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From Meeting Notes #3: Tangled Up in Knots

July 15, 2014

blue canyon border

Yellow Rose 5" x 7" oil painting

Yellow Rose 5″ x 7″ oil painting

An inexplicable story that must be told, but where do you go when the words fail? Where does the story go from there? “Dios Padre me dé las palabras….”

A triple braided chord is not quickly broken…”

An endless strand that always returns to start when the journey is done. A tangle of line, a tangle of thread that lies in a heap upon the ground where, once it lofted kites high into the air.
Rondeaus, and villanelles, words woven tight to hold against the strife, woven over, under, and around but always returns to start when all is done. Art is not art if it is perfect in every part, for art must be the product of a fallible person reaching out beyond self to touch, if just fleetingly, the universal; so no perfect geometries for me, no perfect symmetries. It’s just a game I’m playing; abstractions to fill the margins.

The Navajos, in their designs, always leave a route for escape, so that the spirit, can take flight and find freedom in the moment of need. I am compelled to escape into a tangle of lines, always bringing the end back to the beginning, to make sense of the tangle, to get the kite back in the sky.

The Cretan Mountains in the wintertime are full of snow I’m told, and the cherries bloom there in the spring though by the sea the oranges grow. Minos, the king built a palace there, and, for his beautiful daughter Ariadne, Daedulas created an elaborate dancing ground. The dance followed its path and all the steps the dancers took always returned to the start again. Theseus came from Athens, won the heart of Ariadne, and put an end to the unholy sacrifice of Athenian youth in the Cretan labyrinth. From the labyrinthine-dancing ground he followed the thread, his only clue*, for his escape and sailed away with Ariadne only to abandon her on a lonely isle, having set free the Athenian youth.

On the Isle of Iona, St. Columba came from Ireland and established a monastery. There, in all probability, 2 centuries later, the manuscript that was known as the Book of Kells was begun. When I first saw the knot work from the Book of Kells as a high school student, I was completely taken aback, and proceeded to start filling spaces with random interlaces.  It has given me plenty of respite from meetings  over the years and provided the needed nudge for composing paintings. What I set out to do is not derivative of the ancient Insular style of the British Isles, but is, nevertheless, a starting point.  There is always a tangle to create from whatever clue may be at hand.  I think the clue always leads to freedom, though where it ends seems to be always at the beginning again.

To quote A. E. Houseman: “…And nothing now remained to do /  But begin the game anew….” (From “Terrance, this is Stupid Stuff”)


From Meeting Notes #2: Calligraphic Strokes

June 22, 2014

“You have a meeting to go to.”

“I do? When did that happen?”

“It’s been on the calendar for two months….”

So, who looks at calendars anyway?  Oh well.  Got a couple of pencils.  Got a piece of flat graphite.  Got some paper.  I’ll manage.  alpha dec 2009small

You do not need a calligraphy pen to obtain calligraphic effects.  A flat piece of graphite will do.  If you forgot to bring that to the meeting or the doctor’s appointment, then a pencil will do.  You just draw short, 45 degree strokes over and over again as illustrated:alpha dec 2009small section


flight 1

Calligriphic birds from the letter “F”.

A watercolor series featuring stylized cranes started out as the letter “F” which morphed into a crane.  The lettering was done with fine lead technical pencil as in the example above.  After imaging the crane from the “F”, and working the rest of the composition out, I transferred the pattern to stretched water color paper and did 3 paintings from it.


From the letter "F"

From the letter “F”


flight 3



My prized piece of graphite is a stick that is aboutpencil flower 8 petalsmall 3/4 inches, (19 mm) wide, 1/2 inch (13 mm) thick, and 6 inches (150 mm) long.  It quite hard.  I believe it’s intended use was for electric motor brushes.  My 1st thought when I found it was “Does this make a mark?”  Yes! And quite an awesome mark!  It writes and draws smooth as silk.  The flower to the left was done with the wide flat, edge of the graphite.  It was transferred to watercolor paper.  The final two paintings are the result of this process.  I think the flower was from a doctor’s appointment.  The rabbit, I do not remember, but it was a fruitful meeting.


calligraphic flower

Cottontail, Horny Toad, & Lizard

Cottontail, Horny Toad, & Lizard

From Meeting Notes #1: Two Faces

June 4, 2014

I don’t often write explicitly about the things I paint or draw.  I am much more comfortable telling stories or creating word pictures than I am writing about a specific composition, why I did it, how I arrived at it, etc.  Paintings are statements, after all, stories without a text, a succinct emotional statement that doesn’t depend on words; a glance, a gesture, a composition that requires a response.  I don’t know that I have a specific approach to creating a painting.  I will do anything from highly abstracted compositions to what some would call realistic art, although I will never compromise effect for being correctly realistic.

