Thursday, December 15, 2011

noigandres again

This exchange about a word-mystery, between the American poet Ezra Pound and the language scholar (Doctor) Emil Levy, took place in 1911 in Freiburg:

. . . Doctor, what do they mean by noigrandres?
And he said: "Noigandres! NOIgandres!
You know for seex mon's of my life
Effery night when I go to bett, I say to myself:
Noigandres, eh, noigandres,
Now what the DEFFIL can that mean!"

Emil Levy did solve the word-mystery:  noigandres  means to protect from, to ward off ennui.  And so a lovely line of poetry/song from the Provencal--a language of the medeival troubadours--can now be understood:

E jois lo grans, e l'olors d'enoi gandres
And joy is its seed, and its smell banishes sadness

The provencal poet is conjuring a flower, after he has heard "birdsong that whirls and turns" ("sona e tint e tart").  (All this word-talk can be found in Hugh Kenner's book on Pound in a chapter called The Invention of Language.)

It is a lovely notion, yes, a word appearing again that brings a new way for us to banish sadness.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Tomas Transtromer's SONG

I told Gretchen I had read a poem at lunchtime that transported me-- with images, movements, a crashing horse on the sea, gulls like ragged sailcloth.  Gosh.  Gretchen said I should put it on the blog:  yes.

Here are the first six stanzas of Tomas Transtromer's Song.  The translation, from the Swedish, is by Robert Hass in his book of poems, Time and Materials.  Vainomoinen is the mythic singer of the songs of the great Finnish epic, The Kalevala.  You can read the entire poem at this link:  SONG  .


Dressed in the ragged sailcloth of dead ships,
Flecked gray with the smokes of outlawed coasts,
The white flock swelled, the swarms of gulls cried out:

Alarm!  Alarm!  There's something overboard.
They crowded tight to form a signal flag
That, fluttering, reads:  Look sharp!  There's booty here!

So the gulls steered across the water-widths,
Blue pastures striding in the waves' white foam,
A streak of phosphor straightway to the sun.

But Vainomoinen on his ancient journeys
Sparkles on sea swells in the ancient light,
His horse's hooves so swift they're hardly wet.

And back of him the green forest of his songs:
The oak tree poised to leap a thousand years,
A great mill turned by birdsong, and the wind

Imprisons each of the trees in its own roar.
Immense pinecones glimmer in the moonlight
When the sentinel pine ignites and flares.

A great mill turned by birdsong!  Wow.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Tony's Thanks-giving

Tony brought bread, wine, and a book yesterday when he came for our feast of Thanksgiving.  After M opened the champagne, we paused and Tony read:

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday;this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any--lifted from the no
of all nothing--human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

The wonderful poem is by E. E. Cummings.  Yes, wonderful: how indeed doubt-lifting.

Deer's there, green, blue
Thanksgivng 2011

Monday, November 21, 2011

Autumn Gold

Here is gold in the early November treeline.
Below is gold in the fields, last year, in late October.  See also ClamorandSense .

And here, below, the Autumn landscape's gold expands, becomes light.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

gold and silver

late October field

This small painting started with much drawing and detail.  Color grew.
I used several fine sprays of fixative between layers.  The fixative darkens the color just a bit and it allows me to add more pigment, more color.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

making note of

A lovely, companionable book that I came across recently is Greene on Capri, A Memoirpublished in 2000.  The author is Shirley Hazard.  The Greene is Graham Greene, the marvelous writer, prickly person, and Capri, of course, is the astonishingly beautiful cliff-made island off the coast near Naples Italy.

Shirley Hazard did not make notes of (nor did she tape-record) the conversations she had with Graham Greene. Here is what she says about recall:

Over our years of Capri meetings, I seldom made "notes" after conversation with Graham and Yvonne.  An underlying intention to record changes the nature of things, blighting spontaneity and receptivity: an imposition.  Like the snapping of photographs.  In our appointments diary I sometimes find hieroglyphic reference to the evenings at Gemma, a few words of recall.  One remembers long and well, and without prompting, what is truly interesting--the moments that, pondered, shared, revised, become part of the inward legend.  

