Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Lonely Oregon Coast

"Gleneden Morning"

Since growing up in California, I've always had a love of the beach -- specifically the southern California beach where you can actually play in the water without hypothermia or being crushed by a rogue tree log. The central Oregon coast however, is a special place with unique attributes all it's own. Somehow (and I'm sure the climate has mostly to do with it) things are slower up here; you can drive for miles along undeveloped coastline and still get a sense of what Lewis & Clark must have experienced when they first arrived. That, and the fact that I have some roots up here where my mother and her sisters grew up and once owned a beach shack together in Seaside, Oregon helps to create a fondness of it's solitude for me...

"Small Town Beach Road"

There is a 'loneliness' here, especially after school starts that I truly enjoy -- where the weather is still nice, but the vacationers are gone. In many of the coastal towns you can see remnants of the businesses of years gone by that catered to the summer beach goers; an old A-frame structure that once was a kite shop now empty and grown over with wild blackberry, or a one time family seafood restaurant turned auto parts store that still has it's old signage, cracked and peeling. Many older shacks and buildings still painted the pastel colours of the fifties & sixties; mint & pink, peach & aqua blue hold a nostalgic attraction... Perhaps it's middle age, but my own nostalgia really kicks in when I'm here, and coming to paint makes it all the more enjoyable.

For about 15 years before my mother passed away, she had a beach house north of Neskowin, a little bit hidden away where you had to drive through a forest to get there... the beauty of which was best appreciated in doses of seasonal extended weekend trips. Rain or shine, there was always something to do; beach comb for sand dollars or read a book, barbecue on the deck or watch the stormy surf by a warm fireplace...

In many areas with only service road access and fir tree forests all the way down to the shore, there are hidden spots yet to be discovered and I hope to get out here next month and tap that experience again. Like generations of families before us, I'll spend memory making time with my own family combing the beach for shells and agates, sandcastle building & flying kites and with permission, sneak off to discover another spot to paint and create new memories of this place I've come to love, the lonely Oregon coast...

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Mud and the Blood

'54 Chev (9x12)

It's amazing how one tiny bit of information can change your fundamental understanding about something... take painting for instance -- it's been a long road of trial & error, practice, patience and searching for answers (some before I even understood the question). One day a friend of mine pointed out how valuable 'mud' is. Mud, of course is that pile of un-nameable colour you scrape off to the side on your pallet because it's in the way of your 'pure' colour. In my first attempts with oils as a kid, I used to get frustrated when my mixing always seemed to turn to mud -- little did I realize what a gold mine that pile was!

What my painter friend told me was this; every colour on your pallet that you're mixing together & using in your painting can (and should) be scraped together and taken advantage of, because that muddy pile of leftover paint is the next-of-kin blood relative to what's on your canvas. It can now be worked back into the painting in areas where you need to tone down or gray off colour and value that is too intense without losing colour relationship -- it can even become the very vehicle that brings colour harmony to your canvas.
.. just pay attention to the value & temperature.

Warm Up in Mauve (18x14)

Have you ever heard the vocal harmony of the Mills Brothers? They were a singing quartet of brothers popular from the early 1940's thru the 1950's with hit's like "Across the Alley from the Alamo", "Up a Lazy River", "Til Then" and others -- before my time of course, but still great. Anyway, Dean Martin idolized them, recognizing their talents were in a class by themselves because they were all related by blood. When you have the same DNA, raised in the same household and developed your tight harmony from your youth up, you're ahead of the curve -- that kind of harmonic resonance can't be taught, bought or faked! It can only come from a blood relationship.

Colour relationship works the same way -- even when it's all messed up on your pallet, if it went into the painting in pure form it will still relate in the mud form because it came from the same source. The plein air painting of the pick up trucks at the top was done entirely with the mud that was already on my pallet from a previous painting earlier that day, but because it all came from the same source it has harmony. The ballerina was done in the studio with a limited pallet, but the harmony here is in the mud from that pallet...

No matter the subject, un-namable grays & browns whether cool or warm, are inherent in the natural world and a good representational painting won't survive without their balance & influence -- just remember to keep it in the family...