Sunday, January 15, 2017
Two paintings that I've reworked. I visited the site of the tree and mountains again yesterday for another look. The reaching tree actually reaches out toward the cold mountains that are in the second painting.
Saturday, January 14, 2017
If you walk along Bee Hill Road at the top of Sheep Hill, which I've never seen anyone else doing, you will encounter this tree. It presumably looks this way with arms flying only in one direction because the limbs that would hang over the road have been removed. The end result is a tree reaching for the mountains, with other mountains as a backdrop. I get a sense of deep rooted yearning when I look at it. This painting is an 18x24 oil on canvas.
Friday, January 13, 2017
This is a small sketchbook drawing from the other day. I went back to where I had found a group of hay bales in an upper meadow. The farmer had removed most of the bales since my last visit leaving just this one and tractor tracks in the snow.
Thursday, January 12, 2017
Wednesday, January 11, 2017
Tuesday, January 10, 2017
Sunday, January 8, 2017
Saturday, January 7, 2017
One of the reasons that I've always been attracted to the poetry of Seamus Heaney is that he created poetry at a time when his country was so deeply divided, with sectarian murders occurring, that any kind of peace or resolution to the conflict seemed impossible. He wrote in his essay, "The Government of the Tongue," "Here is the great paradox of poetry and the imaginative arts in general. Faced with the brutality of the historical onslaught, they are practically useless. Yet they verify our singularity, they strike and stake out the ore of self which lies at the base of every individual life. In one sense the efficacy of poetry is nil--no lyric has ever stopped a tank. In another sense, it is unlimited. It is like the writing in the sand in the face of which accusers and accused are left speechless and renewed."
Heaney, in "the writing in the sand," refers to the story of the woman caught in adultery from chapter 8 in John's Gospel. When the woman is presented to Jesus, he bends down and writes in the sand. When pushed again to respond, Jesus says, "Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her." Then Jesus bends down and continues to write in the sand until everybody has disappeared.
The poet goes on to write, "The drawing of those characters is like poetry, a break with the usual life but not as an absconding from it." Of course, we don't know what Jesus was doing in the sand. The gospel story says he was "writing" but he could have been doodling or drawing.
Heaney continues, "Poetry, like writing, is arbitrary and marks time in every possible sense of that phrase... [I]n the rift between what is going to happen and whatever we would wish to happen, poetry holds attention for a space, functions not as distraction but as pure concentration, a focus where our power to concentrate is concentrated back on ourselves." So poetry and the imaginative arts can make us "a bit better...for the moment," as Heaney says elsewhere in "Stepping Stones." But we can reject that opportunity provided by art. If the accusers of the woman had no shame or integrity, they could have started to throw stones. So the success of art is fragile and tentative (like writing in the sand), but it is so foundational to our humanity
Interestingly, the story of the accused woman almost didn't make it into John's Gospel. It is found in some of the early manuscripts but not others. Some early Church Fathers wanted to exclude the story because they found Jesus too forgiving.
The accompanying image is an 11x14 pastel on pastel multimedia artboard. It shows a view of a famous rock on the Ogunquit shoreline.
Friday, January 6, 2017
This afternoon turned out nice weather-wise, if one doesn't mind temperatures in the low 20s. I went back to the mountain at Sheep Hill again, and made two 9x12 charcoal drawings. It was sunny, but the fingers holding the pad became numb.
I've been reading the poems of Han-Shan about Cold Mountain. I learned about Han-Shan from the first "Squarings" poem in the book "Seeing Things" by Seamus Heany. Cold Mountain is more a state of mind than a place. Here's one translated by Gary Snyder:
Once at Cold Mountain, troubles cease--
No more tangled, hung-up mind.
I idly scribble poems on the rock cliff,
Taking whatever comes, like a drifting boat.
Thursday, January 5, 2017
Friday, December 30, 2016
Here's another kind of found geometry, this time from a sidewalk view on St. Marks Avenue looking towards Classon Avenue in Brooklyn. This covered motorcycle seems to always be there, and I could not help noticing how the sky formed an equivalent blue triangle (on a sunny day), and there are a few smaller triangles as well. But it's not all abstract design. It's a sidewalk view with a covered motorcycle, brick buildings with fire escapes, poles, wires, barriers still around from the time the sidewalk cement was replaced, garbage cans, cars, etc. This is a 12x16 oil on panel.
Thursday, December 29, 2016
Last week when the sun was shining, I walked up a hay meadow, and came across this hay bale (actually there are two of them), an arrangement of shapes, foreground and background, marking a kind of natural geometry.
Seamus Heaney's poem "Markings" has the following lines:
All these things entered you
As if they were both the door and what came through it.
They marked the spot, marked time and held it open.
This is an 8x10 pastel.
Monday, December 26, 2016
Sunday, December 25, 2016
I revised the pastel I posted the other day since I wanted to reduce some of its coarseness. What I was trying to do initially was to use some of the dust to an advantage. Also to stay with the imprecision because that's just the way we see. Tough to do well.
This afternoon I found myself walking through a high cornfield/pasture. These rolled up hay bales were tucked under some trees. I did a quick crayon sketch. I post these two together since they are close in style.
Oh, and Merry Christmas!
Friday, December 23, 2016
This is a glimpse from the top of Sheep Hill looking north through trees screening the mountains of Vermont. It's a 9x12 pastel. It seems to work better from a slight distance. Close up it's a mess of markings, scrapes and drags.