Happy Ending

Crucifixion in Philippines
Crucifixion in Philippines

This woman had herself crucified along with seventeen others even though the Archbishop of San Fernando in the Philippines urged devotees not to turn Holy Week into a circus. Philippine health officials warned people taking part in Easter crucifixions and self-flagellation rituals to get a tetanus shot first and sterilize the nails to avoid infections.

We traveled to Spain a few years back and spent Holy Week in Granada. Semana Santa is the biggest string of holy days/holidays of the year there. We watched processions wind through the streets with bands, women in black lace mantillas and teams of guys hidden beneath and supporting the weight of floats with the virgin in the lead and a depiction the suffering Christ in the rear. In Spain this is all a reverent but festive affair. The goose bump inducing highlight is always when the procession stops and the crowd grows silent while someone sings a saeta to the virgin.

We had dinner yesterday with Peggi’s mom and my brother, Fran. I was thinking about how we used to give up candy for Lent and then gorge ourselves on Easter and my parents asking us to remain silent between noon and 3PM on Good Friday (the hours Christ was hanging on the cross). I don’t think we were able to do this. My whole family left the Church while I was in high school and my parents are now more likely to celebrate Passover than Easter with their children and in-laws. But that Catholic stuff hangs around.

About fifteen years ago I revisited the Way of the Cross and began the process of recasting the Passion Play in present time. I collected source material with the intention of doing a series of paintings. I don’t believe anyone rose from the dead except maybe Shirley Maclaine so I was kind of bummed to see the last Pope amend the fourteen stations of the cross that I remember so vividly from my childhood. He gave the story an implausible, happy ending by adding the Resurrection as the fifteen station. When I do get around to these paintings I only plan to do fourteen of them.

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You Can Tell It’s Spring

Cell tower disguised as a tree in Fairport, New York.
Cell tower disguised as a tree in Fairport, New York.

The reaction to my post a few days ago on what I was calling “fake houses” got me thinking about another curiosity. I’m going to go out on a limb and call these “fake trees”. This one is near Exit 31 on 490 East in Rochester, NY. It’s the exit we take to get to my mother-in-law’s place. I’m not sure about the name or number of this exit, I just look for the fake tree and get off. Some people don’t even see it or they see it and take it as a real tree. My brother lives out this way and I asked him what he thought about it. He said, he had never noticed it. I would rather see a naked cell tower than a fake tree disguised as one but I am not on the zoning committee.

Fake tree off freeway in Los Angeles
Fake tree off freeway in Los Angeles
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Demystifying Art

Danny Deutsch behind a Reagan mask
Danny Deutsch behind a Reagan mask

Remember when Ronald Reagan was a joke and not the revered right wing populist that he is today? Remember Danny Deutsch behind the Reagan mask behind the bar at “Schatzee’s?” Danny bought the old gay men’s club, “Tara’s”, renamed it “Abilene’s” and opened last night. The place was packed with old friends.

Every bar in town seems to go with the locally brewed, Custom Brew Craft or Rohrbach’s. Both are world class and we are lucky to have them. Danny had something from Rohrbach’s on tap and we had a couple pints. You could talk over the music but still hear it and my ears weren’t ringing this morning. I loved the paint by number landscapes on the walls. They looked like embroidery or tapestries.

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Can I Borrow A Cup Of Sugar?

RGE owned fake house
RGE owned fake house. Photo by Richard Edic.

Richard Edic sent us some interesting photos of rock solid imaginary houses. They are apparently owned by the local power company, RGE, and they are located in residential areas throughout the city. Nobody lives in them. The power company has some sort of sub-station inside, like maybe Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory or something. Who knows? Richard has identified three of these fake houses and he sent us photos that we have posted on the Refrigerator. If you are aware of any of these suspicious homes in your neighborhood, drop us a line. We’ll add them to our inventory.

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My Kid Could Paint That

Michael Kimmelman at MAG in Rochester, NY 2005
Michael Kimmelman at MAG in Rochester, NY 2005

By coincidence we saw the Shawn Penn film, “Into The Wild” and Hans Petter Moland’s “Zero Kelvin” on back to back nights. Both films have young men ( a top student, an aspiring poet) heading into the wilderness (Alaska, Greenland) for adventure. I won’t spoil it but it is rough out there.

