The Artwork of Michael Divine

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Posts from May, 2007

The Train Station

May 29th, 2007

They say it is “a beautiful blend of art deco and Mexican hacienda, modern style and old world charm.” And I would have to say there is also a fair bit of Arts and Crafts style, which, I think, incorporates bits of all of those. I love train stations.

Airports receive a sterilized design treatment. They are way stations of the modern age, not meant to appreciated so much as utilized and in our utilitarian sense, we begin to forget that style itself is as useful an element as, say, the ease of picking up your luggage. On the other end of the travel spectrum, we have the bus stations which are, more often than not, dirty seedy places to whcih the cheapest travelers are relegated. Bus stations brim with suspicious characters, a liberal coating of grime and exhaust particulate, and a general air of I-can’t-wait-to-get-the-hell-out-of-here.

But the immaculatness of the train station. The beauty. The grandeur! Train stations are works of art. There is a sanctity to the train station. A church like ambiance with it’s long tall halls and sequential seating. This, we think, is surely what purgatory must be like. No one envisions purgatory as a bus station or an airport.

Train stations have an attention to detail, a nuance of style, and a craftsmanship about them. Note the fine tile work along the walls, the patterns painted on the ceiling between the massive wooden archways of post and beam architecture. I think of the great train stations: Grand Central Station in NYC where the zodiac adorns the cathedral-like ceiling and marble lines the corners and the outside is a sculptural masterpiece. Then, here where I sit right now, Union Station in Los Angeles, with it’s art deco hacienda style. I think even of that little train station in New Haven, CT or some of the others I have seen over the years as I’ve traveled around the country. Even the newer stations with their steel and brick style have a grace and elegance to them.

I remember some time back being in Milford, CT after visiting my parents. While waiting for the train to whiz me back to NYC and then to the airport, there was a little boy whose mother had decided to take him for a train ride. HE WAS GOING FOR A TRAIN RIDE. Are you going on the train? I can’t wait to see the train. Here it comes now! Oh boy! And everyone around him couldn’t help but smile and enjoy themselves just a little bit more because he expressed what we all feel- that there is still a kind of magic that exists in the train and it’s the little kid in us that enjoys it the most.

Two things going on.

May 25th, 2007

There are two things going on. Well, more than two to be exact but right now let us look at this: A man walking by with his replacement gutter. A man holding the door for a couple. An older woman with bleached blondish hair eating her pastry and drinking her, most-likely, non-fat mocha with whipped cream. A fat woman getting out of her car, parked in handicap spot, talking on cell phone. Looks healthy enough…. An older man looking at the paper, shaking his head. Looking at the newspaper, shaking his head. How many times to you see it as you get older? The liberal left, the liberal right. The conservative left, the conservative right. the name-calling, war-mongering, blood letting wanting to take over world?

How many little Hitlers running around like they want to rule the world? How many making it to the top? And what about this one who is running the country? DId you hear the latest news? No, not the part about the Iraq War spending bill. And no, not the part about the old Victorian house downtown that is getting demolished… I mean the part, buried in a far dusty corner of the official US GOV. website which rehashes the recent presidential executive order giving the President power to declare martial law when he sees fit and seizing control of all branches of the government. Didn’t hear about it? No, no one did. He would hate to have too many people know about that one. Guess what: tornado! Marshall Law! Terrorist attack! Martial Law! Flood… earthquake… flu outbreak… Martial LAW! Do you know what that means? Do you want to live in a world like that?

There will always be people who want to be leaders and there will always be people who want to follow. How do we teach them better that their chosen leaders are not the best leaders? How do we teach people to lead themselves rather than always waiting to follow?

The two things that are going on are these:

1: The world at large, as we see it, out our window, through the door, our neighbors yard, driving down the highways, etc.

2: The world as it is being shaped by the world leaders who are actively and exuberantly piloting our planet into a burning hole. I am sorry if this sours your breakfast or spoils your desserts but this is the sad truth of it.

BE ALIVE. BREATHE DEEPLY. WORK ACTIVELY TO CHANGE THE FUTURE.

We are not passive resisters. We are not sheep. We are humans, men, women, children, all with countless teachers to guide us. All with our own hearts to guide us. Wake up!

The Garden

May 24th, 2007

We now have a wonderful garden we have planted in our backyard made up of over a dozen vegetables, including greens, a variety of squashes, tomatoes, etc, various herbs and lots of flowers all over. It is lovely really and rewarding…. a work in progress always, as most gardens are. So much work goes into creating a garden out of bare dusty earth. A typically dry and dead California lawn was in place when we moved in. Grass, as it is known in the northern climates, is rather useless here where, in mere moments on a hot summer day, it is scorched to a mere shriveled fluttering piece of dust. So in stead there is this stuff which passes sometimes as grass. Now, mind you, some people go to enormous lengths to create what they consider a lawn, as, it seems to them, all good americans should have "lawns" to tend, and water and fertilize and do all those other god-forsakenly unsustainable things they do to the Earth. So instead ofgrass there is this… weed… that grows. Hold on…I’llgoogle it and see if i can come up with a name… Scratch that, no idea what it is. Not crab grass… It has roots. Deep deep big roots and grows from an underground series of tubers or whatever. We have dug out roots that are as thick as my calf. That is huge! And it isn’t a root going straight down, it is a root that stretches across the yard. So we dig up where it is in the garden we are planting but across the yard, just under the surface, stretches this web of roots. Many as this as my finger, others as thick as my wrist… others… thick as my calf… At this point, tho we haven’t seen them, I would bet there are some as thick as my thigh… as my body… In any case… We dug down a foot or so, replacing much of the dirt with top soil and compost we’d been saving all winter outside… And so we planted a garden and from there, a garden as grown and we get to enjoy it’s fruits..  and there is something stuck under my space bar and it is late so I think it is time to go to bed…g’nite.

