It looks like this will be my last Open Studio at 520 Woodland, Kentfield 94904. We are about to list the house and rent in Tiburon. So I hope you can visit the first two weekends of May. Many paintings will be on sale.

May 4 & 5, 11-5

May 11 & 12, 11-5

I am also publishing a book of poetry, prose, and related artwork titled Dreaming Wide Awake. Look for a draft available to view during Open Studios.

Please come enjoy the setting before we leave this gorgeous location. Below is a small watercolor of the view from this house as the full moon rose above the east bay accompanied by Venus.

Belvedere Tiburon Library Art Gallery

‘Blackbird, Key of G’ and ‘Sunset Sandpipers’
have been juried into the Contemporary Watercolors
exhibit at the Belvedere Tiburon Library Art Gallery
November 16 ~ January 11, 2024
Opening Reception Nov 16, 6 – 8 pm

Blackbird, Key of G, 12″ x 22″ denotes the first few bars of the
Lennon/McCartney song. The birds depict the lyrics.

Sunset Sandpiper, 12″ x 16″ captures native California Sandpipers,
basking in the sun as it sets behind the Pacific.

My best to you all ~  This time on planet Earth is challenging for many of us.  I hope some art might bring a measure of relief and a little enjoyment.

New Exhibit

There is so much to field these days. A poem might assuage the soul ….

Transcendent Rose

A single rose is blooming

            in my hillside garden

It opens to the sky

            as if it’s early May

            instead of late September

The rose, lavender, and sparkling

            is like a palimpsest of all flowers

It’s like a vestige of an English garden

A remnant of the countryside 

            where John Keats might have wandered

A purple rose also bloomed late 

            in that little fenced-in field

It shone in the angled sun 

            near the shade of the plum tree that sheltered him 

            as he conjured “Ode to a Nightingale”

That rose was an efflorescent companion

            to Fanny Brawne

Early in the morning

            she relished its rich intoxicating fragrance

            kissed by cool pearly dew

John made only brief and desultory visits

            to the garden

He hardly noticed the haze of purple 

            or the atomized liqueur

            pouring forth from the single rose

Still, it connected John to Fanny

            and as she inhaled its aroma

            it consoled her

            while he was preoccupied

            with the persistent verse of the bird

The nightingale had put him under a spell

But despite its melodious call for a mate

            neither Fanny’s fresh smile

            nor the balm of the quintessential bloom 

            could retrieve him

He could not stop listening to the winged creature 

            belting its song

The nondescript bird 

            fanned a different kind of fever in John

As he sat underneath the branches of its tree

            he desperately fought to sing

            his own song

            a song that would accompany him

            through fleeting


            tender and solitary


First Place, Women Artists

The following is a review of the work I submitted after I won:

Read Former San Francisco Bay Guardian Critic Harry Roche’s Essay On The Winning Artist.

The painter, sculptor, art therapist and writer Ayris Hatton has been showing her work in the San Francisco Bay Area since the mid 1980s.  Her art explores Realism and the identifiable depiction of things in the world the eye could be expected to see.  But while identifiable, her imagery is transformed by the application of paint that resides between detailed realism but more often is closer to a semi-abstract and looser evocation.

The winning work in the 2022 Sheridan Prize for Art in the Women Artists’ group is titled “Four Candles”.  This work, with its calm, almost meditative horizontal array of complementary-colored orange candles against a blue, blue-violet table and background exudes a quiet and contemplative light that seems to actually flicker in the mind’s eye.  This quietude is somewhat in contrast to the range of other work Ayris included in the Prize for Art and which works appear to have been chosen to show us some of the varying range of her subject matter and technical interests.

Other of the works the artist showed in the Prize for Art included the very frontal head of a man in pastel that is very different in approach, taking advantage of the drier, almost wiry medium of pastel than “Four Candles” which utilizes a smoother, wetter, brushier technique.

