Thursday, July 31, 2008

Morning Reflections

Yesterday I spent my early morning painting time location scouting and found a couple of spots that looked promising. I returned to my favorite one this morning at the head end of Wallowa Lake. I awoke a little late and had to scramble a bit and didn't spend as much time finessing the drawing as I would like, but I think the study works for color and light reference. I would love to work this one up larger at some point, I think it is my new favorite.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Lake Head

I hiked back up the east moraine of the lake again this morning, this time sticking to the logging road. The angle is similar to the last one but I wanted to try to get a bit of the lake in it this time. 

Monday, July 28, 2008


We have two female yellow Labrador Retrievers, a 10 year old smart one (Tyler) and a 8 month old puppy who is not so smart, but is super cute (Bella). I made the mistake of leaving Bella unattended for a little over an hour yesterday evening. I returned home to a disaster. The family room was ultramarine blue, the dining room was phthalo blue, the living room was a mixture of kings blue, a touch of sap green, and a bit of dark earth brown. There were a couple of completely missing tubes. The puppy was covered in blue paint and still had a tube in her mouth. She had gotten into my painting backpack and was having a grand time turning the house into an abstract painting. Fortunately the vet was home and would take her (gotta love country vets). On the way to the vet she vomited an impressive amount of blue and metal bits. The vet made her throw up some more and then we had to force feed her a bottle of activated charcoal to help flush out the rest through the other end. Most of that came up on the way home, hopefully enough stayed in her system to do its job. It binds other organic matter to it to help it pass through to keep stuff from ending up in her liver. Poor puppy she was feeling pretty miserable by this point. The carpet was going to get ripped up soon anyway, so that isn't a big deal thankfully. In fact the tile that goes in the house is sitting and waiting to be installed. So no painting to post today because my dog ate my paint, sounds like a lame excuse for missing a school assignment doesn't it? Ugly Dog Brush Soap works great on puppy fur, in case you ever need to know this information! She slept through the night, ate her breakfast, and seems like a normal blue puppy this morning. She is acquiring a collection of nicknames, the last one was Cinderbella after a firepit incident. 

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Above The Lake

I tried to hike up the east moraine of Wallowa Lake this morning. I made the mistake of leaving the logging road to hike up what looked like a nice foot trail. It became more of a deer trail and then dissipated into no trail at all. There were plenty of whitetail out and they all seemed to be having a much easier time with the terrain than I was; as you can see, it is quite steep. I stopped when I reached a precipice and set up to paint this view in the canyon above the lake. Next time I'll stick to the logging road and see where I end up. I got a good workout though in preparation of my Eastern Sierra Lake Ediza trip in August. 

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Not Quite To Imnaha

I drove out toward the Imnaha River Canyon down a single lane potholed gravel road on the prairie. I didn't get as far as I had hoped before I hit a gate. My map didn't cover the area so I didn't know if it was okay to proceed, so I stopped and painted where I was. This is where the Zumwalt prairie starts transitioning into the canyon. I am now itching to paint the canyon more than ever, if only I could figure out how to get a view of it. Need a better map. On the way, I had the treat of seeing a herd of elk up close. I should have known that the shape and features of this hill are too weird to paint. I only like the left third or bottom third of the study.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Between Storms

We had thunderstorms with heavy rain today, a good day for making jams and cobblers, this time blueberry, raspberry and Marionberry. The weather was absolutely gorgeous, moody and dramatic, but a little too wet for painting. However around 6pm, it cleared enough so I headed out. There wasn't much time to choose a location or be fussy about composition; it was definitely one of those hurry-up-and-paint-before-the-sun-sets situations. It was very fun. I am heading back to Washington for a few days; with luck I'll paint more basalt and sagebrush while there. 

