What’s Next?

I remember the feeling of accomplishment. And in this case, one more of those all-important items on the checklist of life that said you were one step closer to being a real adult. I had done what was necessary to be able to grab the brass ring — getting my family to Disney World.  

I had saved enough to get my young family to that Orlandoian mecca of American love with everything faux, and I was admittedly excited to be waiting in line for Space Mountain with our first son — who happens to share my name. Standing there hand in hand with him was nearly a Norman Rockwell moment until my little guy asked, “What’s next?”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“What are we going to go on next?” he asked.

He had no way of understanding what it took for us to get to that point. I was enjoying the moment of anticipation of getting on this ride and enjoying sharing the excitement with him.

I looked down at him with a grin and shrugged.

The conversation we’ve all been hearing the last couple of months has been about what’s next. This has to be over…2021 will be great and all our troubles will be solved. I totally understand the sentiment, I really do.

One thing this year has given me is an opportunity to really be present with the things that I can actually do something about and let go of a lot of things that I can’t do much if anything about.

What’s next? I can’t say, but…isn’t this snow amazing?

‘Tis this the Season?

Currier& Ives Quintessential Seasonal Imagery

You might expect a commentary from me here on the artistic relevance of “Jingle Bells” or “Oh Come All Ye Faithful,” which I admit would be appropriate and predictable. With the conclusion of Chanukah this week, the approaching culminating Christmas celebrations, and let us not forget Kwanzaa, we find ourselves once again squarely in the midst of what we refer to as the “holiday season.” As long as I can remember, at this time of year, the non-seasonal song, “Turn Turn Turn,” passes through my mind.

By now you realize I avoid the urge towards the obvious. Big topics such as elections or pandemics don’t find themselves directly addressed in my writing, but sometimes one can get swept away in the current of the day.

The holiday season, like so many other things, comes around but once a year, but so does hunting season, boating season, color season, the season of the witch, and who can forget, Winter, Spring, Summer, and Autumn?

So, did Pete Seeger get it right when he wrote, “Turn Turn Turn”? Maybe yes and maybe just, ummm, maybe. Of course Mister Seeger merely tapped out some of King Solomon’s best pop song lyrics (See Ecclesiastes 3:1-8). Pete admits to adding only six words to Solomon’s poetry. Aside from the title phrase, “Turn, Turn Turn,” and in reply to “there is a time for peace,” he wrote, “I swear it’s not too late.”

So yeah, The Byrds version of this song (which did reach number #1 in 1965) pops into my head whenever I hear people utter ‘Season’s Greetings.’ Because unto everything there is a season.

There are plenty of us that have a love/hate relationship with this particular season. Maybe in large part because of the over-inflated commercialism and marketing that starts just after the 4th of July?

Nevertheless, whether you deck the halls or don your gay apparel, the song remains the same, ’tis the season to be jolly. But I reckon, while seasons come and go, being jolly should be a year-round pursuit.

And I might add that that applies if you are naughty or nice.

Yertle Was Not My Turtle

I made my first concerted effort to make a piece of 3-dimensional art in 1963. It was a more than double life-sized portrait of my pet turtle, whose name I do not recall.

For a brief period of time, I had a few pet turtles. Nevermore than one at a time though, and I don’t remember any of their names. I do know that as a second-grader my favorite color was green, and I will assume that that preference may have been due in large part to the inhabitants of my turtle bowl. The odor from that bowl that signaled it was time to change the water still stings my memory.

Even at the time, I did not feel that it was an accurate enough representation to be considered an appropriate homage to my testudinal companions, let alone a good piece of art. My mother thought otherwise as I recently found the said artifact on display in her home.

I find it interesting how a singular experience that my seven-year-old self had continues to shape my artistic decisions. Even today when the topic of sculpture comes up, I think of that turtle and remove myself from the conversation.

I have, mind you come to terms with that turtle and we get along just fine. But the trama it may have created, like the smell of that little plastic bowl that included an island with a palm tree on it, still haunts me such that I don’t believe that I have it in me to be much of a sculptor.

