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Dec 23, 2016

Happy Holidays and a Look Back at 2016...

Hello Everyone! 

Happy HannuChristmaKwanzaSolstiFestivus to you and yours during this bright holiday season – and please, accept another hearty congratulation from me for almost making it through 2016!

What a year, right?

This is a long read so read as much of this post as you wish. But, if you make it all the way to the end there is a little surprise for you...ha!

. . .

I toyed with the idea of writing up a year end review of 2016 like a family Christmas letter, then photographing the family and dog in antlers and sweaters, but decided that would be too cute. So I’ll just jump in and ramble about my year in painting...

January, 2016, was one of those rare months when I stayed home and endured the vicissitudes of Oregon's wet winter rain. But the upside of being home was I could rest up and prepare for the coming Spring which was packed with trips, events, and workshops.

At the end of February I drove down to Borrego Springs, CA to compete in a plein air event new to me. Borrego, if you don't know, is east of San Diego, way out in the low California desert, and is kind of how Palm Springs used to be before the Rat Pack discovered it. Or so I am told. All there was to do was paint in the desert in the wee hours of the morning and late evening, and sit around in town during the middle watching the desert rats come and go. Oh, and spend the nights gazing up at the stars. (Borrego is an International Dark Sky Sanctuary where you can see actual nebulae with your naked eyes.) There were occasions when I felt like an movie extra waitin’ ‘fer a shoot out in a Sergio Leone/Clint Eastwood Western but I enjoyed painting the harsh landscapes nonetheless. In fact, I had never painted in such an austere environment before and I thrive on new experiences and challenges so I was good. After painting in the Borrego area for a week I thought, heck what could be more harsh or interesting, and drove further east to the Salton Sea. Talk about quirkiness. To get there required driving through a giant dust storm and an unexpected epic off-road Lolapolooza of dirt bikes and ATVs that made Mad Max: Thunderdome look like a family flick. (Just to maintain the movie references.) After which I pulled some of the leftover work from Borrego and drove it up to Palm Springs where I painted for another week and opened a show in my gallery there. (Brian Marki Fine Art | Palm Springs)

Mid-March, My lovely wife flew down to meet me at for my Palm Springs opening and we stayed a few extra days to hike around to see the magnificent Jefferson Palms in Indian Canyon, and tour Joshua Tree, before setting off back home to Oregon along the backside of the Sierras. Driving up highway 395 seemed like a good idea at the time until a storm front blew in on day two, which made it difficult to get across the Sierras, the Siskiyous, or the Cascades, and back home. It was early Spring after all, right? What was I thinking?

But hey, we made it safe and sound by swinging into Nevada and so at the end of April my next task was to drive back down to Carmel, California to teach the first workshop of the year. I love Carmel but I had just driven up the entire east side of California only to find myself driving halfway back down the west side again. Which can give you a more nuanced understanding of Willie Nelson’s "On the road again".

I finished up April by flying out to Atlanta, Georgia, where I participated in Olmsted Plein Air for the first time. Again, what fun. What a great event and fine group of people. I got to experience southern hospitality for the first time, and well, liked it so much I am prepared to experience some more when I return in 2017 with a smile on my face and a better idea of what to expect. I sold well during the event, with my signature painting being purchased by the Cherokee Town & Country Club for their permanent collection, a social milieu generally referred to in something of a hushed voice because the Cherokee is one of the old-school clubs in Atlanta. Amusingly, one of the things that stuck in my mind at the Cherokee – go figure – was a rivalry going on between a another club as to how much maple sugar could be carmelize onto a piece of fried bacon. Stop and think about that for a minute. I am a foodie – I'll admit it – and I tried some, and well, talk about gilding the lily, right? "Baaaacon" + a thick crunchy layer of sugar crust, right? But who am I to judge, given some of my own personal culinary quirks? And apparently, some southern tradition foodstuffs are sacred. Especially if they are deep fried. Clearly this rivalry was good-natured for most, short of coming to fist blows, and better than the Sharks and the Jets or the Bloods and the Crips, and I plan to try more of Cherokee bacon when I return. Because I am Switzerland when it comes to food. Unless Brussel Sprouts are involved.