Monday, July 21, 2008

Random Stuff

I haven't had much luck lately getting out to paint. Yesterday morning was overcast so I decided to paint in the afternoon, but instead spent it in the ER where my husband was getting stitches for a bicycle sprocket gashing and subsequent fall, not a good day for him. This morning it was both very smokey and very overcast and it doesn't seem to be clearing. I ventured out to scout on the prairie a little bit anyway and have a vague idea where I might try next, near the Imnaha River Canyon which runs near the Snake River Hells Canyon. It is a bit of a drive, an hour of washboard gravel roads, which is why I haven't painted out that way yet. This morning I came unnervingly close to hitting a coyote with my car, it somehow miraculously was unscathed. I stopped in a few places to take some photos and in one spot a large prairie dog ran up to within a couple feet of me to check me out. He seemed totally unafraid of me, like a squirrel in a park, but out here he couldn't be looking for a treat. It is possible he had never seen a human before up close. There is a rare home out on the prairie (ok in 40 miles this morning I saw one), but a person needs to be willing to live completely off the grid. Apparently in eastern Oregon the population was larger 100 years ago than it is today. There are a large number of abandoned old homesteads sprinkled around; it must have been a pretty hard-scrabble existence especially in the long winters. It might be why the Roosevelt Elk are so revered in this area; the bull elk hunting season seems to be the highlight of the year; a large bull would feed a family all winter. This was Nez Perce country, but the Shawnee name for elk, wapati, seems to be in heavy use locally. Hunters come from all over the US (and even the world) for elk season; it is definitely something to think about when hiking around here in the fall, you are probably the only person in the woods without a rifle or bow. The weather forecast for the next few days is not good, I might try something moody or I may get skunked.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Porker Ground Squirrels

This morning I drove back up Elk Mountain Road, this time looking down towards the valley. The foreground is the rolling hills of the edge of the prairie, the background is the Wallowa Mountain Range with the setting moon. It is difficult to relate the absoluteness of the quiet in a location like this, most people never get to hear this kind of noiselessness, no human noise, no wind noise, not even the sound of insects, the silence only broken by the occasional screech of a red-tailed hawk. The ground squirrels must be a tasty treat for these hawks because they are positively obese right now. They look so silly with their chubby bodies as they run across the road, tummies barely clearing the ground. I got my own treat this morning; my husband rode his dirt bike out with a thermos of hot home-roasted espresso for me. A dirt bike would be a very handy painting ride in these parts. I still need to fix where I have one shadow/light edge meeting up exactly with the other one. 

Friday, July 18, 2008

Elk Mountain Aspen

Yesterday afternoon I wanted to go out and paint the layered cumulus clouds shadowing the Zumwalt Prairie. The prairie is the largest remaining grassland of its type in North America. It is currently still covered in wildflowers which helps it not look quite so bleak. I wasn't paying attention and made a wrong turn, which was fortunate for the cowboys we found stranded by their broken down '83 Chevy pickup pulling a horse trailer. We gave one of them a lift into cell phone range so they could summon help. By the time we returned to their pickup (locally called a "rig"), it was too late to paint, but it ended up being an interesting scouting adventure. We looped back on some remote dirt roads running through vast cattle ranches with no people. In one little turn of Elk Mountain road, there were several beautiful stands of aspen that I returned to this morning. I was visited by many deer and a few rabbits. I'll have to wait a little longer to paint on the prairie, and I wish I could return to paint the aspen this autumn; it is definitely a nice location to paint again. The pristine fresh mountain air alone is worth the trip. I would like to fuss with the shapes more in this study, they are a little clunky, but at least I'm painting a little bit looser. 

Thursday, July 17, 2008

In A Rut

What it the best way to get out of a painting rut? Paint through it? Take a break? Try something different? Paint something familiar? At first I tried the paint through it approach, that didn't work. Then I took a little break, that didn't work either. Here is plan C, paint something familiar. Next I'll try something different. I thought that in this study I'd try using some thicker paint for fun since this isn't a keeper composition.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Brush Gluttony

I have observed that how many brushes I dirty is an indicator of how my painting turns out. The more brushes to wash, the worse the painting; like somehow grabbing a clean brush is going to fix something that has gone awry. Today I used a lot of brushes. Again, I tried to paint a hero tree. I need to give up on them at least for a while, today's effort was even worse than my last attempt. The good thing though is that I spotted a view on the way back that I'm excited to paint tomorrow morning and it does not have any hero trees. :) And the cherry cobbler turned out perfectly, a nice consolation breakfast after a bad painting morning. 

