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A Sunday look at process and work in progress.

september 17

      Tail end of the moon, new moon on Wednesday, as usual it will be none too soon. Not as much heat, but back to the humidity this week, sort of like waiting for a thunderstorm that never occurs. A little oppressive but not totalitarian, there was only one week like that this summer, in July. Potentially a lovely time of year here, looks like one more humid week to go. As always the cumulative effects of stress are hard to gauge until something stops giving and snaps. Had a flare up of uveitis this week, almost exactly a year since the larger incident. Knew not to try to tough it out this time, and spent most of the week experimenting with various natural anti-inflammatories, all of which helped it calm down but none of which knocked it out completely. The most interesting addition this time was grapefruit seed extract, I always forget about this but it is very good at a lot of different things. Part of me would love to figure out exactly why this happens, but I've always been subject to various types of stress-related inflammation so the empirical solution may be so mobile as to be effectively moot. Between elected disasters and natural disasters, both of which seem to be still ramping up, it's not that simple right now to feel like all is right with the world, and the background noise of this may have finally caught up with me. It does seem we've proven that oppression never works, whether it's a people or a planet, but there seem to be people who still need to find this out the hard way. I mentioned to God at one point this week how boring all this was, the same thing over and over and over, all I got was the distant thunder thing. Personally, this comes down to more patience, meaning, as usual, less caffeine, more meditation. Finally gave up on alternative and went to some of the official medication last night, a steroid eye-drop that was sitting in the refrigerator, and felt a kind of internal tension depart instantly. I'd gotten so used to it I didn't even notice it. But it seemed like my body knew this would work. So, another interesting episode in learning to distinguish what is helpful in theory, and what is helpful in practice. Speaking of which, every now and then I've run into various quotes by Henri Bergson that have been both pithy and profound, and came across another one this week: "The more we study the nature of time, the more we shall comprehend that duration means invention, the creation of forms, the continual elaboration of the absolutely new." Well, I'm not sure about "absolutely," since there always seems to be some kind of fertilization from the past, even if it's indirect: flat space was "new" to European fine art, but not to Japanese prints, African art, Persian miniatures, etc. But I ordered copy of the book, Creative Evolution, first published in 1907, the year Matisse painted the portrait of his wife called Green Stripe, a decade before The Armory Show. He seems to argue for the primacy of the organism, rather than the inevitability of the mechanism: the continuity of one's own thought structure, so thoroughly attenuated in the course of human events, is that much more comforting when in evidence. Oh, and I forgot: went to the ever-stressed-out Subaru dealership to get my defective airbag replaced, those poor folks in their cruel blue polo shirts, and Lily threw up one evening throughout our older next-door neighbor's house. Went over to help clean it up, the interesting part was her total embarrassment about the incident, I've never seen her slink away like that before, try to make herself invisible, she needed a lot of encouragement, which is rare. So, a lot went on in various ways. A decent week in the work all things considered, a few inklings of what might begin to happen next in terms of both the style and the materials.


      Made a denser silica gel this week using the fused damar and beeswax approach, this is too dense but the first one is too floppy, so between them they work to modify the original fused damar and beeswax medium, which is way too dense. Doesn't all this make sense? At a certain point, I'll have to make a new basic medium, and will factor all of this into that formula.


      Made a mix of the triple boiled oil and some aged cold-pressed organic linseed oil, commercial, not stuff I'd refined, the last thing triple boiled oil needs is more drying speed. At first I wasn't sure the thin oil would go into the thick oil, but it did. Still quite elastic, as you can see in the photo, but much more tractable, either for thinning the paint slightly, or for using in a medium.


      I liked the experiment two weeks ago of adding a starch-oil emulsion ground to some of the more striated glue gesso on linen panels, this didn't used to happen, think it has to do with the linen now being made with coarser fibers in one direction. Made the formula a little more carefully this time, you ca nsee the three teaspoons of starch about to go into a mix of some of the more iffy lead whites that have accumulated, plus some titanium white, and calcite. This stuff is very bouncy, not not that elastic, as you can see below, slides on nicely with a large spatula, dries matte with a fine texture.


      Alla prima study from the therapy farmhouses in the Mugello series, this was kind of a surprise. Not quite done, don't want it quite this bright or blunt, but there's something a little new to work with here in terms of the weave of flat shapes and space. This also might make a nice bigger one in a somewhat different style. Will mount it on a panel before going further. About 10.5x14.5 inches, oil on gessoed paper.


      Another image from the Mugello, I really liked these funky older farmhouses, centuries of wear and repair, wanted to see how far I could get starting from scratch with the current system modified with a little of the thicker silica gel. The paint could be blended or layered, always a nice place, so I got pretty far, a few dorky places, though I like the feeling of the major building's shadow. But, so far, this is basically a medium test, not a painting. Not quite sure how to get this to rise above rendition or the Ye Olden Mill motif that crept in but that's what layer two is about. When I really don't like something layer two tends to be a little more desperate, which is good. About 10x16 inches, oil on gessoed paper.


      Somewhat larger version of the carnations, worked on this twice this week. A nice size for the subject, larger than life but not giant, easy to get around in with the paint. After the first time it had lots of oomph, but things had gone a little too far astray with the composition. The second pass cleaned it up nicely, but, as is often the case, at the cost of much of the oomph or espieglerie. Still, something interesting is going on here, tension on several different levels. I often find Bonnard lurking in the woodpile these days, don't quite know how to factor that in without getting into conscious fragmentation, maybe lurking is enough for now. In the next layer, want to go back to more paint, more of a broken surface, more tension between older and newer in the colour. Sort of an inversion of a blueless 19th century colour scheme, this is often seen darker, but not brighter. I'd like more space on the left but there isn't any, maybe that would make it feel too balanced anyway. These somewhat larger ones on paper are a little floppy until they get put on a panel, I've mentioned this before, that will be next here. Also, it might be time to do another large run of gessoed linen on a hollow core door, good project for the last few days of the moon. About 10x18 inches, oil on gessoed paper.

september 10

      Week of the full moon, did have one day that felt sort of full, otherwise a week of ups and downs, hanging on. The weather was similar, cooler in general, always nice, some halcyon sunny days but also some dark, cold rain. All things considered, can't complain at all about the weather here. Have felt a lot of anxiety about Irma, which may well do damage on an unprecedented scale, but it's one of several intense things going on outside the work right now that I can't do much about. There have been some good changes in the process as it's gotten cooler again, picking up the impetus it had before the real heat set in this summer. And this week, with the full moon, the process started moving pretty fast, so fast I kind of needed to pause and let it arrive somewhere rather than try to keep up with it. Sort of odd, feels like it's going somewhere without me, but maybe it's just what has to happen now, there's so much distraction at this point I'm looking for balance however I can come up with it. Got a proof back from the new bindery, this was pretty positive given the amount of new involved, details below.


      One thing that's really interesting to me is Lily's other life when she's outside. As soon as I let her out, it begins, she's different, on, a heightened awareness of everything out there, it's even part of the way she walks. But with people she can be very social, coming out onto the sidewalk when she sees, or maybe feels is more accurate, someone she likes. I had the window open while working this week and overheard a girl talking to her down below on the sidewalk, her friend came up and said, "Who are you talking to?" and she said, "There's this really nice striped cat here." So, it's fun to think of her working the neighborhood with her own form of magic.


