Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Pastel 142 - Extinction of the White Rhino

Is anyone else confused and angry that the white rhino now only lives in captivity?  This was another unplanned piece, the subject emerging from the depths of the lines on the paper and other depths, as well.  The cut-off horns, overalls, and upright posture ("Four legs good, two legs better!") all speak to the forced domestication and the reason for the extinction.  The smoke speaks of the wrath and the destruction.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Pastel 136 - Owl

This pastel initially emerged with another set of eyes in the lower inside corners of the large eyes.  I found them impossibly distracting and they made the face disturbing in a way I did not intend - so they are "painted" over with the pastels.  This guy is weird enough without four eyes.

This was the first pastel I completed after our October vacation, so nearly 6 weeks ago.  The next is also an animal (two, really - it's called "Cousins").

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Pastel 134 - Across the Barbed Wire

Many hikes we take in the Blue Ridge Mountains of NC present tantalizing views on the other side of barbed wire.  The feeling that something is just out of reach adds longing and magic.  Grass is greener.  More Great Spangled Fritillaries.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Pastel 133 - Mt Desert Island, Acadia, Maine

This was quite intentional, though placement of things was left to my hand to figure out on it's own (I watched and stayed out of the way).  What I recall most, from wading in the low tide off Acadia National Park, is the water breaking low between the rocks, the green bladdered sea weeds, the dungeness crabs, the distant sky, and the white dog winkles lying between so many beautifully polished stones.  While nothing in this pastel is from photos or exactly correct for colors or shapes, it captures my feeling and memory of the place.

And there is an echo of Gauguin in that breaker in the center, but I find that my memory of his wave is not actually in any of his paintings that I can find online.  Something else transformed by it's trip through my heart.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Pastel 132 - Jellybean the Tiger

My dearest told me about Jellybean, the white tiger, passing away recently.  The story of how he got his name and the sweet pictures of this large animal stuck with me, I guess.  I had drawn much of this piece, and had selected this color scheme for the cat before I realized it was my feelings about Jellybean (named for the tiny pink pads on his paws when he was small).

Read about Jellybean.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Pastel 129 - Autumn in the Mountains

This is what a late afternoon wander in the Blue Ridge mountains in autumn feels like to me.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Pastel 128 - "MY Sheep"

It's been over a month since I posted - a measure of how crazy our lives have been in October.  The first two weeks, however, were a vacation in the mountain, unplugged from electronic distractions.  We soak up autumn in multiple hikes/walks per day, and I try to kick my art to a new spot.  I got somewhere different this year, so that I can suddenly use the spontaneity of the Pastels for subjects I intend to paint.  I can now chose accident or intent.

This first one from the vacation was actually penned prior to the trip - the corgi simply showed up (his face was there exactly as shown here) and the rest was vaguely hinted.  I love black faced sheep, which I have only seen once or twice in real life, but fairly often in my drawings.  Of course, for me, they end up blue faced sheep...

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Pastels 119 and 120 - Drawing Like a Child

These happened together in one afternoon.  I was letting go and trying to think and imagine more like a child.  I'm not able to reach it - I still know too much and I'm still guided too much by reason and ideas.  When some (few) artists achieve this later in life, I am impressed and delighted.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Pastel 118 - Moon and Mountain Fields

From the first time I really listened I have been powerfully moved by the words to Simon and Garfunkel's "America." The vivid way it captures the changing moods of two people on a long bus trip, and the introverted confession of the final verse, stir me deeply. The music supports those words in ways I never tire of hearing. Particularly the very quiet section behind this:
"Toss me a cigarette, I think there's one in my raincoat.
We smoked the last one an hour ago.
So I looked at the scenery,
She read her magazine,
And the moon rose over an open field."
The last line, in particular, feels like the heart of the song.

