27 September 2016


The Mohave Rattlesnake is the most venomous and hottest to strike of snakes in the Sonoran Desert. That being said, her symbiotic relationship with rodents is immeasurably important to the ecosystem. She's just doing her job very well.

With this piece I was thinking about margins and targets. Margins of the senses, margins of territory, margins of safety. Margins are breached by predator and prey. Territories filled with targets of seed bearing plants and rodent trails. Safety is staying outside the margins and sometimes below the ground's surface.  I imagine these invisible zones growing and shrinking from minute to minute as creatures hunt and hide. Plants set up slower seasonal margins of fruiting and flowering, as well as being a home to birds, lizards, insects and rodents. If you can see these invisible margins, you realize the dynamic interconnectedness of the desert biome.

08 August 2016

Book Magic

A visit with Richard Spelker.

I've always had an interest in mysterious books.  One of my great artist heroes is a book artist. When one of his compadres moved near me, the thoughts started falling into place rapidly. I'm going to make a book of my print originals. By some synchronicity or psychic signal, he invited me out to see his collection and studio.

Richard is artist, alchemist-chemist, archivist-collector, book maker, historian and world traveler. With a range of interests from psychedelia, early science and the occult, there is never a dull moment in conversation with him.

I wasn't in the door more than 30 seconds when I was ushered over to a table holding 3 Timothy Ely handmade books. I can't describe my awe in being able to handle the real thing.

Timothy Ely

Timothy Ely

Timothy Ely

Here's some shots of Richard and his super rare 18th and 19th century books. I was knocked out!

Richard Spelker

One of Richard's expertise lies in his interest in inks and the old formulas used to make them. Teaching and consulting on the subject to amateurs and museum book conservators alike, he's collected more than a thousand recipes for making ink. Some pigments are derived from plants and animals. Below, Richard holds a bottle of red ink made of cochineal beetles from South America in his laboratory / print shop / artist studio.

Richard Spelker

18 July 2016

Lepus Allenix

Meeting an antelope hare is like meeting a humble ambassador of the desert. A tall, slender running machine with long, alert ears always scanning. Their unusually large size has startled me more than once as I think there's a dog sitting there perfectly still. Maybe some type of greyhound. Creosote bushes are their perfectly-to-scale forest with plenty of room between bushes for multiple getaways. Heavily predated, they run, hide and breed with great proficiency.

There is something mysterious about the rabbits and hares. Not as much a sense of distrust but an inner alert and meditative wisdom. I was thinking about this stately way of being near the bottom of the food chain, it's strategy of multiple escape plans and it's zig-zag getaway move to throw predators off the trail.

24 June 2016

Cereus Lunix

Every late spring in the Southwest there is great celebration centered around the night blooming cereus. There is a great variety including the Queen of the Night which blooms only once a year. Catching these lotus-like blooms on their special night is a real treat.
Blooming at night makes sense when your main pollinator is bats. The specimen depicted in my piece resides in my back yard. This succulent spreads out low along the ground, usually under shrubs or trees. It's not a Queen of the Night and blooms multiple times a year.

I was thinking about the tissue paper thin petals unfolding in the moon light, the first light to reflect back their pure whiteness. I was thinking about the timing of moon cycles and the quiet glowing shadows it bestows on the ground. Overlaid in the background is a target, personal space symbols and a dotted diagram of moon craters. This one came together nicely and was a fun one to do.

20 March 2016

Islix Pinaleño

If you climb to a high elevation in the Southwest, besides the long unobstructed views, the flow of water over the landscape is pretty apparent. Arroyos (usually dry intermittent streams) fan out over the valleys like winding organic veins on their way downstream. This creates a beautiful fluvial fractalesque design. Multiple millennia of erosion. In this piece, I really wanted to express that texture.

Down here, mountains/mountain ranges are called "Sky Islands" (so... Islix). This is a section of the Pineleño range in southeast Arizona. Every biom from alpine to desert can be experienced hiking from top to bottom. They produce a lot of precipitation which races down into the valleys and that's when the infamous flash floods happen. Although, being the desert, they are usually dry and if you're hiking, you're most likely hiking in an arroyo.

