29 January, 2003
28 January, 2003
A316 Sum IV
6x6" acrylic on board
The figure is surrounded by energy patterns, and turns her face up to 'drink in' the resulting inspiration. It flows through her eyes and her mouth, images and words.
27 January, 2003
A315 Sum III
10x8" acrylic on canvas
The figure points to herself, acknowledging her personal reality. Ideas, like iterations of herself, shadow her, waiting to be incorporated (a good word in this sense) or abandoned. What interests me is that we carry ideas around with us, or they attach themselves to us, but we seem to avoid or even try to escape them. It is true that an idea must be embraced or absorbed before it can truly said to be part of our identity. And that identity is the summing up of a lifetime's worth of concepts.
26 January, 2003
10x8" acrylic on canvas
A quaint figure in a strange landscape. Ego sum...this room reaching into the outdoors. Most of my paintings twist things inside out and vice versa, or can be seen both ways. Existence, inner and outer.
25 January, 2003
A313 Sum II
7x5" acrylic on canvas
I was thinking of the word sum, which means a summing up, but also is Latin for 'I am'. The figure is both supported and partly hidden or submerged by history in the form of a fossil. But the figured is also 'enlightened' by the glowing possibilities of ideas, above.
24 January, 2003
A312 Reach VI
7x5" acrylic on canvas
I was trying to capture the feeling of reaching as far as you can for an idea (reach for the moon), and the heightened senses that mark a state of inspiration. Hence the electrified hair.
23 January, 2003
22 January, 2003
A310 Perceive III
5x7" acrylic on canvas
A simple idea, perception through a sort of mist. But is the idea flowing in or out? And is the idea distorted slightly by the (a priori) fossil shape of personal history?
21 January, 2003
A309 Reach IV
6x6" acrylic on canvas
One figure reaches through 'flow'. I had the idea of feeling your way through ideas, but also of groping around for ways to express them, to share them with someone else. For another person to understand your ideas, you have to pull them into your stream of thought.
20 January, 2003
19 January, 2003
10x8" acrylic on canvas
Here the figure ponders over her own history, coiled next to her heart, and influencing everything she perceives. Every perception is lined up literally staring at her, eyes strung like a row of beads on an abacus.
18 January, 2003
A306 Reach III
10x8" acrylic on canvas
A further exploration of the 'reach' concept. The figure is compelled...her hair is standing up, and the atmosphere is full of energy, lightening bolt patterns. But she has not 'grasped' the idea. A blanket of domestic patterning holds her down. I like the line of hesitation in this one, between the proffered hand and the figure.
17 January, 2003
A305 Reach II
10x8" acrylic on canvas
This image, also based on the idea of 'reach', depicts acceptance, of both the reaching-out of another (the hands, obviously not belonging to the figure), and the tears or drops, another way of depicting flow. Flow, if it is to flow freely, must be allowed to run its course, and this includes all ideas, however inappropriate and useless they may seem at the time. The figure accepts the idea (reach) and allows them to emerge unimpeded. This 'emptying' method, provides rich material for creation.
16 January, 2003
10x8" acrylic on canvas
I finished A304, and was pleased with it, though wondering whether the hand that is reaching down should have been differentiated more from the other. But I left it the same, since the ambiguity is also appealing; are both hands hers, or is one hand someone else's.
I have been trying to depict how ideas, which almost always appear as anomalies in the fabric of our day, must be reached for. An idea will touch you momentarily, but unless you literally grasp it, the idea vanishes in the complex patterns we surround ourselves with. The watery pattern represents flow, the state of creativity and receptivity.
15 January, 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.
14 January, 2003
A302 Entropic Woman
36x24" oil on canvas
The patterns on her (Entropic woman) are all writing with a brush, upside down and backwards, etc. A sort of impromptu poem, but it would be very difficult for anyone to decipher. It's not important that you can read it, just that it's there, as all poetry is, except most people don't pause to notice it.
