Friday, November 22, 2013

The mighty mongoose and its brush with extinction

Dwarf mongoose Korkeasaari zoo
By Miika Silfverberg (MiikaS) from Vantaa, Finland (Flickr
Because I felt I didn't have enough brushes, this little guy's life hung in the balance. In my search to refresh my well worn collection of synthetic mongoose brushes (Monarch) (Princeton 6600).  It occurred to me that if I liked the synthetics so much, maybe the real thing would be even better. Natural, organic, traditional, like the old masters used in their ateliers, probably made in an ancient European workshop by a one of the last few craftspeople who know how to roll the hairs precisely into the ferrule. I looked them up and was surprised that they weren't much more expensive than synthetics, now losing their appeal. After all, synthetic just a fancy name for plastic–-artificial, factory made, so practical.

But then a thought burrowed into my conscience like a mongoose chasing a cobra. "How do you think they get the mongoose hair from the mongoose into your precious brushes?" So I did what anyone would do, I googled it. And found they were endangered, cruelly dispatched, and more in need of their fur than I was.

So, little mongoose, run free
it's synthetic mongoose for me,
Chase the cobra and the weasel,
I don't need the guilt when I stand at my easel.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Two new paintings

View Point oil/canvas 30x20

Not sure how I got away with it, but I just spent three days in a row in my studio. Of course my house is mess, the yard is covered with leaves, I look like hell, and I haven't ventured beyond my property line to enjoy some beautiful warm November weather, but I did sign two paintings and begin two others. Tomorrow is back to the day job which might be a good thing only for the reason that it will prevent me from unsigning my two "finished" paintings and going back into them.

My new paintings are tauntingly full of promise, but I have no delusions that they will not torment me before  I give up the struggle and sign off on them. But they are of Alaska still, and it feels good to keep the continuity.

The painting on the left is from View Point where I helped the forest rangers weed dandelions during my Alaska residency. The painting below is not quite so literal or easy to explain, there are actually no Collard Lizards in Alaska, but there were plenty in the Petrified Forest, where I saw this colorful little guy.

Why did I put a Collard Lizard on an iceberg? I was afraid you'd ask...luckily I have this handy art statement generator  that came up with this gem of a statement that explains it as well as anything can.
"The flux creates, the chaos permeates. In the material reality, art objects are reproductions of the creations of the flux -- a flux that uses the chaos as an organism to represent ideas, patterns, and emotions."
I love the web.

Cold blooded  oil/linen 24x20

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


Well, I'm back.

With a new outlook on my art, work.

Instead of being pulled in half a dozen directions (more paintings of Alaska! develop my Grand Canyon studies!  start a big five panel painting of the Petrified Forest! in fact, a series exploring the entire Colorado Plateau! and work in using Creatures in Landscape! work more in Egg Tempera! explore Insects under the microscope!) I've come to the realization that with the limited time I have to work in my studio I will be better off focusing on one area of interest at a time.


When I think back on my best work, it was done with a singular obsession (Churches, the Train Series, Russia, Shoemaker). Not that it doesn't hurt me to think of putting the other projects on hold, especially when I think of the impressions of my recent residencies starting to fade, but I do have a way of bringing back my memories, and that's to edit and illustrate the journals I kept.

Of course if I could restrain myself from applying to new residencies before finishing work from the previous I wouldn't have a backlog, but that's not going to happen, it's just too tempting to try for the chance to be AIR in those incredible landscapes.

So for now I am going to focus on Alaska, and work on images from my residency with the Forest Service in the Chugach. I have 3 paintings now in progress and am determined to finish my journal. Maybe it will bring me luck as I wait for the decision on my application to Denali!

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