the beginning

reserved for h. malcolm & t. farrell

this morning, i awoke inspired by last night's reading on edward hopper. Awestruck by the simple technical elegance of his watercolor landscape paintings, i decided to venture out to my front bench for today's muse. there, i sought to paint little downtown edison, in all of its sopped in, fog laden glory. i bundled up, donning my trusty old stocking cap and hot cup of earl grey, and brought my setup outside to work. honestly, i've never had much of an affinity for plein air painting, yellow-jackets curiously buzzing 'round, wind blown hair in my eyes and in my mouth,the light changing moment by moment in an attempt to confuse the eyes: it has a tendency to test my patience. i was determined to try anyways, seeking an epiphany of sorts, in an attempt to conjure the "spirit" of hopper's painting style. as i plugged away at my sketch, big daddy treetops stopped his car to say hello and offer words of encouragement, driving away with a cryptic "you are the artist and the art." the sun began to peek through, eventually burning off the cottony blanket of fog, and i reveled in the sun's warmth on my face.

finishing the book on wayne thiebaud the other night, i couldn't help but feel like i'd just graduated. the last pages served me up with some much needed insight. I saw myself heading off on another distracted tangent, and i needed someone like thiebaud to tell me to wake up and focus. "The artist...has to be as disciplined as a mathematician. Discipline is not a restriction but an aid to freedom...an artist needs the best studio instruction, the most rigorous demands, and the toughest criticism in order to tune up his sensibilities." and further... "If you stare at an object, as you do when you paint, there is no point at which you can stop learning about things. You can just look and look and look." I love the idea that learning can be a continuous pursuit, and so can growth. "I think of myself as a beginner," he says. "Sometimes that's the whole joy. If you could just do it, there'd be no point in doing it."


to glean

collection of n. bouscher

i don't really know what to say about today. it was off in the way that some days are. the only reprieve was hanging out with my delightfully pregnant friend annalee. there is something about being around her that makes me feel so at ease. maybe it's the magic of being in the company of that third sensitive creature living in her belly, my new friend just waiting to emerge. or maybe it's just sweet annalee, and how long i've known her, and how being in her presence feels effortless. it's funny: meeting someone over the line and cooking cheek to cheek with someone at a breakfast diner, with the heat and the sweat and the broken yolks and the crispy bacon, the pressure and demands of the ravenous customers out there, well, it's so strangely intimate. we've been close ever since. and somehow, today as we were picking apples off of the dewy grass, i wished we could just be there forever, peacefully gleaning what the wind blew down from a forgotten orchard that some hopeful homesteader planted for food. oh how i live for precious moments such as these.



for a long time now, i've worked towards the specific goal of recognition for my work. maybe it was the idea of fame that struck me as so fantastic: the idea that i could really stand out in a sea of people, that i could become a household name, and that i could mix, mingle and commiserate with the most brilliant minds of our time. maybe it was the idea that i wouldn't have to worry about money anymore. or maybe it was really just my mom, saying to me with a sparkly kind of pride in her eyes, "you're gonna be famous someday." deep in my heart, there's something in me that won't ever let myself let that woman down, and so i tried and tried, running myself ragged in an attempt to become someone i knew nothing about.

well, somewhere along the freeway north, driving that uhaul full of my belongings towards exit 231, my lofty aspirations got left behind at a rest stop near marysville. here and now, away from the city that churns with ambition, i've re-prioritized. i'm now concerned more with my health, and a routine that feels safe and constant as the northern star. i'm concerned with the seasons, and the cycles of the moon, and fresh organic food grown by the hands of my neighbors. i'm concerned with my community, my new family, which is seemingly growing larger by the day. this new kind of recognition, it's salty like the earth, and tastes like home. and now i know, that's what i was looking for all along

Most people would succeed in small things, if they were not troubled with great ambitions.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Table-Talk (1857)

(today's musical muse: sera cahoone)



what is art if it doesn't communicate anything? it is design: a study in beauty, color, form and light, serving as an aesthetic embellishment to a room to make its inhabitants happy, or as an exercise in technique for the artist to better their skill. i see this aesthetic art is typically the kind that sells. that's all fine and good. i've done that, i can do that, i'm good at that, and i understand the need for that. but what i really love about art is the potential it has to tickle your synaptic mind, to challenge the cultural paradigms we all live within and to make the viewer really think. every artist has their own personal journey. they must ask themselves, before they pick up their brush: what function shall my art serve? what shall my art say? lately i've been asking myself just that.

since i was young, my mind has been a jumbled ball of yarn. imagine me, a girl of ten, falling in love with the beauty of the natural world and then watching it be systematically destroyed by its people. i saw too much. i was too aware. and it hurt. i started a save the earth club, enlisted members, and we walked around picking up garbage. it was the least i could do, and ironically, the most i could do. in a little autobiography i recently dug up from elementary school, entitled "jessica bonin, the story of my life", i aspire to "join greenpeace or become an artist". torn at the seams, between creating new forms of beauty and trying to save the remains of true natural beauty left. and today, reflecting back as a girl of thirty, it seems that little has changed. i've been working as an illustrator,doing the drawings that help children and adults across the world learn about water quality and how they can feel empowered, how they can make a difference. yet today, when my painting started to speak to me of the ocean, and the oil, and the plastic and garbage and gmo's and pharmaceuticals swimming around in there, i thought about this mighty mess we've gotten ourselves in and i started to cry. helpless, helpless, helpless all over again: this is my story.

