The Arctic Circle Expedition – Icy Inspirations

I’ve always been inspired by anything water – rain, puddles, the Pacific. And the frozen water of the arctic circle didn’t disappoint me in how it all inspired my paintings made onboard the ship and once I returned to my Portland studio.

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Arctic sunset behind the tall ship Antiqua.
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Flat icebergs in front of the glacier at Blomstrandbreen.
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Icy blues and greens near Ny-Alesund.
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Setting up a safe perimeter among the ice.

 

 

The Arctic Circle Expedition – Part 3

Daunted by the experience itself and the 900 snapshots I took on the Expedition, I’ve clearly taken several months off from blogging more about my trip. Today I finally finished going through all of my snapshots, pulling out the better ones for publishing here on my blog and posting on my website.

The good news is that in the meantime, I completed the last larger commissions for my Kickstarter backers in late February, so everyone now has their arctic abstracts – over 80 that I painted – all inspired by my time in the ice and cold of the arctic circle.

Preparing for the Expedition, I had thought I’d be able to possibly paint on a table set up on the outside deck of the ship. But after two failed attempts to paint in the cold, snow and wind, I set up a makeshift studio on my bunkbed in my shared cabin.  Tight quarters for sure, but I made it work and at least was out of the extreme elements!

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Tight painting quarters on the bunkbed in my shared cabin.
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Yes, for this hot-blooded guy, I did actually feel cold for most of the trip!
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Our first glacier hike.
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The glacier at Esmarkbreen.

The Arctic Circle Expedition – Part 2

By the way, I had two very simple goals for my time on the Antigua in the Arctic Circle…

  1. Soak up the frozen landscape: I was mainly looking forward to seeing glaciers and lots of ice and was certainly not disappointed!
  2. Paint my abstracts: I committed to painting smaller abstracts (12 x 12” and smaller) for my Expedition Backers (from Kickstarter) and completed them just before the end of the trip.
    Now begins the project to get them all sealed with spray varnish/fixative and ready to ship out in November!

Here’s a snapshot from the ship as we departed a calm but cold fjord (Ymerbukta) on the second day.

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The water in this fjord was calm enough to start freezing… you can just see the thin frozen layer in this snapshot. Every day was a new opportunity to soak up the frozen landscape around Svalbard!

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The Antigua from a hike up to a glacier in Esmarkbreen.

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I’m still working through all of the over 800 snapshots I took with my little travel camera, so will have more to post soon!

 

My dreams of icebergs coming true…

Nearly a year ago, I posted that I was accepted for a truly epic artist’s residency: The Arctic Circle 2018 Autumn Arts & Sciences Expedition in October, 2018.

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Me in my cozy, warm studio thinking about making art in the Arctic Circle. [photo: Mercy McNab]
Wow. I’m super excited as the super-long anticipation and lead time gets shorter… 18 months from when I was accepted has now shrunk to just 6 months. And, I’m thrilled to announce that after a month-long campaign on Kickstarter to raise the funds necessary to participate, I am fully funded!

A huge thank-you to those Backers on Kickstarter who pledged funds now to receive paintings of various sizes at the end of this year to help me get to the Arctic Circle. Now that I’m through the funding phase, I have lots of work to do to get organized, outfitted for the Arctic environment and experiment with how I’ll paint my abstracts on a ship in the middle of the Arctic Circle!

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Arctic Circle Environs. [photo: Risa Horowitz]
As a guy who generally likes to be well-prepared, I’m thinking this summer will go quickly and in no time I’ll be in the Arctic, soaking up the frozen inspirations and making art… somehow and of some sort!

I Dreamt of Trees and Sky… and Painted This

Did you know that I dream my paintings before I actually paint them? Well, I do — whether a daydream among a stand of rustling trees, or a dream while I slumber under blackberry skies, I see my next paintings vividly in my head before they ever hit my paper canvas. Huh… just like Vincent van Gogh who said simply, “I dream my painting, and then I paint my dream”.

