Beautiful Baddeck


Came home Tuesday from a week in beautiful Baddeck, Cape Breton. I was teaching a four-day workshop on abstract painting. There were seventeen students, presenting a full spectrum of art experience and age. I brought along my teaching assistant — my four-month old puppy, Romeo. He was very helpful and, except for some occasional puppy outbursts, extremely good.

Having had such a long career focusing mainly on abstraction (never wanted to paint anything else, although I could if I necessary), I really enjoy passing along any bits of insight I may have.  I’ve come to the conclusion that abstract painting centers around composition. Without a good strong composition, nothing works. Color, forms, images all need the tension and balance of a good composition. A good composition is not a formula. But it is about focus, how the story is told. It’s the framework upon which the other elements rest.

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There has been so much talk lately about minimalism, paring down, purging, simplifying. I too bought a book on decluttering, organizing. When first reading it, I felt enormous anxiety. Get rid of my precious memories: photos, books, clothes! No way. But then I did some purging, cleaned up my closet a bit. I must admit, I enjoy having a tidy closet and a tidy kitchen. I haven’t continued as I prefer to spend the time painting when I can. And otherwise I am with my puppy or reading or out and about. But the idea of being orderly sounds good.

Then I read an article that challenged the idea of simplicity and order. Chaos, the author believes, fosters creativity. When talking to a friend about this, he added, “chaos fosters creativity in the search for truth.” My studio is a mess. Always. No matter how often I clean it up. So I suppose that is good. Creativity is more important to me than tidiness.

I’ve always thought of art as the search for truth, absolute beauty. But then who is to judge what is true, beautiful. There are so many ways to approach art, so many possible conclusions. Of course, I like what feels most honest to me. So perhaps truth comes in the form of integrity. Certainly beauty does.

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Because of the Duck


(“Because of the Duck, no. 13″; 12″ x 12”; oil & collage on canvas)

Because of the puppy and the fact that I will be teaching in Baddeck, Cape Breton for a week in September, I had to move my upcoming exhibit at the Secord Gallery in Halifax from October to November. The pressure of creating a new body of work for the show was too much. I like to work under pressure; I like to work without pressure; I like to paint. But . . . .

My painting is going well. I’m very excited about my new work. If things look good, I just push them further until they look exceptional. Good is not good enough! If all continues to go well, I should have enough paintings dry enough to exhibit in November. I’ve been concentrating on medium to large size paintings. Not as large as they were for the Saint Mary’s University Art Gallery, but still large enough to let me do extravagant arm gestures. Small paintings are hard because they are limited, but often that limitation is what makes them exciting to work on. But not right now. Maybe next week.

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According to Proust, “Artists are people who strip habit away and return life to its deserved glory.” I’ll go along with that! Definitely I’m very familiar with the stripping habit away part. When a painting feel too “easy”, too “good”, I know I need to go further. Not let habitual means of solving painting issues take over, try something else. And if that doesn’t work, try something else yet again.

The one thought dominating my mind this morning when working was how so much of my process is an accident. The real challenge is knowing what to do with that, those accidents, what possibilities happen when you let them.

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You’ve heard of sound bites, right. Tidbits of sound. Well, I’m into painting bites. Tidbits of time to paint. It’s working though, doing some good work in the very tight time limitations I have now. Concentrated time; concentrating mind. When I go into my studio I may think I will work on one thing, but end up doing something entirely different. A different idea, color, energy pulls me. Having so little time and so much desire to paint, I just let it happen. It is very fascinating, the not planning part. And seems to be rewarding. But I always have to wait until the next day to be sure. See what I did the day before. Somehow things, i.e., paintings, magically change overnight. Strange how that happens!

Having a puppy puts a lot of demands on my time. He’s an easy pup, as puppies go. But I have had a hard time getting him used to spending time alone in his crate. Although I enjoy my time with him, I need time to work and do things other than play with him. He’s learning, slowly. I hope.

I’m realizing as well how important solitude is to me and to creativity in general. I just have to teach Romeo how important it is.


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Happiness is . . .


Romeo and I went to Martinique Beach yesterday. Five kilometers of crescent white sand beach. It was his first visit to the ocean. He enjoyed the waves coming in and out on the shore, the sand, the pebbles, the people, children, other dogs. We both had a happy day.

But I am finding I can, finally, break down into tears when I think of my last dog, Lila, who died far too soon. Having Romeo has opened my emotions. It’s good, I know, but surprising me. The pain of losing Lila was immense. I couldn’t express my feelings then, but thanks to Romeo, I can now. There is nothing like a warm puppy.

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Beautiful Watch Hill, Rhode Island


Three of my paintings have recently traveled to beautiful Watch Hill, RI. On the walls now at the Lily Pad Gallery, they represent a new expansion to abstract painting for this gallery. The gallery will also be opening a new space in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and I will be sending some larger pieces there. Right now, I don’t have any photographs, but I’ll keep you posted.

The gallery was established thirty years ago by Wivi-Anne Weber, Ph.D. It has now moved into the recently restored and rehabilitated Lamphear Livery Stable, aka Holdredge Garage at One Bay Street. The building began its life in the late 19th century as a livery stable and staff housing for the Watch Hill summer hotel. In the early 20th century, reflecting the change in transportation mode, it became a garage for auto storage and repair. It will now be a cultural center in one of the most beautiful sites in Rhode Island. If you are anywhere near the area, do stop by!



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