Wednesday, January 15, 2003
14x11" acrylic on canvas
This little picture has for its theme history, the idea that we sometimes hold onto our history...here the woman is almost clutching it to her breast.
Saturday, January 11, 2003
14x10" oil on canvas
July 20, 2003: I sat in the living room, at the library table and drew a new small canvas, P299, Dichotomy, a continuation of the idea in P297, of deliberate thinking, or structured thinking, and using both sides of an idea, or an argument.
July 29, 2003: When I got home, I finished P299, Dichotomy. What a strange picture it is, the womans face divided by different eyes, different vectors.
Thursday, January 9, 2003
P297 Fossil Brain
12x9" oil on cloth mounted on panel
June 22, 2003: While cleaning up in the studio, I found an small unfinished Paleozoic series sketch on cloth mounted on a board, and decided to finish it. The painting has the number and title P297, Fossil Brain. It is really just a visage with some cephalopod growths, one of those small simple pictures with a single message. The small works, if they are to have large enough characters and objects to be strong, can only have a single idea, sometimes only a single image. I always feel as if they should be strung together, like a necklace or patchwork, to show the path of my ideas.
June 25, 2003: After supper, I worked on P297, finishing the face. It is a curious combination of Venetian red, turquoise and flesh, with touches of yellow-green. My thoughts curl at a snails pace, and my creature smiles painfully.
Saturday, January 4, 2003
P292 Artist & Orange Chair with Fossils
24x30" oil, collage on panel
My friend, collaborator and fellow artist desean posed for this picture some time ago, and it has gone through several iterations of itself, as well as crossing several series.
It began as an Orange Chair painting, and the under-painting and content were in that style. It was put aside, however, for some reason, possibly because it did not properly evoke the atmosphere of my discussions with Dennis.
When I next pulled it out, I was deep into the Paleozoic Series, and added more fossils to it, and the colour scheme of the series. Again, it was put aside. When the Orange Chair reappeared in some of the Paleozoic and Anomaly paintings, I brought it out again. This time, I added the patterns of the Anomaly Series and finished the painting.
Although it would sit comfortably in the Anomaly Series, I left it in the Paleozoic era, a tribute to enduring ideas that are dug up ages later, to be studied from a different angle.
Friday, January 4, 2002
18x24" oil on canvas
March 26, 2002: I moved on to the other oil, P287, and filled it with black outline patterns, after painting a face in the middle. It had occurred to me that it was very much like page one of my illustrated poem; the face looks like it is appearing out of heaps of blankets, or sedimentary deposits full of fossil remains and striations.
May 25, 2002: I worked on P287, growth anomaly, using a permanent marker to make some lines and dots, everything streaming in and out of the central visage.
January 10, 2003: I took down the even more annoying Growth, P287, and determined to finish it. There is certainly something compelling about it, and I need time to think about the new sketch that Ted posed for. I want vectors running around and through him, but don't know whether they should be patterned. And should I continue with the outlining? The bands running through the sketch lead me in many directions, as I intended. Perhaps they should have unexpected patterns or textures.
January 22, 2003: After breakfast and reading some history of the Incas, I cleaned up the kitchen, and went up to the studio. Leaving A289 to dry for the day, I picked up work again on A287, Growth, drawing and filling in patterns in various colours.
The face in this painting, actually a visage, is flat and graphic, a contrast to the realistic face in A289, but it has much the same feeling of thoughtfulness and meditation, of the myriad symbols and varying motifs of our thinking, and of the outside data that intrudes its own patterns. I always listen to music while I am painting and writing...Mahler and Wagner's Ring Cycle for most of this series...and the music definitely weaves itself into my work, just as what I write appears in my paintings, and what I paint become words in my journal. But there are other outside bits of information, some interesting or a pleasant surprise, such as the song of a bird outside the studio, or the cracking of ice in the lake. And other input that is intrusive, such as the phone ringing, someone distracting me with useless talk, or worse, someone at the door. While I am painting or writing, I am definitely anti-social.
But the best part, as my characters seem to verify, is making sense of all the motifs, fitting them together into your own, new pattern. We are all experts in recombinant theory, blithely stitching together the disparate elements of our daily lives to form a mad quilt, our carapace and our comfort.
I finished A287, surprising myself when I suddenly arrived at the group of patterns I had begun with. A sort of Möbius...I was quite comfortable with it flipped upside down, and disconcerted when I arrived back at the bottom.
Thursday, January 3, 2002
P286 Fossil Moves
24x18" oil on canvas
October 6, 2002: I spent most of the morning working on P286. The patterns are developing rapidly; organic shapes for David, chequerboard for Jason. The flowing shapes of David in contrast to Jason's compartments, constantly changing patterns like a patchwork.
October 17, 2002: A few more patterns appear on my painting. The pattern on the figure Jason posed for, in P286, has a chequerboard of designs, like segmented armour or windows that lead elsewhere, true anomalies. And I have added little calligraphic tattoos. Windows and wards, tokens and amulets. Every new pattern takes on a different meaning.
Wednesday, January 2, 2002
P285 Fossil Find
24x20" oil on canvas
Melanie posed for this figure at Christmas. The little curled-up "fossil" is baby Noah, born June 15. My idea was to show biological growth as the patterns on her robe, and the complexity of emerging life. I have been using more and more patterns in my work, working developmental elements into the designs.
March 6, 2002: P285, Fossil Find, the one of Mel, is deep reds, blues and oranges, with her robe in bright yellow and the little fossil in green. I will be able to use patterns extensively, I think, because of all the large plain areas. I am looking forward to experimenting with it.
...I positioned P285 on the easel and began to work up the hair with madder brown. Already I envision the patterns in this one, strongly surrounding, almost camouflaging, the foetus. In a way, the yellow central shape of my experimental abstract reflects the shape of the foetus in this painting. I imagine it as a node of some sort, a seed with venous outgrowths, or simply a burst of growth pattern. But of course to be a real abstract it must only be derived from the idea, not the image of these things, a mental pattern of only imagined workings.
March 26, 2002: By nine o'clock, after getting dressed and fetching another cup of coffee, I was painting in the studio, working first on P285, Fossil Find. I made the patterning in the hair, parallel lines of black, blue, white and red. Then I used black oil to draw two separate bands of pattern on the character's yellow robe; a band of spirals, striped with red and white and black, and a band of stylized lilies, filled with red. The painting is beginning to come alive, the patterns like codes or age rings on trees, or sedimentary layers, full of the patterns of a day.
