Friday, July 25, 2014

The Ritz Story Pole, a community art project

Alan Peroutka, Geraldine Moreno Black and Ed Black view Ritz Story Pole.
The Ritz Story Pole is a community art project taking place at The Oregon Country Fair with funding through Indiegogo. As of this writing, $16,965 (37%) has been raised of the $46,000 goal with only 16 days remaining. Your donation of any size will help complete, engineer and stand this monumental work of art which is a testimonial to vision, planning, cooperation, and determination. For three years carvers, painters, metal workers, amateurs and professionals have been working on this one-of-a-kind, 36 ft. Story Pole designed for the 21st century. Inspired by Northwest Coastal art, there are 21 totemic characters represented on an 8,000 lb. Alaskan Yellow Cedar log that was sustainably harvested with the approval of First Nations and the Canadian Provincial Government of British Columbia. My connection to this project is through my friend Ed Black who's been involved with the Ritz Sauna and Showers and the Oregon Country Fair for about fifteen years. The concept of crowd funding for community projects fascinates me. As a life-long resident of the Pacific Northwest, I've been interested in Native American art for many years and gained a special appreciation for it during a trip to Alaska in 2008. Since then I've become familiar with Canadian artist Emily Carr, whom I've written about previously. I think her 1924 painting "Gitwinkool Totem Poles" is spectacular.
Totems seen in Alaska (can't remember where!) in 2008.
Emily Carr "Gitwinkool Totem Poles" 1924

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Five-hour pop-up art show in Eugene

"Quiet Field" received much positive feedback.
When my friend architect Will Dixon suggested that I display my work at his office during Eugene's Last Thursday Artwalk on May 30, I felt honored to have been invited, given that Will has discerning taste in art and comes from a family of artists. (His father Willard Dixon is a well-known Bay Area painter and his sister Sophia Dixon Dillo is an innovative light installation artist.) Over a couple-month period I prepared work that fit my theme of "Light and Water" while my husband, Alan, helped by matting and framing the paintings. On the appointed day we loaded up the van, drove two hours to Eugene, set up the show, and from 5PM-10PM visited with old friends and met a whole lot of new people, too. Will said it was the best turnout he's had for a Last Friday show at his office. What was fascinating to me was how many insightful things people had to say about my work, even though many of them proclaimed they "knew nothing about art." Yet, most of those I spoke with identified, appreciated, and articulated the exact qualities or concepts I had in my head while painting! It was a deeply satisfying experience to connect so strongly and intimately with people through my art. The cherry-on-the-top was that I sold three paintings.

"Light on the Trail" was also well-received.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

"Water and Light" show in Eugene on May 30, one evening only

"Sunny Field" / pastel / 7x9
My friend Will Dixon invited me to show some of my work at his office, Willard C. Dixon, Architect,  during Eugene's Last Friday Artwalk on Friday, May 30. The address is 300 Blair Blvd. My work will be on display for that evening only between 5:00 and 9:00 PM. Please stop by to see what I've been doing lately, learn more about the amazing medium of soft pastel, and enjoy some refreshments. The show's theme is "Water and Light." Will is a talented architect and all-around great guy and you can meet him and learn about his projects, too.

The two paintings shown here will be on display. Although both are painted with pastels, they have very different moods. "Sunny Field" with its bold, bright colors and assertive mark-making was painted on location in Portugal's Peneda-Geres National Park, with final touches added after I returned home. "Fall Fantasy" depicts a scene in Shelton, Washington, and has a kind of shimmering mysticism conveyed by lighter strokes and a softer palette.  I hope to see you on May 30.
"Fall Fantasy" / pastel / 9x7

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

What is it about chickens?

