Last day working properly before we head off to NY. I’m speechless, which is no bad thing. Here’s todays cloud and wind studies :
I’m going to be visiting these sketchbooks for a long time to come. Also have started getting glimpses of the painting in my peripheral vision, can’t wait to get back to the studio and begin. Also roughing out ideas for some prints to send over to Bill Brody, would really like to set up a joint showing opportunity with him both here and in the UK.
I should have read the slogan on my own website. After a really committed day painting yesterday I felt really uneasy about the work once I brought it in from the bright light to the interior space where it will be shown. The painting was active and strongly marked but the tonalities and colours were flat and muddy.
I went to bed knowing that but not admitting it, woke up in the wee hours (broad daylight of course) with Messrs E & B Jeebie tapping on my shoulder. Then I realised where the road ahead lay. I’ve been doing a plein air study, not a finished piece of work. I only got here less than two weeks ago, so how else could it be ? Once I thought about using studio time I felt a lot better, and will also be able to work in parallel on the printmaking I want to show to Bill Brody. It suddenly all felt a lot better. I could honour the plein air study for what it is – the record of how overwhelming this place is.
Sometimes this city boy can stray too far from his comfort zone.
So back to the DNA of my working methods. I put away the painting and had another intensive day of drawing. I love burnt sticks. Doing studies of the sky elements that shape this landscape. Trying to look at the landscape upside down where the sky is more visually ‘solid’ than the land.
That’s better, everything really does start with drawing.
Yesterday was a day off at Lake Hood seaplane base, where I could have done with my friend Steve and a hat and a veil like the one Catherine Hepburn wore in the African Queen. Everything was flying, including the Alaska state bird – which is a supersize-me mosquito. I didn’t get a photo of any mosquitos but here’s two float planes. The first one, Steve tells me, is the classic Alaska bush plane, a deHavilland Beaver and the other is a fairly rare rotary engined Cessna. I was talking to Nancy tonight, who lived in Sitka and worked as a health nurse in S E Alaska. Her job was to visit remote places, often in planes like that, she recognised the plane immediately. Rotary engines sound amazing - brash, throaty and strident - like a Ducati once it gets in the zone.
There was me thinking Olivia deHavilland was a 1940′s movie star. Here’s tonights progress report :
Was working on the sky today – a really active, full day trying to paint out the ideas I had about a fluid landscape. Trying to use the motile properties of paint to describe the fluid energy of this place. It was cold – the wind dumps out of the mountains, through Bear Pass and onto the hillside where I’m working. The task turned into how to paint a cold wind. I had to wear my new mountain bike fingerless gloves and my kayaking thermals.
There’s more tweaks to be done tomorrow, but the basic build is there. Tomorrow and Wednesday will mostly be working on the tonal balances of the sky because I’m working outside and this will be shown indoors. This landscape has literally blown me away, I feel as if I’ve had to find new marks for this work. Two weeks is just a sliver of time to be here.
Haven’t been able to see the volcanoes on the other side of the Cook Inlet : Hayes, Spurr, Redoubt and Illiumna. Something of a disadvantage if you are trying to paint them .. but I have a good feeling about this job. This hard country has been very kind to me so far. Time will tell.
I went to an amazing event last night – not really night, although it was 1.00am it wasn’t at all dark. It is called Relay for Life - a 24 hour event for the American Cancer society.There were thousands of decorated paper bags lit by candles , each one commemorating a cancer survivor or a loved one. They are called Luminarias – my one was for Kate Selway who would have loved this unruly and generous place and two dear friends who keep sailing through the weather with such grace : Eva Newnham and Jude Williams. Small lights out on the big ocean. Nothing like being on the far ocean to remind you how much you love your people. Click on this link if you want to make a donation.