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Welcome to the Cooper studio, Jefferson, Iowa. Oh, wait, make that Newton, Iowa. Where three grandchildren are relying on me to keep my sanity while their Mom and Daddy are away for a week. You know how sometimes in-the-know artists tell us all how we need to be more playful, have more fun when we paint? Ha! This week I get to play WITHOUT paint :)
So this morning, they taught me something that I want to share with you. I should probably mention the particulars of the teachers. Two of them are four year old girls, one of them is a one year old little brother. Things were getting wild and crazy at breakfast this morning, for me at least. I suspect it's pretty much their norm :)
Anyway, we were were about halfway through the Marshmallow Mateys and/or Fruit Loops, when four year old #1 broke into a rousing version of The Lorax song. Probably because it seemed appropriate to her, child #2 started sharing her version of MamaMia. (Did I mention her name is Mia?) And I suppose because contributing seemed important, child #3 let go of a chorus of dadadada's, with several repeats included.
Now here's the part that pertains to artists, especially those artists writing about their work and relevant life activities in a blog somewhere. Those three musicians were just sending it out to nobody in particular. They were filling the airwaves. Of course I was trying to hear each one of them, but they were singing to their cereal as much as they were to me.
I think there are quite a few artists in the world who do that very same thing, send it out in the world to nobody in particular. They have a blog, so they figure they need to write something, anything, because of course, they have a blog.
Now my four year olds and one year old can get away with it. Because of course, they are cute as all get out. The artist trying to promote their work cannot rely on cuteness. They need content, and it had better be interesting content. And good grief, think about the title a little bit before you slap it into the box at the top of the page. Do you really think that anyone is going to read your article, when right at the top, you tell them you just painted another bird??? Or that you just finished red rose painting #5?
I think the bottom line here is, you need to be thinking about the person you want to read your blog. They are your audience, after all. And unless you are as cute as can be, and your targeted reader is your grandma, I don't think filling up the space, just to say you did it, will cut it.
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Welcome to the Cooper studio, Jefferson, Iowa, where due to outside influences, today, we will be discussing composition. Actually, the power of composition. Make that the power of a GOOD composition.
But first you need a setup.
Influence #1. At the Geneva Arts Festival in July, I had a lovely conversation with Lars-Birger Sponberg (ha, look at me, the name dropper!) that included thoughts about this very subject, composition. We discussed rules of composition, and then the breaking of said rules. Is there a line you can't successfully cross between the two? And if so, where the heck is it? And how on earth many years of work experience is required of the artist to be able to recognize it, and understand it? (if you don't know Lars, trust me, he's logged in the time, in excellent fashion)
Influence #2. This morning I was reading @ Fine Art Views Blogs, and so enjoyed Sharon Weaver's blog on constructing the plein air painting. Her advice is obviously applicable far and beyond just the plein air artistic venue, and this is her number one rule: "1) The foundation is the composition. If the composition works the rest of the painting process will be on solid ground."
Influence #3. Less than an hour later, it all played out right in front of me. A perfect case study. I'm sure I've mentioned in a past blog post, that I've added a gig to my daily schedule. I spend two hours @ afternoon doing research work for my spouse's work. Early this morning, coffee mug in hand, I was reading over his shoulder, as we reviewed yesterday's research. I had copy/pasted two articles onto one word doc. Each article had a small photo at the upper left, each followed by about 150-200 words of text.
Now comes that compositional dividing line: the text of the first article did not copy/paste well. Yes, the words were all there in the correct order, but the generations of Microsoft had messed with the spacing. A sentence here, a paragraph down there. Three lines of space at this point, 5 1/2 at the next. And of course, you guessed it. Husband scrolled right through. Spent 15 seconds, tops. Yup, he scrolled right through that pathetic composition, without a single backward glance. Right to the second part of the research, and of course you know the second part was NOT a victim of Microsoft Word generational sparring. Yes, arrangement of blocks of text on a page, is a graphic, to be composed, just as is so with a painting.
I watched (in awe of the power of composition) as husband settled in and read the second part start to finish. Truly, I felt like a scientist with a lab test. As Sharon said in her plein air article "The foundation is the composition", and this morning in my science lab, er, husband's office, I watched it happen. Composition has the power. If yours is scattered and messy, my scientific study (heheh) results say your work is going to get passed right over. Yup, the viewer will zoom right by your stuff, to visually land on the well composed.
