Split decision

In the midst of our journey through the winter season, I begin my exit, leaving behind but not forgetting the last couple of months of contemplation and melancholy, when I begin to think about creating art. With the last coat of satin varnish having been applied, I am ready to share a painting, whose canvas surface first underwent distressing.

When I first wrote about applying newsprint to a canvas and then distressing the surface, I had yet to finish such a painting, even though I had proceeded to work on a smaller canvas with a drawing, then painting a winter squash. It remains unfinished because I still need to resolve a visual problem before proceeding.

Unfinished, 12 x 12” (30.48 x 30.48 cm)

For a little more than two months the desire to paint has stirred deep within, however too many distractions cautioned me to curb those urges. However, a couple of weeks ago I was visiting my friend Ian’s blog Abstract Minimalism, it became even more difficult to resist those urges to paint. Ian had just posted Fired Earth, an acrylic multi-medium painting on newsprint. As I left a comment, I noted, “. . . where is the text of the newsprint?” When the comment was left on his blog, I was seeing his painting as if I had painted it and not Ian. I returned a few hours later and correcting my observations with a follow-up comment.

Fired Earth
Ian Foster, mixed medium, 24 x 24” (60.96 x 60.96 cm) 2010

If it were my painting, I would have revealed the newsprint and with that said, I could no longer curb those urges not to paint. On January 30, a canvas was pulled from storage, one already with five layers of gesso and sides covered with painter’s masking tape.

The canvas was covered with several layers of carefully selected pieces of newsprint, secured with medium gel and once completely dried, was sanded to achieve specific effects of distressing and blending of the images and type. This process was repeated an additional three times and between the layers, only portions of the surface was covered with new pieces of newsprint and then sanded, leaving selected sections untouched. Once the last layer was applied, the entire canvas surface was lightly sanded using a 150 grit sandpaper before being temporarily sealed with medium gel.

Close-up of the finished newsprint layer

During the process of applying the newsprint, several ideas were going through my mind; in the end it was important to keep it simple, minimalist but complex. This contradiction would be achieved by selecting only two colours, Burnt Umber and deep Cadmium Yellow, and then applied in multiple layers through glazing, thereby achieving a rich depth.

After two layers of glazing

Because the newsprint was sealed, it now needed to be lightly sanded in order for the paint to adhere. Using painter’s masking tape to seal off the area that was to later receive the deep Cadmium Yellow, the first layer of Burnt Umber was then applied. It was a mixed with glazing medium and a little bit of water and brushed on evenly, using a one and a half inch glazing brush. Because I was now using acrylic paints and not oils with Liquin, I was able to apply a second coat a few hours later that first day.

Close-up of the sanded area after the first two layers of glazing

The following day I tried something new, I began sanding a portion of the painted area, removing some of the Burnt Sienna and revealing more of the newsprint, rather then having the entire area evenly covered with paint. Doing so would allow sections of the finished painting to show more of the newsprint than in other areas of canvas. After adding coats four and five glaze, I repeated the lightly sanding the previous same area, while expanding into another section of the canvas for a little variety. With no further sanding to the Burnt Umber, another ten layers were applied over the next two days, allowing about two hours of drying time between each coating.

After four layers of glaze

Though I consider myself a methodical thinking painter, working out as many issues mentally in advance before starting to paint, I continued to analyze the process after each application of a glaze in order to adjust any technical aspects or even shift the initial direction the paintings outcome.

After the initial fourth application of glaze, I decided to adjust the mixture of the medium by omitting water from the combination. The water had caused the colour to dilute, something I did not want. I decided to use pouring medium, which kept the colours tone intact, but increased fluidness. This brought about a considerable shift in the colours depth and finally produced the results I had initially wanted.

After fourteen layers of glaze and a satin finish

Because of the heavy coat of satin varnish, I felt it best to let the painting dry for two days, since I would need to use painter’s tape to seal of portions of the area in order to obtain a perfect straight line where the two colours merged.

When I applied the mixture of deep Cadmium Yellow with the same approximate ratios of paint, glazing medium and pouring medium, the depth of the Cadmium Yellow seemed to evaporate. It was not until about seven coats that I was beginning to achieve some depth of colour. Adding more paint would only cause the translucency to become clouded, so I simply continued applying more layers after each one had dried for two hours.

