Sunday, November 30, 2014

It sounds like defeat

I was reading an artists description of some work he was doing where he tried to duplicate some small work some thirteen times....and the words he used seemed so cool, at least at first...

The words being used were like "capillary action, surface tension, evaporation, dispersion" and cool things like all sounds so scientific and careful...not some crappy amateur art project.  I feel like I'm floating in the Artforum pool, swimming with David Hockney and Andy Warhol, waving to artists on the side chairs.

He found, discovered is word I think he used, that he couldn't duplicate the picture...not at all.

Those words seem at first to taste so scientific -they seem to have a clarity of vision that is going to take me somewhere clear and healthy, to examine work in a good happy way...Yet, I then almost immediately realized that I already know all that stuff...I've talked about how work cannot be duplicated and in fact it is just that quality I admire so much.

That is the stuff you get to see when you look through an artist's "small pieces" and his studies for larger work.  And I often find I like it better than the large stuff.  It has that fecundity that Helen Frankenthaler talks about.  And more importantly to me me at least, it has that spark that can enter all pieces of sudden creativity.

That must be why I find almost all explication to be useless, to feel like defeat, a defeat in the midst of a victory celebration.  So many of the cards in a museum show seem to be trying to beat the artist up, kick him while he's down, drown him, make it all fit "courageously" together in an endless celebration of the Art of Our Time.  But nothing fits together, not today...

Friday, November 28, 2014

Arthur and his Knights

Somewhere in the world there is a defeat for everyone,  Some are destroyed by defeat, and some made small and mean by victory.  Greatness lives in one who triumphs equally over defeat and victory. John Steinbeck

Perhaps it is so with everyone, that he looks for weakness in the strong to find promise of strength in his weakness.  -JS

Then it is better sir, to love whom one cannot have?  Prorobably better, Lancelot said.  Certainly safer. -JS

This is beyond understanding said the king.  You are the wisest man alive.  You know what is preparing  Why do you not make a plan to save yourself? And Merlin said quietly, Because I am wise.  In the combat between wisdom and feeling, wisdom never wins.  -JS

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

thanksgiving rain

It rained for two days and two nights, very quietly and gently, the smoothest lightest rain, and finally, it gradually turned to snow.  Very beautiful, sweet, and time streched out in a long long day.

I thought about the time when I worked in retail, and I hated rain then as it would inevitably ruin sales and cause all kinds of trouble as our stock built up and new trucks would keep coming every day...but finally I've almost forgotten those days, and the rain made me happy, the last sweet rain for all my plants and trees before thanksgiving.

Monday, November 24, 2014

real time archeology

Magazines, postal mail,purchase tags etc.  I'm not if you can have this exactly -real time archeology -but I feel anything and everything I use in these is gone forever from the moment I get it down on paper.  It enters my work -the brand of a bandaid, Orrington elementary, our photo of sweet little Rook our bearded dragon -certainly that type of instant photograph, Christmas stickers, the beautiful Mertz store in Chicago, the designs of fabric, the fabric itself, the reproductions of paintings which will no longer exist...-none of these things will have existence within moments...

Their very meaning will be gone erased out of the world.  All these things are fleeting, lost, of no value even as they desperately speak of it to us as they arrive.  They will have no function, no comprehensibility, no weight or substance even tomorrow.  They are the ancient past, the detritus of a culture that no longer exists in a language that no one speaks.  Is this my way of saying goodbye to them?  And to us who will no longer exist whose lives will have no import, no meaning, no value even to bother remembering,  -the past of a done thing.  Even the process of trying to remember how things were will be gone forever, their will be no recorded history, no thought to that old time at all...

What ever thinks or projects some importance will have none.  The very act of preservation is almost gone, life itself is almost over, airplanes will no longer fly, automobiles will be extinct, washing pads will disappear, baths and showers will be the quaint things of another time,  only gum will still exist for those who like it...

