Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Expecting Spring (title pro tem)

acrylic on cradled birch panel, 20 x 24 inches

Paintings often go through a stage where it feels there is no hope for it. I just had one that seemed stuck at ugly. It just wasn't working, even though I could still see my intent in it. I couldn't figure out what it needed. Almost gave up on it, but set it aside for few days. Today decided to give something a try. Suddenly out of the mess the painting I envisioned emerged. What a joy.

I used glazing from the support up, letting the colors emerge and deepen where the various layers overlap. This was the first time I'd tried using light-weight molding paste to add both texture and a translucent white in my glazes, and I am very pleased with the results. This is a painting you can enjoy looking at close up.

Here are some detail photos:

Synesthesia: what music looks like

A music doodle

back of old envelope

Today is a stay-in and muddle about day-- snow and gusty winds and tending the woodstove. A painting taken off the easel, a pot of soup on the cookstove, some time at the computer.

I subscribe to the Research Channel. Today I checked out a recent post with this link about Synesthesia. I found it fascinating. It presents a possible mechanism for synesthesia in lay terms, and then goes on to say that it is not an abberation, but likely a normal part of human experience. It seems that the crossover of sensory experience may be an important componant of creativity of all sorts (art being only one way of expressing creativity). And it may be that all people have it in some form, just not ways that are readily recognized. I recommend watching it. If you do, be sure to wait for the poem at the very end. It is beautiful.

ResearchChannel - Red Mondays and Gemstone JalapeƱos: The Synesthetic World

I am a synesthete, but I didn't know that's what it is until well into adulthood. It just seemed normal for me. My recollection is that quite a few people in my family had this kind of multiple sensory perception, though not all (which explains some of the peculiar conversations about music). Then at some point, I read or heard about people who "heard" colors, and that the word for that sort of thing is "synesthesia". Mine involves sounds and a feeling of movement: shapes with colors dancing. At times over the years I've found that lots of people who experience crossovers of senses, not like mine, but juxtapositions of various sorts.

The music being played during part of this video captured me. I'd love to find it and paint it! Unable to resist trying to capture some of the color dance in my head, I grabbed a pen and drew the scribble above on the back of an old envelope (what else?). I was just getting to the melodic overlays when the music ended.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Mountains Take Me Home

acrylic on cradled birch panel
18 x 18 inches

There is quite a back story to this one. The short of it is that recently I made a cross-continent trip by car. The trip was primarily to visit family members and friends, but I couldn't pass up the opportunity for a 6000 mile paint-out! Worried about the logistics of transporting wet oil paintings, I decided to try acrylics, and outfitted myself with a basic assortment, plus some mediums and a basic set of brushes just for the acrylics.

Oh, my. It was the month of the continent-wide heat wave. Hot air and dry winds. Trying to paint with acrylics outdoors was a disaster, even with retarder. I was ready to toss them in the nearest trash bin. I put them away, and pulled out my oils (which I had packed in a small plastic container, and happy I did!). To keep things managable as I traveled, I stuck to small studies, and used an alklyd walnut medium to speed setting up.

Once home, I decided to play with the acrylics in my studio, where I could control them better. After an unknown number (because I've blocked them out) of false starts and things best left undescribed, I adapted a technique I'd used years ago: planning the overall composition, but mixing up one color range at a time, building layers, and letting the painting reveal itself.

When I felt confident enough in what I was doing, I got out a cradled birch panel prepared with gesso, and began. With huge trepidations: these panels are not cheap! But I had an image of what I wanted to do, and I needed the rigidity of the panel to do it.
To tell the truth, when I began, I had no idea what the painting would be. I just had a vision of how I wanted to create it, and the general composition, and the process.

I began with paint thickened with a little heavy medium. The first layers created the overall composition. I laid on the paint, one color range at a time, with a brush, and finished it with painting knives to get the shape and texture I wanted. The layers were transparent or semi-transparent, so each layer of paint influenced what was below it and over it, and each layer was a little more transparent than the one before. I gradually shifted to a glazing medium, adding more with each layer, so that the painting began taking on the depth that I envisioned. The last to go on were several layers of thinly applied white glaze in selected areas, to provide a unity and tie the composition together.

