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"


Ruth Armitage said...

I really love how he turned out! The cool dominance with that gorgeous splash of gold on the bird really says “dandy” to me. Kudos to you for persevering!

Peggy Stermer-Cox said...

Hi Margaret! I like your "River Dandy". I can see how you would fall in love with the first phase. It is wild like the Rogue. Yet, you seem to keep the sense of wildness in your updated version. So cool! And, it seems unified to me. Exciting!