The Surprise of the Familiar with the YLC


newclass 004   ??????????

Before – Almost the very beginning of the YLC, and the NOW version

My esteemed art instructor, Homare Ikeda of the Denver Art Students League, said a startling thing one afternoon as we all gathered around to hear his thoughts. He said something so obvious that it took my breath away. Without quoting his exact words, but close, he said that every painting that you will ever do is already inside of you. You just need to find it, to get to it, and reveal it to the world. Sort of the same idea as when Michelangelo said that when he sculpted he was just chipping away the outside marble to find the angel inside. If you believe all that, as I most assuredly do, then creating is a search, digging deep to find the essence.

One of the most effective exercises you can perform, as an artist or writer or general creator of things is to walk away from your current work in progress and leave it alone for a while. Forget about it. Take a vaca. Dwell on other things. Stop the momentum and rest. Whether this is done in frustration from being “stuck” or just because you are getting weary and your miserable self needs refreshing, it is almost always a beneficial thing to do. Don’t do it when you are “in flow” and hot on the trail of something big, of course. Do it when things get a little rough around the edges and you are feeling battle fatigue, and your search for the essence is difficult.

Of course this is the basic principle behind the Year Long Canvas project which I am only 6 months into at his point. It is a forced exercise in walking away and calming things down so that you can walk back into it and “see it again for the first time.” That “seeing” is supposed to reveal what should be done next. Sometimes an instantaneous action comes to me – other times it takes a bit of study to discover what action would be an enhancement – because of course enhancing the painting is what I am supposed to do. I don’t want to do something to it that bombs it right back into the artistic stone ages. This painting that has become such a weird part of my life. This painting that I sort of love at times, like right now, but that I may hate on some other day. This painting that haunts my thoughts. This part of me, slowly being uncovered from deep inside.

The final version of the YLC is absolutely inside me waiting to be revealed. My challenge is to coincide the finding of it with the end of its year. That seems a bit forced to me – what if I find its final version long before that day comes? Maybe the one year birthday of this painting will happen sooner, as much a contradiction as that is. Will I have the courage to refuse to go on, taking control of its destiny and making the decision to stop? Is that Good Karma or Bad? What would the art Buddha say?


The Abstraction Connection

construction 003 copyright Jo Ann Brown-Scott 2014 – not yet titled

Good day or evening to you – I have been painting all day and although it was not the YLC that I was working on, it has been a productive afternoon.

One of the ways to decide whether or not an abstracted image – a totally abstracted image with little or no hint of realism – is well balanced, carefully composed with lights, darks, texture, line, space etc etc etc is to view it from all 4 orientations. This is why you sometimes see people nearly standing on their heads at art museums, getting a new directional perspective on a piece of art. If the art is a well composed piece, it must “work” from any rotation. Some rotations might work better than others but they must all be successful for it to be a really good abstract.

Sooner or later the artist has to sign the painting and that generally happens at the bottom (although not always) so he/she artist must make a decision at some point. That decision might not be the most popular orientation for you. I do, personally and emphatically, believe that when you hang the painting, you really are sort of obligated to hang it in the direction the artist preferred it to hang, placing the signature side wherever that artist wanted the signature to be. If he/she signed it on the side, and it is hung that way by the artist, then please hang it that way, OK? Oh I know – it is your home and you can do whatever you want….but try to play nice and honor the work that was done and the intent of the artist. The art cops won’t storm through your door and change it on the wall but the art Buddha might frown if you hang a gorgeous painting the wrong way. You just do not want to offend the art Buddha – that is just such bad Karma. Not to mention offending the artist him/herself, even if he/she never even sees it.

Attached is a photo of the painting I finished today – and it is a perfect example of an image that can hang in any direction. Generally speaking the human eye prefers the darker areas of a painting at the bottom (seems logical – gravity), but sometimes the artist wants to give you a visual JOLT and make you re-think your reaction a little bit so he/she artist puts the darkest area at the top. Sometimes the dark is on a side, more often it is on the bottom. The focal point can be anywhere, even almost sliding off the side into oblivion. This painting seems to work in any direction for me, but I’d like to hear what you think.