Do I want to be a sculptor? Not particularly. But I do wonder about how experiences I have had shaped and continue to affect how I approach my work today.

Dr. Seuss, wrote “Yertle the Turtle” about a turtle that was king of the pond. Yertle wanted to expand his kingdom and to do so he took ridiculous advantage of his subjects. A small turtle named Mack finally, out of pure exhaustion, couldn’t take it anymore. When that happened the mightly Yertle was toppled.

I could never relate to Yertle because he was so unlike me.

I was just thinking about how I piece together my thoughts as I figure out a new painting or monotype and I wonder why my process is shaped the way it is.

Can I change it? I think I could. Do I need to? Perhaps, perhaps not. I am not sure it is necessary.

This I do know, I can’t let a lump of clay dictate my course forever.

Would You Jump Off the Bridge?

I am fascinated by the topic of creativity and inspiration and how other artists embrace and pay attention to these curious and necessary partners in our individual processes. Influences are tricky things. We all can hear our parents inquiring about our friends during our formative years, asking us if your friends jumped off the bridge, would you? There is a good chance they used this line of reasoning because they understood that influences can be either good or less good. I choose not to say bad, not because I don’t believe that there isn’t any bad, there definitely is. But in regard to influences, especially as artists we can learn something even from the less good influences.

I think all influences are worth investigating for the most part when they come knocking. If something has enough pizazz to catch our attention, should we really be in too much of a hurry not to see if there might be something there?

Maybe it is a piece of art from some artist that you never heard of, or you have heard of the artist, but you never really looked because they do not produce the sort of work that you are interested in making.

What if you find yourself waiting for the light to change and out of the corner of your eye the light bounces off the slope of the sidewalk as it feathers into the crosswalk. Do you discount that flash in the moment of congestion on your way to the grocery store and curse the traffic and think this has got to be the most unattractive and uninspiring spot in town? Or could it be that that one vision of brightness on a dirty old Sunday morning sidewalk might possibly open up a whole new portal of investigation in your work?

Well, I think it’s worth considering.

This blog was originally published on 14 June 2020.

Every Tuesday and Thursday you can enjoy the wonders of figure drawing online. Visit my website for details.

Comfort Food

The question comes from a listener in Paduca, Kentucky.

“My question is about comfort food. I know when I eat roast beef and mashed potatoes with gravy I feel good. Like comfortable, you know? I don’t feel bad when I eat steamed broccoli with butter on it, but I don’t feel comfortable like I do when I eat mashed potatoes and gravy. You know?”

So listener, what’s your question?

“Well, I guess I was just wondering if I was doing something wrong when I eat my broccoli?”

It’s times like this that my mind drifts off to thoughts of Melvin “Sy” Oliver and James “Trummy” Young and their composition that remains as classically philosophical as it is classically jazzy, “It t’aint what you do, but the way that you do it.”

Metaphorically speaking, as artists our own personal comfort food that feeds our creative monkeys comes in all different forms from drawing to painting to writing, sculpture or choreography, and everything in-between.

Contemporary American artist Judith Schaechter takes comfort in making stained glass art. On a recent visit to the Toledo Museum of Art, I reluctantly stuck my head in a gallery exhibiting her work. Here is a woman that clearly takes comfort in something that holds less than a robust interest for me. After looking closely at her work, I could see how she not only made this art form her own, but she has also brought it forward from the dusty, dank old cathedrals of Europe…and I was really taken with it.

Here’s a link to her work: Click!

Okay listener, I don’t think that you are doing anything particularly wrong with your broccoli that I can tell. Maybe you just need to be a little more attentive to the unfortunate rap that broccoli often gets. Might I suggest you try it with a little hollandaise sauce and see if you feel any more comfy. If not, we gotta stick with the idea that one person’s broccoli is another person’s meat and potatoes.

Find out all about my online figure drawing sessions every Tuesday and Thursday. Click here.