Tad Spurgeon oil paintings


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      A Sunday look at process and product.

august 18

      A few lower humidity days to start off the week with cool nights, but now back to the usual, a lot of thunderstorms that never came here again, relatively brutal the last few days, Lily has been spending the days inside, going out at night. Another brief round of lower humidity days next week, seems like it gets officially cooler in the second half of September. Week of the full moon, the Schumann resonance was all over the place this week, had three days when I could do very little. Growing up, this used to be part of the righteous frustration of August, but, since coming back, year by year I've slowly learned to be more patient, back off, be more comfortable with being when doing is off limits. I mean, I like it that we all exist eternally in the flow, movement, and limitless possibilities of the Creator, but personally, it usually takes a little while to slow down enough to give them an opportunity. So, in spite of everything, I kept asking questions, meaning there were a few interesting developments, but it wasn't like last week, where the process felt jet-propelled. I liked what did happen, but feel like it was more about going further with what's possible than making official finished work. Partly this is the cumulative experience of the heat this summer, I just don't have that much oomph left to work with compared to June. But more is also happening in the work, and I'm getting more comfortable just letting it go where it wants to, instead of trying to give it rosy cheeks and a coy look for the Salon. So, because there is so much distrust of this inherent desire to make product, that feels good, but also makes me realize how much, in the past, this process has been involved in judgement on the one hand, and the quest for the permanently-viable product on the other. Which seems kind of silly at this remove, but pretty much all lessons learned feel that way in retrospect. I knew the wings were wax, why did I try to fly so high?


      A few people have asked about linseed oil soap recently. There used to be a nice one called Ugly Dog, this was sold to Richeson, they now put out a version of it that has "natural cleansers" in it as well, whatever those are. It might be fine, I don't know, at this point for me the art supply industry is guilty until proven innocent. There is a version of it on the Viking Sales website as well, made by a boutique soap firm in California, but, again, it is enhanced with natural cleansers. Viking sales has the Swedish linseed oil soap by Ottosson and Allback, but this is for wood, and is diluted, it is like Murphy's Oil Soap, only made with linseed oil. A few years ago, having had good luck making small amounts of linseed oil soap using potassium hydroxide, I decided to make a large batch. This went on and on, and never quite turned into soap, it got too late, I decided to give up. Which was silly, I should have just turned it off, and started again the next day with a little more hydroxide solution. Anyway, I've got 4 pints of it, about 150 dollars worth if I can actually turn it into soap! One of them has actually become soap on the top, pictured here, but about an inch beneath this it's still proto-soap. So, when the weather finally cools off, it might be fun to see if I can finish this soap, it probably won't take too long. This stuff is incredibly concentrated and great for cleaning brushes.


      In theory beeswax will bleach in the light if its in water. Got this wax from an apiary in VT years ago, it has only been in situ for about a month now.


      Was cruising around looking at materials and found this beeswax by R&F Encaustics, they say it is bleached mechanically rather than chemically. The Kremer bleached beeswax I've been using has a somewhat industrial "cooked" smell I'm not that thrilled about, which actually started off this round of more interest in wax. Anyway, this R&F wax smells like a jar of honey, I mean, exactly, which I like better. Next we'll see how it performs.


      Last year I did a lot of experiments refining linseed oil with various emulsions, as originally suggested by my friend Roland. This was fun, mostly because there were so many different things that worked to create the emulsion, and also because the emulsion system cleans the oil really well. Here's an example of one of the emulsion-refined oils, allowed to autoxidize a little beyond the thickness of stand oil. I'm holding the jar parallel to the floor, the oil is being held in by the dried film. You can see there's an access hole in the dried film just above the oil on the right. The area above and around the hole is the dried film itself. And if you're thinking that is very light for an autoxidized film of this thickness, I agree!


      Made some small panels this week, a few days when this was all I could hope to do. Sort of jumping the gun in terms of where I am with the colourscape work, but it's nice to have them around.


