Big Game Television Commercial?

I've been invited to participate in a campaign for Small Business Owners. With enough votes, I have the opportunity to gain some financial backing for Debra Blake Arts, and -- though questionable, doubtful, unimaginable (but possible!) -- to take part in a television commercial promoting my business.

You can vote as many times as you want, once a day. Please do . . . it will mean the world to me.

Unless you opt out (feel free to write to me to remove you from this campaign), I'll remind you daily; everyone who votes will receive a special gift from me at the end of the campaign! Much appreciated!…/…/entries/12773

And once again:…/…/entries/12773



Drawing (on) the Invisible


Drawing (on) the Invisible

“It’s hard to know which is more astonishing: that the visible sliver of the universe should betray the unseen structure of the entirety, or that the human mind, by studying that sliver, could begin to reconstruct all the rest.(Sight Unseen, by Kathryn Schulz, The New Yorker, April 13, 2015)

I’m just finishing up a drawing course called “Drawing the Invisible”, or it could be “Drawing on the Invisible”, which might make even more sense. I do draw the invisible, of course (the viewer, you, infers with excellent precision, for example, what is on the other side of the balls of yarn in the painting below, or what is on the far left of the painting "Winter Light"), and I also draw on the invisible: my intuition, the stuff that holds the world together, the hugely important bits that we cannot see: molecules, the smell of the rain, the memory of last fall or the anticipation of next September.

Winter Light


What do you “reconstruct” in the scene below? I have, after all, painted only the tiniest sliver of what I actually “saw”. Do you reconstruct the physical world? My emotional state? The day that came before this one? Do you perceive forms that aren’t “really” there? The endings of lines that I’ve only begun? A start to a new story?

August Storm


Schultz writes about the "dangerous allure" of invisibility, and the desires that compel people toward it. She writes that Plato would have banished artists from his Republic because they distort truth rather than help us better understand it. She ends her piece with this: The whole realm of the visible is compelled by the invisible. Our planet, our solar system, our galaxy, our universe: all of it, all of us, are pushed, pulled, spun, shifted, set in motion, and held together by what we cannot see. 

I am powerfully and precisely drawn to this: to making the felt world visible, the breeze, the smells, the textures, the chaos and the beauty within, without, behind, in front of and all around, to that which holds us together, invisibly. Aren't we all? Can we -- artists, musicians, linguists, writers -- possibly not be compelled by this?

With thanks again to my wonderful teacher, Steven Nesheim, who inspires via the visible and the ephemeral. 




Waiting for Spring


Waiting for Spring

If I could identify one essential summary statement about myself it would be this: waiting for spring. That’s it. I wait for spring. For warmth. For expansion of self and sense. For heady fragrance in the air. For return of the fringe tree and the black ash and the ground phlox. And most of all I wait for color. 

And this year, I painted it. But that's a problem, because the color most identified with spring is green. If you look for tips on painting greens you more or less end up with this: Red is intense, yellow is cheerful, blue is peaceful, pink is romantic and green is -- a problem. Green (the combination of blue and yellow), falls midway between warm and cool on the color wheel, unlike purple (the combination of red and blue, which is squarely on the cool side (and can, as it turns out, be used instead of green in multiple  instances). ( Green is elusive and abundant. (Check this out: Terry Ludwig Greens: (

Here are my most recent spring attempts, with comments on green.

1.     Torrey Pines in May: hardly any need for green! It’s the SoCal coast! But check out that purple. Luscious.

2.     Buddha Rocks: The background bamboo leaves add atmosphere and called for a very light touch. Really, I believe I could have used almost any variety of green here, with minimal (though likely significant) shift in tone.I do love how the green, especially in the upper left, is almost translucent.

3.     My Maryland Spring: The photo I took of this scene turned out to be very mid-tone and neutral (see the photo under the pastel). I heightened the tone of every color to result in this painting which seems to rely on green as a foil for every other color. Michael Sastre, my studio colleague, mentor, and great friend ( admired the use of the full spectrum in this painting, (vs., for example, Torrey Pines and Buddha Rocks, which use a limited palette). I wondered whether I was avoiding greens in my use of such an intense green in this painting. In my final rendition of this, I turned the very cool blue tree on the right into a green; will be posting that soon. I have to say that whatever the photo looks like, my painting is really much more how I saw this landscape, and probably the world in general.

Maryland Spring, photo

4.     Zelly’s Poppies: My friend Zelly lives in British Columbia. Her photograph (below the pastel) has far more green surrounding the flowers than my painting (which I later changed, using more blue and purple in the foreground than you see here), but I think my favorite part of this painting is my slight use of very light green in the background, which I invented, and in the group of trees to the right. The far-away green especially, combined with the atmospheric purple I chose, makes the poppies “pop” even more than in the original, exactly what I was looking for.

Kelly's original poppies, photo

5.     Spring Again: This painting is really very cool, temperature-wise. The tree trunks are cool and the very little green that does exist is rendered for the most part using very dark purples and even very dark reds, mixed with medium-tone greens and yellows. (I loved watching orange appear through my use of a chrome-green over purple.) The light is clearly very strong and it’s very clearly early spring. This might even evoke a kind of promise of green rather than green itself. Emerging green. As Joni wrote, "like the color when the spring is born."


I'll be adding each of these painting to the store soon, as originals and prints. In the meantime, if you're interested in any of them, just let me know. 



Stop thinking, just paint.


Stop thinking, just paint.

For the past few days, I’ve been feeling that I need to break out of a myopic rut. No doubt that it’s smart to draw or paint on standard-sized paper so that the pieces can be easily matted and framed, but staying standard is staying standard and I need to cut loose. Push myself. Stretch.

I just googled what people have to say about stretching one’s skills and talents and the entire first page was all about leadership, business management and grabbing onto subprime mortgages while they’re hot. Not what I was looking for, but then there was this:  getting specific in your own mind about exactly which abilities you want to improve, and how, will turbocharge the results. But the main thing is continually trying things you can’t quite do. This is what makes you better. And doing it for a long time is what makes you great.

Red Fruit, digital, intuitive


What I want is to paint – literally and figuratively– on a bigger canvas. Bigger than standard, expensive as shit to contain or frame. (I was about to write, “but I don’t have to frame these ‘experiments’”) but that is not exactly my stretching voice; it’s what my fellow coaches call the saboteur voice.

My stretching voice. My literal stretching image is something like this: Put some kind of canvas up on a wall and have to reach to get to the top. (Saboteur: “too expensive”; me: “screw you, saboteur.”) (Saboteur: “you’ll need a bigger studio so you can get perspective”; me: “I’ll figure it out.”) Something that gets me away from small sheets of paper, that gets me away from small strokes, small areas of color, shortsighted vision.

My friend, Mariana – the most creative woman I know – talks about masses of color in a painting, the way rivers of color connect the here and there in a piece, the logicfeeling spaces created by swaths of light and dark, warm and cool. It’s obvious and my moments (seconds/minutes/days/months) of myopia make the prospect intimidating: how much? where? when?

If your goal is technical correctness, you will probably paint tightly. Set goals such as “paint quality”, “the effect of light”, “exciting color and shape organization” to allow for a more creative approach. It’s not about making it correct . . . but about making it interesting

 Think first, do a bit of planning, then just paint. Stop thinking; just paint. Just paint.

-- Debra