Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Center of the County; Order and Chaos and never looking away; Akira Kurosawa

Center of the County
contee crayon  14" x 20"

"To be an artist means never to look away."
Akira Kurosawa

I have been swamped by the task of cleaning up the studio as we head into the winter. You must understand something about my studio - it is an old one room school house and as such is a little rough, more workshop than pristine, white painter's space. My carpentry tools and a good deal of cast off stuff from the house are also there, filling the corners and loft with God knows what. Plus the painting gear for the field; the huge studio easel and paint table and stretchers and panels and on and on.  Each late fall I try and bring order out of chaos - which just happens to be perhaps the most important task of the artist as well.

It is important to remember that one cannot impose this order or form upon the visual, physical chaos that comprises our environs. Instead an artist is an explorer, searching to discover and recognize understanding or some kind of order that lies within. It is, I think, a kind of alignment with one's surroundings that can only result from never looking away. A task that belongs to all the art forms, at their best.  So, as I finish and begin to restart the painting engine within, I will greet the new year again eager to never look away and try to discover. Best wishes to all of you for this joyous season and a happy new year!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Bear's Den Study; "the intensity with which they occur..."; Fernando Pessoa; Andrew Wyeth

Bear's Den Study
 oil on panel  12" x 14"

"Time is holding it's breath for an instant - and for an eternity. 
That's what I'm after - that's what I'm trying to paint."
Andrew Wyeth

"The value in things is not the time they last, 
but in the intensity with which they occur.
That is why there are unforgettable moments and unique people."
Fernando Pessoa

I suppose the most difficult thing about making paintings is settling in on a subject. I am sometimes overwhelmed by the intensity of so much visual richness in the natural world - to the point of a kind of painting paralysis. It is then I have to tell myself to back off, relax, and trust that there will be time - time for it all. Then I might focus of a moment of visual poetry - a single, precious moment I can attempt to capture in a flurry of brushes and knives and seeing and feeling. The craziest part is about two and one half hours or so must be condensed back to that moment. I love the process within the attempt - this is what sends me along to the next one. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Wavebreaker 4; Eugene Delacroix and the "austere ideas of beauty"

Wavebreaker 4
 oil on panel  11" x 14"

"It is not easy. It is never easy."
"It has to be worked at, and even then you never learn it. No one has any magic way of doing it. No one has anything except an over-mastering desire to do it."
Frank Benson, American Impressionist

"Nourish yourself with grand and austere ideas of beauty that feed the soul."
Eugene Delacroix

With all of Frank Benson's dire warnings I thought perhaps some of Delacroix's 'nourishment of grand ideas of beauty' might be called for. Benson is correct though, it is a constant struggle to attempt to get somewhere near one's original concept and at the same time, allow for the painting to change and develop as it is built. The key through all that, whether a single go over two or three hours or a day after day marathon, is to hold to the discipline of your initial vision. This is a combination of absolute holding to accurate seeing tempered by the poetic idea that first drew one to the subject. All the structural bones come out of the poetry. The vision allows for a chance to bring understanding or form out of the chaos of nature. The only possible way someone might attempt to paint say, a breaking wave, is to have an over-mastering desire to see if one can 
come close to it - in every sense.  Enjoy!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Tumbled Logs; The symbiosis between forest and painter; Neil Welliver

Stormfall, Tumbled Logs
 oil on panel  16" x 16"

"There is some kind of symbiosis between the forest and the person who's there."
"It's the whole business about the relationship between painting and that which you painted and what happens, and how much you impose on it and how much it imposes on you. Whether you change it or it changes you."
Neil Welliver

