Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Oxbow Slough 2 - magnolia demo - elderly artists

                                                         oil on canvas 20x16

 This was many paintings before Oxbow Slough 2. Sometimes I forget how to paint. I suspect the reason is too much 'life' not enough solitude.

                                             Magnolia 2015 oil on canvas 12x12

I had painted this earlier in the week so I figured I`d use this motif during my demonstration at my show in the Museum 510. But instead of predictable oil paints, I would use transparent watercolor on the slippery plastic paper 'Yupo'. Feeling confident, I thought I`d add about a hundred more blossoms. Thank god I wore a short sleeve shirt as the eastern sun shining through the huge windows was creating greenhouse heat. I wasn`t 20 minutes into the painting before realizing I was in way over my head. With maybe 34 eye balls watching my every move, I valiantly tried to find a composition. Someone asked if I used color or tonal studies. No I explained, I just wing it. I truly believe improvisation makes for more personal work and exciting exploration.
 Or terror. T S Eliot said anxiety was the handmaiden of creativity.
 Ultimately, improv might be best for the privacy of my studio but I walked my talk that morning.
 This is what it looked like when I brought it home;

 Once I was safe and alone, I labored to create the buoyancy that attracted me to this subject. First I shaped it up with acrylics but it still wasn`t sparking so I took it to the oil painting area. Because Yupo is plastic and the earlier layers were sealed with spray acrylic, I went in with oils. I surrendered at this point;

                                     Magnolia and Sky watermedia and oil 20x20

 A photo of the demo;

 The Colorado artist, Ken Elliott, wrote a blog post in 2013 about elderly artists with links to an article from Time. There were many photos of some older painters including the wonderful Wayne Thiebaud;

This is of interest to me because it will be me soon enough.
It`s encouraging to know that most painters continue on even when the body is failing. Wolf Kahn says he is doing some of his best work ever, despite macular degeneration. Matisse created his radical paper cut outs while confined to a wheelchair.
I will be one of those obsessed, rickety artists if I`m lucky.

 Snack tip. I recently bought a package of fresh Shishito chile peppers at Trader Joes. They looked sort of like the Padron peppers I had found at the farmers market so I prepared them the same way. I seared them in a very hot skillet with a little olive oil shaking it constantly after they began to sizzle. When browned a bit I removed them from the heat and sprinkled with salt. They are not too spicy hot and I think they would be great with an icy cold gin martini.

 Finally a woodcut from the German immigrant Gustave Baumann. He settled in New Mexico and his landscape prints are some of the most evocative images of that beautiful state. Produced in multiple, they were once inexpensive. When I lived there, an elderly cousin told me they had been popular as wedding presents. He had three of them.

work for sale in my studio

the next demonstration in my studio, April 11, 10 am, will be the last one for a while. 5373 Lakeview Blvd, Lake oswego OR 97035

Monday, March 23, 2015

Early Spring Rainforest +Etsy

                                                     oil on canvas 20x20

 More of the alders and maples on the north side of Cook`s Butte. Such a beautiful little forest though none of the trees are large. It has been logged at least twice but in Oregon you can`t keep anything from growing.

 During the Q&A part of the gallery talk Tom Cramer and I gave the other night, the topic turned to livelihood. The audience was mostly painters and this issue always comes up. It always has. Everyone has to find their own way, mine was by way of a part time restaurant career that spanned 30 years.
 With the domination of the internet into nearly everyone`s life, new opportunities for commerce abound. Even for artists. Etsy has become a phenomenon showcasing all manner of hand made arts and crafts. With it`s own complex culture, I`ve never quite figured it out but I know it is earning a living for many artists. Such as the two fine painters, Harry Stooshinoff and Jeremy Miranda. Both work with the landscape. Harry explores his corner of Ontario with obsessive attention. His paintings always reveal something new in his familiar subjects, his dedication to the local environment is always evident. This commitment no doubt shows us his character.
 Jeremy, a former Portland resident, is juxtaposing man made structures within wild and moody landscapes. At a glance one might think surrealism but to me they explore the ideas of shelter and safety and our place in Nature. In my view, no one has painted the Oregon coast so truthfully.
 Both these guys have Etsy shops, both have well over a thousand sales apiece and over 500 positive reviews. What they have in common is affordable prices. This is their brilliant populist tactic. It`s a radical idea.
 I`m not sure at all how a mid career artist like me backpedals to such a stance, not yet anyway.
 I admire so much their independence and entrepreneurship! And with no loss of quality or integrity!

