Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Ink, Black, On the River- Last Light

Drawing, on the river.

Way out at the end of a trail I used to walk on, and fish. A bowl and curve in the river, so pretty, so beautiful, that you get your breath taken away in just glancing up. And there's this one shot- one view, where all the curves and lines and shadows come together into this shape that makes sense, seems right,  that suddenly- I have a motif. Though in fact, its the same motif as always.

A river. Shadows. Curves. Lines intersecting, and the boundless convexity of curves that grow- that describe life- and how it bulges out in green and gold curves, always convexity- and somehow, this means something, to me.

My friend and adviser, Kim, with deep insight, remarks that I respond to green, and to these things, for a reason. Actually, I can't right now recall her point- its Jungian. But regardless, I agree. I dial in on this one thing, again and again.

Of the two things I like to paint and draw, rivers, and the female figure, its the river that speaks most. Odd, I know. But the female figure gets so mixed up in other things- and the river- well, it pure sinuous, pure flat, pure shaping its way though a plain, or valley, and taking in both light, and darkness- sometimes a glint, sometimes the blackest black in the whole picture. And if you get it right- the way it appears, in the distance, and swells, in the foreground, and departs- if you get it right, well, that's much. Because there's infinite interest in all aspects- the way the blue sky is deeper, more profound, the way the divits and swells make sense, have logic= but of such fractal complexity and motion- that it is amazing to me, that any pre-photographic painter, could capture this.  So if I do, in muddling, without much training, well, I feel I have like scratched into that thing they sent to Jupiter-something that might survive me.

The world seems crazy with football, and cars, and wars, and dammit, the phone and all it entails-and its this intense swirl of complication, that for God's sake, I hope the smart looking 20 years behind me in this bar understand, and can control- because to me- the Genii is way way out of the bottle, and I, personally, know that I have this very tiny tiny circle that I can barely manage, and though I'd like to help, I only feel pleasure at the edge of a river.  A metaphor, of course, the river. But all non-river places, interest, but mystify, me.

Of course, this week, they begin shooting things at the edge of the river. Pheasant Season. You surprise a bird, it flies up, your shoot it down. Your dog runs out and gets it. Good dog. Reload.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014


A writer writes, a painter paints, etc.  The point is, a painter doesn't write (much?), and visa versa. Unless you're Henry Miller. He gets to.

My love is painting, not writing, it just so happens, I can write. Or, I do write. And so, its a bit of a crime to write about painting when in fact, I am not.

In my studio, an open paint box, ready to go. Metal box- beckoning. A perfect thing- a typewriter of painting- barely 10 paints laid out in cubicles- and brushes, and some solvent- and an old palette. Ready to go. Go. Paint.

Yet days go by- and I walk by it- and then a week, then a month. Now, a few years. Of course, there's dust.

Side story: I have a stack of guitars. Cheap old Stellas, Harmonys, etc. But they sit in cases. And the law- my law- of guitars is that if they are to be played, they can't be in a case. Just that single step- open the case-and options flow. Ideas. Most of all: feelings. Which we don't lack, but are confused about. Opening a case allows the whole mechanism- playing a guitar, painting, the whole flow of it- to be an open gate- a hinged door, the secret garden we walk into, alone, and then we get to experience something far beyond our simple selves..  A case: Never opened- is a wilting flower.

Pretty basic, but as I have both guitar cases, and paint boxes- maybe I know this better than you.

What I lack- when I think of it- and its like the whole damn thing- is a motif. MoTEEF. Not motive- that's a murder thing. Motif. Its a Cezanne thing (the WORST PAINTER EVER whom I love).

My friend, Kim, who is using my work, as dim and hapless as it is, in her own work-suggest to me, in an email, that my Motif, or one of them, is Green. And a river. Something else- I can't recall,

What she says true ( if I could recall it all?)- its what seems to work for me, but I can't see why- I grew up NEAR, not on, a lake. In dark woods. Why a river? Green?

So on my to do list- I write "find Motif". Like its a code word. Actually, find a new one. Something that sings to me- something that is above, beyond, something to hang a hat on, something timeless? Is there such a thing? Something that means something.

Right now the best I can think of is this swirl of a road, below this wooded hill, and nothing much going on, but this untouched valley, and beyond, blue mountains. There's tall grass, and Cottonwoods with long shadows, and fields that go on and on- and the heat of summer-now Fall- bearing down.

Its State game farm land- with dogs and shooters, and orange vests- and that's a motif? Explain.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Playing Guitar, For a Cat, Canvas Waiting

I look to find something really fulfilling. Something that would make me think- well, this is worthwhile doing, and somehow fits into the craziness of the world. Half my time is sitting next to the internet, as its part of my work, and its vast world of information and connections and people doing vital things- and also, the tiring overhwhelming trivia of the world, and the constant shouting of people connecting to the greater world. Facebook, all of that, I don't get it, don't like it, find it depressing.

I have new canvases stretched and ready to prime. I have them laid out and gesso ready. And i have a lot of landscapes in my mind, things that need to get out. Not in my mind really, just places i have seen here, in the valley, driving.

