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Thursday, October 12, 2017

Crossroads - in process

Crossroads, 36x48, oil on canvas
I am still working on this painting, the largest to date that I have attempted. This year has been one of great transition and I feel like I have been at the crossroads for quite some time now. Once I pick a direction another crossroads is before me. My 'plan' for this piece is to keep it very abstract. It was also to be another attempt for me to allow the under-painting show through for a layered effect. My intention was to document each layer to track myself. However, as is often the case, once I get working I do not think to stop and take a photo. I am very pleased with the fact I still have some of the original under painting showing through as I fight my tendency to cover it all up with the new layer. The left side is a bit more complete than the right at this juncture.
Here we have my first layer which took on a rainbow theme. IF truth be told, I was cleaning off my palette, but who needs to know that? I still thought it would create a nice color transition going across the canvas. This next image shows my beginnings of blocking in and placement of the crossroads. How high, how wide, how thick, how thin. You would not think something so simple would require much thought, but as I work on this piece, it has a mind of its own and I find myself going in directions I had not initially even considered. It has been a wonderful journey thus far despite many roadblocks. One of self-discovery. A road trip without ever getting into the car...

As I write this, it is drawing me back and into it.


Thursday, September 28, 2017

Orchids evolve

Studio Orchids II, oil on panel, 20x16
Here is an oldie but goodie. This piece originated in 2002 when I was very interested in orchids in particular, and plants in general. I liked doing what I considered 'plant portraits.' Not so much in the botanical illustration mode, although I did take a class in that at the Denver Botanic Gardens at the time. For me, being what some consider a detail-oriented person, botanical illustration did not appeal to me.

I had orchids lining every windowsill in my home. This scene was in my studio. I was even a member of the Denver Orchid Society so I would have access to more varieties of orchids. I still like having an orchid or two around the house, but I no longer have them in every window that was feasible. Working on this painting has made me realize that I miss the color and the jauntiness of orchids in my life.

Not sure I should show the original version, but here it is, painted from life. Oh, the things that I have learned over the years! What is 'wrong' with this version, as if I need to point them out, they are so obvious. No, instead I will focus on why I thought it worth saving: It shows the character of the plants coming through which was my goal at the time.

The window faces north. So the light coming through the blinds would not be warm. First thing that had to change. Second, the perspective has every thing falling off the canvas to the lower right. Can't have that. Funky Orchids was the title of the painting as I tried to take a lighter, less serious approach to my work, but there are still some things that need to be considered, even going for a less formal format. The Moses in the Cradle leaf coming into the painting from the lower right had corner was supposed to help with the tilt of the blinds and board and it does, but not enough. Luckily the drawing of the plants themselves was good, and only required a little tweaking, the blinds and putting the plant stand in where it belonged took a bit more brain power. Unifying the shadow shape was helpful too as I tried to be more true to the light source. I can't believe now that I put all the shadows into black but back then I thought it would help the flowers be more colorful.

I was reading in "American Art Review" earlier this week an article on an upcoming Richard Diebenkorn show opening next month on his early years. I was heartened to read this about him and his process:
"Many have described this process as one of trial and error-even Diebenkorn himself-but it was not so much that he was creating and correcting 'errors' as he was attempting to find a better way, the extended journey being relevant to his final result.".. then finishing with "He kept working until he believed the painting was not wrong anymore, feeling his way until, in his mind, the painting had somehow become "miraculously right."

This idea has been floating around in my head for awhile now, and I liked that the journey was the important thing for Diebenkorn. And the idea of not correcting errors but finding the rightness.

I do hope I can get to Sacramento's Crocker Museum to see the show this fall.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

A book that is giving me pause to reflect

The Little Free Library program is big in the neighborhood where I live. It is a great way to find new reads. It is convenient to stop while walking my dog, Fritz. A recent acquisition that I just started reading is called "Contrition." This book intrigued me for a number of reasons. First, being an artist and this has 2 artists, father and daughter; Second, I am Catholic and I am usually interested in seeing how this topic is handled in current fiction. That the daughter artist is also a cloistered nun had me hooked. That this nun paints amazingly moving and thought provoking images is even better.

It is written for the point of view of a writer, a twin separated as an infant and given up for adoption. Her mother had died in childbirth. She believes she was given up for adoption because of a deformed hand and other health issues she was born with that her biological father, an artist and an alcoholic, could not handle with two babies to care for. She has only recently discovered that she is a twin when her father's estate lawyer contacted her after his death. She is now on a quest to meet her sister but she finds out she is a cloistered nun who also is an artist. While doing some reconnaissance at the convent where she has been told her sister lives, she sees on the wall a Madonna and Child that moves her in ways she did not think she could be moved. She finds out that it was painted by her sister. She is now determined to write about her sister and her art so on her return trip to the convent to again try to talk to her sister, the painting is gone. Here are a few things that struck me.; one is  finding out her sister has taken this Madonna and Child to paint over it. A new painting. Because of lack of funds for fresh canvas but also because the artist nun has no intention for her work to be known to the outside world.
An excerpt:
"From what I can figure, Sister Catherine values the act of painting, not the outcome. The creation process is her method of prayer, a direct appeal to God, who replies in colors and shapes. Once their conversation is over, Catherine considers the finished piece incidental."

"Sister Catherine doesn't show or sell her paintings because she doesn't want to be given credit for them. In order to keep the channel clear for God to work through her, she paints as often as possible, even, and sometimes especially, if that means recycling canvases."

My thoughts on this have been that I like that the works being painted are a conversation with God. That really struck me as to how I should be approaching my own work. That she paints over them, I understand too, but the pieces I paint over are not usually my best.

