Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Pasture/Slough Study

The day after Thanksgiving was dry and sunny. In the Northwest we don`t take that for granted, we go outside. I don`t know if this is actually true, but I`ve heard that in Juneau AK elementary schools, they call a recess if there is a sun break. So we had to go somewhere and revel, and I didn`t want to get back into a car for long, having traveled for the holiday to Vancouver [WA]. The new Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge was nearby and as is common, these wet places are usually bordered by farmland.

Ruth Armitage, the host for my workshop in January, asked me to write something about the class and myself. This is what I sent her;

In this workshop I`ll focus on the versatility of combined watermedia, how to push the image much further than commonly thought possible. Through the use of various acrylic mediums, transparent watercolor can be extended and enhanced by the body and texture of these materials. The vibrant plastic paper Yupo will be the primary support I demonstrate on, traditional watercolor papers are also responsive.
Our individual motives and ideals about painting will be explored as we choose our subjects. As a landscape painter, I believe it is critical to analyze and understand my emotional reaction to what I`m seeing before I begin. These 'feelings' become memory and guide me throughout the many small experiments which build the painting. I refer to photos and drawings to structure a simple mental composition, then I proceed by intuition, chance and remembrance. Usually there are elements of abstraction which emphasize the aspects in the landscape that move me. The altering of 'natural' color, the simplification of forms, distorting the perspective, adding pattern to convey depth, and using gestural brush work are strategies I use to get close to the essence of my subject. Visual accuracy is not too important, what I`m after is a unique and personal vision.
For many reasons, I chose to forgo a conventional education though I read extensively, visited many museums and galleries and figured out the technical requirements of painting. Through luck, I was able to work briefly with a hero to legions of painters, Richard Diebenkorn. It was a month long workshop, he didn`t say much but did seem to approve of what I was doing. That was enough. That 'blessing' caused a leap in my ambition and eventually led to much stronger work.
I think I have something different to contribute in this workshop; some innovative methods and techniques as well as fresh ideas about where you might want to take your painting.

There is one opening left.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Refuge Autumn Study 3

Again, from memory.
I was explaining to a painter friend exactly how this works; because I know the wetlands well, I can begin a random improvisation. At the waters edge, there are usually grasses. Behind them are shrubs that have lost most of their leaves this time of year, leaving the colorful branches exposed. On dryer ground, larger trees have a foothold. As I work, my memory of the atmosphere guides my choices. I exaggerate the color, warp the perspective and organize the forms into something that works aesthetically but also retains a sense of the place. What appeals to me most about these marshes is their chaotic diversity of color and texture. They seem wildly alive, even when becoming dormant.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Refuge Autumn Study 2

Another from memory.
I`ve photographed the Minto Brown Island wetlands thoroughly and never saw a view like this, but this is an accurate impression.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Creek Shadow Autumn

This was my demonstration painting for the watermedia class I`m teaching this month. The bottom photo was where it stood after one session. The second, was what it became in the next. I then finished it in my studio. I had been preaching the importance of painting from memory. The evening before the class, I was hiking around Mt. Talbert at dusk. It was too dark for photos so I was just enjoying the fading light with the maples blazing orange all around me. So when I began the demonstration, I had strong impressions from my walk. As I worked I really thought I was in trouble, it was very black. But, because I was using Yupo, its brilliant white surface shown through each dark layer and gave it the murky glow I had remembered.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Refuge Autumn Study

Painted from memory last night. I`ve wandered around Minto Brown Island enough to recall the mood this time of year. More often than not, it`s helpful to begin on a tinted ground. Values fall into place.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


The inspiration for this painting was in Northern California but it soon became New Mexico. I ran in the dry river beds of Santa Fe County for so many years, they have stayed vivid in my memory.
The geometric image is a section of my beautiful new quilt made by the talented Jo Reimer. Not only is it gorgeous but it`s also the perfect weight; not too warm but heavy enough so that when making the bed, it floats back down nicely into place. She doesn`t make these anymore and I feel quite lucky to own it. I love functional art that is well designed, it truly improves the quality of my life.
The Brush Creek Ranch near Saratoga Wyoming,has invited me to be an artist in residence this spring! It`s a new program at an established resort. It will be great to spend time in the Rockies again.
Four openings remain for the workshop I`ll teach in Oregon City at the end of January. I`ll be talking about and working with mixed watermedia, using experimental techniques with an emphasis on the landscape. Please write me if you have any questions.
Also, a show of my largest work will be on exhibit at the Hanson Howard Gallery in Ashland Oregon next summer, opening July 6.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Down into the Water

I`m trying in my new work, to focus on smaller parts of the landscape, almost like still life. This, from a few years ago, is almost there. The varying degree of abstraction I use is always determined by the subject. What do I emphasize, distort or distill to get to the essence of this landscape? With a closer view, I`m finding more precision is called for yet I don`t want to illustrate it. This is a challenge.

Monday, November 7, 2011

At the Edge of the Field

Also from my visit to Minto Brown Island last week.
The color is peaking, the rain is intermittent and I`m trying to be outside as much as possible. It is exciting!
Ruth Armitage has offered her studio for me to teach a watermedia workshop Jan. 28th and 29th, with the next weekend, Feb. 4th and 5th reserved in case there is bad weather. There is room for eight and the cost is $175. Please contact Ruth if you`re interested;

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Winter Slough

In this month of November, I`m teaching a watermedia class on Saturdays. This was the demonstration painting I did yesterday. I asked everyone to try and paint something from memory, the idea being they would remember what most impressed them. Because I had been to Minto Brown Island just days before, I had the sloughs and trees in mind. I also wanted to show how something full of detail, such as a tangle of bare branches, could be suggested through pure 'painterly' means. Individual trees could be ignored to emphasize the atmosphere of the whole.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Slough at Dusk Study

Any plein air artists who are local and happen to read this, should know about Minto Brown Island. It`s along the Willamette on the west side of Salem, not far from the city center. Like Sauvie Island, it`s a wildlife preserve, with some agriculture as well. It`s wetlands are the most colorful I`ve ever seen and they peak in November. I was there last Sunday and it`s getting good. Soon it will be spectacular!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Rocks Near the Water Study

Since it`s raining again, the rocky cliff behind Oswego Creek has resuscitated. It`s nice to have it a thriving green once more.
The big Sitka Art Invitational is this weekend! It`s a unique opportunity to see a lot of good work at one time. $5 admission.