Inherent Traits: In Progress

Monica is working on a large anatomical drawing of her mother Elisa. I am impressed by her use of a warm orange background broken up with several areas of purple wash. The color palette is so inviting and she tells me that orange is the color of creativity and in Yogic studies it is associated with the pelvic area. These background colors appear full of emotion and the paper has also been coated with gesso and a very thin layer Golden Moulding Paste to give it a slight texture. I talk to Monica about how it is possible for her to work in direct contact with the surface of the figure. She explains that casein is a protein and as it is touched (she rubs it with a cotton cloth) it acquires a polished look.


Monica works directly on top of the drawing

In the drawing Elisa’s hands are clasped in front of her body and I understand that she is quite handy. She builds and repairs things in her home and has raised six children while working as a hearing and speech professional in the schools. Monica includes a drawing of the inner ear in the space next to her mother’s head. It floats as a symbol for her work.

inner ear

The inner ear


Monica works on the drawing ‘s inner ear detail

The compact organs in the chest and abdomen are depicted in strong vital colors and will remain visible as the work progresses. Monica has decided to omit the skeletal structure in order to make the organs an intricate, energetic focal point. There is a space where the gall bladder once was and because it has a very plant-like look and was removed in real life, it now exists on the ground plane.


Chest cavity and abdomen

Monica places the drawing on her upright drawing table so I can photograph her standing next to it –I am thinking about illustrating scale. Elisa looks directly forward and Monica stands beside the figure. I convince the artist to pose as the figure poses, hands clasped in front. It is the opposite of the way Monica usually stands with her hands together behind her back. Both women look forward, strong, direct, engaged and engaging.


Monica and Elisa, notice the gall bladder in the lower left.





carolyn and the creatures

You know – Carolyn represents the Creature. I’ve made it clear that her laborious process fascinates me. I was in her studio several times the last few months. I took early shots of a Javelina progressing.


Glossy print stage of Collared Peccary or Javelina. 


He gets photoshopped into the woods.

The tracing below, I caught on Dec 11th. The end photo I got in the gallery, last week.


The enlarged photo-shopped composition gets transferred to drawing boards.


The Collard Peccary sits detailed into his spot on the composition.

I also catch the Musk-Ox on Dec 11.  At the time, I focus on the dense, black-inked area of tree branches in the center. The Ox silver tracing sits to the side waiting to come alive. In the  final stage the ox becomes primary in focus.



And below is the work on the wall in the gallery. It’s large, consequently this photo doesn’t do it justice. It holds 20 creature representations (if you count a couple of skulls).  I’ve heard Carolyn call them out several times now. There are sheep, goat, hawk, 2 javalinas, zebra, white deer, deer mount, mule deer, antelope, owl, squirrel, coatimundi, road runner, quail, musk-ox, crazy goat with beads, 2 skulls (sheep?), and pronghorn. If the blog allowed I’d tag them so you could know right where they are. It’s part of the enjoyment of standing in front of the real work. Some show up obviously, while others come into sight by surprise. If you get a chance to hear Carolyn talk about her work, take it. She weaves everything together with intelligence and amusement.

Preservation Woods

Preservation Woods
Acrylic on 10 prepared acid-free foam-core panels
80 x 160 inches

You know, I’m interested in anatomy. While my focus is mostly on human, I love animal anatomy as well because from that point of view, we connect.

Recently Carolyn generously loaned me some of her animal anatomy books. The one cat book in the background is mine. I pull the books out across my desk, go through them, think about drawing, then put them away. While I appreciate the loan, what do I do with the inspiration?

IMG_3737Yesterday the three of us discussed how we might be influencing each other. The few animals in my work are abstract and symbolic. My cat appears in one work, a snake and a frog in another. My inclusion of an animal and its anatomical structure is very different from Carolyn’s focus. Carolyn renders taxidermy, in a realistic manner, in a constructed natural setting. Reread that last sentence.

I don’t know about focusing on animal anatomy more than I do at this point. While the books excite me, for now animal is Creature, and Creature is Carolyn.

hers – nothing in stasis

I spent July and much of August working on a female and male pelvis girdle. Above is a black and white photo of what is a full color canvas tentatively titled Hers.

After the research and work on this series, I am more self-aware. My body – is my own. It’s that simple and that complex. With all that’s gone on in the political arena lately this little 13″ x 13″ study especially, feels so relevant.

You might also imagine that I am more aware that our Earth, like our body is incredible and deserves full respect. For me this set up of CREATURE, MAN, and NATURE has taken on deeper meaning. Take care – of the one body and our one world and the life inside, there is a connection and the balance is sacred.

…about the video (which is in experiment stage)
I enjoyed the HERS study and the abstraction which I lay out in the video below. The composition starts simple and basic, eventually the ground work disappears, but it never goes away. To read about HIS and access that video, click here. They’re both fairly short.

The soundtrack works well.  There are some electric and wirey parts, if I could only show you how we made those sounds using a slinky. Sharing process… it’s not possible to share it all, but in bits, it informs, educates and maybe it amuses.

the back body – on paper

I see my body as an instrument, rather than an ornament.  ~Alanis Morissette

A new work on paper is progressing incredibly slow. It’s a posterior rendering of the structure of the torso.

I have realized how unfamiliar with the back body I really am. A few days of research and a few days of layout finally allowed me to start painting and still I had errors to correct. It’s great learning. There is allot going on back there. And despite all the work I still have yet to get to the primary focal point if you can imagine that.  This work may not be in the exhibit in the way it shows here. I’ll probably complete it, photograph it and re-present it.

An idea brews as I continue.


One of the things we’re planning for the exhibit is video.
I’m playing with ideas. It’s all new.

A simple start using basic skills and it’s only a little over 2 minutes long. Who knows what can happen once I know what I’m doing. The practice video shows stages of a new work.  It includes sound that I created with an artist friend.

I’ve particularly enjoyed painting this canvas. I think I’m finished with the artwork … maybe … unless I’m not.

really, nothing is stasis

Monica in her studio, Phoenix

I am in Monica’s sacred space, her studio. It is a hot June day and we talk about the summer in Phoenix and how it is such a good time to be in the studio. There is first of all the light and then the air conditioning. I literally get down on my knees to photograph the piece she is working on today. It is a painting of a male torso, she has previously finished the female torso and I look at both. I want to know how she builds the painting. The richness in the painted surface is what she uses to build the form.
Monica approaches the male form in terms of the muscle and bone structure. As she paints she adds the other systems in layers but not in the conventional manner of medical illustration, or life drawing, rather by their importance. The systems such as the arterial will be faithfully accounted for and then covered by the next layer. If something conceptually important like the heart should become obscured –she goes back and delineates it again as the figure becomes complete.

detail of male torso in progress

The female form is begun with the soft tissue and the lymphatic system. Both male and female start in the center of the painting and grow outward. I ask her if it is important that we know if it is male or female and she acknowledges that it is the energy between the male and female that she is working with in this pair. I can see the difference but I so love the line and surface that for me, the pieces transcend their gender. As she says, it is the energy of the systems, male and female that exists, explodes and rewards my eyes.

detail of female torso

You will see what I mean in January. Carolyn had mentioned that Monica was kicking it with her new work and she is.
On a technical note she is applying casein and egg tempera using both long lettering brushes and Japanese brushes. Knowing how to use these brushes enables an artist to achieve a wonderful whip-lash line with maximum control. Monica likes control but these paintings have taken her to a new almost cellular level where chaos is her friend and really, nothing is stasis.

line brushes