After the Rain

"After the Rain, Boundary Bay" Oil on Canvas. 18 X 24"

There is an ecstasy to be found in solitude, a strange solace in absence. The theme of this piece is loneliness, but not despair.
The photo here really pales beside the original, in this case more than others. The colours are extraordinarily rich and pure, since I use undiluted colour to get the darkest tones. Besides blue and grey, violet is the unifying hue, since it pulls together the middle two-thirds. This prevents the image from splitting into strict thirds between top and bottom. In the original, you will notice, only under bright lighting, that there is pure untinted violet forming the darkest bits under the blackberry bush at the foot of the main power pole. This is an essential touch, given the stark tonal contrasts between the main zones.

Another way I bring the zones into unity, and the entire thing into reconciliation with the picture-plane is with interlocking compositional lines. There are two main diagonals, one running through the main poles, and the other passing from the bottom left of the sky into the blackberry bush. These two interlock with the two horizontal strokes of warm, bright green, one under the line of distant trees between the main poles, and the other under the bush, continuing into the road. Two "ghost planes" interlocking, if you will. Focusing on this, you can literally feel the image pulling itself flat out of space.

A strong internal tension is created by setting off the angles of the poles against the calm horizontals of the earth and sky, and the contrast they make against the rigid verticals of the edges of the picture plane. The angles of the poles are quite true to life, though. A "found" poem, and not sitorted, as one may at first suppose.

There is some other subtle poetry in this piece I find particularly pleasing, but I'll let you spend some time on it ;). I've already largely let the cat out of the bag--all but the tail, in fact.

I had started with the top of the sky too pale and blue, and thought I might have to wait a week to repaint. But I overpainted wet-into-wet with a darker grey and got the exact effect I wanted: the bottom of a raincloud lifting off. Nice to nail it like that.

"Alone on a train aimless in wander,
An outdated map crumpled in my pocket.
But I didn't care where I was going,
'Cause they're all different words for the same place.

The coast disappeared when the sea drowned the sun,
And I knew no words to share with anyone... ."
--Death Cab For Cutie

Funny how, on the surface, what may be taken for undramatic scenery, can have the most to offer. The pic for this painting was shot just up the shore from "Farm in Delta".

And that is the same raincloud lifting off.

Who obtains this, obtains a masterpiece.

Painting an Epic

"Mountain Music" (A whole lotta) Oil on Canvas. 24 X 30" July-November, 2008.

Here is the largest easel painting I have done to date. And the one I have worked longest and hardest on.

Certainly not the most daring composition, but visually one of the most ambitious I have undertaken. The difficult parts came easy and the easy parts came hard. Just getting a photo of this thing was hard, given my current lighting sitch in the studio--which badly needs addressing.

In it, I think I have managed to harmonize all the major planes with the picture-plane itself, blanace it visually, and get all the various bits talking to each other and holding hands.

This makes a positive, joyful statement about the glory and beauty of the physical world, and how the spiritual might shine through that world, and speak to us.

I would point out several things I particularly like:
  • In the sky and the hills, I have painted several different times of the day, adding to the idea of synchronicity that underlies cubism. I don't think this has been done before--at least the idea is original and comes straight from my yeasty old brain.
  • The curves and shapes of the figure are repeated in the landscape. No new idea in Post-Impressionism, but not too obvious right off in this picture.
  • The whole thing opens like a flower from the bottom center. "Growing from the roots of the world". There are three coloured spheres in the bottom third, representing the three primary colours, and the Cosmic, um, other stuff... .
  • Things are just abstract enough to allow a certain capriciousness, but still hold their literal signposts well. I'm particularly happy with the potted plant and the gramophone.
  • The planes are logically arranges in spacial progression, but maintain the 2-dimensionality of the picture surface.
  • The heavy overpainting actually contributes to the physicality of the thing, which is gratifying. You can see the evidence of the battle!

The drawing I took the image from, done in the same session as the drawing for "Sea Music", and with the same model (Ava). I assumed, or was hoping , that I would have the same success as "Sea Music", which was almost effortless to paint and still stands as my best figurative works to date (and one of my best oils, period). The muse is fickle, and often punishes glibness.

