Saturday, October 31, 2009

Litany of Saints

I had not had a chance to check in with The Anchoress all day until now. She has a great post on the Litany of Saints. I'm linking it but will not comment simply because I'm terribly sleepy. Suffice it to say for now that I LOVE THE LITANY OF SAINTS!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Paintings for the Season!

Just took a day trip to Iowa and back! That's right, we left the house early Monday morning, drove through much drain and fog, arrived in Iowa at sundown, took care of some business for which the trip was taken, turned our diesel truck around and headed homeward. No, we didn't drive around the clock. About 1:30AM, Tuesday, we decided it was time to take a snooze. We found a Wal-Mart parking lot, pulled next to some truckers (the Big Boys as called by KDM, AKA my hubby), spread out the two blankets we had packed, positioned ourselves as comfortable as we could manage inside the non-extended cab, with raindrops hitting the roof and windows, we slowly drifted into the ZZZ land.

Ok, I really didn't set out writing about the trip, although I REALLY, REALLY would like to write about the thousand of things percolated through my mind, hyped up by the colors which filled my eyes, and the epiphanies prompted by the rosaries. I just don't have the time yet. Don't ask me where my time has gone. I either don't have the answer, or if I did, all you need is see my sheepish face.

Since I can't write much, I'll just post a few paintings I made a couple of years ago. The current weathers are so similar to the ones I braved while painting these. So here, if I may be so self-important as to presume someone looking in on my little nook, enjoy the pictures, and step into the mood of the season!

Have yourself a very daring and happy, All-Saints Day weekend!

Approaching Storm, oil on rag paper, 16"x20", 2007 (Private Collection)
Whisper: hay pasture of our farm, painted on a cold, autumn day. My fingers were stiff and my nose running from the cold air. Had to fold quickly as the looming storm threatened to topple my easel.

Pasture with Tickleweed, oil on rag paper, 16"x20", 2007 (Private Collection)
Whisper: same hay pasture on more serene day

Trees Near the Pond, oil on rag paper, 16"x20", 2007 (Private Collection)

Cold Pond, oil on rag paer, 16"x20", 2007
Whisper: pond in the "side pasture" near my house; it was a COLD day, that's it.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Brand New Self-portrait

Here's the new self-portrait - fresh off the easel, wet paint and all. It took me about 12 hours to finish, and probably is my best under the pressure of a deadline: the opening of a group show next Sunday.

Although I seldom include narratives in my work, I'm not averse to sprinkling a few biographical hints or self-references here and there. I certainly felt justified to do so in a self-portrait. So look for the two books of considerable influence in my overall artistic thinking: The Habit of Being, letters by Flannery O'Connor, and Art in Its Own Terms, a collection of essays by Fairfield Porter. The latter is especially apropos with Porter's self portrait on its cover. Then there's my Chesterton coffee mug handsomely sporting the likeness of the Big Man and the quote "Daybreak is a never-ending glory...getting out of bed is a never-ending nuisance." Well, neither likeness nor quote is clearly seen in my painting, but then, the hint isn't intended for the uninitiated in the first place.

Next time I will write more about the creation of the portrait, e.g. the formal choices and arrangements, etc. For now I have to get out of here: will be traveling in a few hours - you know how it is, the pre-travel chaos.
Till next time...

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Coincidental Number 1

The way seemingly disparate things run into and fall in with each other has always held me in fascination. Here I am, reading The Strange Necessity by Rebecca West, and found myself bumping heads with Saint Teresa of Avila, the subject of a film which I watched on EWTN last night, being played in observation of the saint's feast day on October 15.

West was talking about James Joyce and his monumental Ulysses, of which she's both extraordinarily perceptive and critical. She affirms Joyce's power of exquisite prose and forcible use of patterns, but brutally critical of his sentimentality. In a passage discussing art's power of bridging parts to whole, of uniting ordinary, individual experiences to an art of which one feels at best indifferent, I read the following (the running of sentences is a characteristic I find visually disorienting, but so is in G. K. Chesterton. Theirs are dense stuff, stuff unfriendly to us creatures of these days of ours):

