Tag Archives: nature

Saturday, 4/30/11: John Fisher

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

Today I briefly met with artist John Fisher. Working with a swift efficiency, he was already laying down the finishing strokes for his painting when I sat down to speak with him. “I have to leave pretty soon,” he said to me in a easy manner as he dabbed at the canvas. “I have to go pick up my son from soccer.” Being a father is a full-time job, true, but he’s also the art director of Sockeye ad agency. The man doesn’t dally. When he has time, though, he paints. As a painter of mostly landscapes, his understanding of weather is quite good, along with his consideration of light: a storm cloud envelops the land in his painting, and yet a little remaining afternoon sunlight still seeps through the cloudbank onto the field below. The sunlight was his final addition, made with a liner brush. Stepping back, he gave the landscape a final appraising look, and then called it a day. He signed the painting, put away his paints (M.Graham acrylics), folded up his easel, and stepped out into the afternoon to attend a soccer game.

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Wednesday, 4/27/: Jennifer Mark

Thanks to guest writer Mesha Koczian for today’s post.

Jennifer Mark prefers to use Golden Fluid Acrylics in her work. She extends them with Golden gloss mixed with water to get a transparent look. She was once asked to paint a series of works on old nautical charts for a global cruise line depicting scenes from the Pacific coast. She saw it as a fun challenge and hasn’t stopped even though she no longer works for the cruise line. An era is passing in the way of old charts. GPS is used on almost all boats now and the charts may not be required on board for much longer.

First she ages the charts to give the old look. She says, “I love researching and learning the history of the areas I’m painting. I learned about lead dropping and how it was used to get the depths of the ocean for the ships to sail safely. The most people have died around Astoria doing that job, giving it the nickname of the Graveyard of the Pacific.” After her research, she picks a scene and projects it onto the chart and traces the outline in pencil. Then she slowly layers up the colors and adjusts according to the color on the map. She wants the chart showing through, but not so much that it distracts from the scene. The gloss mix helps achieve this by giving vivid color and transparency. Her last painted layer is the fine lines of the rigging and sails. She uses a “rigger,” a brush invented by sailors to draw rigging on ships, and a pen against a straight edge for a crisp, clean line. More recently, she’s been experimenting with hiding things in the water because of all the hidden places under the ocean. “There are so many hidden treasures under the sea,” she explains. If you look close, you might see a face peeking out at you from one of her works.

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Friday, 4/15/11: Suzy Kitman

Thanks to guest writer David Freas for today’s post.

On Friday, surounded by a group of her inquiring students, Suzy Kitman painted a bright costal landscape and in the process demonstrated some of her innovative impasto oil techniques. In between painting sessions, she took breaks to explain how her work reflects a variety of eclectic influences, from archeology and her time as a patina artist at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, to her experiences with photography and portraiture. This day’s image, captured on the Oregon coast between Otter Rock and Shortsands, depicts craggy rocks towering over surfers swept up in a choppy tide. Though the content of her piece may sound familiar and pleasing, there’s something exciting, even surprising about Suzy’s painting. On one hand, her style is highly realistic. Working from her own photographs, she deftly plays with brightness, tone and color to render images that draw viewers in and successfully transport them to her chosen location. On the other hand, Suzy’s paintings are an adventurous exploration of extreme textures and weights. In this seascape, you can feel the massive weight of the rocks and sense their jagged surface. The ocean waves are heavy and energetic, and the sky, in contrast to everything else, is flat and smooth. By playing with these textural contrasts, Suzy presents the viewer with another, unexpected level of engagement that accentuates and electrifies the content of her tranquil image.

The effect Suzy achieves through her impasto technique makes for a surprising viewing experience. Working with M. Graham oils she first fills out her composition with flat fields of color. Once the scene is set, Suzy lets her palette dry out and scrapes it down. She notes that a glass palette is best for this as it can be scraped totally clean. She then collects those scrapings, filling a small container at her station with little curls of dried paint. Next, working with Liquin Impasto and heavier applications of paint, she fixes the scraped paint onto her surface and uses a palette knife to sculpt directly on her canvas. Once she achieves her desired texture, Suzy plays more with the color of her piece, taking every opportunity to capture a fresh view of the work. She turns the painting upside down, steps away from it and periodically looks at it over her shoulder through a mirror. The result is a painting that offers a dynamic viewing experience. From across the room, the image is vivid and inviting, but, as you get closer, the surface reveals its intricate texture and the image that appeared flat from a far begins to leap out and take literal shape.

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

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Thursday, 4/14/11: Terry Street

Thanks to guest writer Sera Stanton for today’s post.

