Monday, November 23, 2020

Conversing with Giorgio Morandi


I almost forgot the paint marks on the wall and the marks on the table!
My palette
Photo of Morandi's objects in his studio (note the paint marks on the wall as well as on the table surface.) 

I wanted to try something very different for me. I've been looking at the works of Giorgio Morandi for a few months now. This was my first attempt at picking up my brush and exploring my interpretation of his work. 

I wish I had saved the earlier photos I took of my painting his objects. I ended up having to stretch the objects out a bit because I had messed up on their placement near each other. It would have been interesting to see what the piece looked like originally. 

I would definitely do this again. If things were different now, I would go exploring thrift stores for different sized bottles, wood blocks, and interesting containers. Instead, I will use what I have and try to make it work the next time I try to learn from Morandi. (I'd really like to find different chairs about dollhouse size and use those for models. Not Morandi but Kilmer.)

I'm already being pulled in a different direction by another artist but Morandi intrigues me and I will return to study him some more.

Supplies used:

Journal I made from hardcover book and 100 lb Accent Opaque cardstock size 13 1/4 x 20" opened

Acrylics: Holbein, Sennelier, Utrecht and Golden

Stabilo Aquarellable pencils in black and brown

Painting knives 


Princeton Catalyst Tools

Looking at: Giorgio Morandi

Reading: Giorgio Morandi Works, Writings and Interviews 

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Thoughts on Painting During a Pandemic


I know that I'm not alone in saying that I've had a hard time working since March. A lot of the time I stand in front of my easel and stare at the blank page. I wonder what the hell I'm doing and if it's of any value or importance. A soft voice reminds me that it's important to me.

I've been looking at the work and lives of painters during previous difficult times and trying to learn from them. (How did Munch work during WW2 with German soldiers outside of his windows? How did he work through the 1919 pandemic when he got sick? How did Schiele and Klimt work through the pandemic?  How did Picasso translate his thoughts during WW2 into Guernica? How did Matisse work during WW1? etc...) Obviously, I'm not trying to compare myself or my work to them and their situations but I am trying to find ways in which to feel that I'm doing the right thing and I'm seeking for ways in which to feel less alone.
Most days, I force myself to do something. I put on a podcast or audio book (something with a time limit) and start squeezing out a couple of blobs of paint. I do not like wasting paint so this forces me to pick up my brush and use it. 

I've cleaned up my art area and tried to organize it as best as I could so I could easily access what I needed. 

When not painting, I read about other artists as well as look at their work. I'm trying to keep my well as full as possible. I've been studying Cezanne the last month or so and there's a lot to digest. I'm trying to take to heart what Jenny Saville said in a podcast about working with a companion artist.

Taking a page from many of the painters before me including Jack Whitten, I've been keeping a studio journal for months now, separate from my art journal. I just write it all out: whatever is going on in my day/the world, my studio, ideas, notes to myself, etc... I went out and bought a nice journal (Detroit Shinola, grid paper) and I use it on a regular basis. 
Some additional thoughts:
Don't be afraid to make sad, angry or ugly work right now. 
Don't worry about finishing, just make.

Don't be afraid to try new things: new styles, new mediums, new directions.
Be gentle with yourself and do the best you can. That's all any of us can do right now.

Supplies used:

Journal I made from hardcover book and 100 lb Accent Opaque cardstock size 13 1/4 x 20" opened

Acrylics: Holbein, Sennelier, Utrecht and Golden

Stabilo Aquarellable pencils in black and blue

Painting knives 


Princeton Catalyst Tools

Looking at: Cezanne

Reading: Cezanne's Letters by Alex Danchev

Monday, November 16, 2020

Happy 100th Birthday to Wayne Thiebaud!

Happy 100th birthday to painter and teacher, Wayne Thiebaud!

"I think of myself as a beginner. Sometimes that's the whole joy. If you could just do it, there'd be no point in doing it."

View Thiebaud's current exhibit virtually at the Crocker Sacramento here.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020


Former front and back journal covers.