When I drew this pastel, several weeks ago, we were still lost in our fight with cancer, not knowing yet the good news we had shortly afterward.  And I was anticipating our annual trip to the mountains to put our lives back together.  And though I do not understand how all of these things align, I feel how deeply they do.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Painting - Something New

I started two acrylic paintings on paper.  This is the least bizarre of the two (the other involves coyotes).  My lifelong love and observation of trees is showing in this one.  This was done much the way the pastels are - the painting is "found" in a series of pen lines, pulled to the surface with Sharpies, and then (unlike the pastels) I moved in with acrylic paint.  This is a work in progress - I have no idea what will be next after the sky is all painted in.  These should be more likely as prospects for sale because they will not be the mess that pastels are.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Pastel 121 - Out of Order - Boston 2

Second Boston Pastel - this one is in the North End.  This was done in a single two hour standing session in the garage on Sunday afternoon.  It felt great.  The photo I took (and used as reference) is below.  The chief change here is that I wanted the copper oxide and ornament to be a lot stronger on the building.  It's interesting for me to look at these a few days afterward and see how much I changed without even noticing I was.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Pastels 116 and 117 - Figures

About two weeks passed between these two drawings.  The work since then has been different - so I don't know why these two are so similar.  That doesn't usually happen.  I also don't know why there are no faces; there just weren't any when the drawings emerged.  Heads and hair were indicated, but no hints of facial features, so I honored that.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Glory behind Everything

I often feel that we walk through our lives like someone on ice, with an enormous different reality beneath what we can see.  Hints gleam through and stop me.  Some late afternoons, in the last hour of sunlight, when my heart is opened by a tower of clouds or a dramatic mountainside, it will feel like I'm flying on the roaring updraft from this furnace within.  I will call at the top of my lungs, like a hawk, and I will know precisely where and who I am.  Sometimes I recognize this inner power in the eyes and actions of others.  Other times the hints are playful and teasing, like large orange koi in a pond, a fall of Ginkgo leaves on green grass, or the call of wood thrushes.

In Asheville, two weeks ago, we paid our usual visit to Thyme in the Garden and I caught several gleeful hints there.  I tried, as I sometimes do, to capture them on film.  It feels like photographing ghosts - the camera does not see what we do - but sometimes a glimmer makes it to the image.  This shot does that for me.  It's not the sunflower alone - it's the sunlit and dark grid against the bright blue sky, the oversize green leaves, the particular tilt of the flower heads high above my own, the sunlit porch of the house in the background which reminds me of the back of my grandparents' house in Highland, NY where a wellspring of that inner furnace seemed to bubble up with childhood love and warmth.  And describing this here makes me realize how unlikely you are to see the light burning through this image at me.  The glory is encrypted and my heart's past holds the key to read it and let it roar through me.  But I hope you have the same thing happen to you when the world touches the right combination in your own soul and wonder is released.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Pastel 115 - Summer Storm

This one gave me particular joy when I did it two weekends ago.  I've always been enchanted by light through tree trunks, the light beyond, the dark of summer storms, the small local rain shower.  I love this time of year (though there isn't a time of year I don't love).  Again, it's feelings that are on display here.

More play.  That's what I'm going for.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Pastel 113 - Koi

I love watching koi in ponds, like Maymont in Richmond or Duke Gardens in Durham.  I'm not excited about this pastel, but it was what showed up and I followed through.  I'm more excited about the next one, about weather.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Pastel 114

About two weeks ago I posted Dreaming of Dragons (Pastel 109).  This is Nightmare of Cats.  I was surprised to have it show up so soon after the other.

I put Dreaming of Dragons in my office at work this week, along with Pastel 106 (Landscape).

I went to Jerry's Artarama this afternoon on the way home from work and went a little crazy...  I am going to see how this process translates to acrylic on linen paper (in the air conditioning - the pastels are banished to the garage because they are amazingly messy - and when the last hour of the sun is shining full into the garage door it turns my "studio" into a solar cooker).  I'm curious what happens when I handle a brush again after the pastel detour.  None of my acrylic brushes have names (yet).  The watercolor brushes (Abner, Louise, Frondine, Tildie) will never be used with any other paint... acrylic, in particular, would destroy their ability to carry and smoothly release water.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Pastel 107 - Lions and Tigers and Bears

While drawing this (over a month ago) I thought of it as Bears vs Tigers.  While some of these are starting to take on some serious dimensions, I enjoy that some are still on the silly side.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Pastel 109 - Dreaming of Dragons

This was done a few weeks ago, right after the first Women and Girls piece.  Yesterday I did a pastel that was just koi.  So it's definitely not all disturbing.

I like the way the left cat is adrift.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Women and Girls 2 - Pastel 112 - The Ventriloquist

This began to emerge one evening earlier this week.  Then I had a business trip, got home around 1:30 AM last night, only slept about 3 hours, and when I went out to the garage to continue this, before anyone else woke up, this was the result.

