In the studio

I am really liking having a painting going in the studio (our heated shed). It may be my best turban squash painting ever. And even if it’s not, it’s given me a lot of satisfaction. I haven’t painted large since my 30 inch water colors in the early nineties. This one is 24 x 36 inch. When I’m out there painting, I get a deep sense of peace, like, this is where I should be, and what I should be doing. I know it sounds like psychobabble but my mind gets very clear and I enter a “zone” where it’s just me and the painting. Everything else is forgotten. I’ve missed this…a lot.

Because it’s so large, it has a presence that’s undeniable. It seems to say: “Like me or hate me, I’m big, and I’m here to stay!” But speaking of that…this one is painted on 5 ply cradled maple plywood. It’s huge, it’s heavy and it will be difficult to store. Here I was thinking I was so clever to cradle a couple 36″ boards.

I’m realizing there was a reason Van Gogh painted on large canvases. He could take them off the stretcher and roll them up. When Vincent died, his  brother found a shed full of rolled up canvases in perfect condition. They make for a very compact storage option. Even some modern painters prefer to work on unstretched canvases. They tape them to boards for plein air work. If they turn out, they can be stretched and mounted later. If they don’t turn out, they can be painted over like any bad work.

To that end, I just bought 3 yards of medium weight canvas for $36. I’m priming it for oils as we speak. Perhaps I’ll do some big jtree paintings. With this studio work, I should be warmed up enough to do some good work down there.

Baked out of Darrington

Pam and I just got back from 2 days at Darrington. Forecast was for 95 but we thought it would be cooler, it wasn’t. We got three pitches up Till Broad Daylight before rapping off in the extreme heat and bailing for home. The climbing was lovely, I sailed up a runout 5.9. I almost felt like I had my mojo back…until the sun hit me.  There is zero shade at D-town. It felt like standing too close to a roaring palette fire at Jtree. Unbearable heat. Did I mention it was warm?

We ordered a canopy from a local company out in Parkland. It won’t be ready until October. It’s crazy how back-ordered all the canopy companies are. Some of the popup builders have one year wait lists. At least we will have it for the winter months. We are looking forward to having more room in the bigger canopy. I will have room for climbing, painting and a sleeping platform. For decades we had to haul heavy loads to the front seats and roof rack so we could sleep in the back. Now we should have room without a lot of heavy lifting.

I painted Comet Falls at Rainier the day after climbing Rattletail with Christine. It’s a palette knife painting and might be good. Three people asked me where my gallery was. Then the very next day I carried my heavy rock pack with two ropes up to three o’clock rock. That was 4 days of heavily loaded hiking in a row…in the heat. My shoulders hurt from the art pack backpack straps. That is my first hand sewn back pack, and the straps weren’t thick enough for 40 to 50 pound loads. Just tonight I sewed new 3 inch thick padded shoulder straps. They feel awesome, can’t wait to take them on another painting expedition.

Now that we are both getting SS checks I have less pressure to sell my paintings. Now, I paint because it’s fun, not because I need to sell them to make money. It’s kind of freeing knowing that I don’t have to sell my paintings anymore. I mean sure, it’s validating to have them sell, but knowing the good ones can stay with me is cool.

Vitaliy dropped by today with his wife and kid and new baby. So great to see him! He hasn’t climbed outside in a year. He is such a great climbing partner.

I have a bunch of new songs this summer: Difference between Whiskey and You, Cat’s in the Cradle, When you say Nothing at All, Shallow (Lady Gaga). I swore for decades that i could never memorize a song. Fletch persuaded me that I could, so I did. I’ve got Whiskey dialed.

Cow Number 2

I drew this a few weeks ago. I’ll let the work speak for itself. It’s 9 x 12 ink on paper. These climbing images are almost a month old. It’s Lisa and Pam following Plum pudding at the mid wall at Index.

Drawing a cow

I’ve always loved cow paintings. They are such an integral part of our culture going back a thousand years or more. I’m mostly vegetarian, though I will have a steak once in a blue moon. I’ve been sticking with the Plant Paradox diet for a couple months and have lost 7 pounds, keeping it off easily, even when not climbing. It’s more of a sustainable life choice than a diet. I’m not starving at all.

I do have to carefully calibrate now much carbs I eat. If I’m climbing hard, I will supplement the diet with some canned black beans and tuna. I’ve had a few “diet fail” days at the crags where I just hit the wall (The Dreamer route at Darrington). I can’t climb on a brocoli salad.

City of Rocks 2019

Alex, Kristi, Chris J. and Pam all spent some time at the City of Rocks with me over the last two weeks. I got there early and sketched for a couple days.

I did three pen sketches and two oils. We did a lot of the usual stuff on Elephant rock and the Breadloaves. My four days with Pam were the best as we are both hard core climbers, dawn to dusk.

Alex did do a hard lead on Crack of Doom 11c. I couldn’t get past the boulder move. I also got up Mystery Bolter with one hang. That thing is so intimidating. Those run outs are terrifying, yet the climbing is fine and quite sticky. You just have to stick to the main line, even left a little, as you pass the second to last bolt. Past the last bolt it’s dead easy right up to the anchor. We were surprised to find we could rap off with a 60 meter.

My hardest lead was Aspen Leaf 10a at the upper west breadloaves. I hung all over it, blew all the delicate stem moves. What’s weird is I think I led it clean with Julia ten years ago. Because of my constantly changing partners I never got on some of the harder trad lines like bloody fingers and private idaho. Still, two weeks of climbing in the city may have given me a good start on the rest of the summer at index.

 

Leavenworth and filmmaking

I’ve not written in two weeks and it’s getting hard to remember what I’ve been up to. L. and D. were vacationing Alaska and shared some exciting news, but I won’t write about it here, as it’s not my story to tell.

Sue has gotten into making the yard pretty. She’s been digging up dandelions and replanting grass seeds in the holes. I’m glad she likes doing that because yard work is just not my thing.

My niece and nephew met me at my uncles house in Leavenworth for a few days of climbing. John led a hard offwidth on the left side of Jello Tower and got my number 5 stuck. Normally a big cam like that comes out easily because you can get your hands on it. But this one got fixed. Both he and I worked on it and it was not coming out. By the next weekend it was gone. I haven’t stuck a cam in a decade, so I guess I was overdue. Still, I’d rather lose a cam than a nephew. He was in dangerous territory when he slammed that cam into the 4 inch crack, but as soon as he clipped it he was safe.

V. and I went to Private Idaho at Index the weekend before and I got on Istanbul and Battered Sandwich, both 5.9’s. That was a lot of fun.

My uncle had a cold, and now I’ve got it. Since I was resting over this last weekend, I decided to brush up on Adobe Premiere by posting some DIY tutorials on framemaking. I’d filmed the footage back in November, planning to eventually make some videos on the process.

DIY picture framing

There weren’t many good tutorials online about making pictures frames. It seems the good artists and frame makers aren’t into film making. There are some woodworkers posting picture framing videos…but they weren’t using the simple tools I’m using. Most of those guys have $20,000 woodworking shops. I’ve just got a borrowed miter saw and a couple of $80 picture frame clamps. I also cover the measuring, gluing, nailing painting and gold leafing processes.

What I do have is artistic knowledge and creative troubleshooting skills…plus some low level filmmaking skills. I filmed most of the footage with my iphone and or my little point and shoot camera,  mostly because they have autofocus and built in mic’s. I hand held some of the footage…so that should really be reshot…but most of it was done on tripods and is fine.

I put them up as 1080p, so the quality seems quite adequate. I’ve gotten a lot of help from youtube fixing things such as cars and appliances, so it’s nice to be able to give back to the community by posting some of my own tutorials.

How to measure and cut perfect miter corners to the right length:

Clamping, glueing and nailing with Rockler picture frame clamps:

Assembling the final frame pieces into the finished frame.

Applying gesso, handpainting with acrylic paint and adding gold leaf. It’s kind of like making a miniature painting, a painting of a frame, on wood:

Got past the blank canvas

Great 4 day weekend! Saturday started off with replacing the idler pulleys on my truck. It was making a squeaky noise on start up down in Vegas. I drove it 1000 miles all the way home while worrying about a breakdown. I loosened 2 of the belts and removed the idler pulleys. Water pump and air conditioner bearings felt normal. But on the idler pulleys, one clearly had a bad sealed bearing. When I turned it, it felt a little grabby, though still functioning. I had replaced them once before…so I guess they last about 120,000 miles.

None of the shops in town had it in stock, and quotes ranged from $210 to $23. When things get weird like that I drive down to Lloyd and Wilson Auto repair in Tacoma. He can order parts based on the vin number, they come fast, and are always correct. He instantly felt the bad bearing, which validated my concern. I’ve spent a lifetime working on bicycles, printing presses and cars, it’s good to know I can judge a bad bearing.

Sunday V. and drove to Index and climbed at Private Idaho. A crew of 5 with just one leader headed out of the parking lot 10 minutes ahead of us. They were nice, but took 2 hours on every route.

They had the easy routes locked up (Senior Citizens and Turkey) so I jumped on Istanbul, a nine I’d never led. Two fives would come in handy, though it was still safe enough with one. Love to get that one clean, now that I know what’s there. I sent Battered Sandwich cleanly next, as did V. We were each leading everything. I’d thought I was rusty….but getting Battered cleanly is a great indicator.

Monday I drove up to Paradise at 11 and did a hurried painting. Need to bring skis. The lighter load of hiking in boots is not worth the post holing. And I need to load my pallete in the parking lot to save weight. One bottle of water would be plenty. I poured out an entire bottle.

Tuesday I played pingpong from 8 to 11. Jan hadn’t been there in a month. I’ve been improving and she commented: “Jeez, I leave for a month and you go all pro on me!” Or at least I think that was her. It’s nice to hear stuff like that. At my age, it seems like I’m on a constant slide towards mediocrity…so anything that slows that down is welcome news.

After ping pong Lisa came over and we fabricated some sheet metal to mouse proof the other side of her Corolla trunk. It’s nice to hang out with the kids…though working on cars is not my favorite activity.

Put a biner in a figure eight knot

Climbed with Bobbi and Chris J. at 3:30. I tried my new trick of replacing a Yosemite finish with a round locker biner. Todd thought it would be fine. Before I went up I told Bobbi that he could write the accident report if things went badly, but it worked as planned. I took the big whipper, lowered off, pulled the keylock biner out and had a loose knot…sweet!

It’s kind of scary being your own guinea pig. No one online is doing that, or at least writing about it. Those darn knots are so tight after a whipper. I knew there had to be a solution. The biner in the knot is no different than the strand of rope from the Yosemite finish on the figure eight. Well, it’s slightly different because it’s aluminum, instead of rope. I made sure to tie a double grapevine backup knot after the figure eight. I figured that if the eight slipped due to the slipperyness of the biner in the knot, the grapevine would prevent the knot unraveling under load.

But all was well. I took the whip and was able to pull out the biner with minimal effort, which left slack in the knot and it was easy to untie. My next big project is to sew my own cam slings. I plan to do a bunch of load testing before I trust them. I will write about it later.

Violin number two

I’m not sure if this second violin painting is done. I wanted to do a free wheeling sloppy painting but it turned into my usual tight rendering. I’m really looking forward to warmer weather so I can get out to the mountains on the weekends where the movement of the sun forces me to work quickly.

Pen and ink on wood with Varnish

I’ve seen some great pen and ink art on wood but there is very little information out there on how to do it.

Here is what I discovered:

I use high end furniture grade one quarter inch 5 ply white maple plywood for my oil paintings. It’s $104 a sheet of 4′ x 8′. It has a flawless surface on both sides.

I decided to use some to make a small wood box, which I then decorated with pen and ink. My ink was rOtring black, Platinum Carbon black and Sakura Jelly Roll white.

I sanded the wood with 300 grit paper then sealed with two coats of Gamblin PVA size, sanding before and after both size coats.

The drawing process felt normal, though the PVA size was slightly less absorbent than paper, so I was careful not to touch the lines if they looked wet. Really the ink only needed 10 seconds to dry, if that. I did a pure ink sketch, no pencil underneath.

After drawing, I waited a day then used Gamblin Gamvar oil painting varnish to seal the drawing and protect it from wear and tear. Both the black and white ink survived the varnishing perfectly. This looks like a great way do pen art because you don’t have to put it under glass or use matts. It’s just like an oil painting, no glass needed.

Oh, and the new paddle works well. It is heavier, so some of my shots were going off the table. I’m learning to hit the ball softer since the paddle has more inertia than my old one.

Painting a violin

Kristi loaned me her violin after our last jam session. When she plays that violin it brings magic into the room. Don’t know how such a small instrument can add so much beauty.

On the painting side, it’s a nightmare to draw. There are countless complex curves that have to be rendered perfectly. And the wood…did I ever mention how hard it is to paint wood? Not to mention the strings, this was the first time I’ve tried to paint ultra thin lines.

I also neglected to think about composition and started with the violin floating on white. All of my stumbling trial and error approach to painting is shown in these photos.

I’m 4 hours into another angle. This time I’m drawing it bigger than life size. And I’m looking down the length of it. The tuning knobs are bigger and the neck is foreshortened. This makes it really, really hard…so hard I had to grid out the canvas, and look at the violin thru my little dental floss grid viewer….pictures to follow.

For hour after hour I stood there trying, and failing, to draw it accurately. If something is life size, I can measure much more easily. I look, measure and draw it to size. But when it’s bigger, there is some mental transposing that goes on after I look. I can’t just draw what I see. I have to draw it larger.

I know this doesn’t make sense. I draw stuff smaller than life all the time. That seems to be easier. Perhaps it’s that when you are drawing something so close you can touch it, it’s natural to want to make it life size?

Alex and his son dropped by for a little ping pong today and I showed them the painting of the family violin. They were impressed.