February 26, 2006

Lila and Kiku, a play-date!

Lila had her first real (successful) play-date this afternoon, where the two dogs actually played together. Kiku came back to visit. At first Lila was a little uncertain, not sure how to relate to such a big dog. Then she warmed up and they really enjoyed each other, played tag and tusseled.




Afterwards, Lila was all tuckered out, but very happy:


Posted by leya at 04:47 PM | Comments (2)

Down for the count

Wouldn’t you know it: just when I have a free week to paint every day, I get sick! Laid up all week. And it’s hard to take care of a puppy when you don’t feel well! Fortunately I have had some wonderful friends who have helped me out: with groceries and puppy-walking. And puppy, who is growing at the rate of two pounds a week (now over twenty pounds!) is becoming quite the long-legged beauty (just like Marlene Dietrich!). But she still is has a ways to go. My friend Gwen came over yesterday with her standard poodle and next to Kiku, Lila looked so small. And my pup was in awe of the bigger/older dog. If all goes as planned, she will get into a puppy group this week. Spend more time with her own kind.

So what does an artist do when not painting? Sit around thinking about it. Some artists I know regularly spend time in their studios thinking. Looking and thinking. My usual mode is to work non-stop when in my studio. This week, not being able to work, I walk through and think. Carry images in my head. Sit there and think. Mentally paint. At least the impulse is there. The marks will come soon. Along with school and other responsibilities this week.

Some pix below of Lila attacking a rosebush (it wasn’t a thriving bush and I was planning on removing it in the spring, but it looks like Lila is doing the job for me!). It was just beginning to snow that day:


And then the bush fights back, tackles her:


Posted by leya at 06:48 AM

February 22, 2006

four things

A meme. From Tamar.

Four jobs I've had:
1. Doing intake in a blood bank in Baltimore. It was part of a clerk typist job (there must be a fancier name for that position by now) I had during the summer while in University. Many many many typing jobs. I’m an ace typist (but don’t tell anyone, please!) and could have had a career there! But . . 2. Selling Christmas cards at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in October! One of the first jobs in Manhattan and probably the first that fired me! They said my attitude wasn’t good. It was kinda hard to work up enthusiasm for Christmas cards in October!
3. Walking dogs in Manhattan. I liked this one a lot. Mostly it helped keep my dog, Miranda, happy.
4. Head of (meditation) practice at the Shambala Centre in Halifax NS. This meant setting up and administering meditation programs for the Buddhist community (which at the time grew to about 500 people and is even larger now) and the public here in Halifax. I enjoyed this for about four years but then felt it made me a Sunday painter and I didn’t enjoy that. Not at all! It was great to be in the center of things, yet liberating to quit. And definitely better for my painting not to be an administrator. But it did get me over my fear of the telephone. I had to call a lot of people and request volunteers for programs.

Four movies I can watch over and over again:
1. Antonionni’s L’Aventurra is one of my very favorite movies. I took it out of the school library a couple of years ago. One of my favorite parts is the beginning. For about ten (or more) minutes the main character moves around her bedroom, fussing with her makeup and hair, saying nothing, no music, and it imparts so much emotion, portrays her despair without any words. I was looking forward to seeing it again. But, some people don’t like inactivity any more, it seems, it had been cut from the video. Darn!
2. When Sally Met Harry. Fun.
3. The Wizard of Oz: Yes, Dorothy, there is a Santa Claus!
4. La Strada, by Federico Felini. With the magical Giulietta Masina.

Four places I've lived:
1. I spent most of my childhood in Bethesda, Maryland. We lived in a sweet Dutch Colonial house on a quiet street. There were a lot of empty lots that over the years grew houses. At first the street had no sidewalks and was bordering a dairy farm. The cows would come up to the barbed wire fence and eat the honeysuckle off it. We played in the fields until the farm burned down and was later sold (or maybe it was the other way around). Two hundred little track houses were built on the land. Now they have matured into real houses, some with lots of renovations and plantings.
2. We moved to Richmond, Virginia during The War (then back to the same house in Bethesda where my Dad lived until he died at ninety). I liked it there in Richmond just fine but my parents, who were more aware of the social situation, were upset by the prejudices, both against blacks and Jews.
3. I spent one very interesting year in New Haven, Connecticut, when I was in Art School. I can’t say I really got to know the city but I’ll never forget the few blocks where I feasted on the succulent course of education I was being offered.
4. New York, New York. Twenty-four years in Manhattan and I don’t miss it at all. I’m glad I was there; I’m most glad I am here in Nova Scotia now.

