Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Hot off the easel.

Hay Barn, Summer, 34 x 48 inches, oil on canvas.

Just finished, the larger version of a smaller study done this summer. It's a big hay barn across the road from my aunt and uncle's ranch in Oregon. Currently working on a significantly larger painting of the same barn in winter.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Let's get small.

A selection of the small paintings to be offered at Richard C. Harrington Small Work.

As I have been working larger and larger over the past couple years, I have been very excited about the growth and development I have found in my work. From the thinking necessary to conceive the larger pieces to the drawing and paint handling required, the challenges have pushed me further than the work I have done before.

And at the same time, I have been frustrated. I learn something from every piece that I do, even when exploring a previous theme. The larger work requires such an investment of time, I produce far fewer pieces each year- one nine foot triptych has been underway for over a year and a half, leaving me much less opportunity to play and experiment with color and design. In talking about this with my friend, the artist David Oleski, he suggested I set aside some time each day for smaller work. When I explained I didn’t see small paintings fitting into my current body of work, he described how he had been working through ebay.

After contemplating it for a while, I have begun setting aside some time most days to work on these small pieces. The small paintings will be available in an auction format through a new blog, Richard C. Harrington Small Work. As the son of a couple antique collectors, I have always loved auctions and hope this can be a fun format for people to acquire these small pieces.

I see this body of work paralleling the development of my larger ideas. David had mentioned that the daily involvement with the smaller pieces started leading him in new directions. In fact, one aspect of the really big pieces I hope to pursue is a more intimate exploration of the landscape. The small pieces may become integral to that.

So there you have it. Going small to get bigger. I think Brad Pitt has a movie coming out about something along these lines. Oh great, now I'm trendy.

Or not.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Small Things

A small - well, tiny- painting of a good sized Colorado hay barn. Oil on panel, 2 3/4 x 4 inches.

OK, it's taking long enough I'd like to be saying I've been up to big things, but no, they're small. An announcement later this week.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


I moved to South Lima 14 years ago, about this time of year. It is smaller than a small town, only a few dozen houses, surrounded by farms, dogs all around. I was working in a small studio behind the house, so I was home almost all the time. I got to know the neighbors pretty quickly.

Sam lived a couple doors up. I went to highschool with his wife. His sister and her husband are across the street from us. When I first met him I thought, Are people really that nice? And it turned out, yes, he really was that nice. Possibly the nicest person I've ever known. He worked as a tree trimmer for the power company, and farmed the fields behind his house. He was a worker if I've ever seen one. But his real interest seemed to be taking care of his family and their home. And his dogs.

He was killed tragically a couple days before Thanksgiving. An accident. He had walked his daughter down the aisle at her wedding only ten days before. Darby and I went to the calling hours, and the funeral the next day. Grief. Proof of the value of family and community. It is fortunate for all of them they are a large close family. I don't think it will change the pain, but share it.

I'm not sure why I decided to write about this. To honor Sam. To honor my brother.

We lost my brother over twenty years ago. Another accident. I understand the pain Sam's family is feeling, and hope they can come to terms with it. It never really goes away.

I miss my brother all day, every day.

In the season ahead, please remember all those you love, and make sure they know it. Life is fragile, precious, and all too brief.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Animal Dreams

Six bear sketches, pencil on paper.

Planning/thinking sketches for a piece I'm working on. You wouldn't guess that I don't have any interest in being a wildlife artist. I always enjoy looking at good wildlife art, but as with the rest of my work, it is the memory of experience that I am interested in. Memory of the natural world, and how that shapes us as human beings. What things fill my mind and imagination, inform who I am and how I relate to the world.

Jim Harrison has written of his dreams of animals and how he thinks they are somehow representative of himself and how his psyche is trying to work things out symbolicly that he can't figure out in his waking life. I'm sure that's a terrible interpretation of what he said, but that's why I paint and don't write novels. It doesn't mean I agree with him any less.

