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The Artist’s Life

Volume 22 Number 1 June 2017

My earliest memories ...

Are of exploring mountain woods, creeks and wild flowers. My mother sometimes hiked with me and my brothers to a nearby ravine with a nice sized creek to play in. I spent my time splitting shale and sandstone to find fossils of plants and animals. Meanwhile, my brothers turned over rocks in the stream to find crayfish and built dams. When we visited Grandpa’s farm, I would be hiking up to the top of the pasture hills or trying to ski down them in the winter using skis my Grandfather had made. The joys of being a kid in a rural environment.

When I first moved to Seattle, one of the first hikes we took was Paddy-Go-Easy Pass. As a relatively short day hike, the name drew me in. Easy! Maybe good for a little kid? And it had a gold mine, which meant lots of interesting rocks to examine in the area. Actually, it has a long steep section with many switchbacks, but lots to see along the way and at the pass as well with better views the higher you climb. Sometimes the weather is better there as a bonus, with the snow melting earlier than hikes on the west side of the Cascade Mountains. I painted this from one of the early season hikes, with the pass itself still covered in snow. That did not stop us from scrambling up the ridge to take photos.

Is there a gene for loving the wild mountains? For being obsessed with jagged peaks and snowy slopes? For feeling most alive when breathing the thinner, sharply pine scented cold air? Painting these large portraits of wilderness mountains is my way of remembering my wonderful hikes and climbs. I wish you could have been along to experience them as well, but perhaps you will feel you are there as you gaze at the painted views.

Now I am taking a break in these larger paintings as I have been distressed by the decrease in quality of the oil paint that I have used for 25 years or more. So I have been testing many brands of water soluble oil paint to see what is now the best to use. For my testing, I have included some newer paints, both oil and acrylic, to determine what works best for me. As a result, I have been painting more small works, not wanting to commit to painting a 30” x 40” canvas with paint that does not work well.

Exploring the small format in unfamiliar paints, I have painted some fruit trees and a pasture as well as beach scenes at Golden Gardens. Two of my small works were sold in a Benefit exhibit in March. They were painted using a faster drying matte finish oil paint that handles well with a painting knife. Although it is not water soluble, a knife is easily wiped clean of oil paint, so cleanup does not require solvents. I plan on doing more of these, as they were fun.

As I am moving into more sales on line, it is important that these works dry with a tough surface. Also, a matte surface photographs better than a shiny surface, so seems like a win-win. So many things to think of besides the usual “What shall I paint next?”

After such a gray and wet winter, I am ready for some searing, scorching sun that burns the color right off the lush flowers and playful exercise clothing that I see right now. Could I put in a request for some “cold sunshine” so it won’t be too warm for a house and studio without air conditioning?

It seems that 25% of the new apartments in Seattle feature air conditioning. That was non-existent when I moved here. No need of air conditioning when the air is dry and cools off at night. Have our needs changed, or is it the expectations have changed? Air conditioning will definitely drive up the cost of electricity if it becomes the new normal.

My latest large painting is a misty sunrise on Mt Shuksan that I saw and photographed some years ago. I would plan on being at Mt. Baker Ski Area at dawn or as close as I could make it, to do some photography. Sometimes it was pouring rain, sometimes it had just rained, or was threatening to start raining any minute. There is a reason Mt Baker has such tremendous snowfalls. The high mountains in the area wring the moisture out of the clouds coming in from the ocean and water the area frequently and thoroughly.

This makes for dense and towering forests, striking glaciers, productive farms and fisheries. However, it is sometimes inconvenient as well. But better to have lots of rain than the forest fires of several years ago caused by dry summers.

One of the most wonderful attributes of this area is the magnificent trees of the forests and orchards. Whether hiking through old growth forest or along a high ridge with dwarfed alpine tree forms, it is the trees that talk to me. They tell me tales of the challenges a rooted being faces. Not being able to migrate if the neighborhood deteriorates! We forget their stoicism in the face of fire, landslide, avalanche, lightning and drought.