After fifteen layers of cadmium yellow deep glaze

With fifteen layers of glaze, I decided that a little more drastic measures were needed in order to have a little more depth to the colour. The decision was that the final two coats of deep Cadmium Yellow would have the equivalent value of 6 layers each, meaning they were poured on as to be having the colour applied with a brush.

A larger quantity was mixed and poured onto the surface with little intervention of a brush, other than to help evenly spread the mixture. This had a more than pleasing appearance I had not anticipated, it produced a surface effect one sees on the hood of a brand new car. The depth, shine, and high gloss dominated the painting in contrast to the larger section with a satin finish and darker colour.
I never thought of having one section of a geometrical abstract painting be gloss and another part with a satin finish, but seeing the interaction between the two and the visual effect it generated, it is an idea I plan to include as part of the composition in a future painting.

Split decision
Acrylic on newsprint/canvas, 20 x24” (50.80 x 60.96 cm) February 8, 2010

As I bring this posting to a close, I regret to inform you that my on-line activities will be significantly be curtailed for the next unforeseeable future, because my Macintosh laptop has broken down. It has served with valor and distinction for many years.

Though it was repaired thirteen months ago, I cannot justify the expense of another repair or the purchase of a replacement, considering my jobless situation.

I hope that you my dear follower will understand when my visit to your site are not as frequent as I would like them to be.


To forgive is to heal thyself

Three weeks ago a story was set aside and forgotten, until I came across the file on my laptop. With the weekend coming upon us and some cultures celebrating Valentines Day, I thought no better venue then to share the importance of ‘forgiveness’ and the power it has to heal ones spirit and eventually the body.

Previously this year, there had been exchange of a number of correspondences with a friend living in Colorado about the similarities in our lives. This included how we each dealt with our situations, when the subject matter of forgiveness arose, as my friend was referring to a comment I had left at Katelen’s blog The Poetic Artist, where the discussion was learning to forgive. It was there, where I stated that only after beginning the process to forgive, was I then able to heal from the wounds that had been inflicted upon my person all those decades.

Forgiveness does not take away ones pain, it only diminishes the hurt, what forgiveness does, is take away the anger and hate. For it is the anger and hate that slowly destroys us, eating away our insides like a slow growing cancer, which eventually will consume our very being, this self inflicted form of a prolonged suicide.

Those who are free of resentful thoughts
surely will find peace.


In the spring of 2005, the series ‘Family Secrets’, a sequence of photographs about child abuse illustrated through the use of empty abandoned buildings was made public. The ‘Self-portrait with shattered mirror’ at my other blog is a part of that collection. The photographs marked a seventeen-year struggle before I realized that the fault for the abuse suffered was not of my cause and therefore not my fault.

All those years I was so filled with anger and hate, I had not even considered forgiveness until after I had undergone open-heart surgery in 2006, when priorities and that which I viewed as important, took a dramatic shift in another direction.

By letting go of the past, I finally permitted myself to take the first few steps towards initiating the path to forgiveness. Though irrevocable damage was done and could never be reversed, the act of forgiveness allows us to move on with our life. Forgiveness does not mean we should forget, nor that we condone or exonerate the one who had tormented us. Forgiveness is for our own self; it is the medicine we administer to ourselves.

Bitterness imprisons life;
Love releases it

Harry Emerson Fosdick

To forgive is not easy. I had to believe in the ability of forgiveness itself. Just saying the words “I forgive you” without any conviction lacks the strength and any very power these words hold to heal the person saying them.

I cannot tell you how to go about forgiveness; this is a course of action you must discover for yourself. I can tell you that once a path has been found, the process can begin. It will be a journey of unfathomable depths and challenges, and it will exceed any pain previously suffered. In the end, a burden will have been lifted and it will feel like as if breathing for the first time.

This Valentine weekend give yourself a present,
the kind that no one can give you but you yourself,
the one that is priceless.

Photography by Egmont


This award is yours too

After being up late, past 3:30 in the morning doing what I love, blogging, I arose to what could have been my birthday. Not fully awake and only semi conscious, I reviewed my eighteen emails on my cell phone. Moving from one email address to the next, a message seemed to poke me gentle on the side, alerting me that I had been nominated and the recipient of an award.

