Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Lights Of Noyo Harbor Oil on Linen (UPDATED)

This painting was a learning experience, start to finish.  Unlike my first night scene of Noyo harbor, which had some fairly well lit boats and water-front buildings that could be painted with color and a little detail, this scene is from a greater distance.  As a result, all of the structures are shrouded in darkness and can only be suggested with subtle value changes. There's little or no opportunity for color notes except for a few places where the lights reflect on nearby buildings and other surfaces.  I've never painted anything with those restrictions.  It was fun learning my way around the concept.

I started with a small color study.  I am finding this a very important step when contemplating a lager studio painting that will require a lot of  time commitment.  The study not only helps to visualize the final painting, but it quickly reveals obvious problems and gives you an opportunity to think about them and eventually correct them.  The final painting is done on stretched oil-primed linen.  It was a very smooth weave.  I would probably opt for a little more texture if I had it to do over.  A lot of glazing went on in the areas of the water and more importantly in the hills.  It helped bring the values of the textures in the hills together to reinforce the lack of light, while at the same time allowing enough change to be able to keep the hills from being black slabs.  The final painting is 18" x 36".

This was easily the most difficult painting to photograph that I have encountered.  The surface is very smooth linen and it has a glossy varnish on top.  The hills do have value changes to suggest shapes and trees, but because they are still very dark, the camera wants to average them into the overall value.  Finding a way to capture the darkness of the painting yet also reveal the subtle value changes which give definition to the structures and the hills was a real challenge.  This photo comes as close to the actual painting as any I have taken.  I finally quit trying to put light on the painting and went in exactly the opposite direction.  I took this in a room with no lights on at all and with the blinds on the windows closed a tightly as possible.  I used shutter control and finally found the ideal at about a 1/4 second exposure, f/4.8, iso 400.  No 'adjustments' in photoshop were needed.  

The Lights of Noyo Harbor  Oil on linen   36" x 18"

Color Study Noyo Harbor 9 x 12
And this is the color study.  As you can see, I choose a more horizontal format for the final painting, which I believe captures the actual scene much more accurately.  I've mentioned many times before that a canvas size ration of 2 (W) to 1 (H) is ideal for painting almost any landscape.  It just seems true to the way we see such scenes. 

My Art Site: Bruce Hancock Fine Art

Monday, June 22, 2015

Carny (Revisited)

Last year my friends and I visited the Amador County Fair, a trip that is coming up again in a few weeks.  It is a great little Fair...a page from the past when going to the Fair was a pleasant family experience. 4-H kids showing their beautiful steers and sheep and calves, art exhibits, a parade of antique tractors down 'main street', lots of shade trees for sitting under while having a corn dog and beer....well it just doesn't get much better than that.  And of course there is a 'midway' with all the rides and coin tosses and cheap prizes.

And there along the midway, I spotted this Country Fair Carny seeking shade under an umbrella while waiting for the next muscle man to come along and want to show off to his girl. On the very warm July day, the suckers were few and far between.

I painted this version of The Carny shortly after that visit....


Recently I was looking at the painting - one which I have always liked - and thinking about composition, focus and the challenge of the background.  As much as I felt this painting turned out pretty well, I also had never quite figured out the background. The Carny seemed a little lost in the  'confusion'.   In particular however, I wanted to play with how I might have made it a better composition...something with more impact from across a room.

I pulled the painting off the wall began to sketch a larger Carny right over the original, emphasizing the diagonal relationship of his body to the canvas.  I also played with how to suggest a background without allowing it to be a major part of the painting.  I wanted something to 'frame' the Carny, not compete with him.
Carny    Oil on stretched canvas  11 x 14 inches

The Carny is a much different painting now.  This is how I remembered him.  Although he was surrounded by midway "stuff" and by people walking by, he was quite alone.  His boredom was palpable in the heat of the summer day.  This is what I saw when I snapped the photograph.

My Art Site: Bruce Hancock Fine Art

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Meeting Roos Schuring Carmel California

On Saturday, I had the chance to meet and paint with internationally known Dutch painter Roos Schuring.  Roos (pronounced Rose) was in the US to participate in the Carmel Art Festival, a plein air event attracting some of the most well-known and talented plein air artists.  Roos is obviously one of that group.  If you don't follow her blog, you are missing out on experiencing an incredibly dedicated and gifted artist.  Watching her paint on the beach in Holland in the most challenging circumstances is an inspiration.  Plus you are also missing her very generous videos and other painting and marketing resources for the plein air artist. Click HERE to visit'll be glad you did.

The opportunity to meet Roos came about after I purchased one of her fantastic plein air paintings.  During a back and forth email exchange about the purchase, she mentioned that she would soon be in the US to paint at the Carmel festival.  She invited me to come and paint with her, an invitation that she extended to other American friends as well.  Since Sacramento is only about 200 miles away from Carmel, I knew I couldn't miss it.

What a great afternoon it was.  Meeting Roos was a thrill and to paint with her was just the icing on the cake.  She was as charming and fun as I could have imagined, all the while speaking perfect English with a slight accent and a dry and wonderful sense of humor.  I won't forget the experience of painting with Roos Schuring for a long time, I can assure you! What a treat!

Roos Schuring, Dutch painter, and Me   Carmel California

Roos Schuring taking time to offer suggestions on my painting.   Carmel California
Roos Schuring  Carmel

Trying not to embarrass myself!!! 

My Art Site: Bruce Hancock Fine Art

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Old Shadows - Plein air During Kathleen Dunphy workshop

In my preceding post, I talked about my great experience attending a workshop with Kathleen Dunphy in Murphys California on the last weekend in April.  We had a few weather challenges, but the intensity of the workshop and the learning experience was never interrupted.

On the second day, we finally got a break in the rain and I was able to get in one painting.  I tried very hard to use the lessons gleaned from Kathleen's invaluable teaching.   I think her guidance shows.

Old Shadows    Oil on linen panel    12" x 8.5"

My Art Site: Bruce Hancock Fine Art

A Fabulous 3-Day Workshop with Kathleen Dunphy in Murphys California

I've followed Kathleen Dunphy's excellent blog for several years.  I highly recommend it.
And if you've followed my blog for awhile, you know that I had an opportunity to meet her once when I was fortunate enough to receive her "Juror's Award" at a show in Murphys.  I later took advantage of her good nature by....well, it's a fun story and you can read it in an earlier post.
(Meeting Kathleen Dunphy, April 27, 2013)

I FINALLY was able to register for one of Kathleen's fairly rare workshops - they fill up fast!- and on the weekend of April 25 - 27, I spent a fabulous three days learning from the best.  It is hard to describe how impressed I was with Kathleen personally and as a teacher.  To say that she is charming and gracious would be understating it.  I couldn't get over her patience with all of us in the workshop.  She never stopped smiling and joking.  But she brought more than good humor to the classroom.

Kathleen Dunphy, Artist and Teacher   April 25, 2015
This is the hard part to relate.  Maybe just telling how her teaching open a door for me will do it best.  On the first day of the workshop, we spent most of the day in lecture and demonstrations by Kathleen.  At about 3 pm, we went outside to paint.  It wasn't until later that I truely appreciated this approach.  I mean we are in a painting workshop to paint, right?  Well....

I finished my only painting of the day about 6 pm.  I felt the feelings of frustration and disappointment that are almost a hallmark of plein air painting for me.  When I returned to my hotel room I began to reflect on Kathleen's lecture during the day.  In particular I thought about her comments that as artists we can "fix" painting problems with logic.  We don't have to be ruled by emotions, particularly the negative ones.  Fighting down the feelings of futilitythat threatened to defeat me again, I found Kathleen's class handouts and my sketchbook and I began to analyze my painting, LOGICALLY.  Realizing that I might have settled too quickly on a design, I drew a few new thumbnails exploring other ways I could have composed the painting.  Using Kathleen's guidelines,I wrote notes about what I felt went wrong during the painting process, and then what I will do specifically to correct that next time.  And when I was done, the frustration was gone. Gone.  Imagine that.  I couldn't wait for tomorrow and another chance to paint. That was when I realized the power she had given me.  And why in a painting workshop, sometimes painting isn't the first order of business. 

It's up to me of course.  To be a painter, I have to paint.  A lot.  But I don't have to paint the same way I have always painted and HOPE to magically improve somehow.  For the very first time - amazingly enough at my age - I understand that improvement isn't about luck or about taking the right workshop or buying the right easel.  It's a logical process.  Every painting is an opportunity to study and learn, even the ones that eventually go in the burn pile.  (And hopefully, those will be fewer and fewer over time thanks to people like Kathleen.)  I seems so simple when I write it now.  Why of course, what did you think?  But that is the whole point,isn't it?  I didn't.  But I will....that's my promise to myself. 

My only regret about taking Kathleen's workshop is that I didn't do it long ago. 
Kathleen Dunphy, Artist   Demonstrating at Ironstone Vineyard lake
Do the days get much better than this????  I don't think so. 

My Art Site: Bruce Hancock Fine Art

Saturday, April 18, 2015

A Spring Morning in Capay Valley -- Oil on Linen

A Spring Morning in Capay Valley  12" x 36" oil on linen

In a previous post, I talked about painting a study of this beautiful scene in Capay Valley, not too far from Sacramento.  My plan was to paint a diptych for the final version.  During the study, I felt as though the left hand side of the painting needed more interest - particularly in a diptych - and so I painted in a wooden entry gate.  It did add interest and I liked the result.

However, I recently decided to do a single elongated canvas for no particular reason other than I had the stretcher bars handy and I liked the scene.  I continued with the plan of adding a gate at the left side during the start of the painting, but as I progressed I felt less and less strongly about the need to do so, particularly given that I was back to a single canvas.  In the end, I laid in the grove of trees at the left with a palette knife and then pushed the paint around with a stiff bristle brush trying to get a lot of texture.  I also added shadows to the left to add "weight" and balance and also to move the eye to the lighter areas of the painting.  I think it works OK.  The texture definitely adds interest and the painting seems balanced to me.  When I do the diptych version, I'll reconsider the gate.

This is oil on oil primed classen's linen.  It's the first time I've used this particular brand.  It isn't hard to see why it is so popular.  The texture is just right and the paint stays on the surface of the oil priming beautifully.  Eventually I will have to re-stretch this painting.  I did not have a center brace for the stretcher bars and the inexpensive brand I used has no provision for one.  As a result, the stretching process bowed the stretcher bars along the 36" width. I'll order some good quality bars with a center brace and redo it when the paint drys, which is going to be a little while!

My Art Site: Bruce Hancock Fine Art

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Attitude in a Pink Cap - Oil Study

Sometimes you just paint something for the heck of it.  The 'artistic value' may be lacking, but the fun quotient makes it worthwhile.  In this case I harbored the idea of doing a larger painting of this subject, so I decided to do a 12" x 12" study first.  At this point, I doubt I will go any further with the idea...maybe. 

I was drawn to the darker figure on the right: her 'attitude' intrigued me and it was what I tried to catch.  I also wanted capture the sense of intense light which is the essence of summer days on the beach in California.
I painted this on Ampersand Gessobord, a very smooth surface with very limited absorbancy.  I am intrigued with this painting surface and I've done a few small paintings on it, but I still have a learning curve to climb. 

And I love that pink ball cap.

Attitude in a Pink Cap  STUDY   12 x 12  oil on Ampersand panel. 

My Art Site: Bruce Hancock Fine Art