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Bob Demos during PACE19 at the Royal Talens Booth, (Cobra Oils, Rembrandt oils and watercolor, using 2 En Plein Air Pro Easels, The Pro Oil and Acrylic with glass palette and the Advanced Watercolor Series. See more on the En Plein Air Pro, along with a special offer, further along in this email). I was working on 2 paintings "simultaneously", using an imprimitura technique with water mixable paint. More on this and the use of memory in painting in our next newsletter.
CasaTable PACE2019 72dpiBob at the Casa table during PACE 2019 in San Francisco
We had a great time at PACE (Plein Air Convention and Expo), in San Francisco last week.
Aside from meeting a number of past Casa participants, we also met new faces and attendees who had told us they have been following us and expressed interest in joining us for a workshop. A big highlight was meeting many wonderful professional painters/renown workshop instructors that are interested in being facilitators for future workshops at the Casa. We look forward to expanding our roster of the top painters/instructors at the Casa, continuing to bring you the highest quality workshops available and increasing your selection in the future.
wc Vinyard Sonoma
Masla, Rembrandt water on 9" x 12" Van Gogh paper

Bob's watercolor painted that Sunday, where hundreds of painters came to paint at the Viansa Vinyard in Sonoma

A Little More on the En Plein Air Pro

Those of you that have seen me demo and paint with watercolor over the past 9 years have seen my En Plein Air Pro Advanced Series Watercolor Easel. They had sent me one of their first and it has held up quite well. If you have been to either of my studios, the Casa or Studios North, you know that I have quite an array of easels, a collection of sorts from over the years of painting and teaching. My favorite go to easel for watercolor, plein air and demos, is the En Plein Air Pro Advanced Series. And  it’s not just my preference, many of the professional watercolor painters that teach at the Casa, such as Tom Lynch and Andy Evansen show up with their En Plein Air Pro easel and at PACE in San Francisco I noticed Keiko Tanabe, Michael Holter and Brienne Brown and others use them.
I just had the opportunity to take the Professional Series Oil with a glass palette for a test run in San Francisco and I am impressed. Love the large real estate for mixing colors, (9″ x 18.5″) the palette has a neutral grey color that has a value scale integrated under the glass, (can see this useful in many ways, aside from color mixing, but for demos and teaching as well). It also has 2 slide out side trays for the integrated turps jar and extra space for brushes, etc.
I often like to work a little larger outdoors and for demos than the typical 9″ x 12″ or 12″ x 16″, the mast on the Pro series will hold a vertical canvas or panel up to 22″. All in all a very sturdy construction that I suspect will be as durable as my watercolor easel, (ABS, a very strong and light thermoplastic and PVC), and with the glass palette option all fits in the included backpack and comes in at about 9.7 lbs. (with the strong PETG material palette, 8lbs.).
If you are in the market for a plein air easel, the En Plein Air Pro, is an excellent deal as a package that has many extras at a great price – and since I was demoing with them at PACE they are offering a 10% discount on all packages ordered from their online store before May 31, 2019.
En Plein Air Pro 1 85dpi
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Salt in the Air,(San Pancho)8x72dpi
Robert Masla, Salt in the Air, (plein air San Pancho), Cobra oil on 8" x 16" Fredrix all media canvas paint board.

This is an edit and update of June 27, 2014 post “Introduction to Plein Air Painting Practice”. I have since added 2 more P’s to my 3 P’s of success, (thanks to wisdom gleaned from my wife and daughter Narieka). None of these topics below are “rules”, simply suggestions to perhaps simplify the process and help target certain results, take what works for you. It all, (choices and process) is always dependent on your intention.

Preparation: The wise man said that the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step – so be prepared for the trip, create a check list and have it in front of you to avoid frustration for a day out painting in the field. Many times in a rush, (and I know I am not alone in this, I hear the stories frome seasoned professional friends), we run out the studio door to paint, arrive on location and find we left our brushes or solvent jar, or paper towels or needed bug spray… etc. in the studio, (see the earlier CasaBlog post mentioned above for detailed suggestions, scroll down the article to Plein Air Painting Day, Preparation Check List, use what applies and  – ignore the prices – it’s 5 years old!). When going out to paint don’t expect masterpieces, paint to explore, learn and have fun! There are no mistakes – only opportunities for learning and growth!

Practice: Anyone that can hold a pencil or brush in one of their limbs can learn to draw or paint. Like most skills it only takes what I have always told my kids are the 3 -now- 5 P’s; the first 3, Patience, Practice and Persistence. With these you can accomplish almost any goal and master any craft. As I often say to students who ask, “Don’t you think I am to old to start painting”, it is never to late to begin, Van Gogh only painted for 7 -8 years of his life. And there are many more examples. It is all about the passion you put into it, the skill will come later as you do it more and more. But more important than the skill is your own creative signature, which is unique to you.  And that also expresses itself the more you do it. There is no wrong way to do it, your way is the right way. Explore and experiment, learn from others and remember, there are no mistakes, only opportunities for change, learning and growth. The great neo classical painter, disciple of David, Ingre said, “The best way to learn to draw is to draw, the best way to learn to paint is to paint. That said, I encourage everyone to always carry a sketchbook and continually do little thumb nail gesture drawings that take anywhere from 30 sec. to 5 min. -If you do one a day, I guarantee you will notice a difference, not only in your drawing skills, but also in your observation. 1 to 5 minutes a day, not much, when your waiting at the dentist, or talking on the phone, sitting on the porch….

