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New Work from a Roadtrip Summer

During the months of August and September we made a big loop from Oregon though Montana, Colorado, and back to Oregon. We stopped in many places along the way, but our longest stop was the five weeks we spent in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. We used that as a base for many expeditions: hiking and picnicking, fishing and painting, or – best of all – fishing, painting, and picnicking.

The painting above was done on one of these best of all days. My companion fished in the meandering headwaters of the Bear River, while I painting uphill. We had to abandon both activities when a big thunderstorm blew up, so we retreated to the car, where we picnicked, and watched the rain and lightening.

When we were exploring new places on foot, I carried only watercolors, and really began to enjoy just sitting down in a new site, and painting one of these little studies. The work is so different from that developed when looking at photographs.

Painterly Photographs

Over the past six months, I have gotten more interested in making photographs for their own sake. That’s as opposed to making photographs to record travels, or to use later as sources for painting. In part, this came about because I began using a digital SLR camera, and became joyously reacquainted with planning composition, focus, and exposure through the lens, and with lots of control. I was also very much influenced by the work of Stuart Shils, a painter whose work I admire. His online portfolio includes atmospheric paintings and monotypes, but also photographs which are clearly informed by the same sensibility. His are certainly painterly photographs.

I’m tempted to call mine “just because” photographs, or “self-reliant” photographs. They exist just as photographs; they aren’t going anyplace else, not into paintings, or drawings, or journals. If there has been a dialog between photography and painting in my mind, the photographs are beginning to stand up for themselves.

A group of these independent photos now have their own place (the Photography gallery) on this website. I hope you can sense how happy I am to let them stand on their own.

July Studio Work

After a solid twelve months of travel, we have finally settled down for six weeks. We are in Portland, and I again set up my studio in the small hut in our son’s backyard. My initial attempts at painting were stiff and awkward, so I decided to do a series of small, quick color studies on paper.

This first one is based loosely on a grassy, rocky headland on Orcas Island’s Ship Peak.
The next four come from the color effects of sun and shadow the backyard garden of the house we are occupying.

New Work: Los Frailes

Quite by accident, several of my favorite recent paintings have been scenes from Los Frailes, a bay about twenty fives miles northeast of San Jose del Cabo which has a wonderful beach, a working fish camp and recreational campground, and dramatic mountains as a backdrop. This is also the only anchorage for boats waiting for north winds to decrease before traveling up the coast; we spent five days at Los Frailes in November for that reason. The painting above, done in the studio in December, is a scene of the fishcamp with the mountains behind.

We sailed back to Los Frailes a few days ago, and I made a quick watercolor sketch of some of the more luxurious houses on shore. I’ve been enjoying working in watercolor again, after joining up with a small group of watercolor painters in La Paz who gathered one morning a week. I had the incentive to try new things and worked on drenching the paper with pigment, and using all of the mineral colors that belong in this dry, southern landscape. Here is my Los Frailes sketch:

Color Studies

Rambles around La Paz have resulted in lots of inspirations for color studies. I pulled out some small cardboard squares that I had prepared with traditional gesso years ago. It was a great surface for getting rich color, since the gesso absorbed the first layers quickly, and made it easy to modify color and value with a second layer. You can also see in the photo how much dust was blowing into the studio. It may be bright and sunny here, but a cool north wind has been blowing for days now, and it seems to carry an astonishing amount of grit with it.

I could imagine doing a dozen of these small studies, or a hundred. The light here is brilliant, but very low in the sky now, so vertical surfaces can be fully lit or deeply shadowed. I am using pigments that I generally ignore: Naples Yellow, Cobalt Green, Cadmium Orange. Hurrah for color!