Thursday, June 30, 2011

Progress on Caio. feels like progress and that's a good thing.  Since the initial version's dark darks and heavy shadows, it's been a continuous process of adding light.  My studio rearrangement is working really well and I can't get over how much easier it is to see the painting more truly as a result of it being bathed in natural light.  I'm continuing to revise the drawing and correct earlier miscues, though much of this work is hardly noticeable, except perhaps to Caio!  I keep adding more light and color in the irises, but I really need to ask Caio exactly what color(s) is/are his eyes.  I've been using mixtures of raw umber, terre verte, cadmium red light, raw Siena and white, juggling the various colors and values in an attempt to show the life in Caio, rather than two black circles which looked more like the eyes of a shark. 

I'm also spending more time in study and thought about the next move.  Working from photos, it is a continual challenge to work around, overcome, eliminate and in general, minimize the photo effects and maximize the real life effects of light on a human head.  I'll let you be the judge of how I'm doing on this. A side benefit is giving my back and legs a rest.  Between the jogging and workouts, standing at the easel wears me out some days and sitting down to contemplate the painting is a welcome break.

So, this is Caio today.  The abundant reflected light hitting his face comes from his white sweater, probably cashmere or alpaca if I know Caio at all!  Personally, I like this much more than my first effort, though at the time I was very pleased with it, too.  If any artist casts a huge shadow over me, it would be Lucian Freud.  I do so love his work.  This portrait, as it has developed, shows that influence in my opinion.  And to me, that can't be a bad thing.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Ms. Rhonda Carpenter, June, 2011

Rhonda's portrait was delivered Tuesday, June 27th, 2011.  And a nervous day it was for me.  She wrote a very laudatory email, but who knows what she'll think after a day or two?  Truthfully, I'm always concerned about the reception an unsolicited portrait will receive.  Part of me wonders if the recipient really likes it.  One never knows, despite all the kind words and thank-yous.  Imagine, for example, if your mother or father received a portrait of themselves painted by Francis Bacon or Picasso.  It would probably be graciously accepted and most appreciated, but...

Anyway, it's done and delivered and I hope Rhonda, Jerry, their family and friends will be okay with it as times passes.
FLASH!  I just returned from a visit to Rhonda's blog and ninety-nine percent of my doubts are now buried beneath a landslide of positive comments, enthusiasm and her personal brand of sunshine.  Thanks Rhonda!!
Just a note about her expression:  Rhonda suffers from the occasional migraine headache and for some crazy reason I had the idea of painting her with a pained look, rather than the garden variety happy pose.  Rhonda embraced the idea and graciously accepted my request for a photo showing her this way.  Her husband, Jerry, a skilled photographer, provided me with three excellent choices and the game was on.
Painting Rhonda this way was somewhat like walking on a high wire stretched across the Grand Canyon, blindfolded.  Balance was the key to it all.  My initial efforts were darker, had heavier shadows and an ominous, almost depressing atmosphere.  All great things if one wants to show and suggest pain.  As I continued, it just seem too dark, too heavy.  I didn't want to be so successful, people could hardly stand to look at the painting.
I slowly began a new dance, trying to lighten up the background and shadows, but saving the expression.  Rhonda loves the color blue, so I decided to let a blue background suggest the "blue" mood without the weight of the dark-to-almost-black grays surrounding her.  I changed her shirt color to a blue-green to harmonize with the background, adding to the sense of a calm and quiet setting.  I hoped to convey she was in a darkened, silent room, dealing with her pain. 
The final piece to this often re-built puzzle came when I brought the painting home and studied it in a different light.  I mentioned the revelation of working in natural north light and my at-home studio provided that necessary light.  It became apparent she needed to be warmed-up, so her face, hand and arm re-painted for the final time.  The warmer color really did make her the star of this relatively subdued show, as she should be.
Like any painting, it will always need additional work.  Each day I study a painting, more bits and pieces appear which require further attention.  Not unlike an astronomer who nightly trains a telescope on a new portion of the sky, revealing ever more wonders.  I would love to have this Blue Rhonda back, to continue to refine it-lightening a value here, changing a color there.  Hmm-mm, I wonder if she would ever consider sending it back?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Rhonda's Portrait Has Arrived.

