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.)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

winter deep

winter deep in January

Tree trunks and branches mostly provide colors now.  Much else is covered with snow.  Trees in the far distance lose their color and become sky or snow; it is hard to tell which sometimes.  This kind of deep-January scene can be interesting drama:  the ins and outs of distance and middle distances, the snow white lines that are either field or branch, the movable horizon (where is the horizon?).  Is that a telephone pole, or is it a fence post?    Why does the color shift there?  Any conclusions that I settle upon:  these conclusions seem to shift the next moment.  And the shifts cause more movement out there, then more responses from me.  Such activity!

When I painted this small landscape, the image became abstract early and kept veering quite abstract quite often.  Still, I tried to show some distance and some details, and I consulted my sketch several times to do so.  I like the sense of activity in the finished work, a sense of actor--liness maybe, from a scene that at first seemed quite quiet.

How is your winter going?

Monday, January 10, 2011

winter, quiet

January 2011

We look and look and look around in the winter as we do in any season.  Snow quiets everything.  Slows things down too.  My looking is mostly padded these days, so that variations in a scene seem not so often abrupt as they seem nuanced, attached to the tonal dance.  Still, the scenes are quite lively.

Have you read Robert Frost's Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening recently?  Is there impatience with stillness at the end of his poem?

Whose woods these are I think I know,
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.