March 25, 2014

Lately I’ve been a bit concerned with the effects of oil paint on my health.  I’m not the most tidy of artists so by the end of a good painting session I usually have as much paint on me as I do the canvass. And since my studio is in my home, I am also concerned about the fumes. Even though I use odorless mineral spirits as my solvent, the only additive I use in my paint is cold wax, and I have an air purifier there is still an “oily” smell.  I used to love that smell of fresh oil paint and the delicious buttery texture and vibrant colors.  But now when I paint the smell is too strong and I get a little grossed out having oily paint all over my hands and sometimes my face… I often contemplate switching to acrylics but when I add cold wax to my paint is creates a velvety, powdery matt finish that I just cant reproduce with acrylics.

A few weeks ago I was looking at some art on line and one of the artists  that caught my eye, Mary Weatherford, was using a paint called Flashe Paint. It is a water soluble vinyl paint that has been around since 1955.  When dry it has a matte, velvety, and opaque finish.  It sounded very interesting so I decided to give it a try.  I had three larger canvases that I had started an acrylic under layer.  I was able to paint over the acrylic with the Flashe paint with no problem.  It dried fast and it dried matt. Now, the colors did darken a bit when the dried but that wasn’t a problem for me. Here are the finished pieces:


“Buried”,  30×30″


“Braddock”, 36×36″


“Beneath”, 36×36″

It was a little daunting at first to try something new when I have a system and style that really works for me.  But  I am able to layer the paint like I do my oils without waiting weeks in between layers for the paint to dry and the finish is close to the velvety matt that I get with the cold wax.   I am excited to play around with the paint more, adding more watery washes and trying different blending techniques.  I’ll keep posting my progress!

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Where It All Goes

March 11, 2014

A few years ago I saw a screening of Manufactured Landscapes.  In the film photographer Edward Burtynsky travels the world observing changes in landscapes due to industrial work and manufacturing.  It was fascinating and scary, and I think it took me a few years to really digest all the information in the film.  It starts in an electronics assembly factory in China, where rows upon rows of workers are creating goods that I assumed would be exported to places like the U.S. He also photographs villages where electronic waste gets dumped for recycling.  The haunting images depict the extremes of massive waste heaps against the minute components the villagers are salvaging. My Final memory of this movie are the images of the Three Gorges Dam, where entire villages, looking like bomb sites, are dismantled since they will eventually be under water.

For Burtynsky, his work proposes that man made landscapes define who we are as people. He sees a certain physical beauty in the order and/or symmetry in some of these landscapes, despite the negative reasons for them or the subsequent degradation they pose to the environment and people around them.

Pittsburgh, 2012


I often felt the same way growing up outside of Pittsburgh.  A city that was polluted by the steel industry then seemingly abandoned because of it’s collapse.  My memories of driving in to the city with my dad are some of my favorite.  We would drive south along the Ohio River, past factories and mills, through small towns with empty shops and dilapidated homes.

There was a beauty in all of this that I somehow knew, though I was to young perhaps to fully understand.  The brick homes and big factories juxtaposed against a beautiful landscape. Green and vibrant in the summer and grey and dreary in the winter.


In his film, Burtynsky doesn’t say weather these landscapes are good or bad.  He doesn’t’ want to influence the viewer either way, but let the decision up to them.  He doesn’t have a solution, but he brings these topics to light.  As an artist, I believe this is our job.  To  bring into focus what is happening in the world around us, hopefully to inspire positive change.

A few days ago I read an article in Popular Science, that immediately reminded me of Burtynsky’s film.  “The Garbage Man” starts with American environmental activist Jim Puckett who traveled to the town of Guiyu in southeast China to look for old computers. He’d learned that electronic waste from the West was finding its way to Guiyu.  A town where,  for centuries, residents had earned a living farming rice along the Lianjiang River. When Puckett arrived, one of the first things he saw was a man riding a bicycle stacked 15-feet high with computer keyboards.  The descriptions of the crude recycling  that happens here brought back the haunting images in Manufactured Landscapes.  In this article, however, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. A man named Mike Biddle discovered how to separate certain mixed plastics completely.  Biddle can take the plastic from laptop, reduce it to its purest form, and sell it back to a computer company to make another laptop. Biddle started out as an engineer making the very plastics he would soon figure out how to recycle.