      Have tried several different ways of making sketches and drawings for these paintings, but nothing has been immediate enough. This is the approach I like best so far, small marker studies on odds and ends of printmaking paper. Of all the counter-intuitive things, at first I thought it was going to be too goofy, but as soon as I got some of them going it helped: they carve up the space with colour quickly, allowing a lot of variations to be explored without getting fussy or being " like a painting." Of course, now I need more markers. I typically resist urges like this but I've been a prisoner of the heat too long so something fun needed to happen. I didn't know that these things come in hundreds of groovy colours now. Who could resist "Aubergine?" Well, I did, but it was a near run thing. Still, it would be interesting if colour names got a little edgier. I might have gone for a purple called "Livid Bruise," for example. Of course, I wish they made the process primaries in a dozen values, but that would be too simple, encourage too much in the way of creative colour interaction.


      Started this one last Sunday, fiddled around with it on Monday morning. Noe colours, a new type of composition, I like the proportion but the vertical emphasis is probably too much, an indication of someone who is tired. Changed the medium to get more additive density, it worked but maybe too well. Still, too much grab is better than too much glide at this scale. About 5x13.5 inches, oil on gessoed paper.


      Started this the day of the full moon, very warm in the studio, it slid too much in spite of everything I did. Did more on it the next morning, it ended up feeling pretty full in terms of the colour. Tried an underpainting using markers, isolated it with a translucent chalk gesso, this worked but the look of the marks that peak through is too different, and I actually didn't like following a pattern. Some interesting new elements in this one, but not fully resolved: a little too angular or static overall. It will be fun to revisit this concept in a while, though. About 8x9 inches, oil on Arches Huile.


      The various odds and ends of hide glue in the fridge had deteriorated, so switched back to a small amount of starch in the medium for this one instead of a small amount of hide glue as a way to make the paint seize. Used twice the amount of starch as hide glue, in theory this should produce the same level of hold, but it was just too hot in the studio, this one slid a reasonable amount all day long. This situation could probably be solved by breaking out the sandarac varnish, but I don't have much of it and I'm not sure I want to make any more hard-resin varnish at this point. In theory it could be done in the backyard, the smoky final part is pretty focused and not that long, so *probably* would not result in one of the neighbors calling the fire department. Anyway, this will become less focal as it cools off again and the paint sets more. Did this one from a pencil drawing, nothing underneath. Didn't want to introduce more colour, orange was logical but I kept taking it out, this led to a little more cohesion but the colour isn't really resolved, another one that's more about asking questions than answering them. Some aspects of it that I like, see detail below, nice balance of angles and curves in this. There's a lot of lyrical internal landscape to explore, will go further with this approach. Waning moon and a lot of heat next week, time to back off, mMaybe some drawings and marker studies, develop the structural vocabulary. Stay spacious, remain cool, calm, and collected: Daedalus, not Icarus. Not too much more of the heat to go, but it's not over yet. About 8.25x13.5 inches, oil on gessoed paper.


      Lily on the porch roof on one of the cool afternoons early this week. She was checking out the downspout thoroughly to see if anybody might be in there, but looked up when I leaned out the window with the camera. I got a pound of rose quartz a while back and put it in the bedroom on either side of the pillow. She's discovered this and often takes a nap right next to it.

