Animal Dreams

Six bear sketches, pencil on paper.

Planning/thinking sketches for a piece I'm working on. You wouldn't guess that I don't have any interest in being a wildlife artist. I always enjoy looking at good wildlife art, but as with the rest of my work, it is the memory of experience that I am interested in. Memory of the natural world, and how that shapes us as human beings. What things fill my mind and imagination, inform who I am and how I relate to the world.

Jim Harrison has written of his dreams of animals and how he thinks they are somehow representative of himself and how his psyche is trying to work things out symbolicly that he can't figure out in his waking life. I'm sure that's a terrible interpretation of what he said, but that's why I paint and don't write novels. It doesn't mean I agree with him any less.

Bears, dogs, horses, birds, fish. And pretty much every other animal. All interesting to me. All in my head after I see them. It's funny to me, but I dream of animals frequently, and while I can easily see how many/most of the animals I dream of could be representative of something else, Molly and Finn are always there as themselves.

Always themselves

Horse by Jim Harrison What if it were our privilege
to sculpt our dreams of animals?
But those shapes in the night
come and go too quickly to be held
in stone: but not to avoid these shapes
as if dreams were only a nighttime
pocket to be remembered and avoided.
Who can say in the depths of
his life and heart what beast
most stopped life, the animals
he watched, the animals he only touched
in dreams? Even our hearts don’t beat
the way we want them to. What
can we know in the waking,
sleeping edge? We put down
my daughter’s old horse, old and
arthritic, a home burial. By dawn with eye
half open, I said to myself, is
he still running, is he still running
around, under the ground? from The Theory and Practice of Rivers, Winn Books, 1985
Lifted from poetry dispatch & other notes from the underground

New Year

Resolutions. I try not to make too many, as it so often seems there is just that much more chance of falling short. I have had the same goals, short and long term, for several years now, but resolutions seem different.

I am trying to make a few changes in my work habits. More drawing - a bit every day. It's amazing how quickly you get rusty, and with two dogs and three cats at home, horses surrounding the studio, and things seen walking everyday, there is no shortage of subjects for a quick drawing session. This is Finn, our younger dog, in the middle of her post-walk nap. She's 80 pounds of love, muscle, and boundless energy.

In terms of painting this year, I want to do more large scale work. I love the intimacy of smaller pieces, but the mass of a larger piece has the opportunity for much more impact. To me the real challenge of a larger piece is to paint it in such a way that you have increased the scale without increasing detail. Everything needs to be bigger -paint loads, movements, textures - so that the surface quality carries the viewer, rather than a multitude of details. I am really feeling limited by my van, as a four foot canvas is as large as I can carry. I'll aim for a new ride by the end of the year.

Finishing up a couple large pieces, and experimenting with a piece as a Christmas gift to my wife, Darby, kind of got me off track in December. I am feeling pretty energized by a great holiday break, and I'm prepping several large canvases and a couple dozen panels to start the year.