Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Two good running friends (from the old days - before they left me and moved to different parts of the country) and I all made it into the New York Half Marathon. This will be the first time all three of us have run a race together in years. I'm very excited about it. I'm not concerned about the race, but I hate the logistics of traveling to NYC - specifically, I hate the price tag. What an expensive city to visit! But grudgingly, I admit that it's worth it. I'll have to start researching shows and exhibits going on while we're there. Unfortunately, since we're running, there'll be no night life for us.

I discovered My Maps a few weeks ago and it is too much fun. Here's my map of the most reasonable hotels and B&Bs in New York that I've found so far... the B&Bs came from an article a friend sent. None of them will work for this trip, but they are really good options for some future trip.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Smoke from the Georgia wildfires is hanging over the city this morning. Normally I can see the Georgia Pacific building looking towards downtown, but it is completely obscured today. Here are the views out my window today compared with less smoky day. The weather would be perfect to keep the windows open today, but I don't think I can take the smell for long.

Smoky day towards downtown view

Sunny day, towards downtown view

Smoky day, towards park view

Sunny day, park view

Sunday, May 20, 2007

no more titles

Okay, the Little Five Points art "festival" (was it really advertised as a "festival" somewhere?) turned out to include 3 painters of varying abilities, 1 jewelry table, and 1 vodka promotional table. Did I miss anything? This little event would be quite easy to miss and I'd even encourage you to. Not that I mind going to Little Five just to for people-watching and bohemian shopping excursion, but I wouldn't recommend going just for the non-festival.

We arrived in L5P crossing paths with a hasher throwing a chalk trail on the ground. I've heard of hashing (never anywhere as much as on Paulie's blog) so it was kind of interesting to witness the trail being laid. It got more interesting later on our way out when the hashers-who-follow-the-trail (there is probably hasher-speak that I'm not clued in to name these people properly) arrived on the scene, scampering in various directions trying to figure out where their trail had disappeared to (answer: down the parking alley.) I don't think I would enjoy that kind of confusion while running, though I've heard good things about the drinking that takes place afterward.

A little later, we drove by a "Yogathon" happening at Piedmont Park. I don't think I mentioned that a few weeks ago I ran by a fly-fishing class in the same meadow. About ten students all throwing a line out on top of a set of frisbees in front of them. There is something for everyone in Atlanta.

Today MOB and I rode our bikes around his neighborhood together. I've been on my bike about once a week since I bought it - managing a little better each time. I am still wearing my brake to its nub on downhills but I'm enjoying it more. My brain may slowly be growing "wired" for bike riding, if not for winning. Biking certainly is more dangerous than running. I don't have time to take in cats chasing squirrels and such, but I love the feeling of wind rushing around me and the fact that I can cover so much more distance.

Of note: my left knee kind of pops when I pedal. Pretty constantly. I don't know if I should be worried considering all the issues I've had with this knee in running. It's not painful as of yet, so I'm just noting this to track how things go.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Killer cat

Just the thought that I "might" have a half-marathon in August inspired me for a good run today.

There are so many routes to take out of my front door - Ansley Park, Piedmont Park, Downtown, MLK Center, Freedom Parkway, Va. Highlands, Little 5 Points - but I've been running from here for so long that there are not many streets in this area that I haven't run on yet. I couldn't decide on a route today, so I just winged it, going where-ever the mood took me. I found a couple of new streets in between some good standards. Made a mental note that Little Five points is having an art festival today - maybe will check it out later. [Later, after some googling, I discovered that Little Five Points is having this art festival on the third saturday of each month during the summer.] There's some kind of middle eastern food festival going on at a church on Ponce. Probably won't make it back for that, though it sounds interesting.

In the front yard of a house on one tree-lined shady street, I watched an innocent-looking all white house cat with a pink collar stalk and chase a squirrel around in crazy circles until it caught it and released it again. I don't know if the cat just didn't have the claws to kill it, was just playing with it, or if I startled it.

I ran for about 7 1/2 miles I guess. Perfect running weather today - not warm, not cold, sunny, low humidity.

