Friday, May 30, 2014

Oh, How I Will Miss That Great and Beautiful Voice!

“Close of Day”        9” x 12”         Pastel          $100        © Sharon Lewis
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            It was a shock to hear that Maya Angelou had died this week. She somehow seemed a part of the fabric of our country, certainly of my life. I loved her voice, her poetry, and the wisdom of her words.

            The painting I’m posting today somehow seems to fit one of my favorite of Maya Angelou’s works. So, I’m sharing her poem, wishing you a relaxing weekend and missing one of the truly great women of our time.

The Rock Cries Out to Us Today

A Rock, A River, A Tree
Hosts to species long since departed,
Mark the mastodon.
The dinosaur, who left dry tokens
Of their sojourn here
On our planet floor,
Any broad alarm of their of their hastening doom
Is lost in the gloom of dust and ages.
But today, the Rock cries out to us, clearly, forcefully,
Come, you may stand upon my
Back and face your distant destiny,
But seek no haven in my shadow.
I will give you no hiding place down here.
You, created only a little lower than
The angels, have crouched too long in
The bruising darkness,
Have lain too long
Face down in ignorance.
Your mouths spelling words
Armed for slaughter.
The rock cries out today, you may stand on me,
But do not hide your face.
Across the wall of the world,
A river sings a beautiful song,
Come rest here by my side.
Each of you a bordered country,
Delicate and strangely made proud,
Yet thrusting perpetually under siege.
Your armed struggles for profit
Have left collars of waste upon
My shore, currents of debris upon my breast.
Yet, today I call you to my riverside,
If you will study war no more.
Come, clad in peace and I will sing the songs
The Creator gave to me when I
And the tree and stone were one.
Before cynicism was a bloody sear across your brow
And when you yet knew you still knew nothing.
The river sings and sings on.
There is a true yearning to respond to
The singing river and the wise rock.
So say the Asian, the Hispanic, the Jew,
The African and Native American, the Sioux,
The Catholic, the Muslim, the French, the Greek,
The Irish, the Rabbi, the Priest, the Sheikh,
The Gay, the Straight, the Preacher,
The privileged, the homeless, the teacher.
They hear. They all hear
The speaking of the tree.
Today, the first and last of every tree
Speaks to humankind. Come to me, here beside the river.
Plant yourself beside me, here beside the river.
Each of you, descendant of some passed on
Traveller, has been paid for.
You, who gave me my first name,
You Pawnee, Apache and Seneca,
You Cherokee Nation, who rested with me,
Then forced on bloody feet,
Left me to the employment of other seekers--
Desperate for gain, starving for gold.
You, the Turk, the Swede, the German, the Scot...
You the Ashanti, the Yoruba, the Kru,
Bought, sold, stolen, arriving on a nightmare
Praying for a dream.
Here, root yourselves beside me.
I am the tree planted by the river,
Which will not be moved.
I, the rock, I the river, I the tree
I am yours--your passages have been paid.
Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need
For this bright morning dawning for you.
History, despite its wrenching pain,
Cannot be unlived, and if faced with courage,
Need not be lived again.
Lift up your eyes upon
The day breaking for you.
Give birth again
To the dream.
Women, children, men,
Take it into the palms of your hands.
Mold it into the shape of your most
Private need. Sculpt it into
The image of your most public self.
Lift up your hearts.
Each new hour holds new chances
For new beginnings.
Do not be wedded forever
To fear, yoked eternally
To brutishness.
The horizon leans forward,
Offering you space to place new steps of change.
Here, on the pulse of this fine day
You may have the courage
To look up and out upon me,
The rock, the river, the tree, your country.
No less to Midas than the mendicant.
No less to you now than the mastodon then.
Here on the pulse of this new day
You may have the grace to look up and out
And into your sister's eyes,
Into your brother's face, your country
And say simply
Very simply
With hope
Good morning.
Maya Angelou

Monday, May 19, 2014

Jumping Off the High Dive Again

“Monhegan Beach”      12” x 16”      Pastel      $200      © Sharon LewisClick Here to Purchase 

