Monday, March 16, 2020

Hang on!

                                    Oneanta 2020 oil on canvas 50x40 inches, 127x101.5 cm

 Somehow I had enough concentration to paint this. Last week was tense but the foreboding arrived on the weekend. Every time our president was on camera it was clear we could not look to the federal government for guidance, assurance or even honesty. It`s becoming evident that the criminal lack of testing capability wasn`t bad luck but remained inadequate for weeks because the president didn`t want to see the higher number of infections. Saw the looming crisis only in terms of his re-election prospects. Many people will die because we lost the chance to track the spread of the virus. Like China finally did, or Singapore or Hong Kong. Even today, March 16, the administration is not making the processing of tests any more efficient by relaxing rules on which labs are licensed to run them. This is criminal negligence. Senate Republicans are objecting to the paid sick leave provisions in the emergency legislation passed by the House on Saturday, Fox news continues to downplay our urgent situation.
 A corrective is coming. The utter mendacity of Trump and his Republican enablers will be visible to everyone at last. Even to the cult of his supporters. We will all know some of the dead. We will all be much poorer. The election is won, the Democrats will have to clean up the disaster again.
 Within this sad and terrifying scenario, collectively we must reimagine our country. The catastrophe will make crystal clear how unjust and unfair our society is. Low unemployment and a booming stock market will no longer conceal the cruelty. Because of the profound lack of leadership now, the reassembling of our lives will take considerable time. We will have the chance to  fix it. Create the more perfect union. Address the fearsome change in the climate, outrageous income inequality, racial disparity everywhere, and finally get some common sense gun laws. Let the mass killings end.
 On our way to this better reality, I hope as individuals we can be actively kind and generous. An ocean of need will surround us. As one of my heroes Marshall McLuan said "every breakdown is a breakthrough". A crisis is too good to waste.

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Saturday, February 29, 2020


                                  Untitled watermedia on panel 12x12 inches, 30.5x30.5 cm

 About a month ago my husband, who is a nurse, told me a doctor had said he was scared to death of the coronavirus. Ever since I`ve followed this closely. Everybody is, right? With China locking down millions of its citizens to contain the disease, and the stock market in free fall, it is reasonable to think this is a big deal. Not the press and democrats out to get Trump.
 Last night the first case of an Oregonian with the virus was announced after the state`s lab confirmed it. She first showed symptoms on the 19th. She is also an employee at a school in my community, luckily without much contact with students. It is unknown how she acquired the virus. This suggests it is spreading somehow undetected. But maybe slowly, with luck.
 I feel like I`m an unwilling participant of someone`s science project. Waiting to be observed. My guess is this sensation is common to everyone right now. We are waiting for a potential catastrophe. Hmmm, I`ve never been a patient person and the suspense scares me more than the illness. The imagination can be so dangerous. I can`t stand horror movies and I`m incredulous of those that do.
 So if that unfortunate and local woman appears to be just the first in a circle, will my city be quarantined? If we can contain it here, that would be amazing. I probably have two weeks of food on hand. But if it becomes a pandemic with lots of sick people, what do we do? How do we help?
 As of tonight, there are 70 confirmed cases in the US, 44 came off the cruise ship. It seems given the incubation time, we will know a whole lot more a week from now

                     The Season is Over oil and acrylic on canvas 20x20 inches, 51x51 cm

 I always photograph what I`ve done before going upstairs to sleep. With my phone, just to figure out what I`m doing. A while back I did this;

as an underpainting for something that then failed, but I didn`t delete the photo. Something about the palette I thought was worth returning to sometime.  It is the basis of 'The Season is Over'.
I`ve several ideas that would be best explored in oil paint but I have the usual odd reluctance. When I stopped last August, I wondered if it was for good. I keep trying to find equivalent techniques with acrylics, but unless I use them transparently, I`m disappointed. Oil paint is the only kind that doesn`t talk back. What I paint stays like I painted it. No surprises when it dries, predictable opacity, a pleasure to move around with a brush and the color is superior. When I return to it, I`m usually exhausted by watermedia with its quirks and want some control again.

                                 Night Cloud watermedia on paper 12x9 inches, 30.5x23 cm

 As I wait for Covid-19 to change everything, I`m in full scale procrastination avoiding learning web design and launching my new website. Before taxes, I promise myself.

                                         Incoming watermedia on paper 19x14 inches, 48x36 cm

 More tinkering. I`m concluding lots of work that got abandoned too. I can spend a whole day trying to rescue something once again and in the end, I get out my giant scissors and cut it up. I tried.
Yesterday I did an experimental plein air session to find out if the temperature was tolerable yet. Nope my hands were freezing. Soon though I think.

                                                             by Fred Cumming

 Fred Cumming turned 90 last week! Someone posted this masterpiece on Instagram in celebration. I hope he`s recognized as a British national treasure in his homeland.

