… but the sky is empty.

large paintings in my studio

A short video of large paintings in my studio (and online store) as of August 1st, 2017. I want to make more of these kinds of things, as much for my own memory (it doesn’t take long to forget what I’ve done, what I’ve sold where) as anything else.


The title of this post comes from a Sylvia Plath quotation: “I talk to God but the sky is empty.” It fits well with the first painting I’ve done since getting back from holidays ––and back into the studio this past Sunday, called The Doubter.

The Doubter; mixed media, 24 x 30 x 1.75 inches, cradled wood panel.

In Dracula, Bram Stoker writes: “I am all in a sea of wonders. I doubt; I fear; I think strange things, which I dare not confess to my own soul.”

I doubt almost everything these days. I turn on the radio and hear impossible things – Los Angeles actually wanting the 2028 Summer Olympics (please see the smoking economic ruins of Athens, Rio, et al) or the son of an American president taking hotel-room meetings with Russians. What to eat, what not to eat (right now fasting seems to be a thing), how to exercise, what to read, what to wear, how to get rich. As I get older I seem to have embraced a kind of blankness, as if the noise of the world was smoke, and the only real thing behind it is the idea that I should stick to my own plans.


But I did have a good holiday, in that crooked little cottage overlooking the Northumberland Strait. Two weeks was enough: I read four books, took innumerable naps, walked in the ocean, hit golf balls with a wedge from sandbar to sandbar, up and down the shore. But I always fill up with schemes and intention while on holiday, so it’s good to be back, and we’ll see how we do.

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The heart of a maiden is a dark forest.

themaiden2x

themaiden1x

The Maiden; mixed media on cradled wood panel, 18 x 24 x 1.75 inches.


Second blonde in a row for me, while still on this kick of icons (martyrs, idols, demigods, characters more poster than real) in a larger format. But the ideas for working small are creeping in, too.


Strange times. I look at the news and see spidery arrangements in lies and advertising. Of course the broken centre of this is the president of the United States, a character so blurry and appalling as to not seem real. Which, in a way, he is not. It seems even within the confines of his own skull he is not. The cultural historian Patrick Wright once described him as

A smudged deadbeat left over from the Reagan era … and propped up in a temporary kind of way by ailing US and Japanese banks that couldn’t afford to let him expire completely … If Trump was in the White House which, as he was rash enough to hint in those undiminished days, he might well be before too long, then he could follow the examples of Presidents Reagan and Harding, and look for astrological anchorage in the stars.

Or Twitter. That was in 1991. I guess this is the logical wreckage of neoliberalism, of the the triumph of markets and money and branded individualism above all. Trump speaks the language of reality television, which is really very simple: promise anything to anyone, and otherwise say whatever you need to say to confuse the issue, while advancing spaces in your mind. Even on TV this is sometimes dubious.


My attention to this is sporadic, at best. All I can do is work. There are really very few things I am any good at. I hope painting is one of them.

june is no summer at all

someabsencesinmyknowledgeofreality5x

someabsencesx

Or at least it hasn’t been –– just gloom and humidity, with intermissions of wind and rain. An impression of weak sun, here and there. WAKE UP.

Summer is hard on the artist. Rounding the corner into July, which announces itself as SUMMER in the same way that Godzilla enters a room –– no matter what the weather, YOU WILL HAVE FUN, YOU MUST BE HAVING FUN –– one can almost feel the psychic descent that takes place, as all plans go out the window, and the notion of work becomes a mannequin heaved to the sidewalk. All around you, all the time, nothing is getting done.

But art doesn’t like to be picked up and discarded at one’s convenience. Certainly, there are ebbs and flows, but ‘breaks’ have a certain price tag attached –– muscles not used, imagination in decay.

For me, the fact that I have a studio that I pay for exclusively with proceeds from my visual art and writing demands that I use it consistently and effectively. It means discipline. It means going in there regularly and making something from nothing.

I have two weeks coming up where I should get to do a lot of work in a hurry. Wish me luck.

large paintings, lately

howdistressingitwas_howgloriousandradiantandmineforever1x

how distressing it was … how glorious and radiant and mine forever; mixed media on cradled wood panel, 24 x 30 x 1.75 inches. *sold*

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So I’m back to big paintings again. This seems to happen from time to time, in the same way that sometimes I only want to work with small things, to create art objects. Still, paintings are different. They are not art objects. Their size, their presence in a room, is a thing unto itself. A painting never needs to be explained.

 

thelittlequeenx

thelittlequeen4x

The Little Queen, VII; mixed media on cradled wood panel, 24 x 30 x 1.75 inches. *sold*

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I think you can grow tired of the fussiness of little work, of art objects. Things needing tags. Whereas with a painting, you walk into a room and go to work and don’t come out until you have something. You treat it roughly. Something is made from nothing, and there’s an interrogation along the way.

 

thesummer1x

thesummer3x

The Summer, XIX; an original mixed media painting on cradled wood panel, 24 x 30 x 1 3/4 inches, here.

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By its very nature, a painting reaches for the iconic. So I’ve been thinking in those terms –– about symbolic things, as if a painting could be a missing card from the Major Arcana.

 

theworld1x

theworld5x

theworld3x

The World, XXI; an original mixed media painting on cradled wood panel, 24 x 30 x 1 3/4 inches, here.

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Anyway, it’s all that I want to do right now, so it better work. And isn’t that the last words of any artist?

set up to go

october3_2x

The best way to come into the studio in the morning is to find it already set up for work. If you take the time to do this before you leave the previous evening, then the next day you can just walk in, take off your jacket, open your coffee, and start to work. For an artist, this is like sitting down to dinner.

october3_3x

october3_1x

The aftermath of three cigar-tin stories. I don’t paint the covers with any idea in mind; I just find three reference pictures that are compelling in some way. That’s it. To proceed in any other fashion is to be self-conscious (once you start thinking too much about what you’re doing, you’re in trouble). It’s only afterwards that I try to match the image with a story –– which isn’t that difficult since I literally have hundreds of stories, writing something new every week for my Ban Righ writer’s group.

Image

lucky #1

The poet Ariel Gordon only emails me when she wants something, and the last thing she wanted was a prompt to help her write (“you hafta send me something to write to,” she wrote/demanded, so eloquently). Fine – I was in the studio a metric tonne all weekend anyway, doing (and re-doing) the illustrations for a novella, listening to Laura Branigan sing Gloria over and over again, until I got what I needed.

The drawing above is completely different from the forty-five others that I did that day; at the time, it was meant as a break. And all I could think was: she looks so lucky, lucky, lucky. So this is the first in a series of luckies.

Lucky #1.