"Jen" - mixed media on aquabord, 9"x12" Ready to frame, or can be leaned upon a shelf. Available on Artfinder.
"Ida" - mixed media on aquabord, 16"x20". Ready to frame, or can be leaned upon a shelf. Available on Artfinder.
INSPECTOR END OF FILM : Move along. There's nothing to see! Keep moving!
(Suddenly he notices the cameras. As the black maria drives away QUICK SHOT through window of all the KNIGHTS huddled inside.)
INSPECTOR END OF FILM (to Camera) :All right, put that away sonny.
(He walks over to it and puts his hand over the lens. The film runs out through the gate and the projector shines on the screen.)
- from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, end of film.
The credits are rolling and the house lights are up. Our movie has come to an end. Arthur and his noble knights have been arrested and bundled off in a police car for causing a ruckus. Another brilliant blurring of the lines of time and space. Maybe we should post bail?
The last day, so a two-fer for your pleasure. As is my custom, a self portrait of a bleary-eyed-from-lack-of-sleep me, and another of the finally finished girls from this week's demo. Ida was my great-grandmother's name. I never knew her, but I heard tales she was a sweetie.
My studio is a royal mess. There’s been no time to neaten the paints, thoroughly clean the brushes or sweep the floor. New characters are chattering and jostling for position on the walls and fighting over who gets to be framed first. And I’m pretty sure one of the rabbits has begun eating the gesso. But this is what the end of a marathon looks like, and once again I am really thrilled to have done it.
It makes me wonder though…if we can do THIS as artists (30 paintings in 30 days), what more could we do? Could we have an extreme paint-off, Project Runway style? Give artists one day and some unconventional materials and pit them against each other reality t.v. show style? Give them $100 and 30 minutes to shop at Jerry’s Artarama and then tell them to “make it work”? Who would be our Tim Gunn? I am totally game for this. We just need a venue and a sponsor. :)
Clearly, the lack of sleep is making me loopy.
But there is this: by stretching beyond what we think we can do, our self-confidence, bravery and willingness to try grows exponentially. The prize here is the amount of artistic growth that can be crammed into one month - and it belongs to us forever. No one can take away this trophy. It’s a forever win.
The most incredible part of 30 in 30 is, as always (which leaves me grinning and grateful) your participation in this journey, dear reader! Your encouragement and laughter, your shared stories and tears, your willingness to spend part of your precious time each day following this adventure. Thank you, thank you. There is an exquisite joy in being surrounded by tribe. Even if we are all banging coconuts together.
INSPECTOR END OF FILM: Now go on, there is nothing more to see here!
Right now, for example, it might seem like a lot of things aren’t working very well in our government. But this week I had the delight of seeing the other side of the federal government at work when I attended the Sammy Awards in Washington, DC.
I thought this trip would be all about celebrating my sister’s nomination for her work with mosses and in uncovering hot spots of pollution in cities. And to be sure, we spent a LOT of time celebrating (including a clandestine acquisition of a souvenir cutlery set for someone special). What I didn’t expect was to find myself feeling excited and proud of what goes on behind the scenes in government.
Here are some of the other every day heroes who were recognized at this event:
I’ll leave you with this thought, direct from the lovely gala program:
We get in the habit of speaking of the government as if it were something apart from us. The government is us—we are the government, you and I.
President Theodore Roosevelt.
Learn more about the Partnership for Public Service and the Sammy Awards at ourpublicservice.org.
"Mona" - mixed media on aquabord, 20" x 16". Ready to frame, or can be leaned upon a shelf. Available on Artfinder.
KEEPER: Heh heh. Stop! What is your name?
ARTHUR: It is Arthur, King of the Britons. KEEPER: What is your quest?
ARTHUR: To seek the Holy Grail.
KEEPER: What is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?
ARTHUR: What do you mean? An African or European swallow?
KEEPER: What? I don't know that! Auuuuuuuugh!
BEDEMIR: How do know so much about swallows?
ARTHUR: Well, you have to know these things when you're a king you know.
-from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Scene 35
Good King Arthur is nearing the end of his trials and tribulations, having outwitted the bridge keeper with his vast knowledge. Turn about is fair play, I say.
Do you ever think about the wealth of knowledge stuffed into your brain? Goodness, I can sing a jingle from 40 years ago without thinking twice. But I can't remember if I turned off the lights when I leave the house. I wonder what criteria the mind uses to decide what information is important to store, and what gets tossed off the bridge, so to speak. Perhaps I should sing-song things as I am doing them, in hopes I might recall them later. Thank goodness for notebooks and lists.
