Monday, April 19, 2021

Kevin`s Orchard

                                           Kevin`s Orchard mixed media on Yupo 20x16 inches

When I saw them in January I was impressed with these small grizzled trees. Most were not that old but by being on a hill, bearing the brunt of winter storms blasting through the Columbia River Gorge they appeared to be elders. Each had character. The group was like a regiment of retired military men still proud and standing tall. I thought, I could make a painting of this. So a week ago I arranged to visit Kevin and paint his orchard. Conditions weren`t ideal but I knew the trees would soon be in bloom and then leaf and my opportunity gone for another year. It had been many months since I had painted outdoors but my gear was mostly intact and ready. Just as I was about to leave, Kevin calls and says don`t come, it`s freezing up here, you`ll be miserable. I sighed and let the idea go. Fifteen minutes later, just as I felt myself slip into a nap, my phone rings again. He says come now, the sun is shining, it`s beautiful! I politely tell him he had already ruined my day and that I was now on to other projects. But do me a favor, please go take some photos of it. He did.

In the last year, in response to the catastrophe of the pandemic, I began to work abstractly. Something I`ve frequently done but not for an extended commitment. With the world as I knew it threatened, it seemed like the right time to try something  challenging. As I`ve mentioned, it has not been easy. Recently though, they are coming a bit faster and that feels like progress. I`ve also done some occasional representational work to reassure my sense of competence. With a subject, there is always that reference to help orient the painting. In that spirit, I wanted to paint this orchard. In New Mexico for a time, I lived in a place surrounded by pear and apple trees. I painted them often. So painting this Oregon orchard should be fun. It wasn`t. For some reason, maybe with all the uncertainty in the last year, my judgement is off. I photograph every days work and repeatedly, in reviewing them later, I see I could have stopped much sooner. This painting too, it used to be bigger;

The two trees on the right I could not seem to get right so I cut them off and simplified the rest. A week later they look fine. It was a much livelier painting. This mistrust of myself is not good. I suspect the isolation has disrupted my perspective. I want it back.

 I`m really not an agent for the New York Times and I apologize for recommending something behind a paywall. Remember, they will let you read a few articles for free every month. Come back to this story, it`s a good one. Jo van Gogh was the wife of Theo, Vincent`s brother and protector. Theo died less than a year after Vincent`s suicide at 33. Jo and Theo had been married 21 months. She found the brothers  now famous correspondence and read them in remembrance and affection for her husband. It was an education. She began to fully understand what the two were trying to do. Vincent as an innovator searching for a new visual 'truth', and Theo always there to support his brother financially, promote his work and encourage his broken psyche.  Her brief happy marriage was gone but she knew something extraordinary was in her possession. She owned all of Vincent`s 400 paintings.  It`s really touching how she responded to the grief and the work in the same spirit of the brothers.

                                            April is Back mixed media on Yupo 26x20 inches

 April in western Oregon is absolutely magnificent, I had to respond. From the start it seemed I was painting something theatrical. A temporary performance. I have painted spring landscapes for years and years. All were earnest and all were disappointments. It`s just too delicate and with such day to day momentum, it feels kind of foolish. Better to just be out in it.

 Have you ever seen such joyful buildings??
I don`t know how I stumbled upon them but they are the creation of a self taught architect, built by indigenous owners in celebration of their new economic prosperity! Good job!
Businesses on the first floor, dance hall on the second, apartments on the third and the owners home on top. Freddy Mamani Silvestre is the original genius and now there is a movement of such architecture spreading throughout Bolivia. Bolivia!! Wow, everything to love here! What I haven`t read yet is how the locals made their fortunes? That has got to be totally interesting too.

                                                                      by Fran O`Neill

So simple, why didn`t I think of it? I love Fran O`Neill`s paintings!

                                                                    by Amy Talluto

 Amy Talluto knows trees. And she`s good with a brush. She draws beautifully.

