Tag Archives: painting

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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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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Thursday, 4/28/11: Spencer Hawkes

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

Spencer Hawkes arrived at Muse armed with several pencil thumbnail sketches, fully prepared to take one image to the final stage.  “I draw all the time when I’m sitting around,” says Hawkes. In a crisp combination of M. Graham and Golden Acrylics, Hawkes fleshed out his newest robot portrait. With a playful shade of orange, this robot expressively strategizes over a game of chess. Painting mechanical figures offers Hawkes the creative freedom over anatomy. This allows him to invent whimsical, stylistic characters that don’t challenge predetermined expectations viewers have when a figure is human. Hawkes says that his love for robots came long before his recent stay in Japan. Having only just returned to Portland a few months ago, Hawkes was delighted to share stories about his adventures that include sketch book drawings of riders on Japanese Rail and of learning to play bike polo with Japanese cyclists.

Having been raised by a father who is a professional illustrator, Hawkes talked about his early exposure to the practice and world of narrative image. Being taken to midnight showings of Star Wars with his dad has been added to his list of early influences. Having illustration artists brought to his attention at an early age gave him an awareness of styles and he mentions John Ford and James Gurney artists that he has drawn inspiration from.

This summer, Hawkes will be living in Portland where he enjoys bicycle culture, drawing comics and drawing observational details of the city including its food carts. In a few more months, Hawkes will be moving on again, this time to Utah where his will be returning to Brigham Young University in order to complete his Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Art with a Major in Illustration.

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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.

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Monday, 4/18/11: Carolynn Wagler

Thanks to guest writer Christina Hugo for today’s post.

Today Carolynn Wagler helped to bring spring to Portland with a watercolor of warm, vibrant, orangey tulips. It was a fitting subject as we sat in the window of Muse safe from the intermittent April showers.

Carolynn came ready with a light graphite sketch of her design, which was from a photograph she had taken at a tulip festival a few years back. It was an image she had been saving, waiting to give it new life in paint. After a few touch-ups with her pencil to define her lines, which would be the map for her piece, she began by masking her whites. Carefully identifying any white detail in her color photo, she mimicked these areas with masking fluid to repel paint and maintain her tulips’soft white tips. The plump blooms were then washed with a wide, wet brush followed by a sweep of lemon yellow. Carolynn then used a blow drier to set the yellow, and already the strong effect of the masking fluid was evident. Bright yellow tulips with sweet white highlights now filled much of the page. She told me that as she added more color the masking fluid would be scrubbed away to blend the white naturally into the petals.

Crimsons, golden oranges, and bluish purples gave the blooms dimension, texture and richness . Thin upward strokes of color brought out the veins and spines of the petals, while a water-charged brush diluted color in other places to give contour and shading, bringing it all slowly to life.

Carolynn used a test palette of watercolor paper painted with her original yellow to see how each new hue would appear layered on the last. On this tiny watercolor laboratory she discovered, through trial, error, and inquisitive patience how to coax her perfect purple from a neutralizing yellow background.

Carolynn has been painting with watercolors for 11 years, but has experience with acrylics and pastel as well. She says watercolor is her favorite because of its fluidity. She says she finds it “a thrill to see what you come up with through the nature of the water and pigment together.” Carolynn’s portfolio is filled with landscapes in all seasons, and expressive faces which portray emotion through bright eyes and flowing features. She is looking forward to painting some of the tropical flora she captured on film during a recent trip to Hawaii. Carolynn teaches pastel painting through Portland Parks and Recreation and she is a member of the Portland Fine Arts Guild.

The last picture below shows Carolynn’s painting at the end of the day Monday (with watercolor paper still taped to board).  We’ll post an update with a picture of the finished piece.  UPDATE:  The last picture below shows Carolynn’s finished painting.

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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.

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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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