View Full Version : Floating mountain journals

11-10-2016, 01:05 PM
On days when I feel compelled to paint, I begin with a 6x10” hand-bound rice paper sketch book …

I produce rapidly drawn side-by-side brushstrokes as I feel my way across the page …

I concentrate on the physical act of holding a brush, dipping it into ink and moving the hand …

I work from right to left until I tire or run out of space and then I stop to look at what I’ve done …

Often a single page is enough to tell me whether the physical rhythms my hand is producing map to the feelings I want to express …

Sometimes I find patterns that trace out as potential form but discovering rhythm is more important than finding solidity …

I call these exercises “floating mountains” because the empty spaces above are clouds and below are mists …



11-10-2016, 09:27 PM
Along with my painting journal, I keep track of my thoughts on an iPhone app (DayOne) … Here is today’s entry:

"There is no abstract art. You must always start with something. Afterwards you can remove all traces of reality."

Picasso, according to Moholy-Nagy in his brief essay, ”In Defense of 'Abstract' Art" (1940s) …

True, there is no such thing as abstract art, or to put it differently, since all art is an abstraction from an underlying reality, there is no need to separate out an artificial category, which after all explains little …

But it isn’t possible to “remove all traces of reality”—unless Picasso had in mind a very narrow definition, like “representational reality” …

There always will be an emotional residue, something left over of the artist’s presence …

Huang Gongwang (13th c.) in his notes on landscape painting: “A tree's trunk and branches must have all four dimensions"--that is, it must appear to be fully present, even if all sides are not visible in reality or in the painting ...

Kafka’s parable of Prometheus: “There remained the inexplicable mass of rock”…

Floating mountains: Psychic thumbprints, records of tiny but seismic changes in mood and thought, like shadows cast by passing clouds on mountains enveloped in mists …

Joan T
11-13-2016, 06:28 PM
Your floating mountains are lovely. They remind me of loose sketches of NYC skyscrapers in Central Park.

11-16-2016, 01:31 PM
Your floating mountains are lovely. They remind me of loose sketches of NYC skyscrapers in Central Park.

What a surprising thought, Joan, especially since I grew up in New York, though far from Central Park, my family having been banished through poverty to the far reaches of the South Bronx, where the tallest buildings were those in our public housing complex …

The mountains of China, where I lived for many years, erased any thought of skyscrapers, but it is possible the long shadows cast by the bleak brick facades of my childhood persist, and the hand is informed by memory more than by eye …

Joan T
11-17-2016, 06:24 PM
Mountains or skyscrapers...either way I like the style of them.:thumbsup:

11-19-2016, 06:08 PM
Thank you Joan ...

Today's journal entry is a video of me painting pine branches after an autumn walk ...


A blustery sunless morning, the brisk winds are cold and as Moji chases squirrels I notice how bright the blacks and whites of her coat are against the pale weathered greys of the birches … A solitary red leaf hangs from black branch … I glance up at a drab sky through the dense mesh canopy of pine needles…

I persuade myself that the visible scene will seep into my mind as a fully-formed landscape … As I walk I paint with imaginary brushes on non-existent paper, a few brushstrokes define a branch, a blur of ink for the masses of needles … Impressions begin to deepen in a liminal space … just beyond my grasp …

With each rain the days grow colder and soon there will be ice instead of dew on the grass … After the leaves are down there will be the grey-green of pine and bamboo …

Joan T
11-20-2016, 10:02 PM
Love the video!!!

11-21-2016, 10:14 AM
Wet-in-wet lines morphed into a stylized Ma Yuan wave in a tumultuous start to the week ...


Joan T
11-21-2016, 05:27 PM
Lots of energy in this!!!

11-23-2016, 07:07 PM
At the Lan Su Chinese Garden in Portland there is a man-made mountain with a cavern and waterfall… It is small in scale and unimposing … One is supposed to look at it and think of real mountains and secluded valleys shrouded in mist … To encourage the mood there is a four-character carving in red seal script on the fake stones: “A thousand valleys deep in the clouds" ... The sounds of water rushing and falling are amplified in the recesses of the cavern and make the mountains monumental in memory …


11-27-2016, 12:21 PM
I enjoy the lovely marks you have here!

11-27-2016, 03:56 PM
Thanks, EP... My black-and-white puppy's name, Moji, translates as ink spots, ink traces, or ink marks... She looks like a painting in motion....

11-27-2016, 06:47 PM
Awwwww :)

11-28-2016, 06:26 AM
Your first image made me think of a group of huge, dense trees.. the video journal also reminded me of dandelion seeds, when they all clump together and get carried away by the wind :)
Maybe Picasso meant the reality as such that you see with your eyes, rather than feel in your mind? But then, to go along the lines of Plato, how can we define a "reality" when everything is perceived by our own individual senses, and how do we know what exists beyond those senses :)
Enjoying your journalling process and thoughts!