      Got a proof of the book from the new bindery this week, it printed without issues. They sent the cover separately, this needs some colour adjustment but that's not a big deal. Photo of the new proof, sitting on top of the pile of the other proofs produced this year. 2017, the year that proved you can never know what might go wrong until it does. But, I learned a lot, can't become resourceful without adversity, it's a much better book now, and what's this compared to fifty inches of rain and a crocodile in the basement? Anyway, fingers crossed, hope to have new paperbacks finally in early October.


      Continued this week with the fused damar and beeswax medium with added silica gel, looking for the best balance of grab and glide as always, not quite sure of the right proportions yet but am writing everything down. Am doing more tests with the Triple Boiled Oil, some interesting things are happening, will report more on that soon.


      This is from a few weeks ago, finally got a good photo of it. For me it's been necessary to learn about these without having too much of a formula, to wait until something clicks, so they've often gone back and forth between too bright, not bright enough, etc. But it always comes back to a quality of feeling coming out that shows where to go. So, this one is getting closer. About 9.5x15 inches, oil on gessoed paper on panel.


      First one this week, first one using a mix of the fused damar and beeswax medium with more fumed silica gel for an increase in movement. This worked for an image like this that is more flat or graphic, colour and value have gone down very little, something I look at carefully in week one. I tried mixing ultramarine with cobalt blue in this one, ended up with something on the cool side for this image but it's an interesting daylight blue combination. Fun to do something alla prima like this again, it's been a while, will return to this approach when the process wants to but this one is done. About 10x12.5 inches, oil on gessoed paper.


      Returned to this carnation image, did one on paper a few months ago that turned out well. First one is below, about 8x13 inches, this one is a little bigger, 9x15 inches, and on panel instead of paper. The first one featured a final try at using gum arabic in an emulsion, I had hoped that the fused damar and beeswax medium would keep it from drying down, which it always has in the past in spite of having great character. And it did mostly, but not completely. So, it doesn't have quite as much sparkle now, nothing anyone is going to know but me, but technically, sparkle is something seems important to be able to maintain. And I'm afraid gum arabic has officially moved off my list of things to keep working on, sigh, I really loved the look of this paint. With the recent one, got pretty far along for one layer, made an effort to complete it but sometimes this results in things fizzling out energetically in spite of going further technically. So, this went through a few days where I really wanted to fix it a lot, but had the sense to leave it alone. Now at least I understand it better, am not reacting to the sense of having been defeated, the dog needing to find the porcupine again and get revenge. It's not done, but, linen on panel, slightly larger than life, is somehow a step forward. I like the way the gum arabic approach to the medium encouraged looser handling, and a more airy finish, this is very solid, will look for more pizazz, oomph and espieglerie. in the next layer.


      Something older that was an early milestone in the effort to make landscapes that balanced the various elements of 19th and 20th century work I like. Saw how to improve it and began. A little raw looking now, but on its way somewhere new. About 9x11.5 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.


      Another reclamation project, on the border between salvageable and enough already start over but thought I'd try it. With these beach situations, it's always a matter of balancing the vast expanse with the relevant details. Early evening, quiet refulgence and haze, several layers trying to get at this had minimized the detail too much. So I decided the thing to do was just put as much in as I could possibly stand, even down to the little sandpipers on the wet sand. It's been a while now since I've used a sable brush, to say nothing of a small sable brush, but this was the right tool for this. Too much detail, but that was the idea, and again, a little raw overall, but on its way somewhere new. About 9.5x15.5 inches, oil on gessoed paper.

september 3

      Well, made it to the first of September once again, it always seems iffy in August but that's sixty-two times in a row so far. Second week of the moon, overall on the cool side here, a great relief, lots more energy. But also lots more anxiety, natural disasters are so basic, in the emotional marrow, always make it hard to concentrate even if they're far away. But it seems like there's also a lot of positive stuff coming out of Harvey, and that seems to be a consistent feature of this year as well. Still, if we nobly rise to the occasion only to do the same dumb stuff all over again, that doesn't work either We're unlikely to come up with a genuine solution as long as our frame of reference defines the earth as a thing, not a being, and I'm not going to hold my breath on that one. Still, if it's about how we respond as a species to the idea of being not just rugged individuals, but connected in a larger way, then larger problems are the only way to test this capacity. Why look, here comes Hurricane Irma!

      After six years, I decided to give up on the old bindery. To have a perfect proof, then have the whole edition misprint after removing a single extra blank page, argues a very small window of functionality at this point between my PDF and their software. And, given the fact that this is not a technical area that they have ever been prepared to discuss, that's just that. So, set things up this week with a new bindery that is geared to individuals like me, and has a much more developed system. And, will hopefully have a proof from this new system in the week to come. I don't see how anything can go wrong, but, given that it's still 2017, maybe it's safest to say that only something unforeseen can go wrong.


      When I got involved with washing linseed oil a decade ago I really liked what happened when it auto-oxidized. It became not just thicker, but had an adhesive pull, sort of the opposite of a pre-polymerized commercial oil like stand oil. But, I also noticed that, the thicker the auto-oxidized oils became, the more they could darken over time. This meant using less, which was often fine, or putting the oil through a preheating process, either before thickening it, or afterwards. Another factor that seems to influence long-term darkening is the age of the oil. Here's a jar that stored some reasonably auto-oxidized linseed oil: about half as thick as stand oil, processed six years ago, about as dark as the film from the thicker Kremer stand oil. So, not bad. Of course, whether darkening is an issue in the paint film depends on the pigments used, the colour scheme, etcetera. But, if you're interested in working with the properties of linseed oil, aging it in the light is going to help it.


      I've wanted to try mixing a small amount of the really thick triple boiled oil into the regular washed linseed oil. This is ten percent TBO added to some moderately auto-oxidized linseed oil, the TBO is so thick I wasn't sure the two materials would be miscible, but they were. A half full jar, it will be interesting to see how this thickens as it ages.


      The fused damar and beeswax medium I've been using is on the tight side, I've been loosening it various ways, but the one that has worked best is with a little silica gel. This approach keeps the general density but adds movement. A while back I got some of the thinner Kremer stand oil. It seemed like a natural for a silica gel, and it was, but it took about two parts fumed silica to one part oil to get something reasonably firm. So, in the week to come, I'll try adding a small amount of this to the basic fused-damar and beeswax medium before mixing it into the paint. The fumed silica gel is easy, but needs to be used in moderation compared to, say, a putty made with calcium carbonate. Also, it needs to be handled carefully when it's dry, it's like fine fake snow and can really get all over. I make it wearing a mask, and clean up well afterwards for any stray silica.


      I'd wanted to try an emulation of the triple boiled procedure to see what might happen, and it was cool enough this week to introduce the extra heat. Heated the oil first for two hours to 200C, then, the next day, heated it for four hours to 150 C. This was still pretty thin, with no increase in adhesiveness, so it seemed that there wasn't too much point in going for a third round of heat. A little bit of added colour from the heat, but the heat also assures a relatively non-yellowing linseed oil if the oil hasn't been aged. In theory four hours at 150C is enough, but at this point I'd start with half an hour at 200, then drop it to 150 for the rest of the time. This, of course, is dangerous, not advised without lab equipment, note heavy walled flask and ring stand to stabilize it.


      One of my favorite paintings of the last few years was done on a panel using a lead white-titanium oil ground with calcite and starch. The calcite made it more lean and gave it a fine tooth, and the starch introduced its unique smush effect, along with a subtle granularity and lots of textural potential. I've had some issues with linen on panel having irregular threads that remain proud in spite of the glue gesso, the way I work now it requires a lot of paint to get a surface that doesn't have some of this corduroy texture. So I tried this on a few of those, put it on with a large triangular knife, and liked the look.