March 27, 2002: Early morning is the best time, after my medication has taken effect and I am not so stiff and sore, after my reading. I stop here to write, or go straight upstairs to my office or the studio. But the studio is radiant in the morning, with its windows facing east over the lake, and nothing to see but water and sky and trees. The studio is spare and clean, with its various work areas, a writing table with old typewriter, a work table where P287 is laid out at the moment, to work on when I need to rest my arms, the big easel in the corner, with P285, the big tool chest on wheels full of painting gear, the bookshelf and comfortable camp chair, with my tapestry and books of poems for moments of rest, the antique postal desk with its slanted surface, for my sketchbooks and watercolours, and the stereo equipment for playing music old and new, book tapes on philosophy, and CD's of poetry readings. The sun slants across the studio in buttery streaks, warming everything.
I like the studio best when there are no paintings hanging on the walls, just white walls and the works in progress. Nothing distracting.
I set to work putting colour into the pattern I drew on P285, a loose design of fertilizing ovules, looking very much like flowers. I like the varying amoeba shapes, and I was very pleased with the fleshy orange outer petals'.
April 10, 2002: I woke up this morning to the sound of dozens of ravens calling to each other, then a large flock of song birds, their calls echoing and building in the trees. The sun was shining. Spring appears to be on the way. My fifty-second spring, in fact. The snow is still piled deep in the yard, but the deck is almost clear, and soon I will be able to sit out there with my books and coffee.
(In the studio) I cleaned off the palettes and put out fresh paint, and added some more layers to the pattern bands on P285, Fossil Find, which is really shaping up. I want to develop more complex patterns and layers in the series, especially patterns that represent what is going on in the picture, even patterns that tell a story, like hieroglyphics. For this I have been looking in my Anatomica and developmental biology, for growth sequences. The idea fits in well with the fossils, too.
April 19, 2002: I went straight to the studio and set to work on P285, which is nearing completion, so I like it again. As I was working on it, I thought of how the patterns could be used to tell their own story, or form a sequence, as these reproductive shapes do, but have the patterns evolving like cartoon strips, moebius animations. And more emphasis on layers and segmentation within the patterned areas. I want to retain some modelled areas, though, particularly faces and hands. Nothing new there, but something may come of it. The patterns feel right. Thinking of hieroglyphics and pictographs.
Doesn't this fit into the new society, the shorthand of our thinking processes, everything geared to the short attention span, thinking in cartoons, or thinking that everything fits into a category, a prefabricated box. All those advice books, how to think, how to act, how to fix your life, templates and guides for living. Patterns to follow. But what if the patterns take on a life of their own, begin to diversify? Evolution.
Tuesday, January 1, 2002
P284 Curling Inward
24x18" oil on canvas
February 24, 2002: A good start on P284, Curling Inward, which has great dull orange billows curling out from the figure. I doggedly worked at it on and off all day, to complete the orange background, at least as far as I want to take it. I may add some patterning later. I really did not think I would finish, so bad was my pain today. And perhaps it was a mistake to push on. But it is done, a minor victory over my disease.
Now I sit like a fossil in the living room, ready for bed. I am almost dead, but smug.
March 6, 2002: P284, Curling Inward, is finished. Even as I take pictures of it, and of P283, which I finally finished scribbling on, I wonder how I will proceed with the next images, which are already sketched on the canvases. A picture of Mel with a little fossil curled inside her, and a picture of Jason and David playing Backgammon. My real desire is to use lots of patterns, even do an abstract, but if I desert these images, they will never be completed. Perhaps they are the end of the Paleozoic series. I will take a small canvas, though, and play with some abstract ideas.
Tuesday, January 9, 2001
P283 Fossil Fold
20x24" oil on canvas
February 1, 2002: Spent some time in the studio, working on P283, Fossil Fold. I have been adding blue waves in the background, which give the impression that Abby is underwater. It reminds me of the wall hanging Debbie and I have been working on at the mall.
February 16, 2002: Most of today I spent working on P283, Fossil Fold. The face of the figure, which Abby posed for, is strange, even for one of my creatures. I always make the face too cute when I use Abby for a model, so then I am inclined to warp and twist it into one of my bug-eyed monsters with a pout or a frown.
February 22, 2002: The first thing I did this morning, after coffee, books and writing, was to go in the studio. I picked up some pastels and began touching up P283, which still did not please me, and in a few strokes of yellow and purple and blue, it turned into the painting I wanted.
Monday, January 8, 2001
P282 Fossil Incline
20x24" oil on canvas
October 30, 2001: While my daughter Abby was here last week, she was disturbed by the recent Paleozoic paintings, with their holes drilled through them and their hieroglyphic viscera. "You've made fossils of everyone else... why not of me," she demanded. When we got home, I took out a couple of stretched canvases and had her pose, the first a small close-up, curled up with her face half-buried in a pillow, looking tired and far-away. "It's not a nice face," she said, pouting a bit over the lines under the eyes. The second, larger sketch began as a rather ridiculous pose, Abby with her legs up, looking more like a fashion model than a fossil. But I played with it a bit, moving the pencil lines with thinner and a brush, and filling the figure with fossil shapes. Come to think of it, the face does look like a mask. I had an idea for a third picture, and had Abby sit with her knees pulled up and her arms crossed in front, a twin of the figure with the fossilized knee (P270).
I was anxious to start these paintings, as some sort of transition, or at least a break from the others, which are now referred to, not altogether facetiously by our art group, as the 'pain pictures', instead of "Paleozoic".
I set up the small picture, now P282, though I haven't a name for it yet. It's just a figure, exhausted and turning to stone.
November 21, 2001: After a quick lunch, I set to work on the painting, P282, Fossil Incline, and by 4:30 had finished it. The new colour combination, Cadmium yellow and red, gives rich oranges and earthy purples, which seem to suit the fossil shapes, and lends the paintings a warmer hue than the earlier pieces, in which I used Naples yellow and Prussian blue, the resulting turquoise giving off a cool aura.
The face of the figure in P282 is especially interesting to me. The day Abby posed, she was tired and feeling dejected over her health and her job. This face, while not particularly looking like her, captures her mood, the orange glow around her the comfort of home and family.
Sunday, January 7, 2001
P281 Fossil Armature
14x8" oil on canvas
July 27, 2001: This afternoon I sketched and under-painted P281, another small fossil painting. My shoulders and collar bone had been very painful the past few days, so I decided to look up the bones for a fossil shape. I was startled to see that a bone in the shoulder joint resembles the head of a raven. The shoulder blade behind rather looked like a wing. I played with it a bit, making a wing in red, a startling contrast to the yellow skeleton. When I set it to dry on the easel next to the little fossil woman (P280), though, it made an interesting progression. I suppose that is what I saw in the shape in the anatomy book.
