Monday, February 25, 2013

the marks of humans

 Sunday we went to see the civil war drawings at the Cooley Gallery at Reed. Maybe its the Lincoln movie, maybe its my own thinking about drawing and the mark of a human hand. It was breathtaking.

The drawings are mostly very small, they give you a magnifying glass to look a the detail, which I think adds to the intimacy. There was no photography in the cvil war, just these young men drawing what they saw, the pages are worn and folded. Did drawings have more power when they were the only means to record events? I look a them from my rather formalist vantage point and see beautiful marks, negative spaces, light. But I am also aware that they are a memento of time, that actual humans made these actual marks.

Here are a couple of little sketches from the studio.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

chinese landscape

two of my overpainted works. the top image is over a chinese landscape and the bottom one, i just can't remember the underpainting. what is interesting to me is that, i think, the top one is much more interesting undocumented and the bottom one less so, but the camera illuminates with a different eye.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Homing Instinct

A post-it note on my computer is scribbled with the words

I have writing deadlines this week, and I have one piece to write that embodies all these themes. It occurs to me I should paint this.

Have also been thinking about homing instincts. Even snails, it turns out, have a homing instinct trigger in their teency brains. Magnetic fields and star navigation for birds, a map of window lights from town to town and bread crumbs lining the way for the rest of us.

Here's to a week ahead of window sill paintings.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Good work if you can get it

Friday is my painting day, but sometimes it's more about the art business than actually painting.  Today was one of those days.  Thankfully the interruption today was to install a painting which I sold to a collector in Salem, which required some tricky installation that I wanted to tend to myself.  The painting is on a full sheet of 1/2' plywood, cut in half for mobility.  I used a cleat system to support the weight, which is not something I would expect anyone else to install.  So the first half of my day was spent traveling to Salem and installing this big ol' painting.  I love to see them find good homes like this, and this was a wonderful setting for sure.

After the install I met up with some old friends for lunch, and then visited three more of my paintings that one friend has in his house, that I had never seen in place. 

Today was about seeing the result of all that work that takes place alone, in my studio.  It was nice to see them out there in the world, enjoying a life in the daylight instead of stacked on shelves in my studio.  Very refreshing and reassuring that what I'm doing matters.

This is the plywood piece in Salem.  Sauvie 22.  (another painting of mine, East Village, on the left)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

propped up

i have a small painting propped up on a shelf and it is a departure from the over-paintings that i have done in the past. i don't seem to remember how i did the ones that came before. but it is a chinese landscape underneath, and the shape of the mountains is somewhat of a fascination for me right now.
after last week's post, i actually, propped up in bed, have been reading the text of "empty and full" that i admitted last week to just toying with, and in my flu induced fog, have been understanding it, but don't ask me anything about it because it has already spilled through my filtering mind, and like the two sisters with red hair, will show up in a painting in some form or another.

Running Away

I started running more seriously about a year ago. Actually managed to eek out a half marathon last fall 
and training for another this spring. I like to run because I see the world. And sometimes I get lucky and see my blogger pals-(Kirsten, smiling, in bright blue to match the beautiful day).

I also see funny things that I know I can't paint, but imbed themselves and influence how the visual world appears. I was running the other evening, before it was really dark, and encountered two young, curly haired, red-headed children. A boy and a girl, maybe 4 and 6. One was careening around on a small tricycle. They yelled to me from across the street to come quick and see. The girl got off her tricycle and they both pointed vigorously at something in the grass. Calmly looking up at me was an enormous  old tortoise. 

I don't how this image will end up in a painting, maybe  the color of their beautiful hair will make its way in, or the texture of the tortoise's back in the grass, or the light in the sky just at dusk.

