Twelve Months of Flowers

November 21, 2013 § Leave a comment

If only it were true. Unless you count holly berries, there’s really not much in the way of floral color in northeast winter months.

But “Twelve Months of Flowers” can be had via art prints, from the series published 1n 1730 by renowned British horticulturist and author Robert Furber. Mr. Furber’s name is highly attributed to these exquisite prints, and while I’m grateful that he had the insight, substantial research and knowledge (and, no doubt, the funds) to produce the collection, I’m mostly interested in the artistry.

We had two of these prints hanging in our dining room during my growing-up years – one May, one November, the months of my parent’s birthdays. Admired by all, they adorned a modest space with a rich, subtle elegance, (and now that I think of it, may have had an influence on my own interest in drawing things botanical) ~ but in all those years, while we probably did, I don’t remember talking about the artist. Regardless, for some reason they lodged in my mind’s eye today ~ perhaps an unconscious nod to my parent’s wedding anniversary? ~ so I went looking.

First of all, they are hand-colored engravings, produced by English engraver Henry Fletcher from paintings of Flemish-born artist Pieter Casteels . (They also produced an equally stunning second series, Twelve Months of Fruits.) Each work is a glorious detail of plants in seasonal bloom, with each plant numbered, and, at the time, a list of the corresponding names. More than 400 plant species were featured. This was no small project.

And so a few centuries later, I thank them ~ all three of them: Furber, Fletcher and Casteels ~ for their fine, luscious collaboration of study, talent and skill. They are so beautiful, I might even venture to call them a labor of love. But that’s what art is.

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O’Keeffe and Me

July 21, 2013 § 5 Comments

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I came across some old art, and made it new again. That was fun for me, looking at it with fresh eyes and different life experience behind me.

It also reminded me of “events that shape us”, and never-answered questions like whether our paths are determined by planning, grit and circumstance or if they’re a pre-ordained destiny. Conscious decisions vs. fate. And if it’s a little of both (which is more what I believe), and how they play with or against one another. Because looking back on a lifetime of making art, it’s clear to me that it was there all along, whether pushing up like weeds from concrete when I turned away or fought it, or blooming with passionate contentment when embraced. How it played itself out could have been different, and I’ve often wondered just how much impact different choices would have made ~ but life being both so mysterious and interconnected, who’s to say what other things would come into play when taking a different fork in the road that may have landed you right in the same place.

And what does all that have to do with O’Keeffee and me? It’s a bit of a twisty tale, a piece pulled from the “how I got here” files ~ which I suppose all started with a love for flowers.

In my early art years, I was very focused on honing my skills and basically marveling at the whole process of watching something come to life, through my hands, onto a blank piece of paper. It was “something I did”.

But when it came time for college and higher learning, I didn’t go to an art school. I had an aversion to the possibility of being surrounded by self-important people wearing berets thinking high-minded, overly-grand things about art ~ so I went to a wonderful liberal arts university with a champion football team and kids who studied everything from geology to literature to chemistry, pottery and music. I was already “immersed” in art and that seemed enough reason to study other things. Too much of one thing would have been, well, too much.

At the same time, a quiet rebellion thrived inside me against studying other artists. “Why?” you may ask. Mainly because I didn’t want to be influenced. I wanted my own style to emerge freely on its own. I didn’t want to copy. Second reason, I found art history incredibly boring. History was great, and art was great, but the two together caused much clock-watching, seat-squirming and suddenly heavy eyelids.

Given my ignorance of art history, you might then understand that I hadn’t a clue when during one of my early shows some of my work (like those shown here) was compared to the work of Georgia O’Keeffe.

“Who?”

Well of course I had to find out who this Georgia person was. I didn’t want to be like somebody else! Or worse, have people think I was trying to mimic.

It wasn’t hard to find examples of her work, and as it turned out I was pretty impressed. Flattered too, really. And I understood where they found the resemblance, unwitting as it was. Then I went on to read about her life, discovering that my O’Keeffian connection went beyond art to things like walking similar terrains (Lake George, the southwest and New York City) and even having my own version of a Stieglitz at the time.

My work is not very O’Keeffian these days, but it was a cool pairing back then, and that kind of over-sized styling never left my realm of creative thinking. And while I’m still not a full convert, it also marked the beginnings of my first real interest, outside of a classic admiration for Michelangelo, Norman Rockwell and Andrew Wyeth, in the subject of “art history”.

All because of a thing for flowers. Goes to show we never know what will lead us where, and the journey will happen regardless.

