A very (very) big state

Last week I went south and west to visit the coast. This week I headed south and east to visit Klamath Falls, Burns, and Ontario.

Part of my job is doing training around the state; a couple of times a year I go on a bit of a “tour” to areas where new employees have come on and need a bit of guidance around billing out their grants (which I then pay after review.)

I enjoy this, but I almost always come back with this same reaction: Oregon is a HECK of a big state.

Tuesday, I drove from Salem down to Klamath Falls. I didn’t grab any pictures, but I did see an American Dipper, Mountain Chickadee, and a White-headed woodpecker at a rest stop.

Wednesday, after the training, I turned east, driving first through the Klamath Marsh and then through the high desert / sagebrush steppes of Christmas Valley to arrive in Burns where spring was just a theory.

Thursday morning I wok up to an inch of snow over ice. Thankfully, the hotel was only a short distance from the training site.

By the afternoon, it has warmed up enough the snow and ice had melted. My trainees suggested a slight detour just outside of town and I was able to drive by part of the Malheur River and a wastewater treatment area. The Burns area is one of the best birding areas in the world, and I was able to add Ross’s geese, American Avocet, Long-billed Curlew, Willet, and Franklin’s Gull to my life list, as well as admire several sandhill cranes.

Once out of Burns, it was “just” a 2.5 hour drive to Ontario, Oregon’s gateway to Idaho. This leg of the journey was, again, all about the sky.

And a few pronghorn antelope.

And the occasional juniper, raptor, or interesting canyon.

Today I did a brief, individualized training, then headed back west to home. 420 miles and just over 7 hours of driving, today alone. In real world terms,  this week I went through three books on tape.

It’s a very big state.

Let the edges move

Warning: This is a PG13 post.

This weekend I went to the Watercolor Society of Oregon‘s Spring Convention in Florence, Oregon. I was lucky enough that my painting “Should the turkey cross the road?” was selected for inclusion in the show by esteemed juror  Fran Larsen, but I usually try to go the the conventions, regardless of whether I get in or not, because it’s an opportunity to be around other artists and get exposed to new ideas and techniques.


My family has always had property around Lincoln City, so I have never explored other parts of the Oregon Coast. Florence is in the southern-most part of the “Central Coast” (if that makes sense) and sits on the mouth of the Siulsaw River. The area is most famous for the massive sand dunes and truly gorgeous.

I was lucky enough to be able to arrive in town Thursday evening. My friend, Sandra Pearce, and I had rented a little condo in downtown and she joined me Friday for some downtown exploring and sketching.

Sandra and I admire the flowering apple trees while strolling along the Friday night gallery walk.

As with any good story, there were a few adventures. Friday, before Sandra arrived, I went down the Siuslaw to do a little birding. While stopping here…

… I forgot that my car battery wasn’t in great shape and left my lights on while I admired a golden-crowned kinglet. AAA was called and I had to swing by Les Schwab for a new battery.

Also, while Thursday and Friday had gorgeous weather, Saturday’s weather can best be summed up with this photo.

I hadn’t signed up for any paint-outs, but Sandra wasn’t so lucky.

So, what did I sign up for?

Two Nudes with Tattoos by Alexandra Eyer and Pat Renner

A few years ago I took a figure painting class with Alexandra and Pat and I enjoyed it immensely. I have been looking for a chance to paint with them again, so I signed up for this class, though (to be frank) this is the first time I’ve ever done true “life drawing” (i.e. drawing and painting nudes.)

Not surprisingly, it wasn’t a big deal. I was more worried about getting proportions right and capturing the mood.

It was disappointing to only have and hour and a half in this class, because there was SO much more I wanted to explore. The models requested no photographs, so I’ll have to use these to go back to the topic. The model I worked on had a really  lovely golden skin tone that was a lot of fun to work on. She also had interesting lips and the best habit of tilting her head and showing the underside of her chin (not captured).

Bold Colors, Bold Shapes with Sally Bills Bailey

I had also previously taken a class with Sally, but haven’t had a chance to do anything with the ideas. I’ll admit I didn’t listen as hard as the first time, but I really worked on her ideas: using paint in an opaque manner, simplifying shapes, and not getting stuck into a particular color scheme but using color to  describe.

