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 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.
I have a long standing tradition dating back to my high school years: whenever a bouquet of flowers appears in my home, it gets painted. Doesn’t matter where it came from, or who bought them for what occasion…they end up in front of my easel.
So when Lisa bought her mom a nice bouquet for mothers day, it took me about 2 days to realize I needed to paint them. Simultaneously I’ve been getting more comfortable with oil paints due to all my recent plein air work, and I decided this was a perfect opportunity to step up to the larger canvas size of 16 x 20.
I promised myself that I would approach some galleries in Tacoma or Seattle as soon as I mastered oil paints. After nine months of constant painting I think my skill with oils has matched or maybe even exceeded my skill with pastels. It’s been a long road. There were weeks when everything I did was terrible and I dispaired of painting anything beautiful ever again. But something in me refused to give up. When a painting failed to fly, I plugged in my belt sander and ground it back to masonite. Three coats of gesso later, I was ready to try again…and again.
Each time I finished one I’d show it to Sue, my best critic, and carefully watch her face as she examined the work. She knows beauty when she sees it, but I think she may be biased by her desire for me to return to computer programming, with it’s more reliable paychecks. Getting a favorable review from her is challenging. I think she sort of liked this one, or at least thought it wasn’t too bad.
Here are a few more of my recent plein air paintings. Painting outside taught me to work quickly.
I have a lot of memories here. Dad worked for the Supreme Court for 25 years. I wasn’t sure they would let me stand on the lawn and paint here on a work day. I was literally 100 feet from the governors mansion and security was tight. Fortunately the State Police seemed to like my painting, as did a bunch of people in very expensive suits.
Olympia State Capital
We drove up to Pt. Townsend where there is good access to boats.
Pt. Townsend boatyard
I’ve also spent 3 Fridays working on a painting of Tacoma’s Old City hall. That was fun. I spent so much time there I started to make friends with the homeless people who hang out in the park, and the nearby restaurant offered to let me hang my paintings. Last Sunday I painted the West Point Lighthouse in Seattle. They need a few tweaks before I can show them. Mixed in with all this painting I’ve done a little climbing…but my main focus this spring has been painting.
I finished a 15 hour self portrait in oils yesterday. I am getting comfortable with this new medium. The learning curve was fairly short, and it gives me lots of ideas for rainy day painting in my studio.