Riding on the Fingers of God

How is it that I call myself an Artist while others do not? When I ask this question, do I mean that others do not call me an Artist? Or do I mean that others do not call themselves Artists? It’s a matter of interpretation, isn’t it? Who gets the authority to define who is an Artist and who is not? ‘

On the day I was conceived – when that mysterious Energy caused atoms to join with other atoms to form molecules, to create cells, which then split and/or multiplied according to a specific plan that some call DNA – was it written into that plan that I am an Artist? Or that I should someday call myself an Artist? Is it a Choice, or a Destiny? And if I should choose to call myself an Artist, will others agree? And if they don’t agree, will I choose to bestow upon them the authority to remove that quality from my identity?

Each morning for more than two years, I sat on a stool before a mass of Roma Plastilina clay, an assortment of wire and wooden tools, photographs of my first-born daughter, and an intention to be totally immersed in the practice of Seeing and coordinating my fingers with my eyes to manipulate the clay to represent what I see – to be totally present in every moment that I sit in this practice.

After many years of painting portrait commissions – artistic “products” with deadlines and expectations of perfect likeness of someone’s beloved – I wanted to explore portraiture as a “practice” with no deadlines and no expectations. Never having done a three-dimensional portrait before, I judged that it would be a challenge, but that I would be able to approach it with a degree of innocence – as if I were a beginner.

My paintings capture one view, one angle, an illusion of a three-dimensional, living, breathing person – a moment in their life, a likeness which will be recognized by others as an accurate representation of their personality, as well as their physical features. A sculpture is also an illusion, but it must capture an infinite number of views and angles. While I have many photographs of my daughter, each one represents a different emotional moment in her life – a different mood, and a different view and angle and a different period of her physical development. The challenge, I thought is to use these photographs as reference, seeing what is really there and filling in the missing parts – the infinite views and angles – from assumed information, without assuming too much about what is actually there.

According to the art supply catalog: “Roma Plastilina will never harden, crust or deteriorate. This modeling clay has uniform plasticity that improves through use and with age. It’s smooth, even texture and consistency respond perfectly to every touch of the sculptor’s tool.” And I find this to be true.

But what I’ve learned from my practice is “This clay is dust of the earth, mixed with oil and sulphur, held together by that mysterious Energy which causes atoms to join with other atoms to form molecules – basically the same atoms that we’re made of held together by the same mysterious Energy that holds us together, with just a slightly different molecular structure. “Dust to Dust!”

Each day I come to the sculpture with my baggage of the day — thoughts, doubts, judgments, distrotions, emotions, inadequacies (real or imagined) and fears of inadequacies (real and imagined.) If I am able to put all these aside, to tune in to the perfection of what IS – what I am shown without the clouds of my baggage – I am then able to ride on the Fingers of God – Creation itself – and watch form follow form. I am no longer an individual using clay and tools to manipulate mass. I am the Observer of my fingers following the Flow of Form!

I am shown the genetic inheritance of my grandmother’s cheekbones; her father’s mother’s lower lip; my mother’s hairline; her father’s jawline – all from faint remembrances of photographs and visions remembered. I am shown, in her form, the fleeting resemblance of another artist’s painting of the Virgin Mary. Her clay eyes seem to follow my fingers in amusement as I catch myself struggling to make her pretty, when she knows that she already is. She is the ultimate creation of the Ultimate Creator and I, simply by being present, am privileged to know what that means. I am allowed to feel the bone structure beneath the flesh and I am given hints of both sad and happy memories that cause the muscles around the mouth to form the smile I recognize as hers. I learn that there are no straight lines, no hard angles, only one form flowing into another in a way that is so graceful and elegant it cannot be expressed except with tears of joy and awe!

And I come to know that we, the living creatures – Creations! – are only one form flowing into another in a way that is so graceful and elegant it cannot be expressed by childlike imitation of the Ultimate Creator – each individual one of us as unique and minute as an atom!

And I wonder at the expression I have heard all my life from others who do not call themselves artists: “I can’t draw a straight line!” And how did that get to be a reason when there are no straight lines in the works of the Ultimate Creator?

And I wonder. Does this experience, this practice, then make me an Artist? If I never pronounce the sculpture “Finished?” If I continue to practice for the rest of my days and never present it to the world and allow another to judge it, and me, and to proclaim that I am, or I am NOT an Artist? What then?

