inspiration: ed abbey

“Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit, and as vital to our lives as water and good bread. A civilization which destroys what little remains of the wild, the spare, the original, is cutting itself off from its origins and betraying the principle of civilization itself.” 
― Edward Abbey

When I started oil painting, portraits intimidated me. The idea of capturing someones spirit on a 2-D canvas was a daunting thought - but once I started I knew I had hit my creative groove. The only problem then and now is grappling with the ever present question of "who do I paint?"

My portraits usually fit into three categories: iconic images, inspirational people, and people that I know personally. Ed Abbey fits into the first two - iconic and also inspirational. 

Ed Abbey was many things but most notably an author and wilderness advocate. His most popular works are  The Monkey Wrench Gang - a work of fiction that has inspired "monkeywrenchers" - non violent sabotage/vandalism as form of environmental protest -  since it's publication and his non-fiction work Desert Solitaire (super recommended) about his time as a seasonal park ranger at Arches National Park.

Sidenote: I reread Desert Solitaire before my trip to Arches last summer and pretended to be Ed Abbey the whole time. (see below) :) 

Abbey was (and still is) controversial and polarizing in almost every aspect of his life. He was married five times, spent nearly his entire life on the FBI watch list due to his anarchist and anti-war views, and was vocal about his critique of public land policies. 

Controversy aside, I feel a kinship with Abbey mostly due to his love of the four-corners area and the passion with which he lived out his convictions. 

I also love a good inspirational quote - and Abbey is up there with John Muir in the prolific inspirational nature quote category. Here are some of my favorites: 

“The idea of wilderness needs no defense, it only needs defenders.” 

“May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view.” 

“A man could be a lover and defender of the wilderness without ever in his lifetime leaving the boundaries of asphalt, powerlines, and right-angled surfaces. We need wilderness whether or not we ever set foot in it. We need a refuge even though we may never need to set foot in it. We need the possibility of escape as surely as we need hope; without it the life of the cities would drive all men into crime or drugs or psychoanalysis.” 

“Freedom begins between the ears.” 

“There is beauty, heartbreaking beauty, everywhere.” 

“Most of my wandering in the desert i've done alone. not so much from choice as from necessity - I generally prefer to go into places where no one else wants to go. I find that in contemplating the natural world my pleasure is greater if there are not too many others contemplating it with me, at the same time.” 

“I now find the most marvelous things in the everyday, the ordinary, the common, the simple and tangible.” 

“If it's knowledge and wisdom you want, then seek out the company of those who do real work for an honest purpose.” 

"You can't see anything from a car; you've got to get out of the goddamn contraption and walk, better yet crawl, on hands and knees, over the sandstone and through the thornbrush and cactus. When traces of blood begin to mark your trail, you'll see something, maybe.”
―Edward Abbey


Read more about Abbey here and here

My First Portrait - Kurt Vonnegut

"Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven's sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something" - KV

People often ask me how long I've been painting - or what my training is. They are surprised to find that I just started painting portraits about 14 months ago on a whim. I've been a fan of Kurt Vonnegut for as long as I can remember and was inspired by the above quote to do more than just create, but to try something new. So I found the photo below and got to work. 

My process is fairly simple. I start with a regular canvas usually from Michaels or somewhere similar and pencil sketch a photo that I like. I start with the face itself, and fill in colors/shapes without regard for any details. It's important to use several shades of a color rather than immediately try to lighten or darken with white and black. I add in those last.

I usually stop there for one sitting. I paint fairly fast and the first layer could be only 30 minutes or so of work. The next day or two (or hour) I start in on more details, but with the same basic idea of colors/shapes/variation in tones. The only real difference is I'm using a smaller brush and - duh - smaller brushstrokes result. The process of building the facial expressions is my favorite part. 

The last part of my process is generally more details and sometimes an unexpected element (like the red below) depending on what I'm working on. The whole process could take as little as a few hours or as long as a few months! I tend to come back to paintings a lot and I've used the same basic process since I started. 

This was my first portrait ever and the first printed canvas I sold through the store after getting the site up! You can too - here :) 

Stay tuned for a more in depth look at paints, brushes, mediums etc! (and maybe another gif!!)