Wednesday, March 31, 2010


It looked like a storybook scene when we flew over Colfax, WA. My son was happy to point out the field his buddies used for their radio control airplane experiments.

From the air, things look sweet and uncomplicated. The price of wheat, drought, squabbles with neighbors, broken farm equipment and the details of life fall away when perspective is changed.

I will tie a string on my finger today so that I remember this.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Wet Sand

Wet Sand
18 x 24

Eight+, a group within the bigger group Portland Plein Air and Studio Painters, hung their new show today at O'Connor's Restaurant. This time, each artist talked about his/her new work before we hung them. It was great to hear the story behind the paintings!

I am crazy about the beach and about the water on the sand and the sun and how all of that works. In this painting, I tried to capture the abstract sense of it without going into detail. Just looking at this painting makes me smell the sea.

Before long, our group spilled over onto this now-empty table, making it a four table meeting. Imagine the fun! All of those artists. All of that energy and interest in ART. Life is good!

Monday, March 29, 2010


Early morning and the sun lights up the snowy face of Mt. St Helens. Dedicated hikers, starting long before sunrise, near the rim to peek into the caldera. Deep shadows fill the crater and I can see from the airplane that there are ice shelves along the edge. I want to warn the hikers not to risk a closer look, but I am mute behind the windows and engine drone. I can only wag the wings and see them wave to me.

I whisper, "Be safe. Be wise. Be mindful."

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Monotype with Jef Gunn -- Day Two

I worked out this design yesterday while I was taking a breather from all of the learning I was doing! In Jef's kitchen area were parts of a few stringed instruments and I enjoyed what happened when I put them together in a sketch.

I forgot to take photos of my work today! I was intent on working at layering the colored inks in a different way, and that took my full attention. Besides, it seemed like I would have time to take photos of my work when I got home tonight, but the pieces are drying in a rack until they will be easily transported. I'll post today's prints when I get them back next week.

Here Jef gave a demonstration of viscosity printing. The images were unexpected and unpredictable (to the uninitiated, especially!) and beautiful. The thinner ink repelled the thicker ink but adhered where the plate was wiped clean. Next time I take a monotype class, I'll try this myself because the results were amazing.

My workshop classmates are more experienced artists than I am and they brought some collage elements to include in their monotypes. The results were beautiful! In the photo above left you can see Jef and Karen checking to make sure that the collage pieces are firmly glued in place. Above right you see Catherine fitting her collage elements together prior to placing her dampened BFK over the top running it through the press.

I thoroughly enjoyed this workshop. Jef is a gifted teacher and he brings a quiet energy to the room. I would definitely take other workshops from him in the future. He has a new book out, "Undo Every Woven." And, his landscape paintings will be part of group show in May at Augen Gallery.

Before this weekend, the whole idea of monotypes was foreign to me. Yesterday, I was exhausted trying to learn the language of printing and inks and cradles and brayers and reversed images and plates and registrations. Whew! Tonight, reflecting on the weekend, I feel excited about trying this again.

Do you suppose I could find a press on Ebay?

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Monotype with Jef Gunn

my first (ever!) monotype print
half sheet, Arches 88

Today was the first of a two day workshop with acclaimed Portland artist Jef Gunn on Monotype. I have no experience with print-making, so everything was new to me. No wonder I am so tired!

Ray Neufer press
a piece of local (Portland) history

First things first. Paper, measured and torn into half sheets. I used Arches 88, which is used dry, but others used Rives BFK, which is used wet/damp. Maybe I will have a chance to try that tomorrow. In the photo above right, Jef demonstrates how to manipulate the inked plate using a Q-tip dampened with alcohol or odorless mineral spirits and scraped through the ink. He also used crumpled paper stamped into the ink for textured areas.

Here you can see an inked plate in a cradle before it goes through the press. The cradle keeps the plate from slipping when it goes through the rollers. The paper is marked and these registration marks are carefully lined up each time the piece is put through the press.

