Monday, October 22, 2018

The Taming of "River Dandy"

For many summers Mike and I have rafted on Northwest's wild and scenic rivers. While Mike watches the white water rapids, rocks and white water holes--rowing to avoid catastrophes; I am sitting like the queen of the fleet watching my realm of birds, vegetation and canyons and sky. I always come home with photos I hope to paint. With luck I can produce something personal incorporating a hint of the joy and thrill I feel while on the river.

There are many beautiful and graceful big birds on the Rogue River: great blue herons, bald eagles, kingfishers, egrets. But a cormorant is not one of the more exciting birds. They are fish-eating water birds, mostly brownish black with toes joined by webbing. They often sit on rocks and spread their wings to dry out or warm up, making them easy to photograph.

Five years ago I came home with a number of digitally captured cormorants and chose to paint the bird with his wings spread. I interpreted the fellow in his pose as something of a show-off. In my anthropomorphized version of the bird, he became the "River Dandy."

I had more fun creating collage materials, stamps and other ways to incorporate into the cormorant's closet of fancy attire.

In the end I knew it was too much. The viewer's eye would just go crazy trying to find that "quiet spot" to rest and enjoy the painting. Yet I couldn't let go of every beautiful spot. I was not ready to "tame the River Dandy." Like so many paintings, it went into a drawer, but the image never left my mind.

About three months ago I was looking for a painting to work on my editing skills. I pulled out "River Dandy" and started to add black gesso (an opaque paint) and applied it to areas I considered too wild. I spent very little time at it before I was almost in tears. It was like killing a pet. I almost tossed it in the trash, but reconsidered. Back it went into a drawer. I thought maybe I could reuse parts in a collage or something.

Then a couple of weeks age I pulled the poor "River Dandy" out again. I told myself to put on my big girl pants and act like a real artist.  I began to ask myself how I could tame, but not kill this fellow I'd lived with for so long. I mixed up a gray mixture that I felt complimented all the colors originally used. I retrieved some of the stamps and vivid colors off my shelves and got to work. Even I am surprised sometimes at the attachment that forms between the art and the artist. I am happy I let "River Dandy" hang around for so long. I think he has (and I have) found a spot where he can show off and the viewer can find that "quiet spot" to rest and enjoy the painting.

Let me know what you think.

River Dandy
mixed media
22" x 30"

Monday, October 1, 2018

Curiosity Lures the Artist

Last night, as I walked from my studio back to the house (about 300 ft.) I took a leap back and squealed. This has been my reaction to snakes in the last 15 years. Prior to that, my reaction was running and screaming. My fear was so great that as a teenager I once lept on my dad, practically landing us both flat on a rocky lakeshore. I was sure I had seen a rattler--my interpretation of all snakes.

So back to a slight leap and squeal of last night--that came right before hoping I had my phone in my pocket so I could take a picture. Being an artist has changed how I see and how I react. When I first started painting seriously, I remember driving along thinking about how I could mix colors to represent what I was seeing. What could I add to cobalt blue to make that special dark green that sits on the bottom of a fir branch? On our raft trips, my eyes would always be alert for motion or a shape that didn't quite belong to the landscape. I would walk an extra mile, or go off a trail for a special view that might be turned into a painting.

So a few years back, as I was weeding my garden, I had my initial leap and squeal, but then went into the house to get my camera. Luckily, Mr. Snake stayed around long enough for me to come back, calmly this time, and take a wonderful shot of him winding around my flowering echinacea. I posted the photograph on Facebook at the time, but never painted the friendly garter snake until this past week, when the photo showed up as a Facebook memory. This is not my usual subject matter, but I had so much fun painting him!

10" x 14"
Transparent Watercolor

Other news for the week, "Because Women Marched" has found its home in Klamath Falls. Many thanks to the new owner who appreciated the historical story of this work.

Because Women Marched
18" x 22"
Mixed Media

Also I matted and framed "Women's Work" which will be part of the Watercolor Society of Oregon's Fall Show at Elsinore Gallery in Salem Oregon.

Women's Work
21 x 21
Transparent Watercolor