Materials

May 1st, 2007

Sometimes I look at an artists work and wonder- what kind of brushes does he use? What brand of pencils? Erasers? Well, for the record, I’ll share with you what it is I use….

For pencils, nothing beats Staedler. A German company known for it’s drafting tools, their white block erasers are pretty much the bomb too, not to mention their drafting pencils.

If you can’t find a Staedler pencil tho and have nothing to choose from but yellow #2 pencils… it’s all about the Dixon Ticonderoga. Yellow pencils are about as ubiquitous as ballpoint pens. Everyone is happy to lend you one and more often than not you end up swearing at it as it skips or fails to leave the crisp line you want. After much trial and error in this arena, i found that the Dixon Ticonderoga pencil really is the shit. Even the eraser works like it should, which is not something you can always expect with a yellow number two pencil. I mean, even if you go to their website, you see it says” Home of the Ticonderoga No. 2 Pencil”. They’re pretty damn proud of that pencil.

With regards to pens then: the Pilot V5 is the pen I have sworn by for like the past ten years maybe. It used to be a different variety of Pilot pen, before I discovered the V5 (as in .5mm tip). The other variety was their ballpoint version which, i might add, kicks most other ball point pens asses, that is, if they had asses. But the V5… words cannot express how happy I am with this pen and it is only because not everyone has used it that not everyone uses one. It never skips! It leaves a clean deep black line, unlike that pseudo-black line ball point pens leave. It’s perfect for drawing, writing, signing your name, scribbling on the back of a napkin or the front of your hand… it is perhaps the most perfect all-purpose pen ever. EVER. The Pilot pen, by the way, is made by the Japanese by the way. It figures. They like precision as much as the Germans and their Staedlers. Leave it to Americans to go ga-ga for Bic pens, perhaps the worst pens known to man.

Moving along then… I would like to add that perhaps my favorite little metal pencil sharpener is also made by Staedler.

Moving along then…

We come to a more delicate subject… Paint.

I use a combination of paint products: Liquitex, Golden and Windsor Newton… The only thing you need to be careful of here is to not use anything that says “hue” as you’ll end up with a thin substitute for the color you were hoping for. The cadmium orange hue is going to be a pale substitute for the real thing because the “hue” is a transparent version made up of inferior ingredients. One other thing: Metal paints. As far as acrylics go, I’ve been liking the metallic paints made by Modern Masters. Good stuff. Next…

I am not certain off-hand of the exact kind, but I like this really fine weight Fredrix canvas I’ve been using. Comes in rolls… If you are going to stretch your canvas, I recommend using the same brand of stretcher bars for all the sides of your canvas. Different stretchers are cut to subtly different measurements (like the way that different brands of plastic dishes all have different size tops) so best use only Fredrix or only Imperial or whatever. Using one of these metal gripper canvas stretchers will definitely help you get the sweetest stretch. As well as spritzing the back of your canvas before you stretch it with some water.

After that, gesso it well, sand it, then gesso it again and repeat the process a few times, if you are after a nice smooth surface…

Brushes are interesting because occasionally you can find some really good brushes for cheap. Other times, all you’ll end up with is bristles in your painting and that’s no good. So really, the safest bets are Princeton, Windsor Newton, and… well i have a nice brush I’ve been liking made by Robert Simmons, whoever he is and one that is the Da Vinci brand. I wonder how he’d feel about that. Da Vinci I mean.

You know, then there are all kinds of glazes and mediums but my favorite medium is this stuff called Water. Comes out of the tap. Works great.

Masking tape: If you are going to need such a thing, use a good brand like 3M or something. Everything else will rip to shreds every time you try and pull a piece off. Annoying as anything.

I’ve got all kinds of charcoals, colored pencils, pastels, etc and they all work great but I’m sure there is plenty of crap out there… Anything that looks like it is selling itself to the beginner is best avoided. People know that the beginner doesn’t know a thing yet about quality.

Regarding quality, that brings us to paper. I have been using a Strathmore sketchbook for like 15 years. I used to use the (i think) 9″ x 11″ size but, when I started traveling more, I switched to the smaller size. Great tooth to the paper, as in just enough, durable little book. perfect for writing phone numbers, email addresses and lists all over the back.. I’ve tried a lot of different sketchbooks over the years but I always return to the Strathmore book because it is reliably good, easy to find (just about any town with an art store will sell it), has a spiral binder (so you can have a flat page, give up the pretentiousness of the hardback binder- there is no grabbing the sketchbook and flipping it open easily with that). The thing about the sketchbook is that it has to be easy to use, unpretentious. It is like the closest thing to your creativity, your creative journal.

And on top of all of that, I use a Mac.

The Artwork of Michael Divine

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