Sunday, December 9, 2018

June's Battle at the Point, 12x24

One day last Spring.....
.....two artist friends called to say they were out painting and to show up if I was interested.  I went.  I found them under a tree 'for shade' and next to the restroom 'for the obvious' but with challenging subject matter to paint.  Like, nothing within half a block but fields.  Since I enjoy their company I stayed and did my best to find something, anything, for inspiration.

Well, you are looking at it.  We live in/near a temperate rainforest.  There is a lot of green.  Sixty to one hundred foot walls of the stuff.  So this became my 'Walls of Green' challenge.

No unusual premixed tube colors, just your normal red, yellow and blue in warm and cool versions of each, so the mixing had to be inventively done.  I don't remember doing any pre-drawing on this one.  Seat of the pants all the way.

Here is the first version of this that was headed for the scrape pile but I let it sit for a couple months in the corner of my studio staring at me like our cat in that irritating way when she wants to be fed:

Eventually I thought that it was too much in my face, demanding of attention.  I changed it to make a softer painting with a greater feeling of distance in it.  It still may not have arrived.  I'm actually posting it because when things get posted prematurely I tend to get upset and will arrive at a solution much faster than if I just sit around with it staring at me in the studio.  Besides, now at least you can see the crows.  

I tell my students that some paintings demand a chicken.  Perhaps, like Billy Collins says in one of his poems, it needs
"anything with cows, especially if they are standing
in a stream, their large, vacuous faces
staring into the warm, nineteenth century afternoon."

It's an idea.

Thanks for looking.  Back later... 

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Hangin' at Mrs. Fils, 12x16

Noelle needed exercise..... we went to see her best play-friend, Ms. B.  The paints were in the car, it was a nice day and I grabbed the brushes and a panel and began looking around.  There it was, hanging on the shed door.  I forget what they call the flowers.

The difficult part was that the sun was moving fast and those shadows were on a stampede to be somewhere other than where I had first seen them.  Great fun.  Nice summer day.  The dogs had a great time.

Thanks for looking.  I'll be back.  

Monday, November 26, 2018

Drydock, 10x20

Boatyards are.... admitted fascination.  I'm not sure what the attraction is but I know there is no limit to the shapes, detail, color, movement, sense of adventure and unique people there.  This one is the Port Townsend yard where boats from up and down the west coast can be found.  This time there were more than usual from Alaska getting all cleaned up.

 I was there with my good friend Mick Davidson and we spent the first half hour just wandering around looking for ideas.  The possibilities were all over but when I saw this scene I felt intrigued and, though I felt it too complicated to pull off very well, I walked back there with my shellacked birch panel and dove in.

It took a bit but I finally figured out what my attraction was.  It was the sense of space and depth, from the temporary stairs and scaffolding back into the distant hill and sky.  I felt expansive looking at it.  Here is how it went in my head.  If I look to the sweet spots (divide the canvas in thirds and look to where the lines cross) for possible focal points, this is what it looks like:

The colorful buoys and the detail of equipment was the obvious spot, but there was another one in that upright structure in the background boat.  The buoys won.  Not much else attractive in the other two circles.

Then I wondered about eye travel through the piece until I noticed that the stair structure was similar in size and construction with that thing on the back boat.  My eyes kept going around the scene and pausing briefly at each of those areas....but still anchored on the buoys.

Toward the finish I thought again about the sense of space and found the distant hill and shoreline on the left side and the masts from the sailboats toward the right added an additional feeling of depth.  And, of course, the sky.

This took about two hours, so after a bowl of soup with Mick I went looking for another.  I liked the intense backlight in this one, although I almost went blind doing it.  One of the workers stopped by and told me that this boat was derelict and going to be cut up.  Too bad I don't remember the name, so I titled it "Her Last Stand" 10x15.  You figure out the composition.  Because of the sun this was seat of the pants painting.

Thanks for looking.  Back again soon.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

'Hanging at the Shipyard' in 3 Acts.

'Shipyard'  12x24

Ever Since Reading 'Wind in the Willows'....
.....I've loved messing about with boats....except now I don't sail them.  I just paint them whenever possible.  So, when the weather cooperates I drive up to the largest working shipyard in the area for smallish boats and have fun.  The challenge is consuming.  The twists and turns of a hull can be as challenging as the human form.  

