Wednesday, August 27, 2014

8.27.14 ~ meeting oneself above timberline



walking to the clouds ~ santa fe baldy ~ by dawn chandler ~ oil on panel ~ 12" x 24" ~ copyright dawn chandler 2014

I love being above timberline. My first recollection of being above timberline must stretch back to my childhood, hiking those stunning mountains of Acadia National Park in Maine. And some of those Appalachian ridges of lower New York State. But the memory of timberline that comes back to me most strongly is that of the While Mountains of New Hampshire, up near the Lake of the Clouds Hut. I must have been 13 or 14 when I first hiked those granite peaks — back before I was exposed to the magnetic pull on my soul of New Mexico. The Presidential Range of New Hampshire though was my first love affair with the mountains. And I remember being up there beyond the trees, walking across smooth rock and lacy grass, closer to sky than I ever had before. On Top of the World. 
I remember thinking, "This must be what Greece is like." Something about being exposed up there with nothing much more than Rock. Grass. Sky. It just seemed an ancient environment, a place where heroic deeds were done and battles among gods and goddesses were fought and won. A place where one faced the elements and met oneself.

Pictured here, Walking to the Clouds of Santa Fe Baldy, as my friend Joyce approaches the summit of Santa Fe's highest peak during our July backpacking trip. When I looked over to see her contrasted against the clouds, that sense of Earth falling away from her, my pulse quickened and I knew I had to capture it. 



Below, another scene from that same day, also above timberline: Crossing the Boulder Field ~ Santa Fe Baldy, my friends Tavo and Joyce up ahead as we make our way back to camp after a victorious lunch on the peak.


crossing the boulder field ~ santa fe baldy ~ by dawn chandler ~ oil on panel ~ 12" x 24" ~ copyright dawn chandler 2014
 





Tuesday, August 19, 2014

8.19.14 ~ from the summit of santa fe baldy


view from the summit ~ santa fe baldy ~ by dawn chandler ~ oil on panel ~ 12" x 24" ~ copyright dawn chandler 2014

In July two friends and I did a three-day backpacking trip to the summit of Santa Fe Baldy [elevation 12,631']. Though the forecast was literally dreadful, with warnings of "Hazardous Weather" resulting in flooding throughout much of New Mexico and north Texas (some towns in Texas got something like 9 inches of rain in 6 hours one of those days). 

Despite the forecast, we decided to go for it anyway, fully expecting to turn around at any moment.

And in the end? 
In the end we had perfect weather.
When I say we had perfect weather, I mean it: We had perfect weather. 

Sure there were some clouds, but not til the afternoon, and rarely anything that seemed threatening. Not a drop of rain except at night, when we were already curled up in our sleeping bags, and then it cleared well before we got up in the morning. It was as though we had a halo of glorious weather followed us for the full 3 days.
I've never experienced anything quite like that. And because the forecast had been so bad, no one else was up there: We had the trail and the summit to ourselves. Unbelievable!

Here's the first painting from a series of new ones I'm currently working on based on our trip. [With my Outback Series of mixed media paintings now on exhibit in Taos, I'm focusing for a few weeks on traditional landscape painting; feels good!] 

The view here is from the top of Santa Fe Baldy. And yes! thanks to recent rains, the summit grass is indeed that green. (Anyone know which direction I'm looking?)

The challenge with these paintings is the light: When you're on a summit that's barren of trees and made up mainly of grass and rocks, there's not much to cast shadows — which add contrast and visual interest to a painting. But even if there were interestingly shaped things to cast shadows, in the middle of the day — here, literally, around noon or 1:00 — with the sun directly overhead, what little shadow there is is short and limited. The bright sun filtering through thin clouds washes out what little color there is in a mostly grey-green-blue-white landscape, making it a challenge. But heck, it's a pretty good challenge!



