There’s something reassuring when working with scissors and glue. Not only familiar, but also easy and fun. For me, there are fewer pretentious thoughts to making great art and lots more smiling and fun. It never fails when we’ve set up an art-making night that everyone gets busy and I just stare at whatever materials we’ve collected and all my great ideas just fly away, It feels like the everyone else is moving on and doing their thing and I am completely out of ideas.
Most of the materials we were using were from cereal boxes saved for this purpose over the last few months due to our recent collage experience with Michael Albert. The colors and font designs are fantastic and probably the results of millions of dollars of advertising campaigns. The cost is basically nothing, and it’s keeping some packaging from going straight to the dump. Ok, so it’s just a little bit of packaging that we’re temporarily keeping from the garbage, but it’s a good feeling to recycle even a little bit. It’s especially a good feeling to make something fun and use basically no money at all in it.
Here’s what I finally came up with. It’s a sort of psychological portrait of a small part of our marriage. It’s also using what was available and not being fussy about it. The pepperoni pizza bird on the left is me, the popcorn bird is she. It would have been more accurate if my bird had been made of fried chicken, but a suitable pic was not available. The popcorn bird is entirely accurate. My lovely wife loves popcorn. It’s the go-to snack while amazon prime binging.
I love this picture. It’s a bit out of order. We almost always eat, and talk, and pray together before the art-making. The spot on the couch by Phil is occupied by Wendy who is right there skyped in on Melissa’s cell phone which was pretty cool. The conversation that I remember most about this evening is the idea that we have to keep taking risks and focusing on truly important things. Whether it’s with new art-making ideas, new relationships, or more time spent praying, reading, and applying scripture to our lives. Someone said that we need to rid ourselves of those time-consuming activities with which we are pre-occupied and move forward with the vital things. And stop worrying about whether or not we and they will be accepted.
At Art and Faith in July, Mac Browning showed us how to take a loop of wire and sculpt a twisted-wire tree. I’ve admired Mac’s beautiful trees many times and it was very interesting to get a feel for what goes into one of his creations by trying to make my own. Mac was thorough and patient and getting started was easy. However, the wire twisting itself was not easy. It takes a combination of strength and dexterity to get what you want. It always gives me a great appreciation for what another artist does when I try a new technique for the first time.
Sometimes making art requires intense thought. When I’m painting a portrait, I have to concentrate completely. If I zone out and begin thinking about something else, I make color, value, and composition choices that just don’t make sense and have to be re-worked and fixed and it wastes a ton of time. It’s happened many times. It’s nice to have something that is not quite like that. Maybe Mac has to concentrate and not lose focus to make his trees, but for me, it was nice to work on something and carry on a conversation at the same time.
Art & Faith is on the 2nd Saturday of the month. We eat, we pray, we make art.
Art & Faith met Saturday evening and as usual shared a wonderful meal and caught up on recent life events. We also discussed the meaning of Jesus’ scribbling in the sand and response to the woman caught in adultery and we prayed together.
Denise Hohulin gave a wonderful and unique photographic presentation on The Texture of Light. She passed around a number of photos that were so interesting. I had been looking forward for some time to see how she set these up. Denise only uses a few hand held lamps, or an open window to let in the sun for the light source. Then she uses a number of glass vases, champagne glasses, bowls and other objects to get these shots. She showed us how to manipulate the light source and the glass vessels to achieve some remarkable patterns and textured surfaces layered on textured surfaces. .
It was interesting to see how the smallest, most infinitesimal movement in the glass led to completely different and unexpected patterns. We played around and came up with some novel approaches to creating textured shadows on surfaces and walls. It was also fun to imagine an exhibition of light, darkness and shadows and what might be required to make it work. Most of all we gained a bit of insight into Denise’s creative mindset and catch up with her latest work.
