What I love
about painting over paintings.
there are miracles and surprises and mysteries under there
the word pentimento...remember seeing through to the previous layers the previous painting idea that was laid down...then
for whatever reason...discarded, considered to not be ''it''
even though many people who make creative effort
are not actually in search of something specific or concrete at the outset of their project, some ideas and feelings begin to congeal as the work progresses, then the 'finished' work either does or does not
communicate all that was percolating up through the makers body and mind while the work was in progress, and therefore the painting has to go either into the trash pile, or be painted over,
if the vibe it leaves behind is not too overwhelming and dictatorial
well then, painting over can bring magic...with a hint of the unresolved underneath it, teasing the eye, we ask ''what is that under there, i see something under the skin of the the painting?", it's the unresolved, the thing that lurks underneath all of us anyway
and to me
when that day happens in the studio
that's a good day
having to grapple with something that will not be named or tamed
and then laying on top of that , something that invites a meditation
on the wild chaos and inner peace of life, living one on top of the other

A Prime Example: ''Passing Secrets"  click to follow link.


HOW TO START A PAINTING, continued from 6/22/16

Once I have decided on a format (square, or rectangular, and its specific dimensions), I have many choices in front of me. I list them all here and then I will discuss one at at time: Support- I can choose wood as in a plank or any other form of found wood or lumber, or a panel-usually a finely sanded and finished flat board with straight edges, or a cradled panel; or I can choose paper, and I would choose a paper that will handle whatever media I am using to make the painting-usually heavier acid free archival paper if i am using oil, but truthfully any paper can work and can be archival if sealed properly; I can choose as my support metal; glass; plastic; any found object of any material. Hey you could choose water if you like, there are no restrictions as to the type of support you choose. 

However, a support that is selected to best carry your message, is the best support.

Well how do you know that in advance? You don't. that is why I prefer to work in a series, I choose to work with one format, one type of support and a specific combination of media or materials. Then ideas will come that interact in a cooperative way with these foundational elements! Or I hope so...

I am currently working on several different series. One is on paper ( on top of prints my father made of the city of Pittsburgh), One is on found wood panels, One is on cradled wood panels (birch), and One is on canvas.  I did say several and I wasn't kidding.

Each of these supports provides different opportunities for my tools, pens, brushes, nails, etc... to interact with their unique surfaces and lead me in a great variety of directions. I like all options open. And some days one support calls you and another one repels you, best to mind the call.

But the point of today's blog is how to start a painting...and what I really wanted to share is that once my support is selected, I typically begin a painting by laying down some color. Color is full of energy and another layer of information. If I have 10 square pieces of paper, I may put a different color or a different value of the same color on each one.  Then my most significant moment arrives...I make a mark. This mark will inform all other marks. It is a mark which will divide the format area into two three or more smaller shapes.

This first mark may also trigger something in the unconscious (I pray for this part) and an image will begin to emerge or rather suggest itself and then I work with the suggestion.

If you have never started a painting or a painting series in this way, you might want to try it on for size. More tomorrow.




There can only be as many ways to start a painting as there are painters. Times that by the number of paintings started, which is to say...almost an infinite number of ways.

I would like to mention some of the ways I begin and some of the ways I have observed other painters approach the initial phase of the process. I would like to underscore the word process, as always, because a painting never really ends. It's life continues with every new set of eyes that view it, it is extended.  But that's off point.

Choosing a format: a format, the dimensions of the material I will work on, is for me, extremely informative. A square will lead me in a totally different direction than a vertical rectangle, than a horizontal rectangle or any other geometric, organic or amorphous shape. So I try and make a choice based on pure intuition in the moment. Sometimes I work with the same format for days or weeks at a time. I find this particularly helpful. Each format requires that you manage the energy of that format area to create a satisfactory balance within the format area and a degree of tension that will keep all the elements in the painting actively in dialogue with one and other.

A format area comes with its own energy, before any mark is laid down. So there is information there before you ever begin. Working with the same or very similar format over and over continues to build an understanding of what will and will not easily work inside of that area. Anything can work, but some marks in a square format, for example, will create either too much balance (a stagnant energy) or no balance.  Truthfully that's ok, because each part of the painting process requires that you continue to invent ways to manage the balance and the energy in the work. So it is all a big challenge and that's one of the exciting parts about making art.

A format will set the tone of a work by either encouraging you to focus on something specific and detailed, or allowing the work to explore a great breadth of space. It can contain or expand the marks and possibly images that eventually arrive there. A format can hint at a close up of an object or it can invite a broad view of a landscape and all the delight of playing with the principles of perspective. 