      Second layer on a start from last week, keeping it bright and on the loose side. Tiny village in the hilly and relatively empty area above Lucca called the Garfagnana. About 10.5x15.5 inches, oil on gessoed paper over panel.


      Another layer on this recent start, I want to keep going with this one until it's resolved, it's mostly a question of how to complete the sky so that it's more in relation to the land, I'm hoping adding a little silica gel will help. I keep softening the blue of the sky, but the camera keeps brightening it again. About 8.5x14.5 inches, oil on gessoed paper over panel.


      Another one I've been working on about once a week, made the colour a little softer this time, am again feeling like a little silica gel will help by giving the surface more overall motion. About 10x18 inches, oil on gessoed paper over panel.


      This one is a little softer overall, therefore a little trickier, this type of colour can easily become drab, or subfusc. So, another increment. The third version of this image, something about the timelessness and stillness of this one has made it really important. Not done but through to a new place for me, the best this image has been so far. Also about 10x18 inches, oil on gessoed paper over panel.


      Small older study from the Mugello region to the north and east of Florence, a composition I always liked. I found that, while a medium of just chalk and oil worked fine for lower chroma still life, some of these brighter colour landscapes done that way dried down over time. So, a layer designed to brighten it up with the current medium, designed to dry more up. I loosened the medium but it became a little melting in some places as a result, this is what the silica gel is designed to fix, not bad but I'll put one more layer on this at some point. About 9x13 inches, oil on paper (Arches Huile) over panel.

august 27

      Week of the new moon, lower humidity, slightly cooler, especially at night, far more energy and focus all of a sudden. Had a decent sense of progress into July, it's nice to have it begin to return again as the heat slowly begins to wind down. The various things I've been drawn to in art history are coalescing in a new way, I don't really trust trying to think this into place, it needs to just happen in its own way. Which makes it always kind of a surprise. I find this great fun, but it's also easy to get addicted to progress based on process, and always hard to wait for the next step in day after day of sweltering heat. But, given that the wings are wax, it's best to be grateful to be airborne at all, not to try to fly too high. Just a little more August to go, so I'm cautiously optimistic, but it's not over yet. Tried a different way of processing the images today, and they're on the bright side.


      Have been going around in relatively small circles with the density and viscosity of the medium. I've wanted it relatively tight because the work is small, and there is no tack supplied by solvent evaporating from it. But, it's a fine line, and loosened it up slightly this week, just a little more mobility, which worked out well. Decided to get a smaller set of measures, these have cute names but are an eighth, a sixteenth, and a thirty-second of a teaspoon. I had an eighth of a teaspoon before but was estimating half of it regularly, this was still not small enough. Adjusting the medium with these smaller measures instead of guessing will make it easier to replicate at a larger scale when I next make a new batch of it.


      Began this one this week, got three layers on it. There's a slightly smaller one on panel that has disappeared, put it somewhere special and now can't find it, and a larger one on linen that is probably best left behind, so it's an image I've worked with. The approach to colour seems to be in transition from brighter to softer again, this got into a kind of zugszwang situation and looked kind of odd until layer three. Quieter is harder than more dynamic, but seems to balance it as well. More to go, possibly a lot more, but no major issues. About 10.5x18.5 inches, oil on gessoed paper over panel.


      Start from about two months ago, first landscape with the approach of a watercolour underpainting, cleaned it up a little this week, layer four or five, looking for closure. More things I'd like to do in the painterly paint department but this one seems headed for home. About 8.5x14.5 inches, oil on gessoed paper over panel.


      There are several versions of this one now, decided to move this one away from a general pattern and make it a little more like my memory of the day. It's always fun to revisit a favorite time and place this way. More to go, and a little bright here compared to life, but I broke the mold and it came forward. About 11.5x21 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.


      Same place, same trees, different season, about a decade later. A way to go still, in transition from colour that got too bright to colour that feels more natural. About 8.25x14.5 inches, oil on gessoed paper over panel.


      Started another new one yesterday, also an image that has some forebears, a tiny village in the Garfagnana region above Lucca. This one got interrupted and I liked the look of it when I came back, the feeling of the first stage of the oil paint going over the watercolour. Ah, process! Did get the layer completed later in the day, but it was too wet this morning to photograph accurately. About 10.5x15 inches, oil on gessoed paper.

august 20

      Pretty warm and sticky week, some serious thunderstorms, nicer this morning but it's not going to last: all kind of blurring together at this point. Waning moon, new moon and eclipse on Monday, certainly a few things I'd like to see eclipsed, looking forward to that feeling of renewal that comes one way or another with the new moon. Between the old moon and the heat, very little happened in the work this week, I'm trying to be careful about overworking and creating inflammation, I got uveitis last year around this time and it wasn't fun. So, the usual battle between doing and being, trying to stay cool, relax in a culture going through a lot of not undeserved craziness, a reluctant summer vacation.


      The books arrived, they looked lovely on the outside but are unreadable on the inside. An open invitation to serious inflammation. It's an error that has to do with the default style, so it begins on page one and runs through the whole text. A hundred and twenty of them. We had a proof that was perfect except for a single extra blank page, I corrected that, thought another proof wasn't needed, now this. I sent one to the bindery, I'm not sure what's going to happen here, I decided to give them one more try but I think perhaps their software system is too sophisticated for mine, that is, it's designed for quite fancy modern books full of formatting and always looking for things that aren't there in this text except as minute inconsistencies leftover from the editing process. The sense of having been flayed alive didn't last quite as long this time, but I'm increasingly convinced that I succumbed to homicidal rage in a former lifetime, and opted to both experience this again, and learn to transform it, in this one. I decided the best thing to do was to not concentrate on the difficulty but on the solution: accentuate the positive. But of course wasn't sure what this meant. Interestingly, I got an email the next morning from a small publisher who is interested in the book. Just a feeler, he wanted to know more about it. We exchanged some emails, and he told me an awful lot of technical stuff about PDF production for printing that has somehow always been highly classified information before. This created a sense of hope on a couple different fronts. He also commented that, while the PDF is theoretically a what-you-see-is-what-you-get format, this is not always true in practice. Beginning with my parents and teachers at an early age, I began to notice that those in authority tend to deny the validity of one's experience when it is inconvenient for them, and this has certainly been the bindery's approach. So, yet another printing disaster, we'll see what the bindery wants to do, my contact will be aghast and apologetic, but it is her job to keep me in the loop, the actual issue is what happens next. Moving on to another bindery is attractive, especially when you have the name of a quality new place to go that only deals with individuals, rather than treating them like second class citizens, but this edition is also just one invisible error away from completion. In larger terms, by being willing to let the personal angle go, the sense of having been willfully insulted, shamed, or damaged, it's already leading somewhere new, which I think is what I was supposed to get from it. This has led to an interesting question from long ago and far away. In the end, did God apologize to Job for what he put him through at the request of the Devil? Somehow I think not. But Job learned a lot: is this the first recorded instance of no good deed going unpunished? We even have theodicy: the study of why a good God lets bad things happen. Excuses excuses! I'm always surprised that that story was not cut, or demoted to the Apocrypha, the matter-of-fact God-Devil dialogue is pretty subversive, assumes the battle of dark and light of Zoroastrianism, but with the awkward twist of the Devil successfully tempting God. But maybe, like the Portrait of Innocent X, it was just too truthful.


