Saturday, March 31, 2007

Calendar Series: 69th Month / Early Winter Painted from Memory (1991)

Yesterday, the following was part of an e-newsletter which I receive and which is called "Robert Genn Twice Weekly."

-- In a now-famous research project, Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget (1896-1980) found that toddlers from all cultures,
when encouraged, do the following:

1. Draw from memory, not direct observation
2. Emphasize obvious features, omitting others
3. Sometimes add local characteristics or happenings
4. Omit proportion, perspective, and other devices of pictorial illusion --

I am intrigued to find that many of my paintings have most of the qualities of a toddler's art. Picasso said, "It takes a long time to become young."

Friday, March 30, 2007

Calendar Series: 68th Month / Flying Fish with Blue Tree (1990)

"Flying Fish with Blue Tree" is the last painting from 1990. We are coming to the end of the Calendar Series. In 1991, I did only one painting. In that year, an artist friend, Kevin Schnoebelen, died of ALS and left me his art supplies. In 1992, I completed the last four paintings of the Calendar Series.

Five paintings were completed 1993, and one in 1994, a few months before my mother died unexpectedly of a massive heart attack, after which my father made a decision to move from California to live in a retirement community in my town.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Calendar Series: 67th Month / Flying Fish with Red Tree (1990)

My sister emailed me to let me know that I had made a mistake in my numbering, having referred to yesterday's painting as the "67th Month." She attached a snapshot of the framed piece, which had faded from being in the sunlight.

Thank you, sister! My painting records had been difficult to decipher. Good to be back on track with the numbering.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Calendar Series: 66th Month / Talking About Hope Born from Hopelessness (1990)

My painting records show that there was a "calendar" titled "64th Month / The Night Before the Wedding of Memory and Destination" from 1990, but I can't find a painting to match that title. The painting after that, "65th Month / Meeting Place," was a small painting, created as a birth gift for the baby daughter of some friends of mine. Without remembering to photograph the painting, I had it framed and gave it to my friends.

The colors aren't quite right for today's image. The true colors were more subtle.

(Corrections via my sister -- She has the 67th Month. For the last few days, my month-numbering was wrong and is now corrected)

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Calendar Series: 63th Month / Talking 43-Hour Day with Roots Gathered from Coincidence (1990)

On August 2, 1990, the Gulf War began, bringing post-traumatic stress disorder for me and countless others. The painting signaled my growing distress. I was trying to paint a healing image but failed. I've come a long way in the past 17 years.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Calendar Series: 62nd Month / Self-Portrait with Brothers of Mercy and Night Falling from the Sky (1990)

Sometime between 1987 and 1990, I went alone to Cannon Beach and stayed for a few days in a cottage on the far south end. In the evening, while I was sitting on the bluff watching the ocean, one of the owners of the cottage took my picture without my knowledge. A few weeks later, he sent a copy of the photo he had taken of me. That is what I used as a starting point for this painting.

The second image shows how this painting may have looked if I hadn't decided to change the stormy sky to a night sky and then walked out of the room and returned to find that the Payne's Gray from the sky had dripped in a straight black line across part of the painting. At first I was distressed, but then I decided to "use" the accident and call it "night falling from the sky" after a haunting song by Bob Dylan. Paintings have a "life of their own." The painting I wanted to paint didn't happen, but another one took shape due to something beyond my control.

Over the years when I have shown photo reproductions to people who say they would like to see what kind of art work I do, this painting is often chosen as a favorite. My mother liked it so much that she bought it, declining my offer to give it to her as a gift. She told me that when my Uncle Cyrus saw it he said, "Your daughter is a philosopher." After my mother died in 1994 and my father sold their retirement cottage overlooking the ocean in Gualala, California, my father chose to hang it in his retirement apartment in Bellingham, Washington. It now hangs near my front door and continues to draw attention.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Calendar Series: 60th Month / Imaginary Brothers with Open Hearts (1990)

Let me drink from the waters where the mountain streams flood
Let the smell of wildflowers flow free through my blood
Let me sleep in your meadows with the green grassy leaves
Let me walk down the highway with my brother in peace
Let me die in my footsteps
Before I go down under the ground

Go out in your country where the land meets the sun
See the craters and the canyons where the waterfalls run
Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona, Idaho
Let every state in this union seep down deep in your souls
And you'll die in your footsteps
Before you go down under the ground

(from "Let Me Die In My Footsteps," Bob Dylan, 1963)

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Calendar Series: 58th Month / Talking About What Is Not Broken (1989)

The following is how the two above images, which had been on one sheet of paper but cut in two and rearranged, were framed. Just now, I took this photo of a page from a yellowed photo album with my digital camera to try to show what the framed piece looked like. I wish these images were more clear.

