Monday, October 31, 2011

James Hillman (1926 - 2011)

Years ago I was fortunate enough to attend a depth psychology conference with James Hillman, Robert Bly and Coleman Barks as presenters.  Watching and learning from any one of them was a treat but to see all of them in one place and watch their interaction with each other was truly a beautiful experience.

James Hillman, one of the foremost psychologists of our time, left this world this week and will be missed.  Stephen Aizenstat, Chancellor at Pacifica Graduate Institute, one of Hillman's academic bases, sent out the following note from author/professor Richard Tarnas:

Dear friends,

James Hillman, one of our great mentors, died peacefully this morning at his home in Connecticut. He was 85.  His wife Margot said he was true to his character to the end, even as he moved into that place between day and night, speaking through the night in many languages, very funny, and himself. During these last several months, despite the pain and the meds needed to manage it (cancer in his pelvis), James had managed to finish the many projects he'd been intensely committed to completing before he left.

May I just add, in tribute to him as a friend, how deeply James has enriched us with his unending flow of insights, placing so many things in new light—and in shadow. His depth of soul and reading and culture, his trickster wit, his heretic originality, his sharp-edged individuality. He will be deeply missed, but he left us with so much that we will be integrating for a long time to come.  It was just over thirty years ago that he came to San Francisco and presented what would later become his profound and influential essay, "Anima Mundi: The Return of the Soul to the World"—a turning point in depth psychology.

"Ecology movements, futurism, feminism, urbanism, protest and disarmament, personal individuation cannot alone save the world from the catastrophe inherent in our very idea of the world. They require a cosmological vision that saves the phenomenon 'world' itself, a move in soul that goes beyond measures of expediency to the archetypal source of our world's continuing peril: the fateful neglect, the repression, of the anima mundi."

May he rest in peace, and live on here through us, as he would have wished.


Milton Glaser Monday: Secret #8

This is #8 in reposting Barney Davey's blog post of Milton Glaser list of "10 Things I Have Learned - The Secret of Art."  It is a great post but each one of the 10 items is so powerful and thought provoking by itself that I've decided to repost them one at a time, one per week at the beginning of the week.  See post #1 for Davey's words about Glaser.

Everyone always talks about confidence in believing what you do. I remember once going to a class in yoga where the teacher said that, spirituality speaking, if you believed that you had achieved enlightenment you have merely arrived at your limitation. I think that is also true in a practical sense. Deeply held beliefs of any kind prevent you from being open to experience, which is why I find all firmly held ideological positions questionable. It makes me nervous when someone believes too deeply or too much. I think that being sceptical and questioning all deeply held beliefs is essential. Of course we must know the difference between scepticism and cynicism because cynicism is as much a restriction of one’s openness to the world as passionate belief is. They are sort of twins. And then in a very real way, solving any problem is more important than being right. There is a significant sense of self-righteousness in both the art and design world. Perhaps it begins at school. Art school often begins with the Ayn Rand model of the single personality resisting the ideas of the surrounding culture. The theory of the avant garde is that as an individual you can transform the world, which is true up to a point. One of the signs of a damaged ego is absolute certainty.

Schools encourage the idea of not compromising and defending your work at all costs. Well, the issue at work is usually all about the nature of compromise. You just have to know what to compromise. Blind pursuit of your own ends which excludes the possibility that others may be right does not allow for the fact that in design we are always dealing with a triad – the client, the audience and you. 

Ideally, making everyone win through acts of accommodation is desirable. But self-righteousness is often the enemy. Self-righteousness and narcissism generally come out of some sort of childhood trauma, which we do not have to go into. It is a consistently difficult thing in human affairs. Some years ago I read a most remarkable thing about love, that also applies to the nature of co-existing with others. It was a quotation from Iris Murdoch in her obituary. It read ‘ Love is the extremely difficult realisation that something other than oneself is real.’ Isn’t that fantastic! The best insight on the subject of love that one can imagine.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Never Choose from Impatience

Some people don't see the value in Facebook, but this morning it delivered the absolutely perfect message for me.

"Never speak out of anger, 
Never act out of fear, 
Never choose from impatience, 
But wait, and peace will appear." 
- Guy Finley

Guy Finley is a self-realization author ...

About this Image:  Star Bird

A mini Intuitive Lifescape from my recent visit with my friend Kathryn.

Friday, October 28, 2011

OMG Pinkberry!

One of the things about living in the country is that every time I go to the city, the world is fresh and magical.  Today my friend Kathryn and I walked around Santa Barbara and happened into a Pinkberry yogurt shop.  Not a very unique event and my expectations were low:  a break from walking, talking and shopping and a pleasant treat.  

