Posted on

Everything Spins

From the microscopic atom, with its orbiting electrons, to our planet rotating on its axis, which orbits the star we call the Sun, which also spins and orbits the galaxy, which itself rotates around its center, everything is spinning and swirling in a circular motion. It’s fascinating to me that electricity is generated this way as well. Is this why dervishes whirl? I think it is Probable, even though the method was developed in the thirteenth century by Rumi himself. (if Rumi had taken up Asian style calligraphy, he would have been Rumi the sumi sufi.)

This piece is part of a series and was done with acrylic, ink, and digital media.

Posted on

Chinese Ash Sumi Painting

 

I have been wanting to paint a large scale sumi painting. For me this means about 20×30 inches. I know there are much larger paintings, but I have been doing 5×7 ones. The handmade paper I get comes in 20×30 & I’ve been cutting down to make folios for my sketchbook. You use a whole different set of muscles when you work larger scale. This is my first one. It’s a tree on the property of my apartment complex and I think it lends itself nicely to the project. I did a sketch first because the materials can be costly working large, if you have to throw away a bunch of mistakes. I don’t normally make preliminary sketches, primarily because I’m so lazy, but in this instance I wanted to get a feel for for how things might play out. It was helpful for composition and knowing which brushes would be useful and other procedural processes.

Legitimate problems with too much preliminary work is that it can reduce the improvisational surprises that can keep your work lively. Also, if your sketch comes out better than your actual work, it can be a drag, because usually it’s done with cheap paper and materials. But, many people do sketches of different angles, compositions, color comps, and really like to lock down all the details before rendering the final piece. I tend to work out a lot of that with my reference photos. I generally take all my own references, and since the advent of digital photography, there’s no reason not to experiment at this level. It’s important to get lighting, angles and composition just right in reference photos so your final piece has as much worked out in advance as possible. This way, my drawing can be loose on the final and keep as much energy as possible. There’s a saying that if you’re not enjoying it, you audience won’t enjoy it. If you’re not surprised, and interested by your work, your audience won’t be either.

The sumi style requires painting without an under drawing on your paper, so that’s why doing a separate preliminary painting can be helpful.

I may work on the final more. I had to stop because my children woke up from their naps. One of the challenges was getting a light touch on the delicate foliage using ink on absorbant paper, so there is a light look that may be too light. Also, working large requires photographing the piece rather than scanning it.

Posted on

Sumi Dragon sketch

Here is my 1st attempt at a traditional sumi Dragon. I’ve done sumi Dragons before, but those were done in a kind of one stroke method that I thought best utilized the energy channeling zen technique of Hitsuzendō. When I first started translating Hitsuzendō from calligraphy to painting, I hadn’t realized the breadth of the sumi style. I was trying to do calligraphy in picture form. I still really like the way that kind of image comes out, but I’m trying to to be more true to the sumi heritage while also learning to apply it to my more traditionally Western style of painting. That is a total contradiction I know, but luckily Taoism and tàijítú allow for, and indeed rely on contradictions.

This image is really tiny; and I realized I’d like to do this kind of thing on a large scale, so I have to figure out how to make that happen. The problem with that is, this kind of technique doesn’t lend itself to corrections, and materials can be expensive on a large scale, so I’m going to need some practice.

Posted on

Secret Jumblies project

Since it’s national poetry month, I thought I would share my secret project with you. I’m working on illustrations for my favorite poem; “The Jumblies,” by Edward Lear.  My 1st sketch shows the seive with the pea green veil. In this sketch, we have a frog and a hedgehog in the seive. My confusion is, are the characters in the seive the jumblies? Are they the ones whose heads are green and hands are blue? Or are the ones in the seive traveling to the land of the jumblies whose heads and hands are so colorful? For this sketch, I have decided the latter. In the preponderance of illustrations I’ve seen so far of this poem (that are in color) the characters in the seive have the colorful anatomy. So my illustration is contrary. That seems like reason enough, but my main thinking is those with green heads and blue hands are unusual, and would live in lands that are far and few. I will show you more sketches as they come. It’s a long, detailed poem, full of fanciful imagery, so it should be a lot of fun.

