Monday, August 10, 2009


These old maples are bulging with burls, festooned with leaves up and down their trunks that catch any rays of light filtering through the canopy. Light and shadow change minute by minute. In paint, I try to remember the light.

Saturday, August 8, 2009


A cloudy day, and I am tucked in below the largest bridge in the park, with a view of the creek and overhanging trees. The park is bustling. Families, kids, dogs, people on horseback, all clomping across the bridge. The sun peeks out for a few minutes, then disappears.

A pair of women on horseback keep calling to the kids not to run and scare the horses. Apparently one of the horses is young and easily spooked. I am wondering why she chose to bring it to a park full of people and dogs before it is ready.

The water under the bridge has barely a ripple. The woods is a dark place, overhung with trees, the creek set in a hollow. I take advantage of every bit of light, pushing the various shades of brown, adding lighter colors. At home, the painting is far too dark, but will serve as notes for a studio piece.


BOOK REVIEW: Bold Strokes: Dynamic Brushwork for Oils and Acrylics, by Mark Christopher Weber. North Light Books, 2009.

This new book by Mark Christopher Weber takes the highlights of BRUSHWORK ESSENTIALS, his previous publication, and goes one step further, with step-by-step painting exercises to teach you expressive brushwork. He begins with the basics: how to get paint on your brush. Then, with three main ways of loading the brush, he demonstrates the variety of strokes you can make. Once you have the basics down, you’re ready to tackle the paintings.

Weber takes a subject and walks you step by step through initial washes and expressive strokes laid on top. By going through these exercises, you can begin to get the feel of how to choose where to put your paint to make the most impact. You can learn how to vary the width of your stroke with pressure and with twisting the brush. You can practice the essential color notes and highlights to simply capture a subject. The illustrations make it very clear where to put the paint in the exercise paintings, but not as clear how to get it exactly there.

The painting demonstrations are in both acrylic and water-miscible oil, a nice bonus if you are having trouble finding books in this relatively new medium. Personally, I’d prefer some demos in traditional oils. If I could wish for anything, it would be that he’d spend more time demonstrating how to lay paint on top of wet paint, how to create gradations, and how to add color into already painted areas.

If you’re looking for a spur or need some guidance in creating your own signature brushwork, this book is worth playing with.

Friday, August 7, 2009


Here's a book I recommend reading, especially if you get criticism from friends and family about being too illogical or emotional:

HOW WE DECIDE By Jonah Lehrer

Lehrer goes into aspects of decision making, both emotional and logical, and guess what? There are times when the logical works best and times when the emotional works best. And they aren't what you think they are. It turns out that much of experiential expertise relies on the emotional decision-making process.

"Every time you make a mistake or encounter something new, your brain cells are busy changing themselves. Our emotions are deeply empirical."

Enjoy the journey!



All week I have been watching day camp children gather here for songs and lunch. The shelter seems like the center of the park. While I am painting here, a doggy parade goes by. Dogs of every shape and distinction, with blue bandanas around their necks, prancing up the road. Next comes the marching band. They march across the meadow in front of the shelter, turn, and march back to the arena, playing all the way. What a fun way to celebrate a neighborhood park!


I begin my second day of the Mt. Tabor Centennial painting near the art show tents, along with pastel painters. The park is very active today. The first show of the morning is “Men With Sticks.” We have no idea what that is. A man with a stick shows up, and he doesn’t know either, but he is looking for them.The grasses have lovely patterns of light and shade. I paint the patterns, along with a golden tree, glowing with sunlight. Lots of people come and watch. The pastel artists are the official “demonstrators” of the hour, and have their names on the back of their easels. This strikes me as a good idea. People ask about lessons. Everyone in Oregon wants to be an artist.


I have come to the show late (to find that one of my paintings has sold. Yay!) I chat with artists, visit the ice cream social, and take in the energy of all the people. Since I am really tired from the market, I decide to break my rule and sit to paint. I choose a tree in the low sunlight, and a family on a picnic blanket. Oops. Just when I block in the blanket, they pack it up to leave. I look around and find a gray-haired couple at a picnic table. Except for shadow patterns, they are just right. I reverse the shadows and finish the painting.


I love the license a painter has to change reality. I am painting a flower stall with no shelter, but I love the umbrellas elsewhere in the market. VOILA! An umbrella sits over the flowers. Change the color of the man’s shirt? Why not.


Last time I painted at the market, I laid in my background first, but found that there were too many people in the way for me to paint the produce. (And much of it was gone.) This time, I take a tip from my mistake, and paint the produce first. It is not a perfect solution. Because I have all this lovely produce, I am reluctant to put in more people. But the painting is colorful and fun.

Saturday, August 1, 2009


I have come to the top of Mt. Tabor to paint the late afternoon light and the sunset. I haul my cart full of paints and easel up the road beyond the blockade. There I find another artist, sculpting a canvas with trees. It is hot, but thankfully not as hot as the previous three days. Looking around me, I see the puffs of clouds built by the
humidity. This is unusual weather for Portland. The thick atmosphere, the torrid air building into cottony clusters. I paint the clouds, the atmosphere, and the hint of distant hills almost
visible through the haze.

As I hold the canvas up to show my companion, my fingers fumble. I
drop the completed canvas against my box. A large stripe scrapes
across the face of the painting. This is easy to fix. But there is
also a small hole, poked through the canvas. This too is fixable, but
not until the painting is completely dry. It will have a delayed
entrance into the show.