These images are not driven from my conscious mind - they come from deeper and murkier places.  I'm learning to listen and provide expression, but I don't always understand the results in ways I can explain.  In the case of this image, I feel unease, anger, and guilt around who's telling whom.  Who is the ventriloquist?  Where are the words coming from?  What is that snake?  Why only a spine and bust?  Is the ring significant?  Is that snake his other arm?  Some of these things might seem to have simple answers, but I'm not sure at all.  I feel like I've been all three of these figures, but mostly the guy in the middle.  I'm not happy about that.  I try not be be any of this, but I doubt my ability to detect when I am.

I feel like the inner artist is sending me disturbing messages.  If they resonate with you, please let me know.

Just for the record, I believe social pressures do all sorts of good and bad to nearly everyone.  At the moment I am having a lot of emotion around what happens to women and girls in our society and other cultures around the world.

Ball point, Sharpie, and pastels on brown kraft paper - 24 x 18 inches

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Blackwood Farm - All My Life... - Pastel 111

Last weekend, in the 95+ degree heat, we checked out Orange County's latest park.  Due to the generosity of the two last Blackwood sisters (Mary and Nannie), and after years of dialogue and debate with the county, we now have another beauty spot near Hillsborough.  The Blackwood Farm has been preserved for hiking, events, and history.  The place has a peaceful spirit over it, and a breeze under the huge sugar maples surrounding the old house, which lured us into sitting at a picnic table for almost half an hour, watching towering clouds form above the tree line across the rolling fields.

All my life, since I was a small child, I have wanted to be able to take in a place, a feeling, an event, and have them emerge from me in colors on paper or canvas.  These last few weeks it has begun to happen.  We came home from Blackwood Farm and I stood in our garage, sweating profusely as the late afternoon sun flooded in the open door, and drew this in about an hour and a half.  It just poured out of me onto the page.  It's incorrect in all sorts of ways, if you compared it to the real place, but it's Blackwood Farm.  I showed Laura what I was doing and she exclaimed, "That's where we just were!" and I pointed out the wrong placement of pond and buildings and she also agreed that somehow this was more true than a literal image could have been.

I have several more pastels that have been completed lately, and I skipped them to show you this one. I'll show the others soon.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Women and Girls - Pastel 108 Out of Order

I am posting this out of order because I've been waiting several months for this one and it finally arrived.  I am deeply moved and angry about the treatment of women and girls in our world.

I feel that regardless of the progress made for equality, our society (men and women both) is finding new (and renewed) ways to treat women as objects and handicap them in ways that are pervasive.  Of course this happens to all sorts of people and groups of people, but while I hate injustice in any form, I am particularly invested in this subject through my relationships with my wife and with my daughter.  This issue has sunk its teeth deep into me, and I expect more images, and with the images, more conversations.

Several things aligned to make this pastel happen.
1. I finally have a fast enough and open enough practice to allow the inner images to emerge.  As far as I can recall, I have ALWAYS wanted this channel.  I never actually made the effort to open it.
2. I've grown recently alarmed at the way cultures (including our own) treat women and girls.
3. I realized that for the first time I had an emotionally charged theme that would also inspire my images, and I began to think about that often.  I started some conversations with family and friends about it, as well.  I made the connection between the emotions and the art.

The result is that this first image about our society and women emerged this weekend.  The piece happened in the usual way, but after over a month of no pastels (mostly being so busy at work, home, and Kickstarter).  With some encouragement (nudges) from Dearest, I stood before the page, drew a mess of pen lines and this began to rise to the surface.  I finished it in a single hour long white heat (literally, because it was about 95 degrees in the garage where I have to do these).

The trigger moment, as is often the case, was one indelible real memory - another image.  At the Saturday Solstice Party of our wonderful neighbors one of our other neighbors arrived late to the evening poker game, freshly showered, having put her 3yo to bed and baked her a birthday cake, and dressed in a strapless sundress.  The memory of her shoulders and neck rising up out of the dress, and the slender delicate beauty of them as she stood near our poker table were evoked by the lines on the paper that became the left hand figure's right shoulder and tilted head.  As I saw that one fragment and in a flash of memory recognized the human figure it would become, the rest of the piece emerged as if the lights were being turned up in a dark room.  Mind you, this piece is not directly related to that neighbor, but the memory of her shoulders and neck were the recognition point for the first figure to be pulled from the pile of random lines I had put on the paper as a start.

And as the other figure emerged, and neither of the women had arms, I knew what this was.  Then I got out of the way and let my hands and my cold rage finish it.