And spreadsheets. Oh how I love a good spreadsheet! Especially now that the "season" in Florida is underway. There are eleven simultaneous shows over the next two months. Bits of malarkey strewn about the area willy nilly hanging on walls. But I have to keep track of who is where, otherwise my little painting will be the lonely one when mama doesn't show up in the carpool line on pick-up day. Which has happened before. There is nothing like getting a phone call asking when you will be arriving to pick up your art. And me responding "what art?" Oy vey!
This little love, Mona, was begun during the whimsical demo. She was named by an audience member after she refused to go into the storage bag with all the other paintings. In fairness to her, the dress was still wet with glue. But another bossy girl ruling the studio is the last thing I need. :)
"Latishia" - mixed media on aquabord, 20"x16". Ready to frame, or can be leaned upon a shelf. Available on Artfinder.
MAYNARD: It's the legendary Black Beast of aaauuugh!
ARTHUR: Run away! ALL: Run away! Run away! [roar]
NARRATOR: As the horrendous Black Beast lunged forward, escape for Arthur and his knights seemed hopeless. When, suddenly, the animator suffered a fatal heart attack. [ulk] The cartoon peril was no more. The Quest for the Holy Grail could continue.
- from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Scene 34
Another brilliant scene in which the line between the fiction and the movie crew is blurred.
Which is something I really like to see in art as well. I want to know how someone made magic on canvas. It doesn't change the magic for me. It might even make it better. Because even though that person can do it, it might be a while (if ever) before I could. I am beginning now to sign up for some challenging classes in the new year, focusing on artists who seem magical and will make me stretch. It is months away, but I am already excited. This past winter's Stan Kurth workshop altered my process in a million ways.
This piece, which will be followed by others over the next few days, was part of mixed media demo I was delighted to present earlier in the week. It's a cooking show format, so many pieces are "half-baked" to move the process along. This one is a sassy girl, full of attitude and strength. She insisted on having two ducks, instead of the one songbird all the others had. So bossy, this one! One of the audience members named her, and I think it suits her perfectly.
Only three days left in this marathon of malarkey. I am going to miss Arthur and his noble knights.
"Lydia" - mixed media on reclaimed wood, 15" x 6". Ready to hang. Available on Artfinder.
KNIGHT: There! Look!
LAUNCELOT: What does it say?
GALAHAD: What language is that?
ARTHUR: Brother Maynard, you're our scholar!
MAYNARD: It's Aramaic! GALAHAD: Of course! Joseph of Aramathea!
KNIGHT: What does it say?
MAYNARD: It reads, 'Here may be found the last words of Joseph of Aramathea. He who is valiant and pure of spirit may find the Holy Grail in the Castle of uuggggggh'.
MAYNARD: '... the Castle of uuggggggh'.
BEDEMIR: What is that?
MAYNARD: He must have died while carving it.
LAUNCELOT: Oh, come on!
MAYNARD: Well, that's what it says.
ARTHUR: Look, if he was dying, he wouldn't bother to carve 'aaggggh'. He'd just say it!
-from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Scene 34
It may be my sense of humor is odd, but I find this scene simply brilliant. It tickles my funny bone in just the right spot.
But let's talk about this little piece of whimsy, which was inspired by a photo shared by a fellow artist. Apparently there are some very interesting things you can do with photos on snapchat, and her granddaughter had done just that. The ENORMOUS round glasses made me giggle, and so I had to put some on a girl. And then named her after my own granddaughter, who may just wear glasses some day.
I have worn spectacles since I was seven years old. And truly, I can hardly see without them. Before cell phones, buying glasses each year was a complete crap shoot. Because I would put on the frames, smash my nose against the mirror and still have no clue how I looked in them. Now I can take a selfie, put my real glasses on and examine the photo before deciding.
Sometimes my exaggerated imagination wonders if I would have been cast out by my tribe if we lived in primitive times. What a liability I would be! Stumbling into trees, grabbing scorpions instead of shrimp, sleeping in poison ivy. Oh, who am I kidding? I would have walked off a cliff before I was old enough to be a burden! Ha!
Well, at least I live in modern times, where glasses are available, sometimes make people look scholarly, and generally prevent daily accidents from occurring. Perhaps Arthur's scholar, Maynard, might have been a smarter dude with glasses?