11-28-2016, 09:55 AM
This journal has two hearts, one turned inward, one facing outward … Today’s entry began as mountains, passed through clouds, and ended as a seascape … The outer heart wants to see mountains as mountains, clouds as clouds and water as water … The inner heart feels a single pulse running through them …


11-29-2016, 07:36 PM
This study of lofty mountains with pine has too many imperfections to merit a studio seal ... But it is useful as a lesson in humility ...


11-30-2016, 10:44 AM
... But it is useful as a lesson in humility ...

That's a great way to think about it. So many times the artwork doesn't match the idea in our brain and there is a lesson for us in there ... to be humble :)

11-30-2016, 04:17 PM
...So many times the artwork doesn't match the idea in our brain

When I began in painting, I wanted to do cloud studies ...

I would map the clouds to an idea I had of what the painting should look like ... After a while, I realized I was painting shadows cast by clouds and not the clouds themselves ...

Then I decided it was better to follow the logic of the painting as it took shape and let a cloud become a mountain ... But even the slightest adjustment in subject usually demanded a completely different technique than the one I'd begun with...

These days I start with movement and let the picture elements arrange themselves in the flux, the way a real cloud drifts in the real sky ....

12-02-2016, 10:41 AM
Designing this year's Christmas card ... Painting of bamboo in wind is a few years old now and the image finally has settled down ...

Inside the card:

Chanting bamboo
Ji Qiong (Qing dynasty woman poet)

Winds bring the sound of laughter
Rains wash the bamboo clean
When the bright moon shines
Shadows play in the windows


12-02-2016, 12:12 PM
Today's journal entry is a half-thought teased out of an undefined feeling:

Where are the mystic painters of today? … One hundred million images mired in worldly materialism and without a hint of transcendence … More intellectual construct than deeply felt experience … Painters (taking painting as the narrow case) trying too hard to create alternate realities … It’s a kind of idealism gone awry in self-centered symbolism and cannot even remotely point the way … Painters ought to be secular mystics …

12-02-2016, 04:44 PM
Designing this year's Christmas card ... Painting of bamboo in wind is a few years old now ...


So pretty! :)

12-02-2016, 06:28 PM
So pretty! :)


A neighbor has a stand of bamboo about ten feet tall ... Thin branches and clusters of leaves arch over the sidewalk after a heavy rain ... Moji and I often stop to admire it on our walks, whenever she isn't distracted by crows or squirrels ... When the wind blows, the bamboo all sway together ...

A few days ago, we passed a landscaper with a mean pair of shears in his hand ... On the way back we discovered the bamboo had been trimmed at the tops to the main stalks and now they stand perfectly still in the rainy wind ...

12-04-2016, 06:40 AM
The Christmas card is beautiful! Interesting thoughts on mystic painters also. I'll take that one away with me..

12-04-2016, 01:51 PM
Interesting thoughts on mystic painters also...

Vanishing points …

In Western-centric perspective, a theoretical straight line drawn from the self passing through real objects in real space and converging on an imagined horizon …

In Chinese painting, energy-waves flowing in all directions from potentially real objects in a poetically-charged space and converging on an absent self ….

Joan T
12-04-2016, 09:54 PM
Lovely bamboo sketch!

12-04-2016, 11:45 PM
Lovely bamboo sketch!

Thank you, Joan ... You've been busy! ... Actually, I have little hope of keeping up with all of the energetic artists on this site! ...

12-04-2016, 11:45 PM
Lovely bamboo sketch!

Thank you, Joan ... You've been busy! ... Actually, I have little hope of keeping up with all of the energetic artists on this site! ...

12-05-2016, 02:11 PM
Completing this view of distant mountains with a second panel ... The theme is "visiting a mountain recluse" and is inspired by an inscription found on the work of a minor early 20th c. painter:

Feng yu zui nan gu ren lai
Through wind and rain an old friend comes to visit

Moji and I are about to take a road trip, wish everyone happy holidays! ...


Joan T
12-06-2016, 06:15 PM
I love seeing the two panels together. Have a great road trip. Happy Holidays!

12-06-2016, 08:44 PM
Thanks for the kind words, Joan ... Happy painting!...

12-09-2016, 10:28 AM
I love seeing the two panels together. Have a great road trip. Happy Holidays!

12-09-2016, 10:00 PM
One final image before we sign off for December, mainly because Moji and I will be passing through the mountains, if the roads are passable ... This is an ink painting of mine which I altered slightly digitally for the snow effects ... It's experimental so I put it here ...

It could be called "Basho in the Mountains" ... It is meant to illustrate a famous passage in Basho's travel journal, sometimes called "The Narrow Road to the Deep North" ... The poet is climbing high in Mount Gassan, where he comes upon a cherry tree that has survived the harsh snow and ice of the long winter ...


Joan T
12-15-2016, 02:56 PM
Love the texture and the shading you do!!! Travel safe!