O225: A Manner of Dreaming

It has been a while since I last posted. I have recently started putting my paintings on Instagram, and it reduces the urgency to write something about them. But I am determined to keep up my numbered log, so here is a recent painting.

This is an invented landscape, approximately 45×30 cm in size (oil on panel). I am particularly happy with this outcome, mainly because of the rich, nostalgic green that popped out of the marshland rushes in the foreground.

O225-Fritz-Jooste-Oil-on-Panel-(45x30 cm)

Pessoa wrote:

What’s primordial in me are my habit and manner of dreaming. The circumstances of my life, solitary and quiet since my childhood, and perhaps forces that go farther back, moulding me to their sinister specifications through the obscure action of heredity, have made my mind an endless stream of daydreams. Everything I am comes down to this, and even what seems farthest in me from the dreamer belongs unequivocally to the soul of one who only dreams, as intensely as possible.

Pessoa, Fernando. The Book of Disquiet

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O224: And I Let the Fish Go

This is a landscape I see often on my morning walk. I have painted it before and posted the result in this post. The earlier painting is shown below and is one of those I have kept around my studio longest.



In my latest attempt I have aimed for something more abstract and wild, centered around patterns and textures. I am not sure I have succeeded in my goal yet, so I see this as a work in progress. The different stages up to now are shown below:


Robert Henri wrote:

He who has contemplated has met with himself, is in a state to see into the realities beyond the surfaces of his subject. Nature reveals to him, and, seeing and feeling intensely, he paints, and whether he wills it or not each brush stroke is an exact record of such as he was at the exact moment the stroke was made.

Henri, Robert. The Art Spirit

I will end this post from something I wrote and a poem I quoted with the above painting on my first attempt, back in October 2016:

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.

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O224: April Winds

In this painting, as in the previous one, I started with a more structured approach to the composition. Once again, I based the composition on curves and spirals. The images below shows the evolution of the painting from sketch to the current, near complete stage.


I think the result has merit in its design, but I felt slightly uncomfortable as the painting developed – this was a sort of landscape I was not intimately familiar with – unlike the marshland and savanna-like landscapes that normally feature in my work.

Also, interestingly I felt a bit constrained by the initial design – it was as if I felt I had to fit the painting into a certain mold. It was a different experience from the normal, intuitive approach in which I just start with a few marks on the panel and then react to the image as it evolves – with nothing else to guide/constrain me.

I see my reaction and taste for painting change from month to month. Today I reviewed my Creativity Inspirations page again and found my Rule #3: “Accept that Your Taste and Style will Change” (!), in which I wrote:

“I have noticed how my taste for art has changed over years, sometimes starting off on one style, moving away and then coming back again. Sometimes this made me think I was wishy-washy, not sure enough of myself, not original enough. Robert Henri has some advice on this:”

IT IS NOT EASY to know what you like. Most people fool themselves their entire lives through about this. Self-acquaintance is a rare condition.

Henri, Robert. The Art Spirit.


I am quite happy today despite a full workload and little time to paint. I leave you with another view about work, and about certainty and uncertainty of what is real and imagined, what is still and what is moving:

Open and Closed Space
With his work, as with a glove, a man feels the universe.
At noon he rests a while, and lays the gloves aside on a shelf.
There they suddenly start growing, grow huge
and make the whole house dark from inside.

The darkened house is out in the April winds.
 “Amnesty”, the grass whispers, “amnesty".
 A boy runs along with an invisible string that goes right up 
     into the sky.
 There his wild dream of the future flies like a kite, 
     bigger than his town.
 Further to the north, you see from a hill the blue matting 
     of fir trees
 on which the shadows of the clouds
 do not move.
 No, they are moving.

Tomas Transtromer, translated by Robert Bly

Thanks to all who have commented on my posts, and encouraged me with likes and especially to all followers of my blog. May your wild dream of the future fly like a kite!

O223: A Minor Tonality

This is one of the larger invented landscapes I have done, about 60 x 45 cm in size. I am trying to incorporate a lighter color key into my paintings and I regard this painting and the others I did this weekend (to be posted soon) as experiments. But then, maybe everything we do in art is experimental?

Below you can see how this painting evolved from a playful sketch in which the composition centered around spirals. The painting on the right is the result after my second painting session. I left it overnight and decided I wanted to darken the foreground.

The final outcome is below. I am quite happy with this result.

