Monthly Archives: February 2014

Of Paintings, Permanence and Picnics

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  Here’s a twenty-year-old sketch for a painting, done in ink on paper. The original measured about seven feet by four, though I’ve cropped this image because of the torn bits and the logs I put down to keep it flat for photographing. If you saw the entire original photo you’d also see the feet of the ladder I climbed in order to get the proper angle and distance.

            Did I make a final work from this sketch? Yes and no. I painted a seven by four on gessoed panel, cradled on pine. What colors? You know how it is when you peel a brown onion and shades from mahogany through amber to translucent cream emerge? Those were the colors I chose, with a late sky shading from rose to lavender. Biggest problem was where to put it. When my new gallery saw the work they wanted it, but I had just noted a warp beginning from some flaw in the panel. Tried to correct that warp but it kept growing.

            In the meantime a gentleman saw and wanted to buy. I explained that the structural problem wasn’t repairable, given that it was in the wood itself. He still wanted it, and I confess the cash would have been most welcome, but I had to deny him. After all, a properly made oil painting should be good for two thousand years, (maybe more.)

            In the end I lent the painting to a friend who had a large wall. My decision not to sell has proved correct for the warp has only grown more acute over time.

            These days with the large paintings, I prepare the ground differently, stretching canvas over a good quality doorskin mounted and well-cradled before I surface the canvas. I’ve never again had a problem. However, as you see, there’s a lot more to painting professionally than grabbing paints and entering blissful transcendence.  Mind your engineering principles, heed the chemistry, check the integrity of what you do so that you can indeed stand behind your own work. There are many ways to go wrong – I recall my painting techniques professor telling us about a painter who wanted a buttery glossy handling for his paints and mixed them with mayonnaise. Better on bread than canvas. I don’t know if he ended up spreading a toxic picnic for the ants, but permanent, no. Meltdown in less than five years.

            Unfortunately I don’t have a digital depiction of that flawed work, but here is another in similar hues so that you can imagine!

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We’re not going

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We are the people who can’t take vacations. We hear the whispers– nay shouts, of our ancestors—’Sybarites! Hedonists! You’re the reason Rome fell!’

So how do you expect us to take a break? Take a lie in the sun on a beach? Who in hell are you kidding? We are the people who make the world work. We labor for results that reach far beyond ourselves. When we put our shoulders to the plow, by God, you see turned earth.

I grew up, part-time on a farm in New Hampshire. My husband Bruce grew up on a farm in Massachussetts.  When you step out on a farm, things happen. Chips fly, seedlings are set out, trees cut down, uprooted weeds pile in mountains, their green fading, wilting. The earth takes in manure as you turn deep cuts of mulberry brown soil over and re-spade, then do it one more time, the clods crumbling, accepting the change. You take the wheelbarrow back to the neighbor’s barns and load it up again with rich offal reeking while flies swim lazy in the air. Back and back again. (And what back by the way? Backs have the obligation to remain silent until the job is done.)

So how can we deal with the idea that the purpose (how can it be so misnamed) of action might be the relaxation of our puny bodies? Unnatural thought. We’ll need so much brainwashing before we believe in that notion of ‘vacation’ that a legion of CDC and NIMH  flunkies will fall asleep in the fields before we give in.

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Have you thought of Eowyn?

I read this Tumblr post by a woman whose other work I have admired. It’s for anyone who has thought about Eowyn, shield maiden of Rohan.

Read, imagine, and dream of her.

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