The Charcoal Paintings, in-process

When you don't know where to begin, begin where you are.

The Charcoal Paintings, in-process, 5' x 5', willow charcoal on double primed canvas. (Photo taken at night with two daylight bulbs in clamp lamps.)

Some lines from Paul Celan's, 'In Prague':

The half death,
suckled plump on our life,
lay ash-image-true all around us -

we too
went on drinking, soul-crossed, two daggers,
sewn onto heavenstones, wornblood-born


Early Poem Painting like a Frank Stella

Continuing with my remembrance of my years doing a degree in Fine Arts in the 1970s, and finding myself in the middle of a Conceptual Art era in which I did not belong, I suddenly made the connection with an old painting of mine and Frank Stella's famous stripes
Now I like Frank Stella as a person, - what I have heard of him in interviews (a recent Frank Stella interview with Eleanor Wachtel is brilliant), and his views as espoused in articles I've read over the years. His stripes paintings (what I knew as an art student), however, leave me on the cold side. They are certainly outstanding for their time. It's self-confident work, sure of itself. All the stripes are hand-painted (pencil lines but no tape) too. But do these works of Stella's inspire me, inspire the poetry in me? No, rather, these paintings remind me of good geometry, bordering on an Op Art. Fun, a little play with the way the eye reads its optical images.

I understand that for Stella, abstract art is …

Another Photo of My Mother

Still not ready to write of this past week, her death, her cremation, the ways in which it was a blessing and the ways in which it was a trauma. But I've been thinking of this photo, and, piling through dusty photo albums on bookshelves and then in the basement, finally found it. Taken on Adderley Street in Cape Town. I was 23 months old.

Bread for the Birds

I fed the birds out back this morning for my mother. With a half bread-bag of collected bread, it seemed a simple enough offering to one of the good memories. Keesha, my dog, was on a leash, and while she wanted to eat all the crusts, easily accepted being pulled away from the pile. Our kitten always accompanies us on the dog stops by riding on my shoulder, held gently but firmly under my hand, but she was only looking for whatever moves, people, squirrels, birds, falling leaves. Later I watched from the window as the pigeons came, feasted.
My mother died last Thursday, September 13th; the funeral is tomorrow, though it hardly that, she was 89, and outlived all of her siblings and friends, so we will only have an immediate family gathering around her casket before it goes into the crematory fires. I seem to have been in deep meditation since she passed away. It was a good death, coming as a release after years of gradual decline and being fully bedridden after her stroke 6 months ago. She passed away peacefully.

Florence Clews, 1923-2012
Christmas, 2011
Photo by Tara Clews

(Sept 18th. I am still too raw to write. Her funeral was this morning. Many blessings, Mom. Love you. xoxo)

My mother just died

My mother just died. 

I wrote this in a Facebook post at 12:28pm on my way to the nursing home where she had lived out her  last months of life.

She died before noon; I was the first family member that the nursing home was able to get in touch with. It was a 10 minute walk through beautiful Annex streets in Toronto. I met my younger brother, Allan, outside the nursing home, and we went in together.

10:41am The Next Day: When a loved one first passes away, there is a feeling of peace, the pain and suffering are gone, and my mother's death was the most peaceful I've seen, she was ready, and a sense of unreality, like they haven't really gone. As the cycles of grief begin their descent through the months ahead, there are painful moments of recognition that the loved one is gone, truly gone, and comforting moments when you still feel them close. Death is a beautiful mystery. She has returned to the Ground of Being. The last time I saw her alive, on Monday, she absolutely glowed…

The Keyhole Sessions: 'Envy'

A Keyhole Life Drawing Session last night. The Keyhole is still working through the Seven Deadly Sins, and last night was Envy. These are all charcoal on 18" x 24" sheets of 90lb archival paper, or, in the last of the one of three models, pencil on primed canvas.

I put a post up of the ones with a Photoshop filter added to G+ and Facebook (see the end of this post), and the dearth, the silence, it was resounding. So I removed the 'offensive' drawings from both sites, and put this note up instead:
I deleted the Keyhole Session post I put up earlier. I keep forgetting that I shouldn't. Because it's staged performance, and while not my sexuality, I do support the freedom of others to practice 'alternative sexualities' if it's between consenting adults and no-one gets hurt. There is mojo in these life drawing sessions; the poses are great. Everyone at The Keyhole is an artist, all the models, the lady who runs it, those who come to draw. Everyone I…

A Studio in my Living Room

I have no idea how this is going to work. Still have to put some daylight bulbs in. The carpet is covered in thick plastic mats, taped down. Will my kitten climb that 5' x 5' canvas? - she scampered up and down the panel when it was a room divider. I had set up a portable studio in my daughter's room, but need something more permanent. This corner of the living room is only what we walked through. It wasn't used space. Stuff got stacked there, canvases (now stored behind the large one), dog kennel, etc. It makes my living room look quite junky, but then, I am mostly a recluse, and hardly have visitors, so what am I worrying about? A bit far from the windows, but the late afternoon sun certainly sweeps into those corners.

