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.

A Few New Things

I have been thinking about it for months and it will soon be a reality.  I am cutting way back on my administrative job in January to be able to paint full time (and teach a little bit).   The prospect of not working for a regular pay check is a little scary but as my friend Amy said to me, “If you’re going to be an artist you have to be brave.

Oil Painting of Highway 99 in Talent, Oregon by Sarah F Burns

I drive through this intersection at least twice a day on may way to and from my day job.

Xyara Figure drawing by Sarah F Burns

And the newest life drawing group in the valley is over at Atelier LaRose – Steven put together a successful kickstarter campaign to hold free life drawing sessions open to anyone.   They are kind of a free for all – models swing from the rafters, lighting comes from several directions, and of course, these sessions are totally fun.

Beth figure drawing by Sarah F Burns

Adara on the Chetco

Adara on the Chetco by Sarah f BurnsIn Southern Oregon we don’t get hurricanes, tornadoes and we rarely get flooding or earthquakes  (and so far the flooding and earthquakes we have had have been mild in my lifetime), but what we do get for natural disasters and annoyances is fires and smoke.  The Rogue Valley  is surrounded by forests and the the valley bowl sucks in smoke and holds it for weeks at a time during the summers.  This year there were fires in every direction and we have been blanketed by ashes.  It’s mighty oppressive to be in 100 degree weather with ashes raining down on you.  Luckily we could escape for a long weekend to an amazing river 8 miles inland from the ocean. The Chetco river runs from the Kalmiopsis wilderness area to the ocean at Brookings, Oregon.  The Kalmiopsis is the largest roadless area in the continental US and it lies right between the Rogue Valley and the Pacific Ocean.  The Chetco river is the most beautiful, clear small river and at Loeb State part it just meanders slowly making it a dreamy swimming hole.  While at this lovely oasis  I ran into piles of S. Oregon friends and acquaintances – we all had the same thought.  It’s kind of remarkable because it’s a 3 hour drive from home.  While at the river I made a painting of my daughter, Adara, who just got back from sunny Portugal and the cool breeze from the river froze her skinny body, so she’s huddled up in a hoodie, cranky about posing. I don’t care.  I’m a bit heartless as a mom and as an artist with models. I love painting her.

Zinnia Sketch

zinnia oil painting by Sarah F Burns

Female Figure Sketch

Lady from Behind Female Figure Sketch by Sarah F Burns



Just a Nice Piece That I Like

Sarah F Burns
Rachel - a Value Study


Sarah F Burns

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.

Portrait of Adara

I have wanted to paint another portrait of Adara for years – ever since painting this first version when she was about 10 years old.

Sarah F Burns

You may notice a serious expression on her face.  This is due to her EXTREME displeasure at having to sit still for 20 minutes at a time.  After this first painting several years ago, she has artfully avoided the experience – until now.  A well placed bribe along with a couple of threats have coerced her back into the studio.

Sarah F Burns

She tried a few positions and finally settled on this one you see in the photo below. I told her she could sit anyway she wanted (except lying down asleep in bed, which was her first choice) and she settled on the pose you see in the photo below.


I tried a couple of sketches.

Sarah F Burns

I like this one below very well.

Sarah F Burns

I still need to work out a composition, but I”m looking forward to our next session.  And before you think I’m a terrible mother, after the initial irritation and resistance, Adara seemed actually to enjoy herself – a little.

(By the way – I apologize to those who get this post in their inbox – I inadvertently published it before it was ready.  I have a new smartphone and I can barely work it.)

Ink Wash Exercises

If you want to go to an evening Life Drawing Session in Ashland, Oregon you have two choices:  My group at Second Floor Studios or Steve LaRose’s group at Tease.  The spring weather fronts seem to have been blowing in a desire to switch things up and try sketching with ink wash, because in the last couple of weeks both Steve and I coincidentally have switched to that medium.  Check out his blog to see his results – which look pretty cool.   Personally, I was inspired by a Tiepolo sketch I saw at the Portland Art Museum recently.  And how humbling indeed when I got home and gave it a go.  But it must be good for my little brain to think in another way.

Sarah F burns

sarah f burns

sarah f burns

sarah f burns

There’s a ton of potential with this medium – working with a wide value range is pretty powerful and I like the loosey flowy fresh jazz you get.  With ink wash too you cannot go back very well – I can blot a little I guess, but it really forces you to keep it fresh and intentional.  I’m planning to stick with it for a while – at least until I blow through all my watercolor paper. Hopefully I will get a little closer to the results I’d like to see.  I’d like it to be fresh and gestural, yet precise and solid.