This year I set myself a challenge to do a painting every week and see where that process led me. So far, it's been an interesting journey and the year is barely half over. I've told a few friends what I'm doing and they've asked me to share some of the images and the journal of the process, so here it is.....

I'm going in chronological order rather than putting the newest stuff at the top like a typical blog. I think it's easier to watch the process unfolding if it's not backwards. To see all fifty, click HERE.

2/20 After starting out with a representational piece that I didn't even finish, I shifted into a series of monotypes when Ron Pokrasso was here. The way Ron was working with monotypes dredged up a bunch of techniques and imagery that I was working with when I was doing clay prints. Combining the rigidity of stencils with the looseness of splashes and hand painting sets up a different dynamic on the work surface. I spent a couple of weeks finishing up monotypes that I wasn't originally happy with, by combining stencils, lithography, solar plate and both transferred and directly painted imagery.

3/01 I've ordered some Arches 88 paper to keep working with the monotype techniques Pokrasso taught, but that hasn't arrived yet, so I'm pushing that same dynamic into a series of paintings on masonite panels. These have some representational elements, but a lot of texture and abstraction. I have always liked the chaotic ground that the painting wall at Burning Man had and I am looking for ways to create that sort of chaos myself in the background layers of the painting. I'm starting with layers of pattern using some stencils and also painting some layers of color into the negative spaces that define a sort of all over network.

3/21 The "painting wall" pieces have started shifting more and more away from containing any representational elements at all into pure color and form. This brought up the kinds of sinuous forms that I was working with back at the time I did the original drawing for "Quark". I've done several of these formal color studies, and am pretty happy with where they're going.
5/4 April was sort of a lost cause for painting. Much chaos and I needed to keep the work table clear for other projects. Then Sharon emailed me a call for entry for a "mail art" show. I had just gotten a postcard from Rex, so I took that out to the studio and painted over it to create a piece for that show. Working on the post card was fun and very liberating because there was no concern about the "preciousness" of materials (similar to the experience of light box painting), so I decided to stick with the postcard thing for a while. I pulled out a stack of old postcards left over from last year's studio tour and started on a series of doodles on those, at first responding to, then reacting against the imagery on the cards. These have ended up shifting into some very interesting abstract expressionist forms using colors that are well outside my usual comfort zone.
5/5 After doing a stack of postcards, I was feeling confident with the forms and colors I was using, so I shifted back to the masonite panels and tried a few of the same kinds of images larger. To get some variety, I have tried various colors to outline the forms and then, not outlining at all, but building up washes and then leaving the forms outlines as negative space, which really ends up coming back full circle to some the layers I was painting on some of the early pieces to build up layers of "history" on the canvas to simulate the painting wall experience. Right now, I am really enjoying the abstract expressionist forms and the palette of rich earthy colors I am using. This is so far outside my usual comfort zone that it feels very invigorating. I can't wait to see what I'll paint next. I think I read a quote by Dali that he couldn't wait to get up in the morning to see what he'd do next. I think I understand what he was saying. Not only is the flow that is being created affecting the "painting a week" work itself, but there is a creative flow on several other fronts as well. I'm getting all sorts of ideas for drawings and prints and combining all sorts of techniques as well.

5/9 I did a piece last night that is incredibly loose and casual. I had just finished one piece and there was still some paint left on the palette, so I thought I'd just sketch out my next piece and clean off the leftover paint. I started out the same way I did on the last few of the abstract expressionist pieces I've done, but once I got the forms sketched in and filled in the shapes with washes of whatever color was left on the palette, I wondered how it would look to go back in with white over the negative space areas. I just slammed in some white over the washes underneath in really loose strokes. The color underneath shows through in areas and the brush strokes are really apparent. I got it to a point where I thought "Ooh, that's cool! I'll just go scan it to capture this stage and then I can take it back out to the studio and finish it." It was late, so I went home and went to bed. This morning, when I finally had time to scan it, I was looking at it and trying to decide what I would do to finish it.I honestly couldn't see a thing that it needed to be "finished". It didn't seem that anything I would do to it would improve it in any way. If I worked it over it would just end up all overworked and hackneyed.

I'm taking the whole bunch over to Helena's this evening. Claudine wants to do analysis on them as if they were light box paintings. I will be interesting to see where that goes. I'm a little nervous about getting the process too conscious and blocking it.

