Friday, June 26, 2020
It`s slow going but these awkward new paintings have my full attention. I needed a fresh approach to my work in response to the pandemic bomb. The suffering and anxiety in the world has caused a blessed clarity to questions I have wrestled with for years. Matters of career and aging, commitment and legacy. I`m much more clear as to what is most important right now. How or when this work is seen is of little concern. I want to see them. However long it takes to make one. Finally I can live with the uncertainty inherent in painting abstract work. Everything is unsettled. Still plenty of fear but some patience now too. I`ve learned to set them aside when I get stuck. In view but not obsessed over. Eventually a way back in is revealed. Not the solution but crumbs on the trail. Meanwhile I have others in process that I can turn my attention to. For the longest time there has been a sense of urgency in my painting process. Like a race. I hope that is over.
It takes nearly nine minutes to change the country.
When an officer of the law stares into a camera as he slowly suffocates an unarmed man to death, the despair of countless generations is grasped in an instant. We heaved with revulsion and recognition. Black lives do not matter and they never have.
Why now? Why the sudden, visceral understanding of privilege?
Well, the corona virus has stripped away all of our expectations of normalcy and this vulnerability has broke us open.
When the job disappears with its health coverage, schools are closed, businesses shuttered, all sporting and cultural events cancelled, and affection potentially deadly, the calamity alters us. How could it not? Now watch a black man be murdered under someones knee. The center cannot hold. We now possess enough horror to listen. The moral convulsion our country finally experienced is among the most heartening things I`ve ever witnessed. This moment must be acted upon and I believe we will. The misery and insecurity are only deepening. We are in big trouble. 'Normal' won`t work anymore, this global catastrophe will demand a creative and cooperative effort.
The Republican Party having so recently failed to remove a hateful and destructive president, will be swept into the sea like Pharaoh`s army. Then we can coax and nurture our country back into health. This time with justice.
Ta Nehisi Coates says nothing will change for African Americans unless white people want it. This white guy does, and I`m not alone.
I`m sure late to the Austin Kleon party! What was I thinking when I set back down his 'How to Steal like an Artist' at the airport? This guy is a juggernaut of inspiration! Just look at his blog, he is so imaginative yet practical.
This parenting manifesto by Tom Hodgkinson was featured in the Spring. I will never be a parent but I sure appreciate the attitude here;
I`ve painted outdoors a couple of times this season. As always it`s the social aspect that I enjoy the most. Even with 6 feet between us. With my focus on abstraction now, I doubt I`ll be as dedicated as previous summers. Being still, outside in the warm air, is so special. Most of the time I`m down in my basement studio and though I love it, it is a hole in the ground. The breeze is up above.
I`ve just recently bumped into Jennifer Packer`s work. She`s a painter`s painter in that she revels in the physicality of the paint and makes it speak. I strongly believe if an artist paints representationally, they will excel in proportion to their drawing ability. Jennifer is a master of line. Like I said she`s new to me and I had noted her sensitivity in painting African American men. I only now looked up her bio to provide a link here and I see she is black. I suspect she drew her family growing up.
Here`s a treat, Nina Simone singing Bob Dylan`s 'Just Like Tom Thumb`s Blues'. The lyrics are classic Dylan, enigmatic and conversational with her voice clear, tender and vulnerable.
by Dave Eggers
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Sunday, May 17, 2020
How are we now?
If I don`t attend to this blog I eventually get an email asking me about it. Where are you?
That anyone cares is touching, so I keep it up. It has brought me many friends.
Usually I just feel like I don`t have much to contribute and with this pandemic, only rage and sorrow. Who needs more of those? I will say this, our lack of national mourning is dehumanizing, and a lost chance for unity. Such a pity.
The virus has claimed the lives of thousands more than the Vietnam War.
I remember that war vividly, I might have been drafted. The body bags returning home were endless.
Yet in just two months, over 89,000 people have lost their lives. I read the other day that just to speak their names would take over three days.
Our HIPAA laws forbid identifying photography of the sick so we are mostly unable to imagine the horror in the hospitals. In written accounts it is palpable but without images our collective experience of this historic tragedy is stymied. Unless we have lost someone, our pain is about the quarantine, economics and psychological survival. All important but as Governor Cuomo has said, death trumps everything. We have lost so many citizens, far more than any other country.
