Tuesday, January 30, 2007

the reason to always zip up

the reason...
the reason...,
originally uploaded by robin kibby.

Thinking that all my MFA apps had to make it in the mail today, I hustled up to Kinkos/Fedex to drop off paperwork well before the West Coast cut off. My normal impulse is to walk, but I recently discovered that places that I think of as "3 minutes away" are 15.
So, if Kinko's is 5 minutes away by foot in my mind, that would equal about 40 minutes round trip in the real world. Stress and driving don't mix, so I opt for my trusty folding bike.
A feature of this tiny bike is that the bag hooks on the front stem, and its easy to tote paperwork, personal stuff, and bike locks. It's is so convenient, that I stopped zipping up all the compartments for easy access.
Unfortunately, my slick system doesn't fare so well on unmaintained city streets. Faced with an impressive pothole impact,my Zire 71 (dubbed "beedu" for its pleasant melodic alarm) launched into the air, just enough to fall under my rear tire. Farewell passwords and contacts and FedEx account info. Back to the house for hardcopy.
Lesson of the day - always zip the bike bag.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Surveying prized vittles

Surveying prized vittles
Surveying prized vittles,
originally uploaded by ezotyrik.

Now this is what the front steps of city hall were meant for! Fresh Pear and gorgonzola tartlet, and a cup of coffee so good (thanks blue bottle) that it needs no cream. Rather than shopping for the greens we should be eating mid week, Brian and I indulged in the Farmer's Market version of fast food.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Binder Clip #4

Binder Clip #4
Binder Clip #4,
originally uploaded by robin kibby.

The return to office supplies as still life subjects was prompted by recent grad school applications. A primary goal is to beef up my representational skills. But, it will take months to find out if I am accepted, can afford to move & pay for school, etcetera. So I've opted to take matters into my own hands.
I will practice rendering forms and shadow shapes. I will use non-fictional colors. And I will love it.
Both aesthetically and practically I've never tired of the binder clip. In the years since I've left my proofreading job, I have few opportunities to combine over 5 pieces of paper, but I still keep a tray of the little guys around just in case. I pride myself on maintaining a variety of clip sizes and selecting the proper capacity for each task. They've demonstrated their continued utility by acting as an affordable display mount for unframed drawings. I like their dark interior, their hooks and curls, and their near symmetry. A perfect subject of contemplation in my academic practice.
The first few clip paintings of were fun. Chunky little representations of bent metal. Tried to show the clip as a noble, standalone element. Shadows were shaded, backgrounds gradiated. I let them tighten up to try to master the reflections and shape. But painting number four surprised me. I wiped down the brushes to clean up for the day, when I decided to get a jump start with a final sketch. I rotated the clip this way and that, and settled here, clamp side facing the viewer, handles spread like wings.
On the final blank canvas, charcoal went down quickly. Then some quick washes followed by the blocking in colors. Before I knew it, some neat stuff emerged, cool blue background blending into ochre, bright warm red marked by a fissure of browns and blues.
I was painting with the mentality that I had to rush out the door at any second, but was sucked into the process. Unintentionally the clip became red instead of the blue I'd used for its predecessors. I broke rules, fictionalized shadows, scribbles and scratched into the paint, let the canvas show through in patches. The result? a painting I was excited enough to bring home wet in the car, and place on the fireplace mantle like an unexpected "a" on a report card.
This effort marks everything I love about painting - energetic, frantic work, laced with discoveries about how to paint a subject by figuring out where to bend some rules in order to convey a truth.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


originally uploaded by robin kibby.