"Comb Over" / pastel / 9.5x7
Whenever I go to the fair I love to visit the chickens with all their color combinations and feather styles, bright floppy combs, and non-stop chicken chatter. Raising chickens in your backyard has become a popular urban activity and in Portland you can have up to three in your yard without a permit. The neighbors behind us have chickens and I enjoy hearing them cluck around doing their chickenly business. I eat an egg almost every day for breakfast so maybe I should get a chicken. But I travel a lot and then I'd have to get a chicken-sitter so I guess that's out. The models for today's paintings come from my daughter and her family's farm in Shelton, Washington. Although they seem a little curious about my motives, I have nothing but admiration for my fine feathered friends.

"The Line Up" / pastel / 7x9.5
"Me and My Shadow" / pastel / 7x9.5

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Painting on the Road: The long way home

After a ten-hour flight from Santiago we had a ten-hour layover at the Dallas Fort Worth airport before we could board yet another plane for the remaining 3.5 hr. flight home to Portland.  To make our layover at DFW as painless as possible we decided to buy one-day pass to the American Airlines Admirals Club but they were having a special and for the same price ($50 per person) we got a one-month pass. We don't have any plans to fly anywhere else in the coming month but you never know. DFW is such a big airport that American actually has three Admirals Clubs there. What's an Admirals Club, you might wonder? It's a set of clean, comfortable, lounging rooms with free wi-fi, food, beverages, showers and other amenities; some even have kids' playrooms. We didn't need that particular amenity this trip but I thought some of you might find it useful information. The Admirals Club is also a good spot to sketch fellow travelers, or even your own hand if you get desperate. The squiggly thing on my wrist is my hair scrunchy. And yes, my hands really do look that gnarly.


Saturday, March 22, 2014

Painting on the Road: Northern Argentina, gauchos and knives

Alan, the Andes, and the Calchaquies Valley
While based in Salta in northwestern Argentina we took two guided tours. The first was to Cafayate and other locations in the central Calchaquies Valley.The wide, flat valley floods seasonally and leaves soft creamy greens hanging onto the last drops of moisture to await the next rainy season. At Garganta del Diablo, Devil's Throat Canyon, we watched shadows play on the walls and marvelled at the scale. (Watch for these scenes to appear in future paintings.) A couple days later we visited Jujuy Province and the towns of Purmamarca, Uquia, and Humahuaca. Our driver, Federico Teruel, has many talents, including crafting artisan knives or "cuchilleria artesanal", and explained that knives are an essential part of the gaucho culture in the Salta region. There are two main styles: the salteno dagger is shorter and used for everyday purposes, whereas the longer, more decorative facon criollo is used ceremonially. An annual parade of 2,000 gauchos in Salta every June 17 commemorates General Martin Miguel de Guemes, whom  I wrote about in a previous post. Many people in Salta are proud to be part of the gaucho culture that is an important part of the military history of Argentina. It's always pleasant to meet other artists when I travel, and if you check out Federico's website you'll see he is a master of his craft.
Headed toward the light  
Artisan knife by Federico Teruel 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Painting on the Road: Considerations while painting in foreign places

Courtyard at Centro de Extension, Santiago
Foreign: adjective. 1. of, from, in, or characteristic of a country or language other than one's own. 2. strange and unfamiliar.

My passion for travel is fueled by the foreign sights, sounds, smells, and tastes that stimulate my mind and senses. Typically I'll go out and wander around with my backpack of supplies to scout a place to paint while thinking: "What looks interesting? Good God, this pack is heavy. Watch out for dog doo! Where can I sit?  What if I have to pee? I hope I remembered my map so I can find my way back. Oh, no, is that guy going to bother me?" Yesterday I was strolling around alone in my Santiago neighborhood with a burning desire to paint, simultaneously feeling conspicuous and vulnerable, when I passed an institutional-looking building and spied a sunlit courtyard through an open doorway. It was so inviting that I invited myself inside and fortunately it was a public space so no one objected. Pontifica Universidad Catolica de Chile, Centro de Extension offered architectural interest, trees, people, a fountain, and the potential for English-speakers and toilets, if needed. Score! I will keep similar locations in mind for the future. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Painting on the Road: General Guemes and a banana plant

