Sunday, December 31, 2006

Untitled Witness (1983)

Until now, I hadn't made the connection that "Untitled Witness" from 1983 is related to the drawing from 1966 that I posted on this blog on December 8, 2006, "Imaginary Brother as Witness": In both images, I see a young person who is a witness to something unnamed, a person who is marked and changed by what was witnessed. He is not guilty, but he is no longer innocent. 

As I look at these drawings I remember Bob Dylan singing: “. . . Ring them bells, for the time that flies, for the child that cries when innocence dies . . .” (from “Ring Them Bells,” Bob Dylan, 1989) “ . . . In the broken mirror of innocence on each forgotten face . . .” (from “Every Grain of Sand," Bob Dylan, 1981) “ . . . I offered up my innocence and got repaid with scorn . . ." (from "Shelter From the Storm,” Bob Dylan, 1974) “ . . . The geometry of innocent flesh on the bone . . .” (from “Tombstone Blues,” Bob Dylan, 1965) 

 "I was thinking of a series of dreams Where nothing comes up to the top Everything stays down where it's wounded And comes to a permanent stop Wasn't thinking of anything specific Like in a dream, when someone wakes up and screams Nothing too very scientific Just thinking of a series of dreams Thinking of a series of dreams Where the time and the tempo fly And there's no exit in any direction 'Cept the one that you can't see with your eyes Wasn't making any great connection Wasn't falling for any intricate scheme Nothing that would pass inspection Just thinking of a series of dreams Dreams where the umbrella is folded Into the path you are hurled And the cards are no good that you're holding Unless they're from another world In one, numbers were burning In another, I witnessed a crime 
In one, I was running, and in another All I seemed to be doing was climb Wasn't looking for any special assistance Not going to any great extremes I'd already gone the distance Just thinking of a series of dreams" (from "Series of Dreams," Bob Dylan, 1991) 


Today is the last day of 2006. 


Child stepped
grew steady 
everything under the sun is new. 


Kind wishes to all for the New Year.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Season of Glass (1983)

Yoko Ono released an album titled "Season of Glass" in 1981, a year after the murder of John Lennon. After John Lennon's death, I had a dream that John Lennon and Yoko Ono visited my home and stayed overnight. In the morning, they announced that they were going to hitchhike to Seattle. Concerned, I tried to dissuade them, but they were determined to hitchhike. After they left, I felt intense fear for their lives. Then I remembered that John had already died. He couldn't die again. With this thought, I knew we had nothing to fear. In the context of the dream, Yoko was safe, too. 

 When I look at this image today, I see a young woman and a young man at the beginning of their journey together. The man who bought this painting from me remarked that it reminded him of Diego Rivera's painting from 1925 called "Flower Day." I had not seen Rivera's painting before doing my drawing but went to the library to search for a reproduction of "Flower Day" and saw why he made that connection. I love Diego Rivera's painting.

From "Season of Glass": 

Goodbye Sadness by Yoko Ono 

Goodbye sadness 
Goodbye goodbye 
I don't need you anymore 
I wet my pillow every night 
But now I saw the light 

Goodbye goodbye sadness 
I don't need you anymore 
Goodbye goodbye sadness 
I can't take it anymore 

Goodbye sadness 
Goodbye goodbye 
I don't need you anymore 
I lived in fear every day
But now I'm going my way
Goodbye goodbye sadness 
I don't need you anymore

Goodbye goodbye sadness
I can't take it anymore 

Hello happiness
Wherever you are
I hope you hear my song
I never want to cry again
Or hold my breath in fear again
Goodbye goodbye sadness
I don't need you anymore
Goodbye goodbye sadness 
I can't take it anymore 


Friday, December 29, 2006

Composer (1983) and Poem (1983)


Why should we go on watching each other through a telescope? -- Bob Dylan, Street Legal, 1978 

There is a drought and no messiah in sight 
Look at the thirsty land 
Look at the magnifying glass sun 
But no hand holds the glass 
No heart is moved by our sorrow 
Through a telescope we look for healing hands, 
A human heart, and eyes that shed tears. 
In drought and in deluge
These suns and gods 
Are distant 
Though amazingly graceful and near 
While we watch through telescopes 
Our church of sky, land and sea 
Fills with healing hands, 
Human hearts and eyes that shed tears. 

