Friday, February 19, 2010

Friday Reflections: Guest Artist Joe Ray

Creativity and the Witching Hour
Text and Photos  -- Joe Ray

My witching hour is between 3 and 4 a.m. on weekends. It’s when some invisible hand has nudged me and whispered in my ear, “Get up, there’s something to be done in an uninterrupted manner. I’ll show you. Get up.”  I usually protest a little, but on the early side, I’m up at 3 or 3:15. On the later side -- 4 – 4:30. It’s dark outside as well as quiet. Sometimes the moon shines brightly as it smiles from above and at other times it gives me that slivery smile and a wink with minimal light. I’m always a little skeptical; you can’t always believe what the moon tells you.
I enjoy getting up at this time and with coffee in hand, music turned on, I begin to lay colors onto my palette or open a container I’ve already mixed paint in. Part of what was calling out to me are usually one or two of the works in progress on my desk on the easel. They’ve been waiting patiently for me to show up. We begin a little dance, a courtship of sorts where I whip a dry brush around as a warm up, sort of like a bird prancing and shaking its feathers before its mate. I smile and begin. This is the part of the day that sets up a great beginning for me. It puts me in a good mood. By 10 a.m. I’ve gotten a lot done.  I’ve had a parade of possible scenarios prance through my head, all in time to the music playing.  In between songs I can hear quail and other birds coming to life outside of my window. Maybe I woke them up.  I’ll step outside for a few minutes before I get into the zone and ponder the sky -- that’s how I know what mood the moon’s in. I proceed accordingly. The fresh air in the morning is invigorating, rich with the smell of the desert and creosote accented with the silhouetted butte across the street at Papago.
Typically, I work on 4 or 5 pieces at one time. This time of day allows me to see each clearly and imagine somehow the final outcome and have a small conversation with each piece. There is no jealousy here; it’s a communal give and take thing. We’re all happy.
The beauty of working at this time of day is that it’s the best way I can think of to unleash creativity. The only thing I’ve been through at this point has been sleeping, dreaming and the occasional astro-projection activities. I always make it a point to write something in my journal during the morning as I paint (I’m actually a pretty good multi-tasker on my terms, and these are my terms). Sometimes my journal entries are sketches, sometimes arrows punctuated with fragmented words that mean nothing to anyone but me. That’s okay, it’s my world, my universe at this hour.
It’s important to journal. I don’t think you can look at pictures without knowing the words, saying them, hearing them, writing them and reading them. Words have helped me see pictures more clearly, they’ve defined colors for me. Most of these words don’t appear in a cohesive manner or in anything resembling a completed paragraph. 2 or 3 words can mean a page full of paragraphs to me when applied on a sheet of paper. I’ve been journaling off and on since I was a teenager. In college I embraced classes where we were to journal events; it was something I thrived on.
I used to throw away my completed and filled journals until some time in the mid to late 90s when someone asked why I tossed them and didn’t keep them. I didn’t have an answer - it had never occurred to me to keep them until that moment. Since then, I’ve acquired a bunch of bound books filled with thoughts, nonsense, dreams and arrows in them. They seem to have multiplied at the rate of 2, sometimes 3 per year.  Sometimes I find inspiration in sketches that I’ve made through the years in these books. Sometimes the writings in them bring lost joy, sadness and feelings of “man, am I glad to be done with that phase”. These words often find themselves onto canvas or on paper that I happen to be working on. Words on (or about) color are under appreciated beauty, especially when both English and Spanish are combined, fused together for a greater good that somehow makes more sense.
What we write, what we create and dream are a large part of what defines us. It prepares me to go out into the world and interact, which I absolutely love doing. If I happen to have a journal with me at a bar (usually when traveling) or at a party, I’ll ask whomever is with me to write something in the book for me, or to draw me a picture. This takes people by surprise but I find it no different than asking someone to pose with you for a photo, or even ask to take their picture. I feel that this is where the most personal and deep crevices of our creative juices mix with that which others have. A creative and creationist oriented cocktail of sorts. Served straight up.
Yeah, that’s it.

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Joe is an hispanic painter and printmaker living in Scottsdale, Arizona - a place with quite a bit of dust, rocks and great sunsets.

Most of Joe’s work is reflective of a bi-cultural perspective formed by the Arizona and Mexico region(s),
the people living in that region as well as a contemporary Chicano perspective. The work speaks to the Mexicano, the Chicano, the Hispanic and the Gavacho.

Joe is also Creative Director and Principal of Estudio Ray, a strategic design and branding firm in Phoenix.

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Gracias, Señor El Artist!


  1. I love his sense of humor....

  2. Magical realism with a whiff of creasote - thank you, this really made my Friday!

  3. Ah, the Mermaid Chair! I can say something in two words, and that's odd for me...a word person! Stay there. Yes, el grito, the soul's cry is often a lap of an ocean wave...we have to stay to appreciate the erotic wave's gossamer gown; sweet white spray.
    Stella Pope Duarte


The Mermaid Chair -- Talk to Me