Saturday, December 31, 2016

Last Chance For 2016

I don't know why Apple keeps messing with things when they force upgrades, but I find they have ruined my ability to try to fine tune the color in photos, giving me fewer choices, dumbing me down.  This painting of the Willamette is much more blue than the blue-green that shows up here, and it was a major element in why I wanted to paint this, so it's disappointing that it doesn't show that way.  In searching for the right blue, I decided to try mixing Prussian blue with Manganese blue, and it really was just what I was after.  That's a combination I may want to hang onto.

On a recent morning walk up Oswego Creek, I came across a Great Blue Heron taking a peaceful break.  The dog wanted to lunge across the stream and give chase, but I held her back and finally the heron decide we were just too annoying, so it spread its huge wings and relocated downstream a bit.

Friday, December 23, 2016


Sometimes, in putting in the time to practice rendering a face, the underlying structure is so unique and powerful that it makes it feel easy.  Such was the case with Paul Newman, who had such a strong face: the brow, the nose, the cheekbones that seemed to be cut from marble...  it was a pleasure to try to interpret that which made his face unique.

It has been a busy time with little freedom to paint.  I thought briefly of posting some works in progress that stalled out, but decided to spare you all.  A recent trip to Santa Maria/Santa Barbara left me hungry for the chance to paint those hills, vineyards and trees.  The eucalyptus and sycamore trees especially have magnificent form, but I was driving with family and had no opportunity even to pull over to look, and when I did, it was never the best vantage point.  Still, I was consoled with the wine tasting, and nursed my wounded Art Spirit.

Best wishes and merry Christmas to all.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

You Reading This, Be Ready

In Foothills Park, in Lake Oswego, there is a grouping of basalt pillars, and on some of the honed or polished faces are inscribed poems by William Stafford.  The following (You Reading This, Be Ready) is one of them.  The painting above is the view from near the pillars, 12x12 oil on panel.

Starting here, what do you want to remember?
How sunlight creeps along a shining floor?
What scent of old wood hovers, what softened 
sound from outside fills the air?

Will you ever bring a better gift for the world
than the breathing respect that you carry
wherever you go right now? Are you waiting
for time to show you some better thoughts?

When you turn around, starting here, lift this
new glimpse that you found; carry into evening
all that you want from this day. This interval you spent
reading or hearing this, keep it for life––

What can anyone give you greater than now,
starting here, right in this room, when you turn around? 

William Stafford

What a fine way to return to one's day after a walk along the river, remembering to be here now.

And then another quick face.

And another view of Oswego Creek; I'd like to revisit it and tame the orange background, cool it down for distance, maybe, rework some reflections and trees.

Now we have snow outside, and I want to switch gears and paint the cold...

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Charcoal vs. Painted Heads

I recently received the new instructional book How to Draw Portraits in Charcoal by Nathan Fowkes. I have long been an admirer of his skills, and he has such a gentle and generous teaching manner, as seen in this youtube demo/discussion of light and temperature, and so I have been awaiting the release of his new drawing book for some months now.  It arrived just before I had to take a trip to Tennessee, so I haven't had much time to enjoy it yet.  Skimming through the book, I see there is still a lot I need to learn, and with luck and practice, I hope to make some progress.  The above sketch was not done following his instructions, but just to dip my toes back into charcoal drawing, and I left it at just a sketch without trying to fill in the tones and blend and express a broader range of values, because when I got to this point I was happy enough that it caught an expression and I ran out of time anyway and got called off to other duties.

The next study (nearly all of my studies are from photographs, having no live models to work from) was intended to explore a little more the depth that can be achieved with a little more attention, but I found myself struggling with the medium, either the charcoal I was using or the paper, I couldn't get past smearing and losing the value range.  But it is another head to add to the collection, working toward the goal of 10,000 heads (I really have no idea how far along on that path I am - at least 300 or 400, but barely started.)

Oddly, after spending so much time the past few months working in oils and not drawing much, other than to work out thumbnail sketches for painting compositions, I find that even the portrait sketch is easier for me in oil now, faster, more confident.  I find I don't need to resort to measurement to get resemblance, unless I somehow get the eyes off initially, and then I have to stop and figure out where I went wrong.  The above portrait was satisfying in that I feet a bit of the elegance of the model, but since I was working in a paper sketchbook I didn't worry to much about making it a "painting" and I think a little more attention to the overall look might have helped, such as carrying the background red down a little more and away from just the frame of the profile.  I was using left-over colors on my pallette from a landscape; normally I don't think I would use Prussian Blue in a skin color.