Paintings from Pine Creek: Issue 3

Rain on the Pine Creek Gorge: from Bradley Wales

Rain on the Pine Creek Gorge: from Bradley Wales

18 x 24″, oil on Masonite, 2012

It was a long and fraught winter, with annoying bouts of vertigo that often stopped me completely. Earlier, I had committed to a charity auction, so most of my upright time was spent getting a small end table painted and presentable for the Community Warehouse Chair Affair.

However, as the vertigo lifted, I went back to the studio, where I had odd bits and pieces of paintings from Pine Creek left to finish.

The two Pine Creek Gorge paintings (above and below) were begun on a foggy, rainy afternoon, on-site in Pennsylvania, and soothed in the Oregon studio; both were started at the Bradley Wales lookout, just over the hill from where my mother spent some of her most memorable moments of childhood.

from Bradley Wales Lookout

from Bradley Wales Lookout

18 x 24″, oil on Masonite, 2012

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Paintings from Pine Creek, Second Issue

It’s now November and I have left the north-central woods of Pine Creek, had a brief visit with relatives¬† in Lancaster County, spent four days in Philadelphia, mostly at the new Barnes Museum, and am now back in Portland Oregon. Here’s some links to my non-painting adventures: the Saga; the Crick; the hike up Gamble Run Road;¬† and the last days.

And, just in case you missed it, the first group of paintings from Pine Creek can be found on my art blog, the post immediately prior to this one. Below are the paintings not shown there.

The Camp (Cedar Pines) and its Rock Fence, 12 x 24″, oil on board, 2012

Pine Creek and Stump, 18 x 24″, Oil on board, 2012

From Gamble Run Road (2), 12 x 16″, oil on board, 2012

Slate Ledges along Rt. 414, 12 x 16″, oil on board, 2012

Birches at Leonard Harrison State Park, 12 x 16″, oil on board, 2012

Cushman View 1, 6 x 16″, oil on board, 2012

Cushman View 2, 6 x 16″, oil on board, 2012

Each of the paintings carries its own anecdote, of course. The long, semi-panorama of Cedar Pines was done on a humid day on a hill across the road from the camp, another of those masochistic attempts to capture something of the feel of the place in which our family has so much history embedded. The rock wall is made from creek cobbles.

The stump, in Pine Creek and Stump, is one of hundreds in the area, left after a mini-tornado took out trees as well as roofs and telephone wires. I became fascinated by the stumps and the trees, many of them white pines. Somehow the stumps and trees became metaphors for my thinking about the homeplace, particularly as some of the snags and stumps showed new growth or sheltered new kinds of plants.

The Gamble Run painting was a re-visiting of another which sold; I was so smitten with that view that I tried to paint another. The second version, while painted from the same spot as the first, is different — of course.

The slate ledges painting, done in preparation for something else I had in mind, took on its own life, in part because of the challenge of the material and in part because I was sitting on a very narrow verge of a hill on a winding narrow mountain road. It almost certainly caused a certain amount of comment in the community, particularly as I was in danger of a) tumbling down the hill behind me and/or b) being run down by the vehicles of the locals who know every inch of the road (and drive accordingly) but didn’t know that painters had found the glories of the area.

The last three paintings above were from views of the Pine Creek Gorge. The birches with the Gorge in the background were a compromise; I found the perfect place to paint from but couldn’t get my materials down the trail to the lookout (I took lots of photos). So I sat along a comfortable and accessible spot in the main trail.¬† The two paintings from the Cushman Lookout were done in the sun and heat with waspish creatures bugging me, but were somehow important to me in a personal sense. My mother and father loved that view and I have old black and white photos of them with the two of them and Jer, looking out over the mountains. The Cushman isn’t a view of Pine Creek but rather of a tributary of a tributary of Pine Creek; it does, however, show the Allegheny Plateau going on and on and on. The two paintings were done on a single 12 x 16″ board, which I think will be cut in half some day.

Autumn and Snags, 16 x 12″, oil on board, 2012

This last painting was done at the end of my visit, after Jer had loaded up the big canvases and I had finished off the few pieces I kept back to ship before I traveled home by train. It’s one of my favorites, containing not just the snags and fog, but at last, some color other than green.

Finally, in the continuation of this post, are paintings which I sold or gifted; one of the benefits of being a painter is that it isn’t too difficult to give thank-you gifts to those who have helped. So if you want to see a few more photos of paintings, not tweaked in the home studio, continue on.

And, the two big canvases I started on the back porch of the Camp (as well as a few others) are still being worked on. More on them later. –June

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The Figure in the Landscape: Summer 2012

I just completed a 2-week, six-day workshop on the figure in landscape. I have decided that this year I will concentrate on painting figures and faces, so in June, I reviewed portraiture with Jeff Burke at Hipbone studio (see the previous post). And in July,  I took this workshop.

Our schedule was fairly routine: We did a lot of gestural sketching of the models during the early part of the day and then, just before lunch, we began to lay in the primary painting of the day.

By 4:30, we were supposed to have a somewhat finished painting, in my case on an 18 x 24″ Masonite board. The pace of the sketching and painting was fast, purposely so, as our instructor wanted us to work on the whole scene and not get hung up on specifics of the figure.

The first week we painted in Laurelhurst Park, which is lush and green and lively. It’s an important Portland park, designed by a student and colleague of Frederick Olmstead, using his ideas of what urban parks should be. Laurelhurst is on the National Historic Register because it has kept the basic Olmstead design intact. It’s a magical place to paint.