I couldn't remember the title of the above drawing until I found a list of drawings and paintings I had done that my mother had placed on the walls of their home. My mother chose this one for a place high on the wall in their living room, knowing that it was based on a photograph of Bob Dylan from the 1960s. Her title for it, though, which I did remember, was "The Judge." A friend of mine referred to it as the drawing of the "hockey player." The image is open to interpretation. When I drew this I was thinking of both Bob Dylan and Johann Sebastian Bach and Beethoven.  As I looked at this drawing for the first time in a long time, I remembered the poem I had written which was inspired by the words of a song written by Bob Dylan in 1978. When my mother died in 1994, the drawing came back to me.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Sleepless Woman with Moon and Birds (1983)

It required some thinking before I could remember the name of this drawing. It wasn't until around 1987 that I began to write down the names that I gave to my drawings and paintings. Once again, I am finding that looking back at my work is a good exercise of my memory. 

This drawing has a connection to a poem I wrote in the early 1980's called "A Nation of Sleepless Women," which I posted yesterday. I was disappointed in the way the color of the image came through the first time I uploaded it because it had a cold blue look. The true image has much warmer blues. All of the colors are warmer, and even the black area is a warmer black. So, I went into iPhoto to see if I could remedy that. I clicked on "adjustments" and began playing with the brightness, contrast, saturation, temperature, tint, sharpness and exposure. I even discovered how to straighten the photo! What a revelation! The only thing I couldn't adjust to my satisfaction was the color up against the woman's face. The red near the woman's face in the first uploaded image is more like the original red. In the original image on paper, it is a red with more blue in it than orange. Of course, seeing a reproduction is not the same as seeing a drawing, but I got as close as I could to the spirit of the original drawing in the second uploaded image.

Just to see what it would look like, I made it into a black and white image.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Caught Between Impossible Questions and the Wild Blue Sky of Day (1982)

Looking back at these drawings from 1982, what a shock it is to add up the years and acknowledge that nearly twenty-five years have passed. Seeing this chalk pastel drawing after so many years, at first I couldn't remember the title I had given it. What is coming out of this process of retrospection is that I am remembering how much I have forgotten. As I looked at today's image, I thought I would have to give it a new name, but then the words "wild blue sky of day," from a poem I had written in the early 1980s, came back to me. I couldn't remember the title of the poem but knew where to look for it and found that it was titled "A Nation of Sleepless Woman with Moon and Birds." The last two lines were the title I had given to this drawing. 


Awake and alert
As full and fragmented as the moon 
Rising and reflecting 
In a western sea 
We hear night birds 
Singing in the shadows 
Mocking darkness 
Mocking darkness 
The moon asks an impossible question: 
Do I control you 
Or do you control me 
In my circular journey 
We ask the moon an impossible question: 
Do we control you 
Or do you control us 
In our cyclical journey
We hear night words
We sing in the shadows
Mocking darkness 
Mocking darkness 
Imagine us at dawn 
A nation of sleepless women with moon and birds
Just above the hills of childhood 
Caught between impossible questions 
And the wild blue sky of day. 

Sometime in February I will be coming to a drawing/painting I did which I called, "Woman Trying to Remember What She is Trying to Forget." 

How could I forget that I am a poet, too?

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Nothing to Say in Black and White (1982)

A story about this drawing which was done with black and white chalk pastel on Arches paper can be found in the December 13, 2006 entry. The image of the woman came from a photograph of Georgia O'Keeffe with Alfred Steiglitz. After doing this drawing, I didn't make any more images in black and white for twenty years. This is the third of a series of drawings done in the context of a university level drawing class, using a face from a photograph as a starting point. I graduated from Western Washington University in 1982 with a degree in English Literature (minoring in Art) and continued to be inspired to draw from faces in photographs I found in books. In 1984, I began working the evening shift as a medical transcriptionist and was no longer able to attend the informal life drawing sessions on Tuesday evenings in the Western Washington University Art Department.