Now normally I would make my morning tea, have a look at the bird feeders to see who was visiting and wait for the water to boil. Rather it was down the stairs to the guest bedroom that has been serving as my office to grab the laptop and headed back to bed.

Still not being fully awake, my fingers became busy typing away on the laptop keyboard, formulating my acceptance speech, which in the end after posting, I deleted. Deleted only because in my enthusiasm in which I failed to congratulate Betty Manousos, who’s blog Cut and Dry received numerous awards in recognition from other bloggers. Though I did acknowledge Betty having reached a major milestone, one that reflects the many reasons for her having been awarded numerous awards, today she marked a major milestone of four hundred followers. Do have a visit to her blog, especially if you have never visited Cut and Dry before.

Now the award already had me—a person of sixty—feeling like a little school boy back in elementary when a girl had paid me some attention. You see I was already dating Barbara at the age of six and we were very serious as school chums go, but that is a story for another time — maybe. Now I was already saying that I felt like it was my birthday and it certainly could have been when I made another discovery. Three new artists’, who came for a visit, had kindly added themselves as followers while I was sleeping. I welcome you to my portion of the infinite universe.

Since it felt so much like a birthday, won’t you please join me
in a slice of a coffee cake and a cup of tea . . .

Thank you Betty, followers and all visitors for your gift,


A heart of stone

One of many reasons I like blogging, are the discoveries we can make, especially the ‘being inspired’ kind, learning how others express their creativity. Recently I saw stones that were beautifully wrapped at Donna Watson’s blog Layers, they were a gift from Nancy Neva Gagliano. When you visit Neva’s site Openings Connecting, you immediately see that stones play an important roll in her life, for the masthead is a beautiful arrangement of stones and she has been practicing wrapping stones, that she calls ‘RAPT’ for a number of years.
The notion of making my own wrapping stones quickly manifested itself in my mind like a song stuck on repeat. So when I found myself driving back home along Cabrillo Highway recently, I decided to go on a quest for pebbles and stones suited for wrapping.

Since I already had given so much thought to wrapping stones, I realized that such ‘art’ required a ritual and this meant a purpose, a reason, so that in the end one could interpret the artwork. By thinking of the possible purpose for the wrapped stones and its relevant meaning, a few ideas were being considered, besides it was important to adjust Neva’s ‘RAPT’ concept by adopting it to my vision, so off I went on a quest.

The process of collecting ones stones can take on the proportions of being on a holly quest, resulting in traveling great distances to locate natural deposits along rivers, streams and even the beaches of an ocean. In the end a location can have a direct impact upon the design of ones stone wrapping, altering the original purpose and meaning.

The day I went on my pilgrimage, there was a storm with waves clashing against the rocks, then fanning against an agree sky. The wind blew with ferocity, bending the grasses, and wiping tree branches to its will, I continued forward on my journey. With my hat angled to keep the brunt of the rain from my face, I proceeded down a narrow path to a small breach in the cliff, to a little hidden cove.

At the base of the cliff ran a stream that this time flowed with great vigor towards the ocean, only to be rebuffed with violent force. Waves had momentarily forced reversal of the streams direction and I was unable to jump across the stream because of the run-off.

Undaunted by disappointment or weather, I went about rummaging through the scattered stones, selecting a number of different sizes, shapes and colour of stones, while throwing rejects into the water. I picked up a few light grey oval pebbles and a couple darker ones that when dipped it not the stream to remove the sand, tuned almost black. My hands were already full of stones but in order to pick up a few more, the smaller ones were shoved in the back pocket.

There was one, half buried by sand, with a nice elongated thin oval shape that peaked some interests. Kicking it loose, I retrieved it and washed it in the stream. The stone, though heavy, felt good in my hand and so I kept it.

A few steps further along the streams boundary, a couple smaller stones were retrieved, studied, then either pocketed or tossed back. One of the pebbles that became worth keeping was the size of a silver dollar, especially after turning it around between my fingers; I noticed a notch, shaped like a crescent moon, giving the pebble the appearance of a broad heart.

Though visually I knew what I had found, its significance or importance did not sink in until I was back in the car and out of the rain, when I also realized that the rock that felt so good in my hand was also in the shape of a heart.

