Friday, December 31, 2010

old year/ new year

winter field

Rain today has dissolved most of our snow.  Yesterday, at this nearby field, snow was not thick but still it dissolved most of the recognizable forms.  The grasses, the young trees, and the far treeline came in and out of definition, depending upon whether I fixed my view upon them or upon the snow or upon the winter-grey sky.

The year changes tonight.  2011 will become distinct at times from other years.  A vast field:   I'll move in and out of it, forward and backward, around and around.  You, too:  best wishes, Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

sparrows and snow

sparrow and snow

Our house sparrows are of course brown.  Still, when they are flitting on and off the snow, they can seem to be carrying the snow with them.  The "glittering" back and forth of snow and feather markings adds extra activity to the view.  With a busy flock of sparrows on the snow beneath the feeders, ohmygosh what a lot of this glittering clatter!

As with the bluejay in a previous post, with this small sparrow, I wanted to paint the detailed markings without detailing them.  Accordingly, maybe the markings flutter a bit, yes?

Thursday, December 9, 2010


November late field II

This field painting is revised.  It is a re-vision of my last post's image, a tweek.  The goldenrod-like passages are a bit stiffer/drier than before.  (They were just a bit "damp" or merged with the other in the previous painting, I decided.)  Words are difficult explainers when the tweeks are so slight.  Can you see the difference?  Please excuse me this revision; I did think the painting was finished when I posted it here.

Jack Levine talked about his troubles finishing paintings.  His gallery would send a truck to pick up a painting, and the truck would go back, empty, time and time again.  Also, this "trouble" of his:  I remember a truly wonderful large painting of Susanna as a child that hung in their living room whenever I was there (first, when I was studying with Ruth and then, when visiting); Jack would ocassionally gaze upon it and remark that maybe it would be finished soon.  When I first heard this comment, Susanna was a young married woman.!

We re-do, don't we, all of us, even if we are not painters.  Something about respect for the subject there, isn't there?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

bear field, leaving

late November field

This is the last "bear" field for the year, a small pastel painting from a sketch at "my" field, about two miles from home.  (I have sketched at that field almost weekly since the spring.)  Today snow covered the fields.  Bears and bear fields will be dormant, ungrowing, for quite awhile, five months at least.  Any latent growth is below ground now.

I started with a layer of ashey cool grey and cool sienna for the earth.  Leaves and some white seed heads fluttered around the page.  The queen anne's lace, like an old, still-elegant queen, held itself apart-- not fallen--but dusty-crystalline, no longer gold.  Brittleness suffused color throughout the field.

Saturday, November 20, 2010


a painting by Nathan Oliveira

Nathan Oliveira died this week.  His paintings are good; I recommend you see them whenever you can.  They move and yet they also are paintings, still.

Jack Levine died November 8th.  His paintings are good, even great.  I know of no one who has better drawing and painting skill or storytelling range:  paintings of Jack's can be large, breathing big, pulsing--and glittering with light--even if the canvas surface is not so very large.  Look for his paintings.  You will see them in many museums, with the Goyas, the Rembrandts, the masters.  (Images of them are untransferable to a website.)  I commemorate his work with this recommendation for you to go look.

I knew Jack, a slim man, wry, and big in curiosity and knowledge of history, and culture and popular culture.  His paintings and drawings and prints have thrilled me, they thrill me still. 

another bear field

november field

Foraging bear field :  maybe this is a more apt description for this small painting since, besides having plants the colors of bears, this field painting has greens and berry-colors also.  Still, we're losing our range of colors fast now in the fields and treelines.  Nuance of color is emerging instead.  And soon nuance will take on a wide, wonderful range of its own.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

bear fields

november field

The fields are devoid of living-growing colors, almost.  Pockets appear--still-green grasses and leaves, blooms not quite spent.  Mostly, all is enveloped:  all is moving in the breezes--textured-- but uniformly neutral:  browns, greys, whites.  The fields of grasses and dried plants are the colors of bears.  I find these bear fields wonderful.  You too?