Every time a print goes through the press, there's a giddy moment of peeling up the paper to see what happened. I wanted to see every one that went through!

At the end of the day, the brayers, full of beautiful inks, have to be cleaned. All is ready for tomorrow and day two of the workshop!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Pastel on Stonehenge

Salt Marsh
9 x 12, Stonehenge paper

Stonehenge is 100% cotton, acid free paper, used in printmaking. I have used it for graphite and charcoal drawings but never tried it with pastel. Until today.

Its slightly fuzzy surface filled quickly with pastel and did not hold many layers. I did not use fixative to help build up layers, but was pleased enough with my final results. You can read more about Stonehenge paper in the Katherine Tyrrell's blog, "Making a Mark Reviews" and features the comments by Roz Stendahl.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Not pretty

Thinking of Dad
11 x 14, Bristol

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Florals Featured!

Elizabeth Steinbaugh, owner of Aurora Gallery in Vancouver, is featuring two of my floral paintings in her March Spring exhibit. Also pictured above is a watercolor by Vicki Nelson and an oil by Bev Jozwiak.

24 x 18

This painting was inspired by a John Salminen DVD I watched with art friends. His focus on a strong abstract concept and keeping the light pattern interesting, unexpected, and oblique helped me decide how to place and paint the white alstroemeiria flowers.

Yellow Iris
24 x 18

This painting was done plein air at Schreiner's Iris Gardens in Salem, Oregon. I set up my easel in a less-traveled part of the garden and painted these sunlight-filled blooms.

If you're in the neighborhood, I hope you'll stop in and see my work in person.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Aerial perspective

Near Lower Granite Dam
11 x 14 on Bristol paper

When I first heard the art term "aerial perspective," I thought "I know just what they mean!"

Well, until I learned that it meant a technique of creating depth by depicting distant objects with less detail and contrast.

Hm. Live and learn, I guess. I thought it meant the perspective a person had from the vantage point of an airplane. I have lots of experience with that! My husband and both sons are pilots and I have logged plenty of hours in the right seat, holding the charts and looking out the windows at the landscape beneath.

This painting was inspired by a flight I took with my son, Nick, over the Snake River in Washington. Still in the Palouse, but from a slightly different perspective, an aerial perspective!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Red Barn

18 x 24

My sister moved with her family to Illinois many years ago. Although she lived in a nicely developed neighborhood, there was no doubt that she was in the middle of farm country. 640 acres of corn and soy beans were planted and harvested in the field just behind her home. On my first visit to her, the directions she gave me from Chicago's O'Hare Airport to her home included toll roads, rural routes, and best of all: turn right at the big red barn.

To this day, when I see a big red barn, I think of my sister and her big move from Los Angeles to Illinois.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Still my guitar gently weeps

About two years ago, I worked out a trade with three musicians who wanted me to give them some basics about music theory. In return, they modeled for me. I sketched them and took a few photographs of them.

Since then, I have pulled out my sketches many times and tried to do something with them, but always without success. Maybe I wasn't ready. Maybe I was forcing things. I just could not make it happen.

Finally, this painting starts to say something to me. Something about this man. This musician. His heart. My feelings for him and for the music we made when we played together in a band.

24 x 18

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Palouse, finished at long last

The Palouse
36 x 48

first layers of pastel

Guerra pigment in water dispersion under painting
January 2010

Eastern Washington state looks very different from my home in Western Washington. The softly rolling hills are planted with wheat and lentils and dotted with farm structures. While my sons were in college at Washington State University, I enjoyed many trips to the area known as "The Palouse."

This painting has been in progress since January. Not that I've been working on it all of these months, in fact, I have avoided working on it for some of that time. It's size has confounded me and I have done all kinds of gyrations to step back from it far enough to see what is going on. One day, I positioned the painting so that I could walk outside on the driveway to look at it from 20 feet.

