Category Archives: Gallery

Mushrooms-A mouse-Snow and Tall Ships


Niagra-Arrival_web Acrylic on Gessoed Hardboard 32″X48″

Snow Comes When It Will

(Or-Painting the “Tall Ship”)

Some of us love the snow,  some of us do not. It will chill or thrill, settling gently on upper surfaces of things gone unnoticed for years.

The afternoon temperature had reached a good sixty degrees, though very late in the fall, while trekking into the woods to retrieve cut firewood, I was met with a sudden surprise beside the pathway, a larger than average mushroom.  Those mystical fungus flowers that ferment into umbrella delights overnight are always a surprise.  This large golden beauty was near a foot across, half a foot high, growing from under the side of a fallen balsam.

Mushroom-2_web

Stepping around it, making mental note to come back with the camera, it slipped from memory during the doing of tasks at hand.  The thought of the large mushroom did not return to mind for two days.  Snow!

Events pop up,  just like mushrooms.  When the first snow came, two days after discovering this golden-colored humus dweller, some of the firewood lay still waiting and now was more needed.  Another trek out onto the path for the firewood brought the mushroom back into mind. Six inches of wet snow would collapse such a soft large mushroom, and there was a feeling of regret that the camera had not been used.

Pushing a wheelbarrow over the slight incline and rounding a corner between two birch trees, there on the side of the pathway was a lump in the smooth white snowy surface.  It was the bulk of snow on top of the mushroom.  Could it be still standing?  The lump was near a foot high in six inches of snow, and there was a black shadow slit running around its outer edge.  Snow formed a smooth curved sweep over itself and into a blue black shadow void beneath the dome of the mushroom.  The snow on top made a perfect umbrella shape and came down to within an inch of the snow on the forest floor. The slit of dark shadowy void ran all around the front of the shape and faded into smooth edges filled with snow sluff near its back side. It was standing.

Getting closer and peeking in, another surprise “popped up.”  Bursting from beneath the brim of the snow-capped mushroom mound, I had startled a small field mouse; it skittered across a few feet of surface snow, then burrowed quickly into hiding beneath the surface, most likely making illusive unseen maneuvers to allude the giant.

Peeking back beneath the mushroom, there was a dry grassy cavern-like space.  It looked comfortable in some sort of strange way.  Half expecting a small light to come on and for just a moment there seemed to be a small wooden door opening up into the stem of the mushroom, it took a double blink to realize how much the imagination can meet the reality as what is before the eyes matches preconceived notions about something.  Childhood tales of small forest creatures living warm and snug in mushroom houses has been a story element for several hundred years.  In that moment of anticipation, my expectation had mushroomed into a moment’s reality.

It is not “actually” what is there that makes a great image.

It is what is desired to be seen – that needs to be in the picture.

Somehow when the little mouse jumped from beneath the mushroom, it called up a lifetime of expectations that would one day culminate in this discovery of a small mouse house in a forest floor mushroom.  Why the lights weren’t on and the door wasn’t there was almost confusing. The scene was so reminiscent of a whole collection of images and my mind just filled in the blanks.  I thought I saw a door, a light!

Winter came.

In my studio, that week had been taken up entirely with completing a painting of a tall ship.  After my mushroom adventure I wanted a “desired” image of an event from last summer.  The arrival of the famous “Niagara,” the tall ship,  coming into the port of Duluth Harbor. My daughter and grandson had joined me (along with ten thousand others) to welcome and see this special event.

Are there other tall ships? My grandson had asked after we had greatly raised his expectations of the coming ship.

“Not so many any more, they are very old,” I replied.

“I’m four, Grampa, how old is tall ships?”  “Much, much older,” I replied as I pondered the weight of his simple question.

As the ship was spotted, everyone began to chatter.  For a half hour we photographed and watched both the ship and the crowd.  The harbor was cleared for this traffic, the ship came and was escorted by many small water craft, mostly sail boats.  We would point and say, “See the tall ship, look look. Remember this.”

He is four, I will remember it, but he will remember something else.

Da-Boats-_web

He was impressed because we were impressed.  We were not so impressed with the ship, but with the privilege of seeing such an historical old ship, sailing right out of our childhood story books and into our sight.  A tall ship, that it came to our harbor, to our town.  Others saw it, others saw us see it, we saw them see it, too, and we shared it in a community sense.  Witnesses that we had seen our past.  It is important when one can see themselves seeing something. It is actually rare.

