Friday, June 4, 2010

Pandora & The Pie: "I'll Chance It!"

I've always been fascinated by the nursery rhyme "Sing a Song of Sixpence". When I was very young I was always puzzled about what it meant and completely baffled by the line that stated (nonsensically in my mind) "When the pie was opened the birds began to sing." Right! It seemed quite logical to me even at a tender age that having been "baked in a pie" in such a crush, 24 blackbirds would come storming out of the open pastry in a mad dash for the open skies and freedom....(More like Pandora's box!) "the birds began to sing"..."Dainty dish"...indeed! More like a whirlwind. And there's no reversing the course and getting them back in the pie either.

I got to musing about the effects of cutting open the pie of creativity and the irreversible results. Not always a whirlwind to be sure, but definitely it doesn't just sit there and sing to me...well, it might sing to me, but maybe from a trapeze, the high wire, or a trampoline at the very least. I make the first cut when I set out to create a painting or other work, and when it's completed, and I put it out there to be seen by all, that second cut opens the pie and whatever ensues is out of my hands...much like the blackbirds. The piece is scrutinized if I'm lucky (to be sure, being ignored is the most ignominious fate). Sometimes it will be appreciated and enjoyed, other times it is judged and relegated to some classification niche for mental "ease of handling". Sometimes it might be taken as an instigation and bring on a whirlwind of critiques and dissections that attempt to lessen its power. Hopefully it doesn't just sit there and sing its dainty song. But...that carries the weight of the unknown.

I'm pretty sure that if I knew the final result of my attempts at painting, I would soon give up the chase out of the boredom of predictability. Equally, if I knew how the piece would be taken, what doors would open or shut in my face, what soul travelers I would have the pleasure of meeting, or even what mental cubbyhole I might find myself in the "Art World" I'd probably get tired of the exercise pretty quick. So....pass the pie and the knife please...."I'll chance it!"

For dessert, "Four & Twenty Blackbirds (When the Pie Was Opened...)" (An original painting by WB Eckert, acrylic on canvas, 30"x 25", custom frame) Please direct all inquiries to .

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


This new piece has been sitting around finished for a bit, but I didn't really know it...or would that be "I really was not ready to admit it"? In that sense it was right under my nose, camouflaged. It's a bit different than most of my other pieces in that it's not a running narrative type of image. Most of my work has a story to it (if they don't have one at the inception they certainly do by the time they are finished). This one doesn't...or at least it's not very obvious to me. This one is sort of an observation without comment if you will.

It's funny how I can look for something till I am totally discouraged and give up in exasperation only to notice that it's been right there in front of me all the time. (I'm very familiar with that one.) I think it's really the same with life and everything around me. It's all made of the same basic "stuff" and exists in the same "sea of ether", (the space that's between each and every bit of "Stuff" in existence), but somehow I manage quite efficiently to sort it all out and make sure that the limits of everything are carefully delineated in my mind. There are times when I stop to realize that there really are no limits to anything... my physical body, my life force, trees, animals, my keyboard, all overlap and spill into one another. It's just very convenient to look at everything as if it's all separate in some way. After all, if I can't have a determination as to where I stop and you begin...well, that might just change my whole outlook and way of acting! No wonder that my usual way of looking at things tends to get me into a lot of trouble, while simultaneously causing a great deal of trouble for those around me!

It is a tough nut to crack since I've all spent most of my life buying into the concept of individuality and separateness. At times and with a bit of effort, it is possible to see past the camouflage I've carefully constructed...if for no other reason than to occasionally scare the selfishness out of myself...and see the marvelous continuity and interplay that I am a part of and is in turn an integral part of myself.

So having finally admitted it done...I offer "A Carefully Camouflaged Whole". (An original painting by WB Eckert (Acrylic on canvas, 24"x 24" [...with a custom frame, not shown, that appropriately establishes it's limits]).

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Warp and the Weft

This is a pretty hectic time for me, even stressful. I've been doing quite a bit of painting, but there is all the attendant "grunt" work, and I, of course being who I am, resist that tooth and nail. So, actually getting down to it has been quite a task. A number of shows are coming up, so there are painting in the works and on the drawing pad, printing of photographic prints, framing, and the paperwork, artist statements to slog through and etc., etc. But, as I said I am painting, and this is a good thing.

The piece on this post is the latest finished piece and there are three on the line in various stages of progress. I usually have a title early on, but this one resisted the usual. Possibly because it's the first of a series that I have in mind and it's too early to tell. That being said, as I sat down to do up this post, a title quickly came to mind... "Warp and Weft".

I'm always amused at all the thoughts that fly through my head while I'm working on a piece. Some are high flown while others trudge along the surface. This one brought musings of Hemingway's idea of "grace under pressure", and the idea that to get through life is one thing, but to flow through it gracefully with all it's weavings and bobbings around obstacles and distractions is quite a goal to be sought after.

It seems that this is the warp and weft of life....the forward motion through all the events and issues that are part and parcel of the journey (99% of which we definitely have no say in) without it you can't have the whole cloth, or even any cloth. Honestly, I think that I'm a very late bloomer at this quest, but as they say, better late than never, and the discovery of something that's been in front of my nose for such a long time is humbling and exciting at the same time....So...forward and onward into the breach...or through the warp!

