June 30, 2008

Paintings on the go

With great pleasure (and some necessary stress), I’ve spent the last week laboring over several shipments that just went out the door! With the help of my friend Brian, I’ve packed up eight paintings to go to Ottawa, six to England, and five to Denmark.

The hardest part was choosing what to send where. The gallery in Ottawa chose what he wanted which was very helpful. Denmark chose sizes and colors, also helpful. But for England I had to make my own decisions. I changed the selection daily and some days, hourly.

I find it very interesting what colors and types of paintings various parts of the country and other countries connect with. Here in Halifax, even though they talk about the intensity of my colors, most people gravitate (when they purchase a painting) to the softer colors. Ottawa chose the stronger colors: reds, indigo, bright yellow. Denmark too wants the reds and indigo paintings. England is a new gallery for me so it was more difficult to decide what to send. I’ll know when they get there if my choice was right.

And with all these paintings gone, my studio is still full! It seems I paint a lot.

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June 26, 2008

Speaking of teaching: My piano lesson

So Skip finally figured me out. When he came in last time (he comes to my house which is great because I still have the beautiful 1927 Steinway grand I’ve had it since I was twelve.), he told me he had spent the night with me that week, all night, he said. I told him “I wish I had been there!” He said he wished he were twenty years younger. Sweet.

When we got down to the music, he said he wanted to approach teaching me jazz piano in the same way I learned to paint abstract. Learn some basic methods, a foundation, then break all the rules. Yes!

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June 25, 2008

Can art be taught?

On her blog, Allyson Stanfield posted a quote from Romare Bearden:

Painting and art cannot be taught. You can save time if someone tells you to put blue and yellow together to make green, but the essence of painting is a self-disciplined activity that you have to learn by yourself.

There are no goals that I still want to reach. I don't believe in goals; goals are for a football team. An artist is just seeking what he might find.

My thoughts are: yes and no. What CAN be taught is discipline. What can’t be taught is vision. And vision, the energy of the artwork, is the most important ingredient. It’s the energy, the force, the reason that takes the artwork beyond the mere craft of the piece.

Discipline is very important in making art. It’s the foundation. It involves not only how you use your time in the usual sense (hours and concentration) but also how you coordinate your mind and body and, more specifically in most cases, mind and hand. What a good teacher can teach is methods to stimulate good useful discipline. Without discipline, art cannot happen. Without vision, it has no power.

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June 23, 2008

Point Pleasant Park is blossoming with the summer sun



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June 19, 2008

I report all this with tongue in cheek because . . . any artist could tell you what it took a Report to report

The National Endowment for the Arts has released a new survey of artists working in the U.S. I found this on Alyson Stanfield's Art Biz Blog. The report is very interesting. First, as is obvious to any artist anywhere in the world, it seems the population of artists in the U.S. at least, has more than doubled since 1970. (They are needed to fill all the galleries that have also much more than doubled since 1970--my comment).

Where do all the artists come from? For all I know, from under the bed. But really, everywhere I turn, people tell me they want to make art. No matter what they are doing in their day-job. Maybe we should all be artists. Then, maybe, just maybe, the world would be a more pleasant place. Or would it? Not if we all became “cutting edge” artists. Putting that aside, making art for some is relaxing, a hobby, for others a life passion, a necessity, a compulsion and obsession. Whatever it is and whoever they count as artists, the report does point to the importance of art and artists.

Second, opportunities for artistic employment are greater in metropolitan areas. More than one-fifth of all U.S. artists live in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Washington, and Boston. Half of all artists live in 30 metropolitan areas.

Unique regional concentrations emerge. New Mexico has the highest share of fine artists, Vermont has the highest proportion of writers, and Tennessee, the highest proportion of musicians.

In response to this, I must admit New York City was a powerful school with a big playground for me as a young artist and now living in a more rural setting is more nourishing as a mature artist. And I have heard that Nova Scotia, my current home, has more artists than any other province in Canada.

The next revelation is that artists are 3.5 times more likely to be self-employed. Well, how else are they to be able to support themselves! We are often not the type to work in a group, office, follow directions, be a good employee. Artists must, by necessity, be self-directed or the work wouldn't happen. And making art is very expensive.

The most interesting revelation is that artists are more educated: artists are twice as likely to have a college degree as other U.S. workers. Yup, making art is not for dummies. Not that college degrees mean everything either. But it does mean that making art requires discipline (in order to get a degree) and intelligence (in order to make the many decisions required in making art).

So that’s it folks. Art is a major industry.

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June 17, 2008

Who’s to say

Why do we have a need to make nice-nice? Granted I don’t enjoy listening to someone complain. But sometimes it seems to me it would be a good idea to say something isn’t very nice. Doesn’t feel good. If you can’t see the down side of something, how can you make the up side happen?

What makes me think about this is one of the many rejection letters I receive. This one came recently. It was in reply to a proposal for an exhibit. The writer told me they “admired the longevity and consistency of purpose you have demonstrated as a painter.” Nothing about the quality of the work. The omission makes it quite clear why they didn’t want to give me an exhibit. Why not just say they don’t like my work, or it doesn’t fit into their agenda, or really, that abstract art which doesn’t have an outright social message is not cutting edge right now. And cutting edge is very important these days. It would, in my opinion, be a daring act in these troubled times to show work that deals with the emotions of being human by connecting to the subtleties of emotions, not to ideology.

When I told a couple of friends that this letter upset me more than other rejection letters, they tried to find a positive slant on the writer’s comments. Personally, I don’t see them but what I do see is my need to rewrite my proposal in a more aggressive tone to match what is happening in the art world these days. Then maybe the reader will like what they see.

