Tad Spurgeon oil paintings


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A Sunday look at process and product.
An overview of finished work from the last few years is now here.

june 20

      Generally lovely week of lower temperatures and cool nights. Regrouped and decided a leap was necessary in the work. Pretty nutty energy but plenty of it, made a series of studies that were fun if all over the place. Learned a lot from just letting things expand. I used to get involved in analyzing what happened but now I try to disengage more quickly and just make the next one. Solstice on Monday, full moon on Thursday. With the results of the audit in Arizona coming, and more pushback to the 'official' virus and vaccine stories daily, there may be some fireworks before the Fourth of July, a large and relatively sudden shift in the collective frame of reference. Yes, I haven't given up hope that the truth will finally be told. Although, if this long overdue process in fact finally begins, be wary of a sudden media rollout designed to create panic. You know: alien invasion, nationwide shortage of Twinkies, etc.


      Some Angola copal, dissolved in alcohol, then precipitated out by adding water. Very rubbery stuff! There are two official types of this, one younger and softer and the other older and harder. This looked like it might be the younger one since the older one was called 'red,' but now it feels like this won't dissolve into oil at a particularly low temperature.


      Resins dissolved in alcohol and precipitated out with water as an alternative way to 'running' to prepare them for making an oil varnish. The first one is hymenaea courbaril, the one that started all this. This dissolved easily and completely in alcohol but is not very glutinous. Then some damar I tried in isopropyl alcohol, this will probably not be that different heated into the oil than straight damar. The pellets are the Angola copal from the photo above. It takes a while for the alcohol to evaporate. The idea here was to explore something with more oomph than fused damar that would go into solution below the 300C required for Manila copal. The beta damar works but so far requires xylene, which is a deal breaker for me. It's not that big a deal technically, I like the way the work looks right now. It's more about the way there are all these resins that have been called copal historically, only most of the ones from Mexico and South America are not involved in commerce anymore, except for use in incense. And the word copal comes from the Aztec word for incense. A long story, with lots of different trees with many different resins. Copal got a bad reputation for darkening, but this was because the varnish came from the carriage industry during the 19th century.


      The new moon kind of called a halt to things last week. Used to have a hard time letting go of the old way but now it's not so bad. Decided the best thing to do was make some slightly smaller ones with more freedom, fewer patterns or rules. Just play around, see what happens. Sometimes the plan has to be less plan. Changed a few colours on the palette and decided not to do a drawing. Like parts of what happened, but didn't have a clear sense of how to go further at this point and stopped. These can get into a zugzwang situation where a lot would have to be undone in order to get to the next step. It feels like the most important part was just breaking up the pattern so something new could begin to happen. 9x10 inches, oil on gessoed paper.


      Wanted the next one to be less red dominant, and less chaotic; was surprised that this much organization happened without a drawing. Got into something new with colour, but sometimes I can't help but try the most high-wire solution, when, in the overall context, something simpler might work better overall. Keep wanting to do something different to the bottom right corner. On the other hand, it's fun to look at this and ask where else the general concept could go. 9x10 inches, oil on gessoed paper.


      Then went back to the palette of the first one, but kept the shapes simpler. In a way this kind of feels like two different paintings, top and bottom, but that's okay. Again, just interesting to ask what wants to happen next. 9x10 inches, oil on gessoed paper.


      Have been wanting to return to this longer format and the time seemed right. Set this up so the paint could be more completely removed back to the white of the ground, this meant it could move beyond the simplicity of the one above but also enabled some larger changes to the whole structure. Morphing away from the original concept is good, but also means creating new problems and finding new solutions. So, unexpected, and not exactly resolved, a few interesting elements suggesting things but more of an oddity as it stands. But that all seems okay when what's at issue is what resolved means. 6.5x14 inches, oil on gessoed paper.


      Last, but not least, am out-and-out disaster of enthusiasm, similar to the March 21 painting this year. Too small for what wanted to happen but fun to do. Removed a large section of this at the end and redid it, but it still isn't remotely unified. Too much going on, which often happens after a simpler one. But this one is interesting to consider. Bigger would help, but maybe another one at this scale to work out the initial pattern of the larger pieces would be better first. Is there such a thing as joyous repose? May have to find out. 6x14 inches, oil on gessoed paper.

june 13

      Some serious heat and humidity this week, am always so grateful when this departs. The new moon here was on Wednesday morning, so it was interesting to get up and feel it happen. It felt big, but distinctly moody. I was ready to make a painting, but paused. I do not argue with Lily, or with the new moon. And so, upon further consideration, ended up cleaning the studio. There are levels of this, from casual to therapeutic to mythical. It didn't quite feel Herculean, but this cleaning definitely wanted to go deeper than usual. Not just white, bright. Can see now that this was overdue, had been coming for a while. That's the thing about the new moon, it's always new on the one hand, but logical on the other. How to reclaim the room? Many different versions of disassemble the pile, go through it, toss, repeat. But it looks much better and there's not just more physical room, but more psychological room. Lily quickly took advantage of the fact that she could jump on that table again. At the same time, it feels like there's still more of this process to go. Another level of it. So, had plans for the next two weeks of waxing moon, but am not sure how much painting this time will contain. Went through a series of relatively smooth changes there for a while, but am now encountering some that are bumpier. Of course, this is all part of the plan. Am learning to be aware of resistance earlier in the process, its like a haze of friction, a reduction in clarity. It helps to remember that all external judgements are projections. If everything is one, it's all also me. In some ways, an expansive and comforting thought. In other ways, a pretty difficult one. But it feels like this moon is asking for a larger definition of unity or oneness. Solstice in a week, followed by the full moon on the 24th. This feels like it's going to be a bad week for lies, a good week for truth. Oops, there I go, framing things in terms of duality again. I love the lies, really, I do! So much conviction, so much dedication; they're just so well-told! What's that? Now they say the virus came from a lab in Wuhan? Wow, what a surprise!


      Lily was sleeping late one hot afternoon, but I had no sooner focused the camera on her when she heard something that made her wake-up and look for it. Or at it, she often watches things I can't see. Love that quizzical look, kind of like Ringo in Hard Day's Night.

june 6

      Another changeable week, thunderstorms followed by some very summery heat, although still without major humidity. Waning moon, new moon and solar eclipse in Gemini here on the morning of the tenth. Gemini is about communication, and most basically about the story we tell ourselves is 'reality,' so, in larger terms, look for the beginning of a new story during this moon. This also involves a retrograde Mercury conjunction with the Sun and Moon, which I'm naturally interpreting to mean that prior communications will be adjusted by the disclosure or revealing of things that have been hidden. An awful lot has been hidden, so this process, once finally begun, may take a while, and have several compartments. But it feels like disclosure of medical things that have been hidden may be first. Just a guess based on the current run of play, but a topic that is certain to be a crowd-pleaser. In the work, the same pattern of the last two weeks continued: a search for the next step coupled with nothing feeling quite right yet. Cannot remember the need for change during a given moon being so complete. There's something sort of liberating about it, doing what I can but without the familiar yet limiting sense of guiding a known pattern towards the finish line. This is actually much more interesting, and already means some relatively large changes lining up for the medium, details below. The heat always brings up the tension between doing and being in a basic way, echoes of the endless frustration growing up of the sweltering summer here. Having been born with Mars in Aries, it took a while to learn how less doing short term could actually become more doing long term, I used to just fight on. But at this point, after several days above 90 degrees, it's getting simpler to let go.


      The story goes: we are all children of the Creator. To come here we underwent the veil or the forgetting, leaving our identity largely behind, in order to come here to do a service to the Universe. The overwhelming interest in love, peace, and perfection all over the Universe had created the unilateral rejection of negativity, creating a basic philosophical rift in Infinity that needed to be healed in order for the Universe to continue to grow. To redeem negativity meant showing it had a purpose, a creative use. To accomplish this, we incarnated into the free-will experiment in matter that became the long convoluted battle between Light and Dark we know simply as 'life on Earth.' After WWII, the Dark became increasingly devious in the later 20th century, manipulating human life through technology, and information-access through the media, so that nothing was really as it seemed. In this situation, it became increasingly difficult for people to access their inner voice and to believe in anything but materialism, and various hidden agendas grew. But as the Earth moved into the Photon Belt recently, the Universe decided enough was enough, and began to amplify this already high frequency energy to expose and dismantle the Dark program. This has been done bit by bit in order to create as little chaos for humanity as possible. Now, thanks to many different kinds of efforts on many different levels and dimensions, the Dark has lost this battle. Only the clean-up operation is left, which involves waking up the people who are still hypnotized by the Dark program, centered on the mainstream media's 'hard-hitting' culture of fear. This movie is becoming more obvious as America's zombie administration stumbles on, and 'authorities' who once lied with impunity become increasingly exposed. A major clean-up is coming, and may well begin later this month. Once this clean-up is complete, once we understand our true potential, and our true history -- what was done and how we were duped -- we will be able to go from one dimension to the next as a collective, to ascend, so to speak: the first time any planetary group in the Universe has done this while physical. This means we will leave all forms of conflict and duality behind in the next few years. At this point we are on the paradise timeline, and the Earth is headed towards being the paradise planet it was always designed to be. So this is a very brief version of the consistent story told in the channeled information that's out now, but sometimes someone says it with unusual grace or elegance. Here is a recent message from the same channel, explaining how close we are to the cosmic tipping point. It is difficult to be patient still, when we are so close without a definite schedule. But if you believe in this -- and you know who you are, even if no one else does -- the most important thing is to stay in the zero point field of unity consciousness, to find the paradise timeline in your own heart, and in your own life, and just stay on it no matter what is supposedly going on in the hall of mirrors of the outer world. There are going to be revelations relatively soon about what has really been happening, be wary of any last ditch efforts to delay progress by the MSM via yet another tall tale of fear and chaos. From the perspective of the Universe, this is a spiritual process through which humanity learns what is real and what is unreal, what is true and what is false, and, as infinite fractals of an infinite Source, everything we need to navigate this has been set up for us in the inner world. The more we access this place, the more the old way is deprived of energetic attention, and the faster we bring the paradise timeline into manifestation in our own lives, and for the collective. What is the 95% of out brain that we 'don't use' doing? It is creating physical reality. This means it is really as simple as accentuating the positive to minimize, and ultimately eliminate, the negative. Here is another quality summary of recent events, this time more focused on the Light-Dark endgame in America, why nothing large happened around the Inauguration, and the coming establishment of different global government, energy, financial and health care systems. This is a particularly good source, with many more recent messages of value. There is a lot to be positive about beginning soon, none of which is acknowledged by the MSM for this very reason. Sometimes, when people get away with lying for money for a very long time, they think this means they will get away with it forever.


      This is damar resin that was dissolved first in xylene, then precipitated out using alcohol. Technically, this is called the beta resene (not a typo; not 'resin,' resene) and was the basis of the Vibert varnish system. The original one, not whatever it has morphed into. Having worked with virtually no solvent for many years, didn't love the idea of using xylene, which gave me a headache instantly, but felt it was worth exploring to see if it might give a different result when heated into the oil than whole damar. This dissolved into the oil at a somewhat higher temperature than whole damar, but still well below the dissolving point of a softer copal resin. Was hoping it might have a little more rheological oomph than whole damar, but so far, this doesn't seem to be the case.


       Heated some hardened beeswax into it, an older procedure done with alkali, but it was still pretty vanilla, so tried it with some marble dust. It became tight, but not that stiff or elastic. This is probably a function if it having been made with an oil that was already pretty polymerized. So, may try this with some fumed silica as well, then tube it, very small amounts of this could augment the fused damar medium I'm working with now. But most importantly, it still smells like xylene, which may be a deal-breaker altogether. So, it would have been better to let the mass outgas outside longer: now I know. But the material may not have that much potential at this point anyway, since the system itself is moving away from richer materials. I feel like I should have resisted the urge to find something 'better' by using something toxic, but, the funny thing is, I have a good feeling about what this stuff will do. So, we'll see, it may take a while to figure out.


