Monday, November 30, 2009

Back In the Studio

Playing in the studio again the other day trying to make it a daily habit.  Eventually, I'll get in there for a couple hours each day.  Until that habit kicks in I'm thankful for the times I do find myself at my desk instead of in the kitchen.

I've been wanting to visit the local art supply store to look over some new watercolor paints.  The old tubes I had were dried up.  The new ones I had didn't have the range of colors I really wanted.  I don't want to resort to my travel set because then I'd need to replace those pans, too.

When you buy an introductory set of five tubes they  don't always offer the colors you want.  Strange colors I would never buy are included.  So I need to supplement the sets with more paints.  Some how I can't get to the store!  Is it a block?  Am I putting other things in my way so I never get there?  I don't know, but the great thing is that I painted anyway in spite of the weird colors.

Five large tubes of MamieriBlu and twelve tiny tubes of Holbein paints is what I have.  The MamieriBlu are wonderfully creamy and hold up nice while painting.  The Holbein are also nice to work with.  I had my eyes on a set of Russian Yarka paints. 

However, some wonderful fellow artists on the Etsy shop forums gave me great info on them and I decided to stick with what I have.  I don't feel like spending good money on inferior quality paint.

Off to the studio to look at the disaster of a painting I did last week.  The Artist Way course says bad paintings point the way to a different style.  Ok, so I did a junky painting.  I felt like thowing paint on the paper in an effort to abstract the marigold work. 

Well, let's say it looked like a mess of color.  Instead of ditching it, I went back to it and tried adding line, blotching some color out and generally playing with it.  Just a play date in the studio.

Maybe it wasn't what I had in mind, but a good effort anyway.  I'm not that embarrassed to show it.  Thankfully, things sometimes work out in the end if you try again.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Photo Friday

 Figure 14x24" Pastel on toned paper
©1978 Dora Sislian Themelis

Self Portrait 14x24" Pastel on toned paper
©1978 Dora Sislian Themelis

Musicians 14x24" Pastel on toned paper
©1978 Dora Sislian Themelis

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thought for Thursday

"It is now common knowledge that the average American gains 7 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day."    Marilu Henner

Lovely, enjoy the day!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Artist Date at the Guggenheim

Recently, I visited the Guggenheim Museum in New York City to see the Vasily Kandinsky exhibition.  It's on 5th Avenue in the 80's on Museum Row where there are other museums and galleries.  The Guggenheim is a cool place to visit in itself and was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.  

Outside and inside, the walls of the building twist around and around, floor to floor, as you view the paintings.  It's visually stunning.  From the inside lobby you can see the ceiling and each floor circumscribes the space going all the way up.  People can be seen moving around and up as they step back to view the art, some lean on the wall or hang over.  Cool, weird and scary all at once.

This was my latest and longest Artist's Date.  The point of it is to go alone and be in the moment without distraction from a side-kick.  As soon as you invite a friend along, the magic spell is broken.  It's no longer a play date with your inner child artist.  You know how the other person always wants to go this way and you want to go the other? 

Going alone insures you do what you want, when you want, and how.  Since I'm the type that likes "alone" it's perfect!   I took mass transit to get there, which was wonderful and clean.  I wish I had taken photos of the subway stations because each stop has it's own flavor of mosaic tile designs on the walls.  Next time.  The weather was comfortably cool so I wasn't dragging a winter coat around the museum.

With the $18 price of admission, I had the opportunity to use the headset with taped information on Kandinsky's life and each painting in the show.  The massive exhibit was very extensive with work from Kandinsky's early years to his very last painting.  

The symbolism he used told the story of life in Russia and other places he lived, his spirituality and connection of color to classical music.  Very intense, bright color ruled most of his work in which he liked to abstract forms.  

As he progressed in life his work became slightly more minimal, but color, form and symbolism reigned none-the-less.  It was all so interesting I took notes, and I'm out of school a long time.  Overall, this was a great Artist's Date.  I can't wait for the next museum trip!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Is Mom Nutty? No, Just an Artist

Plugging along in The Artist's Way course.  I've finally moved myself on to Week 11- Recovering a Sense of Autonomy.  It's interesting, to say the least.  The author discusses things that I know I do and don't do.  Cameron talks about calling one's self an artist and how it feels to say the word. 

