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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