Category Archives: Can you see what I hear?

MY WILD, PRODUCTIVE AND CREATIVE WEEK WITHOUT SOCIAL MEDIA

Our internet kept getting slower and slower, and then POOF – it was gone! We were told it would be repaired in five days – FIVE DAYS!!! My first thought was I have so much to do in the next few days. Then I reframed it and decided to see what I COULD do with no distractions. It was such an amazing experience that I pushed on through and did it for a total week.

First, let me say – I rarely use my phone for social media. I was determined to keep this practice in place. 

The time had come for me to do without social media at a moments notice. I discovered I felt more present and productive than I have in – well, I don’t know how long!

What did I accomplish?

  • I hand wrote an outline for three upcoming blogs (of course, this is the first one) and I outlined an upcoming newsletter. (My handwriting stinks!)
  • I organized my music. If you aren’t familiar with my work, I am currently working on a series called DO YOU SEE WHAT I HEAR? Every piece of art I create is based on a song that I also learn to play. I had pieces of music all over the place. I began putting them into one binder – and then I sat down and played.
  • I walked 46 miles. I am a walker, but usually walking around 30 miles a week. Before you start thinking I was just wandering around, know I am a big believer in the connection between walking and creativity. I actually wrote a blog about this that you can see here.
  • I FINISHED 18 PAINTINGS!!!!! AND – on the eighth day, I finished 4 more!
  • I had been playing around with making my series into a quest. I decided to go for it – I’m going to create a piece of art for a song that begins with every letter of the alphabet. But, I’m going one step further in this quest, I vow to write a blog about each and every song individually. This gives me the opportunity to explain the symbolism I use in the pieces and also share some amazing stories about the song itself.  And, I’m going to learn to record playing them as I go.

I would call this a pretty productive week, wouldn’t you?

When the internet was restored, I looked up some statistics and it is staggering how it is taking over our lives.

In the US, 79% people check Facebook within 15 minutes of waking up, and most check it 14 times a day. In 2020, the US spent 1300 hours on social media.

I know social media helps us stay connected – which is rewarding. But there are drawbacks. It is so easy to get addicted to other people’s agendas. 

While using it in moderation doesn’t cause significant issues. But, addiction does happen.  In fact, I found a piece of research that for many checking social media is harder to resist than cigarettes and alcohol.  What causes this?

  • It’s so easy to access.
  • It provides instant gratification. 
  • The Fear of Missing Out (FOMO).
  • There is a tendency for some to compare themselves to others.
  • Studies are showing the more frequently you visit social media networking sites, the more socially isolated you may feel.

Having balance in our lives is critical, and the time spent on social media should become part of that balance. Use social media time carefully. Realize what you are seeing is curated and edited many times – it is often not the real world. AND, NEVER compare yourself to others. 

I will continue to use social media, but I decided I want to continue living my wild and wonderful life on my own terms. Not on the terms of the ” pretend world” that social media creates.

“What do you think? 

Take a minute to follow my blog. That way you can see my quest develop over the remainder of the year. Also, it gives you a chance to follow another quest of mine – reading a book by an author from each state.  Up next? Iowa and Bill Bryson.

Taking a last look at my paintings before having them photographed

WHEN BEETHOVEN SHOWED UP IN MY ART

If I were going to a deserted island, I would definitely take Beethoven with me. (You can read my blog HOW A WALK AND A PODCAST MADE ME GET SERIOUS ABOUT MY ART here.) During the past year I spent time learning to play both Fur Elise and Moonlight Sonata, so it makes sense these pieces would find their way into my artwork!

Moonlight Sonata, ©vickiemartin2020, mixed media on canvas 30×30

The inspiration for MOONLIGHT FOR ELISE is from both The Moonlight Sonata and Fur Elise. While Fur Elise is not the hardest piece of music piece of music to play, it is hard to play it well. I listened to the pianist Lang-Lang discuss Fur Elise and simply said it should be played “as light as a feather”, a statement that I think of every time I sit down to play it.

Interesting, Fur Elise was not published until 1867, forty years after Beethoven’s death in 1827!! It was written in 1810 and apparently shoved into a drawer (without the nickname Fur Elise on it!). He revised it in 1827 and put it back in the drawer where it stayed until 1867, discovered by a musicologist. No one knows who is was written for, Beethoven was NOT lucky in love! There have been so many variations of this piece of music, if you look on YOUTUBE, you can find a blues version, a ragtime version and a classical guitar version. It has been referred as a “little trifle” that became a classic.

