Friday, April 30, 2010

Seven Pillars and the Indian Maiden Who Jumped

Seven Pillars is a point of local interest to the natives here. Tim and I have mentioned it as a possible painting location before. Today after a hearty breakfast NOT on the 'heart healthy menu' we decided that today we'd "Wander Indiana" and set up at Seven Pillars. See the heart-killer breakfast we dined on :

Seven Pillars, as I was told when I showed up here in this region 40 yrs. ago, was a local legend. As I was told... a certain Miami Indian maiden was in love with a young Miami warrior who was killed in a battle between neighboring tribes. She was so grief stricken that she cried over the bluff looking down on the Little Mississinewa. Her tears became the seven columns we see today. She also jumped to her death because of her great burden of grief.  Now, don't any locals call me or write and tell me I am all wet!
 That is just how I heard it.
When we set up the wind starts to pick up and some species of tree flower starts blowing down on us like a rain. They drop onto my palette and in my paint. Tim is compalining also that they are falling onto his pastel board making it difficult to work. Ahh, the trials of plein air painters. It's not all sunny days and smiles. Tim finishes up first but not before we have several visitors.

A guy Tim knows from the bank where he used to work stops by and starts up a conversation. I am busy painting but I'm getting this funny feeling in my gut as he sort of buzzes around watching and talking. Maybe my radar is messed up. Tim doesn't make any comments after he leaves. So maybe I was wrong about the feeling I was getting.
 Later, two women stop by. Tim knows one of them I think also from the bank. She is standing right behind me and I'm gagging from the perfume she is wearing. I think it is Naptha No.4 with a little paint stripper thrown in. The other lady is a home-schooler ( a unique breed unto themselves) with two grade school kids who head straight for the water. Finally, I have to say something that doesn't come out quite right but does the trick. "Excuse me mam, but I can't breathe with you 'up-wind' from me. Your perfume is causing my trachea to close up. Its' not...(George Castanza line) you,  its just what your body chemistry is doing to the perfume. It is different with everybody." (OOPS..You stink!)
By that time she has moved and is 'miffed.' The other lady makes some comment about she has a friend like this too.
The kids are running back and forth. It's time they all leave! I thought this was going to be a quite concentration day of painting. I think I'm going to make Tim wear a disguise. When you've worked at a bank you tend to know everybody.  Before she leaves the lady who is giving the "guided tour" informs us as we find out she is from the area and 'is sharing the wealth' of our beautiful region with a Noblesvillian who comes from a  a properous community to our south. I wonder if she was also told the Legend of Seven Pillars? Maybe it's because I live here that the story and the scenery is a little cliche. Keeping in mind that the maiden jumped to her death on the rocks below.
I think it's real easy to get jaded when we have so much to share from here like the Amateur Circus, Seven Pillars, the old Elelphant barns where the elephants feet rotted from the dung they were standing in, in the circus's heyday...I was told that choice tidbit by a local regional well-to-do artist who painted Barnum and Bailey circus day scenes. Anyway, I like the area because it can be quiet. But please don't stop by and "share-the- wealth of the area" or I'll take of my tennis shoe and sock and show you my "Big Toe's Corn." I'll "razzle-dazzle'em."

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Where is "Little Charlie?"

Oh. I've made it to another day in Paradise. It's Wednesday. I'm done for the week. Next week is my last class of Art Appreciation. Then I have to grade exams.
But today is a painting day. Guess who's not going today?
It's cool out and about nine o'clock. It's my turn to drive and buy breakfast. Ham and eggs, crisp hash browns is on the top of the menu board at $3.99. Tim wants to know what's the difference between the ham we got and Canadian bacon. "Well, for one thing my ham slice is twice as thick as yours and I think Canadian bacon is cured differently, drier, saltier."  But this ham was salty. I mean really salty. After my second cup of coffee and the the entire plate of food, I want a "nap."
Tim thinks that's a great idea, too. But we decide we'd better make a painting first. You can see that it is a beautiful day below but it was a hard freeze last night so it's a chilly this morning. Suppose to warm up though.