Art & Faith was at the UTA Glassblowing Hotshop last Saturday evening. We received a very special invitation to watch Jon Reed and friends do what they do with hot glass. They stretched, formed, textured, blew, shaped, and reheated their glass countless times. The results were 3 gorgeous vessel created from initial blobs of molten glass.
Watching glass blowers is better than a movie. It’s a live performance with suspense, plot, drama, choreography, and great characterization. The final reveal can be shocking. We were privileged to watch 3 artists at different stages in their craft form and blow glass. When one artist was on point, the other two were busy helping behind the scenes with numerous tasks. I’ve watched videos of glassblowing before but did not appreciate the many activities that were happening “off-screen” which were vital to the success of the project. It is definitely a team sport.
Then we enjoyed some excellent pizza at Old School Pizza and Suds which is its own form of team sport.
Art & Faith met recently for black powder night. Okay, we didn’t actually use real black powder. That stuff is even more dangerous than what we used, which was synthetic black powder from the local sporting goods store. Even so, it’s incredibly difficult to find. Gun stores don’t carry it. I called 16 gun stores in the southern Dallas cities looking for any kind of synthetic black powder. Only one thought she might have some in a warehouse if I could wait a week. I couldn’t, since it was already Friday, and we had Art & Faith that Saturday evening.
So, we finally located the synthetic black powder – thanks to Veronica. She’s one of our artists and she loves to use black powder in her artwork. It’s always handy to be friends with women who know exactly where to get black powder!
It is very therapeutic to use fire. This technique uses fire to draw. It felt primal, and earthy, and good. Plus, there are some real meditative moments when you carefully shape and shift the powder on the board before lighting it up. There are lots of videos online of folks making amazing drawings with black powder. Watch them for inspiration. But, it is definitely a whole lot more fun to do it yourself. Whatever you do, don’t use the actual black powder if you happen to find any. My friend Jason, who has done a lot of black powder shooting, tells me that it is very, very dangerous. What we used was not so much. But, it’s still fire. And it’s still cool. Some day I’ll go back and finish the self-portrait. But, we had a great time and made some great memories.
As always, be safe. Don’t ever do this indoors. Always wear protective eye-wear and gloves!!!
The Confessor (self-portrait)
Oil on canvas,
30″ x 24″
This is my entry into this year’s Southwest Dallas Arts Festival which had the theme “Healed!”. In connection with spiritual and physical health and healing, I’ve been thinking about James 5, especially the two “one another’s” in verse 16. This seems to me to be encouraging confession among all of us “one another’s” as opposed to confession to a priestly class. This work was made thinking about that idea.
The Confessor and The Listener
Both Oil on canvas
Both 30″ x 24″
The painting on the left is a self-portrait, painted in late April. The painting on the right is my friend Paul and was finished around 20 years ago. I keep some of my older paintings in the stairwell in our home, so I see them every time I go up or down, which is many times a day. I have great memories of painting “Paul”, because my first art teacher and mentor was very enthusiastic about the unusual composition and how it turned out.
I think that Paul is listening to something that is very troubling. I imagine him to be on the receiving end of a confession, so he’s a perfect “Listener”, to my “Confessor”. That’s why I hung the 2 paintings in the festival exactly like this. It was also interesting since they were done so far apart. They are speaking to each other in a spiritual way (confession), but also across a couple of decades. The painting of me turned out pretty intense. I seem to be staring down my friend Paul, daring him to respond to my confession. But after I finished I reflected that confession itself, to our chosen “one another“, is a very intense and frightening idea. Perhaps the withering glare is somehow appropriate.
Artists need encouragement. One of the things I appreciate most about my artist friends in Art & Faith is how encouraging they are to each other and me personally. One of my favorite evenings is show-n-tell where we bring works that are in progress or possibly finished and get a group critique. I come away from these evenings incredibly encouraged and ready to take my next piece to the next level, or at least finish the piece I’m currently working on! It’s the thoughtful comments, and the creative insight that makes a huge difference in my working habits and my work.