THE JUMBLIES.

I.
THEY went to sea in a Sieve, they did,

In a Sieve they went to sea:

In spite of all their friends could say,

On a winter’s morn, on a stormy day,

In a Sieve they went to sea!

And when the Sieve turned round and round,

And every one cried, “You’ll all be drowned!”

They cried aloud, “Our Sieve ain’t big,

But we don’t care a button, we don’t care a fig!

In a Sieve we’ll go to sea!”

Far and few, far and few,

Are the lands where the Jumblies live;

Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,

And they went to sea in a Sieve.

II.
They sailed away in a Sieve, they did,

In a Sieve they sailed so fast,

With only a beautiful pea-green veil

Tied with a riband, by way of a sail,

To a small tobacco-pipe mast;

And every one said, who saw them go,

“O won’t they be soon upset, you know!

For the sky is dark, and the voyage is long,

And happen what may, it’s extremely wrong

In a Sieve to sail so fast!”

Far and few, far and few,

Are the lands where the Jumblies live;

Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,

And they went to sea in a Sieve.

III.
The water it soon came in, it did,

The water it soon came in;

So to keep them dry, they wrapped their feet

In a pinky paper all folded neat,

And they fastened it down with a pin.

And they passed the night in a crockery-jar,

And each of them said, “How wise we are!

Though the sky be dark, and the voyage be long,

Yet we never can think we were rash or wrong,

While round in our Sieve we spin!”

Far and few, far and few,

Are the lands where the Jumblies live;

Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,

And they went to sea in a Sieve.

IV.
And all night long they sailed away;

And when the sun went down,

They whistled and warbled a moony song

To the echoing sound of a coppery gong,

In the shade of the mountains brown.

“O Timballo! How happy we are,

When we live in a Sieve and a crockery-jar,

And all night long in the moonlight pale,

We sail away with a pea-green sail,

In the shade of the mountains brown!”

Far and few, far and few,

Are the lands where the Jumblies live;

Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,

And they went to sea in a Sieve.
V.
They sailed to the Western sea, they did,

To a land all covered with trees,

And they bought an Owl, and a useful Cart,

And a pound of Rice, and a Cranberry Tart,

And a hive of silvery Bees.

And they bought a Pig, and some green Jack-daws,

And a lovely Monkey with lollipop paws,

And forty bottles of Ring-Bo-Ree,

And no end of Stilton Cheese.

Far and few, far and few,

Are the lands where the Jumblies live;

Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,

And they went to sea in a Sieve.
VI.
And in twenty years they all came back,

In twenty years or more,

And every one said, “How tall they’ve grown!

For they’ve been to the Lakes, and the Torrible Zone,

And the hills of the Chankly Bore;”

And they drank their health, and gave them a feast

Of dumplings made of beautiful yeast;

And every one said, “If we only live,

We too will go to sea in a Sieve—

To the hills of the Chankly Bore!”

Far and few, far and few,

Are the lands where the Jumblies live;

Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,

And they went to sea in a Sieve.

Posted on

Sumi Moon painting Color

I made this piece for my son, Gabriel, who is obsessed with the moon. Originally, I had planned on making it more detailed, but I really like the energy of this direct and simple execution. I am experimenting with this zen style of painting. The idea of the style is to empty your mind and let the energy of your spirit flow into the painting. When executing a Kanji calligraphy, the calligrapher would concentrate on the word or phrase and Chanel the energy of that into the calligraphy. When I do Sanskrit Calligraphy that’s what I do. It’s kind of a learning curve. I get a small brush and practice the word over and over until I’m comfortable with it. Even if it’s a word I know really well. Then I prepare several sheets of paper and execute the word full size several times. Sometimes I do several full size practices 1st, but if I have enough good paper, I just go for it, because sometimes the best one is what you thought was a practice one, and if you did it on practice paper, you’re screwed. At the end of the session, I’m exhausted and maybe have one or two good pieces. Maybe none came out good enough. It’s hard to tell because the aesthetic is different from traditional calligraphy. It has to have a vibe to it. It should also be relatively centered on the page and not have any glaring mistakes or drips.