I was intrigued with the idea of entropy, of slow decay. So in the painting, the woman is losing information, bits of herself, data, behind her...but she is also building or adding information in front. She is pushing ahead, always pushing and gathering more information to make up for the loss. An important balance...instead of trying to hold on to old stuff, make new stuff.
In the same sense, ideas flow into us, and flow out of us in the form of our writing and painting. The in-flow is just as important as what comes out, for we are assimilators, translators of what we perceive.
I deliberately made an innocent, amorphous shaped woman; she is clean and glowing, open to new ideas, pushing ahead.
13 January, 2003
A301 Dichotomy II
20x24" oil on panel
At first, beginning to work on the face of the background figure, and continuing the eye' pattern on the arm, I thought it was impossibly ugly. But as usual the combination of soft modelling and colourful patterns are beginning to work together to make an intriguing picture.
I finally settled down to work on a sketch in my sketchbook, and completed a fast under-painting in bright red and yellow, a visage with more zig-zags like lightening bolts. This seemed to warm me up, as I quite enjoyed myself, and I moved over to the table to work on A301 again, completing most of the pattern outlines in black. For this painting, I again tried to contrast the two characters, using geometric angular shapes for the background figure, and floral natural shapes for the front figure. It is hard to tell if the back figure is clutching the front one, or if the front figure is clutching herself, in a sort of protective gesture. It is the ambiguity of the gestures that interests me, because it is how life is. We are never quite sure what we are seeing, how we interpret things. I certainly feel that these chaotic patterns and colours represent our real life, almost overwhelming input of detail all the time, which our brains do an admirable job of filtering, and then the other layer of chaos, the accumulating burden of detail...ideas, events, images and just the things we pick up along the long way of our lives, a great many of them unresolved or perplexing to us, so that we tend in our idle moments to pick through it all, turning things over and over and wondering at them or grieving over them. We move forward, but are continuously glancing back, hence the horrific split; it's a wonder we don't have two heads.
A301 suddenly takes on great significance for me, as the myriad eyes on one character's robe squint and weep, the other character's eye as staring and empty. The clashing patterns are the too-bright world I cringe from, the world that makes my eyes water. The Christmas-coloured flowers of the other robe are my sanctuary. But I have yet to scribble on this painting.
... adding silver lines and another layer of background detail as well as patterns on the arm on the left. This arm is interesting, because it is difficult to make out whether it is the arm of the back figure or the one in the foreground, on the left. One is inclined to associate it with the foreground figure, so I added some of the background pattern to add to the ambiguity. My idea was always that the two figures are really the same person, the dichotomy of being.
It is a strange picture, because of the three arms. With a little imagination, you can attribute all three arms to either figure. I added to this illusion by giving the arms different patterns, not immediately identifiable with either character.
12 January, 2003
A300 Artist & Anomaly II
24x18" oil pastels, oil, pencils on paper
One of the students working at a paint-a-thon at the mall to raise funds for their art class, was gleefully attacking a huge sheet of paper with a big brush and bright colours. There was a wonderful atmosphere of discovery and camaraderie among the artists, young and old. While she and I talked, I made a quick sketch of her at work, and finished it later in the mall studio.
11 January, 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.
10 January, 2003
A298 Artist & Anomaly
24x18" oil on linen
In the studio, I worked on A298, Artist and Anomaly. Josée had posed for this at last year's festival, and I had done nothing with it. Now the pose, folded up in a zigzag, and bold figure seems to suit the Anomaly series, above all the expression on her face. Today, with mother colour of Paynes grey and Prussian blue, I drew designs above the thunderbolts I sketched in the other day with pencil, and the bolts themselves I tried in silver oil paint.
When I had worked as much as possible on A301, I turned to A298, Artist and Anomaly, which Josée posed for and has been abandoned for some time. I mainly added black brush patterns, but also had a chance to begin one of the scales, which cover part of her body, using the turquoise oil paint I have favoured lately.