I'm looking for a little town called Little Charlie near where I live. Why? My middle name is Charlie so I thought this would be a cool painting called "Little Charlie by Little Charlie." Hey, I'm 5'2" and shrinking all the time. We follow the Eel again west towards a place called Hoover. My Iphone GPS map shows Little Charlie near Hoover. As we're driving I'm watching the map. I watch the marker pass right over Little Charlie and there's no Little Charlie. Just farmland and a house. See the house. I know. It's not a town or anything. Tim figures it was a siding during the railroad days when a track ran through the area from the grain storage silos located to the east. We continue driving on for following the Eel back east. The grain silos are a spot I've been toying with in my mind as a possible painitng location. "Let's go to the grainery in Mexico." "Sure", is Tim's reply.

This is an old iron bridge we cross to get back over the Eel. I  think we painted this one before. These iron bridges are nearly indestructable because they are made out of iron and not steel. The iron doesn't rust like steel does. The planks across the bed make a loud clackety noise as we cross. The river view is a good subject as well, maybe later.  It's the grainery today because I'm driving. Tim is fine with that.
I know the guy who runs the facility. Most of the corn here goes over to Ohio for ethanol. You know ethanol. The produxt that is cheaper than gas, keeps the corn prices high and is subsidized by the good ole U.S.of A. Only in America. Craig Ferguson is right. This is the only country where we pay more in taxes so we can pay more to the farmer to pay less for gas. That's traditional capitalism at its best. We finally settle down and start. I'm working in my three colors again and Tim is doing his pastels. But he starts to complain that this is a hard subject. He does that to relax himself so he can do a better job already giving himself a way out if it looks like crap. The sky is a rich clear blue and the silos are grey concrete and metal painted gray. We talk most of the time today about the gorgeous weather and his solar room addition. The solar room is a story by itself . We drove to Michigan in the ealry 80's to get tempered glass panes from Jordan College. The college was a big deal in the days of the oil embargo.They were heavy into "solar." Remember that? Gas was expensive and you had to wait in line to get gas.
Our finished pieces are displayed. Mine is above and Tim's is to the left. I like the way he leans his buildings to allow for parallax. You get parallax from a "normal" camera lens. He sees this with his stereoptic vision. I don't know how he does this. His drawing uses a lot of black pastel but it really works here. It reminds me of a Charles Burchfield drawing. He loves the detail and renders it in a very specific way almost like an architectural rendering. Mine above again favors contrast and simplicity. The whole time I was painitng I was thinking, "think pattern."  Actually, I'm pretty pleased with this one. When I peeled the tape away from the edges the white paper border sets the color ablaze.. All in all, great weather in the mid-60's, good breakfast, a great painting day. With the definite possibilty of a nap at three o'clock is a go.
I think though we may head over to Home Depot to drop his rough drawings off to get an estimate for materials to build his solar room, ...finally.

Friday, April 23, 2010

UpHill 200lbs.of Stone and Art

It's the reservoir again today. We'll try to get a painting done before it starts to rain.  Carolyn is coming along today. You know what that We do! You see the sack in her hand? That's one of three she's bringing along to collect rocks. The rocks at the reservoir are 'legend.'  This is about 30 feet of the several hundred miles of waterline. You see those rocks? About 1in 5 are "keepers." That means that Tim and I get t'carry them back... to.... the car.
Carolyn loves rocks. I do too but I limit myself to one or two "real" keepers. The ones that are just too nice to leave behind, 'mementos' of the day.

Tim is a patient man. He locates a subject of today's plein air and opens his pastel case. He sets to work immediately transfixed in that awesome zone of creation.
He and I select about the same location. He focuses on the shelter and I the jut-outs of land along the lake. Today is an unusually bright but overcast day. A good day to get a sunburn. What is difficult? The water is reflecting all of that diffused light on the landscape bleaching out the color. But that's why we come outdoors. The challenge of pulling a rabbit out of our "arse." It's not hard to go to some great scenic place and throw together a picture-postcard. But what would we learn form that?

My subject is a small boat with tewo fishermen about three hundred yards out along the coast fishing for small bass spawning there. Thye seem to be doing alright as they are there for over an hour and a half.

