What a wonderful bird the frog are.
When he stand he sit almost;
When he hop he fly almost.
He ain’t got no sense hardly;
He ain’t got no tail hardly either.
When he sit, he sit on what he ain’t got almost.
What a wonderful bird the frog are.
6″ x 8″
I feel like now would be a good time to stop making paint color called “flesh.” First of all, everyone should be able to mix whatever color it’s supposed to be using various amounts of red, blue, yellow and white. Also, it could be better described as “peach.” Also, and it’s racist. This is the first and last time I’ll use “flesh” from this new pack of paint before I throw out the tube.
But please walk softly as you do.
Frogs dwell here and crickets too.
Ain’t no ceiling, only blue
Jays dwell here and sunbeams too.
Floors are flowers–take a few.
Ferns grow here and daisies too.
Whoosh, swoosh–too-whit, too-woo,
Bats dwell here and hoot owls too.
Ha-ha-ha, hee-hee, hop-hoooo,
Gnomes dwell here and goblins too.
And my child, I thought you knew
I dwell here… and so do you.
– Shel Silverstein
The full title is “February 4, 11:57am, Interstate 10, near Las Cruces, New Mexico.” I’m really happy that it will be included in an exhibition about roadtrips, called “Hit the Road” curated by Ben Johnson at Tohono Chul Park.
In 2011, I drove from Tucson, Arizona to Boone, North Carolina. Every hour I took one photograph, straight ahead through the windshield. Over many hours, the vast dusty terrain turned to lush tangled ravines, and by taking an hourly photograph I think I was trying to isolate those incremental changes. Not sure if I learned anything about increments and landscape, but this is a painting of one of those photographs.
Someday I will try to work one of the these up in oil, but so far the image is too turbulent, shifty, and oil doesn’t lend itself to improvisation for me – or I don’t lend myself to planning things out. A corny metaphor, but drawing can be like jazz – pick a key and start playing. Oil painting is operatic. Try to improvise an opera and you’ve got a nasty mess on your hands. I admire painters who seem to truly improvise complex paintings in oil. Amy Sillman, Tim Hyman, R.B. Kitaj, Nicole Eisenman, Ken Kiff to name a few.
This little 3 minute animation was made for Vivian, commissioned by Exploded View Micro-cinema (Tucson, AZ) and published by Seneca Review (Hobart & William Smith Colleges, NY) in an issue called Beyond Category with all kind of wonderfully boundary-crossing stuff.
The movements of the animation are embedded in the paintings. Watch it and that will make sense… make sure your sound is on, there are sound effects. Here are the paintings (each approx. 8″x10″):
36″ x 42″
Often when people have a blog that they haven’t posted to in a long time, they start with something like “Finally, after a long hiatus, I’m back!”, as if people are sitting around waiting for a new post, and relieved when it finally happens. I’m not going to do that. Here’s a colorful painting that has some mirrors and a guy on the right that I forget is there, unless I look right at him, he disappears.
11″ x 15″
“Something offered is not offered; something finished is not finished; nothing changes.” (from Gilgamesh proverbs 3.107)
That odd saying is in some conversation with Herakleitos many centuries later: “Everything flows; nothing remains. [Everything moves; nothing is still. Everything passes away; nothing lasts.]”
Gilgamesh proverbs are bizarre and great. Here’s another favorite: “The runaway slave girl only pretends to sleep.”
10″ x 15″
The poet and painter worked in a highly personalized idiom and with a face of wonderful birdlike French-ness (or Belgian-ness).
(excerpt from “Carry Me Away” by Henri Michaux, translation by Eli Siegel)
Carry me away into a Portuguese boat of once,
Into an old and gentle Portuguese boat of once,
Into the stem of the boat, or if you wish, into the foam,
And lose me, in the distance, in the distance.
11″ x 14″
Early each morning I sit on the couch with my daughter Vivian wrapped in my robe and drink coffee and we listen to an audio recording of the Epic of Gilgamesh. On the back of this wooden panel is written what Gilgamesh kept saying when he was startled awake in the Forest of Cedars. I love the cadence of these questions and the confusion upon waking of a demigod so many generations ago.
Did you call me?
Why am I awake?
Did you touch me?
Why am I so upset?
Did a god pass?
Then why do I feel so weak?
13″ x 13″
There was a man who was so disturbed by the sight of his own shadow and so displeased with his own footsteps that he determined to get rid of both. The method he hit upon was to run away from them. So he got up and ran. But every time he put his foot down there was another step, while his shadow kept up with him without the slightest difficulty. He attributed his failure to the fact that he was not running fast enough. So he ran faster and faster without stopping until he finally dropped dead. He failed to realize that if he merely stepped into the shade, his shadow would vanish, and if he sat down and stayed still, there would be no more footsteps.
(Chuang Tzu, 4th c. BCE)
Stacks of colored bars appear to have a fracturing affect on these two. For stability, I referred back to the original frontispiece from A Child’s Garden of Verses.
As the painter Paula Rego said: “Every change is a form of liberation. My mother used to say a change is always good even if it’s for the worse.”
Blue ballpoint pens are, I think, terrible to write with but the lines sling all around, good for drawing. The river below. Above is a sketch of this little lady from a group of plaster Fisher-Price casts I did years ago. In this she’s maybe an ancestor, or celestial something.
18″ x 24″
I’ve had a policy of not including outside sources on the Work-a-day page, but this seems necessary.
On Sept 25, 1864, an ancestor of mine wrote a letter to her daughter from the family home ‘Sweet Auburn’ outside Natchez, Miss. To save paper, which was in low supply, the letter was cross-written. This is such an anomaly of Victorian letter writing, happened quite a bit during a time when formal letter writing was common, but paper was not, and postage expensive. The penmanship is so elegant, but when it’s written on top of itself it gets all jangled up. The writing, nearly indecipherable, is about the current (bad) state of things (war).
