Painting Time

Like most artists, I wish I could spend all my time writing and making art.  Nonetheless I’m happy to have occasional time to do it at all.  Painting for me is frustrating, challenging, joyous, meditative, pure.  Angels wrestling in the dirt.  Madness.  Flying.  The incredible stillness of the self at its core.  A bell in the silence.  Painstaking, overwhelming, liberating.  A dark and bright bliss.  Living and alive.  The miracle of the moment.

AutumnBridge.Awadleigh.2014

Autumn Bridge, Acrylic on Wood, 4″ x 4″

 

 

Flora.AWadleigh.2014

Flora, Acrylic on Wood, 8″ x 8″

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John Keats Weather

Marsh4

John Keats Weather

by Annie Seikonia

 

rain globe –

long red worms

graze the soil

 

a startling lime-green haze

creeps from frozen brown

drought

 

water sloshes in the lungs

and heart, thermostat plunging

from childish fevers to hellish chills

 

hot sun

beckons through weeks of rain

from imaginary islands

 

spores fire

weed and bud

fermenting the meridians

 

of dark brick corners,

coal midnights —

a ceaseless windy plash

 

soft unimaginable petals

burgeon

the richest desires. . .

 

the outset of the walk was

through lush catastrophe and we

slept in a sodden sullen church

 

hovering in the dense

cheap sick room where

the living bacteria flumed

 

in the quay submerged

rhythms of forest and

marooned moons

 

complicate

arpeggios of

rocks in the chest.

 

lush wheels of geometric

patterns

provoke and set

 

foggy breaths

clink music as

a cat licks its lips

 

hoary poppy

leaves pierce

black loam

 

two crows toy

and drop

the bone

 

ribboning cove

bronchial tide

veins of muddy brine

 

time unfurls

the heat cruelly

exploding the farm

 

you both

kiss the wall

covering it with whispers

 

spectral fairies prance

over harsh

oaken moss

 

a red ribbon of flame

haunts your

alabaster neck

 

a purple dress

sails through

the heath of health

 

you were correct

to fear the scansions of love

without which

 

the verse would not

burn

nor the world uncurl

 

yet still time? to

set things right

put the house in order

 

sweep out the larks

ashes beetles

mortar

 

though a moist

chaos infiltrates

the book

 

________

 

so one goes on

perhaps even marries

settling into the stitch

 

it’s nothing like

marrying the sea though

is it?

 

Sketchbook: Black and White

 

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“Drawing is still basically the same as it has been since prehistoric times.  It brings together man and the world.  It lives through magic.” — Keith Haring

“Color weakens.” — Picasso

I love drawing, an act I find profoundly meditative, and most especially I love drawing with pen and ink.  There is a power you get with black and white that isn’t achievable through color.  Writer and photo historian Peter Bunnell said, “Full-color images lack the poignancy of monochrome. . . Black-and-white film inherently peels off interesting images from the world; it sees things we do not see, and thus insists on the existence of a phantom presence within reality, a world we cannot perceive.”  And In Praise of Shadows, a long essay about the aesthetics of the sublime in Japanese culture, Junichiro Tanizaki said “we find beauty not in the thing itself but in the patterns of shadows, the light and the darkness, that one thing against another creates.”

By stripping away the color, the power of the pattern emerges.  The absolute contrasts are eloquent and bold.  Drawing with ink is closer to writing.  It contains the seeds of an ancient magic, as so profoundly depicted in Werner Herzog’s documentary, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, in which Herzog leads the viewer into the depths of the mysterious Chauvet Cave in southern France.  Although these images, the oldest human ones yet discovered, are called “paintings,”  I read them as drawings, and when I draw I feel connected to these ancient humans.

To me, color is symphonic, and I think of these sketchbook drawings as more like piano pieces, frozen pieces of time.  Of course, sometimes a hint of color does seem warranted.  Though nowhere near as talented as these artists, my influences include Vincent Van Gogh’s drawings, the paintings of Maurice Utrillo, and the prints of Hokusai.

 

Winter

FirstSnowDeering

“The Frost performs its secret ministry,
Unhelped by any wind.”
— Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1798)

Winter in Portland is a descent into an alien landscape.  Persephone is walking underground, and the underground is above ground.  The streets, trails, parks, houses, buildings–the city itself—have become completely transformed.  The new city resembles the old city, but it is not the same.