Let's be frank, full time, stay-at-home parent becomes the title, not artist.  First I was a fine artist, then I became a commercial artist and wife, then a mother and homemaker.  Where did the title of fine artist fit in anywhere?  Over the years since graduating college armed with my BFA, I've painted and sketched, but not full time, 24/7 artist. 

As a mom the home and family really do come first.  Forget about being first or second on the list, try getting in the top ten!  Not happening.  I remember my professor once told me women don't stay artists because of family obligations.  Talk about artist blocks from the get-go!

Kids grow up.  What do they really need from me?  Laundry, food?  Oh yeah, money. Some day maybe babysitting?  Right now that's it, but I've been doing this job for so long it's become my block to art.  I've realized this from working in the course.  I know who I am inside my brain.  I might be a little nutty, in a good way, of course!  Okay, a wacky, artist mom, but responsible when I need to be.  Fine.

Finally I have the freedom to leave the laundry and go to the easel.  It's been my habit to think of all the things I want to do, but can't.  All the things I want to do, but don't.  Doing this course helped me to carve out more time to play at being an artist again.  I even said the word a couple days ago when asked my profession!  I used to say homemaker because that's what I thought I was.  Not any more. 

If what I paint isn't great, so what?  Making bad art is better than not making any art at all.  Bad art could point the way to a different idea or style I might not have tried had I not played.  Again, it all comes down to the "doing", the process not the outcome.  Just having the chance to make bad art is a step in the right direction.

So, yes, I'm an artist, however wacky.  Sorry guys!

Monday, November 23, 2009

It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Day

The best part of my day is in the early morning.  And a Sunday morning is best of all. Sunday morning is the quietest time of any day of the week. I wake up early every day by habit anyway, even on Sundays.  First things first-coffee making. The smell alone is inviting.

Next, get the newspaper from the porch.  After breakfast, with the kitchen made neat and whoever is out doing their thing, I get to have another coffee, read, do the crossword puzzle, and write the Morning Pages.  Outside no cars are passing by, no people yapping, no kids running around screaming, no gardener idiots, no television on, just peace and quiet.  Heaven.

If I could put this time in a bottle and open it whenever I wanted this feeling I'd do it in a minute.  The only thing that would make this time better would be if I was near the beach.  That'd be perfection.  But I'll take it this way any time. 

Since I'm writing these three Morning Pages, my brain is quiet, too.  Beautiful.  No brain chatter.  And I'm all alone.  Great.  I love being by myself.  Is that normal?  The Artist Way says it's normal for creatives to like and need alone time.  I've always felt like that, but I thought maybe it's just weird me.  So I guess it's fine. 

Not many people want or need to be alone.  In fact some people crave company constantly.  There's no way I could do that.  I enjoy company, just not all the time. Later in my day I like some activity going on.  Mostly, though, I don't need all that extra noisy stuff. My brain can't take it. No thanks. 

With the approaching Christmas holidays come the activities and people and inviting and shopping and doing and coming and going.  I'm already tired thinking about it.  Just give me a little quiet time in a cozy, colorful kitchen with a newspaper and coffee in a pretty cup and I'm good.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Photos Friday

This is a series of pastel drawings of the bas reliefs which were pilfered from the Parthenon in Athens, Greece during the time of Lord Elgin.  The original sculptures are housed in the British Museum from which Greece has been trying to get these, and other sculptures, returned to their rightful country. 

I am fascinated by the movement of the figures and the play of dark and light shadows on the forms.  Using pastels offers an energy I enjoy feeling from the direct contact to the surface as I hold the medium.  It's exciting and I move to the different colors automatically.  When I'm finished, I'm not really sure what I've come up with!  But I get like that with most of my work.  Drawing is just so much more intense for me. 

In the book of photos I used for this series I always see something new.  It's almost as good as live models, but not quite the same.  And models don't bring horses.

Elgin Marbles Series #1-5  18 x 24  #1 8x10  Pastel on toned pastel paper  ©Dora Sislian Themelis

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thought for Thursday

"Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures."

Henry Ward Beecher

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Skeins on a Plane

I've been AWOL from the blog lately due to a family emergency which took me out of town. Travel is something I like to dream about, but don't really like to do when it gets down to it. I love to watch an airplane in the sky and imagine the exotic place it's going. Sometimes I wish I was on that airplane flying away somewhere. Then I think of how it all works and I start to get nervous. Planes fly in the sky, right? A big heavy apparatus with real people inside, flying over oceans, mountains, and all that entails. Then there's the planning which I am really bad at. 

