Artists Like to Cook Vegetables

Veggie SquashAlthough I am a good cook, I do not claim to be an expert on any food much less the undervalued vegetable. But I do have opinions and a blog. I like to cook vegetables.

Growing up in a blue-collar urban family , I was exposed to a total meat and potatoes diet which also noodles and very occasionally rice.

Most of my vegetables came out of a can.

My father demanded they be cooked for about 10 minutes on the stove so the end result was salty gray mushy peas.

He liked peas.

Having said that I must admit that my mother and grandmother made cabbage , yes a vegetable, that was to die for.

Then I was introduced to southern cooked vegetables when I married a South Carolinian and realized vegetables , partnered with cornbread without sugar, were unbelievably delicious. Corn, butter beans with little pieces of fatback, I learned to cook them all. I was lucky.

Unfortunately most folks when they go out to eat are treated to the very unappetizing steamed vegetable medley that passes for vegetables in even some of our better restaurants. You can picture it- limp zucchini , yellow squash and wilted onions in their salted water bath . Yum. I have to assume the chefs were not trained to cook vegetables anymore than I was trained to appreciate them growing up in the Del Monte can environment. ( in the interests of geographical balance. can I mention my introduction in the 70s to the southern version of pizza from a now defunct chain consisting of a generous mound of oregano on top of a block of mozzarella cheese sitting on a barely tanned bed of cooked flour? My heartburn is coming back)

Anyway, I mention restaurants because I think a lot of us get an idea of what unfamiliar recipes taste like when we first sample them prepared in a restaurant. Very few of us nowadays have an Italian or Eastern European or even Chinese grandmother bending over a hot black kitchen stove stirring a pot of ethnic wonders. (Grandfathers were doing manly things piddling in the back yard.)

Yes, we have cooking shows, but they are the new forms of entertainment, but are hardly tutorials.

So restaurants become our baseline. Unfortunately most restaurants fall well behind in their expertise in cooking vegetable dishes. They steam them to death or serve them raw. They don’t even know how to prepare asparagus so that you aren’t forced to eat rooty stems . Seasonings include salt.

So in our country you get your meat – bloody to hockey puck, bland to sugar high.  You get your seafood -,crispy fried to greasy fried.  You get your chicken, and of course everybody’s favorite white meat- pork with its bacon flavoring everything from entrees to ice cream. Then of course you get your fried potatoes and your favorite carb -bread.

Rarely do you ever have the opportunity to taste an incredible sautéed vegetable dish or any vegetable dish that is more than just an afterthought to bring color to the bland variety of earth=toned foods we love.

Dare I say my rant does not include salads- that traditional American diet food. Maybe more on salads another time- grass clippings as health food. That’s a joke folks.

As a result of lack of exposure I dare say most people don’t even know what a caramelized onion is much less caramelized spring cabbage. And we wonder why children can’t stand vegetables although you can blend them in a smoothie with 30 grams of sugar and hope they can’t taste them.

I love International grocery stores which stock a wonderful variety of foods that grow- many I have never even heard of –  but alas they don’t identify them or tell how to prepare them much less put out samples like Costco does with prepared foods.

At least we have the entertaining Korean woman on Youtube who is a joy to watch.  Now I am going out to stock up on Korean radishes to make her pickled radish recipe.

You ask what does this have to do with art? Nothing. But artists have to eat and I like vegetables.

Artist Sketch Rambles

Artist Sketch RamblesI keep a folder of 8×10 and smaller incomplete sketches and carry it around with me. Many times they spark something and I will often paint over them. Over and over.

When I am feeling ambitious, I organize them according to category:  women, women and the beach, women at a wine bar, women on cave walls, women in cave walls playing musical instruments. You get the picture.

I also print out photos of my paintings in progress. Sometimes I realize (too late) the best work should have been left alone.

Rethinking and painting over a work is something I do when I am second guessing what others might think. This is always wrong.

Yet many times, even I, at late middle age (I am an optimist),  paint with someone looking over my shoulder  – metaphorically speaking.   Like my husband suggesting, “It needs more red.” Or perhaps a friend commenting, “What’s that curvy line all about?”  But I’m just considering what they may remark.