MOB had a plan to run up to Fernbank and back but his directions didn't work out. Sometimes during the week, we'll run together. An easy run for him and speed training for me. But on Saturdays we each have our own runs to do. We set off together and meet back at the end. No arguments over who gets to shower first because I'm the type that likes to immediately jump into the shower, and his preference is to cool down, drink some water, eat, and shower only when he's ready to. I can't stand to let the sweat dry on me, and as I find myself explaining over and over again, it's not vanity - it's because it really causes issues for my skin. Whenever I do races, I always pack some stridex pads in my bag for after the run. I have been teased about my after-exercise personal hygiene habits going back to when I was playing on a co-ed soccer league. Nothing will ever change there I guess!

Friday, May 18, 2007

Not quite yet

Well, I got rid of the pink streak on her face but unfortunately I didn't get much else done on this yesterday. I was very motivated and excited to finish this painting up, but when the brush hit the canvas, it just didn't happen.

Part of the problem is that I ran out of that nice Oriental Green color that I had been using. I think the background needs it for the model to make sense. Anyway, I hope that all that remains can be finished up without the model. I'm a little concerned about the hair too. It's begining to look smudgy.

It's a learning process! I've always struggled with backgrounds for portraits. They serve no purpose but to fill the rest of the canvas up. But they must be done.

The teacher suggested the following:
- soften the jaw line
- add some more middle tone shading to show the roundness of the neck
- add an angle to the earlobe, it's too round right now
- when I do the background, soften the edges on the models right shoulder.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

New York Half or not, stay tuned

A friend who is living near New York for the summer contacted me today about the New York Half Marathon on Sunday, August 5, 2007. The deadline to enter the lottery is today. If I don't get in, they won't charge me and if I do get in, I'm free that weekend. So, what the heck, I entered the lottery. Should know next week if I'm in. Training for a half-marathon during June and July in Hot-lanta. What could be better?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Work from home

Working from home is great, but my officemates never get anything done.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Quote from Art & Fear

Sometimes you stumble across a book that so perfectly describes the place that you are in your life... Art & Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland is doing it for me now. From the opening sentences through each of the paragraphs that followed, I found myself thinking over and over "wow, this is me" and "I need this advice right now, this is perfect."

It's the kind of book that I never would have imagined existed because most people probably don't need a self-help book for their artistic anxieties. It's also the kind of book that I go back to and reread sections as a reminder to keep my head straight about certain things. This quote is one of those sections (emphasis added.)

"Today artwork does not emerge from a secure common ground... Making art now means working in the face of uncertainty; it means living with doubt and contradiction, doing something no one much cares whether you do, and for which there may be neither audience or reward. Making the work you want to make means setting aside these doubts so that you may see clearly what you have done, and thereby see where to go next. Making the work you want to make means finding nourishment within the work itself."

I'm usually uncomfortable talking to people about the art I do or don't make. There are a lot of reasons for that, most have nothing to do with the person I'm talking to. I'm most comfortable talking to someone who I know will not express any thoughts about what I should or could be doing in terms of making art. It's really a journey that I have to find my own way with.

When people find out that I like to make art, they often tell me about someone else they know who makes art and what that person has done. Or they ask me what I plan to do with this; or whether I have tried this, that or the other. I come away with a sense that I should be doing more than I am.

Maybe I've been projecting my own self-doubts into these discussions, because I do this to myself a lot too. "Well, so-and-so just finished another painting for her living room, what's wrong with me, why haven't I got any of my art hanging up?" This book is helping me see how invalid it is to make these types of associations and to feel more comfortable with where I am in terms of making art.

I don't feel any jealousy over what other artists are doing - I recognize that I am not them. It's not better or worse, just not the same. I admire them and I know I have much I can learn from them, but I don't particularly want to be them.

Once a friend asked me to paint a mural in her soon-to-be-born first child's nursery. She wanted a jungle theme and gave me an idea of a few animals she'd like to see in there and left the rest up to me. It was an unpaid work and I had a lot of freedom to come up with whatever I wanted. I might have been doing my full-time student gig at the time. Anyway, I enjoyed painting the mural and was fairly happy with the result so I got the idea that I might try it as a side job.

I found a classmate with a step-daughter who wanted a mural in her room. The father was a former corporate big-wig and entered into "negotiations" over the price with me. I was very uncomfortable dealing with him. The little girl struck me as a spoiled child with an inborn sense of entitlement. As I worked in their home, I felt humiliated, I didn't enjoy the painting, and I vowed never to do another commission work again.

