Diary of a Residency, days 41 & 42, March 29, 2009. The End

The final day at the Goldwell Open Air Museum’s Workspace Artist in residency:

From this:redbarnemptygallerystudio

To this:


And this:

studiofinalnorthwallw1And this:

studiofinalnortheastwallwAnd this:

studiosouthwestwallwI took almost no photos the last two days; during exhibits I always think I will take lots and then, as I’m talking and greeting and hugging, I forget. I even forgot to get photos of Suzanne and Charles and Sammie today, which is shocking.

I did get a photo of John, who as one of the regulars at the Barn wandered in from time to time or stopped to chat me up while I was plein airing out on the desert: he was first to the Open Studio, and so I was still in my remembering-to-photo  mode.

studiojohndreamwThat’s Dream, his greyhound on the floor. She isn’t really impressed by paintings but decided I was OK. John bought the very last painting I did, Zabriskie Point. I would have liked to have brought that home with me, but I also am pleased that it was he who bought it.

Here’s someone whose photo I remembered to take at just about the same time — Jer was talking to John, so I caught him looking very like his skeptical self:

studiojerwThe painting in back of him is one that is coming home with us.

Here’s a photo taken by Pam Brekas, who visited and insisted not only on taking the picture but on emailing it to me:


So here are the final stats of the Goldwell residency. 27 “successful” paintings done; 5 discarded, for a total of 32 paintings over 42 days. Two were over 50 x 50″; two successful ones were 18 x 36″ (and two failed ones were also 18 x 36″¬† — hey 50% ain’t bad), three were odd sized canvases (including 2 bad ones), and the rest were either 18 x 24 or 12 x 16″. All the boards, 12 x 16″, 18 x 24″, and 18 x 36″ were done plein air. 5 paintings were done on canvas, in the studio, unstretched. I’m taking home the two big unstretched canvases and one other. I did far more landscapes than Beatty-scapes, which I did not expect. But the landscape cried out for being looked at, again and again. So I did. And then I painted it, again and again, — the playa 4 times; the Beattie Mountain 4 times; Golden Canyon/Zabriskie Point 3 times, Bullfrog Hills at least twice. Sometimes I found myself dreaming of the great hills around the Red Barn, with its enormous expanse of space to the south.

I worked intensely every day except a couple after I finished the¬† big paintings and the last four days, visiting Titus Canyon, entertaining Lia and Bo, and getting ready for the Exhibit. I don’t think I ever worked as intensely at art as I have these last 42 days.

About 60 people showed up for the Open Studio yesterday, and this morning, George and Carrie Radomski, as well as Suzanne, Charles, and Sammie showed up. So we had a good chance to chat with the people we came to know best on this last full day we have in Beatty.

Working by myself, out in the desert air, I had a lot of time to contemplate the human left-overs on an indifferent landscape. The desert doesn’t get rid of human detritus, and so a different kind of history remains than one sees¬† in wet climates. The desert holds the junk, almost indifferently. You often can’t see the human elements until you walk the landscape, unless, like the mine tailings, the very rock has been violated. But if left alone for 100 years, perhaps even that will disappear, looking like part of the rock from which it was drilled. Left alone, the place feels like an ancient, calm, deserted ruin, governed by an extraordinary force of sun and heat and wind and flash floods.

Tonight the wind is howling. A dust storm has blown up and a day that began as calm and beautiful as a dream has turned into an unforgiving blast. It’s not cold, which is even more weird to we outlanders. It’s time to go home to Portland, when, if the wind blows like this, it blows rain, not dust, and it will be cold outside, not warm. And at this time of the year in Portland, it’s showering flower petals, not dust. Going home, I’ll have to readjust my eyes and palette, but after living in the desert for 6 weeks, it’s likely that everything will look new and strange to me. This is an added bonus, because I paint better when I’m confronted with what appears new and strange.