      I make these test panels repeatedly, they're all over the place, and sometimes one gets buried. That's what happened to this one here from 2017, it was literally in the dark for a few months. That's the photo on the left. So then I put it in the light for two weeks, that's the photo on the right. A little bit different! This test panel featured lots variations of commercial pre-polymerized oils: I wanted to see how much they darkened uncut, then cut with various other oils I knew yellowed less. It eventually became clear that these oils needed to be used in small amounts, if at all, for maximum brightness over time. At this point I'm trying the opposite approach, letting go of all commercially heat-polymerized oils, and like this better. But the point is, if linseed oil is involved, the amount of light is important: darkening can often be almost completely reversed by higher light levels. This is also why it is important to do your own tests, to be in control of the variables involved. I'm not saying a commercial interest would rig a test. Gasp! But a commercial interest just might gently, articulately, and oh-so-scientifically, misdirect your attention. Thus gently, articulately, and oh-so-scientifically allowing you to fool yourself.


      Detail of a painting from a month ago using a medium that dried matte. Decided to see what happened if I saturated it with a thin final coat of a polymerized oil. A little early, but the paint was pretty lean, and I needed to know! Did this final oil coat with a variety of oils last year, and it worked out better than I thought it would. The key is thin: keep the layer of oil thin regardless of it's natural thickness. Used aged autoxidized walnut oil for this one, thinned with a little solvent, but will go back to a decent percentage of linseed oil next as it's taking quite a while to dry. But this made the point I felt it would make: that if the colour needs to be really bright, saturating the paint after the fact works better for me because it feels visually cleaner than saturation in the paint. Well, it only took thirty-six years to figure this out. There are other considerations, such as the increased facility of a richer medium, and the way this type of medium can layer transparently. So, after getting involved with a more saturated medium and even some of the sandarac varnish from 2007, this experiment started the medium back towards being more lean again.


      Tried what seemed to make the most sense for the next lean medium, but it was a little loose, and didn't layer well, and this determined when to stop. It always seems good to come back to one or two that are as simple as possible, though this one seems to show both the strengths and limitations of that approach. 10x12 inches, oil on gessoed paper.


      Went back to a little sandarac in the medium for this, and it layered and carved well, but was still lean enough to dry matte. This had some fun moments in terms of both colour and form, but at first there seems to be too much above-below separation between stronger and softer colour. Now I'm not sure, this one's growing on me. Still, as is often the case, it feels like the answer is somewhere in the middle: less bright, more detail and layering than the medium above, but more bright, and not as much set or hold, as this medium created. 10x12 inches, oil on gessoed


      Went back to a leaner medium again, it felt nice and tight but was in fact still a little loose. Went back to simpler colour, a little quirky but blue-dominant is always unpredictable. Still, like how these limitations in combination help solve the composition, and it feels honest, exactly how I felt that day. So, the definition of finished is another thing that is changing quickly. I used to struggle with this during the time I sold paintings: the more a painting looked like a new car, the faster it sold, but this was hardly what always what wanted to happen. While this isn't part of the equation any longer, there are still specific expectations left over that are being challenged now. It feels like this process will inevitably end with a larger definition of creativity altogether, but that I'm being given an opportunity to explore it more personally for the time being. I'm grateful for this. For finally not having any idea what's going to happen next, for making things that surprise me. 10x12 inches, oil on gessoed paper.


      So what the medium needs is more tightness or set in a way that is lean. The lean ingredient that creates the most set is glue size. But glue alone is too strong, this was shown back at the paintings of April 18. So I mixed it with some of the almond gum, this is like the old ingredient cherry gum, but the set isn't as pronounced. As a test, mashed 1 part of this into 5 parts of the beta damar and marble dust test I made, and this became much tighter and more articulate. Maybe too much so, the pendulum swinging too far the other way as usual. But it feels like the beginning of the medium's next step. In terms of the process, this feels very waning moon. Every aspect of the style is in motion, growing, yet also leaving something to be desired. But it's not going to be found by going back, it's about what comes next. So I'll be looking especially at what wants to happen later next week, when the new moon begins.

may 30

      Another odd weather week, from summer-like warmth to the third cold and rainy day now. Week of the full moon, this started early in the morning on the 26th here and the day was intense but positive. With the work, there's always more, and the more I let go of directing it, the more interesting it is to explore. Since the beginning of the year, the medium has gone from being relatively lean to about half as saturated as it was in 2019. This seems to be enough saturation, and things may return to lean again with what I've learned since departing from it. Want to try going back to the brightest matte colour and see if I can direct it better now. Also need to find out what happens -- what changes, what doesn't -- when a completed lean painting is saturated by a thin final coat of a non-yellowing oil. Yes, there's always more. And n one way this remains fascinating, an organic perpetual motion inquiry. In another, it's sort of treading water at this point, the real nature of the inquiry has moved. But if I abandon this familiar narrative, and get into what I think is really and truly happening, what is really and truly about to happen, nobody would believe it. I mean, I tried all last year, and to some extent this year, but it's clear that the shift is just too big, it's not in the collective frame of reference as a possibility. This used to be frustrating, but I can see now that it's actually good. Because it means everyone gets to experience the surprise in exactly their own way; we will all have uniquely personal versions of an incredible story: almost eight billion of them. Have I given it away? No? Okay, good. Do you think I'm absolutely nuts? Yes? Okay, good. Won't be long now.




      Sometimes I do searches on simple words to see what happens. Searching for 'chalk' always is kind of nutty, because so many very different materials are covered by this one word. Ah, English. A while back I ran into the world of edible chalk from various locations in Russia, and at first this was just too odd, and too expensive, a direction to pursue. But then it occurred to me that maybe I had no idea what real chalk was: I was buying something ground and taking the word of a company that had certainly not told the whole truth about the identity of other items in their catalogue. Recently, finding the photo of the old church on top of the chalk cliff sort of clinched it, and I got some chalk chunks from Belgorod. They are pure white, and interesting to grind: the fine soft powder compresses and sort of protects some less fine pieces from being ground. You can see this in close-ups of later Rembrandt paintings, places where he has dipped the brush in chalk but there's still a little granularity. The putty it makes is adhesive and off-white: whiter than the Kremer Champagne chalk, but less white than the Kremer stone chalk. The stone chalk is also just a little harder. Is this a game changer compared to ground limestone -- such as the Fredrix 'marble dust' -- which can be a tenth of the price per pound in bulk? Well, I don't think so. But I had to find out.


      When I clean up the studio I always find things I've forgotten about, in this case for just a year, but that was enough. This is a commercial walnut oil that was autoxidized on a windowsill a year, became moderately thick, then was heated briefly until the VOCs from autoxidation came out (about 150-175C), then allowed to thicken further on the windowsill for a year with a porous cheesecloth lid. It took me awhile to put this together from the label because the oil had no colour, and when you heat oil to remove the VOCs, it always darkens. This is fugitive, but I was surprised that it had lost all colour so fast. It was also really thick, the kind of thick where, when you stir it, the bubbles stay in place for minutes at a time. But here's why I'm writing this: in addition to being thick, it was sort of resinous, or elastic, which is much more like the rheology of hand-refined linseed oil than the famously insipid rheology of commercially refined walnut oil. And this was because it was heated, very briefly, then allowed to thicken again. Dried film from the top of the oil on the right, I'd expect more colour from oil this thick, so that too is a plus. I floated a little raw walnut oil on top of this to delay further skinning over and put a real lid on it. It might be a good oil to thin with a little solvent and try as a varnish alternative on one of the recent studies. The first series of these I did last year with a variety of older oils has turned out surprisingly well.


      My friend Roland very kindly explained how to extract the beta resene from damar, the original basis of the 19th century Vibert varnish system; this is of interest because his work is so colourful still. I wanted to do this but, having done it, it feels too toxic to pursue in the living situation here. However, there may be a way to do this that is less toxic than the original method. Perhaps not quite as effective in separating the alpha and beta resenes, but still effective enough to produce a significantly improved damar. I think LeFranc may still make something called Vibert varnish, but this has nothing to do with the original formula.


      When I first made amber varnish, the directions called for heating the ground resin until it swelled and floated in the oil, letting this cool, and discarding the first oil for fresh oil. This is an instruction from the carriage trade varnishes of the 19th century, allowing for a varnish that is more flowing, less 'livering' when it's applied. I did this once, but what I wanted from varnish was thixotropy, so I never changed the oil again. I didn't discard the oil, and as it thickened over time noticed that it was also very effective at creating thixotropy in small amounts in a medium. So, this oil was made in 2006. By 2015 it had become so thick that I thinned it again. Now it is arguably even thicker, with a fascinating mobile but rubbery rheology. Some people still agree with the 19th century researchers who felt that amber was the secret of the old masters, but there's no research that supports this, and research is in fact going the opposite way in terms of the relative esotericism of older ingredients. For example, look for more on egg white to surface soon as they can now finally find it in an older paint film. Anyway, I just think amber is interesting: massive ancient deposits all over the world from trees so large it's hard to even imagine them.


      So, this week's medium featured a small addition of amber oil, the same as the sandarac varnish, about 3% of the medium volume, 1% of the total paint film. It made the medium itself much more elastic and thixotropic. As with all things amber, a little goes a long way.


      Went to a really limited palette for this one, the paint was more thixotropic and layered in a thicker or more rubbery way than last week's paint. Sometimes I know what done is, but sometimes it seems like I've clearly used up my nine lives so it might be a good time to stop. The paint did some interesting things technically but this was more about exploring them than using them. Still, that's what a smaller scale is about, and it's more interesting to learn more than execute a stylistic formula. When things get too perfect, it makes me nervous, even if it just sort of happens. So, when things get a little quirky or warty, that's okay; the pendulum going the other way, the vocabulary of the style growing. 10x12 inches, oil on gessoed paper.


      Began this one as a development of the one above, not quite as limited a palette, and used a more dilute white first. In life I like it better, the colour especially has a nice balance, but, a few days on, can also see more things that might change. This is typical of work done in the waning moon, a sense that the Platonic ideal of the waxing moon is not really available anymore. But it's also typical of a relatively new composition. These are constructed from a 3D matrix of if-then statements: one axis is the colour, another is the shapes, the third is the sgraffito into the colour to reveal what's beneath. Because any change in any axis changes the relationship of everything to everything else, it's fun, and lots of interesting things can happen. But this also means it can be a fine line between creativity and chaos. This one solved something from the last one, but also made me more aware of things the last one solved, and asked its own set of questions. This moon began quietly, but has become pretty type A overall. 10x12 inches, oil on gessoed paper.


      More studio cleaning this week, re-painted the windowsill and re-did the whole berth area, including Lily's bed. Always wondered what to do with my grandmother's damask tablecloth. The other Lily upgrade this week featured re-doing her scratching post, the center of her indoor universe. This used to be a regular scratching post, but I enlisted a tableleg that I thought she might like better and she did. The rope around the table leg was cotton clothesline, she likes this much better than the various sisal ropes, and I needed to get more. But the one I got at the local hardware store turned out to be synthetic core. Which I thought she might object to over time. So we held on for a few days while I found the right clothesline. This one really wrapped nice and tight, and I was rewarded by her trying it out within minutes of installation. If you live with a cat you know that change of any kind is guilty until proven innocent, so instant approval was very fun.

may 23

      Waxing moon, very warm but not humid week, rhododendrons fully out and peonies beginning. Last week's theme of nothing being new enough continued to gather steam this week. But I'm getting more used to being a mere toad beneath the harrow of the process, and hope to have this case solved by the upcoming full moon. There is an event I keep waiting for, that seems to be getting closer bit by bit. In the outer world, the tattered old movie of duality flickers on, yet the hypnotic delusion presented so artfully on screen is beginning to show some serious cracks. How did it become their job to lie to everyone? At what point will enough people wake up to their true potential to tip the scale? At what point will humanity shed its illusory cocoon and claim its cosmic birthright to fly? At what point does the caterpillar realize this was just the prelude, that it is in fact a butterfly?