august 11

      Uniformly hot and sticky week until yesterday, a few low humidity days in progress now, the first since June, whew. Actually got a little bothered by the heat one day, took me a while to realize it since it hasn't happened this year so far, sort of a surprise since in theory it's been much hotter. But maybe it's all cumulative, even Lily has stopped going out so much in the heat of the day, it's been nice to have her hanging out in various cooler spots while I work. One bang-up thunderstorm that went on and on, those long slow sizzling hisses in the sky before a boom, went out for a walk late as it was ending, I love that kind of light. Waxing moon, a week with a lot of background tension somehow, nothing specific, possibly just the sense of being imprisoned in the heat with no end in sight that I associate with August. The eighth day of the eighth month is called the Lion's Gate in astrology, traditionally a time of increased communication between above and below. The Schumann Resonance has been going nuts off and on for about a week now, so I wonder if this tense feeling -- as though something is growing in spite of everything that is trying to stop it from growing -- might be due to that too. A few negative things happened via e-males from Vermont, notable in their way but historically pretty minor for August. People evolve in different ways over time, perhaps stay in touch too long. It helps to have realized that all forms of verbal abuse are autobiographical, and that turning emotional lead into gold is the foundation of soul growth. Also, that there is now closure, completion. Did my best to keep focused on the positive, this and the ever-therapeutic nature of the work seemed to help balance things again more quickly. Of course, once you transmute one event, they begin to get the next one ready. Have been doing lots of work the last month or so with the asteroids in astrology, these are relatively new and there are of course lots of them, but if they're limited to very close aspects to natal planets or angles they really begin to tell a much more detailed story. It's both fascinating and a kind of shocking in terms of the symbolic sense of completion that's there. But it makes sense if the universe is one infinite being exploring itself in an infinite variety of fractals. So, I'm involved in proving to myself at yet another level that the definition of reality I was brought up with is hopelessly shallow. The most fun imaginable, to be honest: infinity is the best revenge. The work had a good week in general, maybe more in terms of the growth of the colourscape process than in actually completing images. But putting too much stress on completion and not enough on growth is what stunted the process back in 2007, when I made and sold many of these. I'd love to make these at their former home scale, which was some variation of half a 22x30 sheet, but exploring lots of options at a small scale first really seems to be helping their specific gravity, some of them have more weight or clout this week in a way I really like. Still, the bigger size is more physically natural, so at some point -- like, when August is over -- it will just naturally start to happen again. I used to sort of fret over this kind of stuff: strategizing about what to do, making the best plans. But the present moment makes much better plans than I do: things work out much better when they get to assemble themselves their own way. Are the process and its materials sentient? Unfortunately for the Newtonian empiricist that lurks in most of us, it cannot really be any other way in an infinite universe. This approach is also much more interesting to experience, because it is always creating a surprise: the next step beyond what I thought was possible. Is the process then the teacher? What do you think?


      It's been too hot to make a cup of tea in the morning so I've gone to cold-brewed tea with the assorted lower caffeine oolong teas, mostly from Darjeeling, leftover from last year. This method reveals a lot of flavours that you can smell, but which are often muted, or even eliminated, by even lower temperature hot water brewing. So, the result is brighter tasting, more floral and dimensional, and sometimes surprisingly nice. The problem is that it takes three days to get it right. Well, only a problem because it means being organized when it's so hot there's not that much brain to be organized with.


      One thing I do periodically is deal with jars of hand-refined linseed oil that are getting too thick. I used to thick there was no such thing as too think, but I've realized that, especially with brighter colour in a humid climate, too much saturation can lower the tone of tone work a little over time. I've usually made this oil a little thinner and less likely to darken under stress with autoxidized poppy oil, or autoxidized walnut oil. The oil mix doesn't get too much thinner, but it stops thickening at such a strong rate because of the poppy or walnut oil. But right now autoxidized walnut and poppy oil are at something of a premium, so I tried cutting some thicker autoxidized linseed oil today with a heat polymerized oil, the thinner one from Kremer, which is the most non-yellowing oil named stand oil I have. The Graphic Chemical burnt plate oils #5 and #7 are also pretty non-yellowing, but made by a slightly different process. Anyway, mixed about 2 parts thick autoxidized hand-refined linseed oil with 1 part Kremer stand oil, the stand oil was about half as thick as the autoxidized oil. As I began to stir it, I got a surprise: it got thicker. Not a lot thicker, but some. I stirred it several times over a period of a few minutes because of the thickness of the oils, and the different way they were thickened: one with high heat in a vacuum, the other with light and air. Each time I started to stir it, it seized slightly, and, in the end, the little air bubbles in it were virtually motionless. The bubbles disappeared by the end of the afternoon, but the oil is still turbid, so something is going on in there. It will be interesting to monitor this oil over the next few months to see if it slowly becomes more gelatinous from the interaction of the two different types of thicker oil involved.


      Started with this one, more dynamic composition with curves and diagonals, a lot of punch or pizazz in the colour application. It's hard to believe I've had the same tube of phthalo green for fifteen years, but a little does go a long way. About 9.5x10.75 inches, oil on gessoed paper.


      Next went to something with quieter colour and the Golden Rectangle proportion. I like both the colour and the vastness of this and the layers are settling nicely in life, but it doesn't seem totally resolved. About 8.25x13.5 inches, oil on gessoed paper.


