Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Big Smile Project

Dana Schutz paints people eating their arms or eating their own face. Perhaps last week I was thinking of posing for her when I ate part of my tooth for dinner. It wasn't delicious, sweet or savory. It was just a hard thing in my mouth.

But enough about my body falling apart. Let's talk about teeth.

My mother did portraits, mostly glamour shots of movies stars. Greta Garbo never sat in our kitchen posing, so I'm sure she painted from magazine photos. She also painted all the  family members. 

No one ever smiled. It's not that the family members or movie stars were sad, sullen, or sedate. My mother was afraid to paint teeth. Or anyway, she believed that teeth were really hard.

Well, they are hard when you're trying to eat them, but painting them? Why would teeth be any harder to paint than eyes or noses, or fingers.

So I put teeth to the test. I photographed John and our friends Joy and Keith at breakfast last Sunday. Then I printed out their faces and started painting. 

Joy Powell's great smile.
Here's what I learned. For me, a tooth is a hard form, solid with distinct lights and shadows. Pretty straight forward painting. Lips, however, are trickier, delicate, especially at the corners of the mouth where there are folds of inner skin. The top edge of the upper lip is soft, not a solid color distinction.

Painting smiles was the most fun I've had in ages. When I went to bed, I wanted to get back up and go look at them again.

Today I saw Dr. Gibney, my dentist. I have a new temporary tooth and a camera full of photos. In future posts I'll show my dentist's, dental hygienist's, and receptionist's smiles. Isn't this fun.

Now I want to paint close-ups of everyone I know smiling. Hmmm. This could become a series.

So here's my conclusion. When we think something is hard to do, we should at least try it. (You could apply this to other areas of life besides painting, however, I'm still not going to take up sky diving.) 

Sunday, October 10, 2010


I wake up with a head full of shoulds for my day. 
  • I should respond to 7 emails.
  • I should do 4 loads of laundry. I am out of socks.
  • I should plant the 90 tulip bulbs I bought. Why did I do that?
  • I should empty the dishwasher.  (John now makes emergency vehicle noises when the dishwasher door is open.)
  • I should water the house plants.
  • I should walk 2 miles. We actually do that most mornings before breakfast.
  • I should divide the hostas and move them to the front garden.
  • I should weed the vegetable garden.
  • I should write some journal pages. Oprah says you should journal.
  • I should learn chi gong. Dr Oz wants me to.
  • I should paint...
Actually I have been painting, several afternoons lately, after taking care of a bunch of shoulds that aren't even on this list. 

But, I've been doing should paintings, the "I should be painting" paintings. A should painting is numb, rote, using up paint, a "paint every day and you'll get better," exercise. A listless, mindless, dumping on, smearing, bored, diddling, indifferent kind of painting. It's different than a "want to" painting. 

But then two of the three should paintings look like thoughtful paintings. I wonder why?

In my twenty's all the books and articles about how to become a good writer said, "you should write every day". Make it a habit. I did that. I wrote everyday. I wrote a novel, two partial novels, lots of short stories, newspaper articles, and children's books. Some published. Some not. That should seemed to work.

I have told my artists friends, "if your serious about doing this, you should paint every day." I am so bossy.

Colette's first husband Willy locked her in a room so she would write, then he took credit for her work. Did you note the "first" husband part of that. That makes sense to me. But I think I heard somewhere that she was grateful to him, not for stealing her work, but for forcing her to get into a habit of writing. Are habits and shoulds cousins in the brain.

End of day

I've weeded the round garden, moved strawberries to it's outer circle, walked and done laundry. Not a bad day.

One "shouldn't" that I'm good with… you shouldn't prune an espalier any later than mid-September, as it will cause a growth spurt. So the espaliered apple trees with a few wild branches that look like they should be pruned shouldn't. It will just have to wait until January or Spring. Actually that applies to any pruning in this climate. Isn't it great to have a shouldn't.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Injury update

Yesterday the stitches came out of my forehead. 

But first, flash back a week ago Monday: the crash and gash. Basically I looked and felt fine. The gash was hiding nicely under my bangs. But by Thursday morning when I looked in the mirror my eyelids and the space next to the bridge of my nose was a vibrant shade of Alizarin Crimsom. There was an interesting fine red line circling the bag under my left eye. This was a little brighter, cadmium red deep. By Saturday my right eye also had a red line defining the bag on that side. Each day the colors work their way down to pool under my eyes. Will they keep going and land at my chin?

I'm getting some lovely colors going here. To give you an idea of some of the colors on my face see below.

Left to right from upper left:  
D102 - Da Vinci Artists' Oil Color, Alizarin Crimson,   
D110 - Da Vinci Artists' Oil Color, Cadmium Red Deep,   
D180 - Da Vinci Artists' Oil Color, Thioindigo Violet,   
D1522 - Da Vinci Artists' Oil Color, Magenta Quinacridone,   
D1351 - Da Vinci Artists' Oil Color, Dioxazine Purple,   
D137 - Da Vinci Artists' Oil Color, Dark Goethite,   
D1371 - Da Vinci Artists' Oil Color, Goethite Genuine,   
D154 - Da Vinci Artists' Oil Color, Mummy,   
D127 - Da Vinci Artists' Oil Color, Cinnabar Green Medium,   
H275 - Holbein Artists' Oil Color, Terre Verte,   
GA1100 - Gamblin Artists' Oil Color, Cadmium Green,   
D133 - Da Vinci Artists' Oil Color, Cobalt Teal,  

Okay, I don't really expect to turn Cobalt teal, but I really like the color.

I had a little tube of cover-up make-up. I had it in my hand. It has disappeared without it's contents ever touching my face. Yesterday after I had the stitches out I stopped at Meijers for groceries. I also selected a tiny bottle of concealer. It was the last thing on the check-out. It's not on my receipt and it's no where to be found. Hmmm, do the gods of color want me exposed?

Here's another mystery to me. That spot on my belly, that was just a little red dot last Monday, is now a dioxazine purple area 3 inches around. How come the wound on my forehead is falling down my face, but the wound on my stomach is staying put and just growing.

My doctor asked how the dishwasher was. His wife lost her balance and landed on their open dishwasher.  It got unhinged and they had to buy a new one. Ours is fine. It broke me. I didn't break it. 

The color swatches above are from Cheap Joes on line catalog (with their permission) It's a great place to buy art supplies. Click on any link to get their site or click here: I've included the color numbers for the artists among you.