Then I look at art painted by others that works for me.  I know I could critique the heck out them, but my corrections would only make the spark disappear.

The answer is to paint until I feel that any more intellectual effort will deaden it and then stop.  Then check back a few days later and any real problems will shout at me. But if I still like the painting, I will leave it alone. Art (unless you were hired to do something specifically) is for you and not the world.

Once in a blue moon, I haul out some art books to try to understand color better.  You know.  Fill in the blanks of info I never learned. because I did not go to art school.

Primaries,

tertiary,

split tertiary,

squared infinity (just joking) and it all looks so mathematical.

I look at the paintings shown as examples and frankly most are so boring. Maybe I am just too critical, but it seems to me once you have painted for years, you should have some intuitive feeling about what clicks for you.

One story sticks with me…

The widow of a famous painter (whose colors were incredible) was asked what color theory he used. She responded that he did not have one.  He just kept painting until it felt right. Bingo!

So after several hours of painting color sketches using the books’ suggested pigment combinations I put it all away. They sucked.

No real lesson here.  Just a nudge to fellow artists who struggle with color to just persist.

(Love that -just persist- SHE PERSISTED – might make me a t-shirt)

Rambles Art Kids and Painted Antlers

Painted AntlersToday I hired my two neighbor kids , a brother and sister ages 8 and 10, to paint gesso on some canvases. They did a great job. They got the first coat on at least seven canvases.

I needed their help, but mostly I wanted to teach them about the act of doing art not just the painting techniques you learn in classes. I wanted to teach them about the preparation, the application, the reason for applying a base on a canvas (or on the deer antler they had given me) prior to painting, and of course the clean up.

They were surprised how much you can accomplish in an hour without racing and being sloppy. I set the timer for one hour and went through the whole process of setting up dropclothes on my deck, putting on old t-shirts and plastic gloves, getting out plastic containers,  brushes etc .

They were very attentive.

I told them the difference between being paid by the piece or by the hour, and how they would be assessed for their work. They worked quite hard and deserved their pay.

When they return from their vacation I will give them each one of the canvases,  I hope they will paint a memory of their trip out west as well as enjoy their painted antlers.  Hopefully they will continue to want to work for me!

Saying Goodbye to a Great Influence

This morning I learned that Fred Adair has died. Fred was my professor and mentor when I was at the College of William and Mary for my MEd in counseling and guidance. He was the one who supported me during those crucial days in 1972 when I was a feminist in a conservative area (I was removed from my internship at Warwick High School because of my progressive thoughts on women).  He helped me decide to pursue art instead and to accept the illustrator position at the Daily Press.

Fred was the essence of everything superlative one could say about another person. Kind, intelligent, funny, supportive … I could go on and on. We kept in touch throughout the years and I will miss him.

Message from W&M Provost

Artist Sharing About Life, Part 2

This continues my sharing from Part 1Go there first is if you haven’t already.

I drew everything that could not be photographed.

Rock concert and loss of hearing? No problem.  I used Edvard Munch’s “scream” running away from the musicians in the background.

Gay marriage in the 80’s?  No problem.  I asked two staffers to hold hands while I drew as fast as I could.

There were no iPhones and no time to process photos so I sketched very quickly- everything from religion and science, to politics and editorial cartoons.

I was allowed to go outside the building on location to sketch films like the George Washington mini-series and a film about crabbing.

I flashed my press pass and talked my way onto the Colonial Parkway in Williamsburg after it shut down for President Reagan’s visit. Me and hundreds of turkeys. 

I drew a revolutionary re-enactor in Yorktown while he told me about his messy divorce.

I talked my way to the top of the five tallest buildings in the area to sketch what I saw.

I learned to have someone evaluate my drawing for those stupid little mistakes, that in our haste, we sometimes forget we do; like making a common object resemble a genital organ.

I sketched in the jail, talked my way onto a Navy shuttle to the Canadian Tall ship, The Blue Nose, to sketch.  I figured I could talk my way anywhere!

I did courtroom art for the daily paper.

