Oregon writer, Rain Trueax, and Oregon painter, Diane, co-author Rainy Day Thought, where they write about ideas and creativity. Diane posts on Wednesdays and Rain on Saturdays. There may be extra days or changes as situations warrant. Comments, relating to the topic, are welcome as it turns an article into a discussion, but must be in English, have no links that were not pre-approved, not include profanity, or threats. The problem with the links is we can't take the time go there and see if they are legitimate and relate to the topic.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Starting Over-- series

by Rain Trueax


Many times, I've mentioned how it's not about simply putting a book out but about launching it-- if someone cares about selling that book. The first part is easy-- follow the dots. The second not so much. It has to be in the right genre, have helpful tags, places to let readers see it, ads, but there is another thing that makes a difference-- having it part of a series.

What a series does is when a reader likes a set of characters, a place, a theme, they often will follow it up. I got one criticism early on that i hadn't made it clear that the book they bought was second in the series. Readers like to read books, especially with connecting characters, in order. When you do an ad, a series makes a reader more likely to also buy the next and the next. I've seen it play out time and again. You pay to advertise one book but reap the benefit for the rest. 

Series can based on a place, characters, or theme. You have seen how that worked with wildly successful books, like the Harry Potter books, Game of Thrones, etc., but it's a plus even for those that are not.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

by Diane: Studies of a young fox

Summi ink and acrylic white ink on watercolor paper.
Thank you Rain for critic of my oil painting of foxes.
My snouts were too long on this quick
drawing and I reworked them.


Summi ink and acrylics on watercolor paper.
Missing the foxes and it shows up in my painting.
The remains of one was found in the draw by the vultures today.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

by Diane: Fox sightings while painting continues

 Over half the month has passed and  foxes are still more cautious ever since the Fourth of July fireworks. So I have been looking at them far in the distance through field glasses. 
The series of 10" x 8" oil paintings of foxes will be abstracted from what fox look like to me. As I paint them from memory, I remained open to new ideas coming from the painting as if the painting is carrying on a conversation with me.
Monday, revisions began with yesterday's decision
 to make the back fox blue.
Then as soon as the fox was painted blue,
the flood gate was opened to paint all over.
The creative flow breaking through after a spell of tight thinking
 is the reward I love so much about painting.
Quickly the chemical green background was covered
with tints of a green grayed down.
The painting suggested elongating the movement of the blue fox.
I finally reached enough understanding of the form
to abstractly break up the front fox's form into planes and lines.
Finally my reluctance to use photos
paid dividends as the spirit I love in children's art appeared.


 


Sunday, I enjoyed painting the colors in the front left ear.  But after
painting the ear for several hours, I looked at the whole picture.
Color balance between warm and cool -
not pleasant. The back fox says it is a blue fox.
My vision was just to make one change.




Saturday, July 13, I did not look up fox anatomy.
The front fox's ear too low unless head tilted?
Will tilt eye and mussel but that was not to be.
I felt critical of the back fox laying down as if cowering.
I've watched fox pups play tag
 without observing dominance
therefore the fox in back should be in motion
with eye on the front fox.
The front fox needs shoulders tensed
as though about to change direction
and bound away.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Yikes

by Rain Trueax


Time is going by way too fast. I literally cannot believe we've been back at the farm for a month and it seems like it was yesterday.

The farm has had a lot accomplished-- hay for the winter bought and stashed in the barns; sheep shorn; fields fertilized, and fence across the creek replaced after calf got on the other side. The place was in great shape when we returned thanks to the hard work of our son, but this is the season for preparing for all the other ones. 

Friday, July 12, 2019

by Diane, Facing frustration on fox paintings

 Since my Wednesday post, I thought working larger would be easier than doing two paintings with very small foxes. I tried on Thursday just head portraits on my 10" x 8" canvas boards. I planned to make them more abstract. For me to make them more abstract showing gesture,  movement and expression I need to know their anatomy. Anatomical cues of placement are essential for me.  I find that I am unsure how the nose, eyes and ears are attached.
      Needed for next week - searching for pictures of foxes as well as using the field glasses to observe in the field in back of our place.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

by Diane: Painting foxes



Completed on Day Four
Fox were in the back yard close up for observation until July 5th. The fireworks must have made them fearful to come too close.  We still see the two young ones playing tag.
 Fox move fast. I watch them often. But when working largely from memory, my eyes are on my painting and I look little at the landscape. My husband Don alerts me when any wildlife is in our view. I remember their movement more than their features. I love their perky gait and their grace. Defining their form and movement requires working both their contour and the background as one.
 