      Speaking of Zoroastrianism, it's usually interesting to investigate what happens when opposites interact. This is a one to one mix of the triple boiled oil -- heat polymerized, very dense, sticky, and elastic -- and a syrupy old walnut oil that had spent a long time at one point in a lead tray. So, two different types of polymerization involved, the triple boiled oil inhibits movement while the cold-lead tray oil enhances it. The test was interesting because the stickiness or glueyness of the triple boiled oil was cancelled, but not the density, making this more like a gel.


      Got a third layer on last week's landscape of the Lemon Fair in Vermont. This was a decided happy place for me, but has not been the easiest location to work with. Have been working with a pretty dense paint recently, opened it up a little bit for this layer and learned a lot. Every medium has a different zone of functional viscosity, with this one it's pretty small, things get quite tight, or quite loose, in a hurry. Always good to have notes. Better in person, I was able to adjust the colour in the photo to be more accurate but this compromised the overall sense of unity. More to go, but in a decent place for this early stage. About 10x18 inches, oil on gessoed paper over panel.

august 13

      Waning moon, coming up on the third quarter. Less warm week that ended with some humidity that has now cleared out, lovely morning today. Last year a great many things went awry in August, my primary goal for the month has now become to hunker down and remain in one piece until the beginning of September. Do you remember that stretch of Bloom County where Opus gets involved in astrology and ends up hiding under the bed? Sort of along those lines. So far, so good, but it's only really over when August is. A lower energy phase of the moon in a lower energy time of year, so not that much occurred in the work. But what happened was a step forward, for which I felt grateful. I've slowly realized that the process is always working subconsciously, something is always happening, even if it isn't manifesting, so I don't get as bent out of shape about lack of progress due to the heat as I used to. The balance between doing and being has always been elusive for me in general, and especially in the summer, but I had a few glimmers this week, backing off and going more slowly. Had a very nice visit yesterday from a painter and teacher I've written with for a while now, we discussed some interesting ideas he has about using some of the book's concepts in the classroom, possibly linking up with the chemistry department to refine the oil. The new paperback edition of Living Craft arrives at the end of the week.


      This one began when I was reviewing some older studies that seemed like candidates for a next layer. There was one in particular that I'd always liked as an image, an early version of the view on the Lemon Fair often seen here. But, looking at it, it seemed it had been clearly eclipsed in several ways by more recent work. So, in spite of the time spent on it, it seemed like the effort to resurrect it was clearly better spent on a new beginning. So I decided to let it go, and have a sense that this is going to be happening more and more with these older ones. Then went back to the time period in question and looked at the images of that week and found this one as an alternative. Started it in watercolour, I like this because it is quite specific on the glue gesso but utterly unforgiving, without resorting to many layers using a sponge I don't think I'd ever get anything that looked too good. But, it's all there, and in a palette I like. This did require making a lot of the colours myself, but it's pretty easy with watercolour, especially if total transparency is not required. So, then came the slight innovation, which was to start the first layer also as an underpainting, that is, not go for too much, just block things in, adding a little thin oil to get the paint to move more. Then, after this had dried a few days, I put on the usual first layer in denser paint. Kept the palette a little more limited, no modern yellows, more of the two triad approach than the three triad approach, this sort of takes it back in time a little, the timelessness of this view was always something I liked about it, not even a telephone pole to leave out. Really bright morning for taking photos, a little better in life than here. So, though it remains doubtful that I'll ever get one of these in a day, the process is slowly becoming more efficient as it develops. This is on Somerset, I've used both Tiepolo and Rives BFK in the past with success, and may go back to them; Somerset is a little wavey and wobbly at this scale before it's mounted. Will get this on a panel today and keep going with it in the week to come. One more layer? Well, it would have to be a really good one, not that likely right now. Regardless, a better decision than continuing with the first version. About 10x18 inches, oil on gessoed paper.

august 6

      Ah, August, my very favorite month has arrived! So many good things always happen in August, I can't wait to see what this year brings! Waxing moon, full moon and eclipse on Monday. Plenty of heat and rain, though cooler the last few days. This is usually a positive week for the work but I've noticed that, while the heat seems to increase energy in July, by August it tends to have the opposite effect. And I'm definitely a little pooped, so, less happened this week than usual. The work was really on a roll in May and June in terms of advancing towards a new level, and I love this part. But now it feels like I'm just treading water, and there really isn't much choice. Not that easy to accept, I'm afraid doing not being will always be my first joy. But I'm making a renewed non-effort: last August I overworked to the point of getting uveitis, producing a spontaneous medical trifecta: scary; painful, and expensive. So, a great incentive to stay as cool, calm, and collected as possible. Had a little kerfuffle with the book this week, the bindery informed me that there was an extra blank page in the beginning of the text. What?!? This was really nice of them, and is obvious, the PDF has to have an even number of pages. I should have noticed but since I didn't put it there on purpose, I wasn't looking for it. Printing it this way would make all the pages that should be on the left on the right, and visa versa. And since the margins are larger on the inside than the outside, and would have been reversed, this would have looked pretty weird. Anyway, a classic example of how you catch the errors you're looking for, but not the ones you're not. So, a little embarrassing, but easy to fix, and am hoping to have paperbacks in a few weeks at long last. I often wonder how to expand the frame of reference before it's unseen limitations cause issues. But, beyond the basic philosophical approach of doing less, considering more, less caffeine, more meditation -- which involves time that is not always available -- such errors seem inevitable, part of the human condition. As a kid, it became clear to me that my parent's sense of having the world's most wonderful life solution was both oversimplified and overconfident. But over time I realized that, though I might be able to see what they were doing, that didn't mean I could see what I was doing: a far more relevant distinction. But, for all its often unpleasant surprises, which always seem to be based on some permutation of not looking clearly enough for what is really there, what other process can we engage in but our own?


      Took a walk in the park yesterday on a mercifully cool and low humidity afternoon, even cooler under the tree canopy, not many people around, always nice to get out, the loop is about two and a half miles, with a lot of up and down, just have to be careful of the poison ivy, which is really well camouflaged at this time of year. The park was established by William Penn, and is large, and quite wild in places, but, because of the way the city developed, runs right through this particular neighborhood. There's one small finger of it that runs along a tributary to the major creek and extends pretty far in, ending at about fifty feet of fence along a road where I often walk in the afternoon, the source of the deer often seen cavorting through people's yards. I was going down this road earlier in the week, thinking about all the things that you end up thinking about on a walk, when I looked over into the park, and a stag was looking right at me. I'm not sure who was more surprised, but he was way too close for comfort and took off, bounding over the undergrowth like he was made out of rubber. He was young, antlers a little comical, just beginning to sprout above the posts, but huge, the deer in Pennsylvania are massive compared to Vermont.


      I go back and forth with this fused damar and beeswax putty about whether to add a little starch or methyl cellulose. Have been working with it without for a while, and this is fine, although it sometimes slides a little more than I'd like in the heat, so decided to try the emulsion approach again this week. First tried starch, this is methyl cellulose here, a little more elastic and adhesive than the same amount of starch. Methyl cellulose also tends to keep better in a tube, although it looks like starch in this situation doesn't break down as quickly as it otherwise can. People tend to want this stuff to be all inspiration, but mostly it seems to be adding up endless incremental changes until the behavior of the paint is unusually balanced between grab and glide. These additions go into the medium at about 12% -- one eighth teaspoon to one teaspoon medium. The medium goes into the paint at one part to two parts paint, so this works out to 4% starch or methyl cellulose in the paint film on panels. I want to try a little egg white next, the most likely historical aqueous ingredient for seizing the paint: although they have established that Rembrandt used starch it may have been occasional or experimental, starch is more often found in older grounds. I used egg white for years in a more simple putty and liked working with it, would like to see what it does now.


