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The Artist’s Life

Volume 23 Number 1 June 2018

I soak in the ambiance...

Of mountains every morning at my studio. There is a peace that emanates from the paintings, a feeling of permanence. The strength of rock resisting erosion in this rapidly changing world of ours.

My gaze dances along the edges of the images in the same way I enjoyed contemplating these views when I photographed them many years ago. Painting and seeing are both about edges. Soft, gentle edges of clouds, atmosphere, foliage and distance contrast knife sharp edges of broken dark rock against snow in brilliant sun.

I study the edges of shadows, and how they vary with the distance between the light blocking object and the cast shadow. There is so much to enjoy on a sunny day in nature. I cherish nature, all of it, every bit including those tiny ants that show up with the warmer weather.

This winter and early spring, I have been working diligently to review and print out selections from my slides that I took in those early years. How careful I was to select only the best view to capture on film. It was so expensive. Careful compositions or unique wild flowers merited capture and preservation.

As I look closely at my selections, paintings beg their turn to become realized next. There is just so much beauty in our world. I especially treasure the North Cascades in Washington, Little Yoho National Park in Canada and South East Alaska and adjacent Canada. When I was there, so much was untouched and untrammeled.

It is a race against time, as film is degrading, keeping slide scanners running is ever more difficult and even my CD's of early digital capture are getting harder to accommodate with today's technology. It is a race between saving my inspirations for painting and actually getting the painting created.

As I review images of Alaska, I remember the excitement I felt as I looked up at the waterfalls everywhere, the fog and mists, brooding, low hanging clouds creating a backdrop for magnificent trees, deep ferns and even Devils Club decorating the shores and lower slopes of the mountains. It was a water colorist's heaven, full of choices to paint.

I spent most of my years in Alaska painting water colors and studying with many of the great artists and teachers of the medium. Zoltan Szabo, Edward Betts, Barbara Nechis, Maxine Masterfield and Judi Betts were some of the most memorable. My art professors in College were all pushing Abstract Expressionism, so much of my work was in that genre at the time. That Abstract art excited me as I had not seen it before except in Museums which my parents both loved to visit.

However, my mother was an artist and school teacher, so I had been taught to draw at the age of 2. Yes, 2 years old. I was always showing my mother the wonderful things I saw in the yard and garden, dragging her over to see a flower bud or Lady Bug or even a worm. When my brother was born she gave me paper and pencil and showed me how to draw what I saw and bring it back to her, showing her what I had seen. Of course she encouraged me to draw more and more, as the new baby took up so much time and the more detail I added to the drawing, the longer I was outside. I also had two Aunts and an Uncle who were all in college and living with us for a couple of years. They were eager to show me art techniques they had just learned as well. How could I not draw?

Working as a chemist, I found watercolor worked better than oil for those few enjoyable hours I could find to capture the beauty around me.

So watercolor it was, or acrylic until I was able to rent a studio in 2003, and could at last paint the really large oils of mountains that were in my "possibles" folder , waiting their turn. This explains the large numbers of mountains in my studio now. But I am taking a break from large oils until I find a water soluble oil paint I like or a better way to clean oil paint from the brushes I use.

In the meantime, I am playing with acrylics, often in a watercolor technique, or sometimes handled more like oil. They do have their place in art now, and are in many ways more stable than oil paint.

As part of this period of renewal and rediscovery, I am digging out the books I have of my earlier watercolor workshop teachers and reviewing some of their special techniques. Who knows what you may see in the next newsletter?

This newsletter features a number of small paintings done as daily paintings. I last was doing daily paintings when I was recovering from a bicycle accident so this not really new, just a renewal. To see more information about these 6 x 6 inch paintings, visit the sites referenced below.

As I am still experimenting with the many brands of oil paint offered and with the many formulations of acrylic that Golden Paint offers, I have been painting a lot of smaller work, testing methods and materials. It is a good exercise for improving one's compositions as well to do many small paintings as opposed to a few large ones.

Starting in January of 2018 I added Daily Paint Works ( to my list of on line sales venues. It is an especially easy site for artists to use, well thought out and well maintained. In conjunction with that, I have renewed posting to my Blog ( Most of these small paintings are unframed, for ease in shipping. Please let me know what you think of these sites.

This winter was another cold, gray, stormy, expression of winter, complete with a couple of inches of snow and several instances of graupel falling. High winds and even some winter thunder accompanied this drama. This was a wonderful time to bake cookies, read books and drink tea.

Our winter Open Studios were well attended and a good number of paintings went to live in new homes. Some of my favorites are gone, so I am looking through my old slides for more mountains to paint. I have a lot of flower paintings that might end up on canvas. I much prefer to paint mountains in oil and I still have not found a paint that satisfies my needs for a stiffer oil paint that is water soluble. For this reason I may use some acrylic to paint large flowers again. My garden has just passed the peak blooming season, so my mind is fully saturated with color and beauty. Whatever I paint next, it will be with joy and enthusiasm for the painting process.

Wishing you all lots of fun in the sun and happy times with friends and family,



Volume 22 Number 2 December 2017

All my life...

I have been documenting the wild places I have visited. I paint the sanctity of the natural landscape that is disappearing rapidly. In that way, I create icons for meditation and peaceful contemplation. My lifelong goal has been to record what I have seen and felt to share with others.

At one time, I could pretend that the areas without road or even trail were pristine and untouched by the influence of man. Now I see that during my lifetime there have been massive changes in all the world as a result of human activities.

