Friday, November 26, 2021

The new Thanksgiving

                                                      Summit oil on oil paper 16x12 inches

Well it was better than last year, no question! My extended northwest family was in several locations so John and I communed with my brother Mike and his wife Norma. It was great. I bought prepared food from New Seasons, our local grocer of higher principles and prices. Those of you who have cooked Thanksgiving dinner understand the immense amount of planning, shopping, standing to cook and exhaustive clean up it requires. And then, we expect our mothers, wives, grandmothers, sisters and aunts to stage it all again in a month for Christmas! I did it once and realized immediately this is bullshit. Reproducing the same traditional foods everyone loves that is. How did this even get started? Well, I want most of them too so I purchased them and they were good. Mike brought an enormous pecan pie from Costco and I could have wept it tasted so fine. The conversation was engaging and I was loving the four of us there together. 

The autumn before, it was just me and John and a room full of fear. No one would be vaccinated for at least another month. Every time he left for work at the hospital I worried about his exposure to the virus. Every day before the inauguration I worried what the outgoing insane president would do next. Talk about high anxiety!

The 'Summit' is Cook`s Butte,  718 feet in altitude. In winter you can see through gaps in the trees and survey the lower Willamette Valley. The view is expansive. The painting was an exercise of sorts. Even though I`ve returned to oil painting, I still want to work on paper. Arches makes one infused with a resin that prevents the acidic paint from damaging it. This was my first effort.

                                              Willamette Valley Study watercolor on paper

A long time collector of my work sent me this photo of a painting from 2003. I knew it was mine but didn`t remember it. I let him buy it without photographing it first. Unfortunately analog photography just messed up my mind and too many paintings got away before there was a record of them. I used professional grade slide film, my camera was adequate but I could not keep all the elements straight. Somehow when the world went digital, things started to make sense. With the finishing software like Photoshop, I could correct any flaws. A more proper archive commenced.

                                                     Entourage oil on canvas 20x16 inches

This and the drawing below are the last abstract pieces of late. I feel like it`s time to begin merging the two strains of work. I have lost my patience with being perpetually confused when painting without a subject but I definitely want my landscapes to look different with more emphasis on the painting process rather than my personal attitudes toward nature.

     Untitled watermedia on Yupo 14x11 inches

When the sun slips into its annual retreat in the Pacific Northwest, this salad fortifies the spirit until Spring. The idea is from Sicily, I learned of it working in a restaurant and I eat in all winter long. So simple too. When the good citrus from California arrives I peel and slice oranges. Some tangerines, tangelos or  sometime grapefruit are nice to include and then it`s tossed with a little olive oil and salt. Add some thinly sliced sweet onion such as a Walla Walla or Videlia, a similar small amount of shaved fresh fennel and some sliced or chopped Kalamata olives. It is oddly refreshing on a cold December day. The Sicilians would arrange everything beautifully in layers on a platter but I just gently mix it all up and eat it from the Tupperware.

 In other consumer news, look at this! A counter top ice maker! Of course many people have this done in their freezers automatically but we can`t have nice things like that. Our 100 year old kitchen doesn`t have space for the refrigerator I ''deserve'. 

 One more purchase I`m proud of. When we lost power for days last Feb., we ended up staying in a hotel. Because of covid, I wouldn`t ask any family or friends to shelter us. It was humiliating. We vowed that when the ordeal ended we would find a source of heat that didn`t require electricity. I wanted a heater that ran on natural gas, that didnt have a fan, and had to be lit manually. Took some research but I found one that is wall mounted and vents outside. Naturally we`ve lost power already and we were able to test it. It works well. We also bought a fancy big battery so we could have some light and charge our phones and it came with photovoltaic solar panels to recharge it! Now, I seriously need to prepare for the Big One. It`s coming, the Cascadia Subduction Zone  is 90 miles offshore and overdue for a slip type earthquake.

                                                                     Donald Maier

                                                                     Donald Maier

                                                                   Donald Maier

Donald Maier`s work confounds me. Because I like it so much, especially his southwestern paintings. He uses traditional transparent watercolor technique in a straightforward simple style. Look close and you`ll see his ordinary brushstrokes on top of loosely painted background washes. No tricks, revisions, angst or arrogance anywhere. Yet to me they are magic. Through the most basic means he is showing me the desert I`ve experienced. Landscapes I know and love. Is it his direct attitude or is he different? Does he have a natural link 'from the faraway nearby'? 