(She means by "snapping of photographs" here the substitute activity of looking, not the kind of photographing wherein the photographer/artist shares the life of her subject and, oh, can capture it in a still image so that we can share a bit of the life too [see Sue's wonderful photos in the next blog below here!].  Don't you think so?)  Sketching, for me, feeds my inward legend, my map of significant images.  And you?  How do you recall salient features of people or places that you come across?

sketch while visiting Leelanau

Thursday, October 13, 2011

bird in the marsh

Sue sent me this yesterday, and she added:

I had a great day today, and I thought you would love to be here sketching. The marshes are starting to turn their golden autumn hue. I went to Cockle Cove for the afternoon to shoot heron in the marsh. I had a fabulous time with all kinds of birds, including this red tail hawk, which was about 15 feet away from me. I had decided to take one more walk around before heading home, and was I ever glad I did! He zoomed into a tree about 15 feet from me. I got quite a few good photos because he was so close. He was very loud too-- bleating away, especially when he took off.

Isn't the bird in the marsh incredible! the bird in the marsh and, OH, the bird in the marsh, a-flapping.
(And wow, these photos!)

Thursday, October 6, 2011


yong (ei)

Steve Jobs is dead.
Any other news today seems pale in comparison.  He is a person of value, big, enduring.

Yong (ei in Japanese) is the Chinese character for eternal, forever.  The ) jag at the top is a dian, a dot stroke.  The rest of the character is the character for water, swei.  You can see three long strokes, like rivulets, like current in a stream:  swei.   The ancient depiction for swei is very similar, but even more like water's current.  Steve Jobs is one of the few people in my lifetime who is and will be with us, clearly, always, like a dot in the stream/ like the stream itself.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Soutine's portrait's paint

Garcon d'honneur by Chaim Soutine

At the Musee de l'Orangerie in Paris, in the basement floor, there are several wonderful paintings by Chaim Soutine.  The full brushstroke of paint, blue grey, behind this man's ear:  I found this particularly amazing.

Here are more images, paintings by Soutine.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

hau jyan kang

hau jyan kang

GOOD HEALTH to you                HEARTINESS

The bottom of the bottom character has brushstrokes of the four directions, heartiness out to all!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

goldfinches, there and now


Mom is slowly, slowly getting stronger after her surgery, there in Florida. Here, the goldfinches are so busy in the fields!
E.E. Cummings's words seem apt for all of us, folks and fowl:

tomorrow is our permanent address
and there they'll scarcely find us (if they do,
we'll move away still further:  into now

No one knows about illness and recovery, about painting and aptness to vision, or about flitting from one--which one?--bloom to another.  Words can come close, especially if you are a poet like E.E. Cummings.

This small painting is gouache, charcoal, pastel and graphite on paper.  Gouache is basically watercolor with white added to give the paint body and opacity.  Usually, zinc white is added.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

field of the goldfinches

August field

The flowers in the fields will soon be brown, their seeds flown, dispersed, or eaten, but not yet.  Goldfinches have been flitting in the fields, eating the seeds on thistles, bee balm, and coneflowers.  Goldfinches are BRIGHT yellow birds, and the fields still have colors, so a lot of bright dance is on.
I went to this field this morning and did a pencil sketch.  All last week I was in the world of medical detail.  Everyone there tries to dance well; still, I was glad to be here again for a while.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

poet in view

Cardinal in our yard

Philip Levine is the new Poet Laureate of the United States.  Yesterday we got the news, along with snippets of his poetry, his biography, and photos of him.  Fame for him.  Please link here, Philip Levine, to an earlier blog about his wonderful poetry.  Like our cardinals, his poetry flashes brilliance, flitting around in and out of view.