Yet the trees persist, often bearing scars of past assults. Some years ago I visited Cape Cod and was absolutely entranced by the beautiful Pine/Oak forest along much of the seaward side of the highway. These trees are twisted and gnarled, much as the twisted trees I see on ridge tops have been reshaped by buffeting storm winds. I have done a series of 6 images on 8” x 8” cradled plywood. I investigated different lighting, time of day and weather conditions affecting these interesting trees.

I finally painted a tulip farm scene that I had drawn on a mounted canvas many years ago. It was lost in a stack of various boards and mounted canvas supports that had been stored since I moved my studio. Who know what treasures await when cleaning studio (or house)?

May you all enjoy a lovely summer, highlighted by fresh fruits and vegetables that grow in the well watered mountain valleys nearby. It will soon be time for fresh cherries and raspberries, followed by blueberries. Let us celebrate the bounty of July with family and friends at the picnic table.

Rosemary

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Volume 21 Number 2 December 2016

Cascade Pass...

Is a wonderful day hike, with all sorts of rewarding views. The wild flowers used to be amazing in season, but I was last there in the 70’s, so I don’t have current knowledge.

The view I painted of the pass is as seen from the glacier below Triad and Eldorado, looking East towards the pass. It is easy to continue the hike up Sahale Arm to the north for even more views.

Even when I first visited this pass, it was heavily worn and denuded of vegetation at the top. The damage created by foot traffic and camping. This was and still is an important route for crossing the mountains on foot. It was used by hunters, traders and eventually prospectors.

Some serious protection work was done later, providing some stone surfaces for sitting and walking. Replanting damaged vegetation was also done in the 70’s to prevent further erosion.

This is the kind of work that could be done on many trails. When younger, I volunteered for trail maintenance work parties. I enjoyed the comradeship and taking care of a system that had provided so many hours of enjoyment for myself and others. I liked using a pulaski so much that I bought one at a hardware store to use on work parties and in my yard. I am a member of the Washington Trail Association to support their work on trail maintenance. If you hike, you might enjoy their wonderful magazine that comes with membership. www.wta.org/

The Forest Service and the National Park Service both have inadequate staff to keep up with maintenance on the trail systems that cris-cross our mountains. If we had something like WPA or CCC again, trail maintenance, road maintenance and facility maintenance and construction could provide jobs for young people. I have been in a number of lodges built in National Parks by these workers and they are treasures.

Not everyone wants to sit in an office all day, every day. Nor do they want to join the “down-looking-tribe” that I see walking the city streets, phone in hand. I understand that a city in Germany has just installed the first sidewalk mounted traffic light to keep those living in phone land from walking in front of a bus! What happened to lifting our eyes to the mountains and skies?

I make a point of painting in water media in the summer months when my studio is warmer and drier. I did some watercolors, including a view of Windy Arm at Tagish Lake in Canada. As I contemplated the finished painting, I remembered my stash of mounted Arches paper and thought that if I used acrylic on the mounted paper and sealed it with a couple of coats of satin acrylic medium, it would only require a very simple, light weight frame, no glazing required. This would be easier to pack and ship as I am now marketing my paintings on Handmade at Amazon in the shop Rosemary Antel Fine Art and on Etsy in the shop OilColorsOnCopper. I have shipped work as far as England so far.

I started a series of acrylic paintings on Arches watercolor paper mounted on board. These are focused on mountains and skies that I have experienced over the years and captured as sketches, slides or digital photos. Often, the most dramatic skies occur in response to weather changes channeled by mountains.

At the same time, I started work on a large egg tempera on stretched canvas. I stretched a fine textured canvas on a 40 x 20 inch stretcher bars and then put 3 coats of absorbent gesso on it. I then drew an outline drawing of the creek above the bridge at Myrtle Falls in the Paradise Meadows area of Mt. Rainier. This is now one of my favorite areas to visit during the wildflower bloom.

