Comments, relating to the topic, are welcome, add a great deal to a blog, but must be in English, with no profanity, hate-filled insults, or links (unless pre-approved).

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

by Diane: Humbled by research into the ch'i in Chinese painting

Swallows, oil, 11' x 14"
Movement in a painting is not enough to have ch'i

My research on the principle of ch'i in painting awoke me to my ignorance.  Compositional movement is not enough to have ch'i. To achieve ch'i, I would need complete focus meaning just one role in life as a scholar. To keep the ch'i flowing I would be painting in the lotus position or standing on my knees for maximum spirit moving  from my core to arms and fingers. During the act of painting I would not be observing and learning, but I would know the flight of the sparrows, not just in my mind, but in my muscles too.
         In the painting of swallows the two trees in the background is a Western devise for perspective. The trees are too much. The color of the flowers in the foreground is too much. Chi needs simplicity. Swallows with little environmental cues, swallows dominate in the picture would be more revealing of  the energy of life in the swallows. To have ch'i, I need to know and emulate paintings of swallows by Chinese painters from ages past. No can do! I depend on vibrant color.
          My goal is revised. I am not going to achieve ch'i but just let some of the principles of Chinese painting inform the development of just one painting,"Swallows". Specifically I am employing simplicity in my revision!
Removed all that distracted from seeing swallows first so their flight flows.
Please comment on which you prefer the energy of the colorful "Swallows" or the restrained one ?

My research details:
 After thinking about George  Rowley's book, PRINCIPLES OF CHINESE PAINTING, I realize ch'i is more than the simple translation, spirit of life.

I researched my own books to find as much as I can on the ch'i principle.
I am humbled by the realization that I was pompous to think I can pursue ch'i as a goal in my painting. I got a big head from being complimented by an admirer of my paintings who said my landscapes had chi. Reviewing my books I now understand that every aspect of  Chinese painters' lives fed their ch'i yun. " the way in which spirit (ch'i) manifests itself in their style.  (Page 14 in Rowley's  book.)

I am enthralled by this statement; Painting should be the playful pastime of a scholar, even though one should prepare to paint  "as if to receive an important guest."  Without diligence, painting will lack completeness so that Kuo Hsi advised working as if "guarding against a strong enemy".  Could this be a reference to the disciplined martial art of Tai Ch'i?  In Tai Ch'i  every change of pose in the continuous flow keeps the body in the best possible balance. Keeping all joints relaxed and unlocked allows the life force ch'i to flow.  Never over extending allowing an opponent to grab the arm and pull one off balance. Ch'i is applicable to Chinese brush painting and doesn't work so well in traditional oil painting as I was attempting in "Swallows."  I need my oil paint creamy and buttery to have control. To achieve the flow like Chinese watercolors the brush could be stiffened with rice starch while the Chinese watercolor would be the consistency of chicken broth. I will never have that skill. should prepare to paint "as if to receive an important guest."  Infrequently I have the pleasant experience of my painting flowing as though a guest is directing me in all the right moves. A preparation is practice, practice, practice as in Chinese brush painting with traditional movement to become muscle memory.
     I am hoping that one of the side effects of practicing the martial art of Tai Ch'i I will develop a greater awareness of where my body is in space as well as the meditative focus that will carry over to my painting without setting a superficial intent from another culture.
      Below is a passage from George Rowley's book that I have from time to time studied over the years.

Saturday, May 25, 2019


by Rain Trueax

My view, when I turn around, from where I write when in Tucson.

One of the things that is hardest about being a writer comes only if you put your work out there-- rejection. This is true for anyone who does creative work. Do it for yourself, and no risk. You are satisfying your creative need. Put it out for a contest or to try and sell it and bingo-- rejection. 

For me, I don't feel so much rejected for myself, but for the work that I personally love and why doesn't everyone? Yes, I do laugh when I write that because some people ridicule someone for saying that but a creative work is an offspring of someone's mind and emotions. Why would they not feel a part of us?

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

by Diane: Lam's Tai Chi for Arthritis, Roller Skating and Painting

Updated ( see end of post)
A little over thirty years ago my daughters competed in roller skating.  I attempted the sport with them competing in figures.