When I first moved to Seattle in 1967, I was astounded by the Nisqually Glacier on Mt. Rainier that was so very close to the road bridge. I thought a glacial surge would destroy the bridge over the river. I had the same experience when I moved to Juneau, Alaska in 1977 and wondered at the possibility of the newly constructed visitor center being destroyed by the Mendenhall glacier advancing. Now, both of these glaciers have retreated more than a mile from their previous location when I first saw them. In less than 50 years, a huge volume of water that had been stored as ice has run off to the sea.

Watching the shadows change as our spinning top of a planet hurtles through space every year reminds us that nothing stays the same for very long. In fact, our idea of the unchanging mountains is an artifact of a generalized observation. If we study the lesser details, a mountain is one of the most changeable sights in nature. They always provide a fresh challenge. Cezanne recognized this changeability of Mont Sainte-Victoire, and painted it more than 60 times. He gloried in studying the changing light and colors of the seasonal cycles.

I watch Mt. Rainier with its cloud caps and peek-a-boo disappearances from my studio window. Only the top 2,000 feet or so are visible because Queen Anne Hill blocks the rest. I welcome the sight of the top when it emerges from the clouds and fog. Sunrise or Sunset Alpenglow is a special treat. Then I remember the experience of climbing it and the smell of sulfur coming from the crevices in the rocks around the summit crater. It is a volcano after all. Sometimes a sudden warming under the mountain melts the ice and snow. Then the cycle starts again with more snow than summer sun can melt and glaciers growing once more.

The phenomena of Nature’s generosity never ceases to amaze me. The immense flux of energy that streams from the sun in all directions, with only minor variations in strength, is almost beyond comprehension. According to the article about Sunlight in Wikipedia, when the sun is at the zenith, the radiant energy at the earth’s surface is 1050 Watts per square meter. This is more electricity than ten 100 watt light bulbs use when illuminated. Sun and rain are ours in abundance on this marvelous blue planet.

Now, consider that this energy is dispersed in all directions in space and only a tiny fraction is captured by the surface of the Earth or other bodies in orbit around the sun. Where does the rest of the energy end up? It is a generous source of heat and light for us to freely use. We don’t have an energy bill from Sol.

As a painter, I am especially cognizant of the effects of sunlight on the Earth. Having lived as far North as Alaska and as far South as North Carolina, I have witnessed the differences in the color of the sky that correlate to Latitude. I especially love the long light, when the sunlight travels through 2 or 3 times as much atmosphere compared to when it shines down from directly overhead. It is this filtering that changes the the color of morning and evening light and even the color of the light of the midnight sun. Subtle and gentle warm light effects are seen at these times. The effect is more pearly in the North and somewhat like firelight in the south.

My paintings are records of these observations of ecological niches in different seasons and times of day. Whether I am painting the delicate, rosy greens of spring budding trees or the bold golds and crimsons of fall, it is always the light of the sun that has given me the gift of seeing the natural beauty. For this wonderfully varied sunlight, I am always grateful.

s you may have noticed, I have been painting a lot of trees lately. I have always loved trees, feeling especially safe and comfortable in their near vicinity. Their size, longevity, leaves or needles and cones or fruit have always fascinated me and still do. They have been featured in my artworks all my life, either as a solitary tree, a grove or a mass of trees in a forest.

I have been renewing my acquaintance with Acrylic paint, which I used extensively before having a separate studio for my art. This space allowed me to switch to oil as I had more room for the works in progress to slowly dry. When my favorite oil paint was reformulated and no longer met my needs, I started trying many other brands of water soluble oil and decided to try Acrylic again as well. Many new products have been added to the acrylic lineup and I think they solve a lot of problems for artists.

I have also tried some cradled panels, all museum quality, from Ampersand as part of this exploration. These panels are glued to Birch plywood frames that are called cradles. I worked up from some smaller panels to a 24 inch by 36 inch size with a 1.5 inch cradle. It has been alternately frustrating and energizing, depending on what the problem of the day has been. I also found I needed to try some new brushes for acrylic as well, so lots of learning curves. While in learning mode again, I decided to try oil painting with knives, so that I don’t need to wash brushes. Knives are easily wiped clean, so no solvent needed for cleanup of brushes used for regular oil paint.

Taking advantage of the glorious light of summer, I painted some flowers to start with, and some tree portraits as well. The flowers were from my garden, via slides, and the trees from trips to Alaska and Yellowstone again via photo technology.

My latest large painting is a view of a braided river in Denali National Park, probably the Toklat, with a fine stand of fireweed in the foreground. I find it easier to paint flowers with water media than with oil as I love the feel of a springy brush. It is easier to draw the painting with the brush as there is so little drag and the brush holds so much more paint. More like working in egg tempera but with better covering power when needed.

Beauty nourishes the human spirit. When I experience the piercing beauty of a mountain after a rain, my soul is nourished. Joy and peace expand in my consciousness until the overflow creates an urge to paint the scene, capturing it to show others. I paint because the camera does not always capture what I experience. I have taken a lot of slides with SLR in my life and I have carefully stored them to later paint. Now is the time I am mining these treasures to share with everyone. Sometimes these scenes are no more, and sometimes they were fleeting or in an inaccessible area. These are the gifts that the light of the sun has given me and I, in turn, am creating goods to pass on to others. Perhaps these paintings will brighten your day as I intend via this newsletter to deliver good cheer for this holiday season.

The nights are growing longer rapidly, so daylight hours are precious. I am so glad to have all the windows in my studio during this time of year. There is nothing as wonderful as the light of the sun for painting.

Wishing you all much joy and pleasure in the coming year.



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.