Chas Martin - Watercolor Paintings & Prints

A portfolio of watercolors, etchings, drawings and giclee prints

The Echo of Time

Chas Martin

This short video is an animated series of images from a storyboard currently in progress. When complete, it will include 50 to 75 paintings. In my imagination, there is a storyline that connects the characters and situations. Your results may vary. Here, the story is edited into a linear path. On the wall in my studio, alternate paths can be easily discovered.

Portland Open Studios Tour - Final Weekend Oct. 18-19

Chas Martin
Scene from a movie...

Scene from a movie...

I've been getting excited about the Portland Open Studios Tour. This is the first year for me. It's going to be fun to be part of such a large event. With 96 artists participating, there will be plenty of variety - pottery, jewelery, sculpture, fabric and of course, painting.

This year the OS PDX team has produced a very short, very insightful video which helps explain what the experience is all about for the visitors and for the artists. Take a look.

For the past week, I've been madly matting and framing new work. I'll have at least 50 new pieces for sale plus another 40 or 50 watercolors from my latest project - a work in progress. This is my most ambitious project to date and a bit of a departure from the more traditional landscapes I've been painting for the past four years.

Dates for the tour are Saturday and Sunday October 11, 12 and 18, 19 from 10am to 5pm. All are welcome to visit my studio at SW 40 and Multnomah Boulevard, Portland.

 

Intersections, Collisions, Coincidences, Fate, etc.

Chas Martin

When I lived in San Anselmo, California, in the late 70s, I became good friends with Rick Wheeler, a fellow painter. We showed together at a suspicious gallery appropriately named, "The Guilty Bystander." That's another story.  At some point, we designed a set together for a modern dance performance. We also had a show at the "Blue Sky Gallery" in Ashland, Oregon in around 1981. During the few years in California, we had many interesting conversations about art, physics, travel.  I lost the connection with him after he helped me move to Oregon in 1981.

Yesterday, I thought about the Blue Sky Gallery. Following whatever instinct kicks in when the latte hits the brain, I searched for and located Rick. And, coincidentally, we have already arranged to meet up again when I'm in Arizona in a few weeks. This road trip was already planned a month or two ago will include Monument Valley and the Grand Canyon. I am very much looking forward to sharing perspectives again with a painter whose vision was always so unique. 

I first started painting watercolor on my last trip through the Four Corners - 1980. I am posting a few of these as I look at them again myself. And I'm wondering how time and space has altered my vision and my ability to render it. Or better yet, how to speak through the visual language of pigments, water and paper to express the heartbeat of the earth.

The Art of Dreaming

Chas Martin
Echoes from a Dream --

Echoes from a Dream --

Dreaming is a great source for impossible ideas. An interesting thing happens when you permit an obvious impossibility to exist in your active imagination without judgement. Instead of dismissing it for being illogical, let it linger. The longer you permit this to exist, the more you begin to understand it. And, sometimes, you realize it's not impossible after all. It's just not what you expect or accept as reality.

I've been exploring a series of ideas - illogical, impossible, unreal, other worldly, not ordinary ideas. The project began as a storyboard. I wanted to create a series of watercolors all centered around a central narrative. It began months ago with the understanding that this could take months or years to complete. So far, I've painted a half dozen character studies. I carry on conversations with these characters. I try to understand who they are. Where they've come from. What they need. What archetype they represent. Who they want to become. Then I try to paint them into a scene for the storyboard.

I'm in no hurry. It's an interesting journey that has brought me to a higher awareness and appreciation of my dreams. The characters appear nightly to audition for a part in my grand plot.

At some point, hopefully before the Open Studios Tour next month, I will take a few characters and scenes I've created and assemble them into a short animation. Experiments to date have altered my perception of how this story is going to unfold.

It's a journey. I don't know where it will end. But, I'm enjoying the impossibilities.  I don't always understand what I'm painting. I have an idea. The paint and paper each seem to have their own ideas. The characters have ideas. Somewhere along the way is a negotiated outcome. Sometimes, it's controlled my me. Sometimes, I simply follow and respond. And a few hours later, the painting seems to have finished itself with me acting as a witness more than a creator.

You Never Find What You're Not Looking For

Chas Martin
As the Crow Flies - Watercolor on paper: 14x11"

As the Crow Flies - Watercolor on paper: 14x11"

I worked for years as a creative director. The goal: help others invent, nurture, expand ideas they hadn't thought of before. Part of that process is to challenge people to see the invisible. It's a real challenge. How do you see what isn't there? You stop believing everything you see and start believing the impossibilities suggested by your imagination.

The series of paintings I'm working on currently combines what I see with my eyes and what I see with my imagination. What you see with your eyes is usually a projection of what you expect to see. It's a reflection of what you believe is possible based on past experiences. What you see with you imagination is completely different. If you can suspend what you know or think is real long enough to let impossibilities exist, you may be surprised by what you find.

This is one of the common traits shared by many of the most creative people. When you stop looking for something specific and let your imagination show you illogical alternatives, you venture into the realm of unique perspectives.

 

On October 11, 12, 18 and 19, Portland Open Studio Tour will expose local artists to the public. Artists will be displaying and talking about their work, their processes, their inspirations and their obstacles. I'll be among the 96 artists featured this year. I'm honored to be included with people like William Park. See the complete list of artists.

 

How a Writer Defines Painting

Chas Martin

Wahclella Creek, Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area

I was first introduced to author David James Duncan’s work through The River Why. Fly fishing, as he defined it, is a metaphor for so many relationships. In a more recent writing, God Laughs and Plays, Duncan has again succinctly defined relationships. This time, through a critique of writing, he has defined painting:

“As readers are asked on page one to lay our hand upon the back of an author’s as he or she paints a world. If the author’s strokes somehow repel or betray our trust, if our concentration is lax, or if we’re biased or closed in some way, then no hand-in-hand magic can occur. But, when a great word-painter is read with reciprocally great concentration and trust, a wondrous thing happens. First, the painter’s hand disappears. Then so does our own. Till there is only the living world of the painting.”