"Zombie Puppets on Roller Skates" is a procion dyed  raw silk and cotton print banner from 1984.
         When I was roller skating I made many illustrative banners like "Zombie Puppets..." for which LeeAnn Lehni wrote lyrics for a children's book, MAGIC MAN, MAGIC MAN HELP ME SKATE IF YOU CAN.  When I did these silk paintings, I wished skating was easier to learn. I wished I could skate without thinking and if I did fall the landing would be as soft as falling into bed.

     And now many years later I wish I could learn Tai Chi instantly.  I just started, in April, learning Dr. Paul Lam's Tai Chi for Arthritis at the Sam Fit Gym here in Albany taught by a very good certified instructor, Joann.  The reason for this new class is that among many health benefits for seniors Tai Chi increases balance. Lam's Tai Chi choreography is the only Tai Chi endorsed by the Arthritis Foundation of America as a proven fall preventative exercise program for all ages especially for seniors. Very important for me because I need to be more mindful of what my body is doing, maintaining strength and balance. I have a history of gawking, not watching my step, and tripping especially when site seeing.
         My goal is getting fit for travels with granddaughters this September. This soft martial art will increase my confidence making me less of  a target for unwanted incidents. In addition I am enthused about this class because I hope to be more aware of the chi in my painting just as rollerskating became important in my art in the 80's.
         Traditional Tai Chi has competitions. But in Lam's, there are not any judges or Tai Chi police. Perfection is not the goal.

 Three turn  moving forward
twisting at the waist and locked
     The basic moves are just as difficult for me to learn as when I learned to roller skate. Tai Chi is extremely different from how I usually move.  I must teach my muscle memory.
      Many similarities cross over from my early roller skating experience.  One similarity is bending the knee of the supporting leg so the body can rise and fall making for a fluid movement. Skating figures and Tai Chi both need focused concentration like meditation. Never my dream of a magical zombie auto pilot!
       One difference is the changes in speed of movements. In Tai Chi speed is consistent. In skating speed varies. Shifting from one direction to another is performed with an abrupt quick snap for instance.
        In the three turn, one, the torso twists; two, the upper body locks the torso in the twisted position; and three, the supporting leg and skate is pulled around to the same direction as the locked torso. The skater continues to move in the same direction and speed as before only the body is facing the opposite way. In the three turn the body revolves 180 degrees while the direction of skating movement continues in the same direction.
         In a roller skating pivot the skater first sways in the opposite direction that they intend to go in a 90 degree change in skating direction.  The skater does not twist at the waist but opens their hips to a 90 degree angle. Then with a snap, fast move transfers weight to the opposite skate swaying in the direction they wish to go.
        The Tai Chee pivot I am now learning is called Brush the Knee. Briefly, the process is breath, shift most weight  on foot on the side preparing to turn. The opposite foot swivels pigeon toed in the turning direction at the same time the torso swivels away from the turn winding up to throw an imaginary pie with the opposite hand to the foot advancing. The eye follows the hand back for better movement back. When the throw advances the eye shifts to where the pie is aimed.  During the throw the advancing foot naturally swivels on the toe before stepping forward placing the hee down first with most of the weight on the forwarding foot the back foot advances. Then gently rests down with only a little weight on the foot a little behind. The hand on this resting foot gently falls to that knee.  The foot is poised to move either forward or back.

         In roller skating with shoulders down the upper body locks unmoving except in some exceptions and the arms are extended with visible tension. While in Tai Chi the body is relaxed to facilitate maximizing blood flow and readiness to take on an adversary.  In Tai Chi the body parts remain close to the center of gravity for strength and balance. In skating the fluidity of a pose is enhanced by extending the movement stretching out to the tips of the fingers and toes.
        So used to extending movement, I feel my Tai Chi is wrong  until I see myself in a mirror. When I become accustomed to Tai Chi, I will feel what I am doing better.
        One important similarity between the two is the usefulness of imaging in the mind's eye.
both use the image of a string attached to the top of the head. The string holds the body in alignment. Some steps are quick and locked in skating while Tai Chi strives to be even.  Locking an extended leg or arm blocs the blood flow.
         In Tai Chi the moves are contrapposto, a term used in art in which the hips and shoulders are opposed up and down. Tai Chi embodies the ying yang concept!

