Tag Archives: oils

Friday, 4/29/11: Shannon Mayorga

Shannon bases his work on symbols and references with personal meaning or appeal.  Some of these references are visual and some are word associations. The images and ideas that find their way into Shannon’s paintings often refer to his ethnic heritage, memories from travels, and objects of natural history.  Shannon works primarily in oils, but often builds first layers with acrylics (especially when he needs to complete a painting more quickly) and finishes with glazes in oils.  Recently, he has been incorporating more mixed media elements into his work by collaging bits of ephemera that he has found or collected.

Shannon started today by building a scumbled background with rich, dark earthtones.  Onto this background, he collaged some bus tickets from a trip to Mexico, an illustration of a crown (corona) from an old label, and in the center, an illustration of a cross section of the brain (corona radiata).  Shannon brought the shell of a horseshoe crab and a small animal skull as visual references.  He painted almost ghostly depictions of these objects onto his background, positioned in each corner of the canvas.  The final elements he added were characters from the Mayan alphabet, imagery that Shannon uses frequently in his work.

Shannon starts his paintings with specific visual references in mind, but does not usually have the whole composition planned out in advance.  He allows the objects he’s chosen to suggest ideas as he works.  Although he doesn’t mind explaining where his ideas come from and the specific meanings, if any, that the objects  in his paintings have for him, he wants viewers to make their own associations with the imagery and the relationships between the parts.  The nebulous backgrounds and floating imagery in Shannon’s work create a mysterious quality that invites viewers to ask questions and imagine possible answers about the ideas and feelings his paintings convey.

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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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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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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.

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Saturday, 4/16/11: Anna Magruder

Anna Magruder joined us today for her second year of participating in “An Artist A Day.”  Anna’s portraits in oils have a unique and recognizable style.  Her use of color is expressive, sometimes surreal, and her figures are often creatively distorted or combined with unexpected backgrounds or objects. Influences and inspirations for her work include vintage Americana, the works of Renaissance portrait painters, and a variety of contemporary illustrators and painters including Joe Sorren.

A number of Anna’s most recent paintings (on view through April 24 at Guardino  Gallery) were inspired by vintage travel and vacation photos.  In many of these pieces, landscapes have begun to play a more important role along with her figures.  The landscapes in her backgrounds add character to the scene and animate the thoughts of the people in her portraits.

Anna has worked with a variety of media, but prefers oils because of their ability to create subtle blends between shades and colors.  She started today with a line drawing on a vivid solid red-orange background.  With her drawing as a guide, she first painted and blended her subject’s face and hair.  With this portion of her subject mostly finished, she then moved on to surrounding her figure and background landscape elements with a pale yellow-brown.  She used this color to outline and define shapes and details of her figure and landscape.  As she painted the clothing and figure of her subject, she layered and blended colors, but also left the original bright-red background showing in highlights and accents.  The composition of her painting along with the interplay of cool colors, warm colors, subtle colors, and bright colors gives this painting a feeling that is both energetic and pensive.

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

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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.

Click on thumbnails to see larger pictures.


Wednesday, 4/13/11: Shawn Demarest

Shawn Demarest set up her French-style easel today with her palette positioned on the drawer of her easel between her canvas and her chair.  To her left, she set up her photographic reference as though she were sitting outdoors viewing her subject to the side of her easel.  Her painting today was inspired by a night-time photo she’d taken of traffic crossing the Ross Island Bridge south of downtown Portland.   Shawn has spent a lot of time painting outdoors on location, or “en plein air.”  This experience has helped her develop skills very useful to painters — quickly taking in a scene and making creative decisions about how to depict forms, light, and colors; selecting and mixing paints from a limited and harmonious range of colors; and choosing the appropriate level of detail to convey the mood and movement of a specific place and time.

Over the past year, a greater amount of Shawn’s work has occurred inside her studio.  Painting indoors has allowed her to keep making paintings during our long, wet winter and as enabled her to work on more pieces at a time when preparing for shows.  Painting in her studio also allows more time to work on each piece without having to worry about changing light or packing up at the end of the day.  With more time to focus on each painting, she can take breaks to get some distance from her work and reflect on the direction her work is taking.

Shawn is inspired by the scenes and places she sees every day in her Southeast Portland neighborhood.   When she’s planning a piece that she will work on indoors, Shawn likes to take photos outdoors that capture a special view or moment.  Her plein air background enables her to keep these special moments fresh and alive in her paintings, even when working indoors away from her subjects.

click on thumbnails to see larger pictures.