Tuesday, August 31, 2010

People on San Juan Island

A musician in a bluegrass band. A girl at a coffee house. People watching and people sketching makes me happy. Roche Harbor in the sunshine. That makes me happy, too.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Intriuge or foolishness

Like my words, I want my paintings to say just enough to intrigue but not so much as to prove my own foolishness.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Haddington Island

Changing the horizon line lessens the importance of the water. In this one I was especially interested in the line between the water and the sky on the left side of the island.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Curiouser and curiouser

This is one of seven or eight paintings I did of Haddington Island in British Columbia. I painted it again and again as a stake in the ground to mark my resolve to quit painting "pretty pictures." Not that there's anything wrong with pretty pictures, but it is a wrong goal for me with my work.

Instead, my goal is for every painting to be an opportunity to let curiosity have free reign. To follow what intrigues me and not consider the outcome.

Land, sky, water. How they meet, mingle, ignore, and embrace each other. How they are interesting apart as much as together. I find that even writing about it makes me want to paint it again.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Back in the USA!

When the wind blows hard, it whistles past antennae, around canvas, through window screens, against rigging, and creates a weird symphony of sounds. It was to this accompaniment, I painted the water of Roche Harbor toward Speiden Channel.

I am nearly out of Wallis paper, the perfect support for a dispersion under painting with pastel on top. Lots of tooth in the paper to take as much as I could throw on it.

It is so good to be back in Washington!

Thursday, August 26, 2010


Sometimes the shapes stay separate and don't blend in the under painting. It seems that there's nothing brings together the elements. I hate it when that happens.

The Mother Lode!

Before I left British Columbia, I wanted to collect some books about Canadian artists. I hit the mother lode in Nanaimo. Three used book stores on the same street and between them, I found the above treasures.

Thanks to Jan Yates for her suggestions about Emily Carr.

Other artists' books are about: Tom Thomson , Group of Seven, Toni Onley, and Robert Genn.

Plus, by buying all used books, I did not spend a fortune!

Saturday, August 21, 2010


Thinking about how little it takes to suggest something much bigger and more detailed. Maybe saying less (using fewer strokes and detail) leaves more room for the viewer. Just thinking.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


"Summer Reading" smacks of a grade school assignment, doesn't it? Before leaving home in May, I solicited my friends to let me borrow books for our great boating adventure. In addition, I made many purchases and have done a lot of reading. There's been plenty of time to read while boating through the waters of Washington, British Columbia, and Alaska.

The three best art books I have read so far this summer are the ones you see above in the photograph. I highly recommend them to you and suggest that you get ahold of them and read them yourselves.

#1. Art and Physics by Leonard Shlain. This is a thoughtful book, filled with wonderful insights about the parallel discoveries in the worlds of art and science. Even if you are not too interested in Physics, you will find this a great read. I'm still pondering these words, by J. Baldwin as quoted in the book,
"The purpose of art is to lay bare the questions which have been hidden by the answers."
#2. Like Breath on Glass: Whistler, Inness, and the Art of Painting Softly by Marc Simpson. Written as a collection of essays that went with the art exhibition of the same title, this book amazed me with its depth and breadth. Plus, as a resident of the Pacific Northwest, I am challenged with painting misty, rainy, foggy vistas and found this book helpful in giving me some hooks on which to hang new ideas. I've copied into my sketchbook this quote by James McNeill Whistler,
"The imitator is a poor kind of creature. If the man who paints only the tree, or flower, or other surface he sees before him were an artist, the king of artists would be the photographer. It is for the artist to do something beyond this."
#3. The Forest Lover by Susan Vreeland. This slightly fictionalized biography of the life of Emily Carr was an easy and fun read. My enjoyment was probably enhanced by traveling through areas Carr painted and traveled in during her lifetime, but beyond that, the book was insightful about the life of an artist and particularly a female artist. Canada is in the midst of celebrating and rediscovering Carr's work and I find copies of her paintings on potholders and address books and note cards and all kinds of other objects. Before I leave Canada, I will make sure to pick up more books about Emily Carr and her life and art. Click here to see some murals of Carr's work on Vancouver Island. More about Carr here.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Foggust in Port Mc Neill


Anan Bear Observatory. Accessible only by water and hike. We did it, even though I hoped to keep bears at a great distance on this trip. Not on this adventure. Bears up close and personal. Incredible. Frightening. Absolutely amazing.

Monday, August 16, 2010

pastel over watercolor under painting

watercolor under painting

This is the third painting I did. I have seen a lot of these rocks as we have traveled. Rocks with algae, carved by water and wind and glaciers, trees growing when there is enough dirt. The boat swung toward the previous post scene and I painted that. The boat swung toward these rocks and I painted that. What a great day! I can't say that I was enthralled with the scene, but I thought about something Loriann Signori shared on her blog. She said that Richard McKinley suggested that she also paint things she doesn't love, things that don't excite her to hone her skills. I took that information to heart (thank you, Loriann, for sharing it!) and painted this rock.

Do you ever paint things that don't excite you?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The light in the trees in Berg Bay, SE Alaska

When I set up to paint this time, I had three pieces of paper with me. I figured, if the boat was going to move around, I would be prepared. As it turned out, because the wind held us in one spot for a while, I was able to paint two pieces with the same view. The third one I will post another time.

The top photo is my second painting. In it, I zeroed in on what interested me most about this scene. It was the was the light that caught on the thin bits of moss on the tree and on the thin leaves of the underbrush. With all of the dramatic darks everywhere, it was the light that grabbed me. In the first piece, I paid homage to the pretty algae and lichen growth on the rocks, the shapes of the trees and the rocks, and the weird green water (near the Stikine River). I felt okay about this painting but I knew that I had backed away from what interested me most. In the second try, it was all about the light.

Since I don't know when I will be in Alaska again to paint, I want to make sure to paint what I see. Paint how I feel. Paint that peculiar light of 58 degrees north.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Sketches and wildlife on the route south

Sunset on Keku Strait
between Kupreanof and Kuiu Islands

Black (brown) bear at Red Bluff Bay
Baranof Island

Humpback whales in Frederick Sound
near Kake, Kupreanof Island

Whales give me a thrill!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Waterfall in Red Bluff Bay, Baranof Island

Before painting, I studied this scene for a long time. I thought about it, wrote about it, felt it. Considered what about it meant the most to me. Then I painted. So often, I rush into a plein air painting to hurry and get it done before I run out of time/light/energy. Whatever. This time I took it slow.

It felt like the water came shooting out like cannonfire from the side of the tree-covered bluff. The walls of the bay echoed and amplified its thunder.

The light shape against the dark ground interested me most. I felt no obligation to explain what happened to the water once it hit the pool beneath the falls. Or to delineate the hundreds of thousands of trees surrounding its wonder. Just the shape and brilliance of the falls. Maybe the painting suffered because I did not include enough information or detail. Or, maybe it is the briefest of poems with lots of gaps for others to fill and interpret this landscape for themselves.

No less than 10 falls dropped from the cliffs towering 1000' above this bay. After a cloudy and showery evening, morning broke with a clear sky and warm breeze. Two black bears prowled the shore, fishing and eating the tender vegetation. What a place!

Baranof Island, Sinbad Point

When going through narrow bits of water, it's especially important to understand which direction the water is traveling, how fast, and how much. There are areas that must be traveled through at "high slack" which means that the water is as deep as it gets and it's not moving at all. What is calm and lake-like at high slack can be filled with exposed rocks, dangerous rapids and overfalls at other times.

Before going through Sergius Narrows, we waited for high slack at Sinbad Point. It was a quiet place, and rather than taking a nap, I took a painting break.