Thursday, February 7, 2019


                                                 Winter Water watermedia on paper 22x15

 Last weekend I was in Seattle teaching a workshop in 'Abstracting from Nature'. I had the group I hoped for, all were experienced artists.
 Having recently walked along the swollen Tualatin River, I chose a rain saturated bit of river bank for my subject. A simple composition. Probably because it was on paper instead of Yupo [plastic], it was not the dynamic illustration of my technique I hoped for. I figured most of them would not be familiar with Yupo and were likely to have brought paper so I began with Arches 140 lb. cold press. Back with it in my studio, I`ve been able to finally evoke that typically bleak Northwest winter landscape.

                                                Forest Improv watercolor on Yupo 20x13

 The next day, my demo was on Yupo and I chose to paint a forest without any reference. This was the improvisational technique I find to be so fun. I`m in forests all the time and can easily visualize what they look like, so I just began. I should have chosen a less awkward size but oh well. Everyone was game to try working with Yupo and the results were quite interesting.

                                                       Marsh watermedia on paper 20x20

 Yes, this is the painting from my last post but I had really screwed it up. So as a last quick demo I showed them how I rescue something. If in fact I saved it.
The workshop was personally satisfying, I felt like I was in the trenches with the participants, all of us crawling toward beauty.

                                                                Nell Irvin Painter

 I love a story of someone who broke character and did something completely unexpected. After a long career as a historian, Nell Irvin Painter retired and then went to art school. At 64!
Reinvention is said to be uniquely possible in America. I hope so. This kind of chutzpah is thrilling. If Nell can do that, what am I capable of?
Here is a fascinating short interview with her.
Some advice for those considering later-in-life adventures;

My second piece of advice is don’t see yourself through other people’s eyes. If you’re over 28 in art school or pushing 40 in a youth-obsessed culture, what’s reflected back at you can leave you feeling discouraged or ignored. However, if you see yourself through your own eyes, or those of your best friend or a loving partner, you’re much more likely to perceive both your strengths as well as your weaknesses, and that’s a good place to start. _N. I. Painter

Here is one of her paintings;

                                                 Soul Bowling by Nell Irvin Painter

February is black history month.

 Have you ever heard a more ferocious courage? 
Muhammad Ali was not going to Vietnam.
He will always be an example of incorruptible integrity.

                                                      Exile watermedia on paper 39x28

 This is from 1989. I had it pinned above a table in my last home in Santa Fe, and my kitten Louie decided to climb it. Little claw holes  and scratches right in the middle!

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Marsh Forest

                                           Marsh Forest Study watercolor on Yupo 8.5x11

 I want to thank all of you who told me what we should discuss when I teach next weekend. My first thought was to emphasize technique but  I heard that I should address color choice, emotion and the landscape and selecting personal subjects. So I`ve been thinking. Of course this is the stuff that never is verbalized by me even to myself. I know instinctively what to draw or photograph when I`m out in nature. Now I`m figuring out how to talk about it. It`s uncomfortable. There is a yearning quality in my response to nature that I don`t understand. Beyond Romanticism. I find ephemeral scenes lit temporarily in a poetic manner and I`ll take a picture. If what I`m seeing is really striking, I`ll remember it too. Then I begin painting but it`s more like an excavation, subtracting to find my painting. This is better shown than explained.

                                             Cape Arago watercolor on Terraskin 14x11

 From my time in Coos Bay a couple of years ago. That eroded coast would provide a lifetime of subjects if I lived near. Without bias, the Oregon Coast is the most astonishing, compact, jewel like series of landscapes, one after another. And it`s never crowded other than Cannon Beach. If I lived in the interior of the US again, I would come here to this coast to be by this sea. Not Hawaii or Mexico or Greece. There is a wild, interactive relationship between the water, sky and land that`s palpable.

                                                          unfinished marsh

 I should have left it alone but it wasn`t finished. I thought last night.
Now this no longer exists but that`s ok.
If there is time in my workshop I`ll demonstrate a do or die effort to rescue something that`s ruined. Good things can happen if there is nothing to lose. I once said to Don Gray that all my paintings were better 20 minutes before I finally stopped. He said that`s true for all artists. We keep pushing for more clarity until we go too far and then backtrack as best we can.

