Serial Muralist

So now I am a muralist.  A serial muralist. LOL! I just finished a commissioned mural for a dog trainer/pet sitting business. Diana had recently installed a large shed for her new alpacas and wanted the back of the shed to  beautify her property.  Her home-owner’s association (HOA) wouldn’t allow a sign at the end of her driveway, so she opted to have a mural of dogs as a way to indicate to her clients they’d come to the right place.  The shed is 30 feet long, but it is hundreds of feet from the road, so the perspective makes the mural about “sign sized” as seen from the road.

Drawing in progress. Cut-outs of silhouette dogs made the next step easier.

Diana found me through Eugene Urban Canvas, a clearinghouse for muralists in the Eugene, Oregon area. I got listed with EUC because I like painting murals, and frankly, I’ve done a few in my time.

Spray paint around the image cut-outs leave an outline “glow”.

I now have an under-drawing structure.

I started thinking about how many I’d done as I worked on this project and realized there are a fair amount of them stretching all the way back to my high school days when I painted an Arizona desert sunset on my bedroom wall.  Later, in my 20’s, I’d painted a VW Beetle on the garage door of my mechanic as trade for some work on my own vintage bug.  The mural showed the car on a road heading into the coast range mountains, yet another colorful sunset image. Quite a few of my murals have been of sunsets, people seem to really like the color palette of yellow and orange against a gloaming blue sky.

Among some of my murals I’ve painted a fairy princess posed with a crescent moon, a moon over the New York skyline, the city lights of Seattle, ponies peeking out over stall doors, giant horses running across the roof of a barn (at 100 feet long, it can be seen from planes as they land at the Eugene airport), a Star Wars themed sunset, historic images and once, the world series winning Oregon State baseball team. As requested by my client, the baseball mural featured images from the big event and so, sadly, it was painted over when the team won the world series again the following year. Good for them, but it made the mural completely superfluous! It was painted over and something more timeless and generic replaced my work; who knew they would win again so fast? Probably my shortest-lived mural, it was up for less than a year.

You can see this driving north on Hwy 99, just past the Eugene Airport (Oregon) on the west side of the highway.

The entrance to Goss Stadium at OSU… for about a year.

But that’s the nature of murals, they are generally considered public art, so they have to do their job as décor and if that job is linked to a business or a place in time, well, things change and so too then must the mural adapt or perish. I’ve come to accept the transitory nature of murals and have found the ones that last the longest, fit the best into their space and time. I once painted a Tuscan landscape in a client’s craft room, when they sold the house years later, did the mural survive the sale?  When the teen-aged girl who loves horses, grows up and moves out, will her mother still keep the pony visiting over the stall door?  I know my mother did not keep the desert sunset in my teen-aged bedroom; she redecorated and turned it into her sewing room, the sunset replaced with a clothes rack.

I encourage clients to have me paint their mural on canvas or large sign boards, that way if ever a move occurs in the future, the mural can be brought along, or even sold and transferred to a new owner. The Seattle mural benefited from this as the nightclub I painted it for, went out of business and the mural was relocated to another city.

Nine feet long is not easy to transport, but it survived the business!

It’s how I managed to get the fairy princess back, where she now graces my car-park wall. But, it’s also how the same fairy princess was stolen right off the Alpine Market wall and disappeared for a few weeks. She was MIA until the thieves realized they would never be able to display it without advertising their crime and so, late one night, returned her to the back alley behind the store.

Oh where did you go, fairy princess?

Murals have stories to tell, and my newest one is no exception.  While painting it, my client received calls from her Home Owners Association demanding she quit as the mural was unacceptable to them.  Diana had notified the HOA months before that a mural was coming (after they complained about her long white shed) but no questions were asked and nothing more was said about it until the day I outlined the image.  Unfortunately for the HOA, murals are not against the rules, so we continued on, despite further phone calls and a hastily penned letter.  Once again, a mural of mine has generated controversy; not everyone is a lover of the arts.  But when it comes to beautifying your property, it seems some have overstepped the boundaries of good neighbors.  I’m glad I’m not taking it personally that someone called my work “graffiti” before I was even done with it; truly, it says more about them than me.

Blocking in color.

The chief enemy of creativity is ‘good’ sense. Pablo Picasso

Clouds are coming along, grass area blocked in.

