waters: A Critical Reader.  Found my old copy of his book Pumpkin Seed Point - his early days among the Hopi.   He was a mystic!  Saw him in the produce section of the grocery store once.  I smiled; he nodded.  Thrill! My hero! A tall magnetic presence - charisma!  He had it in spades!  His books are life changing!  

More clay pots for my indoor "green room".  Friend and helper Doug Yeager framed Cielo Azul and it now hangs among all the new plants beginning to take root - renewal on many levels. New frame for my recent painting Lazy River Dreaming is on a UPS truck to be delivered this coming weekGoing to a home with several other large paintings of mine - it will be welcomed and in very good company.  Thought of coloring my hair red again - oh, I loved being a redhead!!!  Staying with my age-appropriate whiteness - remembering those good old days with a big smile.

Enjoy working with Alicia and Gabe Abrums at Chimayo Trading in Ranchos Plaza.  Called Gabe this week and told him I thought it was time to "retire" - he laughed.  Such a ridiculous thought!   Sending them ten paintings later this month.  Need to complete one or two underpaintings to include with the others.   Cleaning off my palette this afternoon. organizing my work table and my brushes.  Will put out fresh globs of juicy paint tomorrow to begin again.  All is coming right in my little world.  Perhaps some nice surprises are just around the corner!  Quien Sabe?

It is noon.  My coffee cup is empty.  The early spring winds are forming small dust devils on the road in front of my kitchen window.  A change of seasons and this year a profound change of life as I knew it.  Uncertainty is my friend.   There is a Rune stone for the Unknown - it is without a symbol.  "Blank is the end and blank the beginning"!

Stay safe - stay healthy! One day at a time, one little step at a time.....  

 

Sunday, February 14, 2021

WORD PAINTINGS #105 - FINDING SANCTUARY

“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


14 February 2021 (Llano Quemado, New Mexico) - Still in bed with a great cup of coffee - looking out the window at all the whiteness of an overnight winter storm - flocks of birds in formation - this is Wonderland!  Taking a break from all my "busyness" - the paintings, my housework and politics.  Trying my best to come to terms with reality....the good, bad and the very ugly.  

Spent all day yesterday potting and repotting houseplants.  Since I am no longer physically able to keep a garden, I decided to make a green space in my dining room.  Found this amazing nursery online and went nuts buying plants and pots.  Worked all day in total silence - no TV, no music - just the quiet anticipation of being surrounded by green things growing all around the house. 

Yesterday I ignored the vote on Impeachment.  Most of the past four or five years I've spent my energy wishing all the threats and darkness would vanish and there would be Peace on Earth!  As if!!!!  Disneyland! A dream is a wish your heart makes.Corporate media is a moneymaking proposition - it thrives on Conflict!! Yesterday I made the big decision to take my energy back....I potted plants and watched heartthrob Colin Firth in Pride and Prejudice. This morning the beauty of a winter storm.  God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, and the courage to change the things I can! 

My Reality....Had my first Moderna shot on Friday.  First time out of the house in a long, long time.  Will get the second shot in a month. Continuing my "lockdown". So familiar - a welcome lifestyle  for a working artist.  On my easel is a new 40"x40" landscape titled Cielo Azul.  Rarely a canvas seems to paint itself from conception to the last brush stroke.  This doesn't happen often.  When it does it feels like automatic writing - stream of consciousness.  Painting will be completed this coming week!  I am always amazed!  Today is laundry day - change the sheets and  pot some Christmas cacti...easy does it.

"More than doers, we are deciders.  Once our decision is clear, the Universe supports and empowers our actions" - The Book of Runes

Taking my life back one day at a time.  Have been caught up in the land of TV News too long and have been diminished by its ugliness. Feel abused by all the bickering and name-calling - the violence.  The view from my window this morning reminds me of the beauty of just living a quiet life with purpose.  It is time to return to my "real" life.  Keep it simple - make some paintings - water the plants - be grateful. It is snowing again - do not disturb the silence!  It is a choice to opt out - restore emotional balance - find joy!

We are all born and someday we’ll all die. Most likely to some degree alone.

What if our aloneness isn’t a tragedy? What if our aloneness is what allows us to speak the truth without being afraid? What if our aloneness is what allows us to adventure – to experience the world as a dynamic presence – as a changeable, interactive thing?

If I lived in Bosnia or Rwanda or who knows where else, needless death wouldn’t be a distant symbol to me, it wouldn’t be a metaphor, it would be a reality.

And I have no right to this metaphor. But I use it to console myself. To give a fraction of meaning to something enormous and needless.

This realization. This realization that I will live my life in this world where I have privileges.

I can’t cool boiling waters in Russia. I can’t be Picasso. I can’t be Jesus. I can’t save the planet single-handedly.

I can wash dishes. (Words of Rachel Corrie on leaving her home in Olympia, Washington.)

 

 

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! 


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!     
  

WORD PAINTINGS #107 - WITH EYES TO SEE...

  28 March 2021 (Llano Quemado, New Mexico) - By definition I am a "studio" painter - which means I bring my source material back ...