Begun a New Commissioned Portrait Painting

Setting the scene, nowhere near finished. It takes about 25 hours to complete a portrait painting, from original sketches to final canvas. To get to this stage in the underpainting, about 10 hours. I'm sharing the process as I go. 18" x 22" x 1.5", oil on canvas.




An old painting, a stretcher for new paintings

Phoning lumber yards, plywood only comes in 4' x 8' sheets, and I need 5' x 6', so... I remembered this old painting of self-portraits, and dug up the post I wrote on the story behind them at Xanga, where I was blogging at the time. Reading the post brings tears to my eyes (even if I think the painting unsuccessful). Anyway, I can tear the canvas off, and staple new pieces to the frame and thus satisfy my muse (see yesterday's post for clarification). 

Sunday, 01 August 2004

This is a large painting, 4ft by 5ft, and it was many years in the making.

What I went through over it, I can barely look at it. It was my post polar bear painting. Pure soul retrieval. It consists of three actual self portraits, and one psychic self-portrait. It was about finding myself again after my marriage collapsed.

This painting had something to do with that collapse. A bit of paint on canvas, but not as innocent as it looks. After we bought our cottage, I stopped painting. The cottage was really one large room, and my children were small. After almost 7 years, I began to miss painting, which is like a need in me, and which I don't understand because nothing throws me into as much despair as painting, to paint is pure torment, it is where I throw my life on the line, risk everything, and is anything but an enjoyable activity, sort of like giving birth, it's best when it's done.

Anyway, we were having financial difficulties, but I asked my husband if I might have a large canvas for my birthday. He said no. That there was not enough money--he was still going through a case of beer a week and a bottle of wine every other night, but, for me, no.

The next year again I asked him for the same present. Can I have a big canvas for my birthday? Still the same answer. No. No money. He must have felt some remorse though, because maybe a month later he said I could go get a canvas if I wanted, but I didn't because I wanted him to give it to me as a gift, meaning for him to recognize my need to paint, and to support my talent too. He is a poet himself, having published 6 books or so, and always received emotional support from me, as well as time away from the kids to write, not to mention a typist in pre-computer days for his manuscripts.

Shortly after this we separated. It was amicable, we had a Separation Ritual, inviting the same people who had witnessed our wedding at City Hall 15 years earlier, and a party afterwards.

I told a friend at the Waldorf school that my children attended at the time about the canvas. She looked at me incredulously. I'll never forget the look in her eyes, ever. And said, "But why didn't you buy the canvas yourself?"

So I did. I was working, editing, and did have money. It cost around $100. My ex picked it up for me from the discount art store where I ordered it and brought it home on the roof rack. That was supportive, no? Or perhaps it was because I had broken the code of silence between us and told someone else and he was a little embarrassed.

It could have been the relationship, the long hard years of being secondary to my husband, of having my writing, painting, degrees considered not just unimportant but a waste of time, of my ideas, perceptions, learning existing only to catapult him to poetic stardom, and so on. But by the time 1997 rolled around I realized I had developed major creative blocks.

With much will power, I began the painting. It was like learning to walk all over again. Slow, hesitant, painful. The first image in the middle is from a photograph taken when I was 32, in the a few months after my father died. His death signified the loss of many things in my life, and my probable career in academia. She's standing in a yellow rain slicker in the mountains, mountains which I painted in and then painted out. When my father died, something died in me also, and so I painted my younger self as a way to go back and retrieve her drive and enthusiasm for learning, for life, for reaching out. Above her is another me, with antlers growing out of her head, a little older, from a photo taken at the cottage. The angel is from a photo at my daughter's second birthday party. The old woman on the right is an image after one in "Soul Cards," by Deborah Koff-Chapin (Center for Touch Drawing, 1995), and was a card I pulled almost weekly at the small yoga class I taught.

The painting’s a triptych. It's the old Christian tri-level world, hell, earth, heaven, only in New Age spirituality, it's grounding yourself in the earth for renewal, through your Winter, ordinary life in a yellow rain slicker, looking upwards, moments of revelation, nature, with echoes of shamanic spirituality, and the angel is one's higher self, a more wise version of oneself who can guide one through.

All in all, I worked on it from 1997-2002. It's called, "Self Portraits." After I finished it, I realized that I never wanted to paint at an easel with a brush again and began throwing my canvas’ on the floor and finger painting right out of the tube; whenever, that is, that I can work through the creative blocks that I am still struggling with.

That’s the story of the painting that I posted today.


An untitled painting of a man

Untitled, as of yet. I just painted this. An iPhone photo taken with a daylight bulb. 18" x 24", oil on canvas sheet.

I have been deeply troubled, as ever, by Syria, the refugee camps, the deaths, the conflagrations. And the miners in South Africa, their horrendous treatment, not just the shooting deaths, but the survivors being charged with murder (withdrawn as of today, but it influences). This is a -just-sit-down-and-paint-woman-whatever-fucking-emerges-let-it-be- painting. From the inner self, where the cauldron burns.


Resisting a multi-media rendition of Palmistry, a Psalm

After I began this painting, a prose poem became 'an inner pressure,' and so I spent a few days writing one, and even made a little recording, and while I would have finished the painting last week by writing the poem onto the canvas, the 'inner pressure' now is to make a video poem. I don't want to! I argue with my muse: It's too much work; no-one watches them. Who needs a video? But though I have tracing paper taped to the painting for a 'dry run' on the writing - want to make sure I space it properly so it all fits on - and have sat to work, that da*n muse won't let me! So now I need to create a video space with canvas or something around it and video the act of writing, pen on parchment for the spacing, pen on canvas for the final, up close. Do you think I can manage this little task? I'm so in resistance.

Doing a piece in three media, painting, writing, and video is way too much work for one woman and yet, resist as I might, the muse is stronger and is resisting my resistance and will win out. Due to a busy week, likely won't video until next week. Oy! Is it like this for you?

The layered x-ray (real, of my wrist) and the painted hand (I was looking at my actual hand when I painted it) that you see in the first image was done digitally and would be fun to work with in a video, fading in and out of one or the other. I could do some found footage of Nazis, also. Coatlique, Ophelia, yes, if I find public domain images. Oh, and those great drawings of the hand for palmistry, palm readings. That would be fun. And so on. Lots of ideas, no will to do it. Lol.

Below is the prose/poem for if you hadn't already read it and wanted to take a look.

A Palmistry, a Psalm

The hand is a poem. A fragmenting poem in my hand. Fingers blow in the wind like bulrushes. That gnarled branch overhanging the water, a twisted wrist. I wear a carpal bone like a pendulum, the rattle of Coatlique.

Our hands, neuronal cells pulsing nerves probing the world, soft, sensitive. In the signs in the lines on our palms a seer's language. Our journey mapped in grooves of curvature of skin over muscle and bone. Born here; die there. One, or two, or five central relationships. You will /or will not have children. This will be a difficult time; easier there. My, you are a sensualist.

They cut off the hands of thieves. Only I never stole. When was my hand severed? As a child? In the nightmare it is staked in the window, a sign for the henchmen of dictators, thieves of the freedom of souls. Herod's soldiers grabbing the first born; Nazi boots kicking down the doors of the Jews. Marked houses. Signs of those sacrificed on the altars of cruelties of power.

In my hand, you will find I've lived a clean life. Does this echo the ethical universe? Ethos is what enables order, harmony, beauty. This swollen and sore hand is emblazoned with 'the mark.'

I touch you, lying on the soft grasses of the riverbank, glide delicate fingers over your features, reading you, your body of braille. And massage you, warm oiled dance of fingertips and palm whorls penetrating knots, torments, memories. Even as my wrist flicks, and breaks.

My hand drifting downstream, decked in an Ophelia of lace and rings. Hold it; hold me.

A Palmistry (in process)

Finally working on a new painting.

A hand, yes. My current 'hand crisis' is what I think I was doing, but then the disembodied quality of the hand made me think of a nightmare long ago, of the strangenesses of our lives, which are like intersecting arcs.

These paintings are becoming a style, I guess. I work from the imagination. When I sit down I have no idea what will emerge. It's scary! Let it be messy. Yikes! Don't over-work and the way to do this is to be fast. Shivers! Just dive in. Though there is a sort of representation of my hand because it's very much a focus now. So is a psychic I saw around the time of the nightmare - a Wiccan witch from Northern Ireland who really was the real deal - who read palms.