I think having land and not ruining it is the most beautiful art that anybody could ever want to own. Andy Warhol



this morning, i woke up nervous. it's the annual oyster run, the one day of the year our tiny town swarms with all the leather and chrome clad bikers you could possible squeeze into a quarter mile square. now don't get me wrong: i love bikers. i've always adored the culture, the "wind in your hair, let it all hang out" mentality. i come from a family of bikers, and i know what it means to really feel the open road and all the elements coming at you, playing chicken. it's a totally unique form of adrenaline, a oneness with the out of doors that you just can't get in any air-conditioned car. and for that reason, i celebrate bikers, for their bravery, and for their passion.

i suppose then, what was making me most nervous is the noise. that, plus the exhaust fumes. and maybe the alcohol consumption. all of it combined, well, it just grates on me after a while, drowning my peaceful rural refuge in rattling windows and the persistent wap wap wap!! of tailpipes, constant like heavy machinery. so when this morning began with a downpour, you'd think i'd be relieved by the lack of bikers. nope. i missed them like you miss having family reunions. i missed the bad with the good, and that festive feeling all around. instead, what we were left with were swarming police, checking the roads like a mother wipes her own baby's ass: until it's clean. now i'm biting my tongue, i've changed my mind. so here we all are, locals stupidly lookin at each other like "where is everyone?". call me crazy, but i'd choose bikers over cops, any day of the week.

oh, yeah, and a footnote: this is my fiftieth painting, and my second adventure into a new realm of work, mixing typography with image. if i'm right, and if it is true that animals are just as smart as humans, with completely unique personalities and languages all their own, then this image speaks to that notion.

neil young: unknown legend



reserved for g. conklin

i'm okay with failure. i swear i am. i know it's inherent to the learning process. but, really, i'm just not willing to settle there. today, i tried something new, and it was a total train wreck. i ended up with the kind of result that is so embarrassing, i won't post it. i will tuck it away for good, and it shall never again see the light of day. when i showed it to james, he just said, "hmm." in that expressionless way that means "nope, not your best work". not good, not good at all. what it was: kind of like something you would paint on your trapper keeper in middle school if you were really into sci-fi novels or d&d. that's all i can say. so i did what i do best: i started over, and kept going. and here is the result.



collection of j. turic

today i realized: i've got to loosen up. lately i've been painting like there were nuns with rulers standing behind me, watching intently, waiting for me to rebel, or to fuck up. i've had this problem for a long time. this problem, this control freak in me, produces lovely tight illustrative results, but the rigidity is no good for any form of self expression. i came to this revelation while looking at the paintings of ben tour. i was admiring his take on controlled chaos, his use of drip and typography and the exaggerated caricatures of his subject. when i first saw his work in person, it hit me in a guttural way, and took my breath. today, revisiting the work, i thought: i used to paint like that....sloppy in the most lyrical way, for brief a moment in art school, usually when i was running out of time, in a hurry, in the days when i was so punk rock, before i had responsibilities, before i knew or cared that dripping solvent all over was toxic...before my art had to make me a living. but i had the illustrator somewhere deep in my core. (i inherited that from my mother). i slowly became more regimented, focusing on skill and technique, in an attempt at becoming a modern norman rockwell of sorts. it worked to some degree; it got me jobs, got me recognition, and got me here. but now i want to go back. so today, starting small...baby steps i say! i let this little toy car spin me out of a rut. tomorrow, maybe i'll be even more adventurous.



9" x  12"
some days, more than others, i catch myself dazedly wondering: what could it all possibly mean.  like, really, seriously, i want to know: what is the meaning of life.  when the sky stays at ten percent grey all day, and the leaves begin to shrivel off the trees to form a patchwork of yellows against the blackest concrete, it feels like the day never really begins.  three cups of tea barely keep the eyes ajar, and the list of lists never gets written.  it's that season again, time to hunker down, rake the leaves, stoke the fires, bundle up, and wait for spring all over again.

