Friday, July 31, 2009

Southeast Whitesburg Mural--29 Me and my peeps

Do young people still use "peeps" for people or friends? I'm probably woefully out of date with my slang. Got one of the nice folks in Adult Education to take this picture of me standing among the portraits on the wall. Gives you a better idea of the scale of it all.

Moving forward with "all due deliberate speed," in the last couple of days I've been trying to so a smaller number of faces at once, but completely finish more figures. Here's today's work area, and below it an overview of the entire wall.

I will soon have to stop painting people -- to wait for the powers that be to install the stone plaque on the left hand side. [Currently TPTB are saying that they can't get to the task until August 10]. I'm fearful of painting too close, I don't want the workmen to destroy anything I've already painted, and there's been some debate on exactly where the plaque will sit. I may have two more feet of space to paint or only six inches more, beyond where I've sketched in faces. While I wait for that, there's lots I need to do, to fill in the middle ground with smaller figures feeding ducks. The folks behind this insist that there have to be students feeding ducks!!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Southeast Whitesburg Mural--28 Back in the groove

A good day today. Color everywhere. I like a day when I both do some good face work and fill in large areas with bright color.

The sweet face to the right belongs to Lora Cummings, who I had the pleasure of teaching in two different classes last spring, and joining as a fellow student in creative writing. Lora is a married mom, who has an awesome singing voice, and surprised herself (but not our instructor) by being quite adept at rhyming verse.

Below is an overview of the area that I worked on today. Several faces were completed, and a lot of clothing was filled in, once I figured out what colors to use.

The two young men in the middle of today's work are Physical Therapy Assistant students taking turns working on techniques. Physical Therapy Assistant is our oldest allied health program on the Whitesburg campus.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Southeast Whitesburg Mural--27 Antidote for the Blahs

This evening I'm very grateful that I've made the commitment to take photos everyday I work and post them. Now that I look at the photo I realize that I did good work today, and actually accomplished quite a lot.

During the day, I was down and discouraged -- the blahs. I didn't feel like I had really painted even though I spent nearly five hours working at the wall. Those five hours were spent planning where each of fifteen students would go, and sketching them in. I was particularly discouraged, because I spent a great deal of time on one pair of radiography students, drawing in more details than I usually do (including a big x-ray machine), and then realized that I had located them far too low down in the painting. I had to haul out the brand new erasers I bought just yesterday (handy!) and erase a huge area, then start over a foot higher up and to the right.

Then I mixed a new batch of my dioxazine purple/burnt umber/unbleached titanium shadow hue, and painted in all the shadows for all fifteen faces. Only after I did that, did I realize that some of the people in the foreground, especially their faces were noticeably smaller than other foreground faces elsewhere in the mural. I felt discouraged, worn down. However, looking at the photo of what I did now, I can see that while true this is not a fatal flaw. Yet another reminder that perfection is not necessary. As I believe John Kerry once said, I'm not going to let "the perfect be the enemy of the good."


Tigger cat (orange) suffers from chronic pancreatitis and cannot process food well. Being horribly skinny despite eating more than all the other cats, he gets cold easily and always wants to sleep with someone else. Bufford (gray and white) likes to oblige.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Southeast Whitesburg Mural--26 a special student

The face I added today (bottom left of the photo to the right, in the peach colored shirt), belongs to a former student, Johnny King.

John came to college after retirement and the death of his wife. He completed his associates degree at Southeast, and then transferred to the University of Virginia's College at Wise, just 30 miles away. He graduated from UVA Wise this past spring, after coming back to Southeast to pick up Spanish. While he was at Southeast John earned a number of academic awards, including the award I give for excellence in Sociology. John was one of those students whose quest for knowledge engaged me in learning many new things as well.

Note: I also fleshed out Mr. Skeleton (metaphorically). Yes, I know there aren't enough ribs, but I'm an artist not an allied health student.

Slowly but surely, students march across the wall, and the blank space shrinks.

Monday, July 27, 2009

morning mist

The wonderful thing about life is each new morning is fresh and an opportunity for wonder and renewal.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

One Single Impression -- Fragrance


How welcome,
sweet stale
smell of
on summer dust
and sizzling
a sigh of relief
from summer

Sodden reek,
muddy debris,
when long
the rains,
and bare
the hills.

Sunday July 26, 2009

You can read and see a bit more about our Sunday flood in the post below. You can read more (and nicer) poems on the prompt "fragrance" at One Single Impression.