"Following the Moses Voice" - mixed media on board, 16" x 20". Available on Artfinder.
LAUNCELOT: Ask me the questions, bridge-keeper. I'm not afraid.
KEEPER: What is your name?
LAUNCELOT: My name is Sir Launcelot of Camelot.
KEEPER: What is your quest?
LANCELET: To seek the Holy Grail.
KEEPER: What is your favorite color?
KEEPER: Right. Off you go.
LAUNCELOT: Oh, thank you. Thank you very much
ROBIN: That's easy!
- from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Scene 35
The bridge keeper asks the brave knights three questions each. One of them fails to be certain about his own favorite color and is tossed off the bridge to his death. Thank goodness this isn't a real test, because I would fail!
I am fickle about color, often changing my favorite. Likely because I launch myself into one like a pig at the trough until I've had too much and then can't stand it for awhile. The same with music, book genres, food. Now I will come back to things again eventually, but not until I've had a long break. And this is why I have no tattoos. Thank goodness for the ability to change our minds. And our hairstyles. And our paint media.
This piece is a huge departure for me. Let's start with the substrate - a type of wet media board which handles quite a bit of liquid without warping. It isn't as tough as aquabord, but it's a lot less expensive. Next is the surface treatment. I just picked up some Daniel Smith gold watercolor grounds and wanted to try them on top of black gesso. I was pleased at the shimmery bling it gave while accepting watercolor on top of it. It might be my new favorite toy. I think it makes everything fancier. And lastly there are some mica-based iridescent watercolors in there. I don't think they stood up to the dark color palette and really got lost, but I was intrigued with them and will bring them back out on a more subtle piece, maybe over white grounds instead.
And finally the inspiration and title...from another chapter of Seven Thousand Ways to Listen, this one comparing our "Moses Voice" in our heads (the one that bravely tries new things and embraces change) with our "Hamlet Voice" (the one that talks us out of changing our ways or trying anything different). It is so tempting during 30 in 30 to stick to predictable mediums and styles to save time and have a reliable outcome. But I listened to the Moses Voice and went for it. Truly delighted that I did. I'm going to kick that Hamlet to the curb. :)
"Imperialistic Dogma" - mixed media on paper, 18" x 12". Ready to frame. Inquiries.
DENNIS: What I object to is you automatically treat me like an inferior!
ARTHUR: Well, I AM king...
DENNIS: Oh king, eh, very nice. An' how'd you get that, eh? By exploitin' the workers -- by 'angin' on to outdated imperialist dogma which perpetuates the economic an' social differences in our society!
- from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Scene 2
This is what happens when I clean out the ephemera section of the studio. Bit of paper in heaps and piles, tiny piles of interesting colors, little scraps that ought to be trash. A page of Mayan masks. A quick sketch and some watercolor just for fun. Then obsessive tearing of paper and gluing it down until hours and hours have passed and *poof* there is this crazed, toothy Mayan king and the piles of paper have not really gotten any smaller. Sigh. Eventually, I did whittle it down to a manageable bin-full.
I like to organize. And I confess to doing it to avoid real work. Bills need paying? Organize a drawer. Ironing piling up? Take everything out the closet and spend the rest of the day putting it back. Gutters need cleaning? Categorize your books by subject matter. I see a theme here.
Organizing is also something I can do when I can't paint. If I'm too tired, unmotivated, cranky or whatever to actually make art, I can still get things in tip-top shape for when I am ready once more. Sometimes I will just gesso boards and leave them out to dry, where they will whisper to me on another day. Other times I will purge old drawings and cut them into bits and pieces for collage materials. On a really bad dad, I'll scrape paint off the floor. But to me it all counts as part of the process. It keeps me in the studio, putting in my time, waiting for the muse to stomp in and demand attention.
And now I am off to paint. Or maybe alphabetize my art books.
"The Soft Whisper of Winter" - mixed media on canvas paper, 16" x 20". Ready to frame. Available on Artfinder.
ARTHUR: Knights! Forward!
[boom boom boom boom BOOM boom boom boom boom]
What manner of man are you that can summon up fire without flint or tinder?
TIM: I... am an enchanter.
ARTHUR: By what name are you known?
TIM: There are some who call me... Tim?
