What color should I use when I paint your Portrait?


The answer is all of the above!  

Regardless of how you label the color of your skin – white, black, caucasian, mongoloid, negroid, Irish, Indian, etc. –  There is no living being that does not contain all colors in their pigmentation!  Can you imagine if I painted a portrait of a “white” person using only white paint?  Or a black person using only black paint?   The colors used to paint anything and everything are the 3 primary colors – red, yellow, and blue, and variations of the primaries that you get by mixing them in various proportions.  Artists buy premixed versions of red, yellow and blue because their time is better spent painting than mixing paint.  Even so, rarely do we use a color straight out of the tube, but change the value and tone of the color by blending them with each other. (A funny note – you cannot buy a pre-mixed “flesh” color that matches any person’s skin tone!)

Notice that there is no black or white in the color selection. That’s because, technically, white and black are NOT colors!  White paint reflects all light and black paint reflects no light.  Of course I use both black and white paint, but sparingly.  White is used to lighten a color. Mixing white with red, for example, causes more light reflection and we see a lighter version of red which we call pink. I only use pure white when something is so shiny that it reflects a lot of light, as in jewelry with rhinestones or diamonds.  Other than jewelry or very reflective items, there is only one place in painting a portrait that I use pure black and pure white, and that is in the eyes.  The pupil of the eye is an opening into the depths of the human head where no light is reflected. So I use black paint for the pupil.  The pupil and the cornea are covered by a transparent moist layer that reflects the light source.  If I make one tiny spot on the eye which is pure white, it gives us a point of entry through the pupil into the depth of the person I’m painting.  In my portraits, the eyes are the most important part of the likeness, because I believe that the subject reveals so much of their personality through their eyes. I believe it is symbolic that pure white and pure black are used in a representation of the eyes – the “window to the soul.”

All of the tubes of paint you see in the above picture are used in all of the paintings – portraits, landscapes, still life, florals and energy paintings – that I have completed in the past 3 years.  Some of the portraits in this selection were painted with watercolors, but the palette is the same.  My favorites for portraits are cadmium red light, alizarin crimson, light red ochre, yellow ochre, naples yellow, cerulean blue, ultramarine blue, cadmium orange, pthalo green, sap green, burnt sienna, and paine’s grey.  (Ivory black and Titanioum white.)


Creative Energy

At the art festivals and in the co-op galleries, when people ask about my paintings, I speak as if I know what I’m talking about, with enthusiastic descriptions of the flow of “Creative Energy” as it relates to me and my art work.  Today when I decided to write about Creative Energy I discovered that, in my mind, I wanted to validate my beliefs.  After all, when we publish something on the internet, it’s there forever for anyone to agree or disagree, to praise or ridicule, support or challenge – right?  Writing about it is different than talking about it.

So I googled “Creative Energy.”  I found sites that encourage us to be creative when producing energy (to power our machines)  and which linked to pages attempting to define energy from a  scientific perspective and then back down stating all the ways in which energy can be defined, but is elusive and not really definable.  (What?!!)

From Wikipedia there is this definition: “In physics, energy is a property of objects which can be transferred to other objects or converted into different forms. The “ability of a system to perform work” is a common description, but it is misleading because energy is not necessarily available to do work.”  So much for validation.  My Google search was abandoned – too confusing!  But I did find this interesting discussion about energy that might provide some backup to my theories from a Scientific perspective., written in a language that even I can almost understand.  I encourage you to take a look at it if you’re still interested after reading the rest of my blog http://www.ftexploring.com/me/everything.html.

After all my research I have decided that my explanation of Creative Energy is quite reasonable and needs no validation other than the paintings (and adventures) it has produced, and more important – the experience of knowing what it feels like to have Creative Energy flow through me. Today I’m going to merge my Creative Mind and My Critical Mind, allowing Creative Energy to flow freely and fearlessly  through me, to create a blog.  All of the information which I’m about to share with you I learned from my paintings, filtered through my own life experiences.