                                                          Barbara Demott

 Back in January, a new friend in British Columbia persuaded me to work with her over a weekend. Teaching causes me so much anxiety, I try not to do it. But Barbara was sure I had something to give her. Because I work so thin, I showed her how I use gravity by tilting the surface. Once home she took that idea and ran! Isn`t that the most gorgeous, emotionally accurate rainforest ever painted?!

 When I moved to Portland the first time in 1985, the Portland Building was new and extremely controversial. Nearly everybody was a vocal hater. Having just arrived I didn`t know any of the back story and just delighted in how quirky it was. It was like a child had made it out of Legos! When the architect Michael Graves died recently, I thanked him mentally for his service. Almost alone at first, he restored a humanity to modern architecture. Despite the ridicule.

                                              The Denver Public Library

 Then it became his mission to bring good design to the masses. He partnered with Target to produce many 'happy' household items such as his famous tea kettle;

I own one and love to water plants with it.
I recently bought a new cat carrier from Target Online that is absolutely elegant. I wanted a top loader, I hate mooshing a terrified cat into a long rectangular tube! This one works beautifully and I wonder if it too is a Michael Graves design?

 This is the last week for my show at the Museum 510 in Lake Oswego. The hours are 11-4 Tues. -Fri. Or call me, I have access after hours, including the weekend. 503 380 4731

I`ll demonstrate my watermedia technique there at 11 am this Thurs. the 26th.

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The Affordable Care Act is five years old!

Thank you President Obama!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Winter Sycamore - "#*^!"* paper! - demo

                                                 oil on canvas 20x16

 This comes from my recent trip to the central Calif. coast and may not be final. It was surprisingly tricky maybe because it`s a palette I`m unfamiliar with. The California Sycamore is a tree I`d see back in the hills when I was a kid. It always grew in a wash or ravine and it`s shade was so welcome. My Mom used to take a bunch of us neighborhood boys out of town to an undeveloped group of sun scorched hills. We`d jump out of the car and head for high ground while she stayed behind and read under a gigantic Pepper tree. We were a storm of chaos disrupting whatever creatures were awake in the heat of the day. That was sure nice of her! Today she might be arrested for child endangerment. The smell of this tree takes me right back to the dust and thorny bushes there. Here is a clump of them outside of Palm Springs;

They are so beautiful and in the desert, shed their bark and become absolutely ghostly.

                                    Marsh watermdia on paper 12x12

 This was painted on the fancy, linen-cotton, $16 a sheet paper from Ruscombe Mills in France. I hadn`t been working on this five minutes when it began to shred. Totally unacceptable! I had to coat it with a layer of acrylic medium just to proceed. The buckling was so severe that if I care to ever show it, I will literally need to press it with a steam iron. Piece of shit paper! The catalog said these were the sort of papers Turner used! Ugh! At the demonstration I did in my studio Saturday I had a creamy, sensual, bright white sheet of Arches 88 taped to the board. The clerk thought it would be great for watercolor! I had a still life set up before me, I did a quick sketch to guide me and with the first stroke of paint I knew it was all wrong. Like a paper towel! Someone whipped out a phone and within seconds read to me that this paper was developed for printing purposes. Absorbency would be important for that, but not for painting! So I grabbed a block of Fluid paper and began again. It`s cheap and dependable. This is what I painted;

                     Camellia and Magnolia watermedia on paper 15.5x11

 Not too inspired but everyone was quite supportive. They want me to succeed!
I fear my tribulations with paper will embitter me and become embedded in my soul. My suffering will become part of my very identity!
 The real problem is I`m not John Singer Sargent.
I`m so glad he was commissioned to do all those portraits of the wealthy. They financed his trips to the Alps, Greece, Florida and Venice where he did the most startling, breathtaking, and fresh  watercolors ever done. I have never met a watercolorist who would disagree. This is a new one I just discovered;


 This seems to be a page out of a sketchbook and I suspect the values are actually darker. But look at those distant hills and the cumulus clouds above them. To me, he captures the whole 'myth' of summer. That there will always be the gentle lake to swim in, sun warmed towels awaiting, a slow lingering evening ahead.
 Great landscape painting can conjure the bittersweet sublimity of living. Make you want to stay as long as possible.

