Jeri Jennings and Unconditional Love

Spring has been utterly glorious here in Southern Oregon this year.  Everything is lush and green and my roses are having a banner year.  The yellow one is called Jeri Jennings and the red is Unconditional Love.  Both are Paul Barden roses, both came from Rogue Valley Roses – a place I’ve mentioned before on this blog.  Janet has collected a fantastic variety of roses that grow on their own rootstock, all meticulously categorized and documented and REALLY hard to choose which to plant, because there are so many good ones.

Jeri Jennings and Unconditional Love

In my eagerness to share this image, I’ve had to photograph it before it’s been varnished, so there are some matte and shiny places.  I’ll re document the image and replace it in a few months when it’s been properly varnished.

Wedding Flowers

 

Wedding Flowers Marissa and Josue web.jpg

 

Roseburg Paint Out

I usually resist paint out competition weekends, because they are never really very productive; I wind up usually making paintings in places I don’t have an affinity for and there is not enough time and there is the added pressure of knowing your work will literally be judged.  Umpqua Valley Arts Association hosts a paint out in Roseburg that lasts a few days and is in a generally good time of year for weather, so I signed up.  We had two full days of painting and I was able to connect with some really excellent Oregon painters. So, it was worth going to.

 

Oil Painting by Sarah F Burns
This dying oak tree was the painting I liked the best out of all I made that weekend. 7.5″ x 10″

 

Gray Day Roseburg Hills web Sunny Day Roseburg Hills web

Two days in a row, different weather, slightly different composition.
Each measures 10″ x 16″.

 

Roseburg Valley Ranch

12″ x 20″  Maybe I liked this one best.  I don’t know.

 

 

Hanley Farm

I came to Hanley Farm to paint and had a hard time choosing a view, because I liked so many views, so I painted one

Oil Painting by Sarah F Burns
Experimental Lavender Patch at Hanley Farm

and then painted another

Oil Painting by Sarah F Burns
Hanley Farm

and that one was painted in the same scale and basic location as the first, so they both fit together, which made me motivated to make the third view

plein air oil painting
Roxy Ann

so they all fit together like a puzzle.

Hanley Farm Panorama

I often listen to audiobooks when I paint.  Whenever I look at a painting I made, I think of the book I was hearing while I worked. The middle and the left painting make me think of Caravaggio: A Life Sacred and Profane. The painting on the right makes me think of The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler. And maybe the beginning of The Maltese Falcon by Dashiel Hammett. The Big Sleep and The Maltese Falcon feel so similar that they kind of mentally flow together.  I recommend all three books.

Still Life

Quiet study, I could have worked on it for longer but had to move things for other studio activities, so another painting ends without being a masterpiece. Such is life. 🙂 I like it anyway, but, you know, I’d like it more if it were better.

Oil Painting by Sarah F Burns
Coffee Cup and Egg

I did work on it long enough to tilt all the grays so the painting seems colorful.

Roxy Ann From Talent

Well this summer has been pretty brutal here in Southern Oregon. As I write this the average high temperatures have been hovering at 100 and wildfires surround us filling the valley with thick smoke. But a month and a half ago in mid June it was pretty nice out.

Roxy Ann From Talent 21" x 25"
Roxy Ann From Talent 21″ x 25″

My Trip to Paris — Part Two: The Paintings

I had an amazing time painting in Paris. Getting out and painting in this old city, known for centuries of great art, connected me to so many of my heroes and gave me a chance to meet lots of tourists and locals. I cannot wait to go back – there are paintings there I still really want to make!!

They are displayed in the order I made them.

Oil Painting
Hyacinths – on a Rainy Holiday in Paris

It was rainy and a national holiday, so all the museums were closed, so I bought some hyacinths from the nearby flower market and made a still life in the little apartment I was staying in with my aunt.

Oil Painting
The Louvre, as seen from the Tuileries

I love the Louvre so much, I must go back someday and paint the iconic entrance with the pyramid. When I first arrived, I shied away from making a painting that would be so direct, but after spending two weeks in Paris, where they really embrace beauty directly, I realized it’s just as affected to avoid beauty as it is to seek it exclusively.  Best bet is always just paint what moves you. Be real, even if it lands you in a cliche.

Oil Painting
From Pont Neuf, The Seine

Mid Morning looking sort of toward the east.

Oil Painting
Cincannatus in the Tuileries

With a view of the Musee D’Orsay in the background 9 to the left of the statue is  the tip of the museum, with it’s massive clock face peeking out a tiny bit behind the trees).  I finally had a day where Paris had those impressionist clouds you see in paintings.

Oil Painting
Sculpture in the Petit Palais Garden

My local friend showed me this wonderful little park.  Many paintings could be made here.

