The Triumph of Technology

If you’re tired of everything quarantine, please feel free to skip this post. I get it!  We are around six weeks in and have 5 more to go for sure, and maybe more… we just don’t know.

The world has been at home now fighting the spread of covid-19 on a global scale for the first time in history.  Because of snapping my ankle, I have been mostly at home since November – that’s going to be 6 months of mostly at home time once the calendar says it’s May 3, 2020! You would think this would make me more likely to write, all this time at home.  Surprisingly, because I am not able to go talk to friends and get out as much, I find that I am quieter.  I have been writing less, talking less, and painting more.  Dreams are more vivid and paintings are more experimental.  In fact, I have run out of larger canvases and panels, thus I finally emerged from the studio to order more panels and stretcher bars and realized I have been exceedingly quiet and would like to write a few posts about recent experiences and paintings while I wait for the shipments to arrive.  This post is about the beginning of the seed of a painting.  The formulation of the idea before it can even become a design.  My mind has been actively sorting our current state of events both to figure it out and to figure out how to process this in a painting format.

Daily I think about the following questions on some level.  But the answers can only come with time:

  1. Will my daughter have her graduation ceremony or will quarantine be lengthened again?
  2. Will this be a one-time sheltering event, or is this a “new normal” that will reoccur? If so, how often?  Are we going to go into quiet mode every century, every decade?  Every few years?
  3. How effective will these measures be long term? Are we going to emerge only to flare up and have to go back indoors?
  4. Will the vaccine come out rapidly enough to allow for at-risk people to shelter successfully until it is released?

It’s a bit depressing, so I try not to think about it too much.  Mostly I paint, but it’s undeniable that I will end up tackling this topic because it is new territory for the world in the realm of humans and technology. 

All the past epidemics took humanity by surprise.  They traveled at the speed of horses, then boats, then trains, and finally planes, wiping out huge percentages of the population back in the days before modern medicine, peaking with Spanish Flu.  Technology was mostly transportation and warfare pre-1900.  It served death either directly or indirectly for a long time.  There have been so many more of these epidemics than I had ever imagined!  There have been over 20 of them in recorded history to sweep through and kill over a million people, and if you lower the requirements down to 100,000 deaths, they are almost countless.  It’s been quite recent, only 100 years or so, since medicine improved enough that technology finally started to be more of a help to us than it was to the viruses! 

“The Triumph of Death” Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1562 One of many horrifying plague-inspired artworks that makes me grateful that I live now and not then. Image from Wikipedia

Now we have streaming video in our arsenal.  This is the first epidemic where the world has been able to shelter to “flatten the curve” (limit the number of people who are sick at one time in order to more effectively share hospital resources and medical attention).  Never before have we been in a position where streaming technology and society-wide fluency with video conferencing software, plus the infrastructure of wires and access to computers and smart phones for every household has allowed us to fight disease by staying home (except for essential personnel – thank you all for the risks you take to keep us all alive!).  We are utilizing the Internet on an unprecedented scale. People who never learned to use conferencing software before are trying out video calls for the first time.  

Humans are immeasurably better-equipped to deal with illnesses than we used to be.  It is not the days of plagues that sweep through and kill the majority of the population.  We know to wash our hands and sterilize infected surfaces.  We can hold classes and chat with friends on the computer screen.  We have hours of wonderful entertainment at the touch of a button to help us pass some of the time indoors. We have amazing technologies that allow us to continue to invent better outcomes in the future. I find that very fascinating and full of hope.  I have been actively working on a design for a painting to visually explore this new evolution of our electronic hive mind. Truly technology is externalization of human evolution!

“What Happened to Your Ankle?”

I broke my ankle on November 3, 2019.  It’s late January now, I am still unable to bear weight on it.  I wrote a blog post for my Dad’s site regarding the lessons I learned from the pain:  https://wendellbjohnson.com/painting-as-pain-control  I made the decision to publish it on his site because his spinal injury was such a major part of his story.   There are a lot of people who go to his site looking for solace and answers about pain and traumatic injury, so I thought it a more fitting place to publish the lessons I learned about pain control and limits on mobility.  I went into more detail there about his methods of working and how my own work habits changed to more closely match his.  I won’t be posting the entire article again here, but I do want to place excerpts here.  This was truly a life lesson.  I hope anyone who is in pain can be helped by distraction techniques in the same way I was helped by others who told me these truths about managing pain:

PAINTING AS PAIN CONTROL

Here’s the key to managing long-term pain: the brain can only process one thing at a time with perfect clarity. It doesn’t focus on both pleasure and pain at the same time well. You can exploit this to escape from pain. The trick is to find something that requires a lot of brain function – following the plot of a book or TV show, sudoku, crosswords, puzzles, video games, guided hypnosis where your brain is absorbed in imagining relaxing and pain relieving scenarios, or best of all for me…painting!

