Three new abstracts I made this fall. Let’s take a walk through them.
Abstract Landscape 8
Watercolor and ink, half painting, half monotype print, 5 x 7 inches. I printed Prussian blue over a dilute Prussian wash, then incised color with a palette knife. It’s one of my more purely abstracted things, but you know me – I can’t really do abstracts. To me, this small painting suggests city lights reflected in water.
Abstract Landscape 9
Watercolor and ink. 9 x 12 inches. Definitely a seascape, to my eye, winter, the surf viewed through dried grasses. What do you think?
Abstract Landscape 10
Mixed media – watercolor, pastel, and collage, 12 x 9 inches. In this one, I altered the original abstract watercolor to pick out the image I saw in it – a pine forest, full of mist pierced by light.
My series of abstract landscapes get at the heart of my creative practice. They’re about following and exploring, not directing the process. They’re about finding the images that resonate most naturally with me, like a kind of Rorschach test to reveal how I see the world.
These three works will be in my shop in a couple of days.
Also coming up, Chapter 4 of An Alchemy of Dragons, and a gift for all of you, connected to a Yuletide painting in progress.
Pareidolia is the tendency to see specific, meaningful images in random or ambiguous patterns.
I like to pick out order from chaos. And I like to go a-wandering, and find random things of meaning.
Uncontrollable media like water are good for me because the randomness breaks my perfectionism. They force me to cede some control and to find a rapport with accidental occurrences and effects. They make me listen and look. Rather than obsessively planning every detail of an artwork – and I can get real obsessive – by following the movements of fluid media, I feel like I am receiving art brought to me by the universe.
It seems the universe brings me a lot of landscapes. I guess I have nature on the brain.
Here are four new abstract landscapes in watercolor, all 9 x 5.75 inches. In all of them, I randomly messed about with paint, water, brushes and tools, and then considered the results from various angles to find the views that emerged in the drying. Two of them work so well in different orientations that, rather than pick one, I signed them on all the sides I liked.
Maybe a seascape – waves on a beach? I enjoy the play of color and the storminess of it.
Definitely a seascape. Is there a figure, perhaps walking along a sandbar at low tide?
Two for one. In one orientation, it’s rolling hills, with perhaps a pond, and distant buildings. In another orientation, it’s a forest.
Abstract Landscape 4a, b, c, d. Four! Count ‘em – four coherent images on one piece of paper. I see a sort of darkening, perhaps twilight, marshy view, then a forest, then heavy rain over what might be a farmhouse, and finally another forest view.
Drop a comment and let me know where these images take you. And how do you feel when something random – a cloud, a pattern of light through curtains, whatever it may be – suddenly connects with you and tells a story?
This one is about the gifts the universe sends us, the treasures we pass by on the road.
The moon was particularly beautiful over Somerville last night, when the storm clouds parted. It was bright enough to light my room, overcoming the street lamps. The wet air smelled of spring.
By the way, we call April’s moon the Pink Moon, not because it looks pink, but because it’s the month for pinks, the flower, to bloom. Indeed, my city is filling up with flowers now.
I repurposed one of my blue landscapes for this collage. Sometimes an image has more to say, and I will often revisit older pieces that seem like they want to go in a different direction. In fact, I won’t let go of a piece until I’m sure it is what it wants to be.
I can hardly believe it has been about three months since my last update, but as most of you know, I tend to fall off the planet fairly regularly. I don’t apologize for it. When I have crap to work through that’s irrelevant to anyone else, I just do it without showing it to anyone. But finally, I do have news to share.
New work on exhibit this summer
“Sometimes the neighbors are up all night,” collage and acrylic on paper.
This new work is inspired by our local wild birds, whose songs frequently echo through the streets at night, when all else is relatively quiet. I find the birds’ nightlife deeply reassuring. Even in something as small as a bird singing in the dark, we are reminded that we share a living and lively world. The collage is 7 x 10 inches, and made with copies of vintage images, bars of music randomly sliced from Stravinsky’s “The Firebird Suite,” my own blue landscape in acrylic paste, and a line from Emily Dickinson’s “Hope is the Thing With Feathers.”
It’s part of the summer show at the Brickbottom Gallery, “The Great Outdoors,” running July 15 – August 14, 2021. Visit the Brickbottom website at This Link for details.
Allow me to introduce Luna Lynx, Lady Silvertip, our new cat and studio assistant.
She has been with us about a month and is still in studio orientation, but has taken the job of House Cat well in hand. According to the good folks at Animal Rescue League of Boston, although very young herself, she had just weaned off a litter of kittens before coming to us. I believe she has transferred her maternal instincts to her two new humans. Luna Lynx is extremely attentive, playful and nurturing. She scolds us if we wander off, makes sure we eat on time and get our exercise, and checks on us in our beds at night.
I’m grateful because we have needed someone to take care of us these past few sad months. With her to get us up and running, I feel like we can finally start to move again and that the winter – and all of last year, really – is over at last.
Finally, watch this space for upcoming projects and a new online shop system, coming soon.
This has been a difficult winter for us at the apartment attached to the studio. I’ll tell you about it at some future date. For now, suffice to say, we are dealing with unhappy things, and the least of my troubles is that my nearly decade-old Mac computer finally broke down. I write this on a loaner PC (thanks, Mom), and due to various techly things I’m not coping with right now, I can’t upload any of my new photos to prove that I’ve actually been doing stuff. So… whatever. On the scale of things, the computer is annoying because it doesn’t matter, but it does interrupt.
I’ve been working on paper sculptures of eggs and rabbits, naturally, because yay-spring. Also working on my occult detective novel – again. And that one ambitious project. They’re all coming along rather nicely. I wish I could show them to you.
