Saturday, December 14, 2019


                               A December Dusk watermedia on paper  19x14 inches 48x36 cm

 It`s back, the Yuletide, aka Christmas.
Just a month ago it was visually autumn, but not now. At this northern latitude the day is brief and the night, a long one. Many years ago I learned not to get frustrated by the ridiculous amount of daylight. You prioritize what will be done and let slide the rest. I don`t see very well at night.
This thoughtful NYT essay on the darkness preceding Christmas as a time of reflection made sense to me. The twelve days of Christmas begin on the 25th, not conclude! In pre-Christian Europe the party begins just before the winter solstice. A thousand years ago the old traditions were blended into the new religion. When and how the 'holidays', Thanksgiving through New Years, supplanted the twelve days of Christmas, I don`t know, but I like the former idea. All this seasonal gloom makes for serious introspection and focused work and then I need a break! Christmas comes in time, I just wish it would last.

                                                               by Emil Robinson

                                                     White Crossing by Don Gray

Last weekend I went to see "The Long Story" at the Murdoch Collections in NW Portland. My pal Don Gray is showing a selection of works along with ceramic pieces by Sally Squire, curated by Jeffrey Thomas, a well known local gallerist. With many phases of Don`s work represented, it was like a little retrospective in a museum.

                                                               Taut by Don Gray

 Don works figuratively and abstractly and they seem to be merging. After a long career as a muralist, he is now concentrating on studio work. It`s this new stuff that really gets me;

                                                    Seeking Level #28 by Don Gray

Seeking Level #28 I had seen on Facebook but it was entirely different in person. There is such a brave confrontational quality to it. The two white shapes at the bottom are covered in marks that remind me of scrimshaw. They face the dark void of that cold sea as guides or guardians. The painting is big and immersive with its emotional effect growing stronger with the time spent looking. I know his work well and I think this is one of his most important.
 The painter, and my friend, Jean Dupre was with me and on that quiet Saturday we had a long entertaining visit with lovely Marilyn Murdoch, the gallery owner and a maniacal art collector. God love her.
 The exhibit lasts until January 25. It`s well worth a visit.
2219 NW Raleigh
Portland OR 97210
hrs; M-F 10-6, S-10-5

Take a look at Jean`s work too, she has updated her website;

                                                               Iris Glow by Jean Dupre

                                                        Pigment Erosion by Jean Dupre

                                                     Tangled Blossoms by Jean Dupre

 She likes Yupo too. We discuss strategy.

 Speaking of websites, instead of updating mine at the end of the year like I usually do, I`m releasing my generous and patient designer, Jeremy McWilliams, from the task and he has agreed to give me a tutorial on how it`s done. Teach me to fish for myself after twelve years. I want to be able to make additions and revisions throughout the year. It`s time and I know there are Boomer friendly services with templates and programs to make this possible. Any suggestions? Especially any that would allow me use my domaine name instead of being part of a larger group like FASO? I`d appreciate any tips. I`m not illiterate but not so bright with digital matters.

 Not to be a downer, but the election in the UK last Thursday ought to strike fear into the hearts of all Democrats and other patriots. The overwhelming Conservative victory is a dread omen for our 2020 presidential election. Working class, industrial regions voted Tory for the first time in memory.
I lived through the demoralizing elections of 72 and 84 and feel that progressive or moderate isn`t as important as a candidate that can inspire the imagination. Make us proud of our diversity, and generate excitement in tackling the urgent business of our time. Specifically global warming. With some vision, that challenge could be the great project of our country and benefit the economy as well. With unemployment so low, this is an ideal time for bold thought and action. Someone is going to make a lot of money with biodegradable plastics, cheap solar technologies, plentiful charging stations for cars and so many other vital responses to the coming catastrophe. Why not us?
Our country is in deep trouble. This is now a knife fight with the Republican Party and its Russian owners. For the first time in my life I can imagine the military having to get involved with our politics. I hope I`m wrong.

                                   Surrounding the Creek acrylic on Yupo 26x20 inches 66x51 cm

 In the end I was happy with this but my intention was thwarted immediately. I thought I had tried watercolor on gessoed Yupo before and found it interesting. Not this time. It beaded up and was useless, so this became an acrylic painting using an oil technique. I wasn`t sure I could do it or even if I wanted to. It looked like classic impressionism even though the mentor in mind was Phillip Guston in his early work. Hopefully my erratic marks tilt it to the contemporary.