Thursday, August 14, 2014

8.14.14 ~ water and oil DO mix



My quandary in June was what art supplies to bring on a 3-week road trip. I had been having such fun this spring doing my little 5"x7" plein-air oil paintings with my cool little Guerilla Thumb Box, that I really kinda wanted to do that: Bring oils. But what about the turpentine or paint thinner needed for cleaning my brushes?  
I was going to be cruising through some deathly hot temperatures, especially across Utah and Nevada, and I really didn't want to be hauling flammable liquids and paint rags in my car—especially not if my car was going to end up being parked in the hot sun for hours at any given time. Three years ago I witnessed a neighbor's house engulfed in flames due to paint rags spontaneously combusting in the outdoor garbage can sitting next to the house; I've a sober respect for the volatility of art supplies.

And then it occurred to me: How about water-soluble oil paints


What?

Water-soluble oil paints? Do they really make such a thing?

Yes, Yes, they do! Developed just a couple of decades ago, they are real oil paints, but due to the chemical make up of these, you can use water rather than spirits for mixing and cleaning.

Really?

I had a hard time believing this. I know a few artists who claim to have tried them a while back and said they really didn't like them, though they weren't real specific as to why.
A little research online indicated that yes, some painters love them and some painters don't care for them at all. Me? I decided I needed to love them.

So I decided on Winsor & Newton (one of the most trusted names in artists' paint) and ordered my basic 4 colors (ultramarine blue, alizarin crimson, cadmium yellow medium and titanium white) as well as a small set of brushes (designated my "water-oil brushes") and a bottle or two of WN "Fast Drying Medium" since the air in the PNW would


be damp, and some WN "Satin Varnish" as well (both formulated for water-oils).

Since I'd never worked with these kinds of paints before, I figured I'd better try my hand at them before hitting the road, just in case I really did despise them. If that was the case then I certainly didn't want to be stuck with them for 3 weeks on the road. So about a week before departure I loaded up my groovy little kit and walked over to my neighborhood park with my pup. We found a shady spot under a big ole' cottonwood and, while she napped in the grass I set to work.

Voila!


Not bad.....not bad at all!

These were going to be just fine! 

But.....hmmm...

Since I would be in the Pacific Northwest where the  colors are a whole lot cooler-bluer-greener than in the hot-red-orange-ochre Southwest — I decided to pick up an extra blue (cobalt) and an extra yellow (lemon), so I'd have some more choices when it came to mixing greens.


I ended up doing just a handful of paintings on my trip**— only because it's tough when you're traveling with someone to make the time to break away to paint. But when I did pull out my water-oils I thoroughly enjoyed using them. 

Here's my observations about water-soluble oil paints:


-- No, they don't have quite the same texture as traditional oils; water-oils are much smoother, much more slippery than traditional oils.
-- You have to load a little more paint on your brush to make it go as far; or, to put it another way, you go through more paint over a small area than you do with traditional oils.
-- They take a few days to dry.
-- When they do dry, the colors dry a bit dull; this is easily remedied with a coat of varnish, which you're going to use anyway to protect the painting surface.
-- They simply take a little getting used to.
-- The EASE of clean-up and lack of worry about flammability of materials when traveling TRUMPS ANY reservations.

The bottom line: Give them an honest try, stop comparing them to "traditional oils," get used to them and recognize that they are an easy and excellent choice for a traveling oil-painter.

**Want to see the paintings I did on my trip? Check out my next Studio Notes newsletter when I send it out next week!  [Subscribe to it by clicking here, and then scrolling to the end of that page to where it says subscribe to dawn chandler's studio notes newsletter.]

june morning ~ ashbaugh park, santa fe, new mexico  ~ by dawn chandler ~ oil on panel (en plein air) ~ 5" x 7"


Friday, August 08, 2014

8.8.14 ~ the rhythm of the heat and creative holiness in the outback series

and find what i need ~ by dawn chandler ~ mixed media ~ 10" x 20" ~ copyright dawn chandler 2014


The most recent paintings in The Outback Series are among my most favorite, for they were created in a perfect storm of intense, passionate and focused creativity. Over the course of a recent week these were the focus of my existence, as I moved back and forth for hours each day between these six canvases laid out on my work tables. The underlying collages of printed and glued words I had done months before — way back in January, actually, before I had decided to move. Then the canvases sat in my studio — until, quite unexpectedly, the "storm" hit. 

