abstract art


Orbs No. 25 - Waxed Watercolor - 32" x 48"

Orbs No. 25 – Waxed Watercolor – 32″ x 48″

Life is coming together in a wonderful way.  I have missed posting on a daily basis, however, my time away from the computer has been well spent.  thirty years ago I could only dream of painting the paintings I have recently created for the solo exhibit at Overlook Medical Center, November 1, 2013 – January 5, 2014 in the Bouras Gallery.  Going back to square one to study Color has paid off in trumps!

Orbs No. 14 - Watercolor - 22" x 15"

Orbs No. 14 – Watercolor – 22″ x 15″

For once, it was better that I didn’t have windows through which to see the beautiful days that passed by as I poured, sprayed, brushed, splattered and spun paint on paper, both large and small.  The trash I found at flea markets proved to be treasures, working as templates to create translucent layers of shapes that interact with one another.  The illusion of movement through space is fabulous in this new body of work.

The day after tomorrow I’m headed back to California to teach workshops and to paint the real world again in the hills surrounding San Francisco.  I’m hoping I can project a glimpse or two of my inner worlds onto the real world as I paint en plein air in the landscape that I love so much, those crazy barren hills with spots of live oak.

Though the life of a painter is always challenging, I wouldn’t trade it for any other sort of life.

Images:  Watercolor Orb Paintings, part of the Series for Art, Energy and Healing.

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Counting the days until I find myself back in the Bay Area!

Orbs No. 22 - 22" x 30" Watercolor and Collage

Orbs No. 22 – 22″ x 30″
Watercolor and Collage

In the last week, I hung one solo show and dropped a dozen paintings off for the Sawmill Gallery Invitational that opened on Friday evening.  Both shows look fabulous.  The exhibit at Blue in Portland, Maine just ended.  All of the paintings for the upcoming exhibit Orbs, Science & Healing at the Bouras Gallery, Overlook Medical Center, must be framed and catalogued before I leave for California next week.  No wonder I haven’t been posting on my blogs lately!  In the middle of it all, a very dear friend reconnected, inspired and provided the fuel for the energy I have needed to produce and market this exciting new body of work!  Life is wonderful, to say the least.

If you live near Santa Rosa, please check out the workshops I will be teaching September 26, 27, 28 & 29 at RileyStreet Art Supply, Santa Rosa, CA.  Calendar of Workshops and Events

Painting:  Orbs No. 22, 22″ x 30″ watercolor with a tiny piece of handmade paper added.

Posting online tutorials has been one of my goals for the past year.  It has finally become a reality, thanks to all who have already walked this path and are willing to share their expertise.  I have spent the last two weeks learning how to set up the ipad on my tripod, exchanging files between devices, editing, adding music and uploading to Vimeo.  Next phase is voice overs and text.

I’m posting basic tutorials on my website blog showing various lessons taught in my Color Scheme Game Workshops.  I hope they will serve as quick reference and refreshers for my students.

What I didn’t expect was that I would learn so much from watching myself paint!

Warning:  This is a long post …..

Mike’s Wall Frog made me smile and brought me joy each day of my visit.

The Wall Frog

The Wall Frog

The creature Nicole made for me makes me smile and brings me joy each day.

Nicole's Creature

Nicole’s Creature

Alexis’s self portrait makes me smile and bring me joy each day.

Bust of Alexis, Sculpture, Self-Portrait

Bust of Alexis, Sculpture, Self-Portrait

My study of the brain began in October of 2007 when my sister sent me a copy of The Joy of Living, Unlocking the Secret & Science of Happiness written by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche.  I quote from the front flap of the cover:

“In this groundbreaking work, world-renowned Buddhist teach Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche invites us to join him in unlocking the secrets behind the practice of meditation.  Working with neuroscientists at the Waisman Laboratory for Brain Imaging and Behavior, Yongey Mingyur provides clear insights into modern research indicating that systematic training in meditation can enhance activity in areas of the brain associated with happiness and compassion.”