-from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Scene 3
What might happen if we look in the mirror each morning and say "I...am an enchanter" - would flames shoot from our fingertips? Would potato chips savored in the mouth become like kale in the belly? I've been pondering the power of the mind (a theme I often return to in, well, my mind) and the limitations we place on ourselves with our self-labeled descriptions. Our minds don't hesitate to call us names (softly, sneakily whispering words like ugly, boring, fat, shapeless, failure, victim, powerless, unlovable or whatever your own subconscious' cup of tea might be. And we KNOW these things aren't true, yet we listen...
What if, just for a moment, we replaced these outrageously negative labels with equally outrageously positive ones? This is my mental math at work - let's balance the scales and make things even-steven. What if we shouted back things like outrageously resilient, courageous, stupendously gifted, terrifyingly powerful, compassionate, love bomber, hug maker, word whisperer, paint wizard...well, you get the idea. Just typing the words made me smile. What if I SAID THEM? oooooh no, first thought is people will think I am full of myself.
Second thought is so what? Shouldn't we be full of ourselves? Our biggest advocates? Our greatest super fans? Our tenderest lovers? There is a divine child inside of each of us, perfectly formed and deserving of every tender word and thought. And maybe she wants pancakes for breakfast, but more likely she just wants to feel cherished by us.
I'd love to know, sweet reader, what is the most exquisite compliment you can give yourself. Let's help each other build a vocabulary of self-adoration.
Is it fall already? A little glimpse of golden and amber trees in Cleveland this week, a little morning chill there. Fall is my favorite season. I miss it in the land of eternal summer. Is there a company that will send you seasonal treats? Like a box of red and yellow leaves, freshly fallen from towering trees, a snowball or two in the winter, tender lettuce shoots in the spring and beach sand in the summer.
My dad passed away in the spring. An entire season has come and gone now. It hardly seems possible. Somehow it feels disrespectful when time continues to move forward while we're grieving. Shouldn't there be a pause button? And yet the river of time flowing onward encourages me to also move on.
I was struck by another quote from Seven Thousand Ways to Listen this morning. "I know there is no place to go with your grief other than to feel it and ride it like a raft until that rough sea brings you to a strange, familiar shore that is both where you have been and entirely new." The changing of seasons is that - both something I have experienced and also something new. As the calendar pages turn, I feel the raft gently bumping the shore. My ears perk up, listening for something new, curious to find out what is beyond the rough seas.
“The Bridge Inspector” - mixed media on reclaimed wood. NFS
CROWD: Get on with it!
NARRATOR: Oh, anyway, on to scene twenty-four, which is a smashing scene with some lovely acting, in which Arthur discovers a vital clue, in which there aren't any swallows, although I think you can hear a starling -oolp!
- from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Narrative Interlude Two
(The lights have flickered and the movie reel is running, so let’s grab our seats and see what’s next with King Arthur and the odd knights of Camelot...)
Artist’s dates. Those lovely excuses to go out and play. Thank you, Julian Cameron, for coining the phrase and for assigning these playdates as necessary. Because most of us do not, will not take time to do something for the pure joy of it unless we’re told it is a task we must complete. Why is that?
What does play do for us? As an artist, it gives me new inspiration, a relaxed mind to better approach creativity, a fresh perspective. As a human, it gets me out of ruts, routines, rigidity and makes me go with the flow. Even if that flow is cancelled flights, unannounced gate changes and contractors quitting on the job. A little time away helps me see each of these as an opportunity for something new to happen.
Don’t get me wrong. Routines are good. Showing up day after day, putting in the hours and effort - this all pays off. It is not to be abandoned! But to be stepped away from now and again. If you are at all like me, the more you settle in to a routine, the more you expect things to go as planned. And it is that expectation that sets the stage for frustration and for missing the opportunity in the flow. So get thee away on an artist's date.
And now to this piece of art, The Bridge Inspector. It is painted on a piece of wood salvaged from my dad's garage after his passing. The paper bits are from old letters found in his files, including one to my grandfather, Pano (which was misspelled in the letter) and some old bank statements. This character’s shirt is created from my dad's college architectural drawings. The pants are from his college dictionary. And the background, a deep red, from the paint in his studio. The first painting created from the pile of aging artifacts which didn’t make the box of sentimental things (I say box, but it’s truly more like a footlocker) but are too delightful to send to the recycling bin.
Now for your viewing pleasure, a little clip of the wild and crazy guy I got to see this past weekend - he's my favorite honky.
Jen Walls and her imaJENation