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The flower at the corner of the painted study seems to long for its near twin up there on the box.  And thus there are always various curiosities in the studio.

And in one’s mind coincidences abound.  Ideas echo each other.


room of clouds


clouds and hilltopI had to fetch some clouds to decorate the room of clouds. I sought them from the sky.

I climbed the hill and pulled them down.

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I took clouds from the pond’s reflection before the fish could come and swallow them.

fish face

Before the fish could swallow them, I would steal my clouds away.  Thus I gather clouds to decorate a wool gathering room.

In the room of clouds I’ll dream.  In a room of white cotton gauze, in a room of soft reflected light, where white on white reveals the floating thought, I muse.

From a pond of reflection I’ll fish for memories.  In a room that’s like a bright white page


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empty and spacious and bright, I’ll live.

Chaos Theory

sea shell in setup

A complex still life is like Nature.  When you go out into the world, into the fields, the forest, the meadow, you find a gazillion things scattered willy-nilly according to a prodigal and crazy logic devised by Nature our Mother.  She’s a harried housewife, Nature, and drops one thing here while on her way to get that, and can’t remember where she left that tree or raccoon, that froggie on the lily pad … those birds sitting in the oak … where’d they get to?  Never can find her keys, Mother Nature.  But what difference does it make when luxury and profusion are the trades you ply?

A lot of artists arrange a well-organized still life for contemplation, one that’s sure to have a center of interest. Others of us, affected by a visual ADHD, crave clutter.  For me I find rationality inside the clutter.  Gravity still rules.  Things aren’t flying off the table, exiting the solar system.  Physics still has it all under control.  But patterns and colors abound and edges bump into other edges.

To have a fine mess to get into, an artist can approach still life as though it were en plein air.  Notice the abundance of shapes, colors, the confusion of proportion as you try to get your “ducks in a row.”  That’s how I roll.  I pick something and draw and the devil take the edges. My pencil as my machete, I hack my way through the jungle of lines, shapes, colors, forms and plant my flag at the end of my travails.

I rule!

And Nature indulgent Mother glances wryly at me, her hyper-active child. Minute in the cosmos.


“The beginning is the most important part of the work,” said Plato.  I think.  I’d be more confident of his having said it, or written it, if I knew where he is supposed to have said it.  And instead I found these words at one of those Plato Quotes sites.

It does seem like something Plato would have said, sounds very Plato-ish.  If he didn’t say it, he certainly should have.  Well I confidently attribute it to him because it suits my purpose, and better to have him saying it than me.  He’s so famous and wise.
The beginning of art has the potential of being hugely important!  When a picture starts out in a bold, deliberative way, with the large elements presented in full, the artist builds an underlying structure as a strong foundation for everything that comes afterward.  Everything that the artist sees and presents later can be tethered to that underlying plan with invisible glue.
If you can imagine a bottle of Elmer’s Thoughts, those forms you pour out to which everything else sticks — rather like “Plato’s ideas,” then you’ll know what I’m talking about.


Notwithstanding innumerable art appreciation classes offered round the world, people still don’t understand abstraction in art.  The public doesn’t understand because they were never supposed to understand. And certain artists don’t understand because they first encounter the word through the mediation of the schoolhouse.

The idea of the abstract was from its outset an obfuscation. Every artist who ever tried to draw something either faces or struggles against the ways that the materials possess their own qualities.  So while abstraction as an idea might seem confusing, its reality is quite commonplace.  The marks you draw are at first just marks.  You begin with a blank canvas, and every line, color or tone that you place on the canvas that does not instantly present the motif in a mimetic way is “abstract.”  The most descriptive marks are also abstract too, but we’re less apt to notice.  The fact is that we see nature entire and each effort (of whatever sort) to separate out qualities is de facto an abstraction.  

But abstraction as a deliberate confusion of seeing came into vogue and persists as things do — just because.  Sometimes it can be marvelously used but it has become a convention now.  Its root taps deep down into Nature, but fads do not trend the way a thing winds into the mind’s labyrinth as a touchstone of perception and dreams.  No, the fad becomes a path disappearing into thickets.

Art of the Individual

All you have to ask yourself is: “What do human beings do?”  What characterizes the human story?  Compare us with the animals, and ask what are we particularly good at?  And here one asks not about the geniuses only, but about each ordinary person.  We are creators of ourselves and discoverers of ourselves too,  and molding this individual personality is the chief business of each person’s existence.  And too, it is a marvel how people project the sense of themselves upon others, how you can walk past a total stranger and merely nod the most summary of greetings and receive in return a distinct impression of this unknown other.  Sometimes quick impressions of this sort turn out to have been very revealing.

We ought to be teaching it in school, using every subject and every endeavor to get the message across, bending every discipline to the task – science, art, history, literature, music, having all these things as tools for creating the self, for becoming a person.

The Devil in the Details

And it is possible too for people to be deceived, deeply, deeply deceived.  He could paint like that – came so close – and then he turned down this other path and made these silly things for the rest of his life.  And the world has embraced the silly things and the few true things he made are thought of as background for his “invention.”  They are just curiosities according to the experts. 

Still – he did make a few true things and that is better than nothing.  Once – he was true.  Some people are never true. 

Then too, some people are always true.

The Sameness that Renews itself

Richard Diebenkorn wrote “Notes to himself on beginning a painting.”  They are somewhat like Gibb’s Rules.  Diebenkorn’s number one (they are similarly numbered) says, “attempt what is not certain.  Certainty may or may not come later.  It may then be a valuable delusion.”

At first I thought Diebenkorn’s rule sounded at odds with my practice.  I plan my paintings as much as practicable, following a procedure that is not radically different from what the old masters did.  Yet in essence I do “attempt the uncertain.” 

The “warp and weft” of the painting will come through the process of painting.  My preliminary drawings (which I do habitually, especially when I fall in love with a motif, repeating it over and over) these reiterations seem to open doors.  But when I go through the door, when I work on the actual painting, I find that the drawings point toward possibilities.  They do not close down, they open up.

I could compare it with walks I take.  I go back to the same places again and again.  After many occasions I come to know the terrain thoroughly.  But each visit contains its own incident and mood.  Weather changes.  Times of year, the hours of the day, the angle of the light.  Equally much I have my own internal weather and seasons:  I travel there in different moods.

Memories of past times have their effects.  It’s never the same path exactly.

When trees are koi, can koi be trees?

My kois in progress and my landscape in progress, below.

Don’t know if it’s just me, but I see a bit of koi in my landscape and a bit of landscape in my evolving koi drawing.   They sit next to each other on a shelf.  I think they’re conspiring.  They want to dream themselves into twins.