Thursday, January 12, 2017

Watercolors while Waiting

                                                           1. watercolor on yupo 12x9

                                                          2. watercolor on yupo 12x12

                                                               3. watermedia on yupo 12x12

 I`ve hardly known what to do the last couple of days. The latest snow event coincides with my surgery preparations and the imminent inauguration of a man with no political experience and fresh allegations of collusion with the Russians.
Nothing proven but compiled by a respected British intelligence expert. Where are those fierce Republican cold warriors now? Not to be seen because their guy won. Even with the help of the Russians. How about some old fashion patriotism GOP?
 This op-ed gave me some comfort. It suggests Democrats take up the tactics of the tea party. Hmmm, it could work!
 This may seem contrary to my values but I did change my party affiliation from Democrat to Independent. It`s easy in Oregon if you`re a licensed driver. Just find  your county`s election office online and fill out the form. Now I only did this thinking my letters to public officials might be taken more seriously if my vote was seen as 'winnable'.

 The snow started falling, trees started breaking and by 10 pm our power was gone. The automated estimated time of repair wasn`t too bad so we just went to sleep. In the morning John left for work and I stayed in bed to keep warm. It didn`t return until the middle of the next night! I have a tiny bit deeper understanding of homelessness now. Cold will find you. Once you finally get warm, any movement disrupts that comfort radically. It is humiliating.
Imagine if that was your daily existence?
The zeitgeist in my home this week has been agitated to be sure. By the fate of my knees of course, icy weather and horror about the possible future of our country. Noam Chomsky says today`s Republican Party is the most dangerous institution in human history. He may be right. The R. Party left democracy in North Carolina on par with that of Cuba.
 So no titles on the paintings above yet. Soon I`ll have a whole lot of time on my hands and I will think of them then. What to do during the long recovery concerns me as much as pain. I suspect I`ll finally see some of the TV series I`ve heard people talk about for years.

                       The view out of my upstairs window at midnight two days ago

Website is updated! Thank you Jeremy!

Here is a beautiful video tribute to the late great Oregon artist, Rick Bartow.

                                                  Spring, High Waters by Isaac Levitan

 For me, Isaac Levitan is the father of the kind of landscape painting I aspire to; Work that comes from an emotional reaction to nature. In his brief 40 years he created a visceral, ground level view of his Russian countryside. Over a hundred years later, his moody landscapes are a touchstone for me and legions of other painters.

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Sunday, January 1, 2017

2017, ready or not

                                                        December Forest 2016 oil on panel 26x24

 My last painting of 2016.
I went for a walk the other day on Cook`s Butte and found the hill enclosed by fog. Then it started to burn off creating a transcendent moment of beauty;

I`ve seen so many beautiful sights up there! It`s usually my exercise destination because I can get an uphill work out which is good for my heart. A couple of years ago I was running  through those forests. Not now! I`m scheduled for partial knee replacement surgery in two weeks. My surgeon said I could do both  but I`ve been advised by others not too. When the pain of recovery was graphically described to me by another doctor, I thought I can`t do this at all! I`m not miserable! But the truth is my joints have aged really quickly and I will need this sooner or later. I`m groping for a better attitude.

                                                                   Christmas River

 Many many hours invested in this! At Christmas, its festive quality made me think it might someday be good. Then I got completely sick of it and it now is buried underneath 'December Forest 2016'. I hate that feeling of defeat!
So what did I learn? Orange and 'rust' are difficult together!

                                                          November Morning oil on panel 26x24

 In November I received 10 beautiful cradled panels made for me by Matt at Art Substrates. I`ve painted six of them now and may order some more. Their only downside is the weight. If you paint, try a prepared wooden panel if you haven`t. To me it seems more responsive than canvas. Transparent passages are especially fun with the layering of color.

 A few months ago I realized I was eligible for Social Security. When I checked the difference between collecting now or in three years, it wasn`t that much. I do a lot of running around in the service of my vocation, it isn`t easy to sell paintings. I thought, why not push a little less?
Yes!, sign me up!
And it`s fantastic! The money just appears in my bank account! The bad news is I may make too much to collect at my age. In fact I may have to pay some back, I`ll know when I do my taxes. Meanwhile I`ve bought some art!

                                                        Pond, Sunny Day by Robert Lafond

 I love Robert`s work! Several years ago he worked mostly in pastel and they were electric. This one I`ve wanted for years. Check out his Etsy shop, there are dozens just as good.