      Next made a blue and purple one. It feels like both the colour scheme and the composition have potential but the different types of geometry need to be more integrated, and I'd like the colour to have some higher values. So, something new to explore again in another one. About 9.5x10.75 inches, oil on gessoed paper.


      This one was fascinating to work on, the small scale of the marks made the scale seem vast, which was very peaceful to work on. But I ended up feeling it isn't quite resolved. Right now I like the right half better than the left half, or maybe the left third. Unlike the one above, I want to do more to this one first, rather than using it as a point of departure for a new one. But it feels like there's something here worth pursuing, especially as a model for one at a larger scale. About 9.5x10.75 inches, oil on gessoed paper.


      This was Friday, was a little at sixes and sevens about doing it or taking the day off. It was a little like a bucking bronco, a lot of energy but not a lot of control for quite some time. It featured a lot of goofy stripes and patterns but I got rid of most of them, a lot if wholesale removal in this one, not ideal because the colour isn't layered to the same extent, this makes it a little raw for me, but I ended up liking the overall look, and the idea of blending the more dramatic and pastoral elements of earlier in the week. About 9.5x10.75 inches, oil on gessoed paper.


      Lily waiting out a giant thunderstorm inside on Thursday afternoon. She spent more daylight time inside this week, was typically out from 3am to 11 am. We were both relieved when it cooled off on Saturday.

august 4

      Uniformly hot week: not that hot, and not that humid, but warm at night, meaning warmer in the house in the morning, AC on all the time, increased caffeine intake to remain functional. Have managed, but not succeeded in being grateful for, the humid heat, therefore it must build character. Week of the new moon, a lot of new wanted to happen in a quiet way, sort of a surprise with the moon in Leo, expected more of a roar. August is not traditionally the best month for me, I associate it with an almost terminal sense of lassitude and frustration from growing up here, the possibility of a more functional summer was a big attraction of Vermont. But, as the sovereign architect of my multiverse experience, I'm changing that. Now. Yes. So, this August is not being done to me, it's being done for me. Is this creative narcissism? Ha-ha, bring it! I'd love to define progress in terms of moving relentlessly forward, but unfortunately, experience has shown that, if it's going to be creative, it's also about pausing and reassessing things. August is really good for this. I need to work on appreciating this more; can accept being the tortoise, but will always long to be the hare. So, this week: steered clear of a few distractions on offer, and generated a little balanced growth in the process: about all I can ask for right now.


      I'd always wondered about methyl cellulose as a size, Gottsegen is actually positive about it, and especially since, from the smell, it seemed to be what Arches used to make their oil-proof paper, Huile. But it's funny, it was hard to get off the mark on this one, possibly because glue gesso has been such a friend for me, possibly because it would take so long to really learn about it. There are lots of different kinds of methyl cellulose, used by conservators as a glue. In the past I've used it to make tempera, a paint I love, and in very small amounts of seize a medium. Did a test this week, 5cc generic methyl cellulose from Talas in 100 ml water, it was a liquid gel. Put this on a scrap of Tiepolo, let it dry, put some oil on it, no seepage after 24 hours. Then made some gesso using methyl cellulose instead of glue, kept everything else the same. It's denser than glue, more apt to make impasto, needs to be brushed out well, but had a nice character that way once I got used to it. A little buckled once dry, but this disappeared after being weighted overnight. On the whole, a softer feeling, a lot less surface tension than glue, the pieces of Tiepolo have no tendency to curl. So, hard to say, may or may not do more with this, a lot of testing would be needed on canvas, for example, with an oil primer, but so far it seems to work well enough to keep going with it as an experiment on paper or panels.


      So, it turns out that, to get natron, you don't need to go to Egypt, you just need an ancient dry lake bed. Well, chemically, that may be a slight exaggeration, but there's lots of sodium sesquicarbonate, the major ingredient, in America. The mineral is generally called trona, after the small mining town near Death Valley in California where it was originally found. Photo is of the Trona Pinnacles. I was thinking I might be able to get a chunk of trona, when a search on Amazon actually turned up sodium sesquicarbonate, so I got some of that instead. Because it is salt-free, it may be less yellowing over time in oil than the mineral, which contains small amounts of salt. It's actually being marketed in England as Borax Substitute, since the EU has decided borax is toxic.