I don't paint scenes or scenery. Perhaps you've noticed this by the entries in the blog. I have nothing against them, as such, I just get bored easily when involved in that kind of painting. While the presence of beauty and especially, rural settings can be an enjoyable kind of nostalgia, I don't trust those yearnings or inspirations or what they tend to give me.
Every painter needs an edge or a visual problem to spur on a process and a progression in their work. A kind of unspoken reason to work. Welliver's quote here speaks directly to something I use as a spur - the flux between presence and imposition - the self and the subject. Coloring that battle is the desire to produce something that speaks to the passage of time and the presence of pictorial space. I have found that abandoning myself to the shapes and relative intensities of the subject, ignoring what they are supposed to be - resisting any sort of imitation or illustration - is the challenge and the purpose. This requires a leap of faith that whatever the result, in the end will somehow grab the poetic essence that attracted me at the outset. The inevitable disappointments must lead to the next effort!
So here is my latest effort along these lines. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

River Glide; Ernest Hemingway; "Trying to make a picture of the whole world

River Glide
 oil on card  6" x 10"

River Glide 2 
 Oil on card  6" x 10"

"I am trying to make, before I get through. a picture of the whole world - or as much of it as I have seen.Boiling it down always, rather than spreading it thin."
Ernest Hemingway, 1933

Hemingway has pretty well summed up a primary task of any artist and any art form. 
This idea is related to the old saying about the world can be discovered in a grain of sand and essentially, this is true. Into this idea we must realize a painter is confronted every day with limitations, limitations unique to each one. These are with us as surely as fingerprints and can be a wall to get around or a tool for liberation. For me, some days it is the former and some days, good days, it is the latter. Over around forty years of this painting business I have come to terms with both kinds of days and their cumulative effect - a day spent trying to make a picture of the whole world, contained in a small corner, is a wondrous day no matter how smooth or rough. These two small works are originally images from an aluminum row boat on the Potomac River.
 I hope you enjoy them as much as I did making them.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Stump, Edge of the Woods; "to share the mystery"; John Berger; R. M. Rilke

Stump, Edge of the Woods
oil on panel   16" x 16"

"The challenge is to try not just to explain the mystery, but to ensure the mystery is shared and doesn't remain isolated."
John Berger

"Therein lies the enormous aid the work of art brings to the life of one who must make it - that it is his epitome; the knot in the rosary at which his life recites a prayer"
R. M. Rilke

Somewhere I once read a quote that said "the forest must devour itself in order to be reborn". Anyone who walks deliberately through a forest becomes aware of this process of life and death and renewal, all around one. In all seasons some part of the life cycle is in action. The markers of this phenomena are, for me, the remains of fallen trees - the stumps. Scattered throughout a wood, they each are in a differing state of decay, mossy or dry, new fallen or ancient and powdery.  However interesting biologically and historically, the woodland life cycle is not my primary reason for painting and finding images there. 
These stumps are sources of color and reflectors of light, casting shadows, occupying form and mass. They are a refuge and a visual trigger amongst the monotony of the green canopy and the vertical trees. I am drawn to them as well because they provide me an avenue away from the dictatorial quality of nature - they provide an avenue for me to explore the things I love about making paintings, the emphatic quality of thick paint; the visual impact of intense color; the truth of the flat surface; the visual tension between changing positive and negative space. The challenge, to my way of thinking, is to take these vestiges of modernism and get them to still describe the essence of a place and a subject. I guess this struggle is the "knot in the rosary at which my days recite a prayer". Hope you will enjoy the result!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Early Autumn Stump, "art is a triumph" John Cheever; Friedrich Nietzsche;

Early Autumn Stump
 oil on panel  16" x 16"

" ...art is the triumph over chaos...to celebrate a world that lies spread out around us 
like a bewildering and stupendous dream"
John Cheever

