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.