I hope this happens again.  And again.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Pastel 104 - Birds?

This was very satisfying to draw, but I have no idea why.  Sort of an ape bird - the rings on the fingers are the point, somehow.  I love it when I don't understand yet I know just what to do.

And if you haven't seen the paintings in our Kickstarter, I hope you will go look.  I would love to know what you think and we would be grateful for your support.  You can also help by passing it on to anyone you know who might be interested, and asking your friends to also pass it on...  Many hands make light work.


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The "Baby Book"

About eight years ago I was just starting to paint again after 20 years of being blocked.  I was posting a few images online, to have a low key audience.  Some of you were witness to that, and have read this blog all along.

I got an e-mail from one reader inviting me to illustrate an extended version of Rock-a-Bye Baby.  I wasn't sure I was ready for an assignment, having just come out of being blocked and that obstacle had been largely triggered by college attempts at studio painting.  I did not know who she was, or if the request was legit.  But something about the project and the request seemed perfectly timed and genuine.  So I gave a non-committal answer while I experimented, to see what I could do.

I tried at first to come up with a baby in a papoose that was hung up - and it morphed into a monarch chrysalis, but it was rendered too tightly, not a style I wanted to tie myself into, and not something that seemed to go anywhere special.  I have that image somewhere, and I may post it.

So I tried again, with a new approach, just going with my lifelong love of trees, wind, leaves, and sky.  The baby took me into uncharted territory and required me to look at a LOT of sleeping babies on the Internet.

The hound was a complete surprise.  That was one of the first examples of what many of you see every few days when I post a new Pastel.  This is familiar to me now, but then it was new to me to have a drawing run off on its own.

Over eight years ago I sent the image below to Candide without much preamble - just "Image 1."  Fortunately she loved it, and the project took off from there.

After eight years, during which the book grew in length (Candide extended the poem even further) and the book industry changed dramatically, we have all the pieces assembled and Candide launched a Kickstarter today to turn this into a real book.  Candide also reached out to Laurelyn Dossett, an accomplished NC singer/songwriter who has composed and recorded a number of lullabies, and Laurelyn joined the project to add the musical dimension which completes it.

Learn more about the Kickstarter, here, and please spread the word.

(My family and I referred to this project as "The Baby Book" for the years I painted these images.  It will be published as "In the Tree Top.")

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Pastel 102 - The Headland and Light

This is the other one currently standing in my office (no wall room, so they are leaning against the wall under my whiteboard) along with The Surfer.  I like the ambiguity of some of the passages - where does the water end?  Is that sand?

And I feel this has taken me a few more steps back to drawing with the spontaneity of a child.  That makes me happy.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Pastel 99 - The Surfer

Often when these images emerge I work on the composition and shapes without much verbal recognition.  I "see" what's there and what they mean to me later.  So I was surprised at the finish of this one to see that the surfer's face reminds me of a great white shark, and the surf board is a basic shark shape, as well.  This one is displayed in my office at work at the moment, along with The Headland (Pastel 101).

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Pastel 98 - Running away from Home

Tonight as I post this I am reflecting on the powerful and emotional day I had.  A friend gathered up the various threads of a project over eight years in the making, spun them together into a wick and today we lit that wick.  There will be more details soon.

And as I pulled the pastel that was the next in line for posting here I discovered it was this one, "Running away from Home."  When I began the pastels I had hoped they would somehow lead me into the walled garden inside my heart.  Several of them seem to come from there, and this is one.  As a teen I ran away twice, but both times returned before causing any alarm.  Both felt like this to me - like plunging headlong to be away and out of sight, but also like dropping into a deeper dark and unknown, like losing the road, like losing my way, and I realized both times that it was a mistake.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Chicago April 2015 - The Walkers

I was in Chicago this week on business and had time, the day of my departure, for a quick dash down North State Street to wander around the river area and beyond.  I love the bridges, the views from the bridges, and the architecture.  When I walk around Chicago I feel as if I'm recharging my batteries on the designs of the buildings and the crazy juxtapositions of gothic and modern and art deco.  I draw energy and life from the El, and the other trains, and the wall of buildings facing the park, and the cloud gate, and the sculptures, and the Chagall mosaic, and the lights and shadows and noise and hustle and grit and fresh air from the lake...

The other place I use the same way (to refill some part of my soul just by walking through it) is Charleston, SC.  It's completely different, but also a glorious layering of years and styles and color and shape with a unifying sensibility that seems almost self aware.

