Wednesday, February 23, 2011


While sitting inside the Heart Circles at the winter gathering of Radical Faeries at Breitnbush Hot Springs in the mountains of Oregon last weekend I made this drawing in the round book I have shared in an earlier post. These circles are sacramental events lasting three hours each morning where the center holds opportunity for individuals wishing to share their joys, or to wrestle tough questions... & too often to bring their pain for potential healing inside this cauldron of acceptance in loving safety. 

[Click on the photos to enlarge them]

The first morning I only made the circle of the margin as I listened, beginning the process of collecting the meditative mood I use to intuitively "translate" the ideas & words, the voices & mostly the wide range of emotions into some visual form which reflects in some abstracted manner all that which cannot be literally shared outside the confidential enclosure otherwise.

I came to so love the simple line drawing which came over the second & third days that I was loathe to add the chiaroscuro shading I usually use... but on the last morning as I listened to a particularly difficult story I came to know I could not omit the more fulsome dark which all light requires as contrast. I brought it home to finish last night. Those denser tones require delicate building up with much care on the soft texture of the rag paper's surface which the pencil lead can crush if too much pressure is used, making furrows which actually resist taking more layers of graphite. As the pattern took more form in the process I came to love the further result as much as the original simplicity.

While making these-less-than-perfect photographs I also shot one page back-lit, bringing the previous drawing into a new combination. I've had the notion of experimenting with cutting openings in pages to reveal multiple drawing in several layers. That will take gumption not yet found! I continue to explore the infinite possibilities for this book, which will, I suspect, take the rest of my life to fill all its 100 pages...

Another detail, of a previously posted page, uses the opposite effect, the shadow of the slightly folded book makes a strong abstraction, also displaying the rather heavy laid lines of the paper's manufacture which affect the heavier tones.

The page before the one I just finished is another imaginary cityscape, rather like the more elaborate one posted here...

We experienced less snow than was forecast for the time we were encamped... still the decoration was freshened each day. Sometimes it dusted just enough to heighten my enjoyment sitting in warm lithium laced mineral water caught in a rock pool perched overlooking a meadow to the river below... while flakes melted on my pate.

One afternoon I caught the late slanting sun illuminating ice on trees deep in dark woods... a challenge I did not quite do justice with the camera in my haste to grab that light.

 Now that's chiaroscuro!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Kiva... My First Studio

I recently treated myself to a new scanner which allows me to begin making digital copies from my 35mm slide collection, of which there are several thousand images, many snapshots of people & places, but more importantly those which document the work, mostly as jewelry produced in my studios during the last four decades of the last century. 

The desire to view & share all those images without setting up a screen & projector long ago identified the need to bring my archive into a more usable format. The machine is a document scanner as well, so the first experiment was with a newspaper clipping from 1963 describing the studio I had in high school... the first of numerous working places I had been wanting to write about. 

So I can begin what will become a series describing the list of a dozen or so studios which have been my creative life's bailiwicks. I intend to treat them one at a time since each represents a period & place with sufficient history to warrant a discreet article.

The summer before my senior year at Colby Community High School in NW Kansas, my grandfather "gave" me the farm's old well house for a studio. This was a two story building with an 9'X9' approximate footprint, built of a kind of burned red clay hollow tile/brick which used to be common before "cinder/concrete block" became standard. The exterior of which was stuccoed.The building had no roof because the upper area was filled wall to wall with the redwood  tank which held the water produced by the adjacent windmill. By that time an electric pressure pump system had replaced need of either of these tall structures which were landmark/icons on the flat plains, marking for most of a century, each farmstead.

This was the view going toward my home in Kansas... a dozen years ago ago... the Kiva had been torn down long before that...

[...remember that you may click, & click again, on the images to enlarge them...]

Since I first entered what was to become my inner sanctum by climbing a ladder & scrambling onto the tank's cover, I whimsically dubbed it "The Kiva", that being a Hopi word I understood to include meaning entering... what I now know was a more subterranean room, through a hole in the roof... I was a romantic kid who even then made free with words. The name stuck, even when I'd left for college & the building became a play house for younger siblings & cousins who still know it thus.


My kid brother, Gary, helped me begin disassembling the tank which was build rather like a straight sided barrel of tongue & groove staves bound with iron straps. I must assume it had been put together before the walls had been laid up around to enclose its volume. When all had come to pieces again, I sawed a 24"X24" opening in the floor & built a permanent ladder so I could climb between floors on the inside. He also helped get 3 big [4"X8"] beams lifted into place, but if I recall he didn't grok  patience for my plans required detailing their use ... I remember doing most of that work myself.