      It happened again! Alexa, clean my studio!


      This week featured the return of hard resin varnish to the medium after a hiatus of almost fifteen years. Wanted to see if an amount that felt safe in terms of the paint remaining bright would still contribute to the rheology of the paint. My friend Roland pointed out that the amount of sandarac is actually overstated, because the varnish is only about 12.5% resin. The hard resin varnishes are certainly unique materials!


      This paint layered more cleanly, but could also be carved or removed more cleanly. It was a little surprising that the sandarac had such an influence on the way the paint operated. Slightly smaller scale, messier, some elements of colour use from realism. Most resolved image of this week, things then began to change. About 9x10 inches, oil on gessoed paper.


      The first time I made amber varnish the recipe called for heating the powdered amber in oil until it swelled and floated. The first oil was then allowed to cool, and discarded for new oil. I did change the oil, but never discarded it. Over time it became quite thick, and very small amounts of it produced a strong seizing effect in the paint. I always wondered if this was something Manila copal would do as well, since this was the most thixotropic of the resins. I've been sort of frustrated by the relative complexity of making actual varnish in the double rabbit warren of this house and neighborhood, so this week I tried some ground Manila copal heated below the smoke point in some preheated oil. The copal melted, then swelled, and I stirred it now and then for maybe half an hour. Not that long, as these things go, but just wanted to see if this material was similar to what happened with amber. A lot of oil was absorbed by the resin, which smelled very nice, like a cross between an old church and the state fair, so I recovered some of that in the next few days. Small bottles of actual hard resin varnish in the background. This is my hoard of sandarac, I liked the Manila copal so much it is long gone. In art history, copal varnish was usually sourced from the carriage trade, and it's strength and ultimate darkening caused great problems when it was used as a final varnish. So, printed remarks about copal varnish tend to refer to the behavior of this specific material. But the varnish I made was not made from poor quality linseed oil that had been polymerized twelve hours, with manganese driers added, before the resin was added, and it has actually darkened relatively little in fifteen years. The key here seems to use enough of this type of material to help the paint film resist the atmospheric humidity that can cause darkening, without using so much that the varnish itself begins to contribute to darkening.


      When oil is heat-polymerized, it begins to thicken, and also becomes more slippery, or leveling. It glides. This process thickens the oil, but very slowly. Stand oil, for example, is typically heated for sixty hours, at a temperature well beyond the smoke point of the oil, but in the absence of oxygen. This oil seemed thicker than it should be just by one and a half hours of relatively low heat, and not thick in the way an oil would become anyway, more elastic. An oil with boing was what I was looking for, so had to see what it would do in the paint.


      This painting used a small amount of the proto-copal, the same amount as the sandarac. It was surprising how much this changed the behavior of the paint: it was thinner, yet also set faster. Worked on this again a second morning, the paint then made quite small details, always a double-edged sword. This painting has some interesting moments, but overall it seems that the top and bottom are in styles that are too different, and therefore too separate. Either the top needs to contain more specific elements, or the bottom needs to be painted more broadly. In larger terms, this seems to be about one part wanting to expand and explore, and one part wanting to huddle and defend. Which makes sense at this point, since the shapes and colours are always explaining something else. 10x12 inches, oil on gessoed paper.


      Used the same medium for this one, did more addition of layers, but more removal as well. Ran into basic issues with the composition, and worked with this until I couldn't see it anymore: always an interesting moment, a logical time to stop. The next morning, ended up changing it by first removing paint wholesale in sections. This process can produce a variety of visual effects both in terms of how the paint is removed, and how paint is applied over this, and the vocabulary of these is expanding. Would still not say this is fully resolved, but it is less determinedly bipolar than the previous one. The components of the style are changing, but are being requested to change more. Each of the gestalts or ensembles that lead to a finished image seem to then lead to a battle to the death between the old way holding on, and the new way wanting its opportunity. So, will regroup and see what the next few days leading into the full moon bring. 10x13 inches, oil on gessoed paper.


      An earlier image from this winter using the layered approach that seemed pretty dorky after layer three. Ground it back and put another layer on it. Thought I'd ground the impastoed places flat but not quite, this meant more paint. But, in grinding these back, have noticed that the paint with lead white is the most resilient. It's not easy to let go of the ones that don't work out. But the next layer often seems to involve something lost and something gained. At the same time, there's a sense of freedom in something like this, like it doesn't matter, which allows things to happen that might not otherwise. This adds to the vocabulary in both positive and negative ways: yes, that worked; no, that didn't.



may 16

      Slowly getting warmer, tulips and azaleas exiting, rhododendrons beginning. Week of the new moon; nothing, but nothing, was new enough for this one. Sort of unsettling, but then again, what isn't at this point? Unsettling is my co-pilot. Made lots of paintings, which is always fun, but nothing was new enough. Sort of unsettling, but then again, what isn't at this point? Unsettling is my co-pilot. A little like Groundhog Day. Sort of unsettling, but then again, what isn't at this point? Unsettling is my co-pilot.


      A few years ago I started to explore mate, the South American drink with both caffeine and theobromine. There are lots of varieties of this depending on the country and method of processing. I liked a couple of traditional unsmoked mates from Argentina, but then found a greener one from Brazil that I liked even better. Recently found that there's another type of green mate imported now from Brazil called chimarrão, pictured, which is really green compared to the one I had before. There were a few choices on Amazon, I got one that was reviewed online as being like graham crackers because I had to find out what on earth he meant. You make this by adding a little cold water to the mate first, and when I smelled it, sure enough, it smelled like graham crackers. So next I made it cold overnight in the fridge, and this was outstanding, will be great for the summer. In theory the theobromine means there's no caffeine downside, and this seems to be true within reason. The big thing is that I like how it tastes. It doesn't taste like graham crackers, sort of reminds me of matcha's wild yet gentler cousin.


      This is one of the many different trees in Mexico and South America that produce a resin that has been sold as copal in the last few centuries. The word copal is derived from the Aztec copalli which means incense, but was appropriated by the Spanish and then by the varnish making trade, so now it covers resins of very different ages, from different trees, and many locations, but not from Mexico or South America. The Gordian Knot of nomenclature. My friend Roland sent a paper about Mexican copal this week that discussed various resins used there in 20th century painting. But it seems like the art supply track in the US has always gotten its copal from colonial sources established by the European 19th century carriage trade. The New World resins are said to be not as hard, but the needs of varnish for carriages and painting are pretty different. So, learned some things from Roland about this, then spent some time online sorting out the various trees involved. The undergrowth seems less impenetrable now, have whittled it down to two resins that might be possible to track down. In spite of a history of being used to make varnish, this group of resins appear to be available primarily as incense now, in small over-priced quantities, with little botanical information involved. We'll see, South America is of course a botanical cornucopia, and I get enthused about this kind of puzzle, but am not sure where it goes. At the same time, this is often part of the puzzle: it may go somewhere so new I haven't even considered it yet.


      First one this week, made this one with whole egg instead of egg yolk in the tempera medium. Was surprised by how tight it still was. This feels a little blocky to me, or static. Looking for what comes next, but nothing was really new enough. About 10x12 inches, oil on gessoed paper.


      Then switched to whole egg and egg white to get a different balance of yolk and white. Less blocky, more movement, but the colour in this one got away from me. Some very loud yardwork going on tight below from a gas powered trimmer while I made it, amplified by the stonework of the buildings. This got kind of comical when the leaf blower kicked in as well. Learned some things in trying to resolve it anyway, making for some interesting details, but overall, no fruition, still looking for what comes next. About 10x12 inches, oil on gessoed paper.


      Then decided to drop egg white, which was replacing methyl cellulose, which I don't have objections to except that it is a modern material, and try some almond gum, another prunus species, relative of cherry gum. It turned out to be less seizing than I thought, so in the photo here more is being added. Then the alkali-modified beeswax was mashed into it.


      Overall, this was more mobile, but I was thinking about the New World copal issue while I made the medium and reversed the proportions of tempera and oil-base putty. So, instead of 2 tempera and 1 putty, it was 1 tempera and 2 putty. Oops. Except, this made it even more mobile, and it seemed like this was what was supposed to happen. My hands know much more than my mind. The medium goes into the oil paint, the extender is a lean putty with the same proportion of the medium as the paint.


      Used a more limited palette for this one, and it was more fun to make. After the one above, set out to make a calmer one, some passages that I really like, will return to this concept, related to an earlier approach I called Japanese Miniature Golf. But in larger terms -- oh those pesky larger terms, would you like some I seem to have plenty! -- it still kind of feels like the third version of the same issue. About 10x12 inches, oil on gessoed paper.


      Same palette and medium as the one above, but shifted towards a blue emphasis and some colour harmony from realism. Somewhat smaller scale, did more addition and subtraction, let it be looser, the most fun of them all to make. But, surprise surprise, something newer still wants to happen. Sort of unsettling, but then again, what isn't at this point? Unsettling is my co-pilot. About 9.25x10.25 inches, oil on gessoed paper.


      Well, the battle raged tensely all week. For the first few nights it was under the bookcases, and she couldn't get her paw in there. Or behind the radiator, with the same problem. She would watch it intently even though she couldn't see it, with her tail wagging like crazy and thudding against things. Last night, she had just gotten up on an old wood chair, and when I looked again she was unusually still. Then she took off like a bullet into the closet across the room, thudding against something on the way in. Well, I have to admit I was sort of rooting for the mouse. It's hard not to if you've never even seen it. At the same time, its great to see her be so adept at being herself. This morning she was cavorting in an unusual way at dawn, hmm, I got up and saw that she had gotten another one. Went back to bed but couldn't get back to sleep. When I got up again there was nothing left but the tail, which I of course stepped on while looking for the whole thing. Life with Lily! She was in a really good mood this morning!

may 9

      Boy last week seems like eons ago. Waning moon, have become used to these being lower energy for the work, but this one made thought itself improbable. The consensus version of reality drifts further and further into something out of a South American novel. But thankfully I get my news from other sources. Spring continues in high gear in the neighborhood, azaleas peaking, peonies in bud, though still on the cool and rainy side for here. Is it my imagination, or have all the colours become clearer and brighter? Is it my imagination, or are fewer people wearing masks when they go out for a walk in the afternoon? Walking a little more briskly, with their heads held a little bit higher?


      The cosmic threshing machine of the Schumann Resonance this week made things about being, not doing. There was no choice. The Universe has this hare-brained scheme going: to wake humanity up micron by micron by constantly upping the quality of the energy coming to the earth. I've explained repeatedly that this is an exercise in futility. Humanity simply does not respond to anything subtle. The way to wake humanity up is to go biblical: scare the living bejeezus out of it, fire and brimstone, flatten this illusion like the two dollar pup tent it is. A little well-placed smiting to clear the air and show who's really in charge. But to no avail: it seems anything fear-based is too much like a dark side plan. Sadly, the Universe is too responsible to have any good old-fashioned fun. So, on it goes, the gentle genius of the Universe versus the obdurate obstinacy of humanity. Universe: You are multi-dimensional beings capable of infinite creativity. You can leave this cage, right here, right now. Humanity: Twinkies and sitcoms forever! Growth in awareness never! Because, you see, humanity doesn't need the Universe. No, humanity has the Media now. Isn't it fascinating how the Media has replaced the Universe as the final arbiter? So much more convenient! And is it any wonder that watching program after program allows one to be programmed? So simple, so painless, billions hypnotized and robotified, micron by micron. A nation of unwitting cyborgs, stone dead to their true potential. Who will ever find the hidden hand of the puppeteer when they believe every word the puppets say? Oh, what's that? Things aren't exactly going smoothly for The Media? Slowly but surely, more and more people are beginning to question the zombie government fiction, the endless pandemic fiction, the endless cover-up about whatever is actually in that syringe, the endless sowing of endless seeds of discord? That there's even a state where there are no masks now, no restrictions? That all of this is making people finally sort of wonder what's going on? Maybe even leading up to the fabled Toto Moment? Well, you know, I used to have hope for humanity, I really did. Yeah, hope, eternal hope. Wasted years and years on it. Used to think, come on, you can do it, it's not that hard, we are all truly the children of God, a sacred particle of God Consciousness in every single human being. Just turn the volume down and give your own I AM presence a chance. But you know what? Over time, the volume just got louder. Even in Vermont, and when I got back here, it became deafening, an massive chorus of chain saws and leaf-blowers. You don't have to be Masaru Emoto to figure out what that does to people. People are so scared by the programming they've been addicted to, they're even scared of their own infinite potential. It's too exhausting being permanently cut off from reality, living from one fix of phony terror to another, year after year: they just want the Universe to just leave them be. Maybe there's something more, maybe there's not, but what's the Universe ever done for us, anyway? We're not budging till we smell the Twinkies. If ya'll're so infinite, where's our free cable and 24/7 pizza delivery?