                                             man in motion by Eadweard Muybridge

 Eadweard Muybridge was a bookseller until he cracked his head in an accident and became a determined innovator of photography. It appears that brain damage can unleash tremendous creative potential. This article in the BBC explains how even dementia can unlock hidden talents.
It does not mention if the poor high school football players with concussions become more creative. I wish it would have included this kind of trauma.

Igor Mosiychuk, have you heard of him? I sure hadn`t but apparently he`s quite well known in his own country, Ukraine. He`s a watercolor wizard unlike any other;

                                                            by Igor Mosiychuk

                                                                by Igor Mosiychuk

                                                                  by Igor Mosiychuk

                                                                      by Igor Mosiychuk

 Yes, they have a traditional sensibility but who cares? They are so dense with lyrical color and mood.
If you have an extra hour or so you can watch him demonstrate here.

                                            Oaks at Brandy Creek watercolor on Yupo 12x9

 For the first time in my 25 years in the Pacific Northwest, winter is bugging me. It`s too cold. Usually I`m head cheerleader for all things gloomy and wet but not this year. Now I don`t want sunshine mind you, that low angle light is blinding this time of year but a warm breeze would be nice. Here`s to Spring and its gentle promise.

Goodbye Mary Oliver, thank you!

updated webpage

work for sale in my studio

prints on Fine Art America

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

New Forests - teaching questions

                                                           watermedia on Yupo 14x11

 No titles on these new works yet, it`s been mortal combat just to get something decent.

                                                          oil on multimedia board 14x11

                                                       watermedia on Terraskin 16x11

                                                             oil on multimedia board 7x5

                                                  watermedia on Terraskin 14x28

 With each recent painting, I`ve been mentally verbalizing what I`m doing. In early February I`m teaching a workshop in Seattle and want to be prepared. Talking while painting is something I discovered I can do and it`s the only way it feels natural to teach. The class is just two days so I`m trying to distill what I do into concise helpful units. For example I`m taking and will talk about a big variety of brushes. When I`m in the fray, I choose which one to use much like a surgeon would. Carefully. Each type does something specific and I believe the right choice is crucial. That being said, I also believe they should be inexpensive. Precious tools and materials really inhibit me.
A friend suggested I talk about color, she thinks it`s the most distinctive aspect of my work. It might be the most subconscious of my decisions too so I am happy she pointed it out as worthy of a discussion. Do any of you who look at my blog and work have any thoughts as to what you might  like to hear from me in such a setting? I`m not fishing for compliments, I`m just curious what others think is important in painting. I`ve never taken a workshop like this and I want to provide as much useful information as possible.
I will talk about having a real connection to your subject and the importance of knowing your reasons for painting and of what your ideals might be. These psychological questions are often uncomfortable especially for new painters yet they are worth asking though as the answers can set a course of forward motion.
Thinking about the process so much makes me realize how individual and instinctive it all is. Just the way we hold a brush will determine the sensitivity and energy of the mark it makes. And how we hold it is also probably genetic. It`s not a coincidence my handwriting looks like my Dads`.
There is plenty to love in painting, just creating something is often thrilling. If we go deeper, get more personal, we will encounter true tests of our character. If our best self prevails in those situations, painting becomes our companion and the real fun can begin. If I can make that experience more accessible, I will be happy.

                                          a poem from Martha Graham to Agnes DeMille
                                         [thanks to Dana and Laura]

                                                       Chasing Rivals by Matthew Dibble

                                                       Mecca Chip by Matthew Dibble

                                                        Earth Vanishes by Matthew Dibble

 I`ve mentioned Matthew before, I think he is truly an exceptional painter. He walks right up and steps into the shoes of Willem de Kooning, one of the greatest artists in history. Without explanation or apology Matthew extends the territory of abstract expressionism. His personal story is an inspiration. The investment group, Brighthouse Financial, made a little commercial/promotional video featuring Matthew, and it`s sweet. His show 'Legendary Bog' is up at the First Street Gallery in New York until January 26 2019.

