art

Persimmon Paintings and Cookies

abstract acrylic painting of two persimmons over strips of newprint

I broke out my acrylic paints for the first time in a long time – it felt good to just paint without any real goal in mind, just mixing color and having fun. I had some Fuyu persimmons in my fruit bowl and so they became an impromptu still life. I’ve always loved the color of persimmons – they always evoke autumn for me (they ripen here in October/November). I painted the top picture over strips of newspaper to give it more texture.

A few weeks ago I ran across a blog calling for artists and writers to submit recipes to share to help each other through the pandemic. I thought it sounded fun and community minded…but I did not get it together in time to participate in the call! But in the spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday tomorrow, I’m going to share my recipe for Persimmon cookies. My grandmother gave me the recipe, but I’m 98% sure she got it from a cookbook (so it’s not some ancestral family recipe or anything). I’ve baked them many times and they make the whole house smell amazing and it is a fun way to entice Persimmon-doubters to try the fruit.

Persimmon Spice Cookies

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup of persimmon pulp (I’ve used both common varieties of persimmon – fuyu and hachiya. Hachiya gives a stronger persimmon flavor, but you have to wait until the fruit is extremely ripe before using due to astringency)
2 cups sifted flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
juice and grated peel from half a large orange
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup finely chopped pecans (optional – I don’t use but it’s in the original recipe)
1 cup golden raisins (I’ve also used dried cherries and that works too!)

Cream butter and sugar. Beat in egg and add persimmon pulp. Sift all dry ingredients together and stir into egg mixture. Add pecans and raisins (if using). Drop by spoonful on greased cookie sheet. Bake for 375 degrees F for ~12 minutes. The cookies should be soft and cake-like. Enjoy!

For my friends and readers in the U.S., I hope you have a happy and safe Thanksgiving holiday! I myself am staying home this year, so no travels for me this year – the first time in a very long time!

Acrylic painting of 4 persimmons


A Supermarket in California – Ginsberg

IMG_2927

What thoughts I have of you, Walt Whitman, for I walked down the sidestreets
under the trees with a headache self-conscious looking at the full moon…
Allen Ginsberg (1926 – 1997)

Some of the illustration boards that I cut up for my Popo Postcard Festival cards included the practice and palette boards for this painting I did a few years ago. Thus, I was inspired to dig it out of the IP archive! Don’t worry, the painting itself didn’t get the hatchet – it is one my few completed acrylic paintings that I still really like. The text of the original post from 2016 is below:

“This painting was one of two that I did for Matthias over at Beat Company (you can see the other one here edit Oct 13, 2020 – link broken and removed, sadly, Beat Company is no longer active) to mark the anniversary of Allen Ginsberg’s passing on April 5th, 1997. The inspiration for the piece was the footnote to Howl and a photograph of Ginsberg as a young man in Berkeley, California. When Matthias didn’t wind up using this painting for the anniversary post, I decided to post it here on Illustrated Poetry – but the more I looked at it, the more I realized it reminded me of the opening lines of A Supermarket in California. It is one of those cases where the art knows more than I do! You can read the entire text of A Supermarket in California here. Painting, acrylic on illustration board, by me. Have a wonderful week!”

The Kick-About #11 ‘Trappist 1e’ — Red’s Kingdom

An amazing range of responses to this prompt! I am totally blown away. I encourage you to put on your best sci-fi/space music and scroll through and enjoy.

By way of a preface to this week’s Kick-About, some info courtesy of Judy Watson: “TRAPPIST-1e is one of the most potentially habitable exoplanets discovered so far. Your descendants may be living there one day. It is similar to the size of Earth and closely orbits a dwarf star named TRAPPIST-1 which is not as hot or bright as our sun. One side of TRAPPIST-1e faces permanently towards its host star, so the other side is in perpetual darkness. But apparently the best real estate would be the sliver of space between the eternally light and the eternally dark sides – the terminator line where temperatures may even be a cosy 0 °C (32 °F).”

