Friday, May 25, 2012

Color College Avenue

Color College Avenue

On Saturday, May 19, the Blacksburg Regional Art Association, of which I'm a member, handed paint and brushes to hundred of youngsters (and some oldsters) for Color College Avenue from the corner on Main Street to Draper Avenue, right in front of The Lyric Theater.  A wonderful, if somewhat messy, time was had by all.

This event was spurred on by a statewide initiative for children and the arts called Minds Wide Open.  Even though their website still won't let me register the event after the fact, I'll still give them credit for being the seed that started all this amazing creativity.

BRAA was the driving force behind this day even though it didn't look like that in the article in The Burgs.  Nancy Norton, BRAA co-VP, was the glue that held all this together, gathering volunteers, getting most of the donations, calling meetings and handling dozens of details.  She and a bunch of others showed up at 6 a.m. to get things ready and lay down the chalk outlines of planned and unplanned artworks.  She was there until the bitter end wearing an appropriate amount of paint to prove her attendance.

The Lyric Theater, especially the executive director, Susan Mattingly, was a huge player.  Thanks for the marketing, the drawing, the use of your office and sidewalk.  Our apologies for the wayward paint on the floor, carpet and traffic markings!  We might have lost just a bit of control!

Thanks to the Center for the Arts at Virginia Tech and Ruth Waalkes for the wonderful video produced of the event.

The big, formal blocks of artwork were designed ahead and painted by students from Harding Avenue Elementary, Blacksburg New School, and Blacksburg Chinese School.  Two other blocks were provided by Textile Artists of Virginia and The Virginia Quilt Museum and painted by volunteers.  Freehand art just took off on its own and by the end of the day, nary an inch of pavement escaped some color.

Thanks to Valley Paint and Decorating, Heavener Hardware, Lowe's and The Home Depot for their generous contributions to this project.  It couldn't have happened without them!

Thanks also to the Renaissance Music Academy for bringing their young and wonderfully accomplished musicians to add a touch of class to the event with violins and cellos.

The weather was perfect, the turnout of an estimated 1,000 people who either painted or enjoyed watching was heartwarming.  That is one thing I really like about Blacksburg.  There is a sense of community and a wonderful family atmosphere for every event on the calendar.  

If you are a Blacksburg area artist and haven't joined BRAA yet, maybe it is time.
We are a nice bunch of people and new members with new ideas are greatly welcome.

Monday, March 12, 2012

New Works at Jacksonville Center for the Arts

 A wonderful new show opened at the Jacksonville Center for the Arts in Floyd this past weekend.  The variety and quality of the pieces was so very good it was a joy to have two of my works included in the selection.  These two pieces are quite small, only about 8x24. They are acrylic on canvas and are the first of that medium I have ever exhibited.  I don't consider myself an acrylic painter and did these two atop canvases I painted in Germany and thought were just awful.  They are greatly improved by this new painting!  It was very interesting (and encouraging) to have several people tell me how much they love these pieces.  Many people told me they saw an oriental influence in them, especially the tree piece.  Both paintings have several layers of things under the actual art, giving them more depth and interest.  The House with Sky piece I hope to recreate on a 22x48 canvas to hang over our brick fireplace.  It will be the largest piece I've ever done so I must admit it is a bit intimidating to get started on it!

Morning in the woods

On this first day of the Daylight Savings Time, I was confused by how dark it still was at 7 a.m.  I looked out the kitchen window for my morning bird feeder check and, in the morning light saw what I thought was something white all ripped up around the feeders.  It soon dawned on me it was the clumps of newly opened daffodils popping with happiness over the spring weather!  On my walk to the mailbox at the end of our drive, I startled a doe no more than 30 feet from me.  We both stopped and stared.  I spoke to her but got only a twitching ear in response.  Her feet didn't move as I continued my walk. As I returned from the mailbox, there she was, rooted to the same spot, eyes still on me. Again, I greeted her and stopped to admire her wonderful, flower-eating self.  I asked her to leave my yet to grow garden alone this year but knew my plea was nothing more than air on the wind to her.  I continued on and even after I went into the house, she remained standing there in peace.  The spring daffodils soon called me back outside to pick a few for the house (deer don't eat these wonderful flowers for some reason).  While rummaging through the blooms to select my pickings, I poked around where I knew other things had grown last year and was happy to see signs of life around two clumps of bee balm.  I will plant more of these inside the soon to be fenced off area because they were one of the few stars of last season.  The artist in me loves looking at the deer.  The gardener I want to be wishes they all would move elsewhere.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Pencil on paper

One of the many things that impress me about artist Robin Poteet's work is that her drawings skills are as wonderful as her painting skills.  She tells us to keep the pencil on the paper as long as possible to draw confident lines and renderings of what we see.  My habit before studying with her was to sometimes draw with a much more feathering sort of approach.  In my twice-monthly drawing group this past weekend, I decided to make the effort to keep the pencil in touch with the paper as much as possible and see what happened.  I couldn't have been more pleased with the outcome.

I ended the evening with three pieces I was happy with and all had very good proportions.  I think it forced me to truly look and see the lines of the body better than before and somehow that seemed to translate to the brain and the hand.  When I first saw this pose, I thought it would be a bear to capture. In reality, it flowed well and was fun to work on.  I really believe keeping the pencil on the paper as much as possible made a big difference to my work.  Practice, practice, practice.  Two years ago, figure drawing was very intimidating to me.  With effort and practice I have come a long way!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Purple Hat #2

I've been going to watercolor classes with Robin Poteet at The Studio School in Roanoke for over a month now.  We are concentrating on the styles of Charles Reid and Mary Whyte for the painting of portraits and historic figures.  The big painting is the second version of the Purple Hat I have painted.  This one is twice the size of the first.  I like her fairly much but feel the hand on her necklace looks likes someone else reaching into the painting!  Too funny.

