Fruition


Here's the view down my back 40 after six years of tending. Lush and green, green, green. I tried my best to scan this but could not get the colors to calm down (after more time on the monitor than I should ever have spent.) So, as this feels like the last of my back yard watercolor entries, I thought that it would be appropriate to snap a shot against the subject.

This reminds me of Werner Pfarr's drawing of my back yard in 2008. Click here to see the photo and read about that and Werner's drawings.

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First Lilies

First Lilies
Watercolor and pencil
5 x 8 inches


At some point in the future, I will look back on these past 12 or so months and think... I don't know what I'll think in the future! But right now, I think, "Uncle, already!"

Though I've been quite ill the past week or two, I've been settling into some sketchbooks and enjoying my gardens. I have barely pulled a weed this year. Six years of trial and error with perennial plantings and hardy annual survivors have produced gardens with a life of their own. I'm sure that I'm in for a few surprises!

I'm hard at work on the launch of my signature online course, so my next series of larger paintings must hang out in the planning stages for a while. I like confining my work to the books for now.

So far, I have three books going. I'll write more about them in the next week or so. I haven't shown work in one watercolor book — the one set out on my drawing table — but will soon. It's an alternate universe to these watercolor sketches in the moleskine book that keeps me company in the yard.

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Backyard Morning

Backyard Morning
Watercolor pencil, watercolor
5 x 8 inches


When I first moved into this house and, again, after I built the studio, I made series of paintings of the backyard. This year, the gardens I dug and the hedges I planted are officially established and mature. My paradise is lush and green, green, green.

It's a challenge to capture the real greens. By the time the sketch is scanned and up on my monitor, the yellows look acidic and the greens not true. But it's late, I'm tired and it's all relative. The challenge is good for practice.

This is the view I wake up to from my the window by my bed.

Recent images of backyard here. See early paintings of my back yard here. Click here for a painting of the view when I first moved in.

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Wild Roses

Wild Roses
Watercolor pencil, watercolor
5 x 8 inches


Now that I can walk again, unaided, I toured my back yard late yesterday and discovered wild roses in bloom. Usually, I only see the leaves and catch the thorns. So this morning I dragged a lawn chair out and made this sketch in the moleskine watercolor book I brought to Florida last year. I like it much better than the new sketchbook I bought on a whim yesterday. I'll keep that new one for scribbles.

Not a total waste. The purchase and experiment has opened up a new way to stay grounded as I work on plans for larger pieces with new presentations. It also prompted me to sign up for the Sketchbook Project 2012. My theme: Time Travel! That project is a little ways off, though.

Back to work in the here and now.

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Brood XIX of the 13-year cycle


Cicada
Brood XIX of the 13-year cycle
Nashville, TN
19 May 2011
Ink and watercolor pencil


Sure has been noisy around here. Beautiful, but noisy. Now as sun sets, the lawn mowers and weed eaters have finished their jobs and the cicadas have nodded off for the night.

These insects are everywhere! Climbing up tires, my back door, on almost every leaf... One found its way into my car. Good thing I had my foot on the brake when he made himself known. LOUD! It's an honor to be present for this rare appearance and I love the rattle and whirring song.

Click here to read more about our cicadas. More here.

This morning, I woke at 5 AM and decided that it's a good day to start in motion radical changes. The moon is on the wane and I am all about letting go of what no longer works, fits or suits me. I am sick of this old shit that's holding me back. (Personal matters but I'm guessing that most of you can relate and plug in your own personal matters.) I have just started walking without my boot brace and, though it'll be a while before I lose the limp (and the fear), I'm ready for forward motion. I've been in recline too long.

I followed a wild hair this morning and, while picking up a new medium to try out (stay tuned), spotted a cool sketchbook. Now, let me tell you that I in no way need a new sketchbook. But I liked the size and shape and paper and bought it. 300 pages! It's a Flexi-Sketch, 8 x 8 inches, 75 lb. paper, by hand•book journal co. The only thing is... I can't really take water to the paper. Oh, well. I'm going to fill it up anyway.

I've spotted folks on blogs posting their every day in May drawings and especially love what Barbara Weeks is doing at Drawing Breath. An inspiration. I am behind (limping along) with just about everything so, hey, I have 300 pages to fill and will go far beyond this month. Can't imagine that I'll post more than a small percentage but I'll be filling the pages nonetheless.

I've made one drawing today. Always an accomplishment!

