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Doing Color Studies

The Value of Color Studies.

Greetings!  I am going to give you a short introduction about why I do color studies, then outline how I devised my own color study project.  Finally, I’ll share with you some of the lessons I learned by doing the studies.

And, I might add, it is the “doing” that is critical!  Some lessons are best learned by doing them for ourselves.

Color Studies

Example of color study set one.

Story Time.

A couple of months ago, I was chatting with a fellow local watercolor artist. She was taking beginning watercolor classes but thought she was ready for more advanced study. In particular, she would like to attend a class on color.

Oh, yes, you might imagine visions of being an instructor danced through my head. I could do this! And then I started imagining how I might teach a class on color. The question “what was useful for me, and how did I learn color” popped into my head.

Why Do Color Studies?  To Learn.

I’m not certain that we ever stop learning about color. But, what has helped me gain knowledge about the properties of color is doing color studies. And, periodically I do lots of them.

Oh, and, they are fun.  The studies are a great exercise for improving skills.  Or, if going through a period of the dreaded “artist block”, try doing some color studies to get the proverbial creative juices flowing.

Color Studies

Example of color study set two.

How I Did My First Big Color Project.

I selected a drawing I had already done. This particular drawing was of a cat and I figured I’d like to do a finished painting or two (or twenty) using this particular cat pose. So I created a color study project for myself.

Rules.

Here were the rules I used. And, I do believe setting “rules” helps the project stay focused and move along.  Besides, since you set your own rules, they are subject to your goals.

  • Set One: Use the same drawing as the starting point*. Vary the color: select color combinations like complimentary, monochrome, or triads that might be fun. See what happens, see how expression changes with color variation.
  • Set Two: I varied line and shape quality in the design plus varied color. For example, red might appear more expressive if the lines were straight, geometric and angular. However, red might appear sweeter, more feminine if the line quality was curved, organic, and rounded.
  • Do lots!
  • Note:  By the way, if you want to do color studies, you can also make up a simple, pleasing composition of geometric shapes. You don’t need a fancy drawing, just something to get the creative juices flowing.

And, thus, the “kittykitty” series was born.

Color Studies

Color studies: Example of Set Two

What I Discovered.

In other words, these are things I read about in art books but needed to see, feel and learn by trying on my own.

No Bad Color.

I think it is difficult to get a “bad” color combination, though some color schemes might appear more dissonant or discordant; they clash. Sometimes, clashing colors are just what’s needed!

Other color schemes appear more harmonious; they go together.

Mood.

Color combinations can and do influence the mood of the painting. To clarify, think of blue and you might think of blue skies, or feeling blue, or true blue. How about red: red heart, seeing red, red skies. I think you get the picture: a color within the context of a painting can enhance mood.

Intensity.

Color brightness, or intensity, matters. Bright next to muted or grayed color is beautiful. Gray can be beautiful and colorful.

Color Studies

Value.

Color value matters too. I orchestrate color values for “carrying power” – that is you can see the painting from across the room.

  1. To illustrate, yellows read light and, with watercolor, have a hard time with carrying power. It is hard to see yellow from far away without a strong dark nearby. But, when you do, yellow sings!
  2. Reds are tricky because they tend to be in the mid range straight out of the tube. Mixed with its compliment, reds can make a beautiful, strong dark.
  3. Blues tend to be in the darker value range when used full strength. But, it is not always the case. A cobalt blue, for example, never gets as dark as a comparable ultramarine blue. Cobalt blue tends to stay in the mid range

Dominance.

Trying to compose a painting with every color on your palette can be a challenge. One painting almost made me dizzy!  Having one color dominant helps clarify and strengthen the painting.

Limits.

Limiting color combinations, such as working with color combinations, makes the painting life ever so much “easier”; OK, relatively easier. You can use small touches of other colors to spice up the painting. But, simplifying color does help.

Next?  How About You?

OK, I could probably go on for the next while on lessons learned. Let’s do this instead. I have shared several of my color studies on this page.  Now, if you are interested, how about you?  I would like to encourage you to do some for yourself and feel free to share.

OR, those of you who have been painting a long time and have done color studies, feel free to share your own comments and maybe an image!

Post Script.

No, I haven’t started teaching a watercolor class on color.  The idea still dances around my head.  And, that is why I’m doing this post, to start getting my own “creative juices” flowing for teaching.

