Thursday, January 27, 2011

More Still Life Paintings

Recently, when I'm at the studio for several days at a time, I've started taking a few hours in the evenings to do simple still life paintings.

Sometimes, the simpler, the better.

It's a great way for me to unwind and listen to movies that I've already seen a half dozen times (no television there ... or Internet ... or much of anything else).
.Most of these paintings are done in a few hours, and, mostly, "green" paintings ... done on recycled cardboard - after all, they are just exercises.

I began to wonder to myself exactly why I was doing these things. And it really bothered me for a while. It's not like I'm likely to sell them. So, mostly I do them for myself. Then I thought to myself -- that's the highest form of art isn't it, really; self expression ... necst pass? [excuse my murder of the French language - not sure why I try, really, I can't even spell all that well in English, my native tongue] But, if I'm trying to express myself ... why not do it on real canvas? So, when I set up a still life with a pomegranate that I purchased at my local fruit stand, I used a real canvas.

That kinda backfired on me, actually. While it is going much better, it became a multiple night project, rather than a simple expression. It needs one more sitting ... but I won't be back in the Mariposa studio for several days while I'm back here in the park. I know, I show a lot of work that's not quite finished on here. If you want to see the real things ... some of my work will be going up in the Avenue West Gallery again, in downtown Spokane in the first week of February, I'm also going to be represented by a gallery in Oakhurst, CA, soon.

YWA again

The model that we had last week was a nice looking woman who wore a red hat. When I had packed to go to that morning, I had decided that I was going to do a charcoal portrait ... maybe a couple of them from different angles. When I saw her, though, with that red hat I was glad that I had the little Pochade box out in my rig. So, I did a quick oil sketch on prepared cardboard. I'm not sure that I really captured her, but it was a fun outing.
The next time I go (tomorrow, perhaps) I'll bring my full set and a real canvas for a change.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Latest work

I've spent the last few days at the studio in Mariposa. I've been reworking some things, doing some small works, planning some bigger canvases, and painting ornaments for next Christmas (the buyers here in the park purchase stuff for Christmas in the summer, so I have to get a head start!). One of the still life paintings that I was working on, as you can see, is the wood stove in the kitchen area of the studio. For such a little thing, it puts out some nice heat. The thing that I like about it is its unusual colour and shape ... though, I must admit, the shape does throw me some. It's much wider at the top than the bottom, and it makes the perspective a little wonky. Also, the legs kant out at an angle that, as I see now in this small version, I still didn't get quite right. Guess I'll be working on that one again when I get back up there.

I also worked on a small "green" painting of Belinda snowshoeing among the Giant Sequoias. I didn't expect much. I've seen so few paintings of the big trees that do them justice. Photos of them don't really do much for them, either. Pictures just look like pictures of big trees. One doesn't truly get the sense of these gigantic denizens of the forest unless one walks among them. As with most of the other pictures of them, mine just looked like some big lodge-pole pines or something until I put in the image of Belinda. I think that I actually made her much too big ... but any smaller and it would just look like a dot on the snow. This was kind of an experiment ... I may now move on to do a larger version.
Who's this weirdo? Ever since I was a kid I could never look into a mirror or see a picture of myself without some sense of shock. It's not that I think that I'm totally hideous or anything ... it's just that, well, I don't see in the mirror what I expect to see. I don't expect to see Robert Redford or Tom Sellic or Brad Pitt or anything ... but, I just don't look like what I think I do in my head. It kind of works to my advantage, really, because, when I'm doing a self portrait in the mirror, it's almost like I'm painting someone else -- especially in the last five or six years as I slip into a more ... ah ... distinguished age. Okay, so, I just look fargin' old!
Right after I painted this the other night, I shaved off the chin warmer and trimmed up my mustache. Man, it's a real shocker to see myself now! Beardless is not a good look for me.
I started some other paintings and finished some old ones ... which I'll share ... but they'll have to wait for another time.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Black Bird

They have these crazy black birds here in Yosemite. I'm not exactly sure what they are, really. They're huge ... bigger than most of the Crows I've ever seen ... and maybe as big as the Ravens that I remember from Alaska (although I've never heard any of them quote "never more").

They are some bold creatures. Fun to sketch and paint. I also did a linoleum cut print of one, too. It still needs help, though.


