Sunday, November 22, 2015

Maximize your Imagination and Capture Ideas Wherever you Find Them

(Sumo Wrestlers between rounds)
I used to wonder where the wild critters came from in fantasy and horror movies. Now I know. They are inspired by the real world and a vivid imagination.

When I am out walking with my husband, he sees leaves, trees, and flowers, while I see strange creatures waiting for me up ahead or hiding in the shadows; shapes of animals that would seem very comfortable on the pages of a Dr. Seuss book or a in a Jurassic Park flick.

I can't help myself! I see faces and budding cartoon characters in the plush shadows of carpet and in the loops of shag rugs. I always say I'm going to create a painting from one of them some day, but the images are quickly forgotten. Why? Because I forget to jot them down.

Well this time, I decided to hold myself to my promise. A shag throw rug was my canvas, and in it I saw a large Japanese face; but not just any face, a cubist shaped face that only a mother could love. 

I saw vivid and bold colors in orange reds and browns with accents of blue and green. I knew I wanted Japanese lettering, and I took it a step further and imagined the words of a recipe scrawled across this abstract scenario.

After sketching a very quick rough idea of what I wanted, I began to do my research. I ended up with a Sumo Wrestler for a model because I had clearly seen his ebony "topknot" right there in my shag carpet.

I am still putting the pieces of this composition together. What I didn't know at the time was why a recipe, and why a Sumo Wrestler?  Then a lightbulb went on in my head! The title of my painting would be "Stir-Fry." It paired nicely with what wrestlers do as they twist and turn their bodies together and slam them down on the matt.

Now if I can just see my vision clearly enough to paint what I desire. For me, ideas are the fun part of creating. I can see what I want in my head, but sometimes my skill level hasn't quite reached that pinnacle of perfection. I hope in the next few weeks you will enjoy this creative ride with me!

Yasai Itame

1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 tsp garlic, minced
1/4 tsp ginger, minced
5 oz (150g) pork, thinly sliced and cut small
7oz (200g) cabbage
4oz (120g) bean sprouts
1/2 carrot
1/2 onion
1/2 green pepper
1/4 -1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp soy sauce

1.    Cut cabbage into 2" squares, and cut carrot, onion, and green pepper into thin slices.
2.   Put oil, garlic, and ginger in a wok, and heat at medium heat. After the wok is hot, add pork and fry for a couple of minutes, stirring until brown.
3.  Add vegetables, turn to high heat, and cook stirring constantly until vegetables wilt (but do not over cook).
4.   Add salt, pepper, soy sauce to taste, mix, and remove from heat to serve.

Making Japanese Stir-Fry 


Sunday, November 15, 2015

Gum Shoeing Your Way to Success – Rules of Engagement

"Auburn Nights" oil on 20 x 16 canvas
In years gone by, detectives were referred to as “gum shoes.” The nickname stuck because they wore rubber or crepe soled shoes as they stealthily crept into dark shadows to pursue a suspect.

Gum shoe cops were thorough and diligent. Their persistence didn’t let up until “they had their man.” Failure was not an option. Their stick-to-it-iveness led to their success.

When I first stumbled onto the term “gum shoe,” I thought of the time I’d stepped on a glob of bubble gum in a parking lot. Try as I may, that hunk of pink refused to come off of my shoe and followed me in florescent strings across the hot asphalt.

Much like a trail of toilet paper that sticks to your shoe and betrays where you’ve been, the things we do in life, the places we go and the choices we make leave a trail of evidence behind us. Some might call that trail character; others may refer to it as reputation. Our chances for success get better and better as our trail of credits and experience become stronger and more reliable.

Sometimes even with our best efforts we “stick our foot in it.” After all, we’re only human. When I was a kid, I remember how smart and independent I felt at times. A real “know it all,” my mom would say.
(First lay-down of paint)

One summer I was playing with my older cousins in my aunt’s pasture. They were showing off, stomping on crusty cow pies. They were fearless daredevils, or so I thought. Their secret was to choose only those pies that were “seasoned” or dry.

Well, I wasn’t going to let them out do me. Although I was only five, I began stomping with the best of them. Unfortunately, I was wearing a shiny pair of black patent leather shoes with white stockings and lace cuffs.

My first cow pie, crumbled successfully so I tried another. On the second thrust, my foot sank into warm, mushy green poop right up to and over my pristine lace stockings. Shock and awe crushed my confidence and sent me running back to mother for help.

"The Neptunes -- Trumpeteers" 11 x 14 acrylic on panel;
We all get in over our heads (or our socks) at times. Here’s how to avoid it:

1.  Don't promise what you can’t deliver
2.  Know beforehand what your client expects
3.  Never assume anything; be specific, and ask questions
4.  Plot realistic deadlines and time lines
5.  Keep your client updated on progress
6.  Evaluate your time and money expenditures carefully

·         Make your aim “customer satisfaction” and your target “repeat business”

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Information Overload – Opinion, Hype or T.M.I.?

