Brian Bailey, Rock Creek, Oil on Canvas, 9″ x 12″ © 2016
I visited my parents in Montana about a month ago and spent some time trying to sort through the boxes and bins of things that I’ve been intending to take with me over the last 10 years or so. I came across this painting of Rock Creek near Red Lodge, Montana that I believe I started painting in 1998. My uncle, Jim Poulson, took me on a painting trip to help me figure out how to use my newly acquired easel and oil paints. Jim is an amazing landscape artist and definitely one of my biggest art influences. I remember him helping me figure out the composition and how to start with shades of red under the trees to give them life and keep the green from becoming too dominant. It’s amazing how early lessons in life can come back to you and have renewed meaning.
When I found the painting, it was mostly as you see it above. But, the lower-left corner, in front of the tree, was a flat patch of permanent green that had been scraped off and left unfinished, until now. I spent some time over the course of an afternoon in my studio to finally finish Rock Creek. It’s amazing to me how connected I feel to this painting. It was from a time before I knew many of the conventions of art and composition but it feels like a very honest representation of what I really know about painting. Jim was a great teacher and I’m glad to have found this, to remind me of our painting trip. Maybe I’ll get the rest of my stuff from my parents house next time…
Brian Bailey, The Way, Oil on Canvas, 7″ x 7″, © 2016
It feels like Spring has fully arrived in San Francisco. I am very much enjoying the 60 to 70 degree temperatures with clear skies and have been trying to get outside whenever possible. I painted this small canvas after a walk to the Botanical Gardens in Golden Gate Park. I’ve been very interested in square format compositions and the effect of light and shadow on different colors. It reminds me of my limited training in darkroom photography where one of the challenges was to capture highlights and shadows without losing all of the information behind them. Similarly, I’ve been trying to neutralize colors by mixing compliments to create shadows that are delicate and still show the colors underneath.
Brian Bailey, High Tide and the Fog, Oil on Masonite, 14″ x 11″, © 2016
I’ve also been experimenting with brushwork. Specifically, I’ve been working towards letting go and finding a way between tight and loose. Brushwork, it seems to me, is like the rhythm of a song. It can vary greatly and change the feeling of a painting from controlled and orderly to chaotic to lyrical and rhythmic. In the painting above, I experimented with using different sized brushes to capture some of the movement of the waves near Land’s End by the entrance to the bay. A light fog was coming in and obscuring the hills in the distance and, in the end, I found this to be the most interesting part of the painting. I’m definitely going to explore the idea of using fog or haze in future paintings.
Again, thank you for reading and your comments are always appreciated!
Brian Bailey, Pathway, Watercolor, 7.25″ x 5.25″, © 2016
Over the last month, I’ve spent many hours walking through Golden Gate Park and finding quiet spots to draw and paint. For the painting at left, I had forgotten my pencils so it was started without any drawing as a guide. This is unusual for me, but I’m happy that I forgot them. Making an alteration to the way I work can sometimes feel like waking up. We can become very mechanical in the way we create and in our expectations. Something as simple as forgetting pencils and being forced to solve a problem in a new way can be very helpful at unhitching the past from our consciousness.
Brian Bailey, Lucent Grove, Watercolor, 7.25″ x 5.25″, © 2016
It’s constantly difficult to let go of preconceived notions about what I should be doing. Do my paintings look enough like others that have been successful? Am I using color in a way that makes sense? A litany of questions can float up into my mind like bubbles from soapy water, but I think the way forward is to pop them and focus in tightly on exactly what’s in front of me. Painting and life both feel best when I’m tuned in to the present.
Brian Bailey, Golden Landing, Watercolor, 7.25″ x 5.25″, © 2016
During my walks in the park, I like to find quiet spots and practice breathing with intention. I don’t follow a specific meditation practice but have compiled my own experiences and the words of many teachers to find my way into consciousness. It can be very slippery and doesn’t always result in a great calm or flow state but, when it does, it can be very powerful. All the weight of the past and the expectations of the future can be dissolved and I cannot think of a better way to enter into the creative play of painting or anything else that comes from the heart.