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about the painting
"Taos Vision ("Laurel Canyon Dream" II)"
In 1972, "Laurel Canyon Dream" was created.  Ever since then, i have said
that "next to all of the great artists in the history of the world, from Lascaux
to Picasso, my art is mediocre, but, next to some of the 'crap' that is being
hung on the walls of galleries and museums now-a-days, my art is above
mediocre."  Since then, I have also felt and stated that I have only created
two "great" paintings in my life - "Man Leaaving Is Man Arriving" and "Laurel
Canyon Dream"  (You may view "Laural Canyon Dream"
#28 ).

Ever since the creation of the painting, I felt that I should have painted the
man and the boat larger, brought this image closer to the viewer, but, of
course, I could paint many versions of "Laurel Canyon Dream" and actually
continue to paint them for the rest of my life.
                                                                                                    
From July through October, 2007, nearly every morning, for three to four
months, I was performing my Chinese exercises (Ba Duan Jin) at the very
edge of the Rio Grande Gorge, on the west side of the gorge, south of the
Rio Grande Gorge Bridge.  After the exercises, i would sit on a seat-like lava
boulder at the very edge of the gorge and spend a period of solitude, quiet,
meditation, and contemplation and observance of nature, the local living
beings and creatures, and my own presense and being with "All My  Relat-
ions".  This period of my life, was/is one of the most meaningful periods of
my life.
                                                                                                   
After as long as 1 1/2 hours (or a timelss period of infinity), I would walk
south through the sagebrush and back acoss the highway to the north side
of the gorge bridge and walk through the sagebrush along the west side of
the gorge, heading north.  One morning, while standing still, observing the
beautiful sagebrush, I either imagined or had a vision of the man wearing a
19th century top-hat and coat in the 19th century row boat (a dory?) directly
in front of me.  It was the very same image in "Laurel Canyon Dream", the
only difference being that he was rowing through the sagebrush in the fog.  
This time, I saw the man as me, not Brian.  Immediately, I decided that I
would paint another painting as soon as I had rented another studio.

The whole process of building the stretcher frame, stretching the canvas,
and painting the image of "Taos Vision ("Laurel Canyon Dream" II)" has been
hard work and a real struggle, from begining to end, (and I'm not finished!).

First, I had to buy the lumber, cut it, glue and nail it into a 5ft.x 7ft. stretcher
bar.  After building the stretcher frame, I realized that it needed extra
strength around the edges so that when I stretched the canvas, the sides
wouldn't bow, so, I attatched cross braces and corner braces.  Then, I real-
ized that I didn't add the "quarter-round" molding around the surface edge
of the stretcher frame, so that the canvas, once stretched, would be suspen-
ded above the stretcher frame and the cross braces.  This is crucial when
painting on the canvas, to prevent the canvas from touching the edges of
the frame and cross braces so that the edges do not appear in the painting.  
I had already bought a 5 1/2ft. by 71/2 ft. piece of good quality 12oz. cotton
canvas.  Adding the "quarter-round" molding on top of the extra "one by
two" around the four sides of the stretcher frame made me realize that I had
increased the size of the painting from 60"x 84" to 61 1/2"x 85 1/2", there-
fore, I needed to buy another piece of canvas, in order to have enough can-
vas to grab it when stretching it over the frame.  So. I bought another can-
vas, a 6ft.x 8ft. piece.  

After spending two days building the stretcher frame, I then spent hours
stretching the canvas over the frame.  With the arthritis in my hands, my
aching lower back, and my BIG HERNIA, it wasn't easy.

Then, I brushed on two coats of gesso primer, allowing the first coat to com-
pletely dry before puting on the second coat.  This was in December, so the
room was cold without the heater on and I needed to stand the stretched
canvas up against the east wall, where it was warmer than the north wall,
which was freezing!  Then I leaned it up against the window frame on the
north wall.  Intuitively, I knew that that wasn't a good idea, because by doing
so, the stretched canvas would be freezing in the morning, but, ignoring my
intuition and comon sense, I leaned it against the north wall, over the win-
dow.  Well, the next morning, the canvas was absolutely freezing!  I laid it on
the floor of the studio and turned on the ceiling heater to warm up the can-
vas.  After about an hour, I thought that the canvas was warm enough to
brush on the third coat of gesso primer.  I was wrong.  When brushing on
the gesso, I thought that I heard the two under-coats cracking.  Right.  They
were cracking.  After this third coat dried, I could see numerous cracks
(called craculature) throughout my beautiful, perfectly stretched canvas. Not
perfect anymore.  Perfectly "messed up"!  Boy, was I "pissed"!  

After two or three hours of being angry at him and at myself, I decided to
change a negative experience into a positive experience, which I did.

I measured off certain areas of the large canvas where the craculature
wasn't too obvious, and then proceeded to cut up the canvas into smaller
peices to be used later for small paintings (as of today, 2 March, 2008, I have
comlpeted two paintings and have started a third using these smaller pieces
of canvas).  Then, I ripped the stapled canvas off of the four sides of the
stretcher frame and went to buy another canvas.  This time, I bought an
already primed piece of canvas, 6ft.x 8ft.  I was not about to go through the
experience of puting two or three coats of gesso primer on another expen-
sive piece of canvas just to see it look like a cracked mud flat in the desert.

After spending another two to three hours struggling with this large canvas
and the large stretcher frame, with my arthritis and sore knees, sore and
aching lower back, and HUGE HERNIA, I was "POOPED! !, exhausted, and
ready for a nap, if not bed - eight to ten hours of sleep on my wonderful
aluminum cot without a mattress!

The very next day, I was ready to start the painting - "Taos Vision ("Laurel
Canyon Dream"II)", or, at least stare at the canvas.  This is what I usually do before I start applying paint to a
canvas.  It may look like timidity or just "down right laziness" to an observer, but, for me, it is a necessary part of
the process of me creating a beautiful painting (as I smile and snicker and begin to "chuckle").  Really!  Believe
me.                                                                                                                                                                                   
 After hours of staring at the pure white canvas, I started to mix ultramarine
blue and burnt umber to create a beautiful rich black.  In the nineteen-sixties
and early seventies, I would start every acrylic painting by painting the entire
canvas black.   I had always felt that the already made blacks in the tubes
were dead blacks. Therefore, as long as I can remember, I have mixed my
own blacks by using ultramarine blue and burnt umber, sometimes adding
another colour to create a blue black, red black, green black, brown black,
purple black, and numerous other blacks.

Once the entire canvas was covered with black, I sat back and stared into
"the deep, dark, unknown void".  Finally, I took a 4ft. straight-edge and a
white French conte chalk and drew a diagonal line from corner to corner and
also two lines dividing the canvas both vertically and horizontally.

Then, I proceeded to draw with the French white conte.  I knew approxi-
mately where I wanted the man and he boat, but, I did not know exactly
where the correct positioning would be, so, I continued to draw the man and
the boat with the French conte and repeatedly rubbing it out with a damp
sponge, over and over again.  I continued to draw the man in the boat,
rubbing it out, and drawing it in again, repositioning it every time I redid it,
until I finally felt and thought that the man and the boat were the correct size
and in the right position on the canvas.  This went on for seven or eight
days!                         

Finally, I started to paint with the mixed black and white acrylic.  For at least
several days, I was still painting out the man and the boat and repositioning
them.  Even after weeks of working on the painting, thinking that I had posi-
tioned the man in the correct place and the bow of the boat not to close to
or too far away from the right edge of the canvas, just recently, I had to
paint out the front and bow of the boat several times before it was position-
ed at its pesent location.

Who the man in the boat was/is is a whole other issue and it became, or
manifested, a big psychological problem and a struggle in creating the
painting.  In "Laurel Canyon Dream", the man in the boat was Brian in the
19th century.  In this present painting, "Taos Vision" ("Laurel Canyon Dream
II") originally was a vision of me, but, once I started the painting, it was me,
then Brian, then me, then Brian again.  One day, there were two men (Brian
and me) positioned next to each other in what looked like one boat until you
looked to the right and saw two bows merging.  That really confused me, or,
rather, it revealed to me the complexity of my situation in creating the
painting and in my life, or, in our lives.  Here was an image that perfectly
reflected, or mirrored, my life with Brian.  Who was stearing my life?  Am I in
control of my own life?  Am I going to continue to rely upon and depend
upon Brian, and allow him to help control or guide my life and des- tiny?  
Who is going to be in the boat in this new painting - Allan or Brian?  Well, at
that moment, viewing the double image of the man in the boat with two bows
(and one oar!), I made the decision that this painting is mostly about me, my
life, now.  So, I painted out one of the two men in the painting, not just to
correct the positioning of the remaining lone figure that was me within the
whole composition of the painting, but, to become unconfused and more
clear about what this painting is about.