Four TV shows I love:
Well, I really don’t watch much TV. Especially with my intense schedule this semester. But I do occasionally watch
1. Coronation Street whenever I am home on weeknights. I really enjoy it, especially since I can’t watch it every night. (It can get a bit predictable at times and I do get annoyed with some of the characters staying in character so willingly.)
I would watch, if my schedule allowed,
2. Grey’s Anatomy. I really enjoy it (when I see it). All about sex. What could be better!
3. Sue Thomas, FBEye. I know, it’s a bit transparent, very sticky sweet, predictable, but I love Eli, the Golden Retriever (hearing dog for Sue) and I love watching and listening to Sue’s speech (she is deaf and has a beautiful way of talking).
4. I’m having a hard time thinking of a fourth. I did enjoy LA Law years ago, and Joan of Arcadia for a couple of years. I really don’t watch much TV.

Four places I've vacationed (only four? Give me an excuse and I go!):
1. Mexico: I spent a month there in 1977, traveling from the Yukatan to Mexico City and beyond, mostly by myself, and at times, meeting friends in various places (prearranged).
2. In 1973 (I think) I went to Europe with two young children (Tamar was eleven, Aaron five). We stopped first in London for two weeks. They were great travelers, enjoyed the museums (I think) and feeding the pigeons in Trafalger Square. Then their father came over and we took the boat-train to Paris, stayed two weeks, rented a car and drove to Rome, with fascinating stops on the way. My marriage ended in Rome. Not a bad memory. The trip was great, very liberating in many ways.
3. Santa Domingo: I was there in November once. The poverty was quite upsetting but the beaches were beautiful, the weather perfect for a winter holiday, and I did meet some nice people.
4. Amsterdam was a lovely holiday, staying with friends, seeing lots of art, the best. A wonderful city.

Four of my favorite dishes:
1. My first thought was lemon meringue pie (if it’s really good, and actually, this must just be a fantasy, because I haven’t had a good piece of (any) pie in years). Actually I like a lot of lemon dishes: roast chicken stuffed with rosemary and lemon, Armenian meatballs with lemon sauce, lemon and yogurt soup, lemon zest in vegetable dishes, lemonade.
2. My mother’s chicken soup (she would blend the vegetables after cooking them, making a delicate, lovely dish).
3. My mother’s apple pie (with cheese!), It was Heavenly which is jut where she must be right now, and eating apple pie! (She always said “Apple pie without the cheese is like a kiss without the squeeze.”) Come to think of it, any pie my mother made was the best! (She’d let me do the lattice tops.)
4. Crème brulee!

Four blogs that I visit daily:
1. Well, actually, I don’t read blogs every day because of my very erratic schedule, and also because I find reading on the computer not as much fun as reading on paper. So when I go to a blog I might read a few entries, catch up, rather than be an every day visitor. But I do keep up with a few blogs, especially the one’s on my sidebar. So I’m going to wimp out on listing four blogs. Sorry.

Four places I would rather be right now:
1. Here is just fine. It may be cold, windy, snowy, but it is, always, so very beautiful and peaceful (except that the wind was so fierce (but musical) last night it was hard to sleep).
2. Someplace warm? How about Southern France? Or Southern Italy? Brazil? Or Greece? Yes, Greece will do. I’ve never been there! I’ll go there!!!
3. Mexico visiting my Nova Scotia friends who have a new place in San Miguel.
4. Amsterdam! In Rembrandt’s house. I would love to go back. Right now!

Four bloggers I'm tagging:

Posted by leya at 06:47 PM | Comments (1)

February 19, 2006

Reflections in the studio

I’ve had a couple of good paintings days (and this is reading week: no classes! So I will have more time to paint!). I am beginning to understand why I have so much trouble putting something in the middle of my paintings. I think it has to do with the image feeling too literal, like it IS something. When the image has a broader feel, when it is pushed to the edge, it feels (to me) more universal, transcending the personal, which is my primary motivation: to make the painting go beyond the impulse that creates it.

Yesterday I was working on a small (30” x 30”) red painting. It began with trying (once again) to put the image down the center of the canvas. But (as usual) I was uncomfortable and started painting it out, erasing the image, losing it. So I made some bold black lines in circular shapes taking up the whole canvas (small as it is, anyway). And this pulled the canvas together for me. Then I felt I understood what I was looking for, why the middle of the canvas has to be so solid, and this solidity works best for me with color, not form.

