Thursday, October 6, 2016

Pumpkin Patch, 8x10

Pumpkin Patch, Bainbridge Island.... the place where all the coolest kids hang out this time of year....and me too.  Nothing like a pumpkin to signal Fall.  By the way, I grew up in the Halloween Capitol of the World (Anoka, MN) and, despite attracting every goblin, elf and witch around to the yearly event, I survived.

I painted this a couple of years ago.  Actually, I painted it twice; once in a more subdued 'realistic' style and right away in this one where I painted it like I felt it.  In the first, I'm not posting it....I felt all constrained after it was finished.  This one felt like a party had happened.

I touched it up a bit the other day so felt I could repost it as it reads differently.

Although I have tried to be more subdued I think it's not least not yet, maybe not ever.  Marianne Elson (HERE) from Anchorage put one of her paintings on a mug and sells it.  I bought it because I liked the painting but I like even more the saying on the back:  'Do Not Judge My Story By The Chapter You Walked In On'.  Fits.  Things are still happening.

Gallery story.  Took this piece into a gallery along with some others.  They rejected this one because they said they had never sold a pumpkin painting.  What do you think?

Thanks for looking.  I'm off to teach in Italy for a bit.  Maybe I'll have something to post when I get back.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Evolving a Painting

McDonald Falls, Glacier National Park
     Late in August several years ago I wandered up a protected side of this river just north of Lake McDonald (it's probably called McDonald River).  Grizzlies had been sighted in this area of tourists for the last couple of days and I thought if I could find an out of the way hidden location I might be safe....and I could hear the bull moose if he came.  This was likely not the best thinking I've ever done....but I am here writing this so....

First I sat down and did one of my value studies in marker to get a feeling for the subject:

8x10 Marker Sketch

You might recognize the drawing and painting from my book "Sketching with Valued Markers".  The drawing immediately pointed out to me that, if I stayed true to the subject, I would end up with a painting that looked like a bullseye.  So.....using artistic license, I tweaked it.

16x18 Plein Air

In the plein air painting you can see that I made a light struck 'path' to the Falls, removing the 'bullseye" effect and giving a visual way in.   I liked the piece then and still do.  Yet it seemed that I could do more with it.  It was a more intimate scene than I thought was deserved.  Years went by and I never got back to it.

So, when Plein Air Painters of Washington announced that they were going to focus their yearly exhibit on paintings from National Parks....and that the plein air piece didn't have to be from this seemed a great incentive and opportunity to play.

Waterways meander.  This water comes from snow and glaciers just above and beyond the view I had.  So I pulled out the charcoal and experimented with a more vertical arrangement that would allow more of a story and the inclusion of an 'S' curve....always a nice thing in a painting.

10x12 Charcoal

After a few sketches this began to look like what I wanted.  You can't see the mountain snow in this.  It's even hard to see the mountains but they are in the upper left corner.  Looking at the final result you should be able to see the 'S' I was envisioning.

I still wasn't sure if this did it.  Perhaps just a longer format that kept the focus on the river could be good.  Out came the gouache and 40 minutes later I realized that my 'S' idea was really where I wanted to go.  It begins in the snow fields high above, hiding behind the trees before it becomes the Falls and flows out....peek-a-boo is also an enticing thing.  A little sense of mystery.

6x8 Gouache

The final piece is only 20x24.  I thought of going larger but I've been packing to leave for Italy to teach a painting/drawing workshop and simply didn't think I had time.  The PAWA show is in December and, if I get accepted, you can see this painting, as well as many more wonderful pieces at the gallery in Tacoma, WA.

Thanks for reading and looking.  There will be one more post later this week but not again until the end of the month.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Counting Your Strokes

Tim Deibler.....
......came to town the weekend before last.  Since he stayed at our home I got to tag along during his workshop (which I would have taken anyway because he is such a knowledgeable and accomplished painter).  Pictured above are 12 of the 13 paintings (gave one away) I did that weekend....but here's how:

Tim challenged everyone to do paintings in fewer than 100 strokes.  A 'stroke' is every time the brush hits the canvas until it leaves.  If you can cover the whole sky without lifting the brush, that's one stroke.  If you put a tiny dot in representing a buoy, that's one stroke.  A challenge, and also a release because for most of the painting experience it is a concentration on simply stating large shapes and their proper relationships.

Here are a couple at a larger size with the number of strokes noted below:
54 strokes

57 strokes
96 strokes
It was an expanding experience during some unusual August rain, wind and cold...but the company of other dedicated painters made it a rewarding experience.  Tim is a good teacher who never seems to run out of energy.  Study with him if you get the chance.

Thanks for reading.

