Monday, September 28, 2009

"Art Contemplates Industry"

Last May, I and 40 other artists and photographers were allowed to tour the recently decommissioned Bull Run Powerhouse outside Sandy, OR. We took photographs, painted and sketched. We have each produced one special piece of art inspired from this experience. The art will be on display in a traveling exhibition, and the first showing is coming on Oct 3rd!

My painting is inspired by American modernism, which was an art movement inspired by the technological and industrial advances that occurred during the early 20th century. So when I had an opportunity to create art about The Bull Run Powerhouse, which was built during that time, naturally I was intrigued. The architecture reflects the beauty and craftmanship that were regularly put into public buildings at that time.

(Here is a little pic of me finding an elk horn on the premises. We were all pretty excited about the find!)

As we passed through the Control Room (which looked like it was retrofitted into the Powerhouse in the early 60's, and then became frozen in time,) I spied a ream of blueprints on a desk. Now, my father and older brother Erik are civil engineers ("Peterson Structural Engineers") I grew up drawing on the back of my father's blueprints. So something about those blueprints really caught my eye! I contacted
PGE, which is the current owner of the property, and I was able to choose several blueprints. I have mounted a blueprint onto wood panel, and I am creating the painting right on top of it.

Here is a picture of the painting-- almost done. I tried to leave the blueprint visible through the painting, sort of like the painting and the blueprint where a duet. One thing that makes this particular blueprint so special is that there are corrections drawn onto the blueprint. If you look closely, you can see the words “Battery Room” and “Control Room”, along with scribble-marks and penciled in walls and doors.

The first venue and reception will be in Government Camp, at the Mt. Hood Cultural Center and Museum. Reception Oct. 3, 2-5 p.m.

Mt. Hood Cultural Center and Museum 88900 E Hwy 26, Business Loop, Government Camp, Oregon 97028
503.272.3301 ~

For more information, visit:

BTW- Peterson Structural Engineers have designed the bases for multiple large-scale public sculptures. Its pretty cool and you can see some pictures at:

Sponsored by:
Willamette Falls Heritage Foundation & Portland General Electric

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

My Paintings Showing at The Pines Tasting Room and Gallery in Hood River!

The Pines 1852 Vineyard has a beautiful and spacious tasting room in downtown Hood River. They show and sell art along with their fabulous, old vine wine. I got on board there recently and have quite a few paintings for sale.

Make a day of it! They have wine, art, and music. Special events include First Friday on July 3rd with live music by Kerry Williams and the Social Club from 5-8pm. Also July 4th come see Matthew and the Crooked Disciples from 5-8 pm.

The Pines Tasting Room and Gallery
202 State St.
Hood River, OR 97031

Phone: (541) 993-8301

Hours: Thurs-Sat, 12-9pm; Sun, Mon, and Weds 12-6pm; closed Tues.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

An artistic conundrum.

This is two different versions of the same painting I am currently calling "The Neighbor" (see why I call it that below). The reason why I have two versions of this (and why I am posting it now) is this: sometimes when I go along, the initial drawing or the early stages of the painting captures me so entirely I don't want to continue. I want to keep the unfinished drawing or painting exactly how it is. And yet, it does not look DONE to me. It looks like a formal suit paired with house slippers. It feels like going to a pot-luck empty handed. So it looks wonderful, but I don't get that satisfied feeling I get when I feel something is "done".

So this time I tried something new. When I got to that place, I just set it aside and started another version. That is the second one. This one is close to being finished. So, my question is: What does the first "unfinished" one need in order for me to feel like it is "finished"? What does it look like to you?

Why is it called "The Neighbor"? This is from a small snapshot from my late stepfather's collection. As I was drawing it I realized that the house in the background is the same house in another shapshot I painted, called "Prone". The young lad in "Prone" I believe is Meryl's brother, Mark. So I concluded the young man in this snapshot must have been their neighbor across the street.
I only wish I could express in the painting what a wonderfully warm and good looking young man he appears to be.

This is the finished piece "Prone" 22"X28" Acrylic on panel. October 2008.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A Special Commision

My newest commission is from Jory and Gerry. It is based on a wonderful snapshot of Jory's parents, Hank and Kathleen Rose who obviously had a wonderful time camping, fishing, and rambling around in their convertible (with a rumble seat!) This painting was created using two photographs. One had Hank, the other had Kathleen and her brother in law. I simply place Hank in his proper place, next to Kathleen.

I spent quite a bit of time framing the photo in a way that I thought created the best composition. I then started the preliminary underdrawing.

