Posts Tagged ‘Ted Orland’

After the Blood Moon

September 28, 2015

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There’s a pervasive myth, shared by artists and non-artists alike, that art is a product of genius, madness or serendipity. Wrong. Art is not the chance offspring of some cosmic (or genetic) roll of the dice. Art is mostly a product of hard work. When you look back on the results of a lifetime of artmaking, even the role that talent played is insignificant. Living life productively, your artwork will take care of itself. If you do not live your life productively, nothing will save your artwork–not even talent. 

Ted Orland, The View from the Studio Door

Last night, while watching the beautiful “super moon” eclipse, I realized I did not have a journal with me as I did on the night of September 26, 1996. I was so thrilled on that night, that I dashed back into my house, retrieved some prismacolor pencils and tried my best to render what I saw in the heavens that night. Last night, I just sat back in a lawn chair and enjoyed. I had just finished unloading my gear from a three-day art festival and was bone-tired, and though I knew I had to get up early today to return to school, I owed it to myself to sit and enjoy a phenomenon that won’t be around again for another eighteen years.

Today I recall three days’ worth of conversations I enjoyed with art patrons at the South Street Art Festival. They often express amazement at the number of watercolor images I have hanging in my booth, along with trunks and crates filled with them. And they wonder how one person could produce so many paintings. The answer to that is simple: watercolor requires very little time to complete a composition. And in addition to that, I have been watercoloring more seriously since 1999–sixteen years now. And in addition to that–for the past four years, my production has increased from ten-to-fifteen paintings per year to over a hundred. That adds up to a large body of work. Unfortunately my art doesn’t sell fast enough to clean out my inventory, so the paintings accumulate. I appreciate it when someone tells me I have talent, but the reality is that I work hard to produce. And I’m hard on myself regarding self-critique. I want to improve. My deep-set belief is that anyone devoting hours, days, weeks, months, and years to doing a task is going to improve significantly as time moves on. Malcolm Gladwell, in his celebrated book Outliers, has made the argument that successful people have dedicated 10,000 hours to maturing their craft. I like that general rule. And as for my own work, I would rather look at one of my paintings from 2015 than 1999. The major difference is the number of hours’ experience I have piled up as the years unrolled. If I have any regrets now, it is the reality that I stopped making art from 1976 to about 1988, and I often wonder how my work would look now if there were not that hiatus from that past. No regrets actually–It was during those years that I was deeply immersed in graduate study, and I still believe that my ideas and experiences matured during those “silent” years.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

The Sanctity of an Artist’s Working Space

February 25, 2014
Working on a Small Watercolor Tonight

Working on a Small Watercolor Tonight

I seem to have only been like a boy playing on the seashore, diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.

Isaac Newton

Putting more space between tonight and my recent illness, I am finding a renewed delight, tinkering with watercolor projects.  The shock of discovery is returning, and I feel like a small boy again, oftentimes my eyes widening with suprise at what comes out of the end of my brush, or what pools up on the watercolor page.  And all the while I work on this watercolor, I feel ecstasy in knowing that I am a part of an extensive tradition, an endless line of creative spirits.  In the stillness of this studio, I work while listening to the voices of Robert Motherwell, Willem De Kooning, Andrew Wyeth and Joseph Campbell on the VHS and DVD documentaries that I have stockpiled over the years.  I love being a part of something much larger than myself, something much larger than this moment.  I sense an immortality in all of this.  I have read, over and over again, Julia Cameron’s work The Artist’s Way.  Writing from her Upper West Side Manhattan environ in that day, she pushed out these words: “Artists toil in cells all over Manhattan.  We have a monk’s devotion to our work–and, like monks, some of us will be visited by visions and others will toil out our days knowing glory only at a distance . . .”  I love the sanctuary feel that floods my studio space in the night when things get quiet and I have only my thoughts moving about as I bend over the watercolor and explore its dynamics.  There is so much waiting to be explored, that I keep coming back to Newton’s testimony that the small boy turns over pebbles while the ocean of truth waits beside.

ART STILL HAS TRVTH.  TAKE REFVGE THERE.  These immortal words of Matthew Arnold are chiseled over the portal of the Saint Louis Art Museum.   I have read them on repeated visits to that “cathedral of art.”  And I take them to heart tonight.  My working art space has become the cleft in the rock, the shelter from the storm, the safe haven, my refuge.  Life has had its difficulties lately, but I’m grateful for sanctuary this night, for the quiet hours to pursue art, while outside the temperatures continue to drop and the rain continues to fall.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Thoughts Scattered in the Winds

February 24, 2014
Trying to Get Some Thoughts to Fly in Formation

Trying to Get Some Thoughts to Fly in Formation

In a traditional school setting, intensity is dilluted by short and widely-separated class meetings, continuity is lost as everyone scatters to the winds at the end of each class period, and ideas dissipate before they ever fully develop.

