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“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:-)
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Milt Heinrich is an artist and former college art professor. He lives in rural Blair, Nebraska with his wife Jane and their dog, Bailey.