Another work the artist included was of a sleeping woman who is menaced by a very large, very sharp toothed bear at her bedroom window, presenting a different kind of emotional and symbolic statement of unanticipated imminent danger.  Yet another work is a watercolor landscape in deep blues, reds and yellows, Mt. Tamalpais in the background, with a waxing crescent moon above, its brush strokes retaining the wetness of the medium as it was applied and which imply the restlessness of the water as she witnessed it.

The cultural and artistic background of the works seen by this artist in the Prize for Art embraces Modernist ambiguity, in that the relatively loose brushwork can be seen as depicting the scene before it, rather faithfully or convincingly, but also in that the strokes of her brush can be seen as independent of the subject and be seen as sensual or even intellectual statements that have their own existence.

“Four Candles” in its symbolic warmth, each candle almost seeming to retain a human quality quietly inhabiting the space, all in a row – of people whose patient, waiting, watching spirits are also glowing from within, give a very pleasing, living aspect to the composition.   The underpainting can just be seen even in the over-painted candles as if to emphasize the technical desire of the artist to show some of just how the work was painted, allowing us to see the surface of the paint below as it influences the texture of the orange, red and yellow candles painted on top. 

Ayris Hatton’s work pushes in different directions, with the subject matter influencing the technique she uses.  Or perhaps vice versa.  The works she includes in the Women Artists group are not overtly or obviously politically oriented but they reside comfortably in this group of women artists submitted among which were a large number of very well made works of which “Four Candles” definitely holds its own.

~ ~    John Sheridan

My painting “Four Candles” oil on panel, 14″x18′ won the Sheridan Prize for Art,
First Place, Women Artists.
John Sheridan acknowledges and supports a diverse group of established and emerging Bay Area artists with these generous prizes. Click below for their site and a review of my work.
Sheridan Prize for Art

It’s been fun to connect with another poet and the PocketStar gallery in Athens, Greece!
You can visit virtually to read the poem by Uzomah Ugwu, and see my three pieces and other art relating to the poem:

I also have an oil painting in the Corte Madera Holiday Invitational Exhibit. This is a lovely show of local artists, organized by Ashley Howe. Corte Madera Community Center, 498 Tamalpais Drive, Opening Reception 12/3, 5-7 and Closing Reception 12/15, 5-7.
Below is my painting from that show.

New Haircut, oil on gold acrylic 9″x12

The very best to you all this holiday season!

         Recently, a friend sent me a video that suggested a way to stay relatively sane in the midst of so many difficult events and so much change. I guess it’s an understatement to call some of what we’ve experienced in the last few years difficult.  A more accurate description might be unimaginable and tragic.

         So how do we cope and continue to function?

         She suggested imagining we are the hub of a speeding wheel.  That we picture we’re at the center of this wheel where there’s no centrifugal force, rather than trying to hang on to the spokes or the outside where we’d likely be thrown. In other words, while events swirl around us, we try to find some inner stillness and equilibrium.  

         At the same time, if we’re honest about upset and allow what we’re feeling to just be, we might minimize the grip it has on us. If we try to ignore it, or grasp at some quick fix, we might get derailed.  

         Of course, at times, we don’t want to stay tuned to frightening news or dwell on how we feel.  We all need breaks and ways to find moments of peace. But taking time to acknowledge how we’re feeling might help us find a place where we might act with clarity instead of reacting with anger and fear.  

         The image of the hub of the wheel or the eye of the storm or the notion of being the ocean instead of the relentless waves has helped me as I go through my day, whether I’m running an errand, working, talking with a friend, or even watching the news.

Green Hills, watercolor 6″ x 12″

Month after month
I drive through thirsty hills
in northern California

From May to September
from Pacific beaches
to Sierra cliffs
all I see is pock-marked
ochre-brown vistas

in this era
of unpredictable weather
a deluge in October

Seeds and roots
that have not dared to breathe
for years
have inhaled the moisture
and exhaled green
A green so bright
yet soft and light
so deep
there is no word
no name for it
almost no tube of paint
to paint it

At last
December hills
are drenched
they roll and undulate
they roil with life

When I look
at their green blanket
of renewal
my eyes almost hurt
I feel giddy

I am relieved
and revived
as if my own thirst
has at last
been quenched
and I am once again
washed clean

This is not a happy anniversary.  More tragedy than joy.  More loss than gain. More patience and discipline than freedom and free-spirit.  But have there been lessons?  I can only speak for myself and a few others when we talk about the bigger picture, the longer term, the looking back when we’re beyond.