and then there's this:  i wonder sometimes when i go upstairs and look at all the boxes i've stowed away: whats inside that box?  for some reason or another, i am the receiver of goods.  i've been put here to go through stuff.  i've collected castaways, oh lordy have i collected, the feathers and photos and fabric and flotsam are my little love affairs i've tucked away to revisit, on another day. and i've been the chosen one, the one to sort the belongings of my loved ones who have died.  i have more stuff than i can even catalog mentally, and it can be unnerving at times.  i can open a box on a brave evening, and soon enough find my self sobbing on the ground in a sea of chotchkies and crumpled newspaper.  some of what's left behind when you die is a legacy of stuff, the stuff you've loved and lived with and cared for and collected, the stuff that memories are made of.  and if my stuff is any testament to who i've loved and how hard i've loved them, then i suppose i should feel mighty grateful.  yet when i look around upstairs, what it amounts to is sometimes nothing more than an ocean of brown cardboard boxes.  and still, i keep on searchin.



9" x  12"

as far as i'm concerned, watercolor is all backwards.  i was trained in oil paint.  with oil paint, you sculpt your image. beginning with a base color that peeks through at opportune moments, you carve the darkest shadows first, next working in the midtones, with cool tones receding and warm tones advancing, creating spatial arrangement.  adding the brightest highlights, the finest details last, you've worked the malleable surface over in layers of glazes and textures until its just so.  it can take forever, or it can take a day.  but if you make a booboo, you are forgiven: you can wipe it off, or paint it over, scrape it or sand it or do what you will.

watercolor is not so forgiving.  during my crash course, i've quickly come to realize this.  watercolor is like playing defense: you must anticipate everything.  your highlights must remain bright with the white of the paper, while the shadows shrink in carefully to create depth.  you must plan ahead.  and be careful.  the paper soaks up everything, and when wet, colors bleed together and muddy every attempt at definition.  watercolor is as spontaneous as northwest weather, surprising me all the time.  luckily i am up for a challenge.  luckily, this new approach to painting can also be applied to my life.  when life gets complicated like watercolor painting, i must breathe deep and remind myself: take your time, think things through, anticipate the outcome, plan thoroughly, and then execute.  you will be pleasantly surprised at the result.


the high road

9" x  12"
collection of j. turic

desperation is everywhere.  living in a tiny town huddled between two bars, its hard not to notice.    most often it comes in the form of severe alcoholism.  frankly, i'm tired of looking at it.  alcohol, i've lost dear family and friends because of you.  i've lost days upon days to you.  oh alcohol, you're the bondage of the masses, destroying our ambition and stripping us of our creativity, our optimism, our motivation, and our spirit:  when will you leave us be??  many a night i've drifted off to sleep with residual shouts of aggression bouncing around in the alley, threatening to shatter my peace of mind.  the  neverending spray of "fuck you!"s and the "get in the car!"s, or the stumblers who don't know the difference between my home and a toilet...well, they cease to impress me, or scare me, or even catch my attention anymore.  mostly, i've gotten used to it.  i've been there, i've been that person, causing a ruckus, puking my guts, passing out and then sleeping it off for an entire day.  really, haven't we all?  and mostly, it's just sad, just too bad, the lives and the days and the spirits that are ruined by this drug of choice.  what once was a human standing strong and proud is now shadowed by its own impotence under the influence. 

O God, that men should put an enemy in their mouths to steal away their brains! that we should, with joy, pleasance, revel, and applause, transform ourselves into beasts!  
William Shakespeare, Othello  

its our challenge: to rise up out of the ashes.  to turn our own lives around.  to overcome sadness and loss.  to beat the odds.  to impress ourselves.  to leave a legacy of positivity.  to not succumb.  to take the high road.  to live with spirit and integrity.  to be healthy and well.   what are we waiting for?

There are better things in life than alcohol, but alcohol makes up for not having them 
Terry Pratchett


a sighting

reserved for p. senter

driving isn't a hassle the way it used to be.  the roads here stretch out long and lean like a supermodels legs across the valley.  the horizon is as open as a minit mart at midnight, and the scenery as intoxicating as the forties of malt liquor on it's shelves.   traffic, well that's just out of the question.  

these days i love monday, magic monday, because monday is my day off after the weekend rush, and the day i run my errands in town.  the twenty minute drive, with the view through that cracked windshield of mine, makes it all worthwhile.  today, i went the wrong way, a detour that probably cost me twenty minutes,  but i had the privilege of sighting a family of deer crossing the tracks, nibbling rain washed foliage.  living here, i never feel alone.  i can sense the thousands of little hearts, beating here and there, in the bushes or on a wire, foraging for food and raising young, doing what they do, keeping mostly to themselves, and keeping busy.  it's this kind of buzz, the quiet hum of persistent life force, that is becoming quite a new addiction.


