Monday, April 4, 2011

Landscapes In Stanwood

This weekend I just framed and delivered 11 pieces to The Gallery By The Bay in Stanwood. These are all landscapes, mostly from this past year, but one very old one from 1989 or so. The others are from my painting spot down south of the park, where i bike down on the railroad bed to this place where the Black Locusts have formed this sort of glen on the river, where the grass sort of stays low, and coyotes come out and sit and look for mice on summer nights, and big white owls swoop through. I have painted there for years, there's really no end of things to look at. But best of all, besides the snake of the river and the light that comes down on it, are the thin black lines of the locust trees, which somehow appeal to me in a way that more native trees don't. I don't really care to paint Douglas Fir trees, or alders, or cedars. A Maple works for me, but the Black Locust, and big old Cottonwoods, seem the best. So I am drawn to the river fields here. Which, unfortunately, are now disappearing under the guise of salmon protection, i think it is, where hippie kids plant random plants in long unnaturally straight lines across the fields. A cedar, a fir, a cranberry, a cedar.. etc. Fairly unsightly, and depressing to think of the future mishmash of a forest, and I don't really get how it helps the valley, but i have no idea, they must have it figured out. Bad for landscape painting though, and another way that rural areas and fields disappear. The landscapes i paint, and this is up to this point, as i feel like i need to branch out a bit, seem to address the same themes year after year, more or less. The main theme, which i am aware of, is trying to get some sort of light to emanate from the painting, which is best done when one can clearly focus on a source of light, like the sun, or a bright cloud, or a water reflection, while one is painting. You really just need one, and the whole painting sort of spins on it. It doesnt take much. I end up painting mostly just as it gets dark, as i work during the day, but also its really the best light, though most fleeting, and usually, its just a low glow in the sky somewhere that i try to get. Why trying to get some light to pop out of a painting can be important i have no idea. It is certainly about mood though, i cant say i am "trying" to express any particular mood here, but in general, they seem a bit melancholy, and dark. My interest is mostly back to the mystical Carlos Casteneda thing, from my own hippy life, which is the root of painting for me,surprisingly , for being such a science guy- but its the whole idea of a world behind the world,and the idea of the landscape being a being, of it being alive and speaking to us. Its also the Marilyn Frasca training, which anyone who went to Evergreen in the 80's and painted would I am sure know about. She was a very important influence for me (maybe the only one really, as i can't recall any other art teachers). And she taught a buch of stuff, but the basic thing i got was the idea of dialogue, and that these are images that have some sort of story, and we can talk to them. And so its mystical, in the sense of it being something we can't understand and is bigger than us, and religous, in the sense of there being the possiblity of some sort of communication, and that it might not just be science and materialism. Which i sort of really think it is, but secretly hope it isn't. We see things we like, and we say, that's a pretty mountain, or lake, but as we look closer, and let it move us more, we find other themes that are subtler, more complex, more layered. I suppose, like good food, though I myself am a heathen in that department. Low light in a field is an old theme, and one for me as for many people, and it seems like its having its heyday again, or maybe just has, and this is the landscape speaking to our culture. Something about the melancholy of that warm light and the long shadow, speaks to us now,and maybe did not so much a decade or two ago. I think so anyways. It will come and go.I look back at my oldest paintings, and I amazed by... well, how little i have progressed. Not that i have given it a lot ot time to work through anything,but i chose the same dang things to paint now as when i was 20. Same idea of looking for a pattern in a landscape, and trying to get the greens to look right, and trying to get some shapes in there. Same things get me excited. I don't see how there can be any evolutionary use to the species in having a handful of people get excited about the shape of a color on a board, and feel it down in their bones, but there must be some sort of reason for it. But its certainly not about propagating the species. Propagating stacks of unfinished paintings, yes, but what's the point of that? Picture at top is a picture i took this winter coming down by Macauly Falls on SR203. Its a great broody hill, and Cherry Valley right after it is such an anomaly around here. Its dark at night- very few lights. And though lots of people live up that way, including my folks, it seems oddly empty, like a valley that was overlooked or something.