March 6, 2014
I recently completed a painted box that is to be displayed on a mantel underneath a reproduction of a Piranesi. I didn’t look at my client’s Piranesi print and perhaps I should have, because for some reason although he said “Piranesi” my brain heard “Nicolas Poussin.” Images such as the painting reproduced here danced in my head: dark shapes against a turquoise blue sky. Piranesi, conversely, was more famed for his black and white etchings. Nevertheless, my painting was influenced by classical traditions and hopefully will look just as well beneath a Piranesi as it would have with a Poussin.
My client was interested in a box painted with images of birds and flowers. He is a bright and discerning fellow, with a formidable musical career as scholar, educator, and performer. For this reason I made two mock up studies in acrylic on a long piece of paper that would wrap around the box so he could see what it would look like and have personal input into the aesthetic process. My first painting study was basically a dark on light design. But my second design was based on my visions of the wrong painter, Piranesi, and was dark on light. Good thing I made a second version because that was the one my client chose.
Making the box was somewhat problematic. The top was made from picture molding and the rest from hand crafted poplar. I didn’t have the equipment or skills to create it so I had to find a picture framing willing to take the trouble on. No one wanted to do it. I finally found someone in Charleston willing to make a lid with a matching box because after conversing with him for some time we found that we had attended the same graduate school in New York and knew the same people. Connections and New York “bonding” always come in handy.
The box arrived from Charleston and although well crafted, needed something more in the way of finish. Once again, it turned out to be a wise choice to have my client look it over before I painted it. We decided that the interior needed to be refinished and painted, the inside lip and base sanded and coated with shellac. A final addition was four squares of vitreous glass on the base to raise the bottom of the box.
February 28, 2014
Uses them more than just to hear.
When the house is all a-hush
You will see they start to blush.
Then a gentle quiver starts
A nod, a jerk, a twitch --
As he delves even deeper
Into his role of a sleeper
You know that his dreams are rich.
February 26, 2014
Yesterday I finished some designs for a commission so had some time to spare between the client’s final decision and the start of the work. Into this small gap between activities I dashed off a painting of a sleeping pink cat. Still not true to the actual cat because the sleeping cat was white, the pink cat is at least in repose. Yet looking at the poem again, it could very well be about a rose colored cat. It is a light and humorous little kitty ditty so perhaps it was fitting to make a miniature about it.
I had just enough border design from my previous painting/collage to fit around the border of this one as well. It created an impression of a quilt. At various points in the painting I brought the dark triangular shapes of this border into the painting.
Another look at the poem reveals an essence captured even if details are not correct:
43 – Pinkie II (Mickey)
One cat is nicknamed Pinkie
He got his genes from his Mommie.
His gray paws got much paler
And his nose turned bicolor
February 24, 2014
To celebrate the year of the horse, I ‘ve been reworking some old sketches of horses. The one above was originally sketched in pencil from life when I went out to see the horses at dawn. I still remember the rising sun making a golden halo around the horses red bodies. I made a few paintings from this sketch so today I thought to add colors and retire it from service.
February 21, 2014
The first poem in her newly written book of poetry was based on watching a cat trying to catch a fly. There was an interesting allusion in the poem to Kris’s unusual February 29th birth date. A leap year and a leaping cat. I made a painting for this that depicted a many armed cat flailing away at an unseen fly. I thought the fly should appear in the collage border around the miniature. I made this intensely decorative by painting each square in the border with flying insects, cat eyes, and bird beaks. It was a mess of color and shapes. Just out of curiosity, when I glued the last square down and counted them up. There were thirty-one squares. That was close to the leap year twenty-nine so I decided to try again with another version of the painting. In the second version I made a more natural looking cat, albeit blue. I then surrounded it with exactly twenty-nine squares. The four corner squares are a stamped design reading “flying” in Chinese seal script - hard for me to resist a stamp or two. The poem that marks Kris Miller’s debut into the society of cat poets is as follows:
1 - Little ballerina cat - an ode to Sadie (Sadie) Look at the little ballerina cat
She has her eye on a fly
She leaps She spins
She's very spry
But can't quite catch her prey
So perhaps another day... I'll bet in Leap Year she'll get a boost
To jump and twirl even higher
And bring down that nasty fly at last
Her giddy heart's desire! -Kris Miller
February 20, 2014
February 19, 2014
It takes me much longer to do the things I used to do, but I still do them, finding ways to compensate for my slowness and awkwardness. This has certainly been the case in the production of pit fired ceramics. Gone are the days when I could collect tinder and chop wood in the morning and fire a kiln in the afternoon. Instead I start collecting small pieces of wood about a month in advance of a firing, usually a handful a day from the nearby woods where I take a short morning walk. A month of daily handfuls makes for one wood firing. It takes a long time, but it gets done and it is possible.
Last week we had the ice storm. The fallen tree limbs were a menace - downing power lines and leaving us without power for four days. Yesterday, with the help of a friend with a chain saw, we got most of the larger fallen limbs out of the way. I used a heavy duty pruner to cut the smaller branches. These I’ve been slowly stacking the branches for the next pit fire. I’ve been carefully peeling the side twigs off of dogwood limbs for kindling. After about another week I’ll have my pile of timber ready for the next firing. So was the fallen timber was only a menace to our power system. It was more like manna from heaven for my future art.
The small lidded vessel pictured above came from the most recent pit fire. The copper carbonate reduced to red in small areas - exactly what I had hope for against the blues and blacks.
February 18, 2014
February 12, 2014
Knowing that very few people would be likely to attend, I cut the amount of refreshments to be served in half, cancelled a hair appointment, swallowed my expectations and went to my opening. All in all there were about fourteen people in attendance, including staff. Most people were reluctant to come from out of town, or were busy preparing for the oncoming storm.
I found out among my friends who prepared the best and the earliest for the oncoming weather debacles. Only the confidently prepared ventured out on the night before this storm.
The preparedness bug hit me the day of the ice storm. The compunction to prepare up to the last minute was strong Loads of laundry done, candles brought out, firewood collected. The last was quite a challenge because my logs and kindling had not been covered the night before and as such were thickly coated with ice. I chipped as much as I could off of them and brought them inside like a litter of lost freezing puppies. Putting them on sheets of plastic I waited for the ice to melt then sopped up the mess. This probably was not worth the effort but time will tell.
In the mean time, my friend and mentor, Lee Malerich, posted a charming blog about my current exhibition along with interesting conclusions about what seems to me to be almost mystic origins about my paintings. Here is the link.http://leemalerich.wordpress.com/