Two weeks in a row the weather and my schedule were in alignment.   'The Shipyard' is only a small portion of the whole yard, yet I like hanging around these slices of working boats, shipwrights, fishermen, sailors, live-aboards, and the curious.  I painted it between about 11 and 2.  I figured I was done for the day but so many people stopped to ask if I was painting the 'Lady Washington' I decided better do it.

'Lady Washington' 14x14
This was the only other sized panel I had.  The rigging above what you see became considerably more complicated so it was easy to justify not doing it.  What a beautiful boat.  The rigging drove me crazy.  There was more there but it would have made the painting look more like a spaghetti plate than a glorious ship if I had included it all....even with the rest of it chopped off.

The previous week I did the 'Annihilator' and talked to a lot of people.  Everyone has a story they want heard.  So I listened and didn't paint so much.  Still, the painting turned out fine but I'll save you the story of the lost dog, the other painter who did the Annihilator, the electrician who suddenly lost his memory and the woman with no place to live.  It was a full day.

'Annihilator' 12x12

Thanks for looking!  Back soon.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Green Teapot Times Two

Playing around....
....isn't all bad.  Or maybe not bad at all.  Even good.

Here are two paintings in which I felt like playing around with the idea of just beginning in one spot on a painting with my best shot at the right color on the first stroke and then keep going.  No scraping, no drawing, just one stroke next to another....with some more paint piled on top if needed.  Some knife work.  Some soft brush work.  Some color pushes.

In the first one I began with the shadowed side of the teapot, the shadow it cast on the cloth and the cast shadow on the lemon.  On the second it was the light side of the teapot and the dark reddish and green cloth that led over and behind the the flower vase.

Short post.  I spent the day painting plein air and am 'talked' out.  Today is summer solstice.  It's going on nine o'clock and is still brighter than many winter days.  This has been happening for billions of years.  Here we are.

Later.  Thanks for looking. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

'J' Got a New 'T', 16x16

A Couple of Friends.....
....periodically fix lunch and invite other painters over for the day.  They are all excellent cooks and for some reason they ask me over to these European style luncheons, sitting outside, drinking wine, eating good food and exchanging painting tips.  How lucky am I?

When I arrived this bike was parked in the lawn and, since I have never painted one, it was an obvious choice.  It was both challenging and fun to work out to a semi-successful finish.  Much I like but, like usual, 'if I had it to do over again' I think I might have used some softer edges in places.

Probably influencing this writing is that I'm listening to a podcast from a very successful gallery owner on the topic of creating a consistent body of work.  It gets to the question of what an artist is trying to say.   It may not be a verbal 'say'; it can also be a visual one.

Some paintings, like this one, are for pure fun and experimentation....but at the same time I'm always asking the question of how it could be better and speak more clearly.  How could it appeal to a broad audience without being a cliche or too gimmicky?

 I think it would speak louder if some edges were subdued, letting the eye go more toward the bike.  The changes would be small and the color wouldn't have to be altered much.  That bush on the left has choppy strokes, for example, that draw the eye  If I give it a try I'll post this again and let you see what happened.

Until then, Thanks for Looking.....and if you have a minute post a comment and tell me your opinion.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Five Small Studies, 8x8

Perhaps these should be called.....
....."Armchair PleinAir", because while they are based on pieces I did standing outside at the easel they are studio re-dos of what I had originally intended.

You all know that painting outdoors is fraught with all kinds of things that make it difficult to do your best work.  The original studies for these stretch from the Queen Charlotte islands (a grizzly showed up and things ended early) to Maine (a squall came galloping in dumping buckets of rain on the fun).  Each of them were incomplete for some good reason (lack of energy and/or inspiration originally sank two of them).

I thought it would be a good thing if I repainted them but doing it while focusing on my first concept, sacrificing anything that didn't contribute to that being fulfilled.

These are all on 8x8 birch plywood coated with two coats of shellac.  As the coating dries in 20 minutes or less, they are quick to prepare...and I kind of like the wood tone showing through.  They are all acrylic and were done this winter sitting in a comfortable chair, usually in one go.  I still learned a lot.  Mostly I learned that maintaining a clear concept, while reining in all those other great ideas that don't contribute, makes for much stronger paintings.  You all probably knew that....