Etching, 1987
It's funny that in my mid forties I'm doing work that most resembles work I did 27yrs ago in art school. I did a lot of etching back then, loved the black line, was fascinated with ruled lines, map markers and vaguely science-like notations. I've always liked that bird silhouette you find in bird identification books. I went through the flat files and found the last time I used that. Sometimes I wonder why I moved away from this work. I sold nearly every etching I made but thought that large scale abstracts were where it's at. Looking back, I can see how pure those etchings were. Truly my own. Well, it takes a long time to find yourself. The work I do now is truly my own.

21 January 2016

Calyptix - Node in the Genetic Desert Mesh

Hiking through the desert, the dull ring of silence may only be broken by the gravel crunching under your boots. Even if nothing seems to move you will undoubtedly encounter a hummingbird. You'll undoubtedly hear their high-pitched tweets.

In this piece I was thinking of a couple things. One, the bird's constant role as pollinator. Two, the maneuverability and miracle of it's hovering flight. Not to mention the iridescent ruby pink throat of Anna's Hummingbird. Wings flapping at twice the speed of any other bird with 360 degrees of vision  and energy enough to stay in flight for 50 minutes at a time. Imagine the invisible swirls of air currents churned up around it. The tiny squeaky chirp is the actual frame of the piece represented by the graphic sound waves you might find in an audio program.

01 November 2015

Gilax M - The Formidable Desert Dragon

11x17, inked with Crow Quill and digitally colored

The last few inks were landscapes and I wanted to zoom into some more close up subject matter. There isn't any creature more desert classic than the Gila Monster, so, it was decided. There's a lot of ways to abbreviate the round scales of the lizard and the lichen pocked rock beneath but I opted for visual complexity. I'm starting to think that visual complexity adds to the life of a piece. More for the brain to chew on. More for the brain to find and connect with. I've really pumped it up a notch with this one.

I was taken by the plotting of the scales on it's skin which arrange in a hexagonal pattern. Something out of a sci-fi artificial life-form design. So I started thinking about geometries and how it might relate with the landscape patrolling cell by cell through it's hive of rock, thus the hexagon matrix overlay. When you move so close to the ground, there must be some sense of direction more than searching the horizon. I overlaid a futuristic compass at it's side for easy reference. Caution barred warning triangle in the upper right noting the subjects dangerous bite. Truly the dragon of the desert.

17 September 2015

Mysterious Spiral Near Kofa National Wildlife Refuge

I've camped in this place many times. It's a beautiful desert north of Yuma, south of Quartzite, home of indigenous palms, bighorn sheep and antelope. You can pull off the road in the BLM land outside of the refuge and camp anywhere. The desert pavement is old and burnt. Wandering out of camp, everything seems ancient and untouched for hundreds of years. Ironwood trees are few and far between and the firewood you find is bleached white from seasons in the sun. It's a truly beautiful place.

I've been looking for subject matter for some new art pieces and started thinking 'maps', pulled up Google Earth and started poking around the Kofa area. The detail of the photo tiles are outstanding especially when looking at mountainous areas. Then I found this:

Latitude:  33°22'24.24"N     
Longitude: 114°10'25.87"W

It's about 90ft in diameter and 160ft from the road, so it might not be visible from the road. I know the dark desert pavement scrapes away easily to reveal lighter material underneath. It's so defined it's almost as if it's piled up material or even trenched.   The map photo was taken in 2013. Using Google Earth's history slider you can see the spiral wasn't there in 2010. A spirit walk? Land art? A celebration of 2012? I've combed the internet and found nothing. I'm going to go out there this winter to take a look.

Poking around, I also found this 20ft wide thingy not so far away:

Latitude:   33°22'7.53"N
Longitude: 114° 9'14.19"W


The very next day after posting this, friend and Wee Gallery artist Stu Jenks jumped in his truck and took the 4hr ride out to the location. He messenged me for a couple details on how to get there and voom! 4hrs later he was standing in front of a spiral "meant for meditation". It was what I thought, carefully raked desert pavement with a path of lighter colored sand. Mystery solved!!

Photo by Stu Jenks