The Roadhouse Glow

The Return of Twin Peaks has been a spectacular feat of television in the midst of what is quite rightly called “the golden age” of TV. How, in the age of the “binge”, when almost any piece of recorded film is a few keystrokes away, do you hold the rapt attention of the most sophisticated audience in history from week to week?

Keep them guessing, maybe. Or in some cases, scratching their head.

According to what I’ve seen on social media, it’s Twin Peaks and Game of Thrones delivering on that classic “tune in next week” experience on TV; where cliffhangers and upheavals keep audiences on the edge of their seats and in circles around water coolers. It used to be sort of standard, but now it’s a rarity of anticipation that I’m savouring.

The Walking Dead, too – but I left that show somewhere back in the Prison.

Bang Bang

Bang Bang

Twin Peaks continues to fascinate in this regard because it’s not a Shakespearian tragedy full of war and politics and zombies (take your pick as to which of the other two shows I’m referring to); it’s more like a dream and a soap opera. A painting and a music video.

I’ve painted four illustrations in tribute to the show’s aesthetics already, and with the return, there’s been so much gorgeous Lynchian imagery to go swimming in I couldn’t resist doing another. As it stands now (part twelve only having aired a couple of days ago), Dale Cooper is still lost in the periphery – tangled in the curtains between worlds. Apparitions are part of the fabric of the show, and seeing Agent Cooper approaching the roadhouse alone while simultaneously walking the floor of the Black Lodge was where my heart was after watching him sleepwalking through memories of black coffee and cherry pie for so many episodes now.

This was the third of my live paintings; broadcast over the intertubes over the course of a few days. The soundtrack to the broadcasts were provided by Roy Orbison, Dave Brubeck, Booker T and the MGs, and Nine Inch Nails among others.

I should point out that the above image is reduced in size by quite a lot in order to economically put it online, and also to avoid image piracy. The source files, and the image as printed to giclee are much richer in colour and in painterly detail.

I  tried to paint it fat and juicy with colour and contrasting lights and darks from the outset. If you dig in, even the shadows are full of purples and greens set against each-other in balance.

The whole scene is not only lit, but transformed by the light of the neon sign. If you let your eye rest in different places, it has the effect of a hologram; the wood of the building becoming lit from within. Inspired by painters like Edward Hopper, I wanted it to feel as much like a dream as the show itself does.

Do I overexplain this stuff or what?

I can’t wait to see what’s coming next Sunday. There’s only a few episodes left, but I’m not expecting any kind of closure on this story.

If you like the image, feel free to pick up a print or a card or a sticker. You can read about some of my other adventures in Twin peaks here, and here.

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Art: Virtual Plein Air

I’d been to Oregon a couple of Summers ago and loved every inch of the place (and I know I barely scratched the surface). While there, we stopped in at all sorts truly wonderful places – but right at the tip-top of the list for jaw dropping grandeur was Haystack Rock on Cannon Beach. I knew I’d be painting that stone monument before long, and I was right.

This, however, is not a painting from that trip.

No. This is a painting I produced as part of a sketchbook group exercise on Facebook. The group was called “Virtual Plein Air” and the objective was to drive Google street view to any random spot on earth, park, and paint what you found as though you were really standing there. It was a fascinating idea. I had to try it.

The majority of the group were digital artists from all over the world, so the whole concept of the exercise sounded like the kind of thing that would be pure science-fiction to anyone from before the 90s – or possibly witchcraft to anyone before that. I mean, go find ANY view on earth picked up by robot cameras, then paint it using a pen-board onto a machine that will share it to a group of other people spread around the globe. Instantly.

Try explaining that to Turner, or Monet.

I chose Haystack Rock as my subject because of how impressive it was standing over me in person, and because I hadn’t gotten around to painting it from my own source photography yet. I’m sure I’ll do that eventually, but in the mean-time Google Street View would be my muse.

Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach - Oregon

Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach – Oregon

And here’s the B-Side:

Why a B-Side?

Because I like spending hours on stupid jokes. Also – I love the goonies, which was filmed in nearby Astoria (along with Short Circuit and a few others). Part of the road-trip that took me to Oregon was spent exploring the film sets and backdrops where these rad childhood favourites were filmed. I guess while I was in that frame of mind, I decided to watch the Goonies again, and this was the result.

Heyyyy you guyyyysss

Heyyyy you guyyyysss

And now for the cherry on this slice of cake. I would call this song a guilty pleasure, but I don’t have those.

