Made this quick little drawing on the way back down from Wildcat Rock, near Fairview, NC. The midwestern winter had me yearning for a fresh walk through spring mountain air—i felt so fortunate to spend a week on the road with two of my older sons.
Here are some progress images from a new 3×4 foot painting where I’m layering abstractions based loosely on photos from my walks in nature.
I’ve been interested in how music influences the improvisational aspects of my mark making, and as such I am making this painting while listening to a single album on repeat – Makaya McCraven’s “In the Moment” (which is itself built from pure improvisation). So far so good.
I have just started exploring my way into a new painting concept I’m calling “Obverstractions.” In this series I am attempting to marry my bent toward abstraction with my passion for nature and observationally driven works, balancing these few facts about myself as an artist:
I feel most “at home” and connected to my work when it’s abstract.
Painting with observation as a starting point works for me..
Observing the natural world closely is my biggest inspiration.
I desire to connect with a “live,” improvisational energy while painting
My first couple of small attempts have proved to be instructive and validating. I’ll write more about my process as the series progresses.
I was encouraged by the results of the first study (below) and doubly encouraged by the second (above). To me, #2 is more successful as it arrives closer to the destination I envisioned while also departing furthest from the initial observation. I am using my mindfulness training as a compass for doing these works, and I felt that with #2 I was able to embrace uncertainty more and get into a more connected improvisational state while still channeling the subject (or at least my view of it).
Stay tuned for more of this work. I’d love to hear what you think of it.
In my journal writing this month I continue to explore themes around accepting what is now and simply being present. I find that I spend too much time trying to recreate an image or a memory or to fulfill a story that promises to give me peace (while missing out on peace in the moment). How can I navigate the complex relationship between personal history and narratives, memory, and the now? I don’t have the answers yet (probably will never) but “Swimming,” in a sense, is a mindful acknowledgement of this conundrum.
This recording captures my intention well. I recorded the guitar part in the front porch in the evening with the stereo condenser mic that’s built into my recorder, so you can hear all of the wonderful ambient bug and street noises. For the vocals, I mixed a close mic and a room mic to further the “I’m right there” vibe. I may add to the arrangement and tweak some lyrics in the coming weeks, but I am happy to have dislodged the writing block and to be re-inspired for songwriting.
Swimming (in my mind)
If you convince me,
convince me to leave,
I’m not sure I’ll ever know what to believe.
Was it there in those gold times before we quit?
I don’t think I was dreaming,
I’m still swimming in it.
I’m still swimming in my mind.
And if I convince you,
convince you to stay,
I’m not sure you’ll ever be here anyway.
It was real in those gold times, before the wars.
I’m still up to my earlobes
and you are standing on shore.
I’m still swimming in my mind.
I purchased a little clip-on macro lens for my phone and I’ve been having a lot of fun with it. It has caused me to look more closely at what’s around me. Here are some highlights.
After doing some observation works, my energy changes and I am drawn to further and further abstraction.
This small painting of the May River and marshes at high tide captured the scene and the moment pretty well without overdoing it. It was my first time using the great new Holbein gouache paints that I received got as a gift last Christmas (thanks, allison!) They are really wonderful to use compared to the cheap-o stuff i was working with earlier. There is enough pigment to do supple washes and also highly saturated or deep parts. The layering is divine..
I really enjoy the act of creating observation work in nature. It helps focus my attention on the beauty and complexity of the world around me. This Palmetto tree is one of the more complex things i’ve attempted to draw recently and I like it.
I’ve have been enjoying gardening and the specific wonders of nature this year. In the context of the confines of this pandemic, I am more aware of the small beauties in nature. There is more time, it seems, to look and notice and contemplate my surroundings. For even as the space I am living in doesn’t change, the growing things inhabiting that space are constantly changing. I am drawn into this process.
Here are several drawings from the last week that i’ve made of flowers. Two from our garden, and a few from gardens i encountered downtown on Sunday.
I came back to watch
the glowing magenta lift off,
hungover with grief
and hungry to feel loved.
Not a cloud was in the sky,
just a rich haze hovering over the line.
Rainbows shimmered at my feet
as the muddy blue horizon gave way.
The geese, drifting silently,
took no notice.
The gulls, oblivious to this minor miracle,
laughed their way through yesterday’s celebrations.
I could be here, and I am.
But also I am not—
too caught up in a long-denied truth
and where it might take me.
The sun, now high and yellow and too-bright,
illuminated the edges of my pages
as the geese, now flapping above me,
honked out an invitation.
And I accepted.
In late June I started writing songs after a dry spell of many years. The melodies and the lyrics are just popping up and I am letting them, giving them a space to be alive and change and grow. I am tending to them as I would a poem or any writing, but the process is different—a fluid exchange between set ideas and improvisation. It often starts with a melody and a couplet or two, and then expands as the music takes shape, because the written words on the page don’t tell the whole story.
The Roller Coaster is the third “finished” song this month, the first recording I want to share. It all started out with four lines that didn’t make it to the finished work. Those (ultimately discarded) lines formed the framework of the melody, which gave birth to the first lines of the finished song (and the concept as a whole). It was written over the course of a week, and this recording (the third in the process) was made on July 31st.
Musically, I’m in a strange place. My ear is better than it’s ever been, and my vision for what I want to do is clear. But i’m out of practice, and it takes real work to get what I hear in my brain out onto the tape. When it happens successfully, It’s a true and absolute joy. One thing I’ve been surprised by is how much the skills i’ve learned over the past several years doing non-music projects have made me a better songwriter. Things like: working incrementally and iteratively, taking breaks when things aren’t working, putting time in when it feels right AND when it doesn’t, practicing, accepting where I’m at, Taking risks.
My goal is to release a record before the year is through, but right now I’m focused on shepherding these songs into the world. I have faith that they will all come together in a way that makes sense to me, and hope that I can form them into a work that resonates with others, too.
The Roller Coaster
I’ve been getting high again
just to come back down.
All the turns you took me in
turned me inside out.
As we fall, that’s all there is—
I can’t even see.
At the top I’m losing it,
I can barely breathe.
Feels like I am going to die
as I strap on in
to face the fear and feel what’s here,
not what might have been.