Bears, dogs, horses, birds, fish. And pretty much every other animal. All interesting to me. All in my head after I see them. It's funny to me, but I dream of animals frequently, and while I can easily see how many/most of the animals I dream of could be representative of something else, Molly and Finn are always there as themselves.

Always themselves

Horse by Jim Harrison

What if it were our privilege
to sculpt our dreams of animals?
But those shapes in the night
come and go too quickly to be held
in stone: but not to avoid these shapes
as if dreams were only a nighttime
pocket to be remembered and avoided.
Who can say in the depths of
his life and heart what beast
most stopped life, the animals
he watched, the animals he only touched
in dreams? Even our hearts don’t beat
the way we want them to. What
can we know in the waking,
sleeping edge? We put down
my daughter’s old horse, old and
arthritic, a home burial. By dawn with eye
half open, I said to myself, is
he still running, is he still running
around, under the ground?

from The Theory and Practice of Rivers, Winn Books, 1985

Lifted from poetry dispatch & other notes from the underground

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Our town died last week.

South Lima is a funny little place. Split between two townships, those of us on the north side of the road vote in Lima, those on the south side in Livonia. There are a mix of people, from those who farm the land around town, to those commuting to Rochester and the surrounding area for work.

A couple years ago Darby and I were wondering why we like it here, and finally narrowed it down to our immediate neighbors and the the Post Office.

The South Lima Post Office. Not the gem of the USPS. An old trailer, to which they added a ramp last year. But there was no mail delivery available in South Lima and you had to go down to the trailer to get your mail, and in the process, over the course of a year, see nearly everyone in town. Over the time we have lived here, the Postmistress/master position has changed a few times. Always a cause for concern - Now who? Will they fit? This could suck!?!?

And each time, the new person has fit at least as well as the last. We have been lucky, as a community. Until now.

It couldn't have been a reasonable expense. I can't imagine there has been enough mail volume to justify the expense of even one employee and heat/ac expenses. But in this era of questioning what we want from government, providing a sense of community to a little bump in the road place like ours was awfully nice.

The South Lima Post Office closed last Friday. Darby and I opted for keeping our address the same, picking up our mail down in Livonia. The hours will be more convenient, but Livonia's not our town.

And we still vote in Lima.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Back in the Saddle

I rode last night for the first time in ages, and had a blast. I've been bogged down by the combination of end of season blahs, rearranging the studio and life in general.

I realized yesterday I had fallen off the blog horse, so I'm slapping this up for a jump start. Couple posts a week coming up, as I have several projects I am excited about.

Is he laughing at me? Probably a yawn. Or a little stress. A snicker?

See ya soon.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Road Trip

What I did on my summer vacation. Well, actually work, with a little fun squeezed in. Though I'm only showing the fun.

Monday, August 25, 2008


Bright Sun in Winter, 44 x 56 inches, oil on linen.

Burnt. Beat. Whupped. Shot. Spent. That's why I haven't posted anything.

Happens to me every year at this point. I head back to Boise tomorrow, then drive to Sausalito. That wouldn't be too bad, but then I have to drive home. OK, yes, I'll goof around in the Pacific Northwest for a bit, visit some family and friends, oh, and maybe fish. Yes, I'll have a blast. But what I really want to do is hang around home, have dinner with Darb and the kids, and sit on the porch. For just a couple days.

Whine, whine, whine. But I do get to paint for a living. Nothing's perfect.

A got six pieces finished, packed and shipped, to meet me in Sausalito.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Of Bears and Buffalo

So this year I get into Yellowstone, find a campsite, and head out for a bit of evening sightseeing. Before long, I'm in the Lamar Valley, surrounded by buffalo. As the herd moved closer to the road, a constant rumbling - somewhere between a burp and a roar- reverberates through them all. Mothers to calves, bulls to cows, bulls to one another. As they neared the road, I climbed out the window onto the roof of the Jug. Buffalo everywhere.