This very thought is representative of the “baggage” I bring to the practice every day. I suspect that thoughts such as this is what keeps some from knowing that we are ALL Artists.

I also learn from my morning practice: To be an Artist is both a Choice and a Destiny. It is written into the DNA of every individual. The Ultimate Creator created us “in His (Her) Image.” Her/His Image is without form, yet every form is an expression of His/Her Image.

We were given our senses to appreciate and learn from the Creation of the Ultimate Creator. We are able to hear the great symphonies of life in the songs of the birds, in the roar of the waves, the rustle of the wind in the trees and grasses, and the percussion of a thunderstorm; to see the dramatic colors in the sunset, the intricate patterns of a snowflake; the delicate, iridescent wings of a dragonfly . . . the examples are also infinite! Each variance that makes each one unique, we are wise enough not to judge as imperfections, until the baggage of the judgmental mind comes in.

We are given the Choice to imitate the Master – to sit with tools and materials (any will do) and listen and watch the Master Creator at work. Michaelangelo said that he merely released the forms from the stone. Mozart wrote down the music that he heard. And you know the rest . . . we call them geniuses. I’m guessing that during the course of our day to day lives, we all sometimes succumb to Attention Deficit Disorder. And sometimes we remember what it’s like – to listen, to watch. These are moments of inspiration!. And sometimes we forget. These are moments of “Writer’s Block,” “Artists Block,” “Absence of the Muse.” But we’re always creating, whether we do it consciously, or unconsciously. When we do it consciously our writing, our paintings, our sculptures, our music, our dance, our business, our relationships, our food preparation – everything we do, our very Life itself, makes us all Artists, because it is no longer the I, the Ego, who does the work. We are merely privileged to watch, to listen, and to ride on the fingers of God!


Copyright 2017  Judi Cain


Acrylic on 30″ x 40″ Canvas


Every Painting has a Story

A new show at the local Arts Organization was announced.  The theme this time was “Black and White.”  I only had a week to finish my entry and I had a new 30″ x 40″ canvas I was excited to explore with black and white acrylics.

Using a large brush, I began to cover the entire canvas with Titanium White and Carbon Black Acrylic paint,  The canvas was sitting vertical on the easel, so I started at the top and brought the brush strokes down, all the way to the bottom, one at a time with careful intention NOT to make them straight, first white, then black.  Each brush stroke started next to a previous one, first on one side, then the other, alternating black and white and following the curve of the previous stroke.  Some of the strokes were wide and some were narrow, and I noticed that the wider strokes seemed to want to separate as I brought the brush down, and split the line into slightly different directions. I was pleased.  I like variety!

At least half of the time I spend on a painting is siting in a chair, looking at it as it rests on the easel or on the wall.  All of my walls display unfinished paintings.  While I am looking at a painting, I am asking two questions.  1. What is the painting trying to tell me?  and  2. Is there anything in this painting that distracts me from total enjoyment of the visual before me?

When I get an answer to either question, I pick up my brush and respond.  Sometimes the answers don’t come right away.  So I leave it on the wall or on the easel so that I can see it as I go about my other business.  Sometimes there are several unfinished paintings, waiting for me to ask the right questions, to see the answers. I turn them often – even landscapes, portraits or still life, –  so that I can see them from a new perspective.

Sometimes a painting-in-progress will almost scream out to me: “Hey!  See this line?  Follow it!”  or “Do you really want to leave that smudge of gray there?  You know it doesn’t really belong.”  I always ask the painting – NOT myself, because when I ask myself my whiny ego-mind will respond with the most unhelpful answers.  “What’s WRONG with this?”  “Why did you choose these colors?  They won’t match anyone’s couch!”  “No one will ever buy this!”  “This will never be a good painting!  What ever made you think you could paint?  You need to start over!”

See what I mean?

So this painting-in-progress is gleefully shouting “I’m a zebra!  Whee!  The fuzzy edges on these black and white stripes are distracting from my glorious patterns!”  So I gleefully clean up the fuzzy edges.

The painting draws my attention to an area where the black lines seem to converge, and tells me it’s important – it’s a focal point.  Looking closely I see a tiny white dot in the black space. “Go with that!” the painting says.  “Oh no!” Ego-mind says. “Not more dots!  Everyone will think that’s all you know how to do!  Haven’t you done enough paintings with dots?”

