Friday, September 14, 2018
I was delivering a painting to Hillsboro for transport to the International Society of Experimental Artists annual show, this year in Newport Oregon. And the wildlife refuge, Jackson Bottom, was nearby. I love these places. There is hardly anyone ever there and those that are, are birders! Such lovely people! Because it was late August, the refuge was dry as a bone. The pond I painted [above] was dry and had only a living green rim that suggested moisture. Still, on a summer day made bearable by passing clouds, it was magnificent;
The show in Newport had an interesting angle. Applicants were asked to explain how their piece was experimental. This text would be posted next to the accepted entries. Mine was a watercolor painted as if I were the painter Bjornar Aaslund of Norway. I was trying to figure out his fusion of abstract expressionism and landscape painting. Oddly, it sort of worked. Just changing my palette alone provided some insight. You can see the entire exhibit here.
H2O has opened at Ferris State University of Michigan in Big Rapids. The brave curator saw my work online, could see the importance of water in much of my work and included me.
The smoke had finally cleared out and the summer everyone yearns for was back, but only for a few days. The transition is often abrupt and this year especially. It was still August! The population has experienced true grief. Some hold out hope for that 'Indian Summer' but the sunlight is too angled now, the days too short. Our great fear is that every summer now will be one of massive forest fires. To those climate change deniers, you will breathe the same smoke as I do. My rage and disgust with the Republican Party make me choke for words, but listen to Harrison Ford. At least an actor can hold it together to speak the truth.
From my great train ride to Seattle last month.
Mitch painting en plein air
To anyone reading who is not an artist, I suspect you too know of this rapidly expanding phenomena called Plein Air painting. Doing it outside. Rain or shine for some. Here are some profile essays on the joys and frustrations. Made me want to do more again next year.
Speaking of on-site painting, Eric Merell, a painter I`ve admired a long time, does so in a most original way. Here is a wonderful little video of an artist in residency he did in the desert. This guy owns Joshua Tree.
Still another nine days to see the show of early work by the revered artist Richard Diebenkorn at the Portland Art Museum. I wasn`t going to see it but my brother Mike thought differently. I`m so glad I went! It isn`t my favorite body of his work but with the scholarship in the accompanying texts, I learned a whole lot. As is true for most artists, his early career was not easy and with WW2 in process, he had some tough choices. To see the work on paper he did during this difficult time was so sweet. He was a kid!
Only two days left to see the collection of astounding, one of kind automobiles also at the museum;
For a long time it wasn`t appealing to paint with oils, I naturally gravitated to water media. Yet I can do the same things in oils, I paint thin and flat. Plus what one puts down in oil paint stays that way by and large. With watermedia there is always an accounting for things drying lighter in value. Basically oil is far easier and the paintings find homes much quicker. Economically, I needed to figure out my reluctance. Then I saw it;
No wonder! Yikes! The last time I gave it a good cleaning I ended up in the clinic getting stitches in my finger. So I decided to get a new one;
Big difference! And I`ve promised myself to observe how it gets out of control. That took about a day. I paint until I`m tired and then do a half assed cleaning. Well, not the new Randall. Keeping the scraping razor pristine is key. It`s been three weeks and it still looks new. Wish me diligence.
Here is a disturbing photo;
Chinese students taking an exam for art school
my nephew`s new puppy securely fastened
work for sale in my studio
Portland Open Studio Tour mid-Oct.
Wednesday, August 15, 2018
When it`s hot out and the air is filled with smoke, it`s best to take cover. Avoid vistas and concentrate on the close at hand. This is when I particularly appreciate my basement studio, it`s always nice down here. In summer I like to paint water naturally enough. The edges of creeks, ponds and sloughs are always intriguing and are often suggestive of a healthier climate. So I go to the shadows for ideas and for comfort.
This is Tryon Creek. It slows in August but never dries up. The muddy/grassy smell of it is cheering on a walk in the heat. The way sunlight interacts with the murky water in dreamy milky colors is a subject I sometimes take on in summer.
I`m not sure yet if this one will live or die. Another I did several years ago was more convincing. I`m after an ambiguity between the water, plants and reflections. A confusion of elements that is accepted.
A soggy landscape from last April, is now finished. The combination of red and green excites me every time. The pale versions are symbolic to me of the Northwest Spring. Nothing else looks so fresh. Here`s another from 2015:
In a short email Marcia Burtt said 'by the way, your hero will have his work at the Seattle Art Fair. Are you going?'
I knew who she meant, Tom Uttech.
His work and intentions are so different from mine, but I greatly admire his mythical landscapes of the upper Great Lakes. They are so rich in emotion. Each one is like a patient lesson in how the world actually works. They stun you with beauty and keep your attention with a narrative that is complex and elusive. I had never seen one in person.
by Tom Uttech
But I`m an introvert, I don`t just go to Seattle! I had to consider; did my legs have the stamina yet? Was it affordable? Could I take the train? Should I go alone? Up and back in the same day?? And what about the residents and their strange Seattle ways? So I decided I would go IF it was easy. Got my reasonably priced Amtrak ticket instantly even with only four days notice. Bought the Fair admittance online. Decided what I`d eat for breakfast that morning and what I`d wear and tried to reimagine myself as an urbane man of the arts.
One thing I could count on, a spectacular ride along the Columbia River and Puget Sound. I used to do this often in the 90`s. I`ve never been able to figure it out; the train and Interstate 5 are parallel and often in view of each other the whole way yet the rail way could honestly be termed magical and the highway, sheer drudgery. Here are some cropped photos I took from the moving train as it slid through the Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge;
The venue was an easy walk from the station. Once through the doors, it was all I could do to keep my bearings. It was huge and filled with a super high caliber of work! Here are some of the paintings I knew would be there and others I was so happy to see.
