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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