Off to Idaho....back later, hopefully with some new paintings.

Friday, August 5, 2016

When There is No Time to Paint

We didn't have much Time.....
.....before we had to pick up the dog.  I had driven to Missoula to visit my good friend Bob Phinney.  We both wanted to paint but it wasn't going to work out.  Dogs to walk, young kids to tag along and I had to leave at a certain time to make it back up to our cabin.

So we went out painting.  While you might refer to it as 'drawing', it feels more like painting to me because I'm more focused on composition, large forms and the general relationship and feeling of things....only it doesn't involve a brush very much.  It's a distinction that may be my own point of view but I've read some articles that talk about those differences and it makes sense.

Here are a couple more done this last week that I think of more in the 'painting' realm.  It's a distinction of state of mind rather than tool choice.  Sharpie ultra fine marker, three values of valued marker and some white gouache.

Thanks for looking!  I'll be looking forward to showing you more.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Painting With Genevieve, 10x12

Years ago ....
...I found myself trudging through six foot snow drifts with several good friends and one of my art inspirations, Genevieve Tuck.  Somewhere in the Cascade mountains outside of Roslyn, WA.  In the middle of winter we had lugged our equipment to the edge of a frozen lake where the most fascinating thing I could see to paint was 93 year old Genevieve having a great time.  She is in the lavender coat and the other person is either Diana Shynne or Catherine Gill, they were both on this trip.

She was an enthusiastic artist and a friend to many.   If you want more of the story you'll have to find the section in my book Sketching With Valued Markers about her.  Suffice to say that GT didn't begin painting until she was 73 to 75....the age varied with the day you asked her....and she kept going with a brush or pencil in her hand until she was just a hair shy of 100.
A year after this painting experience with her, this enthusiastic sprite of a woman called me and said 'I hear you have a cabin in Montana and, you know, I've never painted in Glacier Park'.  More than happy to drive her over and put her up, we tried to work out the details.  My schedule was not a was hers.  She was opening a gallery and going to France and the farm needed some care so she was sorry 'but I can't seem to fit it in'.  If the math eluded you, she was now 94.

I tell this story to any person who says they are too old to learn to paint or draw or do anything in life that excites their passions.  She has certainly long been an inspiration for me.

Paging through a book on watercolor from my library, Painting from Life by Douglas Lew, I was surprised to see this wonderful painting of our heroine.   Since Mr. Lew taught at the University of Minnesota I wondered about the connection.  Perhaps my friend Greg Lipelt might enlighten us.

Thanks for looking!   I'm currently in Montana wishing Genevieve could have made it.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Shig's Way, 12x16

A few posts ago....
....I shared with you about Shig's Place, home of an old Bainbridge Island family of Japanese origin.  Some asked me to post more paintings from there.  As long as some developer doesn't raze it to the ground I will get back there next month and see what I'll find....but there is this one.

This old stair and porch is hidden behind overgrown shrubbery.  When I saw it and while painting it, all I could think about was all the feet that had used the porch.  Generations of kids chased up and down those treads while adults were having strawberry shortcake, coffee and good times with friends (it was a strawberry farm after all).

The most difficult part of making this painting work were the color choices... (and waving away mosquitos).  The colors seem obvious now that it is finished but at the time not so.  I would have thought that drawing the stair would have been the issue but that just sort of 'happened'.

After almost every painting I find myself wishing that I had done it larger.....'larger' being any board or canvas that is bigger than what I've just done.  If this had been a 30x40 I would have wished for a 36x48.  Perhaps it's about trying to capture the impact and energy of things always bigger than what I can do, no matter the subject.

Maybe I'll go back with a larger canvas anyway.

Thanks for looking.  Back soonish.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Pond at Bloedel, 12x16

Time and hard work....
....doesn't always produce a satisfying result, but it seems like inspiration and motivation get me much closer to my goals....and with less consternation.

I met some friends at the Bloedel Reserve, what I refer to as the Downton Abbey of Bainbridge.  Sometimes I expect a 1920 Rolls Royce to pull up beside me and ask if I have the caviar and champagne.  It is a nice place to have fantasies.

The first piece I did took more care and more time and more effort scraping it back to nothing.  It really didn't work, perhaps because the sun kept popping in and out and changing the color/value relationships.  Or perhaps I wasn't clear about what I was trying to paint.

Tossing that first one on the ground I turned around and caught a glimpse of the late afternoon sun coming through the trees and lighting things up.  Knowing it wouldn't last long I grabbed a brush and quickly began blocking in shapes and colors.  No pre-drawing as it would have stifled my positive energy and caused me to think rather than just respond.

