Recently I acquired a large vintage wooden flat file and was thrilled with it, had it refinished and found the missing (hidden) key. When it was finally delivered, it wouldn’t fit through the studio door. I was a little upset, but thought, oh well its not meant to be mine–because it would not fit through any door of any building I could conceivably move it into. Yes, friends and family all tried to come to forth to rescue said treasure–but no door could accommodate it. So, I put it on the block, but I had a chance meeting with the previous owner and mentioned the problem. He revealed the box had one more trick to reveal–it comes apart with the removal of two bolts. I will number the drawers and remove them, remove the large bolts and collapse the box, move it in and re-assemble it in my studio. Even better.
Forget the beans. Well maybe not the Pasta Fagiola @ Il panino (which was simply scrumptious). Boston’s scene is incredible. The weather is unbelievable–sitting in the park, at the cafe’s in the North End Italian section and relishing every moment. I’m unstoppable, making art, drawing, sketching and having a blast! People love my work–and ask questions, saying things like “so cool”, or “trippy” or “that is amazing”, peer over my shoulder and want a piece. At this point I barely have anything left to sell…and I have given away a few as gifts: one to the incredibly young bar tender who kept slipping away to catch a glance at the drawing and one to a clerk in the art store who flipped over my drawings. I travelled light so I only had a petite sketch book and iPad to work with. shhhh…it still a little secret (i’m in discussions with several galleries.) The possibilities are intriguing and my expectations were high, but this excellent reception was more than I hoped for. I have one more night of celebration with my closest confidantes. Returning home to be open for the October First Friday – Woohoo! I can’t wait for that since my studio was closed for 2 months due to vacation schedule. Banana Factory – First Friday – stop in, see what I have going on or chat or wave hello. See you all soon!
Phantasmagoric or Psychedelic? People are intrigued by my art and ask me if I do psychedelics. I explain: as a child I made art similar to this, less refined because my tools were different: crayons, felt tip pens, construction paper. I adored colors that had impact and vibrated, there was no direction, my mother let us explore and no one told me do or don’t do it this way. So I let the colors come into being together like living objects. Wild!
I continued to make art the same way and did not go to college for art. I disliked school. I did not want to be contained. From the age of 4 I refused to go, plead and begged not to be sent to a place that had the sticky odors of too many people and cafeteria foods. I had little understanding of what we were doing there. The aesthetic was dismal: it was cold and the light was harsh, the windows were too high to see out of, the desks were ugly metal grey-blue legs with beige plastic formica tops that lifted up and were pitted with the marks of the previous students. The rooms were not colorless, worse yet, they were badly colored, sickly shades of greens and tans, dull peaches and obscure reds. I cannot imagine what kind of people engineered such a hideous stinky place. School left an indelible mark on me and is responsible for my becoming an iconoclast. I refused to go to college for art because I knew I would be forced to bend to the will of commercialism.
Creating the art however had all the appeal – I would simply make it – I was the engineer of my visions and dreams. Without the prodding and lecturing of the teachers I would remain free. As an adult in my thirties I finally went to college for computer science. I was old enough at that point to be settled and confident that I would retain my sense of self throughout the process. Later, in my mid-forties I took a few basic art classes. One of my professors championed my own art when he saw my portfolio. That made my decision to forget a degree in art–and I just continued my own methods.
As an artist, I consider myself an outsider, self-taught and making art according to my standard. A Wild Artist is what I call myself. Wildish: free, lush, luxuriant, organic, extravagant, primeval. The underpaintings are turbulent and loose, free of conformity, I paint with my hands and use anything at hand to distribute the color. Then come the layers. The lines of ink, more paint, more, more more. People have said, how can you be an outsider, you are so skilled and the work is so refined. They don’t see the whole process–and I am skilled. Dexterity, spatial skills, innate sense of color and balance. I cannot tell you how or why I know how to create what I do. I don’t actually care. The Art Speaks for itself. The artist is Self-taught. Driven. Compelled to create. Its non-stop–when I am forced by life to do ordinary tasks, drive or do the laundry, I wish I was painting or drawing–and use many spare moments to scratch a few lines. Many who know me, patiently overlook my tendency to draw while we talk or eat dinner. Its not that I am bored at dinner so much as I am compelled to make art. People have asked, do you have a science background. I do not. These images come from the ether, my imagination, my hands and my heart. Its untamed, yet its refined at the same time. I say its Wild!