“Into the Wild” opened with with a graduation ceremony at Emory University in Atlanta. We will be there in seven weeks for our nephew’s graduation and the lead character in this movie reminded us of our nephew’s brother who is currently hanging out in Guatemala. Peggi read the book and pictured our nephew in the part and sure enough Emile Hirsch looks just like him. I know my nephews are listening to better music than the Eddie Vedder soundtrack from this film because they plug their laptops into our stereo when they’re here. I don’t get Eddie Vedder. I didn’t like Pearl Jam and that record they made backing Neil Young was a dog.

“Zero Kelvin” had the edge on “Into The Wild” because it had a much better soundtrack. Terje Rydal’s music was the perfect choice for this dark and beautiful adventure.

Last night, on Angel Corpus Christi’s recommendation, we watched something completely different, “My Kid Could Paint That”, about a really young girl from Binghamton who painted with encouragement from her parents. A creepy art gallery owner started selling the paintings for big bucks and the story got a lot of media attention. There was nothing extra special about the paintings. Art from most kids that age is special because they have not been taught or broken. It happens fast. One day they are extraordinarily expressive and the next day the sun is smiling.

Michael Kimmelman from the New York Times is interviewed throughout and offers insights into both sides of the old argument over whether or not modern art is a hoax. The creepy art gallery owner provides the meatiest art talk when he tries to make an absurd argument about the quality of the art being proportional to the time it takes to produce it. He makes his point by explaining how long it takes him to do his tedious exercises. They show him about three inches away from his painting with some sort of a magnifying class in one eye while he works on a huge painting by starting at the top and working his way down.

People buy what they like and sometimes they like the story more than the art.

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Shock and Awe

Shock And Awe on Hall Street in Rochester, New York
Shock And Awe on Hall Street in Rochester, New York

I took this photo five years ago today. A headline in our local paper today reads, “Bush Has No Doubts on 5th Anniversary”. I am still shocked and awed.

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Graves Without Weeds

Peace gravestone in Irondequoit Cemetery
Peace gravestone in Irondequoit Cemetery

Irondequoit recently hired an independent company to reassess property values and they sent us a notice of our new tax rate. They determined the town was currently assessed at 88% value which means taxes needed to be raised by 12% on average to generate enough tax money to dump all that salt on our roads and pay people to walk in circles around the gravestones in Irondequoit Cemetery with weed whackers.

Our taxes went up more than 12% and they estimated our house was worth more than we paid for it a few years ago. The town posted the reassessment online and Peggi spent an afternoon comparing our house to similar homes in the area. She had Google maps open on the laptop and and the tax records on a different screen while generally snooping on the neighbors. I was making humas in the kitchen and listening to her updates. I never would have guessed which house was assessed the highest on our street and our neighbors on both sides with similar houses were assessed much lower than us.

It seems Un-American not to contest so we attended an informational meeting at the Town Hall called “Understanding Your Property Reassessment”. I was prepared for a snoozfest so I brought the morning paper with me. There was a headline on the front page that read “Local House Sales Tumble”. The story explained that although the sales have tumbled, the prices have remained steady. We have no housing market collapse here because we had no boom.

Growth is not all it’s cracked up to be. Steve Hoy was talking about this concept yesterday. Sustainability may be a better business model. Irondequoit starts north of the city of Rochester and it is hemmed in by Lake Ontario to the north, Irondequoit Bay to the east and the Genesee River to the west. We aren’t growing and we like it that way. We should probably just pay our taxes and shut up.

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Margin Call

Steve Hoy and Paul Dodd by Rich Stim 1969
Steve Hoy and Paul Dodd by Rich Stim 1969

Steve Hoy called this morning from South Carolina wondering what I thought about the market. Steve has a good bit of his investments in margin accounts and he is always getting calls from his broker. This morning he felt like he was backed into a corner with his Washington Mutual holding. He sold 500 shares at $9 a share while I was on the phone with him. If he didn’t, he feared he would lose it all. And of course as soon as he confirmed the sale he said, “I probably just sold at the bottom”. I don’t understand the strategy of margin accounts and I am the last person to ask for financial advice but it was good to hear his voice.

