Tuesday, March 5, 2019

A Prussian Winter Blue

Prussian Winter Blues 12x16 oil

This piece began as a challenge to myself, to paint quickly with a limit of 30 minutes and then to stop.  I was trying to work on getting the mood right, readying myself for the coming plein air outings, whenever warmth might return to our part of the world.  I did go back in the next day and redefine some things, but I tried to touch very little of the original, because it really does have a feeling of being out there in it.

Morning on the Creek 12x12 oil

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Practice Makes Persistent

River Morning 20116

For whatever reason, it remains a struggle to paint, to find the time, the motivation, the inspiration...and I know that they say persistence pays off, but I'm having to continue on blind faith, because I don't fee the results pouring in.  Maybe it will make a difference once it is warm enough to get outside and paint again, but with snow again today, that seems a ways off yet.

Warm Tones on a Cool River

Monday, February 18, 2019

Winter Greens and Reds

16x20 oil

Having wandered off track these past few months, I am having difficulty getting back into a groove.  Whatever progress I had been hoping for has been put on hold, and other demands in life are stepping in to take what hours I might otherwise have devoted to painting study.  

16x20 oil

Again below the powerhouse, I find the combination of colors there to pull me, though this one was left off without trying to bring it to a polished finish.  The glare in the upper right corner is a result of the combination of the lighting in my studio and the rough brushstrokes of the re-primed canvas, a recyling of an older painting.

16x20 oil

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Beginner's Mind

Winter Lagoon 20x20 oil

These past few weeks have been long and frustrating.  I have forgotten everything I have been trying to learn about how to paint.  In Buddhism, "beginner's mind" is supposed to be a good thing, opening one up to seeing the world afresh.  But when trying to paint something and feeling like one is just beginning, with no tools for translating an intention, the result is painful.  I've tried being patient, I've tried just dabbling away, waiting for inspiration to overcome me, I've tried walking away from it for days on end, but nothing has seemed to help me return to the process I had developed, for what it was worth, just a few months ago.  From what felt like being on the verge of taking a step forward in my understanding, I have fallen all the way back to nothingness.  The above painting is the result of days upon days of just adding a bit of glaze, slowly working the thing forward, very unlike the alla prima approach I have been used to.  Sometimes ten minutes is all I had in me, before discouragement got in the way.

The other thing I have done to try to break through is to work in my sketchbooks on small portraits.  It is easier to do, with few expectations for the outcome.  It at least keeps my hand and eye connected in the effort to put down color and value in the right place.  Like a runner with a pulled hamstring I find myself limping along, looking toward the future.

And lastly, a copy of a painting by Zorn, trying to understand how he dealt with the lighting.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

The Fog

Cook's Butte - photo

To walk in Nature at this time of year is to walk through what seems like an abstracted landscape, filled with mystery and delicacy.  Randall is a master at capturing this feeling, but I have not yet found the way to this particular grace.  I will have to remain contented with walking in the midst of the real thing, though that doesn't stop me from beginning aborted little efforts like this one below.

I am currently working on a portrait of Zach, and it nears completion, but I am now at a stage where I need for it to dry completely so that I can go back in with light glazes to build believablity into the skin tones.

Zach 12x16 oil

And lastly, another little landscape from the spot that seems to call to me:

Below the Powerhouse 11x14 oil

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Sunbreak Serenade

Fall on Oswego Creek  24x30 oil

There is a remarkable tree at the confluence of Oswego Creek and the Willamette River.  I am no arborist, and don't know what sort of tree it is (locust?) but it is rooted in the sandy soil and boulders and for weeks at a time the roots are under water when the river is high.  I don't know how it survives it, but it does, year after year.  Today, Election Day, I only hope our democracy is as tenacious.

I marvel how often I return to this small creek for inspiration; it is only a few hundred yards long, from where it drops from the dam at the lake until it feeds into the Willamette, but it is filled with a myriad of individual pools and lagoons and rocky tumbles, and I find endless possibilities there for painting.  Here is a sketchy version from a little ways upstream:

I was trying to loosen up and leave more evidence of accident on the canvas, something that I find excruciatingly difficult to allow, and I'm sure a therapist might be able to better explain how fixed I am on trying to portray reality.  It might be argued that I have a limited imagination, though I prefer to believe that Nature is beautiful enough on her own without my embellishments.  

