Kaleidoscope Mind

This entry is in honor of my friend Bobby, who asked me to paint this painting for him, based on a poem he wrote: “Kaleidoscope Mind.” I was honored that he trusted me to make his thoughts and words visible. Unfortunately, Bobby passed away not long after I finished his painting. Rest in peace, Bobby.

“Kaleidoscope Mind” 2016
Acrylic on 16″ x 20″ Canvas

This is what Bobby said when he asked me to make this painting:

“I put my thoughts on paper, but never on canvas. I hope you can paint my thoughts. I wish I had your talent. As for my depression, it is mostly under control. Had a huge setback when I lost Joan. Some of my writings are being used at a hospital in St. Louis, so I feel like I’m helping someone.”

This is his poem:

“Kaleidoscope Mind”

by Robert Ritchey
Thoughts racing through an endless sea of disbelief. 
Unable to stop the blurred images chasing through your mind 
on a collision course with uncertainty. 
Heart pounding like a thousand drums 
beating to a song of desperation. 
Clutching at straws, 
unable to grasp at what seems like a last chance of sanity. 
The ticking of a clock, 
one second closer to the feeling of despair. 
Time flying by, 
like the pages of a calendar 
in a whirlwind of emotions. 
And as quickly as it began, 
reality is returned . . . 
The feeling of tranquility,
restored by the small white pill. 
The pill than changes the colors 
in your Kaleidoscope Mind."

This is what he said at the end of the poem:

“Note: This is my interpretation of an anxiety attack, and the medicine use to overcome it. The medicine only helps for a while. And you can’t quit taking it. I think the road to complete sanity is just a big never-ending circle.”

Riding on the Fingers of God

How is it that I call myself an Artist while others do not? When I ask this, do I mean that others do not call me an Artist? Or do I mean that others do not call themselves Artists? It’s a matter of interpretation, isn’t it? Who gets the authority to define who is an Artist and who is not? ‘

On the day I was conceived – when that mysterious Energy caused atoms to join with other atoms to form molecules, to create cells, which then split and/or multiplied according to a specific plan that some call DNA – was it written into that plan that I am an Artist? Or that I should someday call myself an Artist? Is it a Choice, or a Destiny? And if I should choose to call myself an Artist, will others agree? And if they don’t agree, will I choose to bestow upon them the authority to determine that label for me?

Each morning for more than two years, I sat on a stool before a mass of Roma Plastilina clay, an assortment of wire and wooden tools, photographs of my first-born daughter, and an intention to be totally immersed in the practice of Seeing and coordinating my fingers with my eyes to manipulate the clay to represent what I see – to be toatlly present in every moment that I sit in this practice.

After many years of painting portrait commissions – artistic “products” with deadlines and expectations of perfect likeness of someone’s beloved – I wanted to explore portraiture as a “practice” with no deadlines and no expectations. Never having done a three-dimensional portrait before, I judged that it would be a challenge, but that I would be able to approach it with a degree of innocence – as if I were a beginner.

My paintings capture one view, one angle, an illusion of a three-dimensional, living, breathing person – a moment in their life, a likeness which will be recognized by others as an accurate representation of their personality, as well as their physical features. A sculpture is also an illusion, but it must capture an infinite number of views and angles. While I have many photographs of my daughter, each one represents a different emotional moment in her life – a different mood, and a different view and angle and a different period of her physical development. The challenge, I thought is to use these photographs as reference, seeing what is really there and filling in the missing parts – the infinite views and angles – from assumed information, without assuming too much about what is actually there.

According to the art supply catalog: “Roma Plastilina will never harden, crust or deteriorate. This modeling clay has uniform plasticity that improves through use and with age. It’s smooth, even texture and consistency respond perfectly to every touch of the sculptor’s tool.” And I find this to be true.

But what I’ve learned from my practice is “This clay is dust of the earth, mixed with oil and sulphur, held together by that mysterious Energy which causes atoms to join with other atoms to form molecules – basically the same atoms that we’re made of held together by the same mysterious Energy that holds us together, with just a slightly different molecular structure. “Dust to Dust!”

Each day I come to the sculpture with my baggage of the day — thoughts, doubts, judgments, distrotions, emotions, inadequacies (real or imagined) and fears of inadequacies (real and imagined.) If I am able to put all these aside, to tune in to the perfection of what IS – what I am shown without the clouds of my baggage – I am then able to ride on the Fingers of God – Creation itself – and watch form follow form. I am no longer an individual using clay and tools to manipulate mass. I am the Observer of my fingers following the Flow of Form!

I am shown the genetic inheritance of my grandmother’s cheekbones; her father’s mother’s lower lip; my mother’s hairline; her father’s jawline – all from faint remembrances of photographs and visions remembered. I am shown, in her form, the fleeting resemblance of another artist’s painting of the Virgin Mary. Her clay eyes seem to follow my fingers in amusement as I catch myself struggling to make her pretty, when she knows that she already is. She is the ultimate creation of the Ultimate Creator and I, simply by being present, am privileged to know what that means. I am allowed to feel the bone structure beneath the flesh and I am given hints of both sad and happy memories that cause the muscles around the mouth to form the smile I recognize as hers. I learn that there are no straight lines, no hard angles, only one form flowing into another in a way that is so graceful and elegant it cannot be expressed except with tears of joy and awe!

And I come to know that we, the living creatures – Creations! – are only one form flowing into another in a way that is so graceful and elegant it cannot be expressed by childlike imitation of the Ultimate Creator – each individual one of us as unique and minute as an atom!

And I wonder at the expression I have heard all my life from others who do not call themselves artists: “I can’t draw a straight line!” And how did that get to be a reason when there are no straight lines in the works of the Ultimate Creator?

And I wonder. Does this experience, this practice, then make me an Artist? If I never pronounce the sculpture “Finished?” If I continue to practice for the rest of my days and never present it to the world and allow another to judge it, and me, and to proclaim that I am, or I am NOT an Artist? What then?

This very thought is representative of the “baggage” I bring to the practice every day. I suspect that thoughts such as this is what keeps some from knowing that we are ALL Artists.

I also learn from my morning practice: To be an Artist is both a Choice and a Destiny. It is written into the DNA of every individual. The Ultimate Creator created us “in His (Her) Image.” Her/His Image is without form, yet every form is an expression of His/Her Image.

