15 December 2014

Weltschmerz

Weltschmerz |ˈveltˌ sh merts|nounfeeling of melancholy and world-weariness.ORIGIN German, from Welt world’ Schmerz‘pain.’

"A Study on 12.14.12", 2012. Combined media on paper, 14x11".


I doubt I would be an artist, or be so devoted to art, if it did not allow me to explore and express grief, anxiety, dismay -mine and ours. In the quiet of image-making I contend with disquietude. In solitude I reflect on social events and conditions far beyond my circle of influence. With empathy, curiosity, outrage, admiration... I engage with sorrows I cannot touch in any other way. 

There is room in art, and in my art, for the whole spectrum of human emotion. I do revel in it, celebrate and marvel through it.  But I believe art will always have particular value to me as a place for concerns and confusions that are difficult to bring to light elsewhere. It can be, in this way, a form of prayer. 

This is not melancholy, nor pessimism, but a way of creatively responding to the unwelcome, the difficult to embrace. More and more often I am called to make beauty and meaning where beauty and meaning seem lost or hard come by. As I mature in life and art, I feel all the more confident that I can answer that call, that it is one that must be answered.

05 December 2014

Flow

"May what I do flow from me like a river -no forcing, no holding back- the way it is with children."
-Ranier Maria Rilke

Deep & Wide, 2005. Oil on canvas, 14x18".
It has been nearly two months since I mused on "nesting". These past weeks have been full of the unexpected -both pleasant diversions and troubling distractions. And still it surprises me that I have yet to find a flow in the resumption of my studio practice.

After thirty years of steady drawing and painting, it is not difficult to pick up the pencils and brushes. It is not hard to put the tools to use. What seems to demand more time and patience is regaining intimacy with the entire process. Image-making still feels more like an activity and less like a state of being.

If there is a gift in this prolonged and awkward transition, it is the revelation of just what the alchemy of art requires, not just materially but spiritually. It demands undisturbed solitude for sustained concentration and effort, adequate time to savor and assess the work, to be "at home" with it.

This experience confirms my devotion to guarding that solitude and its productive routines in the first place. But as possible, whenever, however possible, protect that fundamental connection with the work, the flow.

17 October 2014

Distances

Through close observation I sometimes feel as if I have traveled great distances, when in fact I have only covered fractions of inches. The cup formed by petals is experienced like a dell. Single leaves rise like giant sails, wind-tautened against the sky. The circumference of a stem has monumental girth in the world of a small composition. While it is not my intention to render the world -or any part of it- in microscopic detail, these efforts inform the spaces of my imagination, and also alter the way I see actual the world I wander through.

Pin Cherry, 2012. Graphite & Oil on Art Board

In Rose, 2014. Graphite & Oil on Art Board, 8x10".

Honeysuckle Study, 2013. Graphite & Oil on Art Board.

07 October 2014

Nesting


"Energetic space begets energetic space."
Jeanette Winterson, Art Objects: Essays on Ecstasy and Effrontery

As an artist who works at home, I have a distinct relationship to my environment. A certain degree of visual order is essential for concentration on the spaces I create in the flat, white blanks of pages and panels. A certain degree. 

Right now, after the Summer's beautiful renovations, I am still attuned to (if not distracted by) changes in this setting. And I keep wondering how, as the seasons turn and light shifts, those revisions will alter my vision. They are bound to, aren't they?



24 September 2014

Passion & Pragmatism

Plow & Reap, 2012. Oil on canvases, each 16x12".

I often say that my life and work are powered by the dual forces of Passion and Pragmatism. These forces, however, are not always in stride. For months now, as I have renovated my home and studio, Pragmatism has held the lead. Now in a period of transition, I want Passion to pull ahead. It takes some discipline to enter and remain in the studio. The ordinary intrusions of the ringing telephone, a bill to pay, laundry to do, are now joined by all the "loose ends" of remodeling. So it is with great determination that I devote myself to the exploration and expression of imagination.

These two draft horses, adorned with "P" medallions, are emblems of those two forces joined, working together in the furtherance of my visions -here at home and in the vast fields of creative endeavor.

