Like Hilarious

While visiting my daughter recently, I thumbed through her bathroom literature. (Yes, I know, but things take time, especially after hours on a train, and I am easily bored.)

A New Yorker cover caught my eye. I had the same issue at home but hadn’t read it all the way through. The colorful illustration seemed to represent flowers but was actually inspired by sea creatures. (Of course, I later told my offspring about the flowers and she rolled her eyes, but both of us are used to that.)

In the art news section of the magazine, an announcement seemed placed just for me. (Come on, I know it wasn’t. I’m not that nuts, but there is such a thing as serendipity.) A show was opening later in September featuring the work of Latvian artist Vija Celmins.

Memory yanked me from the tiny cosmetic-cluttered bathroom in a Denver apartment to an easel-forested art classroom in Los Angeles. A striking young woman with cropped dark hair, a trendy skirt and 4-inch French heels (the kind with ankle straps) leaned against the doorframe.

She said samething like, “Hi, if this is Painting 101 (my memory is fuzzy), I’m your instructor. I’m Verna. On second thought, you’d better call me Miss Celmins.”

It only took a minute. I wanted to be her. That afternoon, before my shift at Ontra (a Hollywood cafeteria), I went to the beauty school and had my shoulder-length hair lopped off. (I tried on some shoes like hers too, but the straps cut into my ankles every time I took a step.)

Over the course of that semester, we learned about her local adventures. Her Los
Angeles was so different from mine. Once, for example, she dressed up as a boy and hung out at a waterfront bar with the sailors, fishermen, and dock workers.

So much for being her. I could never do anything like that. I felt brave walking three blocks in downtown to change buses. Still…I wanted to be her.

She gave us the best assignments. They were challenging and practical. From her, I learned to put together bars, stretch a canvas, and prime it. (She had us use unflavored gelatin and three layers of white acrylic house paint. It was cheap and produced a gorgeous surface.)

The best assignment, though, seemed absurdly simple. It was to paint an object. Most students in the class arrived at school in cars. (It was Los Angeles, and ours was a commuter school. No dorms.)

I had no such advantage. My trip involved three or four buses (depending on how far I was willing to walk.). My object had to be small. Very small.

My dad (Charles F. Keck, for the curious) was a high school art teacher. I had always been a disappointment to him art-talent-wise, but when I asked for advice, I became just another student and he was happy to oblige.

He suggested a walnut. We had some in the kitchen, probably leftover from Christmas. I cracked one open. It was very small and handy. Unfortunately, as I later discovered, it was very complicated.

One day in class I was struggling with my ghastly greyish brownish tan-ish oil painting of a gigantic walnut half when I felt a presence behind me. It was Celmins.

That was fifty years ago, but I remember exactly what she said. “Like, that’s hilarious.”

At the time, I didn’t know how to take it. I was embarrassed and feared for my grade. But now, thinking about her wonderful, meditative masterpieces of stillness in that Manhattan retrospective and my own scattershot life, I know what she meant.

It was a walnut. It was a brain. And it was, “like hilarious.”

I will never be her, and that’s okay.


Crystal Lake

Here’s a summer photo from Crystal Lake in Ironton Park above Ouray, Colorado on the Million Dollar Highway. The peaks in the background are the Red Mountains, looming above the historic mining district. Time to plan summer vacations.

Crystal Lake – Download From Over 39 Million High Quality Stock Photos, Images, Vectors. Sign up for FREE today. Image: 22837383

Source: Crystal Lake

Creating an Art Inventory

Creating an Art Inventory

After having new shelves installed in my garage, I’m finally getting around to organizing, um, a lot of years worth of drawings, paintings, and other artworks. I’ve been posting them for sale on POD and original sites online and I need a record of what is available where, as well as the dimensions, creation year, and current asking price for each. I just installed the new Office, and was considering creating a database in Access, but I use Excel spreadsheets for my taxes, and that is probably easier. This blog post give the details. 

Bad Bad Bad

I signed up for the Art Every Day Challenge, thinking it would be a refreshing break from my writing each day to do a drawing or painting. (I am participating in NaNoWriMo, the Poem a Day Challenge, and Picture Book Idea Month.)

Uh, I signed up for too much. I am not sorry though. So far, I am more than half-way through the 20,000 words I had left to write on a draft of my novel, I have more than 100 ideas for picture books, and I have written 12 new contemporary free verse poems.

As far as the Art a Day Challenge goes, I have gone out to shoot landscape photographs every day. It is a season of transition here in western Colorado. We have had the last of fall color, the first snow, some exciting wind that scoured out the haze, and a spectacular storm with billowing clouds. It would have been a sin to stay indoors, and I use photographs as sources for my other artwork.

I sell some of my photographs on Royalty-Free stock sites including Shutterstock, IStock, Dreamstime, BigStock, Fotalia, Veer, Depositphotos, Canstock, 123 Royalty Free and more, but I do not count my straight digital captures as artwork. I will see if I can post some new art tomorrow. Image

For now, here are some deer we spotted at the Grand Junction Wildlife Refuge near the Colorado River. They were watching us from a grove of cottonwoods. The image is cropped from a larger frame and is more than a bit soft, but I wanted to share them with you.

Autumn at the Wildlife Sanctuary

Autumn at the Wildlife Sanctuary

in their last days
autumn leaves
grow more brilliant
against the desert
sky while the pond
stays still
and the river
flows by.
People fall
out of my
life like leaves
and memories
while the I
in my mind
is still
the one
who listened
to evening
sounds outside
the window
when I was four,
and, like the river,
hours flow by.

Some Help for Artists, Galleries, Private Collections and Museums Impacted by Hurricane Sandy

If you are on the East Coast, follow the link below for some timely information regarding special assistance.

Some Help for Artists, Galleries, Private Collections and Museums Impacted by Hurricane Sandy.