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Tuesdays with Chris: “The Gift of Listening”

April 30, 2013 § Leave a comment

Chris Staley, early work

In his typically wise yet humble way, Chris covers another of my favorite subjects in this last video of the series ~ unobtrusively reminding us that the world could use quite a bit more good listening.

Hope you’ve enjoyed the series as much as I have. It’s been a pleasure filling our Tuesdays with the creative insights from a great teacher, a great person, a wonderful artist and an old friend. Thank you Chris, for the opportunity for more of us to listen to you.

(If you missed my introduction about Chris Staley, master potter, educator and Penn State Laureate 2012-2013, you can read that here.)  Enjoy!

Tuesdays with Chris: “Outside the Frame”

April 23, 2013 § Leave a comment

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As “Tuesdays with Chris” nears its inevitable end (sadly, all things must pass…), we’re given a glimpse of how these videos have been made. You’re going to like this a lot! It’s just as inspiring and well-done as all the rest, with a good measure of “informative” tossed in. For anyone thinking they’d like to whip up a quick 3-minute video, take note of the time and care involved. Kudos to Producer Cody Goddard (and his awesome mittens).

(If you missed my introduction about Chris Staley, master potter, educator and Penn State Laureate 2012-2013, you can read that here.) 

Next week will be the last in the series. Enjoy!

Tuesdays with Chris: “Life & Death in Art”

April 18, 2013 § Leave a comment

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A wonderful examination of the concept of cave paintings and their possible purpose, intertwined with thought-provoking questions about our modern experience with the environment, our surroundings and asking ourselves what’s of real value.

(If you missed my introduction about Chris Staley, master potter, educator and Penn State Laureate 2012-2013, you can read that here.)  Enjoy!

Tuesdays with Chris: “Advice for Young Artists”

April 9, 2013 § Leave a comment

A delightful spectrum of views from do what you love, to stay vulnerable, to never give up, to make friends, to don’t do it for free ~ you’re gonna love these snippets of advice for young artists. :  )

(If you missed my introduction about Chris Staley, master potter, educator and Penn State Laureate 2012-2013, you can read that here.)  Enjoy!

Tuesdays with Chris: “Learning to Learn”

April 2, 2013 § Leave a comment

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How do we learn? In particular, how does someone who might be unfamiliar with art learn to express themselves through an art class setting? With the premise that art is about a sense of wonder and the asking of questions, Chris shares a number of fun exercises he’s used to help students find their own voice.

Whether experienced or beginning artists, I get the distinct impression that Chris has a talent, not only for clay, but for gently drawing out people’s creativity, allowing them to discover what may lie sleeping deep beneath the surface.

(If you missed my introduction about Chris Staley, master potter, educator and Penn State Laureate 2012-2013, you can read that here.)  Enjoy!

Tuesdays with Chris: “Tight or Loose Pots”

March 26, 2013 § Leave a comment

Every art form has two distinct expressions on either side of the creative spectrum: the articulate and the free form. Like ballet to modern dance or abstract painting to realism, a potter’s work can be tight or loose. And what can set a piece apart is what Chris calls a “sense of gesture”.

There’s an ongoing process of being in control and out of control. There’s presentation, and there’s representation. Chris is a master of both.

(If you missed my introduction about Chris Staley, master potter, educator and Penn State Laureate 2012-2013, you can read that here.)  Enjoy!

Tuesdays with Chris: “Body as Vessel”

March 19, 2013 § Leave a comment

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In this video, Chris eloquently describes the symbolic correlation between pots (vessels) and ourselves, and teaches that the strongest piece of pottery has a sense of breathing, of expanding and contracting. Personally, I found this one particularly intriguing, as I’ve long had a fascination with painting pots (on canvas) ~ something I eventually understood as subconscious expressions of the body as a vessel. So I was really interested in his point of view!

In the making of pottery, “the answer lies inside the pot”. Listen and learn why.

(If you missed my introduction about Chris Staley, master potter, educator and Penn State Laureate 2012-2013, you can read that here.)  Enjoy!

Tuesdays with Chris: “Unconscious Muses”

March 12, 2013 § Leave a comment

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Today Chris shares a couple of personal stories that revolve around the concept of triggers, epiphanies, and threads that weave consistently throughout our lives, our work and our psyche. The unconscious muses, as he calls them.

We all may recognize something of ourselves in what he says. And I’ll bet that my fellow artists out there will relate to his insights at the end ~ I know I did!

(If you missed my introduction about Chris Staley, master potter, educator and Penn State Laureate 2012-2013, you can read that here.)  Enjoy!

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