About this time, I should mention the the tricky vendors at the convention MADE me buy this, which I used throughout the day, but particularly on the last painting.

Watercolor markers

iPhone 101 for Artists with Elizabeth Zimmerman

My next class was with talented fellow equine artist Elizabeth Zimmerman. This class was pretty technical and involved playing with my cell phone, which isn’t great for producing interesting pictures to put in a blog.

Juror’s Afternoon Critique with Fran Larsen

I always try to  put in an image in the critique; I figure if I don’t try to find out what people thing, I’ll never learn anything. While I tell myself I’m braced for anything, the truth is critiques can be a pretty intense experience (see this former post.)

I submitted this image which still has a couple of tweaks I think it needs.

But what I was really interested in was if it was “enough.” I left out a lot of detail, which is a real stretch for me. I feel like I got what was important, but was it enough? I should also mention, this painting was not selected (i.e. rejected) for the Emerald Art Center Exhibition next month.

Juror critiques can be something of a mixed bag as far as getting anything useful. I’ve had juror’s say things as simple as “I like it” (not helpful) and move on to making fun of everything but my parentage (also unhelpful as well as rude.) Most jurors go out of their way to be encouraging and find something positive to say; this can be an ego boost, but sometimes you go home without an idea of what to do next.

Ms. Larsen was one of the most blunt jurors I’ve had. While she did not rip people’s paintings apart, she was very direct in saying things like, “You  need to do a better job applying paint consistently” and “It’s monumentally boring.” She was very clear that she expected the artists to push themselves out of the realism box and into the arena of making art. I know she hurt at least one person’s feelings because the artist was sitting in back of me and she was outraged. I’m not sure I would have done better.

So when my turn came up, I thought I was prepared. I asked Sandra to help me listen. Imagine my shock on hearing this: “This painter has guts. The horse incarnate.” Ms. Larsen paused. “You might want to talk a little more about the tack, but I’m not sure it’s necessary. Maybe another painting. Think about going big.”

Wow.

So, here’s the moral of the story: One juror rejects, another compliments.

In the words of my favorite song, “You see, ya can’t please everyone, so ya got to please yourself.”

I skipped the banquet (I’m an antisocial, cranky human. I have accepted this and I’m not doing the banquet anymore) and went back to the condo to decompress.

Juror Fran Larsen’s Lecture Demo

Sunday morning was the WSO business meeting followed by Ms. Larsen’s Lecture. Most jurors do a demo, but my impression is that Ms. Larsen is getting a little older and that would have been too much.

Her lecture was a take on an art history lecture, focusing on modern art (late 19th century to the 1950’s) and how as artists we have an obligation to push beyond photo realism and into something that is unique to the artist. It was a good lecture, but perhaps not great. It did leave me something to think about as well as some ideas to explore.

It was a good weekend and I’m excited to get back to the studio. I’m going to frame this quote I picked up from Ms. Larsen: “Let the edges sing.”

Health Steps – Week 14

I need to make this short tonight. I am packing to head out for a few days for work and then the WSO convention. The big challenge this week (and next) will be to keep to my basic simple goals while being “out”. No schedule, no prepared food. Gulp.

  • Tracking (4 of 7 days, especially when “out”)
  • 1 Frappachino per day (maybe I should change this to only 2 per day)
  • Eating my prepared food (changing for this week to eat better in restraunts)
  • Hit 10,000 all seven days, taking at least one break/lunch walkOh… and I gained .2 pounds this week. It was a challenging week and to not have it really hit me gives me hope that if I just moderate, I’ll be okay.

Explore and return

Today I drove up to Canby to take down my show at the Canby Library. While one painting sold (YES!), the others had to return home. They have not yet found their place in the world.

On the way up, I decided to do something I have wanted to do for a long time; I explored Champoeg State Park. I have driver by Champoeg hundreds, if not thousands, of times as I have driven around, but I’ve never taken the time to stop and explore.

Today, I did.

Healthy Steps – Week 13

I lost (a frankly amazing) five pounds this week.

While I am thrilled about this, I have to admit to being surprised. While I made some good choices, there were a lot of extremely questionable choices in there.