We were given our senses to appreciate and learn from the Creation of the Ultimate Creator. We are able to hear the great symphonies of life in the songs of the birds, in the roar of the waves, the rustle of the wind in the trees and grasses, and the percussion of a thunderstorm; to see the dramatic colors in the sunset, the intricate patterns of a snowflake; the delicate, iridescent wings of a dragonfly . . . the examples are also infinite! Each variance that makes each one unique, we are wise enough not to judge as imperfections, until the baggage of the judgmental mind comes in.

We are given the Choice to imitate the Master – to sit with tools and materials (any will do) and listen and watch the Master Creator at work. Michaelangelo said that he merely released the forms from the stone. Mozart wrote down the music that he heard. And you know the rest . . . we call them geniuses. I’m guessing that during the course of our day to day lives, we all sometimes succumb to Attention Deficit Disorder. And sometimes we remember what it’s like – to listen, to watch. These are moments of inspiration!. And sometimes we forget. These are moments of “Writer’s Block,” “Artists Block,” “Absence of the Muse.” But we’re always creating, whether we do it consciously, or unconsciously. When we do it consciously our writing, our paintings, our sculptures, our music, our dance, our business, our relationships, our food preparation – everything we do, our very Life itself, makes us all Artists, because it is no longer the I, the Ego, who does the work. We are merely privileged to watch, to listen, and to ride on the fingers of God!

Rocket’s World of Wonder

Her name is Rocket. Her parents brought her to my first reception at the Larimer Gallery in Palatka when she was three years old. She was the only child at the reception.

I wanted this reception to be a memorable event. I invited Stephan-the-Cello Man to play during the reception and he brought his friend Frog, who played an instrument he made himself, called “The Nightingale.” Stephan and Frog improvised melodies inspired by my paintings in the exhibit, and I noticed that Rocket listened and watched with wonder as they played.

Stephan said “Listen. This is how this painting sounds.” And I listened and he was right. And I watched Rocket as she gazed into the painting and heard the music reflecting what she saw.

I had set up a canvas on an easel in the main room of the gallery and spoke to everyone about “Creative Energy” and how it flows through all of us, and that I had discovered the healing and rejuvenating powers accessible by allowing the creative energy to flow freely – by giving up control of how I thought the painting “should” go, and allowing it to use my eyes, hands and sense of exploration to facilitate its evolution. I invited them to put paint and their energy onto the canvas – to put aside any rules or preconceived ideas of what art is – and to simply enjoy the experience of watching the paint flow from the brush onto the canvas and merging with the energy and colors of what others had contributed. I called it a “collective energy painting” and I would finish it after the show was over.

I watched as Rocket’s Mother held her up to the canvas and supported her little hand as she chose a color and made her brush move alongside and into the brushstrokes of the others. My daughter Kathryn was making a video recording and Jackie was there taking photos for the Palatka Daily News and both of them zoomed in on Rocket as she listened to the music and painted and studied the paintings with wonder.

After the reception I kept the collective energy canvas out where I could see it, but didn’t work on it again until almost two years later when I was invited to have another exhibit at the Larimer. Meanwhile, Rocket’s Mother and I had become Facebook friends and I loved watching Rocket grow through the photos she shared . I saved some of them because I knew I had to make a portrait of Rocket. I loved how her parents encouraged her creative spirit and allowed her sense of wonder and exploration to grow even as she grew.

I was also inspired by Rocket’s Mother and used one of her Facebook profile pictures as reference for this painting: “Earth Mother.”

“Earth Mother” Acrylic on 30″ x 24″ Canvas

And then there was Stephan and Frog’s music and I was enthralled with the idea that they would add the sensation of sound to the visual of my painting. I wanted to make a painting of Stephan that would give a visual representation of the sounds he was making with his cello. I went to his performance at the Bo Diddley Plaza and photographed him and Frog and came home and made this painting:

“Stephan the Cello Man” Acrylic on 30″ x 24″ Canvas

What I didn’t mention was that I met Stephan while exhibiting in the Cedar Key Old Florida Celebration of the Arts. He came into my booth and we had quite a long conversation about art and music and creativity. We exchanged business cards and he left. A few minutes later Evelyn Snyder came into my display and after another long conversation, she invited me to exhibit at the Larimer Gallery where she served as curator of exhibits. Do you see how serendipity played out so that all of these events came together?

The date for my next reception at the Larimer was January 10, 2020. Evelyn was retiring and invited me to exhibit the last show under her direction. I knew that I wanted to finish the collective energy painting we had started at the first reception in time for this one. I looked at the place where 3-year-old Rocket had put her bold brush stroke. And the paint that her Dad had put on the canvas – it looked like a picture frame! Another area reminded me of a magnifying glass. I went through the photos of Rocket I had saved. I sketched in the one of Rocket’s Mom holding her up to put her paint on the canvas. I sketched the brush she was holding to be in the place where she had put her brush stroke. A photo of her wearing her beloved red boots while sitting in an opening at Ravine Gardens looked like a good fit inside the magnifying glass, and the other brush strokes in and around it soon turned into a magical woodland. I drew from a photo of her looking back at her Mother, holding the hand of her Mother’s friend as the portrait that would fit into the “frame” her Dad painted on the canvas. I did not yet know what would replace the hand she was holding. And referencing the photo of her listening to Stephan’s music, it fit perfectly into the lower right section of the canvas. And then I ran out of time.

I took the unfinished painting to the reception on January 10, put it on an easel again and invited the attendees to add more paint and energy, but not to cover the places where I had already begun to place the images of Rocket. And they did! The energy was palpable as Rocket selected a tambourine from my basket of rhythm instruments and we danced and played rhythm music and people added more paint to the canvas, even as we made music. Stephan played the cello and Frog played a flute and wove the music into an energy filled “happening.”

This is how it looked before the reception:

And this is how it looked after the reception: (Notice the purple and yellow paint in the lower left corner, added by now five-year-old Rocket! It sure looked like a rocket to me!

After the reception, while also working on commissioned portraits, I worked to complete the painting, letting the brushstrokes of all those who attended both receptions lead me to the next step. Then another serendipitous event happened! The Gainesville Fine Arts Association announced a national juried show with the theme “Attending to Wonder.”