Steve is worried that the credit crisis will force people to put more on their charge cards and then eventually default on their credit card bills which will collapse the already weakened financial institutions. Steve said he had no confidence in Bush and he laid out his own plan to bail out the market. It was something like lowering the interest rates to 5% and back that with federally insured bonds which would allow people to refinance their homes so their payments were more in line with the value of their home.

Steve was business major at Indiana University when I met him. Maybe he will lay out his plan here in a comment because I have surely mangled the translation.

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Day Dream Evening

Margaret Explosion Live
Margaret Explosion Live

Last Wednesday’s Margaret Explosion gig started real slow with only two people in attendance, a couple with broken English accents. They have been here before and they stayed for full ride. We had a pretty good crowd by the end of the night and on the way out the couple said, “See you next time”.

This gig is so casual, it is perfect for Margaret Explosion considering we don’t have any set list, we never practice and we make up most of the night rather than play songs. We have this affliction where our songs never sound as good as they did the first time, when it really wasn’t a song at all.

Truth is most of them are a lot closer to daydreams than songs. This first tune from last week just sort of floated by for that couple.

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Brutal Exercise

Paul Dodd Crime Face Paintings in Living Room Early 2008
Paul Dodd Crime Face Paintings in Living Room Early 2008

Peggi answered the phone tonight and a guy asked to speak to Paul. I said, “Hello” and the man/boy voice said, “Fuck you” and hung up. I’m thinking it was the answer to the title of yesterday’s post.

As brutal an exercise as painting can be, it is as brutal an exercise for me to look at one of my paintings. Of course it is not entirely brutal, but close. I’m talking about looking at the finished painting and noting what goes through my mind on confronting it. Just what kind of a dialog do I have with this thing? In other words, why am I doing this?

I alone am responsible for expressing what is on the minds of these people and I need to enable them to hold up their end of an interesting conversation. The procedure for developing a painting is one part of this activity. The conversation with the finished thing is the other.

It is sort of interesting how little anyone who comes into our house has to say about these guys. If someone is not into a confrontation I completely respect that but I suspect the paintings are not speaking clearly enough yet. I think some people are afraid to look at them or they think they are so terrible they don’t want to be the position to have to comment on them so they look away. Maybe everybody has stuff like this in their living room.

I’m trying to pick a couple to enter in a show and I have a bunch of recent ones propped up in our living room. I’m leaning toward bottom left and third from left on the bottom. I’ve been adding to the group over the last month. I would like them to be more engaging.

I just finished “The Object Stares Back” by James Elkins. I fell asleep to it for the last few weeks and it surly is responsible for this entry. But he started to to piss me off because he tossed out too many ideas too quickly. I disagreed with many of his opening arguments and he didn’t take the time to defend them. On to the next entry.

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WTF?

We maintain a number of websites and I’m getting tired of updating hundreds of pages when someone decides to add a new feature to their nav bar menu. So I spent the better part of the last few days investigating ssi (Server Side Includes) and php includes. I had checked out ssi’s years ago and gave up on them and it seems like php is still the more elegant solution. So I’m going down the php road and all of the new pages have a .php suffix on them.

Picking apart these old pages reveals an alarming amount of javascript for the pull down menus, clock, and search engine. And on top of that there’s the Ajax rss feeds, statcounter php, the Spry menu bar and cascading style sheets. It is amazing the pages load at all.

We set our neighbor Leo’s browser to start with Google instead of the Browncroft Church website that the guy from his church chose when helped set up the computer. And now Leo keeps asking, “How does Google know all that?” I have pumped all sorts of queries into Google looking for answers in the last few days and with a little digging I found them all. I also stumbled on a site that addresses the bigger picture, WTF Code.

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Conservative Streak

Our 4D Advertising meeting with clients from Newman, California ended abruptly when Peggi had to leave to meet her mom at the doctors’ office. Her mom had fallen a few days ago and she was in pain. So the clients started taking about where they were going for dinner and Jay Cohen’s new place was in the running. I seconded that choice and they headed out the door. I sat down to do an entry in my blog.