I have gone inward a lot.  I haven’t always wanted to, especially when I feel despair and sadness but ironically those times seem to demand reflection. Usually when I allow and respect or at least acknowledge the bleak and depressing, I manage to crawl up out of the grip it can have on me.  Then I’m somehow able to ask myself what to do in the midst of it.  At first, I didn’t want to paint or write even though I believe in expressive arts. I think I was focused on survival, especially given the smoke, fires and evacuations (the last post) we faced in California.

Slowly I came up and out of the basics like how do we shop, do we have to sterilize our lives, can we see anyone in our family and how important is art anyway given the losses and the beyond-the-call-of-duty so many others were facing. At some point things shifted and I had to make some art and write and forge ahead.  Being at home and in the studio so much put it all in my face and after a while I either had to address long delayed projects and goals or get more depressed.  It seemed to help and give me energy to help others.

So those actions were personal and constructive but the deeper I went, I saw I also needed some spiritual guidance.  I starting practicing a bit of Buddhism by default. I read more, meditated more, accepted more, grasped less. It seemed to balance what I used to do which was go more, consume more, act more on impulse and immediate need or what I thought was need but was really a distraction or momentary indulgence.

Believe me, I haven’t got this figured out and I certainly don’t feel like a delivered, emancipated, evolved, transcendent hominoid.  But weirdly, staying put and facing down my demons has led to a bit of growth and a lot of gratitude in the midst of something none of us could have imagined.  I send my best to anyone who happens to take time to read my infrequent posts. Hang in, be well and we’ll get through this. In the meantime, perhaps we can honor those who have gone before us by doing the best we can for ourselves and others and for our little blue home, the planet Earth.

How to decide? Which paintings? They’re all my babies. Some are crying louder than others. But some are smaller and easier to carry. The really big ones, the life-size figures, are going to have to fend for themselves. But one is of my mother and another of my daughter.

Dark, gray, ugly smoke is swirling in the wind and Nixle keeps texting and emailing. Fires to the west, north, east and south. We have been alerted. We either have to evacuate or we have an evacuation warning. The maps are difficult to read. The overlay destroys the highway and street names and some of the geography.

Either way, we have to stop doing the dishes and shuffling papers. We have to pack valuables, put on fire-safe cotton clothes and try to remember our Scout lessons. But I am not prepared and I don’t want to figure out how to prepare. Who can decide what to leave behind ~ which paintings, drawings, sculpture and writings. I don’t have a U-Haul and that’s what it would take to save it all. t just want to make more coffee and go out to my garden or curl up and watch TCM.

I call my daughter and she offers to help and she offers her very fit boyfriend’s help too. It gets me to at least consider packing a few things they can move somewhere we hope is safer. I go about the next day in my own brain haze. I pack flashlights, a radio, instant miso soup, masks of course and then I unpack and pack again. I even take matches and a candle. You have to be kidding, matches? Finally I force myself to go to the studio and decide. I practice tough love as I wrap my work in pillow cases and rags and stuff them in boxes. I grab sketchbooks, portfolios, museum boxes and a guest book from exhibits. There are still The Ladies, the big mamas. I cannot even carry them much less pack them.

My daughter and boyfriend and their dogs drive up and stay overnight because the wind is temporarily favoring our direction and their air was barely breathable. The next afternoon they somehow make room in their small car for a selection of my boxes and files. The rest I will have to haul if I have to leave. And then, I will have to leave what I cannot haul. I can only hope fair winds blow and not the bad boogie winds from the northeast. But something’s telling me, yelling at me, “Don’t you guys get it? I wish you luck but guess what ~ it’s really all a toss-up.”

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