I rarely can see the mountain from this point, as the clouds start just above the area much of the time. The filtered light enhances the vibrancy of the colors, so I won’t complain.

I transfer the drawing on tracing paper to canvas that has been prepared with an absorbent gesso designed for water media, using graphite for tracing. Before I start applying color to a painting, I have carefully planned ahead. I make value studies and color studies so that I have my desired image well developed in my mind. This allows me to confidently place color in the larger areas, starting with the top and working down.

The first layer should be accurate in value, but may well be a complement of the final color notes. I find this gives more vibrance to the painting. Egg tempera is a slower process for me than oil, but allows me the chance to draw in details with my brush in each color layer that modifies the image. I save the finest details for last, working back and forth adding the lightest lights and darkest darks. When is it finished? When I can no longer improve it.

This winter my calla lilies had foliage out of the ground and 12 inches tall 2 weeks ago. Needless to say, this is hard on the plants as earlier this week it went down to 28 degrees and left the plants looking burned. There were many more plants of various species acting like spring had come and putting new shoots up out of the earth. They should have been dormant when the freeze hit. But we had daily temperatures in November that were more like May. Our first hard freezes used to come at the end of October, but this year it was December. Of course the plants are confused. I am too.

It snowed last night, heavy wet snow that at one point piled in 4 inch ridges on the plum tree branches. By breakfast it was gone from the tree and only an inch on the ground. Strange weather. Last year we had only 1 inch of snow, one time, all winter long here in Ballard.

The mountains looked glorious in their fresh snowy robes on the last sunny day we had. The sight of all the snow has the skiers delighted.

Tomorrow night we will have our last Second Saturday Studio Open House. Ballard Artwalk is changing to Third Thursdays in January. If you are in the area, hope you can visit BallardWorks, 2856 NW Market St. Seattle, 6-9 pm on January 19th, 2017. It would be great to see you then.

As the Winter Solstice approaches, the sun is setting further south and so much earlier. I enjoy the brief but brilliant red light as it slides below the clouds heading for the horizon. I am ready for longer days again. Keep warm and dry and enjoy a good book as we await the New Year.

Rosemary

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Volume 21 Number 1 June 2016

North Cascade National Park...

Is characterized by prodigious snowfall. All the resulting snowfields and glaciers slowly release their water stores, feeding rills and springs among the rocks that gather into creeks and rivers in the valleys. Tarns appear where the snow and ice have melted, making reflecting pools where the flow is trapped in a depression.

Our party stopped for lunch at one such pool near Coccyx Peak, where we enjoyed the reflection of the Newhalem Peaks across the valley. One can see the other side of these peaks from the town of Newhalem on State Route 20. Last summer was marred by a large wildfire in the Newhalem area so you may have heard of this tiny place in the mountains.

I prefer to paint large, such as the 4 foot square painting of Newhalem Peaks, to express the grandeur of the mountains. When I was climbing and backpacking over these rough and trackless spines of rock, I felt like an ant. Huge swathes of ice and snow served as potentially dangerous sidewalks to speed our travel. Roped together in groups of 3 for safety, we charted a course between the crevasses and bergschrunds.

Wilderness without trails feels so much larger, as we took hours to travel a mile or less sometimes. You would think that the slower pace would leave more time to enjoy the scenery. However, every step must be examined for signs of a crevasse or an icy patch on snow or an unstable boulder or slippery moss growing on rocks kept damp by seeps. A few days of carrying a heavy pack cross country causes one to really appreciate well graded and maintained trails.

What is life but one grand adventure? I relive my wilderness adventures with every painting based on my ancient slides and memories. I have my old topographic maps and guidebooks to aid my investigations of the mountain views I am painting. It is often hard to tell the shape of the land from photos. So I review the maps to determine where I was standing when I took the photos. Then I have the contour lines to help me understand the shapes of ridges and gullies that make up my subject. If I still have questions, I can use Google Earth™ to see if the satellite view is enlightening.

