A Tool: “Guilt-free Play”

A good friend of mine has made an excellent mark and reputation in the design world and hospitality industry. She’s someone who is productive and articulate about her work routines and creative process. The other day we were talking about a concept called “guilt-free play” which increases her productivity and makes life more enjoyable. It’s a simple tool. Work is followed/ rewarded by a planned activity that recharges her soul/ body.

Last Friday night, my “guilt-free play” was a trip to the Dallas Arts District with a group of girlfriends, who are funny, after working on several projects in my studio. We had dinner at one of the food trucks – my favorite is the Green House Truck, and celebrated the Chinese New Year by watching the Crow Museum’s Dragon Parade.

Then, there was an electric surprise at the Dallas Museum of Art. To celebrate the Jean Paul Gaultier exhibit, anyone could dress as one of his divas – Lady Gaga, Madonna – or use their own imagination. A 10-year old girl, who admires JPG and is Project Runway material, made this fish bowl purse. Her belt and necklace are stainless steel scouring pads and a tea strainer.

Late night at Dallas Museum of Art | Jean Paul Gaultier-inspired purse (photo: teresa rafidi)

Late night at Dallas Museum of Art | Jean Paul Gaultier-inspired clothing by a 10-year old (photo: teresa rafidi)

My group of friends made JPG-inspired hats in the DMA’s C3 Lab (Center for Creative Connections) with the local milliner, Cintra MacGregor who has a shop in the Bishop Arts District above Bolsa Restaurant. Another local talented artist, Teresa Rafidi, was also in C3 taking photos of hat makers and Fashionistas. All the photos in tonight’s blog are by teresa: http://www.rafidiphotography.com

Late night at Dallas Museum of Art |Ya Ya Girlfriends in Jean Paul Gaultier-inspired hats (photo: teresa rafidi)

I like this tool of “guilt-free play.” It made me more focused and productive in my studio during the day because I didn’t tell myself, “I’ll do this later tonight.” It also led to being totally engaged in the Arts District’s Late Night activities.

Happy Year of the Dragon.

Architecture SPCA: Designing for a Good Cause

Like me, maybe you have been driving West on I-30 from Dallas towards Fort Worth wondering about the bright blue tower and construction site at the Hampton Road exit. Here’s the scoop: This beauty is the new Dallas SPCA Animal Care and Adoption Center which houses the most adorable animals – dogs and cats of all ages, a bunny rabbit and several guinea pigs – in a spatial concept new and revolutionary to the world of public animal shelters.

Jan Rees-Jones Animal Care Center: SCPA Exterior | Dallas, Texas | Architects: Hinojosa Architects & Interiors Designs (photo: Hinojosa Architects)

Gus Hinojosa, AIA, Managing Principal, and his team at Hinojosa Architects and Interiors (HAI) incorporated design ideas and research from the veterinarian and retail industries to improve the adoption experience and foster healthier animals. Functional and aesthetic details shaped all areas for the rescued animals, wellness and spay/neuter services, medical wing and surgery suite.

The SPCA is another example of why I believe good (meaning excellent) design and architecture make a positive difference in our lives, and sometimes our pets. Dallas’ newest SPCA shows off the animals. The sunny, colorful place welcomes you to stay and play. In this space, I sense the animals are honored guests; and maybe, if I could read their minds, they would agree. HAI’s vision from the start was to “re-define the standard animal shelter from a depressing experience into one which is enjoyable and enlightening.”

Aren’t I cute puppy? I like my candy-colored dog bed.

At last night’s reception, I experienced this concept with other admirers, and will be back to scout out the cats in their cool condos. I’m in the market for the right furball fit. When you visit, admire the modern design of the scratching posts, notice the signage graphics and sit on a banquette covered with fabrics by William Wegman, the artist best known for his Weimaraner photographs.

Even in the world of non-profits, good causes and architectural design, there’s always a bottom-line consideration. Happily, the Jan Rees-Jones Animal Care Center response to-date is working as seen on January 2nd, the first day of operation, when 24 animals were adopted and yesterday when 35+ animals found new homes.

