Friday, June 27, 2008

Journaling and Art

Journaling seems to be as popular as ever -- maybe even more so since it's one of the few reasons left for a person to write something by hand. For several years I journaled almost daily, inspired by Julia Cameron's advice to write "morning pages", a process she details in her book, The Artist's Way. I never read my journal entries. Just stacked college ruled notebooks filled with entries in a pile. I stopped journaling when the pile reached 30".

After that phase, I had a stint making "morning drawings". Eventually, I took up running and gave up journaling altogether. Something shifts -- I become completely saturated in an activity (sometimes for years) and then I suddenly stop doing whatever it is I was dedicated to and move to the next interest.

I'm thinking of revisiting my interest in journaling. I had to quit Nordic and Alpine skiing and running this past winter and spring after I sprained my knee on the way into the lift line after a morning of epic powder on the backside of Mt. Bachelor. Thanks to the highly skilled sports medicine/massage/therapists in our town of Bend, Oregon, I'm back on my exercise track.

During my hiatus from my usual activity I had more time to read. I revisited some of the books I read during college. Daybook - The Journal of an Artist by Anne Truitt was a book I scanned quickly and check off the book list my painting professor gave me in the 1980's. Revisiting the book was a real pleasure. Passages Anne Truitt wrote have new shades of meaning to me now that I have 20 years of art experience behind me.

Here's what Truitt had to say about creating. She wrote this in the early 1970's long before computers dominated our culture. Long before the rise of emailing and texting have almost completely eliminated the hand written letter:

"Like earthworms, whose lives are spent making more earth, we human beings also spend ourselves into the physical. A few of us leave behind objects judged, at least temporarily, worthy of preservation by the culture into which we were born. The process is, however, the same for us all. Ordered into the physical, in time we leave the physical and leave behind us what we have made in the physical."

Whether I'm drawing or writing, watching the marks as my hands guide the pen across the page, I see my thoughts made physical in a way they aren't when I'm at my keyboard. Maybe the general fascination with journaling has a little to do with this creation of a physical mark. Like our ancestors leaving marks with charcoal sticks on the sides of rock caves, we have left something material to mark our passing.

I really should re-read those old journals and see if they are going to be next winter's fire starter.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Doing it All - As Good as it Gets

How do I have a life and continue being an artist? Or is the question -- How do I remain an artist and still have a life? The question I ask myself depends upon which part of my life is getting most of my attention. Like most professional women with a family, I'm always balancing my activities as a mother, wife, daughter, sister and friend along with working and making art ("work" means running a household, paying bills, marketing my art work, etc.)

So, how do I do it all? If I measure my actions or progress by the day, I often feel like I've grasped the tail of life as it whips past me in a strong wind and I'm barely hanging on for the ride. Along with that feeling sometimes comes the sense that I'm not doing anything at my best. At those times I have this fantasy vision where all of the non-creative yet essential stuff in life is done for me and I "just" make art. In the midst of that fantasy I'm serene and focused and everything I do turns out well because I have the time to make it marvelous.

But my life doesn't work that way. And neither does my art, at least not now. Whatever the creative work I'm engaged in, speed and multiplicity are the order of the day. There is little time to mull over every thought. I don't have time to change much. Whatever I'm doing now is my "best." Whatever just happened is as good as it gets. Vision has been outpaced by reality, again.

That concept is an interesting and challenging idea to make peace with. Art like life is what it is. The meaning assigned to art (and life) is what changes. And with that in mind, let's make the best of it!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Orphan Works Legislation Update June 17, 2008

You don't have to be an artist. If you've ever picked up a camera and taken a photo, the Orphan Works Bill, if passed will strip you of your copyrights, a right EVERY CITIZEN in the U.S.A. has when they have finished taking a photo, creating a film or painting a picture.
I've written about his before. Here's an update from:
A Million People Against the Orphan Works Bill

We support this petition. We urge you to sign it. Please forward the link and urge others to sign. You can help increase the power of the petition by signing your real name and listing your artistic specialties. If you are not a US citizen, we suggest that you note your country, and state if it is a member of the Berne Convention.

This petition is sponsored by A Million People Against the Orphan Works Bill, a new grassroots group founded by multimedia journalist Steve Lehman on Facebook and Flickr. All people are welcome to participate; it is not exclusive to these websites.