And speaking of Life Experiences, here’s a little background.  The year is 1969.  I am 25 years old.  I am at my friends’ apartment.  We are six friends, seated on pillows around a low square table.  The room is softly lit by candles and the scent of nag champa incense and cigarette smoke fills the air.   The room is cozy and we all feel safe with each other. A reel-to-reel tape recorder fills the room with the music of Ravi Shankar, The Incredible String Band, Bob Dylan, Donovan, Procol Harem and others whose names I will never know.  We have been waiting all week and preparing ourselves for this evening. We sit and lie on our pillows and the music fills us while we wait for the Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD or “acid”) to take effect.

I am transported to the next scene as smoothly as in an expertly edited movie.  I am standing in front of the refrigerator and I can see as clearly as if I were looking into a powerful microscope, the atomic structure of the refrigerator.  I am aware that it is not solid, or static, but that when I breathe in, the atoms that were an instant earlier part of the refrigerator are now part of me.  And as I exhale, my breath is becoming part of the atomic/molecular structure of everything else in the room.  I see that there is much space between the atoms and within them and nothing is solid.  I learn that I am part of everything in the Universe and that everything in the Universe is part of me – or We Are All One.  I am swimming in the cosmic soup of Life.

And that, my friends, is how we hippies of the 1960’s became tree huggers.  Forever after, I knew what the Native Americans knew  – that we must respect the earth – for when we walk on it, it gives us energy in exchange for energy and so it is with everything in it and on it.  I learned that we are wonderfully and beautifully made from the “dust” (or atoms) of the earth, to return to the “dust” of the earth at the end of our physical days – we are made in the “Image” or Likeness of the Ultimate Creator, who is Pure Creative Energy.  That means that we are also Pure Creative Energy and that It flows through us without prejudice, and we get to choose how we want to direct it and what we want to create with it.  The Creative Energy is what connects the atoms and molecules that make up everything.  The Energy can neither be created nor destroyed, but is continually in motion – flowing – through us and through all that is.

Without getting too technical, I can say from my experience that we connect to The Ultimate Creator and the flow of Creative Energy through the Mind.  Now it seems that our mind has two parts: One I call the Creative Mind and the other Ego-Mind or Critical Mind. Each part of the mind is equally necessary but it seems, at least for me, that the Critical Mind has picked up some habits through the years that impede the flow of Creative Energy while Creative Mind is submissive and gives in too easily to the overly-cautious Critical Mind.  Through practice we can learn to balance the two parts of the mind, and balance allows Creative Energy to flow freely.

Critical Mind wants us to do what is comfortable.  It wants us to be careful and safe.  It wants to know what the Rules are and wants to follow them precisely. In its most imbalanced state, Critical mind is paralyzed with Fear and will do anything to avoid risk.  Creative mind loves to explore and play.  It wants to ignore the rules and go to places it’s never been before.  It cares not for safety and loves surprises. In its most imbalanced state, Creative Mind quickly loses focus and has no interest in seeing a project to completion or satisfaction.


When a balance is found between the Creative and the Critical Mind, the result transcends what the Conscious Mind is capable of pre-conceiving.

When a balance is reached between the Creative and the Critical Mind, Creative Energy flows freely and merges the two into a state of meditation.  In the Meditative State, there is a merging of the mental, the physical and the spiritual. The resulting expression, or product, or work of art vibrates with the Creative Energy through which it was conceived.  The vibration calls to others to mingle their energy with it, to continue and consummate the exchange – the Flow of Creative Energy. This is true when the product is music or poetry or painting or sculpture, or a garden or a cake or an automobile or anything that results from this merging of the Creative and Critical Mind through the Flow of Creative Energy.



Each  of us is a unique individual.  There has never been and will never be another exactly like me.  I bring to my work my own unique perspective from my own unique experiences.  When I allow my Creative Mind and my Critical Mind to merge, the result is a unique expression of who I am, whether it is a painting, a poem, a sculpture, a garden, a cake, an automobile or anything that comes forth through the flow of Creative Energy.


