New Work Blog

McKenzie River art for Clearwater Gallery Wild River Show

Olallie Creek Rushing to the Mckenzie, soft pastel by Susan Luckey Higdon

Clearwater Gallery in Sisters, Oregon will open the second show in their series on Wild Rivers of the Northwest on February 26 and I was asked to contribute some art. Along with a soft pastel painting of Clear Lake, where the magical McKenzie River begins, I just completed a painting of Olallie Creek, a tributary to Oregon’s McKenzie River. I photographed the creek years ago on a day when winter snow run-off had swollen the creek to a raging torrent. The light fell through dense forest highlighting yellow green mosses. I think this soft pastel painting captures the movement of the stream as the crystal clear water races to the McKenzie River.


New Painting in the Natural Abstraction Series

“Layers of Reality”, 40 x 40 acrylic on canvas by Susan Luckey Higdon

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.


Susan Luckey Higdon to open show at Tumalo Art Co. in Bend Oregon August 2

"Serenity" a painting of a waterlily by Susan Luckey HigdonFrom 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.

To see all of the paintings in the exhibit check out my Susan Luckey Higdon fine art website. Contact me if you are interested in receiving a pdf catalog of the show.

New painting—Kokanee in the Metolius River

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.

Springwater Kokanee


New art for Deschutes River Conservancy RiverFeast

I just finished the artwork for the 2012 RiverFeast event for Deschutes River Conservancy August 4 at Ranch at the Canyons on the Crooked River.

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.