There's something thrilling and deeply satisfying when that kind of creative passion takes over; everything just seems to align and it's almost as though you are a mere a vessel — a conduit — for an authoritative and generous Muse.

I remember the first time I experienced this, I was in graduate school in Philadelphia, working in my studio on the third floor of the old turn-of-the-last-century art building. 

It was late spring, in the late afternoon, and most of my peers had left for the day. I was working on a series of enormous paintings — 9' tall x 3-1/2' wide. They had been a struggle, for these were among my first experiments in trying to 'abstract' the landscape, and, though I couldn't really grasp it then, I really was a novice with color and scale and so much else. 

The theme of my work was the Grand Canyon — a place I had recently toured by backpack for the first time. I had struggled through several of these paintings, but that late afternoon as I worked into evening — my studio window open, a warm spring air faintly breezing in the window — as I worked on the final couple of canvases, everything just seemed to come together. I remember I was listening to Peter Gabriel's album Security — this was in the days of cassettes and Walkmans — and in particular the songs The Rhythm of the Heat and San Jacinto, just seemed to conjure the experience of the west for me and electrify my muse. As I pushed paint and color around, music blasting, I felt utterly radiant, utterly joyful, utterly and exquisitely present. ON FIRE. Totally in the moment.

My graduate school paintings. Before moving west, I needed to dispose of these paintings, so my parents and I decided to display them on the walls of our "old garage," where for 20 years now they have drawn attention from passers-by. Faded and worn by the elements, they are now pretty much destroyed. But I can't think of a better death for art.

What I experienced in creating these recent paintings was something akin to that perfect storm of creative holiness I first witnessed that spring evening in my west Philadelphia studio so long ago. Here's hoping for more "perfect storms."


nothing is harsh ~ by dawn chandler ~ mixed media ~ 10" x 20" ~ copyright dawn chandler 2014


to be a life ~ by dawn chandler ~ mixed media ~ 10" x 20" ~ copyright dawn chandler 2014


inside    out ~ by dawn chandler ~ mixed media ~ 10" x 20" ~ copyright dawn chandler 2014


secrets drifting ~ by dawn chandler ~ mixed media ~ 10" x 20" ~ copyright dawn chandler 2014


mourn no fear ~ by dawn chandler ~ mixed media ~ 10" x 20" ~ copyright dawn chandler 2014


The Outback Series: Mixed Media Paintings Inspired by the Western Landscape by Dawn Chandler is on view from August 2 - September 12, 2014 at Salon X, 226 Paseo Del Pueblo Norte, Taos, New Mexico, 87571

Monday, August 04, 2014

8.4.14 ~ going BIG ~ large scale and intention with the outback series


 
sometimes it doesn't hurt ~ by dawn chandler ~ mixed media on canvas ~ 48" x 48" inches ~ copyright dawn chandler 2014



Without a doubt, the most exciting paintings for me to produce in this series are the  large works — a diptych (two panels) measuring 48" x 48" and a single painting measuring 36" x 60". 
There's just something freeing — liberating — about pushing paint around on a large canvas. Frequently I have to lay the painting on the floor and paint from a kneeling position on the ground, leaning over and pushing large brushes as I dribble and splatter paint.

Looking at a large painting creates a different experience for the viewer, too. Rather than being on the outside looking at this small precious image that you can hold in your hands, with a very large painting you're presented an experience. If the scale is large enough, you feel as though you can enter into the painting; it becomes an intimate experience.

