The Secret Inner Workings of My Mind

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The chaos on this table is a reflection of what’s going on inside my head!

Getting something on paper is the hardest part for me.  Well, I should back up a bit.  I am making it harder on myself because I am trying to move from painting what exists (ie. still lives and landscapes) into creating my own concepts from my head.  Observation of that which is – is one thing.  Sit down with a blank piece of paper and create something from nothing –now that’s the big unknown.  The possibilities are endless.  Where do you begin?

Well for me, it takes some soul searching.  If you can make an image of anything, what does the artist choose?  You can go with what other people want, you can go with what’s trending in the industry or you can spend some time answering the question for –yourself.

I’ve spent that time.  I’ve tried all sorts of stuff.  Custom orders, reading about what sells, intuitive painting, traditional motifs…  They have all helped me get to know my likes and dislikes and what I naturally gravitate towards. So here’s my personal answer:

Flowers – because I love gardening and am enamored with nature.

Animals – and quite particularly the everyday variety I get to commune with in my yard and region.

Spirituality – I am fascinated with mysticism, trying to figure out why I am here and the secrets of the universe.

I know these to be my truth and near & dear to my heart because if I wasn’t creating art, the three items above would still be what I’d be doing.  I’m an avid gardener, animal watcher and spiritual book reader.

These three things may sound cliche. And there in lies my resistance to them. As a quote “ARTIST” I was trying to search deeper and darker and more strenuously to find the “PROFOUND” answer.  But I’ve learned,  I’m never going to be that artist that throws my bodily fluids on a canvas and equates them to the inner struggles of humanity.  Apparently I aint got that kind of talent ;)   I am an environmentalist and soul searcher, so in a gentle way I will try to shake the world.  My art will be a reflection of what I love in hopes of connecting with other people who share the same loves.  Boy that sounds so neat and tidy.  So why did it take me 7 years to answer the question???  I guess because some of us are experiential learners.  We can’t take anyone’s word for it.  We have to explore both good and bad until we can know it for ourselves.  Yes.  I was the kid that had to touch the stove to learn what hot meant!

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OK. so as an artist, I never share this part.  It’s the part where I work out my ideas.  It’s looks kind of ugly. It’s awkward and a bit embarrassing.  Most of us would rather surface a few steps down the line when the idea has taken better shape.  But what the hell is an art blog for if your not talking about the miserable parts of art too right?

For this 6 painting series, I decided I am going to work large which is about 20″ x 24″ for me.  It’s most likely going to be a combo of watercolor and gouache.  I want to have tons of flowers kind of like this past painting I did:__2019-05-08 09.31.15b

I want to add animals, mostly backyard animals.  And for the mystical part, I am going to make the backdrop a “Secret Garden”.  What the hell is a secret garden?  I have absolutely no clue.  That’s the part I have to create in my mind.  I realize the answer comes from imagining.  Imagining what it is I would actually want in my own fantasy garden.  That’s where the fun lies, but it’s also where the stress lies because I don’t have the answer to that!  I have to try a million things until they “speak” to me.

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So, being a visual person.  I cut up a bunch of 2 inch pieces of paper and I make a quick image of every darn thing I can think of that could fall into the categories I’ve laid out (Seriously there are probably a hundred tiny drawings in my envelope).  Sometimes I print out little reference images as well.  I mean who really knows what an owl talon looks like?  I take all the pieces of paper and I sit on the floor and mix and match them until a story emerges.  It’s like an intuition session.  From there I move to 8 x 10 pieces of watercolor paper.  I am working on creating a cohesive image.

Now  here is where I have never really gone before.  This next step I am asking of myself is to force myself to do at least 3- 8 x 10’s of each concept so that I really push myself to improve on the composition and relevance of every object.  I have such fast energy  which causes me to have such a short attention span that it makes this a REALLY BIG CHALLENGE.  I need to slow down, focus, stay with a subject matter for a while.  I cannot allow myself to move on… or fall down some more rabbit holes.  I need to stick with this and push myself to go further in my art.

There is something  I don’t really like that happens to me when I try to work-out an idea from my imagination.  I become like this technical illustrator.  Everything that comes to mind becomes literal. The free-wheeling, fun, colorful Mary seems to disappear and this downer technical artist comes out to play.  No offense, but that illustrator part of me is a real drag.  Blech.  

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Here is a great example of this.  This little painting came from my watercolor class I teach.  It’s from the first class of the session where I try to get all the artists to loosen up, play with the paint and not worry so much about the subject matter.