You always hear about making art just for the sake of making art. I thought I understood what that meant, but I realize now that I am only just beginning to. It's kind of like gardening. Just because you enjoy gardening, doesn't mean you should quit your day job and start your own landscaping company.

I've already started to see how this perspective is changing the way I approach my work. I don't feel as much pressure to be creating a masterpiece every time I pick up the brush. There's another quote in the book related to this, but I'll save that for next time.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Getting there...

Only one more class left with this model. I like how this has come along - this is the closest I've come to actually finishing a painting in years. It's funny how I see it with completely new eyes the day after class. I knew that there was pink color on the front of her cheek, but I had no idea until today that it looked like a long pink streak. I'll have to soften that up.

Next week I'll try to finish up the hair and the background, and some touching up on her face and body. It will be the last class, so time to finish up.

It took so much effort to motivate myself to go to class last night! My head was hurting from staring at a computer all day, I felt tired and really just wanted to go for a long walk outside. Then the rationalization on why it would be okay to miss class starts. "You're not going to do anything with the painting even if you finish it." And even more negative thoughts about my talent and artistic fate that won't get the privilege of making it to this forum.

The Emory Lifelong Learning catalog just came in the mail yesterday - there's a class in there that makes me laugh called "What to say when you talk to yourself," but based on the negative thinking that nearly kept me from going to class last night, I can see that there's a point there.

I'm proud of myself for overcoming that inertia last night. I'm learning how to keep an open mind about my own artistic "destiny" or whatever it is. Instead of thinking about what I'm going to do with the end result of the painting process, I'm just focusing on enjoying the process with no preconceptions of where it will lead or that it should lead anywhere other than a healthy, happy mind. Like running. I have no plans to be an Olympic champion, I just enjoy the running.

Atlanta is still in bloom. I love that spring continues for weeks and weeks here. The weather is warming up but the nights are still cool and the humidity is low. It seems like all of the rose bushes in Atlanta have been on some kind of kudzu-steroid treatment - I don't know if I just haven't noticed them as much in the past, but now I see them taking over the city, wandering up the sides of houses, winding in and out of iron fences along the sidewalks. Really gorgeous.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

What to do next?

During the lapse in my blogging, I completed two half-marathons - the inaugural ING Georgia - right in my own back and front yards - and the Nashville Country Music. Earlier this year, I was very excited to register for the Chicago Marathon, but as fate would have it, my niece's wedding is that same weekend. I'm waiting until I get the invitation before I formally drop out, but it's pretty certain that I will.

I don't want to jinx myself by saying this, but I seem to have licked the knee issue. The magic bullet appears to be the strap of fabric-covered rubber tubing that I place just under the knee-cap of the bad knee. It stabilizes the knee-cap and I've not had problems since I've started using it.

I will come off my break from running this week, although motivation is not really present. Having a race in mind to train for is great motivation, but at the same time I feel like taking a break from the long races. Not sure what to do. The Peachtree is coming up on July 4th, but it hardly seems like I need to do all that much training for a 10k. Maybe I should focus on time improvement. Maybe I should rejoin a running group. What to do, what to do.

One thought was that I should just do easy runs through the summer and start training for the Georgia Marathon (full) in the fall. Long training runs are much easier to do in the cooler winter months, a March marathon makes perfect sense if you live in the Southeast.

I have decided that while I am dedicated to running, I don't want to be a marathon junkie - it just takes up too much time. I need to start commiting more of my time to art and enjoying a well-balanced life. Running is great, I love it, but it's not the only passion in my life. On the other hand, I want to get one more marathon out of my system before I give them up for good. End on a positive note.

Not another passion (yet), but I purchased a bike a couple of weeks ago. I'm excited about tooling around town on it and taking it out for longer rides on bike paths around Atlanta. I still have to get used to it - going downhill frightens me and there are a lot of hills in Atlanta. I've had two bad face-first spills in my lifetime - one broke my nose, and the other chipped and left tar on my teeth so engrained that the dentist had to use a plaque scraper to get it off. I feel determined to get over that fear though and enjoy the bike. Maybe sign up for some recreational rides in different parts of the country. I don't want it to sit around and collect dust - it has too much fun to offer.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Work in progress

Still a work in progress, but it is starting to look much more like her. I like it much better today than I did yesterday while I was working on it in class.

I decided to keep it, to examine my progress and develop my approach as I continue with other paintings.