I have in the past received comments on my blog – and in in person – remarking on my rather somber palette. Also, often my posts – as the name of my blog suggests – focuses on the..ahem…less happy facets of life – which also seems to elicit concern about my well-being and state of mind!


Like many others, I am rather formal and serious in public. But privately I still feel like a child, joyful and happy for much of the time. However, if I am still a child at heart in my private moments, then it is a child who has seen loved ones disappear and knows that we are on this earth only for a limited time, and that this material realm is not our true home.

So…yes, there is a somber, melancholy element to my art, and this is a direct reflection of the beauty I see in the deeper, more reflective, and subtle aspects of life. A frivolous happiness – in art often represented by what Andrew Wyeth called “the visual cocktail” – is not sustainable all the time (unless you are getting some chemical assistance!).

And so to represent all of life in art, there has to be the shadow side as well. I feel quite comfortable in that shadow side. The “always positive and happy” movement is good – I have benefited from it myself. This is what I believe Thomas Moore referred to as a “Major Tonality” of life.

But the patina of life is more interesting than just that one tonality. Moore writes:

When people approve only of major tonalities, they become simplistic, not only in their thinking but in their very being…It takes a complex view of yourself and your fellow human beings to hold back on hatreds and fears. A mature person is complicated and has complex ideas and values. The minor tonality of a dark night adds a significant and valuable complexity to your personality and way of life.

Thomas Moore: Dark Nights of the Soul

Wendell Berry seems to know the darkness of life also blooms and sings:

To Know the Dark
To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,
and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,
and is travelled by dark feet and dark wings.

The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry


Thanks for visiting my blog. I hope you are…HAPPY…and content!


O222: A Remembered Time

Tonight is a very special post for me. Last week I entered the “Arts for Health” Competition here in Hamilton, Waikato.  I have always been somewhat private about my art and this was the first competition I have ever entered. So I was absolutely humbled and honored when one of my paintings was awarded the 1st Place Prize. My cup runneth over…


In my last few paintings I have slowed down the pace a bit and also painted in a thinner style. Although I am sure I will return again to the palette knife soon, I am quite happy with some of the results I have achieved.

I once saw an exhibition of Toss Woollaston, a great New Zealand painter, and was amazed at how thin the paint was applied in some of his oil on board paintings. To me, it seemed that he had barely stained the surface, but the combination of color created a richness and depth that took my breath away.

In this invented landscape I also worked very thin, and even left most of the under-painting exposed. I just added some opaque color in places to the landscape so that it could set the scene for the sky.

#O221: Oil on Panel (approx 60 x 40 cm)

I wrote earlier in this blog that on the occasion that I end up painting something I really like, something that makes me gently nostalgic or sad, there is an awareness that some element of space and time had been transcended. I noted:

It is hard to explain, but there is a sense that something had come into the world through me, something that is me but somehow more than me. I guess this does not make much sense?

OK, here is how Wallace Stevens explained it:

The Planet on the Table

Ariel was glad he had written his poems.
They were of a remembered time
Or of something seen that he liked.

Other makings of the sun
Were waste and welter
And the ripe shrub writhed.

His self and the sun were one
And his poems, although makings of his self,
Were no less makings of the sun.

It was not important that they survive.
What mattered was that they should bear
Some lineament or character,

Some affluence, if only half-perceived,
In the poverty of their words,
Of the planet of which they were part.

Wallace Stevens

I have gotten into the habit to make a few thumbnail sketches of landscapes early morning with my coffee. These are mostly invented but based on memories of my walks around my home in the Waikato. Doing these thumbnails, I feel completely relaxed and can play without any fear of something turning out “wrong”. Here are some outcomes:



Thanks so much to all of you who have encouraged me with follows, likes and comments. I hope you are truly happy and content.

O221: To Accept Solitude

This painting seems to be on a journey of her own. If you look at the early version below, you will see it started off as something more somber. I have a feeling it has not yet reached its end-destination.

I am re-reading Bieke Vandekerckhove’s book “The Taste of Silence“. It is full  of beautiful insights that take me into silence:

There appears to be a consciousness, an understanding that can only surface when we muster the courage to accept our solitude—and to do so in a deeply silent way.

Diagnosed with motor neuron disease, and with a life expectancy of about five years, she entered a first a Benedictine and later a Zen monastery. From the Benedictine monks she learned the futility of talking about God in a descriptive way:

…talking about God is a fiction, an illusion, the result of a blind spot, a presumption, whether conscious or not. That God can never be an object of our thinking or speaking. That if we want to deal with the living God, we have to resist that temptation once and for all.