As for me, I love changes, change is all about new energy and growth. Change is the essence of creativity, and that sometimes takes courage. This time however, the changes that may be forthcoming could possibly be a renewed and updated HOA or if it doesn’t serve the people as it was intended, then perhaps its dissolution altogether?  It depends on what the neighbors say and how things progress from here on out. Diana is not backing down; she loves her new mural!  If you’d like to support Diana regarding the mural, comment below and I will forward your messages on to her.

Just about there!

There is power and energy in art, and sometimes, the bigger the art, the bigger the reaction.

Finished mural, All Wags and Smiles!

Art is standing with one hand extended into the universe and one hand extended into the world, and letting ourselves be a conduit for passing energy.  –Albert Einstein

Wait?! Summer’s over already?

Hello everyone!

I was going to title this How I Spent My Summer Vacation, but after seeing the title of my last post… well, I just had to go with the theme. Quite the span of time, from late June thru to mid Sept, and while I may have committed the blogging sin of allowing too much time!! to go between posts and losing readership… well, consider me a sinner then. The weather was beautiful and there was just too much to do outside than sit inside hunched over my laptop. As it was,  I barely got around to paying the bills and keeping our financial world afloat. What I did do, was pay homage to my love of all things Laura Ingalls Wilder by making jams, juices, canning and drying assorted veggies/fruits, pickling and other homey pioneer type chores.

We rebuilt the pump house, upgraded our water system, fenced the garden.  I fixed gutter, gate and shed as well as replacing porch boards and molding around doors and windows.  In between the myriad of chores and duties of the small farm owner, there were the half a dozen or so camping trips (with horse and without), visits with friends and family, a new puppy and the 24 chicks in my coop that are growing up to be our new layers and fryers.  All amidst the crushing drought and crazy ass wildfires of the Pacific Northwest.

We are not out of the woods yet with that, major fires in Northern California and Washington are devastating lives and homes.  We escaped a lightning strike fire just last week as fast acting neighbors and the local fire department put out the flames on a 100 foot tall Douglas Fir tree a mile from our home!  We are all looking forward to the rain these days and hoping for cool weather that won’t bring thunderstorms our way.  While careless people do start fires, the majority of fires out here are started by electrical storms.  Hot summers, drought and thunderstorms are a bad combination.

Storm clouds roll in on my camp... this was taken moments before a storm hit my tent. Scary!

Storm clouds roll in on my camp… this was taken minutes before a severe thunderstorm hit my tent. Scary!

And so, my art has taken a back seat.  The painting I started in June became a thorn in my side, so it was removed from the easel and is awaiting a time when I can look at it objectively as opposed to the sneer I give it now.  However, good news on the muse front!  Inspiration was found on a wonderful 4 day solo backpacking trip to the Pacific Crest Trail.  After painting visions of other women’s journeys, I have found my own while traversing the famous PCT.

campPainting

My backpacking art kit got some use!

It’s funny, I knew I was on a mission to take photos of the trail so I could add my own image to the Wilderness of Women series, but the one I picked to paint wasn’t what I had planned.  Well, life doesn’t work according to plan sometimes.  The second I took the shot, I knew what I was going to do.

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It was time to put my studio dog, Scout, into another painting.  Dogs have been a big part of my backpacking experience and she especially has been an integral part of my studio life.  It all just made sense.

Scout on the PCT

Scout on the PCT

The balance needed for my painting however, is different from the snap shots I take in the field.  Sometimes a photo is perfectly put together and I don’t have to do much manipulation, but that day, in that place, I couldn’t get the exact image.  The painting is a compilation of 4 images, strung together and overlapped into a panoramic view.  It captures my actual view while Scout and I sat at an elevation of 6850 feet and had a well earned lunch. It was a beautiful day and as I studied my position, I realized that by climbing up to this pass, I had hiked every bit of the PCT, from top to bottom on my map.  It was a very good feeling, which must have made my muse happy because as soon as there was a lull in all my food preservation activities, she gave me this: (click on image for a full view)

Lunch with Scout on the PCT

Lunch with Scout on the PCT

In the Eye of the Beholder

Though the artist must remain master of (their) craft, the surface, at times raised to the highest pitch of loveliness, should transmit to the beholder the sensation which possessed the artist.

~Alfred Sisley

I’ve pondered these ideas… is the art in the eye of the beholder, or in the artist’s rendering of that thing, that image, that concept?  Is it both or neither? Is it, as Sisley suggests, a vehicle of transmission?  Art being the thing that carries the sensation, the feeling of the artist to the viewer who can then somehow share in what it was that possessed the artist?

