Saturday, December 14, 2019


                               A December Dusk watermedia on paper  19x14 inches 48x36 cm

 It`s back, the Yuletide, aka Christmas.
Just a month ago it was visually autumn, but not now. At this northern latitude the day is brief and the night, a long one. Many years ago I learned not to get frustrated by the ridiculous amount of daylight. You prioritize what will be done and let slide the rest. I don`t see very well at night.
This thoughtful NYT essay on the darkness preceding Christmas as a time of reflection made sense to me. The twelve days of Christmas begin on the 25th, not conclude! In pre-Christian Europe the party begins just before the winter solstice. A thousand years ago the old traditions were blended into the new religion. When and how the 'holidays', Thanksgiving through New Years, supplanted the twelve days of Christmas, I don`t know, but I like the former idea. All this seasonal gloom makes for serious introspection and focused work and then I need a break! Christmas comes in time, I just wish it would last.

                                                               by Emil Robinson

                                                     White Crossing by Don Gray

Last weekend I went to see "The Long Story" at the Murdoch Collections in NW Portland. My pal Don Gray is showing a selection of works along with ceramic pieces by Sally Squire, curated by Jeffrey Thomas, a well known local gallerist. With many phases of Don`s work represented, it was like a little retrospective in a museum.

                                                               Taut by Don Gray

 Don works figuratively and abstractly and they seem to be merging. After a long career as a muralist, he is now concentrating on studio work. It`s this new stuff that really gets me;

                                                    Seeking Level #28 by Don Gray

Seeking Level #28 I had seen on Facebook but it was entirely different in person. There is such a brave confrontational quality to it. The two white shapes at the bottom are covered in marks that remind me of scrimshaw. They face the dark void of that cold sea as guides or guardians. The painting is big and immersive with its emotional effect growing stronger with the time spent looking. I know his work well and I think this is one of his most important.
 The painter, and my friend, Jean Dupre was with me and on that quiet Saturday we had a long entertaining visit with lovely Marilyn Murdoch, the gallery owner and a maniacal art collector. God love her.
 The exhibit lasts until January 25. It`s well worth a visit.
2219 NW Raleigh
Portland OR 97210
hrs; M-F 10-6, S-10-5

Take a look at Jean`s work too, she has updated her website;

                                                               Iris Glow by Jean Dupre

                                                        Pigment Erosion by Jean Dupre

                                                     Tangled Blossoms by Jean Dupre

 She likes Yupo too. We discuss strategy.

 Speaking of websites, instead of updating mine at the end of the year like I usually do, I`m releasing my generous and patient designer, Jeremy McWilliams, from the task and he has agreed to give me a tutorial on how it`s done. Teach me to fish for myself after twelve years. I want to be able to make additions and revisions throughout the year. It`s time and I know there are Boomer friendly services with templates and programs to make this possible. Any suggestions? Especially any that would allow me use my domaine name instead of being part of a larger group like FASO? I`d appreciate any tips. I`m not illiterate but not so bright with digital matters.

 Not to be a downer, but the election in the UK last Thursday ought to strike fear into the hearts of all Democrats and other patriots. The overwhelming Conservative victory is a dread omen for our 2020 presidential election. Working class, industrial regions voted Tory for the first time in memory.
I lived through the demoralizing elections of 72 and 84 and feel that progressive or moderate isn`t as important as a candidate that can inspire the imagination. Make us proud of our diversity, and generate excitement in tackling the urgent business of our time. Specifically global warming. With some vision, that challenge could be the great project of our country and benefit the economy as well. With unemployment so low, this is an ideal time for bold thought and action. Someone is going to make a lot of money with biodegradable plastics, cheap solar technologies, plentiful charging stations for cars and so many other vital responses to the coming catastrophe. Why not us?
Our country is in deep trouble. This is now a knife fight with the Republican Party and its Russian owners. For the first time in my life I can imagine the military having to get involved with our politics. I hope I`m wrong.

                                   Surrounding the Creek acrylic on Yupo 26x20 inches 66x51 cm

 In the end I was happy with this but my intention was thwarted immediately. I thought I had tried watercolor on gessoed Yupo before and found it interesting. Not this time. It beaded up and was useless, so this became an acrylic painting using an oil technique. I wasn`t sure I could do it or even if I wanted to. It looked like classic impressionism even though the mentor in mind was Phillip Guston in his early work. Hopefully my erratic marks tilt it to the contemporary.

                     The Storm is Coming #2 watermedia on paper 19x14 inches 48x36 cm

 This was a response to a long time collector who wrote to ask about the availability of #1. It had been sold, I told him and didn`t think anymore about it. Until my next painting went terribly wrong midway through. I wondered if I could make it into a new version of The Storm is Coming. Sure took a long time and the tone isn`t as urgent, but I prevailed. I loved using some pure red too.

 Yet another European Christmas tradition, Krampus!

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Libby Fife said...


It sounds like you had some trouble with "Surrounding The Creek" but honestly, I love the colors! Subtle yet substantial. It's so soft and kind of wintery and just perfect.

I am not crazy about the holidays but I do like the winter a lot. I like the short days and darkness. The summer light and endless days overwhelm me. (And now the fire threat upsets me.) I could do without the nonsense of shopping and false "once a year" celebrating, however.

Don's work is so varied. I always feel like he is very, very focused in on what he wants to say or do. I'd like to see his work in person. You have some good "art" friends:)

Another great post, thank you. Hope you are doing well.

Maureen said...

I very much like your two works shown here, Randall. Your sea images seem so apt for the times we're in: Yes, the storm is coming! And I fear it.

Thank you for an intro to Gray and Dupre, and your always insightful comments.

Wagoner's poetry speaks loudly to me, and I think I'll borrow a couple of lines from the poem here to use in a Thought for the Day. I've recently "discovered" the work of the poet Jane Mead (her first collection is astounding; I'm reading her collected works), and also Lyn Lifshin, who died recently, another whose use of language leaves me in awe.

Good luck with your digital adventure!

Maggie Emm said...

A December Dusk is so beautiful - and I am that person standing in the light of the Christmas tree, letting the magic seep into me.
Great poem too - in fact a feast of presents, thank you Randall! May your Christmas be merry and bright x

RH Carpenter said...

Thank you for another fine post, Randall. I fell in love with the first painting - the mist, the violets, the cut across of the grasses, the mark-making, everything. I read through the post, looking at all the wonderful artwork, and returned to it and the sheer beauty and perfection of it brought tears to my eyes - and isn’t that what great art should do? We need more of that for 2020 so I wish you a very creative and joyful 2020!