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Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

Haystack Reflections, water color, 8″ by 11″

Water color of a monstrous rock that juts out along the Oregon Coast, near Cannon Beach, a popular place for photographs.

Haystack Rock monumentally interrupts the horizon while proving irresistible to soaring birds and crashing waves. It is an awesome place.

The number of reflections that play off of it feel infinite, whether it is bathed in sunshine or covered by fog.

Haystack Rock, personal photo

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Hopeful Thoughts

This week we lost a dear friend

who will be remembered in our thoughts,

while mingling with the past,

of days long ago,

when our children were young

and our futures unknown.

A dear friend missed, held quietly in our hearts and minds,

as a bright and hopeful thought

of loyalty, honesty, humor and love.

The Past

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This painting of the birds went through a number of transitions.  Each painting that I did on the way, holds personal meaning for me.

I like to paint something using different perspectives, over a period of time. Depending upon my mood and what medium I am using, a painting may be completed in a few minutes.  At other times, it may result in a long and more “drawn out” relationship with the subject that has many layers and glazes of paint.  

In this water color and ink painting shown immediately below, my relationship with these birds started out in a rather carefree manner.  It was a small painting, only 4″ x 6″, and I wanted it to be an inspiration for a larger painting on the same subject.  I did this watercolor and ink in a matter of a few minutes.

The Birds (Watercolor and ink)

What is it about this tiny watercolor painting that feels so big and bold?  It is actually a very small painting, but I feel that it has the sense of being large. I like the way that the reflections and shadows of the birds dance around in the swirling sand and water. The birds’ dark shadows disrupt the soft  blue, reflective water as ocean waves press and pull the birds inward and outward, while they scurry around and search for food.

When I paint them again, this time in mostly transparent oils, using a much larger canvas, the mood changes.  The birds become steadier, and more firmly geometrically situated, implying a kind of calligraphy on the canvas.

(Oil)

If I had all the canvas and space in the world, I would not continually paint over what I have painted, but would keep each stage as a chapter of a “book painting”.

(Oil)

Moving from moody and earth toned, I start adding brighter oil colors to the proposed calligraphy of birds.

As this process progresses, the version of the painting becomes less calligraphic, but instead allows each bird and wave to be individually reflected upon.

In the end, I chose to leave the final painting lighter, softer, and less moody than how I started, mainly by smoothing out the ocean water’s movements and lightening it up through a series of tonal washers, or glazes. In the finished painting, the beach was a softer, lighter color of browns than the dark brown birds with their white bellies, offering some contrast between them, but not creating strong calligraphic marks as I initially had. Here is the result.

The Birds (Oil)

This dialogue between the birds and me has been prolonged through quiet moments of shifting dispositions and is now turning into several months of visitation. Our conversation is so interesting that I am sure we could continue this dialogue for several months more. However, I am getting restless.

It is now time to move on, to try new ways of thinking with paint.

What did I learn from this painting? I learned that the quick movements of inspiration are hard to keep. But perhaps they are not for keeping. What they do instead, is attract the painter to the idea of the painting. One might stop there. Or one may press forward and consider the depth of the attraction, sometimes realizing that at the end of the painting, there is a relationship over time rather than a single result.

My painting are already abstract, but I hope to play with abstraction even more. The aim is to keep the thought, without committing completely to the shapes, of reality.

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Afghani Girl, oil painting by Mary Chamie

A young Afghani girl, perhaps 10 years old, tries to see the group of foreigners who are traveling through her village. The walking paths between the rural homes are small which does not allow her to get close enough to see what is happening. Other curious onlookers, who also want to see, crowd around the team leaving the young girl on the periphery.

I was leading a United Nations team of international demographers and statisticians, visiting Afghanistan on a potential census assessment, when the frustrated and curious little girl caught my eye.

