Parallel Paths: Connecting With the Source

Fabienne Verdier painting

Fabienne Verdier painting

I’m continually inspired by Fabienne Verdier’s art; there’s a large section of her work on my calligraphy art & materials board on Pinterest. She studied for ten years with an old master in China and creates marvelous calligraphic large paintings with huge brushes. Like me, she wants her work to energize, uplift, and give people a glimpse of the unboundedness that is hidden inside us:

“I read a lot of Chinese poetry and philosophy, and about how the human being and the universe is one. I love that idea. So I learned that there is another form of expression. It’s not about expressing our neuroses in art. I think that in art we should offer the public a new melody. I really want to offer the public a sort of great inner experience and to help them re-energise.”

My own process is meditation-based. I’ve been meditating for over 45 years and making art for forty, so my work get infused with it. Consciousness, inner silence, is the source of my art that allows it to flow. Fabienne Verdier says:

“It’s a long, long meditation. The resulting abstract painting is spontaneous, but this spontaneity is not just gestural. It’s issued from another process. And this process comes from Chinese thought.”

creativity taoism chinese philosophy art poetry

One of my favorite books of all time was given to me by another artist in the late 1970s, Creativity and Taoism: A Study of Chinese Philosophy, Art and Poetry by Chung-yuan Chang. It expresses through Chinese thought what I had been experiencing in meditation and in my own art. I highly recommend reading this beautiful, inspirational book.

Sherri Silverman

Excerpts from interview with Fabienne Verdier by Jesse, “Fabienne Verdier’s Geography of the Spirit,” . January 31, 2013. For more of her art, see and my Pinterest board.

Hanging Out with Other Artists Is the Best!

2017 Headlands lava thomas studio visit copy.jpg

October 2017 visit to my friend Lava Thomas’s studio at the Headlands Center for the Arts in the Marin Headlands during Open Studios.

A very happy occasion! Having a lovely conversation with Lava, artist Erica Deeman, and art critic Charles Desmarais, probably about Lava’s extraordinary artwork. Photo: Lava Thomas, from her Instagram account @lavathomas.

Art & the Mystery That Underlies Everything

“Art evokes the mystery without which the world would not exist.” Rene Magritte

Y E S ! It’s that mystery that underlies everything in this world and all of my artwork. I love finding quotations like this one from the great Magritte. I loved the 2018 show of his work that was at the San Francisco MOMA. Sherri Silverman

Sherri Silverman in the interactive section of SFMOMA’s Magritte exhibit, 2018.

Sherri Silverman in the interactive section of SFMOMA’s Magritte exhibit, 2018.

Early Memories of Art-Making, Childhood & Beyond

I was in my studio the other day, thinking about my early memories of making art. One of my earliest memories, mentioned in my art bio, is of wanting people to see my paintings in the back of my closet when I was a few years old. Here are some more of these memories.

After my family moved to Jacksonville, FL, I remember making little pots out of clay I dug up somewhere in the neighborhood. I buried them in a sandy slope that got a lot of sun to "fire" them a bit. 

I remember making a bow and arrow out of tree branches I found on a wild, vacant lot on the St. Johns River. Playing in nature, making things from what I found there, was my solace and hideaway.

In my Art Bio I also mention that a classmate talked about how I bore down hard with my red crayon when I was five. I remember using that red crayon for a black line drawing of a rose that the teacher gave us to color.  

I remember creating a drawing of a sapling tree in elementary school. It was displayed at the school system's administration building and then went into one of my mom's drawers and disappeared. 

I remember making ceramic ashtrays in our one semester of art in seventh grade. I wanted to keep mine, but they were all sent to a hospital for patients to use! My teacher apologized to me, since she knew I wanted to keep mine.

I remember making line drawings with black ink on notecards and coloring them with frosted pink nail polish.

I remember doing a lot of doodling in junior high school since classes moved at such a slow pace and bored me. Too bad they didn't have accelerated academics and studio art classes for the “smart” kids. We weren't given art classes, and there were no AP classes. When I was in senior high school, I got another six weeks on art in my humanities course.

When I was first in grad school in 1971/72,  I remember covering a large corrugated cardboard box with a collage of colored paper, turning it into a piece of furniture for my apartment. 

None of these artworks still exist, and there are no photos of them. All that’s left are these memories, but their basic impetus has become my career and vocation, in spite of its not being supported until I took charge of its direction in the late 1970s and began making and showing my artwork.