Instead, I’m adding some spring-ly works to the Shop, beginning with four small landscape paintings, the Blue Lakes. They are kind of misty and moody, and they speak both to my state of mind and the time of year. I used paste-paint on paper and improvised with folds, blots, pulls, and mark-making. In some you can spot finger impressions, creases, and other flaws helping to build the image of a watery landscape.
The Blue Lakes Series
Every so often this March, look for more paintings and collages to the Shop, in celebration of the season.
Someone I admire recently observed that creative work is therapeutic. It takes one out of oneself. It’s true. These past few weeks, the meditative ASMR of my pen on the paper, and the brush applying layers of paste and paper, and birds jumping around in the tree by my window has been my refuge. Engaging all my senses in my materials – the textures, sounds, smells, colors – making adjustments as I go along, not overthinking things but just floating in the process – it’s pretty much the only thing that lets me forget my cares for a while, lets me feel just free and existing.
It doesn’t last, but the work is always there, waiting, anytime I need a break. There’s a life-lesson there, after this traumatic year. If you have something that gets your mind off yourself, that feeds your senses, and leaves you with something positive at the end of the day or hour, indulge in it. It’s medicine, and we all need it, as surely as we need a vaccine.
I’ve also been rebinding an old book from my library – a 1970’s hard cover edition of Arthur E. Waite’s Pictorial Key to the Tarot, a gift from my friends back in high school. It’s a low-budget, no-frills book, but it has sentimental value, so when the binding finally started to give up the ghost, I decided to rehabilitate it with my favorite non-adhesive book style, the Japanese tetsuyoso binding. It’s quite the job, as the 40-year-old glue did not want to come off, despite dropping pages. I had to do more cutting and reconstructing than I’d hoped, and I added some muslin to reinforce the spine, but it’s going well. The refurbished cover, dressed in one of my paste papers, is drying under weight as I write this.
Pictorial Key to the Tarot in progress
More reconstructed botanicals are coming up. White pine and goldenrod are in progress.
And I did a bit of housekeeping on the website – cleaned up the images, consolidated the books under one heading. The Artworks pages look cleaner and prettier now.
Outside the studio, it’s been pretty much gardening and birding round the clock. Well…I’m not going to any shopping malls, that’s for sure. The community garden is at war with our local city rabbits, but while others engage in brute force with brooms and hoses, I have entered into a psychological battle with one particular adorable fluff-nugget who has a fondness for bean tendrils. Yeah, okay, Peter Cottontail, but I notice he doesn’t touch the aromatic herbs, tomatoes, or turnip greens, so guess what this garden will look like next year? Buckle-up, Buttercup. It is brought.
We’ve also had a fun summer visitor to the mulberry tree outside our kitchen window. Camera-shy little thing – this is the best shot I’ve gotten of him – but from the color, the wing markings, and a brief glimpse of his beak shape, I believe this is a Baltimore oriole. The first I’ve seen in scenic Somerville. Judge for yourself, comparing my blurry photo to the entry in AllAboutBirds.org.
It’s not easy to write upbeat blog posts these days, what with all that’s going on. I’m not even going to say “in the world.” Let’s just call it – things are not swell in the USA, and yes, there are people to blame for that. I spend about as much time as most people worrying and growling over it. There is a lot of uncooperative BS being bandied about that I am completely over and done with, together with the people spouting it, and the horses they rode in on. Done. I’m just done. It makes staying home easier, at any rate.
But after all, my sainted mother and I and our immediate neighbors are all healthy, and there’s a Baltimore oriole outside my kitchen window. What have I got to complain about? (Okay, plenty, but you know what I mean.)
So take care. Be well. Wear your masks. And look out your windows. There’s probably something pretty and amazing out there that will lift you up and keep you going.
I’ve had an unusually productive two weeks since launching my newsletter. The thing must be magic! Here are some of the highlights, including a new work for another upcoming exhibition.
I’m going to be binding some new journals and re-binding some older books, so I made a selection of paste papers for them, which led to me playing around with the paste paint. That resulted in some not too bad monochromatic landscapes, which then led to shades of the color blue scrolling through my mind. A certain dusky shade of blue-gray struck me as perfect for a collage that had been simmering in my mind for some time, so I set about inventing the color with layers of paint and dyed tissue paper. The resulting collage of geese flying across the moon will be shown with the Brickbottom Artists Association summer exhibition, which just happens to be on the theme of “BLUE.” That will be shown online from mid-July. See the Home page for details.
I finished an additional collage today – The Death of Orpheus – but I did it on paper so I could experiment with a new pasting technique to prevent warping. Fingers crossed on that one. Two more collages on canvas are in the works, inspired by views from my studio window – one a particularly spectacular spring morning, the other a rather spectacular super moon.
Nature has been pushing me along. These past weeks have been full of moon views and thunder storms. The garden is filling up with flowers, bees, butterflies, and rabbits. My landlords’ mulberry tree, outside our kitchen window, is bent under the weight of fruit and crowded with birds and animals. And all day today, my landlords’ dogwood, outside my studio window, hosted two fledgling mockingbirds fresh out of the nest, crying for food as their parents came and went, stuffing them with mulberries.
I can’t help feeling a little allegorical. I took the lesson of these weeks from the text on the collage of the geese, adapted from a Siberian shaman’s song:
“The birds’ way of returning, The birds’ way of leaving behind the sea, If I lean on these ways, I find support for my legs.”
Where are you finding support in these difficult times? Drop a comment and let me know what flashes or colors or things outside your window keep you going. If you have any questions about the works below, I’ll be happy to answer.
Also, issue #2 of the newsletter is scheduled for around July 16th. Sign up now for more updates and exclusive content.
Estuary Moon, part of the Mystic River Project and Cities
Death of Orpheus, part of Literary Works, another experiment