And, if we’re talking about how my process is like the Masters, Picasso explained it in more detail this way:

“How can you expect a beholder to experience my picture as I experienced it? A picture comes to me a long time beforehand; who knows how long a time beforehand, I sensed, saw, and painted it and yet the next day even I do not understand what I have done. How can anyone penetrate my dreams, my instincts, my desires, my thought, which have taken a long time to fashion themselves and come to the surface, above all to grasp what I put there, perhaps involuntary.”

Here’s a large format painting I made after dreaming of trees and sky:

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“Dreamt of Trees and Sky”, oil and metallic watercolor on panel, 52 x 52″, $5,400.

The Story of My Painting, “Pooled on the Horizon”

Once in awhile I complete a painting that is especially meaningful to me. I just finished such a painting, “Pooled on the Horizon”, and thought I’d share its story with you.

One scene in our natural world that inspires my paintings is the horizon line between sky and ocean. I’ve spent many hours watching the horizon line as presented by the Oregon coast over the last 30 years. It is always a seemingly simple line, but is also full of the infinite complexities of the sky and ocean that extend far beyond my tiny vantage point.

One of my Pacific Rains Series, “Pooled on the Horizon” is my capture of a moment in this simple-yet-complex oceanscape.  A moment when the sky is raining down silver rivulets and “pooling” upon piles of clouds resting heavily on the horizon line. And the sea? All quiet, calm and clear below but with the evermore movement of the waves and tide in and out. It’s a gray day for sure, but the colors are infinite. Lots of dark and bright metallic silvers in the sky and deep indigo and frothy whites in the sea. Studying this painting now in my Portland studio transports me instantly to this scene on the Oregon coast.

As I worked on this painting, I referenced some of the countless photos I have taken of the Pacific coast over the years. Each photo puts me at that vantage point where I can soak up the horizon and everything above and below. Now completed, I love this depiction – what do you think?

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“Pooled on the Horizon”, oil and metallic watercolor, 30 x 30 inches, $2,000.

Arctic Circle Art & Science Residency: I’ve Been Invited!

After 2 months of anticipation, I just learned that I was one of a few artists chosen, out of hundreds of international applicants, for the 2018 Autumn Arctic Circle Residency Expedition!

As an artist primarily inspired by place and water, I’m sure this will prove to be the expedition of a lifetime and I couldn’t be more excited!

In October 2018, I’ll be traveling nearly 4,000 miles from my studio in Portland, Oregon to our port of call, Longyearbyen, Svalbard. Near the edge of the polar ice cap, Longyearbyen is a mere 600 miles south of the North Pole and is about the same distance north of the Norwegian mainland. And yes, it is truly the land of icebergs and polar bears!

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Portland, Oregon, USA to Longyearbyen, Svalbard, Norway = 3702 miles

For nearly three weeks in October 2018, I will sail on an ice-class barkentine tallship, exploring the arctic region around the Svalbard archipelago. I’ll be joined by a small group of artists, educators and scientists for this once-in-a-lifetime residency program. Yes, I have nearly a year and a half to wait, prepare (and raise funds!), but that enables me to focus on other events already on my calendar for this coming autumn here in Portland.

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My home for nearly 3 weeks during the 2018 Arctic Circle Art & Science Residency

Stay tuned in the coming months for more info and thoughts as I prepare for this epic adventure! In the meantime, I’d love to hear from anyone who has traveled to this part of the Arctic – please share with me and my readers what you thought of your adventure!

Painting the Sea and Sky Like This Calms My Nerves

This year has been a struggle for me as I live my artist’s life with ongoing depression and rising anxiety. Some might say I’m just another “tortured” artist, but it has taken me 20+ years to become accustomed to what “normal” feels like for me. And how I feel has changed alot this year for me.

So, as I work to get back to my own normal, one of my trusty therapies is my painting process. And besides trees, the sea and sky is one of my most favorite subjects. Painting the expansive sea and the ever-changing sky along with a nice, crisp horizon line holding them together almost always calms my nerves.

See what you think (and feel) with my latest sea and sky painting below. It’s titled No. 6 but is the only larger sea and sky painting to date that I’ve completely finished and mounted on panel. Click the painting or the link below to view it on my website.

Sure wish we were there in No. 6, don’t you?