Recently, I broke both bones in my ankle plus the malleus, and also, I tore the ligament on the back. It’s a bad injury that required surgery to set and it will take months to heal, so in the meantime, I am in a wheelchair. My situation isn’t nearly as serious or permanent as my Dad’s but I am learning a lot about the effect painting has on the control of pain, and the effect that pain and physical constraints have on painting. I want to share what I have learned firsthand so clearly now.

Wendy Roberts Kailua beautification project

Photo taken a few minutes before I broke my ankle.  The dropcloth of doom is visible, the small curb is obscuring my shoes that had no traction.  Don’t use plastic dropcloths and always wear shows with some grip! 
Photo by Jennifer Noel

The next two paragraphs are all about my injury, so you can skip it and take my word for it that my ankle has been a horrible experience, or you can delve into some specifics if you want the injury story. I will not regale you with the goriest play by play, but I was working on a mural, and I made the mistake of using a plastic dropcloth outdoors. Don’t ever do that because it turns into a slip and slide with the slightest rain! Furthermore, I had bad slippery shoes on that were worn and loved to the point of being totally smooth on the bottom – don’t wear shoes like that either! My left foot slid so fast as I stepped off the curb, that it took me a moment to figure out why my viewpoint had just dropped by 3 feet. I heard and felt the snap of my right leg which was folded under my body and I knew the ankle was broken. That was a terrible moment.  I cannot wait until the memory of it fades so that it will stop replaying in my head and in my nightmares!  I took a quick look at my leg to try to ascertain the amount of damage, and as I slightly lifted my right leg, the ankle flopped sickeningly at an unnatural angle. I had the presence of mind to not look any further at my leg. I focused on getting help. There were some unlucky witnesses that became essential to my rescue and I am so grateful for their help! I could tell the sight of my ankle really bothered a couple of the people who helped me. I am sorry for that! I don’t know everyone who helped that day, but a nurse, Cynthia Bartlett, was one of the most involved. I appreciate her calm in the storm! My husband arrived on the scene very rapidly – he beat the ambulance by what seemed to be about ten minutes, but it took a team to move me and my unmoored ankle from the cement to the gurney.  After an ambulance ride, it took about 5 – 6 grueling hours to hobble out of the ER in a splint and crutches.

In the early days of my ankle, nothing was really keeping the bones in place, so they would shift, and the pain level was the worst sustained pain I have ever experienced.  On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being uncontrollable barely conscious, and 1 being completely fine, I was constantly shifting between 5 – 9 pain in those days before surgery, usually I felt like it was around a 7. After the initial splint that lasted 3 days, I was given a walking boot for the sake of ease – not because I was ready to put any weight on my foot, but because theoretically it can be adjusted to accommodate swelling. I hated the boot.  It felt like a rock on my leg as if it had no padding at all.  Because of my impending surgery, the doctor only wanted me to take Tylenol. It isn’t very effective for me.  I had to wait 11 days for surgery. The first couple of days I couldn’t do much of anything, but after the initial devastation, I was able to fit a chair with a pillow behind my easel. I could finally prop up my leg to work on painting, and it was only for an hour or two per day, but it was the best pain control of the day. Only painting could drop my pain to a level where I almost didn’t notice it.

Painting became a refuge from the flames of pain. I have never experienced more of “the zone” than in those intense pain days. The zone is that state of mind where an artist is so fully processing the visual information and busy making choices of rendering that it almost feels directed by a creative spirit outside yourself. It’s an intense focus that makes the rest of the world outside the painting disappear. Hours can go by and feel like nothing. Every seductive detail of the paint was such a pleasure during this state of escape. I would listen to music (which I normally don’t do, but it helped me immerse into painting during this time), and I would paint the most elaborate parts of my current painting without the usual mental fatigue I get when depicting fussy details like grass or ferns….

