shaman’s work, seek and ye shall find

Dave was the first person to hand in his statement. It should be noted he is also the last one to receive his mask. Nine months, he patiently waits.  A quick reminder…I ask the group to answer three question for me to use to create the design of the mask. 

plastered dave

plastered dave

The simple questions are the hardest…. But it does make me realize it is useful to try to answer them. Dave admits, It is hard to see myself, because I always feel transparent.
This pre-statement comment completely influences how I approach decoration of this mask.

Challenge #1: How to bring transparency into an opaque, plaster mask.
Answer: Surface layered with transparent applications…gloss finish to enhance translucency.

…How do I describe what that means? I feel others can see me for who I am more easily than I can see them. They know my true intent, as it is evident, but harder for me to see theirs.
Perhaps Dave, we all relate to this quality in ourselves at one time or other.
Well, enough of that, here it goes….
and it begins

transparent dave

keeping dave transparent


The first sentence directs me toward the interior of the mask…
So, “who am I”: Just a fleck of stardust, floating in the void, that happened to glom together in an organic fashion, allowing me to think and have self-awareness.
I wonder who/what exactly allows Dave to think and have self awareness…the glom? its organic make-up?
He continues… But that is temporary, and all-too brief. And also gives me a false sense of being separate from the universe, being unique and more important than, say , a rock. But it ain’t so!  
Humility and lightheartedness. 

sidedave2. “What am I?” 
A seeker, a Shaman
I accentuate both eyes, with gold.
Being a doctor is part of a shaman’s job, but I don’t look at it as an all-consuming part of my life. That’s just how Shaman translates in modern society. The real point is a much bigger job. 

3. Which brings me to the third question: “what is this world, and what is my relationship to it?”
That is the great mystery. How can something be eternal, endless, and everywhere. Doesn’t make sense from our human perspective.
I would clarify, it doesn’t make sense from a logical humans perspective…loose the logic Dave! 
But I see the “human condition” like being born and living in a box, not knowing what all is out there. And in the past years, physicists have been looking over the edge of the box and trying to make sense of what they see, and, funny enough, the description is pretty similar to what the mystics came up with centuries ago.


So, I guess that’s what I am seeking, a “Unified Theory of Everything”….similar to what the physicists seek, a unified theory of all matter and energy, but inclusive of the mystical (or religious) view of the universe, rather than excluding one side or the other…. Because it is all one, and all connected, that is obvious.  
His thoughts flow, one right after the other…deducing. Lines appear on the side of the mask. Strings of thought. I’m thinking I might use some text…he’s a thinker.

…But in order to function, and in order to survive, we have had to disconnect (hard to catch a fish when you are having visions), and now we are stuck in that view.
I think this is important insight, because it stands if we got ourselves stuck we can certainly get ourselves unstuck, right?
…Whew! I hope that gives you enough to chew on! It was actually fun, writing some of this down.

fontaldaveMaybe I should try to do that more, so that I can develop those ideas better and flesh them out, as well as seeing the weaknesses better.
Instead of text design, I opt for a Caduceus down the center of the mask, because Dave talks specifically about being a Doctor. And because the symbol is also connected to the Kundalini, (Sanskrit for “coiled”) the coiled serpent that awakens and rises with levels of enlightenment…knowledge…which Dave appears willing to strive for. And also because in all of his logic there is also abstraction.



He concludes...Hmmm “David Explains Everything”….is that a catchy title? Or a little too pompous? 🙂 We’ll leave the rest for another conversation.
Intriguing. Fun. Sincere. Yes Dave, we will have more conversation.  



portrait of a cardiologist

daveDave’s energy is high as he enters my studio. A supply bag in tow,  he pulls out his drawing tablet, a water soluble pencil, and a 6-pen set of Sharpie markers.  Wow…I don’t know that you’ll need all those markers today, you won’t be running out, that’s for sure.  I say as I glance at the new set. I bought extras…in case anyone else needs any! Always thoughtful.  

I do sense a bit of nervous energy about him, and this surprises me. Dave already observes the world and he especially enjoys drawing. He is creative in a number of ways. I ‘ll tell you about his 20 plus years of calendar… journals…drawings… in a future posting. 
He carefully pulls out from another bag, a beautiful antique magnifying glass.  He need not explain why he chose this for his bring an object to include in your final portrait that tells us something about yourself  direction.

