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Exasperator

Vitaliy and I went to Squamish over the weekend. We climbed at Octopus Garden where I led the nine on the right. I wasn’t as calm as I’ve been in the past, but it was a clean lead. We also did Vector. Two fives would be nice up there, or one plus the green big bro. It’s only 5.8 but the #five section goes on for 20 feet and it’s very insecure.

We also climbed Exasperator. He led the first pitch. When I arrived at the belay we both looked at the second pitch and knew we couldn’t do it clean. The jams are too small for my big fingers. We talked about bailing and driving home early…maybe doing some 5.9 nearby. But then I got to thinking that I could just climb up a few cams and bail.  I’m good at down climbing. I could just pull the cams and climb backwards to the belay station. No harm no foul.

So I started up, placed a couple cams and had Vitaliy. Taking means he locks off the belay device and holds my body weight as I rest on the cam. It’s safer than falling because there is no acceleration. I place a cam, pull up the slack rope and wait for him to hold me. It’s called hangdogging. I rarely do it because I prefer climbing stuff where I don’t need to “cheat”. Cheating is defined as using the rope to get up the climb….it’s also called aid climbing. While I never pulled on a cam, I definitely rested on cams while placing better gear.

As I was hanging up there resting and feeling bad about the sh*t show, some climbers down below complimented me on a “putting up a good fight”. Later, after watching several other climbers I realized very few people get that pitch clean. And no one climbed it with white hair. I’d love to go back now. I’m sure I could do it with much fewer hangs. It’s basically a series of bad jams followed by good jams, and then repeat, every 8 feet.

In my spare time in the evenings I’ve been trying to finish some paintings I did at the Grand Canyon on vacation back in June.  The paintings were ok, but needed a lot of TLC. I almost have one of them done. The colors of the canyon walls 8 miles away are very difficult to paint. I don’t think I’ve ever had to be so precise in mixing colors, which means it’s great practice.

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Some interesting jobs

My last class teaching beginning web development ended June 19. I have been offered another quarter starting in late September, but then I’m off December 17 and wouldn’t work again until Spring quarter in early April. This is not a good situation. I need a full time job.

I got accepted for unemployment benefits and have been searching, and applying for jobs as required. I’ve only been unemployed twice in my entire life. First time was in ’97 when I got laid off from a printing job. I was out for 5 weeks, but only because I was enjoying my time off. As soon as I got bored I quickly got another job…but that was back in my printing days.

Printers then were like nurses are now. We could get a job anywhere, anytime. Since applying for unemployment in July, some of the more entertaining jobs I’ve looked at are Automobile Photographer and artist model at TCC. The models make a lot more than just working at REI…which would also be fun. I’ve taken a lot of evening classes in life drawing, and I’ve been a clothed model in my own drawing classes. I would get the students to take turns modeling once I demonstrated how easy it was.

Modeling for artists could be a fun job. I’d get to eavesdrop on the instructor as he taught them how to draw me. I could make a lot more programming…but truth be told after 18 years I’m not 100% sure I want to stare at a computer screen anymore.

I do still enjoy programming webpages, and I think I would like doing it fulltime, if the pay was good. But I do have some reservations. For one thing, it’s not healthy. Almost all of the programmers I know look like they spend all day sitting down.  It is possible to stay healthy programming, but it requires a lot of exercise. During the last couple weeks I taught web programming in June I was riding my bike to work. That was awesome. By the time I got to work I’d had my exercise for the day. Riding home just made it better.

But I do miss working with my hands and making things. Printing was great that way. We could see the fruits of our labor as it came out of the printing press. You knew you had made something that had value. And it took both mental knowledge, and physical skill. Those are big complicated expensive machines.

But, after 28 years I was burned out on printing. Now though, after 18 years of teaching web programming, I’ve forgotten the bad stuff and only  remember the good days in printing.

We had a family re-union over the weekend recently. Everyone but Malcolm, Clint, and John’s kids was there. I really don’t even know most of them anymore. They are all nice, but it’s like a high school reunion. They just aren’t part of our lives anymore, spread all over the country and as far as England.

I tried to paint a lighthouse on Saturday and bombed. Sunday the fog rolled in. We did have a nice jam session around a campfire. It was me, Jack and Marcus’s daughter. Two guitars, my harp, and her ukulele.

It’s been very smokey lately. The mountain has been totally hazed over. I went to the climbing gym this evening with F. and now my arm hurts. It’s an old chronic bicep problem. I can ride bikes and  climb outside just fine. But something about the gym aggravates it. There are some huge roofs at the remodeled gym now. It’s burly pulling through them. F. led the layback crack cleanly, from the ground up. I was impressed as I’ve not sent it clean yet. The man is a beast, and he’s my age. I guess we are both quite remarkable compared to other guys our age. Not too many white haired guys lead climb overhangs.

 

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Artist Statement

Mark H Webster Artist Statement

Like many artists, I began drawing and painting as a child. In high school I found I could capture a fairly good likeness of my friends in pencil. My parents supplied me with watercolor and oil paints to encourage my early efforts.

Life got in the way for 15 years and I stopped painting while I focused on my day job.  But when my son was born I drew his portrait in pencil and it re-awakened my inner artist.

Since then I have established a reputation as a landscape painter, winning a number of awards and honors in Puget Sound area juried art shows. I am primarily self taught. Most of my learning has been trial and error although studying art books in the library, and touring local museums and galleries has given me many ideas.

I believe the struggle to paint from life lends honesty and character to my work. I love to capture the play of light and shadow over my subject in monotone. I then use the versatility of pastel and or oils to go beyond form into vibrant, complementary colors, creating paintings that, in the words of my collectors,”jump off the walls.”

Many of my artist friends find that the studio is the place to create art. Perhaps it is my love of the outdoors or just the chaos of my garage/studio, but I have found that I do my best work on location. I have stood painting for hours in very unfavorable locations, such as on the shoulder of the road above a high cliff on the Oregon coast highway in 20 knots of wind, or in a meadow up at Mt. Rainier in sweltering heat and clouds of mosquitoes.

Two weeks ago I hiked 7 miles up into the high alpine meadows (Sahale Arm) with 50 pounds of painting gear. I shivered under a space blanket all night under the stars. In the morning I painted the morning alpenglow on the North Cascades.

Painting on location in the city has turned out to be easier than I feared. An artist working on the sidewalk is so unusual most people walk by as if I were invisible, which suits me just fine.

Due to the relative shortness of our time on earth many of us want to savor what little beauty we find amongst the asphalt. This urge to slow down and provide time for reflection is what drives artists and photographers alike.

I have often thought of my painting backpack full of paints and a lightweight easel as a 300 year old camera with a 4 hour exposure time, and a six year learning curve. When I am out painting on location, hikers and tourists, often wearing cameras, will occasionally stop and admire my work.

They photograph my painting like it’s some kind of rare magic trick. They often lament their inability to draw. I never know what to say. Drawing can, and should, be taught like reading and writing, but the ability to paint collectable art is harder to explain…it may be a gift.

I sometimes go for long periods without selling any paintings at all…like years…which is why it’s important to have a day job. But I never stop painting. I stack them up in attic.  Painting is an itch I have to scratch.

Life is short, Art is long.