Mary Cassat, Ansel Adams, and philhippic

Today’s post is brought to you by the seemingly random powers that rule the internet.

Random event 1

A couple days ago I liked a Facebook post that had a nice piece of art in it. This was apparently a foolish move, because I have become embroiled in a plot to “occupy Facebook with art” and was assigned an artist to post about: Mary Cassat.

While not my favorite impressionist (Monet with Renoir a tight second) she’s in a nose-to-nose race with Degas (I love Degas’ racehorses, but hate his misogyny) for third.

Like Renoir, Cassat specialized in painting people, specifically women and children in intimate, home-centered environments. Because of her subject matter, she did not achieve the same recognition as other Impressionists, though that has largely changed in recent history.

"Little Girl in a blue chair" by Mary Cassat

“Little Girl in a blue chair” by Mary Cassat

Arguably my favorite painting of Cassat’s is “Little Girl in a Blue Armchair.” I love the evocative pose of the little girl, the curled up dog, and the startling blue of the armchairs. This painting shows something both innocent and frustrated.

Random event 2

Each day I get a word from the Oxford English Dictionary Online Word of the Day:

paysagist, n.
[‘ A landscape artist.’]
Pronunciation: Brit. /ˈpeɪzədʒɪst/,  U.S. /ˈpeɪzədʒəst/, /ˌpeɪ(i)zɑˈʒist/

This definition was followed by several key usages, one of which mentioned Ansel Adams.

“Ansel Easton Adams (February 20, 1902 – April 22, 1984) was an American photographer and environmentalist. His black-and-white landscape photographs of the American West, especially Yosemite National Park, have been widely reproduced on calendars, posters, and in books.[1]”

I think there are few people who have viewed Ansel Adams work that aren’t moved by it.

"The Tetons - Snake River," Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming; From the series Ansel Adams Photographs of National Parks and Monuments, compiled 1941 - 1942, documenting the period ca. 1933 - 1942.

“The Tetons – Snake River,” Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming;
From the series Ansel Adams Photographs of National Parks and Monuments, compiled 1941 – 1942, documenting the period ca. 1933 – 1942.

What’s unique about Adams is that, like the Impressionists, he was taking a 90 degree turn from what everyone else was doing at the time. While other photographers were concentrating on capturing images of humans, Adams documented the landscape; and he did it so well that he changed the world.

He changed the world just by documenting was what around him that he liked.

Random event 3

Today I got another word from OED:

philhippic, adj.
[‘ Fond of or interested in horses.’]

If this word was a tattoo, I would have immediately run for the nearest needle. I have attached myself to this word because, well, IT’S SO ME!

As I merrily contemplated ways to bring this word more into my life, I got to thinking about Mary Cassat and Ansel Adams. Did they have a word they associated with this strongly?

That got me to thinking about how much art (and everything else) has to do with what you are thinking about and paying attention to.

As an emerging artist, I’m still trying to decide what I am going to pay attention to. But based on how strongly I tuned into this word, I am reminded that horses will figure prominently.

Mercury is in Retrograde?

The last few days have seemed to have a theme, summed up by a passing comment from a guy on the elevator: “Mercury is in retrograde, man.” Not 100% true (retrograde starts Feb. 6 if you are interested in that) (I’m not, but I decided to check it out to see if I really could explain anything:, but you get the idea.

“When Mercury is retrograde, remain flexible, allow time for extra travel, and avoid signing contracts. Review projects and plans at these times, but wait until Mercury is direct again to make any final decisions.” – 2014 Farmer’s Almanac

Without going into the messier aspects of the last few days, last night when I started a new painting I had an unexpected thing happen. It was easy. The last few months of my painting have felt like nothing was going right. That isn’t to say that I’m not pleased, but it has felt like it takes endless tweaking to get anywhere.

Two hours into "Sizing up the Competition"

Two hours into “Sizing up the Competition”

As sketched out my work, chose colors, and quickly applied paint last evening I felt a deep suspicion about what was going on. Why was this moving so quickly?

There are a couple reasons the painting is going fast at this stage: it’s realistic (no existential decisions) and it has big shapes. When I get to the details, things will slow down. But I think there is something else going on.

I went to a training this morning on “conflict resolution in the workplace.”  At the top of the first handout, this quote appears:

“We all are of two minds about conflict. We say that conflict is natural, inevitable, necessary and normal, and that the problem is not the existence of conflict but how we handle it. But we are also loath to admit that we are in the midst of conflict.” – Berhard Mayer, PhD

As an emerging artist, conflict has a place in my work. I get to a certain stage in my work and I don’t know what I want. I try new things to discover my style, voice, and needs. Sometimes I do what the teacher says, sometimes I go my own way.

The last few months have been filled with (most successful) experiments: Abstracts, Tissue Pouring, Ice Painting, and Yupo. All of these required learning techniques.

