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About Me

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I paint, make collages and mixed media work. I write poetry. I reflect on the Tao.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


A reality not quite believed in
permeated the aura of quiet desperation:
fissures in the fusion so carefully crafted.

I dreamed of perfect poems written by perfect poets,
elegantly rendered images glistening anew
in the dawn of unexpected epiphanies
poignant recollections lost in luminous transcendence.

You dreamed behind the veil of things unspoken,
dark thoughts that might crack the shell of light
hidden mysteries to be betrayed in perfect poise
the ambivalence of words pregnant with black magma.

The bride’s veil, a disembodied voice.

The autograph book, archaic fragments.

Strange rings, interred meanings.

Faded faces, false resurrections.

The memory box, a dream by Borges.

No answers for these questions
tracings of life’s trajectories
web strands spun by chance and choice:
blind Cletho and Lachesis

Your death the final cutting of the cord
that once bound us only flesh to flesh,
leaving this self in flux oscillating
between the seen and the unseen,
between the known and the unknown,
between the quest and the freedom:
an allegory of unbecoming.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Collage poem, a poem about collage

montages of fragments
of memories torn

arranged and re-arranged
in endless patterns
solutions without resolutions
dissolving certainties into
metamorphic transitions
denying both movement
and stasis in an endless
veiling and revealing
the bricoleur's memory

 of moments stolen
fragments of montages

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Painting from a Photograph – Oil Painting of Dover Beach Tasmania

Now and then I like to take a break from my more demanding semi-abstract oil paintings, surrealistic collages and assemblages (which you can see here To renew my artistic eye and to have some fun, I’ll do a quick conventional oil sketch.
This particular oil painting started out as a grainy, out-of-focus photograph. In the gloomy light of the overcast day, the figure in the red-jacket stood out as a focal point.

Compositionally, the photograph doesn’t work. The movement is from left to right and out of the picture space. So I copied the image into MSPaint and flipped the image horizontally. Now the foreground leads the eye into the image and the two dark shapes of trees act as stops, preventing the eye from sliding out of the painting.

Next I did a thumbnail drawing in coloured pencils to fit the main elements of the image into the dimensions of the intended painting and to get a better idea of the main tonal values. I reduced the amount of foreground and changed its angle from horizontal, which acted as a barrier, to an upward slope from left to right to assist the eye in moving into the picture. I separated Red Jacket from the other two figures to strengthen the focal point. I got a second opinion from my nearest and dearest who suggested lowering the far bank. This connected the background to the beach.

What I used

 Surface: A4 Oil Sketch paper with a 1 cm border all around, roughly 11 x 8 inches, untoned ground

 Palette: Titanium white, cobalt blue, sap green, alizarin crimson, cadmium red, yellow ochre, raw sienna,   burnt umber
 Brushes: flat hog hair brushes (¾ inch for the darks; ½ inch for the lights and ¼ inch for the details. To stop me from fussing I only used the smallest brush at the very end.)

 Turpentine: to wash the brushes only. Paint was applied neat.

 Reading glasses: for the short sighted artist (only used at the end for the details. Since I can’t see details, but only the overall impression, this also stops me from fussing.)

Traps for the unwary

In painting from photographs, there are some traps. Cameras flatten perspective; sharpen the edges of objects and record a more limited colour and tonal range than you see. That is why paintings which merely reproduce a photograph just don’t look right.

 In painting this scene, then I tried to remember to exaggerate the aerial perspective relative to the photograph and the colour/tonal contrasts. The water, for example, has a little alizarin crimson in it to warm the tone and bring it forward. The shadow on the beach under the tree started out with a slash of nearly pure cobalt. The trees, which are nearly dark outlines in the photograph, are composed of lighter values in green and yellows over a dark background.

What I did

The painting process was more or less conventional:

No preliminary drawing, just an initial line to demarcate the lower edge of the background and some dark (sap green and alizarin crimson) to block out the broad shape of the tree on the beach.

Then I blocked in the dark masses of the background, with different darks, and the beach debris, which defined the beach area.

Then, broad horizontal strokes of white with a little blue and gradually adding a little alizarin crimson as I worked on the water from top to bottom. Additional white, to suggest reflected clouds, was blended in as the painting progressed.

Shortish strokes for the beach (white with a little yellow ochre) and redefinition of the beach debris.

Now for the fun time! Adding the greens and yellows to the tree shape and bringing these colours into the foreground (along with some darks). Here I used directional strokes to suggest growth of leaves and grasses. A little bit of dragging the background and the lower beach into the water.