                                                                   by Mike Lipsey

Please get vaccinated!

click HERE for work for sale in my studio

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Sunday, April 4, 2021

The Coast, vaccine and Easter

                                       Dune and Sky watercolor on Yupo 26x20 inches, 66x51 cm

 It was just a proposal, nothing definite and certainly not a commission. Would I like to paint a coastal image for a commemorative poster? That`s my third attempt above and it`s from a 20 year old sketch. Below are the other two;

                                                       watercolor on Yupo 28x20 inches

                                                North Coast watercolor on Yupo 26x20 inches

 I`m not sure they are poster-grade images but I do know that I am finished with trying. If the impulse to paint an image doesn`t originate with me first, it`s hard to get at, to find an emotional core to guide me. This painting below I actually think would make a good poster and it was done last year;

                                           Coastal Nocturne watercolor on Yupo 26x20 inches

 My second shot of the vaccine was last week and I was elated the whole day. Freedom from fear! Yet it didn`t last, a celebration involves others. Until the country moves past this pandemic, the joy will still be  measured, hopeful and anticipatory. 
People I love, on the right and left politically, are refusing to be vaccinated. This is utterly shocking. Are they reading what Covid-19 can do to a person?? After what the world has endured the past year, it`s clear that this decision is political.  Also tragically misguided. Without mass vaccinations, the virus continues to mutate and elude its elimination. Who wants this to continue? Not a future for me. These holdouts will have to arrive at a different attitude in their own time. Persuasion isn`t possible yet. I hardly know how to handle my disappointment and anger. 

                                                           Peaches by Donna Thibodeau

The Brush and Palette group of Michigan painters asked me to speak to them in a Zoom presentation. I agreed though I wanted them to ask me questions. I have no agenda and am such a reluctant teacher because the role itself feels inappropriate. So I sent them links to interviews and my website and when the meeting commenced, they were prepared. Almost every educational situation I`ve led has focused on technical issues. Those are not unimportant but they are far less relevant to what an artist is 'saying'. I don`t know how to guide anybody through that question and yet it is the most important part of being a painter. Why do you want to do it? What compels you? Annie Lamott`s advice to writers is to write the books they want to read. What paintings do I want to see? It`s a simple but profound question. I do believe we all have a birthright to creativity. Yet even the most casual hobbyist is going to paint something. What will it be?
 The group asked me to judge a show of their work and the first prize winner was Donna Thibodeau`s Peaches [above]. I chose it for its clarity. From idea through execution, she succeeded in a forthright simple composition using clear, gorgeous color.

                                                          watermedia on Yupo 26x20 inches

                                                Reliquary 2 watermedia on Yupo 26x20 inches

                                            Untitled yellow watercolor on Yupo 26x20 inches

 My abstract efforts are still all over the map but I am making progress. They aren`t taking so long, just a couple of days. I haven`t found a language of my own yet but I`m closer. Concentrating my efforts to watermedia on the plastic paper Yupo has also helped along the evolution.

My buddy Jo Reimer sent out a notice about a new line of super opaque acrylics made by Golden. I`ve wanted a white as dense as oil paint. A holy grail of sorts. As I move away from oil painting the one thing I haven`t been able to replicate in acrylic is a spontaneous gestural mark that dries as it is painted, as it is wanted. A gesture is impossible to repeat if it dries looking transparent or equivocal. This drove me to oils in the first place back in 1984. I need my brushstrokes to be stable. In oil painting this is not a problem.
So anyway, I went to the Golden website and saw that they will do custom orders. I asked them for the densest white possible and it just arrived in the mail!

                                                  cartoon by Harry Bliss and Steve Martin

Easter Sunday again. Though it doesn`t seem to be the big deal of my childhood, I think it is a shared, welcomed holiday. Our country is more tolerant now in large part due to the decline of the church in our lives. This is a more secular country than ever. For better and worse. I left traditional Christianity as a teenager because the concept of a loving God punishing people in hell throughout eternity was a contradiction too huge to ignore. Upon inspection, other parts of the story didn`t hold up either. It looked pretty obvious that man created god in his own image. Yet the great philosophical-spiritual questions remain. It takes a lifetime to create a new understanding of the divine.

Then there is Pastor Adam Ericksen;

As a bird flies, the Clackamas United Church of Christ is may be five miles away from me. I saved this photo from a Reddit post. In the comments I read Adam walks his talk. That the church is actively helping the poor and desperate here in Oregon. The spirit of Christianity is as radical as you can get; love your enemy. Who can do that? Who will even consider it?
He`s on to something. A better world. 

                                           The Empire State building from New Jersey 1930`s

 Isn`t this photo phenomenal? Just imagine!
Somewhat similarly, I was running in a park in Queens once and saw only trees with the two towers of the World Trade Center above them. Then, I found a $50 bill on the grass!