I noticed her as we were walking a very narrow path when she ran through a back alley and moments later appeared on the roof of a low building next to us. As our team moved forward to visit homes, she kept showing up on the next straw roof. I saw that she was jumping from roof to roof in order to keep up with us. The distance between homes was not far, but she was still brave to be doing so. I was amused by her persistence and quickly photographed her while she knelt down on the roof to watch us. She gave me a shy, satisfied smile, knowing that from her position she could see everything.

Here I am with Kabul, Afghanistan in the background. Photo from census mission, 2003

Since then, I have wondered many times what has happened to her. It was 2003 and she must have been about 10 years old. Now, if she has survived, she is close to 30. Time has marched on, but things are still not easy for the people of Afghanistan. I often wonder, where is she now and how has she fared? Women have recently been ordered by the Taliban, the current government, to cover their faces once again. She is likely wearing the burqa, or bright blue robe that is worn over a woman’s face and body when she is outside of the home, or in the presence of strangers.

When I paint such memories, I am not sure whether to call them paintings, or portraits, or illustrated short stories. But whatever they are, they are often about children whom I care about and wish that I had a better way to keep track of. These children, like the clouds that float by after a heavy rain, or like quick creek waters in the spring that noisily rush by, come and go so quickly, yet they leave lasting effects on the mind. Painting this Afghani girl portrait brings her back to life. I see her wonderful smile again. I remember the palette of her life colors.

Children at Work

Yes, there is artistic beauty in the faces of these rural Afghani children, in their soft beige clothing, adding interest to the modest brown environments in which they live, the mud huts, the clay homes, the straw roofs. The sky above shoots light streams through the nearby foothills of the mountains adding reflective color which further contributes interest to the even-toned homes and softness of people’s clothing and faces, especially at sunrise and sunset.

Below is a combination of photos taken during that 2003 United Nations mission showing the palette that I chose for my painting of this Afghani girl. It is a palette largely of soft browns composed from earth reds and marine blues, with the added bright blues of a woman’s robe.

Palette chosen for this painting

So, here she is, my little girl, this high achiever, who was curious, interested and ready to learn, and certainly very motivated to see what was going on in her unusually disrupted rural village by these teams of foreigners.

I exaggerated the color of the sky to juxtapose it more seriously against the girl’s soft earth reds and browns by mixing marine blue and bright cobalt, to highlight the feeling that one has when one sees the enormous contrast between the color of the sky above and the foothills, the mudded homes and the brown-toned clothing of many people walking the streets.

In this particular painting, I use this improbable blue color to suggest her possible future as a woman tucked under a blue robe, face covered, rather than as she is seen in the portrait, young and free and covered by the bright blue sky.

Photo from United Nations census mission, 2003

For the first part of this blog on painting some of the children I have seen, go to https://marysgardens.blog/2021/05/25/painting-children-on-the-edge/

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In the last six months, I have painted the same canvas numerous times, to reflect on my feelings during this Global Pandemic. It is an old, used canvas that I purchased at Goodwill for a couple of dollars. In the beginning, I painted the entire canvas white with Gesso and then began to use my oils to describe how I feel.

It all started with a celebratory painting filled with color and exploding with light, when things were looking good, the first major surge of COVID illness subsiding,  people standing in long lines to get vaccinated, distances softening and it looked as though the pandemic was coming to a conclusion….but

Early Sunrise

It followed with a shift in color and emphasis based on the fact that there was a significant portion of the population refusing to be vaccinated even when vaccines were offered for free. Ironically, there are numerous individuals in other places eager to be vaccinated, without any access to vaccinations at all. The blues began settling in.

The Blues

Pausing with bright colors to consider whether the fog will ever lift, whether we will ever make it to the other side of this global pandemic, whether it might be better to soften colors and expectations even further.

Fog Settles In

Gliding softly into sadness about what would happens next, darker blues, softer light, yet still appreciating the silence of ever shifting remoteness.

Night of Darkness

Stuck in gloom as reality hits hard, floating in dark waters, far away from realizing the end of the pandemic. Many more lives are unnecessarily lost, years of schooling missed, food sources cut short, distribution systems weakened, life expectancies shortened, quality of living amended again, even farther, bending to the severe isolation and rapid surge of hospitalizations and deaths, mostly of the unvaccinated, during the pandemic.