JOU, Summer Workshop 2012 Day1, 18 x 24″, oil on canvas, 2012

Above is the painting from Day 1, not revised thus far.

Not only is Laurelhurst beautiful, but the models were beautiful, and skilled. It isn’t easy to pose out of doors, even when the weather is fine. We always had two models. We chose one of two different scenes, and the models would alternate between them; the artists would paint both models serially, seeing them together only briefly at the beginning of the long poses. A small group of models, four altogether, reappeared in various couplets during the the 6 days of the workshop.

JOU, Workshop Summer 2012 Day 2, 18 x 24, oil on board, 2012

On day 2, after an extended discussion of color, Impressionism and post-Impressionism, I decided to use arbitrary color, specifically blue skin tones. When I finished at 4:30, I rather disliked the blue skins, but later came to think they worked in a peculiar sort of way. Which, come to think of it, is what was said in the final critique.

Day 3 we came back to the park. I felt more and more at home with two models and the pace of the drawing/painting:

JOU, Workshop summer 2012 Day 3, 18 x 24″, oil on board, 2012

This is the only painting from the workshop that I worked further in the studio. The basics are the same, but some of the colors got pushed in one direction or another. And the instructor had told the male model to sit on a stool toward the end of the session. I painted him in, but later took the seated figure back out.

The sessions were held three days of the week, and the second week arrived with threatening weather, so we moved indoors, to a renovated warehouse in NW Portland.

[Here’s a 2006 article about the warehouse and its primary purpose, to house an extensive model train set-up. Since the article was written in 2006, Larry, the owner, has designed and gardened a natural landscape outside the warehouse for the trains to move through. We got to make use of that landscape on Day 6 of the workshop.]

JOU, Workshop Summer 2012 Day 4 (#1), 24 x 18″, oil on Masonite, 2012

JOU, Workshop Summer 2012 Day 4 (#2), 18 x 24″, oil on Masonite, 2012

On Day 4 (see the paintings above) I began the large painting with a very dark toned board. I usually paint some under-color on my boards, but the darkness of my color choice threw me off. At some point I simply couldn’t “see” the painting any more and the instructor suggested I start a new one. I think I worked on #2 for about 15 minutes before I had to quit altogether. Again, neither of these paintings has been retouched — yet. The computer may have lightened #1 more than it appears in real life — that under-tone was a real pain.

On day 5, we continued in the warehouse, as it threatened rain again. The instructor began with an interesting challenge, having us draw a sketchy door and mat at the top of our papers. We then began quick sketches, as he moved the models closer and closer to the group. What that did was to enforce our sense of spatial distancing through size — the closer the models got to us, of course the larger they appeared. The original door and mat served as reference points for our sketches. A very effective way to make a point, albeit exhausting.

JOU, Workshop summer 2012 day 5 (#1), 12 x 16″, oil on Masonite, 2012

JOU, Summer Workshop 2012 Day 5 (#2), 16 x 12″, oil on Masonite, 2012

For the day 5 paintings I decided to use some materials I had worked on earlier in the summer. I had been painting with greens and had a number of boards whose surfaces were basically 57 or so versions of the hue. These were 12 x 16″ boards, smaller than the others I had brought to the workshop.

The night before Day 5, I scraped and sanded the small green boards, muting the greens, and the next day I used them to make studies for what I hoped would be a larger panel with the wild green undertone. I thought this intrusive undertone would force me to integrate the figures and landscape even as they were separated by doors and walls. I was determined to bring the landscape into the warehouse.

It was a disappointing attempt (I’m showing Day 5 works only out of honesty and a need to be complete). The greens were a muddle, distracting me; the rocking chair one of the models sat in seemed to defeat me; the composition got out of hand. In short I felt these two studies went way astray. Because of this I decided against bringing in a larger green-toned board the next day.

JOU, Workshop summer 2012, Day 6, 18 x 24″, oil on canvas, 2012

I think this final work is the painting I’m most fond of, although of course, it needs more work. We were at the warehouse again, but the weather, while cloudy, wasn’t as threatening, so we went outside into the exotic garden beside the warehouse. The scene included landscape and industrial elements — both of which I’m very familiar with. The two models had been with us off and on for the last five sessions, so they were quite familiar, thus easier to paint. And we didn’t do any preliminary sketches, so I was less exhausted when the process began. In short, this is a work I shall revise, with the thought that I can turn it into a successful final product.

To summarize this experience: I had begun hoping to gain more clarity about the figure within the landscape. I finished with no more ideas about the interactions of humans and landscape  than I had when I started. Figure painting is as stylized as figure drawing, or at least it was in this workshop. There was no instructional attempt to find the relationships between the figures and the landscape in the modeling set-up and my feeble attempts were pretty much failures. On the other hand, I gained confidence in my ability to paint the figure, at least in this Impressionistic mode. I played with color in ways I might not have without the workshop. And I may have a painting or two that I like from the process.

The critique session, begun about 2:30 and finishing at 6 or so on that last day, included comments about my work as “surreal” and “innovative”, (although “not really.”) My own critique about the workshop says that I now have a clearer comprehension of where my weaknesses with the figure lie, and, more importantly, that I have not resolved the issue of the figure in landscape. So I have my work cut out for me over the next 9 or 10 months, as I work further with the figure and with the figure in landscape, and continue to play with the landscapes I love. –June