Thursday, January 10, 2019

the ollas

I was deeply engaged in my "olla" series as Winter Solstice and the Christmas holidays approached, but I was still working at the level of probing materials and techniques, leaving the search for any deeper meaning to evolve on its own. The painting at left, 24" x 30", most successfully achieves abstraction while still leaving the figure detectable.

Since I first began to paint (yikes! it's been more than twenty years!), I have been aware of a desire to communicate through my work. At first, just communicating the fact that I was painting a rural landscape was achievement enough. But as my own style evolved, I found that I wanted to portray landscapes that had meaning. Hence my "Colorado Plateau" and subsequent series.

As I moved further into abstraction, my goal remained to communicate something positive, to bring some beauty into the world. My work remained largely landscape-based, but with the addition of this conscious desire to evoke calmness, peace, and even contemplation. Stillness amid the chaos of life. Then preparing for the "Nest" exhibition pulled me away from landscape themes and into a different series, attempting to portray what the concept of "nest" meant to me. It was a more direct attempt to paint feeling than anything I had done before, and it is interesting in retrospect to see that I used a figure (which represented an abstract nest shape to me) on which to base abstract paintings.

My work between the nest series and the move to Tucson roamed around looking for a direction, and to me it is nothing memorable. The fact that I have returned unintentionally to figure-based abstraction, as I attempted in the nest series, may mean that I am back on my path. We'll see. More thoughts to come.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

getting underway

As I settled into my new home and my new studio last fall, I took advantage of the opportunity also to seek freshness in my painting. Acting instinctively, I returned to the early days of my cold wax work, recalling the basic techniques and attitudes. The image at the left shows one of my more successful creations (20"x 24"). I love the softness and the color transitions that took place.  It was the result of a largely organic process, which also pleased me.

Once I felt comfortable with my materials and processes, I looked for a way to move forward into something more reflective of my own self, of my own intention and approach in making art. My first attempt was to ground my work in representations of actual objects, to give myself a shape from which to abstract. I chose to represent ollas, which seem iconic of southern Arizona.

The choice was a good one. Using old boards already layered with various hues of oil paint and cold wax, I ignored what was already there, drew in various large "container" shapes, and proceeded from there, still conscious of orienting myself to specific cold wax techniques, reinforcing them. It was a bit like taking a refresher course. The piece represented at right, 24" x 24", is one of the four that grew out of this effort. I enjoyed working with a limited palette of brown and white, with touches of blue here and there. But, in retrospect, I did not take full compositional advantage of the vessel shape, and that is something that I want to explore in my next group of paintings.

I was still finishing the last of the "olla" series, when I had some new insights that coincided with the winter solstice, interestingly enough. But I will save that story for another post.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

new year, new impetus

A new year begins, after another of many changes. There is so much to write about that it is hard to begin. But if I don't start, somewhere, there will just be more.

My "somewhere" has changed; we have built our new home in Tucson and are fully moved in and settled, though we have completed the process only recently. Of more relevance to this journal, my new studio is complete and I use it on a daily basis. The difference between the studio being a hundred yards away, outside, across the yard, as it was in Torrey, and it being literally just down the hall, as it is here, is only beginning to make itself felt. But as one might expect, it is much easier for artmaking to be an integral part of my daily life when my studio is an integral part of my home. My desk, my books, my meditation cushion are all in the same space, and I can't help but stop, look, and consider my work every time I walk into the room. It is pure joy.

It didn't take me long to being to paint again, once the studio was set up. At first, it was enough to reestablish the familiar techniques, habits, and rhythms, to renew my supplies and re-familiarize myself with my tools and materials. I had several old half-painted boards, and it was easy to clean them off, scrape them down, and make new beginnings on top of the old.

The first thing that changed was my palette; without necessarily trying to, I virtually eliminated any orange. Rose, blue, brown, white, yes, but the warm side of the color wheel eluded my grasp. I have had to deliberately re-introduce it. The second change was the elimination of any concern about the finished work; I let myself engage the process itself, regardless of outcome. When it felt right to stop, I did. But, because I could look at each piece at any time, in any mood, for as short or long a moment as I wished, I gradually began to interact with even supposedly finished pieces, fine-tuning edges, enhancing texture, adding pigments, softening or strengthening the composition. This now has become a rich habit.

All this was, in a sense, biding time, letting things evolve, giving myself a chance to breathe and to settle and, perhaps, to find a new way of being in my paint-world. And, as the year drew to a close, as we passed through the solstice and the calendar page turned, I did find a new perspective and a new insight or two, and even a new approach. The image above is the nearly-finished first product of this revolution and evolution, 24" x 30", as yet unnamed. I'll save further narrative for the next entry.

Saturday, December 16, 2017


It has been nearly two-and-a-half years since I last wrote an entry in my "art journal," aka this blog. The reason for the hiatus eludes me; I have been living, painting, traveling, playing cello the entire time. I just haven't been writing. I have aged; I have improved as an artist; I have grown (I'd like to think) kinder and more generous thanks to my Buddhist studies. But I have not felt the urge, or the need, to journal.

