Sep 27, 2010

Page One

Here is page one of the story I am painting. It doesn't look anything like the watercolor contemplations that served as inspiration but it does look like the kind of art I first set out to make when I went back to school. I like the way it looks but am wondering if it should be more legible since it is a story.

The rain is heavy this morning, warm and sensuous on my skin, each drop plummeting into mud. The sky is dark, an eerie blue, the deep brown tides swallows a turbulent creek.

Certainly not a traditional story, more like a haiku story which is, of course, an oxymoron.Here's the under painting:

Sep 24, 2010

Rembering to Listen

One thing I've noticed about cultivating any kind of personal or spiritual growth is that its really easy to ride to crazy places on any improvements. I get really quiet and content with the as-is and it feels so good I am inspired to get involved in new and exciting things and forget to practice being quiet and content with the as-is. It's not really a problem, but it was good to spend a moment making some ink and watercolor meditations the other day. This one I did on handmade paper that I gessoed in the middle. I feel a little sad when I gesso an entire piece of handmade paper because then you can't see the paper anymore.Painting with watercolor on the gesso was strange but I liked it. The piece feels a little too faux-Japanese-calligraphy to me, but Sumi ink can do that to the best of us.

Sep 21, 2010


This is another attempt to make book pages in the style of my watercolor meditations. The words were a few of many interrupting my dot meditation on the right. I weeded them out from the normal nature poems I have going on just to do something different. I've started another as an actually story that will have several pages and I'm pretty excited about it. It's painted with oil on gessoed handmade paper. I love to look of it, especially the edges but I have to be much more aware of the surface as I work than I do when I paint on wood. 

I liked changing the painting from my original vision as I went. Many of my favorite artists work without any idea of what they are going to paint (Squeak Carnwath, Jo Ann Mace, Shannon Richardson) They all have different techniques but what I admire is how they respond to the painting as it develops. Occasionally I get glimpses of what it is like to be  totally responsive with a painting and I love it. I don’t think wanting to work with a set story or poem has to mean having a plan but I haven’t quite figured out how to get the same spontaneity with words involved. Luckily, I can experiment all I want. 
A couple of my co workers are really inspired by the story of George Clooney. Apparently he had many rejections before landing any work as an actor. This didn’t phase him at all because he was enjoying the rest of his life so much. My co workers were inspired to revamp the old What would Jesus do? to be What would Clooney do? As useful as that is to me while I work to develop my art I have found it even more useful to ask myself, What would I do if I weren’t uptight? I have not mastered this but it is making my life and art much more enjoyable.

Sep 19, 2010

Trees Before Rain

I can't seem to decide if I should make the hillside more yellow or not. Either way I like this painting. I decided to do a landscape without any text because I thought the words were distracting me from getting to know trees as much as I'd really like to. I have to admit when I first finished the painting I was a little appalled at how soft and beautiful it is, I thought I had totally lost my edge and would deteriorate into an artist painting things only to match people's couches. Well, that's just ridiculous. I have become a softer person, of course my paintings would follow suit. And there is no possibility that I will ever get a grasp on the latest trend in couch colors, so I think I'm safe.

Sep 15, 2010


Since I been listening more attentively to my heart I've noticed that I am living my dreams more than I am striving to attain them. Previously I thought I needed to be a more ambitious person, to really assert myself to make my dreams happen out in the world. It was exhausting and a roller coaster of exhilarating successes and depressing failures. When I stay focused in my heart though, I realize that my dream of being an artist isn't about showing in a gallery or seeing my work on coffee cups in Target as much as it is about experiencing the beauty of life deeply and creatively. Well, that's already happening and has been for a long time. I feel really lucky that I have the chance to pull inside and actually enjoy my dream unfolding instead of missing it entirely while I impatiently try to drag it out of myself into the world. I still have material concerns to address about finding or creating the sort of work that will support my art more fully. But those will always exist no matter how much worldly success I encounter. It's simply our nature to always improve and refine our lives. I feel though, that if I stay focused on my heart and its deeper dreams, that I will find a more natural and fulfilling way to address the surface complaints.

This painting is one I started a year ago, I got stuck with it and just couldn't figure out what to do. Usually no matter how lost I am in a painting, there is always one thing I know I need to change. I change it and it frees me up to see the next thing I need to do, so I can avoid getting stymied. But sometimes I get attached to passages in a painting that don't work with the whole thing and then I get stuck. One nice thing about it in this instance is that, after a year, I figured it didn't really matter if I ruined the painting or not so I felt free to be really spontaneous. I really like how it turned out, though it doesn't seem to photograph well. Photographs really flatten space, but since my painting is already flat I find it weird that the space in the painting has been flattened by the photo.

