Saturday, July 30, 2011

last day of Elio Camacho workshop


11 x 14, oil on canvas board
Another wobbly step in the way I want to go. I leave Elio's workshop feeling encouraged and excited about painting more and painting better. Elio is a great teacher. He works to understand the level of each student, and then pushes them to the next step. 

I know I feel inspired. Inspired to paint. Inspired to be better. Inspired to do those exercises he suggested. And, with many helpful ideas and suggestions for handling the medium, I am inspired to put miles on my brushes.

From this workshop, I received much more than I expected. I expected Elio to be a wonderful painter himself. He is. I expected him to do demos and talk about his painting process. He did. I expected instruction on color mixing, brushwork, composition. He delivered on that expectation, too.
What I didn't expect is his genuine interest and concern about where I am in my painting journey. His gentle curiosity. And with his interest came accurate suggestions for moving ahead. And names of other artists whose work I might study to get me to move ahead.

I feel just a bit like a fledgling, pushed from the nest. By his words, actions, and presence, it is as if Elio has given me, personally, these parting words:

Find your weaknesses and work on them.
Paint every day.
Paint outdoors.
Find the form.
Paint the light.
Put down the right color in the right spot in the right way each time.
Don't make more work for yourself by having to correct mistakes.
Where is your "bride"? (center of interest)
Do the work.

That's exactly what I will do. Thank you, Elio Camacho. I hope to see you again.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

day 4 -- hitting the wall

The previous three days of intense learning, time in the sunshine, hauling gear around, setting up, tearing down, painting, listening, stretching, driving to locations, ... it's compounding as the days pass and today I hit the wall. I painted two small paintings (one I scraped down). 

Today I tried to put into practice what Elio has been saying about directional strokes and rhythm of forms and within forms. Coupled with a more liberal application of paint and I feel like I succeeded in what I set out to do. These are baby steps, but what a delight to take these wobbly ones! No wonder I feel like a need a nap!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

hump day at Cascade Locks

11 x 14, oil on board

looking into the glare to paint it -- a challenge!

Elio Camacho

How do you select a plein air painting subject? Today, I walked along the edge of the island at Cascade Locks Marine Park and was captivated by the glare on the water. I thought, "That will be hard to paint! Pick something else. It will strain your eyes. It will be hard to see colors. Pick something else." But, nothing else interested me like the glare, so I jumped in.

I'll get a better photograph of this painting another day, but you can see how I am really piling on the paint. I like the painting. And I liked my experience of painting it. Well, except for the part where the wind picked up my palette and all of the Quinacridone Red paint went into the grass. Oh, and the part where my trash bag blew up and into my palette and became very friendly with my Ultramarine Blue paint. But I enjoyed looking at the scene and mixing the paint and laying it down. All of that was fun.

The great thing about painting in the Columbia River Gorge is the fantastic Columbia River! Makes me think of this great song, done by many artists, but this is the fantastic Eva Cassidy. Take Me to the River!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

workshop day 2 -- the stretch

It was just 1/4 mile walk from the parking lot to the Bridal Veil overlook. I am so glad I brought a collapsing cart in my full little trunk. I was able to load all of my supplies on the cart and then wheel it along the paved trail to the overlook. I have now used absolutely everything I brought with me on this trip (except for clean clothes!). 

I knew I wanted to paint the basalt columns across the river. In the top painting, you can see that I saw everything in shades of gray. Many things went wrong with this painting, but it set me up to discover what I wanted to focus on in my second painting. 

Standing on the Oregon side, looking across the Columbia River to Washington
My personal goals for this painting: to apply paint more liberally, to use more pure color, to use interesting brushwork. And, I accomplished all three!

A good workshop teacher gives you new ideas for your personal growth and development, as well as generously sharing how he/she "does it."  A great workshop teacher takes the time and interest to ascertain where each student is on his/her art journey, and then helps them figure out the next step and how to get there. 

Elio Camacho does all of that and more. What a wonderful experience! 

Monday, July 25, 2011

Elio Camacho workshop!

little car with a very full trunk ... I know I forgot something!

Elio Camacho painting at sunset

acrylic frame turned into my traveling palette

Over the last several years, I have heard so many good things about Elio Camacho and his workshops I just had to sign up! Lucky for me, I got in before he discontinued giving workshops. Wow. I feel very lucky to be here.

Here's my first painting today, from the Women's Forum lookout, facing east toward Beacon Rock in the scenic Columbia River Gorge. It's a fair painting, but I failed at seeing and putting in enough color in the water. Among other things. More tomorrow!

Friday, July 22, 2011

I love visitors!

My youngest son came for a visit recently. When I asked him what he wanted to do, he asked if we could go out to the studio and "goof around." Oh, we had a grand time! 

Some things are so sweet, it makes my heart ache.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

violet makes me think of Gershwin

Violet Cats, 11 x 7, pastel on paper
Each cattail is a unique combination of solid cylinder and gossamer fluff and after painting so many of them, they begin to feel like figures. Painting this color family allows me to use many of these luscious hand made pastels.

Many of these date back to November 2009 when Kitty Wallis threw a pastel making party for me. It's always a joy to use these beauties!

Although I am not a true synesthete, I do have strong associations across the senses. I often have strong impressions that days have key signatures (today is d minor, in case you're interested). And, since we're talking about violet today, it makes perfect sense to me to share the second Gershwin Prelude. In my sensibility, it is violet.

