"The true painter strives to paint what can only be seen through his world." ~André Malraux

After a year of intermittant "painter's block"  I am working again in my studio, and feeling in a tentative positive state. Painting is a solitary activity, and as artists, we are often working in a vacuum. Unless we have a show hanging, reaction to the work is minimal. With several pieces underway, I decided that perhaps if I write about what I am doing or am attempting to do, it might act somewhat as a muse for me as well as give me some feedback on the work I am creating -- hence the establishment of this blog. 

As for the blog title, traditional, representational painting is a language for expressing what’s visible. But I feel my work is the most successful, and most interesting, when focused on things not entirely visible. I paint what I see but also what I sense and feel by utilizing my interior and unseen world --- in other words, the invisible world. Plein air work or  studio work from photographs are only touchstones or landmarks which guide me to other inner spaces. By so doing, I find that I am pushing the boundaries between representational and abstract work.

You can enlarge the images in this blog by clicking on them.

Oct 23, 2011

Commissions: A Love-Hate Relationship

As long as there have been artists trying to earn a living with their work, there have been collectors and patrons eager to commission art that speaks directly to their own tastes and preferences, and not to the artist's.  For that reason, and because many artists feel a real sense of restriction when dealing with external guidelines outside their own internal  creative processes, we often have a love- hate relationship with commissions.

The first commission I ever had was when I was about 13. The father of children I baby sat for knew I was taking oil painting lessons, and asked me to copy a Modigliani for him. I dutifully did (and began my life-long love affair with Modi!) He in turn actually paid me money, I forget how much, certainly not much, but I was thrilled: it was my very first sale. And in high school, my boyfriend asked me to make him a painting of the woods, with a moose by a stream. And I did, for free because I loved him, and often wonder whatever happened to it after I broke up with him three years later. For my grandfather I did a man fishing in a stream which he loved and I loved making it for him.

In the eighties, when I got seriously back to painting after the kids were in school, I had a very successful solo show in Newark, NJ. An acquaintance, who had bought a 36" square painting of an oversized, abstracted rose at the opening, asked me if I would make a companion for it, in the same colors. I thought about it, and realized it was not something I could do. My large roses were all painted and titled with ee cummings poetry as my muse (see example below), and came from deep within my psyche. I could not paint one to order, and so I lost a sale.

"Palace Intricate"  36 x 36  NFS   

And since then, other than portraits, I have avoided commissions as much as I can.   I have done many commissioned portraits, see example left and in earlier postings, which is a slightly different thing, but also a bit restrictive creatively, or perhaps a lot restrictive. I have had a fair amount of success with the portraits, but have grown tired of doing them, although I still will do it because once into them, I do get a certain amount of enjoyment out of the process.)

A few years ago, a very close friend whose summer home we visit every year on Lake George, asked me if I would do a painting of their house which they could have back home in Virginia during the year. I said yes, and then spent the next two years suffering terrible guilt because I could not do it. I tried, over and over again, but working from the photos I took was just not working, and I honestly believe it was because the painting was not coming from inside. I finally finished it this summer, and breathed a deep, deep sigh of relief. The photo below is a bit fuzzy, but it now hangs happily in Virginia.
Malovany Home, Lake George 

I would LIKE to be able to do commissions, because it is a nice way to earn some extra money, AND to make your customers happy. But I find it so difficult, not only emotionally, but while technically attempting the work in the studio. It reminds me of why I did not major in art at Skidmore: I told my mother I did not want art to ever become WORK for me. I wanted to keep my creation of art  forever as a joy. 

I don't know if any of this makes sense to you, but it does to me. And right now I have no company coming, and no commissions due, so inbetween water aerobics, I plan to spend a lot of time in the studio this week!

Oct 1, 2011

The Disappearing Month and Disappeared Days from Long Ago.

My readers, all 5 of you, must be wondering what happened to this blogger. Life happened, basically, and I found I had little time to paint, or to blog. The end of August found us, and the two Pulis, off to Lake George to visit old high school friends just the day after our wonderful 10 day Nantucket idyll with our son and family. (I do not have any of the photos from that trip on my computer.) Finally home, we cleaned up the garden, and enjoyed the end of summer, so eloquently captured in this poem.