The phone rang and it was some nut from the NRA so I started typing here. The guy wanted me to take a quick survey but first he wanted to play a one minute message from Wayne LaPierre. Wayne warned that we would be shown images of the presidential candidates in hunting gear claiming to support gun owner’s rights but said he would not trust any of them. He wants us to stand up for our gun rights before the next president gets elected. Wayne turned the phone over to his “assistant” and I tried to mildly provoke him. “Does McCain want to take away our guns” I asked. “Well, I know where you are coming from Mr. Dodd but I am not as worried about McCain as I am Obama and Hillary. They have an absolutely terrible record on gun control. They want to shut down your gun shows.”

“Let me ask you a question, Mr. Dodd. Do you believe the government can tell you that you can’t own a gun in your own home?” “Yes, I do believe they can tell me that.” “Well that is exactly what they are doing. There is a case before the Supreme Court right now that will decide whether you can own a gun in your home in DC. This case is before the Supreme Court and how much do you think you’re going to see about it in the media? Can I ask you help us out and join at at a reduced price of $100 for five years. It is normally $175 Mr. Dodd and I’ll also include a free gift of a rosewood handle multitool.” “What is that?” I asked. He explained that it was a leather man like pair of plyers and he assured me it was a quality piece. “Plus you’ll receive a complimentary subscription to “America’s First Freedom”. I asked what that was all about and he said, “Just like the name sounds”. He was right.

He sensed my reluctance to join and upped the ante. “How about $35 for one year? My son just turned ten and for his birthday I bought him a 22 and an NRA membership.” Can you help us out Mr. Dodd. Obama is going to take away our guns. Not to mention that he is soft on crime. Obama and Ted Kennedy wanted to outlaw ammo for hunting guns. Can you believe that? Like all politicians, they want power and they believe if we don’t have access to guns they will have more power. It’s just like Hitler and people voted for him. He was democratically elected.”

I think of myself as a liberal but I have a real conservative streak when it comes to guns.

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Beware Of The Dog

Mary Alice with Sybil
Mary Alice with Sybil

We scanned some film for a 4D Advertising job a while back and I threw a couple of our own slides in the batch. This is a pretty wild shot of Peggi’s mom and her dog, Sybil. I used to love getting that little dog wound up.

Peggi and I set up a DVD player for my parents last night so they can watch movies on their new TV. My father was telling us how their neighbor, who just moved to San Francisco to “get well”, told them that they were the best thing that ever happened to him. This guy lived alone and wore paths in the carpet with his obsessive compulsive pacing. They are repairing the floors now and the house is up for sale. My mother is already worried that the next neighbor may have a dog. They live near the park in Brighton and have been chased out of there by dogs. And my mother was out front last summer, talking to a neighbor, when a teenage dog-sitter walked by with a Rottweiler on a leash. The Rottweiler broke free and and made a beeline for another neighbor’s small dog. My mom and her friend watched in horror as the Rottweiler killed the other dog.

The FedEx guy was out in front of our house today with a package of work from Lowel when he called us to ask if it was safe to get out of his truck. We told him that the “Beware of Dog” sign came with the house.

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Thank U 4 Lettin Me B Myself Again

Rick Simpson Discovers North Pole
Rick Simpson Discovers North Pole

We skied into the woods this morning under pure blue skies and ahead of the 40 degree temperatures. Peggi had rubbed glide wax on our waxless skis and they were so fast they wanted to go right out from under us. My right right arm felt sore and then I remembered arm wrestling with Monica over the weekend. I will not underestimate her one hundred pounds again. She challenged me and we wrestled to a draw. Actually I called the draw and quit. She is amazing.

Peggi and I hooked up Rick and Monica and skied up to Lake Ontario over the weekend. They invited us over for lunch. We had leftovers of mushroom barley soup from Polska Chata and artichoke, roasted red pepper, Kalamata olives hard Sicilian cheese ($2 extra) from Nino’s. Rick let us borrow a Dick Cavett set of dvds.

We watched “The Woodstock Show” last night. I remember watching that with Dave Mahoney after he talked us into leaving Woodstock early because he thought they were going to run out of food. Joni Mitchell made the Jefferson Airplane look silly with her a capella version of “The Fiddle and the Drum”. Up next was Sly and the Family Stone and Debbie Reynolds (ouch). Sly was very cool but Dick Cavett acted like Sly was incoherent. He was just being Sly for crying out loud. Dick Cavett was starting to piss me off. Janis Joplin had a real dorky band but she was still amazing. Dick fawned all over her because she read a book or two. David Bowie looked kinda geeky and nervous fiddling with his cane. Maybe it was speed. Mick Jagger took complete command of the camera and made Dick Cavett look tiny.