February 13, 2003: I put one of the Gulag Archipelago CD's in the computer, and listened to the droning account of prison life in Russia while squeezing out oil paint. I already have several pictures started; I was able to sit down to A298, Artist and Anomaly, without thinking, and continue the green scale patterns on the character's legs. I worked away, quite happy for an hour or so, and was very pleased with the results.
There are still some details to be done. I have ideas of using a pointed brush to draw all over it, and maybe I will do just that.
February 18, 2004: After breakfast and reading, I went straight upstairs to the studio and, putting on one of the Gulag discs, listened to endless tales of prison life in Stalinist Russia while working on A298. Without hesitation, I began drawing with a pointed brush and black oil on top of the painting, making it what I have been thinking of lately, rather than simply finishing the painting the way it had started. In fact, I can't really remember what my intent was in this picture. It was one of those in-between paintings, the iteration of an idea already established, as often happens in my series. I did not look at the results of my scribbling on top of my painting, just did it, and an hour and a half later, setting the painting right-side up to have a look, I was satisfied, and more importantly, truly engaged once more in this painting.
09 January, 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.
06 January, 2003
A294 Peripheral Revision
24x18" oil on canvas
May 10, 2003: I slipped away to work on the sketch under-painting for the new canvas, A294. After a conversation with Linda about the burdens we carry around and the things from our past that keep pecking at us, I wanted a character sort of wrestling with a raven, the burden of ideas or philosophies that refuse to leave us alone. So back to Paynes grey, flesh and a new turquoise, with Alizarin crimson for the red, I think.
May 16, 2003: A slow but productive day. Still feeling sluggish and swollen. I cleaned the studio and the office, and made a great deal of progress on A294, Peripheral Revision. At first I did not like the heavy texture of the linen canvas, but before long I was enjoying the way the brush scrubs on it, and the paint gathers in the pits and ridges. The face of the creature is passive, veins and eyes bulging as she tries to catch a raven...or is she batting him away?
June 17, 2003: After a light lunch, I worked in the studio for a couple of hours, on A294. Everything is falling into place now, the feathers filling in nicely, and the pattern on the characters shirt.
After resting for a while, I worked again on A294, finishing up the feathers and painting in the modelling on the right side arm. This painting is going very quickly now. I am enjoying the heavy texture of the linen canvas, finding that dry brush techniques and glazing work wonderfully. It is a different feel, certainly. And my graphic lines look different.
On this painting, I am also trying a new colour, turquoise. Of course, flesh combined with Pthalo blue also makes turquoise, so there is a nice blending of tones there. The Alizarin-patterned fabric, floating above the skin of the character and drifting over the edges of the canvas, adds delicacy and beauty to an otherwise slightly disturbing image, the dark feathers, the odd way the character is intermixed with the bird, and the weary expression and attitude of the character.
What is happening here? The character writes or draws, allowing the raven to pass through her. She accepts the dark flutter, embraces it, her gaze focused on the pure white of the paper. The teacup emerges from a spin of turquoise that flows into or out of a cephalopod.
05 January, 2003
A293 Anomalous Picnic
24x36" oil on canvas
March 2, 2003: I drew a woman on the new large canvas, stretched out at a picnic of strange objects, A293, Anomalous Picnic. She looks bemused, as if playing a game of chess. This is a more innocent- looking picture, and much flatter than the others in the series. I had thought to do it with no shading, but I suppose that will depend on how I feel as I do it. Tonight I painted some French Ultramarine into the background, like a sky, or perhaps a river. There is supposed to be a cloth on the ground, and the dishes will be full of incongruities. Chaotic tidbits.
March 5, 2003: I have been enjoying using cadmium red in this painting, mixing glowing flesh tones using it and cadmium yellow. The womans face is full of lines, but serene; she has earned her picnic.