Tim is complaining about the water which is 'no color' but the diffused white light from above. Even the olive-green of the water is washed out. I'm having the same problem as well. I am mixing several whites using small amounts of pewter gray,cad red, turquoise and cad yellow. I seem to be getting a feel for the day. I'm also listening to two fishermen nearby on the bank. They remind me of a radio show back in the 50's. They are outdoors, like us enjoying each other's company and doing the number 1 'nothing box' occupation for men...fishin'.
Carolyn has been bent over for the last three hours. That can mean only one thing. The rock pile is growing beyond our physical capabilities of hauling the rocks uphill 200 feet to the car a half mile away. 
Yup, that's Tim hauling the first load away to the car. I've developed a twisted ankle and am having trouble keeping up with him. Carolyn is still looking and dragging her sack behind her moaning of the weight. She wants to know why he doesn't come back and help her.
I thought Tim was going to have a heart attack the closer he got to the parking lot. I can still hear the echo in the background..., "Wait up you guys. My bag is heavier that the one you have. Come back and help me."

I'm smiling to myself. Those rocks sure looked prettier laying right where they were. It's a shame they have to go to a foster home.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Hidden Dangers of Painting Outdoors

Yesterday was a good day for painting, but I hate surprises. I came home built a big fire to roast hotdogs when my wife got home and messed around in the house. Later after we came in, I took a hot tub tub is a Rubbermaid Watering tank I set up in the basement to take those great hot-soaker baths. You know when the back is out of wack.

Later that evening, after watching some TV I got ready for bed. My wife was looking at my back and she thought I had a new mole. This mole crawled. AHHHHHHH! I hate ticks.
I suspect what or where I got it was yesterday sitting in the grass by the river painting.
I figured a hot bath and a scrub would get rid of anything that might have hitchhiked home with me.
If you know anything about ticks is that they are persistent hitchhikers . They hang on with these hook like appendages in the front of their body. They are in the spider family and eight legged. The front legs have reverse hooks so they can hold on and hammer their fangs into the skin and filler-up. After this they drop off.

Okay, we got the little bugger. He died. So I put on a shirt and go to bed. I usually stay up a little longer because I can't sleep right away. I'm too wound up from the day's activities. I'm sitting in bed looking up ticks online and I get this crawly feeling all over. So I start scratching everything that itches and by now that's about a hundred places on my body. I get to my head and where the skull drops off in the back on the right side and there's a new mole. A new MOLE! That's no damn mole! I'm infested with arachnids.

Tims wife loves arachnids as she wrote a whole book on them. Decisions, I save him for his wife or initiate the "Sudden Death Thumbnail Squeeze." Yeah, you guessed it I saved it for his wife in a little glass jar. Awwwwhhh. Ain't I the nice one?

He's the biggest one in the hand. It's a dog tick that I find online. This is the picture I found.

"That's him officer! The ugly one at the top with the white hoody."

Now the next time I go to paint outdoors I'm not goin' to sit in the grass. I'm taking a folding aluminum chair coated with Malethion, Hydroxy-Perethrins and maybe even a 50,000volt cattle fence charger attached to the chair legs.

I know what your thinking. This guys a kitty.
Actually, I'm not. I just don't like new moles showing up and not staying put. That's a mole! And they don't get bigger and drop off.
See you next time as,


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Porter Wednesday?

Then a light descended from behind the rearview mirror filling my back window. Nah! I just threw that in for starters. It's 9AM and I'm headed over to pick up Tim to paint today. It's my  turn to drive and his to buy breakfast. The sun was over the dash and lit the sky making my Iphone stop down giving it this eerie quality. Cool, I learned something new and its not even noon. Tim was almost ready. He just had to finish his 'cuppa coffee.' We headed for Lincoln Square with the idea in my mind it's his turn to buy. 'Steak and Eggs' it is. 
This is the interior where we chow down and fuel
up for a day of painting. 
When we are working time runs in fast forward like a DVD in search mode. The art is important but the creating part or the process is far more important to us. It's what we do. Its' who we are to a large degree otherwise we might just get together and drink beer. I like beer but not enough to just get together to drink beer. Anyway, we finish up and load the car up. Tim is disgusted. His canvas chair split down the middle. It was a Goodwill chair! Who in the hell do we complain too? We look at each other's work before we head back to his place. When we get there he want's to or Porter? Porter beer ,a dark beer like Negro Modello or Guinness, is cold and on tap err... bottle. That's where Porter Wednesday comes into the picture. Its' Wednesday! 
Woo ha!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Le FAUVES (the Wild Beasts of ART) Got Me