I PERSONALLY LOVE THIS PAINTING.  I mean we could go on for quite a bit about what’s wrong with it, but let me tell you what’s right.  It’s free-spirited, cheery and has a fabulous use of color.  Now look at these drawings below:

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Everything is in it’s place, but there isn’t any spontaneity.  It’s like so what, there’s an owl.  Oh that’s nice, there’s a rabbit….  Now I get it, how else was I supposed to get an animal, a floral arrangement and garden elements all into a 4 inch piece of paper?  The thing is, most of the time I wouldn’t have even made this sketch, I’d just start with a 20 x 24 piece of paper. I’d sketch out the design and paint the first thing that flowed from my pencil.  There would not be room for me to mess with the objects, play with the composition or color and I wouldn’t get to loosen up at all. I would finish at the 2nd dimension instead of extracting the concept to a 4th or 5th dimension.  Does this make sense?  This is all the stuff that’s been swirling around in my head.  Most people who are not into art-making are like “that’s nice”….yadda, yadda, blah, blah, blah go paint your pretty picture…. I guess it would be like trying to explain to me how nuclear fission works…. (please don’t try to explain to me how nuclear fission works :)

I mention this because if I am to share what I am going to be working on for the next couple of months, I want to warn you in advance that it might look like the same paintings over and over again.  It will definitely look like that to the outside world.  But inside, I am hoping to work and rework my concepts until I refine them into something entirely different then what you see on these scraps of paper.

I’m nervous. It’s scary.  I feel awkward like a freshman.  I want to bail and find something else safer to do. I am snacking, weeding, blogging. Doing everything I can to distance myself from the work.

But, I also know this is the process. And, for every detour I take, I do come back.  I do sit down.  Hell, I already have my first sketches completed!  The canvas is no longer blank.

It’s exactly the way it should be and I’m ready to get back to it!

 

 

Christmas in Rhode Island

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A few years ago I made a series of Christmas cards unique to where I live in Rhode Island.

Well, I’m at it again.  Here are my sketches.  I traced them with black ink and I’m about to start water coloring them.

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Just in time for next years! ;)

Compass School Yearly Vision Event

 

2017-10-13 08.13.18For the past few years, my kid’s school principal has asked me to help create vision boards for the school’s annual Vision Night. I tell ya, what a cool principal!  The parents write down their “wish list”, the principal listens and each year we get to look back at how far we’ve come and which goals we have attained.  This year our principal helped us accomplish an amazing feat.  Our school created a giant vegetable farm and we now have a real farmer on staff! I can’t tell you what an amazing experience my children have been blessed with. It is an amazing goal to celebrate.

Here are some of my past year visual contributions:

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Summary

Two more Summer Seaside Cards

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Two more South County, RI notecards.

My daughter just looked over my shoulder and told me the seagull haiku above has only six syllables instead of seven in it’s center verse.

Oh great. Just terrific! I’m glad I sent them all out to print a week ago!

I sure hope there are no poets or English majors hanging out on the sea wall this summer!

;)

Galilee

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This is one of my personal favorite places.  I don’t take for granted just how “New England” the port of Galilee in Narragansett is.

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Even if I’ve been there a hundred times, watching the fisherman load and unload the fishing boats is magical.  It’s one of those professions that hasn’t changed much in a century.   When my kids were babies I’d take them to wave at the boats and feed the seagulls.  I can’t tell you how many hours we passed this way.

Happy memories.

My Childhood Poem

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OK. Drumroll please…..

This is the haiku poem I wrote in the third grade!!!  Thank you to my teacher Mrs. Mylnar for introducing me to the awesomest form of poetry ever!!!

Now think about this.  When I was 9 yrs old I lived on a dead-end road out in the middle of country. I find it so cool that I have this poem as a personal piece of history to actually reflect on what I was thinking about in the third grade.

Where the green grass grows

and the hot sand burns your toes

That’s where I live best

My inner third-grader wanted to live by the beach and guess what???

 Thirty years later I -I –I live by the beach! There you go -the power of manifestation. magic. poof. The universe is too cool.

So this silly little poem is what prompted me to write haiku poems in the middle of the night. Alas none of them could ever be as good as the one from 3rd grade.  Mic drop. I should have quit while I was ahead :)

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This will be in the beach line of notecards for summer 2017.

Favorite Places

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I’ve been creating touristy notecards to sell by the beach this summer.  They represent some of my favorite experiences in South County where I live.  Brickley’s Ice Cream is a MUST.  Especially for us locals.  It’s where you go after a ball game, to celebrate a school achievement, after the beach, after dinner…you catch my drift?

