Sunday, March 12, 2017

"No Silent Springs" (Rachel Carson)"

“But man is a part of nature, 
and his war against nature 
is inevitably a war against himself....”
― Rachel Carson

My tribute to Rachel Carson and her book, 'Silent Spring'

"No Silent Springs
(Rachel Carson)"

I recently watched the PBS 'American Experience episode' regarding the author and naturalist, Rachel Carson, about her life's work.  While I knew a little about her background, the documentary went into great detail and was very educational.  I learned much from watching it, and also found myself highly moved. 

Oils on a 7x9 wood plaque

In an era when Nature was seen as a thing necessary for Mankind to dominate, exploit, intercept and control, Rachel Carson's message firmly challenged that prevailing Mid-Century notion.  While the attitudes of the time reflected a belief that humans were somehow separate and apart from the natural world, Carson argued instead that mankind is actually an integral part of the dynamism of Nature, and that our human activities potentially have more far-reaching repercussions and impacts than we might even be aware of.  Her book, 'Silent Spring', specifically questioned the widespread use of chemical pesticides, while calling attention to the negative impacts such wholesale application had upon the environment and animal life -- and ultimately, upon ourselves.   'Silent Spring' became a best seller and brought much public awareness to the concept of environmental conservation.  Her influential writings and moving testimonies helped awaken a global cause, and are generally credited with giving rise and advancement to our modern environmental movement.

I was able to use a small wooden plaque purchased 2nd-hand from our local I.D.E.A. Store

As such, when looking for a subject to paint for this month's EBSQ "Awakening" online exhibit, Rachel Carson came to mind immediately.  Her influence awakened an entire generation. The title of the book, 'Silent Spring', refers to the scenario of an absence of song birds, as they perish en mass from heavy pesticide exposure. Robins in particular are susceptible to the effects of industrial chemicals and pesticides building up in the food chain -- so a robin seemed a likely symbol.  There is also the matter of Rachel Carson having died relatively young (in her 50's) from aggressive breast cancer.  As a survivor of breast cancer myself, I hated to learn about how she likely suffered in her illness. Oncology treatments were rudimentary at best back then, harsh and commonly ineffective, and doctors often patronizing.   We'll never know if Rachel Carson's own cancer was in any way environmentally triggered.  But what if is was...?  Then somehow her message feels even all-the-more weighty to me. 

On my easel in progress....

And so, while I'm entering this piece into the March EBSQ "Awareness" online art exhibit, I was also able to hang it in a local, themed art show this month, entitled "Resist".  What comes to mind when you think of Resistance....?  Rachel Carson did go on to experience a lot of negative fall-out from her writings and opinions -- many folks, including those in the farming industry and other corporate interests, looked to discredit her work and smear her reputation.   They resisted her environmental message -- while she in turn intrepidly resisted their public pressure and attempts to keep her quiet.....

Here's a photo of my entry, "No Silent Springs (Rachel Carson)" hanging in the local "Resist" show....

My Rachel Carson tribute hanging in the Resist show at our local Independent Media Center

RIP, Rachel Carson.  
Here's to no silent springs.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

My White/Orwell Tribute for EBSQ's February Online Exhibit: 'Opposites'

"Animal Web": oils upon a 10x12 handmade canvas using a re-purposed frame

Yesterday was the last day of the month of February, which meant the deadline for the EBSQ online exhibit, "Opposites".  I entered last night with this little piece, a tribute to two much beloved pig story authors, EB White, and George Orwell.  I've entitled it, "Animal Web", and it is my interpretation of the theme, 'Opposites'....

EB White and George Orwell, With Their Pigs.

The following is my entry's artist statement over at EBSQ:

"Animal Web: A Tribute To Authors,
EB White and George Orwell":

My entry for the February 2017 EBSQ online "Opposites" exhibit features a whimsical little fantasy piece painted in loving tribute to two of my favorite authors:  EB White, of 'Charlotte's Web', and George Orwell, of "Animal Farm".  Both authors were talented, highly esteemed, caucasion, of similar age (born only a few years apart), and writers of fiction. Both wrote sweeping, captivating tales regarding farms -- specifically featuring complex and endearing characters who happened to be pigs.  However, the similarities between the two men and their fiction likely mostly ends there -- and not only because one was American and the other British.  Both used their porcine protagonists to weaves two very different tales indeed.  EB White's beloved "Charlotte's Web" narrates the story of unity, cooperation, and friendship -- plus what I always personally interpreted as strong, optimistic message as to the value of Nature, and of animals, and of anti-cruelty in general.  And all within the sweet setting of a peacefully idyllic, mid-century farmstead.   George Orwell's "Animal Farm", however, though also set against the backdrop of a picturesque farmstead, spins a very opposing narrative.  Orwell used his setting and plot to outline an allegorical and cautionary story about the rise of Soviet communism and of the brutal dictatorship of Joseph Stalin.  His pigs are far from sweet, passive characters -- they are highly manipulative creatures who get up to some very nasty things.  The intimidate and oppress their fellow farm-mates ("All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others").  They threaten and cajole, assail and even engage in violence -- a much darker yarn for sure.   "Charlotte's Web" and "Animal Farm", two classic and much beloved modern-day fables about intrepid pigs living on farms, that really couldn't be more 'opposite'....