Here are a few links to works that have different formats, square, vertical rectangle and horizontal rectangle. It is easy to see how the format area offers very different possibilities.

Square Format-  https://michel-tsouris.squarespace.com/encaustic-and-mixed-media-paintings/7n30tdmohuwr5j0n9q32w17zthzcxf

Horizontal Rectangle Format- https://michel-tsouris.squarespace.com/encaustic-and-mixed-media-paintings/portal-tar-oil-and-beeswax-on-paper-and-panel-sold

Vertical Rectangle Format- https://michel-tsouris.squarespace.com/encaustic-and-mixed-media-paintings/u4m4gnq42z8o8myhq9k7eeypkqy10r

One last note on format, once you choose the shape of the material you will work on, the next question becomes, what are the exact dimensions of that shape, and the answer to this question informs the work yet again offering even more possibilities.




The act of making a painting  is, for many artists, a meditation. "Being in the moment", I suppose,  is the current phrase which describes the meditative state. It doesn't really matter if a painting is accomplished in one brilliant stroke, or  slowly nurtured and coaxed into form over a long period of time. The time the painting takes to arrive on the surface of your canvas is irrelevant. But being In the moment is not irrelevant to the process. What does matter, to me, is that the meditative state is achieved and the  real meat of the painting emerges from that place. In fact it may be an undeniable requirement.  If we arrive at that meditative state while we are in the process of painting, the main objective of the act has been satisfied. I say that as if I am making a pronouncement, true for all painters throughout all time. Of course i don't mean it. I really mean to say, for me, the act of getting into that mindless place leads me to a the most interesting content and form. If I try to force, or use excessive willfulness, or impose my rational mind onto the images taking form at the end of my brush, I will most often meet with a very unsatisfactory result. Lacking soul. Lacking any new ideas. Lacking the energy of discovery. Lacking the grace of surrender. 

Today I am working on a painting that has patterned quilt on a bed. I am so pleased to be working on the repeating pattern. It will certainly lead me quickly to that mindless place where I can linger, as long as it takes. I can linger and luxuriate in the mark making process. I can luxuriate in the paint its viscosity, its opacity and its translucency, the smell of the oil, the wax and yes of course, the turpentine.

Painting yes is a luxury inviting all the senses and a quieted mind. I cannot think of a better way to spend the day. And I am grateful that i can and that I do.  If you have never tried it, painting, perhaps you will allow yourself the gift of trying it on for size some time. 


Here is link to an older painting I am reminded of today. http://www.michel-tsouris.com/art-cards1/respite

FILLING THE VOID, or "Who Should We Call To Ask" Day Two June16

Continued from June 15 2016


365 days of drawings and letters to my wife in her current incarnation, became a monument to the past. And there it sits, behind me. Some days I look back through those drawings and all I see is one immutable truth. Gone is gone, never coming back is always now.


NEVER is a short word with a long afterlife. I spent the last year worrying about that word. In fact it was plaguing me. It is slowly occurring to me I will never see my beautiful love again, never hear her voice, never take another dip together in the ocean, never sit across the table and laugh, never hold her hand, never see eye to eye, never be able to answer her questions, never nothing, no more, and that’s impossible to consider. I never thought that would happen…but it did. I would very much like to change that "never" into "sometime in the future but we just can’t say when”.


Now the drawings plague me as well, dark and lonely: a woman evaporating into thin air: another diving off the edge of a cliff: someone floating out of reach: me carrying her across a river of tears.


But nothing gets in my way of making them. I wouldn’t say they ease the pain, but they do reach down and remind me: we are capable of a great depth of feeling, dive only if you dare.

A page of thumbnails, the culled drawings here

Followed by an interpretation of some of the more important ones




A few months after she took the exit, I got a big pile of pictures off the shelf and sat myself down on the couch. I told myself stories about them. I told anyone who was brave enough to sit down with me and look at the photographs, I told them the stories too. Now I can’t stop talking. Seems like once you get started there’s and endless stream of stories one behind the other, all queued up waving their hands saying “me next me next, tell me!”


I’m pretty sure not too many people are really listening to me tell these stories. At least not with both ears, they’re not. I’m pretty sure there’s a whole bunch of people I’ve subjected to the telling and retelling of these stories, who whisper to their significant other…“can’t she just get on with this?”

