Abstract 2021-2022

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“My Thoughts of Kilauea”
20” x 18”
Some paintings just happen.   
Most people are familiar with the concept and sight of a painter set up in the field with his easel and paints looking furtively back and forth from the scene in front of him and his evolving painting.  Depending on his artistic intentions the painting will look more or less like the scene in front of him.  
And to be sure, I have done plenty of this.  
But that is not always how paintings get made.  Sometimes they get made in the isolation of my studio which has no windows or door directly to the outside. It is more like a cave, or like a living metaphor of my unconscious collection of memories and constructs. And there is nothing to look at except my own evolving works.  
A few years ago I made plans to visit my friend Dwight on the big Island of Hawaii.  Several days after I arrived, Mt. Kilauea erupted.   Unlike Hollywood depictions of erupting volcanoes, Mt Kilauea is a shield volcano.  And while it is widely considered the most active volcano in the world, it is not as dramatic as one might assume. To be sure, this eruption turned out to be bigger, more long lasting and more destructive than most. It was a months long slow churn rather than a fiery one day catastrophic blast. And it destroyed the homes and lives of many individuals and whole communities as well as some favorite local magical little oasis like my own favorite…purple hot spring. 
Nevertheless, being so close to so much volcanic activity including endless small earthquakes, the constant threat of poisonous vog (volcanic fog) and the strangely varied and sometimes downright dumb efforts of humans to control the volcano and each other, made a lasting impression. To be sure, during that time, I made many “volcanic eruption” paintings.   
However, what is more interesting to me is how years later, when Mt Kilauea has gone dormant and my thoughts have turned to other things, paintings like this one emerge. The combination of lumpy thick black against the splashy fiery reds and oranges are unmistakably informed by my proximity to Kilauea and how deeply these impressions are lodged in my memory. From that place they continue to inspire and fuel my creativity in general, refreshing my tendency towards order with a nearly reckless blast of energy and the use of colors I would otherwise neglect.  
Kilauea may be dormant now. But it is always warm.  And it never lets you forget that she is boiling underneath that hard jagged black exterior.  And she continues to keep my own creative blood boiling even though I am thousands of miles and several years away from my recent close encounter with her spirit.    
“Carbon Rings”
30” x 36”
Carbon is a loaded term.  One’s carbon footprint has become arguably one of the most important concerns we are thinking about these days as climate change becomes more apparent every year.  We think about this as individuals, as companies and as governments at every level.  It would be nearly impossible to be an artist of these times without touching on this subject at least a little. 
This piece was also inspired by poems my friend Scott wrote in the mid 90’s portending the importance that carbon would play in the science of climate change and also on culture.
And from there I was reminded of the meditation practice of making “Enzo’s” in Japan.  These are almost always black one stroke “paintings”in the shape of an open and occasionally complete circle.  These pieces are studied carefully and highly revered by Japanese connoisseurs.  And despite being aesthetically beautiful, they revere them more for their inner beauty and what they reflect about the artist’s soul.
I’m not sure how all of this connects but I’m certain it does somehow.  And the result is a compelling piece. 
“Puget Sound”
18” x 12”
Puget Sound is the large inlet that along with the snow peaked mountains just beyond the city limits, defines the Seattle area.   In fact, it is known as the Puget Sound area which includes Seattle, Bellevue, Tacoma and many other sub metropolitan areas. Collectively it’s home to about 4 million people and growing fast.  
Puget Sound is also home to a pod of Orca whales, some of the world’s largest octopi and thousands of edible sea life.   As such, It was the home to a rich variety of indigenous peoples, until the White man arrived.
Puget Sound remains a great healing reservoir for so many of the sins of man.  And now it’s deep, nearly freezing waters provide a kind of region wide air conditioning ensuring that no matter how hot the days get, the nights are always cool enough for a sweater and a blanket.  
This little painting is just one of many paintings I have done to pay homage to this great healing body of water just minutes from my studio.  
48” x 32”
I have been thinking about migrations lately.  How is it that large groups of animals and birds and even insects migrate every year.  How do they know where to go?  What sensory organs do they have that we don’t?   How do parents communicate complex knowledge to their offspring?   And even more fundamentally, how do they have the stamina to do it?
The whole thing seems so mysterious and amazing to me.  And reassuring.  As the world heats up and the delicate network of things required for various species to navigate and sustain themselves through these heroic endeavors, it gives me hope to see this happening each year.   Like seeing the spring flowers poking through the ground each spring I often wonder what would happen if these processes just stopped. 
Thanks to all the research being done around climate change we now know that these things don’t need to stop suddenly and dramatically Hollywood style to be catastrophic.  No, all it takes, for example, is for the average overall temperature to go up a few degrees and the whole system overheats and much would be destroyed.  
Migrations, like retreating alpine glaciers are the canary in the coal mine: that delicate phenomenon so dependent on the balance of nature.   And indeed, migrations are an important part of maintaining that balance.  Once out of balance, the whole system can become untenable and very destructive to many of these amazing migrating creatures.  
Like many migrations, the Blue whale in this painting is subtle and nearly unseen.  But it’s there.  An important part of the composition but despite its impressive size, not dominating the painting.  Just quietly blending in and making the piece just a little more mysterious….a little more beautiful.
24” x 24”