This is a quote from the call-to-entry for the show:

“When the eye is graced with wonder, the world reveals its wonder… Everything depends, really, on the way we gaze at things. Engaging the world this way illuminates the world in a way we’ve never noticed.” — John O’Donohue, Beauty & the Invisible Embrace

That’s when the title of this painting came into my mind: “Rocket’s World of Wonder.” It’s a painting that represents the sense of wonder that we all experience as children, as we discover though our senses of vision, hearing, smelling, tasting and touching all the miraculous wonders of the natural world – even before we know their names – even before we know that they even have names – they just are: wondrous miracles created by the Ultimate Creator for our delight! Each day I retrain myself to be aware of these wondrous sights, sounds, tastes, scents and textures designed to stir the soul and the imagination – our creative spirit, untrained and untamed and inspired by the most Holy Spirit as we were created in the Image of the Ultimate Creator, and given the choice of how we will use that Creativity – for the benefit and joy of all, or for the satisfaction of the ego-mind that ignores the laws of Nature.

With all that in mind, I’m repeating the image of the completed painting, so you don’t have to go back to the beginning to see it.

Rocket’s World of Wonder

And now, a close-up of the portrait of Rocket, and I’m hoping you will see the wonder in her eyes as she listens to the song of the warbler.

Here’s a great footnote to this story – some information about Rocket’s Dad, Dan Askew, that I wasn’t fully aware of until I finally asked him. I am fortunate to have two pieces of his wonderful pottery art.

“I have been on the board of directors for the Putnam county arts council for a couple of years now, and have recently taken over the volunteer position of gallery director from Evelyn Snyder. I have been teaching at Florida School of the Arts for 8 years now taking care of all things 3D in visual arts: sculpture, ceramics, 3D and 2D design. My own work is all over the place in regards to technique, but I play around with pop imagery loaded with sarcastic undertones. Ceramics, found objects, fabrication, painting, photography, video, and foundry aid me in my endeavors to see possibilities beyond the apocalypse.”

If Life is a Game . . .

 

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By Judi Cain   April 22, 2006

Rules: Systems, policies, laws, conventions, regulations, decrees, statutes, imperatives, canons, tenets, doctrine, directives, strategies, guidelines . . .

            We spend our days trying to find out what The Rules are, deciding which ones apply to us, figuring out how we can follow them, break them or change them, interpreting them to suit our own beliefs, being surprised to learn that someone else interprets them differently, forgetting why the rules were made in the first place, (but still following and defending them,) protesting about the fairness or unfairness of the rules, learning what happens when we break them or change them, and making up our own. We worry about what will happen if we unknowingly break a rule. Is there a rule that will protect us from someone who might take advantage of our ignorance of the rule. After all, “Ignorance of the law is no excuse.”

            “Not me,” the Rebel proclaims. “I don’t follow anybody’s rules.”

            See what I mean?

            If I invite you to play in my sandbox did I forget to mention that since it’s my sandbox, you have to play by my sandbox rules?

1. No throwing sand. 2. No bringing your cat in, especially if his litter box is dirty. 3. You can’t come in when I’m not here. 4. You can’t invite other people without asking me first. 5. I can make up other rules or change them whenever I want to.

If you accept my invitation did you remember to tell me what the rules are for the honor of your presence?

1. You have to treat me special because I’m your guest. 2. Your rules don’t apply to me because I’m special. 3. If you don’t post the rules, they don’t exist. 4. I can make up other rules or change yours whenever I want to. 5. There are other rules that rule your rules.

            There are rules our parents taught us: for our own safety and survival, for their convenience, for your own good, because it’s always been a rule in our family, because what will people think?, because it’s God’s rule, because it’s the law, because I said so . . .

There are social rules for how to be acceptable, (which are subject to change depending on who we’re around and what their rules are): How to eat, talk, dress, how much to weigh, when to bathe, how to treat other people, how to be a good citizen, student, friend, neighbor, child, mother, father, wife, husband, grandparent, boss, employee, politician, teacher, taxpayer, artist. If I can make up my own rules and persuade enough others that my rules are right, I can make everyone subject to my rules — I can rule the world! (At least until someone else convinces enough people that their rules are better than mine.)

            There are people who write books about rules. Some make their career creating rules “for the people,” while some earn their living by enforcing the rules. There are rules that allow us to fire, sue, incarcerate, punish, shame, shun, divorce, “Baker Act,” or even end the life of someone who breaks the rules. There are also rules that prevent us from being too harsh with those who break our rules. We may get someone to defend us and convince enough others to agree that we didn’t break the rule, or that the rule didn’t apply or maybe there just isn’t enough evidence to prove that a rule was broken or that there was ever a rule in the first place.

            There are rules for how to punctuate and construct a sentence. There is a rule for writing that (as I interpret it) dictates if you use the word rule too often you might be breaking the rule of excess repetition.

            Each morning we decide (consciously or not) whose sandbox we’re going to play in. The costume I wear that fits the rules for work does not fit the rules for church, or the rules for Goth club, or the rules for the costume party, or the rules for the beach, or the rules for a meeting with my attorney. If I wear the wrong costume, I risk judgment, ridicule, or banishment. Some are blatant and established: “No shoes, no shirt, no service.” “It’s our policy.” “We recommend . . ” “Black tie…” “Come as you are…” “Casual attire.” “No sneakers.” “Coat and tie required” “Clothing optional,” while others are implied: “Doesn’t she look like a slut?” “A little overdressed, don’t you think?” “Who’s he trying to impress?” “They’re just trying to get attention.”

            Some spend their days challenging universally accepted rules. At first they are ridiculed and shunned, but if they succeed in defying the rule, they become our heroes because they make it possible for us to fly like a bird, walk on the moon, dive to the depths of the oceans, or send sound waves through the air, around the world and into outer space instantly.

            We adhere unconsciously to the rule that dire consequences will follow if we put sugar into the gas tank of our cars, while regularly putting it into the bodies of our children. (There’s no rule against that! … is there?) We both may agree that it is against The Rules to ingest drugs, but your definition of “drugs” may not be the same as mine. Does your definition include alcohol, prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, chemicals, (artifical colors, artificial flavors, artificial sweeteners, and preservatives) and chemically refined, “fast” or “convenience” “foods.”

