Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Trip #5,067 to Eastern Washington


Wheat Ripens on Top of the World

We've had a busy and wonderful 6 day trip careening around eastern and southern Washington State. And poked around Oregon a bit. Delightful.

We drove across Snoqualmie Pass to Yakima. Then the next day to Ellensburg, stopped at Ginkgo Petrified Forest, then across the flat land of central Washington to Spokane. From there we drove to Basin City to spend the late afternoon with my extended family. That was restorative: time with cousins, aunts, uncles, sisters and farm views lit up with golden evening light.

The next day we drove across the top of the Horse Heaven Hills. This year will be a bumper crop of hard red wheat and at the bottom, the fields were still green. At the top, deep cadmium yellow - that's the photo above.

I've painted several images of the Horse Heaven Hills - here, here and here. There are more to come. These hills have caught my imagination. To the north they border and define the Yakima River. This exposure is grass-covered, eroded and much of the year looks like folds of velvet. The back side (above) is a long, slow slope to the Columbia River. There are miles of wheat and where a little water can be found, wine grapes. It's hot and dry and at the top, you feel as if you're on top of the world.

We stopped at a winery for Syrah, Petit Verdot and a case of Rose, then met my sister and her husband in Dallesport, Washington. He manages a large orchard/fruit packing operation and we had a fascinating tour of the cherry plant. It was like Willy Wonka.

Bing Cherries mid-flight

We spent the night in their cabin off the White Salmon River with extensive views of Mt. Hood, orchards and a full moon. The next day we toured the pear and apple orchards, then my husband and I toured Skamania and Klickitat counties. That night we camped in the Columbia Gorge. Beautiful/windy. Then back home w/ a quick stop at Utrecht in Seattle on the way.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Columbia Gorge Fog

Road Into the Fog in the Horse Heavens. 22 x 30. Oil on Linen.

Such a simple image, so hard to capture. This is the fog from the Columbia gorge rolling over the top of the Horse Heaven Hills near the Yakima River. The Horse Heavens are a ridge that separates the Columbia from the Yakima and now are one of the prime wine growing areas in the world (red wines, peppery.)

Saturday, June 26, 2010

For Chet

Train and Road through Mesa. Oil on Linen. 12 x 24.

This is an early painting from last winter and one of the first I painted when I returned to painting full-time. I painted this scene because my aunt and uncle had a farm near here and this stretch of the world is their special place. They raised their 4 kids here and all of them were deeply involved in the community, from the school board to the fire district.

Wednesday their son, my cousin Chet and the fire chief in his region, died while fighting a brushfire on the Wahluke slopes. Today is his memorial service. This painting is about a mile from where he grew up and where my uncle Don still farms.

Chet is younger than me and the first cousin, in a big, big family of dozens of cousins to die. So I've been thinking about life and what it brings us. I've decided 3 things in the past couple of days:
  • Always choose kindness and generosity. Focus on that choice.
  • Reach out to people and let them know that they're special and they matter. Thank them.
  • Do what you love.
My sisters and I and our cousins will be there today to honor Chet's life and what we'll see is a local community overwhelmed with both sadness and with hilarious stories about Chet. He was 46.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

First Cherries!

First Cherries. Oil on Linen Panel. 6 x 8. 2010.

My brother-in-law manages cherry orchards in Yakima so I have a hotline to the status of the Washington state cherry harvest. They're ripe! So today my grocery list read as follows: cherries, mousetrap, red wine.

Why a mousetrap? For years we had a cat named Chester who cleared out everything smaller than him within a 400 foot radius. Sadly, after a happy life hunting animals, spraying my walls and sleeping on the furniture, Chester died on March 5th. He was a tomcat among tomcats, bringing in hundreds of animals to play with and then kill: mice, birds (jays, starlings and sadly, one of a pair of cedar waxwings), bats, rats, possums. Everything. We have great Chester stories. But he's gone and it took no time for the mice to spread the word among whatever social media they use. Twitter?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Update on the Neighbors


A few months back I mentioned that a pair of chickadees had taken up residence in the bird house just outside my studio. Well great news! There's a whole pile of little chickadees inside and my entire family has been entertained by the comings and goings of the parents.

A couple of weeks ago my husband and I left our 17 year old son in charge of the house and the dog. He told me later that he had to keep an eye on the bird house because the crows kept coming around. He chased them away.

That's completely sweet and yes, if he read my blog I couldn't mention this.

