The month of May found me in a state of improving health and the itch for adventure and exercise needed attention. My Wife and I didn’t have to study the map long before placing a pin on the Red Rock Country of Southern Utah. We even arranged to rendezvous with my In-Laws so that we could share the experience. Why Southern Utah you might ask. For one thing, Denver was still getting pounded by turbulent Spring weather just as high pressure was taking hold to the West. Furthermore, this is the time of the year that deep canyon floors are thriving with green hues and runoff from the high country. The two of us and our Italian Greyhound Gracie were packed and on the road, destination Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.
The Staircase is special. It is one of the most remote and beautiful places in the desert southwest and during previous visits my exploration had only scratched the surface. The plan for this trip was to do as much desert hiking as possible and to experience the solitude of a wilderness that is now at risk of losing its protected status. I also needed to get a photography fix in the worst way. I had hardly picked up the camera since last fall when I fell ill and I couldn’t wait to get back to it. For hiking, I pulled my old trustee Asolo boots out of storage. They had carried me up half of Colorado’s Fourteeners when I was much younger. Surely they would serve me well in the desert.
It’s always good to have an audio book on hand for long drives. For this trip I selected “Finding Everett Ruess” by David Roberts. His true story documents the life of a free spirited explorer who vanished without a trace from the Escalante region in the 1930’s. The book originally caught my attention because the forward was written by John Krakauer who wrote “Into the Wild”, one of my favorites. The subject of Krakauer’s book was Christopher McCandless, also a free spirited explorer who spent a great deal of time in the Desert Southwest. McCandless, who ended up starving to death in the Alaska wilderness, went by the alias “Alexander Supertramp”. I so much love the story that I named my camper “Alexander Supertramp” long ago.
Sometimes the Universe aligns itself in such a way that you cannot deny that something is meant to be. That is exactly what happened on this trip to the Grand Staircase. Here we were in a rig named “Alexander Supertramp” following the footsteps of a free spirited lost soul and while hiking near the last know location of Everett Ruess, the soles of my Asolo boots peeled off, one after another. You can’t make this stuff up. It was a great trip!
Alpenglow Winter Adventure #8 (24 x 12) Acrylic on Board
The repetition of painting in a series is an effective way to experiment with subtle variations in technique and color. Capturing the essence of alpenglow has not been easy but slowly I feel that I’m getting closer. The bad thing about moving so quickly is that the similar compositions make it a challenge to come up with a meaningful title for each piece.
I have big news to share! Much of the work that I completed this winter has now been dispersed to two gallery spaces and is beginning to sell. I can’t explain how good it feels to have successfully made something positive out of my illness. I do believe they call it making lemonade out of lemons.
On the health front things are looking up as well. My energy level continues to improve and I’ve been successfully weaning myself off of the steroids. At the current rate of improvement, I’m hoping to be in remission by the end of the summer. (Polymyalgia Rheumatica)
Have a great Weekend!
Small Paintings to take to this weeks “First Friday” at the Denver Art District
The first claps of thunder for the season are rattling my studio walls in Denver this evening and tonight’s rain will turn to snow after midnight. More white stuff is expected this weekend. Perfect weather for creating idyllic Colorado adventure scenes! I hope your week is going well!
Custom Made Re-Claimed Barn Wood Back Boards
I’m happy to say that I finally am feeling well enough to put the finishing touches on work that has been on deck for months. The long standing plan for the Summer of 2017 was to become a gypsy of sorts and hit the art festival circuit in Colorado. Metal prints of my photography come to life when I mount them on character filled backboards made by me out of re-claimed wood. As most of you know, there is a saying about the best laid plans of mice and men and for me this year things did go awry.
Polymyalgia Rheumatica is an autoimmune disease that I didn’t even know existed nine months ago. This 56 year old body shouted WTF at the low point last winter when just walking and touching the top of my head were difficult at best. Finally, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and I’m rebuilding my atrophied muscles enough so that I can get some new work sold. Things are looking up!