Terry Street is experienced in both traditional  Japanese and Western watercolor painting. Today, she was working in the spontaneous style of Japanese masters. She trained under a master in California and explained how the paintings are “copied” from masters until you perfect the image and can add your own nuances to it. When I spoke to her, Terry was working on an iris.

Terry showed me how she works on both normal drawing paper and on rice paper. “It is all in the energy of the brush,” she said, “the brush does the work for you… and less is more.” There is no going back in traditional Japanese painting. You must think very clearly about where to place your lines and work spontaneously. Like many artists, Terry believes anyone can learn to paint – it’s just a matter of practice, especially in this style.

In order to get a lot of variation, Terry had a large set of brushes. Although she usually only works with one brush at a time, she explained the varying uses of each kind of brush. They were also made out of different hairs, such as horse, otter or badger. To start working, Terry wet her brushes and mixed a few colors of Chinese watercolor. She said that Chinese watercolors are the best for this kind of painting because they have more clay in them, so they don’t run as much when mounted. Using an ink stick, Terry mixed some of her own ink to help mix some darker colors.

Terry’s palette today was “not textbook,” as she put it. She used violet and red and yellow and green to paint beautiful irises and poppies, as well as black to quickly paint a horse  before I left. She mixed the smallest amount of each color together to make sure that they were analogous.

When she isn’t painting on her own, Terry teaches classes. She says that she loves children and her students. Terry says that she has been painting her whole life, partially due to the fact that her grandfather collected oriental art. Truly, Terry knows the patience, practice and play that traditional Japanese watercolor requires.

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Tuesday, 4/12/11: Matt Gauck

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

As I park my bike next to Matt’s, a crew of his friends on bikes show up to support him. It’s a very Portland day, and we talk the upcoming comics festival as Matt paints a portrait of a barn owl in oils. His portfolio of work is diverse. He’s been painting, creating album art, designing posters and illustrating social justice and narrative images since he graduated in 2005 with his MFA in illustration from Savannah College of Art and Design. His focus shows in the clarity of his visual communication. Even this owl tells a story. There’s a forest of thick vegetation with the top of a ziggurat rising through the canopy behind the snowy barn owl and a wide sky. I ask about the ziggurat and Matt explains. It’s the story of his recent trip to Mexico. “I have been painting a lot of ziggurats lately,” he tells me. The story continues about an owl’s nest that was in the upper temple of one of these Mayan pyramids he had climbed during his travels. Also, he learned of a legend attached to these ruins of a woman who took the form of an owl. She is called “La Chuza the witch owl.” In his painting is reflected the mysticism and the appreciation of the bird, wet with paint.

Matt prefers working in color, and is versatile enough to create line work when necessary for situations such as screen printing. The owl is painted with M. Graham oils. Matt uses only blues and yellows to create his greens, while raw sienna and titanium white also help create his natural palette. He also uses M. Graham walnut oil and remarks that the Windsor & Newton Liquin medium he’s brought is a staple to his process. Using as little as two faded, grayscale references, Matt is able to create this scene without preliminaries and with only a faint penciling of the owl before he begins to paint. He’s recently created a poster for Will Potter’s new book, Green is the New Red. The posters will be available May 16th at Powells books on Hawthorne during Potter’s scheduled reading.

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Tuesday, 4/5/11: Tara Choate

Tara Choate painted with watercolors today using a technique that made a vibrant, colorful painting, and was also a lot of  fun to watch.  To create the background of her painting, she mixed her paints with water and poured them directly onto the paper (140lb cold pressed watercolor paper).  She picked up the paper and tilted it from side to side to make the colors flow across the surface.  Before pouring her paint, Tara had drawn the silhouette of a stork and filled it in with masking fluid, a liquid that dries quickly to a rubbery film.  The masking fluid blocked the areas of the page that she wanted to remain white as she poured three colors of paint (bright pink, gamboge yellow, and ultramarine blue), one at a time over the paper.

After letting the wet paper dry for a while, Tara removed the masking fluid with a rubber “pick-up,” leaving the white shape of the stork to paint details and shading into.  The process of painting with watercolors can require a lot of patience because if the paper and paint are not fully dry, adding more paint can result in the newly added colors flowing uncontrollably into previous colors.  A wet brush applied to wet paper and paint can also pull up the color, leaving light spots in the painting.  Tara gave each stage of her painting time to dry and took advantage of these breaks to look at her work so far and think about her next steps.

To define the details of the stork’s wings, feathers, and body, Tara used only one color, indigo, to contrast with the white paper that she had preserved with her masking fluid.  Tara said indigo has become one of her favorite colors to paint with.

Tara’s favorite subjects to paint are animals.  Her love for her animal subjects really shows in the vitality and energy she brought into the piece she made today.