                     The Storm is Coming #2 watermedia on paper 19x14 inches 48x36 cm

 This was a response to a long time collector who wrote to ask about the availability of #1. It had been sold, I told him and didn`t think anymore about it. Until my next painting went terribly wrong midway through. I wondered if I could make it into a new version of The Storm is Coming. Sure took a long time and the tone isn`t as urgent, but I prevailed. I loved using some pure red too.

 Yet another European Christmas tradition, Krampus!

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Sunday, November 24, 2019


                     From Across the Meadow watermedia on paper 30x22 inches, 76x56 cm

 Last week I worked with a local group of watermedia artists for the fourth time. They are extremely nice, pay well and listen carefully. I wasn`t at all nervous even though I rarely teach.  I wanted to show them something they may not have thought of. The idea came to me out of necessity as a way to anchor a complicated composition when my first movements cover everything in a messy wet layer. We painted from a drawing we did of a photo. Sounds dumb and I don`t do it often but the group was game;

                                                                    my drawing

                                                                photo reference

 As I painted I found myself glancing at the drawing more than I expected. It was just the center of the photo I was interested in and drew.
 Nearly every representational painter uses photography in some way. Including more of the artists interpretation was the point I was making with this extra step.
 This had me thinking about other educational matters this past week.

                                                                    David Dunlop

 I learned this fellow, who I`ve become acquainted with on Instagram because we both love wetlands, is the ultimate educator. Somehow he managed to have an award winning series on PBS that I was ignorant of.
In a comment on one of David`s paintings I said I`d love to watch him paint. He replies I can by going to his web page. I do and yes indeed he has many instructional videos, online workshops, the TV programs and several free Youtubes. I choose one randomly, an 11 minute video about painting water lilies at Monet`s home in Giverny France. He doesn`t mess around. Almost instantly he`s introducing principles that probably took me years to figure out. He has me thinking I should have stayed in school! My hermetic inclination may not have been so wise. But who knows? When I was art school age, conceptual art was dominant. A close cousin was majoring in fine arts at a California University and her reports were bewildering. It did not appeal to me at all. What did, was holing up somewhere beautiful and painting landscapes. So I did and with a determined independence too.
David Dunlop seems to have spent his time making art understandable and yet also painting his own unique vision.

                                                        Red Sky by David Dunlop

                                          Wild Meadow in Cloisonne by David Dunlop

                                           Randall`s Pond Mosaic by David Dunlop

David also shows locally at the Attic Gallery in Camas WA.

The wonderful painter Michael Ferguson is back showing at the Attic too!
The gallery has expanded which is a good sign of health.

                                                                      by Ken Kewley

More food for thought [for painters]. Read Ken`s Studio Notes from the great blog Painting Perceptions. It`s a stream of consciousness ramble about the mind in its relation to painting. Most of his observations have never occurred to me but I was fascinated by his analysis.

                                                                  Fiona Hill

She is an American hero! This is why America is great! A young woman from the north of England comes to this country for opportunities unavailable to her in the UK because of her working class background. She excels and chooses to serve her adopted country as a diplomat.
At the impeachment hearings she says the one thing that explains this big mess. The president and his Republican protectors are doing the bidding of Russia whether they understand that or not. Our intelligence community has been warning us for years that the nasty divisions in our politics are fostered by Vladimir Putin. The Russians want us at each others throats. A country so divided is weakened. Their interference in the 2016 election continues on into the 2020 contest. Why do they like Trump? They know how to make him dance. And he knows how to make us hate each other. He has completely corrupted a once patriotic political party. We all should be wary of these new Republicans. They don`t care about your monthly social security checks, your student loans, the climate or your schools, roads or jobs. Only power motivates them.

 The paintings above are the work of Alex Brewer, a.k.a. Hense. He took abstraction off the canvas and then covered walls and buildings with his exuberant compositions. What a great idea! Why did this take so long? Why have murals mostly been realistic and narrative? Just at a glance you can see how energizing they are! How beneficial to the human spirit! Color heals! Thank you Alex!

