Morning light. Not black and white

Morning light. Not black and white

Time, could use more of it. My computer should be finished at 6pm 5.12.2015 over an hour away in Manhattan. Did I do the smart thing and slide my time project onto a thumb drive so that I could work on it in Whiteplains? Nope. I did work on the box and start working on the bookbinding to make an accordion book. I have figured out how to update these pages from my phone, typing on the teeny screen. I’ll get home with my computer tomorrow around 8pm, work a lot take a nap get up and out for work at 3am. Come home and beaver away. Nobody said art was easy, but I’m learning and making better images.

B+W on the beach

B+W on the beach

05012015– spotted these guys Feb 2015 on a road trip from Tucson to Bisbee. Not a house in sight. They looked like they were waiting for a bus or something.


Waiting, Bisbee 18 x 12″ 05012015

04212015–Time, and visiting the past. I started to make art again 3 years ago after a long break. I’m revisiting, and appreciating the work of On Kawara, in trying to pay homage to his sense of time I came across this bit of writing about how I was able to start again. I feel that ritual burning is not nearly as popular as it should be as a part of creative process. Here are a few notes that I made after the big bonfire in 2012:

Shelley Dell painting

Lacerate, oil based collage on hand made paper, about 10 inches square part of a series that I painted for my son.

Used to paint big abstract paintings smaller abstract drawings, mostly about the texture of color; chasing the light. My beautiful amazing much missed friend Frankie Buschke asked me once as I was struggling with a large painting “but can you not do it?”… a whole ‘nother thing from ‘but can you do it?’

Somewhere in all of this my son Jack died. and I. did. not.

my paintings got small and angry and bloody. full of surgical staples and wire and hard cut edges. strange that I still have two of them, but they were in the box with Jack’s photo, touching that box frightens me.

The time to make a painting was hard to find and the object that is a painting seemed like more crap to maintain. Couldn’t call myself an artist any more without oppressive irony.

As the song says:
“But it’s a sad man my friend who’s livin’ in his own skin
And can’t stand the company”

So I heaped all of my paintings and drawings and boxes of sketchbooks in the middle of the driveway, poured a can of gas, lit ‘em and burned the past.

Started knitting in earnest. the joy of socks, playful, lots of color, useful, warm. Immortalized by Neruda. Contemplation, color, texture matter; a yarn-over here a make-one there, not so much. Then a whoosh of passion and open eyes and a new muse. Seeing it again for the first time, cliche and paradox made from truth. Decided to retrain myself to look closely. Set a deadline in mid-June to see if I could learn to make an image at least as good as I could knit a pair of socks. Got a couple of drawing books at Goodwill and set aside time to practice every day. Figured that it might be like playing the piano, daily practice couldn’t turn me into Roy Bittan at least I could bang out Happy Birthday if needs must.

Me Again: a loopy eccentric who get transfixed by light upon surfaces. Fell in love with a mexican silver creamer at a friend’s kitchen, this became my first successful image. Made a birthday card out of it, packed it up with the socks that the drawing was trying to be as good as, a copy of the Ferris Cook edition of Ode to Common Things and sent it off to the muse.

Keep at at it every day became enraptured with my garden plants and started making vegetable portraits. Did a dog or two, bought a copy of Realistic Pet Portraits in Colored Pencil at the Borders going out of business sale hoping to be able to make a good likeness of my dog Target. (That is a ‘yet’ for me, btw)

At present: taking a couple of classes and learning to make images on the computer, figuring out how to produce an e-book and illustrate it with lushly tender herb drawings has me pretty busy. I have 2 weeks to devise and actually make a self-portrait for my Thursday class. Art school assignments are exactly the same this go ‘round, though you can never step into the same portrait twice.


melting snow reveals angel

Second Hand Angel
A very good friend asked me to paint a painting. Worse yet, a co-worker. He wanted it as a gift for a friend who collected angels who was going through a very hard time and he wanted to give her something that might cheer her up. He didn’t give me many guidelines, just that she only liked ones with pretty faces. I’ve often said that I consider myself more of an illustrator than an artist, and this was truly a time for the universe to call my bluff.

I was at a complete loss after googling angel images to use for reference, so I went to the best place that I could think of to find used angels: Goodwill. This is not something to do lightly. It didn’t take long for the staff to see what I was putting in my cart and to start finding ones that I might have missed to show me. I wasn’t looking for glitter, I was looking for one that I could draw. My fellow customers became very helpful, stopping my cart so that they could pray with me. Clearly a middle-aged woman with a cart full of angels must be in serious need of celestial intervention.

