Eastside Plating Works, Plant 5 (The Paintings)

More than a month ago, I said I was almost finished with Plant 5. Well, time is as relative as other attributes of our world, so “almost” is tallied as a month’s further tweaking.

Below are images of the final work. The titles and comments are meant to please all: Jan shouldn’t read them or the comments below the paintings. Those who want factual info may read the pre-colon material but avoid the final comments. Those who crave more info may go for the post-colon text as well as my maunderings about the process and the place.

All the paintings are 30 x 40″, and while they are not strictly meant as a panorama, I have included one view of the five of them together.

JOU, Eastside Plating Works Plant 5, number 1: Monday elevenish, 40 x 30″, oil on canvas, 2012

 

JOU, Eastside Plating Works Plant 5 number 2: Tuesday 5PM , 30 x 40″, oil on canvas, 2012

 

JOU, Eastside Plating Works Plant 5, number 3: Wednesday, noon, 40 x 30″, oil on canvas, 2012

 

JOU, Eastside Plating Works Plant 5, number 4: Sunday Morning, 30 x 40″, oil on canvas, 2012

 

JOU, Eastside Plating Works Plant 5, number 5: Friday 3:30PM, 40 x 30″, oil on canvas, 2012

 

JOU, Eastside Plating Works, Plant 5, various sizes, oil on canvas, 2012

These paintings were part of a 3-month stint sponsored by Portland Store Fixtures, (110 SE Main Street). Plant 5 occupies the northern half of the 200 block, just east of the Store Fixtures warehouses on SE Main. It consists of 5-7 buildings, arranged in a deep semi-circle, the interior shape partly dictated by a former railroad siding that once ran diagonally through the space. Now, trucks enter into the semi-circle to deliver and pick up materials; workers park their cars there. The interior of the semi-circle has mysterious industrial artifacts, like the prominent funnel in Number 3.

I painted on-site studies of these scenes during a warm spell in January and February, took innumerable reference photos, and did the large paintings in the studio for the remainder of the winter and spring, returning to Plant 5 when I needed more information.

I like to paint my surrounds, over time, providing the viewer with what normally busy people don’t have time to observe. Jer says I make things more beautiful than they are; I say, he just wasn’t there when I was. –June

And Ran Ortner, a painter of huge seascapes, says in an interview in The Sun, June 2012, “I did not want the distance or the conceit that devices like irony evoke. I decided I would attempt a kind of tightrope act. I would paint straight — in a realistic manner — but I would attempt to be inventive with my perspective and the quality of immersion. I hoped to build…emotional density.”  He says it better than I’ve ever  been able to.

Paintings from the Sandgren Workshop

[Ed. note: this is a re-posting from the southeastmain blog]

By june

I’m finally ready to post the paintings from the Sandgren Workshop, not because they are fascinating and wonderful, but because, well, because it’s time.

I did six paintings in three days, and then I reworked them in the studio. Five of the paintings were single framed views; the sixth was a stab at making ambiguous space. One of the paintings was so bad it’s now face-down in the studio.

Day 1, at Seal Rock State Park, south of  Newport, Oregon, on the coast:

JOU, Seal Rock Park 1, 16 x 12″, oil on masonite, 2011

JOU, Seal Rock Park 2, 12 x 16″, oil on masonite, 2011

For years, I have pondered the difficulty of painting treescapes immersed within brushy, unfocused areas. Perhaps ambiguous, unoriented, fragmented space might do it, but here, it’s “just” a matter of painting the light through the fog. Now I should have known about light through trees long ago, but insights seem to come slowly to me. This was an incidental insight from Eric Sandgren, the workshop instructor. He spoke a lot about layering of planes, but demoed the light, and that  stuck with me.

