I’m a creative, experienced, multi-purpose artist
who can take projects start to finish in a variety of styles.
Good designs sell – mine sell out!

http://www.artbyhensley.com/index.html

Saturday, August 23, 2014

"Skull"


I have a very tiny bird skull in my office with a jawbone as thin as a thread.  I don't think anyone notices it or the vase of feathers.  They might see the nest with the clay bird, but I don't think they notice that either.  My natural history section is filled with things I found in the garden at work.  It gives me something real to look at when I'm stressed at work.

There was a movement in Dutch art when artists would show a dead leaf or flower, or a skull, or something to show that life is fleeting.  The Dutch were wealthy, and it was a way to remind people to focus on what mattered.  We're at a similar place these days, people are caught up with what they have materially without thinking enough about the lessons they need to learn or the legacy they'll leave behind.  It's too easy to get caught up with all the obvious things we want without thinking about what we need.

"Medieval Times" in Baltimore, MD
For me it isn't about material things.  It's getting too caught up with deadlines and other people's needs without any time for myself.  I hit an invisible wall and took a vacation, driving to DC, Baltimore, the ocean, and upstate NY.  That's a lot of driving in Pennsylvania, an endlessly interminable state with a lot of mountains just to make it even longer.  I'm sure I saw more headstones than houses in that state, and a lot of the people I saw were Amish, people who are in their way the antithesis of materialism.

All that driving by myself gave me a lot of time for thinking, but thinking wasn't making me happy.  Once in a while that little bird skull flitted through my mind.  What matters to me?  How can I arrange me life so those things that matter are a part of my daily existence?

House in Lily Dale, NY
I enjoyed seeing my friend in DC and my cousins in Baltimore, and enjoyed the activities we shared, but I was still looking for rest.  A coworker loaned me her Lake Chautauqua, NY condo and I unsuccessfully tried to force serenity.  I needed to get in touch with myself, but couldn't seem to get there.  A speeding ticket from a cop who looked like my ex-bf didn't help.  Neither did my daytrip to Lily Dale where a spiritualist told me to leave because I wasn't "receptive".  Really, who gets rejected at Lily Dale?!

I picked up shells at the side of the lake and grouched to myself about the shells' dirty shades of brown.  I painted the shells blue to match the color scheme of my friend's condo, then painted words on them.  The resulting arrangement was my thanks to her for loaning me the getaway.  I supposed that was more meaningful than the inspiration I wanted to have for my next great painting, so I packed up and left.

Sunset at Lake Chautauqua, NY
I stopped at a "Cheese House" and the lady tried to sell me Finnish cheese.  I asked for something local, but she said her father quit making cheese in the 40s.  "The best cheese is from Ohio."  Not just any Ohio cheese, but from my area.  I bought some Middlefield cheese and joked with her about my mom, or was it Grandma, who liked baby swiss, saying that aged swiss was a waste of money because all you get is holes.  The Cheese House lady said the holes were free, and I felt my childhood come back to me when an old man said exactly the same thing as I watched a big ball of wet cheese wrapped in cheesecloth get pulled out of a huge stainless steel vat near the place where my ancestors lived for generations.

I spent the rest of my time chopping up a peck of (unpickled) peppers I bought at a farmer's stand, then making dill pickles.  (7 quarts)  I'm finally starting to feel that relaxation that I was trying so hard to force on my travels.  I'm glad I went visiting, but I'm glad to be home.

Happy to see a palm tree in Ocean City, MD

Friday, August 15, 2014

"King-2"


A lot of people have written a lot of things about Robin Williams.  I don't know that I've heard the kinds of things I've wanted to hear though.  Of course the likelihood of that happening would increase if I'd actually pay more attention to my tv, but the sampling I've gotten has left me feeling... well, I'm not sure.  Unsatisfied.