After seeing the adult chickadees fly in to the bird house with a caterpillar every 15 seconds or so, we've decided that our 4,000 square foot yard could use another 10 or so bird houses. I'm impressed with how much they eat. A house for every branch!

The lovely tree? A paper bark maple. And in the background are various grasses, Rosa 'Mateo's Silk Butterflies' (that's the single pink flowers, lower left), a Disanthus and the yellow Graham Stuart Thomas rose. You can see the Casa Blanca lilies getting ready for July on the right.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Spring Comes to the Valley

Spring Comes to the Valley. 22x30. Oil on Canvas.

I send out an email once a week to a number of people, with my favorite painting of the week and just a bit of information about what's going on in my studio. Last week I sent out this painting and a friend replied to tell me how much he enjoyed my painting emails but saying it's time for spring and summer.

Hilarious! And so true! With indirect painting, I'm always 2 months behind the seasons.

I told him that come November in Seattle, I'll be sending out paintings from August and September. At that point I'll be like the grasshopper in the fable, storing up the sunshine for the long, cold, dark winter ahead.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Work of Art

Have you seen the newest reality TV show from Bravo? It's called Work of Art and you can find it here. 14 Artists competing for a show at the Brooklyn Museum. Fascinating!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Wallula Gap

Rainbow over Dry Falls
Wallula Vineyards above the Columbia River

Wallula Gap

Just back from a great 4 day road trip: across the North Cascades Highway, through a high desert along the Columbia River, across the Waterville Plateau, drove towards a rainbow that appeared to end at the massive Dry Falls, through wheat fields, above and around Wallula Gap, then along the Columbia Gorge to Longview Washington. One of the highlights was a driving tour of the Wallula Vineyards perched on benches above one of the most scenic spots on the Columbia River.

Next up: laying out a series of paintings based on the trip. As previously discussed, and as you can see above, the scale of the landscape is large.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Maynard Dixon, Inspiration, and reason #523* to go to Utah

Maynard Dixon. The Plains. 1931. 32 x 36.
Maynard Dixon. 1926. Dry Gulch. 16 x 19.
Maynard Dixon. Colorado Desert. 1927. 28 x 38.

The landscapes that I'm working to capture - the rugged dry lands of eastern Washington - aren't easy. For every painting I'm willing to share with you, another one lands on the pile in the basement.

Scrub, sage, stark eroded hills: these are not the elements of the Hudson River School of painters. But in Texas, studying with Deborah Paris, she and her husband Steve asked if I'd looked at the work of Maynard Dixon, as they thought that would provide me with paintings to study.

Nope never heard of him. But clearly I needed to and now I have! Here's a few paintings and I've been turning to these again and again as I seek to resolve questions of composition, scale, color, foreground, depth and how to capture these crazy landscapes.

*The paintings shown here are from Brigham Young University (they have a great online catalog here) where they have an exceptional collection of Dixon's works. Which is why I need to go back to Utah. That and Capital Reef and so many other beautiful places.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Rattlesnake v2.0

Rattlesnake Badlands, one more time

I posted this painting on Tuesday. Seeing a painting in a jpeg can be a very helpful part of the process. Once I saw it at that small scale, I realized the foreground needed to be even darker and the sky was all wrong.

Actually figuring out how to resolve the sky took some research. My art books were little help as I didn't find many paintings that included skies at dusk. So I looked to two places: Deborah Paris' website and my own digital files of photos.

Deborah, as you can see on her website here, has gorgeous paintings of skies and landscapes at sunset, dusk and twilight. Looking carefully at her paintings I realized that my sky had too much pink, too much blue and much too little yellow and orange. So I spent the last two days adding layers to the sky and I believe it's done now.

It's wet but I plan to pack this up this afternoon and take it to Walla Walla with me for an ongoing show there. I have a feeling I'm not the only artist who's packed up wet paintings.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

View towards the Horse Heaven Hills

From Thompson Hill. Oil on Linen Panel. 12 x 16.

This is the view towards the southwest from Thompson Hill. I stopped by there this spring to visit 360 Winery, late in the day. Really incredible views to the west.

I know the home where the winery is located as Stuart Thompson's home. He was a nice boy in High School with me back when. I was terribly shy and he sent me a carnation for Valentine's Day, delivered during math class. It was such a sweet, kind gesture that I've never forgotten. Of course, being shy I turned scarlet and I can only hope I said thank you. But that's probably wishful thinking.