This trip was different in that I had no time to think or plan because there was nothing to do but get to the destination.  No time to pack, just throw essentials in a bag.  When I have an emergency my fears fly out the window.  I had an objective and worked to meet it. What I did think about was taking my Artist's Way morning pages to write in and a couple of skeins of sock yarn.  At least these two things would keep me calm and be productive in down time.

I took care to bring bamboo needles for the sock knitting instead of my favorite steel double-points.  In this post 9/11 time, flying is tough enough that I didn't want to risk fighting with security over knitting needles and looking like a wacko flight risk.  Hey, remember people, this is New York!  Bamboo needles sailed through the check points.

Settled in my seat near a window, I took out the knitting and got to it. The "flight professional", as they are now called, asked me for my drink and snack preferences and added that she's seen knitting with two needles, but never with four. So I tell her, "It's for socks."  She starts laughing and hitting her head while I'm thinking, ok, what's her problem?  Looking at me between the blue chips and the cashews, over the heads of my seat-mates she says, "You did say socks, right?"

Friday, November 13, 2009

Photos Friday

Enjoy the fruits of my labor! 

Greek Dish 9x10 Watercolor ©2000 Dora Sislian Themelis

Pear and Apple 9x10 Watercolor ©2000 Dora Sislian Themelis

Apple and Pear 9x10 Watercolor ©2000 Dora Sislian Themelis

Two Apples 9x10 Watercolor ©2000 Dora Sislian Themelis

Red Apples 9x10 Watercolor ©2000 DoraSislian Themelis

Apple and Briki 9x10 Watercolor ©2000 Dora Sislian Themelis

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Thursday Thought

"Only when he no longer knows what he is doing does the painter do good things" --Edgar Degas

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

It's Play Time

Fall Marigold on the easel ©2009 Dora Sislian Themelis

I'm so happy I had my little tantrum yesterday.  I told myself I was just going to do the things that needed doing and get over it!  Whatever time it took to clear the table, so to speak, I was going to set aside one hour to play.  One hour to just fool around at my desk. 

The other day I had taken a few more photographs in my garden.  I decided to just upload them from the camera and see what I had.  Some photos looked good enough to paint from.  I prefer painting from life, but it was okay for now. 

I chose a photo and took it to my drawing table, squeezed out the colors I was going to use and just got to it.  Without any rhyme or reason I sketched with color on the paper.  No objective other than playing with the brush and the paint.

Can you guess that I ended up spending two and a half hours painting?  By the time I looked up from the watercolor paper, it was already dark outside and I had no idea what time it was.  I was amazed.  Yesterday I was having a hissy fit about not painting and today I was painting!  Talk about a creative u-turn!

Fall Marigold 14x20" Watercolor on 140lb coldpress paper
©2009 Dora Sislian Themelis

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

I'm Stuck, Where's my Crayons?

Did you ever get stuck?  I don't mean stuck by the monotony of everyday life and looking for an adventure.  What I'm talking about is the stuck in the middle of too many things on my need-to-do list and no time for what I like doing.  I get paralyzed when I can't decide. 

Play with the paints or vacuum the carpets.  Doodle at my desk or do the food shopping.  As a home-based artist I always have the little nagging feeling that the family and house comes first.  The distraction of deciding could take up the day leaving no time for playing!  I want to play all day and I can't and it makes me angry! (Stomping my foot and holding my breath until I'm blue.)

So I'm reading The Artist's Way, still.  There it is in black and white, that the inner-child artist needs to play, or else.  The "or else" could become self destruction!  And play is less scary than work.  Artist's use distractions as excuses not to work because the idea of the resulting outcome is a scary idea. 

It's fear.  We're afraid the outcome won't be any good.  Will anyone like it?  And if they don't like it, will I question my talent?  It's all so scary that we avoid doing everything but art.  If I don't keep at it some one else with less talent than me will get ahead because they know how to talk it up and they keep at it.  Sure, those kind of people have no fear!  Arggh!

The book says it's the job of the artist-adult to allow the inner-child artist to rant and gently turn the situation around, a creative U-turn.  Just hand that "child" crayons and paper.  Ignore the tantrum.

