Leah Wilson: Distillations of Place

Leah Wilson: Distillations of Place

Leah Wilson: Distillations of PlaceCascade Gallery, Portland, Oregon November 14, 2013 – January 9, 2014 Opening Reception: Thursday , November 14, 2013, 4 – 4:50 PM Terrell Hall 102, PCC Cascade Campus Artist Talk: Thursday, November 14, 2013, 6-6:50 PM Moriarty Arts & Humanities Building (MAHB) Room 222, PCC Cascade Campus Portland Community College Cascade Campus Terrell Hall 102 705 N Killingsworth Portland, OR 97217 971.722.5326 Gallery Hours: 9 AM to 5 PM Monday through Friday Cascade Gallery Image: Becoming One: Finley VII (Late Fall), 2012, oil on wood panel,... Read More
HJ Andrews Project Beginnings

HJ Andrews Project Beginnings

What would happen with my art, and myself, if I had one place that I worked with for the rest of my life? HJ Andrews Experimental Forest is, in many regards, a lot like much of the forest in the western Cascade Range of Oregon. There are patches of old-growth forest within logged areas. But unlike any of the other forested land in Oregon, it is also a place dedicated to long-term ecological research. Scientists begin research projects with the intention that the inquiry will span 200 years. We can’t imagine now many of the questions that scientists will be asking about the forest in... Read More

Sky/Water I

Began January 26, 2013. Finished September 22, 2013. Mapping is a theme that I have investigated for over a decade. With this project I wanted to see what the visual correlation is with the color patterns created by air and water in the creek below me (I was standing on a bridge) and the sky above on a snowy January day. The lines in the painting, visually similar to lines on a topographical map, designate color gradations rather than elevation. Read More

Some Thoughts After HJA Day

As Dana Warren passed us palm-sized convex, gridded mirrors, he told us that, as an aquatic ecosystems field researcher, he rarely looks up. Using this tool, a densiometer, to observe the sky, he still doesn’t need to look up. He can continue looking down as he typically does. With that admission my Sky/Water paintings felt more meaningful to me. I started the paintings with trepidation, thinking I was working with a simplistic concept that I feared may be too basic to explore. After holding a densiometer in my hand to look down to see the sky, I realized that I had addressed a... Read More
Water Underpaintings

Water Underpaintings

I have begun painting the 3 companion panels to the sky paintings. Water is much more irregular than sky, at least this is the case for this particular place at this particular time. The challenge with starting these paintings has been how to deconstruct and separate information about the creek into small, more manageable pieces that I will then be able to rebuild to make the paintings, much like a layered jigsaw puzzle. I have decided to share some of the process. The image below is of two of the water panels (2 & 3 to be exact). The first step was to paint each panel a golden yellow.... Read More
HJ Andrews Sky Panels

HJ Andrews Sky Panels

These three panels are the sky panels of the HJ Andrews Experimental Forest Project: Sky/Water, January 26, 2013; 1:48 PM; Road 1506 Bridge Over Lookout Creek Near Road 1506 Junction. It was a cold, snowy winter day. I’ve wanted to make some luminous gray paintings for a while – there is so much gray in Oregon winters that I feel like I need to explore the possibilities of muted gray tones. This day provided a great opportunity to start. The sky was an ominous gray and the water underneath the bridge, a varied mix of brown and blue grays. The system that I developed for this... Read More
HJ Andrews Project Sponsorship & Donations

HJ Andrews Project Sponsorship & Donations

When donating, please designate that you would like your donation to fund Leah Wilson – Distillations of Place HJ Andrews Experimental Forest project. Thank you. In October 2012 I was an artist in residence at HJ Andrews Experimental Forest in Blue River, Oregon. Beginning with the Average Colors of the South Yuba River: a mathematical determination of an aesthetic value project in 2007, I have completed several year-long projects that track changes in the environment over time. Now I have made the decision to adopt HJ Andrews Experimental Forest as a life-long project of... Read More

Failed Paintings and Seeds of Ideas

I developed a concept and created sketches and reference material for some paintings. I constructed and prepared a panel and got to work on the first painting of the series. A few days into it I realized I didn’t like it. I didn’t like the way that it was turning out and I wasn’t engaged with the idea. This is not a good combination. In the past I may have struggled with it for a while. I may have dragged myself into the studio to try to revive a dying thing. But this time, when I realized that this painting and series didn’t have a future, I just stopped and walked away. The hardest thing... Read More

Sticker Shock

Now that I have a long-term project based on HJ Andrews Experimental Forest underway, I thought that I may as well make this BIG. However, making things big is difficult for a few reasons: 1) My studio is not big; 2) My cash flow is also what you can consider ‘not big.’ So, the logical step is not to scale things down, but to make some not big things bigger. Step one is trying to find the funds for this project. I dusted off the grant writing book and got to work. One thing that I was unprepared for was how many uncomfortable feelings about money come bubbling to the surface when money comes... Read More