I spent a few days drawing, hiking and exploring. Trying to get a handle on this new idea of landscape painting I am thinking about. For years I have avoided working from or with photographs. I've promised people, Give me a photograph to work from, I'll give you a bad painting.

But now I am faced with the need for more information, and I don't have the time to spend drawing all the things I would like to include. Seems that photography will be necessary.

I hope I have learned enough to avoid the tyranny of all the detail

Tundra Grizzly,
bronze, edition of 35

I love all the wildlife there, but would it be Yellowstone without the bears? The night I camped at Pebble Creek campground, a grizzly chomped on a guy's hand after it tried to push his way into the man's tent, at another campground just down the road, outside the park. The bear eventually left when the man's calls for help alerted others. Investigators said the man had done everything right- kept a clean camp, didn't have any food in his tent. Who knows what that bear was thinking. I have to admit, I slept better not finding out about it til I had gone.

On my way out I watched a big grizzly on an elk carcass. From a looooooooong ways away. From inside the Jug. The carcass was black with rot, and the bear laid on top of it, burying his head in for another mouthful. Beautiful, mesmerizing, terrifying - all the things I love about wilderness, though seeing from the road in a National Park can hardly be considered wilderness.

Finally, as I approached the bridge over the Yellowstone River, traffic was stopped. Apparently the river was too high for a black bear to swim, and as it waited on the shoulder of the road, rangers stopped traffic and cleared the bridge. And the bear crossed. Obviously anxious - from the traffic, the spectators, being stared at?

Who knows what that bear was thinking.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Awareness, or lack there of.

So there I was, early last fall, on my way home from California, a few days in Yellowstone before the show in Kansas City. Up in the morning, trying to get warm, then hiking, drawing and fishing for the day. The hardest part of being on the road is the aloneness, and in the west, finding a cell signal so I can call home.
Bear Study, oil on panel, 10 x 10 inches

In Yellowstone I know three places I can get a signal, one on a high ridge in the north central part of the park where I wanted to do some drawing. So early one morning I am walking along the ridge, carrying my drawing board, a big tablet, charcoal, watercolors, my morning coffee, and gabbing with Darby on the phone. My version of multi-tasking.

Bear Study, oil on panel, 10 x 10 inches

I am not good at it, the multi-tasking. And Yellowstone is not the place to practice. As I walked along the ridge, I was noticing something that didn't fit quite right, but I was busy talking -well, flirting - with Darb. But in the back of my mind something was saying, Hey, people don't do gardening up here, these big chunks of turf and boulders spread around mean something ........

And then I saw the big bear turd. Seemed fairly fresh. Time to quit flirting and pay attention to where I was.

I walked all around the ridge, being really noisy, before I was comfortable knowing I was the only one/thing my size or larger, around right then. And it was still difficult to concentrate enough to draw.
Grizzly in Summer Sun, Oil on panel, 24 x 24 inches

I love Yellowstone.

I have no intention of being a wildlife artist, but I have an idea floating around in my head that I want to explore. These, along with the monotypes of animals, are the beginnings of that exploration.

Saturday, July 19, 2008


Here's the center console of the Jug on the way to Yellowstone. Everything necessary for a good road trip, but a little company. The Tick has been with me since I first hit the road about 5 1/2 years ago - a gift from the kids when they were young. While an inspiration, he's not much of a talker.

So, maps, good reading, my Yellowstone sketchbook (with the red binding), second b/w sketchbook with my favorite mechanical pencil, ibuprofen, some flies from my favorite fly shop - High Country Flies in Jackson- tunes/books on my Ipod, a little self-promo
material, expense envelope - and the kicker - bear spray. Wanting or needing the spray is a sign your in the right kind of place.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Mr. Toad's Wild Ride

Summer Sun, 20 x 28, oil on linen
A beautiful barn across from my Uncle Reid and Aunt Marilyn's ranch in Oregon.

The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame was my brother Todd's favorite book. At least when he was young. It was the adventures of Toad that most entertained my brother, and he would entertain me with his retelling of Toad's catastrophes.