…The lesson I have taken from this experience is the added dimension of pain control that art gives to those who spend time making it.  I love painting even more than before, and I see the passion my Dad had for it and the relief from pain it granted him.  I highly recommend painting as a pursuit during painful times. If you are facing a long recovery, finding a way to sit at an easel or table, or buying a portable sketchbook to draw or paint while reclining is a great way to take your mind off your troubles and escape the pain.

If you want to read the paragraphs I removed that deal more with my Dad’s situation, please feel free to pop on over to his blog to read the rest.  https://wendellbjohnson.com/painting-as-pain-control 

 

 

PAYING IT FORWARD

There is one more really important thing I must say here though, and it is Thank you!!!I am very grateful to be able to heal from this injury.  I hope that the lessons I have learned during this time will stay with me, especially the examples of thoughtful, practical ways to to be compassionate from my friends and family that I want to emulate. To these many loved ones, I say thank you for the shopping trips, the visits, the lunches, the dinners, the tea, the plants, the phone calls, emails, bouquets (both edible and floral), the chocolate, the texts/posts/messages to check in and say hello, help with art shows, and even the wheelchair I am borrowing.  These kind gestures have made all the difference in the world to how this recovery has been, and it is going to take me many years to pay it all forward, but I want to make an earnest effort!  You are all a good influence on me! I hope I can be more like you and take the initiative to seek out these types of clever, concrete ways to be supportive. I have been inundated with excellent ideas these past three months, and I look forward to the second chance I have to look around me and see who needs help. I will be plagarizing many of the things you all did for me while I was cooped up and unable to drive (or even go outside on my own). Thank you for all your kindness!

New Venue: Downtown Art Center

I am glad to announce that I have a new presence in a Downtown Gallery (since May 2019), and it’s an excellent space that benefits the entire Oahu art community, so I would like to tell you a little about it. This new space is a much needed addition to Oahu’s art scene.  For a couple of years, some of Oahu’s large community display venues have been closing.  Organizations such as Windward Artists Guild, Association of Hawaii Artists, and Pastel Artists of Hawaii (among many others) have been struggling to find a good place to hold displays of their artwork in the aftermath.  Member shows are a major function of every art guild, allowing for artists to share and strengthen their display skills, as well as supplying an audience that allows new artists to emerge, and established artists to build recognition and branch out to new locations they may not have shown in before.  These non-profit guilds are an important element of the art world here on Oahu, but their intended goals are only possible if there are good venues where the public can see the work of the art guilds. 

Imagine the excitement when a new venue popped up this spring in Historic Downtown Chinatown area.  It is Downtown Art Center located at 1041 B Nuuanu Ave, in Honolulu. It is now part of one of the most artistically active parts of Oahu.  Near Arts at Marks Garage, Hawaii Theater, Artists Lofts, and a few galleries as well, the gallery is in the First Friday Art Walk zone, and one of the major goals of the center is to allow non-profit groups the display space they need.

Downtown Art Center has a beautiful space where non-profit art organizations can hold shows.  Shows have been running on a monthly basis since March of 2019.  Every First Friday, Downtown Art Center presents a new artists reception for monthly group shows.  There are free guitar/ukulele music concerts every Tuesday at lunch noon – 1pm, and an open watercolor session where artists can bring medium sized work to a group setting and work together, benefiting from the inspiration of what other artists are creating on Thursdays.  It’s off to a great start!

partial view of Wendy’s wall at Downtown Art Center for September 2019

Since about May, I have been helping with the website and social media.  Thus, I am for the time being, an artist in residence at DAC.  This means I have a significant number of works for sale  at Downtown Arts Center.  Please feel free to visit 11:30 am – 3:30 pm Monday – Friday.  One of the best times to visit is on the first Friday of each month from 6 – 9 pm for First Friday Art Walk.  In the main area, the artists from the monthly community arts show will be there to greet visitors.

Find Downtown Art Center online:

http://dac-arts.com/

and follow them on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/DowntownArtCenter/

Thanks Lion Coffee!

Lion Coffee unveiled the new art wall, and the redesign of their packaging in May of 2018

I noticed today that Lion Coffee in Honolulu continues to support local artists with their cafe wall which has been displaying and selling local art since May of 2018.  Oahu’s high real estate prices make running a gallery very difficult. It has been a wonderful help to us all to have restaurants, boutiques, and other businesses willing to share their walls with the local art community on a rotating basis so we can more easily sell our work. From the very beginning of the project, Lion understood this need, and they have been so supportive! This is truly an effort on their part to encourage the arts scene and give us all more wall space and more opportunity to sell work.  I helped design the rail and line hanging system they have installed on the wall and tested it as their first artist.  They are a joy to work with as an artist setting up display there too!  I had a truly great experience working with them to establish this display area, and also during the installation of the show. Their friendly staff serves and sells amazing coffee!

You can see the artist currently on display at their site here: https://www.lioncoffee.com/lion-cafe/local-artists/  They keep a running archive of the artists who have been on display as well – such a generous idea!  My archive is here: https://www.lioncoffee.com/artist-wendy-roberts/ 

This space has been open to artists for about a year and a half as of this writing. They reached out to me back in 2018 asking for assistance in knowing which types of display system to install.  The timing was perfect because I had experienced the full range of hanging systems throughout the years of display with art guilds like Windward Artists Guild  and Association of Hawaii Artists.  Not every space works best with the same hanging system, but clearly in their situation, a rail hanging system with perlon lines and sliding hooks was ideal for security and flexibility considering the rotating displays. We crunched some dimensions together and came up with a two-rail system that spans the wall and offers hooks for up to 30 pieces, with almost infinite adaptability while reducing damage to the wall.  Most artists will only be able to fit about 15 – 20 pieces of art depending on size of the pieces.  The lighting and paint create a wonderful environment for the art. If you are an artist living and working in Oahu, you can call the cafe to start the process of applying for a show there.  It’s a great space for a small solo show.

Lion makes amazing coffee, delicious pastries, and offers tours of their roasting facilities.  The cafe is my favorite oasis in that area of town! I stop in when I am running errands around that neighborhood of Honolulu. The cafe is located at 1555 Kalani St, Honolulu, HI 96817.

HI on Art TV Show Guest

Photo during filming by Will Espero

I am very pleased to announce that I will be one of the guest artists on HI on Art, a new TV show that is currently running on Oahu Spectrum Cable Channel 11 at 11 pm each Saturday.  The episode with my clip will be on July 27, 2019, and you can find it online at the HI on Art website:  https://www.hionart.com/ for a limited time after its airing.  Special thanks to Will Espero and Fred Vanderpoel for taking the time to come to my studio and film the segment – they were wonderful company and very skilled!  Their show is seeking sponsors and artists, and all kinds of community involvement. They do great work!  I will be tuning in each week and look forward to seeing who will be on the show each week.  The premiere was wonderful!  I like the long pan shots of details of the art, and I love hearing the thoughts everyone has to share! Truly, everyone has an interesting story and since I enjoy hearing from other creative people, this is a new favorite show!

 

Quality Time at ZAFA Workshops

This October an November I have been honing my skills, I took an amazing workshop at Zwick Academy of Fine Art (ZAFA) entitled “Master Copy Workshop”. We worked on a master painting copy of a work by John Singer Sargent – I chose “Lady Agnew” I am mostly done copying the detail, and ready to show the results.  First we worked on the value study.  This turned out to be quite enlightening for understanding the overall tones of the piece.  It was years since I had worked with charcoal, and I found out I really love it for a drawing medium.

Then we worked on color studies (not pictured), before launching into the real deal. We used a nice color print out in lieu of being able to spend a month in front of the actual paintings. Every time I mixed a skin tone, I found myself saying “Needs more purple!” Sargent is a surprisingly saturated colorist.  I look forward to the changes this will bring to future pieces as I incorporate the lessons learned by studying Sargent’s careful yet expressive painting style which I would classify as “effort-filled effortlessness”.  I can highly recommend William Zwick’s classes.  He’s an excellent teacher! I learned more in less time by doing this master copy under his mentorship than I would have if I had picked up a brush and done it without guidance. Maybe I will end up doing more copies in the future, and I would even dare to do them solo now, but I think the process of being guided through this copy helps me know how I would go about it in the future if left to my own devices. It takes a lot of research if you plan to replicate the painting down to the technique and palette.  I was grateful to have that footwork in place already for this piece.

There is a little glare on the photo, but I think it is not hampering the viewing of my copy too much.  Also, the piece is not varnished yet.  I will post again when I have the necklace done and the varnish done (which will deepen the colors), but you can see that the detail is almost complete.  I am planning to frame this and hang it in my studio to remind me how to soften my edges.  What a great way to spend October of 2017!