Graphite Wash Pencils: carry one with you, a sketchbook and a waterbrush – all you need for tonal painting studies. Do thumbnails and tonal studies, often. Some of these can later turn into paintings in the studio.

In the Rice Field, Ubud, Bali), graphite wash on paper, 5x7
Robert Masla, Rice Fields in Ubud, Bali, Graphite wash in sketchbook

Rules: -There are no rules, (exception is in the science aspect, i.e. fat over lean in oil paint) – there are only formulas for effects & principles that can often lead to somewhat predictable results.  Apply what works. The craft and skill can be learned thru the 3 P’s -what makes it Art is the Forth P, your Passion, which is fueled by your vision and individual creative expression/interpretation.

Process: We are not trying to produce masterpieces or create “photographs”, (unless that is your intention), we are learning to be, (and paint while we are “being”). Enjoy the process, being in nature, senses alive -What a Gift! The 5th P, which allows everything to happen – Give YourSelf Permission!

Intention and then Focal Point: This is the essence of all painting and critique – ask yourself what is your intention and goal of this particular in your art and in this painting? What attracted you to the subject, the light, the edges, the composition, the subject matter, the colors, the mood? Try to define it and then try and breath it into the painting. When you know intention, everything else follows, choice of media, composition, technique, color, focal point, etc.

Hint of Autumn 6 x 72dpi
Robert Masla, Hint of Fall, (plein air in Apple Valley, 3, 3 hour sessions) Cobra oil on Fredrix canvas.

Brushes: Start by trying to hold it far back from the ferrel, with a full but light grip, giving you some distance from the canvas, not like writing, where your hand is possibly even resting on the canvas. This immediately gives you more range of motion and room for expression, (takes some practice, as we are used to writing). We feel a little less control at first, perhaps a good thing, – less likely to jump into the details right away. Hold it at different positions and different angles to create different marks and effects. And if you can stand while you paint – even better.

Large to Small:  Start with large brushes and seeing the large shapes, grouping the shapes together by values, layout the whole image and composition this way before you ever get out the small brushes and go for the details with in those shapes -and –

Step Back: Often, (another reason to stand) – To see the whole composition, see how the different shapes in your composition work together – and also stretch your legs, neck and back, (this is harder to remember than one thinks – we get lost in the flow of painting)! Turn the painting upside down, take a photo with your phone, see it fresh, is the composition working? the values? color temperature? etc.

Balance in Warm and Cool Greys
Robert Masla, Balance in Warm and Cool Greys, value study demo at Puerto Vallarta Botanical Gardens, Rembrandt watercolor on 1/2 sheet Fabriano Artistico cold press paper.

Values: In representational painting understanding and seeing the values is what makes the image “convincing”. Observe and commit to an angle of incidence – the direction that light strikes the object(s) and realize that the shadows “turn the form”. Look for the large “value shapes” in your composition. – Color, line, edges, are more often expressive emotional tools, (but not always, as there are no rules, i.e. think atmosphere and color temperature). Do value studies and tonal paintings

Morning Walk 72dpiRobert Masla, Morning Walk, (Plein Air on Apple Valley), using a variation of an imprimatura technique with Rembrandt oils on 8" x 16" Fredrix all media paint board

Imprimatura: A transparent stain of color placed over a white support, is a great way to start a painting for a number of reasons. Like it’s historical roots in the origins of oil painting, (and before that in Fresco Painting), artist typically applied what has been called a Verdacio layer on top of a very detailed ink drawing on panel, (on wood panels before canvas was widely used or on a charcoal or chalk drawing on the walls in the case of fresco). The Verdacio is a greyish green color created from yellow ochre, black and white and painted in to define the various tonal values, (varying the black and white), to create a complete, detailed monochromatic under painting, of which transparent colors are then glazed on top of the verdacio. It is a great way to learn to paint and I always teach it in my class “Painting Techniques of the Masters, Underpainting to Ala Prima”. It affords the student to thoroughly explore the composition, drawing of the subject, learn measuring, correction of proportions, turning of form through values, as well as understanding progressive layering of colors, etc. without the burden of concern with the complexity of color. The technique of imprimatura which developed during the Renaissance along with many other changes in painting techniques,(i.e. each artist manipulated and created variations and adaptations to suit their own purposes further developing the variety of painting styles and approaches). It literally means “the first color”, and very quickly establishes the middle value for the artist so you can easily place the value relationships from the darkest darks and lightest lights, (for the highlights one can either remove color to the white of the ground or add white paint and ad thicker or darker paint for the darks). it also acts as a “mother” color and harmonizes the whole composition. It is semi transparent and allows light to bounce, creating a “glow”. Typically artists stain the canvas with earth colors, red browns, siennas or umbers, (such as Caravaggio or Rembrandt). At various times artist became partial to other colors such as the silvery greys of Titian and Rubens, or sometimes just lightly staining the canvas with their palette scrapings mixed with what  remained behind in the pot used for cleaning brushes with solvent or oil – the “mud”. Though the effect by itself is quite pleasing, and I often will leave works at this stage, typically successive layers of transparent and semitransparent color glazes and opaque paint, impastos & froties are layered on top.  Later this developed to some impressionists covering there canvas with a prominent compliment, i.e as for a large green field the stain underneath would be applied red, (the idea early on was you took care to not cover the imprimitura completely, always allowing it to show through in little places and through the final layers of paint, particularly in the middle to dark shadow areas), Monet sometimes stained his canvas yellow so the violets would vibrate. Imprimitura is a great way to establish a strong image in a short amount of time that can then be built upon at a later point should you desire to, either in the field or the studio. Many of these painting techniques that developed, such as underpainting, glazing and frotie, etc. were used alongside what is today the most common, (though certainly not new), plein air technique -alla prima – “all at once”, which is a direct wet on wet technique.

