Thursday, December 17, 2009

In the studio, making little landscapes for Christmas gifts. Nice to paint with no pressure. Doesn't have to be important, just full of love. Happy Holidays, blogger pals, glad to be painting alongside you all!

it could be now


change is good, right?

I am a person who likes routines, for the most part. I get up at the same time every day, make coffee, and head to the studio for an hour before getting ready for my day job. I have done this every day for probably five years. It’s nice. It charges my batteries for the day. I paint, draw, meditate, read, write … whatever feels right that day; whatever is needed to soothe the soul.

Today however, my studio is torn apart. The floors are covered with muddy footprints and there are scraps of wood with bent nails protruding from them strewn about. All of my paintings have been removed and only a few pieces of furniture remain. It’s cold down there. It is no longer a fortress of solitude, but simply an access point for the foundation guys to get to the house’s footings so they can shore them up in preparation for the pending remodel upstairs.

Today I sit in my living room, also sparsely furnished as we have sold most of our stuff so that our belongings are more portable when the time comes to vacate for the remodel. I did whip out a quick drawing in a small sketchpad before sitting down to write this, but mostly I just have the overwhelming need for a new routine. The drawing is of two empty chairs facing toward me, like small children who have joined forces to ask their father for something. They sit there in silence with blank stares. What??

This time is good, right? I keep asking these things for affirmation. I mean, my painting was kind of going through a change anyway. The wrestling pictures are evidence of this. Maybe this time will provide the space I need to contemplate the next steps for my painting, without just thrashing about on the canvas. I can work things out in my head, and on sketch pads, and through writing down ideas before approaching the next series of paintings. It’s a good thing, right? Hmm. Yes. Breathe…

The new routine begins.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Will be working on some art for a holiday sale in early december. Works of this type have been proven to be more 'popular' than my fine art pieces, though in truth the only difference is in size and level of work; i.e. I'll tend to work fine art stuff a little more rigorously.

My process aids me in producing things that look similar and have a similar effect, whether they are 8" x 8" or 36" x 48" (or maybe that's just the beer talking).

I'm always worried about diluting the brew, so to speak. Perhaps I should adopt a pseudonym for 'work-for-sale' as opposed to 'pure art'. Is there a difference? It's not like I'm making these smaller more affordable pieces and cackling, rubbing my hands together in the hope of earning about 10 dollars an hour for my time.

If anything, the smaller pieces are more 'pure', since I don't worry them so much. Of course that worrying has its own benefits and demerits - mainly if I worry something too much I'm going to screw it up and then have to work twice as hard to return it to equilibrium.

We're burning our bridges if we talk about this too much, I think. Pay no attention to the man behind the apron.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Giant Heads

Sometimes it's easier to make giant paper mache heads in the studio then it is to paint.


i’m lost. lost in a coffee shop. lost in thought. lost in space. lost in that time between breakfast and lunch. lost somewhere after the beginning of the first beer and the end of the second. between elliot smith and iron and wine. lost at sea. lost between abstraction and reality. between the last day of vacation and the first day of that time that happens between vacations. lost in the woods. lost child. have you seen me? last seen wearing levis and 70’s buckle loafers. in bad need of a shave.

nick drake would be happy here, lost with me at this corner booth of this darkly lit café on Portland’s east side, watching the rain waterfall from the lip of the awning which prevents what little daylight exists on this gray, wet day from entering the windows.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


last night I read the remarks of three painters. starting with Jef Gunn’s latest blog entry about the sensation of painting outdoors in front of the ever changing scenery, then my friend June’s accounts of painting a huge seven panel polyptych in Nevada, and lastly an interview on with Tom Cramer.

how great it is to be a painter, I thought. what a kinship we all have. it’s like a religion. in fact everyone spoke of their experiences with religious zeal. consciousness, emotion, passion, a sense of wonder and mystery, connecting with other people, with our higher self, with nature (with God?). these are the themes that are discussed!

Gauguin talked about painting as “lifting ourselves toward God”, and of becoming a “true creator like our divine master”.

when I see something like this painting by Frank Auerbach (from the pages of a recent Modern Painters magazine) it occurs to me that I might be wrestling with the same ideas in my own painting. me … scratching my chin in front of a canvas and thinking something similar to what Frank Auerbach may have been thinking while scratching his own chin in front of this very canvas! I’m not claiming to be half the painter that Auerbach is (or any fraction for that matter), but just to think that I have been privileged to see, and ponder, and struggle with a similar scene and idea as any of the great painters, past or present, is overwhelming. we are all connected. some of us tell stories, and some play music.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

spontaneous and deliberate

the latest in my ongoing struggle between seemingly opposite forces. maybe it’s only a struggle for me, but sometimes when I look at my work the next day, a piece that I “got pretty spontaneous on”, some of the marks look good to me and some look just plain sloppy. don’t get me wrong, I like sloppy a whole lot more than refined, but there is a difference between, say, de Kooning sloppy and your three year old kid’s sloppy. don’t get me wrong, I like a lot of art by three year olds too. it’s just that some of my marks look like they were made with intention, by a real painter, and some of them just look like someone tripped on their way to the canvas with loaded brushes in their hands and stuck them out to break their fall.

look at a painting by Soutine. PAM has that terrific one of the young pastry chef. you talk about spontaneous marks! but there isn’t a single mark that appears accidental, you know?