Normally, any time there is a prominent vertical off to one side of a piece (in the form of the four-by-four pole, leaning slightly to the right), I go for it. But then, after laying it all out, I realized that the way I had framed it just wasn't good enough!!! I realized the true interest was the shapes of the boats off to the left. And So in order to show more of the boats, I shifted everything to the right two inches. By doing that, I also found that the became composition less cluttered. Here in this detail you can see the work of erasing and redrawing the image.
Since I am drawing directly on birch panel, I use a single-edged razor blade to scratch it off the surface.

This is a complicated image, so I spend a lot of time simply establishing where everything is. But I also have to be careful to stay open and not focus too much on the details. So I keep moving around the composition, and try no to get "stuck" in one spot or on one object. I start laying down color as soon as I can, so that I will always take the color into account when I am making drawing decisions.

Darks and lights...

Establishing the color scheme.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

My Process with "Seal Rocks"

This is the original photograph I based the painting on. It is from an on-line exhibit of photographs taken in 1940 by the WPA for the purpose of promoting tourism in Oregon. The exhibit on the Oregon State Archives website on the "Web Exhibits" page. This is a wonderful resource of publicly owned images that are free for us all to use (though they do ask that we annotate them so that others may know where to access them) "Seal Rocks, #2413.
To access this resource:

This is a shot of the initial drawing for the painting. It is 22"X28", on birch panel. I am trying to emphasize the strong "frame within a frame" composition of the image by assertively drawing the trees in the foreground from the start.

Here you can see I am trying to figure out how the person in the photo is sitting. I have drawn an inverted triangle where I believe her tailbone is. The positioning of the tailbone, shoulders and spine is integral to making her "believable" in the finished piece.
Then I draw the rocks by using geometric shapes. This makes it visually interesting, and it also helps make the rocks "exist in space" which gives the piece a feeling of solidarity and reality.

I start to lay on some color, going slowly to assess the effect they have, and in attempt to keep the wood showing through as much as possible.

Here I have most of the color worked out. But something is bothering me. So after a while of experimenting , sitting and staring, (a very important thing to remember to do -- stop, sit back and let your intuition talk to you!) I realize that part of it is the hard horizon that chops the composition in half.
Whenever a figure appears in an image, we as viewers are naturally drawn to it. I wanted to emphasis the landscape over the figure, so I softened the horizon, and made the colors in the figure similar to those surrounding her, so that she would blend in.
The result is a softness that counterbalances the strong, graphic lines of the trees and the "frame within a frame".

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Rediscovering the work of Diebenkorn.

In working a bit with landscapes, I re-remembered the
paintings of Richard Diebenkorn. Though his career was long, and his painting evolved a great deal, there is a moment in his development that sings to me and hopefully will inform my own work. It is called the "late figurative works".

He rides an edge between representational and pure abstraction that I wish I could feel more comfortable with.

Sunday, March 29, 2009


This is a new piece called "Carshow" It comes from a snapshot I found in an antique store. A whole pack of snapshots that were taken, over many years, by someone who's hobby was, apparently, restoring and showing Model T's. Out of all the snapshots in this bundle I chose only two. This one, judging by the boufants, seems to have been taken during the 1960's. I have enjoyed this image so much that months later I went back to the same antique store, hoping to look again at the bundle of snapshots and possibly choose more. But alas, they were gone! I chose the name "Carshow" because obviously, that is what it is, but also there is a sense of irony in the name for me, because it is also a "Woman-show". A beauty pageant along with the car show. What an action packed day!

Here is a few photographs documenting the process of painting this piece. The original photograph is tiny, about 2.5 inches by 3.5inches. The painting is on birch 1/4 plywood, 30 inches by 40 inches. I start out priming the panel with an acrylic ground that has grains of garnet mixed in, to create a rough surface to draw on. Then I start the initial drawing, which is mostly the most exciting part.
Then I start with thin, large color washes, trying to keep the drawing visible.
I start to hit some light colors to counterbalance the heavy darks. I had to go slowly with this peice to make sure I did not go on autopilot and simply "fill in" all the minutia and details in the photograph. If I were to do this, the abstract interest in the painting would be lost, and nothing would be left up to the viewer to imagine.

Here you can see I take out the pale square object in the lower left corner. (I think it is a cooler with a bottle sitting on top of it!) It was simply too distracting to keep in. I also finally put the divider rope into the image. I love the way it cuts dramatically across the picture plane. My partner Jim is opposed to the rope. He thinks it distracts. I often find his opinion is astute and often follow his advise. Not this time. The rope controversy rages on.

In the finished peice I did make the rope more subtle and thin. In this picture, in case you didn't notice, I have removed a square white object in the lower left corner. I thought it was too distracting and drew the eye to it too much. In the final version (up top) I decided to put it back! A lot of scraping, scratching, sanding and re-painting. I also realized it was probably a Millier High-Life bottle.