Y2 Art Resolutions: #13-Tiny Creatures

Y2 Art Resolutions is the second year of an evolving resolution to elevate every day by looking at art and creativity as a life’s philosophy.

When I began working these exercises again,  I figured a series was emerging. But yesterday, after “creature in contemplation,” I saw only sea vegetation in  my next sketch. The floating flowers caught my imagination with their whimsy. When I searched for creatures, I could find none.  Since the marker colors were getting tiresome, I figured that my theme was shifting and decided it was time for more nuanced color. Then a surprising thing happened. Lady Bugs showed up. After I worked the watercolor, I brought the study into the Tayasui Sketches program and used the pen and pastel tools.

I like this. I like the gentle nature of the piece and the subtle softness of the palette and unpretentious presence of the tiny critters.

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Y3 Art Resolutions: Mothering creativity

Art Resolutions is the third year of an evolving resolution to elevate every day by looking at art and creativity as a life’s philosophy.

After a four month hiatus (which I will explain at a later date), Mother’s Day may not be an obvious occasion at which to pick up this blog dedicated to art and creativity. But not so surprising thinking of my creative mother and celebrating the first Mother’s Day without her. So, this entry is dedicated first, to her, but also to the wonderful women I know and know of (and even a few men) who care for and nurture others — who mother creativity — who make our lives fuller for the inventive and loving ways they make us fly — for the artists who merge art and mothering.

Merging artist and mother.

Surely I was lucky to have an artistic mother with great creative skills. Even at a young age, I knew she was not ordinary. With no money, she managed to build an attractive home, memorable and plentiful meals, clean pressed clothes in good condition, and unusual and extraordinary gifts. Mom’s sweat equity went into amazingly decorated cakes, beautifully constructed graduation dresses, rehabilitating garage sale figure skates and transforming milkman delivery baskets into dolly beds. When I interviewed her for a graduate project and asked her to define creativity, she told me, “Creativity is making something from nothing.” At that, she was a master.

For those of us who have also lived our professional lives as creatives, the merging of art and motherhood is symbiotic. In the same way we look at our children’s different gifts and grow, push, guide and celebrate them–those of us committed or professed to the practice of creativity and the importance of art must do the same for ourselves and each other. And, we do.

 

A brief history and a call to action.

Like most major holidays, Mother’s Day has become commercially important. But, early Mother’s Days began as events that leveraged and focused on caring and nurturing society.

Around 1870, Julia Ward Howe called for Mother’s Day to be celebrated each year to encourage pacifism and disarmament amongst women. It continued to be held in Boston for about ten years under her sponsorship, but died out after that.

In 1907, Anna Jarvis held a private Mother’s Day celebration in memory of her mother, Ann Jarvis, in Grafton, West Virginia. Ann Jarvis had organized “Mother’s Day Work Clubs” to improve health and cleanliness.

As mothers, now as much or more than ever, we need to revive a Mother’s Day where we collectively and actively use our intuitive insights and innate maternal talents to heal and lead. This will take, first, the ability to see a world that is different. And, secondly, it will take a commitment, hard work, and creativity to use these skills to create a better world for our children and theirs. This is my charge to all mothers this Mother’s Day.

Mother’s Day and art resolutions.

With that unceremonious and significant “ask” out of the way, let me wind back to connecting Mother’s Day to art resolutions. I wanted to show all those things that are related to both —  growing, spring, beauty and legacy. And, I wanted to know why the second week of May was chosen to celebrate.

I couldn’t find a history for selecting the date, but it has always made sense to me. Many mothers garden. Mine did out of necessity as did others– done to nourish the family.  But there was also a pleasure in well-tended rows and tall, healthy plants. As women, many of us enjoy the process of planting a seed and watching it grow, change, and bloom. As spring is the season of birth and beginnings, symbolism is ever present. Why are our connections with our mothers and children so compelling? How could they not be? We began in them.

Beyond the symbolism of birth, the garden and flowers have everything to do with our natural appreciation for beauty. Flowers also connect us to our strongest sense — smell. For me and I suspect for others, flowers are also connection to our pasts, especially legacy flowers that grandmothers handed down to our mothers who handed them down to us. The scent of lilacs will always remind me Carrie Scott’s beautiful deep plum french lilacs at the farm in Lafox and Grandma Pierick who loved them dearly. Peonies remind me of my mother who cut them each spring from the long hedge in Lafox and put them on the table in long necked cranberry glass vase, a wedding gift used only on special occasions and during peony season.

