Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


I was wondering if I would blog again. Here is No. 5 of the big drawings for the show. I'll try later tonight to write about them. Right now I need to dash off to work.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

New series

I've made these for the upcoming show... although they don't reproduce very well, I thought I'd put them up here. This has been a really productive time for me, but you wouldn't know it by checking out the blog.
I've given in to graphite for now (my studio is a no-go zone, dust covers everything). The ethereal quality seems right and everything I put on the paper sinks quite nicely into it. I will never give up on mystery, on telling only part of the story, on living alongside that which cannot be explained, only experienced.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Enter a new era

I've been getting ready for a solo show coming up in January... and have clean forgotten to post the big pieces to the blog. Here's a detail from a 5' x 5' drawing based on a much smaller sketchbook drawing. Unfortunately, I cannot get far enough away from the wall to take in the whole image.
So far, this series is looking like the rainy day drawings that inspired them.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Top drawing was made the night before I received the gift of the dead vole (see recent post). I honestly think somehow I knew what was to come... more evidence that time isn't linear for me after all.
I dig the idea that I can go where I might have unfinished business and try to wrap things up. I do that often in the process of drawing, revisiting ideas that niggle at me in my dreams. But this? This is weird.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

What a mess

This one started as a map of where I live now... sensing energy undulating here. Didn't Edgar Cayce say Virginia Beach is an energy node of some kind? I'm feeling it.
So, are we small? Large? Infinite? Finite? Maybe two objects CAN take up the same space at the same time.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Where ideas come from

Hal brought home a vole (deceased I'm afraid) for me to draw. So peaceful and eternally sleeping, her fur so soft and perfectly bluegray. Later on I'll maybe post some of the sketches I made of her, but I see her influence in this piece as well.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Dulled senses

The best of the bunch is not always good... I think the value here is in the detail: ghosts caught on the edge of the image; the intricate, delicate foot turned in; the last flutter of wing. I want that black black back. My heart isn't in it.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Undersea creatures

It's big, it's messy, and I feel set free somehow.
Ebony pencil and paraffin... reaching back while looking forward. There's something so right about scrubbing away with that pencil right down to the nub.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Night fishing

This drawing started out as a map of my childhood neighborhood. I am surprised that it went figurative on me, but since I'm looking for new territory, I decided to go with it. i like the 'reflection in a pool' quality. And the organic edges. And the scribbling.

Mourning a process

I'd like to say I've pushed these drawings about as far as I can, but what really happens is I get more fearful - no, wrong word - more rigid, less likely to take a chance with them, less adventurous... and now they are less interesting.
What a drag. I think I need to give up the time-consuming ink drawing and get onto something freer and looser...
this process clearly needs to die, at least for the moment

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Treasure hunting in the studio

I found an ancient can of blackboard paint in the studio and it prompted an afternoon of repetitive-chalk-mark-making... if I could I'd wear this thing.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Pondering creativity

This morning Hal and I were talking about ideas, where they come from, how to lay the ground work for more, how to recognize them when they do come...
I always say I can't make this drawing until I've made the one that came before it.
The thought process mirrors, so they say, the biological process of building nerve pathways in the brain. Thinking and drawing begets more thinking and more drawing.
But growth and change often seems to occur while I'm doing something else, crosshatching in a dark area, for instance, not really thinking about anything, but enjoying the physicality of drawing and the connection between the pen and the paper.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Halloween is upon us

Restless, though benign I think, souls are stirring the air around here. I can almost feel them wandering through rooms, going through the refrigerator, hiding my pencils.
This process of drawing – layering random ink-pen sketches with burnished china marker – seems to invite them to take form through my fingers, a writhing chain-link-fence-like sub-strata of energy.
I was working with a story recently at the newspaper about 'buckypaper,' how it's made up of carbon nanotubes that stick together (left?) to form super strong skins for use someday soon in lighter-weight aircraft and spaceships. I love how everyday experience and encounters filter through me onto paper.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Rooster on the windowsill