Painting will be of no value -no significance.  It is already worn out, dead and valueless, just another cheap no longer will have anything to say to anyone at is all over.  Now, sleep well tonight, dream the dreams you have...they do not matter.  It will all change in the next frame...

Thursday, November 20, 2014

oblique strategies

I took a few more photographs today of some paintings I feel ambiguous about...and before I wrote anything I went to the oblique strategies website to seek some insight...

What I got with the first card was -clear white card.  So I thought let me jus see if I try again.  And I got -breathe more deeply.  hmm.  So i though what the hell, let's try once more.  And i got -small infinite gradations.

Okay then.  Here they are, all three.  I don't know what to think.  I don't even know how to think actually.  As Kurt said -I feel stupid and contagious.

Other times I feel brave and I put the paintings out and I feel proud doing it.  It sometimes feels outrageous doing this at all.  Thank god not many people bother to look at this let alone try to read it.


Sporadically, as I paint I find myself with a group of a few, or maybe even a pile of what I call unfinished work -or what the paintings call not done.   So I put these aside for a while.

And later on...and that can be and usually is years later, I will look through them and see if any of them have changed their mind.  And this doesn't happen often at all.  In fact I can remember only two or three in my life that I've gone through this. 

The last time was back in 2007...I looked through the big pile of set aside pieces and found four that made me think of an old Huxley quote that went something like this: "...the diaphanous prisms of light behind the near familiar object."  I have no real idea of what that means, but those four looked at me with eager friendly eyes.  And I pulled them out and made four wonderful pieces from them.

I was very happy.  And now, I once again hope to go through this process and find a couple that will be willing to work with me again.   I know some artist friends who say oh yea I go through that all the time and I tear off the part that works... -but I don't do that very much at all.  I'm asking the whole piece, will you talk with me?

I want us both to be happy, as it makes me sad to have them sit there, unfinished, almost unwanted, while I know that each has some unique story it wishes to sing to us. Let's remove the parclose and face one another.

With English literature, if you do a bit of shonky spelling no one dies, but if you're half-way through a maths calculation and you stick in an extra zero, everything just crashes into the ravine.  -Mark Haddon

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


I started thinking about camouflage when I was rereading Miller's story about Abraham Rattner in Remember to's curious because Rattner's position as head of the school of camouflage department during the war certainly appears to have affected his early style of painting.

Now I can only get this from Miller cause their just aint many photos of his early work...he is hard to trace...Miller talks about it like this:  I am particularly found of the work of this period in which it seems his watery nature gains the ascendance...

A quality which I often described as "flou" made these canvases contrast sharply with his later I am more familiar with which he did after his terrible back injury, his wife's death and the revalations of the death camps after the war.

In these canvases the human figure seems to blend with the pattern of nature in a sort of shadowy translucent marinescape.

All is flow and movement, arabesques of infinite motifs...often the canvas seems like a mirror reflecting the evanescent shapes and movement of lazy clouds.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

they are too considered

I was looking at a couple of postcards I got in the mail...there was interesting art on the front of them -though after a few minutes I thought they are too finished for me.  I keep feeling that the whole process needs to be sloppier, less considered more revelatory of the process...

I want to be able to see the tools in the painting, I want the thing to look crummier, I even want the images to be less choice...-though why I want this I can't say.  I'm not really sure sure what this is about.

Well I'm done about now at least for today.  These are all 22X30 things.  I don't even know why I do them at all.  What's the point I guess.  Who do I expect to see them at all?  Someone asked me if I ever paint figures in my stuff.  I answered with the old quote about not wanting people to see a figure and then go, -okay let's move on...but actually I wanted more to say, can't you see them? ...they seem to always be there ruining everything I try to achieve,  climbing in unwanted and unneeded,  jumping up and down and yelling -look at me!

