2023 MoonBlog

This isn't really about the moon, I call it a moonblog because a new homepage image appears twice a month on the new and full moon. The home page shows a featured image —sometimes freshly minted, sometimes seasonal, sometimes from years past— along with improvised ruminations, something like a leisurely blog. Some while ago I started adding short musical compositions to each moon entry, music is a second calling I've been working on - mostly in secret - for years.

Previous years’ entries are here for your perusal; see the links, above. The sharp-eyed visitor will notice that the year 2020 is entirely missing. I'll let you guess possible reasons for that. This year's will fill out as the moons go by. Meanwhile, let's get back to it.

Area Sixteen

Robert Spellman photograph of an interesting stain on the bottom of a studio sink.

This was one of those moments of noticing an accidental composition. In this case it was a mess at the bottom of our studio sink, a deposit of previous painting cleanups, along with the imprint of a watercolor palette. I named it Area Sixteen in the manner of an affected aesthete; it's really just the bottom of a studio sink in need of a cleaning. But do look for these fortuitous coalescences; they are everywhere and they can add a little zip to your day.

Music of the Moment

This is a short piece called Metis. Metis is the name of one of Jupiter's moons. This composition is one of a set in which each piece is named for one of Jupiter's moons. Did you know that Jupiter has eighty moons? This should keep me out of trouble for a while.

I add one of these compositional sketches with each Moonblog entry on the new and full moon. I also have a page with more of this musical work in progress. Go here for a listen.

Full Moon ~ January 6th, 2023

Hand #4

Robert Spellman painting of a woman's hand on her chin.

I used to teach a class called Advanced Drawing at Naropa University. We had a semester-long assignment to produce one hundred drawings on a theme or subject, a project that I would do along with the students. Some time in the late 1990s I chose hands as a subject. Many of them were of women's hands in various positions. I worked from magazine advertisements and, as you can see in the image, I was relying on a grid to assist with the precision, a technique I learned in grade school from our visiting art teacher, Mr. Bowker. For this project I worked on gessoed, unstretched canvas with charcoal and acrylic paint. I still enjoy looking at these more than twenty-five years later. See more of this series elsewhere in the section called Hands.

Music of the Moment

A short piece for piano, cello, viola, harp, and bass drum. This is a sketch I've been working on this week. It's called Belgooly. Belgooly is the name of a village in County Cork, Ireland. There is no connection between Belgooly and this music. So there you have it.

I add one of these compositional sketches with each Moonblog entry on the new and full moon. I also have a page with more of this musical work in progress. Go here for a listen.

New Moon ~ November 23rd, 2022

Pluvia 14

Robert Spellman landscape painting that seems to mimic something from the seventeenth century.

This painting lurks elsewhere on the website in the section called “Pluvia”. Pluvia is the Latin word for rain. I did lots of these in a burst a few years ago. They're small paintings done quickly with lots of frantic wiping and spraying. They're acrylic on prepared cotton muslin. They still yield things for me to look at and be pleased. I guess that's one of the big pleasures of “being an artist”. I put that in quotation marks because being an artist is a strange and possibly modern designation. Really, I was just wiping paint around and having a good time!

Music of the Moment

A short piece for marimbas, cellos, viola, and piano. I put this one together about five years ago and have recently re-worked the audio settings. It's called Camelopardalis. Camelopardalis is the name of a lesser known constellation in the northern sky. It's hard to see and is designated mysteriously to look like a giraffe.

I add one of these compositional sketches with each Moonblog entry on the new and full moon. I also have a page with more of this musical work in progress. Go here for a listen.

New Moon ~ October 26th, 2022

Worm Works

Robert Spellman photograph of worm tracings under tree bark.

This is a photograph of worm or insect tracings under tree bark. I noticed this yesterday while I was stacking firewood for the winter. I have no idea how these creatures are able to trace these designs so precisely, especially in total darkness. This reminds me of certain kinds of art activity based on tuning into something quite other than “expression”, creating reality rather than saying something about reality. Whatever reality is.

Music of the Moment

Some music for marimba, cello, viola, piano, and synthesizer. I should probably give it some programatic title but for now it's Start #298a.

I add one of these compositional sketches with each Moonblog entry on the new and full moon. I also have a page with more of this musical work in progress. Go here for a listen.

Full Moon ~ October 9th, 2022

Brume

Robert Spellman watercolor of Mountain Water artists refuge in fog.

A small watercolor of fog in the mountains of southern Colorado. Fog here is actually being in the clouds, a condition I love. The word brume means mist or fog. This is a small and very quick watercolor. Sometimes these things look better on a screen, perhaps because the medium of watercolor is transparent; a screen lit from behind complements the effect. The music piece below is also called Brume.

Music of the Moment

This music came together in May of 2020 as the pandemic was getting really serious. The title Brume means cloud or mist. The pandemic came in as all pandemics do, like a darkening cloud. I suppose the piece is a bit dreary but it's not without a bit of dark humor.

I add one of these compositional sketches with each Moonblog entry on the new and full moon. I also have a page with more of this musical work in progress. Go here for a listen.

New Moon ~ September 25th, 2022

Silver Cup

Robert Spellman painting of a silver cup.

Here's a painting of a silver cup. I may have mentioned elsewhere that a painting in progress is often far more interesting than when it is “finished”. Here's a good example. I stopped working on this a few years ago, probably interrupted by the busyness of life. Then retiring, moving, and the rest of it. The painting was intelligently hiding from me, worried that I might try to “improve” it. It's a good thing, too; I like it just the way it is. To my eye it has just the right amount of information, and the colors surprise me. It's acrylic on canvas 20 x 22 inches.