Let it flow. . . .







Red Sharp Major

Sometimes when I’m working my shift at the co-op gallery or at an art festival,  people ask me where I get my ideas – or where do I get my inspiration.  This is a question I used to entertain when I saw other artists’ work.  I wondered where they copied it from, and if it wasn’t copied, how in the world did they figure out how to do that! It was a great mystery!

For the first 28 years of my life I never met an artist who painted other than as a hobby.  Even my art teachers were Teachers first and I don’t recall ever seeing a completed painting by any of them – not even my college art teachers. My very first oil painting was “Paint by Number” when I was around 12 years old.  I didn’t even know that oil paint was available any other way.

I started copying my classmates’ photos when I was around 8 years old, erasing holes in the paper, trying over and over again until I got it right.  Eventually I got to be very good at copying photos.  Whether it was photos of people or landscapes or just about anything, I could copy it.  Friends and relatives would say “Wow!  You are such a good artist!”  I would politely thank them but I felt that something was missing.  I wanted to be a “real” artist – whatever that was.  Even our high school art teacher told us to “find a nice picture and copy it.”  I copied photos onto typing paper, using pencil, charcoal, watercolor or pastels.  Everyone, including the teacher said “Wow! You are such a good artist!”  But no one ever asked me where I got my inspiration.

I believe that I learned from copying photos to train my eyes to really look closely and draw what I could see with my eyes.  I learned to measure one shape against the other with my eyes and to make the same relationships in my copy. I learned to distinguish the slightest differences in tonal value and color. I learned to look for basic shapes – squares, circles, triangles and combinations and variations of these shapes in every form of nature that I saw – in trees, animals, buildings. objects and human faces.  And I believed that none of this required “talent.”  I believed that anyone who wanted to practice the way I did, could eventually learn to do it the same way I had.

There was a break from photo copying in one of my college drawing classes.  The teacher set up a still life and we drew it in charcoal on real charcoal paper – NOT typing paper!  Still, I felt that something was missing because I was still copying a scene that the art teacher had set up.  It was not much different from copying a photo. There were those basic shapes – squares, circles, triangles, subtle variations in tone and value and color.  Mine looked pretty much like all the others’ in the class but still I felt like a cheater, a fraud.  Even when I copied my own photos, I felt like there had to be more to this whole idea of being an artist than just copying.  All my other college art classes encouraged photo copying too.  Years later I exhibited my portraits in shows and still felt like Someone – an Expert, an Authority, a REAL Artist – would call me out and reveal to the world that I was only a copier. I wanted to make something up that no one had ever seen before.  I wanted to see a vision in my head and bring it into reality.

During one of my college oil painting classes, I “made up” a landscape.  The main color I used was alizarin crimson.  I loved the depth of the color and the consistency and texture of it.  I mixed it with ultramarine blue and titanium white and the results resembled a red lake surrounded by strange red/purple/bue mountains – much like Crater Lake (which I did not actually see until a few years later) but in bizarre colors.  I secretly loved the painting but I was embarrassed to show it to the teacher because I didn’t understand what I was doing at the time and I feared his rejection.  Looking back all these years later, I realized that what I loved was the experience.  Feeling the paint flow, watched the colors blend, watching shapes materialize into a pattern I could follow around the canvas as if I were on the Magical Mystery Tour that the Beatles sang about. And while I loved it, I also hated it. It was unpredictable and out of control.  It was not like anyone else’s in the class.  I felt protective – I didn’t want the painting or my own fragile experience shattered by criticism.  But I had to show it or take a failing grade in senior year and I couldn’t do that!  The teacher said “You have a lot of potential.” I didn’t know what he meant by that, and he didn’t bother to explain, but I interpreted it to mean that I had almost done something good – but not quite.  I got a “B” in the course and hoarded that painting as a souvenir of a place I almost visited.  It was a secret love affair with Alizarin Crimson that I was not secure enough at that time to reveal. But in my deepest private world I felt proud of it.  Like I had finally created a “Real” piece of art. But I did not try it again for a very long time.

