Portrait Painting Cyber Space Word Jockey Rides Again

The Blog is Back in Town!

On the days I teach (at the School of Visual Arts in New York City) I spend about 25 minutes commuting each way on the Long Island Railroad. Sometimes I try to read, but it’s a frustratingly inadequate amount of time. It feels like the minute I get settled and into the flow, they’re announcing my station. So, since I can’t really do any serious reading, I tend to gaze out the window and listen to my music. As each scene merges into the next, my thoughts do too. Occasionally, an idea for a blog post pops into my head, but up ’til now I haven’t been able to use my travel time productively.

When I launched this blog over the summer, I could devote time to it because I was off from teaching and wasn’t spending a chunk of each day commuting. I was creating posts at what seemed like a pretty prolific pace (for me) and most importantly, I loved doing it. However, since school started up this fall, I’ve been super busy and haven’t had the time to put anything together. I’m not interested in posting random thoughts just for the sake of posting something, but between my commissions, my teaching schedule and my family life, I haven’t had a minute to spare. Not that I’m complaining, mind you, these days it’s great to be busy, but still, it’s very frustrating because I was really into it. I also want to create a book about my approach to painting, so I thought working on this this blog would be a great way to polish my writing skills.

I was looking forward to the start of the fall semester because, first, I love teaching, and secondly, I knew that the interactions between my students and myself could be a great spawning ground for interesting topics. Ironically, when starting this blog my main concern was that I would run out of things to say, but it never occurred to me that the main issue would be a lack of time.

So, for the past several months I’ve tried to come up with a way to use my commute productively, but up to now I haven’t been able to work out a workable solution. I need to be able to create something that is ready to be uploaded. Jotting down ideas doesn’t cut it, because I still don’t have the time to convert them into something postable. I tried typing on my iPhone, but for anything more involved than texting, it sucks. The screen is just too tiny, and being right-brained, I need to see everything I’m writing, not just a sentence or two. By nature I’m a tinkerer; its how I paint and how I write. I like the process of tweaking and evolving so I need to keep scanning back over what I’ve previously written.

Using a laptop also didn’t work. The train is very cramped and there wasn’t room to open a laptop and comfortably access the keyboard. No place to put my elbows! Plus, I’m already so anchored down with supplies and books, I don’t need to add additional weight. I also checked out the iPad, but, unfortunately, there wasn’t enough wiggle room for it either.

Then, suddenly, the technology gods spoke to me. The other day I stopped by Tek Serve, a New York store that specializes in Mac sales and service. As I entered I saw a display featuring the new iPad Mini. As soon as I picked it up a hallelujah chorus rang out and a beam of light descended from the heavens. (Okay, maybe it was the sound system playing Christmas music and a strategically placed spotlight.) But none the less, it was the perfect size, giving me the ability to type away without disturbing my neighbors without adding any significant weight, and I can comfortably scan the page as I write. My prayers have, after all, been answered.

So here I sit, not staring out the window perusing my thoughts and dreaming of blogs that will never be, but putting the finishing touches on my inaugural run as a commuting portrait painting blogging iPad Mini user.

Until next time…

Reflecting Upon My Reflections

Today’s post marks the two-week anniversary of Brush Aside–time flies when you’re having fun. I thought such a significant event was just cause for some serious self-reflection and a wee bit of celebration, thus the inclusion of the Rene Magritte painting Not To Be Reproduced (Portrait of Edward James). Hip-hip-hooray! Now that the celebration part is officially over, back to reflection. Overall I would classify my initial foray into the blogosphere as a success. I managed to overcome some minor (for coders) technical glitches, I’ve reconnected with a number of old friends and students, made some new friends, and got the ball rolling.

I appreciate all the positive responses, kind words of encouragement and feedback I’ve been getting via e-mail, thru Facebook and from the comments here on the blog. Thank you all. I’m flattered that so many people have voiced interest in what I have to say. So far 99.9% have been positive–well I did receive one span response.

For my blog platform I chose WordPress and not Blogger which is the choice of basically every other art blog in the universe. I chose the Prose Child Theme by Genesis, because I believed their claim that you can  “customize your…blog without knowing the intricacies of stylesheet properties or HTML code,” and that your blog will “scale and adapt appropriately so that it looks proportional and consistent across variety of devices including tablet computers and mobile phones.” As it turns out, getting everything the way I wanted it was a bear. But it does scale well. Ultimately, I had to join site setup kit to receive the technical support I so desperately needed. Going against the grain and choosing the most difficult path–that’s me in a nutshell!

Two blogs in particular inspired me to delve. The first is Underpaintings, created by my friend and former student, Matthew Innis. It’s my first stop when I go online. Matthew’s a great source of info. I can check out all the current shows and auctions I find pertinent and interesting. I enjoy his research into both contemporary and historical artists. Matthew has been very generous in his support of both my painting and teaching efforts. My second source of inspiration is Gurney Journey by Dinotopia author James Gurney. James has a huge following and does a great job covering a wide spectrum of subjects. I was very flattered when he commented positively about Brush Aside. Hats off to both Matthew and James who both do a great job. I see no need to duplicate their efforts.

I plan to discuss issues that no one else either sees or wants to comment on, things that ruffle my feathers. Unless things are brought to light nothing can ever change.

My main purpose is to create a platform where I can present the ideas about painting and teaching that I’ve developed over my 40 year career as a professional artist and educator. A lot of what I want to say goes against the grain of conventional thinking. My goal is to create a contextual shift in the way artists approach their art. I’m looking forward to see where this all leads. Elbert Hubbard said, “The teacher is the one who gets the most out of the lessons, and the true teacher is the learner.”

Please spread the word to anyone you think may be interested. Feel free to comment here, on the blog and share in your thoughts with your fellow readers. I set everything up to make it easy for you to post. You don’t have to register; there are no silly boxes that require psychedelic drugs to decipher. Just hit the comment button and state your opinions, your reactions, your questions or any ideas you have. You’ll be hearing plenty about what I think. I look forward to hearing what you think.

Happy two-week anniversary from the folks who bring you Brush Aside?

Until next time…