There are several dots in this painting – two black and one orange and a small yellow circle as well. Using round dots is a thing I often do, and have always done. The dots in this piece have several purposes – there are many straight lines, squares, boxes and rectangles in this piece and the dots are placed to make your eye move around and to create movement and rhythm among all the geometric shapes; they are also there for roundness amid all the angles.

No title yet – that sort of depends upon the final orientation I choose.

Still have not given up on the Year Long Canvas – have faith.


The Creative Epiphany – Yawn


Perhaps you don’t know that from time to time we bloggers here at WordPress are given a “prompt” or an idea for a blog entry. It is up to us whether or not we take on the challenge. To tell you the truth, I have seldom done that…..and I probably ought to accept the “prompt” challenges more often, because they do inspire and it does “prompt” us to think and ponder and express ourselves on many subjects we might not choose for ourselves.

And so today the challenge is “YAWN”.

What makes me yawn, with boredom and mind fatigue? What sends me spiraling toward a deep coma-like sleep? What forces me to tune out of a conversation or a situation with utter detachment and flat-line non-reaction?

Not a lot of things do that for me, because as an artist I am constantly engaged in a dialogue of visual,  verbal and auditory stimulation with my environment. It’s in my job description. But I do admit that I experience with some degree of repetition certain recognizable scenarios and a handful of stereotypically  yawn-inducing types of people  that bore me and exasperate me. In these situations I attempt to be tolerant in spite of my mental, gargantuan, gaping, hippo-like yawn – sometimes I succeed and sometimes not. My best defense is to remove myself from the immediate suck of air that I know is coming, quickly escaping to another location which might be as easily accessible as just 10 ft away from the conversation or the primary person offender, and yet on the other hand it might require leaving houses and geographic places to escape the constant boredom. ( Constant yawning boredom and lack of sensory stimulation was not the reason for my recent move, by the way.)

So what, in general, prompts my apathy and lack of brain wave activity?

OMG – here we go.

People who see themselves as constant victims in life. They believe that everything unpleasant that happens to them is beyond their control; happening to them. Oh poor them! If it is bad and it happens, it was thrust upon them. They accept little to no responsibility for their lives, as if they have played no part whatsoever in its unfolding. They fail to see the consequences of their poor decisions. They have little self-awareness.

On the other side, people who see themselves as constantly entitled in life are also a source of boredom to me. We all know them – the shining ones who believe that life owes them everything. The ego-driven, I’m so great, give me more, and I-will-also-take-some-of-yours kind of person. They want it all and they are not crazy about the idea of working hard for it, and if it looks like they might not be getting it they will find a way. Right or wrong.

Those 2 types of people make me yawn with their oh so predictable behavior. They are in the news all the damn time – you know them when you see them – and you will of course run across them in your personal life as well. They trigger a fight or flight response in me…and since I am choosing my battles carefully these days, I will usually flee. They make me yawn with disinterest and loathing. The toxic nature of their thought processes pollutes my mind.

I like this subject – because yawning is multi-faceted and there is a lot to say. I believe it might be the flip-side of life’s epiphanies….if you have had some epiphany experiences of self-realization that changed your life then I would imagine you are the kind of person who is seldom bored. You are a student of life and always OPEN, like a neon sign blinking, to new and wondrous mental discoveries; people, places, possibilities and life lessons. How can you be bored if you are aware, awake and alert? You must be present to win.buddha

The Creative Epiphany – I Didn’t Ask For a Shirt From Bangladesh


As an American it offends me when the clothing manufacturers complain that “nice” clothing must be made in sweat shops of poverty stricken countries like Bangladesh because the profit margin they seek demands it  – it is cheaper to do it there. They also say that we Americans demand such clothing. Who in their right mind would want to support such conditions? Never once have I wished for a something-or-other originating from a Bangladesh factory. I read labels, of course, and if I ever saw a label on an article of clothing with the slightest reference that it was made there I would not purchase it. But it’s hard to tell. You can GOOGLE Bangladesh clothing and find endless lists of specific articles of clothing made there, and elsewhere under similar conditions, but barely any reference to the BRAND names that are sewn into those garments. And where were the buttons made? The zippers? The rivets?

Lauren Laverne has written a timely article online in THE GUARDIAN – see link below.

