29 July 2018

On Entering Into Painting with Acrylics

The recent fun and adventure of The Daily Paint By Number series has really turned me on to the idea of painting with acrylics as an ongoing thing.

There is a great deal about painting with acrylics that I've heard: They're versatile, vibrant colors, can be impasto'd like oils but flow and mix like watercolors. All this, I've found to be true, even with the cheapo barely-student-grade acrylics included in the Royal & Langnickel kits.

They are quick-drying, yes. But that's something you can learn to anticipate. These PBN acrylics dry in under a half-hour (hell, I think it only takes about 15 minutes), but if you stay on top of it and keep thinning it with a little water (just a drop, literally, will do) you can keep painting as long as you keep paying attention to the work. For someone who's using art making as therapy and meditation, this hits the mark exactly and satisfyingly.

Last night, at Powell's, I found a couple of great books on the deep information on painting with acrylics, generally. The Wife™ has a few books from when she was experimenting with acrylic painting and I'm looking into those as well. So, here, the exploration begins; I'll still work the PBNs, because when you want to do art but have nothing in mind, they're just the thing to practice one's touch and develop dexterity. Mixing paints is fun, too!

Yesterday, at I've Been Framed, I've gotten a few extra brushes. I already have a number of watercolor brushes of various sizes, but so far, for the detail that PBNs sometimes call for, the #2 Round is proving to be a real work-horse. I got a #1 and #2 Round made by Grey Matters by Jack Richeson, and spouse found a #2 Round Liquitex in the bargain bin out on the sidewalk.

I strongly encourage anyone wandering in the Foster Powell area and looking for real art-supply bargains to check the bins out on the sidewalk in front of IBF. Such great found-objects, clearance and used-but-still-usable art supplies you'll find nowhere else in town, and it's one of the man reasons why IBF is a gem.

26 July 2018

The Daily Paint By Number: 50's Cars at the 50's Diner


The detail on the cars is complete. The colors are rich and bold and fun.

The richness and boldness of the colors really kind of kick this up to a whole 'nother level that Flying Fortress didn't go to, and that level has made this picture a whole lot more fun to do.

25 July 2018

Zob the Glob and the Pause That Refreshes

Or, to mix commercial metaphors and taglines, let's just say that Zob probably does this at 10, 2, and 4.

We are a Dr Pepper household after all.

Zob the Glob by The Wife™. Used with permission.

Zob loves him a little soda pop, but who doesn't?

24 July 2018

The Daily Paint By Number: 50's Diner, 50's Car

Proceeding with the painting, I've blocked in the sky and parking lot and the trees, the cars, and the building stand out in negative space.

This has so far been a most satisfying experience; I love the rendering and the colors they've chosen. Despite being an old set, the colors are creamy and go quite a ways. They stand up to a lot of thinning.

The completion of the foliage in the background left me with the option of starting on the building, since I like to do these things in stages, or the cars. Continuing on the outside-working-in method, I start with the foreground car on the left. Which is a Ford, I guess, or something.

I'm only really good at classic VWs.

You'll noted a little smudge of color outsdanding the left edge of the diner building and to the right of the dark blue smudge in the white area. This is what we PBN insiders call an 'oopsie', and something that I will have to fix as I go into those areas of the painting. With these inexpensive acrylics, it won't be hard, really.

19 July 2018

The Daily Paint By Number: 50's Diner Sky Complete, and Laying The Asphalt

The experience so far working 50's Diner is more satisfying than Flying Fortress was. This subject was much better-adapted, or maybe it suits the PBN mode better. Also, the choice of colors is much more apt. Add that to a panel that has the lines and numbers in a very light blue, but still readable, and you have a project whose progress is, so far, quite pleasing.

The top third of the panel now has the sunset sky standing out, and despite the abstraction, the effect is very pleasing to the eye. The bottom is the blues, blacks and grays of the parking lot asphalt: There's a two part swath of a #5/#10 mix, and a larger swath of a deeper, blue-tinged black of a #5/#16 mix.

The plan next is to cover the area to the right of the parked cars. There's a challenge here that was unexpected; the area marked 10/25 is bracketed by two parking lot areas that have no numbers in them at all, not even a hint as to what the maker figured was the appropriate color. I'm going to freestyle it, of course; after I see what 10/25 looks like, I'll either mix a harmonzing color out of two of the three of #10, #25, or #16, or just use the #5/#10 mix. It all depends on what #10/#25 look like. After that, I'll bracket the diner by doing the foliage, then fill in the muscle cars.

I like moving in from the edge to the middle. With this work, it's aquitting the effort magnificently so far.

