This is a scene I've wanted to paint for quite a while, but it didn't seem right without snow on the ground here. My friend, Bill Church snapped and named the original photo. Although I tweeked the scene a bit, I kept the name he gave it - very apropos! As with so many country scenes on the Palouse, there is a story behind each element in this composition. I love old cars and these two vehicles have more to say now than they did the day they were bought. Merry Christmas!
Once again I pulled from Grandpa's photos and tried my hand at capturing a moment from the distant past. This was from a very small image, about 2X3 inches, so I had to use a magnifying glass to see the details. Nevertheless, I am trying to not be too tight and go more for speed and wetter painting, particularly in sky and water. Also, especially with these B/W photos, I am limiting my palette to three or four colors. This automatically helps to tie the sky and water together, but I also wanted the boat to be part of the sea, vs a canvas sail color. Anyway, there you go...(I stole the title from a song by Bob Seger!)
From another photo Bill Church took - I wanted to play with the light and the colors, as well as the various textures of these great old buildings that are so much a part of our landscape here. It's hard to do them justice in their height and strength. They constantly remind of us of our past and all that we depend on from God's blessings of this land. And, they're just fun to paint!
Even though it's not winter yet, I wanted to try my hand at a photo Bill Church took of a view we get to see in many winters. I particularly liked the unusual light of the sunset; the sun is back there, but only its glory is seen. The variety of blues vs the reds and yellows of a summer sunset were also what I wanted to emphasize. This was done on watercolor board. Thanks Bill!
This was quite a stretch, to be honest. The original sepia-toned photograph is about 2X3 inches, so I blew it up on the copier to get a better image. Once again, it's from the collection of Grandpa's photos. I don't know if he did a painting of it, but if he did I'd love to know the colors he chose to use. I thought I'd keep them rather simple, but it had to have red stacks! Notice the side wheel. Just can't get enough of ships and water right now, I guess!
Even non-Christian artists admit that they are trying to “say something” with their art. Often viewers may have a hard time knowing what’s being “said” without an owner’s manual. Other times it’s pretty obvious what’s being said and we may be attracted or repelled by the message. But if we make any kind of visual art, we are anticipating someone else could and should see it and derive some sort of statement from it.
Why are men compelled to do this? In Genesis, God gave not only a command but the authority and creativity to Adam to name all the animals. In a very real sense, Adam was the first human artist. He was imitating his Creator by naming elements of the Creation. What Adam named each animal is still what defines that creature and its nature down to our time. Horses were not called lizards by men of William Wallace’s day, nor are turtles called elephants in China. Adam’s naming has lasted through generations and across cultures. And, even in spite of the Fall, men are still compelled to name, and thereby express dominion over, Creation. The most pagan, God-hating artist still responds to and seeks to say something about Creation. What he says may be a lie or “said” poorly, but he can’t avoid his Adamic nature and urge to express some kind of authority. Great artists have always, knowingly or not, made creative expressions about the Creation (this includes depictions of man’s creations - cities, technology, etc.).
Christian artists should, in their poor attempt to imitate their Creator, seek to say something true, good, and beautiful about Creation. This does not mean every painting should seek to be photo-realistic. A camera, especially in the hands of a skilled photographer, produces a certain statement about what it pictures. A painter says and uses quite different means and purposes. For instance, I love to use watercolor paints. In my painting, I am trying, by manipulating the paint’s particular characteristics, to emphasize certain colors, lighting, or textures in the subject. I am hoping to help the viewer see and, yes, even feel, what I saw and felt from the subject. I am trying to “say”, “Do you see the way our Creator made even the ruddy color and texture of rust on a sunlit metal roof proclaim His glory?”
A word about originality: Artists can get a little foamy at the mouth if their work is compared (as in, ‘it’s not original’) to another artist’s work. Saying something “no one else has said” is pretty much a sacrament in the art world. In my opinion, these folks generally need to breathe deeply through a paper bag and get over themselves. True, a copy of someone else’s work usually falls flat and is best done for learning purposes. But this “uniqueness” anxiety is sort of like the population boom myth: contrary to popular opinion, there is still plenty of Creation to go around! Everything that can be said has hardly been said - much remains to be proclaimed about and to the glory of God.
What Makes Great Art Great?
I readily admit I may be going out on the skinny branches here, but if you are game, so am I. Having viewed a fair number of historical and contemporary art pieces, as well as seeking to do something worthwhile myself, I have tried to figure out what is so appealing about “timeless” art? And why, by contrast, do motel “art” prints often trigger the gag reflex?
The Preacher said that God put eternity in our hearts. All of our hearts, Christian or not. St. Paul said that all Creation groans, awaiting the redemption of the sons of men. David the Psalmist said that even the heavens declare the glory of God and their (the skies and stars) voice is heard universally. Stay with me here. A day is coming when ALL of Creation will be redeemed and resurrected to become a “new heavens and a new earth.” Like men, all Creation has an eternal destiny.
Let’s go a bit further: If all of Creation will be resurrected to a glorious state and even pagans have a sense of the eternal, could it be that, somehow, we ALL recognize the eternal nature of Nature? What if great artists (Christian or not) were able to paint an image, albeit flawed (so maybe just a glimpse), of a resurrected Creation? Whatwould an eternal mountain range look like? Or a sun-dappled eternal tree? Could there be something of the eternal captured by Vermeer in the way he caught endless light coming through a window and falling on a ageless young girl pouring never-spoiling milk?
