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

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And a view across the fields from the window of the library in town, about 8x11

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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 14x18. (I know what you're thinking, but remember, "big" is relative, and size isn't everything.) IMG_2660Image

 

The Great Grayness

The Great Blueness and other Predicaments, a book from my childhood, is about a colorless, gray city. When colors spilled from the cauldrons of a magician/chemist, the population was in turns blinded, agitated and depressed by the introduction of the colors yellow, red and blue. When the 3 primaries were carefully blended, harmony was restored and the city bloomed with color. But imagine if the colors kept on blending, and blending again, their world would be restored to a nuanced, liminal, dreamlike gray. That is the world I am living in right now. IMG_2633

IMG_2635In a different world, five hours East of Laugarvatn, I saw the otherworldly blue of glacier ice floating in a lagoon.  This is a small quick sketch of the ice, with the glacier in the background, about 8"x 6".IMG_2637

It was incredibly exciting to sit with this view and try to capture some of the colors.  It was also a deeply peaceful moment, time frozen, with silence all around except for the muffled sound of dripping water.  I am hoping for two days of good weather in the forecast for October, then I can go back to this site for a two day ice-painting marathon.

Leaves are graygreen

More WCW today. Here, I'll just copy down the whole thing: William Carlos Williams, "Lines" (1921)

Leaves are graygreen, the glass broken, bright green.

Just a reminder to myself to be concise with selection and editing as I paint, and precise with color.

Here are some of the mountain studies from today and yesterday. Lots of graygreen moss around. The first one is 16" x 13", the second is a small acrylic sketch on handmade paper, about 6" x 5". IMG_2348IMG_2349

Alas, I bought a huge stash of Icelandic Lopi wool today, so it will take all my willpower to not get sidetracked with knitting hats.

"...I was born to be lonely, I am best so!"

The poem Danse Russe by William Carlos Williams was with me as I sat alone in the studio, enjoying the silence.  As a creative person I often crave solitude, and even the complicated and conflicted moments of loneliness that solitude brings with it.  That is the emotional space I look for when I paint.  In this sparsely populated country you don't have to wander far to find yourself completely alone in the world, physically anyway.  Not a person, not a car, at least for as far as the eye can see.  Here is the view from a lovely quiet hillside, in a valley protected from the wind, on an unusually clear and sunny day.

IMG_2083I did a few  paintings over the last three days, around 10"x12" or 9"x9" in that range.  I painted the one below from that quiet hillside.  It was a rare treat to sit comfortably outside and paint for a couple of hours, instead of inside the car.

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This is a studio painting:IMG_1905And here, my biggest painting yet, ever.  Really.  It was one of my goals of this residency to push my work to a larger format. It's about 16" x 14", so this is progress.  I'm still tweaking it here and there, but this is what it looks like right now:IMG_1966

Sounding my barbaric... yip?

I am thinking about Walt Whitman, as you can probably guess by the title of this post.  (I posted about the ModPo MOOC recently.) My barbaric yip is taking the form of 6x8 inch mountain studies in acrylic on handmade paper. Small studies, so not quite a Yawp, but still, for me, barbaric.

I used a limited palette, just to keep things from getting completely out of control.  Working in sets of 2, the first painting is based loosely on a photograph or a sketch, and the second painting is based only on the first.  I will probably keep working on them, but for now this is how they look.  I have 2 other sets in progress.

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second one of the set

I had a lot of fun with these today, cozy and warm in the Gullkistan farmhouse while the gale was blowing outside, working at the living room table, reading poetry and painting, relaxed, slow, and steady.