Art Is Not Happening While Life Makes Other Plans


Deconstructing Frank Lloyd Wright
18 x 24 acrylic, © 2016


A month ago, I was on my way to a September art show in San Diego.  I was on an art high – making plans, painting, designing a post card and all those ancillary tasks that come, happily, with showing one’s work.

Then life walked in the door and said, “Hold on there, honey.”

The month unfolded with nonstop health issues that I never expected.  Nothing life threatening, but painful and, at least temporarily, debilitating.  So instead of continuing my happy work getting ready for the show, I’ve had to do a lot of other things that have been a lot less joyous.  And the show has been postponed until October.

There are lessons from everything in life and, as I try to see the bright side of this one, I know that this extra month is giving me time to rethink what I’m putting in the show, to rethink the titles I’ve been coming up with, and well – to rethink the whole matter of my late-in-life art career.  I’m stretching a point to call it a “career,” of course, but since I’ve had to give up ice cream, I’m holding on to anything that gives me the smallest pleasure.  Indulge me.

Last night during one of my middle-of-the-night sleepless in San Diego moments, I read an article in Forbes Magazine of all places about the ability of art and artists to teach marketing people a few new tricks.  The things that struck me most in the article were the reminders that (a) creativity is about emotion and connection, (b) citations (aka stealing) are part of it – jazz musicians know this and “quote” each other endlessly, (c) paradox, contradiction and deconstruction are part of all new and interesting art.

There’s more – see the link below.

But for me, the bottom line of the message is to have more fun and get back to the “what the hell” attitude that’s informed much of my life.  I’m already thinking of the new titles for the pieces which will, I can assure you, not be “Untitled” or “Study in Yellow No.  5.”

I’ll be conferring instead with the late Lewis Thomas who once said that people are not binary things.  We are not limited to “Yes or no.”  We have “Yes, no, maybe and what the hell, let’s give it a try.”

Thank you, Lewis.  And thank you, Forbes.




Life on the Edge(s)


I’ve been working on edges this week.

In Walt Disney’s version of Alice in Wonderland, there’s a musical number, “Painting the Roses Red,” in which the minions of the Queen of Hearts are tasked with doing just that – painting the white roses red.

I’ve been humming that tune all week, adding my own words, “Painting the edges black.”  And doing just that to the pieces I’m preparing for the art show.  I’ve chosen not to frame the pieces, but finishing is required.  Hence, painting the edges black.  It’s not the same as working on a new piece, but there’s a nice Zen feel to it, the steady and slower work of carefully dipping my brush in the black paint, carefully applying that paint to the edge and nothing more.

While I work, my mind is on edges.  All kinds of edges.

A friend from New England once visited me in the wide wide West and was physically uncomfortable because it was “too big.”  He needed edges.  Edges. Definition. Boundaries.

In their wonderful book Art and Fear – my constant companion in the art-making world – author/artists David Bayles and Ted Orland speak of edges in a chapter titled “Metaphor.”

  “Sooner or later…every visual artist notices the relationship of the line to the picture’s edge. Before that moment the relationship does not exist; afterwards it’s impossible to imagine it not existing. And from that moment on every new line talks back and forth with the picture’s edge. People who have not yet made this small leap do not see the same picture as those who have — in fact, conceptually speaking, they do not even live in the same world.  Your work is the source for an uncountably large number of such relationships. And these relationships, in turn, are a primary source of the richness and complexity of your art.”

After I re-read that passage, I took another look at my paintings and – lo! – Bayles and Orland are quite right.  I saw something different about the work I’ve been doing.  I understand something different about the work I’ve been doing – and about myself as an artist.

Writers know that there’s often something in their work that they didn’t “intend,” but it’s there all the same and readers will sometimes remark on it.  It’s like a light going on for the writer.

It’s a great thing to begin to understand one’s own work.

The black edges still have to be done, but it’s the edges on the faces of the canvas that matter to me.    And I’m pretty sure I understand why.