When I was in art school I owned a pair of very loved tennis shoes, high tops actually. They were once white with silver and white laces, comfortable and really cute. We needed to come up with a still live subject to paint in oils, and I really didn’t ‘vibe’ with the regular flowers, or fruit still life subjects most gravitate to in art school. So I decided to paint my favorite tennis shoes.
Now, those shoes were grey, rumpled and very worn out. The laces were frayed and no longer shinny. The biggest thing was their funny wonky, floppy droop. The tops no longer stood up very well. I didn’t care. When I looked at the shoes I remembered how much I loved them. And yes, once I was naked (ok I was younger) with black socks in them, and probably also wore black leg warmers – just because that’s what everyone wore back then in exercise class (and beyond), but mostly I just loved them
I remembered buying them and how I’d saved up because they were Reebok’s. I remember how happy I was the first times I wore them and people complimented me on them. Like Uggs today. I remember how I wore them with my suit when going to work because I had to walk a long way from my parking lot to work in downtown Dallas. And I remember when they got so old I was embarrassed to wear them out of the house. So, I painted an oil painting of them. A big one. 36 inches by 45 inches. In your face beautiful.
I remember my teacher commenting: “You can make anything look good if you paint it well.” That was a compliment.
I painted them with ultramarine blue and alizarin crimson (my two favorite colors). Big, lush brush strokes loaded with a lot of paint. The painting showed how I loved those shoes.
What happened to the painting? I got an A on the assignment. Yeah! I hung them for a long time in my studio. And then 10 years later I sold them on a corner for $50 because I needed to move and had to rent a stupid truck. So someone, somewhere (hopefully) has that painting of high top Reebok’s on their wall. I later went on to paint professionally. But I remember those shoes.
I had a perfect 4.0 grade point average and was on the Dean’s List for three semesters in a row. I received recognition from the University in an awards ceremony, and was printed up in a directory of those on the Dean’s List for exceptional academic record. I worked hard to keep it a perfect grade.
She didn’t believe in A’s. She was a new teacher from New York, and it was her first year of teaching art and design. She once won a competition with a roster painting. But she didn’t believe in A’s, and it completely ruined my perfect grade point average and threatened my ability to continue to receive my scholarship for the next semester.
She told me once that my design wouldn’t work “Oh no,” she said, “That will never work.” It ended up winning first place on a competition in which she was not a judge. It was a poster for the University itself, an Earth Day poster. She didn’t believe in A’s.
Oh well, she gave me a B+ and after that I never worried about my grade point average again. It was just a grade after all. I still had art, and creativity. All she had was the control over giving out a B+ to those who deserved an A. I bet I was happier.
I remember it exactly. The night sky was cobalt with black, sparks of white stars in the form of the Milky Way creating a subtle light bright enough to see the sparkling ultramarine blue river in the night. Lapis Lazuli, azure, blue. I could taste the blue in the night desert. I remember it exactly.
My learning style is visual. Show me an address written out and I’ll recite it perfectly from memory. Tell me that same address and two seconds later I can’t repeat it at all. Visual. My learning style is visual.
In art class they teach you to draw what you see, not what you THINK you see. Is the glass round, look again, it’s an oval. Is the light reflected white, no it’s green because of the tree outside the window that is really creating the reflection. The candle flame is white not orange, and the water is green because of the yellow algae growing in the water mixed with the reflecting blue sky – yellow and blue make green. Paint what you see, not what you think you see. I learn visually.
Learning style. I remember it perfectly. The house was built in 1868 and was one of the first houses to have wood floors. Presidents and other notables were entertained there. Today it’s a western art museum. The walls were thick and white washed with lime so many time the window seal had no edge. The window was weather worn and blue painted wood. Against the ancient adobe wall of white it was beautiful, simple, clean. I did two paintings: a small watercolor study, and a large oil painting. The watercolor sold before the show even opened, the oil an hour later. The gallery wanted me to paint more like it so I painted the blue door a month later.