I found Birdsong Radio several years ago when I was in the midst of a significant life transition. Familiar music has attachment to memory that is so refined it can take us back to the first moments we heard it, who we were with and what we were doing. The changes in my life made my former musical choices obsolete, painful memories were brought to the surface and I could not find comfortable sounds except for silence. Bombarded by music that is ubiquitous now in every store, office or elevator was another discomfort. I lived near a railroad and could hear the trainwhistle at all hours when I could not sleep and felt separated and alone. To this day hearing trains reminds me of those long nights.
Nature abhors a vacuum, wrote Spinoza, and it is a quotation I treasure. I adapted to my new life and found events that would fill the void. Walking the dogs, CoraBella, Rory and Cleopatra in the park every morning was one of the most important events of the day. Walking to the sounds of nature, I realized that this was the music I could listen to and try to achieve the peace I was seeking. The music of the birds, the wind in tall rushes, cicadas, crickets, croaking frogs and nearby whinny of the horses in the fields was the morning walk symphony that I craved at home. My exploration for sounds of nature led me to find Birdsong Radio. I downloaded the mp3 and subscribed immediately and began following the station.
I played the station while I painted, sketched and sewed. The bird calls are a sweet part of the tapestry of my artistic life and much of my work is created while listening to the station. During artists meetings I played it instead of music and people commented on how much they liked it. I have no proof, but it seems that the mellow naturalsounds made the atmosphere calm and our creative ideas flowed with ease.
This week Birdsong Radio released an updated website and phone app, see the links below to participate and support their endeavor.
Off to paint in my Secret Garden.
A friend and poet Ishmael Street performed this piece at http://www.thebrewworks.com/allentown-brewworks/ Ishmael, thank you for sharing your words and intellect with us. The night was an ending to a day I don’t want to relive–but hearing your voice speak those words changed how I see the world. Ishmael – I put this piece up for you in return for your generosity. It is a watercolor I painted called Baroque Love.
UNTITLED by Ishmael Street
Do you know your worth?
Are you an Earthly Queen or
See a Goddess knows she more worthy than
The sun and moon
She is never subdue
She is worth everything
She is the universe and the stars
Are her children
Love is she and she is the supplier of
She is never alone
She is exist for eternity
Do you know your worth?
Are you an Earthly Queen or
A queen know she is royalty, knows she should be
Treated as royalty
She holds this title of queen at birth
Her worth is determined by how she treats others
She knows can’t make everyone happy but
She must rely on others for the longevity in her
She holds power in her own kingdom and she may
Reign over her kingdom for only a short while
Do you know your worth?
Are you an Earthly Queen or
Maybe just a child of God
Needing a label a crown to define your
Worth told by others who looks into a broken
Mirror every morning calling it
So let your light shine
Liberate from your fear
Revolt against your insecurities
Then your presence will liberate others.
I soak watercolor paper in a tub of cool clean water for 2-3 minutes, remove the paper and press between 2 clean bath towels. Working on a flat surface with large squirrel mop brush I begin with loose watercolor washes. I do not work the a lot, but I continue to add and push the paint with either brushes or my fingers. This is an integral part of the work for me, once dried the fingerprints are like landmarks. Rarely I will use a blotter, but occasionally I will do so with a rough rag to create texture. Additionally, I use found objects placed in the paint and left to dry so as to draw paint to those areas. Other times, I might use harmless natural resists like castile soap, oatmeal or salt to obtain depth in the work.
At this point I usually allow the work to dry. Once dry, I can re-wet and add more paint and texture or move on to ink in the large areas. Inking is done with smaller brushes and pens. There is no planning or completion of inking at this time, the piece is open to re-working or starting collage in an inked area or adding paint. The inking is the mind engaging part where I can get lost for hours, allowing ideas to form, transcending the hum-drum-slow-rattle brain chatter and get some peace.