My challenge as I painted this field was getting a sense of the under and the over in the pocket of the field without too much drama!  Underneath are the colors of the season-past; over and around are the colors of the season-ahead.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

blue jay again

The young blue jay (from the previous post) is now up north at Alyce's small gallery.

Here is E.E. Cummings's poem about a blue jay, "crazy jay blue)":

crazy jay blue)
demon laughshriek
ing at me
your scorn of easily

hatred of timid
& loathing for(dull all
regular righteous

thief crook cynic
fragment of heaven)

raucous rogue &
vivid voltaire
you beautiful anarchist
(i salute thee

I love the (swimfloatdrifting/  fragment of heaven) .
(I salute you, E.E.!)  You too?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

blue jay

young blue jay, at  you

The young blue jay looked over from the lilac bush just beyond our deck.  I get this look from blue jays when they are looking around at me, as if to say "where are the peanuts that you usually put out?"  Does this young one already know about the peanuts?

This is my third small painting of the blue jay.  Two of them didn't work.  The challenge was getting all the detail of the markings and a sense of the bird in motion, stilled for a moment.  Details can so easily take over the view.

M showed me a poem by E.E. Cummings about blue jays.  A phrase, "hatred of timid," struck me as too strong, too jarring.  But the rest of the poem was wonderful.  Now I think I will look again at the poem and see if my view has changed.  Maybe you would like to see the poem too, with all its phrases, all its details!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

rushing yards and fields

october-to-november field

The fields and yards around us seem to be rushing to winter.  We have had a hard frost.  Colors are consolidating:  silvers, dusty golds, duns.  There is some ash color.  Details are collapsing.  Much has fallen and much is covered by fallen leaves.

This painting, with field details at its edges, almost looked flowing, water-like to me.  Except that the strokes of color are dry.  I do not mind that this painting becomes abstract.  Ideas/images often combine abstractly:  with a salient or general sense, and detail coming and going into focus.

Friday, October 29, 2010

silver in gold

late october field

After two days of high winds, much color around us has been swept away.  Also, colors are drying out.  Asters and field plants are silvered:  no more bright purples, no more bright golds.  Still, the field grasses are beautiful, shimmering.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


middle october autumn field

Glitter and gold in the fields.  Let it cascade around us.  Let us share it.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

busy october

october field sketch

Are we all busier in October than we are in other months?  Is the grass greener in October? or does it shine bright, emerald, because of the clear, piercing light all around and because of all the colors which are not green all around?  (Friends in Taiwan told me the sharp light of Autumn is called the tiger's eye.)

I intended to work more on this little pastel painting.  But when I saw it after a day away, I thought it got to the activity level of the colors all around in the fields here in mid-October, or something.  Something in this sketch resonated a bit:  oh, yes.

I have been dashing to get work done before all the colors are spent.  Leaves have come down, "in showers," Marge said today.  Many trees are bare now.  I saw this chickadee (below) flitting and dashing, hardly placing both feet down.  I know that there is another chickadee sketch here in Ai-jane.  When I have a moment to check, I'll see how the two sketches compare.  Surely last year also, we-- the chickadees and me--were intently flitting, sketching.

autumn chickadee

Saturday, October 16, 2010

clamor and hence

a bit of the October fields

There is much clamor in the fields.  Especially with the sunlight's attention upon them, some of the leaves and flowers and grasses are flashing crazy.  They nearly scream almost constantly:  me.    A mere painter, I watch with awe and a bit of atavistic fear.  And I seek out patches in the field that are still brilliant and yet can also temper the excesses around them.

This small pastel painting I did after I returned from a visit and 600 miles of driving.  All along the route, the grasses carried much color and they anchored and carried and neighbored much splendor all around them.  At first I drew mostly the individual grasses/marks and more bright colors all around.  Finished, the field suggests--more than states--its wider/wilder activity,  still colorful.

Ahead, in early November, the fields will be quieter.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

color catching

october field

Autumn, jewel-like, can bedazzle at any moment:  asters flash from out of a shadow, goldenrods light up out of the browning grasses, sky-blue becomes bluer beside the gold.  A tree turns crimson between field and sky.  The jewels startle us and lead the fields in jumping.  Autumn is leaping in the fields.

