3/11/17

The Fall Line, 24x24"

"The Fall Line" 24x24" Pastel ©Brenda Boylan

Urban scenes continue to inspire me because of the activity, lights, and pops of color. I Portland, OR., where I live we have a metropolitan transit system called the MAX.  There are several routes that travel throughout the various areas of the central region often crossing bridges, and sections of town. Some of the the routes are identified by the color of the trolley.

In this particular piece, I focused on a triad color scheme of orange, purple and green with a dominant warm color temperature. Because it was a Fall scene, I chose as the dominant hue.  Look closely and you might see hints of orange in the street.  

1/23/17

Afternoon Adagio, 20x16"



It is with great anticipation that I post this new piece "Afternoon Adagio. You see, I will be sending this piece off to Atlanta for the Olmsted Plein Air Invitational. It is a rather new event located in Atlanta, GA. and boasts a large following in a very short period. I will be 1 of thirty plein air artists that will gather from across the US to paint for Olmsted, and as part of the event we are required to send in a piece for the Collector's Preview Gallery. I am so excited to be a part of it! Since the weather has brought us snow I kept inside my studio and created something warm and summery.

The Collector's Preview Exhibit will be at The Booth Wester Museum in the Bergman Gallery, during the month of March, 2017.

1/11/17

Modifying an Open Box M for Oil

I don't know about you, but when I go out to paint on location I am all about putting paint down as soon as possible. When a scene calls out to be painted, setting up your gear needs to be quick and streamline. When equipment has more that 4 steps to setting up, it gets nerve-racking. This could include setting up the tripod and attaching the box to a tripod, squeezing out the pigment, and setting out the brushes and turp, The sun is your clock in plein air, and so a simple and speedy set-up is important. 

Many plein air boxes on the market are clam-shell design, and in my opinion are the most efficient type of pochade box available. The clam shell box I like most is the bomb proof Open Box M. I love it's simple design, but over the years have despised the fussy hinge system that seemed to get caught up in my backpack and took 6 twists to adjust into position. If I could eliminate 6 twists down to 1 twist, that means a bit of fussiness would be eliminated. It may seem nerdy to have to go through the trouble of changing out the hinge system, but I am all about simplification here.  

Here is what I did to ease the set up of my already well used box:


The Open Box M with the hinge system. Each side has 3 wing nuts to adjust.  As you can see, the wing nuts stick out on the sides of the box and they often get caught up onto other equipment.


All the fussy hardware was impractical, so I removed the hardware and replaced with the two piece system that I picked up from Judson's. 


Guerrilla Painter Replacement Lid Bracket for 102 Series Boxes can be found in the Do It Yourself section HERE.


Your local hardware store can help if you don't have the tools or the know-how with woodworking and set-up. Most times I have found that the guys in the hardware store love problem solving and this one proved to have a few challenging sessions. One of the challenges was to allow room for the black knob to clear the glass on the inside of the wood wall.  In order to do that, we had to completely replace the old glass mixing surface and install a new piece with a cut-out clearance area for the knob. Use a dremmel tool to cut a notch out for the knob. Finally, we attached the hinge system and now it opens and closes with just one twist.

Have you ever adapted or streamlined your equipment to aid in your production? If so, please share.

1/7/17

Cattails, 14x14


"Cattails" 14x14" Oil on canvas panel (plein air)

Brrrrr. It's winter alright. Here in Oregon we are being treated to the coldest temps in a long time. Makes me wish for the heat of summer, but I think I'd even settle for mild temps of Fall. I painted this scene last October at the edge of a swampy wetland on the property of a horse stable. I went there to paint horses, but came home with a cattail painting.  Subtle greys, inspired with a hint of warm and cool colors.