      This month's test panel is getting kind of lively. Various wax tests, then I realized -- duh, as usual -- that a medium formula could be tested additively, ingredient by ingredient, so did a few of those.


      Test of the sodium sesquicarbonate wax, it's not as dense and creamy as the soap-emulsified wax, but is more coherent, less fluffy, than wax emulsified with sodium carbonate alone.


      Started here this week, tiny test using a little of last week's fake natron wax in the medium. Slightly different palette, just wanted to play around, sometimes little can be big. About 4x5 inches, oil on Arches Huile.


      Second one this week, slightly softer version of the same palette, the medium made somewhat denser impasto. Felt it was a little staid, but decided to move on rather than get into major surgery. About 8x9 inches, oil on Arches Huile.


      Third one, same palette, more acceleration or tension in the composition. This one has a lot of zip in life, a nice balance of certainty and alteration, a peak in the type of progress produced naturally -- that is, slowly -- by the process. About 8x9 inches, oil on Arches Huile.


      Fourth one, decided to go to a Golden Rectangle. The colour layering evolved in this, but things got a little confused about the composition. Didn't look at the previous one, just thought about it, was surprised at how similar this one became. Also got a little confused about the scale here. Want to change something about the right hand third: for example, if the right hand pink area becomes light green that solves it. But, best to just let it sit for a while. Wanted to work with Arches Huile as a way of making things lighter, as in less serious, but, well-done as it is, it does not grip the paint for layering as thoroughly the glue gesso ground with some silica and that 200 grit marble dust. So may go back to that on Tiepolo. Like keeping the colour lyrical and organic. Am aware of other kinds of colour, but it seems like the colour decisions have to be more emotional than anything else. Am slowly getting a sense of what is important and what is extraneous within the composition, this has always been the weakest link, fun to see it responding bit by bit. About 8.25x13.5 inches, oil on Arches Huile.


      Lily has a group of friends in the neighborhood, people who walk by our house on their way home from the train, and enjoy her. I had a chat with one of them this week. He wanted to know if I thought Lily was part Bengal, and I said, Well, at first I thought so, and then I looked at lots of other tabby cat photos and began to think not. He thought that the marking on her forehead was a sure indication, but for me the surest one at this point is that she's got a big personality and a goofy sense of humor. This week she actually spent part of a couple nights inside. On the first of these, I woke up suddenly in the middle of night, thinking I had just had a dream that Lily was trying to wake me up. I was lying there, in that huh? what? daze, trying to sort out what had just happened, when she popped up by the side of the bed and whacked my hand again. I always get a big kick out of this, its somehow related to that bit in the old Captain Kangaroo show when Bunny Rabbit tricks the Captain out of a bunch of carrots once again and sweeps them victoriously off. Anyway, I had this sudden surge of elation: Lily's here! And, in this absurdly good mood, got up to feed her and let her out. Has she trained me well, or what? The neighborhood is very quiet, and sort of dream-like, at 3 am on a summer night.

july 28

      In progress...High summer, the giant hibiscus are out in the neighborhood, such a gloriously nutty flower. Another uniformly hot week, some cooler nights earlier, lower humidity in general, was able to turn off the AC for a few days, always a nice break. A lot of energy from the heat, but less focus in the third week of the moon, tried to just keep going with interesting but also familiar results. I like where the colourscapes are going overall but have to go slowly, let the process build bit by bit over time. August is around the corner, traditionally the month that requires the most patience, typically in an unexpected way. New moon late on the 31st, the last one packed quite a wallop. Lots of tension in the sky still between the new Feminine and the old Masculine, we'll see what assortment of spats and revelations this moon brings.


