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Archives: May to December 2011

I haz a show
Play: Toying with Art

December 16, 2011 to January 11, 2012
The Main Line Art Center
746 Panmure Road, Haverford, PA
for more info:

Reception – Friday, December 16th from 6:00 to 8:00 pm

Well, it's about time, you may say. And, yes it is. Earlier this fall I decided that 2012 would be the year that I revive my career. A few opportunities have come up since, this impending group exhibition being one of them. I have five paintings in this show, it's a real nice space run by good people, and I'm looking forward to it.

And yes, this poor blog has been neglected. Down, but never out. I have been painting, no question. Lots of reference photos have been taken. Stuffed creatures are being sewn. My painting site is currently being redesigned, and will be re-built from scratch this winter. It will be a very different site. I will keep you posted.


Doing what I'm supposed to be doing 

Stopping in to repeat what I said below, but even more so. Everything falls behind, and yet so much still gets done. I am choosing to concentrate on my personal creative projects for when I have the time, and this sort of outreach is going on the back burner for awhile. I will poke in here periodically to update. Someday, this thing will fit the modern definition of a blog, and not the original web log meaning of the word.

Say hello to purple fish, one of a number of prototypes and experiments in constructing stuffed creatures. He has a dent in this photo and I don't know why.

the slog of summer soup
Change of season, not creative output

It's as though I am winding down, but I'm not. I've shifted gears. Paintings are being painted. More stuffed critters are being created. Poetry and lyrics are being written. A seriously updated and restructured painting website is being planned. These things take time. Ahh, but this poor blog is going through a slightly neglected period. Just slightly. Not completely.

Sometime in the next month nearly two years of paintings are going to be photographed professionally. All these things I've been yakking about and only hinted at, all these painterly things will finally be ready for display. The alexalev site change will come later this summer. I've also been growing busier with design work for my wonderful clients. It's been a very creative time period all around.

Small Autumn #1 by Alexandria LevinThe oil painting to the right is a tiny baby, about 3.5 "x5.5", painted on hot press watercolor paper. It's called "Small Autumn #1". Tiny little early autumn.

My only creative despair (besides the miniscule studio, and deep wish for voice and piano lessons) is that I need another session for reference photos. I'm working on that one too.

peculiar music
A minor wisp of nostalgia

This morning, which really translates into 'this noon', I was playing in the studio half of this room; setting up new paintings to start this coming week, and wiring a framed piece that needs a title, and I'm listening to music. I find it hard to listen to CDs or radio when I write or design or otherwise work (it's a matter of words competing with words), but when it comes to painting or playing in the studio, I need music. Often, I sing.

I was listening to one thing, and then I put on some Cocteau Twins. Back in the mid-eighties I had a friend who called their music; muzak for punks. I like that. Their music is mostly dark and eerie and full of tension, and makes minimal lyrical sense, but it's great for when you really do need to concentrate on something else. I even have them on now as I am writing this. It's not messing with my head at all.

During my senior year at the San Francisco Art Institute I did a painting called; Peculiar Music. I can't find the image, but I've got it somewhere. I listened to a lot of Cocteau Twins that year (and the Cure and that Bulgarian choir), and so I was listening to some peculiar music. But I'm sorta peculiar, so it all sorta works out. But listening to this, I am brought right back into the Room 15 honor studio painting space, and my favorite darkroom in the photo studios, of which I cannot remember the room number. However, I could be swept back into that little room again and know exactly where everything is. Hmmmm, I wonder if they still have darkrooms.

One of my fellow students once called me "an oddball amongst all the oddballs". He meant it as a compliment. I was listening to my own syncopated drum while in art school. Still do. Took me a very long time to realize this was an asset, no matter how much the world tried to beat it out of me. 

When I now hear music that I listened to significantly during various periods of my life, I am brought back, mostly to the things I did love about that certain time period. I can almost be there again. And speaking of fantabulous, weird, wonderful, revolutionary-for-its-time music that had a geat effect on me, R.I.P. Poly Styrene. Germ Free Adolescents was the first punk album I ever bought. It was fresh vinyl then. It's still an anthem now.

creative fun from almost nothing
States of being – Frustration

Frustration comes when you are trying to do something that refuses to be done. You put a lot of work and effort into something, you desire and expect results, and then you become frustrated when nothing happens. Instead, you feel somewhat like you are going to burst.

Thinking of the word frustration brings to mind pushing, tension and resistance. Which then brings to mind rubber bands, springs, solid rock, and small sheets of wire screen. Don’t ask. Dunno. But whatever you see when you think of being frustrated, make something of it, either as subject matter or from similar material.

You can physically express frustration in the process of making art, depending on the medium you use. Venting frustration on a large canvas is a healthy thing, as is slamming the air out of a lump of fresh clay. Expressing frustration in glass is probably not a good idea, unless you can think of some way to safely do so. The last thing you want is to hurt yourself, and therefore become even more frustrated.

A more difficult approach is to carefully create something that shows the feeling of frustration, while not physically venting it in the process. Instead, this would be a mental release of frustration. For example, you can depict a frustrating incident, carefully tie lots of knots where they don’t belong in a weaving, or you can try any of the guideline ideas below.

Compositions that are not quite resolved can be frustrating. Take that piece of work in progress that has been driving you crazy and instead of resolving the poor thing, purposefully make it even worse. Make it as awful and uninspiring as possible, while having it look as though it is trying to be something good, and voila; now it is about the subject of frustration.

Frustration guidelines:

• Regular portrait: Portray the person with their face in a twist, or with their cheeks bloated. Use a few diagonal visual elements that are pushing against something else. Include a sense of resistance to the piece.

• Challenge portrait: Have the person be smiling. Place flowers in the foreground. And in the background create a serene beach or lake scene, with or without a sunset.

• Regular abstract: Place two sets of visual elements that are both resisting each other and are hopelessly knotted together. Also include up to five solid blocks of some kind to the composition.

• Challenge abstract: Have the basis of the composition be a minimum of five horizontal, wavy lines in sweet pastel colors.

• Craftwork: Make something that is fighting with itself, or that seems unfinished even though it is actually a completed piece. For example, a beaded necklace with some purposeful, but not symmetrical, knots and a few significant beads missing from the pattern.

Every month a new creativity lesson is posted. See the archives for the full series. See September and October 2009 for further explanation on how to use the exercises.

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