Well, lots to think about there.  And many have.  For me, art is a very personal thing… you, and only you, know what you like.  Sometimes you know right away, and sometimes it grows on you, but regardless which way you fall in the spectrum of like or dislike, no one should tell you what to like.  It’s up to you to decide. For me, I gave up a long time ago trying to please my audience, because that’s an impossible task really, and so, I decided to please myself.

The other side of that same coin is, sometimes, in my own personal work, I may not care for a piece.  If I hate it, I will paint over it so I can get some more miles out of a canvas.  (Most artists are into recycling… even the old masters did it, it’s not a new concept.)  Or I will stash it away as a reminder that not everything I do is gold… far from it!  I really should get rid of some of the old crap, but I’m rather nostalgic about the old stuff… even the bad old stuff.  So, I keep it for me, and show it to no one.

BUT, one day, a friend was in my studio and she gushed over an unfinished piece that I happened to think of as bad enough to recycle. There it was, propped up against the wall waiting for a coat of gesso so I could stop looking at it’s horribleness.  I really disliked it.  However, much to my surprise, she loved it!  Something about the colors spoke to her and when I gave it to her she was thrilled.  I made her day with something that meant very little to me, but meant so much to her.

Now, rather than focus on the part about me handing over something I had no attachment to (as if that makes my gesture less than noble and then less than worthy) focus instead on the part about Maria.  She loved it.  She was happy.  She was so pleased to adopt this little wayward canvas and give it a home.

This was the third time this happened to me.  It took this happening three times before the significance of the act held any meaning.  And that was this: for me, even as a creator of art, am not the sole person to judge the value or beauty of my own work.

While I am making it, while I paint and create, I get something intangible.  And if, at the end, that thing pleases me, then great. If it doesn’t, then that’s ok too.  I still got something from the process.  BUT that thing that I don’t care for aesthetically does not mean that it’s bad.  In fact, someone else may love it.  More than one someone… maybe even lots of someones!

Case in point,  Purple Repose:

Purple repose

Purple repose

I hated this painting.  In fact, I was planning on recycling it but while I was waiting for the paint to dry I changed my mind.  My husband saw it and liked it, so, with a shrug, I kept it.  I hung it in the house and after a while, it grew on me too.  I came to like the blue colors, the broad strokes, the way the horse’s shoulder bumped out.  Later that year, I included it (as a print) in a series of blank greeting cards.  It became one of my best sellers.  People loved it!

The same thing happened with Walker Pass, only in reverse:

North of Walker Pass

North of Walker Pass

By reverse, I mean, this is by far my absolute favorite painting (right now).  I LOVE this piece.  It only got a couple of dozen Facebook “likes”.  Granted, this painting has yet to make it out of the house, but still… my dog snapshots get more “likes”.  I didn’t take it personally, because I truly believe in my heart and soul, that art is a personal thing.  I may take it personally if you tell me you hate it and why it’s awful and say other mean things about the thing I love, but hey, I’m only human and that kind of behavior is mean spirited and small.  You are entitled to your opinion, just keep the details to yourself if you hate something (or someone!) I love.

On the other hand, my next piece, I just didn’t love so much.  It’s not recycle worthy, not by far… you’d never see it if it was.  And I still wouldn’t post or show any piece I found embarrassingly bad, or trite or derivative or unworthy.  So, just because I don’t love it, doesn’t mean I don’t like it.  I may just think of it more as a second runner up.

But, it was a challenge.  I worked hard on this one.  The drawing was complex, the details, intense.  It is the 3rd in my series of images from the wilderness, photos taken by women hikers on the CDT or the PCT.  I’m calling the series, The Wilderness Of Women.  Now, here is where I love social media.  On Facebook, I asked women hikers if they would share with me (for the purpose of painting) photos from their hikes and I got an amazing outpouring of images to choose from.  So, choose one I did (thank YOU, Judy Flexer) and got to work.

Sketch for Spectacle Lake

Sketch for Spectacle Lake

I thanked Judy online and somehow, I don’t recall how it happened, but Judy kindly sent me a high resolution image of her photo.  I thanked her politely, but inside I was worried.  All those details… how was I going to block out all those details?  “Oh, buck up, Sky… you’ll be fine!” I told myself.  But I was worried.

