Weather

Posted by Deborah on January 20, 2012

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There’s a lot of weather at the Oregon Coast.  In December we had nearly a month long period of dry sunny days, crisp and cold, an unusually uplifting experience during an often dismal time of year.  Last week it snowed on the beach, another oddity, and in its brevity, also uplifting and strangely beautiful.  Now it’s very windy, and parts of the coast have received record rains.  Our creek, which is our source of household water, is muddy from scouring its banks after running relatively low for the past couple of months. Our taps run tea-colored.  We are affected directly by the weather here every day.  We have no central heating, no furnace, no forced air. This is a good thing when not uncommon gale force winds blow down the power lines.  We heat with wood, which there's plenty of but this time of year the wood is damp even when it’s dry.  When the temperatures are freezing outside, the edges of the house inside are cold, we wear more clothing, sometimes a hat indoors.  With a little portable heater the studio can maintain a temperature of around 58 degrees when it’s in the 30’s outside.  Pretty comfortable, with the right clothes.  But it takes forever for oil paint to dry! 

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detail from a painting in progress

I have a number, I think nine paintings started.  Two are commissions and the rest are intended for my show in May.  My work has always been mostly autobiographical and this group of paintings is no different.  The subjects come from this place, where all the people and the creatures and the plants that live here are subjects of the Weather.  And now these paintings too are subjects of the weather, and subject to the weather and their progress is dependent on it.  Who knew modern"climate control" was an art material. Depending on the amount of rain, the temperature or the sun pouring through the south facing windows of the studio it can take a week or more for one layer of my many layered pieces to dry.  It means that I have to suspend my momentum, move to another piece, calculate which one will dry when, so that I can make continuous progress, not missing a chance to work.  The deadline always looms.  It can be frustrating, but it also defines the contemplative nature of oil paint.  While a piece dries in its developing stages, I look at it over and over again in its unfinished state.  Each stage has its own completeness and time allows me to contemplate its possible wholeness, or its misdirection. What started out as an idea, then a picture in my head, then a sketch made from various resource materials, takes on a new identity in oil paint, governed by the mysterious qualities of ground pigment and linseed oil.  It is as though the paint is the weather that floods the idea,  that snows on the imagined, and blows away the sketch. 

Tonight it’s warm, the fire in the woodstove is hardly needed, but the wind blows and the creek is rising.  What will the weather bring tomorrow?

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detail from a painting in progress

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