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Cover 2019

The 2019 Outer Coast calendar is available from www.theoutercoast.com, or buy in stores in Sitka, or bookstores in Alaska and a few select places in the North West – including Powells Books in Portland and Elliott Bay Books in Seattle.

I’ll also be at WhaleFest in Sitka November 2-4, at the Alaska Juneau Public Market on Thanksgiving weekend, and at the Sitka Artisans Market December 7-9. I’ll also have original wood engraving prints and notecards, which are also available on the website.

Calendars are printed in color on heavy, vellum-surface Natural colored paper by Alaska Litho in Juneau, Alaska U.S.A.

This calendar features my original art, poetry by Alaskans and other greats, gardening reminders for southeastern Alaska, and wilderness anniversaries. It opens out to 11 x 17 inches (8 1/2 by 11 closed), has a handy hole for hanging, and, has complete year of 2019 on the last page. The price is $15 but there are discounts starting at two.

This year’s calendar is built around the theme of imperfection – nobody’s perfect, and that’s ok.

Poetry includes lines from William Wordsworth, Shakespeare, and Beat poet Lew Welch (1926-1971).

This calendar also features work by John Straley, novelist and poet, and some beautiful, inspiring work by Caroline Goodwin.

Below are the images from the 2019 calendar:December2019February2019January2020July2019 (2)June2019March2019May2019November2019October2019September2019image only

 

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In 2018 I got to teach at the Sitka Fine Arts Camp Elementary School session. The camp groups students by age and rotates four sections of each age group through four different classes, in music, theater, visual art, and dance.

This year I had the 5th grade group, kids going into 6th grade, who came in for I think around 50 minutes each. Each group had around a dozen kids, and we had to set up, work, and clean up in that time before the next group came in. The camp was one week, so five mornings total.

The cleaning up is an important part of the process – young people actually like knowing what’s going on and they actually like cleaning up, especially sponging off the tables.

The first day I gave them watercolors, and had them try various techniques, with nice watercolor paints (they are Cotman travel sets, and over the years we have replaced the paint as it was used up with Daniel Smith watercolors) on 80# drawing paper. First we looked at some slides of the work of Helen Frankenthaler and Vasili Kandinsky, and told a little about those artists and periods.

Tuesday, we did observational drawing, of a wooden stool, doing fast draw, blind contour, then a longer drawing, then, if they had time, a smaller object of their choice. In this one I showed them basic drawing tricks, using angles, proportions, overlap, scale, and the trick of using the back ground, and the angles of the box the stool was on, to give their drawing depth.

Wednesday we drew the counselor, with the same drawing instruction, with the addition of learning to show the model respect.

Thursday we drew a still life of at least two objects, on the table near them. We didn’t do any warmups, but instead sketched on newsprint, then drew with pencil and outlined with pen or drew with a pen, then watercolor, on 80# drawing paper, using the various watercolor techniques from Monday.

On Friday, I set up lights and pushed the tables together, with the lights at one end, and kids sitting on the long sides of the tables. They did a quick draw then shaded (modeled) drawing of white styrofoam balls. Then, had them gather all their art, and put their favorite piece on top, and we did a little art walk, where each said something they liked about (someone else’s) picture.

One more thing was to have each kid at the end of each session put his or her work in a stack. I didn’t have any drying racks, so we arranged the stacks of pictures all around the edges of the room on the floor.

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This is a review of The Organized Mind, by Daniel J. Levitin.

The problem with this book is that the author has an extremely limited and mechanistic notion of how our minds work.

You assume that this book will help you to deal with the complexity and volume of information, stimuli, expectations, tasks that can feel overwhelming, but it is actually more like a collection of magazine articles on how to organize information, and not how to “organize” your mind in any way to limit, or set priorities on the amount of “information” you should be organizing in the first place.

The problem is that our minds do not simply process information, like computers. We are social creatures, we are cultural creatures, we have highly sensitive psychological and emotional processing, and this book leaves all that out.

If we are feeling overwhelmed by information, the solution is not more information, on how to categorize it.

The only useful thing in this book are his tips (which are straight from airport how-to-organize books), which boil down to, write things down and organize your home and office so you can find things easily. The one thing I found useful is how switching from one task to another, or making decisions on what to keep and what to throw away, takes a lot of mental effort, so it’s better to keep on one task at at time.

Some of his tips are goofy – like, in the last chapter, the numbering system for interstate highways, such as “One- and two-digit highway numbers less than 100 identify major routes that cross state lines,” that will supposedly help you navigate (p 371).

He also devotes quite a bit of space to reasoning errors, where we make decisions that seem rational but are actually based on a misperception of the facts, all of which I’ve read elsewhere. He also has a lot of household organizing tips that are not going to be worthwhile for most people, and are found in books on organizing your home or office, if that’s what you want.

Because this book was written when it was, the issue of electronic information is huge. There is no way to deal with all the information we are confronted with now. You have to step back and think about how to limit it, without letting others limit it for you – as he does, when he enthuses about Reddit.

His understanding is demonstrated in his description of the rise of civilization, stating that all humans did was “procreate and survive” until 10,000 years ago, and that literature arose from accounting (p 13), because writing did. Literature is much older, from ancient oral traditions that are essential to our humanity. To me, this is the interesting question: before writing, for most of human time, we kept all we needed in our minds. So, why not look to art, to literature, to non-literate cultures? To truly “organize our minds.”

Another mistake is when he states that new knowledge can stave off Alzheimer’s disease (p 19). No, not new information – new ways of thinking, new kinds of activities. Learning more facts in some area you are already familiar with does nothing, you have to learn a whole new thing, like ping pong or music or social dancing.

