Saturday, November 26, 2011

Therapy for a Tormented Mind

Not everyone's mind works this way. I'm sure of it. There are too many happy folks out there drifting along through life without a care. They can't all be putting on an act. My mind races almost constantly grinding through a seemingly random kaleidoscope of ideas and concerns. There are times, however, when I'm truly at peace. One of the reasons I love to paint is the relative calm it brings to my brain. I find that same relief on the days I spend afield... gathering reference photos, sketching field studies, or just fishing.

Early this spring, I decided to dust off my old fly tying bin and put together a few flies for the upcoming trout season. It had been 10 years or more since I last tied a fly, so I found it surprising when the skills came back so quickly. Feather and fur bound to and wrapped around a hook shank began to take on a "buggy" appearance while not really mimicking anything specific... and I was happy.

Several evenings passed as I leisurely created my tiny offerings, working on a dozen or so rather than sitting in front of the TV. I found myself looking forward to these nightly sessions and that's when I realized that it made me happy. There is a simple joy of carefully crafting something with my own hands... no matter how small or simple it may be... and those demons of daily life that swirl in my head are silent.

For now at least, my fly tying bin has gathered very little dust. As the weather turns toward winter's ice and snow, I can take comfort in knowing my tying vise will be there each evening... like an old friend.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Tall Grass

I planned this blog post to be about the Waterfowl Festival in Easton, and while it was an exhilarating experience, some things happened during and since that I need to talk about.
As the show opened, the Festival’s featured artist Don Rambadt stopped by my display to chat. Don’s knowledge of art and the skill with which he plies his trade are truly remarkable. I respect his opinion and when he had such nice things to say about my work, he nearly left me speechless.
The two days following the Festival were spent with sculptor Paul Rhymer. It was the first occasion where I’ve spent much time with Paul and it turned out to be one of those experiences that changed the way I look at the world. When Paul originally invited me to spend a couple of days with him, our plan was to simply do some duck hunting. It sounded like fun and, truth be told, I really wanted to take the opportunity to pick Paul’s brain about his art. As it turned out, the duck hunting was less than stellar, but still a lot of fun… and Paul is like a brother I never knew. We spent a considerable amount of time driving from one place to the next and it gave us a chance to talk about a lot of things… from art and business to life in general. We discussed the Birds In Art exhibit we had both attended in September and Paul quizzed me about the plein air painting workshop held after the opening weekend. I told him how much I learned in those four days, but the best part of the entire experience was the privilege of spending time with James Coe and Larry Barth each evening.
The second morning of our hunt, celebrated sculptor Walter Matia joined us in the marsh looking for wood ducks. We never fired a shot, but after breakfast Walter invited us to drop by his studio that afternoon. So we did. What a treat! I’ve admired Walter and his work for years and it was an extraordinary experience to peruse his studio and talk with him about art. I tried my best to keep my mouth shut and just listen to every word.
By the end of that day, I’d watched Paul pour several bronze castings and spent several hours helping with a huge monument sculpture of a big horn sheep that will be unveiled in Tulsa in February 2012. That evening, exhausted and happy, I sat with Paul and his wife Carolyn having pizza and drinking beer. Paul smiled at me and said, “Jim Coe, Larry Barth, Don Rambadt, and Walter Matia… you’ve been walking in some tall grass lately.”
Tall grass indeed my friend. Tall grass indeed J

Monday, November 7, 2011

Waterfowl Festival 2011

This will be my first adventure to the Easton, MD area and, of course, my first time exhibiting at the Waterfowl Festival. Most of the work is done, yet there are still some odds and ends that will cost me sleep over the next couple of days. I’m still waiting for title plates to come in that were apparently lost in transit, so those paintings have yet to be packed. Chances are slim they will get here before I leave. The inside of the truck needs cleaning… maybe tomorrow. Seven hours of driving (each way) during the peak of the whitetail rut will be a 70mph game of “dodge’em.” My state of arrival in Easton on Wednesday will likely be red-eyed-white-knuckle-teeth-grinding-coffee-induced-hyperexcitement… followed by crash-and-burn exhaustion. Nice that I’m so even-keeled, huh? J

I had planned to take 30 originals with me, but the severely limited display space (2 8x4 panels) means I can show less than half that amount. So I’ve trimmed my show inventory to 23 paintings. It’s still too many, but there are none that I really want to leave behind. The show should be great fun and there’s much to do between now and then. I better get busy!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

"Cruising Deep" 8x10 acrylic

It's been decades since I last attempted to paint a trout. I've been working with some new colors on my palette as of late and they really helped to pull this little painting together. Trout are such handsome and colorful subjects, I can't imagine not painting them more often.