I found kinship with Ratty, who says somewhere along the way, There is nothing - absolutely nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. Well, until last week.

I headed out for Denver a bit late last Tuesday - no surprise there - but looking forward to the show as I am feeling pretty good about the work I have put together this spring. By Thursday morning I was looking to arrive right about on time as I headed across Nebraska. At about 9, a truck pulling a big horse trailer was merging down the on-ramp along I 80, I switched left, came around admiring the handsome buckskin in the trailer, and merged back right ahead of the truck/trailer.
Corn Crib, Summer, 30 x 30 inches, oil on linen.

And the back fell off the van. Or it felt that way. A tremendous lurch, the back dropped all out-a-whack. I looked in the rear view, expecting to see daylight and the truck trailer running over all my paintings. But the van was intact. I checked the passenger side rear view and there was a huge shower of sparks jetting out the back. And then a blur passed me on the shoulder to the right, dropped down in the ditch, and launched off the far-side. My wheel cleared the barb wire fence by at least ten feet, sailed 50, 60 feet and landed in a corn field. I could see the corn vibrate as the tire continued on it's way - doing about 70 mph. Fortunately it was a big field.

All the visions of long-ago driver's-ed flashed through my head. Shouldn't I be battling to keep control, to keep from going into some highway death-roll? My life flashing before my eyes? I've always known the Jug was not a high-performance, quick turning demon. It's not her job. She's a tank. Turns out she really likes to go straight. I put the blinker on, pulled over, a few calls to AAA had me a tow truck in 20 minutes. The great guys at Moguls Transmission in York, Nebraska got on the phone and found me some salvage parts, and had me back on the road by 3:30. An advantage to driving an old ...... I mean vintage, Chevy van is parts are plentiful.

The show in Denver was great, I'm leaving a few pieces behind. Off to get a matching pair of tires, then up to Wyoming to fish for a few days, and on to Yellowstone for some drawing/painting/hiking/fishing.

When you have your car worked on, always check the lug nuts yourself.

Corn Crib, Winter, 30 x 30 inches, oil on linen.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Jack's Place, final version

Jack's Place, Winter Sky
46 x 56 inches, Oil on linen

Finished just in time for tonight's Geneseo Art Stroll, where I'll be showing work at the Big Tree Inn. My favorite show of the year - the Inn is a great setting to see the work, it lasts only one night, and they have a great bar.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Summer, but still painting winter.

Winter Sun, 8 x 10 inches, oil on panel
I just finished this small study, based on a quick glimpse of a barn seen this past winter when a friend and I went down to check on my folks place.

We spent Father's Day at my folk's house, celebrating both Father's Day and my mother's birthday. In keeping with my Dad's Father's Day, there was labor involved. My father, my son and I - three generations of smart asses joined in common labor. We spent part of the day building a section of stone wall. I really enjoy physical labor, fully recognizing it may be directly related to how little of it I get/have to do. Painting just isn't that physically demanding.

I'm painting like a madman, with some of the largest canvases I've ever done nearing completion. Learning a lot about handling paint on larger surfaces, keeping the surface energized. I'm very excited about some of what is happening, but not enough time in the day to work, and then write about it. I'll have to catch up on the blogging in the days/weeks ahead.

It's warmer now, and the flies are out pestering the horses. One of my favorite pictures of Cooper, Darby's horse, chasing off flies.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Girls Have Been Busy

I spent some time out in the mare and foal pasture last Friday, with the little guy above celebrating his 8th day on the planet. At eight days, he is already the largest of the four foals, larger even than Dublin, who is two months old. His momma is 1/2 draft, 1/2 Appaloosa. His dad is Ragtime, Kim's paint stallion. So far he's sweet, nameless, and potentially huge.

The other two new arrivals are equally handsome, and would seem large if not being compared to Little Big Man above.

Fargo, a buckskin paint and Tulsa, with her mom Malibu, who could end up black.