24” x24”

I don’t think of my abstract paintings as “landscapes.” But there is no denying they are inspired by my love of landscape as a genre of art and of being in nature….away from the stuff of humanity in general and people in particular. And this painting comes closer to an unabashed landscape painting than most. And as such, I guess that’s why I entitled it with a description of the mountain range suggested about 2/3rd’s of the way up the painting.

The other thing that occurs to me is how idealized this piece is. There is no hint of mankind here. No boats plying Puget Sound. No high tension power lines slicing up the sky. No planes or contrails from planes. Certainly no people. Even though Puget Sound and the Olympic Range are remarkably pristine, it is still very difficult to view the mountains from this distance without some sign of humanity. And one could argue that the aforementioned “intrusions” could actually make handy elements for constructing an abstract painting.

But no, nothing of the sort here. There is not even a single power line. This piece and many like it, are really meant to be little meditation moments. Or, as Matisse might have said, little armchairs for the mind … a chance to go hiking without having to get out of the chair. So just like a good hiking trail, some effort has been made to eliminate the annoying reminders of humanity’s ubiquitous impact on the environment.

“Spirit of a Place”
24” x24”
Among the many contributions Native American culture has made to my life is an awareness of and respect for the people who lived on the land I occupy now, and a vivid awareness that their spirits to some degree still inhabit the place. And as such, it makes sense to honor and nurture those spirits while at the same time defining boundaries the way one would with anyone else.  
I have also experienced this in Asian countries. Almost every business and home has a small shrine devoted to both Buddha and the local spirits of that location. These shrines almost always have fresh flowers, incense or colorful candies positioned as offerings. It’s also interesting to me, by the way, that they do not like you photographing them. They always keep them clean.  
The rational part of me thinks this is cute at best and a silly childish bit of nonsense at worst. And certainly there is no way to scientifically measure whether this is true or not.  
But I have a hypothesis. My hunch is that people who hold such “childish” notions take better care of their land, are less likely to deplete its natural resources for profit, enjoy what they have no matter how small and leave it in better shape than when they arrived. And conversely, people who do not hold such silly notions do the opposite: take from the land everything they can without regard to the past or the future, are increasingly unhappy in the process and leave the place a mess and depleted. I am pretty certain that a very simple and inexpensive research project conducted with the highest levels of scientific protocols would prove my theory correct over and over again.
“A Prayer For Global Warming”
24 x 18”
This is my most recent work that is based on a meditation on global warming. For some reason, whenever I see ice melting it triggers a feeling of sadness and even a tinge of worry. I remind myself that even during the ice age there were seasons and parts of the earth where ice melted every day and more so during the parts of the earth and times when the earth was tilted towards the sun. Melting ice is not in itself a sign of impending catastrophe.   

Moreover, I feel compelled as an artist to make things of beauty out of whatever is on my heart and mind. I don’t presume that paintings will save the planet. But I do think that if people derive aesthetic pleasure and maybe even a touch of rejuvenation of the soul through looking at art, they may in turn be more inclined to act in accordance through large and small decisions that will positively affect the planet.   

But then again, maybe not.   
It isn’t about whether it will or won’t. It’s about “right now.” If something positive develops for the future….so much the better.   

