Plein Air Medford

Garfield and 99 Medford web
Oil on panel 12″ x 20″

Garfield and Hwy 99, near the new Rogue Federal Credit Union and the new Super Walmart. You can see the new Harry and David building to the right in green. New New NEW!


I just got back from a visit to San Francisco where I went to the De Young museum to see the  Girl with a Pearl Earring show, along with Etching from Rembrandt and his contemporaries.  I found it very inspiring, especially all the etchings, they are so intricate and invite you to spend several minutes with each piece, I was surprised to find them even more engaging than many paintings.  The etching pieces varied in technical ability, some being astonishing in their technical prowess and some (the Rembrandts) were stunning in their communication of humanity and emotion.  There were goofy ones, ones that glorified the state, religious scenes that were moving (Rembrandt), religious scenes that were like crazy pageants, simple home scenes, landscapes and on and on.  Then came the paintings – wonderful banquet tables with meats and lemons and cloth, the flowers that I so love and the stunning Vermeer.  That Vermeer is absolutely wonderful.  (Side note:  Like the Mona Lisa, she has no eyebrows.!? Curious.)



cornelis visscher the large cat

Dutch Fools Etching


I know so many new babies and babies that will soon be here and the last few months I’ve been going nuts making baby dresses.  Not the kind of creating I usually do, a great obsession for the evenings.  Here are just a few things for my new niece who will be born in about a month!

Green Bee Iris Dress
Green Bee Iris Dress
Green Bee Iris Tank with Oliver + S  Puppet Show Shorts
Green Bee Iris Tank with Oliver + S Puppet Show Shorts
Oliver + S Apple Picking Dress
Oliver + S Apple Picking Dress
Oliver + S - Apple Picking Dress
Oliver + S – Apple Picking Dress
Oliver + S Family Reunion Dress
Oliver + S Family Reunion Dress

Lots of Experimenting Going on…

Peripheral Visions

I’ll be showing a shadow painting installation at Ashland Painters Union starting January 4 – opening party is from 5 – 8 pm.  The show is up through the end of January, gallery open 1:00 – 5:00 on Fridays and Saturdays. Q is showing sculptural prints.  Together we were goofing off at the Ashland Art Center Print Lab and screened some flyers just for the fun of it.

And on another experimental note:  my chef brother in law recently asked me to make him a drawing of his knife and fork.

Knife and Fork for Neil Clooney Graphite Drawing by Sarah F Burns
Knife and Fork for Neil Clooney Graphite Drawing by Sarah F Burns


neil clooney arms

He’d probably want you to know he needs to go back in to get some touching up done.  You’re really not supposed to go on a wilderness rafting trip for a week the day after you get a large tat.  I guess conditions were less than perfect for healing…. Worth it though, I’m sure.

The Pendulum Swings

At times all I do is spend time painting and working in my studio and resent ANY intrusion that pulls me away and at times I suffer guilt because I’m so lazy or distracted that I can’t get in there.

In the car and on walks these days I’m listening to Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, which is about a Chinese American mother raising her girls to be musical prodigies in the US.  It’s very good, read by the author, and she conveys a nice mix of believing in the way she approaches parenthood and being aware of its’ insanity and pitfalls.  That book makes me want to drill and force my daughter to do better (she is an A student who sometimes gets B’s) and to have that kind of diligence as a painter myself.  Last night I watched A State of Mind – a British documentary about two girls preparing to take part in the Mass Games (watch this link, the picture in the background isn’t a huge jumbo tron, it’s thousands of people holding colored squares all changing in unison to create a huge moving image), a North Korean spectacle like nothing else on earth.  It’s about extreme hard work and sacrifice in order to make art.  You can almost forget that the government must have put as much effort into putting on a show for the filmmakers as it does in putting on the Mass Games, because the story about how hard these girls are working is so engrossing, their effort and sweetness is real, and yet while the story is moving you, we all know there is a horrifying side to North Korea.  The girls innocent and creepy worship of the Great Leader (or whatever they call him) is so strange and foreign and familiar that it serves as a mirror where we could see our own nation’s patriotic fervor.  But anyway, both of these stories are making  me commit to being more disciplined and yet what to I do next?  I wake up at ten am and lay in bed reading David Foster Wallace’s A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again.  Just now I was reading his essay on E Unibus Pluram television and U.S. fiction where he seems to be saying people should pay more attention to the 6 hours of television we watch a day, and the mood it’s creating within me is to just enjoy the ridiculous indulgence of being in my PJ’s at noon.