Because of the the complex cluster of images that this painting is drawing about itself, I decided to call it, A Palmistry.

Palmistry is a way of reading the life of the person whose palm it is.

The dream, dated June 2, 1980, was quite long, and went on to become much more scary than the beginning, the part about the hand (which is all I'll relate):
There was a darkness outside, pushing in. 'S' was here, and entertaining as always, but aware of the ominousness. He went to the bathroom and when he came out he said that there was a hand on the windowsill with a note beside it (he told me what it said but I can't remember now). I shucked it off, asked if it was an effigy and he said no, it was a real hand. I knew it was a child's hand and had been deliberately severed. I could not go and look at it directly but could only think what poor child in this dear world had been sacrificed. I thought it the work of a demonic cult, and that, like marks on houses, of the first-born to be killed by Pontious Pilate in the Roman era, or the Jews during Nazi Germany, this was a mark that was a warning. I could not consider it a symbol, for it was a real hand from a real child. I saw it clearly in my mind's eye throughout the dream. I could not step into that room, however, and see the hand in flesh and blood as a sign in the window. I could not have borne it - a child of maybe 4 - unbearable. Perhaps it was my own hand.
....The sign of the hand - I was already becoming disoriented and couldn't perceive the situation clearly. I tried to calm 'S' as best I could in my state - my senses were being scattered and broken up....The blackness all around us was growing. The atmospheric temperature was dead still, enclosing, pressing against my home. I tried to stand. All I could see were sections of the visual world - a plane of darkly embroidered fabric in the air, and nothing else. Or a distortion of furniture. Memory told me where to stand for my senses were turning the world into a 3-dimensional Cubist picture that did not have coherence. The world of time and space and the way the senses order it was shot to hell. I could barely negotiate my way around and could not think with any clarity....It was like seeing the world through a crystal prism, darkly....Other dimensions could enter.
My intention had been to write some of the text of the original dream onto the canvas, but... I'll see. It is most strange that with my SLAC wrist and the recommended removal of the scaphoid bone and the fusing of the other bones in the hand with bone taken from elsewhere in the body that I find this old dream re-surfacing.

Can my painting move beyond my immediate concerns to connect with the strangeness of hands, all hands? Look, those red dredges of oil pastel running from her neck and down are not blood, but were meant to represent a red striped top. Lol.

"A Palmistry (in process)", 2012, Brenda Clews,18" x 24", charcoal, oils, oil pastels, oil sticks on triple-primed cotton canvas sheet.

 on the easel

 earlier stage
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As if Death Were a Passion

As if Death Were a Passion, Brenda Clews, 2012, 12" x 16", graphite and acrylic on triple-primed cotton canvas sheet.

outline the skeleton
in red
make the lines of the bones

alizarin crimson, cadmium red
flame red, poppy bright

ok, blood too

the passion of death

as if death
were a passion


It's taken many weeks for me to watch this great little instructional video on how to draw a skeleton. I've never taken anatomy, so I fully appreciate teaching tools like this (thank you Kenny Mencher!). I'll have to get myself a wee skeleton at a Medical Supply store at some point. :)

I meant to take a photo before I started working it. Ah well. It's not perfectly drawn because I don't want that.

The instructional video is here: (if, like me, you'll probably watch it later do bookmark it since it's an unlisted video you won't be able to find it on YouTube without the link)

I took the photo with my iPhone 4 using Camera+ and then a Clarity filter - later I'll blog it without the filter. It's just kind of neat with the tones the filter gives it.

Celestial Dancer V put out on the street and taken!

I've been clearing out a lot of stuff the last few weeks, many bags of clothes to the drop-box, lots simply to garbage. This painting was one of the first I did with water-soluble oil paints in 2004. I did it on a canvas board - dumb, the cardboard warps, impossible to frame ever - and I didn't really like it. I drew it from an image of Nijinski in a dark body stocking, so always felt, though I love the richness of black skin, that this painting was a bit misleading even though it was grouped with my Celestial Dancer series and called it Celestial Dancer V.

Last weekend cleaning up my art supplies, I came across it wedged behind my desk, where it's been stored for years. I pulled it out, not sure what to do with it. The thought of standing on it to crack it in half for the garbage was too much at that moment.

On impulse, I took it outside and put it against the fence on the sidewalk. When I looked 5 minutes later, it was gone.

I hope whoever found it either likes it and has hung it on wall that needed 'something,' or has painted over it.

I'm so delighted that I did this that I'm considering what else I can put out! :)

When I looked for a photo of the painting on an external hard drive where the contents of my old computer are stored, I found it, not only easily because labelled, but that I had, as usual, taken images all along the way. And I even found the original image I drew! How wild is that. I have not, as yet, been able to re-locate the Nijinski on-line to see which ballet he was leaping about in a dark body stocking in! He had a slick of glitter on his costume that I did not add to my painting. :) This piece was done in my studio in Vancouver - as you'll see in the final image (they work backwards). I also used a wet-on-wet technique and so lost some of the detail in one of the arms that clearly turned into a lake of paint that dissolved out and in the detail of the hands.


Two Lamps and a Pot of Orchids

This is a sketch to toss. Part of my enterprise this year: to go backward to go forward. To return to before I got sidetracked and see where a more natural route would take me.

Two Lamps and a Pot of Orchids, Brenda Clews, 2012, 13" x 10", acrylic on archival paper.

The charcoal sketch.

Retreat to Beautiful Objects

direct link: Retreat to Beautiful Objects

When I retreated to my world of beautiful objects.

She was a dream, not the mask but how I composed her in Tangled Garden.

A vegetative force, Nature, birth, life, death, decay, mulch, compost. Beautiful and frightening. Strange dreams, the unknowable body itself. Life consuming life to live, plant or animal. Cells fuse to make new life, new connections, new hybrids. Wood/trees; metal/circuitry; bone/grafts; skin/love. Teeming presence.

I come from a jungle, the nature I write of is not pastoral, pretty. A fibrous network of vast connections. Natural processes. We are Nature looking at herself through her own eyes. This slip of consciousness viewing the universe for a knowing moment, soon to be lost. How can we forget the hungry ghosts, the floral opera singing in us?

An ecology of consciousness. An understanding of the parasitical and angelic. Leave the savageries. Our worlds of beautiful objects call us to retreat.


What I wrote at YouTube: celebrate the unexpected popularity of my long videopoem, Tangled Garden,, a slow art film of a triptych of earth poems, Surreal, mythopoetic, a rhizoma of images, metaphors, explorations, philosophies (with English subtitles). I had originally thought to paint a Tangled Garden painting to give away when the video reached 1500 views (my daughter's claimed the painting, so some other celebratory gift), and began making a video of the process of the painting.

There's lots of aspects here - from the drawing and painting itself to photos of the making of the papier-mache mask, to a dance in the woods which inspired the figures in the painting. The fishnet gloves - don't you adore them! - will now be featured in any future art videos. I just love them!

The writing came out of a dream I was having during a nap when I was considering what to say in the video. It's more of a piece about the poetic process in the poems in Tangled Garden, what sort of consciousness is holding sway. I woke up laughing. I felt a bit strange laughing all by myself in a dark room late at night for the recording for sure!

Prefer the video without the subtitles, but they're there for the hearing impaired, those who like to read along, and for YouTube automatic translation into one of 25 languages if the viewer is not fully conversant in English.

Music is Pierre-Marie Cœdès' 'Whirling Thoughts,' from his album, "Insomnia": (with his permission). It is a great album, do go and listen.

Tangled Garden painting finished!

Tangled Garden Painting, 18" x 24" compressed charcoal, watercolour pencils, a touch of acrylic but mostly oils on triple-primed 100% cotton canvas sheet.

My Tangled Garden painting is finished. Or is it? I painted without have any pre-conceived notions about how I wanted the final piece to be and so I am having to accept what has transpired under my paint brush. Yet it works in the video of this painting's process that I have been concurrently working on. Can't believe I've been painting this painting for over a week! Usually I'm done in a half a day's hours, with some tinkering later.

Taking you back though memory lane below. :) And I'll subject you to a video of the process of this painting in the next week or few weeks too! Enjoy!

