Sunday, July 25, 2021

Summer 21

                                                    Rainforest watercolor collage 26x20 inches

 I had a failed painting and after many heroic attempts to rescue it, I gave up. Since it once had promise I wondered if I could just patch over the problems with collage? I have a heap of fragments from previous debacles to choose from for my shapes. Instantly there was this new way forward with an interesting conclusion as well.

 I`ve been thinking I should write something. This is not the summer I imagined coming up when I got my second vaccine shot March 31. I have to admit I was expecting more joy, god knows we need it. Yet there is an undeniable tension. Only a week after the summer solstice, still June, the now infamous heat dome literally scorched the Northwest killing hundreds of people. The further north you were the temperature was even hotter. Records were broken everywhere by multiple degrees. This set up a cautionary mood, what are we in for? The first major wildfire soon began in southern Oregon fouling the air with smoke all through the northern Rockies. Our country’s  vaccination rates began to stagnate just as the ferocious Delta variant began sweeping through the states. Supporters of the former president risked their lives in making the political protest of boycotting their one safe passage through this, the miracle vaccine. On the left, those that shunned the vaccine proved how insincere their belief in the common good really is. With so much death throughout the world from Covid 19, it is privilege indeed to refuse this easily available protection which is absolutely free. Shame on those confused foolish people. Soon after the 4th of July, historic floods raged through Europe and then China. Global warming is here. Those that continue to downplay the reality of it are lying. Everyone can see now things aren`t like they used to be not so very long ago. 

I am at the last part of my life and I want a full engagement with what is left. Life goes on no matter if the sun burns or the rivers rage. Somehow I`m determined to move through these calamities with a positive spirit. My later years will be full of events and conditions that result from overheating the planet. In the destruction, how to have an open heart as it is breaking? I intend to find out and suspect this can happen best if my focus shifts away from my own disappointment. We are each surrounded by the needs of others. Attending to some of them may be a way forward.


So when I could tell my old friend was overwhelmed from the weight of caring for her dying husband, I offered to help. She lives on the central coast of California and the situation was quite serious when I arrived. Sometimes it just takes a fresh pair of eyes to see what is happening. Having a bit of experience with hospice, I helped with that transition then came home. To be trusted by someone dying is a special humbling honor. 

                                                             John and Tiffany in the garden

My nephew and his wife from Southern California were in town this weekend. They didn`t bring their sons because one is still too young to be vaccinated. It has been such a unique pleasure to watch my nieces and nephews grow into themselves. To gradually understand their unfolding along with them. Last night we gathered in the garden of my sister in law Norma, talking and eating through the long summer twilight. It was perfect, the antidote for a year of solitude.

                                                                       by E M Corsa

 My dear unmet friend from the coast of North Carolina, Elizabeth Corsa,  has been featured in the magazine Artisan Joy. We both love and struggle with Yupo. She is as dedicated an artist as I`ve ever known. Check out the interview and the work on her website.

                                                 Laguna watermedia on Yupo 26x20 inches

 Like all these new abstract paintings, little is consciously intended when I begin. Soon though this had a coastal vibe yet it was too sunny for Oregon. Then I remembered all the holidays and summers I spent in Laguna Beach growing up. My best friend`s family always took me along on these vacations. Several families would rent this one big house overlooking the ocean but blocked by a bluff of a view of the beach. We had such fun swimming in the ocean. 
The town was in its last days of a bohemian art scene and I`m sure my imagination was enflamed by seeing so much art at its annual festival.  This was the 60s and galleries were not common where I grew up. I remember how exotic and exciting it was to know it was possible to have a life of painting. Just a little exposure to something new is all it takes for some kids to find out what they were meant to do.

 I was in an art supply store and saw a packet of 12x12 heavily textured watercolor paper claiming it was thoroughly sized. Sizing is like a glue that keeps the paper from being too absorbent. I knew better than to fall for it but I haven`t shopped in person much for a long time. Lesson learned, if it looks like a homemade paper towel, painting on it will be a similarly rustic experience; 


 Not much more than doodles but they let me think. Between more ambitious paintings, I often need an interlude of some sort. I want to be making something but with a small investment.

