Welcome to My Studio!
A Studio Tour #5
I thought I would be writing a blog once a month. Well, it's been a number of months since I have posted. One reason, I have been avoiding taking a technological step forward and trying a video blog (vlog.) Here it goes. Enjoy!
I would like to share a wonderful thing that happened to me this past week. Like
in the story of “The Prodigal Son,” after many years “the lost was found.” Like the slide below, an early “Milt”.
An artist’s artwork is a part of themselves. As time goes by, pieces get sold or repainted or just fade away. The only record of their existence is in the artist’s mind, and, if they took the time to photograph their artwork, there would be a photo record. For me, the artwork I produced in the first twenty years of my professional life was recorded in slides. The slides were organized and tightly packed in rows in a cigar box kept on a shelf in my college office.
As many of you know, back in the late 1970’s, a major fire destroyed Old Main on the Dana College campus. My office was on the top floor of that building. Not much was left up there. Surprisingly, on a charred bookshelf, was the cigar box of slides. The slides were brittle, distorted and discolored. I kept the box of slides hoping someday to digitize them and add them to the catalog of my artwork. Digitizing the slides was a laborious task in those early days of computer technology.
The other day I saw a new digitizing method for old slides. It used a smart phone. I bought the app for my phone and was amazed at the quality and ease at which I could copy the slides. WOW!!! I found copies of most of the artwork I produced in those early years. Further, as I sorted through the multiple copies I had of my work, I found images that were in pristine condition! Looking at the digitized slides was like meeting old dear friends. I am still smiling because of the fun I had sorting through work that I thought was lost.
It brought to mind the Biblical story of the “Parodical Son.” After years away, my slides returned to me. They were dirty, but now scrubbed clean. The father in the story killed the “fatted calf” and threw a party. I would love to do the same, but with the Corona Virus that can’t happen. The next best thing I could do is share my joy through this post.
During these times, I hope you find some joyful things to celebrate in your life also. I would love to hear about them. Sharing good news makes us all feel good and grateful.
Go to miltheinrichartist.com to see me most recent artwork :-)
“Donuts and Woodchips” Blog #3
Many people try to lead an aesthetic life. For many artists the aesthetic life may include creating music or art or writing. Their art and their life are intertwined. They try creating an artful life for themselves and those around them. The biproduct of all this is noticing the little things around us and the little things that make others happy as well as ourselves. In this month’s art blog I am reflecting more on life than I am on art.
It’s Friday morning. I just finished my morning walk in our nearby city park. On my walk this I saw the pile of woodchips pictured above. I will get to the wood chips later. First, I want to talk about donuts and a Friday morning ritual. For me Friday is not just a day of the week, “It’s FRIDAY!!!” and I try to celebrate it.
In the last years of my teaching career, I had an 8:00 am painting class three days a week. Students didn’t complain about the early morning class. For most of them it was a pleasure to begin a day with two hours of painting. BUT on “FRIDAY” I would come to class with a box of warm donuts from Connie’s Bakery. I would show them the box of donuts and we would all yell “It’s FRIDAY!!!” We would sit around for about 10 minutes munching on the donuts and then one by one, without any direction from me, they would find their way to their easels and begin painting.
I miss those Fridays. So, I replaced classroom donut ritual with another type of special Friday celebration. Before Covid, it started with an extra tip for the waitress at the Maple Restaurant. Since March nether Jane nor I have gone to any restaurant. So, I now start with the second step of the ritual: I exchange a twenty-dollar bill for twenty ones at the bank. The tellers know me and what I want. I just hand them a bill and they give me my change. We wish each other a “happy weekend.” The next stop is the bakery. Connie can always use change at the bakery, so we do a little banking over her counter and I give her my ones for one of her twenties. I also buy one glazed donut and a bag of donut holes. Next stop is Scooters to pick up a latte for Jane. The donut holes are the Friday tip I give the baristas at Scooters. They are always thankful.
Finally, I drive home and announce to Jane “It’s FRIDAY!!!” She responds in kind. We then sit down for a cup of coffee and share the donut. The whole point of this story is that doing small favors for others on a regular basis gives me joy.
But what about the woodchips? Today I went for a morning walk in the park near our house. The city park crew had just dumped a pile of fragrant crushed pine mulch near my walking path. The smell was an overwhelming smell of a pine forest. Over the years I have lost almost all my sense of smell. Things have to be really strong for me to notice their smell at all. To me even dead fish smell great!
Today the park people gave me a little a gift. They gave me the overwhelming smell of the pine forest. The smell of a Christmas that is coming. Maybe next week I will bring them donuts :-)
"Where Do Ideas Come From?" Blog #2
A close high friend recently responded to my first blog. He was not familiar with my recent paintings, and after looking at my website, he commented (jokingly) “I think you are still affected by the exhaust fumes we both inhaled while riding to high school every day in the third seat of my Dad’s Valliant station wagon.” I get similar comments every now and then from others. Although said in jest, I think creative thought is woefully misunderstood, and frankly it’s at the core of my artwork.
