Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Secret of Bagger Vance

Watched The Legend of Bagger Vance last night. I needed a break from my frenetic preparations for next month's studio artists' show, and this movie about a golfing has-been's comeback just fit the bill. I'm not a golfer but my husband The Wizard is, so we settled in to enjoy the flick with two entirely different agendas: his to immerse himself in all things golf, and mine to take a brief respite from all things art.

The story line and the striking cinematography grabbed me right away. It was set in Savannah, one of my favorite places. Though I don't know a birdie from a plover, I was immediately entranced as I watched the war damaged young golfer (Matt Damon) coached back into both the game and life under the tutelage of a mysterious, sage-like caddy, played by Will Smith.

One of the secrets the caddy teaches his charge is to focus solely on the flag marking the location of the hole as he prepares to swing. To exclude from consciousness all other distractions -- to focus exclusively on the flag and the envisioned trajectory of the ball. To engage both body and mind so completely on the joyful act of delivering the ball to the flag that all other distractions simply fade away. The goal, the caddy reveals, is to meld oneself so totally into the moment and the purpose at hand that you achieve -- however briefly -- unity with the ineffable.

Wow. This exactly describes what happens on those very memorable magical days when the art seems to make itself and every color, texture and gestural stroke on the canvas seems to come from a place so much grander and greater than ourselves. When five or six hours fly by but you could swear it was merely an hour ago that you took up a brush. When you step back from the painting and wonder from where and how such delightful nuances of color came to be when you have no recollection whatsoever of having painted them. Oh yes, I think artists can soooo relate to that sublime sense of timelessness and oneness as described by caddy Bagger Vance.

Watching the credits roll at the end (we have a niece in the film business so we always watch the credits) I learned The Legend of Bagger Vance was authored by Steven Pressfield. Who happens to also be the author of The War of Art, a wonderful book about the creative process and its challenges. Thank you so much, Mr. Pressfield, for giving us both. My intent in watching The Legend of Bagger Vance was to take a break from art. Instead it reminded me in a profoundly moving way just why I love it so much. This movie both relaxed me and renewed me. Today as I painted in my studio I could swear I heard Bagger Vance whispering softly in my ear.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Creative Potholes

The past few weeks have been anything but favorable to painting. Despite a bad case of schedule crazies, I did manage to finish Hey, Baby, a 20x16 mixed media painting, just in time to get it into this month's rotation at the gallery, plus two small collages, Sojourn and Corinthian II. The little collages practically created themselves. Hey, Baby, on the other hand, was a breech birth.

For starters, the theme -- urban life's seamier side -- was uncharted territory for me. Actually I was a bit uncomfortable with it. But that was the direction this painting wanted to take, so who was I to argue? When you paint intuitively, as I tend to do, you accommodate rather than impose. It's kind of like driving a taxi: the passenger tells you where they want to go. Your job is to get them there. Usually this approach is a pleasure for me. Not this time! Most frustrating was one stubborn passage that I just couldn't seem to resolve no matter what I did to it.

About 10 days into the project, bingo! I finally saw what had eluded me up until that moment: the problem area appeared to suggest a female form. A pole dancer, to be exact. Once I recognized her presence and gave her a bit more definition, I was able to bring the painting to a satisfactory completion. She was the vital element that had been missing, the key image around which the others needed to revolve. She may not be immediately obvious (you have to look closely to see her) but there she is, shaking her booty for the shadowy figures who populate her world.

Sometimes what a painting needs is right there in front of us, but it just takes a while for us to see it. Had I given up on it (boy, was I tempted!) this painting would likely have ended up in the dumpster. Instead my pole dancer's now struttin' her stuff on the gallery wall. I don't know who is more surprised -- her or me!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

LOL, Literally

Last night I laughed harder than my "waterproof" mascara could withstand. Gallery 4463, where I'm represented and where my studio is located, hosted a special presentation by the wildly funny comedy troupe Attention Deficit which had its audience rolling in the aisles. This amazingly talented group is affiliated with the well known Pumphouse Players of Cartersville, GA.

The gallery was packed, the wine flowed, and the laughs came fast and furious as Attention Deficit rolled out one hilarious bit after another. By the end of the evening my ribs were sore from laughing so hard.

Attention Deficit very generously supplied the evening's entertainment to benefit the newly-opened Art Center on Gallery 4463's second floor, where a wide range of art classes and workshops are offered for both children and adults. We even have a fine art printing press which artists interesting in making prints are now able to rent.

Last night's event was a huge success; we'll be holding more such special entertainment nights in the future. If you live in the North Metro Atlanta area you'll definitely want to be notified of our upcoming openings and special events so you don't miss out on the fun. Sign up at

Friday, June 17, 2011

Using Old Books as Collage Material

The other day a heavy box arrived from my sweet and thoughtful sister-in-law. Imagine my delight when I discovered it contained a collection of extremely old books! They included vintage titles printed in Russian, German, French, and Latin, a richly illustrated book on the history of clothing design, an engineering manual written entirely in Chinese, a book of Arabic proverbs, even a hardcover catalog from France's 1889 Salon Illustre. (More on this last item in a future blog.) This gal's heart very nearly stopped when I saw what a treasure trove of collage materials the box held!

I love using vintage book pages in my mixed media collages. They have an irresistible visual appeal that draws viewers into the work. (Not to mention being a pleasure for the artist too.) I'm absolutely nuts for incorporating pages with foreign languages and symbols and vintage illustrations in my art. The challenge for me is finding sources for it. My sister-in-law knew this. She obtained these books for me through her city's library system which holds periodic book sales. I am giddy with gratitude!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Impressions of Summer

"Dragonfly" mixed media collage, 12x9"

Heat and bugs are the essence of summer in my state. I wanted to capture summer's fiery warmth with this mixed media collage while providing a nod to dragonflies, one of my favorite "bugs." There's a small water garden alongside my porch where these beautiful creatures congregate. It's great fun to watch them hover over the water, then zip off into the garden. My environment provides many little inspirations like this for my art. I find such moments to be some of the most rewarding when I'm looking for something to jump start a painting.