So, as we lurch to reopen our businesses and public spaces, I`m afraid we will not account for the dead. They will be quickly forgotten even as the numbers mount. I try to internalize what is happening for my own consideration. I read every obituary I see. I want to feel this moment.
The New York Times has segregated the covid deaths in a section called Those We`ve Lost. It feels important to read about the lives of these New Yorkers. It`s the closest I`ve been able to get, to understand what we are losing. New York is the mythic city of our ambitions and ideals, it deserves our attention.
In the beginning of this pandemic, when it seemed quite possible I could get infected from living with a nurse, that I could conceivably die, I had to quickly reconcile the life I had already lived in order to face whatever came next. As whole as I could be. When it was clear the tsunami had missed Oregon, I was incredibly relieved and grateful. Yet this is not over by any measure. The economic hardship alone is going to be immense and crippling. The virus seems utterly unpredictable with reports now of it reinfecting those who had recovered, causing strokes in young patients and responsible for a serious inflammatory situation in children. It is no time to let down our guard. As I thread my way though this scary reality I`ve realized I need to clarify for myself not just how to survive but why. What gives me purpose? Painting of course is my reflective answer but it has not risen to this occasion. The overwhelming uncertainty is undermining the best intentions I realize, but underneath that is a personal question. Am I giving it my best self?, the deepest one? Reflecting on my experience while working I noticed I was not engaged with the landscape like I usually am. Could be that my walks now are anything but solitary. The forests near me are bustling with families out for diversion from their locked down lives. I`m completely sympathetic but I am not having the insightful and stimulating observations that have been the source for my work. So I`ve recently detoured into abstraction with more serious intent than I have had in years. The lack of a subject causes persistent anxiety eventually and I return to representation. But now, with everything and everybody unsure, it feels right. The paintings are born with simply color in mind.
Here are a couple of the better landscapes that preceded them;
Like many others, John got extremely frustrated that we couldn`t find toilet paper. When he finally located some online, he bought a huge bundle;
Lyndon included for scale. Here is a single roll;
Notice the size of the hole.
Two great minds working together found a way to actually use it. This is industrial strength TP, interstate gas station grade. We have many years of supply now. Should anyone get desperate, you know who to contact.
If you`re a confused creative, let Matthew Inman tell you how it works. His take on running was one of the funniest things I ever read. He is well acquainted with his shadow.
This was an unequivocal success! Tahitian French Toast!
John had made an amazing spongy kind of bread that was going stale and I had just bought a bunch of Ataulfo mangoes. This kind;
Not the beautiful but disappointing red and green ones.
So I thought a tropical version of French toast would be good. I put a little dark rum in the eggs and then topped the toast with lots of mangoes, toasted coconut and almonds, a drizzle of maple syrup and crowned with creme fraiche. It was a delicious homage to the carbohydrate.
I`d love to hear what others are making, this is a perfect time to experiment.
What a gorgeous morning! I was sitting in that meadow painting the day.
Even with my current ambivalence about landscape painting, getting out and just being there was a joy.
Now she is a colorist!
by Bill Watterson
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Tuesday, April 14, 2020
Well, that was/is terrifying! When I wrote six weeks ago that I`d rather take my chances with the virus than live in fear, I was an idiot. What made the disease so scary was reading the accounts of people who had it. Once I knew what was possible, it got personal. I`m older, with asthma and my husband is a nurse in a hospital. I felt like a target.
Hospital staffs were warned to expect thousands of Covid patients. Clinics and other large buildings were to be turned into makeshift hospitals, the governors emergency decree allowed for redeployment of personnel wherever they were needed, personal protective gear was in serious short supply and there was a sense of martial law in the preparations.
And then it hardly happened. At least at the predicted scale. Oregon stayed home, flattened that curve almost into a line and saved thousands of lives. I`ve never been so proud of my state.
We ate out for John`s birthday March 2 in an empty restaurant.
No one really knew how effective the isolation would be. If people would observe it. But they did.
I am so grateful to the families with small children especially. It has to be extremely hard.
I`ve been tripping over my own privilege all month. We have an extra bedroom I`ve been sleeping in for safety, a yard, a paycheck, delivered groceries and proper heath insurance. And it still shook me to the core. For the first time ever, it was imaginable that we could both die soon. For the first time in my life I had to really think through my death. What needed to be done? How could I hold my ground while looking this in the eye?
