Sunday, October 31, 2021

True Autumn

                                              Jackson Bottom watercolor on paper 14x11 inches

 It`s here with the full entourage of radiant temporary color. Beauty so insistent, it stops the machine of my thinking. Interrupts my worry with a blinding golden light. Maybe things will be ok? For today, yes is the answer. Lucky Oregon! Autumn and Spring defy memory. Each time they arrive it seems it has never been so sublime. What did I do to deserve this again? My favorite part is still to come. When the transplanted trees from elsewhere flame out, the natives have their moment. Not as overwhelming as the others but so poignant, the yellows and pinks against the muddy rivers flowing fast again with the rain. It`s great and I suspect it`s good everywhere, right? We all love Fall.

Thank you to those who visited my studio this month during the Portland Open Studios! It was a very successful event by all accounts. Such a social and radical shift from the solitude of painting! I don`t think I will ever stop being amazed that a total stranger will talk knowingly about what I do. In my process, doubt is nearly always present, but not during open studios! Thank you to anyone who looks at my work thoughtfully. That`s exactly what I want yet so rarely see for myself.

                                               April Study watercolor on Yupo 12x9 inches

 This began on location a couple of years ago but I never liked the bottom half. With yupo you can just wipe it off with a damp paper towel. I added a fruit tree in bloom and now I like it.

                                           Cliffside Study watercolor on paper 11x11 inches

  I`m trying, with these landscapes, to integrate some of the insights I`ve gained by working abstractly. But I don`t see much difference yet. The painting below was intended to be a subtle yet lively composition of patterns and textures but it became more realistic, not less;

                                               Rainforest Winter watermedia on Yupo 26x20

 Last weekend I went to see Betsy Chang. She`s an acquaintance I met a few years ago through this blog. She was working in watercolor and we were both interested in Georgia O`keefe`s watercolor paper from the early 20th century. To me, those fresh abstract landscapes were the best work of O`keefe`s life.  I`ve been following Betsy`s work on Instagram ever since. Abruptly her course changed to pure abstraction in oils and acrylics and this made me curious. There is something special and unique to her touch, the way she moves a brush. I can see something original by her marks. I think it might have been apparent even in her childhood. Talent is often demoted to just one of many characteristics in an artists life, and I mostly agree. However we`ve all known people with very particular gifts. The abilities show up early and often overtake the lives of young people.

 So I asked if I could see what she had been working on. Since we had been in touch, she also had a baby, born during this frightening, confusing time. Her studio was absolutely crammed with work everywhere. Big stacks of watercolors on all level surfaces. I thought my god, she`s done all of this while caring for an infant, working a full time job and coping with a global pandemic! I could tell it was stressful to be sure, but I was impressed by the obsession. She had to make those paintings, that`s who she is. Without attention, sales or a gallery, she just made her paintings. I admire this so much. Even if choice isn`t a factor, whatever is moving through her, I think it`s holy.

                                                                         Betsy Chang

                                                                         Betsy Chang

                                                                        Betsy Chang

                                                                          Betsy Chang

So how does Betsy or anyone else get a gallery? Artnet tells you how, right here.

Nest weekend!
And the Sitka Invitational, for your art+nature needs

 I will have three of my new abstract watercolors in the show

If you haven`t thought about pandemics enough, here is an article about earlier ones and how they were eventually overcome.

Finished this morning;

                                                       watercolor on Yupo 14x11 inches

click HERE for work for sale in my studio

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Round 2, PDXOpenStudio


 The end is near. The final weekend of the Portland Open Studios will be over on Sunday at 5pm. My promotional role will conclude, I promise. No one disdains this kind of attention seeking more than me. Unfortunately so, as social media become ever more dominant and influential. My work is the best part of me, I want it out front, not me. There is irony in writing that sentence on one of the first forms of social media, the blog. Nonetheless, most artists are intent on their work. That process is so personal, to draw attention to ones personality seems distracting at best.

 Weekend #1 began so slow, I could feel the existential dread of my comrades. Would we sit for four lonely days in our studios hoping a sliver of the public would come through? By Sunday things were looking up. My visitors seemed more engaged with the work and the event than I remembered from other years. More of my neighbors came!

 What struck me though was the pessimistic view of life I was hearing. The pandemic has been brutal to so many but because I am so isolated by my nature and because of CDC guidelines, I hadn`t heard many first hand accounts. I knew I had it easy but not to the extent of it. A grandmother told me about her daughter, a school teacher, who suddenly was forced to teach online without any training, while her own three children were now home with her and having to learn their lessons on computers , tablets and phones. Just one family. That this sort of situation was global defies the imagination. Should it be any surprise the crime rate is up? 

 For someone to visit a stranger to see their artwork is unusual. Those that do this believe in the value of art. They are not negative. They get into their cars on a wet and cold fall day and travel to see some paintings, to talk with an artist. Receiving these 'pilgrims' was such an honor. I was heaped with praise and they traded their money for my painted sheets of paper. How wonderful is that? If they had a live for today attitude, I understand why. We are becoming aware of a crisis that is engulfing us. It`s the hot climate, world politics, immigration, severe income inequality, the rapid extinction of animal species and the possible end of democracy in my country. Hope is going to take on a whole new meaning.

 That`s David Trowbridge and me this morning in my studio. He is also an artist involved with the Open Studios this year. We had studio visits to see how we each configured our studios from working space into 'galleries'. It was fun. I`ve watched his work closely over the years and he`s achieved a solid maturity recently. He began introducing graffiti elements into his bold abstractions and that has enriched their visual character and also enlivened their emotional nature. As if fresh air or a new light has entered into his jazz inflected work. I`ll begin with an older piece I like;

                                                         Reflection by David Trowbridge

                                                       Child of the Wind by David Trowbridge

notice the distinctive Portland landmark, Big Pink, at the top of this downtown scene

                                                        [untitled] by David Trowbridge

Here, his graffiti marks tilt toward calligraphy. Go take a look in person this weekend. His studio is #93, and it is clinging to the hillside right above the Markham Bridge. The view is spectacular!

   My brother Michael is a barber. I love that he has such opportunity. How we feel about ourselves affects everything.


 In cleaning up for the open studio, I found this drawing. I drew this impossibly beautiful young man 23 years ago. I remember hearing he was having a hard time and I think a wariness is visible here. He would be close to 50 now. I hope things got better.

 This is a literacy test for voting from Louisiana given to people who could not prove a fifth grade education. This is why we need 'critical race theory'.

 The only artwork I have been able to do in 10 days. 6x6 inches, scribbled in watercolor crayon before my first guests arrived last weekend.

                                                                         Sammy Peters

                                                                         Sammy Peters

                                                                         Sammy Peters

 If you are lucky enough to be in Santa Fe New Mexico this month, be sure to drop by the LewAllen Gallery to see the astonishing works of Sammy Peters and Ben Aronson. Both of these guys have been doing museum quality work for years. To be able to see multiple paintings from each of them in one place is extraordinary good fortune. And to see them in a city as beautiful and beguiling as Santa Fe, that`s pure luxury. I wanted so bad to visit New Mexico last summer. The monsoons had returned and the photos I saw of a lush landscape where there had been extreme drought, were amazing. But having had two plane trips since my vaccine and the Delta variant gaining strength, I thought I shouldn`t push my luck. 
If your vaccine is recent, or you`ve had a booster, maybe you deserve a little vacation. Maybe I do.

                                                                      Ben Aronson

                                                                          Ben Aronson

                                                                           Ben Aronson

White Bird watermedia exhibition-through Oct.

Click HERE for work in my studio

Portland Open Studios