 In New Mexico, I almost always knew what phase the moon was in. I worked at night and in the Southwest it is impossible to ignore the sky. Now in the Pacific Northwest, hardly ever. Too many clouds and trees! With this chart I can check with a glance.

 Here is a man who paints with the tide.

work for sale in my studio

Workshop in Seattle Feb. 2&3

Prints from Fine Art America

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Winter Night

                                                Winter Night watercolor on paper 48x36

 This is exactly thirty years old. It came from a night drive through the Rockies in Colorado lit by moonlight. I was driving home to New Mexico through the Salida Valley passing one enormous mountain after the other. The whole valley was illuminated by the reflected light from these glowing monsters. Memorable! I had to paint something!
 So we in the northern hemisphere just experienced the longest night of the year under a huge full moon. The solstice is a holiday that excites me. Civilization took hold because agriculture was predictable and another growing season always returned. We are as dependent on this cycle as we ever were. The north leans back toward the sun and the world will eat. No life is possible without the sun. That`s a big deal.

 Here is a young Navajo girl singing a gorgeous tribute to the solstice. She understands.

                                                                by Emil Robinson

                                                              by Emil Robinson

 These two paintings by the inventive, always interesting Emil Robinson, epitomize what is special about Christmas. It`s all about the light. For me these are stunning in their emotional purity. This is what I love about Christmas. When it settles down, when the room hums with color and safety and contentment. Were it so for everyone.

 Lisa Pressman is an artist I admire. So when she announced a year end sale by the Multimedia Artboard Co., I was curious, I had never heard of it. One stiff non-buckling board suitable for oils, inks, watercolors and presumably encaustics as that is Lisa`s medium of choice. It sounded too good to be true but it was on sale. So I bought some and had a rough start because of the absorbency but it soon became interesting. The price is right, it comes in some big sizes and I think a painting could be presented like any other oil and not a work on paper. The first piece below is it. Sort of like painting on gessoed rag board.

                                                     Forest Wall oil on panel 12x12

                                                 Theater of Trees 2 oil on panel 12x12

                                       Untitled Christmas Landscape oil on panel 12x12

                                                     Nordic Season oil on panel 12x12

 These are my latest works. I feel ambivalent about each of them so they may not survive. I need to set them aside for now and go on to new projects. I could use an unequivocal success and I know it will only come if I`m working. I couldn`t be more inspired, the landscape is full of mystery and I feel great so forward!

  Those of you who are artists, who are trying to build or grow a career, you might benefit from the counsel of Alan Bamberger. He suddenly appeared on a Facebook group I belong to in a discussion about bartering and discounts. He was no-nonsense and practical. I did a little search of his site and found this treasure trove of articles addressing the many conundrums of the art world. They are well worth browsing especially if you have a particular issue on your mind.

                                                                        Li Huayi

                                                                      Li Huayi

                                                                       Li Huayi

 The ink painting traditions of eastern Asia have called to me since I was a kid. When I saw them in encyclopedias, the simplicity of the technique and the other worldly landscapes got my imagination racing. I think of myself as a watercolorist largely because of this influence. I remember copying them and even tinting the surface to make it look more like rice paper or silk. The monochromatic palette was a comfort and something I could emulate. I still love it though now I can recognize the difference between the Japanese esthetic and the Chinese. Li Huayi, born in Shangai, paints in the tradition of the Chinese masters but he wants them to be distinctly of our present time. I think they are quite different in that viewer is hovering in the landscape rather than seeing it from a place of security. Here is a fascinating interview with him.

 As political as I am, I don`t understand foreign policy at all. Yet I`m certain we would not be so involved in the mid-east if it were not for oil. In all the rage and despair over the president ending our engagement in Syria, I sure don`t know what we accomplish by staying. Here is a defense of his decision from the left. Rolling Stone no less!