It's true!  Rhonda Carpenter's portrait arrived at her home in Kentucky this morning, ending a long, long wait.  I struggled, started over at least five times, re-worked it countless days, which became weeks and months and Rhonda kept faith that someday it would escape my studio.  It finally did.

I just received a most wonderful email from her.  It seems her initial reaction to the painting was positive and as you might expect from such a kind and generous spirit, she was lavish in her praise.  Made my day, as my nerves have been on edge since sending it last Wednesday.  For the first time in about a week, I can work on the Caio portrait with steady hands.  She will post it on her blog tomorrow.

The next project will be a larger version of the Bertie Parker portrait.  

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Jog to the Barbershop, June 21, 2011.

It was time for a haircut, the day was warm and sunny so I grabbed my camera and began the Herculean jog of about two miles to "Rough Cut".  Come on along and have a look at a bit more of Portland, Oregon, our home.
We're already about nine blocks into our run as we pass a MAX light rail train at a stop on SW Morrison, downtown. 

A block or two further west, the Maya Mexican Restaurant adds a splash of color to our jog.

We've now arrived at Jeld-Wen Field, the re-designed home of Portland's own Major League Soccer team, the Portland Timbers.  The sport is extremely popular here and the smiling face bronze sculpture mimics that of the many happy fans.

Hot Lips Pizza is located just across the street from the downtown stadium and does a huge business on game days.

Now, we've crossed from West Burnside to NW 21st Street, into the Alphabet District.  It's called this because the streets which run east and west, parallel to Burnside, all have alphabetized names:  After Burnside, the first street is Couch, followed by Davis, Everett then Flanders.  You get the idea.  It's a great idea and makes navigating around this area quite a bit easier.  You just have to know the alphabet!  This beautifully-maintained vintage home is one of many scattered throughout the district, though many have been converted to apartments. 

We've just dropped into Ken's Artisan Bakery on NW 21st Street.  They make bread so good, I believe any of our European friends would be pleased to shop here.  Ken's has a seating area just out of the camera's view and outdoor tables, as well.  It's a popular lunch stop for local residents.

This is the entrance to Bastas Italian Restaurant, on NW 21st. Street.  Great food and beverages and this grape vine shading the entrance was particularly striking in the sunlight today.
Another NW 21st Street eatery is Ling Garden.  It's been our favorite Chinese restaurant since our first visit a long time ago.  We still enjoy their food, only now it's usually delivery.  Lucky us!
This is Lucy's Table Restaurant, another long-time favorite of the neighborhood.  We've enjoyed many memorable dinners here.
Portland is a huge bicycle city and this shop takes great care of the Alphabet District riders.
Blue Moon is a bar and grill along my run.  They had their window walls open today since it was so nice.  In cooler weather, they fire-up an old pot-bellied stove and it not only warms the place, but the perfume of the burning wood is heavenly.
There are so many fine business establishments along NW 21st Street I can't feature them all here, but there isn't much one cannot find here.  It's a wonderful neighborhood and we always feel comfortable here.  I guess that's why I still make the pilgrimage here to get my haircut.  I wish everyone had a "Trader Joe's" in their neighborhood.  Great prices and everything you need, including their most famous item;  "Two-Buck Chuck", a very inexpensive, but drinkable wine produced by Mr. Charles Shaw.  It's a bit more than two dollars a bottle now, but still an exceptional value.

Two bottles of vintage hair tonic still in use today.  Mary Lee tells me this isn't just colored water in old bottles.  See what I mean about the shop being a "Hair Products Museum?!
A couple more items in Mary Lee's Museum of Hair Care.  I love this place and I'm not alone.
The museum's main display case holds a wealth of hard-to-find and long-remembered items.  You are never bored waiting for your turn in the chair!
Rough Cut, the Barbershop.  Mary Lee is quick to point out it's not a "styling center" or "salon".
We're arrived at Rough Cut, the world-famous NW 21st Street barbershop and Hair Care Museum.  It's owned and operated by a fine woman known only as Mary Lee.  No one knows her last name, I think, because she was a secret agent in another life or something.  I've been visiting Mary Lee for about nine years, so far and can always expect scintillating conversation and looking beautiful when she's had her way with me.  The chair is THE SPOT where the magic happens.  Thanks, Mary Lee! 