“Mt Rainier”
Oil/ panel
48” x 48”

An artist with as much knowledge and love of art history can hardly paint a beloved mountain that symbolizes one’s homeland without thinking of Paul Cezanne’s devotion to his beloved Mt. St Victoire. He not only loved this mountain but arguably used it, and the space around it, to work out his ideas about space and time into a style which eventually when further developed by Picasso became known as Cubism and ultimately all conceptual art.

Yes, I love Mt Rainier. I love the way it looks. I love hiking and climbing and camping there. My soul is rejuvenated by it’s pristine forests and snow fields. I love that it is a dormant volcano sitting on immense latent power. I love the way it towers over the Cascade mountain range, itself a collection of mighty mountains.

And yet I hate the way it is painted.

Usually it seems trivialized and oversimplified. In most paintings it looks more like a forlorn cake with too much white icing lathered on top and left bare on the bottom. It always appears amateurish or overly antiqued. And the photos of it….just as disappointing. Usually it is arranged in a cliche composition with an alpine lake and late spring flowers in the foreground all captured with laser detail from top to bottom and side to side as though an excess of detail can make up for the insipid vision of the thing.

So making a painting of Mt Rainier can be challenging. With so much arty gunk in the back of ones mind it can be hard to arrive at something authentic. Well, perhaps it’s best to approach such a thing in a side ways fashion, without trying. This piece started out as a confused blob and staying that way for some time. It didn’t become a painting of Mt Rainier until after it was almost done, if one is counting minutes and hours as the arc of its creation. The fact is, it remained a mess for most of the time of its creation. It was only in the last ten minutes or so that it became “Mt Rainier.”

Unlike Cezanne’s mountain of ideas, my painting is a mountain of sentiments. “Sentiment” is a beautiful word. It is both idea and feeling implying that these two human experiences can be blended together. For me, they often are. This painting has ideas about painting, references to art historical influences both in style and content. But it also has unabashed feeling expressed through the mossy pallet and “emotional” brushwork.

Like a lot of my abstract painting, it is both an impression of the subject as well as my thoughts, or concepts about the subject and art. I have described these kinds of paintings as my “conceptual impressionist” pieces. I like that moniker because it pays homage to Cezanne who is classified as a “post impressionist.” I think he would have liked my term better. He wasn’t just “after something else.” He was and is a force unto himself. He was, I argue, among the first “conceptual impressionists.”

“Early Fire”
48” x 24”

For nearly 30 years I developed an approach to “abstract” painting that was an integration of many of my passions, aesthetic sensibilities, philosophical and cultural interests as well as my respect for recent contemporary art. Oh, I suppose we should include my deep love of certain individual artists as well.

Additionally, this approach to painting provided a cognitive and physical repose from my figurative art that was…and still does…..require more rigorous focused effort and is in fact stressful on my body. So naturally this “other” branch of my work is enjoyable on a number of levels for me.

I don’t expect it to be the next greatest intellectual breakthrough in visual art since cubism or abstract expressionism. But I do think it charts some new ground in the way seeing and perceiving are more interconnected than previous artistic languages convey.

But that is another matter. What until recently this body of my work did not have was a contemporary cultural anchor point or purpose the way my figurative work most definitively has beginning with its relationship to culture wars and specifically pushing for the acceptance of homosexuality.

What has emerged effortlessly is an obvious involvement with climate change. This particular piece was inspired by the nearly constant reminders in the news and in the actual smokey air that something is happening to our environment. In this particular case, Seattle has had more and more forest fires beginning earlier each year.

As is probably pretty obvious, my goal is not to show how bad this is. In fact it is my hope to create something of beauty in the midst of this without aggrandizing the phenomenon. It’s a delicate balance that I am certain would be exhausting to find and maintain within the creation of a work of art. But in fact, thanks to the years of developing the vocabulary that this piece is very much a part of, it was in fact so easy to create I sometimes wonder if it’s ok to have a piece say so much and so eloquently with so little effort.

I can’t possibly answer that question today. But Five or Ten years from now it will become clear whether I should leave it and others like it here on this site, or take it down and hope nobody saw it.

All of this begs a twist on the age old Kantian question: if a painting of a burning tree was on a website for a few years and no one saw it, did it still have any baring on the world’s climate crisis or our ability to find beauty in it? Or perhaps the painting asks a more pressing question: if we can find beauty even in things that are bad, will we learn to treat the world like the thing of beauty we have become better at perceiving?