Don said he did not understand their orientation. That is okay. The one in the lower foreground I am looking from below. In the middle ground I am looking down.
 
Mornings are so pleasant. Don is watching the ever changing landscape. We are so fortunate to have this view.
 
 The fox the other morning were crying out their warning call when a very big lighter animal appeared running towards us on the road. When it was closer we understood the high pitched bark of the fox. It was not another fox but a coyote.
 

Day 0ne
It took me several days to paint the fox. This 8"x10" oil on canvas board. At first they did not relate to each other. Don said they looked like deer.
Day Two

 
Another painting in which the barn and fields were painted first.  Then the foxes came through and I decided my painting was a stage.  They were begging to be painted.
 

Saturday, July 06, 2019

marketing-- like it or not

by Rain Trueax


Here's the thing for anyone selling anything. You have to satisfy the buyer. You have to convince them of their need...  for what you are providing. To do that, your product must be visible to them. The greatest artist in the world will not sell their paintings if they don't get them out of their studio or buyers into it.

While creating a book, painting, beautiful furniture, etc. is a mix of craft and art, marketing is a business. It is what will convince someone to trade their labor for the creator's labor. While art might be pure, once the creator wants to trade the result for money, short of finding a human benefactor, it is a business. Business is something many artists find distasteful-- hence they better find that benefactor.

This is true when selling our skills or selves for a job. I always think about movie stars where it comes to marketing. There are many women as lovely as Marilyn Monroe, what made it her while the others went back to Kansas? Heck, some even sell themselves for sex to get ahead and don't get anything but bad experiences. 

So, why is it that some succeed in the business end, while others must put their wonderful work in closets? Persistence? Talent? Beauty? Luck? Whatever it is, marketing, which is a skill, is behind it all

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

by Diane, Difficulty sticking to my painting goal for the summer

Difficulties of farming in the city:
In the photograph the tractor is near the middle just above the band of sun lit grass. In the alpine-glow mowing continues until the last light of evening.
         City government doesn't make allowances or subsididies to a small farm within the city. A failed city farm has to abide by the city's laws. The grass has to be cut before July 1st.






Never appreciated the neighbor's barn as much as I do now knowing either next year or the following year our back yard country view could be lost to development. Thankfully the property has not been sold yet.


       The farm was once an orchard, then horse and sheep ranch, Christmas tree farm, cow pasture, and wood lot. A number of neighbors would like to own a part of it to preserve the country life here. Not feasible to the owner! To come out of the deal economically, the owner needs cash payment in total. Banks would not carry loans to multiple parties so the land cannot be broken up into too many parts. Another question is would the place still have a farm referral after the failure of the wood lot due to the loss of diseased, climate change stressed fur timber. City taxes and regulations are set to aid developers at the expense of small farms within the city limits.


        Last week I painted with the usual interferences of the changing lighting plus color changes over the couple of weeks I worked on the painting. Then there was the wild life that entertained me. Fox kits playing tag, fox guarding their territory from cats, the hawks and vultures searching for tractor kill.

        Then I became aware of an article about my swashbuckler great uncle. I do not mind that it is a compilation of specially selecting stories to characterize him as a "Charming Gangster".  The author, a New York best seller novelist qualified his article by saying these are stories circulating. Stories could be tall tales.  Being his admirer, I know much more about his generous deeds. Yes, I know I am biased and he may well have been shady. I am not heavily into defending him.

        What was upsetting to me is to learn a theory about the family surname was spun to make my great uncle seem worse than he was. Furthermore there was no drastic change of our name. Apparently the author spoke to one of my cousins who unknowingly passed my theory on as very likely. Since I circulated my wrong ideas to relatives in 2012,  new information puts considerable doubt on my past theory.  Our name did not have any more of a change than different spellings translated to different languages. Weidler to Widler!

        So in a later blog, maybe this Fall after my painting spree, I plan to write a blog about how my theory spread outside the family and was applied to the wrong family member. Maybe I will succeed at tracing the trail of how my utterance became twisted into a supposed fact.