            Oh, it makes me so weary I just want to go and live by myself in the woods. Of course it would have to be my own property, subject to the zoning rules, and I would have to pay property tax, which would require some kind of income on which I would have to pay income tax. And I would have to hire someone to prepare my taxes so I don’t have to pay too much. That would require more income and I would have to have appropriate clothes to wear to work. I would have to buy the clothes because I don’t have time to make them since I’m so busy working and I guess I’d better get a car and buy some gas . . . Oh, by the way, they just passed a new rule that says the land I live on is protected because it’s next to a protected area and I have to get a lawyer to help me find out if it’s ok for me to build a house because the one I built myself is not up to code.

WARNING:  This document is protected by U.S. and international Copyright rules.

Down on the Farm

My little brother’s name is James.  I wanted to name him Pete, but Mother and Daddy didn’t like that. “Where did you hear that name?”  Maybe he told me before he came to us from Heaven, but I didn’t tell them that.  I just shrugged and wondered why he couldn’t be Pete.   Mother says both our names come from the Bible and they both start with the letter “J” -James and Judith. Only they call me Judy so I guess I could call him Pete if I wanted to, but I won’t.  Not out loud, anyway.

1949 Oklahoma Judi Jim

My little brother James is building a road for his little cars with the help of his dump truck.  We are playing in the cool morning shade of the house.   His dump truck is filled with sand scooped up with one of Mother’s metal spoons.  The dump truck is still shiny blue except for the few rust spots where the paint has worn away. The dump truck has a little seat on the top, just the right size for his little 3-year-old hiney,  but he’s too busy building roads to ride on the truck.  There was a thick wire handle attached to the front for steering, but right now he’s using it as a hammer to smooth away at the clumps of clay where the sand got washed off by the rain.. “Rood’n, rood’n” he says.  That’s what he thinks a dump truck sounds like.  “Rood’n, rood’n, rood’n” the dump truck gets louder as it climbs the little hill where another load of sand was dumped.

I’m busy making mud pies, like Nannie taught me.  I mix the sand and powdered clay with water in my little toy mixing bowl. I pack the mud into my little toy pan.  The mixing bowl and pan are part of a little toy cooking set I got for my third birthday.  It’s pretty fancy.  Besides the bowl and cooking pan I have a little toy egg beater with a red handle and a little rolling pin  Poor Nannie.  She only has coffee cans and mason jars to make her mud pies.  But she has lots of pretty flowers in her yard that we use to decorate the pies after they’ve baked.  And I have my very own pretties that I can use for decorating!  Yesterday when we went to get the cows, I filled my skirt with treasures!  I have three smooth acorns with the tops still on them, and two locust shells that were stuck to the tree, but I got them off without breaking any of their legs! And I found four shiny rocks by the creek!

I set my pie in the sun to bake. By tomorrow, if it doesn’t rain, it will be hard and I can gently take it out of the pan so as not to break it, and then I can put frosting on it.  Nannie gave me a piece of her old red brick that I can grind into a powder by rubbing it against a big rock, then mix it with water and spread it on top of the pie with Mother’s spoon. It surely makes a pretty frosting.

Mother only has four little spoons – one for each of us – and four big spoons that she uses to stir things, or to scoop mashed potatoes out of the big bowl.  We have four plates and four cups and four saucers.  My Aunt gave them to us because she didn’t need them any more and we did.  Mother is a little embarrassed because the dishes don’t match.  I like the bright yellow ones and James likes the blue ones.  Daddy gets the green ones and Mother gets the orange ones.  She says the dishes have a name and that’s “Fiesta” because Fiesta means “Happy!”  And they’re all happy colors so it doesn’t matter that they don’t match. Anyway, we don’t have company for dinner very often.  Our house is too little for company and anyway, where would they sit?  We only have three chairs and James’ high chair.

In the front room is where we sleep.  Mother and I sleep in the big bed on one side of the room and Daddy and James sleep in the other big bed.  In the winter we have a stove in the middle of the room.  Daddy gets up early in the morning and puts wood inside the stove and makes a fire and soon it’s warm enough that the rest of us can get out from under the heavy quilts and put our warm clothes on. I can stand close to the stove to make my clothes feel warmer, but not too close or I might burn myself.

I like to peek out the window when it’s cold because Jack Frost leaves pretty pictures on the glass while we’re sleeping.  If you blow your breath on the pictures they will melt into water that runs down the glass and ruins the other pretty pictures. I tried it a couple of times but decided I like the pretty pictures to stay as long as they will.  We can’t see him do it because of the quilts hanging in front of the windows.  But we have to have them because it would get too cold for us to sleep at night after the fire goes out. But in the summer Mother takes the quilts down and we can see outside again.  I have to stay inside a lot in the winter because I might get the croup.  Sometimes I cough so hard I can’t sleep so Mother puts liniment on a rag (it’s really one of James’ old diapers) and pins it around my neck with a big safety pin and it burns my eyes but feels good on my chest and I can breathe better, but I still have to sleep propped up with a pillow because if I lay down I’ll start coughing again.  Anyway if I run outside in the winter the cold air gives me the croup.

Our other room has a much bigger stove because it has to have room for Mother to cook our food. In the summer she has to go outside to get wood to build the fire in the cook stove, but in the winter we keep a pile inside so she doesn’t have to go out in the cold so early in the morning. One time in the winter, Daddy found a snake in the wood pile!  He must have brought it inside while it was sleeping, but when the room warmed up the snake woke up!  You can be sure he put that snake back outside where he belonged!

There’s a tall table by the back door where the water bucket goes.  Mother draws water out of the well to fill the big bucket.  Sometimes she lets me let the well bucket down the round pipe that goes down into the water. If you drop a little rock down the pipe you can hear it splash when it hits the water.  You can also holler down into the well and Little Sir Echo will answer you!  I have to be careful to hold tight on the rope because if it slips I’ll get splinters from the rope in my hands.  When the bucket is full it’s very heavy so Mother has to help me pull it back up.  Then we empty it into the house bucket and take it inside and put the dipper in it so we can get a cold drink of water whenever we’re thirsty.

This morning when Mother made biscuits and gravy for breakfast we had fresh butter that she churned yesterday and it was fun watching it melt into the hot biscuits.  it took a while for it to melt because it was in the ice box and the big block of ice that the ice man brought kept it nice and cool and fresh.

James has been using the spoon for a long time and I think it’s about my turn  “No!” he says.  “It’s my turn!”