So my art resolution for this day is in gathering a bouquet of the ways flowers have inspired and enhanced my life. Beginning with a bouquet I received from Thomas and Philip yesterday and joined by a carafe I painted inspired by birthday bouquet from Philip, flowers from the Mt. Much more gardens–red peonies (like my favorites from LaFox), duotone violet irises from the McFarland house, white irises from Mom’s house,  Siberian irises I bought for Muchmore. Though they were not flowers, we had a huge plot of rhubarb in the garden at LaFox. Commemorating it is my favorite of my Mother’s pies–rhubarb custard make in the Vermont pie plate given by my dear sister of choice and mother of my god-twins, Rosemary. Finally, a photo a garden of Be a, a master gardener, dear friend and mentor, and grower of yet another generation of wise, wonderful and creative women.

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To the people in my life– the sons, the family, the sisters of choice, the friends and dear ones who work to find the right thing to say, who stand by me in good and bad times, who push me to achieve my full potential, who love me unconditionally, who complete the mothering without the mother. I thank you with the fullest of hearts.

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Y3 Art Resolutions: #6 Geisha-The final act?

Art Resolutions is the third year of an evolving resolution to elevate every day by looking at art and creativity as a life’s philosophy.

Tonight, Geisha is channeling Matisse. She is in full regalia–make up, parasol, technicolor kimono. Though I used the watercolor simulation for paper in the digital painting program, it never looks the same or as unique as true watercolor. But this is a wonderful way of trying out different combinations and placement of color without destroying the original. Since this is likely to become a larger scale painting or print, this has been a satisfying exercise and I have ideas from all versions.

They are so different and have separate personalities. I like that. Like music, they are different movements of an orchestral suite. Though she is fully executed in color, I still feel there are things to work out. We will see what Geisha whispers this weekend.

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Y3 Art Resolutions #5: Geisha 2-v3

Art Resolutions is the third year of an evolving resolution to elevate every day by looking at art and creativity as a life’s philosophy.

After yesterday’s close up, Geisha has decided that it is not enough. She wants full exposure and so I pulled the original scan into the digital drawing program and began again. Her hair a bit different. Only a suggestion of what the switchback design will be in the final treatment. I like the little pink blossom very much. And love the parasol. Again, I could leave her this way and feel fully satisfied that this has a certain completeness about it. The lovely thing about digital painting is that you can generate as many versions of a composition as you wish–or leave it when it finds you satisfied and never struggle with “what ifs” or “should I’s.”

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#4 Geisha 2-v2 in color

Art Resolutions is the third year of an evolving resolution to elevate every day by looking at art and creativity as a life’s philosophy.

Geisha got enthusiastically cropped the first time I imported her into the digital painting program. Face, front and center, she likes her make up. Still channeling Modigliani but there are hints of friend, Toni Riccardi, and Janet Becker, a coworker in college.

Before I abandoned this study to recrop and import the entire original, I painted her face and began to experiment with her kimono. The switchback pattern may make it one of the most interesting aspects of the final composition. But in this study, I followed Helen’s advice–and left it once I had something I liked. The light violet swath of hair on the left, her harlequin lips and the switchback pleased me–and I stopped.

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Y3 Art Resolutions: #3-Geisha 2

Art Resolutions is the third year of an evolving resolution to elevate every day by looking at art and creativity as a life’s philosophy.

Another session of intuitive drawing has clearly established that Japan is still firmly routed in my psyche. Otherwise I am channeling another era.

Another geisha was hiding in the layers of free flowing line. She looks like a Modigliani muse whose smirking smile says she has chosen not to take this modeling thing seriously. Equal parts tease and contortionist, her plan is to move as soon as Amadeo looks away.

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Y3 Art Resolutions: #2-A falling angel

Y3 Art Resolutions is the third year of an evolving resolution to elevate every day by looking at art and creativity as a life’s philosophy.

Not long ago, I watched a program discussing how mental illness and other physical detours from the norm create the filter through which certain artists’ brilliance emerges. For me, it validated the unconscious, uncensored expression that “normal” artists can experience which appears undisciplined — until you recognize the small signs of color placement and choice, spacial relationship, texture, line, and contrast that demonstrate a deep or intuitive understanding of those things that make art.

The studies below are not brilliant, but they grew out of intuitive drawing and limited tools.  I’d thought of doing a study but had abandoned the idea when annoyed that I’d taken colored pencils out of my travel bag. I had only a sketch pad and two razor point pens. One black. One blue. Finally, I resolved only to see where  line would take me. But not long after starting, curiosity took over. How effective could I make an intuitive drawing with a nearly monochromatic palette?

Some time past and I saw an angel with pinched face. Perhaps indigestion. Her wings worn thin from flying. She looked travel weary and resigned to fall to earth. All this pleased me (well, not her condition–but that she showed up).

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Once revealed, I wanted to see her other dimensions. I recharged my tablet and pulled her into my digital painting program. Then cloaked her in a coat of colors and tried to breathe life into her fragile wings.

