Thursday, December 16, 2010

Inside the Box

I love it when a drawing circles through, back into relevance again. This drawing has been seen here before and most likely will be seen again.

One of the luxuries of aging into the second half-century of life is letting go of those early external judgmental voices that caused thousands of embarrassments for my young self-judgmental self. I have culled the noise down to a musical melody that makes sense to me and no longer give a damn about the rest of it. Because of this my art is much more pointedly honest. It can also be extremely off-putting, even to myself. The rewards in creating this work is immense.

Long ago I knew I would never be a Rembrandt. I don't like to paint from real life, never have, even though I knew I could teach myself to do so. I have a painting of an old cardboard box around here somewhere that I did in Thiebaud's painting class eons ago... The project was to paint a simple empty cardboard box in a way that made the box come alive. The painting was a complete success: mine sings with cardboard box joy and glory.

Nevertheless, it didn't satisfy me. I felt I wanted to work at creating art about what isn't seen, but is always felt: the inside of humanity, not the outside. In cardboard box language I guess I wanted to let go of the physical box and concentrate more on the joy & glory within, and maybe add the other part of empty boxness: weariness, pathos, and perhaps a bit of angst.

My next thirty years on this path have taken me on a marvelous ride of observation about what it means to be alive, from the inside. Much of my artwork has been an exercise in failure when viewed from the judgmental mind that I was schooled to trust 30 years ago.

But there is another judgmental mind in me that is jumping up and down with glee. Good going, girl! You jumped into that empty box and have found more treasure in there than anyone could ever hope to behold in ten lifetimes.

Clearly, embarrassment is a big part of what I found in that box, but, if you click on the drawing, you'll see there's ample humor rattling around there, too, right alongside the warts.

Oh, yes, Rembrandt. He also pointed a flashlight on the soul, didn't he. Hmmm........ ha ha!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

For the last couple of days I've been thinking about George. He can be read in different ways. In one version he was born on the left, traveled through a lot of difficult and scarring times, but was lucky or hard working enough to end up healthy after the mid-point of his life. He looks back and learns from the past while he takes in a better future.

A second version of George is that he was born oblivious to the turmoil around him, hopped blindly through life without being fazed, and now lives on a hill above it all, glad he's not involved. He now sees his past, but doesn't take in the fact that he might have caused a few of those accidents he avoided along the way.

Up on the hill, in the background, I see the outline of a person. What is this person thinking?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Variations on the Theme of Treasure

Is it the atmosphere or multiple moments of memory?

Jazz in the Attic

Loosely Grey

(early stage)

I've been exploring the world of grey lately. It's a much softer environment than I'd previously thought. Difficult to photograph, though. Light plays tricks.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Living Outside the Box

Life experience has its benefits for the creative mind.


Some of us are extremely lucky.

Within and Without

This drawing clearly represents a fun work environment. I'm hoping that the jocular scene spreads outwards beyond Elton Street after closing hours.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Pressure to Perform

Since these names are standing in like actors in a play, representing different types of human experiences of life, I usually don't pay attention to the addresses on the labels. In this case, though, I couldn't help but notice that this real person must be living quite a truly remarkable life on all levels. The test was how to portray such diversity and elegance of experience in such simple small form, without missing a beat because no mark was allowed to be erased or ignored or preplanned. Hopefully Weston feels in tune somewhat with the life he portrays here.

Chuckling Charles

Jovial Charles is such a delight ... but I think something profound happened later in his life that I can't seem to get my head around yet. Any ideas?

The Parade of Life

Since these cards came from a box I found 30 years ago at a goodwill, I don't know about 99.9 percent of the people. Here is one person who is actually a part of my past. He was a university art professor and he had a thing about lining ancient dolls up in parade format and photographing them. I wonder if he feels like his life has played out as a doll parade as well. He has since moved to a very different place in this world and seems to be just as involved as ever with observing and participating in life on an insightful level.