“No!” I say.  “It’s my turn!” and I grab the spoon from his chubby little hand and right away start mixing my frosting.

“Reclamation” Every Painting Has a Story”

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“Reclamation”  Acrylic on 18″ x 24″ Canvas

I am sitting on the screened porch at my friend Mike’s house. Inside is dark and the porch, though damp and windy, at least offers a bit of daylight and renewal of our spirits.

We had concluded, with encouragement from our adult children, that two seniors who love to live alone would be wise to take shelter together during a storm!  By the time I had my car prepared to travel north to where my daughters lived, the highways were already congested with evacuees from south Florida, and gasoline supply was running scarce.  So Mike welcomed me into his home, laid out a pair of twin-size mattresses end-to-end, taking up all the floor space in the hall, the safest place in the house  He even welcomed my cat Stitch, who was cozied up in the guest bathroom with his food, water and bed and plenty of treats. The door to the bathroom was right next to the head of my mattress.

The night before had been rough. By the time we were ready to sleep, we had already lost power, so it was very dark. The wind whistled and roared. Branches crashed on the roof and Stitch howled in the bathroom.  The top of Mikes’ head was inches from the top of my head and I wondered how he slept, but he did.  Once I woke him up saying “Mike, I’m scared!”  He didn’t remember saying “Just lay back down. Everything’s going to be ok.”  I crawled into the bathroom, spread a towel on the floor and lay down next to Stitch and we comforted each other until soft morning light crept through the bathroom widow.

Mike heated water on the gas stove to make coffee, so now we sit on the porch sipping coffee and we wait.  The clouds are dark and heavy and it’s still raining sideways! The trees are bent from the howling wind.  Broken branches and fallen trees litter the streets and yards and roofs of houses in the neighborhood. We sit and watch and wait for the power to come back on.  We sit and watch and wait for Hurricane Irma to determine our fate.  Without power, there is no news from the TV or the internet. The last report we heard had warned us that Irma was still heading our way.

Irma is angry!  And we are angry with Irma!  How dare she roar into our lives and disrupt our routines!  We curse her and disparage her name. While we wait, I make doodles in my sketchpad.

 Irmadoodle 1, 2 and 3

“Maybe we should be nicer to her?  I say. “She’s just doing what hurricanes are supposed to do.  It’s not her fault that we happen to be in her path.”

“Yeah, right” Mike said.  “Why don’t you talk to her, then.”

So I did.

I look up at the sky and I talk to her like I would talk to a sister in distress.

“Irma.  I know that you’re just doing what’s in your nature.  Maybe you’re upset about how we’ve been disrespecting Nature, throwing our trash around and cutting down trees, digging treasures out of the earth and spilling horrible things into the waters. And I’m sure you must be upset with how we’ve been talking about you and saying mean things about you. But I’m asking you if you can’t just go way out in the ocean and calm down a little.  Just take a deep breath and move away from the land where there are innocent people who could be hurt by your wrath.  Please.  We’ll try to do better.  I promise.”

Now I’ll admit that I’m just making conversation while we wait and this little speech is my attempt to bring a little lightness into the situation.  At the same time, however, I sort of believe – or want to believe – that she is listening.

Suddenly the rain slows down.  The wind calms.  And the two paddle fans on the porch slowly start turning!  The power is back on!  Mike and I look at each other with wide eyes and mouths hanging open.

“Did that just happen?”  he says.

“What?  You doubted?”  I fire back and we laugh, if for no other reason than the amazing synchronicity of it.

The TV comes on and we rush inside to see what’s happening on the news.  “Hurricane Irma has changed direction and appears to be heading out into the Gulf.”

Later that day I feel secure enough to  pack up all my stuff, and Stitch and his stuff, and we’re ready to go home!. As I drive up the street from Mike’s house someone with a chain saw is cutting up a tree that fell across the street onto a power line, just in time to let me pass.  On the way home I take detours where fallen trees block my usual route.  Leaves, branches and debris are everywhere.  Water stands in deep puddles, blocking lanes of traffic.  When I get home I notice that the apartment across the street has a huge tree limb through the roof!  I am relieved that my place is intact.

Stitch is so happy to be home!  He demands his food, then demands to go to his favorite place – HIS back porch.  I sit with him, looking out into my little back yard. The clouds are dark and dreary.  It’s not raining, but the trees are still dripping.  I am depressed.  I am sad.  I keep thinking about the things I said to Irma and I am worried about what we’re doing to Nature.  And can I keep my promise?  I promised that we’d do better!

Suddenly the dark clouds separate and a blinding flash of sunlight bursts through and lights up the entire back yard!  The water droplets on the leaves flash sparkles of brilliant light and the light dances around the little yard!  And just as suddenly I feel calm.  No!  I feel comforted and amused  – even excited!  I sense that the Ultimate Creator, through Creation – Nature – is reassuring me:  “Don’t worry!  We’ve got this!”

I came back inside and paint. This painting.  As it nears completion, it names itself, by putting this word in my mind::  “Reclamation!”

We can cover the earth with asphalt, but the grass will eventually break through and Nature will reclaim Her own.  Our species is the only one who vandalizes and disrespects nature for the benefit of our convenience, our greed, our fears and the glorification of our ego-minds.  We may destroy our species, but Nature will reclaim its own.

 

 

 

Zebraic

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Copyright 2017  Judi Cain

“Zebraic”

Acrylic on 30″ x 40″ Canvas

 

Every Painting has a Story

A new show at the local Arts Organization was announced.  The theme this time was “Black and White.”  I only had a week to finish my entry and I had a new 30″ x 40″ canvas I was excited to explore with black and white acrylics.

Using a large brush, I began to cover the entire canvas with Titanium White and Carbon Black Acrylic paint,  The canvas was sitting vertical on the easel, so I started at the top and brought the brush strokes down, all the way to the bottom, one at a time with careful intention NOT to make them straight, first white, then black.  Each brush stroke started next to a previous one, first on one side, then the other, alternating black and white and following the curve of the previous stroke.  Some of the strokes were wide and some were narrow, and I noticed that the wider strokes seemed to want to separate as I brought the brush down, and split the line into slightly different directions. I was pleased.  I like variety!

