Sunday, August 31, 2008

Hay Field

Hay Bales
Oil on Copper Leaf 5.5" x 8"

The hay bales I loaded on the truck as a teenager were a whole lot smaller than these. I always wonder just how they get the hay dry enough to make such a large bale. It is so different from the way hay was handled on my grandfather's farm which was set up for loose hay piled on a wagon. One had to walk with the fork of hay over your head to the wagon and pitch it on top of the load. Then you backed the wagon into the barn and dropped a heavy steel fork onto the load which hoisted it into the air, traveled on a track to the end of the barn and released it. But I will tell you one thing. Those hay mows were a lot of fun to jump into from the ladders. You just can't do that with any kind of bales.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Riches Beyond Counting

Salt Marsh House
Oil on Copper Leaf 8" x 5.5"

Watching the inhabitants of the salt marsh is endlessly fascinating. This is one of the very most complex and valuable of ecosystems. The grass beds serve as nurseries for so many species. They are wonderful places to poke around or sit at a window with binoculars to watch the birds. How wonderful to have a cottage on a marsh.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Lazy Days

Sunrise Point
Oil on Copper 6" x 9"

This is the last of the lazy days of summer. Labor Day weekend marks the end of procrastination and the beginning of the mad dash to finish all the fair weather projects before the bad weather shows up.

Now is the time of blackberry pear tarts and ripe Elberta peaches. Green apple pie and the superb local sweet corn from the Skagit valley. None better!

Thursday, August 28, 2008


Old Orchard
Oil on Copper Leaf 12" x 16"

Every tree is a host to a whole community of life. In the soil there are symbiotic fungi and bacteria, nematodes, insects, worms and other creatures that live from the bounty of falling debris from the tree or by tapping into the roots. On the ground are more insects, slugs, rodents, rabbits, deer, etc. In the tree are even more insects and birds of all sorts. So when you cut a tree, you demolish a huge community. Conversely, when you plant a tree, you provide a host for all these beings. My goal is to plant more trees than I cut.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Johnny Appleseed

Homestead Orchard
Oil on Canvas 12" x 16"

When I was a child, I was told the story of Johnny Appleseed wandering the land with a pack of apple seeds on his back, planting them in felicitous places as he went. The story comes to mind every time I find apple trees in unexpected places. In my family, we always planted fruit trees, wherever we lived as an investment in the future. It made no difference whether or not we would be moving before any harvest. It was the investment made for society.

In a way, my paintings are like the fruit trees. They may or may not bring me a personal harvest of dollars, but I derive great pleasure from the painting of them and the thought of future viewers enjoying them.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Tatoosh Range
Oil on Copper 6" x 4"

The Wonderland Trail around Mt. Rainier is one of my treasured experiences. The terrain and ecology around the mountain are so varied. You can experience everything from a pumice desert on the east side to rain forest on the west side. The vistas are everchanging and fascinating. Wildflowers blanket the slopes if you are there at the right season. This bit of the trail was a walk through the flowers.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Alpine Vistas

Mt. Shuksan
Oil on Copper 6" x 4"

To me, the best part of the mountain is the region just below timberline. There, the trees are more bent and twisted, the tarns smaller and the heather and other wildflowers bloom in blankets. I love the alpine hemlock and fir, the goat-trimmed heather slopes and permanent snowfields among the rocks that gently water the alpine wildflowers through the heat of summer.

I am saddened by the realization that many of these little ecological niches are undergoing rapid change as the weather changes with global warming. It is hard to predict what the changes will be as in some areas more snow is falling in winter while in other areas more rain is falling in the hottest summer months that used to be dry.

This view is from Copper Ridge. I like the feel of my brushes on copper. I hope you can see the glints from the copper shining through the more transparent passages.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

A Quiet Place

The Perfect Setting
Oil on Copper Leaf 6" x 6"

Once I found this old homestead on Lopez Island, I returned to it to paint day after day and every day the light and fog or mist were different. The boats come and go, herons nested nearby and detritus of a life on the shore were scattered over the site. So many riches, so little time. I love this place and could see living here close to the water but sheltered by trees and a long curving sand spit.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Quiet Morning

Oil on Copper Leaf 8" x 8"

In August, we begin to have a lot of misty mornings or autumnal fogs. The leaves on the deciduous trees begin to lose their fresh green color and even get a bit of other colors starting to show. The nights are cool enough to let us know that summer will not last forever.

I think I am beginning to have more control over the paint slithering over the metal surfaces and the opacity of the different passages. It is all just illusion, this idea of control. In reality, the painting is controlling me, telling me what I should do next. I paint, not knowing what I am doing or why I am doing it, but knowing that the process of painting is pure joy.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

In a Garden

Oil on Copper 7" x 9.25"

There is something about sitting in a garden that is more relaxing than sitting indoors. If I sit in the same chair inside vs in the garden, it just does not have the same sense of ease, comfort and joy that sitting among some green growing trees, bushes and flowers has. Perhaps it is the ions in the air that the plants contribute, or the humidity, or their aura. Whatever it is, the experience is one of the best that I know.

I am much more pleased with the balance of transparency and opacity that I achieved in this painting. Perhaps it is because I remembered sitting under this arbor while I painted it.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


Sheep Trails
Oil on copper leaf on Gessobord

As a child, I spent a summer on a sheep farm. I had the job of raising the orphan lamb and I spent all day with that lamb. I suspect the adults gave me the job so that I would quit asking them incessant questions as I often did. So I tied a piece of baler twine around the lambs neck and dragged it everywhere I wanted to go. "Mary had a little lamb..."

So painting more sheep brings back memories. Several years ago I spent a month in Portugal and in the eastern part there are wonderful farms with lots of sheep cropping the grass under the olive and cork oak trees. Trees are another love of mine and I had never really had a chance to study these species before. When I first saw the olive trees, I immediately understood why Van Gogh painted them like blue-green flames in his landscapes. That is exactly what they are, blue-green flames burning the sun into olives.

I am more pleased with this painting, as I was able to get more of the transparency I am wanting in the paint. But like all experiments, I have not quite hit the mark yet. This time, there is too much transparency. It is transparent all over so that there are no opaque areas to point up the transparency. So more experiments are in order and in process. This brings up a philosophical question, when is an experiment not an experiment? Are all my paintings really experiments?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Portugal View
Oil on Copper Leaf on Gessoboard 6" x 6"

The problem with mastering any subject is that we make progress in a little spurt, followed by a sharp little drop from that peak. This painting is more of the little drop from the peak. Not entirely as I would like for it to be, as the paint is too opaque. But from my reading of the excellent book Mastery by George Leonard, I know that soon the quality of my work will rise to almost that peak level and then plateau for a while before the next little spurt upward.

What is really essential is maintaining the optimism to go on and keep working, no matter what I think of the work. I do my best on every painting that I do, or I just don't paint that day. There is no point in "trying" to paint. I either paint, or I don't paint. Whatever results is the best I can do at the time and that is good enough.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Learning Curve

View from Copper Ridge
Oil on Copper Leaf on Gessobord 6" x 6"

Just way too much jargon to be digested for this to be fun. Now that I am only somewhat confused instead of clueless, I can fully appreciate just how much I do not know. The technology is amazing and sometimes amusing, but mostly confusing. My biggest challenge at the moment is widget management. And I thought InDesign had a steep learning curve!

The easy part of all this is the painting. This is another experiment painting on copper with a very challenging mostly snow scene. I thought painting Copper Ridge on copper would be poetic or at least ironic. Now I see that I painted too thickly for the copper to show through all that much. I will try this again later.

I can't actually finish one of these little paintings in a day as I can't really paint alla prima on the copper and achieve my goal of still seeing the copper shine through, yet have some complexity of the colors and some shimmer and iridescence from the metal substrate. So I have several of these in process at any given time. They are tying me down because it is so warm right now that the best time for the next coat is happening in barely 24 hours.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Lifelong Learning

Ancient Cork Oak
Oil on Copper Leaf on gessobord 5.5" x 7.75"

I have just taken a wonderful workshop from Kent Lovelace about painting in oil on copper or gold leaf. I have been excited about working on a different surface to the point where I am losing sleep. I have always been annoyed with the drag of the brush on acrylic primed canvas and have developed various techniques to get around that feel.

On copper, there is no drag! The brush moves freely and flowingly. But there is a downside. All the techniques I have built up over the years, taking advantage of the canvas texture no longer work.

This is a good thing, as I don't want to be painting on auto-pilot. When it is too easy, auto-pilot gets engaged and my paintings are not as good as they could be.

Nothing is as much fun as taking a class from a good instructor and trying something new.