Archives for the month of: January, 2011

“I worked on that tree for months. It was the saddest tree I’d ever known. Something about the way it responded to the chisel. Sometimes after six or eight hours alone with it, I’d just start crying. It seemed so lonely.”

“It must of had a hard life,” Orv said. ” Oaks are pretty strong. They can take a lot.”

The Wolf at Twilight, An Indian Elder’s Journey through a Land of Ghosts and Shadows by Kent Nerburn


After exploring batik on my own and studying it at school, the process of applying wax as a resist has been ingrained to the point that I do the same to my paintings. Especially with this piece, “tree”, as it’s being called for now, I used the wax as something I could remove later and have the color underneath show through. I’ll scrape off the wax in areas that I want to lighten up.

With this painting, I’m trying to flood the space with the limited light of sundown.  Being a warm glow, angled so that a gold ray shines through the trees, it presents a theme of past, a story told when the day is done. “Tree”, with its gnarly branches and exposed roots, has treasures of experience.  After a century of life, soaking up its surroundings, all with light and shadows, creatures going about their day and elemental sky over head, it has tales to tell.

“So, the tree you choose is important?” I asked.

“oh, yeah. You want trees with a good spirit.”

“how do you decide which trees to choose?”

Oh, I just kind of drive along until I get a feeling. Maybe I’ll see a tree and I’ll feel like it’s calling out to me. Cottonwood’s the best. That’s the sacred tree.

The Wolf at Twilight, An Indian Elder’s Journey through a Land of Ghosts and Shadows by Kent Nerburn


I think this one is close to being done, although, it may need more red and blue and more work on defining the roots. I added purple to the dark shadows to create a more balanced tone to the eye. The title to this piece hasn’t come to me yet… The subject is a tree that has seen many seasons and perhaps experienced ancient times with its twisted branches and gigantic roots coming out of the grass.

In my childhood, my family and I lived in a house that was as alive as we were. We called it the “Kelang House” after the town it stood in. Exerpt from Michele Andree’s, Like Minds post.

“It was my very first memory, walking up the driveway to the Kelang House just after it rained and seeing a tiny bright green snake climbing up a black tree trunk. I may have been two and as I recall it was the first day we moved into this home on top of a hill in the jungles of Malaysia. There was grandeur to the place, not just because of the wide open yard that circled around the house or long stone steps up to the front door, but that it was once occupied by the Japanese in World War II as their headquarters. It had its own personality filled with ghost stories. I remember the garden teaming with frogs, turtles, fireflies and the tallest grass that let us hide inside of it.  My brother and sister and I would spend all our time playing and acting out stories in this pulsating garden far away from everything.”

” While living five years in this home, we witnessed it decaying. Molds, mildew, rotting wood ceilings were evidence that the house was being swallowed up by the imminent jungle. Plant life crept in as well as lizards in abundance. These memories are what now appear as glorious times. They are clues as to how humans soak in their environment and how it remains with them as some sort of fuel for the fire, lasting until death. Remembering how I felt then, takes me right back to the things that are most meaningful in life.”

I remember my parents struggling as the house fell into disrepair over the years we made it our home. From the roof caving in, giving way to the weight of bats, to the human bones found under the house and the mounting feeling of being pushed out by spirits, was more than we could stomach. My father would love to tell the story of how he and my mother found the Kelang House by driving past it below the hill one day and looking up at it accidentally. When he approach the house for the first time, he told us that as he crossed the threshold, he had an overwhelming feeling of coming home.  Having  felt this way once before, he could only describe it as an experience of “knowing”, a lot like when he told us how he first met my mom and knew she was his wife. In the beginning it was a magical, stunning place, like a stately home overlooking the town below, and when our time was up, it let us know.

In college, one of my assignments was to tell a story through images on cloth using a color copier.  I rummaged through my parents collection of photo albums when at home one winter break and found a picture of Christmas morning, 1975? Probably one of the best Christmases ever, where I was given this tricycle with a back seat!  How I longed for that one.

The images read as a book with pages made of china silk sewn over a thin padding. Photos, which are heat transferred to the fabric, tell the tale of a house being consumed by itself. I remember a Yugoslavian girl in my class, as I presented this, saying rather angrily, “there are no such things as ghosts!” Feeling regrettable about defending myself, since I was worried of this kind of reaction in the first place, it was such relief  to find the rest of the class coming to my side, for each person had a ghost story to tell with an enthusiastic gleam in their eye.