At least half of the time I spend on a painting is siting in a chair, looking at it as it rests on the easel or on the wall.  All of my walls display unfinished paintings.  While I am looking at a painting, I am asking two questions.  1. What is the painting trying to tell me?  and  2. Is there anything in this painting that distracts me from total enjoyment of the visual before me?

When I get an answer to either question, I pick up my brush and respond.  Sometimes the answers don’t come right away.  So I leave it on the wall or on the easel so that I can see it as I go about my other business.  Sometimes there are several unfinished paintings, waiting for me to ask the right questions, to see the answers. I turn them often – even landscapes, portraits or still life, –  so that I can see them from a new perspective.

Sometimes a painting-in-progress will almost scream out to me: “Hey!  See this line?  Follow it!”  or “Do you really want to leave that smudge of gray there?  You know it doesn’t really belong.”  I always ask the painting – NOT myself, because when I ask myself my whiny ego-mind will respond with the most unhelpful answers.  “What’s WRONG with this?”  “Why did you choose these colors?  They won’t match anyone’s couch!”  “No one will ever buy this!”  “This will never be a good painting!  What ever made you think you could paint?  You need to start over!”

See what I mean?

So this painting-in-progress is gleefully shouting “I’m a zebra!  Whee!  The fuzzy edges on these black and white stripes are distracting from my glorious patterns!”  So I gleefully clean up the fuzzy edges.

The painting draws my attention to an area where the black lines seem to converge, and tells me it’s important – it’s a focal point.  Looking closely I see a tiny white dot in the black space. “Go with that!” the painting says.  “Oh no!” Ego-mind says. “Not more dots!  Everyone will think that’s all you know how to do!  Haven’t you done enough paintings with dots?”

So, dots it is.  Spiraling outward from the small dot in the center.  White dots on the black stripes, black dots on the white stripes.  I’m noticing that sometimes they get larger and sometimes they get smaller.  Sometimes closer together. Sometimes farther apart. Yet still spiraling out from the first white dot.

I want to work all night.  But I have to take my turn to work at the Cedar Keyhole Artists Co-op Gallery next day, which is Saturday.  I must have the painting finished by Sunday and at the gallery no later than 4:00 p.m.

Saturday morning I pack up the canvas, my black and white acrylic paints and my brushes.  Maybe I’ll have time to work on it in the co-op gallery if it’s not too busy.

It’s an hour’s drive to Cedar Key.  I arrived an hour before opening time, got the cash drawer set up and did my opening duties.  I brought the painting in but didn’t get a chance to work on it all day, but at least I could look at it.

The co-op closes at 5:00 but typically business slows around 4:00.  I started making preparations to close so I could leave as soon after 5:00 as possible.  On this day there was one person in the gallery, browsing the art work. She went upstairs to check out the upstairs gallery.  Suddenly I felt really sick.  I had cold sweats, my heart was pounding, my face was tingling and I felt like I was going to pass out.  When the woman came downstairs I asked her if she would stay with me for a few minutes.  She took one good look at me and called 9-1-1.

The local ambulance arrived within minutes and parked in front of the gallery with lights flashing.  Blood pressure checked out ok, heart rate ok, but they wanted to take me to Gainesville to the hospital for further examination.  “What about my car?  I live in Gainesville!  How will I get my car?  and my painting!”  I protested as they loaded me onto the gurney and the woman called one of the local members of the co-op to close the gallery for me.  In the ambulance they hooked me up to monitors and I could see the gallery (where my unfinished painting leaned against the wall behind the desk) and my car, fading into the distance as we began the hour-long drive back to Gainesville.

Half way there, I burped and felt better.  “Can you take me back to my car and my painting?  I’m fine now!”  The EMT shook his head and said “That’s not happening. You can refuse admission when you get to the ER, but we can’t take you back.”

For the next 8 hours I sat in the ER waiting room while more urgent cases were treated. I felt fine, but I couldn’t leave because I had no car.  And if I did find a way home, my car and my painting were still in Cedar Key.  So I stayed.  And I waited. My phone got no reception inside, but I finally learned I could use the land line in the waiting room to call my daughters and one of the co-op members to let them know where I was.  And I waited.  With nothing to do except think about how I could be using this time to finish that painting. .

Around 6:00 a.m. they had a room for me in the ER where the doctor confirmed that all my vitals were normal, but he wanted me to have an MRI, an EKG and maybe some other tests I don’t remember, all of which I had to wait for, and all of which were normal. They could find nothing wrong with me and discharged me after setting up a follow-up with my primary care physician.

I called my friend Mike, who picked me up at the hospital, made me some breakfast (I hadn’t eaten since lunch on Saturday) and he drove me to Cedar Key to get my car and my painting!

On the drive back to Gainesville, with my unfinished painting in the back, I wondered how I could possibly complete it and get it to the gallery on time. . I kept thinking about those black and white stripes, like a zebra, and about 18 inches at the bottom of the painting that had no dots.  That’s when the word “Zebraic” popped into my head.  I wondered if it was a real word.

It was almost 1;00 p.m. when I pulled into my driveway, grabbed the canvas and my paints and brushes and rushed inside.  I optimistically attached a hanging wire to the back of the canvas. But there was one more thing I had to do before I could complete the rest of the dots.

I googled the word “Zebraic.”

From merriam-webster.com/dictionary

zebraic

adjective

ze·​bra·​ic | \ zə̇ˈbrāik, zeˈ-, -āēk\

Definition of zebraic

: of the nature of or characteristic of the zebra : ZEBRALIKE

 

Having authenticated the title, (How could I have doubted?  The paintings always tell me the best name for them) I could now finish the painting.  At  3:30 I signed it and ran to my car with the painting and rushed to the gallery, arriving at 3:55 p.m!  Some of the larger dots were still a little wet, so I asked them to handle it carefully as they hung it with the other entries.

The dots are thick paint, by the way, adding dimension and texture to the painting and I invite touching.

Zebraic at GFAA 2

 

PS.  It turns out that my trip to the ER was a result of side effects from taking Omeprazole prescribed for acid reflux.  I found out by asking the pharmacist.  Healthier eating habits have enabled me to stop the acid reflux and prevent further episodes like this one!