"Now I begin to be reminded of something: of a realization that came to me once when I was reading in the mystical writings of St. Teresa of Avila. I had often wondered in reading her life, and the lives of other saints, how those who had been visited by Christ himself and had had wisdom put into their hands like an open book could submit to the supervisions of confessors and investigators and bishops and cardinals, and should show themselves such eager and humble suppliants for the approval of the Church. What need for anything but one's own cell and a subjugated priest to give one the sacraments, when one's own ecstasy had brought one the Godhead Itself? But this half-page of St. Teresa's writing gave me the clue, made me perceive that in the Church was such a confirmation of her individual experience as amounted to its infinite multiplication: that the visit of Christ, the presentation of wisdom, are beneficences directed to the highly personal part of the individual, but in the collective experiences of all the other children of the Church, there is proof that the tide of the Godhead can rise higher and higher till it swamps not only a saint's cell but all the life there is, that the universe is conquerable by delight, that delight is its destiny, that some day there will be no place for pain, and that part of the individual which partakes of continuity with the rest of the universe rejoices in the salvation of it substance. For just this same purpose of obtaining confirmation of my personal experience I cross this bridge in my mind between the things that are factually related to me and the things that are factually unrelated to me."

I did not expect to read that. I had read somewhere that West briefly converted to Catholicism then dropped out. That's not what interests me. What fascinates me about her tonight is the same reason I bought her book: her uncannily perception for complex art. Her forceful personality and confidence shine through every line. She feels no need to disguise her woman's voice. She lets nothing get in her way of unfolding, unraveling the labyrinthine undergrounds of human artifice. Not even the need to be modern bogs her down. She's a woman, a force, an original.

And I am all the richer for reading her.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

All the Roses

I painted this picture a few years ago for a silent auction at our parish's annual fundraiser. I didn't know what to give them at first, but thought that people may enjoy seeing something Catholic in the picture. I'm not a painter who uses symbolism or other overtly literary devices in my work, so I really didn't know how to paint a "religious" picture. The only true devotional art, in my opinion, is the practice of iconography. I have come to love the radiant icons of both the Western and Eastern traditions, but the awe I feel toward them almost forbids me to even think about approaching it with my profane mind and hand.

Whisper: Yes, that IS a Crown Royal bottle you're seeing to the right of, behind the statue.

Make a long story short, I did what I knew to do: I painted a still life. My husband and I had bought a marble figurine of Mary and the Baby Jesus not long before. We both fell in love with it at first sight: the sculpture is entirely white with a matte finish. Mary looks true to her age according to Tradition: a fourteen or fifteen year old girl in her chaste youthfulness. The intimacy between Mother and Son is palpable but not in the least sentimental. It became a focal point when we prayed the rosary in the mornings.

I clipped all the healthy looking roses, buds and all, from our little flower and herb garden, brought them in, planted them in vases and bottles at hand, set them up around the Mary statue on the dinning table, and started painting. I didn't push any emotions, because the only emotion I felt was joy. I may be embellishing memory, but I think I even hummed a off-key (what else?) hum.

As far as I'm concerned, it's not a "religious" artwork, it's not even devotional. It's a little still life, made in joyous colors and brushwork.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Not-your-ordinary-everyday-Ramen Noodle Soup

Looking for something quick and easy for supper, I settled on the tried and true Ramen noodle soup. I had about two dozens of packages in 3 flavors: shrimp, chicken, and Oriental. I decided to go with the Oriental. When I opened the little packet of seasoning, curiosity set in: the powery substance looked no different from the other flavors, so what makes it Oriental? I held the opened packet up to my nose, and smelled ginger. Ginger! Right there and then I had an on-the-spot epiphany: If you want to declare something Oriental, put ginger on it!

Just in case anyone is interested, here's the recipe of my Ramen Noodle Soup. Too bad I didn't take a picture of the bowls - I assure you they were a treat to the eye as much as to the taste buds:

Not-your-ordinary-everyday-Ramen Noodle Soup

You need:
  • Two packages of Ramen, any flavor
  • Two cups of leafy part of Bok Choy, cut in 2" pieces (or spinach)
  • 1 small tomato, cut into wedges
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 1/2 to 3 cups of water
  • 1 or 2 table spoons of olive or veggetable oil
  • 2 green onions, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped or minced
  • 2 crispy freshly cooked egg rolls, cut into 1" sections (optional; frozen ones cooked over oil on skillet to a crispy tender stage are perfect)
  1. Heat oil in a wok or sauce pan, roast the garlic till you can smell the aroma
  2. Drop in Bok Choy (don't add here if using spinach as it cooks too fast and should be added at a later time. See 5)
  3. Stir-fry till Bok Choy is tender
  4. Add tomato, water, and seasoning; cover and let boil
  5. Add noodles, cook another 3 minutes (don't overcook or noodles will get soggy); you may add spinach at this point if that's what you use.
  6. Drop in the egg over boiling soup, break up and spread (this is egg-drop! called "dan hua" in Chinese, meaning the "egg flower")
  7. Turn off heat, add chopped green onion
  8. Serve with egg roll sections on top

Monday, October 12, 2009

it's that season again!