September 18, 2001: I am very pleased with the development of the shapes in P281, which were inspired by the shoulder joint and part of the rib cage. The shoulder joint has the appearance of the skull of a bird, though I did not particularly play this up. Instead, I have allowed the underlying structure to suggest shapes, which I have moulded as I go. I am quite intrigued with yellow these days, a step over from the orange I have been using for so long, but of course when the yellow meets the medium cadmium I am using in this picture, it becomes a muted orange. I am thinking again of just letting myself play with shapes, though so far they always turn out better if based on some real thing, such as a body or even a real fossil or bone shape. For these works, I will stay small until I have decided whether I am going abstract or staying with figures.
September 20, 2001: As I have been working on P281, and looking at the little woman with the fossil armpit, P280, I realize that one is an outside view, the woman with her arm raised to reveal the fossil, and the other is an inside view, the actual event. Even the colours of these two pictures are the same, my strange venture back to red and yellow.
September 21, 2001: My work on the shoulder bone painting (P281) has me thinking of ways to express the 'disjointedness' I feel, the sensation of having different areas of my body out of order. But I wish to create a positive image, one of putting oneself back together again, in different configurations. If bones were reconnected in different ways they would form different paths, varied networks. A reconfigured person ... what colours would represent rebirth or restructure? Red for pain, certainly, but red is also the colour of creativity, thus recreation. I have been using a great deal of yellow for the bones and fossils, and this is certainly the colour of rebirth and renewal. The blue is perhaps the colour of hope.
September 22, 2001: Much of the day was spent working on P281, which has become a delightful exercise. I added, very late tonight, a mysterious lump or kernel, something to focus away from the generalised skeleton. It is a bubble or bump, something growing or disappearing, I am not sure.
October 30, 2001: Today I completed P281, the fossil shoulder-blade, out of sheer willpower. Its original concept, its shapes and colours, are now completely complexing to me, though it called to me briefly when I set it upright to look at it. Yes, there was something there, but there must be an end, for now, of my cataloguing of aches and pains.
Saturday, January 6, 2001
P280 Fossil Woman
10x8" oil on canvas
July 18, 2001: Another very warm day, the lake wrinkled by a breeze and the clouds stretched like gauze over a brilliant sky. A bird chirps. The wooden wind chimes clatter softly, musically. All other sounds are distant. An orange and black butterfly lands on a clump of red flowers in my garden, and the hummingbirds buzzes busily around the feeder and the flowers. A family of geese is idly paddling down the lake. The dog, panting, follows me, loyally lying down beside my chair.
I decided to bring some painting gear outside. It took me a while to set up my French easel on the deck. My arthritic fingers would not loosen the thumbscrews and wing nuts, so I had to run upstairs to the studio to find a pair of pliers, which I will keep in the easel box. Then I had to find tubes of colour and brushes and rags and thinner and pencils and art gum, and finally it is all set up before me, complete with a small panel. A very large dragonfly just landed beside the panel, as if to christen the set-up. I am having a wonderful time.
Since I brought French Ultramarine as my blue, I have the choice of any series subject. Among the limited colours, I chose Cadmium red, which I have not worked with since the Sanctuary Series, Cadmium yellow, Viridian, and my usual Paynes grey.
I drew a curled-up woman, all arms and knees with a particularly open and vulnerable armpit. The armpit makes me fall in love with the little picture. The other thing I love in this picture is the fall of hair, which looks like a rag or cloth in the left hand, curled over the head. Almost immediately I do the under-painting. A varying mixture of red and yellow for the body, pure Cadmium red for the hair, and ultramarine for the background.
The painting, which will have the catalogue number P280, has some interesting areas. What you at first take for the second knee is in fact a shoulder, and what you take for the other arm is a leg. The right arm is laced under and through the right leg. the red rag of hair looks like an organ, or blood. One can almost picture the figure as being hurt, crouched down and holding her head. I don't know what she is doing. She is supposed to be a fossil, so I suppose she is curled up, waiting to turn to stone. Or already turning, she cannot move. Her posture does resemble some of the body imprints found at Pompeii.
I like ambiguous figures like this. The interpretation is always up to the viewer, and differs with the viewer's frame of mind. The woman can appear peaceful, looking up at the sky or the sun, enjoying a relaxing moment, totally abandoned to sensation. Or she can be cowering, hiding from something, shielding herself with her arm. Is she opening up, or closing in? Is that really a red rag, waved in defiance? A red flag, warning. The woman is golden, glowing, a molten changeling. She refuses to be anything but what she is, this moment. She hold everything to her centre, and releases all, like birth, with a red flash. Even though she is facing upwards, her eyes are closed, concentrating inward. She already knows what is up there, out there. She closes her eye, feels it, and becomes it.
I love this painting because I genuinely didn't care what I painted, because I had no idea what I would do when I started, because I chose a different red this time, and because the drawing is primitive, a simple gesture, an iteration of a continuing idea.
It is getting dark, and I should put my painting away, even though it glows like a sunset. But I will have time to paint in the morning, especially if I get up early.
Friday, January 5, 2001
P278 Fossil Glyph
12x9" oil on canvas
May 15, 2001: After working on some Latin at the kitchen table, I went back upstairs to work on P277 a bit more. The idea of the glyph troubled me in a rather pleasant way, so I took a small canvas (P278) and sketched my own version of one of the Mexican glyphs, transformed into an organic shape, fossilized. I was very pleased with the image, which resembles the first Palaeozoic fossil I painted. As well, I dabbled at an unfinished watercolour in my sketchbook, a fossil made up of masks.
May 16, 2001: This evening I worked in the studio, on P277, and also did some of the under-painting on P278. As soon as I had stained the glyph of P278, orange, it took on the appearance of a scarab or beetle. Or even a mask. I am ridiculously pleased with this little picture, probably because it is the first new work in some time. I am beginning to have fun again. In a burst of optimism I prepared another small panel.
June 24, 2001: I worked on the new painting, P278, the small fossil that resembles a heart or an eye, originally inspired by a Mexican glyph. At first I had no enthusiasm for it, since I have been away from the idea for some time. My tentative glazes ran and blurred, and the limited palette seemed uninteresting. But as usual, the application of chiaroscuro and the addition of a warm yellow made my new creature come alive. It probably good that I have a small picture to dabble at, since I am at present unclear on the direction the series will take.
June 29, 2001: The wind hisses through the trees, rising and falling, and the day has remained hazy after last night's torrential rain. I love the feel of the air, as if everything is renewed, everything extra washed away. The colours are brighter, another reason to like such a day. I work outside a little, listening and smelling, and then come up to the studio to escape the midday heat, which is bad for my condition. I have been picking away at the little glyph painting, P278, thinking about some new paintings.
Last night, when I couldn't sleep, I thought of new paintings, perhaps a new series, for the first time. I have been thinking of knots as the visual representation of dilemmas or ideas. Also the homonym of knot, not intrigues me. Not (knot) theory. It may be a step toward the abstraction I seek. I must play with it a little. I am reminded of the knots I began using in the Sanctuary Series. Above all, though, I do not wish them to be perceived of as negative, just what things are not, or the tangle of trying to get to the truth or basic, untainted idea.