As Christians, wouldn’t and shouldn’t we be attracted to even poor glimpses of what might make up the new heavens and the new earth? Imagine a prisoner kept from the sun for years, what would his reaction be to a shaft of sunlight suddenly coming through a crack in the dungeon wall? Wouldn’t he leap to somehow capture it, feel it? Wouldn’t he cherish it for as long as it lasted?
So, what if great art, that is art that crosses eras and cultures, was a teasing bit of the eternal? I think that might not only explain the timelessness of such art, but why we are drawn to it and seek to emulate it somehow. It also might explain why motel or any other poorly done, cheesy, or ugly “art” repels us (or should). Back to the prisoner for a moment - what if, after seeing the shaft of real sunlight, some lunkhead guard offered him a 60-watt bulb lamp instead? Right. You get the idea.
In seeking to love and pass on the love of great art to our children, I hope we don’t ever settle for less than what speaks of truth, goodness, and beauty, and maybe, just maybe, gives us a little glimpse of the glorious resurrection awaiting all Creation.
During my infrequent booth times at our local Saturday Famers' Market, I find myself with a choice of how to spend my time: people- watching, or doing something productive, perhaps even artisitic. So I brought along my 5 X 7 sketch pad and a variety of pens (.01-.07) and a few old photos from my collection of Grandpa's materials. The above is a result of two such outings. The only problem is that I get into drawing and look up to see people standing in front of me...kind of disconcerting. Anyway, they're easy and fun (the sketches, not the people) and I may paint some of them in the future.
I've been going through the old photos my grandfather took when he lived in Toronto (sent to me by my Uncle Dag). Since they are black and white, it's a bit of a challenge to color them appropriately (and not too much). This picture grabbed my interest since I've never seen old sailboats like this, plus they look very similar, but they're different. I hope this captures a time long ago, that was my intent.
My favorite (if only) daughter-in-law, Naphtali, commissioned me to paint her grandfather's boat, based on an old b/w photo she had. It was a bit of a challenge, not only having to come up with the coloring, but the stupid paper decided to buckle to beat the band! I re-wet the whole thing (a bit dicey when you've already started painting), re-taped it down and, lo and behold, it flattened out again. Thank God for small blessings. Naphtali seems to like it and explained to me that the Ann Young (the white/red boat) was on an English beach, and when the tide goes out, the boats are left 'on the hard' ground. (That gull on the mast was actually there - not one of my tweeks!)
Since we didn't get over to Cannon Beach this summer (bummer!), I had to make another painting of it. This one comes from a photo that is 13 years old. I believe that is my nephew Jordan Anderson feeding the gulls. It was November and the tides were very high. I wanted to get across the low clouds, cooler appearance and the mass of gulls - and of course, the beloved Rock!
Don’t miss this great opportunity to have coffee with and meet Tom Garfield the cover artist from Artwalk 2010, August 18th at 8:30am in City Hall. Tom will talk about his interest in painting, how long he’s been painting, his painting process, and so much more!
While there, take time to enjoy the Idaho Watercolor Society exhibit now showing at the Third Street Gallery on the 2nd and 3rdfloors of City Hall.
We've passed this Flour Mill countless times on the 'back' way to Spokane, cruising slowly through Oaksdale. I finally stopped and took a picture since Julie has commented on its unique aspect each time we go by. I tried to convey its texture and varied colors of weathered wood siding.
My business manager, Kathryn, encouraged me to inventory all my paintings. In so doing, I came across this acrylic from, oh, about 30 odd years ago. I was in art at the Univ. of Idaho and was told to make a still-life. This one's a bit painful to recall, since I broke the pewter candle holder not long after painting this - I comforted Julie by letting her keep the painting of it.
Among the photos and prints of my grandfather's that Uncle Dag sent me was a small print of this scene. Grandpa had obviously copied it at one time, too, since it had some watercolor paint splatters on it. So, I tried my hand at it. (I've never seen Grandpa's version, but I hope I came close!)
Julie and I were returning from my nephew's wedding and driving through the Columbia Gorge when I spotted (as we often do) a tug with a barge going downriver. The day was windy (normal) and very sunny (not so normal). I love these tugs and the landscape, so I pulled over and took the shot. (The barge had a large 'happy face' sign that I left out - hope you agree!)
This work was a bit of a departure in some ways. First, the image is based on a photo that my Grandpa Garfield took (which was included in a pack of material Grandpa owned and was recently sent to me by my Uncle Dag). So it's from Toronto, not the Palouse! Next, it was black and white so I had to insert colors I thought would work. (I did a couple studies first.) Then, I painted it using a watercolor board (vs just paper) that my daughter Carolyn gave me. To be honest, I'm not crazy about the result - I think I like paper better, but I will try another board just to be fair.
So here is the last of the four alleys-this one's looking south, out onto 5th street. I was drawn to the tile in the sunlight and shade on the left hand building. Also, how about the major poles and cross-bars used for utilities? Even in the age of wireless internet! Hope you enjoyed looking at the 'back stage' of Moscow.
Not long ago I went downtown Moscow on a lovely spring evening. The light was great and I wanted to take some shots of Moscow's back streets and alleys. I've started a series of four alley paintings. The top one is behind NSA and the Chamber of Commerce. The middle one (which I did a while back) is between 3rd and 5th streets, and the bottom one is behind Bucer's. I'm working on one more... Why alleys, one might ask? I like the rich variety of colors, textures and shapes - really. Plus they say a lot about a town.
As promised, here's how the finished works look, in their old white frames, hanging in our kitchen. I'm pleased that Julie's pleased that we found a way to use those frames from her mom's collection of older items.