I returned to ZAFA in November to work on my master copy-earned skills with some life painting sessions, and painted a portrait of the absolutely gorgeous model posing at ZAFA for the week.

Here she is with her painting. Posing for hours like that is not easy.  She did a great job of standing still for the 9 hours (!) it took us all to paint her likeness.

I worked hard to soften the edges and was pleased with the results, as was the model who bought the piece – I always love it when a painting finds its home.  ZAFA is one of the few places you can go on Oahu for a multi-session life painting experience, which I highly recommend if you are looking to hone skills and learn to paint beyond the confines of a a photo.  As of 2017, it is on Fridays and you can sign up with ZAFA to get notice of the status of the sessions.  We are lucky to have high quality art resources like this close at hand. Maybe I will see you there, fellow Oahu artists! 

 

September/October Shows

I am participating in two shows for October/November.

Honolulu Hale (City Hall)

Honolulu Hale (City Hall)

Asia-Pacific Arts Consortium’s Pamana Show will take place at Honolulu Hale from September 27 – October 13, 2016.  The reception is on October 6, 2016 from 4 – 6 pm. I will be there , but I will by necessity arrive late by at least a half hour. Three of my works have been juried in for display, “Fiery Sunset”, “Honu Laule’a” and “Sea Lions”.

WAG 57th Annual Member Show

WAG 57th Annual Member Show

Windward Artists Guild is holding its 57th annual Member’s show at the Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden Gallery October 2 – 28, 2016. Please join us at our reception Saturday, October 8 from 5:00 – 7pm. I plan to attend the entire reception. Two of my works will be on display, “Understory”, and “Waterlilies”.

 

Brilhante in Kailua

Today I delivered several of my art pieces to Brilhante Custom Picture Framing and Fine Art in Kailua.  It is wonderful to be among a talented group of artists, and to sell work in a framing store where it’s easy and convenient to buy a frame for the painting. It’s also pleasure to be in a gallery that is at the epicenter of my personal inspiration right here in Kailua.

Brilhante Framing and Fine Art in Kailua

Tracy Brilhante, owner of Brilhante Framing and Fine Art in Kailua with Wendy in front of a few of Wendy’s paintings. To the left you can see just a few of the many framing options. There are several other surfaces with additional frame options as well.

Tracy, the owner of the gallery, and her staff have years of experience and a wonderful eye for which frame best compliments each piece. I have been very pleased with all the framing they have done for me over the years. A good frame unifies the painting with the rest of the room, creating unity in the interior, but also creating a border that allows the painting to stand out from the wall.  There is harmony between the art and the surrounding furniture if they are similar in style or materials.  I have always found great options for each of my pieces at Brilhante (with plenty of help from Tracy and Nicole!) It’s nice to know that anyone who buys my paintings there can easily have them framed, and the quality will be top notch!

Keeping my paintbrush moving…

Greetings from my studio.  I have just finished my latest show (“Paradise Painters” at Hoomaluhia).  It went very well, and now that my show is done, it is time for me to enter a new chapter of my creative state. Before the show, I worked actively for the majority of the days producing new work on canvas or panels.  I postponed work on my mural project for a few weeks to make sure I would have enough new pieces for my show. Once the show was up, I worked more on the mural again and dreamed up the next few pieces I want to pursue. Now I must balance my massive mural project with paintings once again as I get ready for the upcomiong Windward Artists Guild show in October. This flurry of productivity has meant that I have not been communicating as much on my site lately, but I took a moment today to add a few of the pieces I created for the Paradise Painter’s show. I am looking forward to sharing the mural, but it isn’t really ready to be seen just yet. I showed a couple of previews of the secondary walls on Facebook (Wendy Roberts Fine Art) and Instagram (@wendysroberts), which I will share again here, but the main wall is a huge (10′ X 15′) scene with water lilies, foliage, a waterfall, and a weeping willow that I will be excited to debut when it is done.

Mural in progress

Mural in progress

 

I better get back to work at the easel in order to assure the quality of the pieces I have planned for the October WAG show will be up to my standards.  Two of my next pieces are going to be larger works in the 3 and 4 foot range.  I feel they deserve more space and more creation time to achieve the correct impact and scale.  I will check in a little later, but in the meantime, if you don’t see me much out on the town during September, you know where I am!