Day 2, Cummins Creek at Neptune State Park on Cape Perpetua, south of Yachats

JOU, From Cummins Creek Park, 16 x 12″, oil on masonite, 2011

JOU, Cummins Creek Tree, 16 x 12″, oil on masonite, 2011

Day 2 was sunny and bright, unlike day one, when the advantage of painting trees under the trees was that one didn’t get dripped on. The general palettes of the two days were quite different, of course, and Eric got to home in on color intensity as well as value. He nattered on about warm and cool colors, a concept which I theoretically have understood for years, but never worked in nuance before. So I practiced seeing warms and cools where they weren’t obvious, and did as suggested with the intense ultramarine in the ocean on the first painting of the day.

After I got home, I reworked these paintings, and in doing so I lost their freshness. I am disappointed in how they turned out but not in what I learned as I fussed and fretted over getting a rhythm and sequence to the materials. So during and after day 2, I’m thinking “layering, intensity of hue, values, rhythm and sequencing, and planes.”  Well, I tried to think of those things, serially and all at once. Multitasking at its most difficult, particularly as I am supposed to be handling a paint brush at the same time….

Day 3, North Park, Yachats (which isn’t called that anywhere but in Eric’s handouts. But it’s so obvious that misnomer didn’t matter)

JOU, Yachats across the Bay, 24 x 12″, oil on masonite, 2011

I had gone to the Sandgren workshop hoping to deal with the vexed question of painting something more than the framed, monocular perspective, the traditional view of ocean and land. The Yachats painting was my attempt to incorporate larger issues into an ocean painting. It, like the two from the previous day, has a lot of flaws, including serious overworking in the studio. However, it contains all the elements of ambiguous space that I need to do it again, better.

The conditions on Day 3 are the stuff of plein air legend — I had on four layers, a hat and gloves, the wind howled and the rain spat, and it wasn’t until 2 PM that it warmed up enough for me to take off my gloves and undo the top button on my coat. Nevertheless I was pleased to have found one way to work toward capturing the oceanic space as well as the sense of the whole scene as one might view it from various places. Eric’s insistence upon planar composition made sense to me in a way that years of thinking about shapes as a compositional basic never has.

So, while the final products may have been lackluster, my sense of excitement in cementing some ideas that I have circled for years continues. –June

Petrified Forest Residency: Travel, Sept 19

Caldwell, Idaho: too tired, too rainy, too much road, too tacky the surrounds, to do any painting outside tonight. I did drag out my colored pencils and sketch pad and ended up doing a pseudo-watercolor (pseudo because it was sketched and then scratched in with watercolor pencils and brushed over). I wish this piece were more Hopper-esque; the motel, while staffed by very pleasant folks, has the blankest walls and is the least alive place I’ve seen. The view out the window is of the roof of the entrance drive.  I found myself wishing for some motel art! I dabbled in some exciting TV scenes, thinking of lonely people in motel rooms, looking to the TV for their life.

The paper, a new sketch pad, wasn’t meant to be painted on, and my colored pencils are an odd mix of water and non-watercolor, not necessarily the right shades of either.  Maybe I should have stuck to a pencil sketch.

At any rate, I’m really mulling over the paintings I did yesterday. The one of the “empty” valley, pre-white settlers, uses the Cezanne-ish technique of tilting the back of the scene up toward the viewer. This has the effect of emphasizing as well as distorting the subject matter. I have to decide if and/or how much I want to lie that mid-ground valley down. It’s the heart of the subject, the place that I could imagine a band of native Americans, smoke from their fires, kids playing in the river (under the trees), women beading and gossiping, men gambling with stones and getting weapons and nets ready to retrieve an evening meal. But of course, none of that shows, and perhaps the tilt of the golden valley floor merely looks weird.

These are the questions that try the painter’s soul. The farmed valley sits more comfortably on the canvas — perhaps it was my discomfort with the thought of the displaced people that made the valley tilt.

There are other bits that will be worked on, but it’s this particular challenge that I’m thinking about as I ponder what I want in the final painting that will someday emerge from the first drafts.

Reporting on Sunday September 19, from Caldwell, Idaho, in a comfortable but unenergized motel room –June