With the Mayan “Long Count” calendar turning 5,125 years on December 21, 2012, folks have been getting ready for the big day. One group in Britain put in dried foods that will last for twenty-five years. A group in the Yucatan has been told to sell all their worldly possessions: homes, cars, etc. and give the money (for safekeeping) to the head guru. The French village of Bugarach, reported by some to be the only safe place on earth, has become host to hundreds of camped-out end-timers. The locals got into the game by selling bottled water at four times the regular price. Vichy Water is even more.
Not wanting to miss out, I decided to get a few things. Walter Klak, the guy who stretches my canvas, made me hundreds in all my favourite sizes. I had to take my van to pick them up. Walter said he was surprised more painters weren’t stocking up. It looks to me like not everyone is doing the intelligent thing.
Regarding paint, I got myself ten large tubes of Titanium white. I find I use quite a bit of white. I also got three each of all my favourite colours in the regular tubes, plus yellow ochre.
Regarding brushes, in the new dispensation I want to try some filberts. I picked up two complete sets in all sizes from 0 to 24. I noticed Dick Blick hadn’t run the prices up — as a matter of fact his prices seem to have come down. Is Dick not aware of what’s happening?
Regarding food, I got in two cases of Glenlivet, two cases of Aberlour and three cases of Glenfiddich (21 years old). I also bought two cases of Bombay Gin. We think we might need martinis in the new era. We already have the pimento-type olives.
A lot of people think I’m stupid, but it’s not true. My year end is the end of the year, so I’m holding all my December cheques until January and spending everything I can in December. I need as many expenses as I can get. When you’re an artist, pretty well everything is deductible. At least it was. By the way, if you don’t get a letter from me next Tuesday (Christmas Eve), Merry Christmas anyway, and thanks for coming along for the ride. It’s been fun.
PS: “The third Antichrist soon annihilates everything, twenty-seven years of blood his war will last. The unbelievers dead, captive, exiled with blood, human bodies, water and red hail covering the earth.” (Nostradamus, 1503-1566, CVIII Q72)
Esoterica: Whether it’s end times or not, it’s a good time to stock up. While occasional trips to the art materials store throughout the year can be a welcome diversion, anticipating your needs now, tracking the stuff down and getting things into the studio is just plain providential. If there is a Boxing Day this year, you can bet your bottom amulet there will be discounts. And when the trumpet of the great god “Muse” sounds up yonder, you’ll have your stuff at hand.
Art will find a way
by Paula Wallace, Omaha, NB, USA
Armageddon or not, how lucky we are to be able to envision something beyond this “now” and to reach, reach, reach for something more. Even if we have not “stocked up,” artists worth their salt will find whatever lays at hand – stones, dust, fragments of memory – to start again. Therein lies our hope, our laughter, and all that is possible. “Art is not just about what’s great or expensive or scandalous or famous. It’s a mirror we hold up that looks different to everyone who sees it, and whose beauty lies as much in us, and our capacity to dream…” (Michael Kimmelman) Thank you for sharing your insights and observations, good humor and hope, all the year through.
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I’ll meet you in Bugarach
by Marinus Verhagen, Dongen, Netherlands
Let’s all go to Bugarach Peak in southern France. Not to be saved, but to paint it! It’s such a beautiful place.
(RG note) Thanks, Marinus. On two occasions we’ve rented a place called Mas Pechonnier which is about a 20 minute drive from Bugarach. I noted the peculiar mountain which is reminiscent of the mountain in the movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” The whole area has a magical mediaeval feel with its caves and grottos, Templar villages, religious pilgrimages and mountaintop Cathar castles. I painted the various locations but apparently failed to fully appreciate all the magical stuff. Between visits I stored my Alfa Romeo in the basement garage at Mas Pechonnier for two years. After a battery boost by flashlight I fired the car up only to be blown in the face by a lot of little brown pellets. The third Antichrist had allowed French mice to set up housekeeping in my car’s heater. That was when I converted from skeptic to believer.
