Comrades in Critiquing: Erskin and Kroger

Once again, the Second Tuesday Crit Group met and once again the works and the camaraderie was real. The strength of this group lies in its serious painting, serious talk, and gales of laughter that surround the hard work.

Helen Kroger hasn’t had her work shown on southeast main before, because we both missed a couple of meetings. Helen does strongly graphic, beautifully serene landscapes. She reworks them extensively, using oil bar and sanding, so that undercolors glow faintly through the clarity of the shapes.

Helen Kroger, Painting 1, est. size 20 x 16, oil bar on board

The color on my monitor doesn’t come close to describing the colors in Helen’s piece, and the title is for easy identification, not what Helen may have called it. This is merely a smidgen of what the actual art looks like.

Helen Kroger, Painting 2, est. size 20 x 16″,  oil bar on board

Again, the delicacy of the colors is somewhat obscured by the photograph and monitor. Helen lives near Newberg tucked into what feels like an ancient towering forest, and she uses the trees and land around her in her paintings, always simplifying, always modulating, always creating rich surfaces. There are three circles in this painting, two of them just faintly showing through from underlayers.

Helen’s paintings are what I think of as “true” abstracts, that is, they are shapes and forms abstracted from what is seen while retaining a clear identity of things we are familiar with.

The other painting I am presenting here is non-figurative, that is, “abstract” in its more commonly used sense. And yet as soon as Jane Erskine talked about what she was seeing as she painted, we could all  suss out the familiar in the shapes and colors she used.

Jane Erskine, “Back Yard” estimated size 30 x 36″, oil.

Jane claims to have set aside two hours to do the painting, mostly because the critique was coming up and she had nothing to show for it. This is Jane’s back yard, Portland in the spring, with tulips and a tree and a glowing yellow-green willow and the soft western-Oregon glow of the sky behind it all. Not that the painting needs the words to be successful — it seems complete and whole as it stands, with or without Jane’s explanation.

Both these artists paint plein air,  on-site, but both abstract what they see to depict essences of what they want to capture. In Helen’s case, I always feel she wishes to take out extraneous matter, to pare down the complexity of her surrounds to the least necessary shapes to make her statement. In Jane’s work, the lushness of color and light, contrasting and working with the paint feel, to me, paramount.

And so, once again, I am happy to be affiliated with these painters, to have their thoughtful comments on my paintings, and to be able to present some of their work that I get to enjoy in the critique sessions. –June

This entry was posted in Art, critique group, landscape, oils, Portland and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Comrades in Critiquing: Erskin and Kroger

  1. June says:

    It’s wonderful — and what I was able to capture here is only about a quarter of its actual beauty. It’s far more subtle and sophisticated and elegant and lovely than any photo shows.


  2. Gerrie says:

    I am in love with Helen’s work.


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