This opinion piece from last summer got some attention. He said what many of us felt but wouldn`t articulate. That seemed like an escalation of our already terminal divisions. But as the three day old news of the Omicron covid variant is already shaking the stock market, brace yourselves for this new version which seems quite unlike the others. If it is indeed serious, especially if the vaccine is an uncertain defense, the political/philosophical resistance to the common public wellbeing must be defeated. This virus will be among us forever if we can`t deny its spread. It may take a wartime mentality that I hope we will be ready for. Being anti-vax or anti-mask will be just too dangerous.

                                                                        George Booth

click HERE for work for sale in my studio


Sunday, October 31, 2021

True Autumn

                                              Jackson Bottom watercolor on paper 14x11 inches

 It`s here with the full entourage of radiant temporary color. Beauty so insistent, it stops the machine of my thinking. Interrupts my worry with a blinding golden light. Maybe things will be ok? For today, yes is the answer. Lucky Oregon! Autumn and Spring defy memory. Each time they arrive it seems it has never been so sublime. What did I do to deserve this again? My favorite part is still to come. When the transplanted trees from elsewhere flame out, the natives have their moment. Not as overwhelming as the others but so poignant, the yellows and pinks against the muddy rivers flowing fast again with the rain. It`s great and I suspect it`s good everywhere, right? We all love Fall.

Thank you to those who visited my studio this month during the Portland Open Studios! It was a very successful event by all accounts. Such a social and radical shift from the solitude of painting! I don`t think I will ever stop being amazed that a total stranger will talk knowingly about what I do. In my process, doubt is nearly always present, but not during open studios! Thank you to anyone who looks at my work thoughtfully. That`s exactly what I want yet so rarely see for myself.

                                               April Study watercolor on Yupo 12x9 inches

 This began on location a couple of years ago but I never liked the bottom half. With yupo you can just wipe it off with a damp paper towel. I added a fruit tree in bloom and now I like it.

                                           Cliffside Study watercolor on paper 11x11 inches

  I`m trying, with these landscapes, to integrate some of the insights I`ve gained by working abstractly. But I don`t see much difference yet. The painting below was intended to be a subtle yet lively composition of patterns and textures but it became more realistic, not less;

                                               Rainforest Winter watermedia on Yupo 26x20

 Last weekend I went to see Betsy Chang. She`s an acquaintance I met a few years ago through this blog. She was working in watercolor and we were both interested in Georgia O`keefe`s watercolor paper from the early 20th century. To me, those fresh abstract landscapes were the best work of O`keefe`s life.  I`ve been following Betsy`s work on Instagram ever since. Abruptly her course changed to pure abstraction in oils and acrylics and this made me curious. There is something special and unique to her touch, the way she moves a brush. I can see something original by her marks. I think it might have been apparent even in her childhood. Talent is often demoted to just one of many characteristics in an artists life, and I mostly agree. However we`ve all known people with very particular gifts. The abilities show up early and often overtake the lives of young people.

 So I asked if I could see what she had been working on. Since we had been in touch, she also had a baby, born during this frightening, confusing time. Her studio was absolutely crammed with work everywhere. Big stacks of watercolors on all level surfaces. I thought my god, she`s done all of this while caring for an infant, working a full time job and coping with a global pandemic! I could tell it was stressful to be sure, but I was impressed by the obsession. She had to make those paintings, that`s who she is. Without attention, sales or a gallery, she just made her paintings. I admire this so much. Even if choice isn`t a factor, whatever is moving through her, I think it`s holy.

                                                                         Betsy Chang

                                                                         Betsy Chang

                                                                        Betsy Chang

                                                                          Betsy Chang

So how does Betsy or anyone else get a gallery? Artnet tells you how, right here.

Nest weekend!
And the Sitka Invitational, for your art+nature needs

 I will have three of my new abstract watercolors in the show

If you haven`t thought about pandemics enough, here is an article about earlier ones and how they were eventually overcome.

Finished this morning;

                                                       watercolor on Yupo 14x11 inches

click HERE for work for sale in my studio

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Round 2, PDXOpenStudio


 The end is near. The final weekend of the Portland Open Studios will be over on Sunday at 5pm. My promotional role will conclude, I promise. No one disdains this kind of attention seeking more than me. Unfortunately so, as social media become ever more dominant and influential. My work is the best part of me, I want it out front, not me. There is irony in writing that sentence on one of the first forms of social media, the blog. Nonetheless, most artists are intent on their work. That process is so personal, to draw attention to ones personality seems distracting at best.

