07 January, 2000

P273 Figure between Fossil Layers

P273 Figure Between Fossil Layers
18x20" oil on canvas
Private Collection

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.

Paleozoic Series

04 January, 2000

P270 Figure with Fossilized Knee

P270 Figure with Fossilized Knee
14x10" oil pastels and pencils on canvas
private collection

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.

Paleozoic Series

03 January, 2000

P269 Woman with Striations

P269 Woman with Striations
20x16" oil on canvas
Private Collection

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.

Paleozoic Series

02 January, 2000

P268 Fossil Record(ing)

P268 Fossil Record(ing)
12x9" oil on canvas
Private collection

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.

Paleozoic Series

01 January, 2000

P267 Striation

P267 Striation
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.

Paleozoic Series