Why doing that would be worthwhile, i have no idea. Its not a TED broadcast. Its not anything.

And i have this idea about color, and calculating how many colors there are, and making a movie, and I have the complicated model all made, and think- well, that's something. I could do that.

And its sort of like making up reasons. I have a list, and its why i am here, and I am here, to make a list, and do it. I guess. Its the snake biting its tail.

Painting is vital. Vital. Vitality. Its not the internet, not blogging. Its doing something, thats just between you and whatever it is that gets painted. And there's stuff, like paint, and trees, involved.

Our greatest poet, Emily Dickinson, wrote unpublished, unblogged, unknown. And though Edith Sitwell says her poems suffer from lack of skill, each is like a sweet fruit with dirt in it (i just read), well, somehow she, and not us, found fullfillment in it. As apparently, she did not write for us.

And by chance, hre poems survived. Unlike many other like-spirited, who disappeared from this earth, unknown. And that goes way back- millions of years.

This evening I sat playing guitar for my neighbors cat. Who ran up and down the warm stoop, and then lay down in the sun at my feet, watching the street. Which was quiet.  I didnt play that well, but it occurred to me- this is pretty awful. No one anywhere, a beautiful evening, and warm, and this guitar music, and me pouring out my heart...to a cat. Who seems to like me, but i doubt cares about the mood of a guitar. And i thought- well, you (I, not the cat) are spoiled, as this IS what its about. A cat, and warm sun, and you've got your hands on a guitar and a little bit of what you feel coming in, goes out. And there's no big deal. And be OK with that.

What was it exactly, I did before texting, and blogging, and emailing, and telling the people I dont know I was playing guitar for the neighbor's cat?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Two Things, for Now, to Focus On

Here, it is Spring, or a little past, green, powerful fluids coursing through veins, powerful, pungent life scents, that catch you like sharp perfumes, when outside, you poke your nose up to suck more in, and if there is a such a thing as aromatherapy, this is the best of it, calming, healing, and reminding. Reminding that life pulses it yellow blood yearly, and years go by fast, and then, faster,  and at one point, you get to smell it and feel it only one more time. Or, you just have, and that was it. So I poke my nose into the air and suck it in as deep as i can- the cottonwood, the grass, the sky.

I'm not a pro artist, I'm a wager earner. Working on computers to make other people's dreams come true. Day after day after day. And that's a lot of computer work, and a lot of sitting. Fortunately, in the AM, my mind registers pleasure. Its why the computer, and this whole technological infatuation, works. It tends to encourage endorphins. To be efficient, resourceful, to Google this and that, and use the great Gelatin that binds us all- or at least, will eventually- and have it work for us, and make us money. And a livelihood. But I know, it has no footing. It isn't really what matters, to my generation at least, as all.

Now, at this particular point, and hour,  I need to consider, that doing art, that painting, for me, can never be part of sitting at a computer. If it is, I die, inside, at least. Blasphemy. But i straddle worlds, and much needs to just be sitting in a field, looking. Not looking at a field on a computer.

I'm writing some B.S. And I know it. I am processing. its been a tough winter, a tough week, a tough 24 hours.  I get to do one thing in this world, beside the endless round of maintenance, and fixing things, and minor pointless projects, and trying to figure out how i fit into world of other people, and what they want, know, expect.  I know it. I get to paint, regardless if it has any place in the world at all. My eye sight is diminishing, my memory taking exponential leaps into not remembering, my understanding of what is worth painting no more developed then it was when i was 16. Yet, its this thing one gets to hold on to, because, I am told, and barely believe it, that i am good at it.

So i bought more Harbor Freight canvas on the way home tonight, and spent a half hour looking for the gesso, and bought some boards- and connect it all to what it is i need to do to stay sane, to deal with the things i have been told are indecisive,  to turn back into my inner life, which is what i always go back to when the bigger life seems like its not quite working.

I haven't written since December. Nothing to say. Now, i feel like i need to say something, suddenly. To get back to where i was, and be maybe more like other people. I doubt it. But whatever, i will gesso tomorrow, start looking at how the light hits the maples. And i keep bees, and so thats a big thing, a focus and distraction. So there are two things to focus on. Its Spring, bees, paint. And endless being a cog, working. Jesus. It feels sort of desperate, and. in fact, there's a bit of that. Trying to see how it is, that i, me, and in your case, you, if you are of the same ilk (unlikely), fit. Fit and make it work. And don't pass out of this world with a lot of, well- i could have done better. I don't want that. And i don't think i want that much.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

About Water, and Drippiness, Painting

Two paintings. One half pint of whiskey. A rainy day, and this odd warm wind that shook the lingering leaves, and pushed curves along the river. The main thing about these two paintings, for me, is technique and materials. If they look good to you on the internet- I promise- they don't look that great in reality. Sort of flat. But that does not discourage me at all- because of two things I know:

1,) These are both about wetness. I am drinking, some, it is raining, some, there is a river, thick clouds, a wet place to sit, and most of all: these are in acrylic. Not oil. And acrylic is all about wetness and splashin water and dripping and rivers. And in the middle of December, there is this logic, that oil paint, cannot touch. It binds with the season, does not dry quickly, is liquid and abundant and splashing- and covers up things. Both of these were painted on old paintings of nude women- and so- unlike oil- this is covered. Though as a painter, all of it bears on the painting- it is not the same as painting on a white canvas.