• Breath! – Have Fun and Relax – Permission!: -Most important things

Happy Painting!

 

Why – Art and Yoga for You! ?
V7 Kalya-TapasyaRobert Masla, "(Self Portrait) - Kalya Tapasya - The Transforming Power of Time", mixed media painting, 40" x 30"
“I am interested in art as a means of living a life; not as a means of making a living.” -Robert Henri
‎”When it is working, you completely go into another place, you’re tapping into things that are totally universal, completely beyond your ego and your own self. That’s what it’s all about.”
-Keith Haring
“Awareness of this fact: that all are one; that you are yourself one with the all, which is love, that you are encompassed with it, are a receiver and a dispenser of it, this is indeed “the greatest blessing,” the highest state of awareness, and may transcend and take the place of all other kinds because it includes them all. This is indeed Yoga; the very word means union-the uniting of the Great Self with the little, the individual soul with the universal spirit.”
– Claude Bragdon, Yoga for You, 1943
“He neither serves nor rules, he transmits. His position is humble and the beauty at the crown is not his own. He is merely a channel” – Paul Klee
For me Art is one of the many paths that can lead to authenticity of self and connection with the Universal. Like Yoga, it involves a certain mastery of self, of techniques, methods, discipline – then an ambandoning of control and a trust in the unseen, intuitive, in the creative energy and Creation. A balance in the process, because the process is the product. – You have to go in to get out and you have to go out to get in.
When I was about 14 or so, I read Hermann Hesse’s book Siddhartha and I thought, “I want to be like that”. I was not an avid reader at that age, it probably took me months to read it. I was much more interested in being in nature and my imagination, playing with my friends, sports, always romping through the fields and forests near our home, and drawing and painting, (I had been painting in the studio of my mentor Alton S. Tobey since I was about eleven). I already thought of myself, my path, as that of an artist – not knowing what that really was or meant, other than the incredible inspiration of creative exploration and craftsmanship that I saw in Tobey, my teacher.
Siddhartha stirred something in me, awakening excitement, questioning, self examination – suddenly the world was no longer flat -and never would be again. When I finished the book I was excited to share it and that evening handed it to my father and asked him to read the culminating chapter entitled OM (AUM). I had a deep respect and admiration for my fathers intellect, (and now – so many years later, a great appreciation for his innate wisdom) and wanted to hear his reaction to what had stirred me so deeply. The next morning I asked him what he thought of the chapter, he said he thought it was  “a very interesting book”, (I remember I was blown away that he had read it all that night, but having reread it a couple of years ago, I realize now it is quite short, just over a hundred pages). He said, “since you liked that so much, I have a book that I read in college I think you’ll find interesting”. He handed me a little, slightly weathered black book called “Yoga for You” by Claude Bragdon.
This little black book became my constant companion over the next couple of years, my guide book so to speak in the quest of spiritual truth. I carried it with me, read and reread it as I began to ask more questions, exploring the various world religions, mysticism, philosophy, etc. This was the early 1970’s, and the consciousness expansion of the 1960’s was still reverberating through society. My older brother Richard and I, (with some influence from oldest brother Douglas), also around this time began experimenting with consciousness altering substances, which seemed to only support and verify the experiences I was already having. We  shared together our explorations, discoveries and realizations, in the deep spiritual journey of life.
Up to that point I had been painting only in the representational, realist and surrealist idioms. Upon discovering the fluid and “uncontrolled” – expansive nature of watercolor something shifted, there was a different way of interacting with the medium. I had to, (as I always tell my students), “listen to the paint” more. It felt liberating to me, and outside of Tobey’s studio, I started to experiment in a manner of “Pollokian” action painting which seemed to mirror both the mind expanding-spiritual realizations, and the….
b GoingTowardTheOne copy
Robert Masla: Going Towards the One,watercolor on arches paper, 1974
… meditations and psychedelic experiences I was having.
Over the next decade or so, I had been told by some friends that my brother Richards’ and my life mirrored another Hermann Hesse book, “Narcissus and Goldman”. Richard traveled to India, (to date he has been there about 40 times to study Yoga and Ayurveda) and lived the next 12 years as a Yogi monk. I went on to further study art and then continue to live the life of an artist, which eventually, among other wonderful adventures, led to the creation, with my wife Monica, of Casa de los Artistas, my Studios South in Mexico and what has become an amazing retreat space for numerous adventurous souls looking to add depth, joy, learning and fun to their life experience. Though starting off on distinct paths, with plenty of preconceived ideas of what it all meant to be both “spiritual” and “artistic”, I feel that both Richard and I, through our life experiences, have become much more integrated in numerous ways, yet still share the initial impulse, to discover our Truth, that first set us on our journeys. I know through our conversations that he would agree with me when I say, whether art or yoga; the path, the practitioner and the goal are all one and the same – To be situated in loving awareness and to express that – moment to moment, in every aspect of life, thus participating in the creation in positive and beautiful ways. I feel very grateful that we are able to continue to share our journey together and have the opportunity to share our talents and experience together with others each first week of the New Year at the Casa with the workshop: “Connecting with the Creative Flow, Journey to Awaken Your Creative Self through Art and Soul – A Art and Yoga Retreat“.
“Being ‘spiritual’ simply means being willing to look into the nature of life, to ask questions and to wonder, and to listen. It also means seeing art everywhere.” –Quang Ho
“Yoga is a natural process, not a violent, spasmodic effort-not an act, but a course of action, involving the entire conduct of one’s life. It is a quiet and deliberate shift of attention from the world aspect to the world order, and the awakening a new form of perception, the intuitive, whereby the surface and depth are simultaneously apprehended…”
– Claude Bragdon, Yoga for You

 

Ruben at his crafts “store” in Boca
Rubens journey continues and Monica and I feel it has been an honor to help in some small way towards his well being. The reality is that it has taken many people – such as yourselves – literally a village – to do what has been needed to be done. Let me explain and give you a recap and an update.
For those of you new to this blog, Ruben whose occupation in Boca has been that of a craft merchant with a pallapa (thatched hut) stall on a path near the Casa for many years. He has become a friend of our family and Casa participants over the years, (Monica and the kids have often hung out with him at his stall, conversing, philosophizing, practicing Spanish – he is bilingual) and we always refer people to his stall for friendly conversation, (words of wisdom) and to buy Mexican crafts.
When it became known that Ruben needed heart valve surgery, we sent word out to the “Casa Family” – (that’s you), to raise funds – and the response was overwhelming. It makes me teary eyed knowing that the world is not the way the media would like us to believe, but rather, as our travels and experience has always attested, filled with the vast majority of individuals who are motivated by kindness, generosity and compassion.
The Saga:
After being placed on a list and waiting for about a year for the surgery, the operation was a success. But those of you that have been following know, there where then complications. Internal bleeding developed in his stomach, then when he began to recover from that, he caught pnuemonia. Being all the way in Guadellajarra complicated things further, he was feeling isolated and getting depressed – on a breathing tube to clear his lungs,( a catheter), and a feeding tube – he needed an advocate, someone to be their with him. Things looked shaky – being in Massachusetts we felt helpless.
Again, my heart chokes as I think of all that came together, the community of people. There had already been many friends and people that stepped forward: Chrisitna and Don from Casa Ventana, (on the hill), had gotten him to initial appointments in Guadalajara and would check in on him, nurse Michelle, from Canada, who lives part of the year right near Rubens house, had taken him to surgery and followed up when he had internal bleeding – then, a kind family that was visiting with another patient offered to look after him and co-ordinate with the hospital social worker in the intermittent time that no-one from Boca could be there. Karla from Boca Divers stepped forward and began to co-ordinate efforts. Carolina went back and forth and when she could not go, Lulu went, when Lordes couldn’t go, Jorge went, and his participation was instrumental in turning Ruben around. – All of this time was given freely, but there were many unexpected expenses, beyond the surgery, for travel, medicines, etc. His funds where depleting fast.
Pancho and Lupe organized a soccer tournament in Boca where part of the proceeds from entrance fees and profit from food and beer sales went to cover some of his expenses.
Turning a Corner:
Everybody’s efforts and Jorge’s continued encouragement seems to have given Ruben the determination he has needed to “turn the corner” as Cynthia from Posada Pacifica, (Sunday diners on their roof), put it. Ruben is back in Boca and Cynthia and Pierre have graciously given him a suite with their personalized care at the Posada. We spoke with Ruben a couple of days ago. He was sounding good, so grateful and thankful for everyones care, generosity and loving thoughts and prayers. Cynthia said Ruben has started to eat more solid foods, (those of you that have been here know she and Pierre are great cooks!) and he is slowly getting his strength back, walking a little more each day.
So you see, it really does “take a village”. And all of you through your kindness of thoughts and or generous donations – you are a part of this village – Thank You! !!
In writing this article, and the feelings that came up, I couldn’t help but think of a Casa Blog article I  wrote in December of 2012, “Give the Gift of Happiness”, you can revisit it from that link.
There are still expenses unpaid for Rubens care, (he needs to return to Guadalajara for a follow up, recovery, etc.). Cynthia has kindly offered to co-ordinate the collection and distribution of funds. If you are interested in contributing please send funds to Cynthia s’ paypal directly using her email on paypal:
captcynthia@icloud.com
In the paypal notes write: “For Ruben Borgus Recovery Fund
“What are Improvements”
Bocas new jetty, and bath house