This series  of 4 compositions started out as “meeting notes”.  Meetings invariably tax my attention span when what is being said could be said much more directly without the vast amount of equivocation and discussion of unimportant nuance. Like listening to a long winded salesman or dentist, all I want to say is “Cut to the chase. How much and what are my options?” Business cards are a good size for small, discreet drawings. Many of my more fun paintings start out on the back of business cards, or a blank corner of a program. It’s also less disruptive than playing the harmonica, which is frowned on in meetings.  As long as I find myself in a situation that requires a meeting, an appointment, a sermon, a speech, this series will never be done.

Profile and Full Face (pen & ink, prismacolor)

Profile and Full Face
(pen & ink, prismacolor)

“So, Leon, do you have anything to add to this meeting?”
“Oh, yeah, uh, my daughter is a space alien. We found her in the middle of a crop circle with a can of spray paint in her hand. Evidently from a notorious gang of inter-planetary taggers, totally messed up Jupiter, I’m told. With that kind of notoriety, we couldn’t help but love her, and hug her, and cherish her..  What were we talking about?”

Actually, she’s not a space alien. She arrived in this world the usual way. Quite smart too.

Visualizing ancient Egyptian profiles where the eye is always from a frontal position is what pointed me in the direction of the two face motif.  Add to that the notion that one could add a face behind the profile, making two faces that could also work as one from a frontal view.

The meeting that led to this composition was, I believe, a circuit design and layout meeting for some forgotten electronic application, which I am certain is completely obsolete now.

The business card sketch for the 2nd two faces.

The business card sketch for the 2nd two faces.

The 2nd two faces, is more illustrative of a meeting: A talker and a listener.  The challenge being to unite the two faces by joining the negative space between them in a common outline.  The result is a bit of fun.  I don’t know whether he’s listening, but she’s talking, and I’m drawing.   The raven is just there for the ride.   It ended up in another composition.





Two Faces #2 (water color)

Two Faces #2
(water color)

Business card sketch for the 3rd 2 faces.

Business card sketch for the 3rd 2 faces.

The 3rd two faces have the faces sharing an eye and a mouth if the one face is visualized  as not in profile.







Two Faces # 3 (water color)

Two Faces # 3
(water color)


Business card drawing for the 4th two faces.

Business card drawing for the 4th two faces.

The 4th two faces turned into a Gothic romance.  I tried to stay with the formula of blending the faces together, but they would have none of it.  I am not sure what he said, or she said.  I could have done something really cheesy like putting a tear in her eye, but that would never do.  She might have a hint of a smile, but maybe not.  You will have be the judge and write the dialogue.





Two Faces # 4, a Gothic Romance (water color)

Two Faces # 4, a Gothic Romance (water color)

We were young and not to be denied….

May 6, 2014

I met Reason once, when I was young. The night was a fine night, and I think I had a bit too much adult beverage, because I was feeling fanciful. We discussed things well into the early hours of the morning when I offered Reason a kiss. She told me to get lost, and we really haven’t discussed anything much since. Occasionally we cross paths in the grocery store, but that’s about it. As for rationality, if you divide 880 by 440 you get perfect harmony, but since art is not art if it’s perfect in every part, the 4th comes out to 1.3348 rather than a neat 1.333…, the 5th comes out to 1.4983 rather than a neat 1.5, and this is not even considering the minor 6th .

Shakespeare sang the blues, or, at least his sonnets do:

     Shakespeare Sang the Blues

Shakespeare Sang the Blues

(A) That (D) time of (A) year thou (D) mayst in me be- (A) hold

(E) When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang

(D)Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,

(A) Bare ruined choirs, where (E) late the sweet birds (A) sang.

All the wretched roaches of the choir stood to sing, rank on rank, down the sidewalk they came!  Like rosy cheeked choirboys, their diminutive voices ring harmoniously into the cooling night time air:

“That time of year”, they sang,

“thou mayest in me behold……”

And the leaves were falling, racing before the wind, sometimes flying, but in the end falling down to the sidewalk below.

A Night at Woodrat’s Cactus Inn:

Woodrat's Cactus Inn

Woodrat’s Cactus Inn

Bratney McDougal came dressed for the ball

His whiskers neatly combed

With top hat, white gloves and all.

