Monday, February 28, 2011


15 x 15
pastel on BFK

With the sound of the surf beckoning me, I stand at the top of the path and pause for just a moment. Wet salty air blows through my clothes and hair and I feel the reassurance that I am back.

The beach always does that to me.

About 30 more steps and I will be at the top of the dune, overlooking the grandeur of the Pacific Ocean. I will walk on the sand and feel my perspective shift in the solemn face of tide and vastness of water. I will write my troubles on the sand and watch as they are erased by rushing waves.

But for this moment, it is all about anticipation.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

I wonder what would happen if ...

Prideaux Haven
15 x 15
pastel on BFK

These are the words I speak aloud when I step over the threshold to my studio. I wonder what would happen if ...

"The greatest achievement was at first and for a time a dream.
The oak sleeps in the acorn; the bird waits in the egg;
and in the highest vision of the soul a waking angel stirs."
William James

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Search for beauty

"Beauty comes from giving personal expression to deep currents within us."
Ian Roberts in Creative Authenticity

I have changed this post since I first put it up earlier this afternoon. Kitty Wallis sent me an insightful email in which she helped me focus again on what I am doing here in the studio. Thank you, Kitty, for taking the time to read and inquire and comment and communicate! I appreciate you so much!

In the photo above you can see some of the explorations I have done in the last few days. Taking those simple shapes from my color sketches and notan and feeling my way around them. Some are better than others. Some are really awful. One or two are ready for frames. If they were all good, I would know that I am not pushing hard enough, exploring deep enough, lifting and reaching beyond what I know to what I am trying to know.

This is a part of my search for beauty.

In my own mind, beauty is imperfect, and unapologetic about it. Beauty is honest without cruelty. Beauty is compelling. Transcendent. And utterly irresistible.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Spencer Spit and all that jazz

today's painting
Spencer Spit
8 x 8
pastel on BFK

February 21 painting

Using the same basic shapes, I painted Spencer Spit again but with a different palette. Theme and variations. I love stuff like this!

Painting like this, painting many variations of a basic design is a lot like playing jazz with a band. You usually start out with something that's pretty straight and the melody or tune is obvious. Then, you hand it off to the saxophone player and he stretches and bends things around. The rest of the band keeps playing the structure, the chords underneath the solo, but the sax, well, he wails! If he's hot, he may take it an extra time around, another 16 bars or so. All of the other musicians nod their heads and can't keep the goofy grins off their faces because it's so amazing to be a part of that sound!

When the trumpet takes it, well, if he's good, he will pull your heart out of your chest, blow on it twice, and throw it back before you know what's happened.

With these paintings, so far it's still pretty straight and the melody sits on top of the rhythm like a good horseman. But I can hear the future and it's calling me to jam.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Depth of the soul

"Our painting will only be as deep as the depth we uncover in ourselves."
Ian Roberts in Creative Authenticity

I had just played Chopin's Nocturne 20 in a Master Class for Dr. Bela Nagy. When I finished, I could hear the sound of pages turning in the auditorium. Others in the class brought their scores to follow along as I played and to write down Dr Nagy's comments (to me) on their own music.

"Fine," he said. "Now, tell me what were you thinking while you played?"

"Thinking?" I faltered. "I guess I was thinking of the notes and trying not to be distracted by sounds in the audience. I was thinking that for once my palms weren't sweating while playing for you and I was hoping I wouldn't make bumbles on the runs at the end."

As I spoke, Dr. Nagy shook his large head at me, so that his shock of gray hair fell over his forehead. He forced it back with an impatient raking motion.

"No!" He nearly shouted. "No! No! No! These are the very things you must NOT think of when you play the Chopin." His thick Hungarian accent was more pronounced when he spoke with passion, as he did then. "You must reach inside yourself and feel the cold winter night. You must reach inside and feel the sad longing for a lover who has left you. Maybe forever. But, maybe not," he raised one eyebrow and then quickly winked. "This is how you play. More than the notes. You play your soul."

And with that, he opened the lid of the concert grand piano so that it was fully open on its long support, he walked off the stage, sat down, and swept his arm in a gesture for me to begin.

I was about to start when he jumped up, "Wait! Wait!" I put my hands in my lap and drew in a deep breath. "You, " he said, pointing to those sitting in the auditorium. "Put away your music. All of you. Away. Away! Do not open it! And close your eyes and listen." There followed a low murmuring and rustling as they complied. When all was silent, I began. Again.