So, dots it is.  Spiraling outward from the small dot in the center.  White dots on the black stripes, black dots on the white stripes.  I’m noticing that sometimes they get larger and sometimes they get smaller.  Sometimes closer together. Sometimes farther apart. Yet still spiraling out from the first white dot.

I want to work all night.  But I have to take my turn to work at the Cedar Keyhole Artists Co-op Gallery next day, which is Saturday.  I must have the painting finished by Sunday and at the gallery no later than 4:00 p.m.

Saturday morning I pack up the canvas, my black and white acrylic paints and my brushes.  Maybe I’ll have time to work on it in the co-op gallery if it’s not too busy.

It’s an hour’s drive to Cedar Key.  I arrived an hour before opening time, got the cash drawer set up and did my opening duties.  I brought the painting in but didn’t get a chance to work on it all day, but at least I could look at it.

The co-op closes at 5:00 but typically business slows around 4:00.  I started making preparations to close so I could leave as soon after 5:00 as possible.  On this day there was one person in the gallery, browsing the art work. She went upstairs to check out the upstairs gallery.  Suddenly I felt really sick.  I had cold sweats, my heart was pounding, my face was tingling and I felt like I was going to pass out.  When the woman came downstairs I asked her if she would stay with me for a few minutes.  She took one good look at me and called 9-1-1.

The local ambulance arrived within minutes and parked in front of the gallery with lights flashing.  Blood pressure checked out ok, heart rate ok, but they wanted to take me to Gainesville to the hospital for further examination.  “What about my car?  I live in Gainesville!  How will I get my car?  and my painting!”  I protested as they loaded me onto the gurney and the woman called one of the local members of the co-op to close the gallery for me.  In the ambulance they hooked me up to monitors and I could see the gallery (where my unfinished painting leaned against the wall behind the desk) and my car, fading into the distance as we began the hour-long drive back to Gainesville.

Half way there, I burped and felt better.  “Can you take me back to my car and my painting?  I’m fine now!”  The EMT shook his head and said “That’s not happening. You can refuse admission when you get to the ER, but we can’t take you back.”

For the next 8 hours I sat in the ER waiting room while more urgent cases were treated. I felt fine, but I couldn’t leave because I had no car.  And if I did find a way home, my car and my painting were still in Cedar Key.  So I stayed.  And I waited. My phone got no reception inside, but I finally learned I could use the land line in the waiting room to call my daughters and one of the co-op members to let them know where I was.  And I waited.  With nothing to do except think about how I could be using this time to finish that painting. .

Around 6:00 a.m. they had a room for me in the ER where the doctor confirmed that all my vitals were normal, but he wanted me to have an MRI, an EKG and maybe some other tests I don’t remember, all of which I had to wait for, and all of which were normal. They could find nothing wrong with me and discharged me after setting up a follow-up with my primary care physician.

I called my friend Mike, who picked me up at the hospital, made me some breakfast (I hadn’t eaten since lunch on Saturday) and he drove me to Cedar Key to get my car and my painting!

On the drive back to Gainesville, with my unfinished painting in the back, I wondered how I could possibly complete it and get it to the gallery on time. . I kept thinking about those black and white stripes, like a zebra, and about 18 inches at the bottom of the painting that had no dots.  That’s when the word “Zebraic” popped into my head.  I wondered if it was a real word.

It was almost 1;00 p.m. when I pulled into my driveway, grabbed the canvas and my paints and brushes and rushed inside.  I optimistically attached a hanging wire to the back of the canvas. But there was one more thing I had to do before I could complete the rest of the dots.

I googled the word “Zebraic.”

From merriam-webster.com/dictionary



ze·​bra·​ic | \ zə̇ˈbrāik, zeˈ-, -āēk\

Definition of zebraic

: of the nature of or characteristic of the zebra : ZEBRALIKE


Having authenticated the title, (How could I have doubted?  The paintings always tell me the best name for them) I could now finish the painting.  At  3:30 I signed it and ran to my car with the painting and rushed to the gallery, arriving at 3:55 p.m!  Some of the larger dots were still a little wet, so I asked them to handle it carefully as they hung it with the other entries.

The dots are thick paint, by the way, adding dimension and texture to the painting and I invite touching.

