Sunday, March 29, 2009

Salal with Butterfly

Salal with Butterfly - 16 x 16 - oil on canvas (top)
Detail of Butterfly from Salal with Butterfly - ( bottom)
A stress-filled week was followed by a weekend of self-enforced relaxation. Sleeping late, a trip to Portland for art supplies and books, and baking some cookies put me in the mood to try and finish this painting. Try being the operative word. It's by no means finished, nor is it what I originally envisioned--like any painting ever is? But the inspiration came about after reading several issues of Lower Columbia College's literary and arts magazine, The Salal Review.
Allan had to explain what salal is to me. I had no idea. I couldn't even pronounce it correctly. But lo and behold, it's a Northwest plant I've most likely stepped on more than once. So I gathered pictures of salal from my online photo sharing group and created this composition. Adding the butterfly was just, well, me; that is, I love butterflies.
On my art supply run I picked up a dog-eared, sale-rack copy of Hawthorne on Painting, copyright 1938, by the artist's wife Mrs. Hawthorne. The name 'Hawthorne' rang a bell but I have no idea why. Turns out Charles W. Hawthorne founded the Cape Cod School of Art after studying under William Merrit Chase. After reading a few pages I realized why 'Hawthorne' rang a bell. He was one of the inspirations for Susan Sarbach's painting style (and her School of Light and Color), which I've long admired.
Quite simply, Hawthorne describes painting as:
1) 'the mechanics of putting one spot of color next to another---the fundamental thing."
What can be simpler than that? And why is it so gosh darned hard?
I won't bore you with more quips from the book, except for this one, on how to be an artist:
2) "Don't try to be an artist all at once, be very much a student. Be always searching, never settle to do anything you've done before. Always be looking for the unexpected in nature--you can have no formulas for anything; search constantly. Don't learn how to do things, keep on inquiring how."
That's what I hope to accomplish with this painting.
1) J. C. Hawthorne, Hawthorne on Painting, Pitman Publishing Corporation 1938, Dover edition 1960, Charles Webster Hawthorne by Joseph Hawthorne (introduction), xiii
2) same as above, 19
Note: I couldn't find any online reference on how to create a bibliography in a blog post, so I followed the Modern Language Association (MLA) rules for citations.

Saturday, March 28, 2009


Decay - 5 x 7 - graphite on paper

This is my third pencil drawing this year after being inspired to return to the world of detail by Terry Miller and Monica Baustert-Sweetser. The leaf inspiration came from a tramp through the property below ours with my cat to find some old, decaying, yet interesting things that I could draw in black and white. The cat had a great time; I got a lot of mud on my shoes! I found dried up blackberry branches, moldy weeds, a lot of rabbit holes, and other gunk. There were quite a few strewn and decaying leaves from neighboring property owner's trees and I picked up these two to draw. Voila. I also named this series Earth Portraits.

On another note, Allan won an award for his painting Plein Air Pete's, AKA Poker Pete's Pizza at the Columbian Artists 33rd Annual Juried Spring Show. He was surprised and quite proud of himself. Congratulations! Several people commented to us at the opening reception that they love the pizza there, as do we!

And finally, although I haven't accomplished much lately, I did sell my painting Dande Wind through REimaginations. It was purchased by someone at the Ontario Energy Board in Canada. I hope they like it!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Poseidon - fini

Poseidon - 18 x 24 - oil on canvas (top)
Study for Poseidon - 9 x 12 - gouache on paper (bottom)
See on my website
Poseidon is finished at last and ready for the Columbian Artists Association 33rd Annual Spring Juried show, coming up next week. I'm also entering Klimt Scarf, my first portrait done this year (Poseidon is my second).
My model, the mighty Sea God himself, critiqued the final painting stages and advised against adding dripping blood to the pointy tips of his trident, as I'd done in the study. "Don't get carried away," he said, while graphically demonstrating how he'd go about spearing a naughty human with that very same trident!
I take it he's satisfied with the result, as am I, although not that happy with the overall process, which was tedious. My medium mixtures have already been adjusted in my third portrait, to be shared later.
The murky blue-green sea depths and more translucent water at the top are what I was trying to convey, as if he is emerging from the sea floor to say, this is my turf!
With that, I think I'll dare to ask Mr. mighty Sea God himself if he can fix that leaking faucet downstairs? !

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Coco Blackburn at Eleven O'49

Coco Blackburn - Divine Recollections
Eleven O'49 Studio & Gallery
February 23 - March 21, 2009
We drove to downtown Milwaukee for my friend Coco's painting and mixed-media artist reception at Eleven O'49 Studio & Gallery. One thing about Coco--she loves to make art with materials you'd never think of as art materials. Plywood, copper, canvas, caulk, fabric, screen, nails, screws, wire, branches, latex house paint and glow-in-the-dark paint, you name it, she uses it. Then you stand in front of it and go wow! It's almost as if a different person created each piece.
A gallery manager told me recently that gallery managers look for consistency in an artist's body of work; whether it has uniformity in style, subject and presentation. It makes me wonder whether a body of work can be consistent in its inconsistency? Because I struggle with that concept; consistency. I mean, how can an artist do the same thing all the time? It gets boring after a while. Artists have to expend tremendous energy creating a body of work, and sometimes before it's finished, we move onto something better. The whole process means improving as an artist, which naturally leads to better (and different) artwork. So we're left with either a lot of different bodies of work, or unfinished bodies of work; voila the inconsistency.
For sure Coco is doing that and in my opinion she could teach me a thing or two. So good for you Coco. Keep up the great work. I love your art because it is consistently you!
If you have time see Coco's show, the address is 11049 SE 21st in downtown Milwaukee, Oregon. A quaint little place I might visit again sometime. See ya 'round, Coco!

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Save the Bats

Save the Bats

5 x 7 - graphite: Available - contact the artist

A small pencil drawing about bats is in keeping with my idea to create a series of drawings about environmental subjects. 

I was inspired by two graphite artists I discovered recently: Terry Miller and Monica Baustert-Sweetser. I mentioned Terry Miller in my post on Coal Plant last month. Monica's ad about botanical portraits in Art Business News led me to her website and subsequent interest in her drawings.

The intensive process of stroking a sharpened pencil across a piece of paper thousands of times in an effort to create a recognizable composition has the ability to stop time and calm my mind. It's like entering a time warp where nothing exists except the artwork. Back in high school (a long time ago) my best friend Irene and I spent whole weekends creating detailed pencil drawings. Today our lives and jobs are far removed from the art world, but I know the artist still lives in us.

This drawing is an improvement over Coal Plant. I maintained a more delicate touch with the blacks, building them up by holding back on the softest black pencils until the end. That's the hardest part; patience.