A scene involving multiple subjects and composition and thought about meaning, mood, color, brushes, inks, requires too much mental activity to do it all in advance and then just execute a plan, like a well rehearsed dance. Spontaneity is a big part of of these pieces. It’s not Bach, it’s the blues. Pieces like the sumi moons on blue paper, are fairly spontaneous; I’ve painted similar scenes enough to not have to plan it out too much to get the right feel. Still the process of emptying my mind is the new element that has to fit into the puzzle. It’s difficult to do it for a prolonged period of time.

For this piece, I thought I would start with this simple moon/sky. First I did it in black; a series of enso circles to define the moon and the surrounding sky, then broader with water, to create a wash. Then back in with gold for the moon and a halo, and then blue violet for the sky, using the same technique. For each stroke, I empty my mind, breath out, breath in and then execute the stroke on the exhale, driving the energy through my body and down my arm and into the painting with each stroke. Then I had planned to go back and add detail to the moon, perhaps a ground beneath, maybe the ocean. Maybe add clouds, or stars. However, I was struck by the energy in the underpainting, and I thought further detail would weaken what seemed to me to be a strong piece. It’s for my son anyway, and not really for sale, so it doesn’t matter if it’s polished or not. He’s two years old. Almost three. But it was a real learning experience. To reset after each stroke, concentrate on what I am doing and not what I did or what I am going to do. This is the goal of this kind of technique. It’s a meditation practice for monks. Hopefully, I can keep this lesson learned.

A print of this piece can be purchased here.

Posted on

Adelia

 

My daughter Adelia is just 7 months old. I did this when she was pretty new. Probably at 3 mo. I love being a father. I am also father to 2 yr. old Gabriel. Adelia, btw had just this moment, fallen asleep in my arms. She was fussy when I started this post, so I’m holding her in one arm & typing with the other.

Anyway, what I wanted to tell you is that she is developing such a great personality! She laughs and is tough and determined to work hard to sit up & crawl, and become chief justice of the Supreme Court. I swear she is already talking.

I love doing portraits of my children even if they are quick sketches. Lately, I have been working on a children’s book, and raising these two wonderful monsters, but I think I get the most personal enjoyment painting my children. Of course they love to participate and Gabriel has made many improvements to my drawings.

Update/3-29-18

At 9 months old, Adelia is almost standing on her own. (she uses lots of things to pull herself up and support her.) she’s crawling faster than Gabriel ever did. We’ve put up barriers until the place looks like Minas Tirith, but to no avail: she overcomes every obstacle. She follows me everywhere and climbs up into my heart.

Posted on

Uriel, The Angel of Light Watercolor Print

blueangelprintUriel, the angel of light teaches us to see into our hearts and discover the shining light waiting there to guide us on our path and dispel the darkness which would obscure the way.

8×10. Printed on luscious Rives BFK printmaking paper, this lovely angel will bless any home.

$30 plus tax.

 







Posted on

Influences

This blog was originally posted at my website, here: http://www.zhibit.org/azulbluedragon/blog/influences

I was sitting at home the other day looking through some of my art books. I have a giant Degas book that was a gift from my parents, that came from the Norton Simon Museum (the book, not my parents.) I love Degas and the way the application of chalk or paint (he can do both with equal effectiveness) can communicate the transitory quality of a fleeting moment. It adds an intimacy to the piece as if we were there as the washerwoman yawns while she works (presumably from being overworked and raising a family)

This quality, as well as his use of cropping the frame like the relatively new medium of photography, incorporating patterns in a similar fashion to the Japanese wood block prints that were popular at the time, and employing as subject matter, working class women (instead of upper class subjects or religious or classical subject matter that pervaded previous art genres) are indicative of post impressionism, that includes Degas’ contemporaries, Van Gogh, and Cezanne, as well as the original impressionists Monet, Manet and their buddies.
But my work doesn’t really look anything like Degas’.