      And so, week by week, the great cosmic siege for the soul of humanity goes on. I have to admire the way the Universe will not be rushed, or fight fire with fire. It does not give up easily. Most recently, it has begun to sidestep into soft disclosure, enlisting various heavy historical hitters. Well, JFK and his notably Q-ish vocabulary have been around for a while now, but in this one he discusses 9/11. Joan of Arc tells her story bravely, as one might imagine, and encourages us to do the same. Princess Diana explains that her life didn't work out quite as planned. Mozart explains something we probably didn't know about his life. There is a pattern here. St. Germaine explains how to help humanity over the current hurdle. The Arcturian Council on the current version of the middle way, these guys are so evolved it is sometimes difficult for them to comprehend the human dilemma, but this one is really well done. I love to read the dragons, deeply noble beings, there are several of these, and everything by Galaxygirl is about expanding the consensus frame of reference. Alisheryia approves. The Galactic Fleet Command encourages the ground crew with more news that isn't on any major network.

      So, every week information and encouragement goes on. A form of media about hope, not fear. A form of media focused on the truth of our infinite potential, not lies designed to imprison us. But also a form of media about the dawn of a new world, not a return to the old one. Wake up, wake up, wake up. Wake up, wake up, wake up. As multi-dimensional children of God, we were given freewill. So, the choice of media is always ours, and ours alone. This means that, while there are choices that, individually, we would not personally make, there are no wrong choices, it's all part of the collective experience. Truth or consequences? Yes, if humanity has proven one thing, it's that consequences are a spectacular learning tool. Coming soon, to a sleepy and somewhat truculent collective near you.


      Chart of the new moon on the 11th of May. It's done for my location so the houses don't necessarily mean much. Wanted to talk about the four asteroids forming hard aspects within a degree of the Sun-Moon position. This is just to explore a pet theory, derived from reading a few amazing books by Martha Lang Westcott, that asteroids in close aspect tell the details of the story. So, this is the story the four circled in purple tell. The one closest to the Sun-Moon conjunction is Mors-Sonmus. This is a TNO, a trans-neptunian object, so not technically an asteroid. The TNOs as a group seem to be about various aspects of the Neptunian process of ego destruction on the way to larger forms of personality integration. Mors-Somnus is a binary, Mors being the Roman god of Death, and Somnus being the Roman god of Sleep. So it can symbolize these things literally, or figuratively, such as hypnosis, or deep rest that prefigures a rebirth, depending very much on context. This binary set of conjunctions is in Taurus, which mundanely is about steady effort and possessions creating security, but in larger terms is about what we value enough to work to possess. Square this in Leo is the asteroid Karma, which has to do with cause and effect. Astrologers online have had a field day delineating the placement of Karma in people's natal charts. Here it is in a grand square, which indicates a lot of tension: the bill, so long put off, may be due right now. This is square Deucalion, which is another TNO, his story is the Greek version of Noah's Ark. He survived the flood an angry Zeus unleashed on humanity because he was one of the rare good people, was given forewarning, and built a large wooden chest for himself and his wife. Deucalion is square Icarus, the son of Daedalus who flew too high on the wings of wax and died as a result. It's interesting that in Ovid, Daedalus specifically warns Icarus to 'take the middle way,' to 'travel between the extremes.' Icarus is opposite Karma, which makes sense: the karma involved may lead to flying too high or too low. Deucalion is opposite Mors-Somnus: the alternative to checking out one way or another being to actively save oneself. So, in a way, these points delineate four different possible emotional or psychological approaches we might take during this new moon: some people will slumber on, some people will give or await judgement, some people will fly too high, some people will take precautions for the future. But it is rarely either-or. These points can also be seen as a clock: Karma is focal on the 18th, Deucalion on the 25th, and Icarus on the first of June. The chart itself is more complex than this of course, especially with Neptune, the great obliterator of clear distinctions, at 22 Pisces, but even in terms of the asteroids involved at 21-22 degrees of the signs. Juno, at 21 Sagittarius, forms a grand trine with Karma and Child at 21 Aries. Child is also very close to Eris, at 24 Aries, the infamous goddess of Discord who threw the golden apple that led to the Judgement of Paris, which led to the Trojan War. This is good, because the innocence of Child will have a positive influence over Discord during this moon, and actually, for several moons to come. Okay, just an example of the infinite cosmic rabbit hole of detail contained in one degree of one new moon chart. While there are thousands of asteroids, the database I work with only has a few hundred that have surfaced as more useful to astrologers. Though this is a work in progress, especially with regard to newer objects like the TNOs that operate more subconsciously. This type of figure is pretty unusual, though,both in terms of the number of points involved and their relative exactness, and intriguing in terms of suggesting specific details of a process. As to 'what's going to happen,' well, these charts are more about emotional climates than events. And emotionally, there's a choice between four cardinal points, to say nothing of their combinations. Emotional climates do create events, but not so predictably in terms of the time frames involved. Some of the positions seem preferable to others: I like Icarus least, and Deucalion most! And awareness of this before it begins to play out can be helpful. But the moon represents the collective unconscious as well, and my frame of reference tends to be small compared to the one that plays out. But sometimes I can make that shift in the first week of the moon, catch the train as it leaves the station, which is fun. So, while this does provide a larger perspective, I can only say that this does not feel like more aimless drift, but like positions or attitudes that are solidifying in relation to one another. We'll know a lot more about the external event focus in two weeks, at the full moon.


      Over the years my friend Roland has come up with some genius ideas from the interface of traditional painting materials with his chemist's brain. This week he proposed the procedure here as an alternative to 'running' an alcohol soluble resin such as Manila copal or sandarac for a hard resin varnish. This features a material in the DeMayerne Manuscript as a point of reference. In this fabled old text, there is a recipe for making an amber spirit varnish by dissolving amber -- well, some amber, not that much goes into solution -- repeatedly in ethanol, then, after several weeks, precipitating this out with water. So Roland tried this same thing with Manila copal. In the first photo, water has been added to the 1 to 1 spirit copal, and it is curdling. I didn't have ethanol, used some old stove fuel alcohol, which is the better denatured alcohol, isopropyl would also work. In the second photo, the copal dough is removed from the water. Didn't know how sticky it would be, so did it in a silicone bowl, but it wasn't sticky. In the third photo, the dough is then pressed flat on a tile, then cut into small pieces in the fourth photo to let the residual water and alcohol evaporate. This is fun for me because Manila copal was my favorite hard resin varnish years ago, to the extent that I have none of it left. To be continued...


       Photo of an alla prima painting made with Manila copal varnish in 2006, it's heyday in the process. Simple, straightforward, maybe crude in some ways compared to now, but oodles of blam. About 13.5x15 inches, oil on gessoed paper.


      It was a good moon for the work, felt especially happy with the last one from last week (below), some more articulated colour and the first one featuring three layers to be completed. Tried out the idea of making these indirectly this winter. Now it seems like one layer is more natural, but approaching the graphic composition, as well as the composition of the medium, more carefully for the layered approach helped to understand both of them better.


      Have gotten used to working on this table, now more tidy than usual and awaiting the new moon. Well, probably the day after, have learned that the new moon can be pretty chaotic, nothing is new enough for it.


      Lily had abandoned her berth on the windowsill, and, though I like her company at night, it occurred to me that it was because the winter blanket might now be too warm. Circumstances had just created a new old towel in our lives, and I washed that and put it over the blanket. Voila! The scrape she got a few weeks ago was actually pretty large, about an inch across though half that vertically, but it's almost all healed now. There was one warm night this week that she spent outside, this is always good for her sense of self the next day. At night after she's eaten she'll often want to play in a more spirited way for a while, or gallop full tilt the length of the apartment, or even dart up on the highest shelf and start chasing her tail. In some ways Lily has calmed down since she arrived here six years ago, and knowing her better has revealed all kinds of levels of honor and etiquette. But she still has oodles of blam.

may 2

      Wacky roller-coaster weather, full moon this week on the 26th, still felt like plenty of energy for the work afterwards but could also feel it fragmenting, the final painting last week has the most blam. Not that blam is everything, it's just good to be aware of during a given moon. It feels like the process develops regardless, and that anything new that ends up being less resolved ultimately resurfaces in a different way that is more resolved. Years ago, when I first became involved in making this work regularly, I didn't have this sense of the way the moon's cycle was like the seasons of the year, and used to try to develop omni-blam in the process. Needless to say, this didn't work over time. But now it feels like the process is always trying to tell me something if I'm willing to listen. This makes me feel connected to something larger, with an evolutionary intent, which has been helpful. The process is really focused, it doesn't let anything distract it from the integrity of its own growth.


      For a while now this year I've been wondering what's really going on. The movie of mainstream reality has become increasingly stilted and peculiar, like even the people who are distributing it don't have any interest anymore. Have been working on letting go of the need to understand, of accepting instead that exterior confusion does not have to be interior confusion. This amounts to meditating on a battlefield, which has lots of levels. Succeeding at one seems to lead to the next one: which is of course more personal, and more difficult to transmute. For example, have had, in the last few weeks, some singularly irrational emails about the book I wrote: to which, by definition, there can be no rational response. Over the years, there been had dreams now and then that offer oblique guidance, but in the last few months there's been a notable void. Lots of detailed dreams, but dreams that felt like treading water, or a smokescreen. But then, last night, had a dream that felt like, well, an oblique explanation. It was formatted like a movie, complete with stirring soundtrack, an elegantly ironic touch. The opening scene was a computer screen, a forum where a bunch of people were sharing information. They had come together because they realized that their computers were capable of much more. Not in the usual technical sense, but Much More: that their computers were actually evolutionary tools for generating a new reality. The scene then changed to illustrate this. Against a starfield, I saw an endless band made up of a thick, detailed matrix of minute black and white rods of various lengths, a kind of binary code, but each cross-section was like a creative checkerboard forming endless patterns that were flowing towards me. Then this scene changed. The band and its matrix were now in colour. This looked like a close-up of an Impressionist painting, but in motion, the intense, highly organized colours within it moving and changing at much greater speed. It was incredibly beautiful, and as I felt myself begin to be drawn into it, I woke up. The feeling that left over from the dream was one of great peace. It was interesting to realize that what it explained has nothing to do with the external world at all. It was about an internal shift that someone could be living fully on a daily basis, but that no one else would necessarily be aware of.


      Does this happen at your house? It always seems to happen here. It used to feel impenetrable, but I'm getting better at disentangling it.