Fast forward  through more than 50 years of practice as a copy artist.  One day I was tired of painting portraits.  I was tired of trying to please other people.  I was tired of doing the same thing over and over.  With a great deal of drama and release of frustration,  I squirt paint out of the tube onto a large canvas, without regard for choice of color.  I smear the paint around the canvas with no respect for economy or care of my brushes or anything except the pure joy of watching the paint swirl and flow and spread over the entire canvas.  The thrill didn’t last very long. I grew up with Depression Era parents.   I was constantly reminded to “be careful – don’t waste anything” In the midst of my joyous expression, I am suddenly overcome with guilt when I stop and look at what I have done.  The canvas is indeed covered with paint.  “It’s a mess! ” my critical mind exclaims.  “You have wasted so much paint and an expensive canvas!  No one will ever buy this!”  And then suddently, there is a vivid flashback to the love affair with alizarin crimson, and my heart skips a beat or two at the thought of the “potential.”

So I lean it against the wall and go about my business of doing the “important” things of life – cleaning, paying bills, cooking.  But as I walk by the paint-covered canvas I start seeing things that intrigue me.  Little shapes that want to be defined.  Lines that beg to be followed to another area of the painting.  I hang the painting on the wall.  Each time I walk by, I turn it another direction and more areas of interest seem to call out to me.  “What if I mess it up?”  I am afraid to paint.  I am afraid not to paint.  I am frozen in a mixture of fear and thrill – like the second before stepping onto a roller coaster.  “Come closer.” It says.  So I zoom in, like I’m looking into a microscope at the atomic structure of life itself, and follow the little lines created by the brush strokes, emphasizing them with highlights or shadows or lines, building contrasts, discovering shapes and forms and bringing them to life.  sometimes recognizable forms appear – like dragons or human faces.  Other times rhythmic patterns lead my hand and eye to yet another area of interest.  I am playing with paint like I am 5 years old!

I hang it on the wall again – zooming out like I’m looking through a telescope at the Cosmos.  I turn it again and again, each time another secret is revealed and I watch the painting come to life and realize I am only a tool – my hands, my eyes and the paint dance together before me and I am but the audience in the dance of creativity.  As I answer the call from the painting, sometimes  I hear music, I hear lines of poetry, I hear humorous phrases and chants.  If I happen to be listening to music, I watch my hands move to the rhythm of the music – the music becomes part of the painting.  The painting becomes alive with the energy of life, the energy of the music, the energy that flows through all of us – the same energy that holds atoms together to form molecules and cells and all of life itself.  Through many paintings, it is revealed to me that this is “Creative Energy.”  We, created in the “Image” of The Ultimate Creator, Who is “Pure Creative Energy” are also Pure Creative Energy.  It flows through each of us equally and therefore we all have equal creative ability.  We were also endowed with the Freedom of Choice, so we get to use it or direct it in any way we want – for good or “evil.” We can make paintings, or music, or stories, or cakes or automobiles or funny jokes.  We can make bombs.

Fast forward again, through many paintings.  This time I decided to photograph the evolution of this painting.  It begins the same as the others, squirting paint out of the tube onto the canvas.  Only this time I am working from the center, adding paint from the center toward the outer edges as it tells me while I watch it evolve. I am using Acrylic Paint.  It begins with Cerulean Blue and Titanium White.  No palette is used.  The colors are blended on the canvas.  Then it asks for red.  It’s not particular – any red will do.  I believe this is Napthol Red Light.  Zoom in!    Follow the little blue lines.  Follow the little red lines.  Watch how they work together.”  (This is what the paint is telling me.)



I begin to see depth.  I come in with a darker blue – Pthalo Blue to emphasize the deep places.  More red, this time mixing with the blue. More white – an interesting break in the circular pattern.  “Where did that come from?  What should I do with that?  I don’t want to mess this up!”  (This is my critical ego-mind talking.  It’s best not to listen to it.  I find that if I ignore it, it will eventually get quiet so I can “listen” to the paint.)