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Prairie Creek Oxbows

I have had my eye on this scene for a long time. The creek does these perfect snake turns, when the water level was higher last week it was cutting across some of the loops. I have wanted to paint this scene in the winter snow and bare trees, especially when the black angus cattle are visiting the creek for a drink. The trouble is that it is on a main highway with no place to park when there are snow plow mounds on the shoulders. I was hoping for a few cattle this morning, but they were not thirsty yet; the scene feels a little naked to me without them because I always picture them there. Maybe I'll take some reference photos at some point so that I can realistically add them. It was 37 degrees this morning and I froze while painting because I was standing in the shade. The traffic wasn't too bad and thankfully nobody honked at me. Why do people do that? I'm not very happy with this study, it is ill-planned, poorly composed, badly drawn, and overworked for starters. I'll just have to try it again in the snow since that is what I really wanted anyway. Maybe I need to take a little break from painting and do a reset.
          Not sure yet if I will try to paint this afternoon. My agenda for the day is to make sour cherry cobbler. Sour cherries are a NW specialty and are tied with huckleberries for my all time favorite fruit. My mom's sour cherry pies were my childhood favorite. I bought some fresh cherries at the farmer's market yesterday, I wish I had brought my pitter with me on vacation. Who would think to pack that?

Friday, July 11, 2008

Boulders For Bill

One of Bill Cone's favorite subjects to paint is boulders. One of his titled "Bystanders" was even chosen "People's Choice Award" at the 2008 Napa Valley Art Festival. It was a beauty. He is always trying to get me to paint rocks and I always try to wiggle out of it. But when I saw these I had to try to paint them, a little art valentine for Bill to thank him for wanting to work with me again. Of course it is tough to live up to Bill's rock poetry. Junipers are naturally painterly trees because they are an elegant mess. One of the best things I could do to loosen myself up a bit would be to paint lots of junipers. The wind yesterday afternoon created super clean skies this morning, that phthalo turquoise-blue that I only ever see in NE Oregon. The remaining snow on the peaks is dazzling in the ultra clear air.
           The afternoon was very nice and I went out to paint again, however I did not choose well and it ended up being a disaster, trying to take in too much as usual. There are bright pink tiny-flowered fragrant wild roses frequently in the road ditches. When I first set up I thought, "cool, I have wild roses to smell while I paint". Of course then the wind veered and the lovely perfume was replaced by the smell of something decidedly dead. The aroma shift seemed to echo my painting experience. :) And then there were also the ants crawling up my legs and the Scotch thistle poking me that I can't really use as excuses for painting badly. At any rate, here it is:

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Morning Brain Fog

Some days it is really difficult to get up before 5am. This morning was one of them. Even with my dogs poking me to get up (my furry alarm clocks), I still struggled. I was in a fog trying to get out the door and kept thinking I was forgetting stuff, go back inside and look around, only to realize that what I was looking for was already in my pocket/car/painting kit. I must have done this at least six times. I never did find my watch however, I think I must have lost it yesterday somewhere. By the time I stopped to paint, about an hour later than usual, the light was past where I wanted it to be, so figuring I had nothing to lose, I intentionally tried to paint something that I knew I would struggle with and probably fail at, but how am I ever going to figure it out unless I keep trying it? It is of a lone multi-branched ponderosa pine with a broken trunk. I think that single trees are extremely difficult to paint because there is nothing to distract you from bad drawing/painting/color/shape/brushwork/etc. The subject doesn't matter anymore because it is all about HOW it is painted. Not sure yet if I'm going to post it, I need to leave it for a bit and look at it with fresh eyes. Last I looked, it was not easy on the eyes. It doesn't look like I'll get an afternoon session in, it is blowing a gale. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Junipers and Herefords

When I got out of my car to set up to paint, there were dozens of cattle near the road. They were skittish and took off bellowing their heads off, warning the calves away. I thought somebody might yell at me for spooking them. They eventually wandered back, all the way up in my face, now bellowing that perhaps they would like me to feed them. 
          I ventured out later to try my hand at some of the delicious afternoon haze that we sometimes get. It was trickier than I expected. My colors looked very different when I got back than I thought I was painting on site (too green overall) so I had to fix them. I had been looking into the sunlight which might have thrown off my color read. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Shade Seeking, Shocking Setup

