Tuesday, January 31, 2017
This set of tree trunks is set off quite a bit from the road but is attractively visible. I had to walk across the icy corn field and then along a creek to reach it. Probably was a bush once, and it has become wild on the edge.
Monday, January 30, 2017
Sunday, January 29, 2017
Saturday, January 28, 2017
Friday, January 27, 2017
Two 9x12 drawings of one of my favorite topics: looking into snowy woods. The one with the gully is on a dirt road up from where I live, and the other one is the view out of the window of my studio. These drawings provide an opportunity to put down a lot of interesting marks that create space, look like something, and build and utilize a grid or scaffolding across the paper surface.
Thursday, January 26, 2017
Wednesday, January 25, 2017
Sunday, January 22, 2017
Saturday, January 21, 2017
A couple years ago I spent a couple months painting found studio still lifes. And I return to them now. By 'found' I mean that I don't rearrange anything, though I do try to come up with a good composition. The painter Thor Wickstrom, whose studio I share, does all the rearranging but it's all completely accidental, since he uses the stuff on the table that you see here, and then throws it back on when he's done with it. At least that's what I think happens. This 12x16 oil on panel I started a couple days ago and finished this morning. I then started another. To me it's like plein air painting, except I don't have to worry about the light changing, and it's quite comfortable working in the studio.
Sunday, January 15, 2017
Two paintings that I've reworked. I visited the site of the tree and mountains again yesterday for another look. The reaching tree actually reaches out toward the cold mountains that are in the second painting.
Saturday, January 14, 2017
If you walk along Bee Hill Road at the top of Sheep Hill, which I've never seen anyone else doing, you will encounter this tree. It presumably looks this way with arms flying only in one direction because the limbs that would hang over the road have been removed. The end result is a tree reaching for the mountains, with other mountains as a backdrop. I get a sense of deep rooted yearning when I look at it. This painting is an 18x24 oil on canvas.
Friday, January 13, 2017
This is a small sketchbook drawing from the other day. I went back to where I had found a group of hay bales in an upper meadow. The farmer had removed most of the bales since my last visit leaving just this one and tractor tracks in the snow.
Thursday, January 12, 2017
Wednesday, January 11, 2017
Tuesday, January 10, 2017
Sunday, January 8, 2017
Saturday, January 7, 2017
One of the reasons that I've always been attracted to the poetry of Seamus Heaney is that he created poetry at a time when his country was so deeply divided, with sectarian murders occurring, that any kind of peace or resolution to the conflict seemed impossible. He wrote in his essay, "The Government of the Tongue," "Here is the great paradox of poetry and the imaginative arts in general. Faced with the brutality of the historical onslaught, they are practically useless. Yet they verify our singularity, they strike and stake out the ore of self which lies at the base of every individual life. In one sense the efficacy of poetry is nil--no lyric has ever stopped a tank. In another sense, it is unlimited. It is like the writing in the sand in the face of which accusers and accused are left speechless and renewed."
Heaney, in "the writing in the sand," refers to the story of the woman caught in adultery from chapter 8 in John's Gospel. When the woman is presented to Jesus, he bends down and writes in the sand. When pushed again to respond, Jesus says, "Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her." Then Jesus bends down and continues to write in the sand until everybody has disappeared.
The poet goes on to write, "The drawing of those characters is like poetry, a break with the usual life but not as an absconding from it." Of course, we don't know what Jesus was doing in the sand. The gospel story says he was "writing" but he could have been doodling or drawing.
Heaney continues, "Poetry, like writing, is arbitrary and marks time in every possible sense of that phrase... [I]n the rift between what is going to happen and whatever we would wish to happen, poetry holds attention for a space, functions not as distraction but as pure concentration, a focus where our power to concentrate is concentrated back on ourselves." So poetry and the imaginative arts can make us "a bit better...for the moment," as Heaney says elsewhere in "Stepping Stones." But we can reject that opportunity provided by art. If the accusers of the woman had no shame or integrity, they could have started to throw stones. So the success of art is fragile and tentative (like writing in the sand), but it is so foundational to our humanity
Interestingly, the story of the accused woman almost didn't make it into John's Gospel. It is found in some of the early manuscripts but not others. Some early Church Fathers wanted to exclude the story because they found Jesus too forgiving.
The accompanying image is an 11x14 pastel on pastel multimedia artboard. It shows a view of a famous rock on the Ogunquit shoreline.
Friday, January 6, 2017
This afternoon turned out nice weather-wise, if one doesn't mind temperatures in the low 20s. I went back to the mountain at Sheep Hill again, and made two 9x12 charcoal drawings. It was sunny, but the fingers holding the pad became numb.
I've been reading the poems of Han-Shan about Cold Mountain. I learned about Han-Shan from the first "Squarings" poem in the book "Seeing Things" by Seamus Heany. Cold Mountain is more a state of mind than a place. Here's one translated by Gary Snyder:
Once at Cold Mountain, troubles cease--
No more tangled, hung-up mind.
I idly scribble poems on the rock cliff,
Taking whatever comes, like a drifting boat.