The Secret Kingdom

The Art of Being Unstoppable

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I volunteer to teach art to a group of inner city kids in downtown Phoenix. As we sit at a table drawing pictures together, the kids often bombard me with questions: How old are you? Are you married? Do you have kids? Do you live in a house? What’s your favorite color?

I answer every single question… simply and honestly.

One afternoon, I noticed a young girl leafing through the copy of The Secret Kingdom that I had brought to class with me.

“You made all these pictures?” She asked.

“Yes.” I replied.

She looked at me very seriously and asked, “Do you ever get frustrated when you’re drawing?”

I knelt down so I was face to face with her when I answered:

“Yes, I do… but I don’t let that stop me.”

The Art of Doing and Not Listening

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“Portrait of Jeff Falk” by Michele Bledsoe

 

When it comes to painting, my favorite thing to do is sit in front of a blank canvas and just start drawing.

Stream of consciousness.

I don’t plan anything out.

I don’t make preliminary sketches.

I don’t use reference material.

I let the drawing take me where it wants to go.

 

Many artists have told me that portraits are hard.

They tell me it’s difficult to get a likeness..

I don’t listen.

That is why I can paint portraits

and capture a likeness.

I never stop to think whether or not I can or can’t..

I just do.

Such is life.

 

 

 

Zombies, Inside Jokes and the Art of Naming Paintings

 

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“Clear” by Michele Bledsoe

Richard Bledsoe, my husband and co-author of The Secret Kingdom, does a lot of writing on the subject of art and culture.  Apart from containing major spoilers on the first 3 seasons of the series, his article “Clear: Artist Symbolism of The Walking Dead” also includes a peek into my creative process…

“My wife and I are both painters. Because art is such a priority for us we’ve converted the front room of our house into our art studio. We spend many happy hours there, working back to back, her sitting at her easel, me standing at mine. We play music and talk and laugh a lot; we’ve found interacting with each other while we work does not break our concentration on our art. It’s a very creative environment.

Our methods of making paintings are very different. I work from visions—my imagery comes from fully formed pictures that suddenly appear in my mind, usually with a title attached. My wife Michele Bledsoe on the other hand generates her subject matter using a stream-of-consciousness approach. She just starts painting and lets and the forms arise spontaneously.

Since Michele’s pictures come from a more intuitive process, they usually don’t suggest a specific title. What we often end up doing is naming her paintings after whatever we are experiencing in our lives while she is creating them. Her paintings have been named after oblique references to song lyrics we’ve been listening to, or quotes from movies or books we’ve been obsessing over, or private jokes we share. It’s part of our secret language as a couple, and also documents the moments in time that the painting happened in.”

 

Peculiar Tales of Lemon Bee and Finding Lost Stuff

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After The Secret Kingdom, I immediately started working on the illustrations for Lemon Bee and Other Peculiar Tales by author, Patricia Lynn Dompieri. Naturally, I did the painting for the cover sitting at my beloved easel.. but, I must confess, I did all the interior illustrations sitting on the couch drawing pictures while I watched old horror movies.

I sure do love Vincent Price.

Patricia is my sister, and “Lemon Bee” is a story she first wrote when she was just a little girl.

Years ago, Lemon Bee made a cameo appearance in my painting “Lost and Found Again”… along with my sister Sherry’s lost doll, my sister Julie’s little house and my dog Gunther’s missing leg.

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Nothing is truly lost as long as it lives within you. As an artist, it is an amazing gift to have a way to let it out again.

Minutes to Hours

“A group of artists present their visions of life lived in the glare of TV.”

Richard Bledsoe, curator of Under Television Skies

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I am one of the many artists participating in the upcoming art exhibit, “Under Television Skies“.

My painting “Minutes to Hours” (above) is still a work in progress..

Last weekend, Richard and I were at First Studio installing the show, so I was fortunate enough to get a sneak peak at the exhibit. I probably wasn’t as useful as I should have been, but I simply could not stop staring at the art.

What a beautifully cohesive show.  The overall effect is impressive: TV inspired art exhibited inside a TV studio. It was truly amazing to see how intensely this group of talented artists embraced the theme – and in doing so, have revealed something uniquely personal and intimate about themselves. It took my breath away.  “Under Television Skies” is a testament to how art can speak without words. Each individual piece tells a story… and gives you a peek into the very heart of the artist who created it.

This is the power of art.

 

UNDER TELEVISION SKIES

FIRST STUDIO / 631 N 1st Ave. Phoenix, AZ 85003

Opening Reception: Friday, Dec. 5, 2014, 6-10pm

Third Friday: Dec. 19, 2014, 6-10pm

Closing Reception: Jan. 16, 2015, 6-10pm

Starting at 7pm “Don’t Touch That Dial” Spoken Word Performance

 

 

For Children of All Ages..

