What a nice surprise: I was invited to paint live for a few days in the atrium of the San Diego History Center, representing Noel-Baza Fine Art and their gallery there. Very flattering (and only a little panic-inducing!)
The San Diego History Center is in Balboa Park, near the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center. They are currently featuring all things Centennial: all about the great expo of 1915, for which our wonderful park was built. Part of that celebration is a show of artwork that appeared at that famous expo one hundred years ago, and a gallery run by Noel-Baza Fine Art of works by contemporary San Diego artists. Very grateful to be included in that, too.
There I was, painting away, enjoying the comings and goings of families and groups of school kids, old folks, art lovers, history buffs, kind volunteers and staff, and a huge gaggle of History Center new members being given a tour. Only managed to finish two little pieces, but got a good start on a third one. Fun to work so small after a couple of years of working large. (Wish I had been living large all that time, but we do what we can!)
Go check out the artwork; the current group of historical works will be switched out in July. The contemporary works are frequently changed out as well, so there’s regularly something new. Fun to see how old and new takes on San Diego have changed… and not.
Lately it has come home to me how isolated this making of art can be. Artists spend the vast majority of our time in our own heads, thinking, visualizing, designing, and imagining. Then there’s all the work hours alone in the studio with the radio. And all the computer hours spent blogging and posting and tweaking photos and nudzhing reluctant websites into life.
Sometimes I am surprised we do not all grow strange and inward, like some deep jungle vine that shuns light and other flora. But…
We don’t — because of our artist communities. Each of us has like-minded friends, totally un-like-minded friends, local and online fellow artists in our own media or completely different ones, who share our creative struggles and urges and “get” us. Thank goodness. If we didn’t, our poor spouses would lock us out of the house! Our artist discussions can be uplifting and consoling: priorities resettle, fears are allayed, motivation is restored— because often we get the tools we need to go on.
I happen to have had a few of these sessions recently, and boy howdy, they’re not necessarily easy, but they are thought-provoking and a source of strength. The very best therapy (besides just painting) that I know of.
I wonder if brick-layers and cosmetics clerks and university professors support each other like this? I know moms do; those meet-ups at the park while the young ‘uns ingest sand and run amok yield the same kind of note-comparing reassurance and encouragement—no, you’re not crazy, yes you’re way too focussed on the nonsense, yes you have most of it right except for that…
Thank you, thank you, my artist friends and acquaintances. I so appreciate your generosity and your willingness to share and speak up and be there for each other. I love your Facebook posts of your work and your comments encouraging each other; I love seeing your work in person and hearing your supporters rally; I love meeting you face-to-face and on the phone and sharing ideas and experiences. You make me smarter and happier.
Keep reaching out. This stuff’s important.
This hot-off-the-easel piece began life as one panel (the one on the right). It was finished, all done, finito. Signed, photographed, waiting to dry enough that hanging wire could be installed. And it just… well, it just…hmmm. Needed a little something-or-other.
So I made it a friend, a yang for its yin. I upped and turned it into a diptych (as they say in arty parlance). That spent, red lily leaf in the upper right, upturned and preparing to take the final dive, now has its visual complement with M. le Fish down there on Panel #2. And there’s another after-the-fact yin and yang impulse–I had finished the entire left panel, and…well, it just… needed a fish. I painted in said fish from photos I took at Portland’s justly famous Japanese garden. He was a beaut: silver white and sporting that Chinese-red yarmulke.
And there you have it.
You just never know: the much vaunted creative process turns out sometimes to be mere hole- plugging – punting – improvisation. (If you can figure out just what that…that something-or-other is that’s needed!)
So, since we were going to Portland OR, my daughter and I booked a tour at the Gamblin oil paint factory. I dearly love their website and use and recommend it often for ever so much good and reliable information about color, transparency, pigments, mediums, palettes, history, etc. etc. etc. They are very generous about sharing in-depth information (without ever spilling over into unintelligible, full-blown chemistry.) All my geeky tendencies get fed regularly there. I was ridiculously excited to go see how they do what they do.
Turns out is is a family business, run by personable folks in a tidy warehouse down by the river and the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. A very welcoming, kind fellow, Dave Bernard, met us at the door, and spent a happy hour with us. We shared all kinds of hugely opinionated (me), geeky views on color mixing and usage, and he showed us the whole process of making artists’ oil colors.
We started with stacks of sacks of deliciously colorful powdered pigments from all over the globe, labelled with bright finger smudges of color, and moved on through mixing, milling, testing, filling, labeling, and shipping. Ironically, the colors they were making while we were there were not ones I use–Manganese Purple, f’rinstance–but hey, it was fun to see it being combined with linseed oil in giant, culinary-looking mixers, expertly milled on rollers, getting its viscosity test, and passing into the tube-fill machine in rich, gooey globs, like some radiant grape jelly.
Thank you, Dave, and friends, for sharing your expertise and showing a couple of enthusiasts your fiefdom. I love squeezing out my palette every day and knowing where so much of it comes from, and how it got to me. (Even if I am never sure exactly how it will turn out on my canvas!)