Progress on  painting inspired by last week's blog
on the benefits of keeping my old work
The old work was a painting of the same location over 30 years ago
 and Van Gogh whose paintings have the energy of chi.

         Maybe some of my difficulty in doing this simple step is having to unlearn what I learned in skating over thirty years ago. But on the other hand maybe the skating experience has given me the confidence that if I stick to trying I will learn.
        I am excited to continue and feel the chi not only in my exercise and better health but also in my painting.
Update 5/23/19

Last evening's Tai Chi class I heard what is impeeding my progress in learning. I practiced looking in a mirror or look for cues from the instructor.  Better not to be concerned about perfection and look within own space and mind doing my own Tai Chi.  Interestingly the same advise in Lee Ann Lehni's lyrics for my illustrations.
"Swallows", oil, 11"x 14"
I believe ch'i in paintings is uninterupted, energized movement.

More on my painting experience next week.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Just a taste of Arizona

by Rain Trueax

There are several elements to a book that must be considered before setting out writing. One of them is setting. Does the setting work with what happens in the story? How much do you know about the location? How important should it be to the plot?

For me, setting is one character in all of my books. I set them only in places I've spent time or better yet-- lived. I like that sense of reality for my stories, which are otherwise fiction. Mine are all set in the American West. Some are contemporary and some historical, but they all have ground under them where I know what the soil is like, how the wind feels, when it rains, what kind of vegetation, and even who are the people who live there.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

by Diane, Hidden benefits of keeping the best of my art

I want to go out and paint on a spanking new surface but have run out of space to acquire even a medium sized canvas. In the past I have retired a few paintings and then acquired new surfaces. So I am in the process of purging my own work. Having several hundred paintings ready to hang is a nice manageable limit. After years of this process enabling me to continue painting without the bother of marketing I am approaching with enthusiasm the destructive part of creating a strong body of work.
Going through my unframed smaller work is like a walk through my past. In the '60's when Nancy was a toddler, I made wood block prints.
As my daughters grew up my husband started restoring Model A Fords.  The kids in the neighborhood got involved when we started up the motor. This is an illustration for a children's book for our family.
When we moved to Albany, Oregon we raised bummer lambs. This pencil drawing also was an illustration for a book I made for nieces, nephews and grandchildren.
When on a cruise friends agreed to pose for me! This is a sketch on an accordion folded watercolor paper book. I started 19 years ago cutting up full sheets of watercolor paper to make books without heavy covers.  Pocket sized books were handy to record memories of our trips while riding in a bus or walking along trails.

1987 our backyard view
                                                                                                After last year's clear cut, 
                                                                                              there are many oak seedlings everywhere.
While going through my collection I found the 1987 watercolor of the Christmas tree farm. I was briefly inspired to paint the same scene as I see and feel it today. On second thought, I am not excited enough to immediately go out and paint in my old style. A more abstract distillation will take incubation in my mind.  I think I will select the flight of the swallows over the open meadow where the wind blows the grass that moves like waves.
        I took a picture with my phone. Taking pictures gave me new perspectives. But no camera can capture what I feel about the energy of the open space. When I complete the painting, I will update this post.
        It is fun to reminisce but mixed with the fun is making difficult choices requiring retiring some of my past work. Retiring too much can be depressing. But enjoying the new open spaces gives me a sense of accomplishment. I am not preparing even medium sized surfaces because as of late my small works are encroaching on more and more nooks and crannies. More paintings are stored closer and closer together on the walls.  I not only need more space to continue painting but I suspect that my work on paper as old as 60 years degrade- even acid free paper may degrade. I suspect dust mites are seriously worsening my husband and my allergy symptoms.
          I need to set priorities to make these difficult decisions of what to keep of my own and other artist's work in my collections.  My number one priority is having a personal relationship to the content of my work as well as a personal connection to other artist's work in my collection. Number two is keeping representational work from each period. Number three is keeping work representative of my series including paintings of waterfalls, water in landscape, self portraits, vases, dragons and fantasy.
          Each piece of importance will be supplemented with a handwritten story. If I do not have a good enough story, I will retire the painting. If the paper is old it goes into the garbage. If it is new and acid free, it is cropped to make greeting cards.   I hope dust mites will not be a problem if I keep art work sealed in archival museum boxes.
          I feel some time soon in the future I might again market my work. With my strongest work and a catalog of the ready to hang work, I hope to impress a gallery that will promote my work whole heartedly. Since mostly my best work has been sold over the years, I have on occasion received some of my work back. Some have willed my paintings back to me or my heirs. I hope other collectors will do the same.
May 15 UP DATE
This morning  I woke up with the realization that my body of work is sentimental. My process of keeping only works that I can write a story about is a sentimental visual diary. Hard to admit sentimentality because my art professors cringed and criticised  saccharine sentiment in paintings.
         Also I foresee more clearly the second watercolor to show how I feel about the change of the meadow since 1987 as seen from our back yard.  As I paint the vision may change but at this moment I see the field of grass in brush strokes like Van Gogh's painting of a field with crows. But not crows in the air. I see swallows.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Bound for the Hills