18 September 2014

Knows One Thing Well

"The fox knows many things. The porcupine knows one thing well." -Russian Proverb

Knows Many Things, 2001. Oil on paper, 16x20".


Knows One Thing Well, 2001. Oil on paper, 16x20".


I like to think of myself as a porcupine, but I'm not so sure that is true.

At the beginning of Summer, this swiftly passing season of flowering and fruiting, I embarked on an extensive process to renovate my home and studio. During this labor-intensive period I have used virtually every tool in my tool box. I am glad to have them. As I celebrate the changes I have made (not entirely alone), I also feel gratitude for the ability to perform these varied tasks. I've sawn and sanded, primed and puttied, sewn and varnished.... I have been acting like the fox.

I long now, at Summer's, to get back into the studio. I yearn to be once again, the porcupine, knowing one thing well.

17 August 2014

Flourishing

Flourishing, 2014. Mural, c. 6x32". Bitterroot Spur Trail at Third Street in Missoula, Montana. 
How quickly this mural became OURS.

Yes, it began as a collaborative effort with Nutritional Labs, the Riverfront Neighborhood Council, art students from Willard Alternative High School, Missoula's Office of Neighborhoods and Public Art. But because our work took place in the "public eye", we received questions and comments about the project from the very first stroke. It was encouraging to hear so many positive remarks from passersby on the pedestrian trail. I am also heartened by what that interest and support means to the community at large.

I know I have much more to learn about collaborating, and that ultimately each cooperative enterprise will be as unique as all the participants. I am hopeful that this native plant imagery will continue on that long wall beside the Bitterroot Spur Trail in further installments. What now brightens that wall has certainly been warmly received. I'm glad to be living in a community that supports the cultivation of beauty in so many forms.

24 June 2014

Space

"Energetic space begets energetic space." Jeanette Winterson, Art Objects

I am in the midst of moving out of my home and studio for some substantial remodeling. Though I'm excited about these long-desired changes, the necessary upheaval takes a toll on me. I've received a good deal of sympathy, and even offers of housing during the worst of the demolition and construction. I'm not too worried about where I sleep, however.  But I'm completely rattled by dismantling the studio. Being separated from my tools and materials, all the possibilities that reside in them and the creative space itself seems unendurable. As Virginia Woolf asserted in A Room of One's Own, having a space dedicated to creative work -whatever that work may be- is essential to sustaining momentum as an artist.
I can't wait until these changes are made, and I can begin to reclaim my space, and once again gather momentum with my ideas, images, tools and the welcoming blanks of white canvases.

Self Portrait at the Easel, 1989.

13 June 2014

Artifacts

I have often referred to this series of paintings as "artifacts of a ritual". Unlike my studio compositions, they are drawn from the conditions of a day and all that is intractable in the Autumn landscape. They are created with my evolving skills and sensibilities, but with more observational intensity and candor. 

I would not typically set out for a day of landscape painting with snow in the forecast, but that was the reality of this October 18th.
Wintry Little Summer (SLLS XIX), 2004. Oil/Paper, 13x20".
I am not drawn to slopes bleached by herbicide spray, but that is how I found the mountain on this holy day in 2002.

Mount Jumbo (SLLS XVII), 2002. Oil/Paper, 12x18".

And four years later I observed the lingering evidence of a 4th of July fire that burned up and over Mount Jumbo from the east side.


Mount Jumbo (SLLS XXI), 2006. Oil/Paper, 16x20".

Returning to the same site, this beloved mountain, on the same day each year has helped me to grasp what endures through the cycle of the seasons, along with all that changes. I have not waited for favorable conditions, or flinched at the evidence of human intervention -or folly- in the life of this wild space. These are immediate and honest reflections born of reflection.










02 June 2014

Ephemera

I revel in the startling beauty of trees in pink and crimson. As I inhale the pervading fragrance of apple blossom and lilac, I can't help but feel a little wistful, knowing how swiftly they will pass. Consolation is not far off as the peas begin to bloom, the beans sprout, and other greens ascend to hold the fruits of Summer.