The cardinal is the state bird of many states in the American midwest.  Here I have tried to catch the male's amazing color and some sense of that amazing head, maybe nodding--in gouache, pastel, charcoal and graphite on Stonehenge paper.  Cardinals are clear, loud singers; certainly they add color and song, joy, to our yards.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

not Plato's cave

dove in mulberry juice and charcoal

My mother will be in a "cave" today, in surgery.
When she comes out, she will see my bird which I send as a message of love.
Truth and metaphor, for Sally.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Paris gardens

paintings by Claude Monet

Claude Monet was 82 years old when he agreed to paint 19 panels of paintings that would be arranged in an oval or a circle in museum rooms designed solely for the paintings.  The painting, directly above, consists of four panels.  When I was standing there looking, I was about the size of the brown tree trunk:  large and vast these paintings are!  The imagery is from his gardens at Giverny.  The museum where the paintings were installed is a former greenhouse for orange trees, L'Orangerie, on the other side of a very long garden from The Louvre.

Water gardens and paint become the room; we are a part of a another world.

Monet's health was not great, and his eyesight was bothering him.  Still, he made these amazing paintings.  Mostly, he used brushes that were about an inch wide.  Still, there is amazing variety in the touch and sweep of the brushwork and there is elegance in the economy of the brushwork coming together to form images like water lilies or to animate the passages between the recognizable images.  And the color is gorgeous.  More than anything, Monet knew, loved, and passed on to us a joy of color.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


Lake Michigan
oil/gessoed board

A bit can re-call, can call up the large lake.
I think once again of Yeats's The Lake Isle of Innisfree .

Today in Michigan, Betty Ford is being buried beside her husband, Gerald Ford, who was one of our Presidents.  This bit of news re-calls Betty Ford's large, lovely and brave contribution to our world.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


July daylilies

Floating orange patches all around town now.  Lifting spirits.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

lake views

Lake Michigan near Holland
July 8, c 3:00 pm

The lake looks different from one quarter hour to another and from any slight change of view.  My sister Helen said it looks like the ocean.  

These color sketches I did today and yesterday in the studio, from pencil sketches.  How different these colors are from the colors of the watercolor sketch in the preceding blog entry.

Friday, July 8, 2011

lemon-yellow of primroses

oil sketch on board

You can see the quick layering of this small sketch:  wet and dry strokes of oil paint on a linen-covered cardboard.  Primroses, poppies, and peonies were blooming at the edge of the woods.

Travel and family visits have precluded my regular work weeks, happily.  Still, I can sketch.  Below is a small watercolor sketch of Lake Michigan.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Saryu's haiku

"willow tree"  calligraphy

Without a brush
The willow paints the wind.


We brushed this haiku in class Tuesday.  My calligraphy here is somewhat willow-like, breeze-lifted.  While we were in class, outdoors there was great wind.  We were under a tornado warning!

Saryu's surname and his lifespan's dates are not known, evidently (unless you know them).   This haiku is from a book from The Art Institute of Chicago,  Zen Haiku, selections and translations by Jonathan Clements.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

blue flags

blue flags in the field

Blue flags are a wild iris that grow around here.  They are small and fine, delicate.  Yet, they are tough, they will not give up their patch of  field easily, and they can spread if they have enough water.  The ones I saw were almost hidden, surrounded by field.  Here, the painting has lifted them high in the field, undaunted by the grasses or the woods beyond.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

woods and flowers

rhododendron and woods

Back and forth between the cultivated and the wild:  most of us like to go there:  you too?

This little painting started as a site sketch at the large garden of a nearby school called Aquinas.  The painting, mostly pastel, also looks emblematic of the site where our friends S and Fr live on Cape Cod.  Their house's yard is surrounded by very large rhododendrons, and the yard verges in the back up to 800-plus acres of protected woods.  We have been much thinking of our friends this month, so this scene, rhododendron and woods, getting through onto my paper as two places, not one, shouldn't surprise me.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

in the deep heart's core

William Butler Yeats wrote The Lake Isle of Innisfree in 1895.  He was in London, pavements all around, when he heard the sound of water lapping in a fountain and thought of his boyhood/ island/ the sea.  Here is his poem.  Here also is a link to Yeats himself reciting the poem:  .