Some darker red – I think it’s Quinachodone Magenta (I don’t even know how to pronounce it!)    Some renegade blue and while again breaking the pattern of the concentric circles.  “Just follow it.”  the paint says.


Titanium White circles around the red and blue.  Until now, white has not had so much to say.  It has been quietly accentuating the blue and letting red have some attention.  Suddenly, as clear as if a band was marching through the room I hear John Phillip Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever”    Specifically: “Hoorah for the Red, White and Blue…”  And now it’s time to zoom in again.


And back out again as White claims the outer edges of the canvas.  Blue wants to accentuate the sharpness of the red bursts by outlining it.

Zooming in again for more detail:  Remember the first white break from the concentric colors? Still following original patterns made by initial brushstrokes, accenting what is already there.


This represents an area in the painting about 4″ x 4″ – still zooming in, finding detail.


This painting even told me where to put the signature.



As the details are working their way into the painting, The Stars and Strips Forever continues to play and I think about the summers while I was in college when I worked in a Fireworks Stand every 4th of July for 4 years.  And that’s when the painting told me its name “Red Sharp Major.”

redsharpmajorI love watching Energy Paintings evolve.  Every one is different.  I share this because I know that if you use a similar process, every painting that you do will also be unique.  I think that sometimes we get too serious and we scare ourselves into thinking that we might do it “wrong.”   I’m here to tell you from my own experience that you can’t do it “wrong.”  The product doesn’t matter.  The experience is what really is important.  And if you happen to get a “product” – a finished work of art that you really like – well, that’s a bonus.  My next challenge is to continually try new media, new techniques, new subject matter, new processes so that I don’t “paint myself into a box.”  We should be mindful of how we define ourselves.

Winter Vortex

In my previous blog I described the beginning of an energy painting and the conflict between the Ego Mind and the Creative Mind.  As I finished the blog, I was hanging the unfinished painting on the wall to study it until it told me what to do next.

This is what it looked like then:img_2133

I worked on a portrait for a while and this painting was hanging on the wall opposite where I paint.  It asked for more emphasis on the swirling motion.  I used an iridescent white to follow the movement around the canvas.  Then more Van Dyke Brown.  Ego Mind is still fussing over the lack of recognizable images but I still couldn’t see any.

Suddenly a tree started to grow while the painting was in the vertical position.  If you look at the image above, you would have to rotate it so that the top is now on the bottom and that’s where the tree began to grow.  It was clearly a winter tree and required lots of tedious small branches to look convincing.  As the painting neared completion, as often happens, its name came into my mind.  “Winter Vortex.”  I had to Google it to see if it made sense, and it does, as far as my “scientific mind” can comprehend.  But now that it’s claimed its name, Google only turns up “Polar Vortex” for me.  Still, the name has been chosen and so remains.

Here is the finished painting:img_2164

Life Happens

In a previous post I started a series of thoughts from an old Life Magazine article titled “The Meaning of Life.”  My cute little Ego Mind will do anything to keep me from writing.  It knows it can’t stop me from painting every day but all my plans to write daily are laid astray.  I even hid the Life Magazine – put it somewhere so I could easily find it!  I guess I’ll find it when the time is right.  Meanwhile The Painting Life goes on.

Last weekend I participated in the 50th “Fine Arts for Ocala” art festival.  The attendees really got me revved up on every creative level!  They responded actively to my paintings, listened attentively to my rants on Creativity and offered their own words of wisdom, sending me back to my little apartment-living-room/studio bursting with confidence, enthusiasm and renewed energy.

I select a 24″ x 20″ canvas to begin a new “Creative Energy” painting.  I ignore Ego Mind who says “You don’t have room on your display or in any of the galleries for another Energy Painting!  Maybe you shouldn’t paint for a while?”


