Sunday, January 29, 2012

Hero or Villain?

A woody stump growing out of a stone wall
colored pencil
What's this: a symbol of tenacious Life cornering and exploiting a mostly-forgotten niche in which to thrive and thumb its nose at the gardener? Or is it a cancer, pell-mell egotistically and slowly killing its host and destroying the wall built by the patient stonemason?

I do not know!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Getting Out!

Reflections above the South Natick Dam
colored pencil | 20 Jan, 2012
We got a little snow last night and somehow I managed to fritter away most of the day inside. I finally yanked myself out and down to the dam for a little respite from the zombie-like state of flitting between computer and social networking chores. You know the feeling I'm sure.

But down here (it's just a ten minute walk from home) there is this wonderful white noise and a breeze and clear blue skies and the very persistent fiery orb in the sky. Hello Sun! Perhaps you know how long this river has been flowing here. It hasn't always had a dam across I know but I do wonder if other creatures worship it as I do. I have traded my silicone glitter for the flash of your prehistoric light off of the moving water.

As I write now, the day has once again been put to bed and the snow glows a dark molten blue. It will smolder all night under the distracted eyes of Orion and other hunters. It's a big world!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Two Swans

Two Swans, Charles River, South Natick, Massachusetts
crayon, watercolor
13 Jan. 2012

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Do plants sleep?

Ficus lyrata
11 Jan 2012
I made this picture of a fig tree yesterday at the Wellesley College Greenhouses. They're open from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. almost every day of the year.

I'm reading an interesting book: "On The Origin of Stories: Evolution, Cognition and Fiction" by Brian Boyd, Belknap Press (Harvard) 2009. I've just started it so I'm only in the "evolution and cognition" part of the introductory chapters. But it has gotten me thinking of the requirements of life and different evolutionary strategies of different life forms.
Since plants adapt to the environment in a very different way than animals, is there any possibility of a "fiction of trees" or "poetry of roots and fronds?" What we think of as "creative play" is mostly our overpowered brains "desperately" seeking patterns in a chaotic flow of information that streams through our senses. If a tree hasn't needed to quickly adapt its moment-by-moment behavior to predators for example, it might not have all this pattern-seeking software in its neurons (okay, I don't think plants have neurons in the same way animals do) and hence it doesn't leapfrog whatever patterns it has adapted to and create meaning or predictions. It just IS. And that's pretty OK if you're a plant.

I like the idea that fiction and Art as behaviors are part of Nature and can be explained as adaptations to selection pressures in Nature. They are an evolutionary byproduct of our particular biology interacting in our particular social way of existence. This view reinforces the necessity and inherent pleasure of Art-making as a deep behavior that explains the presence for Art of all forms across the span of human culture.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

On Thin Ice

Juvenile swan, Lake Waban
5 January 2012
colored pencil
I really wondered about this immature swan I saw last week as I walked around Lake Waban at Wellesley College. The southern end of the lake had a thin layer of ice. Swans, coots, mallards and mergansers floated and dabbled in other ice-free corners of the lake. But this swan was stuck out on the ice for some reason and had to walk to open water. He broke through here and there. He slipped this way and that. When he became tired he would settle himself down and waggle his tail to settle his plumage. A few times he gazed at the ice as if to see something underneath. Why was the water hard and cold?

Eventually, he reached the thin edge of the ice and entered the water with a small splash. And everything was fine. No swans rushed over to see if he was alright. The coots continued their antic bobbing and diving. The mallards gossiped and minded their own business. And the mergansers, four females and a showy male, quickly disappeared as mergansers do.

Years ago when my youngest daughter was very little, she put a pea in her nose. Our various attempts to extract it only made it go in deeper and higher. Finally, somewhat embarrassed, we all trooped into the doctor's office and with a chuckle, he removed the pea with a special tool he'd made out of a small piece of wire. As he examined the pea and settled my daughter down from the traumatic experience he paused and said to one and all (and no one in particular) that people had been sticking things in their noses (and other places) since the dawn of time. The pea would eventually shrivel or rot and humanity would survive and maybe learn that peas are better put in one's mouth.

Maybe next winter, there won't be a swan wishing he had a pair of ice skates… I did see a fox once out on the ice once though…

Monday, January 2, 2012

That Blue Pencil

The South Natick Dam
colored pencil

A few years ago, I took part in a focus group to evaluate colored pencils. I received a set of anonymous pencils and got down to work. They were all different colors varied greatly in quality. I got to keep the pencils but it did take a lot of time to answer the tedious online questionnaires. This drawing is done with a hard, chalky blue pencil. I wouldn't recommend it to any serious professional.

I like my art supplies to have personality …or, I like to assume that they have personality. Any type of personality is okay. This particular pencil is hard and alternately waxy & chalky, and a gritty light blue color. Draw just normally and it barely deposits material on the paper. Bear down and you might just burnish the paper or it might lay down a skid mark of this blue color. It makes my shading and line unpredictable --which I like.

When I buy paper, I try to buy a bunch, stash it away and forget that I have it. I gobble up paints and inks that are on sale and past their "sell date". I love picking up stuff at yard sales that have unknown provenience. The paint might need to be resuscitated. Will the paper fade and yellow? Is it unprofessional to make art out of materials that are so untrustworthy? Maybe, in this internet age where artwork is scanned and archived as soon as it is painted, using scurrilous materials is sort of excusable. This "fast living" helps me make a lot of pictures and keeps me fresh and, I think, vital. My materials give me ideas and energy as they express their own irascible quirks. If I could have anything, I'd probably have a lot of expensive pigments and paper AND a lot of junky stuff too.

If you've read this far, it doesn't get any better. This question is a quandary for me.
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