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
  And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee,
  And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
  Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
  And evening full of the linnet's wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
  I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements gray,
  I hear it in the deep heart's core.

Often I call upon this poem and say some lines and, hearing the words, I am calmed.  This past two weeks I have been in two great cities, Chicago and Boston.  There, amid great strength and beauty; still, Yeats's poem has wafted to me at times, clearly, with music, with magic.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Gillian's wonderful poem

On the drifting roof
survives a Tsunami dog
hell crossing to sing--

     -Gillian Huang-Tiller
Gillian is brushing up to Issa, which makes her own poem even more layered, wonderful.  Here is Issa (who lived in Japan from 1763 - 1828):

in this world
we walk on the roof of hell
gazing at flowers


Monday, May 16, 2011

Homage to Bonnard

May day trees

A bit of Bonnard's  "Almond Tree" painting transfers, bequeaths, to this small painting.  The May day trees here are real enough:  they are flowering now between an old brick building and some woods not far from where we live.  Someone keeps the grass mowed.  The crabapple at right was growing from an old broken trunk.  The other trees kept co-merging in view, exchanging color and light.  Something about the way the color stays in and comes out of the paper reminded me of Bonnard's way of working in oil paint on canvas, reminded me when I was almost finished. My center tree here is not an almond tree; nevertheless, it beholds a bit like one. 

My painting is somewhat clumsy.  But it has, I think, something of the living, exchanging nature of art and homage about it.  I am glad for that.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Bonnard's almond tree

L' amandier en fleurs
(The Almond Tree in Blossom)
Pierre Bonnard
This small painting is the last one Pierre Bonnard painted.  The almond tree was outside his bedroom window.  The painting, he finishes in 1947.  Here are the words of Bonnard's grand-nephew, Michel Terrasse, from a lovely book, Bonnard at Le Gannet, about the painting:

    Though bedridden in his austere cell, and drained of strength, he was still thinking of his Amandier en Fleurs (Almond Tree in Blossom).
    He asked Charles Terrassee to bring him the canvas: 'This green--on the ground--there--it's not right.  It needs some yellow.'
    The nephew who loved him best took his uncle's hand and helped Pierre Bonnard to add a little touch of gold for the very last time on this earth.

This time of year, when the trees are starting to bloom, I think of this painting.  I love Pierre Bonnard's work.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

our pear trees in spring

pear trees, early May

We have pear trees all around town, along major roads and framing the lawns of municipal buildings.  They are beautiful trees, and they are just starting to bloom.

This small painting is pastel and charcoal and some graphite on a soft printmaking paper.  I did a quick pencil sketch out in the car.  These trees are growing beside a road near my studio, a road wide enough that I could pull over and stop the car to do the sketch.  What you cannot see--to the left, outside of the frame of the painting's trees--is a wide, scrabby field, a "super fund site," i.e. a place of toxic dump.  At the far other end of this field is our municipal waste water treatment plant.  An odd landscape.  Still, the part of the view with pear trees is beautiful.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Easter 1916

Easter 1916 is the great, troubling poem about uprisings by William Butler Yeats.  He wrote if after an uprising by Irish nationalists against British rule failed--on Easter Monday April 24, 1916---and all but the one woman of the group who failed were executed.  Great poems re-arise.  This Easter poem comes again to mind this Easter 2011, when questions of nationalism and power are being sorted out in arenas of great human tragedy and violence, as ever, terribly, but newly, especially in the Middle East.

