#A4: Silence and Sentiment

My painting for the day. It did not make it to the night, but it was good practice. I do not always like the way the featured image shows in WordPress, especially in the Reader – it seems like it is being pushed into your face.

Below is what I believe the painting would have looked like in a frame, when viewed across a room:


There are probably times for all of us when things becomes clear – the beauty and brutality of life is seen for what it is – and the need to change it is muted. We strive for the meta-physic, but our life is lived in the physic.

Here is the poetry-prose in the closing scene of the astonishingly beautiful movie, The Great Beauty (“Le Grande Bellezza”):

This is how it always ends, with death.
But first there was life, hidden beneath
the blah, blah, blah.
Its all settled beneath the chitter chatter 
and the noise.
Silence and sentiment.
Emotion and fear.
The haggard, inconstant flashes of beauty.
And then the wretched squalor and miserable humanity.
All buried under the cover of 
the embarrassment of being in the world:
Blah, blah, blah, blah.

Beyond, there is what lies beyond.
And I don't deal with what lies beyond.
Let this novel begin.
After all...it's just a trick.

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#A3: Streets of Philadelphia

This is an acrylic based – very roughly it turned out! – on the charcoal and chalk drawing shown below. With this composition, I wanted to see if I could invent a landscape that had more middle ground focus and also was a bit more challenging in terms of form.

Apart from some silly large acrylic canvasses I painted a few years ago, this is only my second attempt at acrylic this year. So I am willing to cut myself some slack and say – “I like it!”


This afternoon I read New Zealand born author Katherine Mansfield’s short story “The Garden Party”. The story deals with the preparation and aftermath of a garden party at the home of a wealthy family. Just before the party, the daughter Laura – a sensitive person full of empathy for others – learns that earlier the day the breadwinner of a poor family (living on the fringes of their property) had fallen from a horse and died.

After the party, Laura walks to take a basket of party left-overs to the widow. Laura is deeply moved by the tragedy, but cannot help but recognize the joy inside her – another leftover from the party:

It was just growing dusky as Laura shut the garden gates. A big dog ran by like a shadow. The road gleamed white, and down below in the hollow the little cottages were in deep shade. How quiet it seemed after the afternoon. Here she was going down the hill to somewhere where a man lay dead, and she couldn’t realize it. Why couldn’t she? She stopped a minute. And it seemed to her that kisses, voices, tinkling spoons, laughter, the smell of crushed grass were somehow inside her. She had no room for anything else. How strange!

An excerpt from a poem by Wang Wei:

Oftentimes - with joy in my heart -
Alone, I roam here and there.
It is a wonderful thing
That I am aware of myself.
When the streamlet ends my trip
I settle down and catch
The moment of rising mists.
Now and then I meet
A furrowed dweller of the woods.
We chat and laugh;
Never do we want to go home.

Wang Wei, quoted in
Creativity and Taoism, by Chung-yuan Chang

It is a wonderful thing that I am aware of myself!

Thanks for visiting my blog. I hope you are happy and content.

#P22: Toward Sunrise

This is a pastel version of the charcoal sketch shown below. It is actually the same sketch used in my previous post, but with a very different sky and mood.

This was done on Fabriano HP Watercolor paper, over which I applied a colorful watercolor wash before starting in charcoal. Most of the sky that is visible in this painting is just the watercolor shining through. I have whittled down my pastel range to only about 10 colors now. Applied over the charcoal, I seem to get the color mood I like with this simple combination.


As I write now this painting stands in my living room on the floor. I still have to remove it from the board over which I stretched it. Looking at it as I write makes me happy.

Two verses from a poem by Rilke:

This is my labor - over it
my shadow lies like the shell of a nut.
It's true I'm the same as leaves and mud,
but as often as I pray or paint
it is Sunday, and in the valley I am
a jubilant Jerusalem.
My streets rise toward sunrise.
After people have left me alone a long time
it happens that I am larger.
Inside me I hear steps ring
and I stretch my loneliness out
from eternity to eternity.

Rainer Maria Rile, tr. Robert Bly, in
Selected Poems of Rainer Maria Rilke

Thanks for visiting my blog. I hope you are happy and content.

#A2: Storm Coming

Sunday. Some time to paint but caught without prepared canvas panels. I did find this one small gesso’d panel and decided to just do an acrylic version of the charcoal and chalk sketch shown below.

I am quite happy with the result and think I will try my hand at a few more acrylics again. The white gesso is quite rough and clearly shows in places, but it seems to give the painting a bit of pop and energy. I am also quite fond of this composition and this afternoon I made a charcoal and pastel version which I hope to post soon.


This morning I read an interesting interview with the artist Ying Li on Painting Perceptions. I was quite inspired by her life story and also to see how she moved from realism to very abstract painting. The following quote in particular resonated with me:

Sometimes I stay in more representational manner because I feel I really got the character or something right there. Or the painting just works. However most times I don’t trust that feeling, I try to get past that point and dig harder into the painting, to find what it is really about. At a certain point the painting gets muddy and flat and I hit a wall. It bounces back instead of going deeper. Sometimes I find I am just repeating my own paintings. I have to paint through those moments, and look harder, I find the solution is always out there, the looking part leads to the clue.