I’d love to hear what you think about these pieces. As always, comments welcome.
The old saying “two steps forward and one step back” is a go-to mantra that often comforts me. It reminds me that nothing worthwhile comes easily. It is a way of verbalizing my intention to keep trying even when I grow tired of setbacks.
I can’t express enough how much joy painting is bringing me these days. It is giving me a reason get up in the morning and push through the physical pain that I’m currently burdened with. Without a strong desire to create art my forward movement would have surely ceased weeks or months ago. Instead I am kicking and gliding like the two skiers in my painting, already thinking of the adventures to come.
As promised in my last post I completed this piece this week and I’m sharing.
Something about finishing a job just feels so good, even euphoric. You have arrived at the point where everything feels right and good enough. You sign the painting, hang it on the wall and direct a light toward it at just the right angle. You Love it!
Enjoy those moments of accomplishment because a sobering reality will follow. It’s likely that it won’t be long before you see it with fresh eyes and wonder what in the hell you were thinking. Perhaps it goes back on the easel for modifications, perhaps not. In any event you soon realize that you aren’t finished at all. A healthy dose of varnish will be needed to protect the piece from handling and UV light. What about a name or title? High quality photographs of the work will be needed for potential reproduction and marketing. The tedious task of getting the work to market has only begun.
As if the whole process isn’t overwhelming enough life keeps throwing all sorts of curve balls at us. Shit Happens, right? Take my first ever Colonoscopy this past week for instance. People kept telling me it really wasn’t that bad and now that I’m experienced I have to tell you that I disagree. No person should have to gulp down a gallon of stool softener as if it were beer at a college kegger and no male should have to discover what it is to have water break…over and over again. Anyway, you get the picture!
My third piece in a new series is underway and the deviation from rising super moon values has been a challenge. I’m trying to capture the essence of alpenglow which in my mind is the time of day that the last direct light from the sun is hitting the clouds and perhaps the mountain tops. In my minds eye there is a magic that occurs in the valleys below where the snow almost glows. Do the shadows disappear or is there just a slight contrast indicating the position of the setting or rising sun? So many new riddles to solve. I’ll post the finished piece soon.
Physically I had a difficult week. Polymyalgia Rheumatica is a roller coaster ride and finding the correct dosage of prednisone to keep the inflammation in check without increasing the side effects of the medication can be the real trick. Finally this past week I felt myself finding some balance on that front when a serious chest cold took me hostage. Once again, having my studio and a passion to paint has been great therapy.
Now for show and tell before signing off. One of my photographs made the front cover of Open Fences Magazine. It was uplifting to see how great it looks and on the other hand it saddens me to think that I may not be in condition to do serious shooting this Summer.
Roughly half of my life experience was gathered in the pre-personal computer age. By my recollection, The “old days” came to a screeching halt sometime around the mid-80’s when IBM came out with a big box machine that had a whopping 40mb hard drive. Anyone who could afford a couple grand to have one in their own home bought one. Imagine what was going through my mind as I toyed with one of these machines for the first time the year after graduating from business school. I was prepared for nothing. Learning how to use a Texas Instrument Calculator might as well have been time spent learning how to use an Abacus. I realized that while I was in school learning the old game the rest of the world was busy creating a new game. Fortunately for me, I didn’t exert all of my youthful energy on academics. I was lucky to have spent my college years in the mountains of Colorado where a fair allotment of my time was devoted to outdoor adventures. Hiking and fishing and back country skiing are the experiences that I now find myself celebrating through my art.
One of the greatest lessons that any of us can learn is that everything is constantly changing and that education never stops. At some point, we are all confronted with changes in technology or changes in health that bring about a need to adapt and re-focus. . My chronic illness has for now taken me away from photography, video production and the client base that I’ve established. Over the course of the last six months I’ve redirected my focus to painting yet my marketing is lagging behind.