Oil Painting
Looking out of the Louvre Courtyard

Here I am, nearing the end of my trip, embracing the obvious beauty and being happy about it. Archway to a view with a grand building? The more the merrier.

Notre Dame, oil painting by Sarah F Burns
Notre Dame

My last day painting in Paris, I was under the influence of the Corots I’d seen in the Louvre. I was also recreating the point of view of some impressionist paintings I’d seen.

Artist David Rosenak

Today I’m going to highlight paintings by my friend David Rosenak.  This may be the longest post I’ll ever make.   He has four paintings up at the Portland Art Museum this year – 2015 – in the Northwest Contemporary section.  GO SEE THEM. While you’re at it, mention to PAM that they should do a better job of pointing out where these paintings are; I’ve been to that museum probably 25 times and I always have to figure out where in the world that particular gallery is. 

Oil Painting by David Rosenak
(untitled), David Rosenak, oil on plywood, 7 3/4″ x 7″, 2008

There are so many things to say about David – first and foremost is that his paintings are absolutely captivating. I happened to stumble across two other pieces at the Portland Art Museum a few years ago.  I clearly remember thinking, “who painted these!??” — and life is amazing sometimes, because I actually got to find out who, and become friends with the painter.

Oil Painting by David Rosenak
Oil Paintings by David Rosenak – Portland Art Museum 2011
Plaid Pantry, oil on plywood, (2010), 9 7/8" x 10 3/8", David Rosenak, On View at PAM during 2015
Plaid Pantry, oil on plywood, (2010), 9 7/8″ x 10 3/8″, David Rosenak, On View at PAM during 2015

I found out because I posted an image on my blog and David vainly googled himself. (Just kidding David, not vanity so much as housekeeping – right? What you can’t see here is that I realized I should google myself to see if anything is interesting there. Not really. It’s only stuff I put on the web myself. So okay.)  Anyway, David found my blog, read it, and actually liked my paintings too! At some point, he emailed me and we started talking about painting, art we admire and being an artist.

David Rosenak Oil Painting
(untitled) by David Rosenak (c.2001-2003) Oil on Plywood 8″ x 9″,  collection PAM

Over the course of these conversations David has become sort of a mentor or an example of having integrity as an artist. So, to set the stage for how he has been an example, I’m going to share where my head is/was. I felt — and still feel — internal pressure to legitimize my obsession with art by turning it into a business.  But I’m not capable of “branding” myself with a style and making pieces that are predictable and popular.  I absolutely think art is a noble profession and if people sell their work well enough to put food on the table, I think that’s awesome! It’s great when art can be appreciated widely, but if you’re an artist you also know there’s an icky, slippery slope to fall down when you’re making art mainly for other people. On the other hand, most of us are not simply expressing ourselves for its own sake, but trying to reach out and connect to some unknown viewer in an authentic and sincere way.

Along with that struggle, there is the battle for technical skills, real ideas and the essential but unpredictable spark of magic that makes good pieces work.  It can take years to even come close to making something really special.  Years of self-examining, persistent, steady work. To be really great, you have to start young and have some successes; many of those successes are self delusions, but that’s no matter, they keep you going, keep you pushing forward. After all that you still may not have achieved something great, or may not get recognition until you’re gone.  It can be such a strange and insane undertaking to “be an artist”.

So here I am, needing to justify all this by making it a business and I meet David.  The time when I meet him and first see his work is at a point where he has achieved something special through years of trial and error and persistence.  His work is desired by collectors, galleries want to sell his work, and David simply says “No, thank you”. He does not sell his work. I repeat — his paintings are not for sale. He has goals for his work, for sure. He doesn’t create it “for himself” – as the corny line goes.  He wants it to be seen in the world by as many people as possible. He knows how long they take to make, how hard he worked to make something he is truly proud of and he wants to cast them in a place where they have the best chance to grow.

And he knows they are precious. They take months and months to complete.  He puts scores of hours into each piece.   Because time stops for no man, his window for making them is pretty small – as it is for us all – but heightened by the fact that ten years ago David discovered he has Parkinson’s disease, which causes tremors, making painting tiny things a challenge.  When he first noticed the tremor it was in his right hand, and after three years he trained himself to paint with his left.  (This is so typical of David. Persistent.)  Now he can only paint on his good days, still with the left hand.

Oil Painting by David Rosenak
(untitled), 2011, oil on plywood by David Rosenak, 8″ x 8″, on view at PAM during 2015

More interesting things about David: he is color blind.  When David was young and testing out his influences, he tried a few paintings in the style of Wayne Thiebauld, but since Thiebauld’s thing has a lot to do with color, David realized he was trying on someone else’s shoes (we all do that when we’re young, but some of us never grow out of it).  Then he noticed his primary teacher was making some greyscale paintings, and he realized he’d been fighting a battle with color he had no hope of winning, so he switched to greyscale in 1981 and hasn’t looked back.

