Meditations

September 3, 2020

In these trying times when so much about our world is unsure and makes no sense, I have decided that one of the few things that does make sense is continuing to work in the studio. I have begun working on some very small drawings – all 4″ x 4″ – that are related to the soft pastels, but I am using wax oil crayons, water-soluble wax oil crayons, and some graphite. They are small experiments, but even more, they are meditations that are helping to keep me grounded in strange times. Here are a few:

More Words + One Image

August 16, 2020

Today I need to change the subject, or subjects, of the world that presses on us in these strange times. I am putting aside news of the pandemic and of politics. For a moment I need to look away from the wrongs, the injustices, the unkindnesses, the cruelties, and the violence directed towards others. Kindness, beauty, gratitude, and joy are on my radar today. And love, of course; however it shows up. 

As part of today’s practice, this morning I picked up a book that I had set aside for a bit, The Book of Delights by Ross Gay whom I came across on an episode of On Being. If you aren’t familiar with him or his writing, I encourage you to look him up; he and his writing are remarkable. The Book of Delights was begun as a daily essay about something that struck the author as delightful. He writes as though he is speaking casually with the reader over coffee or on a long walk. He might be meandering around a mundane idea or topic when a profound truth or bit of wisdom quietly slips in unannounced, as if conjured through some alchemy of the writer’s words. 

This morning I turned to Chapter 14 “ ‘ Joy is Such a Human Madness’ ”  which Gay begins with a reference to the essay “Joy” by Zadie Smith. It would only be in quoting the entire essay that I might convey the full beauty and power of the writing, but I want to pull out a small favorite bit here. Towards the end of the essay he writes:

“Among the most beautiful things I have ever heard anyone say came from my student Bethany talking about her pedagogical aspirations or ethos, how she wanted to be as a teacher, and what she wanted her classrooms to be: ‘What if we joined our wildernesses together?’ Sit with that for a minute. That the body, the life might carry a wilderness, an unexplored territory, and that yours and mine might somewhere, somehow meet. Might, even, join.

And what if the wilderness…is our sorrow…. It astonishes me sometimes – no, often – how every person I get to know – everyone, regardless of everything, by which I mean everything  lives with some profound personal sorrow. Brother addicted. Mother murdered. Dad died in surgery. Rejected by their family. Cancer came back. Evicted. Fetus not okay. Everyone, regardless, always, of everything. Not to mention the existential sorrow we might all be afflicted with, which is that we, and what we love, will soon be annihilated.  Which sounds more dramatic than it might. Let me just say dead. Is this, sorrow… the great wilderness? Is sorrow the true wild? And if it is – and if we join them – your wild to mine – what’s that? For joining, too, is a kind of annihilation. What if we joined our sorrows, I’m saying. I’m saying: What if that is joy?” 

Again, I have to say that one should read Ross Gay’s essay in its entirety for full effect, for that punch-to-the-gut feeling that his words offer up. For me, this essay illuminates my understanding of the bittersweet of life and touches on thoughts of no light without the dark – thoughts that cover the distance from metaphor to the reality of the physical world. 

No light without the dark. In drawing and painting, light and dark are critical; value/relative value (think grayscale) is everything! In making recent drawings I am constantly reminded of this. Color is important but the value, the light or darkness of that color, is what makes the most difference to the drawing. It is not unusual for the most subtle value shift to make a drawing sing. I am sharing here a recent soft pastel drawing for a consideration of light and dark and the relative values of color.

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Words

May 25, 2020

 

 

What We Seek

 

What we seek is all around us.

 

What we seek is in the poem,

the painting, the flower.

 

What we seek evaporates when

We turn our heads to look at it.

 

What we seek appears when we do not try to find it

And vanishes when we go looking.

 

What we seek is inside;

It has been there all along.

 

Pure Pigment

February 22, 2020

The medium of soft pastel is as close as it comes to working with pure pigment, as long as the pastels are of a professional grade. The sticks are made of powdered pigment and enough binder to hold the pigment in stick form. The softest pastels can turn to dust in the hand, and then the drawing process becomes a matter of rubbing the pure color dust into the paper surface. Here is another batch of soft pastel drawings. The previous post describes more about my process, so I won’t repeat. All are approximately 12 x 20 inches.