 He`s coming and there is no stopping it. The national seppuku is about to commence.
Should he have a good idea, I will support it.
The man himself deserves no support. You do not lie about an entire culture and say you saw thousands of Muslims celebrating in New Jersey on 9/11/2001. No one saw that because it didn`t happen. You don`t hound the president sowing doubt about his very citizenship just because of his race. To undermine him regardless of how it hurts the country. These are violations of the under appreciated 9th commandment 'Do not bear false witness against your neighbor'. The president-elect does this reflexively. That is evil.
The Republican Party is poised to exploit the average American on a scale we`ve never seen. God help us.
 Mental health experts agree that when a society suffers an upheaval, there is great purpose and meaning to be had in helping others. What I want for myself is a way to resist and be heard, to protect the rights of all of us and not be utterly depressed for four years. We will see.

 What we need is a cosmic caballero!

                                                            Galactic Rider by Alice Brasser

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Sunday, December 18, 2016

Wet Snow on the Marsh

                                             Wet Snow on the Marsh oil on panel 26x24

Our annual two inches of snow fell this week and Portland was predictably paralyzed. It`s not a metropolis of bad drivers, it`s just that the roads were built for a much smaller population and our snow is so wet. The temperature fluctuates several degrees around freezing and this means constant thawing and refreezing which makes for icy streets. It`s a mess. So bad last week in fact, the bright green state of Oregon is going to allow limited salting of the roads. This has been anathema because the runoff is so toxic. But kids stuck on school buses in traffic jams well into nightfall is not acceptable.
 Meanwhile this lucky guy was able to walk around the woods and admire it. What always impresses me is how sound is muffled and color is drained from the landscape. A tiny amount of snow can transform the world for a while.

                                                         Nov. 10 oil on panel 26x24

 This comes from a walk taken two days after the election. I was desperately trying to imagine a way forward. The country had done what I believed was impossible. The horror is a little bit more familiar now but it`s reinforced daily by the insulting appointments the president elect is making. He finds a rich unqualified individual for each department whose personal philosophy is antithetical to the mission of that agency.
The apprehension mounts each day.
When the electoral college meets tomorrow, they will rubber stamp their states often narrow margins of victory and award the presidency to someone who has never held office and who lost by over 2.5 million votes. Even if they managed the ultimate courage and denied Trump his 270, when it then went to the House of Representatives for resolution, that snake-in-the-grass Paul Ryan would insure his win there. We are doomed.
For the time being anyway. I think we will see 1960`s style activism return and a much greater involvement in political matters by ordinary citizens. Democrats did not go to the polls in numbers like Obama received. Hillary was said to have a 90% chance of winning and I think those polls played a major part in her defeat. We thought she had it.
 The great writer Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote a beautiful piece on the Obama presidency and it`s aftermath in the Atlantic. It is well worth reading.

 Trae Crowder, the Liberal Redneck, has had provocative and wise comments on the election. I hope the Democratic Party listens carefully. The affection he has for his granddads in this Thanksgiving clip is the way forward.

                                                      Light in the Forest oil on canvas 20x16

                                                                Lacamas Meadows

This is now a jigsaw puzzle.
I can`t imagine anyone actually putting it together, but then again I have never been someone for games. Of any sort. My whole family was like that, you had to tell us the rules over and over.

                                                               Mary Tonkin

Mary Tonkin is my new landscape love, look at that command of color and value!
Here is a video where she describes her process. Most of her work is done on location with drawing being a key component.

                                                              Damp Lyndon

 Ok, for you kitten owners trying to get some sleep, here is my new trick.
As I`m getting ready for bed, my huge kitten Lyndon comes alive and wants to play. Every night. If I let him into the bedroom he will root around looking for nonexistent prey for 15-20 minutes keeping me awake. I tried to tire him out with fetching the mouse first but he is still fresh when I want to go to bed. We like him to sleep with us, it feels like the family is complete, so I needed to find a way to calm him...Distraction!
I get my hands wet and rough up his fur. Not enough to annoy him really but he HAS to attend to it. When he`s groomed enough he lays down to sleep.
You`re welcome.

                                                                    dry Lyndon

It`s not Christmas music but it is Baroque. The handsome countertenor Andreas Scholl sings Ombra mai fu, the gorgeous opening aria from Handel`s opera Xeres.

