Thursday, June 29, 2023

End of June

                                            The Last Oregon Refuge oil on canvas 56x44 inches

 On a sunny June day in 2012 I was walking around the Finley Wildlife Refuge for the first time. Up at the top of a meadowed hill stood a stand of oaks silhouetted against the some thunderheads. This simple composition became a subject for many small paintings and now this larger one. With only three sections I could play with my abstract expressionist impulses yet still have a credible landscape when I finished. I learned definitively, a couple of years ago with pandemic abstractions, having a recognizable subject gave me the most freedom. To see what I could make paint do.

 Now that I`m making progress separating the act of painting from the importance of presenting it, the promotional aspect of my blog is gone. I don`t want to stop it, I`ve heard many times that people want to read it. However, I forget about it. Sorry I`ve been away so long.

 I finally got the train trip to Calif in late April after it was cancelled by Amtrak in January due to atmospheric rivers. So worth the wait! I have never seen Calif. look so lush. Everywhere! There was evidence of flooding all around as well. I also saw near every single town and city, homeless encampments. Maybe hitching rides on freight trains is coming back? Or do train tracks inspire congregating somehow? I tell you one thing, it is not just Portland and San Francisco with this vexing issue. It`s coming for the rest of the country too. With low unemployment even, this population just keeps growing. It is clearly evident that the working poor cannot afford housing. How the United States tackles this matter will determine the kind of country we become. My political instincts tell me we all will pay more taxes to ease this catastrophe and hopefully we will make the rich pay proportionally more. That`s if we want humane solutions. We can look to India and Brazil and see what happens if we don`t.

                                                         Los Angeles during lockdown

 Growing up, I never thought I would fall in love with California. I couldn`t wait to get out. While I was away, the state got its act together. Because the state Republican Party came down hard on illegal immigration in a nakedly racist way, generations of Hispanic voters swept them out of power long ago. There is no utopia anywhere, much less Calif., but I have never seen such racial integration anywhere else. My brother is one of only two old white men on his Orange County street. I had low expectations for my trip because it had been delayed among other reasons and that is the exact condition necessary for the marvelous. No great events just beautiful food and the comfort of being loved. I even had one whole day with an old friend thinking I had covid. Yet we still had fun. She was certainly sick and testing positive with the home test. Then negative. I was trying to figure out what I should do with my vacation. Finally we realized we needed real information and went to a clinic. Negative for covid, strep throat, and RSV. Eventually she was treated for a respiratory infection and I was unscathed and went on to see my family further south. My homestate feels like it recovered from a terrible war and every time I visit I am amazed and grateful. Just walking through the neighborhoods I encountered smells that took me back in an instant to being a boy in the sunlight. 

more paintings;

                                                   Bog End oil on canvas 20x16 inches

 I was using a time limit with this one. I document what I`ve done each night as I leave the studio. With certain paintings, actually quite a few, I don`t seem to improve them much at all beyond the first few sessions. What does that mean?? I`m laboring for nothing? As I`ve said, I could fill a large gallery with work I destroyed [seemingly] prematurely. Or is this just some Randall-perverse nonsense? I do know if I`ve worked on something a lot, when I finally give up, I can`t stand the sight of it. I`m trying now to just set them aside out of view. If you`ve ever been trapped painting something for a long time without resolution, it is a truly defeated emotion.

                                                   In Champoeg oil on canvas 16x16

 For a recent birthday of Johns`, we went for a hike in Champoeg State Park. Oregon is well known for having a superb collection of state parks and this is one of the best. It is named after the son of Sacajawea, the baby she carried with Lewis and Clark and their Corp of Discovery. We walked along this stream after it had flooded scouring the banks and leaving heaps of branches and grasses along the way.  It looked both scrubbed and trashed. Mighty nature!

                                                  August Bog oil on canvas 16x16 inches

 The same swampy corner of Bryant Woods as 'Bog End' above. There is a old culvert there draining a wetland that was probably too wet for an orchard. This local nature park was once someones home.

                                                  Undergrove   oil on canvas 20x20 inches

 A small stand of trees on the other side of Bryant Woods. Here too, the ground is wet and the trees either have or adapted to have a larger foot at the base of the tree. Sort of like a hoof.

                                         End of the Island acrylic and oil on canvas 20x16 inches

                                                                          plein air

 I`m painting outdoors again though this year I`m using acrylics. I hoped for complete paintings from each session but that hasn`t happened. But I bring home something I can develop further in my studio. In oils which have the most versatility of all the different mediums. I think this two step method has promise.

                                               Riverside acrylic and oil on canvas 16x20 inches

                                                                            plein air

 Another begun with acrylics out in the field, then finished with oils in my studio.

                                          Cooks Butte Winter watercolor on Yupo 26x40 inches

 This big watercolor claimed way too much of my winter. I wanted a distinctly bleak landscape that was beat up looking and scrappy. Downed trees and brush now fully visible with the maples leafless in winter. Well I think I succeeded but I don`t want to look at it. That is my clear and simple test for quality. So I think I just decided a phase two. I will seal it with acrylic varnish and go back into it with oil paint. Yupo, being plastic, will not be damaged by the acidic oil paints.

When a close friend went off on the immediate threat of Artificial Intelligence, I was startled. Something this big and I hadn`t even noticed the approach? Well to be honest, it has never seemed like a plausible risk even though I have read a lot about it in science fiction. The 'problem' can certainly evolve but in my lifetime, I think I`m safe.
Then right on time, I run into this article about the good to come from AI. If the issue has your attention, read these optimistic view points. You`ll feel better.

 Not much to say. What is happening now is an obvious political ploy to make ignorant people outraged. Conservatives do this in their effort to stymie progress. It`s hurtful for sure. Portraying gay people as a threat to children is evil. They have always tried to tie pedophilia to homosexuality. Stir up disgust and anger. I have chosen to ignore this all my adult life. I like kids and I sure do empathize with their confusion. I have been a Big Brother, an arts mentor in Celebrate Youth and I was a reader with children in the local SMART program. I have nieces and nephews I enjoyed very much when they were young. I never tried to preemptively assure anyone that I could be trusted. I knew who I was and knew I had a lot to give in being with children. And a lot to learn since I would never have my own. 

 For the lovers of the masterpiece 'Dune', this was just too good. The original only, not the ridiculous sequels.

A new little piece done with my new graphite watercolors! Six shades of gray from Kuretake of Japan.

                                                                  Elizabeth Cummings

Elizabeth Cummings is about my favorite living painter. She`s an elder and still one of the most inventive painters.

click HERE for available work in my studio