As you can see, I've done the revision that I had planned; I put the little road flowers that I found last week into the painting of the Absenth bottle. I think that it ties the whole composition together. I feel much better about the whole thing.

Yosemite Western Artists

I officially joined the Friday morning painting group ... they do a lot more than just the Friday painting session ... including shows throughout the year. This week we painted a guy who has posed for famous artists such as Alfredo Rodriquez - in fact a painting of him by Rodriquez on a recent cover of one of the Western Artists magazines. He was dressed as an old west sheriff. Great costume and a very good model. I had wished that I'd brought a larger canvas ... but I painted on one of my "green" canvases ... the back of a pizza box that I had prepared. It was a fun session.

Monday, January 3, 2011


For me, this was never just a painting of roses. I wanted it to say something ... have a deeper meaning. For one, I wanted it to be symbolic of Belinda and our two boys ... with a "self portrait" as the single rose in the background. But, well, who would get that just by looking at it? And what did I want to say about that?I painted this over a period of several months, picking away slowly at it until late in December, when I finally had to put it in its frame and wrap it as a gift to Belinda for Christmas (which was my intention from the inception). But, I felt it could say more ... be more ... I may continue to pick at it. The reason that it took me so long is that I could never quite get a handle on it --- didn't know where I wanted to go with it or what I really expected out of it. Not sure that I'm any closer, actually, to figuring that out. Perhaps I'll just let it rest until some of those questions can answer themselves.

Sunday, January 2, 2011


Still under construction, here's a peek at one of the studio paintings that I'm working on. I am considering some small, yellow - sunflower-like blossoms to lay on the table near the bottle. I wanted to use some of Vincent's paintings in the background ... but they made the composition too busy.
When Absenth is consumed it is drizzled through sugar cubes which rest on the Absenth spoon, which is suspended over the glass. I didn't have any sugar cubes, so I had to cut small blocks of wood and paint them white for the little still life.
I am also working on a couple of linoleum cuts. One of these is a commission from a woman in Spokane, who wanted one for a book cover. Her ideas are very specific, and the work doesn't look at all like something I would normally do, but it was a fun project and reminded me of my old graphics days. The other is of one of the park's Ravens. Soon, I will be making some intaglio prints, too.

So Many Hikes

Since the last time I posted, I've done so many hikes. It's much more relaxing to hike without so many people in the park ... and without the heat of the summer - so I'm out there much more. Unfortunately, I'm out to get as much reference materiel in the form of photos, and wanting to explore all of the trails right now ... so, I'm not doing as much painting on the trails right now. Another reason for this, too, is that the days are so short -- by the time that I find the right place to paint, there isn't enough time left in the day to get back out of the wilderness before dark. I may have to bivouac in the high country soon, so that I'll have enough time to get some painting in.

After the 4 mile trail, I went back up the Mist trail a little higher than I did a month ago. A few warm days took off much of the snow ... though it was still very slick with ice, so I didn't go very high (besides, the trail was closed, and I shouldn't have been up there anyway) - but got a few nice shots of Vernal Fall.

The next day, Meecah and I climbed about half way up Snow Creek trail. It was great to have a climbing companion (although, dogs aren't really supposed to go up those trails). Great views from up there.

Then, on Christmas Day, I hiked up Yosemite Falls. Oy, that was a climb! It was very snowy and icy and steep ... but I made it all the way to the top. Thankfully, last summer, my brother, Chip, had given me some slip-on stabilizers for traveling on the icy areas. They worked well.
Two days later, I did some snowshoeing up at Badger Pass. Beautiful, deep, powdery snow!
On New Year's Eve, Belinda and I hiked out to the Mariposa Grove of Sequoias, just inside the hwy 40 entrance to the park.

The thing about Sequoias, though, is that it's very difficult to get the idea of the grand proportions of these things in paintings and photographs unless there is something beside them to show their relative size, like a car or a person or something (notice Belinda off to the left of the tree). When I do a painting of them, I may try to work in some wildlife or something. Just being among those massive trees, was a phenomenal experience. Their bark is so red (and soft -- even fuzzy), and the snow was so white and the sky so blue ... it was almost unbelievable.

From there, Belinda and I spent the night in the Historic Wawona Hotel. Next door is the studio of famous painter, Thomas Hill (1829 - 1908), one of the first great artists in the valley, who helped to bring views of Yosemite landscapes to the world. Unfortunately, it was closed for the season, but I still got a good look through the window.