Tuesday, January 24, 2017

River and Ice

Morning on the Willamette 12"x24"

Though surrounded as I am by Oregon's natural beauty in the form of lakes and mountains, trees and leaves and skies, I find that I return again and again to the same spot to study the different effects of light on different days, different weather conditions, different times of the day.  Light on water especially intrigues me, and one could spend a lifetime trying without ever capturing it completely.  The water is moving, the light dancing, and how can one imitate that?  And yet I am finding it easier to quickly capture a bit of the feeling of it, crudely; my focus is not on the delicacy of brushstrokes, but on the importance of value and temperature and overall effect, and at the end of an hour or so I step back and a part of me wishes I had been more careful and deliberate and another part of me (the framer, perhaps, wanting to pound some boards together and get this house built!) is satisfied that something got done.  Maybe after another few years of this there will emerge something out of this sloppy rush that will be a personal style, though I confess I haven't given a lot of thought about that so far.  Maybe I should?  It's hard for me to worry much about reputation when I don't yet have the oh-so-many necessary skills I'm trying to pull together.

Iron Mountain Trail 11"x14"

After seeing the wonderful work Randall Tipton is able to do working on Yupo, I decided to give it another try.  I thought it might work well with the bright light of our recent snowfall, and it does seem to allow for a glow to come through areas that are scraped clean of paint or thinly washed.  For the most part I just left the Yupo uncovered to represent the sunlit snow, like a watercolorist would leave the white paper.  I still struggle with getting an even coverage, as it seems to give up its hold on the paint where I go back over it to layer something.  I find that I need to let it dry if I want to build up anything, and then of course it is too late to take advantage of its slick workability and luminosity.  

Monday, January 16, 2017

Practicing the Figurative

After being snow-bound for several days, I decided to try a quick run on a number of studies of faces and people in the landscape, using old photos as reference.  This old Salt above had a haunted look in his eyes, and an odd disconnect between hair color and beard color.  Once the oil dries I need to go back in and work on the beard some more, but the blue was getting into the white in a way I didn't like, so I will wait.  I hope that readers of this blog understand that I post photos of work that is not yet quite finished; that may not be the proper etiquette, but I tend to paint in a flurry, take a snapshot, and then think about correcting small things in the paintings over the next few days.  But when I push myself to post something, I just grab whichever photos are at hand.  My purpose in posting is to share my efforts as I push myself to produce and practice.  Maybe one day I'll post only things I think are worthy of sales, but I haven't arrived there yet.

There is something about the people in the mid 19th century, something more honest and direct in their actions at work that makes them more interesting to me for painting.  Maybe it's that in our time people pose more than then (though the rigid poses for formal portraits gives the lie to that argument.)  Maybe it's that they remind me of people in impressionist paintings I like.  Whatever the reason, I find it more fun to paint them, even though the colors have to be invented.

All these were done in a few hours at the easel whipping them out, not going for paintings to hang, but for practice at working with the face and form in the field, as it were.  The next one was a small color study because I thought it might make for a larger painting, but I am unconvinced at this point.

There is something definitely romantic about that era of hay-gathering.  I grew up around haying every summer of my youth, but it was done with machines spitting out bales.  My grandparents had not long before then left behind the horse-drawn wagon with the hay forked onto it by hand, and there are old photos of them standing proudly by their loaded wagons, but it was nothing I ever saw first hand.  

And then at last, here is what it really looks like outside right now.  I've been working on a couple of snow scenes, but I'm not pleased with the results.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Winter Indoors

Copy of a Pissarro, 12x16 oil

While the snow has covered the ground and excited my eyeballs and mind for painting it, the temperature has been too cold for comfort, and so I fulfill my need for a snow painting by copying a Pissarro I have long admired.  The above represents an effort of three or four hours, and I need to go back over it and make some improvements, but the mood is there, and the style is relaxed and playful in Pissarro's way.  The name of the painting might be "The Road from Versalles to Saint Germain at Louveciennes", but many of his paintings are named something very similar.  I have seen two versions of this painting cropped in different ways, so the original may be either wider than I have shown, or larger overall.

And then there is a recent piece from a walk with the dog on Oswego Creek, a recent source of inspiration for me.  It is peaceful up along the creek, and the mood changes so much through the seasons that I don't think this well will run dry anytime soon.