Where text meets image. Where the visual intersects the literary. Often posting 1st drafts and editing in (almost) real time.

Category: painting

Mostly Working in Silence

I spent ten months, mostly working in silence, creating this painting (& drawing) on a long roll of inviting, warm paper and felt how it used me as a channel. While writing the artist statement (below) I encompassed multiple perspectives concerning the work, probably with a focus on how and why. This material is from a pdf I assembled to promote the work.

As this mystery in blue appears beneath my fingertips my planning designs go up in smoke. The hypnopompic stage of waking illumines the space behind my forehead with images and textures. I begin working sessions with these. Or I simply wake after three hours sleep and begin where I stopped.

I name the painting Druidica. Then Druidica Blue. Then Druidica Blue: Deja Vu. And finally Druidica Blue: Deja Vu (Cave Art for the New Psyche).

In this landscape of the psyche I unearth longing: A quest for the unknown where I imagine belonging. Dripping, staining & flicking the brush I depict shadows cascading across the cave wall. I tumble influences: Prehistory tumbles into the Celtic tumbling into the Medieval tumbling into Modernism of the early 20th Century. I situate myself in art history addressing postmodern amnesia. I re-imagine now.

My journey to this point begins with a shattered ankle. Following surgery I draw page after page of two-dimensional spirals morphing into three-dimensional forms. I investigate spiral symbolism and discover a prehistoric language chiseled into stone. I discover: Newgrange on the River Boyne; Rudolf Steiner’s mystic-trance history of Hibernia (ancient Ireland); Three Cauldrons of Poesy transcribed in the Middle Ages, reportedly of Druidic origin now in Trinity College, Dublin; Joseph Beuys with healing language performing Three Pots for the Poorhouse inside an abandoned Edinburgh poorhouse; Sinead O’Connor singing her incisively poignant Famine. It occurs to me this painting joins the 21st Century to an older type of consciousness.

I begin the 35′ (width) X 5′ (height) painting by dividing sections to be completed one by one. After establishing a pattern I lose control and frame the spontaneous narrative in a more nebulous manner. The painting is flowing the same yet not the same. Perhaps mirroring the work of the psyche. One enters at any chosen spot engaging re-imagined folklore, symbolism, magic and iconography. I work using the blues of art history: Giotto, El Greco, Chagall and Picasso leave their calling card. I kneel to blot standing suddenly writing the poetic phrases I hear, arriving from an unknown place.

Out of some great forgetfulness came this blue sandstorm. In remembering the ancestral I multiply shades of blue. I hear chanting in the echoes.

I relate the process of this artwork to projects I have previously created. In creating cinematic poetry videos I worked (with the editor) to compose performers & surroundings in tandem, in motion, defining the wide screen. The one hundred and twenty B&W linocuts I carve and print for my ‘wordless poem’ Never More Together jangle in unison, though pages apart, connected like cars in a train. I exhibit three Moleskin accordion sketchbooks twenty-one feet in length. On a white wall intricate ink drawings unfold across pages revealing thematic and kinetic relationships. A later series of paintings on canvas makes me wish for the emotional & receptive texture of paper.

I read a magical quest poem, The Song of Wandering Aengus by William Butler Yeats. I rewind videos of the River Glyde in County Louth. I follow ancestral footprints down to the river, set sail for the new world and arrive (as Irish Wonder Tales often begin) A long time ago…I sponge Prussian blue, cerulean blue & ultramarine blue into a receptive & emotional texture until the sea-sponge runs dry. I infuse the blues of art history with a dream of the ancestors. I work a thin brush with round-tipped hairs – texturing the Gaelic mermaid wearing a halo who rises in time outside of time, holding a seashell, vibrating the monumental and mythic. Steeped in lore.

Mirrored images create a jazzy yet alchemical rhythm. I play with the Celtic propensity for seeing in doubles. In visible and not-so-visible relationships. An oracular raven divining portents – a Celtic warrier wounded by an arrow to the heart – a figure aiming a divining rod into the blueness & a herald sounding the (Irish war-horn) carnyx – in nearby spaces one discovers their mirrored doubles. Birds navigate the oracular weightlessness of air.

