Tuesday, November 12, 2019

So long, Russell Chatham.

On Sunday, November 10, American landscape painter Russell Chatham passed away. 

"Bare Trees and Hayfields in November" Russell Chatham

Many years ago when I was fairly unknown, those who did see my paintings mentioned that it reminded them of a painter named Russell Chatham. This is back before the internet days and I had no idea who this guy was, or why anyone thought to compare us. I spent my early years trying NOT to paint like Andrew Wyeth, to find my own voice, only to be told I sounded like this other guy. 

Someone told me he had a book out, and after failing to find it at the library I went down to Elliot Bay Book Store in Seattle since they had a reputation for having or finding any book. The fellow at Elliot’s told me they had no books by or of Russell’s work, but he was represented just downtown at a gallery called Kimzey Miller. He thought they might know more. 

So I walked uptown from Elliot’s and found Kimzey Miller Gallery, which happened to be having a showing of Russell’s work, and they had a few of the books “One Hundred Paintings”. While I was there I walked around and looked at Chatham’s paintings and did not see the connection, but you do not get to control others impressions and the comparisons, whether warranted or not, and they kept coming… including a reference in a large article done about my work in Southwest Art Magazine later. 

Russell was by then a seasoned and well loved tonalist, and his paintings were far beyond my abilities and skillset. They simply glowed… Over time, the best explanation of this comparison came from another painter and friend, Kent Lovelace, a lifelong friend of Russell’s and instrumental in the production of his early lithographs. Kent thought that we “looked at the same things”. I can agree with that, and later realized that Kent belonged in that same assessment. We were all painting the same places, responding to the same things. California, Washington, western mountain states. 

As I purchased a copy I was chatting with them about why I was looking for the book, and Terry Miller found that interesting enough to ask for a studio visit. That visit led to my representation by the gallery, my first one-man major show, and a several year relationship with them. So now my paintings were hanging next to Chatham’s at KMG and there was, to my eye, no viable comparison to be made. Not that it is necessarily a bad thing, just not what you want when you are trying to develop your own voice.

Though not directly influenced by Russell’s work (at least consciously), his impact on my life and career turned out to be weighty. I was later represented by three other galleries that also represented Chatham’s work, in Wyoming, Montana, and New Mexico. Although I still see no resemblance, I cannot help but feel grateful for the association. 

The last time I saw or spoke to Russell Chatham was 2002 when I shared billing with him and Kent in the last show Geoff Sutton did at his gallery Sutton West in Missoula, Montana. Russell was out of sorts that night and went home early after the post-show dinner. He was entering a phase of his career that was upended by financial and personal misfortunes that we were not aware of at the time. I did try to contact him (a best regards) later through a mutual writer friend who was going to meet him in California, but she was not successful locating him. He had returned to his early origins on the West Coast and was staying out of sight. Even Kent could not get ahold of him. (It is true that if you were female, you had a better chance…)

So, in the 2002 show card I am posting here, I find myself standing with two phenomenal painters, two of which have left us for the Orion Belt, and I must say, it feels sort of lonely to be the only survivor on the card.  

Travel well, Russell Chatham.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Scaffold Easel

Ok... the amazing scaffold-rolling studio-easel system is done. I decided to move all of that to this place, as I dont want to clutter the page up too much with this sort of thing.

So, here is the description. It is a standard inexpensive 'bakers' scaffold. I needed one for my storage in hatfield, and to use on the high work in the new studio and show space here in Harwich. By attaching some wood attachment points with the scaffold pins and bolts with wing nuts, there is nothing on the scaffold that is not easily removed if the scaffold needs to be a scaffold.

after the attachment points were made (simple chop saw carpentry) I made a tray and angling system for the largest panels along the 6' side. On the ends, I made two smaller adjustable easels, one a standard shouldered easel, and the other a table easel for paper paintings and small things. The entire system rolls with fingertip ease on the 6" casters. It's home is in the north end of my painting area, but can easily roll out into the show area if I need more space around me. The back side is also a work space, for doing shipping or other tasks that need a flat area.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Changes 2

I suppose it is time to put something here.. an update to the changes post.

