MIKE PEASE

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MIKE PEASE -

 BACKGROUND

 I spent most of my pre-college years either in San Francisco, where I was born, or high in the California Sierras where my father had a ranch for many years. I still find that early mixture of Sierra wilderness and San Francisco urbanity to be very much part of me, and much of my life has been directed toward resolving my urge to be part of both those worlds.

 

My interest in art surfaced at an early age and was supported by both parents. My father was an artist, and in my mother’s family there were many artists, including one, Julio Ruelas, whose paintings are well known in Mexico. However, the art instruction I received in public schools was discouraging, and I dismissed thoughts of art as a career, deciding instead to pursue architecture.

 

I completed the architecture program at UC Berkeley in 1 961, and embarked on a long career in that field. I have been both a practitioner and a teacher of architecture, focusing especially on housing and community design issues, and on the possibilities for integrating architecture with nature. Freehand drawing has always been an important aspect of my working method in architecture (several of my early architectural drawings are now in the permanent collection of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art), and I have taught freehand drawing--to architecture students and others--for most of my adult life.

 

Though I began selling small drawings and watercolors in the early seventies, I really began the shift to art as a profession in 1 980. At that time, spurred by an urge to do large drawings of Oregon’s Willamette Valley, I began experimenting with colored pencils--long part of the architect’s tool kit--as a fine art medium. My experiments were satisfying, and I began exhibiting through galleries.

Now, many years later, I still have a small, word-of-mouth architectural practice, and I have become somewhat well known for my work in promoting sustainable planning and design options for cities, but I spend most of my time as a professional artist, creating drawings in colored pencil, watercolor, and other media, and since 1985, making prints. My work has been widely exhibited, in both solo and group shows, and my drawings and prints are in private, public, institutional, and corporate collections throughout the US and abroad.

 

ABOUT MY DRAWINGS

BY MIKE PEASE

I’m an explorer at heart, a treasure hunter. The treasures I seek are special places--often those places in nature where one wants to stop to have a picnic, or just to rest, or to dream, or to be at peace with the world and one’s self. But I also look for places that remind me that it’s possible for people to live in harmony with nature--making buildings and towns, building roads and fences, growing plants, even altering the land itself--by working with a respect for nature’s beauty, and with an urge to preserve, or even enhance, that beauty with the changes that are needed for healthy human life.

 

I do most of my hunting with a camera, sometimes on foot, sometimes on wheels. When I bring a set of new photos back from a trip it’s an exciting event, as I sort through my attempts to capture discoveries on film. Often I get what I expected, but there are always surprises--good and bad. I throw some pictures away, but most of them I keep; I rarely use new images right away--it usually takes many viewings before I’m ready to draw.

 

My drawing process usually begins with small sketches, sometimes in pen or pencil, sometimes in colored pencil, but usually in watercolor. I use these early drawings and paintings to get to know the image better, and to work out the scene’s problems: adjusting the format and composition so the elements fit together in a way that emphasizes what’s important in the scene (though I did most of the composing already, in the camera’s viewfinder), editing details out that aren’t consistent with the overall sense of the scene, or adding in details that will enhance it; studying the light, and the colors; and, most of all, understanding the image as a whole, and deciding how I feel about it: do I want to go on with it? This is essentially a gut issue--by this time I’m either bored by the image or I’m inspired by it, and I can’t wait to do more with it.

 

The next step is to make a full size drawing with colored pencils. The pencils I use--Berol Prismacolor--are specially designed for fine art drawing, with intense and durable colors. The pencils come in a wide range of colors, but I work with just three:

cyan (blue), magenta, and yellow. These are the same three “process colors” that printers use to make full color images in books and magazines--virtually any color can be made by laying the right amounts of each of these colors one over the other and letting the right amount of white paper show through. The amount of detail in the image can vary greatly from very fine (using the pencils with points very sharp) to very broad; the material in the pencils also comes in stick form, for making even broader marks. The paper I use is white museum board, an acid free, non-yellowing material with a relatively smooth surface--the smooth surface is important to me because it means the texture of the finished drawing will come from the marks I make, not from the paper.

For most drawings I begin by making a light graphite pencil drawing of the major shapes in the drawing, and I do editing and reorganizing at this stage. Sometimes, though, especially if the image is large and complex, and the accuracy of details is important, I begin instead by projecting the slide image directly onto the drawing surface, then using the blue pencil--drawing through the projected image--to transfer the image to the paper. Unlike a graphite drawing, which would simply outline shapes for future color, in this case the first drawing tries to capture the blue component of the final color in each part of the scene, and the result will be part of the finished work; during this first stage, areas that require editing I leave blank. 

