Day Nine: Rocks and Water as metaphor for life’s journey.

Rocks and Water as Self Portrait 2017), 40 x 40 x 3 inches, pulp painting.

Start of day nine. I begin today’s studio session with the goal of painting the waves so they appear to be crashing up against the rocks and in contrast to the calm waters of the tide pool in the foreground.  For me, this is where the metaphor of rocks and water as life’s journey comes together.

The ocean water is soft and cool at the shoreline, but, when the weather conditions are right, the ocean tide relentlessly crashes against the hard rocks.  The rocks weigh much more than the water, but the strength of the crashing waves can literally move the rocks into new formations. Ultimately, the rocks are smoothed by the water,   and over time, they will disintegrate.

The crashing waves represents how life challenges us-often unexpectedly.  These sometimes violent storms shift us much like the waves shift the formations of the rocks.  We long for the stillness of the tide pool, but we find our strength when we are challenged by the storms.

Similarly, we want to see ourselves strong like the rocks, able to weather the most violent storms.  But time softens us, heals us, the storms we weather wizen us.  We are smoothed at the edges and anticipate the next storm, for which we increasingly know we can weather.

Rocks and Water as Self Portrait, MFA Thesis exhibit, Massachusetts College of Art, 1989.

This metaphor for life is why I have returned to the subject of rocks and water as self-portrait for close to 30 years now.  The paintings in my MFA thesis exhibit from Massachusetts College of Art back in 1989 featured this same subject.  Even then, as I was just starting out on my journey as an artist, I saw this connection between rocks and water and life’s journey.  Here goes: day nine.





Day Seven: Rocks and Water as Self Portrait.

Day seven. The water section needs a lot of work-more energy, increase the crashing waves. This is the part of the creative process that is difficult. The painting feels to me that it is going nowhere. Faith in the process is crucial at this point. #megblackstudios

Day Six: Rocks and Water as Self Portrait, applying the foreground.

Rocks and water as metaphor for self portrait, day 6. I see the pool of water in the foreground-quiet, cool, reflective (literally), as the quietness of life-cell phone free! The waves , however, represent the endless activity of life-crashing through our reverie when we least expect it. #seascape #megblackstudios.

Rocks and Water as Self Portrait: Day five

End of day five: sides of painting are glued down to the armature and pulp is added to the surface.

Day Four: Applying the background colors.

Day four: Today I applied the background colors and reconfigured the palette. The sides of the painting are as of yet not glued to the back of the armature. That will happen sometime next week. My goal today is to shore up the details in the rock areas and add more motion to the waves.

Day One: Laying out the grid and painting in the background.

Day one: Colored grids are measured by inches and 1/2 inches and marked up on the photographs. A corresponding grid pattern in 10 inch increments is marked onto surface of the painting. The surface is made up of beaten cotton and abaca pulp. I use a combination of red, black, green and blue china crayons as grid markers. Once I complete the grid pattern, I apply beaten abaca pulp to what will be the under-painting.




    The background color in this photo is the blue area which will ultimately become the water.

New England Seascape as Self Portrait: painting process.

Of the over 200 photographs I took yesterday, I have chosen this one to use for the painting.

I spent the day yesterday wandering the New England shoreline in search of just the right configuration of rocks, ocean waves, shoreline, seaweed, salt deposits and sea urchins for which I cannot name. After taking upwards of 235 photographs, I’ve settled on this one as the perfect metaphor for my rocks and water as my self portrait. I plan to make a large scale (40 x 0 x 3) painting for an upcoming exhibit of the same subject: self portraits.
As a transplant to New England back in 1986, I instantly connected the metaphor of rocks and water to life’s journey. The rocks are hard, unforgiving, especially if you have a camera in your hand. I slipped on one very nasty arrangement of rocks yesterday during one particularly brave moment. The water is soft, cool, sticky. But, the water is also violent, charges at the rocks and does not surrender.
Sooner or later, the soft water erodes the rocks and softens them in due course. This for me is what life is and what my self portrait is: a series of hard and soft moments that connect and challenge until some form of agreement is met and the journey of push and pull begins all over again.
So, for the next few weeks, I will be transforming this photograph into my painting. If you care to join me in this adventure, check back often. Ready? Here we go . . .


Carl Frederick Schinkel’s excellent Altes Museum, Berlin, is an outstanding example of Neo-Classical architecture for which I had the pleasure of visiting last week. Upon closer inspection however, one can see, even in this distant photograph, that something is not quite right. The massive columns that grace the museum (the Berlin Kore is amongst the treasures inside), are black from a raging fire which engulfed the building during the final days of WWII. In several areas, one notices patches on the columns where the fire was so severe, sections of marble needed to be replaced.

In the close up photograph on the left, one notices that the building and its surrounding columns is riddled with bullet holes from the intense fighting that took place between what was left of the Germany army and the much better equipped Soviet forces. Hitler’s bunker is only blocks away from the museum. This was indeed the final days of that long and grueling fight.

The museum was lovely-everything I hoped it would be. The exhibits were very well designed and organized. The museum personal warm and welcoming. Visitors friendly and polite.

But, under a very thin layer of delight in seeing this landmark, there was the sense of sadness that such a landmark could be so cruelly mistreated. Long may Herr Schinkel’s masterpiece stand. A testimony to what is beauty in this world.

Thomas Jefferson and early American Architecture.

I visited Virginia over Memorial Weekend in search of Thomas Jefferson and his philosophy about architecture as symbolic of a democratic society.

The Virginia State Capitol, designed by Thomas Jefferson after the Maison Carree, an ancient Roman Temple in Nimes, France. Jefferson saw in the architecture of the ancient Roman republic the connection between a rational, educated citizenry and the new democracy he sought to create.



Jefferson founded the University of Virginia believing that an educated society could be trusted to make informed decisions when choosing their elected officials.  He designed the library and lecture hall after the Roman Pantheon, which held statues of the Roman gods.  For Jefferson, knowledge was the new god, thus the design of the library which held books of knowledge.


Monticello, Jefferson’s “essay on architecture.”  He reworked and redesigned this home through-out his entire life.   The gardens were just splendid, even in the cloudy weather. I loved being here.  The perfect retreat for a Memorial Day weekend.



Welcome to my Cathedral

Cathedral, River Road (2017). Mixed Media Painting. 36 x 24 inches, (46 x 34 inches framed). Private Collection.

Cathedral, River Road (2017). Mixed Media Painting. 36 x 24 inches, (46 x 34 inches framed). Private Collection. Order a limited edition print.









The design for Gothic Cathedrals was inspired by the forests of medieval Europe. The stone rib vaults that seem to soar to the heavens echo the intertwining tree branches that hang heavily over the forest floor while the stained glass windows reflect a light considered spiritual to many, and the work of fairies to others.

It was this very sort of image that I was met with as I walked on River Road, Topsfield, one afternoon. The way the light was dancing off the trees, and the arch of the intertwining branches as they crossed the road mimicked the interior of a Gothic Cathedral. Even though I have walked this road so many times, I had never seen it quite this way before. Inspired, I went into my studio to “build” my own Cathedral.