I can't resist making at least a few such blossom studies each Spring. These observations from some ornamental cherries in the neighborhood were highly experimental in their combination of refinement and rough expression. This reveals how I want my work to grow in spirit and skill.

Pink Caprice, 2014. Mixed media on art board, 8x10".
In Rose, 2014. Mixed media on art board, 7x5"



In Crimson, 2014. Mixed media on art board, 7x5".

16 May 2014

In & Out of Season


Into the Squall, 2014. Mixed media on art board, 12x9"

Artistically, and otherwise, I want to be "in season" -to be attuned to the distinctive light and shadow, heat or chill, and other natural conditions in the cycle of the year. I want to work with the elements.

On this warm Spring evening, these wintry paintings debuted at the Dana Gallery's "Icons of the West" show. They were made months ago when digging through the wild drifts presented not only a practical challenge, but inspiration for images of inundation and perseverance.

The work was created in season and enthusiastically. Though Winter will come again in the turning of the year, all these cold blues (never mind the snow) seem untimely now. Hopefully, their underlying interests, what they portray of human endeavor remains timeless and poignant.


Drifts Study I, 2014. Mixed media on canvas panel, 12x9".

Drifts Study II, 2014. Mixed media on canvas panel, 12x9".

29 April 2014

Stephanie J. Frostad: In a Modest House



Rick Phillips provides extensive coverage of local art, artists and art events through Missoula Cable Access Television. I'm honored that he took the time to develop this exploration of my work, and to some extent, the setting in which it is created.

22 April 2014

Creativity & Resourcefulness

Scavengers I, II, III, 2014. Mixed media on wood panels.

I've always been something of scavenger. Many artists are. Curiosity, a delight in discovery, a practical need for materials prod us out, seeking. One never knows what one will find. One can only imagine what one might do with it. This is part of the reason I believe that creativity and resourcefulness are linked and overlapping qualities.

There is a certain alchemy to image-making. Transformation is part and parcel of the creative process. Here, for example, a combination of minerals and oil take the form of clouds and grasses, planks and trees, birds and human beings. Further still, they come together in an illusion of space, where time unfolds.

Dawn or dusk? I often work with these transitional times of day. But this light is rather eerie, suggesting the strange incandescence we experience during Fire Season in the West. I did want to evoke some sense of disaster -if not immediate, than in the recent past. This landscape, and its inhabitants are in need of refreshment and recovery. And why not place those crows, those diligent and ubiquitous scavengers in the foreground, as models for their human companions, also seeking? 

10 April 2014

Settling

I've chosen to make my home in Missoula, Montana. Season by season, Missoula continues to settle into me. 

And so I was honored to be approached by the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula to create an image for their celebratory exhibit of Missoula's first fifty years (1863-1913). In some ways this project clarified how much my work, though anachronistic, is not truly historical. I am generally more interested in heritage, the ethos of a place, than I am all the facts and artifacts on the ground. But I am very glad to have learned more about those specifics for this place I am growing into.

Settlement, 2013. Oil on art board, 16x20".



Settlement Studies: Sapling, Hellgate Canyon, Water Bearer, all 2013.






03 April 2014

Bearing Witness

First in December of 2013, and then in late March of 2014, I took one of the strangest assignments of my career as an artist. Initially employed by a local television station, I served as a sketch artist for the Jordan Graham trial at Missoula's Federal Courthouse.


This assignment fully employed my powers of observation in a very unusual and intense setting. To some extent the physical conditions (distance, obstacles, limited time) prevented me from taking down, or taking in precisely what I hoped to. Working furiously during those hours in court, it was also difficult to process all that I was witnessing. And yet because of this effort, I am more acutely aware of how much drawing -a way of looking- is enmeshed with listening, sensing in more comprehensive ways. And the lingering question is, how receptive is it healthy to be in such a situation? 

