January 28, 2013

The Ukranian Icon

Back in my traveling days, I spent a month with relatives in Kiev. It was an amazing trip and I learned a lot about the culture. One of the things that I enjoyed the most was drawing in the museums. Unfortunately that was not officially allowed but I did sneaky quick sketches anyway. As I was drawing one icon, however, a guard noticed and came over gesticulating wildly and saying “nyet.” I spoke no Ukranian save the phrase I had learned from my grandmother which means “wait a minute.” So much to the guard’s consternation I said that. I also knew how to say “thank you,” but it didn’t seem appropriate at the time. I could have conversed in rudimentary Russian but that wouldn’t too great either. There was just too much nervousness in the air about icon forgery. Needless to say, my sketch from that time was quite hasty but yesterday, I cleaned it up and fleshed it out in my heavy grey pastels and am today posting my breaking-the-rules rendering of a Ukranian icon. I always loved this image. It reminded me of the drawings and paintings of George Rouault. My husband thinks it looks like me!

January 27, 2013

Falling Shed

My recently completed pencil drawings have been painstakingly rendered with tiny details. This is most easily accomplished over original sketches done in pencil without too many heavy marks. Other sketches, however, were done in conte pencil or inks. I take a different approach for finishing the conte sketches since pencil doesn’t work well over this medium. For these, I’m using black charcoal or pastel with plenty of textured eraser marks. I can work very quickly with these and with dramatic contrasts. The drawing above was done with black pastel and small highlights of white. It is of a collapsing shed somewhere in rural South Carolina. Since the original was done so long ago, I’m quite certain the shed has completed its fall.

January 25, 2013

Balzac on Art

“Constant labor is the law of art as well as the law of life, for art is the creative activity of the mind. And so great artists, true poets, do not wait for either commissions or clients; they create today, tomorrow, ceaselessly. And there results a habit of toil, a perpetual consciousness of the difficulties, that keeps them in a state of marriage with the Muse, and her creative forces. Canova lived in his studio, and Voltaire in his study. Homer and Phidias must have so lived, too.” -Honore De Balzac Despite being no longer able to teach or really do much of anything outside the home, I still do some art every day. It keeps my body and mind engaged, like Balzac’s description of the “marriage with the muse.” There are no commissions, and I will be unable to be physically present at arts and crafts shows, but I work on art nevertheless. In this market-driven society, professionalism is usually defined by the level of income an artist makes from his/her craft. So I no longer define myself as a professional artist. But after reading Balzac, I see that there is still reason to identify myself as an artist. My new slow drawings are deeply satisfying to create. In more sanguine moments, the rendering of them makes me believe that I could possibly eventually be drawn out of this state of perpetual illness. The drawing above is the conclusion of a sketch started years ago when I was visiting extended family in Ukraine. The woman was my father’s first cousin’s neighbor, Tatiana. I sketched her while she was peeling carrots for a stew and singing Ukranian folk songs. She wore this very folksy looking dress with blue polka dots and a red and white frill.