Music of the Moment

Sometimes I can't think of a name for these various pieces. In my computer this one is simple labelled Pan Drum Experiment 16. It's for pan drum, harp, and strings. Seems like a good theme for movie credits.

I add one of these compositional sketches with each Moonblog entry on the new and full moon. I also have a page with more of this musical work in progress. Go here for a listen.

New Moon ~ August 27th, 2022

B-25 Detail

Robert Spellman painting detail of B-25 Bomber.

I was recently moving some things around in the studio, which included the partial disassembly of a large, nine-panel painting of a World War II B-25 bomber (known popularly as the Mitchell bomber). The painting is a work in progress on a surface started some time in 2003. When I caught a glimpse of these three panels they looked complete, at least for the moment. So here you are. It's all part of learning to avoid being stuck on a particular outcome, in this case that the painting should be completed as a nine-panel job. Perhaps it will but at this stage it holds its own as three.

Music of the Moment

This one is called Oryzopsis. Oryzopsis is the genus name of grasses from China and North America that resemble rice in different ways. As usual, the name of this composition has nothing at all to do with the grass itself; I just like to say the name.

I add one of these compositional sketches with each Moonblog entry on the new and full moon. I also have a page with more of this musical work in progress. Go here for a listen.

New Moon ~ June 28th, 2022

Mist Lifting

Robert Spellman ink line drawings of faces in motion.

I've lately been painting in watercolor again, something I've flirted with off and on for about sixty years. One experience that intrigues me and that only seems to come by a grace I don't understand, is an effortless coalescence of the painting's subject and the paint itself. The experience is one of feeling led by the paint rather than the other way around. The subject of this painting was a sudden lifting of a dense mist following an unusually late snow storm in May. A strong breeze came up sending wisps of cloud scurrying. The snow had quickly melted and the greening of spring was already well under way. It all played out in a matter of minutes and was quite unlike anything we'd seen here at Mountain Water in many years. The painting above was from a phone photo and a fortunate coincidence of recalling the physical sensation of seeing the event. And this does seem to occur by a grace I have yet to understand.

Music of the Moment

Seems an appropriate time for a dirge. This one is the first of a series called Marimba Dirge. It's for Marimba, Nylon Harp, Bass Drum, and Bells.

I add one of these compositional sketches with each Moonblog entry on the new and full moon. I also have a page with more of this musical work in progress. Go here for a listen.

New Moon ~ May 30th, 2022

MayDay

Robert Spellman ink line drawings of faces in motion.

I ran across this small watercolor a few days ago. It's from a classroom demonstration of proliferation, an exercise in producing a large number of paintings in an unreasonably short time, say, fifty watercolors in three hours. This doesn't leave any room for hesitation or perfectionist indulgences. Try it some time!

Let's call this one MayDay not only because tomorrow is May Day but because “May Day” is an internationally recognized distress signal. I just read that May Day as a signal of distress comes from the French m'aider, which sounds like mayday; it means “help me”. This is the world speaking.

Music of the Moment

I'm calling this one Sarawak. Sarawak is a state in Malaysia. I've never been there but I do like to name compositions for actual places. No actual connection is intended.

I add one of these compositional sketches with each Moonblog entry on the new and full moon. I also have a page with more of this musical work in progress. Go here for a listen.

New Moon ~ April 30th, 2022

Atom & Eave

Robert Spellman ink line drawings of faces in motion.

This is a diptych assembled for the occasion of this moment. It's part of an experiment to draw people in motion in real time. One of the pleasures of teaching drawing classes at Naropa was the various experiments of drawing each other. A class full of people drawing one another has another gratifying effect: we actually see others in a way that becomes reflexively sympathetic. The drawings here are done “on the fly”: look at a nose and draw it; look at an eyebrown and draw it; look at a lip and draw it – all without being overly concerned with its relative location. This does require suspending any kind of judgement about how its going. Try this some time, it's a lot of fun.

Music of the Moment

I'm calling this one Calypso Blanco, sort of an aging white man's digital interpretation of Afro-Caribbean sounds.

I add one of these compositional sketches with each Moonblog entry on the new and full moon. I also have a page with more of this musical work in progress. Go here for a listen.

New Moon ~ April Fools Day, 2022

Greenish Dreamscape

Robert Spellman watercolor of a greenish dream seascape.

I dusted off my watercolor box this week. It's been lying fallow for way too long. To get myself started I cooked up some imaginary seascapes. I suppose these reside somewhere in my memories of Ireland. Some of them may even be genetic memories, who knows?

While I'm writing this the country of Ukraine is under bombardment and seige directed by a ruthless neighbor guided by his own delusions of grandeur. The name Putin could be a shortened form of Rasputin, the infamous Russian “monk” from the early twentieth century whose own delusions of grandeur and skills of manipulation in the halls of power brought about havoc until he was finally assassinated. This green seascape was painted while witnessing in real time the terrible mechanized destruction in Ukraine meeting the riveting display of bravery and resistance of the Ukrainian people. It's a strange dissonance that I'm moving pools of colored water in a peaceful mountain valley while half a world away a whole country is thrown into mayhem and destruction.

Music of the Moment

Here's another sketch. It has a kind of urban, slinky dreamy quality to it. For now it's called McPhee just because I happened to be reading a piece in The New Yorker by the writer John McPhee. This composition has no connection to Mr. McPhee other than the coincidence of my having read his writing the day I put this together.

I add one of these compositional sketches with each Moonblog entry on the new and full moon. I also have a page with more of this musical work in progress. Go here for a listen.

New Moon ~ March 2nd, 2022