In 1987, Lehman broke the story of Tibetan unrest, later profiled in his award winning book "The Tibetans Struggle to Survive." As a visual artist intimately acquainted with the power of free speech, the protection afforded by the right to privacy, and the critical need for independent voices, Lehman, like the rest of us, is deeply troubled by any national policy that affects artists' control over their works.

Please forward this message to every person you know.

For additional information about Orphan Works developments, go to the IPA Orphan Works Resource Page for Artists at:

We have a proposal to solve the Orphan Works issue. It would let libraries and archives digitize their collections and let individuals duplicate family photos without fear of massive infringement penalties. These are the two needs most commonly cited by the bills’ sponsors and they can be resolved quite simply. Our proposal would limit the bill’s effects to works that are really orphans, with no unnecessary spillover effect to damage the commercial activities of working copyright holders.

Digitizing the Collections of Libraries and Museums
Digitizing someone’s work is an act of reproduction and is therefore subject to the authorization of the copyright holder. But to let accredited libraries and archives bypass these authorizations, the law could grant them certain exceptions to reproduce works without the prior consent of the rights holders, mainly for preservation purposes.

To avail themselves of this privilege, institutions could file a notice of intent to infringe with the Copyright Office, documenting that they’ve made a reasonably diligent, but unsuccessful effort to find the copyright holder. These exceptions should not be extended to cover reproductions on a mass scale, because that would clearly conflict with the artists’ own exploitation of their works and that would prejudice the legitimate interests of the copyright holders, a clear violation of the 1976 Copyright Act, the Berne Convention and Article 13 of the TRIPS agreement, to which the US is a signatory.

This proposal is consistent with the submission of the International Federation of Reproduction Rights Organizations (IFRRO) to the European Union’s i2010 Digital Libraries project. See our 2006 report on this:
This means our proposal would meet the needs of libraries, museums and archives, harmonize US policy with our trading partners overseas and win wide praise from the creative community in the US, who would not see the rights of their own work put at risk.

Solving the Grandma issue
We believe similar orphan works situations - family photo restoration and duplication, personal genealogy usage of orphan works, and orphan works rights clearance for documentary filmmakers – can all be resolved in a similar manner, by carefully and precisely expanding Fair Use to permit limited individual infringements under contractual agreements.

For example, family photo issues could be resolved by means of a simple contract: the person who wishes to duplicate or restore a photo of Grandma could sign an easy-to-understand agreement (with either companies such as Wal-Mart or with the photographer next door), stipulating that they've made a reasonably diligent, but unsuccessful search to identify or locate the photographer of record. By doing so, they’d qualify for a precise limited copyright exemption to restore or duplicate the work for home and/or family use only. Under this scenario, it the photographer of record subsequently shows up, the contract would define the specific remedies.

The case of an individual who wishes to duplicate his or her own family photos would be even simpler to deal with: the individual would simply sign a form stipulating that he/she is the author and copyright holder of the photo - period. Any bad-faith assertions or violations of such agreements could then be dealt with as a contractual matter between individual parties, with no unnecessary damage to the rights of others.

A Limited, Workable Solution
We believe this kind of contractual solution to individual orphan works problems would have two virtues:

1. It would create certainty by specifying the terms of each transaction and would, in fact, mirror the kind of indemnification that professional artists and photographers routinely supply to clients, stipulating that our work is original and doesn't infringe the rights of others.
2. It would have the additional virtue of requiring that only those who avail themselves of the right to infringe would be required to understand the complexities of copyright law, unlike the present bill, which would require all citizens to familiarize themselves with the risks and obligations inherent in the proposed Orphan Works Acts.
3. It would not legalize the infringement of billions of managed copyrights on the grounds that some of them might be orphans.

We believe solutions like this could be arrived at amicably by working with members of the creative community, who are familiar with how copyright law intersects with standard business practice. This kind of imaginative solution should win widespread praise from all parties, while preserving the sanctity of existing copyright-related contracts. It would protect the small businesses that are the heart and soul of the creative community and would continue to act as an on-going incentive to further the creation of new work.

—Brad Holland and Cynthia Turner, for the Board of the Illustrators’ Partnership

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Dear Cristina: We Disagree Over the Colors to Paint Our House

Titled "Designing in Pairs" this article was first printed in Latina Style magazine.