There’s always a long line.  The ice cream is that good. The fun thing is, the whole town is in the line so it’s the place to be!  We hug, chat, catch up and all the kids get to run around with their friends eating ice cream.

Really, does it get any better than that? 

Oh, one more thing. Remember I mentioned not being able to sleep at 3am and writing over 20 haiku poems before finally going back to sleep that night???  There’s a little haiku homage to Brickley’s at the bottom of this card. I have to admit I thought my haikus were prolific that night. It may have been a little bit of delirium. So, if there are any skillful word-sters out there who would like to improve on my poems, I’d welcome the input!

Loosening Up

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I am beginning to work on a group of art prints to sell at Narragansett Beach this summer.  I usually start by loosening up.  I doodle and look for inspiration all over. I also pull up lots of photos of animals and buildings to make sure I am familiar with how many segments are in a lobster body or how many windows are actually on that historic building.

From there I begin sketching lay-outs and illustrations on tracing paper.  I create the image I am happy with on the tracing paper, then I scribble an entire piece of paper with graphite pencil.  The graphite-filled paper will then allow me to engrave and transfer my image to a high-quality piece of paper.  I do this because I can then start painting with a really clean image with no erase marks or damage to the paper.  The other bonus, is if I don’t like the painting, I can re-transfer my initial drawing. I also use them as reference. As the layers of paint get applied, your initial drawing is no longer there to work from. I have a copy of my original ideas.

I am close to finishing the sketching process.  From there I will start painting… I’ll post the progression.

Now to get my cat off all my papers….

Congrats My Dear Friend!

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Have you ever tried writing a book?  I have at least 4 books rolling around in my head.  I never get past page three out of complete frustration! However, my friend Jeanine, she did it and I am so darn proud of her!

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Years ago Jeanine founded a group called Rhode Island Families in Nature.  Her mission is to share her passion for the great outdoors with kids, grandparents, moms, dads and any significant other. It’s do-able, it’s accessible and it’s enjoyable.  To quote Jeanine, “People who regularly spend time outside are happier, healthier, and even smarter than those who do not. And hey, let’s face it: it’s just plain fun to get outside and play!”  Jeanine offers a monthly hike on her website.  All you have to do is show up!

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Now let me get back to the hard work part…  So first she had to write the book – kudos right there! But there is so much more. Jeanine picked the most family friendly hikes from her own experience and then set out with a GPS app to painstakingly map out all 42 trails in her book.  I went out with her a few times on this mission and I tell you she was counting how many steps from the tree until you turn left and documenting any inaccuracies in previous mapping attempts.  She checked parking, strollers, time frames, you name it.  Ok. so she got that done and then had quite  a few more hurdles.  On her own, no backing – her own money, Jeanine hired a map maker, an illustrator, an editor, a graphic designer and alas a printer!  Each process took months and months and she saw it through all by her lonesome.

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I received a text of this photo one day. To most of you this looks like a trunk full of boxes right? 

To me, this photo was filled with so much symbolism, I just love it.  I picture Jeanine  all by herself, giddy and needing to share this with someone – anyone!  I imagine when she looked at her car she must have thought ” HOLY SHIT I DID IT! This is real.There are  actual boxes of my book in my trunk!”  There will be a book launch party this weekend and a lot of celebration, but I’d imagine grasping the reality started with this trunk.

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So I say to all of you who live in NY, CT, MA and RI – think HOLIDAYS!!!  With this book you can go to a place where there are no cellphones or sirens.  It’s quiet and you are hand in hand with the people you love.  Sounds to me like a gift that will keep on giving!

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Congratulations my friend. Job well done!

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Book Launch Party:  Join us on Sunday, September 27, as we explore the northern section of the Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge and celebrate the launch of The Rhode Island Family Hiking Guide and Journal!

Sunday, September 27, 2015
1:00-3:00pm
50 Bend Road, Charlestown

Go Jeanine!

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My girlfriend Jeanine has very carefully hiked the entire state of Rhode Island, very often with her kids and many others, and compiled the perfect guide for family friendly hiking.

 

Quite fitting that she is the founder and director of Rhode Island Families in Nature!

It’s been a long time in the making and she can almost taste the fruits of her labor.

Congrats Jeanine!  I can’t wait to receive my signed copy!  Woot! Woot!

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These were other illustrations I did for the book many moons ago… everything is beginning to get finalized.  The final stages…the finish line!

You don’t have to wait for the book.  Simply go to RI Families in Nature and see where this month’s featured hike will be and if you do, tell my friend Jeanine that Mary sent ya!