                                                       Margaret Glew

 Margaret Glew is a fearless abstractionist I`ve admired for a long time. She digs deep. I just came upon this one recently and think it`s one of her finest. Though her application of paint is gritty, the colors and spatial ambiguity are lovely and lyrical.

Here`s a great little animated short by Alain de Botton on the purpose of art. It asks serious questions and offers thoughtful reasoning. It`s fun.

 Tom Cramer and I will talk about our show 'Environments' this Thurs. night, March 19 at 6:30 pm in the Museum 510 Gallery in downtown Lake Oswego.
What could we possibly say?

Thurs. March 26 at 11 am, I will be demonstrating my watermedia techniques at the gallery. I will test the paper first.

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I support President Obama

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Glacial Lake + advice from the Master + LO plein air!

                                                        oil on canvas 30x24

 Contrary to how I always work, this did not come from a visit with a mountain. Not recently anyway. This unwound after covering two previous failed paintings, the last one a larger version of this view of Oswego Lagoon. I turned the canvas 180 degrees and began painting it with light colors. I was just trying to cover it up before beginning something new. Then this landscape took shape as I was concealing the dud. From the top working to the bottom, each new section fell into place. It was a strange experience and what is most odd is how specific a place it looks like. I definitely broke rule #5!

 Though I have trouble believing that is Richard Diebenkorn`s handwriting, the language and tone sound exactly right. These were notes he wrote for himself and he would probably be horrified to know they were now widely read. When I worked with him in 1985, he noted my interest in patterns but advised I must always 'violate' them. He was right. By interrupting the repetition, the whole feels less 'designed' and there is greater figure/ground integration.
 Such a beloved, influential painter! He was gone much too soon.

                                       Black Mesa from Chimayo-Night oil on canvas 48x30

Above was a piece done about a year before the month long workshop with Diebenkorn. I was doing lots of paintings with layers, stacking up the landscape elements like a tower.

                                             Parade watermedia on paper 46x32

 This was done soon after. I wrenched myself, with his encouragement, from those orderly rows.

 My show with Tom Cramer proceeds at the Museum 510 gallery space in downtown Lake Oswego. The official hours are limited Tues.-Fri. 11-4, but if anyone would like an 'after hours' look, I have access to the gallery. Just give me a call; 503 380 4731

 Tom and I will be speaking about the work in an informal talk Thurs. evening, March 19 at 6:30 pm.
The following Thurs. March 26, I will be giving a demonstration at the gallery at 11 am. All are welcome.

In my own studio, I will be demonstrating with watermedia this Sat. March 14 at 10 am. 5373 Lakeview Blvd. Lake Oswego 97035

 The city of Lake Oswego is having another plein air festival! Read all about it here! I`m participating and need some companions to paint with! My community is a beauty, lots of good places to paint! The public is invited to watch us.

 The exciting Willamette Falls Legacy Project is entering its next phase! It won`t be too long before something gets built! Oregon City is about to be reborn!

In closing, here is an article which was posted by encaustic artist Linda Robertson on Facebook. It`s about creativity and time management. It sure helped me understand my obsessive need to paint and the social fallout from that. It gets more intense with age. I`ve come to really resent sleeping for instance. When I was young, that was near the top of my list of pleasures! Now I force myself to bed. The great British artist Frank Auerbach began sleeping in his studio and refused social invitations at 78. He felt he was running out of time. I`m happy he`s still with us at and now 83.

                                                          Frank Auerbach

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I support President Obama

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Wetlands Forest - Opening - generational hope

                                                       oil on canvas 20x16

 Another from the marshy area where Fanno Creek joins the Tualatin River.