And so, I bucked up and promptly fucked up.  It became a horrid mess of tiny, detailed, muddy strokes of paint.  Not the sure and swift flight of color that signified I was “in the groove.”  I bravely soldiered on, slogged up one muddy hill and down the next… madly mixing, swiping, swooping, adding, subtracting and aaarrrggggg!!!!  Nothing was working.  I was in utter despair.  So I did the only thing I could do.  The thing I have never done before.  I almost couldn’t believe what I was doing.  I took it off my easel, laid it flat, and poured turpentine over the entire painting.  I took a rag and wiped it clean.  All of it.  Even the sketch.  Gone.

I waited two days to go back into the studio.  I just couldn’t bear to look at it.  I had never scrubbed out a canvas before, it felt like a failure.  But two days later, I was ready to get back to work.  I followed the faint leftovers of pencil lines that were under the first orange outline and redrew the sketch.  Instead of the high resolution image, I went back to my original Facebook clipping.  That picture, I altered to be bolder, more saturated in color than the photograph Judy had taken.  I made it small and took off my glasses to blur the details.  I needed to see blocks of colors, not every single rock and tree.  I put on a favorite CD and lost myself in Spectacle Lake.

This second go round was tricky… I still had some issues and some personal demons to slay, but it finally came together and I was satisfied.  I signed it today, so that pretty much means it’s done.  It may not be a favorite, but it’s good, I’ll say that.  And when I posted it to the woman hikers page on Facebook…. well, it got 75 likes, right off the bat.  Goes to show you… beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Oil on Canvas 14x16

Spectacle Lake on the PCT
Oil on canvas, 14 x 16

 

 

 

My Father’s Shirt

I was sorting through some items stored in a little used corner of the studio when I came across a bundle of paint rags.  I usually air out rags after a few paintings, letting them dry outdoors so the turpentine and oil fumes don’t create a fun little science experiment called spontaneous combustion.  All the rags were dry and stiff and pretty useless.  I wondered why I was even keeping them when out of the pile this little beauty rolled out.

20140912_094455Believe it or not, this old shirt belonged to my dad, circa 1972.  He probably doesn’t even know I have it or that I kept it all this time.  It predates every brush I have.  (The ones I started with were worn out ages ago.)  Somehow I got a hold of my dad’s old shirt and used it to clean my brushes and went on to clean every brush I used for the next few decades.  This shirt has a dollop of paint on it from every painting I made during that time.  I guess I kept it as a good luck charm or something.  After awhile, I made sure I swiped a brush across it even if I had another rag by my easel, you know, for luck.

One day, I aired it out and never put it back where I could use it.  And then I forgot all about it.  Until it was unearthed in an archeological dig of sorts.  I smoothed it out and thought about all the projects we had worked on together.  The trip down memory lane made me smile.  There are a lot of crappy paintings wiped on that shirt, and some that are still pretty good.  Here’s one from the pretty good list:

Full Moon Song Oil on canvas board 18"x24"

Full Moon Song
Oil on canvas board
18″x24″

I have a bit of a rocky history with my dad.  However, through all the years of ups and downs, I still had his shirt to help me clean up my creative mess.   Eventually, we managed to persevere and develop a better “grown up” relationship.  So I guess it really was a lucky shirt after all.

North of Walker Pass

With all the recent attention given to the Pacific Crest Trail because of Cheryl Strayed’s book, Wild, and the movie, and the Oscar nominations, there seem to be some who worry that their beloved trail is going to see a huge spike in activity. While most hikers are generous, caring, helpful and kind, there is a seedy underbelly of fear that has prompted a few on social media to be… well, less than kind in their criticism.

From what I can see, it’s all just a tempest in a teacup.  Twenty six hundred miles of trail is a long, long haul and the dedication and hard work involved in just getting to the PCT will thin the herd.  The trail will not be loved to death, there is still plenty of long, lonely miles to cover.  If anything, more attention to the PCT will ensure it’s protection in the future.  Sure, there may be some growing pains, but time marches on and interest will ebb and flow.  There are many other trails out there and new ones to blaze.

3FJack

I myself have trod more than  a few of those miles and will continue to visit the wilderness for its beauty, solitude and the replenishment of my soul.  I love it out there and always have.  I was the girl who  played in the woods, and I grew up to be the woman who dives deep into the forest.  Spending an afternoon following a deer path almost always sounds like a good idea to me.  When I die, I’d like to curl up under a tree on the edge of a meadow with a view of the mountains and let my soul escape to the wilderness.  My idea of heaven has craggy peaks, moraine lakes and clear blue water.