Doomed

Hope is lost, the painting reflects on shapeless darkness. In some ways, this particular painting was very satisfying, as I lost myself in the darkness covering the entire canvas in dark blacks, reds and blues.

Then, the painting returns to shape and form, but this time, without much sentimentality. This time, it is based on the assumption that life is short, and that today is all there is.

My conclusion? Any painting we may do about this pandemic is true to life, each varied color and mood may be augmented for differential emphasis on our interpretation as to how things are going.

Not a Chance, But Life is Short

These are my ups and downs of painting during a global pandemic.

I hope that you enjoyed this reading these short notes on painting my way through pandemic blues and may consider sharing your own experiences on this notably historical event as well.

We may no longer write long paper letters, but we do know how to blog our way through tough times.

What’s your story?

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A big part of the enjoyment of art for me, is playing with ideas.

Front yard in moonlight, Abaco, personal photo
Edited version, more focused on light

Interpreted scene, oils
Interpreted scene, ink
Interpreted scene, Water color
Personal Photo of our front yard, Abacos

Do I go forward with an oil painting of this, with more vivid colors?

Or should I play with something even more abstract?

What will be gained from taking this to a different concept of artistic thought?

Will anything be learned about its value as a setting?

If I do take such a leap, how can I add to the idea of luminescence?

What is it that lures artists to repeat paintings, differently?

Perhaps life, itself?

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Winter Bridge

Winter Bridge, Oil Painting, 12″ x 16″ birchwood canvas

Here she is, my winter bridge painting. She has gone through a number of transitions, on her way to becoming. Now that she is here, I cannot imagine how she looked before.

I wanted the sky and water to mingle and reflect in this painting.. And I wished the Winter Bridge painting would highlight the Willamette River’s natural beauty while staying real to the sight of industrial pressures that such city rivers also bear.

I hope the viewer enjoys the sky, soft background hills the river flow and water reflections. I also hope the viewer considers the port side, the big buildings, the ominous boats that cover up the natural ridge of this beautiful river, dominating a once pristine cove.

May we never forget how this river flows so naturally under the bridge, the left bank tucked into trees and soft sky. And may we also remain concerned when we see that it flows on the other side, past the industrial messes we make.

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Our Front Garden, July 2021

Part of the beauty of gardens are all the hiding places for baby birds who can’t yet fly, for small animals seeking safety while nibbling at low greenery, protecting busy bees and butterflies settling into cooler places during the hottest part of the day. I find when painting these darker places, that they point like arrows to colorful flowers, often contrasting the showers of light that shoot carefree through grasses, and sometimes pointing straight up to daisies announcing, “over here”, “over here” to thirsty birds in need of the bird bath.

This is an oil painting on canvas, 20″ x 24″. My husband asked for the painting before I even took it off the easel in my art studio. I think that he likes it.

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Landscapes we paint, no matter how big or small, are wondrous moments witnessed through our abstraction.

When thought of this way, there is nothing real about a landscape, other than the fact that light is shifting, objects are reflecting and atmosphere hovering, and we experience constant movement of ideas and thought, while traveling through these variable, natural compositions.

Nature is for painters, our most wild and beautiful challenge. Lucky for us, nature is everything, and we have many opportunities to paint, to write, or simply observe its amazing show.

There is no right or wrong painting or poem as all abstractions are personal.

Knowing this, brings freedom of our own thoughts and choices of shifting moments we remember.

Watercolor

Oils

Oil

Watercolor

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The Bird Won

Alone, oil painting

It wasn’t so long ago, but almost forever and a day, before the sun fully lifted into the sky.

The light broke, and now Freely into Blues.

Together alone

Variations of the same oil painting while playing with glazing and color mixing on birch wood.

Oil painting variations were completed during the period of time that I participated in an art class called Painting on the Edge taught by Michael Orwick, offered through the Oregon Society of Artists.

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