Stage 1, the underdrawing. I thought I had the composition fairly well planned... . You can see the difficulty already emerging of the piece being too heavy to the right. Placing the figure dead-center didn't help, either. The pyramidal/ diamond foundation of the composition, is of course, not new in Western Art, and signals that I wanted this one to be monumental.

After the first three reworkings. I called my good friend and colleague, Sheedo Shirazi over, whose sense of the picture I have come to trust implicitly. She suggested some major and fundamental changes, which were all directly incorporated into the final version at the top of this post. I knew it was a matter of balance, but couldn't see the forest for the trees, and was getting tired of throwing paint at it! She put me straight, suggesting the plant motif for the right, and moving the gramophone to the left. This photo shows me just rubbing some thinned-out white over the areas to be corrected.

Detail of some crunchy bits. There's five layers of paint there, some places. (How does one paint a "cubist" apple?)

I'm very happy with the colour nuances and the distribution of planes in this part. You can just see the old black vinyl peaking out there. Much of this part just happened. The gramophone image here has kinda morphed into some strange, beautiful snake-like, flowering almost sexual symbol for me. Sometimes, the thing paints itself and suggests what it wants as it develops.

So much of this one just happened, after the planning went sideways. All this goes to prove that I am not as left-brain as some people suspect, and that I can surprise myself with my own persistence!



Well, here I am down to working 2-3 days a week at the day-job, and I'm sick with a really bad stomach bug, and probably will be for a few more days. So no workie. (I caught it at one of the two care-homes I work at, and am in self-imposed quarantine, so don't any of you be coming over!)

But, if I can successfully fight off the impulse to spend all day in bed, I'll be at the easel. And that is what I did today, finishing two long-dragged-on oils. Biggies, too.

I have another dandy to finish that'll blow your doors off, of some power poles near Tsawwassen. I'll be posting the first two tomorrow, and the Tsawwassen piece soonish (little finicky thing with the sky to fix).

For now, here are some smaller works that I haven't posted yet. Sort of clearing the mental racks befor some big stuff comes down. I have about a dozen large landscapes in the usual style I would like to work up this winter, some recently shot, others gleaned from the photo archives.

Sometimes I love the view from the ol' apartment. It is not all carbon soot and sirens.

I find 15 or 20 minutes is good enough to get a decent drawing. This is Keith, an aboriginal guy who is all lean muscle.

Spectacular sky, winter, 2007.

Keith again.

"Solve et Coagula"
As above, so below.

Lots of rock behind my block... .

I get bored waiting for food in restaurants, so I draw things.


Still Life at the Gallery

Well, it was my turn to sit at the Collective Works Gallery the other week, and I had brought along the water colours but was at a loss as to what to paint. I knew I wanted cubism, but didn't feel inspired to do anything in particular. Then I discovered that Deryk had a cello stashed in the back room. Well, well.

I had an apple on me, some notebooks, and then some bloke came in with a bag of bay boughs from his garden. And they all made it in there.

Certainly the most fragmented of my cubist paintings, and the most exacting as far as execution goes. I am also loving painting on the 140lb Arches paper. 100% rag all the time.

There is a definite compression toward the center of the piece. Some of the more striking elements were added as the thing progressed, and not at all planned.

It's not the most rigidly planned image I've done for sure, cubist or otherwise. The center especially is a free-form of associations. Cubism can be as spontaneous or as scientific as you like, I guess, and that is one of the beauties of the paradigm.

"Still Life With Cello"
10X 12" Water Colour & White Gouache

Ran into my neighbour and colleague Caroline on the way home from the mall today after getting this scanned. Nice to have cool people close by.

I have two big honkin' oils close to being finished that I am itching to post here. Patience, patience.... . I also must do a blog posting on No. 5 Gallery, which represents me, and has 5 of my best paintings under contract. This is old news in some respects, but needs some serious air-time on here.

Shout out to all my neglected friends who are reading this.