Mine is only one of thousands of families impacted by the negative consequences of mountain top removal strip mining. Please learn more about this devastating mining technique and add your voice to those asking for stricter controls, and an end to the most destructive practices. Check out the I Love Mountains website. This isn't a "tree hugger" issue, its a people lover issue!! My family is lucky, only our yard and driveway (and peace of mind) are damaged this time. Many people lose their homes and their health as the result of mountain top removal strip-mining.

the flood

A while back my insurance agent and I discussed cancelling our flood insurance and using the savings to up the valuation of our household goods, but I never got around to getting over to his office on the other side of the county to sign the papers. This morning I was glad I hadn't.

This is purely the consequence of mountain top removal and strip-mining above our holler. Nothing like this ever happened before the mining began. Our neighbor above us, observed the water pouring over the hill above his house directly off the stripped bare mountain. The brown river in the center of the first photo is suppose to be our neighbor's drive way!

The photos below show the rushing river of muddy water that is normally our yard.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Southeast Whitesburg Mural--25 Not always satisfied

Several people today asked me how much time the mural represented. Good question! This is the twenty-fifth day that I've worked directly on the mural. The least amount of time I've spent working was four hours, the most was seven hours. The average has been about five hours, not including time spent in my office preparing photos and printing them out. So twenty-five days times five hours a day, is 125 hours. And I'm about four-sixths done. Not too shabby.

Sometimes one of the faces comes out really nicely, and other times, there's something seriously off about a face. The picture on the right illustrates both. The face at the top is one that I'm tickled with. It's not that this face looks just like the original photo (it's not suppose to), but it is attractive, and realistic. The face at the bottom, is actually more reminiscent of its model, but it is distorted.

I spent some time playing with Corel Paint this evening, and believe that I can fix this face with some very small changes: a) the chin, especially on the viewers left is too long and broad, and needs to be brought in, b)in putting in the young woman's make-up, I lost too much of the shading above the eyes, and that needs to be added back in, c) the bottom portion of the models nose is longer and the shaft above it shorter, and d) the teeth need some shading. The graphic to the left shows some of the changes I plan; I am not yet fully adept at using Corel Paint and the Genius tablet and pen that Southeast provided to all of us who teach on-line classes.

To the right is the overview of all that I did today: six new faces sketched in, three completed in detail, two with the color roughed in but no fine details (eyes & lips). (By the way, you can always click on the photos and see everything larger).

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Southeast Whitesburg Mural--24 moving ahead

Today was one of my most productive painting days. I completed six faces--the most I've done in one day--and provided clothing to several of them. Did a little more work on Mr. Skeleton.

Today was also a productive planning day. I've been finding new photographs, from my own files, from students and other faculty, that will fit into the mural. This is rather like working on a free form jigsaw puzzle. I need to find poses that will fit well, leaving the least amount of empty space. While I have a general plan for where each student should go, the specifics of exactly how to fit in each person can only be decided as I reach that place in the mural.

Among the many visitors who stopped by today to chat, was a former student J. Paul, whose face was the first I painted in the mural. When I saw him, I wanted to take his picture so I could redo his portrait. When he was a student here he had a super short buzz cut. He has since let his hair grow -- turns out he has the gorgeous dark wavy hair. He looks so much better. But he was in a hurry to get to a meeting. I might still change the painting anyway!

Here's an overview of all the students so far:

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Southeast Whitesburg Mural--23 A skeleton

The students in our Radiography program provided me with some great photographs to use as inspiration and models in the mural. One that tickled my fancy was a grouping of students and their buddy Mr. Skeleton. [Their professor, my friend Astor Halcomb was also in the photo, but I left him out -- sorry Astor!]. As you can see above, the faces are only partially complete. Missing are the fine details, especially of eyes and mouths. Most of Mr. Skeleton is also missing -- since titanium white is one of the most opaque pigments an acrylic painter has to work with, it works best to paint the details of the skeleton on top, after most of the work on the students is complete.

While the various stages of face painting dried in between steps, I worked on the clothing, arms and tools of the students I painted yesterday. Hands are NOT my forte. I have painted great hands -- I did an entire "portrait" one time in college that was just of the hands of my friend Doug DuPriest (he had really aristocratic looking hands). But it took me some twelve hours of work just to paint those hands. Since I have only a few minutes to do hands, I'm not doing as well with them as I would like. Perhaps by the time I finish the mural, I will improve a bit.

Here is an overview of the whole wall (I haven't given one in a couple of days). As you can see, I've completed about one-third of the bottom portion of the mural.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Southeast Whitesburg Mural--22 More Portraits

A short working day, today, as I need to take three cats to the vet this afternoon. One for his annual shots, and two to stay for a day for dental work. Taking care of a houseful of geriatric cats can get expensive!

