My Three Sisters

I love the Three Sisters Wilderness.  It’s my home base wilderness.  It’s where I go to reconnect to the divine in a very deep and real and magical way. I’ve been hiking there for the past 32 years, so I call them “my girls”.  They are so beautiful, with their lava flows and cinder strewn meadows of wildflowers, an oasis of magnificence in central Oregon. For those who don’t know, they are named North, Middle and South Sister; AKA Faith, Hope and Charity.  Three characteristics that are well worth some effort.

I like that the girls have AKA’s, because I do too!  I rarely use my birth name and  since I’ve had three different last names in my lifetime, I don’t have a deep connection to the names given to me. I’ve chosen my name and my place in the world.  And I’ve chosen my totem mountains.

Which, by the way, are one of the very few mountains (named by the white man) with a feminine name.  Interestingly enough, they are rarely called by their “proper names” but are instead referred to by their relationship: The Sisters. Why do you think that is?  What does that say about our culture, or, our culture of the past, that a mountain could not have a woman’s name, nor be named after one?  Or if they did, it was best that we reference them by their family associations. Was it, that in the old days, men liked to label things that stuck up and out of the landscape as masculine? By that line of reasoning, then all canyons should be named for women, right?  Well, I’m doubtful as to that kind of reason, but that’s research left for another day.

Through my Facebook group, Women of the PCT, a sister hiker contacted me a year ago to buy the painting of Charity (South Sister) but the email was lost in cyber-space until I unearthed it and replied.  Did she still want the painting?  She did, but alas it was too small.  So, we negotiated a larger version to be commissioned and off I went, happy to oblige! I was thrilled to have an opportunity to paint my darling girls. To paint for a “hiker chick” was a bonus.  This is yet another trail painting in my series, The Wilderness of Women, only this time, it was a personal request and that made it even more special.

I chose several photos and compiled an image that doesn’t exactly exist in reality, to get them in this order, I had to squish them together a little bit.  I’ve used my “artist’s license”. You may not see this exact scene from a spot on the trail, but it exists in my heart.  An appropriate sentiment as that is where “my girls” will live forever. And when I am gone, please spread my ashes here, so I can be a part of them as they are for me.

Now, here we have it, My Three Sisters:

My Three Sisters
Oil on Canvas
2′ x 3′

In the Eye of the Beholder

Though the artist must remain master of (their) craft, the surface, at times raised to the highest pitch of loveliness, should transmit to the beholder the sensation which possessed the artist.

~Alfred Sisley

I’ve pondered these ideas… is the art in the eye of the beholder, or in the artist’s rendering of that thing, that image, that concept?  Is it both or neither? Is it, as Sisley suggests, a vehicle of transmission?  Art being the thing that carries the sensation, the feeling of the artist to the viewer who can then somehow share in what it was that possessed the artist?

Well, lots to think about there.  And many have.  For me, art is a very personal thing… you, and only you, know what you like.  Sometimes you know right away, and sometimes it grows on you, but regardless which way you fall in the spectrum of like or dislike, no one should tell you what to like.  It’s up to you to decide. For me, I gave up a long time ago trying to please my audience, because that’s an impossible task really, and so, I decided to please myself.

The other side of that same coin is, sometimes, in my own personal work, I may not care for a piece.  If I hate it, I will paint over it so I can get some more miles out of a canvas.  (Most artists are into recycling… even the old masters did it, it’s not a new concept.)  Or I will stash it away as a reminder that not everything I do is gold… far from it!  I really should get rid of some of the old crap, but I’m rather nostalgic about the old stuff… even the bad old stuff.  So, I keep it for me, and show it to no one.

BUT, one day, a friend was in my studio and she gushed over an unfinished piece that I happened to think of as bad enough to recycle. There it was, propped up against the wall waiting for a coat of gesso so I could stop looking at it’s horribleness.  I really disliked it.  However, much to my surprise, she loved it!  Something about the colors spoke to her and when I gave it to her she was thrilled.  I made her day with something that meant very little to me, but meant so much to her.

Now, rather than focus on the part about me handing over something I had no attachment to (as if that makes my gesture less than noble and then less than worthy) focus instead on the part about Maria.  She loved it.  She was happy.  She was so pleased to adopt this little wayward canvas and give it a home.

This was the third time this happened to me.  It took this happening three times before the significance of the act held any meaning.  And that was this: for me, even as a creator of art, am not the sole person to judge the value or beauty of my own work.

While I am making it, while I paint and create, I get something intangible.  And if, at the end, that thing pleases me, then great. If it doesn’t, then that’s ok too.  I still got something from the process.  BUT that thing that I don’t care for aesthetically does not mean that it’s bad.  In fact, someone else may love it.  More than one someone… maybe even lots of someones!

