Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

The 2020 Art Plan … Then; and Now!

June 19, 2020

When 2019 came to a close and 2020 was about to get started, I was REALLY energized.

So, I sat down and made a plan.

Here is the thing, 2019 had been a wonderful year, I was happy with the success of my teaching of regional and local classes and workshops; and I had even branched out a bit and taught workshops in San Francisco, Chicago, and Richmond. I wanted to continue in that direction.

SF, Libertytown, & Chicago
Teaching at San Franciscos Palace of the Fine Art, at Fredericksburg’s Libertytown Art Studios, and under the “L” on Congress & Wabash, Chicago.
Chicago, 2017 and 2019
My July 2017 sketch of the elevated train at Wabash & Congress and a shot of that same location during my USk Chicago Seminar Workshops in June of 2019.

I had also completed a solo show of my large Natural-Family-History series of drawings at Troy University as well as participated in a really fine exhibition of Urban Sketching in the DC area.  I got to make new friends, meet fellow artists and colleagues. and to deepen my connection with folks I have known for a long time. 2019 was full of art travel and art adventures and I wanted to follow up on those without destroying what is good in my more local/regional art practice.  The idea was to continue to add a bit more spice to my mix.

2019 had also been more than a few intensely momentous and life altering events too. Not the least of which were the death in the Fall of my Mom and of her oldest sister. They were the last of their generation on both the maternal and paternal sides of my family.  I wanted to embrace all of this complex life stuff too and make sure that I was centered as I moved forward as a human being as well as an artist and artist–educator.

Studio images #1 copy
My studio storage area … in full “reorganizational mess” mode. That time during the process when things have to get far worse before you can make them better!

So, The 2020-2021 Plan.

1.  Hiatus. Unplug through Christmas and take January off, Organize my thoughts as I cleaned, decluttered, reorganized, and inventoried my studio. Research/explore ideas and activities for moving forward in 2020 and even into 2021. 

2.  After my efforts to reorganize and refocus, I resolved to enjoy a short and low key Valentine’s week romantic mini-vacation on the coast of Florida.

Studio images #2 copy
This is the small office sized part of my studio. I mostly use this area for doing design work. It is also where I process small works on paper or sketches storage, exhibitions, or shipping.

3.  In mid February, refreshed from the period of contemplative and reflective activity, I would begin to doff the protective hermit robes of seclusion. With a newly completed detailed but still highly flexible plan for the coming year, softly and slowly I would begin to reboot back into an exciting and busy 2020. A major part would be bringing my two major studio projects (the Natural Family History series of drawings and the Shaped Landscape series of water media painting) back up to full speed again while still tapping into the excitement of urban sketching!  

4.  New classes and the newest sessions of my regular classes awaited my attentention, workshop planning for 2020 and 2021 were ramping up, opportunities for exhibitions and workshops were at my doorstep, and unfinished and new art projects were calling for my attention!

But something else had been emerging in January, February, and March! The official name is SARS-CoV-2; best known to most of as Covid19.

By mid-March my plan wasn’t looking very healthy. And over the past few weeks, I think the specifics of my 2020-2021 plan have all withered away. As of today, I have pruned all of the “busy, out in the world” projects from my calendar through 2020.

Here, as the late Spring days of early June wane and the Summer’s solstice beckons, the ideas that birthed my joyously busy and fulfilling calendar are very much alive and well. So, what do I have left and how do I proceed?  Obviously my goals aren’t really going to change much; but my shorter range objectives need to shift/pivot and because of that my actions have all been adjusted.

Studio images #3 copy
This is the larger part of my studio; the area where I work on mylar, large paper, or mixed aqueous media pieces on panels.

So, I have a NEWER 2020-2021 plan.

1.  Make Art. Use the time at home and the newly refreshed studio to create new art. Revise some of my older abandoned and unfinished works of art. Concentrate on the Natural Family History series, the Shaped Landscape series, Maybe revive my large (30×40) studio watercolors that I used to enjoy so much.

2. Make lots of Sketches. Post them online more so that folks can see and enjoy them. Also make sure ALL my new small pieces are also in my online SHOP just in case those folks can get them if they want to do that.

3.  Give more! Start sending out free educational handouts (materials and techniques, design ideas, color theory, and other art info) to former students and other interested folks. No charge, no strings attached. Gifts.

4.  Learn something new. Explore the use of modern video technology. Make art videos with my digital SLR camera, my iPhone and a little GoPro Hero camera. Play with iMovie to learn how to edit videos too. (Give lots of little videos away as well … see #3 above).

5.  Try Re-connecting. Learn to use video technology and other social media to reach out to art colleagues, friends and even clients. Personal mail and phone calls are good too.

6.  Stay centered. Be safe and vigilant. Be patient and hopeful. Be thoughtful and playful. Be ready to be kind and helpful to others. Mostly, simply and humanely, be myself.

Actually, at the core, I guess that was the purpose of the previous plan too. The new one is just without the physical handshakes and hugs, without sitting together and having an iced tea or a cold local beer with old and new friends. There are no gigs, no airfares, and no driving all over the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast or into the Ohio River basin. I will miss those every now and then.

But there is art. There is reaching out as best I can. And there is being whole, being me.

So, here is a video to seal the deal … to start pushing myself down the path of my new plan just a bit!

’til next time … Wishing you peace, beauty, safety, and good health!

Thanksgiving … Thanking You!

November 28, 2019

IMG_6269 copy

It is now fall, and here in the U.S. we have a day, today, set aside for celebrating and giving thanks. For many folks, it is centered on gathering with family and loved ones and a modicum (?) of feasting and other similar festivities. Yes, I will be doing that quite soon as well.

I have some extra reasons to be particularly thankful. For me, this year has been rich; a rich feast of work adventures and IMG_6259 copyintensely rich with artistic and some deeply personal challenges that I hope may have prompted growth.

In light of all those challenges, one of the things I am extremely grateful for was the opportunity to share some of my and my family’s stories through an exhibition of my Natural-Family-History series of drawings and sketches this fall at Troy University.  Kudos to my colleague and friend Greg who installed the exhibition and made the show and the whole experience absolutely marvelous. I owe him and Kerry a major thank you!

IMG_6263It was great to see the older pieces up on the wall again; it was really exciting for me to see the newer pieces alongside them for the first time too. Talking with viewers from the university and community was a joy and helped me recall details of family stories I hadn’t thought about in years! 



And, as the show came down and I began the post show logistics (inventory, inspection, transportation, and storage), I had time to reflect on all the folks who have commented, encouraged, and even challenged me about these works and my studio process. They (and especially YOU, my readers) keep me focused on what is at the heart of this series. Thank you.


At the heart of this series is a desire to make art that reflects and engages memory. Memories of living in/with family. That reflection is a kind of celebration and most especially a thanksgiving. Thank you for helping make it possible.



PS: My next post will be about my other major series, the Shaped Landscape paintings. PPS: Look for my next post about the slowly emerging next drawing in this Natural-Family-History series very soon!


Change it? Okay, YES, Change it!

August 26, 2019

“But will it be any better than it was before? Will I ruin it trying to make it into something I couldn’t quite achieve the first time around?”

Those are the questions I was asking myself this week in the studio.

Nascent WEB

Nascent, a mostly graphite, white conte, and ink drawing on a 50 x 36 sheet of Mylar, (as of February 2014).

It is not all that frequent, but sometimes when I finish working on a piece I have a nagging feeling that there is another solution available; a different way to wrap up a piece, not always better but a resolution that I haven’t yet discovered.

IMG_5916 WEB

That is exactly how I felt about Nascent, a drawing from my Natural Family History series. I had originally worked on Nascent in late 2013 and early 2014. I knew almost the moment I had “finished” it that there was at least one more way to solve the content vs structure issues of this drawing. Back then, I had to move on at that very moment so I put it in its designated storage tube and tried to mentally leave it there.

Now, I have to tell you that I didn’t feel as if I was being called to come back to the piece. It wasn’t that bad a piece; there were things that were quite well done. But, every time I saw the digital reproduction of this drawing, I just knew that I wouldn’t be happy if I didn’t explore some of the possible changes. Of course to do so meant a risk, taking a chance. I could end up destroying the very things that I did find satisfying about this piece. There was some quite delicate drawing and a use of negative space that created a nice tension between the human figure and the lone stem and opening bud of Queen Anne’s Lace.

IMG_5925 WEB

Facing that fear isn’t always easy to do.

Truthfully, most of the time I decide to just ignore the fear. That has come easier and easier as I’ve gotten older. I have ruined countless paintings, drawings, sketches and studies in my life. If it comes to it, what’s one more? I haven’t died or even broken any limbs botching a piece of art. The studio or the sketch board is the one place that, no matter what poor or brilliant path I take, the repercussions are all in my head. The piece can be screwed up and no one will chastise me for it. I might lament the loss of materials when I use up a large expensive batch but I can’t say that the time was misspent though; I’m bound to have learned something even if the work is a horrible failure.

So, as you can see below, in the early stages of the reworking of the drawing the biggest and most noticeable changes are the inclusion of a lot more imagery based on the Queen Anne’s Lace plant. I have added several more partial renderings as well as hints of an entire field of them. These were derived from photographs and sketches I have made during the past few years. It is a wild native in the fields and roadside all around me.

In the studio, I have continued to use graphites, conte, and lacquer and non-lacquer based India inks. In the section seen below, I have also been using some “new to me” acrylic inks, particularly a transparent burnt umber that I find to be particularly appealing.

IMG_5926 WEB

Near the center of the sheet of Mylar there are now quite a bit of subtlety rendered plant forms added into this new version of Nascent.

Eventually, I also added more bits of plants imagery behind and below the drawing of my Mom (as a late pre-teen) on the left. You can also see that I have added a map of the coastline and harbor of Kinsale, Ireland. She was born there  and, during the years of WWII, her mother brought her younger children (my Mom and my Uncle John) from London to escape the Blitz.  After doing so much work on the plants and adding the map, I increased the level of detail in the image of my Mom just a bit too.

So, here is the piece as I took it off the drawing board. Is it done? I don’t know yet. I am again putting in it’s tube though. And I will be taking it along with twelve or more studio studies and about 15 or 16 other of my large drawings on mylar, all fellow members of my “Natural-Family-History” series, to exhibit at Troy University in Troy, Alabama.

Nascent, (2014-2019) WEB

Nascent, in it’s current state, (2013-2019).

It is a bit of a trek to get there, but certainly not any longer than this piece has taken to get where it is today. The journey I and Nascent have been on are well matched. I have known for a while now that neither I nor my work seem to change smoothly or effortlessly … but both do show up and eventually benefit from challenge!









It is good to have my studio back up and running and to be working on larger mylar and paper pieces again!  Don’t worry though, I’ll keep working on my mixed media panel pieces too.


Below are a few pics of the exhibition at Huo Bao Zhu Gallery on the Troy University campus. I have not been back to see the exhibition yet but they did decide to use the newest version of Nascent in at least some of the PR for the show. I will be on campus late next month to talk with art students as well as other members of the university and the community. I will also go back for the formal reception and a gallery lecture in late November.


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