And it was those white wisps that finally revealed the painting to me. Maybe it was there all along, and I just had to find it. And in the process, I think I found what I have been working toward all along.

The long-awaited website is UP!

My long awaited website is up at last! Please stop by for a visit:
"Musings" (nee' "Rambling") represents my journey back into visual arts. Now I find myself at the edge of a new phase of my growth as an artist. Over the last few months, I've found that my art is leading me on a journey without a planned itinerary. I just need to pay attention to where it takes me. I'm looking forward to wherever this journey is about to take me! I hope you will come along too.

I still want to have a place to share the "backstory" of my paintings, some of the struggles and insights, and other oddments, in the context of this new phase of my exploration. So this blog will continue.  

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Summer Already

Summer Already
acrylic on matboard, 8x10 inches

Yep. Took a while to get here, but here it is, summer.

This is the same tree as yesterday's, from a slightly different angle-- and with color! I'd saved the greys I mixed up yesterday (Masterson's palette seal really does work!). I added some quin red, ultramarine, and Hansa yellow, mixed up a range of greens, used the red with some of the green and some blue to create the underlying trunk color. The greys toned the other colors. There's a bit of red is for eye relief, but it also went into some subtle violets that complement the yellows.

At first, I had to think a lot doing this. Then it just started happening; the picture took over. Another step on the way. Nothing spectacular about this tree, but by gosh, it is a tree! I think I'm getting the feel of the acrylics.

Now I want to start really playing.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Greytone study: Old Corner Maple

Old Corner Maple
acrylic on matboard, 6x6 in.

I decided to just do some casual studies for a while when I am working with acrylics. Today I laid out some black and white, mixed up a series of greytones, and did this small, quick study of the old maple at the corner of my property, using a single largish brush. This was done on a piece of matboard, sealed, gessoed, and lightly toned with a glaze of terra rosa to give it a little warmth.

There may be hope yet.

Had a great 4th of July. Friends and family joined me for the parade, and we had a great spot on the island with the Civil War memorial. Brandon has one of Vermont's best (and longest) home-town style parades, very famous-- so many people come from all over every year that the village swells with crowds and every side street is crammed with cars.

The Brandon parade has never been rained on or rained out. It looked for a while that this year might be a first: as people assembled, it started drizzling. But our record held. Just as the parade was announced, the sky began to clear, and by the time the parade reached us, it was bright and sunny.

Afterward, we all headed back to my house for potluck and conversation and at the end of the afternoon, lots of hugs.

Hope your holiday, whichever one you celebrate this time of year, was as rewarding.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Playing around with acrylics

July Sunset
acrylic on matboard, 5x7 in.

This one was from a photo I'd taken of a beautiful volcanic sunset a few evenings ago (one of the few days this summer with an actual sunset instead of a gradual deepening of grey). The first one I tried was a throw-away. Then I did another and this time worked quickly, letting the paint happen. A little progress. At least recognizable.

I don't know why I am struggling so much with acrylics. They just feel so different both from my oils and from what I remember from painting with the acrylics I used as a painting student long long ago (I think I last painted with acrylics when Nixon was President). I was in a state of total frustration, ready to give the things away. I even completely wiped off a canvas (it was a humid day, so most of the paint actually came off).

But, being a Stratton, I am stubborn and hate to give up. I may eventually choose not to work in acrylics, but dang-nab it, I want it to be a choice, not a throwing in of the towel!

I had made a stack of sealed and gessoed matboard pieces to use for plein air (which is what I got the acrylics for, too, so I wouldn't have to carry wet oil panels). Instead I put the matboard pieces on my easel this week, and just began slapping paint on. After a while, I found that I began to get a feel for this paint. No real keepers yet, but I'm feeling more optimistic. After all, I did dozens of these when I began oils. More than that back when I began using pastels. And of course, there's that box of peculiar looking fused glass in my glass shop....