Randall makes a Poster!

                                                                       John Hoyland

                                                                       John Hoyland

                                                                         John Hoyland

To me they seem seeped in 1960`s psychedelia but they were painted later in his career. John Hoyland, the great British painter, wanted to make abstract art that vibrated with possibility. These examples of his later period I just love! They`re not just lyrical, they startle me into hearing a different language of color.


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Thursday, June 17, 2021

Oneonta 21

                                     Oneonta 21 watermedia on Yupo 26x40 inches, 66x101.5 cm

 Every time I paint this canyon I wonder if I hurt it. Not that hordes of people are reading Painter`s Process, still, am I contributing to its overwhelming popularity? Pictures like these are not uncommon;

                                                        photo from Oregon

                                                                  photo by Kate Bailey

 Like our National Parks, most beautiful places are being overrun. We are all starved for beauty, what is to be done? I wish I knew. Not even the massive log jam at the start of this little hike discourages ardent nature lovers. And when the trail becomes the stream itself and one is chest deep in the freezing water, you are not alone.

It is a special place with the misfortune of being close to a million individuals and a major interstate highway.

If you get in there, make it count. A slot canyon in one of the few temperate rainforests in the world is beyond unique.

 Just before the pandemic and my change of focus toward abstraction, I painted a large version of Oneonta in oils. The White Bird Gallery used the image in an ad and the painting sold before the magazine published. Someone called the gallery after seeing the ad and was disappointed to hear the painting was already gone. He said to please inform him if I did any other works with this subject. I was told this while between projects with abstraction. Something representational sounded like fun after the confusion of painting abstractions. So I did. The gallery sent him a photo and they have not heard from him. So this Oneonta is for sale.

                                                 Gullfoss watermedia on paper 18x 14 inches

 Another painting of a popular destination, Gullfoss, Icelands mighty waterfall. One of the attractions on the 'Golden Circle', it is without question grand and enormous. The glacial water crashes into a fissure which is mostly out of view. When I saw it in 2016 it was in the evening and the crowds were not thick. The weather was foggy with rain and we had to get close to the edge to understand the geology. Waterfalls abound in that country but this one is different, the scale dwarfs anything in Oregon. 

                                          Morning Music watermedia on Yupo 26x20 inches

 I can`t remember the impetus for this one. Often it`s something simple like a color combination. As much as I love the gestural painting in abstract expressionism, I need forms, shapes, patterns and texture in mine. What I`m searching for is an organizing principle or structure to hold my exploration.

 This is a technical piece of advice for those using watercolor. If you dilute a color to get a lighter value, which is the traditional method, sometimes it won`t have enough 'body' to stay put. Especially on Yupo, it will slide right off. I`ve begun to add gum arabic to my washes. This is the binder holding watercolor paint together. You can buy it in its pure state and include some whenever you need the paint to be a bit more sticky. When used like this, it also allows for better, but still delicate, over painting on Yupo. Wish I would have thought of this decades ago.

 Nearly a month back I was in Nebraska for my long time buddy Todd`s wedding. It was a love fest that even a wall of hot humidity couldn`t wilt. His family was of course there, and I hadn`t seen them in 45 years. I used to live next door to his mother and she was there! At 93! His sisters were not the teenagers I remembered but grandmothers now. As banal as the passage of time is, it`s also completely amazing. The wedding took place on a farm outside of Omaha, on a hill overlooking miles of rolling fields. It was spectacular!

                                                                     Linda and Todd

                                                                         Todd and Randall

                                                    Cottonwoods worthy of New Mexico!

 There`s a little less of me than there was a couple of weeks ago, I had a toe amputated! 
My toes have revolted against the natural order of things and are trying to change places with each other. I`m told this is not uncommon as we age. One of mine was so distorted it had to go if I expected to wear shoes. The convalescence has been tricky. I`m trying to stay off my feet which has meant little painting and more Netflix than I ever would choose ordinarily. As I get older my priorities get simpler. I just want to keep walking.