Being there is mandatory to understanding.

The ship was moored alongside a docking area by the Convention Center, and an outgoing Great Laker cargo ship began departing the harbor.  As it slid by, it fairly dwarfed the tall ship.  “Is that a tall ship, too, Grampa?” my grandson asked.  “No, that is a big cargo freighter,” I said. “It looks tall to me,” he said. “Yes, it is tall.”

“So, it is a tall ship?”  “No.”  “Is it old?”

“Not as old as this tall ship,” I said, pointing to the fine old “Niagara.”  I was lost in my moment, and he was lost in his discovery.  I was seeing the event moment, and he was seeing the entire world in front of him; to him, all things in the harbor had the same interest and the same value, he was depending on us to help separate the worthwhile from the worthless, or to say even if anything was worthless.

For a moment I was four again; he was showing me the very nature of an artist.  Any thing in the view could be a worthwhile subject, a topic, a worthy image, if looked at from a desired viewpoint.  Regardless of age or value or size, to a child, all things start out equal.  It should be so for an artist as well.  Sometimes to understand something, one must look at it from several viewpoints.

It is not “what did I see when I was there?” but, “What did I think I saw?”

Was I looking again at a preconceived notion of what others thought we were seeing?  Is the viewpoint cynical because of commercial propaganda about the event?  Was I seeing every tall ship from my story books?

Or, did I see the magical moment of the arrival of a great ship with sails unfurled, flags flying, gliding silently past the lighthouse into port beneath gathering clouds, as any great ship should arrive.  Click, Click.  I took perhaps a hundred photos for reference later.

In the studio as the research photos are laid out, I discovered the ship had come in with no sails up, the the sky was just hazy, thinly clouded and pale blue, the water a deep grey-green with choppy little waves.  The most memorable thing was the memory of my grandson asking, “Do all ships look like that?”  I was sure the ship had “sailed in,” but it had come in under engine power.

It was his first real ship.  Perhaps it was the first real ship I had actually seen, too.

For a brief moment it was as if the mouse lived in the mushroom; for a brief moment it is as if the tall ship is all a ship ever needs to be, sails up and gliding smoothly into safe port before a storm, flags unfurled, waving, arriving to fulfill our best dreams.

jmc/emc

  33-Shore-Leave_web  Shore Leave 24″x36″ acrylic on hardboard and gesso.

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From a tiny acorn-a blog grows


oak-acorn_webBlogging is a lot like exercising, you get benefits later and the work out now! A year ago I posted my fist effort and today I noticed that it is still one of the most viewed stories I have done. Is that encouraging or discouraging? Having spent the last two months building a .org site, (still not done) and feeling, at times like an old dolt, It gave me great pleasure to read an article about how we respond slower as we age because we have so very much more information to process (Article here).

So when I finished this little drawing above, I felt it fit this little story because of the age of oaks from the time of acorns, how many years they have stood and how wise they seem. Yes I know it is just a tree, but it is a universally accepted icon because wise old owls like to sit in them, right?

So as I work forward on my .org and work long on the .com I now feel more the acorn than the aged oak, and look more the oak than the acorn.

A Sand Bucket and the Writer’s Quill


Downstream results, a lesson learned from making movies.

Sunset in the late summer on Pismo Beach, a windy Southern California beach, casts shadows eastward into timeless drifting dunes. Yellow highlights on the wind swept sand, blown from the crests, make the dunes look as if they are smoldering from the blasting sun’s rays. The eastern cloudless sky is dark early from loss of light, turning purple and mixing with sloped backsides of dunes dropping down into undefined darkness. The western sky is bringing in cloudy fog.

Wind is what happens when warm air rises and cool air rushes in to replace it. At the end of each day the heat rises off the dunes and the cool evaporating ocean air rushes in.  Crossing the dunes, the cool advancing air is heavy with salt and moisture feeding the sand grass and ice plants, the only things that can actually survive on the sand.  Plants especially adapted, drawing their water from the air and feeding it to their roots, anchoring themselves in the wind in some strange backward manner.  Sheltering small rodents, birds, sand crabs, spiders and bugs, and keeping the tops of the dunes from blowing away, making the dunes somewhat stable to catch more moisture.  A micro eco-system.