Tangled Garden, close to 900 views since Jan 25th as of this moment (unheard of for a loong videopoem featuring original poems - most videopoems maybe reach 100 views in a year), is a slow art film of a triptych of earth poems, Surreal, mythopoetic, a rhizoma of images, metaphors, explorations, philosophies (with English subtitles). -A Floral Opera (2011) -In the Hands of the Garden Gods (1979) -Slipstream, the Tangled Garden (2006) (with impromptu speaking between the poems, which each end with ~~~ in the subtitles):

Tangled Garden painting continues to in-process

Where it could be if I had the courage to invert all the colours! The other one is closer to the way it is. I just took these in not enough light and there is also too much shine (that's why matte fixative was invented). Tangled Garden, a painting that's not a gift anymore since it's not working the way I had envisaged. Also, I'm not really thinking about painting or anything when I work on it; rather, letting it paint itself. I sort of follow along (though I do take responsibility you understand).

I likely overdo the sharing-of-process, but here's a little clip (45sec!) from this morning (uploaded to another of my YouTube sites).

direct link:

Tangled Garden painting in-process

Tangled Garden Painting, in-process (7), 18" x 24" compressed charcoal, watercolour pencils, oils, and other stuff (yeah, the catch-all: mixed media) on triple-primed 100% cotton canvas sheet.

I am not happy with how this painting is developing and likely will not offer it as a 'gift' when Tangled Garden reaches 1500 views. I'll think of something else.

Anyhow, the blue sky and green grass are painted in oils, the colour on the mask was drawn on with watercolour pencils and I can mostly rub it off if I like.

The good news is that I am working on a video that I hope will be interesting when it is finished - I bought long "Ladies Sexy Fishnet Mitts" for this and future painting videos (which alone should qualify as 'interesting').

'Tangled Garden' is a slow art film of a triptych of earth poems, Surreal, mythopoetic, a rhizoma of images, metaphors, explorations, philosophies (with English subtitles). -A Floral Opera (2011) -In the Hands of the Garden Gods (1979) -Slipstream, the Tangled Garden (2006) (with impromptu speaking between the poems, which each end with ~~~ in the subtitles):

'Every Angel is terror' (Rilke): painting in-progress

I was photographing this in a patch of sunlight, my backside in the alley, and a man drove by in a large red SUV, and the man with the puppy that is part husky called Maggie was trying to get her on leash so she wouldn't run on my still-wet painting, and then the man in the large red SUV started backing up, and Maggie's owner and I, well, what's going on? He stuck his head out the window. 'Do you paint?' 'Yeah.' 'Is that yours?' 'Yeah.' 'Do you sell your work?' 'Yeah.' 'Do you have a studio?' 'No, just my apartment.' 'Can I come by to see your work? I like paintings.' 'Sure.' 'Is that one for sale? I like it.' 'Yes.' So I gave him my phone number. He's the general contrator for a store going in around the corner.

A cute story, that I share. My apartment is getting so filled with paintings and drawings from all these lifedrawing sessions I've been going to I am considering selling with a PWYCA - 'pay what you think it is worth, and what you can afford.' Although a painting this size might go for around a grand, I'm not affiliated with any galleries and don't even have a 'store' at my art website. Rather than have all these paintings collecting dust in folios, I might shift my sensibility to another way of offering my work to those who really love it.

"Every Angel is terror. And yet,
ah, knowing you, I invoke you, almost deadly
birds of the soul" from Rilke, 2nd Duino Elegy, 2012, 18" x 24", in-progress, charcoal, acrylic, triple-primed cotton canvas sheet.
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'Every Angel is terror' (Rilke) painting-in-process

"Every Angel is terror. And yet,
ah, knowing you, I invoke you, almost deadly
birds of the soul" from Rilke, 2nd Duino Elegy, 2012, 18" x 24", painting-in-progress, charcoal, acrylic, canvas sheet.

TSA tonight. I'll work on it over the next few days. A rough draft, you could say.

Figment, or what is departing?

Figment, or what is departing?, 2012, 20.5" x 16", mixed media on 90lb archival paper.

For me, I see strange and unintentional resonance of the woman with one of the earliest cave paintings, the Shaman of Trois Frères (scroll down a bit). She is half elk, a shaman, and he is a primal man who may transform on the full moon, an adept of the great goddess. Does the strength of moonlight compose him? There's something Fellini-like about them. As if from a dream. Or a poetic metaphor. The animal soul and its poetry of desire.

Her dress is made of red ink.

[One figure is from the OCAD figure drawing sessions; the other is a rendition from the Keyhole session. Together they make another story.]


Seated Man (in progress), TSA March 30th

Seated Man, 2012, 16" x 20", 40.6cm x 50.8cm, graphite on stretched canvas.

Sketch from TSA Friday night in pencil on a small canvas, 16" x 20", that I will finish as an ink painting.

Seated Man, in-progress, 24" x 30", 61cm x 76.2cm, mixed media on stretched canvas.

When I go to TSA non-instructional, drop-in lifepainting sessions, I usually spend the first 3 hours working on a larger painting; then I leave it to dry for the last hour while I sketch the model on a smaller canvas. At the top of this post you see the sketch that will become an ink painting. Below is the larger painting I did first. At TSA, I use thin layers of acrylics - they dry fast. To the left is what I completed at TSA on Friday night. At home, I finish the painting with oils - oil sticks, oil pastels, oil paints.

On the left is where the painting is today. It's still unfinished.

I'm considering putting a figure in black line only behind him, and some purple crocuses at his feet. To me, he seems a spring god, the spring rains and sap greens around him, a garden god who represents the fertility of the onrush of Nature's awakening after the long winter months.

Before the light was gone, on my walk through my neighbourhood this evening, I saw yellow tulips, small star-shaped blue flowers (which are? not phlox, or asters, but...?), yellow forsythias, and small magnolia trees just beginning to blossom. I may go by in the next few days with my sketchbook and see if adding a spring fauna to this painting will give it a fullness.


Seated Woman (one finished, one in process), TSA 23 March 2012

Woman of the Sea Far Inland is finished. I painted a beautiful model at a non-instructional drop-in session at TSA on Friday night. Last night I whipped up the energy of the painting with some oil sticks I had bought at Gwartzman's. Looking at it, I think it might be a painting to go with a poetry manuscript I am in the process of compiling for submission.

I'm still working on the second painting below, Woman Seated, Waiting. She does look like a woman caught in thorns, a jagged and perhaps dangerous situation, doesn't she. There's something Pre-Raphaelite about her, and Medieval Christian saint.

2 Woman of the Sea Far Inland (final), 2012, 18" x 24", 35.7cm x 61cm, 
acrylic, oil sticks, oil pastels on triple-primed canvas sheet.

2 Woman Seated, Waiting (in process), 2012, 16" x 20", 40.6cm x 50.8cm, 
graphite, India and acrylic inks on stretched canvas.

Here is a little slideshow of the album where these paintings from the 
non-instructional drop-in painting session I went to at TSA last Friday night. 
Click on any image in the slideshow to go to Picasa and a larger size.

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Seated Woman, TSA 23 March 2012

Last night I went to TSA (Toronto School of Art) drop-in painting session (it only took a year to get there). Many fine artists. Perhaps these capture an essence. I'm considering going at the painting with oil sticks, and the pencil drawing on the canvas is going to get an ink treatment.

Woman of the Sea Far Inland, 2012, 18" x 24", 35.7cm x 61cm, acrylic on triple-primed canvas sheet.

Woman Seated, Waiting, 2012, 16" x 20", 40.6cm x 50.8cm, graphite on stretched canvas.

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Dancer in Red and Black

Dancer in Red and Black, 2012, 16" x 20", graphite and India and acrylic inks on stretched canvas.

The second image is in my Moleskine, and 8.5" x 11". I was going to continue working until I arrived at a similar place to the image in my Moleskine. My daughter thought that I could leave the painting as a raw sketch with the red and black ink. It doesn't feel 'finished' to me... and so I am struggling a little with knowing that it may work at this stage as is, and I could overdo it and decrease its energy by continuing to work on it. Not sure anyone can offer any art advice, but I'd welcome any thoughts on the two images. Thanks!

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Celestial Dancer III

Celestial Dancer III, 2012, 24"x30", 61cm x 76cm, oils, acrylic inks on canvas.

