Playa Residency, September 18. 2013

Wed Sept 19

Got up at 6 this morning, after rolling around in bed for half an hour or so.  I woke up in a kind of panic over my large, and seemingly impossible, project. My brain kept swirling about the problems of painting on the cedar (which really needs a lot of experimentation and then quantities of sanding and prep before it will be ready for pigment). Furthermore, the difficulty of getting it up the hill, of getting my art materials up to it, of having enough art materials, including a clear gel medium laid down, and then waiting for that medium to to dry before I painted on it, trying to stow my stuff in the mouse-ridden airstream, and working long hard hours for 7 days in a row – well, it all seemed too hard.

Sometimes. if I work on a painting after a night of panic, it dissipates the tension and clears the way for reasonable decisions.

NorthPondSunrise2wlThis north pond is what I see best from my big playa-oriented windows and from my table in the kitchen. It requires being painted, if only as a memento. So, at 6:30 I was out on the deck, laying in the shapes of the mountain and pond on a big (30 x 40”) canvas.

After I laid in the shapes on the very dark canvas (what was I thinking when I prepared this canvas with black acrylic?), I started painting. Frost covered the gold and rust grasses on the side of the pond, and it seemed to be a very still (very early) morning. What I forgot is that frost generally signifies a certain amount of cold. Or perhaps a lot of cold. Even more cold on a shaded deck, around the corner from the warm sun, where there was a bit of breeze. Dealing with my self-inflicted dilemma of the panorama and my intense concentration on the painting made me forget to feel how cold my fingers were getting.

But oh my — when I emerged from the painting/thinking trance, I was shaking with cold. My fingers stopped being able to hold the brushes well. I have painting gloves with me, but there’s something about my total absorption in my painting that makes me forget my bodily needs. Until, sometimes with a painful start, I remember them. I carefully put everything back in the studio, the kind of care one takes when one is thinking about falling apart physically, and went back into the cabin to make tea and warm-up and review my thinking/decision-making.

With a cup of hot tea in my system and another warming my hands, I could see clearly what was bothering me and what I needed to do, whether I wanted to or not.

I have to modify my plans for the big playa panorama. I don’t like the idea of working under the pressure of six days — I don’t deal with deadlines as well as I used to. I can’t imagine working 6—8 hours in the sun and wind up on the hill, and am also dubious about the weather cooperating to allow me to do so.

PlayafromHillWLI have decided I will do some research and a lot more sketches, photograph again and again, and try to begin one or two boards to get a good feel for the project. Then I will see what can be done in the studio over the winter in Portland. That way I can get a few more paintings done down here on the playa itself, on easy ground — no dragging of materials up the hill and worrying about mice chewing it if I leave it overnight, and fussing about the weather and the need to work more and harder.

playaLowlandswlSo now all I have to do is plan some more lowland paintings (I have a couple in mind) and trek up the hill once a day or so to do the visual research. It’s amazing how freeing this decision has been. I feel like a great load has been lifted off me. It’s also amazing how serious I took my (self-concocted) plan as soon as I made it. Self-discipline seems to be an ingrained habit, even when, after all these years, I am able recognize when it’s gone awry.

Anyway, the quotidian goes on. Last night’s beans and Kraft mac and cheese were pretty good — better than the stir fry and mac and cheese the night before. (I’m getting altogether too much mileage from this Kraft dinner.)  I was pleased. I put olives in the dish before I put anything else and so I would get these little spritzes of good taste every other bite. That was rather fun.

BackFortyWlBesides being able to see the Compound and ponds to the west, when I traveled around the “back forty” (really just short-hand for a morning walk around any part of the property) I could get closer to the dry lake bed itself.

I saw a magpie, my first, on my walk around the back forty after my tea this morning. I stopped by the shop, thinking I would help Rachel clean it up from our sanding the day before. But she had already finished the work. I get credit without having to do anything – so satisfying.

When she offered to take me up the hill, I told her of my new modified plans. She might have been a little disappointed, and she looked a little skeptical, but she was gracious. I’m not sure she believes I’ll really do this. I’m not sure either, but I am sure I’ll try <snort>

CommonsGreatroomWlThe Great Room in the Commons. It’s bigger than it looks here, and of course the windows to the right off the photo are huge.

After my walk and my admission to Rachel of my failure of nerve, I went into the Commons. There’s a generous selection of teas available there, and one of them is just right for a person not quite recovered from the early encounter with frost. It’s called “Honey Ginger” and its main ingredient is cane sugar <snort>. It’s downright delicious. I don’t think I’d drink it on a regular basis, but once in a while it just seems perfect. This is like a liquid, slightly watered down, ginger candy that doesn’t stick to your teeth. I may have to find it in Portland.

Rachel took me off to Paisley, where we had lunch, shopped for food and beer (I got sugar wafers), and went to the town library, where she got her library card. This was greatly exciting, since my social contacts have been limited to 4 staff members and the owner of Playa since I came here. I must have seen 15 or 20 humans in Paisley.

RidgePhotoSingleWLThen in the afternoon, I went up the ridge to the view, which was stunning as ever. I’m trying to figure out how to fill my eyes and brain and camera with lots of information. I know this will be easy to forget when I get back to Portland. –June

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4 thoughts on “Playa Residency, September 18. 2013

  1. Yes, we do forget so easily what we think is so impressive we could not ever. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve taken what I thought were good detailed reference shots and stood as you did, long and intently drinking in what I hope not to forget. And then I find those pictures missing details I need later, my mind knowing they exist but blank.

    • I don’t want to hear this, Sheila. But alas, I know you are right. My fallback position is to imagine going back when I discover the lacunae and looking again.

      I did upload the photos and they contain a lot of detail that I couldn’t see quite and a lot that I never imagined the photos would capture. So that helps. But we’ll see. It’s a long wide pano! And a lot of territory on the cedar boards to cover.

  2. Olga,

    The food diary seems particularly pertinent as I have little access to a grocery store (such as they are) out here in the desert. I don’t drive and Paisley, the aforementioned site of beer and a library is 17 miles away. If I were desperate — a three day snowstorm, a two-week power outage — I could get things to eat — from Rachel or the Commons pantries which are well stocked. But ordinarily, I’m left on my own to devise whatever I can from the food stuffs that I packed to come with me. Next time I think I’ll skip the mac and cheese. But I’m not sure what I’ll replace it with. I’m not an enthusiastic cook under the best of circumstances and my idea was to have as little as necessary to survive on for two weeks. I think I lost weight:-).

    As for the knots and unraveling, around our house we talk about our vices being our virtues and vice-versa. Seems appropriate in this case.

  3. Interesting. How we sometimes determinedly tie ourselves into a knot, agonise about being in the knot, and then unbend ourselves again to accept with relief that which might have seemed too tame when we started. Sounds a good idea to me! Especially as you only had a six day deadline – yikes! My first thought would have been to take squillions of photos, especially in the David Hockney Joiners style. What an adventure this is – and I love the food diary element too.

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