Color Studies

More of Set One

Thanks!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The post Doing Color Studies appeared first on Margaret Stermer-Cox.

Place

placeplace 3Still Life with Golden Raspberries, oil on linen, on view in “PLACE” at Manifest Gallery in Cincinnati. I was very pleased to be invited to show at Manifest again this year. All of the shows there right now look excellent. Photos courtesy Jason Franz at Manifest.

 

Irish Breakfast Tea: Rogue Gallery & Art Center

Greetings!

I’m happy to say my painting Irish Breakfast Tea is currently on display at the Rogue Gallery & Art Center, Medford OR, for their Celtic Celebration.  This painting is one of four that I have showing at the gallery.  My other three paintings are from my Still Life With Toy Pony collection and I’ll share them with you below.

Irish Breakfast Tea

First, The Celtic Celebration.

Art Show.  I’d like to highlight that the Rogue Gallery’s special Celtic inspired art show went on display March 9th, and will run through March 18th.  This special show features works by local artists using a variety of media, from acrylic, collage, oil, gouache, mixed media, photography, and (my favorite) watercolor.

Celebration.  The art show is part of the Gallery’s Celtic Celebration which culminates in a special fun filled evening, including singing (!) on, you guessed it, St Patrick’s Day.  By the way, if you’re local, they are having a singing contest, so go for it!

Celebration Time.  This unique celebration takes place on March 17th from 6:30 to 8:30 pm.  For more information, and they do have more information, please see their website.  Lets see…art, music, food, friends, what could be better?

Business Hours.  The Rogue Gallery and Art Center is located at 40 S. Barlett St. in Medford, OR.  Their hours are as follows:

10am – 5pm, Tuesday – Friday
11am – 3pm, Saturday
5pm – 8pm, every third Friday

Thank You.  Here’s an extra special personal THANKS to the Rogue Gallery and Art Center.  They have selected the image of Irish Breakfast Tea to use for their publicity.  Its a thrill to see my painting used as the gallery’s post card!  Thanks!

Artists.  I’d like to share with you the list of participating local artists.  They are Jennifer Bagwell, Rachel Barrett, Lynette Elita, Christina Cannon, Ashley E. Clasby, Carol Cochran, Suzanne Etienne, Joyce Feigner, Cynthia Flowers, Kim Hearon, Mary Hoskins, Jennifer Ivey, Mary Ann Macey, Claudia Marchini, Anna May, Susan Murphey, Richard Newman, Jody Palzer, Terri Regotti, Patrick Ryan, Red Thompson, Greg Thweatt, Doug Wallace, Karen Wallace and yours truly.

On a personal note, I think we are fortunate to have such a wonderful gallery in our community.

Update:

I am thrilled to say that “Irish Breakfast Tea” won two awards:  People’s Choice and Staff Pick.  The Gallery selected my painting to announce the Celtic Celebration in the local newspaper.  I am so pleased!  Thank you!

Still Life With Toy Pony

Then, About Irish Breakfast Tea.

Impetus & Inspiration.  I think it is appropriate that the impetus for creating this painting happened to be the gallery’s “Celtic Celebration”.  Though, I must admit, intention was to show this last year…but life happened and its this year instead.  To explain, I had been toying with including symbols from different cultures in my artwork and the Celtic Celebration gave me the motivation to get my ideas down on paper.

The Tea Cup.  Regarding the image, the tea cup is one that my Mother gifted to me.  This happened to be one of my Father’s favorite cups, though he used if for coffee not tea.  It is green, white and gold.  Using shamrocks as decorative trim seemed natural and appropriate.  I remember in grade school wearing the green leaf, or class made versions, on St. Patrick’s day.  Since then, I’ve associated the shamrock with Ireland.

Still Life With Toy Pony

Celtic Knots.  Wanting to include more Celtic symbology, I added my favorite Celtic knots.  By doing a search on the internet, I learned how to draw a Celtic knot.  Perhaps out of curiosity, I wanted to know how to draw my own design rather than trace or stencil the knots.

Triple Spiral.  Adding a triple spiral, also known as a triskele, was natural; I love spirals.  The triple spiral alludes to our spiritual nature.  I liked the shape and found a nice place for it on the end of the tea bag.

The Title: Irish Breakfast Tea.  I’d like to share with you the inspiration for the title.  It was another gift from my Mom.  She once sent me a sample of loose leaf tea and I found the Irish Breakfast Tea to be particularly pleasing.  So, even though the title might seem obvious, it has special meaning to me.  Plus, I think it just sounds good!