I guess its my turn as Tim called and said "Hey, put some of your work up." I replied, "Arrr, I be gettin' to it, soon enough." So here are two I've done this spring and the self-portrait is from this winter. The Wheat Field is from last fall. The self-portrait looks like my cousin Bobby. There's a bunch of Bobby stories I can tell. Anyway, I think it's the teeth. I had some real incisors when I was younger and they must be still there in my psyche.
I am working from the influence of a group of artists called the Fauves. Henri Matisse, James Ensor, and Edvard Munch are the ones that stand out in my mind. They loved color and had an irreverence for painting using 'local' color. They used color in an 'emotional' way. That suits me to a T. I use only three colors for these landscape paintings. I try to squeeze a lot out of those three colors. That goes back to my college days when the gospel of Marshall McLuhan was in full swing. The message is in the medium.

I work on a soft warm gray under painting and add the drawing in burnt umber with a small brush like a liner but shorter. After the drawing is in I begin to lay in large areas of color darker that I plan to use nearer to the finished painting. Lighter mixtures of similar color are added and built up. I finish with more drawing in a darker color like burnt umber and turquoise blue.

It's a great day when Tim and I get to paint. There's nothing else on my mind except grabbing a breakfast on the saunter and creating under a simple challenge to capture something of the day to take back home. Each painting like a remembered smell stirs up the exact feeling of that day. Where we were, what the temperature was like and what was said about the subject we had chosen. That's a whole 'ball game' and we're always the winning team. Woo-hah!

Today's Highlight: Tim's Pastels from the Last Few Weeks

Tim is the kind of buddy who comes along just once in a lifetime. I've known him for over 33 years. We've become the kind of friends that you can call on a moment’s notice and we guarantee we'll drop what we are doin’ and show up to help. So you can see why we paint together. Or maybe you can't. We both like 'Rise and Shine' breakfasts with plenty of grease and hash browns super crisp. We both are artists and went to school in art education. We both would rather be in our 'nothing box' than about anything else and we both don't mind getting dirt or working hard. We both think naps are essential to good health. Oh yeah, the most important we like to laugh and get crazy. Crazy like the day we stopped to get dipped cones at a small ice cream place after painting. We asked for extra dip chocolate. When we got them the chocolate was like 'wax lips' and really chewy and we got started laughing, coughing, and complaining 'sort of' since we asked for a extra helpings of dip chocolate. We couldn't let them go to waste so it just got funnier by the moment trying to eat these chocolate tops and chewing rawhide and laugin' until we thought we were going to get thrown out of the sitting area picnic tables.That gives you a little idea of our painting session’s background.

So what I want to do is talk about Tim's work. The portrait was done near the end of winter. We stayed indoors and were doin' self portraits. I had done a few more by that time so he decided to try one also. He has this big wall mirror which he took down and set it up about fourteen inches from his chair and started sketchin' and starting his pastel's work and there it was that damn incessant clickin' noise. Finally, I had to laugh because I couldn't concentrate and when looked at the picture he had drawn it as if the picture plane had flattened out and elongated his head. Now it does look like him if you've known him as long as I have. But it has such a strange 'cubist flattening'. I love the piece because it makes me laugh and it's him to a 't' psychologically. The other four pieces were done locally. The one real bright one is the local electric light plant, ....huh?. The main structure is day-glo but the kind of lighting for that day makes it work somehow. The pastel piece of the waves is done at Mississsississinewa ( where do you stop with the 'sis's)in the Reservoir. The day was chill and windy but still spring. He sat almost at the water's edge. He has to do this because otherwise he'll draw the whole damn place...One time he drew a country farm scene as an aerial view and he was sitting on the ground not in a plane but I'd swear he tele-transported himself right out of that chair and drew it from a 1000' in the air. The other two water pieces are from his pond at his home and the Eel River near my home. He does great water. Once in awhile I'll watch 'im create a pastel painting and it's like a flurry of arm motions pickin'- up, dabbing, droppin again and again and again, like a  DQ blizzard- maker. All of his work has a fresh spontaneity that puts the viewer right where it was done. You can almost hear the water and get your feet wet. Well that's enough. Can't paint today Tim. I got to get a haircut...startin' to look like Ringo Star.