      Second layer on this small one of the Lemon Fair in Vermont. Started this one on a really hot day and it ended up with tremendous contrast, oops. And it ended up that way again in spite of a lot of lightening and brightening: the peril of the strong beginning, although I think it's in a pretty nice place for layer three. About 9x14 inches, oil on gessoed paper over panel.


      Another version of the therapy image from the Mugello, this one is a little bigger, the values scale became a little more contrasty, the light became a little cooler. There are seven or eight of these, I like comparing them to one another to see which one actually feels best. About 9x15 inches, oil on gessoed paper over panel.


      A recent floral start that had gone back and forth between warm and cool without much resolution, ground it back and started again. This approach tends to force the sense of the colour to go deeper, since it really can't stay the same from layer to layer and remain alive. Lost something in the flower this time but gained more in terms of the rest of the painting. A quiet one, but within this a decent balance of what I think of as "happy" and "sad." Not done, but closer than it's been. 11x14 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.


      The first version of an image I liked a great deal, but had tremendous issues resolving, have worked on this off and on since 2006. A little silly, but there are always excesses to any approach, even not giving up. I think the issue was that I had learned a way of handling colour in realism that was based on Morandi, but this approach became short circuited in working with landscapes. Outside, it was possible to see more than working from a photograph, so the outdoor work didn't encounter the colour issue. Eventually I realized that what I wanted from landscape was more of a balance between local colour and the atmosphere, a stylistic place that was sort of midway between the Corot outdoor work and Impressionism, and this involved figuring out more about how to use neutrals. So, though this one is pretty hacked up, it does at least demonstrate that, along with a nice balance between the static and mobile elements of the composition and paint respectively. About 10.5x14.5 inches, oil on gessoed paper over panel.


      Began a new one this week, same size since this one has a pretty nice frame that's been waiting patiently for it. Stayed away from all detail and sparkle, just grounded the major forms and their relationships. This one is more accurate so far, but I like some of the changes that occurred naturally from developing the first one, along with the sense of wind or air. I'll work towards the feeling of the first one, but with more clarity this time. This one doesn't move yet, but, don't worry, it will. About 10.5x14.5 inches, oil on gessoed paper over panel.

july 30

      First week of the moon, a cooler week overall, with some cooler nights as well, sort of a respite, this makes a huge difference. Got the text and cover uploaded to the bindery, the order has been acknowledged, the paperbacks may come in a week, or at the end of August, there's no way to tell. An okay week for the work, but not the best. Last week was sort of exceptional for this time of year, so there's always a letdown to be factored in there. The advent of a part of the year that, historically, has not been the best for me, I used to truly dread August here growing up. Felt it begin this week in terms of a familiar combination of lassitude and frustration, wanting more from the work, trying to put up with less. This seems to make certain things dramatically more annoying than they typically are: the lawnmowers of early Sunday morning, for example. This sound somehow always reminds me of Einstein's definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting something to change. I wonder how much longer we will continue to make things exponentially more complicated than they need to be, defining the quality of life in terms of control, rather than cooperation. At a time when the negative seems more apparent, its important to find ways to concentrate on the positive. The day-to-day progress may seem relatively small, but it adds up over time to suggest a next step. This process began this week with a new material, the triple boiled linseed oil. First there's the experience of using the material, then there's the assessment of what happened, then there's a shift in the procedure, leading to the next experience. A pretty simple process, but one that keeps evolving.


      Couldn't resist and ordered a gallon of the triple boiled linseed oil. With shipping, it worked out to a little less than 25.00 a quart or liter, about two thirds the price of the thicker Kremer stand oil, forty percent more than Graphic Chemical's BPO #7. This version is even thicker than the sample I was sent, with more of that internal resilience of old rubber cement. A great way to get back in touch with your inner ten year old, it was not that easy to get this stuff from the can into jars! Began to work it into things here and there this week, its not leveling, or melting like burnt plate oil but has a similar profound effect on overall saturation. So, very little is needed to create a noticeable change in the behavior of a medium. The most interesting thing so far is the way it both sticks and glides, a very unusual behavior due to the way the oil is heated. Though the process is discussed in early 20th century books, the actual details of it seem to be pretty much a secret.


      Only new start of the week, began a slightly larger study of an image from outside Volterra using a version of the fused damar and beeswax medium with a little of the triple boiled oil in it. Have been working with brighter colour in general, so more subdued colour is interesting. Got pretty far with it for the scale, but also felt a little confused about what to do next, a function of the time of year as much as anything. Somewhat odd photo here, will probably mount it on a panel before going further, this size begins to get awkward on paper. About 10.5x18.5 inches, oil on gessoed paper.


      Second layer on one of the recent small bright studies, there were several of these second layers this week, but this one took the best photo. As is often the case with layer two, some adjustment of things that went awry in the enthusiasm of layer one, the push towards completion. It still feels a little vivid to me, had conceived of these small ones as tests to see if a larger one might work, with this one so far I'd say no. On the other hand, you never really know what's going to happen until it's done. About 8.5x14.5 inches, oil on gessoed paper on panel.


      I was always intrigued at transforming the landscape of Vermont into something timeless, the way it always felt to me. Made a very small study of this image that I liked, this is one of several attempts in progress to take the original concept of the flat light preceding a thunderstorm further. Better than it was, has turned a certain corner in terms of integrating the atmosphere with the local colour, will keep going. About 10x12 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.


      Small version of a favorite therapy image from the Mugello, it had gone through a decent amount, and was sort of at sixes and sevens, neither here nor there, fish nor fowl, Laodocean, as it were, so decided to try painting into a couch of the triple boiled oil yesterday to move it further on. Rubbed the oil on as thinly as possible with my fingers, it had a nice balance of grab and glide painting into it. This is what I thought it would be like, but, you never know until you try. Some progress, not done but more unified. Still wet today, but took a decent photograph, will clean it up a little further this afternoon. About 8.25x13.25 inches, oil on gessoed paper over panel.


      Kept going with another thin layer on the watermelon, it's fun to hold on with a specific approach to the colour but vary it in terms of warm and cool. This seems to enable the process to find places in the colour that are a little less predictable: a way to learn. Pretty close, the next layer needs just a little more flow in the paint. About 12x16 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.

july 23

      Last week of the moon, new moon today. Uniformly quite hot, especially in the afternoons. Was able to get a lot done, sort of a surprise, dropped back to finishing work in progress, didn't feel in a hurry, got a few of them pretty far along, which was nice to see at the end of the week. Too early to tell what this new moon is up to, sort of jumpy today as usual, but a little quieter because of the extended heat. The heat used to really bother me, but now I'm just disoriented, not cantankerous, which feels like a step forward. This week's big news was the arrival of the proof of the book, this one had no font rendering errors. Given what I'd done in terms of editing and simplifying, I did think this was probable, but so much has gone wrong, and for so long, that it was still quite a relief. So, there should finally be a paperback version of the book available before too long.