A Little Creative Flow

After my October residency at HJ Andrews nothing happened. It was like the experience stopped any and all creative flow. I actually started to get worried that I had used up my good idea quota. It took three months, but then an idea started to form. In late January I headed back to HJ Andrews to take some reference photos. My plan was to go to two locations on Lookout Creek, at a bridge, the other higher up along a trail in the old growth forest. It was a cold, wet day, but fairly warm for January. It was only spitting slush; at least it wasn’t snowing. But as I got closer to my first... Read More
Beetle Drawings

Beetle Drawings

Beetle DrawingsGouache During the residency at H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest I worked on one gouache painting. The last time I used gouache was about 20 years ago. I don’t have fond memories of the medium. Recently, something in the deep recesses of my memory nagged me to try it again. I felt that my first foray into the medium was nothing but a struggle. I was trying to paint like I was using oil paints. Gouache, however, is nothing like oil paints. Not ready to give up entirely, I tried another once I returned home to my own studio. This time I went into it as if I were making... Read More
HJA Residency Day 8: Split Tree

HJA Residency Day 8: Split Tree

HJA Residency Day 8Split Tree Split Tree There is a tree in the forest that is straddling a very slow landslide. Every year the land slides a few more inches and the tree splits a little bit more. One day the tree will rip in two. I have been thinking of that tree since I saw it the first day I arrived. Every day that passed, the tree became more prominent in my thoughts. At the top, the tree is still one. At the bottom, I can comfortably sit inside it, the tear reaching high above me. Tim’s close friend Matt died at the age of 30 last Sunday. Ever since Tim went to the hospital to visit him... Read More
Beetle Drawings

HJA Residency day 8: thoughts on gouache

HJA Residency Day 8Thoughts on Gouache Aaaargh, Gouache! Thoughts on Gouache This morning is my last studio session for this stint of the residency. Although I am not satisfied with the result of working this painting/sketch for 8 mornings, I am satisfied with the effort. I felt that the struggle with the materials oftentimes dominated the process, but it also allowed me to experiment more than I may have if I had been using materials I felt more comfortable manipulating. Never feeling satisfied allowed me to obliterate parts of the painting that needed obliterating more readily. I... Read More
HJA Residency Day 7: walking distance from here

HJA Residency Day 7: walking distance from here

HJA Residency Day 7Walking Distance From Here Walking Distance From Here I stayed within walking distance of the HJA Headquarters and my apartment, hobbled by my sore legs from the hike yesterday. I am in a hate faze regarding gouache and am thinking that I may just be done with the stuff after I wrestle this painting to death. It feels near dead now. But not quite dead enough. On my many sanity breaks from gouache I had the opportunity to check my immediate surrounds out in greater detail. Two of my favorite finds are another scientist ‘sculpture’ that has been sitting on the railing of my... Read More
HJA Residency Day 6: Old Growth

HJA Residency Day 6: Old Growth

HJA Residency Day 6Old Growth Old Growth Today was intended as my just-past-halfway walk in the woods, sort of a day of rest. It was anything but restful. I headed to the Old Growth trail, a 3.5 mile one way trail that starts near a point on lookout creek, then ending higher up on the same creek. This was one steep trail. My legs hurt. I feel very justified to have missed my routine afternoon run. Steep, although it is, I highly recommend this trail. It is, of course, very beautiful, but it’s also interesting in that I believe it successfully shows the different layers of an old growth... Read More
HJA Residency Day 5

HJA Residency Day 5

HJA Residency Day 5Routine Day 5. I’ve made some progress on the bark beetle drawing, but avoided the background. The sudden bolt of insight to tell me what to do with it sadly has not occurred. Routine The routine is wake up around 6 AM, eat breakfast and start painting until I get hungry around noon. That’s when it starts to warm up and I finally venture outside. I hit lunch hour for some of the HJA staff so I had some much appreciated company. Mark came to our picnic table with his strawberry hazelnut spread sandwich. These people are awesome. After lunch it’s time to... Read More
HJA Residency Day 4: Rodent People

HJA Residency Day 4: Rodent People

HJA Residency Day 4Rodent People Wrestling with gouache. The lines are becoming more defined. As I work on them I’ve been thinking that the background will need to be pushed back so it doesn’t compete. But I’m getting ahead of myself Rodent People Here’s something that I learned today – people who study squirrels and such do not like to be called ‘rodent people.’ They prefer ‘small mammal people.’ Some of my few neighbors here are studying spotted owl prey. They are here until Thanksgiving trapping and counting small mammals. This is their ‘hot’ time. It’s the time when the... Read More

The Way It Is

The Way It Is There’s a thread you follow. It goes among things that change.  But it doesn’t change. People wonder about what you are pursuing. You have to explain about the thread. But it is hard for others to see. While you hold it you can’t get lost. Tragedies happen; people get hurt or die; and you suffer and get old. Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding. You don’t ever let go of the thread. ~ William Stafford Read More
HJ Andrews Residency Day 3: work in progress