“The Disappearing Artist”
Oil on panel with paint brush and epoxy
12” x 14” x 10”
Every generation of artists seems to worry that theirs is the last. They worry that either art itself or the artist is as good as dead. That the cultural climate for making art is so hostile in one way or another that art and the artist can not go on. And to a degree, they are right.   “Things” do seem to be ever more challenging.  
When the camera was invented there was really no more need for the town painter to do lifelike portraits of Grandma and Grandpa before they died. One could then go to the local photographer and have their picture taken at much less the cost and with more reliably lifelike results. How great for the average guy. How awful for the average artist.
But how freeing for the inventive artist. Now he/she doesn’t need to churn out portraits of other people’s grandmas. He is free to paint whatever he wants. The trick, of course, is to get people to buy what he wants. And that dance has gotten ever more complex and bizarre.  
I recently read a good book that discusses the latest twists and turns of that dance. It’s called The Death of the Artist” by William Deresiewisc. I learned a lot, including how glad I am that I am old and not needing to meet the challenges that young artists face. I neither have the energy or the motivation to do so. And I am blessed that I don’t need to sell a damn thing. I have found another way for people to experience my art that is in alignment of what my art is about and for.  My spa.
So this piece is more of a comment on the culture than a self portrait. I’m not disappearing. I may not be front and center, but I can assure you, I’m in the back room busting my ass everyday to make the most moving and authentic art that I can.
I leave it to other, younger and more up to date artists to figure out how to create authentic work while the meta verse and NFT’s of a random image of a monkey’s ass seem to capture the world’s attention and money. It does indeed seem daunting if not impossible. But I have faith in the spirit of art and the ability of young artists to channel that spirit into something relevant and authentic and deeply moving. Haven’t seen anything yet….but I remain hopeful.  Eyes peeled.
“Melting Ice Fields”
Oil/ canvas
18” x 12”

Some paintings look better in real life than on an illuminated screen. And some paintings look better on the screen than in real life. This poor little thing looks so mediocre here on the website. Furthermore I saddled it with a burdensome title suggesting it carries the weight of one of the world’s greatest challenges on it’s little shoulders.

“Melting Ice Fields”… really? OK…I see it. But this looks more like overreach than effective painting to me. And yet, when I look at the actual piece it coheres much better. And that cohesion does something very interesting … it holds an expressive power ridiculously above its weight class.

I’m typically not a big fan of little paintings and as you may note by looking at this website, I don’t do very many. But every once in awhile I do. And every once in a great while they are worth keeping.

A line from a famous movie about Mozart sometimes haunts me. Mozart’s nemesis, Solieri, is being pushed through an insane asylum in a wheel chair near the end of the movie. We have already learned he has declared himself a hopeless second to Mozart’s genius and as such has crowned himself the high priest of mediocrity. As he is being pushed through a crowded hall filled with obviously very tortured souls he imperiously absolves the unwashed masses of their tragic flaw: mediocrity. And finally declares to the priest pushing him in his rickety wheelchair, “alas … mediocrity is everywhere.”

Some artists crave notoriety or fame.. Others crave fortune. And still others crave relevance. I can’t say I am craving much notoriety or fortune through my art. But I would like to think my efforts and gifts are resulting in the creation of something relevant. And as such, Solieri’s comments give me a nervous giggle when I see this painting here on my website.