And as for the horizontal: as much as I appreciate a good landscape painting (such as Elin Neumann’s), I don’t feel comfortable when my paintings refer to external landscape. In an abstract painting, the horizontal too easily refers to landscape. What I want is to create an internal landscape. And perhaps the vertical represents the human body better in my lexicon.

Posted by leya at 10:56 AM | Comments (2)

February 18, 2006

Lila's world (and mine)

It’s been a great joy taking Lila out on the road. I haven’t met many new neighbors since Katie died five years ago. And Lila is really easier now that she’s expanding her world. (She’s asleep now at my feet, under the computer table, as I type.) We met three beautiful Labrador Retrievers this noon and she had a wonderful time stalking them! (They also put her in her place if she stepped over the line with her puppiness!) Their owner moved in four years ago just across the road and I had never met him. My world is expanding as well!

Later in the afternoon we went for our third walk (it seems the walks are as much for me as for her needs! And they say it is going to turn very cold tomorrow) and met a neighbor who moved in just before I did, almost ten years ago. It was the first time she had met Lila; it was great catching up on our lives.

I am constantly surprised to realize that I actually lived five years without a dog. And survived!

Posted by leya at 05:52 PM

February 17, 2006

Out & About

Yesterday was the first time Lila and I had taken a walk along the road. It is a bigger world out there for her. She’ll meet some dogs and children and new smells and sounds. We’ve been out twice already today and looking forward to more.


Meanwhile the weather is turning strange again. Very warm with promises of very cold by Sunday. I put a pot of miniature roses on my computer table to brighten up the landscape.


What the roses saw: the lake is striated with shadows and melting ice.


Posted by leya at 03:13 PM | Comments (1)

February 12, 2006

The sound of painting

In her comment on my (Shipping news) entry, Heidi asked me: “If your paintings could make sound, what sort of sounds would they make?“ My first thought was what kind of music: my immediate thought is jazz. I love to listen to jazz, blues, rock & roll, but mostly pure jazz, the old stuff, and some of the new music. I was introduced to jazz in art school: Miles Davis, Nina Simone. I listened to my few records late into the night, over and over again. Fortunately my neighbors in the slum tenement where I lived in New Haven didn’t complain. (That apartment introduced me to cockroaches; I thought they were cute at the time; I learned!)

I think of jazz first about my painting because it is mainly improvisational. I don’t know before I make a mark exactly what it will be. I don’t know exactly what color a painting will be. I test, I experiment, I play. There’s a theme that does run through all my work: an excitement about using color to communicate form, space, mood. Then there are the marks and colors that come and go, build up, get taken away, return. There are the layers of thoughts, motifs, melodies, sound.

By coincidence, Michael Enright had a section on his program this morning about jazz. Many people write in to him complaining about his choice of jazz as music on his show. He had Montreal’s Katie Malloch, host of CBC Radio’s “Jazz Beat” and Toronto’s Jowi Taylor, host of CBC’s “Global Village” and “The Wire” debate the pros and cons of jazz. And even they didn’t agree on what was “good” jazz. It seems jazz is one of those controversial topics. Some people love it; some people hate it, and those who hate it are more outspoken than those who dislike classical music. Perhaps it’s the same with abstract art. It takes an open mind to “see” it, not come to it with preconceived “ideas’” of what it is “supposed to be.” What jazz and my painting have in common is a basic structure that is the foundation of the work and then the improvisation that makes it what it becomes.

But then I hear an Aarvo Pert piece and feel completely connected to it. When Yoko and I play duets, it’s the Satie that I enjoy the most. The spareness, the feeling that every note counts, is just where it has to be, and often, the wonderment of how did he ever imagine this! Although I play classical piano music, I’ve always wanted to play jazz but don’t have the understanding it takes to play it. I would have to develop that. My painting seems to be enough improvisation so far.

But if I get away from music as sound, think of the sounds that surround us every day, I could see my painting in the sound of the brook that runs by my house—the constant movement, the water rushing over the rocks underneath, the constant churning as it becomes one continuous note uniting everything that moves below the surface. The sound of my painting could be the sound of water as it permeates everything, a necessity for life.