Sep 13, 2010

From the Archive of my Youth

Strange and wonderful things are happening to me lately. It is as if there is a gnome inside my head who suddenly woke up and decided it was time to clear the place out. I feel like I can focus more, and be disciplined with my time without being inhumanely ambitious. 

I also feel a complete loss of mystique about being an artist. This is wonderful. I don’t feel like I have to be on the edge to be legit and I don’t feel like a pipe dreamer for wanting to make a living at it. It seems perfectly natural now that I should want my livelihood to come from the things that I do well and enjoy. Everyone should have that. I used to think it was a choice to be an artist, that I had romanticized it and was looking for fame and escape from responsibility more than a legitimate field of work. I do alright at my current jobs, but I don’t use up the entirety of my soul while I’m there.

Another lovely realization is how much I love to write and how much  I have to say. I think I finally sense how I can talk about issues that are important to me without feeling like I am being overly righteous or afraid of sharing too much personal information in the wrong place.

I have suddenly come to terms with my 20s, too. For the last few years I’ve really been struggling to accept the choices I made during that time. I seem to think I should have been developing worldly skills, advancing in a career, saving money, finding a mate (or at least having a constant string of amorous lovers.) After I made the commitment to go back to school and follow my passions I felt really disheartened that I had so little in the way of resources to get by with. Now, I look back at my 20s and see what an interesting and rich time it was. I was a nut! I spent my time hiking in the parks, painting enormous paintings in my tiny apartment, writing poems and reading at poetry open-mics, having occasional and ridiculous romances, waking up every morning to do yoga and meditate. What is so wrong with all that? Sure I was lonely and miserable a lot of the time, but I was always trying to find happiness and connection, what more could I ask of myself?

The paintings in this post are all ones I made in during my fateful 20s. They are mostly 3-4 feet wide and 3-5 feet long, tempera on banner paper. I like the idea of posting more of my old work to appreciate how I spent my time during that decade, to see it as the precursor to the work I'm doing now rather than a waste of time.

Sep 10, 2010

Autumn Light

The most difficult aspect of poetry for me is editing. Perhaps I have pared this down so much it no longer says what I intended it to. Perhaps it is too contrived. Maybe I should just say: I was walking home form the park and the light was so gentle on the dry grass it made the whole world seem soft. And there were apples nested perfectly in the straw, glowing like embers, like they just had the most amazing fling with the sun, who was now resigned to leave his wildness behind and settle down for the winter. That's not quite poetry. I mean, Raymond Carver can pull it off, but maybe I don't want to write poems anyway.

Also, I think the painting might be a little contrived. But its alright because I saw this beautiful thing and I put it on paper and later when I've done it hundreds of times it will all come out in my real voice and I will not have to think about things like art and poetry.

Sep 7, 2010

The Trees Rest

This painting is based loosely on a part of Gabriel Park in Multnomah Village. I am so sad that I cannot find the picture I took of the under-painting, it was a particularly good one. I posted one of my sketches instead. Something that fascinates me lately is that I really like to paint flat, meaning I don't create a lot of depth with shading, or muting colors in the background, amplifying details in the foreground. But what interests me most about landscape are the spaces that are created be trees and branches. I'm not sure if my flatness is something I need to overcome or if it might help me say what I need to about space if I just explored it more. I have no interest in painting realistic landscapes so there's really no reason not to explore the virtues of flatness for a while.

Sep 6, 2010

The Inklings of Autumn

Autumn is my favorite time of year. Someone told me once that the Celts believed that it is the time of year when the veil between the worlds is thinnest. Maybe it wasn't the Celts, but the description fit for me. I have to think that I am more at home in that other world because I feel more at home and homesick all at the same time during the fall. Most people I know have far away places they'd like to go for their dream vacations, I just want to save enough money to take the entire Autumn off, to go outside everyday and watch the minutest changes from summer to winter.

I'm not sure what I think of the poem illustration but I want to do more. One thing I've noticed about amateur artists is that we are often most satisfied with our work when it reminds us of something we've seen somewhere else. It's not conscious, it just resonates in a familiar place in our brain that we associate with good art. There's certainly nothing wrong with working within an established aesthetic, but there is also no reason to stave off our uniqueness just because we have no reference point for what we see. One of the most useful benefits of keeping a blog is that I can occasionally scroll through the archives. If I am brave about posting things I don't necessarily like I often find they inspire me later. Now I want to make use of that and keep working in this vein to see what develops from it.

Sep 1, 2010

Rough Draft #467

More Crows

When I look at a bunch of my watercolors together I feel like they should be a book but I can't quite imagine, yet what would tie them together. I experimented with taking a poem and trying to make it in the same style as my water colors. So far, no luck. The piece above feels right but I just can't figure out what black blobs say about crows settling in for the night.