It's the process that is important, not the outcome remember?  Yeah, I remember.  It's the dream of the artist to be painting all day, but it's not a reality I guess.  Ok, I'll find some time between laundry loads to doodle.  Sorry, I forgot.  Okay, I had my tantrum, I feel better now.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Into the Woods

Last month I visited The Nassau County Museum of Art in Roslyn, New York.  It's a lovely old mansion on the north shore of Long Island in and around the areas known as the Gold Coast.  That nickname was made popular by F. Scott Fitzgerald in his novel The Great Gatsby.  Many of these homes were built and owned by millionaires all living the good life here.  

This particular estate was owned by Henry Clay Frick, co-founder of U.S. Steel Corporation, in 1919.  The Georgian mansion was a wedding gift for his son, Childs.  The mansion home was built on land owned by William Cullen Bryant, and named Clayton.  In 1969, the estate was purchased by Nassau County to be converted to the Museum of Art.

It was my first time at this museum and I wanted to see the current exhibit of original paintings by Norman Rockwell, the noted illustrator of the Saturday Evening Post and other periodicals.  He liked to represent the everyday basic human experience in his art.  “I paint life as I would like it to be,” he once said.

Seeing the oil paintings close up, I was able to detect his brush strokes and get a feel for how he prepared his works.  They showed oil sketches that Rockwell used to develop the final paintings.  It was a very large, involved exhibition and filled the whole museum. 

Spanning the decades of his career through several wars and painting styles.  His realistic, painterly approach finally met up with the more modernistic styles of other artists in the 1960's and 1970's.  The paintings were larger than I expected and utterly beautiful.

After viewing the exhibit I took my time looking at the museum building and surrounding grounds. The garden leading to and from the mansion was full of different sculptures scattered around the acreage.  On my way back to my car I found hiking trails and several formal gardens, each with it's own design and flavor.  I decided to take a quick walk through one of the trails just to see what was there. 

As I walked I was thinking that my heeled shoes were all wrong for a hike, but I kept going.  The trees grew taller, the underbrush denser, and the sky was hidden the further I walked.  It was beautiful and quiet.  The sun sent it's rays down through the trees to settle on fallen branches in the path.  Serene and wonderful.  Did I bring my sketchbook with me? Of course not! 

Suddenly, it dawned on me that I was all alone on a path in the woods!  It was time to head back.  I took a few photos of some spots that were too beautiful not to record and walked a little faster.  When I came out of the trail I saw a sign that said, "Use trails at your own risk." Oh oh.

I'm glad I had my museum adventure, but next time I need to be prepared.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Photos for Friday

Islip Art Museum, Islip, New York
(c)2009 DSThemelis

Visited the museum in October.  The grand mansion, with 41 rooms including a ballroom, was Brookwood Hall, built in 1903 by Harry K. Knapp.  What a grand place this must have been on Long Island.  Not too many of these left in good condition, unfortunately.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Trying to Step Forward

"Trying is all that matters.  Everything else is just not our business" T.S. Eliot, poet

Today is my father's birthday.  He's been gone 4 years and every day I wonder how did that happen?  I know how, but it's just unbelievable to me.  He was the strong, tall, dark and handsome type they wrote stories about.  A "Rat Pack" type of guy.  With wavy black hair and a big moustache, he resembled the actor Omar Shariff.  A talented fine artist and commercial graphics art director, he encouraged my own talent.  He would critique my work, offer suggestions, and supply me with the best art supplies! 

He used to like to say "Confusious says: A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step".  So with this in mind, and my father's spirit pushing me, I press on with the art.  Trying to make the time, trying to ignore the procrastination, the "What's the use so why bother", and all the other excuses that hinder my creativity.

Happy Birthday to you, Pop.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

I was Right, it's the Process, Stupid

As I mentioned before, I'm working toward more art and less housework by reading The Artist's Way.  Remembering to do the tasks is an effort. It's not that the tasks are difficult, not in any way. I just can't remember to do them. I think about it while I'm writing the Morning Pages, which is 3 pages of journaling and has become a habit I'm enjoying.

Being able to empty my thoughts on paper has helped declutter my brain-junk. You know all that yapping that goes on in there? Well, I've got alot of it.  Do this, did you do that, why, is it, isn't it, you idiot, and on. Journaling helps that, but somehow the tasks escape me.