9" x  11"
never enough hours in the day.


seeing straight

9" x  11"
there are lots of things that we take for granted every day of our lives.  we typically carry on in our own blissful ignorance, because worry never does anyone any good.  in my mind, worry can even encourage the worst.  i was thinking about this just the other day when i was talking to two girlfriends who suffered from repeated migraines.  they were saying how many triggers there are, but they didn't know what exactly caused their own migraines, perhaps an unusual combination of things, and just how helpless those headaches made them feel.  i was thanking my lucky stars for my own migraine-less-ness, and wishing i had some kind of snake oil for my ladies.  then, to my disdain, the next day i put my back out with a single misstep.  sciatica. i remembered.  my bane. suddenly it flashed through my mind: the first time it happened in high school, i went to dive for the volleyball, rolled wrong, and couldn't move, couldn't breathe, sharp sharp pain running down my leg.  since then, it's happened many times, and can stem from as many things as there are stars in the sky.

ironically, i was just out the door to a massage appointment when it happened.  i went from being footloose and fancy free, excited to relax and unwind to being, well, cramped up, cooped up, and crotchety.  it was so bad that the massage only temporarily alleviated the major discomfort.  i went to bed early, and i tried not to move.  today, i look like a pipe cleaner that just took a turn for the worse.  the lesson from all of this:  don't take it for granted.  any of it.


my job


i'm excited.  i just finished an illustration & design job for the west african fisheries department of the world bank.  it will be my fourth published work as a professional illustrator.  i've been on this job for about a year.  it's been a great in a reliable sort of way, my slow and steady jobby-job.  it's paid my mortgage, bought my groceries, paid my bills and even a bought me a new tattoo.  i've learned a lot, i've been slapped around, and i've been humbled.  but this job, it's kept my from my first love: painting. it's played cock-block between me and my second love, exhibiting.   i'm ready to move on, and do my own thing.  me and this job, i guess we're parting ways.  working for money is good, and oh-so-necessary.  but doing pen & ink illustrations and layout on the computer is tedious like any old office job.  i'm ready to get back to the freedom of oil on canvas, and see what happens.  i dream of doing something new and edgy, that no one has ever seen before.  i dream of doing something that will make waves, that will shock people with progressive concepts and mastery of technique.  what that something is, i don't know.  i have yet to find out.  when i was describing this idea to my good friend heather, she spoke wise words: "you will probably have to fail a few times before you get it right."  am i prepared?  i think so.  am i overthinking it?  probably in conclusion, the words of frank scully:   

"why not go out on a limb?  isn't that where the fruit is?"


lessons in expediency

this baby goldfinch on my rock wall was rushed unfairly because i'm frantic and buzzing around like a crazy bee, heading out the door and running late all at once.  painted in twenty minutes flat.  no words for today.  see y'all tomorrow!



8" x  11"

if there's one painting subject i fancy myself pretty good at, it's birds.   my mom was a wildlife artist and amateur ornithologist, and  i watched her tenaciously as a child.  she could paint birds, carve birds into scrimshaw, name all the birds she saw, by their feathers or by their call.  so when i left the nest and came into my own as a painter,  i used to paint them lots, probably because it came most naturally.  my favorite was to paint them larger than life so their presence dominated a room, to give them the kind of detail, with the sheen of individual feathers and the glistening beaks, that you felt so close, privy to something the human eye rarely sees in person.   i hung those paintings all over portland and they sold like hotcakes.  as of late, i've taken a break, so this little sleepy fledgling from my backyard is the first bird i've painted in a while.  you see, this is what happened: i started seeing bird art everywhere.  i was over-inundated.  don't get me wrong:  i love birds.  but i love them in person too darn much to allow them to become cliche.  let's just say this: i'm extremely phobic of being just like everyone else.  so i switched, and started painting landscapes of urban decay.  well, wouldn't you know it, before i knew it, i started seeing urban-friggin-landscapes everywhere too.  it's a struggle to be original in a world full of creativity and innovation.  so i gave up, and decided what the heck:  it's okay to be one in a sea of many, blending in amidst the chaos.  i soak up the world like a sponge, i filter the info like a whale's baleen, and spit it back out like a geoduck.   it works for me.  in the words of jim jarmusch:  "nothing is original."  


food for thought

collection of kj vonallmen
when pondering thiebaud's still lifes of cakes, pies, hotdogs, club sandwiches, gumballs, and other food delights, one cannot help but think of them as "unequivocally american": aesthetically beautiful, extravagant by nature, designed to trick you into wanting more, gluttonously unhealthy, and destined to wreak bloody havoc on that temple we call body

i've been preoccupied with the health of my food since i was just a girl of sixteen.  i remember it vividly:  i was on an extracurricular road trip for the theater troop, in a bus driving to ashland to witness the shakespeare festival.  we were giddy, snuggled together, flirting and joking on the sticky green vinyl seats.  and then it happened:  a chicken truck drove by.  at eye level, there they were: damn near three hundred birds staring right back at me, deep into the whites of my eyes, huddled tightly in their cages, covered in their own shit, windblown and squished together like the cushions on an overstuffed couch.  I cried for those chickens on their way to slaughter, and became vegetarian that day. 