"I realize that historically the function of painting large pictures is painting something very grandiose and pompous. The reason I paint them, however . . . is precisely because I want to be very intimate and human. To paint a small picture is to place yourself outside your experience, to look upon an experience as a stereopticon view or with a reducing glass. However you paint the larger picture, you are in it. It isn’t something you command!" — Mark Rothko 

In the real scheme of things, these paintings of mine really aren't that large. But compared to the tiny 8" x 8" panels I'd been doing (or the 5" x 7" plein air sketches) they feel colossal. I love creating them.



and what you see ~ by dawn chandler ~ mixed media on canvas ~ 48" x 48" inches ~ copyright dawn chandler 2014

The night of the show opening (this past Saturday), people were drawn especially to these large paintings. One friend asked if my Artist Statement is posted on-line, so I offer it here — a refinement of my initial blog post introducing this series:

The Outback Series of paintings are the direct result of my desire to merge my two distinct painting styles of ‘traditional landscape’ and ‘mixed media-abstraction” into a new visual language for myself; a language that conjures the experience and memory of landscape, without being overly literal. Memories and impressions of flickers of light, deep shadows, textures, patterns, the calligraphy of bird flight, shifting horizons, reflections of sky and of self come together as a collage—a patchwork—of passages and expanses of color, of bigness and smallness, of sight and silence.
    Incorporated into these images are words, inviting one to pause and ponder. Echoing memory, some are ghost-like, some are clear. Some are nonsensical, others, poetic.
    The text I’ve used are the responses to my query:  What have you learned from your experiences in nature? Over the course of the past year, people of all ages and from all over the country have responded to this question posed on my website as well as on postcards that I distributed. A good many of the responses came from teenagers—participants in Philmont Scout Ranch’s Rayado Program, an intense three-week backpacking experience similar to Outward Bound.
    Why not use my own words, my own answer to the question? Partly because I was curious to see what kind of a response such a query would elicit. Partly, too, I knew my own words might be too subjective--too precious--and I therefore might be reluctant to disrupt them. Further, I hoped that others’ participation in this process would inspire me, and infuse the work with a soulfulness different than were I working from my imagination alone.
    My work on this painting series began in earnest in November 2013 when I was an artist in residence at Playa Creative Residency program in Summer Lake, Oregon—the heart of the dramatic, desolate Oregon Outback of central and eastern Oregon. For five weeks there I watched the sun rise each morning, and then walked toward the sun, enthralled by the immense clouds and curtains of dust that formed above the always-changing alkali Summer Lake. I watched the sunlight across mud flats and prairie grass and mesa-like ridge-lines; watched crows and hawks and ravens and geese and gnarled orchards and golden willows; watched deep purple shadows lengthen and recede and golden light cut across reflected blue sky. If you think I’m mistaken and am describing instead the landscape of my New Mexico home, you’re not far off. For I was stunned to discover these two states more than 1,200 miles apart are akin in their breadth and majesty.
    Each morning I began my studio practice by painting a small “traditional” landscape based on the views from my studio window. These are collected together in the work, Outback Meditations. From there I sought to “abstract” the landscape based on the views I’d seen on my walks, out my window, in my memory and in my mind’s eye, incorporating into them the words of the responses to “What have you learned from your experiences in nature?”


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

With a full heart I thank ~


My family, My Good Man, and my friends ~ for their constant love and belief in me.

Playa Creative Residency Program and my Playa family.


Philmont Scout Ranch.

Taos.

Delta & Salon X ~ for the opportunity and great style.

My patrons & followers ~ for the support and enthusiasm.

And especially, my friends and fellow artists Shawn Demarest [shawndemarest.com] and Joan Fullerton [joanfullerton.com] whose warmth, insight, artistic excellence and intelligence never cease to inspire me.


Dawn Chandler
August 2014 



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Many thanks to everyone who turned out for my show opening Saturday August, 2. Such a wonder and delight to see so many friends turn out to support me. Thank you. Your presence there means the world to me.


The Outback Series: Mixed Media Paintings Inspired by the Western Landscape by Dawn Chandler is on view from August 2 - September 12, 2014 at Salon X, 226 Paseo Del Pueblo Norte, Taos, New Mexico, 87571


Saturday, August 02, 2014

8.2.14 ~ from the outback series: expanding horizons


 And now to go bigger.