Title: Charleston Lake, oil on paper, approx. 16"x20", 2007
Whisper: I made this painting almost exactly two years ago; the season looks and feels just like it - high skies, cold water.

night cap

I leave you with a few quotes, from my recent readings. They have been occupying my thoughts, even when I am not able to be thoughtful, like just about right now.

"We ought to see far enough into a hypocrite to see even his sincerity." - G. K. Chesterton (Heretics)

"Your dog has no words, but it barks and whines sentences at you. Your cat has no words, but it has a considerable feeling for the architecture of the sentence in relation to the problem of expressing climax." - Rebecca West (The Strange Necessity)

"To meet God means to enter into the 'cave of a tiger' - it is not a pussy cat you meet - it's a tiger. The realm of God is dangerous. You must enter into it and not just seek information about it." - Archbishop Anthony Bloom (Beginning to Pray)

Good Night. Whoever you are, wherever you are, or whether you are reading this blog. Good Night.

swat, or not swat? Or, swat at?

Does anyone out there re-read emails they sent? I do. It has come to my realisation lately how careless the spelling, and unclear the structure of sentences sometimes are in the emails I write. Example: in a message sent to a friend I found this:

"And I knew full well it's too late for me to forget you - you are a tail too sticky to shake off, a pest too adorable to swat."

Well, shouldn't that last bit be "too adorable to swat at"? I mean, without at, the words seem to say

"You are a pest who is so adorable that you would not swat."

Which in turn could imply something like "You are such a doll that you wouldn't even think of swating, hmm, anything." When in fact what I meant originally was that my friend was so adorable a pest that I didn't have the heart to swat her. Or should that really be "to swat at her"?

Ugh, the ever pesty prepostions in English.


Saturday, October 10, 2009

new at blogging, moving along!

My first day blogging, and first posts of my paintings, and it worked! Amazing!

The Striped Table Cloth, oil on canvas, 30"x40", 2009
Whisper: I love to paint still lifes (or lives?)

Bacon & Grease, oil on canvas, 24"x30", 2009
Whisper: I painted this picture to experiment the fluid paint quality, and finished it in just a little over an hour - what fun!

Red Stripe, oil on canvas, 16"x20", summer 2009
Whisper: beer bottles left behind by my sister-in-law, who visited us on the farm. I have a weakness for commercial bottles. I have a hard time throwing them away perceiving a potential painting I could get out of each. I'm a hoarder of bottles.

new books have arrived

My latest bit of indulgence - the batch of new books I ordered off Amazon last week, has arrived. Here are the titles: The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E. B. White Jr., Beginning to Pray by Anthony Bloom, Free to Choose by Milton and Rose Friedman, And four Ed Emberley's Drawing Books.

I ordered another copy of The Elements of Style shortly after giving the first to a friend. It was bitter-sweet to part with this little volume: bitter because it was a new love, sweet as I was eager to share with someone who I hope would love it just as much. I was reading and applying what was in it not only to my deteriorating writing, but also to my paintings (I find myself applying advice from writers more than from painters, but that's another subject for another time/post :)). I held the new copy pressed against my face like an old friend, and felt a surge of familiar security.

And what a delight the Beginning to Pray is! Thank you Anchoress on First Things, for recommending it! I had never heard of the author. I just read through the introductory interview at the beginning of the book, and immediately knew it's my kind of book! Beautiful, thoughtful, meat & potato densely compacted into yet another slim book.

I thumbed through the other books too. Free to Choose is in entirely different realm, and somber in tone. This is the type of book you wish you never had to read - but necessary for your own education. The Ed Emberly books teach kids to draw. I can tell they will be helpful when it comes to my visits to the elementary schools.

Well, that would suffice for now. I'm off to painting outside. The skies are not blue, as it was fore casted. But I will try to love the pearly grays, as Charles Hawthorne, the good art teacher, advised his student in his little book on painting.