I started thinking about the concept of “postcards from the imagination” while writing a recent posts and I think it really represents me well. My paintings are regularly conceived in my imagination and I’ve learned a great deal about composite photography techniques which allow me to imagine new ways to present my photography. For now, my ambitions of doing shows is beyond what my health will allow but thanks to technology I have a storefront window to the world. It’s time for me to start selling some of this new work and all that stands in the way is a little hard work and a lot of education.
What do you think of my new brand? Which banner is more effective?
“Midnight Powder” (9×12) Acrylic on Canvas
I don’t have to stretch much further than youthful memories and imagination to find inspiration. The Super Moon Winter Adventure Series is a first hand account of my own escapades in the high mountains of Colorado. It always amazed me how your could ski all night by the light of the moon. I’m pretty sure I didn’t even carry a flashlight. I count myself lucky that I have a way of living those experiences over and over again through painting.
My recent posts gave a few details about the painful autoimmune disease that I’m dealing with. The real story that I hope to share is that art is a powerful healing agent. When I’m painting I forget all about my issues. Has art helped you or someone you know overcome adversity? I’d love to hear about it.
As always I welcome comments and I hope you will join me on Facebook and Instagram.
Does this sound familiar? It’s the end of a long painting session and you’re thinking “I’m really pleased with this one”. You place it on the wall, throw some light on it and admire it. Even your dreams are filled with admiration for what you have created. Then the next morning or perhaps a week later a sinking feeling overcomes you. Maybe you see obvious mistakes or maybe you just know that something is not right. Even worse, You might begin to question whether You love it or hate it.
Beware the inner critic for it can land some pretty good punches. So much so that it might cause us to place a perfectly good painting in the reject pile. Or it may cause us to place layer upon layer of revisions to the canvas until all of the original magic is gone. In this post I’m featuring a painting that could have suffered the same fate. This painting was one of the first starts in my “Super Moon Winter Adventure Series” yet it was the last to be completed and signed. As it turns out, each revision to this piece was made with confidence thanks to a shiny new tool that has become central to my process, the iPad. I’d like to share with you three ways that I’m using the iPad in my workflow.
I use my iPad as a sketch book. I first learned how to use several painting applications on an early generation iPad. In particular, I learned to favor a program called ProCreate. Procreate is highly intuitive and it didn’t take long to learn how to select canvas shapes, brushes, colors, values, opacity, etc. I’m definitely having more fun sketching and therefor I’m sketching a lot more. I find myself grabbing a half-hour here and an hour there dreaming up compositions in ways that I never knew were possible. I so much enjoy the iPad that I bit the bullet and bought a new iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil. The iPad has allowed me to do my visionary exploration digitally and my painting has become more deliberate and efficient because of it. When the time comes that I want to translate a digital sketch onto the canvas with real paint, I’m much more prepared than I would have been with a simple pencil sketch.
I use the iPad to make revisions to my paintings in progress. It’s not unusual for me to digitally review my progress several times before finishing a piece. I often arrive at decision points in my workflow where I need to establish the size of a tree or person or the placement of a rock or a cabin. In the past I’ve made a lot of those decisions on the fly only to later spend hours making changes, often ending up with a disaster. We’ll call this exercise “Repeal and Replace” ;). Now when I get to that point, I snap a pic of the painting with my phone. That picture magically ascends up in to the cloud, then returns to earth and lands in my iPad where I can open it up in ProCreate. With the Apple pencil in hand I can begin making revisions that make sense. Once I’m done with the revisions I convert to jpeg and use the new image as reference material.
I use the iPad to view reference material. With whatever means possible, I hang the pad on my easel as close as possible to my canvas. Not only do I have access to my sketches and revisions, I have access to all of those photos I saved on purpose to use when the time is right. One of the coolest features of the iPad is being able to magnify the image easily using that pinching and spreading motion with two fingers. I’ll confess right here that I use that feature so often that I occasionally make the mistake of trying to magnify the actual canvas using the same technique…Embarrassing!
If you aren’t already using digital technology in your workflow, I hope this post encourages you to try it. It’s a lot less intimidating than you might think. If you are already using new technology to help you paint better I’d love to hear about it.