       The process of spin in retelling stories is important in our age of fake news. This little incident of past history where nobody is nolonger emotionally invested, could be more readily absorbed.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

What went right and wrong

by Rain Trueax



This is supposed to be about why my contemporary books haven't done well. It will be but first-- Happy Birthday to Ranch Boss, my life partner, and something that went right in my life. Today, he is the main reason any of my books sell as he does most of the marketing for them ;). He has learned probably more than he ever wanted to know about how to do ads and target words. I am very grateful for that but even more that we are life partners. It's been a good ride together going from virtually kids to a couple who will have their 55th anniversary in September-- god willing and the creek don't rise. I won't say it's all been smooth going but through it all, we have remained best friends-- most days ;).

I have some advice for anyone contemplating a divorce. Give it some time-- unless its about physical abuse and then get out fast.  Try to determine what has gone wrong. If your partner wants a divorce, ask them what are the reasons. Communication is a big deal in any relationship. Sometimes through talking things can be worked out. Not always. I'd hate though to leave any relationship without knowing why it was broken. I did that only once-- in high school when a friend just stopped talking to me. Never again. Ask what's up and try to decide if the reasons matter enough or can counseling or time fix what went wrong.



So the question I began with, I am back to-- in particular what might it be about my contemporary romances that has led to them not finding the readers my historicals found.  Most especially, when they went into Kindle Unlimited for borrowing, why did they not find readers even there? *big tear drops-- okay I don't really cry over books not selling but you get the point* What is it about them that doesn't click with readers?

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

by Diane; Giving myself permission to over work over and over

 
Some sense of flight movement but elements of trees and flowers detracted.
Tried removing flowers and trees.
 

 
The birds did not have the movement as pronounced as in the early paintings. Several birds were eliminated. The loss of the cross of body opposed to wings is obscured reducing the flow of the flights. The arabesque curves in the background not as strong here of movement. I played with many solutions and the birds at the same time became more cute - another distraction. In my indecision the grass matured and dried in the background field.

 
Continuing to reward me are many new ideas and new observations watching the birds in flight as well as the changing colors since I began in April. Permission to over work will not necessarily make a better product but the rewards are many.


Saturday, June 22, 2019

They don't quite fit-- or something?

by Rain Trueax 


Why books find acceptance-- or not-- is a mystery to writers-- most of us. I mean we love everything we put out-- most of us. That is not always the case with readers-- most of them. So, this is about my failed contemporary romances, the ones without the paranormal elements, the ones that are all full-length novels-- all with suspense in the plot. 

Only one of these contemporaries was submitted to a publishing house. In the '90s, when I had sent a query on Moon Dust, one editor liked it enough to request the manuscript. This is a big deal as most queries don't end up going that far. Back then, it required printing it off, double-spaced, putting it in a box and mailing it with hope... It was rejected, but I did get a handwritten note with it (again not all do this). The editor said good things about the writing and suggested if I softened the plot, I could resubmit it. I understood the editor's concerns, as the book, while a romance, is also about divorce, consequences of abuse, and the militia movement. How do you soften any of that? 

After my extensive research, I especially saw no way to soften the emotional consequences of childhood abuse.  Some think molestation is only about women, but statistics say 10% of men have been abused. It's underestimated for its impact, given men are supposed to enjoy sex. Abuse is not about sex but control. It is as bad for males as females. I didn't resubmit the book and waited to bring it out-- un-softened-- when indie publishing became an option. 

It turned out to get very few readers; so that editor was probably right that romance readers want their books softer. You know most romance readers have complicated lives and often demanding careers. It's easy to see why they don't want to face difficult issues in their reading for pleasure.

I get that, but writers have to stay true to their muse, to their vision. Each of my books always has elements that interest me about the cycles of life-- not always enjoyable ones. I think this is because those are the books I prefer to read. 

So below are my contemporaries and why they were written-- what interested me in their themes as well as the characters. 

Thursday, June 20, 2019

By Diane: Afterthought

 
I thought this painting of three birds was resolved when I finished my previous post. But with a fresh look at it this afternoon, the strongest statement to me was the straight line between the darks in the upper third of the painting and the lights below.  I  had to break that up with some transitions.
 
  
 I lightened up the values on the far left and have repeated diagonals leading to the bird in the foreground headed in flight across a clump of grass pointing the eye up and eventually around.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

by Diane, Summer change

The flowers in our front yard are fun to groom this time of year.

