Sunday, July 15, 2018

A Break in my Weather

                                                  Early Winter Tangle oil on panel 14x11


 Something shifted in me as I was painting this. After weeks of an uninspired routine in the studio, this suddenly came through me. The 'flow' phenomena is well researched now and athletes and artists seem to experience a pure form of it. The sensation is one of elation and a sure knowledge that something other than oneself is involved. There is a patient rolling excitement as it unfurls. All of the decisions are right and it is a gift in the truest sense.
 Good paintings, research and performances happen all the time without it, but as it is underway, one is sure this is as good as it gets. I`ve been so ready to paint again with spirit, I savored it and watched it and felt somewhat redeemed. It`s been a long time.
 As you might guess, I`ve been more confident. I`ve had more fun.



                                              On the Reef watercolor on Terraskin 12x9.5



                                       Mojave Madonna watercolor on Terraskin 11.75x9.25


  Terraskin is a newish paper made from minerals. It is archival yet inexpensive. In many ways it`s much like Yupo, it`s very smooth yet it has a slightly more 'organic' feel. Paint doesn`t lift as easily for corrections but it doesn`t move around with it`s own agenda like on Yupo. So the control is better. I might even prefer it except for one huge downside; it is very fragile. It can tear if you look at it wrong. Several serious watermedia pieces were destroyed simply by trying to remove the paper from the drawing board. If there is a tiny seal of paint at the edge of the painting onto the board, it can easily rip as you lift the work from the support. I do this now extremely carefully with a new razor blade at the ready to cut through any place that stuck. If it`s damp, it is even more delicate! Try it for the fun just be super careful at the end.



                                Forest Alcove watercolor and graphite on Terraskin 16x13.5


 At the end of weekly plein air excursions last summer, I was pretty much done with the idea. It had always been more of a social project than artistic. Though I sold a few, it was a real hassle hauling an aluminum lawn chair, water, supplies, drawing boards and me out into nature. Once settled I was always happy to be there, the conversations were excellent, but the experience did not positively affect my studio practice. In fact it was really disruptive. So I vowed that if I did it this year, I would have a different approach. Why not just draw? I liked this so I ordered some huge drawing paper and a lot of new pencils and water soluble graphite. Yesterday was the maiden voyage.
This is where we went;




 Busy and green but a sweet ambiance.
I sat down with the large paper on my lap and couldn`t begin to reach across it! Should have been obvious before I left but I didn`t test it. I find the plein air experience much more fun and comfortable if I don`t over think the details. It`s daunting enough. So I drew in a corner of my big piece of Terraskin.
 With the subject being so complex I mentally insisted that every stroke be enjoyable. I would NOT get bogged down. With a working drawing done on site, I then brought it into my studio for the watercolor tones. I used many different tools and brushes and found that wet q-tips made some of the best marks. I`m capable of precision but it isn`t pleasurable for me. Consequently my drawing is a loose contour style with tonal elements added for depth, texture and atmosphere. I want a richer look but not go crazy getting there.
Also the paper I took into the forest was a heavier weight Terraskin. Hopefully tougher.



                                                    High Water oil on canvas 24x24


 This larger oil was painted from a plein air study of a flooded area in the Columbia River Gorge last May. I kept the vegetation to the sides to suggest the seasonal incursion of water.





 The arts organization, Tiger Strikes Asteroid in NYC, is offering a nice opportunity for artists that work on paper. Deadline is July 31. Your stuff in the Big Apple at last! It could happen!



                                                                 Randall and Julie


 Julie Ford Oliver was in town yesterday and she came to see me! She`s from England originally, I had no idea, no one tells me anything. She is one sharp artist and believe me, I wrote stuff down as soon as she left. So many helpful suggestions for the business and lots of praise for my paintings!
We`ve been occasional correspondents for years but if I`d known how delightful she was, I would have made the pilgrimage to her studio in Las Cruces! She was exhilarating and she left with a painting that has been hanging in my bathroom for years. I just switched it out last week.
Here it is photographed it in the early morning sun a couple of weeks ago;


                                                                      Puerto Landron



    I don`t like this about me but I`m a skeptical audience for photography as an art form. I want to see something astonishing and intensely personal. I love the work of Masao Yamamato


                                                            by Masao Yamamoto


                                                                 by Masao Yamamoto


                                                              by Masao Yamamoto







 If you`ve never seen a mating dance of cranes, this Youtube is well worth watching. Imagine coming home and seeing this on your lawn. She was listening to the radio.






