Friday, February 23, 2018


I am about to teach a lot of poems about birds, for some reason, I think perhaps to spend some time focusing on the function of metaphor? Anyway, the first of these is Keats' "Ode to a Nightingale," which is a weirdass poem. Speaking of weirdass, a couple of months ago I decided to make a painting that had words in it, in the form of a very loose meditation, as follows:

Where is my beautiful colour?
Where is my perfect thought?
Where is my clear mind?
It was a nightingale.

I have since partially obscured part or all of some of those words, to make the meditation more elusive, perhaps like the bird itself. Once I can get a picture of the new obscure meditation that blurs the ornithological signifier, I will add it here below. But for now, Nightingale/Meditation.

Process II

Here's another look at something that turned into something else, quite unexpectedly, and what happens when you keep messing with what you think is already finished. Somewhere during the depths of winter when I was bored, as I often am, I just started daubing paint on whatever surface I had to hand. I had no plan, as I rarely have a plan; I just wanted to see what would happen if I put certain colors up against certain other colors and then where it might lead. This is where is went initially:

Clearly I must not have been satisfied with that, because after an indeterminate amount of time, probably so that it could dry, I then did this to it:

And by "this," I mean a few things. Obviously I painted over what has now become the base of the painting, and then scraped away at that top layer. You can still see some of the original stuff underneath, but it's getting harder to detect. I also added some copper paint in the center, and a messy white stripe down the middle of that. And then I did something really weird. I added dirt. Yes, dirt. Those little bits and specks you see there? That's dirt. Because I think I realized at a certain point that I was going for something truly elemental, and because the paint was still wet so it would literally allow me to throw stuff at it. I think I ended up calling this one "Precious Metals." I like it. I think I also included it in one of the imaginary flag posts somewhere else on this blog.

So that's all fine and good. But then I kept looking at the image I had captured and then looking at different aspects of it, and I started to zero in on sectors of the painting. So I started to take photographs of them, and narrow it down some more. It becomes more granular, and almost magically starts to create new micro-paintings from the larger original. Like these:

So, lessons in layers, texture, and segmenting. Painting is fun, and there are absolutely no rules. Except don't be afraid. That's a rule. 

Thursday, February 22, 2018


Nothing is ever over, if you're a certain kind of person. One of the things I've learned about painting (and one of those things is not how to actually paint, ha ha), is deciding when something is actually done and finished. My general rule of thumb is that, if I can visualize it in a frame, then I can usually stop. Some paintings come right out and they're ready, almost like magic. Others seem like a total disaster and I wonder what to do with them, and I just keep painting over and over, scraping and worrying at them until I discover what I was looking for. And some just hang around, waiting for me to come back to them when the time is right. Here's one I've been working on for a little while:

This isn't what it looked like originally. At first it looked like this:

And I hated it. So I just covered it up. Then it looked like this:

I still hated it, so I added more cover up. The first one in the sequence is what it looks like now. I still don't like it, and I'm sure I'll keep adding to it. I have some ideas. But what's interesting is what happens if you take the digital image and zoom in on some of the parts you do like and extract them into their own stand-alone images. I'm sure there's a word for this, but I don't know what it is. Here, for example, is one segment:

Isn't that much better? And here are some others:

I like all of these a lot, and I may just make them into prints, while I continue to mess with the original template in real life. Of course, everything is over eventually, but some things never quite feel over. Painting allows for that process to play out without any consequences except a continuing unveiling of what it is that I was trying to say, and sometimes the answers are quite surprising. 

States of Vital Exhaustion

There is, apparently, a name for the bone-muscle-and-soul-eroding lassitude I have felt for the last several years, for reasons too numerous to list, the kind of brokenness that cannot be explained in the same way that it is experienced, the kind of brokenness we think we are approaching, while not realizing that it has already happened, the kind of brokenness that is deeply damaging to every aspect of life, to harmony, to peace, to sanity, to physical and emotional heart health, really to everything that is fundamentally important for a life of wholeness and integrity. According to this article in The Guardian, we can actually hit a wall of fatigue, stress, anxiety, and grief that amounts to complete burnout or, as they have it, a "state of vital exhaustion."

Here is what that looks like once it comes out of my utterly exhausted heart, soul and brain, and onto a piece of painted material. States of vital exhaustion, in living color:

Tuesday, February 20, 2018


Days that cannot bring you near 
or will not, 
Distance trying to appear 
something more obstinate, 
argue argue argue with me 
neither proving you less wanted nor less dear. 

"Argument," Elizabeth Bishop