Three views of Gen. Guemea statue
Am continuing to have fun playing with watercolors on this trip and love the convenience of the Strathmore postcards. Not too sure how many will actually reach their destinations, though, as international postal service can be iffy. We enjoyed our time in the city of Salta located in northwestern Argentina. General Martin Miguel de Guemes (1785-1821) was a popular caudillo and military leader, a gaucho, who defended northwestern Argentina from the Spanish during the Argentine War of Independence (1810-1818). I painted three views
of his statue while basking in the sun at Plaza Guemes. The next day I came down with the flu and while confined to our room at Hotel Villa Vicuna for a couple days, managed to paint a quick pastel study of the banana tree in our courtyard. The banana plant is the largest herbaceous flowering plant. The flower spike is called an inflorescence.
Banana plant blossom

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Painting on the Road: Postcards from Argentina

Strathmore watercolor postcards are convenient
We are smack dab in the middle of a 3.5 week trip to Argentina and Chile and I'm so glad I packed watercolors because a few quick postcards are all I've had time for so far. Argentina is a huge country and transportation is time-consuming. The postcards, paintbox, water brush and little spray bottle of water weigh next to nothing and easily tuck into my daypack, no problem to carry around on days when painting will have to be a spontaneous activity during a stolen moment. Even though I haven't been producing much art myself I have been looking at the work of others and making a few connections with other artists. In Buenos Aires we went to the San Telmo Sunday market which offers a range of contemporary art, traditional textiles/crafts/metalwork, and flea market antiques.

Picasso lithographs, Mendoza
While visiting Plaza Independencia in Mendoza we stumbled upon the Museo Municipal de Arte Moderno which just happened to have a wonderful show of Picasso lithographs displayed without barriers or elaborate security systems, similar to how you'd hang art in your own home. How nice to get up close to great art! Argentina makes its art (and education through university) free to the public. What a good idea!

In Salta we saw The Children of the Volcano exhibit at the Museum of High Altitude Archaeology of Salta. In 1999 the mummified bodies of three Incan children were found at the top of the 22,109 ft. Llullaillaco volcano. They had been ritualistically sacrificed at least 500 years ago and buried along with culturally important items including textiles and miniature human and animal figures made of gold, silver and other materials.
Artifact found with Volcano Children, Salta

My goal while traveling is keep my eyes, ears, mind and heart open to whatever comes my way. I like to paint or draw when I can; look at art including graffiti; visit all kinds of museums; eat good food (of course!); and connect in meaningful ways with the people I meet. I've met a lot of interesting, kind, and helpful Argentinians and fellow travelers on this trip! (Hello Federico, Lara and Maija!) If you're interested in reading other posts from my Painting on the Road art and travel series you can type "Painting on the Road" into the search box in the sidebar.

Saturday, February 15, 2014


"Flow" / pastel / 9x7
"Flow" refers not only to the water in the stream, but to the state of mind I hope to achieve when painting. Flow feels good!  Although I can't force it to occur, there are certain physical, mental, and spiritual conditions I cultivate to increase its likelihood. Physically, I want to be well-rested, nourished/hydrated, clothed appropriately for the weather, and free from arthritic hand pain. (Tylenol? Check!) Mentally, I think about sunlight and shadow, composition, editing the scene, colors, textures. Spiritual preparations include focus on being fully present; gratitude for the resources and opportunity to paint; confidence in my abilities; being open to outcome. My painting "Flow" comes from a photo taken during last summer's workshop with Bill Cone at the San Francisco State University Sierra Nevada Field Campus. In my mind's eye I see myself setting up my easel on a big boulder in dappled light, shifting around a little bit to get comfortable, listening to the sounds of the water, beginning to work, and then suddenly being aware that Bill was at my elbow saying it was time to pack up and go. Flow? Check!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Denver Ave. at Dusk

