The Plank Paintings: Playa, September 2013 — January 2014

Plank2The “Plank Paintings”, more formally known as Summer Lake from Winter Ridge, has long been finished. I wrote about it earlier, under the rubric of The Project from Hell.

I finished the last coats a bit more than a year ago, and I recorded much of the process along the way. Then life intervened and I never got the panels photographed. Finally, however, I finally got the finished paintings lined up for photography is my new studio.

The panorama is 1 foot high by 16 feet long, oil on cedar planks, painted in 2013, 1014. More specifically, the substrate consists of eight 12 x 24 inch planks, harvested, with the help of the talented Rachel Streeter, from old building that sat on the land where the Playa Foundation was built. Playa, the Foundation, is located on Summer Lake, near Paisley, Oregon, in the far southeastern quarter of the state.

AcrossThePlayaFromRidgeWLA “playa”, as a geologic feature, is a lake which has no outlet to the ocean. The most famous one in the U.S. is perhaps Death Valley. The Amargosa, across a mountain range from Death Valley, where I painted in 2009, is a playa. Summer Lake sits at the northern edge of basin and range country, and forms its own playa, with Winter Ridge rearing above it.

The paintings were something of a challenge, beginning with raw wood that needed to be sanded and primed with an oil medium.

PlanksRawWlThen the planks were lined up on the wall, with various versions of the Summer Lake Playa, photographed panoramically, above and below:

PlanksAndPhotosRawWLOnce the horizon was established on the paintings, according to my physical sense of that sky and earth, I could start painting. Each painting was lined up with the previous one (although I started from the center, of course).

planksProcess2WLThe red line on the plank above was my original idea of the horizon. It got adjusted as I painted.

My desire was to capture something of the sweep of the playa as seen from above, on Winter Ridge, during a bright September day.

Here’s a photo of the finished panorama:

PlayaPlankPanoFullWLSummer Lake from Winter Ridge from the left, 1 foot by 16 feet, oil on cedar planks, 2013/2014.

PlayaPlankPanoFullStraightOn

Summer Lake from Winter Ridge, the Panorama, 1 foot by 16 feet, oil on cedar plank, 2013/2014

Below are photos of the individual planks:

#1PlayaPlankPanoWLPlank 1, Summer Lake to the south.

#2PlayaPlankPanoWLPlank 2, Summer lake to the southeast.

#3PlayaPlankWLPlank 3, Summer Lake to the southeast

#4PlayaPlankPanoWLPlank 4, Summer Lake to the east.

#5PlayaPlankPanoWLPlank 5, Summer Lake to the east.

#6PlayaPlankPanoWLPlank 6, Summer Lake to the northwest.

#7PlayaPlankPanoWLPlank 7, Summer Lake to the northwest

#8PlayaPlankPanoWLPlank 8, Summer Lake to the northwest.  To state the obvious, I was painting from the west side of Summer Lake, on the eastfacing side of Winter Ridge itself.

Below are the two center panels, 4 & 5, plus bits of the ones beside them:

PlayaPano4,5PlusWLThese panels were the culminating work from a short residency at the Playa Foundation, during the fall of 2013. The planks were courtesy of the Foundation, and it was actually Rachel, musician, tile setter, and finder of wood and energy, who provided the ambition and tools to move me along on this rather ambitious project. I used the grain of the raw wood to guide the earth images, allowing any imperfections in the boards to remain. The challenge of finding the nuances within the playa, sand and sky, was almost equal to the challenge of preparing the wood. And of course, I feel in the panorama a kinship with that glorious land of southern Oregon, a place of blazing beauty and tough conditions.

Written in January 2015, from NE 86th Ave,

June

 

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. Continue reading

Playa, September 17, 2013

Sept 17, Tuesday

I had an exciting morning. Went out with Rachel at 6:30 A.M. — this meant getting up at 5:30 because I’m a nervous nelly –  and I needed to heat up a cup of coffee so I could pretend to be human. We walked up to the bone yard, where Pepper looked for rats under piles of lumber, and Rachel and I checked out the boards for suitable painting ones.

BoneyardWhereWhiteDotWLThe “boneyard” is the little whitish dot to the left a bit lower than center. The dot (which I could see more clearly on a blown-up version of the photo) is actually the carefully stacked and tied boards rescued when Playa was built. Obviously this photo was taken from a ways away.

I wanted boards at least 12 inches wide, and indeed we found a number of cedar ones, very rough but the right width and depth (the 3rd dimension — 1/4, 1/2, .75 inches didn’t matter).  Rachel said she could sand them a bit and cut them into a good length.

Continue reading