Perhaps I’m drawn to watching and reading things like these because as of Jan 1 I am going to draw and paint and teach full time.  I’m a little scared!  I’m scared it won’t work and I’m scared I won’t work hard enough!  I feel so undisciplined lately, but I’m hoping that’s because it’s the end of two weeks that have a lot of time off involved.

I’m sure as Don Draper says, “Everything is going to be fine.”

Meet Your Meat: Local artist makes introductions by Jennifer Nitson

My friend Jennifer Nitson wrote this piece for me to use a press release for the show – it’s a delightful piece of writing – It makes me laugh and it tells the story really well.  Enjoy!

Meet Your Meat: Local artist makes introductions

By Jennifer Nitson

Sarah F. Burns was apologetic as she began the second in a series of paintings commissioned by Smithfields Restaurant and Bar.

“I’m entering pretty gory territory here,” Sarah posted on her blog.  “Sorry if you’re squeamish or hate hunting or meat eating or anything like that.”

A long-time resident of Ashland and member of the local art community, Sarah knew some of her readers, fellow artists and friends would be aghast at the thought of the bloody, butchered bear carcass she’d carefully arranged in her studio. Meanwhile, she was preoccupied with how fast she would need to paint it. A classically trained oil painter who only paints from life – never from photos – it was imperative that she work quickly before what was left of the bear rotted.

“There was no way to put it back in the freezer,” she explained.


A blatantly “meat centric” eating establishment in a town known for its militant vegan and vegetarian factions, Smithfields owner Neil Clooney knew he wanted paintings that would evoke the intensity and satisfaction of the meat eating experience. Featuring locally-sourced meats, Smithfields specializes in serving up dishes that utilize all parts of the animal. Where else in Ashland could you find roasted bone marrow on the menu?

“There is no shying away from the truth about meat when you eat meat,” Clooney said. “A life is lost and someone has to take that life. It is intense and not to be taken lightly, but it’s immensely satisfying and most people love eating well prepared meat.”

In the eight pieces Sarah created for Smithfields, her goal was to draw on that honesty and intensity.

“I wanted to convey the guttural impact and visceral intensity of raw meat, and yet have the paintings contain enough humanity to be enjoyable while dining,” she said.

The paintings are done in a classic Vanitas style – a symbolic art form that originated in 16th century Europe. Vanitas paintings generally contain a moralistic exhortation to remember the fleeting nature of life, and are meant to remind viewers of the transience of life, the futility of pleasure and the certainty of death. At the same time, Vanitas pieces tend to be sensuous, almost indulgent, in style and subject matter. It has been said that some European painters of this time period felt they needed moral justification to make paintings of attractive objects.

Sarah needed no such justification. The commissioned paintings gave her the perfect opportunity to explore a conscious relationship with meat eating that is complex and life-long.

“I have been particularly interested in small scale meat production and nose-to-tail eating because I grew up in that type of lifestyle,” she said. “My father was a farm-kill butcher when I was born. That means he went from farm to farm killing livestock and brought them back to the butcher shop to cut up and wrap.”

The family also raised cows, sheep, chickens and goats on their Eagle Point farm. Sarah and her sisters were not spared the grisly side of this operation.

“I remember watching him chop heads off chickens and toss them into a squawking and blood-squirting pile.”

It may not come as a surprise that during their teen years, Sarah and sisters Miriam and Claire each in turn became vegan – an almost requisite rite of passage for many Ashland youth. What is notable is the conscious way Sarah has examined her path to veganism and back to meat eating.

“Now I kind of see that vegan period as an effort to maintain innocence in a sometimes horrifying world,” she said. “I see it as an attempt to combat and avoid the pains and realities of coming of age.”


Sarah set to work on the paintings in the dark days of winter. The cold was conducive to having fresh meat out in her home studio, but she struggled against the inflexible limitations of the too-short days.

“I feel like I just barely get started and then my light is gone,” she wrote in a January blog post. “So much work to do and I’m so eager to do it.”

For Sarah, creating the paintings became an adventure and a meditation on the ephemeral nature of life as she coped with the logistics of working with perishable meat.

