The Heart of the Matter


On Aldous Huxley's Island, Mynah birds were trained to call, "Attention! Attention!"
"Attention to what?" one character asked. "To attention." was the reply.
There is nothing like a daub of warm red to attract the eye and demand attention. Using red to manipulate attention is a tried and true, centuries old painter's trick that cuts directly through our messy, busy thoughts and involves us involuntarily in the picture plane. The red connects directly to the rods and cones in our retinas and we respond physically.

It is relatively simple to deconstruct a picture plane — the plane is static and can be examined over a period of time. Living experience, operating physically in the world, interacting with other people in dynamic movement is far more complex to comprehend. And yet, practicing, learning about and understanding elements of the expressive arts contribute to our understanding of the human experience and situation.

The other day, I heard a snippet of radio interview with a man regularly called upon at year's end to forecast top stories for the coming year. The forecaster basically said that there are so many unknown variables and the ground is shifting so quickly, that forecasting what the new year may bring is no longer possible. When pressed for a forecast anyway, his first prediction was that it is no longer possible to forecast.

Think about that.

The big thing for this coming year and from here on out is to pay attention. Be here now. Develop and learn to highly tune your perceptive senses. Distract yourself and go unconscious at your own risk.

Life is fleeting, dynamic, surprising.

In the coming year, as I renovate my teaching programs, I am exploring the spiritual essence of the expressive arts. That's the heart of the matter.

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Aditya Hridayam

Aditya Hridayam
Watercolor, 5 x 7 inches
$65 email me to purchase


I worked right through the solstice, on my feet for six hours straight. At the end of the day, after a fleeting thought about a drink (no, I would never make a painting), I stopped at the library and swept the spiritual section of audio CDs.

Ram Dass has been on my mind recently. In the early 90's, I was fortunate to sit up close with him at several occasions in Boston. Last night I listened to one of his much earlier talks —Here We All Are—that includes a bonus CD of his chanting recorded in the late 60's as Dr. Richard Alpert was making his transformation to Baba Ram Dass.

One of the recorded chants was
ADITYA HRIDAYAM PUNYAM
SARV SHATRU BENA SHENAM
that translates as
All evil vanishes from life for him who keeps the sun in his heart. —Ramayana
Aditya Hridayam is a Hindu hymn to the sun god. As I listened, I was finishing the second of two paintings made to celebrate the return of the light.

Another perfect confluence.

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Snowbound


Snowy Field
Watercolor, 5 x 7
$65 email me to purchase


Snow fell all yesterday afternoon, evening, overnight and into this morning. The temperature never made it out of the teens though the sun was bright and brilliant.

Fortunately, my calendar was completely clear today so I've enjoyed the day watching cars at a distance crawl along the icy side streets.

Slowly but surely, I am reorganizing my thoughts and activities to get back into blogging. I miss it now and all of you.

It may be dark and cold but I'm experiencing the spark of inspiration and the reawakening of that critical drive required to bring the sparkling forth.

Blaze


Blaze
Watercolor on Indian Village paper
5 1/2 x 7 1/4 inches
$65 email me to purchase


I am enjoying a decided break from online production.

Cleaning up after a city-wide Neighborhood Big Draw in Nashville, Tennessee, I'm switching gears. As the transition ensues, I'm allowing quiet to fertilize the depths — a critical time for all creative process.

In the house, I'm listening to Alpine folk music. In the studio, lots and lots of Fado, plus Purcell and Bach. I'm reading William Gibson's new novel Zero History.

For the rest of the year and into the new one, I'm allowing new ideas and goals to unfold. Judging by the scraps of lyrics scattered about, some new songs may present themselves. We'll see.

Life is good and the weather is glorious.

1886 later

watercolor, watercolor crayon, ink
on hot pressed Lana
7 x 10 inches


Okay. Now, I'm getting somewhere. If I can keep up this daily-ish practice, I may be onto a satisfying development.

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1886 study

1886 study
Ink, graphite and watercolor pencil
7 x 10 inches


Apparently, adjusting to new computer system makes me want to sleep a lot. Or it's coincidental. Or maybe it's the humid, rainy weather. One main kink to work out with the new system is the scanning set up, driver and what not. That should happen soon. Looking forward to it!