July 4, 2001: Still wondering where P278 is going, but at least I am working on it this morning. Its fleshy coils look as though they should mean something, and I suppose that is the whole point of abstraction or near abstraction...the mind attempts to resolve the pattern before it. It comes around, again and again, sparking new ideas, but always returning to the abstract. It is that abstracted state of mind we try to achieve, anyway, when we are looking for enlightenment. This is not an abstract, surely, for it appears figurative, but it is unnameable, unrecognizable. This was how the Mexican glyphs affected me, so many of them simply a pattern that was almost something, organic or geometric, but always just slipping off the symmetry of recognition.
As if to underline that feeling, the music I am playing this morning is equally fugitive, Tippett's Symphony #4. At times I think there is a flaw in the disk, but then melody creeps in. Now I am laughing at myself, because the disk was skipping after all. But it was a wonderful moment, the way the sound matched the painting and my thoughts.
The painting is equally silly to me at times, but that may also be the point, that art is about everything we think, not always profound or meaningful. I simply make it all into my patterns, pleasing in cadmium orange and Prussian blue. I keep wanting to make fun of the little painting, but when I come up on it, after being out of the room, I am drawn to it. It is my daring step, my willingness to make a mistake, to paint something bad.
July 11, 2001: ...The multi-coloured fossil glyph(P278) is beginning to resemble some exotic fruit. The addition of yellow was unfortunate, I think. I want to go upstairs and do something about it, but I seem immobilized here. Why am I writing about a rock concert? But I am really writing about self-satisfaction and dearth of passion in art. Dabbling without heart, mouthing to the lyrics, without voice. Maybe that glyph is my heart, turned into an over-ripe fruit, crystallizing into a gaudy fossil. Where is the integrity of the idea? I dare not get back to work on the large hanging, until I have my head and heart back into the idea. At least I did not paint this bauble into a major work.
For a while this morning, I actually considered painting over the picture, and I may still do that, rather than waste more time on it. What is stopping me is my periodic interest, over the past few weeks, in the idea. At one point I was quite enthralled with it, colours and all. Often, just past the halfway point in a painting, I am quite out of love with the entire idea or the way I have done it. Seeing it through usually resolves things. But I should not be too hesitant about tossing aside a bad idea, either, and moving on.
July 25, 2001: This is where it gets interesting. After getting dressed this morning, I wandered around doing some small chores and feeling depressed and hopeless. Well, the writing is going well, but the little painting I just finished, P278, the fossil glyph is gloomy-looking. I consider brightening it up. I bring it down to the kitchen, yes the kitchen, and bring the French easel in from the deck. It's very cold and grey today, so I am thinking I might pick away at the little fossil woman here in the kitchen, which is almost the deck, since I have the same view.
The fossil glyph doesn't look nearly so gloomy and dull down here, especially when the sun suddenly comes out, and the little picture glows. It is subtle, I think, less brilliant than some of the other paintings in the series. I will leave it, as I think I already knew I would. What is the point in going back over a painting that is done? You are already a different person, a different artist, than the day you finished that picture. And it would be a different painting. Better to make another version of an idea, than paint over an existing one. It would be like writing over journal entries. I feel differently almost every day, about the same things.
Thursday, January 4, 2001
P277 Diary of a Fossil Woman
20x18" oil on canvas
March 16, 2001: I started a painting (P277), a twisted women with great holes eaten into her joints. In spite of her condition, the woman continues to scribble lines, pictures and words, disappearing into a great spinning blue vortex.
May 15, 2001: I take a cup of coffee up to the studio and tidy up a bit before settling down to the painting, P277, which has been abandoned on the easel for so long. At first I followed what I had started to do, where the arm crosses the body...but it appeared flat or stiff, such an important place, and in the middle of the picture, the path to the gesture. I turned the painting the way I had originally drawn it, landscape-wise with the face down, but the woman seemed to be falling out of the bottom. What happened to the image? I turned it back up again, with her head at the top, and it seemed right. Then, on a whim, I added a lozenge shape inspired by the Mayan inscriptions I saw in Mexico. I worked the arm differently, so that it was joined by webbing to the body and the lozenge, which in turn is joined to the body by its own webs or veins. How strange it looks, a discontinuity. But it is right. Something is happening to the woman, something permanent.
At first, having been away from the painting so long, I laid out the wrong blue on the palette, French Ultramarine. I stared at it for a moment, another discontinuity, then replaced it with Prussian. But I wondered what the Ultramarine tube was doing at the easel with this painting.
May 23, 2001: When I got home, I settled down to my painting, P277, and completed the entire central portion, which now disturbingly resembles the entrails of a sacrificial victim, although I will staunchly defend the effect as a fleshy fossil thing. My quest to depict pain may have reached its logical conclusion, since all the possible guts have been spilled, but of course I will continue with these shapes until I have finished with them or they have come to represent something else in my mind. I simply cannot let go of the flesh tones, and these colours alone make everything look, well, fleshy. And the twisting, coiling, knotted shapes have always appealed to me, though they admittedly tend to look like brains and viscera.
Wednesday, January 3, 2001
P276 Inter-facial Difficulties
18x20" digital collage, oil on canvas
This collage was done for the InterFaces online exhibit, the theme being 'the masks we wear'.
January 10, 2001: I began assembling two mask paintings for the exhibit, both with collaged elements, P275 and P276. Working on them both at once, using the digital shots I had taken of my own face and hands, I came up with quite different compositions, one where the hands and fingers seem to form a mask, and one in which the hands are holding or removing the masks. After they dried, I did acrylic under-paintings in French ultramarine, cadmium orange, and yellow ochre, carving out shapes.
January 11, 2001: Last night I decided to work up the second collage, P276, in oils, and I spent some time on the left hand of the figure in the far right. The ochre under-painting had taken away from the overall composition; being too close to the orange of the masks, but it makes an excellent ground for the flesh colour. In this painting, which I have rather whimsically titled "Interfacial Difficulties", the orange colouring and the cutting away of the head and hair separate the facial area, but there is no head behind it, no creature behind the mask, so to speak. The bodies are all flesh, just necks, torsos and arms. I have thought of adding lumps behind the masks, to represent heads, but am intrigued with the idea of there being nothing behind the masks.
January 12, 2001: The afternoon was spent working on P276, the oil collage. The image took a sudden twist when I began isolating some of the hand shapes, making one orange. Suddenly the hand becomes an object demanding attention. Here I am, it says, insisting it is different from all the others. The addition of crimson, which adds mauve tones in the flesh and blue, also adds more dimension. The mask, with its bulging eye sockets, is bothersome, one is not sure why, until one realizes that it would be impossible to see out of it. Perhaps every mask in the picture should have a flaw or difficulty.
