Art, TEGWAR, and Sweet Songs in the Halls of Creation

“These Women in My Life”
Mixed media collage
24″ x 24,” Molly Larson Cook, 2015

“I don’t follow any system. All the laws you can lay down are only so many props to be cast aside when the hour of creation arrives.”  —Raoul Dufy

“Do what suits you…try to paint in the moment…
forget everything you have learned…”
–Jan van Oort

The words of these two painters are near and dear to my creative heart.

Dufy was a French Fauve painter who lived and worked at the end of the 19th century and through the first half of the 20th century.   In addition to being a painter, Dufy was a draftsman, printmaker, book illustrator, scenic designer, furniture designer and public planner.

van Oort is a contemporary Dutch abstract expressionist painter as well as an architect, composer,  jazz saxophone player, writer and advertising concept designer.

In other words, neither of these artists put all their creative eggs in one basket – or even two.   The word polymath comes to mind.

As I look at their short biographies, I begin to detect the great appeal both these artists have to me and why their advice which is essentially advice to break the rules resonates so strongly.

One of my favorite novels and without question my favorite movie is Bang the Drum Slowly. This is a story of baseball, rain and human understanding.  On off days or when it’s raining, the players sometimes engage in a game called TEGWAR – The Exciting Game Without Any Rules.

I’m not proposing a full monty game of TEGWAR for artists and neither were Dufy or van Oort.

But they, and so many others who came before us, know the value of learning the rules and then tossing them aside in pursuit of our own voices, our styles, our artistic ventures into new territory.  As Joseph Campbell once said (and I paraphrase), if you’re following a path, it’s somebody else’s path.

I know this from another side as well.  I’ve taught creative writing for several years and my goal is to teach the writers the basics and – yes – the “rules” of whatever genre we’re working on – poetry, fiction, nonfiction.  They sometimes ask to see samples of my own work and I show them.  But I don’t want them to write like me.  I don’t want them to write like any of the writers they read.  And I don’t want them to be slaves to the rules.  I want them to use the rules as a foundation and the writers they read, including me, as samples, but I want them to write like themselves. 

When we look at the art of those who’ve come before us, when we browse the magazines with the newest art, when we walk the galleries and museums, we get ideas and appreciate the art that interests us.  But we don’t want to paint like those artists – we want to be inspired by them to paint like ourselves!

There’s a kind of poem called a “nonce” poem in which the poet creates a one-off poetry form just for that poem.

I’m all for nonce art.  One-off paintings that will please the artist and won’t be repeated.  The artist will make the rules and the result will be the artist’s voice sweetly singing in the halls of creation.




Another Opening, Another Show!

As September winds down, and summer as well, my attention is fully on preparations for the gallery show in October.  Selections have been made, titles chosen, labels printed and postcards mailed.  In other words, I’m ready to get this show on the road.

As someone who has done a turn or two on the stage, I can easily compare this first show to opening night – the anticipation, the touch of anxiety, the knowledge that anything can happen, and the pure joy of finally bringing the work into the world come what may.

At the same time, I’m already thinking ahead.  I’ve built a good body of work with my most recent pieces, many of which will be in the show, but I’m itching to explore further and new ideas come to mind.

I don’t question that color will be the defining aspect of my work, but the possibilities are many.  And they gypsy in me wants to travel a few new roads.

I didn’t do much painting over the summer, but I did create a few 8×10 pieces to sell at the show.  Here are samples:


I’ll also include a few collage pieces from my Celestial Bodies series:


Again, color all the time.

And about that color, here are the opening lines of my Artist’s Statement that lend a little insight into how that all came about:

“Perhaps it was the 50-color paint set my grandmother bought me when I was nine. Or perhaps it was the technicolor movies, especially Walt Disney who animated music with color. Or it may have been my first college art history class where I fell in love with the vivid colors of Raoul Dufy and the Fauves (as well as my art history professor) when I was eighteen.

“Whatever it was, despite work with charcoal and pastels, clay, collage, or pen and ink, I’ve been hooked on color ever since.”

The show opens October 6 and the reception is Saturday, October 7 from 6-9 p.m. at Hype Gallery/Studio Door on 30th St. in San Diego’s arts district.  I plan to be there!






Beginnings – What the Heart Wants

As a pre-Internet child growing up in small towns in the American west, I was not exposed to much “great” art.  There were no art galleries that I recall or art museums in these little places displaying the work of the masters.

We didn’t have art classes in school beyond the occasional time spent with construction paper and crayons.  I’m guessing there must have been artists in the communities in which we lived, but our orbit and theirs didn’t cross.

Like most families in my various neighborhoods, mine had framed prints hanging on the walls – prints purchased at local fine art emporiums like Woolworth’s or J.J. Newberry.   Poker-playing dogs were a favorite as well as misty landscapes and floral bouquets Mr. Turner and Mr. Redouté would not recognize.

No one in my family was an artist per se, although my dad was a good wood worker, my mother crocheted beautiful tablecloths with complex stitches, my grandmother grew prize-winning flowers, and my aunt was a terrific seamstress who created many of her own clothes and the ones I wore as a child.

It was a good long time before I heard the names Michaelangelo, Picasso, DaVinci, O’Keeffe, Matisse or any of the other artists I eventually came to admire.

Still, a seed had been planted somewhere along the line, perhaps by a willing librarian who saw more possibilities and introduced me to one book or another, one illustrator or another who called me to art.

However it happened, I hungered for it and found myself as a college freshman enrolling two weeks late in a Modern Art History class, understanding nothing and with no book because they’d all sold out, but so enamored by the daily slides of the masters that I felt I’d finally opened the door to the banquet hall.  Over the years, I remembered every artist and could identify them all in the galleries and museums in which I eventually found myself.

From that first day until now, it’s been art for me.  I wrote for a living, but it was always art on my mind.  It took years to get here, but get here, I did.

I still have the first two pieces of art I bought for myself soon after that first college class – inexpensive prints, to be sure, but painted by artists whose names I now knew and whose work resonated – Pablo Picasso and Raoul Dufy.

We all have a beginning somewhere with our work.  Mine began here.

picassoprint_jpeg     dufy2

They have informed everything that’s followed for me with regard to art, and they continue to do so, especially the Dufy.  Dufy was one of the fauves, the wild beasts of art for whom color was everything.  I now understand where my own sentiment found its beginning:  “Color is an animal that wags its own tail.”

The heart wants what the heart wants.  Every time.