      Have been continuing with the same type of medium, a putty made with a little fused damar and beeswax. Somewhat deceptive photo, the melt a little more in a warm studio, but still have plenty of grab. Made a third version of it this week, looking for improvement with a few tweaks, but am coming to the conclusion that there's no "right" formula, they all have their uses. Which is good, I'd hate for this to end.


      Most recent set of medium tests, a lot of variations on the basic fused damar and beeswax theme, the oldest ones here are about six months old and are beginning to show some darkening. The question is how far they'll go in the next year or two, and whether it's enough to alter the appearance of the paint. My earlier experience working with damar and beeswax in the 90s suggests that it stays pretty bright over time, so, we'll see, the current version should stay brighter because it is made with higher quality oil and no solvent. As always, time will tell.


      Got a nice layer on the watermelon this week, this one had started out strong but a little too pop for me, is now getting pretty close to what I want, will make it a little warmer in the next layer. About 12x16 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.


      A cheese I started a long time ago, that became finished in a way that was a little too somber or serious somehow, have been making it lighter and more sprightly by degrees. Another layer that I felt particularly good about. I always try to change it and improve it to a certain extent, but sometimes it's possible to improve it twice as much as usual. It seems accidental, but I think it's a result of getting more familiar with turning colour around in tighter and tighter circles, or spheres. What this means is that the same set of colours can be made to appear much brighter or dimensional, because the context of the different colour types that produce the sense the dimension is more finely tuned overall. About 12x16 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.


      Something I tried to finish in an extended layer a few weeks ago, second layer on it here. The second layer is often sort of equivocal, more to fix or clean up in the first layer than I thought, but this one seemed to move it forward a bit as well. About 12x14 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.


      A ranunculus that was started with more movement in the paint. The first layer had a nice sense of unity but didn't quite feel complete to me. This is layer three, it's getting a better feeling. About 9x12 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.


      Another ranunculus from the same series, I had always liked this one but was surprised by what happened in this layer in terms of increased clarity and saturation. More to go but another case where a larger increment occurred than usual. About 9x12 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.


      Same ranunculus series, same approach of adding brighter colour and more contrast to the value scale, not quite as far along yet as the previous one. This series is about blooming together. About 9x12 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.

july 16

      Third week of the moon, uniformly hot, one unusually gross day that was like walking into a wet mattress, but otherwise manageable. The cold herb tea situation has been evolving, I'm now putting a tablespoon or two each of hibiscus flowers and rose hips into a pint of water overnight. This is full of anti-oxidants and quite cooling, also gets a nice body on the second day if there's any left: I still notice the heat, but don't feel as burdened by it. Lots of energy in the heat, the key is to focus it. Had a decent few days putting layers on recent starts, then tried a few new things as well but, as usual during the waning moon, new turned out less definitively than on the waxing moon. So, I'll be more realistic about what can and can't happen in the week to come: last week of the moon, it's often not that much. I'm hoping to continue to corral the process somewhat, trick it into producing product more reliably, and this means a little more discipline. I would say a lot more discipline, but that doesn't work either. Photos this week in really bright light, pretty good colour overall, but some soft overall glare as well.


      Finally got another version of the text of Living Craft off to the printer. I'm hoping this is the end of the line, the first officially finished version, complete with the blessed index. The index is generated by the program, but, like so many things high tech, there turned out to be some glitches, and certain types of things had to be searched and entered by hand. In a situation where there is, by definition, always more, it's been hard for me to call the book complete. All things being equal, I'd be happy to add to it indefinitely, it's just sort of interesting. But, the culture really doesn't work that way, and everything that has gone into this version also began to change my mind. The index has been especially problematic, not so much to make as to accept. People have started to ask for it, but I really don't want the book used as a reference manual, this is how I used Wehlte for years, and it made it easy to miss many things that were quite important. Lots of trees, but no forest. Oh well, people would only be insulted if the author told them to read the book.


      Tried a new approach to the soft resin and beeswax putty this week, instead of melting the ingredients into the oil, added them with minimal solvent. This produced a slightly different quality, I kept it loose because the tube of medium I've been working with recently is pretty tight. This version, of course, turned out to be too loose, but the two of them work nicely together.


      The second layer is often kind of equivocal, but this one cleaned up nicely. I'd like to do a little more, want to push the sky back somewhat, bring up the foreground light a little. One more layer? Maybe two. About 8.5x14.5 inches, oil on gessoed paper over panel.


      This one was a little more resistant, a relatively specific time of day and year, but not bad for this stage. About 8.5x14.5 inches, oil on gessoed paper.


      Second layer on this start from last week, it was fun to clean it up over what seemed like the right kind of first layer, lots of indications but no detail. There was nothing more challenging for me than May in Vermont, so this one is fun. About 8.5x14.5 inches, oil on gessoed paper on panel.


      A new start that got a little intense in the heat, I knew it was weird I just didn't know how it got that way. But it worked out as a beginning, complete in it's own way. A favorite location on the Lemon Fair, near Shoreham in Vermont. Will mount this on a panel, brighten it up in the second layer. About 9x14 inches, oil on gessoed paper.


      New beginning that worked out in an interesting way, I used to work like this outside on an absorbent ground, so it was like visiting an old friend. Not done but returning to an absorbent ground might be an interesting way to start some work for more density and atmosphere. About 8x11 inches, oil on gessoed panel.


      Ended here, layer four on this peony, more to go but it was good to come to grips with the next step with this one. This is where a little discipline goes a long way: don't just put paint on it, figure out what will make it better. I tend to make things too warm, so going to this cooler place was a good development. As much as is written about colour, on the palette it all comes down to a set of proportions of red, yellow, and blue. About 13x15 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.

july 9

      Waxing moon, full moon today, a uniformly warm week in which the cat gave up on the afternoons and slept inside, going out again in the evening. Minimal holiday mayhem, but a lot of "other" had to happen besides the work, and it all just zoomed by. Did some watercolours with some younger visitors yesterday, we made some paint first, this was fun and nostalgic in several ways. We somehow got into the splatter technique -- I'm not exactly the best person at curbing paint enthusiasm -- and it is truly amazing how far some of that paint traveled. Took a walk yesterday evening as the humidity cleared out, sunny day today. Would love to figure out a way to enjoy summer, rather than dreading the next onslaught of the humid heat. One of those accept what is, look for the full part, rather than the empty part situations that seem to crop up more and more, haha. Have been trying all kinds of things to stay cool, a lot of this seems to have to do with diet, staying away from things that heat, and accentuating things that cool, more of a traditional Asian than Western concept, but becoming more widely known. A very nice cooler is cold hibiscus tea, two tablespoons of the flowers overnight in a pint of water in the fridge, it can go a second day as well, gets a little more of that pomegranate dry aftertaste.


      I knew I had this somewhere, it finally surfaced again in the move between computers. Photo from the Champlain Valley Fair outside Burlington, Vermont, late 90s. More or less a rhetorical question at this point.


      Have been working on a cold wax medium for pigment for a wood sculptor in California, a little different project but I'm getting closer. This is the first version, which dried a little more solidly than I thought it would.