Summer weather is here and it is time for a change in my blog posts. More hours of light means I am drawn to activities away from sitting at the computer. Sitting and typing has not been kind to my body.  In recent posts my involvement was high.  I enjoyed laboring on them for most of several days for each post but unfortunately sitting caused anatomical difficulties in my 76 year old body.
I should change my computer seating. I keep saying I want to stand at my computer but it is yet to happen.

Early in developiment.
My painting and garden are calling. Just not right to be writing about art when I could be painting. My wrists have become the problem and some days I cannot do the simplest tasks. I've seen a physical therapist and my hands are not going to be problematic this summer.
Needed richer color

For the time being, this blog post will be less philosophical. My vision is posting a painting and gardening diary for the summer.
               
 
My dear readers, I wish you a beautifu. summer.


.


Saturday, June 15, 2019

Transitions

by Rain Trueax

Rain Rock Casino-- Yreka, California

Holy Mackerel, what is going on with time? It seems we just got home with a blog to share but now, time to write another one. Ack. 

Mostly the days after we got home have been about unpacking (a lot goes between homes) and then rearranging the house. When we are gone (with current agreement), our son lives here sometimes with his boys. He takes care of the livestock; and although in town, he has a duplex, he tends to be out here the most due to the needs of the animals. He then, of course, arranges things to suit himself. We come home and have to arrange it to suit ourselves. This business of sharing a home may not work long term for him or us. We are all feeling our way through it. One way or another, change has to come.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

by Diane : The value of art to me and quotes

My personal story:
I learn positive values of aging from my art making. 
My golden years are an empty canvas or book
that I fill with nurturing care for myself like I care for my paintings.
 
 
Art is a license for me to play, fantasize, and be young at heart.
 
Art is healing was the most compelling theme in a book I read recently. Since last week's post which was a review of "Disturbances in the Field", a novel by Lynn Sharon Schwartz, I am looking for more stories of  the art's power to impact the quality of our lives. One of the secondary stories within the novel was about the main character calming herself by coloring in a children's coloring book after two life tragedies. She hid her coloring books under couch pillows when family and friends came unexpected.  During the eighties adults would think she was digressing to childhood. Today public opinion has become more accepting. Big chain stores like Target, Fred Myers, art galleries, craft stores and even grocery stores market adult coloring books. Artist friends of mine are not ashamed to say at times they find coloring books soothing. Art permits us regardless of age to play.
 
Art saves lives. Practicing an art improves quality of life making living joyful and rich. For example this morning at breakfast I watched the swallows in flight, a couple of foxes hunting and the lighting on the field and woods changing color with the heat of summer. I was looking with the interest of an artist preparing to paint. Seeing like an artist is enough to enhance living. But I wanted more. So I rushed outside to paint. My iphone camera doesn't capture my excitement or how I see the colors. Selecting what I paint from the landscape is empowering.

 



My experiences are reflected  in quotes my sister-in-law Debby Wenzel gave me.

An hour a day of art makes me happier. An hour of art per week reduces depression.


In art as in life much can be forgiven if your values are right. Experiencing the world my values have changed over the years. I would rather buy art supplies than most material things. I see beauty in people and the environment in unconventional ways.

Art humanizes people. One example is children learning to play musical instruments and playing in a band or orchestra. Another is the art of cursive writing helps to develop a child's brain. Art is the sublime manifestation of the human spirit. Henry Louis Gates Jr.

On the internet I found this quote shared by Donna Watson.
Art is not just ornamental, it is an enhancement of life.
It is a path in itself, a way out of the predictable and conventional...a map to self discovery.  Gabrielle Roth

Saturday, June 08, 2019

roadtrip

by Rain Trueax



What we left behind

Roadtrips are long journeys made by car, bus, anything wheeled. It's not so much a vacation as a way to get somewhere.

We've been on the road this week, pulling our 26' travel trailer, and staying in RV parks, which has made it difficult to write much. This trip has convinced us we do want a larger trailer or a fifth wheel, with more storage and maybe a desk of some sort. At home, I use a ergo keyboard, which makes the laptop dicey for typing. A few years ago we bought an inexpensive lightweight desk for the Wildcat. I set a monitor on it, a split keyboard on the pull out shelf, and the laptop goes below. When not in use, it is stuffed alongside the bed (which we get into by crawling up). Unless we are spending more than a night somewhere, it's too much work to pull out. 

