Hiding Under My Desk to Paint

My love of painting was born

My resume includes thirteen years as a choir and band teacher at a public high school. Can you believe after thirteen years, my highest annual salary was $13,000?  Poverty level.  Obviously this was several years ago and times have changed for the better, or have they?

It was during this time that I began painting with oils… wasn’t aware of other mediums. On my salary, affordable housing for my family and I was a mobile home. As you can imagine, an art studio was out of the question. When passion takes over, however, there is always a way.

I made do. I had a tabletop easel that I squeezed under a desk. I sat on the floor with my legs crossed and painted from photographs and magazines. My favorite subject was clown paintings. To this day, I still have three of those paintings. Each of my three kids have laid claim to one of them. I enjoyed clipping black and white photos from magazines and newspapers and imagined the colors for those clowns and their costumes. Additionally, I created still life paintings and gave them as gifts.

When I left teaching, I chose a different career path as a manager with a large transportation company. Having sacrificed my need to be creative and the stress of corporate demands may have contributed to failing health and I suffered two strokes and two heart attacks. I survived but lifestyle changes I made caused major depression. It was actually a blessing as my younger son encouraged me to once again take up painting. I did. I now consider myself a professional artist and I no longer have to “paint under the desk.”

“Untitled Paintings” – That’s Cheating

A title is part of the story

When I view a painting that’s “Untitled” I feel cheated.  How about you?  Is this a lazy artist?  By giving a work a title, does the artist feel he or she is leading the viewer?  Again, what do you think?

For me, a title is part of the story of a piece of artwork.  And each piece should develop from a a story.  As an artist, what are you thinking while creating?  Can you develop a title from your thoughts?

Giving a piece is definitely a challenge.  I have developed some techniques I employ however.

  1. I keep a list of potential titles
  2. I keep a list of words I like
  3. I translate words/potential titles into a foreign language (I use Google Translator), e.g. “Shiro” is Japanese for white
  4. I employ ambiguous titles as I too do not want to lead the viewer, “Sorpresa” is Spanish for surprise
  5. I like titles from one word to many , “The Devil’s in the Details Playing Tenor Sax”

shiro

“Shiro”

sorpresa

“Sorpresa”

the-devils-in-the-details-playing-tenor-sax

“The Devil’s in the Details Playing Tenor Sax”

Seriously consider a title rather than “untitled.”  It might help with sales.

 

Mom Was a Belly Dancer

Mom became a belly dancer in her late 60’s.

 

mom-2009

“Mom”

Mom was a belly dancer.  Unfortunately, I do not have any good pictures of her in her costume.  She had to be in her late 60’s.  She had taken it up prior to my Dad’s death, as exercise or so she claimed.  She became such a good dancer that she taught it for a short time.  Hmmm, I wonder if she danced to seduce Dad.  We’ll never know.

I don’t recall when she gave it up.  I like to think if she had continued, her body would have resisted Alzheimer’s and she would have had a better quality of life.  In the painting of Mom above, I wanted to capture her in this unlikely pose.  She was probably in the fourth state of Alzheimer’s – Confusion.  I created an unrealistic floor pattern to mimic that state of confusion.  Green was her favorite color most of her life and much later she changed to pink.  At this time, she still knew me.

Since Mom lived in Kansas and me in Utah, we didn’t see one another often.  Maybe twice a  year.  When visiting one summer, we had the following conversation:

Mom:  “You look like a Hardesty.”

Me: “I am a Hardesty.”

Mom:  “Who’s your mother.”

Me:  “You are Mom.”

Mom:  “Oh, I don’t have a son.”

Sad?  Of course, but at the same time I took it with a grain of salt.  I had to laugh at the absurdity of the moment, and that’s all it was…  a moment.

In 2010 shortly before her death, we visited Mom after she had entered the Alzheimer’s unit of a nursing home.  As I entered that facility, I was overwhelmed with emotion.  Mom was sitting in a chair, and she was slumping to her left as she was being spoon-fed. Tears filled my eyes. Where was my Mom? I wanted to remember her when she became a belly dancer in her sixties.

I was angry! Alzheimer’s/dementia had stolen the soul of my loving and caring mother. On my return trip to my Utah home, I began to visualize how I could communicate my anger via an abstract canvas. The subsequent painting became “Crescendo to Rage.”

crescendo-to-rage

“Crescendo to Rage,” Mixed Media, 36×36

I had not thought much about Alzheimer’s other than it being a horrible disease, and I feared I might inherit the gene (good so far). I began to visualize how I could portray this disease on canvas. My research took me to anatomical images of healthy and diseased brains and brain cells. The “Seven Stages of Alzheimer’s” also grabbed my attention. What would these seven stages look like on seven related panels as one artwork? On paper, I sketched and painted my basic composition, a deconstructed brain. This became the basis for all seven panels which I transferred to 20×10 panels. The series is meant for the viewer to ponder the dreadful nature of this disease, from normal to advanced Alzheimer’s.

      inner-cadence

“7 Stages of Alzheimer’s,” Acrylic, 20×70 

Normal – Forgetfulness – Memory – Confusion – Disorientation – Sundowning – Severe