      Each week a lot seems to happen on this marble tile. I always mix the medium into the paint at 1 part medium to 4 parts paint. This ends up balancing relatively small proportions of certain ingredients. It starts with 1/2 teaspoon of a thicker fused damar and beeswax medium, then there's 1/8 teaspoon of egg yolk, these are standard, but the other ingredients move around a bit. There's a measuring spoon called a "pinch" that I'm using a lot now, this is 1/16 of a teaspoon, which works out to about 2 percent of the total paint film. Stronger ingredients like BPO#7 or hard resin varnish definitely need to be used at this proportion. This element of proportion is crucial in being able to fine tune a medium, but also in terms of using various ingredients successfully. Painters often want to be able to categorize ingredients as good or bad -- I run into this a lot reading threads on Facebook -- but for this to be relevant, there need to be qualifiers, and quantifiers, involved. The universe is designed so that, the more we pay attention to a given process, the more predictable and elegant our results can be. We tend to accept this only to an extent, and formulate rules about what works and what doesn't. We don't want to walk, this takes too long. We want to drive, this creates the illusion of greater progress, so we need a "road" to drive on. This compresses time, (whereas walking expands it), thus making us think there is less time. This creates more of a sense of urgency, making it that much harder to pay attention. The endless loop of devolution called "America." In larger terms, since the process is infinite, any set of rules can only work to an extent. Beyond that, the rules bind the process, meaning the process either dies, or rebels until we pay attention to it at another level. We have free will, and can attempt to define life in an empirically predictable and simplistic way, but what life actually does is change and grow infinitely. This process of growth, of becoming more, is literally built into every particle of the universe. It cannot be stopped by any human agency. There are of course people who remain involved in using money and power to try to thwart growth. Yet, this involves working against the agenda of their own molecules.


      Tried the paper sandwich again this week with a glue based on methyl cellulose, with about 7% PVA added by volume. This was a little easier to work with than the starch base and seems to have worked out the best so far in terms of laying flat. There's sort of a Zen thing to getting *just* the right amount of glue on. Sometimes I get it, but then I think I've got it and lose it. But it's easy to add a little more, usually to the bottom edge. Also, it's crucial to burnish both sides of the paper!


      My friend Roland sent me an interesting abstract of a book that's about to be published. It's an analysis of the Donna Nuda at the Hermitage. There's a series of these nudes, in theory based on a lost Leonardo drawing. The weird thing about this is that, even the Hermitage says this painting is "school of Leonardo." Whatever that means: museum code for scholars made such a stink we had to change the attribution even though we didn't want to. To me it doesn't even look like it was made in the same century or country. But the authors of the book are very clear that they are the first scholars to have actually analyzed a Leonardo. Zowie! I guess after Salvator Mundi, everything is now a Leonardo. Quick, how can we capitalize?


      Roland also sent me an interesting doctoral dissertation this week that deals with the use of saponified wax in various Roman wall paintings. The version I've used in the past is emulsified with a very small amount of handmade soap, I thought it was *the* old Roman wall painting version, as opposed to the ammonium carbonate Greek medieval version, but this paper focuses on a third method. The soap method has worked very well in small amounts to tighten the paint and make it more thixotropic. On its own, or with a water-based binder, this material is very non-yellowing, and medium tests with this type of ewax added have also all yellowed less than tests without. The new versions were made with sodium carbonate, and a mixture of sodium carbonate, sodium bicarbonate, and salt that approximates the composition of natron. Natron is a complex salt from Egypt that was used both for enbalming and to saponify beeswax. The fake natron version is a little finer, and neither of these are dense, creamy, and fudgey like the soap version ewax. On the surface, the soap ewax is a more congenial material, the newer ewax variations aren't as seizing or thixotropic but I made a very nice mobile emulsion using one of them with a little BPO, hide glue, and chalk. I made some simple yellowing tests with the new versions, but will have to work them into a medium and a painting test at some point to begin to understand what they do. So, maybe this approach is not better or worse, but different. The key will be whether small amounts produce a film that is as resistant to yellowing as the soap version.


      The Wadi El Natron outside the Nile Delta in Egypt. Yikes.


