When I Paint

Meditations on Messiaen
Insights from Beyond

7

When I paint

I choose at random a brush and a color.
Then I stroke bright lines across a white page.
Fresh snow waiting for tracks and footprints.

“I draw meaning out of shape and color,”
Henri Matisse with scissors and cut outs.
And I am here with brushes and tubes of paint,
totally clueless, waiting for inspiration to descend.

But it doesn’t. Just these lies, these colors, these shapes
that define my life and elaborate a destiny
that I never planned nor wished for.

Colors, so vibrant. Anger. Energy. Tranquility. Rebirth.
Thoughtfulness. Meaningful. Moments held
in the mind’s eye, clasped between fingers,
dripping off the ends of a brush,
mixed and mingling in the unconscious mind’s eye
that contemplates, yet never judges, the colors
that unfold subtle, untold meanings, across the page.

Click on this link for Roger’s reading.
When I Paint

OMG-3

OMG-3

55-54 BCE. Julius Caesar visits Britain, but he doesn’t come as a sight-seeing tourist. When asked later about his trip across the channel, he replied with three little words that have echoed through the halls of history: veni, vidi, vici / I came, I saw, I conquered.

Filled with a desire to paint, I prepared a floral background. Overnight, those words came to mind: veni, vidi, vici. To them I added Alpha (the first letter of the Greek alphabet) and Omega (that alphabet’s last letter), these being the Greek letters currently being attached to the various variants of Covid-19. It being Sunday and me, having years ago sung in the choir of the ancient, 12th Century Anglican Church at King’s Stanley, I thought of the words of the old hymn “Omega and Alpha He”. Then, with a stroke or two of the pen, I added them to the painting.

Last, but not least, I added co- to -vidi to get co-vid-i. The painting was almost done. OMG-3 (OMG cubed in the painting) was the final touch and there you have it. The ultimate Covid-19 painting, or is it a poem? Whatever it is, it is a warning, or rather a series of warnings. (1) It is here. (2) It is real. (3) It is killing people. (4) We are currently at Omicron. (5) There’s still a long way to go to Omega. (6) It’s not over yet, not by a long way.

So my friends: keep well, keep safe, keep out of trouble, keep believing, and keep visiting this site! There’s something new here every so often. And once in a while it’s pretty and / or unique.

Art from the Heart

Art from the Heart

Just out today, thanks to my good friend Jared who turned a difficult task into a simple one. And yes, this is my first art book, though there are two more, at least, to come. Thanks to Patti too for the delightful portrait of the author as a flower-child. That was some time ago. This is a very limited edition. Best friends only – BFF. NB The photos are rotten. I apologize for that. However, the cartoons are very special. Here are the two on Climate Change, much debated, sometimes denied, but all too true for this poor snowman.

Climate Change
aka

“I won’t believe in climate change until April or May.”

April May be Too Late.

Again, the book is fine.
My photos are shaky!

Worm Squirm

Worm Squirm

I have been revising lots of mss. but haven’t done anything new, apart from revisions and paintings. Very little has appeared on my blog recently and this is the first post after an absence of five days. Oh dear. Facebook has been barren too. Still: can’t be helped. Better days are on the way.

Here’s Worm Squirm. It’s part of my series of Pocket Paintings / Peintures de Poche, so-called because they all fit neatly in a pocket. They are easy to carry around and yes, I have something bright to look at, even when the skies are grey. Inner grey or outer grey, there’s nothing worse than a grey day. Everybody needs a spot of painted sunshine to brighten a grey day when it dawns.

It’s been a great year for painting foliage, too. Nothing better than to carry a pocketful of painted leaves to remind you of the natural beauties of our picture province. So make it a sunshine day, even if the skies are grey!

Bird’s Nest

Jackson Pollock it ain’t. But just look at those fledgling storks launching themselves into the air. And yes, those are their nests!

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Bird’s Nest
Jackson Pollock No5 (1948)

This bird’s nest starts with a startling tweet
that wins a trilled, thrilled response. A flutter
of heart-string wings, creator, viewer, join

with the creation. Thin threads of life mix
and match their tangled weave, existential
tapestry, fathered in a feathered nest.

World without end, this labyrinth without
an entry point, without a beginning,
with a spaghetti-thread middle that meets

not in a breath-catch of the mind, but in
a brush-flick of coloured rain, a cycle
recycled of circled paint, circular

in its circumnavigation, its square
eight by four-foot globe of a new world whirled
in stringy whorls, reinvented beauty

drawn haphazardly from the bicycle
tour de force of this artist’s inner mind.

Comment: This is a tongue-twister of a poem, much as Jackson Pollock’s painting is a twisted vision twisting the viewer’s eye. And, no, it is not easy to read. Nor is the painting easy to view. Click here for a link > Jackson Pollock < to the painting. Click here for a link to Alejandro Botelho’s reading of < My Grandfather >. Note that Alejandro’s reading of My Grandfather begins at 17.58. And note too that the other poets are also well worth listening to. Once again, thank you for this, Alejandro: your work is very much appreciated.

Ruffed Grouse

Ruffed Grouse by Kaitlin Hoyt

Kaitlin Hoyt
(KIRA, May-June, 2021)

She is an oyster, silent at low tide, yet with a host
of pearls waiting inside her, ready to be released.
When set, she will release those pearls herself,
stringing them together, like Chantal’s beads,
into a skein of meaningful, enigmatic moments.

