Monday, March 24, 2014

Still in Abstract-Land..

"Unspoken Thoughts" 6" x 4" ink and watercolor on cold pressed paper
If you place a circle with a dot inside it into your piece, it is always Miro.  So there is a Miro "quote" here.  Take it away, and what do you have, Kandinsky?

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Superb Advice on Artmaking for When You are in Doubt

[INITIAL NOTE:  The art above was created after all of the good advice below for the next page of my joint sketchbook with Raena.  It is also posted at our joint blog 2'nFro .  If you would like to comment on the art, please go to that blog to do so.   I'd love to know what you think.  And if you have input on the words in this post, please comment here at Dan's Canvas:  Have you had similar experiences?  What do you think of these artists' advice?]


Pssst.  Here's a secret.  I've been in a bit of a funk, artwise.  I am trying new things.  They mostly aren't working.  It may be that I am in some kind of transition period.   That is the hope.

I was feeling a bit down about it and then, as often happens, the universe gathered to counsel me.

First I heard an interview with Thom Yorke of Radiohead here, and he was talking about how he creates.   To paraphrase as advice (and applying it to painting):

Paint to the spot in the middle of your head.  Do not consider merit, technique, goals, and the like.  Just paint.  You are just one of the latest of a vast family of artists in the history of man.  You are a pebble falling down a waterfall.

Then a quote on Belinda del Pesco's blog:

"If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends), 'Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?' chances are you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death." - Steven Pressfield

When I commented that I needed that quote about now, Belinda generously sent me an e-mail, and said:

".. I hope there is no doubt in your mind that you’re an artist, through and through. I read an excerpt from a book about creativity (of all types: writers, painters, musicians) and the common current in the blood of every artist is a heightened sense of *feeling*. Like a high-resolution sensitivity to beauty, sadness, elation, mood shifts in a room, light, color, aroma, sounds, etc. I see evidence of this in your work, and your words. Being an artist has nothing to do with output (although the same book talked about enormous satisfaction in the act of creating, like a release, in the same way a good cry makes us feel better), and it certainly shouldn’t be validated by modern measurements associated with financial or exhibit “success” in the art world. You’re an artist. Plain and Simple."

Wow.  Thank you so much, Belinda.

Then, finally, I was listening to the latest podcast of  Modern Art Notes, and learned about a letter that Sol Lewitt sent to Eva Hesse when she was feeling much the same.  Here is big chunk of it [warning for the easily offended: profanity and references to private body parts are a small part of this, but the words are so profound that you should read it anyway!]:

"..Just stop thinking, worrying, looking over your shoulder wondering, doubting, fearing, hurting, hoping for some easy way out, struggling, grasping, confusing, itching, scratching, mumbling, bumbling, grumbling, humbling, stumbling, numbling, rumbling, gambling, tumbling, scumbling, scrambling, hitching, hatching, bitching, moaning, groaning, honing, boning, horse-shitting, hair-splitting, nit-picking, piss-trickling, nose sticking, ass-gouging, eyeball-poking, finger-pointing, alleyway-sneaking, long waiting, small stepping, evil-eyeing, back-scratching, searching, perching, besmirching, grinding, grinding, grinding away at yourself. Stop it and just DO!

From your description, and from what I know of your previous work and you [sic] ability; the work you are doing sounds very good “Drawing-clean-clear but crazy like machines, larger and bolder… real nonsense.” That sounds fine, wonderful – real nonsense. Do more. More nonsensical, more crazy, more machines, more breasts, penises, cunts, whatever – make them abound with nonsense. Try and tickle something inside you, your “weird humor.” You belong in the most secret part of you. Don’t worry about cool, make your own uncool. Make your own, your own world. If you fear, make it work for you – draw & paint your fear and anxiety. And stop worrying about big, deep things such as “to decide on a purpose and way of life, a consistant [sic] approach to even some impossible end or even an imagined end” You must practice being stupid, dumb, unthinking, empty. Then you will be able to DO!

I have much confidence in you and even though you are tormenting yourself, the work you do is very good. Try to do some BAD work – the worst you can think of and see what happens but mainly relax and let everything go to hell – you are not responsible for the world – you are only responsible for your work – so DO IT. And don’t think that your work has to conform to any preconceived form, idea or flavor. It can be anything you want it to be. But if life would be easier for you if you stopped working – then stop. Don’t punish yourself. However, I think that it is so deeply engrained in you that it would be easier to DO!