With this painting I’m returning to straight watercolor. Those experiments will help me in a future work; they may even help me in this work. But for right now, I’ll keep it straightforward…. because you just can’t trust that Mercury.


A New Direction

It’s been a productive day. I slept in a little, filled up the birdfeeders, then got up and took Finn for a hike at Canemah.

A children's moon over Canemah

A children’s moon over Canemah

It was cold and frosty but bright. A great day. As we crested the first hill, a “children’s moon” greeted us.

I liked the way the front was receding just after the shadow disappeared. You can really see that in this photo.

I liked the way the front was receding just after the shadow disappeared. You can really see that in this photo.

Inspired by this, I took our usual loop in the opposite direction (clockwise instead of counter-clockwise). It’s amazing how much such a simple change makes everything change.

Light through salal leaves.

Light through salal leaves.

I hope a similar approach may help me get into the spring WSO show. For the first time, I’m entering an abstract as well as a representational piece. It feels a little like cheating, but I do like the piece and I’m proud of it. Fingers crossed!

In the meantime, I added my two entered paintings on the painting pages and two more than I have deemed “finished.” I hope you’ll check them out.

So, in summary, on this productive day I hiked, painted, entered paintings in the show, updated my website, and even did a little weeding. I need a nap.

I don't know the name of this plant, but it blooms white in the summer, inspiring my name for it, wedding lace plant. In the winter it ages and I think of it as an antique wedding veil.

I don’t know the name of this plant, but it blooms white in the summer, inspiring my name for it, wedding lace plant. In the winter it ages and I think of it as an antique wedding veil.

P.S. Finn and I dislike litter bugs.

Don't litter!

Don’t litter!

Ice Painting

Tomorrow I’m going to photo my finished paintings and enter the WSO show; it’s time to bite the bullet.

However, that doesn’t give you anything new to look at today. So, I’ve decided to show you December’s ice painting starts.

As fellow Portlander’s will remember, in early December we had some VERY cold weather. Oregon, and Portland in particular, is more known for rain than cold. But this was cold!

On Facebook, Liz Walker and Margaret Godfrey inspired me with their ice paintings.

So when the weather cooperated by remaining cold over a weekend, I took a variety of colors and papers (cold press, hot press, and yupo) out and tried my luck.

Day one was a little less successful than I hoped for. Rather than the striking patterns that Liz and Margaret got, I got a rather mottled design that wasn’t unpleasing, but wasn’t what I hoped for.

I googled “ice painting” and came upon Kathleen Conover’s website. She poured rather than painted, so Sunday I poured.

The results were better, but I still didn’t get the dramatic “ice” effect.

Then Liz imparted this wisdom: “You have to use acrylics.”


Maybe for the next cold snap.

A Generous Plenty

Last evening I went to my painting class (on my regular Tuesday I went out to take a groundwork class for Sound Equine Options) and discovered that I am very close to finishing a generous plenty of paintings.

This is a good thing because the WSO deadline (yes, I’ve mentioned this before) is coming up swiftly.

7 paintings at or very near completion... of course the one in the front is just a start

7 paintings at or very near completion… of course the one in the front is just a start

A few weeks ago I remember thinking I had too many paintings on the go and worried I wouldn’t get anything done by the deadline.

But last night, looking down the list of finished paintings, I felt a different worry. I’m going to have to start something new!

This weekend I will take some serious photos and put those up. The dolphin painting (“Eye Contact”) I’ll frame for myself. I think the yoga painting (“Nameste”) I think I’ll give to my yoga teacher as a present (it’s based on a photo I took of her at the end of a class).

Newest finish: "Nameste"

Newest finish: “Nameste”

I was so close to finishing, actually, I actually “started” on a painting from my ice starts I made in December.

With this much progress in the year, I’m hopeful it will be a successful year as well.


Last weekend I went to a board meeting at the lovely home of LaVonne Tarbox-Crone. I like LaVonne’s painting a lot and so I was really looking forward to seeing her home.

First, of course, I had to run and see LaVonne’s studio. It was lovely; right off the kitchen and in the main living area. She had carefully organized reference materials and GREAT light. I wished I could start painting.


LaVonne’s painting set up is right off her kitchen in the main part of the house! Light bright and airy, surrounded by reference photos. I’d paint too!

LaVonne's drafting table and painting set-up

LaVonne’s drafting table and painting set-up

But my favorite part of visiting an artist’s home is seeing what kind of art they choose to be surrounded by.

LaVonne impressed me; she had a lot of her own art on her walls! That’s something that I can’t say for myself. When I look at my art, all I see are flaws. I’m rarely satisfied.

There is a lesson to be learned there. I’m going think about hanging some of my pieces. Maybe in the process I’ll learn to be happier with my art.

Of course… first I’ll have to find the room. My walls are already covered with other art.


I’ve become the crazy lady on the bus

It’s the middle of January. It’s cold. It’s dark. It’s foggy. But spring will arrive. I know this because as I was riding home on the bus there was actually a little light.

In fact, there was enough light that for a few minutes there was a very pretty, soft pastel sunset. By the time I sorted out how to use my Kindle to take a picture, the pastels had faded a little… but you get the idea.

January 17, 2014 - Looking at the Willamette in Milwaukie at dusk

January 17, 2014 – Looking at the Willamette in Milwaukie at dusk

I’m sure everyone wondered if I was crazy because I tried to take the picture a little earlier on the ride, but I was on the wrong side of the bus and ended up with just blurry photos of the other passengers (and who cares about them…) instead of the lovely sky. Finally in Milwaukie we got to a spot where I put the Kindle out the window and snapped this shot at dusk.

A few minutes earlier, when thing was a little more pastel and the fog a little more prominent, I was reminded of a watercolor of Prince Charles that I have always liked. I was unable to find the exact one (it was a very simple lake picture that brilliantly does the fading of hills). But it got me looking at his watercolors:

He’s not my favorite painter (too traditional) but he certainly does have talent. Looking at this collection, I’m reminded that painting is very much about the time you give it.


Decisions, decisions….

Tonight was my weekly painting class at Anji’s. Last week we did four background techniques and this week our challenge was to turn at least one of them into a complete painting.

As usual, I overachieved a little and went to work on all four. None of them are going to make it into great pieces, but I did work out a few ideas…

Between working on these, I worked on finishing some pieces in progress. The WSO show deadline is coming up and I need to decide what to enter. And to do that, I need to FINISH some paintings.

Luckily, the last six months have been productive. However, that still doesn’t make the decision easier.

I experimented with some abstracts:

"Ripples" - 2013

“Ripples” – 2013

"Feeling Mody" - 2014

“Feeling Moody” – 2014 (unfinished version)

I’ve experimented with yupo:

"Eye to eye" - 2014 (unfinished version)

“Eye to eye” – 2014 (unfinished version)

I’ve painted some more horses:

"Distaff Divas" - 2014

“Distaff Divas” – 2014

"Trackside Discussion I" - 2014 (unfinished version)

“Trackside Discussion I” – 2014 (unfinished version)

And I won’t even show you the other pieces in progress, that didn’t work, or that I’m still thinking about.

So with all this work, you’d think I could make a decision… right?


With the holidays and a new year, I always find myself thinking about milestones: what has happened in the last year? What will I remember? What have I already forgotten as significant? Where do I think I’m going?

Possibly coincidentally, one of the interesting things about putting up a website is the notation of the passage of time. As I’m going back and trying to find significant art milestones and achievements, separating old art pieces into categories, and generally tidying up what I want to show the world, it keeps hitting me far I’ve come.

In November I went to the Audobahn Society of Portland’s Wild Art Festival, which is probably my favorite event of the year. Each year for the last few years I have submitted a piece to their 6×6 art project. If pressed, I would have said I had done this for two or three years. But when I was at the event I saw a poster from their 2008 event and I realized I’ve been submitting for 6 years. As I looked at my earliest pieces (sorry, I didn’t take a picture and I couldn’t find on on the internet) it struck me again how far I’ve come.

In 2009 I submitted a painting of a hummingbird and did not attached it to the provided canvas. I remember coming by on Sunday and looking at its lonely, forlorn self sitting alongside all the other 1″ thick canvases. It was a big step on my learning curve: always see how everyone else is submitting their stuff.

In 2010 I submitted a watercolor of a pelican. This year it was adhered to the canvas.

In 2011 I submitted a painting of a song sparrow. Adhered to the canvas.

In 2012 I submitted an acrylic (my first) of a fox sparrow.

Fox Sparrow

Fox Sparrow (acrylic)

And this year I submitted a watercolor pencil piece (my first) of a hummingbird.

2013 Hummingbird (watercolor pencils)

2013 Hummingbird (watercolor pencils)

I wish I had been able to find a record of all my paintings in this series because I was able to trace my progress in them. Each year I saw better lights and darks or painting application or design.

When putting up this site, I saw the same sort of progress as I put up series of horses or other subjects that I come back to repeatedly.

Today I’ll announce to my friends that this website is up. I hope they’ll enjoy looking through my past as much as I’ve enjoyed organizing it.

I hope they’ll continue with me as I keep painting.

Bright Day

On this bright but cold day, the birds were definitely out in force at Canemah.

Fluffed up song sparrow

Fluffed up song sparrow

At one point along our walk I simply stood and marveled at the little flocks of sparrows, towhees, junos, kinglets, and chickadees that fluttered near the path. Their noise provided a perfect soundtrack to the day.

Ferns and sunlight

Ferns and sunlight

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