                                                      by the wonderful John Felsing

click HERE for work for sale in my studio


Thursday, February 25, 2021

Hello again

                                                Reliquary watermedia on Yupo 14x11 inches

                                                           watermedia on Yupo 26x20

                                                Hindu-Kush watercolor on Yupo 14x11 inches

 Three recent paintings though a few more are in process, not quite ready for their debut yet. 

In his Twitterless world the former president can`t dominate the public sphere anymore. Isn`t it great to wake up in the morning and not wonder what he`s done? Since the inauguration it`s been a quiet time for me. As I wait my turn for the vaccine, one day isn`t too different from the day before. If I weren`t painting I would have lost my mind by now. With John fully vaccinated, he`s the public face of our household now. Any errand to be done, he`s the man. I write the most detailed shopping lists you`ve ever seen, I coach him before he leaves on where everything is and while he`s out, I`m available for texts. He`s getting good at it! Meanwhile I lie low trying not to bump into one of the 'variants'. All reports say they will soon be common and that they are so much more contagious. Yet the rates of infection and deaths are falling rapidly everywhere. This is good news of course but there is a disconnect I am not hearing about. Why with these more contagious strains are there fewer cases?
 Local Oregonians had some real drama beginning a couple of weeks ago. The polar vortex that humbled Texas also took a devastating swipe at us. Ice storms on top of snowfall caused many of our numerous trees to fall taking power lines with them. Over 350,000 homes were without power for part of a week, with some still not back in service. Mine was not the only home without an electricity-free heat source. After two cold nights we had had enough but there was not a hotel room anywhere. Then I checked across the Columbia where my family is and they had not lost power. I called the Camas Hotel and yes, they had rooms available! Hallelujah! It is such a cool little place right in the middle of charming downtown Camas. Reasonable price too, I highly recommend it. When the power came back we returned to freaked out cats but surprisingly little spoiled food. Friends of mine were not as fortunate as quickly.
However the situation in Texas was truly a scandal. When deregulation is so prized it`s only a matter of time until tragedy strikes. The [Republican] leaders of that massive state failed their citizens badly. I can only imagine how humiliating it would have been to be unable to protect your children from the penetrating cold. Families with kids have had the worst year possible and I`m worried it will haunt us.
The lights are on again in Austin and Dallas and Houston, but I hope they remember this betrayal of public trust in the next election.

                                             Riverrun Park   watermedia on yupo 26x20 inches

 I began this after an exhilarating walk last November but it soon faltered. That is so disappointing when strong inspiration and enthusiasm aren`t enough. It wasn`t hopeless so I set it aside. In late January I was able to rescue it.

                                                                       Forrest Moses

 An acquaintance, mentor, hero of mine recently died. Forrest Moses was unique in his ability to construct an abstract expressionist landscape. Sometime after moving to New Mexico I discovered his work and it truly changed everything. It would be many many years before I was as happy with my own work. I contacted him and he asked me over showing me his studio and even his methods. He was very generous and presented me with a new ideal of what landscape painting could be. For years he was the lodestar. We weren`t friends, he was older and from a more genteel world but we eventually came to draw together in a figure study group and I got to know him more. I knew I was coming into my own maturity when I could just appreciate his work without comparison. He was a great painter.

                                                                     Forrest Moses

                                                                         Forrest Moses

 I was a witness to a fun Zoom interview with Lois Dodd in conversation with the wonderful painter Eric Aho. She is 93 and has been a dogged proponent of perceptual painting since forever. She is still dragging her gear out into the field to paint the landscape in person. I probably admire her more than her work, but I`ve learned from it.

                                                                          Lois Dodd

                                                                           Lois Dodd


 If anyone is still baking, I have the best recipe for whole wheat I`ve ever encountered. John found it and has made it repeatedly. It is a beautiful all purpose bread that slices easily, freezes without drying out, is great for sandwiches and French Toast and especially for tearing into while still a little steamy. Every time, we are just amazed at how good it is.