"Denver St. at Dusk" / pastel / 9x12
Denver Ave. is in the heart of North Portland's Kenton neighborhood, just a few blocks from my house. I loved this dusky winter scene with its grey neutrals and smudgy neon signs. The tiny twinkle lights in the trees add a warm and cheerful note to an otherwise cool scene. One of the most exciting visual features of Denver Ave. is the way it's paved using an Ultra Thin White Topping technique  that is ideally suited for resurfacing old asphalt. Although it looks like the street surface is made of tiles or concrete blocks, it's actually a thin layer of concrete that, when set, has had score joints cut into it with a saw. The spacing is at closer intervals than usual which gives the illusion of tiles.  One of my previous careers was in public works and I still get excited about infrastructure! The street surface and storm drains on Denver Ave. are really something to behold and if you live in Portland I invite you to come take a look. 

Friday, February 7, 2014

Portland Fog

"Portland Fog" / pastel / 7x9
I live in North Portland's historic Kenton neighborhood, just a short walk from Kenton Park where shapely trees, wide expanses of lawn and ever-changing seasonal atmosphere often put me in a painting frame of mind. One day in December the fog was especially nice but it was way too cold to stand or sit at an easel outside so I took photos and later used one of the images to paint "Portland Fog" from the shelter of my warm and cozy studio. This was one of my first attempts at painting fog and I have to admit I struggled. Afterwards, I looked around to see how other artists have handled it.  Richard Whadcock is British; ; John Felsing lives in Michigan; and Darlou Gams is from Idaho but now lives in New Hampshire. They've got fog where they live, too, and their work gives me some good ideas for my own future fog paintings.

John Felsing
Darlou Gams
Richard Whadcock

Emily Carr, Joan Eardley, Gabriel Munter

Emily Carr, Western Forest, 1931
Today I present three women artists I learned about through Pinterest. Each was immensely talented, independent, eccentric, and strong-willed. Their lives overlapped and I wonder if they were aware of each other. Click the links to learn more about their fascinating lives and see additional examples of their work.

Emily Carr (1871-1945), an iconic Canadian artist and writer, was heavily inspired by the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast. Early work had aboriginal themes especially when she was living and painting on the Queen Charlotte Islands and Skeena River where she documented the Haida, Gitxsan and Tsimshian people. Later she focused on landscapes, especially forests. She was one of the first Canadian artists to adopt a modernist and post-impressionistic style. Carr also wrote six books, three of them published posthumously. As far as I know, she was never married or had children. I laughed when I read this in Wikipedia: "Carr took a teaching position in Vancouver at the 'Ladies Art Club' that she held for no longer than a month--she was unpopular amongst her students due to her rude behavior of smoking and cursing at them  cursing at  in class, and the students began to boycott her courses." Although she didn't receive much recognition (or respect) during her lifetime, she is now considered a national treasure. Emily Carr University of Art and Design,  is located in Vancouver, BC. She who laughs last, laughs best?
    Joan Eardley, Boy on a Stool    

Joan Eardley (1921-1963), born in Sussex to dairy farmers, had a challenging childhood that included her father's post-WWI mental breakdown and ultimate suicide. Placed in the care of a grandmother, her aunt paid for her education at a private school where Eardley's artistic talent was first recognized. Thank goodness. She ultimately moved to Glasgow, Scotland. Her friend Annette Stephen bought her a cottage in the village of Aberdeenshire and that became her home base. Eardley's figurative work often includes text (calls to mind Basquait) and is mostly based on everyday life, often the gritty life of the working class. Poor city children at play and children being cared for by an elder sibling are frequent themes. She loved to work outdoors, often in poor weather, and is best known for bleak and desolate landscapes, including powerful and stormy seascapes. One scholar said she painted the sea "with the perception of a mariner." Other landscapes of fields on sunny days may appear tranquil on the surface but I think they simultaneously reveal an underlying tension that the weather could change at any moment. She died relatively young of breast cancer that had spread to her brain, for which she did not seek treatment.

