Girl with Cat Ears

girl with cat ears (2)
“Girl with Cat Ears.” Digital. Jean Vengua.

California Coast

I heard from a friend via Facebook¬† (who I hadn’t seen for decades) that my poem, “California Coast,” (under my old name, and written in the 1990s) was blown up and posted on a wall in the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History (Santa Cruz MAH), along with a translation. It was part of Tom Killion’s exhibit for his book, California’s Wild Edge, which included my poem.

Hmm, did I really use the word “amongst” on that first line? Maybe I’ll have to make a revision. ūüėȬ†I’ll have to get down there soon and take a look!

Photo by Ed Jameyson, 2018.

Update: I did stop by, and indeed, there was the poem, and a couple visitors sitting in front of it, reading. Anyway, it was quite a surprise, and I kind of wish I had known beforehand, but no one told me they were going to use the poem in this way. Nevertheless, I was honored to share walls with poets Gary Snyder, Jane Hirschfield, and Jack Spicer, not to mention Tom Killion’s beautiful woodcut prints of California’s wild landscape.

CA Coast





“Trinidad.” #digital #painting

I like painting with traditional materials: paint (acrylics or oils) on canvas, paper, or wood. But I’ve been painting in digital with a tablet for about a year, now (mostly for personal design projects), and have come to enjoy it. I haven’t had any formal training in the use of digital tools, and no doubt I have much more to learn.

I started a painting a portrait of my mother, Trinidad, using using acrylics and collage on canvas, but I wasn’t happy with it. Several years later, I decided to re-do it digitally, keeping the collage parts exposed, and this is what I came up with:

Trinidad- sm_JVengua
“Trinidad.” Digital painting by Jean Vengua

My mother was a Manila Carnival Queen once upon a time (pre-WWII). The annual Manila carnivals were more like fiestas. My mother loved gardening and sewing, so I added in some tropical foliage, and made her staff into a big sewing needle; upon reflection, I realized this made her look a bit like one of Mary Norton’s “Borrowers” (as a child, The Borrowers was one of my favorite book series).


Amy Sherald’s Portrait of Michelle Obama


Portion of Amy Sherald’s portrait of Michelle Obama (from St. Felix,
The Rabbit in the Hat
“The Rabbit in the Hat” by Amy Sherald

Check out this article in Hyperallergic¬†by Chiquita Paschal on how people are feeling about Amy Sherald’s portrait of Michelle Obama. And — before committing any judgment of the portrait to Twitter or Facebook, you might want to take a look at Amy Sherald’s website and the many portraits that are on view there. Personally I love the simplicity of the portraits for their up-front and simple design, bold colors and lines, and lack of nostalgic markers and other social cues that shout out “black culture” or history. Each portrait is unapologetic and straightforward; yet somehow they also retain a little mystery, keeping a sense of individual dignity, even though a few of the subjects are doing things that may appear transgressive to some viewers.

“Madame Noire” by Amy Sherald.


Although there have been complaints that Sherald’s portrait of Michelle Obama doesn’t capture the exact likeness, I did recognize it as immediately her — though not exactly¬†the same likeness as her photo images or videos. But that’s not the point, really. The portrait of Barack Obama doesn’t look exactly like him, either. Each artist leaves their imprint in the sense that we view the subject, more or less, through the lens of the artist’s eyes — and this is as much about the artist as it is about the subject, no?

After looking at the other portraits in Sherald’s website, I think what strikes me most about the portrait of Michelle is that she, like the other subjects of Sherald’s portraits does not seem particularly elevated just because of her station in life. She’s wearing a beautiful dress, yes, and she looks lovely, but in an everyday way; she is one of us — as portrayed by the artist.

We live in a world where it’s way too easy to pass judgment summarily on social networking platforms. An opportunity like this can be used to enter a discussion about art from many points of view. As writer Paschal notes, “the artist deserves, if nothing else, a thoughtful response.”






Journey to Elwah #painting

Journey to Elwah_2-3-2018_8x8 inches_JVengua (2) - Copy
Journey to Elwah 2/3/2018

“Journey to Elwah” is a new small painting: acrylics and ink on Khadi paper. This began as an old painting that I wasn’t happy with. So I got out the printing roller, and rolled some white acrylic over parts of it, then worked over that with some shapes and colors in acrylics. There was no sense of creating content, but after finishing it, I was reminded of the Elwah river in N. Washington state, and my desire to visit it one day. I’m fascinated by dam removal projects (mostly because I love seeing river systems come to life again), and watched online the undamming of the Elwah¬†with interest. One day, I’d love to visit the Elwah river and the rivermouth near Port Angeles. I’ll certainly bring some drawing and painting tools with me!