Monday, December 25, 2006

After Mary Cassatt (1982)

Today is Christmas Day. Coincidentally, this drawing relates in its own way to Christmas in that it was influenced by the artist, Mary Cassatt, who frequently chose to draw or paint a woman and child or a child alone. This drawing was another classroom assignment, that of taking a gesture from an image by another artist and making it one's own. 

 I had chosen Mary Cassatt's oil painting, "Girl Arranging Her Hair (1886)", for the assignment. The image came from a paperback art book titled MARY CASSATT: OILS AND PASTELS, by E. John Bullard (1976). E. John Bullard commented on Mary Cassatt's painting in this way: ". . . Cassatt's young girl has a definite personality. She is neither pretty nor refined. Her ungainly gesture is that of a person unobserved, absentmindedly coiling her hair." (p. 44) 

 When I read those words, I felt protective of that young girl, and I knew that Mary Cassatt would not have seen the young girl she painted as "neither pretty nor refined" or "ungainly." I see a young girl whose presence is marked by strength and gracefulness. In my drawing, the girl has grown up. She is strong and independent. 

 Now I am remembering why I was so drawn to Mary Cassatt's work. It was Mary Cassatt who said: "I am independent! I can live alone and I love to work." "If painting is no longer needed, it seems a pity that some of us are born into the world with such a passion for line and color."

Mary Cassatt, after 1900 Frederick Arnold Sweet Papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institute, Washington, D.C. 

"I doubt if you know the effort it is to paint! The concentration it requires, to compose your picture, the difficulty of posing the models, of choosing the color scheme, of expressing the sentiment and telling your story! The trying and trying again and again and oh, the failures, when you have to begin all over again! The long months spent in effort upon effort, making sketch after sketch. Oh, my dear! No one but those who have painted a picture know what it costs in time and strength!" "After a time, you get keyed up and it 'goes', you paint quickly and do more in a few weeks than in the preceding weary months. When I am en train, nothing can stop me and it seems easy to paint, but I know very well it is the result of my previous efforts." Reprinted from Sixteen to Sixty: Memoirs of a Collector by Louisine W. Havemeyer. 

 And then there are these words from one of my favorite poets: 

Praise wet snow falling early 

Praise the shadow my neighbor's chimney casts on the tile roof even this gray October day that should, they say, have been golden. 

Praise the invisible sun burning beyond the white cold sky, giving us light and the chimney's shadow. 

Praise god or the gods, the unknown, that which imagined us, which stays our hand, our murderous hand, and gives us still, in the shadow of death, our daily life, and the dream still of goodwill, of peace on earth. Praise flow and change, night and the pulse of day. 

 Denise Levertov

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Self Portrait of an Old Friend as a Young Man (1982)

This young man was drafted into the U.S. Army in the spring of 1969, went to Vietnam as a helicopter mechanic in January of 1970 and returned on December 8, 1970. Each day he was in Vietnam he wrote a letter to me, sometimes including drawings and photographs. Each day he was gone, I wrote a letter to him. In this drawing from a photograph he sent to me, I portrayed him as a man who could carry the weight of darkness and light in impossible situations. In Jungian terms, he is my animus.

Unlike the previous chalk pastel life drawings in this series, this one was done by projecting a slide onto a piece of drawing paper and tracing the image. Using that technique to produce a image was a drawing class assignment. I thought of the technique as "cheating." I can't take credit for either the drawing or the photograph from which the drawing was done, only for reproducing an image from 1970 from the war in Vietnam.