Somewhere between 1/4 and 1/3 through the creation of a painting, the
painting takes over, has a life of its own, and starts to tell me what to paint,
where to paint, where to darken the painting, where to lighten the painting,    
how and where to move images, shapes, and forms in the painting, and
more.

I found myself switching hands and using my left hand instead of my right
hand.  I have done this periodically, over the past forty years.  Usually I am
right handed.  In the early 1980s, I created a painting ("Spirit Entrance"
#153)
with my right hand and my left hand.  Throughout the complete process of
the painting, I used my left hand for the left side of the painting and my right
hand for the right side of the painting.  This opened up both sides of my
brain (I was no longer a "half brain"!).  This was a very cosmic and spiritual
experience.  When working on that painting, I felt like a real, complete, and
whole being.  "Spirit Entrance" is one of the most spiritual paintings I have
ever created.

While painting "Taos Vision", I have repeatedly alternated using both my
right and left hands. I mmediately became aware that when I have the brush
in my left hand, my mind opens up and I feel more expansive, limitless, more
the cosmic, infinite being that I truely am (which school and church tried to
errase at an early age).  When holding the brush with my left hand, I feel
limitless and I am more readily aware of what the painting is telling me to do,
what to paint, where to paint.  When this is happening, the painting reveals
to me shapes and forms in the sagebrush, fog and clouds, or in the atmos-
phere that need to be brought out, or defined, or redefined.  Energy, life,
and magic happen.  I have become the vehicle.  The image already exists in
another dimension.  Just the act of me, the vehicle for creation, puting paint
on the brush and touching the canvas alows the image to appear, manifest
from somewhere else - another dimension, behind the canvas, or in the
canvas.  All I know, is that it is not just me creating this painting.

And then the dragons - my dragons and Brian's dragons - appeared in the
fog and clouds in the upper part of the painting.  The dragons appeared to
be facing each other to do battle.  The dragons stayed there for days, being
reworked and repainted.

After much painting, painting out, repainting , and more painting, I purpose-
fully painted out the dragons.  Now, they are hidden behind the fog and the
clouds.

             
about the completion of the painting

Sometime in June, 2008, I considered the painting finished. I could have kept
working on and reworking this painting for the rest of my life.  During the
process and progress of "Taos Vision ("Laurel Canyon Dream" II)", I kept
changing the painting, changing the position of the man, the oars, the man's
hands, and the boat.  The sagebrush and fog were also constantly moved
and are still moving.  If you sit still and quietly in front of the painting, you
will see that everything in the painting is still moving, very slowly.  When
describing the process of creating the painting, I always say:  "All it is, is
addition and subtraction."  When a painter knows how to paint (not all pain-
ters do), and gets out of his or her own way, becomes a vessel and a vehi-
cle, nothing is impossible.  The canvas is a window where anything can ap-
pear, from any dimention.  With me, somewhere between one quarter and
one third of the way through the painting, the painting takes over and tells
me what to do, what to add and what to subtract.  It becomes a magical and
mystical and very spiritual experience.  I acknowledge and bow down to a
Greater Force, a Cosmic Energy, the God and Godess within me and outside
of me.  We become One, not knowing the difference between within and
without. From that moment on, there is no longer a struggle and it becomes.
Becoming defines the painting.  Just recently, several days ago  (18-19
Juno), I finished the painting.  I had to finish the painting.  I had no choice.  It
was either finish the painting or continue to work on it the rest of my life,
and believe me, I could have, and it would have continued to change, possi-
bly becoming unrecognizable as a man in a boat, rowing through the sage-
brush in the fog.  Even the fog was and could have become thicker or thin-
ner and ultimately disappeared.  In fact, I felt that I, Allan, was disappearing.  
That is how intensely focused and within the painting I was.  It was  definite-
ly a release to finish the painting Ior stop working on it)!  At times, I felt pos-
sessed by the painting.  It had a hold on me.  I suppose that it was like an
exorcism of a kind.  Now, it is out there.  If this was the last painting of my
life, if I were to die, I am satisfied (as far as my painting goes. that is).  Other
areas of my life are very incomplete.  Now what?