How poignant to think of the woman, here in stanza two as a young woman, before turmoil, destruction.  I share Yeats's ambivalence to this kind of Easter.  A terrible beauty is born.  Here is a link to the entire poem.   I will print here the final stanza:

Too long a sacrifice
Can make a stone of the heart.
O when may it suffice?
That is Heaven's part, our part
To murmur name upon name,
As a mother names her child
When sleep at last has come
On limbs that had run wild.
What is it but nightfall?
No, no, not night but death;
Was is needless death after all?
For England may keep faith
For all that is done and said.
We know their dream; enough
To know they dreamed and are dead;
And what if excess of love
Bewildered them till they died?
I write it out in a verse--
MacDonagh and MacBride
And Connolly and Pearse
Now and in time to be,
Wherever green is worn,
Are changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Spring drizzle

Early morning, drizzle, April

Do you use the word drizzle?  This kind of light rain--drizzle--allows light to come through.  Early in the morning when light is starting, the drizzle casts a kind of grey-green veil.

To get depth, I layered the color, but I did not want to quash the light.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter afterwards

Edge of Spring

Trees and bushes are ready to bloom any moment.  There is so much palpitation all around.  Still, even with catkins, bright, at the outer edges of the trees' twigs, winter-bare branches show and much sky shows through the treelines.  Soon, very soon, color will fill the branches and will fill the sky.  This day after Easter, we are poised for much life around us resurging.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Spring, almost

Catkins and light in the treeline

The sky was so very blue around noon yesterday, and the sunlight was mixing amid some of the high tree branches.  The treelines have not budded out into leafs or flowers yet.  Still, the dusty red catkins on some of the trees are fuzzy and full.  So the treelines are showing quite a lot of action.

I did a quick pencil sketch and then back in my studio I worked up layers of color into this small painting.  The painting wasn't lively enough last night at 5:30, when I had to stop and get ready for calligraphy class.  So this morning I worked on it some more.  Though the painting is dense with color and abstracted, it recalls--it echoes--for me the sense and sight of an almost fully emergent Spring treeline.  By the way, you can see some ruff and rib of the wonderful cotton rag paper which holds the color here.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

tsunami dog

Tsunami dog

Tsunami dog will forever move in our imagery.  She is still, watching us here in this photo:  go to  Tsunami Dog  and click on PLAY and you will see our dog alive, moving, survived three weeks after the tsunami of Japan.  Our dog is a wonderful story during a terrible time.

Our dog of Pompeii did not survive.  So many and so much were destroyed by the burning lava of erupting Mt. Vesuvius so many years ago.  Pompeii dog remains to us still, unmoving--a replica-cast in a viewing case, a photo, a preserved life, a terrible testament of a terrible time.

Pompeii dog

Though AI-JANE titles itself as "still words and images in a moving world," I consider the image, moving, of Tsunami dog extraordinary enough to be an exception.  You too?

Thursday, March 31, 2011

bird of spring


In our family, each year at the end of winter whenever we see a robin reappear, we report to each other.  Some of our family now live outside the zone where a robin, returned, can signal spring; still, those outsiders get the report about our sightings nonetheless.  You too?  Do you watch for a certain bird?

This small painting has various layers of pigment, charcoal and graphite, and fixatives.  I tried for a solid bird (our robins are big birds) with some bit of movement.

Do you know the pastel paintings of R.B. Kitaj.  They are wonderful, masterful, with much movement.  And though his subjects are mostly people in places, his people have avian tendencies, it seems to me.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

shadow and sunrise

March shadow, sunrise, thaw

Tetsuo, Takako, and Kentaro are OK.  We got this news in an email from Tetsuo, from Tokyo, yesterday.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Dream over withered fields

The last poem of the great Japanese poet Basho goes something like this:  (the translation is in Robert Hass's book, "Twentieth Century Pleasures")

Sick on a journey,
my dream hovers
over the withered fields.

Tabi ni yamite yume wa kare-no wo kakeme guru

Or, the translation could go:
as for Dream:  it hovers over the withered fields

We think of the Japanese and their distress and their withered fields, and our hearts go out to them.

In calligraphy Tuesday night, we brushed three characters for "dream hovering."