Zebraic at GFAA 2


PS.  It turns out that my trip to the ER was a result of side effects from taking Omeprazole prescribed for acid reflux.  I found out by asking the pharmacist.  Healthier eating habits have enabled me to stop the acid reflux and prevent further episodes like this one!



Time-Space Compression

IMG_2112“Time-Space Compression”

Acrylic, Collage, Micro-Beads on 40″ x 30″ Canvas.  copyright 2016, Judi Cain


Accepting a Challenge

In 2016, our local arts organization gallery issued a “call to artists” for entries in a themed show for the following month. The theme was “Collage” so I set out to make a collage.
I browsed through my stack of 1950’s Life Magazines that I bought at a flea market years ago and hoarded for no other reason than they still existed after all these years, and someone should take care of them.

One of the magazines, dated 1954, featured a section honoring photographers for their black and white photography, and one of those photographs, spreading across two pages, drew me in to look deeper.  The photographer aimed his camera looking down on a very large round table.  Hands of small children rested palms down all around the table and in the center of the table was a single small box.  Then I saw the title of the photograph: “The Class Hamster Died.”

I have tried to find the magazine so I could show the cover and the exact issue and give credit to the photographer.  Pretty sure I didn’t throw it out, but its current location escapes me.  I also searched on line for the photo and couldn’t find it, so you’ll just have to visualize it from my description.

Developing the composition

I cut the hands out of the photo and placed them in four corners of the 30″ x 40″ blank canvas. Some of them had to be copied and printed so that the hands would fit into the corners proportionately.

Since the photo was black and white, I covered the rest of the canvas with black and white acrylic paint, with no image in mind – just brushing the paint in random, flowing strokes, creating solid black areas, solid white areas and grays where they blended together.  I used a small brush to paint around the small hands in the corners.

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With the canvas resting on the easel, I sat in my chair and studied the lines, shapes and forms that brush strokes had formed in the paint and the small hands, now blended almost unnoticeable  into the swirls of paint. “It’s supposed to be a collage, not a painting,” my critical mind demanded.  So I looked for more hands.

In a Google search, I found hands in positions that sparked interest and printed them onto matte finish photo paper. I cut them out and arranged them on the canvas in a way that would create balance and direction and secured them to the canvas using Golden Matte Gel Medium. Another layer of gel medium was applied to the surface of all the paper hands, to protect them from fading and to give them a surface appearance that would blend with the acrylic paint.


More studying the painting, turning it in different directions, looking for areas that call out to me to be developed.  I follow lines, acknowledge shapes, zoom in to find more subtle forms and add paint to add contrast and definition.  Zooming out again I look for lines and shapes that will bring unity to the composition.  At this point, I am only concerned with composition of an arrangement of shapes, forms and patterns, not trying to give any specific meaning or message in the composition.  I give further definition to the developing white shapes, following the lines made by initial brush strokes, adding bright whites and darker blacks to create contrast.


Still, I can’t help thinking about the hidden story behind the events leading up to the capture of the photograph: “The Class Hamster Died.”


I discovered a small white dot in the center of the large black space.  Fascinated as I am with spirals, I used thick white acrylic paint, applied from an applicator bottle to start from the white dot, following the spiral as moved around that dot.


Adding Texture

As the painting felt like it was nearing completion I continued to study it, noticing that the hands seemed to be floating in space and not having a reason to be there – not connecting to each other giving meaning to the composition.   I was still musing over the children’s hands, thinking that those children would probably be around 55 years old by now, and wondering how that experience and the photograph had impacted their lives. I thought about who I was in 1954 and how time had passed by so quickly.  It was then that I thought about the “sands of time” and added silver micro beads flowing from the hands.  This not only connected the hands, but also added dimension and texture to the composition.

Suddenly a phrase came into my mind: “Time Space Compression.”

The Painting Tells Me When It’s Complete, and Names Itself

I often say that the paintings paint themselves and they also name themselves. I just supply my hands and eyes, the tools and technique to help it materialize.  This was not the first time I had to go to the internet and search for the meaning of the name that this painting/collage had selected.  I found more than one reference for this term I had never heard of before, and was amazed that this name fit perfectly!