In the next stages I work in full light, using the photo for reference. I begin by drawing the blues in the image; or, in the case of a projection-based first stage drawing, strengthening the blues as needed, and completing the image in areas left blank. Then I add the magenta component, and finally the yellow. Sometimes I complete one section at a time; other times I will finish the entire image in one color before going on to the next.

Why use only three colors? For one thing, I draw primarily for the sake of becoming closer to the subject, to understand it more completely--in some way, to incorporate the subject into my being. Working with such a limited palate is one way I force myself to look carefully at color--to become a better observer, thus to really understand the particulars of this specific subject. Every color must be mixed; the option of picking a pre-made color that’s “almost right” doesn’t exist. 

But also, as I look closely at the world around me, I see that there are virtually no parts of that world that are made up of flat, uniform color: at any scale, a subject’s colors are almost always complex and varied, as a result of both internal and external variation. When drawing with colored pencils, the way to capture that complexity is by layering different colors, so I need to layer colors in virtually every part of every drawing I make. The problem of trying to figure out which colors to use in this constant layering is made simpler by the use of only three colors--certainly there’s a learning curve (I’ve been doing it for more than twenty years, and I’m still puzzled by some colors), but that’s true for any color mixing technique. Every once in a while I decide to try drawing with my big set of colored pencils, but I can’t stay with it--it seems so cumbersome, and I don’t seem to be getting anything for it. 

Sometimes after completing a colored pencil drawing I’m still unsure about the image, and I may draw it again, changing the format, or the composition, revising details, adjusting color, perhaps changing the technique to alter the level of detail. Once in a while I find an image that is so compelling that I keep coming back to it, drawing it over and over, just for the pleasure of working with it, and for the new discoveries I make along the way. There are some places that I have been going back to for years, often at many different times of year, and they seem new and wonderful each time I go.

 

MAKING PRINTS 

When I’ve finally gone as far as I can, or want to, with the colored pencil drawings, I will decide whether to continue working with this image, making it into a print. Even if I like the colored pencil drawing, I must still decide whether this is an idiosyncratic, personal image--one that few others may feel strongly about--or whether it’s a more universal image that will find a strong response in many people. To make an edition of prints is not only time and energy consuming, it is also expensive, so I need to feel pretty confident before I begin. 

My prints are almost all lithographs. Originally lithographs were made by drawing with a wax crayon on a special stone surface, then sponging the stone with water. The water is repelled by the wax drawing, but stays on the surface of the stone wherever there is no wax. When an oil-base ink is rolled over the stone it sticks to the waxy areas but is repelled by the areas with water; a piece of paper pressed onto the stone will pick up the ink and reproduce the original crayon drawing (in reverse). Some artists still make lithographs in exactly this way. A minor variation on this traditional method uses specially processed metal plates as a drawing/printing surface; my early prints were made this way. 

A more significant departure from tradition is also possible: the drawings are not made directly on the printing plate or stone, but are made instead on a translucent paper or film. The paper/film is then placed on a chemically treated litho plate, and exposed to strong light. The exposed plate goes through a developing bath, and the drawn image has now been transferred to the plate, which is ready to print in the usual way. The translucency of the film or paper allows the artist to see the exact relationship between each of the separate plates as drawings for each color are made. 

All of my recent Iithographs have been made this latter way. I begin by making a simple line drawing broadly depicting the image I’m going to draw. Then I lay a sheet of translucent film over that drawing, and, using a waxy black pencil or stick, I make a complete new drawing of the image, but drawing only the blues that are in the image--that is, I make a drawing in black that will later be printed with blue ink. Then I lay another sheet of film over the first and make another new drawing, in black, of the magentas, and I repeat the process once more for the yellows in the image. 

These three drawings on film are taken to the printer--a highly skilled specialist in fine art lithography--who makes a plate from each drawing. The image is then proofed by printing several sheets of paper with the blue plate (with variations in ink density), then changing plates and printing the magenta image over the blue (again with density variations), then finally printing the yellow image over the combined blue/magenta. The printer and I review the proofs, and I make whatever changes are needed by reworking my original drawings on film. New plates are made and new proofs run. Usually the second proofs are OK, though we sometimes have to repeat the process several times to get the image right. Once we both agree that we have an acceptable proof, I sign that one as a “Bon a tirer” (literally, “good to pull”), and the edition will be printed using that one as a standard.