View of the retaining wall/ramp and parking lot, Malecone, (complete with benches and palm trees), and bath house  

Looking at life and art, (I see them as intrinsicley linked), I find myself at different times asking, “What are improvements?”. If we look toward the dictionary for definitions of the word improve we find: “ORIGIN early 16th cent. (as emprowe or improwe): from Anglo-Norman French emprower (based on Old French prou ‘profit,’ ultimately from Latin prodest ‘is of advantage’); -owe was changed to -ove under the influence of prove. The original sense was ‘make a profit, increase the value of’; subsequently ‘make greater in amount or degree.’ And the word improvement coming from: “late Middle English emprowement (in the sense ‘profitable management or use; profit’), from Anglo-Norman French “.

Easy access stairs and ramp to the boats from the parking lot

So the idea of improvement, particularly in the west, has been, not always, but often, linked to that of profit, something that is quantitatively measured. And perhaps by focusing our lens narrowly just on profitability, we loose something in the realm of quality in the process. We can certainly see this through history and in our current affairs where the improvement of profit for a select few is at the expense of the quality of life of so many. We simply need to shift to a different lens of perception around improvement, (something that art often affords us; the ability to step back, gain perspective and think outside the box – or is it perhaps to see “The Whole Box” more clearly). As in art, it is all about intention. Our intention shapes and informs our process, (and product). To shift from profit consciousness to quality consciousness, (quality of life consciousness). In art (and life), this is focusing on the process not the product – the excitement and joy of doing and being, learning, growing, expanding, experimenting, discovering, creating, rejoicing – improving. In art, when we focus on product and profit the work runs the danger of stagnation, becoming shallow and eventually lacking the connection to life force that perhaps we experienced when we were originally creating. As an artist making a living from doing and being art, there is always that balance of continually striving to improve quality, (be in the process as described above) and at the same time, aware that you are creating a product, a “Brand” – that Galleries and collectors, etc. want to “Brand” you for marketing – profitability, (this subject in itself is deserving of a whole other essay).

In the world, this separation of intention, profit vs quality, though rampant throughout society in many forms, is easily apparent in the example of environmental degradation that we are currently a witness to, i.e.: While there are certainly technological advances that would improve the creation and delivery of clean, affordable energy that would benefit the environment and quality of life for all concerned, (as well as in the long term being quite profitable for all concerned), it is being for the most part ignored because it is viewed with the small, distorted lens of profit through greed of short term gain for a few.

So why do I bring all this up when sharing with you the few “minor improvements in Boca”. It has to do with our awareness of striking a balance. Although, with few exceptions, all major cultures have had their hand in colonization, (which boils down to the so-called “improvement” of “others” culture through the imposition of values, etc. of the colonizer, with the intention of profit), the greatest reach in global history falls to the relatively short history of the U.S. This is   perhaps due to technology playing a role as one of the major factors, (along with a generous portion of self serving belief in, white male supremacy,  Manifest Destiny and all that carries, etc., etc.). This is why, as a guest resident in a small fishing village in Mexico, we always encourage our guests to try to leave their cultural preferences and conditioning “at the door” so to speak, so that they can fully appreciate and benefit from a different world view and experience a fresh perspective, (this actually creates the ideal environment for a learning/workshop experience). One of the things that makes this easy is the warm and welcoming hospitality that is part of Mexican culture and is often easily felt in the Boca. We also take great consideration in contributing “improvements” to the village. What are all of our motives and the implications of our desires in consideration of our host community and their values as best we understand them. That is not to say that all our motives are altruistic, we are a business and therefor seek to make a profit, but we also see through the eyes of art. Art recognizes that all things are connected, that we are a part of nature, not separate from her and one global family – so we seek balance. Our kids remind us all to often how Mexican culture has seen the results and changes of colonization, with out benefiting largely from the advances of society sharing in the profits, (and this goes way back in history, not just the U.S but to the Spanish invasion as well).

Construction of the new ramp on the Boca foot bridge, organized by our friend and Casa architect Douglas.

