Oregon writer, Rain Trueax, and Oregon painter, Diane Widler Wenzel co-author Rainy Day Thought. Diane generally posts on Wednesdays and Rain on Saturdays. There may be extra days or changes as situations warrant. Comments are always welcome and appreciated as it turns an article into a discussion.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Wood River and painting

Having been to the Wood River last year when we canoed down part of it as well as overturned in it, I especially remembered fondly its headwaters. Our kids wanted to canoe it again. I wanted time along the banks at the pool right below the springs where I thought the combination of flowers and clear, turquoise, blue-green water could make an interesting painting.

After they took off on their canoes, Farm Boss and I explored the springs that make this river emerge from the ground as a river (very like the Metolius River further to the north), and then while he took off with the truck to explore a dirt road (one of his favorite things), I sat on the bank and did a small oil painting.

I always begin these not sure that they will come out. I have to make myself start but then it becomes interesting with how to make the colors, the shapes capture some of the energy of the place. My goal with all my painting lately is using the least number of strokes and colors to depict the energy of what I am seeing. With these little paintings, I am trying to paint whatever is there in one setting for better or worse.

Just as there are many ways to tell a story or make a movie from the same events, there are many ways to paint the same scene even with the same elements. A few examples would be realism (life like) where the painter might alter lighting and other elements to make the scene more exciting but still realistic (Da Vinci); abstract (non-objective) where it's all about shapes; colors and lines more than the literal scene (Pollock); surrealism where the artist goes beyond what is visual to create new images and colors inspired by the subject (Dali); primitivism where it's like a child did it (Moses); design or pop art where the artists reduces the subject to its basic elements and orders them (Hockney); or impressionism (Monet), postimpressionism (Van Gogh) where the scene is loosely painted, skimming over the details. What I enjoy the most to do, actually what I most like to buy also, is expressionism which means capturing the feeling more than the exact object or scene (Chagall).

Some artists cross back and forth between styles. Some don't like being labeled as one thing or another, but I don't see it as a limitation but rather helpful to think about the various styles as options for how to depict the same thing. 

Because a lot of what I do is still being impacted by art classes I had many years ago at Portland State College, I look at the scene to decide what would best be the underlying color, that which will tie it all together. I lay in a thin wash over the whole canvas. Being thin, it dries fast. While doing that I consider which elements in front of me most catch my eye. They do not have to be close together. I am not taking a photograph.

In this painting, there were three such attractive elements-- the clear, deep blue-green water of the pool, magenta fireweed, and a bushy yellow flower that might be in the buttercup family but I am not sure. Another painter could be sitting beside me and find something totally different to emphasize and their style might make you wonder where we each had been. It is what makes an art show of plein air painting groups so enjoyable.

As I was painting, a couple came by and the woman said she was photographing the same subjects to paint in her studio during the winter. I might do some of that myself as I took a lot of photos. With the capability now to make DVDs and put them on our widescreen television, I think that will be more effective and much easier than it used to be with sketches and color notes as the only clues to remind me what I had seen when I am back at the easel.  I think though that there is no substitute for painting right there when possible.

What I liked is the couple didn't ask to see what I was doing. I also respect the privacy of plein air painters, curious though I might be, as who knows what will end up happening or where the painting will have said all that was possible. For me, it's nice to paint with people who understand that.

For anyone interested in more about water miscible oils, I find them in many art and craft stores but often order from [Dick Blick] for ease and price. When I painted with acrylics, I liked their ease of use but never felt they had oil paint's depth of color. Too often my paintings ended up flat looking to me. Now I get the best of both with these water miscible oils and no carrying linseed oil or  turpentine when out in the field. Water based oils are thinned and cleaned with water and although they smell like oils, no turpentine/linseed oil odors add to it. They take about as long to dry as oils which is a big advantage if working on a painting over a period of time. One complaint I had with acrylics was if I wanted to come back to a painting, the values in particular wouldn't be easy for me to match. The colors  and values with oils don't change or if they do some, it's not a problem for me in the painting.


Paul said...

Very idyllic pics Rain :-)

Anonymous said...

Your words make painting seem like hard work (to me!) but I'm sure that you make the whole process look effortless when engaged. Beautiful photos (as always!)
Cop Car

Rain said...

Maybe it sounds like hard work because I am insecure about it. It's something I want to do but not something that comes naturally to me although I have painted for well over 40 years, nearer to 50 but off and on. I am trying to make myself see it is the process not the product and I enjoy the process but can't divorce myself from thinking there must be a product. When I can do that, it will come easier... maybe *s* I guess it would take a professional (whatever that means) artist to answer that question.