                      signing the painting

For many years, I did not sign my paintings, feeling that it wasn't just me
creating the painting.  Also, on many paintings, the signature is too obvious -
your eye goes right to the signature.  It is a distraction.  So, sometimes, I
would hide the signature.  If the viewers wanted to see the signature, they
had to look for it.  During many decades, I would write my name, along with
the date, on the back of the stretcher bar.  When completing "Taos Vision
("Laurel Cayon Dream" II)", I decided to sign the painting, even though the
whole painting is my signature - there is nobody else who paints like me and
I do not paint like anybody else.  For my signature, I must give credit to
Rusius, Laurentius; Liber mares calciae equorum; (Speyer, Johann &
Conrad; not after 1489; Gothic letter, initials and rubrications supplied in
red; ten woodcuts of horses bits).  I spent three to four hours painting and
repainting the signature and date until I was satisfied.  The completed paint-
ing is much more beautiful than the images on the website.




                         
Destroying the Painting
             and Recreating the Painting
                                                                                                               

Several weeks after the final work and touch up on the painting, I decided to
varnish it in the empty studio next door.  I went to the art supply store and
spent at least twenty minutes debating whether to use Liquitex acrylic matte
varnish, which I have been using since 1965, or a damar varnish.  After much
mental agrivation (To varnish a painting this big - 5Ft.x 7ft. - and one that I
had worked on for over five and a half months in 2008 and many more weeks
in 2009, is a very scarey thing!),  I decided on the acrylic matte varnish.

With Brian's help, we brought the painting next door and laid it flat on
boards on two aluminum folding stands.  Because the painting is so big, I
had to work very fast to cover each area of the painting and bush on the
next area before the previous varnished area started drying to prevent
clouding and streaking.  It seemed as if I could not work fast enough.  

When I finished varnishing the complete suface and sides of the painting
and areas started to dry, I noticed that areas were clouding and streaking.
The painting seemed to be ruined.  Soon, I realized that the whole painting
had been destroyed  by the varnish.  I was angry, depressed, and pissed-off,
to say the least.  

We brought the painting back to my studio and rehung it.  How depressing it
was!  I remained depressed for about a month.  I knew I had to repaint the
whole painting, but, was too depressed to even look at the painting, let alone
approach it and start painting over the whole painting.  Then, one day, my
brother. Brian said:  "All you can do is repaint it, and it will be a better pain-
ting."  My brother expressed his confidence that I could repaint what was
destroyed in a short period of time. I already knew that this was what I need-
ed to do, but, i was too depressed to start over.

Then, on the morning, in  that Brian was leaving Taos to go back to Boston
(19 July, 2008), I decided to start repainting "Taos Vision ("Laurel Canyon
Dream" II)". I decided to repaint small areas at a time, so that I could still see
the complete painting throughout the process of repainting each area and
the whole.  This decision worked out very well.  Not only could I see how I
was maintaining the values of light and dark in each area of the painting,
but, I could also see how I was creating a "better painting" and my spirit
lifted and I immediately became more positive, not only about the painting,
but, about my life also.  I could see how the painting was becoming a more
beautiful painting and it made me look at it with fresh eyes.  I also made
changes in the man in the boat and also the positioning of the boat.  There
were also many small changes made in the sagebrush, fog, and clouds, and
in the tones and values of the lights and darks throughout the entire
painting.

Finally, after more than two months of hard work, I completed the repainting
of "Taos Vision ("Laurel Canyon Dream"II)".  It is definitely a better and more
beautiful painting than it was before I destroyed it with the varnish.  I am
very saisfied with the outcome.  Too satisfied?
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