So the building of a large Medical Clinic to a simple walkway, or smoothing of a jungle path or railings by an overhang or bridge, can’t just come from our desire to “improve” the conditions for the safety of ourselves, our guests, and residents, but must be met with a consensus from the locals that this is in fact in everyones’ best interest. Not just because we, the guest, thought it would be safer or even “look better” or whatever. Their society, (like ours), has been changing and shifting quickly under the influence of technology with the added edge, (and one could argue, damage), of the influence of cultural colonization. It is no wonder that some changes take time, people are leery of change, particularly from the outside, for good reason.


New railings on walkway
Many thanks go out to Casa workshop instructor and watercolor master
Lian Quan Zhen for his contribution to the construction projects for the safety of Boca residents and guests!
Join Lian when he returns to the Casa in 2020

One of the special attractions of Boca is that it is a quaint and simple fishing village, with a rural charm with rugged simplicity – a vital, traditional Mexican village with friendly welcoming residents. We hope and pray it doesn’t loose this unique niche in the world for many, many years to come. It not only privileges us of the opportunity to experience life at a different pace and perspective, but to hopefully bring that expanded world view home with us to share.

Awesome-with-Brahm-at-Kaaterskill-Falls-60x48-2Robert Masla, “Awesome, (with Brahm at Kaaterskill Falls)”, 60″x48″, Rembrandt oil on Fredrix linen canvas

The following is the Artists’ Statement from the Exhibition: “Robert Masla – Around the Corner & Beyond” opening with a reception for the artist at the R. Michelson Galleries, Northampton, MA. December 8, 2017 from 6 -8pm. You can preview the exhibition on the galleries website through that link.

“Seeing the Beauty” was the title of my last exhibition here at the R. Michelson Galleries. The declaration and supplication is perhaps even more important today than ever before. During these “interesting times”, it is easy to see only the darkness, the ugliness and lies, corruption and selfishness that spout at us through the media, through twitter. It is easy to say that there is “a fading light” from our feeble attempt at a Democracy. If a light ever existed, it was in words, ideas and the hearts of people. Certainly this country has enshrined in words, noble ideas and ideals that all civilized and humane persons would honor. But let us not fool ourselves, (or be fooled by those that would con us, again and again), though perhaps one of the most advanced in concept, our country has rarely lived up to those words and ideals in action. Founded on enslavement and the Native American genocide, (and continued through invasions, assassinations, coercions, coups, lies, more war, more genocide…, our nations history is a liturgy of shameful actions), the leaders of this great nation have continually placed profit before people, doing so at every opportunity. Yet, I see from watching natures rhythm… with every setting sun, there is a new day, with each fading light, a new dawn. I am forever the optimist, because I believe in the Beauty of the human spirit.

Let me explain:

Progressively for more than 2 thousand years and particular at this point in history, humankind in general has become increasingly separated from the natural world. This is not simply an evolutionary development, the result of “taming of a harsh environment”, but a design created by the continued influence and abuse of a male dominated , society. Rather than progressing towards “civilization”, humanity continues to cultivate it’s less than civilized traits, through a design that has sought to separate humans from our natural environment, -ultimately from ourselves. A design to separate us from our connection to our Mother Earth and one another.   This is because in creating this illusion of separation, (because we can never actually be separated from nature, -from ourselves), we fall under the illusion that we can be independent of IT – our very Self. and we seek satisfaction in a myriad of illusions funneled to us in an artificial consumer society. More importantly, with the illusion of separation driven by male dominance permeating our consciousness, humans can more easily choose to subjugate, abuse and exploit ”the other” – humans, animals, the environment, nature as a whole. This is the manifestation of globalized colonization, the hegemony of “white male values” to the far reaches of the planet. Monica and I experienced this in our recent travels to Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. The  qualities and behavior we end up developing in this society separated from it’s connection to nature are ones of predatory antagonism, bullying, selfishness, prejudice, racism, sexism, actions diminished in compassion and self awareness and inflated with a sense of privilege, self-importance, deception and conceit. Our current so-called leaders embody these negative qualities, and even wear them proudly, (certainly not great role models for children or society) and they are bold enough, (or greedy and ignorant enough) to declare that our actions as individuals and as a world community, do not have an impact on our environment. They continuously act in such a way as to place profit before the endangerment of the earths delicate balance and the survival of future generations.

Those controlling the flow of finance and resources, holding power and greed above human decency, creating and profiting from the wars and the gulf of ever widening separation between haves and have nots, are also responsible for the continued rape of the earth and its resources. They continue, through the ever tightening grasp and control on media and information to weave the web of illusions of separateness, of “Us” & “Them” the dream that “Our Self”  is separate from “Nature”. But there is an awakening slowly happening. -We must realize we are asleep in order to wake up. I believe everyone seeks Beauty, but they have forgotten how to see, (I believe this is the power and role of art – to SEE). I do not believe the majority of people are greedy, that is not my experience in traveling the world. In fact, the words that resound in me from the people we met in our recent travels, areas devastated by wars and violence, are “resilience”, “kindness”, “forgiveness”. The Rabbi that married Monica and I, Reb. Carlbach said to us, “When you see a spark of light in someone, you should fan it into a flame”. I believe in the Beauty of the human spirit. There is kindness and Beauty that exists in every human being, certainly there is cruelty and ugliness in each as well, but if we focus on the beauty, we help draw the beauty out.