Gayly he asked with whom he should dance,

Ah, such a night, with a promise of romance

Brittney Bryce was quite demure,- quiet and shy,

She stood in the corner with cookies and drinks nearby.

Love seemed certain as the setting sun

Waiting for the waltzes, the dancing’s begun.

The shrew snuck out the backdoor,

The skink was nervous to the core,

Dancing each step according to Hoyle,

Leading the lady as though she were royal,

Bratney McDougal swept Brittney Bryce

Clean off her feet three times and thrice


Robin, robin, roses and run,

Round about and do it again,

Through the grass and under the sun,

Robin, robin, ribbon and rain,

You call the dance, we’ll play it through,

Too fast, too slow, you can’t complain,

Robin, robin, rushes and rue,

Call me your love, our love is true!

The night would have ended perfectly if a panicked quail hadn’t upset the drinks in her quite unsettled emotional state as she fled the Cactus Inn in unsettled haste, but all told, it was still a most excellent ball.

For Adrian

April 7, 2014

051For Adrian

Yet one more petal from the rose has fallen,

Yet One more strand from the silver chord is cut,

We are leaves scattered as the tree is shaken,

Once through that gate, the way forever is shut….


We blew into Arlington, Texas on a cold November wind with not much more than the clothes we were wearing. I went down to the high school and registered myself in for classes. You were the 1st person to reach out and befriend me. I found your photo online in the yearbook I was a contributing photographer to, but, at that time, too angry to purchase myself. I may have taken this photo, I do not remember. If I did not take it, I took one like it. You were my friend in my deepest darkest time, and for that I am forever grateful. You were also one of the last of my friends I saw before leaving Arlington. A candle in a deep and dark place shines quite brightly, and so you were for me. I have wondered many times how life went for you: Did you find peace? Did you find love and happiness? Did it go well for you? I searched for you online, and instead, found a notice of your death four years past, so I wrote 4 short lines for you.

Eternity’s hands have grabbed you and taken you beyond my futile reach; eternity and eternity’s Divine Maker. I pray that all is well with you, that your spirit rests well, fair maiden, dark haired girl, who thought to reach out to a lost and lonely boy.

Did you find peace? Did you find love and happiness? Did it go well for you?

Your friend,

Leon Miler

From 3 Cranes Fine Art Gallery, M. Colleen Gino Photography

March 6, 2014

M. Colleen Gino Photography

Photo by M. Colleen Gino

Photo by M. Colleen Gino

Two thirds of the way out on one of the spiral arms of the Milky Way, on the vague edge of that arm, there exists an inconsequential yellow star. Around that star rotates a tiny blue speck located at just the right distance to create the perfect conditions for stellar skies, sunrises, and sunsets. No more spectacular skies can be found on that blue speck than in New Mexico on which to create magical sunrises and sunsets. M Colleen Gino does a masterful job catching that transient light, framing the image so that the sky and the earth form parallel planes receding to the horizon. Colleen has given us a unique perspective on New Mexico skies;- skies that are like no other when they choose to display their high drama, with the clouds on their own plane between the earth and the sky, with the sun showing through like a fire on the edge of the world, casting crepuscular rays, or frosting the clouds with red and orange. The mountains are just part of the set’s backdrop for the play’s last act to be performed, sometimes forming the vanishing point where all things converge, and we are the audience, inhabitants of that miraculous little blue speck.


Lemitar, NM Sunset, Photo by M. Colleen Gino

Photo by M. Colleen Gino

Photo by M. Colleen Gino,

Photo by M. Colleen Gino

Photo by M. Colleen Gino










Cats. Who owns them? Independent, winsome, curious, stalking, lazy, bemused, but always independent, and captured in well crafted, sympathetic studies, neither understated, nor overstated.




M. Colleen Gino’s work can be found at 3 Cranes Fine Art Gallery, at 715 N. California St., Socorro, NM 87801 ph 575-835-3000 Email: website:

Photo by M. Colleen Gino

Old School House, Socorro, NM,Photo by M. Colleen Gino

Photo by M. Colleen Gino

Ebbetts Cafe, Magdalena, NM, Photo by M. Colleen Gino




A Rio Grande Story

January 4, 2014
Rio Grande Sunset
Rio Grande Sunset
I hear the cranes are flying ahead of the storms. Winter’s coming. The moon is high in the sky, like a half eaten cookie, and the stars are strewn like crumbs showing faintly through the moon cast light.
Who remembers spring?
The Rio Grande was flowing high and the catfish were swimming upstream to spawn, but who remembers? Who remembers the spring flowers that have turned to straw and rattle in the wind? The cottonwoods have turned yellow where the springs break out of the mountain, and the rushes too are turning to straw and will soon rattle in the wind beneath the waxing and waning moon. Who remembers all the promises, the smiles, the sweet, sweet words spoken under a warmer and gentler breeze?
Button your coat. The wind is restless in the pines tonight.
Swimming Upstream

