My beloved grandson, Dillon, died almost three weeks ago. He was only 28 years old and should have had a long and happy life ahead of him. Instead, he somehow lost his way and couldn’t find his path back. Unbeknown to anyone, he seems to have spent much of the last year of his life roaming through the forest preserve near his home, taking wonderful pictures, and writing brief poems about them. To be honest, many of those poems don’t make a lot of sense to me, yet I can see a certain beauty in them, in his choice of words and images, in his rhythms and rhymes. Many of the others, though, are quite moving. Dillon thought a lot about the nature of the universe, about time, about God.
The photos, too, are well-composed and artistic. They aren’t merely snapshots, but carefully designed images. Dillon posted all his photos and poems on Instagram, where they were apparently seen by almost nobody. Not until after he was gone.
I have spent a lot of the time since he left us downloading all of the images and poems, and I am compiling them into a book, which I will publish when it’s ready. I’ve given it a title, based on one of the poems. In a Mirror—Reflections in Pictures and Poems. It’s all we have left of Dillon now. And our memories, of course. We—his family who loved him so much—will always keep his memory alive in our hearts.
Artists are often advised to present a consistent body of work to the public, for very good reason. If you’ve developed a following, you owe it to your “fans” to give them what they expect. But as an artist, this is easier to say than to do. Creative people naturally want and need to experiment with various art forms, different media, interesting techniques. Even if you absolutely love abstractions, as I do, there’s nothing to stop you from also loving detailed landscapes and intricate still lifes.
When I exhibit, I make sure to maintain consistency. But in my own studio, anything goes. Here are two of my latest efforts, one completely abstract, with lots of texture and one in which I tried to capture the misty chill of a Scottish Highland stream.
Maybe you’ve noticed–I love color. I love how different colors play off each other, sometimes soft and soothing (analogous colors), sometimes bright and jarring (complimentary colors). I often combine my colors with various mediums to create texture on the canvas, too. But for “Sculpture in Gray,” I decided to try something different. To begin, I just glopped on a pile of black and white paint loosely mixed with fiber paste and started spreading it around with a large palette knife. The painting sort of took off on its own from there. I glopped on more paint, dribbled on some silver, sprinkled a little glitter and–voila!
At first glance, you might think it’s just a gray painting, but as you look at it, you notice the swirls and layers, the shadows and lights, and you begin to lose yourself in the richness of the painting. I’ve been studying it in my studio for about a month now, wondering if I need to add any of my signature colors or maybe some defined shapes. But I’ve decided I love it just the way it is. Minimalism has certainly been around since at least mid-twentieth century, but now I find myself appreciating it much more deeply than I ever have before.
Sometimes we all need a little inspiration, a little push to get us going again. The world is so full of colors, you’d think you’d never run out of ideas, but sometimes–you do. So I was thrilled to be able to spend time at MOMA last week, to see their special exhibit, Matisse’s Red Studio. I just love his spare shapes, bright colors, and the way he puts these elements together to create a mood and to tell a story. I wandered the galleries, trying to take it all in, and when I left, a couple of hours later, I really felt refreshed, and ready to get started in my own studio again.
I just finished an interesting piece, which I’m calling What’s Your Hurry? I thought about adding to it, giving it some embellishment, but then I decided I like it exactly as is. What do you think?
When I researched and wrote Riva’s Journey: a Memoir (KDP, 2021), I never thought that the places and people I wrote about would become the topic of today’s headlines. Reading the latest news about Kyiv and Tarnipol and Lviv brings back pictures of the places my grandmother left more than 100 years ago. The spellings may be a bit different now, but the places are the same.
Ukraine has had an extraordinarily difficult history, situated as it is between Poland and Russia, which have fought over this land for centuries. My heart goes out to the Ukrainian people, who are continuing their struggle to claim their own space in the world. My grandmother would have been proud of them.
Sometimes people ask me how I come up with my titles. Well, I enjoy naming my pieces almost as much as I do creating them in the first place. I try to invent names that give the viewer a hint of what I was thinking while I was painting, but at the same time, something that leaves a bit of mystery, a little question in their minds. I’m calling this piece Gothic Bazaar. Why? Well, the pointed arch is a bit of Gothic architecture, isn’t it? And the colors remind me of the time I visited the bazaar in Istanbul, full of golds and secret passageways and hidden corners. Touristy? Sure, but all the same exotic and fun. Everything about this–the design, the colors, and yes – even the title, says Whimsy. A bit of whimsy to brighten up a cold winter day.
Paint on canvas-what could be more peaceful and calming than the simple act of applying paint to canvas? Letting the paint flow while music supplies the mood and and directs the action. Enjoying the colors, savoring the process of letting the design happen. Nothing better on a January day.
Here are two of my latest efforts.
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So begins Samuel Coleridge’s famous poem. Xanadu Gallery in the heart of downtown Scottsdale, Arizona, might not exactly rival the ancient city of Shangdu, China, but it’s an inspiring place, nonetheless, featuring a variety of beautiful and innovative artworks created by artists all over the country. So I consider it an honor to have some of the paintings in my Red Mountain series included in their latest catalog, which will be going out to all their clients shortly. You can check out an advance copy here. (My pieces are on page 25.)
My Naperville readers may not realize that we have a hidden gem in the Main Street Promenade. The second and third floors, accessible from both Main and Webster Streets, host a variety of businesses in a light, cheery environment that provides an ideal setting for the ongoing art exhibits sponsored by the Naperville Art League. Walk the halls and you’ll be astonished by the beautiful variety of paintings and drawings on display there, including four of my large pieces. You’ll be glad you made the trip.
Individual works of art may be purchased through the Naperville Art League.
In my previous post, I wrote about using a 12 x 12 format to express a single idea, but sometimes, I need a bigger canvas to capture the moment. A River Runs Through It reminds me of the colorful river towns perched on the hilltops in Spain. The water rushing down the mountains, the clean, fresh air! Aah–how delightful.