Case in point,  Purple Repose:

Purple repose

Purple repose

I hated this painting.  In fact, I was planning on recycling it but while I was waiting for the paint to dry I changed my mind.  My husband saw it and liked it, so, with a shrug, I kept it.  I hung it in the house and after a while, it grew on me too.  I came to like the blue colors, the broad strokes, the way the horse’s shoulder bumped out.  Later that year, I included it (as a print) in a series of blank greeting cards.  It became one of my best sellers.  People loved it!

The same thing happened with Walker Pass, only in reverse:

North of Walker Pass

North of Walker Pass

By reverse, I mean, this is by far my absolute favorite painting (right now).  I LOVE this piece.  It only got a couple of dozen Facebook “likes”.  Granted, this painting has yet to make it out of the house, but still… my dog snapshots get more “likes”.  I didn’t take it personally, because I truly believe in my heart and soul, that art is a personal thing.  I may take it personally if you tell me you hate it and why it’s awful and say other mean things about the thing I love, but hey, I’m only human and that kind of behavior is mean spirited and small.  You are entitled to your opinion, just keep the details to yourself if you hate something (or someone!) I love.

On the other hand, my next piece, I just didn’t love so much.  It’s not recycle worthy, not by far… you’d never see it if it was.  And I still wouldn’t post or show any piece I found embarrassingly bad, or trite or derivative or unworthy.  So, just because I don’t love it, doesn’t mean I don’t like it.  I may just think of it more as a second runner up.

But, it was a challenge.  I worked hard on this one.  The drawing was complex, the details, intense.  It is the 3rd in my series of images from the wilderness, photos taken by women hikers on the CDT or the PCT.  I’m calling the series, The Wilderness Of Women.  Now, here is where I love social media.  On Facebook, I asked women hikers if they would share with me (for the purpose of painting) photos from their hikes and I got an amazing outpouring of images to choose from.  So, choose one I did (thank YOU, Judy Flexer) and got to work.

Sketch for Spectacle Lake

Sketch for Spectacle Lake

I thanked Judy online and somehow, I don’t recall how it happened, but Judy kindly sent me a high resolution image of her photo.  I thanked her politely, but inside I was worried.  All those details… how was I going to block out all those details?  “Oh, buck up, Sky… you’ll be fine!” I told myself.  But I was worried.

And so, I bucked up and promptly fucked up.  It became a horrid mess of tiny, detailed, muddy strokes of paint.  Not the sure and swift flight of color that signified I was “in the groove.”  I bravely soldiered on, slogged up one muddy hill and down the next… madly mixing, swiping, swooping, adding, subtracting and aaarrrggggg!!!!  Nothing was working.  I was in utter despair.  So I did the only thing I could do.  The thing I have never done before.  I almost couldn’t believe what I was doing.  I took it off my easel, laid it flat, and poured turpentine over the entire painting.  I took a rag and wiped it clean.  All of it.  Even the sketch.  Gone.

I waited two days to go back into the studio.  I just couldn’t bear to look at it.  I had never scrubbed out a canvas before, it felt like a failure.  But two days later, I was ready to get back to work.  I followed the faint leftovers of pencil lines that were under the first orange outline and redrew the sketch.  Instead of the high resolution image, I went back to my original Facebook clipping.  That picture, I altered to be bolder, more saturated in color than the photograph Judy had taken.  I made it small and took off my glasses to blur the details.  I needed to see blocks of colors, not every single rock and tree.  I put on a favorite CD and lost myself in Spectacle Lake.

This second go round was tricky… I still had some issues and some personal demons to slay, but it finally came together and I was satisfied.  I signed it today, so that pretty much means it’s done.  It may not be a favorite, but it’s good, I’ll say that.  And when I posted it to the woman hikers page on Facebook…. well, it got 75 likes, right off the bat.  Goes to show you… beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Oil on Canvas 14x16

Spectacle Lake on the PCT
Oil on canvas, 14 x 16

 

 

 

My Father’s Shirt

I was sorting through some items stored in a little used corner of the studio when I came across a bundle of paint rags.  I usually air out rags after a few paintings, letting them dry outdoors so the turpentine and oil fumes don’t create a fun little science experiment called spontaneous combustion.  All the rags were dry and stiff and pretty useless.  I wondered why I was even keeping them when out of the pile this little beauty rolled out.