This one that began with me playing with the blobs of paint left on my palette. It was kind of fun, so I put out a little more paint and played until this emerged. I don't know what it is, but it reminds me of desert flowers after a rain, or an estuary bottom full of colorful life. Maybe a pile of my granddaughter's clothes. Just color and shape and fun. After doing this one, I at least felt I'd learned something about how I need to work with this paint.

Playing with Color
acrylic on matboard, 5x7 in.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

A try at acrylics...

acrylic on hardboard panel, 12x9 inches

It has been a very very long time since I've painted with acrylics. I decided to get a few tubes and give it a try, for location work ("au plein air"), to eliminate the hassle of transporting wet paintings along with gear. Whenever I try new materials, I always like to do something fairly representational, because that gives me an idea of how the material behaves, and how I need to modify how I do things to get it to do what I need. It was a startling change from working with oils! Since I was working in studio primarily to get the feel, this is done from a photo I'd taken some years ago on the Oregon coast. (I'll explain the title in a minute.) This is not something I'll frame, but it was fun to do.

Acrylics have changed a lot since I last used them. I am using acrylics from a highly respected maker. Very nice feel, very nice dry appearance. I was working inside on a humid day, so no problem with overly fast drying. I had some false starts and had to work a bit to get the feel of the paint. It simply handles differently from oil, in my memory more so than the acrylics of the 60s and 70s-- at least this brand. Slicker, smoother, less body than oil (though the color is wonderful). Disconcerting at first, I finally decided I like it. I suspect my use of it for strictly painting will be limited to certain situations, though. I still prefer oil. (It's easier to get out of hair and clothes, for one thing...)

One thing about acrylic that does appeal to me: the potential it and its various mediums have for doing multimedia works using various kinds of materials. That will be fun. I'll just need full cover.

Now, why I chose "Optimism" as the title for the painting above: there were actually quite a few people on the beach that day. All of them but one wearing hoodies, jackets, long pants and shoes. That's why I took this particular photo, and why I chose him to include in the painting. Usually when you see surfers along the Pacific NW coast, they are wearing wet suits. For good reason. The water is cold.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Painting on the Porch

Sun and Shade
pastel, 10x8 in

Busy, busy month. Rainy, rainy month. Busy, busy me. Getting paintings framed for show at a new (to me) gallery, putting in applications for other group shows and scoping out more galleries (hoping to place in several), jumping on the rare sunny days to work long hours in my garden to try to catch up (not there yet). Oh, yeah, and painting something every day, even if it is just a watercolor sketch or two in one of my notebooks. Forget housework-- no time.

The show is open and the opening went great. Finally took a breather, and gave up a rare sunny day to go paint and run errands, even though my vegie garden was calling out to be planted.

The Chaffee Art Center (in Rutland, VT) is sponsoring an open "Painting on the Porch" for artists every Wednesday. So I packed up some of my pastels, my small easel, and some paper. There we were, a beautiful day on the portico of an historic old house, surrounded by interesting subjects for doing plein air-- and every one else waas painting from photographs, sitting and chatting, with their backs to the scenery!

I poked around a bit, and set my easel up in a corner of the porch by the side entrance where I had a view of the street trees with a nice strong light and shadow thing going on. An extra benefit was that I was away from the traffic noise (the center is right on the main drag through town).

Though I usually work quickly in pastels, I found it hard to get as much done as I usually would in the time I had. I discovered right away that I had a problem with my materials: the weather has been so damp and humid that I had a problem with the pastel building up too fast, even with the light touch I tend to use. So this is definitely unfinished, and probably not something I'll do anything with.

The other artists were understandably curious about the setup I used and the way I set up the underpainting, and kept creeping back to ask questions. And of course, visitors would stop by to peek over my shoulder. This is normal for this kind of situation, though, and I enjoyed it.

I already have my spot picked out for next time, next to a small garden with a totem sculpture in back. And next time I'll bring my new acrylics to try out. I got them specifically to do off-the-beaten track plein air, because they dry quickly and are easier to carry out. But the Painting on the Porch events will be good practice too, because the short time will force me to work more quickly than I do with oils.