Driving 1400 miles is no vacation. We used to drive all day, but now go for  less miles in a day but the traffic can be horrendous especially with how much trucking moves our goods. I do not deal well with heavy traffic or rough roads. Luckily, Ranch Boss handles it better, but it wasn't a lot of fun for either us or the cats.

So, my plan for what I'd write here is postponed and this about heading north through California. We came across highway work both in Arizona and California. Such fun... i should have taken pictures of that. I was too busy moaning lol.

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

Art Heals by Diane, DISTURBANCES IN THE FIELD, a novel by Lynn Sharon Schwartz

 
DISTURBANCES IN THE FIELD, a novel by Lynn Sharon Scwartz was well worth the difficult read. I was up to my chin in attempting to keep from drowning.  I was impatient in a "field" disturbed by vocabulary that I do not often use and by references to forgotten Greek philosophy. I did finally listened to Schubert's "Trout" which played a central part to the plot. I felt I had  to look everything up along the way but found for all of my toil, it was not necessary to understand the book. Every seemingly disparate part of the book did come to an uplifting conclusion for me as an artist.  It is a love story that confirms my belief that art is healing. 
 

Disturbances in the Field, acclaimed when it first appeared in 1983, has just been reissued in paperback by Counterpoint.

The plot: "When she was a girl, Lydia Rowe spent an idyllic month with her family in a house on Cape Cod. As with Proust and Combray, Lydia’s memories of the brown house by the sea became her talisman of the harmonious life. At college, she comes to feel the same way about studying Greek philosophy with her close friends—precise Nina, aristocratic Gaby, earthy Esther, and her first lover, George. The young women form a circle of intimacy and unity, a quasi family that will endure over the next twenty years.

Lydia becomes the pianist in a chamber music group, another kind of family. She marries Victor, an artist, and though their early years together are turbulent, they have four children and finally achieve something of the order and balance of the classical trios she loves to play, the coherence amid diversity that has been her goal since reading the pre-Socratic philosophers in college. Then a tragic event turns Lydia’s life into a field of dissonance and pain.

The stoic Epictetus wrote, "everything has two handles, one by which is may be borne, the other by which it may not." Lydia grasps the wrong handle and grows numb to herself and those she loves. Though she feels stripped and vacant, her inner voice remains, doing its implacable work of observing, remembering, connecting, persistently limning the shape of her sorrow. What is the right handle by which her loss and her broken faith may be borne? How can Lydia reach a place where "ordinary things... resume their rightful proportions and places in a university of ordinary things?"

I highly recommend the book and especially my friends who write, know music, literature, philosophy, psychology or like love stories with substance. 
 
The theme: Last night June 4, the theme that art is healing was aired on Public Broadcasting News hour's Canvas segment. Mothers of homicide victims went to the prison where they shared their story with the murders of their love one. The prisoners were moved and wanted to do something to express their remorse. The prisoners got together and decided to make paintings or drawings  which were sold so the money could go to families of victims to pay for the expenses of the grieving families to pay for example the head stones. The act of doing something that expressed true remorse gave them a good feeling they would pursue doing more good. Likewise the families of the victims were  on the road to forgiveness and healing.
 
In my experience when I had oral surgery, I was able to ease the pain without medication by painting very small tight illustrations for a story book.
 
What are other examples of how art heals?
 

Saturday, June 01, 2019

the hero's journey

by Rain Trueax




Last time I wrote about rejection, something most creative people have to learn to deal with if they want to continue creating original work. Copying what someone else did is different-- whether a painting or a book. Where it comes to fiction, there is work that has been proven successful and rules that help someone duplicate the exact pattern (in a romance that is when the couple might first kiss or have sex) and possibly have economic success. 

As a reader/writer, I've seen where certain specific plots get repeated over and over (some say that Shakespeare created all possible plots-- hence generally speaking, there is nothing new). One hopeful writer studied bestselling writers, came up with a pattern, followed it perfectly and wrote her own bestsellers. She was not trying to do creative work but rather make a living-- nothing wrong with that. Copying what has been successful has appeal for many readers and writers. There is a kind of security in it. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

by Diane: Humbled by research into the ch'i in Chinese painting

Swallows, oil, 11' x 14"
Movement in a painting is not enough to have ch'i




My research on the principle of ch'i in painting awoke me to my ignorance.  Compositional movement is not enough to have ch'i. To achieve ch'i, I would need complete focus meaning just one role in life as a scholar. To keep the ch'i flowing I would be painting in the lotus position or standing on my knees for maximum spirit moving  from my core to arms and fingers. During the act of painting I would not be observing and learning, but I would know the flight of the sparrows, not just in my mind, but in my muscles too.
         In the painting of swallows the two trees in the background is a Western devise for perspective. The trees are too much. The color of the flowers in the foreground is too much. Chi needs simplicity. Swallows with little environmental cues, swallows dominate in the picture would be more revealing of  the energy of life in the swallows. To have ch'i, I need to know and emulate paintings of swallows by Chinese painters from ages past. No can do! I depend on vibrant color.
  
