Monthly Archives: March 2015


Morning Glory Natural Bridge in Moab, Utah. 49″ x 32″. Acrylic. Finished at last.


The scrim of tiny branches nearly did me in. Then it was back into the body of the tree for volume and bounced light.

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When addressing the landscape it is important to leave representation to the photograph, and let the painting address the concerns of fine art. Inherent in my original photograph was a degree of abstraction favoring spacial relationships and contrasting organic mass, hazy winter light  favoring a palette of mid-tones; this was a good jumping off point. The intent of the painting is to move beyond visual recognition of form, and enter the sense of presence and living dynamic of direct experience that many skim over even when directly experiencing- therefore, heightening the pathways laying dormant in everyday life. That is the living quality of painting, and the sense in Van Gogh’s work that is often referred to as “passion”. There is a reason 19th Century ideals of The Sublime are expressed in landscape, as with JMW Turner’s seascapes, they point toward deep time and erase the primacy of the individual, planting the viewer squarely outside their frame of reference and into the question of identity and mortality and the false mental and physical worlds of human making. Art becomes a gateway to a sense of hidden living experience, pulling back a veil that is unrealized until seen beyond. This power of art is why the fine arts were traditionally aligned with religion, then realigned to a secular experience of the divine in Nature (The Sublime) durning the Romanic Era, and finally to the subconscious in the New York Style or Abstract Expressionism wherein Jackson Pollock declared “I am Nature!”.

The bridge is the size of a skyscraper, spanning high above. The bridge shares the palette of the surrounding landscape elements, yet each of the three main aspects of the landscape have their own tonal emphasis. This dynamic push and pull of color within the looming landscape is augmented with the patterning brought to each element. To the left is the south face of a rounded cliff heated with intense yellows that roil in curvilinear tension against the expanse of the bridge. The bridge offsets against the right cliff wall through complementary contrast of red (bridge) v green (wall) in the base tones, and the strong striping that curves and dives along the shear wall. This shadowed striping points up and inward, mirroring the opposing sunlit angled form, driving the linear focus beyond the span of the bridge into the clear resting breath of the sky. An aspect of the wall at the top right has sheared away, and the tones in this area shift from green to red, aligning with the bridge, stabilizing the upward thrust at the painting’s base and helping the eye hold the expanse of the floating bridge aloft at the painting’s top. Both bordering landscape elements bring emphasis to the bridge, which is chiseled with high intensity shapes that swirl and align, all in warm tones of hot orange, toned sandy pink, and saturated violet shadow. There are also two pulses of pure white snow that move the eye from the near ground to the farthest reach of background, both are positioned toward the base of the bridge to break the bridge free at its base from the pinching condensation of forms. And then there is the tree.

The tree forms its own abstract ideation of the bridge, with a cold bluish arm individually arising from below the bridge, pushing deep into the left of the picture plane for a high temperature contrast to the yellow wall. As the bridge is a geological aspect of the right wall, two branches (one physically connected to the main tree and one arising in harmony with the the far blue branch) push up through the darkest shadow of the wall connecting into the undercut of warm bounced light on the cliffs underside. The interplay of these three elements are crucial to the central body of the tree, allowing it to move across the body of the bridge aligning in tone with the sky, connecting the twin diving arrows of sky to the ground, then lifting the sky back to float below the bridge. A complex haze of darkly intense color screens this area of the tree’s dominion, a netting of branches to further define a boundary of sky to lower the viewer’s frame of reference once again and set their sense of craning their necks upward and feeling that slight vertigo as the ground falls away under your feet, though they remain planted firmly.


Week 2 / Day 1 – Working the dark striation on the beveled sides of the arch. Compare to the far R side, which now looks greenish and unresolved; that will be tomorrow’s problem.


Wk2 / Day 3- R stone wall is resolved, and it is back into the tree for modulation and branches, branches, branches.


Wk2 / day 4 & 5 – All to the tree. What to put in, what to leave out. The tree wants to overwhelm the arch with branch “noise”, so abstract alignments supersede as a pruning logic.


This is nearly the whole image, yet the image is a bit wonky. The L side is washing out in reflected glare of afternoon sunlight and I have to make the shot at an angle, hence the fern.