Years later I held an event there in their conference room, with the Governor and Hispanic leaders in the conference room. It was well attended and truly interesting to hear the issues of concern. And fun, since when it was over we all spilled onto the lawn and continued the conversations.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Rattlesnake and Happy 1 Year Anniversary to My Blog!

Rattlesnake Badlands. Oil on Canvas. 22 x 36.

I was in such a mad dash last week to get paintings done to hang in Friday's show that this is the first one completed since then! Rattlesnake Mountain is an arid area of badlands, with channelled scabland carved out by massive floods. I knew that, about the channelled scabland, since my husband is a geologist (see his blog, Reading the Washington Landscape, here) but until I painted this I never really saw it. Through the layers of glaze, the painting seems to have exaggerated the carved plateaus and the former flood valley below. Which goes to show: exaggeration reveals truth.

And yay! June 6th marked the 1 year anniversary of my blog. Here's my maiden post. My first comment welcoming me to the world of art blogging was Casey Klahn! He's a pastel artist and one of the most generous artists around. You can see his incredible work on his blog here. I still remember what a thrill that was to get that first comment - it was encouraging. My second post was of a painting of a white peony and my daughter - who quickly snapped up that painting - provided a lovely comment.

At first my blog was called 100 Paintings but it took just a couple of months to pass that goal. I think it will be a couple more years before I change the title to 1,000's of paintings. But that time will come.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Creek by Zillah

Yakima Valley Creek. Oil on Canvas. 12 x 24.

Our place names around here are so odd. This creek is near a town called Zillah. Yes, I know it sounds like a name I came up with playing Boggle. Zillah. Those of you steeped in Washington state lore will know Zillah as the home of the Tea Pot Gas Station (on the National Historic Register!) Others will think I made up the name. So I've decided to skip Zillah and call this Yakima Valley Creek, since it's that too.

For years I worked in environmental conservation and one of the most interesting things I learned was the impact trapping had on the landscape of eastern Washington. Today when I travel there it's mostly a dry area but before the trappers came 150+ years ago there were far more beavers and the wetlands they created. Great habitat for many species. Those have been gone a long, long time and we're a little poorer for that. There would have been more streams like the one above. And of course, more salmon.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Canoe 1 Finished

Canoe 1. Oil on Linen Panel. 9 x 12.

This was the first canoe painting I started, months ago. And here's the great thing about posting works on progress: I can look back in amazement at how long a painting can take to complete! Here's the first blog post about Canoe 1 from March. Yes, March! This small painting took 2 1/2 months to paint. Except for my trip to Texas, I worked on this every day.

Canoe 1 was a study for a larger version, Canoe 2. You can see the finished version here. I love both. Both are crazy hard to photograph as they are deeply glazed.


Showing Up; Playing it Through

Have you seen Marina Abramovic's performance online at the Museum of Modern Art? I caught the last day, yesterday, and looked through the photographs of the people who sat opposite her.

You can see them by clicking here.

There are those we've read about, who dressed up and created their own performance. But the ones most interesting to me are the ones who simply sat there and experienced it. In the photographs many have tears streaming down their cheeks. Those are the ones that move me and make me think. Their portraits are open and every person looks exposed and beautiful. I challenge you to look through the images and not be moved by the experience.

The duration of her performance is also worth considering. There were decades of work behind this, probably more than a year of planning and proposals went into it, and then she sat in a chair for 700 hours.

So much of life involves simply showing up and getting the work done, day after day.

Texas Nocturne

Texas Night Road. Oil on Linen Panel. 12 x 24.

In April I spent a week in northeast Texas. It was a beautiful time of year to be there as it was warming up, but not too much, and the sunsets were dense and thick and framed by beautiful trees. In the early morning the mist rose from the hay fields. One evening a friend took me for a drive to see the sunset and moon on the night roads in the area. The highway headed west appeared to stretch on forever. It brought back a lot of memories.

I lived in Biloxi Mississippi - in a trailer park surrounded by tree stumps, a swamp and snakes - from age 2 to 6. That may sound alarming but I loved it. The dense feel of the air, the glimpse of the sky through the thick vegetation, the sound of so much life in the woods.

These days I live in the north, just south of Vancouver BC. The air is crisp and clear and it's been humid once in the 22 years I've lived here. There are no june bugs - nor any bugs - on my screen door.

I miss the feel and sounds of a southern night. This painting captures that for me.

Here's an early blog post of the painting where you can see the underpainting.