Sunday, August 28, 2011

A Little Celestial Guidance

Right before Mary began college, we were out at Clover Slope for a final hurrah. It was prime time for the Perseid Meteor Shower, so in the middle of the night, Mary and I took beach towels down to the dock to see what we could see.  The view straight up was great, being at the edge of the lake. Before long we began to see shooting stars. It was very gratifying and I was satisfied, but Mary wanted to stay longer.  I am glad we did. A most spectacular meteor streaked the sky.  It was huge and scarily bright.  Looking back, I realize that this meteor foretold that the next four years would be brilliant and fleeting.

     I doubt that meteoric vision will be topped. My experience with Perseids has been spotty since then.  This year, I was actually up early (the best time for viewing is right before dawn) as Mary was flying to Chicago to apply for a visa to work in France this coming academic year.  The moon was waxing and fairly bright, and I was in the backyard in Lexington.  I could just barely see any stars, and I did not see and shooting ones.

     Last year during Perseid season, Mary had already headed back to Houston because she was the president of her residential college and would be helping to greet incoming Freshmen for orientation.  I was out at Clover Slope alone and was not as motivated to get up and get out to experience the greater universe. Finally, I did get roust myself out of bed, put on clogs and a robe and went outside. Just outside the doors, on the deck (I was being a scaredy cat) I could see stars fairly clearly, so I craned my neck for about 10 minutes and saw nothing but twinkling stars.  I was thinking about heading back inside. However, as I had made the effort to get up I decided it was worth it to walk a few steps off of the deck. I am not sure what made the huge difference: was it simply the view or the change in light from security lamps, or just chance? When I looked up from this slightly different vantage point, I saw three meteors in just a few minutes.  Here is what I learned from this.  No. 1: Take the next little step and be rewarded.  No. 2: It doesn't take much and it is not that hard. No. 3: Don't be afraid.

     Fortunately, I wrote this down, or else I would not have remembered it. Last night, I could not sleep and I was worrying about all the things one worries about in the middle of the night.  I happened to read what I had written a year ago. It was just what I needed to see. What I learned a year ago is not terribly profound or new. It is simply true. I learned it after the fact, not before. So often, we think we need to make dramatic changes or we are paralyzed with fear. It turns out, that the solution is much smaller than we think and not very scary; not even difficult.  And the results are beautiful!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

It's a Wrap...the Art of Carnico Show

Sue's centerpiece and Ottis's heron
 There were fishing lures on steroids, a casino, driftwood whale and a canoe out front; so early on you were tipped off that this was not your typical art show.  We knew this would be true even before the paintings and gourds and license plate birdhouses showed up.  This was Brad's brainchild after all!

     Brad was there when Sue gathered bushels and buckets of wildflowers from around Carnico for a spectacular centerpiece that greeted the lucky visitors. It was Brad's idea to have a collection of rustic items that would transport you right to a lakeside paradise. It worked!

Paintings by (left to right)  myself, Diane, Louise and Derek

The paintings were glorious, too; Carnico in all seasons.  There were half a dozen sunset paintings, to be expected, since that is one of the most wonderful times to be on Lake Carnico.When I first laid eyes on Ottis's heron, I was smitten.  Ottis is an artistic wonder all by himself! We had to pinch ourselves that not only did we have a beautiful show, but it was about a real place.  We fell in love once again with this treasure nestled in the gentle hills of Nicholas County, Kentucky. There were images of Carnico early in its development and even the beginnings of the excavation. A photo of Clover Court before the existence of the A-frame which became our wonderful lake home was of special interest to me. So this was a true celebration of a place.

A bank of early photos of Carnico
It was not just the art, craft and artifacts that made this such a wondrous exhibit, but the fact that so many folks of area are terrific, curious and adventuresome artists and crafters. Perhaps that is the best thing about this event: knowing that there is a wealth of creative people nestled in those gentle hills of the outer Bluegrass.

Carnico Charlie stands guard between Carol and Juanita's paintings

Monday, August 22, 2011

Considering Klee

Self Portrait by Paul Klee, 1911 (Source Image

  I'm preparing to teach a second session of my class Experimenting with Watercolor and Pastel  and my study of Paul Klee (1879-1940) this summer has been surprisingly instructive. Unlike many of my peers, I was not smitten with Klee in my younger life. My husband, however, treasured his poster of Sinbad the Sailor by Klee. Mary-Louise just happened to have a charming out-of-print book with lovely reproductions of Klee's work throughout his life. My friend, Meg, an art librarian and expert, is a big fan of Klee.  She made a special trip to see the major exhibit of his work in Cleveland back in the 90s.  Meg supplied me with the catalog of that exhibit and two more books filled with Klee imagery (I am working on a project, which I will write about later). A new book came into the University of Kentucky Little Fine Arts Library, and Meg brought it to me to investigate.  Paul Klee: Life and Work by Boris Friedewald reads like 1001 Arabian Nights (which Klee is actually influenced by). It was hard to stop reading and go to sleep.  From the beginning Klee is a determined person. As a teenager, he paints the bricks outside his house with colorful and varied images.  When Klee goes off to the Academy in Munich, his father takes out a second mortgage to pay for the schooling. This would put a lot of pressure on someone like myself to succeed and get on with my studies, but Klee is not particularly taken with his instructors and heeds his own direction. He considers himself a "self-apprentice."

