One Stormy Day…

digital illustration from a photoApologia

Bleak indigo and velvet was the sky

That hung above that cold portentous noon

More chilling than the goddess of the moon

If she had bowed her sorrows down to die—

My own, I could not grief so sharp withhold

But wept as though the torrent ought to drown

Me in the rivers of her velvet gown

And leave me breathless on the stones and cold—photoBut blue is not my cloak, or yet my skin

As much as dark the tenor of the day

And when the storm had lastly passed away

I felt the night might swallow up my sin—

Now sorrow’s misery that spoke you grief

Forgiven falls in sunset’s sweet relief.photo

Above and Beyond

digital illustrationSky Candy

Stars, sun, comets, moon and planets; rain and lightning, clouds and mist;

Birds and butterflies and rainbows; dragonflies by morning kissed:

What a sparkling declaration of the minutes passing by,

What a joy, this constellation of sweet treasures in the sky!

Though I hunger in the silence of shut-in days, sleeping, blind,

I keep constantly the radiance of these jewels in my mind,

Hoping, dreaming, moving, soaring–real, or the internal, eye

Loves the beauties so alluring of sweet treasures in the sky!

Rising above It All

digital collagePhoenix in Plainclothes

I’m not afraid, though storm clouds menace me,

obscuring all the known, the safe and sweet,

though lightning slashes through the dark and sleet

to make its fury all that I can see–

For under it, still in the garden’s bed,

lie roses, graceful guardians of peace,

to shelter me until the storm should cease,

and blue convolvulus, whose trumpets said–

The rain announces plenty, growth and life,

and nothing terrible amid its fires

can conquer me, so strong are my desires

and will, that they defeat such earthly strife–

And I will spread my wings and rise, remade,

for though storms menace me, I’m not afraid.digital collage

A Beautiful Sun-Baked Land

photoBread for the morning came from five-o’clock ovens fired with passion and streaked with musky, pungent olive oil; the steam rolled out of those great clay caves and up the terraced resin scented hills of vineyards’ cool and shadowed kiss. Inside the chalk-white walls with their gauzy curtains strewn and the brick brown pavers all around worn by pacing wiry dogs and treading cats, the whole countryside slept, immobile, somewhat far retreated in their beds before the wavy rays of fourteen-karat sun-baked into turquoise heat our ceiling of sky.

photo

Meditations

digital collageStillness at the Edges
I
We stood along the shore at break of day,
The water lapping gently at our heels,
And heard the distant crying of the seals
At gulls for stealing all their fish away–

The dawn was chill and misty, palely blue,
Our hearts in morning shadow just as cold,
And bone and sinew feeling early old
As soul and body waiting day will do–

The sea was restless, slowing at the last
To push up foam as streaky as the clouds
And gather shells and pebbles in those shrouds
Around our feet, we statues standing fast–

All this, because our spirits captive are
Until revived by sun, our morning star.
digital collageII
So lifeless, silent, still and cold are we
When gold has yet to tinge the morning sky,
So empty is the world but for the cry
The seals and gulls raise up in minor key–

So heartless is the morning chill ashore
We stand like stone and cannot take a breath
Until the sun releases us from death
And brings the flame of sentience once more–

At last the light of day draws us to wake,
And we’ll bestir ourselves to act and thrive,
Rejoicing to discover we’re alive
Until the world’s foundations start to shake–

We know the night will come again, and fast,
And so must live each day as if our last.digital collage

Wide Skies

photoIt’s early in the year. I’ve had my little first cold of the year immediately after New Year’s Day, enjoyed getting reacquainted with my innards with the help of a quick annual doctor visit and subsequent updates on my coronary calcium (still no sign of same, thank you very much), allergy testing (finally going to deal with longtime mild but annoying symptoms) and crossed another handful of tasks off my eternal household to-do lists. But as we’re still in the first month of the year, that leaves a whole lot of things yet to be done, things yet to even be imagined.photoAnd I like that, rather. There’s something compelling about looking up at sun, moon and stars without being able to read in them any threat or promise more concrete than my own fantasies, knowing that I might well find great adventures ahead, because that’s simply how my life plays out thus far. The unknown, while it has the potential to be prickly and problematic in any number of ways, also has the possibility of being as wide open and beautiful and thrilling as the bright wide sky.photo

‘Work in Progress’ is a Lifetime Commitment

I think of myself, as many people do I suppose, as a Work in Progress. What started out as a small, wiggly, colicky mass of spittle-covered humanity just over a half century ago is progressing, ever so gradually, into something like Iteration No. 10,000,022 or so, and will (if all goes as hoped) continue in the same unpredictable path until death do me part. I like it like that, if you want to know. I have no idea where I’ll be, what I’ll be doing, who I’ll be, a mere matter of months from now let alone in years yet to come, and that seems perfectly okay with me. Life continues to be a big adventure, and I’ll take it as it happens.

As a visual artist, I can say pretty much the same thing. Some works take their own sweet time to develop. Some take their own tangents and I just hang on for dear life and hope I can keep up with where they’re headed. I don’t always know what I intend to make when I begin a project, and I almost never know what I will make, given that art things sometimes cooperate and turn out similar to my imaginings and more often than not, they assuredly don’t. Sometimes the uncooperative piece ends up being much better than I could have conceived of it or even than I thought I could accomplish. A lot of the time, the end result of my artistic machinations ends in my being pretty surprised. Whatever happens in my life and my world, I’m pretty sure I’ll die surprised. Not a bad way to go, eh!

Just as an illustration, I thought I’d share a glimpse of ‘process’ that spans a fair amount of time and a couple of widely separated playtime brainstorms. Thanks to my exceedingly slow-simmering artistic processes, this piece incorporates a color background I scribbled a few days ago in colored pencil on paper and digitally melds it with an organ pipeshade design I did a few years ago (designed for Martin Pasi‘s pipe organ, an instrument made for Winnetka Congregational Church in Illinois, 2007), photographed as it was executed on wood panel in graphite and markers to prepare it for cutting and carving. Bit by bit and frame by frame, two rather disparate art projects merged into one, and that’s how it all went. This time.

colored pencil on paper

A simple abstraction in colored pencil, scanned from the sketch paper.

digital painting from a drawn original

Taking the original colored pencil drawing through a few painterly paces via Photoshop, I got a more cohesive background ‘starter’.

digital painting, new proportions

Rearranging the proportions of the digital artwork makes it a better fit for the mash-up I now have in mind.

graphite and marker on wood panel

The cartoon on wood panel, waiting for cutting and carving, was done in graphite and marker on the raw wood, crisp but not the look I had in mind for this use–more of a pen-and-ink appearance for now.

digitally converted 'pen & ink' look for

Photoshop to the rescue! Now we’ve gone back to black and white version and it looks more inked–almost tattooed, perhaps.

digital artwork from two original drawings, merged

So now, I can smash together the two images–the pipeshade design and the colored backdrop. I think I’m almost there . . .

digital artwork from the original Winnetka panel + colored backdrop

. . . ahhh, that’s better. Now instead of looking like the sun is underwater, I have a sense of sunrise or sunset. Now we’ll see if I can think of a *reason* for this image. Oh, who cares. I just like to Make Stuff when I get in the mood for it. So sue me. But if you can think of any reason for it besides personal entertainment, feel free to enjoy that concept!

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the Shadow of The Mountain

Perhaps this is true of other places, but I only know my hometown’s version of it: in Seattle, or pretty much anywhere in southwest Washington, Mount Rainier is frequently known simply as The Mountain. Yes, we call it by its full name, or by its ‘patrinomial’ ID of Rainier, and sometimes even by its graceful older name Tahoma. But its dominance of the skyline when visible, and of the ethos–the spirit–of western Washington thanks to its potent influences on geography and geological and meteorological character, not to mention the power it has to wipe out half the state should it decide to wake from its long dormancy, all mean that whether in plain view or not it has a hold on the hearts and minds of the locals like no other single force, natural or otherwise.photoSometimes when flying in to SeaTac airport the mountain is not only clearly visible but brilliantly etched and jutting boldly through the clouds, if any. SeaTac International Airport sits between Seattle and Tacoma, and the zone so called for its equidistance was finally officially given that insipid and cheap-sounding name some years ago–don’t get me started on it–but it’s well worth flying to a place with any ridiculous name you could conjure if and when you get the right weather, enough sunlight, and an accommodating pilot who appreciates Mt. Rainier’s beauty enough to tip a wing to the mountain’s flank and give the passengers a clearer view.photoTruth be told, we’ve seen precious little of the mountain on our current visit. It’s been pretty overcast much of the time, including when we flew in, so yes, the photos here are from other times. I’ve known of visitors who left disbelieving we even have a Mount Rainier, never having glimpsed that big white heap of sugar in weeks and weeks of waiting. The fabled wet weather of the Northwest can indeed curtain off our magnificent totem from view for seemingly interminable times and make us long to be reminded ourselves that it wasn’t all an hallucination or a passion-fueled fantasy. Even when visible, Rainier very often sports a ‘hat’ or veil that keeps a little mystery close by; being large enough to create its own weather, this geological behemoth seems to be quite often crowned with a companion cloud that rarely moves very far off or disappears entirely.photoDespite all of this hide-and-seek, the imminent danger we all know quite well as natives makes us bolt, strap, glue and otherwise thoughtfully position many of our tall or breakable belongings as though to protect them from a petulant child, because we’ve been through enough minor earthquake shakers in our lives to know preparedness pays. Still, while rainy Washington makes floods a real and frequent possibility, if that dormant volcano in our midst gives the really big belch geologists tell us is historically overdue, whatever isn’t swept off in the violent and instantaneous post-blast lahars [pyroclastic mudflows] that will likely submerge the surrounding valleys (the primary lahar channel of which was home to my family for most of my youth) will be treated pretty much like a snow-globe being handled by a curious Godzilla. Game over.photoSo we have a certain amount of respect for The Mountain, never mind it being such a fixture in our existence. No, I don’t know anyone who’s ever grown jaded about seeing it, no matter how long he or she has lived in its shade. This is not your typical mountain, looking pretty but losing its allure gradually as you realize you’re rather close and it’s stopped looming higher. It’s set in a fairly impressive range of mountains yet is so much bigger and more prominent than the rest that once the sky clears you just plain can’t miss it, and that sight quickly makes its mark on you. In snow-time, its blue-white flanks rise up to pierce the sky and look so sharply delineated you think you could stick your hand out and grab a fistful of super-vanilla ice cream from just behind that house over there across the street. As the snow melts, streaks made of billions of evergreens and a few exposed rocky prominences reflect sun and sky and passing clouds’ shadows in a changing array of colors that tease you with seeming first as near as your own breath and then suddenly as far distant as a too-sweet dream. Driving there can nearly drive you mad: you look to your left and it’s sitting right across the closest pasture; round the curve and it has shot away as far as the moon; over the next hill, in an instant it almost seems you’ll crash into the bank of snow just ahead of your front bumper.photoEventually you get onto the foot of Mount Rainier, yes you do, and you realize it’s so huge that you can still have a view of the peak that seems remarkably like the distant view of the whole that you had from an hour and a half’s drive away. The flora and fauna of this glorious bump on the earth have changed relatively little in millennia, and just being in their midst for an afternoon’s traipse along the trails makes you think both that your own sort might go on forever and that if the mountain is really going to blow, perhaps its taking you along for the ride in instant smithereens might not be altogether the worst thing. That’s how magical The Mountain is, even after all of these years of living at its foot. It might kill me, but if it does it will have fed my spirits incredibly well for a very long time indeed. That mountain there, she may keep her chapeau of a cloud-let coquettishly low on her brow for long periods of time, but when she finally does doff it, Holy Mother of Gleaming Glaciers, she’s a beauty.

A Mockingbird Appears

photoWhen ideas and inspiration have ceased, at least for the time being, to well up from the inside, it’s a mercy that the wide world contains so many and will hand them to me if I keep my senses ready enough. I often find myself too distracted by the busyness and pedestrian chores of the workaday world to see the magical other dimensions right within my reach, and need some helpful pricking from a sight or sound or scent as I pass through to remind me to open up the eye and ear and heart and take advantage of the universe’s generosity when it’s poured out so liberally right within my grasp.photoI walk in a haze of dully daily thought, lost to the world of rich and rare delights I’m walking in, when suddenly a mockingbird appears and turns its bright eye on me and seems to contemplate how absent I must be to almost pass it by when it’s quite nearly underfoot. In that shining eye a world reflects in which the other me is wrapped around with blooms, with drifting clouds sailing across a broad blue sky; with jasmine-scented breeze, with mist as the sprinklers spring to life, with happy shouts from a handful of little playing school kids passing me, looking for miracles of their own everywhere because they are yet too young to have forgotten them so foolishly as I have done. When the bird takes to its stripe-blazed wings and dives back into the air, my thoughts begin to follow and fly with it again: I am awake once more to flight and tune in to the rippling, rolling variations of its song as it rises to the trees, and soars above, and makes me remember that I am in a world full of wonder, if I will only let it fill me again.graphite drawing

Gleaming Afternoon

While I would soar, would gladly fly

Wide, in an arc across the sky

Whose dome of hotly burnished brass

Encompasses at every pass

The great wild height of atmosphere

That would engage to hold me here,

I can, eyes shut and spirit wide,

Pierce heaven to the great Outside.