Last one out — turn out the lights
by Rick Rotante, Tujunga, CA, USA
Alas the end is near and once again I am unprepared. I have to assume I am writing this to myself since it won’t be delivered. With the end looming, all communications will be disrupted and, naturally, there will be no one there to receive it.
So, I would like to take an opportunity to make amends: George remember that money I owe you? Sorry I never paid you back! Harriet, I still deny the child is mine regardless of the DNA! Joe I swear that I was rear ended and the drinking I did earlier in the day had absolutely nothing to do with wrecking your car. To my Mortgage company- Eat it! I thank all those who bought my work through the years. The canvases you purchased have so many underpaintings you can use them to fill the cracks and keep out the poison gas- if there is any.
So, in closing, if there are any survivors, remember that I was one of the greatest artists ever to live and if y o u…. w-0==-=- 231 oh oh see m to bbbbbbeeee loosssinn—-gg Click!
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Going out in style
by Bill Hibberd, Summerland, BC, Canada
While the current deluded paranoia about last days is just more nonsense, your reactionary spending spree may result in more and better work. I’m imagining the lineup of tubes, brushes and canvases spread out before you on the day after. I love the freedom that comes with plenty of materials. As my supplies dwindle down I get downright frugal, painting smaller, using less and operating in full on waste avoidance mode. I am in the middle of gessoing the last of my salvaged Masonite cutoffs, measuring twice and sanding light. Only last week I was painting on linen and 22 karat gold leaf.
What I take away from all this doomsday foolishness is to keep focused and diligent, avoid chasing after distractions, breathe deeply and do what is most important. Tomorrow may not come for some of us but for today let us paint with new filberts on linen and gold.
Suspicion as deterrent to creativity
by Nikki Coulombe, Lewisville, TX, USA
Like unfinished paintings when artists die prematurely, an updated Mayan calendar was not created, or perhaps never found. I think that anything we humans create, including calendars, help us to establish order in the phenomena around us, improve our well-being somehow, help us find security, safety, and something tangible to believe. It’s not too amazing that we were so clever 1500, or even or 10,000 years ago, because we still basically have the same questions; we’re curious to find meaning in recurring natural patterns, and in that which we may never know. The end of cycles, such as seasons and our Western calendar, seems to naturally be a time for reflection and celebrating renewal. It was so then, and it is so now. And we are evolving and moving forward! We have found some answers, acknowledging and expressing our more subtle qualities like emotions, even sometimes choosing them over logic (and the twain shall meet, in the Arts!). I have so much respect for those who passed before us, and I’m fascinated and incredibly inspired by the things they created, but regard their general suspicion as something no longer necessary — it’s a deterrent to creativity.
Still sunlight on the Blue Ridge Mountains
by Gerda Hook, Columbus, NC, USA
Today is my 70th birthday. Earlier this year when I first heard that the Mayans thought the world would end on this date, I thought that sounded about right: Fifty was a snap, 60 was nothing at all, but this one loomed especially large. About half-way through my sixties I was diagnosed with an aggressive disease that made getting to 70 very iffy. It seemed reasonable that stopping there ought to be enough.
Yet when I awoke this morning I was delighted to see the sunlight slanting across the Blue Ridge Mountains. My husband and I had some shopping to do in Asheville (west of where we live and at a higher altitude). It was snowing there! Pure magic.
My husband’s Christmas present to me is a water media workshop in nearby Hendersonville in early April. I registered for it yesterday. So, the world had better not end today. I’m just getting starting on learning how to see and how to paint. I save every one of your letters. They are remarkable in their depth and breadth. Thank you.
(RG note) Thanks, Gerda. Happy Birthday! We are all happy today. We’re still above the mole traps. As the pilot said, “Any landing you can walk away from is considered a good landing.”
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by Ellen Petrey, Eugene, OR, USA
I was very interested (as opposed to astounded by how prolific and really interesting your writings are!) in your mention of having your canvases stretched by someone else! What type of person does this? Is he in a frame shop or something like that? Or an individual you found? What a timesaver! Thank you so much for your writings — facts, insights, issues, etc.!