Place as a Source of Inspiration

Last year, I wrapped up our conversation with a blog about books and documentary films that inspire me. A big thanks to everyone who sent me their favorites – keep them coming. I look forward to reading your picks, and paying it forward in a future blog.

To ring in 2012, I’ll begin with places that spark my creativity. Over the holidays, I had a chance to visit the Clyfford Still Museum which recently opened in Denver, the city that was awarded this American artist’s estate. Clyfford Still’s life story and how Denver became the site for 95% of his artistic output are fascinating.

Artist: Clyfford Still | oil on canvas | 357 x 600 | “PH – 972” (1940) | photo: Meg Fitzpatrick

His final will stipulated that his body of work – all 2,400 pieces – had to be housed in one place and only in an America city. Still did not want his work lost in a museum’s vast, encyclopedic collection or owned on foreign soil. The 50-years of work, from his early figurative pieces to his later large-scale abstract paintings, landed in Denver after a distant relative (a Denver resident) suggested to Still’s widow that she consider Denver as the “American city.” She did, and the rest is history.

Still’s story is even more interesting. At a highpoint in his career, he got sick of the public scrutiny of his work and decided to leave New York – where he was one of the central figures along with the likes of Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Clement Greenberg – and move to a quiet farm in Maryland. He intentionally placed himself on the periphery, where he was content to produce work for himself – 835 paintings are now in Denver’s museum. Most have never been seen by the public because once Still finished a painting, he rolled it onto a tube for storage in his barn. When the curators began taking inventory, they sometimes found 11 paintings on one tube!

In his own words, Still said that “behind all my paintings is the figure.” The current show is clearly curated for you see that every composition uses a vertical line format from his earlier figurative work (1930’s – 1940’s) to his later abstractions of standing bodies (1940’s until his death in 1980).

The architect Brad Cloepfil and his team at Allied Works designed this museum. Their body of work is another source of inspiration for me. I first became aware of their work when they won a Dallas competition to renovate and expand Booker T. Washington High School of the Performing and Visual Arts, Dallas’ Arts Magnet School for talented kids. I met Brad at a book signing, and he talked about the Denver commission, his excitement about the museum project and the Winter 2011 opening. Both the Still Museum and Booker T. buildings are thoughtfully designed to honor the occupants, their work and stories without distractions.

Clyfford Still Museum | Denver, Colorado | Architect: Allied Works/ Brad Cloepfil | Photo: Meg Fitzpatrick

I stumbled across another artist who is inspired by Still’s paintings and colors. Note her iPad and paint program.

Clyfford Still Museum | Denver, Colorado | Photo: Meg Fitzpatrick

Happy 2012: Wishing you a year of creativity (whatever your field) and visiting inspiring places.

Filling the Well: Sources of Inspiration

Books and documentaries are a big part of my life, especially those produced by artists willing to give us an inside view of how they go about living a creative life. For this holiday, I want to share a few of my favorites, starting with “Twyla Tharp The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life.”

Twyla writes“…..being creative is an everyday thing, a job with its own routines. It is not a once-in-a-while sort of thing. These routines are as much a part of the creative process as the lightning bolt of inspiration (perhaps more so). After a while being creative becomes a habit.”

PBS holds a rich treasure chest of radio interviews and documentaries. Studio 360, a PBS Peabody Award-winning radio show, is produced by Julie Burstein and hosted by Kurt Andersen. Kurt entertains and educates us through his on-air discussions with artists – like Yo-Yo Ma, Chuck Close and Isabel Allende – about their creative process. Julie wrote, “Spark: How Creativity Works,” which is a collection of interviews.

One of my favorite books is “Maya Lin: Boundaries.” Many years ago my Mom and I were talking the emotional impact of art and coming up with examples, like the tear-inducing experience at Maya Lin’s Washington, DC Vietnam Veterans Memorial. This book was a thoughtful Christmas gift from my Mom who remembered our conversation – thanks Mom!