Dunes are like living things, always moving beneath the wind, always changing, and somehow always the same.  Lift is what an airplane wing accomplishes when forced through air.  A strong enough continuous wind will lift most anything not held down, shapes, large or small, even if it is not shaped like an airplane wing.  The tops of the dunes are domed; they push the wind up just as an airplane wing does, and on the back side of the dome is a downward slope lying in the downwind draft, and similar to an airplane wing there is a lift created, not beneath the wing, but behind the edge of the top of the dune.  It is this that makes the dunes move.  It is this that makes the plants choose to grow here which resists their moving.  It is a sand dune that is responsible for the first flight of man in an airplane.

Like most things in life, these elements don’t at first appear to be related, but when odd things come together they often come out even.

Over a hundred years ago, on a sand dune on the east coast of North Carolina, a place called Kitty Hawk, the sun was rising, and the warming air began to rise off the beach, drawing in fresh heavy cooler air from the Atlantic Ocean.

It was this very effect that had brought the Wright brothers to that beach, that and the sandy landing field for their first experiments in flight.

They had observed dunes to find out how lift worked; a stroke of their own genius, they had come to take advantage of the incoming strong wind, and the high ground of the dune tops.  They chose this location for their flight, and forever will be remembered for their first airborne flight from a dune into the lifting wind and across the sand.

75 years later on the west coast, the dunes at Pismo Beach, California were being used to film a re-creation of that historical event.  Not so much because they look so much like Kitty Hawk, but because they are so close to Hollywood.

On the day before the filming out on the dunes, the sun had almost given all its light, and there were flash light flickers coming to life down in the deep purple slopes behind the dunes.

The heavy lights and equipment that normally accompany a film crew would not be on the location until the next day, and then only for one day as the permit to place things in the dunes was limited to three days of construction of small sets, with one day of filming on that particular set. People are required to remove everything they bring in every day. Cans, wrappers, chairs, even bottle caps, tooth picks and cigarette butts. This would limit any damage to the dunes.

These dunes are federally protected and also a state park.

Instructions had been given to all of us to remove any and all trash, tools, equipment and gear whatever, each day.  Leaving only the specially permitted movie set of the Wright brothers building, and a night guard posted providing around the clock attendance.

The crews left, assuring the park ranger that all things, except the set, had been removed.  No tools, ladders, paint cans, ropes, cords, materials or supplies had been left.

It became too dark to see anymore.  No one could see the small toy sand bucket that had been left by my child who had spent the day visiting me “on the set” (I was the construction chief).  But it was there, it wasn’t far from the set, perhaps fifteen feet.  The set, positioned by the ranger, was behind a dune, out of the wind, but the bucket was just outside the protection of the huge dune; it was not a tool anyone missed, it was not materials to be accounted for, had not been noticed. He was only 7 and neither the ranger or myself caught this.  It was setting in a wind row down at the bottom of the dune. The wind followed its own path it had carved out for itself.  In these lines of wind drift, the sand moved little.  This location had been mostly undisturbed for perhaps decades.  The dunes are resting in their own self established equilibrium. But they do slowly move.

Long after all but the guard had gone home, and a little after the guard had fallen asleep, the Pacific Ocean surface cooled, the warm sand returned its heat to the sky, and the wind arose.  It slid under the mantle of stars across the water and onto the beach.  The domed-topped dunes lifted the air and the compression of wind against the dunes whistled across their tops, causing a slight vacuum on their backside edges, lifting tiny grains of sand from between the rooty toes of the sand grass and carrying them over the angle of repose on its backside down slope.

At the bottom, the wind met new resistance where the child’s sand bucket now sat.  There the wind swirled about this foreign object, the bucket.  The lift of the little sand grains was lost.  They fell just behind the sand bucket, forming a new small rift in a half curl.  As night stars drift overhead, sand grains began to drift below.  Some free from their resting place for the first time in decades.  All through the night the wind pushed against the new riff in the dune floor, moving sand from beneath the bucket, moving sand from tops of the dunes now feeling new patterns of air and placing it on an ever-growing new small dune. Something had changed in the wind rows, something that affected every dune around it.  The wind was moving differently this night than last night.

As the bucket went down, a new dune went up.  At first it was inches, then it grew to feet.  By morning when the guard awoke, and the crew arrived the wind had stopped.  Sunrise was a beautiful, cool clear crisp day.