PS: The little ants never came back. Well, they checked the mailbox out, but didn't move in. So apparently the oil of rose geranium worked. But then they discovered my favorite spot in the living room to drink coffee and eat snacks. It was my fault. I let the first one escape. Now I eat my snacks in the kitchen. I don't know why they have never found my kitchen. It would be ant heaven.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Sunset on Mudflats

pastel on archival sanded paper, 9x12 in.

Lately, I've been busy trying to reclaim my neglected garden and ready it for planting, deal with a broken sump pump hose (flooding said garden), and other domestic pursuits. Evenings, I've begun sorting through boxes of old photos in an attempt to organize and label. My love of landscape began long ago, so there are lots of photos of places I spent time at. Some were of a place I used to take my kids to camp, on the Oregon Coast, near Cannon Beach.

Daytime, mudflats at full ebb can look pretty drab. But there are times that bring out the astonishing beauty that mudflats have: days with light mist, sunsets, moonlit evenings. In the summer, the Pacific Northwest coast often has stupefyingly brilliant sunsets. I found several photos I'd taken of one particularly stunning sunset, and began to visualize a pastel painting. Yesterday was too hot to work outside, so I got out my pastels for the first time in nearly a year. I wanted to try to express both the brilliance and the serenity of this place at that particular time. I think I came close.

Esoterica: for the last two weeks, little bitty black ants have been trying to establish a nest in my mailbox (an old-fashioned rural box on a post). Leaving the door open worried them enough that they would scurry to remove all the eggs and larvae, but then the next morning, or the next rainy day, they would be back.

Day before yesterday, after they had finished evacuating, I sprinkled geranium oil inside (it works to deflect skeetos). This morning the box is empty. I don't know if it was the oil, or if it was because yesterday was 90 degrees and the mailbox is a black oven. Hope it is the oil, as it is cooling down, and, frankly, it is guilt inducing to realize I have assumed the role of natural disaster in the ant universe.

This is not something I am likely to paint. Or maybe...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Shoals of Vermont: finished

oil on stretched linen, 20x16 in.

I didn't make any real changes in this one, but I did correct some details, and did another layer of paint along with a bit of glazing and scumbling over the sea to give it some substance. I may go back later along the horizon, but this one is otherwise finished. To see it in its earlier stage, go here (which is actually just two posts down).

I've been working on another painting that is in the middle somewhere. It led me in an unexpected direction (I am getting used to this) and then stranded me. So so it is resting quietly up in the drying room until it gets around to letting me know what it is. Whatever it is, I like it so far.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Some weeks are like this...

blank canvas, 20 x 16 in.

What more can I say? Sometimes that's just the way it is.

I had gotten several paintings out of holding pattern, and in the drying rack. And made up a CD of paintings to be juried.

Then the SUN actually shone, the ground was finally unfroze, and, with help from my family, I spent a week catching up on cleaning up the yard and getting my garden ready to plant. I even managed to plant an arborvitae hedge 40 feet long and 18" tall. With such little plants, you'd think it would be easy, but remember-- this is Vermont. Digging holes means acquiring a small mountain of rocks. That was a day's work in itself. Then it rained again.

THEN... one of those life events that leaves you reeling with 360 billion emotions all at once.

Two weeks ago, a person I last saw as a 9 pound 2 ounce baby boy suddenly reappeared in my life as a full-grown man. My son. Instead of painting, I spent days emailing and facebooking him and getting to know him and telling him about his birth family and calling all my friends and journaling and either dancing through the house or walking around dazed. He brought up the part about feeling 360 billion emotions all at once, and that pretty much covers it.

Ironically, the day I first heard from him, I had just sent an email to my youngest daughter on her birthday, and his message to me came in the download.

I've been nuts ever since. Today I heard his voice for the first time, when he called to wish me Happy Mother's Day. I can't talk about that yet. Tomorrow is his birthday, and for the first time I can wish him Happy Birthday. We live on opposite coasts, so now I have one more very special relative to visit when I go out west this year. I can hardly wait.

What a special Mother's Day. My daughters and my son.

This calls for a special painting, and one is starting to take shape in my mind. I am going to use one of my new wood cradled panels.