This is the Tom Uttech that launched this adventure.
A Diebenkorn I have never seen reproduced. Looks like someone`s backyard.
Karl Klingbiel. This guy is the best. My second reason for going to the fair.
Tomory Dodge. I`ve admired him a long time. He`s had much critical success with this kind of work. I was really pleased to see him move on and grow into a new 'look'.
Alexander Kroll. I`ve written a bit about him. He was painting in a garage. I`ve done that too.
The late Robert Natkin. Oh my, this was my first encounter. You can hardly see anything in photos of his work. They`re deep.
The always fearless Eric Fischl.
Bo Bartlett. This was the show stopper for me. It was immense and what are they doing? I didn`t crawl through the crowd to see the title.
I just noticed something. Every photo of a painting that I took was a painting from a male artist!?
Visitors to this blog may recall I`ve talked about and shown examples of many female artists. WTF?
My own latent misogyny or was there a lack of representation? Once again? Hmmm.
OK, you see what they are sitting on? THAT was the seating for this enormous event. A few of these, all right in the middle of the walkways. They may have well just thrown some pillows on the floor. At a minimum, they could have a least positioned these against a wall for some momentary back relief. But no. Believe me, I wailed about it in the visitor survey.
I was there about three hours. For most of it I knew what I was doing but then I became helplessly disoriented. Shortly after that, some inner Randall absolutely refused to look at anything else. It demanded we leave, so I did. I think I saw everything but I`m not at all sure.
Somehow I came upon Gabor Mate, the Canadian family practice doctor. He has special interest and insights into childhood development and trauma. He is an expert on addictions, something I`m familiar with. His ideas are startling and then obvious.
“I’m not going to ask you what you were addicted to,” I often say to people, “not when, nor for how long. Only, whatever your addictive focus, what did it offer you? What did you like about it? What, in the short term, did it give you that you craved or liked so much?” And universally, the answers are: “It helped me escape emotional pain… helped me deal with stress… gave me peace of mind… a sense of connection with others… a sense of control.”
Such answers illuminate that the addiction is neither a choice nor a disease, but originates in a human being’s desperate attempt to solve a problem: the problem of emotional pain, of overwhelming stress, of lost connection, of loss of control, of a deep discomfort with the self. In short, it is a forlorn attempt to solve the problem of human pain. Hence my mantra: “The question is not why the addiction, but why the pain.”Here is what he says about our president;
“What we perceive as the adult personality often reflects compensations a helpless child unwittingly adopted in order to survive. Such adaptations can become wired into the brain, persisting into adulthood. Underneath all psychiatric categories, Trump manifests childhood trauma…. Narcissistic obsession with the self then compensates for a lack of nurturing care. Grandiosity covers a deeply negative sense of self-worth. Bullying hides an unconscious conviction of weakness. Lying becomes a mode of survival in a harsh environment. Misogyny is a son’s outwardly projected revenge on a mother who was unable to protect him.”
No wonder the refugee children are still separated from their parents. Adults who fled the violence in their countries on the chance they could give their kids some hope. They endured horrors we can`t imagine in the effort to get to the border.
Like livestock they were separated and spread across the country to detention centers. We`ve all seen the photos. The agencies were so reckless in their regard for these lives, DNA sampling is required to match them up again. Some never will.
The assault on decency advances every day. The Republican Party harbors and protects the basest of human instincts. If our country is to be a democracy, they must be expelled in the upcoming election.
For the first time I am making political contributions instead of only supporting our local food bank. Not because I trust it will be effective but because I have to do something.
work for sale in my studio
Wednesday, July 25, 2018
Another abstraction, I`m getting a feel for Terraskin. Made from minerals, it seems the environmentally better choice than the plastic Yupo. This is on the heavy weight version but it is still fragile, especially damp. Things stay put a lot better though than with Yupo. No walking up to a completely different painting after using the bathroom. There are many acrylic layers in places and the repainting of those areas was easy. Though I bought these big 20x40 sheets for drawing, I have a feeling everyone will be used for painting. Working on paper has always been my first love. Easy to store and much less precious than a panel or stretched canvas. I let loose much quicker, and my best paintings usually are made with element of chance. Quite often after seeing something beautiful on a walk, I come into the studio and paint it disappointingly conventional. That riles me up enough to risk destruction and then the process gets really interesting.
Yesterday would have been my brother Gary`s 71 birthday. He died ten years ago of pancreatic cancer, and it was fast, two months between his diagnosis and death. My family was shattered. Premature death upends all expectations of reality.
We`ve had ten years to recover.
Gary`s wife Mary thought of it; a memorial for the family near his birthday rather than the day he died. Using some ideas from the Mexican Day of the Dead, she constructed a little shrine and we placed objects there that were his, gifts he gave us, and photos. We ate Mexican food which was his passionate favorite, some drank Black Russians, his cocktail of choice, and the brothers wore his clothes or the football jerseys of his beloved teams.
Then we told stories as we sat in Norma`s beautiful garden and the long northwestern light of summer, faded into night.
In the memories we shared, generosity, respect and loyalty were the means by which he loved us.
The night was as joyful as any I`ve ever experienced.
The loss of a husband, father, brother and son can be survived. That lost life came alive again for each of us and we were stunned with gratitude.
by Denise Levertov
Joan Eardley on location
She is a hero of mine and a ferocious plein air advocate. She too left the world way too soon.
Finally, if you haven`t seen this video on a death in Ireland, it is well worth watching.
Portland Open Studios Tour 2018
work for sale in my studio
Fog on the Mountain Studies. Try to stay cool.