Thank you Goldwell. Thank you Richard and David. Thank you Charles and Sammie. Thank you Maria. And thank you, Suzanne, for all the support you provided.

The experience enhanced my eye, expanded my breath, fulfilled a longing for space, and, perhaps, even improved my painting. It also made me love the desert and hope to be able to return.

Next: The After-words

Diary of a Residency, Day 33, March 20, 2009

Ahhhhhhh. It was a grand day at the Red Barn.

I was reluctant to start. I knew I didn’t know how to fix the big paintings and I had no little ones to procrastinate on. And there was at least one other painting sitting around which was turned to the wall immediately as I walked into the Barn.

When I arrived, there were people wanting to chat me up. And then more came (March in Death Valley seems to bring them out, for good sun-warm reasons) Talking sometimes cheers me up and gives me a bit of a gig, pushing me out of my self-imposed gloom.

So I tackled, though without much hope, the second big canvas that was barely started yesterday. I started in one corner, where I could sort of see what needed done, and proceeded, through the whole thing. And while I tweaked it off and on during the day, by 5 pm, I was pretty satisfied with it.

amargosaplaya2wAmargosa Playa 2, about 5′ x 5′, Oil on canvas.

The Playa 2 is a semi-abstract, just to the right of center on the abstract — representational continuum. I was playing with various perspectives, and hoping to capture something of the feel of the vastness of the playa, just outside the Red Barn doors. I did a representational one of these early on that was quite successful. This, though, was a harder task. [ed note: as of August 31, 2009, the Amargosa Playa 2 painting continues to be worked on, through various versions, including one Emily Carr procedure. The patient lives, but only barely.]

Then I tackled, again, the other big one and this is the result:

goldencanyonrevisitedfinalfixedGolden Canyon Revisited, about 5′ x 5′, Oil on canvas

This was one that editor Jer saw a serious flaw in yesterday; today when I fixed that problem, I created another problem. But I think they are both fixed now.

Both these canvases are pretty good sized — I used a ladder to get to the tops of them. They are my height, but of course raised from the floor, a bit too high for me to reach. One of the tourists took my photo with Golden Canyon; she said she’d email me a copy. [She did mail a copy, which will be exhibited in the Afterward, I think.]

I am content now that I can let these hang for a week, and by that time they will be dry enough to roll up and take home. Both are semi-abstract, both come out of other representational paintings. Both attempt to give the feel of the space being connoted, somewhat claustrophobic in Golden Canyon Revisited, fully open and more open in Amargosa Playa 2.

After working those two, I was feeling my oats, so I retackled the Barrick Mine painting, which has been turned to the wall in embarrassment. But I decided I couldn’t ruin it — as it stood it was so bland as to be annoying. So I smushed paint onto its face, working out some of my feelings about that blasted pile of rubble:barrickminerevisedmar20w1Barrick Open Pit Mine, oil on board, 18 x 36″.

I don’t know if it’s a good painting, but it certainly was a carthartic moment.

Then, it was only 3 pm and I was bored with everything around me — so I started a new large painting on masonite (I can carry it home in its special box), another of the Amargosa Playa. This one was done sitting at the open barn doors, feeling the cooling afternoon wind, being protected by the Barn. A delicious way to paint a scene I’ve come to love:


Amargosa Playa 3, oil on board, 18 x 24″, 2009

The haze on the desert floor felt like the ocean to me as I painted this. Classical music was playing softly, the wind was cool and comforting, the air warm, and the piece just flowed out of me in a single easy sitting. It may need tweaked but right now it feels right.

Then George Radomski, new owner of the Beatty Mercantile, came by to talk about possibly buying some of the paintings for the store. He is such an enthusiastic person that it was the capping of my day. We have reached a tentative agreement and, barring some unforeseen barrier, someone who likes my work a lot will have some of it for himself and his endeavors.

So you see why it was a good day. Jer and I visited the Bullfrog-Rhyolite cemetary when he came to pick me up, and later, we drove back to the Barn from Beatty to get some things and spent the spring twilight, driving around the ghostly light-changing Rhyolite. I hope to find a place not on BLM land to paint from up on the hill, behind Rhyolite, sometime within the next week. Tomorrow I’ll approach Betty and ask where the BLM land stops. You apparently aren’t allowed to paint on BLM land, although you can photograph all you want.

Reporting from Beautiful Downtown Beatty, Nevada, where spring has sprung and the cottonwoods are greening up.


Diary of a Residency, Day 31, March 18, 2009

It’s good to hear from the few people who are reading this Journal. When I’m writing it, I sometimes get stopped, trying to decide who is my audience. I never definitively decided, but you’ve decided it for me. So I’ll watch my language and try to be a lady.

Hi guys, good to hear from you.

Another day at the Studio with a visit from a couple from Massachusetts, who had Questions. Most of the questions I could answer, even civilly, but when the gentleman asked, in a rather aggressive tone: “What do you do with all these paintings?” I did not say “I hit guys like you over the head with them.” But I thought it. But no, I am always perfectly amiable, in part because I’m so happy for the interruption. So I smiled at him, thinly.

Before the interruption, I began the day by taking the last, large, unpainted section of canvas roll I had left and putting a thin layer of color on it. I’m all out of acrylic, so I had to use oils, thinned with mineral spirits. But it didn’t take long to dry in the Nevada sun and air. It’s about the same size as the other big canvas and fills up the last space in the studio. It must be almost time to go home — I’m out of room to hang things. I could, of course, throw some away or paint over them, but hey, give me a break!

Jer helped me tape the canvas to the cement blocks on the empty wall space when he came to pick me up.¬† I hope it sticks; I’ll know tomorrow. I haven’t decided what’s going on it — more rocks, I’m sure, but which ones, I’m not sure. I’m tempted to paint the Beatty Joshua Tree with its big rock, stop sign, and satellite dishes, but I suspect I won’t.

As usual I tweaked first. I’m happy with the latest, perhaps last, version of Golden Canyon:


Golden Canyon, 18 x 24″, oil on board

The photo, as usual, has a hot spot — the photographing conditions aren’t very good because I won’t shut the barn doors just to photograph (maybe on the next to last day I’ll do so….) But I had fun finishing this because for once, I knew pretty much exactly what to do. That doesn’t happen often.

I also finished my wonky Exchange Club painting — it is recognizably Underwood Urban:

exchangeclubcarsdraftwThe Exchange Club (aka Free Parking), 12″ x 16″, Oil on board.

I tweaked Shorty’s Rebellion (made the mesquite tree, looking quite mournful, look more so) but it isn’t worth showing again.

And I worked the big back wall canvas. It isn’t finished yet, but my arm got very tired and my eyes weren’t focusing too well:


Canyon, Oil on canvas, about 5′ x 5′ , Work in progress

I really couldn’t photograph it well — it faces the big barn doors, which were wide open and the glare was terrific. But since it isn’t finished, I didn’t think it worth while to close them for this one, either. But when I finish it, I think the doors will have to get shut. Of course, I could photograph it before I rolled up the doors in the morning, but I’d have to actually be thinking, which isn’t what I do first thing in the AM.

Oh, and I was inspired again by the light on the Bare Mountains, and at the very end of the day, changed that painting — naming it done, but this time, putting a date on it. So if it gets changed again, at least I’ll be able to distinguish between the drafts:

baremountainmar19finalwBare Mountain, pm. 18 x 24″ oil on masonite, 18 x 24″

This is the one Suzanne liked before it was, well, edited (changed? Tweaked? Refurbished?) At any rate this is how it looked at 5 pm today.

Reported from Beatty, Nevada, which might not have a Dairy Queen but does have marshmallows. And I bought some China Ranch dates in Furnace Creek (China Ranch is just down the road a piece, in Shoshonne) and remembered today to eat some. They are Wonderful.