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Sunday, February 9, 2020

Darkness and Light

                          Rainforest Equinox 2 watermedia on Yupo 19x14 inches, 48x36 cm

 Ok then, the Senate has spoken. I feel better now. The citizens of this country were either paying attention or they weren`t. If extorting a country at war on behalf of your own reelection isn`t impeachable, what is? The view of a political party utterly exposed in its cowardice and corruption was breathtaking. Now we know beyond any doubt, Trump is not the cause of this collapse, he is the result. Everyone can see it. Are there enough people who care? Time will tell.
A new political scientist has a theory of modern elections that makes sense. Turnout is everything and what drives turnout is fear and loathing. Democrats could not be more motivated to get Trump out, and thus will prevail. She was one of the few who predicted correctly the huge gains in the 2018 midterms.

 The light is stronger and the day lengthens with each new sunrise. I`m finally feeling like myself.
 The impeachment gave me clarity and closure oddly enough. And for what it`s worth, this democratic socialist believes what Amy Klobuchar says. She can beat him.

                                                        cartoon by Kevin Siers

I`ve been painting but not so sure of the quality. Nonetheless I know from experience, that nothing good or bad will happen without a brush in my hand. Working heals. To make things is to be sane.

                      At the Edge of the Meadow watermedia on paper 19x14 inches, 48x36 cm

                                La Serenisima watermedia on paper 12x9 inches, 30.5x23 cm

 The always graceful Tualatin River beneath those trees.

                               Christmas Morning watermedia on paper 19x14 inches, 48x36 cm

                                                             by Peter Archer

                                                              by Peter Archer

                                                                   by Peter Archer

 I`ve been enjoying Peter Archer`s bleak vision lately. Like a sad love song, it hurts in the best way. Austere and brooding though they are, a small hopeful quality is also present. Beauty can survive the darkest situation.

                                                                 Where`s Carter?

                                                                    Fred Stonehouse

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Sunday, January 12, 2020

Happy New Year?

                                     Outback watermedia on yupo 26x40 inches 66x101 cm

 It was a sad beginning of the new year and it started before Christmas. The impeachment debate in Congress was so utterly discouraging. A whole political party stonewalling the constitution, undermining our democracy and pretending that the President`s behavior was normal. The holiday arrives and I`m blindsided by grief once again, missing the half of my original family that`s gone. The fires in Australia just get worse and worse, people are camped on the beach or in boats trying to escape,  while millions upon millions of innocent animals perish. On the West Coast of the US we have seen voracious fire storms in recent years so it is extremely imaginable. The terror and loss of life and habitat are overwhelming. Then our commander in chief takes out an important, if evil, Iranian general to prove something that is never clear. For several days it seems we are on the brink of war!
Not the calm beginning I wanted. January is best when it`s quiet and productive but 2020 has been anxious and dispiriting.
 At least, finally!, an Evangelical Christian leader spoke truth to power and said what most people think. He is morally unfit for office and should be removed.
 I hope the Iranians really have concluded their almost symbolic retaliation. I hope Australia cools down in a widespread rain. I hope against hope the Republican party will put their country first.
 The painting above was not an intentional response to the fires in Australia. But as with any deliberately abstract painting I do, I`m lost at the outset. When I began this all I knew was I wanted a golden warm palette. Here was my opening move. Acrylic medium with purple quickly brushed on followed by an orange soup.

Big mess on the floor as the paint flowed down and off creating a veil.

Making a donation to the International Fund for Animal Welfare was definitely helpful to my mental health.
Here is a very interesting article on 'cultural burning', an Aboriginal technique of a slow circular intentional burn around structures enabling them to withstand wildfire.

                     Trees in the Autumn Marsh watermedia on paper 19x14 inches 48x36 cm

This is my most recent painting. The wetlands of Fanno Creek become colorful after the leaves fall. The marsh shrubs are densely entwined and at a distance look almost cloudy. I did a study soon after my walk through the area a couple of years ago;

                                                                     oil on Yupo

                               Rainforest Canal watermedia on paper 19 x14 inches 48x36 cm

An improvisation from memory of the lush canal that feeds Lake Oswego.

                                                          by Eva Lundsager

                                                            by Eva Lundsager

                                                                  by Eva Lundsager

 Eva Lundsager has been a favorite since I stumbled upon her in 2012. She paints in oils too but I always think of her as a watercolorist. She loves transparency and also the landscape. The work seems in motion. Using saturated color her work is celebratory but never shallow.

                                              View from Muley Point by Thayer Carter

                                                        Gates Pass by Thayer Carter

                                                   Vermillion Cliffs by Thayer Carter

 Thayer Carter is a friend from my time in New Mexico. He`s also the grandson of Rockwell Kent.

                                                                  by Rockwell Kent

 He`s told me he doesn`t even try anymore to paint deliberately different from his grandfather, he has the same vision: a reduction of the landscape into simpler solid forms with radiant light. I think it`s the same phenomena as my father and me having similar handwriting. It fascinates me that mark making could be genetic.
 Thayer`s work is carefully composed to give his subject an unequivocally dramatic presentation.
 Nearly two years ago he was invited to spend time in the former Rockwell Kent home in Newfoundland as an artist in residence. Granddad was controversial in the community but they welcomed his progeny.


