December 31, 2008

The Empty Room

The eve of the new year arrives, and with it reflections on 2008 and hopes for 2009. 2008 was the year that I had hoped to finish my book of poetry and paintings. Despite slow downs and set backs I managed to do so. But there is still the work of editing and refining ahead - but that now becomes the resolution for 2009.
One tentative editorial change for the book Monologues: Poems for a Hundred Paintings is the title. I was never very happy about it. Dr. Robert Grenier, of the Orangeburg Writer’s Group, offered several insights about the body of work that could be clues as to how to name it. Titles are such crucial things as are introductions. So I have been listening carefully to all critiques. What Dr. Grenier noticed is that the people featured in the hundred paintings (actually 117 now) are very still, almost disengaged with the world. And Monologue was such as active word it didn’t really accurately capture the quiet mood. They are all people seated, usually alone, in the middle of a room. Finally Dr. Grenier also noticed that most, if not all, the paintings looked to be capturing a certain time of day- mid to late afternoon. So for now the new title is Moments in the Afternoon. Or maybe I could copy a phrase I recently read in one of Dr. Grenier’s own essay: A Bit of Room to Breathe. The naming of the poetry is obviously still a tenuous thing.
During the painting and composing process this year, I wondered what would be the most appropriate way to end the book. What would that very last person on the very last canvas be doing and what poetic ruminations should accompany the closing page? Fortunately, the answer came without the current strain of trying to organize, edit and label this whole undertaking. The answer seemed obvious. There would be no one in that last room - with reminiscence about the people of the past who sat in that now empty chair and anticipation of who would come to sit there next and fill the future space.
The poem below accompanies entry number 117, "The Empty Room," my oil on canvas adaptation of a cottage in Great Britain.

Happy New Year to Anyone reading this and allows a room in their soul for good things to enter and a chair in their homes for good people to come in and stay a while.

The Empty Room

Empty Room
with all but light removed
The old timbers rise darkly
against the white-washed plaster
of walls that make echoes
in the solitary sanctified emptiness
of unadulterated space
An unoccupied domain
entices like nirvana
nothing dying, nothing born
in that roaring peace of the void
simple greatness lies
within the mystery of the unanswerable question
Have souls all departed?
Or have they yet to arrive here?

December 28, 2008

Grace and the Art of Marketing

"And the best was yet to come," I mentioned in my last blog. A rather mysterious ending when business and obligations picked up to an extent that made blogging difficult to get to. And the material that I wrote for the last entry about grace has long been lost in the labyrinth of my computer files.
But to pick up where I left off, there were a series of fortunate occurrences and help from family and friends that I wanted to acknowledge and the last one, this one, is dedicated to my sister, Jessie Thompson. I had been preparing for the Arts in Education Booking Conference and was struggling with graphics for my presentation fliers. My sister offered help well beyond what anyone could hope for as last minute rescues go. She came up with a flier that was about ten times better than the one I designed and her husband Ed, ran off a jumbo size poster of it which was rush delivered just in time for my conference. Jess also did book jacket covers for my books in progress so I could have those on display as well.
Walking into the Booking Conference this time around I felt like a well-armed gladiator, with keen graphics and an advertising strategy. It worked. I booked business into autumn 2009 and by the grace of family help and persistence, am now able to continue being an artist for one more year in these uncertain times. Not a small thing.
The drawing illustrating this blog comes from a sketch I made of my sister as she was sketching in the woods behind the house that I spent my young adulthood in and my younger brothers, their teen years. She is accompanied by her faithful white dog Puff. It was created with pencil and my favorite Yarka pastels from Russia.
As I archive my work, I keep coming across drawings of friends and family. I revise, restore and return them to the posers when I can.