I’ve been concentrating on other projects lately and neglecting my painting. It’s been  about three months now that I’ve been sitting at the computer, writing on different blogs. When I’m away from painting, even for just one day, I feel a terrible guilt, so I always make a point to do something for my art, no matter how small it is. How can I get myself into the creative mode to paint? Music is usually the solution, it allows me to step into the parallel world of  art. Depending on the sound of the music, I come up with concepts that usually are from symbols or fragments of thought.

When I was in my teens, (1980’s) I’d go up to the roof of our “Denrock” house in Westchester, California and listen to, on a Walkman, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Vangelis  and all the ‘New Wave’ music on 106.7 KROQ FM. It was one of those hiding places the rest of the family didn’t know about. This was a nice, flat roof over the bedroom in the back of the house that you could get to by climbing up a low shed in the back yard, that once on top of, it was just a large step up to the fiber glass awning over the patio and then just another step up to this flat gravel roof.  I was going through a phase of wanting to be alone a lot. Friends down the street wanted to play, but I just wanted to listen to music.

I’d always sneak my brother’s Sony Walkman, a silver metal, Japanese model that had flush buttons with reverse mode and a AM, FM radio.  It had some weight to it because of the metal casing, and the sound was crystal clear with a solid bass. So, once up there, lying on my back, looking up at the sky and hearing these amazing melodies and harmonies, I felt a kind of freedom. Constantly, I would imagine scenarios, characters, stories and beautiful images of other worlds the music would be a backdrop to. Music was the tool then and still can be these days, if I let it.

The sound track to Blade Runner, by Vangelis, became an obsession after seeing the movie. I listened to that album everyday for about 20 some years. Come to think of it, there’s only been one other musical addiction that comes close to Vangelis, and that’s Stevie Ray Vaughan. I listened religiously to his music for two years straight and any artist that influenced him became another feast for the ears. With Vangelis, a mood is transferred with a theme and scenery, as his music usually has no lyrics, he creates a huge sound, practically an orchestra, with a synthesizer.  Stevie Ray Vaughan, as well, gave what seemed like a whole orchestrated movement with just his guitar. He played a melody that ran far up and down a single chord, telling you a story, always keeping to the overall theme of the song and amazingly, each note is heard separately with such intensity. It’s like he’s the most generous person in the world and gives you all he’s got.

Lately, Nirvana, With the Lights Out, is being listened to over and over again. I especially like the songs on the first and second album. Their music has an overwhelming amount of inspiration, after all, it  helped classify a whole movement. Funny how I’m just really listening to them now. I remember my sister and I pretending to mosh in the living room with It Smells Like Teen Spirit video blaring on MTV (1991) and my dad coming into the room, pronouncing with disdain,” This isn’t music, this is noise!” The thought which immediately came to mind, I kept to myself, seeing that he was really mad, was that this was music, great music! I felt like there was something happening to my generation, we were embarking on a whole new sound, ready to make a long lasting rippling affect.

So, where am I today with music? It’s been a little distant, on a personal level as well as a larger one. My stereo didn’t work for a while, the CD changer went kaput and slowly I didn’t listen to as much music as I should have. On a larger scale, good music seems harder to come by these days. I listen to the radio going to work and not too much really catches my attention. One of my new years resolutions is to seek out local or new bands or even discover the overlooked musicians from our past and open myself up to what’s out there. Bon Iver, For Emma, forever ago, is a gorgeous album that I’m stuck on. A self released album, written with heart felt lyrics coupled with sweet sounding, huge melodies and a lonely voice, blows me away every time I hear it. He created the songs while in isolation for a few months and it definitely shows how our creative spirit fosters time spent alone, away from everything.

Going up to that roof, even if just for a while, was the closest I could get to escaping the world and getting closer to something else I couldn’t define. I believe that it was during this time, with music in hand, I was able to practice using my imagination, all to create a theme or world which now represents itself as my art. Back then, watching the LA smog imbued sunsets, I remembered thinking how happy I was to be by myself.