With the first piece she enjoyed the luxury of being able to paint the myriad background objects before introducing a cow’s tongue to the still-life setting. She was also able to put the tongue back in the freezer between painting sessions.

Things got more complicated with the rotting bear carcass and the brace of chickens.

“Once arranged, the chickens needed to be left where they were in the studio,” Sarah explained.

She cleared her schedule for a few days and her husband Tom brought home three live birds, which he killed and gutted in the back yard.

The chickens were strung up, artfully, in the studio, and Sarah embarked on a three-day painting marathon. Dry ice was placed near the chickens, and she fashioned a hood out of a tarp to cover them at night. When the painting was finished, the chickens had not yet started to smell, and though the artist faced complex logistics and a scarcity of time, the painting produced conveys a simple abundance.


As the dark days of winter gave way to a wet Oregon spring, and as summer brings promises of long, bright days of plenty, Sarah’s paintings are finally finished and ready to take their places on the walls of Smithfields.

In the traditional manner of Vanitas painting, Sarah has explored with these pieces the transitory nature of life and the inevitability of death, painting in a sumptuous style that both soothes and awakens the senses, while imparting a message:

“Life is short and you will die, so think about how you are living,” Sarah said. “And in this context, think about how your meat and food is produced.”


The public is invited to an artist’s reception for a series of paintings by Sarah F. Burns entitled “Meet Your Meat.”

The reception will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. on Monday, July 16 at Smithfields Restaurant and Bar, at 36 South Second St., in Ashland. Hors de oeuvres, wine and Prosecco will be provided and the bar will be open during the event.

Those in attendance will have the opportunity to meet the artist and learn about the inspirations and process involved in creating these oil paintings. The pieces were commissioned by Smithfields owner Neil Clooney for his meat-centric restaurant, which opened in Ashland in 2011.

“I’m excited for Sarah’s work to be hanging on the walls of Smithfields,” said Clooney. “She’s a fantastic artist and I feel the paintings will help the customers draw the connection between the life an animal lives, before being treated respectfully with cooking technique to provide that customer with a satisfying dining experience.”

To learn more about the artist, visit her blog at


Smithfields Project Inspirations

So, I have been doing construction on my studio for the past several months, we put in a wall and window in place of one garage door, (better insulated and better light), we put in the best light set up ever – I can see what I’m doing when I want to and can totally control it.  Yay!  Anyway, I haven’t been painting since September – except for a couple small landscapes.  Anyway – I have my studio in near-working order and I have a job and my batch of canvases have been stretched.  My brother in law owns a great restaurant in Ashland, OR called Smithfields.  He’s a Brit and Smithfields was an ancient meat-market in the London, making it a great name for his meat-centric menu.  He uses local produce and meats – utilizing as much of the animal as possible.  Pig Cheeks were actually a popular and tasty (if somewhat fatty) item for a while.  Anyway.  so I’m painting a group of canvases for the restaurant – subject matter is big raw hunks of meat.   The themes will be the reality of meat – which means something dies for us to eat is, which reminds us that we also die.  I’m going to include traditional Vanitas items like clocks, flowers, skulls, snuffed candles to parallel that theme.  The back ground elements will be very tonal – kind of black, grey, umber, little bits of other smokey hues and the meat will be spotlit in full fleshy gut wrenching color.  If I can pull this off, people will take notice, but won’t lose their appetites.  Kind of a delicate balance.  Below are some of the artists and pieces I will be inspired by/ripping off…

Francis Bacon John Deakin Vogue 1962 - Isn't this a fun one? Obviously the famous painting is the story here, but we've all seen it and it's burned into our memories.
Pieter Claesz - Vanitas - Dutch Still Life Paintings are awesome - I caught a great show last summer in SF, mucho inspirations.
Skinned Rabbit by Michael Grimaldi - This man is a contemporary rock star painter - my favorite teacher ever.
Edwin Dickinson - Cello Player - This piece is exactly the kind of cluttered tonal feel I want for the background elements.
Antonio Lopez Garcia - My favorite painter alive today. I can't even put into words the things I love about this piece.
New Refridgerator by Anonio Lopez Garcia - Modern and Timeless.