There where the child’s bucket had been overlooked was a new hole almost a dozen feet deep and near thirty feet across and behind it was a new dune twice that size.  It had collected sand from dunes all around with every passing wind all night long.

How can there be a treasure in such a tragedy?  The set was wreaked, now tilting towards the new hole with sand piled halfway up.  The sand would have to be moved back into place before the next big wind storm or the entire dune range would be affected.  Fines would have to be paid, and the filming would be delayed, thousands, tens of thousands of dollars in damage.

Not only had the downwind effect on the little bucket had huge consequences on the dunes, it had changed the events of the lives of several dozen people.

Long term, that spot in the dunes will never be the same. It was an enlightening experience.

We do not control the moving forces within which we live, but by placing something just so in any moving force we will greatly affect all things downstream.  A pebble in a stream, a word in a crowd, an insult, a compliment.  Whether by accident or by purpose, there will be an outcome.  The outcome cannot be predictable but there will be an outcome.

It is the same with placing a word on a page, paint on a canvas, notes in a song; it brings irreversible change downstream.  We cause invisible dunes all life long.  Play, work, do, make a downstream outcome, even if it cannot be anticipated.  Life is a constant moving force, put your sand bucket in it, it will bring change to your life and like the dunes, whatever you do will find equilibrium.

That was forty years ago and the gift of knowing how things are affected by my actions has impressed every decision I have made since then.  For a day my son had the greatest sand pile ever to play in, and I am careful how I stand in the wind.

jmc/emc

Something to say for the new year


Contemporary-Resort_web-

Sunset on Contemporary Resort Hotel Disney World (1972)                                                                                               Acrylic on Illustration board 8″x10″

Something To Say For The New Year

Here is a truth:  often a painting is done just so the artist can get to do a small favorite thing, or idea.  Entire paintings are done just to get to put highlights on a glass, or shadows on a lemon or sunbursts in the distance.  Whole landscapes are painted just to show a small flower in the foreground, or a water drop about to fall from a rose petal.  A moment of inspiration to render an idea, so simple a truth that it cannot be rendered simply, but surrounded by complexity of seeing our world, lest the idea be lost.  When done, often the original intention of the painting goes unperceived to the casual viewer, but it is there.

Every artist has something to say, even if it is vapid and shallow.  Many just love to paint.  Great masters labored to say things of worth, depth, with a genius and clarity.  Some masters did this early in life and some late.

As time passes, talented and developing artists gain a voice, learn some way to communicate in their work and contribute to the world wide body of work.  A few are late bloomers and decide to speak after many years of mumbling out their art.  Whether small or genius, the years usually have trained the work into an acceptable voice or even into excellence.

Once an artist learns that their work really is just their voice, applied to materials with tools, and that the observed perception rendered is in the mind of another, something we can not control, just influence, the artists begin to offer up a communication of worth.  Their art resides in the mind of the viewer as in the art itself.  The Mona Lisa is in the mind of millions of people, each with their own thoughts about it, no matter what Leonardo wanted.

Good art is common to the understanding of all; it is spoken of as if it came from the artist, but it did really?

It came because the artist was observing through time, things others have experienced and the artist spoke it out in an image remarking about that time.  Seldom if ever does an artist say something new that is actually profound or unknown, but really says something already known that is put in a new and perhaps original way; it is understood by the masses because they already have some understanding of the topic, subject or image. That can become a profound perception in the world.

A six year old child with a crayon can make you cry with their clarity of seeing and saying what you know; if that clarity remains, as skill grows, they become a master, an artist.

A sixty year old can pick up a pencil and start drawing for the first time and make you laugh, but if they have something to say, regardless of how poorly they might draw it, if it touches us all, it is art.  That is why cartoons are so powerful, they speak to us and about us all, and are often done by young artists who grow old in their craft.

A master does both, renders beautifully and has something to say. Saying something is the highest form of art, and saying it well is glorious.  Having accumulated the skills to render, it becomes very important in delivering the idea in its whole form, even if it is just a rose with a water drop.

This puts more artists to silence than any other thing, recognizing one’s own inability to say it well or even to know what to say.  Better to say nothing so they don’t.  So many young and new emerging talents silence themselves long before they discover they were actually on path to arrive, but judged wrongly their primitive learning as lack of talent.