1/1/17

Winterglow, 9x12

"Winterglow" 9x12" Oil

Winter. Well I tell you, it is either cold outside or raining. Take your pick, Oregon has some crappy weather in the winter for plein air artists. However, if you can find your way outside while the rain stops or the sun shines, then by all means take that opportunity to paint. We recently had a dumping of fresh snow up at Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood and the snow reports have been nothing short of "perfect".  So my family and I went up for a snow day. They get to ski, and I get to paint, and it was my first time painting in the snow. 

Plein air setup with a sun-shield

The snow is beautiful in the sunlight, with glittering color and shifts of light, however that sunlight can really burn you up with all the reflective light.  I clipped on a car shield to my easel to protect my eyes from the glare and eye fatigue. I think next time I'll bring a black tarp too, to stand upon so that the brightness of the snow is not reflecting back up at me.

Overall, I had a great time painting in the snow and plan on more opportunities to do so again.

12/8/16

A Lite Meal, 9x12

I am really enjoying teaching pastel. I think it's because my demos are much more looser than a long term studio piece that I tend to grovel over. Having a crowd behind me makes me work faster, with pure intension.  Here is a piece on watercolor underpainting.

I started out with a sketch. I had to use a blue hard pastel because it was the only midtone value I had in a hard pastel. Funny though, as it seemed to resist the watercolors.

Blocking in the values

Added in the light values and midtones. I tried not to overwork the details 
because they can easily kill a piece.

11/19/16

Taking Risks

As a painter, I often take risks. It is what moves me forward as an artist. I ask, why wouldn't I try something new? Well, to prove a point, one wouldn't grow from doing the same thing over and over again now would they? So I take risks. I also live for the moment. I love the experience of doing things that others would find silly, challenging, or perhaps a bit dangerous. I think I get this perspective from having lived a life full of health challenges that pose a potentially shorter life expectancy. Perhaps there is safety in knowing I lived my life with no regrets, and so I do things that are a bit over the edge as in this fine example of painting on a railroad track.

Autumn Tracks 8x6" Oil on canvas panel

A good painting friend and I decided we'd go out to paint by the Beaverdam in our town of Beaverton (Oregon"s state animal) at daybreak. When we met up, my painting buddy already arrived and was up on the tracks that cross over the dam. As the sun broke, it was so beautiful. All the Fall colors were glowing and the light was clear, but it was the tracks that made for a pattern of curves and light reflecting from the sky exhilarating.

As seen from my point of view

A perspective not often thought of.

So, I had shared this image on Facebook and someone commented that we could be arrested for trespassing on railroad property. Well I guess jail time is not that fun and so this was the first and last time I'll do this ever again, but at least I can say I did it!

11/17/16

Pouring the Foundation, 9x9

"Pouring the Foundation" 9x9" Pastel on Paper

When I present a pastel workshop or class series, I love sharing new ideas and materials that I have experimented with my students. Here is one example of a pastel piece that was painted on a navy blue Canson paper using the lumpy side.  I enjoy using the lumpy surface because it sort of feels like the sanded surface that I am so enamored with. I use the side of my pastels to lightly glide over the texture, allowing the pits to remain unfilled. It gives it a funky look that sort of looks like I painted it on a window screen. It worked well with this particular subject as I loosely conveyed the activity of this scene, leaving the viewer to "fill in" the rest. 

10/30/16

Snuggle 6x6"

"Snuggle" 6x6" Oil on Gallery wrapped canvas

This past weekend I was invited to paint a few 6x6's at my local Blick Art Materials store as a promotion for the upcoming Audubon show. I had taken a few snapshots of a white duck at the local park with hopes that I would someday paint it.  Well, that someday happened and had such a great time painting it. I started out with a warm underpainting of transparent Indian Yellow and then just started in. I wanted to work the warm and cool colors in so that it wasn't just a boring white duck. I'm thinking it worked.

This cute little piece will be available in the 6x6" show at the Audubon Society of Portland's Wild Art's Festival that will be held at Montgomery Park on Nov 19-20th  Doors open at 10:00am, but I hear there will be line of people waiting outside an hour early just to snap up these little gems. 