Heidi’s question has me listen to the everyday sounds in my house: the intermittent hum of the refrigerator, the sound my computer makes when I turn it on, the clack of the keyboard as I’m typing, the gentle drip of my mini-fountain, the tick of the clock, Lila chewing on a bone. All subtle sounds that make my house my home. These sounds could be my painting sounds: familiar sounds put together in their own unique way. Crossing the line from one art form to another, from one area of life to another, from one art form to an area of life, opens up a whole new world of possibilities. Thanks, Heidi!

Posted by leya at 01:20 PM | Comments (1)

February 11, 2006

Growing Lila

The air has turned cold and brisk. Normal winter weather. But at least it's not storming. Right now. (They are predicting snow and wind for tomorrow.) The lake is trying to ice over. It was very still in the early morning when Lila and I first went out.


I took Lila to the vet this morning for her shots but we have to put it off again for another week. She seems to have some food sensitivities. Runs in the family. (Nevertheless, she’s gained two pounds in a week, from 15.2 to 17.3. Now she is almost half the weight she will be when full grown.) So I have to change her diet: no corn, dairy, eggs. See if that helps clear her ears and itching, a yeast infection. Once she gets her shots we can go for long walks along the road and meet the other dogs in the neighborhood. We've both been looking forward to that. She's been eyeing the (occasional) traffic with curiosity.



Posted by leya at 03:41 PM | Comments (2)

February 09, 2006

Shipping news

Brian came over this morning and helped me pack up paintings to send to Harbour Gallery in Toronto. I would like to say my studio looks bare, but there is still a lot of work hanging out: some finished, many to be worked on more, some to be started. I’ve had several people in Halifax say they were interested in work but no one has made a commitment. So I am glad to be able to send some pieces to where I know they will find homes.

My packing list includes two large triptychs (shown below, titled Some Like It Blue, one peach, one red, each 60” x 84”), one yellow triptych, Three (60” x 72”) four cowboys (a 30” x 30”series I titled When I Was a Cowboy”, and thirteen Tomatoes (each 12” x 12”). (You’re probably wondering where these titles come from. So do I.) The five boxes will be picked up tomorrow.

The smallest pieces are often the hardest to feel resolved. My arm movements apparently are very important in my painting process. And I use large oil bars for paint: fat paint sticks. The small canvas restriction is a challenge. But I find working on the variety of sizes helps clarify ideas, marks, impulses.

Brian also put up some baby gates for my baby: one at the top of the stairs going down to my studio, one at the top of the stairs on the bedroom level. One more step to puppy-proofing my home!


Posted by leya at 01:48 PM | Comments (5)

February 05, 2006

The blue struggle

Here is a studio shot (not a professional photo) of what I have been working on. The horizontal lines, what I had been trying to keep, gradually disappeared. (They are whispering beneath the surface.) The paintings seem to have a life of their own and I just follow along!


Posted by leya at 10:58 AM | Comments (5)

February 04, 2006

Speculatins & Revelations

A few months ago, back in November, the 14th to be exact, I started a blog on Journalspace with the intention of writing about my painting, just painting, nothing else. I called it Speculations & Revelations because that is what painting is to me. The blog is about what I do in my studio. It was interesting to expose the thought processes that go into painting, to talk about the mundane (stretching canvases, crating, cleaning up) and the inspired (painting). At this point, though, I want to include what I have become used to writing about there into this blog. Not have two separate blogs. I think I needed to separate these areas of my life because, in the past, it has been so hard to talk about my painting. I would say that the paintings should speak for themselves. I still feel that way, but I have enjoyed writing about what I do in my studio and I want to write about it here now. It is a different kind of writing, when it is about my working. I will try it for a while and see what happens.

Even when I was in school it was hard to talk about my work. Especially then. I remember the last day of classes; my instructor sat down with me to review my paintings. At the end, with me being silent for the entire session, he said “You still have trouble talking about your work.” I nodded and he said “That’s all right. Just paint.” He also said not to look at others’ work, just paint. That part would be too hard, like taking a lollipop out of the mouth of a child (or a meat bone out of Lila’s mouth). So I look; I paint. And now I talk. I talk in school. I learned to talk in school because I have to; it would be impossible to teach without talking. And I talk here.

So . . . in that vein, I had a very productive morning in my studio. I’ve been working on a couple of triptychs, 60” x 84”. One was intended to be blue and has turned into a mix of light purple and blue. I think I have resolved the painting but I will wait a few days to see how I feel. In this painting, I had tried to keep some horizontal lines I put in at the beginning. But. I don’t seem to do it. My usual visual mode is vertical.