Oil Painting by David Rosenak
(untitled) 2013, oil on plywood, David Rosenak, 18 3/8″ x 16 3/4″, on view at PAM during 2015
Oil Painting by David Rosenak
For Sarah, 2014,  oil on plywood, 3 1/2″ x 10 1/2″, collection Sarah F Burns

I’ve seen still lifes, cityscapes and figure drawings by David, and they’re all really good, but the little cityscapes are the best. David has painted cityscapes since the late 80’s; he showed me a few scenes near his house in a medium sized scale. And they were cool.  Then he made them small (nothing larger than 20″ and most average 10″ on the long side) and bam! They suddenly really worked.  As the scale was becoming more intimate, the subject moved closer and closer to his home. All the views are of his back yard or his view toward downtown Portland.  Since he has the subject, scale and approach settled, he is focusing on compositions, and they get more and more mature. He likes to joke that he is essentially making the same painting over and over again in an attempt to improve it.  And he has many plans for new paintings within that framework. The adage of freedom coming from limitations is really true, I guess.

Oil Painting by David Rosenak
(untitled) 2007, oil on plywood, 7 3/4″ x 5 7/8″, David Rosenak, on view at PAM during 2015
Poppy, oil on plywood, David Rosenak
Poppy, oil on plywood, David Rosenak, collection of Maureen Caviness

Since his subject matter is his yard and what he can see from it, it’s useful to say something about his home. He has a wild, artsy little compound in SE Portland, full of cats and dogs and amazing plants, and all tended to by his neighbor and long time friend, Moe (Maureen). Moe is a gardener and you see in the paintings records of Moe’s work and their friendship.  David lives kind of like a cat, moving around his territory, napping, enjoying bits of shade or bits of sun, walking over to his studio a few blocks away to paint, taking the bus across the river to his day job.  His paintings are like a cat would record things because they feel so still, yet so full of life.  Like a cat they contain long moments of stillness while being ready to spring to action at any second. They’re also neutral like a cat.  They’re not saying, “Let’s go do this!” or “Think this!” but, “This is fine as it is.  I’ll find a comfortable place here.”   They say, “I see it all, and it’s fine.”  They’re so documentary and so neutral that they create a deep feeling of calm.  It makes me feel like the best times in the world are those times when you take your coffee outside in the sun and sit and soak in the world, with your friends or without.  I love the little figures who are doing just this.  They’re Moe and David, and they’re just standing there like they’re thinking, trying to decide what to do next.  Pondering something, calculating.  Trying to decide which thing they could do today. Or if maybe the day is best spent sunning, checking the mail, weeding a bit here.  Taking a break in the business of the day to pet the cat.

Oil Painting by David Rosenak
(untitled) 2002-2004, David Rosenak, 10 1/4″ x 10 1/2″,  oil on plywood, collection PAM

So anyway, David Rosenak’s work resonates with me deeply and while I actually do really like to sell my work, his example has helped me to relax and focus only on making work I feel really good about, and let the chips fall where they may.  It also gives me hope that one day, some stranger will see my paintings in a museum and say, “Who painted these?”

Anatomical Position

Anatomical Position

Anatomical Position
Anterior Male
Anterior Female
Posterior Male
Posterior Female

I received a grant last year to help with my figurative anatomy studies.  It was a real boost, both in morale and in the opportunity to study something awesome. I took a 3 month online intensive artistic anatomy course, I spent three weeks at the Stanford morgue studying bodies with Dan Thompson, Michael Grimaldi and the BACAA crew. I then returned home and began a series of four figure paintings that I am finally showing publicly today!

These figures are all posed in Anatomical Position, which is one of the first things we learn in a medical anatomy class. All the body’s movements are categorized based on this position. By making these paintings I was able to consciously translate my new technical, theoretical knowledge to the living, breathing, reality of the person. People are more than textbooks, more than flesh and blood, of course. Similar, but totally different.  And this is what we love about life.  Everything in the universe has a unifying baseline, but with wonderful, endless variety.

To create these paintings I hired models who came to stand in my studio about 10 times a piece.  I had each person stand in the same place and painted them roughly in the same scale.  It was a delight to spend so much time with each model, studying and getting to know them.  In fact – three of the models are in the same family. Posterior Male is married to Anterior Female and Posterior Female is sister to Anterior Female.

Eggs and Oak Leaves

Last painting of 2014.

Egg and Oak
Eggs and Oak Oil on Panel 14″ x 24″

 

I have not shown a lot of new work on my blog this past year, I have been working super hard though, I’m 65% (give or take) of the way finished with a larger project that has taken me MONTHS and  MONTHS.  I have a deadline of March First Friday to more or less complete the work, so stay tuned!

I’ve also been painting a portrait of my daughter that is taking a long time as well.