My nascent-decorator-self imagined the fancy cut details on the cross members which were thus tapered to construct the coffered effect of the ceiling. I cut into the walls with a masonry saw to open two high windows & began detailing it into a comfortable escape into the privacy I never knew in the too small house full of too much family 50 feet away. I now joke that this was a project fueled by youthful testosterone!

The article, was written by my friend Virginia Theimer, with whom I kept touch until her death a couple years ago. I'll let it tell more of the story from that perspective. She complimented me on the occasion of our 20th class reunion by calling the one person she said she was curious about... neither of us felt very connected to the class we'd come up with in that rural community which we'd both long outgrown. She was a writer & editor of children's books, so both of us had made careers from our early interests. There is even a hint toward my interest in bells as I drew a bell I remember buying in an import store in Denver one family vacation... a Japanese wind chime hung from one of those beams under the eaves... fifteen years before making my first bell!

The barn, which was one of my favorite subject for drawing & paintings is seen here in colored chalk as background for the BARN bell which it inspired years later. It too changed when the wonderful gambrel roof was blown off in a straight wind... not one of the cyclones the plains are famous for! The roof was rebuilt as a simple gable & the entire building was covered with corrugated metal, losing all the character I loved.

These mementos  & my memories are all I have left of my first studio. I intend to share more about the spaces I've made for my working life, even as I do not have  photographs of many, as I have not always had a camera. This list of GRB studios is an early working tool to help me organise future posts. I need to develop a corresponding time line... my memory is fuzzy about dates for some:

    •    The Kiva... Colby, Kansas [1962-64]
    •    Race Street.... Denver, Colorado [1964-67]
    •    Downing Street One... Denver, Colorado [1967]
    •    The Haunted House... Denver, Colorado [1967-68]
    •    Pearl Street... Denver, Colorado [1968-69]
    •    11th & Downing... Denver, Colorado [1969-70]
    •    The Highlands... Bryant Street, Denver, Colorado [1970-74]
    •    AUm -- Tlacquepacque Village, Sedona, Arizona [1974-75]
    •    Copper Bottoms... Sedona
    •    Upwillow... Sedona, Arizona [1977-87]
    •    Studio 3... Sedona, Arizona [1987-88]
    •    The Aerie Garret... Sedona, Arizona [1988-90]
    •    The Bothy... Occidental California [1990-96]
    •    The Cabinet... Seattle, Washington [1996-98]
    •    The Mews... Seattle, Washington [1998-2000]
    •    The Hold at Souncliff... Vashon Island, Washington [Current]

This last scan shares a piece of calligraphy I made for the Sedona Open Studio newspaper, which the artists published monthly for several years to publicise our tour. It fictionally describes Michaelangelo's studio, seeming a simple celebration of the complexities these places of "study". Over the years I've experienced the wonder & curiosity these places engender in others... & even in myself. They become intrinsic to the mundane work & sometime magic of the artistic processes. I celebrate studios!

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Internal Winter Weather...

 ...remember you may click & click again on the photos to enlarge them...

My lifelong habit prefers to work in the studio during the long winter nights. This nocturnal mode sometimes allows me to see sunrise on my way to sleep...

Sunset seems always to follow too quickly, but can reward us on these short days, if the weather is clear enough to see Tahoma [the mountain most know as Mt Ranier] with the alpenglow reflecting raspberry colored light in our eastern view. The spine of the island prevents any direct view of sunset from our aspect...

The last full moon rose dramatically just as I was on the beach, fortunately with my camera, even as I'd thought about leaving it at home when I left at dusk for a quick walk. I'd not been paying attention to its cycle & was surprised to wonder at its unexpected light rising behind trees on the horizon...

Later I took the tripod out onto the Prow Deck to make some longer exposures as that orange orb climbed high enough to make a causeway of reflected light in cooler coloration...

So my internal weather is affected by that of the external... deep, creatively dark, lit dramatically... productive, even as I am also feeling less than "on top" of the schedule finishing one year's business & moving into the next, which speeds along. Now it is Imbolc, St Bridget's celebration, when diurnal time begins again to balance day & night.

There are additional stories, explaining somewhat more mundane matters of weather on the "read more" button below: