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James Behlke June 2014

This show, with images “Close to Home,” usually looking from Kincaid Park towards the Kenai Peninsula, (from a spot that is often an especially cold and windy micro- climate that I call “Butt Freeze Bluff”) is a continuation of my “learning to draw” adventure in life. I’ve been scaling up my charcoals on canvas and experimenting more.

Lunam Luminous and Nocturnus explore my inability to see well at night. At my last show, in addition to my charcoals on canvas, I hung some night photos– I was interested in how my camera can see so much better than I. These two canvases contrast the camera’s clarity with my very limited nocturnal perceptions. Lunam Luminous is recycled– this work started off as my favorite piece for my previous show. Then I ruined it when the spray coating ran and the drawing dripped away. I sprayed gesso over the ruined portion and attempted add more drawing on top, which didn’t work very well. Recently, I brushed several semi-opaque coats of pumice acrylic ground (to give the canvas a good “tooth” for charcoals and pastels) on the surface so only a faint image of the tragic underlayment showed through. I produced a new drawing and experimented with some white pastel to try to give it a night-time light.

Nocturnus is another covered charcoal on canvas and more experimentation with white charcoal and soft pastel. I decided the original drawing (which is under Nocturnus) was not up to snuff and I added several coats of charcoal ground on top, with just a bit of the original peeking through. Nocturnus is totally imaginary although it is still inspired by my views toward the Kenai Peninsula from Kincaid Park.

Lux Brumalis, Vesper, and Aqua Aeris are each about half again larger than my previous largest charcoals. I stretched the canvases over a hard board backing and then put them on canvas stretchers after they were complete. I like the approximately 5 X 6-foot format. I may scale up in the future to 6 X 8 although these pieces are starting to feel large enough.

Verto Iterum was a break from my usual art spot, referencing Turnagain Arm instead, although it is not of one specific source-scene. I’ve also been taking an iPad outdoors and capturing landscapes and colors. iPads only work down to about freezing so I fired up one of my old white gas heated painting easels and kept the iPad warm long enough to produce an adequate study that I could bring home and spend more time on. The three Ten Below works originated on one of the coldest days of this winter, back in December, when I spent a couple early morning hours at Kincaid with the heated painting easel. These works were largely produced using my finger with the iPad sitting in the warmed easel. More recently I have started using a stylus.

The iPad is an amazing art production device. I can draw in low light or dark and see what I’m drawing. I can zoom in and magnify areas. I can quickly gather colors with the color picker, and I can produce up to a dozen separate layers. For example, after spending time producing a detailed underlying drawing, I can then quickly add color layers when capturing a specific moment is critical.

This show is dedicated to my Mom, Jane McMullen Behlke, who passed away last Fall. Mom was born in Seward in 1925. I’m so grateful to my parents for all the support, enthusiasm, and encouragement they gave me over the years as I pursued the not-so-easy life of an artist.

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