Saturday, March 14, 2009

Zen and the art of painting

One of the things I like most about studying with Tony Ryder is his emphasis on painting each stroke with intention and full focus. In our poster studies, we were encouraged to ask ourselves what is the value, hue and intensity for each brush stroke. Each stroke makes it's own statement. This carefulness is carried over into all of our assignments.

Each day begins with getting our palette ready. We check to see if we need to add any paint and if not to use our palette knife to make sure the paint is smooth and usable. Palettes are stored in the freezer overnight and this helps save our paint keeping most colors ready to go the next day. These simple procedures have a meditative quality. As we check our paints our energy transitions to painting.

Once the pose begins with the model a quiet settles over the room. For the next twenty minutes all attention is on the  model with an unhurried sense of capturing the pose. If someone comes in late his/her rush and organizing of materials is definitely an intrusion and slowly all fourteen of us are learning to make sure we are on time and to become considerate of the others. No music plays and if one wants music they listen with earphones.

When Tony demonstrates he talks about focus and intent and demonstrates how a single line or stroke changes the painting.

I am loving this carefulness. Maybe some will say it lacks spontaneity. That is not a problem for me, at least right now. I am learning the appropriate fundamental's of this approach, and seeing progress in this first month as I learn to train my eye and see the shapes and light patterns. There is a peacefulness as I work and Tony has talked about our ability to create best when our minds are open to look clearly and calmly at each shape and interpret it.

While I have done figure drawing before I have never done a portrait so this is a wonderful challenge for me. The picture at the top is a work-in-progress. We began by first doing a poster study focusing only on color, then a charcoal drawing on canvas followed by an ink-in. An ink-in means using an earth tone color with plenty of solvent so that it dries quickly. Then we did a wash of the portrait again using the oil with lots of solvent so that it acts much like watercolor. (That's the stage of the portrait at the top of the page.) This coming week we will start the final painting and have two weeks to complete it.

Check out this link to a blog on Tony's current classes

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Economics 101

There are two ways to look at macroeconomics, one called Keynesian (government spending to prop up the economy) and one most recently related to Milton Friedman (monetary policy as the best way to manipulate the economy). From an accounting perspective, both yield the same answer (GNP), but they diverge in how each leads to its result.

Keynesians view GNP as the equation of the sum of income (what consumers earn for consumption, C, and what they save, S) and what the government earns in taxes (T). This side equates with expenditures, what consumers spend for consumer goods (about 70 percent of the total), private investment (I) and government expenditures (G).

The formula, C+S+T=C+I+G, symbolizes the basic model — the left side is income, the right side is expenditure. In today’s economic scenario, consumer expenditure (C) and private investment (I) have slumped to depression levels. The only salvation under the Keynesian model is for G, government expenditures, to make up the difference. The gap in the last quarter was over 6 percent, a reduction in C and I expenditures.

C and I are about 80 percent of GNP. They are so large that increasing G must be so massive to bring GNP back to equilibrium. GNP should be about $15 trillion. The 6 percent reduction would require about $1 trillion in immediate increase in G, and possibly a continuation for one or two years.

Monetary theory also has a formula for national income: M, the money supply and V, the velocity of turnover. GNP equivalent to the Keynesian would be M times V.

In our current circumstance, V has been slowed because it is the banking system that controls it. The Bush administration operated from the perspective of “juicing” the banks, getting them to lend funds so the economic system would regain its foundation and money would flow from buyers to producers to workers in an endless cycle. Nothing wrong with the thinking, it just did not happen.

Now, there is another measure of GNP I will call micro/macro. National income is the sum of all quantities bought (Q) times their price (P). In order to clear markets (Q), P must be such that there is enough money (MV). If the money supply is curtailed by a slow down in V, P must fall, a deflation — something to be avoided at all costs — it is a psychological killer.

Conclusion. If you are a Keynesian, increasing G is your chosen route. The amounts would have to be so substantial as to be impossible to comprehend.

If you are a monetarist, finding a way to increase either M (printing press) or V (getting the banks to lend) is your answer. Our first attempt was to increase V (lending by banks). It was a failure. Printing money is a possibility, but very dangerous.

The long run solution is that liquidity must be restored, that government deficits cannot be maintained at the trillion-dollar level. The real need is to restore confidence in the money supply and those who run it, the banks and the Fed.

Steamboat Springs Today March 11, 2009