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Monday, 4/4/11: Kimberly Kent

Thanks to guest writer Mesha Koczian for today’s post

Encaustic art  is painting or sculpting with heated wax. Encaustic painting uses using wax mixed with pigments as paint. Kimberly Kent is an encaustic painter; she has 15 years experience and decided to demonstrate her skills by painting a cherry blossom scene using a technique called monotype. Monotype is performed by painting on a hot aluminum surface and placing rice paper on top to absorb the pigment. The paper is peeled off to create the  first “print” or monotype, then paint can be added or reworked again on the heated surface. Kimberly did this 4 times until the image transferred to the paper was what she called a “ghost,” or what’s left of the pigment on the surface.

Kimberly wanted a look of layered colors so after she made a number of monotypes, she began painting on a wooden panel to which  she would later add one of her monotypes.  Her panel was primed with R&F encaustic gesso, a primer especially made for encaustic paint because it is absorbent and textured enough to “grab” onto the wax. Kimberly used R&F paint blocks and watercolor crayons for the painting and PanPastels for the background color on her gessoed board. After the PanPastels (powdered pastels in a cake form) were put down, she coated the board in wax by pouring it. If she had brushed the wax on, the brush would have smeared the pastels. She prefers to do an underpainting using watercolors, but the painting would have to sit out overnight to be able to set well with the wax. A heat gun or torch is used to smooth the first layer of wax, but if too much heat is applied, the gesso could blister. An iron can be used to smooth out the wax without blistering the gesso.  Kimberly placed the monotype on the surface in the desired position and used a heat gun to fuse the wax in the paper to the wax on the board. A torch or iron cannot be used here because they would burn the paper or smear and rip it. Additional layers of wax and pigments are added to blend the paper into the background, creating a lovely scene of spring.

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Sunday, 4/3/11: Virginia Church

Thanks to guest writer Mesha Koczian for today’s post

Virginia Church has been painting in oil for “a long time” but found herself drawn to acrylics because of how slow the oil paints are to dry. She picked them up again last fall and has fallen in love with them; she can’t seem to recall why she despised them to begin with. She loves going out to the Gorge and the little nature spots in Portland to take pictures to bring home and paint. She paints anything that catches her eye including inanimate objects. She makes a quick charcoal sketch of her picture to gauge the values and placement of everything. Then she gessos a wood panel and lightly sketches the scene before painting. Virginia likes acrylics (which she used today) because she can easily and quickly lay down her layers building from light to dark. Her favorite scenes are dark and dramatic with a little light glowing through. “I like being able to work all over the surface instead of just one piece at a time,” Virginia explains as she lays down her first basic coat. She mixes her paints with water to get the full range of value they can offer. Only her final layer and tiny details are added using thick, dark color.

The last picture below shows Virginia’s painting at the end of the day Sunday. We’ll post an update with a picture of the finished painting.
UPDATE: The final picture shows Virginia’s finished painting.  For information about placing a bid to purchase this piece, go to AnArtistADay.com

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Saturday, 4/24/10: Diane Rios

Thanks to guest writer Sera Stanton for today’s post.

Stenciling is well-known among graffiti and street artists, but isn’t seen a lot in fine art. Diane Rios’ piece stood out today with her multi-layered stenciling technique. Taught to her by Long Beach artist Victor Gastelum, stenciling is Diane’s favorite medium. She was originally inspired by elegant political posters she saw when she was a student in France, but has been living in and inspired by Oregon for years.

Animals, nature and the beauty of architecture stir Diane as a person and artist. She makes the animals in her work relatable to humans, in hopes that humans can identify and respond to animals as an individual, perhaps even learn from them. The serene appearance of her work easily communicates her goals.

Today was the first time Diane had stenciled on canvas. She said she liked the texture it added to the piece and was excited to try it again. On the canvas were three beautifully rendered horses consisting of three main colors and seven layers of paint. Diane’s process was to draw an original sketch and make as many photocopies of the drawing that she planned on having layers, with a few extras in case of mistakes. Non-archival paper was used for the photocopies – “The stencils stay nice for years as long as you lay them flat and don’t put anything on them while they’re wet,” Diane says. She then cuts through the paper where she wants the paint to come through and sprays each layer on top of the other from the base up, waiting for the previous layer to dry before she puts the next one on. Diane likes to add texture by splattering some of the paint across the canvas. In this case, it was a silver paint on a grey horse, which lit up the piece in the light. The way she puts the paint on her canvas is light and careful, with almost no overspray.

Aside from stencils, Diane enjoys drawings, watercolors and monotypes. Right now she is working on a children’s book about a hound dog that wants to be a photographer. Although working at Powell’s takes up a lot of her time, Diane would love to start illustrating magazines and children’s books more often in the future.

