Saturday, March 31, 2012

Obsession, But I Don't Mean the Perfume.

The rain subsided sufficiently for a run to the studio today, but as the title of this post suggests, obsession with the self-portrait kept me working at home today.  In some respects, working in my small home studio is more productive than the "real" studio.  It's pretty simple really.  No three or four mile jog to wear me out.  I guess taking a day off from the workout or the running once in a while is okay.  A bit of a reward for the almost daily gut-busting weight control effort.  It was a good day without the need to recuperate (that's secret code for "nap") in a chair and drink a lot of water while pretending to study a painting.  So, without further adieu....
Gee, I just noticed that in the image, my eyes are different colors!  A detailed examination of the real painting did not reveal this goof, or I just failed to see it, so tomorrow it will be back on the easel.  It's always something!  Let's see....while I'm goatee seems to be made of puffy cotton balls and my neck resembles a tree stump.  I know there are features there, it's just that in the light I was working in, I simply can't see them.  Hm-m...time to reevaluate and try to fix these areas.  I feel that it will be sort of like juggling bowling balls and machetes--should be an entertaining day! 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Self-Portrait.

Today, the incessant rain kept me home, so I spent the day working on the over-worked-times a thousand-self-portrait.  In a few more sessions, the paint build-up will be so thick that any control over the brushes will be impossible.  And when that happens, it'll mean a trip to the trash bin and time for a new painting!  Yay!
Hope your day was dry, sunny and warm.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Another Trip To The Barber Shop.

It was that time again, so I headed off to the barber shop, camera in hand, on a very nice Spring day.  My first stop was Jeld-Wen Field, home to our own Major League Soccer team, the Portland Timbers.  There was a soccer clinic going on down on the pitch, but I was still able to give you a glimpse of the beautiful, newly remodeled stadium.  The Timbers had a fantastic opening season game here, and despite the pouring rain, the capacity crowd of 20,000 rabid fans put on a great show of support for their team.  The team responded with a 3-1 victory which was televised nationally on ESPN.  The announcers repeatedly remarked about what a great soccer city Portland is and dubbed it, "Soccer City, USA".

 Almost forgot--on the way to Jeld-Wen Field, I noticed a particular billboard I just had to have a photo of for Mario Stefanelli, Michele's Italian cousin.
Mario is a highly-skilled mechanic and he completely rebuilt an antique "Cinque-cento", or Fiat-500, back in the mid-1990s.  In fact, when we lived there, we almost bought his restored beauty.  It was the exact color as the one on this billboard.  Only the fact that we were returning to the States prevented us from getting it.  I'm sure most of you have figured out that the words mean, "Beautiful Car", but somehow, "Bella Machina" just sounds So-o-o much more beautiful. 

So, I'm at the barbershop, thumbing through a magazine waiting for my turn and what do I find?  Another advertisement for this fun car.
Lest anyone forget where I get my hair cut... and Mary Lee promised me a discount if I featured the shop name again!
After yet another superb haircut, I began the jog to my studio, where the Gordon Wagner portrait was calling my name.  On the way, I couldn't resist taking a couple of photos of the flowering trees in Couch Park.
I continued down to the Pearl District and stopped when jogging by a lunch joint called, "Hawaiian Time", located on NW 14th and Glisan.  I had scanned their menu a few months ago and noticed that they don't serve the famous "Loco-Moco" or any SPAM dishes.  Today, I decided it was time to go inside and find out what was going on.  The young man running the place told me it was true--they don't offer those items.  I expressed my surprise and even a little disappointment.  Seems the owners are okay with the items offered and have made the decision to limit the menu.  I might have interrupted my jog for a Loco-Moco, but now the only thing left to do was take a picture of the wall mural.
Deeper into the Pearl District, I came across another famous island-themed place, the world-renowned, "Trader Vic's".  The last thing I needed now was a Mai-Tai, said to have originated at Victor Bergron's original tiki bar in Oakland, California, in 1944.  I limited myself to a photo of one of two giant Tiki Gods guarding the entrance.                                                                                                                                                                             My last stop in the Pearl District was an antique shop and art gallery called, "The Cultured Pearl".  They had a lot of 18th and 19th century paintings and allowed me to snap some photos of my favorites.