Tuesday, January 2, 2001
P275 Digital Mask
18x20" digital collage, acrylic on canvas
This collage was done for the InterFaces online exhibit, the theme being 'the masks we wear'.
January 10, 2001: I began assembling two mask paintings for the exhibit, both with collaged elements, P275 and P276. Working on them both at once, using the digital shots I had taken of my own face and hands, I came up with quite different compositions, one where the hands and fingers seem to form a mask, and one in which the hands are holding or removing the masks. After they dried, I did acrylic under-paintings in French ultramarine, cadmium orange, and yellow ochre, carving out shapes.
January 11, 2001: In P275, the acrylic collage, there is only a mask, with two arms supporting it, the hands forming a mask in themselves, masking the mask. This image is more ambiguous, though it looks a little like a fossil, and I may put a version of it in the large hanging.
Monday, January 1, 2001
P274 Creature with Virtual Mask
24x24" oil, digital collage on panel
September 13, 2000: The new mask painting, P274 'Creature with virtual mask', has begun to show some alarming tendencies toward self-portraiture. Why does this surprise me, since the mask is a digital image of my face? But when it was simply under painted orange, it was more of a mask, less of a face. The creature beneath, who is removing the mask, is different, almost masculine. Yin and yang, or the reduction to mere opposites. Although the creature is simply one of my visages, it appears more real than I intended, which usually happens when I use the flesh colour. Even the orange, shocking at first, becomes a reasonable shade of skin when the features appear. The expression is always more important than the complexion. As well, this mask has eyes, each different, slightly askew, very human. Before I go to bed, I play with lights in the background, but everything added around the heads looks like hair, or an aura.
Tomorrow, a fossilized, fleshy shoulder and the larger-than-life hand, not so dainty. Perhaps it was swollen that day.
When I was arranging the collage and doing the underpainting for this work, I had thought of the orange mask as being unreal, but the orange colour merely added to its life, virtually a visage. As usual when I work with collage, I painted over and changed everything, eliminating digital detail and adding my own. I am particularly fond of extra bits of paper, which contribute edges that are not part of the original collaged image. The creature, then, is removing a lifelike face to reveal an icon of a face, the way the creature sees itself, an amorphous reduction. As well, the body is half in, half out of its shell...to whom does the violet robe belong? The disguise is but partial, making the gesture, or moment, a pivotal one. Is the creature assuming the mask, or removing it? Or the creature may be holding it up, like an artifact..."Pardon me, did you lose this?" Discarded, the mask may become a fossil, eyes crystallizing and skin turning to a ferrous shell.
Friday, January 7, 2000
P273 Figure Between Fossil Layers
18x20" oil on canvas
September 13, 2000: Working on P273,the Figure Between Fossil Layers, I thought about the relationship between thinking and the past. We are made up of all of man's experiences, and so, like a mass of conglomerate, all that we think is a recombination of what man has already accumulated, with an intrusion here and there of our own discoveries. When Jason posed for the figure, we were discussing various authors, especially philosophers. 'The unexamined life is not worth living.' How will this figure, caught between the complex detritus of the past and the impenetrable granite of the future, fill the negative space of his questioning, the black hole represented by the absence of a pillow. He has caught the angle of repose. Now he thinks. And everything around him solidifies.
September 14, 2000: Late last night, as I was coaxing my son's face, on P273, into the form of one of my creatures, I was amused to discover that his small beard had emerged as a petal or flap of the larger pattern of his hair, which in fact has the appearance of a dark creature enveloping his head. I flattened his nose for the two visages' of my characters, one in profile, and he immediately assumed the character of one of the ancient philosophers we have been reading. An old fossil indeed, perhaps Plato himself.
October 31, 2000: I finished P273, which I have been playing with all week. I kept pushing the 'fossil' shapes around, and eventually a series of sutures or membranes developed, connecting the figure to the fossil layers, his chair of stone. The classicist, in his thinking pose, deeply rooted in the past.
Tuesday, January 4, 2000
P270 Figure with Fossilized Knee
14x10" oil pastels and pencils on canvas
June 28, 2000: While the imprimatura was drying, I picked up a small canvas and made a pastel sketch from a quick charcoal drawing I had done in my sketchbook yesterday. This canvas, P270 (Woman with Fossilized Knee), is a more abstracted representation of myself as another Striation. I drew in one of the studio fossils, picked up years ago on the farm, and the same petrified shape appears on my knee. For this canvas, I have chosen to work in oil pastels, shaping them with a brush and thinner and scribbling in them with oil pencils. It is a pleasant medium for outdoor work. In fact, I worked outside on it until it started to rain.
This evening I took the small canvas, P270, in the living room while I sat with David, and scribbled and dabbled at it for a while, even while I talked on the phone with Jason. The pastel layers are working up nicely, though I might have done the imprimatura in acrylic.
The woman in P270 is clutching her knee, which has sprouted a fossil. No doubt she wishes it would drop off, for who wants to carry one's own fossil accretions, like barnacles? The fossil knee is too old to be useful, and too painfully heavy and stiff to be borne. It has formed an amazing shape, as fossils will, but is attached too obtrusively to her body to be appreciated. Perhaps the woman is worried that another one of her collections will attach itself to her. Years of accumulations, so difficult to get rid of, so easy to acquire. A parka made of fossils, a carapace made of books.
Monday, January 3, 2000
P269 Woman with Striations
20x16" oil on canvas
July 28, 2000: Yesterday Melanie was here for the afternoon, and I asked her to pose again for a Paleozoic figure. We had been discussing various health problems we have been experiencing and how such problems have interfered with our lives, especially the activities we count as important parts of our lifestyle. I related this to the idea behind the Striation sequence of the Paleozoic Series; at times it is as if a gigantic force rolls over us, leaving permanent scars. That great force is life in all its inexorability, of course, and it can make us feel small and helpless.
As usual when I use a model, the drawing of Mel, P269 (Woman with Striations), was fairly realistic with a rather wicked expression. I always seem to find the curve of her eyebrows and lips an invitation to exaggeration ... in fact at one point I had her looking like a Pre-Raphaelite Madonna. We enjoyed the effect of her oversize t-shirt and pants, which give the impression of drapery. These lines swept over the drooping figure with her expression of pain and resignation. Mel had also cut her hair shorter than I have ever seen it, and this gave her an air of vulnerability.
This morning I painted in the imprimatura, using flesh, Prussian blue, Thio violet and Cadmium orange. Immediately the entire figure warmed up, and her expression softened, especially with the darkening of her eyes and hair.
