Keirartworks's Blog

hmmm. hmmm? Observations, actions and connection points through art.


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Cabin Stories 5: death and life

In right now there is reverence

deep prayer, an endless, thunder-throated,

steady dripping Love.

The shore waves sing a slow ballad in 7/8 time.

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Good deaths are soft. A miraculous easing of release.

A shedding

a moulting

a fall, then surrender to moss and insect

to beautiful, fragrant rot:

With my body I nourish thee.

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Or with a scream, to announce the end

before the snapped neck, the severed jugular

The feed, even as last breath releases:

With my body I nourish thee.

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There are other deaths.

Reactive, angry, resentful.

Only humans die this way,

non-compostable, ungenerous

like broken plastic buckets

that can feed no one.

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another death I can find no mirror for,

here among the trees, or in the song of the lake:

A human distortion again, since

This One is badly injured, but still alive.

You miss your mark, wound, then walk away?

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You dishonour Love?

It is impossible to nourish anything with this

if you won’t claim it as yours, if you deny it release.

There is only hush and hesitation then. Wrongness.

The crows cannot gather the shining story.

growth stops.

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So. I see her.

I will take my sharp knife

with proper gratitude and joy,

and release She you could not see

from the living, breathing world.

Since you cannot, I will make a good end for her.

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She is willing, graceful.

With this body, I nourish thee.

NOTE: When I was a kid I used to catch and keep caterpillars in jars. I wanted to watch them be, save them from being stepped on as my grandfather used to do with righteous conviction.

The moment of this morning in the deep thunder rain was one in which I understood that nothing is static. Release through death is nourishment, which is then decomposition, integration back into the world – lessons from a lifetime deepened, woven back into the ecosystem. We are only small in this system, but we are many. There is in fact no use in the forest for glass jars, or plastic buckets; you can’t, even with philosophy and romance, separate death from life. To try is to distort, and cause harm.

Thanks for reading this.


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#Selfie 18: Spiral in; Spiral out

4:30am in the studio is like hanging out with a special old friend I’ve not seen for a long time.  We both like gentle light, strong hot coffee.  We share a deep enjoyment of the act of listening to the day as it begins.  I feel my face wake up, muscle by muscle, and take it’s vertical, day-time shape, As my trusted friend and witness, 4:30am is content to hold the space for this to happen.

This is a huge canvas that has served as the 'catcher of drips' on my studio wall for the past six years.  On the left are the drips from 5 years worth of painting.  On the right, from the past five months.  River Cafe drips, #Selfie drips, art class drips....

This is a huge canvas that has served as the ‘catcher of drips’ on my studio wall for the past six years. On the left are the drips from 5 years worth of painting. On the right, from the past five months. River Cafe drips, #Selfie drips, art class drips….

Because of personal circumstances I lived in this studio for ten months, including the three it took to paint ten #Selfie paintings, write the blog, rehearse the show, and perform / launch the idea on June 20.  On June 22 I moved all of my stored stuff – beds, dressers, books, bookshelves, pots, pans, chairs, clothing – and all the memories they contained into a house.  Out of my chrysalis, into a house.  A shock.

If you’ve ever seen a butterfly emerge you’ll know that their wings are tiny when they climb out of their old tiny tiny space.  It’s impossible for them to fly at this stage – they need air, and time to breathe their wings into being. They need to stay still.  (For reference – try this)

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I’ve been deeply divided on the stillness issue since my move.  Not comfortable with it, since there are things to be done, structures to build, schedules to draw and cats to herd.  Book to write, applications, meetings, proposals, paintings, practise…. and now also dishes, laundry, lawn, garden, stairs, appliances.  I’ve been clumsy, this past month, with all of it.

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In honour of the creative process I’d like to suggest here that each of us is in one stage of metamorphosis at any given time – egg; caterpillar; chrysalis; butterfly – perhaps even several at a time, through overlapping projects, or new; developing; changing; long-term relationships.   Two things of note – a) one stage is not better than another; this is a circular, perpetual cycle – i.e., yes you get wings at some point, but then you’re an egg again after that….  b) it’s better if you acknowledge and think about which stage you’re at in any given project, scenario, or in relationship with the world.

It’s never ever easy to change, if the change is real.  In fact, change is deeply uncomfortable, clumsy and awkward, especially if you resist.  And oh, but we do, don’t we.

at my house.

at my house.  waiting while my wings grow big.