It`s said, gratitude is the antidote to fear. For me, accessing it takes time and concentration. It`s not like a grocery list I jot down. I wanted the experience, to feel blessed all over again. So I spent days lying around sifting through memories, recalling the people who gifted me their attention. Remembering situations where only grace could win the day and it did. Many old friendships came into view, most from work or school but rich nonetheless. The wisdom and sacrifice of my parents is clear. So many beautiful landscapes I was able to walk in. The constant sense of purpose my painting has given me. That I`ve always had love to support me.
Nothing needed tending, no unfinished business. It has been a full life. I only want more.
I suspect my fears were/are everyone`s fears. Sure, 80% only feel slight or no symptoms, but they were not telling their easy stories. No, what I kept seeing were tales of week long fevers, fighting for breath after the simplest of movements, and chaos at the Emergency Room. Death and the dying are quite different.
The Himalayas are visible from Delhi a hundred miles away, the sacred Ganges is drinkable in places, dolphins swim in the canals of Venice.
Surprising and good things will come from this.
Let`s never take cashiers, repairmen, warehouse stockers, farm workers, delivery drivers, ........ for granted again. All deserve living wages, healthcare and paid sick leave. No exceptions. The 'humble' essential worker has kept this country afloat for a month. By themselves! Let`s not forget them. Especially in the next election. Like my Dad told me, Democrats are for the little guy.
My first plein air painting of 2020. Painted on Feb. 28, still way too cold.
Just finished and painted in a manner of work I did 35 years ago in New Mexico. The state is mountainous and one is always looking out, up, or down. I would take features in the landscape and stack them into a tower.
Spring in New Mexico is about the tenderest most delicate thing you can imagine. If the howling winds finally stop.
One of the first hippie cookbooks was called Diet for a Small Planet. It was filled with things you would never want to eat, trust me. But it did have a great recipe for chocolate chip cookies. These are special, maybe perfect for contemporary waistlines. Good, but not so much you want to eat ten. Two will do. These cookies contain a gram of complete protein in each one. They could be dinner if the power goes out. I like them best frozen.
1/2 cup of butter
1 1/2 cup brown sugar
Add and beat until fluffy;
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup of instant dry milk [this is the only weird ingredient but it is available in grocery stores]
1 tbs of water
In a separate bowl mix together;
21/4 cups of whole wheat flour
1 tsp of soda
1/2 tsp salt
Add to the wet mixture;
12 oz chocolate chips
3/4 cup of chopped peanuts
1 cup of sunflower seeds
Combine the wet and dry mixtures, drop by tablespoons onto a greased cookie sheet and bake at 375 degrees for 10-15 minutes
It seems everybody is baking during this lockdown. John made astonishing bread the other day without a recipe! The artist within must be free!
My pal Don Gray was featured on a local public television show recently called Art Beat. They chose to air it during the middle of a virulent global pandemic but you can`t have everything. This is truly one of the best such profiles I`ve ever seen. No narration, just Don talking!
Seen in Taos NM last weekend. Sacrilege? Or an indictment of consumer culture?
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Monday, March 16, 2020
Somehow I had enough concentration to paint this. Last week was tense but the foreboding arrived on the weekend. Every time our president was on camera it was clear we could not look to the federal government for guidance, assurance or even honesty. It`s becoming evident that the criminal lack of testing capability wasn`t bad luck but remained inadequate for weeks because the president didn`t want to see the higher number of infections. Saw the looming crisis only in terms of his re-election prospects. Many people will die because we lost the chance to track the spread of the virus. Like China finally did, or Singapore or Hong Kong. Even today, March 16, the administration is not making the processing of tests any more efficient by relaxing rules on which labs are licensed to run them. This is criminal negligence. Senate Republicans are objecting to the paid sick leave provisions in the emergency legislation passed by the House on Saturday, Fox news continues to downplay our urgent situation.
A corrective is coming. The utter mendacity of Trump and his Republican enablers will be visible to everyone at last. Even to the cult of his supporters. We will all know some of the dead. We will all be much poorer. The election is won, the Democrats will have to clean up the disaster again.
Within this sad and terrifying scenario, collectively we must reimagine our country. The catastrophe will make crystal clear how unjust and unfair our society is. Low unemployment and a booming stock market will no longer conceal the cruelty. Because of the profound lack of leadership now, the reassembling of our lives will take considerable time. We will have the chance to fix it. Create the more perfect union. Address the fearsome change in the climate, outrageous income inequality, racial disparity everywhere, and finally get some common sense gun laws. Let the mass killings end.