 Believe it or not, I finally made it to the studio and actually worked on the Gordon Wagner portrait.  It keeps changing and has become something of a test canvas, with no limits on what may happen next. This may be one of those paintings which eventually drives me crazy and I just trash it.

As always, I hope you had an interesting day.  

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Finally! A Spring Day!

Today, the sun was shining and the temperature soared above the sixty-degree mark.  Time for a long jog, camera in hand, to see what might turn up.  I initially headed down to the waterfront and turned south along the river toward the new construction you've seen a lot of in the recent months.  It's been a little more than a week since I last ran down there and it was time for an update.

Today, you can see the progress on the switchback for bicyclists and pedestrians coming off the new bridge over Interstate-5.  The large upright thing to the right in the photo is the stanchion for the aerial tram.
The Portland Street Car heads north through the South Waterfront condo towers.
Mount St. Helens, The Ross Island Bridge and the Willamette River.  Most of the city population seemed to be out enjoying the beautiful Spring day. 
Some green leaves or flowers that look a lot like leaves brighten the South Waterfront.
Shrubs showing off their final winter color.  Saying it looked like copper would be a stretch, but it was quite striking in the sunshine.  Maybe "rust-colored" would be more truthful.
A view of Atwater Place, one of the nicest condo buildings in the South Waterfront.  A young couple we know is considering a unit here for their first home following an April wedding.

One of the seemingly endless variety of food carts in the city.  The pod these carts are located in is on SW 4th-Avenue, near Portland State University.
The proprietress of this cart was smiling but a little shy.  I've cropped this image so you can see here better.
What's for lunch?  Click on this image for an easier-to-see, mouthwatering blow-up.
Great food here, too!
A most imaginative and arresting wall mural.  How appropriate for a college campus!
A close-up so you can see just how real these paintings look.
The wall just behind the street sign and sidewalk.  Simply amazing!
The M.A.X. light rail line runs up 5th-Avenue to the campus, then turns around and heads back downtown on SW 6th Avenue.  Quiet and efficient, it's a joy to have the opportunity to take advantage of this service.

The next leg of my journey took me to the Portland State University campus, located only a couple of blocks west of our building.  I couldn't resist taking some shots of some of the many food carts located near campus.  My final photos were of one of the most amazing outdoor murals I have ever seen.  It covers the east wall along southwest 5th-Avenue, but what it is used for escapes me.  The incredibly realistic stacks of books are colorful and highly distracting.  It's nearly impossible to avoid craning your neck to read the titles.  I ended up at the grocery store and purchased things we needed and a few things we didn't.  It was just that kind of day.  A feel-good day, a buy a few donuts day!  I sure hope your day was a great one, too!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Maestro.

Since mentioning the Maestro,  some nice folks have inquired about him.  The Maestro is Mr. William Matheny.  He lives in east Tennessee, Lenoir City, to be precise.  I met him through a realtor we had in common and after seeing his wonderful paintings lining the walls of his home, asked if he ever accepted students.  Though he said he didn't, I must've done or said something during our initial meeting which caused him to change his mind.

Mr. William Matheny, 2009, oil on canvas, 12 x 9-inches, painted from a photograph.

So began both a friendship and an artistic relationship which carries on to this day.  He did his very best to help me along the way and I will be forever in the debt of this kind and gentle, exceptionally talented man.  Anything decent I've ever done is to his credit.  The many failures and stumbles along this path are mine alone and are always the direct result of not remembering, listening or truly hearing his lessons well enough.  I salute you, Maestro!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Soggy, But I Made It.

Our relentless rain continued today, but I made it to the studio--wet--but I made it.  Despite my best efforts to paint differently today, it seems old habits die hard.  The Gordon Wagner portrait was dry and ready for action, but I exercised sound judgement today and rather than the usual mindless attack, I studied it for about an hour. 