Swimming Upstream


That the cottonwoods still stand
Overshadowing the bank.
That the catfish still swim upstream
In the spring to procreate,
That the willows still
Grow on the sometimes
Islands in the stream.
There where the datura grows
On the canal banks with their
Perfect white trumpets denying
There deadliness,
There where the sunflowers form
Congregations that bend their heads
To follow the sun,
There where the snowy egrets gather to muck in the mud…
That the warm hand of spring will brush
Your cheek once again.
The Flood at High Tide watercolor by A. Leon Miler

The Flood at High Tide watercolor by A. Leon Miler

When I was younger, I walked on the Oregon beach on a rainy, drizzling, chill, winter day. I found a dogfish all tangled up in seaweed just above where the waves were breaking on the sand. I don’t know what led to its demise. If the seagulls or the ravens did not get it, then the next tide did. The smell of the ocean and seaweed is quite a bit removed from the smell of cottonwoods on the banks of the Rio Grande, but I know the cold ocean waves still come in, still pull back, as certain as the fog horn blowing through the early morning mist like a warning in a dream, though it lies a thousand miles away. There are reefs lying under the rain and the waves, submerged beneath your closed eyes. Don’t run aground sleepwalking. Don’t let contrary currents undermine your footing and sweep you away before the gray morning arrives to sweep your dreams and slumber away.
A good, rational argument may tell you why, but it seldom wins your heart, while good art may, like a warm hug and embrace, win your heart, but leave you still wondering if the kisses were true. Don’t throw your shoe at the argument; no, make it prove that its love is true, let it artfully reach for your heart, while teasing the dust from the corners of your mind.
Lady of the Lake

Lady of the Lake

I’ve been told that the devil has said:
“I take men’s souls one at a time, I don’t need to do the apocalypse thing.”
You don’t dialog with the devil. There’s nothing, really, to talk about, there is no common ground, just a question of who’s getting title to your soul.
Arthur won his battles even at Mt. Badon, but in Mordred there was treachery and death. They say that a crane’s beak shrouded in mist resembles a sword being held up above the water by a white robed hand. Some throw their swords into the pool, some their spare change, but whether Lady Luck responds, or shows her hand, or merely waves you on to Avalon, or whether there is a mist shrouded crane daring you to be mystical about what you see is another matter. “But, let’s not go to Camelot, ’tis a silly place”, and beside all that, it’s not in New Mexico, so, no need, really, to go there.
Lady of the Lake

Lady of the Lake

 The Rio Grande runs through a rift valley, a torn piece of the continent caused by the east bank’s refusal to move at the same pace as the west side of the rift. This has done some violence to the surrounding geography. The mountain that shadows our house as the sun goes down, stands as the ruin of an ancient volcano, the eastern edge of a massive caldera. Above the far side of the valley lies the Quebradas, over which the morning sun rises, a sedimentary tilt of layered rock broken into ravines and arroyos, a sandstone paradise where ancient fossils live on in stone. The ocotillos grow there with their brilliant scarlet flowers, mesquite and yucca, various opuntia cacti and Apache plume, as do the junipers with liberal doses of desert grasses and desert flowers in season.
 The river begins its run in the mountains of Colorado, picking up snow water and red dirt as it goes south.  By the time it gets to us in Socorro, the rift valley is filled with several thousand feet of sediment. The river has done its job well, making a very good place for growing chiles and the things that make life worth living here. The river keeps on moving, a long, skinny avenue for the water heading south, eventually to the Gulf of Mexico. The river did not name itself, did not make a claim to the title of “the Grand River”. It’s not that pretentious. It’s just an avenue for things floating downstream and things swimming upstream, a place from which cottonwoods can drink, an avenue for fish and turtles, a resting place for the cranes in the winter, a refuge for deer and wild turkeys.
In the spring, we gather our jackets, our lanterns, our fishing poles, toss them in the back of the pickup and go on down to the river, turning where the blacktop ends onto the gravel and dirt canal road. There we pick our spot between the cottonwoods, light our lanterns, and cast out into the darkness and silence, into the sound of water moving, gurgling, sloshing, but, always moving. The bait hits the water with a plop, out beyond where the light reaches, swings with the current and drifts into the deep spot up against the bank downstream from where we sit and wait in silence.
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