Cascade mountain series

This one took a couple times before I got it somewhat how I imagined it. The first picture below is the final version.

The initial inspiration came at Smith Rock State Park actually. The sun was setting and these huge clouds were looming over the Cascade crest to the west, almost obscuring the Three Sisters. It was possible to see the dark edges of exposed rock through the clouds though, looming, kind of sinister looking.

As the sun set, the last rays caught on some of the buildings in the foreground, glowing yellow orange.





The version below was the right idea, but too much foreground.



This version below was probably closest to what the scene actually looked like.  I couldn’t quite figure out what to do with that flat line houses and trees/bushes.



Below is the a photo I took for reference:


Part of a painting

This painting didn’t quite turn out, but I really liked this one part, so felt like I should try to crop it just to get it by itself. I liked how I caught a sense of light on the distant mountain. I also liked how I didn’t think about this part one bit, I just dabbed the paint brush on there, so the result is nice and loose. (The rest of the painting, not the same can be said for, unfortunately). This big rock outcropping, with the shadow side facing me, was in the foreground, and I knew that it would be hard to get, but wanted to try anyways. Not so successful. At least when it is cropped way down like this, it looks more like a rock outcropping in the foreground (rather than an unidentifiable mass).

I camped at Smith Rock State Park and this was one of the paintings I did while I was there, looking west towards the Cascades, with the edge of Smith Rock in the foreground. The trip was a lot of fun, the painting I did however was not so successful.

Here is the cropped version:

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Here is the original below. I really go carried away with the “rim rock” lines in the distance — I made them too straight. And the rock that is shadowed, it is just too big of a shapeless mass. Maybe some day I’ll understand how to integrate something like that into a painting but for now it is just beyond me, to be honest. I think that it should have been darker in value than the background (rather than lighter) and probably if it didn’t take up so much space, that would help.

I found painting these big rocks to be pretty challenging in general. Really hard to simplify!

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From High Above

I sat on a the edge of a cliff to do this painting. Okay, “sat” isn’t quite the right word, but the cliff is pretty close by. This is a really cool spot overlooking the Willamette Valley to the east. I hadn’t been here for a long time; for some reason the “authorities” welded shut the access gate, although jumping over the fence is actually pretty easy because it is not very high. A couple other people were there at this spot at the same time as me, enjoying the view.

With this painting I struggled to get the cliff part to come forward and the background to go back. I did have a real hard line on the horizon at first, and blurring that out seemed to help. I also tried to make the actual cliff real visually busy, to bring it forward.

The “buildings in the distance” effect I was trying to go for was somewhat effective I suppose.




Windy Skies

I tipped the paper over to the side for this one, so the water would run across the page and not down. Since the weather was so warm on that day, the paper was drying very quickly, making it easy for backwash “squiggles” to form.

I think this painting was able to capture the “busy” sky that was happening on this day, and the sense of wide open space. I kind of wish I had more direction and purpose to those sky shapes, although at least it has one big sort of white shape on the upper left that gives it a little drama. Also, I suppose the small marks towards the bottom help give a little sense of distance or receding space.



At the end of the day

I walk by this spot often, at the park near my house. It looks like this for about an hour a so a day, as long as the sun is out. For most of the day, through late afternoon, the sun is not low enough to cast these dramatic shadows: mostly, the entire ground is just a mass of shadows. It sounds pretty simplistic when I write it, but it is a surprisingly dynamic place. Last week I came to this spot to try to paint and there wasn’t anything — no dramatic shadows, no sunlight shining between the trunks. Because I came too early.

It seems like even in late afternoon there should be at least a little bit of a trunk shadow, a bit of line and definition to the shadow, but I think because these trees here are so close together, and they have so much interlocking foliage, that there is basically a blob of a shadow until the very end of the day, when the sun is almost setting.

It took two tries to get anything reasonable — and by the time I was on the second painting, I was mostly working from memory, as a cloud bank had obscured the sun more or less. This was at the end of a rather long day at work/school but it felt good to get out lay down some brush strokes. I think I captured a little bit of my mood, not exactly impatient, but decisive. Not waiting around to get it perfect. Which in many ways is just the kind of attitude I need for painting.


A Rock

A couple weeks ago I did this painting of a rock. Actually it was a couple of rocks and they were sitting right by the bicycle path and they caught my eye somehow. I feel like it is important to try to be able to turn any scene into a successful painting, so this was some practice for me in that regard. I suppose it is also practice to “see with the mind’s eye.” I find that some of my best paintings are only loosely based on the scene in front of me.

This rock was actually placed there by humans (as opposed to some natural process). It is part of the Whilamut Natural Area in Alton Baker Park. In 2002 some people had the idea of putting rocks around the area and engraving Kalapuya words in them (along with English translations). This is no longer Kalapuya land, and their language is no longer heard along the river banks of the Willamette (apparently there are some surviving Kalapuya to this day but it is unclear how many people speak the language.) Their words are engraved on stones though. It seemed like an admirable effort, to put these stones around with Kalapuya words, but at the same time a little sad. I’m not sure how many people actually look at them. I suppose it is good to have a reminder that some other people once lived here and called it home.

This rock that I painted has Gudu-Kut engraved on it, which means “frog” in Kalapuya.

Apparently Whilamut means “where the river ripples and runs fast,” and there is a stone with that word engraved on it down stream from where I sat, on the back where a riffle forms in the river.




Beginning of Summer

The long shadows of summer are wonderful, I love how they stretch across the ground and never seem to end. On a recent Sunday afternoon it Dorris Ranch, lots of people were out enjoying the shadows, or that is, the sunlight that creates the shadows.

Summer is an exciting time for painting, if nothing else, because of the way paint dries so quickly, which serves as an inspiration of sorts to go more quickly and loosely.





South Willamette Valley vista

One of my favorite places to paint, it is a little hard to describe where it is even. Looking south from an old road, this vantage point offers a view of the Coast Range, I suppose. The cows cluster around each other, not doing much of all except eating. People stroll by on the road, the only traffic, mostly older couples. Occasionally bicyclists pedal by, talking intently. One man stopped and talked to  me and told me how his grand kids laughed at him when he tried to paint, but later did a landscape and salvaged his reputation.

I like the fresh feeling that this painting captured, very lush and humid.







Another windy day

It was pretty rainy for most of the day but late afternoon and into the evening it finally broke, with intermittent blue sky showing through. It was windy, with loose masses of cloud fragments spinning through the air.

I went to my favorite spot of late, the big vacant lot at Marcola Road at 21st or there abouts, in Springfield Oregon. I like it because it is big and open and relatively undeveloped, so I can get a sense of wild nature without going too far from home. There is a big sky with lots of energy. At one point today I was rained on.  It was cold too.

My painting today was inspired by the one I did a week ago or so. Interestingly, here the tree bends inwards, but in the one from last week it bends outwards, towards the edge of the paper. I feel like the fact that it moves in towards the paper rather than out towards the edge gives it more tension. Possibly? Also the fact that the nature curve of the tree seems to go into the windward direction, then all the branches are being blown the other way. That is probably the real source of tension, I suppose, or at least an additional one.

I’m not quite sure it was a successful painting but I did capture the feeling of that wild weather, so I was quite pleased with that. I have really been trying to squeeze some of the formal elements of my paintings to get them a little more dynamic and I think I have been making progress in that direction.


Windy Day

A windy spring storm came through the Willamette Valley this weekend. There was a couple of hours of rolling clouds and glimpses of blue sky before the rain came.

My papers and watercolor stuff was blowing everywhere, but for some reason I didn’t find it frustrating. My bicycle, on its kickstand nearby, tipped over in the wind.

There was something very powerful about the atmosphere, invigorating. The wind wasn’t ominous or oppressive, but warm and uplifting. The wind was powerful and I was powerful too.

I painting near Mohawk and 21st Street, in the big empty lot. It took me a bit to find my subject; I got caught up on the low horizon, big sky thing I’ve been doing for a while. This scene in the painting was right behind me though, at least the scene that inspired this painting.

There were a trees lining the road, growing at sort of odd angles. I exaggerated those angles, which seemed to help capture the sense of movement. The little spots floating around, the random brush strokes, really helps give it a sense of movement, almost like an explosion.