Monday, June 23, 2014

Return to the North

Karen and I share a common bond -- one of many that drew us together some 35ish years ago.  We both love the north, especially wild places in the north -- places where as far as you can see in any direction there’s not a sign revealing the imprint of the hand of man.  It truly gives both of us a natural high.

            Wild as far as we can see in any direction!  Roadside view along the Yukon's portion of the Alaska Highway.

We gave ourselves a three week high this spring -- a late May/early June road trip north -- the Yukon and Alaska.  We never got any further from Petersburg than Wasilla, AK so left plenty of room for reruns.  We put something over 2300 miles on our Mazda Tribute plus a couple of hundred miles each way on a ferry just traveling from one part of Alaska to another.  Since it’s about 700 miles from our mainland ferry landing at Haines, Alaska, to Wasilla, I figure we covered about 900 miles side tripping -- a drive to Talkeetna plus lots of miles in search of photo ops -- critters from bears to moose, caribou and all manner of rodents, particularly porcupines and ground squirrels.  Yes, Karen will drive miles just to commune with a squirrel.

                                       "Hey, it's Karen!"  Arctic ground squirrels, Denali Highway, Alaska

Of course we both packed our paints.  Karen’s never saw the light of day.  Mine didn’t do much better.  Eventually, after painting a couple of dumpster stuffers, I decided to focus on chasing photos for future studio paintings, and the joy of finding those subjects.  Thus we drove pretty slow, but with little traffic we just pulled over to let other travelers pass.  You can’t do that on a mainland interstate.

During the ensuing weeks we’ll share some of our photos from our latest adventure.  It’s already fun reliving the trip.  Here’s a primer:

                                              The ultimate lure:  Karen with David and Tamia in Wasilla

                                                        "Er, Karen, Are you sure that's a squirrel?"

                                                                "And, are you sure that's just a stump?"

                                                 "What was that sound?"  Trumpeter swan, Yukon

            "You mean we traveled all this distance just to take a picture of a bug on a dandelion?"  Swallowtail butterfly

The sight of a flower triggers the kind of Pavlovian response in Karen as the word "bakery" in a storefront window does to Don.

                              It doesn't look like Karen's porcupine friend has been flossing his teeth regularly.

Now isn't Memorial Day supposed to be warm and sunny -- a chance to head out for a picnic?   Denali Highway, Alaska

                           If perchance Don would look up he might notice something -- like maybe a willow ptarmigan.

       Yes, it's fun recounting this trip in the rear-view mirror of our camera lenses.  We'll share more in the near future.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Fruits of the Wedding

Returning from our daughter, Tamia’s, wedding with Cash Philo last July we came back with a hugh bonus.  Karen had captured gigabytes of images with her Canon Powershot -- painting subjects.  Her photos from just that one trip could keep my brushes moving for years.

So, a pending road trip north last spring (look for future blog posts) gave me a quest this spring.  You can’t visit family without gifts so I dug through Karen’s photos easily finding subjects to paint for Tamia and Cash.  What a way to relive one of the highlights of our lives -- that cold summer day in Alaska’s Hatcher Pass where the glow of the bride turned that near-frozen corner of the surrounding tundra into a tropical paradise.  I spent much of this past winter and spring re-basking in that glow as I happily moved paint from my palette onto a clean white canvas.

I selected two images to paint, one at that moment of moments during the wedding, the second at the reception when Karen focused on three children who drifted into their own worlds at the affair. 

I love to paint people -- if the image captures a moment that speaks to me on an emotional level.  A batch of photos may show the likeness of a person or persons, yet if one expresses their personality, takes me into that moment -- a moment I feel will still resonate with viewers over time -- that’s what I want to depict on canvas.

                            And the Bride Said "I..."   18 x 24 inches   Alkyd on /Canvas

In the case of Tamia, I have long wanted to paint a close-up of a face -- just a person’s head without the supporting “cast” of a background and the clothes (as much fun as they are to paint).  When I saw Karen’s wedding photos, I knew she had unearthed an “adit into a gold mine.”  After multiple passes rendering the textures and variety of colors in her face, I gave a sigh of relief, “well done.”  I set it aside.  Several days later I took another peek.  “Yikes, it looks like she had visited a make-up artist at the Alaska State Fair.  No one’s skin is that perfect.”  Gulp, I didn’t want to lose it, but I had to go back and undo perfection.  It needed more passes to bring life to her complexion.

                                                 Mothers in the Making   18 x 24 inches   Alkyd on Canvas

The image of the three girls speaks to how the maternal instinct of girls seems to express itself at a young age.  I hope I’m not being sexist, but I don’t have that ability to relate to very young children.  I suspect it’s a symptom of many males.  Like a final exam in a physics class, they strike fear in my heart.  I simply don’t know what to do with them -- at least until they are old enough to be read to and draw with.  In the case of this painting, I moved the girls into another part of the yard and even “planted” some different flowers in the foreground.  It’s an artist’s prerogative.