In academic regalia, other more brilliant colors are claimed by various fields of study, but Brown – that turned earth color, that dirt-that’s-been-rained-on color, that sometimes mud color – is reserved for the Fine Arts. It’s apparently the color for the composers, the performers, the visual artists who are earthbound yet are called upon to touch, just touch, and to point out to something sacred in us all. That turned earth that’s been rained on? That’s us artists. That mud color? That’s us.
It’s in our DNA, I suppose. We are a blend of earthly material, physical matter with a density that results in a muddy color as when blending many paints. But the rain, the inspiration and the warmth can bring forth newness from the common dirt. Even cool temperatures can call forth life.
My hope for Fine Arts grads this season: Stay humble and enjoy your bit of earth. Cultivate it, prepare it, be ready like any farmer who watches and prays… like the farmer, the artist prepares to feed many people in and beyond acquaintance.
On his website, painter Madison Cawein writes: “Why do paintings hang on walls? To connect earth to heaven…We also stand vertically, perpendicular to the earth. Connecting earth to heaven is also our purpose.”
Congratulations, Fine Arts graduates. Now let’s get to work.
As a child, I drew all the time – anytime, whenever I could find a blank paper (even in some of my mother’s books). Of course art school demanded more, and I had better materials and more subjects to consider. More drawing came in graduate school but began to drop off in the ensuing years.
In 2006 or so, I took my high school art class outside to draw. Since they were engaged, I decided to draw too and quickly discovered that I had no patience for this once-cherished activity. Stunned, I went home and launched a campaign to get drawing again. Some of my efforts were good, and all of them could have been better. I continued to draw whenever I could, but I soon gave in to the seduction of colors and painting with acrylics.
I began to feel some discomfort with painting recently, something I couldn’t quite name. Then I began to notice how often the subject of drawing came up: in books, in conversation, in art materials I was drawn to, in what I packed for a recent trip. I found a sketch pad small enough to get in my purse and when looking for a blank page, I found instead an earlier drawing with a note.
From me. To me. About a drawing of a trashcan.
“Drawing a trashcan is a humbling experience. Something so gross, so general. Why can’t it be more romantic? Yet the trashcan is what it is – a simple form in need of your awareness and attention at this moment in time.”
Time to revisit the bare bones as Georgia O’Keeffe might have put it.
Copyright Anita L. Rodriguez, The Last Beach Day, watercolor on paper, 5×12 inches
The above was painted from memory (atypical for me). I wanted to picture my last visit to the beach in Oceanside, CA but not a literal picture. On July 27, 2007 I wasn’t wearing this outfit nor did I have this hat and I was there with my 2 kids; however, I might have looked into the horizon or the sky and wondered what was going to happen now. We were moving to KY rather against our will; events had intervened that made it necessary and we wouldn’t be making our annual end-of-the-school-year trip to the beach anymore. My native Californian heart was heavy and I didn’t think I’d ever get over the loss…
But it’s been 10 years! I’ve accomplished a LOT in those years with paintings, exhibitions, travelling outside the immediate area, learning more technological stuff – more than I did in CA where I felt complacent. My attitude has changed and this one shift has been a game changer; negativity and a poor self image simply will not do. I sometimes do find myself wishing I could get a natural pedicure of sorts from walking on the beach but I have a new life and a new attitude now and I can’t go backwards.
I recently spent a few glorious days in Golden, Colorado attending an artist business conference. It was a rich and fulfilling time away; it offered time to refresh and reconsider…to refill the well, as an elementary school teacher friend once told me. I met and befriended many other artists from around the country and beyond; we shared many ideas, plans, suggestions and considered new marketing strategies. There are many things I’m grateful for, some incredible breakthroughs, but the one that really moved me was one from artist Lucy Yanagida: after looking at my website and noting all the images of water and rocks, she reminded me that in Jungian analysis, water always represented “a loosening.” Indeed. More to come…
These late summer/early fall days are getting filled with good things. On Aug. 25, there’s the opening reception for the Paducah School of Art and Design Faculty Exhibition. On Sept. 10 there’s Art in the Vineyard, an annual event put on by the Art Guild of Paducah. And shortly after that on Sept. 15, there’s Meet the Artists, the second annual event where local artists show their work and meet and greet the public.
Each one will be a chance for me to step out of my comfort zone. My natural tendency is to be contemplative; my parents were sometimes amazed that I could be entertained for hours just by looking at an old Sears catalog (they didn’t realize I was sharpening my observation skills; I didn’t know that then either). But life goes on, things change, habits must change too. I used to fear meeting others for the first time – not anymore! There’s too much to be missed when one hides.
Trio 3 has begun a new life with a new family. There’s something very satisfying (other than the monetary aspect) about having one’s art collected. The value of art is often reduced to the dollar value since we are inundated with news of how much a piece went for at auction. But the real value of art is more about how it makes us feel. When I created Trio 3 and its roomates 1 and 2, I reveled in the flow of the cool colors punctuated with a few drops of copper colored acrylic ink; the freedom reminded me of both my first experience swimming and my first experience painting in grade school. The new owner of Trio 3 might have seen something different or similar but from another perspective. I love this part of art almost as much as making the work…which reminds me I need to get back into the studio!
I want to live up to my potential, something I’ve never given myself permission to do.
Who was that little girl who loved to make things? When did she learn to self-censor?
Who was that high school girl who was aiming to land at the top of the heap when the rug was pulled out from beneath her feet? Why did she prefer to live in fear? Who convinced her that she was fragile?
Where is the young woman who soared in college only to fall down, pick herself up and finish with a whimper?
What happened ? Life happened. A life lived in fear. “I can’t make it on my own. I’m not enough, not equal to the challenge.”
Well,enough. ENOUGH! I’m not a little kid anymore (!) and I know I can do this. I dreamed this morning that I was climbing a steep rock while not exactly dressed for the task. I passed some young animals and gently but firmly told them to get out of the way. In spite of the dangers, I made it up to the top of the plateau and could see for miles ahead of my location. But most importantly for some reason, just as I reached the plateau my left hand touched a smooth glossy white rock that I used to climb up. What does that white rock mean? Guess I’ll take the year to find out.
Well, it’s almost the end of the first quarter … So what’s happening?
There’s a change in how I approach my work and how it looks. Late last year, I was exploring a bit and things began to look different. I liked what I saw. Above is a work in progress. As you can tell, it’s not like my previous romantic realist landscapes.
Another change: my faith is blending with my art making. The title of the above work in progress is “The Heiress at Prayer.” I believe we are all heirs as well as stewards of God’s creation and prayer is the way we converse with God. Although that was equally true of my earlier work, my latest work is also more intuitive and spontaneous – a lot like life unplanned but no less precious.
There’s a possibility of a solo show for me later this year. I may title this show “Watershed” because I feel that “ridge of land dividing the area drained by different rivers.”
“It’s a new day, a brand new day,” says Whoopi Goldberg’s character to her students in the film Sister Act 2 (or words to that effect). Indeed. 2015 is here, full of potentiality. I hope you’re surrounded by people you love and are dreaming of possibilities!