HJ Andrews Residency Day 3: work in progress

HJA Residency Day 3Work In Progress Beetle Drawing Day 3 Work in Progress The struggle with gouache has begun. The darker thick lines 3/4 of the way up the painting is part of a ‘drawing’ that an insect made in wood in the creek. In the afternoon I went to Blue Ridge. This site had been cut some time ago, then burned. It’s teaming with life now. There are a lot of rhododendrons, bear grass, insects, and little... Read More
HJ Andrews Residency Day 3: Spine

HJ Andrews Residency Day 3: Spine

HJA Residency Day 3Spine In progress – an under painting using watercolor and ink Spine Since I’ve been here in the forest, I’ve been thinking about the spine of the project, as choreographer Twyla Tharp calls it. The spine is usually more for me to know than it is for the viewer. It’s acts as a grounding devise. When things start to spin off on tangents, get messy and out of control, the spine is what brings you back to the center. It’s the idea that supports a project, that unifies a project and gives it consistency. It’s not usually something that I... Read More
HJ Andrews Residency day 2: supporting more life in its death

HJ Andrews Residency day 2: supporting more life in its death

HJA Residency Day 2Supporting More Life in its Death Beetle Drawing Beginning. Charcoal on paper Supporting More Life in its Death Much of this morning was spent trying to figure out how to turn my lack of studio space into a passable studio space. I am in a 2-bedroom apartment. One bedroom has a large desk. It was the obvious choice. In anticipation of the lack of studio I bought a bunch of non-oil paint stuff that could be used just about anywhere. Last weekend, as I waited for the clerk at the art store to finish ringing up my new paints, she finally looked up at me and said, ‘So…. Have... Read More

Tim McFarlane

I’ve recently discovered Tim McFarlane’s work. The more time I spent with it, the more it intrigued me. Check it out for yourself. Below is an interview from Artblog Radio. And if you want more check out Tim’s blog where he writes articulately about his creative process.     Find a lot more great art on The Art Blog Read More

Creative DNA – Memory

What is the first creative moment you remember? Was anyone there to witness it or appreciate it? Twyla Tharp, in her book The Creative Habit, includes a questionnaire as a tool for self-discovery. I encourage you to take the questionnaire with me. Here are my first two answers.

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Day Job

Lately, as life would have it, I’ve been dealing with more obstacles to the creative process rather than to the creative process itself. Studio time has become more scarce. Much more scarce. I needed to get a day job a few weeks ago. It severely cuts into my art making. After a non-productive bout of feeling bitter about my situation, I got on with it to see what I could do to ensure that my art making doesn’t fall by the wayside as it has in the past because of day jobs. Let me backtrack a bit to before I got this new job. I knew that I hadn’t been the best at juggling art and a job.... Read More

Starting

That big project that I had in mind, the one that I have formally announced that I am starting… Yeah, that one. It’s not exactly rolling smoothly and effortlessly. The creative wheels haven’t started to churn efficiently. Just because a commitment is made to start a project doesn’t mean that it will actually flow. It doesn’t make the door into the heart of the project any more clearly defined. Nor does it suddenly announce a logical starting point. Committing to a project only means that I have said that I am going to pull the idea out of the large file cabinet of my mind, dust it off, and... Read More

When an Idea Becomes a ‘Project’

One of things I want to do is examine my own creative process more closely. I’ve started a new project, so now would be a good time to start this process. There has been an idea bumping around in my head for years. I’ve been meaning to transfer it from my mind’s Potential Project file to the In Progress Project file. maybe I was waiting for it to transfer itself. It didn’t do it. Then it made the first move. At least that’s how it felt. There are many reasons (excuses) for not making the transfer earlier. The first is that it’s a big idea. I had, and still... Read More

Mojo Costume

Many artists have undergone name changes. Pen names are common enough for authors. But why? What advantage do you get with a pen name? Identity Crisis I’ve thought about the possibility of changing my name professionally, but it never developed into anything more than a thought experiment. There’s nothing wrong with my name, although Wilson isn’t terribly memorable or unique. I thought about including my middle name to be known as Leah Catherine Wilson. Or maybe just Leah C. Wilson. What’s kept me from doing it is the simple fact that I would have to go changing my... Read More

7 Creative Ways To Make Eggs

What Is Creativity Anyway? It occurred to me that although I do something considered creative I was still unclear what the word creativity really means to me. Sure, I could go to a dictionary to find a definition (and in fact I did, but it didn’t help at all). I want something more meaningful, something with more depth than the concise dictionary definition. Although I don’t think that creativity is magic, I also don’t think that it is one simple or singular process. Which means that I don’t have an easy, clean answer like the dictionary has. Creativity is complex. The word creative is often... Read More

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