Sunday, December 18, 2016

Wet Snow on the Marsh

                                             Wet Snow on the Marsh oil on panel 26x24

Our annual two inches of snow fell this week and Portland was predictably paralyzed. It`s not a metropolis of bad drivers, it`s just that the roads were built for a much smaller population and our snow is so wet. The temperature fluctuates several degrees around freezing and this means constant thawing and refreezing which makes for icy streets. It`s a mess. So bad last week in fact, the bright green state of Oregon is going to allow limited salting of the roads. This has been anathema because the runoff is so toxic. But kids stuck on school buses in traffic jams well into nightfall is not acceptable.
 Meanwhile this lucky guy was able to walk around the woods and admire it. What always impresses me is how sound is muffled and color is drained from the landscape. A tiny amount of snow can transform the world for a while.

                                                         Nov. 10 oil on panel 26x24

 This comes from a walk taken two days after the election. I was desperately trying to imagine a way forward. The country had done what I believed was impossible. The horror is a little bit more familiar now but it`s reinforced daily by the insulting appointments the president elect is making. He finds a rich unqualified individual for each department whose personal philosophy is antithetical to the mission of that agency.
The apprehension mounts each day.
When the electoral college meets tomorrow, they will rubber stamp their states often narrow margins of victory and award the presidency to someone who has never held office and who lost by over 2.5 million votes. Even if they managed the ultimate courage and denied Trump his 270, when it then went to the House of Representatives for resolution, that snake-in-the-grass Paul Ryan would insure his win there. We are doomed.
For the time being anyway. I think we will see 1960`s style activism return and a much greater involvement in political matters by ordinary citizens. Democrats did not go to the polls in numbers like Obama received. Hillary was said to have a 90% chance of winning and I think those polls played a major part in her defeat. We thought she had it.
 The great writer Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote a beautiful piece on the Obama presidency and it`s aftermath in the Atlantic. It is well worth reading.

 Trae Crowder, the Liberal Redneck, has had provocative and wise comments on the election. I hope the Democratic Party listens carefully. The affection he has for his granddads in this Thanksgiving clip is the way forward.

                                                      Light in the Forest oil on canvas 20x16

                                                                Lacamas Meadows

This is now a jigsaw puzzle.
I can`t imagine anyone actually putting it together, but then again I have never been someone for games. Of any sort. My whole family was like that, you had to tell us the rules over and over.

                                                               Mary Tonkin

Mary Tonkin is my new landscape love, look at that command of color and value!
Here is a video where she describes her process. Most of her work is done on location with drawing being a key component.

                                                              Damp Lyndon

 Ok, for you kitten owners trying to get some sleep, here is my new trick.
As I`m getting ready for bed, my huge kitten Lyndon comes alive and wants to play. Every night. If I let him into the bedroom he will root around looking for nonexistent prey for 15-20 minutes keeping me awake. I tried to tire him out with fetching the mouse first but he is still fresh when I want to go to bed. We like him to sleep with us, it feels like the family is complete, so I needed to find a way to calm him...Distraction!
I get my hands wet and rough up his fur. Not enough to annoy him really but he HAS to attend to it. When he`s groomed enough he lays down to sleep.
You`re welcome.

                                                                    dry Lyndon

It`s not Christmas music but it is Baroque. The handsome countertenor Andreas Scholl sings Ombra mai fu, the gorgeous opening aria from Handel`s opera Xeres.

                            "Everything that needs to be said has already been said. But, since no-one was listening, everything must be said again." - André Gide

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Wednesday, December 7, 2016


                                                   Winter Marsh Forest oil on panel 20x18

 Here are some things I`ve been working on but never posted.
 Three or four years ago I was on Minto Brown Island in February and at first everything looked brittle and dead. But as I walked either the light changed or I did because it became much more interesting. I took some photos of a swamped forest that appealed to me because of its frenzy of vegetation and its utter inhospitality. I`ve painted it many times but only in this one did I get the mood right.

                                                          Sea Slot watercolor on Yupo 12x9

 In Oceanside, my favorite coastal getaway, there is a place at the base of the headland where the ocean is forced through a narrow passage between a massive boulder that looks like a hat box, and the cliff. As the sea surges in, there are all these sections in the water at different heights and planes that change  and shift in an instant as it pushes forward. It`s fascinating and somewhat hypnotic. Again, I had tried multiple times to get this procession right, but to no avail. Until now.

                                             Foothills Storm Study watermedia on Yupo 12x9

 This is an older piece I could never quite let go of, the inspiring experience was too memorable. I was driving to Ashland one Spring and the hills along I-5 north of Eugene grabbed my attention as usual. Storms were rolling off the Cascades behind them almost giving them the appearance of islands in a mist.

                                                           River Study acrylic on Yupo 24x18

 Another go at the copse of trees that borders the Tualatin River in a place where I walk. I get obsessed with certain views and try repeatedly to get their character.

                                                          Rainforest Autumn 4 oil on canvas 20x16

 Cold and muddy, late autumn at Tryon Creek.

 My only hope was that he wasn`t really a Republican. I mean would a true conservative politician hang out with Howard Stern? Well I guess they do. As the president elect announced his cabinet, it was quite clear he was going to surround himself with minds as small and mean as his own.
This is going to be awful yet I do think our country and it`s democratic institutions are up to the daunting challenges ahead. This essay from the New Yorker articulately spells it out.
I`ve joined the ACLU and intend to make my voice heard. I wrote the president and the Justice Department about the Standing Rock confrontation and it looks like the good guys won!
I`m going to change my party affiliation to Independent with the idea that I may be taken more seriously if my vote is perceived as winnable.
With the Black Lives Matter movement we have begun to tentatively talk about race in an uncomfortable but honest way. This is no time to turn away from that discussion and oddly, the rise of hate crimes may propel this forward even more. I hope so.
I was doing errands last week and heard the poet Clint Smith on Here and Now. A transcript is here and there are links to two TED performances where he eloquently describes in poetry exactly what it`s like to be black. At least as it interfaces with authority. It is just heartbreaking.
I want a world where young black men fear for their insurance rates at traffic stops just like I do. Not their lives.

I first saw his work 30 years ago in Portland and immediately thought we were on a similar 'quest'. Now we`re both showing at the Marcia Burtt Gallery in Santa Barbara Calif., and he feels like a friend. Though he lives in Tacoma we`ve not met but I think we will. Take a look at the landscapes of Michael Ferguson.

                                                              by Michael Ferguson

                                                                by Michael Ferguson

                                                               by Michael Ferguson

 Finally "Tet" by Morris Louis. [Nine by Thirteen feet]

                                                                Tet by Morris Louis

 He wasn`t the first to pour paint, that was Helen Frankenthaler, but he invented new techniques that expressed the deepest of human emotion.
Look at his 'veils'.
For me, art doesn`t go any higher than this. In his 50 years on earth he produced a profoundly moving body of work.

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