Thanks for looking and for supporting my art!

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“Oregon Coast Sea and Sky No. 6”, oil and metallic watercolor on panel, 12 x 12 inches, $400 (available on my website).

Here’s what I think rain looks like

Have you ever seen rain streaming dramatically down a window like it does in the movies? In those fat, silvery rivulets? I could sit in my comfy studio armchair and watch rain rivulets all day here in Portland.

Instead, I started a new series of oil and metallic watercolors called Pacific northwest rains. Water – especially rain – makes me feel cool, calm and balanced. Do you feel the rain in these abstractions, like the new one below?

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Why Do I Love to Paint Trees? Here’s a Hint.

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After 12 years of my artist career, I’ve kicked off 2016 by examining everything I do:

Why do I paint?
What do I hope to share with you, through my art?
How do my inspirations guide what I put on paper?
Why do I love painting trees?

As I “metamorphosis” on these questions and more, I will share my discoveries with you this year. Right now, I can share a bit about those trees I love to paint so much.

As I travel my life’s path, I create idyllic places for me to “hide” — to keep me safe, and to belong — and all of these places always have trees.  Trees that shelter, that protect, and that cool. Evergreens and aspens from the mountains of my native Colorado, and towering hardwoods in the forests of southern Belgium. Trees that have trunks with those crisp lines that I love.

How could I not paint these trees, in those idyllic places?

 

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Large trees (aspen or birch?) are in progress in my studio (oil and metallic watercolor).

2013 In A Word: The List

What will be my inspiration/guiding light/catalyst/focus for the New Year? I’ve done this exercise in past years and find that brainstorming The List is a pretty interesting process.  And maybe this year I’ll leave it at just that and glean from the process rather than the choice of a single word.  I’ll give myself a few days to percolate on that!

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How Do I Solve A Problem Like Michael W Smith?

I’ve been a fan of Michael W Smith’s music for a long time – surely over 25 years.  His music and message always inspire me… all year around and at the holidays.  His music is especially a favorite of mine for listening in my studio.

I recently commented here that I was listening to some of my favorite holiday music in my studio, including Michael W Smith, and received an interesting message from one of my blog fans.  In a nutshell, the point was, how do I reconcile being a big fan of a musician who most likely would condemn and oppress me for being gay?  I’ll admit that it is a question that I’ve avoided researching over the years, not really wanting to confirm anything.  But, this message from a fan made me google around to see what I could find.  I didn’t really stop to think how I would solve this problem, depending upon what I found out…

Well, there doesn’t seem to be much out there about what Michael W Smith thinks of gay folks.  But, he does have a recent, dramatic video on his website that encourages conservatives to vote and highlights the fear of “redefining marraige” as a motivator.  He also seems to be a fan of Rick Santorum, and we all know what he thinks of gay Americans.

So, how do I solve a problem like Michael W Smith?  Is there a problem? Can I just not care what he thinks and still be inspired by his music? I’m certainly not a book-or-CD-burning kind of guy, but will I stop listening to his music?  Blech – I don’t know.

Maybe I’ll try focusing on a simple message that is on his live Worship album.  I wrote it down to send to members of my family years ago and dug it out to hang back up in my studio today:

Michael W Smith, live from his Worship album to the crowd in Louisville, KY...
Michael W Smith, live from his Worship album to the crowd in Louisville, KY…

Once Again… Alex Grant to the Rescue

Well, here it is in all of its glory… my current basement studio space.  Rather dungeon-like, huh?

So, on days like today, when I’m more than a little distracted by my surroundings, I load up my iPod with music by my friend Alex Grant.  No matter what the painting “situation”, Alex’s music always calms me and gets my paint flowing again.  Thanks, Alex!

Special Offer: 2012 Winter Sojourn Paintings on Sale Now!!

I’m excited to announce my upcoming 2012 Winter Painting Sojourn on the Oregon Coast, January 10 – February 7, 2012!

I can’t wait to stay in my usual spot in the tiny town of Oceanside, Oregon and get my fill of inspiration from the mighty Pacific, the lush and rugged coastline, wicked winter storms and the ever-present horizonline.  In fact, let’s make that “HorizonLine”, and use it for the name of my latest series of paintings that I’ll be painting while on the coast.