Sherri Silverman


Brancusi on Abstraction and Essence

Constantin Brancusi studio

Constantin Brancusi studio

"They are imbeciles who call my work abstract.
That which they call abstract is the most realistic,
because what is real is not the exterior but the idea,
the essence of things."
Constantin Brancusi

I spotted a similar quotation from Jerzy Kosinksi on artist Carin Gerard’s Instagram account, @carin_gerard_art: “The principle of true art is not to portray but to evoke.”

So wonderful finding quotations like this that are in alignment with my own approach! Another reason I enjoy Instagram. This is so very Asian in approach—-the essence, the feeling of something, its energy—- not a photographic depiction of its exterior appearance.

Sherri Silverman

Materials Focus: Metallic Leafing, Gold Sumi Ink

I love using sumi ink and metallic art media in general. So when I saw an artist colleague @jimitick on Instagram, who specializes in sumi ink enso drawings, using gold sumi ink on some of his posted images, I asked him about it. He kindly shared his source, and it's a wonderful ink: Now that's part of my metallic repertoire, along with dry pigments, oilsticks, watercolor, gouache, metal leaf, and glitterglue tubes. 

Almost everything metallic in my studio's supplies except my oilsticks, which are really messy.

Almost everything metallic in my studio's supplies except my oilsticks, which are really messy.

I've been using metallic leaf with Japanese Nihonga techniques but need more practice. I also want to explore other leafing/gilding techniques. Recently I learned a new technique for applying metal leaf from Solange Roberdeau at ink.paper.plate in Point Reyes Station out in West Marin here in northern California. I loved that she learned this technique from Robert Kushner while working for him--and that he suggested she teach these workshops. She now teaches this course all over including in my old home Santa Fe June 13; register online. Contact her on Facebook or Instagram for other locations and dates. Solange took this photo of us working on our art pieces in her Contemporary Gilding class.

That's me intently working away on the far right. Photo: Solange Roberdeau.

That's me intently working away on the far right. Photo: Solange Roberdeau.

Here's what I made that day: 

Acrylic, copper leaf, and embroidery stitching on cardstock. Sherri Silverman. 2018.

Acrylic, copper leaf, and embroidery stitching on cardstock. Sherri Silverman. 2018.

Two Flowers, Two Stripes. Acrylic, copper leaf, pencil, and mica powder on cardstock. Sherri Silverman. 2018.

Two Flowers, Two Stripes. Acrylic, copper leaf, pencil, and mica powder on cardstock. Sherri Silverman. 2018.

Ideas about Plants and Art: Azuma Makoto and the Japanese Approach

Still image from one of Azuma Makoto’s spectacular flower videos.

Still image from one of Azuma Makoto’s spectacular flower videos.

"Japanese people believe gods exist everywhere in nature, so we approach it with awe and reverence."

"When I confront plants, instead of looking at their color and form, I try to listen." 

Azuma Makoto in Architectural Digest


I love finding verification of my attraction to Asian ways of perceiving and creating in quotations like this one from the amazing flower artist Azuma Makoto! Such beautiful expressions. Art as essence and honoring. The divine is everywhere.
Sherri Silverman

 Image from @azumamakoto Instagram. Quotations found in an article. See also


Foxglove, The Secret Lives of Color, The Metropolitan Museum, & Plant Pigments

artist blog color foxglove china planty pigment tree

One of the things I did during my recent artist residency was to read some art books, including Kassia St. Clair's The Secret Lives of Color. I enjoyed it and think other artists would too. It's full of anecdotes and stories about various colors--- an easy book to read in little bits, since it's organized by colors. The best part for me was finding out about foxglove as a pigment. Back in June 2015, I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art's "China: Through the Looking Glass"  exhibit with artist friends, right after taking a course on Japanese traditional use of natural materials for art. Some of the early Buddhist sculpture had "traces of foxglove pigment," according to the explanatory tags. None of us knew what that would entail or even what color it was. There was nothing at the Met or that I could find online that explained what part of the foxglove plant or flower was used or what color it was. I was happy to find out more in this book. Apparently foxglove roots are used for dye; the book mentions it was used to dye for Chinese Imperial garments, which were yellow:

The key ingredient was the Rehmannia glutinosa, or Chinese foxglove, a plant with trumpet-shaped flowers and roots that look like elongated golden beetroot. To achieve the precise color desired, the tubers were harvested at the end of the eighth lunar month, and then pounded by hand into a smooth paste.
— St. Clair, Kassia. The Secret Lives of Color. New York: Penguin Books, 2017. p. 85.
Bodhisattva. Northern Song (960–1127)–Jin (1115–1234) dynasty. 11th–12th century China. Wood (foxglove) with traces of pigment and gilding; single woodblock construction. Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Bodhisattva. Northern Song (960–1127)–Jin (1115–1234) dynasty. 11th–12th century China. Wood (foxglove) with traces of pigment and gilding; single woodblock construction. Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Was foxglove pigment on the sculpture a similar color? I'm still wondering about that and hope to find more information on it, since I'm particularly interested in researching and using natural pigments and materials in my own art studio. Perhaps I'll have more luck researching that in some of the new books and online resources for natural dyeing of clothes. 