      I like working on gessoed Tiepolo but the size of the paper gets inefficient as the scale increases. That is, it's either four per sheet, or it's two. So I tried gessoing some canvas to see how that would go. If you use the heavy weight cotton duck canvas, the glue doesn't go through to the back, so this can be stretched on a panel and then cut off. (You can do it with linen too if the panel is covered with plastic first.) So I started a test panel that was about 24x32. Put canvas on it, then a coat of glue, then decided to try gluing unbleached muslin to this for a smoother surface. This worked, I put a few coats of glue gesso on the muslin, waited overnight, then sliced the pieces off in quarters. But when I put a coat of methyl cellulose on the back, prior to putting a coat of shellac on the back to waterproof it, this procedure messed with the bond of the muslin to the canvas. So, the muslin went a little too far, it would have been fine with just gessoing the canvas. I guess it could have been two layers of canvas as well, with the glue in the middle being PVA, or maybe PVA mixed with starch or methyl cellulose: less tension on drying so it lays flatter: that would be very strong. Some options to consider for the future, though at this point I like the surface and overall look of Tiepolo best for this scale.


      Section of a test panel from from last winter, I'm left handed so it goes from right to left. Added 25% walnut oil to two thicker autoxidized linseed oils that I knew were problematic from an earlier test. While still not ideal, in both cases it became a lot better. This approach can be helpful for using bright colour and a thick autoxidized hand-refined linseed oil in a humid climate, such as the East Coast. If you're in a dry place like Arizona, these oils won't yellow nearly as much to begin with. In older practice, painters in a damp climate such as England had a more difficult time getting paintings made with linseed oil to remain bright than painters in Spain or Italy.


      When the fatty acids oxidize, very large molecules get broken down into many smaller ones, moist of which are VOCs (volatile organic compounds). These are two thicker linseed oils that, again, I thinned with walnut oil. Because the thick linseed oil is still oxidizing and breaking down, they're giving off VOCs, but because they're thinner, the film is also thinner, creating this bubble effect.


      Decided to look at a more saturated version of the medium, but still a little less than half of what it used to be. On the one hand, it felt like doing these in indirect layers, the original impetus for a very lean beginning, had stalled. So, if they naturally want to be alla prima, and if I'm getting better at completing them the first day, they can be more saturated. Still keeping some saturation in reserve, so that it's possible to make a fatter version over this one. Introducing the fat putty in this amount made the paint become saturated, but still not glossy because of the matting quality of both the other components.


      Stuck with the strong colour and slightly larger scale from lat week. Made this one on a day where lots of other happened first, so it ran well into the afternoon, which I could tell was not the best idea. Still, learned some new things, some things about it that will reappear. About 11x12.5 inches, oil on gessoed paper.


      This one had a smoother development, and also has some fun details, but I still felt a little bit at sixes and sevens about it as a whole. Last week, as the moon headed towards full, there was more blam available. At the same time, this one is asking the next set of questions, which, at some point, will be answered with more blam. About 11x12.5 inches, oil on gessoed paper.


      So, decided to accept less blam rather than struggle with it, or fake it -- there is nothing grosser than fake blam -- and went back to the first one I'd started in layers at the beginning of the year. The paint on this was very thin, but it was also very smooth, so I ground it back with some coarse sandpaper and scored it liberally before starting. It sort of felt like this composition was dated, a little foreshadowing there, but I started out completing it according to the model in thin translucent layers, and that part was fun. But then it stalled in the lower right, and it seemed to be time to leave the model behind for something different, or face certain extinction in a maelstrom of phony blam. I chose something different, and this is when it got more interesting.


      Did this one with the same proportion of fat to lean putty, but more of it relative to the tempera medium. This was different, could be thin or thick, and set relatively fast. Ended up making several sets of wholesale changes to this and like where it went relative to where it was originally headed. It's quirky, but not sad, a place these often go in layers but with more resolution. Do you know the early Tim Story album, Glass Green? So, learned a lot about just letting it go where it wanted to, and this paint was very good at that. Which bodes well for the other starts in this series, since they too just may want to be completely different than their original design. 10.25x12.25 inches, oil over tempera grassa on gessoed paper.


      Lily took it easy this week, she started going outside again but stayed in when it was cold or blustery. The wound she got on her side last week is scabbed over, and doesn't bother her. Action shot here in the studio, this shelf is on the highway I cleared for her, and one of her favorite places to play. The pink blur in the lower left corner is my hand, which she has just taken a swat at. It's very ritualized, I always do something to try to fake her out, and she nonetheless always enjoys it. In the afternoon, she waits for me on the porch to come back from my walk, and sometimes sits in my lap on the porch steps for a while. We did this on a bright and crazily blustery afternoon a few days ago. It was calm on the porch but the wind gusts were quite audible as they started up the street. And then the big, newly leaved magnolia tree across from us started dancing like crazy. I felt sure something would snap, but it was very flexible, just the sursurration (how often do you get to use this word?) of the leaves in the wind. It took me a long time to figure out that part of Lily's program is illustrating just how much fun being can be.

april 25

      Lots of flowers in bloom all over, but still on the cooler and unsettled side for the most part this week. Waxing moon, full moon next week on the 26th around midnight on the East Coast. Some good things happened in the work this week, still a way to go with the development of this system but I like exploring this tiny universe a great deal.


      Continued moving the first layer away from just tempera by adding a little lean putty, tightened the mix with a little marble dust. The question is not so much here, but in one aspect of the tempera medium. Methyl cellulose, hide glue, or starch? They all have different properties, and different behaviors.


      So there's a tempera grassa medium that goes into the paint, and an extender that is more oil base. The goal here is to keep bright colour as bright as possible in thin layers that also have a relatively painterly character.


      Detail of the rheology of the translucent extender medium. The nature of oil is to flow, the marble dust slows the flow, while the water-based ingredients in the tempera medium tend to arrest the flow. Pre-polymerized oil for saturation would relax the flow again, and that comes in later layers. Using ingredients like these to alter the flow and it's rheology are not new ideas in oil painting, they are very old ideas.


      The composition gets drawn in light gray, have been using some old Conte crayons for this but am using them up and decided to make a few using the Jame Wattrous book as a guide. There's actually not a lot of hard information in this book about this, but it's pretty logical. This was mostly champagne chalk with a little bit of black iron oxide, the binder was water with a little methyl cellulose. The dough was darker when wet but dried to the right value. I rolled the dough out with chalk that's why it looks sort of variegated. Anyway, made four of these and they turned out perfectly, the first time, a huge surprise. Nothing I do turns out perfectly the first time!


      Paint being mixed with the extender medium. This creates a set of translucent values of the pigment, which are optically recessive, as opposed to opaque values, which advance optically. Whether a colour advance or recedes is often spoken of in terms of chroma (higher chroma advances, lower chroma recedes) or temperature (warm colours advance, cool colours recede) but the optical state of the pigment is also a factor that was used extensively in older painting, but is used less now. So, there are three axes potentially involved, making this territory a lot like three dimensional chess.


      Another version of a first layer, used the same system as last week but with a slightly different tempera formula. This still set very quickly but I like the way it looks. Given that it's the first layer, I'm not sure it's that big a deal. Worked with developing an overall balance, but also an overall unity, rather than a sense of some things being in front, some things being behind. Who knows what will happen over this? About 10x13 inches, tempera grassa on gessoed paper.


      This paint worked more finely than last week's paint, could not resist a few details made by layering the paint and carving it back.


      For the second one, decided to create the unity by variations of a dominant tone, then place the 'different' colours over that. This is similar to the way most older paintings were begun in an overall layer of brown, only using hot pink instead. As usual, this became more interesting once I made a 'mistake' that blew up my sense that things were going smoothly. This was the deep teal colour, a colour I've never used in one of these before. I knew that this colour was 'trouble,' but used it anyway to see what would happen. The colour harmony situation is a lot like music. With fewer notes, such as a pentatonic scale, the notes emphasize harmony, and the timing or syncopation of the notes is ultimately where the development and interest occur. With more notes involved, there's more potential for tension or dissonance, but also for a more evolved definition of harmony or unity. This one isn't exactly dissonant, but it isn't exactly cuddley either. Will change the overall boxiness at the bottom but otherwise it solves the basic issue of unity more conclusively than the colour everywhere type of beginning above. More chromatic tension at this stage feels like a good alternative way to begin these, as subsequent layers have a tendency to diminish chroma. About 10x12 inches, tempera grassa on gessoed paper.


      Began this in purple tones, had some issues that required wholesale removal, but got this far. Looking for a next step, asking questions I don't know how to answer yet. Made some fun details, but have to admit this one makes me like the more direct tension of the one above even better. Still, it's logical that a direct or confident day is followed by a more nuanced or puzzled one. The one above was also made with starch in the tempera medium, which sets less strongly than hide glue; this one returned to hide glue, but a little less to give it more open time. Not sure starch isn't better for this, but we'll see. It's good to have a first layer that obviously needs significant changes: easier to sacrifice, and a fun case to solve. Ha-ha, how do I fix this one? Or does it really need to break out, become something new? It will be interesting to see how much more chromatic latitude the system actually has in layers as a result of a relatively lean beginning. About 10x12 inches, tempera grassa on gessoed paper.


      Decided to try the tempera medium with a very thick methyl cellulose gel, and it ended up looking like this, very dense and rubbery, definitely a surprise. Might be able to lessen this by mixing the ingredients in a different order, but it wasn't that difficult to work with once it was in the paint.


      Went back to stronger colour and composition today. The medium didn't set as strongly as the mediums with glue, but that wasn't that big a deal once I realized it. It also made me do it now, instead of after a few more layers of development, putting the painting more in the moment. The two areas that are overpainted with white will probably dry with more influence of what's beneath them, warm yellow on top, dark ultramarine blue on the bottom. About 11x12.5 inches, tempera grassa on gessoed paper.


      Earlier in the week, my neighbor downstairs reported a cat skirmish on the porch. Lily had already come in and she seemed fine, but later I noticed she was playing very gently, and then I noticed that she had a wound on her side. It didn't seem bad, she didn't flinch that much when I got near it. The last time she got hurt there were three deeper wounds, and the next morning she clearly wanted me to do something about it. So I took her to the vet, who said that yes, I had done the right thing. This time Lily didn't give me the look, so I let her take care of it, and she basically ate,slept, and cleaned it for a day. The next day she hopped in my lap on the stairs, the official lap place, and I gave her some Reiki for ten or fifteen minutes. Somebody gave me a lesson in this out of the blue a few years ago, and it seemed very natural, and, the last time she got hurt, Lily had commented that she liked it to the kitty communicator. So, it made me feel more involved. I did it a second time later in the day, when she was sleeping in the windowsill. This time I could concentrate better, and that felt good. Opportunities to be helpful to anyone have been few and far between lately. When she appeared later after that nap, she definitely seemed more energized, did some zooming around, and went outside again for a while early that night. Yesterday afternoon, she hopped up on my lap again on the stairs, and after a few minutes I felt for the wound. It was very low down her side, an irregular shape, and she had no issue with me touching it, all of which made me think it wasn't from a claw this time. Maybe a stick, some of which are on the porch for kindling. Well, many ifs, but she's definitely better, playing again with her usual vigor and aplomb.

april 18

      Spring busting out all over here, most trees in leaf, redbuds and early azaleas in bloom. Still cooler overall, some nice afternoons with warm sun. Week of the new moon, some intense Schumann Resonance activity coupled with a solar storm that made focus on anything difficult, but got a little bit done later in the week and yes, it was new. It's always seemed best to follow the energy of the process, even if I don't understand what it's up to in the moment. And the first tempera excursion a few weeks ago quickly led to a new system last week that really felt like an improvement. But this week the process wanted to go through the whole operation again. Like, the first time was just a rehearsal. Now, I would never say that there's anything definitive, a point of arrival, break out the champagne, we won the trophy. But given that I'd only made one painting with the new system, this did seem a little excessive. I mean, I no longer try to buck the process, but was puzzled. Until I found out what the process had in mind. Now, the process does not actually refer to me as 'puny mortal,' but it seemed to be saying, 'Oh puny mortal, will you get with the program? It is 2021 and we are in absolute overdrive here. Or are you still so dumbed down about your own potential that I have to collar you and drag you where you always said you wanted to go?' To which it is really only possible to reply, 'Just let me tie my shoes.'