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But the exuberance was too much for my frail flyer.  She begged to be see only for her core –the deep inner coals that stoked the last fires of her soul. Using white pencil, I cast a web of white over that fought to suppress her inner self. Away from the hoopla of wings and gowns, she was a waif.

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When I added a black background for more contrast and dimension, it was too harsh. A web of blue pencil softened it. And there she was, my dispepsic angel in all her fading glory.

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Y3 Art Resolutions: Of art and craft

Y3 Art Resolutions is the third year of an evolving resolution to elevate every day by looking at art and creativity as a life’s philosophy.

At year’s end, even those who avoid it, ponder the meaning of life–if only for a few brief moments before the onslaught of football and the distractions of beer and tacos overwhelm. This is not my way. There are those who may say I have an aversion to moderation. Yes, I have spent every unencumbered moment of the holiday season reflecting on a very strange and intense year. A year testing my core optimism and sense of hope.

Existential maelstrom.

2016 will forever be marked by my Mother’s death. Losing a mother creates an existential maelstrom. Who was I with her? Who am I without her? What did her life mean? What will mine? Where do the answers come from?

As an artist, I turn to design. For me, it is the bedrock of understanding. It is the plan, the elegance and precision with which pieces fit together, the whole, life’s map–a blueprint for the movements of creativity–like this blog. For 7 years, this has been one of the ways in which I can observe and learn about those life elements which informs the picture or scheme of life. I come back to what I had hoped to achieve in writing–establishing an exploration of philosophy through the lens of creativity.

Seeing design–beyond the obvious.

In 2016, I could accomplish only 24 days of translating my resolution into a concrete output. In 2016, finding art, beauty and creativity everyday was often a solitary pursuit. There was not the time to share it, but it happened nonetheless.

The daily exercise of elevating life took many forms that helped me survive an unimaginably difficult year. Creativity often dovetailed with meditation and reflection, music, nature, and losing myself in writing or changing things in my home and my life.

Of art and craft.

It is impossible to close 2016 and begin life on the planet of 2017, without looking at the different creative muses Mom and I followed. Like many children, I both wanted to be and not be my Mother. I admired her talent but heard a different drummer. The ultimate difference was our different relationships with two things: art and craft. Mom dedicated her life to building the skills to make the finest creations she could. I cared less about pristine corners and perfectly blended edges and more about the intellectual journey in art and the rush of innovating.

As I reflect on her work, she brought more than the perfection I often got stuck on. She made things that elevated daily life — clothes, bedspreads, quilts, upholstery, mittens, cakes, pies, and Christmas stockings. I will care for and cherish forever the handmade lap blankets and quilted potholders — the recipe scrapbook and handcut Easter basket tags.

Channeling the Chuck and Alice.

From this place of reflection, I have channeled not only my parents’ skill but their sense of humor and playfulness this first holiday without them both. I have commemorated a family tradition that seems specific to the Van Bogaerts–Tripoly.

Mom and Dad were card playing people of a card playing generation. Many times, I have recounted stories of the aunts and uncles collecting at our house on a weekend night. They would play cards. The men would drink Blatz beer out of quart bottles and smoke White Owls and Prince Edwards. The women would sip lime vodka and 50/50. They all would snack on cream cheese and onion soup dip on chips and revisit family history and the latest. We kids listened through the second floor register until someone heard us and ordered us to bed.

Somewhere along the way, Tripoly showed up. I suspect Mom found a game mat at a rummage sale long ago. Wherever and however it came to our house, I am not sure, but I can’t remember a time without it. As kids, we began playing it on holidays. As we grew up, it was a standard activity when everyone came home. Big kids, little kids, card players and those who did not play — all could come together for Tripoly. Everyone collected at the family dining table and Dad brought out an old plastic container filled with petty change. For an hour or so, the decibel level leaped. Cards were slammed on the table. Accusations of cheating were charged and we laughed–hard.

In this year when so many have been able to find so little which they can share, Tripoly seemed like the great uniter. This profound realization came too late for Amazon to deliver, so I channeled my mother and bootstrapped two Tripoly mats–one for the Neal family and one for my son, Thomas, and his Cassie. I confess to being humorously proud of the Neal mat, at least until my son, Philip, cruelly informed me that the “kitty” and “10” spots were missing in my rendition of the mat.

The Thomas/Cassie board was the greater bootstrapping accomplishment. Packing cardboard, duct tape and black marker. Primitive. Certainly having a character of its own. We tried it out last Friday night and it played well. If it survives, I like to think that future generations will wonder about it’s curious personality — but, more than that, be inclined to hang on to tired board with its own rustic charm and bootstrapped history. Appreciating something of art, craft, and family folklore.

 

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