As usual, the colors and values in place when last I saw it, were gaudy and quite horrible today.  That's what prompted the time out.  The Maestro, Mr. William Matheny, repeatedly tried to teach me to place a brushstroke, take a look to see if the value and color were correct, then re-load the brush and repeat.  He was quite accomplished at this and his work always showed the truth in what he taught.  Unfortunately, I've come to the conclusion, as many of you must have, too, that one's personality plays a significant role in how one paints.  I say unfortunately, because my own quirk is a lack of patience, coupled with an unbridled exuberance for putting paint on canvas.  The Maestro always told me the work would actually go quicker because of less mistakes and corrections.  He was right then and he's still right about it today.  It just seems to be something I cannot make myself do.  I tried to do it his way today, really I did.  It began well and I was very impressed with the result during the first hour or so.  Little by little, however, the old way crept up on me and grabbed me by the throat.  The old way took the form of an ogre so horrible and intimidating I had no choice but to obey.  The slap-dash, frenetic energy surged through my head and into my arm, then my hand and the brush.  I was beaten, but it was OH, SO GOOD.  

And that, my friends, is why I do not have an image of the Gordon Wagner portrait for you tonight.  On the other hand, I would like to show you an image of the self-portrait I've been working on lately.  I did a bit of work on it today prior to leaving for the studio and was quite pleased with the result.  The area I worked on is the right side of the face, specifically, the reflected light on it.  The color choice, based on what I saw in the mirror, was blue-violet, or maybe a lavender.  The camera and computer both seemed to capture it well, so I cropped the image for your consideration.    

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Another Day at Home.

I'm blaming it on the chilly rains, but it might be obsession--and I don't mean the cologne!  The self-portrait occupied my entire day, once again.  Maybe it's just dogged determination to get this darn thing right, whatever that means.  I guess somewhere in my mind an idea of what it's supposed to look like is driving the effort.  Meanwhile,  the Gordon Wagner portrait is drying in my "real" studio.  I haven't touched it since Saturday, and during  that session I rather drastically messed with the values and colors.  Though I'm eager to get back to the studio, it's so much better to stay dry and warm, painting and listening to Hawaiian music.  I'm trying to pretend this isn't a repeat of last year--a year with almost no Spring!
 I have a feeling I'll be at work on this again tomorrow, that is, if the weather forecast is for more chilly rain.  The computer always seems to make apparent an endless supply of corrections to address.  It must be the computer.  I can't believe I'm responsible for them!  Funny how "okay" it looks in person!  There are several features of my face, that may appear to be drawing errors, but aren't.  My ears really are different shapes, the old-age wrinkle on the left side of my face just outside the mustache/goatee area does curve out further than the one on the right side and always creates the lopsided shadow you see depicted.  Finally, it must be impossible for me to stand perfectly vertical while I'm painting/modeling.  That's where the subtle slant of the neck comes from.  It's tough to hold a brush and not tense certain muscles, no matter how hard one tries to maintain a pose.  I'd like to sum up these anomalies by quoting Lucian Freud, "I don't want them to be sensational (his paintings)...but I want them to reveal some of the results of my concentration."

Monday, March 19, 2012

Color Adjustments

As our weather continues to act winter-ish, I've adjusted my routine and have been painting from home today.  I did make it to the studio on St. Patrick's Day, which wasn't too bad, though revelers were forced to bundle-up a bit for the chilly temperature.  Sunday, about 32,000 runners, walkers and hangers-on participating in the Shamrock Run were forced to endure near-freezing temperatures, snow flurries, rain and wind.  It wasn't exactly what the Portland Chamber of Commerce planned on, especially with so many visitors in town for a few "March Madness" NCAA men's basketball tournament games, a usual variety of concerts, the Broadway touring company production of the musical, "Wicked" and lest we forget, St. Patrick's Day. 

From watching the local news, most folks didn't let the un-Spring-like weather bother their determination to have fun.  For us, however, it has strengthened our commitment to heading west, with now only a year to go!  Warmth and sunshine seem dream-like now. 

Staying home today, I worked on the old self-portrait again.  Even though my easel is set-up next to a north-facing window, the clouds coming and going can really make chasing the light a problem.  Yesterday, by the end of the session, I'd gone too dark, simply because that's what I saw in the mirror and failed to realize what was happening.  I was just happily working away, oblivious to the light changes.  Anyway, today I did my best to keep it in mind and here's an image for your amusement.  I hope most of you continued to enjoy the record-breaking warmth (which much of the country is enjoying) while we suffer.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Today, March 14, 2012.