A smallish terra cotta one with some cracks looked like the one for the job, and would be nice in the garden if I the painting got away from me. The woman behind the cash register was critical, she said that maybe I should repaint it, pressed the glittery one with the white fluffy feathers into my bag thinking that I couldn’t afford the $3. She was being kind, so I couldn’t refuse this princess-sparkle-plenty angel, I was worried enough about painting something good enough to jinx it by pushing away an angel plastic or not.

I sat the angel on my desk and tried to draw it, moved it to several places looking for better light, but it just wasn’t turning into an image. The statue became part of the clutter next to my desk, and then I started thinking about the angels left behind, ones like this one that ended up at Goodwill, or in boxes in the attic, talismans that were ultimately discarded. I went up to the garage attic window and set up some old boxes and plunked the angel on top. Not the best height, but a luxury just the same, for about an hour and a half on a sunny day I could play with the composition without interruption. I added a PAL label as a joke for my friend, we both work at UPS and he would spot that right away. The dove appeared, don’t bother with kitche [feminine form of kitch I have been informed] or cliché unless you are going all the way.

angel in the attic

the finished painting, let’s not try this again

click “Time Project” below to view the slides used in my class presentation
Time Project
I’m always snapping photos, or taking more studied shots to try to pin down the quotidia of life, the small changes of light in the day, the seconds of beauty where for a second that bit of butter on a plate has the light shining just so and it is translucent and astonishing before it becomes another gob of gook on a dish that needs to be washed. This painting that I did in 2011 would not be the same at all without the lower-angled solstice light.

Shelley Dell butter

Butter and Vanilla, watercolor and colored pencil 10″ x 8″

This is what I would like to record with my project, the moments of beauty, the mounds of clutter, the bits that make up parts of a day. The strength, or at least what I find intriguing about this idea and how it relates to time: the stuff changes. Snow boots and mittens and a sky full of fury one day. Groceries and pet food and a table loaded with stuff to be put away document what we are eating now, and who or what might be eating it. Some of these images will be too personal, I expect to edit them out before final presentation. Part of the editing process will be to try to distil a sense of the passing of time as well to define “my time” the weeks and days and hours that add up to my life from now until May 2015. Here is a photograph that I took on the way home from class last week. I could take a photo at the same place every week for the next 15 weeks, they would show more sun, less ice, more leaves.

Diverting Reservoir, Brewster NY

Diverting Reservoir, Brewster 2/12/2015

I’m hoping to capture time in glimpses of stuff that are part of a not very affluent by American standards but quite wealthy by world standards life. I recently made a trip out west, and stayed at a hotel with nice white clean towels, the bright western light coming through the bathroom window made those towels look not just like ‘towels’ but like the best towels that could ever exist.

Hacienda del Sol

To remember the light, sunlight, clouds, and as the semester gets warmer, nights with fireflies. This winter might not ever end, but the skies have been amazing. The position of the sun changes every day. I’ve recently learned that there is a name for this: Analemma. An alternative, equivalent description of the solar analemma is as a graph of the Sun’s declination plotted against the equation of time.


I’ll need to take a zillion photos to get this right, my ratio of shots to ‘keepers’ is about 1000 to one so far. I’ll need to be more aware of having a camera or my cell phone close by to not miss the moments. A bigger goal of this project is to be aware of the moments that make up my time and not to let them vanish into a long list of chores, work to be done, and things to be gotten through. This moment, from my morning drive to work tries to record the frost on the windshield and the very cold weather.

morning drive to work, very cold day.

morning drive to work, very cold day.

as for the form of the final presentation: I’m thinking of putting together a large accordion fold book that will fit into a box labelled TIME, and the dates of the project. You will be able to see the images one or two at a time or spread the whole thing out and see the changes.

Sennelier travel sketchbook

accordion sketchbook, this one by Sennelier

Lucky for me there are a lot of tutorials to help me make the thing.

I’ve been looking at my world this way: putting a frame around it, for a while, especially since reading “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien. An intimate book about the Viet Nam war as seen through the personal objects as well as clothes and munitions that soldiers carried.

David Hume Kennerly’s “On the iPhone” book of photographs has been an inspiration, the best camera for the job is the one that you have with you, and for most of us, that camera is in our phone.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s