Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Ritter Center House -Spoken Words

I am starting to scratch some of the sentences that I have pulled from peoples experiences of being homeless into the walls and roof of my house. So many homeless people talk about how hard it is not having anyone who knows or cares about them. This desire to be connected to people seems almost like a requirement of being human. That without other people in you life it is barely possible to exist. Like food or water. One thing I never thought about is that once you are on the streets there is a kind of loose community of people who are already there. Those people who, for whatever reason, haven't been able to hang on to their homes, jobs, whatever.... What is incredibly moving to me is that these people tend to support each other. They all know that they each represent possibly the last chance of anyone showing up for one another. This one woman writes about this community and what it means to her: "They care about me and miss me if I don't turn up and that makes me feel really special, well at least to someone." I am using a sharp needle like tool to scratch through the paint to form these sentences. Like the dark lines going around the house these words will spiral up around the sides of the house. I still haven't figured out how to carve the figure at the top.

carving letters

house progress

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Ritter Center House

I am now working on a project that will benefit The Ritter Center. This is an organization located in San Rafael, California that serves low income families and the homeless. Link: The Ritter Center - Marin Homeless Safety Net - Home There are about 20 artists all making unique houses. When they are done they are going to be installed in public spaces and then auctioned off- all proceeds going to help The Ritter Center. My house is still being figured out but what I am doing so far is creating an upwards path going from the bottom of the house up to the roof. This line will metaphorically represent the long road both out and into homelessness. Like a weathervane floating above the house I am also going to create a figure in balance. Maybe this will be carved out of wood..not sure yet. Symbolizing the buoyancy of the human spirit to transcend but also the very real precarious reality of our lives. I have been reading several blogs on the web, all written by homeless people. It is quite extraordinary that now, not only can we read first hand what these people are going through but we can comment and have a dialogue by leaving comments. Us in our homes at our computers and them at pay per view internet cafes on the other side of the world. Here is a link to one that is really quite amazing. Link: The Adventures of Homeless Girl
I am taking some of words and ideas that seem to be occurring repeatedly in the stories of people who find themselves on the outside edges of society. Ideas such as feeling invisible, needing to be missed and the difficulty of living on the street and I am writing them into the surface of the walls of this house. Although the subject is a difficult one, I am focusing the look and feel of this house to be one of hope fullness. These pictures below are of the house in it's beginning stages.....

house 1

house 1.5

house 3

Monday, November 23, 2009

Kiwi Vine

In this painting I wanted to keep a very simple composition, but also to have a portion of the painting be detailed but quiet and subtle. Outside my living room window is a huge kiwi vine that I planted several years ago. The wind blows and the branches of this plant are always waving at me. When winter comes all the leaves die and blow, one by one, away.

orangy, vine

Friday, November 20, 2009

Delivery Guys

One of the hard parts, for me anyway, about being an artist is all the time alone. I can get busy and not leave the house for several days. Things start to become weird after about a day and a half... sooner if I don't change out of my pajamas till lunch...but why bother dressing - no one is around. We live in a rural area, so apart from the dog, it can become pretty quiet. Then the dog barks and a truck pulls up. The crunch of gravel, a door slam and footsteps up to my door. Normally they just knock and leave it, but today I open it before he has a chance to knock. A UPS delivery person breathing hard from trudging up my driveway with a huge roll of paper ( we make art prints sometimes) is standing at my door. We talk - anything to have a conversation- a bit of news, a remark exchanged about a baseball game that I actually have not seen or particularly care about, but feign I do just to enjoy the banter on the subject. We talk for a few minutes then "See ya! "off he goes. Today I ran with three women friends and they all were talking about how the UPS drivers are really by FAR the most attractive of all the delivery guys because they wear those cute brown shorts. I wondered if UPS figured this dress code would increase their business with their women customers.
Sometimes it's just better to leave the studio and go out into the world.

Sunday, November 1, 2009


I have been making these tiny paper collages in preparation for doing 3 of them quite large on panel. These are about 3" or 4" I have so far made 10. These three seem to go together and are my favorite ones so far.

#1 Red and Green

#4 Brown and Cream

#3 Ivory and Violet

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

70 x 60 Problem

Thought I would stick this half made painting up here. So many times I get to this point. This
painting could go either way--kind of predictable, maybe a tad boring or somehow I am going to push it into something significant. The only problem is I don't know what that is yet.


Monday, September 21, 2009

Point Reyes, California

My friend Grant, took me to a secret beach located at the very far end of Point Reyes National Seashore. To access the beach you have to climb down an old rope, but once there we wandered along the deserted beach. The fog was coming in so the light was particularly beautiful. Granite stones being tumbled smooth by the endless rhythm of the sea. 