Enigmatic, yes, but, like Elgar’s Enigma Variations,
a Russian Doll puzzle of secrets and intrigue. Comic
book artist, she evolved to graphic designer, then
multi-tasked first to Kinetics, and then to a painter
who reaches out in empathy to the world around her.

For her, all art is linked and communications are key,
on many levels. Visualization. Achievable goals.
A step-by-step process with each step foreseen, planned
beforehand, and each step always taken with an open mind
that accepts the true response, leaving falsehoods behind.

Kinetics, yes, but she is above all a loner. Kayaking.
Hiking. Weight-lifting. Yoga. Meditation. Mindfulness.
Caring. Sharing. She sends me her web page and I am
blown away by her empathy with birds and the natural world,
that world her oyster and her, an oyster in that world.



Comment: This particular bird visited our Mountain Ash in the garden at Island View. Kaitlin saw my photo and asked if she could paint it. I sent it to her, and this is the result. Wild life to Still Life to art and never Nature Morte! Together, Kaitlin and I have preserved forever the surprise visit of this beautiful bird.

Cave Paintings

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Cave Paintings
Cantabria

Who painted these pictures on the walls of night’s cave?
This grayish hand, fingers flexed, outlined in black soot,
that deer dancing, those bears, horses, bison, running?


Did they come from nowhere, plucked from nothing but
the artist’s memories of what he saw as the ice age faded
and heat and warmth returned to warm his world? Drawn
from life, without doubt. Unless these Neanderthals were
truly creating art from a literal vacuum with nothing new
invented since according to Picasso. And he should know.

Imagine them as sounds, as letters from distant relatives,
as colored vowels scored on the blocks of a child’s first
alphabet set. Sit and stare. Watch flames flitter over
sharp shapes. See life enter the drawings as flimsy
light flickers over the cave walls’ dips and bumps.

Once seen, never forgotten. Not just the paintings, but also
the clammy cave damp, the red hanky draped over a pocket torch
to imitate firelight, the drip of water, slow growth of limestone
deposits growing into stalagmite and stalactite. Such things
flit in and out of my mind like owls or bats, drop in on my sleep
wake me with predatory beaks and claws, calling for my skull’s shut
doors to open wide, to let them in, and to bring them back to life.

Comment: The picture comes from an ash-tray my parents bought at the Cuevas de Altamira, in Santillana del Mar (Cantabria, Santander as it was known then) in 1963. We visited many cave sites in Cantabria including Puente Viesgo, where we saw the sooty hands. Back then, the caves had only just been opened. At Altamira, a young lady came to greet us. We asked her if we might view the caves and she whistled loudly. Her husband came down from the fields where he was working. He took a large iron key from his pocket, opened a huge door set in the rock, and in we went. One light bulb illumined the inner chamber. Only a small segment had been dug out. We reclined on a rocky bank. He doused the electric light, took a torch from his pocket, and covered it with a red pocket handkerchief. He moved this back and forth to imitate firelight and immediately the whole wall came to life and the animals moved in the flickering light. Pure magic. Unforgettable. We were the only people there. Four of us. A few years later, you had to book an appointment and a place. Within six years, the caves were closed as the heat of human bodies raised the cave temperatures and caused the paintings to deteriorate. I was so fortunate, so privileged, to see those paintings in what was almost their pristine state. In 1991, I visited the facsimile of the caves built in Madrid. I paid my money, went in, sat down, and came out crying for all those things we had lost, for all that beauty that had been denied.

Hollyhock

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Still Life with Hollyhock
for
Geoff Slater
the inventor of line painting

How do you frame this beaver pond,
those paths, those woods? How do you
know what to leave, what to choose?
Where does light begin and darkness end?

Up and down: two dimensions. Easy.
But where does depth come from?
Or the tactility, the energy, water’s
flow, that rush of breathless movement
that transcends the painting’s stillness?

So many questions, so few answers.
The hollyhock that blooms in my kitchen
is not a real hollyhock. It is the painting
of a photo of a genuine flower that once
upon a time flourished in my garden.

A still life, then, a nature morte, a dead
nature, portrayed in paint and hung alive,
on display in this coffin’s wooden frame.

Click on the link below to peruse my books for sale.

Books for Sale


Line Painting

No Exit
a line painting
by Geoff for Andrea Slater

Where is the entry point, where the exit?
This labyrinth of lines, straight, not circular,
baffle the eye, confuse with a negative space
that lightens colors and begs more darkness.

Mystery surrounds the sitter’s form: the board walk,
no Dutch kitchen this, the chair on which she sits,
the locket she wears, the landscape, seascape
against which she is framed. White noise, perhaps,

but noise that turns to a single voice, a single line,
that of the paint-brush tip-toeing, delicate its thread
through interior, exterior meaning, just beyond

the viewer’s grasp. Yet walking past, each person stops,
stands still, as the painting draws them in, ties them up,
binds them with an ineffable thread, stronger than words,

mightier than the eye that traces its way along paths
that deceive, disturb, throw us from the high-wire created
by an artist who turns circular colors into linear space.

Comment: No Exit forms a part of my manuscript collection The Nature of Art and the Art of Nature that placed second in the WFNB’s Alfred G. Bailey Award (2020). This collection will soon be made available online at Amazon / KDP.

Geoff Slater
the inventor of line-painting, gifted me this painting,
one of my hollyhocks about two years ago.
This is indeed a gift that keeps on giving.