"We have art in order to not die from the truth."
Friedrich Nietzsche

The whole triumph over chaos idea appeals to me a great deal. After a chaotic summer and early fall of starting and stopping work in favor of family duties and travel and such - and though I do as a habit of life work every day - good stuff and life interrupted for a while.
So now I am home and back to work without anything looming on the horizon and I am blown away with the bewildering and stupendous dreaming, visual world and the difficulty in coming to grips with it with a brush. Perhaps returning and relearning and new seeing are the secrets to vitality and joy. Certainly they bring one to face the limitations of one's hand and the struggle to reconcile that with the essence, 
the truth of what lies before us. Somewhere on that razor thin edge might be found what we hope is art. Only time can say, in the meantime -  Enjoy!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Lake's Edge. "Time is holding it's breath for an instant..."; Degas; Wyeth

Lake's Edge
 oil on panel  9" x 12"

"A painting requires a little mystery, some vagueness, some fantasy. When you always make your meaning perfectly plain you end up boring people."
Edgar Degas

"Time is holding it's breath for an instant - and for an eternity. That is what I'm after - that's what I'm trying to paint."
Andrew Wyeth

This soft, hazy morning on a lake in Maine has been on my mind for some time. Where the winter - fallen trees and reeds get all tangled among wild rose and blueberry that grow out over the edge of the lake. The larger trees stand back on solid ground, forming a back curtain for the chaos going on along the shore. This is untouched land found up in the corners of lakes, near where the river flows in. I can glide in on my small rowboat and drop an anchor against the river current and have this place all to myself.
There is something that attracts me to the ragged and chaotic edge of things - the places without much evidence of people or machines. If you've been receiving these entries over time, you may have noticed that I don't usually paint pretty views or conventional scenes.  I guess I need the tangled mess of stuff to give me the task of searching for poetry, for form or understanding amongst the space and shape and light and shadow.  
I find the mystery in that elusive moment of time distilled from a couple of hours of looking to be what I'm trying to paint. Enjoy!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

"Art Exists Because Life Is Not Enough"

Cloud / Sky Study
  oil on panel  5" x 7"

"Art exists because life is not enough."
Ferreira Gullar

Today I wanted to invite
the delirious white-tuft clouds
from their spanking blue play field
to join me in wowing the crowds.

A conspiracy of mania and dervish dives
through such a runaway day,
should be absolute law for all,
without a thought of avoiding the fray.

To coax my brush in fine acrobatics,
operating high above the town,
without a net and plenty of risks,
teasing time like a crazy car clown.

from the poem, "Invitation"
Dean Taylor Drewyer

Sky Study
  oil on panel  6" x 9"

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Stormfall, Cutler, Maine. Vincent Van Gogh; Night Dreams

Stormfall, Cutler, Maine
  oil on panel  14" x 18"

"I am seeking, I am striving, I am in it with all my heart."
Vincent van Gogh

Night Dreams
The winter dead trees
make a clattery night,
as the wind swoops and scrubs
at the brambled brush.

Shuttling clouds back lit
by the indifferent moon
run and skid in turn,
while red green stumps moan,
caught in memoried
dreams of past life.
Dean Taylor Drewyer

As one paints and scrubs in the shadow structure and establishes mid tones from which higher key lights and deeper darks can be established - as one figures and blocks in composition, space, paths of movement, areas of emphasis and de-emphasis - it is vital to keep all this thinking suspended in a kind of sub level. This, in order to be free to abandon oneself to shape and color, without naming objects or assuming outcomes. The closest experience to this 'making of a painting' is roughly equivalent to jumping off a high dive without looking to see if there is water in the pool; all the while juggling large, sharp. carving knives. What a wondrous process! Enjoy!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Hazy Morning, Outer Banks; John Berger, Eugene Delacroix

Wave Breaks, Outer Banks
  oil on panel  8" x 10"

"The challenge is to try not to just explain the mystery, but to ensure the mystery 
is shared and doesn't remain isolated."
John Berger

"Nourish yourself with grand and austere ideas of beauty that feed the soul."
Eugene Delacroix

