29 October 2009


This is a typical Myerly request. One word with no elaboration. I was chatting with Becky Myerly the other day and complaining about disorganized people making my life difficult. (Though I think I may be one of them.) Out of no where Becky took out her checkbook and told me to make her a painting from the word "organize". As always, I'm up for this kind of thing.
This is the fifth painting I've made here for the Myerly family. I met Becky and her daughter Sophia the day after I wrote the first post of the Panda. I was so focused on the blog that I couldn't shut up about it. Fortunately, they were interested.

I've been reading a lot of kids science books to Theo. We recently read Magic School Bus Goes to The Bees (or something like that). In not so many words, it told us that bees are organizational robots. The only way they are able to survive is by dividing up their work and relying on one another. I think we read something similar to this in The Magic School Bus Kicks it with Ants (or something to that effect), but ants aren't as attractive, so bees it is.
I actually made this painting twice. I painted it, was unhappy with it, gessoed over it, and then painted it again with the same subject matter. Why? ...I thought it would look better the second time. Does it? I don't know.
I'm not certain that this painting is as much about organization as it is about obsessiveness. Maybe I sometimes confuse these two things. It would explain a lot.

While I was drawing out the bees for the second time, I couldn't help but think about those 4H bug boards, where they place the Latin names under the stick pinned carcasses in neat rows. Very organized. Different bugs classified by similarities hanging with their own kind. Organization relies on classification and classification effects the way we think about things. If I were to go to the 4H building at the Minnesota State Fair to study a preteen's board of local bee species and find a cicada on it labeled "North American Green Bee", I would make different assumptions about what a cicada is. But a cicada is not a bee?... depending on the criteria for classification. Right? They certainly have things in common.

Anyway, I guess what I'm saying is that being organized is walking a fine line between rigid thinking, crazy thinking and...well, being organized. Perhaps someday I will be able to walk on that line correctly.

Thank You Becky Myerly!

19 October 2009

A Swan in San Francisco.

This is a new commission from Leon Mott who is back with request for a close friend of the family, Lynn Hart. Lynn lives in the Bay area and loves San Francisco. She is very also proud of her Finnish heritage. This is what I was given.
Different people have different approaches in how they give me a painting request. Some people tell me a story, some give a detailed description, some just offer me a word a single word and ask me to take it from there. I usually like to get the patron to brainstorm with me so we can collaboratively come up with an idea, but not everyone is open to that.
Leon approach, on all four paintings we've done together on this blog, is to tell me about the person the painting is intended for, and let me go from there. This time, however, he came up with the idea of painting the San Francisco skyline with blue and white, the colors of the Finland. I liked this but wanted one more image to really peg the Finnish reference. After some Google Image searches, I found out that the swan was a the National bird of Finland. I realized that a flying swan was roughly in the shape of a cross, the symbol on the Finnish flag. Everything from here fell easily into place. ...But I wanted it to be a little subtle, not too graphic, more naturalistic. I think it does the trick.

I've had some revelations over the past couple of weeks. I've been working on a proposal to try to get an artist fellowship. One of the things I needed to do was write a narrative about my work. I cut and pasted together pieces from the many artist statements I've written over the past five years and tried to make something cohesive out of my old ideas. On the second page of it I mention this blog/project and quickly dismiss it.
The people who I asked to review this ugly first draft called me on it. I've certainly spent a lot of time on this project over the past year. (This is my 31st painting for the Panda since January!). Beth, my wife, read it and her response was, " why do you treat the blog like the ugly step sister?".
Time to rethink this?
I've been relooking at what I do here and have decided maybe there is more to it than I thought. Previously, this was a fun little project to engage people. Now, I'm seeing a strange complexity to the whole thing that wasn't completely consciously intended. I'm also seeing more connections between this and my "personal" work.
When the awesome writer, Karen Lillis, kindly set up the FaceBook page for the Panda, she asked if I wanted any of my other work in the "pictures" section. I told her "no" and that the works live in two different universes. She thought this was funny (probably thought I was funny). I think I was a little delusional. I was thinking very rigidly in my strict separation.
I do think this project does need to remain as separate body of work and keep it's rules and focus the same for it to remain interesting, however, it should be separate but equal. Right?
The Panda is now almost half of what I talk about on that narrative and I'm working out and artist statement for this project alone. ...but I'm not changing it.

Thank You, Leon, for your triumphant return to the blog.

Here is a link to my new website...of my "other" work: http://www.johnmegas.com/

...and read The Second Elizabeth by Karen Lillis. http://www.myspace.com/eyescorpion