My paint drawers and my brush wrap.


Cerulean Blue calls out to me from the paint drawer beside my recliner chair where most of my paintings evolve.  I grab a #8 filbert brush from the brush wrap on the floor to the right of my chair.  With the tube of Cerulean in my left hand, the canvas on my lap and the brush in my right, I watch with wonder, and more than a little trepidation, as the paint flows from the tube, to the brush to the canvas with no effort at all from my conscious mind.  I follow the paint with my eyes as it flows from the tube, to the brush to the canvas – from the tube to the brush to the canvas, until Titanium White calls out from its drawer:  “Me, Me, Me!”

It’s a duet!  “Toning Grey, Pinkish” is calling in union with Titanium White!


The lid to the blue paint is still off; the lids to the White and Toning Grey Pinkish join it on the table on the right of my chair.  It’s out of control!  Three tubes of paint open at the same time!  It’s chaos!   I’m watching my hands as if they belong to someone else.  I don’t know where the paint is going next.  I’m turning the canvas to better reach another area.  The paint flows, more blue, more white, more pinkish!   Then Van Dyke Brown joins the party.  Ego Mind protests: “It’s too dark!  Why not add indigo?  I thought you wanted blue to be the dominant color!  People like blue. They won’t like all this brown!  Maybe you need a plan?”  It doesn’t matter what Ego Mind says.  Van Dyke Brown is asserting its place on the canvas, its lid just rolled off the table to the floor!  I brazenly leave it there!

And so it goes for at least half an hour – maybe an hour?  Time seems to stop when the paint is flowing.  But my bodily functions do not.  This is my cue to place the canvas on the easel opposite my chair without looking, finish my business in the bathroom, then return to the living room to look at the canvas for the first time.img_2138


As I look at the canvas for the first time, I try to see it as if someone else did it, and in a way, that’s what it is.  But Ego-mind goes to work right away.  “Any kid could have made this mess.  What a waste of paint and canvas!  It looks just like all your other Energy Paintings.  It’s boring.  You’d better throw some glitter on it quick! Or how about beads?  You’d better do something!”

I try to ignore it but Conscious Mind (Ego Mind in one of its many disguises – t’s more gentle and extremely intellectual) is busy trying to fix it.  “Maybe define some of the lines.  People like representational work – maybe put some faces in it. Or circles, or fish!  Yeah, fish.  People love fish!  Remember that one painting you sold?  Wait!  Why not just call it finished like it is.  No need to over work it!”

So I hang it on the wall and pick up a portrait I started earlier in the day.  Sometimes while I’m working on the portrait, I look up at the Energy Painting in Progress.  Once is said “Earth, Air and Water.”  I wonder if that will be its name?  I get up and turn it.  It looks like a different painting each time I turn it.  I wait for the painting to tell me what to do next.  “Trust the process.” it tells me.  And I do.

I will post the finished painting in my next blog post.

The Meaning of Life. Day 3

The Question is not “Why are we here?” but ” How should we live our lives?”  All of our technological advances have not changed that essentially difficult question. The Greeks of the fifth century B.C. are our contemporaries; we are no wiser than they were. Remember Harry Truman’s response when asked why he was reading Plutarch’s Lives? Said the President: To find out what’s going on in Washington.

~~philosopher Mortimer Adler.  (from Life Magazine, December 1988.  Article entitled “The Meaning of Life.”

I can’t imagine trying to figure out what’s going on in Washington, when it’s such a big job just trying to understand what’s going on in my own life.  I’ve been asking that question for as long as I can remember “How should I live my life?”

The answer seemed pretty clear early on.  Read the Bible, do what you’re told, and have faith.  I was told to tell the truth, be kind, and fair.  That’s what I learned in Sunday school and what my Mother taught me.  I spent at least half of my life thinking that everyone else was taught the same things and trying to understand why there was so much turmoil in the world when it was so simple and clear-cut how we were supposed to be – how we were supposed to live.  Then, after leaving the sheltered world of the small community where I lived until I was 8 years old,  I learned that some people are mean to each other and don’t tell the truth. Sticking to the teachings I grew up with, I reasoned: if you’re good, everyone will like you.  And if they like you they won’t be mean to you.  But still, no matter how good I was, there were some people who were mean to me and that meant they didn’t like me.   And I couldn’t be happy until they did.

