Tuesday, August 28, 2007


How do you keep that flow going? And what helps you along and gets you into the studio to paint when you are troubled by seemingly everything going wrong in the rest of your life? For me, it's often a book. I have been a voracious (but somewhat eclectic) reader since childhood. And, in 1998, I created my own bookstore and kept it going for nine years. It was named Manfred's Books---after my 3rd Saint Bernard, who acted as a benevolent ruler over the store.
I now have a small but really interesting collection of art books that I have been gathering over the years. While I had the bookstore, I honed my collection and moved books along that I felt weren't important enough to me to keep--since space is always an issue. Some are references in terms of the artwork or images---and there are other books that inspire me spiritually or offer encouragement. I would like to share some of these on the blog---give a little review & recommendation. Some of these are not well known and some of the artists portrayed are not well known or have gone out of fashion, etc. (We're not talking best sellers here!)
I will start with Emily Carr's book "Hundreds and Thousands", since I have just been reading it again. It is only a small part of her writing, and it is a diary of her life as an artist. Many people in the United States don't know about Emily Carr--she was a Canadian woman from Victoria, B.C. She has been referred to as "the Canadian Georgia O'Keefe", but she predates Georgia O'Keefe. She was a fascinating woman--a great lover of nature and animals, and her lifestory is a wonderful read. She is also a very accomplished writer in a somewhat poetic vein--she was inspired by Walt Whitman. I have a really nice hardbound copy of "Hundreds and Thousands", which I couldn't let go of, and I believe that it is out of print. But "The Complete Writings of Emily Carr" is available in paperback--and includes that writing. The latter was compiled a few years ago at the time of an exhibition of the work of Emily Carr, Georgia O'Keefe, and Frida Kahlo which traveled from Canada to Santa Fe and then on to Washington, D.C. I saw it in Santa Fe and it was a wonderful show.
Emily Carr managed to pursue her dream of art in a time when women were mostly kept at home with the children. She was an adventurous soul, traveling by canoe and fishing boat up the coast of Canada, so that she could paint (and record for posterity) the old Indian villages and totem poles that were slowly disappearing. She often brought along a pet or two---one of her many dogs, or Woo, her pet monkey, or Susie the rat. She journeyed to England several times, to study painting, and stayed for long periods. She had little support for her work, and when her painting moved into her later style, which was influenced by her study abroad, her audience in Canada was not ready to accept a "modern style". In her later paintings, she became more focused on the landscape and forests of Canada, and some of my favorites are studies of trees that have distinct personalities and appear to be dancing. Her work was linked to Canada's "Group of Seven", and she was encouraged by them and visited them several times, but they were in Eastern Canada, and the distance made communication difficult. She began taking her writing seriously in her later years, and when her health kept her from painting as much as she would like, she turned to her writing. And, ultimately, it was the writing that gave her the greatest acclaim during her lifetime. Every time I go back and read her book, (and I have read it quite a few times) I am amazed at what a genius she was--a true "renaissance woman"!
*****Highly Recommended
Image above: "Seasons I" by Christine DeCamp--Gouache on paper

Monday, August 27, 2007

Coming Home

Driving home tonite was very inspirational. Fog was rolling over the ridge top, the sun was going down & glinting on the edge of the fog. Just incredible. A big flock of red winged blackbirds rose up in a cloud as I drove by. I had been listening to NPR & all the (bad) news from around the globe. I was flooded with sadness as I thought of our own little tragedy here in paradise---hired gunmen, working for the National Park Service, ruthlessly killing our magical fallow and axis deer. Hopefully, some will survive and the Park will shift their attitude. In the meantime, I am so grateful to be living here, surrounded by such beauty---with the freedom to pursue my desire to paint the wonders around me as I see them. Interconnected---human, plant, and animal----the mystery and magic that is LIFE.
Image above: "Tree House" Gouache on paper by Christine DeCamp

Friday, August 24, 2007


Artist Damien Hirst's diamond-studded skull (no, not HIS skull!) sculpture was selected for discussion on Thursday's Art Biz Blog ( http://www.artbizblog.com/ ). The REAL subject was art/ money & its effect, meaning (if any), and ramifications.


Damien Hirst is using the "Art World" to get personal recognition, power, money & celebrity. Whether all this really has anything to do with "ART" and the creation thereof is somewhat questionable. Our culture has so embraced the cult of money and celebrity that it has seeped into every facet of our lives.

It used to be that museums held to a high standard, but that is no longer the case. And Damien Hirst is certainly not the only one---there are many artists who play the celebrity game.

My friend Pirkle Jones (himself a nationally known photographer) said to me today that he had read in the New York Times that millionaire art lovers were no longer using the services of curators to assemble their art collections, but were making their own choices. If this is so, perhaps it reflects a general loss of esteem towards those in the art world who are "supposed to know".

I don't expect to always agree with a museum's choice of work to be shown or purchased, but I have a certain amount of sadness around the "money/celebrity" dance, which is detrimental to scholarship and honest inquiry. It is also apparent in the offerings of today's museum shops, which used to be a treasure trove of hard-to-find art books and excellent exhibition catalogues, and now are mostly full of tacky gift items. This shift to sheer commercialism is very disappointing to me.

My own criterion for the question "Is it art?" has to do with feeling and soul--does the piece project an honest communication from the artist? I have to say that (regardless of the apparent content of the piece)--any work that is being presented in the "National Enquirer" style of gossip/money/& celebrity-- becomes devalued in my eyes.
Image above: "Mountain Lions II" Gouache on paper by Christine DeCamp

Saturday, August 4, 2007


Saturday morning, July 28th started out enveloped in fog. It was the day of the 17th annual Mill Valley Paint-Off. I had heard about it, but never attended or participated. I knew about it because I have exhibited my work several times at "At The Top" http://www.atthetopsalon.com/ --a fabulous hair salon/art gallery in Mill Valley, and been a part of the Mill Valley Art Commission's First Tuesday Artwalk. The cover of July's Artwalk program featured a painting by Gary Kell , http://www.garykell.com/ which he did at last year's Paint-Off event. It is a wonderfully humorous and surrealistic image--and, in fact, is what inspired me to sign up as a participant this year. I am not a plein air painter---I do my work in the studio---and if I use the outdoors as a reference, it is usually a quick sketch that is then transformed by memory and imagination. And I am a slow painter--I layer on the paint in transparent washes, and go over & over things. In the studio, I usually have 2-4 pieces working at a time & go back and forth between them. One of the challenges for me at this event was to complete a painting in 4 hours! And I don't have the right equipment to do plein air painting, either. So I was a little worried how I was going to pull it all off---but I came up with an idea--I decided to use one of my A frames that I use to display my work when I show in San Francisco with The Red Umbrellas. http://www.redumbrellas.com/ I made a little shelf to support a canvas, and took my director's chair and a small table. And I took a very small (for me) canvas (9 x 12) so that I would have a better chance of completing something. And you know what? I had a great time! There was a great camaraderie between the working artists, and the spectators were very appreciative. The completed pieces were voted on, and prizes given out. All the participants will have their work shown in September's exhibit at the Mill Valley City Hall. The reception will be Tuesday, September 4 from 6 to 8 PM. Check it out!