Golden Dawn

Sometimes an idea strikes and I have to paint it.  Sometimes the image itself is strong and compelling or the idea behind it is the strength.  My fractals were all about the idea.  I didn’t know where I was going.  But lately I have been obsessed with an image.  Not an idea or a concept, but a real place… a real image.  And the hardest part about painting from the real is trying to do justice to the real.  I really  like abstract and non objective… it is liberating and freeing!  No need to recreate the real… I can paint outside the lines.  I can choose colors I never saw, I can paint by feel and gut and it’s somewhat mindless.  For me that’s true, not sure about other artists.  However, I can’t say I prefer abstract… there is a meditation to painting with your eyes and not your heart.  By that, I mean, I spend a lot of time looking at the image of what I am painting and for the first time EVER… that looking was at a computer screen.  A modern process I had not embraced before this image.

THIS image… oh, it was so brilliantly  beautiful;  I wanted to, no, I had to, capture the moment.  It’s a photo of a sliver of time… just as the sun peeks out over the edge of a mountain in Colorado.  I’m not sure which one…  but the photographer will research that for me.  She’s a bit busy right now, but she did give permission for me to use her photo so I could try to capture where she was on that early morning last month.   My photographer is a young woman by the name of Ashley Lowe (trail name: Iguana) and I met her last spring on the coast of Oregon where she was giving a lecture on her 2011 thru hike of the Pacific Crest Trail.

A “thru hiker” is someone who finishes a long trail.  In our country, we have 3 major trails that run North to South, two of which go border to border from Canada to Mexico.  The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) and the Appalachian Trail (ACT).  I’ve done a few bits of the PCT and ACT and am awed by the drive and determination it takes to actually finish one of these endeavors.  I loved hearing Ashley’s tale of the trail and she had a wonderful video of the hike as well.  You can watch it yourself here:

She graciously allowed us all to friend her on Facebook and watch as she tackles her next big thru hike, the CDT.  Remember the part where I said she was busy right now?  She is actually getting close to the end right now as I write this post. I’ve been amazed at how she is able to upload photos and keep in touch as she hikes thousands of miles through such rugged and remote trails.  It’s been inspiring and has refueled my own interest in returning to backpacking (another story all together).  But last month, she took a photo from high in the Colorado Rocky Mountains that rocked me.  I had to paint it.  I won’t post the photo… it’s not fair to compare the two, but I will say that the colors in her photo were more subtle that what I chose.  Artist’s license and all that.

Ashley was kind enough (and even a little excited) to grant me permission to use her brilliant photo.  I sketched it out, posted a photo of the outline and got to work.  Which is why my blog has been a bit quiet lately.  One of her followers made a comment about my “paint by numbers” sketch, but really, that just says how old the guy is.  Do they even make paint by numbers anymore?

Sketch for G.D.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time on this painting because I am using a glazing technique (sometimes called “Old Masters”) that requires layers of thin washes.  Fortunately modern oil painters have fast drying mediums to mix into their paint, so I don’t have to wait months, but still, it is a time consuming process.  And because it is, I have decided to post a picture of Golden Dawn in progress.  I am getting close to the end, I want to add some shadows and layer in some depth, but for the most part it’s time to share.  When I get an exact location from Ashley (other than it was near the Twin Lakes) and I get all the final layers in place I will repost.  But for now… enjoy my latest obsession.

Golden Dawn Oil on Canvas 20" x 16"

Golden Dawn in progress
Oil on Canvas
20″ x 16″


Aerial Home

A Change In Perspective

Ever since moving to this property I have been obsessed with the idea of an aerial image of the place.  I managed to wrangle a small plane ride over our place early on in our history, and though I took snapshots, they were grainy and awful.  It didn’t matter, I was only going to use the photo to create a map of the land.  The snap shots sat on my drawing table for years… mostly gathering dust, never culminating in any sort of accurate representation of what we had been doing.  Maybe what I had been obsessed with was documenting our progress as we took 10 undeveloped acres and built a shed, a house, a barn, a studio.  Once the record had been made, I relaxed.

Years later, a professional aerial photographer took a nice shot and we bought it, hanging it in a spot of honor in our home.  This fired up the old desire to somehow draw the land myself.  Especially now that I had completed my civil technician program which included mapping software and surveying coursework.  For awhile I thought I should use my newly acquired skills to render a plat map of the place.  But I couldn’t get fired up about actually measuring and then working on the computer.  Finally, I realized it wasn’t what I wanted anyway.  What I wanted was the exercise in thinking about what I liked about our home and aesthetically recreating the features.  I wasn’t going for letter perfect accuracy… I just wanted to use my own two hands to creatively “map” our property.  For fun, for the hell of it, and most importantly, for me.

Aerial Home

Aerial Home (North orientation)

I Am Here

I love maps.  There is just something about them, something about knowing where you are.  The possibilities of where you can go.  Where you have been.  I’ve been collecting maps and even drawing rough maps of my local hiking and riding trails for years.  When we go on road trips, I’m the navigator.  I like to see where we are heading and plan out the best routes. I’ve even dreamt about maps.

Later in life, I took classes on map making, but they were mostly to learn how to use Geographical Informational software, a very complex program that’s replaced traditional drawn maps.  GIS is an amazing piece of nerdvana map geekdom and while fun to use and play with, doesn’t fill my visceral map making needs.  I’ve been thinking about incorporating maps into my art for some time now.  Planning out how and what to map… what I want to show, what kind of information I am trying to impart.  But painting doesn’t really work the same way map making does.  I generally try not to think or plan too much when I am painting.  Exactly the opposite kind of cerebral activity that happens when one is making a map.

A map is ultimately about visual information used to guide someone other than the map maker.  It has to stand alone and be clear and precise.  A painting doesn’t always have all the answers… it may have more questions than solutions.  The two activities seemed to be at odds with each other.  So I was stuck with not knowing where to begin and what I wanted it to look like.

Finally it occurred to me, to try something.  Anything.  To just have a leap of faith… and see what happens.

Here’s what happened:

I Am Here.  A map of my trails in Alpine, OR

I Am Here. A map of my trails.

I started with the roads and trails.  They aren’t to scale and they aren’t accurate by any means… instead they originate from my home (the large orange circle) and they sometimes follow features and sometimes correspond to actual roads.  I wasn’t trying to make a map for anyone else, this map follows an idea of where I am when I hike or ride.  Then I added where I remember the water ways to be… they aren’t accurate either.  The swirls are back, I used them to show differences in vegetation as well as elevation.  They aren’t specific and static, instead they mean different things in different places.  But they mean something to me.

This is a personal map.  And perhaps that’s where I need to go when I marry my geeky map nerd to my far out painter muse. Just close my eyes and jump!