September 12, 2000: This afternoon I completed P269, Woman with Striations. Although the subject is a little more realistic than I had originally intended, I am pleased with it for that very reason, as the striations and fossil shapes are subtly presented in the draperies. Her arms stick out oddly, with their shell-shaped hands. The background is simpler than the first picture Melanie posed for, with its great folds and spirals, but the shapes here are more organic and suggestive. The woman seems resigned to the forces that have dragged over her body, or indifferent. She seems to hold herself together as she looks out over what can only be a tortured landscape, just outside of the frame.
Sunday, January 2, 2000
P268 Fossil Record(ing)
12x9" oil on canvas
June 20, 2000: The new painting, P268, is my usual Visage, in flesh and Prussian blue, holding a fossil to its ear. The figure listens carefully, trying to recover something familiar, something lost, something irrecoverably past. What we lose, as we age, are the things we learn to cherish only after they are gone forever, part of our personal fossil record. We turn them over longingly, examining every detail, wondering why they were beneath our notice while they were still part of us, and only remarkable when gone.
In P268, the figure shows signs of aging, and the marks of cares, but the expression has a greenish glow of determination. And the figure is already leaning out of the painting, as if to get on with life. In a moment, it seems, the fossil will be discarded.
Saturday, January 1, 2000
16x12" oil on canvas
January 4, 2000: After spending several days cleaning up and resting after the holidays, I settled back into my sketching ideas for fossilized creatures and objects. What would the detritus of our modern world look like, if suddenly fossilized? What would we look like, already decadent, reduced yet more by the heat and wear of primal forces. Creatures and chairs curl at the edge, folding in on themselves, making patterns and sculptures.
It is a pleasure to set up the French easel in the kitchen, and work on a small canvas, an idea curling in on itself, in primary colors.
Although I am painting in primaries at the kitchen window, the world outside is white and khaki, bleached by a gentle snowfall. It is a good time of year for interior work, especially thinking, for ideas insist on coloring a landscape that is shadow-less and dull.
February 2, 2000: I have been thinking about the layers or accretions that we accumulate and carry about with us, many of them impossible to remove or lose along our life's way. Some of these layers harden like rock, making us living fossils in part. How weighted down we are by these stone shells. We drag through the day, half petrified, barely moving. Sometimes our own sense of self-renewal, that mental device that is capable of dissolving rock, permits us to free up a portion of the soft under body that is our original amorphous self. What an adaptable creature we carry within is. Smooth and malleable, it can take on any form. Yet we allow ourselves to conform to certain molds and inevitably to set into immutable forms. All progression, all evolution is a slow process. That is why it is so important to take notice of and record any changes, the slightest advancement.
June 20, 2000: There has never been a period in my life when I have been this long away from my art. A family emergency, lengthy travel, a large contract, and extended illness all kept me from my studio for three months. This week, finally, I found myself sitting in my canvas chair in the middle of the studio with coffee and music, surveying the two works in progress, their surfaces flat and dry, and their palettes dotted with fossilized oil paint. How would I regain lost momentum, find the thread of ideas in each piece? It was unthinkable to work on the large hanging (P254), with its complex progressions, though I am well aware of where it was going when I abandoned it.
The little oil sketch, P267, then. Its primary yellow and blue seemed particularly unappealing to me. What was I thinking? I turned the music up very loud and spent the rest of the evening thinking and staring at the Paleozoic paintings, which are all hanging like museum displays in the studio. What a deserted air my studio has! Even the music seems dusty.
The next day, as therapy, I assiduously cleaned the palettes and work areas for both paintings. I considered scraping P267 down and painting over it. But after fiddling in my sketchbook with a similar figure...ah, yes, the Striations...the little painting almost began to make sense again, and I rather grumpily squeezed some paint out and started to work on one of the yellow folds. Almost instantly, that empty gap of time dropped away, and I reconnected with the idea. It had not occurred to me that a large part of the connection to a painting is tactile. Even the color, spreading under my brush, became a sensory fact; of course yellow is the color of this striation.
After completing the painting last night, I immediately began another.
Monday, January 4, 1999
OP260 Fossilized Orange Chair
24 x 18" oil on canvas
October 30, 1999: I squeezed an orange chair onto a small canvas this morning, before setting to work on P254. Yes, I have changed the series designation for this work, since it so obviously belongs to the Paleozoic Series. When I began it, the Paleozoic Series did not exist, so I suppose this is the Prototype. Back at the small canvas on the easel, I surprised myself by carving the orange chair out of its background with French Ultramarine, which I have not used in some time. But then, the Pthalo Blue was a few feet away, over by P254, and I was too lazy to fetch it. The chair, at any rate, is a flow of orange, waiting to solidify into something else. Or at least until the underpainting dries.
November 4, 1999: This evening I spent entirely in the studio, working on P260, the little orange chair painting, and another sketch of a fossilized orange chair, this one sporting an appendage. I am still enjoying the crimson and orange and blue combination, with some of the flesh of the Paleozoic series added. In fact, I would not be surprised to see the orange eventually make its way into the big wall hanging, whose rocks and fossils have gold and rusty tinges already.
November 12, 1999: While working on the fossilized orange chair, P260, I began adding some of the organic shapes I have found in the fossils of the big hanging, the holes and creases and shapely hollows that make them more than rocks but less than living, the solidified parts of once-life. The chair, of course, has always fascinated me as the backward imprint of a being, like some fossils. In P254, the bigger spiral of the original vector has once again reasserted its form. It is squirming with petrified creatures, trying to come alive (again?). The cosmic spiral becomes appropriate, a birthing nebula. But are these beings improving?
Looking over my shoulder at the orange chair on the easel, I wonder if it is transcendent or simply decadent. But decay would not dare blush that fleshy pink, or crease into such a lively pucker. The chair is about to explode with exuberance, an ancient volcano.
I dare not sit down today, but pace the studio, looking from one painting to the other.
25 January 2000: My work today on the fossilized orange chair seemed to alter my own view of the painting. At times chaotic, at times a flow, the form streams in and out of collapse, the most complicated vector arrangement yet to appear in this series. Mildly disturbing folds appear, changing to pleasant bulges. It is the disintegration of the bold and decadent creature, indolent and self-aware, the modern psyche. It is the decadence of the twenty-first century sybarite, admiring its own flabbiness and the disorder of its indecisive shape.
As I paint, I am partly amused, somewhat repelled. What IS that green? Iridescence, or the onset of a sort of mental gangrene?
26 January 2000: Even in its advanced decadence, the Orange Chair is convinced that it will go to heaven. It is the bliss of orange, soothing itself. It is the complacency of a chair, the settled confidence of a utilitarian object. What would happen if two orange chairs bumped into each other? On collision, would they merge? They might trade elements, exciting each other to change.
This afternoon I finished P260, and as usually happens by the end of a painting, the entire picture resolved itself rather nicely, contorting back into something like the original idea.
