I am aweary this evening.
But I tromped again today to the back of the outback and did another medium sized painting (18 x 24).¬† I also worked some more on yesterday’s painting from that same spot.
So here is the photo of the space I concentrated on today:
And here’s the 18 x 24″ painting:
JOU, Foliage in the Painted Hills Outback, 18 x 24″, oil on masonite
And here’s draft 2 of yesterday’s attempt:
JOU, The Painted Hills, Juniper and Sage, 24 x 18″, oil on masonite
Today I was startled by my sense of the sensuality of the hills. I arrived relatively early on the site, having hiked through the sagebrush to reach the tree where I left my gear. I sat on my painting stool, contemplating the hills while being immersed in the¬† dusty sage-and-juniper scents. And I suspect that those moments of sensation were what lingered when I picked up my brush.
Painting the hills here is like painting flesh. I once painted these formations as great lumbering beasts, emerging from the earth. This time they felt to me like slumbering flesh, full of mysterious shadings and crevices made for laying on of hands. It was a delight to work on that feeling, and it’s almost certainly one I can continue to enhance when I get home.
Even though I have four more days to paint, this may be the next-to-last entry of this residency journal. The last will come after I have returned home, have re-worked various paintings, and have photographed them under proper light. I have some¬† more small boards to work on here, on-site, so it’s possible there will be more paintings to come in the next four days.
However, the residencies, even this unofficial one, are exhausting for me. They have a lot of drawbacks — bad internet connections, strange beds, bad food, unfamiliar surrounds, someone else’s kitchen and furniture. Seeking out the best painting spots, dragging the cart, setting up the gear in the wind and sun, painting while thirsty and hot and dusty, and then taking all the gear down and packing it away to drive back home — well, it wears me out.
Of course, the residencies have all the seductive reasons for doing them — new territory to explore and comprehend, new visions for painterly working, new excitement and feelings of being totally alive to place and space, to sun and wind, to sagebrush and rabbitbrush and cactus and mountains ranges and iron oxidation which produce unreproducible color. I can’t speak for other artists, but the residencies, even when the results are not up to my standards, produce more and more thinking about what I’m trying for, where I fail, when and how I sometimes succeed, and what I want to continue with.
At this time, I think I have the material to work further on this unlikely space at home in Portland, thinking about how sensuality of landscape can be rendered through paint and brushstroke, maintaining the sense of the territory and its space, but making it feel like a beloved body, with all its ungainly pieces coming together to exhilarate. I have theories about bodies, too, of course, theories that don’t match the glossy botoxed models of media fame. Bodies and landscapes are better when they aren’t manicured and made to look too regular. The best landscapes, and perhaps the best bodies, are quirky, foolish at times, awkward and aged, not to perfection, but to wear.
So you see, with thoughts like that, it may be better not to maunder on for the next few days here in Mitchell, Oregon, on Piety Hill, just up from the dens of iniquity in Tiger Town down on the flats. Maundering may be better with a fresh mind.
So see you in a while, however long that takes. –June