Saturday, March 31, 2012

Rust and Rain

Sunlit Rust
Mixed Media
9" x 12"

I’m in the airport waiting for my flight home. It’s raining, and most people I’ve talked to here are darn sick of it. Not me. I love it. We don’t see a lot of rain in Wrightwood. When we do, it tends to be a torrential downpour that scours tons of earth, boulders, and dead trees off the ridge behind us. Here, it’s been a steady light rain, with a glimpse of sun here and there.

The desert rains are much like ours: infrequent and full of gusto, going from dust to raging flashfloods in a matter of minutes.

The rust on these milk cans weren’t the result of a drizzle, but probably several years of pounding desert rain. This wasn’t a gentle rusting. But then the desert is rarely gentle.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Diamonds of Rust

Miner's Machine
Mixed Media
12" x 9"

Long after I'm gone and all my paintings have been disbursed through thrift stores and garage sales, I’d like to think that someone might have kept a piece or two from my Rust Period. Yes, Picasso had his blue period and I, rust. You see, lately I've been obsessed with the rainbow patina of rusty relics rescued by desert rats. 
Out at Goffs, where the old school house still stands, a band of RV-snowbirds and members of the Mojave Desert Heritage & Cultural Association volunteer their time add to or fix up the growing display of desert detritus arranged outside the museum. It has evolved from a run down building to a full-on compound with rows of cool rescued buildings, equipment, coffee pots, sewing machines and other signs of life left behind in the Mohave. 

The gates were locked when we arrived one Saturday morning to check out this interesting collection of castoffs. We studied a glass case filled with sun-bleached flyers, one of which told us the gates should have been open. We called the number "to make an appointment."

"What?! They haven’t opened the gates yet?" squawked the woman who answered the phone. "I’ll send someone right out." 

Less than a minute later four golf carts (Goffs’ carts?) manned with extremely serious senior citizens roared up, dust tails spreading out behind them (the carts, not the seniors). It took pretty near all of them to open the gate, requiring so much of their attention, not one of them responded to our "good mornings" until their mission was accomplished.

As we wandered through the rows, we came across a stamp mill that had been rebuilt by the volunteers. They fire it up every so often and it makes a tremendous noise, the docent told us. The talented volunteers are piecing together an even larger one they hope to have finished this year. By the looks of the chunks of metal lying about, it’s going to be a monster. We'll definitely go back to see it in action—I want to feel the ground shake as it stomps on ore-laden rocks.

The piece you see at the top of this post is a mix of three media. First, I laid out a foundation of values with sepia ink. Then, I added color with watercolor, and finished it off with Prismacolor pencil. I like the texture of the pencil on the watercolor paper; it works well to recreate the bloom of rust on the metal.

Friday, March 16, 2012

A Letter to My Art

Dearest Art,

I've been neglecting you lately. You've been cast aside for many reasons, one of which is Freelance, which frankly my dear, pays a little better than you. Don't fret. You are my first love. You may frustrate me at times, being the illusive ethereal, fickle you that you are, but nothing like Freelance. You release me, you relax me, and you let me be as expressive and out there as I wish.

You quietly wait for me to express the ideas and images circling around in my noggin while I wait for Photoshop to save a file the size of New Mexico. You don't judge—you just let it happen when I'm there to pick up the reins. You don't crash when I have too many paintings going at once and you never just freeze up for no reason.

Know that I miss you and hope it snows like hell this weekend so that once through my chores we can spend some time in the studio together.


PS. I do have something new to show you all, but I haven't had a chance to photograph it yet. Stay tuned.


Friday, March 2, 2012

Musings on What's Next

Towering Sycamore
11 X 14
I haven't had much time in the studio lately and it's starting to make me a little crazy. As a result, I couldn't sleep last night. I started to think about how I haven’t had time to paint and I started getting an anxious feeling in the pit of my stomach. I know—why would I be anxious about that? Not working. Not painting. Not creating and adding to my inventory—many levels of why. I'm hanging some paintings in a local bank on Saturday for a month-long exhibit. As I looked around last night to choose my pieces, I realized how small my framed inventory is these days.

So then, I had the burning urge to go up to the studio. Yep, 1:30 am and I’m thinking maybe I should get up and go paint. Not a good idea. I had plenty to do the next day and I couldn't afford to be fuzzy from lack of sleep. Eventually I drifted off and dreamt of deer with wide racks of sharp-pointed antlers running towards me.

I think some of my anxiety is that I don't know what to do next. I just know I want to do something different. I took a few minutes to look through my photos last night and I'm drawn to images of rusted junk and broken glass from the desert. We went out to Goffs a few weeks ago, a semi-ghost town where there is an old school house, a few rescued buildings, and lots of desert junk (oh and several retirees that zip around in golf carts). 

It was the desert junk that intrigued me most. Shovel blades and rusted frames of car seats, with springs spiraling out every which way. Santa Fe rail cars with ruddy peeling paint; old stamp mills from the mines, sewing machines, giant bolts, military helmets, and tractor seats. Ornate dresser pulls, broken glass in milky purples and cobalt blues—and a spilled bucket of coke-bottle-green marbles cast across the sandy soil, beaming brightly in the sunlight.

But those kinds of subjects are the paintings that people walk past with just a glance, thinking, "What the hell is that? And why on earth would I put that over my sofa?" So you see my dilemma.

I've got some new relief printing ink to try. It's a delicious burnt brown and it might just be the perfect thing for rendering rusty objects. Maybe that's where I'll go next. Even if it's not marketable. I never wanted to be an art whore anyway.

But first, we will head back to the desert for a quick visit. Revisiting the wild places where the horizon is far away, the sky is bluer-than-blue, and the Mud Hills, which despite the drab name will show us their rich color and texture. A rainbow of layers upon layers of ancient sediments and stones pressed and folded and weathered and twisted into soothing stripes of celery, sage, cocoa, cinnamon, cumin, and cream.

We'll explore colorful canyons, sit by the fire, take in the night sky's show of stars, and if the wind Gods favor us, sleep the peaceful sleep the desert brings during its moments of quiet calm.