I’ve just returned from a month of painting as part of the Jerusalem Studio School Summer Program in Civita Castellana, Italy. It was very stimulating to spend so much time with people dedicated to painting, including modern masters, Israel Hershberg, Vincent Desiderio and Yael Scalia. They were very generous with their time and knowledge. Living and working among so many artists is a wonderful experience. I miss the daily immersion in painting and the camaraderie.
The month was packed with opportunities for artistic experiences. Every Thursday was a bus trip to another city with maps and lists of art treasures to visit. Sunday nights the guest artists showed slides and talked about their work. Two critiques a week led by Vince, Israel or Yael and on regular painting days, the instructors would wander the town and visit painters at work. Communal meals were served in the hotel or various other restaurants in the town and you could usually find some of our community at the Club Cafe either having a cappuccino or drinks late into the night.
Although I went there with the intention of painting in oil, I started out wandering the town with my sketchbook and watercolors and really loved soaking in the experience that way so continued to work largely in watercolor. I did rent a studio for the last two weeks and did some oil painting there and plein air but the watercolors were the bulk of the work I produced.
Although I spent a lot of time painting, the largest impact on me, I think, will be from the time spent in conversation with the other painters and instructors. I came home with a lot to think about.
I went out painting with a friend last week and came across a small herd of cows lounging in the sun. They were the same type of cows that I often see in Roos Schuring’s paintings. She’s a fantastic painter in Holland. I wrote about her back in Aug 2012.
So I decided to see if I could paint these cows ala Roos Schuring.
Last night was the opening reception for my show of paintings at Brian Marki Fine Art. It was great to see old friends and meet new ones. Thank you to everyone who came out.
Brian did a really great job of hanging and lighting the work. I hardly recognized the paintings.
The most frequently asked question was, why are they called dolphins? To which I responded, why are the sides of a boat called gunwhales? I do not understand nautical terms.
Here are a few pictures from the reception. The show is up until the end of August. If you’re nearby, please stop by and let me know what you think.
REMINDER. The opening reception for
OIL, WATER and INK: Artistic Interpretations of the Built Environment
with paintings by Shawn Demarest, prints by Beth Kerschen and paintings and sketchbooks by me is tonight,
Feb 7th from 5:30 til 8:30
AIA Center for Architecture. 403 NW 11th Ave Portland. (NW 11th and Flanders).
Thanks everyone who traveled out to the western frontier of the Portland Open Studios tour, over the last 2 weekends. Although I didn’t get as many visitors as I may have gotten, were I more centrally located, I got the sense that many folks who came by did so because they’d looked up my website and liked what they saw.
I also had the opportunity to meet some followers of my blog, which is always great.
A few paintings found good homes, including one of my favorite recent pieces:
I’d have to say that the most popular work I had displayed was my sketchbooks. It’s always fun (and a little nerve wracking) to share them because they’re so personal. Here’s a panorama of the sketchbook table.
Thanks again to Portland Open Studios and all the art enthusiasts who visited.
This is the largest painting I’ve completed in quite a while. It’s a favorite subject of mine. I don’t know exactly why I’m so fascinated by these mooring dolphins but I love painting them. This is another view from Kelley Point Park, looking across the Columbia River toward Washington.
Although I enjoyed painting larger, I really struggled to finish this piece or rather to decide when it was finished. I’m still not completely sure I’m done with it. Finishing is always tricky and I often decide that my energy would be better spent moving on to the next piece and trusting that it will build on the last one.
I love (/hate) plein air painting but consider myself a bit of a hack at it. I have lots of excuses and I wanted to use many of them over the last 5 days, as I tried to paint some good paintings in Hood River. This is the first time I’ve participated in a plein air competition and I really enjoyed painting with a group of extremely skilled plein air painters.
This is one of my entries, painted at the beautiful Sakura Ridge Farm and Lodge, above Hood River. Please don’t judge the place by this painting. The views of Mt Hood and the valley and the lodge were amazing.
Click HERE for more photos of the paint out at Sakura Ridge.
The opening reception is this coming Friday, Sept 7th at the Columbia Gallery of Art in Hood River from 4 til 9. If you’re in the area and want to see some extraordinary plein air paintings, please stop by. The show runs through the month of September.
Sometimes I come across painters who make me want to rush to the easel and paint. Dutch painter Roos Schuring has that effect on me. Her paintings are such fun to look at and say so much with seemingly so little. I get the impression that she produces her paintings in 3 masterful brush strokes.
Roos’ blogsite is packed with information including several very informative video clips showing her tools and methods. She paints under some pretty uncomfortable circumstances and has valuable advice on how to survive cold, wet and wind.
I’m saving up for a Schuring of my own.