On our way to this better reality, I hope as individuals we can be actively kind and generous. An ocean of need will surround us. As one of my heroes Marshall McLuan said "every breakdown is a breakthrough". A crisis is too good to waste.
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Saturday, February 29, 2020
About a month ago my husband, who is a nurse, told me a doctor had said he was scared to death of the coronavirus. Ever since I`ve followed this closely. Everybody is, right? With China locking down millions of its citizens to contain the disease, and the stock market in free fall, it is reasonable to think this is a big deal. Not the press and democrats out to get Trump.
Last night the first case of an Oregonian with the virus was announced after the state`s lab confirmed it. He first showed symptoms on the 19th. He is also an employee at a school in my community, luckily without much contact with students. It is unknown how he acquired the virus. This suggests it is spreading somehow undetected. But maybe slowly, with luck.
I feel like I`m an unwilling participant of someone`s science project. Waiting to be observed. My guess is this sensation is common to everyone right now. We are waiting for a potential catastrophe. Hmmm, I`ve never been a patient person and the suspense scares me more than the illness. The imagination can be so dangerous. I can`t stand horror movies and I`m incredulous of those that do.
So if that unfortunate and local man appears to be just the first in a circle, will my city be quarantined? If we can contain it here, that would be amazing. I probably have two weeks of food on hand. But if it becomes a pandemic with lots of sick people, what do we do? How do we help?
As of tonight, there are 70 confirmed cases in the US, 44 came off the cruise ship. It seems given the incubation time, we will know a whole lot more a week from now
I always photograph what I`ve done before going upstairs to sleep. With my phone, just to figure out what I`m doing. A while back I did this;
as an underpainting for something that then failed, but I didn`t delete the photo. Something about the palette I thought was worth returning to sometime. It is the basis of 'The Season is Over'.
I`ve several ideas that would be best explored in oil paint but I have the usual odd reluctance. When I stopped last August, I wondered if it was for good. I keep trying to find equivalent techniques with acrylics, but unless I use them transparently, I`m disappointed. Oil paint is the only kind that doesn`t talk back. What I paint stays like I painted it. No surprises when it dries, predictable opacity, a pleasure to move around with a brush and the color is superior. When I return to it, I`m usually exhausted by watermedia with its quirks and want some control again.
As I wait for Covid-19 to change everything, I`m in full scale procrastination avoiding learning web design and launching my new website. Before taxes, I promise myself.
More tinkering. I`m concluding lots of work that got abandoned too. I can spend a whole day trying to rescue something once again and in the end, I get out my giant scissors and cut it up. I tried.
Yesterday I did an experimental plein air session to find out if the temperature was tolerable yet. Nope my hands were freezing. Soon though I think.
Fred Cumming turned 90 last week! Someone posted this masterpiece on Instagram in celebration. I hope he`s recognized as a British national treasure in his homeland.
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Sunday, February 9, 2020
Ok then, the Senate has spoken. I feel better now. The citizens of this country were either paying attention or they weren`t. If extorting a country at war on behalf of your own reelection isn`t impeachable, what is? The view of a political party utterly exposed in its cowardice and corruption was breathtaking. Now we know beyond any doubt, Trump is not the cause of this collapse, he is the result. Everyone can see it. Are there enough people who care? Time will tell.
A new political scientist has a theory of modern elections that makes sense. Turnout is everything and what drives turnout is fear and loathing. Democrats could not be more motivated to get Trump out, and thus will prevail. She was one of the few who predicted correctly the huge gains in the 2018 midterms.
The light is stronger and the day lengthens with each new sunrise. I`m finally feeling like myself.
The impeachment gave me clarity and closure oddly enough. And for what it`s worth, this democratic socialist believes what Amy Klobuchar says. She can beat him.
cartoon by Kevin Siers
I`ve been painting but not so sure of the quality. Nonetheless I know from experience, that nothing good or bad will happen without a brush in my hand. Working heals. To make things is to be sane.
The always graceful Tualatin River beneath those trees.
I`ve been enjoying Peter Archer`s bleak vision lately. Like a sad love song, it hurts in the best way. Austere and brooding though they are, a small hopeful quality is also present. Beauty can survive the darkest situation.
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