(Note:  In the spirit of creative re-use, this painting support was hand-fashioned using a re-purposed old 10x12 wood frame. I like to upcycle previously used second-hand materials that might otherwise make their way to the landfill into my creative process in lieu of new purchases whenever applicable)....

This is my 2nd in a series of tributes to George Orwell.  You can find my previous piece here...

Side View

This painting will soon be making it's way across the country as a fun project commissioned by a White and Orwell fan.  Very thankful for lots of freelance work at present, with more to write about soon....


Friday, February 24, 2017

My Entry For February's Nibblefest: Buster Keaton Tribute.

 "Railroads are a great prop. 
You can do some awful wild things with railroads."
~Buster Keaton

Tribute portrait of Buster Keaton

What's this...?  
Nibblefest Art Contest time again already? 

I always say that February feels like the longest month of the year, despite it actually being the shortest month of the year.  I suppose it's because usually by this time Winter starts feeling tiresome and relentless, with the promise of Spring a very welcome change indeed.  And so the days of February typically stretch on.  And on.  

 Not so this time around though.  February has zipped right on by before I even had a chance to catch my breath.  It helps that I have a lot of freelance work keeping me on my toes right now.  Nevertheless I did still manage to enter this month's Nibblefest Art Contest.  February's theme is "Better Late Than Never", which is a chance to revisit any monthly theme from 2016.  I somehow missed September 2016's "Balancing Act", so that's the one I chose.   And so I considered and rejected several potential  'Balancing Act' concepts before settling on this one.  An ode to Swan Lake or some other ballet classic was on the table briefly, as was a possible tribute to Harry Houdini.  Eh, I did like these ideas and might want to explore them further someday.  But for now they've been filed away, and I concentrated instead on the late/great slapstick genius of acrobatic silent film balancing acts, Mr. Buster Keaton....:

Oils on 6x10 Wooden Plaque

The following is my Nibblefest auction description...:

"Buster Keaton"

This is my entry for this month's Nibblefest Art Contest (NFAC), the theme for February being 'Better Late Than Never", in which we get to pick a theme we missed in 2016. I missed last Sept's "Balancing Act", so I chose to do a portrait in tribute to the classic vintage film star, Buster Keaton. Painted in oils upon a 6"x 10" upcycled wood plaque, this unique original is signed and ready to hang.  

Buster Keaton, my entry for the theme "Balancing Act"

 (Note to the winning bidder: As per the nature of oil paints, this piece may need just a little wee extra time (up to a week) to fully cure/dry before being safely shipped to its new home).  

"The Great Stone Face", In Progress....

 (Also to note: Just so the new owner is not too surprised, they will find a 'gingerbread man' cut-out (see photos) on the backside of this piece (which was originally the front of the plaque before I repurposed it. Hey, 2-for-1...! )   

I missed the theme "Balancing Act" back in September, so I was happy for the chance to try again. I chose to paint the late, great silent film star, Buster Keaton, because he was so well known for his physical comedy, or Slapstick. He threw himself around constantly in his movies, performing ever increasingly complicated acrobatic stunts -- at times downright dangerous ones...!  Often involving automobiles and/or trains -- it was a 'balancing act' for sure with all the fined-tuned timing it surely took to pull off. And always accompanied by the most deadpan expression, earning himself the nickname, "The Great Stone face".


We are lucky to have a really neat and unique non-profit here in my town, called The I.D.E.A. Store -- a small 2nd hand shop specifically intended for the re-use and re-purpose of various and diverse arts/crafts odds and ends.  The store accepts donations of used materials and supplies of all ilk -- unwanted assorted sundry bits and pieces that might likely otherwise be destined for the landfill.  Because one person's trash is other one's treasure!  The shop offers these donated items cheaply to the public, with proceeds going to our local school district.  Many years ago I wrote here in my blog about my own personal moratorium against the purchasing of new art supplies, whenever I might be able to avoid it, in favor instead of recycling or up-cycling as often as I can in my creative process.  Obvious exceptions to this over the years have included new paint and brushes -- though now The I.D.E.A. Store can sometimes help even with that as well, managing as I have to occasionally find acrylic and oil paint tubes in decent condition and even a few gently used paintbrushes.  I found a wee table top easel that I was in the market for and that I adore and utilize constantly. I also make it a habit to regularly check for the wooden plaques I so love to hoard -- and have scored many there, including this sweet little 6 x 10 incher I've used here for my Buster Keaton tribute.  The original 'front' of this plaque featured an interesting little cut-out gingerbread man.  I have painted upon what was apparently the 'back' (which is now the 'front') -- so the winning bidder will discover this little gem when they turn Mr. Keaton over....:

A sweet little Gingerbread Man on the back.  Bonus!
 In any case, I really love our little I.D.E.A. Store, and wish every community could have one (maybe someday as this up-cycling trend becomes increasingly popular) -- so handy, and helpful too for keeping a lot of random homeless bits and bobs out of our local waste stream....