Still Life With Toy Pony

Still Life With Toy Pony At The Rogue Gallery

I’d like to highlight that I have other watercolor paintings showing at the Rogue Gallery and Art Center.  You may see three versions of Still Life With Toy Pony in the member’s portion of the gallery through the end of April.

I recently talked memory drawing with examples from the Still Life With Toy Pony.  I’d like to refer you to this blog post to see more about Toy Pony.

 

 

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The post Irish Breakfast Tea: Rogue Gallery & Art Center appeared first on Margaret Stermer-Cox.

Tax Season for Poets

Seven meditations on money from a poet who wishes she had thought of the book title The Financial Lives of Poets (she didn’t)
1) “Money often costs too much.”Ralph Waldo Emerson
The poet filed her taxes for the previous year—a year she dedicated to her art. She realized that she technically lives at her country’s poverty level. To her continued wonderment, she finds ways to see many other countries without debt. (She would like to add that she has no trust fund, offshore accounts, or supporting spouse—though she has nothing against any of those!)
She starts to wonder: do the little digits on pieces of paper or computer screens really mean anything?
2) “Money is like a sixth sense—and you can’t make use of the other five without it.” —William Somerset Maugham
And then she sees a pair of boots she’d REALLY love. That aren’t on sale. That would chip away at her dedication pay her annual IRA contribution. And she realizes that yes: those little numbers mean something.
But not everything.
3) “Money will buy you a fine dog, but only love can make it wag its tail” —Richard Friedman
Like a good egalitarian, the poet has dated both rich and poor men over the years. Their financial status had little to do with the end of those relationships—but she did notice that the ones who respected their finances respected themselves—and her.
The day the poet realized she loved herself, she realized she was a wealthy woman.
4) “Budget: a mathematical confirmation of your suspicions.” —A.A. Latimer
The poet used to have a little budget sheet. Back in high school. But since she has spent most of her adult life either self-employed or with erratic income, she long ago moved from budgets to savoir-faire. This works. Except when it almost doesn’t (see #2).
5) “All I ask is the chance to prove that money can’t make me happy.” —Spike Milligan.
Go ahead and try her!
6) “Money is the opposite of the weather. Nobody talks about it, but everybody does something about it.” —Rebecca Johnson
The poet, who once gave up financial insecurity for Lent, observes:
She has been the girl with the salaried job and the vacations to far-flung lands.
She has been the girl living in an unplumbed cabin after the economic downturn, learning how to fill a bag of groceries for just $20.
She discovered something in those contrasts: she wrote more poetry in the cabin than she did with the salary, and she remembers those poems with far more fondness than direct deposit paychecks. (Though she’d truly be game for the opportunity of #5.)
7). “There is the natural economy, and there is the Spirit economy. Though I have no idea how it works, I know it does work.”—Anna Elkins
The poet has come to believe that the Spirit economy transcends the money-for-time model, numbers with lots of zeros, and all the dog-eared financial planning books on her bookshelf.
She has learned that you can invest in friendships, give extravagantly, travel the world, and buy organic chocolate at Grocery Outlet with very little money and very much delight. (Though she’s game to try life with very much money and very much delight! Again, see #5.)
Maybe most importantly, she has learned to be grateful for a life that inexplicably works—partly because she doesn’t put her faith in her own ability to earn it (though she can and does work hard) but instead is thankful for both the visible reality and the invisible. And she has a hunch that the realm beyond the “possible” has a far stronger currency!
we are saying thank you
we are saying thank you and waving
dark though it is.
—W.S. Merwin
from “Thanks”