As I sat in the pasture, these two headed over to investigate a person sitting on the ground. I lay back in the grass and they slowly sniffed me, then started nibbling. I wrestled them for a couple minutes, then got up before things got too out of hand. Given the chance, Darby would point out how unusual that is for me. I usually wait til things are well out of hand. But she'll have to get her own blog if she wants to start making cracks like that.

Another mother has been busy, too. There is a family of foxes about 100 yards behind the studio. Originally three babies, now down to two. Very entertaining to watch, and I am sure it won't be long before they just seem to disappear one day.

Foxes. The fox I'm most fond of. It's really tempting to use this as a really bad segue into wishing my wife happy birthday. OK, so I just did. And referred to her as a fox. And she is. Happy 43rd, Darby.

Art related posts are perking. Several paintings, as well as some thoughts on my ongoing evolution.

Friday, May 23, 2008

What's your favorite color?

When my kids were young, this wasn't an infrequent question. Which I was frustratingly unable to answer. I'd usually end up with something like, Burnt orange. Hey, it's an answer.

The above color sample was my palette one moment, one day last week. My friend Dylan Strzynski and I were talking color last week, and found that both of us have kind of settled on a pallette of colors we're hapy with, and mix from there. I use Zinc/Titanium White, Alizaron Crimson Permanent, Cadmium Red, Cadmium Yellow Medium, Raw Sienna, Ultramarine Blue, Manganese Blue, occasionally Viridian Green, when I can't mix quite the right green. Green. The most challenging color. And Cadmium Orange. My favorite color? I don't have a favorite, but Cadmium Orange, man..........lush, rich. Wow.

I do love color.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Now that it's nearly summer,

Island in the Fall, oil on linen, 36 x 40 inches, gallery wrapped canvas

I'm about finished with fall paintings. I'm frequently asked how long a painting takes, and this is a good example of why I don't really know. This piece was started last fall, kind of lost my way on it over the winter, and figured out what was bothering me about it and finished it over the last few weeks. Layer over layer, I wander my way to a finish.

A couple more fall pieces need a little work yet, and I'm still wrestling with some winter, too.

Thursday, May 8, 2008


Jack's Place in Spring, study, oil on panel, 8 x 10 inches

I pass this barn frequently in the fall, on my way to my favorite steelhead river - a place that will not be mentioned by name. The barn is a beautiful old structure, starting to come undone a bit.

Usually when I go by, it is looking more like this.

Jack's Place, Winter Sky, study, oil on panel, 11 x 14 inches.

But spring is here now, the country is greening up, and I'm fishing other rivers and streams, fortunately a little closer to home.

Bend in the River, oil on linen, 24 x 24 inches.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

May Day

First day of fishing season. OK, not really. Most of the local trout streams are open year-round now, and for those who still insist on getting in elbow to elbow every year on April 1st, well, I think there’s a reason it coincides with April Fool’s Day. I like a little space while I fish.

Evening at the Willow Pool,
stone lithograph, image size 6 1/2 x 9 inches, from an edition of 125 hand pulled prints.

By the time May comes around, mud season is mostly over, water levels have dropped a bit, and the Hendrickson hatch is in full swing, with March Browns and Sulphers to follow. I had a great afternoon fishing with the Professor last week, and hope to slip in a couple hours this afternoon.

And as for May Day, Darby got a vase of Tulips this morning. And the Trillium is spread throughout the woods out back.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

More Horses

Monotypes from a variable edition completed this week.
Image size is 4 x 6 inches

Two more foals this last week too. Some pictures soon.

Several paintings are creeping towards completion as well.

Friday, April 18, 2008

A couple horses of my own.

After a wide ranging conversation with my friend, the painter David Oleski, I decided that I would put together a post on my monotype process. Sometime in the next couple weeks.

Two monotypes from a variable edition completed this week. Image size 6 x 6 inches.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Dublin at One Month

Born one month ago today. His first ten days spent with pvc splints on his legs. After a slow start in life, he seems to be.......I don't really want to say, Off and Running. How 'bout, He's doing really well. Kim says he's really arrogant. The most she's ever seen.