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Majeste

Majeste
Watercolor, 9 x 16 inches
—email me to purchase


This watercolor was started a year or two ago and I recently worked on it again. Students in and out of the studio are immediately drawn to it so I've decided to post it. The mountain is the key figure, the anchor of the scene and yet, somehow, apart.

As I read the 25th entry in the Tao Te Ching yesterday, I thought it a suitable companion for this painting.
"There was something formless and perfect
before the universe was born.
It is serene. Empty.
Solitary. Unchanging.
Infinite. Eternally present.
It is the mother of the universe.
For lack of a better name,
I call it the Tao.

It flows through all things,
inside and ouside, and returns
to the origin of all things.

The Tao is great.
The universe is great.
Earth is great.
Man is great.
These are the four great powers.

Man follows the earth.
Earth follows the universe.
The universe follows the Tao.
The Tao follows only itself."


—Translation: Stephen Mitchell

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Repetition

Clear Heart
Watercolor, 4 x 6"

Matted and backed to 8 x 10"
SOLD

Part Two of Shunryu Suzuki's Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind,is called Right Attitude.
"The point we emphasize is strong confidence in our original nature."
The section on Repetition opens with
"If you lose the spirit of repetition, your practice will become quite difficult."
Indeed! This is true whether we are meditating or painting. I have swerved in and out of the regular practice of painting for all sorts of reasons. Travel, injury, household distractions, other work, disillusionment, procrastination... but I would say that one big reason is that, at a certain point, I felt as though I was repeating myself.

Now, the sort of repetition I'm referring to is different than what Suzuki means. However, I let my fear of repeating myself curtain my regular practice. It's ridiculous, really, because repetition of a recognizable style and subject is often what provides the way for an artist to catapult themselves into brandom and commercial success. The ridiculous might be better described as an ego issue and, possibly, impatience. Or, to be more fair, perhaps I felt as though I was not developing satisfactorily, and so I stepped away from the practice. Understandable, but not the best solution. I bring all this up because, in my current state of having just a wee bit too much on my plate, I have not made time for my daily watercolor practice.

As I am teaching drawing and watercolor as a spiritual practice, it is now time for me to schedule my own daily watercolor practice. It's something I love to do and a matter of changing some current habits.

Suzuki writes about the practice of making bread:
"But we may find it not so interesting to cook the same thing over and over again every day. It is rather tedious, you may say. If you lose the spirit of repetition, it will become quite difficult, but it will not be difficult if you are full of strength and vitality.
...
So the kind of practice we stress thus cannot become too idealistic. If an artist becomes too idealistic, he will commit suicide, because between his ideal and his actual ability there is a great gap. Because there is no bridge long enough to go across the gap, he will begin to despair. That is the usual spiritual way. But our spiritual way is not so idealistic. In some sense we should be idealistic; at least we should be interested in making bread which tastes and looks good! Actual practice is repeating over and over again until you find out how to become bread. There is no secret in our way. Just to practice zazen and put ourselves into the oven is our way."
A lesson for me and a lesson for my students. The repetition of regular practice is crucial in watercolor as in any other form of creative endeavor. Anyone can fall out of the regular habit, even me, who deeply understands and teaches the need for regular practice. It takes courage and discipline to get into (or get back into) the regular habit.

The root of the word courage is directly related to that of heart. Back to the watercolor board and my original nature with a clear heart!
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Enchanted Jewelry


I could not dance around the Maypole this Beltane. Instead, I rearranged the studio yet again (having just moved my office from the loft back down to the main floor), and finished some necklace and bracelet strands of semi-precious stones.

I caught the bead bug again while investigating stones with healing properties for bones and fractures. Creating the design patterns for complementary beads and stringing these necklaces and bracelets requires time, patience, dexterity, and magnification so I only make them once every so many years. But I enjoy the results and usually wear them till they break or I grow out of them.

For aficionados, one set includes periodot, sodalite, aventurine, labradorite, citrine, larvikite, amazonite, grossular garnet and clear quartz. The other set is made of amethyst, grossular garnet, citrine, clear quartz, periodot, labradorite, apatite and iolite. Magical fun!

I consider this hobby directly related to my watercolor work as most of these stones are transparent or semi-transparent and their design is informed by my understanding of transparent color. John LaFarge, (whose work we always copy in my classes) for example, was a master watercolorist and also a master of stained glass.

Photographing jewelry is an art form unto itself (that I have not mastered and am not going to worry about!), but you get the idea.

Back to business now, and to watercolor. Happy May¡!¡!

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