Wednesday, June 6, 2018

The River in Between

                                                The River in Between oil on canvas 50x36

 This is the third painting of these trees but finally at the scale the scene deserved. There was grandeur on the golf course that day, the fog bringing to this copse of trees an unexpected nobility. I was on one side of the Tualatin River, and they with the sportsmen were across.
It was November 4, 2016. The world would be radically threatened in four days, but this moody morning was a joy.

                                               The Flooded Trail watercolor on paper 12x9

                                           The Flooded Trail 2 watermedia on Yupo 14x11

 What do we do with so much green?
I went into the Columbia River Gorge recently to paint. It was my first visit since the catastrophic fires of the past autumn. From the interstate, I was relieved to find limited evidence though I knew it was extensive just beyond my sight line. My friend Mitch wanted to show me some island like peninsulas he had discovered earlier. The day was warm and clear and we were excited to paint. Not too far in we found the trail flooded. The Columbia was at its peak spring flow and there were many trees in standing water. Looked good to me so we sat up at the edge of the new stream, a wet tunnel through a solid green wall of vegetation. Every summer presents this same dilemma, how to make a monochrome landscape interesting? As you can see, I tackle this by adding other colors and focusing more on texture. Accuracy doesn`t matter to me but an emotional response does. Sitting in the shade with that water rippling toward me, and loving the breeze, I was happy. Later Mitch wanted to show me the views that had inspired this little road trip so we put up our gear and walked the other way around until the 'islands' came into view. They were lovely;

 We will return.
Two days later on a visit to John`s parents, we detoured to Minto Brown Island first. I had never seen it in summer so of course I expected the green. It may have just as well been Brazil. Nearly every view of the sloughs was blocked by this sort of obstacle;

 Without a machete, I chose instead to just enjoy the air. It didn`t disappoint. All of those plants were at the apex of their cycle and the smell was rich and healthy.

Below is how three of my heroes painted the summer green;

 Here Vincent Van Gogh seems trapped by the green, just like thousands of other plein air painters since. Texture was always something he excelled at so it predominates.

 He manages better here by letting the green be green.

 Now he`s finally where he can breathe again and vows not to paint the forest anymore. This gentle rolling scene is where his gift really shines.

 Gustave Klimt just totally surrenders and gives us one of the freshest, most interesting statements on green ever.

 There are more emerald shades and tints in this one and their effect is one of peace. Klimt gives us a sublime summer day to swim in.

 Gerhard Richter merely hints at green yet gives us an abstract landscape teaming growth and fertility.

Here the dense garden doesn`t even need color to suggest vitality. He probably painted it with his big toe. As all living painters know, Richter can do anything. And much better than you! It`s an old cliche to say he is the world`s greatest painter.
Unbelievably, I`ve seen David Hockney sadly shake his head on camera and indicate Richter is overrated! Now that`s green!

                                                                Hanalei Kauai Hawaii

 An interesting thing happened a couple of weeks ago. I was at a family gathering when my email notification chimed. When I later used the bathroom I checked to see what it was and it was an invitation to come to Kauai, stay in a home and paint! I thought "a groupie at last!" When I read it more carefully it created more questions than answers. A room was being offered in an old home next to the viewpoint above. However the host didn`t own it and in fact lived in a tent on the property and painted in the carport. This kind soul was looking to share the splendors of the north shore with another like minded painter. The generosity was touching. He also said he had around 40 [!] unfinished paintings and I asked to see some. Well he was no amateur. What he really needed was some encouragement. Here are two of his 'unfinished' paintings;

                                                             by Jordan Ellingston

                                                by Jordan Ellingston [this is 10 feet long]

 I told him he had found his 'voice', that elusive, essential quality artists seek mightily to find. And that the world should see these!
Last weekend he wrote again and wanted to talk. He had been painting at the viewpoint and a woman asked if she could visit his studio. He wanted coaching as she was due to arrive soon. Now I`m not exactly a hustler and all I could muster was he had to at least act like he was legitimate, look her in the eye and give her a firm honest price. A while later he texted that he had closed a nice sale with her. I felt proud of him, he`s so talented. If he just walks out his door, sets up his plein air rig at the viewpoint,  the buyers will come to him. Please stop saying they`re not done! Jordan, you may be too good for this world.