So I read more books.  The first one I remember was “How to be Popular.”  The answers set forth in the book were pretty much the same that I’d been taught all along:  Be nice to people. Listen to them.  Talk to people. Be friendly. I did everything the book said and there were still some people who did not like me.

And so it went for most of my life – wanting to be liked – not just by some, but by everyone, reading more books, trying my best to please people.   And the big question kept getting bigger:  What is the purpose of Life?

It seemed that people liked me when I drew pictures for them. I copied their school pictures on notebook paper.  I drew fancy dresses for their paper dolls.  I drew flowers and pretty scenes.  And I got lots of attention.  And thus I learned that when I wanted attention, (which signified to me that people liked me) I drew pictures.  Was this my purpose in life?  Is this how I should live my life?  Making pretty pictures for people so they would like me?

This is a pencil drawing on notebook paper  of my brother Jim.  I copied it from his school picture in 1957.


The Meaning of Life. Day 2

“Our purpose is to consciously, deliberately evolve toward a wiser, more liberated and luminous state of being.; to return to Eden, make friends with the snake and set up our computers among the wild apple trees.

Deep down, all of us are probably aware that some kind of mystical evolution is our true task. Yet we suppress the notion with considerable force because to admit it is to admit that most of our political gyrations, religious dogmas, social ambitions and financial ploys are not merely counterproductive but trivial. Our mission is to jettison those pointless preoccupations and take on once again the primordial cargo of inexhaustible ecstasy. Or, barring that, to turn out a good, juicy cheeseburger and a strong glass of beer.” ~~ Tom Robbins, writer.  (from Life Magazine, December 1988. “The Meaning of Life”)

I never developed a taste for beer (try as I might as a college student so many years ago) and cheeseburgers don’t sound so good to me any more as I’ve learned to cater to my finicky digestive system.  But I’m having closer encounters with that “primordial cargo of inexhaustible ecstasy” through my chosen vehicle of artistic expression – painting on canvas with acrylic paints.  I’m painting portraits – of people, pets, water birds, trees, flowers, shapes, colors and forms.  Every brush stroke takes me closer to truth. Not the truth that people argue about, but the truth expressed simply and ever so elegantly in nature.

Through painting, I’m learning to look at everything with less judgment and with deeper curiosity.  I am no longer content to look at something and define it with a permanent, static definition.  For example, green is far more than a single crayon in the box.  I’m learning this from painting “en plein air”  where the light dances on the subject and changes the color of what I’m observing from one moment to the next.  Where once there were solid green leaves, now there are blue and violet shadows and yellow and orange highlights and diamond dust dancing on the leaves from drops of dew in the morning light. There are golds and browns and iridescent rainbows from where the snail left its trail and the caterpillar chewed a ruffled edge and an unknown assailant changed the form and color of the individual leaf and distinguished it from its neighbors.  And my heart skips a beat as I become aware that I am witness to the secrets of life itself, while knowing that the only constant to what I am witnessing is everlasting change.


“Blue Bamboo”  Acrylic on 20″ x 16″ Canvas

I become aware that there is no camera, no paint brush, no palette that can capture the true magic of the mystery before me, but I can let the paint flow onto the canvas and the energy of my emotion, evoked by the scene unfolding before me, will transport the viewer into a similar state of ecstasy – if she will only stay long enough to look deeply into the painting, beyond the shapes and forms and colors, into the pure creative energy that reflects some rays of the spectrum to our eyes and absorbs others. This is the same energy that connects the atoms that make up the molecules that make up the essence of everything we are and everything we see and that what we are and what we see are connected through what we don’t see:  Pure Creative Energy.