Orange Chair Series
Sunday, January 3, 1999
P259 Figure Painting Fossils
20x26" oil on canvas
September 11, 1999: The new painting, P259, is progressing well. I began it almost on a whimsey, something to fool with after the intense work of P258. And I felt I should do something with the underpainting on the canvas, which I started at the Artists Colony this summer. The artist in the painting is bent over under a great burden, seemingly. The sky, which usually represents the future or escape to us, has petrified to a great folded mass, crouching on her shoulders as it secretes its eons of heaviness into deeper and more convoluted folds of stone.
Is the woman trying to hold up the entire sky by herself, the weight of a future graven in stone? She writes or paints or engraves on a canvas or tablet. Something emerges, the stone record she will leave behind. There is a furtiveness in her expression, as if she has stolen time away from other responsibilities to make her art, the markers she will leave behind her. What else is there? She works for others, shoulders cracking under her burden. She places herself last, scratching furtively at the stones when she can find a moment. Her shoulders are bowed and deformed under the weight of others problems. She has no time to do anything for herself except make a few marks in the rocks she moves or leaves behind.
September 28, 1999: As P259 shapes up, I am torn between assigning it to the Visage Series and the Paleozoic Series, as it has elements of both. It is a Visage making a Paleozoic painting, actually. The painting will have to show on the back of the panel she is working on, a trick that will work well, as there is a bit of inside-out going on elsewhere...the hand, the body cavity. Perhaps it should have been called the Visceral series. The character is twisted or morphed like the Poser figures in my three dimensional computer program. A few times, people have mentioned that my figures are almost sculptures, or would make sculptures, and I suppose that is true, even though I work at keeping a certain flatness to the perspective.
The viscera patterns are equally ambiguous. Flipped one way, they are convoluted organs, but with the shading and highlighting reversed or pick-up colours changed, they resemble the parts of plants, leaves and petals and stamens. Perhaps the creature is making note of the stupidity of the social monster, so falsely and elaborately clothed, yet ignorant of the basic structure and working of things. The guts remain the same, though society does its best to make them look different or make them disappear altogether.
October 1, 1999: What is the artist writing or painting, I have been thinking all morning. The fossil record, a recording of the spiral. A luminous fungal green emerges, patina and sgraffito.
October 3, 1999: Last night, after alternating between household chores and painting all day, I completed P259 at about 12:30am. As often happens in the last third or so of a painting, everything fell together, and my puzzling over the arm and the upper left background was resolved, with scarcely a thought, by the crimson and red that has come to represent the fossils.
But this speedy ending would not have occurred if, the night before, also in the small hours, WHAT she was painting has not suddenly appeared, right out of her own breast, a version of what she was feeling, in the fervent green incandescence of creation. The artist, feeling the past in a primitive curl in her chest, creates a mirror image, but re-written to the present. Perhaps she, too, is becoming a fossil, huddled under the intricate increments of the shell she has built over the years.
Saturday, January 2, 1999
P258 Figure reading Brachiopod
36x24" oil on canvas
April 12, 1999: The direction my series work has taken is also distracting me. What is it doing? What do the fossils really mean? Ancient. Immutable. Carved in stone. Petrified viscera. Why are my characters so interested in them? They are looking deeply into the past, looking for patterns. Yes, our own viscera, and the chemistry of our own brains, is attracted to, yearns for those patterns repeated through the millennia. We see the same spirals, the same V-shapes everywhere. The stone books of the past are open to us, if we will pause to read them.
Even the colours I am using now are fleshier, more earthy. Always searching, reviewing, what will I see this summer when the earth comes to life again, in bloom and leaf? How do these stone flowers come to life, revealing what shades? Only bone and shell remain, the skeletons of harder things. There are some fossil plants imprints from some eras, as well, but I have none at hand. I shall have to visit the museums the next time I am in Toronto or Ottawa.
The sun brightens even more outside, dappled patterns on the snow leaping out. Birds twitter faintly through my closed windows. I am waiting, looking for an incongruity. It will come to me.
April 19, 1999: It is the peeled' look of the fossils that appeals to me, I think, the way the insides are revealed, and also the way the fossil emerges from the rock. I picture the fossil shells emerging from an amorphous background, and the figure emerging in turn from the shell. It harkens back to the Raven Series, R7, in which the creature emerges from chaos.
A raven will pick up a shell. A raven curled, with a spiral shell in his beak. The curled shell becomes a figure.
This afternoon I laid in the imprimatura for V258, the figure reading a brachiopod, which Melanie posed for last week. I have kept the Pthalo blue ground to the upper third or so, and blended the figure out to the edges with a Naples yellow robe or blanket effect; this may later turn out to be a shell or rock from which the figure emerges. It encases her, whether cloth or rock. The brachiopod, as intended, resembles a book or set of wings.
May 11, 1999: Working on V258, figure with brachiopod, I am very pleased, first at the way I was able to enlarge the figure enough to fill the panel and leave some large areas for my 'quilted' texture, and secondly I am excited over the new (for this series) combination of Pthalo blue and Indian red, both heavy-staining colours which make vibrant darks and splendid pick-up combinations with the other main colours, flesh and Naples yellow. The wicked facial expression, which desean half-jokingly called vampire-like, has softened as I added colour to the features, and the surrounding detail of the hair and background.
I have almost decided to call this "figure reading brachiopod", because the fossil looks like an open book, which is probably what attracted me to the shape. It also resembles wings or a bird. 'Reading' a fossil implies studying the past, or ancient ways or words. The shell, though, evokes for me old forms or old shapes, old armour cast off, its former occupant gone. The shell too is an old dwelling place, a once sanctuary now deserted and still holding the petrified remains of its builder.
June 18, 1999: Writing the little poem about shapes and fossils has made me think along other paths. The fossils, for example, could remind me of the brevity and redundancy of life. Perhaps we humans do not feel half so useful, since we leave no delicate shell, unless like the residents of Pompeii we are caught up in a wave of lava. All that we leave behind, some of us, is the castings of our brains in the arts and technology, in the detritus of our cities. Once dead we are not the least bit decorative or useful. All that we can become is the compost for some more efficient life form. That could be why looking at the fossils fills me with primal longing, as if I am reminded for an instant of how far the path of evolution has wandered, so far from our beginnings that we can never know, only pick up hints along the shores of whatever seas we come upon.
Looking at the figure 'reading' the brachiopod, with this interpretation, lends the woman an expression of resignation, as she sees her own future in the past of a primitive creature. The woman, indeed larger than life and full of vitality, concentrates all her awareness on this certainty, that life is briefer than we can ever imagine, and more pointless than we all hope.
