04 January, 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.
03 January, 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.
02 January, 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.
01 January, 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.