Mr. Buster Keaton upon a 6x10 upcycled wood plaque

Friday, February 10, 2017

My Kafka Tribute for EBSQ's January Exhibit Theme: 'Metamorphosis'

"I cannot make you understand.
I cannot make anyone understand what is happening inside me.
I cannot even explain it to myself..."

~Franz Kafka, "The Metamorphosis"

I entered the EBSQ "Metamorphosis" exhibit with this little tribute portrait of Franz Kafka -- because please, "Metamorphosis"...?

What else could it possibly be but Kafka...?


'Metamorphosis' In-Progress Photo

The following is my statement over at EBSQ:

My entry for the "Metamorphosis" exhibit features a small portrait painted in tribute to Mr. Franz Kafka, author of the 1915 novella, "The Metamorphosis".  Mr. Kafka gazes steadily out to us, his head held protectively within the pinchers of an extraordinary fantasy insect. 

When contemplating a subject for this month's theme, but of course this classic tome was one of the first things to come to mind.  For many of us, myself included, "The Metamorphosis" was required reading in school -- a tale of woe about a young man who unwillingly and inexplicably metamorphosizes into a huge and fearsome-looking insect, and how this unusual and unfortunate circumstance negatively impacts his life, as well as the lives of his family, who go on to ultimately reject him in his given state.  Throughout his long and drawn-out ordeal, the young man/insect is stuck within his house, unable to leave the four walls of his room for fear of public reaction to his condition. Hence I felt this little segment of found, wooden picket fencing that I used for my painting support an especially good fit for this project, being as that it is rather "house shaped" at that.  And while I don't want to include any spoilers of the story here to those who haven't read it, suffice it to say the protagonist does not come to a good end by the last chapter of the book, hence we have as part of the insect's body a wee painted skull. 

So let this be a warning to all, shall we....?  Please try not to transform randomly while sleeping into big creepy insects, if you can at all avoid it.....


Happy to say that my entry won "Member's Choice" (1st Place) in the 'Metamorphosis' show, yay!  This involves a cash prize -- thanks so much, EBSQ...!   (Plus I have plans to hang this locally, at a cafe here in town that has put out the call for original art).  

Thursday, January 26, 2017

'Masquerade', My Entry For the January Nibblefest Theme, "Costume Cat"

 It's Nibblefest Art Contest week.

January's theme is 'Costume Cat':

My entry:

 Portrait of Marie Antoinette (with a cat mask), oil on 5x14 wooden plaque

My dear lucky daughter recently returned home from a fantastic trip overseas, with stopovers in several European cities.  One of the highlights was a stay in Paris, France -- complete with a visit to Versailles.....

My daughter in the Hall of Mirrors, at Versailles. So opulent! 

The many stories and pictures that my daughter shared of her travels re-awakened an ongoing fascination I have in French history.  And so, as usually happens when an interest of mine gets triggered like this, I have found myself turning to Youtube and Amazon Prime for documentaries and programs about Versailles and the French Revolution to fire up and take in as I worked on various projects.

What a captivating era of history.  So many extremes.  Rich and poor.  Light and dark.  Happy and Sad.  The customs. The manners.  The politics. The fashions. The hairstyles. The lifestyles.  Incredible opulence, and most of it so very over the top....!

I was ruminating upon all of this when it came time to figure out a subject for this month's Nibblefest Art Contest theme of "Costume Cat". 

"Masquerade", painted in oils on a 5x14 wood plaque with beveled corners

It's not the first time I've painted a French Rococo-inspired portrait.  A few years back I was commissioned by our local ballet company to paint a large, 8' foot tall wooden cut-out of The Nutcracker's "Mother Ginger" (AKA: Marie Antoinette) for them to use at a fancy gala event they were hosting at the time (as I wrote about in this previous post).... 

8 Foot Tall "Mother Ginger", a popular Nutcracker Ballet character

She was so large I had to work on her on my front veranda.  I'm glad my old-house porch has a roof....:

"Mother Ginger" (AKA Marie Antoinette) in progress. Rather a saucy pose, I know....!

I do love the size contrast between these two rather similar pieces -- it would have been fun to photograph them together.

The Queen in Happier Days

My auction description...:

This is my entry for this month's Nibblefest Art Contest (NFAC), the theme for January being 'Costume Cat'.  Painted in oils upon a 5"x 14" wooden plaque with interesting beveled corners, this piece features a portrait of Marie Antoinette, holding a cat mask -- a unique original that is signed and ready to hang.  Perfect for your 'Shabby Chic' interior!   (Note to the winning bidder: As per the nature of oil paints, this piece may need just a little wee extra time (up to a week) to fully cure/dry before being safely shipped to its new home).   

When fishing about for subject matter for this month's Nibblefest theme of 'Costume Cat', I was inspired my daughter's recent trip to Europe, which included a visit to Versailles.   Harboring a long fascination of all things Baroque and Rococo, upon seeing my daughter's traveling photos and hearing her tales, I found that old interested rekindled.  And so we have here the Queen herself, Marie Antoinette, depicted in happier days before the revolution fervor of her time swept her up into history.....

 Here's hoping you enjoy my Nibblefest entry this month as much as I did painting it...!