          My goal is revised. I am not going to achieve ch'i but just let some of the principles of Chinese painting inform the development of just one painting,"Swallows". Specifically I am employing simplicity in my revision!
Removed all that distracted from seeing swallows first so their flight flows.
Please comment on which you prefer the energy of the colorful "Swallows" or the restrained one ?

My research details:
 After thinking about George  Rowley's book, PRINCIPLES OF CHINESE PAINTING, I realize ch'i is more than the simple translation, spirit of life.


I researched my own books to find as much as I can on the ch'i principle.
I am humbled by the realization that I was pompous to think I can pursue ch'i as a goal in my painting. I got a big head from being complimented by an admirer of my paintings who said my landscapes had chi. Reviewing my books I now understand that every aspect of  Chinese painters' lives fed their ch'i yun. " the way in which spirit (ch'i) manifests itself in their style.  (Page 14 in Rowley's  book.)

I am enthralled by this statement; Painting should be the playful pastime of a scholar, even though one should prepare to paint  "as if to receive an important guest."  Without diligence, painting will lack completeness so that Kuo Hsi advised working as if "guarding against a strong enemy".  Could this be a reference to the disciplined martial art of Tai Ch'i?  In Tai Ch'i  every change of pose in the continuous flow keeps the body in the best possible balance. Keeping all joints relaxed and unlocked allows the life force ch'i to flow.  Never over extending allowing an opponent to grab the arm and pull one off balance. Ch'i is applicable to Chinese brush painting and doesn't work so well in traditional oil painting as I was attempting in "Swallows."  I need my oil paint creamy and buttery to have control. To achieve the flow like Chinese watercolors the brush could be stiffened with rice starch while the Chinese watercolor would be the consistency of chicken broth. I will never have that skill.

..one should prepare to paint "as if to receive an important guest."  Infrequently I have the pleasant experience of my painting flowing as though a guest is directing me in all the right moves. A preparation is practice, practice, practice as in Chinese brush painting with traditional movement to become muscle memory.
     I am hoping that one of the side effects of practicing the martial art of Tai Ch'i I will develop a greater awareness of where my body is in space as well as the meditative focus that will carry over to my painting without setting a superficial intent from another culture.
      Below is a passage from George Rowley's book that I have from time to time studied over the years.
PRINCIPLES OF CHINESE PAINTING, page 14.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Rejection

by Rain Trueax

My view, when I turn around, from where I write when in Tucson.

One of the things that is hardest about being a writer comes only if you put your work out there-- rejection. This is true for anyone who does creative work. Do it for yourself, and no risk. You are satisfying your creative need. Put it out for a contest or to try and sell it and bingo-- rejection. 

For me, I don't feel so much rejected for myself, but for the work that I personally love and why doesn't everyone? Yes, I do laugh when I write that because some people ridicule someone for saying that but a creative work is an offspring of someone's mind and emotions. Why would they not feel a part of us?

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

by Diane: Lam's Tai Chi for Arthritis, Roller Skating and Painting

Updated ( see end of post)
A little over thirty years ago my daughters competed in roller skating.  I attempted the sport with them competing in figures.


"Zombie Puppets on Roller Skates" is a procion dyed  raw silk and cotton print banner from 1984.
         When I was roller skating I made many illustrative banners like "Zombie Puppets..." for which LeeAnn Lehni wrote lyrics for a children's book, MAGIC MAN, MAGIC MAN HELP ME SKATE IF YOU CAN.  When I did these silk paintings, I wished skating was easier to learn. I wished I could skate without thinking and if I did fall the landing would be as soft as falling into bed.

