Despite it’s tragic ending, most of us of a certain age remember with great fondness the Disney film Bambi.
Originally released in 1942, it’s considered one of the finest examples of animation from the 20th century.
Yet the artist responsible for the backgrounds, the atmosphere, the ‘look and feel’ of the film is still largely unknown. Tyrus Wong, 104, died Friday Dec. 30th, yet another remarkable artist to pass on in 2016. You’ve probably never heard of him, however, due to the lack of acclaim offered to Chinese Americans of his generation.
Wong worked as a staff artist in Hollywood beginning in the 1930s. He created storyboards and concept art for both animated and live-action films, many of which are beautiful paintings in their own right.
Born in China in 1910 he arrived at Angel Island at age 9 and was promptly detained under the Chinese Exclusion Act. Eventually he was aloud to join his father. It took until 2001 until Wong received recognition for his remarkable work.
Fortunately for him, and us, he lived a long and creative life.
Back in September I applied for an artist’s residency at Big Bend National Park, an opportunity to live and work for a month in one of our largest and most remote wilderness areas, right on the Mexican border (image above.)
As I worked on the application, I gained a new understanding of why I paint the way I do:
My painting is both objective and reverent observation, a deep, active appreciation of the natural world. My aim is to inspire others to look more deeply and develop a more profound appreciation for our world.
I wrote quite a bit about why painting on the Border would be important to me, and I’ll explore that in a later post.
I didn’t get selected for the residency. When I got the email I was mildly surprised, as if I really believed I would. In the email from the National Parks Art Foundation was a personal note that I was one of the finalists. Which felt really good.
Last year’s Artist in Residence at Big Bend was painter Dawn Waters Baker. I fell in love with her work instantly. I feel it beautifully captures what I had imagined creating at Big Bend.
Dawn talks about ‘the emotional landscape’ – not what is there but how we experience it, what we feel. That really comes through in her luminous paintings. They are filled with awe and a deep respect for the space. And she called the final show Reverence.
I’ve never been one who takes rejection particularly well. But this was a whole other experience. I got to know myself better by applying. I looked forward to bigger, more spacious paintings and the magic of a desert landscape. I enjoyed dreaming about how I would fulfill the residency requirements. And then I fell in love with Dawn’s paintings.
I feel complete, or pau as my Hawaiian healer friend Carol Burbank would say. It’s all good.
I had a wonderful time at the Small Press Expo in Bethesda MD today, with my companion Maddie who is 14. We each went to different panels and met up to compare notes.
I am new to the world of contemporary comics and I have to say: WOW! It was such a vibrant scene – the exhibit hall was packed with creative happy people, colorful, expressive, curious, interesting, and fun. I played a new card game with giant demo cards, met my graphic novelist hero, Noelle Stevenson, ran into some fan artists I know, discovered a magical book about Monet’s Mouse!
I attended one panel with several comic artists discussing how they support their drawing habits. Creatively, of course!
Cathy G Johnson works as an illustrator, teaches after-school programs and sells books and prints- real hand made screen prints!
Baldwin describes the act of drawing as a powerful means to know something on an intimate level, whether it be a single flower or an entire landscape.
In an increasingly disconnected and attention-deficient world, sketching the veins on a leaf or the mountains out the living room window can help ground us in place and time, train our gaze towards the ordinary beauty we would otherwise skim over.
While her finished illustrations are stunning, Baldwin stresses the importance of process over product. “Regardless of what the final drawing looks like,” she writes, “I always see more when I draw.”
Do you sketch when you travel? Document flowers and bugs in your garden? Tell us about it, share your work!
It’s for a lot of reasons. Some come from a good place — they think, hey, we want better for you. The life of an artist is hard. Be a bricklayer, a doctor, a ROCKET LAWYER, something, anything. Art is how you lose. Art is how you die. Don’t be an artist, because we don’t want to see you struggle, starve, and go mad.
Some of the reasons come from a deeply cankerous place: jealousy (“why do you get to fritter away your hours MAKING ART and I have to sell toilets?”) or misunderstanding (“art isn’t work, it’s just lazy piffle for lazy losers”) or alien menace (“ART GIVES HUMAN BEINGS HOPE AND IT MAKES THEM MORE RESISTANT TO HOSTILE TAKEOVER FROM EXTRATERRESTRIAL FORCES”).
Some governments don’t want artists because art is truth, even when couched in illusion or deception. Some schools don’t want art because how do you test art, and everything is about the test, goddamnit. Want to get a mortgage? Tell them you’re an artist and ha ha ha oh shit.
Art is a hobby, art is a waste of time, art is a thing you do when you’re in elementary school or in the retirement home. It isn’t a life. It isn’t a career. FUCK YOU, NO ARTING.
Chuck Wendig’s blog goes on to explore where his will to persist arises from. For him, it involves a lot of fierce defiance, a big don’t-tell-me-what-to-do with a lot of cursing. And, I get that, being infuriated by this ignorant culture and the stacked deck that creatives seem to face.
But what if that “F-you” attitude doesn’t really energize you? What if your art needs to be about connecting and caring? What if you really DO care what other people think?
