True Intimacy Is Being Awake

This has been a really productive couple of weeks. I’m working out most of the conditions surrounding my forthcoming year-long project: I’ve changed a few things around, tried some different techniques and decided on some project boundaries.

The first thing I changed was that I purchased a travel palette, which I like even better than the one I had made. It holds 12 half pans, which I have brought over from the original 9, and added three more blues.

I made a new color mixing swatch of the blues + Burnt Umber, and I think I’ll be removing some of the most redundant blues.  The mix of Cobalt and Prussian is missing because I don’t have Prussian in a pan, and I didn’t feel like squeezing any out when I know I’m going to have to do another chart shortly.

Because I am committing myself to this project, I bought some travel brushes which I really, really like. The brush caps not only protect the brushes, but fit snugly on the backs to extend the size of the brush to full length. I am absolutely smitten.

I also found pre-cut 5×7 100% cotton watercolor sheets (both cold and hot press) to keep everything uniform and tidy. I have watercolor blocks for larger pieces, but when I did the math on cutting the blocks down to size, it didn’t make any sense to disqualify the actual function and usefulness of a block, so I opted for these packages: ten sheets at a time.

The next step is to find some kind of container that can hold all the above items plus a small clipboard, a clip-on double water reservoir and space for extra things like a spraybottle, sponges, q-tips and towelettes. Oh, and a dry, separated space to put the finished painting(s) during transit.

As far as techniques, I’ve been working mostly in wet-on-wet with some lifting and then refining, some drybrush, some heavy pigment, and even some later washes, all of which felt scary for some unknown reason. They’re just paintings after all: why am I feeling so afraid?

I’ve sent a few out as postcards, and tested out different papers to run through my typewriter for an eventual / possible project extension (of which I cannot quite articulate, but to which I feel immensely drawn). I found that 140lb will fit in my old Olympia, but the 300lb will not.

Here are the experiments from the past week, more or less:

As for the boundaries and purpose of the project, I think I want to restrict my palette, the finished size, the time span, and the occasion, but not much else. The project will be mostly of sky, but could be any time of day; it may incorporate an importance of time of day or environment, but it also may not.

We live in two divergent worlds: the natural and the social; the natural asks us to dream, and the social asks us to forego our dreams. Where is the line? How many of our dreams must we recuse to satisfy some authority, and how many must we keep to satisfy ourselves? This tether of earthly objects within the vastness of the open sky is an area I may like to explore along the way. If nothing else, are we not each this tether alone?


During a recent Zen sangha meeting, our guest teacher brought up all these water references like, “you are the boat; you are the sailor; aren’t you also the storm?” and “little air inside the body; big air outside the body, but aren’t we all air?” I thought further about being “like water;” water is, in fact, natural, free, and stoic, but I hold none of these qualities most of the time despite comprising 75% water. How much of my remainder is air? What little left of me is matter.

Working outwardly, this project could pose as journal entries in a cruel and unfair world:  don’t these skies hover above all humanity, even the most perverse? How much sky can one man own? When do his walls obstruct the view?

If he is fully in the cloud, is he still even a man?

It is not lost on me, then, to start this project in the darkness (the womb) from which we move into the living light (summer solstice), then the circadian return, following the arc of decay to winter solstice (the tomb). It is a perfectly appropriate metaphor for guiding the images of vapor (and all its entrails) with actual water and earth (pigment), while revoking full control of the outcome. I mean, it’s almost too much for me to think about at one time.

But of course, I will try.


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