Just because we, as artists, can see our own work path and struggles is no reason to withhold our work.  What has changed is the internet and speed in which we hear feedback.  We can post our images, and get comments; the pain and glory are instantaneous, and both are also fleeting.  The amount of really fine art work out there is astounding, access to visual resource is so huge it is daunting.  Both discouraging and encouraging.  It is still one person viewing one image one at a time. Perhaps hundreds or thousands or millions of people, but each one views it one at a time.  It is personal, it is a singular event and a singular response.  Not a crowd or audience of thousands, just thousands of individual observers with no crowd influence, no one watching them while they observe.  They comment, and it is powerful, it is direct.

So take a good idea, even a tiny one, and build a painting around it and show it, or write a new book and publish it, or take four notes and build a symphony around them and perform it.

jmc/emc

Loco-motive Christmas


I think most people love trains, especially at Christmas! So a couple few years back doing a card with a train engine just seemed to be the ticket. My family had been giving me train parts for a few years so I could put one in my studio, you know up overhead so it goes around to my delight and for everyone else a distraction. It is an LGB that stands for Lehmann Gross Bahn a German toy train company.  these train sets are a large gauge (G scale) and designed to go in the garden or outside as well as inside. So that year on my birthday I finally had received enough pieces to put the train on enough track to go around the kitchen and dinning room floor. Kids and grand kids all helped, real smoking smoke stack, light in the front and all. My wife loved it for a couple hours then started pointing to the upstairs where my studio is and began mumbling something about the ceiling. It just seemed to be the perfect Christmas card subject. I scanned a photo of the engine into photoshop and painted in a background. The original engine was all yellow, and that would never do for christmas so I added some red and black. Distractions have kept me from getting it put up but I think this year I will get it installed into my studio. Since that time I have been collecting a few pieces of old Lionel trains and now have enough to put one of those together too.

After Christmas i will also post a few rail road paintings I have done.

58 Years of Christmas Cards


2012-card-_web

Seasons Greetings

Christmas is a favorite holiday and making and sending cards is a tradition in our home.  My wife loves to send them out and I have been making Christmas cards since childhood.  First time I sent out my own cards was at age twelve, hand-painted, about a dozen, cost 4 cents to mail one.  Typical postage was 3 cents, but I went heavy on the glue and glitter, so I had to add a one cent extra stamp.  There was no way for a kid to reproduce cards in those days, so each one was different.  Many people did this, and my inspirations came from the work of others, and observing cards made by Hallmark.  It would be a decade and a half before I learned how to silk screen cards, which my wife and I did for a decade after that.  Once we acquired our own copy machine we began to produce a black and white outline and then hand-colored them in with paint and colored pencils, and that went on for two decades.

Let’s see—that would add up to forty five years.  Along came the computer!  The world of handmade cards changed.  With a scanner and a color printer I could do one original color card, scan it, edit it and print a whole bunch.  Our card mailing list grows and shrinks over the years as people move in and out of our lives.  Over the years we have had maybe a half dozen people who told us they have saved them all. I haven’t even saved them all, maybe I have twenty or so.  I missed doing cards maybe five years out of the fifty eight years of cards where I either bought or failed to get them done.  Perhaps I will make an effort to find the lost ones; I don’t know, but I will post a few of them over the next few days just to wish you all well and what else can I do with them but share on a blog?

Seasons best to you all……………..

jmc/emc

If it were mechanical it would be easy.


So for months now I have wondered why incoming comments were sparse; was it my writing style . . . was it my postings?  Maybe bad art work and content?  Self-doubt reigns supreme!

I went out on the internet and looked at and responded to many great blog sites; it has been both fun and enlightening, and I actually have received some great comments, too.

I did not notice, however, all the comments I have received were from blogs I visited. I am kinda slow on this uptake!  Until yesterday when someone asked me where my comment box was?  It had disappeared, and I had not even noticed!  Well, cut me some slack as I am not a techie.  So back at the controls, might as well be trying to land a 747 after the pilot passes out and they ask for volunteers, “Hey, I’ll do it,” (better than not trying, huh?).  I know, it is simple, right, then you look at the dashboard and it is “deer in the headlights.”  Keep  aixelsyd (dyslexia) in mind here. Well, gladly we are on the ground and it is just the dashboard of wordpress.

So I will give it another try!

jmc/emc