Here we are at City Market.  It's actually several markets in one and the selection of produce, wine, olive oil, Italian cured meats, fresh pasta, breads and pastries, chocolate, pate, sausages, fresh seafood and fresh flowers is unsurpassed.  It's a neighborhood and city icon and we love shopping here when we want, "the good stuff".  You've gotta love the paint job on the building, too.

So, we're stopped outside City Market for a few moments to say hello to Quinn, owner of Quinn's in the City Flowers.  She sells happiness and color in each bouquet.

Just a block or so further on, we pass the famous Laura Russo Fine Art Gallery.  Let's go inside, and say hello.  The Laura Russo Gallery has been in Portland for many years, not only for offering the finest in contemporary art, but also because they are always so welcoming to visitors.  You are truly made to feel comfortable, even if you're only browsing.  Maybe one of the experts will agree to let me take a photo.
Say hello to Gwen Davidson, an artist herself who has worked here for many years.  She shows her paintings at Froelick Gallery in the Pearl District, a neighborhood we'll soon be cruising through if my Nikes hold up!  Gee, I hope I don't get her in trouble for mentioning another art gallery!

This is Emanon restaurant on Lovejoy.  The photo below shows a wonderful scene of what it's like to live in this neighborhood.
We've turned right onto NW Lovejoy Street and we'll follow the trolley car line east to the Pearl District.  As mentioned above, this is Emanon Restaurant and a scene which is Pure Portland:  A man at his computer sipping a micro-brewery ale along with a Black Lab, basking in the sunshine on his very own large pillow.

We've made it to the Pearl District where some folks are dining outside to soak up the sun.
I took this photo because it shows a grocery store and the Fremont Bridge high above the Willamette River.  The grocery store is significant because without these important businesses scattered throughout a city, the quality of life would be significantly diminished.  If you live just about anywhere in the city of Portland, you will have a grocery store within walking distance.  We never have to use our car to shop for food!  Can you suburbanites even imagine such a thing!  The bridge photo is in there just because I thought it looked good. 
Summer comes along and with it, these huge hanging baskets of petunias pop up all over the city.
Part of the Pearl District development plan called for a number of parks for residents.  Jamison Square is one of the favorites.  A huge water feature, perfect for children, as well as a lawn-covered area and plenty of benches make this a popular destination for families and kids all summer long.
The Pearl District features a wide variety of highrise condos and apartment buildings, accommodating all income levels, as well as, these flats.  Each has a wonderful garden in front making a stroll past a pure delight.
We're at the end of the Pearl District, just about to re-cross Burnside and return to the downtown area.  Powell's Bookstore is one of Portland's most famous icons, sitting on a full city block.  There are few better ways to spend a rainy day in Portland than here.  The four floors of books and great coffee shop inside offer an escape to anywhere your mind wants to go.  The building in the background is called, Indigo 12|West.  It's a new apartment building featuring maximum green design.  Notice the wind turbines on the roof.  It expects to gain LEED Platinum designation if it already hasn't.
This is the Streetcar Lofts building, located, where else?  Right on the trolley car line, of course.  How convenient is that if you work either in the Pearl District or anywhere downtown!
We're now on 12th Street, having turned south off Lovejoy and here's the streetcar or trolley.  It will wind it's way through the Pearl, downtown, the Portland State University campus then turn east and follow along the Willamette riverfront to the South Waterfront, Portland's newest development of more highrise, as well as, affordable living and Oregon Health and Sciences University expansion.

We've now jogged our way back into downtown and here's another MAX light rail train at a stop.  My studio is only a few more blocks away, in the old Portland Board of Trade building, located on 4th Avenue, between Oak and Stark streets.  I'm in suite 801 if you're ever in the area.
Finally, this photo from the middle of the street shows one of Portland's many food cart "pods".  They're located throughout the city and give permanent homes to these micro-restaurants.  They are famous for the quality and variety of world foods served at reasonable prices.  So, the shoes and my knees held up and it's back to the easel.  Hope you enjoyed seeing this slice of the city we love so much.   

Monday, June 20, 2011

Caio, June 20, 2011

Had a good day working on Caio's portrait.  It was the result of bringing Rhonda Carpenter's portrait home two days ago.  It was such a simple thing that I'm almost embarrassed to tell the tale.