I did one more online search and found information that somehow only was there now but not before when I tried to access it. Today the Met's website says that the sculptures were actually carved from foxglove-tree wood, an entirely different species than the garden flower. Paulownia tomentosa is a deciduous tree native to China that was used to carve sculpture in China and musical instruments in Japan and Korea, according to Wikipedia. This makes sense, although I still remember the labels at the Met mentioning traces of foxglove pigment, not that it was carved from foxglove-tree wood. So the mystery continues.

plant watercolor pigments made from weeds. Sherri Silverman.

plant watercolor pigments made from weeds. Sherri Silverman.

I love trees, plants, gardening, and nature, and have explored natural pigments for a few years, beginning formally with my taking the Nihonga workshop in 2015. In August 2016, I took a one-day "Invasive Pigments" workshop with artist Ellie Irons at Headlands Center for the Arts in Marin on creating watercolor pigments from plants. Here's my test palette from that brief dip into the hues taken from nature. 

I still don't know whether the foxglove flowers or other parts of the foxglove plant make paint, but I feel closer to finding out. 


Photo © Sherri Silverman. Healdsburg SHED, Healdsburg, CA.

Photo © Sherri Silverman. Healdsburg SHED, Healdsburg, CA.

Flowers make me happy and appear in some of my paintings and photography. Looking at beautiful things like flowers feels healing to my eyes and heart.

These are mostly ranunculus flowers with a single white calla lily at the Healdsburg Shed yesterday. So much vibrant beauty nourishment.

Had a lovely lunch outside from their larder takeout and also found in their shop area a wound healing salve I’d searched for with helichrysum. Wandered around a gallery, gardens, and a residential street. Artist date with myself, relaxing and gathering inspiration. Just noticed Healdsburg begins with “heal.”  Sherri Silverman

the effect of making good art! inspiration from paul klee

Fish Magic. Paul Klee. Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Fish Magic. Paul Klee. Philadelphia Museum of Art.

"Someone who lived beneath him used sometimes to hear a strange, phantomatic pit-apat from Klee’s studio above. Meeting Klee in the corridor, he asked if he had noticed it. 'So you heard it?”' said Klee. 'I’m terribly sorry. I was painting away, and it was going very well, suddenly I couldn’t help dancing.'” Paul Klee (quoted by John Russell in the New York Times ages ago)

….probably from creating a magical painting like this one, Fish Magic, 1925.

creativity is joyous: inspiration from alice walker

alice walker emory poet

"It’s really ecstatic. I just feel such joy that I feel transparent; and if there is a time when it’s a struggle, I have learned by now that you just stop and do something else, and if it never comes back, whatever the thought was, let it go...something else will come. It seems to me that creativity, creation itself, is joyous, and if it’s not really, you’re up the wrong creek."

Alice Walker

I love that inspirational author Alice Walker donated her archives to my alma mater Emory University’s library, where I spent hundreds of hours during college. I quote her frequently, including in my dissertation on the arts.
Sherri Silverman

healing & transformation through art: inspiration from audrey flack

art soul creating audrey flack

"I believe in the energy of art, and... the artist’s ability to transform his or her life, and by example, the lives of others. I believe that through our art and through the projection of transcendent imagery, we can mend and heal the planet." Audrey Flack

Yes! Art is a technique for enlightenment and healing for the artist and the viewer. This is part of the transcendental purpose of art. Sherri Silverman

Highly recommended book that I’ve kept in my art studio library for decades, Audrey Flack’s Art & Soul: Notes on Creating. An inspirational gem. Get your own copy here.

function of art: inspiration from joseph campbell

joseph campbell art function purpose

"Beyond all these manifestations is the one radiance, which shines through all things. The function of art is to reveal this radiance through the created object." Joseph Campbell

This is definitely a part of my own philosophy of art and included in my doctoral dissertation on the transcendental purpose of art to enlighten the artist and the viewer.

I was fortunate to have two opportunities to study with Joseph Campbell in the 1980s, including personal conversations that have stayed with me. Joe later appeared in some of my dreams. A marvelous man who made significant contributions during his time on the planet.

Sherri Silverman