So, we shall see, I’ll keep you posted…

Way Back Machine

I’m  ALWAYS tempted to get rid of everything I’m not using RIGHT NOW, but I’m sure glad I can control that sometimes.  While moving my studio I ran across these little pieces of personal history.

We’ll begin at the beginning.  I’m pretty sure I drew this before I started school…?  It’s me and my dad feeding the sheep.

I don’t remember going to this circus.  I do remember Mrs. Jones and her wonderful handwriting – See the “Very Good”?  She was really a dream of a teacher.  I loved her.

I thought Jr. High would stop being embarrassing to me by age 35.  Nope.   This is from 8th grade, I think.  I don’t remember the teacher’s name, but I do remember thinking her glamorous – she had bleached blond hair with a hair style after all.  This project was a scratch board.  I think we used crayons to cover the paper, then painted it with india ink, let it dry and doodled away…

I’d forgotten about “ROY”  – it was the name on a bowling shirt my hoodlum friend Annemarie had?  It seemed so cool at the time to me.  Annemarie – what was the story there?

Fast forward to high school.  I don’t know where my school stuff went – much went to friends and family – thank goodness!  (I painted huge paintings during those years.  What a hassle to keep around!)  Anyway, I went over to take Life Drawing classes in the evenings at the local college (now SOU).  This shows the influence of both the teachers I studied with – Bob Alston always wanted us to sit down and look waaaaay up at the model who would be on a really tall pedestal.  Later I saw his paintings at an art show and they were all of sky scrapers seen from the street.  The other teacher was Jim Muhs who had a zen approach – he wanted us to be convinced our brush and ink were actually on the flesh of the model and would travel over and around it.  His paintings were large and distorted but interesting.

After high school I went to Pacific Northwest College of Art for two years, until I dropped out to have my dear little daughter.   I have many fond and embarrassing memories of college.  The embarrassing ones I blame on the fact that I was gearing up for a nervous breakdown.  Anyway – I imagine I’ll regret all this spillage – but the recent studio move and a friend’s addiction problem is causing me to drop normal barriers today.  Here are some Life Drawings – this one is of Ed C H King – another student at PNCA.  He, our friend Jacq and I modeled for each other to make up for some classes we missed.  Look up their art on the links I posted – they are fantastic.

Here are some quick sketches where the model came wearing some striped long underwear and Tom Fawkes, our teacher, asked her to keep them on so we could draw them.  I borrowed this exercise when teaching kids at the Ashland Academy of Art.

This whole post kind of started – in a round about fashion this morning when I saw that I had written “Notan” on a file folder on the kitchen counter.  I’m pretty sure that was something Steve LaRose told me to look up because something I’d done at Life Drawing recently reminded him of  or something ?  –  (why is my memory so bad?)  Anyway – I looked up Notan and then went to go organize the stacks of old art work I had to deal with when I ran across this – an exercise from like Design 101 or something – I guess this was a Notan exercise.  I think the teacher was Christy Wycoff.

So PNCA was big on printmaking – and during my last semester in school I made this wild thing – I was feeling exactly like this at that time.

And finally here is a self portrait I did at home – but during the time I was in college at PNCA,  I think it was right before I spun out of control.  It would be many, many years before I seriously took up painting again.  (Well, many years for someone who is 20.  Really I guess it was only 5 or 6.) I look like a boy in this piece – and that’s not the first or last time that my self portraits look masculine. weird.

Fast forward – This painting was something I made looking back at the time I’m referring to.  It’s supposed to be serious and sarcastic – painful and angry and funny.  It’s how it feels to know people are “worried” about you and how it feels to be grieving, how it felt to me to have embarrassing things get public.  Believe it or not, Judy Garland was an inspiration for this piece as well.  I painted this in like 2008 or something, not long after finishing four years in the Gulag.

OK!  Enough about me!  Share a memory or two in the comments.   Was adolescence embarrassing for you too?  And if you were there for some of the events above – please chime in.   oxoxoxoxoxoxoxo

PS – And the Gulag thing is a joke – and not as mean-spirited as it probably seems.  I learned a lot at that institution and I respect the instructor and classmates.  There was some unnecessary art-police brutality though.  That’s all.