It's Christmas Eve in this season of holidays, holy days.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Life Drawing of a Young Woman #3 (1982)

When I began to show my chalk pastel life drawings, people commented that they reminded them of color photo negatives. It occurs to me now that with digital cameras there is no negative and that soon, if not already, the idea of a photo negative will not be understood without explanation. All these early drawings were photographed by me with a Minolta 7s camera. The colors are amazingly true. Until this last year, I photographed all my work with that camera. It is light enough outside now to see that the sky is a bluish grey. I can hear light rain. I remember reading that Georgia O'Keeffe used to paint her rooms grey because the colors in her drawings and paintings appeared with greater intensity when there was a grey background. That is what happens to colors on a grey day in the Northwest.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Untitled (1982)

Although this drawing has always been untitled, it could well be seen as a winter solstice image. The classroom model was an adult male with long hair that he had clipped up. This drawing has always felt mysterious to me. It is a good example of what I call a drawing that drew itself, that has a life of its own. What I saw was only roughly translated to what ended up on the paper. Still I was pleased with the image. This is one of the few drawings from that period that was not bought or traded away for another piece of artwork. 

Today is the first morning in a long time where I have looked out the window to the east and seen blue sky for the most part, although there are dark clouds low in the sky along the foothills. This may be the beginning of winter, but, the way I see it, there will be a little more light every morning until the summer solstice. Just seeing blue pre-sunrise sky makes it seem that there is more light today. 

August through February is my favorite time of year in Washington. If I am going to be depressed, it tends to be sometime between March and the beginning of July. I'm not sure why, but I am more at peace with short winter days than long summer days.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Golden Line (1982)

A life drawing model who was in her ninth month of pregnancy came to model for the Western Washington University class one day. This was not her first pregnancy, and she was completely at ease with herself. What was amazing to me was that as I drew her I could see the shape of the baby moving. I was not able to convey that in the drawing, though. A few weeks later she brought her baby to class for all of us to see. Some time later I received a phone call from Blue Horse Gallery, the art gallery who was representing me at that time. She had contacted them because she was interested in buying that drawing, but the drawing was not available because I had traded it for a brightly colored drawing of a very old woman which had been drawn by one of my classmates, a middle-aged woman. The classmate wanted to frame the drawing and put it above her drawing table in her studio.


Update (December 21, 2022):  A few years ago when I was at the check-out desk of our public library, I realized that the library clerk was closely related to my former classmate who had traded her drawing for mine.  My former classmate had since died.   I asked the library clerk if she knew of a framed drawing of a pregnant woman that had been above my classmate's drawing table.  The library clerk gave me her email address and asked if I would send her a photo of the drawing.  I did that.  She didn't recall seeing it among my classmate's belongings.  I wonder what became of it.  

When I was simplifying my life and letting go of art work that I no longer had room for, I had donated her beautiful drawing of a radiant elderly woman (whom she had drawn while visiting a family member in an assisted living setting) to the dementia care residence where my friend, Linda, lived for the last two years of her life.  The hallway walls were filled with art work, both original and mass-produced.  The dementia care management was always happy to replace mass-produced prints with original art work.  After Linda died, one of her tapestries was donated to the hallway gallery.    

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Life Drawing of a Young Woman #2 (1982) / I and the Village, by Marc Chagall (1911)

Although I was not conscious that I was using green, blue and orange as Marc Chagall had used them in his painting, "I and the Village," it suddenly occurred to me, while writing these words, that his painting certainly influenced me as I did this drawing so many years ago. I hadn't hesitated to draw a green woman with blue hair. 

My mother had become interested in Marc Chagall during the time I was in high school and brought books of his drawings and paintings home from the public library and shared them with me. After I graduated from college at age 32 in 1982, my father took my mother and me to New York City and Washington, D.C., during which time he took a picture of my mother and I standing in front of "I and the Village," in the Museum of Modern Art. "I and the Village" is 75 1/4" x 59 1/4 inches, much taller than me or my mother or my father! 

As I type this, my laptop rests on the large art book, MARC CHAGALL, by Franz Meyer. Marc Chagall is a continuing influence. The week that Marc Chagall died in 1985 was the week when I was visiting my parents in Northern California. A man and his wife who were in their late 80s stopped by to visit my parents and when I showed them photographs of my drawings, the man said, to my great surprise, "Ah, a new Chagall!" That, along with R. Allen Jensen's appreciation of my drawings, was the encouragement that I needed. I liked my drawings but continued to be startled when other people besides family and friends liked them, too. 

"The dignity of the artist lies in his duty of keeping awake the sense of wonder in the world. In this long vigil he often has to vary his methods of stimulation; but in this long vigil he is also himself striving against a continual tendency to sleep." (Marc Chagall)

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Life Drawing of a Young Woman (1982)

In 1971, I was given a box of Rembrandt pastels which I never used because I didn't know how to use them. In 1982, I brought them to a drawing class at Western Washington University and surprised myself by doing this drawing which was one of five pastel drawings done in a life drawing class setting. The drawing professor, R. Allen Jensen, asked me if I had seen the work of R.B. Kitaj or Francis Bacon. I hadn't, but I went to the university library to search for the work of those artists and understood why he had asked that question. The artists, Mary Cassatt and Georgia O'Keeffe, both of whom worked in pastel, had influenced me, along with Marc Chagall, Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, Arshille Gorky, Wassily Kandinsky, The Blue Rider group and Bob Dylan's music.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Life Drawing #6 (1982-1983?)

This is the last of a selection from a series of life drawings done with pencil. For several years in the 1980s, until I took a job in a hospital as a medical transcriptionist on the evening shift, I spent every Tuesday evening doing life drawing in an informal life drawing group at Western Washington University. That was when I was in my early 30s, and it would still be several years before the beginning of my freedom from an eating disorder. Although this was a dark time in my life on many levels, when I was doing life drawing I was at least able to see and try to convey the light in other people.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Life Drawing #5 (1982-1983?)

During the informal life drawing sessions at Western Washington University, the person who was being the model would take three half-hour poses. One night I was able to fit all three poses into one drawing that still amazes me. When I pause in my writing, I can look to the east and see the waning crescent moon over the Cascade foothills. The remaining areas of open water in the cattail marsh are so still that they are reflecting the grey clouds in the predawn sky.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Life Drawing #4 (1982-1983?)

Just realized that these life drawings were not done on a newsprint drawing pad as I had stated earlier. They were done on a slightly higher quality white drawing paper pad. Because it has been a long time since I have drawn or painted from life rather than memory and dreams, and I thought maybe it was time to start drawing from life again, even if only to draw my cat, I bought a book called HOW TO DRAW ANYTHING: A COMPLETE GUIDE, by Angela Gair. 

On page 20 of that book, she says: "If you are not sure of the height of, say, a tree in the distance compared with a tree in the foreground, you can check using the "measure-and-compare" method. Use the foreground tree as your "key measure," comparing all parts of the subject to that. Hold your pencil at arm's length, elbow locked, in front of the tree. Keeping one eye closed, line up the tip of the pencil with the top of the tree and mark the position of the base of the trunk with your thumbnail. This is your key measure. Now, keeping your thumbnail in position and your arm outstretched, move the pencil to that distant tree and compare its height with the length of your key measure. You can compare the length of your key measure with other parts of the landscape, too, for measuring widths as well as heights." 

This technique is what Tom Sherwood taught us in his life drawing classes and what I found most useful in being able to draw people from life. 

 On the wall near my computer is a large postcard titled "How to Draw Geometric Shapes." It shows, in four steps, how to look at a small dog who is sitting down, a parrot's head and a horse's head in order to draw two triangles, a circle and a rectangle. As a child trying to learn to draw from art instruction books, I never made much progress using that technique of reducing the shapes and structures of animals to geometric shapes in order to build them back up into a completed drawing, and that postcard has been on my wall for years because it still makes me smile. As I was looking at the above drawing again, I remembered that the way I did life drawings was to start somewhere in the person's face, usually the eyes. I would make a beginning mark and then from there begin the measuring process. I didn't sketch in the whole person, as is usually advised, and I certainly didn't reduce the person to geometric shapes, but slowly developed a drawing that I was pleased with. The process was deeply meditative.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Life Drawing #3 (1982-1983?)