This painting was worked on in 4 successive stages over 8 years. The figure was sketched on the canvas in 2004, and first painted in early 2005 - when the background was done and the figure roughed in. In 2009, the figure received more definition. Celestial Dancer III was completed, 8 years after it was begun, with slashes of permanent blue ink (two days ago, she is still fresh). She hangs on my living room wall, where already she has received compliments from visitors. I am fairly shocked, and delighted, that this painting is finished!

Blue Blood. If you don't bleed, is it art? :laughs: 

On October 21, 2009, I wrote in my blog:

When this painting is a little drier, I'll work on the details - though surprisingly if cropped a bit it looks almost finished now. It was not easy to come back to this figure when I have let her sit in storage and my rooms here and in Vancouver unfinished for 5 years. With courage and force of will, I began to complete it. First I tried painting her on an easel, which  perhaps isn't my style in that I probably dance over the work as I am painting. A quick trip out to purchase 2 yards of thick clear plastic at Honest Ed's, the kind for tables in Italian restaurants, would protect my living room floor. I placed it on the floor, with a little prayer that neither my cat nor my dog would inadvertently wander over the painting space, the canvas surface of wet oils, along with a long piece of unused canvas on the side in case of spills, and shone a clamp lamp with a daylight bulb on the area. And then carefully laid the painting flat and wetted it and painted from the tube with fingers and washes with a large thick brush and oh solitary dramatics in an attempt to feel my way into the movement of the dance, her moment of stillness... she is graceful, beautiful, I don't know if that comes across. Hope so! 

On the upper left photo in the collage, I wrote in my Xanga blog (on January 4, 2005):

Despite the gloom of earlier, I moved my art supplies into the little unheated kitchen (an add on to the original house), that wire up front a makeshift dog gate, and my studio heater, which warmed me up marvelously, hang the 1600 watt usage, sat looking at the canvas, as I did yesterday for hours, and couldn't begin, and, you know, wept for long while, entered into a zen state, and squished paint around for maybe 20 or 30 minutes, and now I have the first, most difficult layer...

The drawing on the canvas, with a 2B pencil (shown with a Sepia photo filter), in 2004.

A loose sketch (2004), 14" x 17", India ink and watercolour pencils, which you can see in the collage.

Original sketch with a Photoshop filter.

The original sketch in 2004, 14" x 17", graphite and ball point pen (an after thought, and thankfully the ink has faded out). My brother had this drawing professionally framed and I have to admit, it looks good on the wall in his apartment.

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Tulips and Daffodils, Painting 4

Because the flowers, which I was given exactly a week ago, are ready for the compost, this is my last painting of these tulips and daffodils. It is quite abstract. Likely it's mostly finished, except for some minor tinkering maybe tomorrow.

Tulips and Daffodils #4, 12" x 16", acrylics, oils on canvas.

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Tulips and Daffodils, Painting 3

Tulips and Daffodils 3, 16" x 20", oils, acrylic ink on canvas.

When I came home last night and looked at this painting drying on the wall, I thought it 'too dark.' This morning I rubbed out a lot of the colour in the background, added some definition to the daffodils, some white ink lines to the the background energies.

The flowers were a gift last weekend, and I followed a hankering to paint them (by buying stretched canvases and covering my dining room table in plastic sheeting)- this is my third, and likely final, painting of the vase of beauties.

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Musa Sing: Of Dying Daffodils and Tulips

Tulips and Daffodils 3, 16" x 20", oils on canvas.

Wish I'd taken a photo of the underlying sketch because I liked it. This painting works, I know it does. But it is not 'neat' or 'tidy' or very well contained. It is on the edge of oblivion. A floral swan song. The flowers are dying, the flowers are dying...


The drive to abstraction is causing emotional distress (you should be glad you didn't see), but every attempt I make to bring the flowers to my usual dance between drawing and painting results in a decrease of energy on the canvas, and so I must respect the muse, and let the musa sing...

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Wishing You a Bountiful 2012

Hope in 2012 everything
that you hold meaningful
remains and thrives in your life,
a bountiful, living garden,
if you have unfulfilled wishes,
they come to fruition and blossom
in all the ways that you would most like.

*hugs and love, Brenda

In the Park in June, 21cm x 29cm, 8" x 11.5", 2011, Moleskine folio Sketchbook, sized with Golden GAC-100, and painted with watercolour and India inks.

Notes on the painting:

A few layers of GAC-100 (artificial rabbit glue) on the paper prepares it for painting. I found the GAK gives you a little time to change your mind - you can dab the colour out before it sets permanently, so it is a little more forgiving than unsized paper which absorbs the colour instantly. It has a satin shine that is not like a varnish because it grabs the inks and sets them. It is faintly glossy, like brushed egg whites on cooked pastry, beneath the paint, which overlays it and is opaque. The GAK is not like a varnish because it is underneath the paint. It gives a luminescence to the painting that the camera does not quite capture.

I have no idea how you would varnish a piece like this. A matte finish would destroy that faintly glossy luminescence, and a satin finish would remove the deep opacity of the paint.

Which means, keep paintings like these in my book, or framed under glass. It is a fragile surface that I would not wish to intrude upon with a fixative.

A dimly wrought portrait of my daughter. Because I could not work with the paint for too long, I was not able to get a likeness. The woman in this painting is older than my daughter and does not really resemble her. Her energy is here, though.

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Midnight Sun -finished!

Midnight Sun: Wind Over Grass, 28" x 22", 71cm x 56cm, oil on canvas, 2011.

When the river runs in bands, water ribbons her arm. Or she dances on rocks across. Those who support uphold everything in the underpainting. What is there to say of wheat fields or grass curling flames? Under the midnight sun strange dreams dance with intent. 

A painting depicting contact dance - which is... out of the dance studio, for sure, and into the dreamtime! And a solar eclipse, which reminds me of the black light, the midnight sun of the mystics.

Finally I have finished this painting! It's a strange little painting, but I quite like it now.

Here is a slideshow of the studies and previous versions of the painting:

Or a direct link:

Midnight Sun: Wind Over Grass

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Woman of the Sea

Whiteness, a high tide drawn by the moon. Light coiled around and inside her, claiming her. Thoughts passed through like schools of fish. Luminosity opened in the depths and kept opening.

Woman of the Sea, 2011, 12" x 10", 30.5cm x 25.5cm, India ink, conte crayon, oils on [100lb archival] paper.

She got wetted and blotted and re-painted a few times. This is what she became. Below is an earlier moment on the journey towards the final version.

Another Woman of the Sea, mostly oils on [100lb archival] paper. Those white scraping marks, like dots, on her right bother me, yet if I remove them the foreground, where she is, and the background, where the dark ocean is, separate from each other too much to my liking. Those white scrapes anchor her to the swirl of fluidity, the sea.

 .... yet I am still finding my relation to this painting like it was to the drawing, difficult.

But it's quite detailed, isn't it. About 4 layers of different coloured paint. Interesting what can emerge when you prepare for a run. :) The living room/dining room in my tiny apartment is currently set up as a make-shift studio, so it's just a few feet to the work table. But it takes gumption to get there. I did, and I done.

So tuckered out now, after that jaunt of paint, I'll have to have lunch and a rest. [ps It looks better in a large size -click on it -it'll open to a new screen.]

I am seeing the Symbolists here, and the French Surrealists.

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Figures, 25.5cm x 34.5cm, 10" x 13.5", India ink, oil on 100lb archival paper.

Freshly painted sketch from the life drawing session I went to in August. Probably two 3 minute poses drawn on the same page, but the imagination runs wild...

With thanks to Pierre-Marie Coedes for pointing out that the figures look like a couple - which I hadn't seen but did after he mentioned it.

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Old Woman of the Sea

Old Woman of the Sea, 35.5cm x 39.5cm, 14" x 15.5", India ink, conte crayon, oils on 100lb archival paper.

It's not that I paint, but that the painting paints me. It changes me somehow. It's not that I paint something but rather that I paint what's changing in me through the process of creating the painting.

Old Women of the Sea: the old woman is in the ocean; the ocean moves through her; she is the ocean. Like a mother ocean.

A figurative landscape, or, rather, seascape.

I painted her in near darkness last night, in a dimly lit room. The colours looked almost the same on the paper - I only knew which was which because of the names on the tubes, which I could just make out. As I painted, I trusted my intuitive aesthetic senses.