We still have another disc or so to go. I wish they had left the original commercials in there

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In My Own Dream

Dodd Family Rochester NY 1960's
Dodd Family Rochester NY 1960’s

I set my watch ahead before the daylight time change to ease the transition. And Peggi set the clock in our bedroom ahead before going to sleep so we wouldn’t be fooled in the morning. The next day I started to adjust the clock on our stove. This requires needle nose pliers to twist the broken knob. But I guess I never got around to setting it back in the Fall because it was already reading right. The clock in the car is tricky since the buttons all do double duty. I turned off the radio and fumbled my way through this while Peggi was driving to our Margaret Explosion gig. For a while I lost the clock completely. I guess this is one of the available options and it sounds so dreamy.

We don’t get in the car to just drive around. I remember doing this in Steve Hoy’s Barracuda but that was a lifetime ago. We would just cruise, listening to Led Zeppelin, Cream or Paul Butterfield’s “In My Own Dream” 8-tracks. If we are in the car now, we are on our way somewhere and we are usually running late. And that is usually my fault. I guess that’s selfish but part of it may have been inherited.

My father is notoriously late. I had a paper route during the time this photo was taken so I was getting up at an ungodly hour and still managing to get complaints from neighbors that I wasn’t delivering the paper to their doors early enough. While I was preparing for my route, eating whatever I could get my hands on, my father was trying to get out the door to Kodak. I remember the car pool guys out front waiting for my father to get down there. Some would honk and get pretty upset. One guy, who worked below my father at Kodak, kicked my father out of his car pool.

I had this paper route for five years and kept looking for angles to shorten the effort. I started walking the route with the heavy bag over one shoulder. And then I got a big basket on my bike and loaded that up but the bike kept falling over when I stopped to walk the paper up a driveway. So I started rolling the papers before leaving and throwing them from my bike. And eventually I was just putting the papers in the bag unrolled and rolling them while I road my bike no hands. I even got so I could do the whole route without stopping my bike. Of course this involved riding across some peoples’ lawns and gardens. I developed some pretty efficient child labor skills and my driving force was wanting to stay in bed a little longer.

As my father’s oldest son, I even find it sort of rude when invited guests show up on time. This must be selfish.

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What’s The Name Of This Town?

Bootsy in Rochester, New York
Bootsy in Rochester, New York

I spent the morning in the basement working on a painting that required a fair amount of attention to detail. The face I was working on emerges from a white background and I was struggling with the edges so it wouldn’t look like a mask. Every move I made felt heavy handed so I’d paint it out and sneak up on it again. Bootsy Collins’ “Can’t Stay Away”, especially the falsetto refrain, was stuck in my head. I find the only way to deal with something like this is to play the song and exorcise it so I came upstairs and cranked it.

4D Advertising did a cd cover for “The King Allstars” on After Hours Records and I’ve had this Polaroid of Bootsy in my desk drawer since whenever that was. Tom Kohn and Marty Duda brought all the King Records guys to Rochester and recorded them in PCI Studios. We did the packaging for the cassette and lp as well in those days.

Peggi and I saw Bootsy in the late seventies at the War Memorial with Parliament and Funkadelic. Anita Ward opened the show with a twenty minute version of “Ring My Bell”. Don’t get started with that song. That’ll stick in your head for a while. We saw George Clinton in the eighties at the Warehouse in Rochester and Bootsy was a special guest. He was sensational and stole the show both times. What’s Bootsy doin’?

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Frisell in Buffalo

Snow on deck railing in Rochester NY
Snow on deck railing in Rochester NY

Bob Martin, who plays guitar with Margaret Explosion, arranged for Claudia Engelhart, Bill Frisell’s live sound engineer, to talk about her craft for Bob’s business client, BSW. Frisell was in Buffalo last night so Bob got some free tickets. Ken Frank, Peggi and I met at Bob’s office and got in his VW for the trip to Buffalo. The four of us (that would be all of Margaret Explosion) were going to have dinner when we got there and the trip usually takes about an hour. It was snowing and the expressway was moving pretty slowly. We passed a few cars that had spun off the road and decided to wait until we we got to the New York State Thruway to see if it was in any better shape. It wasn’t so we turned around and came back.