Isn't it magical, though, when someone takes the ordinary and turns it into extraordinary?!

Pinkberry has a limited number of non-fat flavors with a wide array of toppings.  Ordinary.  First clue to the extraordinary is the server who asks if you've been here before, explains a little about their unique approach and then asks if you would like to sample a flavor.  I pick peanut butter knowing I probably won't like it because I've had it before and it's always bland and disappointing.  Not this time. OMG, somehow this has the essence of peanut butter in a frosty smoothness.  It doesn't even need a topping ... although I do opt for a scoop of chocolate crunch.  Instantly I am a fan.

I begin to look around and notice the decorations ... simple, clean, fresh and inviting ... and listen as the staff engages with other customers ... obviously trained staff.  Later I ask one of the servers and find out that they receive about a week of training before starting work.  Now I am a groupie eagerly awaiting a Pinkberry in the Fresno area ... hint, hint all you Fresno entrepreneurs!

I thought I was having a unique groupie experience until I came across a Los Angeles Times article that called it the "taste that launched a thousand parking tickets."  Apparently some of it's fans call it "crackberry" and agree with food blogger Rosie O'Neill, who wrote recently: "I would get Pinkberry IV'ed into my veins if I could."

The Times article reports:  Pinkberry was started by Hyekyung Hwang (a.k.a. Shelly), the daughter of a factory owner in South Korea, who came to America in 1992 for business school at USC. She is smart, quiet and tougher than she seems. Her business partner, Young Lee, a kick boxer turned architect, was once a bouncer for nightclubs before he started to design them.
Hwang understands that people want food that is healthy and low-calorie and that they will pay more money for it than you might think. Pinkberry yogurt is made with real milk and is about 20 calories per ounce, and a medium cup with three fresh fruit toppings (nothing comes from a can or is soaked in syrup) costs $4.95. What Lee knows is that aesthetics matter, and even if you are only going to spend 20 minutes in a yogurt store it should be a refreshing 20 minutes. So he painted the inside of Pinkberry in sherbet hues of peach, green and blue, and used Philippe Starck furniture and Le Klint plastic hanging lamps from Design Within Reach because, he said, they remind him of yogurt. The effect is modern Asian, not kindergarten.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Flower Masters: Wisdom

The Flower Masters left another message for me last night:  wisdom.

Wisdom ... it's a word we throw around lightly but when I went looking for a definition, I found a certain vagueness.  It's almost one of those "we know it when we see it" things.  There's a general agreement that it involves understanding what is right and true and being able to act upon that understanding.  But, since we might have just as much difficulty reaching consensus on what is right and true, we actually haven't gotten very far.

So when I look to this flower for its wisdom, I see an entity proclaiming itself to the world, mid-way in it's life-cycle, gloriously beautiful in full bloom as well as in its wilted blossom.  Generous and open with its nectar that supports its own future while also nourishing life around it.  I see simplicity and complexity not in conflict but in a harmonic dance.  I see certainty without hesitation ... complete clarity about its direction, its mission and purpose.

I see wisdom that eludes me ... a master teacher showing the way to serenity, grace, beauty and peace.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Contest: $100 for School Art Supplies

I've decided it's time to stop complaining about the state of funding for art education supplies in schools and do something about it, even if it's only a nit on an elephant.  So here's the deal ...

I will donate $100 for school supplies for the best 37-word story by a student related to this image ... it can be shorter but absolutely no more than 37 words.  Put your story in the comment section below with your name, school, city and state.  The winning student will receive a signed copy of the image printed on metal.  And, if the winner is a student artist, I will post one of your pieces of artwork on this blog.

Deadline, 12:00 a.m., November 21st Pacific Time.  Check the blog post on November 23rd to find out the winner and make arrangements to receive your art supply donation.

Please pass this along to all teachers you know so they can have their students enter. (Limited to high school and below, please.)  If we have fun with this, I'll do it on a monthly basis.  And, if anyone wants to add to the pot, please let me know.

BLOGGERS:  Join the fun ... post something about this contest and pledge $25 or more to your local school for art supplies and you'll be listed below as a Blogger Sponsor.  Leave a comment with your blog URL, school, city and pledge.  I can assure you, your local school will be delighted with your small donation.  You'll also be part of the judging team.

Businesses & Philanthropists:  You can play, too.  Donate $100 for art supplies to one of your local schools and you'll be listed below as an Art Patron.  Just leave a comment with your name, donation amount and school of choice.