The blue window. I remember it perfectly. The blue window in the Fish House in Tucson Arizona. It was built in 1868 and was owned by Edward Nye Fish. I learn visually.
I used to work in the financial fields and everyday longed to be artistic, to stretch my creative sensibilities and draw, or paint. At one point, after I received my stockbrokers license, at night I began drawing wild animals from Africa and took them into the office and sold them to brokers who wanted to fill their walls with original art (are any of you still out there?). I drew a gnomes when they were popular, I drew zebras, lions, giraffes, and I even drew a poor orphan from Cuba who had been left by her family in a compound in Miami.
But it wasn’t until I met a man who believed in my talents and believed in me that I took the leap with his encouragement and left the financial markets, and took an art class. I was so nervous. I was certain all those kids who were in class with me had much more talent that I. I was certain there was a club they belonged to that was the ‘smart artistic’ club, and that was why they were in college full time with art majors. So the first assignment in my first illustration class was to draw a castle. Well. I wanted to excel. I wanted to blow everyone out of the water and do the best castle! But mostly I wanted to overcome my horrible fear every time there was a critique from the teacher and students. I wanted to prove to myself that I was good enough to be an artist. WAS I?
I stayed up days, working long hours and slaved over this piece. At 2:00 am the night before it was due, I had a magnifying glass, a fine point pen and stippled the shadows on the skyscrapers certain I’d just get a C or something. Isn’t that awful? I was so insecure.
This piece received an A+ to my surprise. It gave me the confidence, with the encouragement of my teacher, to apply for a full scholarship – which I won. I left my financial job and went to college to study art. It was one of the most amazing times in my life to work along side so many talented, young artists who believed in the right and joy to be creative, and find a way to make a living at it. Message? Don’t give up on your dream. You never know when it might come true.
The sweet taste of a pear has driven the need to do this painting. I was shopping and saw three different color pears and realized I’d never tasted the red or green pear. So I bought all three thinking I’d try the different flavors. When I got home I set the three pears on my kitchen counter, which is a simple cream color, and they looked so beautiful I decided to paint them.
You are looking at the canvas already painted with the background, but I wasn’t sure what size I wanted to paint the pears, or where I wanted to place them on the canvas, so I’ve sketched them different sizes and this is the one that won. Stay tuned for the finished painting coming soon I hope.
Being a Painter
Being a painter isn’t always about confidence. I know I have talent, but I don’t always know at all that I’m good. And I think that’s ok because it pushes me to reach, and keeps me humble. I was talking with a good friend about her art, which I think is really good. Turns out she’s really uncertain and trying to be better also – although she has fans where I have none. She paints beautiful little paintings that are highly technical, and perfectly executed. Surprisingly she’s just like me, she wants to paint loose and let go of the ‘high technical’ essence.
Picasso was a highly technical genius. He did a painting of dead rabbits in art school very early in his life and won an award. He then decided to take the art to the expressive side – what do I feel when I look at this and how can I express that. I once painted a piece called “Fear of Understanding Picasso” because I thought if I understood his work and started to paint like he did, there would be fewer people relating to my work. I couldn’t decide if that was good or bad, so I just had the fear of ever getting to a place where I’d have to decide to take it to that kind of space in my head. That piece ended up winning first place in a show, and I remember standing to the side listening to people who would stop, look at the painting and then make comments. “This isn’t even art. I could do this.” was one comment. And immediately after they left, a couple came by. The woman said “This is the only real piece of art here.” I laughed and cried all at the same time. I hadn’t realized that I had arrived in the ‘Picasso Place’ without even knowing. I was shocked that it won. It was a piece that was deep seated in fear, and it won!
So today I’m trying to find that middle ground; paintings that are expressive but still art that many can relate and connect with. Loose and pushing the color to be more of a celebration of the scene. Not everyone understands that, but hey, I believe in it…. just like I believed in the ‘Fear of Understanding Picasso’.
The subject of this series of paintings is the collective syllables of the Sanskrit mantra “Om Mani Padme Hum”. Each painting is one of the six syllables making up the mantra. These beautiful sacred shapes are an artistic representation of the written sanskrit text from Tibet (in black and white below).
