Monthly Archives: December 2019

Crocker Safari

My sister came to visit us this week, and between catching up, we took a few trips, one into SF to go to the SFMOMA, and the other up to Sacramento to visit the Crocker.

Richard Deibenkorn

Safari Notes: Admittedly I advocated for a Sunday trip to the Crocker to specifically scout out work from the Bay Area Figurative Movement, but surprisingly they didn’t have all that much. The above Richard Deibenkorn was a pleasant find. The swapping out of colors to suggest tonal changes of shadows moving over a floral pattern was a callback to lecturers  referencing Pierre Bonnard’s similar use of tonal suggestion as well as the use of an open window to make the play of light a honest narrative.

Joan Brown

There was a surprise, just down the wall from Deibenkorn was this Joan Brown. She specifically gives permission to use raw color to create form. Tonal subtleties aren’t necessary if the proportions of the figure are dialed in.

Looking at the work above and below, these are simply incredible works that, if used as sources for work, could lead off into fantastic directions. I can only imagine what would spin out of using a live model to play with the idea above.

Helen Lundeberg

Of course looking at any of these, I’m shoehorning imaginary figures into the compositions. The pictorial color fields of Helen Lundeberg work beautifully with a nude in my minds eye.

Richard Miller

Just to underline an issue that I dance around constantly rather than address head on and admit to myself… if I could paint like Richard Miller, then I would… every single day… without hesitation. The possibility does exist, but without proper study, it’s just unrealized.

Close the Box

Close the box, let it go, and move on.

10 years of cutaway plastic sheet the were the leftover scrap from making stacks of paper stencils put into the trash. I’d been saving them for some mythic project, but the fact that when I held the box it no longer bright me joy cues me to the fact it was time to make a decision.

There’s odds and ends that got pulled out to make a few shadow prints for framing and for making covers for a bound letterpress project at the WritePlace.

The rest of the box… time to count the designs as finished. It feels good to let go and move on.


How is the work relevant to you…?

Do you feel a need for your work to be relevant?


To others or yourself?

To myself mostly, but I see myself reflected in others. I’d like others to recognize that this is something that I do. It’s a hope that I what I’m doing is actually seen as relevant to others.

So if your work is seen as relevant, you see yourself as relevant?


Is good work relevant work?

Tricky, relevance is measured by values, and values are constantly shifting. What’s good today is might be lain aside tomorrow for something better. Sometimes the aesthetics that disparage a work shift and catch up with a work later to laud it’s unseen brilliance. Relevance isn’t a fixed target, it’s a laural that’s momentarily won.

Do you make relevant work?

I make work that’s relevant to myself. I see that as solely my task. At points, I’ve found that what I’ve made has had relevance beyond myself and others have let me know. They buy my work and tell me stories about how it lives with them. They share it with others. I see the work light people up. It feels like it’s me that’s doing that. 

So how is the work relevant to you?

Ideally, the work slows people down, engages them, and creates a state of arousal. It creates space for growth in myself and for others, giving us a step to build on.

So you’re relevant?

To myself, sure… relevant enough to sleep soundly, but open to making another go at it tomorrow too.

Cort Tower

So Jess’s project (challenge) was to create and print a 3 color print of the Cort Building using 3 separate wood blocks… In 4 days. This was run as a proof of concept project testing the use of a laser to etch the blocks.

It started at 1 am on the computer piecing together 6 differ t shots into one composite composition. She created a “flavor” through the controlled use of multiple skewed perspectives, repeating elements, strong horizon lines, ambiguous detail, and high contrast.

Jess then pulled the Hatch Makerspace into the project to laser engrave the three blocks. Each block took 30 minutes. An hour and a half…. That’s crazy… and they used a plywood sheet. 

There were a few minor issues here and there, but technically, nothing to dramatically trip up the process. It worked and her patron was enthusiastically pleased with what was presented. The proof of concept opened the door to a host of possibilities that everyone here is now looking at.

Way too many possibilities.