Dear Cristina,

Help me! My husband and I have completely different ideas when it comes to decorating our home. I love bright vibrant colors like deep red and citron lime. His favorite colors are beige, brown and white. We haven’t been able to agree and we’ve hardly fought about anything until now. Do you have any ideas that’ll help us figure out a color scheme we’ll both love?”

M.E. Salazar

Since you both care enough about color to fight over it, make the time to choose your color scheme together. Don’t fall into the trap of first choosing colors for both of you and then bring the choices to him for his approval – you’ll only end up in a power struggle. Giving the partner who doesn’t do any of the work veto power over the other’s color choices is a sure-fire way to get into another fight or end in a frustrating standstill.

The colors you see in your home reflect the choices you both make to define your life together. Use this disagreement as a way to reach a new level of understanding in your marriage. Here are a few ground rules to start – add any others as needed.
1. Don’t criticize any color choices (including your own). You can say no to a color without getting personal.
2. Say things you would be comfortable hearing.
3. Remember that you love each other. Compromise is necessary for a new beginning.

Begin by working together to collect swatches or examples of favorite colors. Go through your closet together and collect piles of clothing colors you love. You might be surprised to find that your favorite color of faded blue jean is really more blue-gray than bright blue. When you spot a great color combination, like his natural linen trousers paired with your soft turquoise blue shirt, take note. Move your separate piles of clothing out of the closet and set them aside.

Keep an open mind as you walk around the house and collect other objects that have colors you adore. Don’t limit yourself to the assortment of colors in a few pictures or throw pillows. Open the kitchen cupboards. You may love the deep, rich brown of your favorite blend of café or the amber gleam of a cup of brewed tea.

When you feel like you’ve collected enough samples, sit down together and look at the collection of items. Take turns choosing a favorite color from your own pile and then a color you like (or can at least live with) from his pile. You may both be surprised with the color combinations you discover you like. Remember his favorite linen trousers? Team that soft taupe color of linen with the deep red of your favorite dress and you’re on your way to a great color scheme in the living room – taupeChudowsky Stairway.jpg ceiling and walls with a red accent wall. Pair the cocoa powder brown color of his. . . . READ MORE on my website.

Contact Cristina for a consultation.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

When a Wild Beast is Just a Chicken

How you perceive what your see is colored by who you are. Your experiences, the time and place you live in, these things are inescapable. Everything is subjective. Not only is this true in life, there really is no such thing as objective art and design. Whatever is in the well of our thoughts and experiences spills onto our perceptions of images and design.

With that in mind I want to share with you a painting that I created from my fearful perception of an incident many years ago. I originally wrote about this in my book, Paint Happy.

This painting was inspired by the memory of my first night alone in an old ranch house in Central Oregon. During the dark early morning hours I heard loud mysterious animal noises inside the house. I imagined wild raccoons or bobcats prowling my room. There were no lights, and I'd left my flashlight on a table too far from the bed, so I decided to keep my head under the covers and wait until the animals left. Once the early morning sun began to light the room, I peeked out from under the blankets and saw a clucking chicken standing on the foot of my bed! A tall rooster with a colorful tail was perched on the dining room chair by the picture window and about six chickens were scratching the wooden floor and kitchen countertops. I didn't even know there were chickens on the ranch property. Apparently, there was a hole in the outside wall under the kitchen sink, and the chickens came in looking for breakfast!

More than a decade later, I took the best part of that memory - the comical surprise ending to my dark fear fantasies - and turned it into this painting. The rooster is crowing a rainbow of sounds toward the rising sun. The bed (symbolizing one's life) is the center of this universe and the land over which the sun rises and the clouds billow. This image captures the happy lesson that fear and worry are often a waste of energy.

This framed painting is for sale through High Desert Gallery in Sisters, Oregon.
Rise and Shine, 22" x 30" acrylic and hard pastel on paper.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Guest Contributor: Artemio Paz, Architect

There is more to architecture than mortar and steel. Cultural and social concerns impact and are influenced by the questions of how and why a building takes shape. Artemio Paz, an architect based in the Willamette Valley, creates public and private buildings that address both the physical and cultural dimensions of the people using the spaces along with a sustainable design approach.

