Slow Sea of Indigo

A while ago I became frustrated with a landscape I was doing in pastel. It was looking a bit too pastoral and pretty for my taste. It left nothing for the viewer to complete with her imagination. It lay around on my studio floor for some days while I walked and shuffled over it as I came and went. The image improved considerably!

I then reworked it a bit, took a photo and then edited the photo (adding warmth and editing the contrasts), until I came up with the image below. I loved it. It has the warmth and emotional honesty of a true landscape – that is – a landscape seen through eyes of someone who actually feels, fears, lives and breathes.


I posted the above image on my Instagram feed and (sigh) it has received the most likes of anything I posted! I set out trying to reproduce this style of image on paper. My strategy was to lay a foundation in watercolor to get the right warmth, then add the rest in pastel and stomp on it to add some random marks. This is what I came up with:

Mixed Media on Fabriano Paper (approx 50 x 33 cm)

The image was not quite the same – it lacks the glowing warmth of the edited photo. But it is real and has a charm of its own, so I decided to try some more paintings in this style. Below are some results:

Mixed Media on Fabriano Paper (approx 50 x 33 cm)

Every time I look at Marie Marshall’s blog, I am amazed at the richness of the imagery that I find like pearls in her poems. Here is an excerpt from a poem she posted recently:


Mixed Media on Fabriano Paper (approx 50 x 33 cm)

It has been a hard year for our family. The original family unit was down from five to four when I was eight years old. Now in the last half of this year year we lost two more. They live on in the minds of the remainder and the many others that loved them.

I keep seeing in my dreams landscapes where the light has another color. Perhaps something like the painting above? Rolf Jacobsen wrote about this:

In countries where the light has another color
the faces along the streets at dusk
can turn to pearls in a slow sea of indigo.

And you must ask yourself - what do these
fiery diadems reflect here, and whose hands
have scattered them across these dark waters?

Rolf Jacobsen - from:
The Roads Have Come To an End Now, translated
by Robert Bly, Roger Greenwald and Robert Hedin


Read that again – that last verse. Those are big questions, aren’t they?


Thanks for visiting my blog. I hope you are happy and content as the year roars to its end.


#P24: Perfection of Thought

My first finished painting in several days. This old weathered pine I pass on my morning walk every day. It is like an old friend by now. Below I show the source photo and my first version charcoal sketch. This was done on Fabriano HP Paper on which I first applied strong washes of a yellow sky and a deep orange foreground.


In the charcoal and chalk sketch I placed the horizon line too high and it made the tree look smaller. But it allowed me to explore the values and especially the leaf character of the pine tree.


The moon is bright tonight. I remember a night long ago when I sat on the stoop reading in a hot summer night. It was like this poem by Wallace Stevens says:

The house was quiet and the world was calm.
The reader became the book; and summer night

Was like the conscious being of the book.
The house was quiet and the world was calm.

The words were spoken as if there was no book,
Except that the reader leaned above the page,

Wanted to lean, wanted much most to be
The scholar to whom his book is true, to whom

The summer night is like a perfection of thought.
The house was quiet because it had to be.

The quiet was part of the meaning, part of the mind:
The access of perfection to the page.

And the world was calm. The truth in a calm world,
In which there is no other meaning, itself

Is calm, itself is summer and night, itself
Is the reader leaning late and reading there.

Wallace Stevens, "The House Was Quiet and the World Was Calm" from 
The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens. 
This copy from Poetry Foundation.

Thanks for visiting, I hope you are happy and content.

#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”

#P17 Coming Home

Still chasing the wild feeling of my earlier charcoal sketch. This time I started off with a watercolor under-painting (photo below), and then went straight in with charcoal. I did not mind the “do not use black” dictum. Continue reading “#P17 Coming Home”

#65: Edge of Camp 2

#64: Edge of Camp (Charcoal, Chalk and Watercolor, approx A3 size)
#64: Edge of Camp (Charcoal, Chalk and Watercolour, approx A3 size)

This is a larger version of the oil painting shown in my previous post, this time in a charcoal and chalk over watercolour. I started this with a broad colour washes to establish warm and cool, light and dark  areas. Continue reading “#65: Edge of Camp 2”

Intimate Objects

Intimate Objects (Charcoal and Watercolour on Paper)

This is an old still life, done probably 10 years ago, using the same technique of combining charcoal and watercolour on Hot Press watercolour paper as shown in my earlier post 

This is a very private picture to me – it lives in a box I seldom open. I think I have used this razor for more than 15 years now. The green cup and bowl were hand made and glazed by my mother in law.

Every morning when I shave is the time I come to myself – “Are you really awake? Are you present and alive here right now? If you were shaving now on the morning before your execution, and then heard that you got a miraculous reprieve – would the remainder of this ordinary day feel different for you?”.

These are my intimate objects. On my better days, I use them with care. When I do that, I can feel – with every move of the razor – the universe move slightly:

The Position of the Sparrow (last verse)
Because the whole is part, there's not a whole,
Anywhere, that is not part.
And all those happenings a billion years ago,
Are happening now, all around us: time.
Indeed this morning the sparrow hopped about
In that nebulous whirlpool
A million light years hence.
And since the morning is void,
Anything can be. Since mornings
A billion years from now are nothingness,
We can behold them.
The sparrow stirs,
The universe moves slightly.

Shinkichi Takahashi, translated by Lucien Stryk in 
Zen Poetry: Let the Spring Breezes Enter

Thanks to all who have encouraged me with likes and comments. A special thanks to those who follow my blog . I wish you happiness and contentment.

#62: Shadows Point

#62: Shadows Point (Watercolour and Charcoal on Paper 34 x 23.5 cm)
#62: Shadows Point (Watercolour and Charcoal on Paper 34 x 23.5 cm)

This is my second recent attempt at combining watercolour and charcoal. This is based on an actual still life and light situation I observed late last Sunday in a rare ray of sunshine in our New Zealand winter. The source photo and first stage photos are shown below. Continue reading “#62: Shadows Point”

#60: Ancient Skies

#60: Ancient Skies (Charcoal and Waterolor on Paper, Approx A4 size)
#60: Ancient Skies (Charcoal and Watercolour on Paper, approx. A4 size)

In this work I tried to combine two mediums that seem to come to me easier than oil painting – watercolour and charcoal. The photos below show the concept and source images.

Continue reading “#60: Ancient Skies”

#52 Abstract for Nobody

Painting #52: Abstract (Watercolor, Approx. A4 size)
#52: Abstract (Watercolour, Approx. A4 size)

This is nothing special, a watercolour abstract with overlapping shapes. I am glad I did this, I learned something. But I feel it did not quite succeed, which is OK. The thumbnail shows more depth and strength (below). Continue reading “#52 Abstract for Nobody”