since then i've learned a lot more about "american food culture".  my scrutiny started with meat production. it dabbled around in refined sugar, hydrogenated oil and other food additives, then went all the way to frozen corn in plastic bags that we microwaved for our dinner growing up.  i won't go into great lengths to describe what many of you already know about, but i will say that we middle-class supermarket shopping americans have a silent enemy in our midst. genetically modified, "conventionally" grown, mass-produced, factory processed, and junk foods are the new weapons of mass destruction, creating a culture of disease, malnourishment, emotional instability and drug-dependency. 

so yesterday, when i was at the co-op spending a million bazillion dollars on one small box of high quality food, i didn't flinch.  because i deserve it, because i would do no less for the health of my body and for the future of the world.  and when i overheard a disgruntled woman ask an employee why the co-op was so damn crowded all the time, i was delighted by his reply: "people are finally catching on to the idea of real, healthy food."  now that's cause for celebration.


white light

6" x  8"
reserved for w. canepa

stark white, it's a deceiver.  in the words of thiebaud, "...white both absorbs light and reflects light, it's composed of all colors..."  conversely, in the words of renoir: "...no shadow is black.  it always has a color.  nature knows only colors."  human vision, well, it's not always an honest storyteller either.  "human eyes are rarely, if ever stationary....halation is a consequence of the imperfect binocular vision of the human eye in which two images merge but never exactly," (k. tsujimoto).  basically, what that means is: as an artist, you have to play detective.  most of your time is spent observing, trying to find the truth in what you see, pushing back the curtain of automatic tendencies of the psyche, searching for the soulful, unadulterated truth. 

this evening, upon choosing a drab grey burned out light bulb as my painting subject--for simplicity's sake--i actually found an incredibly daunting task in front of me. so: it's eleven at night and i'm exhausted, i'm looking at this here grey lightbulb, squinting hard (like the way you squint to see if your christmas tree lights are evenly spaced).  trying to really see, somewhere in there goddamnit, a rainbow of fruit flavors.  voila!  it's a cotton-pickin miracle.


hammer it out

collection of a. rosato

reading about the art-making process is pretty captivating because every person's journey through it is so individual.  i'm young, and even though i've been making art since i was a kid, i'm still green. i have a lot to learn, and i'll be the first to admit it.  when i attended art school, i was more focused on beer and boys than the brush.  some of the professors seemed disenchanted with the "youth of today", and so i was even more distracted, gleaning little from my studies in painting.  every assignment was thrown together in the last frantic minutes before a critique, yet i was defensive, building up a tough exterior so as not to bruise my fragile young ego.  even still, i excelled, maybe because my artistic nature was biologically ingrained.  i was lucky to spit up some moments of naive clarity.  i won a scholarship, and started the bfa program with a bang, but i accidentally signed up one credit short and the scholarship was ripped from my clutches...i then showed up late for my first critique and got ripped in half by the professor.  humiliated, i went home and sobbed my little heart out, only to drop out the next day. today, i look back, and it seems like an opportunity half-wasted.

this winter i've decided to put myself back through "school", on my own terms.  i'm going to learn as much as possible, beginning with a book on the life and work of wayne thiebaud that was so graciously lent to me at the perfect moment.  i am so fortunate to be surrounded by a community of brilliant artists; starting now i am going to ask them the questions, press them for answers, and make them help me be the best i can be.  i'm thirty now, and i have more patience and focus than before.  it's time to teach this puppy some new tricks!!  today, a lesson from thiebaud on how to spice up the banal with a bit of color and vibration.  tomorrow....a new day! 


a study in red

8" x  10"
one of my paintings was just recently published on the inside page of the cascadia weekly, as advertisement for the american landscape show at the loomis hall in blaine.  being published like that, well, it's a hard spot for me, a double-edged sword:  i love the recognition, but i also feel completely vulnerable.  when they published that picture, i panicked inside.  i knew that painting was rushed; done on a 90 degree day, i took my tools out on the river dike and painted in the tall grass.  it was too hot and too bright and too uncomfortable and i knew the piece was compromised because i couldn't control it.  i let that go, and let the piece be as haphazard as it was, knowing that it wouldn't make of break my career.  so when they chose that piece to represent the show, i was surprised.  and because i feel so vulnerable, i'm still making excuses as to why the painting isn't perfect.

that being said, my work out there for the world to pick apart, i always welcome a good critique from an expert.  it's not always easy to take a criticism, but equally so, it's not so easily delivered.  it takes some serious balls to be painfully honest with someone about their work, and few people will rise to the occasion.  that's why today, when joel brock came equipped with something to say about my technique, i was excited.  of course, if you're going to critique my work, you better be ready for a flippant backhanded response. it just so happens that joel handled my attitude ever-so-gracefully, and signed it with a "take me with a grain of salt".