I’m very happy to be participating in the 8th annual Pacific Northwest Plein Air event in Hood River, Or, over Labor Day week. Click HERE for more details.
I have a book in my studio titled “Inside The Painter’s Studio” by Joe Fig. It’s a series of interviews with NY area painters in which the author asks the same set of questions about artist’s studios and work habits and includes pictures of their studios.
I came across a great quote from Ryan McGinness, the other day, in the book. In response to a question about advice for young painters just starting out, McGinness says, “I would say to not worry about being an artist or trying to make art, just kind of make whatever you have to make, and then build a life around that. I think that was one of the biggest breakthroughs for me, just realizing … because I went through a period where I was just trying to make art and, consequently, I made things that were really imitative. There was no real model or precedent for what I liked to do but, when you realize you just have to do what you do and not worry about whether it fits the mold or a model of what art is, then you’re truly making innovative or breakthrough … or at the very least, honest work.”
I think that’s a very interesting statement and, for me, as someone who spends a lot of time inside my head, freeing.
One of the things that I hate most about exhibiting is writing an artist statement. Honestly, my statement is that I try to make something I enjoy looking at. I’m not really a very organized painter, as far as what I’m trying to accomplish. I might start out with a vague idea in my head, inspired by something I’ve seen or by another painting I’ve just finished and want to continue on. With the painting above, I started out thinking about Richard Diebenkorn’s early figurative paintings, which are sort of expressionistic……
… and sort of ended up in pseudo-impressionism. I’ve always loved those early Diebenkorns and find it fascinating how they morphed into the Ocean Park type paintings he’s so famous for.
I tend to spend very little time setting up a still life and prefer to paint a scene I come across. Sometimes I try to put together a thoughtful still life setup but often get bored and just start painting and figure it out as I go. In this painting, I placed the pruning shears toward the end. I’ve painted this blue bowl several times before, in the same size and format and thought this might become part of that series. It’s painted somewhat differently and I’m not sure if it fits as a series yet. Thinking . . . . .
It’s always fun to paint heads, especially my own. These 2 studies were done a couple of days apart.
Both are oil on linen panel 8″ square
( I shaved off my beard between them. ) I’m a fan of Ann Gale’s work and I feel like the one on the right is derivative of her work. Having said that makes it ok, right?
I think worrying about being derivative is unproductive (to a point). You just have to keep painting, knowing that you’re going to make bad work and derivative work and trust that something true and honest will evolve.
This is one of a few pieces I’ve been working on lately.
14″ x 11″ oil on linen panel
I’m trying to paint every day. Sometimes I get stuck on a painting so I pull out another small panel and do a study to keep the brush moving. This is a sketch of a small wooden figure by Portland artist Tom Cramer.
This figure is from the 1980’s. Tom’s work has evolved into really intricate painted relief carvings. You can see photos of some of his work on his website but you really have to see them in person to appreciate them fully. Tom and I were featured together on a Portland Cable access TV show, called “Where’s the Art? back around 1987. At the time, Tom was known for these figurines and also for the cars and especially the Vespa scooters he painted. One of the scooters was shown on the show.
After the show, Tom and I traded pieces and that’s how I acquired this little sculpture.
It’s been a long time since my last post and, in fact a long time since I touched a paint brush. I’m having my studio space expanded now and therefore have no where to paint for a few weeks but I hope to start back painting on a regular basis very soon.
In August I attended a week long workshop on Orcas Island with Jordan Wolfson and a small band of other painters. This workshop was different from others I’ve participated in. Although it was billed as a plein aire painting workshop and we did indeed paint plein aire, we didn’t focus just on capturing form and color as it appears in life. We did start out, as most workshops I’ve done, trying our best to paint what we saw but, as the week progressed, Jordan introduced exercises that encouraged us to be more interpretive of the landscape.
I didn’t really do anything close to a finished piece but several starts of an hour or two.
Most of the paintings are 8″ x 10″ and all are oil on linen panels. Click on them for a larger view.
On the third day of the workshop, we did an exercise in which we did a sort of wire frame of the scene.
Next we did a sort of combination of the first two days work by painting from observation but introducing lines and marks that searched out how the scene was constructed. I found myself thinking about painting, not just the objects in front of me but the air between me and them as well.
On the last day, Jordan encouraged us to be really expressive and experiment with any kind of mark making we could think of.
I’ve admired Jordan’s work for a long time and I was interested in working with him because of his ability to work across a spectrum of realistic to fairly abstract imagery without leaving representation completely. I’ve been trying to move myself in that direction and I enjoyed spending a week with Jordan and other serious painters who were also interested in exploring similar ideas.
