Monday, November 30, 2009


Did you know...?
Redheads constitute approximately four percent of the European population. Scotland has the highest proportion of redheads, as 13 percent of the population has red hair and approximately 40 percent carries the recessive redhead gene. Ireland has the second highest percentage; as many as 10 percent of the Irish population have red, auburn, or strawberry blond hair. It is thought that up to 46 percent of the Irish population carries the recessive redhead gene. Red hair reaches frequencies of up to 10 percent in Wales. In addition, redheads look breathtaking against a green blue background.

oil on 12x12 canvas panel

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Painting over yet another old painting

Final painting:

Paint over sequence:

Here is a 6 x 8 painting, painted over an earlier "sunset" attempt (that lacked both contrast and interest). The trick here was to keep the foreground dark enough. Darker values were not "violated" by incorrect values--(although the road values look best in photo #4). I'll make corrections...Meanwhile, let's count this as a successful exercise.

disappointing drawing ...that isn't that bad

Blogging is such an interesting deal. Often you're working on something and at the end of it you think--meh! That's certainly not blogg-able. This was my first drawing from the other day. I found it so dislikable that I did another version that seemed an improvement. Now tonight I run into this first version and that is simply not a bad effort at all. Does this ever happen to you--where your work looks disappointing, but later, after a day or two you realize--that it is less of a disaster than you originally thought?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Large Works at the Yeon Building, downtown Portland

Partially Mary, one of my paintings on display at the Yeon Building. Acrylic on 30 x 40 stretched canvas

Q. What do you get when you mix a bad recession with the downtown commercial real estate bust? A. A lot of empty storefronts. Enter Glen Larsen, a man who works with Portland Developer John Beardsley.
Larsen has been an artist all of his life and recognized an opportunity in the empty downtown places. Says Larsen: “An empty storefront brings us down, but art lifts us up.”

Such endeavors are not going to solve the retail real estate glut. Only a realignment of supply and demand for long-term leases will do that. But in the short term, getting creative with commercial space keeps storefronts filled, makes the buildings look good and keeps our community spirit intact.

Larsen is very grateful to Portland Developer John Beardsley for allowing “Project Expose Yourself” to go forward. There is another installation at SW 3rd and Stark.
Seven of my large paintings are located in the historic Yeon building on the transit mall side (5th and Alder) and will be up through December. Expose Yourself is ongoing with the express permission of owner/developer Beardsley. If you have an interest in showing your work in Expose Yourself, contact Glen Larsen, ghl1369(at)

Small works at the Columbia Art Gallery, Hood River

The Columbia Art Gallery in Hood River continues their tradition of featuring Small Works for the Holiday Art Show. Today I went in to get a preview of how it all looks (the reception is next Friday, December 4). It looks beautiful and I'm glad that they made me and Cathleen Rehfeld "wall-mates". Cathleen was there today and she and I revisited the frame conversation. We never seem to tire of that subject.
In recognition of the holiday season, the Columbia Art Gallery will be open daily from November 27 through Christmas Eve, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

top photo Cathleen Rehfeld paintings on L, Celeste Bergin paintings on R)
bottom photo Cathleen Rehfeld (L), Me (R)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thankful for all my friends and family..!

Thomas Walter Bergin 1946-1996

While rummaging around trying to find something today I found this wonderful photo of my brother, Tom. I haven't seen this photo for a long time and I thought I had lost it somehow. I've looked for it many times because it is one of my favorites of him, probably taken in 1966-1967. He would have been twenty. Well, this is our day of thankfulness..and I am very thankful that I found this picture! I didn't paint today... kitchen arts only! I am thankful for all my family, past and present and --oh did I mention that I am grateful for all my blogging friends too? Well, I most certainly am... I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

sketchy sketchy

No time for painting I have made this sketch. It is a satisfying thing--to sketch something with a minimal amount of fuss. I follow Kitty Wallis' advice yet again--to leave the foundation lines in. Ixnay erasure.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Top lit Equine