It seems I do understand your attitude somewhat, anyway, because I go through a similar process every so often. I have an “Agonizing Reappraisal” of my work and change everything as much as possible = and hate everything I’ve done, and try to do something entirely different and better. Maybe that kind of process is necessary to me, pushing me on and on. The feeling that I can do better than that shit I just did. Maybe you need your agony to accomplish what you do. And maybe it goads you on to do better. But it is very painful I know. It would be better if you had the confidence just to do the stuff and not even think about it. Can’t you leave the “world” and “ART” alone and also quit fondling your ego. I know that you (or anyone) can only work so much and the rest of the time you are left with your thoughts. But when you work or before your work you have to empty you [sic] mind and concentrate on what you are doing. After you do something it is done and that’s that. After a while you can see some are better than others but also you can see what direction you are going. I’m sure you know all that. You also must know that you don’t have to justify your work – not even to yourself. Well, you know I admire your work greatly and can’t understand why you are so bothered by it. But you can see the next ones and I can’t. You also must believe in your ability. I think you do. So try the most outrageous things you can – shock yourself. You have at your power the ability to do anything."

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Gentle Things and Hard Things

acrylic on 10" x 10" canvas

I'm posting this painting from last year as a form of "Hello", "I'm still here."  I don't think I am going to paint like this anymore, but who knows?  It's kind of tight, but there is something about it that I like anyway.  It's sitting on my shelf.

I've been doing all sorts of experimenting, mostly on a small scale, and working on a painting that has had me kind of obsessed.  In spare moments I've turned to it.  And there is not much yet to see.

I am becoming more and more dissatisfied with wholly representational painting.  Works by artists that are a successful amalgam of representation and abstract have fascinated me lately, and I am trying to see what I can do in that regard.  Abstracting reality may be an answer to my attempts to portray the real behind what we see.  I'd really like to avoid surrealism, but that seems to be what first occurs, an attempt to speak through symbolism.  I will have to let the process occur naturally, and see what happens.

As a casual aside, I've been playing with ink on yupo, hidden images.  One experiment was this, which felt a bit busy:

Ya think?!  Some might call it scribbling.

Then later there was this, on NOT (cold-pressed) watercolor paper:

Semi-controlled scribbling.

And then to this:

Watercolor and ink on NOT 7" x 5" paper

Yes, when I am wearing my fine art hat I am loopy, but my illustrator hat is still in tact.

Let's see what else have I been doing?  Oh,  I had a wrestling match with a flower, and the flower won.  It used to be that my favorite saying was, "The gentlest thing in the world overcomes the hardest thing in the world." from the Tao Te Ching.  Now I'm sure it's true.  And Lisa Daria makes it look so easy!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

A Painting, a Challenge & a Shadow Shot

6" x 6" acrylic on board, an outdoor scene, derived from a friend's photo
Six months ago, a friend e-mailed me his photo of an outdoor scene.  "You should paint this :)," he wrote.  That was all.  This sort of directive is not characteristic.

It turns out that he stood in that place, and was greatly moved.  It was more than the scene, it was the feel of the place.

I could understand that.  This has happened to me so many times.  I remember stretching my arms outward at the woods and sky around me, overcome.  And the birds:  being captivated by song piercing the fresh morning silence, then witnessing an Eastern meadowlark on a stump singing in a vast field;  watching slack-jawed as a young eagle carrying a fish endured the high-speed pursuit of an osprey, eventually yielding its prey; strolling under a tree branch, feeling odd, then turning to encounter the learned scrutiny of a great horned owl.  And so on.

All from stepping outside and looking.

Even a walk outside, well within the confines of the city, reveals the beauty of nature. Look close, and there are textures,  patterns, and shapes to experience everywhere, courtesy of nature:

And personality too (for Shadow Shot Sunday):

So I painted my friend's scene - my first painting of 2014.  It is a small painting.  I was inspired, as always, by Leslie Saeta's Thirty Paintings in 30 Days challenge even though, again, I figure I will not have time.  She recommends painting small to accomplish the aim.  But I fuss too much on each painting, and spend far too much time on my blog posts.  I may need to do 1" x 1", you know?