I was blessed to have a number of creative professors in college. They did not smoke pot nor inhale exhaust fumes, but rather took their creative thought process very seriously. They worked hard at it. They gave me a firm foundation and the encouragement to join in the creative quest. Later, when I was first teaching, I came across a quote from a filmmaker named Saul Bass. He said:
“Where do ideas come from? From looking at one thing, and seeing another. From fooling around, from playing with possibilities, from speculating, from changing, pushing, pulling, transforming, and if you’re lucky, you come up with something worth saving, using, and building on. That’s where the game stops and the work begins.”
I find myself fortunate to have been able to “fool around, play with possibilities, push and pull” AND get paid for it my whole professional life.
So today, I would like to write a little on how creative thought shapes my paintings. The first painting below is titled “Hanson’s Neighbor” The original photograph was shot out of the window of my car. Later it was cropped and adjusted. All of us have taken a picture from our car or our back deck because we thought is was a “pretty picture.” We all have “Looked at one thing and seen another.” Beyond pretty pictures, I like to look at the mundane and create an artistic statement from those things we often see but overlook.
What did I see? I was often attracted to this house because of the way that the fall or winter light cast shadows on the planes or walls of this old building. I also liked the contrast between the planes of the building and the organic shapes of the tree. More abstractly, I like to “play with the possibility” of contrasting shapes in perspective, and flat shapes of geometry. For example, the foreground grass and walk are exaggerated in their geometry. Even at the top of the painting there is a flat grey plane that sits behind and “pushes and pulls” at the sky in front of it.
The second painting “Amboise Abstract” Takes the idea of abstract geometry a bit further. The planes of the buildings were repeated in the sky “Transforming” the sky into more geometry. Liberties were further taken with color. The color starts making a statement in itself.
Painting #3 Grey House, Blue Walk
The third painting “Grey House, Blue Walk” pulls out all the stops. This piece takes me to edge of my creative self. The trees and the houses became more symbols rather than real houses. The colors are more playful as is the composition. The idea of light and depth that were in the first painting are replaced with a controlled but “just paint, damn it!” mentality. For me it takes a lot of confidence to move in this direction.
…………………..So, I have a question for you. Personally, which of the three paintings do you prefer, painting #1, #2 or #3? If you don’t mind give me your preference in the “Contact” portion of this website. I certainly would enjoy any comments/reactions to this post. Maybe if you look at other paintings of mine or other artists, the ideas shared above will help you see further into the artwork. And maybe it will help you understand those of us that follow a road less traveled.
Until next month, Milt:-)
The Studio and The Housefly
"In the beginning............"
So, this is my first blog, and the question poses itself, "Where do I begin?"
Like in the photo of my studio door at the beginning of the blog page, I see this blog as a door also. It’s a door to writings, pictures, videos, observations and thoughts of myself as an artist and the artwork that has been my response to those observations.
So, we begin by walking into the “studio”. Recently, I’ve been thinking about “the studio” in the broadest sense. Many of us are blessed with a studio or a creative space. Jane, my wife, says she has two “studios”. The first is her garden. She often tells people her garden is her canvas that she paints with living plants. The second is her basement sewing corner stacked with cotton remnants waiting to be sewn together to form meaningful creations. Some people have a woodworking shop as their studio. Others may see their kitchen as their creative space. Do you have a creative space? What would you call your “studio”? Let me know as a response to this blog.
My studio is located a few steps across the courtyard and the rest of our home. It has its own personality. It has 8 double-bulbed florescent light fixtures and windows on three sides. Working light is important to a painter so that the colors they paint are true to their purpose. The walls are hung floor to ceiling with my paintings. The paintings are a touchstone. They are a constant reminder of where I have been on my artistic journey. I may not know where I am going, but I can tell you where I have been! In the coming months I am going to use these paintings as individual jumping off points for conversations about art and observation.
There are two kinds of shelves in my studio. One type holds the materials I need to produce my paintings, and the other type are a few shelves that hold odds and ends of things that just inspire me.
As I look at many artists’ studios, I see the same shelves of inspiration. I am reminded of seeing Henry Moore’s studio shelf in a photo. It was covered with cross sections of bones. Many of his large bronze sculptures are reminiscent of those bones on his shelves.
No matter how many times I put stuff away, it always seems the studio is in somewhat of a disarray caused by my painting activity. I would invite any and all of you to come over to this cluttered studio for a cup of coffee and conversation.
But what about the “Housefly” in the title to this Blog “The Studio and the Housefly”?
I wanted to also talk about the humblest of creative spaces. Below is a photo of one of my favorite drawings. It’s was inspired by a dead housefly. 44 years ago, we moved to Blair. Our first home here was a small apartment. I had no studio, just the kitchen table. One day I took out some drawing paper and a mechanical ink pen I had just purchased. What should I draw? I found a dead fly on the window sill. That became my inspiration.
The point of the story is that even the smallest, most humble of spaces can support our creative spirit. If you don’t have such a space, look around. It may be closer than you think! Feed your own creative spirit especially in these Covid times.
Have a good day!
P.S. Aside from the housefly, if you would like to see more of my paintings of “Animals and People” click on that button on the top of my website.
Milt Heinrich is an artist and former college art professor. He lives in rural Blair, Nebraska with his wife Jane and their dog, Bailey.