architecture of the canopy

DSC_1257 (2) canopy of perfect summer day

The curving forms of the boughs in the tree canopy are so magnificent.  How I would love to get in sync with that arboreal architecture.  I imitate the loops and curvy forms.  They make material the gladness of the light and the visual noise of summer.   The riot of colors, the density of growing things, the layers upon layers of intervening leafage wherever you look, light loving leaves that fill the spaces between you and the horizon.

I am summer’s biggest fan.

each medium has its special charm

DSC_1236 (2) lower left of Distant Oak smaller file

When I see details like this I discover that I’m more of an abstract artist than I realize. But I love the visual incident of passages like this one, this detail of the painting Distant Oak.

I rarely — almost never — paint with acrylics now.  I’m an oil painter.  But I recall I did love the ways you could put layers over top each other quickly — and could with the addition of some white paint — recreate the bottom layer again and thus play rather easily with transparencies and texture.

This bit of abstraction appears on the lower left hand side of the painting.

it bursts out in different directions


DSC_1231 (3) Distant Oak smaller

I seem to be preprogrammed to make certain kinds of compositions.  I particularly like ones that radiate in different directions like the spokes of a wheel.  It’s a feature of my own mind’s topography that I wouldn’t know except for seeing it afterwards in art.  It’s one of the reasons for painting — to paint not only the outer landscape, but the inner one too.


The comparison is more apparent when Distant Oak is turned upside down.

What do you learn about yourself by the things you do?  What does your own mind’s architecture look like?  And what is your brain trying to tell you?!

Sometimes you have to listen to yourself!


the beauty of the vertical

DSC_1255 (2) detail perfect summer day detail smaller

Sometimes the reaching up is beautiful in itself.  That’s why I made the landscape vertical, to strive toward that reaching for the sky that plants do.  (We should all be a little more like plants from time to time.)

And in this detail of Perfect Summer Day the orientation I chose is a vertical part to echo the vertical whole.

because I like the shapes

seashell and bottle

I painted the seashell and bottle together because I like the shapes of each.  That’s why I bought the bottle (another of the thrift store hauls) and why I collect the seashells.  I love their shapes and colors.  Looking at their surfaces fascinates me.   I like the color blue.  I like the folds in a cloth.  I like the random things that end up being the edges of the painting when you paint without a plan.

This is a little picture — only 9 x 12 inches — painted on Arches oil paper, which is a wonderful surface, enjoyable for the artist.

I began doing still lifes in a random way, choosing the object I wanted particularly to portray and letting the rest of the picture arrange itself according to the dimensions of the format, and now I love the randomness of it.  The edges become a new area of exploration.

Some people climb mountains or dream astronaut dreams — I explore the edges of the painting — far more sedentary, much safer physically, but still wonderful — I assure you!

How does one express this love of the edges?  Or of the spaces between things?  Do you believe me when I tell you that they are marvelous territories?!  And while I rhapsodize the edges, do not suppose that I oppose the middle — I like painting’s interior too.


DSC_1251 (2) detail neighborhood girl smaller file

We know each other by our faces.  But how can you see the face of the past?  I didn’t know what prosopagnosia is when I painted this.  Sometimes instead you just heed your instincts and follow the forms as they appear.

Prosopagnosia (sometimes called face blindness) is a cognitive inability to recognize faces in someone with otherwise unimpaired vision.

Here it’s a visual metaphor for a distant past and the persons who lived in it, whose faces we cannot see clearly because they live in a perpetual realm of mystery and unknowingness.

DSC_1253 (2) neighborhood girl smaller file

I learned about prosopagnosia from reading various books by Oliver Sacks.

on the easel

red still life of flowers in progress

I started with the red.  Because — red!  Just putting the paint down straight from the tube, I enjoy seeing it so beautiful, luminous.  This is why I love painting — because color transmits wonder just in itself, even before you do anything.

I’m making a painted version of the pastel still life with flowers, the one with the red cloth.  It’s one of my favorites from among the group of pastel still lifes that I did in the fall.  I’m thinking that I may do painted versions of my three favorites.  Time will tell.  Certainly I had to paint the ruby red one.

looking out the window

Different times of day, different angle, but it’s the same window. In both cases I made a fast drawing.  I figured, “Why not?”

One is early morning (left) and the other is at twilight. The curtain on the right is only barely visible in the morning version.

The Red Cloth & the Big Bouquet of Flowers


A complex ensemble of varied objects sits on a table decorated by a large bouquet.  The table cloth is brilliant red.  The flowers are of many types: lilies, daisies, carnations, roses.  A couple of winter gourds, a queen conch seashell, and a blue pedestal glass filled with smaller seashells sits beside the flowers.  Behind them a cloth of pale blues and silver adds a sky-like element.  And off to the far right a deep red-orange cloth peeks out framed by some hanging purple flowers from a vase sitting outside the picture frame.

The complexity of a scene like this one gives the artist many sources of intrigue.  I love exploring the shapes of many things when they are bunched altogether.  It’s a passion that hopefully transfers to the spectator. In any scene of things, many wonderful visual features are always present.  One of the aims of visual art is to provoke us to look more deeply into the appearances of the world.  Every corner of the universe is filled with splendor.  And splendor can begin with the simple contemplation of even a color.  A brilliant red is a powerful sensation in its own right.  And the shapes of things, the colors of many things, the lines that the mind describes around things are all sources of the most powerful fascination.

The Red Cloth and the Big Bouquet of Flowers  is a pastel painting on sanded paper measuring 18 x 24 inches.

first rehearsals

cartoon for painting

Often before I begin painting I will draw the motif, and sometimes I draw it with freedom and total abandon as in the drawing above. I love the scribbly effect available when drawing with crayons and oil pastel.  And something of this quality I sought to incorporate into the final painting — because Nature has a lot of texture in her outdoors.