Montgomery Park is located at 2701 NW Vaughn Street, PDX, OR.

10/20/16

Why do I do it?

"Wave Watchers" 9x12" Oil on canvas panel

"Tethered Blue" 9x12"  Oil on Canvas panel 

All checked into Hotel Boylan for some much needed rest after a crazy and exhausting fun time in Laguna Beach Plein Air
You may ask; why do I do it? 
So many crazy things can happen in a painting event, it could easily become a reality show. For example, while heading to the airport I once again forgot my meds, only to rush back home and realize I had them with me all along, and yet, I miraculously made my flight. Then I got pushed by a cute little sneaky wave while crossing some rocks on the Keyhole that scooped up my panel and lunch, and the surf tried to swallow my flipflop. Finding appropriate bathroom facilities was partly creative and partly embarrassing too. I tell ya, guys have the advantage. I was yelled at by a homeless person for painting on their turf. I must have looked the part with my ragged clothing and gear on my back, and eating between long intervals of creativity only to find that lettuce, beans and rice is the only thing I can eat (fun being next to me). The worst part was when I was turning in my competition pieces I had lost grip and dropped one of pieces face down in the gravel parking lot, only to find a scratched and dented frame. I wept with grief, but my gal pals Suzie and Aimee hugged me and offered support with a few touch-up supplies. Oh the drama of it all.

Painting the canal with pastels on Balboa Island at sundown

But it's the scenery, experiences of painting with great artists, and the laughter while painting a view  while your tripod is nearly sliding down a dusty dirt hill towards a patch of prickly pears, discussing art, and the common threads taking hold on my heart that keep me coming back to the circuit. Somehow I function on three hours of rest each day because I am so excited to get up again to face another opportunity to paint something new and meet new people. Perhaps I do this to create another funny memory and to make another person happy to own my work. Or perhaps it is the big sparkly Gala at the end of a week where being celebrated for what we do keeps me coming back. 

My friends top left to rt: James McGrew, Jennifer Diehl, Zufar Bikbov. me, and Anthony Salvo
after a painting session on the hill.

Though it all, many ask how I do it. Well, I've noticed over the past four painting events that the stress is hard on my health and is also hard to manage while traveling. For this reason I am looking forward to some down time to regroup in my studio to recreate something bigger from my small summer studies....and perhaps rethink my artistic path. 
And so that is why I do it.

9/19/16

An Artist's Week in Cuba

"El Capitolio Stroll" 12x9" Oil

This post is long overdue and I finally sat down to compile a post on my painting trip to Cuba back in February of 2016. There is much to tell about the trip, but it would be overwhelming so I am only writing about the best moments of the week.

My husband and I signed up with a group of 100 adventurous plein air artists and guests to paint in and around Havana, Cuba. The event was organized as a Publisher's Invitational by Streamline Publishing.  It was surely a once-in-a-lifetime event to be painting in a country that was once banned to American travelers; and under the circumstances of the upcoming election, travel to Cuba may be closed once again. Also, due to the potential of future American influences upon the small island, we wanted to see it in its current state. Once the admission tickets were paid, passports attained and bags packed, we were told to expect the unexpected. This was no Disneyland or Hawaiian trip by any means, but it was unpredictable, beautiful, and Communist. I was not disappointed.

Getting there
Because the group was so large, we had to fly in from two different airports in the US due to the accessibility to Cuba. My group of 50 travelers was scheduled to fly out from Miami at 5:30am and we did so through the series of stops and starts in customs, ticket and luggage check ins.  We had an hour flight to Havana and once we landed, everything was apparently different. The Airport had a post-modern architecture about it and a system of chaos within the walls of the arrival area. It took us 1.5 hours to gather our group onto the tour bus. Some lost luggage, or it was delayed in the luggage claim rotunda that seemed to move backwards.  We were then all shuttled to our hotel and greeted at the front desk with Cuba Libres, a traditional rum and coke drink.