And, if you haven’t seen the documentary about how this public sculpture struggled to be born, go to Premiere Video (5400 E. Mockingbird Lane) and rent the documentary, “Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision.” You’ll watch her win the blind competition while she was still an undergraduate student (which was a surprise to the Selection Committee of seasoned professionals!) and then have the backbone to bring it to life.

Any of these would make good gifts for the creative people in your life. I have them in my library and grab them, savor them whenever I need a little bit of inspiration.

I’m signing out to celebrate this year and next with friends near and far…be back in January 2012.

Wishing all of you a Happy Holiday.

How Does A Painting Happen?

Three Amigos: Pelicans | oil on canvas | 95” x 64” | Corporate Collection - Larsen Learning Center

Many folks have asked about this painting, “Three Amigos: Pelicans.” Here is the back-story about how it happened:

One summer afternoon, I was enjoying a delicious Italian meal in Naples, Florida, sitting on the restaurant’s patio near the Gulf of Mexico and watching pelicans do their thing. Three of them were hanging out together – wings spread to dry. It just struck me as a funny sight and I visualized a potentially strong composition. I did a sketch. (Side note: A sketch book or point-and-shoot camera is usually loaded in my purse. I never know what might interest me and when.) I returned to my studio where a large freshly-stretched canvas had been tilted against the wall for a few weeks, waiting for me. In my mind, I could image an entire painting – the goofy pelicans teetering on the edge of the wharf. I started with a gestural drawing in charcoal on the unprimed canvas and retraced the lines with Mars Black oil paint using one of my favorite brushes (Isabey Décor, favored by DeKooning). The last step was deciding on Venetian Red and Cadmium Reds as the predominant color. This is one of the fastest paintings of this size (95” x 64”) I have ever done – finished in three days. Imagine me dancing to compose this piece because the strokes all required very large, long and fluid movement.

That’s me with “Three Amigos: Pelicans,” outside my studio before it leaves for its destination. The painting hangs in the lobby of a Sarasota-based company, TLC (The Larsen Center). Patty Larsen, the Founder and President, is an inspirational testing-taking prep and learning coach for college-bound kids. She offers tutoring and classes in person and online (www.pattylarsen.com). It gives me a lot of pleasure to know that Patty and her client base of families and kids still comment on enjoying this piece.

Random Experiments – Why Not?

"One Broad Stroke" Aluminum metallic and red house paint (16-1/2” x 24” framed) | SOLD Impastato Collection

Could I load my paint brush and make one continuous line across the surface? That’s one of the questions that led to this study. The answer: Rarely made it. But, as in most of my random experiments, it doesn’t matter because I like the accidents – the puddle on the edges and endpoints, especially those marks left by the runny/ high viscosity aluminum paint which are beautiful and glitter when light hits them. I was also thinking a lot about house paint and wondering why the cigarette-smoking, hard-drinking Abstract Expressionists flocked to this medium. My answer after spending hours with it? Freedom, with a capital “F.” I felt freed by the size of the paint cans (no petite palm-sized tubes), the immediate readiness (no mixing with a solvent or other medium), the guaranteed color (no need for color recipe charts) and Sherwin Williams prices (so much lower than artist grade materials).

Being open to ideas and experimenting with materials as a way of life? Why not.

PS: This experimental painting has a new home in the collection of a local landscape architect who attended last Wednesday’s Dallas Center for Architecture blow-out annual party, “Rockitecture,” at the always cool Filter House on White Rock Lake spillway.

PPS: I’m skipping next Sunday’s blog post. Talk to you in two weeks.

Be Happy, Mr. Marley

"Be Happy, Mr Marley" | mixed media 9-1/2" x 12-1/2" Available for sale

Reggae tickles a funny bone. Steel drums start and bad vibes have to excuse themselves and leave the room.  I remember sitting with a good friend. He listened to one of my tales of worry. He hadn’t interrupted or given advice; and then a Bob Marley song came on the radio. My friend raised one finger, and then said, “Here is your mantra, Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” This happened 33 years ago. To this day, reggae music and especially Mr. Marley touch a happy place in my heart – inspiring the final title of this 2011 painting.