Tax Season for Poets

Seven meditations on money from a poet who wishes she had thought of the book title The Financial Lives of Poets (she didn’t)
1) “Money often costs too much.”Ralph Waldo Emerson
The poet filed her taxes for the previous year—a year she dedicated to her art. She realized that she technically lives at her country’s poverty level. To her continued wonderment, she finds ways to see many other countries without debt. (She would like to add that she has no trust fund, offshore accounts, or supporting spouse—though she has nothing against any of those!)
She starts to wonder: do the little digits on pieces of paper or computer screens really mean anything?
2) “Money is like a sixth sense—and you can’t make use of the other five without it.” —William Somerset Maugham
And then she sees a pair of boots she’d REALLY love. That aren’t on sale. That would chip away at her dedication pay her annual IRA contribution. And she realizes that yes: those little numbers mean something.
But not everything.
3) “Money will buy you a fine dog, but only love can make it wag its tail” —Richard Friedman
Like a good egalitarian, the poet has dated both rich and poor men over the years. Their financial status had little to do with the end of those relationships—but she did notice that the ones who respected their finances respected themselves—and her.
The day the poet realized she loved herself, she realized she was a wealthy woman.
4) “Budget: a mathematical confirmation of your suspicions.” —A.A. Latimer
The poet used to have a little budget sheet. Back in high school. But since she has spent most of her adult life either self-employed or with erratic income, she long ago moved from budgets to savoir-faire. This works. Except when it almost doesn’t (see #2).
5) “All I ask is the chance to prove that money can’t make me happy.” —Spike Milligan.
Go ahead and try her!
6) “Money is the opposite of the weather. Nobody talks about it, but everybody does something about it.” —Rebecca Johnson
The poet, who once gave up financial insecurity for Lent, observes:
She has been the girl with the salaried job and the vacations to far-flung lands.
She has been the girl living in an unplumbed cabin after the economic downturn, learning how to fill a bag of groceries for just $20.
She discovered something in those contrasts: she wrote more poetry in the cabin than she did with the salary, and she remembers those poems with far more fondness than direct deposit paychecks. (Though she’d truly be game for the opportunity of #5.)
7). “There is the natural economy, and there is the Spirit economy. Though I have no idea how it works, I know it does work.”—Anna Elkins
The poet has come to believe that the Spirit economy transcends the money-for-time model, numbers with lots of zeros, and all the dog-eared financial planning books on her bookshelf.
She has learned that you can invest in friendships, give extravagantly, travel the world, and buy organic chocolate at Grocery Outlet with very little money and very much delight. (Though she’s game to try life with very much money and very much delight! Again, see #5.)
Maybe most importantly, she has learned to be grateful for a life that inexplicably works—partly because she doesn’t put her faith in her own ability to earn it (though she can and does work hard) but instead is thankful for both the visible reality and the invisible. And she has a hunch that the realm beyond the “possible” has a far stronger currency!
we are saying thank you
we are saying thank you and waving
dark though it is.
—W.S. Merwin
from “Thanks”

All art is contemporary now

Libica, Elise Ansel, oil on linen

Libica, Elise Ansel, oil on linen

During my tour of the L.A. Art Show in January, a glimpse of Elise Ansel’s work from a distance reeled me into the Ellsworth booth about as quickly and effectively as anything I spotted in my tour of the entire fair. It was a small study based on a Poussin painting, reducing the original image to an abstract expressionist composition full of perfectly harmonized, intensely saturated tones with areas that looked as if the paint went straight from tube to canvas. If I had seen Ansel’s work before, and I may have, in a more absent frame of mind, it didn’t draw me in. This time, as I stood before that little study, I felt about as pleased as if I’d just stumbled upon the largest chocolate egg in a hunt on Easter morning. (Most of the work in the fair was a lot less stunning, therefore exceptional work tended to stand out even more powerfully than it would have done in a curated show. I had the same reaction to Kim Cogan’s small paintings a few booths away.) Barry Ellsworth, the gallerist, was staffing his own booth and told me a little about Ansel when I asked who’d done the painting, and he mentioned that she was also represented by Danese/Corey where, about a week ago, I discovered that Ansel has a new solo show. For anyone interested in seeing her work first-hand, the work will be on view in Chelsea for another ten days and includes some paintings even more remarkable than what I saw in California.

Ansel’s images are compelling for two reasons. First is the luxuriance of her rich, intense color, creating harmonies that feel both inevitable, yet freshly unpredictable, and sensuously felt. Her color is both inviting and beautiful. Matisse would have enjoyed these paintings, though it was Picasso who was more inclined to rework the occasional Old Master in his own idiom. She reprises images from Rubens or Veronese or Michelangelo, taking the original painting as an occasion to build a spontaneous, rapid translation of the historical painting’s colors into a contemporary calligraphic abstraction, freeing the colors of the original to overwhelm the original artist’s intent and completely define the new image. What she retains, though, is the original painting’s spiritual energy submerged into the libidinous pleasure of her color—the lyrics of the source are gone, as it were, and only the melody remains.