                                                                  Alex Brewer

                                   Underbog watermedia on paper 21x20 inches 53.5x51 cm   

To set the mood and have something to react to, I did an underpainting that was just too luminous. When I started to add landscape elements it was completely awkward, an imposition even. Yet I was loving the Hahnemuhle watercolor paper and it was early in the process,  so I flipped it upside down and tried to keep pushing forward. This time with no objective. It was slow going but eventually a composition presented itself and I strengthened the color. Like every 'purely' abstract painting I do, the landscape is always present.   

                                   Forest Edge watermedia on Yupo 26x20 inches 66x51 cm

 This one had no reference other than memory. Mine is not photographic in any way. I had noticed the bright yellow bracken ferns as they turned dormant and thought  I`d paint the transition from meadow into forest With watercolor on the slippery plastic paper Yupo, I could literally carve out some ferns with a q-tip. If it didn`t look right I`d re-emulsify the yellow paint and try again. Drawing in negative shapes. This suits my temperament far more than painting all those rows of fern leaves directly. That would be tedium which is not an experience I want.

                                                         Koko and Mr. Rogers

 She was a fan and could speak over a thousand words in sign language. When they met, she took off his shoes.


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Tuesday, October 29, 2019

more watercolors!

                          Rainforest Winter Study watermedia on paper 22x15 inches, 56x38 cm

  I`ve admired Joan Nelson`s work forever. Her landscapes have a mythic quality that stirs a peculiar longing inside me. Months ago I tried to paint something with her vision in mind and I did not succeed.
 Last winter I began a search for a paper that would be a 'soft' alternative to the plastic paper Yupo I use so often. This search for the 'right' paper has been a neurotic journey for years. I`ve tried many papers, all decidedly unsuitable and all with the one common denominator of me. My mental health isn`t too sturdy when it cones to paper. Check my pockets and you`ll find napkins and kleenex I might 'need' again. Visit my studio and you`ll see papers lying everywhere. I seem unable to throw them away.
 I had heard of Hahnemuhle papers as being beautiful to work on so I found a supplier and asked for some samples. Mark, at Acuity Papers, balked, then reconsidered and sent me a nice selection. I tested them all, was unimpressed but ordered a few sheets and the package sat in my studio unopened until now. I had been too involved in oil painting to give watercolor any more than an occasional plein air effort. Now that my oil paintings had been delivered to the gallery, I was ready.

                         Rainforest Summer watermedia on paper 30x22 inches, 76x56 cm

 The painting above and the opening image are painted on Hahnemuhle`s Cezanne Hot Press watercolor paper 140 lb. and it is a complete joy! I am hard on papers, I revise constantly and this stuff is tough. And there is enough sizing to keep the paint on the surface longer which allows for a versatility in techniques.
 I think I got much closer to a Joan Nelson in Rainforest Winter Study and I think the otherworldly quality in her work may come as much from her materials as her intentions. My composition was a repeat but the way the watercolor sat and shimmered was different. It was softer and more atmospheric than on Yupo. I think I have what I`ve wanted for so long! Be careful what you ask for.

                           Stafford Valley October 1 watercolor on Yupo 26x20 inches, 66x51 cm

                        Stafford Valley October 2 watercolor on Yupo 26x20 inches, 66x51 cm

 I also bought a bunch of new Yupo including a roll 30 inches by 10 yards.
I am so happy to be working in watermedia right now. This is the best run of work since before my legs were so messed up in 2017.

 Two weeks ago I was in the Bitterroot Valley in Montana visiting a beloved cousin. Once we were close, living nearby, both young artists open to the world. Yet nothing is stable for young adults. She soon left California for upstate New York, I had my year of farm living on the Mendocino coast and then moved to New Mexico. We drifted apart.
Our parents died one by one and some of our siblings left too. At a family gathering last summer she invited me to come see her in Montana. My brother Mike and I flew into Missoula and were welcomed with a reunion/love fest like no other. There is nothing like being wanted. Her home, her family, her world were works of art!
I met Bobbi McKibben in her studio and saw her moody emotionally charged pastel landscapes and impressive collection of other artists work. Including two Ben Aronson landscapes.
 At the Missoula Art Museum [free!] was a retrospective of the great Oregon artist Rick Bartow. I had seen this show in Eugene OR with Carol Marine a couple of years prior.
Just that morning in my hotel room I had received an email from a mutual friend who said Carol was moving to Missoula! Synchronicity sure gets my attention.

