The painting begins late morning with a hike up a path to a view
so splendid, wondrous, and arresting
that walking stops.
I sit on a nearby fallen-oak log,
zip up my vest to quiet the cool breeze,
turn off the phone volume so that the device only snaps images,
pat the graphite and sketchbook just to know they’re there.
Eyes close for a moment to drink in the other sensations,
marvel at the scents of the chaparral,
listen to the rustle of the grass and the leaves and the birdsongs,
imagine the ridges that ripple toward the east like a washboard,
feel the sweet caress of wind and sunlight on skin—
and wonder if there were ever a moment when the clouds, the sun, and the earth
were in such perfect alignment to articulate such a stunningly perfect composition. Glorious! I hardly notice the click of the aperture
recording, recording, recording
what cannot be spoken but only alluded to
in tones and pigments of the imagination.
Bill Carmel, Bollinger Canyon, Photograph
The next telephoto images record details in the arcs of the valleys and hills,
so round and gentle they compose a story of a stream’s meander, a squirrel’s hoard,
a story of weather and cycles of rain and sun and flowing woodland,
a story of a fox or a mantis or a red-tailed hawk,
the pattern of moves in the ecological dance both wild and glorious,
an orgasm in the sweet beginning of things.
Then suddenly dramatic
like the scattered blue feathers of a scrub jay kill,
dissolving into the earth’s embrace like the shimmer of light
in the ripples of the creek.
A story forms a tapestry of marks and colors,
an artifice for the secret lives camouflaged beneath.
Out with the graphite and sketchbook,
rendering smooth nuanced motions and descriptions,
noting the matrices and recollections
of what decays and regenerates into something beautiful and alive.
Every now and then, close one eye and open the other then back again,
testing the parallax reality of floating on the ocean with googles, one eye above the surface and one eye below, the alien between two worlds.
Then the drawing pen’s black ink transfigures the slippery, silvery marks
before the waning light isn’t enough for drawing.
Bill Carmel. Bollinger Canyon, Graphite on Paper
Standing on the ridge for a little while, all senses open
as the fading details reach back toward the undulating line
of the slowly dissolving horizon of deepening reds and purples
against the darkened gray-blue greens, gray-blue tans and gray-blue browns
that fade into the inky blackness of twilight.
A few more snaps record the spray of clouds overhead and far away.
Thoughts become shorter and the staccato of the crickets
and the hooting of the owl grow softer between silences.
Sequences of faint sounds turn into silent splashes of ruddy shades
and cloud patterns tumble into a sense of space and wonder that defies understanding..
If only it were possible to capture the stories of all the fauna and flora
and make them visible all at once.
Maybe the muffled sound of my steps in the dry grass,
merging into the beam of the flashlight path in the dark,
will bring these memories to the studio.
Touching the magic button on the phone of stories prints the images
that compare the unseen with the seen,
graphic studies that unfold into daydreams
of harmonic convergence and dramatic understatement.
Bill Carmel, Landscape #2, Pen and Ink on Paper
Finally, drawing on canvas, flickering skeletal allusions to a day of perfect nature.
Paint flows from the jar, smooth and buttery, onto the palette,
mixed and brushed with sinuous strokes on the canvas,
layer upon layer of allegory and dreams,
reveling in the places where color sings.
Nature is always perfect in the motion of contrasting light
and subtle iterations of colors and forms.
The sublime is never in the details
but in the balance of brilliant hues,
layers of perfect complements,
and the calligraphy of rhythmic spectral harmonies
that collide and merge into enigmas and the magic of exalted metaphors.
We tell these stories of alluring beauty and haunting catastrophe that nature invents
so that narrator’s script lives on.
Colors and marks accumulate from bravado gestures and careful scumbling,
the brushstrokes reveal the stories concealed during the walkabout,
but recalled from the drawings.
Memories of leaves and branches rolling in the winds, the crackling twigs underfoot,
the solo voices of creatures and the silent riot of sunset
are like versions of how the world breathes and sings inside of us.
Subtle changes abound near the end.
With the stealth of coyote, ancient trickster,
attention focuses on the small adjustments,
smoothing transitions and defining contrasts,
blending glazes like a warm kiss brushed against the face,
the smile of joy at the solution unveiled,
Everything waits, ready for the reveal.
All senses open....
Stand, walk up, load brush, paint, walk back, sit, look away, wait, look back,
stand, walk up, load brush, paint, walk back, sit, stand up… wait….
The story awakens and looks back at me:
Bill Carmel, Sunset By the Bay, Oil on Canvas
With a nod to Brian Doyle, editor and author, for the inspiration and Elaine Drew, author and illustrator, for suggesting the free-verse format.
A note about the de Young Open:
In the previous blog about the 2020 de Young Open, I made the pitch for continuing the Open exhibition as a recurring event in the life of the FAMSF. As of this post, the de Young announced their intention to make the de Young Open happen every three years! Thanks to all who voiced support for this event.