#Asemic writing & art

Back in the late 1980s I was doing some small asemic explorations on paper. The piece below includes marks that suggest a frame containing an abstract mark of some sort. Beneath it is a caption that contains writing, but no content:

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Asemic caption. 1980s.

At that time, I was experimenting with gestural writing as art, influenced partly by Japanese calligraphy (and I had also been a calligrapher) and artist Mark Tobey’s meditative “white writing.” I¬† hadn’t heard of any term to describe it. In 1997, “asemic” was coined by Jim Leftwich and Tim Gaze (I love their last names) to describe open-form writing that presumably has no semantic content. Later, the idea of it having no semantic content seems to have been revised; all acts of “writing,” no matter how “contentless,” seem to have at least some potential meaning. Sometimes the word¬†pansemic is now used.

Cricket haptic (drawn to sound of crickets). By Jean Vengua

A few years ago, I started making “haptic” art, which looks similar to asemics, but is more open in form and responsive or empathic to the environment and to its subjects. (See my haptic page in the menu/sidebar). On the other hand, there’s a slightly more discrete sensibility about asemics; like haptics, it’s gestural, maybe also empathic; but it gestures toward the act of writing and language.

I’ve started doing asemics again, and have added some to my new work for 2018.¬† Here are a couple new pieces:

Asemic 2-4-2018_12x12 inches_Jean Vengua

Asemic 2/4/2018

I Begin the Tale.12 x 12 1-17-2018
Asemic (I begin the tale) 1-17-2018

I’m looking forward to exploring asemics again, as well as the connections between asemics and haptics and their relation to writing and visual art.




Staging Art in #WallApp

I’m at a cafe today, escaping from the jackhammers and the dust of street repaving nearby. So while sipping my green tea latte I discovered OhMyPrints’ WallApp, which is used for staging art in virtual rooms. And hey, it’s free. So I’ve been having fun placing some of my art in rooms that have a simple, modern feel.

“Labor Day” (digital print).

Although my digital images can be blown up to larger sizes, most of my paintings have been fairly small. So it’s interesting to see how some of the smaller pieces would hold up when staged virtually as larger images.

Bull Market

“Bull Market,” a painting on paper, is only 25 x 25.5 inches. This image is blown up, and I think the boldness of the dark and light spaces work in a larger size. So this is making me think, yes — I could work larger, especially since a lot of my work is bold.

The Trickster Returns (Amanita Maki)

The actual size of “The Trickster Returns (Amanita Maki) is 20 x 16 x 3/4 inches.

Black Leaves

“Black Leaves” is tiny! Only 8.5 x 8.5 inches. But it’s fun to play with the sizing in WallApp. It’s helping me to revisualize my art and think about how the size of my works relate to areas in which they might be placed.



I’m here…somehow

I managed to put this site together today, despite some of the worst hayfever I’ve had in awhile — thanks to the City’s construction project to tear up Larkin St., just a few yards away from my house. And I mean tear it up — digging a huge trench down the whole street, and sucking gravel and dust up into some nameless monster of a machine, and shooting it out again into a truck, and also into the air for me to breathe. They started at 6:30 this morning, with a jackhammer, and it’s now continuing into the night. Oh, well, it’s for a good cause, repairing the streets…

Still, still…somehow I managed to do this (and worked today, too). And now maybe I’ll get some painting done. Or some writing. Or maybe I’ll get some sleep. That sounds good.

…and suddenly it’s quieter out there. I hope they’ve knocked off for the night.






Not yet, but…

Forecast 12-26-2017_small_JVengua

I still haven’t shifted my art stuff to this site, but I think I’ll begin in small steps, beginning today. The painting above (ink on Arches paper, 24 x 22.5 inches) is titled “Forecast,” which seems appropriate. So, expect the next few weeks to look like any move from one house to another — boxes piled up; trying out different #wordpress themes, design changes, etc. You may even see a different layout every day or so — I can never decide just by reading and looking; I have to try things out. I may even go back to a blog front page instead of a static front page. We’ll see…




Seriously thinking about upgrading and redesigning this site, and shifting all my art stuff from OkirAnalog to over here. LocalNomad can still focus on mostly poetry. But I think three domains is my limit, for cryin’ out loud. If I could shift it to two, I would.