Seeing a hand-addressed oversized yellow envelope poking out of the mailbox, activated my "real mail" radar. With excitement, I mounted the front steps, hands clenched around two full grocery bags. Not only was there personal mail, but a lot of it. Paper filled the depth of the box in a way that exceeded the normal bulk ads and credit card applications. This may be a day of good correspondence! My mind turned to distant friends, forgotton purchases, and the recent grad school applications sent out. But after climbing step three or four, excitement turned to suspicion. I had seen this envelope before - recognized the familiar crease where the yellow sleeve was once folded and tucked in a larger one and the double row of outdated santa stamps. And the clincher, the address lettered in my own hand. Not easy to spot at first, since it was a tidier effort on my part, but sure enough this was a note from the me of the past to me of the now. Which can only mean one thing to an artist - the return journey of a SASE. Inside was my a sheet of my precious, carefully labeled slides, and a form letter.
I set down both bags, and approached the mailbox. Seemed unlikely to me that a "yes" would be returned using my own postage, but it's possible. I opened the envelope, recognized the logo as a gallery I was excited about, and optimistic that I could get into, and saw the "thanks... but unfortunately."
My first rejection. My reaction was similar to when I taco'd my bike wheel on the side of a moving car and somersaulted onto the cement of a quiet city neighborhood. "Oh yeah... I am ok" and then melt into tears 20 minutes later.
I have a book on art business that suggest the artists has not truly "tried" to get gallery representation until collecting 100 rejection letters. While I don't interpret this as inspirational, I can take it as a benchmark for what measures a true effort to show and sell art. Day number one of skin thickening, nearly completed.

Monday, January 15, 2007


binder clips on linen
binder clips on linen,
originally uploaded by robin kibby.

Due to the gracious gifting of Aunt Linda, I am trying my hand at painting on linen. Till now, I've worked with cotton canvas, and considered the tan colored cousin for a distant project only. So, yay for new materials.
I've already dug in, starting some new office supply still lifes. I've been contemplating the binder clip for some time, and finally mustered the resolve to tackle portraits of this fine little tool.
While working, I am contemplating the support. Painter's lore says linen lasts much longer than other fabrics, and once you paint on it you will *never* want to revert to lesser materials. Reminded me of other great mysteries of life which must be experienced to be understood: eating fresh sushi, pumpkin pie made from real pumpkin, and singing karaoke in front of other people. But, after a couple days of work, I haven't caught the magic under-brush. Hm, perhaps I will detect something when I make it up to a larger swath of material.
But, the true benefit is that its prettier. The backside of each canvas is a warm tan color, woven tightly, with little textural variations throughout. It makes me want to leave more fabric viewable in the final painting, allowing the texture to become an important part of work rather than something to be obscured in pigment.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

modern art and macworld

I just visited the SFMoma today before MacWorld. Since its one of the easier galleries to get to, I make a point to go a couple times a year. The departure from realism makes some work hard to digest. I recall my first visits yielded more of a speedwalk through the exhibitions, with a movie review mentality "yes, no, two thumbs up, five thumbs down."

However with subsequent visits, the work changed. It took like 4 viewings to "get" the wall-sized Rothko - a fuzzy luminous field of orange and blue. I sat on that bench for several minutes before a nice warm feeling set in. For lack of better words, its like having a cup of really good hot cocoa - rich, savory, comforting. And what a surprise to find that the mini-essay accompanying the piece confirmed my experience (sans the cocoa analogy). I often give myself one assignment for the day "find one thing with pretty textures" "look only at images, read nothing" "read everything" "find something new""look at stuff you don't like."
Often I just check out the design section, to see everyday objects, like tableware, bicycles, and advertisements have been created to be useful, attractive, and efficient.
This is the first museum where had long-term relationship with paintings. Sure they are static objects, but each time I approach them as a different person. Some work I like aesthetically right off the bat. Other might turn me off for five years, and then mysteriously become captivating. Right now a am fascinated is Philip Guston, who uses a pink that I find slightly repellant. However his use of limited symbols, rich texture, and hefty scale convey a sincere personal exploration. I feel as if I am looking into a dream or nightmare,

Today I spent with my nose 2-inches from the canvas. I was intent on brushtrokes - some generous and some spare with their paint application. Surprised to find pencil scribbles showing through a Matisse, brushstrokes visible in the seemingly flat graphical planes of Mondrian and to reflect on the lure of the smooth photo-realistic painting of Bechtle and Sheeler. The coup d-etat of texture was the 3rd floor display of Anselm Kiefer.The museum had removed most of the walls from a large room and lined it with these large narrative pieces - tarlike pigment, caustic, propellors, rocks all dangling from heavy canvas. He defies my normal expectations for what can be troweled, wired on, and dangle from a panel of fabric. It takes more than 5 minutes seated across the room to absorb the energy of these.

After all that, I hustled out to the Macworld to join the throng surrounding the plexiglass pedestal and slowly rotating iphone. I wanted to be non-plussed, but found myself oohing and ahing, with my fellow shinything admirers, as much at the sleek execution of new technology, as to the peculiar affect it had on my fellow conference goers.