                                                                  Elizabeth Gilbert

 By the time Eat, Pray, Love entered my consciousness, it was too late. It had become a cultural battlefield so I took a pass. But after watching Gilbert give a TED talk, I listened to her novel The Signature of All Things as an audio book. It was clunky but celebrated the creative joy in science with a female protagonist. I loved it. Next I heard a short interview when her latest work was released and I was intrigued. Big Magic explores what it means to live a creative life.
Personally, it affirmed most of my own choices and was a nice pat on the back.
 Among the important messages conveyed is the idea our artistic practices need protection, not crippling expectations for a livelihood. When we prioritize our work, the rest of our lives sort themselves out accordingly. She strongly advocates that artists need suitable jobs to support their real work. It also need not be so angst ridden, that there was another more playful way to engage with inspiration. We shouldn`t take ourselves too seriously. This led to an assertion that art was really just decoration for the mind. Hmmm. She had already stated that art preceded agriculture by 30,000 years, yet it ultimately was less important for the advancement of humanity than most other tasks. Art exists to delight the imagination.
I was sure I was missing something so I listened a second time. Somehow I still think we only have a semantic disagreement on this point but I`m confused. I remember so well how literature showed me a bigger world when I was young and created a life saving sense of hope. Pippi Longstocking can do that! Her argument may be an effort to de-mystify and humanize artists, release them from their own difficult mythology. Maybe, but big magic itself is an ecstatic, spiritual experience most artists will attest to. Seems important to me, worth living a life for.

                                                      Poet`s Meadow by Amy Falstrom

 She is a wizard form Michigan. It`s not like she paints landscapes, more like she is part of it and merely opens her eyes. Her understanding is profound yet modest. One body of work is called Feral Places. She can elevate the mundane we walk through into the smoldering bit of the cosmos it is. The unity between the artist and subject is so close! Give her a look, be reassured by her vision;

                                       Light Garden by Amy Falstrom pastel on paper

                                           Moon Garden by Amy Falstrom oil on panel

She is my soul mate!

 What happens to the eyebrows of old men?
It`s like every hair in mine just read Thoreau and feel they must go their own way now. While they still can. I am constantly trying to contain them!

 An exhibit in Michigan coming up! I`ve never been there but I`m told by high authority it is spectacularly beautiful. Maybe Amy would meet me at the show?

Another urgent Pegasus by Christopher le Brun!

work for sale in my studio

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Daily Painting-again

                                       Sun on the Winter Marsh watermedia on paper 12x9

 Since I`m not burning hot with great new ideas, I thought painting whole pieces in a single day might be useful again. Ten years ago the practice kept me working through the deepest grief I had experienced.
   Carol Marine makes a convincing case for the habit as a way of learning efficiently. In her book Daily Painting, she asserts working small and often as a way to gain confidence and develop technique. It`s also a way to be active in the studio when the muse is away. Almost exercises without any expectation, it`s pleasant and satisfying. Nothing I liked much has come from it until this piece, a bright, brittle winter slough. Here are some of the others, all watermedia on paper 12x9.

                                                                  Distant Green


 With perfect timing, this sweet little book arrived in the mail yesterday. It fits nicely in the hand and is filled with ideas, methods, proposals, concepts, and suggestions. And it`s illustrated with lots of paintings. The UK artist Joanna Goss contacted me a couple of years ago about using an image of mine. Naturally enough, I`m the section on Yupo;

 This is one of the coolest books on watercolor I`ve ever seen.

 That nice red head boy got married, God bless them.
Prince Harry served in two deployments in Afghanistan. Heel spurs were never mentioned. He also created the Invictus Games so that injured servicemen could also compete in sport.
I like Meghan too;

Image may contain: dog and text

 After referring to a poem in my last post that I`ve searched 48 years for, my pal Elisabeth sent me this wonderful piece by James Dickey;

                                                       The Heaven of Animals

Here they are. Their soft eyes open.
If they have lived in a wood
It is a wood.
If they have lived on plains
It is grass rolling
Under their feet forever.

Having no souls, they have come,
Anyway, beyond their knowing.
Their instincts wholly bloom
And they rise.
The soft eyes open.

To match them, the landscape flowers,
Outdoing, desperately
Outdoing what is required;
The richest wood,
The deepest field.

For some of these,
 it could not be the place
It is, without blood.
These hunt, as they have done,
but with claws and teeth grown perfect.

More deadly than they can believe.
They stalk more silently,
And crouch on the limbs of trees,
And their descent
Upon the bright backs of their prey

May take years
In a sovereign floating of joy.
And those that are hunted
Know this as their life.
Their reward; To walk

Under such trees in full knowledge
Of what is in glory above them,
And to feel no fear,
But acceptance, compliance.
Fulfilling themselves without pain

At the cycle`s center,
They tremble, they walk
Under the tree,
They fall, they are torn,
They rise, they walk again.

                                                        Prow by Christopher LeBrun

 Isn`t this magnificent?! It is as urgent and inspiring as when I first saw it 35 years ago.
Pegasus! We`ve been waiting for you! What is the message?

work for sale in my studio

Monday, May 14, 2018


                                                        Adrift watercolor on Yupo 14x11

 Though the release from pain has been joyous, to my surprise, a surge of innovation did not rush in. So as I often do, I tinker. My studio has lots of failed or unfinished paintings about. There are many opportunities for rescue.
 As rapid as my recovery has been, I`m careful not to over extend my new knee. So I haven`t yet been back to some of my sources of inspiration. However we are planning a visit to Minto Brown Island. I`ve never been there in the summer and its cool muddy lagoons will be seductive and quiet. I will happily work with the thousand shades of green.
 Meanwhile, these are what I`ve been up to;

                                                  FC Wetlands watercolor on Yupo 14x11

 Because it`s always best to have a paintbrush in hand when inspiration sweeps in, sometimes I`ll do something I`ve already done. Usually in a different medium like I did here. The site, the confluence of Fanno Creek with the Tualatin River, is dense with possibility. What I mean by that is not just the beauty but also the spatial relationships of trees to water to grasses. That couple of acres is almost Japanese in its elegant proportions.