"Warp and Weft" the series, number 1 (Original acrylic on canvas 15 x 30")

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Early Bird?

Another study. This was a nice surprise. I was working on another piece and was pretty burnt out. I had been painting for most of the day and it was getting difficult to see the subtle color variations that I was looking for in the piece. I wasn't ready to quit painting for the day so I did a quick sketch, picked up a small 9x12" canvas and thought I would explore some color ideas for another painting that is coming up. It was a good call, the small piece worked a nice turn and surprised me. When I showed it to my wife, she agreed and suggested that if I had another canvas that size I should do more of the scene. This is the result.

I suppose I can take a lesson from this for those times when I quit before I'm really ready to and think that I have nothing left. There is usually something left, but I'll never know unless I keep going that extra bit. Good advice to myself...maybe I'll remember to try it a bit more often.

"Morning Patrol" (Original painting by WB Eckert, acrylic on 2 canvases, 9x12" each.)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Study, Study, Study...

I nearly forgot how enjoyable and instructive it is to do quick studies...or maybe that's instructive...then enjoyable. I've gotten so busy with my larger paintings that I really neglected to make time to do these quick studies. Even though I might have "deadlines" for the larger, finished works, they still offer more latitude as far as time spent on a particular subject. For these small studies I generally only allow myself an hour to execute it from start to finish and on occasion an additional half hour.

The biggest difference for me is that I have to anesthetize my obsessiveness in how I execute the painting. Like drawing straight off with pen and ink, placement and all other decisions have to be made on the run, so to speak, and the clock is ticking. I often find that by depriving myself of the luxury of pondering a decision, I generally make the right (or at least suitable)placement of the pen or brush, stroke or color. The exercise tend to be an affirmation of the skills that I have developed but don't trust enough, sort of a tested in combat approach. I generally come away with both a more appreciative attitude towards my actual skills and a healthy dose of humility as to where I actually am versus where I feel I need to be. It's a very worthwhile exercise.

What I do find humorous about these exercises are my mental states during the process. They correspond to the states that I go through with larger finished paintings but the time span is greatly compressed. I first (in this case) put the live set-up together and light it...squeeze out the colors I've decided on the palette, choose my brush(s), mentally frame the setup on the canvas, and put the first brush marks on the canvas...and then look at the clock and panic, wondering what in the world I was thinking when I chose this particular subject matter and assuring myself that I will now be seriously reminded as to the foolishness of this endeavor. Then I go to work like a madman, alternately making decisions and decrying the reality that the minutes are ticking away at an unnatural rate and that there is not nearly enough time to complete the process, let alone do a decent job. Then the allotted time invariably ends and the piece is finished. Sometimes I'm amazed, sometime dismayed, but always satisfied with the exercise. If I'm dismayed I "vainly" plan out how it will go next time as I assess my folly. Of course, if I'm amazed, I "vainly" go look for some laurels to rest on. In either case, study and practice are the order of the day.

I'm pleased with the result of the most recent hour and a half study period..."Frog and Cruet with Pomegranate", 11x14" acrylic on canvas, (Donated to the Paso Robles Art Association for a fund raiser, and now in a private collection.) More work at . Send inquiries to

Sunday, January 3, 2010

On the Dead of Winter...

There seems to be something about the middle of winter that brings on my meditative spirit. In all likelihood it has everything to do with the feel of barren vegetation and lack of growth that exhibits itself the strongest at this time of year. Skeletons of trees and steely skies certainly set the stage for my ruminations. A sort of virtual cabin fever is part of it too. Even if you're not one of the exuberant physical types, the feeling that you can't engage in all those imagined outdoors activities (even if you wouldn't normally anyway)makes them feel all the more inaccessible with the attendant feelings of loss. (It's all in the head of course.) But don't get me wrong. I like it. In fact, I like anything that gets me to thinking deeply.

I'm amazed at how often something can be observed as holding the seeds of it's opposite. The serenity of winter's barren landscapes buzzes with the energy of life just barely concealed... waiting for the proper catalyst to launch it into full bloom. Here in California, it seems that no matter how dry and barren everything looks at certain times of the year, all it takes is a bit of rain (or even a heavy mist spell) to turn the hills a delicate green. Of course that brings all the insects out to sample the wares and...right up the food chain. Winter snow eventually melts providing the moisture to set the whole chain of events in nature on its yearly cycle. All you have to do is let your mind roll over those thoughts for a while and all sorts of events in life/nature start to take on a completely different look.

It's all too true that life doesn't revolve around me, but as the observer of all the things around me, it's sometimes difficult to step outside of that mindset. My environment and surroundings certainly affect me profoundly and take on the characters of "good" or "bad" depending on how they affect me, but in reality, they are not there for me. They, no less than me, have a life of their own. In that respect, biting winter cold, typhoon winds, earth rattling upheavals, and tsunamis are neither "good" nor "bad"...just very inconvenient for the lives and plans of us temporary residents. Like a guest at someone's house, I need to learn the to adapt myself to my host's life seems to be just good manners.

So, what did I tell you...the dead of winter brings on all sorts of mental journeys. And on that note... "Winter Meditation" (Acrylic on wood panel 8"x 8". This work is available, so if you are interested, please feel free to view more information at or inquire at