As in past years, this is where you come in… I’ll be pre-selling a limited number of my new HorizonLine paintings to everyone before I head to the coast.  With a color of your choosing, I’ll then paint your original 12 x 12″ painting during my sojourn, whilst I soak up all that inspires me there.  Comment here or email me to order yours – I can only paint a limited number!  Here are the details:

HorizonLine Paintings (Winter Sojourn, 2012)

Special Sojourn Price: $150 (regularly, $275)

Description: Each painting will be inspired by a color of your choice in my new HorizonLine style.  Original paintings are watercolor on paper, mounted on gallery-wrapped, stretched canvas.  Canvas edges will be finished with acrylic paint and ready to hang with a clean, frameless look.  Each painting will be a finished size of 12 x 12 inches and protected with a final varnish with a UV filter.  Finished paintings will be available for pick-up at a special studio exhibit on First Friday, March 2, 2012 (paintings can also be shipped for $15/each).  I guarantee that you’ll love it, or I’ll return your payment!

Nine of my new "HorizonLine" paintings

Where in the World is Oceanside, Oregon??

Since launching my 2011 Winter Painting Sojourn Shareholder Opportunity, lots of folks have asked me where, exactly, is Oceanside, Oregon? 

Oceanside is a tiny town perched on a rugged hillside overlooking Three Arch Rocks and the Pacific.  It’s a rather quiet, sleepy place in the winter… just one coffee shop and a part-time restaurant are open.  I need to travel about 6 miles on a winding coastal road to get to Tillamook for grocery shopping, the library and the world-famous Tillamook Cheese Factory.

Pretty much directly west of Portland, I’ve found Oceanside to be the perfect refuge for my sojourn.  I hope you’ll share in my inspiration by becoming a Shareholder and get your exclusive flapjack that I’ll paint while I’m on the coast!

Oceanside, Oregon (in the yellow shaded circle)... my winter sojourn spot!

My Winter Painting Sojourn: Want to Become a Inspiration Shareholder?

I’m busy planning my sixth annual Winter Painting Sojourn to the stormy Oregon Coast and would like to invite you to be part of it!

This year I’m offering 100 “shares” in my inspirational sojourn at $40/share.  As a Shareholder, you’ll receive one of my exclusive, oversized flapjack paintings that I’ll create for you while I’m on the coast (a $75 value).  I’ll be painting on the coast from January 19th – February 16th, 2011 and will work with a color of your choice.  I’ll then frame your flapjack in a 6 by 6 inch Nielson frame and include it in my special open studio exhibit on First Friday, March 4th, 2011.  You’re welcome to pick up your flapjack at that time, or for $5 extra, I’ll ship it to you after March 4th.

If you’re looking for a holiday gift – this is an excellent idea, and I’d be happy to provide you with a special gift certificate for the recipient.  Of course I’ll be blogging about my sojourn this winter, so you and your gift recipient can follow along and share in my experiences and inspirations and anticipate receiving your flapjack in March!

So, buy your share now!  Email me or comment here with your number of shares and your color(s) and I’ll be in touch with more details.

My exclusive, oversized flapjacks... over 75% larger than my regular flapjacks!

Journey or Destination??

Some days I really wonder about the whole journey vs. destination thing… sure seems to be a tug-of-war at times.  But, it IS mostly about the journey, isn’t it?  When in doubt, I love this snapshot of the Hagerman Tunnel trail that I took back in August – no destination in this picture, just a great hike!

What do you think??

Hiking trail along the old railroad bed to Hagerman Tunnel near Leadville, Colorado. August, 2010.

Inspiration: My Favorite Garden Perennial – Cupid’s Dart

I thought I’d share one of my favorite perennials that shows up as inspiration in my art… whether it is my Cupid’s Dart notecard image or the perfect lavender-blue color that I love so much.  These are from a clump growing in our back garden.  I transplanted them last year and was afraid they wouldn’t come back this year, but they did!

Cupid's Dart growing in my back garden this year.