In the midnight air I went to the table I've set up for painting while my children are away (at their Dad's - it's Canadian Thanksgiving and my half of the family wined and dined on Saturday night). I chose a sketch. And began painting, hardly being able to see what I was doing. Doing it by intuitive sense. And I wanted to let go of the naysayers in my head, and paint with an emotional clarity.

And I guess that's perhaps that's why I have to be alone to work. My children's presence or absence has nothing to do with it. I'm learning who I am when I paint. Or being taught by my painting. It's a very intimate, private process - until it's finished, and then you can show the world.

I'm painting some of the sketches I did at a life drawing drop-in session at TSA (Toronto School of Art) in August.

The original sketch as I did it in the life drawing session
that I went to with my niece. If you click on it, you'll go to the album.

Lifedrawing6, 28cm x 35.5cm, 11"x14", India ink, conte crayon, 100lb archival paper.

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Theatrics of the Age

Ancient Grecian, red ochre of pottery, a Venus on a pedestal, the theatrics of the age.

Theatrics of the Age, 25.5cm x 30.5cm, 10" x 12", India ink, conte crayon, oil on 100lb archival paper. The original sketch all but gone in the painting, what looks like conte crayon sweeps is oil paint swept on a large dry brush.

Today I painted some of the sketches I did at a life drawing drop-in session at TSA (Toronto School of Art) in August.

An earlier version of the painting.

The original sketch as I did it in the life drawing session
that I went to with my niece. You can also view the whole album.

Lifedrawing9, 28cm x 35.5cm, 11"x14", India ink,
conte crayon, 100lb archival paper.

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Old Woman

As I painted, I thought of the blue, and of sticks. And it is like she is surrounded by a nest, isn't it.

Old Woman, 2011, 25.5cm x 32cm, 10" x 12.5", oil on archival paper.

Today I painted one of the sketches I did at a life drawing drop-in session at TSA (Toronto School of Art) in August - one I hadn't posted.

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I have a wooden print block such as you might find in Bali for hand-printing fabrics in a random pattern, solid wood, carved, round, an article of artisanal beauty. It's been on a shelf 20 years. I've never used it before. Last night I swept iridescent acrylic paint over its carved surface and pressed.

My intention is to draw a figure or figures in ink over this background with some paint, perhaps daubed on with a sponge since the water-based pastel background will lift off the triple-glazed canvas sheet with water because it likely needs weeks to dry to a permanent finish.

background2, 18" x 24" canvas sheet, water-soluble oil pastels. (This photo was taken in full sunlight -the iridescent pewter and silver grey print markings are darker with less light.)

Background1 is here (with no Balinese block imprints).

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My Nook in 360° Photos, & painting...

A neat iPhone app, 360 Panorama, that takes, and stitches together, 360° photos. From one taken last night, and another today, you can see I work in a very small space  - my studio, study, meditation space, recording studio, sewing nook, sleeping space (for both person & doggy).

360 View:

Nighttime shot.

*Note, to better see the whole photo below: Click the minus or smaller ' - button' to decrease the size of it in the panorama view. (Just don't do it on drugs.)

360 View:

Daytime shot, no it's not that disorganized! It's positively hallucinated in this surround photo! I love it! My room never looked so good!

The room is very organized - two huge baskets of sea-grass hold many journals, smaller baskets tucked in the shelf hold paints, finishes, varnishes, jars hold brushes and pens; always some lidded filled small water jars nearby for quickly working; various easels, boards and larger papers stored between desk and wall; and a large tray with A4 Moleskine notebooks, water-based oil pastels, watercolour pencils and a dozen jars of ink sits on the desk, and so on. My desk is my studio, but it can turn quickly into a study or a sewing nook. ::smiles::

Wishing so desperately to work on larger paintings I finally hit on a potential solution. Room is too small for comfortable easel painting. Ended up here when my kids moved back with me. It's ok, no complaints. I love them dearly.

Anyway, I purchased a 24" x 18" canvas pad of triple-gessoed canvas. To buy a strip of gessoed canvas from a roll would have been cheaper, but that's only single-gessoed, and not stretched. Couldn't deal with stretching - it's a humidex of 40° in this apartment! The pad has 10 sheets, which will last years at the rate I work, and if faster, hey that's great.

So I taped it to a light board, and you can see the blank canvas sheet in the 360° photo. I was inspired by Robin Mead's experimentation with water-soluble pastels that she posted recently. She was wetting them and spreading them as background (I think). I've had mine for some years and never thought of doing this.

Anyway, it was much harder than I thought it would be. The water-based pastel does not adhere that well to triple-glazed gesso. Any drops of water took the colour out leaving a white splotch. It all took far longer than I had anticipated. I had to work over it a few times. I gave up on doing the fairly even patina I had originally planned and went for more of a flow approaching a marbling perhaps - though this morning it looks more like a Monet water lily (!). But it is so delicate, I'm not sure how it will hold water-soluble oil paints (all I use) or inks. I've sprayed it with a matte fixative. No idea if that will work to hold it or if there'll be problems with inks and paints adhering.

Anyway, here's a photo taken in the sunlight just now of the background I prepared last night. I want to draw on it, etc., in a free, imaginative way and not worry about where it's going. Learning my way in to this.

background, 18" x 24" canvas sheet, water-soluble oil pastels.

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Fluid Dreams in Green

'Fluid Dreams in Green, trying to break free. Rising.' 21cm x 29.5cm, 8.25" x 11.5", India and acrylic inks, oil pastels, acrylic, Molseskine Folio Sketchbook A4.

The pencilled in words: The woman who is trapped, trying to break free. Rising.

The scanner's light tends to wash out the dark colours, and for some reason, makes everything more yellow than it is. This time I used a blue filter at 25% and, with some adjustments to mid-tone contrast and deepening the shadows, it seems to have worked.

Am I happy with this painted ink drawing? Uh, I find it quite hard to look at - but then, after I get used to what happened with the inks and paints on the paper, I begin to. People like pretty, they like sublime, not a woman rising as if out of a forest floor of mulch, slime. Yet, despite my painterly difficulties with its not being polished, and my hesitation and then determination to leave it raw, I understand the psychic process. This morning, for the first time in months, I felt refreshed, and there was a welcome torrential cloud-bursting rain storming the windows too.

The thought came that perhaps I should try and do one drawing/painting every day for a week, but carving out of my imagination one of these Moleskine Folio pages takes everything out of me.

I don't know if I'd have the emotional stamina to work on this excruciating excavation every day.

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Vision Trees

direct link: Vision Trees

A time-lapse art video. I thought to paint some trees of significance to me for the Festival of the Trees which I hosted on my blog June 1st, and so hooked up the camera and recorded. The footage is sped up 1200%!

'One of the most beautiful pieces of art on earth is the bird's nest. Your video reminded me of a bird building her nest,' William, a Pastor who blogs, wrote. The sped-up video, ink, pen, paint, fingers, constructing the nest, the voiceover story, a nesting story - yes, I see it, and love the description.

The voiceover relates a tree story. The magnetism of certain trees. A story of my vision trees. About finding home through those trees. The voiceover is perhaps a bit loose - I begin by reading a piece and then just start talking - but I wanted something colloquial, expressing the extraordinary in the ordinary, a vision in a rambly monologue. It's a real story. I hope the way I've layered it into the video works for you.

This painting is my first landscape, maybe ever. I'm a figurative artist normally. But these trees are special.

The music is by dear Pierre-Marie Coedes, 'City night hubbub (instrumental)' from his album, "Lapses of Time." Pierre-Marie's music is a complex, sensitive interweaving of instruments and rhythms, and while eminently listenable, reveals riches on closer listening. Do check out his oeuvre at Jamendo.

A little on process. I began by photographing the trees, and sketched from them. Then I spent hours setting up my desk in my room, the video camera eventually tied to a monopod to a basket on top of a shelf. I had to run out to purchase a USB extension chord since the 10yo USB hub I was using took like hours to upload a half hour clip. Because set-up took so long, I mostly painted at night, hence the dark colouring on the skin tones, though I did white balance the footage in the video editing so the colours in the painting are good.