 

 

I do use women as subject matter, but I look for what I believe would be strong women role models for a future daughter. I believe that our culture has a deficit of depicting strong women role models and I want them to be there for my daughter if and when she is old enough to look for them. There are plenty of women for her to look to, but they are not commonly depicted in popular culture. This is part of a vicious cycle where women remain in the minority of leadership positions or few are considered cultural heroes, and so girls grow up thinking that the best option is to get married and have babies, (which is of course an option, but women should have more choices. that’s the point.) In any case, as an artist, I make the conscious decision to promote strong women role models.
This is a big enough subject that is should have its own separate blog post, so I won’t say anymore about it here.
Back to influences.

 

 

 


I have always cited Michelangelo & Da Vinci as huge influences, and I really love their work; especially the Pieta and the Madonna of the Rocks. I love Leonardo’s use of Chiaroscuro and the glazing techniques that combine to give depth and texture to the beautifully rendered figures. I love the way that Michelangelo poses and renders his figures. These poses are a precursor to Mannerism.
My work doesn’t look anything like these guys’ work.
 

I also love Rembrandt, & Rothko, Homer, Hopper, Franz Kline, Sargent, Courbet, & many many others. I love illustrators like NC Wyeth, Arthur Rackham, Leyendecker, Rockwell, Frazetta, Lee, Gorey, and many many others. My first influence was Charles Schutz. Then came my love for comic books; Spiderman, Batman, Xmen, etcmen… Maybe I have so many influences that it’s hard to discern any single one. Maybe I’ve been drawing and painting for so long that I’ve developed my own way of doing things. Maybe I’m such a crappy artist I can’t even copy my heroes very well. 
Posted on

Music to Create To

I listen to a lot of music when I create. I lean heavily on it to keep me in the mood I’m trying to convey as I work on technical aspects of the work. Mostly I listen to sacred music. Often Eastern music. Indian or Sufi is best, but I also listen to Medieval Christian music. It is fairly important that any vocals not be in English as that would distract me, particularly if I’m writing. If I’m painting, it’s not as big a deal to have English lyrics but they rarely are. Donna De Lory’s music in mostly in English and that’s ok. Her music is wonderful. Anonymous4 is a favorite too. I hope the spirit of the music keeps my spirit focused as I’m concentrating on mixing a particular color or trying to paint a representation of the Goddess, or otherwise caught up in some technical aspect of work that is necessary but could distract me from imbuing my painting with the spiritual energy that is my goal in the first place.
Lately I have been writing the story of Robin Hood and that requires a different approach. I still like to listen to music, but in this case I will listen to music that sets the period for me. The piece is set at about 1100 ad, so music actually from that era is a bit hard to come by and when one does, it can be; shall we say, an acquired taste. More Anonymous4 is in order. There is a French album of music dedicated to the Madonna that is really 14 century. More on the money is “Origin of Fire” which is music by Saint Hildegard circa 1000 ad. The fact that it’s German and that “La Bele Marie” is French and Robin Hood is English doesn’t bother me. Loreena McKennitt is faux period and English language to boot, but it’s so ethereal that the language isn’t a problem. This kind of New age, Medieval crossover works ok because Robin Hood is widely regarded as a fantasy although there is no magic in it and it takes place in history. My version has a bit of New agey fantasy aspect, but not really. It’s similar to the amount you find in David Gemmell’s Troy series, but with less “K”s.

If I am making a Halloween card, I may listen to Halloween like music. This can be tricky because I am not interested in the Monster Mash. At least not over and over again. The same goes for Christmas music when making Christmas Cards. I want a mix of Standards, Classical and Modern (like Sting or Annie Lennox) Throw in some Vince Guaraldi and there’s my Christmas mix.
Speaking of Sting and Annie Lennox, Soundtracks like the Lord of the Rings can be very good, but invariably the Bridge of Khazad Dum comes on at the wrong time. Don’t get me wrong. I love that piece. I should just put it with the Halloween music. ; ). Last of the Mohicans is a favorite also.
When I’m painting landscapes I sometimes like to listen to jazz. I like Charlie Parker best. My jazz world basically centers around Bird. My favorite is Bird with Strings. I also love Kind of Blue by Miles Davis. One of the Best selling jazz albums of all time, the musicians were paid a standard session fee of $10 a day each. That kind of thing really chaps my hide.
I hope this rambling tour of part my working process helps you to find a groove to work to. Or at least provide you with some musical ideas to listen to.