Figurative Abstracts

Entwined in Nature

acrylic on Masa paper mounted and collaged on canvas, 22 X 28″

Roots moving downward, anchoring, stabilizing, securing, connecting us to the past, to ancestors, nature spirits.  . .roots drawing us into the earth for soul nourishing and exploring of treasure filled caverns of dark and light. . .shining jewels and bones of instincts long repressed, dark secrets, powerful allies, fossils of incomparable value, small creatures who live in earthen tunnels and are blind in sun, who gnaw on roots for nourishment and find protection in invisibility.  . .a hidden staircase whose entrance lies hidden behind rock and inside tree trunks, descending in spirals . . .

This painting, the second in the Roots and Wings series I’ve just started, continues my fascination with crinkled Masa paper but also this theme of the figure entwined in nature, the human as inextricable part of nature, growing out of the earth like some exotic mushroom.

Looking back I realize that this has been a theme for me for years now.  I’m always wanting to paint the figure as an organic shape sprouting leaves or growing out of rocks. (see my web gallery) Maybe I have a new name for this series, but I’m more consistent in my painting content than I thought!

New Painting Website!

I’m excited to announce the “opening” of my new website which assembles galleries of my water media paintings, more recent and past.  Visit the Wine Country, Nature Abstractions, Feathered Friends and Figurative Expressions galleries and view the paintings in a slide show format or click to see them full screen.

For years now I’ve had two websites, the earlier which was mostly wine country watercolor paintings and the more recent site, devoted mainly to my workshops, videos, and the art journaling process. is alive and well!  And the website will soon be phased out.  The new website is devoted to galleries of my collectible paintings.  Have a look at and let me know what you think.

And if you are interested in creating an online painting gallery of your own, you can contact my webmaster (among other roles he plays!)

Lury, a New Model

5 min. sketch, sepia ink and pencil

A real treat in Thursday Night Drawing Group this week, an elegant model with coffee colored skin and a naturalness that made you ask, “Is that the pose?” because each one was interesting while seeming totally natural. I was drawing with the ink dropper here, which dispensed a bit too much, but provided an interesting line variation.

Dark Wash pencil, sepia ink and gesso

Five minutes, not much time to develop a drawing, but just enough to keep out of the trouble caused by overworking.

10 minutes, Dark Wash pencil, sepia ink, gesso and a touch of pink acrylic ink

Riding the Wave

acrylic, collage on illustration board, 30 X 20″

Riding the wave of the music. . .it’s a kind of rapture that a musician enjoys and we can participate in.  I like to dance the 5 rhythms and catch my wave that way. . . flowing, staccato, chaos, lyrical and stillness.  And sometimes when I paint, a song lodges in my head.  For this one (which I may or may not have finished today!) the Beatles song “Michele” worked its way in.

This is one of my favorite techniques and one I’ll be teaching at the workshop this weekend “Mix Those Media to Energize your paintings”.  I started out with tissue paper applied with matte medium so it wrinkled.  When it was dry, I did a red under painting and then sketched the figure on, building up and removing layers of paint until I got the effect I wanted.  I discovered I could rub off some of the dried acrylic with an alcohol (rubbing) soaked cloth.  I find that discoveries like that always come when I want to fix something in a painting and am willing to sacrifice it if it doesn’t turn out.

The Muse in Her Bower

“The Muse in Her Bower”, acrylic on cradled clayboard panel, 12″X12″

Another one inspired by Michaelangelo.  Actually first inspired by the nature collage items I’d collected – seed pods and lavender and egg shells.  I started out gluing these onto some panels and flowing fluid acrylic over the textured surfaces.  This one has seeds with cottony trails.  It seemed to form a flowered bower and invite this Muse from the Renaissance.

“Pierced by Love’s Arrow”, acrylic on cradled panel, 12 X 12″

The companion piece was begun with egg shell collage.  (This is the finished version.  I posted an earlier version a week or so ago.)

Today I’m busily cleaning my studio (a much bigger job than I’d anticipated, therefore a welcome break here at my computer!)  Getting ready for ARTrails Open Studios this weekend and next.  If you’re in this part of the world – Sebastopol, California – I hope you’ll stop by.  All the details are here.

Pierced by Love’s Arrow

“Pierced by Love’s Arrow” 12X12″ acrylic and egg shell collage on cradled wood panel.