On October 16, 1989, I began driving south to Northern California for my yearly visit with my parents and sister. Usually I drove to Roseburg or Grant's Pass, Oregon on the first day and on the second day I would cross the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge at about 5:30 in the afternoon.

That year, however, I had decided to travel down the Oregon Coast instead, spending my first night in Cannon Beach, my second night in Gold Beach, arriving in Northern California on the third day of my trip. As I was checking into the motel in Gold Beach after dark on October 17, I heard the news from the television behind the desk in the lobby that there had been a major earthquake in the San Francisco Bay Area at 5:30 p.m. and heard that part of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge had collapsed. There was continuing footage of a darkened San Francisco with only scattered lights.

When I went to my motel room, I turned on the T.V. and began to cry. I was born in San Francisco and lived most of the first 24 years of my life not far from San Francisco. It was the first place that I loved. My sister had just bought her first house in Martinez. One of my friends from college lived in Santa Cruz. I had friends in and around Half Moon Bay. I was shocked by the devastation and watched the T.V. until late in the night, unable to sleep even though I had called my parents and sister and was assured that they were okay.

In the morning I saw film footage of crumpled buildings in the Marina District of San Francisco, the area in which my parents had lived the year before I was born and where they lived until a week after I was born.

Bob Dylan's album "Oh Mercy," had been released on September 12, 1989, and I had been listening to it as I was driving. One of the songs is ”Everything is Broken”. I painted this image with that song in mind. I could think of some things that weren't broken and was feeling grateful for them. That may have been my first "disagreement" with Bob Dylan.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Calendar Series: 56th Month / Across the Water (1989)

I've been feeling depressed lately in the way that I did when I was at a loss as to what to do with my life, during the years I was living in a marriage that was never meant to be. Taking an antidepressant was not the solution. The solution was to make a decision to leave the marriage and then to leave. Facing my fears was the solution. Changing my life was the solution. I have never regretted my decision. The depression lifted. I was no longer living a lie. The joy I had once felt in living returned. I entered the most creative period of life up to that point.

Now it's not so clear what it is that is behind this recent feeling of depression. I believe that the solution is the same. I need to make a decision to face my fears and change the course of my life again. Am I again married to something that was never meant to be? What is it? I hope these are the right questions. I know what it is to feel joy, and I hope to feel that again.

Mid-February to mid-April is not the best time for me because of pollen and mold allergies. I no longer suffer from severe upper respiratory symptoms, but I do experience a feeling of malaise in late winter and early spring that is at odds with the beauty of this time of year. As the days grow lighter, I don't feel better. If anything, I have reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder and don't feel well again until after the summer solstice. I have chosen not to take antidepressant medication because my depression is situational. My experience is that it always lifts.

A book that I have found helpful with depression is The Zen Path Through Depression, by Philip Martin. I need to get that book out again.

Here is Oboe looking into the morning sun:

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Calendar Series: 54th Month / Night of the Little Doves (Learning to Trust) (1989)


In this silence
I am looking for relief
Trusting grief
Loving the child never conceived
Loving all the shattered children
Who dared not trust, love or grieve
Loving the silent holy night
The wild blue sky of day
The courage of redwood trees
The beloved ocean
Still mirroring our wild hearts
Always calling to us:
Trust grief.

(poem begun in 6/17/2000, completed 8/26/2003)

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Calendar Series: 53rd Month / Always Will (1989)

The valentine I received in 1989 was signed "Always Will."

The beauty of things was born before eyes and sufficient to itself; the
heart-breaking beauty
Will remain when there is no heart to break for it.

(from "Credo," by Robinson Jeffers, Stones of the Sur, p. 144, with photographs by Morley Baer)

Friday, March 16, 2007

Calendar Series: 52nd Month / Speaking Without Words About Holy Contradictions (1989)

While painting this image, I was approaching my 40th birthday. Toward the bottom of the image are numbers which represent the years I had lived up to that point. I painted a number and then tried to remember something about that year before I went on to the next number. While I was working on this painting, the Tiananmen Square Massacre occurred. I was born the day the People's Republic of China was born. I began to think about all the people who had been silenced during my lifetime and throughout history but who had found ways to speak without words.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Calendar Series: 51st Month / Beloved Ocean with Fearless Room in True Colors (1989)

Last night I dreamed that a small plane fell from the sky and crashed, nose down, into the bed of daisies my father had planted on the north side of the house where my family lived. A calm and unhurt letter carrier from the U.S. Post Office, holding his mail bag, stepped out of the plane and handed us our mail as we stood at the sliding glass door which opened onto our covered porch. We then helped him drag the undamaged airplane onto our porch and invited him into our house. I went outside on the porch to look at the plane. I realized that it was a handmade plane, built from plywood and painted a flat grey. I thought to myself, "Hey, I could build a plane like that."

Considering that I have felt discouraged recently about being out of work, the dream was oddly comforting.

Looking back at my art work has been unsettling lately, especially because I can see in these paintings a shift which led to my conclusion in 1994 that all my paintings were about "looking back," and that I didn't want to do that anymore, after which point I did less and less painting. I wasn't having positive new experiences, just feeling the weight of old experiences and increasingly distressing new experiences. The elation and creative energy that had begun building in 1980 with my return to college, and to drawing and writing, peaked in 1990 with the onset of the Gulf War in August of that year, along with some upsetting circumstances in my personal life and the lives of those I loved, and I began to experience symptoms of delayed post-traumatic stress disorder. I had thought that painting would help me and others transcend our difficulties, but I began to feel overwhelmed by the losses that life brings.

About today's painting:

I still love the ocean. It's been too long since I've been to the ocean. After seeing the film footage of the Christmas tsunami of 2004 and Katrina in 2005, though, I will never look at the ocean in the same way I once did. In this painting, I was recalling a sense of fearlessness that I no longer have. Still, I remember what Georgia O'Keeffe said:

"“I've been absolutely terrified every moment of my life -- and I've never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.”

Now that's something to keep in mind.

Still having problems with uploading images

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Calendar Series: 51st Month / Beloved Ocean with Fearless Room in True Colors (1989)

The image won't upload. Not sure why.

Update -- Here's the word from

Wednesday, March 14, 2007
We're experiencing some issues with some users posting photos. This will most likely affect you if you have recently migrated or just created a new blog.
Posted by at 09:06 PDT

Monday, March 12, 2007

Bob Dylan - Like A Rolling Stone 1966

Calendar Series: 49th Month / Rain, Night Garden and River (1989)

This painting was chosen by the owners of the Blue Horse Gallery for the flyer for my March 1990 show.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Calendar Series: 48th Month / Talking Fertile Land with Ocean (1989)

Today is the 4th of 40 days in which I have committed to drawing or painting, the first time I have made such a commitment since I was in high school. What I have so far is a painting I am still working on, using gouache and watercolor on a hot-pressed, 100% cotton, 140 lb., 12" x 16" Arches Watercolor Block.

As I prepared to use this quote, which I first heard from my mother,

"Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!"

I was surprised to discover that W. H. Murray, a Scottish mountaineer, attributed the above couplet to Goethe, but that research has shown that that is a questionable attribution.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Calendar Series: 47th Month / Talking About What is Lost and What is Not Lost (1989)

Finding Daylight After Loss Shatters Your World: Seven Choices


A fire was burning. In another room
Somebody was talking. Sunlight slanted
Across the foot of my bed, and a glass of water
Gleamed where it waited on a chair near my hand.
I was alive and the pain in my head
Was gone. Carefully I tried thinking
Of those I had known. I let them walk
And then run, and then open their mouths the way
It used to cause the throbbing. It didn’t hurt
Anymore. Clearer and clearer I stared
Far into the glass. I was cured.
From now on in my life there would be a place
Like a scene in a paperweight. One figure in the storm
Would be reaching out with my hand for those
Who had died. It would always be still in that scene,
No matter what happened. I could come back to it,
Carefully, any time, to be saved, and go on.

Elizabeth Harper Neeld, Ph.D.)

The word MOURNING in Sanskrit means "to remember."

Karma Repair Kit: Items 1-4

Friday, March 9, 2007

Calendar Series: 46th Month / Land Fish with Open Hearts Confronting Stranded Tool (1989)

After my March 1990 show at Blue Horse Gallery, I was approached by a local company which silkscreened designs on T-shirts. They liked this painting very much and wanted to use my painting on their T-shirts. Perhaps I should have accepted their offer. At the time, though, my goal was to be taken seriously as a gallery artist. Today I might have made a different decision.

My father liked this painting, so I gave it to him as a gift. It hung in his living room in his retirement community apartment in Bellingham. When he moved to West Seattle the year before he died, he gave it back to me.

The rusted antique tool was also used in "Calendar Series: 31st Month / Singing Tool with Full Moon Rising," from 1988:

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Calendar Series: 45th Month / Imaginary Brothers with Breaking Wave

Today is three months since I began posting on Old Girl From The North Country. I've posted approximately half of my 40 years of drawings and paintings. On or around June 8, I will have accomplished what I set out to do with this blog.

Today's post is one of my many double portraits. I was thinking about what it might mean to be a brother. I thought about Bob Dylan singing, "Let me walk down the highway with my brother in peace" in the song, "Let Me Die in My Footsteps," and the Dire Straits singing "Brothers in Arms".

Now for a little story about the last few days.

This last Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday I attended a workshop. Last week I had gone to the Worker Retraining Office of the local community college, in hopes of finding some direction in terms of getting myself back into a paying job. Everyone I talked with was kind and helpful. It was suggested that I attend a free three-day Dependable Strengths workshop at the Washington Department of Social and Health Services, where a person's "dependable strengths" are discovered using a process of listing good experiences where you felt you did something well, you enjoyed doing it, and you feel proud of what you did. From there, you expand that information into a report that you are supposed to give to friends, relatives, strangers, associates, former employers, and anyone else you can think of.

On the first day of the workshop, there was an exercise where we were asked to draw a picture of the first good experience we could remember. So, with pencil and paper, I drew this picture:

My memory is of being around 4 years old, alone, sitting in front of a television set and learning to draw. The program was called "Chris Cuts," but I'm not sure how that was spelled. Just now I did some internet searching and was unable to come up with any information about that early television program, which might have been on KQED public television. What I remember was that there was a friendly man who showed me how to draw geometric shapes by having me put a piece of paper up on the TV screen and tracing the shapes. Then he encouraged me to try to copy the shape I had traced. When I was 5 years old I drew the following picture of a horse and was praised for my ability to draw.

So, here I am today at 57 years old, trying to find a good job or a course of study that would lead to a good job that would allow me to support myself so that I can continue working as an artist. The assignment we were given on the last day of the workshop involved networking. We were told that if we used a scripted set of questions and responses and handed a copy of our report to friends, relatives, strangers, associates, former employers, and anyone else we could think of and did this for 40 days, we would most certainly find a job that we would enjoy doing.

The problem is that a "job I would enjoy doing" requires that I go back to school, so what I decided to do instead is to do a drawing or painting every day for 40 days, and continue searching for course of study that would give me the skills to do a "job that I would enjoy doing."

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Calendar Series: 41st Month / Letters from the North and South Fork of the Night River (1989)

"Sometimes the things that may or may not be true are the things a man needs to believe in the most. That people are basically good; that honor, courage, and virtue mean everything; that power and money, money and power mean nothing; that good always triumphs over evil; and I want you to remember this, that love... true love never dies. You remember that, boy. You remember that. Doesn't matter if it's true or not. You see, a man should believe in those things, because those are the things worth believing in." (from the film, "Secondhand Lions.")

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Calendar Series: 40th Month / Imaginary Brothers with Questions (1989)

This is the first of 30 images painted in gouache and watercolor, using paper from 18 x 24 Arches watercolor blocks, as well as being the first image from 1989.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Calendar Series: 39th Month / Talking Rainbow with Pastures of Plenty (1988)

This is the last of the Calendar Series images that were done on a 12 x 16 Arches watercolor block. When I finished that block, I began to paint on an 18 x 24 block. I continued with the same numbering system, but the nature of the images began to change as I worked on a larger sheet of paper.

To hear Pete Seeger sing "Pastures of Plenty," which was written by Woody Guthrie, go to YouTube and type in "Pastures of Plenty." I first heard the song sung by Woody Guthrie on a Folkways album I found at the public library when I was in high school. I learned about Woody Guthrie from Bob Dylan who also sings a moving version of this great song.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Calendar Series: 38th Month / Innocence (The Unexpected) (1988)

Not exactly sure why I titled this image with the name of the 25th hexagam of the I Ching.

I do remember the first dramatic view of the Pacific Ocean on the way out of San Francisco on Highway 1 going south and remember wanting to paint how it felt to see that. Up near the setting full moon, which appears to be eclipsed, are the number symbols from the six sides of a European-style die. I must have been wondering if there is a connection between dice and hexagrams.

To read the text for the 25th hexagram, click here.

Below are two of my pastel drawings posted previously, in which an eclipsed full moon appears.

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

and Middle of the Journey (1984):