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Ben and I went strolling through First Thursday in Portland last night, and we saw a lot of great and intriguing art.

At the Froelick Gallery I encountered the small works of Lli Wilburn — local urban landscapes created in ink, dye and graphite on board.  The colors are so intense and the detail so fine and delicate that at first I thought I was looking at film transparencies.  Understand that I’m not one of those who believe that lots of detail means ‘great art’.  But Wilburn’s devotion to the more delicate details of the environments conveyed in each of her paintings deserves serious mention.

And whenever at the Froelick I always look for the works of Rick Bartow — I favor his mixed media works on paper, particularly his compositions of animals and humans morphing in and out of each other.  Bartow has done several works containing crows and ravens that just blow me away.

In all candor, I don’t know what it is about crows that grabs my attention — maybe the Universe is trying to tell me something.  Growing up in the deep south one might suppose I’d seen plenty of crows during my childhood, but I lived far from farmland.  Even so, crows and ravens still wanted my attention.  During a visit to London in the late 70’s Ben and I saw the huge, beautiful ravens [their wings cruelly clipped] that are the eternal mascots of the Tower.

In 1996 I did this mixed media painting, Raven’s Feather:

Ravens Feather

Raven's Feather

… one of several paintings in which I embedded feathers into the pigments.

Then in 1999 I created this mask design, that I named Corvus:

Mask, Corvus

Leather Mask: Corvus

After we moved to Oregon I starting seeing crows all over the place, flying and laughing at the humans relegated to walking on the ground. During a holiday on the coast a couple of years back, we stopped at the Salishan for lunch and witnessed a group of crows tricking a groundskeeper out of his bagged lunch — Crows 1, Human 0.

About six years ago while I was surfing the net I discovered two visionary Pacific Northwest artists who appear to share my fascination with corvids, at least in part — the aforementioned Rick Bartow and then Duncan Regehr.  Each artist brings about his own vision in his own way, and I’m hard-pressed to say which I prefer — I guess it depends on my mood of the moment as to which approach speaks to me the loudest and with the most passion at the time.

But a couple of days ago I was sketching a crow image, just playing with some nebulous ideas and mixed media — I quickly realized I’m in imminent danger of mimicking the style of Bartow,…

Experimental: Crow Sketch

Experimental: Crow Sketch

… and I gotta watch that crap if I’m going to develop my own voice as an artist.

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