     And now many years later I wish I could learn Tai Chi instantly.  I just started, in April, learning Dr. Paul Lam's Tai Chi for Arthritis at the Sam Fit Gym here in Albany taught by a very good certified instructor, Joann.  The reason for this new class is that among many health benefits for seniors Tai Chi increases balance. Lam's Tai Chi choreography is the only Tai Chi endorsed by the Arthritis Foundation of America as a proven fall preventative exercise program for all ages especially for seniors. Very important for me because I need to be more mindful of what my body is doing, maintaining strength and balance. I have a history of gawking, not watching my step, and tripping especially when site seeing.
         My goal is getting fit for travels with granddaughters this September. This soft martial art will increase my confidence making me less of  a target for unwanted incidents. In addition I am enthused about this class because I hope to be more aware of the chi in my painting just as rollerskating became important in my art in the 80's.
         Traditional Tai Chi has competitions. But in Lam's, there are not any judges or Tai Chi police. Perfection is not the goal.



 Three turn  moving forward
twisting at the waist and locked
 
     The basic moves are just as difficult for me to learn as when I learned to roller skate. Tai Chi is extremely different from how I usually move.  I must teach my muscle memory.
      Many similarities cross over from my early roller skating experience.  One similarity is bending the knee of the supporting leg so the body can rise and fall making for a fluid movement. Skating figures and Tai Chi both need focused concentration like meditation. Never my dream of a magical zombie auto pilot!
       One difference is the changes in speed of movements. In Tai Chi speed is consistent. In skating speed varies. Shifting from one direction to another is performed with an abrupt quick snap for instance.
        In the three turn, one, the torso twists; two, the upper body locks the torso in the twisted position; and three, the supporting leg and skate is pulled around to the same direction as the locked torso. The skater continues to move in the same direction and speed as before only the body is facing the opposite way. In the three turn the body revolves 180 degrees while the direction of skating movement continues in the same direction.
         In a roller skating pivot the skater first sways in the opposite direction that they intend to go in a 90 degree change in skating direction.  The skater does not twist at the waist but opens their hips to a 90 degree angle. Then with a snap, fast move transfers weight to the opposite skate swaying in the direction they wish to go.
        
        The Tai Chee pivot I am now learning is called Brush the Knee. Briefly, the process is breath, shift most weight  on foot on the side preparing to turn. The opposite foot swivels pigeon toed in the turning direction at the same time the torso swivels away from the turn winding up to throw an imaginary pie with the opposite hand to the foot advancing. The eye follows the hand back for better movement back. When the throw advances the eye shifts to where the pie is aimed.  During the throw the advancing foot naturally swivels on the toe before stepping forward placing the hee down first with most of the weight on the forwarding foot the back foot advances. Then gently rests down with only a little weight on the foot a little behind. The hand on this resting foot gently falls to that knee.  The foot is poised to move either forward or back.


 
         In roller skating with shoulders down the upper body locks unmoving except in some exceptions and the arms are extended with visible tension. While in Tai Chi the body is relaxed to facilitate maximizing blood flow and readiness to take on an adversary.  In Tai Chi the body parts remain close to the center of gravity for strength and balance. In skating the fluidity of a pose is enhanced by extending the movement stretching out to the tips of the fingers and toes.
        So used to extending movement, I feel my Tai Chi is wrong  until I see myself in a mirror. When I become accustomed to Tai Chi, I will feel what I am doing better.
        One important similarity between the two is the usefulness of imaging in the mind's eye.
both use the image of a string attached to the top of the head. The string holds the body in alignment. Some steps are quick and locked in skating while Tai Chi strives to be even.  Locking an extended leg or arm blocs the blood flow.
         In Tai Chi the moves are contrapposto, a term used in art in which the hips and shoulders are opposed up and down. Tai Chi embodies the ying yang concept!

Progress on  painting inspired by last week's blog
on the benefits of keeping my old work
The old work was a painting of the same location over 30 years ago
 and Van Gogh whose paintings have the energy of chi.
   

         Maybe some of my difficulty in doing this simple step is having to unlearn what I learned in skating over thirty years ago. But on the other hand maybe the skating experience has given me the confidence that if I stick to trying I will learn.
        I am excited to continue and feel the chi not only in my exercise and better health but also in my painting.
Update 5/23/19




Last evening's Tai Chi class I heard what is impeeding my progress in learning. I practiced looking in a mirror or look for cues from the instructor.  Better not to be concerned about perfection and look within own space and mind doing my own Tai Chi.  Interestingly the same advise in Lee Ann Lehni's lyrics for my illustrations.
"Swallows", oil, 11"x 14"
I believe ch'i in paintings is uninterupted, energized movement.