Blogger Sponsors:

Louise Gallagher, Recover Your Joy

Art Patrons:

Ann Kennedy & Company, $100

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Routine: Who Knew?

My first husband once told me I had no bad habits.  I was rather startled by this observation until he continued, "you have no good habits, you have no bad habits, you have no habits period."  Suddenly I realized that this was not an admiring commentary on my sterling character, although I recognized the truth behind his frustration.  I do have a tendency to wake up in a new world every day.  Some people might say I like to try new things.  I'm not entirely sure that it's not just that I forget how I did things yesterday.

However, things seem to be changing.  I just returned from my mosaic class which meets every Tuesday from 10 to 2.  I've been going to it for a year and a half and have never missed except when I was out of town or because of weather.  I never even think about missing it ... it has become a weekly routine that I cherish.  There are other routines that have become important to me ... walking Missy every morning ... posting on my blog on an almost-daily basis ... even where I put my keys and making my bed as soon as I get out of it.  I'm not sure whether this increasing comfort with routine is a sign of age, maturity, or a realization (finally) that routines really do simplify life.

Anyway, who knew?

About this image:  Insight

Another gift from the Flower Masters seemed to be appropriate for this post which is about the new insight of how much routines simplify and ground our lives.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Why Art Education Is Crucial: Poster

The National Art Education Association has a great poster that summarizes this issue beautifully. (The image is just the top part of it.)  It is available here.  This is obviously an issue a lot of us feel passionately about so please share this informative poster freely.

Milton Glaser Monday: Secret #7

This is #7 (don't miss this one!) in reposting Barney Davey's blog post of Milton Glaser list of "10 Things I Have Learned - The Secret of Art."  It is a great post but each one of the 10 items is so powerful and thought provoking by itself that I've decided to repost them one at a time, one per week at the beginning of the week.  See post #1 for Davey's words about Glaser.

The brain is the most responsive organ of the body. Actually it is the organ that is most susceptible to change and regeneration of all the organs in the body. I have a friend named Gerald Edelman who was a great scholar of brain studies and he says that the analogy of the brain to a computer is pathetic. The brain is actually more like an overgrown garden that is constantly growing and throwing off seeds, regenerating and so on. And he believes that the brain is susceptible, in a way that we are not fully conscious of, to almost every experience of our life and every encounter we have. I was fascinated by a story in a newspaper a few years ago about the search for perfect pitch. A group of scientists decided that they were going to find out why certain people have perfect pitch. You know certain people hear a note precisely and are able to replicate it at exactly the right pitch. Some people have relevant pitch; perfect pitch is rare even among musicians. The scientists discovered – I don’t know how - that among people with perfect pitch the brain was different. Certain lobes of the brain had undergone some change or deformation that was always present with those who had perfect pitch. This was interesting enough in itself. But then they discovered something even more fascinating. If you took a bunch of kids and taught them to play the violin at the age of 4 or 5 after a couple of years some of them developed perfect pitch, and in all of those cases their brain structure had changed. Well what could that mean for the rest of us? We tend to believe that the mind affects the body and the body affects the mind, although we do not generally believe that everything we do affects the brain. I am convinced that if someone was to yell at me from across the street my brain could be affected and my life might changed. That is why your mother always said, ‘Don’t hang out with those bad kids.’ Mama was right. Thought changes our life and our behaviour. I also believe that drawing works in the same way. I am a great advocate of drawing, not in order to become an illustrator, but because I believe drawing changes the brain in the same way as the search to create the right note changes the brain of a violinist. Drawing also makes you attentive. It makes you pay attention to what you are looking at, which is not so easy.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Flower Masters: Abundance

Another flower was left on my pillow this morning:  abundance.

The first time I saw protea was at the Farmer's Market in Santa Barbara.  Their unique shape and color fascinated me but they were expensive so I never bought any.  One day I was visiting a woman's house and she had a large vase filled with them and I marveled at the abundance but still I never bought any for myself.

Last year on a road trip with my friend Judy, we were driving down Highway 1 to Big Sur and stopped at a restaurant/gift shop and found huge bushes of protea.  It made me realize that both abundance and scarcity are a matter of perspective.  From a Kansas perspective (where I grew up), proteas are exotic and scarce; from a Big Sur point of view they grow lush and free.

I am back in a place where there are no protea ... but the flower masters remind me that abundance is a matter of perspective and choice.  I could have chosen abundance and filled a small vase with protea when I was in Santa Barbara.  I can also choose abundance by reveling in the pines and oak that grow lush around me in these incredible foothills.  I can exult in the small bits of scarcity that fit my budget or lavish myself in the abundance offered freely by the world around me.  Another case of it's never "either/or" but always "both/and."

