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…
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
I started this painting on a walk through Golden Gate Park when I came across a pond that I had never noticed before. I’ve taken frequent walks through the park over the last 2 years and had walked around the left and to the right without seeing that just over the crest of a small hill there was a quiet and murky pond. Being able to spend time in the park is so valuable to me. It’s the place where I flesh out many of my thoughts about life while walking or stopping to watch and meditate. And this small painting is a memory of that time watching and thinking below the pine and cypress trees.
I’ve been busy reacquainting myself with oil painting over the last couple of weeks and it feels great. I’ve even gotten out and done some plein air painting north of San Francisco. This first painting, August Field, was started that morning and finished at home. I’m still focused on thinking in terms of composition and experimenting with how the elements of a painting support each other. It really makes the whole painting process more enjoyable and engaging. I’m planning to continue oil painting on small canvases or panels like this one, experimenting with composition and, eventually, produce some larger works. This second painting was produced from a photograph taken on the same morning of painting outdoors.
I’ve been drawn out of the city this week, north of the Golden Gate Bridge. My mind is consumed with all of the possibilities of landscape. I’ve been really trying to increase my knowledge of composition and am experimenting with a number of different landscape paintings. I feel like the arrangement of elements can tell a story more than I ever have in the past. It feels empowering to read about art and try to plug in to what other painters were thinking. I’m sure I’ll have more to share next Friday. As always, thank you for reading.
I’ve decided that I am going to continue posting the drawings from my sketchbook.. I’m planning to make a new post at least once a week and include any new sketches. I will also be putting up new paintings from time to time, so check back each week and feel free to leave comments.
About two weeks ago, a cold actually did slow me down. It brought a crashing halt to my blogging, art production, and just about everything that involved me being awake. Fortunately, I’ve made a full recovery and am back to drawing and painting.
Since I missed a week due to illness and the holiday, I’ll post two images that I recently painted outside. I really enjoy painting while outside because I think it forces me to speed up. The lines come faster and the process takes over the direction of the painting. At home, I would have more of chance to second guess myself, which can become the death of immediacy in the work.
I will also be updating my Etsy store, ArtFromBrian, soon so please take a look.
Hope you enjoy these and thank you for your support.