      In spite of a lot of hope and some artful dodges, had to take the book apart again and redo both the pagination in the table of contents and the index. The index is a little bit of a pain because the program's search doesn't really come up with everything, especially a word that has an accented vowel, and I keep realizing terms that should be in there and have to add them by hand as well. Still, it isn't painful if I do it in increments, and seems to make a better book as I always discover some little thing that's off somewhere and there's always further editing that can be done. Sometimes pages end up with an extra line or two of space, this allows something to be amplified, or fleshed out again if it had been truncated before. So, had wanted to be done by tomorrow but am going to give it another week in the hope of getting it totally finished at long last. The most important thing is to discover those sneaky hidden formatting leftovers that can cause the font rendering errors that make sections of the text print in Klingon. I think I finally understand what causes these, there is always some kind of trigger, and it is always in a section of the page that doesn't have any text. So, it's sort of like looking for an invisible needle in a haystack, but the places to look are becoming more obvious. Further impetus to be the tortoise, not the hare.


      Continued the series of smaller new landscapes, got one layer on this one, late May, a time of year that was always happy outside but always a challenge to paint. But I think this is in a good place for layer two. 8.5x14.5 inches, oil on gessoed paper.


      Second new one of the week, early summer in the same location, early morning and a more colourful approach. Not quite done but got closer to puzzling out the finish, also an image that might make a nicer large one. More to go, will mount all of these recent beginnings on panels before continuing. Did gesso some paper this week and fold it into a slightly larger size, changing these from about 14 to 17 inches across will be a nice shift in scale for the next set. 8.5x14.5 inches, oil on gessoed paper.

july 2

       First week of the moon, lots of new energy but not the most in control, always interesting to realize it's easiest to just let the new thing happen, try to figure it all out later. A uniformly hot week, a few days with lower humidity and a breeze that were pretty nice. Trying to stay moderate in the heat, back off when I begin to get crabby, there seems to be an unusual amount of anger available right now, an open invitation within the culture, each time I think we've reached some kind of peak it goes further. Continued to work on finishing the book, some odd things happened with the new version of the program on the new computer, produced a few grouchy moments, always fun to curse the program unto a thousand generations, but so much more productive to read the manual. The text is very close at this point, may be able to upload a new version for a proof in the week to come. Of the last three proofs, two have been error free, so there is hope. But have realized that the only way to survive this is to stop editing the text of each proof, adding new material, because this involves dialing in potential new miniscule formatting errors that will only show up in the next proof when a section of text suddenly renders in Klingon. So, discipline, finish it. Started three new painting this week, am getting another level of a landscape approach that I always liked, but am not sure I'll be able to do it in one layer anytime soon. They're a little small, but I realized I can make a 22x30 sheet of gessoed paper into three slightly bigger pieces, rather than folding it into quarters. I mean, I knew that, but never actually did the math precisely. So, I want to get the scale up just a little, but otherwise this group seems to be a step forward for this type of work. It's interesting that, after about a decade and a half of learning and exploring process in both the work and the book, the exigencies of product are becoming more inevitable once again. I'd really rather stay with the process, my best friend, but, while process teaches something that product doesn't, the reverse is also true. The pendulum swings the other way of its own accord, best to move with it, follow where it leads.


      One of the things that I had to realize in writing the book was that not that many people were going to get involved with making their own paint, the culture makes it seem too hard. Which is too bad, I mean, there's a learning curve, but, hard? No. Anyway, this meant that I had to make sure that the formulas worked for commercial paint as well, so I've been using commercial paint to make the work for a while now. As with a lot of these situations, there are pluses and minuses to each approach, a small book of its own could be written about handmade versus commercial paint. But, when I realized that, because the book was at least close to done, I might as well start making paint again, there seemed to be a lot of energy waiting there. Nickel titanium yellow pictured here, a quality version on the left, an economy version on the right. The economy version is not a total loss, it can be used with a really bright yellow like permanent yellow medium to make a colour like Turner's yellow. Even the quality version is not as nice a colour as the Blockx version of this pigment, but it's pretty close.


      Used the quality version straight for this paint. Nickel titanium is one of the few pigments that gets lighter in oil, not darker. I made this with a mixture of aged and slightly pre-polymerized oils, so there is no new, raw oil, or anything else besides pigment and oil, in this paint. It's on the soft side, but quite articulate, and took a tremendous amount of pigment to even get this far. Made a few other colours as well, including an old favorite, the zirconium silicate yellow. This is only available as pigment I think, possibly because it dries quickly in the tube, a warmer, darker lemon yellow, moderate tinting strength, very nice colour for natural chroma landscape.


      First new one this week, this was made with relatively dense paint that really stayed put but required some fiddling to blend it. I was a little bugged by this, possibly a better paint for a later layer, but with the heat it turned out to be the better paint of the week, temperature sensitivity is the single issue with using wax. A favorite place in Vermont, a favorite time, early September, a stylistic midpoint between the 19th century outdoor studies and Impressionism that has always intrigued me. I had wanted to complete this, but when there's a difference in the way the paint behaves, that sometimes isn't possible. But, pretty far along for the first layer, psychologically, if not physically, complete, and I ended up liking the look this chunkier, more articulate paint best of the three starts. I'll mount this on a panel before continuing. 8.5x14 inches, oil on gessoed paper.


      Another version of the same spot, later in the evening, later in the year, last light, always interesting. Made the paint more mobile for this one, in some ways that worked better, in others it didn't. Had to accept not finishing this early on, but was able to get further than I thought at first in suggesting the next layer. I like the balance of moodiness and hope in the feeling. 8.5x14 inches, oil on gessoed paper.


      Third new one this week, I was getting a little weary with the uniform heat but wanted to try another beginning with the more mobile paint. Late summer rain shower clearing off, the least complete, didn't get as far with either the colour or the form. But, did get further than ever before with this type of image in terms of finding the native colour field, so am looking forward to what might happen with the next layer on this one. I'm encouraging the process to get more involved with product, but, well, the process is a lot like the cat: she knows more than I do, is not saying too much about it, could care less about my paltry agenda, but will lead me to learning more about what's really going on if I let her know I'm in fact willing to pay attention. 8.5x14 inches, oil on gessoed paper.

june 25

      The official beginning of summer. Some intense rain, heat, and humidity from the tail end of a tropical storm that came north in the last few days, but over now, whew. Last week of the moon, got a lot done all things considered, new moon a few days ago, a pretty gentile one so far. Spent a lot of time trying to puzzle out some technical issues with the text for the book. When the text misprints, it seems to be triggered by a leftover piece of formatting, not in the text itself, but on a blank line or an indent. I had also always made the final PDF from three PDFs, in order to have blank pages first, then pages with roman numerals, then pages with arabic numerals. But this meant multiple instance of the fonts in the final PDF, which I thought might be a good idea to remove. So, this week I got into making it into one file. I had to read the instructions, always humiliating, and of course it didn't really work out any of the ways they said it would, but it does have its own logic, and, after a week of trying different variations, I've almost got it, now just have to figure out how to get rid of a zero on a page that needs to be blank, don't ask me how that happened when pages always start at one. Got involved a little with demon caffeine in the heat, but even after a week this is clearly just not going to work, makes me too impatient and crabby at this point even in small amounts. I've also noticed that I see more without caffeine, because I'm not in that organically hurried frame of reference. The hurry creates a sense of accomplishment, but I'm not sure that, in my case, it isn't just more activity for its own sake. Without caffeine, it's much easier to be patient with complex natural patterns like those in a flower. So, a natural solution there if I can only stick with it.