 Weekend #1 began so slow, I could feel the existential dread of my comrades. Would we sit for four lonely days in our studios hoping a sliver of the public would come through? By Sunday things were looking up. My visitors seemed more engaged with the work and the event than I remembered from other years. More of my neighbors came!

 What struck me though was the pessimistic view of life I was hearing. The pandemic has been brutal to so many but because I am so isolated by my nature and because of CDC guidelines, I hadn`t heard many first hand accounts. I knew I had it easy but not to the extent of it. A grandmother told me about her daughter, a school teacher, who suddenly was forced to teach online without any training, while her own three children were now home with her and having to learn their lessons on computers , tablets and phones. Just one family. That this sort of situation was global defies the imagination. Should it be any surprise the crime rate is up? 

 For someone to visit a stranger to see their artwork is unusual. Those that do this believe in the value of art. They are not negative. They get into their cars on a wet and cold fall day and travel to see some paintings, to talk with an artist. Receiving these 'pilgrims' was such an honor. I was heaped with praise and they traded their money for my painted sheets of paper. How wonderful is that? If they had a live for today attitude, I understand why. We are becoming aware of a crisis that is engulfing us. It`s the hot climate, world politics, immigration, severe income inequality, the rapid extinction of animal species and the possible end of democracy in my country. Hope is going to take on a whole new meaning.

 That`s David Trowbridge and me this morning in my studio. He is also an artist involved with the Open Studios this year. We had studio visits to see how we each configured our studios from working space into 'galleries'. It was fun. I`ve watched his work closely over the years and he`s achieved a solid maturity recently. He began introducing graffiti elements into his bold abstractions and that has enriched their visual character and also enlivened their emotional nature. As if fresh air or a new light has entered into his jazz inflected work. I`ll begin with an older piece I like;

                                                         Reflection by David Trowbridge

                                                       Child of the Wind by David Trowbridge

notice the distinctive Portland landmark, Big Pink, at the top of this downtown scene

                                                        [untitled] by David Trowbridge

Here, his graffiti marks tilt toward calligraphy. Go take a look in person this weekend. His studio is #93, and it is clinging to the hillside right above the Markham Bridge. The view is spectacular!

   My brother Michael is a barber. I love that he has such opportunity. How we feel about ourselves affects everything.


 In cleaning up for the open studio, I found this drawing. I drew this impossibly beautiful young man 23 years ago. I remember hearing he was having a hard time and I think a wariness is visible here. He would be close to 50 now. I hope things got better.

 This is a literacy test for voting from Louisiana given to people who could not prove a fifth grade education. This is why we need 'critical race theory'.

 The only artwork I have been able to do in 10 days. 6x6 inches, scribbled in watercolor crayon before my first guests arrived last weekend.

                                                                         Sammy Peters

                                                                         Sammy Peters

                                                                         Sammy Peters

 If you are lucky enough to be in Santa Fe New Mexico this month, be sure to drop by the LewAllen Gallery to see the astonishing works of Sammy Peters and Ben Aronson. Both of these guys have been doing museum quality work for years. To be able to see multiple paintings from each of them in one place is extraordinary good fortune. And to see them in a city as beautiful and beguiling as Santa Fe, that`s pure luxury. I wanted so bad to visit New Mexico last summer. The monsoons had returned and the photos I saw of a lush landscape where there had been extreme drought, were amazing. But having had two plane trips since my vaccine and the Delta variant gaining strength, I thought I shouldn`t push my luck. 
If your vaccine is recent, or you`ve had a booster, maybe you deserve a little vacation. Maybe I do.

                                                                      Ben Aronson

                                                                          Ben Aronson

                                                                           Ben Aronson

White Bird watermedia exhibition-through Oct.

Click HERE for work in my studio

Portland Open Studios

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Pandemic Landscapes + Portland Open Studios

                                                Marsh Forest watermedia on Yupo 14x11 inches

 Please bear with me. In the interest of earning a living, I am going to promote my work here even more than normal. As an introvert, I assure you this is not what I want to do. But I do want to paint, the stuff deserves to be seen, and I like it when they are off on their own at last. So there are several ways to see my work in October besides on this blog. As I mentioned, again I will be part of the Portland Open Studios on the weekends of the 9th and 10th and the 16th and 17th. 10 am - 5 pm. 

