Category: Theatre

On Thursday I shot photos of one of my students in the role of the Magician – I posted the sketch for it a few days ago. She has a particularly dramatic appearance that’s going to be really wonderful to paint, with a high-boned pale face against long dark hair, while a fabulous black and white striped suit makes her light and dark features even more striking. For the sky in the painting I’ve been looking for snapshots of an amazing cloudscape that Rich Brimer and I witnessed a year ago while we sat in the garden enjoying a glass of wine: cotton balls of cloud emerging from a distant vanishing point, almost gridded across the blue increasing in size as they came toward us. Some skies are so dramatic and strange that they seem unbelievable in a painting. I’m not particularly concerned about my paintings imitating reality so much as presenting a world that might be real, so I think it’s time for that extraordinary sky to appear.

I’ve worked on the pillars on the left of the courtyard, making them more substantial and really pulling their weight in the composition. It’s been challenging to find the time to commit to painting because it’s the end of the semester, which comes with a flurry of events and exams.

It’s been a crazy couple of days. My old friends in Lit Moon Theatre Company have been working on a piece of performance for the Kwan Fong Gallery at CLU, which I have the pleasure of running; last night was the culmination of their work as a beautiful exploration of movement and poetry from ancient Scottish poems, charms and incantations. It was fascinating to see this romantic and graceful performance come from an extraordinary experimental theatre company that has a reputation for reconstructing classical sources – it’s unlikely material – perhaps that’s why it was such a treat, because it’s so unusual a combination.

Romanticism is the cure for Post-Modernism.


providenceeyes1 Providenceeyes2Photographer Rafael Cardenas was at the gallery for the opening of the exhibit at Bert Green’s Gallery in Los Angeles last Wednesday, and kindly sent me his photo of my piece As the Crow Flies with me in it being photographed. He’s a good shooter – I like what I see of his work on his website very much.

I also heard from Murray McMillan in Providence, where my video In the Eyes of my Ancestors played in October last year – here are a couple of snaps from the campus showing the video in action on the building. I’m hoping to post quicktime of the video in location soon. I think it looks great in the stills. I forgot to mention that on Monday evening I met up with my old friend Derek Goodall, who helped me with filming the project. We are talking about a somewhat more ambitious piece next – an alchemical dance / movement piece. I’m going to start working on imagery for it, then pass this to Vicki Finlayson, formerly a Merce Cunningham dancer, now an excellent choreographer with Lit Moon theatre company in Santa Barbara. She’ll work on building movement to progress from one image to the next, then we’ll shoot it in a variety of locations, hopefully including Death Valley.

A new semester begins today, with fresh faces in the classrooms. I love teaching! After being my children’s father, and alongside my painting work it’s the most valuable thing that I do.

I’m not feeling the transitions from vacation to semester time in the same way now that I live here at the university – the separation between the two has become more blurred, with the mingling of home life with life at the institution. It’s ideal for a workaholic!

The Beckett plays are moving along nicely, with much of the lighting figured out and ready to go once I have the cues written into the lighting board. I guess my only real worry is that we’ve set some of the lights so tightly focused that the actors have to be very careful to be in exactly the right spot, or they won’t be lit. I saw several run-throughs last night and was very pleased to see how well the performers are handling the language, which is sometimes a bit obscure.


I don’t know how to stretch the day to be even more productive. This day was taken by some very pleasant events that were thoroughly enjoyable and laid groundwork for the future, but meant that I simply couldn’t get any painting done at all, except to snatch a few ten minute breaks to figure out what needs to be done next to the Traveler.

Barry came over to help me with ideas of how to render a thousand skulls in the computer as the template for painting the landscape of the Angel of Death piece. It looks as though my first thought of doing a complex composite in Photoshop is the best solution, then paint the plain of bones from that. We talked about his show that’s coming up in the gallery in the Fall for a short time.

I made a couple of the set pieces for the Becket plays ready, involving some time in the wood-shop trimming wood to size, and realizing that I’d really prefer to hire somebody else to do this carpentry work, because the big table saws simply scare me. Using a machine that you’re afraid of because it can hurt you is probably not a good idea. However, I’m really fascinated by some of the geometrical shapes that can be produced in three dimensions and conceal profound Pythagorean philosophical truths.