He does touch on the human element in how we think, but barely, and it is not coherent. We function well when we feel like we matter, that we have some control over our lives, that others think highly of us. So human relationships and leadership that empowers members of the group are more critical than your filing system, but he calls this “communications (and) competent and ethically-based authority,” as if it’s one more system for organizing a company or the Army; even though his examples of success actually involve giving authority and autonomy to those at lower levels.

I compulsively read this entire book, because it was intriguing to me how he talks about “the organized mind” as if it is simply information management. This is not the only author I’ve read with this limited approach to success. It’s been helpful to me to define what it is that’s missing in this approach, to define what it is that really is at play, in people or organizations that function well. I believe those elements are going to be defined through the exposition of more and more subtle and sophisticated cognitive science, coming full circle to what great artists and leaders have understood and communicated since humans became human.

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Some Responses from the Faculty of the Sitka Fine Arts Camp, June 12, 2016

Before each camp, the faculty get together for orientation and introductions. In 2016, introductions extended to each of us telling why we teach. It made for a long meeting (!) but some beautiful expressions, and I took notes and am finally posting them here:

to give students an approach to learning

it is the act of giving in a genuine and meaningful way

to connect students to deeper reality

to give students tools for life

it is the act of recognition – of being recognized

empowering people

deep relationships

to counter capitalism

modeling strength for young Native people

collaboration – joyful

using skills and focus, the joy of creating

teaching allows me to question how and why I do my art

to teach problem solving

stretching by teacher and student

to learn empathy, confidence

the only way to make revolutionary, radical change

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Cover 2018

The 2018 Outer Coast calendar is now available! Printed in glorious color on heavy, vellum-surface Natural colored paper by Alaska Litho in Juneau, Alaska U.S.A.

This calendar features my original art, poetry by Alaskans and other greats, gardening reminders for southeastern Alaska, and wilderness anniversaries. It opens out to 11 x 17 inches (8 1/2 by 11 closed), has a handy hole for hanging, and, has complete year of 2019 on the last page.

You can order on line from www.theoutercoast.com, buy in stores in Sitka, or, soon, buy in your favorite Alaskan or select Northwest bookstore. (If the store doesn’t have it, tell them to order thru distributor Taku Graphics.)

This year’s calendar is built around the theme of courage – having faith in what we know is good, and having a “frenzy for the future”: the faith it takes to work toward making the future even better than today.

Poetry includes a sonnet by Rainer Maria Rilke from his Sonnets to Orpheus, and some great quotes from Walt Whitman.

We have two beautiful poems by Caroline Goodwin from her latest book The Paper Tree, published this year (2017) by Big Yes Press.

And, a lovely haiku by Sitka’s own John Straley, from his recent book 100 Poems of Spring, published by Shorefast Editions in 2016.

Plus a couple of classics from poet Lew Welch (1926-1971). Here are some images of the 2018 calendar:

March 2018 image onlyApril 2018August 2018December 2018February 2018January 2019July 2018June2018May 2018October2018November 2018September 2018

 

 

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cezanne.basket-apples

Paul Cezanne, The Basket of Apples c. 1893 25 7/16 x 31 1/2 in. (65 x 80 cm) Art Institute of Chicago

The same Fifth graders who got into Abstract Expressionism tried their hands at Post-Impressionism. And, it was a sunny day just a week before school let out. So they weren’t exactly calm, and yet did fabulous work. The image above is the inspiration, which the kids each talked about – things like the color juxtapositions, how he made the fruit look round, the strange perspective that makes the table look tipped. We also looked at images of paintings by Henri Matisse.IMG_0424smallIMG_0422smallIMG_0423smallIMG_0420smallIMG_0421smallIMG_0418smallIMG_0419smallIMG_0416smallIMG_0417smallIMG_0414smallIMG_0415smallIMG_0412smallIMG_0413smallIMG_0410smallIMG_0411smallIMG_0408smallIMG_0409small

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gotham news 1957

Gotham News, 1955 by Willem de Kooning ( 69 x 79” Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo)

We looked at images of paintings by Helen Frankenthaler, Jackson Pollock, and Willem de Kooning, including pictures of the paintings in galleries, and Helen Frankenthaler and Jackson Pollock working in their studios, to show the very large scale of pictures in this school. I also told them where some of these pictures are, and had a snapshot of one (Small’s Paradise, by Helen Frankenthaler) I took in Washington D. C. in March.

I told them how Abstract Expressionism was painting that was not of something, but was the thing, in the words of Jackson Pollock. And how painting is a language, in which you can express things you can’t put into words.

The paintings they liked were both by de Kooning: Excavation and Gotham News, which is the one we talked about. The kids each noted something about the picture, and brought out the bright colors, and how it references people, dogs, layers, cities, noise, excitement, Batman, buildings and other structures, without being pictures of those things.

It could be too that they were drawn to this picture because it holds up better on the rather dim interactive white board projectors the school has. You don’t get the benefit of the brilliant colors of Helen Frankenthaler’s work. We held up the laptop so they could get an idea of the brilliance of the actual paintings.

Inspired by the picture, they made paintings in the manner of Abstract Expressionism. I think some of them felt like they were being naughty, by using a finger or their hands, in making layer on layer, in using gobs of paint, and even in scraping back to get to layers below. But they were not naughty, they were all fully involved in the paint and what it was doing. This was the most energetic and focused group I’ve had, as far as everyone diving in.

We asked them to mix at least 3 colors, and this time not to make a picture of a thing but to paint with colors and shapes and lines, and to try different brush sizes.

We even had time to clean up and to spend a few minutes looking at our work.

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