Monday, March 6, 2017

Late Winter Light

Oswego Creek Falls
I was struck by the milky, almost glacial green of the pool compared to the warm greens of the mossy rocks.  And while these aren't really a falls, I'm not sure what it is called; the water is released from the lake and flows down to form the beginning of the creek, but at most times during the year there is very little flow.  This was following some heavy rains that produced a nice stream.

The temperature of the light is beginning to change slightly, and the promise of spring is in the air.  Though snowflakes still occasionally fall, the daffodils are poking their heads up from the ground and winter is slowly releasing its grip on our spirits.

One more portrait sketch.  Sometimes using oil paint on the thirsty paper of my sketchbook produces a result that is acceptable, though if I had the patience and foresight, I still think it is easier to paint on the paper if I give it a coat of gesso first.  The above is on the raw paper.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Three Faces

Sometimes when I am feeling a lack of inspiration, I find I have to drag myself down to the studio and get out my toolbox, hammer out a few portrait sketches to keep working on the basic skills.  Resemblance is coming easier, even if the paintings themselves feel a little rough around the edges, and I keep moving forward, hoping one day a style will emerge from the motions of the brush while my mind is focused on the drawing or on the color.  Despite imperfections in placement of the eyes or relative size or fineness of line, when I see the personality emerge, the mood of the subject, I call it a success and move on.  These three sketches are my way of moving forward, like going to the gym even when the joints are aching for a break.

Working on old 1/4" plywood scraps left over from woodworking projects (notice the line of the dent in the wood across the nose).  I kind of liked the haunted quality of this guy, hooked on his bad habit, troubled by a lot more in his life.

And this, also looking a little gaunt and troubled, is from an old photo of Herman Hesse.  I recall reading all his work when I was young, eating it up as fast as I could find the next book, and maybe I should go back and try one of his classics to see how I feel about them at this late stage in my life.  

If you hate a person, you hate something in him that is part of yourself. What isn't part of ourselves doesn't disturb us.

Knowledge can be communicated, but not wisdom. One can find it, live it, be fortified by it, do wonders through it, but one cannot communicate and teach it.

Some of us think holding on makes us strong; but sometimes it is letting go.

The above quotes from Hesse seem the slightest bit provocative, but maybe not as deep as they might seem to a 20-year-old.  I recall that age of discovery, where everything was new and exciting and it was all brought in and accepted at face value.  Age has a way of tempering that excitement, which can be good or bad, I guess (who wants to be so jaded that nothing is interesting anymore?)

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Warm Sunshine Combats Studio Inspiration

Escaping the punishing rains, I was able to pass a warm and sunny week on the big island, but upon return, I find little interest in time at the easel.  The above is a go at a view on the north side of the island, near Hawi, but I find it really doesn't capture the truth of the colors or the clarity of the view.  The real beauty there is so rich and colorful and tropical, unlike my normal surroundings.  I guess it should be normal to hit these low spots, where inspiration is hard to come by, where there are so many excuses for not painting, but I hope it doesn't last long.  I enjoy the challenge, and the effort to learn and improve; no matter how slowly it comes, it still provides a reason to keep plugging away.

I recently noticed a home back on the market, something I designed and built a dozen years ago, and it is nice to see that it is holding up well, still looks good.  I was tempted briefly to consider going back to building, but then I remembered how much work it is, and I thought better of it.

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.

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.