work for sale in my studio





Portland Open Studios 2018

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

In 10 years

                                                      Lithia Park oil on canvas 36x36 2005


 On July 1 I will have been posting this blog for ten years. It was an experiment that took root. It has  been the unlikely source of all career advancement that came my way, and it has literally given me many friends. I didn`t know how it would play out but found it made me visible. Like it or not. Even though I try hard to be honest and speak in my own voice, being a writer is not part of my identity. Which is why I`m shocked when I hear someone I don`t know say they read it. My first thought is 'oh shit, what did I say?' By now I should be used to this but I`m not. That anyone is interested in my words, is purely amazing. As a painter I`m completely familiar with a variety of responses to my work, but to hear that a woman reads my blog to her husband at dinner is flattering beyond belief.
 I`m usually so uncomfortable after posting.
But thank you for reading! and caring! and looking at my work! I do appreciate your recognition!



                                                     Rainforest Study oil on Yupo 12x9


This was begun in 2014 and I just recently finished it. The background wasn`t right and I was after the right balance of decay to health. It is so far removed from any rainforest I`ve seen that it is more of a symbol for that kind of landscape. Maybe that`s just the nature of art anyway.



The last abstraction on the Trekel watercolor boards I won earlier;



                                Untitled in Blue watermedia on Trekel watercolor board 16x12


  Here are the other two;


                                           Buried watermedia on watercolor board 16x12



                                   Untitled in Green watermedia on watercolor board 16x12


 Again I marvel at the courage and vision of abstract painters. Feeling constantly lost is not a happy place for me. Trying to say something unique and personal about the landscape has been challenging enough over the years. That I even try to paint non-objectively is only because I love the good ones. Like this one from Margaret Glew;



                                                 Untitled by Margaret Glew 60x54


 That is so exciting!


                                                                Anthony Bourdain


 It took me half a day to figure out why I was so crushingly disappointed to hear Anthony Bourdain had taken his life; He was a leader and his message is so important. Cooking is a fluid and articulate art form, it can reach across cultures and create connections that words fail to accomplish. Bourdain was like a priest in this process, his work showed us the goodwill possible. We need more of that in the world. Read this in depth profile from the New Yorker and grieve informed. The death of a hero by suicide churns the stomach. How horribly confusing. Why? Do we get to know? It`s crucial to know.
 We now know what Robin Williams was coping with. He had Lewy body disease which like Alzheimers can only be diagnosed by autopsy. Among its terrifying symptoms are hallucinations and motor function disruptions. That would scare the crap out of me too. I hope to understand Bourdain`s decision better. Moral leaders are in short supply. We need them to make sense of the world. Wouldn`t you love to hear what Maya Angelou would say about the Trump era? She would tell us exactly how the hog ate the cabbage.

Here is a trailer for a film on suicide featuring a survivor who jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge. There have only been a dozen or so that have survived and each one said the same thing. They knew in the instant their hands left the rail it was a mistake.
That is powerful and needs to be heard.







                                               Flowers Lift your Heart by John Bellany



                                                                    Todd and John


 One of my oldest friends was just here and he did good. Since we were kids in 7th grade, Todd has been the most reliable and hilarious of companions. We did touristy stuff, took walks, cooked together and remembered incidents we hadn`t thought of in decades. Young people do such stupid things! Just to get out of the house! I swear if you want your sons and daughters to survive their youth, don`t buy them cars, buy a house for them next door. My parents were very congenial to our friends but you can`t sit on a bed for hours with your friends, you have to move! There is the danger!
We ran wild in a huge hotel down on its luck a short drive away. The Mission Inn did not have the staff to contain us and let me tell you, there were many ports of entry. It even had catacombs! The place was like our backyard.
I felt like my best self again when he left.





 Somehow I was looking at this list of opportunities for artists and saw that the sponsoring organization, Artsy Shark, had a large viewership and was frequently looking for artists to feature. So I applied and sure enough they gave me some 'ink'. Easy! They`re looking right now so consider applying! By the testimonials, great things can happen, but what I saw was a leap in my counter statistics and a couple of nice comments. Still.



                                                Dead Eucalyptus watercolor 24x18 1970


 My parents had this watercolor drawing up in every home they lived in. After 1970, when I did it. So after my mother`s death in 2015, it became my property again. No one in the family wanted it, we were all sick to death of that tree. Visiting Todd remembered it so now it`s his! He was probably laying on my bunkbed when I drew it.


                                                               Monet in his Garden

Look at that coat and trousers! Looks like the softest wool imaginable. Where do you get such clothes?


                                                                by William Lumpkins


 I knew Bill Lumpkins at the end of his life. From serving him his dinner at a restaurant he enjoyed. He was an accomplished architect too and one of those wise and kind elders whose very attention feels like a blessing.


I will be part of the Portland Open Studios this year


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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