Sunday, December 23, 2018

Winter Night

                                                Winter Night watercolor on paper 48x36

 This is exactly thirty years old. It came from a night drive through the Rockies in Colorado lit by moonlight. I was driving home to New Mexico through the Salida Valley passing one enormous mountain after the other. The whole valley was illuminated by the reflected light from these glowing monsters. Memorable! I had to paint something!
 So we in the northern hemisphere just experienced the longest night of the year under a huge full moon. The solstice is a holiday that excites me. Civilization took hold because agriculture was predictable and another growing season always returned. We are as dependent on this cycle as we ever were. The north leans back toward the sun and the world will eat. No life is possible without the sun. That`s a big deal.

 Here is a young Navajo girl singing a gorgeous tribute to the solstice. She understands.

                                                                by Emil Robinson

                                                              by Emil Robinson

 These two paintings by the inventive, always interesting Emil Robinson, epitomize what is special about Christmas. It`s all about the light. For me these are stunning in their emotional purity. This is what I love about Christmas. When it settles down, when the room hums with color and safety and contentment. Were it so for everyone.

 Lisa Pressman is an artist I admire. So when she announced a year end sale by the Multimedia Artboard Co., I was curious, I had never heard of it. One stiff non-buckling board suitable for oils, inks, watercolors and presumably encaustics as that is Lisa`s medium of choice. It sounded too good to be true but it was on sale. So I bought some and had a rough start because of the absorbency but it soon became interesting. The price is right, it comes in some big sizes and I think a painting could be presented like any other oil and not a work on paper. The first piece below is it. Sort of like painting on gessoed rag board.

                                                     Forest Wall oil on panel 12x12

                                                 Theater of Trees 2 oil on panel 12x12

                                       Untitled Christmas Landscape oil on panel 12x12

                                                     Nordic Season oil on panel 12x12

 These are my latest works. I feel ambivalent about each of them so they may not survive. I need to set them aside for now and go on to new projects. I could use an unequivocal success and I know it will only come if I`m working. I couldn`t be more inspired, the landscape is full of mystery and I feel great so forward!

  Those of you who are artists, who are trying to build or grow a career, you might benefit from the counsel of Alan Bamberger. He suddenly appeared on a Facebook group I belong to in a discussion about bartering and discounts. He was no-nonsense and practical. I did a little search of his site and found this treasure trove of articles addressing the many conundrums of the art world. They are well worth browsing especially if you have a particular issue on your mind.

                                                                        Li Huayi

                                                                      Li Huayi

                                                                       Li Huayi

 The ink painting traditions of eastern Asia have called to me since I was a kid. When I saw them in encyclopedias, the simplicity of the technique and the other worldly landscapes got my imagination racing. I think of myself as a watercolorist largely because of this influence. I remember copying them and even tinting the surface to make it look more like rice paper or silk. The monochromatic palette was a comfort and something I could emulate. I still love it though now I can recognize the difference between the Japanese esthetic and the Chinese. Li Huayi, born in Shangai, paints in the tradition of the Chinese masters but he wants them to be distinctly of our present time. I think they are quite different in that viewer is hovering in the landscape rather than seeing it from a place of security. Here is a fascinating interview with him.

 As political as I am, I don`t understand foreign policy at all. Yet I`m certain we would not be so involved in the mid-east if it were not for oil. In all the rage and despair over the president ending our engagement in Syria, I sure don`t know what we accomplish by staying. Here is a defense of his decision from the left. Rolling Stone no less!

                                                                     Emile Carlsen

 This time of year, the losses we all carry hurt harder.  The voice of Bing Crosby can buckle your knees. I`ve learned a Jewish expression that can give a little elevation; "may their name always be a blessing" What they gave us rather than what we lost.

work for sale in the studio

Seattle workshop Feb 2 and 3

prints from Fine Art America

Thursday, December 6, 2018

November Gloaming

                                               November Gloaming oil on panel 12x12

 Two kinds of fog settled upon Cook`s Butte just days after Thanksgiving. Driving below it on Saturday, I saw the dome was obscured by a mist. Walking toward the top, I was soon in a light drizzle. This type of fog is being inside a cloud. The next day it was thicker but 'dry'. Both were impossibly beautiful. Literally everywhere I looked was worthy of painting;

 For me, such a visual and sensory feast just makes me want to paint.
That`s where the danger is! How in the world to even get close to such loveliness? Nature even simplifies the task by removing many of the details. The depth is solved before even beginning. Then why was it so difficult? This was my first attempt in watercolor;

But that didn`t please me so I sprayed an acrylic varnish on it and took it to the oil painting part of my studio. This what I accomplished;

