Absent soulful music, departed loved ones, and an open spigot of grief, another thing that`s real helpful when I`m blocked is to just repeat something. The point is to keep working. Try to be in the right place at the right time. I do so many studies trying ideas out, many of them could be done again if I need to tread water.
Tonight, after three earlier attempts I had to throw out, I went back to basics and made another in this elegiac series. Two of my elders died this week and although my involvement with them was years ago, it`s sad. One was my 90 year old cousin Elizabeth who had the courage to be a free spirit when that wasn`t cool at all. The other was my former landlady, Olus Ramsey in New Mexico who lived to be 95. She gave me a beautiful place to paint at a rent I could afford just as I was starting out as a painter at 23. Joseph Campbell said when you follow your deepest desires, doors will open where there were only walls. She was one of those doors.
So I`ve been painting badly for a couple of weeks now. The well is dry. I don`t know why but it`s like something vital was simply shut off. I`m annoyed but not too concerned as I realize I have a month of total painting immersion coming up on the coast. Still I keep trying, that`s what I do but I`m not getting anywhere. Tonight, those departed ladies are in my thoughts as I`m ripping up wet paintings and I begin yet again. My brother Mike has given me a CD he wants me to hear. He kindly and patiently sees that I have beautiful music to listen to. I don`t even remember the name of the group but I put it on and immediately go to the first track he has noted as the best. That song isn`t half way along and I am standing over this painting, brush in hand, weeping. It doesn`t stop soon.
Music will find the sore places and clean them.
Like islands, the Portland area has small volcanic hills all over. Some of them near the rivers, have gnarled oak forests on top. By their look, you`d think they braved howling winds and sub-zero temperatures. They are stunted like bonsai. In winter, minus their leaves, you can see the smaller branches which are cloaked in feathery lichens which glow in the reflected light.
I think I was following links for the great painter of the Southwest, Maynard Dixon, when I stumbled on the blog California Desert Art. Here was writing dedicated to many famous and some forgotten painters who lived and worked in the Coachella Valley and Mojave Desert. Often they were associated with the California Impressionists but some were idiosyncratic painters. Maybe because I lived there, I`m fascinated with the culture and times of these artists. Ann Japenga, the author of this unusual blog, just wrote a little account of my recent trip there. Last year when I was trying to sell my mother`s big San Andreas Canyon painting, I asked Ann to put out the word, thinking someone in her local audience might be interested. I had painted it there in 1979 but now, it was too big for Mom`s new, assisted living apartment. For any readers unfamiliar with Maynard Dixon, he is well worth discovering. This is what the wonderful writer Thomas McGuane says about him; To me, no painter has ever quite understood the light, the distances,
the aboriginal ghostliness of the American West as well as Maynard Dixon.
The great mood of his work is solitude, the effect of land and space on
people. While his work stands perfectly well on its claims to beauty, it
offers a spiritual view of the West indispensable to anyone who would understand
it. Here is a documentary on his life and work.
In 10 days I`m returning to the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology on the Oregon coast to paint during the month of March. I`ll focus on the alder groves and plan to explore the wetlands of the Salmon River Estuary and Nestucca Bay.
Another slide to CD from 2000.
When John and I got together, we went to Alaska as soon as we could, we were both really curious.
Outside of Haines is a hanging glacier which I enjoyed best from a distance. Looking toward the mountain from sea level one sees a giant hunk of green ice mid-way up, throwing off a waterfall! One of those things that doesn`t quite seem believable. Alaska was full of astonishing things in an unimaginable scale. A little like the coast of Oregon but enormous!
I`m transferring slides onto CDs and revisiting paintings from my past. Although I only lived near the ocean for one year of my life, I`ve painted it with some frequency. I`ve always wanted to do a concentrated body of work from new, extended experiences on the coast but that might not ever happen. In 2012 I rented a house at the beach for a week. It was in a spectacular rugged location, but I was taken with a little creek that ran by the house. I sort of ignored the sea. So I think it must be more of a metaphorical significance for me now. The painting above was done at 19 and the seascapes I did when young are from the vantage point of being in the water. I loved swimming in the ocean almost more than anything. Over time other aspects became the focus, Here`s a bunch of them.
It is surprising how much can be accomplished when you`re snowed in! This is what I did yesterday. It has the look of a diorama in a Natural History Museum and I`m OK with that. Those atmospheric murals were some of my first inspirations. Diversity and complexity are what oasis are all about, lots of life going on. The place is Andreas Canyon just south of Palm Springs. I used to know it like my backyard when I lived in the area in 1980.
The husband has been creative too, playing with his pictures in Photoshop.
Another Palm Springs painting, no golfers in sight. That city is surrounded by great hiking opportunities and I wonder if they ever promote that fact to tourists? In my opinion, it was worth the over priced airline ticket.
The bottom version is all watercolor. I wanted to establish some transparent areas before finishing with more opaque acrylic brushwork and washes.
If this creek, just west of downtown Palm Springs, had a normal flow in a normal year, those massive polished boulders and cliffs would have largely been submerged. But there is no normal anywhere any more. California faces an extremely serious drought which is predicted to have a major economic impact. It`s hard not to wonder how President Gore would have persuaded the country to act. When we were away in the desert, there were wildfires on the Oregon coast, in January, in the rainforest!! The Republican Party can`t die quick enough, we have hard work to attend to.
Downtown Palm Springs is flanked by the massive Mt. San Jacinto. At the base, clearly visible from anywhere in the city, a canyon opens into the mountain like a mouth. It beckons to anyone curious. When I was a Californian I really wanted in there, but it was owned by the Agua Caliente Cahuilla tribe and was off limits. Around 2000 they built a visitor center and opened it up. I found this out planning my little trip. It was the first place we went and I knew quickly it was worth the wait. The twisting sycamore trees along the creek where ghostly white with last autumn`s red leaves still attached and they were spectacular! Now California is in a serious drought so when we reached the falls, the flow was more of a trickle which gave emphasis to the fragility of this landscape and made it a tender scene. It also allowed for close observation of the cliffs which were sculpted and smooth from centuries of runoff. It was cool, dark, quiet and breathtakingly beautiful. Western Oregon is full of amazing waterfalls, I love them. This was altogether different, this was like a temple.