Wednesday, August 31, 2011

light on the flat edges

8 x 13, pastel on Sienna Uart
Water is endlessly fascinating to me. It flows and catches the light on its flat edges. Every color and no color, just dazzling bright glare.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

everything emptying into white

Lilies and Hydrangeas, 8 x 10, oil on canvas panel
Plugging away at my assignment from Elio Camacho. Number 20 above. 180 to go. As I prepare to apply each new stroke, I ask myself, "is this lighter or darker than what's next to it? cooler or warmer?" and I mix the color on my palette to match what I see. This is one of the more successful all white still life studies. But, more to come!

And, it seems that Cat Stevens was right, even Carly Simon thinks so. Everything's emptying into white!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Saturday, August 27, 2011

longing for peace

watercolor sketch, urn with geraniums

Franciscan Villa of Bridal Veil, OR

beautiful interior with ceiling details

front door entrance with reflecting pond and lily pads
My group, the Portland Plein Air and Studio Painters, were privileged to be invited to paint and sketch at the Franciscan Villa at Bridal Veil, OR. Kathy Allegri has hosted several paint outs here, but this is the first time I have been able to attend.

The grounds are lovely, complete with waterfall, formal gardens, fountains, trails, stone foot bridges, and many benches for quiet contemplation and rest. The villa is the residence for the teaching Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist and we were warmly welcomed and invited in to rest in the cool of the parlor.

I have deep family roots in Catholicism and my family tree has three nuns (two deceased) in the great-aunt generation. The quiet, the beauty, the statues, the reminders of St Francis of Assisi were soothing elements to this serene spot. I am so glad I was able to go this time. You can see more photos from the day here.

Quiet and beauty and a longing for a peaceful life resonate with me, as does the 13th century prayer of St Francis of Assisi, and the hope of many, regardless of religion or belief.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

not going home

In the days before GPS, I have so confess, I enjoyed getting lost. I enjoyed making a right turn when I knew that a left was the "right" way to go to my destination. 

Sometimes I questioned whether arriving at the destination was really the point, or if the wandering was more what I was seeking. I followed neighborhoods lined with Crepe Myrtle trees, looked for curbs with rings for tying up horses, cheered homes that seemed to be lifted from children's story books. I turned around at dead ends, backed down driveways, and even (sometimes) went the wrong way down a one way street. Not on purpose!

With this idea of the lamp posts, I have driven off the main path, gotten lost, found something to explore for a while. When it no longer interests me, I can press the "Go Home" button and make my way back. 

But I will be different. I will be changed by the experience.

And so, I will once again argue with my GPS, that you can never really "Go Home." And I'm not even so sure that it matters.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

work for it

Started with six variations of the lamp post composition. It was interesting to see the differing effects I got by moving the lamp post left and right and center. 

In the center, the lamp post took on the look of O'Keeffe's skyscrapers or Lawren Harris' lighthouse

Look here to see a great video about Harris, one of the excellent Canadian Group of Seven painters.

Monday, August 22, 2011


Ask any overachiever. If you miss one question on a test, which is the one bit of information you will retain 25 years later? The correct answer to that question that you missed.

Likewise, when the lamp post painting tanked last week, it became a frustrating MISS for me. I sat with my sketchbook and put down some of my thoughts and ideas for a new lamp post painting. One that might be a HIT. I like hits. Oh, yeah. Hits are much better than misses.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

there is no try

20 x 24, pastel on mounted Wallis paper
Not satisfied with my first painting of the cattails using orange and its analogous colors, I painted again. And, I will no doubt paint again and again until I am satisfied.

Now, back to work. There is much more to do.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

plein air at the Rose Garden

under painting with pigments in dispersion

my set up, between the rows with Mom looking on

this is as far as I took the painting in the field
With the morning cloud cover we had, it sure wasn't going to be a light-filled or light-directed subject for painting today at the Portland Rose Garden in Washington Park. I was not frustrated by the clouds, but simply happy to be in town and able to paint with Kitty Wallis and other painters from the Portland Plein Air and Studio Painters group.

How do you decide on your plein air subject when you go out to paint?

I am determined to paint what grabs my attention, and in this case it was the lamp post with the clematis and roses curving around its sturdy structure. I did two small pen sketches and then set up to paint big (in this case, 24 x 18). You can see my set up in the second photograph, along with the silvery haired woman, my mother, sitting in the chair next to my easel to keep me company. (Mom is here to wait with me for the arrival of my first grandchild and her first great-grandchild! Due September 16 -- it's a BOY!)

First I did a charcoal sketch and made some directional marks to indicate how I saw things fitting together. Next, I did a wet wash of pigments in dispersion. Finally, I applied the pastel. 