Though visually I knew what I had found, I seemed oblivious to its significance or importance, even back in the car and out of the rain, examining what I had retrieved from the cove. This included the rock that felt so good in my left hand, resting against the palm with the index finger naturally anchored in the rocks notch.

Several days passed before realizing that I now held inexplicable and mysterious energies in the palm of my hand, not once, but twice.

When viewed full size, stones appear actual size

Unearthing two heart shaped stones I take as a sign of good medicine, I also realize that in order to release the stones spirit, I will need to become one with the stone, infusing each stone with other elements having personal significance.

What happens next still remains to be an unknown, so for now the story about the other suitable pebbles, stones and rocks, for wrapping and adorning the assemblage would have to be told another time.

A change of surroundings

It has been far too long since my last posting, even though there was one written and ready to go last Tuesday on Forgiveness, but I felt it was time for something less serious, especially now that the holidays have passed and there are only two more months of winter left. There was even a draft about the rough storms California faced for a number of days, as my first exit from the house in just as many days for a medical appointment, had allowed for a photo to be captured. It showed how one of our reservoirs, Briones, had managed to raise its water level after a three-year drought.

Briones Reservoir
Contra Costa County, California, January 22, 2010

As the previous weekend passed, it was time to take my daughter back to Santa Cruz. I was looking forward to our company and the trip back home along the coast on Cabrillo Highway. The weather looked good all morning but after dropping off Ariana, it took less than an hour for raindrops to appear, signaling what was about to come. Undaunted, I continued to my two favorite places, especially one, a little hideaway. Just above Aña Nuevo State Park, lies the Aña Nuevo Whitehouse Creek trail, whose entrance is nestled between groupings of large eucalyptus trees easily missed from the road unless one is looking for it.

A little into the trail, it splits in two different directions, one north into the open area and the other west, towards the coast where another split in the trail would lead one down to the shore or along the ridge. My aim was to head down towards to a little cove, which when entered made one feel like the pages of an adventure book I read as a boy about pirates and smugglers came to life.

Now the rains became heavier, they had brought on also stronger winds, causing the surf to plunge deeper into the coast, almost reversing the flow of the stream that I no longer was able to cross in order to enter the cove and reach the beach. Never the less, I was able to retrieve from along the stream a few pebbles for wrapping. Once back in the car, it was off to Bean Hollow.

Bean Hallow
Bean Hallow, San Mateo County, January 25, 2010

By the time I arrived at Bean Hollow the rain stopped but the winds had increased significantly to cause the waves to cress between fifteen to twenty feet with an additional five-six feet of ocean spray on top. At first I was the only person, but soon several more die-hards arrived to observe the oceans display of aggression as it seas swells forcible trusted itself against the few outcropping of steadfast rocks that rose above the waterline for a spectacular show. Almost one hour later, I felt as if I was frozen to the bone, signaling that it was time to go home.

Bean Hallow beach
Bean Hallow, San Mateo County, January 25, 2010

The next day I managed another escape from the walls that have been confining me these past weeks with a return for another medical visit in Berkeley and since the day lighting was better than before, I was able to document a number of telephone poles. One of my long term projects I have been working on these last four years, with an earlier posting to The Artist Within Us and how these telephone poles were turned into an artistic vision, a new direction that my paintings since have taken. I promise to share more of these in upcoming posts so that you can see what it is that that has me so fascinated with these mundane totems lining the streets at regular intervals.

Amidst the grey a dash of colour
 Berkeley, California, January 26, 2010

The next several days were spent like most of this year at building The DIRECTORY, my third blog. It is a collection of resources for artists and a list of the blogs I follow. There is still far more work ahead, but do have a look when you have a moment.

The brief outing along the coast lifted my spirits considerable; it has offered much needed rejuvenation and has permitted my focus to see challenges in another view. Circumstances have not changed, but a little strength has been mustered that will permit me to go on, for it appears winters brooding finds itself waning as spring approaches and days begin to be longer.

I wish to leave you know with a thought and your next excuse for when your spouse cannot understand the mess you are making, just tell them

Kreative Menschen machen keine Unordnung,
es sind alles Ideen, die da rumliegen!

Creative people make no messes,
they are just ideas lying around!

They still might not understand, but at least you won’t have to stand there in silence and have that blank but questionable look about you.