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Flower Masters: Freedom

Last night there was an orgy at my house.  Friends from the past came to call and then barged right in shouting, "Let's party!"  They started throwing around pinks and yellows, and one of them tossed purple all over the place while another blew a flute that shot green out in great billowing clouds.  

They danced and sang till way past my bedtime so I finally gave up and left them cavorting about.  But, before I dropped off to sleep completely, someone leaned over and whispered in my ear, "We're your flower masters.  Pay attention!"

On my pillow this morning, I found this "freedom flower."

Friday, October 21, 2011

Why Art Education Is Crucial: Flowers Are Red

Former teacher Peggy Broadbent has contributed some valuable information to the conversation about art education and its importance to students and to our world.  Since school art programs are being eliminated across the country, this is a critical topic and I will happily pass along information that contributes to the understanding of the importance of art education, not in creating future artists but in creating an environment where children learn to think creatively, work independently and communicate with passion and expression.

Here's a highlight of one of Peggy's blog posts on this subject and you can click here to read the full post:
It has been long understood that when children are participating in art, they are in a process that includes nourishing expression, an acuteness of the senses, experimentation and risk-taking, developing imagination, and creative development. However, in addition to these assets, it’s also another way of communicating.
Peggy says that art education for young children should:
  • emphasize the process, not the product
  • stimulate pure investigation into a variety of materials
  • allow children to use their own ideas and imaginations 
For a heartbreaking view of what can happen if we take art education out of schools ... or focus on the product rather than process ... listen to this song by Harry Chapin, a storyteller/songwriter/social activist who was taken from us way too soon in an auto accident.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Mary Nohl: My New Hero

Here's a woman who has lived her life her way, immersed in art, in love with what she finds around her.  Of course, she never had to worry about money, but, oh what a life!  Enjoy this brief walk through her garden and visit with her.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

What IS Beauty?

I've been prowling around the internet, watching some YouTube videos, and contemplating beauty.  What IS beauty?  Some say we know it when we see it.  I think we know it when we feel it.

Many years ago I had an experience of beauty that changed me.  I was in the USSR ... it was 1990 so it was still the USSR even though the cracks were showing.  I was there as part of an international SuperCamp  bringing teenagers from the USSR and the USA together for two weeks of learning.  The camp was just outside Moscow and we spent the first days touring and meeting our hosts.  What I noticed first, after we left Red Square, was how utterly ugly the city was.  Boxy grey concrete apartment buildings dominated the views and everywhere you looked, everything you saw, was a testament to function over form ... a crumbling function over form.

The camp was housed on a college campus that was just as grey and crumbling as the city.  1990 was a difficult time in Moscow.  Grocery stores were empty, literally empty with nothing on the shelves or racks.  Hours-long lines for a loaf of bread were daily occurrences and  impromptu swap meets formed along roadsides as people tried to find parts for their cars.  Bleak was a word we repeated frequently although the people we met were incredibly kind and generous.  From them we learned the art of "gifting," presenting people with small presents on almost every occasion.  And, one of my most memorable moments was when a group of us spent an evening in the tiny living room of one of the instructors.  We talked and sang and shared a tiny dish of chocolates and I felt the true warmth of abundance.

One morning, mid-way through our time there, I took a walk through a birch forest that was next to the campus.  The forest was summer green and luscious and the birch trees stood slim and white, punctuated with black hash marks.  Suddenly I found tears streaming down my face and realized it was the sheer beauty of that forest that was overwhelming me. I'm sure part of the reaction was because of the extreme contrast between the harsh ugliness of Moscow and the perfect beauty of the forest but I suddenly understood that beauty is something we feel.

I don't weep for beauty every day.  Life gets in the way.  I live in a place where beauty is commonplace.  And, I don't slow down enough to let the feeling of beauty sink into my cells and rise into my consciousness.  Today I will walk with Beauty and see where she takes me.

Here is the first part of a YouTube series on Beauty that is very engaging:

Monday, October 17, 2011

Milton Glaser Monday: Secret #6

This is #6 in reposting Barney Davey's blog post of Milton Glaser list of "10 Things I Have Learned - The Secret of Art."  It is a great post but each one of the 10 items is so powerful and thought provoking by itself that I've decided to repost them one at a time, one per week at the beginning of the week.  See post #1 for Davey's words about Glaser.