The top painting was inspired by The Moonlight Sonata. Beethoven once complained to fellow pianist Czerny (and student) “Everybody is always talking about the C-sharp minor Sonata! (Moonlight Sonata) Surely I have written better things. There is the Sonata in F-sharp major—that is something very different.”

It is interesting to note Beethoven was already loosing his hearing when he wrote The Moonlight Sonata. The name was not given to the piece by Beethoven, but rather the1830s German music critic and romantic poet named Ludwig Reilstab was the first to describe the piece as relating to moonlight. He referred to the sonata as “a boat visiting, by moonlight, the primitive landscapes … in Switzerland”.

Below are two collages based on the songs. Note the feathers in the ones inspired by Fur Elise (inspired by Lang-Lang’s description).

Fur Elise, ©vickiemartin2021, 6×6 collage on a 10×10 board

Moonlight Sonata, ©vickiemartin2021, 6×6 collage on 10×10 board.

The above piece integrates my own music into the collage. The vertical pieces are inspired by – from left to right, the octave in the bass, then moving to the right, there are two sets of three vertical pieces that symbolize the broken chords that make up the theme of Moonlight Sonata.

One last interesting fact about Beethoven is there is no proof that he ever met Mozart. But, both Beethoven and Mozart studied under Haydn.

Also, Beethoven played with so much passion and was so intense, he often broke the strings of the pianos in performances. Pianos back then were no where near as resilient as they are today, the cast iron frame commonly used in pianos wasn’t developed until after Beethoven’s death.

Do you have a favorite piece of music you couldn’t live without?

COAT OF MANY COLORS

What does “CAN YOU SEE WHAT I HEAR” mean? While exploring the connection of music and memory (as you never lose your music memory). All of the art I create is inspired by a particular piece of music. As I spend time listening to the music and researching the song,  I go one step further, l learn to play them on the piano. So, basically this series is the visual part of what I actually hear. But, to go further into this, I have picked eight songs that I would take with me to a deserted island which is inspired by a podcast I have been listening to while walking. I explored this a previous blog – HOW A WALK AND PODCAST MOVED ME TO GET PERSONAL WITH MY ART.

The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain!” Dolly Parton

 Who doesn’t love Dolly? I began a relationship with her in the late 1970’s, seeing her perform for the first time in 1978 or 1979.  Dolly has written over 5000 songs in her career, and recorded over 1000. And – COAT OF MANY COLORS is Dolly’s personal favorite.  The song tells the story of her mother making a coat for her out of rags. Dolly was proud of it and rushed to school to only be made fun of. (I will post the lyrics at the end of the blog).

Below are three collages 

 

The Love from the Coat of Many Colors, 6×6 collage on 10×10 board ©vickiemartin 2021

Patchwork Coat, 6×6 collage using hand dyed paper (on 10×10 board ©vickiemartin 2021

Coat of Many Colors

Coat of Many Colors, collage, 6×6 on 10×10 background, ©vickiemartin2021

One of the reasons these collages became so personal to me is the dress patterns used are from actual coat patterns from my childhood that my mother made for me – sort of paralleling the story Dolly tells. The thread and the buttons that appear were also in my mother’s sewing supplies. See, my mother made all of my clothes while I was growing up.  Also, all the colored paper used in the collages were scraps of paper I hand dyed.

I also created two paintings. 

COAT OF MANY COLORS, 18×24 mixed media on canvas, ©vickiemartin 2020

I think of this painting as being 60+ individual paintings – I worked on each square individually, sanded them down, added threads and put a very thin wash over the coat to make the material look a little aged.

Coat of Many Colors Grid, 12×12 mixed media on canvas ©vickiemartin 2021

This painting is a study, or a meditation,  of color. Each horizontal row was begun using a “root” color, and I continued by adding a different color to each block in the row. For example, on the top row I began with Napthol Crimson, the next block is adding Titanium White to the crimson, the next is adding Mars Black to crimson. . The fourth block is Napthol Crimson with Turners Yellow. So, the song Coat of Many Colors inspired me to really look at color theory again!

Some fun facts to know about Dolly are:

  • I WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU is the highest grossing song written by a woman. It also reached the charts four separate times
  • She wrote JOLENE and I WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU at almost the same time
  • ROLLING STONE MAGAZINE named her the 30th Greatest Songwriter
  • She can’t read music
  • Beside playing the acoustic and electric guitar, she also plays the banjo, dulcimer, fiddle, autoharp, piano, saxophone and pan flute. She likes to refer to it as “playing at it”. You think she’d throw in the harmonica or ukulele too!
  • Her philanthropy is legendary – I’m not even going to begin to list them – too numerous to begin.
  • She has never riden the rides at Dollywood.