                            "Everything that needs to be said has already been said. But, since no-one was listening, everything must be said again." - André Gide

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Wednesday, December 7, 2016


                                                   Winter Marsh Forest oil on panel 20x18

 Here are some things I`ve been working on but never posted.
 Three or four years ago I was on Minto Brown Island in February and at first everything looked brittle and dead. But as I walked either the light changed or I did because it became much more interesting. I took some photos of a swamped forest that appealed to me because of its frenzy of vegetation and its utter inhospitality. I`ve painted it many times but only in this one did I get the mood right.

                                                          Sea Slot watercolor on Yupo 12x9

 In Oceanside, my favorite coastal getaway, there is a place at the base of the headland where the ocean is forced through a narrow passage between a massive boulder that looks like a hat box, and the cliff. As the sea surges in, there are all these sections in the water at different heights and planes that change  and shift in an instant as it pushes forward. It`s fascinating and somewhat hypnotic. Again, I had tried multiple times to get this procession right, but to no avail. Until now.

                                             Foothills Storm Study watermedia on Yupo 12x9

 This is an older piece I could never quite let go of, the inspiring experience was too memorable. I was driving to Ashland one Spring and the hills along I-5 north of Eugene grabbed my attention as usual. Storms were rolling off the Cascades behind them almost giving them the appearance of islands in a mist.

                                                           River Study acrylic on Yupo 24x18

 Another go at the copse of trees that borders the Tualatin River in a place where I walk. I get obsessed with certain views and try repeatedly to get their character.

                                                          Rainforest Autumn 4 oil on canvas 20x16

 Cold and muddy, late autumn at Tryon Creek.

 My only hope was that he wasn`t really a Republican. I mean would a true conservative politician hang out with Howard Stern? Well I guess they do. As the president elect announced his cabinet, it was quite clear he was going to surround himself with minds as small and mean as his own.
This is going to be awful yet I do think our country and it`s democratic institutions are up to the daunting challenges ahead. This essay from the New Yorker articulately spells it out.
I`ve joined the ACLU and intend to make my voice heard. I wrote the president and the Justice Department about the Standing Rock confrontation and it looks like the good guys won!
I`m going to change my party affiliation to Independent with the idea that I may be taken more seriously if my vote is perceived as winnable.
With the Black Lives Matter movement we have begun to tentatively talk about race in an uncomfortable but honest way. This is no time to turn away from that discussion and oddly, the rise of hate crimes may propel this forward even more. I hope so.
I was doing errands last week and heard the poet Clint Smith on Here and Now. A transcript is here and there are links to two TED performances where he eloquently describes in poetry exactly what it`s like to be black. At least as it interfaces with authority. It is just heartbreaking.
I want a world where young black men fear for their insurance rates at traffic stops just like I do. Not their lives.

I first saw his work 30 years ago in Portland and immediately thought we were on a similar 'quest'. Now we`re both showing at the Marcia Burtt Gallery in Santa Barbara Calif., and he feels like a friend. Though he lives in Tacoma we`ve not met but I think we will. Take a look at the landscapes of Michael Ferguson.

                                                              by Michael Ferguson

                                                                by Michael Ferguson

                                                               by Michael Ferguson

 Finally "Tet" by Morris Louis. [Nine by Thirteen feet]

                                                                Tet by Morris Louis

 He wasn`t the first to pour paint, that was Helen Frankenthaler, but he invented new techniques that expressed the deepest of human emotion.
Look at his 'veils'.
For me, art doesn`t go any higher than this. In his 50 years on earth he produced a profoundly moving body of work.

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Sunday, November 27, 2016

River Thoughts

                                                     River Thought 2 oil on panel 26x24

                                                     River Thought 1 oil on panel 26x24

  In the days after the election, the best thing I did for myself was to paint on the bank of the Tualatin River with a friend. Only then did I begin to imagine a way forward.
 I have ten new 24x26 panels from Art Substrates and think I might concentrate on the river with these. In winter it sure fascinates me as it surges down from the coast range. Our most serious storms happen in November and December swelling this lazy water into a muddy juggernaut.
 Long before moving here I read the Barry Lopez prose poem River Notes. It was a seductive introduction to a deeper understanding of the Northwest. So the  tentative title of these paintings 'River Thoughts' is a reference and tribute to this sublime author.

WE were made for these Times

Thank you Clarissa, that was most helpful.

                                                             Julie Oppermann

 Isn`t this ravishing? I want to eat it, roll in it, wear it and never stop looking at it.

