#O83: Hakarimata Mountains

This painting is a bit larger than I am used to, and I am not so fond of painting mountain top vistas. I tackled this as an exercise in using broader strokes and stronger lines moving through the composition. The source photo is below, it is quite beautiful – a view from my morning walk.

The green middle ground is too bright for my taste, so I will chip away at getting it just right.

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I originally posted this painting as a much greener version which closely matched the source photo. But I found the green a bit garish, and the painting just did not convey the emotional tone I was looking for. Besides, there was no clear focal point – too many facets were competing to shine. So I reworked it. The old version is shown below on the right, the “current” version (watch this space) is to the left:

 

In her beautiful poem “The Fish”, Elizabeth Bishop writes of a fishing experience. The narrator is in a rented boat, and catches a massive fish. She hauls the fish aboard, minutely describes the fish, its scales, gills and eyes. Then she notices, from its gaping jaw, five pieces of fish-line where the old fish had fought and beaten five other fishermen. She continues:

...
Like medals with their ribbons
frayed and wavering,
a five-haired beard of wisdom
trailing from his aching jaw.
I stared and stared
and victory filled up
the little rented boat,
from the pool of bilge
where oil had spread a rainbow
around the rusted engine
to the bailer rusted orange,
the sun-cracked thwarts,
the oarlocks on their strings,
the gunnels- until everything
was rainbow, rainbow, rainbow!
And I let the fish go.

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

#O82: Exercise after Thomson

This is another quick copy of one of the Group of Seven artists (Tom Thompson) – done just to shake me out of color ruts and into seeing color possibilities I did not see before. The original is shown below (on the right) next to my very poor copy, done as a quick study on A4 canvas paper.

I did this purely as an exercise in copying one color spot after another – really not trying to copy the “scene” but only the spots of color. You can see in various areas of my copy I was getting tired and a bit careless, so some white blended into the color and it is not as vibrant as that of the original. Much, much more to learn about color and oil paint.

Sad tonight; away from home, and bad news from another home, far away. How I wish I could walk in open fields, eyes to the blue sky, using each hour I have, painting, painting, painting…with my mind and eyes.

In “Little Gidding”, one of the Four Quartets, T.S. Eliot wrote:

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree

Thanks for visiting!

#O81: Time is no Healer

Last Saturday I drove to town and noticed this beautiful warm gray on the Waikato river as I crossed the Horotui bridge just north of Hamilton. On my way back I snapped a few photos and later I painted this out.

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I am quite pleased with this effort, and since we live on the banks of the Waikato river, it is a scene that is close to my heart. The source photo is below. The doves you see in the photo were actually flushed out by me as I hung over the bridge rail to take the photo. I may include them in the painting later on!

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I keep on finding lost parts of myself as I strive to pull my paintings closer to the ideal that exists in my mind at the start of each endeavor. It is frustrating at times, but I am becoming more at ease with painting my everyday surroundings and the places I know well.

It feels like I suddenly know, with some certainty,  what I should paint. And as Forest Gump said: “That’s one less thing”. Now I just need to allow 10 to 30 years to get really good at it, and I’m home free.

We keep on changing on our search for a home of the heart. When we arrive, we are no longer the same person who set out on the journey. If that is true, did we then really arrive?

T.S. Eliot wrote:

And the way up is the way down, the way forward is the way back.
You cannot face it steadily, but this thing is sure,
That time is no healer: the patient is no longer there.

Thanks for stopping by my little blog!

#O80: Birdsong and Silence

This is my first plein-air outing in many years. For many reasons, I prefer to work in private in my studio, but the sunlight on the river pushed me to try my hand at this again. I was drawn to the light catching the trunk of the willows on the other side of the Waikato river.

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I was hopelessly unprepared, canvas blowing everywhere, I had to run back to the studio several times to get brushes, then cloth then medium. I did not really enjoy the experience. But it was an hour of painting and every bit pushes more experience into the reptile brain.

Below is a photo of my studio as it now looks. I re-organized my palette by getting a much larger glass area to mix on, easier to clean. I find small irritations provide reasons not to paint when I am tired – so better remove those irritations so I can spend more time in the studio.

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One of my own attempts at poetry, on the theme of meditation:

Out
The out-breath blows the world apart.
Nothing remaining - 
except a lost congratulatory thought.
Pushing up through inner mists
it tries to make a scene.
But nobody buys it and it leaves.

