Monday, November 23, 2009

Malaise of the artist, and most of us are uneasy --- with the exception perhaps of politicians

I will share this with you, ----often I have a malaise which doesn't come from any one thing.

Would I feel any less malaise if I won the lottery, or became famous as an artist, or was instantly younger and absolutely perfect in every way? Probably not. I suppose blonde beauties have just as much malaise as aging bohemians.

I mentioned this to Chris as we often drive downtown and when I look at people's faces I see they are not happy in general. They want more, they have the malaise. Chris said, "Everyone feels a malaise about life, because life doesn't make any sense."

"Life doesn't make any sense." Rather a simple way to put the fact that things all over the planet are a mess in so many respects. The US in shambles financially and morally.   And then on a personal level we all make these irrevocable decisions as to the direction of our lives, then suddenly switch courses or regret things later.

And yet we go on. Some time ago I got a rejection from something I feel was unfair and due to "politics as usual"  in a closed group  I was saddened over it, but then realized that I must simply be true to myself and go on. As an artist, it is an important decision just to go on and be true to your inner voice. Sometimes that poor little voice gets lost in all the grandiose schemes of the ego, wanting so much, understanding so little of the real nature of things.

Another really important question to ask yourself as an artist is the motivation for what you are doing.  It is a very simple question:  "What is your motivation?"  but sometimes the answer is not so simple.  Is it to make money, gain fame, or satisfy something else within yourself?  I will perhaps write another post on this in the near future as it's a question I believe I'd like to explore in words.  But for now the comment about Glenn Gould must suffice:
Glenn Gould said something to the effect that the artist should be able to operate in secret and not be dependent on the demands of the marketplace, and furthermore if the artist is able to do this, he/she will abandon a false sense of responsibility toward a public. He mentions this and also says that ideally the artist should be able to work unaware of what other people are doing!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

old houses in Astoria, Oregon

Sept. 09

approx. 18 x 18", oil on board

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Girl in White dress.

I have thought about various titles for this painting but don't want to draw attention to any one thing. It is inspired by a faded antique picture of a girl I found and inscribed on the back, "from your chum".  I am sad to report, though, that I never had the nerve to think this was good enough, so kept revising it and revising it until I totally ruined it and threw it away.  Now looking at it from a couple years later, I really like it.  This happens to all artists, I know.  It's never "good enough."

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Secret

This piece is recently completed.

approx. 16 x 19", oil on board.

click on the painting and it will enlarge for viewing.

Monday, May 25, 2009

LONGING, oil on board 16 x 16"

I haven't written anything for a couple weeks as I've been working on several paintings.

It seems that I go back and forth between painting and the glass over painting mosaic projects. I don't understand how someone can just do an endless series of the same sort of thing. I go to gallery shows and everything looks like it was done with a formula. I tend the repeat myself trying to improve on what I did, and also perfect an idea or go deeper, but it often changes dramatically in form. That's how I got to the mosaics over painting, for instance.

Anyway, the piece I've finished is called "longing", and I have it here. The next one after that which I hope to finish soon is called "the secret". Both are oils in a sort of realistic style.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


If you scroll down you can see I was doing mosaics for a while. At present I am interested in doing somewhat abstracted realistic pictures, rather like Henri Rousseau or Edward Hopper. All start with an old snapshot I picked up somewhere or other in my digging through estate sales and thrift stores.


This is an oil on board, approx. 15 x 15 inches. It has taken me quite a while to get it to a point where I quit working on it. It is drawn from a snapshot of an unknown group of people that I picked up at some estate sale. The scene intrigued me.

For those of you who are painters, the composition was extremely difficult to pull together. I have changed some areas numerous times to balance it.

I have named it Longing.

Friday, March 27, 2009


After talking about feeling misunderstood, I got an acceptance in a national juried show today, this piece, "3 Women" oil on board with gilt background. 14 x 16 inches. Actually, it's the third of a series of these three women I've done, and I want to do a mosaic of them as well. Something about them has struck me.

I am finishing up my second big mosaic -- have all the tiles arranged, then the next step is gluing it all down on the support, then when it dries there is grouting, and making the frame. A lot of steps. However, I can't imagine anything I'd rather be doing.

Monday, March 23, 2009


Today a person who is not connected to the art world came to my studio -- as she was visiting my friend down the hall.

I realized immediately that this woman had only one motivation and that was to sell me something, or perhaps she was just distracted, but I was struck that she has obviously never looked at a piece of "art" in her life. She seemed in such a hurry and with no focus.

Her way of looking at my stuff was just to walk fast and her eyes briefly lit on things. I felt that nothing registered. Even my huge picture seemed not to stop her for two seconds, and everyone else always stops and looks at it for a while. To me it seemed her mind was going at such a rate that most of what she was seeing didn't register. I doubt she could be a crime scene investigator or detective remembering details! I tend to be so much the opposite. I have to let a picture "sink in" and look at it a long time, feeling it deeply, letting the colors textures and the images do their work on me.

