March, 2008 Archives



Some of the local children have already discovered the labyrinth. They love following the path, even when it’s half finished. When it’s complete they’ll almost always run it. Meditation is usually reserved for the adults.


Carlson Building Materials have loaned me the rocks for the labyrinth, they brought them to the University park on this immense truck and fork lift. 



I want to allow the students to take ownership of this one, so I have stopped putting the stones down, leaving the path half finished. My traveling students know what they are supposed to do, so I’m going to trust them to finish it in their time without my lead.

As I left for the afternoon I spotted one of them taking it upon himself to add stones to the path.


I imagine that the bowl in the Fama painting contains ash remaining from a process like this. 


Here’s a splendid lecture on the role of alchemy in the beginning of the era of modern science by UCLA History Professor Margaret Jacob. It’s a most impressive presentation. My thanks to Adam Kendall for alerting me to this video on YouTube.

Dr. Jacob is the author of  “The Radical Enlightenment”. 

Alchemy Lecture


Yesterday morning we laid out a labyrinth pathway in the park at the centre of the University. It’s a beautiful park, a wonderful place for a labyrinth to lie. The wind was blowing through the trees, mixing with the sound of running water in the creek; dew on the  grass wet our feet.



We used spraypaint held close to the rope which is attached to the central point, the goal of the walk.



Here’s the path as laid out and ready to walk. You can still see the staves in the ground at the corners of the seed pattern in the centre of the path. They’re essential for laying out the pathway as the rope pivots on them to create the geometrically perfect arrangement. This coming week we’ll add stones to the painted lines, making it more substantial and durable, unless it rains all week, which the weather people are threatening. 

The students are all members of a travel course I’m teaching with English Professor Marja Mogk, called Magical England. As part of the course we’ll be visiting the West Country and looking at sites that are tied to Arthurian legend while we read the text of Mallory’s version of the tales.



 The students are all creating a visual journal of their work in this class. Here are their bags and books under one of the lovely trees in the Kingsman park. 



I tagged these river cobbles at our local stone yard, Carlson Building Supply, who are sponsoring the project for the Scandinavian Festival. They ROCK! (as a stone yard should…)

There’s a nice piece here in the Ventura County Star about the bottle installation.

Kitty Dill ROCKS! 

I spent a satisfying morning adding the first layer of flesh colour into the skin of the two figures, then took out the green / brown ground with a Payne’s grey brushed on and pushed with a nasty old dried out house painting brush for some grassy texture.




The grisaille is now beneath a glaze of Burnt Sienna , then highlights of Titanium White. I lay the paint on fairly thickly with a brush, then scrape it away with the knife so that the texture and fragments of the earlier layers show through. I’ll use a rag to clean up unwanted bits, but I like to leave random textures alone when they serve the painting. It gives the illusion that the painting has appeared from a series of accidents.  

I had little time to paint today, but did manage to darken the rocks on the right hand side, and to figure out the position of the unfolded box on the left of the female in the foreground.

I spend a great deal of time simply looking at a painting while I make it, trying to figure out how it will create itself – where it wants to go. I mentioned yesterday that I needed a shape to lead the eye up to the male figure on the left, thinking then that it would probably be a rope, or a chain. The unfolded cube does the job beautifully though.

I decided to make the flying figure much smaller. He’ll be roughly where the armpit of the biggest figure in the sky hangs right now. 

Clue two. Four elements.  

Here’s the result of the morning’s work. I spent some time figuring out where the composition is going – I will place an object in the left side to bring the eye back up to the fellow on the left; if you look closely there’s a faint white line there which is my marker to suggest where I’d like this compositional device to go.

I made another change in the composition by adding a rock to the edge of the canvas beside the man. This closes that edge behind him so that the journey of the eye will tend to stay on the canvas instead of being led off to alternate adventures in another canvas somewhere. I think that I will probably add a foreground rock as well, upon which the woman will sit. This will made the action more contained and personal, and also make us feel as though we are flies of the wall at an event that we probably shouldn’t have seen.




I worked at defining the rocks by using a knife to scrape on some Van Dyke Brown over the Payne’s grey and loosely onto the rock surfaces, then adding some knifed Titanium White to it on the tops and left sides of the stones, where the light would hit them. I used the same brown to bring some texture into the female body.

At this stage of things it’s important to remember that further layers can lighten or darken the paint considerably, so things are not as they seem. Colours will also alter as glazes and opaque textures lay on top of what’s on the canvas already.

The large expanse of greenish brown on the left is finally irritating me enough that I think it’s going to have to get some attention very soon.

I want to express some ideas about the nature of trinity in this piece, a tricky proposition. Clue one: her fingers. 

A good days work.

Here’s where I left it this afternoon. Laying down the first layer of the head went well; some Nerdrum influence there, I think! By chance, the head ended up on top of the apron from the earlier figure, so I scraped the brush through the surface grey to allow some of that Raw Sienna to come through. This will work well later when it’s time to introduce some colour into the helmet / hat.

All pretty loose and rough, leaving lots of opportunity for textures to build, as shapes gradually get more definition to them. 



My plein air painter friend Rich Brimer, whose blog is here, came over to visit, so I got him to model for me so I can get the legs of the flying men rendered effectively. 

I worked on the figure, fixing the problems I mentioned before. She still needs some work, but the basics are there, and I can move ahead now. I emphasized some of the shadows and cracks in the rock with the left over Payne’s grey, and will make use of extra paint in this way as the painting progresses. 

Things will move a little more slowly now because Spring break is over and I must focus on the Art Department’s efforts to get our BFA program going.