                                                 Flood Plain watermedia on paper 12x16

 As I remember, I had recently returned from the Finley Wildlife Reserve and I was trying to depict the delicate new grasses arising from a huge field that had been underwater. I believed she texted and said she was in the area and wanted to meet me. I said sure and because I was already in process with this, she watched me paint. Probably because I was talking, that fresh green field turned into a scene of apocalypse right before our eyes. Oh well. She was worth meeting.

                                            As the Moon Rises watermedia on yupo 14x10

 As the Moon rises, eyes of the animals rise from the forest into her light.
That was the opening sentence of a poem I read in 1970 in a library. I`ve been trying to find the complete work ever since, to no avail. With the internet, I should be able to find it but haven`t.

 Notorious Pam was here again doing what she does best, redistributing wealth. She was on a mission and when she was through she had bought nine of my best works on paper! She sent me photos after they were framed;

 She sure did honor the paintings! Thank you Pam, you do beautiful things.

 Among the many sad aspects to living with chronic pain is how small your world becomes. In my recent experience, I couldn`t shake the feeling that I was at the end of my life. Time to wrap things up. It wasn`t rational, I know what the actuarial tables predict but it was there. My family assured me it was the legs and they were right. I`m appalled at the idea now and feel sorry for that guy getting ready to go. I feel better than I have in years. Far more than I should after having atrophied for so long. And to my delight, arthritis elsewhere in my body, such as the other knee, is mostly gone!
 The universe sent me this story just the other day;

                                                                       Trudy Smith

 She was lonely after her husband died so she took up painting. She was 85! Read her remarkable story!

John says we need to paint the house.
If my house looked like this one in Burkina Faso, I`d just sit on the lawn and look at it.

                                                                     by Endre Penovac

 This is why I love watercolor.

                   In Mexico this dog walked through a parade for the Pope thinking it was for him

work for sale in my studio [updated]

Saturday, April 28, 2018


                                           Storm Break over the River

 To those that visit here regularly, I want you all to know my surgery to get a whole new left knee has been a huge success! Just six days since the operation, and there is now much less pain, I`m walking without a cane, I`ve already been down to my studio and my mood is one of elation! Let a new life begin.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Storm is Lifting

                                           The Storm is Lifting watermedia on yupo 26x20

 My brother Mike asked me the other day how I would characterize the work I`ve done in the last year. I told him wildly uneven.
For much of the year I didn`t know if I was getting better or worse. When I realized worse, I quit trying to push myself with exercise. I never stopped but I quit trying to rehabilitate myself. I was making the pain much worse. Now, as I wait for my new knee next week, my painting is as scattered as ever.

                                                     Across the Canal oil on  Yupo 20x16

 I was sitting on the bank of the lake`s canal trying to decide if I was cold, was it too early to paint outdoors. I did the drawing below and thought the weather was fine. Across the channel I could see a level area dense with vegetation. I tried to paint it from memory, first in acrylics and then in oils.

 Next I thought I`d do something I`ve never done before but had heard was an excellent way to learn. I would copy a hero. Bjornar Aaslund, a painter from Norway, slides in and out of abstraction as he paints his landscape derived, dynamic paintings. His work is adept and passionate and I admire it a lot;

                                                                    Bjornar Aaslund

                                                                     Bjornar Aaslund

                                                                     Bjornar Aaslund

                                                                    Bjornar Aaslund

 His painting, at its core, is suffused with nature. As if he has studied it all his life up close. As if he were a biologist. That last one, just above, is the one I decided to paint. I thought I could learn about his process and just adopting his palette was educational.

                                                  Bjornar and Me watercolor on Yupo 14x11

 Quickly I went my own way but it was a fun exercise. It wasn`t hard to imagine the lakes finally free of ice, suddenly teaming with plants in the warm sunlight.

                                                                 Bjornar Aaslund

 Because of my limited mobility I can`t get to all the places which are the basis of what I do. Consequently, I`ve had more creative blocks than ever. Usually I don`t become over concerned. A change of mediums will get things moving again. This time has been different. It feels like I`m actually denied that part of my brain. As if my imagination were inert or empty. A modest walk in Bryant Woods or a review of one of my Pinterest boards can change the chemistry in my thinking somewhat reliably but what is going on? It has been on, then off, frequently. I bet it has a hormonal element. Anyone else experience this as being cutoff from oneself?

 My show at the Hanson Howard Gallery in Ashland OR is up the whole month of April!

                                                                     John Wolseley

 This is plein air painting! This Australian painter is another naturalist/artist. Really inspirational.

work for sale in my studio