20140912_094455Believe it or not, this old shirt belonged to my dad, circa 1972.  He probably doesn’t even know I have it or that I kept it all this time.  It predates every brush I have.  (The ones I started with were worn out ages ago.)  Somehow I got a hold of my dad’s old shirt and used it to clean my brushes and went on to clean every brush I used for the next few decades.  This shirt has a dollop of paint on it from every painting I made during that time.  I guess I kept it as a good luck charm or something.  After awhile, I made sure I swiped a brush across it even if I had another rag by my easel, you know, for luck.

One day, I aired it out and never put it back where I could use it.  And then I forgot all about it.  Until it was unearthed in an archeological dig of sorts.  I smoothed it out and thought about all the projects we had worked on together.  The trip down memory lane made me smile.  There are a lot of crappy paintings wiped on that shirt, and some that are still pretty good.  Here’s one from the pretty good list:

Full Moon Song Oil on canvas board 18"x24"

Full Moon Song
Oil on canvas board
18″x24″

I have a bit of a rocky history with my dad.  However, through all the years of ups and downs, I still had his shirt to help me clean up my creative mess.   Eventually, we managed to persevere and develop a better “grown up” relationship.  So I guess it really was a lucky shirt after all.

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″

 

Fine Art America!!

Finally!  A page on FAA.

http://fineartamerica.com/featured/the-muse-sky-evans.html?newartwork=true

The muse painting.  Oil on Canvas 2.5'x3'

The muse painting.
Oil on Canvas
2.5’x3′

I just downloaded one image but it was a client request… so that’s something.  Just wanted to share.  I’ll be posting more about this later after I get the whole gallery downloaded.  Hopefully this pans out. If you want to buy art and support an artist, Fine Art America is the place to do it.  Well, I know there are other places…  I keep thinking of things like Kickstarter too and wondering what kind of amazing project I could do… hmmm.   What is a muralist to do???  By all means, weigh in.  I’m willing to do community projects with fundraising venues.  Actually now that I think about it, I have done my share already.  But they usually involved teaching.  Time for something large, noteworthy and very, very interesting.  It’s been awhile since I crawled up on a roof and painted something seen from the local airport!

One should probably not bring children up there.  That would be just fine.

horseroof

A Hundred Reds

I recently aquired a commission to paint a paint.  A “paint” is  a multi-colored horse, usually with large white and brown splotches.  They can be black and white like holstein cows or even palomino and white but generally they are brown and white. Like Tonto’s horse in the Lone Ranger.  A popular color, the term “paint” is used for Quarter horses, a particular breed of horse.  Other breeds of splotched horses are called pintos.  All charming nomenclature aside, this particular paint horse was part white and part bay, a reddish brown color with lots of variation.

No where in the palette of colors available to artists is the color, Bay.  And if one ever looks closely at this horse color, one will find a shade of red, a shade of brown, a shade of blackish brown, a shade of mahogany, etc, etc.  And one  had better have an arsenal of browns at one’s disposal as well as some mad mixing skills.

I was given a photo of the subject, an iffy quality digital print.  Chetoh is a nice looking boy with good color and a kind eye.  The picture was low in pixels, but what it lacked in clarity, it made up in posture.  The pose of Chetoh was perfect and I didn’t have to do anything to change his position.

I sketched him out and outlined his shape with orange.  This is a technique I have been doing for some time now and I like to leave a little of the outline peeking through my final layers.  It’s like an aura and adds a little oomph to the final piece.  I like it, and that’s the important part.

I took stock of my browns and reds and dabbed out 4 kinds of browns (sienna and umber, both burnt and raw) two red oxides, black, white and my go to blender: naples yellow.  I love that color… it’s my butter.  I rounded out my palette with cerulean,thalo and ultramarine blue.  And yes, I used ALL these colors to make this bay horse look like a bay horse.  They are layered, blended, adjacent, glazed and somewhere in some version became Chetoh’s highlights, midrange and shadows.

cheeto 001

Getting the colors in their proper place by referencing his mug shot.

I don’t know what the math looks like when you take 12 colors and mix them with each other one at a time and/or in combinations with the rest, but I know it’s quite a lot.  It felt like a hundred reds; but I really don’t know since I try not to think about it.  When painting, I try not to think at all.  I just look, compare and choose. It’s judgement call after judgement call… too light, too blue, too this, too that.  Add, subtract, scrub, twist, smooth out, swoop up.

Working on his chest and mane.  Painting white on a white canvas is always fun.

Working on his chest and mane. Painting white on a white canvas is always fun.

Once he came together, I roughed in the background.  This took me longer than I had expected.  I made the sky very light at first, but when I stood back to look at the composition, his white blaze didn’t stand out like I wanted.  A heavier dose of Ultramarine was pressed into service and I popped in a few clouds for good measure.  The final result, an elegant Chetoh on a windswept hill.

Cheeto

Chetoh the Paint Horse