Gabriele Munter
Gabriel Munter (1877-1962) was born into a wealthy family that encouraged her artistic endeavors. Considered a German expressionist at the forefront of the Munich avant-garde in the early 20th century, Munter was well connected to many artists of her era. Although she wasn't allowed to study at the German academies due to her gender, the Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky took her art seriously; they eventually became lovers, but their relationship ended bitterly. With Kandinsky, Munter and several other artists formed Der Blau Reiter (the Blue Rider), an important Expressionist organization. Her work is known for simplified forms and expressive use of color, even though it changed stylistically over time. In addition to painting, she studied woodcut techniques, printmaking, and sculpture. During WWII Munter hid paintings by Kandinsky and other now-prominent painters from the Nazis. Munter was an unusually independent, self-sufficient, ambitious and accomplished woman for her era, quite unconventional. Her "Portrait of Marianne von Werefkin" is shown to the left.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Yellow, again

When it's too cold to paint outside I look inside the house for inspiration. Unmade beds are a common interior subject and "Slumber" gave me a chance to continue to explore the color yellow. I've included a few paintings that have a similar feel to mine from other artists I admire. Sally Strand is a master pastel artist who lives in California. Maggie Siner is a prolific oil painter and sculptor. Marc Whitney, another painter and sculptor, has studied art formally since age 14.

Sally Strand
Marc Whitney
Maggie Siner

Sunday, February 2, 2014


"Yellow Reflections (on the road to Evora)"/pastel/9x7
Yellow and I had a contentious relationship for most of my life, but we got to know each other better about a year ago and now are feeling quite chummy. I'm quite happy with its appearance in "Yellow Reflections (on the road to Evora)" which I've just donated to the Oregon Repertory Singers for their fundraising auction coming up February 22. (You can read more about ORS and the auction by clicking here.)

Robert Genn's "The Story of Yellow" discusses the five main sources of yellow pigment. I recalled learning about one of those--cow urine (ever heard of Indian Yellow? Yep!)--while touring India a few years ago. Genn publishes an informative Twice-Weekly Letter and his website, The Painter's Keys, is a goldmine of info for artists.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The value of Pinterest

Bato Dugarzhapov, my Pinterest discovery
If you are an artist and you're not using Pinterest, I think you're missing out. I view Pinterest as a kind of "flash card" system to learn about art, artists, and art history. I use it to view bodies of work from specific artists, discover new artists, promote my own work, and inform my own painting.

Pinterest is a photo-sharing website that allows users to create online theme-based bulletin boards of images they find interesting. Images on Pinterest come from the internet, blogs, or any other source that's available online. I have boards dedicated to various categories of art (landscape, interior, still life, etc.); self-portraits; artists' studios, workspaces and materials; and many other topics (including lots of non-art-related subjects). Although it's possible to keep your boards private, the educational value of Pinterest comes from seeing what other people post. I often find pinners whose taste and interests overlap with mine and use the results of their research to expand my own investigations. I'm frequently introduced to artists I would never have otherwise known about. (I'll write more about this later.)

Bato Dugarzhapov: The Winter Linden
Pinterest is helping me develop my taste in art and my knowledge about art history. When I sort through thousands of images of art I become more adept at recognizing the work of specific artists and how painting styles have evolved over time. I find myself going through phases of liking certain compositional elements, subjects, or perspectives and then I move on to a new obsession. All these visual references help me understand and appreciate art more thoroughly. On a practical level it helps me make may own work more confident and adventuresome.

Obviously Pinterest is no substitute for going to museums and galleries. But when time and expense are constraints, it's a good substitute. I'm convinced that my time in the studio is enhanced by what I'm learning on Pinterest, and I also recognize that it can be a way to procrastinate and avoid getting into my studio and making my own art. Like everything else, Pinterest is used intentionally and in balance with other activities.