I've tried to get this small painting jumping if not startling.  Maybe your eyes move around in an odd and syncopated way, darting around, their haunches and belly catching and dragging amid the fields and colors.  Do they?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


asters in late september field

Much in the fields are drying out, slowly browning.  Yet appearing like this reddish phrase appears in this text,  clumpsof asters  are like emergent jewels peeking out of pockets.  Oh my, bedazzling.  They do not need to move in the light or breeze; still, they can surprise us, startle us, start our hearts.

The small painting is pastel on paper.  I tried for the "startle" effect.  The final, top strokes of color in the field cover much of the detail and some of the asters, and these final strokes are bright.  I keyed these strokes bright, high, fuller of hue than the field's color because the asters are so rich in hue.  If the field's color here were duller, the asters would, I think, become gangsterish, comicbook-like, too toomuch.  Nature has a much wider range than painters do; still, we do what we can to be in the conversation, as fully participant as we can.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

color studies



Working on a large painting takes much time.  I'm on my feet six or seven hours of the day when I paint. And often I paint on the same large work until I see it start to move--some days out from the start-- or until the tone up-lifts, or until something else starts stirring.

I simply pause sometimes:  a small color study or two at my drawing table can remind me that there is a middle and end to image-making.  Then I return to the large painting and usually the path ahead in it appears clearer, the time ahead less clumped to the past days.

The two small studies above are pastel and gouache on paper.  Each study is stylized, individuated, stilled.  Actually, asters and goldenrod are group-dwellers:  many, many, blooms are on each clump and many clumps abide in broad patches in the fields.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

color casting

September field

I did this small painting on September 12th.  I've decided to keep it; I've matted it (so, probably I will not work on it more at a later time).  Already the fields have moved on.

Yellows and golds cast widely in the fields now.  In the treelines yellows and ochres are mixing with the greens.  Cool violets show more: golds can affect the greens that way.  Soon the Autumn Fire Colors will blaze forth.  Til then, this golden field furriness nearly makes my arms shiver.  The furriness moves. Can you see/feel this field/this movement too?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

94 on 9.11

This stanza is from 94, a poem by E.E. Cummings.  The poem appears in a book entitled 95 Poems, first published in 1950.  The book is dedicated to marion, his wife.  M found the poem for me:  Sue and Fran gave us a call to let us know that they recited the stanza's words during their marriage vows.  Let us all give the words an airing:

love is the voice under all silences,
the hope which has no opposite in fear;
the strength so strong mere force is feebleness:
the truth more first than sun more last than star

Friday, September 3, 2010


rising dove

T and his wife Takako just returned from their home town, where they went to celebrate at their temple the death of T's father.  "My father has been dead for 33 years."  Their priest in Akita, who incidentally is both a Buddhist priest and a medical doctor, talked to T about "you."

In English, in western societies, the word "you" represents you here and now.  In Japanese society "you" represents not only you here and now but also your ancestors.  So, he told T and Takako, you need to appreciate your ancestors.

Today, M's Aunt Betty is passing from the here and now.  Her doctor in Chicago took her off a ventilator and other support this afternoon.  Betty has outlived nearly everyone in her family stories.  Ancestral she will become.  With brothers all around her once again, in the same tense with them again.

Friday, August 20, 2010

away from green

 middle  August  field 

click on sketch to enlarge
Field colors are leaving green. Each day shows more and more spent, drying, browning stalks and flower heads that are going to seed. There are blooms still and even some new blooms. Goldenrod is moving from green to gold.  Joe Pye weed is becoming less carmine, dustier, dustier.  Lemon-yellow blooms of late-year primroses bob, tall in the breezes.  Queen Anne's lace is curling up everywhere, dunn-green, almost brown, almost ashy. But, still in the fields, also, some Queen Anne's lace is startlingly white, lacey, crisp.  Around the blooms the greens are changing, frosting with mildew from humidity of the days and the nights' coolness or simply giving up, no more chlorophyll coming through: too much sun finally and night hours that are advancing.

goldenrod & primrose in the field

In these small paintings, I have the autumn colors underneath and starting to appear above the greens.