When one is casting about for a subject, which really can translate to a search for a reason to make a painting - the difficult thing is to remain dedicated to the mystery of a visual incident rather than the easily identifiable part. This requires an embrace of the difficult and an acceptance that there will be 'scrapers' along the way but is a path always more rewarding because of what is gained by the process. This approach will yield series of works drawn from similar subjects as one struggles to solve the questions of what is going on here that brings me this sense of 'austere beauty' and allows this mystery to be shared. Again and again one returns to the sets of visual happenings to try and explain what might possibly end up as inexplicable. Perhaps it is that risk of failure played against the joy in discovering form and meaning that compels the painter.  That act of sharing found beauty that feeds the soul and allows connection to the mystery of being. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Sky Study, Painter's Psalms

Sky Study
 oil on panel  9" x 12"

Once one is bitten by the bug of wrestling with the visual, chaotic world and fighting to bring form or understanding out of it - it simply grabs hold like a dog with a chew toy and will not let go. What a joyful predicament!

Let me grasp the air
pulsing down these hills,
kissed by a moment's cold frolic,
without thought of the strangling calendar.

Let my feet step free into the swirl
in the yellow tall grasses,
my head up among the intemperate clouds, 
at one with my precious delirium.

There are no dances so
sweet as these hours of mine,
poured out on the land,
standing at the edge of mystery,
boldly greeting my imperfections,
held out as an offering.

I am never far from these fields,
lodged as they are in my deep.
Their wind songs find me
encased in dreams, lost,
slant light running loose
through my night shadows.

from 'A Painter's Psalms'
by Dean Taylor Drewyer

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Storm Lifting

"Storm Lifting"
 oil on panel  7" x 9"

"What can you do with your days but work and hope
Let your dreams bind your work to your play
What can you do with each moment of your life
But love till you've loved it away
Love till you've loved it away."
Bob Franke

In the face of the news over the last few days, I thought this lyric from a song I first heard in the early 1970s might do us all some good. Art can't solve social problems, won't cure disease, can't make people treat each other decently in any direct sense. All it might do is to bring an individual to a stop and allow them to leave alone immediate problems or concerns and enter into a thinking, feeling, contemplative state of mind and perhaps find a pathway toward empathy or at least recognition of another's experience. A small goal perhaps, but whether an old folk song, a symphonic composition, a dance, or a small painting - perhaps it is one of our few remaining pathways to human connection. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

"There Is No Reason Not To Follow Your Heart"' Steve Jobs, Rainer Maria Rilke, the Outer Banks

"Morning Sandbars"
  oil on panel  20" x 24"

"Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. 
There is no reason not to follow your heart."
Steve Jobs

"What is required of us is that we love the difficult and learn to deal with it. In the difficult are the friendly forces, the hands that work on us. Right in the difficult we must have our joys, our happiness, our dreams: there against the depth of this background, they stand out, there for the first time we see how beautiful they are.
from the Selected Letters of Rainer Maria Rilke

When making paintings one must approach the entire operation with willingness to take on whatever difficulties present themselves as pathways toward the visual idea or trigger; the ever elusive joyful poetry that started you. This willingness to attempt the difficult can be a valuable habit and an encouragement in itself - a kind of freedom grows out of it that makes following one's dream a daily involvement.

This painting grew out of a visit to the Outer Banks of North Carolina and a renting of an old house that had survived enough storms that it's front porch stood just feet away from the surf. A great chunk of my life has been spent by the beaches down there and have always loved the rhythm and presence of the sea. The hazy morning light was the poetry I was after; the structure of waves bathed with the peculiar light 
was my challenge. Hope you enjoy the result!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Downhill Stump; Beauty Walks A Razor's Edge: Bob Dylan, shi tao

Downhill Stump
 oil   8" x 10"

"Beauty walks a razors edge,
someday I'll make it mine."
Bob Dylan,  
from 'Shelter From The Storm'

"The ultimate aim of painting is not decorative beauty but truth. What is truth? It must not be confused with formal resemblance; indeed, formal resemblance only reaches for the appearance of things, whereas the function of truth is to capture their essence."
shi  tao