Bell jars and other vessels have been in my dreams lately. I seem to notice them all around me.
They're about holding onto something, maybe something precious, but probably something I need to let go of.
But I like them in my drawings, where I can isolate forms from the environment; saving them or saving all the rest of us.
Or perhaps this time the drawing really is just about that rooster on the windowsill, ready to crow.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Fishin' for a good time starts with throwin' in your line

Pulling what I need from the collective unconscious. I never know what I'm going to need, but it often seems to come to me anyway.
Since I fish and swim here, I try to give as good as I get.
I'm feeling the darkness and panic emanating from Wall Street and Washington (and elsewhere)... my knee-jerk reaction is to blacken in the skies and let the fog roll in.
Fisherpeople have been pulling flounder, blues and crappie out of the Bay here lately. That's comforting, given the precarious condition of our economy.
From Douglas Rushkoff: Think small. Buy local. Make friends. Print money. Grow food. Teach children. Learn nutrition. And if you do have money to invest, put it into whatever lets you and your friends do those things.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

No quiet mind

Can you tell I've been all over the maps (inner and outer) lately? Covered lots of literal ground with visiting friends from Scotland and then a week in upstate New York with family. Not much time for resting or reflecting – or drawing. Now I am back at home and exhaling long and slow. Hope to be making some quieter work as the week unfolds. I'd love to see some big black (or gray or white) areas for resting eyes.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Sunlight dappling water

I've been working out of more than one book this week and just came across this piece where I am pushing the background and playing with transparent forms. Since I won't be posting again for a week or so, I thought I'd add this in today. Cheers.

Wind and waves

Traveling in the Outer Banks, I found a way cool Hemp sketchbook... this is the first drawing and not finished, but made in various coffee houses and outdoor pubs around Ocracoke Island. Waves on the beach were huge, sand was blowing and shells were only fragments... mosquitoes as big as hummingbirds, and just as hungry.
Continue to travel this week and will I hope bring back more drawings.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Invasion of the body snatchers

I've been working in the yard and discovered a cluster, or should I say invasion, of 'pods' in the juniper bushes... hanging like Christmas ornaments from the ends of branches, oozing sap they steal from the plant and incubating I don't know WHAT sort of alien life form.
I made this drawing on Saturday night and only noticed it is THEM this morning... oooooo.
So not only do they creep unbidden into juniper bushes, here they are in my head as well. Oooooo.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Plain weave

It's so great to have a day to putter in the studio.
I wondered what would happen to a drawing if I shredded it and then put it back together – deconstructed and made again (I am nothing if I am not literal). Take it a step farther and shred it in both directions, then weave.
It's got everything: hands working a repetitive, meditative process; craft; pixel-like blurring at the edges (very beautiful effect I think); dimension.
Click here to see what it looked like when I first posted it on Nov. 11.

Eye of the storm

I've been all over town working on this drawing the past few days... waiting for my friend Bernie at his physical therapy, taking phone calls at Samaritan house and a late-night break in the newsroom. Today I'm not working - deep sigh of pleasure - and finally finished it up in my studio.
Tropical storm Hanna is battering us today, the air is odd and color in the sky unusual, but not dangerous. Out on the beach this morning the waves were kicking up and clearing the sand of everything... no treasures to poke at and study.
The crosshatching around this 'eye of the storm' went counterclockwise, then clockwise then back again, as if I am buffeted by the storm system and trying to get control... ha, like that's going to happen.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Structural framework

I sometimes post drawings that are not finished... maybe hoping that next time I look back through these, I will see something I've missed. Part of my practice involves studying my own blog for threads of ideas and connections that surface here and there... like the goat drawings, or Cthulhu drawings. This skeletal piece is so delicate, I wonder if I can add some darkness without overwhelming it's subtle forms.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Still Life With Mirror

Something about this recycled paper, it's color and flecks of I-don't-know-what leads me to make old drawings. Here I pretend I'm one of the old masters, carefully engraving a portrait or biblical story. Again, I am working over an older drawing in this sketchbook the past few days. I like the effect of a mirror image - more obvious turned upside down - but it seems to carry more weight with this end up. Ah, the tough decisions that an artist must make.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Recycling on a couple of levels