            I had originally decided not to take the 3-day Liz Haywood-Sullivan workshop this May because even though I really admire her work (see, the only session I could take would mean that I really wouldn’t have a day off for weeks. Given the stress and lack of sleep caused by end-of-the-semester grading I thought that I could use a break. Fortunately I changed my mind because not surprisingly, I learned a lot from the workshop.
            The workshop focused on painting skies, clouds, and water, which I really enjoy but what was probably most helpful to me was how Liz emphasizes the great importance of basic drawing skills and gave us some useful tips for how not to lose the compositional design that I liked in my reference photo even when I transferred that design to a much larger canvas.
            So, what does this have to do with jumping off the high dive? Well, it’s because a typical workshop starts out with a well-known, very good artist, demonstrating how she/he paints which usually wows us all. Then this very talented person turns to us and says, “Now it’s your turn.” This is the part that makes most of us feel like someone has just said jump off this really scary, really high dive. We all set up at our easels and must then very publicly demonstrate our own skills…or lack thereof. It’s not supposed to be a competition but everyone’s different levels of skills and experience very quickly become apparent. It’s a little scary to me and I often wonder why I keep doing this to myself. I think the answer is that I know that if I truly want to be a better artist I have to have these learning experiences which means risking looking like an idiot jumping off that high dive but always with the faith that you will not really drown and maybe just maybe, you will make a beautiful, truly amazing splash.  
            Have a good week!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

A Land Both Desolate and Beautiful - Guess Where This Is

“A Most Interesting Place”    9” x 12”   Pastel    $125    © Sharon Lewis
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            This goes out to my fellow artists and friends Karen Margulis and Stan Sperlak. They will be traveling to this interesting country in June and I know they will have a wonderful time painting this country. I will give you some hints as to its identity.
            I would describe this country as a land that can be both terribly bleak as well as strikingly beautiful. It is a land of warm waters like the Blue Lagoon as well as icy glaciers. It has verdant green hills and barren, black lava fields. It is a place where the people are very friendly and virtually everyone speaks English perhaps because most people do not learn this country’s language. Most people here are of Nordic and Gaelic descent and live near the coasts near scenic fjords. The country has many active volcanoes and regularly erupting geysers. Have you guessed yet? It’s Iceland!
            If you’re in Atlanta this weekend, don’t forget to visit the Oglethorpe University Museum of Art for the Southeastern Pastel Society’s 16th International Juried Exhibition. The opening reception is this evening (May 15) from 6 – 8 pm and the exhibition will run from May 15 through May 22, 2014.

            Happy Weekend!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Golden Fields, Beautiful Skies, Quiet Waters

“Reflections”          9” x 12”         pastel       $ 100       © Sharon Lewis
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             We were told that we wouldn’t like Prince Edward Island, Canada because it is so touristy but I wanted to see it anyway. I love exploring and I’m not easily discouraged. In addition, author, Lucy Maud Montgomery based her Anne of Green Gables books on Prince Edward Island so it sounded like it would be beautifully scenic.
            Unfortunately, what first hits you as you cross over this really long bridge is a less than attractive touristy area.  We quickly drove through and finally saw some beautiful fields of golden yellow flowers. We never had enough time to really explore the island’s natural areas so there may be other areas of great beauty. As we were leaving the island, I looked out the window and saw this beautiful sky and land reflected in the water. I only had time to put my camera up quickly and get a blurry photo of the scene. Not surprisingly, I didn’t take a very good photo that day but it provided me with just enough information that I could produce this painting. So maybe I’ll choose to remember the island as made up of fields of golden flowers, beautiful skies, and quiet waters.
            Happy Weekend!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Simple Beauty

“Simple Beauty”     5” x 7”     Pastel     $50     © Sharon Lewis
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            There are times, maybe not often, that I really like a simple, peaceful sky. With all of the recent storms, combined with the stress of the semester ending, a calm, peaceful sky looks very appealing and somehow restful right now.
            This painting is based on a photo that really looks nothing like this scene. The painting came out of a challenge in class to do a quick study (15 min. I believe is all that we had) of a simple, graded sky with no clouds. Since I love doing clouds, this was a bit of a challenge for me. What I realized after completing most of the painting is that the land had to be far more interesting than in the photo so I added spring colors and I cheated a bit and put a few streaky clouds low in the sky.
            Hope your skies are peaceful. Happy Weekend!