Ted Orland, View from the Studio Door

Throughout my years, I have wrestled with this reality.  As a graduate student, when ideas moved me profoundly, I found myself frequently scrambling to assemble my scattered, fractured thoughts into some kind of order and save them in such a way that they would not disappear between class periods, or while sleeping at night.  I never found a “system” for organizing all that knowledge.  Years of teaching school since those days have only added to the mix.  Students stimulate me daily with new ideas, alternate vistas, novel perspectives, and every time the bell rings and they sail out the door, I find myself reaching for the journal and trying my best to record the snippets of thought as the next class files in with their new packages of words and ideas.

This evening, while working on a commission, I continually found myself stopping in the middle of a brushstroke, drawing out the journal and recording yet again.  It never ends.

Waking
Stream of consciousness
On a sleeping
Street of dreams

Thoughts
Like scattered leaves
Slowed in midfall
To the streams

Of fast
Running rivers
Of choice and chance
And time stops here 
on the delta
While they dance
While they dance

David Crosby, “The Delta”

I suppose I have recovered from my recent illness.  I’m thinking again.  Painting again.  And smiling again.  Maybe some of these things will assemble themselves into something sublime.  I can always hope  . . .

Thanks for reading.  Once this commission is completed, I’ll hopefully get some new paintings back online to share.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

First Attempt of the New Isis Theater in the Fort Worth Stockyards

June 30, 2013
New Isis Theater, Fort Worth

New Isis Theater, Fort Worth

. . . having a working command of the creative process–that is, all those elements that lead to the making of art–is truly essential.  The creative process unfolds as you find the essential tools in your toolkit.  It means finding your subjects (not someone else’s) and finding your materials (not someone else’s) and most of all it means finding a way to live your life so that you can engage again and again the things you care about the most.  

Ted Orland, The View From the Studio Door

As Sunday fades into the late afternoon, I realize that I will soon have to lay aside my art work and take up Shakespeare for tomorrow morning’s summer school class.  Teaching pays the bills; I do that so I can live to make art.  Teaching supports my habit, though I must immediately add that this is the only profession in my career that has truly fit me.  I have never stopped loving the educational enterprise.  Perhaps that is because I am still a student, and always will be.

I have made two trips to the Fort Worth Stockyards in the past four days, both times in triple-digit temperatures, and both times returning to my studio with a renewed interest in pursuing a series of studies in the edifices on North Main, especially the New Isis theater.  As I continue to work on this watercolor, as well as additional compositions of this historic theater, I will have much to report concerning its history.  I have been fascinated to find pages and pages of data on this remarkable structure and the stories it embodies.

I have not put much work into this piece yet, save for the sign, the part that holds the most fascination for me.  I’m about ready to move down into the awning and left to the pair of doors ready for rendering.  The sign was a great source of joy, and I guess I can say that the most “fun” part of the painting is now behind me; everything else should just be supporting detail.  Having said that, I may be closer to the end of this sketch than I realized when I began this blog post.  But so it goes.

Thank you for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal because I feel that I am alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

The Plein Air Watercolor Adventures Continue

May 29, 2013
Time for a Cold One

Time for a Cold One

Art is like beginning a sentence before you know its ending.  The risks are obvious: you may never get to the end of the sentence at all–or having gotten there, you may not have said anything.

David Bayles & Ted Orland, Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking

Today was not the best of days to attempt a plein air painting.  I had a school day that just would not seem to end.  The year has seemed far too long for students as well as faculty.  I then had to drive away from Waxahachie to enter seven paintings in a competition in which I like to participate every year (the timing was just not good this time).  I then drove the rest of the distance to Waxahachie, and found a pickup truck again parked right in front of the pub.  So I walked around it, sat in front of the pub, and looked at the planters, carefully drawing their designs and plants, and then went back to the easel and faked it–something I hate doing en plein air.  But the truck never left–it wiped out everything below the awning.  I worked all over on the composition for about an hour, heightening contrasts, warming some areas, cooling others, re-doing some details I thought were poorly and hastily rendered last night.  Finally I decided I could make no further improvement.  I was at the end of the sentence, and not sure if I had actually said anything.

I was robbed of a decent night’s sleep again last night, so I’m really too weary to know whether or not this is much of a painting.  At any rate, I priced it at $150, an 8 x 10″ piece in a white 11 x 14″ mat and sleeved in plastic.  It is also in the Ellis County Art Association Office, awaiting Friday’s judging and the all-day Saturday and Sunday sale at the Chatauqua Auditorium at Gezendaner Park.

I will spend the entire day and evening in historic Waxahachie tomorrow, and earnestly hope I can churn out a decent day’s worth of paintings.  Even if the work isn’t much good, it will have been sublime to have been given that opportunity.  This is indeed a fabulous event: Paint Historic Waxachie, open till Sunday at 5:00.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal because I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.