Here's another one in the same vein as yesterday's post.
This drawing zapped me right back to Ireland and a walk up the hill behind Burren College last year. I came upon the carcass of a goat, it appeared to have crawled into some undergrowth to die a few days before.
Previous posts: Ashes to ashes, Goat drawings continued

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Memory is an additive process, like drawing

Hal is watching an old film noir and I'm channeling hard shadows and dissonance from it. The soundtrack especially is creeping in (Schoenberg- influenced score).
Lately I've been going back into earlier drawings. This one, about a year old, was all soft graphite and paraffin, serene and meditative. I soon put a stop to that.
Layering drawings, a new one over an old one, is like layering experience and memory. The building up becomes a new experience; the recording alters the memory with some bits obscured, destroyed, some exaggerated, some just preserved.
A continuous, ever-changing, truthful and not-so-truthful history of the universe.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Molecular level living

A bit more work done on this Survival instinct since I posted it in July.
It's Friday morning and I'm off to Samaritan House (our version of domestic abuse/homeless shelter) to work on the phone lines for a few hours. I'm curious about how several of these drawings originate there, in a windowless office filled with desperate stories, fluorescent light, silly jokes and true good works. The down time between phone calls is fertile ground for drawing.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Small animals

I've been making these drawings for a couple of days now...
They remind me of a Florida trip a few years back. I went out on the air boat in the dark with my brother Bruce so he could catch frogs. Gig frogs I mean. Frog giggin.' A process by which one sneaks up on a frog in the boat – o unsuspecting, innocent creature – shines a bright light in its eyes (they're quite stupid and actually hold still for this) and then Snap! stabs it real fast with a long pointy stick.
What I've been thinking about – after the shock I guess – is the huge shadows cast by the big bright spotlight. The frog goes sort of taut and stretches out all its legs, wrestling to get away. Bruce pulls them off the stick and puts them in a burlap bag in the bottom of the boat. They bounce and wriggle and hop inside the bag for what seems like ages.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

New York

What I love about MoMA is discovering an artist I've maybe seen before but finally 'see.'
This time it is Mira Schendel. I'm practically speechless about her work, and, as you can see here, miles away from being able to embrace her simplicity. But I saw and I remember.
New York was good fun. The opening at the Bowery Gallery was packed and noisy and I'm still trying to figure out why I'm in that show. Most of the rest of the work was quite representational. Later we all went to a big party under the 59th Street Bridge for great food and wine and dancing, courtesy of my friend Lori's employer.
Friday we walked across the Brooklyn Bridge, stopping over one of Olafur Eliasson's waterfalls to look down between the boards of the walkway. I generally love his work – the Weather Project in the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern comes to mind – but I don't get these. At the end of the day we were at Coney Island for fireworks on the beach.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Large drawing on small paper

My favorite part of this drawing is the sort of tank at lower right that contains two amoebas (for their safety or everybody elses?). Other wise I'm digging the contrast between this and the previous post, those two little portraits against this epic battle scene.
Tomorrow we head up to New York for the opening of the juried show at the Bowery Gallery. I am so psyched. Here's a link to yesterday's article in The Sun; Alix Finkelstein interviewed juror Jed Perl about the show: http://www.nysun.com/arts/standing-fast-at-the-bowery-gallery/82764/
And here's the gallery Web site: www.bowerygallery.org
Links to my blog posts containing the two drawings in this show: O Tannenbaum
and Here's another one

Monday, July 28, 2008

Past and present

My friend Anna Darlene gave me this very old paper she found in an Asian imports store in Milwaukee... they told her it was nothing special, used for packing china or pictures. But it is beautiful. Thin, aged, stained, worn and ready for small drawings. It has a texture like linen. Too fragile for me to do more than lightly draw with a pen.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Primordial soup

I continue to work on this. I'm digging the stop-frame-animation imprints and the sense that everything is heaving and pulsing... a primordial soup.
Long long ago in design class, we were asked to make a drawing of an object that explained how it worked. Mine was an old egg-beater with a crank handle. When the blades were spinning fast, they practically disappeared at their outermost edges. Hmmm. How to work that into these sleepy zen drawings?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Survival instinct

I know I will be pushing this image much further, but I like it right now the way it is... vulnerable parent and offspring inconspicuously fleeing from the threatening masses.

