It’s been a very long time since I’ve posted anything here. Since last time I wrote here the gallery that represented me in Seattle has closed. That’s two galleries that have closed under me. I recently joined the artist owned gallery Waterstone Gallery in Northwest Portland and I have a show scheduled for the month of November. The opening reception will be on November 6 and on First Thursday November 7.
I’ve also decided, for various reasons – some of them beyond my control, to leave my home. I’ve lived in this house since 1983, when my first daughter was born and my second daughter was born in the house. It was a very difficult decision but I think it’s the right thing for me now.
The theme of my upcoming show is “Sacred Space”. I arrived at it not just because I’m leaving my sanctuary but, as I’ve done a lot of grief and healing work over the past few years, I’ve found myself in nondescript houses and buildings around town that no one would suspect of being places where such intimate acts occur. I’ve always loved Alan Ginsberg’s poem “A footnote to Howl” which declares that everything is holy and I believe that’s true.
My paintings are still on view at Portland’5 Centers for the Arts along with fellow artists, Shawn Demarest and Beth Kerschen. The show will be up until Feb 3. If you’re in the neighborhood, please stop in. The lobby, where the show is hanging is open until 5pm during the day as well as performance nights. Below are some snaps of the installation.
Portland’5 Centers for the Arts – 1111 SW Broadway, Portland, OR 97205
As I’ve been making work related to the upcoming show themed “Surroundings” I have not been able to ignore the increasing evidence of homelessness in the urban landscape of Portland and it’s started to show up in the paintings. If I divorce myself from the social and personal tragedy of it and look at it from a visual perspective, it is an undeniable ‘texture’ to our city’s landscape. I watch as camps come and go and come again. They spread out as other campers join and the detritus they generate grows as time passes with no sanitation services. It’s troubling and it’s an undeniable part of our current landscape.
I’ll be part of a three person show, along with Shawn Demarest and Beth Kerschen in December at the Portland’5 Center for the Performing Arts. Shawn and Beth and I showed together in 2013 and I’m looking forward to hanging together again.
The theme of the show is “Surroundings” and I’m including work that’s come out of my experience of my exterior as well as interior surroundings. Above is a new piece for this show. I believe the opening for the show is the First Thursday in December. More details to follow.
In July, it was five years since my wife, Leslie, died from breast cancer. I wrote quite a lot about it here, at the time. I stopped writing about it after a year but, of course, the process of grief continues. It seems strange to think of all that’s happened without her presence since that time. I’ve learned a lot about myself through this process. I can’t always tell if I’m processing or indulging but I’m sometimes moved to paint something that arises out of the experience of loss and attachment.
My life is good. I’ve met a wonderful woman to share it with. I think of what I’ve lost and try to balance it with what I’ve gained.
I’ve been working on this painting for 6 months. Centennial Mills viewed from the Broadway Bridge as it was several years ago. It was a favorite site of mine in Portland that no longer exists. All that remains is the building with the water tower. The city had plans to redevelop it but they gave up and, over the last year or two, most of it has been torn down.
I’m sad to see so much of what I consider to be Portland being demolished and gentrified.
I have been baking all my own bread for a few months now but have recently become obsessed with sourdough. It took me a while to get a viable starter going but since that happened I’ve been baking two or three times a week. After a personal loss, I’ve been using the bread making as a kind of mindfulness practice. My life is quite simple and monastic now. I’ve quit FaceBook and have been enjoying the solitude of my studio and kitchen. I’m spending most of my time reading, baking and painting.
Each batch of sourdough takes a couple of days as the dough sits overnight to ferment. It’s pretty amazing when you think that all that’s in this bread is flour, water and a little salt. The leaven is from naturally occurring yeasts and bacteria that are on the flour and in the air.
I mix the flour with water and it becomes a living, moving thing. I love shaping the dough into loaves and watching it slowly fill with air.
And the result is beautiful and tasty. Below is a video clip of the loaves just out of the oven. Turn up the volume and listen to them crackle!!
After returning from Italy, I was a bit lost again, as I was the first time I went. It took me a while to figure out what to do next. I have felt a lot of loss in the second half of the year and I’ve been strongly affected by our political situation. In times like this I tend to turn inward which is kind of good for painting but not so good for relationships.
As a result of the feelings of loss, I’ve returned to a theme I didn’t feel complete with, my wife’s death four years ago. I’ve struggled with how to approach painting about it and decided to just start by doing a few paintings of the room where she died. It is also the room I spend most of my time in, aside from the studio.
