Sunday redux

I apologize for being so silent. It just been too much with the work at hand (endless variations on a similar thing to finally get to the end, plus new stuff with 2-3 hour turn arounds that can really be trying). It really is quite a bit to stay on top of that pony, blog and just get the day to day resolved. I will try to be more communicative this week.
Yesterday (and I will post the pictures later) we visited Durand's Forge, the blacksmith shop and world of Durand Van Doren, an amazing artist, clever and funny person, generous host and remarkable blacksmith. He works outside of Mecklenburg in a few small buildings heated by big woodstoves, with his work, his collections, his inspirations all nailed to the wall or arranged in little story telling vignettes that depict an active brain, a wit and humor that goes with the work. He showed us gates and benches he had done on commission along with enormous groups of chandeliers and lighting for Cornell and other big institutions. But he also had a wrought iron Kissing Booth and Good Luck Bench (made from horseshoes)... There was a lovely named dog house for his little confident Jack Russell, Mick--along with all sorts of personal totems posted on the wall around Mick's abode. Duran had mini forges in the yard to the back of the shop where he teaches blacksmithing...all sorts of machines made of this and that to create small approachable forges. He had a pot of beef stew going on one of them...and kindly offered us this hospitality along with his stories and ideas. He had all sorts of fruit trees (which Kitty identified confidently, thanks to the kindness of Ian and Jackie Merwin's tutorial)) and a real live chestnut (not horse) tree with it's nuts standing proud in the spiky shells.

Durand is a man of many talents. He is a big Trumansburg Rotarian..a giver and there at the chicken barbeques, the golf events, the races, the meetings. He always gives when people need things for auctions and raffles. He also is one of the refs at our only Pro Sport in Ithaca, rollerderby with the SufferJets. He is a remarkable artist--and his world at the studio invites you into his thinking, ideas, and life. If you have a chance, or just an hour, I highly recommend you visit Durand next weekend during the second weekend of Ithaca Art Trail.

We then, visited friends in the Cayutaville area. They have recently built a studio/ house compound--with lovely porches springing off each level to overlook a spectacular valley (which yesterday with the Fall colors was dumbfoundingly beautiful). Their work space was great, and their living space, equally so...with vibrant color on the wall--unexpectedly wonderful, and the beautiful cabinetry and woodwork creating a very happy place to spend all your days. They have a wonderful, happy garden with an enclosure as happy as the parsley framed walkways, energetic nasturtium, a pineapple sage...all poetry...abutting the most perfect chicken coop with tailored black chickens happily chasing each other down one end of their run and back again. Shady Grove was with her best dog girlfriend...and enchanted by the chickens. She didnt know what to make of them. We were so honored to have a chance to visit these lovely kind people in their paradise as well. And, on such a beautiful day--with the evening sky moving from blue to purple with red edges in the sky, to shimmering gold trees. Breathtaking.

And to cap it off, we went to see Julie and Julia at Cinemopolis. Bliss..and a gumdrop to finish a wonderful day of seeing and meeting, color and light, ideas and brilliant work. What a blessing we have .


I've been thinking about chops. Not lamb chops or pork chops but the wonderful new word that means you have the licks, the chops--to do something. Essentially, you have honed skills that you have earned by working at your craft. This is what I am working on as an illustrator. With chops comes the confidence that you can do anything put forward as you have been there, done that..or at least been there kinda sorta, done that kinda sorta...but a track record and the headset to do anything. Plus, in having this experience and trust in your own work, comes an ability to put a line down and know how to think and plan as the work progresses to rescue the piece or morph it to another place. It's knowing how to get into the trance from which the work evolves and changes.

We used to say "you need to put in the time" which for me as a young designer drove me batty as I had the skills and time...and it was never enough for those I worked with. However, looking backwards at this impatience, I think the age>experience combination was to a degree just a way of pushing me back...a way of not having to manage me because chops come from being bumped around, being directed as much as having the head/hand skills to take the work someplace. There are plenty of really talented designers and illustrators that definitely have the chops but do not have the ability to see the environment they are competing in, or see where they fit on the spectrum of illustration and reality. So, time does factor into chops or chopdom...but from a hand and skill standpoint--sometimes that is inate.

I was talking to R. about my thesis. The Garden project made me afraid because of my lacking chops in this world of decorative illustration. I just didn't know where to start. Sure, I sketched and traced. Sure, I researched and developed reference. Sure, I knew what and how I wanted to do this--and everything didnt work, everything froze. However, like the Memento Mori work, the valentines are flowing. Unlike the Memento Mori work and the Syracuse vector work--these valentines are being corrected, changed, colored, critiqued, aspects redrawn, reconsidered. So, from essentially spot illustrations with both the Syracuse work and the Memento Mori work, these pieces are getting context, being considered as illustrations with a frame, a world they live in--and this fear is beginning to ebb a bit. From this work, I am getting my legs in the heavy line work (above is the starting point on an Eden inspired valentine), to thin line work, to something in between. I am thinking about cut paper (something in the past I havent tried in a serious picture making versus sketch making way) and other aspects of approaches. This current body of work is giving me life to consider the Garden of Eden presented in a less threatening way. These valentines are the right diving board from which this work will morph to the Genesis work. And the valentines morphed from the daily picture making that the Memento Mori project was. Memento Mori was just an ink approach to daily illustrations on the topic of death, memory and remembrance. It was a new image a day...never revising, never refining. It was one shot...and on to the next. There is nothing wrong with this approach, but frankly, I should revisit those images and refine 12 of them to take the sketches to illustrations. More was better for the time. Now taking the more and condensing it down, and finishing them really takes it from a random thought, to a deliberate expression.

Hey now. Sounds like I have been learning something.

Drink deep: Mark Shaw, photographer

When I hung up the phone with Murray with the fashionable butterfly girl image, I was stuck. I needed a deep drink of stylishness --just because. Murray, with his ebullient encouragement--made me retreat. Rethink and try to not be fearful of this image. You know, I have been getting scared by my pictures and get stunned into not moving on it. Not being all impulsive and fearless. I get frozen, which needs to STOP. Enough of that aside, I then started googling fashion photography just to get my head back into frivolity, beauty and excited versus frozen and afraid. I discovered Mark Shaw, fashion photographer and chronicler of the Kennedy Family. This seems to be a great review of his work and chronology. He died at 47 to all of our loss.

I hope this jazzes you up the way it does me. Mark Shaw is brilliant.