Almost familiar, the
Universe gravitates toward
the back of the head and neck,
from where it explodes in
a supernova of birdsong
and highway trucks 
going nowhere.

Thanks for visiting.

#O79: Lost in No Words

After I did my previous exercise (posted here), I had a cup of coffee and jumped in and did this one right away. It is not meant to be a work of art, just a quick study on paper. I tried to keep going with the fresh color and juicy strokes of the preceding exercise. Source photo  and normal size photo is below.

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In China, some centuries ago, lived T’ao Ch’ien, who wrote this poem:

To build a house in the world of man
And not hear the noise of horse and carriage,
How can this be done? -
When the mind is detached, the place is quiet.

I gather Chrysanthemums under the eastern hedgerow
And silently gaze at the southern mountains.
The mountain air is beautiful in the sunset,
And the birds flocking together return home.

In all these there is a real meaning,
Yet when I want to express it,
I become lost in no words.

Quoted in Creativity and Taoism,
by Chung-Yuan Chang

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

#O78: Exercise – After Harris

My quest for deepening my understanding of color continues. In this exercise I chose a really colorful image by Canadian artist Lawren Harris in which pattern and color play a stronger role than realism. The original is shown side by side with my own version below (ouch!)

My version is on the left and Harris’s beautiful painting is on the right. In my defense I have to say I did not have cerulean blue, had to mix all my greens myself and worked on a small A4 canvas paper. I also set myself a limited time to do this – finished in less than an hour.

I am starting more and more to understand the importance of putting a note of color down and then leaving it alone. But bad habits are hard to break. Working in such vivid colors help me understand what can be done with strong, confident strokes of pure color in the right place.

Over the past few days I have been pouring over the work of the Canadian “Group of Seven” painters, and studying their work has really liberated my thinking about that I want to achieve with my art. I believe this has started to show in small ways in how I paint, but more importantly – how I feel while I paint.

A poem by the Chinese Nun Xinggang (1597-1654) at the end of a long weekend:

The Meditation Cushion
A single meditation cushion, 
and one is completely protected, 
Earth may crumble, heaven collapse— 
but here one is at peace. 

Sacred titles and worldly fame: 
both fade away in the sitting, 
And the universe assembles 
     on the tip of a feather.

adapted from Grant, Beata. 
Daughters of Emptiness: 
Poems of Chinese Buddhist Nuns (p. 74). 
Wisdom Publications.

Thanks for visiting!

#O77: Two Years Later

This is a view looking north towards the town of Ngaruawahia and the Hakarimata mountains beyond. This view is at the start of my morning walk. Below you can see a larger image of the painting and the source photo.

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This is a very simple image, but quite dear to my heart. The scene is a very typical Waikato diary farm amidst beautiful New Zealand scenery. The abstract foundation for the image is good, and painting this should be as easy as falling out of a tree. But yet…I feel I can make more of the light quality in the water reflection. I will have another stab at this some day.

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In a recent update to my blog’s Creativity Inspiration page, I quoted from an interview of the painter Marc Hanson by John Pototschnik. The artist was asked whether he had a recent experience which he felt caused his art to take a step up. His answer:

Without a doubt the month long painting “marathons” that I’ve done, painting every day for the entire month, 4 paintings a day, have done the most for my technique, for my outlook on what I choose to paint, and for my endurance as a painter.  Those intense months of nothing but painting, all day long, have done more than anything else I’ve done to advance my painting skills.  It only makes sense that it would.  You have to paint when you don’t want to, when you’re tired, wet, cold, out of ideas, thinking that there’s No Way that you’re going to be able to see one more painting, ever.  That personal challenge really stretched my chops.  I’ve done four of those now, and I would say that with each one I could viscerally feel the steps forward that my painting took.

I am not yet in a month long marathon. But I made two paintings yesterday, two today and have one larger work in progress. Making the best of the labour weekend here in New Zealand.

A short poem for you:

Two Years Later
The hollow eyes of shock remain
Electric sockets burnt out in the 
   skull.

The beauty of men never disappears
But drives a blue car through the stars.

John Wieners
in Robert Bly's anthology,
The Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart

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

#O76: No Earthly Shore

Up the road some new people moved onto a piece of land and cleared out some poplars. This heap of wood and debris was caught against the rising sunlight. I was intrigued by the silhouette and the warmth of the foreground. A larger version, with the source photo is below.

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The photo of the painting is a bit darker than the actual painting; the foreground has that beautiful Old Holland red oxide which contrasts nicely with the green.

