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?

Saturday, November 9, 2013

My First "Real" Painting

Acrylic on 18" x 18" canvas; Tentative title: "Even if it Looks Blue" Click to enlarge.

1.  The other night I dreamed that I was a muscular super hero fighting powerful villains and everything was going okay until they released the mosquitoes.

*  *  *

I thought about easing back into these posts with some innocuous piece of art so as not to shock you with my latest work.  But I can't.  I cannot because, regardless of its merit or lack thereof, the painting above feels like my first real work.

It is a self-portrait, above, tentatively entitled "Even if it Looks Blue".  [Yes, I have grown a goatee; and yes, it grew in white.  And yes, I kinda like it.]

The painting is not meant to be all encompassing.  I am still cheerful, life-affirming, personable.  I am prone to humor and a smile.  I find wonder in the bark of a tree or the crack of a sidewalk.  I am still the same person you know.

Aren't tree roots beautiful?

But there is more.  This painting captures an unsettling time, and something of what is happening here, both inside and out.  It captures my essence, but not all of who I am, and only at a given moment, which may already have passed. 

*  *  *

2.  I'm in a different place, but I don't know where I am.

*  *  *

You may recall that a few posts ago I was wrestling with some frustration with my art.  I was concerned that by painting a person or an object, I could not capture its essence.  In many ways I was happy, such as with the painting below, when I tried a subject I knew that Diebenkorn painted a few times, a pair of scissors.  In that painting and others, I was able to work on technique and composition.  All of that was wonderful and still is.

But I wondered whether there was a way to show what I could perceive that exists beyond the object.  I wanted to find a reality beyond the simple portrayal of the object itself. That is still a goal of mine.  The self-portrait is my first attempt to do so.

Acrylic on 6" x 6" board

The self-portrait obviously contains some symbolic or abstract elements.  For weeks it was sitting on my easel without the shapes at the bottom of the canvas.  Some artist colleagues told me that the painting looked done to them.  But it seemed incomplete to me.  Weeks later those elements became essential additions.  And now, after an additional week of examining the work, I am satisfied.  I think.

The symbols have surface meanings and deeper meanings, some very personal.  They help to tell the full story.   Some of what I tried to incorporate were a mountain or volcano, and an eclipse or unsteady circle, as harbinger of change.  Those are the most evident elements.  More subtly, there is the curve which bears a resemblance to the ying and yang, though on its side.  They were intended as male and as female/creative elements. There is more that I intended. Of course, you may provide your own interpretation (psychoanalysis), but don't send me the bill.

*  *  *

3.  I sit on the cold bare floor.  I need only walk a few short steps to stand on the well-worn, ugly, blues-speckled rug, as before. 

I see only one other rug, frightfully far, but it reflects the light.  Sometimes it flashes all of the colors of the rainbow. 

I cannot tolerate the floor much longer.  It is much too cold.  And there are only two rugs.

*  *  *

Why would I paint a slice of myself?  It is much more effective in showing where I am, that any full image would have been.

A few weeks after I painted this, Hallie Farber posted an I-pad portrait at her blog with a wavy red line approaching the subject's head.  I commented to let her know that I had done the same thing in a self-portrait a few weeks before and that we were on the "same curvy red wavelength".  I wrote so that she would know that I had come up with the same idea independently.  She responded:

"Uh oh, Dan, not a good wavelength...  I'm seeing your painting in my head--electro shock treatment? One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is a favorite movie."  

No Hallie, and no, dear reader, I am still sane.  So don't worry.  Dan hasn't lost it.  (Although I am now talking about myself in the third person).  It's nothing like that.  And I am within the normal realm of human behavior (or at least one of my personalities tells me so.)  But I am grateful that I can express in art what's so difficult to say in words.

Despite the lack of posts, I have been doing a bit of art and illustration, none of which is so psychological, or so dark.  There are still sketches in public, cartoony drawings, ink and watercolor,  representational art, and experiments.  And I want to share it all with you.  I need to post far more often, don't I?

I also expect to pursue this other path if the muse allows, but not always to dark places.  There is so much beauty beyond everything, that I hope to uncover that as well.  The only question is how.  That is my challenge and my joy.