A Complete Movement

This person lives completely within his own creative music.
The question is how to keep the symphony going once the fingers can no longer play.

Atmospheric Lives

One of the benefits of doing an Open Studio is observing the many different types of ways that people respond to specific pieces of art. I see it as a constantly unfolding revelation about the diversity of the human psyche.

We often think of people as living concrete step by step lives full of distinct experiences and memories. There are the ladder climbers, the stepping stone hoppers, the people with a finger in lots of pies.

I perceive another type in Roger: I call his an atmospheric life. His memories are more diffused than most, and he might have trouble pinning recent events down. He thinks/feels his way through life with intensely immediate observation. He might take notes to keep a record of his thoughts, but when he leaves one event behind in order to take in the next event, he does so with complete abandon of the past and a complete commitment to the immediate new. These events might be as large as a trip to a new country or as small as a hike into his tiny back yard. While he doesn't claim to have a great memory, he recognizes that his intellect is constantly active and pulls from the whole of his life's experiences at any moment. To him his life is one big grand event.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Gift of John and Adrian

As you know by now, these names and addresses are pulled from 30 years ago and I do not know the people. I have used these names as if to ask these real people to represent certain characteristics of humanity, basically to stand in as actors in a play about life.

Today Donna stands for one small but important aspect of a real person I know/knew, John. For the past short time John fought through the ravishes of painful cancer. The manner in which he and his partner shared their experience, with open-eyed honesty, integrity, and admitted need for a dignity that was difficult to hold onto, has influenced me no end. While these two were fighting the most profound battle of all, I have been playing the demon in a fight for ego. During my thorny, wormy, muddy, broken-mirror experience there stood J and A beside me, mired up in more mess than I can imagine, but representing a clarity, cleanliness of human essence to the world that I can only marvel at. It was only when I stood up from my cesspool of self-indulgence, shook off the crap, and embraced them that I felt right in the world. Hand in hand with their abstracted encouragement I was able to create the 900 Lives, to get out of my small self and to do something that turned out pretty big.

November 4, 2010, John relinquished himself to whatever comes next.

Blessings to you, John Tinker, and to you, Adrian Card.
You both will always be sheltered in the deepest part of my soul.

Looking Beyond the Now

One of the risks of drawing life lines that go from 0 to 50 is that viewers who are younger than 50 might not get the complete picture. I tried to inject enough youthful life into different stories so that the young could relate as well, maybe see themselves in the stories somewhere.

(Photo by Dana Pianowski)

Today is the last day the show is up. After this it goes back into the little black file box it came in. Poof! Just another life story that came and went and influenced a few people's lives.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Only the Hairdresser Knows

Sometimes this is all the info we get about our neighbor's life.

Nosing for Trouble

One of the hardest parts about being a female artist is any type of softness easily comes across as sentimental to a male thinker. Women are basically considered sentimental until proven otherwise. I have the physicality of "cute" and my mind is fed by experiences from all six senses (drat to that sixth one!), so I am constantly fighting this battle.

This Halloween I dressed in black with large plastic rats attached to my black slacks so that they appeared to crawl up my legs. I represented the dark crawl space under a derelict house. (My husband was dressed the same, rats attached to his shoulders. He was the attic.)

Across the party floor sat a man dressed as Hugh Hefner, with male limp genital mask hanging down as a nose. My first instinct was to look the other way, as any sane person would who wasn't into orgy-with-stranger behavior. Then I decided I'd make sure to talk to this person sometime during the night.

I did approach the man, and he did speak macho sexism talk for the first part of our conversation. But after a while, and maybe it was because I didn't laugh but acted like he authentically did have a penis nose, he started asking me questions about myself and found out I was an artist. What ensued then was a very careful bombardment of questions at trying to get me to prove I had little depth as a thinking, practicing artist. I had learned from him that he was friends with a Choral Director so I decided that the questions might be derived from more educational background than your regular Dick. In fact, they sounded quite similar to those that might be asked of a masters student of the arts. I decided to answer him with completely sincerity.

