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Archive for November, 2014

Just this month I became a student of oil painting, something I always wanted to do, but never took up owing to other obligations.  

Until now, my painting experience centered on kitchens and bedrooms. This time, I took on painting for fun.

The Oregon Society of Artists (OSA) provides classes and workshops and also runs a gallery.  Its main office is right here in Portland and opportunities for learning and experiencing art abound.

My current teacher is Michael Orwick, a strikingly good artist. Michael teaches a weekly session at OSA where we have learned so many valuable things about palette, form, value, structure.  He makes us brave and encourages us to freely redo things, and to not get frozen early into a painting from which we cannot free ourselves up to try new things.  

Michael Orwick also emphasizes to us that art is fun. Just this last week he  engaged in a painting duel with another colleague leading to lots of laughter and entertainment.  It also resulted in two very beautiful paintings.

A few months ago, through the Oregon Society of Artists,  I also attended a  one day workshop of Marcus Gannuscio where we worked to learn how to paint the human head and face more quickly and accurately, using oils.  We worked to complete a painted portrait sketch from a model in one session.   I found the lessons learned from this class useful even when sketching non-human forms such as trees or houses because what he focused on in the class, was perspective.

I like it that these very outstanding artists see the need to encourage the rest of us to play along with them.  Just like sports, there is room both for professionals and amateurs.

Now that I have started to learn about oils, here are my first observations.

First, oil painting is very forgiving.  This versatile activity allows one to quickly shift the perspective, change the light, subtly move a shape or alter a color  all affecting the painting in a matter of seconds.  Nothing is permanent.  All colors and shapes are malleable. We don’t even have to wait for the oils to dry before we move on, or change them around. The fact that oils are so forgiving brings space and opportunity to the canvas.


Second, planning ahead improves the outcome.  Setting the structure of the painting and thinking ahead on what perspective and viewpoint one wants to project, deeply affects the results.  I have discovered that oil painting, like writing and for that matter even research, is greatly enhanced by planning ahead and envisioning a structure ahead of time.

Third, oil painting frees the mind and encourages meditation.  Oil painting opens up the mind and frees it for time to think, for meditation, speculation and wonderment about the world we see around us.

Fourth, oil painting is ceremonial.  Like a Japanese tea ceremony, oil painting has a tradition. The way in which we bring out the brushes, set up the canvas, put up the easel, prepare the palette, sketch the plan, lay out the structure, choose the values and colors, is all very ceremonial. There are strong traditions attached to each event and they vary by artist. There is even a tradition in the act of painting itself by looking closely at something, then squinting to look at it again, walking away and coming back to take another look, all leading to new observations, unfolding right in front of you.

Oil painting is both the art and science of ceremonial observation, put to the test with a brush and some oil paints.

I am so glad I finally remembered to take up oil painting.

Below are some of my first experiences with brush and paint, each one providing me with a new perspective on what I see.  No doubt, as I continue to learn, the style and color and depth of new paintings will emerge.  There is no longer such a thing as a finished work.  All works are unfinished, subject to change, open to a revisit.  

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Winter Rose Garden

Yes, it is winter in Portland, but the flowers are still beautiful.  

We walk for seven blocks through the city and suddenly we are on the edge of Washington Park, a 40 acre park we walk through to get to the Rose Garden.  

Today we hiked up the 220 steps to the top of a big hill on the way to the gardens.  The walk through the woods is so peaceful.  
It is hard to believe we just crossed Burnside Street in heavy traffic to get here.

We march up and across to the gardens, where things go from wild and natural to beautifully formal.  

The city looms in the distance.  
We take a few minutes to look at some of the flowers up close, then head on home.  It is roughly a one mile trek, and worth every minute.  

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Since we arrived in Portland we have been working on a Concentric Circles Discovery Program.  We start from our home with the closest possible restaurants, parks, stores, and places to visit and then slowly work our way outwards, in a circular fashion.
Less than a mile from our place we have discovered the Rose Gardens which are absolutely beautiful.  We walk there almost every day.  It is uphill all the way  and offers us the possibility, if we wish, to take a short cut that includes marching up 220 steps to the top of a hill before reaching the rose gardens.  If we are not in the mood for taking all those steps, there is a road we take instead that zigs and zags its way more humanely to the top.
We have also visited the Japanese Gardens which are 350 feet farther than the Rose Gardens.  They, too, are absolutely beautiful.  However, there is a fee for visiting the Japanese Gardens, while on the other hand, the Rose Gardens are freely entered.
This week, we discovered Pittock Mansion which is  about 2.1 miles walking distance, from our place.  We drove up there on Saturday, and this was the view (see below).  One sees downtown Portland, Oregon and Mt. Hood  in the background looking so powerful and beautiful.

 Today we visited Pittock Mansion again, but this time we walked through town and then zig-zagged up to the top,  a very good aerobic work out.

On the way down, to reward ourselves for the walk up, we stopped at Basta’s for happy hour where we had the best pizza and lasagna to go with a glass of wine and a glass of beer.

This is really too much fun.

At this rate of speed, we will be busy walking in concentric circles to interesting sites for years to come.  

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