With the camera recording, I inked the trees in with some different coloured India and permanent acrylic inks with a dip pen, a couple of different greens in the sap/olive green range and some chocolate brown sepia. Even the sky is scratched in with a dip pen, using some gorgeous luminescent blues. Then I brushed an acrylic matt medium over the paper as a base  - a 300lb rag watercolour paper does not really need this base, but I like to give it that extra care before flooding it with water and oil paint. Yes, I paint with my fingers (all is now revealed!), but usually use a palette knife to score in 'negative space' lines in the paint. Due to the looming deadline for the Festival of the Trees, and wanting to get my submission ready, I scored the paper with my fingernails! It was wild. With hours of footage uploaded to my computer, I created a timeline and sped it up to about 13 minutes, and created a video file from this that I then further edited down to 8 minutes, added a title, credits, music, and a voiceover story. My mistake, I think, was to delete all 160GB of original footage before actually finishing the final version - even though I had a separately saved video file, Final Cut works by referencing. Whatever the cause, I had extreme technical difficulties saving a 1920 x 1080 HD video file converted for uploading to YouTube. Anyway, three days later I managed a 720HD version, that, at 3.5GB took YouTube 12 hours to upload, and am now only 4 days late for my own carnival!

A tree whose energy is perhaps conveyed by this image, with whom I feel a strong magnetic pull each time I pass. This tree played a part in my coming to live on the street you see here, I am sure.

Do you have a vision tree? Is there a tree, a tree who calls to you? Whose rhythms speak to you deeply. Whose energy resonates with yours. Is there a tree who has inspired you in your life, your spirituality, art, relationships, body? Remember this tree, the vision of this tree, whenever it was, or go there now, rest against the bark, listen to the wisdom.

My set-up for videotaping painting - how I shot the footage for the time-lapse art video. Camera -that little rectangular lit screen- is attached to a monopod that is tied with string to a desktop easel that is tied to a basket full of books. After noticing it in the photo, I did put a board under that lurching end and it was fine. The area is lit with two clamp-lamps with daylight bulbs. Not something I'd want to repeat too often, but after hours of trying this and that, with lots of adjustments, it seemed quite stable, and, more importantly, worked.

Vision Trees, 2011, 74cm x 56cm, 29" x 22", India inks, acrylic inks, oils, 300lb Arches watercolour paper.

Vision Trees, my painting

Vision Trees, 2011, 74cm x 56cm, 29" x 22", India inks, acrylic inks, oils, 300lb Arches watercolour paper.

Perhaps this needs more contrast? One of the difficulties with trying to do a painting quickly - usually something like this takes about a month - an hour or two 4 or 5 days a week. And perhaps I will continue to tinker, who knows.

The sheet of thick paper is large. I videotaped the making of this painting. It nearly crashed my computer, and I had to copy large blocks of files to a quickly filling external hard drive to make room for the 3 hours or so of footage that are an unbelievable 160GB (which I'll delete after I've made the video). That's been sped up to about 13 minutes, and I have to edit it today to half that. Then add a voiceover of the story of my vision trees.

I don't know why they look so delicate. These trees, on the real street where they dwell and where I pass them daily, are too big for me to put my arms around, diameters of maybe 6'-12'.

Also, trying to paint a whole painting in an afternoon/evening (there were, as always, technical glitches, like I had to rush out and buy a USB extension cord because the 10yo USB hub I was using transferred the video so slowly I'd be still waiting today if I'd kept using it).

In pen and ink I laboriously drew the gaps of light in the trees, but when smearing paint on with my fingers and scratching it with my fingernails, that got covered up. Do I spend more money I don't have and purchase some pale lemon green acrylic ink and try to lighten those areas? The layers of paint as you see them here are not thick enough to give the painting enough presence for me, and yet I could not apply the paint more thickly without losing the detail of the ink lines of leaves.

On the other hand, the lightness may grow on me and I may leave it as is. We are in the exuberance of spring, the budding greens, vibrant, pale, luminescent everywhere.

I went back through old emails to find the ritual a friend who I am unfortunately no longer in contact with suggested when I lived in Vancouver, and the story unfolds from there. But that's for the video, so you'll just have to wait.

Festival of the Trees tomorrow! There's still time to get an entry in -send me your link. I'll be composing the essay tonight, and have it posted by 6am tomorrow at the latest, promise.
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Anansi Hides the Moon

direct link: Anansi Hides the Moon

A painting, 'Parchment Figures: Doubles, Doppelgängers, Clones,' hanging on a wall. Sunlight moving through wind-waving branches falls through a window onto it. You can also see the shadows of the window itself. That morning I was absorbed watching the light and shadows dancing quietly over the painting and videotaped it. Then, on an evening walk I came across a light on a patio with a thick white gauzy curtain around it, and shot some footage with my iPhone video camera. Later, playing with the footage, I added the billowing curtain and its light next to the painting of doubles and shadows. Then I cut sections of a photograph of the painting out, animated them and added them to the film. Finally, pondering on what I had produced, I wrote a whimsical poem of the African trickster spider god, Anansi, and wove it in with handwritten notes.

It does have a serious theme - can you guess it?

Take a moment to look at the moon.

(An aside: the video as it shaped itself inspired the poem. I made the video and then wrote the poem over a few days, meditating on each tiny section to see what was emerging/wanting to be said. I swear Anansi, the trickster, was loose in my computer, though, since sections of the video kept inexplicably changing while I was working on the text. Eventually I had to use a video I'd made of the footage only for the trickiest text -the opening title- which had repeatedly, every time I tried to lay it on the timeline, caused bizarre things to happen to all the other tracks, like shortening them or making them speed up for small durations, but chaotically and if you fixed this, that went off. Nothing like this has ever happened when I've edited a video before. It was as if the components of the video had taken on a life of their own. I kept resorting to the earlier versions FCE saves in 'the vault' before using a 'fixed' file, the .mov file I uploaded to Vimeo a few days back. These trickster gods do keep us hopping!)

The painting, from chalk drawing to nearly finished, can be viewed here: Parchment Figures: Doubles, Doppelgängers, Clones.
Flute music a very small section of 'Bodydrama at the Nave' by ARTSomerville.
This videopoem was featured at Moving Poems.

Anansi Hides the Moon

the spider
in from
gods and
hang out

the moon
behind a

The sun flickered

The parchment
figures, doubles,
and clones

The days
sun bright
and the city
was electric
at night

like that

From Parchment Figures: Doubles, Doppelgängers, Clones

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Gulf Oil Slick

Gulf Oil Slick, 2010, 13" x 10", 33cm x 25.5cm, mixed media on canvas (click for a very large size)

no birds, insects, or animals,
nothing but the sludge-brown sea
smacking under the red sun
a rotted post that was once a dock

can we sacrifice our oil-hungry cars, our plastics,
the petroleum
of our lives

for the fish to frolic
the birds diving
while children build buckets of castles
on seafoamed sand?

(photo to right from NASA, satellite image May 1, 2010)
We need to rant. We need to get good and furious with ourselves, with manufacturers, with oil companies. These accidents are so huge that they continue to decimate the eden that is the birthright of every creature on earth. When I painted the sludge, I knew it was the oil slick... bubbling up in my vision, so far inland, so many thousands of miles away.

The painting is oils (oil paint is made from pigments mixed with linseed oil, which is from flax seeds), except that brown slick which is acrylic. Crude oil is used in the manufacture of acrylic polymers. While I know that there are many additives for acrylic paints that enable different effects so that it can look like watercolour or oil paints, I don't particularly like them except for underpainting because they dry quickly. This image was composed of leftover oil paint, scraped on with a palette knife, except at the end when I painted in the sun, so of excesses on my palette. The sludge of brown that represents the oil spill devastating the Gulf ocean and the coastlines of Louisiana is a scraping of acrylic paint, a plastic polymer which requires crude oil in its manufacture. It is what it represents, we could say.
And what if: "What has happened in the Gulf of Mexico is about to open a direct link to the molten core of the planet that we may not be able to control; much as the fallen being above, having become paralyzed by his obsession with the weight of his excessive dreams, now finds himself starring down into the unknown abyss of his own creation-the world may soon find itself nearly powerless before the primeval forces that we have allowed BP to disturb in the unholy name of private-profits over the survivability of this planet." Jim Kirwan, Declaring War on the Universe?