The traveling circus that is our lives has moved on to Cape Cod from Western Mass. The house in Seattle bought a house out here, 30 miles out into the Atlantic on a windy sandbar. Technically, the location is Harwich, MA, but we are closer to Dennis and Brewster. The back property line is the Harwich/Brewster line. It is beautiful, but remote.

So, we have been here since July, and there is a lot of deferred maintenance on the place that has taken a lot of my time. Trying to get it ready for winter, routing water away from foundations, plugging mouse holes and heat loss gaps. Testing mechanicals, generator, heating system, hvac, etc. Lots to do. The place has a finished barn in back, which I have high hopes will be studio when all the scut is done. It is larger than I need, and will cost some money to adequately refigure. It is currently a shop space and warehouse for 'stuff' that eventually needs to go away.

I have my days... days when I miss Seattle. Mostly the people that took 30 years to get to know. It is isolated here, and the starting over seems overwhelming and our new neighbors seem uninterested in newcomers. It is hard for me to be actively social, so going out and meeting people is an unpracticed skill. I keep in touch with Seattle peeps as much as possible but it is not the same as being around them. Just knowing that friends are a stones throw away was a comfort that I took for granted.

As a painter, my paintings all come out of some intimacy with the subject, and intimacy takes interaction and time. It takes time to know what moves you about something or someone. But you have to spend the time observing, living in the presence.. and I have to start spending time doing that here, and less time doing handyman stuff.

Hopefully in the next couple weeks I can carve out a space in the barn to build an easel.

Sunday, February 11, 2018


How things change...

It is February, and there is new thinking on the grill. There has been precious little to look at for sale here that would work for Saltmine. So we are retooling the search to look at Cape Cod. It seems to have more of what I need, and at more competitive prices, oddly enough. Plus, we know people there. The climate is milder, as well. Spent the last two weekends in the area, and I really like it.

I dont regret this time here. You have to experience a place to see if it wants you, and if you still want it. Test drive. Western Mass was picked on a whim. On stats and buildings and potentials based on things that needed to be verified. Nothing puts things into perspective like presence.

Right now it is gray out and raining. Temps here in Hatfield are just up in upper 30's, and all the snow on the ground is turning into flood by the rain. the neighbor's large yard to the west of us is completely under around 6 inches of water. It is coming through the basement walls of this building, which is hurting for some landscaping to make water go away from the foundation instead of toward it like it is now. From the second floor here (which is more like third floor in a house) I can see most of the fields and yards in the area, and all are lakes. Our parking lot here is more of a moat. If we leave this, I wont miss this stuff.

So, this next week will be spent on and around the Cape, looking at things...

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Western Mass Continued

Well, lost the bid on the place in Hatfield. But, as fate would have it, we will be renting the apartment in that building for 6 months to put us in the area to look. Too hard to do it from Boston south shore area... almost as bad as from Seattle. We move in next week, and a trip to Ikea is in order.

The apartment includes an 800 sq ft. open area that will serve as a temporary studio area. Small things for now.

Starting to feel some of the intimacy with this area that needs to happen. Looking forward to being in the area and on my bike.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Back In Western Mass

Not exactly an art post, but insofar as everything is connected this is appropriate.

We left the home and studio in Seattle in August, after a horrendous several months of preparation and packing and shedding, and then loading trucks and moving it all to the Pioneer Valley in Western Mass., where it sits in a storage facility. Still sitting there. 

We have looked at many things, and bid and vied, and discussed... but the main objective was to buy a place that would be a permanent, self owned, studio space with some show potential. Not easy to find. A house or living place would also need to be in the picture.

We may have succeeded. I don't want to jinx it, but after several rounds of getting close then walking away we may, MAY be back to close again. Lots of money, lots of needs, old buildings can be problematic. I just have to make sure we don't buy anything with problems that are bigger than I am...

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Moving notes

Bought a group of Clydesdale road cases, also called flight cases. Will use them after gutting the custom insides for moving paintings from Seattle to Mass. Lots of work...