 

 

Time-Space Compression

IMG_2112“Time-Space Compression”

Acrylic, Collage, Micro-Beads on 40″ x 30″ Canvas.  copyright 2016, Judi Cain

 

Accepting a Challenge

In 2016, our local arts organization gallery issued a “call to artists” for entries in a themed show for the following month. The theme was “Collage” so I set out to make a collage.
I browsed through my stack of 1950’s Life Magazines that I bought at a flea market years ago and hoarded for no other reason than they still existed after all these years, and someone should take care of them.

One of the magazines, dated 1954, featured a section honoring photographers for their black and white photography, and one of those photographs, spreading across two pages, drew me in to look deeper.  The photographer aimed his camera looking down on a very large round table.  Hands of small children rested palms down all around the table and in the center of the table was a single small box.  Then I saw the title of the photograph: “The Class Hamster Died.”

I have tried to find the magazine so I could show the cover and the exact issue and give credit to the photographer.  Pretty sure I didn’t throw it out, but its current location escapes me.  I also searched on line for the photo and couldn’t find it, so you’ll just have to visualize it from my description.

Developing the composition

I cut the hands out of the photo and placed them in four corners of the 30″ x 40″ blank canvas. Some of them had to be copied and printed so that the hands would fit into the corners proportionately.

Since the photo was black and white, I covered the rest of the canvas with black and white acrylic paint, with no image in mind – just brushing the paint in random, flowing strokes, creating solid black areas, solid white areas and grays where they blended together.  I used a small brush to paint around the small hands in the corners.

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With the canvas resting on the easel, I sat in my chair and studied the lines, shapes and forms that brush strokes had formed in the paint and the small hands, now blended almost unnoticeable  into the swirls of paint. “It’s supposed to be a collage, not a painting,” my critical mind demanded.  So I looked for more hands.

In a Google search, I found hands in positions that sparked interest and printed them onto matte finish photo paper. I cut them out and arranged them on the canvas in a way that would create balance and direction and secured them to the canvas using Golden Matte Gel Medium. Another layer of gel medium was applied to the surface of all the paper hands, to protect them from fading and to give them a surface appearance that would blend with the acrylic paint.

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More studying the painting, turning it in different directions, looking for areas that call out to me to be developed.  I follow lines, acknowledge shapes, zoom in to find more subtle forms and add paint to add contrast and definition.  Zooming out again I look for lines and shapes that will bring unity to the composition.  At this point, I am only concerned with composition of an arrangement of shapes, forms and patterns, not trying to give any specific meaning or message in the composition.  I give further definition to the developing white shapes, following the lines made by initial brush strokes, adding bright whites and darker blacks to create contrast.

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Still, I can’t help thinking about the hidden story behind the events leading up to the capture of the photograph: “The Class Hamster Died.”

 

I discovered a small white dot in the center of the large black space.  Fascinated as I am with spirals, I used thick white acrylic paint, applied from an applicator bottle to start from the white dot, following the spiral as moved around that dot.

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Adding Texture

As the painting felt like it was nearing completion I continued to study it, noticing that the hands seemed to be floating in space and not having a reason to be there – not connecting to each other giving meaning to the composition.   I was still musing over the children’s hands, thinking that those children would probably be around 55 years old by now, and wondering how that experience and the photograph had impacted their lives. I thought about who I was in 1954 and how time had passed by so quickly.  It was then that I thought about the “sands of time” and added silver micro beads flowing from the hands.  This not only connected the hands, but also added dimension and texture to the composition.

Suddenly a phrase came into my mind: “Time Space Compression.”

The Painting Tells Me When It’s Complete, and Names Itself

I often say that the paintings paint themselves and they also name themselves. I just supply my hands and eyes, the tools and technique to help it materialize.  This was not the first time I had to go to the internet and search for the meaning of the name that this painting/collage had selected.  I found more than one reference for this term I had never heard of before, and was amazed that this name fit perfectly!

Here are some excepts from a Wikipedia article, and a link to the article, should you want to read more:

From Wikipedia:

“Time–space compression (also known as space–time compression and time–space distantiation), articulated in 1989 by geographer David Harvey in The Condition of Postmodernity,[1] it refers to anything that impacts time and space. Harvey’s idea was rooted in Karl Marx’s theory of the “annihilation of time and space”. A similar idea was proposed by Elmar Alvater in an article in PROKLA in 1987 translated into English as “Ecological and Economic Modalities of Time and Space” and published in Capitalism Nature Socialism, 1(3) in 1989.

Time–space compression often occurs as a result of technological innovations including technology of communication and economics.

According to theorists like Paul Virilio, time-space compression is an essential facet of contemporary life: “Today we are entering a space which is speed-space … This new other time is that of electronic transmission, of high-tech machines, and therefore, man is present in this sort of time, not via his physical presence, but via programming” (qtd. in Decron 71[2]). In “Vitesse et Politique”, Virilio coins the term dromology to describe “speed-space.” Virilio describes velocity as the hidden side of wealth and power, which represents a determining factor concerning societies’ structures. Historical eras and political events, out of this perspective, are also speed-ratios. In his view, acceleration destroys space and compresses the time in ways of perceiving reality.

Doreen Massey maintains this idea about time-space compression in her discussion of globalization and its effect on our society. Similar to Virilio, she states that because our world is “speeding up” and “spreading out”, time-space compression is more prevalent than ever as internationalization takes place. Cultures and communities are merged during time-space compression due to rapid growth and change, as “layers upon layers” of histories fuse together to shift our ideas of what the identity of a “place” should be.[3]

Theorists generally identify two historical periods in which time–space compression occurred; the period from the mid-19th century to the beginnings of the First World War, and the end of the 20th century. In both of these time periods, according to Jon May and Nigel Thrift, “there occurred a radical restructuring in the nature and experience of both time and space … both periods saw a significant acceleration in the pace of life concomitant with a dissolution or collapse of traditional spatial co-ordinates”.[4]

 

Check out my Art Website:  www.judicain.com

 

 

 

 

 

How Everything Works

Nature –  The Ultimate Creator – Pure Creative Energy – The Universe – God – Whatever Name you use to call upon the First and Last, The Alpha and The Omega of Creation – (Who speaks to us in whatever language we will listen) supplies us with a universe of examples for the process of creation – How Everything Works.