This is a specialty that no one trains for. You just do it. I did interview the dean of courtroom artists and she told me she gained expertise in art school by drawing the bodies in the morgue. Just like the stories you read about the old masters in Europe.

The courtroom is probably the most difficult of drawing situations. Utter and complete quiet. (They hated anyone who used Magic Markers because of the squeak)  I was fixed in the seat I chose or was able to squeeze into and drew from there – whether I could see anything or not. The one lesson I learned was that everyone who speaks to a crowd (lawyers, judges, etc.) always reverts to their familiar  poses. If they are fond of folding their arms they will eventually go back to that position so I would make numerous “starts” and go back to them to complete them when the person went back to the position.

Trial Art for Artist Sharing about life

I was only asked to draw the courtroom cases if they were brutal, gory, or important.

In one dismemberment case, a witness was asked how tall the victim was and he responded by using his hands to gauge the size of the suitcase the body parts were stuffed into.

In another murder case the forensic dentist was testifying how the bite marks on the victim’s thighs were from the teeth of the accused.

John Walker was on trial for spying for the Russians, but I drew the Arthur Walker spy trial. Arthur was his brother who appeared on the first day bedecked in a full toupee.  He shed it the second day and through the rest of the trial f0r a little loop in my drawing.

Never draw a judge with six fingers.

I learned many things about accuracy.  This is especially true when the drawing is on the front page of the daily newspaper above the fold. I got lots of critiques from the public. 

I studied photography with David Levinson. 

He was a photographer who led the professional world in NYC.  He pushed us into thinking and doing photography way past what we ever thought we would be able to do. Suffice to say he made people cry. But the work people did was incredible. 

I attended Thomas Nelson Community College to gain some expertise on photographing for reproduction. No one does that anymore since the computer does it all for you. But I did take photography classes.  I learned the old fashioned way with dark rooms and chemicals. I set up a lab at home and my poor kids were banished from the bathroom. 

I chose JoAnn Falletta

Downbeat - more artist sharing about lifeI decided I was going to do a series of women of accomplishment in traditionally male jobs,  I chose JoAnn Falletta, the conductor of the Virginia Symphony Orchestra, as my first subject.  She was also the music director for the Long Beach California Symphony Orchestra and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. I cannot begin to describe her swath of accomplishments.

When I finally pursued my project long enough and hard enough, I was put through to her at last.  She allowed me and my 35mm camera onstage during the rehearsal of the Bruckner 4th.  I could not use a flash. 

The resulting photos showed a sweep of her baton.   The sound reverberating on the stage and through the floorboards where I sat in the violin section will always be a high point in my memories. This experience started me on the road to adding movement to my art and still continues to influence me today.

Post Holiday Letter 2016

The holidays have come and gone- almost- and the survivors go back to their version of normal.  With the prevalence of family photo Christmas cards I now see how wonderfully (as Garrison Kellor says) above average your family members are.  And there must not have been any disasters this year. They look too happy.  I am now aware of  many wonderful places there are in this world that you have  visited (though after you factor out the insecurities of actual traveling there and the adventure of global travel in the age of terrorism I am less in awe).

So backing up.   Holiday stress  all started before Halloween, way back in October.  And then adding in another stresser called President election campaigning 2016 which had started almost 2 years before.  As if the usual end of year holidays weren’t stressful enough.  Then we jump into the Christmas season.

I won’t get into the commercialization of Christmas (I say Christmas but you all know what I mean- the whole shebang. Everyone gets caught up in it ). In my family we also have November and December and January birthdays and anniversaries which only add to the excitement.

It is now written into our DNA that we have to buy presents (darn Magi, why didn’t they  just stay home) .  When did buying  more and more stuff before the old stuff was used up or broken become necessary to life in this country?  For the hard- to- buy -for we have thousands  of gift cards available. Encouraging us to buy more stuff we don’t need.  Is there a land of lost gift cards?

Anyway enough rant. Time for a new tradition- my post holiday letter.  I have in the past enjoyed writing my family’s Christmas letter. Tried to make them funny and surprising.  Do you remember Luke discovering the painless cure for male pattern baldness?