Tears streamed from my eyes as I played the second time. By the time I finished, I was nearly sobbing. Dr Nagy came up to the stage and held me in a long embrace while the audience stood and clapped and clapped and wept.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Analogous palette

analogous color design
10 x 10
pastel on BFK

Kingfisher and Egret

Same shapes in the painting, different colors. While both yesterday and today's paintings feel serene, today's painting feels much more quiet.

Sunshine early in the day compelled me to the refuge. I was thrilled to see the Kingfisher (typically a jittery, chittering, quick flying bird, this guy stayed perched long enough for me to catch him with this photo). I watched the Egret catch a vole and swallow it whole just before I took the photograph. Life is always good and abundant at the Refuge!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Remembering sunrise at Oak Harbor

10 x 10
pastel on BFK

Real time beats too fast a tempo at 60.

But in my memory, I can pull out the moment and stretch the time to a sweet rubato. Tender and lazy. On this winter day I can taste this early summer morning and feel its juice run down my chin as I take a big bite.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Wandering but not lost

10 x 10
pastel on BFK

2 x 2
watercolor sketch

a full sheet of watercolor sketches

The bottom photo shows a brainstorm I had this week. What would happen if I took five simple landscape sketches and blocked them in with color in a variety of combinations? It was easy to create the grid for the sketches with 1/8" artist tape on a full sheet of watercolor paper.

Each color and value combination urged me on to try something else. What a rush!

Since then, I've looked at the sketches to see which excited me, which colors appealed to me, which shapes seemed to generate my energy and interest. I selected the sketch seen in the middle photo and made that one into the larger pastel piece you see in the top photo.

From Notan to watercolor sketch to pastel painting. Another way home. Not all who wander are lost, they might just be seeking a new path. And, for some reason, that reminds me of music (of course) and a nice hike I had last summer in Ketchikan, AK, called "Married Man's Trail." Most definitely the long way home.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


Figures on newsprint with ink and charcoal and marker.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Sketches with my Gelly Roll pen

after the PPASP meeting, a group of us sketched together
this is my sketch, see what others did here

more thumbs, playing with values

"It has been said that nothing depresses the soul so much as perfect symmetry. Symmetry is static; variety is dynamic." John F. Carlson

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day ...

I painted today, but wiped it out before it got too far along. Maybe I'll even look through the handbook to see if I can figure out where I went wrong. Some days are like that.

an obvious choice for today, but still nice and smooth

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Cry Me a River

Cry Me a River
18 x 24

pigment dispersion under painting

Saturday, February 12, 2011

A new vase!

Metz Vase with Carnations
14 x 11
oil on Pintura Supremo

block in and thumbnails to try out compositional ideas

variations in firing temperatures results in zinc crystals forming

I am committed to still life while I learn more about how to handle oil paint (this is my 40th oil painting since I started with oils in October 2010). Especially since both Thomas Kitts and Eric Jacobsen insisted that I paint from life and not photos as I learn this medium. Thanks a lot guys! Plein air is tough when it's raining and cold.

You can see the process I used for this painting. Following Eric Jacobsen's instruction, I sketched four thumbnails to try out various designs for my composition. Next, following Thomas Kitts' instruction, I blocked in the big shapes and toned the canvas with paint thinned with Gamsol. The final painting is rough and unfinished, which is a perfect expression of my feelings today.

To spice up my paintings and to keep myself from getting bored, I decided to indulge in the purchase of a new vase. Michael Metz has his beautiful ceramic work in many galleries, but I fell in love with one I saw at Aurora Gallery in Vancouver. As I understand it, Metz varies the temperatures during the firing time and zinc crystals form in amazing patterns on the surfaces of his pieces. I think they look like ginko biloba leaves!

Whenever I listen to "Sing, Sing, Sing" I hear the primitive beat of the drums and feel my heart shift its rhythm to match.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Friday with friends

more thumbs today at the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge

bald eagle and prey (duck)

water, birds, trees
a perfect refuge!

random scarecrows
delightful gestures

I am fortunate to have good art friends. Today we spent time at my favorite spot, the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. Sketching, talking, laughing, enjoying the landscape, listening to bird calls, more talking. It was a fantastic day.

How about you?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

All thumbs

My sketchbook is filled with words, sketches, notes from books, notes from classes and lectures, incidentals, ideas, feeling words, starts of poems, and thumbnails.

I've been following blogger Barbara Newton and her exploration and use of thumbnails as a part of her painting process. You can read about her thumbs here.

Loriann Signori
uses thumbnails regularly, but lately in a new way as she explores memory work. See her thumbs here.