      Medium test using the fake natron ewax. This was 4 parts BPO #5, 8 parts chalk or marble dust, 1 part beeswax paste (wax in minimal oms), 1 part natron wax, and 1 drop of Manila copal in oil of rosemary for 2.5 ml of medium (1/2 teaspoon). The natron wax arrests the slide of the beeswax, but the thixotropy comes from the very small amount of Manila copal. Used at 1 part medium to 4 parts paint, this is about 4% wax. (For the math, I cut the parts of chalk or marble dust in half because they contain so much air.) If the natron wax is as non-yellowing as the original soap emulsified wax, this might be very nice as a way to alter the strong glide and leveling behavior of the readily available heat polymerized oils like stand oil and BPO.


      Wanted to make something a little larger, this proved to be a much easier scale to navigate. Had fun with this one, people tend to think of red, yellow, and blue as "basic" but it all depends on how you approach it A different type of chromatic detail than the last few weeks, but am not sure it's done. Something might need to change on the right. About 13.5x15 inches, oil on Arches Huile.


      It's been a long time since I was waylaid by a premixed colour. This is Persian Rose, by Williamsburg. It has a warm and cool red, a yellow, and titanium white. I thought, Oh no, titanium white. Then I thought, Stop being so serious, it's just one colour: what could go wrong?


      Well, a lot. Got a later start with this one on Thursday, and didn't feel the composition that strongly. Not the best sign, but I just decided to move on through it, not be stopped. Had a great deal of fun with the colour that day, but in the end the composition was still up in the air. Did more on it Friday, a lot of surgery, full removal, then new colour. This was also fun, never say die, a new level of rescue operation, but everything began to get opaque and sort of chalky, the dreaded look I associate with more than a small amount of titanium white. The last thing I did was begin to open it up again, carving into edges and removing many small divots of paint in patterns. This actually came pretty close to getting it going in a good direction again. If you cover up the upper right hand corner, the rest of it makes kind of wacky sense. So, a good example of what happens when I try something new during a waning moon, and also of what happens when an opaque boutique colour takes over: will experiment with a transparent version of Persian Rose and see how that works out. Not that much paint on this, all things considered, but I'll wait a month or so before doing more to it. In larger terms the most important thing right now is to keep pushing the boundaries, accrue more grammar and vocabulary. 9.5x10.75 inches, oil on gessoed paper.


      Lily comes in later in the afternoon and has a snack. Sometimes in the heat I also give her some plain non-fat yogurt, she lets me know if she wants this by taking up a specific position in the kitchen. She only eats it from my fingers, it's how the process started and she likes traditions. I have to admit that the feeling of her tongue on my fingertips is always very fun, another way in which, without words, communication occurs. She likes to spend time in the studio if it gets really hot out and I'm in there, she's surprisingly good about leaving paint related things alone but I wanted to make a place that was sequestered and easily cleanable. The window is a favorite spot so I made her a new official place there with a clean towel and some quartz crystals. It was really nice there earlier in the week with the window open and a breeze. There are ways in which she goes out of here way to take care of me, so it makes sense to do what I can for her in return. I used to wonder why people "spoiled" their pets, but not anymore!