      The world of Japanese green tea is really interesting, but for me these teas also introduce some edge. It's not at the level of a black tea, which is not at the level of coffee, but still it's there, and it's cumulative. Not saying I don't like it, but it's probably the last thing I need more of right now. At the same time zero caffeine, my old stand-by, seems completely out of the question. So, I return to the green teas from India now and then, which are definitely not at the same level of development, but that's okay. A lot of these are very light, but there are some estates, like Arya in Darjeeling, or some of the Nilgiri estates, that produce tea with great character, although this of course costs more. Then there's the Kangra tea, which is a very light oolong, but I think of it as green because the leaves are green and it's often called green. The Kangra Valley is in Himalchal Pradesh, which is next to Pakistan, and is very high on my list of amazing landscapes I will probably never visit. Tea was planted there by the English, hoping to create Darjeeling 2, but these teas, though also high altitude, are simpler, with a gentler personality. The Kangra oolong has a little pine and cooked corn flavour, makes a second or third cup, and never gets bitter. The only one in the US that I know of is by Vahdam on Amazon, although in a month or two there will be a new crop, as it is picked in April. Poking around on Indian tea sites, I noticed it is sometimes marketed it with cardamon, and, remembering, that cardamon is supposed to be good at neutralizing the downside of caffeine, gave this a try. Definitely a winner for me with any of these green teas from India, but I love cardamon to begin with. The other traditional thing that works is a little saffron, the combination has a natural synergy like potatoes and leeks. The Ayurvedic physicians class saffron as sattvic, meaning it has the opposite effect on consciousness as Western civilization, and this seems to be true.


      Did some brainstorming and tried another tempera variation using dry pigments. I like dry pigments because they're different than oil, both in terms of saturation, and sometimes in terms of the colours themselves. This difference seems to educate the colour approach. In one way I liked this one better than last week's version...


      ...but it felt like using paint that set really fast with a brush was not really what the style was about. I could envision placing discrete organized dabs in various colour sets in each compartment, but it didn't really interest me. There might be a way to use this paint, but it's not with a brush. At least, it doesn't begin with a brush.


      So, shifted the medium by mixing it with some lean oil and marble dust putty, and a little more of alkali-modified beeswax. (The idea for this medium comes from the later Egyptian Fayum mummy portraits on wood.) Mixed this with oil paint.


      Second layer: This was much easier to work with, and set quickly enough that it could be layered and carved, but also smeared if the underpaint was semi-set. Using this was a little tricky in that the wet colour would be slightly lighter (ie, dry would be darker) if there were no white involved, but a little lighter and more opaque than the dry colour if white was in the mix. So, pretty bright, but could do somewhat deeper colour as well. This composition also seemed to be different: everything reads in more or less the same plane except for the blue on the upper left, which feels behind the rest. About 8.5x10.25 inches, tempera on gessoed paper.


      That painting could have been continued, but it felt like the best thing was to start again, bypassing the water-soluble phase by using the layer two medium as layer one. Made one fateful change, used hide glue in the tempera part of the medium instead of methyl cellulose gel. Thought this would give the paint a stronger set.


      Had made a few different drawings of this idea. Felt there was something there, but that it was about mixing parts of all of them. This was helpful because I stopped trying to copy the drawing and just let something new happen.


      Now, as is often the case when making changes, the pendulum swung too far the other way. The paint did set quickly, in fact, a little too quickly, but was great fun to work with in a necessarily quicker way. This one also continues the sense of the shapes being integrated in a different way. I used to think it terms of what was foreground or subject and what was background or space. In this one, the shapes are in different planes, but asystematically, it's more like everything is equal, and everything is related to everything else. I really like this. Because it could be easily removed, this paint invited doing goofy things, and had a lot of luck animating or articulating the lower right hand quadrant. However, also had a few places where nothing quite worked, and scraped those back. Then there's the yellow tornado, that's going to be interesting to figure out! But in terms of development, this is a lot for a first layer. It's not holding back, wondering what might go wrong this time. When I began this work in 2006, it was all done on intuition. That worked for a while, and in fact led to the best year commercially I ever had. But the next year it began to sputter, and I realized I didn't know enough about the relationships between colour, value, and space to make this system grow. So I returned to realism and learned more. When I started this work again in 2019 it felt like applying the colour organization of older painting to bright modern colour would be fascinating, but I kept patterning shapes as back or front in space. This was logical in a way, but also all I knew. It sort of bugged me, but couldn't have said exactly why, or what I wanted to change, or how to change it. But eventually, this week, it changed anyway to something I like better. Technically, this had to do with knowing the paint could be layered and removed, allowing more freedom to experiment. Have always been addicted to trying to understand how painting works. But it's a fine line between understanding, and applying a form of control that is, creatively, the kiss of death. So this development is yet another example of how showing up in the moment, rather than rattling around in my head, creates its own explanation. About 10x13 inches, tempera grassa on gessoed paper.


      Comparison of the most recent system with the system I started the year with. The older painting has three thin layers put on over a few months. It's one of several like this that are not done, but in the ballpark. The older painting also features the foreground-background way of organizing the shapes in space. It will be interesting to see to what extent I can retrofit aspects of the new system onto the paintings like this. They'll never be as bright as the new way, but they can be brighter. This particular painting would only want to go up be ten or twenty percent, which should be possible. And of course the new way will be less bright when it gets another layer or two to get finished. Colour brightness isn't everything, but it feels important to learn more about it.




      Yes, still here. Standing by. No rush. Take your time. Just thought I'd say hi. Let me know if there's anything I can do.

april 11

      Mostly sunny, the heyday of the magnolia tree across the street, the sidewalk below now covered with giant petals. One gently warm afternoon, now rainy and a little chilly, Lily wanted to get under the covers this morning, I make a tent for her by raising my knees and she scoots in, always comical. Last week of the moon, usually a more quiet time for the work, but got a little bit done and liked what happened. In larger terms, well, the struggle goes on. It still feels like what's actually happening and what is being presented as happening are two very different things. I still expect to see the Ever Given become newsworthy again in the days to come.


      New moon in the first few hours of tomorrow, the asteroids closely involved with this one are pretty intense. The closest asteroid to the Sun-Moon conjunction is Askalaphus. He was the orchard keeper in the underworld who told on Persephone eating a few seeds of pomegranate, and was first buried alive by Persephone's mother Ceres (Demeter), then turned into a screech owl after Hercules released him. But of course, Askalaphus was telling the truth, Persephone did not literally keep the agreement she had made with Hades. So, this asteroid has to do with knowing highly awkward things, and the question of what to do about them. When is the truth helpful, when is it, figuratively if not literally, tale bearing? So, the fine points of this might be focal this month, especially since both Ceres and Persephone are quite close to Askalaphus, and Kassandra, who told the Trojans to leave that horse alone, is conjunct Mercury (forget to put this one in the image), ruler of all forms of communication. So here we have a warning about trickery that goes unheeded. The next closest asteroid is Eris, the Greek Goddess of Discord who threw the Golden Apple, which led to the fateful Judgement of Paris. So, this influence is about the opposite of unity, the willful promotion, or plotting, of separation. The Sun-Moon conjunction also makes a Grand Cross with three other asteroids, this amplifies the active energy of the situation. Atropos is one of the three Fates, the eldest, the one who cuts the cord, so to speak. House usually has to do literally with where someone lives, this might have to do with America discovering that the White House is now uninhabited, it's life as a symbol ended. Magdalena is about Mary Magdalene, the supression of the the Divine Feminine principle in consensus culture and religion, and it's consequences. Orius is not technically an asteroid, but a Centaur like the more well-known Chiron, and a Trans-Neptunian. My experience with the Trans-Neptunians has been that they act slowly but surely on the subconscious to create a larger version of the personality, whether the ego like it or not. The Centaurs as a group are often characterized as troublemakers, but it would be more accurate to say they their directness, or 'wildness,' asks questions in places, and demand answers in places, that society generally finds problematic. Could find little on Orius, the definition of the Universe has expanded so vastly in the last few decades in terms of these smaller bodies that astrology hasn't really caught up. Anyway, this moon is pretty powerful, and not the easiest to grok, positive and negative potentials pretty closely intertwined. Being in Aries, it's going to feature a new beginning, but also some potentially ram-like or combative energy. My hope it offers greater transparency, more of an opportunity to perceive what is really going on. Whether this opportunity gets capitalized on or not is, of course, another story. The horse is is assumed to be a symbol of victory, and is therefore willingly brought within the gates. But the horse but contains something unexpected that leads to sudden defeat.


      The correlation between drying speed and yellowing potential is well-known with painting oil. For example, linseed oil has the most potential to dry quickly, and also the most potential to yellow in lower quality oil, or under stress such as low light or humidity. At the other end of the spectrum, there are oils that are very low yellowing, but also very slow drying, sometimes even called semi-drying oils. Poppy is the traditional oil in this category, but poppy oil has run into availability issues due to coming from same plant that produces opium. The coatings industry has latched onto the inexpensive safflower oil, but conservation of 20th century paintings is already showing evidence of issues with raw safflower oil making a weak film. Grapeseed oil is also in this category. Many years ago now, I got a bottle of grapeseed oil that was green from the grocery store in Vermont. I just let it autoxidize, and used that in small amounts in a medium to offset the potential yellowing of linseed oil. The fatty acid ratios are so different that it takes very little grapeseed oil to give linseed oil a profile similar to walnut oil. Over the years, at least ten now I think, this oil thickened until it was about the same thickness as stand oil, but more mobile. This oil surfaced recently in an email exchange with my friend Roland, who pointed out politely that using grapeseed oil in a medium would be a problem because it does not dry. When I pointed out that I had been doing this now for at least seven years without any issues, Roland looked further into the behavior of grapeseed oil. And it turns out that, because of the number of different grape cultivars that exist, the total PUFA (polyunsaturated fatty acids, the ones that dry well) amount in grapeseed oil is quite variable! Grapeseed always has less than 1% of C18:3, the fastest drying fatty acid, but can be up to 75% C18:2, the other PUFA. So, I'm pointing this out because decent quality (green) grapeseed oil with no additives is readily available now as a healthy skincare product. You want to stay away from cheap clear grapeseed oil that is made from wine grapes. If you live in a sunny location, you can make sun oil from it this summer. Yes, it may well take all summer, but you then have something NON-YELLOWING to use instead of stand oil. If you want to use small amounts of it right away, you can heat polymerize it, though you need to be very careful with this, do it outside, in a protected area, etc. as the temperature involved is about 180C. But two hours at this temperature is enough. Or you can go the Zen way and let it thicken on it's own. Once it's nice and thick, you can then heat it gently to release the byproducts of oxidation. This happens at 150C and slightly above, and heat-polymerizes the oil a reasonable amount for the time involved, making it more slippery and somewhat gelatinous. It also makes the oil darker, as in the jar on top above. There's more on this procedure on the Just Oils page of this site. But, and this is the other point I wanted to make here, this 'wet' colour is absolutely fugitive, it has nothing to do with the dry colour of the oil. This is true of ALL DRYING OILS. So, don't worry about the 'wet' colour of your linseed oil, do tests and worry about the dry colour. Everybody loves 'pale' oil, and is willing to pay for it, but it means absolutely nothing! You can make garbage linseed oil pale just by exposing it to light and oxygen. Does that mean it suddenly dries without yellowing? No, it doesn't.


      This table in the kitchen had becomes Lily's territory, usually covered with catnip, which she likes to eat, then scatters from the plate with her tail. But it became where I worked this winter. The light was better, and Lily liked to sleep in her studio window berth in the daytime, which was next to the easel, so it gave us more space, and I packed up the studio when I was done. But now the sun is getting higher and the table is getting direct sunlight, so, as Lily slowly moves her operation more outside, I'm starting to spend more time in the studio again.