Robin Williams was an important person in my life.  I know, he wasn't even aware of my existence beyond a statistic, but I watched Mork and Mindy when it was new, I watched all of his movies.  I cried during Good Will Hunting, a movie that I own 2 copies of just in case something happens to the first copy.  It's my favorite movie of all favorite movies.

I know we don't know celebrities the way their friends and families know them, but Robin gave us so much information about himself.  Just the fact that he had to act out so outrageously so much of the time tells us a lot about his unmet needs.  He told us about addiction and depression.  He was very honest with us, in the ways that he could be honest, and told us more by the roles he chose and how he acted them.

I am nothing like Robin Williams, I am a lot like him.

I feel like the tv people are all missing the boat when they talk about Robin's death.  A lot of people struggling with demons, and sometimes people lose the will or strength to keep fighting the battle.  Give them credit for fighting the good fight as long as they have.

I want the retrospective love fest of showing Robin's work.  It's a lot like going through old photos after a breakup or after someone we really know and love dies.  It's a process of letting go and remembering, and remembering that those moments are with us for life in our memories, but the voice in my head says I want them to really talk about depression and what it is, how it feels.  If the bulk of society can't understand that, then I don't feel understood either, and I suppose that is somewhere in Robin's last thoughts too.

A long-time friend of mine tried to commit suicide a number of times.  I don't blame her.  She's had more crap in her life than most people could imagine if they tried.  Not blaming doesn't mean that I want her to die though.  I want her to somehow find a way past her torment.  I want her happy.  I help in the ways that I can think to help, but I don't know the answers a lot of the time.

I've thought about suicide.  I think a lot of people have.  I haven't tried it, but I wanted off the planet in a very serious way.  If you really want the truth, the reason I didn't do it is because I was afraid crossing into the next life would be worse as a result.  Then the clouds part, good things start happening again, someone makes you laugh, and living starts feeling possible again.

I'm so sorry that Robin Williams couldn't get to a happy place again.  I'm so sorry he's gone and won't make me laugh or cry except in retrospectives.  RIP

I'm posting another "king" because I've got things to do and don't want to wait for the next IF prompt.  Please excuse me if I don't respond right away to comments because I'm planning on doing a lot of visiting and running around this week.  Maybe one good thing that comes from Robin's passing is lighting a fire under me to get out and do things?  I'm alive, I want happy moments.  Wishing the same for all of you!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

"King"


Squire’s Castle was built as a gatehouse for Feargus Squire, a founder of Standard Oil.  Now the castle is part of Cleveland Metroparks and is a scenic backdrop for weddings and picnics.  That’s the castle, and Feargus was the royalty.  The king lived his excesses while somebody else swept the floor, got blown up in refineries, and was beat up by anti-union thugs in a time when widows couldn’t get work and companies weren’t held responsible.  People come to the park now and imagine themselves as part of the elite where someone else sweeps the floor.  We can all live the fantasy.

I don't want to be a princess, and I don't want any kings.  I just want to have the freedom to live a middle-class life and retire someday when I can really paint whatever I want without having to worry about how much money I get from it.  I'd like some reassurance whoever inherits my estate won't sell my life's work at a garage sale or throw it all away.

Last night I said "Find your focal point!  Look at the light!" while a young woman huffed and groaned with labor pains.  I'm not really sure what to say about this, especially since I don't feel like I have the right to talk about her life in particulars.  "Remember, you're doing something men will never do!  You are woman, roar!"  Which caused me to get chastised for making her laugh, and laughing hurt.

Her young daughter was floating around the periphery of a very female experience, and I remember being that age when my mom was huffing too.  It was exciting in the moment.  The more times it happened the more I disapproved of my mother procreating, but the first time I didn't know that a new king was supplanting my place in the family order. 

I guess it's been an interesting week.  I've been feeling very stressed and escaped to the river on Friday after work.  "Is that a Hensley?"  "What? Do we all look alike?"  Kevin pantomimed me walking, or maybe he pantomimed my brother walking.  Okay, I laughed. I never realized my family has a particular way of walking.  I tried to notice as I walked through the woods and decided I have "in the woods", "trespassing ", and "on the street" modes.  Bet my siblings have those styles too.  I'm going to notice now.