                                                                     Emile Carlsen

 This time of year, the losses we all carry hurt harder.  The voice of Bing Crosby can buckle your knees. I`ve learned a Jewish expression that can give a little elevation; "may their name always be a blessing" What they gave us rather than what we lost.

work for sale in the studio

Seattle workshop Feb 2 and 3

prints from Fine Art America

Thursday, December 6, 2018

November Gloaming

                                               November Gloaming oil on panel 12x12

 Two kinds of fog settled upon Cook`s Butte just days after Thanksgiving. Driving below it on Saturday, I saw the dome was obscured by a mist. Walking toward the top, I was soon in a light drizzle. This type of fog is being inside a cloud. The next day it was thicker but 'dry'. Both were impossibly beautiful. Literally everywhere I looked was worthy of painting;

 For me, such a visual and sensory feast just makes me want to paint.
That`s where the danger is! How in the world to even get close to such loveliness? Nature even simplifies the task by removing many of the details. The depth is solved before even beginning. Then why was it so difficult? This was my first attempt in watercolor;

But that didn`t please me so I sprayed an acrylic varnish on it and took it to the oil painting part of my studio. This what I accomplished;

                                                    November Gloaming Study

 No, no, no! Too heavy handed!
So then I began the piece at the top of this post. I changed the orientation of the composition a bit and this time began in a much more sober deliberate manner. Inspiration makes one feel so alive, it`s just about the best sensation there is. It sure can create some high expectations which are often disappointingly unrealized. That`s what it`s like to paint. Try and try again. Sometimes I think after all these years why isn`t it easier? Some smarter, better me keeps the challenge fresh by finding new ways to think about painting and the landscape too. I don`t want it easy. Even though people can recognize one of my paintings with a glance, believe me, how I got to the conclusion of each one was a lot different from the other. Knowing that each process was unique, it used to bother me that they could be so quickly identified as mine. Now I`ve come to understand that the human eye is acutely perceptive. It notices characteristics and patterns that don`t even reach consciousness. And the painter is a slave to his body. How I walk, speak, sign my name and wield a brush, it`s all unique to me and others notice.

This year Thanksgiving was in my home and just my brother and his wife were with us. I offered to cook anything,
I have enough skills to follow a recipe and I was game for adventure. What I wouldn`t do is make a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Too much variety! Oh my god, how many millions of moms pushed through their own exhaustion to satisfy the expectations of their families?? Year after year after year! Really, how extraordinarily selfless!
Well I wasn`t going to take up that cross but I would make something exotic. Problem was, we all wanted the real thing.
Portland has an established beloved deli, Elephants`, and I had seen an ad for a package Thanksgiving dinner. We got a few extra side dishes and I will tell you it was Good. The turkey especially. Reheating instructions came with it and we all felt extremely clever and well fed.

Oregon has a new Artist in Residence program and the incredible Gert Boyle is behind it! Pine Meadow Ranch is now offering all sorts of artists a chance to get some serious work done on the dry side of the mountains near Sisters. Super easy application form and an approaching deadline of Dec. 17 for sessions beginning in March.

                                                           By Kim Frohsin

                                                             By Kim Frohsin

                                                          by Kim Frohsin

 I`ve been vaguely aware of Kim Frohsin`s work for years but never took a good close look until recently. These figurative paintings from ten years ago really caught my attention. Her negative spaces are skillfully integrated with clear bold color. Newer work seems to be about architectural abstraction.

                                                          by Kim Frohsin

 Those are my boys Lyndon and Carter. They are on the edge of the bathtub because they are obsessed with this cat toy;

 It is stationed above the tub where they can never reach it. Carter`s foster mom gave it to us and it is a most excellent device. We all know playing with our cats is important but it is also incredibly boring. Right? This is the solution. The Leather Bouncer Wand is capable of many complex movements and sounds that make cats insane. This is entertaining. Other toys may look like this but this one is tough. We use it all the time and it hardly shows any wear. Trust me.

The last apple on my Honeycrisp apple tree and the only one not infested with insects. I only saw it because the leaves had fallen. It must have ripened after the cold killed off the bugs. The dwarf little tree produces lots of fruit but I don`t know how to protect it. I use a dormant spray in winter to little avail and yes, I`ve googled my dilemma. Maybe next year I`ll try something toxic. Be careful what you ask for! I was eating so many of these apples I thought I have to grow them!

when it`s good....

Happy Hanukka!

work for sale in my studio

Workshop in Seattle Feb. 2&3

Prints at Fine Art America