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Night Vision

Steven Kenny, The Wing, 2005, oil on canvas, 40" x 30"

Ah, Icarus... what was he imagining? Rising and gliding like a bird, that he could fly to the fiery sun on his golden wings? Did he immolate himself for that vision, which trapped him in its promises, drew him on, puncturing his skin with the shafts of feathers like hypodermic needles filled with a distillation of fantasies that made him feel invincible, like a god?

When he flew, it was with night vision.
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The Lady and the Chimera

From The Lady and the Chimera
The Lady and the Chimera, 12" x 9", 30.5x23cm, oil on canvas, 2010.

fish live in a ribbon of river in the sky

nor do I sprinkle specks of strands of saffron stars

bouquets of red poppies bloom in paper ice

the soul, a chimera, who gave moments
never to erase
lived words, acts

seeing flying angels makes me laugh...
or you can delete what's in your heart

we are gifts waiting
to give


I am really wanting to move onto something else, so am going to consider this little painting done. I have painted it with a very small palette knife, really a dental instrument, and a sable brush with about 5 hairs. The paint is very thick. It has taken far longer than I could have imagined.

The chimera is half human and half lion, yes, but originally meant to be a cuddly stuffed animal chimera. His expression is a little more lusty though, isn't it. And that hat!

I think of this as a jazz composition, a riff in paint.

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Women In Winter

Women in Winter, 2009, 29"x21½", 74x55mm, oil on 300lb Waterford archival paper.

I waited 6 months for this painting to dry, and applied a matte varnish to it. Today I finally photographed it in sunlight (it's the last image in the slideshow). Now I must, must, must make myself finish the series (of 4 paintings, all of the same woman from the same lifedrawing session, each one named after a season, can be seen on the home page of my Art & Writings website).

This one is raw, the green and the blood. I painted it last Winter, and dedicated it to my son.

Slideshow documenting the developing painting:

Direct link to album.

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Flower Scene

Flower Scene, 11"x14½", 28x37cm; mixed media (oils, acrylic varnish, markers) on canvas

Just fooling around today - painted most of this without my reading glasses, which felt freeing. Think  I will add a poem to it.

My thought is to find something I've written or write something new and print it on parchment paper and varnish it onto the painting.

Sounds like an idea, but finding the words and materials... now that's another matter!

That rather clumsy lining of the trumpet vine flower will decrease in visual dominance when there are words in black with their letters of lines.

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Returning to a Celestial Dancer

The background was painted five years ago, and today I determined to finish the painting. Nightfall has come, and no. Perhaps tomorrow. She is one of my Celestial Dancers. Why do I resist her?

My apartment is small; my two children, son, 22, daughter, 18, live with me. That is my dining room table, yes.

We make room for our art, we have to.

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Rebirth, 1989

When I taught yoga in 1987, since I was following a theme of how to unite one's lifepath and soulforce, I used to bring "SoulCards," and we each picked one, and then spoke on what it reminded us of, or what message it might contain that would help us in our direction.

When I pulled this card, I knew, after my marriage had ended, that I had to open all the closed places within and re-find myself as an artist and poet, and continue on whatever strange and difficult but hopefully fruitful path that would take me.

I painted the image that you see above onto the large canvas I began working on, and from which I have posted an Angelic Whorl. She is a flying, whirling seed who has landed, who must begin the process of what would turn out to be a long, and painful rebirth, a process which still hasn't completed itself, ten years later.

Deborah Koff-Chapin

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Angel of Links

It's amazing to find these old paintings and how they 'work' as sidebars, or backgrounds, or navigation buttons, or whatevers, for my new Art & Writings Website.

This one will (yes, yes, a self-portrait from perhaps around 1989 in a large painting of about 5 self-portraits in varying guises as I attempted to re-find the painter within who had disappeared for a decade at that point). She 'oversees' a "Links" page.

And links to whose sites will I place there? Oh, this is so exciting!

trying a simpler version, wishing I could make this into a card (painting from 1989, photo of rose probably 2004, prosepoem & recording from 2006, put together in 2009)

recording of this poem
(or click the 'click to listen rose':)
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Birth Paintings, 1986-1989

It's only taken me 10 years to do this! A slideshow. Large enough to see. A page at my Art & Writings Website. Even a price sticker. The option to order art prints is always available and preferable.

(Click on the slideshow anywhere to go to Picasa and view a 'larger show.' If you have Cooliris installed, then of course you can view at fullscreen.)

From Brenda Clews, Birth Paintings 1987-1989

Direct Link: Birth Paintings, 1987-1989
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Women In Spring Slideshow for 'Under Construction' Art Website

Women In Spring, 2008

I've spent the last few hours locating these images between two computers, and attempting to represent the colour accurately by uploading, fiddling in Photoshop Elements, uploading... you get the idea. They are larger images than I have previously uploaded.

Hopefully in Picasa I'll figure out how to do 'individual slideshows' and then one large one since I am doing these for my new art website:

For reasons I accept (if it's a team website the danger of images being accidentally deleted by any number of users is quite high), Google Sites does not allow you to delete images you've uploaded. So I'm going to host the images from Google's Picasa.

This painting is one of my favourites, and looks better 'in the painted flesh,' on my wall, than in the final image (perhaps I need to take a new photo of it), but I hope it imparts some joy to you.

There's a bunch of writing around it at the website on the main page.

Brenda's Art Website.

From Women In Spring - Brenda Clews

Nitter Natter

I'm writing a script this month, as you know. I can't believe how hard it is! Perhaps because I discover what's next as I write, it's a laborious process that is slow at best. I'm trying to polish it as I go, so when it's finished I can send copies to friends. I'm drawing inspiration from Surrealist art, which is fascinating since none of this was pre-planned. Trying, in between realistic scenes, to get into 'that imaginative space,' that strange 'dream-space,' is challenging and often my brain hurts! It's easier to be logical, for sure. The 'strange logic' of the Surrealist image requires neurons to fire a different way! Silly, I know.

I have a Windsor & Newton 'deep edge' 24"x30" primed canvas ready to go (bought with some of the deposit sent for my little painting) - but seem to have pulled or torn some tendons in my right elbow and the doctor says to rest it... though with grocery shopping for me & my kids, walking a dog who is strong and pulls on the leash, and general housework, I'm finding it's not healing very fast if at all. I may decide not to care and work on the canvas soon... thinking floral... though I do love to do figures, but then I should go to a life drawing session for some new images... and should I continue the quick 'line' drawings of figures that I've taken to doing, or try something more conté crayon, though that would require longer poses? I really like leaving my artwork somewhere in the realm between drawing and painting, then the figures are like a script, though also painterly.

"Prostrations," page-sized, India ink & watercolour pencil
on archival watercolour paper, 2006 (click to enlarge)
the little painting that's sold.
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Figurative No.1

for my son

It may or may not be finished, but feels as if it is. I'll call it a figurative abstract.

(click to enlarge)
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Find more photos like this on Creative Crossing

A slideshow that I posted to a site that a friend, Klara Elek, invited me to join. Not to replace my art website, but sometimes one should contribute to a site.

Looking at these pieces, I realize I haven't yet begun to paint. There was a very long hiatus of perhaps 20 years, and then a slow reunion to painting. These pieces are 'to regain my hand.'

The only one that's closer to 'painting,' for me, is the Landscape Figure. I painted this in November 2006, and shortly after began a series of contract positions in reception at the executive offices of a bank, and, while I'd hoped to follow the energy in this piece and produce a series of larger size, between my relationship at the time, my daughter, who went into crisis, full-time work and desperately searching for a larger place for us to live, I neglected to push myself to produce, always thinking, 'later, when time opens out.' But the emotional energy had dissipated when perhaps there was finally and again time.

Message: when 'it' happens, go with it, push your life aside, follow your art. They'll all understand, they always do.

Videopoem: Vishnu on Chinese New Year's

Fun piece. A combination of poetry, painting, GarageBand jazz. A friend, Doug Carroll, & I were playing with my camera, Final Cut Express & GarageBand. A neophyte, I spent a further 6 hours editing. 2nd attempt at a videopoem, and the first one using Final Cut Express (which I'm learning by watching You Tube tutorials, see my playlists). Poem, "Vishnu on Chinese New Year's" (Dec, 2007), painting, "Women in Spring," (May, 2008). Many thanks!