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Thursday, November 17, 2016

Blue Skies to Mayhem

                                              On the North Shore watermedia on Yupo 14x11

 November is particularly colorful in the Northwest and this one began with a brilliant clear sky. My mood was celebratory as we got closer to the election and I painted this breaking storm over the mountains of Hanalei on Kauai. Friends were visiting the islands and their reports on Facebook prompted my memories. It was so exciting to be on the cusp of electing our first female president, plus,  team blue would win back the Senate!
 Not. So. Fast. Randy.
It seemed worse than 9/11 because it was self inflicted and as a close observer of politics I was as blindsided as anyone. In the emotional rubble, I knew then this runaway train had been visible for miles. But I would not believe the country that chose Barack Obama twice would then select Donald Trump. It could never happen...
I wasn `t about to make half the country my enemy so I began to research. I soon heard a historian say that Trump was not possible without Obama. Then I read blogs from Democrats in red states and began to understand this was a pipe bomb thrown into the middle of our democracy. Why would anyone do this? Why would anyone set into slow motion this national suicide? How could anyone be so reckless?
I know something about self destruction and know at its heart is hopelessness. If someone lived in the country or in a small town and saw their community decimated by job losses, the adult children having to move elsewhere to survive, an ongoing rampant opioid epidemic, a loss of pride and true poverty, they might feel there was nothing left to lose. You might throw a grenade to get some attention. Every single voter knew the disgusting character of Donald Trump. This was not ignorance or just racism or only deep seated misogyny. I`ve come to think this was a call for help. In part at least, god knows it also unleashed the worst elements in the human psyche. The president-elect must answer for that eventually.
In my prosperous blue corner of the country, there has been a call to arms and people are responding. Our egregious loss in the electoral college AGAIN demands personal action. This will be the most scrutinized and confronted administration in history. But let`s breathe deep and choose carefully what to fight. Such as this;
Today there was serious talk of a registry of Muslims!
That is not going to fly, we will not make that mistake again! This is a matter for uprising, freedom of religion is front and center in the constitution.
Exhausting ourselves over the appointment of Steve Bannon is not. Arguably, a president deserves his choice of whoever he wants for an advisor even if it`s a  white supremacist prick.
There will be many just causes but as a Democrat and a patriot, I want my party to rethink its identity, find fresh articulate leaders, return to its roots in the labor movement and someday lead the country out of the abyss we are likely to fall into. Trump doesn`t care about rural America, he just used them. Let`s gather them back into the party with a bold plan worthy of FDR.

                                                  November Mayhem oil on yupo 14x11

 The visual cacophony of autumn is thrilling but I prefer it when it doesn`t match my mood. What a tough week!!
I hate the idea of already vulnerable people in a new state of fear. Although I`ll be vigilant about policy, it`s individuals I care most about. I want to protect someone or something. Use this unasked for white advantage for good.
To females, consider advanced self defense. This trailer for Beauty Bites Beast is an inspiration. Patriarchy will not go down without a fight.
For those of you inundated by petitions, read this.
To understand better what the malady even is, try this.
Many, including me, are psychologically fragile right now. Let`s be gentle and kind and as deserving of that better world as possible.

                                                      Wonderful Joan Eardley 1921-1963

                                                                 Angel Falls

Think our country has problems? Venezuela has problems!

                                                       Exactly what John thought too

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Friday, November 4, 2016

Shinrin-yoku for real

                                                         Shinrin-yoku 2 oil on canvas 20x20

 One of my pieces in this weekend`s Sitka Invitational at the Forestry Center in Portland. The show is a benefit for the one of the coolest institutions I know of, The Sitka Center for Art and Ecology in Otis OR. Unusual provocative classes in summer, long generous residencies for artists and scholars in winter. Forty years ago, Frank and Jane Boyden had a great idea and they made it a reality. Not many do that, especially in their 20s.
This is a worthy exhibition full of landscapes and nature themed art of an unusually high quality. Give it a look and then take a walk through the arboretum while you`re up there, it`s spectacular right now!

 When I got up at 5 to go to the bathroom, I could see out my window the street lamp was a hazy glowing ball. Fog!! At last!
Just last night I was looking at my photos from autumn 2015 and remembered I wasn`t out and about too much then. This year is different. I set out early for the Tualatin-Durham-Cook`s Park trinity of autumn wonder. Once there I had a long soaking Shrinrin-yoku, a forest bath, and it did me good.
Cold wet fog always reminds me of being a kid, camping with my family on the coast of Northern California or Oregon. We fled the heat of the Inland Empire in summer and drove north. In those foggy state parks we were cool.
Look what I saw this morning;

 Now is a time for faith. Vote, then trust our great country to do the right thing. Breathe deep.

Now we know

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