It really helps to take a picture of the painting and look at it on the computer. I can see things here that I don't notice when I'm looking at it in real life.

Thursday, May 3, 2007


Art Post
This is the painting I'm working on now - just the underpainting so far. The woman's neck looks very big, and in reality she has a strong neck. She's also got more of a waddle under her chin than you can see in this underpainting. But great face, hair and skin tone. She's also a very good model - able to hold a pose. I wish I had taken a picture of the sketch I started with, it was quite good. It was tough to begin applying paint over it, but teach said it was a sacrifice for the greater good. And really, what would I have done with it anyway? What will I do with this painting? For me, art is an experience, not really an end-result. I'm working on trying to envision end-results, to see a destination for these doodles and paintings, but so far nothing has materialized.

I decided that I am going to try to finish this painting and if I do, maybe I'll give it to the model, I don't know. I like doing figure and portraits, but that's not what I like to hang in my home. And I don't like to paint or draw the kinds of things that I like to hang. So don't expect to see any of my work hanging if you ever come to visit.

Running Post
Since doing the Nashville Half last weekend, I haven't run a step. No races scheduled until the Peachtree in July. I should have a good placement in the 1A group. MOB should too, but he's not sure if his check would have cleared before he closed his old account. We'll have to wait until the race numbers are mailed to find out I guess.

The Nashville half was fun. I gotta say - there isn't a heckuva lot to do in Nashville if you aren't into country music or cheap beer. We tried going over to the Van Vechten gallery at Fisk University, but found it closed for renovations. So, we went to the Parthenon which was somewhat interesting - more from the outside than within. Later that night during an after-dinner stroll with MOB's friend, we came across the Frist Center for the Visual Arts which had a terrific exhibit from the Baltimore Museum, including Cezanne, Matisse, Picasso, and more.

I wish Atlanta would bring in exhibits like this. The Louvre exhibit is a joke and the hub-bub about Ghiberti's doors - if you look at the fine print, they're just bringing over three panels from the doors, not the doors themselves. Yes, it will be kind of interesting, but it's not exactly something you can spend a portion of your afternoon enjoying. It's amazing that I live in a city that's got to be at least twice the size of Nashville, and yet they have a more interesting art exhibition than we've had in a while. Okay, I am looking forward to the Annie Liebovitz exhibition, I must admit that.

I just realized that my running post has evolved into an art post.

As for the race itself, I was happy with it. No knee pain, that's the real victory. I did come very close to vomiting after I crossed the finish line. That's happened to me more than once. I think it has something to do with my forcing myself into a sprint in the final yards of the race combined with the heat. It never happens during a race thank god, but there are more people up close and personal at the finish line - including little children. I would be mortified if I actually threw up inches away from their feet. I think I need to give up the sprint.

Come to think of it, maybe I should have stuck with just the art post!

Making art at my own pace

"Making art is difficult. We leave drawings unfinished and stories unwritten. We do work that does not feel like our own. We repeat ourselves. We stop before we have mastered our materials, or continue on long after their potential has been exhausted." Art & Fear. David Bayles & Ted Orland

This is exactly where I am and have been for many years. I sketch, paint, take classes, but I never finish anything and I live with a sense that I have failed the small amount of talent that has been passed onto me.

But Bayles and Orland go on to talk about the difference between stopping and quitting. I haven't quit yet - when you consider that "making" art is a process, not necessarily an end result, then, yes I am continually "making" art. I just stop before I finish and start over on some new drawing or painting which in all likelihood will also be left unfinished. But I haven't quit. That gives me some small measure of hope.

This blog will track my progress in attacking the doubt and self-consciousness I feel about my art-making. Getting my thoughts out "on paper" has always helped me to explore my way of thinking and maybe even push my thinking beyond its current state. I'm going to make a more conscious effort to do that as I track my efforts to make art.

My other interests - areas that are not as angst-filled such as running and general life - will also be a feature of this blog. The happiness I find so easily in running provides a counter-weight to the trepidation about art-making. Although running can be a competitive sport, I have no problem running at my own pace. I enjoy participating in races for the excitement of being around other runners and the push it gives me to do my best. I don't feel a need to be the best runner, just to do the best I can and that is enough. I would like to reach that same point with art-making. To not feel so self-conscious around other artists. To feel satisified with doing the best I can while always striving to improve. To find more happiness in art-making.