Next up is a tribute to another idol of mine (no, it isn’t David Bowie if you know me!) but Beethoven.

What songs would you take to a desert island?

Here are the lyrics to the chorus to COAT OF MANY COLORS and two verses:

My coat of many colors
That my momma made for me
Made only from rags
But I wore it so proudly
Although we had no money
I was rich as I could be
In my coat of many colors
My momma made for me
So with patches on my britches
And holes in both my shoes
In my coat of many colors
I hurried off to school
Just to find the others laughing
And making fun of me
In my coat of many colors
My momma made for me
 
But they didn’t understand it
And I tried to make them see
That one is only poor
Only if they choose to be
Now I know we had no money
But I was rich as I could be
In my coat of many colors
My momma made for me
Made just for me
 
 
What song would you take to a desert island?

 

HOW A WALK AND A PODCAST MOVED ME TO GET PERSONAL WITH MY ART

I have been exploring music and memory with my art for a couple of years with a series titled “CAN YOU SEE WHAT I HEAR?”.  This was initially inspired by my mother’s dementia, but the fact I come from a musical family had a part in this decision.  I know, you hear “my family is musical” a lot. But in my case, it is true. My grandfather was a piano tuner and had a music store. My father rebuilt pianos and my aunt taught piano for over 70 years (she probably taught half of North Georgia how to play the piano!). In fact, I began learning at age five.

Every piece I create is inspired by a specific song and I begin with writing the lyrics of the song on the first layer. I not only study the lyrics but I meditate on them, searching for visual cues within the lyrics.  I also learn to play each song on the piano and really study the structure of the music. But the choice of the songs was a little random. Yes, I took requests. Some songs were chosen simply because I already knew how to play it on the piano. Below you can see some of the songs chosen and the art it inspired – with a line given for why the song was chosen.

 

Inspired by the song Bridge Over Troubled Water

Inspired by the song Bridge Over Troubled Water, which should be the theme song for all caregivers out there.

Moon River

Inspired by Moon River, “this is my favorite song in the world” I was told. Plus – it is a fun song to play.

Inspired by Up UP and Aware

Inspired by Up Up and Away “It is such a positive song!”

While I enjoyed creating these pieces, there was something missing – ME!

When I say I started walking, I mean I started WALKING! Since March 29th, I have walked every day but one (migraine headache). Since the beginning of April, I have achieved my daily goal of 11,000 steps every day but two (again the migraine, and the first day after the time change – I miscalculated nightfall!). If I had walked a straight line going west from Atlanta, I would be looking Denver in my rear-view mirror.

The podcast that fueled these walks is DESERT ISLAND DISCS adapted from a radio show that has aired on the BBC since 1942. Each guest is seemingly whisked to a desert island taking only eight songs, one book (they are given the Bible and the Complete Works of Shakespeare), and one luxury item. The people interviewed range from Margaret Thatcher to Keith Richards to Tom Hanks to public servants in England. The reasons the songs are chosen are very thought provoking and often revealing.   Usually it is not because of they are their favorite songs, but because of a memory associated with the song. For instance, Keith Richards picked  Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Why? He said Vivaldi was the only composer Mozart respected (who I believe he referred to as the North Star), and if he was going to a desert island, he wanted four seasons. Paul McCartney and Yoko Ono picked the same John Lennon song (Beautiful Boy). What is the most requested song? Beethoven’s Ninth – Ode to Joy. What is the most popular song by The Beatles? Something. 

So, it got me to thinking, what songs would I take? This was not an easy decision. In fact, I  have thought about this for months. So I finally sat down and made a list and I am ready to commit to my eight songs. So, for the next 8 weeks I will share one of my “picks” with you, with the history and background of the song, and the process used in creating the art the song inspired. And I am going to “gulp” start recording my version of the songs on the piano.

As for the other choices, my luxury item would be a piano, with a bench filled with music. Actually, the piano is a very popular choice, but so is a machete (you have to build shelter), and an unlimited supply of wine. In fact, one person chose a bathtub with three faucets, one for cold water, one for hot, and one for wine.  The book I would choose? I think I would pick the largest art history book I could find!

A quick note in closing. It has been scientifically proven one NEVER loses their music memory. I have seen people in adult day care that are totally incommunicable sit up straight and belt out all the words of a song they recognize.

What songs would you choose?  and why?