To some extent Chuck is absolutely right, Nobody wants you to be an artist. There’s plenty of discouragement to go around.
But listen inside: YOU DO. YOU want to create, pursue, invent, explore.
Then get to work.
Forget perfection. You can’t control success. You aren’t anybody else. You are you. It doesn’t matter if anyone believes in you. Let their disbelief charge your batteries.
You can believe in you.
Focus on today. Not tomorrow. Not next year. Make something. Create something.
That’s the place I need to dwell. I want to paint. I live for creating. So, back to work! I have buttercups to paint. It’s great work if you give it to yourself.
I try to get out and paint plein-aire from the Yoshino cherries during their brief and glorious blooming. It’s always unpredictable! This year it seemed imminent, then a cold front delayed their progress, then BAM! an explosion of flowers.
When I first came to Washington, I expected something gaudier. I was amazed by the subtle beauty of these earliest blooming trees. They are a ruddy color before their buds open, then a soft pink when they’re newly opened. Finally they create a soft glow of white with but a memory of pink, as if a cloud were caught in the dark and twisted branches of the old trees.
Saturday I spent the day with easel and paints under the pale clouds, enjoying the color and all the other folks who came there to do the same. Lily got lots of petting and I got one small and one large canvas started. It was a perfect day.
If you’d like to join me, leave a comment. I plan on heading down again on Saturday April 2 from 10:30 am to 1:00 pm. Visit me on Facebook for daily updates and spontaneous painting trips!
You’re young, alone, and surrounded by strangers who speak a language you don’t understand. You’re weary, having travelled thousands of miles into the unknown, because everything you knew and loved has been destroyed.
This is the tale of the woman Baltimore came to know as its premiere kosher caterer, Bessie Bluefeld. About 100 years ago she followed her husband Charles from Ukraine to settle in Baltimore.
In celebration of Dr. King’s holiday, I want to honor the Rev. Delores M. Roberts-Mason, who dedicated her life to “the least, the last and the lost,” empowering children through reading, performing arts, education and religion.
Mrs. Roberts-Mason was a natural at empowerment. She pursued her first degree while her two children were young, and took them with her to campus on weekends. “I want them to assume they belong in university,” she told me.
The list of Delores’ accomplishments is long. during her 30 years with DC DHS she touched many lives, uplifting, educating, encouraging and empowering families who had fallen on hard times. Her testimony before the House and Senate Select Committee on Aging in 1989 was helped pass legislation protecting seniors. Howard University honored her as an Outstanding Woman of Washington for her work with young people.
When I met Delores in 2004, she was the head of Zoe Life Ministries, a faith-based youth empowerment organization that ran reading, performing arts and non-violence programs with area kids.
Armed with only volunteers, Rev. Delores and the Zoe Kids & Teens Theater Group wrote, produced and performed numerous musicals including Day of Reckoning, Heart of an Angel,Why and more. The typical production took 2 years from script to performance. Dedicated volunteers worked with the kids on dance, acting and music. But it was Rev. Delores who recruited, wrote, rallied and wrangled the entire magnificent enterprise into being.
The Teen Peace Summit was a special school day dedicated to violence prevention held at Walker Mill Middle School in Capital Heights, MD. Tapping her extensive network of professionals in many fields for leaders, Rev. Delores created a dozen or more break-out sessions with topics like Conflict Resolution, How to Say NO, Seeing One Another through Art, and more on the morning of this special day. The afternoon saw awards presented to students for accomplishments in writing, speaking and art.
Rev. Delores had many gifts, but perhaps the most important was the ability to help people open up and share the best part of themselves. She touched many lives in her work, certainly my own. I believe she had the heart of an angel.
Farewell to the musician who provided the playlist for my young life, and the artist who gave sound and vision to the androgynous, artistic, alien of my soul.
In a world with no road map, as the traditional life of my parents and grandparents became quaint and irrelevant, Bowie blazed across the firmament, operatic troubadour of the next moment.
He released sings I thought I hated: they made me uncomfortable, then liberated me. There was music that described the poignancy of life’s moments, like A New Career in a New Town. There was a heart’s anthem, Heroes, which I was blessed to experience twice in concert. There is so much more.
David Bowie reinvented himself relentlessly as an artist and performer, helping me survive my many metamorphoses. And now I find he has released a new record on the eve of his death, that speaks to the challenge of dying itself.
How can we ever know what our art can mean to the world? And how can I parse the world without this artist?
I’m in the last throes of completing a series of river pictures that have been ‘almost done’ for weeks now. I nudge each of them forward every time I get out the palette, and yet they seem to stay stubbornly in the ‘not quite yet’ camp. ALMOST!!
Last Sunday I completed this one: (click for larger view)
This was one of those summer days when you can feel the thunderstorm wanting to happen. Living on Piscataway Bay gives me the most wonderful relationship with the sky. I am so much more in tune with the movement of weather and celestial bodies than I was living in the big woods.
Moyaone Market this Saturday, October 3rd.
Come on down for new paintings and new things happening at Clearwell Studios