Saturday, July 26, 2008

Greeting from Alpine, Texas

I'm in the library in Alpine, Texas, a great place to check my email. For some reason my cell phone (Virgin Mobile) doesn't work out here, although other people seem able to use theirs.

Southern Pacific railroad runs right through Alpine, one block from our hotel, The Holland. Freight trains 100's of cars long wake us up several times each night, stopping to change crews and blowing their whistles. The vegetation out here is really bizarre, and I've already seen the wild pigs known as Javalinas.

There's no doubt we are near the border of Mexico, which makes the parties we are going to as part of the wedding festivities a lot of fun, good food and music! We're off the the wedding in Fort Davis today, tomorrow we just chill in Alpine, and then on to Big Bend.

Monday, July 21, 2008


I'm on vacation for two weeks and since it's in the 90's and humid, John and I are thinking we really need to escape to somewhere warmer. We're headed to western Texas for a family wedding, and then to Big Bend National Park. I guess this is my year for the southwest, which is not too hard to take. Since it's not an artist residency I won't have to pack a ton of art supplies this trip, but I am bringing watercolors and I hope to do a little work while I'm out there.

John and I checked out the Indie Art Festival in downtown Providence Saturday night. Not a whole lot of "art", but lots of music which was fun. Waterfire was going on also, so we walked along to river to the Courthouse park. I never make a point to see Waterfire anymore, but somehow always end up at at least one every year. When I do, it surprises me that it still can be impressive after seeing dozens of them. The commerce end—souvenirs, food stands, tag-along acts, gets to me sometimes. But then again, who was standing in line for a Del's? Well, me I guess, but at least I knew enough not to drink it with a straw, being the true Rhode Islander that I am. The price was outrageous though—$4.! John and I decided that the price of our state drink should be regulated, so it's the same price wherever you buy it. After that we caught Mahi Mahi at the skating rink, they were pretty good. I liked the drummer's kit, it was half electronic, half actual drums.

In the studio, I've been testing out some non-toxic alternatives to my Windsor and Newton Titanium White and Naples Yellow. Permalba White by Weber uses titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, but doesn't use the lead that W&N does, and has the AP non-toxic seal . Naples Yellow Hue by Gamblin uses iron oxide, cadmium sulfide, titanium dioxide and zinc oxide in linseed oil and has this reassuring labeling:

CHRONIC HEALTH EFFECTS: Not listed as a carcinogen by the NTP, IARC, or OSHA; no adverse long-term effects are known. No known adverse health affects to linseed oil.
Waste disposal method: Small amounts can be dried and disposed of as ordinary trash.
Compare this to the Windsor and Newton....
Warning: may be harmful if swallowed. Cancer agent based on experimental data. Exposure may cause harm to the developing fetus. Exposure may cause damage to the testes or difficulty with reproduction. Exposure may cause nervous system, kidney or bone marrow damage. Avoid using if pregnant or contemplating pregnancy. Keep out of reach of children. Contains soluble lead. This product also carries the following warning in accordance with Californian proposition 65; This product contains lead, a chemical known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm.
ECOTOXICITY Dangerous to the environment. May cause long-term adverse effects in the aquatic environment.
Although I've just started using them, I don't see any real difference that would outweight the benefits of their safety. So I may have eliminated all of the hazardous materials in my paints. I did buy some metal trash cans to store my rags anyway, since I still have to use up some of the more toxic paints I already have until I can take them to the Eco-Depot.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Summer sociability

I've been trying to get in the studio as much as possible, but family visits and a first-this-year trip to the ocean have coerced me into enjoying the beautiful summer weather. I brought my paints to the beach, but they couldn't compete with Second Beach's excellent clamcakes and body surfing. Last Saturday I took the commuter rail to Boston with my sisters and niece, who will be attending MassArt in the fall. As usual, I was loving the view from the train, and the thought crossed my mind to do a sequel to my Providence to NYC series, how does "Providence to Boston" sound? But I won't try that again until I can approach the subject as a better painter.

We wanted to visit the Isabelle Stewart Gardner Museum and stop by MassArt, not realizing that they were literally next door to each other. Even though I hadn't been to the Gardner in years, I was tempted to run into the Museum of Fine Arts instead, since they were having a El Greco to Velazquez exhibit that closes on the 27th. But we didn't have a lot of time, so all went to the Gardner. I didn't remember it being quite so dark, which gave it a really cool ambiance, but it was at the same time frustrating not to be able to see some paintings tucked into the corners. She seemed an obsessive collector. I wonder if she bought mostly orphaned artifacts, or if there are churches somewhere in Italy missing their altarpieces. There was an interesting video playing by artist-in-residence Luisa Rabbia but as usual I don't seem to have time to actually sit and watch a museum video in its entirety, what with all the paintings to look at. It would be nice if it were available on her otherwise very cool website, but perhaps it will be when the museum show is over. It will only be a little quicktime movie though and will lose some of its impact.

MassArt was inscrutable, being mostly unoccupied. We walked into the tower part of the building and took the elevator to random floors, not a person in sight. It is a little odd that in "this post 911 era" we were able to walk around an unlocked college building--but really nice too. Remember when we weren't always under lockdown? I could never have gotten my laundry done in the 70's if I couldn't just stroll into the Brown University dorms and use their machines.

I've finished a new triptych for my show at the Gail Cahalan Gallery in November. I might actually decide that they are separate paintings after all when I go to hang them. We'll see.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Owls and wax

I've been keeping my eyes out for the screech owls that I was thrilled to see last year perched on my garage or the streetlight. They liked it there because of the tasty bugs that were drawn to the light. I haven't seen them yet, but I heard one at about 4:30 this morning. I don't know why they're called screech owls, since they sound more like a little horse whinnying, but I'm glad they're still in the neighborhood.

I haven't gotten much further with my paint research, but I tried using wax paper instead of plastic to seal my paint between sessions, and it seems to work just as well. Since I always re-used the plastic film that somehow accumulates (despite using canvas bags for shopping), I felt I was being a good recycler, but seeing my trash barrel full of plastic and paint bugged me. So now I'll use wax paper.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Odds and ends

Well, June is over and I didn't do too badly as far as studio time goes. The first two weeks got away from me, since I had catching up to do after my trip, but a lot of x's towards the end of the month make me feel better. It's always nice to pick up that paint covered black marker and plant a big x on the day.

I started a movie documenting the progress of my big painting that I will update as it progresses. It's like watching paint dry, I know, but I found a more entertaining movie about painting by Karin Jurick, who also has a fine daily painting blog.

I'm still researching whether my titanium white is really toxic. This is what has me wondering now...the main ingredient for Winsor and Newton Titanium White is zinc oxide. According to W&N it's not toxic to humans, but dangerous to aquatic life. But it's also the main ingredient in many sunblocks. And, according to Wikipedia, also makes a great breakfast cereal! Go figure....
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