Saturday, February 26, 2011

First Daffodils

The first daffodils have been painted:

Saturday, February 19, 2011


All right, laugh at me: it's either feast or famine on this so-called blog.

Just had some thought occurring, in between loads of laundry. I'm putting it down lest I forget it myself: the thought might call for extension in days to come:

Love is not merely to be expressed, it is also to be acted upon. Acting is alway harder than expressing. When the stakes in acting become too high, many expressers (okay I made up that word) flee.

And Now...

Later, I will make Chinese dumplings - was informed last night by little sister that eating dumplings on 17th day of New Year helps keep a middle-aged soul from falling apart. One never stops learning.

And now it's off to laundry and toilet scrubbing.

Art Books

Well, since I'm still in the vicinity of the keyboard, I might as well add that I've been reading a book on Art of the Middle Ages, which gives me ideas about one day teaching a course of something like History of Art through the Church. To give you a glimpse of treasures in discussion in the said book: the development of cruciform church architecture, and the splendid dome structures of Santa Sofia of Constantinople, once the church of incomparable beauty now turned into a national museum in Istanbul, Turkey, not to mention the lovely mosaics in elegant churches built in the same era Italy.

Yesterday I took a load of old books to a used-book store and traded for a paperback of The Story of Art by E. H. Gombrich, along with $6 in credit. I had on several occasions refrained from buying the book considering the quite a few art history books I already had. Then not long ago I read Maureen Mullarkey's review of it on her blog Studio Matters, and decided I should have one of my own.

I read the introduction between classes I was teaching yesterday. The style, just as Maureen commented, is decidedly unpretentious. It was a book initially written for "young people," but the language is not the type to "talk down". It has gained audiences far beyond those of initial intentions and been reprinted more than a dozen times. The author is sympathetic to the ordinary reader, who finds himself attracted to art, but may be somewhat unsure about the wild range of tastes and judgments in the art world. The book's tone of sincerity and quality of thought have become rare in art writing these days.

Presence of the Mind

Ash Wednesday is March 8. I'm keeping that in mind because I don't want to be "surprised" by the beginning of the Lenten season, again. Some weeks back I wrote here that I no longer made New Year's Resolution, but was looking for a focus. Since then, one theme has surfaced through the blur and become persistent, even taking on some urgency: the practice of the presence of mind. My mind, that is, which as I write, is hardly here.

It will start with smallish things: remembering to take school supplies out of the trunk, those I won't need in next 6 months; filling out the check for the Sunday collection, PRIOR TO arriving at the pew; placing the Wal-mart bags for recycle next to the shopping list; writing down return dates for library books; before leaving a classroom for another, collect all the supplies, ALONG with coat, scarf, and car key...And on, and on.

There you get an impression of how I've treated things "too small" to be placed in my oversized head. You would think that when it comes to things big and weighty enough for my ego, I'd clean my mental house to make room for their presence: reading, art, meditation, prayer, beloved KDM... all things kindred and indispensable.

You would think.

The fact is, my "mental house," my head, is too cluttered. My mind is too scattered to be present to too many things. It's time to un-clutter, un-wind, turn away from diversions and distractions alike, set my house back in order. When March 8 is here, and ash is smeared on my forehead, my mushy scull will be ready for the forty days of humility and clarity.

Our Lady, put in good words for me.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Max Lindenman

I like this guy's self-deprecating humor. This is how the piece begins:

With too much pride to quarter myself on friends, I tend to spend Thanksgivings by myself. Normally, this suits me fine. Phoenix shuts up completely, so window-shopping in Old Town Scottsdale becomes a study in perfect solitude. It might sound dull, but a certain eeriness quickens the mood. For a thrill, it's just possible to convince yourself that you're the last human survivor of the apocalypse, that zombies have occupied the Pink Pony and the Sugar Bowl and will eat your brains if you stray too close.

Read more here. 

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Another New Arrival on the Farm

Another new calf arrived today. The mother's name is Red: we named her that because she is the only red cow in the entire herd. I still remember the day she was born, KDM's son Michael found her during a four-wheeler ride. He excitedly drove up and made the announcement: "It's a RED one!"