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Two Swimming

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Summer Sweet

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Deep Water

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Field Study

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Beyond the Dark

Last of the Birds

February 18, 2020

Almost all of the birds have flown the nest. I am writing of the abstract soft pastel drawings that were based on bird coloration. There are only these two framed pieces remaining from the original series. In addition, there is one framed drawing, Dove + Crow, from a series of larger drawings. This was the only one of that series to be based on birds, and it followed on the group of crow drawings which you can see in an earlier post. Most of the crow drawings are available still, although unframed, and many of the larger drawings are also available unframed. Check back here to see some of the larger pieces later in the week.

Making these soft pastel drawings is all about color, the medium, and the process. I am interested in the laying down, layering, and sometimes lifting of the colors, as well as the color relationships. The lush colors and the materiality of the pastels (primarily Schmincke and Sennelier) are very appealing; color becomes both subject and object in these abstract drawings. The pastels, fragile sticks of colored dust, have their own way of behaving, and much of the process involves welcoming in the unexpected and being willing to be out of control. Even if fixed with fixative, the finished pieces are somewhat fragile and will change, however imperceptibly, over time, as particles of color release from the surface. I love that these drawings have a life of their own once I am done with them.

Let me know if you would like more information about any of the work…or if you would like to see it in person. You can comment here.

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Dove – soft pastel, 6″ x 6″

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Jay – soft pastel, 6″ x 6″

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Dove + Crow – soft pastel, 12″ x 21″

An Assortment of Abstractions

December 18, 2019

In a shift from working with landscapes, I love exploring the color possibilities offered by soft pastel. When working with these pure colors (nothing more than pigment and a bit of binder), reducing the image to abstraction allows the focus to be more simply on the colors and their interaction. When I am working on them, these pieces have a life of their own and require me to be fully engaged with what is happening on the paper.

Here are a few small (4″ x 6″ color studies) done in preparation for larger pieces. If you are interested, you can see them as well as other soft pastels at the Open Studio this Saturday, December 21, 1-5:00. Comment here if you want more information.

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Small to Large

December 16, 2019

The newest landscapes are the smallest ones, only 3″ x 3″, oil on paper. Here are three (the first is not available):

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The largest landscapes I have posted before, but I will share them again here. The one below  is  the largest:  22″ x 30″ (image size), oil stick and graphite on paper, framed.

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Edge of the Day

This one is 18″ x 18″ (image size) also oil stick and graphite on paper, framed.

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Still Place

If you would like to see these and more in person, stop by the Open Studio on Saturday, December 21 1:00-5:00. Comment here if you need details!

Clouds

December 15, 2019

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These are a few recent small drawings, oil pastel or oil stick, framed and ready to hang. If you would like to see them in person, the studio will be open this coming Saturday, December 21, 1:00-5:00 and by appointment this week. If you would like more details, leave a comment, and I will get in touch.

Look for more posts through the week!

Landscape

June 3, 2019

Sharing a few landscapes here. All are oil stick on paper. Enjoy!

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Thin Place

 

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Edge of the Day

 

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Half-mown

Crow #1

Crow #1: The Dark of Black

 

Crow #2

Crow #2: Still Point

 

Crow #4

Crow #4: Shimmer

 

Thanks to a few unseasonable days of warmer weather, I was finally able to photograph the rest of the crow series of small soft pastels in natural light. So much dark and black can be tricky to photograph accurately, and how these images appear here depends on my camera, my screen, and your screen. The process of making these drawings was an engaging bit of research on blacks, darks, and the effect of a slight shift in color or value on the light in the piece. To read more about this group of drawings (and see the missing crow), just scroll back a couple of posts. It’s always best to see the work in person!

 

Crow #5

 

Crow # 5: Sheen

 

Crow #6

Crow # 6: A Measure of Light