"The Owl Feather"
12 x 16 inches, oil on canvas
Wow! Well - I am home from an amazing sojourn at the Playa Fellowship Residency Program, in Southeastern Oregon - and how to even begin describing the experience? The shortest possible way would be to say I made as much work in four weeks there as I would have in four months at home. But luckily, we don't have to settle for the shortest possible way - I'm planning to spend the next few weeks posting my new paintings, and writing about my time there.
So, I'll begin at the beginning - packing! Playa is in a pretty remote location - 60 miles from the nearest grocery store - so in addition to my art supplies and warmest winter-weather sweaters, I had to pack a lot of food. My car was full!
Playa isn't all that far from my home in Eugene, Oregon - a 3.5 hour drive in good weather. I had a much shorter journey than many of the other residents. Here's a photo from near Willamette Pass, crossing over the Cascades
I watched the landscape slowly change, from deep snow and tall pine trees to more open vistas of scrublands and chilly blue sky.
I arrived at my destination at last - after driving right past it. This place seriously flies under the radar. Aside from being in the middle of breathtaking nowhere, it doesn't announce itself. There's a small sign, a rustic gate made of tree branches, and group of unassuming, red-roofed cottages on the edge of a huge, shallow, half-iced-over lake. The atmosphere is down-to-earth and unpretentious - the focus is on quiet, and work- time, space, introspection. And, after unpacking my many provisions with a wheel barrow between car and studio, I attempted to settle in.
I am a relatively quiet person, used to working alone, used to structuring my own days - but when you can do absolutely anything you want to do - where do you start? I actually showed up without a clearly defined plan of what to paint - on purpose - hoping to use natural light on my setups, paint whatever I found around the place - just see what happened.
And, in the absence of anything happening, fall back on self-portraits. From life - not photos, as I usually do.
I made a plan to do a self-portrait sketch every day - and I did it. Here's number one, the night I arrived. I still have that glimmer of civilization in my eyes....
And soon, still life subjects started showing up. I found this beautiful owl feather practically on my front lawn, just out for a walk in the wind and mud.
In this studio shot, I'm just about to begin the painting; you can see my still life on the table, in afternoon light from that west-facing window:
And so it began....