I have to walk through Kevin's kingdom to get to the "cutoff" where the river was redirected by the Army Corp of Engineers when I was a kid.  I walked around the resulting island and noticed the old paths are gone.  It was like walking through virgin forest, but I know stories for a lot of the bits and parts of that place, like the yurt my ex just had to have.  My nephew stole the yurt and used it to build a fort.  I guess my ex was right that the extra $ for oak was worth it because it's lasted a lot of years in the woods.  At least my nephew's kingdom still exists in its way and I can hear remembered laughing.

I don't know where I'm going with any of this talk of kings and kingdoms.  The new baby was born this morning.  I painted this fish after I finished that other painting.  I don't know what to do with it now because I want to work on something else.  Anyone want to buy a fish skeleton?  And I guess since I don't have anyone to sweep the floor or do my laundry, I guess that's how I'm going to spend the day in my kingdom.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

"Peace"


As a substitute teacher, I learned that if I came into a room bothered about stuff, the kids were terrors.  If I spread a layer of calm in the room, the kids were angels.

I had one trouble-making girl in multiple classes.  One day I watched Jessica with more detachment than I usually had towards her chaos, then called her to the teacher's desk while the rest of the class worked on their projects.  "You have a lot of charisma", I said.  "What's that?!", she demanded.  Obviously she thought I was criticizing.  "Charm.  You're pretty, smart, and people look to you because you've got something special. When you've got that kind of power, it's up to you to decide what to do with it." 

She looked confused.  I'm sure she thought she was in trouble when I called her to the desk.  "Just think about it.  You can be anything you want, and life in middle school is just a blip in your life.  Use your charisma for something good."

"I get bad grades."  Her head dropped and she looked miserable and ashamed.  "That's only one kind of smart.  You have to be smart to cause this much trouble.  Besides, if you put as much energy into your schoolwork as you did into getting in trouble your grades would be better."  I could see her thinking hard.

Months later, I saw her helping another kid with his lessons.  She glanced up and we understood each other.  I smiled and she looked proud.  My heart swelled.  It's one of the good things I've done in my life.  I found more kids to help in similar ways.

I was a good substitute teacher because I could have these kinds of little moments with bigger impact.  I think I'd be terrible at the long haul of a regular classroom where I might be expected to keep it up.  I wasn't always at the top of my game, but I cared about those kids.  If political leaders cared about kids, would they be bombing them?  Oh, but those kids don't look like my kids.  Yeah?  Well kids are kids.  They all have potential.  When you hurt them, they grow up and cause more hurt in the world.  I just want to scream "Stop it!  Stop it!  Stop it!"

Yesterday I listened to someone describing what another teacher said about his students.  There wasn't anything good in it, and he shouldn't be a teacher.  He's causing harm that goes beyond however much math he teaches them.  He thinks he's better than "damned Mexicans" and can't see his attitude makes him ugly.

I'm upset about the bombing and shooting in the world.  See your enemy as a person, and maybe you can see a solution to your differences.  That's true in the big world, and it's true in our personal lives.  On a good day I can de-escalate the drama around me.  On a bad day I can make it worse.  Mostly I want peace on the small and grand scale.
 
People have been getting to me lately and I've been having a harder time trying to get along.  Sometimes I need to remember that I know a little understanding upfront makes for a better life in the long haul.  I escaped to the river at lunch yesterday to get my feet under me.  It did my heart good to see kids playing in the water.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

"Golden"


I can finally show you what I've been working on since my painting has arrived at its new home.  It was a wrench to give it away when it's been so long since I've actually painted anything this ambitious, if ever, but the painting wouldn't exist if I hadn't intended to give it away in the first place.  Giving is golden sometimes.

