Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Finding Andrew

Opening day at the Seattle Art Museum of their exhibit "Andrew Wyeth: Remembrance." I was there with friends, Celeste Bergin and Carolyn Rondthaler. Seven paintings. Each one stunning. Mostly Helga but one of Betsy sleeping in a field with her hat covering her face and their dog nearby. Another of a building and a winter tree, reflections in a cold pond.

The Seattle Times has a review of the exhibit here.

No photography allowed in the museum, but I sat on a bench and watched people looking at the paintings. Some would hover near the descriptive label and spend a lot of time reading about the art and hardly any time looking at the art. Some just walked through the exhibit in a daze, not looking or reading, but watching their partner.

But others got as close to the painting as possible (without setting off alarms or bringing guards to warn and point). How did Wyeth do it? How did he make the hair look real and slightly dirty? How did he paint the smooth skin, the shapely muscle beneath and the sturdy bone all at once?

Beautiful. Light filled. Subtle. Lonely. Quiet.

I will think more about Andrew Wyeth and his work. I am so glad I went to Seattle see these seven paintings with my own eyes. It was water to my artist soul.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Morning Light

Sitting Room
12 x 14, pastel

Death of the King ... of Pop

My sons only knew him as the disturbing caricature of what he became, a celebrity whose appearance was odd and whose behaviors were odder.

But, I grew up with Michael Jackson the star. I knew all the words to "ABC" and "Ben." I danced to "Thriller" and "Beat It" and his other hits. No trip to Disneyland was complete without a viewing of Michael Jackson's "Captain EO," with its theme of how music can change the world. When he was good, he was amazing! His concerts were always sold out. And everyone of my generation tried to Moonwalk.

Rest in peace, Michael Jackson

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

For the first time

Cresap Bay corrected

Cresap Bay plein air, original

Up until now, I have made it my policy to not touch up my plein air paintings once I get them back to the studio. That idea came from my desire to go out into the landscape and paint beautiful paintings in situ. Plus, if I were to enter a plein air painting show or competition, the requirements usually state that the work must have less than 10% done in the studio.

The result of this practice so far is a large accumulation of mediocre and terrible paintings.

The more I paint, the more I realize that each painting is part of my learning process, a marker for my artistic progress. My personal grade book where I keep track of things for myself only. Who else would be interested in such dull facts, anyway?

I propped up my Cresap Bay painting, from June 16, on the viewing ledge in my studio. I looked at the painting and looked at it. And saw plenty of things that bothered me. And, I decided to change them. After all, I reasoned, it was not a strong painting as it stood, so why not see if I could possibly improve it.

The first thing I changed was the value of the middle ground land forms. I felt like there was too much value shift from the farthest away parts and the middle parts. And, the middle and near land forms were too close in value.

The next thing I changed was the value of the water. I remember while I was painting it the first time that there was more value contrast between the "No Wake" buoy and the water surrounding it, but my hand kept going for the lighter colored pastels. So, I darkened the water in the foreground and middle grounds considerably. That allowed the contrast with the buoy to stand out more.

I need to look at this painting for a while and decide what I think of it now that it has been changed. But, I think it is improved. What do you think?


Anchoring Buoy
12 x 14, pastel

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Do you know about the Tacoma Narrows Bridge?

Nicknamed "Galloping Gertie" because of this disaster in 1940. You won't believe what you see.

Today, the bridge has just received a beautiful makeover and addition. We motored under it at 9 kts at slack tide.

From the water at Budd Inlet

With art as with literature, point of view is one of the keys that creates interest. I am lucky to have some time on a boat, but first a quick watercolor sketch from the transient dock at Swantown in Olympia, Washington.

From this vantage point, I watched the crows and gulls dig mussels from the boggy tidal flats and then drop their treasures to crack the shells on the rocks below. Great sport for all but the bivalves!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

In the Studio yesterday and today

Yesterday was a good day. I painted en plein air at Cresap Bay with my friend, Suzanne. When I came home to my studio, I painted the piece you see to the left. From a photograph I took in the Woodland Bottoms. I like this painting. It has a crisp fall feel to it, just like the day I took the photo. Yes, yesterday was a good painting day.

On the other hand, today was a tough one.

You've heard the word "homicide" to describe the action of killing another human being. If that human is your father, it's "patricide." If your mother, "matricide."

What do you call it when you kill innocent paintings? I am going to have to think of the right word for that, because it describes what I did today. I killed three paintings. In fact, it seemed that I could do no right in the studio.

I will not post crime scene photos of these grisly murders. I will just let you imagine the mayhem of gross dismemberment of value, composition, temperature, color harmony, and so on.