I believe my role painting the landscape serves as a bridge to reconnect individuals and in a broader sense, society, to Beauty and our endangered landscape. I wish to draw attention to the Beauty that surrounds us, and flows through us and to identify our place and interdependence in nature, to communicate and find balance.

Throughout my career as an artist, I have worked in many styles and genres in my continued exploration of creativity. During these many years I have always been drawn back to painting the landscape, and find it particularly gratifying to do so “en plein air”, painting while immersed in nature. From my first plein air landscape with my mentor at around age 12 I felt an affirmation of an already experienced connection to nature. I see my painting as a spiritual practice, not in any religious dogmatic sense, but my sense of spirituality is a sense of connectedness. To feel my presence as a part of nature, as both a witness and a participant in creation as it unfolds. For me, painting outdoors is a meditation, an opportunity to be in nature with focused and expanded awareness. I often experience a sense of expansion and awe, a humbling and an ecstatic joy. In many of my landscape paintings I represent this feeling by pitting the finite against the infinite expanse. My painting is a celebration of life energy, connection and the beauty of creation. If I am successful, I am able to convey this to those that experience my artwork. – That satisfaction we all seek, real happiness comes when we contact Beauty. The place within where we are connected to Nature, to each-other, to our Selves. It is here & now, right in front of us, Around the Corner & Beyond.

 

Salt in the Air,(San Pancho)8x72dpi

Masla, Salt in the Air, Cobra water mixable oil on Fredrix all media paint board, 8″ x 16″

The post for this issue has to do with Critique and Criticism… and how to tell the difference in these voices, as well as an added spiritual perspective. Being a full time artist for 40 years and art instructor for nearly as long, (not to mention the 12 years running the Casa and experiencing a large variety of guest artist facilitators and their methods), I have over the years run into and contemplated the subject repeatedly. The article is excerpted from 2 sources, talks I have had with my colleagues and students and a letter/text, (slightly edited) sent to my kids when they where in creative crisis. It applies, not just to all creative endeavors, regardless of your media or practice, but to life in general. The letter was originally shared with our son Brahm, a jazz drummer, during his first semester at University, but was equally important for our daughters Narieka and Aiyana, (dancers/performers/teachers), in there lives. I hope you find it helpful and enlightening. Part 2, The Letter, is perhaps not relevant for everyone, realize that it is within a personal context and I share it as I think it will perhaps ring true for some. As I have said in art as in life, intention, love and actions are always my barometer, take what is helpful, (and opens your heart), and leave the rest behind. Please send us your feed back if you like.
Due to the vast confusion/blending of these terms and the often negative associations attributed to the word critique I have often preferred to use the word sharing. Someone wants to share with me there work and process, and I in turn share my reaction formed from my experience and insight, hopefully it is helpful. Here in lies some key words. Throughout our lives, many of us have experienced feed back that is less than helpful, whether it is presented as a harsh “reality” that “destroys our motivation” or is obsequiously kind to the point of our disbelief and disillusion. And worse is when we levy such “critiques” on ourselves, for these are not really critiques, but internal criticism (as I will explain). These criticisms, which have accumulated since childhood, by even persons with loving intentions, form voices in our heads. As we grow older, we often identify with these voices, not realizing the origin of the various voices, we often limit ourselves by them. They become blocks on our creativity, courage, exploration and self confidence and ultimately our sense of self-worth and identity.

A few typical example of common early childhood criticisms might be: “Bobby, try and color within the lines”, (reel it in, conform) or ” The sky is not green – it is blue”, (don’t be expressive, curb your imagination). I remember a music teacher in our “choir class”, coming up to me and whispering in my ear, “Bobby, just mouth the words, you really don’t have a voice” (- wow, no voice, that’s deep). And it is not just within the realm of the arts. Out of concern parents often say, (I know I have), “Don’t run to fast, you’ll fall and hurt yourself”, (don’t trust your own body sense). As children we have all experienced a variety of these, (perhaps you can identify some of your voices, I do a drawing exercise with students to identify some of the voices blocking creativity). As a parent, I cringe at the thought of the ways I have perpetuated this on my children, but it is all grist for the mill.The underlying message that these accumulated voices give us, and are often reinforced by the structures of our society, can be paralyzing if not underscored with a supportive loving environment and/or strong internal constitution. The message is not just “Don’t step outside the box”, but “being creative, expressing yourself – being yourself – is wrong, is even dangerous!”