More on my painting experience next week.








Saturday, May 18, 2019

Just a taste of Arizona

by Rain Trueax


There are several elements to a book that must be considered before setting out writing. One of them is setting. Does the setting work with what happens in the story? How much do you know about the location? How important should it be to the plot?

For me, setting is one character in all of my books. I set them only in places I've spent time or better yet-- lived. I like that sense of reality for my stories, which are otherwise fiction. Mine are all set in the American West. Some are contemporary and some historical, but they all have ground under them where I know what the soil is like, how the wind feels, when it rains, what kind of vegetation, and even who are the people who live there.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

by Diane, Hidden benefits of keeping the best of my art

 
I want to go out and paint on a spanking new surface but have run out of space to acquire even a medium sized canvas. In the past I have retired a few paintings and then acquired new surfaces. So I am in the process of purging my own work. Having several hundred paintings ready to hang is a nice manageable limit. After years of this process enabling me to continue painting without the bother of marketing I am approaching with enthusiasm the destructive part of creating a strong body of work.
Going through my unframed smaller work is like a walk through my past. In the '60's when Nancy was a toddler, I made wood block prints.
As my daughters grew up my husband started restoring Model A Fords.  The kids in the neighborhood got involved when we started up the motor. This is an illustration for a children's book for our family.
When we moved to Albany, Oregon we raised bummer lambs. This pencil drawing also was an illustration for a book I made for nieces, nephews and grandchildren.
When on a cruise friends agreed to pose for me! This is a sketch on an accordion folded watercolor paper book. I started 19 years ago cutting up full sheets of watercolor paper to make books without heavy covers.  Pocket sized books were handy to record memories of our trips while riding in a bus or walking along trails.

1987 our backyard view
                                                                                                After last year's clear cut, 
                                                                                              there are many oak seedlings everywhere.
 
While going through my collection I found the 1987 watercolor of the Christmas tree farm. I was briefly inspired to paint the same scene as I see and feel it today. On second thought, I am not excited enough to immediately go out and paint in my old style. A more abstract distillation will take incubation in my mind.  I think I will select the flight of the swallows over the open meadow where the wind blows the grass that moves like waves.
        I took a picture with my phone. Taking pictures gave me new perspectives. But no camera can capture what I feel about the energy of the open space. When I complete the painting, I will update this post.
        It is fun to reminisce but mixed with the fun is making difficult choices requiring retiring some of my past work. Retiring too much can be depressing. But enjoying the new open spaces gives me a sense of accomplishment. I am not preparing even medium sized surfaces because as of late my small works are encroaching on more and more nooks and crannies. More paintings are stored closer and closer together on the walls.  I not only need more space to continue painting but I suspect that my work on paper as old as 60 years degrade- even acid free paper may degrade. I suspect dust mites are seriously worsening my husband and my allergy symptoms.
          I need to set priorities to make these difficult decisions of what to keep of my own and other artist's work in my collections.  My number one priority is having a personal relationship to the content of my work as well as a personal connection to other artist's work in my collection. Number two is keeping representational work from each period. Number three is keeping work representative of my series including paintings of waterfalls, water in landscape, self portraits, vases, dragons and fantasy.
          Each piece of importance will be supplemented with a handwritten story. If I do not have a good enough story, I will retire the painting. If the paper is old it goes into the garbage. If it is new and acid free, it is cropped to make greeting cards.   I hope dust mites will not be a problem if I keep art work sealed in archival museum boxes.
          I feel some time soon in the future I might again market my work. With my strongest work and a catalog of the ready to hang work, I hope to impress a gallery that will promote my work whole heartedly. Since mostly my best work has been sold over the years, I have on occasion received some of my work back. Some have willed my paintings back to me or my heirs. I hope other collectors will do the same.
May 15 UP DATE
This morning  I woke up with the realization that my body of work is sentimental. My process of keeping only works that I can write a story about is a sentimental visual diary. Hard to admit sentimentality because my art professors cringed and criticised  saccharine sentiment in paintings.
         Also I foresee more clearly the second watercolor to show how I feel about the change of the meadow since 1987 as seen from our back yard.  As I paint the vision may change but at this moment I see the field of grass in brush strokes like Van Gogh's painting of a field with crows. But not crows in the air. I see swallows.