Tag Archives: inspiration

Old Movies

oldmoviesI always tell people that I try to make my paintings look like a memory. I like things a little vague, a little fuzzy around the edges. Maybe that is why I have always been drawn to old movies. The graininess, the shadows, that mid-Atlantic accent – I’ve loved them since childhood.

I remember when I was about 9 years old I spent a weekend with my grandmother. At that time the local television station had just started to play “all night movies” on Saturday nights starting at 10pm. Being my grandmother and not my mother she said that we could stay up and watch the first one, but then we had to go to bed. Well, after about 30 minutes into the first movie Mamaw was falling asleep on the couch. She said she would let me finish watching the movie by myself because she just had to go to bed. She trusted me to turn off the TV and go to bed as soon as the first one was over. That was the first time I ever stayed up all night. I watched all the movies and when the sky started to get grey through the window, I went outside and watched the sun come up.

I was so happy. The Marx Brothers, Myrna Loy, William Powell, and Ruby Keeler had worked a spell on me. I have been hooked ever since.

My love for these old films has only grown and has also inspired my work as an artist. The way they preserve a moment, a voice, a look… and it’s all simply done with light and shadows – just like painting.

I have always hoped that some of my paintings might be able to capture moments in that ethereal way. That they could be a little cloudy window someone could peek through and maybe end up getting a glimpse of something beautiful.

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inspirationIf you are an artist of any kind, the first thing you have to do it is get inspired. But I think that is true for everyone. Something has to motivate you to get up and face your existence every morning. For some it might be having money and the lifestyle that goes with it, while some people just want to take care of their family. Others want to serve humanity, yet some just want to serve themselves. Being inspired can be the difference between a great piece of art and a sofa painting, but it can also be the difference between a fulfilling career and a workaday job. It can make a marriage happy – or not. It can make you healthy. It can make you learn. It can make you sing. Being inspired by something can turn a prison into a possibility.

I get inspired by the world around me. I try to understand it, but I also revel in the fact that I will never know everything about it. Of course art has always been a part of the search for the answers to life’s big questions. But for me, it’s the simple things that drive my work. The color of a robin’s egg can give me enough inspiration for an entire series of paintings. I tend to leave ideas like the meaning of life to those with loftier expectations. Though I guess it all amounts to the same in the end. After all, when you get right down to it, isn’t the color of a robin’s egg as big a mystery as anything else?

Of course there are times when nothing seems new or interesting. I putter around and accomplish nothing. Again, I am certain that this is a part of life we all go through. You don’t have to be an artist to be uninspired. And I overcome this the same way everyone else does – I just keep going, I keep looking. Sooner or later I see a cloud, or an odd shaped tree, or a pebble on the ground and “click” – I get an idea and the world of possibilities opens up again.

What inspires you? It can be a tricky thing to ask yourself. I’m sure that many a good shrink have labored in vain to get their patients to answer that question honestly.

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Recently I have been asked by quite a few people to do interviews about my art. I always do it of course, and usually it is a positive experience. I also never talk about these interviews before they are published.

However, I am going to break that rule to talk about a phone interview I did with an extremely sweet young woman. Bless her heart. She was a young journalist trying to pitch a series of “profiles of southern artists” to a national magazine.

Sweet as she was, I knew this interview was not going to go well with her first question: “What are some of the more exotic places you have traveled to in order to find inspiration for your work?” I laughed when she said it – which I think confused her a bit. I explained to her that most of my inspiration came from the countryside in Mississippi where I grew up. I could hear a note of disappointment in her voice.

She quickly moved on to her next question: “I understand you have sold pieces to celebrities and sports figures. Is that exciting for you?” Again my response failed to impress. “Well yes, but they just buy things from me, it’s not like we hang out or anything. Actually, I still get excited every time I sell a painting no matter who buys it.” She was starting to get annoyed. She asked me many more questions, searching for something glamorous about me. Part of me wanted to try to exaggerate things, paint myself with a little more color, but that is just not me.

