Blue Door, Chicago, IL

June 3: Colette's house is nice -- rather elegant and fairly quiet, with flowers outside and a metal balcony made by Adrian, my host in Decorah.

As in San Francisco, the surroundings stimulate a lot of good sketching, but I'm having trouble settling into the painting. In a big city, there's the desperation of trying to decide among endless competing choices; it's harder to find scenes that seem to embody the broader experience.

June 4: I've grown more comfortable calling myself an "artist," just as I've grown more comfortable calling that great spirit thing, that mysterious ground of being, "God" -- and yet it still feels like a pretension, a distortion. "Artist" is a loaded word carrying lots of associations and so on, only some of which help people to understand what I'm really trying to do. It's a handy label, though; it makes acceptable a lot of behavior that might otherwise be hard to explain; it shifts the lens through which you're regarded by society. For this project, at any rate, the art is largely a pretext for something more complex I feel compelled to explore. Yet I guess the art is also an integral and probably essential part of the exploration.