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


winter to spring, finch

Goldfinches have returned en masse.  The finches' indeterminate color has a delicate sheen, almost a glow.  Soon enough the males will molt into bright gold plumage.    M has suggested "mandorla" when I asked him about the word "penumbrous" for the kind of glow that they show.  Mandorla is Italian for "almond," and it means an almond-shaped area of light in paintings (as in, especially, depictions of the resurrected Christ or Mary in the Assumption).  What a wonderful word.

You can see most of the pencil sketch in the finch above, and most of the first gouache layer of evergreens in the surround.  The finch here is on a branch; the one I saw was on a tube feeder.  This painting is a little roughly translated and unfinished-looking I suppose.   Still, I see the finch again in the painting.  And that is enough.  

Saturday, March 5, 2011

winter still, long

late winter, late afternoon, evergreens

Three evergreens were catching light and snow and casting long shadows, the foreground inter-changing with the background.  Never mind that it is still winter!  These three figures and their drama compelled me to sketch.

Alyce has asked for this painting to appear in a magazine and in her gallery.  Much of my work has been sitting during the winter.  Soon this one, and then the others will start going out, will start to appear (aper, ap parere) out.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Cranes again

Sandhill cranes in Florida, remembered

We all await cranes and geese flying north again.

I've done this small sketch with pastel and glue-water.  Distemper (or distempre in French) is painting with pigments suspended in glue, so my sketch here has some look of a distemper. Vuillard has done incredibly beautiful paintings with distemper, incredible because distemper is difficult to work with over an extended surface and build-up.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

spring, forced


The daffodils were blooming because a grower had "forced" the bloom early, inside.  Sandi forced a branch of redbud from her yard last week, and she brought the successfully blooming branch to class on Tuesday for us to see.  I like the meaning of the word "force" here.  You too?

My studio is in a building owned by a floral company.  Deb, who is in charge of all the potted plants, had some daffodils out on the back racks this week.  The daffodils looked good, but they were on their way out of bloom (probably they were brought in to sell for Valentines Day, the 14th).  I borrowed a pot of daffodils and did some small color sketches.  Here is one of them.

Friday, February 25, 2011

spring, hopes

Hopes in new growth--of plants, seeds, yard and garden areas, travels--arise with spring.  Look at this wonderful poem about hope or, if you will, about language, about life, about art!  Last week M met Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill, the poet.  She said to him about this poem that, at one point in a busy day with much and much with the children happening, she wondered to herself  WHAT WAS SHE DOING? WRITING POETRY IN THIS LANGUAGE THAT PEOPLE DIDN'T READ ANYMORE?  CRAZY!  And then she began writing the poem.  She writes in old Irish, Gaelic, and I have copied the Irish title here but not the Irish words of the poem, alas.  (You can find them, yes.)  The translation here is by Paul Muldoon.

Ceist na Teangan
(The Language Issue)

I place my hope on the water
in this little boat
of the language, the way a body might put
an infant

in a basket of intertwined
iris leaves,
its underside proofed
with bitumen and pitch,

then set the whole thing down amidst
the sedge
and bulrushes by the edge
of a river

only to have it borne hither and thither,
not knowing where it might end up;
in the lap, perhaps,
of some Pharaoh's daughter.

  -Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill    c.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

early spring

     With white plum blossoms
these nights to the faint light of dawn
     are turning.

(Shiraume ni akuru yo bakari to nari ni keri.)

The poem is by Buson, an eighteenth century Japanese poet and painter.  (The translation is by Edith Shiffert, in a book by Robert Hass, Twentieth Century Pleasures.)

We have more snow, and more snow will come tonight.  Still, any moment, we will see a bloom outside.  And seeing the bloom will fix a moment amid the turning from winter to spring.  The poem above is Buson's last poem.  He dictated it to his friend Gekkei, then fell asleep and died before morning.  "That one," he is said to have murmured, "should have a title, "Early Spring.'"