Which brings me to an exhibit held last year about this time where an abstract artist here in town came up with the idea to exchange paintings with 12 other artists. He received one painting each from the 12 artists and reworked them in his way, and the 12 artists each picked out one of his abstract works and painted on them. There was a lot of hue and cry over this exhibit; ie how can you paint over a Quang Ho or a Ron Hicks painting?? Sacrilege!  I thought it a very interesting concept and liked what some of the artists came up with when making something new out of what came before.

Sometimes the process is where you need to be rather than the outcome. It is a good thing to not be attached.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Cutaway - Quilted landscape

The Cutaway, 12x24, oil on linen panel Original as painted plein air
I knew when I painted this that it was not done. I was wanting to play around with exaggerating the lines and colors of the landscape with the intention to add subtlety and cohesion later.  I have been working on it in bits and pieces the past few weeks adding texture and unifying big shapes. Leaving some of the underlying colors to come through. Let's see how I did on that. Below is the 'finished' painting.
The Cutaway, 12x24, oil on linen panel

I realized this is not a normal thing to paint. For some reason I am drawn to cutaways and how roads intersect the flow of the landscape. I love the underlying rhythms of the earth and the flora that grows with it. I also prefer to include how man puts his mark on the land. The parking lot where I stood to paint this was very busy with bikers. This road seems to be a destination to go riding along for the locals and visitors alike. It had the added benefit of a port-a-potty which is a must have for artists and bikers alike!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Lake Catamount Ranch Barns

Lake Catamount, Pleasant Valley, Steamboat Springs - 14x11
It has been a busy summer for me this year so easel time has been few and far between. This is the last painting to post from Destination Steamboat Springs. It seems a long time but it has only been a month ago now that I spent a week with Plein Air Artists of Colorado painting in and around Steamboat. These buildings were on a private gated community. They have all been beautifully restored and/or maintained. The cabin that goes with these barns is beautiful inside and the people who live in this community can use it for entertaining or events. One of the PAAC hostesses for the Steamboat paint out had permission for us to paint in this private reserve for the day.

I was here in the afternoon only. It was an afternoon where the sun played peak-a-boo that ended in rained. I opted to originally paint it local tone, or flat. But once I got it home I was not that happy with the flatness so I turned it into light and shadow. Hence the wait for it to be posted.
The cabin's dining room set up for a dinner party

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Save the Date!

PAAC Annual Juried Show
The annual Plein Air Artists of Colorado juried show will open Friday, September 8, 2017 at the Mary Williams Fine Arts in Boulder CO. The Gallery is located at 5311 Western Avenue, Suite 112, 80301. The phone number is 303-938-1588. I have two paintings juried into this show from my joining the group again this past January. I had taken a long hiatus from painting plein air with PAAC but I am happy to be back at it and then getting two paintings accepted. The show will be up through the first week of October so come on down and check it out. Although the majority of work will represent the fine state of Colorado, know that there will be work from other states as well. You do not have to live in Colorado to be a member!
One of the pieces juried in I painted on a lovely day in March at Wynetka Park.

Hope to see you at the opening! Next year I heard that the annual PAAC show will be in Durango in conjunction with the annual Destination Paintout. I think that will be a blast!

Yesterday I had the pleasure of assisting in unwrapping the works that have been shipped to the gallery...the preview shows some real winners...

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Destination Steamboat Springs

Last Tuesday I drove up to Steamboat Springs for the annual destination paint out put on by the Plein Air Artists of Colorado (PAAC). The event started with a welcome dinner that evening. It is hard to talk to many people when you are so many seated at a long table, but it is always fun to sit with people you don't know. At least half of those artists that evening I had never seen or met before. Who knew my dining partner that evening would be the husband of a fellow artist from the Springs. A Methodist minister to boot! Now that was fun! I love to talk religion and politics at dinner...really.

Wednesday was the start of the scheduled events and we had permission to go onto a private development and club house in Pleasant Valley to paint for the day. I chose to paint in the morning along the main road on the way to the Club. Here is painting number one:
Stables and Barn, 9x12, oil on panel
I was so happy that I got one done and under my belt I was ready to go and try another for the afternoon. I am saving that for another time.

Thursday I went out on my own as I was less than thrilled with that days painting location. The artists that did stay and paint aspens turned out some nice work, but I was so taken with the vistas of the Yampa Valley that painting in a densely treed location was not going to work. In this next painting I was specifically looking for color and patterns and playing with the cutaways shapes. I have thoughts of playing around with this more but for right now I am letting it sit. I was standing in the shadows of a big display board for the areas recreation of fly fishing and biking. This parking lot was very active for bikers and so I was never alone, so to speak. I met one fly fisherman whom I went down to the river to talk to after I was finished for the day. You meet such interesting people when you paint outdoors. Most are interested and curious in what you are doing.
the Cutaway, 12x24, oil on linen
Friday found me back on road 131 not far from the stables and barn above. That road was so scenic it was hard to not stop and at least take photos the whole length of it. The problem for the most part is having a place to pull over and paint. Two of us set up to paint hay bales and before we knew it, we were joined by 4 more artists. Here are a few of my painting buddies:
and my hay bale painting:
Hay Bale  Harvest, 9x12, oil
A number of cars actually stopped and came by to see what we were doing and the truckers honked their appreciation as they flew on down the road. It really is a kick to be outside painting.

As I am not used to standing out in the sun and the wind and the rain days in a row, I headed home on our last day instead of painting. It was another private ranch we were allowed access to in the Mt Zirkle wilderness area so I am sure it was fabulous. I heard tell that next years' paint out will be in Durango. I had not been on a destination paint out in years. I had forgotten what a blast it can be and so good to reconnect with your buddies you don't see unless you participate in the weekly calendar paint outs. Note to self...get your gear and get out doors!