Below are some thumbnail sketches. These are often done while listening to audio-books or (sigh)…watching Netflix. The are the beginnings of most of my invented landscapes.

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O220: This Yearning Earth

I liked the composition and concept of my earlier painting, #O213 (shown in this post), and decided to do a larger and more refined version. The two images below represent the work in its initial stages and then the final version.

I am not 100% sure that I am finished with this painting. For now, I am really satisfied with the warm color peeking through the summer green of the swampland, particularly on the shadow side to the lower left.

#O220: This Yearning Earth (Oil on Panel, approx. 600 cm x 450 cm)

Fernando Pessoa seemed to know a little about dreamed, imaginary landscapes. He wrote:

The dreamer only sees what’s important. An object’s true reality is only a portion of what it is; the rest is the heavy tribute it pays to physical matter for the right to exist in space. In like manner, certain phenomena that are palpably real in dreams have no reality in space. A real sunset is imponderable and transitory. A dreamed sunset is fixed and eternal.

Pessoa, Fernando. The Book of Disquiet (Penguin Modern Classics)

A dreamed landscape may contain no signs of human activity, yet still be a reflection of thoughts about a loved one:

Perhaps it is in your eyes, when my face leans into yours, that I read these impossible landscapes, these unreal tediums, these feelings that inhabit the shadows of my weariness and the caves of my disquiet. Perhaps the landscapes of my dreams are my way of not dreaming about you. I don’t know who you are, but do I know for certain who I am?

Pessoa, Fernando. The Book of Disquiet (Penguin Modern Classics)

In her beautiful book “The Taste of Silence”, Bieke Vandekerckhove quotes this poem by J.C. van Schagen:

somewhere it has to exist
some sort of overgrown garden
of ancient silence 

the tree in front of the house
softly whispers its tale
that nobody understands 

it has rained
the garden steams good smells
the earth is yearning. 

J. C. van Schagen, quoted in Vandekerckhove, Bieke. 
The Taste of Silence: How I Came to Be at Home with Myself.


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O218-9: A Disciplined Imagination

These two paintings started as an experiment and turned into two quite intimate pictures. For me, they have to be seen in the right light to be appreciated. On both these paintings, I was actually putting down an imprimatura and just pushing some deeper value into some areas – wiping away here and there – and the landscape emerged.


It is all very thinly applied, almost just stained. The anonymous overall color contributes to really make that patch of blue pop out (see below).



Both these paintings remind me of an old farmhouse in South Africa. I spent time there as a child – the sort of place with a grandfather clock, a crochet blanket over an old couch and the .22 rifle on a rack between framed black-and-white family photographs.  Meat-hook at the end of a chain outside; hanging from a branch, glinting in the moonlight.

T.S. Eliot wrote, in Burnt Norton:

Time past and time future 
Allow but a little consciousness. 
To be conscious is not to be in time 
But only in time can the moment in the rose-garden, 
The moment in the arbour where the rain beat, 
The moment in the draughty church at smokefall 
Be remembered; involved with past and future. 
Only through time time is conquered.

These poignant, timeless moments are central to the Four Quartets. Kenneth Kramer commented on this verse:

After timeless moments are directly, albeit briefly, experienced, then later retrieved from memory, when revivified in time through a disciplined imagination, the poet is liberated from himself. For this reason, the poet, throughout the Quartets, attempts to distance himself from the deleterious distractions of his personal, historic, and artistic life, in order to pass back into life with maximum potency.

Kramer, Kenneth Paul. Redeeming Time

I can imagine it was a similar timeless moment that prompted Ryokan to write this poem:

Autumn night - unable to sleep, I leave my tiny cottage.
Fall insects cry under the rocks, and
The cold branches are sparsely covered.
Far away, from deep in the valley, the sound of water.
The moon rises slowly over the highest peek;
I stand there quietly for a long time and
My robe becomes moist with dew.

Ryokan, translated by John Stevens 
in One Robe, One Bowl, the Zen Poetry of Ryokan


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O216-7: Where Words Fail

For the past week, for some reason unknown to me, I abruptly changed back to mainly using the brush instead of the palette knife. I also started to paint much more thinly. Just a sudden attraction to the ghost-like colors shining through each other. Not sure how long this will last.

