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Finally, this little beast has arrived at a place where I’ll be able to let it go.  The Ghost in the Thicket is also finally ready to go to the gallery today.   I think I’m ready to let go of the body of work I started a long time ago…  the pieces that started somewhere around the time I left this studio two (three?) years ago.  I’m ready for something new.  Whatever has been brewing is finally being bottled and shipped out.  There comes a time when my ideas, colors, techniques–they just get used up and cease to be effective.  Gravity becomes a burden rather than a tether.

Next comes a cleaning of the studio.  Throw out junk.  Mop the floors.  Clean the slate.  Sever the ties.  Bring in some new music.  It feels good just thinking about it.  These last 3 or so weeks have been really frustrating.  So much wheel spinning.  I only hope that I’m not wrong.  This whole era just feels finished in a way it hasn’t before.

A white rabbit ran in front of my car on the way into work yesterday morning and it seemed omen-ous in the way that the white raven did.  A herald of some new journey and I ain’t scared.  We’ll see what happens Monday morning…  down the rabbit hole.

This is my latest one, and I have to admit that I’ve been a little stuck ever since I finished it.  It could just be the natural progression of things.  Maybe I need to get it out of the studio before I can move on.  Most likely this current slump is related to a lapse in good habits.  Even at 3 days a week, it’s difficult to build the kind of momentum I know I need right now.

Subject matter seems to be a sticking point.  Yupik masks have held my attention for quite some time, but they don’t seem to be alive for me right now.  The waning light?  The cold?  What is it?

Where do all my ideas go?  I should write things down when I come up with something new.  I think maybe I’ll go sketch for a while and see if that helps.  I need to quit my fretting and play for a while.  Ignore the pressure of production…

Sage advice from Robert Genn:

Shuffle the deck. When working on a series, go back to half- or nearly-finished pieces in a random order.

Mix and match. The transposition of motifs from one work to the next gives power to a series.

Commit and correct. Don’t know what to do next? Commit yourself anyway–in the full knowledge that your effort can be changed. While it’s good to look three times, think twice and paint once, it’s often valuable to make a move rather than to interminably stew about making a move.

Overshoot and cut in. When going for the magic of negative shapes, try to set yourself up to cut into rather than to paint up to. It’s not always possible to make this happen, of course, but when you do it’s the efficient way to find expressiveness.

Black and white…When the black and white pattern of a painting holds together, the work will be more convincing in colour.

Let it cure. Giving half-finished work a chance to be by itself for a while permits the artist to be surprised by both its felicities and its faults.

Slip into elan (meaning vivacity and impetuousness). Variations in brush speed brought on by pressure, impatience, flow-mode, dream-mode or showmanship can cause an effect known as “surface confidence.” A convincing casualness trumps weak, stuffy or overworked surfaces. Elan is the golden mark of professionalism. It carries with it the truth that our main job is to connect.

Aren’t these the very problems I’ve been discussing? Genn fairly often writes (serendipetously) about the very issues I’m fretting over WHILE I’m fretting over them. This bit: “it’s often valuable to make a move rather than to interminably stew about making a move” is really useful right now.

But most valuable to me these next few weeks will be “commit and correct”. I took three paintings into the gallery Wednesday, so what I have now are a number of unfinished and somewhat mediocre paintings and I don’t have any solid plans or inspiration for what’s coming next. So, as Genn says, I can commit and correct–just go for it and trust that I have skills enough to shape a work that isn’t workig very well. Or…. my natural (untrained?) inclinations are to experiment with new techniques and ideas until I find something worth gettig excited over. That sounds better to me.

My creative tanks are a little empty right now though, and I had a metaphorical fiasco with the gas tank on a borrowed Mercedez this morning to prove it. Like the universe said “hmmm… look Madara, your tank is empty and not only that, but it’s going to be really f-ing difficult to get in there to fill it up. In fact, you’ll have to look through 17 users manuals just to eventually figure out that it was really just a simple turn of the cap all along.” So pithy, that bit about the power to go home being with us all along, but true.

Tomorrow morning, before I return the Mercedez, I think I’ll rearrange and clean the studio. That always seems to do something good for me. You know, a clean slate sort of thing.

And as if I haven’t posted enough pictures of this halibut, here’s the final product now hanging in the gallery:
And I decided to raise my prices a bit. My instinct tells me I can do it… although my brain is really fighting me on the idea. But this one is good. I think…

Doubt likes to call at this hour.

I have a do not disturb sign on my door…
I named it “Swimming in Gustav’s Ocean” since that’s what I was doing.

This will cure what ails you my dear…


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Pointillism is a health hazard. This was meditative when I started it, but now, 24 hours later, I’m only meditating on the soreness of my elbow. But, hey, it’s something like done. I don’t think I’m capable of judging the success of this one. I feel a little ambivalent about it. Perhaps it’s merely a matter of my own connection to the image. With this past spring’s series of work, I was exploring some personal symbols and there isn’t much in the way of symbolism here. So, content wise, it feels a little empty. But it’s pretty. And if you can’t be smart at least you can be pretty.