long story short, joel said the painting needed more red.  it needed to pop.   it needed to create it's own light, and to feel illuminated.  when he looked at the piece, it felt drab.  being the brat i am, i said, "why joel, you're the king of drab landscapes."  but what i meant was, goddamnit joel, you're right. i know it.  he showed me two examples of real red in the quality paintings of edward hopper, and his own, alongside some words of wisdom from wayne thiebaud.  and i've been chewing on his advice all day, hence my painterly response.  thanks, joel, for taking the time to look closely, because an artist is nothing if they don't take the opportunity to grow, learn, and build technique.


an awakening

8" x  10"
i recently had the great privilege to attend a neil young concert.  it was a true highlight of my life to see my hero, my all-time favorite, on stage, in person: alone, in a spotlight, in front of thousands of people.  the tickets were pricey, and many people criticized the cost.  for me, the opportunity was well worth every penny, because i knew, i know, what kind of bravery it must require to be that person: alone, equipped only with your skills, presenting your vision to the masses.  i went under-equipped, without hankies, and by the end of the evening i had washed every last bit of mascara from my eyelashes and down onto my cheeks.  neil young is my truest of heroes, and i'll tell you why:  when my mom was not well, i struggled....hard.  i knew she was dying, my best friend of friends, and the reality of life as a human, in love and in loss, seemed too cruel to bear.  i had my neil young on vinyl and my dad's trusty old record player, and man, i wore that thing out.  it was a tonic: in the words of the songs, neil young poetically traced the human experience to a T.  i felt like i had a friend, someone who understood to the core, who could convince me that life is truly beautiful.  that notion gave me hope.  so recently, when i had the opportunity to see neil, marking my thirtieth birthday, it was a spiritual awakening.  upon my return, a friend asked how it was, and remarked that the last time she saw neil he reminded her aesthetically of the grinch.  she asked smugly if i thought so too, and i was dumbstruck.  all i could say back was "he looked like god to me."



8" x  10"

last night, while making soup for dinner, i peeked out the kitchen window to see the most unreal beautiful sunset.  the clouds were deep purple above a sliver of the brightest golden of oranges, with tufts of neon pink splashed and splayed across the sky with a painter's confidence. it was the kind of sunset that could only be seen in person; to paint that kind of color would never look authentic.  i was drawn outside to the gravel lot by the slough to give that sunset a moment of my undivided attention.   because nature is a gift, and nature deserves it.

today is just the kind of day i live for.  quiet, with the sun shining through my studio windows, gently warming max the cat snuggled tight in his tiny wicker basket... soft and sentimental country music on the radio, banjo and guitar lulling this girl to into a soft rhythm of productivity, i have this overwhelming feeling:  life is good.

john prine: paradise


a legacy

collection of t. north

there's this thing about americana music:  it endures.  last night, i had the pleasure of witnessing two brilliant musicians, born of two brilliant musicians:  bobby bare jr, and justin townes earle.  when they played, there was a distinct feeling of looking through a foggy window at the past.  i was witnessing the reality of the cyclical nature of life, how  patterns  repeat themselves like tried and true songwriter's formula, to become what we call a legacy.  in justin townes earle's song, "mama's eyes", he speaks of just that notion.  "...I am my father's son.  I've never known when to shut up.  I ain't fooling no one..."  as children of our parents, we take the good with the bad, but really, we try to take the positive influences and brilliant breakthroughs and run.  we struggle to break the vicious cycles inherent in our genetic makeup, which could mean all sorts of things: alcoholism, depression, co-dependency, drug abuse, anxiety...we all seem to have our own unique, inherent "cross to bear", an unexpected gift from our dear ma & pa.  As the child of an artist, i know that my drive to make art is as strong as the pull of gravity.  As the child of a mother and father who came from a family of alcoholics, i know that the genetic urge is equally strong and so every day i'm not saddled up to the bar is a miracle.  so it goes... when my great uncle earl explains how he got to the ripe old age of 93 and outlived all of his siblings and friends, i hear true wisdom, "one day at a time. take the good with the bad.  take it as it comes."

steve earle performing fort worth blues by townes van zandt

justin townes earle performing mama's eyes 

bobby bare and bobby bare jr. performing together 

bobby bare jr. performing rock n roll halloween


11" x  17"
reserved for exhibit

well, folks, it's official: tonight i'm two hours late posting my painting and it's officially tomorrow.  i did the painting yesterday, but yesterday slipped away and now it's today. seeing that i didn't make the rules here, i'm feeling justified in bending them.  so today, this morning at 1:48, i'm writing about yesterday, which was a bit of a whirlwind.  chores, the laundry and the vacuumin, framing paintings and making food, doing this here art piece, and then driving up chuckanut to go and see some live music in the eveningtime: it all amounted to more than a full day and it just had to spill over into the next.  sometimes that's just how it rolls.  it was well worth it: this hillbilly girl has to hit the town now and again, or she'll go mad.