March 19, 2003: Upstairs in the studio, I worked on A293, little fossil cookies and a delicate cup with a design of blue and white synapses. I have been thinking of these paintings as representative of the chaos of our lives, so many patterns and choices, so much happening. But also, in spite of all that we notice, our perception of the world must be somewhat flat and graphic, as we tend to generalize and idealize everything, not looking closely or investigating, or perhaps not wanting to, frightened by the complexity of it. Any anomaly is too disturbing ...I worked on my painting a bit more, drawing amphibian fetal patterns on a large green plate. They look like carved beads.
March 25, 2003: I spend some time in the studio, and finish the first layer of shading and outlining on A293. I plan my patterns carefully, gourds bursting with motifs, the warped web of the cloth, the glowing orange of the arm of the woman. She is dining on the bits of matter that life gives her, converting it all into her own design.
April 30, 2003: I took my second cup of coffee upstairs and put Wagners Ring Cycle on the stereo. I sat down at the studio typewriter and studied yesterday's single line of poetry, catching a bit of flow. For about an hour, I typed and re-typed lines, eventually coming up with two more stanzas, inspired by my painting session last night. I spent the rest of the morning working on A293, which is beginning to shape to my original ideas. The central green plate, set up on its edge at odds with the false perspective of the checked cloth, is a trompe loeil of flat and dimensional patterns, inspired by amphibious egg development. It blooms like an Aztec calendar of biologic glyphs. Its persistent growth precludes any preoccupations with the other picnic choices; pabulum and pills, generic fossil feed. Staring into such a plate as the green one, we feel we must go on, be something else. All else is shells, inertia and weeping over teacups.
04 January, 2003
P292 Artist & Orange Chair with Fossils
24x30" oil 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.
03 January, 2003
A291 Anomalous Print
24x18" designer's opaque gouache on paper
July 2002: I made this sketch of Josée, an artist friend, as she worked on a lino-cut print at the Moonbeam Arts Festival, and painted and drew on it all week while we sat at the exhibit. Josee also uses checkerboards or mosaic squares in her work, often in the form of a quilt. We are both interested in the idea of our life experience being a 'pieced-together' mosaic of patterns, some matching, some anomalies, some holes. In the background of this picture are a couple of Normand's paintings, covered over with my patterns, my perceptions.
02 January, 2003
A290 Agony & Anomaly
24x18" watercolour on paper
This sketch was made at the studio in town. The lightening bolt motif refers both to inspiration and division, the character undecided, or equally pulled in two directions. Thus decisions in life can be necessary, but painful. For some time I have been interested in the divided mind, the dichotomies of living. It is much the same concept as the mask; life is not obvious, or what it appears. Nor is it black and white...the line between dark and light is often complex and puzzling.
01 January, 2003
A289 Anomalous Inclinations
20x24" oil on canvas
January 1, 2003: I draw him (Ted) reclining, looking slightly up at his chin, which shows off the classic angles of his face, and deep cleft of his chin. Ted and I had an interesting conversation the other night, about alternate universes and pathways, and I want to get some of this in the picture. I will have bands of light and pattern streaming around and through him.
January 10, 2003: I started the painting of Ted, using various combinations of Alizarin crimson, raw sienna and ochre. It is shaping up nicely, though I think I may not use the outlining of the last two paintings, rather painting the patterns in and outlining with a brush where necessary.
January 13, 2003: ...went upstairs to the studio to work on A289, and listen to The Flying Dutchman. On a whim, after painting Ted's shirt ultramarine, I drew little people with black oil, what I imagine to be events or dreams in his life. Tomorrow I will fill them in with colour, like cartoons. I also began outlining some of the patterns I had made in the background.
January 14, 2003: I had my coffee and read for a while, then got dressed and made for the studio. With more Wagner on the CD player, I worked steadily on A289, filling in patterns with colour on the shirt, and drawing more outlines. The entire painting is taking shape now. Using the traverse stick, I am making larger pattern shapes and filling them in with colour. I will paint one layer of rough patterning over the entire painting this way, then decide which areas need more detail, instead of completing all the detail in each section as I go along. As well, I am waiting to see how much outlining I want in the face.
