Sketch in pastel pencil, charcoal and pencil of a Hecate in a trance.
Oil sketch/study for a Hecate painting I hope to do soon.
Two more small oil studies for my Christmas stash of paintings: clouds captured on the flight back home in June. These were over Texas I think.
More small oil paintings and studies for my Christmas present stash: based on actual late winter sunsets earlier this year.
More small paintings for my Christmas stash this year. So far I’ve completed 26.
Another recurrent dream, one that is laced with both longing - for travel, and with anxiety - Where’s my passport? How did I get here?
All of them have the same unsettling blend of wishful thinking and your classic variety ‘I forgot something’ anxiety. Once in awhile I’m at the airport, and there is always something modernistic, if not futuristic, space age about the place, which is actually kind of cool. The destinations can be a jumble of memory - of more than one place or aspect that is either current or historical. This means they can look as I remembered them or have that time/place blending rundown aspect my ‘dream’ houses possess to an annoying degree. You know, I’ll walk into an old church and see frescoes and naves, but the roof might be missing and there’ll be exposed bricks and even rubble, as the Monuments Men might have seen in such places during WW2 in Europe. Or the place will be some funky combination of old world Florence/Firenze and the old Disneyland I remember from childhood in the 70’s.
Usually as I’m moving about these foreign places and ports, I’m wondering ‘How in the hell did I get here? I don’t remember taking a plane trip? Wait! I don’t have my passport? I didn’t pack any luggage either! Crud!’ It’s all maddening. I’ll enter some Italian underground aqueduct system and it’ll be structured - and smell like - the boarding point from the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland.
At the same time, it’s kind of exciting because I know I’m near some of my favorite places from real visits: the British Museum or the Uffizi. I never go there in my dreams though, but am usually in some kind of hotel - never a fancy new one by the way - but something a little older, a little more eccentric. The weather tends to be greyish, cool late winter/early spring kind of weather, so I’m usually wearing my light jacket/field coat.
'Had a dream once where I was a passenger on a ferry, along with many others. Naturally, the passage was through some imaginary landscape passing in the far north, running east to west or vice versa, through a non-existent strait that cut across the northern half of Canada. The light, of course, was cool, the sky over-cast in a Pacific Northwest/Alaskan kind of way, and there were mountains with snow covered peaks on either side of this channel. I'm pretty sure we were traveling from West to East. I've been on ferries working the Inside Passage heading north and south form Bellingham, WA to Alaska and back, but the time of year and therefore the view was somewhat different.
There is something about the northern horizon that haunts me.
Just finished: another painting for the Christmas stash: Study of a Tree. I decided to leave off the leaves and the trees in the background and let the trunk and branches get all of the attention.
In case I overlooked posting these before, these are earlier landscapes for the Christmas stash.
More small paintings for my Christmas stash this year. I’m not getting as much done as fast as I would like. I’m dragging this year.
or The Quality of Light in my Dreams.
During the course of writing these particular essays, I’ve been able to center in on certain pronounced qualities in my dreams - the lack of nice, new or simply nice homes, surreal gravity issues, etc.
What has really struck me is the quality of the light or the usual lack of it altogether.
There are few bright, cloudless sunshine days during my dreams. It’s usually overcast in a beguiling, naturalistic way, or in some weird edge-of-the-world kind of way…or oppressive in the sort of storm-brewing, overcast sort of way.
The last time I had a dream with brilliant late spring sunshine was because someone had chopped down all of the trees and saplings on both sides of my (dream) house - and built an old style motorcourt inn next door. It was an upsetting dream actually. I love the trees around our real life abode, especially for their cooling shade in the summer…
But usually in my dreams there is either an outer space absolute sort of darkness going on - and sometimes the dream is more like an actual movie - or there is an atmospheric sort of shadowy darkness - as on a day when a tornado producing storm approaches or on a seething, overcast summer afternoon. This is all very weird.
I paint. I paint a lot and my paintings tend to be full of light and color. I am lavish with my use of color in my paintings and the works tend to be upbeat affairs or sometimes vaguely mysterious in their tone. I don’t paint darkness, but I sort of wish I could paint using a darker palette or a darker atmosphere, a moodier atmosphere, if you like. And yet, it still remains something I’m incapable of not only doing, but of visualizing to any useful degree. It frustrated the hell out of me, but my mind does not flirt with the darkness, even though it plagues my dreams.
I wish I could paint some of the dreamscapes I’ve experienced, but I’m not a surrealist.
I’m more of a symbolist, I guess.
And the weirdness continues!
Aside from being decrepit, inclined to collapse away, and being just plain unfamiliar, there are some mighty funky qualities to spaces in my dreams.