He was great, just not the servant I expected. Most parents are heroes. I wanted this badly and there he was on Christmas morning.

                                                            by David Fullarton

grateful to be a painter!

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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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Sunday, November 24, 2019


                     From Across the Meadow watermedia on paper 30x22 inches, 76x56 cm

 Last week I worked with a local group of watermedia artists for the fourth time. They are extremely nice, pay well and listen carefully. I wasn`t at all nervous even though I rarely teach.  I wanted to show them something they may not have thought of. The idea came to me out of necessity as a way to anchor a complicated composition when my first movements cover everything in a messy wet layer. We painted from a drawing we did of a photo. Sounds dumb and I don`t do it often but the group was game;

                                                                    my drawing

                                                                photo reference

 As I painted I found myself glancing at the drawing more than I expected. It was just the center of the photo I was interested in and drew.
 Nearly every representational painter uses photography in some way. Including more of the artists interpretation was the point I was making with this extra step.
 This had me thinking about other educational matters this past week.

                                                                    David Dunlop

 I learned this fellow, who I`ve become acquainted with on Instagram because we both love wetlands, is the ultimate educator. Somehow he managed to have an award winning series on PBS that I was ignorant of.
In a comment on one of David`s paintings I said I`d love to watch him paint. He replies I can by going to his web page. I do and yes indeed he has many instructional videos, online workshops, the TV programs and several free Youtubes. I choose one randomly, an 11 minute video about painting water lilies at Monet`s home in Giverny France. He doesn`t mess around. Almost instantly he`s introducing principles that probably took me years to figure out. He has me thinking I should have stayed in school! My hermetic inclination may not have been so wise. But who knows? When I was art school age, conceptual art was dominant. A close cousin was majoring in fine arts at a California University and her reports were bewildering. It did not appeal to me at all. What did, was holing up somewhere beautiful and painting landscapes. So I did and with a determined independence too.
David Dunlop seems to have spent his time making art understandable and yet also painting his own unique vision.

                                                        Red Sky by David Dunlop

                                          Wild Meadow in Cloisonne by David Dunlop

                                           Randall`s Pond Mosaic by David Dunlop

David also shows locally at the Attic Gallery in Camas WA.

The wonderful painter Michael Ferguson is back showing at the Attic too!
The gallery has expanded which is a good sign of health.

                                                                      by Ken Kewley

More food for thought [for painters]. Read Ken`s Studio Notes from the great blog Painting Perceptions. It`s a stream of consciousness ramble about the mind in its relation to painting. Most of his observations have never occurred to me but I was fascinated by his analysis.

                                                                  Fiona Hill

She is an American hero! This is why America is great! A young woman from the north of England comes to this country for opportunities unavailable to her in the UK because of her working class background. She excels and chooses to serve her adopted country as a diplomat.
At the impeachment hearings she says the one thing that explains this big mess. The president and his Republican protectors are doing the bidding of Russia whether they understand that or not. Our intelligence community has been warning us for years that the nasty divisions in our politics are fostered by Vladimir Putin. The Russians want us at each others throats. A country so divided is weakened. Their interference in the 2016 election continues on into the 2020 contest. Why do they like Trump? They know how to make him dance. And he knows how to make us hate each other. He has completely corrupted a once patriotic political party. We all should be wary of these new Republicans. They don`t care about your monthly social security checks, your student loans, the climate or your schools, roads or jobs. Only power motivates them.

 The paintings above are the work of Alex Brewer, a.k.a. Hense. He took abstraction off the canvas and then covered walls and buildings with his exuberant compositions. What a great idea! Why did this take so long? Why have murals mostly been realistic and narrative? Just at a glance you can see how energizing they are! How beneficial to the human spirit! Color heals! Thank you Alex!

                                                                  Alex Brewer

                                   Underbog watermedia on paper 21x20 inches 53.5x51 cm   

To set the mood and have something to react to, I did an underpainting that was just too luminous. When I started to add landscape elements it was completely awkward, an imposition even. Yet I was loving the Hahnemuhle watercolor paper and it was early in the process,  so I flipped it upside down and tried to keep pushing forward. This time with no objective. It was slow going but eventually a composition presented itself and I strengthened the color. Like every 'purely' abstract painting I do, the landscape is always present.   

                                   Forest Edge watermedia on Yupo 26x20 inches 66x51 cm

 This one had no reference other than memory. Mine is not photographic in any way. I had noticed the bright yellow bracken ferns as they turned dormant and thought  I`d paint the transition from meadow into forest With watercolor on the slippery plastic paper Yupo, I could literally carve out some ferns with a q-tip. If it didn`t look right I`d re-emulsify the yellow paint and try again. Drawing in negative shapes. This suits my temperament far more than painting all those rows of fern leaves directly. That would be tedium which is not an experience I want.

                                                         Koko and Mr. Rogers

 She was a fan and could speak over a thousand words in sign language. When they met, she took off his shoes.


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