Must paint. Must paint.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Shoals of Vermont

oil on stretched canvas, 20x16 inches

This is either finished or almost finished. I am not sure which yet. I put it away upstairs so I won't be tempted to fiddle with it. I do need to do a little touchup and minor adjustments once the paint dries enough, but I am feeling that I want to leave the composition as it is now.

I began this painting with a general sense of its composition (I usually sketch it out on paper or on the canvas in a general way first). Then little houses spontaneously began falling off into the midground, which somehow became watery rather than fieldy.

The title bobbed up from my somewhat warped sense of humor. I think the painting itself emerged because of my feelings of having my life stranded with no way to escape (note that none of the houses have windows or doors). But the painting, and the title, took on a larger meaning. And of course, it must: there are all these houses, all these people around me whose lives are full of uncertainty. My own foundation is pretty secure in comparison to many of the people I know and see.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Sentinal Tree, finished

oil on stretched canvas, 20x16 inches

This is the same canvas I posted on February 8th (you can see it here), now finished with the terra rosa on the branches and the distant vista misted in. I added a little color to the sky, too.

While I was showing it to a friend the other day, she mentioned that though the outside is scarred from lightning strikes, the inside is still green and thriving. "Like you", she said. Her words startled me, but when I reflected I realized that there is truth in what she said. Perhaps it is why I was so drawn to this tree in the first place, and may be why this painting resonates so much for me. In some fundamental way this is a self-portrait. When I look at it, I feel very connected, and very at peace.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Anders Zorn's palette: an experiment with green and blue

Yes, two posts in one day again!

Periodically, the issue of Anders Zorn's limited palette comes up in artistic circles. Zorn is famous for his stunning portraits and nudes with very rich skin tones. His paintings are a feast, in color, composition, and form. His palette is said to have consisted of Ivory black, white, scarlet, and yellow ochre, though he probably occasionally used other pigments on occasion. There are some who find it difficult to believe that he could actually used that palette, as many of his paintings show blue (albeit subdued) and some quite vivid greens. Thus, these nay-sayers claim, he must have used blue, or he could not have achieved green. Some allow the blue, as warm grey tones will read blue when placed in context with warm colors such as yellow and orange.

However, I know from my own experience that it is possible to mix greens without using blue pigment. So in response to a blanket statement by one of those people who are adamant about their assumption regardless of the facts, I did a quick little demonstration. These may not be the exact pigments used by Zorn, but they are nonetheless a clear demonstration that it is indeed possible to achieve both blues and greens with his limited palette.

I use M. Graham oil paints, and already had a selection laid out for a painting. From those, I used ivory black, zinc white, azo yellow, terra rosa (one of the iron oxide reds), and quin red (a modern scarlet pigment that Zorn could have used). I chose the two reds because I wanted to see what the differences would be. I found the results quite interesting, and learned something in the process. Here it is:

On the left: Ivory black and terra rosa, tending toward green.

On the right: Ivory black and quin red, tending toward blue.

The top two patches in each line have azo yellow added.

I found it interesting that with the quin red, adding yellow created an olivey shadow leaf green, while with the terra rosa, the yellow brought out an intense grass green.

The bottom patch on the left is not as dark as it appears here-- it is distinctly a deep green.

I was surprised to see how much blue showed up in the quin red/ivory black combo, especially when white was added. In real life, it is slightly greyer than shows here (the paint was still wet, so reflection probably increased the blue). But perfect blues for water, and certainly in contrast with warm colors the blue would stand out. It would be interesting to try this with other reds and yellows to see what kind of greens and blues would emerge.

Mixing colors is fun. And Zorn is vindicated once again (many, many people have demonstrated this, but it is worth doing just for the learning exercise).

Feline performance art

The Lamp, post performance.

The culprit: Jellybean, aka the flying squirrel cat

Performance objective: to leap over lamp onto sofa. Somewhat disadvantaged because of lack of skin flaps between extremities.
Performance only partially successful.

Presently considering possibilities of incorporating embellished origami bird into next performance.

Yes, this is a post about art. And life. At least in my house. I had regarded this as simply normal feline high-jinks, but a friend of mine, more astute than I, pointed out that I clearly did not appreciate the artistic abilities of my feline owners. I quote from his review: "As performance art it remains a statement of primal angst combined with the silliness of the human belief in the domestication of cats."