I have given the marine crank on my easel a good workout! Crank up to reach the lower parts of the painting. Crank down to reach the trees and building. Up and down. Step back to look. I wish my arms were longer so that I could paint it with better perspective as I go along.

This painting, with all of my struggles and challenges (both physical and mental) to complete it, will be part of a solid foundation for a better painting in the future.

a big painting dominates every square foot
of the studio space surrounding it

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Pastelmat trial #3


Pastel painting on the Pastelmat surface is like scooting across a Berber covered floor wearing Velcro pants. Not much sliding around.

Admittedly, there was hardly any pastel dust on my tray when I completed this piece and that's an attractive quality in a pastel painting surface. But, as much as I layered on the pastel, as much as I tried to push the color around with every method I could think of, once it was on there, it was stuck down and not budging.

Today was another beautiful day at the Refuge. I had to wait for a gaggle of Canada geese to cross the road. They took their sweet time, waddling and gossiping their way to the water. Clumsy on land, but graceful on the lake, I will always brake for geese!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Refuge, St Paddy's Day
12 x 18, Strathmore watercolor paper

This morning the sun cast its milky light as the clouds from yesterday burned off in their slow way. It is always a special day for me when I get to be in the Refuge.

Great Horned Owl
Another birder helped me see this hidden Great Horned Owl, sleeping in the tree near his nest. He was very big, at least 20" tall and built like a barrel.

These immature Bald Eagles looked down from their high perch at the activity in the Refuge. No tawny heads, so I knew that they were not American Eagles, but Bald Eagles under 5 years old.

Things are turning green in the Refuge, and as I thought of St Patrick's Day today, I remembered my Irish friends and family. Thinking especially of my paternal grandmother, a Walsh from Ireland, and her playful attitude and impish grin. At 82 years, she was out on the lawn, taking Frisbee throwing lessons from my little sons, who were 7 and 5 at the time.

Even a bit of Irish blood is good, don't you think?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Lily pads

Just time to sketch at Elk Rock Gardens at Bishop's Close today with my friend, Celeste Bergin. We knew there was rain in the forecast and the skies were very gray, so just sketchbooks, pencils, and cameras for this adventure.

I was on a mission to find lily pads to study and we spent quite a bit of time watching the fish swim beneath these winter-weary pads.

Sketching, photographing, and then coming home to paint. I will go back later, when the lilies are grown and in bloom. But, today was special, too. Filtered light and oval shapes and time with a friend making art.

Life is good!

Monday, March 15, 2010


No rain today, so I checked into a potential painting spot at Smith and Bybee Lakes Wetlands area. I parked my car (above) and walked about two miles in either direction along the trail to find the elusive painting spots I was sure were there. Four miles later, no such spot existed. A longer trail goes along and between the lakes (paved for walkers or bikers), and it just might lead to a beautiful painting spot or two, but they are too far for me to walk with my pastel plein air gear.

The area was nearly deserted. I helped a kayak fisherman launch his boat and that was fun, but there were no other people visiting the wetlands.

Not every beautiful spot is a good painting spot. Lesson learned.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Abstraction thoughts and tracking

Bay 3
11 x 14, Bristol

Last Thursday, I had a wonderful day going through the top Portland art galleries with art friend Celeste Bergin. We saw some beautiful abstract work but my favorite was at Butters Gallery and the work of Silvia Poloto. I loved her sense of color, use of line and shape, and sensitivity to composition. Click on her name to see her work.

I am intrigued by abstract art and I don't always understand it. Celeste and I had (and continue to have) good discussions about abstract art and its relationship to realism in an artist's development.