       The tempera experiments from last week were helpful, but all dried with a lot of paint film tension. This is fine on panels, but not so fine on paper. Considering this led to trying a new version of the original medium that was leaner and set more strongly. This allowed the more spontaneous paint application of the experiments, but without the strong film tension. Existing paint could be modified in a subtler way, or could be removed more cleanly, both of which are helpful for the final stage of these. So, suddenly taking the system apart last week led to some chaos, but it was what wanted to happen, and quickly allowed the system to come back together in a different way, one which I hadn't considered as a possibility before. About 10x12 inches, oil on gessoed paper.


      This is the first half of the system I used above, but applied over a very lean and thin underpainting done a few weeks ago. So, still on the lean side, will get the look of the painting above in the next layer. It could have gone on, the paint sets quickly, but, very near the end of the moon, I felt lucky to get this far. Like the key of the colour most, the lower right quadrant features pieces that are too similar and either needs to be more different or more integrated.About 10x11.5 inches, oil on gessoed paper.


      I'd like to do these on panels, but the ones I did on panel last year weren't organized enough and didn't work out. But, over the course of the year, this situation led to the entire system being reorganized. A quiet year, it was something to do. In this one I tried grinding the first layer back hard and applying a thin coat of an opaque, relatively stable blue, PB36, which is similar to cerulean. Wondered if I could shave the entire thing back down to gesso, but the answer to that was not by me. I used to think of this type of experience as a failure, but these small studies on panels from last winter were the catalyst for the rebirth of the whole system in a way I like much better.


      So, started making panels again this week towards the end, I love working with blue gesso, and want to try one of these with the dry pigment-water-base tempera system from last week. I sort of dismissed the first iteration of this, but now it seems like it has more to offer than I first thought: not a unique experience! It's not that I think this is better, but it's a look to learn more about. In some ways it's fussier, but in others it's more forgiving. You know, it's funny. I've looked at paint from both sides now, from fat and lean, and still somehow, it's paint's illusions I recall. I really don't know paint at all.

april 4

      Colder again this week, we didn't get any snow but Friday was bright and brisk. Third week of the moon, usually this is a little quieter but the work began some larger changes last week and decided they weren't large enough this week. So, things were a little chaotic, but it's always interesting to tag along and see what happens next.


      Started here, third layer on this one. Didn't like where it had gone that much, so had to get creative, which felt right. The danger of layers seems to be that paint goes on, but nothing really happens. It looked pretty good at the end, but felt it would dry down -- not that much paint, relatively large changes in colour and value -- and it did.


      Responded to this by making a new one. This one sort of pushed the existing envelope, and has some interesting moments -- some additions to the lexicon, things I would do again -- but didn't really coalesce in larger terms, might be termed Mannerist, urgh. A number of factors contributed to this, always interesting to analyze these, but not sure it makes any difference. Just start over again with a new plan.


      Decided to begin with new type of composition, and liked this one as a point of departure. Also decided to work with a new type of paint.


      Made a water-base tempera medium, mixed this with some dry pigments, and did a small study with it.


      I liked this paint because it was more about the pigment, and I liked the way the different type of composition operated. But this paint had some limitations, and did not want to get into details with a brush, so decided to just stop this and rethink the whole thing. About 7x9 inches, tempera on gessoed paper.


      Made a new version of the medium that was denser, could be used with knives.


      Used some different pigments, tried this a little larger, at the usual scale, added some lean putty to the medium to give it a longer open time. It still dried really quickly. This began to dictate what could happen, which I was a little slow to pick up on, then enjoyed because a lot could happen quickly and anything I didn't want could be changed over and over. So, though a complete mess with a number of oddities, some of which worked better than others, this was a great deal of fun. Stopped it because the paper was beginning to buckle from the combination of the water getting into the gesso and the film tension of the paint as it dried. Weighted it overnight and it looks like it will become flat again, but made another version of the medium to fix this. About 10x12.75 inches, tempera on gessoed paper.


      Decided not to make this one water- phase to get a little more control. It was less of a slugfest, but, as usual, probably moved the pendulum too far the other way. It ended up looking more like the old way, but set more, layered more, and will probably dry brighter than it is today. The sun is getting higher in the sky, so this set up is less ideal than it was in the winter. But it won't be long before Lily vacates the studio for the great outdoors and I can move back in. But it was a good move, gave us both more privacy during the time when she's mostly inside.


      More finished, still an assortment of oddities, some of which worked out better than others. But this one feels more in the ballpark in terms of the medium, the changes will be smaller now. This was more spontaneous than the all oil method I started with this week, and the proportion of the water-base medium to the oil base medium can be changed to more water-base, less oil base if need be to get a little more nuttiness back. A lot happened between Friday and today. About 10x12.75 inches, tempera on gessoed paper.


      Earlier this week: 'It's sunny but where did the warm go?' Today it's headed towards 65 and she's out, wahoo!

march 28

      Slowly getting more Spring-like here, more bulbs in flower, cherry blossoms starting to come out, a few warm sunny days, Lily has started to spend all night outside, and she's so much happier. First week of the new solar year, waxing moon, full moon today, not without complexity, but with pretty positive energy. Some interesting new things happened in the work, nothing resolved yet but the process is on its way somewhere new. I like it when things resolve, but every definition of finished has proven to be temporary, so it's become easier to just move on. Had some progress with deep breathing this week, it was always positive but has become more so with experience. No altered state experiences, but can see how that could happen. The larger focus is still about less doing more being, abandoning judgement, aka the dance of right and wrong, examining any jagged leftovers as they come up, making them smooth, and sending them on their way. In conventional terms, this is all sort of boring, because it's about leaving all conventional terms behind. But conventional terms always bored me, so it's exciting to find ways to go further into a definition of life that is more personally appealing. This process has been going on for years now, but has started gaining momentum in larger increments. It's like an electron gaining speed for the quantum leap to another orbital. What happens when all the conditioning, the myriad consensus boxes for consciousness, are finally gone? Who is in there really, who is left when everything is forgiven, everything is healed, the endless background chatter of the past finally ended? And why do I have the feeling that my own identity will come as a total surprise?


      Chart of the full moon, 2:45 this afternoon on the East Coast. Featuring a close triple conjunction of the Sun, Venus, and Chiron in 8 Aries, opposite the Moon in 8 Libra. Chiron is usually thought of as being about the need to heal the wound, whether personally or collectively, Aries means the pain is about a beginning, or a battle, or some combination of both, conjunct Venus makes it easier to move quickly into healing. The asteroids closest to the Sun-Chiron-Venus Sun-Moon conjunction are Kassandra just before it, and Achilles just after it. Kassandra was the seer in the Iliad who warned the Trojans not to bring the horse the Greeks left within the walls, but they didn't listen to her. Achilles, of course, was also in the Iliad, the warrior with one fatal flaw where Thetis held him by the ankle when she dipped him in the Styx as an infant to make him invincible. The Moon is conjunct Logos, which is a TNO (transneptuian object), not an asteriod. The TNOs are sort of far out compared to the asteriods; they seem to be about various ways of moving beyond the world of the mundane personality: the quick way, the slow way, the easy way, the hard way, etc. The meanings given for Logos (also the root of logic) usually have to so with the ability to speak the Word with a larger or cosmic level of truth and order. This speaking would be heartfelt (the Moon) and have to do with balance (Libra). Interesting to see how this energy manifests, if it does so tangibly at all. Speaking of tangibly, I wonder about the Evergreen cargo ship trapped in the Suez Canal: a situation that is finally a little too big to hide. What's in the containers on that ship that we didn't think could possibly be in the containers on that ship?


      The co-op had both coconut oil and olive oil on sale so it seemed time to make more soap. This recipe was about one third each of coconut, olive, and linseed, with a little castor oil added. Three pounds of oil, about all the crockpot will do, took less than an hour to make it once everything was together. Cuttable, but still pretty soft the next day because of the castor oil. They'll harden fully over over the next few days and the castor oil will, in theory, balance out the strong cleansing of the coconut oil a little more. Either way, another year of simple, chemical-free clean.


      Remade the lean and fat putty in the medium last week, this was the first week of using them. The fat putty worked very well, the soda-hardened beeswax instead of regular beeswax made it tighter, as you can see from the photo. Needed to make the lean putty tighter as well, but a new system is now underway that I like better.


      Printed out one of the small drawings that I liked, it was interesting to see it blown up to the 8.5x11 size. Used this to start the next painting, but simplified it, made it less curve-oriented overall.


      This is one way they can start. Began with lighter colours and more variety to force more balance-by-layering in the colour and make the composition need later balancing with specific colour details. This sort of worked out, but sort of didn't.


      In a way I liked the underpainting too much, and began to just augment the original colours instead of changing them. This may also have been because this was the first image with the new version of the medium, and, in spite of the fat medium being so dense it was hard to squeeze out of the tube, the lean medium was so mobile it cancelled all of this out. So, became involved with figuring out what this combination would and wouldn't do, and how to fix it going forward. Because the paint was so mobile, the detailing was relatively easy to do, and easy to remove: began to get more comfortable taking chances because they were easy to change. This process tends to start a larger life for the piece, another dimension comes in through fixing or reconciling the changes that don't work out. But of course I don't realize this in any given image until I run out of the known and begin to ask about the unknown. I like this overall, but it also feels a little hands off, like I was more in the plan than the image. But that was also because the paint was so loose, had to be careful of edges instead of shoving them around. Will return to working from this composition again at some point in different colours, with a different set of details over the larger shapes. 10x12 inches, oil on gessoed paper.


      Wanted to make some drawings that were more scruffy to balance the careful meditative-lapidary approach I'd been exploring, and became sort of locked into. I liked this one most, but also knew that, compared to the more complete approach, there were lots of things that were unresolved in it. Also saw this in colours that were a little scruffier, sort of that Bay Area feeling. Have not used any black in any of these for three years, thought this one might be a logical place to start. But, ha-ha, the paint had other ideas.


      Tightened the paint for this one by adding more chalk to the medium. This meant that it layered a little more densely, but could still be picked up or maneuvered more easily than where I started a few years ago. Now, if you look carefully, you can see that this in fact started with the set of large shapes that are in the drawing. But then it kind of took off, and ended up with everything in it but the Easter bunny. Which was fine: every now and then, usually towards the full moon, one of these happens: the paint says out of my way and does what it wants to do. This one also got into a new territory in terms of equivocal space, feels like looking through a 3D chess game. It was exciting to make, and mapped out a great many possibilities to explore in the year to come. As opposed to the more balanced or in-control images of last few weeks, so many new things happened that they couldn't coalesce in an extended alla prima time frame. So, relatively nutty, a place that recurs, but not usually with this much energy. At the same time, that sense of being too new to fit any of the existing boxes seems appropriate for right now. The process is really stirred up, would not be surprised if more large swings of the style pendulum occur before it settles down again. 10x12 inches, oil on gessoed paper.


      Clean sheets!

march 21

      First week of the moon, more seasonally cool then warmer yesterday, lots of crocuses, some trees beginning to bud. The beginning of the actual new year yesterday on the equinox. Quiet week for the work, did a variety of drawings but feel at sixes and sevens about them. This is probably not their fault, but symptomatic of a larger change in progress. Made some interesting new materials last week I'd like to work with in paint, but the gentle, pervasive fog that became so familiar last year has returned, just have to be patient. I'd like to keep defining creativity the old way, as heroic, unrelenting effort, but get the feeling this is not what life has in mind. At the same time, there's no alternative on offer, so I'm left wondering. A test of faith? Well, it feels like an epic novel, and it's not an epic novel without a test of faith. As the increasingly bizarre movie of consensus reality flickers noisily on, I do get discouraged sometimes, but am getting better at moving this along. The most basic difficulty has to do with the will to consciously understand. I keep giving ground on this one, but it's in the hope of regrouping and mounting a new offensive. It would be great to find a way to surrender understanding once and for all. This is certainly not what I want, so it must be next.