I stand corrected. His assessment has caused me to reevaluate a number of events involving my cats. And maybe someday I'll tell you about them. And maybe I won't. (Bet you're relieved to hear that...)

This has nothing to do with me.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Seeking series: "Dreaming"

oil on linen panel, 12x9 inches

Yes, two posted today. These have been upstairs drying until I could photograph them. I think this is the second I started, and did go through a few changes before it said what I think it was trying to say. Another one that led me to a place I didn't know about.

There's some personal background in all this. Life has markers that delineate shifts you may or may not recognize at the time-- possibly because all one's energy is taken up with just getting through life. Those I have seen only in retrospect. But this winter I experienced one that clearly was a marker, a boundary that made me see myself in life differently. One day that side, next day this side. Simple as that.

The details don't matter. It is the sort of thing that we all experience at some point in our lives, some lives more than others. But consider this: Because matter is both stable and unstable, life is possible. Imagine all the living matter that has resulted from that fact. More, matter seeks to organize in such a way that consciousness becomes possible. We share this with all creatures, perhaps with all matter, to one degree or another. And at some point consciousness becomes awareness. So here we are, alive, conscious, and aware of being alive. And awareness carries with it the possibility of anguish and joy. We get to choose whether to let the anguish extinguish the joy. What I received was a reminder to honor this gift.

"Seeking" series: "Between"

oil on linen panel, 12x9 inches

There are a lot of layers on this one. Literally (in terms of paint) and metaphorically. I am enjoying doing this series quite a lot, and am always surprised by what emerges. Sometimes it's pretty close to my original conception, but sometimes a painting chooses what it is going to be itself. That's what this one did. It made me do a lot of scumbling and glazing and stretching myself to find the painting. I'm glad it did.

I have been painting on small linen panels and larger (20x16 in) stretched linen. When I was a young student, I found that I preferred to paint on a solid surface rather than a springy one. I prefer canvas or linen laid on a panel, for instance, over stretched. I also like wood panels, and am having some made up for me by a local mill. I'm having some larger ones made with cradles (a back-frame), so that I can begin working at scales that feel more comfortable to me. I am also having some very small panels done. I'll call them "itty-bitties". I like doing those too. It's the middle sizes I find constraining.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Seeking series: "Rootless"

oil on linen, 20x16 in.

I've been working on this one off and on for about two weeks, a layer of glaze or scumble at a time. Nearly done yesterday, but I felt the tree still needed depth and structure. Late last evening, in my nightclothes and ready to go to bed, I visualized something and took a palette knife to the tree, scraping away lines to reveal a skeletal interior. Too late to really see how the results looked, I went to bed, and this morning rubbed a very thin layer of medium into the tree with a sturdy brush to soften the scrapings.

Now it is done. (Well, probably.)

Because it is so fresh, the photo has a bit of glare where I reworked it. That will matte out in a day or so. When it is time to varnish, I will use a non-glossy varnish for this one.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Seeking series: "Passage"

" Passage"
watercolor on hot press, 7 x 9 in

I decided to explore this particular spatial arrangement for a while, to see what I could do within its constraints. I'm finding it very freeing, actually. I have a sense of seeking when I am painting them. I know my mind is deriving the forms from my environment, but they are going through some interesting permutations before they emerge into my awareness. Sometimes that doesn't even happen until the paint lets me know what it wants to do. It's not entirely unconscious: more like going with the flow.

At some point during the last several months, I began recognizing that a certain feeling of frustration begins to set in just as I am about to make a major shift, and increases the longer I work at it. For a long time, I thought that feeling of frustration was because I did not have the slightest idea what I was doing. Which in a way is true, but is actually beside the point. I finally realized that the frustration is both inevitable and necessary. It means I am going in the right direction and am seeking the path: I just don't see it yet. I have learned to look forward to that feeling: it is exhilarating if I stand back and let it happen.

I have three more of this configuration in various stages of completion: looks like a series of something. Maybe I'll call it the "Seeking" series.