This got me to thinking that a theme that keeps coming up is that weight removal is not about being perfect; weight removal is about working to make choices that will be reflected in the long term. So, yes, I went out to eat and had a great big salad with bacon and avocados; I didn’t have potato chips. I went out dinner and had a yummy grilled chicken with mayo; I didn’t have the hamburger with cheese.

I know that perfection is one of those themes that keeps coming up for me in my life. Obviously, it’s impossible to be perfect. And every time I don’t hit that mark, I feel it down to my pancreas.

I went to see my therapist last week and she gave me the (somewhat standard) speech about treating myself well. The handouts and words vary, but it’s the same message. I always walk away from this speech vaguely frustrated; I treat myself fine, darn it!

The fact is I’m not perfect and it haunts me. Maybe it’s time to really think about actually taking my therapist’s advice and celebrating the great things about myself and not beating myself up for those things (like my quick temper, over-reactive tendencies, and impatience) that tend to put me in conflict with the world at large.

Obviously, that’s a lot to ask and not always within the scope of weight removal. But it’s something to consider as I move forward.

I am very much still on basics this week; last week was about 50/50 (if that).

  • Tracking (4 of 7 days
  • 1 Frappachino per day (I did 2 each day last week in spite of stating I was going for 1 because it was all just too much)
  • Eating my prepared food
  • Hit 10,000 all seven days, taking at least one break/lunch walk

On a last note, with today’s weight removal, I’m within eight pounds of a big goal: 10% of my body weight removed. At the front of each Weight Watcher’s booklet, you are supposed to state your goal for the 16 weeks that booklet covers. My goal for this booklet was to remove 10% by the end of it. I have 8 weeks to go and I’m starting to believe I might just do it!

The laundry won

“I’ve seen women insist on cleaning everything in the house before they could sit down to write… and you know it’s a funny thing about housecleaning… it never comes to an end. Perfect way to stop a woman. A woman must be careful to not allow over-responsibility (or over-respectabilty) to steal her necessary creative rests, riffs, and raptures. She simply must put her foot down and say no to half of what she believes she “should” be doing. Art is not meant to be created in stolen moments only.”
― Clarissa Pinkola Estés

I have to admit, that laundry and the rest of life got the better of me this weekend. Friday started out on a downhill slide and a combination of housework, marches, and other “shoulds” got the better of me artistically.

Saturday I did sit down and do some value studies (trying to take advice) but the critics in my head were simply too much.

In other downer news, I submitted two paintings for the Emerald Art Center exhibition (the one that “Scent of Season” got in last year), but I got word on Friday that neither got in. I can’t claim to be hugely surprised, but my ego could have used the boost.

I have to admit the next few weekends will be artistically dicey. While I don’t have much going on next weekend, I am committed to driving up to Canby on Saturday and taking down my show at the Canby Library. Feel free to save me the trip and buy that piece of art that you’ve been craving! I’ve already had one sale from this show… just 15 more and I won’t have to make the trip!

The following weekend is the Watercolor Society of Oregon spring show where “Should the Turkey Cross the Road” will be exhibited.

I’ll also be doing some traveling around the state for my “real” job, so I’ll commit to reference photos. I’ll even try for some sketches… but probably not a lot of painting. Then for a few weeks it’s all nose work, all the time.

All of this is in addition to my normal roster of things. Is it any wonder I’m not getting things done?

I’m definitely missing that “put my foot down” spirit.

Healthy Steps – Week 12

I gained weight this week. In a perverse way, I am relieved. While I didn’t go off the rails like I did last week, I certainly didn’t snap back into shape.

But it wasn’t as bad as it could have been, and frankly for the last two weeks, I’m still down a little. I’m feeling like my perspective is improving and I’m ready to look ahead a little.

When I entered my gain into my Weight Watcher’s app, it gave a suggestion: trying tacking 4 days this week. I think that’s a good start to this week’s goals.

  • Tracking (4 of 7 days)
  • 1 Frappachino per day
  • Eating my prepared food
  • Hit 10,000 all seven days, taking at least one break/lunch walk

I’m still on the basics. And I haven’t quit.

Behind the art

I didn’t get a chance to do my weekly artistic post on Sunday because by the time I got done with all the things I had to do, I didn’t have time to edit photos and write.

With that said, I have no new art to show, though I spent a thoroughly artist weekend.

Critique group

I took a few of my recent series of paintings to critique group. They were encouraging, including encouraging me not to wimp out. I heard about various artist workshops where the artist had encourage of series of at least 100 paintings. I’ve done seven.

Reference photos

From there I went to the Cherry Blossom festival here in town, which is a celebration of all things cherry ad well as Salem’s sister city in Japan. Kawagoe. It’s a great opportunity for gathering reference photos.

Additionally, the Salem Capital Building allows tours to the upper deck to get a view of Salem and admire our golden pioneer.

Ordering paper

Sunday I spent my artist time ordering frame and placing a big order for watercolor paper. While not exactly visually interesting, both things are an important part of the artist process.

So, my apologies about not having new things to show you, but sometimes you have to conduct a little business first.

Healthy Steps – Week 11

Folks, I went off the rails this week. A combination of hormones, doctors, work stress, pet drama, and heaven only knows what else just go to me. There was pie. There was Easter Candy. There were multiple pizzas. And the Frappachinos are back.

When I got on the scale today, I was braced for the worst; imagine my shock when I was down 3.4 pounds. All I can say is that next week I’m sure I will pay.

I think this sums up what went wrong.

I got mentally tired and when the triggers came along, it was an explosion.

On that note, last week I made the daring decision to take one item off my to do list and work on another. I’m feeling like that was a step I wasn’t ready for, so I’m going back to my original four.

  • Tracking (6 of 7 days)
  • No Frappachinos
  • Eating my prepared food
  • Hit 10,000 all seven days, taking at least one break/lunch walk

Tracking and Frappachinos are the ones that got away.

Luckily the WW topic this week was the perennial favorite, “Bounce Back! Setback happen to all of us. Here’s how to get back on track.”

Boy, do I need it!

Response to “failure”

With Ruth’s permission, I give you some of her feedback to my failure post on Sunday.

Regarding color options

“Interesting that the other workshop gave you the Brown Madder/Cobalt Blue colour scheme. I use a BM/Ultramarine mix often in painting (using CB if I want cooler), but also a rose madder/ultramarine or rose madder/manganese blue (manganese granulates more than cerulean). Using those as colour choices for this exercise is smart. Another, more way out, mix to try is Quin Gold/cobalt violet deep or mineral violet, and a John Singer Sargent standard is Alizarin Crimson/Viridian. He also used raw or burnt sienna with cobalt blue.”

Regarding edges

“For the edges issue try a value sketch first. A VERY quick sketch simplifying shapes (KISS) and then use only THREE tones: white (paper), mid and dark. It helps to draw 3 boxes at the side of the sketch and leave one white, lightly shade the second = midtown, then heavier shade the 3rd = dark. Map out your midtones (you can also use the midtone over the dark areas) and shade over the whole area without reference to the form of the subject, then add the darks in the same way. Look at the design of the piece rather than the subject – subject in this case being the horse’s legs. Look for movements of linked tones over the whole piece.

You can also try the pears exercise (where we divided the image into 3 parts) that we did on day one of the painting workshop on this more complicated image.

REMEMBER PROCESS NOT PRODUCT. An exercises shows its value in the resultant effect on your work, not in the exercise itself.”

Regarding underpainting and fuller painting

“Take a look at the demo piece I did as underpainting on Saturday. It is underpainting rather than limited palette so the ultramarine/rose madder is used as a varying mix rather than as two colours, but it was used to demonstrate looking for those design elements and lost edges.

For application to a fuller painting take a closer look at ‘Oil On Water‘. it is one of your favourites and this is probably why. Look at the handler’s feet and how they merge with the grass. Look at how the ‘line’ between horse and handler is suggested, then lost, then suggested again at his quarter and how the edge between her jeans and the bag is lost altogether. Those are design elements that add atmosphere and reduce clutter thereby helping focus the viewer on the important parts of the painting.”

My response

Thanks, Ruth! I will try not to whine about more value sketches. 😉

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