I HAVE NEWS:  For the new year, the joint blog with Raena, 2'nFro, has returned!!  We are sending our sketchbook back and forth between Miami and Boise, 2,829.6 miles (but who's counting?) and collaborating on each and every page.  I have a new post - please come visit if you have time! I'd love to see you there!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Year-end Reflections

As the year passes
We speak with snowflakes, not words.
There are no words left.

"At First Glance #7", 5" x 7" ink and watercolor


Remembering Now,
Imagining seasons -
Images whisper.

 "Rituals" 8" x 6" watercolor


At each gathering,
A misty rain of color
That sometimes we see.
"The Gathering" 4" x 6" ink and watercolor


Now and then we park
And see passages beyond
The concrete and wire.

Parking Garage, 6" x 6" ink and watercolor

Thursday, December 12, 2013

2,760 Miles

"The Friendly Wolf" 10" x 10" acrylic on canvas [Click on the image to enlarge.]
Okay, I hate to brag, but the average wolf does not migrate.  He might trek as far as 70 miles, following migratory prey, before he settles down again to join a pack, or establish his own new territory.

But this wolf has traveled 2,760 miles from Miami to a city north of Los Angeles.  He arrives today at his new home, hopefully in one piece.  He certainly should.  The bubble wrap is so thick that I could have used the wrapped canvas as a pillow and still not damaged it. 

Ah, the anxiety of shipment.

This was a commission, and a joy to do.  There is a lot of layering in this piece, and many colors.  In fact, the wolf had so many colors that at one point I had to put the canvas aside to decide what to do.  It was too much.  Eventually I knew what I needed, a transparent brown.  And lo and behold Winsor & Newton came out with a new color called, appropriately, Transparent Brown.  Voila!  It worked as advertised, to great effect.  And, like a few of my other paintings, I made liberal use of the rubber spatula tool towards the end.  So far, for me, it is much better than a palette knife.

One personal joy in painting this wolf was the knowledge that it is going to hang in the room of an autistic young man.  I hope that it brings him great pleasure.  I'm partial to the unique plight of autistic individuals because, as you may remember, my son is autistic.

And for the record, my son didn't show any interest at all in the wolf.  In fact he has never paid any attention to any of my art.  That is, until recently.   When he did, it was quite a surprise.  He walked to the dinner table carrying an illustration I'd done, saying, "Look! Look!" with a big smile on his face.  This is what he was carrying: 

10" x 13" Ink and watercolor

Sunday, November 24, 2013

From Darkness to Light

Here's a small painting of a lamp, that started out sedate and ordinary, and ended up like this.  Like a writer's character, sometimes the objects in a painting take over.

6" x 6" acrylic on board
As you know, there is so much to see everywhere and in everything.  Lately I've been snapping pictures with my phone at any place that these wonderful scenes emerge.  When I was a boy, I used a camera to snap pictures of trees and the sky and stuff.  Once, I remember, I put a drinking glass over the lens and snapped a shot.  I was told then by the adults around me that I should use the camera to take pictures of posed people instead.  That's when I laid the camera down.

I realize that I haven't changed much despite their best efforts.  Here is my contribution for Shadow Shot Sunday.

Taken during a morning jog
I've been restless with watercolors lately.  But some interesting things have come of it.  Like this:

8" x 10" watercolor on Daler Rowney NOT paper
I've also been discovering some interesting art blogs and podcasts on artists and the art scene.  Often they add fuel to the fire that consumes me.   Maybe you'll enjoy them too and like me, be educated, entertained, bemused, and confounded.  So check them out (but not before leaving a comment here, of course.)

I've been listening to the Modern Art Notes podcast for more than a year I think.  It is excellent.

A wonderful blog that has links to ever-changing art articles and criticism is Painter's Table at

From Painter's Table, I found about the podcast "ahtcast" which is far less polished than Modern Art Notes, but has artist interviews and is fun and interesting.  It is at

A wonderful blog called "In the Make" features studio visits with west coast artists at

And from "ahtcast" I learned about a blog with videos of artists in their studios called "Gorky's Granddaughter" at

From there I learned that artists are a quirky bunch.  But you knew that already, didn't you?