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 . . . 

Monday, September 17, 2018

Points of View

Phantom Bluff 12 x 16 oil on board

I'm trying some different perspectives to paint the bluff, getting out on the boat for a new angle, and I am hopeful there is some fertile ground to be plowed.  That said, it's been hard to get back into painting after a long time away.

The Bluff 16 x 20 oil

The brilliant light and rich colors of the coming autumn make for a different sort of look, with much stronger colors needed to catch the stunning effect at certain times of day.  I realize now that I wanted to edit this painting a little before posting, correcting some things, like the bizarre cloud formation, but I will get to it a little later.  My apologies for the rush, but my guilt over the long time between posts got the best of me.

This last was an effort to work with the light that is now changing to something more subdued, but the effort was abandoned before finishing.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Phantom Bluff, Again

Phantom Bluff 12x16 oil

Monet painted his haystacks over and over again, and I keep going back down to the boathouse to paint Phantom Bluff because I want more practice at painting from life, but I seem to end up with nearly the same painting each time.  I think it must be a lack of vision on my part, because I see the same thing, or maybe it is that I am painting what I believe to be there rather than what I see, so my left brain keeps interfering....  I should probably change my palette and force myself to paint it in different colors, rather than trying for what I see objectively.  Maybe next time?

Early morning is definitely the best time to get out on the lake to paddle; there were no boats this morning, smooth water, and we saw a bald eagle, several osprey, a great blue heron and an otter.  Where else in the world is it possible to feel like one lives in a wilderness while being in the middle of a large metropolitan area?  I marvel at the beauty of it all.

And finally one more from France:

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Along the River

Through the Cottonwoods 16x20 oil

I had doubts about trying this one, given the deep shade of the foreground and the double V of the trees, but in the end it did give me a feeling of the place and the light beyond the shadow.

The River is Low 12x16 oil

Just to shake things up, I tried using Thalo Blue instead of a Prussian or Ultramarine for the sky.  Though this one was dashed off quickly, I think there is potential in working with the thalo, if it is knocked back a bit with some earth color or red/orange.  The photos seems a little fuzzy, though the painting was left a little fuzzy itself.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Beneath These Boughs

Beneath These Boughs 16x20 oil

I had little time and no paints with which to work while in Greece, so I have to settle for working from photo reference and what memory remains.  I was struck by the immensity of this olive tree, the deep shade on the parched ground, and the little trailer awaiting the crop of olives to come.

La Boissiere

This is an 11x14 inch oil of the view of my friends' home seen from a distance, with the warm glow of the rising sun.  I think that had I been painting on site, I would have had a better feel for the local color and nuance of the various crops, but instead I went for a more stylized treatment.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Apr├ęs Vacances

The Road to Soumensac. 12x16 oil

It's been a long while with no posts, and no painting, either.  Blame it on the vacation to Greece and the south of France.  The above painting is my first attempt since returning.  The view is from the property of my friends where we stayed for a couple of weeks, waking each morning to a glorious pastoral view of 180 degrees which will fuel some efforts over the coming weeks.  The group of buildings on the right is Les Boissieres, a working farm and vineyard that is the only close neighbor.

Our trip began in Athens, with the requisite visits to the Parthenon and museum.  But we did manage to head to the beach north of Athens for dinner with a cousin.

Then we were off to Zakynthos, an island in the Ionian Sea south of Corfu.  There were the classic postcard images, like this one below:

But my preference was for the quiet interior, undisturbed by the tourists who stuck close to the beaches.  The vast groves of olive trees (1.8 million on this island), the cicadas, the sleepy villages were all more foreign to our American eyes than were the crowds of Brits swarming the tavernas.

After flying to Bordeaux, we rented our car and drove due east to the Lot et Garonne, where our good friends have lived for the past seventeen years.  The visit centered on the social, the family connections, the cooking and eating and drinking, but the landscape was like yet another welcoming friend: it is perhaps my most favorite landscape in the world, with rolling hills of vineyards and wheat fields, small woods harboring wild boar, old hamlets with ancient churches, and narrow roads ideal for wandering.

My family stayed in the guest house of our hosts, and rose each morning to breakfast on the terrace overlooking this view:

Now that we are back, my intention is to get caught up on household and business issues quickly and then keep those brushes wet.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Painting Competition

Barrels  11x14 oil

The local plein air competition has now concluded and while it was largely rained out, I found other reasons to dislike it.  I guess I really prefer a more collaborative and friendly approach to painting and I'd love to see an event that centered on painters sitting around talking with each other while paintng instead of one based on the presumption that someone is going to "win".  I only signed up at the insistence of two painting buddies who did it last year, and I assumed we would be able to paint together, but they both bugged out and went to the beach, leaving me to dutifully pack my gear around in search of some spot that wasn't overrun with the public.  While the above subject isn't fascinating, it at least provided me with a place to perch off the trail along the river, mostly out of sight from all the dog-walkers and joggers.  It's an old metal container of some sort left over from ages past, and teenage boys love to jump off the top of it in the summer, ignoring the signs that tell them not to do just that.  I did make an effort to include some softer edges, as I have recently realized (how slow I am to learn!) that edges are perhaps my biggest weakness.  

A second piece I will also submit (and I'm only submitting anything at all just to force myself to expose my insecurities) is this one from just down river at Tryon Creek Cove.  We go there sometimes to let the dog swim, even though there are signs that tell us not to do that (I guess there's a teenage boy in all of us somewhere.)

Tryon Creek Cove 11x14 oil

One thing I would do better to avoid in painting plein air is anything architectural or structural.  It's so hard to make straight lines in the field.  And water, as always, is so hard.  In the end I find myself slipping into mindless automatic mode, slapping dashes and lines in an effort to create movement.  I know that there is a time pressure outdoors, but if I can't find a way to slow down and use more care in my work, I'll never be able to move forward.  And yet that's one of the nicer things about plein air, because there isn't time to get precious and it's the impression that counts the most.

End of the Trail 16x20

I include this last piece only because it began with such hopes, and then part way through it I realized that I had wanted the little bridge to be lower in the composition, so that the entry into the dark wood was a focal point in a better location.  As it is, it seems to get lost a little.  I stopped working on the tall grasses in the foreground and I almost considered starting over on a new panel, but the rain came.  I might give this one another go someday.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Same Old Haunts

Phantom Bluff 16x20 oil

The Paint Out in Lake Oswego is only a few days away now, and there isn't much time left to sharpen up my dull blade of a skill in plein air painting, so I scamper down to the boathouse to paint yet again the familiar scene.  There is always something different about it; at the very least the surface of the water changes throughout the day.  But it also seems like I'm painting the same painting over and over again.  I make an effort to simplify, get rid of extraneous detail, focus on values, try to direct the attention from here to there.  The morning light hits the bare rock on the bluff and brings out the pinks and mauves and the rusts and mint greens of lichen, and maybe one day I will be able to match those colors and find a place for them in a painting, but for now the struggle is just to find the right greens to differentiate the far and the near evergreens.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Rob Adams

Sometimes I stumble across the website of a painter previously unknown to me and it feels like such a treasure trove of exciting images.  Rob Adams is a British artist whose skill at drawing and composition and color is fascinating to see.  All of the images in this post are from his website, and it is a tiny sampling of what is to be found there.

It is clear that he is adept at the use of pen and ink, drawing with washes of color, watercolor or oil.  His grasp of perspective in architectural rendering is impressive.

A big bonus is that he also appears to be quite prolific, and he posts frequently to his blog. I find myself envying his lifestyle, which seems to include a great deal of travel and painting on location with friends.