Here are some excepts from a Wikipedia article, and a link to the article, should you want to read more:

From Wikipedia:

“Time–space compression (also known as space–time compression and time–space distantiation), articulated in 1989 by geographer David Harvey in The Condition of Postmodernity,[1] it refers to anything that impacts time and space. Harvey’s idea was rooted in Karl Marx’s theory of the “annihilation of time and space”. A similar idea was proposed by Elmar Alvater in an article in PROKLA in 1987 translated into English as “Ecological and Economic Modalities of Time and Space” and published in Capitalism Nature Socialism, 1(3) in 1989.

Time–space compression often occurs as a result of technological innovations including technology of communication and economics.

According to theorists like Paul Virilio, time-space compression is an essential facet of contemporary life: “Today we are entering a space which is speed-space … This new other time is that of electronic transmission, of high-tech machines, and therefore, man is present in this sort of time, not via his physical presence, but via programming” (qtd. in Decron 71[2]). In “Vitesse et Politique”, Virilio coins the term dromology to describe “speed-space.” Virilio describes velocity as the hidden side of wealth and power, which represents a determining factor concerning societies’ structures. Historical eras and political events, out of this perspective, are also speed-ratios. In his view, acceleration destroys space and compresses the time in ways of perceiving reality.

Doreen Massey maintains this idea about time-space compression in her discussion of globalization and its effect on our society. Similar to Virilio, she states that because our world is “speeding up” and “spreading out”, time-space compression is more prevalent than ever as internationalization takes place. Cultures and communities are merged during time-space compression due to rapid growth and change, as “layers upon layers” of histories fuse together to shift our ideas of what the identity of a “place” should be.[3]

Theorists generally identify two historical periods in which time–space compression occurred; the period from the mid-19th century to the beginnings of the First World War, and the end of the 20th century. In both of these time periods, according to Jon May and Nigel Thrift, “there occurred a radical restructuring in the nature and experience of both time and space … both periods saw a significant acceleration in the pace of life concomitant with a dissolution or collapse of traditional spatial co-ordinates”.[4]


Check out my Art Website:  www.judicain.com






How Everything Works

Nature –  The Ultimate Creator – Pure Creative Energy – The Universe – God – Whatever Name you use to call upon the First and Last, The Alpha and The Omega of Creation – (Who speaks to us in whatever language we will listen) supplies us with a universe of examples for the process of creation – How Everything Works.

Throughout the history of artistic expression, humanity has observed those “guidelines” in Nature, studied them and organized them so that we may be more conscious of them as we create.  I believe that this has come about because most of us, as we experience life, have lost the confidence we had as children in our ability to express our unique individual creativity.  We want someone to teach us – to tell us what the rules are – so that we don’t “get it wrong” or “make mistakes.”  So those who were called upon to be teachers put the “rules” into words.  I learned them in a Design class as: The Elements and Principles of Design.  If you research this term, you will find some variations where the basic ones that I learned have been broken down into their sub-parts, but still they are all the same and exist in all aspects of nature from the atomic particles to the cosmos.

When I learned the “Elements and Principles of Design” I memorized them as facts to remember for a test so that I could pass the course.  It was not until I taught them myself that I began to understand them, and not until I began my daily practice of creating was I able to remember them as an inherent part of my makeup as a Creation of the Ultimate Creator.  In other words, we were all born with this knowledge and it will return to our conscious memory with practice.

As a Teacher, here I present to you the ELEMENTS AND PRINCIPLES OF DESIGN in their clinical definitions, as I learned them.  As a teacher, I ask you to read them, then look for them in all of nature, in works of art,  and in everything around you that has ever been created until you understand that you already know them on an instinctive level. Then return to your daily art practice and watch for them to appear on their own in your creative endeavors.  They will be there without any effort other than awareness on your part and then you will remember where they came from – the Creation of your own individual, unique personality.  There never has been and never will be another exactly like you.  It is your Purpose in Life to express that uniqueness through your own creativity in whatever medium you are led to and most important in creating your own life.  Following it will reveal to you the depth of your own Being. You cannot remember these things by copying another artist, or having someone teach you.  A teacher can only help you remember, or train you to imitate what they do.  You must re-discover it through your own creative expression.

THE ELEMENTS OF DESIGN: The components of a design – any design that exists in Nature or is man-made is made up of the Elements of Design: Line, Shape, Form, Color, Texture. Some teachers have added Space and Value – which I consider to be parts of other elements.  The elements are components or parts which can be isolated and defined in any visual design or work of art.

Lines are joined to create shapes. Shapes can be made to represent forms through the tools of shading and perspective.  Forms are given additional dimension with the addition of color, value, space and texture.