(RG note) Thanks, Ellen. Walter’s shop is Northwest Artists’ Canvas, 109-5910 No. 6 Rd, Richmond, B. C. Canada V6V 1Z1, tel 604 270 4644, but that probably won’t do you much good. In my experience many areas have one-man operations like his where you can specify the quality and type of canvas, expect proper stretching and all manner of custom work. This is important if you believe in quality. Professional stretchers like Walter have tailor made jigs to keep things square and get the right tension. Mass produced canvases are often built down to a price, and the Chinese imports by and large make artists weep.
by Michel Ruest, Canada
I paint in acrylics and was wondering which brand of acrylic paints you use? I use combinations of Liquitex, Winsor & Newton and Golden which are all great. My issue is I would like to start working on larger canvases and was wondering if you know of any less expensive acrylics that still produce professional results and permanence? I’m not reading good reviews on “Student” grade acrylics so I am not sure if there are any others out there.
(RG note) Thanks, Michel. I use mainly Golden and while their paints and media are truly excellent I’m not totally loyal to that firm. Earlier this year when I was in Argentina I switched to Alba, an excellent home grown brand. While in Italy I used a lot of their Maimeri products. Curiosity breeds experimentation. Regarding “Student” and other budget products, I find they can sometimes be safely admixed in reasonable quantities, particularly where more body is needed. The cheaper the product, the more “extenders” will be in there. Cheaper products tend to have less vivid colours because of these fillers — this is not always a bad thing. If you do use cheap paints, it’s best, in my opinion, to stick to the non-fugitive pigments. In all cases in acrylics it’s important to use a lot of medium. I would keep the acrylic medium “brand consistent” as molecule configurations may vary between brands. A student brand I’ve found to be satisfactory as an adjunct in professional work is Winsor and Newton’s “Galleria.” In stocking up for my post-Armageddon activities, I purchased a bunch of “Amsterdam Acrylics” — a low priced brand by Talens. This brand, like some others, offers a variety of rather delicious pre-mixed hues that might be fun. I trust the Dutch.
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No soap box here
by Jackie Fyers, Sussex, England
It is that time again. When, after receiving your emails twice a week, every week, all year, I put my virtual pen to cyber paper to thank you. If ever you should wonder whether your missives are floating unnoticed on a ‘cloud’ or lost in the Wi-Fi ether, let me assure you, this is not the case. I suspect I speak for many of us when I say that your letters go straight to our heads and hearts. Your varied subject matter gets our brains working in directions we may not have taken. You don’t step up on your soap box but merely invite mental exploration of a star-burst of topics, a gift to those of us in our garrets who enjoy mental stimulus and fresh blood pulsing through the grey matter.
Maybe more importantly, you nudge us to remember we are part of a great brother and sisterhood, diverse and extraordinary and all of us bound together by our artistic passion and your wonderful letters. Thank you, Robert. I hope you have a lovely Christmas and a Very Happy New Year.
(RG note) Thanks, Jackie. And thanks to the thousands of you who took the time to send emails of Christmas and other seasonal cheer to myself and the others who frequently add inspired and informative material to these clickbacks. It makes me wish we could all share a small glass of cheer. I’ve got quite a bit of it around here. Merry Christmas to all.
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You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.
That includes Helen Opie of Granville Ferry, NS, Canada, who wrote, “Don’t rest yet! There aren’t any 2015 calendars on the market, and only small 2014s tucked into 2013 calendars. So the world is still about to come to an end… or does the perpetual calendar that used to be in phone books count as a forever calendar?”
And also Andrea Katharina of Paris, France, who wrote, “I always read your wise and funny posts! Just this: at the end (which means until today:) the hundreds or thousands of people expected in Bugarach for the 21st didn’t show up! At least not until now. Police, military and journalists are looking in each others’ eyes and wondering what happened. Just wanted to let you know :)”
Enjoy the past comments below for Getting ready for Armageddon…