Fishes and Wishes Oil on Canvas 12"x16"

Fishes and Wishes
Oil on Canvas
12″x16″

The older I get, the more all the facets of my life appear to converge into one vanishing point.  That point seems to be focused in a small cedar sheathed studio in my backyard.  As I painted Hope Pass (https://skyevans.wordpress.com/2014/11/06/hope-pass/) I was struck by how easily this landscape came to me.  I hadn’t done a landscape that I felt so moved by until Hope Pass. It spoke to me and brought life to a seed that I had forgotten.  That seed was my favorite place and I found myself longing to see it again.

Three Sisters Oil on Canvas 22"x28"

Three Sisters
Oil on Canvas
22″x28″

So I am returning to the wilderness, but this time, I am returning to be inspired.  Because it seems as if images of the trail inspire me in that lightning bolt way that I am yearning for.  That bolt struck me last week as I was flipping through Facebook, reading posts by women hikers.  I came across another image I had to paint; thank you Jennie Norris for taking that wonderful photo and generously allowing me to use it.  That is the spirit of the hiking community, a heart that is so full of joy from the trail that they just want to share it with the world. It’s not the trail itself, the hardships, the gritty, dirt, sweat, heart pounding work that we want to share.  It’s the joy and the feeling and the emotion of wonder.  That’s something that can’t be boxed or quantified.  You can get out there and experience it for yourself or you can find someone to recreate that feeling.  Someone to move you.

Moving tools

Moving tools

It takes poets and writers, musicians and artists to do that.  Which is why Ms. Strayed’s book is so powerful.  That’s what great writers do, they move you to feel something.  If she didn’t move you, well that’s ok, she’s not for everyone.  But she DID move thousands and maybe eventually, millions.  And that, my friend, is powerful stuff.

I hope my art can move you too.  Because it is moving me.  Tremendously.

North of Walker Pass on the PCT

North of Walker Pass on the PCT

Bookbinding! Who does that?

Yes, indeedy, who does bookbinding?  Well, most assuredly there is a whole industry around bookbinding, but most people aren’t into it as a craft.  Once upon a time someone showed me how to bind a book. So I taught my students how, but I haven’t done one in 20 years.  Not one to let old skills moulder away,  I hunted up some examples to study before I attempted to bind the book I had just spent a month writing.  Dang it all, couldn’t find ONE example.  Which really bugs me, because I had a whole folder of bookbinding samples from my school teaching days.  Just in case I ever came across a desperate class in need of the ancient art of bookbinding.  That’s what I get for cleaning my studio.  I throw things away that haven’t seen the light of day in 10 years or so and lo and behold I am in need of that very old thing.  BUT fortunately, I didn’t throw away my brain. I did remember the basic gist of the thing, so what the hell, I collected up what I would need and plunged into the fray!

20141214_123423

Materials needed: card board, glue, paper, ruler, x acto knife and the thing you are binding

I had to decide on a color scheme and found a faux finish sample I had painted on the back of an old print.  That would be my cover, so I embellished it to represent an aspect of the story.

Not that these look like crop circles, but there are crop circles in the story.

Not that these look like crop circles, but there are crop circles in the story.

After I measured and planned out the size of the book, I cut out my cardboard front and back, then glued them down (using my spray glue) to their respective covers.

20141214_131503Note the hinge tab.  That is so the book will fold open on the seam.  I drew green lines on the cardboard so I would line them up correctly.  Then I trimmed off the extra paper and folded the sides up.  Once the folds are made, I cut out the corners so when I flatten them down they will fit nicely.

20141214_13160120141214_131945

 

The corners are trimmed roughly, I didn’t bother measuring.  Then I glued down the edges to the cardboard. Next, after measuring my end papers, I glued the end papers on top of the covers, hiding the folded edge.

Next I assemble the book.  Making sure everything lines up as neatly as possible.

20141214_13553820141214_135630

 

 

 

 

 

 

To help keep it all in place, I used rubber bands and later, even wood clamps.  I made a template where the holes should go, every half inch.  The template also protects the cover from the drill.

 

20141214_140037I drilled a pilot hole on the top and on the bottom and then used 2 nails to hold the book down while I drilled the rest.