“Astral Spin”   Acrylic on 18″ x 24″ Canvas





The Meaning of Life. Day 1

Self Portrait by Judi Cain
I went upstairs to find the right size canvas to start a new painting.  A stack of old Life Magazines caught my attention.  I’ve tried to sell them a couple of times in yard sales, but I guess I’m meant to keep them for a while. I bought them many years ago because I like old things and I thought maybe inspiration for a work of art would come from them – maybe a collage?  I skimmed through an issue published in December, 1988.  The cover headlines “ELVIS’ DAUGHTER TALKS about dad, drugs, mom and marriage.”
I flipped to a two-page ad featuring the “new Panasonic Word Processor.  It’s too smart to be a typewriter. It’s too easy to be a computer.”   Another ad announces that “Panasonic introduces the camcorder than can hold the picture steady even when you can’t.”   Yet another says “Once phones like these were science fiction. Now they’re from Panasonic.”  Panasonic was busy that year!
So much has changed in 28 years, yet so much remains the same.   I wonder how could it be that 28 years have passed so quickly?  I have certainly grown older, but have I grown wiser?
Flipping a couple more pages, I came to an article entitled  “The Meaning of Life.” Life magazine reporters Karen Emmons, Linda Gomez, Peter Meyer and Bureaus “asked some wise men and women to ponder why we are here.  Scientists and theologians, authors and artists, celebrities and everyday sages on the street responded.”   The headline for the article was illustrated by a photo by Brian Lanker, entitled “Taijiquan: Dance of the False Tombs.”  The photo was haunting, and I wanted more.
I Googled Brian Lanker and found this report from Wikipedia:
 Brian Lanker (August 31, 1947 – March 13, 2011) was an American photographer. He won the 1973 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography for a black-and-white photo essay on childbirth for The Topeka Capital-Journal, including the photograph “Moment of Life”.[1] Lanker died at his home in Eugene, Oregon on March 13, 2011 after a brief bout of pancreatic cancer. He was 63.
The year he won the Puliter Prize (1973) was the same year I ran away from my home and family and teaching career in Missouri, traveling to Florida where it was warm, living in a VW van, wanting to learn how to be a “real”  artist — searching for the meaning of life even then.
Looking at his website (http://www.brianlanker.com/portfolio.html)  I found that his work resonates with me and moves me emotionally in the way I would like to connect with people through my own art.  I wonder if he found the Meaning of Life before he died?
So thanks to Life Magazine and Brian Lanker, today I begin a series of Blogs using the quotes from this article to explore what the thoughts of others mean to me as I continue my own personal quest for “The Meaning of Life.”

The artist – process and product.

The artist does not “think” about creating a product. Thinking about making a product is the ego mind at work, and gets in the way of true creation. The ego mind has rules, and doubts and a false sense of knowing and not knowing. The ego mind seeks approval and confirmation, wants to get it “right,” wants to BE “right,” wants to be “in control.” This is not to say that the ego mind is “wrong.” But approval and confirmation from others is a bonus that the artist’s ego mind receives after participating in the process and surrendering control. 

Art is a continuing process of learning from nature to use the senses to understand the dynamics of creation itself. The process is the important thing and belongs to the artist. The product is a symbol of what has been observed or sensed and belongs to the world, that others may share in the learning – to be moved emotionally in some way from what the artist has observed.

To learn about creation takes daily practice and focusing on messages from the senses.To see beyond what we think we see, what we’ve been told that we should see – to embrace the unique perspective that belongs to each of us. There has never been, nor will there ever be another just like you, standing where you stand, observing what you see. To be an artist, you must dare to learn what your unique perspective is, by constant practice, by constant observation, without fear of judgment, losing control, or being “wrong.”

This is true, whatever medium is chosen – whether painting or sculpting or poetry or music, or planting a garden or restoring an automobile – whatever means you will use to express your observations, using your senses, from your unique perspective, what you are learning from nature, from the Ultimate Creator.