I think this idea first occurred to me when I was looking at a marvellous etching of a bull by Picasso. It was an illustration for a story by Balzac called The Hidden Masterpiece. I am sure that you all know it. It is a bull that is expressed in 12 different styles going from very naturalistic version of a bull to an absolutely reductive single line abstraction and everything else along the way. What is clear just from looking at this single print is that style is irrelevant. In every one of these cases, from extreme abstraction to acute naturalism they are extraordinary regardless of the style. It’s absurd to be loyal to a style. It does not deserve your loyalty. I must say that for old design professionals it is a problem because the field is driven by economic consideration more than anything else. Style change is usually linked to economic factors, as all of you know who have read Marx. Also fatigue occurs when people see too much of the same thing too often. So every ten years or so there is a stylistic shift and things are made to look different. Typefaces go in and out of style and the visual system shifts a little bit. If you are around for a long time as a designer, you have an essential problem of what to do. I mean, after all, you have developed a vocabulary, a form that is your own. It is one of the ways that you distinguish yourself from your peers, and establish your identity in the field. How you maintain your own belief system and preferences becomes a real balancing act. The question of whether you pursue change or whether you maintain your own distinct form becomes difficult. We have all seen the work of illustrious practitioners that suddenly look old-fashioned or, more precisely, belonging to another moment in time. And there are sad stories such as the one about Cassandre, arguably the greatest graphic designer of the twentieth century, who couldn’t make a living at the end of his life and committed suicide.
But the point is that anybody who is in this for the long haul has to decide how to respond to change in the zeitgeist. What is it that people now expect that they formerly didn’t want? And how to respond to that desire in a way that doesn’t change your sense of integrity and purpose.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Political: Yin and Yang of OWS

"The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function."  -- F. Scott Fitzgerald
I hope Fitzgerald is right because I seem to be holding two opposing ideas about the Occupy Wall Street phenomena and it would be nice to be able to continue to function.

First, I'm proud of and inspired by the people who have courageously taken time out of their lives to express their concerns about our country.  It is obvious that they have touched a deep well of frustration and discontent.  Their actions are a call to make changes that will create a system that is fairer for everyone.

Second, I'm concerned about the "we/they"-ness of the discussion.  We, the unsullied, victimized 99% versus "they," the evil, greedy 1%.  There are many things wrong with our political and financial systems and there is no doubt that more of the fallout of the recession has landed on the middle class and poor than on the wealthy.  But those of us in the 99% helped create the system that got us here.  

We fell in love with our credit cards, "needed" bigger houses enough to take on larger and larger mortgages, lusted after shiny cars and Jimmy Choo shoes and began to rely on prescription drugs and doctor visits to take the place of exercise and a healthy diet.  We were also so traumatized by the horror of 9/11 that we allowed our leaders to buy us the feeling of security with billions of war dollars from our already stretched budget as well as thousands of lives of our young people and hundreds of thousands of innocent lives in foreign lands.

It's as if we have now awakened with a monstrous headache after a long buying binge and are trying to blame the bartender and the distillery that made that lovely single malt scotch.  The conversation that OWS has launched is rich with possibilities but it is also fraught with potential unintended consequences.  If we forget that we are all in this together and get caught up in finger pointing and blaming, this peaceful display of our democratic ideals could lead us down a dark path toward something none of us want.

More than anything I hope that we can remember that there is no 99% or 1% ... there is only all of us in this together.  We created a mess.  We now need to fix it.  And, we also need to understand that it will not be easy or quick.

Stimulating Creativity

I spent a lot of years studying creativity, thinking about how to encourage and support creativity and finding and developing tools that would maximize creativity in organizational environments.  When I started this journey, you could easily fit all the creativity books onto one average book shelf; now you could fill libraries with all the creativity volumes.  However, creativity remains a magical, mystical force that refuses to be pinned down on a flowchart, spreadsheet or the pages in a book.

So, I was interested this morning when Tara Grey Coste of the American Creativity Association posted an article by Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert.  If you've followed Dilbert (and who hasn't), you would expect him to say the unexpected.  And he does when he states emphatically that the best way to kill creativity is to try to stimulate it.  He makes a point that I agree with ... almost as much as I disagree with it.  And, he has such a lovely way of saying it ... starting out with:
"Creative people literally can't stop themselves from creating. It's a form of OCD." 
 I agree with this part, but disagree with the corollary when he states, " ... those who don't have it (creativity) can't get it."  This is where we bump up against the definition of creativity, a challenge beautifully taken on by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his book Creativity : Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention where he distinguishes between big "C" Creativity (what the world judges as creative) and small "c" creativity (that mysterious force within each of us).

It is true that some people are born with a different way of looking at things (e.g. Scott Adams and his Dilbert).  Their minds work in different ways and no amount of stimulation can make our minds work that way.  This is where Scott is absolutely right.