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20141214_140720Here’s the final row of holes all drilled out.  I use a drill with a very small bit on this book because it is thick, but on thinner books, you can just use a nail to make the hole.  A drill however, will give you a much cleaner hole.

20141214_141050I even put a nail in the center hole to keep all the pages aligned.  This will make things easier when I start to sew it together.  At this point, I am ready to sew.  I found an old upholstery needle, threaded it with cotton twine and got started.  Here’s the part where I am a bit fuzzy about how this should go.  So I made a few practice runs, before realizing it is as important to go up and down with my stitches as it is to go side to side, or else the pages won’t hold properly when you open the book.  I sewed one book all the way before discovering this, so had to take it apart and start over.  If you are considering doing this project yourself you’ll have to figure out a pattern that works for you.  I made 3 books but didn’t sew them with all the same pattern.

20141214_160510

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This is what I mean by side to side and up and down.  You have to go through the holes more than once.20141214_160210

Made a few false starts and broke some thread, but eventually I figured it out.  At the bottom of the pic under my fingers is a pattern that didn’t work out.  I pulled out the stitches as I went.  I left them in since they were helping to hold the book together.  I had used wood clamps on my first attempt, but they got in the way.  I left the nails in as well and pulled them out as I came to them.  They assured the pages would stay aligned, making it easier to sew.  The other two books I made were thinner and I was able to use paper squeeze binders.  Well,  here is the final result!

20141214_212321_resizedWhat did you do last month?  Oh nothing much, wrote a novel, printed it and bound it. Bookbinding rocks!

Imagine Transformation

Imagine Transformation

 

 

 

 

 

Dark Shadows

Being outside heals me.  Outside is bigger than all the sadness in my head. Getting out of my head is a good thing.  I spend far too much time in there.  -Me

 

Dear readers… this next post is personal.  Since my blog is The Work and Ideas of Sky Evans it seemed time to post some ideas.  But maybe it’s more of a confessional?  Either way, if you like my art more than words, and you want to skip this wordy post, rest assured you aren’t missing much in the way of visuals.  The art I used to illustrate this post is from my early years.  Not very good IMO, but interesting to see this other side.  Having said that, bear with me while I try something new.  Not instructional, or piece specific musings but thoughtful, as in full of thought.

 

I can't remember when I did this dragon in the clouds... but I kinda like it!

It was 1983 when I did this dragon in the clouds… I never really cared for it, but for some reason I kinda like it now!

In the past few weeks I had the art show in the vineyard and summer time visits with relatives, (both most enjoyable) but lately the weather has rolled in HOT HOT HOT which makes it hard to get much done if you don’t get up early.  I like the cold, it sharpens up my brain.  Hot weather has me laying around with sweaty glasses of ice tea clutched in my paw, moaning about the heat.

Okay, so it’s not that bad.  But the day after the show I did wake up and sigh.  Not a “oh woe is me” sigh, or “damn I am about to be evicted” sigh or even a  “the world is fucked and my life is ruined” sigh.  Just a soft, weak, puppyish whimper… (I invoke the puppy image hoping to come off as cute instead of pathetic).  It was a “what now” sigh that I have come to associate with the let down after a long slog uphill.  The long slog was all the effort and energy getting ready for the show.  Which was good, and productive but definitely falls in the “uphill” category.

My display at the show.  All the hard work paid off.

My display at the show. Doesn’t look like that much hard work, but still….

Eight days later and it’s still not all put away. I seem to be having trouble getting my rhythm back after revving my engines for a week in anticipation of that 5 hours at the show. The hot weather does not help.

A thought and this post has been percolating away in my head since waking up with a “what-now-blues” feeling.  It’s about temperament. Specifically, artist’s temperament.  Somehow, somewhere, I picked up the notion that there was such a thing.  And that kind of temperament meant that artists were moody, prone to jags, hard to get along with and somewhat bi-polar, though in the old days, we called it manic/depressive.  As far as old days go, I am, literally, a child of the 60’s.  Andy Warhol and Peter Max were household names.  Jackson Pollock’s death and eccentric style was still in the forefront, and the music of the era included Don McLean’s famous “Vincent” which sparked a fresh look into Van Gogh and his famous mental illness.  (His work is among my personal favorites.)  Maybe these kinds of artists perpetuated the idea of the “artist’s temperament”.  Regardless of where it came from, I somehow grew up with the notion that there was such a thing.  And I was determined to prove it all wrong.