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June 16, 2008

Puppies in the palm of your hand

My friend Susan's Brittany Spaniel just had five puppies. I went to visit them Saturday when they were four days old. Cassie's a very good mom, takes excellent care of her puppies. So far their eyes are still closed, they don't hear sound, can't walk, but can smell, feel and suckle.



The puppies have segregated themselves by color, the blond (or red) ones in one corner, the dark ones (called liver color) in another pile. It must be by smell. I know people are attracted to each other by smell as well. Interesting, indeed.




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June 13, 2008

Movies, movies, movies

My neighbors are away for a little bit and have asked me to take care of their house. They have an extensive video/DVD collection. So I have been having a movie feast.

First I watched a spirited young Jack Nicholson challenge blind authority in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Then it was the tender Broken Flowers with Bill Murray’s sensitive performance in a movie on non-commitment. One scene stays vividly in my mind: towards the end, Murray tells his probable son “The past is gone so forget it. The future isn’t here yet. So all you have is the present.” And then when Murray, as probable father, makes his first gesture towards intimacy, the young man jumps up and runs off yelling “You’re crazy man.” Even the kid avoids intimacy.

The next movie was about the birth of the CIA, the Good Shepherd with a great cast (Matt Damon, Angelina Jolie, Robert de Niro) but far too cold for my taste. I kept waiting for it to warm up. It never did.

Then I watched Memoirs of a Geisha, beautiful images, great costumes, lots of intrigue. The movie was good, the book better, of course.

I also borrowed Water but I don’t think I can watch it. I remember it as being a very painful story and I don’t think I can watch it again. So I will have to go back to their house for a new selection from their wonderful movie library. What a treat!

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June 12, 2008


Hey, Everyone, check out this month’s Shambhala Sun Magazine (pp. 66, 69 and 70), July ’08. I have some watercolor figure paintings featured. They’ve surprised everyone—although, in fact, I’ve been teaching figure drawing for over twenty years and have always loved drawing the human body.

At one point in my art career (I was in my thirties at the time), several artist in the neighborhood got together and hired a model. We did this once a week. Gradually the group dwindled to just two of us and later just me. (Models were paid much less in those days.) I did this for several years. Often the drawings were quite large, sometimes more than life size. I’d roll the paper out on the floor to draw. They were line drawings. My request for a Christmas gift back then was a battery operated pencil sharpener. I would sharpen four-dozen pencils at a time; when one broke (and they did often because I was bearing down hard) I always had another by my side. People often think they are ink drawings because the pencil line is so firm. I now have a drawer full of these drawings. Occasionally I look through them.

I developed a way of working that in many respects is similar to my paintings. The figure took up more than the page, often extended beyond the paper. The space was very important to me, both the form of the body and how the space was used by the body, by where the body was and was not. Sometimes it was hard to see at first where the body was because so much of it was off the paper. It’s hard to explain, but the important point here is the similarity to my painting process. I’m drawn (pun intended) to mass and contour, to a sensuous space and eccentric (off-center) composition. And it can be done with or without a recognizable image. I’m most comfortable with the purity of abstraction, the removal from concept and context . With the freedom that gives me

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June 11, 2008

Something to ponder

Commenting on the work of Berthe Morisot, Edouard Manet said “This woman's work is exceptional. Too bad she's not a man.”

Although this was in the 19th century and now we are into the 21st, it still makes a woman artist stop and think. Fortunately, all my painting life, this thought has never taken root. I believe if you don’t acknowledge such a strange idea, then it can’t be true. And it seems it is less true now. This way of thinking, thankfully, has much less power than it did even a few years ago.

I’ve always loved Manet’s paintings. I still do, whatever he thought about Morisot being a woman. What I love about Manet’s work is its strength, it’s directness. These may be masculine qualities, but not qualities owned by men. Monet’s paintings are soft and gentle, feminine qualities. But also not qualities owned by women. So the only thing for an artist to do is to follow his or her heart—paint what has significance to them. To me, integrity is the most important ingredient in good art.

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June 10, 2008

Victoria Park

I went to Victoria Park in Truro Sunday with Jenny and Robin Wu, my Tai Chi teachers. We went to collect chi and play frisbee.

Victoria Park is one of the best kept secrets in Nova Scotia. It is so very beautiful. And only an hour north of Halifax.




Lila tried to outrun the frisbee and was very proud when she caught it:




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June 06, 2008

Imagine this

If you wake up feeling old and tired, here's some inspiration:

Britain's oldest man, thought to be one of three surviving UK World War I veterans, is celebrating reaching his 112th birthday. . . Henry Allingham, who was born in London on 6 June 1896, is also the last surviving original member of the Royal Air Force - formed 90 years ago.

"People ask me how I've done it, and I just say that I look forward to another tomorrow."

Now partially deaf and almost blind, Mr Allingham, who was born in Clapham, London, now lives at St Dunstan's home for blind ex-servicemen, in Ovingdean.

His life has spanned six monarchs and has taken in 21 prime ministers. , , , He has joked that the secret to his longevity is "cigarettes, whisky and wild women".

I'm not personally fond of cigarettes and whisky (much prefer beer) but I can relate to the wild.

Posted by leya at 09:58 AM | Comments (1)

June 01, 2008


This has been the best spring for gardening. Because of our hard winter (lots of snow and ice but not too cold) and the unusually light rains for this time of year, my flowers have never been so beautiful.






I was fortunate this week to have a couple of very generous friends come over to help with the planting and weeding. It's a big garden and a big job. And very satisfying.

I have to watch myself in those garden centers that have sprung up around the supermarkets. Far too tempting!

Posted by leya at 02:18 PM