“The elements of design can be thought of as the things that make up a painting, drawing, design etc. Good or bad – all paintings will contain most of if not all, the seven elements of design.” ~John Lovett

  • LINE:  
    • Here are some dictionary definitions:  (1) “A long narrow mark on a surface;”   (2) “A long thin mark made by a pen, pencil, etc. (3)  In geometry a line: • is straight (no curves), • has no thickness, and. • extends in both directions without end (infinitely);” “a mark connecting two points”
    • My Definition: Line is a device used to separate one space from another.  It shows where one object or space that we see begins and another one ends.  A painter or graphic artist uses line to define a shape – to create an illusion of shape and form on a surface.  We also use it to show movement or direction. When we study nature, and attempt to express what we see on a canvas or paper we will see lines that separate the trunk of the tree from the space around it.  There is no thickness to the line – it is only a visual separation. Lines can be straight or curved or any of the variations shown here:lineLineTypes
  • SHAPE:  
    • Dictionary definition: (1 )the quality of a distinct object or body in having an external surface or outline of specific form or figure. (2) outward appearance :  the form or outline of something the shape of a pear, circles, squares, and other shapes.
    • My Definition:  A shape is formed when lines come together to enclose a space. There are three basic shapes that make up everything we see.  These basic shapes can be stretched or distorted or combined to create other shapes.
    • The basic shapes are circle, triangle, and square (rectangle).  All other shapes are variations or combinations of these 3 basic shapes.

Circle.  The circle is the dominant shape that exists in nature.  With practice you will begin to see circles everywhere.  Circles can be elongated to make ovals or stretched or distorted and when seen from an angle forms an ellipses but when a space is enclosed by a curved line it’s basic shape is the circle.


  • Triangle 
    • Dictionary Definition: a plane figure with three straight sides and three angles.
    • My Definition: When 3 straight lines are joined together to enclose a space, whether they are equal in length or of different lengths, a triangle is formed. Triangles exist in nature, but always in variations.  A true triangle will not be found in nature, but it helps to be able to find them as a basic shape when drawing, especially in man-made structures or combined with other shapes.E4TotpXn1uUbP6VHNcvzK2VU


  • Square
    • Dictionary definition: a plane figure with four equal straight sides and four right angles.
    • My Definition:  An absolute square does not exist in nature.  A variation of the square is the rectangle which has 2 sets of equal straight sides and four right angles.  Variations of the square exist in nature but actual squares are constructs of humans.  Being able to identify squares and rectangles with their variations is helpful when composing a drawing.
    • nature_pattern_3_s&s

We have briefly discussed the elements of Line and Shape.  But the best way to understand something is to experiment with it.


Try this:

Use a sketch pad that is easy to manage (8″ x 10″ is a good size – it’s small enough to carry around easily and large enough so you don’t feel so confined)  Start with a pencil – a regular 2b will be fine.

Gift (yes, Gift) yourself a minimum of ten minutes EVERY DAY solely for the practice of making art.  While you’re having your morning coffee or before you fall asleep at night, or any time you feel you can commit to. Soon it will become part of your daily life – making art every day.  Here are some challenges to get you started.

1st Challenge:  The Element of Line

Spend the first 10 minutes (or more if you can) to experiment with lines.  Draw straight lines, curvy lines, vertical lines, horizontal, diagonal,  – as many kinds of lines as will flow from your pencil.  Experiment with pressure on the pencil to vary the darkness and lightness of the lines.  Look for patterns, places to repeat lines and look for directions.  Try not to think about it too much, but let your intuition guide you.  The challenge is to keep it all lines – remember that when you connect lines to form shapes, you are changing the concept of this challenge.

2nd Challenge:  The Element of Shape

Pick a shape – circle, square or rectangle, or triangle.  Cut variations of the shape you choose from a sheet of colored paper.  It can be construction paper, wrapping paper, anything that contrasts with your sketch pad page.  Spend some time just laying the shapes on the page, arranging them in a way that pleases you,  When you have a design that you like you can glue them down or photograph it and then make another arrangement.

Variations on this challenge:

Try using more than one color, but stay with the same basic shape.

Try using more than one basic shape, first in one color, then with more.

Come up with your own variations, experimenting with arranging basic shapes.


Next time we’ll talk about the Element of Form.




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.