Kitty Wallis says one of the biggest problems she sees in her workshops is not-dark-enough flesh tones values in portraits. She told me it is sometimes hard to convince people that light obects are really not light under certain lighting situations. I reminded myself of her lesson while I painted this..and even though this is a horse, not a person, principles pertaining to value are the same. If the painter thinks ahead they will choose the correct values (and go dark enough). When painting something white we have to reserve the whitest white for only a couple of places..otherwise we will have one big chalk-y deal. We have to be deliberate! Be decisive..and go dark enough in shadowed areas--even when the local color is very light.
I will revisit my white horse in the days ahead and straighten out a couple of things. He is off to a good start!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Painting over another old's becoming my thang

I am the self-appointed Queen of the paint-over! Hey..this is sort of a "green" thing, isn't it? Green as in Recycle! Today's experiment went pretty smoothly, although I had to deal with some temptation to leave the original (failed) painting in here and there. (Talk about green!). Usually it's easy to tune out the old painting..but today was a challenge for sure! 3/4's of the way through I was really wishing I would have painted it onto a plain canvas (because there was a skirmish going on between the new shapes and the old ones). In the end, however, --my painting is pretty much what I envisioned.
To paint over an old painting:

1. Sand the "bad" painting:

2. Mix Galkyd Lite and mineral spirits together (50/50%) and slather it onto the surface with a gloved hand*

3. Establish the overall design of the painting, making certain to show the shadow side of things as well as the cast shadows
(use a color that won't go muddy with other colors..I used purple):

4. a. paint the darkest dark, b. paint the lightest light, c. paint the "easiest" color (this time: green!) d. cover the entire surface quickly..(the purple/blue background was important to get in so I could know how everything else will relate)

5. When painting something familiar (like apples) provide a variety of reds in color spots to create the illusion of shape..(don't paint your apples all one red!)

* I learned this sand/galkyd routine in Kevin MacPherson's book (although he doesn't paint over a completely different painting like I do). It is remarkable how much it feels like you are painting wet into wet just like you would if you weren't painting over should try it!
(and thanks to Elio Camacho, who once specifically gave me lesson in painting apples!)!

Is your weather as interesting as ours?

It's an hour drive to Hood River (give or take). It is a very scenic drive too, so I never mind the trip. Today there was a GALE, however, and it made me think of what it would like to be at sea.. Avast that land? Well, when I reached the Columbia Art Gallery (to turn in my art) I was greeted by a display of the most beautiful arty lamps in the outer gallery. The golden lights made a warm welcome...but then it was back into the GALE to drive home.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


I am submitting five small pieces to the Columbia Art Gallery for the "Small Works" show. All my proposed pieces are landscape. I enjoyed spending time today signing, varnishing and framing....and I am anxious to see what all the other participants are submitting. Reception: Dec 4, 2009 6-8pm

Friday, November 20, 2009

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Over the river & through the woods!

I've been painting with the Columbia Art Gallery's small works show in mind. This painting came out as I'd hoped. Submit this one?....the fun of deciding which pieces to take to the gallery can't happen until all the possible paintings are lined up. It is then when it becomes clearer if a painting isn't quite "there". I'm better at editing my work than a few years ago. I remember distinctly being very confused about which painting was better or worse than another. No objectivity. I would have my neighbor come over to tell me! He is not a visual artist per se....but he works in wood and he has a good eye. One time he asked me what an object was in one of my paintings. Oops! move that one to the do-not-take stack. Even though I do not feel as befuddled about which of my paintings are stronger/weaker I might still ask him over..just to see if he agrees with me. Do you have a friend who is your "art barometer?"