 It was cute. At the opening of my show at the Museum 510 last night, people would tell me about the swamps in their lives. The need to connect is powerful!
 Such a fun evening! I`m still a newbie in my community so I had zero expectations. That is a condition for delight, the crowd was very sweet and appreciative.
We got there early and I took a few pictures;

                                               John and my sister in law Mary

Take a look at the work of Claudia Bos. From what I can tell from her website, these aren`t recent but they`re definitely worth seeing. She has a fresh, confident, poetic way with watercolor. Such as this one:

 Now a word to the wise. Never give large artworks to young people! Even if you are also young!
Near the end of my semester of art school I did this really large painting and then gave it to my brother Mike. I was 19 and he was 17. Bless him, what a responsibility I dumped on him! He has hauled that canvas from home to home for 42 years! It hangs above his bed occupying most of the wall. The painting was inspired by freezing rain. Here it is;

 Alone on a walk a while back, I stepped off the path and into the forest. I looked around and saw this in the distance;

 This cheered me. It`s a fort!
Generalizations about young people bother me. All the complaints about their electronic habits seem sort of hysterical. We all have powerful computers in our pockets and this is astounding. I have notifications turned on, I look at it in restaurants, I`ve abandoned the telephone  and I text like everyone else. I don`t worry about the new ways of communication that are evolving. Business, social negotiations, entertainment and intimacy happen online now. Let`s be tolerant.
But I almost never see children in the forest and this seems sad.
My generation was ushered out the door and told not to come back in until dinner. Today, parents seem too fearful to trust their kids to be unsupervised. Ever. I`m sure young imaginations just take a different turn but what concerns me is them becoming afraid of the outdoors, of being in nature. Because it`s unknown. This too is probably a needless worry. I hope so, I built many forts.

work for sale in my studio
demonstration in my studio Sat. March 14, 10 am. 5373 Lakeview Blvd. Lake Oswego OR 97035

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

December Forest 4 - 'Environments' - B&W

                                                       oil on canvas 20x16

 This is the latest in a series of the forests on Cook`s Butte where I often walk. Every time I try for the actual density of those woods but never seem to get it;

 Or the color either! Maybe I need to impose order on all that chaotic growth?
Numbers 1,2, and 3 are below, all are 20x16.

 Yesterday the paintings in my joint show with Tom Cramer, 'Environments', were delivered and hung. After bringing them in, I had 23 paintings leaning against the wall like a police line up;

The opening is Friday March 6 at 5 pm. We`ll have a gallery talk about the work Thurs. evening March 19 at 6:30 pm, and on Thurs. March 26, I`ll give a demonstration at the gallery at 11 am.
Museum 510, downtown Lake Oswego at the corner of 1st. and B ave. I hope some of you can see the show, I think it`s a good one.  Here`s a write up in the local newspaper.

 A couple of months ago I had some correspondence with the  Massachusetts painter, Ginny Zanger. She wanted to compare notes on our watermedia techniques on Yupo, that slippery plastic paper that bedevils many. When I saw her work I immediately felt she was on a similar mission. This is vain but much of her work sort of looks like mine. She`s interested in the incidental minutia in the landscape like I am. Here`s an example;

                                                             Ginny Zanger

 She has an interesting biography having grown up in South America and she`s done what many landscape artists including me would like to do, address environmental catastrophe in our work. The dilemma is about creating beauty out of tragedy and it paralyses many of us. She marched right through that and produced a stunning body of work based on the Gulf Oil Spill. Well done Ginny!

 When I was visiting my old friends in California a couple of weeks ago I saw this tiny watercolor I did in the early 90`s, a difficult time.

This was a study for 'Roses for St. Anthony' which I gave to my Dad, a devout Catholic.
 Ruth called me a colorist recently and if that`s true, it may be why I`ve retreated to black and white frequently over the years. Didn`t Monet say something about color obsessing and tormenting him every single day? I`ve noticed many times, if there doesn`t seem to be enough colors, I`ve used too many already. Sometimes none is best. Black and white paintings seem directly connected to the subconscious and are truly refreshing to paint. Here are some others;

 He`s always said it best;

work for sale in my studio
studio demonstration Sat. March 14, 10 am. 5373 Lakeview Blvd. Lake Oswego OR 97035