Immediately after that event, the first week of May, I threw the few remaining Olmsted paintings at a UPS employee and jumped into my rental car to drive down to the Forgotten Coast of Florida where yet another plein air competition was scheduled to begin. I took the back roads all the way down and got a nice long look at rural Georgia. The Forgotten Coast Plein Air would be the second of two long back-to-back events, and surprisingly I still had the energy for it. For those who might not know, the Forgotten Coast is so called because it lies along the panhandle between Panama City Beach and Alligator Point, with Apalachicola in between. (Note to self: Do NOT keep inadvertently calling Apalachicola, "Appalachian-cola! Just don’t...) The Forgotten Coast is definitely not the Miami Vice/CSI: Miami kind of FLA you see on television. It was, well, even more colorful and everyone there kept proudly telling me it remains one the last holdouts of The Old Florida. I wouldn't know, but it was all good to me. I liked the people, the working boats, the 'elegant decay', the area in general, and whatever there was to paint. Oh, and the oysters. I ate more oysters than I ever have in my life. For breakfast, lunch, dinner, and late night snack. I even painted a plate of oysters (sold). I hung out at the Raw Bar with my new friends until closing time. (Some of whom could have inspired a Carl Hiaasen novel). I even painted the Raw Bar at night. And painted a lot of stuff that looked like it came out of a 1972 issue of National Geographic. (Cool!) I did well again with the sales and I can't wait to go back and paint some more fishing boats and bayou culture. Oh, and to eat more oysters...

I flew back home in mid-May, looking forward to time with the family but the first week of June I had to drive up to Annacortes, WA, to the tip of Puget Sound to judge a show of really good PNW painters, and then drive partway back and take a ferry over to Bainbridge Island to teach a workshop for a Washington artists' group. Both Annacortes and Bainbridge can be stunning if you catch the weather just right and I was blessed to do so. Always good for a plein air class.

After all the judging and teaching was done, and the hugs and tears exhausted, I drove home looking forward to painting in my own backyard for a while. Backyard in the sense of painting the area where I grew up, where I learned to paint, but had been sorely neglecting over that past ten years. I spent the rest of June, all of July, and the first few weeks of August painting in old haunts, revisiting favorite subjects, and feeling more grounded as a result, producing work that would eventually appear in one of my rare Portland gallery shows in the Fall.

Not being one to lounge about, I submitted and had several paintings juried into national shows, such as the American Impressionist Society and the Western Regional of Oil Painters’ of America. That sort of thing. But still, I was happy to be home in the Pacific Northwest quietly making art in my own ‘hood.

Then late August rolled around and I remembered I’d juried into the Pacific Northwest Plein Air held out in the Columbia Gorge and packed up the kit again. However, this event was only a couple of hours east of Portland and I'd be painting an area I knew intimately with many long-term friends. PNWPA went well too. I had a great time, sold well, and was honored with First Place…Best of Show?… whatever it is called, and more notably, was also honored with a Museum Purchase Award from the Maryhill Museum. Yes, this was my second museum purchase and it felt good. (The painting is now hanging but I have not yet gone out to see it.) It was a painting I hadn’t planned to execute. I just got a wake up call from a couple of friends encouraging me to paint a tribal fishing ladder at sunrise below the Dalles Dam and I thought, heck why not? Well, thank you for waking me up. That painting turned out to be one of my favorites of 2016, and that was before it was purchased by the museum. (Have I mentioned it was purchased by a museum yet? ha!) Every now and then, when you aren’t paying attention, you knock one out of the park, and on that day it was my turn. Truthfully, it could have been any other the other painter as well. Actually is was. Another artist also had work purchased by the museum.