                                                                   by Matthew Wong

 I had just become aware of him. Who was this guy? These paintings are original to say the least. The look of Outsider Art but with narratives and modernist insights. Matthew Wong died earlier this month, 35 years old. He was on the autism spectrum, with Tourette`s Syndrome and chronic depression. He was Canadian and self taught and that young man could paint!

                                                                 by Matthew Wong

                                                                by Matthew Wong

                                                                        by Matthew Wong

                                                                      Matthew Wong

                                                                          by Ed Clark

 Someone I learned of through his obituary. Ed Clark lived to be 93 but felt overlooked. He was African American and no doubt was. That painting just above is exquisite!
Likewise this one;

                                                                         by Ed Clark

 I`m posting this from Facebook and it allegedly comes from Jerry Saltz, that mensch of an art critic.
His humble humane advice to artists is worth listening to.

So with that preface, here is the work in my show at the White Bird Gallery in Cannon Beach. It just ended but everything is there still.

click HERE for paintings for sale in my studio

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Watercolors autumn 2019

                               Canyon Stream watercolor on Yupo 16x12 inches 40.5x30.5 cm

                                Coastal Nocturne watercolor on Yupo 26x20 inches 66x51 cm

                                   Cliff Corner watermedia on Yupo 26x20 inches 66x51 cm

                           Ice Fog Lichen Light watermedia on Yupo 20x20 inches 51x51 cm

                                Hog Island Study watercolor on Yupo 20x16 inches 51x40.5 cm

                                         North Coast watermedia on Yupo 26x20 66x51 cm

 I`ve been unusually happy painting on paper again with watercolor alone or mixed with ink, acrylic and watercolor crayons. These are larger than I have been doing and it feels good to scale up and use big brushes. Despite them all looking exactly like I did them, I`m always trying to say something new or personal, using any means that are exploratory and fun. I insist on fun.
Each bright white sheet of Yupo is as scary as the last one. That silly reaction has been there from the start, so I acknowledge it and then begin.

                                                                Arch Cape Creek

                                                          in Oswald West State Park

   Hug Point-best beach in the world! Cliffs to climb on, a waterfall, a cave big enough for shelter, odd rock formations and a rainforest just steps away.

                                                          photographing a cave

 My trip to the coast three weeks ago has sure stayed with me. It`s far enough away to keep each visit distinct. On damp gray days, the beaches seem most like the iconic Northwestern landscapes everyone imagines. Nature is dominant with islands of culture and comfort strung all along the coast. It is heartbreakingly beautiful and best of all, it`s not New Zealand or Greece or Patagonia. It`s Oregon and it`s not expensive.

It`s too soon for a wager but it`s beginning to look like #45 might experience some justice at last. But he`s an old white rich Republican not to mention "leader of the free world". We will see. Those children are still in cages. This cruel, immoral president is being shielded by his party. History will not be kind to those who enable him. As Nancy Pelosi said yesterday, with Trump, 'all roads lead to Putin'. I think a whole lot of corruption will be uncovered in this serious process.

 Her political instincts are razor sharp and clear headed. She waited as long as possible to begin impeachment proceedings, fearing what it would do to our country. Until there was no other way to defend our democracy. Impeachment is the remedy for the abuse of power. It is what the constitution requires.

 This is an extreme form of what we are up against. With over a quarter of our citizens, the president has become an idol.
God help us.

                                          Roofs and Gables, Santa Monica by Ben Aronson

 This is as good as painting gets in my opinion. Even though he`s from Boston, he exposes the soul of California like no other. These cityscapes are an homage to Richard Diebenkorn and his world, yet they extend his insights into a kind of language. I can tell you as a native, he nails it every time. San Francisco or Los Angeles, he knows both intimately.

                                             Moonrise watermedia on Yupo 12x12 2008

Ode to Tides, the traveling art exhibit about our coastal ecology, will soon be in Beaverton. This big body of work is intended to bring a closer awareness of our estuaries. The range of artwork within  this theme is remarkable, the cause is so worthy. As the sea level rises, healthy estuaries will help enormously with the expected storm surges.

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