5373 Lakeview Blvd, Lake Oswego OR 97035. Call if you get lost; 503 380 4731

The paintings here were created or finalized during these past 18 months of Covid 19. I returned to landscape occasionally to feel competent.  During most of this time, I`ve been trying to figure out what abstract painting is for me. I`m a true believer in the importance of modernism yet whenever I`ve tried to execute purely non-objective work I`ve gotten stuck rather quickly. I have viewed this as evidence that at heart, I`m a landscape painter. Well the fear and panic I felt in the early days of the pandemic as the death toll mounted, demanded I respond appropriately. For me, this meant taking on a challenge as difficult in a purely personal sense. Getting through that wall of confusion when painting abstractly became my goal. After all this time, I am only more familiar with the project. I intend to keep at it. Many of those paintings and the landscapes below will be on view during the Open Studios. I`d like to show them to you.

                                         Creek, Low Tide watermedia on Yupo 16x20 inches

                                                        Quiet Forest oil on canvas 12x9

                                            Oregon Refuge watermedia on paper 12x9 inches

                                     Copse of Winter Alder watermedia on Yupo 14x11 inches

                                              Young Trees watermedia on paper 19x14 inches

                                               Cumulous watermedia on Yupo 14x11 inches

                                       Cook`s Butte Study 1 watermedia on Yupo 14x11 inches

                                       Cooks Butte Study 2 watermedia on Yupo 14x11 inches

                                          Stafford Valley watermedia on Yupo 11x14 inches

                                          Wetlands Study watermedia on paper 14x12 inches

                                                   Hedgerow acrylic on paper 24x18 inches

                                               Sundown watermedia on paper 19x14 inches

 I will also be sending out an announcement soon about the studio tour. Some of you will get it as well as this blog newsletter. Forgive me, my mailing list resists every effort I make to streamline.

I have 10 big paintings in the West Linn Lutheran Church along with paintings by my pal Mitch Burrell;

Creative Spirits Gallery Re-Opens September 3rd, 2021
We have missed having new art on our walls, and neighbors and congregants visiting to enjoy it. West Linn Lutheran Church's building has been successfully open for a little while now, and we feel confident that our anti-Covid measures are allowing folks to spend a little in-person time safely in community. We are therefore very pleased to announce that we have two wonderful local artists in the Creative Spirits Gallery this fall. 

Learn about our artists below, and come see their work yourself, on display whenever the building is open, from September 3rd through the beginning of November. Masks are required while inside WLLC so please wear your mask, to keep your neighbors safe.

Randall David Tipton has painted in Portland for more than 25 years. Here's a little about his practice, in his own words:
"Landscape has been my primary interest from an early age. I am mostly self-taught, and have been deeply influenced by the American abstract expressionists, particularly by their belief in improvisation as path to something unique and meaningful. I was fortunate to study with Richard Diebenkorn in the first master class at the new Santa Fe Institute of Fine Art. Walking is an important part of my life and work. When I'm in the landscape, I often have a camera, notebook or sketchbook to help me remember my response. What I see and experience outdoors is the basis for most of my painting."

You can follow Randall's painting online via his blog.

Mitch Burrell told us, "While out on walks with my dog, Greta, sometimes I will come upon a scene that is so profoundly moving that Greta and I will pause and sit silently, absorbing the wonder that is Nature.  Greta somehow seems to grasp the importance of these times, and she seems to appreciate them as much as I do — it is as if we bear lone witness to these brief marvels of the natural world.  I try to hold onto these feelings, and once I return home, I do what I can to capture the moment in paint.  Scenes with light reflecting on water, or the fleeting luminosity of changing weather can be especially inspiring.

My hope is that with repeated effort to render these moments on the canvas, my skills and knowledge will improve to the point that I can faithfully render my intent.  It promises to be a lifelong challenge."

West Linn Lutheran Church
20390 Willamette Drive, West Linn, OR 97068 


And, the White Bird Gallery in Cannon Beach has my first exhibition of all watermedia on paper, on view through the month of October.

I will return to my typical wandering in my next post.

click HERE for work for SALE  in my studio

Prints are HERE