I felt sort of insulted at first, but then thought about it and realize that to learn to look at art is an art in itself. You have to learn to open your eyes, and although there are things that can be comprehended immediately the act of connoisseurship is a slow process. I cannot imagine this woman would understand a Gaugin, or a Miro. The pictures of Paul Klee would be to her simply child's play.

The seer of art must be an artist too.

Friday, March 13, 2009


INITIATE, 2008 48 x 36 inches mosaic over painting with mirror pieces.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Desire, Anger, Ignorance


Sometimes I get fed up and depressed about life because I go down and work on my pieces and feel that it's all just a waste of time. I feel that living my life in general is a waste of time when it comes to that.
Usually no one bothers to come to my studio when I'm open, and even though I have a lot of positive feedback from the people when they do look at my things, I guess I want more!

Then there is the nagging fear that the "economy" will have a terrible effect on all as well. Somehow I cannot quite believe this, as we have lived through this sort of difficult life for years and always seem to get by with several different jobs. The art is something I just manage to afford, it is not a job but something I would rather do more than anything else.

I have been surfing the net and publications and see there are tens of thousands of other artists out there, all the shows, the installations, the pieces selling for huge amounts, many of which to me seem not to merit it, and I have to admit, I do feel the above emotions, Desire, Anger and Ignorance. The Buddhists say these three things are the cause of all suffering in one way or another.

Desire: because somehow there isn't a sense of satisfaction, that all these works I've done are piling up. Should I quit cluttering the universe? Maybe I should give everything away. I don't know. I ask myself, what satisfaction does an artist want? Maybe it has nothing to do with marketing or fame. It is a striving for arete, that word the Greeks had for "excellence" something within that must be satisfied. I do see that there are many artists who have that sort of motivation, they are the ones I admire the most.

Anger: mine is often sublimated into depression and that causes inertia, being stuck in a grey place. I believe depression can be anger turned in onto oneself. And I feel this anger that things aren't going as I would wish them to. It is sometimes nameless, formless, but when I paint it dissipates with the colors sometimes. There is the angry regret that I haven't lived my life from A to B in a straight line, and there are all these mistakes I've made and keep making. Again as I put it into words I realize that what I "want" is perhaps more nebulous than any concrete idea or concept. No, I wouldn't have made a good bacteriologist (one of my goals) nor scientist. Nor would I have been a good college teacher. And I wasted a lot of time just trying to make a living and get along. Isn't that the road for many of us? So my little pictures are in a way so much more precious because of it all.

Finally the third poison, ignorance: Yes. the lack of wisdom that arrives along with the desire and anger. If I did have true wisdom I don't think there would be any unhappiness. I think of Mr. Natural doing the dishes, then saying, "Another job well done." Yes, that is it. That is the Zen way of doing things: "When I'm hungry I eat, when I'm tired I sleep." How simple, how hard for us driven to fill our days with so much more than will fit in.

Tomorrow I will go do some practical and impractical things, and I will try to live the day without regret, and just be who I am.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


Today I will go down and work.
Here is view of one of the windows of my studio. I love the old buildings. Out of my back room I can just see Portland's 10th Avenue so if a parade goes by can get the barest glimpse.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


What is your motivation?

That is the big question, isn't it?

A spiritual friend once talked about the meaning of life, and the first thing he said was, "What is your motivation?" His meaning was that if your motivation is not pure, then you need to reexamine what you are doing and try to do something on a higher level. In other words, if for example your motivation falls into the category of greed, it's not very high.

In art the greed motivation would likely be someone who is churning out cutesy little cottages lit up with light and surrounded by idyllic flowers and making a bundle, all the while selling out to the real talent which may lay within that person who is a good businessman. Or maybe it's someone churning out dozens of geometric compositions. Is this wrong? I don't know, as it is a way to make a living. Mondrian, I hear, made money through selling paintings of flowers. But he never let go of his direction as to what was important to him. And Van Gogh sold only one painting in his lifetime. Again, he was someone who had to paint. So in an odd way I've beaten that record at least on the financial side. From the past, I see I have done best selling paintings of pets though I tend to do these only occasionally.

I too feel driven to paint and make art. In a way it doesn't matter to me whether I sell -- but I'd like to sell the older ones, the ones that are no longer haunting me as much as the newer pieces. It gives me happiness to place my older work with people and then see them later, when I have sort of forgotten them. It's like writing a poem then, you see them much later and say, "Why that isn't bad", and realize that perhaps you never really saw it, at least not the way you see it now.


This is my first post to my new blog.

I've decided to write about what it's like to be an artist.
---- If you are reading this, I have no doubt that you are an artist too in whatever you do.

I have a lot of things to write about as I muse a lot while in my studio, at home, doing other work, thinking about the economy, struggling. Maybe something I say will resonate with you.

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