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Intolerable Wanderlust

I’m a writer and a painter by trade, and though I’m often just making it up off the top of my head for fun and profit, working from the things I see around me is a much needed grounding experience. It’s the pleasurable study of the present – which I sometimes forget to enjoy. It keeps my feet on solid earth when I’ve had too much time kicking around the backcountry of my own head, and it keeps motivation and inspiration continually flowing. Without the inspiration that comes with travel, I stagnate terribly.

Working from the inspiration I pick up on the road feels as though it gives my memory extra layers, and lets me spend a little more time with my best hours before they go back on the shelf.

If I could have my way right now, I’d happily throw my painting gear in the back of an air-stream or some other kind of humble caravan and roam about the pacific northwest, picking up stories to write and landscapes to paint. I’d publish this stuff immediately for the world to see as I make it, then pick up stakes and find some other horizon to chase.

That sounds like the dream, right there. Wander by day, write and paint by night.

For now, I’ll have to satisfy my thirst for travel by combing through my back-catalogue and producing works based on previous adventures. I’ll have to get out there again soon, because believe me, the roads are calling me like sirens. I’ve been in one place for far too long – longer than any other time before – and it’s honestly starting to kill me.

My plan is to be some wandering amalgam of George Bellows and Ernest Hemingway – recording every day scenery in the cities, the hills, and on the sea as words and pictures both. That’s the plan anyway. Until then, I’ve got to suffer with this intolerable wanderlust until I’m back on my feet again.

The road ahead waits.

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Art: The Wreck of the Peter Iredale

The Graveyard of the Pacific – a region of turbulent, unpredictable ocean in the Pacific Northwest ranging between Tilamook Bay down in Oregon up to Cape Scott on Vancouver Island. It’s a dangerous, but beautiful place. It’s reputedly the last resting place of thousands of ships going back to the days of the fur trade.

Here in Powell River on the Salish Sea, we form part of the middle of the graveyard. Growing up here, sailing, fishing, and old shipwrecks are just part of the cultural DNA. One of our major landmarks here in town is a string of ruinous old war-ships tethered together in the form of a breakwater off the front of the mill. Having grown up around these hulking naval monuments, I’ve always been eager to see more. My sketchbooks are littered with them.

The Wreck of the Peter Iredale

The Wreck of the Peter Iredale

The Graveyard of the Pacific is reputedly packed with shipwrecks, but few of them are as accessible as the Peter Iredale, and since our holiday on the road happened to pass right by there on the way to Astoria, it was something we had to stop in to see for ourselves.

Once again I planted myself in the sand with my sketchbook and did a quick outline of it’s gaping, rusty hull. From certain angles, it looked like the skeleton of a beached sea monster – all serrated teeth and monumental ribs. I look forward to seeing it again some day.

Quick and scratchy from my sketchbook.

Quick and scratchy from my sketchbook.

Named for the owner of the ship and it’s fleet, the Peter Iredale took it’s last voyage from Salina Cruz, Mexico headed north to Portland with 1,000 tons of ballast and a crew of 27. It was wrecked on Clatsop Spit in 1906 during high seas and strong winds. After the naval court in Astoria discharged the ship’s captain and crew of any responsibility, the ship was sold for scrap, leaving it stripped of all of it’s valuable parts.

Captain Lawrence’s final toast to his ship was “May God bless you, and may your bones bleach in the sands”.

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Art: Rockaway Beach

In the summer of 2013, I had been on a holiday along the coast of Oregon, and in search of warm sandy beaches we stopped in at a little town called Rockaway Beach. We arrived just in time to watch an old steam-train stop right in the middle of town, like something out of a western.

My remembered impression of the area was that it was a sort of a resort town. Or a series of them, perhaps, all along the coast; the kind of places you might take the kids during Summer Break. It was July, so it was hot and sunny, but the breeze and mist rolling in from the ocean created a flux of dry heat and cool damp.

Crossing beyond the rows of resort motels, condos, shops, and quirky tourist traps, the long stretches of sandy golden beach spread out as far as the eye could see running north and south into the far off mist. Where I live, our beaches are sheltered by islands, but here it was just the great tumbling walls of the pacific before us and nothing else.

Rockaway Beach

Rockaway Beach

The twin rocks were quite a striking sight, even at a distance. I remember feeling a sense of awe as I studied them, as though I’d wandered into a dream. I had at times painted landscapes as concept art for video games, and in doing that you can get away with dashing out the strangest landmarks as throwaway scenery (mile high pillars and floating islands are a common cliche). Seeing something like that with my own eyes, however, was entirely mesmerizing. It felt like it couldn’t possibly be real.

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