                                                    I couldn`t find who took this sweet photo

  OK, here is an opinion piece by Charlie Warzel of the New York Times. They allow five 'free' articles a month and with a sane president now, maybe you haven`t used them up. He`s writing about Michael Goldhaber and his assertion that the internet is rewiring our brains. This essay explained commerce and politics in this era better than anything I`ve read. Now I know why social media annoys me so much; the clamor! As if everything is really important. He talks about how we now live in an 'attention economy' and he claims it`s well worth our effort to pay attention to what we give our attention to. If you have some time, read it. I felt sort of enlightened afterward.

                                                                        by Paul Basye

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Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Unafraid Under Our Own Vine and Fig Tree

                                                    Icy Slide watercolor on Yupo 26x20 inches

When day comes we ask ourselves where can we find light in this never-ending shade? The loss we carry a sea we must wade. We’ve braved the belly of the beast. We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace. In the norms and notions of what just is isn’t always justice. And yet, the dawn is ours before we knew it. Somehow we do it. Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken, but simply unfinished. We, the successors of a country and a time where a skinny Black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president only to find herself reciting for one.

And yes, we are far from polished, far from pristine, but that doesn’t mean we are striving to form a union that is perfect. We are striving to forge our union with purpose. To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters, and conditions of man. And so we lift our gazes not to what stands between us, but what stands before us. We close the divide because we know to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside. We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another. We seek harm to none and harmony for all. Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true. That even as we grieved, we grew. That even as we hurt, we hoped. That even as we tired, we tried that will forever be tied together victorious. Not because we will never again know defeat, but because we will never again sow division.

Scripture tells us to envision that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree and no one shall make them afraid. If we’re to live up to her own time, then victory won’t lie in the blade, but in all the bridges we’ve made. That is the promise to glade, the hill we climb if only we dare. It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit. It’s the past we step into and how we repair it. We’ve seen a forest that would shatter our nation rather than share it. Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy. This effort very nearly succeeded.

But while democracy can be periodically delayed, it can never be permanently defeated. In this truth, in this faith we trust for while we have our eyes on the future, history has its eyes on us. This is the era of just redemption. We feared it at its inception. We did not feel prepared to be the heirs of such a terrifying hour, but within it, we found the power to author a new chapter, to offer hope and laughter to ourselves so while once we asked, how could we possibly prevail over catastrophe? Now we assert, how could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?

We will not march back to what was, but move to what shall be a country that is bruised, but whole, benevolent, but bold, fierce, and free. We will not be turned around or interrupted by intimidation because we know our inaction and inertia will be the inheritance of the next generation. Our blunders become their burdens. But one thing is certain, if we merge mercy with might and might with right, then love becomes our legacy and change our children’s birthright.

So let us leave behind a country better than one we were left with. Every breath from my bronze-pounded chest we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one. We will rise from the gold-limbed hills of the west. We will rise from the wind-swept north-east where our forefathers first realized revolution. We will rise from the Lake Rim cities of the midwestern states. We will rise from the sun-baked south. We will rebuild, reconcile and recover in every known nook of our nation, in every corner called our country our people diverse and beautiful will emerge battered and beautiful.

When day comes, we step out of the shade aflame and unafraid. The new dawn blooms as we free it. For there is always light. If only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.

"The Hill We Climb" by Amanda Gorman, National Youth Poet Laureate

No surprise I`m biased, but that was the best inaugural I`ve seen. Not the least because of Amanda`s gorgeous, hopeful poem. She recited it with an upbeat gravity, mature way beyond her 22 years. You can see her performance here.

The man-child president is gone and I`m sure many were overwhelmed by a feeling of a great danger being lifted. The American carnage he warned of in his own inaugural speech came true by his own indifference, incompetence and anger. His own Department of Homeland Security said it was the safest election in a hundred years. His own attorney general said there was no evidence of widespread fraud. The election wasn`t stolen, the psychopath just couldn`t accept his own defeat. So he sent his mob to attack the capitol, abetted by traitors to their oaths of office in Congress. For shame. 400,000 dead of the corona virus, of which he takes no responsibility at all. The sorrow in so many cut down before their time, is vast. 

At least he`s gone now. His opportunity to hurt has been diminished.

I don`t know what to say to those 73 million voters. His evil was so starkly obvious. How were you OK with that? My fear is that the racism that infects everything in our country is the root of it. White supremacy is the expectation of most of us. That term encompasses the KKK for sure but it also includes mundane assumptions about the comfort and privilege of white Americans. It is the default position we are used to no matter how cruelly it plays out. It is so ingrained it will be the work of a lifetime merely to see where it hides.