I have started, for the umpteenth time, reading Eliot’s Four Quartets. Careful reading, first thing in the morning with my coffee. I have found Kenneth Kramer’s book “Redeeming Time” a useful companion to getting the most out of these dense poems.

#O216: Invented Landscape (Oil on Panel)

The first quartet, Burnt Norton, as you probably know, starts as follows:

Time present and time past 
Are both perhaps present in time future, 
And time future contained in time past. 
If all time is eternally present 
All time is unredeemable. 
What might have been is an abstraction 
Remaining a perpetual possibility 
Only in a world of speculation. 
What might have been and what has been 
Point to one end, which is always present.

On these starting lines, Kramer writes:

A central subject of the poem, as well as the ground of its discourse, is the ever-changing relationship between the timeless logos and the field of time. In these opening ten lines, the poet interweaves four distinct senses of time: chronological, eternal, speculative, and “always present.” First, time is presented as a chronological series of events, stretching between past and future. The first three lines present the possibility that present, past, and future “perhaps” coexist, each present in time past and time future. Second, time is imaged as eternally present. In such an eternal present, however, the future is already determined and thus unredeemable. Third, time is pondered as a series of unfulfilled potentialities that might have been realized differently. Abstracting one’s self from the present moment to consider “what might have been,” however desirable it may seem, remains an unrealizable speculation. Finally, all these possible manifestations of time point to the “one end” (the logos common to all), which is “always present.” The fuller significance of the interplay between these distinct senses of time, only hinted at here, unfolds throughout the poem’s spirit-charged landscapes.

Kramer, Kenneth Paul. Redeeming Time

#O217:  Invented Landscape (Oil on Panel)

Eliot had an obvious affinity for Eastern Mysticism and references to these themes appear throughout the quartets. It is interesting to contrast the opening lines, and also Kramer’s interpretation thereof, with the last verse of the classic Buddhist poem “On Trust in Heart” (also known as “On Faith in Mind”. The poem, written somewhere around 600-900 AD, ends as follows:

When Mind and each believing mind are not divided,
And undivided are each believing mind and Mind,
This is where words fail;
For it is not of the past, present and future.

(translation from F.C. Happold's Mysticism: A Study and Anthology)


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O215: A Purified Wisdom

Now in the primeval silence of some unexplored tropical forest I spread my feathery leaves, a giant fern, and swayed and nodded in spice-gales over a river whose waves at once sent up clouds of music and perfume. My soul changed to a vegetable essence, thrilled with a strange and unimagined ecstasy.

Fitz Hugh Ludlow, The Hasheesh Eater, quoted in Buhner, Stephen Harrod. Plant Intelligence and the Imaginal Realm

O215: A Purified Wisdom (Oil on Panel)

In his book “Zen Training, Katsiki Sekida wrote:

What is existence? Perhaps we can approach an answer by saying tentatively that mood is the keynote of existence. Mental activity may be the primeval function of the brain, but this does not embrace the whole of existence. Living vitality is a characteristic of the body, and mood is a psychosomatic production. The most exalted existential life is the refined mood stemming from a purified wisdom.

It is interesting how Sekida describes living vitality as a function of the body, and mood as a psychosomatic production. In the modern world we tend to see these as outcomes of circumstances – the conditions of our lives – external events. But Sekida maintains it is an embodied experience.

I am always on the lookout for words on this theme of the importance of the body and its state in our interpretation of the world.

At the ‘bottom’ end, I am talking about the fact that every word, in and of itself, eventually has to lead us out of the web of language, to the lived world, ultimately to something that can only be pointed to, something that relates to our embodied existence. Even words such as ‘virtual’ or ‘immaterial’ take us back in their Latin derivation – sometimes by a very circuitous path – to the earthy realities of a man’s strength (vir-tus), or the feel of a piece of wood (materia). Everything has to be expressed in terms of something else, and those something elses eventually have to come back to the body.

McGilchrist, Iain. The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World.

I end with one of my favorite poems of Ryokan:

My hut lies in the middle of a dense forest;
Every year the green ivy grows longer.
No news of the affairs of men,
Only the occasional song of a woodcutter.
The sun shines and I mend my robe;
When the moon comes out I read Buddhist poems.
I have nothing to report, my friends.
If you want to find the meaning, stop chasing after so many things.

Ryokan, trans. John Stevens, in One Robe, One Bowl


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