The human body is sacred and is so vulnerable. This young man is sitting on a drawing bench that had been placed on the model's platform. Behind him on the wall was a blackboard on which was written "40%." If I had had time to draw everything I saw, he would have been surrounded by people sitting at drawing benches, deep in concentration. In a life drawing class, everyone sees from a unique perspective and has a unique way of drawing. It is fascinating to walk around the room and see how many ways a person can be seen and translated onto paper.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Life Drawing #2 (1982-1983?)

As my confidence in my ability to draw grew, I began to draw two poses on one piece of paper, and so it looked as if I had drawn a pair of twins posing or maybe a "time-lapse" image.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Life Drawing #1 (1982-1983?)

This is the first of six life drawings I will be posting. They were done in an informal life drawing group that met for two hours on Tuesday evenings at Western Washington University in the Art Department. They were drawn on a large newsprint drawing pad, using A.W. Faber Castell pencils. I am grateful to Tom Sherwood for teaching me life drawing in the context of a small community class sponsored by Bellingham Parks and Recreation. I had always been able to "draw," but in his class I learned how to really look at what I was drawing. He showed us how to hold out a pencil at arm's length and make measurements, so that a drawing had correct proportions. It was a simple tool that made all the difference in the world in my life drawings. I am also grateful to R. Allen Jensen, in whose classes I began to do life drawing using chalk pastel. R. Allen Jensen's voiced appreciation of those pastel drawings was a turning point for me in that I realized my drawings "said" something to someone else. The pastel drawings were bold and colorful, more like paintings than drawings. In a class critique, another student said, in a way that I felt was dismissive, that my drawings worked mainly because of the strong color. I took what I thought was negative criticism to heart and did a drawing with black pastel chalk in a similar style to the colorful pastel drawings and brought it in for the next critique. I still laugh when I remember R. Allen Jensen's words, "Well, obviously she has nothing to say in black and white." I'll be posting "Nothing to Say in Black and White" soon.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Drawing a Sun where there is None (1982?)

Starting around 1975, I did a series of linocuts. This may be the last one that I did. It was published in JEOPARDY (1983), which is published annually at Western Washington University under the auspices of the WWU Student Publications Council and the WWU Department of English. I graduated from WWU in 1982, receiving a B.A. in English Literature with a minor in Art, despite suffering from a long-term eating disorder and frequent bouts of depression. Drawing and painting were the keys to finding a way out of the eating disorder and the accompanying debilitating depression. It was up to me to draw a sun where there was none.

Monday, December 11, 2006

A Birthday in May 1980? 1981? 1982?

Sometime between 1980 and 1982, I took a painting class from Paul Glenn at Western Washington University. This painting was created in a classroom setting on the day we were introduced to watercolor on paper. As was the case at that time, Bob Dylan, whose birthday is May 24, 1941, was never far from my mind. I was trying to paint Bob Dylan from memory of countless photographs I had seen of him. This was the first painting I sold. It was purchased by Brian Caven.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Untitled Dream 1974

Dreamed in 1974, many years before the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Saturday, December 9, 2006

Bull Playing Soccer 1974

Struggling to find my voice as an artist

Friday, December 8, 2006

Imaginary Brother as Witness 1966

This was done for a high school drawing class. It was copied from a photograph of one of the Beach Boys, Dennis Wilson, from a teen magazine. I considered it a failure because it didn't look "exactly" like the magazine photo, but kept it tacked to my wall for years. In the winter of 1983, the roof of the house where I was living leaked, dripping down a wall and creating a water stain on the drawing. At first I was grief-stricken, but then I saw that my imaginary brother had survived after all. Coincidentally, Dennis Wilson died in a drowning accident on 28 December 1983, one of countless synchronicities in my life.