The group was divided into three tour bus groups with alternating agendas of the scheduled touristy painting areas. One must carry their agenda at all times, along with a passport, medical insurance and cash. The Cubans run on a two currencies, CUCs and CUPs. CUC's, pronounced cuuks, is the currency we travelers used. CUPs are "Cuban Convertible Pesos" and are equivalent to the likes of Monopoly money because it has no international value.


Sunrise outside my window at Miami Airport.

Upon landing, it was apparent that we were not in Kansas anymore.

The cars
As you might expect, the cars were incredible. The first sight of the first classic led to a multitude of more in every condition you could expect and were used for everyday transportation.  Owning a car is a privilege and honor to any Cuban household. Some families rent their cars out to others on a day by day basis, when groceries, doctor appointments and longer-by-foot travel requires a set of wheels.  Some use their cars as taxis and that is where the fun begins. There are silly looking government owed taxis that look like a yellow bubble and then there are the fancy, well kept classics that took top dollar at the taxi stand. But fool you not, they were pieced together and maintained as well as the Cuban had the means and knowhow.  A Pontiac could easily have a Ford emblem on the hood and a Japanese engine and bobbie pins holding the doors closed. In Cuba, because the cars break down quite often, one must pass a mechanics test to obtain a driver's license. If you were lucky to get a ride in one, the potholes fill with sea water thus rusting the old classic's floorboards only to give one a surprise foot bath along with a breath of exhaust pouring into the back seat.

Luckily, I had the chance to ride in a really sweet yellow Pontiac convertible classic. Our group went to the central area just blocks from the Capitol Building to catch the tempo of the city. The city was busy and oftentimes the sounds of horns and old engines dimmed and rose with a crescendo. Fellow painter Scott Prior spotted the yellow convertible and we offered the taxi driver $20 cash so we could paint it. The driver took us 4 short blocks out of the taxi area to park it in a not-commercial spot for a 2 hour painting session in downtown Havana. What a treat!

Painting classic cars in Central Havana where El Capitolio and 
The Great Theatre de Havana are located.

'51 Pontiac, Convertible" 9x12" Oil





The people
My favorite part of visiting Cuba was the people. When we painted in an area called Old Havana, I was a bit nervous as it seemed very dirty and run down, and seriously wondered if we'd return in one piece. But my nerves were calmed as the people seemingly were curious and kind. They observed us painters and were sort of dumbfounded what we were doing with these portable painting boxes. I remember clearly, it was around 11:00 am and a few men stopped from their working duties to quietly watch me paint an old blue car. I turned to look at them from behind and one of them was drinking rum from what looked like a small juice box. He offered me some and we both had a laugh. "No gracias".


Middle School kids observing me painting "Barely Running", on the street during their lunch break.
Image of the finished painting is located below


One of the more memorable encounters was when I met a flock of middle school kids who were passing by on their lunch break. A few of them stopped to see what I was doing with their curious faces. I only wished I could speak Spanish as there would have been a lot of questions from both parties. I pulled out a small candy from my pocket and gestured that I only had one, and then offered it to the kids as one quickly snapped it out of my hand. The all screamed with excitement and ran off with the small treasure.


The buildings
Because we spent most of our time in the city of Havana we painted mostly urban scenes. Some of the more beautiful buildings dated back to the 1700's with outcroppings of worn out small apartment buildings and studio spaces amongst the historic UNESCO buildings. The centuries are surely present when you see these structures, with its rich and varied history. Most dwellings were literally crumbling, and if you were not aware of what was around you, you may trip on a broken sidewalk that had been crushed by falling cornices and rooflines. People tended to walk in the middle of the streets to avoid a falling object that often times created incredible compositions for paintings, but also tragedies for others.  The infrastructure was not well maintained due to the shaky Communist government. 