Second, she works essentially as an abstract expressionist, building flat patterns of various tones, and yet she’s able to convey a sense of great volume and space, a depth of field that has nothing to do with the flat plane of the canvas. You see into the painting as powerfully as you would a conventional landscape. She tends to favor scenes that include at least a glimpse of sky, which often helps to anchor and orient everything else in her paintings. This isn’t remotely like De Kooning, say, whose figures seem to depict a claustrophobic act of violence remembered in tranquility. Clement Greenberg, with his insistence on flatness, would have been puzzled about how to justify Ansel’s reliance on this convention of representational painting—the illusion of looking through the surface of the work rather than simply at it. She gets that three-dimensionality simply by juxtaposing indistinct forms and huge gestural swipes of paint. One might say the same of Turner, or Matisse, but here the color has been unleashed almost entirely from its representational parent and is asserting itself for its own sake, in relation to other colors, not primarily for the purpose of building a vaguely recognizable scene. In that regard, she’s closer to Howard Hodgkins, but the hints of representation in his abstractions feel completely different, enclosed, confined, and concentrated into boxes of paint, and there’s something a little suffocating about the intensity of his color in comparison with the balance and even restfulness Ansel achieves. If you could inhabit one of Ansel’s paintings, it feels as if you might grow a pair of wings and simply float around—which incidentally would enable you to blend in, socially, since you would be sharing some mythic space with winged figures from the original paintings.

What struck me immediately in that little Poussin study was the way in which her seemingly arbitrary and lyrical arrangement of pigment on a flat surface seemed necessary, without my being able to analyze what gave rise to this impression of necessity. Even as I was walking by and had simply caught a glimpse of the little painting, I could see she had solved the one central problem every painter faces: how to arrange colors and tones in a certain compelling and individual way on a flat surface, first of all as a celebration of nothing more than the pleasure of the paint’s formal properties. This spot of color next to that spot of color—it’s easy to put them down in a way that gives pleasure for a while, but how to make them seem absolutely right, correct, and ordered, no matter how many times a viewer returns to the image? This is enormously difficult, and Ansel makes it look easy. This imperative—to make the paint itself your primary concern, not simply what it will induce the viewer to see—is just as important in representational painting as it is in abstraction.

When I visited the Richard Estes retrospective at the College of Arts and Design two years ago, I got as close to the paintings as I was allowed and detail of estesthat proximity revealed how much one of his paintings relies on small, uniform areas of color, with minimal blending across edges, similar to the way Neil Welliver would construct an image using a far more narrow range of colors. This isn’t apparent at all in reproductions nor when you look at an Estes painting even a few feet away, which is where you would normally stand in order to take it all in. In a way, he creates something analogous to a digital version of an analog image—sometimes breaking it down into simple constituent and almost modular parts at a level that isn’t noticeable. This works as a way of making the arrangement of paint in a certain pattern, without any reference to what the paint represents, seem to be at the center of his actual concern as a painter. The fact that this myopic attention to these carefully crafted marks accumulates into a stunningly complex and realistic visual image seems even more magical when you note how much he simplified what he was doing inside, say, a square inch of canvas. He had solved the core problem: how to give himself a pretext for arranging areas of color in a certain way on a surface. The realistic image offers the pretext for putting one mark here and another mark there, with a consistent quality in the application of paint; the challenge for Estes and other realists is how to find a personally compelling way to use an image for that purpose, as an excuse for applying certain qualities of color, with certain kinds of marks.

This is exactly what Ansel has done, but with an entirely different vocabulary of marks. By improvising on an Old Master, she gives herself a pretext for making what appear to be incredibly loose strokes of paint, any way she likes, and yet she’s constantly, strenuously referring to the source image, just as any representational photo-realist would study his shot—but with her own rulebook. She is straining to echo the armature of color in the original, not the actual appearance of the source painting; the way Bill Evans or Miles Davis, say, had their way with a song. The personal guidelines she’s devised for these re-interpretations are entirely hers, and probably impossible to articulate in an exhaustive way, but the original image and the rules together create the core of necessity—the sense when you look at the finished work it’s exactly right. This isn’t always the case, of course. A few of the paintings don’t hang together as coherently, or as powerfully, as her best work, but these are exceptions. The most stunning work: Venus and Adonis, with its little white dog in the foreground reminiscent of Louisa Matthiasdottir’s grazing sheep; Revelations XI; Cornbury III; Medium Study for Tiger, Lion and Leopard Hunt; and most of all, Libica, based on Michelangelo’s Libyan Sybil—an alchemical transformation of its source into something that, for me, comes as close to capturing the spirit of early spring as effectively as the opening of The Canterbury Tales or a poem by e.e cummings.

