Thursday, February 26, 2015

Tom Miner Basin

Oil on Yupo

Try as I might, I was unable to get the free-flowing gentle coverage that Randall Tipton manages on Yupo, even after watching him work on it several times.  I guess I wasn't using enough thinner.  Or maybe old habits are hard to break.

Monday, February 16, 2015

It's not painting, but it felt like art

As an antidote to posts where I toss in a photo of a painting that I feel fell short of my goal, and as a diversion from the parade of work that is more exercise than success, I think I will post a few photos of earlier work I have done in an entirely different field.  I spent many years designing and building homes, and frequently that work gave me great creative satisfaction.

This home was built on 5 acres on the Tualatin River with rich alluvial soil.  I designed it after a trip to the south of France and the influence shows in the round three story tower at the back, the yellow of the stucco, and the fields of flowers out back.  For years I planted a large field in sunflowers, which added to the French feel.  The smaller building is a barn for storage.


 The following house was influenced by both English and French design, with the herringbone brick nogging over native basalt stonework and the half-hipped gables.  For some reason this has remained one of my favorites, perhaps because it was so hard for me; I redrew the plans entirely three times, trying to break from my habitual style.  Sometimes we just have to love the most difficult child.  In this photo the house is nearly completed.

This kitchen is from yet another house, and it was quite successful in layout, very easy to work in, open to a great room on one side and a dining room on the other.

While I would love the challenge of building more homes, the market is not entirely conducive to the levels of risk involved, and I have moved on to other pursuits, but the need to create must find an outlet somewhere, hence my foray into painting.  Enough of the past for now.

It took a great deal of courage to begin a project as daunting as building a home: hundreds of thousands of dollars were at stake; failure and loss was always a possibility; the scope of the thousands of decisions and tasks was bewildering.  If I had waited to think through the entire thing before beginning, I would have been unable to proceed.  So I began with a concept, a plan that was well-considered, and a rough outline of the flow of work to be done and the confidence that I could do it and then I just plunged in blindly.  I dealt with issues daily as they came up.  I need to be able to translate some of the skills of this one type of work to what is needed in order to paint.  Why is it that we can do well at one thing, for example hold a job and show up to work everyday on time, week after week, year after year, and yet when we try to do something else, write a novel, for example, we procrastinate, waste time, can't harness the necessary effort?  Writers will tell us that first you just have to show up and start writing every day.  And yet most people who try to write will fail at this one basic principle.  What is it about the creative act that we set apart from all other sorts of work and treat differently?  What is it that makes it so elusive and causes us to be our own worst enemy?

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Surfing the Web

An older plein air pastel study gone wild

Continuing to share some of the websites I find most interesting, I'd like to mention two places I visit for images of paintings which I might not otherwise discover.  Art & Artists  is a great place to discover work of famous artists not found in most books.  Poul Webb pools together extensive collections of the work of a particular artist and then spreads them over however many posts it takes.  Currently, he is posting on Edvard Munch, and the current post (number 5 of 20 planned) contains 65 paintings, so you can imagine how much of Munch's work will be available for perusal.  I find it fascinating to see the breadth and depth of a painter's work, to see the series done, the changes through the years, and the works very unlike the familiar (in this case, The Scream.)  There is also an index of artists so that it is easy to find the ones that may interest you.

Another website for discovering work of which I personally may be unaware is Lines and Color, by Charley Parker.  Each day he presents the work of someone he finds interesting, often with enlarged details of the work.  He includes contemporary fine artists, illustrators, fantasy artists and painters from centuries ago.  I look forward to the daily treat from Charley, and have seldom been disappointed.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Cellist 1900

For some reason being stuck on a couple of paintings, I try to break the ice with some drawing practice, just to get something finished.  I find that I enjoy most pulling up old photos from the turn of the century; maybe it's a romanticism for the past, maybe the photography was different somehow making it better for me for drawing.  But I think most of all I enjoy working on the face of someone long gone and trying to bring them back to life.  I sometimes reach a point during the drawing where I see a glimmer of life, make a connection with this woman or that man, and the work becomes imbued with more personal meaning.  We all will die soon enough, but maybe in some future some stranger will pull up an image of us and wonder who we were, what we were like, and try to find something in our face to bring us back to life however briefly.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

A Little Color To Brighten The Day

Sometimes I get an idea an idea for a painting that seems full of promise, but my ability to execute it falls short.  When I first started trying my hand at painting, I had trouble mixing exactly the color I thought I wanted, but even as repeated efforts allow me to get better at arriving at a specific color, the trickier problem is that I need to know exactly what color I really need!  Achieving color harmonies and painterly effects doesn't seem to be a gift with which I was born.  It looks like I will have to find it the hard way, through a trail of tears and self doubt.  But sometimes it feels good to ignore everything I feel like I should be doing and just paint something bright and colorful.  I think blue and yellow together can be very cheery.

This blog is certainly not meant to be instructional; I think of it more as an exposĂ© on the trials and tribulations of learning a difficult subject.  In fact, Tears and Self Doubt might be a better title for it.  But as the French are fond of saying, Nevertheless... (Actually, they say nĂ©anmoins, but you get my drift.)

This was a study for a part of a larger piece I want to get to, of the deer who hang out in my backyard.  There is a constant stream of them now, about seven or eight individuals, who show up daily for the food blocks we leave for them.  Now that the bucks have dropped their antlers, I am interested to watch first hand how they go about growing them back.

There are a number of very useful websites where painters share their knowledge and experience, and I try to keep up with a number of them daily.  I thought I would share a few of them with you in hopes that you might discover something new.  I am always finding new painters and adding to my bookmarks; it becomes so unwieldy that I have to go back through and weed out or I lose track of what I want to visit on a regular basis.  One of my favorites is Randall Tipton's blog, Painter's Process.  He is faithful to his readers, posting frequently and consistently, and is enormously generous in sharing his work and methods.  I am even fortunate enough to be able to visit his studio once a month for a demonstration he offers to his readers.  Randall's work is simply stunning, full of mystery and beauty, so natural and yet magical.  If you haven't seen his work, I highly recommend you visit his page for a breath of soulful and emotional beauty.