(This is Peaches, and I'm going to paint her portrait)
I have read and written about the book “Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck at least four times. After the first reading, I was captured by that generation and the “Great Depression” era. Since that time, I’ve read both fiction and nonfiction books on that time period. 

After my first experience, a high school student at my church was bewailing the fact that “Grapes of Wrath” was required reading that year. She called it a filthy book, and said that the language was coarse and trashy. She didn’t understand why she had to read that kind of a book, anyway.

Her remarks prompted my second reading of Steinbeck’s novel. What on earth was she talking about? I didn’t remember any bad language. The book had inspired me and aroused my sympathy for the plight of the hungry and poor.

As I flipped through the pages, I was stunned. Sure enough, there were enough four-letter words on every page to make a sailor blush. Why had I not recalled such “filth” on my first reading? Perhaps because I was so caught up in the lives of the characters and their very real story.

By the time I finished the book, I loved it even more. So much so that I quickly forgot the student who disdained reading it and her remarks. The whole book is full of symbolism about life, about the roles of men and women in society, and the desperation that comes when everything you ever depended upon is gone.

When the husbands and fathers were jobless and down on their luck, they leaned heavily on their women who gave them strength and propped up their sagging egos. The mothers succored their children, managed to find things for them to eat, and gave their families hope. They were the backbone of society.

(Work in Progress "Peaches 'n Cream") The drawing and first layers of acrylic paint.
In the final chapter, the loose ends are connected in the cycle of life. A woman loses her baby because of poor nutrition. Broken and unresponsive, she wanders away from her family. Her breasts are engorged with milk, and she doesn’t know what to do or where to turn. At wits end, she comes across a man on the ground at her feet who is dying from hunger. Many men went without food so that their women and children could eat.

The forlorn woman lays down beside him and gives him her milk-swollen breast; the only sustenance she has to offer. By this we know that not only will he live, but that they both will survive to witness another day’s struggle.

"Bella Bellissimo" 16 x 20 acrylic on canvas (SOLD), but prints available.
Steinbeck recreates the Garden of Eden showing the dependence of male and female on each other, and in society’s ongoing battle for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Great literature and great art cannot be picked apart by focusing on that which is taken out of context. Without the whole there is no meaning nor purpose. How and what you remember when the last chapter is read is the measure of a book. It will rise and fall not on a useless hunting and pecking exercise, but on how well it is judged through the eyes of history and truth.
"Winston" Portrait of a Westie (SOLD) prints available. (mixed media)

Friday, November 6, 2015

Pros and Cons of Control – when Enough is Enough

(A good example of "controlled" looseness)
We all like to feel in control of our lives, but some things are simply unpredictable. This year, travel and medical problems and procedures made it difficult to keep my blogs up to date on a regular basis. The interruption into my routine of writing and painting brought to mind the catch-all phrase emphasized in the movie Forrest Gump “Shit Happens.”

When this chaos affects. me and you, our projects and paintings may get messed up; and sometimes they turn into mud.  Almost every aspect of artwork must be supervised and controlled meaning that you should have some idea what you want to say, how you’re going to say it, and a visual image of how you want your composition to look.

(Yes, the artist knew what he or she wanted, but left room for creativity)
Even when you loosen up and release your tight grip on the brush, you are still in control. Taking a feathery fan brush and holding it loosely doesn’t mean you don’t know what you’re doing. I watched Lynne Pittard expertly push her oil paint with the tip of a fan brush softly and lightly; lifting as she finished each stroke. Lynne left behind perfectly separated sea grass in her wake. When she wanted to indicate seed, she simply pushed slightly downward (See YouTube video below).

The brush dangled loosely in her fingers as she moved the creamy oils with gentle persuasion. Although her touch was light, she remained completely in control because she knew what she was doing.
(Expressive Control -- A vision and a plan without rigidity)
Clouds can be made in much the same way making them look wispy and fluffy. Control comes in when you understand the feeling you wish to create and exactly where the clouds are needed. Keeping the paint smooth and flowing assists in the process. But if you get too carried away, the clouds may take center stage rather than settle into the background. Let’s face it. There is fun and pleasure in applying paint to canvas. But if you get lost in the process, you lose your overall vision and focus.

Certain techniques such as glazing require a soft touch. Waves that rise and fall spilling frothy foam over translucent layers must be executed with a gentle hand; but in every case, the artist is still in control.

The secret to a successful painting is to make it look effortless, as if the paint has been laid down with a feather rather than labored over or overworked. In order to do this your vision must be clear. On the other hand, you don’t want to be so rigid that unexpected splashes of color or shape are withheld because they weren’t part of your original plan.

Style dictates how brush strokes are laid down. Bold colors and broad swashes of paint help tell a different story. I have a new painting in mind that will require this approach. I personally believe the diversity in our world is beautiful and the people in it have unique individual stories to tell. Cultural differences may also require a bolder brighter touch.

Somewhere I heard the expression: “Let it happen.” If that’s a bit too unstructured for you, then have at least a concept or a story that must be told. Sometimes simple is enough.

Lynne Pittard's "sea grass" tutorial: