Sunday, December 19, 2010

Ocean piece from plein air study

Here's an piece I just completed in the studio ...

"Pacific Shimmer", Pastel, 12x16

 ... using this plein air study:

"Coastal Repetitions", Pastel, 9x12

My goal was to try shifting the focus away from the bright rocks and move the focus out further into the painting.  I wanted to highlight the water and pull the eye out towards the horizon.  About half way into the painting I put the plein air reference aside.  It's interesting to see the extent to which they organically deviated from each other as I let the painting go where it needed to go on its own.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Large Commission

I just finished and shipped off this large commissioned painting:

"Intersection of Elements"
24 x 48
It was interesting because I was asked to make a larger piece based on a plein air painting I had done earlier this year.  The plein air piece was done during the San Luis Obispo Plein Air Festival under very unusual lighting conditions when a layer of fog was undulating in and out right on the edge of the coast.   Because of the conditions I never got any decent photos, and because it was painted a few hours away I couldn’t easily return to the site (and the odds of returning and getting comparable weather and lighting were virtually zip).

"The Tales They Could Tell", Pastel, 12x16
Painted Plein Air

Lousy reference photo

 Given the relative lack of reference material, I was forced to draw heavily on my visual memories from the day.  The size (24”x48”) was also larger than I usually work in pastel (although I used to paint large oils).  To top it off, I started with an oil underpainting which is something I have only tried once before.

Turns out changing all these factors made the painting process really enjoyable and I was very happy with the final result.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Post Impressionists Show at San Francisco De Young Museum

I got out tot the post-impressionist show at the De Young museum yesterday and really enjoyed myself.  The show really concentrates on the period after impressionism, and had few works by artists like Monet.  It did have a nice collection of Van Gough, but what struck me most was a Sargent piece (left) and this work by Albert Besnard (right):

As if often the case, neither of these images do the originals justice - in both cases fabric of the dresses just shimmered with light.

What really made the show for me was going late in the day midweek and then doubling back to the beginning of the show about 30 minutes prior to it closing.  At this point they haven't been letting people in for about an hour and I got to spend big chunks of time in the galleries all by myself (well, and a security guard too).  It's really so much more enjoyable then navigating crowds.  Both of these pieces are really large and should be appreciated from 20+ feet away which just can't be done in the normal course of these shows.

Friday, October 1, 2010

San Luis Obispo Plein Air - The Work

I’ve just gotten back from dropping my paintings at the museum for the San Luis Obispo Plein Air.  I’ve had a blast all week painting dawn to dusk through a crazy heat wave.  To survive the heat I painted out by the coast the entire week where it was a cool 85 vs. the 105 degrees in town.

I’ve been painting like a madman doing 15 paintings Sunday through Thursday.   Back when I started plein air painting I was having back problems and I couldn’t envision standing for a whole painting.  I swear painting plein air has helped my health.  Testament to this greater stamina is that I did 5 complete paintings on Tuesday. It also helps that I’m getting better at pacing myself.  Even when doing 5 paintings in a day I took time to take a nap midday when the light was flat.

Now I need to take a long hot shower, get my act together and head back over to the museum for the first of the weekend's events.  The ticketed opening starts at 4pm tonight, and the show then opens to the general public at 6pm.

Here are a few of the paintings I framed and delivered ...
 "Le Cove", 8x10, Pastel (sold)

"Morning's Mystery", 12x16, Pastel

 "Three Groves", 9x12, Pastel (sold)

 "The Tales They Could Tell", 12x16, Pastel

 "Morning Magic", 9x12, Pastel

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Dune Studies - Painting in the Hamptons

Here are three of the dune studies I did through the week in the Hamptons. 

I picked these images to post because they show an interesting progression (and least it's interesting to me).  I found myself challenged to develop compositions from a landscape that was dominated by clumpy/spotty lumps of grasses.  These three images show how I developed a handling of this situation with greater and greater simplification along with taking bolder risks in altering the shapes to create interesting ways for the viewer's eye to move into and through the painting.

Dune Study I

Dune Study II

Dune Study III
Now I have to make some time to get down to Carmel and give this subject a try down there.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Next Up - Painting Dunes

I've been in the Hamptons (Amagansett, NY) this week and I've been taking the opportunity to work on studies of rolling dunes.  This is a subject I've never spent any time on, but I've always admired the way Terri Ford and Kim Lordier have handled the subject (they are typically painting Carmel, CA).

Amagansett has it's own unique flavor, and I've been setting out at dawn most days to see what I can come up with.  Stay tuned - I'll post images when I get back to my studio.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The 5th layer of streams with rapids

Earlier I made the statement that I think there 4 layers in a painting of water with rapids, but I was just looking over a painting from the series and I think a 5th layer might be worthy of it's own category - underwater reflected light from air bubbles.  This would make the list:
  1. Stream bottom (underwater rocks)
  2. Reflected/refracted light from underwater bubbles
  3. Water surface
  4. Reflections on water's surface
  5. Bubbles/foam on top of water's surface
You can see this near white water where bubbles are forced under the surface and often vivid greens are apparent (from the sunlight (yellow) mixed with the blues of the water).

This is definitely going to take some time to master ...

Stream Study #4

Here's the last painting I did on the trip ...

"Stream Study IV"

In all painting it's important to simply.  I found it particulary important and difficult simplifying paintings of streams with rapids because of the complex interrelationship between the objects.  The rocks shape the water, and the water (over time) shapes the rocks.  If one removes of relocates a rock all the surrounding objects are impacted.

My goal is to get comfortable enough with the subject to be able to arbitrarily move elements around in order to arrive at a more compelling composition. In each of these paintings I took successively more and more liberty is altering the scene - but this is much more complex than altering an ocean seascape scene given the complexity of the layers.  I sense there is a lifetime of work to pursue here :-)

Stream Study #3

Here's the next in the series ...

"Stream Study III"


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Stream Study #2

Streams are fascinating in how there are 3 (or 4) distinct layers that are sometimes visible:
  1. Stream bottom (underwater rocks)
  2. Water surface
  3. Reflections on water's surface
  4. Bubbles/foam on top of water's surface
Here's the next study that I'll post ...

"Stream Study II"

This example shows a large underwater rock that I found interesting but few reflections other than reflections of skylight.

Stream Study #1

Recently I've been traveling and I decided to focus on painting a subject that I love but which is difficult to paint and hard to find where I live - streams and rapids.

Here's the first one I'll share, with more to come ...

"Stream Study I"

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Quest to paint whitewater

This week I've been heading out to find and paint whitewater.  Logistically I'm finding it much harder to get to the places where I really want to setup.  Lots of hiking and scrambling over wet or mossy rocks.

I'll post some images of the work as the week progresses ...

Friday, July 9, 2010

Santa Cruz Plein Air Festival

I just framed the two pieces I painted this week for the Santa Cruz Plein Air.  This week was tough because it was foggy and cold most days.  By the middle of the week I figure out it was best to drag my feet around the studio all morning and go out in the afternoon and evening.  After much hunting around and working my way up and down the coast I found two beautiful evening scenes.

"Leaning In"
Pastel, 9x12

"Evening Hour, Pleasure Point"
Pastel, 9x12

 Now I'm off to drive over to the coast to deliver the work.   It's been a busy week with over 500 miles logged on the car so far.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Impressionists Show at San Francisco De Young Museum

I visited the impressionist show at the De Young museum last month and was struck by a number of the paintings.  Although I've visited the Musée d'Orsay two or three times over the years, there were a number of striking pieces that I don't recall ever seeing.  It could be I didn't see this work (perhaps it was out of rotation), but I suspect it has more to do with circumstance.  Lighting conditions and gallery positioning can make or break how a painting is perceived and received.

I just found an image of a Monet (a painting of turkeys) that I found striking at the show.   This image doesn't do the painting any justice - this large piece just glowed with beautiful lighting.  This is just another example of how reproductions just don't cut it and why one needs to see work in person.

If you have a chance, go see the show before it's gone.  I think it runs through September.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Pastel Landscapes Show

I'm in an all Pastel Landscape Show June 1-30th, 2010 in Woodside, CA.

"Brightly Lit Barn"

It is a beautiful show with a couple of terrific pastel artists including:
  • Kim Lordier
  • Linda Roth
  • Teresa Ruzzo
  • Vicki Coe Mitchell
There is an opening Saturday 6/12/10 from 4pm - 7pm. Come say high if you have a chance. The address is:

        3056 Woodside Road
        Woodside, CA 94062

3 Paintings from the coast

Yesterday I headed over to the California coast to get in some plein air painting.  I went to Davenport just north of Santa Cruz. 

I realize that I haven't been posting paintings that I've just recently done plein air because I'm getting pickier and pickier about my own work.  It often takes me weeks or months of contemplation and a few passes making small (or large) changes before I frame new work.  It thought it might be healthy for me to just show some raw work - so here you go ...

I thought the sequence was interesting because I painted all 3 in the same general location but I moved closer and closer into the grove of trees as the day progressed.  I've noticed this tendency in the past where I unintentionally move in tighter and tighter on a subject.  I don't do it on purpose.  In fact between each of these pieces I was in the car out scouting for other locations.  It just so happened in each case that I returned to a same subject/area.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

SWA Annual Show

I recently completed this new piece and it was accepted into the Society of Western Artists 60th Annual Show.

"Evening Lull"
Pastel on board, 12x16

The show is hung at the SWA gallery in Redwood City now through August 15 2010.  The gallery is open daily, but I hear it's a wonderful show so stop in if you can:

        2625 Broadway Street
        Redwood City, CA 94063

Sunday, April 11, 2010

From Plein Air to Studio

One of the things I've been working on is the processes of using plein air pieces as source material for larger studio paintings.

Today I completed framing a series of pieces all different interpretations of the same scene. I'm staging for a number of shows. These pieces are all about to go off their separate ways to different venues and it struck me they are interesting as a series.
I figured I could publish them here as a grouping as well as talking about the process. Here goes ...

This is a photo of the original scene.

Not a great photo - is it? It's actually hard to discern the main tree that I choose as my subject and I find the photo somewhat uninspiring. If someone had handed me the photo I never would have chosen it as a subject for a painting. This is not an uncommon experience as often photos can't capture the beauty of a scene.

Here's the first 9x12 painting I did on location:

"Softly Lit Afternoon"

A few months later I returned and did another painting on location of the same scene:

"Arching for Sun"

Then recently I did a larger 18x24 in the studio using these two plein air pieces and my memory as the only source material (if I had looked at the photo I probably would have lost all my inspiration to paint :-).

"Basking in the Sun"

I didn't even think about the evolution of the the paintings or the extent they incrementally deviated from the photo reference until I saw them all together today. I guess you'd call it natural evolution?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

California Juried Open Show

I'm pleased to have had a painting selected for the California Juried Open Show sponsored by the Los Gatos Art Association and held annually at the Los Gatos Museum.

The show is open March 25 - April 24, 2010.

The opening reception is Sunday March 29 from 1-4pm. If you live nearby come stop in and say hello.

"Morning's Silhouette"

Monday, January 18, 2010

Why Paint Plein Air?
Plein air painting is the practice of painting outdoors from direct observation of nature.

When I tell people that I do most of my painting on location I know in the back of their minds they are wondering “what’s up with that - why’s isn’t he painting in the comfort of his studio.”

I have a plein air workshop scheduled for April, so I figure it might be helpful if I can put words to why I think plein air work is so crucial to developing as an artist.

The camera is a poor substitution for the human eye
When I was first studying art I used to hear people talk about how the camera cannot capture all that we can see. I’d nod and I thought I knew what they were talking about. As I’ve developed as an artist I now realize that I didn’t really appreciate the extent to which this statement is true. The camera either washes out the highlights or loses all color variation in the shadows. The camera can only capture a limited range of values and colors whereas the eye can see the full range. Once you begin to see this difference (and it takes quite a bit of practice to really appreciate the magnitude of this difference) you can never go back. I now feel as if I have my hands tied behind my back if I need to paint in the studio without at a minimum having plein air sketches and my memory of the location to supplement any photo reference.

Forced to paint fast and loose
I started painting plein air to loosen my painting up When I caught myself standing in front of a big canvas with these little brushes I concluded I needed to shake things up. This was the moment I starting painting in the field. When painting plein air you have no choice but to paint fast and loose. You have about 90 minutes to capture the light (and sometimes much less time). You learn to observer more accurately, paint more decisively, and you build a visual memory that will serve you well for the rest of your life.

Opportunity to really learn how light and atmosphere affect all that we see
When your try plein air for the first time you’re likely to find it very difficult and frustrating. Even accomplished painters struggle when first painting from nature. There is just so much information and things are changing all the time. However, working through this adversity lets you slowly build up a much greater understanding of how light and atmosphere (moisture, haze, etc.) effect what we see. This knowledge will ultimately help inform all your painting. Just know going in that your first dozen paintings are going to stink and go easy on yourself. It’s well worth the effort because your paintings will get better and – likely exceeding where you were with your studio work.

Healthier way to work
Since I’ve been painting plein air I’ve noticed a notable improvement in my health. Physically I can now stand for an entire day (or week :-) without experiencing any discomfort or pain, and mentally I feel refreshed. When outside there is no accumulation of dust (when working with pastels) or solvents (when working with oils). The sunshine is good for us and gives us an opportunity to add some vitamin D to the system (studies are showing we take in WAY too little vitamin D). To top it off, the University of Essex found that spending time in nature is the equivalent of taking a dose of an anti-depressant. So cut back on the Prozac and start plein air painting!

Stay away from the computer
Plein air painting keeps you away from the computer and other day-to-day interruptions. It’s easy to get sidetracked when working in the studio and I’m much more focused when painting on location.

Makes driving more enjoyable
Everywhere I go I see more: more color, interesting compositions, negative shapes. To top it off all these bits of information help inform my painting. Painting plein air teaches you to process vast amounts of information and to wean it down into the fewest possible number of marks to express a feeling or sense of place. This ability then makes it possible to process scenes while speeding down the highway. You’d be amazed at how much more enjoyable this visual acuity can make a long road trip.

Camaraderie of painting with other like-minded people
I started this piece lamenting that most people have a hard time understanding why we paint outdoors in the first place. Doing it with others that have tasted the joy and understand the benefits of painting this way helps confirm that we’re not insane :-)

Joy of being outdoors
Plus it’s just a joy to be outdoors.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

California Winter Paintings

Last week I took advantage of the 'good weather' in California and got out painting plein air a solid 5 days. All things are relative, and with record cold temperatures everywhere across the US and Europe except the Pacific coast I figured 55-65 degree highs were nothing to take lightly.

The days were generally overcast. In the past I've been turned off when painting these kinds of days. Interestingly I'm finding that by immersing myself in the the overcast weather I'm discovering a whole new appreciation for the various forms of gray sky.

I'm even getting a bit addicted. One morning I was painting a beautiful foggy valley and when the sun suddenly broke out I found I was disappointed.

Here are two of my pieces from the week. What do you think? Can overcast paintings still deliver an upbeat emotional response?