Here's what it looks like beyond the painting:

The rectangular tray is a nifty palette I got some years back. It's designed for acrylic paints; white, because that's what is best to mix these colors against; it has four rubberized feet, so as not to slide about, holds the brushes well in that side-channel, and is made of a nice durable plastic. This allows me to simply scrape/peel the dried paint off with the edge of a retired debit or credit card.

I'm sure there's some irony in using a retired financial instrument to clean an acrylic paint palette this way, but the words escape me just now. If it's important enough, I'm sure I'll find 'em, someday.

The Royal Society Affirms Captain Haddock's Yeti Hypothesis

The Wife™ has recently been ethusiastically enjoying a book on cryptozoology and cryptids by Bryan Sykes, Bigfoot, Yeti, and the Last Neanderthal. She likes it because the author seems to be a skeptic who kinda wants to believe but is unafraid of exploring the subject anyhow. She says it's compelling reading.

In her own exploration of the subject, she stumbled on a report in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B (yes, that Royal Society) titled "Genetic analysis of hair samples attributed to yeti, bigfoot and other anomalous primates". This study reports on the effort to resolve the origins of a number of hair samples of 'anomalous primates'; the abstract at least dashes the hopes of cryptid-lovers early; the closest to outre it gets is that two samples were synchronous with the Paleolithic polar bear, the rest were traceable to a 'range of extant mammals'.

Now, I'm no real Tintinologist, but my spouse knew the following would delight me:

... confirmed Captain Haddock's suspions that the yeti was an ungulate.

Sure, Tintin was the main character, but not only did Captain Haddock steal the show most of the time, he's the one that got published in the scientific literature. Not bad for a reformed (although unwittingly-so) drunken sea captain, but then, Haddock was a genius at self-reinvention.

 Lest we forget, the cite:
One wonders what Herge would have thought. Probably would have been delighted.

Captain Haddock for the win.

17 July 2018

The Daily Paint By Number: The Sky Over The 50's Diner

... and on to our next project.

As promised, it's Royal & Langnickel's PAL28-3T, titled 50s Diner. It's a stereotypical roadside diner straight out of all your 1950s American fantasies, with two classic muscle cars parked in front. I'm starting with the sky and will probably do the ground then work my way in.

The sky is darkening to night, so it'll be deeply blue toward the zenith. This is accomplished by using #16, a royal blue, and #5, a lighter blue (we saw this one in PAL21, Flying Fortress) and a mix of the two.

Another plus on this kit is that the markings, while still readable, are done in a very screened-back blue. This will obviate the problem on my other two R&L kits, that is, markings that still show plainly through the otherwise-opaque paint.

16 July 2018

The Daily Paint By Number: The Flying Fortress Is Complete

I present for the delectation of all, Royal & Langnickel's PAL21, Flying Fortress, complete at it's gonna git.

It does indeed have the sort of animation-rotoscoped look that Library Gordon said it did. Like most PBN works, it looks a little better when you step back from it and let the colors and textures loose sharp definition and visually blend (this is why Chuck Close's work looks the way it does and works the way it does).

I move on now to the next work, R&L's PAL28-3T, 50's Diner.

12 July 2018

The Daily Paint By Number: PAL-21 "Flying Fortress" Is Almost Done

TDPBN (Which, strictly speaking, isn't daily but this is my art and my blog and I do what I want) checks in with this nearly-complete piece.

The atmospheric feel kinda comes through, kinda. But the adaption of the original picture to PBN was kind of misguided, I thing. Still, it's a good deal of fun.

I"ve located another project for following up this one ... well, actually, The Wife™found it, languishing in our lodger's gear and he doesn't want it so it's mine. It's R&L's PAL28-3T, titled "50's Diner". Yep. You've seen this picture in some form whenever you've had a burger in the USA, because burger dives are marooned in the 1950s with no hope of rescue, along with pictures of Elvis, Marilyn, and James Dean. No Elvis, Marilyn, or JD in this one, just classic muscle-cars parked outside a caboose-car diner. So adorably, charmingly, cliche. If THIS doesn't lend itself to PBN, nothing does.

And here's a Protip: keep the pots of paint you don't use for these, not because it's just a frugal thing to do, but R&L's PBN paint series uses the same code numbers for all their paints across the lines. So #1 is the same white as in PAL21, and #3 is the same yellow, #5 is the same cool grayish-blue ... so I have backup paint supplies now (or replacements if the ones in this one have gone bad in storage). This next one is missing #32, which is a hot neon pink-scarlet color (and judging by the smear of color it didn't go from the package without a fight), but I just checked one of the colors in that set I got last month as Craft Warehouse and there's a hot pink that's near enough as makes negligible difference.


10 July 2018

The Saint Johns Bridge: Coming Back To Town

Got another snap before we left the parking area on Bridge Avenue: as I said earlier, the west end of the bridge runs right into the hillside. At that end, the roadway makes a T-intersection with Bridge Avenue which allows a good viewpoint for a straight-on view up the road.

The pavement makes it easy to snap this POV without having to walk out into traffic to do it and really puts the gothic arch details of the tower into viewable aspect, letting them be the star.

This corner of Portland is quite far out from the city center, nearly seven miles out. Views south and east from the roadway, both NW Bridge Avenue and NW St Helens Road, reveal the working harbor of Portland, the lowest few miles of the Willamette River - wide, cool, and mighty.

That lift span bridge in the middle distance is Portland's hidden bridge, which doesn't even have a name really, and carries the railroad main line north into the cut through the North Portland peninsula and to Vancouver and points north.

Though the area on the west side of the river does have a rather descriptive name: Willbridge. 

NW Saint Helens Road travels between industry and tank farms on the left as you're inbound to city center, and on the right, the towering, forested hills of Forest Park. Old, careworn industrial lots and orphaned gas stations predominate on the right hand side of the road as well, with a handful of homes (including two rather incongruous vintage fourplexes) scattered amongst, and a few avenues intersecting numbered in the NW 60s running back only about a block before dead-ending into the hill.

Very soon on the end of this district, at the cross street of NW Kittridge Avenue, the main road swerves and assumes the name NW Yeon Avenue, Saint Helens Road assuming the role of the old highway and straightlining amongst the industrial district toward the center of town. It's then, more than three miles out, that you notice the great arch of the Fremont Bridge, one of the other iconic river landmarks.

It's somewhat intimidating when you get to the point illustrated here:

... and you're still more than a mile away.

08 July 2018

The Saint Johns Bridge: Framing and Color

Now that I was finally on-point, it was time to play with framing and the effects thoughtfully provided in-camera to the Canon Powershot S-100 by the manufacturer.

This first one is something of an "expected" compostion, good for just a nice picture you can enjoy and lose yourself in. Landsape.

I've zoomed and cropped to give you a good look at a couple of features of the local geography. Notice the grove of evergreens there at the middle of the left side of the photo? That's a large park on the west side of the St. Johns neighborhood called Pier Park. And, despite the proximity to some of the working Portland harbor, it's not named for a bit of nautical architecture, but a city commissioner, Sylvester Pier, who was Parks Commissioner from 1919 through 1923.

Above the right end of the grove you can just barely see the cone of Luuwit ... Mount St Helens. The predominance of blue light and white cloud makes the volcano kind of soften back into the background. On a truly clear day you can just sew Washington's highest peak, mighty Tahoma ... Mount Rainier.

Just a few feet up the trail from the viewpoint an opening in the foliage provided an additional framing opportunity so I grabbed it. The strong vertical lines of the bridge's towers lent themselves aptly to a portrait orientation.

Still, the photo doesn't do justice to the way the bridge's architecture dominates the visual field. This is something you have to experience in person. Framing and composition, as with Wy'east, only gets you part the way ... a great deal of the way, but there's nothing like the human experience.

And, the next two photos take advantage of the monochrome filters on the camera to produce dramatic images with emotional content for me. I recall seeing similar monochromatic images as station-ID cards on local TV when I was just a runt, so this takes me back to Silverton, when my only idea of what Portland was, was on the TV.

Black and white:

... and an unexpectedly-intriguing blue tone, which works even better in portrait.

The Saint Johns Bridge: The Path Up To The Viewpoint

The trailhead to the trail to the viewpoint is easy to miss. The stairway to the trail was built aeons ago, in anno urbis Portlandiensis terms, and it blends in amongst the slope and the shade from the trees and the ivy that covers the hillside. This is what it looks like in Google Street View because I was so intent on going up there, that I didn't stop to lens it.

I, like my camera subsequently, was auto-focussed.

It's easy to drive past. The parking area for this, additionally, is about 200 feet (more or less) down the slope (on the left of that view). It's also not much of a parking area: it's more of a wide-spot turnout. Five or six cars and its full.

But it did give me the chance to take a few nifty snaps on the way up. So, there's that.

This steep, narrow, old concrete staircase is the first step. Up, left, up, right, then to a levelled-out spot created of that big retaining wall.

You'd think there'd be something of a view of the bridge from that, but, no; the trees that have grown there over the years completely obscure it. Of course, the view of the trees, as is the knowledge that one is on the edge of Portland's Forest Park, is invigorating in its way.

It also becomes obvious why they call it that ... if it wasn't already.

Herein, the top of those stairs:

The blue-clad lady is actually a forest nymph of whom I'm terribly, terribly fond. Below the railing is the bridge approach. Diverging up and behind her is the trail to the viewpoint.

This, as one can see, is not a 'walking path' or a bike route (well, unless you're insane). This is a trail, in the sense of a path I would encounter back when I was the world's most crap Boy Scout. This an old school trail. And the trail, as can be seen in the next photo, is kind of treacherous in spots; the wifely nymph, who has occaisional problems with vertigo affecting her sure footing elected to stay here and wait on me.

That root and the slope across the trail are ankle-twisters for sure. I could not criticize my wife's reluctance.

But for me, onward ... ever upward. The trail after that is narrow, but passable and steep, but not too steep. My out-of-shape self broke a sweat. But it was a beautiful environment to be in.

The viewpoint comes on you suddenly after less than three minutes of climbing this path. It's a wooden platform with a rail on the downhill side; the ground below it kind of dips into a tiny crevice, only a foot or two deep, giving the impression of a half-bridge. Though small, there's enough room for a modest number of people to view, and while a few people came past me as I was there, I never felt crowded.

And all you have to do there, is turn, and look through the foliage. There it is.

The feeling of depth and space and vista overtakes one immediately. The image above seems to be of looking out through a tunnel in the ground cover. The truth of the spot is it actually feels wide and open, something of a visual megaphone: like the sound version amplifies your voice from a point to spread out via a horn, the outlook seems to be a lens, pulling in more space and distance than a mere photograph can illustrate.

I stood for a number of minutes before I actually snapped any pictures, taking an experiental snapshot, a memory that I should hope never fades.

I then, of course took a number of pictures. More on that next episode.

07 July 2018

Approaching The Saint Johns Bridge From The West

The two approaches to the Saint Johns Bridge couldn't me much more different if they were placed in different time zones.

The east approach, from the business district of its namesake Portland neighborhood, is kind of what you'd expect from a bridge like this. From a high point on N. Philadelphia Avenue just a block or so south of Lombard street, the land drops away on a quick but gradual slope and a long steel trusswork which goes on for what must be 800-1000 feet before entering the main suspension span of the work.

The west end runs straight into the side of a hill.

Below the west end of the Saint Johns Bridge US Hwy 30, a/k/a NW Saint Helens Road and the main road out of the northwest corner of Portland and the route to the coast at Astoria, runs. It's probably about 100 feet straight up. So they engineered an approach on the west side that involves a side road, and this road is called NW Bridge Avenue. Climbing at a remarkable slope, maybe a three or four per cent grade, I don't know, it connects with the west end of the bridge a its summit before descending again to reconnect with Hwy 30.

This is part of the nature within Portland that everyone knows us for, and it's beautiful and busy and urban all at the same time. While the view of the bridge itself from the viewpoint is stunning, there is much to look at and admire on the way up, here at what is the edge of Portland's Forest Park.

You're already on the side of the hill by the time you're halfway up to the bridge entrance, so while the views aren't as stunning as the one from the viewpoint, they're still exceptional.

Such as ...

Looking down the hill you get glimpses of the wide Willamette, thick trees, and the bluff of the North Portland peninsula, looking pleasantly green on this warm early-summer day in Cascadia.

Just out of shot on the right in this photo, the end of that nearly horizontal tree truck ends in a fractured tree trunk and stump, probably some sort of windfall. What keeps the windfall from being a deadfall is that there are so many trees here that if and when it falls, it won't fall far. The motorists on NW Saint Helens Road below have nothing to worry on, I'm certain.

And, as much as the bridge looks gorgeous, framing it as weaving itself in and out of the nature that's already there makes it terribly artistic and harmonious. The gothic lines of the bridge harmonize nicely with the chaotic joy of the sylvan canopy. 

06 July 2018

The Saint Johns Bridge, Portland, Oregon

Well, we did it. I braved that trail and got up to the viewpoint and did the thing and now, like every other photographer, amateur or professional, who wants a picture-postcard view of the most beautiful bridge known, I has my own copy.

This is an icon of Portland ... the Saint Johns Bridge

There is a little bit of an experiential story to go with this, and I shall tell it anon. For now, a bit of rest is in order.

But, good heavens is that a pretty bridge!

05 July 2018

The Daily Paint By Number: Moar Moar Plane, and #11 Meets #5 again

So I went back in and remixed #11 and #5 and took #3 out for a spin. Here's the result:

The new, cooler plum-ish color of the remixed #11/#5 combo (much more #5, not so much #11) harmonizes much better with the overall feel of the rest of the picture's gamut (experientially speaking). It's still, as friendo Gordon put it, more like a sixties animation rotoscope. I guess it's like one of those Chuck Close paintings ... you have to stand back from it to give it its meaning (it looks a lot better in this small aspect).

Onward, ever upward.

04 July 2018

Wy'east In Nacre

It's been a bit of time. Time for another view of the mountain.

It's time for a weeding at the Rossi place: I had to walk about a block and a half down Shaver to 122nd. But this was, I think, worth it:

The lovely mother-of-pearl sky, Wy'east hidden by mist.

The Daily Paint By Number: Flying Fortress Progress - Moar Plane

I've filled in a bit of the big plane. It's coming-together-ish. ISH. Major ish. 

Visually, it's making more sense, with the dark parts of the plane now laid in, but the acid-trip clouds are still bugging me, and the numbers and lines that are showing through are just making me cry and die inside.

I'm past the halfway point now. When I get toward total coverage, if I have enough of those other colors left, I'll just go medieval impasto on it's ass, and see if that helps.

The thing that's distracting the most is the plum colored areas. That's the #5/#11 mix I mentioned previously. It's totally out of harmony with the atmospheric feeling of the rest of the painting.

Here's #5 (left) and #11 (right):

I think I used too much #11 and not enough #5. Like I said, I can remix and go over the areas after the rest of the work is pretty much done. Impasto that and not too much of the errant color should show through.

Excelsior, et. al.

02 July 2018

TheDailyPaintByNumber: The Flying Fortress, or Whatever It's Supposed To Be

I'm honor-bound to say: I'm not terribly impressed so far.

Maybe Royal and Langnickel is punking me. Who can say.

Now, I'm gonna push through with this sucker, but I'm telling you right now, this is looking like a total dog's breakfast. You tell me:

Not a thrill, and that's what I'm feeling about it so far.

01 July 2018

My Harlan Ellison Story

Harlan Ellison, it has been reported, has died, two days ago as of this writing. It shouldn't be a surprise that on the intarweb, whose existence he might not have speculated on in the exact but is certainly there in the gestalt if you look hard enough at his writing, there is much mourning. A great majority of the people I know online and are solid with are a result of my habitual visitations, back around 2008-2013 or so, of Harlan Ellison's website, the forum boards, and his legendary corner of the 'net called the Art Deco Dining Pavilion.

A handful of people I'm privileged to be connected with on the virutal plane are very admirable writers who knew him personally and/or were connected in a sort of informal mentorship role. But just about everyone of the hard core of online Friends of Ellison, of which I count myself one, has a Harlan story. Herewith, mine.

Actually, it has very little actual Harlan in it. I was never fortunate enough to clasp hands with him, and now that'll never happen; so it goes. But being an active part of the community on his website meant he would occasionally see what you had to say, and a good thing could happen.

It centers on this book, Paingod and Other Delusions. It's renowned because it contains Our Pal's iconic short "Repent, Harlequin! Said The Ticktockman", and that enough is reason to have it, but there is a less-starring member of the ensemble therein is a story called "The Crackpots". As awkward a member of humanity as I am, this story not only spoke to me, it yelled right into my heart Hey, fellah, I know it's tough being you, but you're not alone. You have value, even if you don't have an obvious place to be. Ironically, it's set amongst the Kyben, his space-operatic Human antagonist race, but society is society, and what does fiction do but hold up a mirror to the Human condition?

I subsequently wrote a love letter about this story on Harlan's site ... originally I recalled it was a posting in the forums, but the more I think about it it must have been on the Pav, because that's where Harlan would check in from time to time.

I get an email from the webmaster (whom I believe was named Rick Wyatt). Could I please send him my address? And I replied in kind. In medium order, I got a mailing from Harlan, and this is what it contained:

The Ace SF paperback edition, printed in 1983. And, for your further delectation, the title page.:

I didn't ask him to send me an autographed copy, but he saw my words and that's just what he did. I've been a lifelong fan of Ellison, and this was, and still remains a peak moment: having heard that he'd touched me that way, he gave me a tip-of-the-cap, a salute: the world is a lonely place, but you're not alone in it. I see your struggle.

Harlan was known for a multifaceted personality and in it, you can find any kind of Harlan you want. But the one people know best is perhaps a little moment of human respect, where you heard what he said and he heard you, and gave you a kind of thumbs up.

This was always special to me. Now, its incredibly dear.

He was my pal, too.