The article goes on to talk about the lax recycling laws in the U.S., which is the reason Biddle’s first recycling plant opened in England.  The good news is that in  February 2013, China announced a new policy crackdown called Operation Green Fence. This means that shipments of recyclables into the country must truly be recyclables, not contaminants or waste. To read the full article, go here:

Coal – Not In Any Back Yard

January 15, 2014

A dear friend of mine, Bonnie Meltzer, has been working hard to protect Portland from coal trains. As part of her fight she is having a show at Portland University and has invite me and Thom Caccamo to show a few pieces with her.

postcard front

The details:

January 13 – February 6, 2014

Reception:  Saturday, January 18 
2:00 – 4:00  Short Gallery Talk at 3:00
University of Portland, Buckley Center Gallery 

The threat of hazardous coal trains rumbling through Bonnie Meltzer’s North Portland neighborhood sparked her environmental activism and prodded her to produce a series of artworks about the proposed coal export terminals. Environmental issues have been a long-time theme running through Meltzer’s very mixed media sculptures.  Her use of globes and other found objects give her a symbolic, visual and verbal vocabulary in which to frame an idea and interpret the news.  In this exhibition Meltzer offers a compelling and even humorous look at the local and the global implications of destructive coal by turning crocheted wire, beads, found objects, and painted wood into sculptural commentary.

Coal mined from the Powder River Basin in Montana and Wyoming would travel on barges and trains through our beloved Northwest (including the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area) and on to Asia by mega-ships. At the time of this writing, three out of the six coal terminals are still waiting for permits to be approved or denied.  Three of the original six proposals have withdrawn but the three left would have a destructive daily impact. Dozens of trains will stop traffic and spew toxins.  Meltzer not only makes art about the issue but testifies at hearings, organized an informational rally, and writes a Facebook page about coal.
Born in New Jersey, Meltzer came west to get her MFA in Design at the University of Washington — and she never left. She has exhibited throughout the Northwest and across the nation.  Her work is in many private and public collections including the the National Science Foundation, the City of Portland, the Community Music Center and the University of Washington School of Business. The sculpture, “Global Warming”, which will be shown at this University of Portland exhibition, is on the cover of the new book The Fine Art of Crochet by Gwen Blakley Kinsler.
When Meltzer saw Thom Caccamo’s ceramic fish skeleton series and Kelly Neidig’s traffic and cloud paintings she invited them to exhibit with her. Their artworks fit right into the coal and environment theme.

More Information about 

Bonnie Meltzer:
Coal Export:
Other Artists:


New Work!

November 20, 2013

It has been a busy summer, now fall is almost over. The days are getting shorter and the light here in Portland seems more yellow with the sun so low in the winter sky. The weather has been pretty mild. The clouds have rolled back in for the rainy season but we have had some beautiful sunny days and some amazing sunsets. Here is one of the most amazing sunsets I’ve seen in a while:

(the picture isn’t the greatest as I was driving when I took it….)

November Sunset


It has been nice to look up at the sky and gain inspiration for my new series of work “Clouds”. While my landscape paintings reflect the subtle changes that happen over a period of time my cloud paintings represent a brief moment in time. I have always been amazed with the world above me. How light can create a mood or a feeling of a place that helps to create a memory that seems timeless.  Instead of creating an organic cloudscape, I incorporate a grid pattern. With that my clouds, like my landscape paintings, speak of the effect humans have on the environment.

Here are a few of my new pieces:

Prism, 12x12", oil on canvasSide Effects, 18x18", oil on canvasMicro Burst, 20x20", oil on canvas

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