Joe Biden promised African Americans he would always have their backs. I deeply hope he keeps that pledge. The electoral unity and activism of that beleaguered community literally saved our democracy. Their participation delivered a victory for the new president and then two months later, against huge odds, gave Georgia two new senators and the president a working majority in Congress. As the new president once said when Obamacare was signed into law, "this is a big fucking deal!". The attack in DC diverted the countrys attention from this major feat, but if you value our democractic origin, let`s always be mindful of it. Although there is no scientific foundation for 'race', its role in our society is all too clear. White supremacy and domestic terrorism are the most dangerous threats we face. So let us face them deliberately.

[Sorry for the mix of fonts and presentation, I can`t seem to copy and paste on blogger without screwing it up. If anyone knows how to do this properly, please tell me!]

                                                               watermedia on Yupo 26x20 inches

 Another new work. These abstract paintings are taking a long time to finish. Much of it is just living with it until its merit is revealed or a new course of action is indicated. But once they really are done, my affection for them is real. No doubt because of the struggle.

Click HERE for work for sale in my studio

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Sunday, December 20, 2020

Home alone in the Darkness, celebrate!

                           Cook`s Butte Study watermedia on Yupo 14x11 inches, 35.5x28 cm

 This solstice, Australia is not burning, an impeachment is no longer necessary and the Covid 19 vaccine is here! I`m sure grateful, my nurse husband will get the vaccine tomorrow. There is some new evidence that just one shot may be enough thereby doubling the supply. The whole endeavor to produce this vaccine is nothing short of a miracle. Medicine never moves this fast. It`s a hopeful sign that when the world mobilizes, great things can happen. Nearly 40 years have passed since HIV decimated my generation and its vaccine remains elusive.

Soon a responsible decent man will lead our country. Halleluja!

At long last, Congress just passed a new pandemic relief bill today! Mass poverty averted for now.

But the virus rages on. More now have died than during World War 2. The I-pads above are in a hospital ready for the final goodbyes of those dying of Covid. As we all know, because it is so contagious, the families and friends of the dying are not allowed near. The sacred passing from life to death is experienced alone. There is and will be a serious psychological reckoning.

                                    Winter Light watercolor on Yupo 14x11 inches, 35.5x28 cm

                                    Burial at Sea watercolor on Yupo 14x11 inches, 35.5x28 cm

                                    Replication watercolor on Yupo 14x11 inches, 35.5x28 cm

 My most successful efforts of late have been small. With two larger paintings, the struggle continues. These paintings have no destination which has allowed for some patience in resolving them. That feels wonderful. The personal gifts from the pandemic have been significant. As befitting a relationship with a deadly disease, priorities are swiftly reordered into their proper sequence. Concerns that festered are tossed out as the vanities they always were.
 Because John works in a hospital, we understood in a visceral way we could both die from the virus. So we got our act together and created a Living Trust. The future care of my work is addressed and all our affairs are in order. Being so adult nearly killed us but it`s done.

 From a child still young enough to believe in Santa Claus, he questions his own legitimacy. Yes, even some children this young, know they are gay. This is why I talk about my marriage. This is why I use the word husband. This is why I out myself constantly with every person I meet. If there is a context for saying it I will. I owe it to this boy to do what I can to make homosexuality normal and unremarkable. Insist on the reality that it is a fact of nature. And hold religion responsible.

 See that mountain back there? That is Cucamonga Peak, a talisman for the kids of Fontana Calif, where I grew up. It hovered above everything until it got to smoggy to see it. Trust me on this, living in a heavily polluted place harms the spirit as much as the body. I had to leave. Then, California took responsibility for its air, passed laws to clean it up and is now a leader in developing new technologies and strategies to counter global warming. In 1988 I was reading the New Yorker and came across a natural history of the San Gabriel Mountains [Cucamonga Peak is at the east end of the range] by John McPhee. I felt like my mountain worship was vindicated.

Since I`m painting with watercolor so much, I`ve been studying the work of others. Here are some new favorites;

                                                                   Anna Maria Potamiti

                                                                          Ella Clocksin

                                                                        Kamilla Talbot

 Found this on a Portland OR subreddit. Discovered in a back alley poetry shrine;

                                                                 Laura Grace Weldon


Click HERE for work available in my studio

HERE for prints