The watercolor came about because a painter friend of mine mentioned that she has been working in watercolors after working in soft pastels for a while. Last night, needing to leave off the oils, I wondered if I could do one of these in watercolor. There it is.

Time to take the bread out of the oven and put another log in the heating stove.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Today's Part 2... an experiment

Yesterday I gessoed a scrap of watercolor paper, about 4 by 8 inches, to try an experiment. I have used soft pastel to add detail to oil paintings in the past, and have also at times used oil medium to give special effects to my pastel paintings. The pigments are soluble in oil mediums (they are, after all, exactly the same pigments used in all fine art paints). I wanted to see how it would work to put a thin film of oil medium on a gessoed surface and then paint into it with my pastels.

I picked out a few odd slivers of pastels nearly used up. I rubbed the flats over the surface, overlapped and blended edges, drew lines, used my painting knifes to make marks or to press the pigments down-- all kinds of things. It was not a masterpiece of painting, but a freeing up from the constraints of pastels, and an opening up of possibilities. I felt such satisfaction and delight. It makes me want to experiment with more media, look for ways to manipulate paints and pigments with other things in my painting.
Oh my, oh my.

Seeking series: "Settling In"

oil on linen panel, 12x9 inches

I've been experimenting on bits of paper and having a lot of fun. Gradually incorporating abstraction into my paintings. Now I'm starting to deliberately work in expressionist abstractionism (whatever that really is- I phrase it that way because it is really NOT what some people refer to as abstract expressionism-- whatever THAT is) on some of my linen panels and stretched linen. Building layers of paint, playing with how the different layers interact. Feeling what the paint is telling me. This feels right: it's where I've been heading all along. I'll be adding in other media along the way, too.

I'm not sure if this piece is quite finished. I'll set it aside and work on some other things, and then see if it is calling for more.
NOTE: I've now got several paintings in this general format, which seem to be forming a series for me. I'm calling the series "Seeking". And this one is, indeed, finished.

"Ridgeline" revisited

"Ridgeline" reworked
oil on linen panel, 12x9 in.

This is the same painting I posted on December 2nd (you can see it here). I did not like the perspective or the flatness, and so a few days ago I reworked it to introduce a more intimate perspective and stronger contrast. I like it better, but at this point I am moving so quickly into a more expressionist abstract style that I can't say it grabs me. Though I've found that if I let something sit around for a while, sometimes it will grow on me. We'll see. And then there is always the fact that what doesn't appeal to one person, really resonates for someone else. So perhaps out there is a person waiting for just this painting... or maybe it will eventually become a different painting.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Ute Reservation Sentinal Tree

Ute Reservation Sentinel Tree (work in progress)
oil on canvas, 20x16 in

I drove past this tree any number of times, which is probably why I can't remember just exactly where it is now. Except that it is on the Ute Reservation in Colorado, just after coming into it from somewhere else on a rarely traveled back road (which is why it was my preferred route). The only tree on a narrow wedge after the road climbed onto the mesa, it was always like a welcome sentinal to me. And that is what I remember. I could figure out where by looking at it in context with the photos I took on the same roll (pre-digital), but it doesn't really matter. What matters is how this mesa and this tree are part of who I am.

Of course, being the only tree on a bluff accounts for its somewhat bedraggled appearance. It is, inevitably, a lightning tree. The inside is living, but the outer limbs are skeletal and reddened from weathering where the lightening traveled down the outside of the tree and killed the tips of branches.

It is to me, nonetheless, a beautiful tree. I hope to go back to that bluff and I hope it is still there to welcome me.

Of course I have photos as well as memories, and when I came across the photos one day last fall, I set them aside so that I could make a painting as well. It is coming slowly, because I wanted the feeling, not just an ordinary landscape. This canvas has been on and off my easel for several weeks, as I felt my way through how best represent it. It is still in progress, though I think I am near now. I ordered some zinc white to mist in the lower sky and below the bluff, and some terra rosa for the tree's "lightning aura". And that may be it.