Here are some paintings that have captured my attention;

                                                a winter nocturne by Matthew Wong

                                                                   by Robert Baribeau

                                                                         by Tu Hongtao

                                                                   by Joanna Logue

 I hope the new subscription service is working out, thanks for your patience!

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Tuesday, May 18, 2021

On the Move Again and subscription changes

                                            Beltane watermedia on Yupo 26x20 inches, 66x51 cm

                                       Reliquary 3 watercolor on Yupo 26x20 inches, 66x51 cm

 Both of those paintings please me and the second was painted in a day. That is extremely rare and I`m taking it as a good sign that this long project of painting abstractly is going somewhere. I sure hope so. I painted on location recently and that didn`t feel right. Beautiful place on Oswego Creek too. I will return to the field this summer, it`s so nice to just be outside. Yet I wish my desire for the landscape were stronger.
 Unbeknownst to me, I was told 'Feedburner' , a service or subcontractor or something with Google, will no longer send out this blog to you as an email beginning in July. John installed it on the upper right on the blog where many of you subscribed by adding your email address. I`m going to put a new one up there run by Seems quite a few of you never sent back through email a required confirmation of your subscription. You may not receive future posts. If you write me at I`ll add you to the new service. The people at are saints, let me tell you. They hoped to sell me all kinds of analytics for my business but even when I explained I only wanted to preserve the readers I had, they still helped me transfer the addresses which were confirmed. This was a grueling experience because I`m old. It required days of correspondence. I wore out one employee and ground down another. These bright young IT types must dread interacting with a dinosaur. I couldn`t figure out where the correct CVS file was. Day after day they coached me. John got involved after long days at the hospital and we couldn`t find it. Until we did. They deserve a lot of credit for their patience. I wish they had something I could buy that I could understand.

 Took the first road trip in years recently. My brother Mike and I went to see our cousin in Port Angeles WA. She is dying of pancreatic cancer. That`s the same one that took out my brother Gary and at the same age. I haven`t seen her much since we were kids but I wanted to go. My brother`s death was one of integrity with very little pain, so I hoped to reassure her. We expected her to be in bed but she was up and around though extremely thin. We had the best damn time! Conversation and laughs just flowed. Having the same grandmother alone was a source of delight. Our low expectations were overwhelmed and driving along the Hood Canal was as lovely as I remembered.

 Soon we are flying to Omaha for the wedding of one of my closest, oldest friends. I met Todd in 7th grade and now he is getting married again at 68! New starts of any kind that happen in retirement just please me so much and marriage is an ultimate gesture of hope. For the second time, he asked me to be the best man. The first was in 1976 and I had just moved to New Mexico and I was broke. I said no because I was so determined to pay my own way and be responsible for myself. Later I wished I had borrowed the money and been there. Now I have a second chance. 
I have to say I`m nervous to fly. Regardless of new CDC guidelines, I think masks will be required. I hope so. Until the violence with Israel and Hamas knocked it out of the news, the pandemic situation in India had my full attention. The suffering has been unspeakable. I love that country.

 These subtle mysteries were painted by the Australian, Clarice Beckett. Though appreciated and collected now, she died at 48, was ignored for decades and a huge amount of work was lost to the weather due to lousy storage. For most of history, women artists didn`t matter. What a loss for humanity.

I saw this on Facebook. Not elegant but sure to the point. Why would we ever think it could be easy? Every time I begin a painting, I fervently wish for the rare experience when decisions flow organically and the process is elevated. The joy in painting then is indescribable! At last, I have reached my apex! But like everything, it passes. What is surprising in comparison is that a lot of worthy work is completed through sheer struggle.

 The entire Western United States in is drought. Even the rainforest I live in. Yet we`ve had the gentlest spring, so full of sunshine and fragrance it`s like heaven itself. But many fear a reckoning to come. The fires now are on a scale never seen before. Take it from me, they are truly terrifying. With the entire region so dry there is no safety assured anywhere. Wish us well. Every summer now will be fraught with tension. At least we have a president now and the party in charge that recognizes Global Warming. We cannot address this soon enough.

 Hope you all have your vaccine! Covid 19 is nasty, protect yourself! Protect your neighbor!

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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