The newest addition to my ongoing Natural Abstractions series is called Estuary Light. It is from an image I took last summer while camping at Spencers Spit on Lopez Island in Washington’s San Juan islands. The configuration of light and shadow, when cropped narrowly, becomes a compelling abstraction of the landscape. This was painted in acrylic on birchboard. I kept the strokes of paint immediate and took care not to overwork, keeping the color clear and strong. It was also important to me to let the warm color of the wood come through. This worked well in the mid area of mirrored water.
As I continue to explore this idea of composing landscapes in a small frame of reference, where the shapes become more than a description of an actual landscape and become a natural abstraction of the landscape, I get more and more excited about the possibilities.
I am drawn to, and fascinated by, natures patterns. The information in every square foot of our landscape is overwhelming. Painting these scenes are uniquely challenging. How do I get the immediate feeling without painting realistically, which I would never have the patience for? This most recent painting, “Layers of Reality”, is a 40 x 40 canvas…it needed to be large. The subject, a still pool full of last years leaves creating a swirling pattern and layered with reflections of surrounding trees, was terrifying to me in its complexity. My only solution is to jump in, and paint intuitively letting the image evolve. When I was done I didn’t know how I felt about it or even if it was indeed finished. I showed it to my critique group, who pronounced it the best painting I had ever made! High praise from this group of painters. There are many more images in this series of paintings about natural abstractions in the landscape yet to paint, and I can’t wait learn what they have to teach me.
From the fresh, luminous greens of Hosmer Lake to the abstracted flash of kokanee in the headwaters of the Metolius River, water is the inspiration for my new series premiering at the August show at Tumalo Art Co. Teaming-up with Nancy Becker—whose swirling colors and flowing, sensuous designs in hand-blown glass are stunning—the show will be an island of cool serenity this summer.
I have been thinking of these paintings as visual haiku. After cropping a group of photos very closely to design with them as headers for a website, I found I loved the way they seemed to capture the essence of the places, but couldn’t figure out how to paint them. In the middle of winter, feeling very uninspired, I looked at the photos again and the idea suddenly jelled.
Many of the pieces for this show are painted on cradled birch board. I began experimenting with this new substrate to see if I could use the warmth and pattern of the wood to enhance the depth of the painting and add extra dimension. Working on the wood created some interesting challenges and joys and I expect to continue using it.
Every painting seems to have it’s moment….the moment when I’m not sure I can make the image come alive and be what I’ve envisioned. The only answer is to keep at it, to keep listening to the intuitive voice that informs the hand and makes it happen. This is the “work” of painting and can truly be exhausting. But it is also what makes it fulfilling.
I am fascinated by how fish look swimming in the water. They are naturally abstracted. Moving fast they are there and gone in a flash. Trying to take a photo of them to paint from takes patience, but worth is it. Often the images show reflections and other details I haven’t noticed while keeping my eye on the fish. These lead to a multi-layered painting.
This new painting is from photos taken last fall at the headwaters of the Metolius River in Central Oregon. The Metolius is spring-fed and literally bubbles up out of the ground. Kokanee (land-locked sockeye salmon) travel up the river to this spot to spawn every year. I wanted to capture the iridescence of the Kokanee flying through crystal clear waters.
This soft pastel painting shows the rock formation known as Monkey Face from the opposite side from Smith Rock State Park. I chose the vertical format to get the long sinuous stretch of the Crooked River. The panoramic of this view of the landscape is awesome as it is surrounded by towering rock. The river flows through a narrow canyon to the left.
The late afternoon I was there photographing it was perfectly still. Hawks were soaring in the updrafts. I would have loved to sit in that spot and make the landscape painting…maybe someday I can do that.