Energies flash between life forms at the molecular and heroic level. Also in my painting you evidently can get milk from a stone. The dolmen’s udder nourishes the Druid. Metaphorical mysteries nourish the audience. The molecular and heroic awaken the unknown. The painting addresses postmodern amnesia with signs, sigils, and symbols.

I read of who Taliesin might have been and then The Salmon of Knowledge. Water-soluble graphite releases a quivery chiaroscuro of premonition. I paint and draw both freely and controlled, both somber and subversively zany. Ancestors dye their skin blue with plant ink. I rinse my hands.

I squeeze tube after tube of Windsor & Newton white gouache dry. I work with gouache, inks, watercolours (in tubes, pan & pencil), aquapasto medium, graphite crayons & pencils, archival drawing pens, some acrylic, some candle wax. I discover baby food jars of blue & white pigment from a long-ago egg tempera painting class.

A channel forges its way into me causing me to dream this dream. I discover the roll of paper is longer than expected. I continue kneeling. It is finished. After ten months I am exhausted. I have translated my longing.

I envision this work, framed & illumined, welcoming an audience. For inquiries visit here & scroll down to my email.

@ The Redwood Theatre, Toronto. Like unscrolling the forest one lives in, seeing it for the first time.

I don’t know if I mentioned instinctive & expressive brushwork building the composition.


The great ship going down

Heaving like a lost city,

No water anywhere

No voice like an echo calling, 

Swim to the heart of symbols carved long ago,

You know you never will

(In your heart)

Never swim 

To the heart of symbols carved long ago.

TV on a throne

The great ship going down 

Heaving like a lost city,

No place to swim

No place to dream

No voice

Like an echo calling,

Swim to the heart of symbols carved long ago. 

In your heart you echo 

The heart carved long ago,

You kneel in disbelief 

TV on a throne.

No place to dream

No echo, calling like a voice,

Swim to the heart of symbols carved long ago,

You kneel in disbelief

The great ship going down.

An echo like a voice,


And you will not

You will never

In your heart, still and quiet,


To the heart of symbols carved long ago.

A place to swim

A place to dream

A place to reappear.

A place to cast aside demons

Far from the killing fields.

Voice like an echo 

Echo like a voice

No water anywhere

The great ship going down

Heaving like a lost city

Heaving like a ziggurat on the plains beneath the flood.

A place to swim

A place to dream

A place to reappear.

Swim into the heart of symbols carved long ago

Breaststroke upon tidal waves, push barrels of cinnamon sheaves

Buoyant amulets crest a tidal wave

Pages of an unbound book

Unbind slow-motion,

The sigil of a sun-god

No water anywhere

No clocks no grasshoppers no sky 

No echo like a voice 

No echo like a spinal column

The great ship going down

Heaving like a lost city

On the plains beneath the flood.

A place to swim

A place to dream

A place to reappear,

Mirrored in reflection,

In your heart you reappear 

On the plains beneath the flood

Breaststroke like a ziggurat

Curving like a spinal column

Sigil of a sun-god.

Voice like an echo

Echo like a voice.

Voice like an echo

Echo like a voice.

Imagine a Word

Imagine a word in the yellow garden of the angel-faery

imagine the word mirabilia

mirabilia opens a curtain revealing a portal

angel-faery imagines me ~ I imagine mirabilia

not three not two not one not me disappearing

into a collapsed perimeter ~ I imagine an angel-faery

in the yellow garden you memorize mirabilia

three eyes aimed upon a stem three eyes upon a flower

memory cascading sounding the word mirabilia

in the yellow garden yellow-ish flowers whisper

in the luminous yellow garden angel-faery whispers

angel-faery touches my eyelid to the flower of her vision

in blue soil I ring like a bell

the keyhole shaped like an ancient symbol

the flower of mirabilia touches your blue soil

darkness like a keyhole beckons the echo of my vision

into the garden of the angel-faery memory cascading

mirabilia penetrates a keyhole beyond the collapsed perimeter

who what where when why

not three not two not one not you

disappearing within the collapsed perimeter.

ink brushwork, printmaking, digital collage s mccabe

Not the plan

The plan yesterday did not include making these. However…

Water-soluble graphite crayon & acrylic paint on tracing paper

+ water-soluble oil paint on cardboard

= collage,

each collage 9″ X 12″ – I will fold these, later, maybe after more collage

into an ongoing visual art ‘book’ project.

