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.





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.

elements at play in my work

I photographed this drawing, this weekend. Here are some of the thoughts that play into it.

…matriarchal and patriarchal, feminine and masculine, cyclical and linear, spiral and hierarchical, being and doing, spiritual and physical, moon and sun, water and fire, joyful and serious.

The work is joyful, the study is serious.

Here is an influential quote from the introduction to Phillip Shepherd’s book New Self, New World, which took me an eternity to read.  So worth it.

He describes two brains, the intelligence we have ruthlessly and ruinously centered only in the cranium, with its obsessive and disassociated cold passion for separatist analysis, objectification and control, and the vast free-flowing, infinitely supple and responsive intuitive intelligence of our second brain: that of the enteric nervous system, immune system and genetic networks, with it’s locus in the pelvic bowl.

The well written sentence prompted the first two works, of which this is one.


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


Photos of my progression, inspired from Carolyn’s earlier post.

Full canvas is 45 x 35″. The snapshots shows detail of a small area consisting of parts of the rib cage, liver, gallbladder, kidneys, stomach, large and small intestines. The general structure is set up. Though I plan to abstract the entire form, you’ll recognize it’s a male torso.

The casein color is intense but will become a bit more subdued when I come in with some titanium white, egg tempera pattern. The composition is still in an early stage.

I need smaller brushes.