The Kick-About #11 ‘Trappist 1e’ — Red’s Kingdom

Failed Experiments

fragmented failed transfer print on

I promised some failed experiments today and so I present two recent ones that just didn’t turn out. Although taking the extra effort to photograph these and prepare this post has endeared them to me more than I expected. I find myself looking at the photographs and slowly, partly redeeming them…so “Perpetual Little Particles” came about because I had just purchased some Light Pumice Gel at the art store and my first transfer with it went flawlessly (that one became a postcard that was posted on IG on Wednesday, actually). In my excitement, I tried another bigger transfer – and I’m not sure if I applied the medium too thickly or what, but it came apart as I pulled the plastic sheet away. But I can say the Light Pumice Gel gives the texture that it promises on the tub and it reminds me of fine sand at the beach.

closeup of failed transfer on blue painted background

This next one was a case of handling the piece too much. The initial transfer of a photograph of the author James Baldwin went perfectly – I was thrilled with how it looked over the foil backing. And so, if one transfer was good, more must be better! I wound up having a gummy mess with the different media applied too thickly. I’ve considered sanding down the gummed up areas to see if that will salvage the piece and seeing it again for the post has reinvigorated my will to do that.

failed transfer print of author James Baldwin over gold foil
closeup of a failed transfer of a photograph of author James Baldwin

The Kick-About #10 ‘Romantic Museum’ — Red’s Kingdom

The results are in! See below for the compilation of responses to the Kick-About #10. It was fantastic to see that other artists did assemblages as well – the inspiration emanating from Joseph Cornell’s life and work is almost too strong to resist…

My piece, “Albatross Box”, featured some of the text of the “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Coleridge, which felt very relevant and poignant right now – and it turns out that at least a writer for The Atlantic agrees with me!
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner was made for 2020

Thank you, Jilanne, for sharing the article!

I don’t mind admitting I’ve spent a few moments dabbing my eye as I put this latest showcase of new work together in response to Joseph Cornell’s Romantic Museum! There’s a lot of love in the mix this week, with reflections on beloved relationships, time passing, and the making and keeping of memories. If the last Kick-About was a short ride in a fast machine, the Kick-About#10 is about the long ride we’re taking together.

The Kick-About #10 ‘Romantic Museum’ — Red’s Kingdom

The Kick-About #9 ‘Short Ride In A Fast Machine’ — Red’s Kingdom

Wanted to share the results of Kick-About #9 – some great stuff from Kerfe, Phil (both Phils), Gary, Francesca, so many more!

In marked contrast to our last creative prompt, which encouraged us to reflect on the slow, attenuated life-cycles of the cicada, this week’s jumping-off point invites adventures in velocity. As per, the range of responses is a delight. My advice? Slow down and have a really good look.

The Kick-About #9 ‘Short Ride In A Fast Machine’ — Red’s Kingdom

A ride on the DNA machine

collage of black and white science illustrations and shapes with DNA polymerase overlay and red DNA stitching

To keep the pressure low, I always give myself a little pep talk as the deadline for the Kick-About on Red’s Kingdom blog nears, “don’t worry, if Phil announces the theme for the next Kick-About and you don’t have a single idea, that’s okay – it’s totally okay.” But when he announced that the theme for Kick-About #9 was a musical composition by John Adams entitled a “Short Ride in a Fast Machine,” oh, I had ideas. Because there is an incredibly fast machine operating inside of you – countless times a day, taking you on a too short ride from the moment of conception until the day you die: your DNA replication machinery. This complex machine, made up of dozens of components, makes an exact copy of your DNA in preparation for your cells to divide.

First, the prompt:

Next, the connection: There are a lot of animations of what the DNA replication looks like inside of your cells, but this one is short (only 1 minute) and does a good job of showing how fast and complex this machine truly is:

I went back to an A4 paper sized collage, which I had done for the first Kick-About I’d participated in (Kick-About #4: Orphée). I like how this format lets a story form freely around the images. But it does present a challenge for me to photograph and/or scan. The top image was the best photograph I could capture and below are some close-ups.