Monday, August 9, 2010

curly dock

liatris, goldenrod & curly dock in the field

The curly dock is the dark dry brown "bottlebrush" in the fields in August.  This image is from last year's autumn paintings; this year we are not seeing the goldenrod fully flaming yellow yet.  Maybe we will in another two weeks.

So almost a year later, I am still working in this format:  8x10" or 10x8" views from the fields and treelines.  This image, like the others, is done on a printmaking paper, Stonehenge or Rives BFK.  (For larger pastel painting especially, a favorite paper is 140 lb. Fabriano Artistico, hot-press [smooth, not so much textured] watercolor paper.)  I use several finely sprayed layers of fixative, even on the small works.  I make my own fixative sometimes, and I also like to use Weber Blue Label fixative.  The layering colors are mostly soft pastel, with some charcoal and lead and graphite pencil marks.  The pastels I most often use are the soft, buttery ones from Sennelier and Schminke, and the slightly harder kaolin-based ones from Rembrandt and Winser Newton.  I use other pastels sometimes, but these are my "regulars."

Many years ago I would sometimes use touches of oil pastel, for nubby texture, in combination with the soft pastels, but I have some concern for the non-drying aspect of the mineral oil in oil pastels.  Will there be holes eaten into the paper where the nubby texture marks used to be?  Will the nubby texture marks become darker and darker?  Still, if a painting's surface changes over the years, it is still the same painting, yes?  The same painting with, maybe, more dark curly dock than it had earlier!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

autumn fields

queen anne's lace & tickseed in field

liatris & coneflowers in field

sweet peas, spotted knapweed & bee balm in field

We have quite a few colorful characters in the fields nowadays.  They have wonderful names:  Queen Anne's lace, Spotted Knapweed,  Tickseed, Coneflowers, Sweet Peas, Black-eyed Susans, Bee Balm, Goatsbeard, Bladder Campion, Bouncing Bet, Smartweed, Curly Dock.  And of course there are the grasses, turning from green to all kinds of russet reds and siennas.  Dried seedheads that have turned brown and dull brown can yet erupt from their color-stillness whenever a goldfinch or purple finch or hummingbird alights upon them.

The small paintings are mostly pastel, on a printmaking paper.  Each has quite a few marks and so a good amount of layering, which, still, only translates a bit of the multifarious field activities.

Friday, July 23, 2010

spring leaving

Spring field flowers
field sketch

The field has been seeded with wildflowers.  I go there often to sketch; this sketch, done on site, is large, 22x30."  I tried to work quickly, and you can see that some of the pastel marks barely cover the paper.  That day the field was shimmering with the sky, and the horizon wafted between the two.

Jane Blaffer Owen died on the solstice, the longest day of light, the last day of spring, this year.  She befriended me, and so many others, in New Harmony Indiana.  New Harmony will always carry her art, architecture, gardens, restorations, and her spirit.  With grace, she leaves the world.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

my summer vacation

Elena's back yard

Two weeks away:  time with my sisters H, N, and twin sister Jt, and with light and ocean, garden flowers and big old cypresses.  We walked a lot, we laughed a lot.  Color all around, carried with us even onto the highways and in the airports.

Coming back in the airplane I watched pools and wafts and points of darkness and lights, moving and changing in and out of patterns.  Fields of night and lights.  A bright crescent moon shone alongside for awhile.

The Emigrants by W. G. Sebald I read, travelled with.  There is a passage about memory reaching back, and forth into the present and perhaps beyond, and that memory meanders, foggy, sometimes clear.  I cannot find the passage.  The book is terrific, a dazzlingly rich field of greys and grey-surrounded points of fact/fiction/memory.  Oh here is the passage, from the fourth and final emigrant memoir, "Max Ferber":

     If I think back nowadays to our childhood in Steinbach (Luisa's memoirs continue at another point), it often seems as if it had been open-ended time, in every direction--indeed, as if it were still going on, right into these lines I am now writing.