Then sixty-five years later, the letter writer’s great-great-granddaughter (my grandmother) was learning to write in her seventh grade class in Natchez. This is drill 20.
The ancestors keep giving me stuff to draw about, I’m barely touching the surface here. More cross-writing/drawing to come.
This drawing is based on two dimly xeroxed ancestral photographs taken by a family member in the 1910′s.
I recently read that Faulkner said his writing was a process of “sublimating the actual into the apocryphal.” One of the aspects I love about drawing is that its connection to ‘reality’ is always spurious. As it references one actuality, it simultaneously creates another, separate actuality.
The snake is saying, “For me, drawing is a source of energy, while painting is the expenditure of energy.” I really have to say that’s my experience as well. As much as they have over-lapping concerns, the stylus and the brush are very different instruments and when I go looking for how an artist thinks, I look at their drawings. It’s like looking at their drawings gets you closer to the source of what motivates their ideas.
Because seven ate nine. On another note, the word stylus comes to us from Etruscan, as few words do.
Recently talking with Bill B. about polysemy and open meanings in drawing and writing. He said about one poem “as much polysemy as the poem can bear.” (phrasing taken from something Jane Freilicher said, about wanting “as much light as the painting can bear”).
Before exit 70 on the interstate that runs the length of Kansas there is a series of signs tempting one to pull off and admire the “incredible six-legged steer.” I just came across some notes I had drawn while driving (I know) and worked them up into more developed drawings. Maybe interesting for those who follow the Wastrels saga on this page, clearly the genesis of the eight-leg deer . . .
The next few drawings are of related oddities of beast at the same exit.
8″ x 10″
This is a process drawing for the animation that is nearly finished called “Wastrels Find a Home.” A hopeful tale. Or something. In which Bookoo and Cilice tinker within the domestic arrangement. With exquisite writing and voice-over by Kate Bernheimer and forthcoming (and eagerly awaited audio) forthcoming from the Eric Jordan.
8″ x 9 1/2″
My nephews recently made a stop-motion animation of a lego space man which they called “Adventures of Red Guy.” I aspire to such simplicity; “Red Guy” says it all. This is a different Red Guy, less spaceman, more prancing interloper. I have a feeling he’s a figment of Bookoo and Cilice’s shared imagination.
8 1/2″ x 11″
This was made in preparation for a class I’m teaching called “Drawing the Myth and Daydream.” The prompt involves picking a setting (in this case ‘under water’), a figure or animal (I did several), and a state of being (I chose ‘breaking into pieces’). I think I should have made it more obviously under water. Other states of being to chose from include: floating, flaming, blooming with flowers, tiny, covered in hair, dissolving, enormous, winged, and part-human/part-animal. The first class was highly enjoyable.
11″ x 14″
For the last couple years I’ve had the pleasure of participating in a long and rich conversation with one of my favorite English painters, Timothy Hyman; we will publish an edited version soon in Trickhouse. One of his paintings that came up in the conversation is I Open My Heart to Reveal London Enshrined Within, which I love so much, and I ripped off part of the title for this drawing. I’ll continue to loot his work, as one does, with the hope of absorbing some of his innocence.
5 1/2″ x 9″
Not the first time I’ve indulged a crackpot understanding of linguistics this year on the Workaday page. Bookoo’s lingering in the mirror stage.
“Writings scatter to the winds blank checks in an insane charge. And were they not such flying leaves, there would be no purloined letters.” – Jacques Lacan
4″ x 6″
Español: Colón llega a América
English: Christoper Columbus arrives in America
Deutsch: Christoph Kolumbus trifft in Amerika ein
Русский: Христофор Колумб прибывает в Америку
Français: Christophe Colomb arrive en Amérique
Italiano: Cristoforo Colombo arriva in America
Česky: Kryštof Kolumbus připlouvá do Ameriky
8″ x 9 1/2″
This one here is akin to an oxbow lake. That’s when a river goes from a meandering path to a straighter path and the curly crazy bit turns into a lake and the river takes a shorter route… I’m not explaining this right… here’s a diagram… oxbows are weird-shaped formations evidence of a previous flow-pattern. Such a useful concept.
Anyway, I’m making images for Kate Bernheimer’s new novel (will be a lot lot of images that I will post eventually) and in the process of trying to find the right approach, I made a whole mountain of images that will not work for the book, most are perfectly dreadful. One or two I think are interesting in their own way, oxbow style, and this is one I like. The title comes from a note I took while researching for this book, I think it was a titles of an obscure depression-era cartoon.
approx. 20″ x 24″
It could be that Bookoo and Cilice are made of marzipan here. Or else Bookoo is dying of consumption, the kind the Victorians used to love; I’m hoping for the former.
In Henri Murger’s Scènes de la Vie de Bohème (1850), the main character Francine — a ‘typecast fictional consumptive’ according to the author of The Cambridge Illustrated History of Medicine — has “a rosy tint to her skin, transparent with the whiteness of a camellia” and later “a saintly glow, as if she had died of beauty.” A beauty so rare and delicate that it destroys itself with its own amazing-ness: how exhausting. But the Wastrels can be maudlin like that.
The odd shape is the result of finding tons of scrap mat board, a love of composites, and looking at Jeffery Camp paintings.
9″ x 12″
A virga is a column of rain that sweeps out of a cloud and evaporates before it reaches the ground. Here one appears with an aqueduct as the children explore what may be a Roman village. I woke up with De Chirico in mind, but this drawing, like a virga is just a wisp.