Cleopatra’s Complicated Flotilla
2019 Acrylic on paper, 9 x 12 in.
So it’s complicated, Life. These days. Hard. So let’s not talk about that, for just a moment.
Instead, here’s a favorite painting that’s not hard. Two winters ago I was trying out some new brushes on some cheap watercolor paper, and the results amused me. Things just kept happening and in the end I was quite fond of it, so much so that it actually hangs in my studio. Partly to remind me of things I can do when I’m stuck, and partly just because it makes me feel good, which is always handy when you’re working on stuff.
In these cursed days of dread and sorrow let’s remember that the rich and powerful Cleopatra had her hard times, too, rather famously. As has Egypt, though it still endures, after a fashion. And, of course, the Nile is the very definition of endurance, Aswan Dam notwithstanding. The long view is very helpful these days, I find. It may not tell you better times are ahead, but at least it reminds you that bad times have always been part of the deal.
November 2018 (Paradise)
2018. Acrylic on canvas, 12 x 16 in.
Unlike for so many in the far-western states right now, our air here in the Joshua Tree area today is clear, the skies blue, the mountains in view – all swept clean by a wind from the north last night. The smoke from the El Dorado fire, which had made our air dark and thick the last few days, is now just visible on the horizon far to the west. I don’t expect this to last. But I’m grateful for it, and wish I could share it with so many around our states right now who are covered in smoke or running from fire, anxious at visions of the apocalypse.
The town of Paradise, California, has been evacuated again ahead of the North Complex fire in Butte County. In November two years ago, during those days of shock, horror, and grief over the terrible Camp Fire that killed 85 people in Paradise, I created this work. It was hard at that time not to feel a dread-filled presentiment about the future for all of us in California. I am so grateful to our state, local, regional, and, yes, federal agencies that plan year-round and work so hard fighting fires to keep us safe. The job gets tougher every season.
2020. Acrylic on canvas, 10 x 8 in.
I’ve been away for a couple weeks. Just got back in the studio briefly today, mostly just tidying up and trying to remember where I was at.
Not sure why I decided to post this image, painted earlier this year. It’s on a textured canvas, and I used sponge, roller, and brush. I worked pretty hard on it, actually. Some paintings start to take on a personality for you early in the process, and even if you try to ignore it it keeps insisting. Each layer could have obliterated its character, yet I found myself continually trying to bring it back forward. And you have no idea if any of that character will be apparent to the viewer. But you feel compelled to let it realize itself anyway.
Some people in my life are having a hard time right now. A very hard time. It’s necessary to fight for them, or to encourage them to fight for themselves and hope that they can. A happy outcome is not at all certain. I may have that hard a time myself someday and I hope then someone will fight for me, or that I will be able – and willing – to fight that hard for myself.
More fooling around with the granite sketch. Studio shot of work in progress, acrylic and ink on canvas:
Completely different approach than the last posted, but it is in line with an enduring stylistic interest of mine that comes up every so often and never really goes away. Witness this pastel from all the way back in 1999:
Pinto Mountains from Wonder Valley
1999. Pastel and charcoal on sandpaper, 14 x 10-1/8 in.
This is a view from my property, right after I acquired my studio. I was just beginning to try out ways to encompass the enormity of what I was seeing – the enormity, the simplicity, the complexity. And how it’s all happening at once, in one vast pulsating organism filled with space. Still working on it.