Full Cup of Inspiration

Tom and I headed to Portland for a very quick little dose of urban life this past weekend.  We arrived in town just in time to get in on the free open late night at Portland Art Museum.  We had just over an hour to soak up some inspiration.  We LOVED the photo exhibit in the Gilkey Center – Ray Metzker – gorgeous value based abstracted urban photos.  Juicy yummy photos like drawings.  Delicious!!

Portland Art Museum 2011
Ray Metzker, Philadelphia 1980

Also noted were pieces from the permanent collection by Alden Mason (however, this is not the piece at PAM – I grabbed something similar from google):

Alden Mason

What I love about Mason is the intentional paint application, it’s beautiful transparency. Nearby was a Neo Rauch – sorry for the poor photo – I feel really weird taking photos in the museum, for one thing I have a hard time telling if it’s okay and it just feels goofy to take a photo of something that’s best appreciated in person.  But for the sake of internet conversation:

Neo Rauch

David Rosenak’s intense and photographic grissaille pieces in the NW Contemporary section were a feast for the eyes – again the piece pictured here is not in PAM but provides an example of his work.  The guard was really cute – he was just gushing over his work.

David Rosenak

Rosenak’s pieces were also refreshingly small.  It’s nice to have a pallette cleanser among all the huge contemporary works.

And finally as we were being swept from the building we felt sad by Jack McLarty’s The Bystander – a Portland painting

Jack McLarty - The Bystander

Next stop dinner and then we caught my favorite band Dengue Fever in concert – overheard at the show “there are so many old people here tonight”  and my husband spoke to a man he put in his 70’s who was apparently Cambodian – he told Tom how much he loved Cambodian music – super fun.  They posted their entire new album – Cannibal Courtship on this youtube video I’m attempting to attach to this post.  

It’s catchy, light, heavy danceable …  Uku – the third song is my fave. : )  Here’s a vid with that song only: 

The lyric translates:

“The windy season makes me think of my village

I think of the old people, young people, aunts and uncles

We used to run and play, hide and seek

But now we are far apart

Far Apart.”

So lovely and so sad.

Next day we toured the Chinese Garden in downtown Portland – which was surprisingly impressive – it is the most authentic Chinese garden outside of China – stunning actually and we hit it on the first warm spring day, we just lounged and absorbed the sun like a couple of cats.  We also had some fabulous tea in the tea house.

Chinese Garden Portland Oregon
Checkout the walk way - made up of lots of perfectly placed small rocks
Chinese Garden Portland Oregon
Chinese Garden - Portland, OregonWeird Panorama Chinese Garden - Portland, Oregon
Chinese Garden - Portland, Oregon
Weird Panorama Chinese Garden - Portland, Oregon

We hit the Museum of Contemporary Craft a couple blocks away – there was a weaving show – which is a process I don’t really understand so I wasn’t terrible excited until I saw the woman’s clothing which she somehow wove without sewing anything – gorgeous stuff – made me want want want such perfect clothing.  Laurie Merrick

museum of contemporary craft weaving
Laurie MerrickLaurie Merrick Museum of Contemporary Craft Portland
Laurie Merrick Museum of Contemporary Craft
Laurie Merrick Museum of Contemporary Craft Portland

She apparently made this for her main working outfit.  The pocket was for her cigarettes and handkerchiefs.

In the evening we spent time with Tom’s cousins and his childhood friends.  Next day we hit a couple vintage shops in St. Johns and the ever trendy N. Missisippi Historic neighborhood and hit I-5 in time to be home at a reasonable hour. And FYI – if you’re on the road in the northwest, stop at SeQuential – the best gas station around – you can get bio diesel, gluten free sandwiches – that are amazing!  Filtered water, dried mangoes, loose leaf teas …..  all the good hippy stuff..  It’s clean too – yay!  In the summerish time, there are blueberry bushes to snack on. …  The staff is super friendly and seem happy to be there.  Free Wi-Fi – plants growing on the roof…  etc.  Exit 189 if you’re heading North and it might be exit 190 if you’re heading South.  Take the South Eugene exit.  OH – and yeah the price of regular gas was .04 $ higher than their neighbor – which for an 18 gallon tank means you pay $.72 extra.  No big deal.

Friendly Staff at SeQuential

Okay – if you hung around for the end of this post, you are a real trooper.  : ) Home again to my newly spring cleaned studio.  Now that my cup of inspiration is full, tiime to get some creative work done!