It turned into a pleasant day.  I really like the light streaming from behind the trees and lighting up this little corner of the Japanese area of the Reserve.  The first one warmed me up....

Thanks for looking.  Back soon.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Giving Up Too Soon

Early One Morning....
....I think we got up around 4:30 everyday.....I was sitting in a fog shrouded park in Hangzhou, China, trying to get in some painting time before breakfast at the art school where we were staying.  Too rushed to finish I grabbed the panel and my stuff and rushed back, disappointed with the result.  Once back in the States I threw it in a box and forgot about it.  It was 1993.

I have seen Sunny Apinchipong sail a beautiful piece into the woods, Ron Lukas scrape and trash works that made me drool, Colin Page and Diana Shynne do the same and William F. 'Bill' Reese tell me that of all the pieces he produced during a very prolific life that there was only one he wouldn't change (its on the cover of his book).  Once I drove my car over a piece....but of course that was an accident....

(Have I done enough name dropping?)

The other day an artist friend was cruising my studio and pulled out a painting from a box and told me she liked it.  Since she is an artist I particularly admire (no names but it sounds a lot like Catherine Gill) this prompted me to do a quick search to see if there were others that I had overlooked.  Many had already met the trashcan but some survived.

Since I think it is fairly common for artists to lose objectivity about their work and send them to the landfill before their time....well, at least it is common for me....I thought I'd show a couple I dug up and have never posted.

These pieces are not finished but they are just as they were when thrown in a box and forgotten.  I found quite a few but I will only post a couple.  Under fresh eyes they all have things I would like to follow up on and I realize I'm not a very good judge of my work.    

Try this yourself....I'm sure you have some.  Then post them somewhere.  Start a blog!   Or send a pic to me.  I'd like to see what others have passed by.  For better or worse, here are a few 'almost keepers' that were lost in the 'archives'.

Near Bigfork, MT

South of Missoula

Teanaway Valley

Blue Mountains of Jamaica
Bitterroot River in Fall...look, I even signed it.
Bainbridge Island

Thanks for looking!  There will likely be more....

Monday, May 30, 2016

Fechin, Bongart, Reese and The Link

There is a Link.....
.....that ties all these books (and more) together.  That joining began long ago in New Mexico when Mary Balcomb began volunteering to teach art to elementary students.  Mary's real job was as a very successful architect and designer who wanted to spend time giving back to the residents of Albuquerque.

In one of the classes a young student walked in to show Mary a portfolio of drawings done by her grandfather.  The drawings, which were kind of thrown into and sometimes falling out of a folder, took Mary's breath away.  A Chicago trained art student herself, she knew that what she was looking at represented genius.

I don't recall how long it took her to get to know the family of Nicholai Fechin, how much time was spent doing the research and gathering of materials or the extraordinary amount of time it took to find a publisher, put together a paste up demo, or how she got funding.  She was, after all, working and raising a family with her husband Robert 'Sam' Balcomb (a prominent photographer whom I have featured in another post).  Internet and email was still way in the future.  Everything had to be done with a stamp but the book was published and we all benefitted.

I first met Mary and Sam soon after she published her second book on another prominent artist, William F. Reese.  Years later, I would stop by their house where we would sit in their garden gazebo with a glass of wine and talk of the complexities of her book about Sergei Bongart.  These were enjoyable times with two remarkable people who, for some reason, accepted me as a friend.

The books above represent just a small portion of Mary's literary and artistic output.   She continued with her architectural design work, her oil and watercolor paintings, countless etchings and the creative talent it takes to raise two exceptional kids.

A wall of our home is full of etchings by Mary and Wm F. Reese.  At the center of them all is this exquisite piece about sunflowers shown as they approach Autumn.  Here are some others:

Mary taught me how to etch in one feverish weekend, but she remained the master.  Both she and Sam have always been generous to other artists.  Sam, an engineer, photographer and actor (although I should reverse that order) was always willing to model for Mary and her likeness of him is spot on.

As artists, I think we all owe Mary Balcomb a debt of gratitude for preserving the legacy of these other artists who would have been dusted over, their history, impact and imagery being lost to time and lack of attention.  Instead, they remain vibrant artists for all of us to study, enjoy and steal from like crazy.

Finally,  just so you know the power of her devotion to art, Mary did much of the work during the last decade of her life in constant pain.  The Bongart book, very lovingly done, was completed only through sheer grit and determination, somehow overcoming physical difficulties with the strength of her artistic spirit.   She continually did what she did to help others and for the love of her craft.

Thank you Mary.

