Thursday, November 18, 2010

Measure of Success

I often wonder what film stars experience when they encounter images of themselves in the movies they have made.  I feel a sort of pity when I see them as they appear today compared to their younger selves, frozen in perpetual beauty or virility.  Some become recluses, refusing to be seen in their decrepitude. Others spend fortunes on plastic surgery, refusing to accept the inevitable.  Their lives are lived in reverse.

You don't have to be a famous beauty to get depressed when you look at old photos of yourself. Anyone can feel a sense of loss for their own youth, well spent or otherwise. I feel a definite sort of pity for my younger sister, nine years my junior.  She has this continual reminder before her (me) of how she will be looking in about a decade!  Poor dear!!!  Those of us with Scotch-Irish complexions that have spent years in the sun do NOT age gracefully!!!

Painters have reminders of their past everywhere in their works hanging on the wall. Are the paintings which I did in my younger years better than what I am doing now?  Certainly if I use the ruler of financial success, I see myself as failing.  I used to sell a lot more than I do now.  If I rate my growth through the mastery of draftsmanship or technical skills, it might be a draw.  But, if I measure my success as an artist by the ability to paint from life, instead of photography, I think I'm miles ahead.  If I count the ability to paint a la prima, directly, without elaborate under painting, I am pleased with that. If I take into consideration my increasing ability to capture life-like skin tones, that is also progress.

I am not certain if I am a better painter but I am pleased with little steps of success.  Being a self-taught artist,  I haven't gone through the exercises that most artists have been schooled in.  So when I diverge from painting people to paint a landscape or a still life, I am thrilled!  Because I learned to paint people first and apples later, that is progress to me.

Now I'm doing "genre" paintings.  My brother has been bugging me for years to combine his expertise in western horsemanship, tack and lifestyle with my love of horses into creating some authentic Western Art. I have painted my first ever cow portrait!  Actually, it's a young bull (see earlier blog.)  I am just thrilled with the way it turned out.  The piece I am working on right now is three riders in an Arizona landscape.  I've done a careful under-painting so that I could get all the legs in perspective, looking believable.  As I model the forms in paint, my knowledge of horses come slowly rising out of the deep recesses of my brain, like a remembered language, long unused.  

Artists have it all out there, exposed and laid bare for people to see, much like movie stars.  How will you judge me?  Do you see me pushing against formula?  Am I gaining or just treading in place?  Can you see my struggles with personal expression and artistic integrity? Is my work relevant or passe'?

I consider this lovely little study (above) a success... Alie posed in costume as the Girl with a Pearl Earring.  I started it in the live session Tuesday night and finished it from a photo in a few hours Wednesday. It's not my "best" but it really works for me.  Hope I'm living my life forward, not in reverse!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Cookies and Cream

Momma never has liked vegetables and almost never eats fruit.  Her appetite it tiny and she eats things she likes, mostly ice cream.  I wake her up in the morning so she can have some toast and take her pills.  She usually takes a few naps and then has "lunch" about two: a giant bowl of "cookies and cream."  We almost always eat dinner together around six in the evening and Momma almost always has some of everything, this her only meal of the day.  Before bed she has another bowl of ice cream.  Or two.

There's really nothing wrong with eating the things you like, especially when you are 87 years old.  Goodness knows she has few pleasures in life and this is her comfort food, her SOUL food. I encourage Momma to enjoy them, to relish in them, and not deny herself at this stage of her life.  Of course, I wish that she would accompany those pleasures with the necessary nutrition to sustain life adequately.  But Momma does what she wants pretty much all the time.

I'm guilty of the same sorts of things.  I know what is good spiritual food in my life but I insist on filling up with snacks and sweets.  For some reason, which I haven't been able to satisfactorily explain to myself, I am too easily satisfied with fluff.  I am telling myself that email and facebook and surfing the internet and flipping through the channels on TV are all fine and dandy. As dessert, that is. As food for my soul they are lousy nutrition.  I eat dessert first and wonder why I don't have an appetite for meat!

I'm trying to picture myself coming in from a long day of yard work, thirsty and hungry and tired.  I walk  into the kitchen and grab a glass of luke warm soda and a handful of stale saltines because I'm too lazy to put ice in a glass and run the tap until the water is cool and make myself a nutritious sandwich out of the good leftovers from the night before.  After I've filled my stomach with this non-food, I may not be thirsty or hungry any more, but I'm not satisfied and I'm rather disgusted with myself, as well.

I'm terrified of getting old and crabby, having that old person perpetual frown. I'm getting it NOW, so what is going to make me stop knitting my brow and turning down the corners of my mouth? I'm cross NOW, so what is going to fill me with joy and anticipation?  I am pretty darn sure it isn't a steady diet of A.D.D. food which spoils my appetite for the real thing. Once again I will try to push away from the quick calories of junk food and reach out for the spiritual food and the Living Water that will really satisfy and fill up the deep reservoirs of my being.

Nothing wrong with Cookies and Cream, though.  Just so long as it's for dessert!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

More Paintings this Week

Stacey 11.2.10 from Session

When it's right, it's right.  Just a quick study and no more was needed. 


~ No Bull ~
(Under painting )

New(d) This Week

The Magnificent Stacey
This is somewhat of an homage to "Madame X" by Sargeant.  I am going to leave it this loose and unfinished.  I want her to startle you by her boldness but not to titilate with too much real fleshiness. I painted this one from a photo.

Kendra Reclining
I had such a blast doing this.  I started it in the live session and finished it from a photo in the studio.  I was going to scumble in the back ground but decided to loosely indicate the interior of the studio.  I like it and love the sense of perspective. 

Friday, November 5, 2010

November Rose

The trees have turned very little.  The red maple in our front yard is the exception. It has been changing colors slowly over the last few weeks, hanging on tenaciously despite windy fronts and wide swings in temperatures. Today it is melting into deepest ruby red, preparing to finally deliver it's bounty of leaves to the waiting ivy below. Look out over this part of Missouri from any high vantage point you will see greens and grey and browns and even some bare branches.

Some people say it's because of the dry autumn. Lord knows we have had a terribly dry October, but the rest of the summer had plenty of rain. My frustration is this: every year in New England they have marvelous displays of color. Do you mean to tell me that they never have dry years? Years dry enough to cause eighty percent of the foliage to NOT change colors? I don't think so.

Every year it's something. Last year it was too warm. This year it is too dry. I am not going to begin to understand this and folks who know me know that I drive myself to distraction "trying to figure things out."

I planted a flower garden early last summer just below the windows of my parents' apartment. I planted impatiens and roses and zinnias and blue ageratum, hoping my parents would come sit on the little patio and enjoy the flowers of a mild summer evening. To my knowledge, they've never visited the little flower garden, but they do look down upon it and approve. I have regularly brought in cut flowers for Momma to enjoy and this week I brought her the last two roses of the year. The weather man predicts the temperature to plummet into the lower twenties tonight.  That will end the flowers and the russet leaves and the persistently green ones as well.

Tomorrow it will look like winter.  And it will be winter soon enough.  Short gray days with gray skies and gray tree trunks and gray grass.  Windows shuttered tightly against the gray winds.  I begin to think of snowflakes instead of roses.  Winter. A quieter time, smaller, more confining.  Layers of clothing, walls and windows.  Enclosed.  Close.  One petal falls from the November rose, landing in a beam of weak wintery sunlight slanting on the breakfast table.