I Am The Endless Sky 1985

I Am The Endless Sky 1985.  Gravity defying tubes of paint and the cosmos.

Determined is a good word to describe me.  Not the only word, but a good one.  It irked me that artists were considered touchy and had to be “handled” for some reason.  Fuck that shit, I was as normal as normal could be.  Wasn’t I? With a flip of my locks, I would snort derisively.  I was determined to be happy, healthy, smart and together!  Reasonable, logical, empathetic, someone who was kind, a good person.  I wanted to be the best person I could be… I would not be a stereotype.  No dark shadows here!!

If I was reading this aloud, here’s the part where I would laugh.  Knowingly.  Maybe even sarcastically.

Because no one is really normal.  Normal doesn’t exist.  Decades later, I am finally coming to the realization that normal is an average and averages are made up of numbers that are added together and divided by themselves.  How can people be normal?  The world is a crazy place (watching the news will prove that) so normal must be crazy.  Maybe we should just embrace the crazy and applaud those who manage to cope and thrive amidst the chaos.

So then, is there an artistic temperament?  For a long time I didn’t even want to admit to being an artist. Even after I had a degree in Art, one in Art Education and had been an art teacher I was in denial.  I think I was denying the stereotype… but often stereotypes exist because they ring of truth.  Sigh. So okay, here goes.  Here’s my truth: I sometimes dance on the edge of depression.  Not a  “dancing with the stars” thing, but a little tap dance. I don’t believe I qualify for a full blown depression as outlined in the DSM-5 (not that I’ve read the description… I’d actually rather not know to what level I may rate) but little dark clouds have been a part of my life for a long, long time.

My Life, circa 1984

My Life, circa 1985

It’s my version of normal, those little dark shadows. When I was a pup myself, it was like waves of sadness.  In my childish mind, I could image I even heard voices whispering to me.  Nothing bad, but lonely and very sad.  I told my mother about it once; bless her for not minimizing or ridiculing me in any way.  I felt safe telling her about it.  But that was as far as it went.  Which may have been a good thing as it set me up to believe there wasn’t anything wrong about it and so, I didn’t worry about being sad.  My coping technique at the time was to sing.  I memorized the words to the Eagles song, “Peaceful Easy Feeling” and would invoke it whenever those shadows came a calling.  It always worked.  One run through and my brain was back on track and feeling peaceful and easy.

 

The inside part.

The inside part.

 

Well, I grew up and out of my imagined whispering and as life got busy and hectic, the shadows ebbed and were kept at bay with activity.  Alcohol in judicious amounts is also a tool for ignoring those small voices.  I never was much of a drinker though, I have a fine line for it’s toxic effects.  I’m basically a cheap date. Instead I hiked or rode away the sadness.  Being outside heals me.  Outside is bigger than all the sadness in my head.

 

The Zoo 1985

The Zoo 1984 In this piece, the protagonist is covered in flowers, she’s an exhibit in an alien zoo. She wants to escape her companions, the fuzzy slugs. But at least she’s OUTSIDE!!

 

But here’s the funny thing about little dark clouds.  They come back around when you aren’t looking. You wake up in the morning and there they are raining on your personal parade.  They leave you with a low grade sadness that is aptly named “The Blues”.  As a color, I like blue, but as for “The Blues”, well, they fuel my passion for leaving them behind.  If I get up and get moving and do something I can outrun them.  Maybe that’s why runners run.  I’m not a runner, but I can paint.  And when I paint, or create, I get out of my head.  Getting out of my head is a good thing.  I spend far too much time in there.

Fishes and Wishes Oil on Canvas 12"x16"

Fishes and Wishes
Oil on Canvas
12″x16″

 

In effect, I create because I have to.  So maybe there is something to this Artist’s Temperament after all.  Am I an artist because I have the temperament or do I have the temperament because I am an artist?

Either way, it’s also telling to me that I spend the most time with people who I believe fall on the low end of the crazy spectrum.  I can do edgy people, but only in small doses. But if indeed it is normal to be a touch crazy, then that puts me in the small doses band for everyone.  In other words, I can only “do people” in small doses.  Which makes me an introvert.  And indeed I do need alone time just to recuperate from normal social interactions.  Sometimes trying to stay dry under my own clouds is about all I can manage.