PS.  Mary and Sam still had the original mockup of the Fechin book in their possession up until the time they sent it to the Cowboy Hall of Fame where there is a major installation of his work.  Before it got mailed off they allowed me to snap some photos of things that didn't get into the final book, including the small photos he used as sources for his drawings and paintings.  I have a few of those pics in a post HERE.

PPS.  Sam and I still go to lunch occasionally.  How lucky am I?

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Shig's Place, 20x24

First, There Were Huge Trees.....
....but they were cut down and, at one time, Bainbridge Island had the largest sawmill in the world in one of its harbors.  Croatian, Scandinavian and Chinese saw work.  Japanese and Philipino immigrants saw the possibility of farms and, once the trees were gone, the island became home to lots and lots of strawberry plots.  That led to packing, processing and shipping plants.  Shig's place was one of those farms.

WWII came along and on a sad day the Japanese were rounded up and shipped to camps.  Their well tended farms went vacant and would have been destroyed but for those remaining immigrants to the island banding together to pay the taxes and mortgages until the Japanese residents could return.

Shig was one of those sent off and it was a wars worth of years before he could return to his family farm...and it is still here, a token left by a dedicated island family and rich historical past.  I hope it remains with us and not just fodder for more homes.

I don't think there is a painting I've done that wouldn't be changed if I could paint it over again.  This was my second attempt and probably there are several more in me, so we will see.   The grass in the foreground was a challenge but was a valiant attempt within the constraints of plein air....or my ability to do more.   I like the piece and the experience of painting it.  It's always the light.

It does capture the flavor of the place and hints at the long history it represents.  By the way, the trees have grown back.

Thanks for looking.  More is coming.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Breaking the Mold, 14x18

First She Broke Into...
Men's Minnesota Softball.  Then hockey.  Then football.  On top of that I learned she grew up just a few miles from where I did.  Awesome.  Kari is a delightful person and a terrific model.  It took her about 15 minutes to get into the humor of our group and begin dishing it back.  I, of course, was the model of civility.

She had some of the strongest facial colors I've seen which might be from her Norwegian background.  Good old Scandinavian Minnesota (and, yes, I used to drink beer and dance polka at many German halls also).

The portrait class asked for a demo so I did this one in about 90 minutes including breaks.  I got most of it done but during the remainder of class added some touches on her blouse and the chair.

My friend Nancy took shots of the process:


These beginnings look a little weird...maybe scary.  Most of the time I begin with strong color.... which usually gets a gasp from someone.  It eventually gets modified and painted over as the painting progresses.  I find it difficult to ever recover from a 'wimpy color beginning'.  Maybe that's a life lesson too.

Thanks for looking...

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Chief Steve LittleSalmon, 11x14, 9x11

The Montana Painter's Alliance....
....has invited me on their painting events a couple of times.  Lucky me.  One of those times was in the Flathead Valley and the National Bison Range....and there was a morning when Chief Steve LittleSalmon agreed to pose.

Chief LittleSalmon has an impressive presence about him, especially when he puts on his traditional garments.  If I remember correctly he sat for about 90 minutes assuming a few initial poses before settling on this one.  I chose a spot that emphasized all the shapes and colors in his headdress and played down his face a bit.  His profile is accurate but hardly noticed with all that color.

Here is one of the sketches I did before the painting.   It played up his face and would have been just as interesting.  The under drawing for my painting was also sketchy like this.

 I ran across this piece when pulling some things together for my last portrait class...had forgotten all about it.  At the same time I ran across some photos of the Chief from after the painting session when he put on other traditional costumes and let us photograph him.  How often does that happen in a lifetime?

I wanted to show what could be done from a photo and painted this one last Tuesday before class.  It is certainly 'tighter' than the one from life but I tried to keep the paint application lively and interesting.

And here is the reference photo:

And there you have it.  I searched for warms and cools wherever I could find them and pushed them around a bit.  Also lightened some shadows and darkened the lights.  The green band in the painting was inspired by the need of an abstract shape that would symbolize a man who was of the outdoors.

Thanks for looking.  Back soon....

Monday, May 9, 2016

Lost in the Vine Maple Forest, 8x16

This was Fun to Paint.... I was never quite sure where it was going.  The sun came through the branches but didn't really stay in one place very long so, like most forest paintings, it came down to what I could remember and what was important to say.  

Growing conditions make Vine Maples assume all sorts of shapes.  We have some outside our home that are long and tall.  Fighting for light inside a forest they stay fairly low and spread out.  Their branches reflect many hues and they grow in all directions.

I blocked in the background with broad areas of warm burnt sienna/orange or subdued greens, some areas warm, some cool.  Then I used a rubber scraper that a friend gave to me to make the major tree shapes.  After that it was just adding all those doodads that form the illusion of plants, bark colors and a few branches with leaves.

