Saturday, September 13, 2008

En Plein Air


Yesterday I went out painting with my good friend and mentor, Del Gish. We went out into the countryside near Medical Lake -- not too far from home.
We had passed an old farm near a railroad tresstle off of a dirt road on an excursion some months before and had decided to go back to see if it was a good place to paint. We found several spots that would make for some good painting and we soon got down to work. It was a perfect day for it ... sunny but not hot at all; one of those late summer days that only reaches into the mid seventies.
I had failed to check my paint box for liquin (the medium that I use to mix with my paint) before we left, and when I opened up the little container, I found that it had solidified. This turned out to my advantage. One of the problems that I have in painting, is that I don't paint thick enough. I've developed the habbit of glazing and smoothing everything. This is okay for some passages and is typical of many studio painters. The thing is, though, that I don't find this as pleasing as I once did and find a looser, thicker, "juicier", more "painterly" approach to the medium much more astheticly apealing. So, there was nothing more to it for me than to use the paint much more liberally. Well, I suppose that I could have hiked over to where Del was working and borrowed a cup of liquin from him, but I felt that it was a good thing that the temptation to over use the medium was taken from me and I attacked my canvas with alacrity.
I was using one of the panels that I had prepared last fall, when Del and I "dipped" out panels into oil paint that was floating on the surface of a vat of water. This method of preparation not only gives the canvas a nice tone, but it also provides some unique designs that can be utilized in the painting. I decided that I wanted to leave a lot of that design on the board.
My composition included the railroad trestle as a sort of framing element in which to include the old farm and one of the distinctive hills of the Medical Lake area. Other than a few cars kicking up a lot of dust, and a speeding locomotive, the painting process was pretty much uneventful. I took the occassional pause to slake my thirst with the flask that my brother, Mark had given me for Christmas a few years ago, and to quaff some exotic bread which I'd ripped from a loaf on my way out the door ealier.
I know, it sounds boring, doesn't it? It was actually a blast, though. I really got into the shapes and the values and the contrasting temperatures of the colours as I went. In a way it was a breakthrough for me ... although the painting is certainly not breathtaking by any stretch of the imagination. I felt that I really learned a thing or two. And that always makes a good day.
When I was finished I went and watched Del for a few minutes and took a short video of him as he was finishing up.
The current owner of the farm came up on a bicycle to peruse our work and to give us a hundred years of history of the Johnson farm. There was nothing taciturn about this guy.
And then ... we packed it in and headed home where I had to get some sleep so that I could head back to work for another 3rd shift of fun and excitement.

Monday, September 8, 2008

In the meantime


While I'm waiting for the year of jubilee to start, I'm working away, doing as many commissions as I can. Sometimes they are tattoo designs, sometimes they're simple charcoal portraits, sometimes they are oil paintings. Each one ... every dollar ... adds to my bank account for that day of emancipation from the man. But it's slow going. I'm not used to cocentrating on making money off of my work. I'm not that materialistic. But, I'll agree that it is a necessity. I don't think that I could ever be like Vincent and just exist off of the charity of others to make my way in the world. [I'm reading Van Gogh's letters to his brother Theo right now and I'll publish a critique when I'm done.]
This week I finished five small commissions. Three were designs for tattoos. I'm not sure why the sudden trend in tattoos, but they can be fun to design. I've also had a couple of charcoal pieces ... one was a simple portrait of a kid that I work with and his wife, the other was a group portrait of several of the people that I work with. Five friends. It was a birthday present for one of them. It was a blast to do ... although it took me a while longer than anticipated. It might make a fun aquatint or woodcut too.
I titled the charcoal drawing "Seven O'clock People" with a subtitle of ("Working Stiffs"). The Seven O'clock People title comes from a Stephen King short story title. The people in my drawing, like the characters in King's story, are all smokers who hang out together.