Category Archives: Bits & Pieces

Contrasting Values

Books I cannot begin to count the miles I’ve walked to find the subjects for my art. I seldom leave home, if at all, without my camera or a sketchbook, and of course, my imagination. Tangled driftwood at Kalaloch becomes Cerberus while trees stranded by the low tide with their roots exposed, become a procession of Shamans marching across the Nisqually Delta. A simple crack in a sidewalk in Eatonville, Washington is enough to make me pause and take notice of its composition and contrasting textures. I am surrounded by life copying art.

But that is during the light of day. What happens after the sun has set and I’ve laid down my brushes and pens for the day, closing the studio for the evening? Where do I go then? The answer usually lies between the pages of a book. At first glance my library seems a random collection; a mish-mash of genre and subjects, most added to the growing accumulation, on the basis of a chance encounter. Many of my books have been purchased for no other reason than the notion, that someday I will need this book. Deep within their pages, my mind many miles from home, I can find inspiration when I least expect it. A quote by James Abbot McNeil Whistler, a maxim by Niccolo Machiavelli, or a letter from Vincent to his brother Theodore Van Gogh may move me in some way, or at least cause me to view an old concept in a new light. On the other hand, I might simply curl up with The Arabian Nights while waiting for the light of a new day.


Some books are meant to be read over and over again. A few of my favorites are listed below

My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok

Provenance by Laney Salisbury & Aly Sujo

The Short Stories of Saki





Finding North

GrotesqueThere comes a time when I step back from my work, and realize there is nothing more to be done. There is no additional brush stroke that will make this a better painting. There is nothing more that needs to be typed in the manuscript. There are no embellishments to add to a book. It is finished. It makes no difference whether the painting was begun that morning or the book has taken months to complete. The realization rushes over me like a wave. At that moment, I am of two minds. The sense of accomplishment conflicts with a sense of loss. Now what? I am faced with two choices. I can simply relax and let the wave carry me or I can rise to the surface.   Sometimes, I do both.   I raise a glass of wine and celebrate my “masterpiece.”    And then I begin to sketch.

When I paint, write, or just work, I feel a sense of purpose that comes from being focused on my task. There is a reason for everything that happens, as I mix my color, knock out a piece of wood with my Dremel, or choose an end paper for a book.   Like a compass that points north, I know my direction. For whatever reason, once the work is complete, the compass becomes errant. I putter around the studio, tidying up this, and starting that, with no sense of what I need to accomplish next. Sketching helps bring me back to North.

The sketch to the left is one of a series of grotesques I recently began, inspired by the countless faces I see in pieces of driftwood washed up in Pacific storms.