So a few more weeks go by and I hit late September. I find myself frantically preparing for two major events at the same time: a show of a large body of work at my local gallery (Brian Marki Fine Art | Portland) and what would be my final plein air competition of the year on the East Coast. It may have been two weeks of pure craziness, but on the first Thursday of October, my gallery show opened and went well.

Five hours later I found myself on the 4:30 am flight to Boston, dozing. Cape Ann Plein Air was brand new spankin' event launching out on the coastline of Massachusetts above Beantown and I wanted to be in on it. So after I landed I grab my rental and drove up to the cape and begin scouting locations to paint, in and around Gloucester, Rockport, and Essex, and Manchester-by-the-Sea. (Note the English names, yes? That's not even all of them on the cape.) Cape Ann is juts off into a major Atlantic fishery and it is filled with American history writ large, and in many ways its presence and culture was the precursor of our country today. Skip forward a few centuries to the late 19th and early 20th century and the cape becomes the birthplace and nursery of what I have pursued most of my professional life – American Impressionism. Almost all the exemplary American landscape painters of that period spent time on the cape, from Homer, to Potthast, to Duvenek, to Hopper, plus many more. For me, Cape Ann Plein Air was another opportunity to paint old-timey boats again, with old-timey flotsam and jetsam lying about, which I did with much gusto. (Thank you, CW, Steve, and Stape, for sharing some of your finest and perhaps few remaining 'fishing holes' on the cape.) And again, I did well, walking away with a lovely ribbon and a new gallery in Gloucester, which, if you are a local you pronounce 'Glawsta', not some other three-syllable word you think you should say. 

So, if you are ever near Boston and need to conceal the fact that you are a tourist, try practicing with this list:
  • Gloucester : Glawsta
  • Worcester: Wuhsta (or Wistah)
  • Leicester : Lesta
  • Woburn: Wooban
  • Dedham : Dead-um
  • Revere: Re-vee-ah
  • Quincy: Quinzee
  • Tewksbury : Tooks berry
  • Leominster : Lemin-sta
  • Peabody: Pee-ba-dee
  • Waltham : Walth-ham
  • Chatham: Chaddum
  • Samoset: Sam-oh-set or Sum-aw-set but nevah Summerset!
After Cape Ann, the plein air season came to an end for me and it was time to go home and rest up – the usual halfway-hibernating thing I do in late October and November. And of course, spend time with the family. And start some long-delayed house remodeling projects. Why? Because it rains constantly around here this time of year and I need to expand my studio so I can teach a few long term students in my own space. I love to lead destination workshops, but like to also cultivate a few dedicated students willing to pursue more long-form instruction. You'll hear more about all that later at some point… (ha!)

And now it is December and 2016 is winding to a close. But my thoughts are already turning towards January, 2017 when I will head out the door again. I'll be starting off in Florida, painting in Key West and working my way up to Key Largo, wear I will teach in Ocean Reef, before flying directly out to Scottsdale, AZ to teach some more and paint in the desert (see above). Then home again for a week before flying down to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico with my wife and our best friends to teach again and paint with more good friends. Then home and off to Borrego Springs like a ricochet Then home and back out to Atlanta to teach and compete. Then home and back to the Forgotten Coast to paint some more. Boing, boing. I think that takes me to the end of May. And then…?

Well, the fun never stops…


P.S., I lied...or can we all just agree that I am being 'post-fact'? If you made it all the way down to the end you've probably realized that I did turn this post into a family Christmas letter after all. So here is the requisite shot of the family dog in antlers. The rest of the family refused to step into the frame. (kidding!) Really, I just couldn't get anyone out of bed this early in the morning...

Anyway... Merry Christmas to you, and I wish you a Happy New Year filled with lots of painting, lots of collecting of paintings, and any other kind of adventure you will have!

1 reader comments:

mel magee said...

Great writing, energy and love your descriptions esp of appilach...
Elegant decay.
Right on.
Thanks for all the information posted and videos. You're a library of art wealth. You know what I mean...