Below is a photo taken a couple of days ago, the reason for the title of this post, and it is of the same area as the first painting, but from upstream looking down.  I am the figure on the right in the mid-distance, and I am marveling at the brilliant sunlight breaking through the threatening dark sky, lighting up the fall colors.  The subject tree is on the left, aglow and reflected in the still waters of the creek.  Moments of beauty like this can give meaning to a lifetime, and they lift us up when we have fallen, they carry us on.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Ad Infinitum

Light Before the Storm 12 x 24 oil

Nature has a way of dazzling the mind and thrilling the heart with her powerful displays of light and texture and nuance.  I rush home to try to capture the feeling in paint, but my own puny human powers fall short.  It is an endless game, a hamster wheel trap into which I have fallen, and I see no end in sight.  As soon as I begrudgingly abandon my efforts on one piece, my imagination and desire is sparked by the next thing I see, and off I go again, ad infinitum.  

Portraiture, on the other hand, is a sort of respite from this frustration, because when the goal is achieving resemblance, sheer perseverance can apply, and though as a painting it does not soar, it can still mark the meeting of milestones, the progress that comes slowly, imperceptibly at times, but it's a simple reward that encourages me to slog on. Randall offered to sit for me, insisting that I should be working for life instead of from photo reference, and we managed an hour of it; the results were god-awful, but after he left I continued to work on it from snaps I had taken, and after a while the resemblence did appear, not perfect, but passable.  

Randall 11x14 oil

Monday, October 22, 2018

October Color

Bend in the River 16x20 oil

We have had an amazing string of beautiful fall days here in Oregon, very unlike our normal October which is usually the transition into the dark and grey half of the year.  If this is a result of global climate change, I have to say, sorry about all your hurricanes, but I'll take what we have been getting!

This above painting is a work in progress, or perhaps I will simply start over, because it does not carry the impact I felt when I first saw this scene.  

In the meantime, I continue my practice of portraiture as a means of learning to draw, working for resemblance at the expense of painterliness, though not without wondering if I am putting the cart before the horse.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Changing of the Season

11 x 14 oil

The days are cooler, the river is low now, but that won't last with the coming rains, and it's less appealing to get out to paint, so I find myself in the studio dabbling on this and that.  I was drawn to the very abstract nature of this above, which is much more true to life than it leads one to believe.

12 x 12 oil

I love the look of stone under water, and I liked the raking light across Oswego Creek, but this one didn't seem headed toward resolution so I left it as a sketch of a possibility.

Sometimes Nature is so magnificently lush that a photo does what a painting cannot do.  This is along the Columbia River in the Gorge.

I have also been working at portraits lately, again.  For me it is continually a struggle of focusing on finding a likeness and realizing I'm not really making a good painting.  I guess that's why I still consider it practice, a part of the long road of self-education I face.  On the plus side, it is getting easier to quickly get at a likeness, no matter which method I use to begin, so it gives me courage to continue.  One day I hope I will slow down and pay more attention to the painting process itself.

Copy of a John Singer Sargent

Jack Kerouac

Yesterday I joined Instagram for the first time (I am really reluctant to sign into all these services that mine me for personal information) and I realize that what other painters use Instagram for is what I have been doing with this blog.  It may or may not prove to be more useful to me, but at least I am able to follow some great images from others that I would otherwise miss.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Sometimes a Great Notion

Ken Kesey (1935 -2001)

Along the western slopes of the Oregon Coastal 
Range . . . come look: the hysterical crashing of tribu- 
taries as they merge into the Wakonda Auga River . . . 

The first little washes Bashing like thick rushing winds ^ 
through sheep sorrel and clover, ghost fern and nettle, 
sheering, cutting . . . forming branches. Then, through 
bearberr}' and salmonberry', blueberry and blackberry, the 
branches crashing into creeks, into streams. Finally, in the 
foothills, through tamarack and sugar pine, shittim bark 
and silver spruce— and the green and blue mosaic of 
Douglas Hr— the actual river falls five hundred feet . . . 
and look: opens out upon the Helds. 

Metallic at Hrst, seen from the highway down through 
the trees, like an aluminum rainbow, like a slice of alloy 
moon. Closer, becoming organic, a vast smile of water 
with broken and rotting pilings jagged along both gums, 
foam clinging to the lips. Closer still, it Battens into a 
river. Hat as a street, cement-gray with a texture of rain. 
Flat as a rain-textured street even during Hood season 
because of a channel so deep and a bed so smooth: no 
shallows to set up buckwater rapids, no rocks to rile the 
surface . . . nothing to indicate movement except the 
swirling clots of yellow foam skimming seaward with the 
wind, and the thrusting groves of flooded bam, bent taut 
and trembling by the pull of silent, dark momentum. 

A river smooth and seeming calm, hiding the cruel Hle- 
edge of its current beneath a smooth and calm-seeming 

The highway follows its northern bank, the ridges fol- 
low its southern. No bridges span its Hrst ten miles. And 
yet, across, on that southern shore, an ancient two-story 
wood-frame house rests on a structure of tangled steel, of 
wood and earth and sacks of sand, like a two-story bird 
with split-shake feathers, sitting fierce in its tangled nest. 
Look . . .