      Chart of the equinox, sun at zero degrees of Aries, this is also called the Aries Ingress and is often used to analyze the mundane year to come, a set of techniques I know nothing about. I'm interested in the way the asteriods supply relevant details, and looked for asteroids that were in close aspect to the sun, and found Child conjunct it, and Narcissus opposite it. Sounds about right to me! Also looked at the asteroids that were within two degrees of zero of any of the signs, this turned up lots of Greek mythology: Klotho, Sisyphus, Tantalus, Asclepius, Ixion, the ruler who was put on permanent display for this trangressions, among others, adding detail to the Sun conjunct Child opposite Narcissus axis.


      Life is infinite, and so, naturally presents us with infinite variety and infinite choices. To keep this situation from feeling chaotic, we have organized it. We create daily routines, and we also create mental and psychological routines. These act as frames of reference, or boxes, in which we live. We each have a personal set of boxes as individuals, but also belong to a family with shared boxes, a workplace with shared boxes, a country with shared boxes. There are also boxes the genders share, boxes age groups share, boxes the wealthy share, boxes the poor share, boxes professions share, etcetera. All these boxes include some things, and exclude others. In a way, they are about discernment, and in another way, they are about judgement. Boxes are designed to create boundaries, a sense of both identity and security. And, to an extent, they do. But they also create a sense of limitation, of being trapped in a box, or even lost in a maze of boxes. We tend to accept this as simply how life is. Whatever it is, we have created a box for it: our purchases come in boxes, we even put our food in boxes. We have created conceptual boxes that are sacrosanct: some people now question the box labelled 'religion,' but for many centuries this was a good way to get yourself killed. Even now, who dares to question the authority of boxes labelled 'government,' 'medicine,' 'science,' or the most recent addition, 'TV news.' These boxes make life feel manageable, or under control, but they also, inevitably, dumb life down. This is because life is outside the box: any box. Life is a spiral, it has no right angles, and cannot be put in a box. We defend our boxes because life is too complicated without them. But who created all this complication in the first place? How did we go from simple hunter-gathers living in Nature to where we are today? What have we gained, and what have we lost, in the complex series of developments that have now led us to being sequestered indefinitely, wondering what is really going on in our culture on any number of levels? This question could be answered interminably in terms of the choices we have made, or perhaps in the lies we have had foisted on us by various authorities, over centuries of linear time. But the endless details of that answer are in the past and don't really matter. Right here, right now, a specific choice has become focal. To some extent this choice has always been available, but its existence has been progressively obscured by the proliferation of boxes. Now, it is being made increasingly clear by the larger perspective inherent in the pause we are experiencing. The choice is to return to the original blueprint of life, the spiral, or to remain within the human labyrinth of various boxes. There is no right or wrong choice, there is just a fork in the road, leading to a choice of one path or another. This means it's either-or: we can't take a few of our most favorite boxes along with the spiral, or use a little spiral to round off the boxes. It isn't something we're going to think about: some people will naturally want what the spiral has to offer, some people will naturally want to continue with frame of reference of the boxes. It's a personal choice, and it may be hard to accept that people will naturally make a choice that, from our perspective, seems not in their best interests. But, just as we don't breathe for anyone else, we don't chose for anyone else. Our perspective begins, and ends, with our choice. There is no right or wrong choice, there is just a choice.



      Some channeled messages I liked from this week. A new pattern is forming in this information, emphasizing not just our infinite potential to become more, but the fact that we already are far more than we consciously know. This one explains the process that we're involved in very simply, which isn't easy to do! This one emphasizes how vast we actually are as beings beyond our 3D human identity, something that is being brought out more and more. This one is an overview of the dark versus light situation, focusing both on what is going to happen next, and why it is taking a while to manifest. This one is about getting us in touch with our infinite intrinsic worthiness.


      This is the type of system I've been working with for the last few years. It came about because I wanted to understand the various combinations of saturation, colour brightness, and the ability to remain bright, or not, over time; all of which are a function of how lean or fat the paint film is in relation to other factors like relative humidity and light levels. Coupling this with recently doing these in layers, instead of alla prima only, showed me over time that, in the interest of having more charismatic or painterly paint handling, the system had drifted into being too saturated for the level of colour brightness it required. It would still be nice to get some of that handling back, and, given that the system is about 66% as fat as it used to be, this should be possible to an extent. Keeping track of the ratio of lean to fat putty in the medium will allow this to be really incremental and replicable. Each of these ratios creates a paint with a specific look and handling character. But without a system for exploring them, the number of increments in the system tends to be less, the changes larger. This is just fun because the quality of the paint this week was something I'd never seen before. Now, I just remade both of the mediums involved, so that's another factor to the next step with this. The lean medium stayed quite similar, just a little denser, but the fat medium had some significant changes in it. Although it looks very similar in the new-old photo above, it may handle in ways that are different, especially by using hardened beeswax, a much denser material than regular wax, with no tendency to slide. We'll see, there's no destination with this, it's just about exploring the materials process further. Changes often move the pendulum too far in the other direction, so this new version may be too adhesive. But that's easy to fix with a little bone ash.


      A simple but well-thought out game I used to play as a kid with my grandparents. The blocks themselves weren't shiny, but had some pine texture, so they stayed stuck together more than if they'd been maple, or shiny. But eventually it would get too teetery and, no matter how careful or inventive you were, the whole thing would come down when the next block went on. Thought about this game this week in relation to what's going on in my benighted country. Have we hit peak crazy yet? No, but it feels like it's getting close. Each of the hands in the photo is actually a TV network, or a social media platform, and each of the blocks is another giant lie, another act of social media censorship. The tower gets bigger and bigger, but it also gets more and more unstable. It's impossible to predict when enough people are going to wake up to this game for it to finally end, but I have a feeling it has to do with something that is being called a 'vaccine,' but is not. So, this increasingly strange movie will play out in its own strange way as the Universe takes the steps needed to wake people up who would much rather remain asleep to the fact that there is more, much more, to life than they have been led to believe. It's hard to just ignore what feels like a clear and present danger to people who function with blind faith in the system. I was born to them, and have known them, worked with them, all my life. But it also seems increasingly distant or unreal in relation to the bigger picture. Which is that we are all fractals of Source, meaning we all have the entire Universe coded within us. This also means that our thoughts become manifest, making it simple to renovate this particular culture and this particular planet by thinking a new one into being. The mainstream media blockheads try to keep us focused in anger, division and fear, in order to trap us in an endless feedback loop of lower vibration, so the key is to focus on the opposite: unity, and what makes us happy. This creates not only a different state of consciousness, but a different manifestation of physical reality. At this point there is so much high-vibration energy flying around that it is very easy to demonstrate this to yourself by just saying, first thing in the morning, 'I am looking forward to a day full of happy surprises,' and noticing what happens! As fractals of Source, we are really powerful creators, this ability is *exactly* what has been so carefully hidden from us by the negative, materialist mainstream version of 'reality.' The more we accentuate the positive in our own lives and thought process, the sooner we can replace this strange movie with a surprisingly joyous one. So, the work we do on ourselves is work on the entire Universe we have within. We are all born with this potential to an equal degree. This means YOU COUNT. We are witnessing consensus reality falling apart. Many people can't wait to cobble it back together, but I have a feeling that it is falling apart in order to make way for something so much better it is very difficult to conceive of it.


      Lily in her impregnable fortress under the kitchen table, an evening activity. She is protected by full boxes of books, and waits impassively for someone to be foolish enough to extend their hand on top of the boxes. Then she erupts like a Jack in the Box, one paw on top of the box for stability, the other flailing away at the intruder with utter, frenetic abandon. It's just too funny, always makes me laugh.


      Occasionally Lily stops playing cat for the camera and looks more like her real self. Always interesting to see who the actual being is beneath the role, or the mask. But how do we develop the discernment to tell the difference? Have a feeling that may become focal in the next few months.


      Sometimes it's just time to spend a few quiet minutes in the pantry.

in the labyrinth

      Once upon a time, there was a Labyrinth. It was not a traditional labyrinth, constructed of stone in one plane, but a Labyrinth made up of ideas and beliefs, and it had many dimensions. Two people were given the task of solving the Labyrinth. One of them was called Mind, the other was called Heart. They were, in one sense, related, but in another sense, they were very different. As they stood before the massive Labyrinth, Mind took charge and said, 'Okay, leave this to me. This is exactly what I'm good at. You'll only get lost and slow us down.' Heart thought a second, then asked, 'Are you sure you know what this is?' Mind said, 'What do you mean? Use your eyes, it's a giant Labyrinth!' 'Do you remember when we…' Heart began. 'We don't have time for this!' Mind interrupted importantly. 'Look, we've got a job to do, and I'm going to do it. Just follow me and we’ll be in and out in no time.'

       And so, Mind set off boldly into the Labyrinth, with Heart following a little way behind. The complexity of the Labyrinth was staggering. It went up, down, sideways, diagonally. It was full of signs pointing out where to go, and how long it would take to get there. But these were clearly not accurate. In the Labyrinth, things were often topsy-turvy. Up was down, and dark was light. 'Wow,' said Mind, 'Whoever built this was a total genius!' 'I'm not sure we're getting anywhere,' Heart said. 'We're doing just fine!' Mind responded, 'This thing is complicated! Just follow me and we'll be out of here in no time.' 'Do you remember when we…' Heart began. 'FOLLOW ME!' Mind shouted, and started running down a new corridor.

      And so, on it went in the Labyrinth, year after year. Mind made diagrams and kept copious notes, which were comforting, but didn’t seem to actually be helpful. Finally one day Mind stopped, looked around and said quietly, 'You know, I think we've been here before.' 'Yes, we have,' Heart agreed, 'Twenty-seven times.' Mind took a deep breath and said 'We haven't tried this way, that must be it.' 'You said that last time,' Heart said, 'And we have tried that way.' 'Okay, okay,' Mind said, 'Just give me a second here, I'll figure this out.' Heart waited patiently. Suddenly, Mind began to pound on the walls of the Labyrinth, shouting, 'Get me out of here! Get me out of here! I can't figure this out!' Heart now took a deep breath, and then asked, 'Is it okay if I show you something?' 'How can you show me anything?' Mind asked impatiently. 'You don't think, you just feel.'

      Heart raised an eyebrow, then walked right through the wall that Mind had just been pounding on. 'What?!?' Mind said, 'You can't do that! Why, that's cheating! You have to play by the rules!' Mind then seemed puzzled, thought a moment, and added, 'Wait, HOW did you do that?' Heart walked calmly back through the wall. 'You believe what you see is real,' Heart explained, 'So the Labyrinth is real to you. I could feel that the Labyrinth wasn't real as soon as we got in here. It's made up of lies in costume, so they look like the truth. The key to the Labyrinth is not to believe what it’s telling us, but to look beneath the surface.' There was a pause. 'You knew this all along?' Mind then asked. 'I felt it all along,' Heart said. 'Why didn't you tell me?' Mind asked. 'I learned a long time ago that I can't tell you anything until you're ready to hear it,' Heart said. 'So, you can get us out of here?' Mind asked hopefully. 'Follow me," Heart said.

      And so, with Heart leading, and Mind following, they emerged from the Labyrinth a few seconds later. The sun was shining. Birds were singing. It was an unusually beautiful day. ‘I can’t believe we wasted so much time in there,’ Mind said, looking around distractedly. ‘We have forever,’ Heart explained. ‘There was something we had to learn in there.’ ‘Who would build such a thing?’ Mind asked. ‘It wasn’t a Labyrinth, it was a Trap.’ ‘It was a teaching tool,’ Heart said. ‘The important thing is what we learned from it.’ ‘Well, I learned that you’re a lot smarter than I thought you were!’ Mind said admiringly. ‘Well, that’s one way of looking at it,’ Heart said, laughing. Mind took a deep breath, then sighed. 'Okay," Mind said. 'I learned that I have limitations, and that those limitations can be used to fool me completely. I thought I was smarter, or better, but that's exactly what got us so lost. I see now that I need you, that we were designed to be equals.'

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