I spent most of my time answering the questions by describing the little drawings you see here, trying to explain that each card was a unique person with a unique life and we all live differently, and sometimes with great difficulty. He wanted to know how I portrayed people as being different from one another and I explained it was with symbolism, ink line thickness, abstract shape making, gradations in gracefulness of line and in grey tones. I talked about how in order to portray a clumsy person as growing into a person of immense grace by the end of their story I needed the atmospheric help of graceful music playing on my radio.

I also explained that the economic fall with so many people going through hard times is what inspired me. I talked about how at the end of every life line I tried to put a positive thought, resolution, sense of well-being. He asked (firm chastising voice) if I thought it was right for me to tell people what to think. I responded that many of my drawings are vague enough that people can think whatever they want. It is up to them to see the healthy resolution or not. We are all participants in the perception of art and of the larger world around us.

His eyes brightened, the frown on his brow cleared, and he admitted he had also been a University Professor of Choral Music and that leading the audience to a positive resolution was at the essence of his work.

Phew. I passed the class.

Looking back I appreciate that conversation. Those were great questions and they might have been asked of a male artist in a spur of the moment manner like that. Maybe. But the female in me who is always fighting against being seen as sentimental couldn't help but notice that throughout the whole conversation the guy was unaware he was sweating, in essence dripping, out of his nose mask.

Dodge Ball

I bet Rick feels he has survived life's bowling-ball-hits fairly well, really only needing to bear his soul once during his well-appointed life.

Taking Care

Have you ever noticed that when you "take care" of someone you are actually saying you are "taking" something from them? Their self care.

Rex seems to have had a tough time with overbearing family or community during his younger years. It seems that in the end, though, he has finally learned to take care back at them.

(Click on image to see Rex's youth better... He was so pale back then.)

Congrats SF Giants!

David and the Dunce Cap

Here's David. He was born inside a party hat that looked too much like a dunce cap to his peers. Protecting himself, he grew older looking at the world from a dark space. He must have had a major "Ah-hah!" because he finally threw off his protective cone head. Thoughtfully he didn't throw it away. Instead he sat on his new wisdom, searching for more. Should he dance through life? Should he megaphone his thoughts out to everyone? Or should he simply embrace that inner, beautiful wisdom that is David?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A Lost Story Unfolding

Put your ear to the wall and listen.

Meeting the Art

Today I met this life line in someone describing themselves as full of puppy energy right now after a big emotional wounding. I drew this last summer, so am pleased to meet a person fitting this description today. Woof!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Reception Mirrors Art Mirrors Life

A clear message of my "900 Lives of Vision" exhibit is that we all have tools within us to get through rough times. If we can harness these tools we might even be able to create something wonderful during the process.

Below are two images of people caught in the act of getting the best out of life.

This person clearly knows how
to swing to the music of the people she meets.

A wise man knows that the right tools can turn
an average experience into a kick.

(Photos by Dana Pianowski)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Enhanced by Changing Seasons and Persistent Viewers

"Expanding Vision"


The gallery has mostly natural lighting in the form of a skylight. With the coming fall there is a moody quiet that pervades the space later in the afternoon. Perfect for introspective quiet reading.


Surprises delight visitors: In the "Clover" grouping a visitor found a friend who happens to be an olympic swimmer. Elsewhere an elderly man found a long-time pen pal. A visitor from the East Coast found a high school teacher. Home towns and college towns from across the nation seem to bring up the questions: do I know that person, that street? Can I relate to the drawing and what does it mean to me, to you?

One visitor found name after name after name that meant something to him; He had discovered the mystery theme that originally linked these cards in their black file box thirty years ago. Hint: All the drawings in this collection are in black India Ink on purpose.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Learning How to Fly

"The Fool and the Phoenix"

Of late I have become fond of fools and Fools. I see both types of foolishness everywhere, me being a very active hat bearer/wearer. Perhaps it is lucky to be foolish. In the very least it makes for a much more interesting ride.