January 19, 2003: Back at work on A289. The patterns on the shirt now seem to merge with the background patterns, but I will complete the first layer before deciding what to do. Some heavy outlines will help, and if I confine the copper to the background, it will also help redefine the areas. I will also use the copper in the background to make other patterns, so the background will have lighter details. What a patchwork our lives are, of repeating motifs and variations. What a conglomerate our lives become, of patterns we can't escape or forget, the fossil remains of bits of our lives, merging with other bits, forming our being and our burden. The background in this painting humps forward, over the shoulders of the character, who stares out of his patchwork, all the pieces of his present, into another place. His thoughts are projected out of a mass of incongruities. It seems impossible that he should be ignoring all that colour and design, but there is no doubt his mind is elsewhere.
I have always been fascinated by the mind's ability to ignore the chaos surrounding us, or to pick out a single idea out of it all. Our brains can single out a colour, a shape, a sound, or a smell in the cacophony around us, isolating it for contemplation. Or our brains, after observing an endless array of patterns and shapes, can invent a new one. We thrive on chaos. We desire complexity. We seek the thing that is different, even while we stop to admire the thing that matches or complements what we have already experienced.
And then there is our brain-talent for splicing things together, taking disparate elements, patterns we recognize or shapes that divert us, ideas that come to us, and recombining them, or simply concatenating them into new mosaics. The mind can play at this forever. The more sciences and fields of knowledge we add, the more personal experience, the more varied and complex the mosaic becomes. Ideas weave together, separating some concepts, bringing others closer together, and the tapestry continues to expand, ever rich, ever changing. It streams before our mind's eye, never quite repeating, often familiar, more often strange and disturbing.
In spite of all this chaos, we live, each of us encased in our own universe of memory and experience and information bits, and we interact with others, each also surrounded by their own chaotic universe. So much pattern, so much information noise, yet we function. In fact, if we were isolated from it all, we would starve for want of sensory and mental input. Severance from the kaleidoscope of our world would mean intellectual death, the greyness of dreams, fading afterimages and then blankness.
Strangely enough, that blankness is often sought, in certain meditative states, for example, and in writing and art, where one seeks to empty the mind of all the accumulated detritus of daily life, and find a truth, or an inspiration. If an artist doesn't do this, he keeps repeating himself. A series can quickly become iterations. Or stutters. An artist is always trying to trick himself out of his comfortable state of ritual and rewind.
January 23, 2003: A289 keeps changing, as I add more layers to the patterns. On this painting, I am working more to formula, each area having patterns detailed with its main colour, so the background patterns have copper details, and the shirt has blue details. It is a way of achieving separation without shading.
January 29, 2003: I worked for several hours on A289, which I had abandoned for a few days, letting it dry a bit before I added more patterns. The freehand brush drawing in black takes me to another place, as I add characters and events and whimsical ideas, all in black oil outline to be coloured later. The background, in stylized geometric patterns, is accented with copper oil paint, lending it a Byzantine or Moroccan air. So, the character has his life surrounding him, his background, parcelled and organized in a formal patchwork, his daily life, worn like an embroidered, fantastic shirt, and his thoughts streaming through and past him like beams or ticker tape.
January 31, 2003: I ...set to work on A289. I still wasn't happy with the separation of the character from the background, so took the bold step of placing a white line around the character, which I have been considering for several days. I had been using white to delineate various patterns in the blue shirt, also as a device for making the shirt stand out. The white outline had an immediate effect, and I continued it up into the character's hair. For a few moments, I was reminded of an Elvis impersonator in one of those embroidered costumes, or perhaps a Flamenco player. But that is life, over-embroidered, flamboyant and a bit gaudy. This character is literally wrapped up in it.
Then I spent an hour or so painting in more patterns on the shirt, a bird, golden scales, and fish leaping out of curly waves. The little motifs and characters within characters take me various places, each section a total immersion, either fanciful or vaguely familiar. I have a strong urge to continue off the canvas and onto the walls of the studio.