      This is one that worked out well enough years ago that I stopped working on it for a while. Put a layer on it last week, but that made me realize there was more work to do still than I had thought. Which always means that I've learned more, so that feels good. Ground this back with oil and very fine sandpaper before starting again. I'd always done the most work on the flowers, and they were the closest, but they could also be a little more subtle, so I ground them back too. The background is a little cool, but it had been warm and one thing I've learned is to alternate temperatures in this type of situation with each layer. The jar was an issue, but that's getting better. The table is still not okay, both the colour, and the way the line falls off to the right. I literally do not see this in the painting itself! So, may just do a layer that focuses on those things next, to unify it.


      This watermelon suffered the combined temptation of a strong composition and a good first few layers, but it seemed a little too pop at that point. This is always intangible, but I felt there was more, so, somewhere there had to be. I think I really wanted it to feel like summer, and the watermelon to really feel wet. Anyway, just a little more to go, but close to what I want. 12x16 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.


      A place in Vermont I always enjoyed, fog in May, this was always interesting to work with. There are several versions of this, this was the worst, but a while back I felt like resurrecting it and now it's not that bad anymore, more to go but on the playing field again. About 11x14 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.


      The same place, a little further down the road, a few years later, fog lifting on a morning in early September, one of the best times there for me. Have long ago lost track of how many time I've worked on this, but I'd made a version of it that worked at one level, and wanted to fins the next level. I guess this is about the interplay between the local colour and the atmosphere, but it's also about things that are painted broadly, versus things that are more specific. Ground it back lightly this time, after a certain point it's the only option, then saw a few new things. The best it's been, but I'd like to take it a little further. At a certain point, these seem to need a juicier paint in order to be finished. If the juicy paint comes in too soon, it produces a sort of false finish, that swoosh uber alles thing that we have all perhaps seen a little too much of. That's because it works, but it needs to be used in moderation, otherwise the swoosh takes over like some brilliantined ham in a toupee and corset. About 10x14 inches, oil on gessoed paper over panel.


      Started this one this week, smaller version of something I did in the two foot scale that has turned out well except for the colour, which has gone around in circles. So, in this one, I wanted to get the colour first, then use that to finish the larger one. About 13x15 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.


      Small start in watercolour, did this at the end of the old moon and it has a definite lack of oomph, some of these have had a much nicer quality. But it's all there, a more rigorous pattern to work with on this ground than I can get with just red chalk, and that's what matters at this stage. Will hopefully get the kind of energy to put an extended alla prima layer on it in the next day or so, without the assistance of my old frenemy, caffeine. 12x14 inches, watercolour, so far, on gessoed linen over panel.

june 18

      Third week of the moon, a few nice days but now back to the famous humidity. A lot of rain predicted this week that was delayed, but as I took a walk yesterday afternoon in some really dense air, it finally started to really rain, got soaked but it was fun. My life inside can get pretty complicated sometimes, between the book and the work a lot of different things to figure out and juggle. Am feeling a lot more appreciation for basic outside, physical experience like that. Got the new computer together, it's getting more familiar but not as much was transferred from the old one as I thought. Still, no disasters, and it works a lot better overall which is the main thing. Am working on paintings for a few people, this is always fun as long as there isn't a hard deadline. Had a setback with the book, but also made a decision about a new direction, see below. Am working to find the positive aspect of all changes, something from Marcus Aurelius that shows up a lot in contemporary spirituality as well. It's all good? Often not the easiest thing to fathom. Have been considering the ways my interest in understanding things is also a bug, not just a feature. There's some sense of an answer, but it only leads to another question. So, while each problem needs a solution, the fact of solution doesn't matter that much because it always leads to a new problem. This suggests the larger purpose is not some kind of comprehension, but accumulated experience with solving issues that are progressively insoluble. The only way to function in these circumstances is in the present, where the current problem, and its solution, always reside. What this means is that patience with existing circumstances needs to be balanced by a willingness to take action to create new ones. I've learned to do this with regard to the craft, but want to begin putting it into action in other areas of life as well.


      Haven't been able to get to the arboretum that much lately, it's only a few miles away, but I guess distance is relative to how much is going on where you are. The highlight this time was this magnolia tree, these blossoms are about a foot across and have the most amazing way of softly reflecting the light.


      Have been waiting for a proof of the paperback for about a month now. I thought I had figured out what was causing the font rendering issues and fixed the problem, and I had for two proofs, but I also keep editing the text and this one featured another set of creative printing errors in spite of all the clean up I've done to the formatting. Though this proof was long overdue, I told myself, not for the first time in the last six years, I'd give the bindery one more chance. With this paperback edition they'd gotten the colour on the cover really well, but, between all the delays and the return of the formatting issues, this is it, hasta la vista, it's become a matter of self respect to say no more. There is probably some sort of basic miscommunication between their highly sophisticated equipment and my less than highly sophisticated equipment. But, in the final analysis, a PDF is a PDF, it shouldn't be this hard. So, I need to work with a smaller company that is not in such a hurry, a situation in which customer service still exists, where professionalism is not defined as a wall of silence. When things have gone wrong, the bindery has nothing, I mean, nothing, to say to me about why, not even here's a website that explains this stuff. And maybe it's all so arcane that there isn't any explanation. But, there aren't a lot of binderies, they were the devil I knew, and so I stuck with it. Anyway, the paperback will be delayed yet again while I find a more humane organization to work with. Funny how this issue has come up again and again in various ways: just move on! It's always refreshing to realize that carrying that sack full of rocks around is actually optional.


      I keep cleaning up, forget how therapeutic it can be in the rush to get the next thing done. That's an awful lot of empty white space for a painting studio!


      The beach at Stone Harbor last September, still hot and humid, more people around than I thought there would be, a Bedouin encampment look that was fascinating. References to lots of my outdoor favorites, did this last week but couldn't get a decent photo of it. Looking into the afternoon sun, a lot of haze, I was happy to get this far in one layer. Did a lot of landscaping, moved the most foreground figure on the right from the left, left out a lot of figure jumble on the left. The medium allowed a lot of adjustment, but things also ended up a little murky as a result. Will mount this on a panel and grind it back slightly for the next layer. The second layer tends to go nowhere, sigh, but maybe putting a thin couch on it before beginning would help. 10x15 inches, oil on Arches Huile.


      Something older where the peonies turned out unusually well, I've been avoiding finishing it for a while, but I looked at it this week and saw how to move it forward, it didn't seem like a big deal anymore. Waiting until you know, the ultimate luxury. Detail here, added a little more chroma and saturation overall but it took such a bad photo I can't bear to show it. The remaining issues of noteare all in the rest of the painting, this photo showed me the way the vase and the table line are really out of alignment. A few more layers might do this. At one point I sort of dreaded this, more work, but I've learned that, if it begins to feel like work, I'm doing something wrong. Whole painting is about 15x16 inches, oil on gessoed canvas over panel.


      More recent start, this had become a little bright and cool in the blue department, more to go, but closer to what I'd like now. About 11x14 inches, oil on gessoed linen over canvas.


      Have been having fun fiddling around with this watermelon, recent start but the panel had too much linen texture for the subject, so it had to get more paint. Made it warmer and more summery feeling this time, getting closer to done. 12x16 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.


      One new beginning this week, a smaller version of something I did this winter in the two foot scale. Started this on a really hot day, did a watercolour underpainting but then just spontaneously put some pretty bold and blocky colour on it. Second layer here, mostly involved in mapping the flower accurately, more curves, less angles. Still a little nutty but in a decent place all things considered. That weird energy of summer, look out. About 13x15 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.

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