I like the brevity of thumbnails. By necessity they have just enough information about the shapes and value to give a good idea about what's going on in a scene. In my thumbnails above, I have done many of them from life, but several of them from photographs. Photos can lead me astray with all of their precise information, but I'm beginning to try on the idea that I can reduce a photo to a thumbnail and then paint from my thumbnail to become a more expressive and painterly painter. We'll see.

Ideas are like shoes. Until you try them on and walk around in them for a bit, you don't know if you should buy them and take them home.

Do you use thumbnail sketches?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Calla Lily

Calla Lily at Faye's
24 x 18
pastel on Wallis

The morning sunshine peeked over the rock wall around the garden at Faye's house. Dew clung to every surface and the lily opened like a tissue vessel to swallow it all.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Roses and Red Peppers

Roses and Peppers
12 x 9
oil on canvas panel

I have been enjoying my neutral oil palette with little, subtle pops of color. This time, I decided that subtlety can be tedious so I went for a LOUD pop of color. Red peppers! The leaded crystal bud vase cheerfully multiplied the red in its facets and threw the red back at me in unexpected places.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Roll On

Roll On
18 x 24
pastel on Wallis Museum

Flowing past my property and the subject of many of my paintings, the East Fork of the Lewis River drains into the mighty Columbia River. The water is high now with the rains and drainage, but not as high as it will get in the Spring when the melt from Mt St Helens adds to its volume.

The water you touch in a river is the last of that which has passed,
and the first of that which is coming. Thus it is with time present.
Leonardo da Vinci

Sunday, February 6, 2011


14 x 9
oil on stretched canvas

"The older I get the more I trust in the law according
to which the rose and the lily bloom."

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Saturday, February 5, 2011

More tulips

Tulips Two
40 x 27
watercolor on Fabriano Artistico

first and second paintings from same idea

I so enjoyed my first go with watercolor and white lines (white charcoal), I decided to do it again. While I am satisfied with the finished painting, I did not enjoy painting this piece. It felt like eating a sandwich on stale bread. Or drinking a pop when its gone flat or is warm. The freshness and thrill was gone. I just didn't realize it until I was part way through with the painting. Then, sheer determination took over and I finished it.

There is a big difference between Arches cold press paper (used in my first tulip painting) and Artistico Fabriano paper. The Arches paper lets the paint flow smoothly, like a dream. The Artistico was a bad dream. The paper absorbed the paint unevenly and was prone to blooms. I didn't like how my brushstrokes showed, too, on the Artistico.

Sometimes a good idea is only good for one painting. Sometimes it's good for many. Only time will tell if this is the former or the latter.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Trouble with tulips

11 x 14
oil on canvas

detail of brushwork on the tulip petals

notice the small profiles on the tulips here in my start!

I love tulips! I love their simple shapes. I love their rich history. I love their Dutch-ness. I love how they reach and grow and stretch when they are cut and put in vases.

When I set up this still life, the tulips were partly opened, as you can tell from the lower photo, my start. As I painted them, the heat from the lamp made them open up and change position and importance. By the time I was finished painting today, the tulips were nearly twice their original size.

I love tulips. They add an interesting aspect to a painting, the not-so-still life.

Thursday, February 3, 2011


18 x 24
pastel on recycled Wallis paper

"... these are the times of dreamy quietude, when beholding the tranquil beauty and brilliancy of the ocean's skin, one forgets the tiger heart that pants beneath it; and would not willingly remember, that this velvet paw but conceals a remorseless fang."
Herman Melville

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

To be or not to be frugal

When I decided to try oil painting, I made a conscious decision to not spend a lot of money on it. After all, I have thousands of dollars invested in pastels, easels, paper, watercolor paint, brushes, lights, books, boards, and all of the other things that go with pastel and watercolor painting. Not to mention my drawing supplies!

Plus, I didn't know if I would even enjoy painting in oil!

So, I spent as little money as possible. I bought oil paint in 37 ml tubes and only the colors that I needed for my lessons. I bought a few canvas panels and gesso boards but I didn't go crazy with buying stuff.

Something happened when I was working from this miserly/frugal mindset. I wouldn't squeeze out a generous amount of paint, I used little dabs of it and stretched it with OMS. I felt hesitant about painting a lot because, well, I only had two more canvas panels left. It was a crazy way to think and it certainly wasn't helping me. Instead of using what I had, I was kind of hoarding it.

It was giving my brain a cramp!

So, I decided to ditch the poverty mindset and to embrace abundance. I placed an enormous order for 150 ml tubes of paint and dozens of canvases and panels. Soon, I will be squirting out paint with a caulking gun and shuffling panels like decks of cards.

I think it will be easier to progress without a cramped brain. What do you think?