As far as phases go, I guess this is phase 3. I’ll try not to mess with the vase anymore, since I overworked it yesterday and then had to scrape of the paint and start again.

And the halibut… well. On to the next post.

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Here’s a shot of the owl clock that I finally finished on commission. It was fun. Commissions are stressful but they do sometimes allow me to do things I wouldn’t normally do, such as a clock. I never would have thought of it.

Other news on the art front… I’ve been invited to do another solo exhibit, this time at the Well Street Art Co. It’s scheduled for January of 2010 which seems like a long ways away, but it’s only a year and three months. The New Horizons exhibit was scheduled a year in advance too. Plenty of time to get a good group of paintings together. Well Street’s space is a really good space too. Lots of big white walls and high ceilings. That factor changes the nature of the work I need to do a bit. When I was working on the stuff for New Horizons I had to think about the fact that their walls aren’t white and that my work would be competing against 300 other pieces of art hanging in there. A white space dedicated only to my own work will call for something different. Exciting. And it has me thinking…

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I started this one the first day I moved into the studio. I got there at about 8:30 this morning and left at 2:30. Six hours that I swear felt like two… and look, that’s my A game, baby.

You’ll note that the painting is resting comfortably on an easel. Yes, I finally bought one. All these years… The only problem with it is that it tends to shake when I’m working heavy brushstrokes on the right or left side. There are $1,200 easels that I’m sure wouldn’t present this problem, but at $150, this one will do just fine. I set it up in the corner next to my paints with some indirect lighting behind me. The view of downtown Fairbanks was a nice backdrop… there is a great deal more color downtown (by that I don’t mean the drunks and hookers–merely that the buidings are a little more colorful these days). And I had some terribly good tunes playing. I’ve invested a good deal of time lately in music that I know I can work with. Time well spent, in my opinion. Getting a groove on and getting into a groove are two great things that go great together. Is that a Twix commercial? There have been rumors of “sexy CDs” floating around lately (I can name names but I won’t), and I’ll have to put a vote in for Sean Hayes’ Big Black Hole and the Little Star. Holy Moses. My knees feel a little weak.

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Although I think that most of my family and friends know this, I think for simple posterity I should announce (cue the boys in tights with trumpets) that the UAF Museum of the North bought this painting. I still feel a little giddy even though they bought it over a month ago. I don’t know if or when they will actually hang it in the Museum, but hey, they own it. That’s good enough in my book.

Dear god, if they do hang it I might just pass out and I’ll make sure that after I come to everyone I know will be required to go look at it. Or else.

The Museum used Rasmuson Art Acquisition funds to purchase the piece and I’m hoping that this fact carries some kind of weight when the Rasmuson Foundation is deciding who will get their $5000 project grants (which I’ve applied for 4 times now).

Anyhoo. This is “Raven in Blue” and you can’t buy it because it’s in the Museum.
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I’m back into a studio again and loving EVERY minute of it. It’s the same studio I had 2 years ago. If feels like 10 years. A lot has changed in the last two… It’s 310 in the Lathrop Buiding on 2nd Avenue. Three days a week isn’t enough… I was surprised to find out on Friday that I can pick up the wireless from TVC. Which means that I should probably incorporate a few more blog entries while I’m in there. I usually think “I should write this down” and then forget about it by that evening or else I just get busy with family life, so having my laptop in the studio might alleviate that. It could also be a distraction, too.

Things are different this time. The simple fact that I’m in the studio during daylight hours makes the place seem very different than it did the first go around. I’m in a much better headspace too. Although I wish I could spend every day in there, it’s probably a good thing that I’m still teaching 2 days a week. Being in isolation isn’t good for me. I get weird and a little frantic, desperate is maybe the word. I go into some sort of psychic free fall, which can be productive or dangerous depending on the day. My friend Jill (what do you think dear?) spent some time with me this summer in my studio at home while I completed work for the New Horizons exhibit. That was a superb arrangement. She wrote while I painted and although our time was punctuated with conversation, it was mostly quiet. We both managed to get work done while still getting the social payoff. I should invite writers in there more often I think. My friend Lisa Janout (another stellar poet) is coming to visit on Monday so maybe I can talk her into some tandem creativity.

I’ve noticed that in the last two years I’ve become more aware of my process and so the arrangement of my workspace is much more useful. I still need an easel, but you can see the table over in the far corner… that houses all of my paints and brushes (and flowers I’ve been using for a still life). The shelf on the left hand side contains mediums, gesso, and cleaning supplies as well as a few other things. What you can’t see in the photo is the stacks of painting supports and canvases that are calling my name even as we speak. Also, there is a small nook at the right that has stacks of recycled canvases. And behind me, next to the door, is a printmaking station with all of my woodcuts, ink, brayers, and whatnot. I took this picture while I was in the middle of a few things, so it looks a little messier than it really is. My point being that everything has a place now and organization reigns.

Now for that easel…

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