Thank The Maker, then, for making Change the only constant in our lives.  Without these shocks that send us deep deep into our internal, uncomfortable places, the dark dark shadows that make our small selves whimper with fear – without this we would be without humility, without compassion, unsoftened by love and forgiveness.  Calloused and hardened, encased in self-judgement, self-righteousness, criticism that closes its’ ears to learning.  Our beautiful, winged souls would wither, and eventually die.

It’s true – I have always wanted to fly.  So I will do my best to understand and dissolve this resistance I feel, and love what comes.


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#Selfie 11 – Truth beneath the truth

This drawing took about 2.5 hours.  I erased most of the right-hand side...

This drawing took about 2.5 hours. I erased most of the right-hand side…

I’m at the stage of production for this show that’s the most intense on all levels – emotional, psychological, mental and physical.  Each piece has its’ own trajectory and arc, and I work in collaboration with this.

re-building the idea...

re-building the idea…

There are sixteen different painting ‘trajectories’ to define and follow to completion –  in 22 days –  if I’m to make my deadline of June 13.

And I shall.

One key tool I use to get this work done in a short timeframe is composite studies.  This one is a layered mock-up of the painting built from bits of the selfies posted on social media in the past six weeks.  It's about the way we build our faces before we take ourselves into the public.  Masks like filters.

One key tool I use to get this work done in a short time frame is composite studies. This one is a layered mock-up of the painting built from bits of the selfies posted on social media in the past six weeks. It’s about the way we build our faces before we take ourselves into the public. Masks like filters.

I’ve done it before, though not with pieces this large – but hey, it’s good to add a challenge each time.   Everyone has a process, or a road to completion, and mine requires utter surrender to the moment I’m in, the mark I’m making, and the reason why.  I need to meet myself again and again in all my joy and ugliness, take off all the filters and tell the truth.  Then the truth beneath the truth.

‘Clarity’ gains whole new levels of meaning.  It becomes something I can taste.

the same painting the next day with things removed and re-added differently.

the same painting with corrected drawing.  Today I will work with washes to push and pull the images, and knock the whole thing back so the final drawn images can sit on a top layer.  They should appear to float in front of the painting…

There are still bank lineups, lessons and rehearsals, concerts, meetings and phone conversations.  These are more interesting than usual, since my self-observation has become so finely tuned.  The filters I use to get simple tasks done are much more obvious to me, and I know when they’re slipping…. it’s not always appropriate to discuss the psychological effects of spring green when sunlight hits it just so with the person behind the counter who just wants you to pay for your gas.

More soberly – not everyone wants to hear a bald truth, no matter how comfortable I might be with my clarity.  Nine times out of ten it’s better to say it with paint.

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Next up: #Selfie4: Negative/Positive – 5 feet wide by six feet tall. Should be done in 3 days… or so…

Creativity is like willing oneself into madness – the kind necessary to make something interesting out of wood, canvas, paint, charcoal and …. perception, imagination, intuition, rage, hope, love….  all that.

Just nod and smile.  Or better yet, come on over & jump in to an underpainting – I’ll provide the oil pastel & canvas.  Mind the lack of filters, though…

I’m loving this.


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Follow the loose rein

I stood grinning on a hill in the spring wind without the protection of my long winter coat and smelled the turning of the planet towards the sun.

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This Titanic winter season has run amok of the inevitable.  As did the Titans when banished to the underworld and the unsinkable ship when torn by an iceberg, even the strongest behemoth must surrender, eventually, to change.  I can feel the chill through my window, yes.  But it can no longer reach my bones, which glow golden.

Everything is white again.

One of the blizzards from 2013-14.  I lost count.

In requiem to the five white months that are now passing I need to acknowledge my grief too, because I will miss it. This winter has tumbled and shaped me like a river-rock, exposed me like a quartz that had been encased in calloused grey stone – in the safe invisible of frozen white.  It was as though all internal weather was played outside these windows – serenity, calm, beauty so sharp it hurt, but also rage, fury, sorrow, wilfulness.  I’m different.  A lot different.

