I’ve been teaching a Saturday afternoon oil painting class at GalleryOne in Ellensburg, WA. We started with a small still life of a lemon…. not so easy, but everybody did great. The second Saturday we got a good start on a landscape, learning to simplify and look for values. Next week we’ll dive into a portrait. It’s an interesting process to figure out where people are at and what they need. I hope I’m doing a good job.
We’ve been socked in with winter fog for days. This morning the glorious sun hit the hills outside our kitchen window. I’m trying to narrow down my view in a few small watercolors trying to catch one fleeting effect. An enjoyable hour with morning coffee at the kitchen table.
Each season has its own lighting effects. In small colored notebook sketches I can explore different techniques to find the magic I’m after.
When I’m a bit lost I remind myself to get back to the basics. Composition is the foundation for all that sits on top of it. Value is where form is described and color is like the flavors that make up a good meal. Out of many tiny thumbnails a few will stand out and call for more exploration and refinement. It’s design at this stage, pushing the shapes around and easy to adjust anything at a small size, no more than a few inches. Then after many small idea sketches a few will stand out and hopefully one will be interesting enough to take into a painting. This is just one process of many, but a good one to remember.
In my little watercolor notebook I start working this out. I want the brightest glow from the sky to just hit a bit on the right wall and around the figure. Perhaps the left wall is still too light. And I have to do a couple real vanishing points so the walls read correctly. And then the water reflection shapes need to be worked out as I don’t have a real photo of this, just a snap from a TV image.
After being completely focused on the straw bale building project for eight months, I’m feeling a bit burned out. So my watercolors and notebooks showed up and I started to play with some little landscapes again. It feels good to put the brush in the paint. The curves and shadows of nature are endlessly inspiring.
Up in the loft the last straw bales are going in. This area is just above the tub on the first floor so I used conventional stick framing to make the walls less permeable to moisture from the tub and shower. You can see here the extra layer of rock-wool insulation on the outside. Way overkill on the insulation but it was much easier to set these bale vertically than cut them all around the 2x6s and wiring.
I just did the base coat on the first interior wall. This will have the propane heater so we can work inside soon.
The long days of summer 2021 have been spent on this 12 sided “Yurt House”. Our old 30ft canvas yurt gave 20 years service and will be set up as a gathering spot next spring. Now I’m finishing the “brown coat” of stucco on the outside walls of the new building. The cement/lime mix should have enough moisture permeability to let the strawbale walls breath.
The clay is calling. Working again in 3D uses all my senses. Mixing the earth into a moldable state and observing the changes as the moisture escapes and the clay goes through different stages I use the appropriate tools to get the effect I want.
The human head is always a challenge. I’m making a few different characters, taking molds from some and building a textural environment around them.
After these dry I’ll bisque fire them and use slips and glazes to create their surfaces.
It’s been almost a year since Covid19 raised it’s ugly head and it will be another year till the vaccines have any effect. Feeling the depth of change that is happening to the world, my general enthusiasm is not holding up and I need some new ideas to explore. I envision doing a quick loose idea sketch everyday for a while. Not sure where it will go ….. let’s see.