This painting, minus the figure, has been waiting to be finished for a few weeks now.  At a recent library sale I picked up a book on Michelangelo’s work and could suddenly see what to do with this series I’d begun.  I love to play abstractly with paints, but then I start itching to draw.  And what better way to practice drawing than by copying a master’s work.  This young fellow from the Creation of Man looks rather dreamy and love-sick in my version here.  Like most young people he’s still blissfully unaware of the complexities of love.  No doubt soon he will be tested!

Issue #13 of the Imagine With Art Newsletter was published today.  You can read it here.


inks, gesso on w/c paper

And what do YOU see?  I’ll tell you mine if you tell me yours.  This is one of my folded paper ink and gesso (thin and thick) blot pieces.  After opening up the paper I painted in about five different subtle elements of detail.  Can you guess where they are?

Well, here’s what I see. . .a woman’s body from breast down to thigh.  Looking into the body I see the lungs or ribs perhaps, the life force in the belly in the shape of a candle with a single straight flame illumining the interior and rising up along the sushumna or subtle pathway of the kundalini.  . . the uterus, fallopian tubes, and birth canal. . .a lace slip and garter belt/stockings(added). . .and a little man with a top hat and tails in an interesting spot between. . .

Quite shocking!  I mean the part about how all that was there when I opened up the paper and looked for a few moments – looked with an (at least momentarily) quiet mind.  How long would it have taken me to paint such a thing on purpose?  Would I have dared?  Could I have achieved such a lacy effect, such elegant symbolism?  No way. I would have unconsciously censored it and lost the power of the image to give a direct meaning.

So what is the deeper meaning of this image?  Some message hidden in the recesses of my primitive mind or should I say rather “our” primitive mind?  Yes of course, and those of you who love to write are welcome to try it out or splatter your own ink on some paper and fold it over.

I’ll be doing more of this ink and gesso fun in a workshop later this month in my studio in Sebastopol, CA, September 25 , titled “Freedom in Painting with Inks and Gesso”.  There are still a couple spaces  if you’d like to give it a try.

Homage to the Forever Sisters

Higgins black ink, acrylic ink, gesso, collage on w/c paper (Rorschach)

Homage to the Forever Sisters

Three hazy sisters conjuring butterflies and dragonflies.  Surely they fly as well, even with their fertile bellies.  Been doing this for eons, they have.  Taking in the seed with their seductions and with their magic rolling in the meadow til it sprouts and encumbers them with that divine heaviness!  They carry their dreams down low where they are anchored to this lifetime, even while flying into the forever.

More fun with ink and gesso – this one with a tri-fold in the paper.  It seemed terrifically messy when I opened up the folds to see the smeared paints – but then I caught sight of the sisters.  Our minds are so primed for metaphor and story making.  A wee bit more paint, a nose here, a bosom there, and voila!

Figure Marathon

charcoal and colored pencil in circa 1907 song book

I’m going to take you on the crazy odyssey of my 6 hours of figure sketching at the Marathon in Oakland yesterday.  I couldn’t decide what mediums/styles I wanted to work in, so I brought lots of art supplies and tried them all (meanwhile berating myself for not being more consistent!)  The warm up sketches went in this old book I brought.

Derwent Dark Wash pencil on HP w/c paper

I do soooo appreciate it when models strike natural poses and vary the clothing.  This one was so touching.  These are all 10 or 20 minute poses.

pencil, gouache on hp w/c paper

This guy had the most amazing eyebrows that gave his face such sensitivity, like they were wings that would fly him off in a heartbeat.

Derwent Dark Wash pencil on acrylic toned w/c paper

I brought various “starts” with me and the colors in this one seemed to match this “ample” model.

Dark Wash pencil and gouache on gessoed hp w/c paper

As you can see, I tried to obliterate the face, which ruined the sketch.  When will I learn not to get so descriptive of facial features in these quick poses?!

At the end of the day I was still undecided about what direction I should move in with my figure sketches, but the gouache on smooth watercolor paper was the most fun!


charcoal on paper, 18 X 24″

These one or two minute sketches seem to want to be large and gestural, and there’s no time to turn the page in between, so they just stack up on one sheet.  The young models like to do pretzel twists with the body – yoga time!  So it feels like enough to just get parts of them drawn and see how it all (doesn’t) fits together at the end.  Did I used to be able to twist up and balance like that?

sepia ink applied with bamboo pen and brush

In this sketch I think I tuned into the part of this young woman that is one tough cookie.  She’s pre-med in college.  That’s enough to qualify one as tough minded!

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