“Homage To Richter: A Tool For Remembering”
Oil panel
18” x 12”
Long before I had heard about Girard Richter I began making art with rollers. Over several years this novel approach to making art grew into one of the more conceptually interesting and visually arresting bodies of my art. In fact, so much so that I devoted a whole section of this website to that body of work under the mundane title of “roller paintings.”  
Somewhere along the way I discovered the German artist Gerard Richter. I stumbled on a show of his large abstract paintings in New York City in or about the year 2000. The show included his realistic paintings and his large abstracts. I was moved by both bodies of his work and naturally smiled knowingly at how these 2 seemingly different bodies of work nurtured each other.  
I was also intrigued by how much the abstract works’ visual affects relied on his innovative use of a novel tool…large squeegees. He was pushing and dragging paint in a multitude of ways rather than “painting” it with a brush. The effects were edgier and more gritty.  In fact they were more realistic than the realistic paintings if you had any background in construction. The affects of the squeegee and paint didn’t depict the various textural affect of Sheetrock mud, concrete and stucco. They were the same affects. The way a product will elide over another in various ways depending on its viscosity and degree of dryness will create these textures, smears and blendings. In short, there is as much room for nuance and expression as painting with a brush. And yet it’s different.  
Richter had opened up a new way to paint, not a new way to think about painting. He did that with his realistic art. But his abstract art was about the expressive joy and discovery of this new technique.   
Well…my roller paintings are still small.  But one day they will get bigger. I will get bigger rollers. And rig up elaborate rails and pulleys to suspend and lower them onto the paper or canvas as needed. And unlike Richter’s squeegee pieces, my roller paintings are conceptual. I don’t think it makes them better than his, but there is more to think about.  

I was deeply moved by his over life sized black paintings.  This little 12” panel is my own reminder of those pieces I saw at the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan 20 years ago. It’s like one of those postcards you pick up in the museum shop of one of your favorite pieces on the way out.  One doesn’t expect it to provide the same mystical experience one had in front of the real piece. No….it’s more about remembering how to see and experience the actual art when you close your eyes at night.  A glance at the postcard on the fridge while reaching for the Ben and Jerry’s might just help remind you to forget many other things so that you can fill yourself with more than ice cream when the day is done.  

“The Accidental Inlet”
Oil/epoxy/ panel
24” x 40”

Artists often bedevil themselves with the question of whether something of beauty they created was by force of will or a happy accident which for some artists implies a secondary dilemma…is that “accident” divine intervention or simple random chance? The question itself raises several interesting philosophical questions that every artist wrestles with in varying degrees of awareness. And with the advent of AI generated art, the question becomes even more deliciously complex.

I will dig into all that juicy stuff under another painting. The reason I won’t to do that here is because I want to encourage you to just look at the painting. If I was standing in a room with this gorgeous piece on display and some well intentioned know it all was jabbering on about things like intentionality vs. random pattern recognition I would tell him to shut up. I don’t know if it’s divine intervention or just pattern recognition, but I do know there is something powerful about standing in silence before a thing of beauty.


“Climate Change”
48” x 32”
In the context of my body of work this is a medium sized painting. But it is in every other sense a big painting. It even has a big title. Wow. But what I am referring to is how jammed packed it is with ideas and techniques I will continue to develop together and separately. Yes, I probably could have made this piece cohere better if I continued on…removing this or that, blending a thing or two. And maybe the result would have been a better piece. Maybe. Maybe not. But all of those ideas would have been lost. Instead, I left them all jumbled up here in a piece that for me just barely hangs together as a coherent work of art. But more importantly is laden with clues about how to take this genre of my work to another level.
Season Shift
Oil/ canvas
48” x 48”
Why is speed so fascinating in artist creation? And yet, so terrible at the same time?
Everyone, including myself, marvels at the speed with which some works of art are created. Many of us have our favorite stories of the miraculous arrival of some famous work of art or artist: Elton John writing the music for Tiny Dancer in 15 minutes. Handle writing the Hallelujah chorus in an hour or so. Picasso painting his first master piece “Le Vie” in a day.   
It’s a similar fascination with the child prodigy. Mozart composing symphonies that are part of the standard repertoire when he was 14. A whole program on NPR about child musicians called “From the Top” where a performer’s first credentials are their astonishingly few years of age. Leonardo Da Vinci usurping his master by the time he was 18. And so on.  
And to be sure, I have experienced this first hand….some pieces just fall right out of thin air on to the canvas. It is somewhat of a cliche to say that they seemingly paint themselves. I think it is a little more accurate to say that the ego mind is suspended long enough that the painting is created and the work is guided by something more nuanced than intention.   
I can not speak for others, but there are moments in life when one is tantalizingly close to beholding the mysteries of a universe far bigger than the one we ordinarily see and operate within. And yet, staring directly into that is the very thing that makes it vanish.   
The sudden effortless work of art or the astonishing accomplishment of a prodigy seems to offer a more lasting glimpse, almost proof, that there really is a spiritual dimension like we sometimes intuit and almost always want to exist….but can never quite see…for certain.   
But here is a the masterpiece, produced almost in no time and with no effort and sometimes by a mere child. How can this be?    
Well, I don’t feel qualified to call this abstract painting a masterpiece. But I do know a good painting when I see one. And this was painted in the rapidly shortening time between my late dinners and when I collapse in exhaustion at the end of the day. One short evening. All at once. How can this be?
And then there is the market. And the way in which we place financial value on what is created, largely based on…you guessed it…time and materials. Back when I was selling my art I always kept my speed a carefully guarded secret. I didn’t want to have to defend my price based on time. I may have made this painting in an evening. But it took me 30 years of painting to be able to do that.  And a miraculous and momentary connection with another dimension. How do you put a price on that? I don’t know…but I do know “time and materials” is not the whole story.  

“The Rain Came Too Late”
Oil on three panels
24 x 36″

A lot of my abstract paintings seem to be informed by my growing awareness of and preoccupation with climate change. One way that climate change moves from a latent chronic concern to overt news is the increasing occurrence of forest fires. With increasing frequency forest fires are breaking out each summer here in the notoriously lush Northwest. The ferocity, size and frequency are reported on the news and then eventually the skies become choked with smoke.  
In September the rains return after an annual 2-3 month absence. When they arrive during a summer of intense forest fires which seems to be increasing year by year, it is never soon enough. And in some cases, a delay of even a day can mean the difference between whole communities loosing their homes or not.  
It’s terrible, sad and yet majestic at the same time. The scale of “climate” and even weather is both awe inspiring and yet sadly, still vulnerable to the machinations of humankind. Still, I don’t think nature cares if the temperature goes up a couple of degrees or not.  Time is not only on her side, they are twins. And as such Mother Nature has all the time in the world.  Even enough time to burn this world to the ground and start all over again.  

“When the Snow Arrived”
Oil on panel. 
14″ x 10″

I don’t think I am alone in feeling a sense of relief with the arrival of snow now that Global Warming is on everyone’s mind. Of course I realize that a single dusting of snow or even a full on blizzard has any direct relationship to climate change, but nevertheless my sole breathes a sigh of relief when it comes. Perhaps there is an irrational fear lurking in the collective unconscious that the day may come when it doesn’t snow at all anymore. And not only will this be tragic for the environment directly and by implication but it would also be a horrible loss aesthetically. A kind of climatic analogue to the extinction of elephants.    
This little painting captures for me some of the beauty of snow arriving on a November night, early in the season by any measure, climate change or not. The northern hemisphere is still getting darker each year and the arrival of snow brings a new layer of joy. And beauty of this sort takes on a new importance.  

“June Fire”
Oil on panel 
20″ x 16″

This is a small painting. And it speaks to something increasingly on everyone’s mind, climate change. This is becoming real to people in many ways, not least among them the increasing frequency and size of forest fires.  
In this piece I started doing something I anticipate more of in future paintings. I’m using a large putty knife to apply and scrape off the paint.  It’s satisfying to do and the result is raw and fresh. I can use this as a contrast to more virtuosic handling of paint with a brush.  This little paining is a suggestion to myself about how to proceed.  

“My Cat’s Portrait”

I don’t have a cat. I wish I did and someday I probably will because I love cats. I love the way they look, the way they move and their attitude…both aloof and yet so needy for attention.  
This was originally a realistic painting of a cat. But it was a plain painting with little to make it worthy of even the scrap of wood it was painted on. And so, for years I would lift this piece from my box of “paintings to be painted over” and slap some paint on it.  These slap dabs were often experiments with different paint, a different tool to apply it or a different approach to painting. 
This went on for years. Sometimes the results were better or worse. But in every instance the cat kept making her appearance known.  At some point I even made “obliterating the cat” part of my mission. But to no avail…she kept reappearing.   
And so, she became my cat.  And at that point I decided this painting was done.   

“Late Summer Harvest”
16″ x 20″

Sweet. Cute. Not like “Hello Kitty” cute. But just “nicely-put-together without-being-either-too-complicated-nor-trite” kinda cute. The symbolic vegetable in the corner was not quite an after thought but it did come at the end and was the thing that made me realize the painting was done. On the whole it could even be simply a decorative piece. I’m ok with that. In fact, if I wasn’t so busy, I could see churning out multiple variations of this piece in various color palettes and sizes.