It's the fool who lives on the edge of a cliff and irresponsibly falls off it. It is the Fool who lives on the edge of a cliff, sees potential in the open space, jumps off the cliff, and figures out how to fly on the way down. In a hopeful world there are a lot of lucky fools who turn into Fools while falling off the cliff.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Tools to Aid in Reaching a New Perspective

I was just out in the garden, minding my own business, when a tiny, irritating splinter appeared on the end of one of my right hand finger tips. I tweezed with my left hand nails, but failed to do any more than push the almost invisible stinger further into my flesh. I rushed to the medicine cabinet and scrounged up a pair of tiny metal tweezers and set to work, aiming as best I could and pulling this way and that... but soon found I was still missing miserably. Finally I put on multiple layers of magnifying glasses and enlarged the tiny annoyance into a giant log. I aimed my now giant metal claws at the irritant, grabbed hold easily, pulled gently back and up, and dislodged the aggressor. While flinging it willy-nilly into the air I marveled at how what we take from an experience is directly related to how we look at it.

(I will be providing magnifying glasses at my upcoming exhibition.)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Visual Art as an Experience, Not a Commercial Commodity

When we go to an art museum we go to experience the collection, not to buy it.

My temporary installation of drawings, "900 Lives of Vision," is presented in the same light. If you are in the area, please come to experience the massive grouping of individual lives, as there will be nothing to buy.


Think about the time that was spent creating a little story for each individual, how no one was left behind, how some people have strong ink lines and others more delicate, how some people are presented linearly and others more sculpturally. Why are some drawings so light they are almost invisible and what do you think about the confusion in some? Why are they placed in the groupings that you see? Why are some drawings wandering off center?

What kinds of people are presented? What is it like to live like a flowing brush stroke? Or a map? Or an organically branching plant? Can a life line have more than one branch or does a life line go solely from point A to point Z? Is this person at point P or at point X or, dear God, are they even alive today? If they have passed on, did they have a sense of success to their life? Would any of these people actually find themselves within these drawings? Can you find yourself?

The most overwhelming question of all: Can you take in this many people during a single visit? How much can any of us take in at one time?

I keep remembering a Muse Concert I went to a few years ago with my husband and daughter. We were up front, standing squished together in the second row. Hundreds of people surrounded me intimately. I wanted to ask every single person his or her story. I shared their sweat and their joy as we swayed to the music, but I never got beyond a grunt and groan of communication with them.

Maybe I will play Muse at the reception. Or jazz or classical or world or some other rock. It's all part of the art experience I had drawing them. The music is in the lines.


Just came back from a John Zorn experimental sax performance. We grinned through the whole organic, quirky, bizarre experience. His music is the sound that I hear in many of my drawings.

Beauty Flows Out of Awkwardness

I have a philosophy that out of awkwardness comes true beauty. Above you see a line that grows steadily in size but changes little in shape as it moves towards the right. Mid point the line shape is strong and stable. Then, in the next shape, there's a leap to giant but awkward uncertainty of new form. When I drew that clumsy shape I felt a sense of failure and discouragement.

It took a leap of "oh, what the hell" faith to let go and scratch out the four little squiggles to the far right. Without the awkwardness I wouldn't have leapt, and those three elegant leapers wouldn't exist. Three out of four isn't bad... and therein lies Eileen's story of hope for the future.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Not One to Stand Still

Here's a "cropped card close up" which you will see even closer if you click on the image. The lines are India ink, drawn with a crow quill. This one has an ink/water wash to create a sense of atmosphere for this person's very active life. His young years are on the left, so he's oldest at the right side of the card. I'm staring at that odd shape on the right and wondering what he's up to! I surely don't know, but it does look like he's still fishing for ideas.

Shapes of Things

Plateau Hopping

I just noticed Neal had to go through the shadows in order to progress up to levels 4 and 5.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Beauty in a Good Jiggle

I'm sticking Joseph here in, just to see if you're paying attention. This guy clearly has a charmed life, which I hope to emulate for the rest of my days.

What Can You Build in Thirty Years?

I have been trying to pick one drawing out of 900 to represent my show. This is so difficult I just want to eat those cookies, pound a few nails (wham, wham, wham!), and draw some more...

But that is just one day's thought. Above is a lifetime of learning and living. I wonder what Hershel ate during his teen years. I wonder if he is satisfied with his constructions in life. Does he feel confident in his ideas and how he expresses them to others? This Hershel on the card has a little smile. It looks like he's keeping any negativity zipped up inside his shirt, but maybe he just knows a satisfying way to express it.

I found this name the day after my daughter came back from college. I recognized the city as that of her institution. I asked her if she knew Ted. Remarkably, he was her professor of one month, and had lived at that particular address back in 1975 or 76. The card was blank at the time, and I had to draw on it. What a panic! My daughter would be appalled if I did a dud drawing - which has definitely happened more than once. (Part of life is a multitude of dud days, all to be glaringly apparent at my show where no card will be thrown away.)

Now that I look back at this drawing I chuckle that I must have called forth the hypnotic energy of a whirling dervish. If he could create beauty so mindlessly by trusting his body to do the right thing, so could I! And don't we all, in times of need.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Details that Stick

Here is another image I keep coming back to. This detail from a larger painting holds a certain fascination for me. When I was a kid my parents were in community theater and one of the skits they put on had a man standing on stage just as this man stands. Actors would come on and off stage, walking by the man, finally noticing him and asking each other (but not him), "Why is he standing there?" and stating, "He's just standing there." The scenario repeated itself again and again. The man kept standing there.

I would pass by this image on my wall and I'd think, "He's just standing there." Usually I saw my father in this image. Just recently I recognized myself.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

One of a Kind Instead of Multiples

Two days ago I was at a reception for an art exhibit, me being one of the participants. I was advised to bring along business cards. I don't have business cards. I don't think "business" when I do my art, so I end up forgetting to have cards printed. I quickly drew some up. Each was an original thought and a tiny drawing. When I handed them out I felt like I was dealing in sterling silver instead of stainless steel.

Profile Story ~ teenager thought

My first job: At the age of 14 I worked as a janitor in a cold barn-like community building. What did I learn there? That there is satisfaction in making things change: dirty to clean, ugly to beautiful, messy to tidy. And that there was a world of mystery behind the patchwork curtains that hung at the end of the hall, on the stage of my future.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Giggling with Joy

Every now and then one happens upon a grand "a-ha!" This painting is one I return to again and again in my trips through life. Meaning, I trip and get mud on my face so I go look at the silly grins on the buddha faces and grin back through the mud. If only life could be so joyous all the time. Clearly, the shoveler knows that working near paradise is pretty good, considering the options. So, what's a little bit of mud ... but something to grow a seed in, if that mud is collected, saved, and set aside in a fertile little pile of hope.

It took one year to paint, and it sure is different from my other art. I'm not one to stay in one place... can't help but explore the world through all means possible.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Time for a Snort, Cackle, Chortle, & Guffaw

This project has been quite a lesson in looking on the bright side. I really didn't want anyone to have a negative life drawing on their card, no matter how true to world experience I attempted to make these. Sometimes darkness did encroach, and isn't that indicative of life, you can't control it! At these times I'd react by trying to make the next card more hopeful and even humorous. Humor has a way of unsticking even the most dreary and dense glue.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Tripping in the Search for What Works

There are about 65 more drawings to do. I am sad that I soon won't be walking around in this crowd of amazing people. I have continued to draw without knowing who most of these people are, but I must admit I would often google names after the drawings were finished. Again and again I have been astonished by the brilliance of these people and what they have achieved in the past 30 years. Above you will notice I took the last names off the labels for internet purposes because I am not yet sure of privacy issues. Somehow it works for me that David Y. now symbolizes "David" in general.