Fran aka Redondowriter said...

I loved the photos, your commentary on the techniques you use to paint, and seeing the painting. I don't use oils ever, but mostly acrylics. Thanks for your comments lately. I appreciate hearing from you always--I've just been so lazy regularly reading the people I care for. It's like my life is in a transitional phase.

Kay Dennison said...

I love your work!!!

I've often thought of trying painting again but have a certain fear. I have considered taking some classes just to see how it goes.

I suspect that my work wouldn't please me too much as I know what my work used to be like.

Rain said...

A class from a teacher, whose work you admire, could be good, Kay. What has helped me are two things. What I am still struggling with is one.

The two have been all the digital painting I did using Corel Photo Paint 7 which is an older version of Corel but makes digital painting exceedingly easy. There are many ways to do digital painting and at the Clothesline Art Sale in Corvallis this week-end, I saw two booths of digital art. It is maybe coming into recognition as an art form but what I liked about it was how cheap it was to experiment with color and brush sizes, to try things and it has freed me up with the oils too.

Second thing to help me were the water-based oils. They are the same price as regular oils and the clean up, thinning without having to use turpentine or linseed oil makes a big difference since mine have to dry in the house. The odors of the others would mean I wouldn't be painting now either nor would they be as easy to take into the field as these water miscible ones are. I cannot tell the difference for color and texture and if you go to that link, they have many companies making them with different qualities depending on what the artist wants.

What I am still working on is not worrying what the result ends up being but sticking to seeing it as something that is enjoyable to do, helps me 'see' things, and lets me play with process. I am limited by still wanting that product and it's where I have to work on. It limited what I paint and how often.

I think because of the time with digital my work is different than it used to be. Even now if I want to play with a change in the painting, I can photograph it, experiment with the digital and see if it would improve things without ruining the oil. It's a great tool and if it is 'cheating' I can live with that *s*.

Oh and saving on economics, for quite awhile I was painting on Masonite boards which Home Depot will often cut for you into smaller sizes if you don't have a friend with a saw. Painting on those boards was also freeing from 'results' as there was less money in it although I got my last 8"x10" canvases on sale at Michael's for a very good price in a package.

Parapluie said...

Painting would not remain engaging to me if it were easy. If it is too easy it becomes mechanical and wanting more energy.

While in the heat of a painting it is important to not be critical, to venture beyond our comfort zone. After a number of these paintings - maybe 20 or so. Do look at them with an eye for what you like most in them and preceed in a new found direction. Great advise for myself in particular.

Darlene said...

Oh Rain, I really, really love your painting. I think you have captured the beauty of the scene so well.

I also love the colors and it would fit in my living room perfectly for that reason alone. I realize that it was not painted to be a decorative piece of art and I do not mean to be insulting by mentioning it in that vein, but it does speak to me. It would be equally beautiful on a gallery wall or in anyone's home.

Rain said...

Thank you, an that's not insulting to me at all, Darlene. I am pleased you like it and that is really what a person wants to do or I want to do-- paint things that others would like and could imagine putting on their walls. I don't see that as lessening their value.

Thanks for your added tips, Parapluie. I think I will write more about painting because the whole thinking about it, what it's about, how it happens or works or doesn't is fun for me to write and think about. I would like it if other artists had their tips and it encouraged more to do art. I think it's healthy emotionally, an outlet, and although it's not easy for me, I see the value of it for my life. Really see it.

TaraDharma said...

A great read on the process of painting. I think it is very difficult, having tried it off and on, no matter the medium. I think most non-painters underestimate the process for the artist. Of course having a good eye helps (and you have that in abundance) but how to translate that onto a canvas/board/whatever takes work, work, work. Just keep doing it -- but yes I know about the fear of "how will this turn out? Is it worth embarking on?" "Dare I even try?" Ugh!

I love the photo of you...you look like a wood nymph!

Ashleigh Burroughs said...

Parapluie could be talking about writing as well as painting. I'd just never thought about it that way before. I wrote for a few months, re-read them, saw a trend, followed it for a while..... it's fun to find my inspiration in myself.... and somehow it made me feel more confident about what I was doing.

Maybe it's a generational thing, Rain, you wood nymph you :) Our schooling didn't include instruction in raising our self-esteem. We are harsh critics of ourselves, we have high standards, and the need to earn the money my children have never been without reinforces the urge to create a product.

Enjoying the journey is a skill I'm trying to develop. Your work is beautiful, Rain... on canvas or on masonite.

Rain said...

Thank you, and yes, we are our harshest critics. I also write and agree that a lot of this is very similar. Any creative effort probably especially when it's digging from within.