I think they would make great hotel room art…a phrase that would have seemed so damning to me even 10 years ago. But now that I’m traveling a lot and as such spending time in hotel rooms I realize how much potential for improvement there is in that area. Even really nice hotels have absolutely awful art. It doesn’t need to be equivalent to a museum experience…but really…certainly there must be a budget for something a little better. So far, only the French owned Sofitel has gotten it right. Ahhh, leave it to the French to have palpable art in their 5 star hotel rooms.


“Grasping For Infinity”
Oil/Panel Door
50″ x 26″

Titles for paintings are important and as potentially tricky as creating the painting. Sometimes the title can be obvious and is simply useful. Sometimes it is open ended or philosophical and extends the reach of the piece.

A long time ago, when I was a high school student, I took one of my first paintings to an art supply store to have it framed. It was one of those old style mom and pop shops that probably doesn’t exist anymore. Dusty racks of disheveled art supplies piled beyond reach except with an old wooden step ladder and many of which may have been there for decades. A sweet but crusty cadger running the place with a come over and a scruffy goatee which were weird in those days. I still remember the pervasive odor of cigars and demar varnish. He said, “a good painting needs a frame and a great painting deserves one.”

What he didn’t say was a something like, “a frame is not going to save a rotten painting.” Or, that a rotten frame can spoil a good painting. But the implication is not hard to draw. Nor is the similarity between his remarks about frames and my own thoughts about titles.

In a sense, a title is a linguistic frame. It sets the painting, or more specifically, the way we refer to the painting apart from everyday speech. In the same way, a frame separates the painting from the rest of the world. It’s ratified space. And the title is rarefied speech. One could say….”the dog.” And that would be one thing. But if “the dog” was a title to a painting that is quite another. To further make my point, consider how rarefied this special kind of speech would be if the painting called the “the dog” didn’t look like a dog at all. In fact the more the title did not match expectations of normal speech, the more “special” or complex and unique the speech becomes.

And so it follows that a good title can be very good for an average painting helping it to be more enjoyable or relevant. In fact, a case could be made that an average painting needs a good title. Furthermore, a bad title can ruin a decent painting. But what happens when you mix a pretentious title with a barely adequate painting?

“Grasping for Infinity”? Really? What does that even mean? I could do worse I suppose. And then there is the painting. I’m not sure why it’s here. This may be one destined for the rack entitled, “to be painted over.” In fact maybe that is a good title for this piece. Does a title which suggests that the artist himself thinks it is not very good and in fact plans to paint over it, make it a better piece?

“Snow Over the Sea”
36″ x 24″

I painted over this piece countless times. It never seemed quite right. It sat in the corner of my studio for moths, its irreconcilable nature a quiet and constant irritation. One night I went for a walk with a friend on Alki beach. It was cold and dark and it snowed. I could feel the snow on my face and I could see the snow in the street lights. When I came home I added the white and was done.

“Fires Are Still Burning”
20″ x 10″

This piece deliberately explores the idea of forest fires, climate change and how these can result in a thing of beauty and inspiration. When I look at this piece I am inspired to create some pieces on found wood. And then burn them the way Japanese do with a technique called Ash Shou Sugi Ban where they burn the wood for aesthetic beauty and to preserve it. Gently burned wood is more water resistant and also kills insects and bacteria that could accelerate its decay.

It’s a tough piece, elegant and beautiful in my not so removed opinion. But there is a place for that kind of work in our lives. And I don’t think that is just in museums. Hell, I’d hang it over my couch. It would even match since I have a burnt orange and black couch.

“Is This A Turd?”
30″ x 24″


Yes. It is a turd. 
At least that is what I thought when I took this photograph of the painting. I have since painted over it. And it’s updated version is here on this website as of this writing. It’s now called “a Prayer For Global Warming.”
Well…that’s quite an ascent…from excrement to a plea to the heavens. The funny thing is….I’m not sure it’s any better as a painting.  