 Sometimes I just stop and take a picture to remember the beautiful light and the muted colors of winter

Friday, February 8, 2013


worked on last week's mess.  it was a good ground to start painting on, as i had hoped.  kind of an ethereal foggy background.  made some marks but after looking at it for a while i wasn't happy and smooshed it all out again.

i was going to stop for the day, chalking it up as another "lesson", but then i decided to power through it.  started coloring big patches in.  still conversing with nature.  trying so hard to boil it down.  glad i did.  it was a good session.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

wow, really, is it thursday already?

this image says it all. a flurry of marks,  darting and flying.
this connection to you all feels so right & adds a new rhythm to my days but i just couldn't believe that it was thursday already and time to post.
"painting, (says francois cheng in "empty and full") which is thought in action,
thus became one of the highest expressions of chinese spirituality."
thought in action...... hmmm. do you agree?
i pick up this book a lot and read a little, and i have done this for years and years, and yet i have never really read the whole. i think that mostly i just love the title. and also the names of the dynasties--the t'ang, the five dynasties, the sung, the yuan, the ming, the ch'ing.

Monday, February 4, 2013


Well, like some of you have mentioned, I too have been rummaging and gathering and thinking and visualizing and trying to be brave and it all feels like bread bits tossed over my shoulder as I move through each day, a path of cardboard and scrim and graphite and bits of noticings my kids mention that hang in the air, and a poem here or there, and a morning like this morning, so early, a spill of pink humming across the sky, and here it is, late, the other side of the day, and I'm still thinking about that sky. All this, I have to believe, ends up somewhere in my pieces.

Last week’s post sparked an idea. The idea is somewhere in that pile of cardboard I sliced into different sized squares. It’s not painting. Which is odd for me. But, amidst all the daily lifeness that inspired and tired me last week, it was this beat of an idea thrumming consistently and refusing to let go, resulting in a trip to the art store for supplies, and it was finding this picture of an older painting that I’d forgotten I painted. Between the two rests the next body of work. That’s all I know, and that’s enough for now. 

Still Life

Well, I have been trying to draw a bit, nothing ready for public consumption, but little things. I was feeling like a complete failure and then picked up my beautiful Morandi book. I love his drawings as much as his paintings.

It takes so little to make so much. Pick up the pencil and look at the world.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Class is in session

today, i decided, was a lesson.  part one: blank canvas and an idea.  great.  good start.  feeling good.

next, make some charcoal marks.  lay down a loose composition.  good.  Mark Andres taught me to paint this way.  sometimes i do, but mostly i go straight to paint.  today, since my subject is outside and down the stairs, i decide to get this quick sketch done to help guide the process.

get some quick brush marks on the canvas.  start to build a color story.  some contrast and a little linear work to keep the composition intact.  move fast.  don't think too much.  listen to Coltrane.  good.  fun!

more color.  big brushes.  work quickly!  go. go. go.  go outside now and then and refresh the memory of what the subject looks like.  sun is shining.  it's not freezing out.  fresh air.  don't be afraid, David.  you got this.  stay brave.

Howard?  is that you?  sure, come on in.  is that Arthur with you?  you guys want a beer?  have a seat!  do what?  OK, sure.  like this?  you sure?  ok, you guys know what you're talking about.  hmm?  yeah, that's Coltrane.  awesome isn't he?

oh my God, have i just painted a huge penis?  good lord, it is!  it's a huge penis!  oh my God!  it was just supposed to represent foliage.  (heh ... that makes me laugh.)

smoosh the top down.  there.  less phallic now. screw you, Freud.  (not you, Lucian).  but now stop and look a while.  there are a couple of good marks and interesting passages, but mostly i don't like this painting.  the focus is going now too.  can't think straight.
don't know where to go with this now.  i have a couple of hours into it and a ton of paint and a big chunk of expensive Belgian linen.  no.  wait.  stop!  you can't think about the cost of materials or the success of your marks.  you can't think of time as being wasted.  f' it.  move on.

smear the whole thing.  this way after it dries i'll have a decent, smooth surface to paint over, and maybe some interesting under-painting.  keep the basic composition in case you feel like addressing the same subject next time.  walk away.  get your head clear.  get some lunch or something.

as i think about my time in the studio this morning i think to myself "you just went to school".  that's all.  every day doesn't bring a masterpiece.  that's the death-nail for creativity - to expect greatness every time.  i learned a few things today.  i was brave.  i didn't settle and i knew when the painting needed to be pushed and i knew when to quit.  it was tough smearing this thing out.  really tough.  but i know it was the right thing to do. 

as my brother said "no experience at the easel is a loss".