I wanted to paint a brick wall using a yucky pink and cover the bricks with May flies.  "Fish flies" make my friend smile, and I just wanted to cheer him up during a difficult time.  After a couple hundred fish flies, I decided the whole thing was too buggy, even for a guy, and changed direction.  I bricked over bugs and added other things to make him happy.

I didn't have a plan or design from the beginning, which meant I had to think up more things to paint and find a way to make the design work.  That ended up being a whole lot of head scratching and memory searching and online research.

In between all the mind work of figuring out what to paint and how, I had a practical problem because I painted this on primed, unstretched canvas.  Since the original plan was a big bug joke, I wasn't fussed about technicalities or archival qualities.  I intended to roll it up and stick it in the mail.  The better the painting got, the more I worried about delivery, especially since it could sit in the hot sun in a hot state once delivered.

A framer told me it had to be put on stretcher bars.  I didn't have any extra canvas on the bottom, and only 5/16" on the left side, but I got it on the stretcher bars -- which made this 2' x 4' painting big and bulky and expensive to send.  I've been telling myself "never again!" but I liked painting on the unstretched canvas.  I'm almost absolutely sure that I will do it again, and soon.

I actually took some WIP shots along the way for once.  First, I painted mortar colors with the ultimate light source in mind.  I did this with a house brush and a lot of raw sienna.  Then I cut out a template for bricks out of corrugated cardboard.  I slopped and dabbed pukey pink in the template, then without the template slopped and dabbed other brick colors until the bricks looked like bricks.

Tips -- don't make bricks too nice or they don't look real enough.  The mortar is curved, so the bottom part is lighter than the top (which is shaded by the brick).  I did all the initial painting of the bricks with a house brush.

Then I painted a bunch of bugs.  Then I bricked over bugs.  Actual May flies aren't this white, but I took creative liberties.  The fish skeleton is an idea I borrowed from something I saw in a restaurant, the portrait is the Titian I saw in the Detroit art museum, Joan of Arc is from a church... in other words, most of the parts are things that already existed before I decided to copy them.  I just put them together in my own way to create a different meaning, and each part is kind of its own painting.  I figured I must be doing pretty well in realism because I kept trying to pick up papers that were painted on the canvas to get them out of my way.

I loved making this.  I want to make something else now.  I did an in-between thing of another fish skeleton, but I want to do something more.  Maybe something for my own wall :)

Friday, July 18, 2014

"Repeat"


I got out my high school year book because my classmates decided to have a reunion tomorrow.  I decided to go since a friend I haven't seen since then is in town and I got out the book to study and remember people.  I bet whoever planned this outing remembers everyone without studying, but I'll be the first to say that I wasn't all that invested in high school. 

Apparently my school had a lot of activities: theater, sports, Glee Club... whole chunks of my yearbook are devoted to these things.  I thought we had football so we could kiss boys from other schools under the bleachers, but I guess there were people with "team spirit" who cared that "we" won the regionals.

I brazenly cut out whenever possible.  It was boring to keep coming up with ways out of class so I took a teacher's pad of passes and filled them out to explain my presence in halls during class.  That even got tedious so I started writing myself out of classes for the entire school year, then I decided to give myself permission to be on the grounds too (to take photos) which made it easier to leave school property.  Whole absences weren't a problem because I had my parents' signatures down pat.  Mom didn't like being bothered with absence notes anyway.

Imagine my surprise when the assistant principal blocked my way out when a school assembly was called.  I mean really, who would willingly go to an assembly?  But I was marched to the gym where I chatted with my pals in the far off seats where kids without "Glee" hung out.  People said my name was called, but I laughed until more people insisted I had to join the activity in the middle of the gym.  I didn't even know what the topic was, and sure didn't want to embarrass myself by being in the middle of it.

