Friday, May 21, 2010


Momma had a hard time getting out of bed yesterday because her "bones were all stuck together."  That is a tough one to imagine, but the more I try to visualize that, the funnier it gets.  Living with elderly people can be fun and challenging.  You have to have a good sense of humor. I really mean that.  We laugh at ourselves and each other a lot.

The hardest part about their settling into our house, for me, however, is being the activities director. In their minds they want to do things but when it comes down to having the energy to attempt, they decline.  That is very difficult for me to accept on several levels.  They need to be active, right?  They need to keep their minds alert and be stimulated by outside events, correct?  Don't they need to use (or lose) their muscles?   Or should I just let them curl-up, like kittens, and nap off and on all day long?

Every time I pass through the room I'm asked "where ya going?" or "what you doing?"  I feel guilty being busy because they, especially Dad, feel like they ought to be helping or doing something.  There surely is enough work around that I need help with but so much of these tasks they are no longer capable of doing.  And what they can do often needs supervision.  And that's okay.  I need to slow myself down, lower my expectations and be with them. I am the one who needs to get with the program!

I think the saddest thing of all is that Mom thought she would want to do stuff with me when she got here.  As if coming to St. Charles would be the beginning of a new life for her.  It makes my heart hurt to realize that she doesn't want it bad enough to do it.  She sleeps.  And sleeps and sleeps.  And I think she's depressed about it, too.... that her last great hope of renewal was coming to be with me and that being here hasn't changed her life much at all.  Just locations.

How much do I push and how much do I let ride?  How do you help your parents savor every moment of life when they've lost their sense of taste?  These and other questions will be lived out day by day in the ongoing saga of the Sawyer Household.  In the meantime, if I can just help Momma get her bones unstuck.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

But Why Naked?

I am a figure painter and I paint nudes so that I can become a better painter.  I am also a Christian with deeply held convictions on morality and sexuality and decency and the dignity of the human being. Repeat line one:  I paint nudes.

Most of these pictures are simple studies not intended for sale although I have some that are finished and I would like very much to exhibit and make them available for collections.  They are not lewd or lascivious or provocative.  I hope they are evocative, generating emotions in the viewer, stories about what this artist is trying to communicate, not necessarily about the form or the figure. But sometimes it is about the naked form. 

Sometimes people avoid looking at the paintings. I know that it makes them uncomfortable to stare.  I asked my grandson what he thought about one of the "Berts" and he was at a loss for words.  I asked him to tell me what it made him feel and he said, "Creepy."  I asked him why and he responded that the model looked hurt or angry and it made him feel weird.  "Good," I said, "because that is exactly what I was feeling when I set up the pose: hurt and angry."  "Ah," he said, and then looked back without flinching to examine the painting more closely.  I'd given him permission to look.

Have we, as a culture, lost our ability to see or have we not been taught how to "read" works of art? It takes effort and requires some knowledge of drafting and craftsmanship to do this well but it is worth it. If for no other reason than to peer into the past through the rich window pane of art.

America swings back and forth between puritanism and licentiousness.  Somewhere along this winding road the church has given up on art, losing its preservative and purifying influence as well as relegating it to a class of elitists to decipher or interpret it to the rest of our culture.   The art world needs Christians.  Christians need art.  Art needs to be accessible to all and all need to be able to access great art!

I won't even get into the discussion of "what IS art."  That to me is the wrong question and I don't have the time or knowledge to even get into it.  I am too busy making up for lost years, trying to be the best painter I can be in the time I have left.

Oh, and I paint nudes because there is nothing like human flesh draped over bones, wrinkling in crevices, stretching over muscles, reflecting warmly off of itself, planes of light melting into shadows, defining and confining the soul that lives within.

study of Bert painted 5-18-2010 from life

Friday, May 14, 2010

A New Direction

A blog a day, a painting a day, something done intentionally each day to bring myself into correct alignment.  I know it won't happen everyday but if good intentions mean anything....

Six weeks ago we drove to Alabama and loaded up my parents and brought them to live with us here. It has gone well, better than I could have ever expected.  They are healthy and happy and are settling into their new lifestyle in a our home.

It has increased the work load for me but it has also made me more intentional about the time that I have. It's also teaching me flexibility, to switch modes quickly and without frustration (okay, I'm working on that.)

So I have a few minutes each week to paint but a few is better than none.  I vow to make the most of the time, to grab little snatches of time and to rejoice in them!

(This is a study done from live model in one session with a short follow up the next day.)