See you next time,
Phil and Tim painting outdoors

Friday, April 16, 2010

One out of Three Ain't Bad

Friday rolls around and its usually a good day to paint for me. Week's almost over and I don't try to make any plans for Friday. I told Tim we'd paint tomorrow at nine, Friday. He was fine with it. It was my turn to buy breakfast. Lincoln Square is a local spot where we like to eat. Breakfast most of the time are specials posted on a whiteboard at the entrance. The usual it's eggs over easy, hash browns crisp, links and English muffin dry. Oh yeah, decaf with honey. Tim gets the same except scrambled eggs. We get away, finally, about ten. It's his turn to drive so its up to him to pick the spot where we are going to paint. He says he hates to decide as he could drive around the rest of the day. In spite of this wandering, he always knows exactly where we are.

We are driving around with a blue sky and westerly breeze that slowly cools down, clouds up the sky. A threat of rain grows more real by the minute. After thirty minutes we pass through Rich Valley and start following the Wabash River. Tim wants to paint a large sycamore. He pulls the car over in front of a cluster of large trees: two hackberries, a sycamore and a cottonwood. The bark on the cottonwood looks like corduroy pants on a giant scale.

I really am not getting any landscape image which interests me. That isn't much of a problem. If I have to I can paint my legs for a subject. The road direction we just came from turns to the left and a few houses are surrounded by a small thin woods along the river. Everything is that new pale green new growth makes in the trees and undergrowth. I've decided again today to make this painting with the three colors I used yesterday. I like to use these colors because I can be more involved with the shapes and way the pieces of the landscape come together like sculpture. I am more and more sculpting in two dimensions with shapes that exist spatially from the front to the back of the picture plane. I am not specifically working atmospherically since these spaces are more shallow than. Sculpture fir me is more real than painting as an art form but I am still a painter. That's okay.

Tim has settled down in front of the four, three foot diameter trees and starts to work. He starts laughing as he is sitting about four feet in front of them. I think he is laughing because he can't see the tree copse from the individual trees, him being too close. He resettles again across the road almost in a plowed field. I notice he is focused today a lot more than I am. Several cars pass and slow down to see what we are doing. That's all though; they just slow down.

The sky has turned to a cool, drizzle, pale gray. The colors I'm using bright as they are and being place together still seem to be painted over black. The lack of light sucks out the color. However, the effect that is working with the color is that I mixing more and more of the three together mudding the color but also it produces a shallower flatter space simplifying the shapes like a stage of flat landscape shapes, a diorama.

Tim's pastel is textured trees with a similarly textured sky of the same slurry of color that makes the sky look hard with its cloud covered flat lighting. Black and white photographs work well on this kind of muted light day. When we wrap it up I take a closer look a his work. He likes what I did but doesn't say much except that the color has such contrast yet still doesn't reflect a strongly lit sky. I like his color mixtures which make his sky look metallic in its hardness and his composition which ordinarily wouldn't work because it is a straight line of four trees.

On the way back to my house, we both agree that it wasn't a bad day for one out of three. The weather went to the crapper, the paintings were okay...but breakfast was a grand slam. Not bad for a day in the great outdoors.

See you next time in the Great Outdoors


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Painting in the Great Outdoors at the Missisinewa Reservor

Tim, a retired railroad breakman and conductor, heads up the soft pastel division of this two man team. Phil, on the otherhand, is a semi-retired art teacher still slogging into a few college classrooms each term on several regional campuses. Ge's there to inspire everyday folks ages 18-50 to appreciate art. It's not the work Idislike so much as the comments I get from my students. "The book is too large to read and do you expect us to take a test without our books?" So we both need to get away out into the natural unpopulated world to ply our respective art forms once or twice a week and taste ahhh... 'nirvana.' We have braved rain storms with potentially deadly lightning strikes inches from our shelter. Unbelieveable noise pollution in a small nearby town which boasts of the Honeywell Center and the occassional mosier/onlooker who drones on about a sundry neighbor or aunt who paints or at least he thinks she still does.