This work is very different from what I’ve done in recent years and I enjoyed stepping beyond my comfort zone. I’m looking forward to getting my studio in order and seeing where this leads me.
For more pictures of the workshop and information about Jordan, check out Jordan Wolfson Workshops on Facebook.
Another grouping of similar objects as the last piece. I was thinking of a compositional device I’ve seen in Renaissance era paintings where a figure is looking directly at the viewer leading the viewers eye into the picture. In this case it is the bottle lying on it’s side with the opening pointed directly at the viewer.
This is a lengthy but brilliant talk by Rose Frantzen at her show at the National Portrait Gallery about how she conceived and executed the project of painting portraits of the people who live in her town. Great insights into her process and painting. She talks about everything from how the ideas came together for the project to grant writing, technique and the personal experience of carrying out the project.
I received a last minute invitation, from my friend Shawn Demerest, to attend a plein air painting workshop on Sauvie Island with Portland based painter, Stephen Hayes. I was only able to attend one day but it was well worth it.
Caldera by Stephen Hayes
16″ x 120″ oil on canvas panel – Elizabeth Leach Gallery
Since I’ve started painting again, I’ve focused on learning traditional painting techniques and the workshops I’ve attended have been about painting that way. Although Stephen has spent years painting plein air, he is a contemporary painter who doesn’t limit himself to traditional techniques. In fact, he uses the landscape before him more as a jumping off point rather than trying to capture the moment or scene. (Those are my impressions of his work, not Stephen’s words, btw).
Having originally started out as a non-traditional painter, it was freeing to see Stephen paint more experimentally. Stephen shared some interesting ways to rework areas of the painting. I especially liked how he talked about working a painting back and forth, losing it and bringing it back, pushing and pulling it toward and back from the brink of disaster.
One “rule” I hear over and over from traditional painters is to put a brush stroke down and leave it. That is a rule Stephen is not afraid to break.
I did a couple of studies, during the workshop, starting out my normal way but found it a lot more fun to play with them, not being afraid to damage them or destroy them.
Although these sketches may not look a lot different from paintings I’ve done in the past, they were a lot more fun to do.
I’m not really that much of a plein air painter but I did get out last weekend to one of the Lavender Farms that were hosting painters. I also ran into my old friend Elio Camacho, who happened to be teaching a workshop there. I enjoyed hearing what he’s been up to and hope to maybe catch up with him again and do a little more outdoor painting.
It’s been so rainy and cold here, in the Pacific NW, that the lavender was not quite open yet. I got 2 studies done before I had to head out.
I find myself being drawn back to artists I was inspired by in my earliest painting days. I think it was the abstract expressionists who first made me want to use oil paint. In particular, I’ve always loved figurative paintings by abstract expressionists. Richard Diebenkorn went through a figurative stage in the 50s and 60s and I’ve always carried some of those images in the back of my brain.
I had forgotten about Alfred Leslie, who abandoned the incredible abstract paintings he was doing for figurative paintings. I had been trying to remember him but couldn’t recall his name until I came across it on the excellent Painting Perceptions blog.
Looking back at R.D. et al, I can see relationships with some of the younger artists I now look at.
Another one hour study. I’ve asked some friends and family to sit for quick studies to try and become more comfortable with live models. I tend to over-sympathize with the boredom and general unpleasantness of sitting. The deal is to have them sit for 4 15 minute periods with a 5 minute break between periods.
My goals are:
1. to develop a method, rather than figure it out every time,
2. become comfortable with someone in the studio while I paint (I spend much too much time alone),
3. hone my observational skills, spend time painting from life.
4. it will be nice to have a collection of my friends shrunken heads
I recently reviewed a video on portrait painting by Daniel Green. Although I don’t agree with everything he had to say, it’s a really thorough and well organized demo from materials through how to know when you’re finished.
6″x8″ oil on panel
This is, again, a theme I’ve visited before in my sketchbook. This one reminds me a bit of master urban landscape painter, Stephen Magsig, author of one of my favorite painting blogs – Postcards From Detroit.
Stephen has started a beautiful new blog showing his more developed urban landscapes – Stephen Magsig Urban Landscape Paintings. There are some really inspiring paintings there.
I haven’t posted anything in a while but I have been painting. I’ve been experimenting with larger paintings but I haven’t produced anything I want to share, as yet. I seem to be trying to go in two directions at once. I need to pick one.
I’d planned on getting outside to paint more this year but summer is almost over and it’s just really hard to get outside when you work a full time job. Not to imply that I’m not extremely thankful to have a full time job. Weekends are precious and I’ve been busy with family and friends and I just haven’t had time to paint out.