Today is more of the same -- and yet, since every face is unique, every day is different. The close up is above, and the panorama below.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Southeast Whitesburg Mural--21 Statistics Students

My painting day did not start until noon today, as I first had to take two cats to the vet for their annual shots. But once I got to the college and got going I had four good hours of painting.

The faces that I added today were inspired by three students from my Statistics class last spring term. [The final paintings deliberately do not look exactly like the models, although I think they will recognize themselves.] They were deep in a conversation about the course material at the end of the hour, and I caught them mid-discussion.

Painting the faces is a very intense activity that requires a great deal of concentration, and frequent stops to allow layers to dry. I begin by laying in deep shadows and giving the face bone structure. Today I laid down the deep shadows on a total of six faces. The deep shadows are a mixture of dioxazine purple and burnt sienna. The deep shadows have to dry completely before the rest of the face can be painted.

On the face overall, the darker hues and shades are laid down first, and then the lighter hues and tints are painted over top. Darker pigments are a mix of unbleached titanium, burnt sienna, dioxazine purple (very small amounts), cadmium red medium, and small amounts of titanium white. Lighter pigments include larger proportion of titanium white, unbleached titanium, and tiny amounts of cadmium red. There is a lot of ruddiness and pink in Caucasian faces.

I also provided a body for the fellow in the blue/white striped shirt, and used a soft pencil to sketch in the next major area of students that will probably be the focus of work later this week.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

One Single Impression -- Inner Voice

'Go with the wind,
walk facing the sun.'
These words she
inscribed in her heart
as she ventured
into the world;
driven by hurts
buried deep,
a subconscious
mine field,
kept love
beyond the perimeter.
She mistook
for truth.

Sunday July 19, 2009

During my junior and senior years (1967-1969) in high school, The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran was wildly popular. Everyone I knew had to have a copy. I went with a tiny black leather bound volume sans illustrations that I could carry with me everywhere. There were many passages that I reread frequently, even placing tiny dots in the margins so I could find them easily. Looking at the tiny volume today, I feel like a archeologist in my own life!

One of my favorite passages was this: "But you who walking facing the sun, what images drawn on earth can hold you? You who travel with the wind, what weather vane shall direct your course?"

For other poems on the prompt "inner voice" see One Single Impression.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Southeast Whitesburg Mural--20 Portraiture

The young lady portrayed on the right is a respiratory therapy student, and is holding a large blue resuscitator air bag as she demonstrates proper technique on a mannequin.

My flash is reflecting back to me on these photos unlike the photos I have been taking of the buildings. This is partially because I have switched to a gloss medium rather than a matte medium, and partially because these paintings are right at eye (and therefore flash) level. One does not get these reflection in person, because the lighting in the room is from above.

I hope I do not live to regret my decision to switch to gloss medium rather than matte. My thinking was two fold. First, the gloss medium gives richer deeper colors and more dimensionality. My hope is that it will make the faces more lively. Second, a shiny surface will, I hope, repel dirt, finger prints, etc. more easily just as a gloss wall paint does compared to a flat wall paint.

Today I worked to fill every inch of a contiguous (if odd shaped) space, finishing faces, hair, clothing, hands, books, computers and other details.

I am enjoying, very much, painting faces, but I wonder if I can do the huge number that I must to complete this mural. It is rather a daunting task.

Southeast Whitesburg Mural--19 1/2 yesterday's photos

The first photo was taken about mid-day, and gives you an idea of how I lay down the shadows in the faces first using a muted purple hue. The shadows on human faces tend to be purple, blue and green in tone.

The second photo shows the end of the day, and shows all four faces that were completed on Thursday July 16.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Southeast Whitesburg Mural--19 forgot the camera

Today I painted four more faces, and worked on clothing details. I really wanted to share what I did today, because I'm quite tickled with how the faces are coming out. I'm using photos of students as inspiration, but deliberately making each face slightly different, so that the painting suggests the original, but don't look exactly like the models. I want the students to look familiar and realistic, but not have observers spending time trying to pin names on them.

Unfortunately when I stopped in my office before coming home, I left the camera in my painting bag instead of putting it in my purse. Instead, above is a wonderful picture by Chris Jones, public relations officer for the college taken a few days ago just after I finished the upper portion of the mural. He has a much better camera (SLR) than I do, and so the colors come across better, more like they look in person. The two people flanking me are Judy Leonard, Director of Advancement (fundraising), and Eugene Meade, campus director for the Whitesburg campus.

