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Portrait of a climbing buddy

I met a great climbing partner 9 years ago in Joshua Tree. He wants to remain anonymous so I’ll call him John. We put together a van full of 4 guys and spent 3 weeks living the life. We are still friends today as we have a lot in common including: web design, inventing, playing guitar, and teaching.

We also both know our good friend Paul, who used to be a stellar climber but is now blind after a brain injury following a climbing accident. ‘John’ knows I’m trying to learn to paint so I asked him if he would consider sitting for a portrait. I said I couldn’t pay him…artist models earn $18 an hour. In exchange for posing, I’d give him the painting. He was onboard immediately. We are both underemployed and were easily able to schedule a couple morning painting sessions.

I’m still enjoying my break from Facebook. It’s so refreshing living the life I had before social media. My son used to always see my paintings first on facebook. He’d come over to the house and say, ‘oh yeah, I saw that on facebook…nice’. Now that I’m not online as much, it was awesome watching his expression when he first saw it…in real life. ‘Dam dad, you are getting really good at that!’

I know it’s got a few problems. Eyes have always been hard for me, and the background is unfinished. But it’s breathing and has staying power. I chose to walk away before I overworked it. I’m studying a book on painting called Alla Prima 2. He is famous for leaving large areas of his canvas completely unfinished. If the painting speaks, it is wise to leave it alone. Knowing when to stop is often the hardest part.

 

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Inventing a large wet painting carrier box

I needed a way to carry a lot of wet oil paintings in the car. My backpackable wet painting carrier box  can hold eight 16 x 20’s. Or the same number of 9 x 16’s. So lets say I went on a week long painting vacation and created 2 paintings a day for 7 days, I would have no place to safely store 14 oil paintings.

An explanation of my backpacking wet painting box is here. My car box is the same design, just bigger and sealed all the way around with permanent sides, and a hinged top. I also made the shelves slightly farther apart. The gaps in which I slide the double paintings are 5/8″. This means that the 3/8 inch square rods are on 1″ centers. Put another way, when I measure from the center of one rod to the next, it measures one inch. I’m painting on 1/4″ furniture grade plywood, and wanted to try (in future) glueing canvas to the plywood…so the 5/8″ gap was important.

I had some scrap 3/8″ plywood from a shelf under a table in the old house. It was the table on which Clint built his kayak. 15 years later he still has the kayak, but now he has his own house with his own collection of power tools. I borrowed his power miter saw, watched a few youtube tutorials and built a wet painting box for the car that can hold 24  wet 16 x 20 paintings.

It’s about the size of a large Coleman cooler. I spent at least a couple days out in the shop cutting wood and metal, figuring things out…not to mention many trips to Lowes and Home depot buying screws and lengths of aluminum. I love making things, especially things that solve a problem. No one sells these boxes for artists on road trips, you have to make them.

Now I just need to learn to paint better.

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Painting big

I’ve been watching some youtube videos about painters who work outside on 9 x 12 or 12 x 16 inch boards. Then they return to the studio and upsize the painting to a larger size more suitable for hanging in a living room.

I prefer to work at 16 x 20 but I’m learning that my skills aren’t quite ready to create sellable work. So these large plein air paintings bomb, which means I spend a lot of time sanding them down and re applying the gesso for another go.

Another route many artists go is painting on gesso covered canvas which is merely taped to gatorboard. Then if the painting turns out, it can be glued to a board and framed, or, if the board is cradled, it’s ready to hang without a frame.

I have never painted large in oils…but for a number of reasons I wanted to try it. First I needed to learn how to cradle a large board. 24 x 36 x 0.25″ boards will sag, so they have to be supported by a cradle on the back…which can also act as the frame, making them ready for hanging.

I borrowed my son’s miter saw, bought some high quality plywood and spent a few days out in my garage/shop learning how to be a carpenter. When I put the 24 x 36 inch oil gesso’d board on my carbon fiber easel, I realized it was too flimsy for a board that big.

I already have a heavy duty Bogen easel dating from my 4 x 5 large format camera days. But I had no way of mounting the board to the easel. Off to Lowes I went with only a rough idea of how I could build an easel from scratch. Man, I love inventing stuff from metal! I think inventing fits me better than painting.  There is a cool combination of sketching, thinking and working with drills, saws and screws that’s just really fun. It’s also neat to put stuff together that is better (and cheaper) than what you can buy in stores. I guess I like solving problems. I will post pictures later.