The Painting Nook

In Painting Nook

woke this morning with a sense of joy as I cannot express, something that hasn't happened in a long time, such relief so welcomeIn the painting nook
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Women In Summer

If anyone knows the code to reverse the order of a Flikr slideshow I'd appreciate it. It's currently running backwards, from finished painting through all the stages to the drawing, which is a bit awkward. Women In Summer, I'm happy to say, is finished.

(Clicking any of the images will stop the slideshow and provide more of the info I included for the picture.)

Also, I've grouped this series on one page by the tag, WomenInSummer, at Flickr, here.

Almost Finished Painting


(28.5"x20.5"; 72.5cmx52cm; oil & watercolour on Waterford paper, click here for larger size & press F11 for full screen)

The women on the right appeared ghostly from a distance.

The greens of Nature and the poppies and marigolds much stronger.

She wondered if that was a statement.

The ocean has turned into green.

She had to put the water back in for depth.

Otherwise she'd be flooded.

Where was he anyhow?

Why were the women always waiting.

They were naked and waiting.

Even she who was born from a seabrush
of sea foam.
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Paiting Still in Process, nearing end though...


awake in night, sleep soon, hope, embroiled by my painting, get overalls on, go at it again

complexity of colours & figures driving me nuts. ready to throw it out. obsession. unscrew tubes of oil paint, try this, that. mess of reality.

where painting has progressed to, or regressed to.

(click here for larger size, you might need to press F11 if you'd like to see its whole cacophony)

Painting In Process July 08


Clipped 2 clamp lamps each with 100Watt daylight spectrum bulbs on either side and snapped it. Blue is a bit bright, slightly darker in the original. The lower right quadrant a little darker than in the painting, but running the Dodge tool in Photoshop over it even at 25% didn't bring it to its shade of colour. Every monitor's different anyhow. My old iMac & new Dell laptop each present colours differently. Overall, and I worked on this awhile, between the 2 computers, the coloration's not bad.

Anyway, how's that drawing I posted going? Eh. Tinkering, dabbing, letting it grow in its own fashion. Slow, but I'm enjoying slow. My paintings used to be done in 20 minutes and that felt fine then only now I want to linger longer, enjoy the process continuously. A dab, a little bit of paint, wait a day, see what's next. This piece, however, who knows, it seems quite complex to me as I work on it, and I don't know in which direction it'll develop.

I just spread the blue of her back into the other blue to syncopate the rhythm across the page better because alone it overwhelmed, was too strong. I started using watercolour pencils because they're more forgiving, and I can test the colours first.

Do I like it? I'm not sure. It's growing on me. It seems diagrammatic. A blueprint. Though of what, I cannot quite say. Groupings, images of women.

72.5cm x 52cm/28.5" x 20.5", oil and watercolour on paper (click image for larger size) or go directly here (you might need to press F11 to see it all).

In the Discretion of Inspiration

It's been a long time since I last painted, about a year and a half. Why did I give it up? I think I sacrificed my art for a relationship where it may have been problematic but now I realize not painting was the real problem. Still struggling with issues of creativity, in other words.

I don't mind the painting, quite like its bright colours, find the women a bit detached from one another, but then they are separate poses by the same model over the course of a few hours one evening at a lifedrawing session. If I did them again, I'd like to paint them with the wings of angels... and, who knows, may.

I realized that the figures have composed themselves into pairs - the two on the far right I don't particularly like - the colouring is too thick, but then again they're more earthy than the others, more ripely body, hence more sensual. The central two I rather like, somehow reminding me of the centuries of art looking out at me, it's hard to explain; one looks straight at us, I left the features of her face deliberately delicate, not forceful lines, and the other I happily left with her head in the clouds, almost sculptural, and she's quite androgynous too, sort of like 'The Thinker.' On the left are figures growing out of the swell of sky and earth, colours themselves. They remind me a little of Michelangelo's 'Slaves' who are both emerging from and yet still part of the marble, but my figures are free and lithesome, like flowers dancing in the breeze. There is one rising like a vivid plume, too, who echoes the far right one with the walking stick, herself a figure, in my mind, of the Australian walk-about medicine woman of earthy potent power, bald perhaps from illness she's gone through, but she's there, an onlooker, a protector, one who cares for the soul. All the figures are sensual to my eye. They blossomed on the page like flowers in a wild garden, nature spirits, fertile with the creativity of nature and spirit.

This little painting comes out of the womb of life, the women who are like flowers in the garden we all play in through our years of living.

Overall I'm pleased with this renewed effort to paint again. I have already bought a sheet of paper for the next one...

This is how to do it - to continually have something 'on the go,' bit by bit things get done, you just have to keep dabbling, keep reaching in, taking a moment here and there to add a line of paint, or a phrase, or a little prose poem, and then you find you have a book, or a set of paintings to show.

Inspiration is in the moment, in discreet, distilled moments of time.

I happily share my journey with you.
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Still painting...

How little space for painting! This is the corner. You can see the original sketches from which I composed the composite image I posted last week. What's nice is that if I don't like the way the painting turns out, I can create another one. The painting on the board is influenced by the one on the wall, isn't it. I did that one in Vancouver and it's quite large: Celestial Dancers, 2004, oil on canvas, 4' x 5'.

(click to enlarge)
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Setting up a small studio...

On the weekend my son and brother moved about half my storage space out. A solid pine queen-sized bedframe in pieces, a dismantled swinging couch for a backyard, an old stereo system with speakers that still works, a workout bench in its box, a functional old laser printer with an unwrapped toner, things no longer needed or there isn't room for. They cleared enough space for me to set up a small painting area so that I can work right away if I have the gumption. Once the remaining dozen or so boxes are unpacked, there will be no excuse anymore: it's heated; there's a tiny window for ventilation; next door is the laundry room with a big sink for washing brushes (I use water-based oils, so clean-up is easy); the lighting's nothing, but there are clamp lamps and full spectrum bulbs...

I paint on the floor, whenever I can summon the courage to let it go, or when I manage a zen-like state. It's always a risk. It's the most nerve-wracking thing I do.

Once the canvas is dry, I can move it upstairs where there is light in excess and work on an easel.

Some of my best paintings have been done when it's almost dark and I can barely see what I'm doing. It's not about the amount of light but the state of mind.

I'll try to take a photo later and add it to this post.

Later: Ok, so 4. And so what if they're a bit silly. You get the picture.



My doggy wondering.


Fun wall shot. Oh, whateva, then.


What's still to do. Sort of Arrgghhhh....

Noctilucent Clouds

Noctilucent Clouds
(click on image for larger version)

"Noctilucent Clouds," 2007, 14.5cm x 22.5cm or 5 3/4" x 9"; oils, India ink, on paper coated with acrylic matte medium; photo taken in bright sun (colours not bad on my iMac).

A lucent state of consciousness, my fingers thick with oil paint, spreading it quickly, curves, folds of the drapery, her ecstatic, graceful form, the broil of the night sky...

Do I sense what will emerge? I have to find the 'right moment' in the streams-of-consciousness to paint, and painting is always a fearful act where I throw my spiritual life on the line. And then it becomes accepting what emerges, and working with it.

This little piece has a specific purpose - to remind me of dance, movement, freedom, the sky.

Noctilucent Clouds - first wash of paint

Noctilucent Clouds

"Noctilucent Clouds," 2007; 14.5cm x 22.5cm or 5 3/4"x 9"; oils, india ink, paper, acyrlic matte medium.

14.5cm x 22.5cm or 5 3/4"x 9"; oils, india ink, paper, acyrlic matte medium

Sorry! I guess with flickr's new limits, this image is gone. You can view a page of Celestial Dancers at my website, however: Art & Writings of Brenda Clews/Celestial Dancers.

It took longer to photograph this little painting under the flourescent lights in the kitchen near midnight and to colour correct the image and upload it to flickr than it did to paint!

My fingers thick with oil paint spread the colour so quickly, me in a lucent state of consciousness barely aware... that calf of hers, the one she's holding herself aloft on, needs more shadow, today I can see that.



"blindgaze," 2007, 32cm x 25cm (12.5" x 9.75"), oil on acrylic matte medium, india ink, paper.

Playing with a sketch from a lifedrawing session last Fall - perhaps not as fluid as my figures usually are, but I enjoyed melding colour... I had forgotten how sensual paint is, especially when spread by your fingers.
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