Janet Neuwalder is setting up her work in the gallery right now, with boxes and boxes of strange ceramic objects laid onto tables, with colour going onto the walls as backgrounds for the eclectic compositions. Good stuff. Opens January 25th.

I’m looking into doing an exhibit about Freemasonry in the Fall. I think this would be very successful following the Da Vinci Code and The Lost Symbol novels by Dan Brown.

I’m in Santa Barbara working with John Blondell on his production of Beckett short plays. I’ve always loved working with John, because he has a wild imagination and is open to all the totally off the wall idea we can brew up, taking them seriously until it’s clear that they are completely beyond credibility. We’ve been putting the lighting together and working out staging – I got to see one of the pieces being rehearsed in between light work. Beckett is very simple – he gives very clear directions regarding the lighting of his plays and has a good understanding of the potential for deus ex machina in the equipment of the theatre.

Beckett plays:

  • Catastrophe
  • Rockaby
  • Footfalls
  • Come and Go
  • Not I
  • Act Without Words

Opening night Friday 28th January at Porter Theatre, Westmont, Montecito, California.


jacketThe vertical monitor is incredibly helpful! I’m  so happy to have it to use as a tool.

The boxes are nearly complete for the Beckett plays, so we’re well on the way to getting the pieces up and running for the actors and directors to work with actual set furnishings, and I’ll get lighting designed and hung this weekend. I managed to hurt myself pretty effectively using the table saw, when a piece of wood kicked back and hit me, but everything is okay, just a scrape and some embarrassment at being stupid enough to injure myself in the woodshop again. (Second time I’ve hurt myself properly in twenty years, not counting banged thumbs and splinters).

In the studio I was able to work on the Traveler for a few hours, getting lots of the ground work done and defining the shape of the figure against the background. I need to patch up a few pieces of sky that should be within areas framed by arms and hands, but that should be pretty easy. I trimmed the tail of the coat because I wasn’t enjoying the way it was angled, being a bit too extreme. Now there’s a curve in it it feels more real, as if it’s rising and falling with his movement.

I spent a pleasant morning driving to Santa Barbara to meet up with everyone involved in the Beckett production that I’m designing for John Blondell. It looks as though the consensus of opinion is that everything should be as stripped down as possible, as simple as can be, with the theatre cleaned out of all superfluous equipment, a limited black stage, super-simple furniture and props. We will build a platform in the air above the stage so that we can make objects appear and disappear in one of the pieces, a very specific choreography for props and an actor. Simple black platforms, with grey cubes and lines, a painted pathway on the floor, very simple specific lighting.

Dialogue with John has been interesting and thoughtful, I’ll post it on here soon.

My kids brought home a lot of white sage seeds, so I’ll be sure to plant them in the garden. I love growing this sage – it smells fantastic.

Back to the studio tomorrow. I’ve got to prepare for the exhibit at Bert Green’s gallery, and for a little local show here in Thousand Oaks called Symbols and Words (I must deliver the work on Monday!).

John Blondell and I have known each other for nearly ten years. He’s the director of the experimental (and very fun) Lit Moon Theatre Company, which I’ve been involved with as a designer. I think he’s one of the most creative people I ever had the pleasure of working with, so it was a big treat to go up to Santa Barbara today to talk about working together on a production of Samuel Beckett’s short plays at the College he works at in Montecito. The pieces are quite short, so the set design has to accommodate all of them being done in the same performance, while simultaneously dealing with Beckett’s sometimes very specific direction on the way things are arranged within the space.

We start work immediately, so I have a small stack of scripts to read and figure out, and then I’ll sketch the design for the space. I’m interested in dog fighting pits and bullfighting arenas as a source. Rough wood, dirt, white-washed, peeling planks, sawdust.

With a bit of luck I’ll get Lucas to build it for me, as he did when I did the tree for Mitchell last year.


Here’s a shot from the dress rehearsal of the play, which is now over. Lukas brought the tree down to the studio for me today, so it will be ready for a new incarnation in Simi Valley for Earth Day. This year I’m expecting to work with recycled computer circuit boards which will be hung in large numbers from the branches of the tree. Don’t you think the symbolism of the tree of fruit of knowledge of good and evil contrasted with computers is too good to miss? (Sorry Apple!)

The tree comes home to roost

There’s an article about the show by Bojana Hill in the Santa Barbara Independent describing the tree as a  “beautiful centerpiece”. Nice!