Friday, September 4, 2009

Side of Dumpster

Driving to my daughters school this morning I passed this dumpster. Whoa.  This is a detail of the door. 


Monday, August 31, 2009

Studio Work

I have been working on several large paintings. These are on canvas which is new for me as I usually work on panels. The wood panels when over 5 or 6 ft get very heavy. I also have been using two up turned 10 gallon buckets on the floor to prop up my paintings while working on them. It puts them at a good height for me to work and the slight angle makes it a bit easier as opposed to being perfectly flat against the wall. So simple. Lately I have been so busy with trying to fit everything in that when I come across something that is so simple and easy I am especially appreciative of it. The same idea has been happening in my painting. Simplification. I am trying to show the paint's own character more and less of the heavy handedness of my own agenda. The clue to this idea comes every day when I am painting. Every time a drip of paint falls off my brush by accident it seem to land in the perfect place in the painting and actually make it significantly better. How can this be? 


Wednesday, July 29, 2009


Often parts of a larger painting can help me see what I might want to focus on in my next painting. Here the looseness and variety of textures and shapes coupled with the subtle grid lines practically could be an entire painting. Less is almost always more. Especially in painting. 


Monday, June 8, 2009

Artplane Workshop at Esalen

Just returned from another Artplane Workshop. I don't think Jennie and I have ever worked with a group of people who managed to paint so much in 5 days. Every night there was a group who stayed up till 2 am working in the "Art Barn" Painting is usually so solitary. I thoroughly enjoyed working with this group. They also ate more chocolate and drank more wine than other groups in the past. I already miss them.

Top Photo, Amy Johnson, 2nd year Artplane student painting mid week.
Christina Byrne and Elizabeth Hudson working late in the afternoon.
Bottom Photo, Jennie Oppenheimer giving an end of the week critique to the students.

Amy painting


workshop people

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Searching Continues....

I have been so busy lately. Here is how this one got very dark for awhile.....




Friday, April 24, 2009


Tonight I just decided to skip pretty much everything I usually do and try, in one session to go from blank white canvas to something that is graphically strong.  I can't re paint too much as the under color is wet and it darkens the light. Quickly lay in what a finished painting could look like from very far away. Not even sure how much of this will stay like this but it did seem like it wants to be this kind of a painting. It's as if it already knows what it is going to be. 


Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Art Plane

Sometimes the very thought of making or writing something can become the barrier. When it becomes like this I just start. Like now. I have no clue what to write, just the growing frustration that I am not. Why this plays out time and time again for me (and I  suspect others) always amazes me. It eludes me. The longer it is put off the bigger it becomes-the fact that nothing is happening-and then finally I just start.  I don't think the mind can create AND procrastinate at the same time. Creativity usually wins out and then suddenly it's no longer an issue. Amazingly, the doing is the antidote. This relief coupled with the stimulation of what is happening on the canvas or paper shifts everything.  Time slows down, concern gives way to gentle excitment. I call it the Art always felt to me like this space or place was a distinctly separate plane. It's always available. All the time. Sometimes I can get in it but mostly I'm on the ground looking up at it wondering why I'm not. Spending too long out of it, at least for me, is not a good thing. 


Monday, March 30, 2009

Shades of Gray

 I have been intermittently working on this painting for about a week....not crazy about this yet.
Although when I look at the post from before this seems way better. I usually don't have an opportunity to look backwards. 


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Just Shapes

Arranging and re arranging shapes in  a square could take up days and days of my time. I try and look at it and see if it can get it any more poignant or more noticeable. How can this be more perfect, more thoughtful, more memorable?--Does this feel how I want it to, even if I don't fully understand the feeling yet? Without subject matter that relates to anything specific, these kind of paintings are deliciously open. They are, for me, the most difficult. Sometimes I play around with a jpeg of the image on the computer to see if I can problem solve the particular painting if I get stuck.....This one below is working now, although the actual painting is more dull and drab than this jpeg. This is where I want to go with it tomorrow. 



Thursday, February 19, 2009


I went off on a bit of a tangent and did these small square 24" x 24" paintings just using minimal color. I tried to work on them all together and imagined them all hanging in one group. I wanted to see how simple I could get them so from across the room they looked interesting and graphic but then upon closer examination the texture and the subtle markings would reveal themselves.