Where he's wrong is calling that the sum total of creativity. Every day every person exercises their personal creativity ... we create our lives, making choices, finding new ways to help our teenagers learn to cope with the world, arranging flowers for the table, building a tree house in the back yard.  Those activities may never wind up in the big "C" creativity world but they are an exercise of creativity nonetheless.

Adams states that it is hardship that stimulates creativity and making things "easy" for people actually reduces creativity.  Therefore, trying to stimulate creativity actually kills it.  The problem is the notion of "hardship" which he likens to being threatened or uncomfortable.  

Change the word "hardship" to "challenge" and suddenly it's a different world.  Give people an engaging challenge, put together a diverse group of thinkers,   and then watch creativity emerge ... big C and little c.  Think of any great project or product and behind it you will find a challenge that gave people a vision of something bigger and better.  The idea may have started in the head of one unique thinker but along the way it took the creativity of lots of people to bring it into the world.

Giving people a chance to be engaged with a worthwhile challenge is the very best way to stimulate creativity.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Luna in Hunter's Moon

Two nights ago, a group of us hiked up a short trail to a granite dome and watched the full moon rise over Bass Lake.  It was the Hunter's Moon, also known as the blood moon or sanguine moon, a time for stockpiling food for the winter.  We sat on the rock with no need to hunt or worry about food for the winter, and watched the moon's gradual appearance.  

Soon, however, she was outshown by her reflection across the dark water.  At first we noticed dark fingers in the reflection as the tall pines along the far shore threw their shadows against the bright pool of reflected moon.  Then we watched as the reflection brightened and continuously changed shapes,  Ducks and geese drew lines in the light and the pines on our side of the lake fringed the glimmering reflection.  We sat mesmerized, talking a little, a few people drumming but more or less just watching the changing light show.

Yesterday as the image of that bright reflection, actually a reflection of a reflection of the sun we couldn't see at all, continued to haunt me, the image above emerged, in some ways a continuation of the rippling reflection that held our gaze and connected us in time with each other and with the people who came before us whose lives required close relationship with the world around them. For a short moment we felt that relationship.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

So, Picasso ...

Picasso is clearly one of the most successful artists of modern times.  He must have been born under an exceptional star for he was successful from his teenage years when he arrived in Paris and by his mid-20s he was avidly collected.  He became the equivalent of a rock star and stayed that way until his death at 92.

Three of us went up to see the Picasso exhibit at the deYoung Museum in San Francisco.  It was an extensive collection that represented "every phase of his long career" including paintings, sculptures, drawings and prints.  At the end of two hours of viewing and listening to the audio tour, all of us had the same reaction:  "I don't get it."

It's clear that Picasso broke with the norms of his time and that he was trying to express time and space in a way that had never been done on a two-dimensional canvas.  Give him points for genius.  But, up close, his work is ... well, it is just ugly, dull and sloppy.  He is credited with creating 50,000 works of art ... perhaps that's the reason most of his work looks unfinished and rushed.  One painting had a horizontal line through the middle of it that was still visible even though it looked like he changed his mind and just scratched it out.  A painting of his son has a realistic face on top of a barely realized harlequin suit and a sketched-in piece of furniture hovering over what looked like three cartoon feet.  In many of the paintings there are what look like left over artifacts of previous studies.  

Throughout the exhibit, quotes from Picasso were written on the wall and included on the brochure that was handed out.  According to the brochure he once commented, "Painting is just another way of keeping a diary."  That is exactly what his work looks like, quick sketches of his chaotic life as he moved from one woman to another, using the barest strokes to indicate their feminine form and being done with the women almost as quickly as he was done with a painting.  And yet, one piece of information from the audio tour indicated that he did over a thousand study drawings when preparing for one of his paintings. 

After the exhibit, Picasso remained a puzzle for me.  On the whole I don't like his work and don't understand why he became so popular so quickly and remained that way his entire life.  The debate about what is art is endless and the question of what is great art even more complicated.  I'm sure my inability to appreciate the most influential artist of our time is more a reflection of me than it is a judgment of him  He has been judged by the world and found great ... but I still just don't get it.

This image is Picasso's "Portrait of Dora Maar" ... one of the few I really liked.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Milton Glaser Monday: Secret #5

This is #5 in reposting Barney Davey's blog post of Milton Glaser list of "10 Things I Have Learned - The Secret of Art."  It is a great post but each one of the 10 items is so powerful and thought provoking by itself that I've decided to repost them one at a time, one per week at the beginning of the week.  See post #1 for Davey's words about Glaser.