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I’ve just agreed to make twenty pieces of art, write, record and rehearse twenty minutes of music and  – what the hell – twenty+ pages of a hand-made, limited edition book that will explore the idea of exposure and vulnerability, or “The Public Intimate”.  It’s a true child of the winter that’s passing, this show.  I’ve become deeply intrigued by what we do as humans and artists when we look at ourselves and make portraits, then publish them.  Selfies – Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Munsch, Cohen, Joni, Camus, Anne Michaels…  If all art is in some way autobiographical, then in fact, making and publishing ‘selfies’ are the job of artists.  We hear a song, read a book, see a great self-portrait, and we are moved to tears.  They are soul food.  But self-publishing is also the work of every human, right?  Even the duck-faced self-portraits published on facebook that are so vulnerable, awkward and exposed are expression of our human need …  to be visible?  Still working this out, as you can see.

My answers, for whatever they’re worth, will be published in a gallery in 13 weeks.  You can bet you’ll be hearing more about it.

Letting go

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This is social media experiment in making art.  As I worked through the process of this painting I wondered whether I could actually describe that process in a series of photos, and tell the story of the piece as it becomes itself.   Might be neato.  I’ve started this with my cover photos on facebook, but there are lots of them to come, and some FB folks who might get overloaded….

So here goes.  It was supposed to be a clamp.  One in a series of paintings about legacy and inheritance that were going to take me into the next decade.  With this painting, that idea got stopped in it’s tracks – I realized I was finished the series after only two:  Shovel and Axe.  If you really want to know why, ask me in person, but the why isn’t the point really.  The idea was over.  Suddenly.

Canvas is 4'x4' square.  This is a detail of the first yellow wash over white houspaint resist.

Canvas is 4’x4′ square. This is a detail of the first yellow wash over white house paint resist.

Then I drew the clamp on the canvas and stared at it.  It was a good drawing, but No.  Erased the clamp.  Stared some more.

Then in art class I needed to demonstrate the joys of washes over acrylic gel, which preserves the integrity of the colour and adds depth to the ground.  Washed a good red over the whole thing, let it drip…. Then in the next art class I needed  to show some things about composition and drawing and courage, so I picked the nearest object to draw and did this:

vine  charcoal for the drawing, which is what I used to draw the Clamp.  It rubs off.  In this photo I've superimposed a photo of the actual snaffle bit over the drawing to check my lines...

vine charcoal for the drawing, which is what I used to draw the Clamp. It rubs off. In this photo I’ve superimposed a photo of the actual snaffle bit over the drawing to check my lines…

I was going to keep this as a demo canvas for art class, but the painting was talking too much – like a river.  Can’t stop a river, so…

My full attention.  This is when I stopped answering my phone, five days ago....

My full attention. This is when I stopped answering my phone, five days ago….

What is it, what is it.  It’s a D-ring snaffle bit that I used on my pony when I was a tweener.  The bit is not connected to a bridle.  It’s not hanging in a barn, or waiting to be used.  It’s here because I remember Pippin and I like the shape.

The painting is about being unbridled.  And it’s about horse – wild horse, old horse, powerful horse, running horse, free.  Bronze age white horse of Uffington:

And the river of painting chatter gets deeper...

And the river of painting chatter gets deeper…

Now it’s just watching, layering, washing, dripping, listening, writing, and recording music while the paint is drying. Run up and down the stairs for energy.  Write some more.  Paint.  Don’t ever stop.

Green wash for the Uffington hills...

Green wash for the Uffington hills…

white wash to pull it together.  I love this part...

white wash to pull it together. I love this part…

Pull the bit back in (conte).  Now there's interesting spatial stuff happening....

Pull the bit back in (conte). Now there’s interesting spatial stuff happening….

I’m not done yet, so I can’t take you to the end.  I’ll keep shooting while I watch the paint dry, and will update here to tie it all up.

In the meantime I need to say this:  that if you let it, if you actually surrender your will and just let the river flow, art can take you through all the blocked, backward, toxic stuff of your life and wash it all off.  It’s ALWAYS worth it to make something out of nothing but your mind, your heart, and what ever else is to hand.  If you have kids, tell them that, over and over again.  Tell them that there are no mistakes, ever.  Just change.

Trust change, and let go.

Yesterday when I ventured out for food and batteries I found myself in face-to-face conversation with people.  I think I was using words, and I think everything went ok because when I got home I had food and batteries as planned.  Oh and an indigo hyacinth.

To anyone I spoke with this week who felt that I wasn’t really there – you’re right, I wasn’t, despite my best efforts.  I was really in my studio of many rooms eating soul food.

Happy Sunday.

This gallery contains 7 photos