October, November, and December form the descent into the tunnel of encroaching darkness (though the turn actually began on June 21), inching slowly towards the fulcrum of the solstice, when hope and rebirth spark and take root, spiraling out back towards the light and the sun.  It is a physical, psychological, and spiritual journey, both repressed and enhanced by electricity, technology and the increasing difficulties of maintaining the daily grind. The people who yearn for winter are usually young.

By January it is almost impossible to believe that one ever traversed sidewalks uncomplicated by clumps, clots,  mounds, and banks of snow, lakes of ice and slush, seas of salt and sand, or that one ever simply walked out of the house without donning under-layers, scarf, hat, gloves, a thick waterproof coat, and rugged boots occasionally supplemented by slip-on ice grippers with metal barbs.  Not to mention taking the dog out without Mushers Secret slathered on her paws, a plaid “lumberjack” coat with fleece lining buttoned onto her if it happens to be under 20 degrees, which it often is, and a reflective collar and/or attached strobe lights for walks undertaken after 4:30pm, which are many.

Hot humid days are the stuff of a past fever dream and bear no resemblance to the arctic blasts or needles of freezing rain encountered during a quick circle of the once lush and verdant park, now reduced to slippery slushy pathways or slabs of sheer ice.

Yet winter is a season of as immense beauty as to be found as any other.  The colors are bewitchingly subtle or suddenly dramatic. Thick snow on the trees at midday against a deep gray sky.  Violet skies sinking like a glowing array of jewels over the dark silhouette of the horizon.  Ice patterns and the stark remnants of rose hips, milkweed, cattails, spruce trees, shrubs, and goldenrod along the cove.  Black, brown, and russet on white set in a deep dusky gray.  Brilliant white with the sparkle of crushed diamonds.

Winter is a time of introspection, bright hearth-like rooms, the fandangle of colored lights, and rich displays of evergreen, a sleepy hibernating time of bracing cold and kitchen ovens, bouts of lethargy and near-despair.  Yet we persevere and even find joy in the stillness and respite.  We are forced to slow down and ponder.

And when spring comes at long, long last, as the miraculous carnival quickly unfolds, winter once again becomes impossible, coats and boots become absurd relics, and it is as if winter never happened nor will ever come again.

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Experimental Drawing

Last weekend I participated in an amazing workshop called Experimental Drawing with Maine artist Cindy Davis. We experimented with all kinds of media and materials as well as a variety of techniques and surfaces. The class was framed by the provocative idea that the practice of drawing itself has become experimental and may encompass everything from mixed media, to 3-D work, to video. An expanded definition for drawing in 2013 could be said to be “making marks on a surface.” That surface may be paper, mylar, vellum, or even virtual. The sky’s the limit.  Here is some of the work I created.

Experimental DrawingThis is my favorite piece, created using black acrylic paint and a Wite-Out pen on two layered sheets of Mylar, which is a thin, strong polyester film.  One technique used here was to scrape away the black paint in varying stages of dryness with a sharp tool, essentially drawing into the media, which yielded interesting textures and a sculptural effect.  The second layer added to the interpretive, abstract effect.

These are some “blind” contour and gesture drawings we made to loosen up.  I’ve always loved doing blind contour drawings especially.  Drawing with eyes closed, guided only by memory and touch, is so counter-intuitive, and the results often capture startlingly essential aspects.  It’s like drawing with the mind.  This is a particularly great exercise for people who say, and falsely believe, they can’t draw.

Here are some studies on drawing paper and rice paper using ink, colored pencils, Conte crayons, graphite and pencil.

Experimental Drawing

This was my first exploration with Mylar; the white ghostly images of the flowers were made through scraping off the black acrylic paint.

ExpDr.Milkweed

This is a pencil and pen-and-ink sketch of Milkweed.  From the drawing we made rough sculptural forms, which we then interpreted in mixed media.

ExpDr.VellumSampleExploration of various wet media on Vellum.

ExpDr.StillLifeVellum2Still life, using various media on Vellum.  There are drawings on each side of the Vellum, which creates interesting effects.

ExpDr.StillLifeVellum1This is the flip-side of the Vellum still life.  Additional images/effects can be added using overlays of additional sheets of Vellum.  So many possibilities!

Experimental Drawing

This was a really fun exercise, created using Gesso and black acrylic paint over an appropriated color photograph.

Cindy is a fantastic teacher, and I have so many new ideas from experimenting with materials and media that I never would have explored on my own!

The Metaphysics of Autumn

The last flowers and fruits of the season, the husks and shells of effervescent blooms, the spectral forms of autumn, are poignant reminders not only of the ephemeral, but of the eternal.  In nature there is no death, only transformation.