This six syllable mantra is associated with Chenrezig who is the Buddha of great compassion. You can learn more by visiting KPC – 18400 River Road, Poolesville MD, or visit them on the web at www.tara.org.
“When you say the first syllable ‘Om’ it is blessed to help you achieve perfection in the practice of generosity, ‘Ma’ helps perfect the practice of our ethics, and ‘Ni’ helps achieve perfection in the practice of tolerance and patience. ‘Pä,’ the fourth syllable, helps to achieve perfection of perseverance, ‘Me’ helps achieve perfection in the practice of concentration, and the final sixth syllable ‘Hum’ helps achieve perfection in the practice of wisdom.” by Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche
Paintings are for sale and all proceeds benefit the Tibetan Buddhist temple of Kunzang Palyul Choling who is in the process of renovation.
Here is the Dine Spring from the other side of the road from the painting featured (visit Dine’ Spring in the portfolio). Again, this is a winter scene, but not snow. It’s the desert in winter: beautiful taupes, tans and a brilliant blue sky reflected in the water. Off in the distance you can see the Chinle’ or the Painted Desert rising out of the vast plains of the Navajo Reservation. Really beautiful place to paint because it’s so quiet and peaceful. Great place to meditate.
The desert has a kind of quiet that is like no other. The first time I went out onto the reservation after living years in Dallas Texas I had something called “Sedatephobia”, fear of silence. It’s an odd disorder that usually comes up when someone is used to noise around them, and suddenly finds themselves in places that have no sound. It’s very scary. Anyway, I’m now over that since I’ve learned to meditate. After become a Tibetan Buddhist I lost a lot of fear I used to have, that was one.
The best part of the rez is once your there, and you settle down and stop looking for a tv, and your phone has no reception, and the car radio is spotty, it’s time to be alone with yourself. That’s when you start learning more about being centered, and being in the zone to paint. Really wonderful.
Still looking for this in Maryland. Any suggestions?
First, know that I’ve never faced this dilemma, but I have had friends who did. I remember their consternation, and for one, her guilt and sadness that never left her. I will also say that I used to believe that abortion should be the decision for each person. But now as a Buddhist I’ve taken a vow to not willingly ever take a life. So there is no decision for me ever. Well, I’m to old now, but still. As a Buddhist we believe every life is precious. No exceptions. Even that pesky fly, or a deadly snake. Our practice shows us that even the snake is just trying to be happy, trying to protect itself, or get away. Have compassion. So I do have compassion, a lot of compassion, for those who have to make this kind of decision.
I did the illustration for an article on abortion, and wanted to show it beautifully in some way. Express the beauty of motherhood, and the puzzle of the child being a part of the mother, no matter where the baby is, or goes, it’s always a piece of the mother. That’s hard for everyone. That difficult confusion is illustrated in the many circles in the background, the mind going around and around. She looks stiff, and cold on a metal table, but her head, her neck is beautiful, almost virgin. I hope I conveyed what was needed and that it touched others who viewed it.
So I started this blog because there is this really cool art gallery in Frederick, Maryland. If you haven’t been to Frederick in a while, take a weekend and check it out. It’s really getting progressively cool. I’m about to send an application to get into the gallery. The website is important.
So the art gallery is The Art Gallery (not kidding) or TAG. I’m about to submit my work, but….. here is the rub as Shakespeare would say… I haven’t painted in 10 years and have only just started painting a new body of work. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s like riding a bike. It’s not. If you have the talent, and the education, well that should be enough. It isn’t. You have to implement every trick in the bag: get in the zone, do meditation, take medication, drink, study others artwork, get angry, cry, and then paint. Ok, kinda kidding, but not really kidding.
So I’ve cried this morning because I’m not so confident I can get the mojo back, but that’s just me. All that see the paintings are so encouraging. So… I’ll just keep going and trust it will all come back after I just get on the damn bike and ride it like I know what I’m doing.