the best part about this painting is that when i showed it to james, he said, "wow, you're good at painting OSB."  if you weren't aware, OSB is a particle board made with wood chips and formaldehyde glue.  it's inexpensive, and toxic, used in most cheaply done common construction, often used to board up buildings (like the ones you see here, which once existed in northeast portland but were bulldozed and exist no longer). the notion that i could render such a thing effectively is pretty satisfying. 


more than meets the eye

collection of darren hanlon

some days seem charmed.  today is a lazy rainy day, and just perfectly suited for my mood.  i took my liberties and slept in until eleven, woke up, went outside to find a bird party: a cloud, no, a swarm of a hundred or so birds were swirling joyfully, right above my backyard, and six mourning doves were crowded together on my feeder.  i stood there looking up for what seemed like forever.  "i must be doing something right," i caught myself saying aloud.  it's true, though.  some days, anomalous acts of nature seem to tap me on the shoulder and say, "you're alright kid.  keep up the good work."   i still haven't wiped the stupid grin off my face.

i have had many occurrences like this over the past few years.  sometimes i wonder if it's just me, or if other people notice this kind of thing.  really, i wonder if it's someone on the other side, trying to tell me something.  i know a lot of people who have died...and somehow or another i always think they're communicating with me through these birds.  it may seem weird, like new age mumbo-jumbo, but believing in that little bit of magic--well, it gets me through.  like when my friend john simon died:  every day this summer i went to his house to take care of his cat.  we had our routine: i'd open the door and we'd run out to that stump in the yard, she'd scratch a little,  and we'd lay around in the sunny lawn for a half-hour or so.  soon, a hummingbird appeared.  he would come everyday, buzz me close up a little, and then perch on the branch up above where we sat, bobbing his head side to side as if he was humming a little tune.  this happened every day for nearly a month solid, and i couldn't help but feel privy to something out-of-this world. 



8" x 10"

one day recently i had an epiphany that released me.  i realized that  i don't have to be good at everything.  you see, i consider myself a bit of a renaissance man. and an overachiever.  both qualities have gotten me this far.  i can sew, paint, and take pretty photographs. i can cook delicious healthy food while dancing and singing harmonies, and i can do a handstand.  i am handy around the house and can wield a hammer or screwgun with confidence.  i'm a computer savvy modern girl, yet i can chop wood as easily as a stick of butter and start a fire in a minute flat.  but i'm used to running myself ragged trying to be everything to everyone and do everything all at once.  my own expectations for myself were too high and as a result i suffered from a lot of anxiety--hence the nickname: "stressy jessie", given by my folks. in the back of my mind i knew: there was always one ball in the juggler's lot about to drop.... either my garden went unwatered or got eaten by aphids, the laundry sat in piles unattended, the fire in the stove went out, or those old projects sat in pieces on the shelf.  not to mention, my evil jealous twin crept in when i saw someone else doing something better than me--heaven forbid anyone should ever be better than me at anything!!  so, after a serious one-on-one with that dirty alter-ego, i laid down the law and decided to start this blog.  i've truly been humbled by the amount of work and commitment it takes to do a painting a day.  but it has helped me find direction and focus my attention on the things i absolutely know i was put here on this planet for.  feeling significantly less mental choas, and for this i am thankful.


the view from here

last night i thumbed through a few items in the first box of two that my dad gave me of childhood memorabilia.  there was the homework; reports, stories, and papers...mostly A's, but pretty formulaic. and then there were the art projects: drawings, drawings, and more drawings...then the odds and ends: a mold of my crooked-ass growing teeth, certificates, my favorite books, a papa murphy's nametag..  there are a few gems:  handwritten, illustrated bound books from when i was in elementary and middle school, revealing the bizarre imaginary mindscape of yours truly. above all, the real discovery was a little turquoise spiral notebook, maybe three by four inches with a teddy bear and roller-skates cover, containing four haphazard diary entries.  i was ten.  here are a few ridiculous excerpts from april 23, 1990:

"dear diary, yesterday i learned that i am getting breasts.  it is pretty depressing, even though i should be glad."

"...i'm having a hard time with everything.  the worst one is boys.  i can't decide on a boy to like.  as you know, i used to like nathan.  but now i cant decide between nathan, brandt, geremy, turner, mitch, ian, andy, the list goes on and on..."

"track is great!  i love it, it's so fun!  i think i'm best at sprints.  my mom says that i've got strong legs and she says i get them from my pogo stick.  i've dressed up my teddy bear to look like stevie wonder, pretty amazing, but he resembles him very much.  well bye, jessica b."