With that in mind, I came home from our great Portland Galleries Adventure curious and interested in trying on for myself some of the ideas that govern abstract art. For a start, I have taken a landscape that is meaningful to me (the salt marsh at Willapa Bay on the Washington coast) and tried to simplify and abstract the shapes. Here are my three attempts. Maybe I should say, these are my attempts so far. I think I have farther to go.

abstractions of Willapa Bay

Finally, a peek at my painting journal. Every time I paint, I make a few notes about what I hoped to accomplish with the painting. Sometimes I focus on composition, other times edges or value, earlier this week I responded to viewing the Richard Schmid DVD by painting a barn, and so on.

This record is hand written in a spiral bound lined journal like some people use as diaries. I keep it on a shelf in my studio. In it, I record the date, the number of the painting, a working title, the dimensions, the medium and surface used, and any thoughts I have about the painting. Sometimes I include critique comments if I bring it to the group. Over time, it has become the annotation to my development as a painter.

The painting I finished this morning, the one at the top of this post, is painting #705.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Exploring Bay

Bay 2
11 x 14, Bristol

The longer you look at an object, the more abstract it becomes, and, ironically, the more real.
Lucian Freud

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Barn at Fisherman's Bay
11 x 14, pastel on Gemini w/c paper

I got to watch Richard Schmid's DVD "June" with a group of artist friends yesterday. He is a living master and it was a joy just watching him put paint to canvas. Every so often, the stroke would be just right and Schmid would say "aaah, perfect." Those of us watching, eleven in all, agreed with our own "OOOH"s.

In the studio at 8:15 this morning, I felt eager to paint a barn in landscape as I saw in yesterday's video. Excited to respond in pastel to what I saw Schmid do in oil.

Gemini watercolor paper for a support this time, and I discovered quickly that the texture was a problem. Everything looked transparent because the pastel deposited on the humps and skipped the dips in the paper's surface. But, my eager energy wasn't deterred (nice to have days like that!) and I just wet a brush and pushed the pastel into the paper to make it stick and lay down.

early morning start in my studio

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Monday, March 8, 2010

Lavender Path on Bristol

Lavender Path at Pelindaba, San Juan Island
7 x 11, watercolor and pastel on Bristol

Experimenting with different paper again. A watercolor wash under pastel on Bristol paper. And a path! I ask you, what's the big deal about paths?

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Pastelmat Take 2 Willapa Bay

Willapa Bay Path
9 x 12 on tan Pastelmat

value sketch first
HB pencil made it hard to get in darks

Another attempt using the Pastelmat. As you can see in the sky area, I had some trouble getting good coverage over the tan toned paper. The surface is soft, but still textured and it seemed to me that the texture was getting in my way.

As I selected my composition today, I was thinking about multiple discussions my group (PPASP) has had regarding pathways into a painting. Some people like it as a compositional tool, others turn red and have smoke come out their ears and say, tersely, "There are NO RULES for composition." Don't ask what happens when you say "focal point." Oh my!

So, I smiled as I painted the watery path of this painting. Does the path make for a strong composition? I'm sure that some will say yes, some will shrug their shoulders, and others will need an extra hit of blood pressure medication.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Trying out a new pastel surface

Organ Pipe Cactus
9 x 12 on Pastelmat

I had heard about a new pastel support that I wanted to try. Pastelmat is soft but holds a lot of pastel layers. This peach toned paper worked well with the sage greens of the desert landscape. I bought a set of paper that included white, gray, peach, and dark sienna sheets.

I think that Kitty Wallis sanded paper will always be my preferred pastel surface, but it's always fun to try new things.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Grand Canyon National Park and Picasso

February Snow, Grand Canyon
18 x 24

Looking In
18 x 24

"It's going very badly," Picasso says at one point in the 1956 film, The Mystery of Picasso (directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot).

Two days of trying to paint the Grand Canyon and I want to quote Picasso. It's going very badly, indeed.

Somehow, though, I am not discouraged. I feel like I am fumbling my way to where I will eventually discover how to paint not only what I see when I am at the Grand Canyon, but also my feeling that I will burst from wonder and awe. I am far from that today. In fact, today it's going very badly!