The difficulty in making paintings lies in the balance between 'thing' and form, subject and material. Each practitioner must discover a singular way to cut a path through the struggle, to give each of these forces its own weight and presence in the work. I've been allowing surface and viscous paint to rule over time, luxuriating in the thick paint and color. But value and structure sit on my shoulder reminding me to not forget them - while subjects hold a place as visual incidents and triggers and sources of seeing - 
the original source of the visual poetry.  
 For each painter this may well vary as one works through the repeated days of looking, seeing, working - constantly seeking that razor's edge of beauty and the truth it enfolds. This is the difficulty  - and the joy as well! 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

"Wave Break", Fairfield Porter, Eliza Gilykson

"Wave Break"
  oil on panel  12" x 18"

Think I'll go down to the Sea for awhile,
Kick my shoes off in the sand.
Don't know what I'm gonna be for awhile,
Don't want to try to understand.
from 'Coast' by Eliza Gilykson

"As the wholeness of life eludes control, so the wholeness of art eludes the artist"
Fairfield Porter

All one can do is grasp for some kind of understanding, some kind of form, while engaging the swimming chaos of living. This is, humbly and fully aware of Porter's statement, how I make the attempt. Enjoy.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Winter Wood; A Magic Portal; Paul Cezanne;

Winter Wood
  oil on panel  8" x 10"

November Creek Bank
  oil on panel  11" x 14"

"Nature appears to be always the same, yet nothing we see endures. Our art must convey a glimmer of her endurance with the elements, the appearance of all her changes."
Paul Cezanne

Perhaps the sources of art are set out here according to Cezanne. How we deal with the impermanent chaos of the visual world - each one of us seeing in our own manner - in an effort to bring some kind of coherence or understanding back from the battle. If we have any success it is found in the contemplation of others, opening a brief portal to step through into a construct we discovered. Perhaps these works will provide something for you. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Pablo Neruda, Rilke, Winter Stream, Late Afternoon

Winter Stream, Late Afternoon
  oil on panel  8" x 10"

"All paths lead to the same goal: to convey to others what we are."
Pablo Neruda

"The purpose of life is to be defeated by greater and greater things."
Rainer Maria Rilke

Maybe its just one way of reading it, but Rilke seems to be pointing out a progression of greater and greater things that have not defeated one, in order to move on to the next. As I grow older and as I go to my painting each day I can understand well this under-lying meaning. This keeps me on Neruda's path, trying my best to convey what I am by what I see and love and attempt. Enjoy!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

The Primordial Soup; Porter, Tolstoy; Junker Study 1

Junker Study 1
  oil on panel  10" x 10"

"I think it is a way of making the connection between yourself and everything."
Fairfield Porter

"A true work of art can in it's entirety  only represented by itself."
Leo Tolstoy

The way I would explain these ideas to my students was simply that each of us stand in a in a primordial soup made up of the atomic structure of all things. Out of this tangible sensory chaos an artist must try and glean some kind of form; some note of understanding things on a very non-naming, structural level. The best way to achieve Porter's connection to every thing is too erase one's self - to become one with the surroundings. This sounds like silly mumbo jumbo but it isn't - as soon as one learns to see the world without naming things and only in terms of the process of painting the visual chaos reveals patterns, color relationships, spatial connections.  This way as well, is the path to Tolstoy's true work of art - the painting having become its own reality, rather than an imitation of appearances. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Instruction In Joy and Acclamation, Mary Oliver, Spring Creek

Spring Creek
  oil on panel  10" x 10"

"It was what I was born for - 
to look, to listen,

to lose myself
inside this soft world - 
to instruct myself
over and over

in joy
and acclamation."

