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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.

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May The 4th Be With You

 

I don’t do a lot of fan art. I try to provide original content at my site. However, this does not mean that I’m not a huge fan of various great artistic contributions to our society  I love Star Wars, for instance. I have dabbled in some fan art here, and today seems like a good day to bring my nerdom into the light for the celebration. This is a linoprint of the patriarch of the saga.

Here are a few more. Two of them are sketches of my son, Gabriel with a lightsaber, in one of which, he is dressed as a jedi for Halloween  the other he is learning the ways of the Force. The third is Admiral Akbar as a college student in the 60s .

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Welcome to the Adventure

I see a lot of articles about “being present,” “be in the moment,” and things of this nature. Some say that that is all there is to enlightenment. Entire books are written on mindfullnes. As a person who has spent a lot of my life daydreaming… I mean “writing fiction,” uh… anyway, I’ve struggled with this concept. Yoda says that Luke “Never is his mind on where he is, what he is doing.” The Tao espouses this concept, as does the Dharma, and Krishna. Even Western religion calls for this kind of behavior as when Jesus says to be like children. And again when He says how we should be like the lilies of the field, (that Jesus and his references to mortality with “lilies”) and the birds of the air who neither reap nor sow, but are taken care of by their father in heavan. This is telling us to “Leave tomorrow for tomorrow and worry about today instead” (which he also says in his hit musical: “Jesus Christ Superstar”.)


But what does all this mean? Are we supposed to not think about the future? Do we discount the lessons of our past? Are we to be automotons? I think we are not supposed to be slaves to our thought processes. In the Bhagavad Gita we are told of the blind King Dhritarashtra, who is the ego, who is the regent, and when the rightful king comes to claim the throne, Dhritarashtra refuses to relinquish the throne. Our brain is a tool like our eyes or our arms, but we are not our bodies. We are more than our arms, more than our eyes, and we are more than our brains as well.
When a dancer is best, it is when she is not thinking about the next move, but when she is so practiced, that she does not have to think about it. Artists often talk about when they are so involved in the creative process, that time seems to have flown by. This is known as Aphrodite time, named for the Goddess of love, as opposed to normal time, named for Chronos, the Titan that consumed the gods, (his children) only to be saved by Zues (thus freeing them from time and giving them immortality.

I read instructions that tell me to pay attention to my breathing. Listen to my heart beating. The term Buddha means, “the awoken one.” and so being awake means being aware. Being aware of what’s going on that normal people are asleep to. Yet it is impossible to concentrate on all my senses at once. To pay attention to my heart beating and my breathing and the people talking to me, and feel the breeze and all that.
It is impossible to silence my mind as well. There is no way for me to do all these things. I am not a buddha.
The problem, as I see it, is that these instructions to be in the moment lack one key ingredient. Motivation. Why be in the moment? Because it leads to enlightenment? What is that? Being aware? I try and I just don’t seem to get it.
Until last night.
The reason to be in the moment is this:
Because to be awake to what is happening is FUCKING AWESOME!
This realization makes even a mundane trip to the market thrilling. I don’t have to simultaneously be aware of my breathing and seeing what’s on sale. I can seemlessly move from one to the other. To realize that every moment is brand new and the present is right now, and the eternal present is all there is. Even if I’ve done something a million times before, It’s still new in this moment. Think about that dancer. In order to not have to think about her dance, she had to practice the dance a million times to perform it flawlessly.


When you realize each moment, each experience is brand new, life is an adventure. People pay huge sums of money to be thrilled by adventure: they go skydiving, they go on safari, they go to exotic locals. There is nothing wrong with doing these things, but every second of everyday is unique, whether you are stuck in traffic, being chewed out by your boss, screwing up the courage to ask out that girl in accounting, or going to bed for the night.
I fall back into being humdrum, getting frustrated, and these things. life goes on, but once having realized the adventure that is each moment, I can re-enter that sensibility at any time. There is a Buddhist saying: “Chop wood, carry water.” It means to do what is needed in the moment. But it also means that that is the meditation. That is what to be awake to; not some spiritual ethereal concept, but the concrete reality of living life. I have long said that just going to church for an hour once a week is not enough, that each action we take is an act of worship, whether we realize it or not. If we chase money and are assholes all week long, that’s what we worship, that’s what we are dedicating our lives to, not just something we do for an hour. Of course, going to church can center us, give us our direction and if we fall short much of the time, we can still aspire to be more like we want. Living life in the moment, realizing the adventure can help us to feel less stuck, help us to be the kind of person we want to be in the moment.
If we fall into the rut of feeling like there’s nothing new, and we’ve done everything a million times, we rob ourselves of the thrill of being in the moment. Once we experience this thrill, we can motivate ourselves to do new things, and accept things as they are. There is a place for both of these in our lives.
Welcome to the adventure.

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I Learned Something About Love

I write alot about love as a force we can use to effect positive change around us, but I rarely talk about the need to charge ourselves with love so we can live in its abundance and share that positive energy with our fellows.

Sometimes this can be easy; if our lives are going the way we want, then connecting to a feeling of love takes little effort. If, however; we are at odds with what’s happening in our lives, it may seem like love isn’t there to connect to. I have always been told that God loves me and is always there for me. This is hard not to take as an empty platitude when you don’t know how you’re going to provide for your family, whether there will be enough to pay the rent, buy food, etc… It’s hard if you are fighting with family members or people at work. We all know struggle; it defines the human experience.
With 2 small children, it can be a challenge to find some “me” time. I feel guilty telling my wife I need to do something for myself. We both work hard and spend all our spare time taking care of our children and trying to keep up with the housework. The other day I expressed my desire to work on an art project. My wife insisted I take the time to do it. Many of our arguments are the opposite of normal arguments with us each advocating for the other to do the thing they want.
My newest bent on creating art is to attempt to do them all like zen calligraphy. Zen Calligraphy is a process where the Calligrapher becomes the instrument of what is called “Chi” in Chinese. In Japanese it’s called “ki”, in Korean it’s called “Qi”. Seeing as how none of these languages use the alphabet we use, I consider the word to be basically the same in these languages. In Sanskrit the concept is known as prana. These words all mean “life force” or energy. The process involves being in a meditative state during the execution of the project. Zen masters say the process is the same whether one is doing calligraphy, flower arranging, or swordfighting.
When the children are screaming and I leave my wife in the next room to deal while I guiltily go to a quiet room to do art, it is difficult for me to put myself in this state. It is a state of love. how can I put myself in a state of love, which is giving and caring, and selfishly go to create art?
I realized that I was missing the love that was there. My children were screaming because they love me and want me near them. My wife gave me the time to work on my project because she loves me. It was the love charge I was needing that was there all along. Part of love is being able to accept it.

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The Silver Bough

Alive is a land which lurks in the mist

Afar is a font where the fairy folk fly

Many are the men who murmur, “It does not exist.”

For fear of the foe who flit by the eye

Some say the secret to seeing the fae

Is to speak what you seek at the end of the day

As the daylight dusk darkens & purples the sky

The stars start to sparkle & you solemnly say:

“Ethereal elves, spirits & sprites, pixies & brownies and fairies delight

Dryads & naiads, sirens & sylphs;

Tuatha de Danann, Come visit tonight!

 

A light hum emanated for the dew covered daisies and daffodils springing in the meadow

A glinting, gleaming gossamer flicker of flying, flashing feathery fluff

Was the only glimpse of the sundrenched lemon drop sprite

Spinning lazily in the early morning light.

 

As the slow, sultry summer sings sunny, slothful Saturday

The shadows sweep silently, stealthily, sinkingly, towards sunset

The twinkling twilight tells its tale of the tail end of the day

And darkness descends.

🌄🌌

When dusk’s disc disappears, drowning in darkness

Shadow upon shadow shields the secrets seeking solace, silently safe from sight

Never knowing comfort Hardly hearing howling horrors

Hiding, biding, biting

crawling, calling, bawling

Through the night.

Falling fearful foul, freak fancies flying; filled with fiery fright.

Call the faeries all the fae, luminous and bright

glimmering with glamour

glittering and gossamer

and glowing with delight

Banishing the  banshee

Shining hope and joy

And life & love & light.

🌑

 

On that moonless dark night

Oh, how the nightmares come

In mists and in shrouds

With long curving fangs

And glistening malevolent eyes

Beating their bat wings

The gargoyles growling tails

Twitching they descended upon the babe, to feast upon his fear

The Fae, they were waiting

Ready with bows & blades

& pikes & spear to defend the boy child from the demonic host

In that babe’s room of smiling suns & plush bunnies, the battle ensued

Silver flashed in the dim light and arrows flew

Sharp teeth & claws, forked tails & gleaming eyes

The battle was fought and shone in the sleeping babe’s dreams

Shrouded in shadow, the muffled thumps and clash of blades frightened the child

As any haunting horror

The grand production featured the fae and the demon battle

The violence fed the fevered visions of the innocent.

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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.