A brief Q/A conducted this past January, admirably devoid of pretention, serves as the introduction to the show’s catalog. In it, Ansel offers some instructive observations about the way she works, with hints about why she paints:

I have been surprised by the extent to which the spiritual or mythological content of the historical paintings I work with has revealed itself during the process of painting.

My initial attraction to Old Master painting often has to do with color harmony, composition, and structure. Beyond the formal characteristics, I search for . . . a certain quality of sincerity, resonance and sensitivity.

I would say one important thing is how to communicate spiritual truth visually.

I look for formal brilliance, emotional depth, spiritual energy . . . and a certain kind of erotic energy. I think we see this in the work of Matisse, Titian, Rembrandt, Picasso, Joan Mitchell, de Kooning—many great artists.

Spontaneity, improvisation, instinct, and intuition eclipse rational, linear thinking during the process of making the studies. My paintings are most successful when the entire surface is worked ‘wet into wet’ in one long session.

Like Matisse, who said he was aiming merely to give a restorative pleasure to his viewer, but later maintained that his aims were spiritual—as he made explicit in the work toward the end of his life—Ansel is consciously driven by spiritual preoccupations and yet her pursuit offers mostly a subtle, intense and calming pleasure. The sly ironies of Kehinde Wylie’s appropriation of Old Masters is absent here: this work isn’t driven by a postmodern agenda, but absorbs its influence and internalizes it the way Blake internalized Milton. She’s refreshingly and unabashedly modernist in her aims—there’s no trace of sardonic postmodern commentary on the earlier work, even though she claims that her study of historical art gave her some feminist pause in reaction to how women were depicted, consistent with John Berger’s thesis about Western art’s objectification of women in Ways of Seeing. But one doesn’t feel the weight of this nod to postmodern deconstruction of the male gaze in historical art here at all, other than to note, perhaps wistfully, an absence of bare breasts. This is earnest modernist painting, with no regard for the silly notion that modernism is over, or ever could be. Her work, in more ways than one, serves as a quiet assertion that no school of art can ever be over. Art history doesn’t work that way anymore.

Raku creation

IMG_1145This is a ceramic representation of the earth as originally imagined in an Iroquois creation myth of the “world on a turtle’s back.” In the original myth the world rests on the back of a giant turtle, the American Indian equivalent of the Medieval notion of a firmament. In Barron Naegel’s reworking of the myth, the turtle and the planet are fused into one orb, the shell forming the bedrock below the life on the surface. Which happens to be, more or less, close to the way we view the planet ourselves. In Naegel’s small solo show at Keuka College you can see his latest figure drawings and his reinterpretation of the Iroquois myth in raku pottery. The drawings are masterful and traditional, studies from models at Steve Carpenter’s studio, and bring to mind the Renaissance and the Grand Central Atelier, though in them he’s trying to find a middle ground between representation and abstraction. One in particular, a cluster of figures woven together into a braid of limbs, brought to mind Nude Descending a Staircase. His raku planet is the show’s stand-out, and it was literally a trial by fire, a spontaneous process of discovering color experimentally through chemistry and heat–turning him into a bit of an alchemist. Here is how Barron described the process of getting the orb to its finished state through “re-oxidation”:

Raku can be a scary process, to say the least. I usually use tongs to remove the work. However I had to use an alternative approach, which in this case was to just grab it. I had all this IMG_1159apprehension about heat, so I used firemen gloves blanketed with phone books completely saturated in water.  First of all, I don’t have a Raku kiln which makes this process a lot, lot easier.  So I basically have to lean over into the heat. The object itself is molten and it’s about as heavy as a bowling ball, but one with oil all over it, because of the molten glass. A slippery bowling ball at 1900 degrees!  The process of Raku is based on reduction: it’s all chemistry. I’m stripping away the oxygen from theIMG_1161 glaze and introducing more carbon, which changes the metal colorants. How did I get it to where I wanted it? The blue and green you see on the surface are the result of re-oxidation. The first time I fired it, it came out red, looking more like Mars! I reheated it to about 800 degrees a baseline temperature, and then with a welding torch reworked areas to get certain colors. I had to try three times to get it to work out.