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Tree tops

Who was it who said that there is "pain" in the word "painting"? So true! The last three PAINtings that I have done (not pictured and never will be) are in the reject pile. My reject pile gets higher and higher! Don't you dislike investing time and effort in something that goes dreadfully wrong? Yeah. Me too. I am happy enough with the concept for this painting. A new vantage point always makes me feel better. (I know my friend Lora Fisher would give this painting the thumbs down... because it features a flying bird. We all have our Shhh. Don't tell her).

oil on 8x8 canvas panel

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Ms. Leftover..a figure on Wallis Sanded Paper

I wanted to paint something today (of course!), but I had time constraints. I dashed out this "made up" female in leftover paint onto a piece of leftover Wallis Sanded Paper. Did you know that Wallis Paper (generally used for pastel) accepts oil paint in a very interesting way? Be careful if you try it..use some bristle brushes you don't care about..the sanded surface chews them up some. It's worth it though..the effect is favorable. Her flesh is kind of green (because I only used the paint I had out). Well, I like her anyway..and her heavy lids. She looks like someone who is serious...but on the brink of a smile. Maybe she's smug about being an unusual ochrey-green.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Western Tanager, an Oregon bird

I don't often paint subjects from the animal/bird kingdom. I wonder why. Well, here is my attempt to rectify the situation! This is the Western Tanager (painted from a photo reference). I did not get it's pretty head near red enough! Western Tanager's are members of the cardinal family. Despite my struggle with red, I enjoyed painting this guy...(yeah, we know he is a GUY because the female is plain). I can improve this painting later (after it dries). I am very optimistic that I can get him to a point where I know I did him justice!

Oil on 8x8 canvas panel

Sunday, November 15, 2009

"Lingering" (formerly known as The Pause)

This is a study. I really like a lot about it...but as always I will look at it again after a day or so and decide then whether or not to develop it further. I might tighten this up or paint it again with some changes. It has possibilities. I think what I like about it is that it seems romantic, but not overly schmaltzy. Do you agree?

Oil on 9 x 12 canvas panel

(In additional news...Yesterday I participated in Katharine Cartwright's Twenty minute challenge. Fun! You might want to see about joining in too. Here is the link: Twenty minute challenge).

P.S. This painting now has it's third title! First it was called "Windswept", but there is not enough evidence of then it was called "The Pause" ..(but pointed out to me that "The Pause" seems like a reference to menopause...ugh!). Finally, I have landed on the title "Lingering". Will this title stick?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Obliterating old paintings..Mrs. Pittock becomes a Taxi

A couple of years ago I participated in a show at the Pittock Mansion. I had anticipated doing a portrait of Georgiana Pittock for the exhibit, but it didn't pan out. It was a pretty good start, but I wound up abandoning her in favor of Mr. Pittock. (Good move! My portrait of him won first prize!) Today I was anxious to paint over something and poor Mrs. Pittock was selected. I'm finding that obliterating old efforts is devilishly fun. I can't help but notice that taxis have cropped up more and more in urbanscapes. Well, no wonder! Yellow taxis are devine. Goodbye Mrs. Pittock, Hello Travis Bickle. Scroll down for the transformation. And if you don't know who Travis Bickle* is..I'm including a hilarious remix of the famous scene at the end of this post. (*Travis Bickle was the main character in "Taxi Driver").
(Click images to enlarge)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

sketching I wait painting for me today. I spent some time in a hospital waiting room ..(no, not for me--thank goodness!). It all turned out fine and I got some sketching in. There is a lot of paper work involved in hospital visits and this fellow across from me didn't notice me studying him as he filled out his forms. When he left I turned my attention to the cool spaceship-like light fixture on the wall. Back to painting tomorrow!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Misty tree and a few failures

I had challenged myself to painting over an old painting on Mondays...but I forgot. I painted today's painting onto a new canvas panel. I guess if I want to keep to my plan of painting over something "bad", I will have to do it tomorrow (Tuesday instead of Monday). I painted this from a photo reference. Gray (when achieved by mixing complements) is a colorful color! Here, also, is a photo of some of my bad paintings.. (below). I'm waiting for them to completely dry so I can add them to the paint over pile....hooray!