At the time, I practiced yoga daily, both at home and at a nearby yoga center.  On Sunday mornings I painted the yoga students during the early morning Ashtanga class.  For me, live painting is a form of meditation.  Drawing and painting, whether en plein air, in the studio or at a performance is always a form of meditation.  I thought that by combining yoga and breathing exercises with simple visual creativity exercises I might unlock the door to the joy of living in a world of creativity for those who convince themselves that they are not creative.  It is my belief that everyone can live a creative life, experiencing joy every day without quitting a job to become an artist, a musician or a poet.  Being an artist, my path is mostly through the forest of the visual arts.  That is the path I’m able to share with others.  For about a year I offered Creativity Workshops at the Yoga Center,  at an art gallery and in my home.  At the end of the year I stopped.  I had not successfully communicated my message, perhaps because I had not stated what that message really was…..

If I don’t exercise, nurture and challenge my brain, each and every day, it will lose its ability to perform the tasks I need it to perform.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that even if I exercise, nurture and challenge my brain, I might be one of the many unlucky individuals whose brain stops serving them well in spite of Herculean efforts.  My father is one of those unlucky ones.  Into his mid eighties he walked seven miles a day.  He read hundreds of books, wrote poetry on a daily basis, danced four nights a week, played (and won) at card games and board games to say nothing of being the neighborhood Croquet Champion.  He volunteered in his community, served as a business arbitrator and stayed involved with the activities of his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  My father suffers dementia, perhaps Alzheimer’s.

Two years ago we moved my father out of the house he and my mother built with their own hands.  He now lives in an assisted living facility, a forty minute drive from my home.  Thursday is our day together.  For the first year and a half, we walked together exploring the parks, trails, gardens and forests in the area.  We stopped to rest on benches, rocks and tree stumps.  My father wrote poetry and I sketched.  Dad never remembered where we had been, nor that I had been to see him.  The only evidence of our adventures is his green notebook, my sketchbook and the weekly blog posts on our family site, Walks With Dad.  I tried to present the day with truth and humor while, at the same time, letting my siblings know how my father was doing.  Our adventurous walks have now become quite tame due to my father’s quickly debilitating condition.

Dad was an electrical engineer.  One might say that he was extremely left-brained.  Abstract art was a total mystery to him.  A building drawn without being in perfect perspective was simply bad art.  His poetry had to rhyme. He thought, because I often painted abstractly, I painted that way because I hadn’t learned to draw well enough to create real art.  About the same time that we noticed his memory slipping, I noticed that he spent more time looking at abstract art than representational art when he attended my exhibits.  At one gallery, he made the comment, “I think I finally understand why you might want to paint like that.”  I was stunned.

A year ago it became increasingly difficult to inspire my dad to write poetry.  He couldn’t find words, any words.  Rather than frustrate him, I taught him how to do contour drawings.  He became focused, drawing until I told him he could stop.  After drawing, he started using adjectives again in his speech.  If I asked him to write a poem, he did so without resistance, often writing expressively rather than in forced rhyme.

Around this time I stumbled upon Phantoms in the Brain by V.S. Ramachandran and Sandra Blakeslee.  The brain is remarkably adaptable.  When one area is injured, another area steps in to fill the void when possible.  I believe my father’s right side of the brain has compensated, a bit, for loss in the left side of his brain.  He can now identify the subject of abstract drawings of objects, whereas he could not do so before.

In spite of Dad’s total loss of short term memory at this point, he can still follow the calls at a square dance and he can still win at games, even Bridge!  I am hoping that my habit of drawing and painting every day will serve me as well.  When I can’t remember who I am I hope I will still be drawing and painting.

This brings me full circle.  Though it might be futile, I am breathing new life into my Creativity Workshops, dedicated to presenting brain exercises through creativity.  Using the vocabulary of art: Line, Shape, Value, Texture and Color,  The Creativity Workshop introduces simple games that can be played daily with common items such as paperclips, string and toothpicks.  I want to teach these classes during lunch breaks at corporations as stress relievers and brain teasers.  I want to present them at Centers for Healing, in schools, hospitals, prisons and summer camps.

Seeing the smile on my father’s face when I hand him his green notebook, now almost filled with his poetry, reminds me of the importance of not giving up on him, and not giving up on anyone else, either.  My father turns 90 on February 24th, 2013.

Dad drawing cherries before writing a poem after a picnic at Feltville, NJ

Dad drawing cherries before writing a poem after a picnic at Feltville, NJ

Sketchbook drawings:  Top – Wall Frog – Ink and waterbrush.  All the others are drawn first in ink with a fountain pen, followed by watercolor.

Some things can be taught … some things cannot.