1927 color study

1927 color study
Ink, watercolor crayon, and watercolor on cold pressed
6 x 9 inches


A little scribbling to test out some color.

1927 study

1927 study
ink and graphite, 7 x 10


Not much for casual chit chat at this time. Enjoy my developing visuals while the text is sparse.

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1895

1895
Ink, watercolor crayon, watercolor
on hot pressed Lana, 7 x 10 inches

1811

1811
Ink and watercolor crayon on hot pressed Fabriano
7 x 10 inches


Love this!

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1811 (paper test)

1811 (paper test)
Ink and watercolor pencil on cold pressed Strathmore Windpower 

6 x 9 inches

Over the past four years, I've been using Fabriano's 140 lbs cold pressed spiral bound Watercolor Studio for beginning watercolor students. It's a fine beginning paper, very workable and rightly priced. I couldn't find any in town for my current group so picked up some of the new Strathmore Windpower Watercolor paper.

I use the Strathmore Windpower drawing paper for drawing students and love its color, texture, weight and binding but have always steered way clear of any Strathmore watercolor paper. During some quiet time during the morning drawing class, I made a quick sketch of my current motif on the Windpower Watercolor paper and am happy to report that it's quite nice. Workable, easy to lift color, a few more sheets and slightly larger size than the Fabriano equivalent.

It's always fun to find a good, new product, especially when it's relatively environmentally sound.

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1811 study


1811 (study)
ink and graphite, 7 x 10 inches


It may as well be 1811. My cable went out on Wednesday in a storm and the provider who shall remain unnamed offered to reconnect on the 28th. My phone, internet and tv are all kaput and there are wires strung in trees and all over the next door neighbor's lawn.

After 4 - 6 hours on the phone and chat line with unnamed "service provider" I managed to get them to commit to come out for repairs on Monday. You would never know that I live in a major metropolitan area.

Anyway, I've been getting cosy with my local baristas and paying attention to how much I rely on this fragile connection. Also, what an addiction connection to the internet can be.

Tv? Who cares. Phone? Definitely need one of those and I've been paying through the nose for cell use.

I could not need to be connected more right now as I'm at the height of a busy work schedule. Oh, well. It's not the end of the world.

As for the drawing, I liked the naked ink but am working out with ink and graphite so added some value with that. Stay tuned for the next version.

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Tuscan Vestige, 1931


Tuscan Vestige, 1931
Watercolor on Fabriano cold pressed
7 x 10 inches


Another iteration in the development of this new series.

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1931

1931
Ink and watercolor pencil on hot pressed Lana
7 x 10 inches


Continuing with my medium experiments, I've mixed my Lamy ink with watercolor pencil to see how the bleed works. The binder in the watercolor pencil gives a particular resistance that's a little unpredictable. The stain from the bleeding ink has a mind of its own so is also unpredictable. Those qualities of the binder and bleeding, though, are what make this coloration workable.

While it was fun to copy oils with watercolor pencil, I am already longing for the sophisticated personality of my M. Graham and Daniel Smith tube paints.

Still, this little piece is so much like the crayon stuff I made as a child, I recognize familiar territory that's definitely worth pursuing.

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1931 study

1931 study
Ink and pencil
6 1/2 x 10 inches


Oh, hell. I miss making landscapes.

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August 6, 1945


DATE WITH HISTORY: Hiroshima - reel 1 & 2


A week or so ago, the Chicago Tribune named me as one of the Top 50 Folkies of the last 50 years. I'm not much for "best of" lists or flavor of the month clubs but it's an honor and I certainly appreciate the recognition.

The song that put me on that list is The 3 Dreams of J. Robert Oppenheimer. And it's just in time to mark the 6th of August, the day most folk djs play my Oppenheimer song. You can listen by clicking on the player under the title below.

The 3 Dreams of J. Robert Oppenheimer


Download your own copy at iTunes.
or buy the full CD — Souvenir.

I found the posted Pathé film which you may or may not be in the mood to watch. If you've never seen it, at least watch the set up. It's certainly worth remembering the citizens of Hiroshima, and Nagasaki, too.

DATE WITH HISTORY - Hiroshima - reel 3


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