This little study was an experiment on a new surface. It’s a board primed with Gamblin oil ground. The surface is hard and smooth, similar to panels I’ve made before by priming with acrylic gesso on masonite or plywood. I think it may be a little stickier though. I was thinking of taking another shot at this scene but, dumpsters? really? Am I getting too squalid in my choices of subject matter?
Here is an artist I’ve been enjoying looking at lately. Great clean clear color.
6″ x 8″ oil on panel
Sauvie Island is popular with bicyclists, fishermen, bird watchers, hunters and plein air painters. The easiest place to meet up is the Cracker Barrel convenience store, which is a short distance from the bridge that is the only way on and off the island. I did this little sketch of the fields across the street from the parking lot, last Saturday while waiting to meet the group I was painting with.
Portland plein air painter Celeste Bergin showed up to meet another group of painters, which she wrote about on her blog.
A couple of things are different in this painting from the others I did during this weekend. One, I didn’t use any alizarin crimson, two, I did this by myself while waiting for my painting companions to arrive. I find that I’m able to get into a sort of meditative state of mind while painting alone that seems more conducive to what I need to enjoy the process.
I was shocked to learn that Andrew Wyeth died this morning. I suppose I thought he would live forever and, of course he will through his work.
I grew up in Delaware not far from his Chadds Ford, PA farm. Although, as an art student in the 1970s, I thought of him as out of date and irrelevant, I’ve come to revere him as a master not only of technique but especially of composition.
My sister worked as a personal assistant to his son Jamie’s wife and has met Andrew. She described him as lovable but ornery.
He was an American National Treasure.
I was delighted to spend the last three days painting with my friend Elio Camacho. Elio did his best to coax more color into my plein air paintings and I resisted as much as I could but I think he may have gained some ground on my precious grey palette.
My paintings got progressively worse as the workshop continued and I think that’s a good thing because it means I was trying new things and I expect that, as I’m able to find my way with these new ideas, my work will be better for it.
It was great fun to finally meet Elio, after coresponding with him over the internets and blogosphere for the past year or so. I hope we get to paint together again.
. warning, long winded and somewhat rambling opinion follows
8″ x 8″ oil on canvas panel
disclaimer: I am not pretending that this painting is done in the style of Classical Realism
In my travels among blogs, I’ve read several complaints about the value of college art programs and I want to express my thought about it.
Even though I also feel that I didn’t receive a very thorough training in college, I think that I got what I should have expected. My opinion is that, at least in the U.S., students who enroll in college art programs usually have little or no training in drawing or painting prior to entering the program. Usually, as in my case, they’re kids who like to draw and were always told they were talented and, (especially in my case), have no interest in academic study. A four year Bachelors program has barely enough time to introduce it’s students to the rudiments of several different media or approaches to making art. By the time a student is in his/her senior year, they may have decided which media they think they might want to focus on but haven’t had time to really develop a mastery of it.
Graduate school, as I understand it (I didn’t attend grad school), is focused on developing imagery, not on technique. Technique is supposed to already be mastered.
Further, the instructors who staff these institutions are working artists who are passionate about their particular art. In the seventies, most of my instructors were working abstractly and, in fact, conceptual art was in vogue, in which there was not necessarily an artifact produced as a result of the art making. The idea was the art. Realism was not highly thought of at the time. And as far as developing technical skills, in four years of introductions to multiple media, it was more like dabbling than immersion.
I don’t have a problem with any of that. I was very excited about those ideas at the time and I enjoyed spending time with real working artists getting a sense of what it meant to be one. Having an exposure to printmaking, sculpture, photography, ceramics, etc was a good thing.
I find myself trying to fill in the gaps because now I’m interested in those technical skills I didn’t develop earlier but I don’t blame the schools I attended for not teaching me. I think undergraduate school is just not the place to develop those skills.
I’ve spent some time, recently, reading about atelier style study and wonder if it might be an appropriate step in a young (or older) artist’s development to spend some time in an atelier style environment. It seems to me that, even if one isn’t interested in ultimately painting in this precise and methodical way, there is a lot of benefit in learning to draw and paint precisely. It seems helpful to know the rules to break them intelligently.
There are a few blogs by artists who have studied this style of painting. The paintings are often really wonderful and one of the blogs in particular was really interesting to read. Sadie Jernigan Valeri, in her blog, gives an account of her pursuit of this study over about three years as she attends workshops by some of the masters of the style like Ted Seth Jacobs and Julia Aristides, and attends atelier schools, like the Gage Academy in Seattle and Studio Escalier in France. She’s also a very good writer. I read her entire blog, over a couple of days and, although I don’t know if I have the patience for this study now, (I know I don’t have the time, since many of the workshops are weeks or months long) I do wish I had done it.
Other blogs concerned with atelier style study and Classical Realism include: