Tuesday, 4/25/11: Liz Walker

Liz Walker brought her creative energy to Muse today to work on an acrylic painting with elements of printmaking and collage.   Liz likes to bring a lot of pattern and texture into her paintings and tries to avoid large areas of plain solid colors.  Along with her paints and brushes, Liz brought some paper scraps and wallpaper and fabric swatches with her.  She cut and painted small pieces of paper and collaged them into her painting to add a bit of texture and dimension to the pillows on the couch.  She used the texture of the wallpaper and fabric pieces to print and stamp patterns onto her painting with contrasting colors of paint.  To get the blended and scumbled look she likes, Liz says she’s also been incorporating more gray tones and neutrals into her paintings and juxtaposing them against brighter colors.

Liz enjoys painting figures in everyday settings.  The shapes and colors she chooses give her  scenes balance, order, and visual interest that would work equally well as abstract compositions.  “I work from chaos to order,” Liz says as she builds the layers of her painting.  She finds that getting started with a painting is the easy part, but proceeding to the point of knowing when and how to finish is the real challenge.

Liz teaches beginning watercolor painting as well as acrylic monotype at Multnomah Arts Center and Village Gallery of Arts.  In addition to the An Artist A Day event this month, she is participating in an upcoming show at the Village Gallery of Arts in which 100 artists will exhibit four 6×6 paintings.  More of her work can be seen on her website, lizwalkerart.com.

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Monday, 4/25/11: Mandy Main

Thanks to guest writer Sally Murdoch for today’s post.

Mandy Main is a virtuoso of vantage points. It all began as a child in Bellingham, Washington where the home in which she grew up had panoramic views of the Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands. While moving up and down the West Coast, including attending college at Stanford and earning her Masters at UCLA, Mandy’s subsequent homes came equipped with sweeping vistas. In North Portland, her family’s home on Willamette Ave, was appropriately in the Overlook area, with views of wooded Forest Park and the shipyard. And in SE Portland, near Mt. Tabor, Mandy could see the West Hills.  Upon becoming a professional artist a decade ago, she knew how important light bouncing off hills would be to her eyes. In her painting, capturing the longest view possible is what holds her imagination.

Mandy painted for An Artist a Day in 2009. She skipped 2010 because she had recently moved to Rancho Mirage, near Palm Springs, CA where she and her husband live today. This week she returns as a guest artist on a lucky coincidence that her contemporary landscapes are part of a group show at Art Elements in Newberg.

Although Mandy didn’t quit her day job until 10 years ago, she has been painting steadily for two decades. Her landscapes incorporate very low horizons with reaching vantage points. Today she is painting an area south of Cannon Beach called Hug Point, a scene she chose to paint because she likes the diagonal line of the water coming into the shore, stretching the eye into the horizon.

Since moving from one very rainy place to a very sunny one, her landscapes have changed slightly, but she usually doesn’t paint desert landscapes. She often paints the mountains of Northern California that are smoother, almost “like sleeping beasts, organic and sculptural” she says, than the hills of Palm Springs.

She said the whole time she painted in Oregon she didn’t use blue paints for the skies; she used a variation of blue grays. In the desert where she lives now, the crystal clear skies mean true blue paints to capture the light bouncing off the hills.

Her heart is with 19th century American landscapes, and she feels fortunate to have lived in a lifetime where classic landscapes have returned in vogue and have seen commercial success.

The materials she is using today include: Galkyd medium made by Gamblin. MGraham oil paints, which incidentally she learned to paint with. Today she discovered a new paint: Michael Harding unbleached titanium, which she said is unlike any color she has ever gotten out of a tube.

Mandy loves her new home in the desert but comes back to Portland often enough to take part in art openings, the Mt. Tabor Art Walk (she was one of organizers) and she is a long time donor to Cascade Aids Project’s Annual Art Auction.

Note from Muse:  Since Mandy had just come in from out of town, we prepped a wooden panel for her in advance with a base layer of color.  We didn’t quite get it right (too much solvent perhaps) and the paint did not want to layer onto the surface.  Mandy graciously made the best of the situation and worked on two quite different paintings — one on the panel using painting knives, and one on a canvas using brushes.  She’ll continue work  on one or both pieces over the next couple days and we’ll post an update with a picture of her finished work.  UPDATE:  The last two pictures are the two pieces that Mandy completed for the auction, the first is on a wooden panel, the second on canvas

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Sunday, 4/24/11: Brent Wear

Thanks to guest writer Kinoko Evans for today’s post.

Brent Wear’s painting of a bird in a pink rabbit suit hosts the elements typical of his paintings plus the candy fun part of having been painted on Easter. Birds in disguise or just peeping around fulfill the subject matter of Wear’s work. He has also been working another set of paintings that are exclusively abstract. Enjoying the paint and the process, this gives him the evolved textures in color he often places characters into. The backgrounds are rich with washes and under painting that he mixes by paring acrylic paints and house paint. After long experimentation with the practice and process of oils and some with spraying paint, Wear has focused on solvent free, water based mediums.

When asked about all the birds, Wear says that he likes them. He considers himself an amateur bird watcher. Recently, a murder of crows has befriended Wear. Ever since he fed them peanuts, they follow him for blocks.  Wear knows a lot of Crow facts too, like that they can memorize garbage removal schedules and that they can problem solve and use sticks as tools. Some of Wear’s painted birds are crows. Some are smaller and red.  Sometimes the birds are painted with antenna ending in pink poms. Occasionally People tell him that those birds read as aliens. Sometimes the creatures are just creatures. Brent Wear’s paintings are plucky, mysterious and narrative. Currently, he is working on a children’s book and his paintings will exhibit in August at Equilibrium in NW Portland.

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Saturday, 4/23/11: Shanon Playford

Thanks to guest writer Cameron Hawkey for today’s post.

Today I interview artist Shannon Playford. She’s wearing a white smock/lab coat streaked with paint strokes from reflexively wiping her brushes clean against her shoulder. Printout sheets of tornado pictures and self-portrait references litter the base of the easel, and she is sweeping the canvas with a fat wide brush, smoothing the smoky tornado clouds into a strange pink sky, and blurring her face, which gives the painting a surreal effect. She stops, steps outside, scrutinizes her painting through the storefront window, frowns, and comes back inside. It’s the only way she can get a distant look at her painting, and she does it often. I talk to her while she’s indoors.

About this series of paintings: “I’ve been doing these portraits for about a year. I used to paint on panels, but now I paint on canvas – the texture grabs more, so you can paint over other layers more easily without blending them together. I also paint pretty thin, which helps. There’s only so much oil painting I can do in one session, though, so I’ll take it home for another session, and add the more intense lights and darks.”

Why so many self-portraits? “I usually do self portraits just because I know what pose I want for reference. It doesn’t matter if it looks like me or not in the end. I’m wondering how much longer I’m going to want to paint myself like this, though [laughs]. In general younger faces attract me because I feel they have more of an open-ness, or transparency, to them. Although when I used to ride the bus, all I would draw were the old people.”

On smocks: “Sometimes I just wear a smock to let myself know that I’m working. Back when I didn’t have a studio, I would have to leave my apartment and walk around the block before coming back in to let myself know it was time to work.”

On doing your best: “When I was a kid and competing in a race, I would quit when I realized that I wasn’t going to make first or second place.”

How’s the weather? “The weather is terrible here! So bland. It’s a gray soup.”

On being a traditional painter in a seemingly digital world: “As a friend of mine put it: You cannot hunt your nature. Which is to say painting is what I want to do.”

The last picture below shows Shanon’s painting at the end of the day Saturday.  We’ll post an update with a picture of her finished work.  UPDATE:  The last picture shows Shanon’s finished painting.

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Friday, 4/22/11: Shannon Wheeler

Thanks to guest writer Kinoko Evans for today’s post.

Portland’s strong community of cartoonists boasts a string of significant artists. Shannon Wheeler is among them, especially noteworthy for his comic character Too Much Coffee Man. His comics have been published by The Onion and more recently in The New Yorker. His collection of single panel comics, titled I Thought You Would Be Funnier, that is up for an Eisner award this year, and he keeps busy, currently working on five, yes five, new book releases, including a new book of Too Much Coffee Man, a Bible with Top Shelf and Grandpa Won’t Like It, that is scheduled for release in October.

Today at Muse, Wheeler set aside drawing long enough to paint out a bright, new portrait of his character Too Much Coffee Man. The recognizable image brought passer bys into the store for a closer look. In Golden brand acrylics, Wheeler popped out Too Much Coffee Man’s red suit and dappled on the highlights of his beloved pot of coffee. This crowd pleasing image has coffee drinkers in Portland smiling about the uniting ritual of coffee.

After years of Too Much Coffee Man, the character still resonates with many readers, and Wheeler is far from ready to quit creating. He discussed the marathon of producing daily and weekly comics. Taking the day to paint is a treat. Producing ten panels, at least, a week, alone for The New Yorker keeps Wheeler quite busy with drawing. He’s been working hard, and he proves it with the list of published works, upcoming books and a portfolio New Yorker panels he brought with him to Muse. Each panel comic is inked in black line, grey scale is added with alcohol marker or ink washes and a number penciled to the side of the page helps count and track the pieces. Wheeler politely comments that he has been enjoying exploring with ink washes, expressing that he can communicate more with a minimal ink wash. While the panel cartoons with ink wash add grace and value to his line art, Wheeler’s work is overall fun and the iconic finish of Too Much Coffee Man on canvas is signature to his work.

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Thursday, 4/21/11: Joanne Licardo

Thanks to guest writer Cameron Hawkey for today’s post.

While I set up to talk to Joanne Licardo, she tsk-tsks as she paints. “I’m trying to keep this still life simple,” she comments. “Last year, I brought in a leopard print backdrop. Why would I do that?” she chuckles, and I take a few moments to consider her still life. It consists of a short stack of books, a ripe red pear, a vase with a blooming Protea and some leafy greens, and a rock slyly placed in the corner. The rock piques my curiosity, and I ask her about it. “I’ve never painted a rock before!” exclaims Joanne. “All these years of painting, and I haven’t painted a rock. So I brought a rock to paint.” It’s hard to argue her sensibility and sense of humor, and proves a point, too: there is always something new to paint.

Joanne is painting on a sturdy cradled wooden panel, which she has gessoed and sanded down to make smooth. The objects of her still life have already been blocked in with a Burnt Sienna base, which gives warmth to the thinner layer of color she has painted over it. Painted with M.Graham oils, the layers are thinned with Gamsol to speed the drying time that the walnut oil in M.Graham normally extends.

She remembers that when she was 12 years old, Joanne tells me, she wanted to paint like the Old Masters. She started her formal training when she was 21, and apprenticed under a Norwegian master.

Now she’s the teacher, which fuels the passion. Her students teach her, she says, as much as she teaches them. They always come in with discoveries that are just as new to her as they are to her students. “One of my students brought in a ‘wisp’ brush a while ago, which is like a fan brush, but cut carefully, which produces a more varied effect.” Apparently, it makes for lovely grass and hair.

She moved to Portland from LA, and loves it here. “I love the rainy weather here. Who wants to paint on a sunny day? I’ve been here three and a half years and I haven’t gotten sick of it yet.” Suddenly she stops, and says, “I need a Mahl stick. Where’s a Mahl stick? Where?” She disappears and comes back with a mophandle, which she braces against the easel, propping it up with her leg. In this position, she was able to rest her hand against the stick and paint in detail, without having the strain of holding her arm out in front of her in a long pose. As she adds delicate yellow strokes for the petals of the Protea, she thinks out loud. “I think when I take this home, I’ll add some things from my garden in the vase.”

There’s a break in the rain, and it’s time for me to go. It’s unfortunate, because she has just started to paint in a new layer, a lovely shadow tone of Alizarin Crimson and Payne’s Gray with a little bit of Ultramarine and Rose. It gives a nice penumbra to the pear and the books, and brings in a lot of depth. I wasn’t able to see the finished state of the painting due to the slow, careful nature of the classical style, but if she has the patience to paint it, then I have the patience to wait.

The last picture show’s Joannes’ oil painting at the end of the day Thursday.  We’ll post an update with a picture of her finished piece.

Click on thumbnails to see larger pictures.

Wednesday, 4/20/11: Acey Thompson

Thanks to guest writer Sally Murdoch for today’s post.

Acey Thompson says she has almost always had a hard time staying still. Now in her final year at PNCA with her thesis proposal staring her down in just a few short weeks, the field of study she has chosen hits, literally, close to home. She is OK with being a dog artist amidst conceptual art students at PNCA, and for her thesis she has chosen to artfully depict a dog’s ability to be completely idle and zen-like, docile, blissful almost to the point of catatonic. She hopes to conduct this study starting with her two dogs at home, her pit bull Maggie and Catahoula leopard dog Jasper.

But there’s another reason the docile nature of dogs captures Acey’s heart and imagination; when she graduates this fall, she hopes to throw time and energy into softening the stigma against pit bulls. She hopes to do this through art, with exposing people to images of pit bulls with a partner out of LA, appropriately named Diamonds in the Ruff, a no-kill pet rescue shelter:

Last year, Acey’s painting of a Great Pyrenees dog lovingly arched over the shoulders of a woman fetched $250 at the final auction for An Artist a Day. One person liked it so much because it reminded her of her own dog, and when she was outbid, she later commissioned Acey to do a similar watercolor and ink rendering.

Today’s painting is her pit bull Maggie, who accompanied her on the journey to Portland five years ago. In the photo, Maggie, now nine, wears an expression that Acey loves and knows well. A recently finished watercolor of Maggie  is also on Acey’s homepage, and so realistic and detailed that many often mistake it for an oil panting.

Acey chose today’s photo for her Maggie’s expression as well as to capture two things she loves in her life: one is a sheer curtain with gold flecks and patterned with fleur de lys, giving the portrait a regal air. The other is an Afghani pillow that was once a dress her father brought back from the Middle East. The repurposed pillowcase, with its tiny mirrors and webby patterns, contributes to the colorful foreground of the painting.

Last summer, Acey took two classes at PCC that she says really broadened her horizons in her artistic adventure. One was a watercolor painting class taught by Theresa Redinger who shows at Blackfish Gallery. Redinger took students through technical basics such as color theory using a color wheel, stretching paper, and taking the palette from small primaries to larger ones. The other class was a soapstone carving class, which gave her newfound respect for rocks and polishing.

The supplies Acey uses are: Synthetic brushes from Da Vinci, Escoda, and Raphael. Her large porcelain palette is from Muse. Watercolors are M Graham and Sennelier, and paper is Arches 140 lb watercolor. The gouache is M Graham. Her elegant bamboo brush wrap is from Muse, and she is trying out a new wax crayon to save whites, a technique she gleaned from John Singer Sergeant. She’ll use pearlescent liquid acrylic for the details in the curtains and Maggie’s collar.   UPDATE:  The last picture shows Acey’s finished painting.

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