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Dawn, thaw

Dawn, thaw

"Rosey-fingered dawn" is Homer's famous description.  My sketch (see below) says "orange creme" to describe the color of dawn that I woke up to yesterday.  How wonderful the dawn:  can I paint that color, that wonderful dawn?

At the foreground of the pencil-sketched field (below) is "tan dust," or thawed snow, which is not a great color but, still, a wonderful sight after months of earth-covering snow.  In the small painting, I have suggested the thaw with some of the paper showing under the shadowy blue.  I have suggested the dawn light with strong color.  The night-darkened treeline has only some detail; it is still waking up.

As I worked on this painting, I wondered if it would be the last winter view on my drawing table for awhile.

Dawn, thaw preliminary sketch

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

out of winter for a week

sandhill cranes

Three Sandhill Cranes walked into the back yard while Mother and I were having lunch last Tuesday at her house in Florida.  Last Thursday also, after lunch, I saw two Sandhill Cranes meandering in the back yard of Mother's neighbor Pattie. 

This sketch of Sandhills I did two weeks ago, up here in my northern Midwest studio, after leafing through a wonderful book, On Ancient Wings: The Sandhill Cranes of North America by Michael Forsberg.  How wonderful then for me to see these cranes in Florida when I was there, so soon again, and, you know, real!

I was in Florida for a week, the week when the Midwest and much of the rest of the country got blasted by snow and ice and winds and cold.   I suppose it is fitting then that my previous blog entry, the small painting of a blizzard, stayed as the current image on view here at Ai-jane during that week of icy storms.  Still, I like seeing cranes at any time, and this sketch of cranes, though simple, has a bit of the softness and stalk-iness of cranes coming through the charcoal strokes.  The simple view of cranes, in the midst of still-immense winter, pleases me.  You too?

Saturday, January 29, 2011

winter, thick


We are in the thick of winter.  A lot of winter is past, but winter will only slowly crawl toward spring, through many weeks.  We almost forget the shapes of trees or where the long yard meets the fields.  Some days we cannot see much of any detail, winter so thick around us.

My small pastel painting here only seemed OK (OK, it's done) when it became almost detail-less.  It did not breathe or shake or otherwise move for quite awhile, for many layers until then.  I did not set out to paint such an abstract view.  Still, this is the place where the painting has stopped, where the evergreen on the right emerges or dissolves in the midst of winter all around.

I wonder where the word "blizzard" comes from.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

shou and kotobuki


Shou is Chinese for "long life."  In Japanese, "long life" is kotobuki.  The same written character is used for shou  and for kotobuki.  My calligraphy, above, shows the character for "long life" with bamboo-like strokes and a bit of a lilt at the bottom.  The dot at the bottom is almost double-lobed.  It is OK calligraphy, and so I have added two red seals.  When I did "long life," some family and friends were having health trouble.  I see shou now and I think of them.

Kotobuki, below, is a work of calligraphy done late in his life by Hakuin, one of the most notable Zen Masters of all times.  You may know of him because of the wonderful koan that he came up with:  "What is the sound of one hand clapping?"  You can tell--yes?-- that I looked at Hakuin's kotobuki, that I have, in my simple calligraphy, paid homage to his great calligraphy.  His strokes are both bonelike/strong and round/alive.  He shows much force in this one character.


Saturday, January 22, 2011

winter, color

hawthorns, evergreens, winter

The red-berried trees are notable around town.  Maybe they are Washington Hawthorn trees, maybe they are Cockspur Thorn trees, which were planted once by many municipal crews as a tree of choice.  These trees I saw alongside one of our four-lane roads.  Gretchen says that in the spring, Cedar Waxwings come through in flocks and feast upon the berries.  Imagine those beautiful birds among the berries!

Here is the sketch that I did of the view.  I was stopped at a traffic light, so I had to work fast.  You can click on the sketch to see it more clearly.  (You can click on most of the images at Ai-jane to enlarge them.)