The horizontally configured rectangle was working for me. 
Despite some very abstract elements, the horizontal format helps to suggest landscape, if even only sub/consciously.
I was digging these paintings, and was itching to go larger; paint bigger.  So I did:

beyond where we thought ~ by dawn chandler ~ mixed media on canvas ~ 16" x 36" ~ copyright dawn chandler 2014


where i had gone ~ by dawn chandler ~ mixed media on canvas ~ 16" x 36" ~ copyright dawn chandler 2014


allow us so that we can ~ by dawn chandler ~ mixed media on canvas ~ 16" x 36" ~ copyright dawn chandler 2014


 At Playa, I was limited by the size of art I could get into an already full car. 
At my old place here in Santa Fe, I was limited in scale due to a cramped studio.
Moving into my new loft space this spring has allowed me to open up and expand my painting in all sorts of glorious ways — including scale. 

always be my home ~ by dawn chandler ~ mixed media on canvas ~ 24" x 48" ~ copyright dawn chandler 2014


then i find myself ~ by dawn chandler ~ mixed media on canvas ~ 24" x 48" ~ copyright dawn chandler 2014


This show opens tonight. I hope you can make it.


The Outback Series: Mixed Media Paintings Inspired by the Western Landscape by Dawn Chandler is on view from August 2 - September 12, 2014 at Salon X, 226 Paseo Del Pueblo Norte, Taos, New Mexico, 87571
Opening reception Saturday, August 2, 6:00 - 8:00pm

Friday, August 01, 2014

8.1.14 ~ from the outback series: beyond the square

The square proved limiting. 

Compositionally the square is hard to work with. I knew that. Which is partly why I was thinking I'd work with it — I'm kind of drawn to those kinds of challenges. But the truth is — though I made some neat images — the square wasn't really working with my vision for what I wanted these paintings to be.  

I realized that after a couple of great studio conversations with some of my fellow artists at Playa.

So.
I gathered up the less successful squares, glued them in pairs onto rectangular panels, and with paint started merging two squares into one horizontal painting.



it's learning what is real ~ by dawn chandler ~ mixed media ~ 8" x 16" ~ copyright dawn chandler 2014


just to stay ~ by dawn chandler ~ mixed media ~ 8" x 16" ~ copyright dawn chandler 2014

 
edging on knowing ~ by dawn chandler ~ mixed media ~ 8" x 16" ~ copyright dawn chandler 2014



And in some, I began to push the abstraction more.

the coming of winter ~ by dawn chandler ~ mixed media ~ 8" x 16" ~ copyright dawn chandler 2014


of sunrises and alkali lakes ~ by dawn chandler ~ mixed media ~ 8" x 16" ~ copyright dawn chandler 2014


No. 61 ~ oil on linen ~ by Mark Rothko
Here's the thing: for me — to my eye — just about any time you have a horizontal line, I see a horizon. I don't care what anyone else says or sees — you are always invited to see what you see — but for me, a horizontal line is Earth. Call me an incurable land-romantic; a dyed-in-the-wool landscape painter no matter what form or expression my art takes. He's surely rolling in his grave with this statement, but Mark Rothko's paintings to me have always been about landscape.

So all those horizontal lines here and there in my paintings? Horizons. Shifting horizons. 

Memories of horizons. The sweep of land, of distant water, of far off vistas. Of land and sky. 
Of breaking day and fading light.



water's edge, i ~ by dawn chandler ~ mixed media ~ 8" x 16" ~ copyright dawn chandler 2014


water's edge, ii ~ by dawn chandler ~ mixed media ~ 8" x 16" ~ copyright dawn chandler 2014


of land and sky and water ~ by dawn chandler ~ mixed media ~ 8" x 16" ~ copyright dawn chandler 2014


The Outback Series: Mixed Media Paintings Inspired by the Western Landscape by Dawn Chandler is on view from August 2 - September 12, 2014 at Salon X, 226 Paseo Del Pueblo Norte, Taos, New Mexico, 87571
Opening reception Saturday, August 2, 6:00 - 8:00pm