It is no wonder that when I had entered my kids class when they where in preschool and asked “who here can draw?” every hand went up. But when I address a group of adults, perhaps 1 or 2 in 20 will affirm it. I often hear, I can’t draw, I have no talent, I can’t even draw a stick figure. My response is, “Thank god talent and stick figures really have very little to do with drawing” and “if you can sign your name I can teach you to draw.”
A defining difference between critique and criticism is understanding the premise from which the critique must unfold. For a number of years now when asked to critique someones work I first ask a question, which is the premise: What is your Intention. If I do not know your intention, it is impossible for me to evaluate your work or process. It is not my business to judge your intention, is it “good or bad”, “right or wrong” – It is yours, and if you claim it, it is always right. I have my own personal preferences and those should be put aside in regards to your intention, (and shared if you are interested, in terms of critique). To define our intention as artists is not always easy and may take some time and certainly some thought. As artists we must ask ourselves, what do we feel and what do we wish to communicate with this piece, (or with our art in general). Will it be intentional, perhaps with a subject and a narrative, or will it be abstract or even amorphous? Will it be clearly defined or ambiguous? Is it symbolic, with intellectual interpretation as well? What attracted you to this subject, what is it’s raison d’etre, (reason for being). Does it have an intention or is the intention to be discovered in the process of creation, or is the process of creation it’s own intention?
Again, If you do not know at least some of your intention, it is impossible to evaluate your work.

For example: If your intention is to create a photo realistic depiction of something you are observing in nature, that takes a whole skill set and use of craft, (dissolving all brush strokes and “the hand of the artist”, perhaps with a fan brush or other tool or technique), etc. This is very different than say if you wanted to create an expressive painting or abstract painting of the same observed phenomenon. If your intention is to create something that is flat and decorative, it is a different evaluation than if you wanted to create a naturalistic three dimensional feel. Neither is right or wrong, just different intentions and when you understand the intention, than you can evaluate, without a value judgement, whether the work achieves the desired effect or what elements need to be
developed, skills and techniques mastered and practiced, formulas studied, etc to achieve the desired result. – It is not an evaluation of your worth as an artist or a human being – simply an evaluation of what is between you and your desired intention. Therefore there is really no such thing as a “failed painting”, but rather a painting that did not reach your intention, – but with insight it will reveal to you simply an opportunity for change, learning and growth.  Not failures, but gifts, revealing insights, each piece being a stepping stone in the process of creating your intention. Art, creativity, is always a process, it is never “finished”, (till we say so) – it is only a product when we market it or sell it, and that can be it’s own intention, and is unfortunately often governed with a whole different criteria.
The Letter:
Dear Brahmaji
Remember : What is important is to feel good, to feel your groove, to be in the Passion, the Flow and the Love – The Flow of Music – of your Art.

Technique is simply craft that comes from Practice, Patience & Persistence – Music – Art – comes from your soul – the Place of Love, the place of Connection – Your Passion.

Don’t listen to the rational mind of duality – us and them, good and bad, right and wrong – judgement & criticism – it is all false ego, creativity exists beyond boundaries.

Criticism and Critique are very different. Criticism and Self criticism is the ego and mind grasping not to die when you are merging with the ONE. Trying to sneak in the back door. Critique, Real Critique – is an evaluation – WITHOUT JUDGEMENT – of what needs to be done to achieve a particular goal – to reach your intention, don’t get confused.

A Real Teacher gives critique with love and support, without a value judgement or ego – under-standing to the TRUTH to support learning, growth & change. – A false teacher tries to tear down creativity – pretending to critique – critique is not, nor is ever, a judgement of your value as a human being, artist or musician – it is an assessment of what needs to be practiced or learned for change and growth, to move towards your intention – and nothing more – critique is not, nor should ever be criticism.

The Spiritual – Art – is connecting to the place within – Beyond Duality – In The Pocket – In The Groove – making all the connections – Feeling Connected. Listen to the beat, Follow the Rhythm – Follow Your Breath – The Flow of the brush, The Mantra- etc. Into your heART where you are The Music. There are many names humans use for the Oneness of Connection that Pervades All Things. – Brahman, The Spirit, the Tao,  Wakan Tanka, The Great Mystery, Elohim, Energy, Cosmos, Krsna – the All Attractive Reservoir of Pleasure, etc. etc. – It is in each and everyone of us – is our Essence. I, nor anyone else, has a monopoly on this name, experience or concept and hopefully you and each person discovers our own unique relationship and way of being that comes from connecting. The idea that we are separate from the creation, (“creator” and creative process) is a fabrication of our minds. How can we be separate from what we are. Use the Music to connect to that place within where you are – and be The One – The Light that shines and connects with all of the infinite Sparks of the Universe creating the Blazing Light of Brahman – more powerful than 10,000 Suns.
You are the Light, the Music – you are Art, even in the present -Wabi-sabi – perfect as you are in the Now – and nothing can diminish that. Art is Process – Not Product, (until it is marketed and sold). We are all coming into being in the Eternal Present.
Just breath deep, follow the Inner Rhythm & BE. – Love AllWays

On Wabi Sabi
I was first introduced to this concept back in undergraduate school at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts when studying calligraphy and watercolor with master Japanese painter Kaji Aso. In it’s simplest form I interpret it as the perfection within imperfection, but it is an aesthetic that has deep roots in Japanese philosophy.
Wikopedia: In traditional Japanese aesthetics, Wabi-sabi () is a world view centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection.[2] The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete”.