I brought Rhonda's portrait home because it seemed about finished and I wanted to study it in a different setting.  A day after doing so, I was not pleased at what I saw.  The portrait went up on my at-home easel and I went to work.  In no time, it was vastly improved and I moved it all over the condo to see if it was true.  It was! 

I thought about what had happened, trying to understand why the fix had been so easy.  Then it hit me:  It was the light!  My easel at home sits in front of a large north-facing window and that made seeing the color and values easy.  In my "real" studio, I'd been working on the painting for months under the influence of standard office fluorescent lights. 

Oddly enough, I have two north-facing windows in that space, but was never able to get my easel in just the right spot to take advantage of the light.  Where ever I put it, I seemed to face a blinding glare.  I put up some make-shift curtains in a futile attempt to control the light, but remained unhappy with the result.  Giving up, I felt doomed to the fluorescent lights for the duration of my stay. 

Following my "seeing the light" revelation, I went to the studio on Sunday and completely rearranged the space to take advantage of the main feature which led me to rent it in the first place.  I can't explain why I was unable to find the sweet spot before, but this time I was successful.  I thoroughly enjoyed spending the afternoon there, painting and looking and sort of waiting for the return of the glare monster.  Apparently, the monster has been vanquished, much to my relief.  Today, Portland was sunny and warm and I eagerly jogged to the studio to see how things would go.

What a joy!  No glare issues and great natural north light flooding Caio's portrait.  I am essentially re-painting it now, in a much higher key.  Caio mentioned how dark I had painted him and that got me thinking.  I love the drama of deep shadows, but have been trying to get away from that and add a lot more light to my paintings.  I had developed a habit of painting from heavily-shadowed printouts of normally-lit photographs.  Of course, with such prints as my only source material, the work suffered as I failed to compensate.  Anyway, with that all behind me, from now on it'll be all rainbows and lollipops...right? 

So, Rhonda, just in case you read this, I'm not saying any more until we have a tracking number for you, which should be very, very soon!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Grand Floral Parade Floats, June 12, 2011.

After the Grand Floral Parade is over, the floats are moved to Naito Parkway for up-close viewing by the public.  The parkway is semi-blocked off so there is plenty of room for the crowds to inspect these amazing creations.  Every visible surface must be covered with natural materials and it is quite interesting to see what is actually used to execute the designs. 
A patch of green might be dozens of limes, another spot on a float may require a light brown color and acorns used.  A huge variety of seeds and grasses, flowers of every color of the rainbow and nuts and bark are all used to make the magic.
Of course, our floats are not nearly as grand as those seen in Pasadena's Tournament of Roses Parade, but they still inspire awe and amazement in the eyes of children and most adults, too.  Michele really enjoyed the time she spent decorating the floats and this parade will always have a special place in her heart.

Caio Update.

I hate to interrupt the Rose Festival posts, but wanted to show you how our friend Caio looks as of Sunday, June 12, 2011.  This image is pretty close to how the painting really looks in-person.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

2011 Rose Festival Fleet.

As promised, here are the photos of the Rose Festival Fleet.  Portland was visited by ships from the U.S. Navy, the Canadian Navy, U.S. Coast Guard and the Army Corps of Engineers.  In addition, the only remaining operational Motor Torpedo Boat, PT-658, was running up and down the Willamette River to the delight of many World War II veterans.  Many of you may remember the true story of Lieutenant John F. Kennedy who was the captain of PT-109 during the war.  A book and movie, both titled, "PT-109", recounted the story of the ship being sliced in-half by a Japanese destroyer during a night action in the Pacific and our future president's heroic actions to save many of his crew.
The visiting ships were nested along the seawall of Tom McCall Waterfront Park allowing the large crowds a close-up view.  Tours were offered for anyone who wanted to go aboard.  Seeing these mighty ships, virtually in downtown Portland, is a hugely impressive sight.
Today, all the Grand Floral Parade floats were parked along the western side of Waterfront Park so people could have a close-up look.  I took lots of photos, not only for the blog, but also for Michele to see.  For several years, she volunteered to help decorate the floats, so she is eager to see them as she was out of town for this year's parade.  I'll post those photos tomorrow.