5/30 In the end, it worked out that we didn't have time for Claudine to do the whole analysis process and I have to admit, I'm glad. I'm sure we'll do some analysis work on the bunch of them at some point, but it's all still a bit to fresh and I want to keep the freshness. It's been a couple of weeks without any painting. I've been working on a drawing for a lithograph and printing solar plates. I had several prints that I had printed proofs of and then never printed the edition, so I finished those up and then printed editions of three entirely new prints. The whole time I was printing, ideas kept going through my head for ways to incorporate the print images in with monotypes using the kinds of abstract expressionist compositions I've been working with in painting. Yesterday, I got back to painting. When I first laid out the paints and masonite panels to get started, I thought that maybe the abstract expressionist thing was getting to be a rut and that I should try to force some new direction. Then I realized that the shifts will come naturally without having to force them - the process will evolve on it's own. I'm experiencing a little bit of the same feeling with the solar plates. I keep coming back to the quirky little 5x7's and rather than being in a rut, I'm seeing the ideas evolve and grow and the whole thing is turning into a large body of work that really has a presence. I think that maybe I've hit this sort of place before. I've been so afraid of getting stale that I didn't stay with a process long enough to see it evolve and grow. Always wanting to try something new can be a way of staying fresh, or it could be an addiction.

6/12 I've had 6 pieces underway for the last couple of weeks and I've played with them in sequence, a layer at a time, rather than finishing one start to finish. This batch has evolved with more glazes and subtle coloring than the ones I've worked on for the last few months. The technique is tending to go back to the more subtle layering and color scheme of some of the first "swirly" pieces at the start of the year instead of the bold earthy color and hard edges of the first abstract expressionist pieces. I like the yummy muddiness of the color glazing, but I also liked the bold strong colors. I guess my next thing will be to see if I can incorporate both into a single piece. I do feel like I'm getting more control over color than I've ever had before.
6/14 I'm getting more layers of complexity in these and mixing the solid color and glazing techniques. It's still feeling fresh - not like I'm getting trapped in a rut, but it may be time to push the limits a bit more. Maybe try a larger canvas, or try pulling these forms into some monotypes and see what happens when I incorporate some collage or solar plate elements. I've been trying to figure out why these forms feel so "right". I just realized that they echo petroglyphs and runic and ogham alphabets. That's why they feel to me that they have such a sense of connectedness to ancient magick.
6/18 I've been working on a couple of larger pieces and pushed the materials a bit. The second piece from the left above is pretty experimental. I've been soaking the dried acrylic paint off my palette in between painting sessions and sticking it on a sheet of plastic. This was building up a really cool background of color and texture. I painted over that to fill in the color and used glazes to bring out the texture a bit more. Then I glazed the whole thing with a couple of coats of matte medium and peeled it off the plastic sheet. I did a neutral background painting on a larger sheet of masonite, then collaged the peeled acrylic sheet onto that. The far right one is on aluminum. I originally painted it on a sheet of plastic, then peeled it off and collaged it to the aluminum, but I'm not sure that I really gained anything by doing that. I probably could have painted directly on the aluminum, especially if I put a coat of acrylic varnish over it first.

8/11 I took a break for a while. There was too much going on - company and what-not - and once I got out of the habit of painting almost every day, it was hard to get back to it. Then I suddenly got inspired to finish a triptych I had started years ago. I'd gotten about half done with it and felt lost and couldn't go any further, so it's been languishing in a corner of the studio for at least three years. When I started back to work on it, things really flowed (and in a different direction than I had originally planned when I started it). The "painting a week" discipline has definitely made a difference in the way I paint. I've got a couple of "weeklies" started now, so I'm back to it!

8/19 I'm back in the flow again and it feels great. I got in a bit of a funk after coming home from Autreat. Partly decompression from coming out of such a great experience and partly just because I got out of the routine of painting every day and couldn't get back into it. There were three calls for entry with deadlines tomorrow and I decided to do new work for two of them, so that got me out to the studio. Having these small formal studies to work on is a great way to stop myself from picking at a larger painting that needs to be left alone to dry for a while. I'm playing with some collage along with painting and I like what's happening. I find that I'm feeling more freedom to play and just see what happens. Finishing that triptych has given me more confidence in trusting my process.

10/19 Well, there's nothing like a glimmer of success to ratchet up the fear of not being able to repeat it. I haven't picked up a paint brush since August. I've done a bunch of other work, mostly digital and I gave the studio a thorough cleaning. There was lots to be done with the studio tour, school starting, the metaphysical fairs here and in the Springs - and I allowed all of it to get in the way of painting. There were lots of excuses, but the bottom line is that whenever I have a really big breakthrough artistically, I'm terrified that I won't be able to continue on from there and I run and hide. It's total self-sabotage. At least I'm facing up to it and forcing myself back to painting. I like this new one. It doesn't look like I've lost ground while I've been hiding from myself.

10/20 Time for something a bit more content driven - don't know if I like it or not… I think I'm starting to get too cerebral about this whole process.