It was a nice day in the woods with friends and I am satisfied with the result.

Back soon with some portraits.

Marker Workshop this next Saturday, May 14th.  Get more info at the Winslow Art Center.

Thanks for looking.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Cave Drawing 2016 and Workshop Announcement

Cave Drawing?.....
......On my Facebook page (HERE) I posted an article about some recently found beautiful charcoal images that are 35,000 years old.  Sensitively drawn, they were found deep in caves in southern France.  They are of the things that were important to the artists of that time.  In pristine condition, they have been sitting untouched for all that time.

When I am out placing my own marks I know that the urges I have to create form where nothing existed before is probably very similar to the cave artists in France long ago.  I can use modern forms of charcoal and ochre to communicate what is important to me at the moment.  Not having to haul torches to the far reaches of a cavern to find an appropriate canvas means I've got it pretty easy.  Just a portable sketchbook, a pen and a few markers.

Can you imagine trying to get the others back in the cave to come the the First Friday Art Walk, er, crawl? (yes, bad joke.)

Here are the stages the above drawing plus another drawing I did today at lunch with some good friends.  We all drew, also sharing symbols of what we found important.

The beginning.

The Completed Drawing

The First Pass With 30% Marker

Almost Complete with 60% and 80% added.
The One From Today:
Outside Mora's

This is of a mother and daughter enjoying frozen yogurt sitting in the Spring sun.  Simple shapes create interest and emotion in a viewer.  Twenty minutes before it was only a blank sheet of paper, waiting for an artist.  I find this whole process fascinating.  Not just the creation, because I often don't make the connection that I'm the person actually doing it, but what other people recognize in the mysterious mish-mash of marks.

I wonder if those cave artists had the same feelings?  Likely.

There is a one day workshop in Drawing With Valued Markers coming up in May.  Contact the Winslow Art Center (HERE)  for more info.

Thanks for looking.  I'll be back soon and show you Chief Steve Little Salmon from the Flathead Valley.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Red Notes, 34x34

On the last day.....
..... of my painting classes we do a critique at the end of the day.  Coincidentally, this old painting floated to the studio surface the week before.  It was done about ten years ago...maybe more.... and I felt it lacked something back then, and it hadn't improved itself in all those years.

So, to get people into the spirit of looking critically at their work, I propped it up on an easel and asked the group what could be done to improve it.  At first they seemed to be hesitant but as one person after another offered a suggestion the bus got rolling.  We talked each of the suggestions over and what you see is the end result.

Not much was really added.  It was a series of subtle changes: petals and leaves fallen on the bottom rug, a leaning screwdriver, some flower buds, a curtain cord....nothing substantial in any one change but it added up and now I like the piece.  They were all changes to move the eye.   'We get by with a little help from our friends.....'

I used to build and set up room interiors for my paintings.  This 'farm porch' was one of them.  Henry Stinson has done this much more than I have, making whole bathrooms and beauty salons.  You should go take a look at Henry's stuff (HERE).  We studied with many of the same artists....but when you see his paintings you'll see how differently people can interpret the same information.   Henry's a great guy.  If you ever are able to study with him you will learn a lot.

I'll be back in about a week.

Thanks for looking.

(Oh yeah.  I have a gouache workshop coming  up on April 9th, a marker workshop in May, a two session portrait party in April and the Italy workshop in October is almost full but you could still get in, I think.  Go to the Winslow Art Center to learn more.)

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Color Vibrations, 30x30

It was this last January 1st.....
.....and I wanted to begin the new year in the right spirit.  Remembering that this still life was still set up downtown at the Winslow Art Center,  away I went with a blank canvas and spent an enjoyable afternoon.  I Facebooked a process shot of it but never followed it up on the here you go.

Still life is handy for studying color, what to emphasize, what to lose, and where color vibrations can be enhanced.  It doesn't move, make comments about my technique (or lack of it), complain about holding a pose, or attract gnats that fly in my mouth.  All pluses.

There are parts of this I'm enamored with and parts I'd like to change but know I'll never get around to it and will likely use the canvas for something else.  While it is still around I thought I'd share the result and a few process shots taken with my phone.  It was a dark still life and I was standing in a 'light hole' in the room.  As a result I began plans for redoing the studio lights which are much better now.  The process shots:

Beginning block in.

Fully blocked in

Where I ended.  It photographed fairly dark.

OK.  It is time to get back up to the studio and finish up the paintings I've gotten started before I lose interest or, more accurately, something else grabs my attention and months go by before I get back to them.

Hope you are having a great day.

I'll be back.  Thanks for looking.