Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Coasters

 Since absolutely everybody reads this blog faithfully and remembers everything I say here, you will of course know that my dearest dream once was to make art for record album covers.  Record album covers (that is cardboard covers for collections of music recorded on large vinyl disks,) have gone largely the way of my dreams.  They haven't vanished, but have become much more rare, and are cherished out of proportion to their value or content.  

Many years later, as I may or may not have mentioned here, I settled on a new dream of doing art for beer packaging.  I quite like beer, and I have observed that beer labeling and packaging often displays art that is  delightfully colorful, whimsical and evocative.  I read stories of amateur artist friends of microbreweries designing beer packaging.  I even imagined names for beer which I might illustrate.  All amounting to naught, at least so far.  There are also coasters for beer.  One of my sons started collecting beer coasters, and I learned that traveling firefighters also liked to collect them.  Beer coasters became free souvenirs of my travels and drinks.  

I eventually learned that there is an art show that features art done exclusively on coasters; I believe it has given rise to a few other such shows.  Starting last year, I participated in the coaster show.  I will do so again next month.  What is very cool about the show is that it's this kind of no-holds-barred show, with art of every ilk - cute, raunchy, figurative, abstract expressionist, what have you.  The only thing the pieces have in common is that they are the size and shape of beer coasters.  And there is a ton of them.  I mean, when ever can you see a gallery show with between 700 and 1000 individual pieces of art?

A plug for Gallery 30 South, 30 S Wilson Ave, Pasadena, CA 91106, Coaster Show 2020, running October 5–30, 2020, to coincide more or less with Oktoberfest.  






Thursday, March 12, 2020

Encouragement

If you make art and it's halfway decent to look at,  you're going to get some embarrassing praise.  "I love your art.  You're so talented."  Soon after, you will be treated to tales of personal failure.  "I have no talent.  I can't draw a straight line (or my way out of a box.)"  You might hear stories from the same people about how they loved to draw and paint and make things when they were little kids, and then someone ruined it for them.  The someone was probably a perfectly well-meaning parent or teacher.  Perhaps the art was compared unfavorably to some else's or was misunderstood.  Perhaps the youths were rebuffed for using things not intended as art supplies.  Or for wasting time.

I don't want to be that person who ruins art for someone else.  What I want to do here, in fact, is to give my reader tools not to be that person either.  I have taken plenty of art classes as a child and an adult from a wide range of instructors.  I've weathered a lot of criticism of my work, some very valuable and some entirely unwelcome.  I have done many hours of artwork along side many children of widely varying interest and capability.  This is where I have collected my ideas.  This is intended primarily for people speaking to children about their art, but I find it works with adults as well.  It may also work for areas of human endeavor other than art.



Do not give unsolicited critiques or opinions.  If someone shows you their work, you may assume they are soliciting your opinion.  Never assume someone is seeking criticism or suggestions unless they explicitly ask.

When you give your opinion of a work of art, be sure that it is your opinion, and not a value judgement. Do not say it is "good" or "not good."  If you like it, say so.  Elaborate on what you like.  "I love your colors. . . I admire your bold lines. . . Unicorns are my favorite things."  You can talk about how it makes you feel, whether a picture feels peaceful or has a lot of energy.

Feel free to ask questions, except "what is it supposed to be?"  You can say, "Tell me about what you painted" or say, "it looks like buildings to me.  Where is your scene taking place?  Is it from your imagination or something you have seen?  Who are the people and what are they doing? Does it express something you are feeling?"   I think it's okay to ask, "How do you like it?  Are you happy with it?"

Acknowledge effort.  If it looks like someone is very skilled, acknowledge that it is clear they have put a lot of practice and effort into honing their abilities.  Saying people are talented not only discounts the effort they have put into their art, but can be discouraging to others in the same space.  Efforts  in a particular piece of art might be speed  or it might be the considerable amount of time that was put into it.  You might note the looseness and freedom of the technique or the precision and detail.

Do not tell any artist, particularly a small child, that they have to sign their work, unless you are paying for it, or it is to be handed in to a teacher.  Whether or not an artist signs a work is entirely up to them, and a signature is an element which they may or may not wish to add.  It is like telling the artist to add clouds or the color red, which you also shouldn't do, unless the artist asks you, "what else do you think I should add?"


Discourage frustration and feelings of failure.  You can quote Bob Ross, "There are no mistakes; only happy accidents."  Discourage people from wadding up drawings and throwing them out.  Point out that mistakes are part of practice, and practice is how you build skill.  You may suggest they try to rework the rejected piece into something they are happier with. Or that they keep it for a while to see their progress and improvement.