Saturday, 4/17/10: Rebecca Shapiro

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

Rebecca Shapiro paints in a medium that may be unfamiliar to some, but is far from unfamiliar to history- the 3,000 year old art of encaustics. Derived from the Greek enkaustikos, meaning “to heat” or “to burn”, encaustics is the manipulation of beeswax to create paintings that can capture light beautifully. The beeswax gives the medium a surprisingly wide range in terms of approach. One minute Rebecca was painting in a vibrant cadmium red onto her piece, and the next she was carving into it with a sculpture tool, treating it almost as if it were a linoleum block. Temperature is key. You have to move slowly, and be mindful of how the heat is going to affect what you’re going to do. Paint too quickly, and the colors will run together. Carve too soon, and you’ll drag the wax around instead of getting a clean line. The beeswax itself is colorless; you control the vibrance and opacity of your palette with pigments that you mix in.

It’s this closeness with beeswax that drew Rebecca to start painting encaustic over two years ago. Her focus on plants for the inspiration of her abstract paintings is another aspect of her connection to nature. It’s a process of investigating the connection between method, material, form, and content. Put another way, she paints nature with nature. It’s fitting: her paintings all come from a deep appreciation of nature and its medium.

Such a relationship with fields and flowers invites visions of Rebecca in quiet contemplation in a forest, or sitting in solitude on a hillside. She quickly dispels the notion of a hermit by the articulation of her conversation, and her willingness to talk with everyone who stops inside to watch her paint. “We get so used to being alone with our work that we forget to talk to about it,” she says. “I think it’s important that artists share their creativity with everyone else.”

In this spirit, she encourages artists to join the Regional Arts & Culture Council. Not only will they help with grants and grant writing, but it’s also a great community with workshops and peer reviews. “It really helps to have a peer group, and you need other artists to share thoughts with and bounce ideas off of.”

The last picture shows Rebecca’s piece at the end of the afternoon.  We will post an update with a picture of her finished piece.


Friday, 4/9/10: John Fisher

John Fisher was our guest today at Muse Art and Design. He painted a landscape in oils. A transplant from the Midwest, John enjoys painting wide-open vistas with uncluttered horizons and dramatic skies. Some of his favorite local spots to find such scenes are Sauvie Island and the wine country to the south of Portland. He likes to capture light and mood in his paintings, especially in the contrasts and colors of the clouds. As he painted today, he commented several times on the changing light outside and the interesting clouds we’ve had lately. His work shows his attention to and awareness of these aspects of nature.

John had prepared his canvas yesterday by mapping out some dark and light values and some beginning hints of warm and cool accents. He continued today with layering color onto this background, creating trees, foreground, clouds, and sky. He worked with a limited palette of colors, and for the most part mixed his paints directly on his canvas as he worked. To give shape and lighting effects to features on the ground, he worked mostly with small brushes, and often with thicker paint. In the sky, he used larger brushes for blending and thinner applications of paint. He also wiped paint off the canvas at times to create highlights by revealing colors from earlier layers.

For his painting today, John referred to photos that he had taken at Sauvie Island last fall. He also does plein air paintings (onsite outdoors). Often, his plein air paintings will be in watercolors. Some of these watercolor paintings result in finished works, and some become studies for larger, more detailed oil paintings. For oil paintings that he does in his studio, John usually waits a number of months and adds a final layer of transparent glazes that add mood and more effect of light in his work. Today, he skillfully included those features within one afternoon!

Thursday, 4/8/10: Arlene Osborne

Arlene paints representational works of many subjects in many media, including watercolors, oils, and acrylics.  Today she painted a landscape with a few extra challenges — in addition to being a night scene and a snow scene, her piece also depicted the northern lights in the sky.  This was a subject Arlene had been wanting to paint for a while.  Working with acrylics made it possible  for Arlene to finish in one afternoon, since acrylics dry quickly enough to continue adding new details over what has already been painted.

Arlene had created a sketch to work from to guide her composition.  The sketch was  from her memory of landscapes she’d seen and pictures of the northern lights, rather than from a specific photo or reference.  Since she’s painted many landscapes she can rely on the techniques and discoveries she has from years of practice.

Arlene had already gotten a start by establishing the light and dark areas of the ground and the sky.  She started today by painting the lights in the sky with some light green, then blending out the colors into the sky to make the lights seem to shimmer and glow.  She then painted more details into the mountains and trees in the distance.  Painting right over her distant background, Arlene added trees in the foreground.  She then painted snow covering each branch of every tree.  With each step, Arlene gave her landscape not only more realistic detail, but more mood and personality.  Viewers who see this piece in person can see the additional creative touch of the trees and sky wrapping around the edge of the canvas!