In September these cards will all go on display at Avenue 25 Gallery in San Mateo, CA. The originals will be full of life and flaws, uncertainty and triumph. I have drawn these images while experiencing every human emotion, fabulous to horrible. The common denominator is that I always strive to give each person a hopeful life full of heart, art, and human value. I do not want one person to go invisible, so I will include any cards that are drawn awkwardly... because we are all awkward at some points in our lives, even the most graceful of us.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Lucky Find

This is approximately number 550 out of 800 drawings that I hope to finish by the end of next month. I try not to pay too close attention to the names of the people on the cards, since portraiture is not the point here, but every now and then I can't help but wonder who these people are. I'm finding some of the addresses, though a quarter of a century old, might be accurate, so I've decided I'd better do some label photoshopping before putting them on this blog. As always, clicking on the image gets you a better view of what's what. These images are always read from left to right, a symbolic story of a life well lived.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Wisdom of Youthful Hope

"Facing It" is approximately 4"x4" and reminds me of the little girl behind so many women that I know these days. It is so curious that strength of character develops so early in life and for the wisest, can support one through a lifetime of hardship. I am so grateful to have known well a few women with this strength. They have taught me, through example, how to shine the flashlight on my own inner strength... and thusly is created this drawing.


Friday, May 14, 2010

The Walnut

"Treasure Within"
Art making is a very selfish act explored while living in a world full of criticism, and the best art comes from minds that are open and aware.

Think of the art maker as being a walnut, a rich and active little brain with a hard but porous shell surrounding for protection. Imbedded within that shell are thousands of tiny little telescoping cell windows looking out into the world... the little brain inside switching from one viewing hole to another in search of wisdom. Meanwhile, overhead hangs a hammer, threatening to tap, tap... or to smash down at any moment. Does the walnut ignore the hammer? It's clearly seen. Or does the walnut adjust it's shell so that if the hammer does happen to come down too hard, the little brain inside will remain whole and intact as the shell cracks into a perfect half, not crushed to pieces at all.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Quick Fixes and Escape Hatches

I've been experimenting with escape hatches. Here's a mini version. This is a 3"x5" card. Why is it that even in my escape scenes there's some powerful danger lurking? Or is that just a beautiful wave and I'm safe on this side of a lake? So many ways to look at it all.

(Darn it all, where'd I put the hammer?) "Quick Fix Prepares for a Rescue" seems appropriate for the times right now, but tsk, tsk, I really mustn't put off solid repairs until tomorrow....

Open Studio at the art complex is this weekend... Two days away. I am not prepared but the art has been flowing so there will be many papers floating about, distracting some viewers, confusing others, and disturbing a few.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Symbols that Lead the Way

It is always my intention to learn from my art experience. A direct hit occurred yesterday. I'd finished up these drawings from "10,000 Lives" earlier in the day. That evening my husband and I were discussing a huge shadow of uncertainty that loomed in our immediate past and future. We've been trying to put a healthy spin on what has the potential for being a black monster of suppression. Then I remembered the middle drawing, above. I brought it out, marveling that this drawing, reading from left to right, representing the idea of a life, had a solution: Build from what is put before you, no matter how formless the chunk of clay might be.
Thank you, David Hays, whoever you are... 30 years after this card was last used as a contact vehicle.

Blissful Unawareness

"Lovers and Leavers"
Have you ever noticed how difficult it is to clean up someone else's mess? Stephanie said it was her gift to the street to clean up the debris while she walked to work. I did not realize the major impact of her efforts until she moved away.

This was drawn around Earth Day, but of course, on my calendar that whittles it down to any one day out of 365. (The image you see right now is about the same size as the original. If you click on it you'll see what I see when I wear magnifying glasses to draw it.)


Thursday, April 15, 2010

"10,000 Lives" Project

Every day I spend time with at least ten people through a communication system that is at least 30 years out of service.