On this common artistic ground we drive off at nine in the morning headed today for the reservoir at Missisinewa. A now long water filled valley was damed up by the Army Corps of Engineers as their solution to flooding downstream ofseveral towns to the west. As it flows from the Little Miami to the Wabash and later into the Ohio the reservoir holds back these land eating rivers. As one can see much of the land is a recreational venue for boaters, skiers, and fisherman. Fishermen who by the droves on both sides of the spillway snag whatever they can. We have decided today to pull into a little parking lot which is close to the water, as we can get, as we will have to carry chairs and supplies downhill along with water and 'chair' easels and then back up again when we have finished our 'objets d'art.'

This time Tim's wife has decided to join us as she is a avid, no..., an addicted rock collector.Tim and I move down to the end which is least occupied. Only by a couple fishing for crappie and silver bass whom we hope not to disturb. Don't want to scare the fish. I find a nice rock to support myself not too hard on the butt and another to set my board on. I carry a pail of bottles of acrylic colors which also will be used after I dump out the bottles for water for cleaning my brushes. I usually have to sit for a while for my mind to stop and for the place to get a hold of me. Today the water and stones have gotten my attention along the edge. Tim has already set up and is skecthing on his pastel stock paper in pencil, a basic division of spaces on the paper's picture plane. He works as if he goes into a trance moving between his board and his box of soft pastels in the hundreds.

Me on the other hand use an assortment of hog brislte brushes from an 1/ 8" round to a 1/4 " filbert and some larger 1" flats. These brushes have seen lots of better days but I still find it a challenge to wrestle out a painting with these old soldiers. I use a rarified palette (a few colors) of turquiose,Cad. red med., and Cad yellow deep. It's not that I don't use other colors but for the time being I have been painting like a Fauve with errant color planes and brush drawing for defintion.

A considerably constant click, click, click becomes the backdrop of Tim's mosaic style rendering of the landscape, him stuck with his characteristic fisheye view of much of what he paints. His work is filled with hundreds of colors from warm greens ,magentas, purples, oranges and deep blue outlines rolled across the surface in a drawing style and filled with masses of these mosaic strokes running in one direction for most of the landscape. I also have been busy outlining general spatial divisions of my subject in burnt umber with a small brush which acts more like a 'drybrush.' Later, I begin laying in masses of colors mixed from puddles of color across and back again in the palette box running from purplish browns to acid yellow greens and cool slate violets. The challenge is to squeeze the maximum out of these few colors. White lately, never comes out of the color bucket.

I've failed to mention Carolyn's progress down the beach. She has filled three large cloth bags with some hefty stones and has a variety of piles sitting like dolmens around the end of the shore where the fishermen cast and reel like metronomes. After about and hour and a half, comes the critical time when stopping the art process is getting close. It's better to stop rather than killing the spontaneity of these non-thought out responses to the visual input we have been absorbing and interpreting. It's time to stop. Small weak strokes indicate that weve lost our purpose or focus and are nearing completion. We stop. Tim sprays his pastel with fixative while I wash brushes and dump my water out on the sand. I begin to load up the bottles of color acrylic and brushes drying each before banding them.

An initial "were going" is supposed to have Carolyn begin to 'circle-up' her piled stores of rocks and overfilled bags. We move back down the beach. She is still bending over finding just 'one more.' My only course of action is to warn her that if she doesn't start now heading up the hill with her ballast we'll be forced to leaver her. And not at all the next time. It is Tim and I who end up carrying the biggest load of stone to the car. As I'm going uphill I look back at Carolyn. "Do you know it's illegal to haul anything out of a state park without permission." A panic look shoots across her face. "I just hope a DNR ranger doesn't stop us before we leave the park."

Tim looks at me and smiles nodding his head. He knows how many rocks are sittin' in the yard, on the deck and in the living room, upstairs and strewn in neat piles around their seven acre gentleman's farm. We drive on home and sit in the sun critiquing each others work. We critique each as if it was our own and then we had to finish it. Just some suggestions perhaps each of us can take or leave. As I drive away Carolyn is dragging two large cloth bags of stone to the house towards the kitchen. Stone soup I wonder?

See you next outing in the Great Outdoors.

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