Throughout the history of artistic expression, humanity has observed those “guidelines” in Nature, studied them and organized them so that we may be more conscious of them as we create.  I believe that this has come about because most of us, as we experience life, have lost the confidence we had as children in our ability to express our unique individual creativity.  We want someone to teach us – to tell us what the rules are – so that we don’t “get it wrong” or “make mistakes.”  So those who were called upon to be teachers put the “rules” into words.  I learned them in a Design class as: The Elements and Principles of Design.  If you research this term, you will find some variations where the basic ones that I learned have been broken down into their sub-parts, but still they are all the same and exist in all aspects of nature from the atomic particles to the cosmos.

When I learned the “Elements and Principles of Design” I memorized them as facts to remember for a test so that I could pass the course.  It was not until I taught them myself that I began to understand them, and not until I began my daily practice of creating was I able to remember them as an inherent part of my makeup as a Creation of the Ultimate Creator.  In other words, we were all born with this knowledge and it will return to our conscious memory with practice.

As a Teacher, here I present to you the ELEMENTS AND PRINCIPLES OF DESIGN in their clinical definitions, as I learned them.  As a teacher, I ask you to read them, then look for them in all of nature, in works of art,  and in everything around you that has ever been created until you understand that you already know them on an instinctive level. Then return to your daily art practice and watch for them to appear on their own in your creative endeavors.  They will be there without any effort other than awareness on your part and then you will remember where they came from – the Creation of your own individual, unique personality.  There never has been and never will be another exactly like you.  It is your Purpose in Life to express that uniqueness through your own creativity in whatever medium you are led to and most important in creating your own life.  Following it will reveal to you the depth of your own Being. You cannot remember these things by copying another artist, or having someone teach you.  A teacher can only help you remember, or train you to imitate what they do.  You must re-discover it through your own creative expression.

THE ELEMENTS OF DESIGN: The components of a design – any design that exists in Nature or is man-made is made up of the Elements of Design: Line, Shape, Form, Color, Texture. Some teachers have added Space and Value – which I consider to be parts of other elements.  The elements are components or parts which can be isolated and defined in any visual design or work of art.

Lines are joined to create shapes. Shapes can be made to represent forms through the tools of shading and perspective.  Forms are given additional dimension with the addition of color, value, space and texture.

“The elements of design can be thought of as the things that make up a painting, drawing, design etc. Good or bad – all paintings will contain most of if not all, the seven elements of design.” ~John Lovett

  • LINE:  
    • Here are some dictionary definitions:  (1) “A long narrow mark on a surface;”   (2) “A long thin mark made by a pen, pencil, etc. (3)  In geometry a line: • is straight (no curves), • has no thickness, and. • extends in both directions without end (infinitely);” “a mark connecting two points”
    • My Definition: Line is a device used to separate one space from another.  It shows where one object or space that we see begins and another one ends.  A painter or graphic artist uses line to define a shape – to create an illusion of shape and form on a surface.  We also use it to show movement or direction. When we study nature, and attempt to express what we see on a canvas or paper we will see lines that separate the trunk of the tree from the space around it.  There is no thickness to the line – it is only a visual separation. Lines can be straight or curved or any of the variations shown here:lineLineTypes
  • SHAPE:  
    • Dictionary definition: (1 )the quality of a distinct object or body in having an external surface or outline of specific form or figure. (2) outward appearance :  the form or outline of something the shape of a pear, circles, squares, and other shapes.
    • My Definition:  A shape is formed when lines come together to enclose a space. There are three basic shapes that make up everything we see.  These basic shapes can be stretched or distorted or combined to create other shapes.
    • The basic shapes are circle, triangle, and square (rectangle).  All other shapes are variations or combinations of these 3 basic shapes.

Circle.  The circle is the dominant shape that exists in nature.  With practice you will begin to see circles everywhere.  Circles can be elongated to make ovals or stretched or distorted and when seen from an angle forms an ellipses but when a space is enclosed by a curved line it’s basic shape is the circle.

ellipse-12_42955_md

  • Triangle 
    • Dictionary Definition: a plane figure with three straight sides and three angles.
    • My Definition: When 3 straight lines are joined together to enclose a space, whether they are equal in length or of different lengths, a triangle is formed. Triangles exist in nature, but always in variations.  A true triangle will not be found in nature, but it helps to be able to find them as a basic shape when drawing, especially in man-made structures or combined with other shapes.E4TotpXn1uUbP6VHNcvzK2VU

 

  • Square
    • Dictionary definition: a plane figure with four equal straight sides and four right angles.
    • My Definition:  An absolute square does not exist in nature.  A variation of the square is the rectangle which has 2 sets of equal straight sides and four right angles.  Variations of the square exist in nature but actual squares are constructs of humans.  Being able to identify squares and rectangles with their variations is helpful when composing a drawing.
    • nature_pattern_3_s&s

We have briefly discussed the elements of Line and Shape.  But the best way to understand something is to experiment with it.

 

Try this:

Use a sketch pad that is easy to manage (8″ x 10″ is a good size – it’s small enough to carry around easily and large enough so you don’t feel so confined)  Start with a pencil – a regular 2b will be fine.

Gift (yes, Gift) yourself a minimum of ten minutes EVERY DAY solely for the practice of making art.  While you’re having your morning coffee or before you fall asleep at night, or any time you feel you can commit to. Soon it will become part of your daily life – making art every day.  Here are some challenges to get you started.

1st Challenge:  The Element of Line

Spend the first 10 minutes (or more if you can) to experiment with lines.  Draw straight lines, curvy lines, vertical lines, horizontal, diagonal,  – as many kinds of lines as will flow from your pencil.  Experiment with pressure on the pencil to vary the darkness and lightness of the lines.  Look for patterns, places to repeat lines and look for directions.  Try not to think about it too much, but let your intuition guide you.  The challenge is to keep it all lines – remember that when you connect lines to form shapes, you are changing the concept of this challenge.

2nd Challenge:  The Element of Shape

Pick a shape – circle, square or rectangle, or triangle.  Cut variations of the shape you choose from a sheet of colored paper.  It can be construction paper, wrapping paper, anything that contrasts with your sketch pad page.  Spend some time just laying the shapes on the page, arranging them in a way that pleases you,  When you have a design that you like you can glue them down or photograph it and then make another arrangement.

Variations on this challenge:

Try using more than one color, but stay with the same basic shape.

Try using more than one basic shape, first in one color, then with more.

Come up with your own variations, experimenting with arranging basic shapes.

 

Next time we’ll talk about the Element of Form.