I met Artemio several years ago and got to know him when he took my painting class through Art in the Mountains in Bend, Oregon. I discovered that Artemio is quite the creative renaissance man. He and his wife Edana invited my family to their home on a hilltop blanketed with blueberry bushes and a gorgeous fence of fruit trees pruned to be as 2-dimensional as possible. Old growth timber edges the fields of fruits, cloaking us in the early evening shadows as we picked fruit. It is truly a magical place.

An architect (along with developers) shoulders the responsibility of creating buildings that will likely outlive them while either enhancing or distressing the planet for generations to come. I admire Artemio's creative approach and invited him to share some of his current work. Here's what he had to say about his recent projects:

Here are entry foyer pictures as an example of a recent commercial renovation project, the Oregon State University (OSU) Foundation entry renovation. We have a diverse design project portfolio with an emphasis on a sustainable design approach dating back tothe early 1980's illustrating how to incorporate alternative passive solar daylighting, space heating and domestic hot water heating through to more comprehensive considerations of site, materials and indoor air quality issues and related social / cultural dimensions of frames the issues of the public commons and equity issues of sustainability.

r office web site illustrates that work, In addition, I recently taught an architectural design studio in the UO School of Architecture, this past winter as an Adjunct Professor, and I am currently a member of the Oregon State Board of Education as one of 7 Governor appointed members creating policy direction for the state's 197 school districts and 17 Community Colleges.

APAZ Architect, AIA Springfield, Oregon

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Art and Fear

Most non-artists don't usually couple art and fear when they look at a piece of art. For most any artist who has been working for an extended period of time, art and fear are if not companions, at least at the same party.

Before I began teaching, I often thought that I was a minority when I noticed fear creeping into my art process. I noticed that the same litany of thoughts would drift occasionally across my mind when I was working: What will ____ think about this? Am I --- Open? Closed? Trite? Cute? Dumb? Boring? Good enough? (And more!) Will people think __ (something negative)___ when they see this image? Will anybody ever buy anything? Etcetera.

When I started teaching art in the early 1990's at Central Oregon Community College (a 5 year stint), I noticed that fear was often the biggest hurdle students faced. Talent, though a lovely and inspiring thing to behold was not what propelled artists to progress into mature work. It was their ability to confront and overcome their fears. I'm not talking about things like fear of heights or bugs or something like that, though that can be a starting point. I'm talking about the deep primeval fear of being excluded from the tribe - cast out to fend for oneself in a world full of long, sharp teeth, starvation and separation. That fear surfaces as negative self-talk, despair and artist block.

Most artists, except the lucky few (I don't know any, I fantasize they exist) at some point work in obscurity. There may or may not be local, regional or national success for the artist. Or, if that happens, the inevitable ebbs and flows of time and place, taste and fashion may again press the artist into isolation.

I've been working as an artist for over 2 decades, long enough to have experienced highs and lows. Neither conditions lasts, though that isn't comforting news from either perspective. Though I've taken more rides than I needed to, I've learned that rather than throwing my emotional self reactively on the roller coaster of "Yes, they LOVE it! / No, they hate it!" I had to train myself to put aside my fears and work anyway.

I hope I didn't make that sound easy. It wasn't. Here are 3 things that have worked for me:
  • Read about other artists: Their essays, biographies and autobiographies
  • Develop and maintain a meditation practice -- moving, sitting, drawing -- whatever works.
  • Work regularly regardless about how you emotionally feel about the work.
With this in mind I have two things to recommend: A book and a meditation system.

Art & Fear, Observations on the Perils (and Rewards ) of Artmaking, by David Bayles & Ted Orland, ©1998, 2001
This is a rich, concise, wu-wu-free book about what messes with your head -- or helps you -- as you negotiate the paths of your artistic/creative life.

Silva Life System, a meditation program originally developed by the late Jose Silva. I stumbled onto this system via some postal junk mail in the late 1980's. I found a set of his audio recordings at the local library, then in the 1990's bought my own set as a refresher. I've tried a lot of different types of meditation (I'm open to new things), but I return to the Silva Method. The Silva Method of Meditation offers the most practical tools for stress relief and visualization to some metaphysical techniques that enable a person to plumb the depths of their spirit.

Silva Life System