A week or two ago, someone asked me if there was a website where they might see the entries for the  Royal Society of Portrait Painters Open Exhibition 2012.  I don't believe they publish a catalog just for entries, but they do publish one of those who made it into the show.  You can, however, see former winners on-line.  Click on the link below and take a look.

Looking at the "competition", I believe the Charles Daniels portrait might've done okay had I sent it.  And for those skeptics and doubters who may believe I made all of this up, here's an image of the form the Royal Society of Portrait Artists sent me vial email, with the painting registration numbers.
 I printed this out from the email the Royal Society of Portrait sent me after my work was "pre-selected".  It'll go in the "memories" file.
Mr. Gordon Wagner, today, March 14, 2012.  I added some "simulated" sky color to see what that might look like.  I dunno...

So, I braved the wind and endless rain today to work on the Gordon Wagner portrait.  Most of the session was devoted to mixing some different colors using flake white.  Many, if not all, established portrait artists swear by this white for it's warmth and beautiful mixing qualities.  I've always had it around since the early days, but don't always use it for no particular reason.  Today was great fun because I did.  I really wish you could see the portrait in person.  It's really getting there.  Most of you likely know that Flake, or Lead White is hazardous and I admit to "finger painting" quite a bit today.  I was scrupulous in washing my hands to minimize the damage.  To end this post, may I just urge you all to be careful out there.  

Monday, March 12, 2012

An Old Self-Portrait Revisited.

The weather today was just bad enough to keep me home.  The wind is howling, so between that and the rain, it was an easy choice.  On such days I usually work on older, marginally salvageable paintings and so it was today.  A self-portrait from life via a mirror, started when I was trying my hand at working the old-fashioned way!
Here it is in black and white for those of you who might want to study the values.
 And here's a pretty-fair representation of the colors chosen today.
And finally, since Blogger doesn't let us blow-up images any longer, here's one.  I was using an old brush today and with a rough canvas, most of the bristles ended-up as part of the painting.  I'll probably keep working on this when the weather keeps me in.  I'm sure you'll see plenty of areas which could use corrections.

Actually, despite the wind and rain, I still had a dose of sunshine today.  While working on the painting, I was entertained and my spirits lifted by the Hawaiian music streaming at  If you need a little sunshine to accompany your work today, or anytime, I heartily recommend this station.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Back To Work--The Gordon Wagner Portrait.

Today was something like normal.  Saturdays are always a little foggy following the Old Guys Gab Fest Friday afternoons, but I still managed to make it to the studio before noon.  It was probably just my imagination, but the Charles Daniels portrait seemed to be looking a little sad today.  Maybe it was  disappointment at being promised a trip to London.  Tough to know for sure, but I have a feeling he'll get over it.

So, it was back to the Gordon Wagner portrait.  Gordon was telling me he hopes I can create a good sense of depth, essentially telling me to make it a trompe 'l'oeil painting.  I'll give it my best effort, but such a request may exceed my limited ability.  Anyway, I spent the afternoon playing the value balance game, but I don't think there's a winner...yet.  Pushing the darks much darker than what I see in the photo reference seems to be the only way to even come close.  I am determined to please this gentleman!  Lots of work ahead, including getting rid of those orange-yellow skin tones on his neck.  Who could've put those there?  Have a nice Sunday everybody!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Charles Daniels Is Staying Home.

Today, several emails arrived answering my inquiries concerning the cost of sending the Charles Daniels portrait to London for the final jury examination prior to entry into the Royal Portrait Society's Open Exhibition 2012.  Based on the high cost of shipping the portrait, Customs issues, VAT, pick-up, unpacking and delivery charges, coupled with no guarantee of passing the next jury examination, I've decided to keep the painting home.

It's certainly a disappointment, but I'm falling back upon the original reason I submitted my work in the first place.  It was to see if I could even make the first cut and be satisfied if I did.  From the several international painting shipments done last year, I had a pretty good idea of what it might cost to send a large painting that far and in-advance decided this time it would probably be unaffordable.  Once the additional costs became clear, along with the ever-present possibility of Customs issues, it was an easy choice to stop the process. 

Oh, well, back to the salt mine.  Hope you had a great day.  The sun is shining brightly and I should have a good run to the studio.

Gordon, Aerial Tram, Royal Society of Portrait Painters Update.