I have been very fortunate in my life to go to some pretty fancy places, to meet and know some very fancy people, and let’s just say I don’t really freak out anymore if someone serves me a $190 bottle of wine (though, I would still freak out if I had to pay for it). I also like having beautiful things around me in my home. All that being said, I wouldn’t call myself a fancy person, and I think those who know me would agree.

Finally, out of what must have been sheer desperation, she said me “New Orleans is such a great food town with fabulous restaurants. I’ll bet you’ve had some great dining experiences.” “I have,” I replied. Then she asked “What is your favorite food?” When I told her that if I was being honest that my favorite food was purple hull peas and cornbread, I could tell the interview was over.

I doubt you will ever see it in print.

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A Flair for the Dramatic

From a very early age I was drawn to and fascinated by “the dramatic.” Even as a young child, I loved scenes in old movies where people were overcome with emotion. At 9 years old I secretly hoped one of my school friends would faint out on the playground, just so I could finally say – as I had heard so many characters in black and white film say – “Quick, get her a glass of sherry!” But alas, no one ever fainted, and I’m fairly certain that there has never been any sherry in Tupelo, Mississippi anyway.

And though I often get very emotional, I have never actually fainted either. One time, in a London museum, I got fairly overcome while viewing Van Gogh’s self portrait and I had to sit down, but that is about as close as I’ve ever been to collapsing. I have had several friends tell me that they did actually faint upon seeing the Mona Lisa for the first time. I was very freaked out when I saw her, I remember my hands trembling, but didn’t feel at all faint. So again – no sherry.

Being overcome with emotion seems to be going out of style. I think people with strong emotions tend to medicate themselves these days – more’s the pity. I don’t mind occasionally seeing someone having a little meltdown at the supermarket. I think it’s healthy (within reason). A little offstage drama is a necessary part of life. As long as it is an honest reaction to a real situation and not just bullshit.

On the flip side, I can’t be around people who turn EVERYTHING into a crisis. That’s just petty.

Real, everyday drama, like tearing up over a commercial, getting into a fight with a tangled up garden hose, witnessing a car accident, being disappointed over a love affair, or being deliriously happy over the fact that those biscuits you just made taste just like the ones your grandmother used to make… these are the moments that truly teach us to be patient, to be caring, to be thankful, to be considerate, to forgive.

We are all just trying to get by the best we know how.

So if you want to have a little fit, or need to smash a whole set of dishes – go ahead! I won’t judge. I could even offer you a cold compress… or a hand fan… or a glass of sherry.

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Nothing for Christmas

santaSometimes I think I associate getting gifts with approval and affection. When I was growing up, we were not rich people. My parents worked hard and worked a lot. So, often because they were too tired or too busy, I sort of got paid off with a hug and a five dollar bill – rather than them actually being able to spend time with me. That’s one theory

Another theory is that I am greedy and selfish. Why? Because I LOVE to get gifts, and especially at Christmas. For me, a bad gift is still better than no gift. I’m like a child. I always hear other folks saying things like “you don’t have to get me anything” …and I want to be like that. I’ve even said it before. But the truth is, I don’t really mean it. I want the damn gift.

It makes me feel so great when someone hands me something wrapped in pretty paper and ribbons and says “this is for you.” It feels like love to me.

I know, I know….”it’s not the gift – it’s the thought that counts.” I’m good with that. I don’t expect jewelry. But if it’s the thought that counts, no gift means no thought, right? I’m even good with a re-gift. A box of corporate chocolates is still a box of chocolates.

But seriously, the thing that really blows my mind is the simple fact of just how lucky I am. I am nearly 50 years old and in all my life I have never NOT gotten a Christmas present. Hell, a Christmas present…I’ve never not gotten several.

So many people in this world go without basic necessities and I get excited about a scented candle. The gifts you get are humbling. The gifts you get call on you to be generous. The gifts you get remind you to care about others. Most of all I guess, to me the gifts I get remind me of all the wonderful people I have in my life, and those I was blessed to have had.

Merry, Merry Christmas to anybody that reads this.

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