#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.

#P23: Rain

This is a charcoal sketch I made a few days ago. It was supposed to be a foundation for a pastel painting which is shown below. But as often happens, the sketch turned out to have more soul than the more finished painting. Something about black and white and twilight.


As all of us probably do, I sometimes wonder about the use of keeping a blog. William Stafford must have thought about this also:

Keeping a Journal
At night it was easy for me with my little candle 
to sit late recording what happened that day. Sometimes 
rain breathing in from the dark would begin softly 
across the roof and then drum wildly for attention. 
The candle flame would hunger after each wafting 
of air. My pen inscribed thin shadows that leaned 
forward and hurried their lines along the wall. 

More important than what was recorded, these evenings 
deepened my life: they framed every event 
or thought and placed it with care by the others. 
As time went on, that scribbled wall—even if 
it stayed blank—became where everything 
recognized itself and passed into meaning.

Stafford, William. 
Ask Me: 100 Essential Poems of William Stafford 
Graywolf Press. Kindle Edition.

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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.

#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!

#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”

#C20 Tacoma Trailer

If you travel from Oliver Tambo International Airport, driving home toward Cullinan after a business trip in twilight, at some point if you look right you see a thick patch of Black Wattle just off the road. At that time, almost everything else is dark. Continue reading “#C20 Tacoma Trailer”