I’ll give a recent example:
A sunny day, the light felt kind of 3PM-ish and there were some trees - a carry over from memories of trees and afternoon light in Alamogordo, NM before the summers became intolerably hot. You walk up a sidewalk and enter a mid-20th century type storefront through typical glass doors and find yourself in a movie theater lobby - influenced by the memory of the Sierra Theater, where I saw Ben-Hur, the Three and Four Musketeers films, many, many westerns and Disney films. You pass the ticket booth somewhere on the left - not a memory - and step into what looks like a cross between an auditorium and a movie theater. There are other people there. The auditorium runs deep and has big red curtains, definitely a memory from theaters like the old Cine-Capri in Phoenix. It’s dark, as one would expect just before show time. I can’t remember what was showing, probably a mash up of films I’d seen fairly recently. Everything feels and looks a little surreal - in arrangement, color, the darkness which has a touch of outer space intensity to it.
Now, here’s the kicker: the theater is curved up over itself from the back row and there are more seats on the ceiling upside down. And there are people up there too, I remember standing at the entrance with the lobby behind me, still within easy sight, and gazing at this peculiarly warped architecture.
This weird curve effect has appeared before in a landscape dream. The light came from the horizons it seems as I walked in what was at first a normal landscape: trees, grass, fences - rural, bucolic. Then a sense of darkness akin to an afternoon steeped in intense thunderheads and I looked in and upward to see that the land was curved over above itself: fields, mountains, trees, all of it.
Disconcerting. Discombobulating. You wake up feeling a little confused by the surreality of it all. There was some anxiety too that the ‘sky’ might really fall on one. And yet you could look through the middle to the other side of the pale horizon, which had an all consuming in-finiteness to it.
And now… Flying Dreams. Those have evolved too.
First of all, flying is never effortless in my dreams. Sometimes it feels as though I’m swimming through the air, especially when I’m taking off: I have to kick off and really use my arms to gain any sort of altitude. Once I’m at a certain elevation, I can glide more, but I’ve also performed a few power dives and then used my feet to kick upward, swooping skyward again.
Only in the last decade have the flying dreams ebbed. From childhood on up throughout my 30’s, these dreams would crop up. (Maybe they still do and I’m just not remembering them.) They started off in nocturnal settings - usually at some industrial location with warehouses, work areas, trucks, street lights and lots of power lines. My suspicion is that the locations for these early flying dreams stemmed from the fact that my grandparents lived across the railroad tracks on the western end of Alamogordo and next door to the town’s power station, which is likely still there. Memories of looking across the ditch (no longer existent) from a large, gravel driveway toward their parking lot and loading docks and their bright lights embedded themselves in my mind, I guess. Although there was nothing threatening about the place next door, on the contrary I used to be curious about it and rather wanted to visit it, similar locations formed more ominous settings of my early flying dreams.
This is how one of those dreams went - a synopsis if you will -
The dream begins in a cross between that power station and a warehouse district parking lot. It is night time, of course, and I am trying to escape. The people there are chasing me. I can’t let them catch me because they want to find out how to fly…which is how I manage to evade them in the dream. It’s no easy feat either. It’s a vigorous endeavor that requires that I spring into the air and, kicking and using my legs and arms as a swimmer might. It was a real struggle trying to get around and above all of the power lines: in my early dreams reaching any sort of altitude took tremendous effort and I could get only just above all of the poles and lines.
Meanwhile, these evil people were chasing me, shouting, but I can’t let them catch me, or they would learn the secret of flight, something they must not have. Such was the nature of my early flying dreams.
I have also had unnerving dreams in which I float/fly toward the ceiling of a room. My anxiety then would be that I’d float out the window and fly off into space because gravity had relinquished me.
These dreams did evolve.
The anxiety of being pursued went away, as did the night time settings in those inhospitable industrial settings. No one was after me anymore. And I flew because I wanted to. I flew over fields, hills, mountains, and deep lochs. I saw whales, houses, ships, a beautiful, natural sky with familiar clouds and sunshine such as I have admired on so many days.
I’ve even attempted to show someone else how to fly in one of my dreams, because I felt he needed to know how to in order to save him from a life of trouble - to show him another thing to do besides something negative.
My flying dreams were taking me to beautiful places and enabling me to see wonderful things. Heck! I even remember having a dream in the early 90’s in which I was shown how to defy my own earthbound molecular structure, to alter my physics so I could fly. I was shown how to fly for real, but then I woke up and you know what happens then…yep, I don’t remember what I was shown. (Rats!)
Flying dreams occur only rarely anymore, it would seem. Certainly, I don’t remember having any lately. Perhaps I no longer need them. But I kind of miss them.