I find the biggest challenge in painting portraits--besides getting a likeness--is trying hard not to over paint, to keep messing with the skin tones until they get muddy.  This lovely lady of color I think stayed within bounds and has a lot of attitude.

The smaller painting is from the same photo but looks quite different.  The second hat is much better than the first and the face is friendlier.  I like things about each portrait and dislike as well.

The class is excellent.  Each session provides a challenge for me.  I've learned that choice and strength of colors is one of my biggest challenges each time.  I have been discouraged lately because I want to be the best in the class and I am not.  We all look at Robin's work and declare that we should just quit and go home because hers is so amazing and she makes it look so simple.  We've all been challenged when trying to do the very loose Charles Reid style complete with drips and spots. These two portraits are closer to the Mary Whyte style which is much more controlled.

One lady in class did a portrait of her great grandmom and when it was finished said, "poor grandma, she didn't deserve what I did to her today."

I see the color

Again, inspired by that same artist friend, I recall a piece I wrote in 2010 at the end of the FloCoIMo art project.  I created a small piece of art a day for 30 days and created a book of them all.  This narrative ended the book and described my transition from burnout condition to creative again at last.  Only a handful of people have ever heard or read this piece.

I was so tired. I tried to push myself to get things done and realized, for the first time; my heart just wasn’t in it anymore. Piles of papers moved from place to place and my mind went blank trying to remember everything I needed to consider to complete the task—the task that just didn’t seem important anymore. These feelings had been growing for many months.

Resentment mounted upon resentment and filled my chest with tension. The tension had feet wrapped in combat boots. Boots that storm trooped over my body when I should have been sleeping. My patience was worn like old stone steps pounded by demanding feet; granite slickened by the history of too many passages, too many loads. These feelings wore me away with a deafening water drip that everyone heard but no one fixed.

Twice the dripping became a roaring down the canyon of my fragile self, breaking bones, pounding my body, my confidence, my sureness, leaving fear and pain and defeat in its path.
I promise to leave the river. To remove myself from this whirlpool, I marched steadfastly through a forest of paper, plans, boxes, people, trains, planes and automobiles in search of a new way. At the end of the march I do all that again in reverse, hoping, hoping, hoping the new way will be the right way, a way that will renew me and make the misery of the past months fade away like morning fog chased by brightness.

At the end of the march I awake thinking of paper, plans and people again, but now it is different. It is paper made plain and fancy all at once. It asks for no information, doesn’t care what my birth date is, doesn’t want my secret number, my address, the make of my car on the ocean, the list of damages. Which ones would it want? The ones inside the truck or the ones inside my soul?

This new paper asks only for water and color and brushes and pens and ink and my undivided creative energy and drive. No one tells me what to put upon the paper. I am the driver of my time. I have only to plan where the lines will go, what color they will be, will their spirits be joyful or sad. The people in my mind help me, inspire me, cheer me on. They are the people of my new way, just being with them often tells me what will go on the paper next, their own words and art kick start my creative energies and build me up.

The water has stopped dripping. The storm-trooping boots are silent. The new way is strewn with small pebbles and I see the color in them once again. 

The snow storm

So long I have not posted.  I wrote the following in an email to a fellow artist friend of mine this morning and his reaction to it inspired me to post it on my blog.

This time yesterday, the snow storm was a cranky child, sputtering one moment, sulking the next. As the day wore on, she sat in the corner and moaned continuously, her voice rising to a steady wail layer upon layer, covering all in its path.  With the dawn of today, the aftermath of the tantrum lay over the land in brilliance. The forest recreated in a frosty bath of white, sparkling against a porcelain blue sky, looked down upon by a sun that ran and hid from the child the day before.

Every branch, every twig, every shape of every size is burdened by the wet, white fallout of the storm. Evergreens normally holding their arms wide and swaying in the wind, are draped and sagging as though covered in thick wet bath towels left on hooks to dry.  Bushes and young trees, still supple in their youth, are bent double with the weight, threatening to break from the task.

The cold air, barely of voting age, keeps shadowed corners in frozen suspension. The sun seeks all places offered to its face and slowly warms the winter-brown trees, pushing the snow from slender twigs and hurling it to the forest floor. The tallest bits fall, colliding, sliding and grabbing twigs and branches and snow below pushing it  to the ground below in countless mini tantrums like so many minute diamonds cast from the hand of a wealthy merchant.  Under the rooftop snow, the sun's power is multiplied, slowly, invisibly until rivers of water fall from the eaves in a gymnastic display of freezing, thawing, dripping.  Spikes of crystal magic add to the tableaux of this winter morning.

Below the trees the ground is blanketed to the depths of the forest and beyond, its smoothness broken by mysterious but alluring shapes which suddenly come alive as the warmth of the day awakens them just enough to spring forward in freedom, shaking off the burden of the night.

We watch the scene unfold.  We want to be in it but not to disturb it, not to mar this perfection with our boots so we watch from windows and doors, marveling in this breathless beauty, grateful for the gift left by the storming child.