Distressed cardboard – scored and scraped while the paint is wet. I see a shape to develop.

Alchemy Begins in the Rain

I stand in the rain

(alchemy begins)

curving like a river

(sparkling like radioactive particles)

loosening dried flecks of ink.

Swallow and

(flow through the manuscript factory)

curvilinear like a small and large intestine

sweeping & twisting

on television.

Experts prove it never happened

dance the paper airplane dance

launch-jab pantomime

surround a plaster statue

launch-jab pantomime.

Julius Caesar

spies a peacock bobbing his moon-of-Jupiter head

spitting ‘Vox clamantis in deserto

the conspiracy unfolds.’

A small and large intestine swallows the light of the sun

I dance myself into a golden egg.

Expressive Encounter

I worked on the back porch early

drinking black coffee

like in a trance

creating expressive black & white works on paper

I thought of as ‘cave art.’

As the rising sun created light and heat

Denisovans climbed the back stairs

to the porch.

Denisovans stood watching me

in a dark and cool room.

I pointed outside the window

they touched their skin.

It could have been

this is…synchronicity

This is a painted mask.

This is also a painted mask.

This is a complimentary cookie in a wax paper bag stapled to a brown paper bag.

I posted a few days ago about the cow in the time machine

a few minutes later

I sat outside a cafe on a bench waiting for take-out food.

I read about a cow in the book I grabbed on the way out

then again on the previous page

then I looked to see the title of the chapter.

This is…synchronicity.


The thing about working on paper is that one touches-feeling the otherworldly textures of this very world. A reminder of the gift, the circle, one has been given.

One can imagine glimmers of this very world.

As tree roots signal compassion & nurture while snaking out and spiralling into the secret dark soil. As their compassion reverberates like ripples in water.

As a forest of vertical bodies reach skyward. As they etch circular rings in their wooden hearts. As they record circles in orbit around the sun. A living symbol of experience. The experience of this earth.

The thing about working on paper is that one performs mark-making enveloped within sacred heaving breath. As delicate breath-shadows dance beneath sunlight falling like holograms. Like a ballet. The story of archetypal tree as mother. How easy to forget.

As paper absorbs watery emotions, even eyesight – like daylight, starlight or candlelight, received intuitively. Quietly the visceral eclipse. How easy to forget.

One can imagine the tree like an iceberg with secret rooms. Multi-dimensional and unknown. Concealed.

Offering utilitarian circle & body. Of this very world. Like an animal. Like sky. Like an eye. One does not forget. As this very world does not forget. As the animal, sky, and eye do not forget.

Bird Vision, a painting on textured watercolour paper

Grey Concrete Sidewalk

I finished four deadlines yesterday I began in February when I finished my 33′ X 5′ painting on paper. Now I can do something about promoting this painting.

final section, Druidica, 2022, Steven McCabe, 33′ X 5′ – mixed media on paper

The amount of work I have done in the last year makes me feel half my age.

I remember when I used to work in schools.

I went for a walk after the rain. Garbage washes over the street in familiar colours.

I see a painting in the tiny art gallery window but when I photograph it clouds appear.

Is this a store security camera monitor? I would splice the discarded ‘evidence’ into an art film.

The Classic Candy Store sponsored a free giveaway of Moirs chocolate at the local (it has been resurrected) theatre in 1927. One day my shadow will vanish forever like a chocolate company.

December 5th, 1927
December 5,1927

I used a Sharpie marker in my sketchbook on the subway. The lady in white does not see me. I only see her in the photograph.

I only notice the Celtic manuscript in front of the drugstore parking lot when it begins to fade.

In the elevator at the medical clinic a Taj Mahal-like shape eats away at the cheap paneling.

Now I can do something about promoting this painting.

detail- Druidica, 2022, Steven McCabe, 33′ X 5′ – mixed media on paper