Yesterday was a bust, I drove to a new area, up the Lostine River canyon. I started out before 5am, not realizing that sun doesn't hit most parts of that canyon until ten o'clock. So it turned into more of a scouting morning than a painting morning. It was too bad because the California wildfire smoke was affecting us this far north with a heavy haze, thus the atmosphere was very painterly. This morning was a bit of a bust too. I returned to the area that had abundant wildflowers thinking I would do another view before they were gone. It kinda got away from me as the raking light changed too quickly and I rushed the composition. Today was a beautiful day and not too windy in the late afternoon (but hot) and I went back out to try to redeem myself. I found an interesting subject of a couple of horses trying to avoid the sun and heat. I need to fix the drawing on the horse legs: Of course, just as I had roughed in the painting, a man drove up with a horse trailer and hauled the horses away. Good thing I took reference photos when I arrived although the horses are in different poses. I like this little study and think it has potential, but I will always remember how badly my feet hurt while painting it. I was standing on a steep ditch bank outside of an electric fence. I tried setting up my tripod on the other side of the fence so I could stand more comfortably, but I kept getting shocked whenever I touched my stuff. So eventually, between the disappearance of my subject and my feet and knees complaining, I thought I'd finish it later.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Cloud Patterns

I have tried to paint something like this several times and I will probably do several more studies until I finally get one that I like, hopefully by the end of the summer I will have one. Meanwhile, it is good practice at not getting frustrated, the colors, light, cloud forms and cast shadows all change so quickly. This is another one where I would like to get deeper into the more abstract patterns, I feel like I take a step closer each time.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Ponderosa and the Last of the Snow

I broke with my usual morning painting schedule to paint in the early evening because the weather was overcast in the morning, the remnants of impressive thunderstorms last night (our "fireworks"), and improved later in the day. This location is about 5000+ feet, just at the base of the steep incline of the peaks and the edge of the forest. The road ends just above this point and the only way in is to hike steep switchbacks, one of the more difficult trails into the Eagle Cap Wilderness. This particular area is interesting because there are some isolated mature Ponderosa pine and a few scraggly junipers in meadows. Only a few feet further and the forest is thick with a wide variety of trees. The snow melt is very rapid right now and the creeks (locally pronounced "cricks") and rivers are at or above flood stage. It won't be long now where there will only be snow at the highest north facing elevations. It will soon be time to hike up to a few of the alpine lakes. If I decide to sometime work this one up bigger, I'll subdue the snow in the background more. I also might paint this scene again on a day where there is more atmosphere; it was crystal clear today after the storms and I didn't want to fake atmosphere, I prefer to record what I see in a study.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Wildflowers & Pines

I ventured a little higher in elevation this morning and spotted this area with abundant wildflowers, red-violet lupine and a yellow daisy-type flower that I don't know the name of, in a pine meadow. The sunlight was very soft, filtered by heavy haze. A pair of whitetail posed in the middle of my view that I resisted the temptation to add since they would probably look too precious. An elk would have been more tempting. This is the first study I've done in a while that I am really looking forward to working up into a real painting. This is one I'd love to get lost in the abstract shapes and two dimensional surface plane of the image. I think that the time I spent with Maria Entis last week is having an influence. She has a new website, check out her work: Another influence from visiting Vancouver, was the art glass work of Robert Held. His studio produces a wide variety of styles, all of which are gorgeous, but here I was thinking about some of his wildflower series that seem to shimmer and glow and are very Klimt-like:

Thursday, July 3, 2008

First Cutting Compositional Fun

The Wallowa Valley is currently a beehive of haymaking activity since it is time for the first hay cutting. This was a fun scene to balance some bolder compositional elements. The sunlight was a softened by haze, but it was another gorgeous morning.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Badgers, Carp and Pheasant

I hiked into a small lake, straightforwardly named Pillar Lake, where I noticed undulating small logs floating in the water and then realized that they were some sort of large (2+ feet) fish feeding on the surface. I'm not sure they were carp, but I remember trying to fish for carp as a kid and never being able to catch one. I also spotted a ring-necked pheasant, which are ubiquitous to this area and also some migratory white pelican that are less common. The really exciting sighting this morning was a large fluffy badger; why is it that badgers always look pissed-off? Needless to say, I gave him a wide berth. There were a few cumulous clouds to grace the sky, and it was 77 degrees by 7am, even hotter than yesterday. One thing that I've noticed already about my painting sabbatical (which I've always known but forgotten) is how much I love being outdoors in wilderness areas. If I didn't love it so much I might concentrate more on creating better paintings: I'm almost too happy to paint well -- a good problem to have. This one is probably the better of the ones I did while in Washington, but I wish I could have spent more time scouting for better views.