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My sister is a Hospice nurse. Several months ago, she gave her copy of The Secret Kingdom to one of her patients: a 90-year-old man who loves poetry.

She tells me that this gentleman reads The Secret Kingdom every night before he goes to bed, and often has her read the entire book aloud to him during her visits. He shares The Secret Kingdom with everyone he knows – from family members to the CNA who comes to help him bathe.

When my sister told me this, I was practically speechless…

When she showed me this picture, I was moved to tears.

Truly, art is for everyone, and The Secret Kingdom is a place that welcomes children of all ages.

The Wolf in the Story

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I call this painting “Lupus in Fabula”.

It is Latin for “The wolf in the story” – meaning “speak of the wolf, and he will come”.

One of my earliest memories was a dream I had as a child.

I was always drawing when I was little. More than anything, I loved to make pictures – all I wanted was to draw well. Even at that early age, I understood that the drawings I made did not look like the things I wanted to draw – the things I saw in my mind. There was some kind of disconnect between my hand and my imagination. How could I close the gap? I remember looking at a reindeer I made – lopsided circle for a body, sticks for legs and something that looked like TV antennas on top of its head. That didn’t look anything like the animal I saw in my imagination.

Then one night, I had a dream.

I was sitting at a table in front of a blank piece of paper. Someone behind me guided my hand as I drew the head of a wolf. They spoke to me in a calm, reassuring voice “It’s easy… you see?” And it was. The wolf looked like a wolf – not a lopsided circle with dark holes for eyes… it had a snout, fur and pointed ears. It was a wolf.

I woke up, grabbed a pencil and paper – and I drew a wolf.

Just like that.

In The Secret Kingdom, I think it’s fitting that the poem I wrote for “Lupus in Fabula” came to me while I was asleep.

I must have been dreaming of wolves again.

 

 

Mr. Crazy’s Lament

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My dog Gunther was my constant companion for 11 1/2 years. I first held him in my hands when he was a week old. Dalmatians do not have spots when they’re born – so he looked like a chubby white rat. Gunther was my beloved child.

Like most dogs, Gunther had many nicknames. Gumpy, Lumpy, Dog-head, Goonar, the seal-dog… and of course, Mr. Crazy. Mr. Crazy was what I called him when he was exceptionally happy – which was very often. He would burst into a room, flinging toys.. tongue flapping and wagging his tail like a propeller. Watching him prance and leap around the house filled me with joy.

I call this painting “Mr. Crazy’s Lament”

It was what I was working on while making the decision to put Gunther down.

It was the first time a blackberry appeared in my paintings… since then, there have been many others.

I remember sitting on a stool in the kitchen.. deep in thought. My sister came in – she had brought me blackberries. So I sat there at the table – eating blackberries and petting my beloved Gunther.

I held one of the berries in the palm of my hand. It was so delicate and fragile. This dark and beautiful object tasted so sweet.

I put it in my mouth – just for a moment

and then it was gone.

If I Can Do it – So Can You

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I remember making a book when I was little. I vaguely recall the story had something to do with a family of animals living near a beach. I made drawings of weird dog-like creatures on pieces of paper that I folded to look like pages. My grandfather liked it, and that was good enough for me.

It never occurred to me that I could make a real book. Even as I got older – such a thing seemed so far removed from the realm of possibility. Books were made by famous authors and illustrators.. not regular people like me.

That was what I thought… until I met Tad Smith.

I met Tad at an art gallery where I was one of the exhibiting artists in a group show. Since Tad and I were both artists, conversation came easily. I couldn’t help but smile when he told me that my paintings would be perfect for a children’s book. That had always been a dream of mine, I explained. So when Tad told me about his book: Tales of a Tombstone, AZ Tortoise – it blew my mind.

Suddenly, I realized that books CAN be made by regular people like me.

If Tad could do it – so could I..

And if I can do it – so can you.

To Paint Like A Child

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“Salvation and Desire” – painting by Michele Bledsoe

 

“It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.”  Pablo Picasso

I am not sure what it means “to paint like a child” to Picasso..

but I know what it means to me.

To paint like a child does not mean a return to the artistic skill level of a toddler.

Scribbles and stick figures. Blobs of random colors. Lopsided animals.

To paint like a child is to paint with abandon.. a complete lack of inhibition and restraint.

When you put a piece of paper in front of a child

they don’t agonize over what to draw.

They don’t make preliminary sketches or thumbnail drawings.

They don’t concern themselves with composition or concepts.

They don’t follow trends or make statements.

They don’t worry about what it means..

They just start drawing.

 

When I paint, I  put a blob of raw umber acrylic paint on my palette,

pick up a paintbrush and start drawing on the canvas until it is done.

When the drawing is finished – I paint it.

That’s it.

Stream of consciousness..

the painting becomes whatever it wants to be.

That’s how every one of my paintings begins..

And that’s how every illustration in The Secret Kingdom came to be.