Here's the latest effort in the on-going saga of the Gordon Wagner portrait.  Not too much to say other than I feel like I'm "getting there"...little by little.  I have missed a few days work on it of late, due to the weather--both good and bad--and preoccupation with trying to figure out how to get Charles portrait to London in time for the deadline.
Gordon Wagner, oil on canvas, 30 x 24 inches, work-in-progress.

The problem is, the folks who receive the paintings want them out of their boxes, cartons or other transport packaging.  I'm trying to find someone there, either a company or individual, who would be willing to do this chore on my behalf.  The Society recommends a few firms who will do this, but I've yet to hear back from an email inquiry I sent a day ago.  A friend in the building has done his best to contact a friend in London on my behalf, but she hasn't responded yet either.

Bottom line is, this may just be too hard and too expensive to get done by the deadline.  I even toyed with the idea of taking it there myself, but that would be fraught with potential problems, too.  If I didn't get a seat on one, or more, of the three flights required to get to London, the painting could be trapped in Customs or unclaimed cargo and by the time I get there it could be too late.  Not to mention the cost of hotel rooms in London, cab fare and meals!  So, if something doesn't break free in a day or two, I shall be satisfied with making the first cut and Charles portrait will remain here.  It will be a disappointment, but I can live with that, as well as, the nearly thousand dollars saved!  

On a lighter note, my jog today took me back to the familiar route along the Willamette River to the South Waterfront.  The aerial tram was coming in for a "landing" at just the optimal time to snap a photo as it was overhead.  I also took a picture of a sign in front of the new Oregon Health and Sciences University building under construction, showing what the it will look like and telling what it will be used for.  Hope you all had a good day! 
The aerial tram overhead the new pedestrian/bike bridge terminus--and me.
Almost directly overhead, a passenger looks down at me--this is a "first".
The tram is just about to "land".  The orange pedestrian "hand" is not for the tram.  But you knew that.
A sign showing an artist's rendering of the new OHSU building under construction on my jogging route to South Waterfront.
This tells what the new building will be used for.  It's part OHSU's long-range plan to become a major player in the Pacific Northwest in health care research and training.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

A Beautiful Spring Day.

The weather forecast today called for a temperature of possibly sixty degrees (16 C) and sunshine, so there was no choice but to go for a long jog to enjoy it.  I was really eager to follow a different route in order to see the maximum number of flowering trees and whatever else is blooming this early, so I turned west upon exiting our building with the goal of reaching Washington Park and the International Rose Test Garden.
This beauty greeted me while still downtown.  What a glorious sight to see on such a great day.
This was taken from the entrance to Washington Park and yes, that's Mount Hood with some clouds obscuring the top.
I've taken several photos of this statue of Sacagawea pointing to the west.  It's a favorite of mine among many in Washington Park.
Not far from the statue, looking down hill we see the "singing fountain" to the left.  When it's running, the splashing water on the metal tiers makes the most delicate and beautiful sound.  The vibrant green of the lawn was particularly striking today.
Early-bloomer, perhaps an azalea or rhododendron.  I didn't get close enough to tell.
Lots of delicate crocus were putting on a show today.  This deep purple variety was spectacular.  I came across it and many others while traversing the NW "Alphabet" District on my way to the Pearl District.
A true harbinger of Spring.  Sorry it's fuzzy, but I was reaching and it was tough to remain steady.
And how could it be (nearly) Spring without daffodils?

The all-uphill run was a bit more challenging because my normal routes are generally flat.  Luckily, there was always something photo-worthy just when I needed a few seconds to catch my breath.  Besides, aren't we supposed to stop and smell the roses?  Roses in bloom were conspicuously absent today, (as they should be) but I was treated to several flowering trees, rhododendron bushes, crocus, daffodils and even dandelions and that, along with the sunshine, made it all worthwhile. 
On the edge of the Pearl District, I came across this espresso bar, run by "Heart Coffee", located in--and out--of a bicycle shop!  Unfortunately, only the bike shop was open today.  Too bad!

Tomorrow I'll get busy figuring out how to get the portrait to London and probably do some work on Gordon's portrait, but today was just too nice to stay indoors.  I hope it was nice where you live and that you had an opportunity to enjoy it.