It was still snowing when we woke up and we have another ten inches or so coming today. We’re supposed to play at at the Little tonight. We will have to do some shoveling and skiing first.

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Convert or Die (Convertir o Morir)

Bullfight in Bilbao 2006, photo by Paul Dodd
Bullfight in Bilbao 2006, photo by Paul Dodd

I was raised Catholic and like they say,”Once a Catholic, always a Catholic”. I can’t help that. And I love Spain. I love the food, the scenery, the Golden Age of Spanish art. I cheer for Spain in the Copa Del Mundo. I even like the pageantry of bullfighting.

So we watched part of PBS’s “Secret Files of the Inquisition” last night and they were profiling Jacque Fournier who left detailed records of his efforts to purify the Pyrenees. He was a bishop in the early 1300’s in what is now part of France and he was determined to eliminate the Cathars who believed the material world was evil and consequently could not accept Jesus in human form. This documentary depicted the Cathars as about as dangerous as aging hippies. Fournier was rewarded for his efforts by being anointed Pope Benedict XII and the Vatican kept his records secret for 700 years. Of course Ferdinand and Isabel (los Reyes Católicos) finished the job in Columbus’ day and Spain was left with very few Jews or Muslims.

I was falling asleep when they talked about Fournier as Pope so I googled his name this morning and found this entry in the “Catholic Encyclopedia“.

“His natural obesity, too, stimulated caricature and undeserved criticism. But history offers a vindication and testifies that, though he failed to cope successfully with the political difficulties to which he fell heir, his piety, virtue, and pacific spirit, his justice, rectitude, and firmness in ruling, his zeal for doctrinal and moral reform, and his integrity of character were above reproach.”

This is probably similar to how history will rewrite Bush’s legacy.

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Worst First

You know how when you wander off a trail in the woods and you find yourself wallowing in the brush, ducking under low branches with prickers grabbing your clothing and the ground gets all mushy and wet and you’re thinking it might just be better to go back but then you’d be backtracking which is usually a bummer.

After knocking off some pretty quick paintings, I have been spending a lot of time trying to bring others with a good start to a close. There is no proper amount of time that a painting should take. It could happen in a flash or it could be a long struggle. Both are equally valid. It could take a lifetime to learn how to execute a perfect stroke. And in the end it is only the process that is rewarding. The paintings themselves are markers.

I have terrible time management skills and it is really easy for me to get off the path while painting so I am really interested in procedure. My painting teacher, Fred Lipp has very few rules. In fact he boasts that he can break any rule and get away with it.

One of these rules is: “Always address the worst first”. If there is a sore spot in the piece you are working on, fix it. Now. Well, how do you know what the worst area is? Another one of his rules helps here. “If the question comes up, the answer is yes.” If you are questioning whether something is wrong, it probably is. This works 99.9 per cent of the time.

While working on this last bunch of paintings I have to keep reminding myself to stay focused on making the “worst” better. I would rather be starting some new, fresh faces but I created these problems and I’m trying to clean them up. The procedural rules help and I am grateful for them.

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Alter What I Am

In “The Object Stares Back” Ithaca author, James Elkins, makes a case for why it is so difficult to see something and paint it. You don’t simply see anything. You can’t. The act is wrapped up in an activity of give and take with what you are looking at. And of course it is quite a different experience for each individual.

My painting teacher always says, “Trust your eyes”. If you sense something is wrong, it probably is. If your eyes really like something you’ve painted, trust it and follow it up. Simple advice but a powerful guide. But getting to the nut of what you are seeing can be an illusive experience with all that Elkins brings to the table.

Elkins says, “Art is among the experiences I rely on to alter who I am”. I am down with that. He says, “Paintings seem to be exempt from the world, as if their frames were parenthesis letting the text of the world flow on around them, or little fences keeping the picture from straying into the world.” He describes the many ways seeing alters the thing that is seen and transforms the seer. So this is a very fluid situation and art continues to nourish in circular ways.

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