This trip I had more than my usual share of the gritty side of Chicago on the train from the airport.  It was about 9:00 PM in the middle of the week.  I boarded a nearly empty car at O'Hare.  One stop later I heard the clicking of someone cutting their finger nails a few seats behind me, and glanced over to verify what I was hearing.  When the sound changed recognizably to toe nails, I did another quick check, but the smell was a stronger confirmation.  I left the train when the announcement said that Washington was a transfer to the Red Line, but as soon as the train pulled away I saw the signs saying there was no transfer to Red, and I should have stayed on the train to Jackson.  During the ten minute wait for another Blue Line train, a busker who played loud guitar and sang only one note was moving his way along the platform harassing people with his playing and pressing them for money - the train came just before he got to me.  In my haste to board and depart I failed to notice that this new car smelled like someone had taken a dump somewhere - the other passengers were breathing into their shirt collars.  I decided to not sit - I was only traveling two short stops.  When I got to the Red Line platform a woman was haranguing the entire crowded platform about some guys who had sold cigarettes to another passenger on the platform.  She was also moving steadily in my direction and boarded my car when the train pulled in.  Though dressed in a unique style, she was well groomed and seemed sober...  she gave our car a lecture about the benefits of using acrylic paints (rather than oils).  I was relieved to finally reach Grand and leave the CTA behind for the quiet of my hotel room.

But this, too, is Chicago, and I like the whole thing.  I could never live there, but I love to visit.  The train trip was like a stray anchovy on a pizza - I didn't order it, and I probably only need one, but when the pizza is gone, I'm glad that anchovy had been there.  Afterward...

On my final morning, when I got to wander into town, it was wet and blowing and in the 40's.  After a few miles of quick walking through some of my favorite streets, intersections and parks, I took refuge in an Argo Tea shop, and thawed myself with an Armenian Mint tea and watched the passing crowds through a huge window.  I became curious about some of the patterns before me.

First I wondered what portion of the walkers had ear buds (80 out of a random 200 - 40%).  Then I wondered what the average age was of those wearing the ear buds (I had to guess ages - only 3 I thought were over 50, 5 between 40 and 50, and 32 who appeared to be in their twenties and thirties).  Then I noticed that nearly everyone was walking alone - (out of the next 240 passersby only 16 were in 8 pairs having conversations - this surprised me).  And finally, how many were carrying a beverage - (only 15 out of 200 - I would have sworn, prior to actually counting, that it was one person in 5).

My favorite sight was the tall young woman walking with an ICE coffee in one hand and a large (over 400 page) hard back book in the other, turned to the last 20 pages, oblivious of everyone around her, walking in perfect sync with the crowd.  I hope she got to finish prior to arriving at work.

(Photos from a prior trip - in 2010)

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Pastel 97 - Figures, Hair, Heat

I don't know what this image means, if anything, and I wonder how often that is true for painters and artists.  Viewers might derive meaning.

I definitely see the influence of my life drawing sessions - these are "found" like my other images in this long series of pastels, but where I had to fill in or complete the figures I did so from memory, without looking at a model or photos.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Pastel 96 - Lizard and Mouse at the Beach

I've been looking forward to posting this one.  Among many things I like in this pastel is the particularly NC beach feel of looking back at shore, the sand, and the tall summer clouds a few miles inland.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Pastel 90 - Light on Whippoorwill

Strange, secretive birds.  I haven't heard one in years - I miss the sound.

Pastel, ball point, and Sharpie on 18 x 24 inch kraft paper.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Pastel 89 - Playing with the Dogs

Neighbors of ours own a toothy dachshund with the soul of a mastiff; I think Malcolm influenced this one...

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Pastel 87 - Not Sure...

I feel like there is a lot going on here, but I channel it without comment.

Some house remodeling slowed the Pastels for a few weeks - they've started up again this weekend.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Pastel 86 - Facing Down the Sumo Rats

This is one of the few times I've used black - I generally prefer to use a blue, purple or dark brown to represent black.  But I needed the gritty, sooty feel for this one.

As usual - this was a surprise to me, starting with the rat faces and the big bellied body of the rat in the foreground.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Pastel 85 - Barn Animals

Once again, I do not know how it happens, but the pony, with folded legs, and the goat were just "there" in the blind drawn pen lines.  I added the duck and the rabbit.