When everyone settles into drawing, I see clearly his excitement. It’s in his posture and across his face. And though each of his sketches gets better defined, he fidgets a bit every time I come up from behind to look at his work.  While he draws Greg’s profile, I point out the space between Greg’s hairline, the temple, eye corner,  and the cheek below. I try  to call out the underlying muscle and bone structure. I stumble on words. They’re both M.D.’s, and I am out of my league. I should keep it simple.  He understands and alters his sketch a bit.  I give him a few suggestions but mostly I let him know he is doing great with the directions I have presented for everyone….draw what you see, not what you think you see, now what you want to see…draw exactly what you see.

His completed portrait is simple, well observed, and  well defined. It includes varying thickness of lines and some texture, the more advanced elements. I particularly like the asymmetrical composition. He never titled the finished work, nor did he sit thru critique.  Maybe the day…spent him.

For my birthday a few month later I receive a small drawing from everyone.  This is Dave’s gift  card, a stylized commentary on the days events.


Portrait of a Cardiologist

….one more mask to share….coming soon.


drawing conclusions


I’m interested in the brain and how it functions. It’s represented in 10 or so of my new works. This is because I’m learning much as I teach…about how students learn the various drawing skills.
I’m curious about creativity. Why are some people comfortable with the discomfort of the creative process, and others…not so much?  Is this programmed in the brain? In the spirit?

I realize more and more the skills needed to be an artist come from both the right and the left hemisphere of the brain. Process/Content…occurs in the left. Creativity/ Form…in the right. Then there’s the eye-hand coordination, (in the case of drawing what you see) a balancing act occurs between the two regions. Creating neurological pathways in the brain takes time and requires commitment and patience.

And what about what one needs to be a creative person: desire, talent, choice and the ability to delay gratification. Are these skills or personality qualities? Spirit?


Last July, I invited five friends into my studio. They willingly  spent the 4th of July holiday weekend drawing self-portraits. None of them are in the fine arts. They’re in medicine, science, management and engineering, the “left hemisphere of the brain” arena. They are all successful in their respective worlds.  I was curious about how their minds worked. I wanted to put them into the maker of the object position. Did I want to teach them anything? Uhmmmm…what I wanted, was to observe…learn.

The intent: everyone would complete a self-portrait, thru specific instruction. It would be fun. Food and wine would complete the evening. We would all learn something. 

For the record, a portrait isn’t easy subject matter, ask any one of my regular drawing students.  The group warmed up by drawing each other thru several timed rounds. I walked the room, giving suggestion and instruction.  I talked about contour line. I asked them to note the edges of the face and its features. I explained how to draw organically. I asked them to look closely and work slowly. Draw what you see, not what you think you see. My students hear this everyday, every hour. Most everyone focused right away. I could see them process. Each drawing got progressively better. 


I played music, a variety of rock. In an actual classroom, my students listen to classical music. They don’t have a choice. For my students, loud music is a distraction to the process. With this group, in my studio, it was just another element of the experience as it is for me, when I’m painting.

We had fun, the Day of Drawing Portraits went well.  The evening ended with a critique. In this case, it was a discussion about process, progress, and various details within the portraits.  Good food and good wine followed. Conversation was lively. A whole art experience was had by all.

One thing led to another and a few months later we got together to make plaster masks, three dimensional self portraits. I suggested they paint and design the masks themselves. I would move them along step by step, introducing abstraction and the process of creativity. I thought they would jump at the opportunity. They were excited to sit for the plaster mask making part, getting dirty, letting go, all of it. But when it came to designing and painting the masks, they chose to leave that to me. I took on the work, easily and naturally. Because…it’s what I do.
I’m painting the masks. As I complete them, I’ll share them.


I plan to introduce each of the group, one by one, in the 9 months to come. I’ll share their individual final portrait, along with the finished mask.  And I’ll include bits and pieces of each of their statements (artist statements) within each post. Yes…I asked them for some written words about themselves.

The brain is incredible. And spirit? It’s huge in the equation of making art and being an artist. It is spirit that drives my curiosity. Really there are no conclusions to draw here. I’m simply feeding my curiosity, my spirit…so it can continue to feed me. And I am collaborating with 5 other vital and willing spirits.

Stay tuned…Greg will make an appearance…in a few short weeks.




Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, by Betty Edwards
Drawing Basics, Jacklyn St. Aubyn
My Stroke of Insight, by Jill Bole Taylor, Ph.D. 
A Whole New Mind, by Daniel H. Pink 
Michele Miller, check out her brain studies