Monthly Archives: December 2008

It has turned a bit colder up at the ranch; -24 (as low as the digital thermometer goes) to (-55 with windchill in Great Falls) at night, with daytime temps hovering around 0. It is 90 degrees warmer here in Salt Lake City. These images are from the balmy days of late November, when temps were still near freezing. The paintings are taking 1.5 to 2 days to complete. The second painting is twice the size of the prior paintings, and shows 1.5 days work. The larger format really pushes the time frame. The image still needs a whole herd of cattle and a long run of fencing.
A few hours later, here we are with the fence and cattle added in.

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Elizabeth: “They are just too magical to show up well in a photograph- like a Unicorn …or Sasquatch.”

 In the span of June-Nov I found myself driving from KS to MT, MT to UT, UT to KS, KS to UT, UT to MT, MT to UT, UT to MT, and MT to UT. This time behind the wheel moving across the amazing Western landscape juxtaposed itself with prior summers of mine as a mountaineer in CO as well as the time spent in the saddle or walking the vast expanse of the MT ranch. This past summer/fall road travel became my time in the landscape- in the summer with the convertible top down, in winter with the wind roaring through the old top as though sitting near a small waterfall- just enough to blur music to a background curiosity. There is an illusion that one is not really in the landscape, that the windshield is somehow similar to a TV screen or a theater stage; but an errant deer or antelope, or a patch of ice hidden in a tight canyon curve, or a tire going, or engine trouble, or a truck drifting into my lane- all possibilities of suddenly coalescing out of the odd spacial warp of time/distance, emerging suddenly from the false security of the illusory proscenium.

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The colors are almost right above- though the dramatic warm spot of sun on the R doesn’t read. The image below just does not capture the band of light through the trees and the contrast on the butte (or the fade of intensity to the middleground)- but it gives a rough idea. I’m creating these with a limited palette of Yellow Ocher, Burnt Umber, French Ultramarine, and Titanium White. For the highway yellow line on the top I put in a bit of Cadmium Yellow.

This comparison shows the range of how far the camera diddles around with an image. I went back into the image below for the road and brush, and a few subtle changes in the trees, oh- and the cow is darker. All the other changes are due to camera/computer/web diddle-gaps.

The art organization I used to direct here in town offered an oil painting class for adults, and the new director mentioned the classes while we were out for a coffee. The instructor is a great local painter, Brad Slaugh. The class met only about 6 or 7 times, but it was enough to get my head back into painting- which had been my undergrad major for my first two years of college till I abandoned it for sculpture. The work below is a color problem Brad set up, a magenta light from one side and a yellow light from the other; purple and yellow paper; beets and lemons and squash and etc. Our palette was  Y & Purple (mixed from blue/red).


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This the the maquette for Plummet- my concept for Flying Objects 2.0 that was turned in last Saturday. That’s ol TailWing in triplicate diving toward his certain impact with the pavement while trying to catch 8 eggs all on the same trajectory. Or maybe the eggs can float and our TailWings are trying gather them up and float away before impact- that one sounds pretty unlikely. I’m fairly certain the concept leans more toward the prior. Anyway, standing beneath it would be pretty keen at full size. I hope we all get the chance.
On the trip back from the ranch I got out the camera and asked E to
shoot as I drove. She took nearly 300 picts, and I culled that down to
around 70, and from there pulled 15 that I’m going to paint in oil.
They have a great sense of separation from a vast and ideal western
landscape. The foreground
is filled with signs, roads, wires, machinery- the apparatus of
industrialized living that defines the mode of the images, and the
landscape rolls away from it while being cut through by it. Next time
we head up E is going to drive the last leg in and first leg out- there
are endless miles of “parked” yellow coal cars on the RR tracks that
begin midway down from Helena and go out beyond Great Falls toward
Canada. Having them wind through as an element of the landscape is what
I am really excited about, but I have to get my painting chops back. So
I’ll start with what we got this time.
I started the first one today, after spending last Friday getting the
MDF board (better than canvas), cutting it to 3 sizes, then sanding
& priming them. Today I pulled out my old undergrad paining
supplies that I have been hauling around unused for 20 years (yikes!)
and sorted them a bit- then went to the art store and dropped $50 on
the odds and ends of paint, thinner, liquin, two brushes, a pallet
knife. Then I came home and drilled a big thumb hole through a little
board to use as a pallet, softened the edges with sandpaper, grabbed
the laptop and covered it in saran wrap and dialed up the picture I
wanted to start with, put on a book on CD, and knocked out #1 in the
series. Painting is instantly gratifying, and if you do a nice job
there is no worry losing it while pulling a mold, which is just the
first concern in the insane amount of the additional time/expense that
a good sculpture demands if you want to keep it. It is a nice change of
pace for a bit, to be able to knock out a complete work or two per day.
And it allows me to get away from the monotony of pulling molds for a
bit, in case I do get the Flying Object commission- because I will be
working with molds for a few months straight if I get it.
I’ll post an image of the painting when I’m more sure that it is done- it still needs a cow and some irrigation wheels added that I chickened out on…

