Saturday, January 16, 2010

Fine Art, tools of expression

I had mentioned in an earlier posting that I considered my education and learned techniques as my "tools of expression." I reiterate this because it would be so easy for an artist to get into the manufacturing mode because of the pressures of living in this fast paced society. The more we use the computer with all of it's opportunities, the more we seem to develop an Attention Deficit Disorder, ADD, to life. Small bits of information that are processed quickly like the sound bites of evening news or Twitter comes to mind. I bring this up because I am a victim of this too and I have to remind myself to slow down, take a deep breath.

If I were to head out to the Valley (Skagit Valley Washington) looking around for a "formula" painting, it would be rather easy to find one. I need more than that. I need emotion. Sitting on rock with sketch book in hand, absorbing the day, and being a voyeur to the present, I watch the trickle of water moving down the slough. My eyes move along the curvature of the bank, each twig and blade of grass now coming into focus. Ten to fifteen minutes pass before I set my pencil to the paper. I'm establishing the values and contemplating the color. I write notes on the side of my drawing, "subtle shades of blues and cool greens in the shadows with some grayed reds beneath." The blaze of tulips are almost blinding but, I ignore for the time being since the fields are brown and tulips won't bloom for a few months. This is how the mind wanders when you slow the processing. As I'm sitting there, I notice a hunter in the distance, hardly moving. I contemplate entering him in the composition but, decided not. Still, I cannot keep my eyes from him. He moves one leg forward in deep concentration, herons are fascinating. Can you imagine a heron on Twitter? Back to my drawing, I wonder what this delta region of the valley would be like without roads, dikes, and sloughs. I imagine that there must have been tens of thousands of birds, flying, squawking, and just standing still like this great blue hunter. A certain bonding feeling comes over me as I sit here. The painting I'm contemplating is much too large to paint outdoors so I close my sketch book and sit for another ten minutes.

A couple weeks or so have passed. I've painted this slough before but, I've never painted this painting before. It's a new experience. I still see the hunter and wonder where he's standing now.

"Trickle to Sea" 36x48


  1. Hi Alfred, I have not forgotten you. I am very glad to receive this blog, because it really is full of real thoughts that I often share and can relate to, as I paint out of doors too. I have your book close at hand. this blog must be part of your next one. The blue of the water here is startling, Trickle to Sea; and yet it makes these paintings speak to me. I want to tell you that I have started an Internet Plein air group, East Bay Plein Air Painters and I now am wondering if you would like to join? You will be signing up to a national site and then adding your voice to all of the artists here. I am laughing because of what you said about computer...I am signed on now because I need some birds flying in my lake painting, and I was going to do a search, when I saw your newest link...thanks for writing the way you do.

  2. Thanks Alfred, this was a treat to open the computer this morning and read how another artist feels when coming across a few moments of introspection and viewing at the same time. I feel nature that way myself, though I am not quite as experienced as you. Getting there will be fun. Love your book.

  3. Muse on "o great bard". Isn't it wonderful when we know that sense of bonding one on one with the scene and take it with us into memory where we visit it again and again....Thanks so much for sharing! carly

  4. Hi Alfred,
    I am new to your work and found you when I signed up for Twitter, so it does have its good points. I knew I liked your work for a reason, we work in similar ways. I had mentioned this on my own blog a while ago, (November 2008). I don't believe in copying a scene, its the "feeling" I get when looking at the subject matter I am after, which I go back to the studio to complete from my sketches and notes taken on site. It is a pleasure to find someone else who works the same way. I will look forward to following your blog.

  5. I always wonder how the hunter, the artist, and the traveler, breathless at the sight of two hundred rising geese, co-exist in the same Skagit field. Do they all sense beauty? What does it mean to capture it?

  6. I think that you never capture it ML. You engage it. :-)


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