“Landscape Memories From Northern Sung Masters
30 x 18”

After graduating from Penn State in 1983, I went to Taiwan to study Chinese philosophy and art history. To be more precise, I wanted to know how the principles of Chinese thought resulted in an aesthetic that was so different and yet as rich and powerful as the Western traditions I had studied so intently in my undergraduate studies. Additionally, the ideas of ancient Chinese thought had just a generation before me started to meaningfully influence Western thinking; such as the emphasis on being more fully aware of the present moment, meditation and a connection to nature that was philosophical, not just about exercise or clean living.

At that time, China was still closed to foreigners, so if you wanted to study Chinese art or culture you had to go to Taiwan. Fortunately for me, when people of means and art fled China as Mao gained control in the 1940’s, they took with them many of China’s great masterpieces. They built a large museum in Taiwan’s capitol city of Taipei and I got an apartment just up the road from it. Somehow, with a little luck I ended up becoming acquainted with a prominent British art historian who was teaching and working at the museum. Through him I gained access to the museum’s vast collection and more importantly became acquainted with someone with a deep knowledge of Chinese art as well as an ability to communicate this to me in English.

I ended up spending 4 years there and eventually could speak Chinese well. However, even if I was fluent in Mandarin I would never have gained as thorough an understanding of the basic principles of Chinese art and how they related to the underlying philosophical and cultural principles had it not been for my opportunity to study under George Rowley.

Now, about 40 years later I feel like I am finally doing work that builds on those understandings which are grounded in Chinese art over a thousand years old such as the pieces featured below by the artists Fan Kwang, Guo Xi and Ni Tsan, but add something of the way our culture works.

These pieces are not just suggestive of landscape but are also suggestive of landscape painting. They are conceptual paintings in that they reflect something of the way we remember and think about landscape paintings and Chinese landscape painting in particular. I hope people will also experience some of the sentiments that one has with a direct experience of nature itself as well.

Like my so called “conceptual landscape” pieces these paintings are made with rollers allowing the image to repeat itself the way we thumb over memories repeatedly. And like memories they blend and are altered by the other feelings and thoughts that we may be having at the same time.

The blank spaces are both an homage to the highly charged empty spaces of the ancient Chinese artists as well as the empty spaces of modern abstract painters. Along the way I have seen many artists try to blend ancient Chinese painting traditions with Western approaches to art making. I have seen this among Chinese artists as well as western artists. It usually falls flat and looks like a wishful mishmash of the worst of both cultures. Once in awhile someone or even a group gets it right. Arguably, Van Gogh and all the so called Post Impressionists are a group that did that and got it right. They were deeply inspired and influenced by the flatness and design sensibilities of 18th and 19th century Japanese art, especially wood cutting artists.

I would like to think that my own efforts also add something fresh beyond the well intentioned wish to blend cultural traditions as an end in itself. Instead, I am hoping to draw from two rich traditions to answer the need I have to make sense of and communicate a way to experience and think about nature and tradition: a way that many of us must be experiencing as living beings in this time but for which no one as of yet has presented a visual vocabulary to better understand what’s going on in our brains.

“Covid 19”
32 x 26”

If I sat down with the intention of creating a painting to express my thoughts and feelings about the pandemic I would probably come up with some cool stuff using charts and graphs or images of corpses lying unattended on gurneys in hospital corridors or people in face masks and shields. And some of it might be powerful. But I don’t think anything would have come close to expressing the overall mood that this and a few other pieces convey.

They are strangely elegant even while they are pervasively gray and sad. They are intense and even a touch hopeful which summarizes the way I felt much of the time throughout the pandemic. This past year has seen some of the worst and some of the best of humanity on full display. Additionally, there was more death and more death closer to home than most of us have ever experienced. And yet, there were also amazing acts of kindness everywhere as well as breathtaking ways in which members of the scientific community, even the monetized scientific world, worked together to create vaccines in a very short time.

It’s hard to say how, but in some intuitive way I hope these pieces summarize those myriad and conflicting aspects of the Covid Pandemic. That was not my intent when I painted them. I was simply placing myself in front of the blank panel with no particular idea or even motivation. When I paint this way I call it being in service of the gift. I am just trusting that something meaningful will come out even if I don’t feel like painting and certainly am not inspired by anything. In fact, when I did these pieces I was fighting the pandemic urge to just sit in my comfy chair and watch Star Trek reruns. Now, I only wish I had done more.

“Covid 19”
24 x 24”