Next a process of overall modifying and adding to all elements of the image, to bring it all together.

On with the reading glasses and I take up the small brush. Using some of the mixed darks on the palette, I block in the lower half of the figures and the upper torso of the two left hand figures. Clean the brush and dry it. Put in a rectangle of pure cadmium red for the jacketed figure. A little blob of yellow ochre and white overdoes the heads. I overpaint with some dark stuff. That looks all right. I notice that the brush has split leaving a bit of untidy paint next to the figures. I leave it. To try to correct this is going to lead to disaster. With these details, it’s a one touch operation.

I add a few touches here and there with the small brush. Then I STOP.


I look at my watch. 45 minutes have passed since I started setting up. I have fifteen minutes to clean up before launching in to domestic chores. I mix the leftover paint on the palette with turps (mostly a bluish grey...I put out too much Cobalt) and, using a rag, apply it to another oil paper as a toned ground. I clean the brushes in turps and then in hot water and soap. I do NOT look at the painting, but leave the studio without a backward glance.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

An Early Poem

Originally I thought of titling this entry as "Juvenilia" or "My First Poem", but both titles would be inaccurate. My juvenilia is consigned to the ashes (except for one, embarassing example of adolescent effusiveness which languishes in an old copy of a school magazine). This is not my first poem, although it is the earliest poem I decided to keep. Written in 1971! A poem for two voices.

always of times past
                                 re-adjust my changing compass
                                 calculate my bearings
                                 plot my point by starlight
                                 allow for atmospheric deviations
                                 check for treachery
                                 cross-currents, sly tides
             i  dissemble
times past i throw into the future
drydreaming by daylight

all ways of times past
            i resolve and drag them into
            make them up-to-date

                                 follow the ever-changing coastlines
                                intent on charts i plot
                                my way by globeside starlight
                                find i where i stand
                               on deck the watchers change

           i flagellate the bountiful
          and hear the rigging creak
          the wind shriek through

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Professional versus amateur artist

This little note was sparked by Russ Potak's great interview at

This bit, in particular:
Yes, don't give up your day job. Hahaha! Sorry, just had to get that one in. No, actually do give it up. But only if you like the TV show Survivor, because more than likely, unless you love the work more than the money, you're going to drown. You have to love what you're doing to the point of, “if I make it, good, if I don't, I'll find a way to survive, somehow, someway”.

I always say, “You can't learn to swim with one foot on the shore and one foot in the water. Either jump in, or find a nice place on the beach to spread out”. Now that said, if you would like to do art, as a whenever, and however interest, and you are not looking to jump into the mix professionally, then you have a lot of options. Do it, don't do it, whenever, whatever, as the mood hits, or doesn't, and you get to join all the clubs and art groups and sit around and talk art and gardens. Note my sarcasm...
For me, this dichotomy of professional versus amateur doesn't ring true. Since the demise of the Edwardian world in the conflagration of World War I, there has been a reversal in the status and connotations of the two terms. Amateur once had a higher status than professional. It meant someone who followed his/her calling from the motive of love, intellectual curiousity or moral improvement, not for the base motive of earning money. Hence an amateur, free from the constraints of money-making could afford to have higher standards and pursue their interests where they led.

Nowadays, professional refers to someone who makes money from their discipline, but, more importantly by adhering to a set of professional standards and preferably (almost compulsorily) accredited by  a University. The role of gatekeeper and enforcer of standards shifted from the Royal Academies and Societies after World War I to the galleries and publishing houses, and nowadays, has further shifted to the universities.

I am neither a professional nor an amateur artist/poet/intellectual in the contemporary use of the terms. As an intellectual, I have the necessary accreditation, but do not earn my living from my efforts (no University post or book sales to keep me). As a poet, I guess an English literature major counts for some sort of accreditation, but no living there, either. As an artist, I'm even less professional, sans accreditation, sans living, sans association (and some would say, sans sense).

How I make my living is irrelevant to my art, or only relevant in the sense that it provides me with the material wherewithall and limits my art time.

But I am very serious about each of my creative pursuits and adhere to high standards (well, believe I do). There is no way I would describe myself as an amateur (in the contemporary sense of hobbyist). So, if I must describe myself, I would say that I am a vocational artist/poet/thinker. One who makes art, poetry and writes, out of that deep love that Russ and I share for art.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

In Thrall

In thrall to loss
his psyche, like a raven,
turning the shards
of bone and stone.