I love the fact that being an "artist" gives one license to dress in comfortable, sloppy overalls in the work place. Makes me appear younger than Judy and Eugene despite us all being about the same age.

Photo by Chris Jones, Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College, July 14, 2009.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Southeast Whitesburg Mural--18 and now for something completely different

Okay, if you are a Monty Python fan you know that what usually follows that statement is more of the same, but in this case, we do have something new and different -- we have people.

The first images on the far right of the painting are of students graduating with a few faculty congratulating them. Above you can see the first thing I did today: the faces of my (generic) faculty. I used an actual photograph of this past May's graduation, but did not attempt to make the faculty recognizable.

One of my friends, Richard Elliot, said last week that he hoped my people would "look like people" and not cartoons. I think I might have accomplished that.

Here's what the section looked like at the end of the day. Still some detail work to be done on the graduates, their hair, gowns, etc.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Southeast Whitesburg Mural 17 -- Drawing People

Today, I did very little painting, but what I did was fun -- see the detail (right) of the student at the picnic table.

There was also some schmoozing to do with the college's development director, Judy Leonard, and the Whitesburg campus administrator Eugene Meade. The great debate that is raging is exactly where at the left of the painting the commemorative plaque will be fixed. Since it is heavy stone, there are technical as well as aesthetic issues, so I try to stay out of it. I figure I'll paint around whatever they decide.

Judy had asked Chris Jones, our public relations fellow, to come back and take pictures again. Presumably Chris will e-mail me some copies in a day or two and I can share them here.

Most of the day was devoted to going through photographs of students, planning and sketching. The sketches do not show up well even in the original (high resolution) photograph. I'm going to go ahead and include the photo, even though the pencil is difficult to see. At least you get an impression of how filled with students and their activities the wall will soon become.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Southeast Whitesburg Mural--16 Finishing the Buildings

Hooray, hoorah! This morning I finished (at least for the present) all the upper level work, and could reset the scaffold to a less intimidating height for the afternoon painting. Getting up and down is soooo much easier. Angela Hunsucker, one of our wonderful maintenance staff helped me unload everything off the top platform (which set at about 5 feet), then remove it and replace it at the bottom of the scaffolding. This left on top the platform that was set at about 3 feet off the floor.

Taking off work for a few days (to rest my back), gave me a fresh perspective, and I was able to move quickly through all the things that remained to be done with the buildings.

One key thing that needed to be done today, was to compensate for some small errors in proportion on the Administration/Coca-Cola building. That's just something that happens when you draw free hand, you don't always get all the proportions exactly right. In my newly enlightened state of mind, I accept the existence of such errors, and am learning to deal with them gracefully and then move on.

The large, old maple tree got its foliage today -- lots of bright spring greens. Unfortunately, I got a little slap-happy at the top of the wall, and didn't realize until the paint had dried, that some of the leaves were on the ceiling tiles. Oops.

Today was also the day to finish all the details on the windows and doors of the Allied Health Building, and add some asphalt in front of the building. I am not quite sure how I will finish off the area between the building and the river in the painting. Probably with shrubbery and grasses, but I'm still thinking about the problem. In reality, the back of this building faces the river, but the back is even blander and more box like than the front, so I made the decision to go with the front of the building, but orient it towards the river.

After lunch with the scaffolding changed, I went back and worked on the shrubbery and other details for the Administration/Coca-Cola Building.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

One Single Impression -- Thinking

Seeking to know
the unknowable,
express the ineffable,
we mark divisions
(head and heart),
draw boundaries
(mind and soul),
posit oppositions
struggling to bottle
experience in the container
of language.

Sunday July 12, 2009

One of the core principles of anthropology and sociology is that language is the primary interface between the human being and reality; that in order to know something, to think about something, we have to be able to capture it with words.

One of my favorite books in graduate school was Structures of the Life Worldby sociologists Alfred Schutz and Thomas Luckmann (Volume I, 1973), a work in phenomenology which painstakingly examines the process by which humans use language to label, process and socially construct reality. Anthropologists/linguists Edward Sapir and Benjamin Whorf went so far as to suggest that peoples that spoke different languages inhabited different realities -- an idea is called the "linguistic relativity hypothesis." [An aside: a wonderful novel that makes this hypothesis a key plot point is Juniper Time by Kate Wilhelm (1979)].

Twenty seven years of experience since graduate school supports the truth of these assertions about the necessity of language for thinking. But, and this is a big "but," there is a whole world of experience that goes beyond the grasp of "thinking" that cannot be encapsulated in language. The meditative techniques of Buddhism and other disciplines aim for that experience out side of thinking.

Beyond that there is the experience of being in the world. We may not be able to communicate this experience that transcends language, but it is there, we know it in our souls.

Painting "container" by sgreerpitt July 2009, using Corel Painter.

a peep in the night

Last night while we were watching TV we left the backdoor open. At one point I looked up and noted the dozen plus moths that had plastered themselves to the outside of the storm door. Then I did a double take. One of the light attracted little bodies was not a moth. So I carefully stepped outside with my camera to get a picture of this little Mountain Chorus Frog (formal name Pseudacris brachyphona, but more commonly known around here as a "peeper") whose little 1 1/2" body was plastered to the glass. Sorry about the poor focus.

Friday, July 10, 2009

bored out of my skull

I am definitely not suited to inactivity. Yesterday morning, on the last day I was caring for Pam and Mike's animals (see the sweet photos of Dip, Tuggles and two of the kitties from Wednesday), I hurt my back lifting a much too heavy bucket of water. Totally my fault. I knew I shouldn't lift that much weight. I could have made two trips, but I was being lazy. Fifteen minutes later I was doubled over in pain.

After limping across the lane home, I tried muscle relaxants and heat, and fell asleep in my wonderful recliner. But by noon, I woke again in more pain feeling feverish and nauseous and began to wonder if it was more than muscle spasms (appendicitis crossed my mind).
So John gave up his entire afternoon of grading papers to accompany me to the doctor (as driving myself was out of the question). Hours of waiting and several tests later the verdict was simple muscle spasm. Off we went to the pharmacy with prescriptions for prednisone and more muscle relaxants, and very strict instructions to spend a day or two in my recliner with a heating pad -- absolutely NO scaffold climbing!

At first this morning it felt nice not to have to be rushing around getting all my stuff ready to go paint. I spent a little bit of time in the morning at the computer getting caught up with the on-line class I'm teaching. [The students this summer are unaccountably inactive, nice for me, but not so good for their grades.] But an hour in the computer chair was a bit much.

So the rest of the day has been spent, as ordered, lounging in the recliner with the heating pad. The SyFy Channel (why did they change the name??) was running a marathon of one of my favorites "Eureka!" and that was entertaining for a few hours. I napped a little. Ate way too much. Even low fat, sugar free pudding is not so good for you after the second serving!

You know you're bored when even Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson can't engage your attention. I found myself fast forwarding through portions of "Last Chance Harvey." The movie has it's sweet moments, but I had little patience for the pacing. I did particularly like Harvey's response at the end, when Kate asks him "how is this [relationship] going to work?" and his response is "I don't know. But it will. I promise." Optimism, commitment, faith -- all good qualities for starting a relationship.

So here I am blogging. I can already feel a few twinges and know that it will be back to the recliner and heating pad in a few minutes. It's almost time for my evening call to my mother, and then it's not long until SyFy Channel (again what's with the name change?) airs a new episode of "Eureka!" so I suppose I'll make it through until bedtime without expiring of boredom.

One perk of spending the day in the recliner, is that I've had plenty of feline company. I've been so busy since starting the mural, that I haven't had much time to create "lap time" for my kitties. I like being a "cat mattress" for a day.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Southeast Whitesburg Mural--15 Windows and doors

From my perspective I didn't do very much today. I was having a lot of trouble with my back and hips, and had to take more than the usual number of breaks off the scaffold, to rest my back. However, from the observers' point of view, I covered a lot more canvas with paint today than I have on other days. That's because I was doing some large areas that can be painted quickly with a small number of hue/value/intensity options.

Today's painting focused on windows and doors. Today I masked off, and painted flat surfaces of glass. After those dry well, I'll go back and do the details of the dark metal frames and fixtures, and add more details to suggest more reflection.

I also worked on foliage of previously painted trees, added a sycamore behind the Allied Health Building, and painted in an old, gnarled maple tree. I love sycamore trees because the bark on upper trunk and limbs is stark white. In the winter they are very dramatic, and in the spring they are still visible under the light foliage. By this time of the summer, however, their white branches are hidden by heavy foliage.

The painting has reached a point where I can look at it and say "yes, this IS a mural." What I see on the wall, minus a few tiny details, actually looks like the proposal I gave the committee. I wasn't entirely certain that I could, in fact deliver what I proposed, never having done anything of this scope and detail before. But I think it is really working.

I've also come to terms with my inability to produce perfection. I used to think that it was a failing that I didn't keep working and worrying over a painting until every detail and drop of paint was perfect. Now I realize that perfection is a chimera. A painting isn't a photograph. Good is good enough.