Art (my art, your art, The Arts) is such a marvelous way to experience and expand empathy. I never what to deny or discourage that ennobling power. But I still wonder just how far one can open in the presence of all this heartache, to do the job and do it well. Perhaps that need to close off, if only temporarily to all that is unfolding, reveals that this work simply isn't art, merely reportage?


20 March 2014

New Greens

New Greens (Well, almost.)

On the Vernal Equinox we can at least begin to see the ground. And watch it slowly, steadily springing back from the weight of Winter.


This painting, The Green Door (March), 1999, was part of a series in which I explored the turning of the year, month by month at the turn of the century. Seasonal change and natural cycles are perennial themes in my art.

04 March 2014

A World of Whites


A World of Whites


Lost Trail, 2004. Oil on canvas, 16x20".

I love to work in season - portraying the elements as I am experiencing them in the world outside the studio. 

I have trouble keeping up however. We have, for example, received feet of snow in blankets and drifts in recent weeks. All this snow, a beautiful, bewildering and intriguing world of whites, has begun to appear on pages and canvases, but what do you want to bet, it will have disappeared before I plow my way through all these images? 

This is part of the reason I am experimenting with a new process, one that allows for more direct reflection of ideas and experiences, but also more immediate expression of sentiments and sensations. Hopefully, I will be able to share some of these new compositions before they appear out of season.

12 February 2014

Distraction


Killdeer Cunning, 2005. Graphite on paper, 10x13".

I spent far too long searching for this drawing earlier today. It was, ironically, a distraction while I mused on the use of such a "distraction display" in a new scenario. Such wild goose (or plover) chases are a hazard to the composite process. Hardly a week passes that I don't become sidetracked in the search for references, whether they are drawings I've made, like this one, photos or reproductions of other art works. I do, however, sense that those digressions sometime lead to unexpected treasures, inspirations for other images.

31 January 2014

Drawing from Life


I last wrote about recruiting models for particular scenarios, essentially staging a tableau for me to photograph.  That put me in mind of how much I appreciate the enduring tradition of life drawing. 

In sessions with the Pattee Canyon Salon, I have less control over poses and perspectives. In the best of ways, I take what I can get, pencils in hand. I recognize that along with the value of direct observation, the call to improvise is a good stimulus for me as an artist. 

I rarely want to save the drawings I generate there, much less exhibit or promote them. These are mere artifacts of the process of seeing -the real treasure in the experience.

24 January 2014

Notes on Models

Models play many different roles in my figurative work. Yes, they supply poses, gestures, visages, as one might expect, but they also provide content. Whether "sketched" with pencils, paint or the camera, I usually take in more than I ever sought.

How often do I stage an envisioned scenario, only to discover something different, perhaps even divergent, in the modeling session? Almost always. And for that creative stimulus, I am deeply grateful to those who have made themselves available to my process.

Here is some evidence of a recent collaboration with Danica and Teresa:

[Pour I, II, III, 2014. Graphite on Paper, 8x10" each.]



15 January 2014

in the studio today

Another intriguing day in the studio.

Recently, I have been working for a stronger synthesis of drawing and painting in my work. The drawing has always been there, but ultimately buried under painting. Now I am striving to keep drawing alive throughout the process. By "drawing" I do not mean merely traditional drawing media (charcoal, graphite, chalk....), or conventional use of line, though these are elements in this evolving method. By drawing I mean a continuously refreshed engagement with composition and development of the imagery. Here is one of the first pieces I have resolved in this fashion. Given the naturally muted palette of this imagery, incorporating the graphite as line and value came readily. We'll see what arises in other seasons and scenarios.

[Delivered, 2013. Mixed media on wood panel, 10x8". (sold)]

10 January 2014

The ancient story of Demeter and Persephone fascinates me. As a mythic explanation of the changing seasons it is poignant. This tale of sorrowful separation is reflective of the grief I (an avid gardener) so often feel when the growing season ends. In this myth the pomegranate becomes irresistible, forbidden fruit. In the midst of Winter, so cold and nearly colorless, the temptation is evermore palpable. 

[A Sunderance, 2013. Oil on art board, 10x8".]

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A artist living and working in Missoula, Montana.