by Rain Trueax

There was a time when I never wrote about my books in this blog. There was a reason for that. I thought if I mentioned them, readers would take it as me trying to sell them. I also thought-- those that do-- do. Those that don't, talk/write about it. Silly reasoning but for years, I didn't talk about my writing even to friends. A few knew I wrote but most probably did not. None of my friends at the time wrote or had interest in writing. Most didn't read romances if they read books of other sorts.

Eventually, that changed some with this blog but still not nearly to the level writing/marketing encompasses my life and thinking. Conversations in the middle of the day with Ranch Boss often revolve around a marketing aspect, which makes sense as he's the main marketer behind my books and has been for several years (one reason more books are sold today than back then). When I wake in the morning, it's often with dreams that revolved around some aspect of writing.

A dream example was this week: I find a page where I can look at how much money each of the writers I know have already made that month. It turns out to be in the many thousands (and it probably is the case, given what they've revealed other places). In the dream, I feel a mix of pressure to do more to get my books seen and jealousy that they made so much. 

Finding a page like that would not make me happy, and there might even be one. IF so, I won't be reading it. *fingers crossed*. Well, I might, but it'd be happier if I didn't as comparing yourself to others, in anything, is always a lose/lose.

So for Saturday blogs, for a while, I am going to write about writing/marketing.  I hope it will be of interest to those who come, but understand it might not. I won't be doing this hoping more books will be sold from here (links are all listed alongside lol) but instead with the hope that it might inspire others to give writing a try or if they already write, ideas on how they could get their books out there and what that involves. I've learned a thing or two after getting into this in 2012-- some from my own experiences and some from what others have shared (writers who I looked up in the dream). It will also be because this is something important in my life.

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

by Diane: A painter's take on "How to Think about What You Know" by Dr. Joseph Sheiber PhD