I think he's going to be a pistol.

Second foal of the spring is due today or tomorrow.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Stone Lithography

White Pine, 20 x 15 inches, is a straight forward drawing done with lithographic crayon on a limestone block, with some scraping back into the surface. It depicts a massive white pine along the Northville Placid Trail in the Adirondacks, and was printed in an edition of 125.

Printmaking is the process of producing your image in one medium - stone lithography, metal plate etching, or woodcut, and others- and inking it up and printing the image onto another surface, most often paper. My friend Tom MacPherson, who teaches printmaking at SUNY Geneseo, refers to it as art for the working man. As there are multiple copies of the image, each an original inked and pulled by the artist, they have traditionally been a more affordable medium than paintings.

In this era of electronic reproduction, laser and inkjet printing technology, traditional printmaking is a labor of love, requiring the respect of process, labor and technical knowledge. And I do love printmaking - stone lithography, etching, monotypes. I nearly gave up on it a few years ago, exhausted by the constant explanation of the processes, and why they didn’t look like my paintings, hopefully a cheaper version. Then I went to see an exhibit of Robert Marx’s etchings. I was blown away. And completely re-inspired. If at some point in the future, I have created a body of printmaking work with the power of his etchings, I think that is reason enough to continue on the path.

Stone lithography is one of the earliest forms of commercial reproduction. Apparently some years ago - like hundreds - a Frenchman was cleaning up some ink outside on a limestone walk, and noticed the old adage, oil and water don’t mix. Anyplace the stone was wet, the ink was repelled, and anyplace the the ink had touched dry stone, ink would absorb, but water was repelled. After a few generations the technique got pretty sophisticated, and up until the recent developments with laser and ink jet printing, the vast majority of commercial printing was done this way, first on limestone, and more recently metal and polymer plates.

I have to confess, the above is about the limit of my knowledge of lithography. I have a secret weapon though - my friend, the aforementioned Tom MacPherson, who I address simply as MacPherson, in my lame Scottish accent. I’ve got a question, or more likely a problem I blunder into, Tom has, or figures out, the answer.

I was writing out a lovely explanation of the whole process, and Googled levigator, and found out, hey - I love the internet. Occasionally. Anyway, here is a really lovely explanation of the whole process, handsomely illustrated, and already done. I reinvent the wheel often enough. I can still remember the joy at college graduation of the realization I would probably not have to write another research paper.

Anyway, once you have spent a few hours grinding a big hunk of limestone, you're up, with two down, bottom of the ninth. (OK, don’t get nervous, I won’t be doing a whole litany of sports analogies. I like to play, not much patience for watching and statistics.) But, there you are, about 4 or 5 hours of serious labor in prepping the stone, and you have to relax, and draw as if you have a pile of those babies laying around. Don’t tighten up like some little wooden figure and make stiff, self conscious marks. Draw fluidly, the same way you have to swing at the plate. All the practice is behind you. Concentrate, and move with sureness and confidence.

I love to draw. But it is also my fall-back. When in doubt, I render. And making pictures is full of doubt. So I am constantly battling my own tendency to render, looking for ways to broaden my statements, rather than refine them. Paint with a bigger brush, draw with scraps of cardboard. Pond at Dusk, 9 x 13 1/4 inches, was drawn in etching ink applied to the stone with various cardboard “pens” cut from mat board. The image was under and overprinted with seven silk screened colors. It depicts my most often poached fishing location from years ago. Poaching. Trespassing. A whole other subject.

The biggest problem I have with lithography is the concentration of time, labor and equipment required. It is nearly impossible to fit it in between my painting, traveling and other activities. Generally I need several days says set aside, to figure out the image, grind the stone, draw and etch the image, and then mixing ink and printing. And then the clean-up seems endless. So, though I do enjoy lithography, I have been more absorbed with monotypes lately, as I can fit in a few hours here, half a day there. And it relates more directly to my painting.