In the hollow of his heart
the silence of memory.
In the mountains of his mind
the stillness of wonder.

Tethered to life
his spirit, like a kite,
riding the clouds
of sand and blood.

Monday, January 31, 2011


Baptized by time
washed in dreams,
my tattered life

children crying
marbled sunlight
a lost child hunting
wonder in your eyes
an invincible summer
so intensely in memory

The free, exploring mind
reason grown courageous
tongues without thinking
the apple blossoms of purported wisdom

An ethereal silhouette of a man
crossing the river styx
something within me
like a passion full
lingers in the heart
yearning for the dragon song
of enchanting salvation long ago

Through a current of longing
the shadow of your wings
on the edge of time
love’s breath in constant flow
kissing the night air
slow surrender to dancing
into the moon shimmer
as though I had wings
of moondust.

Softly erotic, earthy lost innocence,
hidden in darkened wings
I will wait here for the stars to fall.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The art of grace

“Grace is ageless” @shellartistree wrote on Twitter, referring to Leonard Cohen. Having seen the master in concert not that long ago, I initially thought that it was an odd description. However, the more I reflected on it, the more I came to realise that it was perfectly apt. On stage, Leonard Cohen is a completely integrated human being, warts and all. ”If it be your will”, he sings, “that a voice be true”. And the voice IS true.

Leonard sometime in his early seeking days defined the “state of grace” as being a condition when one is like an escaped ski, hurling down the slope of life, effortlessly yet safely meeting the bumps as they come. Today Cohen is the embodiment of that awareness, seeing the sacred in every moment and enjoying the ride immensely
Concert at the Bislett Stadium Oslo, Norway, July 1, 2008 Text by Ali Eklöf

Synchronously, I had been musing on the notion of Grace in another context, when @shellartistree posted that comment. In my understanding, Spirit manifests in human form as four aspects: soul, mind, heart and body. Each of these has a gift from Spirit for the world. Gift should not be taken to imply separation between Spirit and form. The quality is something that is intrinsically enfolded in form, and hence it is a given for giving. Another way of looking at this is that the quality is the essence of the form. For the body this gift or essence is Life, for the heart the gift is Love, for the mind the gift is Light and for the soul the gift is Grace.

Life, Love and Light I could grasp (at least intellectually), but Grace seemed elusive. The more I read and the more I mused, I became aware that, at its core, Grace is a mystery.

What can be said about Grace?
What comes through Grace comes unbidden, of itself, without intention. Grace cannot be lured, or forced, or counterfeited. You can prepare the way, you can prepare yourself, you can set out your art materials, you can ready yourself for the process of creation, but Grace comes of its own accord — or not.

When Grace comes, the process of art making flows freely and effortlessly. When Grace is present, life flows openly. Synchronicity, serendipity, intuition and insight abound. There is a joy in the work and in the task, no matter how grim and difficult it may be.

Grace is your true nature revealing itself. It allows the unfolding of that which is hidden beneath the mask of the everyday. It demands authenticity and integrity of the self, beyond a strong ego, a self-actualized self, an individuated person, or any other puny psychotherapeutic concept.

Grace opens our minds to the light of truth, our hearts to the fire of love and our bodies to the vitality of life.

Grace accepts and glories in the way things are. It enables us to so love the world, that we can meet the ups and downs of life with faith, seeing the sacred in every moment and fully experiencing the ride.

The art of grace
Now, I would not claim to live in a state of Grace.

(An aside: beware of anyone who makes such a claim. If untrue, they offer nothing but delusions. If true, they are a snare on your own path. If you see a Buddha on the road,…)

A fallen angel, I.

More fallen than angel.

But there are times when even I have sensed a touch of Grace.

     Leonard Cohen in concert.

     Seeing these.

    When looking deeply into my beloved’s eyes.

     When art comes through my hands.

     When inspired words drop into my mind.

     In the stillness of meditation.

     In deepest despair when angels whisper comfort.

Times when the mind was stilled and not drowning out the still small voice of the soul.

Blunt the sharpness of your mind.
Untangle the knots in your thoughts.
Soften the glare of your criticism.
Let your mind wander where it will.
Become one with the Tao.
Close your openings, shut your doors,
Soften your sharpness, loosen your knots.
Soften the glare
Let your wheels move along old ruts.
This is called mysteriously attaining oneness
Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching