So I had planned to do a post about the Higbee Gallery Show this time…but changed my mind in favor of doing a bit of a demo with pastels. When I was in eastern Montana last fall I took a 100 mile + drive south and west of Miles City, following the Tongue River about 50 miles and then heading north on dirt roads about 40 miles to Rosebud where I got back on I-94 to Miles City. I took a bunch of photos along the way of the river, the fields and whatever looked interesting. Once I got on the dirt road with the warning signs posting “this road is impassable when wet”, I was following near Rosebud Creek. There were these beautiful sandstone cliffs with a lot of pine and juniper. I have long been impressed with Albert Handel and Richard McKinley’s paintings of such cliffs and rocks, so I shot a bunch of photos of the area and thought that one day I would do some paintings of the rocks and brush. A side note…”road not passable when wet” is a reminder to me of living in eastern Montana and when it rains, the earth turns to gumbo…not the culinary delight – but a mud that is sort of clay like and as you walk in it; it collects on your feet until you can hardly lift your mud encased appendages. It is really like clay…you can actually form 3D items of art with it. My mother used to sculpt with it for fun. You couldn’t go out and hike around until it dried; so one might as well spend some artist time and make things out of the mud! Fortunately in October there is little chance of rain and had there been a cloud in the sky, I would have turned around and retraced my tracks back to Miles City on the gravel and asphalt roads. So today I painted a second painting of the rock cliffs and shot some images as I progressed through the painting…I chose a piece of Art Spectrum paper and toned it with some reds washed with alcohol. Once this was dry….an alcohol wash takes minimal time to dry…I roughed in the sky and tree line. Then I added more detail to the trees and basically finished them before tackling the rocks. I used Unison, lonelier and Mungyo pastels for the trees, starting with a dark lavender for my base, then adding some dark blue and the dark green.. Once I had the darks in, I sprayed the trees with some workable fix lightly to allow some of the tooth of the paper to come back so I could add some highlights to the tree branches. So once the trees are in I can start to work on the rocks. Before I leave the trees, I make sure to have highlights of the branches visible and some light peeking through the branches as well. Now I s tart with the rocks; putting in some general masses, some hints of color and definition. A light spray of the fixative will help to create texture in the rocks, then more color and definition. Next the rocks get to share space with a “cow trail” that meanders down the hillside and more definition of the rocks take place and a bit of vegetation – weeds- sage, etc sprout up near rocks and trail. I like to sometimes leave some of the initial wash showing through for interesting texture and color. The goal is to invite the viewer to think the scene is interesting enough to want to get on that trail and hike to the top of the rims and see what’s on the other side of this ridge…and wonder where that trail goes…they almost always lead to water, to shelter or… Hope you enjoyed the “demo”….happy painting!
Columbia River Art Center
Last week we drove over to Hood River and Portland, OR to visit a couple of galleries seeking future show spots for the Northwest Pastel Society. The route follows the Columbia River and is a beautiful drive. The Columbia River Gorge is deep and there is enough history and geological facts to fill countless blogs, but I am going to touch only on the aesthetics of it for now :-). The bottom line is, for an artist, there are tons of wonderful places to paint almost anywhere along the 200 or so miles to Portland. Once you leave Walla Walla, you drive 30 miles before you get to the river at Wallula Junction. At that point state route 730 takes you along the river at close proximity on a 2 lane road. Near Umatilla, OR you start to move away from the river edge and get on I-84 near Boardman. You take that road on to Portland and once again follow the river closer.
One thing about the Gorge is the fact there is often wind. Really good winds; blow you off the curb good; forget that hat forever good. The water on the river can get some pretty high swells during the windy times, but when there is no wind…the water is smooth as glass and the gorge is beautiful. Not that it isn’t beautiful when it’s windy…
There are some good places to stop and explore along the way…Hood River is one. It is the self-proclaimed Wind Surfing capital, near Mount Hood and skiing and hiking and has a first class Community Art Center. The Art Center was our point of interest for the day. It is not only a visual art center but a performing one as well with great gallery space for their members to show 2 and 3D work as well as space to host major shows. There is a performing arts auditorium as well as a studio/workshop space. This gallery is certainly a good venue for a professional show. Typically the NPS show has a workshop at and around the time of the show opening and the Columbia River Art Center would certainly fit that bill.
I also visited the Gallery 903 in Portland as they had expressed some interest in a show. It is beautiful space in the midst of the Pearl District, however, we determined that with their current space and artists represented, a show such as the NPS show would not work there. It is always a quest to find galleries that are willing to host a show of 60-80 paintings or have a space that can accommodate.
Bottom line…I need to take more time meandering down the gorge and stopping and doing some plein air painting or even some good reference photos. It’s a great view and with spring almost in full force, the hills of the canyon are green with fresh grass and waterfalls are flowing in lots of places. Take the drive…
Next blog…look for some images for the Higbee show in California…
Maybe you know this already. I am an artist…who sells real estate. My husband and I are partners in business at Windermere Walla Walla and we also work as a team in the art world. I paint and he frames. That is HUGE! We juggle our two lives pretty well – and the nature of both businesses lets me focus on each more than adequately. It is always fun to go out on our Broker tours and be reviewing a property and walk into a room and there is one of your paintings hanging! For a part of one morning a week the brokers in our office all go out on “broker tour” and it is fun to stop a moment and critique my art when we find it. Or someone elses…:-) That’s the inside dust…
Now on to some images and what they are about…
I am interested in roads and streams and railroad tracks. Things that lead you somewhere…something that would have a story to tell if they could. Who has traveled that road? paddled down that stream or rode the rails to St. Louis or Chicago.
I think about the rail roads and the part they played in commerce in earlier part of the 20th century. My grandparents were homesteaders in Montana; both from Chicago and the environs of Illinois. They raised cattle in the fall my grandfather would trail the stock they were selling about 40 miles to the railroad and then put them on the train and ship them (He rode along) to Chicago to be sold…1200-ish miles! this was in the 1920’s and 30’s. I think he went along to make sure the cattle were able to unloaded from the cars and fed and watered at periodic stops and then to get them to the Chicago Stock Yards for selling. So when I see some old tracks that have been abandoned or like in our area, used very infrequently, I have to stop and wonder what tales those rails could tell, if they could! So sometimes I just have to paint tracks and roads and streams.
One day last fall my friend Bambi and I went out to paint and actually didn’t put a pastel to the paper. Instead we just started shooting images of the area where her family farms. And there were tracks and roads and streams, so we got some great reference photos. These paintings are a result from this trip. Oh yeah, and the other thing of interest…shadows. I like to get some drama in the painting with some good shadows. Late fall sun in the afternoon gets one some great shadows. Our hills are big and steep in the foothills of the Blues and north to the Snake River, allowing dramatic shadows to present in that late afternoon sun and it makes for an interesting composition.
These were all done on Art Spectrum board which has a good ground and works well with Unison, Sennelier Diane Townsend and Schmincke pastels.
I hope you enjoyed this post….happy painting
Some of the most interesting paintings have lots of shadows in them, I think. I got interested in some intense shadow effect this winter with the shadows that come forth on a bright sunny day and lots of snow in the mountains where there’s lots of trees and trails and snow banks, etc. I painted some of those scenes from reference shots and liked them enough to enter a couple in some competitions….(jury is still out on these…)
This past week I had dropped off my daughter for an evening meeting. The light along the sidewalk shining on the shrubs and reflections in the windows was an interesting composition. I shot a couple of photos of it and thought I might do something with it. Then with shadows still on my brain, I started going through the archives of photos I have and thinking about the area we live in with all the steep hills, deep, narrow valleys in the Blues and the Snake River country…And I found some good reference material…lots of darkened valleys with just a hint of color in a few trees where the sun peeks through. The first painting – outside of the snow ones previously done – was of the Waitsburg Road in late afternoon, nearly obliterated in darkness except for the hilltops and some tall brush and trees…Cool look. I put the pastel to a Art Spectrum board and used some Diane Townsend “darks” for the darks. I can’t quite go BLACK…my dark is blue over some black…I have a couple of more in the work. The goal is to give the painting a mysterious feeling.
When I travel the roads in the bottom of these deep valleys in the afternoon, I think back whe I lived inChicago. I would walk through the financial district in “the loop” and even in the middle of the summer felt chilly because there was virtually no sunlight on the street in some areas because the buildings are so tall and block the light. Sort of dark down there at street level – not unlike being in the woods in the low lands of the valleys.
I like the shadows and the stories they give you…it’s a different perspective!
Happy painting to all my artist friends out there…