Lazy Day

It’s a day of relaxing brains after a evening event spent hosting the SJ potters guild at the Goodwin galley. I’m a bit frazzled. I can only imagine how Jess is doing. This afternoon she’s running a test on some laser cut plywood panel print blocks. I’m sitting back and lazily drawing, watching her working out of the corner of my eye.

Feeling noncommittal, mud apparently is the color of the day…

Jess’s experiment is having mixed results. It has a few hitches, but it looks like the premis of having the blocks lazier cut works just fine. Each of the three separate blocks took just 30 minutes to burn. 

At this point they appear to be soaking up ink rather than printing, but that’s a workable problem. The shot above is 2 out of three blocks printed.

Self Fulfilling Goal

Dare to challenge yourself with fantastic goals and work with an eye towards those. The idea is that when a person that’s aiming high falls short, they go further than someone who doesn’t make the same effort. 

I’m not sure this logic is healthy…

Those that press towards the fantastic are seldom satisfied or content. The carrot is forever out of reach.

Instead, challenging  yourself for the sake of entertainment is an open ended goal and by definition of being motivated by self entertainment, the struggle itself is very satisfying. 

Dopamine and Pattern

It’s being asserted that patterns are solely an artifact of the mind. Pattering that’s found in our environment is a reflection of the mind. We are selected to see the lion in the bushes. The zebra has been selected for its ability to blend into the herd. The strips are selected by the observer/decision maker rather than the zebra, aka predators.

We don’t just recognize patterns in nature, we pull patterns out of the environment through the use of our imagination, we’ve been selected to see patterns where the repetition of a pattern is incomplete, filling in the missing parts to link up the elements into a whole. The recognition of incomplete pattern is an excersize of intuition.

The unshared secret is that pattern recognition is affected and heightened by dopamine. It’s not purely a coincidence that many studio artists are functional alcoholics. Alcohol consumption releases dopamine. Combined with the impulsive decision making of an alcoholic, lateral thinking naturally spins out of the accidental breaking of established patterns and realization of new emerging patterns.

Not an advocate… Just saying

Intonation before information

Intonation Before Information: “Your nervous system doesn’t listen to what’s being said until it feels invited in…” Deb Dana

Therapist Uncensored #110 with Deb Dana minute 44

Bare with me, I’m attempting to move a thought across platforms. The main assertion is that the information that’s presented in a conversation changes based on the state that the presenter is in. For instance, whether they are agitated, or safe, or depressed will color the intonation of how information is presented, and this in turn affects how the information is taken in by the listener.

Intonation before information

It’s an unintentional and inadvertent effect of verbal communication, but does it show up in similar ways in visual communication?

We consciously learn to tailor the art that we make using the principles of design and color theory, but does the intonement of a calm mind look different from an activated mind? Does the mental state leak into the work? Does the intonation of a visual work affect the nervous system before the information is even begun processing?

The intuitive answer feels like it’s an easy “yes, of course it does”..,


Polyvagal theory: 

ventral = safe and social

Sympathetic = fight or flight = activated

Dorsal = shut down

Similar to a ladder, we move from one state to the other, up and Down the ladder with safe and social at the top, and shut down at the bottom, and moving through fight or flight to get to either.

Elevation: is the mix of sympathetic and ventral = this is the feeling of being pulled towards an ideal. In this example, we purposely put ourselves into activation through our engagement with art.

As an artist I’m constantly in a flow state of autonomic activity pulled along by this phenomena of elevation. The process of creating an art work is the combination of practiced skill put into the service of chasing realization of an idealized end

As a viewer, I feel the stir towards an ideal as the arousal of inspiration. A viewer literally feels moved towards an emotional state by a work of art, wether it’s literature, a play, a piece of music, or a visual art, the work creates an experience of activation that moves us into co-regulation and imagination.

I believe this is an unexplored yet important aspect of the polyvagal theory because it’s the underpinning of why we invest ourselves so completely into the arts. Frankly, the ventral state isn’t nessasarily the most satisfying mode for consciousness. I believe that what we actually want is to safely step out of safe and social and into a position of activation, to safely feel arousal and excitement is a way that  maintains both self regulation and coregulation, i.e. arts Arts.