Saturday, July 19, 2008


I must be having nightmares that I don't remember. I didn't see this coming, creatures hiding in the bushes.
In an effort to keep the edges lively I ended up with Cthulhu and Venus flytraps holding still among the pussy willows. That's what happens when I think too much about drawing.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Suspended animation

OK, This refers back to my undergraduate work in a big way, though now I am using more eco-friendly materials (lemon juice, recycled paper, wax crayons. Beeswax crayons when I can find them). Sharp edges and dangerous shards, creatures (parasites? or other facets) within other creatures. I'm digging the small transparent areas at the edges.
Good work day.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Number 18

It's true. The project I thought would long be finished by now is still in progress. This is No. 18 in the grid of 60 6-inch ink drawings that will - if you haven't seen these before - make up a much larger image of the live oak trees at the end of my block.
Working on this one reminded me of an afternoon a few years ago, drawing outside under one of the trees during an eclipse... of course I couldn't look up to see the moon covering the sun, but I looked down to the paper I was working on. Light filtering through the leaves and branches appeared on the paper in sweet crescent shapes instead of these mostly roundish ones.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Fourth of July

So I've been back from Knoxville for 5 days... and I have a batch of drawings, but not much of them are any good except for this small brown one. And I don't even know where it's going. A lot of the recent pieces suggest animals to me: horses with strong backs; sea lions at rest; pterodactyl trying to scratch its own back. I've found that this deep black china marker I've been using lately (which I love )is taking over, but not in a good way. Trying to reign it (or myself) in... before it overpowers the delicate ink.
Now it's good to be home for a holiday weekend. The weather has been fine, ritual fireworks on the beach and the Bay cool and calm. Time to draw.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Where's my fedora?

Ain't caffeine wonderful?
Hitting the road to Knoxville for the Tom Waits concert.
Posts from the trip I hope on Tuesday.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Burren landscape

It's evident that I've had too much coffee... a lot, in fact. Drawings get busier.
I've been thinking lately that I should make landscapes, pondering what makes a landscape... horizon line, big detailed objects in the foreground. Last night late when I was driving home from work, the waning moon was huge and silent, hiding out near the treetops.
If you've ever been to the Burren, this first one might make sense to you. I'm adding a lovely shot of Burren limestone so you can see what I mean. (thank you BamJam.net.)

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Ruffled feathers

This started out as an ink-pen drawing that soon became the skeletal system for I-don't-know-who.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Ashes to ashes

OK, not what lives inside us so much (variation on a recent theme) as what happens when we don't need it anymore.
I love the deterioration, the natural processes of reclaiming and recycling when the body is worn out. This drawing reminds me of finding a flattened frog baking in the sun on the road, or a days-dead snake in my neighbor's driveway. Leathery, brittle fragments come apart in my hand.

It's Saturday and I got up early to draw before heading down to the Outer Banks (NC) for the rest of the weekend. I've been trying to figure out why I'm working too much (payback for all the weeks I didn't work enough) at work that has little meaning for me anymore. And how I'm going to stop doing it. All around me are people living lives they never imagined, and never meant to have. I don't want that to be me. I'm asking myself why is this the first drawing I've posted in two weeks?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


Last night we watched an indie film based on an H.P. Lovecraft story about the cult of Cthulhu. It was a newish film made in an old way... silent, lots of cardboard and flapping sheets and glitter. Cthulhu himself had lots of sharp claws and edges. In the end he was run through with the pointy bow of a ship. Though, as I understand it, he can't really die, can he?