This week I allowed myself time and now I'm in Week 8, "Recovering a Sense of Strength." As I read yesterday I was having "Aha!" moments. The author writes, "Creativity occurs in the moment.." She suggests that we not pay attention to the final form and don't ignore the fact that "creativity lies not in the done, but in the doing."

So I'm reading this thinking about my post yesterday and how I wrote the point of my painting was the process not the result! I really didn't care about the painting I ended up with. The objective was the action of painting, using the materials and tools, getting the thoughts on the paper in color.

The idea that you need to have something to show for your effort stops that excitement to create. Focusing on the process allows that little sense of adventure. If I let myself  think I have to come up with a masterpiece, I'm done. Just playing with the paint or cleaning the desk area helped me to take a small step rather than a scary leap!

To read these ideas in a book that just yesterday were my thoughts was a revelation to me. I feel like I'm on the right track. Another painting session is on the horizon, as long as I'm not distracted by laundry, which is a whole other ball of wax.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Energy of Art

After working at straightening up my desk and studio area last week I had that idea for a painting, remember?  The painting tools were available and so was I.  A good block of time with nothing else to do was before me.  At least I had planned from the day before with the sketch, the technique, and the tools.  Somehow the synchronicity was there and I took advantage of it.

The instruction in watercolor I had was a disaster, but I've been playing with the medium for a while now and whatever I'm doing seems to please me.  It may not be how it's supposed to be used, but hey, I'm allowed to change it up!  The technique of just applying the paint to the paper without thinning sounded interesting enough to try.   Oil painting is what I'm used to and this seemed close to how I worked in the past.  I mixed color on the palette, but then I would mix again on the canvas.  It worked for me. 

I used a limited palette of basic colors from two different paint companies, Holbein and Maimieri Blu, in tubes.  I think I liked the Holbein better, but I'll have to experiment again in other techniques. 

Without wetting the paper first, I dipped into the paint with a large brush.  I began to shape the petals of the flower adding color where I felt like it belonged.  The photo I used was just a guide for where the light and shadows fell, and for the basic colors.  After that I was on my own. 

The act of painting was energizing.  I could feel the electricity of the connection with the painting surface through the brush, to my fingers holding it, up my arm with my body and mind totally engaged.  There was no talking in my head which usually has a hundred conversations going on at once.  Delicious silence and all the attention was on the painting process!

The end product was not the agenda.  I wasn't sure what art my painting time would produce and I really didn't care.  To be able to move into that realm of daydream/energy/action was the focus.  The means was the medium and the technique, which would justify the end, so to speak. 

And the result wasn't bad either. 

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Dream Corner

Everyone has a space in their house that feels the most comfortable to them.  Maybe it's a cozy chair by a window, a favorite spot in a kitchen, or a seat in the garden.  This space is a place that makes you feel really at home.  At least I think everyone has a comfy spot and if you don't have one, you need to make room for it.

My cozy spot is a corner of a love seat on one end of my living room.  The living and dining room is the typical L-shaped area of the 1950's ranch house.  The little sofa sits on a small wall opposite the main seating area in a corner of the "L".  Since I decided to place this piece of furniture in it's spot, it has become "the" seating of the room.  Besides me, everyone who visits likes to sit there.  This seat has a view of everything:  the conversation area and fireplace, the dining table, the corner TV, the view out the window, and a tiny bit of the kitchen, but it's out of the way.  Sitting there is like hiding from the goings-on. 

This little spot is my dream corner.  My favorite books are across from the sofa on a shelf where I keep a few family photos.  A small CD player sits on the shelf with the books.  Knitting supplies are in a neat Asian-style box next to the sofa, with yarn and beading supplies in a basket on the floor.  A small sketchbook is within easy reach.  I can look outside the windows of the french door and see the garden flowers in the summer and snow in the winter. 

At breaks in my day and in the evening I sit in my cozy corner.  I can see what's on the television, but I don't have to be involved in it. My husband is in charge of the the remote anyway.  I can be sitting in the room, but be far away in my own little world reading, knitting or dreaming.

New Work

New Greek island harbor watercolor painting All the trouble started when I decided to switch blogging platforms from Blogger to Wordpre...