This may be the last "realistic" painting I do for a while (though I do have one reworked that I will post after it dries). I have several other paintings in various stages, and all are explorations of shape and color and composition that draw on but do not represent real things. So freeing, so much fun. More in another post.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Beach Storm

At Short Sand Beach
oil on masonite, 6x6 inches

Yes, two posts today!

That is because I am catching up on photographing some paintings I did in December. I am not even sure just when I painted this one. After one of the larger ones, because I remember looking at my palette and thinking that the leftover paint colors reminded me very much of a coast storm. So I pulled out one of the small gessoed panels I keep handy, and made this.

I used the paints just as they were on my palette, and could visualize the scene as if I were standing on the rocks overlooking my favorite Oregon beach as one of those dazzling winter storms made its way in, late in the afternoon when the strange pre-storm light creates sea colors not otherwise seen.

By the way, coast storm watching is considered a spectator event in Oregon, like a symphony. Whenever a good storm is forecast, the roads from inland are clogged with cars as people head for the coast. Headlands overlooking the ocean are crowded with people, who bring picnic lunches, bottles of wine or thermoses of tea or coffee, and shroud themselves in waterproof gear.

Local police shoo people from the lower ledges-- newcomers don't realize that the breakers can reach 60 feet or more up the steep, rocky coastline when they hit, driven by the almost hurricane force winds that are considered common place along the Oregon coast. (And yet, just a few miles inland, protected by the coast mountains that rise straight out of the ocean, all that happens is that a lot of rain falls.)

Along the Tieton

Along the Tieton
oil on canvas, 9x12 inches

The subject is loosely based on several photos I took years ago along a twisting mountain highway through the northern Cascade Mountains, early in the snow season. The name is pronounced "Ty-eh-ton", and is the name of a river that flows down the eastern side of the Washington Cascades. I could spend a lifetime painting along this river, or taking photographs, or just hanging out. There are a million years to explore there.

Yes, there does seem to be a theme here. I did this painting sometime in December, before I did the usual pre-holiday crash and burn thing. At least that gave it a chance to dry well, so it photographed without a lot of glare.

I think that with this painting I finally began to get a feel for how I can work with oil paints in the style that feels like me.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Shadow Mountain

Shadow Mountain
oil on linen panel, 9x12 inches

This one was just plain fun to do. I gave myself permission to play, with no predetermined outcome. Why do my paintings always turn into mountains or water? Good question. I know the answer, and have decided it is irrelevant. It's what I paint right now.

I started here with brushes, used a palette knife to clean up an area, and ended up using knives to finish the painting because it felt right for what was emerging. I hated it for a while, but now I think I like it. The name comes from a (relatively) small mountain in Colorado near where I lived, at the headwaters of the Colorado River, just south of Rocky Mountain National Park.

There's a whole story attached to this painting, having to do with painting too early in the morning, rushing to clean up, falling painting, salad oil, dish detergent, and spending the whole rest of the day clearing ice and snow and splitting wood before the next storm. Won't go into details right now, but the painting survived, and oil paint washed out of the hair just fine after sitting all day smothered in salad oil and dish detergent under my hat. Life is just interesting sometimes.

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Bridge

The Bridge
20 x 16 inches, oil on canvas

I've been working on this off and on for about a month, in between other things. Not sure I'm finished yet. Finished enough to post. There is something about this one that appeals to me, and at the same time leaves me wondering why it feels unfinished. The thing to do is set it aside and wait. Maybe it'll end up in the discards. Maybe it'll feel ok the way it is. Maybe I'll do more work on it.

The bridge in the painting is there if a bit ethereal in execution. There are several literal bridges superimposed in my vision here, and several not literal bridges superimposed as well, all of them representing a transition from one state to another, spiritual or physical. I suspect this is why I am reluctant to make this painting detailed in any way.

And yet: when I look at the painting, I see each of the places vividly. I wonder if you also have a special bridged place that this painting will evoke for you?

PS: 3/18/2009. "The Bridge" is no more. I had it hanging over my desk, and the more I looked at it, the less I liked it. Put it on my easel, thinking I'd rework it. Then I put it upstairs in my drying room for a while. Then I took it down and scraped it and gessoed it. I feel better now.