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.
I started another self portrait a few days ago. Pencil seemed like a good starting medium, but I got lost in the details and forgot it was going to all be covered up with oil paint. In hindsight I should have just done a nice pencil drawing and called it good. I’ve got some lovely Rives cold press 80# Illustration board that makes awesome pencil drawings. But I started this on gesso covered board, so an oil painting it will be.
Self Portrait from mirror, pencil
I posted the pencil version on instagram and my friend Kristi said I should leave some of the pencil showing, for an unfinished look. I’m not sure if that will happen, but I do like the look of the hair in pencil contrasted with the skin tones. I mean, if I wanted it photographic, I’ve got cameras for that. I’m trying to create art, but art is so hard to define. It means different things to everyone.
Anyway, I’m happy with the progress, and look forward to spending more time on it. I’m still hammering out the color scheme. For example, what color is reflected light on skin? I’m using two lights: a shop trouble light (incandescent) for the main, and a much smaller fluorescent trouble light for the fill light.
I honestly can not see the hue. I keep guessing at violets and greens, but nothing rings true. They say any hue will work if the value is correct. And it’s true that if I flatten it to black and white the values look accurate…but that doesn’t help as I agonize over paint colors at my palette.
Self Portrait, 7 hours in
It’s lovely to have the spare time to paint. This quarter has been too much work and not enough play, up until this week.
Lisa and I did our usual birthday ski Tuesday. We went to Crystal this year where I tried out some borrowed downhill skis. My normal tele boots didn’t fit them so I tried out some boots from the early eighties and they were horrible. Now I realize I need to invest in new boots that will work for modern downhill skis. But I can’t afford both downhill boots and backcountry boots…assuming I want to ski randonee style (AT) in the backcountry.
At Crystal I quickly shed the downhill gear and went back to my telemark set up. That was awesome in the deep powder and I made it all day in those. But it’s all about the boots. My tele boots are only a few years old and they work great, very supportive in deep snow. My son said he would help me look for modern downhill boots when they go on sale this spring.
I’m back at work from my Winter Break. I have one class this quarter. The reasons for my low class load are complicated, and best not discussed here. I can say however that enrollment at our college is down 14% across all programs. Enrollment in state technical colleges like ours is directly related to unemployment, which is also very low at 5%. The one class I do have is fully enrolled. I love sharing my passion for the internet and all the clever things you can do with code.
Because of my reduced class load, I’ve decided to stop painting and focus my energies on web design, which has a better chance of earning me money in the short term. Painting full time was a dream I’d always wanted to pursue. And over the last year I got that chance. True, I was working 2 days a week, but that left 5 to paint, and I painted a lot…to the point where making art felt like work. Doing it full time literally took the fun out of it. I felt like every painting had to suceed because of that burning pressure to get good enough for a big show in a gallery. Many, many of my paintings were just plain bad. In my wifes words: “A sixth grader could paint that”.
Chimney Rock, Jtree
I did do some really nice work, and I treasure those moments of happiness when my paintings were going well and I knew I had a winner. But I never felt they were good enough for a large gallery. I think a couple years in a fine art program would do the trick, but I really can’t afford to pull that money out of my savings…especially without a guarantee of sucess. So for now at least, I’m spending my days off studying new web technologies, and updating my front end web skills to current standards. I’m not that far off, but my website definitely needs an overhaul.
I have a working demo here, but I can’t link to it because it’s been taken apart when the site when live. (edit 2-27-15)
It is fully responsive to changes in the viewport width, and features some unique transitions between thumbnails and full size images. I used to use a prebuilt jquery slideshow plugin. However this new webpage uses a thumbnail function that I wrote almost entirely from scratch. I’m still working some bugs out, but it’s been lot of fun creating a gallery page using my own code and ideas.
Specifically, the two main new functions I’m using are flexbox and column-count. They enable me to have variable height thumbnails that wrap in columns. I merged that concept with parent columns built with flexbox, and have nailed the classic: “In search of the holy grail of web design“…without using floats, or positioning.
In case you don’t know, the holy grail in web design is to get 2 fixed width columns on left and right, with an expanding liquid center. It’s easy enough to do with floats and positioning. Since tables died out, I’ve been teaching that style of interface design for 10 years.
I’d been hearing from my students that there were new technologies coming online that made it easier. Things like the grid systems, and prebuilt web aplications like WordPress, which I use to manage this bog. They manage the columns for you, so you can concentrate on content.
But when I heard from a student last quarter about Flexbox, I decided it was worth a look. I studied a couple training lessons at www.lynda.com and realized the browsers had finally matured enough to support real graphic design style column functionality.
I’ve got that nailed down pretty tightly, and I’ve got it fully responsive.
My Christmas break was super fun, and we had a great time down in jtree this year. Here are a few pictures, including recent backcountry snowcave camping trip. We got back from Cali’, and immediately went snowcamping.
Chimney Rock, Joshua Tree
Me climbing F8, Joshua Tree
Sue in the Iron Door cave, Joshua Tree
Craig playing banjo on top of Chimney Rock, Joshua Tree
Craig hiking to the top with his banjo, Joshua Tree
Sue following a 5.8, Joshua Tree
Me with my painting New Years day 2016, Joshua Tree
I finished my painting of Tacoma’s Old City Hall. Simultaneously there was a community push to save the old building from neglect and abandonment. I posted my painting on the “save old city hall” page, and the guy who runs it liked it so much he made it his profile image. A week later Tacoma bought the building priced at $4,000,000. That got me thinking that I need to start an open artist Facebook account to promote my art. My current Facebook account is just for climbing friends…people I know and like personally. I have it locked down tightly for privacy. As a teacher (part time), I try to be careful about my professional image. But that does not serve me well as an artist. I will work on that.
Here is the painting. It took me three Friday afternoons to finish it. Below it is my latest Nisqually painting. This is the first time I’ve painted down there in oils.
Tacoma’s Old City Hall
Nisqually Delta, 9 x 12 oil on board
I’ve got 3 hours in a new painting of Stadium High School, which I will post later.