Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Original photo plus poor photo of the painting. Will try to replace it with a better one.

Friday, May 13, 2011

I'm painting again, finally

I started another class, which seems to be only way I get to paint these days. I chose a photo of my sweetheart; here's the beginning of the painting. It's large, 30" x 40". Oops, the server is rejecting the image. OK, it's not finished, and his mouth looks very odd, but it's not ready to be rejected yet!

Grumbling about technology....

Sunday, March 27, 2011

An Editorial Romance

Once upon a time there was a fair damsel named Lenore who lived on the western edge of a great country, beyond the Rocky Mountains on the far side of the Salish Sea in the old city of Victoria. Lenore was a hardworking editor. Her computer keyboard often clacked ceaselessly into the night. She was renowned throughout the state and beyond for her diligent editing, but she realized she was lonely. So she joined the guild of local editors and there encountered many wonderful people. Lenore and some of the editors, with whom she became firm friends, met over tea and coffee every Saturday morning. They never knew who would appear at this social affair, but over the course of their first year, at least three or four editors would gather. One cold, blustery November day, Lenore arrived and sat alone until Chris, a writer and editor, joined her. He lived on the far side of the Malahat Mountain and was an infrequent visitor to the Saturday morning gatherings. No other editors braved the weather that morning. Lenore and Chris discovered they liked each other. After fate placed the two of them together that day, they started to keep company. Chris wooed Lenore with his poetry and warm eyes, and Lenore captured Chris's heart with her beauty, her winsome smile and her wisdom. They fell in love, and three months later Chris asked for Lenore's hand in marriage. Lenore accepted. In June Lenore and Chris will hold a nuptial celebration, where guests will include such fellow editors and writers as will abound like commas on a page.

-- By Lenore Hietkamp and Chris Banner 

Monday, December 20, 2010

Finishing a painting

Well, my painting class is finished, and I've embarked on a wild and wonderful relationship with my sweet man. I wanted to post the painting I did after being inspired by a weekend away with him, so here it is.
It's a bit too green, because I shot the photo indoors. I did this basically in about 4 hours, with my big 2-inch housepainting brush.

Now I want to frame this and all my others. My sweet man is going to make frames. Framing something helps to bring it together, to keep parts from going off into space. I've never bothered before, but I'm starting to respect my work more, and so am seeing the value of finishing a painting--bringing it to a sense of completion by both actually painting it to the point where it no longer "speaks" to me, and by framing it.

So while I have more paintings I'd like to post here, none of them are quite finished. That bugs me. There's something very different about hanging a work of art that will live where you hang it and hanging a work of art that is only temporarily stored there, awaiting the whim of the maker to change into some yet unknown product. It gives my home a sense of impermanence--as if I'll up and walk away someday soon and re-make my life yet again.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Ok, so I met a sweet, passionate man who is crazy about me. I like that. After spending some intense time together, snatching the longest possible hours together that we can, I went to my painting class this evening.

I worked on the painting I began a couple of weeks ago. I had only blocked out the darks, and then stopped work because I ran out of time. At class, I finished it--just like that! It's not precise or careful, but full of the warm energy of being loved, and yes, perhaps, loving, that I feel. It's the kind of painting I want to make, the kind of energy I want to explore. I am deeply grateful to this man for opening up this energy for me.

What was I doing that was different? I made sure I wasn't doing any precious sort of blending on the palette, or shaping of shapes on the canvas. This wasn't really an intellectual decision, but rather bringing to bear the lessons I've been learning from my instructor. Then the application of the paint was an application of energy, really. That's how I can best describe it. Using enough paint, minute adjustments of colour, but not worrying to much about colours of tones being the same across the canvas. Just generally--an impression conveyed through quick looking.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

At my painting class this week, I had to choose a new photo to paint from. Now, a big part of the learning in this class involves learning to listen to our instinct about what makes a good painting. It's quite difficult to do when you're trying to create a painting, but we start with one whole class taking photos of a flamenco dancer dancing. Then we combine all the students' photos (can be thousands). Nicholas Pearce, the instructor, is both a technically savvy artist and an artist of the old school (i.e., not of the express-yourself school), to boot--a bit of an oxymoron! He brings in his computer and sets up a large monitor and scrolls through the photos quickly. We have to decide in the space of 2 second whether we like a photo or not. Then gradually cull them down to one.