5" x  7"
reserved for c. terrell

the freeway is no way to spend a day.  after five hours with my sweaty ass sticking to a vinyl seat, a load of memorabilia blocking my rear view, blaring 90's grunge flashback radio, and white-knuckles on the wheel like it was a lifeline, i'm sure glad to be home.  my truck has been good to me, and that's why i call it my lucky truck: adorned with feathers, dingle balls, decals and good luck charms, it's the only piece of heavy machinery i haven't crashed. between the ages of sixteen and eighteen i crashed my six cars six times.  as a last ditch, i got dad's truck.  when he bought it for about a grand, there was still hay sticking out the door from the farm it came from. since then, i've dropped the engine and rebuilt the clutch, replaced four blown tires, gotten new brakes, and more, all for a little thing that blue-books for barely over $600.  but it's my lucky truck, and as the saying goes, "better an ounce of luck than a pound of gold".  my trusty stallion, with nearly 200 g's on the ticker, has driven me from here to there a million times, safely.  so i say: its been worth every penny.



8" x  10"

it amazes me how we all start out essentially the same, but could end up so different.  watching the city swarm with people really emphasizes that fact.  we all begin as babies, and well, we're just so vulnerable, subject to the influences of human civilization at its best--and worst.  and because every situation is so completely unique, every human shall be as well.  i am baffled by the notion that a child who grows up in a nurturing family environment could just as easily end up some kind of derelict adult as could the child of a drug addict.  and that is just the beginning!  with parenthood as open-ended as it is, it is flabbergasting to think of how many people muster up the true courage to rear a child.   a miracle it is.

i leave the city tomorrow, and head back to my home in the fields.  i spent today wading down the swift grey sandy river with chris, working on my sunstroke, losing and finding flipflops all over the place.   it was a relief to think that in spite of all the sweltering concrete and city slickers, a shady refuge full of tiny fish and slimy rocks was only twenty minutes away.  even when i go to the city deliberately, and for that experience, these days i feel much more at ease to find myself in the quiet of nature.  and i can't help but worry about all these folks, running wild, masquerading with their beverages and their accessories; as far as i can tell, living like horses with blinders on:  do they know what a full moon feels like?  i hope so.  


the run

since i've moved to edison, fall has come to signify the mighty salmon runs.  last week we noticed the first few fallen leaves on the ground, and at the same time, a buzz was in the air.  salmon had been pooling out in the bay, and the first couple had been caught in the river.  suddenly, as if an alarm had sounded, by the droves hopeful fishermen appeared. with waders and nets and every kind of tackle, on the banks, by boat and in the water, they were here to hunt those amazing creatures.   but, as the saying goes, "if it were easy, it would be called catching."  most spend hours upon hours and leave empty-handed.  there's always the chance, like a gambler with a good hand of cards: all the conditions are right, and you'll be the one carrying that fish down the dike.  for years i've watched james go through the annual ritual of riverbank fishing.  Its an exercise of patience:  getting to know the holes and the tides, watching for the fish waves, learning the patterns.  for him, it's as much about the observance of nature and a certain salmon mysticism as it is about harvesting food.  and at times, it's just a frustrating and time consuming obsession.  but at it's best, it's an undeniable rush to be connected, by a thread, to such fierce and wild power.

james has been a fisherman since before he could walk.  It is in his blood; intrinsic to the core of his being.  So when he caught his first salmon of the season yesterday, at about three feet long, a fiery pride shone in his eyes. i send a hearty thank you to the universe for this amazing gift.


5" x  7"
ten minutes till midnight, just arrived home from a party, and i'm just barely sqeezing this one in.  i've discovered that doing the painting-a-day project while traveling is neither ideal or convenient.  i had to sneak the computer upstairs in the dark so the barking burglar alarm of amy the golden lab wouldn't continue to wake the peaceful sleepers. now i sit in my old bedroom perch, with black cats snoozing on either side, and i'm content to spill my guts a moment more before i retire.

my dad's lady friend sarah has three cats:  broken, timmy, and elizabeth.  timmy and broken are both your "run of the mill" black rescue cats, as sarah says.  timmy is also the "town hussy", running around with all the neighbors.  elizabeth is my favorite;  i call her "fraidy cat".  she is afraid of everything: she won't go outside, hates abrupt movements, and gets intimidated by the other cats...  her eyes even look afraid.  yet she is the sweetest, most cuddliest thing ever, and slept right next to my head all night last night.  there is also a teeny grey-haired blue-eyed kitten with a broken leg in a cast, temporarily residing in the bathroom. sarah is a vet tech and took the baby home to give it the nurturing it needed to nurse its wound.  my old house has taken on a new spirit since my dad and sarah moved in with all their animals, and i love it.  after spending the evening at a party where the bar was open and the people were plenty, i must say, i'm relieved to be back in my room. i feel much more at home surrounded by this family of fuzzy, purring mammals.