This passage goes on for awhile, Luisa remembering the path and the kind of memories of her childhood and adulthood, all within the frame of her son Max's memories, as told to the nameless younger narrator of "Max Ferber" who grows older as we travel with him, we readers.   Luisa is remembering even as her world in her present-day Germany becomes narrower and narrower.  (The passage does not include fogginess; I got that wrong, yet fogginess, greyness are abiding motifs throughout the book.)

What a lot of layers and movement--in fields of color, night, or grey--there are in moments of memory.

Friday, July 2, 2010

July 1

July 1

Going west soon:  I'll be gone for two weeks.  This small painting, of flowers in a tangle of field, I did yesterday.  I'll leave it out on view in the studio, too.

chang chang ge

chang chang ge

Chang chang ge is Chinese for "sing, sing, song"  or "lots of singing" or "there is song all around."

The calligraphy here does seem to move around:  from square to square, square with a line through it, square under a line, and there is emphasis and syncopation, lightness and heaviness of touch.  The open square is kou, "mouth." You see kou in the top two changs (and twice, smaller, in the lower character ge).  The other part of chang--the two squares each with an inside line--means "sun," "splendor."  So you have in the Chinese word for "sing" the notion of mouth and sun/splendor.

There is much song around, here in early July.  Robin fledglings are fussing, sparrow parents call out warnings, finches and orioles share the news of newly dried seedheads.  The cicadas have started buzzing eveningtime.  How is there one moment or word for "song"?

Thursday, July 1, 2010


summer field

Not so much splashes of color as wafts of color, these.  The day was hot and the field buzzing with activity.  Some of the pastel marks almost melt into the paper.  After awhile you are drawing out and about.  The waft-marks become floaters above the field; the breezes, the air become integral with the field.  If splashes of color are water-filled, wafts of color are air-surrounded.

This field I painted on site, with pastel on paper, over a probably six-hour period.  The paper size is 22x30"; it is Fabriano Artistico, 140lb, hotpressed.  I love this paper and use it often.  Especially on a hot day:  the paper itself starts living and acting and interacting.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

flowers moving on a page

Martin's and Ardean's paintings

Watercolor can be like a splash of color-and-light.  Not often, students can newly try it out with seemingly carefree brushstrokes and arrangement.  Martin and Ardean have done so.  Their colors waft in space, as do flowers in a field, don't they!

A wonderful book, The Wild Braid, has in its last poem, "The Round,"  these final lines:

the still-wet words I scribbled
on the blotted page:
"Light splashed . . ."

I can scarcely wait til tomorrow
when a new life begins for me,
as it does each day;
as it does each day.

(The first line of the poem is  Light splashed this morning  .)

Do find the book, find the poem; these lines are only slight enticement for much, in this poem and in the other poems to enjoy!  The book is a collection of poems and reflections about poetry and gardening by Stanley Kunitz, a small, lovely book made at the end of his very long life.

The students who painted flowers in watercolor class with me are not very old; still, they are living in retirement:  and from the long view they have reached because of age, gosh, they were able to see the splashes and so "scribble" and "blot" toward some small, lovely work.  Ageless sparkles.

Monday, June 14, 2010


I've sought out returning geese from my March 10, 2010 entry.  As you can see, away is much the same image as returning geese.  (The haiku by Miura Chora in the same March 10th entry is good for me to read again too.)

four leaves of bamboo like a wild goose
for my friend

Away:  a friend has gone.  He will not be returning except when I think of him.  Seeing the four leaves of bamboo as returning or as going away imbues, a bit, this still memorial brushpainting with movement, memory that will move, come and go.

Friday, June 4, 2010



Everyone who has come by the studio and seen this small painting on the easel--Eric, Sandi, and Deb come to mind--have immediately recognized and exclaimed "trillium!" as if they are heralding a fond, found friend. The trillium are wonderful in our woods.  In the early spring the woods are dark with leaf mulch and with the dampness of the winter melt, so that when these bright white big blooms on bold green leaves appear, they almost shine.  Welcome indeed, these friends.