The painting above, of Les’ dog, Miki was partly inspired by the idea of Places of Power, as described in Carlos Castaneda’s books. That is Miki’s power place. I don’t know if any of these paintings are finished, except for the first which sold before I had to decide.
It’s been quite a while since I last wrote anything here. Since then, I spent a very hot month and a half in Italy, one month of which was a painting residency at the Jerusalem Studio School Summer program in Civita Castellana. I attended the same program in the summer of 2014 and it was nice to see some old friends and to meet new folks. For me, that seems to be what I like most about it. The heat was oppressive though and I’ll think long and hard before spending another July in Italy.
As before, I worked mainly in watercolor. I’m not sure why except that it’s more mobile, faster and less cumbersome than oils.
For the last five years I’ve been represented, in Portland and Palm Springs, CA, by Brian Marki Fine Art. The Portland gallery is closing next month and I will have 5 paintings included in the final show at the Portland site.
This show is up now. There is a reception on June 16th from 5pm til 8pm . If you’re in town this will be the last opportunity to see my work in Portland, for now at least.
Brian Marki Fine Art – 2236 NE Broadway, Portland OR 97232 – (503) 249-5659
I was pleasantly surprised to be notified that the painting above has been selected as part of the Ninth National Juried Exhibition at the Prince Street Gallery in NYC. The juror, Stuart Shils, is a painter I admire very much so I’m pleased that he liked the work. If you’re reading this near NYC, the show runs from July 11 until July 29 with an opening reception on July 15 from 3pm til 6pm. I will, unfortunately, not be able to attend.
I recently completed a commission for a business near the Broadway Bridge, here in Portland. The bridge dominates the view from their office and they wanted a painting of it to use in promotional materials, etc.
I don’t like to do commissions and I know nothing about graphic design but I like the bridge and welcomed the opportunity to paint it again so I accepted. I also have no process for commissions. When I met with the client to talk about the painting, I never asked how large the work should be and totally forgot to talk about prices. I ended up doing two paintings for them and they selected one. This is the other. The client was very kind and accepting of my lack of professionalism, with regard to commissions. Still, I’m reluctant to take on any more commissions.
When I’m in bed thinking about painting, I appear in my thoughts painting furiously, using anything and everything to make marks on the canvas. I even saw myself painting with a couch recently. The paintings are huge, profound and heartbreaking.
I don’t usually do commissions but a friend asked if I’d memorialize a dog of hers who recently died and I started some small gouache studies. I’m finding that, since I didn’t know the dog, it’s difficult to know if I’m capturing something of this particular pup or if it’s just a generic Yorkie.
A quick self portrait done before falling ill with a bad cold. Despite the cold, I had a lovely birthday, celebrated with dear friends and my daughters, who conspired to surprise me by both coming home.
Paro is the city where I started and ended my trip to Bhutan. I believe it’s the only city with an international airport. It’s a dramatic arrival as you fly through the Himalayas. My Everest was prominent both arriving and departing. Because of my inept travel planning, It took me 4 days to travel from Paro to my home in Portland.
In November of last year, I spent a couple of weeks traveling in the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan.
I didn’t get as much time to paint, as I’d like because to travel in Bhutan, you pretty much have to be with a guide and so I had to stick to the schedule of the tour I was on. There were a couple of times I stayed behind and did some sketching, though.
This was at a nunnery that we hiked to. It was at about 10,000 ft elevation and I found it challenging to keep my breath hiking up there.
This was one that I left the group to do. It was a beautiful day and many other hikers stopped to visit while I painted. I think meeting locals and fellow travelers is my favorite thing about trips like this.
I’ve given up on my ‘new’ website and moved to another platform that was simpler to manage. Please check it out at http://billsharppaintings.com. There is also a link at the top of the blog page.
I recently spent a couple of weeks traveling around the Himalayan Mountain country of Bhutan and have been remembering some of the sights with gouache sketches. I’m sharing a couple here partly to see if the subscriptions still work. I hope everyone who asked to follow me will be notified.
My watercolors, I have recently been informed by a concerned reader, are not universally loved. Despite that, I’m going to post these anyway because I like them and enjoy making them.
The first one is a scene in the Palermo Neighborhood of Buenos Aires.
The painting below is of a house in the town of Ushuaia which is at the southernmost tip of Argentina in Patagonia. It is the point from which one would sail to Antarctica. It’s a very beautiful town with the Andes Mountains meeting the Beagle Channel.