Friday, February 5, 2010


This week I have been in the studio attempting to start up the adjustment to my lost of sight in the right eye from the retinal detachment. And, I am going forward with several different approaches which I shall describe in subsequent postings.

First, I felt a need to start something new. As I looked around the studio, unfinished canvases abound, but I could not face completing them. The urge to create something fresh meant a different medium and ground upon which to work. I had several sheets of BFK Rives rag paper already on hand in the paper cabinet and decided this would make a good support for new work. I mounted a sheet onto the drawing table with paper tape surrounding the edges and creating a 29 x 21 inch work surface.

For these new "drawings" I anticipated using an instrument acquired last year at an Italian stationery shop in San Anselmo, CA. The store, specializing in Italian papers, inks, Murano pens, handmade journals, was going out of business. There I found this tin box containing a fat stylus about the width of my palm. Also inside the tin were a sandpaper pad for sharping and three graphite leads about 5 times thicker than leads usually associated with wooden pencils. By squeezing a release device--a sort of plunger--on the top of the stylus, it would open at the bottom to receive an insert of the graphite lead. It felt like an extension of my hand and it seemed a perfect tool to try out for this new work.

With experiences of the west Texas Chihuahuan Desert in my head and several photographs of the flora and landscape, I clasp the lead-filled stylus and start with gentle, tentative markings on the blank white sheet of paper trying to "feel" a composition based in elements of that landscape. As the composition materialized, I push the lead with a bit more firmness and certainty to make the marks more definite and assured so the composition emerges with clarity. Looking at what I had done, I feel it needs color. But what medium?

I think about watercolor washes, but decide against them as the watercolor might be too delicate

and its dampness would wrinkle the paper despite it being taped down to the table. I decide on oil crayon which I have in plentiful supply. It has more substance than the watercolor and its marks perfectly complement the dark graphite scribblings.

As with the graphite stylus, I start putting color onto the surface with delicate, deft markings leaving just enough color to make later more substantial with additional pressure. I distribute the colors over the surface, and build them without regard to the local color of the actual object being depicted. I alternate between this abstract use of color with additional markings of the dark graphite, sometimes dilineating edges, emphasizing forms and compostional directions. As the oil crayon/graphite surface of myriad colors thicken, I take the lightest of the oil crayons and mark over intense colors, sometimes rubbing with my finger to blend the colors and make them more subtle and relational.

At some point, I decide to move the "drawing" from its taped-down position on the table so that I can "see" the composition more clearly. I tape it to the studio wall so that I can step back and see the piece in its entirety and from a further distance than where it was on the table. I can see areas that need adjustments--more emphasis here, some dimishment there, graphite highlighting along forms, a bit less intense color and some softening of intense colors. Stepping back, looking, adjusting, adding, assessing--all acts which result in the completion of the piece.

See an illustration of the completed piece in the Blog just before this one. I had intended to place this illustration at the end of this entry; however, I could not compute it properly and it ended up at the beginning. Sorry.

The following identification should accompany the piece: CHIHUAHUAN DESERT STUDY 22, 2010 Oil Crayon/Graphite on Paper 29 x 21 Inches.

The second approach in this adjustment period, and the most scary, is assessing the unfinished Pinto Canyon paintings I started last year at this time during my stay at the Chinati Hot Springs, south of Marfa, TX. I had started 4 canvases and I liked what I had done. I will blog later about what all is involved with these pieces.

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