from the poem "Mindful"
by Mary Oliver

Sometimes, when someone asks me how long it takes to make a painting, I answer that it took 64 years - all my years so far in this world.  I'm not being flip and I understand that a non painter (read more normal person) wonders on such things because in industrial society work is divided into weeks and days and hours and value id assigned accordingly.
I am being quite serious with my answer because this has turned out to be what I was born for and everything in my life has in someway affected me and propelled me toward making the particular painting I am working on at the moment!
The other problem with answering such a question is that I cannot predict and in the end cannot know how long each one takes - because while I work I sort of disappear and become blissfully unaware of time. I can tell you that I am at this task every day, instructing myself over and over in "joy and acclamation." Another entry might deal with the assigned value - suffice for now to say each one I feel is a reflection of my soul.   Enjoy!

Friday, January 23, 2015

"The Collaboration", at the Swallows Falls, Western Maryland, Van Gogh, Degas,

Top Of The Falls
  oil on panel   9" x 12"

Bottom Of The Falls
  oil on panel   6" x 8"

"I am seeking. I am striving I am in it with all my heart.
Vincent van Gogh

"It is much better to draw what one has in one's memory. It is a transformation in which imagination collaborates with memory."
Edgar Degas

I learned a very valuable thing while getting these images started at the foot of this waterfall in Western Maryland; never sit for three hours on a boulder, in the shade. Even with a jacket beneath you. It took a couple of hours to thaw out from the chill! These were touched up or finished up in the studio but I feel retained the 'presence' of the place and day - and that is the danger, that you will make one touch too many and kill the spontaneity.  That is where Degas' collaboration comes in - once when someone asked me how this works I responded that I just dream myself back to the place and the day. They looked at me a bit askance after that but it is exactly what I do though I could not say how. 
Except that I am in it with all my heart. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Fastwater and Rocks, Robert Henri, Ranier Maria Rilke,

Fastwater and Rocks
  oil on panel  12" x 16"

" I know nothing better than being present and clear eyed when the miracle happens."
Robert Henri

"Make your ego porous. Will is of little importance, complaining is nothing, fame is nothing.  Openness, patience, receptivity, solitude are everything."
Rainer Maria Rilke

Someone asked me how I could get the movement in the swirling water of a fast moving stream - how could one make paint do this? The only answer I know is to see with the closest possible care and to know how to see form, shape, space, value. But then one must use memory and understanding and imagination as well. Forty years of using oil paint allows a certain freedom as well and it is vital to trust one's drawing. 
There are times when I am so immersed in the process that I'm is not entirely sure of how it came about.   I think that immersion is what Henri refers to as 'being present,' and perhaps 
Rilke's 'porous ego' is the ultimate state of awareness, in this case, of what that water is actually doing. Enjoy!. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Once More The Fleeting Sensation, Marcel Proust, Ranier Maria Rilke, paintings as offerings, Bear's Den

Winter Rocks at Bear's Den
  oil on panel  11" x 14"

Early December at Bear's Den
  oil on panel  11" x 14"

"I ask my mind to make one further effort, to bring back once more the fleeting sensation."
Marcel Proust

"What is required of us is that we love the difficult and learn to deal with it. In the difficult are the friendly forces, the hands that work on us. Right in the difficult we must have our joys, our happiness, our dreams; there against the depth of this background, they stand out, there for the first time we see how beautiful they are."
Selected Letters of Ranier Maria Rilke

As not for a long time, the present depth of despair over the news from Paris can be overwhelming and at the same time a cause for zeroing in on what we hold dear. As Rilke writes, it is at these times our joys and dreams stand out in stark contrast and we see how beautiful they are. The arts can be a refuge at times but it seems to me this time we must use them as a banner of shared humanity against ignorance and selfish, empty dogma. 

Here I offer two paintings from a favorite place, high on a ridge in the Blue Ridge territory, west of our home. It is a place of huge boulders and forests and the Appalachian Trail. It is here I can ask my mind, caught in the whirlwind of events, 
"to bring back once more the fleeting sensation."