I recommend taking thoughts of composition with you when you go to the easel. Oh, the power of a good composition.
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Welcome to the Cooper studio, Jefferson, Iowa, where today, we're discussing things "off the radar screen", things unintentionally evading detection, things UN NOTICED.
And I suppose your next question is "Why the heck for?" And guess what? We're blaming this on the drought too.
Surely you are aware by now, of the drought enveloping the midwest? Jefferson is not immune to it's dis-charms. We, along with many other communities measure rain by number of drops that fell. The concept of inches of rain is a distant memory.
And that leads us to the story line of today's discussion. The lawns in Jefferson, like so many other towns, probably should not be called lawns, in their current state. Brown, white, and shades of gray just don't normally cut it when seeking to define the word "lawn". But that's what we've got. The resident lawn mower at the Cooper house has not run since May. No need, you know. Most other Jeffersonians are of the same mindset. Because of that, an interesting phenomena is occurring. Out along the edges of the "lawn" where things are not kept under quite as stringent control, rogue weeds are popping up. Not a thick "stand" of course, just one here and there, every now and then.
Ironically, most of them are in the little median strip between the sidewalk and street. So as passersby travel the street, well, there they are. Little "blips on the screen" of too dry grass. Wily deviants raising their heads when no one is paying any attention.
"Unnoticed" can happen in the studio, as well. And normally "unnoticed" comes in the form of moments of slack.
Like this: You're at the easel working away, in fact you have been for a while, and you're tired. It won't hurt to pull up a chair, will it? Well, maaaybe... If it becomes the new norm AND you start painting with your fingers instead of your arm AND if you don't stand up from said chair every so often to walk back and view progress from a distance... The moment in the chair is not the bad habit waiting to develop, the rest of it is.
Or maybe that "rogue weed pattern" waiting to get you, is the just not making it into the studio today. Okay, fine. No big deal. Then all of a sudden you get to the end of the month, and realize you were out more than in. The build up effect of bad habits creeping up on you - sheesh, not only do we have to create perfect works of art when we are in our studio, but we have to keep the bad habits out.
I suppose that means they go hand in hand, like keep the bad habits out, so you can create the amazing work in.
Off the radar screen. Unnoticed. Little bits of action that can turn into a bad habit for the studio. But only if we let them. And the good news is, we are in charge.
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Welcome to the Cooper studio, Jefferson, Iowa.
Arridian came to visit this week. We went to the park. While Arridian's mom was getting her exercise routine in, Arridian and I played on the jungle gym. And let me tell you - for a three-year old, he has a lot of good advice to share. Take this bit, for example:
"You have to go on the trail, and not go on the scratchy grass, cause the rattle snakes live there and they want to bite your leg" "and al'gators like to bite your leg too"
Hunh. Wisdom from a three-year old. I wished Arridian had given me his good advice before the last summer art fair I went too.
You know how artists tend to stand around in clusters before things get rolling on Sunday morning? Sharing show gossip and all that? I ran into a person that was doing way more than gossiping. This artist was like a snake in the scratchy grass, and I should have stayed on the trail (from the artists break room back to my booth), instead of getting drawn into her conversation.
Did she have a good thing to say about anything? NO! One positive word about anything or anybody? NO! She even told me how terrible Ezups are, and how people who use them should be thrown out of the show. They always crash into her tent, of course. I discreetly mentioned mine's never crashed into anybody's, and I use it because I can put it up and take it down easily, by myself, with no assistance, assistance which I rarely have. That didn't even slow her down. I made an excuse about having work to do yet, and exited stage left.
Whew! Who needs stuff like that? And just before it's "meet and greet patrons time"? It took a major self-pep-talk to re-focus on the task at hand.
At the end of the afternoon, and packing, as I was driving away from the show, my route took me past the street corner where her booth had been located. I could see her still busy packing, and I wondered how her day had gone, how her patrons had fared? Maybe she had unleashed all her negative words on me, so that her patrons got only good stuff. I wonder.
But Arridian's good advice is firmly planted in my thoughts now. Stay away from rattlesnakes in the scratchy grass, cause they want to bite your leg. And they want to bite into your positive selling thoughts too. Wisdom at three, to remember as you prep for your next summer art fair.
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