Being a child of modernism I have heard this mantra all my life. Less is more. One morning upon awakening I realised that it was total nonsense, it is an absurd proposition and also fairly meaningless. But it sounds great because it contains within it a paradox that is resistant to understanding. But it simply does not obtain when you think about the visual of the history of the world. If you look at a Persian rug, you cannot say that less is more because you realise that every part of that rug, every change of colour, every shift in form is absolutely essential for its aesthetic success. You cannot prove to me that a solid blue rug is in any way superior. That also goes for the work of Gaudi, Persian miniatures, art nouveau and everything else. However, I have an alternative to the proposition that I believe is more appropriate. ‘Just enough is more.’

Saturday, October 8, 2011

It Starts with Cookies

There's a lot of things wrong in our world right now.  We just rolled over the 7 billion population number ... three times what the population was in 1950, financial uncertainty is global, and climate change is remaking the very face of the planet.  It all seems overwhelming so I was happy to see AARP print a list of things we as individuals can do ... starting with:  Skip the cookies!

Their point, of course, is that health care costs are at the heart of our fiscal problems and almost 100 million of us in the US are diabetic or prediabetic so cutting cookies, losing weight and getting healthier could help the national financial situation. The problem is that we LIKE cookies; they are quick, convenient and portable; and they are comfort food that reminds us of childhood and mother's love.  

This made me think about things in general.  The protestors in NY put out a Declaration listing some very valid points, all starting with "They ... " (if you haven't seen it, click here

However, is there really a "they?"  if we can't give up cookies, can we really expect bankers to give up greed, politicians to give up power, or CEOs to forego a multi-million dollar bonus even if they didn't earn it?  It reminds me of Walt Kelly's famous Pogo cartoon where he says, "We have met the enemy and he is us."

In case you're interested, AARP's other recommendations are also pretty simple (which is not the same as easy):
  • Cut 150 calories a day (the cookie thing to reduce diabetes related health care costs)
  • Pay your debts. (reduce pressure on the national debt)
  • Walk a mile a day. (reduce heart disease and health care costs)
  • Plan to work an extra year or two. (bolster Social Security)
  • Give Uncle Sam a gift.  (So far this year, over $2 million has been given in gifts to the Treasury)

Friday, October 7, 2011

Lifescapes: Art from the Heart

I love taking pictures of "stuff" ... those iconic treasures that hold meaning for us even when they have no extrinsic value, and more and more, I find them showing up in my digital paintings.  Lately I've had some wonderful opportunities to take pictures in people's homes and studios and one day I thought, "Wouldn't it be fun to be able to create a series of paintings based on the beauty people surround themselves with?"  

This led to the development of a new process I'm calling "Lifescapes:  Art from the Heart" based completely on iconic beauty found in a client's home, studio or office.  I was lucky enough to have a friend who agreed to be my guinea pig to work out the kinks in the process and this image, "The Elemental Path," is my first finished lifescape.  The elements of Love, Beauty, Nature, Joy and Spirit radiate throughout her home and her being so the image came together easily and, while the final piece is specific to her own journey, it is also universal enough to speak to others.

My first experience with this process has been so inspirational and fun that I look forward to doing more.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Where Crime Begins

This quote from Roger Ebert in was found in The Week:

"Kindness" covers all of my political beliefs.  I believe that if, at the end, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do.
To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts.
We must try to contribute joy to the world.  That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances.  We must try.
I didn't always know this and am happy I lived long enough to find it out.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Timberline Artist Part of Lost Mosaic Revival

Brian Kincaid is part of the revival of the fine-line grout mosaic process.  I was sitting as the curator-of-the-day at Timberline Art Gallery when Brian came in and generously spent some of his time explaining the history and details of the process to a small group of visitors and me.  His work had amazed me for some time because of the combination of exceptional craftsmanship and the beauty of his designs so I was delighted to find out more about him and the process.

His artwork looks like stained glass but is more closely related to mosaics, using grout instead of lead to hold the pieces of glass together.  The process requires meticulous precision as well as artistry in the choosing, grinding and placement of each piece of glass, so I was not surprised to learn that he spent his career as an engineer before being captivated by the almost lost mosaic process.  This process was popular in the 1850-1890 period and then died out as stained glass became more popular.  

About 20 years ago, a revival of the process began and Brian discovered it about that time.  He had been helping his wife with her stained glass projects and doing all the glass grinding for her.  He realized that this new-old process required that each piece be precisely ground and it seemed like a fit for his skills and interests.  One of the many interesting things Brian explained was the need for glass to "breathe," expand and contract with weather conditions.  He carefully designs in grout "cracks" to allow for the expansion so the glass does not break. (I think there's a life metaphor there.)