                                                    November Gloaming Study

 No, no, no! Too heavy handed!
So then I began the piece at the top of this post. I changed the orientation of the composition a bit and this time began in a much more sober deliberate manner. Inspiration makes one feel so alive, it`s just about the best sensation there is. It sure can create some high expectations which are often disappointingly unrealized. That`s what it`s like to paint. Try and try again. Sometimes I think after all these years why isn`t it easier? Some smarter, better me keeps the challenge fresh by finding new ways to think about painting and the landscape too. I don`t want it easy. Even though people can recognize one of my paintings with a glance, believe me, how I got to the conclusion of each one was a lot different from the other. Knowing that each process was unique, it used to bother me that they could be so quickly identified as mine. Now I`ve come to understand that the human eye is acutely perceptive. It notices characteristics and patterns that don`t even reach consciousness. And the painter is a slave to his body. How I walk, speak, sign my name and wield a brush, it`s all unique to me and others notice.

This year Thanksgiving was in my home and just my brother and his wife were with us. I offered to cook anything,
I have enough skills to follow a recipe and I was game for adventure. What I wouldn`t do is make a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Too much variety! Oh my god, how many millions of moms pushed through their own exhaustion to satisfy the expectations of their families?? Year after year after year! Really, how extraordinarily selfless!
Well I wasn`t going to take up that cross but I would make something exotic. Problem was, we all wanted the real thing.
Portland has an established beloved deli, Elephants`, and I had seen an ad for a package Thanksgiving dinner. We got a few extra side dishes and I will tell you it was Good. The turkey especially. Reheating instructions came with it and we all felt extremely clever and well fed.

Oregon has a new Artist in Residence program and the incredible Gert Boyle is behind it! Pine Meadow Ranch is now offering all sorts of artists a chance to get some serious work done on the dry side of the mountains near Sisters. Super easy application form and an approaching deadline of Dec. 17 for sessions beginning in March.

                                                           By Kim Frohsin

                                                             By Kim Frohsin

                                                          by Kim Frohsin

 I`ve been vaguely aware of Kim Frohsin`s work for years but never took a good close look until recently. These figurative paintings from ten years ago really caught my attention. Her negative spaces are skillfully integrated with clear bold color. Newer work seems to be about architectural abstraction.

                                                          by Kim Frohsin

 Those are my boys Lyndon and Carter. They are on the edge of the bathtub because they are obsessed with this cat toy;

 It is stationed above the tub where they can never reach it. Carter`s foster mom gave it to us and it is a most excellent device. We all know playing with our cats is important but it is also incredibly boring. Right? This is the solution. The Leather Bouncer Wand is capable of many complex movements and sounds that make cats insane. This is entertaining. Other toys may look like this but this one is tough. We use it all the time and it hardly shows any wear. Trust me.

The last apple on my Honeycrisp apple tree and the only one not infested with insects. I only saw it because the leaves had fallen. It must have ripened after the cold killed off the bugs. The dwarf little tree produces lots of fruit but I don`t know how to protect it. I use a dormant spray in winter to little avail and yes, I`ve googled my dilemma. Maybe next year I`ll try something toxic. Be careful what you ask for! I was eating so many of these apples I thought I have to grow them!

when it`s good....

Happy Hanukka!

work for sale in my studio

Workshop in Seattle Feb. 2&3

Prints at Fine Art America

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

The Flavors of Gratitude

                                           Rainforest March watercolor on Yupo 26x40

 When something is good as in sublime, I never expect it repeated. So when I had a second walk up Falls Creek six years after the first, I was curious what the experience would be like. I never thought I would see it again after reports of catastrophic fires in the area. Yet it had survived and on the cold, cloudy, late winter day I returned, it was still jewel like. The temperate rainforests in the Northwest are unusual. The deciduous forests are bare in winter but because of the mild temperatures and frequent rains, they are outrageous with their neon green mosses and ferns. Visually stunning and hard to believe, the trees are distorted by clumps of vegetation all along the trunks. My legs were a mess then so my 'hike' was slow and aided with a cane but so beautiful I was consciously grateful for my life. That is too rare a realization.
 Now our great national holiday celebrating gratitude is upon us. Just the concept seems at odds with our nation at the moment. If ever there was a time to let our differences be, this is it. We all love our country. Eat well and reflect on some of our many blessings. The good stuff we did not earn.

                                          November Grove watercolor on Terraskin 12x12

 After a little trip to the coast I began this as a seascape. On the beach I had watched the sun struggle to break into view. My effort to portray that cloud formation was not working but it reminded me of the autumn leaves still lingering in the forest. So I carved out some trees with a wet brush and suddenly I have this soft elegiac painting before me. I`m not sure what I think of it but there has been no urge to fix anything.