What will the woman do next? Will she curl up and think about such futility, or will she unfurl in a great burst of creativity, determined to leave her castings among the millions, to be discovered and pondered briefly by some future creature in a parallel moment? Is this moment a nexus, collapsing in on itself, or is it a concentration, about to radiate in all directions? Which is the undetermined path, the path of unresisting flow?
August 16, 1999: Back at work on P258 this morning, I have been thinking about how formality applies to these works. The formalisation of ideas in stylized and repeating patterns, as well as the concatenation of the elements as they follow the strong vectors of each work, creates pathways to follow throughout the series. What is this element or shape doing here again; why is this element out of place? Why is the background trying to be a foreground?
The brachiopod appears strung together, like kernels of corn or a binary threading. The figures ruled appears to be solidifying around her, an exoskeleton. Her large hands are reading', perhaps playing the fossil. Or it is an abacus for her to calculate upon.
August 17, 1999: P258 has completely changed in appearance, since I have begun painting the figure's robe. It is rather startling, and like many of my experiments, slightly disturbing. The woman appears consumed by folds everywhere, the creases and bumps of the background, which resume on her clothing, and the cobbled fossil, the fat ropes of her hair. I am considering intensifying the chiaroscuro of the robe, but will bring more area up to the state of today's painting before I do that.
August 21, 1999: My hesitation over P258 I think is due to the concatenation of the right side sleeve of the figure, which is at odds with the background instead of making the figure blend into or emerge out of the ground, as I had originally intended. The concatenated effect adds an extra, unexpected texture, especially appearing as it does next to the detail of the brachiopod.
September 9, 1999:With P258 completed, I'm thinking of making a small series of alla prima oil sketches on canvas, small gestural pieces without preliminary sketches. I wish to pursue the fossil or shell shapes as well as the idea of emerging' from a sanctuary or from the past. The reading theme as well presents another interpretation of my Visage characters with their faces immersed in their hands and their fixation with rocks. In fact, P258 could be such an interpretation of my characters' intent, piled up in the spirals in the extrusions of petrified vectors. Looking backward, these creatures see all the possibilities ahead of them.
Friday, January 1, 1999
11x14" oil on canvas
March 24, 1999: I fetched a small stretched canvas from the studio store-room, and made a sketch of a large brachiopod shape on it. I am fascinated with its spirals and divided hemispheres, like a brain with wings. Before I went to bed, I stained the background with metallic copper oil paint. How lovely the shape of this creature is, curled in its gorgeous shell.
March 25, 1999: I worked on the little brachiopod painting, which has a copper-fleshy life of its own. I am not sure it makes an actual painting. An oil sketch, I suppose. But the shape fascinates me, and the unusual colour combination. It is interesting to be working on a stretched canvas again, for the first time in perhaps fifteen years.
March 26, 1999: Although I spent several hours painting in the studio today, I did not make the progress I expected. Working on the new fossil creature, I was at first not happy with the Viridian I had added, and so removed it from the picture and from my palette. Then I decided that the French Ultramarine was bothering me, and removed it, which effectively wiped out most of my previous work, so I dipped a cloth in thinner and wiped it all off, leaving a somewhat subdued version of my simple pencil sketch. I decided that it is best to remain with a limited palette when trying ideas; in this case, the palette is, and has been for some time, Pthalo blue, Indian red, and Naples yellow. For this picture I am using the copper oil paint, which is in the same family as the Indian red, imparting now a green, now a purple glow to the other colours. The fossil resembles bone at times, a winged creature at others, a rock or a flower. It doesnt matter which. It is a compelling shape, an ambiguous design from the past, embedded in our memories but nameless.
March 28, 1999: The brachiopod, P257, is coming along nicely now that I have changed the background from copper to Pthalo blue. I realize now that I should have begun with an under-painting of blue, and perhaps added the copper on top, as I have done with the gold in V254. Many false starts on this one. It feels different, probably because of the stretched canvas, and the subject is ambiguous enough to be disturbing at times. I see something different in it every time I walk by, something floral, something organic, a rock, a skull. But its first image, of a winged creature, is still what draws me to the pattern.
March 30, 1999: I am struggling with my feelings over the fossils. In V254, the hanging, and the small canvas, P257, they seem more like objects placed on a ground than subjects for a painting. An odd thing for me to say, since I usually put whatever comes to mind in my paintings. I did not create these fossil creatures, but I have turned them into something, my own creatures I suppose. I want to combine a fossil with a Visage, a creature which will puzzle over it as I have. Again and again, I pick up the fossils in the studio and turn them over, staring into them, eagerly following their curves and their sudden immersion into the rock. The forces behind their creation are beyond imagining, of a different era. But what attracts me is their fractured parts, revealing petrified chambers and imprints of organs, spreading like plants and flowers inside the spirals and fans of their shells. Organic shapes, especially primitive ones, have a wonderful hugeness about them, as if they were entire universes. They contain in miniature the spiral of the galaxy, the wisps of the nebula, the twin curls of the brain.
Saturday, January 31, 1998
P256 Sedimentary (collaboration with Debbie Stenabaugh)
72x72” oil on canvas
A couple of years ago, Debbie and I decided to work on a piece together, based on our conversations at the studio. We had been discussing the duality of human nature, dark side and light side, and the struggle of maintaining a balance. The light upper section is full of hands reaching down and wings fluttering upward, two symbols of hope and faith. The dark underside is all the detritus of life, some suspended, some sinking. It is the transitional zone in the centre that represents our lives, where we strive to keep from sinking too low, and turn our faces to the light.
Thursday, January 29, 1998
P254 Woman Curling in on Herself
Oil on linen, mounted on 9 panels
The vector is a spiral, the woman curled in on herself in the centre or beginning of the spiral, though this node is off-centre of the overall canvas square. The woman appears to be vanishing into the vortex, or she might be coming out of it.
The spiral repeats itself in my other work; the inner curl, to the soul, the personal universe, and outward curl to all that is beyond us. Then there is the upward curl that is escape, the winding away from chaos to isolation or sanctuary.
I have always considered that solitude an important part of my creative process. Even the feeling of loneliness, with its accompanying sadness, is essential to reflection and invention. The child alone, for example, invents imaginary worlds and characters. The little artist moves his creatures around the panel or the page, and places objects there for their amusement.
A spiral in a teacup, a little tempest of movement as we raise it to our lips, the gesture casual, the glance drawn downward, into ourselves. A glimpse of our own reflected image.
An Ultramarine scrawl finds its way around a shell. It bolts along some edges and then disappears into a dark hole I made.
A snail emerges, like a sluggish tongue. It seems to cleave the darkness as it squirms up out of chaos, dragging its cornucopia behind it.
Suddenly, another creature appears, backing tenderly out of the event horizon I drew on the very first day, stretching to drag the white chalk along with my spiralling gesture (...arms circling, spiral. It grows bigger and bigger until the gesture embraces all. Describing a universe with no words...)