Brian is one of only five artists in the country doing this process and the only one in the west.  Timberline is honored to have him as one of its many talented member artists. Come in and visit some time ... you never know what or who you'll find here.

Monday, October 3, 2011

What Artists Do

Sierra Art Trails is over for this year leaving only a glow of beauty and art in its wake.  One of the most unusual artists on the Trails is Wendy Denton, an artist/photographer who honors birds who have been killed on our roads.  Wendy takes the birds home, scans them and transforms the scans into incredibly beautiful and luminous portraits.  I met her last year on Trails and was just mesmerized by her birds.  The photos here only begin to capture their beauty.

This year Wendy designed an experience for the visitors who came to Queens Inn where she was exhibiting her art.  She hung hundreds of bird silhouettes from the ceiling and then invited visitors to write something about hope on small pieces of Post-It notes and put the notes on the bird cutouts.  Gentle breezes made the birds fly and by the end of Trails, the display was a captivating vision of hope in flight.

Wendy took a risk in creating this experience.  When she told me about it before Trails, I didn't get it.  I had a vision of dozens of a poorly-cutout bird shapes hanging limply from the ceiling.  The dancing reality of the shadows, variety and hope for the future went far beyond my meagre vision and pulled me into a new place.  That's what art does ... that's what artists do.  

Wendy took her original vision of honoring birds and expanded it into an experience that touched and transformed, at least in a small way, all who visited her space.

Milton Glaser Monday: Secret #4

This is #4 in reposting Barney Davey's blog post of Milton Glaser list of "10 Things I Have Learned - The Secret of Art."  It is a great post but each one of the 10 items is so powerful and thought provoking by itself that I've decided to repost them one at a time, one per week at the beginning of the week.  See post #1 for Davey's words about Glaser.

Early in my career I wanted to be professional, that was my complete aspiration in my early life because professionals seemed to know everything - not to mention they got paid for it. Later I discovered after working for a while that professionalism itself was a limitation. After all, what professionalism means in most cases is diminishing risks. So if you want to get your car fixed you go to a mechanic who knows how to deal with transmission problems in the same way each time. I suppose if you needed brain surgery you wouldn’t want the doctor to fool around and invent a new way of connecting your nerve endings. Please do it in the way that has worked in the past.
Unfortunately in our field, in the so-called creative – I hate that word because it is misused so often. I also hate the fact that it is used as a noun. Can you imagine calling someone a creative? Anyhow, when you are doing something in a recurring way to diminish risk or doing it in the same way as you have done it before, it is clear why professionalism is not enough. After all, what is required in our field, more than anything else, is the continuous transgression. Professionalism does not allow for that because transgression has to encompass the possibility of failure and if you are professional your instinct is not to fail, it is to repeat success. So professionalism as a lifetime aspiration is a limited goal.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Guardian Angel Day

Today is the feast of the Guardian Angel day, as designated by the Catholic Church which teaches "that each person is assigned an angel to help protect and guide them through life."  About a year and a half ago, I embarked on a process of meeting my guardian angels in a decidedly unchurch-like fashion: I tore them out of magazines.  I spent several days going through magazine images and picked ... or was picked by ... seven images that called to me, and then asked them for their wisdom. 

It was a hectic and confusing time since I was trying to make several major decisions. Spending time listening to my angels helped me make choices that I'm very happy with today.  You can read this series of blog posts starting at
The series ended with a wish from each of them to all of you so I am repeating that wish and inviting you to celebrate your own guardian angels on this, their special day.

The Trail Blazer's wish for you is that you always have your North Star clearly in sight.
Wisdom Woman sends you synchronicities that remind you of the magic of the Universe.
The Dancer wishes you music that stirs your spirit and leads you into Dance.
The Twin Souls enfold you in unconditional love and help you embrace your Shadow.
Spirit Woman surrounds you with the eternal mystery of Beauty.
Black Beauty invites you feel the deep connection with the Earth.
My Angel touches the yearning in your heart and whispers, "Fly!"

Generation Waking Up

 This is one of the most hopeful things I've seen in a long while. It reminds me of some of the ideals and energy of the sixties. We of that generation didn't do such a good job ... maybe these young people will do better. Heaven only knows we're leaving them a messy challenge that will take all their creativity, collaboration and commitment.

It is almost heartbreaking to hear one of the young people talking about living in a world where he doesn't know what lands will be under water in a decade or two.  This project was fully funded through and is definitely one to watch and support.