As I work on a project, I am reminded how much the size and shape of snow cover changes with the seasons and over the years that have passed since I took the slide. The other resources I use are the wonderful photos that so many hikers and climbers post on the internet. The quantity and quality of the photos are like being out there again.

During the spring, I painted a few smaller linen canvases that I had leftover from an earlier plein air camping trip to Yellowstone. They are 9x12 inches, a size much easier to frame and ship for online sales.

In consideration of the need to ship, I have been painting on a new product made by Genie Canvas. It is a collapsible canvas, designed with hinges and velcro to allow a 5 minute stretch from a rolled condition to a drum tight stretched painting. When the painting is thoroughly dry, the canvas is easy roll and pack for storage or shipping. The shipping cost is so much less that I will be able to offer these with free shipping to anywhere in the USA. Newhalem Peaks is painted on one of these collapsible canvases and is looking for a new home.

The climbers’ gym Stone Gardens is across the street from my studio so I can watch climbers on the exterior routes. These have been rebuilt and redesigned with new holds in bright colors, definitely a fun distraction. A little to the left of them I can see the tip of Mt. Rainier above Queen Anne Hill on a clear day. Mountain watching is another great distraction. But then we all need to take a break from our work and look out into the distance and walk around a bit.

Last week there was snow falling at both Paradise on Mt. Rainier and Hurricane Ridge on the Olympic Peninsula. These are both at about 5,500 feet elevation, so usually have similar temperatures. They are both great places to see wildflower meadows shortly after the snow melts in early summer.

I painted some views of the meadows at Paradise last year and earlier this year. I have just finished some small paintings of views of mountain meadows from Hurricane Ridge. They are dry enough to ship now so I will be listing them for sale on Amazon. I have been experimenting with QR codes and I include the code for Rosemary Antel Fine Art Storefront here.

If you have a smart phone and the app for reading QR codes you can access my shop by pointing your phone camera at it and ? I really don’t know as I don’t have a smart phone. I can see however that it is much easier to do this than typing really long addresses into your device.

Otherwise, if you go to Amazon.com and enter Rosemary Antel Fine Art in the search bar, you can bring up some of my paintings. If you click on a painting, you get info about me on the right and if you click on my photo, you will be taken to some photos of my studio and more about me and all of my listings if you scroll down.

My plans for the summer include some trips to these more accessible meadows so that I can steep myself in wildflower beauty and the majesty of the surrounding mountains. We are blessed in this corner of the world to be surrounded by so much natural beauty, all nearby. The only problem is that as the local population increases, there are ever more hikers out and about.

When I first moved here I volunteered often to help with The Sign Post, which was a Louise Marshall publication that featured trail reports at that time. This publication grew into the Washington Trails Association (WTA.org). WTA now publishes a great magazine that is a full color beautiful monthly that is rich with information for hikers and backpackers. It also features photos of hike destinations and hikers in the wild, often with kids, which I love to see.

At that time, I was hiking with a 4 year old, at the pace of a mile an hour as she walked the whole way with a play break every hour. While I hiked, I would pick up litter, note trail conditions and count the people who passed me, coming and going, to send as trail reports to Louise. Over just a couple of years I saw 10 times as many hikers as earlier on the same nearby trails and I understand the number is still increasing on the popular trails. I encourage you all to support the Forest Service, National Park Service, Mountaineers, Washington Trails Association and others who help maintain and improve our trails.

As people are crowding into the cities, it is more important than ever to be able to get out to the mountains and be refreshed. Speaking of which, is there a way to run mass transit to trail heads? Has anyone done a survey to see what trails are near enough to a paved road to run a hiking bus to them? I am thinking of the ski buses that I rode when I first started skiing. Maybe a system of summer trails branching out from the existing ski areas would be a good start. Does this already exist? Could it benefit the ski areas financially?

Summer is now in full swing, the raspberries are ripe and it is time to enjoy our great outdoors, even if it is only from a porch swing. I wish you all a wonderful sunny season, enjoying the bounty of our local farms and orchards.

Rosemary

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