This last one is painted on an old map of Louisiana, I mean part of it.  It doesn't seem to be very successful, not to me at least.  -But I try to photograph everything I keep.  It just seems fair.   But fair to who?  and why fair?  I don't know. I just don't know.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

inter linea

Time is eternity's interlinear, as the islands are the sea's.  We have less time than we knew and that time is buoyant, and cloven, lucent, and missile, and wild.  -Anne Dillard

You can read letters my boy which is more than I can say for your castle contemporaries.  And you can read words. But you must learn to read inter linea, between the lines.  There is nothing written between the lines. Sir.  Something rather like a chuckle mixed with a cough echoed in the cave.  There is always something written between the lines.  But it takes great wisdom to read it. -Jane Yolen

Reading between the lines of Cabeza de Vaca's letter to his king fills me with curiosity and delight. -Haniel Long

In the clutch of his emergency C. de Vaca slides out of the theories and prejudices that unfit one to live on, and scot-free of them finds his fate to be suitable in the sense of being a thing to which a human being can reconcile himself. -H. Long

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Scumbler: the book

I've been reading this book about a guy living in Paris and painting, and renting property.  He has three kids and a wife.  William Wharton, who is an  odd author, well it seems to me, very 1970' know hugely overbearing, almost violently energetic...The funny thing is, he seems like crazy Alan Bates in that movie, what is it called...hmm, well Alan Bates is a painter in love with a girl etc....

...And the thing is, both this author and Alan Bates seem to have to go crazy when they are they get all this crazy energy and boom it comes out in the painting...and it is all sort of weird, sweaty, athletic, physical...there's this feeling like it's a giant communal something...I don't really get it.
...well of course in a movie you get it, it's another wacko movie device to drag the lame plot along and get to the ending...but in the book it seems sort of sad, like maybe he's not really a painter, but someone who wishes he liked to paint...or maybe likes to see himself as an artist...except he is an artist and at least one of his books became a big movie for Nick Cage...

...but I admit it all just leaves me a bit cold.  I guess I just don't have any of that stuff in me or my paintings...though as I've already said I love Paul Jenkins -they used his studio as the set for the actor/artist in the movie and I like to see it working and the machines he invented to move his canvases round were really cool I thought...

I like painting partially because it keeps me humble, honest, -and calm...

I don't like wacky, over-energized, dumb and grubby, stupid and/or silly...I just want to make paintings of things I see everyday,  things I feel or see and don't understand.

 I don't really believe in pictorial art or abstract art or any movement or idea for one...I am just making these things and I wonder about them...Will they be happy?  Will you future people appreciate them?  -Will they bring something to you that we could both recognize?

And in that cold empty future when all of us alive now will be no longer, will you say thank you doug?  You've brought me a piece of the past and I like it -It will shine in my eye.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014


Drawing is like making an expressive gesture with the advantage of permanence. -Matisse

I don't paint things.  I only paint the difference between things.  -Matisse

With color one obtains an energy that seems to stem from witchcraft. -Matisse

I have always tried to hide my efforts and wished mt works a light joyousness of springtime which never lets anyone suspect the labors it has cost me. -Matisse

I wouldn't mind turning into a vermillion goldfish. -Matisse

Monday, November 3, 2014

remarks for the well-read

I would rather that my pictures amused and interested the man in the street when he leaves his own work, not the art-struck, the in-people, but those who have no particular instruction or propensity.  It's the man in the street that  I'm after, personally, he's the one I feel akin to, he's the one I want to be friends with and confide in and collude with, and he's the one I'd like to delight and enchant with my works. -Jean Dubuffet

A painting has the particular merit that it draws the viewer into a world of is as exciting and stimulating as a dog that can talk...Therein lies the enchanting effect of a successful can be as exciting to own a painting as to own a talking dog. -Dubuffet

True art is always where one does not expect it. -Dubuffet

The impulse of the human hand, it's authentic spontaneity...-Dubuffet

Copying paintings, one runs into the difficulty of reproducing all of. its accidents.  It is impossible to reproduce these chance incidents in precisely the same place where they occur in the original.  They are caused by myriad flukes -the brush got stuck on a tiny protruding grain, or else it dragged along a dot of color that hadn't dried yet -Dubuufet