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Monday, March 24, 2014


donkey jen in landscape

I see Donkey Jen out the window rubbing her neck in the fork of the dogwood tree. The woman who took care of Jenny before Jen came here told me donkey liked having her neck rubbed, but no place else and definitely don't touch her legs. I put my hand on Jenny's back and she moves away. I touch her leg and she pulls back. She doesn't even like me to touch her neck until after she's seen me petting Jack. Then she wants to be touched. Every time I've seen her at the dogwood tree, she rubs both sides of her neck in the tree's fork, scratching herself. I keep my hands off both the donkeys mostly. It's how they are with each other. When they reach out to touch, they kick. I talk to them and leave them their own rights to their bodies. Their color is so enigmatic to me, I look at them in awe sometimes for the colors they are. Closest I can find a name for is Taupe, a tan color. The name taupe doesn't tell me anything. It could be every shade between dark tan to light tan. I tend to think of their color as "landscape." Their color fits well especially in a semi-desert landscape of their origin, something like south Texas desert. Here, they blend into winter landscape of the grass turned light brown, the leaves on the ground a darker brown, rocks, a kind of pointillist landscape of varieties of brown from light to dark. Browns are often difficult colors to use painting as brown has such a tendency to look flat, lifeless, dull. Yet, when an artist like Neil Jenney paints dirt, the brown is vibrant and still looks like dirt. Marcel Duchamp's series of cubist/futurist paintings, Nude Descending the Staircase, Bride Stripped Bare By Bachelors Even, were painted in shades of yellow between raw yellow to dark brown, and they are retinally vibrant staying in the range of yellows, which I see brown the darker end of same color.
donkey jack in landscape
The meadow, in effect, is yellow now with a haze of green shoots slowly changing the meadow's color to yellow-green and eventually green, half of which is yellow. The taupe or beige color that the donkeys are has no name as far as I know. Their color is an enigma to me because I cannot find the foundation color to start from. One way of looking at them, I'd want to start with Paynes Gray. Another way of looking at them I'd want to start with raw umber. Another way, I'd want to start with white. Each one of those ways would not be it. It's brown, it's gray and it's off-white. I suppose it is what we call a neutral color, a color that doesn't appear to be a color, colorless. To complicate it further, Jack and Jenny are not the same color. Jack's color leans to gray, but when I look at it as gray, it's brown. When I look at it brown, it's gray. Jenny's variation of donkey landscape color leans very slightly toward cocoa. Seen individually, they seem like the same color, and side by side the difference is radical. Deer carry a variation of the same landscape color. It's the original camouflage. Hunters wear clothes with complex camouflage patterns, largely because hunters shoot from trees in this time. On the ground, it seems like the natural camouflage or black would work best. I'm not a hunter, so I can't say. The donkeys have made for themselves a place to roll in the dirt. Jack scratched at the grass in the place he wanted to use until the grass is gone from a circle with the circumference of a donkey body. They keep one spot in the meadow for dust bathing. The dust keeps fleas and other bugs down. When I put my hand on Jack's back, a cloud of dust rises the same color as his back. I wonder how much of his color is determined by all the dust in his hair. 
jack left, jenny right
The woman I bought Jenny from told me when she got Jenny (Daisy), she was eat up with fleas. She covered Jenny with used motor oil. It worked. I don't question any further for Jenny's reluctance to be touched. That oil stayed in her hair until weather eventually cleared it away or it was washed off with soap, equally terrible for the donkey. I know Jenny hated it. I choose not to push her beyond her will, knowing she's been through a torment from hell. Animals are as vain about their hair as we humans are. I tell her she has beautiful hair. Jenny loves being talked to so much, I get my interaction thrill from talking to her, speaking into her nostrils like they are ears. She is smelling my breath and feeling the exhalation from every word. Jack isn't particular about being spoken to into his nostrils. He just likes being talked to. This morning I found his braying note. I've sought it for some time. This morning I went out the door and he started singing. I found his note and sang it back to him. It was cold this morning making puffs of breath cloud with his every bray. I loved it that I'd found his note. He sang a note, I sang the note. We went back and forth like this, Jack looking at me like to say this is really fun. He walked to me singing and it seemed like he couldn't stop, he fluttered his lips and made grunt sounds winding down. I handed him a chunk of carrot. It was fun for me that I finally found his note, though am unable yet to get it without Jack's lead. This morning in slanted light they appear darker than later in the day. Photos I get of them in full sunlight, the side of the donkey in shade is almost black and the light side nearly white. The color lightens with sunlight. If the color lightens in the sun, it must darken in the night for round the clock camouflage. I'm recalling that I cannot see them in the night, even when I know I am looking at one of them. I find donkeys with the flashlight and when I turn the light away, they vanish. The hair must have a reflective quality to it, mirroring both light and dark.
 barnett newman
who's afraid of red, yellow and blue?
That's where I would start trying to mix a color for either one of them, a light color and a dark color. I've not even made one attempt to mix their colors. For me, no color is the hardest color of all to mix. I've begun making sketches of the donkeys, painting them dark red. I want to make basic, simple images of them red, outlined in blue, on green below and blue above, colors straight out of the tube. I'm out of white now, so thought I'd not use white. Enough is left in the tube to take care of the noses and bellies. I want basic, simple, red, yellow, blue, green, orange, purple. No blacks, no whites. Three small ones are in progress. I want them to be about red, yellow and blue. I think of Barnett Newman's magnificent work I had the great good fortune to see before it was destroyed, Who's Afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue? It is among my very most favorite works of art I've laid eyes upon. I love its bold red. It seemed like about twenty feet long. I slowly walked the length of it feeling the red. It was powerful. Brings to mind the time I had only ten minutes to see a whole Vuillard show, which I wanted to spend all day with. I nearly ran, no time to spend with any one piece, so I opened up, put mind into hyper-drive and felt it. It was every bit as memorable as the Newman. Memory of Vuillard is dark sage green. It feels like I got more of Vuillard in those ten minutes than if I'd spent three hours. It would be forgotten by now if I'd received the show leisurely. I'm choosing to reduce the colors I use to red, yellow and blue, primarily, basic, raw colors. From years of buying tubes of paint, I have plenty, no need to buy more. If I don't already have it, it will not to be necessary. Whatever paper, canvas, canvas paper, wood I have is what I'll use. No buying anything except turpentine, dammar varnish and linseed oil. I could use some new brushes, but the ones I have still work. Who says I need to use a brush? All I want to paint now is red donkeys very simply.
edouard vuillard
neil jenney

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