                                                                   Larry Poons

The once renowned minimalist painter, Larry Poons, is the subject of a new film on HBO called 'The Price of Everything'.  In it he claims art is not business, something I`ve believed for a long time. Success in painting happens in the studio, success as a painter, is a matter of commerce. There is a whole lot of effort from all sides to blur this distinction yet it is true. Ask Larry.

                                                           Aronua by Larry Poons

 With that in mind, why did I decide to whore my work all of the sudden?
Because of a beach towel.
One with a fabulous Ferdinand Hodler landscape of an alpine lake. I love his work and seeing it on a towel seemed like the coolest thing I`d ever seen. Fine Art America was offering this item and many other printed products. The wheels turn. I have a dozen high resolution images just sitting on their asses on my hard drive. Why not put them to work? Why not partake in a little commerce now that the paintings are long finished? This was once an anathema but change is inevitable, right?
Now I may wake up tomorrow as my former high minded self and withdraw the merchandise. But for now, if you need a Tipton mug or a forest shower curtain, you will find one here.

The 2018 Portland Open Studios has come and gone. Although there was enough income, there were not enough visitors. It`s impossible to paint while waiting. Driving south out of Portland is too much to ask unless there is a cluster of artists to visit. This year there were only two in my community so I don`t think I`ll participate again. I`m talking with some local artists about a studio tour in just Lake Oswego. Anyone know of a guide for organizing such a thing?

                                                                   by Jo Bertini

 The Australian artist Jo Bertini paints the landscapes of her country with great economy and sensitivity. She doesn`t depict what she sees, she creates an equivalent. That is modernism.
As colorful as her work is, it`s used to intensify her response to the sensory conditions in her environment. To me she achieves a sense of lonely magic with that vast arid land.

                                                                by Jo Bertini

                                                                by Jo Bertini

 Yelp is certainly helpful but there are other ways to find good places to eat. In Six Rules for Eating Out, Tyler Cowen gives us observations and strategies to finding delicious food when we are away from home. His ideas are really useful. I don`t travel a lot but this issue can vex me mightily, usually when I`m already grouchy with hunger.

                                                                 by Mitch Burrell

 Yep, that`s moi!
Mitch was painting lots of portraits from photos and I kept egging him to work from life. Finally I told him I would sit for an hour. To give him the experience. I figured it would be much different. He said it was and he certainly got my likeness. Unlike in photography, the soul remains with the sitter.

Seattle Workshop Feb 2 and 3

Prints from Fine Art America

Work for Sale in my Studio

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Big Day!

                                             Over the Sea 27 watercolor on paper 24x18

 Today is important, we will know what kind of country we really are.
Hillary Clinton is nowhere in sight to justify a return to a meaner and certainly less just America. I`m not even nervous this time. Reality never quite reassembles after being shattered. I know now much better what my responsibilities are and what I can do, either way.
I also turned 65 around 2:30 am last night. So many of my birthdays have been steeped in idealism and hope and also in crushing disappointment. Depending on the election. I feel prepared as best as I can be.
 This morning I was reminded that gratitude is where happiness can be found. I know this but it takes a willful concentration. Not like a child`s fast prayer at bedtime. If I unravel the threads and look closely, I can see my inherent advantage and also mountains of pain and trouble that never darkened my way. And the good stuff benefits by counting. If I can stay with it, the word becomes the feeling which becomes the realization of extraordinary grace. The bus missed me, my parents loved me, I`ve never been hungry, I lived when my peers died of AIDS, I can paint! ....Lucky from the get go!

                                                     Riverlight oil on canvas 40x30

This is what has darkened my way! This is a section of the Tualatin River that I`ve painted many times, on site and in my studio. On an afternoon visit in late summer, the water was almost inky, the shadows of the cliff deep and yet the luxurious grasses and bushes on the far shore were ablaze;

 Yet I can`t seem to get anything convincing. Beware the painting that is inspired and promising in the beginning! I was, maybe still am, intent on getting this right but I`m not sure of what to do next. If I use my hard earned maturity, I`ll set it aside and do something else. I`ll ignore its calls for rescue.

Thank you to those who visited my open studio last month! My work was competing with spectacular, dazzling sunlight yet you ventured down into my basement. I appreciate it.

                                                              Lyndon and Carter

 Though I think he could eviscerate him with a swipe, Lyndon continues to mentor our new family member with patience.

                                                           Fall River watercolor 10x8

This was painted exactly two years ago. Another stretch of the Tualatin River, purchased by an artist who lives very close to that spot. That was a nice validation.

Abstraction from Nature workshop
Feb. 2 and 3
Seattle Artists League

work for sale in my studio