In these following cases, I can be fairly certain of the points of ‘inspiration’, but the skies, the land, and the sheer odd quality of the lighting are still weird…
First of all, a NORMAL sky or anything like a bright sun-shiny day is a little rare in DREAMLAND. The light tends to be from 45 or lesser degrees of angle. It’s seldom a direct angle as you would find in spring or summer. Also, clouds tend to be prevalent. They either veil the sunlight, so that everything is washed in a pale white, cool light, or they hover dark and bluish-grey over the sky, except where I can see blue sky along the far horizon, like you get after a long rainy day.
in some of the darker, more unsettling dreams, the skies are either as relentlessly black as the deepest corners of outer space or filled thoroughly with the sort of intense blue-black clouds that usually presage a tornado. It’s a place where the night reigns and the familiar places I’m revisiting are different in strange ways.
For example, I’ve returned often to my old home town - it is always either dark or full-on night. From the outside, generally, the shop fronts and buildings are as I remember them, except perhaps looking a little more decrepit with time and use. Step inside though and the interiors are rarely anything like the actual locations. Just like the previously discussed ‘dream’ house I’ve never lived in, there are weirdly familiar-unfamiliar rooms in these places, always darker or dimly lit, never bright with newness. (I’ve never found myself in some brand new, clean, brightly lit house or building in my dreams, which may be more of a statement about my lifelong economic existence than anything else - sad to say.) Some of the rooms seem to have time-warped in from some half-remembered past - beyond this lifetime, and some are just slipped in like some kind of oddball renovation - just to mess with my conscious mind. Step into what should have been the Yucca Newstand - a wonderful emporium of books, comics, and various and sundry objects from my childhood in Alamogordo, NM - and you find in its place a very RED, velvety and damasked Victorian styled entryway - with very solid and intriguingly closed doors. I can’t tell if my subconscious borrowed the space from a movie or from the Disneyland Haunted Mansion’s lobby and elevator. My subconscious likes to curve-ball my conscious mind all the time.
Once in a while doors are actually used, but you could literally leave one familiar place for another, altogether different one that combines a barn from the Otero County Fairgrounds with an old, disused storefront that was built in the forties…Or leave an old furniture storefront on White Sands Boulevard - which looked like the hold of a ship containing passengers in pilgrims’ attire, see the old, long gone Taco Bell stand off to the left, and then see zombies wandering up and down the sidewalk, who then randomly attack some other pedestrian. (Whenever zombies show up in my dreams, I pull myself OUT of their narratives and I watch from a safe height as the nightmare/anxiety dream rolls on like a movie.) …Or walk into the front of the city hall and find an enormous athletic swimming pool, instead of offices…with huge glass windows looking out on a black, cloudy sky. (That one is a puzzler.)
Returning to the visual motifs of skies and horizons, when I was much, much younger the skies of my dreams were different. Those skies were, like the view of my childhood self from the front car seat, infinite, wide open, and blue. They were the skies of the badlands of New Mexico on the two hour drive to El Paso. Although I have not enjoyed such vistas in my dreams in too many years, they remain a fixed territory in my haunted imagination. It is a desert I can sense on the boundary of my conscious and very controlled mind. Like the sky above it, this particular landscape was also infinite. You could wander off forever.
Alaska has influenced a few dreams with its overcast light, mossy forest ground, evergreens, and cool damp. Forlorn old wooden houses or schools, falling apart amid a beautiful relentless forest have featured in dreams. So, too, have these fantastically immense wilderness vistas of great slopes, stupendous mountain ranges, and wide, distant valleys, mostly treeless, going all the way to a sliver of blue horizon far, far away. Snow as far as the eye could see, a fair dusting of it, and I stood along the crest of the slope - in my parka and mukluks - gazing acrtoss that valley toward the horizon.
Dreams set in those northern climes tend to be of the nature of either ‘I’m moving back to the north’ or ‘how did I get back here?’.
Now that one dwells on it, it is interesting that most of my recollected dreams tend to be swathed in darkness to some degree, that the buildings are all worn, tired, if not falling apart from neglect, and that skies figure so prominently in them when the natural world expresses itself in my dreams. I’m not sure what it says about my psyche, other than I’m sky obsessed, have never lived anywhere better than average in my life, and that my anxieties like to wave my insecurities in my face all the time.
Could be worse. I haven’t had a falling dream since I was 12…and boy, do I not need to have another one of those.
(Please feel free to chime in with your own bewildering dreamscapes or write your own befuddled essay and post a link to it.)
I have started working on batches of small paintings for my Christmas presents. These ones are based on images I captured from my plane trip this past June - minus the plane wing and the awful haze that hangs over this entire country these days.