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