I have found this to be a real tightrope walk. if I favor one over the other the painting seizes up on me. if it’s too sloppy, and the next day I try to tinker with it and bring a little refinement to it, bah! forget it. the thing will die a rapid death. but if I’m all bravado and two-fisted paint flinging, it looks like one of those paintings that elephants do with their trunks. maybe worse.

john cage said in his “rules of art” that you must separate analysis from creation. I think he’s right, and to that end this struggle can not be dealt with entirely at the time the painting is under way. you can paint-stop-analyze, paint-stop-analyze, but you have to be careful not to kill the creative process. better to just paint-paint and then look at it the next day and see what you think, then paint-paint again.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


I think it will be difficult to let go of the secrets of my process to the world at large. Seems like it will remove the mystery and take away some of the power of the work. Who knows? Anyway, I'm not going to describe anything at this point, rather I'll just post this picture of a work in progress. It's about 18 x 24 inches.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

What is it?

I'm constantly amazed and enraptured by the bizarre logic of three-year-olds. Probably reading too much into it, but some of the arrangements the daughter leaves or concocts put me into a more innocent, fractured mindset. Not that these examples really communicate that, it's just weird stuff she does.


i painted last night. sometimes it’s enough just to say that. i went to the studio, turned on the heat, put some bob dylan on the stereo, and then went about destroying a perfectly good piece of canvas.

Thursday, October 8, 2009


What does it mean when the light in the piazza in the hotel is more beautiful then the light outside? I would be happy to paint such a beautiful artifice. Is it wrong to be comforted by the artificial twilight of a Las Vegas spectacle?

Monday, October 5, 2009

a grey on grey kind of day

grey. a cello is grey, the sound, I think. and the sky at night, I think no matter what, it’s always grey, either with clouds, or split in half with white stars against black that by dawn will at some point teeter along the line of dawn and merge to grey before giving into light. quiet is grey. grey answers probably hold the most truth because they consider all sides. grey fabric on a clothes line, a faded grey photograph, a grey ocean on a sad day, grey stones, grey cats, grey grace, grey salmon scales, grey moth wings hovering in grey wool. raspberries and turmeric, the blues (does she mean music or paint?...), grass stains on white linen. grey could quite possibly be the most necessary of all colors, against which the rest of the world gives into song.


I made a piece for the 50/50 show at the 100th Monkey Studios. I didn't photograph it, and it sold off the wall. Now I will never have a record of it. (I suppose I could contact the buyer, if that information is furnished for me.)

I'm not even sure if I feel weird about this. It's supposed to be about getting the art out to the people, right?

Is this an interesting thing, or a 'meh' thing?

Sunday, October 4, 2009


to what degree to be representational? this is my question! i'm riding on this crazy pendulum, swinging from abstraction to representation, trying to convey the beauty and power and mystery of nature. is it modern to be representative? (should i care?) abstraction is a hundred years old for heaven's sake.

does this ever get easy? (do we want it to?) if it becomes easy, does that mean we aren't pushing hard enough? i love to paint more than anything, but it's no tea party.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


october, go slow, and let us have more days of golden, slanting light. 

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


“Wanna be startin’ somethin’, got ta be startin’ somethin’.”

Going out, looking at other art. (Not nearly enough.) Talking with other friends over beer, about art. (Not nearly enough.) Just sitting by myself at The Hop & Vine, reading the Willamette Week, enjoying a beer. (Not nearly enough.)

Stepping outside at dusk or on a fall day. It’s always Fall when I can really tell that we’re on a planet spinning around, wrapped in an atmosphere with huge water-vapor clusters floating in the sky, and stellar radiation sliding sideways through the gas.

But the basement is full of fur-balls, and cat vomit, and smelly kitty-litter boxes, and piles of junk, and bad fluorescent lights, and spiders, and laundry, and there’s a TV upstairs.

More often than not, it doesn’t get started. Gimme something to work for.

getting started

those first marks, on the blank canvas, are the easiest. there is no right or wrong at that point. it's just all playful and exploratory. things are just getting fleshed out; you're just laying out a composition or playing around with color or whatever. you're making a painting! it's ok if it's crummy on the first day. the second day is the killer.

susan rothenberg said that 90% of painting isn't actually painting, but sitting, looking, thinking, reading, etc.. amen. aside from those days of first marks, most of my days are of the sitting, thinking, drinking coffee variety. sit and look at what you did. if it's crummy, that's depressing. if it isn't crummy then you're stuck because you're afraid to ruin the good parts. the answer, of course, is to go ahead and ruin the thing, but that is the hardest part.

"how long did it take you to paint that?". aha, trick question! six hours or three weeks...

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Mysteriously this week I was painting with colors I never use, oranges and purple-reds. We think our acts in the studio are of a conscious nature.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

I don't know if I can create anything more beautiful than my ecstatic daughter. Somehow today the marks I make look messy and confused next to the ripple of the water from her long fingers testing the water.