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?”

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.

Kim’s Last Weekend

Medford Kim’s – a place glamorous and practical, exotic and so familiar, a place so many people carry special memories of, a place that has gotten more beautiful with age –  is being torn down, beginning Monday, Nov 10, 2014.  I’ve painted this spot twice before, and went out today to get make one last effort at documenting this place.

2014-11-07 14.21.36Kims Last Weekend

Kims Last Weekend

Kims Last Weekend  Kims Last Weekend

The demolition of this Southern Oregon landmark is a big deal here, so I even got a nice news piece – see it here.

Ephemera

Ephemera Building 2014
Ephemera Building Phoenix, OR

For those of you who have wondered what goes on in that nifty blue building on the Phoenix, OR main drag —- > click.

I kind of like the preliminary drawing too –

Ephemera Building Drawing

Lyda Rose

I’ve written about Rogue Valley Roses before – and I’m still such a big fan.  Mrs. Janet Inada graciously hosted myself and two other artists for an afternoon of painting on her A M A Z I N G rose farm in late May of this year.  She grows and sells roses on their own root stock – heirloom and new varieties, and trust me, growing these roses is addictive.  I have 5 and am planning for at least 5 more.  Any patch of sun in my yard gets a rose!

This is Lyda.

Lyda Rose
Lyda Rose

And this painting is in my show that opens tonight!

Land That I Love: Southern Oregon en Plein Air

Come to my show opening, Friday, July 18, 5 -8 pm at the Rogue Gallery, Medford, OR!

Rogue Valley Manor from Eden Vale
Rogue Valley Manor From Edenvale Vineyard
Plum Tree at Edenvale
Plum Tree at Edenvale

There are 20 plein air landscape paintings created in the Rogue Valley.  The pieces are arranged geographically and while some have been shown before, but many are new.  If I didn’t title my pieces so literally we could have a contest to see who could guess the most locations!

Kim’s

Pretty much anyone from Medford knows – and loves – this place.  It’s been closed for years, and I hear it’s been purchased by some big outfit and will likely be torn down soon.  ALL RUMORS, of course.  I don’t really know anything, except that it’s a great place to paint, although the black top gets pretty hot, even this early in the warm season.  It’s funny, I listen to audio books when I paint, and often I’ll look at a painting and flash back to segments of a book.  Carl Hiaasen for this one – not very deep, I’m afraid, but if he wrote stories in Southern Oregon, maybe this place would be in one.

Kim's  18" x 20"  Oil on Panel
Kim’s
18″ x 20″
Oil on Panel

Pompadour Panarama

I had a great time painting in rainy weather a few weeks ago – Pompadour Bluff,  a notable rock formation just outside Ashland, OR.

Pompadour Panarama

They are separate paintings but were done in the same scale, from the same place, so they flow together.

Pompadour Bluff Rainy Landscape

 

 

Skull and Tea

Skull and Tea

Vegetables

Smithfields has another painting to replace the Rabbit that found a good home.  I painted this one on a high shelf while I was sitting down and it is hanging above the vegetable piece (like so) and the perspective kind of works together in the room.  Not quite trompe-l’oeil but sort of tromp-l’oeil inspired.

More Paintings of Phoenix, Oregon

This pear packing plant by First, Colver and C street is a great painting location.  Just a few blocks from my house, I run past it several times a week and keep seeing more good vantage points to paint from.  This is a warm up, I’m getting my feet wet for the outdoor painting season.

Phoenix Railroad Tracks
Phoenix Railroad Tracks oil on panel 11″ x 14″

If you were to walk into the painting 50 or so feet then you would come to this point.