Here's a fascinating TED talk about Daniel Tammet, an incredible synesthete. You'll enjoy his story here.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


It was some Saturday in 1968. I'm certain it was Saturday because Dad was at home and we were not getting ready for church, which would have marked the day as a Sunday. Saturday, then. 

Dad moved our little black and white television out of the den to make room for the brand new COLOR TELEVISION! It was a large piece of furniture, a dark walnut covered box that was so heavy and bulky that it required the help of the neighbor, Mr. Batt, to muscle it out of the back of the station wagon and up the porch steps into the den. 
Dad muttered as he plugged it in, attached it to the antenna on the roof with small wires and screws. We even had an extra set of "rabbit ears" that could go on top of the television if necessary. Now, the final adjustments with the mysterious knobs. Because the knobs were on the back of the television, Dad relied on us kids to sit in front of the screen and shout out if the picture was better or worse with his adjustments. 

Since we were all under 8 years old, we were not the most helpful assistants. Enthusiastic, yes. Helpful? Not so much. We did not have a clear idea that there was some kind of color television perfection (already established out there by someone) we were trying to achieve. We liked it when the picture squeezed in at the sides like an hourglass. Or when the contrast was so high that everything looked other-worldly.

Dad had to walk in front of the screen several times to see for himself if the picture was better or worse from his ministrations. The vertical knob made the picture stop flipping. Contrast helped us see things out of the colored fog on the screen. Finally, the color knob. If not adjusted right, faces were green instead of flesh. And landscapes were red. Color was always the hardest adjustment because Dad is color blind and we kids liked seeing Captain Kirk with a violet face. Mom was called in to be the color judge. She always knows the direction of the perfection standard.

As I painted this color sketch, I thought back to that day, that Saturday in 1968, when my family got our first color television set.  And I smiled.

Monday, July 18, 2011

orange and blue zing!

Orange Cattails, 7 x 11, pastel on paper
When orange and blue are close together, they hum and buzz like loud crickets.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

next stop on the color wheel: yellow

Cattails Yellow, 11 x 7, pastel on paper
One position from Yellow Green on my Analogous Color Wheel is Yellow and all of its neighbors and complements. Still Cattails, but warmer and a bit more serious somehow.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Cattails -- featuring Yellow Green

Yellow Green Cattails, 7 x 11, pastel on paper
Probably like you, I have strong color preferences. When in doubt, I will reach for yellow orange and blue. Even if I have no doubts, I reach for these colors. They have become comfortable in my hands, easy on my eyes, and my good friends.

Not that there's anything wrong with that ...

But, I think it has left me weak with other color harmonies. Challenged. Uneasy. Sometimes I even experience "stranger danger" with other color combinations.

So, find a problem, figure out a solution, right? I took out my trusty Analogous Color Wheel, and dialed in a less-familiar main color: Yellow Green. And I worked the rest of this painting around the analogous and complementary colors. Not what I would normally choose, but it works. And I loved the challenge of putting together colors in a new way.

I just might have to do this again!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

foundations for castles

20 x 20, charcoal, gouache, pastel on prepared panel

If you built castles
in the air, your work need not be lost;
that is where they should be. Now put
foundations under them.

-- Henry David Thoreau

Monday, July 11, 2011

benefits of critique


Once a month I meet with the members of Portland Women in Abstract Media group for critique and art conversation. I love the energy of the group and their willingness to question, experiment, and explore.

I brought in the "original" painting you see above. The group had me turn it in every possible orientation to "see what happens." All of their feedback was helpful. All were distracted by the purple "pyramids" and some of the other shapes. I think what helped me most of all was standing back and looking objectively at the painting. It looked pale and uncertain. You know what? It looked just like I felt about painting it.

I often feel like I am stepping off the dock of representational work into the boat of abstraction. I have one foot on the dock and one foot on the boat and feel stuck and in danger of falling in the water! 

When I came home I was eager to re-work this piece with my new ideas. I added gesso and acrylic pastel ground in places and let things dry. Then I started to really explore the shapes and colors of late afternoon sunlight, water, sails, shapes, texture, and ambiguity.

I am much happier with the revised painting. And grateful for the opportunity to participate in critique. 

I would love to hear about your critique group experiences.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

explore an idea

How many different ways can I think of to express the idea of a sailboat on the water? Seven times? Ten? How about 70 times 7? More? Seems it's not just about sailboats.

Drawing sailboats and thinking of this song ...

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Hay finish

Bales 1, 9 x 14, mixed media and pastel on paper

They rest patiently in the evening sun. Content to sit. Content to wait. 
Content to lose their heavy green wetness.

I have much to learn from the hay.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Hay start

Their curves flatten where they sit on the cool ground. Reminds me of how a model's thigh flattens where it sits on the wooden bench.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Keep showing up!

It became a "buttermilk sky" and I loved laying on the deck to watch it develop. My thoughts went to a time when our puppy, Scooter, shredded one of Mom's decorator pillows. The fluff matched the clouds. Maybe that's why we call them "fluffy clouds."

I think that the creative process is endlessly fascinating, frustrating, elusive, energizing, and always interesting. Here's a great talk by author Elizabeth Gilbert ("Eat, Pray, Love") on the subject. I hope you'll listen, but moreover, I hope that you have the courage and the strength to keep showing up to your own wonderful art journey!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

On the water

Happy Independence Day weekend! I hope that you enjoy the sun, the barbeques, the leisure, and the point of the holiday. We're on the water and life is good!