Mom commented that this was the first time she had seen me paint an entire painting from sketch to finish and she enjoyed watching it become a "really pretty painting." 

Not to contradict Mom, but I think that this one needs some tweaking in the studio. Maybe I'll get back to the Rose Garden to see the same scene with sunlight on it. That would have helped keep this painting from looking so flat. 

But, as I like to say, any day painting is a good day! How was yours?

Monday, August 15, 2011

white #4

Set up a problem for yourself and then figure out a way to solve it.

These words appear in many of my sketchbooks and notes from art books I have read over the years. I have heard them from fellow artists, teachers, and authors. And now, I am working at not just being a listener, but a do-er.

Yesterday's white still life painting was a disaster and the paper towel roll looked like it had been stomped on by a gorilla. That became my problem to solve today: paint the paper towel roll with feeling and lush paint so that it looks like you really endorse and love those paper towels.

Or, something like that.

I am pleased with the paper towel roll in this painting.  No gorilla crushed its core. It has a nice shape, good rhythm, and I think I could dance to it.

There are plenty of new problems to solve in the white still lifes ahead. And, you know what? That's a very good thing.

The Beatles were just a little bit ahead of my time, but because the cool teenagers who were my role models, idols, and babysitters loved the group, I became a big fan at a young age. And, because I am all about white these days, here's another thought about The White Album. REVOLUTION!

Well, you know we'd all like to change the world ...

Saturday, August 13, 2011

blue cattails

7 x 11, pastel on BFK
Still working my way around the color wheel with the cattails paintings. This time it's all about blue and its analogous and complementary colors. By creating my own textured surface (Acrylic Pastel Ground on Rives BFK paper), I feel like I'm speaking my native language with another native language speaker. All of the lines and bumps make perfect sense to me, because I created them.

When I first started to hear about colors and their complements, I thought artists were referring to "compliments." As if the blues and violets in this painting whispered to the oranges and yellows, "Oh, darling, you look divine! That dress is mahvelous! And your shoes are amazing! Come here and sit with us at the popular table. Really! You must!"

What a letdown to learn that I was wrong.

Friday, August 12, 2011


He said it many times during the course of our workshop last month, so I decided to take Elio Camacho at his word.

"Find your weaknesses," he urged. "Start with all white objects in a still life and see if you can see and paint the changes in temperature, value, and still describe the shapes of your objects."

10 x 8, oil on canvas panel
I understand that I may be a while at this particular exercise. Say, 200 or more. I won't share all of them on the blog, but here is the first. All white still life. In oil. Per Elio Camacho. I painted it, photographed it, then wiped it away. This was fun to do and I can see that I have plenty to learn.

I am using one of the limited palettes Elio suggested. Yellow Ochre, Viridian, Alizarin Crimson, white, and black. I think that this is the "Zorn Palette."

Speaking of white makes me think of the Beatles' White Album! What is your favorite song? I have many favorites, here's one ...

Thursday, August 11, 2011


before it got slumped
This was my first glass slumping experience and while I enjoyed playing with the glass pieces (the color and shapes were dazzling), I was disappointed in the final result. No experience is wasted and I will look for opportunities to try this again.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Tacoma and glass

the furnaces were fired and the artists worked the glass at MOG

Lemon Drop Mouse, glass sculpture done from a child's drawing at MOG

Union Station in Tacoma, "Wall of Baskets" by Dale Chihuly

Union Station sea forms by Dale Chihuly
Ooh, color and glass and more fun in Tacoma. The Museum of Glass has a wonderful exhibit of glass sculpture that were exact representations of children's drawings. I loved it! It reminds me that play is crucial to art making. The exhibit is on until October 2011. I hope you'll go there if you haven't already been. Next time I go, I will have to buy the catalog just to read the childrens' comments about their creature creations.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Bainbridge Island graffiti art and lava lamps

unexpected art on Bainbridge Island

water reflects the sky and clouds in elipses

gray skies and dark evergreens in roundish bits

 I keep watching the reflections in the water. It calms like a lava lamp!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

watery thoughts

patterns on the water remind me of Chuck Close

sweet ride on the water (photo credit: Steven Rush)

Mt Rainier dominates the vistas of Puget Sound  ... read about it here, watercolor

sketchbook page from today, ink, Inktense pencils, water

"Zee hond" in Dutch, translated "sea dog" ... aaarf!

On the water and I can feel my perspectives changing. In my spare time I increased my Dutch vocabulary, but I long to get back to my oils and practice what I learned at Elio's workshop. Soon enough.

glass in Tacoma

abstracting the landscape in glass at a workshop at MOG

nighttime neon

nighttime view of "rock candy" glass
glass sea forms by Chihuly

Museum of Glass in Tacoma, WA
departing Tacoma on the Thea Foss Waterway