Celebration is not the word I would use to discuss my recent birthday unless  surviving is cause for celebration. All those infirmities we heard our aged folks talk about are now our main points of discussion. 

Oh well, my role models continue to be the 86 year old nun who still runs Ironman races and the 78 year old woman who is a weight lifting champion. No, I do not do those things, but they are still my role models.

You all want to know if I am still painting. Yes, I am not infirm and can still hold a brush. Don’t want to rest on my laurels. So prepare for something new. Sadly I never was asked to be in the Miami Basel Art Fair. I guess my non-socially significant dancers and musicians and figures are not edgy enough. Always wondered about the word edgy. Makes me feel insecure. But yes, I paint therefore I am. Descartes? And the best is still yet to come.

When you have few minutes during your online surfing, every once in a while, check out my website and Facebook. If I am a future Georgia O”Keefe you don’t want to miss out.

This year might be good for art sales – who knows how many people who are tired of hanging onto their money might be realizing insecurity is the new normal and thus buying something that makes you happy  is a good thing. I will be glad to oblige. I will even be offering the opportunity to purchase art that has been scanned and can be printed as giclees. Yes, a French word for high -end printing.  The finished product is amazing.  Stay tuned for more details on their availability

So long for now.  Have a happy, merry, joyful new year.

Lion Fish III

Day at the Museum

Today at the Virginia Living Museum, I was sketching the red wolves.  A group of school children stopped by and about five of the 4th graders were so interested in my discussing how I sketched and other things about the wolves, they never turned around to actually watch the wolves play.  But I think there may be a budding artist in the group. That was reward for me.

The most memorable event was when I sat down on  a bench in front of the fish/turtle aquarium to watch the children as they watched the turtles. A group of boys were absolutely entranced with how close they could get to the turtles.  The turtles would swim up to the surface and then just stare back at the boys. When it was time to leave, the boys slowly walked away. One boy turned and stepped back to the tank, bent down over the water surface, looked down on the turtle and whispered “I love you.”

Just made my day.

Fish Tank at VLM

LIVE at the Museum

Artist-in-Residence at Virginia Living MuseumTomorrow will be my first day painting in front of 180 school children at the Virginia Living Museum.  As a new artist-in-residence, I’m a bit apprehensive to see how it all works out.

I’m no stranger to creating a painting in front of a live audience.  I started “live” paintings during my time as a court artist.  But being surrounded by curious school-aged children will be new for me.

I’m looking forward to sharing and reaching so many open-minded children with art.  Who knows?  Maybe I can influence the next Matisse or Picasso.  At the very least, these delightful children will have a chance to see an artist at work.

Artistic Shower Insight

You step into the shower having removed your glasses or contacts and proceed to wash your hair, but OMG which bottle has the shampoo (because you can’t see a thing and they ALL LOOK ALIKE).  The nerds who design the tubes and jars and bottles either bathe with their glasses on or don’t at all. And we are left to choose from products which announce the brand name in large type and everything else in teeny type or French!  Or yellow on white or clear jars. To which I say what the hay!!!!!

So I resort to my trusty sidekick the magic marker. BW for body wash, a giant S for, you guessed it, shampoo etc etc.

Don’t get me started on the samples – plastic unreusable litter.

You Know It is Hot . . .

I wrote this last August – you probably remember our hot spell. I am  back home today.   It was wonderfully cool and beautiful in Maine.

Anyway I will try to come up with some bon mots to rival the Jeff Foxworthy’s You Know You’re a Redneck when——

You know it’s hot when the greeters at Costco backup to halfway into the building.
You know it’s hot when you need gloves to drive your car.
You know it’s hot when your glasses fog up so much they drip.
You know it’s hot when your dog starts peeing inside- in your plants
You know it’s hot when your garden tomatoes burn the mouths of the squirrels
You know it’s hot when the glass beads in your necklace burn a hole in your blouse.
You know it’s hot when your flipflops stick to the parking lot.
You know its hot when Fedex warns of exploding bubblewrap.
You know it’s hot when you don’t need propane to cook on your grill

What would you add on . . .?