Tag Archives: updates

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

Click on thumbnails to see larger pictures.

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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.

Click on thumbnails for larger pictures


Wednesday, 4/20/11: Acey Thompson

Thanks to guest writer Sally Murdoch for today’s post.

Acey Thompson says she has almost always had a hard time staying still. Now in her final year at PNCA with her thesis proposal staring her down in just a few short weeks, the field of study she has chosen hits, literally, close to home. She is OK with being a dog artist amidst conceptual art students at PNCA, and for her thesis she has chosen to artfully depict a dog’s ability to be completely idle and zen-like, docile, blissful almost to the point of catatonic. She hopes to conduct this study starting with her two dogs at home, her pit bull Maggie and Catahoula leopard dog Jasper.

But there’s another reason the docile nature of dogs captures Acey’s heart and imagination; when she graduates this fall, she hopes to throw time and energy into softening the stigma against pit bulls. She hopes to do this through art, with exposing people to images of pit bulls with a partner out of LA, appropriately named Diamonds in the Ruff, a no-kill pet rescue shelter:

Last year, Acey’s painting of a Great Pyrenees dog lovingly arched over the shoulders of a woman fetched $250 at the final auction for An Artist a Day. One person liked it so much because it reminded her of her own dog, and when she was outbid, she later commissioned Acey to do a similar watercolor and ink rendering.

Today’s painting is her pit bull Maggie, who accompanied her on the journey to Portland five years ago. In the photo, Maggie, now nine, wears an expression that Acey loves and knows well. A recently finished watercolor of Maggie  is also on Acey’s homepage, and so realistic and detailed that many often mistake it for an oil panting.

Acey chose today’s photo for her Maggie’s expression as well as to capture two things she loves in her life: one is a sheer curtain with gold flecks and patterned with fleur de lys, giving the portrait a regal air. The other is an Afghani pillow that was once a dress her father brought back from the Middle East. The repurposed pillowcase, with its tiny mirrors and webby patterns, contributes to the colorful foreground of the painting.

Last summer, Acey took two classes at PCC that she says really broadened her horizons in her artistic adventure. One was a watercolor painting class taught by Theresa Redinger who shows at Blackfish Gallery. Redinger took students through technical basics such as color theory using a color wheel, stretching paper, and taking the palette from small primaries to larger ones. The other class was a soapstone carving class, which gave her newfound respect for rocks and polishing.

The supplies Acey uses are: Synthetic brushes from Da Vinci, Escoda, and Raphael. Her large porcelain palette is from Muse. Watercolors are M Graham and Sennelier, and paper is Arches 140 lb watercolor. The gouache is M Graham. Her elegant bamboo brush wrap is from Muse, and she is trying out a new wax crayon to save whites, a technique she gleaned from John Singer Sergeant. She’ll use pearlescent liquid acrylic for the details in the curtains and Maggie’s collar.   UPDATE:  The last picture shows Acey’s finished painting.

Click on thumbnails to see larger pictures.

Tuesday, 4/19/11: Anne Lukas

Thanks to guest writer Sally Murdoch for today’s post.

The limelight seems to follow artist Anne Lukas. It may be the irresistible medium of paper maché, or it may be her open disposition, or a combination of both. For example, when two of her dioramas placed as finalists two years in a row for the Washington Post Peeps contest, the online gallery garnered 2 million hits, making it one of the Post’s most viewed galleries ever. Then when she moved to the Pacific Northwest 4 years ago, her reputation as a finalist of the Washington Post peeps diorama contest preceded her, as neighbors already knew who she was. And today, as she layered paper on a mythical creature inspired by a Dr. Seuss sculpture, the Muse storefront was continually filled with people of all ages, swirling with activity and conversing all afternoon.

A native Chicagoan, Anne graduated from Southern Illinois University with a degree in graphic design and worked as a freelancer and for small publishing companies in layout and logo design. Four years ago, she traded in Washington D.C. for Camas, Washington when her husband’s job with Honda Corporation moved her family of four. When she arrived, she saw a need for art classes at the elementary school level. She mentioned this to a fellow mom, which was all it took to gather a roomful of eager students ready to learn art basics. She was off and running as an art teacher within her first year of living in the Pacific Northwest.