Ying Li – from the her interview on Painting Perceptions.

I have always loved the following poem – the haunting sense of someone leaving at dawn without notice:

On this frosty day, 
clouds and mist congeal, 
On the mountain moon, 
the icy chill glows. 

At night I receive a letter 
from my home, 
At dawn I leave without 
anyone knowing.

The Nun "Fahai", quoted in
Grant, Beata. Daughters of Emptiness: 
Poems of Chinese Buddhist Nuns (p. 47). 
Wisdom Publications. Kindle Edition.

Thanks for stopping by my blog.

#O64: Lonely, Lonely

After my last few paintings I wanted to paint something a bit less abstract. Looking through some old source photos I decided to have another go at this one. This is an abandoned diary farm building in Cullinan, South Africa. I used to drive past this every day on my way home, it is about a 100 metres down the road from the place where this painting’s source photo was taken.


The source photo is shown below. The spots in the sky show where I tested the value of my sky color on the photo. I was amazed how much lighter in value the sky was than I first thought. My first color mixture looked OK to me, but as you can see from the swatches on the photo, they were way too dark.


The last week has been one of the hardest ones for me this year. Back pain and fatigue stretch minutes at work into hours. The days are gray and moody, but when I am alone in my studio with my pictures and music – the rain falling softly on the low roof – I am joyous beyond words sometimes.

Danse Russe
If I when my wife is sleeping
and the baby and Kathleen
are sleeping
and the sun is a flame-white disc
in silken mists
above shining trees,—
if I in my north room
dance naked, grotesquely
before my mirror
waving my shirt round my head
and singing softly to myself:
“I am lonely, lonely.
I was born to be lonely,
I am best so!”
If I admire my arms, my face,
my shoulders, flanks, buttocks
against the yellow drawn shades,—
Who shall say I am not
the happy genius of my household?

William Carlos Williams, “Danse Russe” from
The Collected Poems of William Carlos Williams, 
Volume I, 1909-1939, edited by Christopher MacGowan. 
This copy from Poetry Foundation

I hope you are happy and content. Thanks for visiting my blog.

#O62 Badlands

This evening just time for a quick, small oil sketch, it is about 8 x 10 inches. I was going to paint an oil version of my charcoal sketch of a river scene (below). But once I put down the horizon line and got some green and red into the foreground I could not resist turning this into something else.


In her book, Ten Windows: How Great Poems Transform the World, Jane Hirschfield writes:

In the last instants of a shark’s approach to its prey, 
it closes its inner eyelids for self-protection, 
and most of its other senses shut down as well. 
Only one remains active: a bioelectrical sensory 
mechanism in its jaw, a guidance system uniquely made 
for striking. 
During writing, in the moment an idea arrives, 
the eyes of ordinary seeing close down and the poem rushes 
forward into the world on some mysterious inner impulsion 
that underlies seeing, underlies hearing, underlies words 
as they exist in ordinary usage.

I suspect it is somewhat the same with painting – when the music, spirit and eye converge in some inexpressible synergy. Perhaps one could replace “poet” with “painter” and “poem” with “painting” in the last paragraph above.

Song of the Twelve Hours of the Day
Middle of the night— the first hour 
In my dreams, I go here and there 
and don’t know how to stop myself. 
Treading into pieces the green of the eastern 
hills and the western peaks, 
Then turning over to find one’s been nestled 
in the bedcovers all along.

Grant, Beata. Daughters of Emptiness: 
Poems of Chinese Buddhist Nuns (p. 102). 
Wisdom Publications. Kindle Edition.

Thanks for visiting!

#O62: Western Wind

An invented landscape based on the outcome of a play session with charcoal and chalk, shown below.


The rain is falling incessantly, days are gray and moody. I am amazed at the effect it has on my mind, thoughts and emotions. While working on this painting I was reminded of the poem I quoted in an earlier post, and I think it is fitting that it go again with this painting:

Withered vine.
Rotten tree,
Dark cow,
Little bridge,
Running Stream,
Worn-out road,
Western wind,
Lean horse,
The sun is setting in the west;
The broken-hearted man is at the end of the earth.

Ma-Chih-yuan (13th Century)
Quoted in Creativity and Taoism, by Chung-yaun Chang

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#P21: Don’t Conclude

This is an invented landscape based on the charcoal sketch shown below. I wanted to paint something with a warm landscape and a cold, gray sky. In the end, the painting is a bit higher key than I imagined, but I am quite happy with it. Continue reading “#P21: Don’t Conclude”

#P20: Another Road

This is the pastel version of the charcoal sketch I posted before. This was done on Fabriano Hot Press Watercolor paper, which I first gave a few heavy, abstract washes of warm color (below). I have since made oil and acrylic versions of this painting, which I hope to post soon. Continue reading “#P20: Another Road”