National Honor Society.  You Have Got To Be Kidding Me.  A photo was taken of me ready to bolt.  That moment still makes one of my friends bust out laughing.  Okay, I admit I didn't want to be in school, but I did the bare requirements to get A's.  So totally uncool, but all those A's let me get away with all my bogus hall passes.  I swear karma caught up to me for all this when I became a substitute teacher.

I was further surprised when my classmates voted me "Most Artistic".  Since I cut out of class so much, I didn't even know my classmates were aware of my existence.  For those of you who remember Greg, he definitely didn't see that paint roller coming :)

I painted that on the wall
All this seems a million years ago and mostly reminds me I'd like my younger body back and fewer wrinkles.  Alas.  Oh well, I assume some of my classmates have gotten fatter or balder or something.  I'll choose to remember them as they were uh, um, some time ago before they started having class reunions every 5 years instead of 10.

I finished my painting and the varnish is drying.  Maybe it will be in its new home next week and I'll be able to show you what I've been working on.  I think I'll start something new.

Forgot to explain the "repeat" in this, but reunions make me feel like "Groundhog's Day".  Same people, same friendships, over and over.  I wrote something a lot less irreverent about reunions giving us the opportunity to get in touch with ourselves, but looking through the yearbook sent me in a different direction.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

"Fragile" Painting Tips


Illustrationfriday.com didn't give me a word this week so I'll keep writing about the painting I'm working on, and very happily too despite feeling like a mason.  I keep repainting bricks when things don't work out.  This painting might've been easier if I'd a clear plan in the first place, but I'm enjoying the discovery.

Once in a while I notice how I paint, and wonder if other people know stuff I learned from long-gone old guys.  For instance, to paint fine, straight, parallel lines, thin the paint so it's fluid, then hold a ruler so 1 side rests on the painting and hold the other side up at a 45° angle.  Run the ferule of a brush (metal part holding the bristles) along the ruler.  Presto!  Straight line.  I won't kid you, this technique takes practice, but it's handy.

I'm lazy about changing my paint water, but I think that's good.  Mucked up paint water tints the other colors in a painting, which makes the end result more harmonious.

I wash my palette with hot water.  For acrylics, let the paint dry first then pull off rubbery lumps of yesterday's paint before hitting it with hot water.  Remaining paint floats off a ceramic or glass palette.  None of this is good in the drain, especially turpentine and oils.

Take care of your brushes.  Never leave them face down in solvent or water.  Make sure they're clean and use soap if necessary, and repoint brushes before letting them dry.  Some of my brushes are more than 30 years old and I grieve when I have to give one up because each brush knows me and how I want to paint.  I'm a fan of Winsor-Newton red sable brushes.  I'll paint with anything, but those are best (and more expensive).

Don't aim for perfection in everything.  I've found out the hard way that people really hate that.  Now I start out loose, then find things within the painting to perfect.

Sometimes using a wet brush is a good thing, but sometimes so is a dry brush.  I like dry brush to make things feel softer.  Mix up the techniques and the results can be better.

Don't do what I do unless you're a glutton for punishment.  I'm painting a 2' x 4' canvas with mostly #2 and #5 brushes.  I did the undercoat of the whole thing with a house brush, and I use that 1/2" brush once in a while, but even non-artists can tell you it takes a long time to cover 8 sq ft of canvas with the pointed tip of an 1/8" brush.

Glutton for punishment -- and loving it.  Painting is a meditation I've missed more than I realized.  I used to happily spend my days painting surrounded by other creative people.  We got into our own flows and spent our days alone together.  It was wonderful.  When computers took over, no time to peacefully meditate my days away.

Now I'm fundraising for a living and my days are filled with people and numbers and problems to solve.  Painting what I feel like painting in my spare time, intending to give it away, makes my heart happy and helps me figure out all sorts of things about myself even though the painting is for someone else.

In case you didn't read last week's post, I've been dropping hints about it to the eventual recipient so no overviews until the painting is finished and delivered, but this week's clues are above.