This process sounds like a waste of time to new students, and I thought so too, when I first took his class. But then I started trying to choose photos from my own collection--no dancers!--and I find I look at them quite differently. It's the very rare one that is really valuable as a potential work of art, as something that can be turned into a large painting that I'll want to look at for the rest of my life. When I brought my selection of photos to class so that Nicholas could help me choose, he tells me, to paint someone you know, you are always concerned about making it look like them, even if the photo is a good one artistically. All the more reason to find a very good photo, one that is dynamic in composition and colour, conveying the essence of expression that is so hard to define.

Sure, you can take a photo and use it as a stepping stone to create something more to your liking. That's not what the class is about, though. It is about learning to see what makes a composition, using the entire photo as the frame in which to see that composition. The thinking the painter does in the making of the painting from that photo is then not about how to alter shapes, add colours, change expression, to perhaps make a painting that works. The thinking instead is how to produce the artistry you've already identified as present in the photo. How to achieve harmonious intensities using only cadmium red deep and light, cadmium yellow medium, phthalo blue, and white, how to loosen that tightly wound desire to copy, by using a 1.5 inch house painter's brush, how to deal with the effect of blowing up an 8x10" photo to a 30x40" canvas.

It's a process of technical exploration of a sort that students rarely learn in school. But more important, for me, is the exploration of what I the artist am doing and want to be doing. This last is the most difficult thing for me.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

I confess: this is also my space to write about my stalled attempts to find the love of my life. That formless, gormless path of my life that I call painterly includes sporadic ventures into love. No one says relationships are easy, so I don't try to form one when life is otherwise complicated.

This past year I've been taking painting classes with the artist Nicholas Pearce. I'm on my fourth course, a third repeat, but I'm learning so much from him. As I gain clarity about my painting, I am finding that other things either become less important or simpler. It's because I'm finally learning to listen to my gut, or my heart. Or at least, learning that I have to learn how to do that. How do you learn the vocabulary of your gut's language?

And so I feel more confident about meeting men, as well. While I can't say I'll know the right man when I meet him, I can tell that I do want someone who is articulate, intelligent, probably educated, and for sure is not caught by the web of passions like drinking and sex.

Leonardo said that when you draw, you shouldn't draw outlines (or something like that; have to look it up). This is the classic advice of art teachers--draw shapes, capture form, and realize that form can be represented with only a few simple strokes of the pencil. And in our painting class, I'm painting shapes. I'll often paint from photographs with the canvas upside down. It's so easy to get distracted by what my mind thinks about what I'm seeing. I was drawing my niece Melanie this afternoon, who was resting her head on her arm, face toward me but totally horizontal, and half the face hidden in the shadow behind the arm. There are no familiar shapes at this angle for the mind to recognize and dictate the hand. You'd think I'd therefore be able to suspend all my preconceptions about form and draw exactly what I see, and thus come up with a good portrait. But no, the sketch doesn't look at all like Melanie of the lovely eyes. Why? Because I'm still learning (plus she kept moving...).

Nevertheless, it's portraits that I want to paint. I've only come to that realization this past week. And I want to start with portraits of people I know. I've done one of my niece AnnaLise, and am working on of my oldest sister, Fern. I want to paint these portraits to see deeper into myself--how I care for these people, revealing for myself what I see in their character that I enjoy. Meditating, as I paint, on the people themselves.

All this is to say that calling my life painterly is a way to give myself permission to be who I am: inconsistent, uncomfortable with settling for shallowness, flippant when the going gets too deep, and NOT too old to be learning.