      In 1906, after a long engagement, Klee marries Lily Stumpf, a noted Munich pianist. The next year, their only child, Felix is born. This is where it gets interesting for me.  Klee becomes a Stay-at-Home Dad and tends to the rearing of Felix and all the cooking (this, in the first decade of the twentieth century!) while Lily teaches piano students for ten hours a day.  Klee does not stop his artistic education, he continues it through the daily activities of parenting and domesticity. Klee would take Felix on walks through the city in search of motifs; and the views outside his windows were a rich influence. This "hermitage" allows Klee to establish his own path, and yet, living in Munich, he has access to the work of all the great artists of the time (and this was a revolutionary time in art).  For example, as Klee struggles with color, he finds the work of Robert Delaunay provides a way to step into color in his art. All through his life, Klee finds inspiration in other artists' work, while keeping true to his own vision. 

      From his self-apprenticeship through his hermitage, Klee develops to such a degree that he is invited to be a Bauhaus Master.  The Bauhaus was pioneered by Walter Gropius and there was much discussion on the approach that the institution should take. Gropius wanted to link artistic pursuit with the artisinal more so than the academic. Klee had long wanted to teach and now had his opportunity to develop his own ideas of pedagogy.

      It is this confidence in his own vision and that draws me to Klee. He held fast to his ideas in obscurity and in fame and even in infamy. After he had achieved much acclaim internationally, he was faced with a society under the influence of the National Socialists. His work was considered degenerate. Still, Klee stood firmly, speaking his truth and continuing to create work following his vision.  In fact, in his last, very stressful years, Klee was more prolific than ever. 

      This is just a pinky-nail sketch of Klee, but he gives me a great illustration for expressing my goals in teaching students at the Lexington Art Academy.  To me, it is a given that my students will bring decades of seeing the world with them to class.  They know what they want to see, what their preferences are. It is good to think for one's self!  My goal is to help students train their eyes and their hands to create what they want to create.  Klee was able to do this in his tiny Munich apartment and we can, too.

     A new session of Experimenting with Watercolor and Pastel will start on Thursday, September 1, 2011, 7-9 pm at the Lexington Art Academy (despite what the website might currently list for the dates).  I hope you can join us.  We will work together on training our eyes and hands!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Introducing Four Leaf Studio

This has been a summer of facing realities.  There seems to be a collective understanding of limits. This is mostly positive. In my case, it involves the handing over of the expansion torch to the next generation. I'm ready for consolidation and letting go of the superfluous. The confluence of realizing that I would not ever be spending more than a couple of days a week at Clover Slope and Jacob becoming engaged created the opportunity for me to re purpose Jacob's room into a studio.  So after an editing job on Jacob's remaining possessions and painting the walls a neutral gray, David and I moved studio furniture and materials.  Amazingly, we were able to do this without a truck and with just the two of us!
     I will still have a small studio space at Clover Slope and more importantly, I will keep a place that is my major source of inspiration.   And, I'll be able to work every day of the week and at all hours! 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

An New View along the Artist Trace

Professor Dongfeng Li paints Ken Macht
 Several days this week, I've headed over to Banana Tree Studios in Flemingsburg, KY to learn something new. En route, I had the benefit of the marvelous scenery, driving through the beautiful Licking River valley and into Flemingsburg with the Appalachian foothills in the distance.  I was accompanied by the excellent Morehead State Public Radio, and the timing was such that I heard The Front Page program coming and going. So, if I don't know how to Turbo Charge my metabolism, it is my fault alone!

But these were all side benefits.  The main purpose of the commute was to learn something new about watercolors and portrait painting from Dongfeng Li.  Kathy Macht, who along with husband Ken, created Banana Tree Studios, took a drawing class with professor Li at Morehead State University. When I saw Kathy in the spring, she was glowing with enthusiasm for what she is learning. I was anxious to take on a little glow for myself and I always enjoy seeing how others approach their art. We were not a large group of students, but a very lucky one. There were more than a few gasps as Li would hurl paint on the paper with abandon, and often a great deal of green! Ken's ear was formed with a single quick swipe of paint. It always seemed as though the paint was way too dark and that this time Li had gone too far. But amazingly, the paint would dry and the image would come together as if by magic.  There were several points that were particularly helpful for me.  One was the concept of Lost and Found areas, sharp edges and soft edges. Another was to remember the roundness of the head.  I have a tendency to paint under the influence of my fashion illustration training; which seems rather flat in comparison. And, it was clear from Li's approach, that he had the whole picture in mind all the time.  He knew that there would be many layers and how the paint would dry, and that a dark color would be joined by many intermediary colors ("Keep changing your color!") Another thing that struck me about Li's work was that he seemed to be brutally honest while painting.  You almost worried that his subject would be offended.  And yet, when the piece was completed, you were astounded by the beauty; grateful, that someone could see such beauty in other people.


My French model
So, once again, I have enjoyed the riches along the Artist Trace.  Thanks to Kathy Macht for coming up with the idea and sharing her inspiring space with us. Professor Li has a contagious enthusiasm, which makes you want to celebrate everyone.  I was painting from a photograph I had taken in France, of a tour guide and I praised the beautiful French women who have a certain, je ne sais quoi. Li, said that he prefers the American women, because they are full of variety, from many places; not so pure. What a breath of fresh air! And that is what we find along the Artist Trace.