The Round 

by Stanley Kunitz

Light splashed this morning
on the shell-pink anemones
swaying on their tall stems;
down blue-spiked veronica
light flowed in rivulets
over the humps of the honeybees;
this morning I saw light kiss
the silk of the roses
in their second flowering,
my late bloomers
flushed with their brandy.
A curious gladness shook me.
So I have shut the doors of my house,
so I have trudged downstairs to my cell,
so I am sitting in semi-dark
hunched over my desk
with nothing for a view
to tempt me
but a bloated compost heap,
steamy old stinkpile,
under my window;
and I pick my notebook up
and I start to read aloud
and still-wet words I scribbled
on the blotted page:
"Light splashed..."

I can scarcely wait till tomorrow
when a new life begins for me,
as it does each day,
as it does each day.

And then came Irene, which was a catastrophe here in poor little Vermont. Being high on a hill, and having a reliable generator, personally we were fine, but not our little village. Our neighbors' driveway was in the road, leaving them with a Grand Canyon-esque driveway. Homes were flooded, bridges broken. Here are some shots of our road:

Rt. 132 from Sharon to South Strafford.
We were stranded for a few days, but before long they got one lane open on this country road with a temporary traffic light in operation. We are hoping they can fix it, and the many, many other roads and bridges in town and all over central and southern Vermont which need it before the snow flies. If Eric Cantor has his way, I guess it will not happen.

I am so incredibly impressed by the way Vermnonters rallied together to help each other in a million ways. We relied on a town internet site and a hastily established Facebook site to find out what was going on, what roads were open, who needed help where, etc. The big excitement was when government helicopters arrived with emergency food and water for stranded Straffordites. Seeing the normally bucolic, lazy brooks, streams and the Ompoponoosuc River in a frenzied rage was astonishing. We felt as if we were living in the middle of a newsreel... and in fact, we were.

And September was a blur.
We were away until the 12th, mostly at Long Beach Island, Barnegat Light to be specific, where we have gone for the last five or six years. Going to LBI has become an homage to my past --  it is the island where I spent part of every summer from the time I was 10 until we moved to Vermont when the family oceanfront home in Loveladies was sold. Some of the best memories from my childhood and  adulthood are of family times at Loveladies.
I was an only child, and spending time with my cousins at the shore every summer was pure joy. That's me in the center, in 1952, chin on the old rubber raft, squinting into the sun.

My uncles' first and second houses spoke of home to me more than anywhere else in my adult years, because I could not go to any of my other childhood homes. This one still existed, exactly as it had always been,  until I was 55.
The vintage 50's house had pink asbestos shingles and a gleaming white roof, built after my Uncle had been to Bermuda. It was filled with the Heywood Wakefield furniture that was so popular at that time, and would be worth a fortune today. Back then, there were almost no other houses on the beach. Circa 1952.
 When my Uncle Ben died and the house which he had built in front of the Pink House in 1972 was sold (and eventually torn down) my heart broke and it was years before I could bear to go back to LBI. But eventually the pull was too strong, and we found a funny little house right on the ocean to rent in Barnegat, the northernmost town on the island, and the one least spoiled by the "tear-down and build-up-a-McMansion-beach-house" mentality. Since my daughter and family always join us for at least some of the time, I guess we are building some new memories, although rather than a long meandering summer, we have only a week.
Our little grand boy and empty beach, early September.
 There is no sand like the soft white sand on LBI, and nowhere else smells as good. When our grandson Nate, age 5, first got out of the car he exclaimed "I smell the ocean!" and he had to go there IMMEDIATELY. I know the feeling, oh I know the feeling.

This year, one day I took some photos with my i-phone of the patterns and textures on the water's edge for future abstracted paintings of just that which I can take to Nantucket next year. (I have been unable to locate a really good gallery on LBI.) 

So summer, is over. I knew it the last day on the beach, with some drifting mist and a hint of coolness in the air, and the sanderlings and other peeps rushing back and forth by water's edge. The gulls were reclaiming the beach, and I knew it was time to go home, time to get back to work.

 I have a lot to do this fall and winter in the studio--- Sedona, Italy, and Beach works. Stay tuned.

But as the season shifts up here, and my Vermont landscape views out the window and off the decks are magically colorized, I am sure I will be doing some October work as well. I took the painting below done in another October to a show in Lyme this month.
"October Mists"  oil on canvas currently at Long River Gallery in Lyme, NH     $900