October 13, 2012

Week 2 at Constance Saltonstall Art Colony: Chance of Hail

Deer Me, This Can't Be. 9 x 12, vine charcoal

Today in Ellis Hollow the weather proved to be a plein air painter's dilemma. Staccato sky improv— rainsunovercast-nimbusgraycloudsun—bird in flight—cirrussunshade. By 3 p.m. I felt cooped up (probably like those pheasants down the street feel in their  *chicken goggles) so out I ventured—into the windy range, across fields—to free roam. 
Tastes Like Chicken

I wandered. I found Discoveries in the cat tails. Where are those infamous leeches in October? The frogs are silent. This pond is very sheltered compared to 16 years ago. Just as well, I love cat tails and bull frogs. Chirps yesterday. Squarish hoof prints along water's edge. Deer.
Clouds Above & Below. 
But today I am not a *Student of Clouds
(Reference Billy Collins on Constable's work)

Discovery 1, 2 (10.12.12).  
small, charcoal, conte
I move on. Around the field, hop over puddle and pause, look back, consider a sketch, nope...furiously fleeting light. There it is. Yes. Over there, by the horses who flip-flop itch-scratch on the field. Or are they expressing horse joy like falling to the ground from laughing so solar-plexus hard? It is clear to me; 
i know not the language of horses. I balance on my travel tripod above the pond. It is not the water that attracts. Behold, that slime color—dull green—and its demarcating straight-edge. THis lures me: lentil soup meets ruler. Not sure what will become of it, snared nonetheless.
Discovery 3,4, 5 (10.12.12).
 In process. smaller still. charcoal, conte

Some things are not quite right. Still, they are. Unapologetic  in their being. This is what is breaking through my work. The deer resting (top). This is not normal, is it? The squirrel who paused and looked back at me like he'd just been busted trying to sneak back to his room. And those birds who fly into my windows like it is some prehistoric fledge week—an open mic. slam from the poems of mourning doves and mocking birds. The torquing of nature—animals and the land. Open field becomes woods. Pond grows to wetland. Invasive vine with extensive passport grabbing at a better view like an anaconda around Big Ben.

Square Pond (detail in process)  (10.12.12).
8 x 10-ish. charcoal, conte

*A thank you to David Coester for the chicken specs.

All images except for the "Anti-Pixs" are my own.


Student of Clouds
by Billy Collins

The emotion is to be found in clouds,
not in the green solids of the sloping hills
or even in the gray signatures of rivers,
according to Constable, who was a student of clouds
and filled shelves of notebooks with their motion,
their lofty gesturing and sudden implication of weather.

Outdoor, he must have looked up thousands of times,
his pencil trying to keep pace with their high voyaging
and the silent commotion of the eddying and flow.
Clouds would move beyond the outlines he would draw
as they moved within themselves, tumbling into their centers
and swirling off at the burning edges in vapors
to dissipate into the universal blue of the sky.

In photographs we can stop all this movement now
long enough to tag them with their Latin names.
Cirrus, nimbus, stratocumulus -
dizzying, romantic, authoritarian -
they bear their titles over the schoolhouses below
where their shapes and meanings are memorized.

High on the soft blue canvases of Constable
they are stuck in pigment but his clouds appear
to be moving still in the wind of his brush,
inching out of England and the nineteenth century
and sailing over these meadows where I am walking,
bareheaded beneath the cupola of motion,
my thoughts arranged like paint on a high blue ceiling.

October 10, 2012

Week 1 at Constance Saltonstall Art Colony: Headbangers

This robin flew into the studio window. Poor feller, fortunate me. 
(charcoal on paper, 9 x 11 inches, 10.10.12)

A week ago today I arrived at the Constance Saltonstall Art Colony in Ellis Hollow, Ithaca, NY.  Attending artists' retreats can expose one's weaknesses and strengths, change one's perceptions and shift incoming expectations ... among many other quips of being a woodsyflower.

In jest I title this first retreat week, An Extrovert in Captivity. Not really. But it has challenged me to adjust to silence, to freedom, to restraint in materials. 

Concerning "freedom,"  I have nothing to pit what I hope to accomplish against what must be done, if anything at all. Where do these intangible pressures come from—not these woods. Not the bird in beak-meets-glass shock. 

At times, I accomplish things throughout my life by means of a term I coined "productive procrastination." This is when I select to work on something than generally needs to be done instead of diving in to what must be done. Regardless of where they fall into line—or out of, they both get completed on time. I am productively procrastinating here, as well, even with freedom to do/make whatever I choose. So to my incoming ideals—to the compost pile! 

I came to this retreat with a goal—to paint larger. To this end I limited my supplies as a fighting tactic. Alas. So when I feel like banging my head against the quiet walls of blank canvases....what do I do? Draw. And what have I found? Drawing gets me out of the mud. The painterly mud. I will paint but for now...

I plunked down along the gravel road (no traffic up here) and made some palm sketches (larger than thumbnail sketches, about the size of my palm). Today I began the bird drawing (above)...Birds here...they fly into the windows despite the deterring stickers. The sound arrests.

(watersoluble pencil fasties (1-2 minute compositions)