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Part way to a finished Hydrostone cast of Elizabeth with Ball- again. The others of lesser plasters died in the move and are decomposing in the back yard. This one had some issues- the head and hands w/ ball snapped off in the mold. There was no way around losing the head, as the circular platform locked the mold in place, and a sacrifice was called for. Other than flotillas of air bubbles, it is the cleanest pull of all attempts so far. I’m hoping the bubbles were due to using my small blade mixer, I turned the place over looking for the large blade and of course found it 600 miles north where it fell out of my tool bag this summer. Also the mix was off, as the plaster is not as hard as it became for the TailWing cast. I have yet to pour the missing arm, as it is a separate mold. I put one allthread rod from her foot and up her leg, and placed three bolts into the wet plaster of the circular base to attach to the wood platform, rather than using her supportive allthread as I’d done in the past- I think this will put less stress/pinch on the feet and give her a better shot of survival.
I spent most of the day taking new shots of TailWing and burning disk #2  for a commission proposal due this Sat. The old picts just weren’t making it…



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Thanksgiving was a quick jump to Montana between storms to check in with my dad. E fixed an entire Thanksgiving dinner, and an amazing banana pie (with two secret liquors). My dad figured that was the first time a real Thanksgiving dinner with Turkey and trimmings was made in that kitchen since his mother lived there. E and I took Carmine on some walks around the ranch, I cleaned up the immense yard and stored the mowers for winter, we ate and ate and ate, and drove back to Utah.
I was pulled over by a state patrol on the way home going 75 in a 75 coming into Twin Falls ID. The trooper told me I was going 80, but five miles earlier I had double checked the cruise control to 75 and it was still pegged there when the line of cars that had shot past me going well over 80 began slamming on their breaks as they spotted the trooper that I’d known would likely be there. The trooper wanted to fine me for not having a front license plate, but they aren’t required in KS. Then he wanted to fine me for having my windows tinted too dark, he clipped his meter to the window and the tint was legal. Then he asked me to step out of the car, and wanted to know if I’d been drinking, and when the last time I had a drink (wine with Thanksgiving dinner), and asked me to stick out my tongue. Then he wanted to know the last time I smoked pot (you can see how they are trained to ramp into that question, leading in with the alcohol)- “I’m asking because your eyes seem a little red”. I told him “never” (which may seem odd what with the art thing, but is true) and told him I’ve been on the road all day from northern MT and am just road tired- he picked up that I was being polite to his somewhat insinuatingly perturbing line of inquiry, and he congratulated me on not doing drugs. It was a funny thing to say to say to someone at least 10 years your senior. I said, “O.K.” and pursed my lips at him. It was a bit surreal- I was suddenly aware of my “mad professor” hair. Then he let me go.
My guess is he pulled me over for not having a front plate (an old girlfriend’s uncle had been a state trooper, and they look for anything out of order like that, and often find a wayward criminal that way- that is how most people ‘on the lamb’ are brought in, more effectively than the CIA and FBI combined ie Timothy McVeigh, Warren Jeffs, etc.)  , and mistook the ranch funk of smoke that permeated the car for Jane.
Understandable, but still annoying. Or else it was just to pull over the sports car- as I’m sure was the case for a real sports car, a nice late model red Corvette that was pulled over right in front of us just out of Salt Lake. He had been driving along with our clump of smart traffic (smart traffic being drivers that don’t get fouled by other drivers, and anticipate the lay of traffic rather than jumps in speed to keep flowing- and generally wind up in proximity enough to recognize each other) for 30 miles and was really doing a great job of not speeding and letting people fly on by- allowing other drivers to remain blissfully unaware of the insane extra 400hp than the rest of us with smooth dodges of bad merges and the inevitable Mormon road blocks.
Come to think of it, the last ticket I got was for driving safely- getting around an unstable trailer pulled by a pickup that was drafting a Semi and spewing gravel from the shoulder. The trooper pulled me from a line of cars I had merged into to get around the hazard- the officer told me I was going faster than I had been going- the difference between a small v large ticket- when he asked me if I knew why he pulled me over I bit back saying “Must be for having the top down and a pretty girlfriend riding shotgun”. 

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