An office pod divider becomes a stand for canvas

It was hard work with the bung wrist 'n all dragging this office divider around (it formerly hid a corner of junk, like bundle buggies), and who-knows-how clipping the canvas onto it. It's approximately 5' x 5', and will have to do. I still have to clear that corner of the living room out, cover the floor in layers of thick plastic runners, get a kind person to take a lot of stuff downstairs for me, but, it is do-able. I wasn't strong enough to staple the canvas around the back, those clips were hard enough. I am so independent I don't like to ask for help from anyone, but I did call my son, and he wasn't home. The MUSE is a slave driver, honestly.


It is a bit bizarre, but indulge me. Painted hand, actual hand, x-ray of the bones of that hand. Digitally created image of, uh, real stuff.

An old painting, a stretcher for new paintings

Phoning lumber yards, plywood only comes in 4' x 8' sheets, and I need 5' x 6', so... I remembered this old painting of self-portraits, and dug up the post I wrote on the story behind them at Xanga, where I was blogging at the time. Reading the post brings tears to my eyes (even if I think the painting unsuccessful). Anyway, I can tear the canvas off, and staple new pieces to the frame and thus satisfy my muse (see yesterday's post for clarification). 

Sunday, 01 August 2004

This is a large painting, 4ft by 5ft, and it was many years in the making.

What I went through over it, I can barely look at it. It was my post polar bear painting. Pure soul retrieval. It consists of three actual self portraits, and one psychic self-portrait. It was about finding myself again after my marriage collapsed.

This painting had something to do with that collapse. A bit of paint on canvas, but not as innocent as it looks. After we bought our cottage, I stopped painting. The cott…

The Muse Doesn't Care About Money At All

My muse, oh, Muse! For about a month, when I think of painting, it is always life-sized figures on a large canvas sheet. 'But, Muse, I can't afford that, and have nowhere to staple such canvas, no walls free at all!' Does The Muse care? Not a whit. Never does. Then this and that happened, and today I bought some double-primed canvas, 60" wide and 2 yards long, or 6'. I carried it home in a roll the actor who works part-time at the art store kindly insisted on rolling it in for me ('primed canvas is fragile, it remembers crinkles,' he said). Where I will hang it while the muse has her way with painting, I don't know. I suppose call the lumber yard tomorrow and see how much 5' x 6' thin plywood boards are, and if affordable, see if the truck might happen to be in my area and can drop it off.

I would have bought more - 12' long, enough for two paintings - but had to discipline my muse. 'Enough! I need to eat, too.' And placate. 'We…

Hey, I'm Ariadne's Thread!

clew 1(kl)
1. A ball of yarn or thread. 2. Greek Mythology The ball of thread used by Theseus to find his way out of the labyrinth. 3. clews The cords by which a hammock is suspended. 4. also clueNautical
a. One of the two lower corners of a square sail. b. The lower aft corner of a fore-and-aft sail. c. A metal loop attached to the lower corner of a sail. tr.v.clewedclew·ingclews
1. To roll or coil into a ball. 2. also clueNautical To raise the lower corners of (a square sail) by means of clew lines. Used withup. [Middle English clewe, from Old English cliwen.]
clew 2(kl)
n. & v.Chiefly British
Variant ofclue1. The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
Definition found at The Free Dictionary.

My last three paintings

My latest paintings. Mandate: sit, paint. Without preconception, or any idea of what I will paint. It has to be fast, because that is how these paintings are. Not overworked, this so very important. Fresh, the brush of inspiration.

"Untitled", 2012, Brenda Clews, 18" x 24", oils, India and acrylic inks on triple-primed cotton canvas sheet.

"A Palmistry, a Psalm", 2012, Brenda Clews, 18" x 24", charcoal, oils, oil pastels, oil sticks on triple-primed cotton canvas sheet. I am working on a videopoem of this poem and painting.

She Rests on Pillows in the Grass, 2012, Brenda Clews, 24" x 18", 60cm x 45cm, oil paint on 90lb archival paper.


An untitled painting of a man

Untitled, as of yet. I just painted this. An iPhone photo taken with a daylight bulb. 18" x 24", oil on canvas sheet.

I have been deeply troubled, as ever, by Syria, the refugee camps, the deaths, the conflagrations. And the miners in South Africa, their horrendous treatment, not just the shooting deaths, but the survivors being charged with murder (withdrawn as of today, but it influences). This is a -just-sit-down-and-paint-woman-whatever-fucking-emerges-let-it-be- painting. From the inner self, where the cauldron burns.