Dr. Joseph Shieber was almost like STAR TRACK'S Dr. Spock. They both have a serious matter of fact explanation of  logical thinking. I say almost because Dr. Sheiber showed some emotion in emphatic, passionate rises of his voice as he read his carefully worded lectures. In the last lectures his excitement intensified if I am not mistaking.  Still he maintained a straight face like a stand up comedian. He had to be aware he was often humorous.
      Looking back I should have been prepared for his revelation in the last lecture.
      I sped through the course this past week, listening while I was icing my eye lids with cold compresses and later while using warm compresses after surgery for droopy eye lids. The bruising and swelling is disappearing quickly, I am happy to say.
Reading and contemplating as well as listening and contemplating.
            My biggest impression from the course comes from some examples Dr. Sheiber gave of our human abilities or lack of them in applying deductive and inductive reasoning.  I am humbled to realize the fragility of knowledge which increases my empathy for my friends who see reality the opposite to my own.  I better understand  my chemist husband who doubts the results of single untested scientific research reports.
        In my quest seeking a bridge to gap our polarized political discourse, I found little hope as I progressed through the lectures. I continued nevertheless. The conclusion was climatic.  An eye opener that burst my dreams. A branch of modern philosophy called epistemology is part of Dr. Shieber's answer to ending fake news and not what I was looking for in strengthening my individual critical thinking. Facebook click bait he says has reduced the support for other media venues. Perhaps Facebook contributes to the quality decline of news media. Most news media  no longer conducts rigorous fact checks. An exception is  "The New Yorker Magazine". "The New Yorker" is worthy of being reliable because every article and cartoon is checked with the creator as well as extensively researched by a team.
         The poor alternative is, according to Dr. Shieber, to put the responsibility of fact checking with the reader. Readers can't reasonably check every story they read. Plus on line fact check sites do not agree and exhibit bias. Meaning my susceptibility to stories that are not extensively fact checked is not my negligence or low intelligence but my human nature. Dr. Shieber lifts a heavy weigh from my guilty feelings on falling for fake news.
As a painter I do not  attempt to reproduce just what my eyes see.
I know I am not seeing objects but the light reflected off of them.
 I believe I am aware and able to express visually energies beyond the light spectrum.
I paint the perception and memories that seem to be in my muscles especially the heart.
I want to be in tune with the energy of life. Are my paintings about ch'i?
The type of energy I paint can be absolute knowledge? Something a camera cannot photograph?
 Intuitive knowledge?
Sometimes paintings flow effortless and I cannot believe I painted my painting.
Where do these happy painting experiences come from?
Will scientists study body muscles functioning as a sixth scense that can process input separate from the brain?
Not possible? Could the understanding of perceptions of painters change the world for the better?
Philosophers want to find some knowledge solid as truth but maybe the perception of solidness is a need
 as opposed to what exists in the physical world? Only human nature is solidly consistent?
         In criticism of Dr. Joseph Sheiber, I am left with a fear of the possible misuse of epistemology.  I feel less empowered. In addition to the quick fix of blaming Trump or the Russians, after the outcome of Trump's Presidency, I will need more knowledge of the "systemic problems facing society. I do not fully understand how eighteenth century Bayes' Theorem works as a powerful mathematical formula for predicting probability from what we know of the past. I do not fathom exactly how it is used by Facebook to predict what ads show up in my news feed. I do not understand the meaning of statistics and how they can be used for or against our liberties. Dr. Joseph Sheiber not only brought to my attention what I do not know he also made recommendations of what articles and books I could read to become informed.

 Dr. Joseph Sheiber hopes to inspire others to study further.  I recommend THEORIES OF KNOWLEDGE, How to Think about What You Know  published just this year. This course is a  Great Courses video with a book included.  The topic is Philosophy and Intellectual History. The subtopic is Applied Philosophy.

Some of my conservative friends called public education and all higher education a liberal brain washing machine. So I was looking for signs of brain washing propaganda in this Lafayette College Associate Professor's course. I know from previous experience that I do not recognize propaganda that supports my bias. So I invite my moderate and conservative friends to accept my gift of the course so they may inform me on what it is in this course that is brain washing propaganda.

 I have two complete identical courses because I was sent two by mistake. So the first person who wants this course, I will be glad to give it absolutely free.

Saturday, May 04, 2019

upward and onward or is that reversed?

by Rain Trueax

The other physical frustration we had in April has been one for both of us--the carport construction. We'd had experience working with independent contractors but learned a few things on this one. 

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

by Diane, Oil and wax painting #2

 Tuesday April 30 I had surgery to correct my droopy eye lids. Immediately after the world looked brighter and I could see much better. Next week I plan to get back to painting.
Third day

 Earlier last week I posted the development of a painting  - my first one since 1963 inwhich I mixed Dorlands wax medium into the oil paint on the palette. At first I mixed just the wax into the paint. The paint was unpleasantly grainy so I smoothed it out on the palette by adding Gamsol which is a refined odorless mineral spirits.

Second day
In my second oil painting posted here I mixed the Gamsol and wax in a used tin can with a lid and let it set until it was the consistency of yogurt. This mixture was half and half.  This painting medium made transparent lines. Over wet paint I drew with charcoal from the logging waste burnt piles. The charcoal was crumbly and made great texture over the oil/wax mixture on the trunk of the tree.