Monthly Archives: October 2013

Birch trees

These past few days, when not dreaming about mountains, I have been painting from the windows.  These gnarly birch trees stand next to the farmhouse.  There is ever-present Laugarvatnsfjall rising up behind the trees.

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The days are getting shorter and shorter, the mornings are dark, and the evening comes on very fast.  I have to start thinking about leaving…sigh.  I have a few days left to paint, no need to think about leaving just yet… I’ll keep on painting these trees, the mountain, the darkness  …and make time stand still just a little while longer.

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There must be something in the water.

I really can’t explain it.

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These paintings of mountains, half dreamed, half remembered, have sort of bubbled up out of nowhere.  I posted these two before, but here they are again to make a quartet of Icelandic dream mountains.

IMG_3075      ImageIt has been very interesting to experience extended periods of flow and focus in the studio, allowing my painting to follow its own course.  I mean without looking directly at a landscape as a reference, but instead working from previous sketches and drawings, and turning inward for memory and impressions of a place.  I am curious about what comes next.

And the water IS very tasty.

Jokulsarlon

Seeing a stretch of warm-ish weather with little-to-no wind in the forecast, I decided to drive back Jokulsarlon, a favorite spot that I mentioned in an earlier post, “The Great Greyness”.  I went back to experience the profound quiet of this beautiful place, and to soak it in as much as possible.  I did a few small paintings, all around 6 x 8, 8 x10.  My eyes were refreshed by the change of palette and the change of scenery.   Here are some of my quick impressions:

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Once again time stood still, in the ice, in the vapor of the cold air, in the drift of the tide, in the deep silence.  It was very hard to leave.  I hope that I can keep the memory of this place fresh and vivid, and recall it when I hustle back to my busy life in Philadelphia.

The eye of the blackbird

It was evening all afternoon.
It was snowing
And it was going to snow.
The blackbird sat
In the cedar-limbs.

Today the true winter palette of Iceland was revealed.  The color and mood of this day are captured in Wallace Stevens’ poem Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.  Here is the link to the whole poem…I’ll wait while you go read it.

http://www.writing.upenn.edu/~afilreis/88/stevens-13ways.html

Now you know what kind of a dream state I was in all day as I worked in the studio.  This is the mountain behind the farm, Laugarvatnsfjall, 16 x 20

IMG_3255And a view across the fields from the window of the library in town, about 8×11

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Giant steps

Coltrane in the studio today, seems appropriate, as I am starting on my 16 x 20 sheets now, another milestone.

I woke up this morning thinking that some monochromatic painting would be a good thing to do, since the black and white drawings have been so gratifying and fun.  With the fall colors fading to black and brown, the landscape is increasingly graphic and basically monochromatic on a gray overcast day.  I over-painted on two 13 x 16 paintings that were leaving me feeling …meh.  I kept more or less the same composition, same mountain sides, just re-focused.  Here is one:

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It’s good to be lost.

Painting larger is new ground for me, and going there has meant embracing uncertainty and the feeling of being lost. But it’s good to be lost! I am learning that working larger entails detaching from the “observed” landscape where the painting began. Inside the studio the landscape is no longer in front of my eyes. Instead I have drawings to look at, and memories, and photographs. More new ground, working from reference images and memory. And not only that. The light is constant, no issues with wind or rain… new ground working on a painting over several sessions, days, maybe weeks. Where am I? Here is a drawing of a mountain side I have studied, painted and drawn many times already, and it is my jumping off point for a studio painting. Below it is the painting I am working on, about 14×18. (I know what you’re thinking, but remember, “big” is relative, and size isn’t everything.)

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