January 24, 2013

La Mente Malevola Finds a Good Home

My painting, La Mente Malevola, was recently acquired from the Portfolio Gallery and has finally found a good home. In celebration/commemoration I got the preliminary drawing, dusted it off, and made a completed drawing. Comparing the drawing to the painting, you can see that I eliminated the background female figure and gave the seated man a more spacious surrounding environment. The painting of the cat was adapted by a Picasso painting called “Cat attacking a Bird.” I changed the bird to a mouse to match the poem that I eventually wrote to accompany the painting. I still have yet to find a publisher for the book manuscript, Moments in Light and Shadows, that this poem is included it. It makes me think of trying to publish selected works from this manuscript again. To complete the drawing, I entered the cat once again into the painting behind the man’s head. A wonderful Christmas present, a book on the paintings of Kawanabe Kirosai helped with this composition. Kirosai made a very dynamic painting of a man riding a tiger. The writer noted the intensity of the work and attributed this intensity to Kirosai’s close juxtaposition of the man’s face with the tiger’s face. I tried this in my drawing, by putting the three heads in the composition very close together. The poem for La Mente Malevola: The Spanish Professor, black curls in his hair sank his aching bony body deeply into his hostess’ living room couch “I don’t believe in god,” he said, inhaling the capital “G” off the word. It sounded odd “But,” he added, “I do believe in La Mente Malevola” “He plays with us you know,” He said while waving his hand back and forth in the air His obsidian Rasputin eyes glowing with malevolent irony. “Like the cat plays with his mouse before killing it.” I laugh out loud at what I believe to be the utter facetiousness of this confession But an image is emblazoned in my mind - the image of La Mente Malevola - the malicious mind an evil force in the universe grinning down at the vulnerable like a rapacious cat beholding his impuissant prey How could anyone believe in such a god? I wonder A god with nothing better to do than intervene in the lives of men And why should a Mente Malevola even bother to waste god time playing cat games with worthless mortals? I wonder It seemed as ludicrous as believing in guardian angels silliness at either end of the metaphysical pole I think Then a three-day migraine visits my wondering brain Bright lights cut into my eyes sounds, however small, are translated into the language of pain that familiar thudding beat in my head like something batting back and forth like the cat that plays with his mouse before killing it La Mente Malevola stares down upon me from the cosmos his feline eyes gleaming with cruel desire and I believe in a mind of malicious intent

January 16, 2013

To Raku or Not Raku

An e-mail from a friend came to me just recently about a one-day raku firing seminar that she thought I might be interested in. We were going to create our own raku kiln last year and I had created a small group of ocarinas out of raku clay just for the event. That never came to pass and my bisqued raku ocarinas laid fallow in a drawer in my studio basement for over a year. Ironically, the announcement about the raku seminar came to me just as I had come up with an alternative to glazing my ocarinas. Instead of doing a raku glaze, I made a raku-inspired faux glaze from acrylic and metal leaf interspersed with metallic dust. A good alternative if raku is a not do. I’ve featured my just finished set above.

January 12, 2013

Woman with a Blanket and Udu Drums

My latest drawing, Woman with a Blanket, is an amalgam of art from various sources making this very much a work of ekphrasis. The details at the bottom are extrapolated from a medieval Hebrew manuscript. In the background are drawings of the ceramic udu drums I had created last year. The actual drum is pictured right. Sadly, this drum developed small hairline cracks in the pit firing so although it still plays, it is no longer a viable piece for market. So I it was with some satisfaction that I was at least able to use it as a studio prop.

January 9, 2013

Lee Malerich Revisited

Lee Malerich revisted. I just completed a new drawing from my old notes and sketches of Lee Malerich. It was a preparatory work for a painting that now goes with the poem “First Step.” The final version of the painting has the art work with the foot on it featured more prominently and Lee is looking straight out at the viewer. Here she is engaged in her embroidery. Once again, I’m improvising on the decoration and designs of the art work on the wall. The Latin phrase incorporated into the art, for instance, was not something originally in Lee’s embroidery work. It reads “Elevate the humble.” This is very much what Lee is now doing in her mature work - making exquisite art from recycled materials. To read more follow the link: http://leemalerich.wordpress.com/

January 7, 2013

The Other Wim Roefs

In the 1990's and late 2008 or so, I was worked on my series of Monologue paintings, which became the illustrated unpublished poetry manuscript, save excerpts, Moments in Light and Shadows. Most of these were either painted from life or from sketches that I made from life. I generally sketched a model two or three times, then selected the view I wanted for the collection. So only about one of three ideas made it into the final painting. But now that I am refurbishing the drawings of the past, I see that the poses not chosen still offer nice compositions. The drawing depicted here is a recently refinished one drawn of Wim Roefs at home. Pre-gallery owner. Pre-wild hair. Since the drawing was originally a sketch, I have no idea what was on the paintings on the walls or know the details of the vases. But this is a good thing, for it gave me the liberty of designing my own abstract forms and writing Chinese calligraphy on the vases. So now Wim has an art collection that exists on paper only.

But wait! Blogger is no longer allowing me to upload images from my computer! Will find out what’s up with that.