Thanks for looking.....back soon.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Reflecting on Hangzhou, 12x16

More Than Twenty Years Ago....
....and about this time of year, a group of artists journeyed to China to study in Hangzhou at a leading Chinese art school.  I was lucky enough to be part of the trip.

At that time China was just opening up to the world and many of the revolutionary effects of the Red Guard were still visible.....or weren't visible, having been destroyed.  Wandering around town I almost walked into the local military headquarters complete with tanks, lots of uniformed gun toting guards and full armament.  In the morning some very patriotic message driven music was played over the loud speakers for our wake up call.  This happened around 4:30 AM.  No shower because of no even slightly warmish water.

Breakfast was at 6:30 so we had a couple of hours to go paint or draw across the street in the park by a large lake in the center of town.  We had company as tai chi groups were doing their exercises.  The street sweepers were also out.  Picture small groups of women of modest means sweeping the streets using brooms they had just made from tied together twigs.

Below is a very quick study I did in those early hours and there was something about it I liked and hoped to revisit as a more completed work one day.  That day came about four months ago when I ran across working from the sketch and my memory the painting above is what I got.
I wouldn't have posted this at all but a member of that trip, Marilyn Webberley, commented on my last FB post and hearing from her brought back good memories of the trip.  I don't remember everyone who was along but Millard Davidson, Robert Moore, Bye Bitney, Linda Tippets, Diane McClary, and Scott Switzer are painters on that trip that I know are still swinging a brush.  Make a comment if you are one of the others so I can add you....

Loved meeting the Chinese students and seeing their work, much of which we have hanging in the house today.  We also laughed a whole lot....about the most ridiculous things.

Thanks for looking.


Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Rhodies at Dawn, 10x10

I Had Woken Up Way Too Early.....
.....and couldn't get back to sleep.  I had a need to paint but knew that my schedule that day didn't really allow much time for it.  The sky was barely getting light so I got up for some tea and noticed the light beginning to filter into the yard.  That was exciting.  It didn't really matter if what I painted even turned out if I could just be outside using a brush.

I grabbed a birch panel that I had given three coats of varnish, a nice mid tone to work on and carve out the light.  The rhodie was an obvious choice since it was the only plant in bloom.  Using Burnt Umber I scumbled in the large plant forms enough that I could visualize how the shapes would work together.  Using Pthalo Blue, the Burnt Umber, some Cad Yellow and a little Rose Madder Permanent I began with the darks, varying the mix for interest and form.

About forty five minutes later it was mostly finished and I could finally get my tea.   Of course then  the painting began telling me what it needed and I made a few adjustments.

I had a good time and got some painting into my day.

Thanks for looking!  Have a great day.  

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Portraits Five

'Rodney, 16x24
Over the last few winter months....
.....our small portrait group has met every couple of weeks.  The models are friends from the island who are willing to sit for a couple of hours.  Here are a few paintings from that experience.

'Rodney' works as a designer of large off shore fish farming enclosures.  These enclosures float in the open ocean where currents allow free movement of water, solving some of the problems of nets along shorelines.  He sails boats, rides bikes, makes kombucha and is a very interesting and knowledgeable guy to talk with.  Plus, he keeps my interest up while painting his portrait.

'Noelle and Friend, 16.5x21

Maybe this should be called 'Sylvia and Friend' because, really, Noelle the Wonder Dog sort of jumped up and settled into that spot on her own.  Sylvia is an old friend who, when not sitting on a couch with a mirror, is usually found painting landscapes or working in her lush garden.  A woman of boundless energy with her fingers in many 'pies'.

'Gary' 13.5x28

'Gary' beats me in darts but I get even in cribbage.  Woodworker, man who loves boats, someone to go to for good advice on most anything and one of the few people who has a backhoe 'just for the hell of it'.  He is an intelligent and very interesting person plus a good friend.  