With every painting, I hope to feel the hand of an observer on my back asI try to manipulate paint to create a living world.

Wahclella Creek will be among the watercolors on display during the Portland Open Studio Tour on October 11, 12, 18 and 19. Participating artists will be displaying and talking about their work, their processes, their inspirations and their obstacles. I'll be among the 96 artists featured this year. See the complete list of artists.





Creating Something from Nothing

Chas Martin
white-space.jpg

I admit, I'm intimidated by a blank page. Sometimes. Other times, I dive in without reservation. But, there's always the unknown. There's always a bit of fear that I'll create something better suited for the trash than the wall. White space can be powerful. But an entire sheet of white space can be frightening. It shouldn't be.

Chuck Close says you can't hold back. When you reach obstacles, blast through them. When you have fear, face it square on and go for it. The results are breakthroughs - steps toward a new plateau. That's how you grow as an artist.

William Park said something similar in a conversation we had last year. "Just keep painting." Don't be judgmental about your own work. Just keep working. It was a very inspiring conversation. His energy and curiosity about what's next is contagious.

I enjoy walking into a room of strangers. I enjoy meeting new people, exploring new experiences, discovering new information, doing things differently. So, why do I sometimes find white space so intimidating? I think it's a fear of cutting loose and just creating something without control. But, Close is right. Park is right. You can't hold back. You can't defeat yourself. You can't let your own fear limit what you create.

The paintings I consider my best are usually the ones where I reached an obstacle and pushed past it. Many paintings confront me with a crisis point. Is it time to quit? Is it time to be satisfied with something safe? Or is it time to push further. I'll concede, not every confrontation with these obstacles results in success. But, I believe more often than not, something good happens. It may not manifest itself today. But something happens. The next time I'm faced with a similar dilemma, instead of dancing around it, I confront it and move past it with more confidence and more control.

An old friend and successful painter, HK Miller once told me he faces fear with every blank canvas. I guess we all feel fear when we confront the unknown. The real painters are the ones who admit it, dismiss it, move on and create something, anything to regain control over their destiny.

On October 11, 12, 18 and 19, Portland Open Studio Tour will expose local artists to the public. Artists will be displaying and talking about their work, their processes, their inspirations and their obstacles. I'll be among the 96 artists featured this year. I'm honored to be included with people like William Park. See the complete list of artists.


Painting With Norman Maclean

watercolor, norman maclean, river runs through it, fly fishing and painting, fly fishingChas Martin

I have several methods to juggle my imagination when I need a jolt. My favorite is to select a book from my shelf, open it randomly and begin reading. This morning, I found this:

“One great thing about fly fishing is that after a while nothing exists of the world but thoughts about fly fishing. It is also interesting that thoughts about fishing are often carried on in dialogue form where Hope and Fear – or, many times, two Fears – try to outweigh each other.”

Dependable Norman Maclean penned this observation in “A River Runs Through It.” I’ve read it cover to cover several times, discovering fresh inspiration with each reading. As he did so well so often, this passage has defined a universal truth with a minimum of words.

Ashland Creek - 9x12" Watercolor on paper

It is also true that fly fishing is like painting, especially plein air painting. After a while, nothing else exists. The challenge to capture the moment is immediate and all-consuming. While trying to describe an indescribable sensation with paint, nothing else exists. It becomes a meditation beyond time and space. Hope and Fear are real and constant. I Hope I can re-present this incredible experience in two dimensions. I Fear I will overstate it. Understate it. Overwork it. Turn light into mud. But, even Hope and Fear do not exist really. It’s just me, paint brush in hand trying to apprehend a fleeting experience – the color of light, the reflections on water, the shapes of clouds, the staccato dance of the ouzel, the color of moss, the depth of shadows, the breeze with a hint of sage or juniper or pine.

And then, nothing else exists. Instead of conjuring a trout to rise to a fly, I cast pigments onto paper with the Hope that I can recreate magic.  

Thank you, Norman Maclean. I’ll return this afternoon to one of my favorite river spots. I’ll think about that trout hiding beneath a riffle shielded by reflections of leaves and clouds. I’ll think about which pigments will describe it best. And then, nothing else will exist. If, in the end, I am successful, I’ll have something to take home. If not, I will at least have had the moment and the memory of the one that got away.

Ashland Creek will be among the paintings displayed during the Portland Open Studios Tour October 11, 12, and 18, 19 from 10am to 5pm.

 

Moving Inward

Chas Martin
raven-dance-02-19-13w.jpg

After several months of exploring, experimenting, searching for something deeper than what I've been painting for the past 2 years, I am beginning to feel some success. Not to dismiss the work I've done, but I felt something missing. Painting pictures is not as rewarding as painting paintings.

In the past week, I saw the recent work of Henk Pander at Laura Russo Gallery in Portland. I also visited the Portland Japanese Garden to see the work of Toko Shinoda. Both helped me see what I had been looking for: sybmols, narrative, magic and experience. It was like another chapter in "The Spell of the Sensuous."

This feels like I have rediscovered the path I was on 30 years ago when I was painting more surreal, more mental, more personal imagery than I have been doing lately. It feels more like home.

The foundation for this image was a series I did this past summer while hiking in Mt. Raineer National Park. We wandered off trail into an area the ranger called Happy Valley below Pyramid Peak. It had its own magic.