july 20

      Week of the full moon, another eclipse, and a heat wave. Have just been running one ac unit so far, but it got up to 86F in the studio this week, a little too hot for me, so put in the other one. Removing the bedroom ac unit was one of Lily's favorite domestic events last fall, because she got to hop down through the open window onto the back porch roof for the first time. She wanted to do the same thing yesterday, while I was working with opening the jammed screen while balancing the air conditioner on the sill. It was pretty funny, collision of feline and human agendas. I love that oh boy look of anticipation she gets, those big green eyes begin to gleam, but couldn't let it happen this time, it was way too hot out already. Really hot in the sun today, but less humid, not as bad in the shade as earlier in the week. And earlier did feature one relatively difficult event, someone was murdered across the street on Monday evening. I was in the bedroom and heard seven shots at very close range, four and then three. Spoke to my downstairs neighbor who called on the phone, she wanted it to be fireworks, then went outside onto the porch. There were already people in the street, milling and looking dazed, so I knew someone had been shot. I didn't see the body, even though it was right across the street. Lily showed up at that point and wanted to come inside. A great many police officers were milling around with flashlights across the street for the next hour, the very hot looking detective in a suit I spoke to the next day said the victim was not from the neighborhood and that it was probably drug related. This happened in front of the old train station across the street, and the unsurveiled open space of these suburban stations in the evening has a history of this type of thing. In the time I've been back, there have been several instances of murder being imported into this otherwise safe neighborhood because the police presence here is so minimal. My neighbors are upset, so to speak, and trying to figure out something to get the city to do, install a camera at the station, etc., but from that perspective the problem remains a few miles away, not here. In larger terms, it seems better to move away from negative events, instead of concentrating on trying to prevent more of them. I did pretty well with this this week, it felt an extension of the last few years training in not allowing the endless negative manipulation of the mainstream news to affect me, and, more importantly, in working on changing my own negative thought patterns when they occur. Spent some time on the porch in the evening asking that the clearly ruptured energy across the street be healed. But still, as I noticed with the deaths of my parents about fifteen years ago, death, even when expected, is inherently profound. If we're all extensions of one being, when someone dies, there's a way in which we all die. And if they die violently, we all die violently; if someone is a murderer, or a rapist and pedophile, we all are. I was asked to look at what that meant this week, and realized that some judgements sure die harder than others. Even if I could exact some sort of satisfyingly primitive justice on the guy, and the big name egomaniacs he enabled, then extorted, it would not heal the damage they have done. So the larger question always becomes how to heal. There is only one way to do this. I understand this, but am still far from it on this one. Most people are headed towards the realization that what happens to one person happens to everyone; that it is time for the self-serving patriarchy riddled with dark secrets to go. I also believe this change is closer than most people think it is. At the same time, the truth is revealed at its own slow pace, it would be overwhelming otherwise. Day to day there's nothing to do but carry on: go get food early in the morning before it gets hot and people begin driving even more erratically than usual, try to get Lily to drink water since she won't come inside, take a walk around 8 pm when it's only 90 out, etc. Have the best life possible under the circumstances. I used to think it was my duty to be upset about everything that seemed wrong or unjust, but now it feels like the purpose is to turn all the lead on offer into gold. It's true there's so much lead sometimes that it gets discouraging, but it provides an opportunity as well. Am I grateful for this opportunity? Well, not yet. But I've stopped yelling at God about it, always a good sign.


      The co-op started carrying better quality organic eggs, the light blue green ones from those goofy Araucana chickens, the yolks are really yellow. Of course, this could just be from marigold petals, and the yellow goes away in tests in a few weeks anyway. They're from out in Amish country, even Cennini says that country eggs are better than town eggs. Mobile but sticky and thixotropic.


      First one, day after the murder, decided to make the happiest thing possible. A little arbitrary, but also therapeutoc. This one was interesting, an inter-penetrating approach I hadn't done before, it was fun, went on to a second day to get it more balanced. Pretty exuberant, flying part like a comic strip explosion, but manageable at the scale. Still exploring what can happen, asking lots of questions, but it seems like that's what this phase of the process is about. 9.5x10.75 inches, oil on gessoed paper.


      Second one, lower energy day, heat and events catching up, and the composition began not to work out. So, first one in a while that's had a lot of erasure, scrubbing, digging, etc. I learned a lot about what the paint can do under adverse circumstances in this one, which was good, and there are some interesting spots, but the composition got locked, and the space got too flat. It feels sort of 20th century, didn't exactly get redeemed. Which is okay. Best to be honest about what happens, and just keep moving on. 9.5x10.75 inches, oil on gessoed paper.


      Third one, relatively simple compositional phase, it was just there. Which has been rare so far with this iteration of these, but is always nice. At the same time this created uncertainty about this one while I made it, the composition wasn't as active as usual, wasn't sure how that would play out. So, in one way this one is the most resolved, but in another it is too resolved. Still, there are some things I like in this one: an evolution from the panoptical chaos of the first one, and the way the colour says things like beach and toys. 9.5x10.75 inches, oil on gessoed paper.


      Lost the old news today, I was beginning to add new paragraphs for this week and it just disappeared. Maybe I hit something wrong on the keyboard, it may have just gotten too long. There's a Google cache system where it can be retrieved, but that's too much for now. I put the most recent work up in the colourscape gallery. Those paintings are in chronological order, so the new ones are on the last two pages.


      Lily eying the wonders of the back porch roof last fall the week after her adventure.

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