Closeup of black and white DNA machine collage showing detail

The overlaid transfer print is of the DNA replication machinery (same as shown in the video) midway through making a copy of the genome. The imperfect transfer speaks to the fact that DNA replication does go awry sometimes – as we age, in certain diseases such as cancer, and in some inherited diseases. I was really inspired by Kerfe’s stitched Cicada wings in the last Kick-About and decided to continue the DNA helixes by stitching, letting the ends unravel. We are learning more about our genome all the time, but human heredity is extremely complex, and not all of it is written in the DNA code itself. We have much yet to discover and even more to understand.

In the end, it is always too short of a ride – but at least the journey is made, in part, on this very fast, very elegant, machine inside of you.

Mini-arts that turned out

small red collage with bit of paper and the word "atoms" on it

The host of one of the open figure drawing studio sessions I used to go to (back in the time before COVID when there were such things) would always say that the secret to “art success” is to make a lot of it and not get too hung up on any one piece. This is true, although I think this man did not also have small children! My time for art is after my kid is in bed and it is very finite. And so I totally get hung up on individual pieces, especially if there is a deadline involved – I’m unlikely to get a chance to redo it once I’m committed to an idea. The compromise I came up with recently is to do mini-tests for certain works to see if I want to proceed with my plan or if it’s going to fail miserably. And sometimes I like these mini-arts just as much as the finished product! The “tester” for Atomic Courtesy is above (the scale is about 2 inches by 3 inches).

Another one, testing out how the Thomas Guide maps transfer print:

layered collage with map and a wooden circle and the word "motion"

This tester strategy has been working well for me and so I plan to keep it up! The bonus is that when the tester turns out, it becomes like a bite-sized preview and art in its own right!

If either of these pieces speaks to you, they are up for grabs: let me know in the comments and I’ll be in touch to send it to you. Remember, they are only 2 by 3 inches each, so not going to work over your mantelpiece (unless you have a miniature fireplace).

Atomic Courtesy Collaboration – Jacobson

GIF by John Sapiro

Atomic Courtesy

To smash the simple atom
All mankind was intent.
Now any day
The atom may
Return the compliment.

Ethel Jacobson

collage of beige and red particles escaping from a black concentric reactor

John Sapiro and I began our email correspondence about this little poem and the history of the atomic age a few months ago, before the early August anniversaries of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but amidst the early chaos of the pandemic. It seemed almost ridiculous to be talking about yet another threat to worldwide health, peace, and humanity and yet, it was the mood of the day. I couldn’t find an exact date for Ethel Jacobson’s poem, although it is in a book I have that has a copyright date of 1952. And so our conversation centered mostly around the cold war of the 1950s and 60s but veered around widely. We talked about the physicist Richard Feynman and his “One Sentence” the sentence he composed that could be left behind to restart all of science and technology in the event of complete cataclysm (i.e. nuclear annihilation).

“…all things are made of atoms — little particles that move around in perpetual motion, attracting each other when they are a little distance apart, but repelling upon being squeezed into one another.”
– Richard Feynman (1918-1988)

I had planned to print Feynman’s entire sentence on my collage, but as I set up the transfer print, it felt wrong. It was too optimistic, too clinical, too exact for what I was feeling. I kept pulling away words and phrases until I was left with this one word; then I was satisfied.

We worked on our pieces in parallel and this is the result! Please stop by his blog (click here!) to see more of his unique combinations and recombinations of music, art, poetry, and video.

Lastly, my tiny paragraph of self-promotion at the end here:

Have doggedly kept up with the writing exercises from Ursula Le Guin’s Steering the craft latest entry (here it is!) is on POV and my very very short story called “The Mountain Lion Killing.”
Also, I have an IG, come on over to @merb02 to say hi and see different haiku and monoprints and some desert photography.

The Kick-About #8 ‘Cicada’ — Red’s Kingdom

I wanted to share the compilation post from Red’s Kingdom blog – so much amazing art to look through!

Our last Kickabout prompt, based off Sickert’s painting ‘Ennui’, inspired a range of new work by our participating artists on themes of listless, languor and waiting. When you consider the prolonged incubation times of your average cicada, you could say we haven’t moved all that far this week! That said, we’re a long away from Sickert’s rather drab little parlour, as instead we seek to celebrate the life, times and associations of these extraordinary insects.

The Kick-About #8 ‘Cicada’ — Red’s Kingdom