Today, the Seussian trophy head was started at home, and shaped into place with coat hangers, newspapers and tape. She then stapled the mythical beast to a wood panel. Dr. Seuss has been a fixture in Lukas’ life as a mom to an 11 and 14 year old, and a constant at Camas elementary schools, one where she was artist in residence and crafted a life-sized zebra with hundreds of children. “Did you know Dr. Seuss was a sculptor?” she asks. Born Theodor Seuss Geisel, his father worked as a zoologist and would bring home horns and antlers that young Ted would fashion into imaginary animals.

She tore strips from Fabriano paper’s Tiziano line, carried at here at Muse. The textured drawing paper is heavier weight with cotton content, making it strong and pliable, and colors that are very fade resistant. Fabriano has been crafting paper since the 1300’s.

Anne learned paper maché technique from one of the founders of Mudeye Puppet Company, who invited her to his studio and showed her the ropes. “I like that the materials are virtually free, the creations are lightweight, that you can make anything out of it, even huge sculptures. The sculpt-ability is amazing.” Plus, she added, it’s great for kids. With cornstarch and water being the bonding element, it’s nontoxic and washes right out of clothing.

Her work with the students at Grass Valley Elementary to build their mascot zebra has inspired her for her next project in which she hopes to make another life-sized animal, complete with innards out of paper maché. Stay tuned for that adventure on Anne’s website.

This summer, Anne and friend Michelle have partnered to host weeklong summer camps, tapping into the duo’s combined areas of expertise in drama, art and theater. Kids entering 3rd grade through middle school are welcome and camps run 9 to 12 and/or 1 to 4 pm weekdays. Four areas will be taught:
1. Paper maché trophy heads
2. Puppet making: Including various media including paper maché
3. Puppeteering: Using made or a supply of puppets
4. Tile mosaics: floor tile and ceramics.

The last picture shows Anne’s sculptural piece at the end of the day Tuesday.  UPDATE:  The last picture shows Anne’s finished paper mache sculpture.

Click on thumbnails to see larger pictures.

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.

Click on thumbnails to see larger pictures.


Sunday, 4/17/11: Thérèse Murdza

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

Thérèse Murdza’s paintings remind me of whistling: light and playful, simple, yet unexpected; and like all good whistlers, her skill makes it look deceptively easy.

Her skill was quickly made apparent in our conversation: her knowledge of materials is considerable. “Golden acrylic paints have a high pigment load, which is why I water down the paints so much,” she says on the beginning stages of her painting. Sometimes she’ll just use the water from her brush bucket for especially soft effects. Not only does this let her feel out the form that her painting is going to take, it adds nuance as well. She tells me of a recent interview she listened to of Stephen King. “He doesn’t outline a book,” she said excitedly. “He just begins with a vague notion, and builds from there.”

In contrast to her painting, Thérèse likes to incorporate drawing into her work as well. “Drawing gives it a definition that painting doesn’t, and really, it’s just about the elemental nature of making marks,” she explained. Sometimes the pencil doesn’t make a strong enough line for her, and in those cases she uses Aquarelle watercolor crayons and watercolor pencils. They give her the flexibility of making strong marks along with being able to diffuse the line afterwards with a brush if it is too forceful. A dulled utility knife lets her subtract by scraping off the top layers of paint, and letting some of the layers beneath show through.

All the inventive line work adds a lot of physicality to her painting, but the spontaneous look belies the process. She works in the studio, exploring different methods of making marks and techniques, which she then will use later in her work.

The rhythmic nature of her painting owes to her background in music, which she says started at age 3, with an accordion. It should be no surprise, then, that after seeing her work one is left whistling a happy tune.

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

Click on thumbnails to see larger pictures.



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.

Click on thumbnails to view larger pictures.