Looking at last week’s dramatic climb from underpainting to something like a painting gives a false sense of painting being a whiz. This weeks images by comparison seem to be nearly identical to each other, but have much bigger differences than sprouting tree branches. With last week’s job of blocking basic shapes and colors established, then comes the longer process of creating harmonious colors, all in balance for tone, intensity and temperature. Shape of color areas must enhance the form and contours of the objects they relate to. The entire sky has to be reworked for vibrancy and tonality. And the tree is changed again and again, raising intensity and altering tonality to push and pull the branches up and back into space, or down and in toward the viewer. A few books on tape in otherwise unmeasured time, stopping only for the inevitable mental fatigue that leads to ruin.


Day One: blocking in the basic composition & values.


Day 2: begins with blocking in the tree.


Day 2.1: After the tree, it is back to the arch and canyon walls.


Day 3: more sandstone work.


Day 3.5, 4 & 5: back into the tree, then sky, then sandstone.

When I came across this tree growing under the arch, I was dazzled by the spacial relationships and color contrast and ideas of deep time in the long life of the tree growing below the time-carved archway. Still blocking in areas, and much of the tree is yet to be created, but the basics of atmosphere and spacial color relationships/contrasts is set enough for a few in-progress pictures.  IMG_0014 IMG_0015


Chicks on Wheels in snow!


The snow started about 8am and lasted just a few hours. I ran out and cleared the sidewalk just for the novelty of using the shovel- it will be near 60 degrees day after tomorrow.


The easel has all her parts. I had to make a few little tweaks for the painting support bar to anchor correctly on each set of pins- it is a tight fit as the vertical boards get thicker toward the bottom. I’d be using it right now, but I made some new parts that are curing. The slide-bolt (the adjustable rear support beam) is a bit of a pain for hand-adjustment, so I thought I’d make nut and bolt caps out of wood block. I forstnered out the holes and used JB Weld to seat the bolt and nut. One of the blocks is a cat-like shape, just because I started fiddling around… I’ll post a shot of them in place when they cure out. Meanwhile I’ll be drawing in the form of the new painting.

Before woodworking, lets get out in the yard and base a sculpture! Every winter has seen a daft lazy solution to 80mph North winds that amplify as they squeeze between the house and shop, then zoom across the back yard and topple the sculpture; this year was no different and the sculpture laid on the ground for a few weeks. No need to stand it up again if I wasn’t going to do it right this time. I had all the bits and parts around to do it, so I measured and drilled holes though the steel baseplate, hooked up the welder and zapped bolts through a steel plate, then  made a rebar cage that drops from the steel plate, connected two 12″ sonotube scraps from the trout install, dug a 24″ deep hole, seated the sonotubes, suspended & leveled the steel cage in the tube, mixed up a few hundred pounds of cement and shoveled it into the tubes/around the steel, let it cure for 24 hours, then mounted the sculpture with some help from Elizabeth. Now it will stay put.


“Chicks On Wheels” is made of old farming machinery from the ranch and three bronze quail chicks.


The bottom chick stands on a small bronze and stainless steel unicycle-ish form, this is mounted to a bearing, which is in turn mounted to an industrial spring. It is nearly a weather vane…


Behind the bottom chick are a group of feather-like forms that I forged from heavy copper wire. A few seasons of falling over has demented them from the fan shape originally intended to act as a tail and point the group into the wind. So there is still room for improvement- also I’m supposed to create an aspect that uses solar cells and lights that connects to the arm below the spring. Now that it won’t fall over, maybe I’ll futz around with it again.


The basic form of the easel is put together after a few days of knocking around. It is 7 feet tall and about 14 inches wide, with a four foot length at the base. It is collapsible, or rather, flattenable; the base can lift along the adjustable back support till it all flattens out- which is great for storage or moving it.


I found a nice little tutorial vid on youtube by Michael Schmitt, if you want to make one for yourself. Of course I had to complicate mine with hours and hours of wood prep (sanding), as mine is formed from mixed hardwood remnants. All the boards were sawmill rough on one side, and table-saw rough on the other. The long runs taper quite a bit as well, as they are the rough remains of cutting boards to true.


The angle is adjustable- tilting past 90 degrees front or back- via a sliding beam.


The wooden pegs on each side are the modular footings for the movable platform (in next picture).


This is the modular platform that paintings will stand on. It hooks over the dowel pins, and can be moved up or down along the pins. I have it glued up and clamped, and tomorrow I will hide a few screws seated at an angle from the bottom.


Watco brand Golden Oak finish seals the deal.


If I had a wood shop, I would build this out with jointery. Making it without screws, using only jointery and dowels would be a nice way to trick it out, or a great intro woodshop assignment for art majors (what artist wouldn’t want one?). Enough geeking out on tech, the focus needs to get back on what an easel is for: paintings.