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Hills and Valleys (Fall 2023)

Japanese watercolors on Arches paper. 

Click to enlarge. 

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And the Sky (Summer 2023)

I spent the summer in Dallas and its bordering suburbs for an internship and found it both awful and wonderful: I was deeply unhappy at work, but, confusingly, deeply happy to be living and spending time with my dear church friends. Thus I turned to painting. The sky in Texas is so huge and the land is so flat that everywhere I turned my head seemed a striking composition worthy of rendition. I gifted most of the paintings below to my generous hosts and kept one for myself. 

Japanese watercolors on Arches paper. 
Click on each painting to enlarge. 

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Scenes From The Road (Fall 2022)

I took a seminar on Cormac McCarthy and knew immediately I wanted to translate some of his passages on nature and landscape into paintings. O'Keeffe's early watercolors seemed an apposite starting point, as the lonesome Texas scenery was an inspiration for her as much as it was for McCarthy, and the gestural abstraction of her work echoes the terse prose of McCarthy's 2006 novel The Road. My paintings are a response to both artists and maybe a synthesis of their visions. I sat at my dining table and stared at a passage and painted for as long as I could. If I focused hard enough I could see the road unfolding before me, real and immediate, terrifying and beautiful. 

Windsor and Newton watercolors on postcard blocks. 

Click on each painting to enlarge. 

On the far side of the river valley the road passed through a stark black burn. Charred and limbless trunks of trees stretching away on every side. Ash moving over the road and the sagging hands of blind wire strung from the blackened lightpoles whining thinly in the wind. A burned house in a clearing and beyond that a reach of meadow-lands stark and gray and a raw red mudbank where a roadworks lay abandoned. (6)

There were fires still burning high in the mountains and at night they could see the light from them deep orange in the soot-fall. It was getting colder but they had campfires all night and left them burning behind them when they set out again in the morning. He'd wrapped their feet in sacking tied with cord and so far the snow was only a few inches deep but he knew that if it got much deeper they would have to leave the cart. Already it was hard going. (30)

They left the cart in a parking area and walked out through the woods. A low thunder coming from the river. It was a waterfall dropping off a high shelf of rock and falling eighty feet through a gray shroud of mist into the pool below. They could smell the water and they could feel the cold coming off of it. A bench of wet river gravel. He stood and watched the boy. Wow, the boy said. He couldnt take his eyes off it. (38)

In the night a storm broke in the mountains above them and came cannonading downcountry cracking and booming and the stark gray world appeared again and again out of the night in the shrouded flare of the lightning. The boy clung to him. It all passed on. A brief rattle of hail and then the slow cold rain. (49)

When he woke again it was still dark but the rain had stopped. A smoky light out there in the valley. He rose and walked out along the ridge. A haze of fire that stretched for miles. He squatted and watched it. He could smell the smoke. He wet his finger and held it to the wind. When he rose and turned to go back the tarp was lit from within where the boy had wakened. Sited there in the darkness the frail blue shape of it looked like the pitch of some last venture at the edge of the world. Something all but unaccountable. And so it was. (49)

At evening a dull sulphur light from the fires. The standing water in the roadside ditches black with the runoff. The mountains shrouded away. They crossed a river by a concrete bridge where skeins of ash and slurry moved slowly in the current. Charred bits of wood. In the end they stopped and turned back and camped under the bridge. (52)

He made two more trips into the woods, dragging armloads of brush and limbs to the bridge and pushing them over the side. He could see the glow of the fire from some distance but he didnt think it could be seen from the other road. Below the bridge he could make out a dark pool of standing water among the rocks. A rim of shelving ice. He stood on the bridge and shoved the last pile of wood over, his breath white in the glow of the firelight. (76)

The land was gullied and eroded and barren. The bones of dead creatures sprawled in the washes. Middens of anonymous trash. Farmhouses in the fields scoured of their paint and the clapboards spooned and sprung from the wallstuds. All of it shadowless and without feature. The road descended through a jungle of dead kudzu. A marsh where the dead reeds lay over the water. Beyond the edge of the fields the sullen haze hung over earth and sky alike. By late afternoon it had begun to snow and they went on with the tarp over them and the wet snow hissing on the plastic. (189)

Out there was the gray beach with the slow combers rolling dull and leaden and the distant sound of it. Like the desolation of some alien sea breaking on the shores of a world unheard of. Out on the tidal flats lay a tanker half careened. Beyond that the ocean vast and cold and shifting heavily like a slowly heaving vat of slag and then the gray squall line of ash. He looked at the boy. He could see the disappointment in his face. I'm sorry it's not blue, he said. That's okay, said the boy. (230)

The seething hiss of it washing over the beach and drawing away again. He thought there could be deathships out there yet, drifting with their lolling rags of sail. Or life in the deep. Great squid propelling themselves over the floor of the sea in the cold darkness. Shuttling past like trains, eyes the size of saucers. And perhaps beyond those shrouded swells another man did walk with another child on the dead gray sands. Slept but a sea apart on another beach among the bitter ashes of the world or stood in their rags lost to the same indifferent sun. (234)

The road bent its way along the coast, dead sheaves of saltgrass overhanging the pavement. The leadcolored sea shifting in the distance. The silence. He woke that night with the dull carbon light of the crossing moon beyond the murk making the shapes of the trees almost visible and he turned away coughing. Smell of rain out there. (279)

The remains of an old fire by the side of the road. Beyond that a long concrete causeway. A dead swamp. Dead trees standing out of the gray water trailing gray and relic hagmoss. The silky spills of ash against the curbing. He stood leaning on the gritty concrete rail. Perhaps in the world's destruction it would be possible at last to see how it was made. Oceans, mountains. The ponderous counterspectacle of things ceasing to be. The sweeping waste, hydroptic and coldly secular. The silence. (293)

California Natural History Capstone (Fall 2021)

This class was just meant to fulfill a breadth requirement, but because I am very Californian, I really loved it. At the end of the semester, I took advantage of the opportunity to paint a watercolor series of various Berkeley landscapes for my capstone project. 

Windsor and Newton watercolors on a Moleskine painting pad. 

Click on each painting to enlarge. 

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