I do think I may do another version in a slightly higher key at some stage – I really like the composition and concept.

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In his poetry anthology, The Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart, Robert Bly writes:

Unless his spirit ventures toward the invisible, a man will be unable to perform the daily round with purpose. He will have little joy, only duty and rebelliousness. The deepest cause of our discontent and of our confused yearnings is the loss of Paradise. The human soul needs anchoring in something beyond itself, in that vision which is the ground of all initiations, a vision which hints that life on earth reflects ideals of perfection.

This vision is a good companion for the stunningly abstract, sensory and beautiful poem “Voyages” by Hart Crane. Here are the last three verses Bly quotes in his anthology:

And onward, as bells off San Salvador
Salute the crocus lustres of the stars,
In these poinsettia meadows of her tides,-
Adagios of islands, O my Prodigal,
Complete the dark confessions her veins spell.

Mark how her turning shoulders wind the hours,
And hasten while her penniless rich palms
Pass superscription of bent foam and wave,-
Hasten, while they are true,-sleep, death, desire,
Close round one instant in one floating flower.

Bind us in time, O Seasons clear, and awe.
O minstrel galleons of Carib fire,
Bequeath us to no earthly shore until
Is answered in the vortex of our grave
The seal's wide spindrift gaze toward paradise.

Hart Crane, in
The Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart;
(anthology by Robert Bly)

Thanks for stopping by!

#O75: Where 3 Dreams Cross

This is another painting based on a photo I took during our recent holiday at Whangamata – taken on the same stroll as the image used for my painting #O73 posted a few days ago. I am quite happy with this painting, and at some level it is an ever so small breakthrough for me.

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The source photo is below. For me – the photo is quite a strong abstract image in itself. Painting this should be as easy as falling out of a tree – but somehow, it isn’t!

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In the past week or two, I have settled for most days into a steady morning routine of getting out of bed earlier and doing a 45 minute meditation before I go for my walk and then start the work day. It has done wonders for my crazy mind.

The mind moves without end; yet slowly – through the act of sitting, staying still, relaxed yet dignified and strong – a distance grows between what is real and what is the non-stop romance/horror movie of the mind. Who knows how far that distance can stretch?

I wonder if this is what Frederico Garcia Lorca pointed to when he wrote:

There is a whole world of crushed rivers and unachievable 
      distances
In the paw of a cat crushed by a car

In my painting above, I found – perhaps just for a moment – the joy of painting with an attitude of not caring, while still being full of care. It is hard to explain.

T.S Eliot alluded to this in his poem Ash-Wednesday. Here are some of my favorite lines from this long poem:

 Wavering between the profit and loss
In this brief transit where the dreams cross
The dreamcrossed twilight between birth and dying
...
And the list heart stiffens and rejoices
In the lost lilac and the lost sea voices
...
This is the time of tension between dying
   and birth
The place of solitude where three dreams cross
Between blue rocks
...
Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still

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

#O74: Thousand Sordid Images

This is a view looking south east at a spot I pass during my morning walk. Most of my paintings of scenes along my morning walk look north west, with long shadows in the direction of the sunlight. Here the scene is partially back-lit, with the light coming at an extreme angle from the left.

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The source photo is shown below. When I took the photo, I thought the clouds would be the main focal element. But as the painting unfolded, I was more attracted to the warm color on the barberry bushes leading from the foreground backward. In my painting, the barn looks a bit too much like a house to me – I may work a bit more on that.

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I was thinking about Tomas Transtromer’s poems. Spring is here. Thrush and Blackbird are out. Each morning I awake with a song on my roof.

The Man Awakened by a Song above His Roof

Morning. May rain. The city is silent still
as a sheepherder's hut. Streets silent. And in
the sky a plane motor is rumbling bluish green. -
   The window is open.

The dream of the man stretched out sleeping
becomes at that instant transparent. He turns, begins
to grope for the tool of his consciousness -
    almost in space.

Tomas Transtromer, trans. Robert Bly, in
The Half Finished Heaven

Which reminds me of what T.S Eliot wrote in Preludes:

...
You lay upon your back and waited; 
You dozed, and watched the night revealing 
The thousand sordid images 
Of which your soul was constituted; 
They flickered against the ceiling. 
And when all the world came back 
And the light crept up between the shutters 
And you heard the sparrows in the gutters, 
You had such a vision of the street 
As the street hardly understands;

Thank you for stopping by my blog.