'Grace' 20x24
'Grace' is a new acquaintance who I run into at the local farm outlet store where she spends her days selling produce.  Silhouetted portraits, especially ones where the light is flat and doesn't supply many shadows such as in this one, are difficult for me.  It was her stillness and somewhat enigmatic face that kept me going.  The HeyDey Farm store sells the best granola, by the way.

'Jim' 20x24
'Jim' has spent much of his life as a bass player for various groups.  He loves the Chicago Blues, Paul  Butterfield and players like Joe Bonamassa.  So do I so we had a lot to talk about while this painting was going on.  He also is a new friend who sends me interesting music vids.

The particulars for artists: 'Gary' and 'Noelle and Friend' are done on gessoed hardboard.  The others are also on hardboard but I adhered canvas to the surface.  I like working on Fredrix 'Dallas' weave preprimed canvas.  I generally use flats for brushes, liking Utrecht, Robert Simmons and Rosemary brands.  The palette is fairly simple.  Cerulean Blue Hue (basically Pthalo Blue mixed with white), Ultramarine Blue, Cad Yellow Lemon or Pale, Cad Yellow Light, Cad Orange (sometimes), Cad Red Light, Rose Madder Permanent, and Burnt Sienna.  Sometimes I''ll add Ivory Black and Burnt Sienna.

I seem to do my best paintings when I don't draw ahead of time.  By that I mean it's easier for me when I don't use too many lines to define the image.  Rather, I use broad masses of a faster drying neutral color that I can easily paint over.  My accuracy to the subject, whether portrait, still life or landscape, improves when the lines aren't there.

While that may seem counter intuitive, we really see the world in masses.  Lines are a translation of what we see and, I think, hem us in when trying to be creative.  I don't want a coloring book.  A lump of clay seems to have more freedom.....but I love to draw when drawing is an end in itself and not a prep to a painting.

Noelle, Rodney and Gary were done through that massing in approach.  One was over an old painting.  Rodney was over a thin dry surface of Burnt Umber.  Very few lines if any.

OK.  Long post.

Thanks for looking.  I'll be back.....

Friday, March 23, 2018

Provence Poppies II, 12x12

Sorting through the studio.....
.......I ran across a painting from 6 or 7 years ago that I had done in the studio using a small Provence field sketch as reference.  I remembered at the time being dissatisfied with it but went ahead and put it in a gallery for a short time, but it didn't sell.

After getting it back home I must have worked on it a bit and given up, not clicking on what it was lacking.  I could remember the scene clearly, but didn't know how to make the lines and busyness of the foreground weave my eye into the mid and background.

This is what it originally was posted as back in 2012:

2012 Version

The photo may not have been that great but even so the piece is flat and uninteresting to my eye.  The horizontal and diagonal lines were dominating.  My eye skipped over the poppies and ended on the white flower bush in the mid-distance....and got stuck there.  The background I liked. 

It seemed to me I needed to make the poppies more interesting, subdue the mid-ground flowers, and find a few more verticals.  After making those adjustments I thought it looked better....yet I was still dissatisfied.

That's when that large cumulus cloud in the background was added as a vertical element, one that subtly mimicked the tree shape.  Satisfaction level got lifted.  Perhaps it should be a larger painting.  Beats me.  What do you think?

Thanks for looking! 

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Ollie and Austin

A Great Way to Begin a New Year.... to get to paint three very interesting young men, all in a transformational place in their lives.  Unfortunately I gave away one of the paintings before I got a shot of it.  Perhaps I'll be able to get it later.....but here are two.

'Ollie' is 20x24 and 'Austin' is 6x14.

Ollie is a terrific musician on piano, guitar and drums and is off to study in one of my favorite cities, Boston.  He is also one of those people who is easy to engage in interesting conversation.  The book he was reading was something about Quantum Physics and Jazz.  Well over my head but it kept him engaged for two hours so I could paint him.

Austin is a professional online gamer (people make a living doing that??  Evidently.) and often gets recognized walking down the street by followers of the game (it has spectators??...and groupies??  Evidently.).  I don't remember the game he uses but I'll always remember him as his intelligence and sense of humor is striking and somewhat bizarre....right down my alley.  The painting is from a Facebook posting, not life.  I seldom paint from photos but couldn't resist this one.

Thanks for looking.  I just photographed several recent paintings so I'll be back soon.