Using firemen’s gloves and wet phone books as a buffer between the gloves and the pottery, which would have stuck to the molten glass, he was able to retrieve his globe from the fire. It’s an unpretentious technique also used at the Corning Glass Works for handling molten forms only an hour’s drive away. It struck me that with his ceramic planet, Naegel was replacing oxygen with carbon in the surface to get the color he wanted, much as we’re doing (sort of) to the actual planet, but in his case, it had exactly the desired effect: turning a dull red sphere into this emerald world.

Poem is Coconut

A poem inspired by reading Octavio Paz beneath the palm trees in Mexico
Yelapa: En Edible Poem
poem is coconut
poem is sea salt
poem is margarita salt
poem is sunscreen
poem is dinner two hours from the now
            of sun and blue & bird
            & ocean licking beach
            in a tidal hunger
poem is hunger
poem has nothing to do with the tongue
poem has everything to do with the tongue
(poem tastes like luz y luna)
poem climbs a palm three
            cuts the green fruit
            throws them to the ground
            lets gravity & distance break them open
            releasing milk & meat
            & both are sweet
poem eats itself and is also called “poem”
poem is coconut

Poem is Coconut

A poem inspired by reading Octavio Paz beneath the palm trees in Mexico
Yelapa: En Edible Poem
poem is coconut
poem is sea salt
poem is margarita salt
poem is sunscreen
poem is dinner two hours from the now
            of sun and blue & bird
            & ocean licking beach
            in a tidal hunger
poem is hunger
poem has nothing to do with the tongue
poem has everything to do with the tongue
(poem tastes like luz y luna)
poem climbs a palm three
            cuts the green fruit
            throws them to the ground
            lets gravity & distance break them open
            releasing milk & meat
            & both are sweet
poem eats itself and is also called “poem”
poem is coconut

To manifest life

Ryan Adams, a while ago

Ryan Adams, a while ago

You get the sense from some creative work, Proust’s maybe more than anyone who ever lived, that the author of the work considered everything in some sense magically interesting or valuable–and this is where language offers no adjective for what a work of art actually conveys, the isness of things. It isn’t that what’s being represented is valuable, or marvelous, or (pick any other available adjective.) It’s something else. What you sense from looking at a Van Gogh or reading Swann’s Way is how the individual who created the work had what the fellow I’m going to quote below called a total appreciation for life just as it is-with nothing left out, including the crime and the evil and the horrible suffering and injustice. Bruegel has this quality–there’s nothing that isn’t worthy of being painted, and when he paints it, it’s suddenly (again, try to imagine that non-existent adjective or noun). There’s no word for what’s going on in that transformation or disclosure that happens in art. Language has no verb for the work being done by the painting or the novel. Celebrate, affirm, savor, appreciate, cherish–sorry, no. Below are seemingly extemporaneous observations that attempt to express (bumping intentionally up against the limits of language and showing how words fail to capture what’s going on) the urge to create something that will condense life itself into some created thing, or (what amounts to the same thing) alchemically make something inanimate appear to come alive. In a way, the urge to create is something like the will to be so aware of everything that you yourself are fully alive. These are remarks from the singer Ryan Adams, talking with Bob Boilen in the most recent episode of NPR’s All Songs Considered. It gets close to showing how impossible it is to say what’s really happening in great creative work, in any medium:

You manifest a meaning from a thing to yourself, in whatever format, a painting, a poem, a song, an article, or a novel or a note to a friend or a drunken text or email or spray painting on brick walls or inappropriately decaling your car. You conjure this feeling. There’s this thing inside of human beings, this total appreciation of being alive. It’s so profoundly in our gut. Even all of these people who would seemingly be horrible people, somewhere in there there’s this longing, this reaching up, and in the right way if it’s channeled, there’s some kind of a notion in them of “I have to document this thing that I saw” that becomes these songs, or these poems. We’re all in the high school of life and waiting for the teacher to turn around so we can take that pen we’ve been chewing on long enough that it’s got a sharp enough end that you could scratch your initials into that ventilator in gray/blue paint over by the window. It’s the same thing as those beautiful drawings in caves, where you see pictures of horses and wild game they were hunting. That person that day was either thinking of how beautiful those animals were or how it felt to be out there with them that day.