I write or scratch words in my pictures which are often metaphorical or mean nothing at all but they do give the "idea" of communication even though it is vague. A word is so specific and actually really powerful so I tend to use ones that are obtuse or diluted by an overlay of texture or even upside down or backwards. 

black and white squares

Monday, February 16, 2009


For Valentines day I bought my daughters  small tins of gourmet jellybeans. Hannah left  for a week on a school field trip to Quebec and accidentally left it in my studio. This is a temptation too great for any person, especially me already weakened by the prospect of facing a difficult painting. I have already gone through the mandarin orange ones...incredible and now I discovered the pina colada ones...It is only Monday and she won't be back till next Sunday. 
There will be no happy ending here. It is simply too late for that.


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Overturned Stones

This idea of crappy painting in the beginning always reminds me of Anne Lamott, the Bay Area writer who said "I always do a shitty first draft" I think about that a lot when beginning a painting. It's much easier and in the end, because you don't care, there sometimes results 
some remarkable passages of paintings. Although then those become precious and then I spend all morning painting around the good parts which in time wrecks them. So I try to extend the period of time that I "don't care" and try not to think too hard. All parts of the painting at all times are open to change or destruction. No parts should be off limits. I think about how sensitive I can be..How can this feel more raw, more alive? What the hell am I doing? Sometimes I feel like someone is going to blow a whistle and cart me off to a more typical job. One with boundrys, a coffee machine and maybe even an  elevator I can take up and down to work. Total insecurity coupled with absolute certainty. This much I know to be true. 


Wednesday, February 11, 2009


In the beginning I just lay down whatever I am thinking about...
trying not to judge whatever it is or wether it looks good or not.
This painting is at the stage that I don't really like too much
of what is presently there. It feels simplistic, thin and overly 
decorative. This is early in the painting process-there is not much 
paint on this painting. Once I start covering up and re working 
the painting it generally gets better. Most of this will probably 
change. I find this the hardest part and it kills me to stick it 
on this blog as generally it's nice to only show the best work 
as if you never make duds. Often I find the paintings of 
others, when they are not working, the most interesting.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Littlest Song

This is where I ended up. This was an interesting 
painting for me. The darks had to be really strong  as 
they are not particularly dynamic shapes. I wanted the eye
to bounce around  and then have the quieter elements softly 
converse... Two conversations going simultaneously. This 
composition almost feels musical to me.
I was listening to Jolie Holland singing "The littlest Birds"
which inspired the title. A fabulous song if you have never
 heard it before..

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Late Bloomers

A recent article, passed along by a friend, written by Malcolm Gladwell
(The Tipping Point), illuminates this idea that some artists are 
fiercely direct and quick with their art. No experimentation, no 
search- just an incandescent manifestation of work--Picasso. On 
the other hand, there are those, the "late bloomers" (me too) that 
sort of grope our way along. Never really sure, but trial and error, 
and repeated mistakes eventually lead to some clarification, some results.
Gladwell asserts that Cezanne was one of these types. Never satisfied, 
persistently frustrated, although steadily getting better over the course 
of his life. The story goes that when Ambrose Vollard, the sponser of 
Cezanne's first one man show, at age 56, hunted down Cezanne in Aix 
"He spotted a still life in a tree, where it had been flung by 
Cezanne in disgust."Gladwell emphasizes the vital importance that 
the outside patrons , friends, family etc. are for the survival of these 
kind of "late bloomers" I have a hunch this is true for most artists. 
How many times has a friend said "I love this!" as they pull a painting 
out of the garbage can, instantly redeeming it to one of your recent 
favorites.  The article ends "We'd like to think that mundane matters 
like loyalty, steadfastness, and the willingness to keep writing 
checks to support what looks like failure have nothing to do with 
something as rarefied as genius. But sometimes genius is anything 
but rarefied; sometimes it's just the thing that emerges after 
twenty years of working at your kitchen table"

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Red White and Blue

I am staring at this painting on the bottom and I 
can't figure what is bugging me about it for the 
longest time and then I realize it's the colors. I 
hate when a painting starts going red white and blue.
I don't know what it is about those colors--I even like
our flag  since we elected Obama....but anyway, 
I shifted the colors. When your at a very bright 
color it always amazes me how much you can 
grey it down and it still seems so bright. Color 
is funny that way. The red is SO red in this painting 
that almost everything has to quiet down or else
it's going to be very tutti fruitti. And then again, now
I see the before and after I am not sure which is 
better....which would mean that I went possibly 
backwards all evening. Hmmm.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Surface and Time

This is a detail from a painting I just finished. Sometimes 
parts of paintings are better than other parts. This kind
of density of surface is what I am after. Shapes and forms
disappearing and emerging simultaneously. Similar to 
life...memories fading and new experiences arriving,
never perfectly clear, always changing and often just out 
of reach.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Years Day 2009

Rocks on the shore of  Stinson Beach, California.