(new painting above, = oil on 8x8 canvas panel)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Reading .....and painting

I've owned a small book entitled Hawthorne on Painting for a long while. I'm sure someone suggested it to me. It isn't the type of book you pick out unless you are privy to the fact that lots of good painters recommend it. It's doesn't have any images in it...but it is considered a painter's Bible of sorts. After Hawthorne reminded me today how important each brushstroke is..I was deliberate with my value relationships in this painting (from a photo reference). I'm satisfied that the values look pretty good. It needs some touch ups here and there. If I determine that this is a good enough painting to show in the future I might entitle it: Winter Green.

Oil on 8x8 canvas panel

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Newberg Bishop Creek Reception (Dave Burbach) November 6, 2009

Sometimes you just can't be in two places at once..I really wanted to attend the PPASP artist's reception at Aurora Gallery in Vancouver Friday...but I just had to celebrate Dave's photographer's reception at Bishop Creek in Newberg. There was a good turnout and they have a "tasting room dog" (named Sasha) warmly wagging a greeting for everyone. I sat at a table, listening to the music and did some sketches. (The dog, the bricks, the music! such a nice atmosphere). It's such a beautiful place to display work.

(David Burbach, Platinum Pallidum Photography)

Another highlight of the evening was when I visited artist Eric Bowman at the Newberg Gallery just down the street.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Nightfall & Rainfall in the city

It was challenging to paint a night-falling cityscape onto a 5 x the rain. But, as my painting friend Brooks Hickerson would say...."oh well". Despite the struggle, I am fairly pleased with the results.
(Watch this features Brooks. You'll agree wholeheartedly if you live in Oregon).

Oil on 5 x 7 hardboard

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Thank your teachers!

I began oil painting about four years ago. I didn't know the first thing about it. My career had been in graphic design and advertising...I knew how to create a nice ad* (I still do), but I didn't know anything about oil painting. Initially, when I made the decision to become a painter, I did some exercises in Charles Sovek's instructional book. After that I took a workshop with Kenn Backhaus. I was so surprised how in-person instruction ramped up my comprehension. I saw improvement in my efforts right away. Since that first workshop I have continued to take classes and about two workshops per year. I have had lots of compliments about how my work has gotten better every year. Would I have been able to improve so much in 4.5 years without my gifted workshop teachers? Not a chance! I list them here, in order of "appearance" and I publicly thank them all--without them I probably would have quit. With them..I learned a thing or two. Learning how to paint can be a frustrating undertaking. If you are serious about learning to out the best instruction available. You will never be sorry that you did. I know this seems like a long list...(and kind of a who's who list at that!)...but, this post is written in an effort to explain why and how I improved as much as I did in the time I did. When people say "Cellleeestte, how did you improve so much?"-- I'll send them a link to this post.

My Teachers:
Kitty Wallis My first plein air mentor. Kitty continues to advise me with structured critique sessions meant for the serious artist. Even though Kitty is a pastel artist and my medium is oil paint, art fundamentals are the same. I have also taken drawing classes with her. Kitty's drawing instruction is "unparalleled."
Kenn Backhaus You can find 5 days of my daily "reviews" of my first workshop with Kenn on Wet Canvas.
Jeff Burke Drawing instructor at Hipbone studio. I've taken his anatomy series. An incredible value.
Eric Jacobsen My most regular instructor. I've taken Eric's classes as often as I can. His classes and workshops are first rate. He was trained at the Lyme Academy of Fine Arts in Old Lyme, CT. I made my biggest most noticeable advances because of my work with him.
Mitch Baird When Mitch started teaching workshops, I signed up immediately. Can you see why?
Elio Camacho Elio studied with Ovanes Berberian and Ovanes Berbarian studied with Sergei Bongart..whose instructor learned from Nicholai Fechin. What a pedigree! I've taken two workshops with Elio and will take a third next summer.
* My graphic design teacher who taught me everything I know about communication art is Robert Selby