The ones that can tolerate it, well they feel the impact of ‘never’ too. They feel the room fill with a thick sadness. They feel the humidity building from eyes that can’t stop raining. They feel the edges of this new reality still fragile and fluttering in the wind.  The ones that get it they say I should let the river flow, don’t try and stop it. They say it’s the river that’s going to make us all feel better about that door.




Dreams, according to many psychologists, hold a lot of very interesting information. Most of us have cut ourselves off from that information, but those of us who allow it, encourage it even, well we get a feast of food for thought. I have always taken enormous pride in the fecundity of my own dreaming and the colorful content they offered. That’s the good news. The bad news is that when my love and I first got together, I noticed my dreams were fewer and farther apart. She on the other hand woke up every morning with wealth of mysterious recurring images. The longer we were together the more this happened. After a while I actually accused her of dream thievery. Which in retrospect was an inexcusable accusation. The truth may be that I felt so at home in that relationship that I closed the curtain into parts of my unconscious I no longer felt compelled to explore. In retrospect, that was probably an error in judgment on my part. But I did it, and you just can’t go backwards and undo things like that.


Formonths after the door closed behind Elizabeth, I tried so hard to dream about her. The harder I tried the further away she felt. It was like trying to make a painting, with willfulness. It can’t be done. I can’t do it that way. A painting, like a dream, or like a love has to be invited in, surrendered to. A door has to open, and wind sweeps in, you get to dance with it and when the music stops, you’ve made your masterpiece for the moment.


But finally after several more months, I quieted just enough to allow a dream to arrive. It was a small dream, but so very welcome.

i saw the crest of a hill, a country path, a mist

a light coming through the mist

dispersing the soft energy of itself

and you, in silhouette standing there on the edge

against the light your shadow was tall and lean

and striking

at the very center of my being

as you always did ….  


FILLING THE VOID, or ''Who Should We Call To Ask?"

FILLING A VOID or Who Should We Call To Ask or Another Fact Of Art and Life

I have a wife. But I don’t know where she is. She was here one minute and then gone the next. They say it happens all the time. Disappearing acts. I don’t know who to call.

She used to say that all the time when we were having an argument or even just a lit up discussion. She would ask me one of a thousand difficult questions that she always seemed to pull out of her proverbial hat. They were questions that provoked me to silence. Then after a long pause and a lot of sighing and tapping of her feet, she would ask me if I was planning on answering her question anytime soon. And I would say, ‘’I just don’t know”. 

“You just don’t know what?” she would say, “You don’t know if you are going to answer or you don’t know the answer?”  This would get her good and testy. 

And I would say, “I just don’t know the answer right now.” Then I could feel the blood coursing through her like she was the grand canyon herself in springtime. She would stand up and she a was a big girl. She would stand up and puff her chest out, and she had a beautiful chest. She would stand up chest out, and plant her feet real firm on whatever ground there was to stand on. She would stand up and puff up her chest with her feet planted and her blue eyes narrowed. And she had the most mysterious blue eyes. Blue eyes scare Greeks. She knew that, but she had them and she couldn’t help it either. In fact she always said she was Greek in a past lifetime. Anyway… She would stand up and puff up her chest with her feet planted and her blue eyes narrowed and she would look down on me and at me know matter if I was above or below her. She would say “Well who do you think we should call to ask, then?” And with that she would try to make her exit from the room.  I always stopped her though and tried my best to muddle through and find the answer to her question. Usually the answer was buried so deep down I needed several heavy equipment operators to help me extract it. Sometimes I coughed it up. Sometimes, we both left the room mad as hatters.

The fact is though, from time to time, and often when you least expect it… people just walk out the door and just don’t come back. Don’t matter how many times you go open that door sticking your neck out looking right and left while your hand’s making a salute gesture over top your eyebrows. That one who walked out that door is nowhere to be seen. Now that I think of it, the truth is… it happens all the time. But this time it’s happened to me. This time it was my wife. And I was not even close, we were not even close to finishing that conversation. This time I amfairly certain it was Elizabeth who went and walked out that door, the door that people don’t seem to want to come back through. I keep going over to it, opening it and calling out at the top of my voice, “Hey wait, I think I can answer your question now! Hello hello!”

But this time, I have failed to get her to turn back around so we could have another go at it.

It’s been over a year now. I am starting to think it was not a dream but instead a very strange new reality. This new reality has provoked a pack of new behaviors I thought I had neatly tucked away.