While in Central Havana, where we painted the convertible car, "El Capitolio" is visible from nearly every street and now houses the Cuban Academy of Sciences. Its architecture was a duplicate of America's Capitol Building. They were restoring it just as ours was being restored. A few of us artists set up to paint this narrow street of the Capitol and all its pedestrians going about their day.
Read more on El Capitolio here

El Capitolio in nearly an exact copy of the US Capital and now houses
a library and the Academie of Sciences.

This pre 1700's sugar plantation Casa is now a standing museum called Monumeto de Taoro. Built of rock and a plaster like mortar. There were remains of slave quarters in back and a burial ground to its rear.


Typical homes in Havana

One of the bell towers of La Cathedral de San Cristobal

Apartment units were often clustered within an atrium. The banisters were crumbling everywhere.

A street in Old Havana. Cubans recycled the plastics and piled them along the side of this street. If you look closely, there is a stack of eggs on the lower corner that sat there the entire time I was painting. Not one egg moved. 

The government
It was clear to me that the people have had to bear the challenges of government control, turmoil and instability for years, as our tour guide tried to explain to us while riding in the tour bus.  The tenacity and spirit of the people have had to endure long lines for food, medical needs, and housing, all of which are controlled and under-funded. Families are given a food card from which they are scheduled a trip each week to the grocery store to buy their allotment of provisions. Every community has a clinic from which Doctors care for when needed. Some clinics were better off than others, depending on what area one lives, or what agency one worked for. Doctors are paid very little, as most people get the same amount of income, creating a "working class" and a "government class" of incomes. Doctors are known to be the brightest, yet they work jobs at night as waiters and taxi drivers to support their families. Because incomes were generally equal in this society, there really was no incentive to work harder. I observed that the people have a relaxed way of life, with low output. Why would anyone wish to work hard if that meant they could not have a better life?  It was interesting though, because dancers, artists and musicians seemed to have a glorious life if at the top of their game, but one injury, one slip and they could easily be replaced by the next talent.


A statue of Jose Marti' pointing an opposing finger at the vacant U.S. Interests Section Office 

A taxi stand with a mural of one of Cuba's revolutionaries, Ché.

The only signage allowed was Communist propaganda.

  


The outdated Institute for Sports, Physical Education and Recreation (INDER) center provides a refuge for the strongest, most athletically talented citizens.

The food
Cuba's cuisine is a mixture of Spanish, African and a hint of Chinese with local fruits such at guava, papaya and bananas. The delightful dishes offered selections of beef or seafood with a servings  of squash and beans.  Cubans don't usually have meat in their diet due to the cost, but when they do, it is usually cooked well-done to kill any bugs. I found the meat to be overcooked and tough for my taste, but hey, the rice and black beans were a welcomed dish. Every meal came with a Mojito that is a mixture of rum, sparkling water, sugar, lemon juice and crushed mint leaves. 

All restaurants are government operated, but with the new transition of opening doors to Democracy, there are a few privately owned restaurants that have special agreements with the government.

Lunchtime with the most delicious soup I have ever eaten! It had savory squash, potato, lime and a
combination of tasty ingredients too many to mention.

This was our last meal of the trip. Yummy! Unfortunately, it was a bit overcooked.

The neon was in disrepair but the food was incredible at Los Gardenias

A cafe' in one of the Cathedrals.

The paintings
Painting on Obispo Street on the first day out and about.

Just off of Central Park in downtown Havana.

View of the "La Capitolio" through a bustling street. 

"El Capitolio" 12x9" Oil (plein air in Havana, Cuba)  available through artist

Painting  "Catedral de San Cristobal, La Habana, Cuba" 12x9" Oil

"Headed to the Square" 12x9" Oil. plein air in Cuba

"Barely Running' 9x12" Oil  (plein air in Old Havana) available through artist

Painting in the Plaza of Cathedral de San Cristobal

"Catedral de San Christobal" 12x9" Oil

Painting in a fishing village in Jaimanitas, Cuba

"Fisherman's Village, Jaimanitas" 9x12" Oil