That was, boy, ten years ago?


2011:  Make. Fabulous. Paintings.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Updated: New Arrival at the Farm

About three this afternoon, when I was in the kitchen painting a still life, KDM called me from his cellphone and said: "We have a new calf." He was out feeding cattle and found our cow Daisy alone under a pine tree between the pond and the fence. Except, she wasn't alone. At her feet was a bundle of "tarpaper," wet and steaming, breathing and watching, on the very sunny spot mom had picked out for him (or her?).

Daisy and her baby calf

KDM taking some feed to Daisy as she wouldn't leave her baby to eat

Mother and baby
Update: it's a baby bull-calf. KDM made a bed of hay for both mama and kid. They like it.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Snow Day

Chuck Close and What Not to Do

I ran into a fellow painter at an art party two nights ago, and told him about the Anthony Hopkins interview with Charlie Rose. He returned the info with Charlie Rose's interview with Chuck Close, the marvel of a painter. I just finished watching it on Rose's site.

The seasoned painter had many wise things to say, of which I could mull over all day, but the most resounding bit was about the importance of "not to do" some things. To set (or construct in Close's words) limits, to know what one will NOT do is more essential than what one can do, has become the most significant lesson I've learned in the past few years. It sort of came to me like an epiphany applicable to both my art and spiritual combat.

I know I'm not being very articulate or clear about this. I need do a better job explain myself on that. But it's like many suddenly stumbled upon treasures, I fear not to do their service by explaining them. Sometimes I'd rather be vague.

This is not a "wet-in-your-pants" kind of artist, he does not emote all over you. (Notice all the negatives in that sentence?)

A good watch on a snow day. Our cattle look like buffaloes on some Tibetan plateaus.


Powerful video by Grassroots Films:

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Mama's Hat

Mama got a new hat for Spring Festival, photo curtsey of my niece Mimi, delivered by Skype:

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Anthony Hopkins interview with Charlie Rose

Sir Anthony Hopkins has made my heart sing, in this interview with Charlie Rose. Indeed my resolve to NOT to see the movie The Rite has been shaken.

It's almost painful to watch and listen to Charlie as he muddles around the topic of faith. It's like watching a man determined to measure a globe with a straight edge. I'm still unsure if the concept of "dark night of the soul" really penetrated Charlie's sophisticated, cosmopolitan intellect. When Hopkins credits his transformation to a person of faith to his past alcoholism, Charlie promptly suggests an analogy between that journey and the actor's cinematic career. It amuses me (as many things do to me these days, almost always leaving me inarticulate as hell) to observe Charlie's trying to put two and two together and seeing the end at the equation blurry as he counts Hopkins' splendid artistic career ending up in believing the silly Belief.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Snow Day

Snowed in.

And, snowed in again, tomorrow. Confirmed.

Yesterday I went in the classroom with my new lesson plan. The first installment went over like a charm. We did what I told my second graders "silly drawings." What would you call drawing parallel lines in curves, zigzags, waves, dots, or "puffy triangles," "marsh-mellow squares," "fluffy trapezoids"? Or calling the erasing of temporary lines "hiding your tracks"?

I had them excited about the more "serious drawing" that was to come in the next installment. At the end of the class, the kids were chanting "No snow tomorrow! No snow tomorrow!"

No school and two days in a row. The "silly drawings" were preparation for the more "serious one." Will they remember the "tricks"when they come back to the classroom?

I did have some fun making a clay bowl for the Empty Bowls fundraiser.

Then again, I was also half-hoping for no school tomorrow, that means I get to Skype with my Mama and the rest gang of kin in China, on the Eve of the Spring Festival. With thirteen-hour time difference, their midnight is 11:00am here.

As of now, I'm missing my dear friend Jan, whom I haven't heard from a while. And the latest post on her blog Runs with Angels is from more than a week ago. It reads like the John Lennon song "Cold Turkey," with its opening line "Fever's high..." Suffices it to say that I'm a bit concerned.

Over and out - like Jan would say.