During the course of the year I managed to cry a river that runs right through the middle of my house. I now need a small boat to navigate this vacant shell. I don’t know if I am going downstream or up. There have been so many waves rolling in and out, relentlessly and mercilessly tossing my boat, I am not sure in what direction I am headed.

And I keep going back to the door opening the door, looking up and down the road. I’m afraid the gators are going to catch on to the new water feature in my living room and take up residence. They do that around here.  

Anyway I have been very diligently trying to distract myself. It happened when I discovered that I was doing that thing they say widow’s do, ‘oh she’s just rattling around in that lonely old house”. 

So I have pulled my resources together: pens and pencils, paints and brushes, clarinets and pianos, and this typewriter. I have become obsessed with asking questions. I have filled a thousand notebooks with those questions. “That’s a fine turn of events” I hear myself mutter as I write. It was her who had all the questions and now she’s not uttering a word. Where exactly is she now that the tables have turned? “I am prepared now Elizabeth, prepared to answer you and prepared to ask you a million more questions.” I say this every morning but each time it is met with a bigger silence.

Another excellent form of distraction in this situation, is making pictures bubble up from your unconscious. Rarely are they pretty but hey, talk about a thousand words. Bump that up a factor of ten.

And my latest technique for distracting myself from the obvious, is the typewriter. It works a lot like the bubbling pictures, except I end up not having to breathe turpentine.

I suppose there’s a good reason people disappear. Just like I suppose we appear for a reason. Which is to say I have no clue. I will make the assumption though that both those statements are true. I will do it because it makes me feel better. I suppose I should be steadily trying to answer the questions: why we are here; and why, just when we get the hang of being here with someone who is our heart’s desire… we leave.

I’ve given all that up for the safety of just doing what makes me feel better. I gave it up because my head was getting good and sore from bashing it against a wall. 

The things that make me feel better are reaching into my trusty bag of tricks to host a coming out party for whatever’s stirring up my interior. This is an artist thing. This is why they say artist’s are tortured souls. They say it because, (don’t tell anybody this) but it’s true!

We are not usually too forthcoming about who it is exactly that’s torturing us. We like to say it’s our wife or our mother or our friend, but ultimately the truth gets told. That’s the unfortunate part of making art. You can’t really hide behind it. It’s a big screen reality TV show that just pops out of you without warning.


What is art?

In my opinion  art is the process through which one works to extract a feeling or concept. An artist is the one who has synthesized experiences so that the process of making art delivers that feeling or that content into a form that others can see hear touch smell or in some way experience for themselves ; the form is handed over to the viewer for further evolution 

Art is an experience like all other human experience, in dialogue, not in isolation.

A work has life as a consequence of both the actions of the maker and the senses and mind of the viewer.


Art transforms with every set of eyes that fall upon it.

In my studio practice I am aware that the work I produce, ultimately does not belong to me as it will find life and evolve in the capable care of its viewers.

May 21 2016

A few months back I encountered an image on the internet that stopped me in my tracks. I quickly shared the image with my wife whose talisman was a stag. We were both in awe of this grand sculpture which was positioned in the center of a spare gallery, and some light emanated from inside of him or above him. I cannot tell you specifics about this piece. And that is curious to me and also enlightening. I felt the gestalt of the piece without a careful accounting of its details.  In fact the piece struck me so profoundly I could hardly bare to continue to look at it. I can see the stag in my mind's eye, I see him often. The photograph was taken at an angle which allowed the viewer to be in eye to eye contact the animal. So my glance toward him was equal to his glance toward me. We took each other in. What I can tell you is that the stag's body was rising, piece by piece into the air. Something, was it birds or butterflies? I don't know, something was transforming. His huge powerful body was turning into many tiny, ephemeral creatures. It was if I had caught him in the middle of his enlightenment. I felt like he was becoming spirit right before my eyes. I felt the connection between him and my wife. Why? Because she told me she had been visited by a stag, in  meditation and in a dream. She told me a stag was her spirit guide. She told me she felt a strong connection. I didn't get it.  But that changed when i came across this sculpture. Her words  and my reaction to this work all came together in an AhHa!.

In that moment so much changed. I realized that my love of and desire for making art, had fallen away; that image of the buck snapped me out of my free-fall, and snapped me back in love again. For this I am so grateful. I realized too that when your love tells you she has found her talisman, you should listen with all your senses, not just shake your head and smile. For this too I am grateful.

I am going to search the internet for a photo of this beautiful piece of work. I am ready to look at it more closely now.