In the other triptych, there was a large area in the middle that felt too dark in the context of the rest of the painting. I’ve been trying to keep some imagery in the middle of my canvases. But again. I don’t seem to be able to do it. One of the reasons I enjoy working on multiple panel paintings is that my usual tendency to push imagery to the edges of the canvas moves into the center of the painting when I put the panels together. In this painting, when I subdued the heavy part in the middle, another area became too bold as well. But I didn’t want to lose it. I felt the painting would lose some of its vitality if I did. So I added some black in strategic places: at the outer edges of the piece. I think it works. I will know when I look at it again, when time has done its work. Still, it does amaze me how just a little mark, a small amount of color in the right place can effect a piece so profoundly. Often when I am teaching, I enjoy showing a student the power of a small mark or just the way you end a line. How important the “little” things are.

To sum up, I can see that there are two things I feel I “should” work into my paintings but when I try, it feels uncomfortable and I paint them out. One is the use of the horizontal; the other is being able to put something in the middle of the canvas (and keep it there!). Everything seems to go off to the edges and most of the horizontal lines get painted out. But I will keep thinking about it. Trying. It’s a challenge and I like a challenge. And that (the challenge, the things I “take out”) bubbles underneath the surface of the painting, quite literally actually.

And tomorrow I hope to have some photos of what I am talking about here.

Posted by leya at 11:21 AM

February 03, 2006

It’s a good thing she's so cute!!!

I feel like I am playing doggie interruptus or is it doggie interrupts us? I’ve set up some bells on the door for Lila to let me know when she has to go out. So now when I am on the phone, or she decides I am not paying enough attention to her, she rings the bells. It works. She gets my attention. At twelve weeks, I’m not sure if it is a genuine need for relief or for attention.

Yesterday Yoko came over and we played duets. The first time since October, I think. And Lila interrupted us. We played through the Dvorak piece three times. The first time my playing was really really awful (bad), the second time just not too good (bad), and the third time not too bad. It’s great to get back to our duets. With travels to Montreal and then two weeks in New York and then four weeks of Lila, I haven’t touched the piano much. And Lila was, at first, afraid of the sound (much different from the radio). I tried putting her in her kennel but her protest made it hard to play. So then I tied her up near the piano where I could see her but she couldn’t get to us. It worked. She calmed down and I think I will be able to practice so next week my playing will be better (okay).

Posted by leya at 04:47 PM

February 02, 2006

Next week she’ll be reading

I took Lila to the vet for her twelve week checkup this afternoon. She’s doubled her weight, from 7.8 pounds to 15.2 pound. No wonder it’s harder to carry her around! She’s a handful. In more than weight. Even Dr. Evans said she is the most inquisitive puppy he has seen in his office. And (a little bragging rights here!) she learned the down command with hand signal in less than five minutes! I’m impressed. The down side of all this intelligence is that she is a handful. She is constantly testing me to find out what she can get away with and right now, not much, but it keeps me busy!

Some pix from this morning in the snow. My little black snowball with a red tail—the leash.




Posted by leya at 05:09 PM | Comments (1)

February 01, 2006

Finally, snow

You may have heard: Atlantic Canada is snowed under! Finally. We had our first major snowstorm of the year. And it's February One already. 15 cm of snow and winds of 80 to 100 km/hour. Lila and I were, unfortunately, stuck in Halifax overnight (after my dance class). So it wasn’t until late this afternoon (when the snow had tapered off and the winds slowed down) that we were able to come home. School was cancelled this morning. Sadly I had a favorite model scheduled and he is moving to China next week. I may not see him again for a while. So for once, missing school was a disappointment.

Today I shoveled the back yard at Inge’s house (where I stay a couple nights a week so I can get to my early morning classes easily--avoid the morning traffic, make sure the pup is settled) so Lila could play there (in the yard) and then I shoveled the front steps so we could leave (no one else was in the house last night, just us). Then I shoveled out my car at the lot. Then when we got home I had to shovel the long walkway to my door. It is a good thing I like to shovel snow.

It is very nice to be home with my own toys again. Tomorrow will be beautiful. They are predicting sun. Then two days of rain on the weekend of course. Fickle maritime weather!

Posted by leya at 08:12 PM