Here is a brief excerpt of what she says:

“This week’s column, therefore, is a plea to fashion producers for traceability of their supply chain, and a mention for brands and services which supply those things to consumers. Frustratingly, at the top end of the market that kind of accountability is easier to come by, but there’s no reason the high street should be exempt from offering similar guarantees. As Lucy Siegle noted in this newspaper, big brands distancing themselves from the factories in which their goods are produced is part of their business model. It helps safeguard their profit margin. If consumers demand they become accountable in great enough numbers, they will.”

After doing some digging around I was able to find some specific brand names associated with these rundown and dangerous Bangladesh factories. I was disgusted and surprised but will not name names here in my blog… lawsuits please. It’s information that is findable. Every once in a while an American manufacturer is exposed as being just one of the many guilty of exploiting poverty stricken people in the most disgusting of workplace conditions or is using child labor. Of course much of the responsibility is with the owners of the actual buildings in these countries and the lack of building codes enforcement, and so as Americans the only valid means of registering our alarm and disapproval is through the money chain. It starts with identifying the owners of the major brand name clothing companies who are the violators and then it trickles directly down to you and me – we are the ones who determine their financial success. We can make or break them, or make such a large dent in their business that it gets their attention, but it takes a big organized village to do that.

The issue extends to fabrics used in home furnishings and even art. Indonesian fabrics, as just one example, are gorgeous, using silk threads in an intricate tapestry-like weave, incorporating metallic threads and brilliant colors which lend to some of them a Renaissance  brocade quality. I have used them in fabric collage with great success.

I would just like to have the right to make a choice that can be made intelligently, based upon information and truth in labeling. While shopping, I would prefer to know where the product originates. Not only the country but the factory! That seems quite simple, actually. I don’t want to be one of the uninformed Americans who perpetuates the problem. I would never consciously choose clothing over people. We are all connected in this world, on this big blue planet, and what happens around the globe happens also to me.


The Creative Epiphany – Life’s Texture


Life is long, if you are fortunate, deep if you are a thinker, wide if you are an adventurer, lofty if you have dreams and greatly, intricately textured if you are given a gift such as the gift of creativity. Everyone is given a gift of course – it is your mission to discover what it was that was awarded to you free at birth and nurture it and employ it well. I claim, most humbly, to have a life that encompasses all of those above mentioned dimensions. My life is never dull; always rich with fascinating people and wealthy in experiences. The days are not long enough, the nights are dark but stunningly visual. Although I am certainly not wealthy, by all other criteria I like to think I have it all – I do have it all – and I feel fortunate and lucky and rich in the details of life.

As I write this on March 1, 2013 I have had a supremely rotten day. One for the books. At one point I was able to remove myself from the action and watch it unfold right before my eyes as if it were happening to someone else, and I was mildly, oddly entertained. In a “dark comedy” kind of way. What was happening was so ironic – so perfect in its awfulness given the circumstances and perfectly badly timed – so poetically pathetic and so much like a film. I wondered what she would do – that woman I was watching who speaks so eloquently about attitude and motivation and life-changing epiphanies. Was she going to be brought to her knees? Was she going to crumble? Could she walk the walk of the talk? Would she cry? Would she have a molten meltdown?

The day is not over and so I don’t know. She seems ok right now but there is still the night – the 3am wake up when everything looks darker than pitch and seems hopeless. Oh yes there are others who have it much worse – she is well aware of where her puny problems rank in the hierarchy of human sufferings. Yet still they are HER problems, and she is the one dealing with them. She can’t hire anyone to take over – it is her life. She can’t be anyone else because they are all taken, as the saying goes.

As does everyone else, I look to myself for answers, and that is a full time job. As dawn breaks I will probably gain confidence that I will be fine. The complicated nature of life and the simplicity of the answers will strike me, and I will figure it all out. As always I will find comfort in people or creativity or mundane tasks. That’s what we do. That is what she and I do – the me, myself and her. We go about our day and let things un-complicate all by themselves, which is what often happens. As the ball of yarn spins out of control and unravels in crazy, loopy textural tangles all across the floor of our life we are already considering that it cannot be left that way, and we know we’ll have to wind it up again.