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 . . . 

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.