Acknowledge choices.  Creating at all is a choice.  As is what you create - the size, shape, color, medium, composition, subject, abstraction.  Every single element of a work of art is the artist's choice.  If you tell a young artist, "I like how you grouped the bright colors and oriented the paper lengthwise," you are also letting them know that they have power and agency, at least in this place, and that their possibilities for creation are infinite.

This post is delightfully illustrated with pictures made for me by Ruby, Chris, Nayeen, Angie and Anonymous.






Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Anything Can Happen



I'm sitting here on the cusp of a new year and a new decade.  I'm as willing as the next person to infuse this moment with meaning.  I haven't been in these parts for a good long while.  So the last day or two, I've seen a lot of stuff posted on social media and heard some right from the mouths of humans that 2019 was a hard year, and let's hope 2020 will be kinder.  Yeah, I could echo that sentiment, but 2019 coughed up some really nice moments too.  On a personal level, I experienced two lovely weddings of family members, traveled to Iceland and Tulsa, Oklahoma and points in between.  I read good books and did good works and made art.  A few friends have made it through some big health challenges.  In some of my favorite bits of news, new baby tortoises were born in the Galapagos, and AI is being developed into prosthetics for little kids who otherwise couldn't walk.  And I've remembered that anything can happen.  Which is both good news and bad news.  I've passed the middle of my life, and my expectations trend toward the reasonable.  You know, it's nice just to be here.  But it is solidly within the realm of possibility that 2020, or some other year that hasn't yet happened, could be my best year ever.  It could even be all our best year ever.  However it shapes up, let's pull some good things out of it.  

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

On Time

This is the only painting I have of Union Station in Los Angeles which was not previously posted.  Which tells me, among other things, that I should schedule painting at Union Station soon.  It's a pretty good place to paint in all weather, because you can be inside, outside under shelter, or in one of two or more courtyard gardens.  Like rail travel 20 or 30 years ago, Union Station practically went out of business.  Then came a boom in light rail and commuter train construction and travel.  So Union Station too has made a big comeback.  It is a busy bustling place now, as a train station should be.  And in addition to an infusion of humanity, a whole bunch of money has been pumped into Union Station's revival.  It has always been beautiful, but now it is restored to its original shiny glory.  The downside (because isn't there always one?) is that you now require an actual train ticket to sit in one of the leather upholstered art deco seats in the waiting area.  Those seats used to be free for the taking.  There is a piano inside the station, which is available for the use of all.  I have heard some really wonderful musicians there; it's worth pausing to listen. I think this is only painting I've made of the clock tower, although it is always in view while I wait outside for my train or bus.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Grinding


This is a picture of San Marino's Old Mill - El Molino Viejo in Spanish.  I've painted this old mill several times before and since.  Some of my efforts were posted here.  I think I've previously said most everything I have to say about the Old Mill, except this.  When I was a kid I visited someplace far from home, and there was an old mill there.  Which I found quite surprising.  I thought we had the only one.  But in reality, they are all over the county.  Flour is something that an awful lot of people use, but it takes a lot of power to mill it.  There are real economies of scale to employing a source of power greater than elbow grease - such as water or large animals - and to making a bunch of flour at a time.  I'm guessing that since there was kind of a public interest in mills anyhow, it was easy to transition them to museums and interpretive sights when the means of production advanced technologically.

If our civilization hangs around for another hundred years, I wonder what enterprises we will celebrate with museums and interpretive sights.  I believe video stores have already vanished.  Maybe there will be convenience store museums, demonstrating the old methods of cold beverage delivery.

In order to catch up my blogging to my painting, which matters not at all, I'm aggregating a few images of the same subject.  I think it makes more sense then combining unrelated images that happened to be painted around the same time.   Although it will be harder to keep track of.  The last picture is the most recent one, but a different view.  The picture with the chuppah set up for a wedding is the oldest; it was taken before the vines were taken off the building.  I thought the Old Mill might look much less interesting without vines, but it doesn't look too bad and it's easier to paint in the bargain.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Not Counting

I'm a little obsessive compulsive.  I know better than to talk lightly of mental illness. I can handle a reasonable amount of mess, clutter and dirt, but sometimes I just need things to be straight.  Pictures must hang level and yoga mats must align.  I count.  When I'm waiting for someone, I count cars or people that pass.  I count to fall asleep sometimes.  I count while I water my plants.  I've intentionally lost count of somethings, like how many lovers I had.  How much I ate.

I've been going out and painting for a few years now.  Since early 2010.  Almost every week.  So?  More than 400 paint outs?  A lot of painters.  A lot of places.  Not too many miles.  Less than 10,000 hours.  No regrets.  Some paintings.