 

Solo Shows:

2001 Mélange, Eugene OR

2000 Alder Gallery, Coburg OR

         Mélange, Eugene OR

       1999 AIder Gallery, Coburg OR

         Mélange, Eugene, OR

 

1998  Opus 5 Gallery, Eugene OR Sun River Lodge, Bend, OR

Bend Country Club, Bend, OR

 

1997  Opus 5 Gallery, Eugene OR

 

1996  Lawrence Gallery, Sheridan, Or Alder Gallery, Eugene, Or

Opus 5 Gallery, Eugene OR

 

1995  Kimzey Miller Gallery, Seattle Opus 5 Gallery, Eugene

 

1994  Kimzey Miller Gallery, Seattle

Gango Gallery, Portland

Opus 5 Gallery, Eugene

 

1993  Opus 5 Gallery, Eugene

Gango Gallery, Portland

1992  Opus 5 Gallery

Gango Gallery, Portland

1991 Opus 5 Gallery, Eugene

 

1990  Opus 5 Gallery, Eugene

Maveety Gallery, Portland

 

1989  Opus 5 Gallery, Eugene

Maveety Gallery, Salishan

 

1988  Opus 5 Gallery, Eugene

Maveety Gallery, Portland

Nancy Teague Gallery, Seattle

 

1987  Opus 5 Gallery, Eugene

Arkitektskolen I Aarhus, Denmark

1986 Opus 5 Gallery, Eugene

1985 Opus 5 Gallery, Eugene

Lawrence Gallery, Portland

Lawrence Gallery, Salishan

1984 University of Oregon Museum of Art, Eugene

Barbara Campbell, Potomac MD

1983 Kerns Art Center, Eugene

Lawrence Gallery, Sheridan

1974 Sandpiper Benefit, Los Angels

1972 University of Kentucky, Lexington

1968 University of Colorado, Boulder

 

Selected Group Shows:

 

2001  Landscapes”, Margo Jacobsen Gallery, Portland Mayor’s Art Show, Eugene

2000 Robert Canaga Gallery, Portland

         Blue Invitational, Alder Gallery

         Mayor’s Art Show, Eugene

 

1998  The Red Invitational, Alder Gallery, Eugene International CPSA Colored Pencil Exhibition, Washington, D.C.

 

1997  International CPSA Colored Pencil Exhibition, Chicago

 

1996  “Light reflections”, Waterworks Gallery, Friday Harbor WA

 

1995  Invitational Watercolor Show, Alder Gallery, Eugene International CPSA Colored Pencil Exhibition, Cleveland

 

1994  International CPSA Colored Pencil Exhibition, Portland CPSA Oregon Exhibition, Lake Oswego

 

1993  “The Landscape Show”, Waterworks Gallery, Friday Harbor WA “Northwest Landscapes”, Alder Gallery, Eugene

       1992 Mayor’s Art Show, Eugene

         “The Landscape Show”, Waterworks Gallery, Friday Harbor WA

         “Seven Separate Visions”, Jacobs Gallery, Eugene

1991 Mayor’s Art Show, Eugene

         “Points of View”, OSU concourse Gallery, Corvallis, OR



       1990 Mayor’s Art Show, Eugene

         “Ancient Forests of Oregon”

       1989 Mayor’s Art Show, Eugene

       1988 Mayor’s Art Show, Eugene

         “Our Earth”, Coos Art Museum, Coos Bay, OR

       1987 Mayor’s Art Show, Eugene

         “Small Works”, Erickson and Elms, San Francisco

       1983 “Figures”, Lawrence Gallery, Sheridan, OR

 

 

A partial list of public and corporate collectors:

          Dean Witter Reynolds          Marriott Corporation

          Martin Marietta Corporation          Merrill Lynch

          Pacific Bell   Fujitsu Systems of America

          Billstein Corporation          The City of Lake Oswego

          Bank of California          Microsoft Corporation

          Key Bank of Idaho          Morris Knudson Corporation

          University of Oregon          Price Waterhouse

          General Telephone Electronics          State Farm Insurance Co

          Eugene Water & Electric Board          West One Bank

          Blue Cross of Oregon          Kaiser Permanente Hospitals

          AT&T          Willamette Industries

          Boise Cascade          Oregon First Bank

          Portland General Corporation          Continental Grain Co

          The Mayo Clinic          National Bank of Detroit

          Northwestern University          Centennial Bank

          King Estate Winery          First Interstate Bank

 

Drawings by Mike Pease appear in The Encyclopedia of Colored Pencil Techniques (Quarto

Publishing:        London, 1992); The Best of Colored Pencil (Rockport Publishers: Rockport,

1993); Martin, Judy, The Encyclopedia of Colored Pencil Techniques (Running Press: Phila,

1992); Curnow, Vera, Creative Colored Pencil Techniques (Rockport Publishers: Rockport,

1995).

 

Mike teaches two or three workshops each year, usually focusing on intermediate and advanced techniques in colored pencil. More sporadically, he teaches workshops in basic drawing, and both beginning and advanced workshops in watercolor. He also tutors individuals--from beginners to experts--and consults on various art related projects.