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Paint Planet

Today is April 4th, 2024. I just returned to the desert from a cataract surgery at UCLA's Stein Eye Institute where Dr. Shawn Lin, a leading eye surgeon and educator, performed the delicate surgery of replacing my 69 year old cloudy lens with a new artificial lens. I have near 20-20 vision again! A miracle, as my right eye, over the last year, had gradually become blurry.

Wow, another new lease on life. I had a very similar experience last year, when a UCLA surgeon removed two small melanoma tumors from the top of my head before they had spread. That is when I did the series "So Elated To Be Starting My Fourth Out of Nine Lives" series, found under my Fourth Out of Nine Lives tab. It has been euphoric to have experienced these great health outcomes, for which I am eternally grateful to my partner Barbara Bauer, who got me through my leaking mitral valve debacle from 2016 as well. That's a long story for another time.


Anyway, as I was springing back from possible decrepitude, yet again, I became determined to make artistic expressions from the experience. I have recently been able to channel experiences, ideas, information, watching a movie, many things, into abstraction. So I set up on my biggest work table an 80 inch wide panel that already had an existing topography made of thick paint that had wrinkled from a 2022 painting that I decided to repaint. The result was a big blow-out afternoon-long frenetic performance of pouring, brushing, squeezing, combing, and scraping activity. The painting that resulted I am titling "Paint Planet; So Elated to Have 20-20 Vision Again". See the illustrations below with this blog. After an hour or two, the liquid acrylic paints stop moving, gravity having carried the films short distances as they run off the topographic surfaces. Then in two to three days, cracks appear in the purposely applied too thick films. Acrylics do this. Enamels wrinkle, but it takes years. Matte paints are especially prone to the cracking I want to see occur organically. I now use large amounts of glitter glue, knowing it will be a catalyst for the cracking I strive to engender. The glittery veins appear underneath the top paint layers, akin, in my mind, to the formation of minerals and gems in the earth's crust. Near the completion, I also add glitter glue in squeezed looping narrow veins that cut down thru the still wet layers below as they evaporate and cure.

All in all, endless details and textures are quickly and gesturally placed, and then left without further disturbance, so that the properties of the materials to flow with gravity and desiccate into mini canyons and rivulets of erosion occur naturally on their own. I will be discovering little details of the paint battle that happened during this long afternoon battle for years to come.

I have been working the past year in this new, for me, paint medium as explained in my previous blog; "Acrylics".

During these experiments I have had ample time to consider the evolution of  my direction(s). I have been forced to conclude that most, if not all of the themes that attract me, are almost impossible to deeply convey. Funny, how I am attracted to things that maybe can't be done. Painting military conflicts, historically a valued subject for fine art painting, which I believe I have updated to a twenty first century mode by using satellite imagery, has been a subject for some years, especially the Gulf War and now the Russian Ukrainian "Special Military Operation".  I can channel battlefield maps, sure, and create a representation of the geography and topography, even indicate combattants and conflict areas. Nonetheless, the real horrors of war don't come thru. Wars, battles, the death and suffering are so elusively difficult to express adequately. Nonetheless, I suppose I will continue to try.

Ditto for capturing music, my other obsession for the last 4 or 5 years.. I can display rhythm, maybe hint at a mood, nod at the visual metaphor of a lyric or song title, but going deeper than that, I am now not sure is possible, having attempted the subject for this length of time. I do enjoy trying, as I get a lot from the physical and mental aspects of making art about music. Having given the process my full attention for multiple years, and dozens of paintings, I have mostly concluded music can't really be fundamentally expressed in some visual equivalent.

Also, it's the same problem with my particle physics paintings series as well. I can barely truly understand the mechanics of what scientists say is really happening at the sub-atomic level. I studied physics and learned calculus when I was a student, nonetheless it's visual interpretation in art remains, for me at least, elusive. 

My other lifelong topic, geology, suffers a similar predicament. Can I really understand geologic time frames? I try. I have the geologic eras, periods, and  epochs, memorized. Sort of. The grand subject gives me lots of ideas for painting and manipulating materials, for which I am intellectually grateful, but can I actually show geologic time on a canvas or panel?  After all these decades of trying, I am glad I have tried, but recently I have begun to conclude it's pretty much impossible.

During the last year, as all these doubts have grown, and as I have inexorably been drawn down an ever deeper path to painting abstractions, my thoughts and theories have begun to coalesce into a new series; Paint Planet. It seems to me, that I have absorbed so much aerial consciousness through my satellite works, and so much paint handing thru my gestural expressionism, that at this point I feel I have the ability to channel the nature of the planet, Earth itself, and use the natural properties of my chosen materials to allude to the creation and destruction, of worlds. In the Paint Planet series I am creating miniature worlds that are mini models of the workings of Earth, and its forms. I am reminded of a Bill Fox essay, where he explained that Australian aborigines have developed this ability to see and live in the dreamtime, and have skills to fly around their mental maps that correspond to their habitats. In a somewhat similar way, I believe I have now an acquired ability to channel the Earth and its' geography and geology and and use these skills I have absorbed to make abstract paintings.

This is the approach I am using in my Paint Planet series. I'm no longer attempting to be factual anymore, to transcribe the real places I have explored and experienced. I have done this for decades now. I am certainly glad I did. All this past work has given me the vision and experience to take my knowledge learned from experimenting and now direct my painting skills into a more purely abstracted focus. At this point, I am concentrating on making novel, experimental, and visually arresting paintings. To do so, I am using the skills that decades of painting have given me. Namely studying satellite images, maps, aerial photos, and using these source images to fashion my style of landscape painting.  Along the way, I have absorbed the constructions of topography that the Earth is made of, and learned how to use modeling pastes and other viscous materials to create miniature worlds in which the paint is representative of the planet's substance and minerals are expressed by metallic finishes, glitter, and

glitter glues.

In 2024, I am continuing my experiments of abstraction by creating miniature worlds in my new Paint Planet series.

details, Paint Planet; So Elated to Have 20-20 Vision Again, acrylic and glitter glue on panel


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