Monday, May 14, 2018

Span


I'm still posting paintings that I painted a year ago, because I slowed way down on posting to the blog, and meanwhile I've picked up my painting pace.  The reality is that I may never catch up, even if (as I have,) I skip some of the paintings. I thought the next painting up was a different painting of the Colorado Bridge.  I've painted said bridge two or more times since I painted the image shown here.  Catch up?  Who am I fooling?  There is no obligation here, and not even much of a method.  Since I had whole other ideas about what I was going to say about the other view of the bridge, I have nothing planned to say.  

In that vacuum, I'll offer my most important life observations.  Here.  The most important decision you make is choosing who you listen to.  It's a noisy world with 7.6 million opinions.  The people you listen to will guide your values, your beliefs, your tastes, your actions and your experience. Your parents, your news sources, your friends, your teachers, your spiritual leaders - those people.  Your choice.  The other observation is that things pass.  Some of the most precious and rare things and people and moments you encounter in your life may seem quite ordinary.  And they may seem like they will always be around and always be the same.  It's okay that things change and pass.  That's just the way of time.  What I would suggest as a hedge against time is only to live deeply and completely in the present.  Capture those moments in all their vividness with all your senses.  That's what I know.  

Here are photos of a scruffy mockingbird and a prickly heart.  



Sunday, April 8, 2018

Lotus Flowers

Lotus flowers have been important symbols to many cultures.  They show up in Egyptian art and depictions of Buddha and Hindu gods.  The thing that is special about lotus flowers is the way they grow in the muckiest of mud.  They rise anew from the mud and water in the morning and open their petals.  Their seeds, which are edible, have been known to germinate after 2000 years.

This painting is of the lotus flowers in Echo Park and of the sky reflected in the water.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Oaklawn

This painting is a part of the Oaklawn Bridge in South Pasadena.  The Oaklawn bridge is designated a National Historic Landmark.  It stands in some great company, with such bridges as the Brooklyn Bridge, the Edmund Pettus Bridge, several Bridges of Madison County, and the Natural Bridge in Virginia.  The Oaklawn Bridge leads in and out of an elegant planned neighborhood of the early 1900s.  The bridge spans train tracks and a tiny waterway.  It is presently used only by pedestrians.  The bridge, along with other Oaklawn features, was designed by Pasadena architects Charles and Henry Greene.  It is Greene & Green's only bridge and their only concrete structure.  It was among the first reinforced concrete bridges built in the United States, and the very first in the West.  So here is a drawing of the bridge, presumably by the Greenes.
It does and doesn't look like this today.  There is a lot of stuff in front and around it, including trees, power poles, buildings, and cars.  The residents of Oaklawn resisted the placement of a marker, and the designation as a significant site on old route 66.  You kind of can't blame them. Tourists and sightseers are only really welcome when they are spending money.  A newer resident is looking at the upside of Oaklawn's monument status, and attempting to replace a large oak tree that presumably once gave Oaklawn its name.

I cannot help thinking of the Florida International University pedestrian bridge that collapsed on March 15, and killed six people.  My heart goes out to those who were injured and those who lost loved ones.  Life is so fragile and precious.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Challenged

One of the things I like best about the world is that there are many little worlds within the world.  There are worlds that are very familiar to me, and many more I don't even know.  The worlds I dwell in include painters, dog-owners, and people who blog.  We have our own language, tools, ways of meeting, and things other people just wouldn't get.  I once was a band parent and a folk-dancer.  There are wine-drinkers, golfers, bingo-players, sailors, motorcyclists, swap meet people, runners, bookclubs and birdwatchers.  Families are little worlds, as are religious communities, schools and neighborhoods.  There are millions of online communities surrounding games and other interests or shared experience.  There are groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and Weight Watchers that come together to support their members.  

When you do things alone, you can challenge yourself and set goals, but you can't compete with yourself, and, even if you could, you could still cheat with impunity.  You can affirm yourself and encourage yourself, but when you need encouragement and affirmation the very most, you will find it the hardest to deliver.  So in the online art world, there are challenges.  The challenges foster community and competition.  There are a few different challenges I've participated in and shared here.  One is the Every Day in May challenge, where we receive 31 drawing subject prompts, one for each day, and each day we prepare and post a sketch.  These are some of my favorites from 2016.




I am aware of challenges for writers and fitness buffs and beer drinkers.  I've no doubt that every stripe of community has (or could have) challenges to encourage greater levels of experience or accomplishment.  I checked, because I was curious, and found all sorts of challenges.  Typically, challenges last for a set duration of time, often 30 days.  I found this collection of 30 challenges  and this collection of 100 challenges.  The latter also references a book with 500 challenges.  I think if you wanted to do them all, you would have to overlap significantly, or you just wouldn't have time.  I think I could use a good challenge.  Anybody out there want to make a challenge?  I'll  take it, but you have to try it too.