This is what the journal originally looked like in January of 2020.
About a month later, while sitting at a park in Burbank with my family, I reworked it. 

The very top photos are what it looks like today. I did not do any additional work to it since mid February. The only collage on the blue cover is the woman that ended up being completely painted over. I decided to try to treat it like a blank surface as much as possible. I liked the bits of journaling peeking through the paint so I left that alone.

The white flower was originally a collaged image of a flower. With several layers of acrylic paint and pencil work, I changed the flower completely. The text is also all collage but heavily painted and colored over. 

I had painted about six pages inside the journal before I decided to cut it up last night. (I will share the inside pages at a later date.) I wanted to keep the covers and propped them up on a bookshelf for inspiration. 
I'd been working back and forth between these two books for a month or so. Last night I decided that it just wasn't working for me. So, I tore the smaller book up (the larger one is still complete and as of this posting, remains an intact journal.)

I thought about sewing new pages in but my work has changed so much since the beginning of the year that I decided it was just best to move on.

(I have plans for the inside finished pages. The blank pages will get used for another project eventually.)

It felt invigorating to tear up a project that wasn't working and to decide how to breathe new life into it...

Monday, November 09, 2020


The finished page didn't quite work out in the direction I had wanted it to be (I will save that idea for another day.) As a study, I'm happy with it. 

The dried flower is based on a photo of a dried rose that hung in my kitchen for many years until it just fell apart. The embellishment on the left is playing around with a fragment I gleaned from a Richard Diebenkorn painting. 

At one point, the flower was really interesting and very different with how I had layered and scraped it. Alas, I overworked it and it became something completely different. I had to stop scraping as I started tearing into the paper. I tried patching it up with gel medium and that worked to save it. I am quite happy with the textures in it.

Note how the initial sketch is a guide I ended up abandoning.

Been working on this off and on for five days now. I'm glad to be able to move on.

Supplies used:

Journal I made from hardcover book and 100 lb Accent Opaque cardstock size 13 1/4 x 20" opened

Acrylics: Holbein, Sennelier, Utrecht and Golden

Stabilo Aquarellable pencils in black and blue

Painting knives 


Princeton Catalyst Tools

Looking at: Cezanne and Richard Diebenkorn

Reading: Cezanne by Alex Danchev

Wednesday, November 04, 2020

Thoughts on Painting and Making Work for Yourself

The above is a quote by painter Edward Hopper found in the book, Art is the Highest Form of Hope. However, I don't think that they got the quote right (please correct me if I am wrong.) What I've found that he said was, "I don't think I ever tried to paint the American scene; I'm trying to paint myself."

That said, is there anything wrong with painting only for yourself? 

In this country, when we share that we paint (or make books, or sew, or draw or bake), we are often greeted with two questions:

"That's nice but what are you going to do with it?"

Or, my favorite:

"Are you going to sell it?"
It's as if the only value of work is one in which money can be made from it.
My work is primarily done in book form (inside of a journal that I make with my own hands.) I have never sold a fully finished journal nor do I want to.
What I know, is that when I work, I try to silence the voices. I ask questions while I paint. I think. I process. I dialogue. I don't think what or who am I doing this for? I don't think am I going to sell this or am I going to teach a class on it or anything like that. I try not to ask or judge, "is it good?" (at least not in the beginning, the question is usually, is it what it needs to be?) I do the work and have a conversation with myself. It's how I've worked for more than twenty years. For me, it's how I work best.
“When you start working, everybody is in your studio- the past, your friends, enemies, the art world, and above all, your own ideas- all are there. But as you continue painting, they start leaving, one by one, and you are left completely alone. Then, if you are lucky, even you leave.”-John Cage
So, when I work, I'm working for myself. I am encouraged by my students and my friends and those who are interested in my work but I am not making the work for them. I would make the work even if I didn't have an Instagram or a blog to post them to. I make the work because I have to.
Now I hope you understand why that quote resonated so strongly with me.