Abstract Design from Traced Objects

Abstract Design from Traced Objects – Watercolor on Rives BFK Paper (6″ x 9″)

While preparing to teach the upcoming Watercolor Techniques Workshop in Santa Rosa, I decided to snap some photos of a painting in progress to illustrate several of the techniques I’ll be teaching.  Techniques are easy to teach. How to use tools is easy to teach.  The fundamentals of art are all easy to teach, presenting them in a variety of ways so that students who learn concepts differently will all grasp the basic idea.  It’s up to the students to practice what is learned in classes and workshops.

Tools and Techniques can be taught , but Translation is difficult if not impossible to teach.  How does one teach the translation of an unspoken language, the language of vision combined with unseen light waves and sound waves, rhythms of movement through a three-dimensional space?

Some paintings are rooted to tools and techniques, never stepping over the line into the realm of chance and possibilities where the “what if” thrives, where the population of  things gone wrong and unresolved paintings far outnumber the paintings that are a step above everything else, those that usually don’t follow the rules.  Something else has happened during the process of creation that make a painting as unique as every child, even identical twins whose genetics are the same.  Something has happened. Often, that something will happen in a spot or two of a painting.  It is a true gem when a painting as a whole declares its independence from the artist and can stand alone in a crowd without explanation.

The above painting began like this:

Early stage of painting

Early stage of painting

The composition gave me a hard time.  The pivot point is plunk in the middle of the painting.  I struggled for hours, layering, wiping out, scrubbing, splatting, wiping out, glazing ….. and more lifting of paint.  Two hours into it I stopped snapping photos of the methods I was using to try to resolve the painting.  Six hours in, it began to breath a life of its own.  I was in battle mode and didn’t notice for a while.  It fought …. and I fought back.  The painting finally won.  I allowed it to be completely different from what I thought it should be.  I was even a bit angry with it.

I went to bed disgruntled.

When I awoke this morning I was surprised that the painting expressed everything I had intended, patterns, textures, interweaving of shapes as they move through space, a glow of light against mysterious darks reaching far beyond the flat surface of the paper.

I can encourage my students to step across the line.  I can even push a few across, but I can’t teach any of them how to translate their heart beats and their breath.  Nor can I teach them what drives me to draw and paint each and every day of my life.  I could say it is the joy of drawing and painting.  It’s not just the joys, it is also that I grow stronger hrom each battle I fight, whether I have won or lost, it makes no difference.  For the hundreds of paintings I’ve sold and exhibited, I’ve thrown away ten times that number.  If I ever get to the point where I’m not discarding most of my paintings it will mean I’ve stopped taking risks and stopped searching for new ways to translate my world.  I don’t ever want to see the day that I don’t take the chance of creating an unsuccessful painting.

Image:  Watercolor and a touch of unsuccessfully sprayed ink using a mouth atomizer.

Winter is settling in and I’m spending too much time at the computer working on the new website, coordinating workshops and drinking hot liquids.

A painting once again in progress 30″ x 40″ oil

I have several solo exhibits scheduled in 2013.  At least one of them is focused on the power of art as a healing force.  The spaces are large and the opportunity to create a new body of large scale work thrills me.  Sorting through my inventory of oil paintings was a perfect shift away from computer work.  Nine paintings will be getting a new coat of paint.  As an artist, I’ve grown considerably since these paintings were originally resolved.  I can now take them further.

After several hours of mixing, brushing and rubbing to lighten, brighten and breathe new life into the one pictured above, I returned to my computer with a fresh mind and a lighter heart.  The painting was originally extremely dark.  It’s one of the first in a series of work created in 2003 as the result of a personal healing experience.

Oil on canvas, 30″ x 40″

I can’t believe I’m starting over again with a new website ….

“New Seed” oil on kraft paper

This time around I am not attempting to do it all myself.  My new site will offer free tutorial videos, online workshops, an assortment of galleries as well as a unique shop filled with an eclectic offering of used books, miscellaneous art supplies and small paintings.  This is the perfect time to re-evaluate what I’ve done, the paths I’ve explored and the paths I want to continue exploring as well as new directions.  Time to decide which seeds I’ll be planting in the spring and how I will nurture them for an abundant harvest in the summer and fall.

“New Seed” …. from the series of large oil paintings on kraft paper created several years ago, the first series of my Healing Through Art paintings.

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