While I was sketching up north some weeks ago now, driving around I saw hundreds of trillium covering the woods floor.  I brought sketches back of trillium and of the first northern orchard blooms.  Four small orchard paintings and some small sketches later:  only this week did I get to the trillium.

This trillium painting is gouache and pastel and some charcoal.  I hope it is lively, blooming here on the page/screen.  The three blooms with three broad petals nod slightly, I think, here at us.  And they nod to the time two weeks ago or more, when they were out there among us, out there among the trees.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

becoming summer


Not as dramatic perhaps as a film (as, for example, the film "Becoming John Malkovich," nor as dramatic as John Malkovich or what we think his life is like; yet, this field is dramatic.  There is much going on.  The greens have become full force, overtaking the lilacs and light blues of the Dames Rockets and the tender yellow-greens of early growth.  Some blue shadows and blue distances have appended to the greens, and my-gosh, bits of autumnal russets have appeared.  Not to mention that there has been much insect activity and alifting of leaves and flowers by the bugs and by breezes and by the wafts of car speed from the nearby highway.

In this small pastel painting I have tried to array the paper with high and abuzzing drama.  Spring is still around:  summer is coming:  summer is already much around us.  There is much strength and activity in our fields these days; yes, in our fields at least there is much vigor.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


M is in San Francisco among like-mindeds.  He found out today that the word "truth" is related, through Indo-European paths, to the word for "tree."

A moveable feast, this word-link, this tracing travel; do you know too about this, these?

Friday, May 21, 2010

bluebird in field

Bluebird in field

One more time I watched a bluebird pause at our park, which of course can look like a field.  Who is to say for the bluebird?  So I made another, fuller image of the bluebird with green "field" all around.  This bluebird is alert, almost quivering.  He did not stay long.  Most years I do not see a bluebird after early spring.

This pastel painting has many layers, so that the printmaking paper will probably bow a bit whenever the humidity becomes high.  If I frame this, I will ask Bud to add a separator between the mat and the paper so that the paper can move more easily with the humidity changes, and so that if any particles of pastel drop, they can drop off between the mat and the paper rather than on the mat.  Bud uses 4-ply matboard strips as a separator.   Some framers use plastic strips that align with the outside edges of the mat and the rabbet of the frame.  Pastel painters use fixative--a kind of sprayed varnish---to fix the pastel particles in place, but some particles inevitably drop over time.  And here in this painting, there are many layers of pastel and a paper that might slightly move:  a call for special care.  This bluebird is still and ready to move:  we'll be prepared as best we can to watch!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

these lines

These lines by Philip Levine can center me and can carry me, like a mantra.  I keep coming back to these lines, and at one studio I had them up on the wall.

Fact is silence is the perfect water:
unlike rain it falls from no clouds
to wash our minds, to ease our tired eyes,
to give heart to the thin blades of grass
fighting through the concrete for even air
dirtied by our endless stream of words.

Aren't they wonderful!  These lines are from a longer, entirely wonderful poem entitled "He Would Never Use One Word Where None Would Do"  from a book entitled THE MERCY.

I smile widely now when I see his grass blades fighting through the concrete, like Sisyphus, like Detroit (where Philip Levine grew up), like anyone's even small urges to the better, like me amid all the noise I can make and have around me.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

between flitting

Baltimore Oriole perched, turning

This oriole did not stay around long.  He came into our yard, flitted sideways a few times, sang enormously for awhile, and then was away.  I have not seen him again, three days later now.

Alarming color he flies in with.  Do you have a similarly colored bird in your area?  (Nb. We do not live in Baltimore.)

Bluebird perched for a moment

The park across the street almost looks like a field.  So the bluebird paused there.

This sketch is close to the paper, that is, you can see all the strokes that I used, coming "up" from the first charcoal strokes to the colored watercolor and gouache strokes. (And I left the charcoal here rather than, say, bring in a background color to surround the bird.)   Gouache is basically watercolor with an opaque white, zinc white, added to it.  Often I mix white with my watercolors as I sketch, to give the color some "body" as well as opacity.  European art writers used to use the term "body color" in their descriptions of sketches and I think they were referring to gouache or maybe to lightly-dampened pigment or pastel.  Dry pigment or powdered charcoal and pastel can add wonderful grit and body to brushstrokes of paint.   Paint and pigment and pencil and white and whatever can all mix in in many ways.  Without regard to definition, they flit around, these mixtures!  Still, in the moments that they pause, they can start to form brushstrokes or words, or after awhile, a bird.