12/21 Met with Claudine and talked about doing some analysis on these, now that I managed to get stuck in my head all on my own with no help from outside. We looked them over and talked a little about what the shapes might mean, but didn't come up with any answers. Then, this morning I stumbled on a book called "Signs of Life" in which the author, Angeles Arrien identifies 5 universal spiritual symbols: the cross, the circle, the triangle, the square and the spiral. I've ordered the book. I'll see what she has to say.

12/22 Finished up two more. The bird is a rework of the lightbox piece I did working with Claudine. The second is one I started a while back, thinking about sacred geometry. I'm still intrigued with the basic shapes that were showing up earlier. I have a couple more pieces in progress that go back to those shapes. I want to keep working with them now that I'm beginning to get an inkling of their significance. For a while there, I felt like Richard Dreyfus in "Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind" piling up the plate of mashed potatoes and saying, "This means something."

01/04/11 Well, this process is slopping over into a second year, but since I didn't actually manage to get started until February of last year, I guess that's OK. I have several masonite panels started and am working on them in sequence, so there will be a flurry of new images in a few days. Last night, I started laying the foundation for a series of monotypes based on the forms I've been working with. I had a bunch of bits of stuff stored up for chin collé, so I spent most of the night ripping up pieces and laying them out on sheets of Arches 88. I'm anxious to see where they go.

01/05/11 Decided to concentrate on finishing up the three masonite panels I had started before launching into printing monotypes. I had been thinking about ways to add textural complexity to the simple forms. Also, the book on the 5 basic shapes had arrived and it's a good read. It has given me several things to think about as to the meanings behind this group of basic forms that has evolved throughout the year. I really like the richness that is developing in the surface treatments on these.

01/10/11 As the year draws to a conclusion, there seems to be a sort of self-consciousness in the process of painting, as if, after a year of doing this process, I was supposed to have arrived at a particular destination and since I don't know if I've gotten there (or anywhere for that matter) I've become unsure of myself all over again. It feels as if the playfulness and adventure that I experienced in the middle of the year has gotten overshadowed by the need to have "accomplished something".
01/11/11 I seem to be swinging back to more content driven imagery. I'm not sure that I like it or like where it's going (or not going). The one with the eye started out abstract, then it seemed to be taking the form of a fox, so I started to push it that direction. It quickly toppled over into terminal cuteness, so I decided to paint over the whole thing. The only things that remained from the earlier painting are the eye and some underlying washes of color. It does feed the idea of these forms being some sort of alien communication. The tree started

out as building underlying pattern, similar to the left hand piece above. Once I got the spirals on the panel, I liked how they looked and decided to stay with them rather than painting over them. There are areas that I like a lot - some good pattern and color combinations, but I don't find it as compelling as the abstract forms. Maybe it's just that the colors are more subtle, so the whole thing is less graphic.

01/18/11 As I've been looking at the shapes and symbols that have showed up over the course of the year, several possibilities have emerged. Angeles Arrien's book on the 5 universal symbols turned out to be a sort of symbolic "Myers Briggs" test where you rate the 5 symbols (circle, square, triangle, cross, spiral) in your order of preference. I was a bit skeptical that it would have much validity for me since I've been working with and studying the symbols already. I figured my preferences would be skewed by too much prior thought. The results turned out to be surprisingly insightful for both me and Fred. From the start, I felt a connection to petroglyphs, runes and the ogham alphabet. For this batch, I thought I'd take a stab at pushing the petroglyph angle a bit farther.

01/20/11 These last few have been really fun. I like the petroglyphs motif. One more to go and then it's down to the mad scramble to get everything ready to hang for the show. It feels like it's been a powerful process and I'm not ready to quit on it even though I've done what I originally set out to do. Yesterday I cut and gessoed a bunch more masonite panels so I can keep going with the small studies. I also have a couple of large canvases in the studio that I've been waiting to start until I finish this series.



01/28/11 The last week has been an intense push to get all the postcards ordered and all the paintings ready to hang. My living room is piled high with boxes of postcards and every waking moment when I'm not eating, sleeping or working has been spent signing and numbering cards. Damn! There are a lot of them.
02/13/11 Still numbering postcards, although I've taken breaks to get in some studio time for fresh work. I'm keeping up with the painting a week thing for now. It's been so productive on so many levels that I don't want to quit. I'm continuing to pursue the petroglyphs theme that I was playing with at the end of the fifty. I'm also compiling a list of all the associations I can come up with for the shapes and symbols that cropped up in the work this year.
A taste of things to come - here are a couple of the new pieces I've just finished.

Ogham Alphabet
Cuneiform Alphabets
Egyptian Cartouches and Hieroglyphics
Dogon Dancer's Head Dresses
Angeles Arrien's 5 Universal Symbols
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