2.) One painting has been worked later with moulding paste. Im not done- it still sits in the studio. its this super great stuff that is like sculpture- and yet- its paint. You can move it about. You apply it with a knife, cut it, move it, glaze it, sand it.

This is how my mother painted, though when i ask her, she cant recall. But i do. I recall a large blue painting, and structure to it, stuff, substance.  And i know it appealed to me, as a small boy. It was already in me. Its a bit like the blueness of Whistler and his Nocturnes- pots of paint in the face of the public- it feels like that to me- all three of us painting, myself, my mom, and Whistler, and well, Whistler's mom in her grayness, and the shiny bits of light, and sparkle, and blue. Same on the Thames, I guess, as the Snoqualmie. I don't know for my mom- Orcas Island , where she grew up? And the lights across the water? I don't know. Seems like its all about water.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Yew Tree, In Deep Woods

Maybe its not clear in this pictures, but in the center there is a frail tree, on the side of a hill, in the shade of cedars and alders, and Sword fern all around.

I went to Mercer Island today, where I rarely go, I went to measure a house (I work as an architect), and on the way back, I drove down into the long ravine i grew up in, and stopped my car, and walked into the woods to see if places that existing in my memory, places that are mythic and huge to me, and clear as any childhood memory of being in the woods can be, were still there, I took the risk, and went to see. Its all park now, so a lot is unchanged.

I went to look for a Yew tree that used to grow here, and a deep pond we floated rafts in, and of course, it was all much more compact than i recalled it, and there were hills and areas i have no memory of, and places I recall that i can find no place for- but the Yew tree- I knew it was here then, and I recall climbing into it, and it's berries, so odd, and drawing the berries, and looking it up in my Tree books, and knowing that Robin Hood made bows out of Yew, and wondering how I might do the same. I suppose I did, I can't recall.

It has been 4o years, and a tree in 40 years should get pretty big. There was no big tree. Over the years, I have thought about this tree, and I figured it had been found out when Taxus had become a hot commodity, in the 80's?, and the tree had met its fate.

So- at first, no tree. Though i found what i think was a shallow basin of Sword fern that was once a pond.  I wanted to bring my sister back here- what do you remember about this place? Do you remember us lined up on the bank, and someone on a rickety float? Was there a rope swing?

But then, walking back to my car, stopping here and there to stare at the shape of the land, to see if inspired a memory, i saw it, higher up on  hill then I recall. But the same as it ever was. Not like I thought it would be. Hard to see how I climbed into it. And,I saw it's dying. Thin, small, with only the wisp of leaves left, it never really flourished in the woods. But a beautiful quirk, an anomaly among alders and cedars.  Yew is a rarity. Have you seen one? Do you know it has red berries?

 No progeny, despite berries.  I know this is not My Grandfather's Clock, but there are more layers here that I am not sharing (how my father owned this land and developed it, and who lived here and what became of them), so its a poignant as a tree can be for me, and i spent a lot of childhood time in trees (as I am sure you did), and this was a unique one. Still, it could be that when the tree goes, I go. Same day. I suppose trees can go in a day. Total coincidence, we're not bonded in any way. But I seriously doubt that in these woods, in the damp and dark, that anyone else even knows it existed, and I would bet, that only one child has ever climbed it to look at the berries, and I am sure, that only one 52 year old balding fellow ever came back to find it.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

None At All, At the Side of the River

I sat at a picnic bench watching the sun set down, and the river was swollen up and flowing in swirls, up river, down river, in circles, and smooth. Full, churning. I had ink, and a plate, and a box of pencils, and a stack of newsprint, and tried to get one bit of what I saw drawn out. But I got very little, I feel, I just don't have the skill, the only thing you can do is knuckle down and focus and trace the lines and the shadows, and pick what is important, and draw, like you've drawn all your life, and hope for the best. This type of drawing is backward, more like photography, you don't know what you have til you're done. So much is chance- its  a print, backwards.

The wealth of things to draw from this picnic bench, in the last light of the valley, is enormous. And the primary force here is the force of a river night, black is blacker than black, the clouds billow, but like shadows, and light is focused in on place, the sun, now set, and the trail of brightness that follow it below the western hills. And there is a chill rising, a dampness, and the sound of the river which is totally on its own, no one, but me, I think, observing.

Once you begin, to draw the evening, the world swells and punctuates, and subtle colors, and tiny changes in light, are this enriching experience, deep wells. Deep wells you fall into, and excuse me, deep wells you fall into and see stars, like kaspar hauser, and its not like its just dark, but its all around.

Maybe if you fish, you get to see this.

I draw a line by watching the edge of something, and pull it, and feel how much i press into the plate so it hurts, and i think- am i weak with this? And pull it strong, and press hard and make this line the record of this tree, and follow it up again, and know that the tree swells at its base, and that its line shifts, this way, then that.

Is it important? To anyone? Whats important. Whats important. I don't have any idea. None at all.