Sunday, May 2, 2010


Spring, Leelanau

Spring racing ^
Spring bursting v
We are
this Spring:

you too?

Spring, bursting

Saturday, April 24, 2010


dove pair

Being spring, there's been a lot of dancing and pairing among the birds around here.  And nests appear.  Not for long, still, a pair will pause.
This paused pair are mourning doves, charcoal and pastel and a bit of graphite on a tan printmaking paper.  You can probably see the layers of markmaking up from the paper.  These doves are still for a moment, yet the layering gives them some bit of movement on the page, yes?
You can see them also at

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Amy, still

April 13, 2010

Almost mid spring, almost mid April:  April 13 we will hereafter especially think of Amy, still, with us.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

winter to spring

Spring edge of the woods

Colors are coming out of the earth now. Winter—having been mostly about the skies and what was coming through the skies—is now receding as the earth activity presses and opens up. The days—despite still having fits of fierce wind and weather--are mostly about what the earth is up to: what is new, what is coming, colors.

Royal blue scilla and blue-violet glory of the snow and their green leaf clumps are just up. Daffodils are bold and bright. Yellows, lemons, whites, and with dashes of orange, they are high and trumpet-like in their green clumps, above the siennas of the leaf mold and still-damp earth. The bushes show full buds, a few blooms. Some floating yellow forsythia branches are at our woods’ edge. The trees are loaded with catkins, which show as dusty red or dusty gold fuzz around the dark limbs. Full color is rising. Any day now trees and bushes will become color (not lines). And they will buzz. All on earth is starting to teem.

Spring edge of the woods came together quickly, and I used many small marks: of pastel, charcoal, and graphite. I kept it as a sketch rather than develop it further (by defining the daffodils more, for example, or by adding white scilla or violets which were in my pencil thumbnail sketch) because there was a sense of vitality about the sketch.

early spring and rain

Early spring and rain is a small pastel-on-paper painting that I did a day after the sketch above it. On my drive to the studio, I had seen this patch of our neighborhood. Out of rain-soaked air and earth, these trees and lawn came in and out of focus. This “waftiness” of the view, as much as the trees and lawn themselves, is what I was trying to suggest.

Often my style of painting diverges depending on what prompts the work in the first place. I do not mind losing some stylistic cohesion sometimes; still, I do lose some stylistic cohesion sometimes!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

scroll, practice

qing                             yong

The scroll on the right shows the Chinese character yong, which means "forever," "eternity."  The Japanese use the same character, though they pronounce it eiYong (ei) contains the pictogram of water; maybe you can see the brushstrokes here as rivulets, as flow. The character is made of hand-ground ink on paper, mounted on the scroll, and I have added my vermilion red seal.

The five characters on the left, qing, are ink on practice paper.  The paper is thin, tough, and highly absorbent, carefully torn from a roll.  Here you can see that the brushstrokes vary according to relative wetness and pressure of the brush (in the first (top-right) character, qing, and the fourth character, kuai, you can see grey ink).  If you "scroll" down to my next blog entry, qing is explained a little more.

Calligraphy I practice almost every week alongside some students.  We become still--centered--and moving with the brush when we practice, and sometimes the calligraphy is good.

Thursday, April 1, 2010



This is a calligraphy practice from Tuesday night's class. Reading top to bottom, right to left:
qing     lao     i  kuai  r 
green   old      together    =    Young and Old Together

Sandi and I also practiced some plum blossom painting.  The plum is a symbol of hope and endurance, blooming as it does so early--even in the snow--and blooming often on branches that are very old.

Sandi's granddaughter Alexis practiced with us.  Such a young, talented calligrapher in our midst.

plum practice