I'll take out my shovel and bury these bodies in the yard.

And hope for a better day tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Monday, June 15, 2009

Whitaker Ponds plein air

The morning clouds started clearing right away when Celeste Bergin and I hiked around Whitaker Ponds to find our painting spot. Any day spent with Celeste is a good day, but even better when we can both paint!

I'm not sure why, but the drainage pipe interested me and the way the light reflected in the nearby water. I learned something, which is always true about plein air painting, and had fun. The algae and flotsam in the water did not make for the most beautiful landscape, but it was a good experience.

Especially when the mama duck swam through the pipe into my view. She was not alone, though. Five ducklings trailed her.

A good day.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Thursday, June 11, 2009

552 Westmoreland Park

Westmoreland Park plein air
18 x 24, pastel

I was determined to keep my painting grayed down today. I quickly realized how many pure pastels I have and how few grayed ones. That made my self-imposed task more difficult.

I always say that I learn a lot from every plein air painting. With this painting I learned that just because I am enamored of a certain portion of the painting, I should not ignore the problems with value. The lower left portion of the painting turned out so beautiful with the under painting, it looked just like water. However, it was too light to make sense in the painting. Next time ...

Overall, I had a great experience in a park with plentiful subject matter, good people, and I came home with a pretty good painting.

Plein air painting at Westmoreland Park

Portland Plein Air and Studio Painters

It was great to paint with my art group today. The Portland Plein Air and Studio Painters are a large group of artists, some of whom meet regularly for art discussion and (when the weather is good) for plein air painting. Today we painted at Westmoreland Park in Portland.

I love painting with a group of other artists. We set up our easels where the subject interests us and mostly are quietly intense when painting. But, we also wander around a look at what each other is doing, and sometimes talk about the method, the subject, the value. We always ooh and ahh over new easels, new pochade boxes, a new brush, a better handcart.

We share our thoughts about how much work it is to paint outdoors. And then, grudgingly, admit that we learn more than imaginable with each plein air painting. When the painting turns out well. When the painting doesn't turn out well. No matter. The learning curve is steep en plein air.

Today I just felt happy to be painting with my painting friends.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Monday, June 8, 2009


practice painting buildings
24 x 30, watercolor

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Dealing with Disappointment

Under painting

"On the Side (Lori's Diner)"
9 x 12, pastel

Here's how I handled some disappointing news yesterday: I went out to the studio and painted.

The news? That two of my paintings were not accepted into a show. Ouch. That hurt my ego a bit.

I suppose that there are stages of handling rejection just like any other thing. Elisabeth Kubler Ross introduced her famed stages of grief in 1969.

They are:
  1. denial
  2. anger
  3. bargaining
  4. depression
  5. acceptance
I think that my stages were more like this:
  1. surprise
  2. upset
  3. talk to a few friends
  4. make some disparaging comments about the juror
  5. turn the music up louder and paint something new
I think that I could avoid the risk of ever having work rejected again by never entering another show or contest. But, that would be an overreaction. Foolish or not, I think I'll just go on putting my work out there and seeing what happens.

In the meantime, I think I'll listen to some more LOUD music. Hmm. Queen or Bartok?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


24 x 18, pastel

Inspired by my San Francisco trip last month. I'm still thinking about that beautiful Bay Area light and the tall buildings and all of the people out and about.

As I observed this couple, it seemed to me that the man was trying very hard to get the woman to respond to him. He held her in his arms, he leaned toward her, he took off his sunglasses to look into her eyes. She, on the other hand, held her arms at her sides, leaned back just a bit, and kept her sunglasses covering her eyes. When the light changed, I could help but think, "She's going to walk away from him and not come back."

Monday, June 1, 2009

Plein air at Elk Rock Island

I practiced painting water today at Elk Rock Island with my friend, Celeste Bergin.

Water presents a lot of challenges for a painter and today had the added challenge of shifting flotsam on the water's surface.

That, and the ducks who disturbed the reflections by splashing and making ripples while doing their duck dance.

Oh, and my subject, the fisherman, kept walking away.


I was happy to use my newly cleaned pastel box today. It took about two hours yesterday to take everything out of the box, vacuum all of the dust off the foam inserts, clean the pastels with corn meal and put it all away again. Wow! Everything looked so bright and pretty when I was done. The dust accumulation in the box had made everything look brownish gray. It was kind of fun to discover what color was beneath the dusty outside every time I made a stroke, but the clean box and clean pastels were a joy to use today.

There are so many excuses to not get out there and paint. Today it was nice to just go and do it. Even better to go with a friend.