Now the impulse is back, and I think I know why. After seventeen happy and rich years here in Torrey and Capitol Reef, high on the Colorado Plateau, Jerome and I have decided to move to Tucson, to a lower elevation and warmer climate, and to the beautiful Sonoran desert. We purchased a house (still to be built) last week.

So I am coming into a time of significant change in my life, and such times are when I typically feel a need to record things verbally. To reflect. To keep track of the repercussions.

On a practical level, it will be a job to pack up my studio and move it to the new house, where I will have studio space of equal, if no larger, size. What better opportunity to clean and clear out?

Of more interest to me is a broader topic, and it is my main reason for beginning to write here again: What will be the effects of the new environment on my artwork? The red sandstone cliffs outside my window will be replaced by the blue/tan Rincon mountains, equally beautiful but of entirely different form and color. Rather than walk canyons, I will walk arroyos. Where will I walk with my paints and canvasses? I feel revitalized.

The image above is one of my most recent oil & cold wax paintings: 17.11.16, 20"x24".

Sunday, July 5, 2015


Last night my monoprint show, Earthbound, opened at Gallery 24 here in Torrey. The opening was a lovely event, with plenty of people and a lot of interest in my work. I hung twenty 8"x10" monoprints (well, one was a monotype) that represent my main body of work this year. Photos of some of the prints and their presentation in the gallery can be found here.

My favorite print, left, was one of the last that I created, and it was purchased by one of my favorite people. Several other prints sold as well, which was a pleasant surprise. Even more satisfying was the curiosity that friends and acquaintances showed in the processes and methods used to create the art. I typed up a little explanatory page that hangs on the wall next to the work, describing the different techniques of drypoint, intaglio, collography, and chine collé. The prints are labelled accordingly.

All in all, I am thrilled with the results of a winter and spring of hard work. I feel comfortable with all of the techniques and materials involved in creating these works, and I am very pleased with the results. My next challenge, I think, is to work in both cold wax and monotypes/prints to see how the two very different processes can compliment and inform each other. But, first, Jerome and I are off on a long-anticipated vacation to Banff, Alberta, Canada!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

monotype toolbox

It's hard to believe that nearly six months have passed since I wrote the last post, and yet much has happened in that time. A dear friend passed away in early February, and as successor trustee for her estate, much of my time since then has been taken up with legal and other matters that have drained both emotion and energy. A second workshop with Ron Pokrasso in January introduced both Jerome and me to SolarPlate and ImageOn printmaking. Then, late last month, I met my artist friend Phyllis at Timberwick once again, for a full week of instruction from Ron. Much of the material was a review for me, yet a second time through only added to my depth of understanding. More importantly, I now sense that I have a substantial toolbox of monotype techniques, and I am beginning to create new work that takes advantage of a wide variety of approaches.

My list of techniques echoes Ron's "layers and plates" approach, and includes: (1) layering multiple inked plates on a single print, (2) using ghosts of plates as springboards for new prints, (3) playing with the viscosity of multiple inks on a single plate, (4) integrating thin papers in chine collé, (5) creating and printing intaglio plates (SolarPlate and drypoint), (6) creating and printing collographic plates, and (7) veiling (partially covering prints with opaque white or tinted ink).

Gallery 24 here in Torrey is giving me a solo exhibition this coming July, so I have a deadline and purpose to my work. I hope to have about twenty presentable monoprints to show.

The image above is a monoprint with both collography and SolarPlate images, 8" x 10".

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

learning curves

Jerome and I traveled to Santa Fe last week, where I participated in a three-day workshop in monotype from master printer Ron Pokrasso. In what Ron calls his "Layers and Plates" approach, multiple plates are prepared for each monotype print, creating layers of effects as each subsequent plate is printed on the paper. Two of my more playful efforts, on 16"x20" plates, are at left.

Echoing Ron's theme, I gained multiple layers of knowledge and information at the workshop. Most of the techniques and tools were familiar to me, at least in the abstract, but now I was able to see them practiced by someone who put them together in a complex way, using multiple techniques at a time rather than one technique alone. Chine collé, brayering, subtracting paint, stamping, masking, drawing: all might go into any one print. And new techniques, such as using the edge of a brayer to draw, as well as new tools, such as Stabilo's "Woody Pencils", were added to my repertoire.

In addition to the tools-and-techniques aspects of the workshop, it was tremendously helpful to spend three days in a working print studio, with designated workstations for various tasks and processes, and to hear Ron's suggestions about work flow and arrangement of tools. One of the first things I did upon returning home was to rearrange my studio and acquire an additional worktable. I moved the press into the middle of the room, and now have an easier set-up for the whole monotype process. Ron works on Arches 88, an unsized paper that does not require dampening, and uses the Akua line of water-based inks. For the duration of my studies with him (three more workshops through April), I am doing the same, which means that I can dispense with both the space and the time required for soaking paper, The resulting freed-up space is welcome, and makes the logistics of working in my little studio much more fluid.