Monday, December 31, 2012

Glazed Vase in Window Light

Another small 'daily painting' from a photograph.  I'd like to paint still life subjects from life, but as I've mentioned before, I don't have much in the way of vases and flowers at the moment.  Of course,still life doesn't have to be just flowers, but for now a photograph will do.  I wanted to keep the brushes moving.  Over the holidays I don't have the excuse of 'too busy to paint', so it's time to PAINT!

This is a 6" x 8" canvas panel painted in about an hour or so.  I like the vase; I think I captured the feeling of the glazed earthy finish pretty well.  The flowers...well not so much.  I was intrigued by the strong window light striking only the lower left quadrant of the arrangement, leaving the upper right in shadow, but I didn't quite get what I wanted.  I may come back to work on those a bit when the paint has set up.  For now, it will do. 

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Abandoned Cabin - Study

This is an abandoned cabin among a group of abandoned structures near La Grange, CA.  I have no idea what this cluster of structures once was, but there are clearly some industrial buildings.  Anyway, I'd like to paint several of the buildings from the photographs I took there.  The cabin is the first that I've tried.  I decided to do a quick study first because I wanted to try painting the sunlit background and the dappled light first before diving into a bigger canvas.  This is 6" x 8".

Cabin near La Grange  6x8 oil on canvas study

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Rainy Day in the Studio

I had previously started this small painting on one of those days when inspiration and motivation were both on holiday.  I just found a photo and forced myself to start.  I worked on it for about 1 1/2 hours and then left it unfinished.  Today the rain was pouring down so I went out to the Studio to putter.  This painting was still sitting there, so I mixed up a few colors and spent about an hour finishing it up.

Silver Teapot  9" x 12" oil on canvas panel. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

UPDATE: Sacramento Fine Arts Center "Ars Gratia Artis"

 UPDATE: December 2012:  Ars Gratia Artis is over for another year.  By all appearances it was a success.  A room full of excited ticketholders waited for their number to be drawn and a change to get one of the paintings they had put on their list of favorites.  I'm pleased to say that "Point Cabrillo Morning" was the second painting selected in the show.  "On The Edge" was selected a few selections later, but I missed it!  I think I was talking to a friend at the time!  

I selected a beautiful ceramic sculpture done by Diane Mattar.  I've been in several workshops with Diane and it was a thrill to get one of her works.  I'm looking forward to next year and a chance to get another piece of fine art at a catalog print price!  Don't miss out.    

I was pleased to donate two of my paintings for the cause this week!  The Sacramento Fine Arts Center (aka SFAC) will be holding its annual fundraiser entitled  "Ars Gratia Artis”  I have no idea what that means, but I do know it's a heck of an opportunity to get original fine art for a pittance....

It works like this....Members donate artwork to the SFAC, which then sells raffle tickets for $65 dollars each. At a reception on December 2, 2012 at 1-3 pm, tickets will be drawn one by one...and each purchaser will be allowed to choose an original piece of art.  There will be dozens and dozens to choose from.  You can see the artwork on display during gallery hours November 20th to December 2nd.  Don't miss this....!  

You can purchase tickets at SFAC, 5330-B Gibbons Dr., Carmichael, CA 95608.   You can also buy them online with paypal at  Or, if you are local, I have a couple of tickets available.  Email me and I'll get them to you.

Here are my donations....maybe you'd like to have one for $65?  Heck, the frame is work that almost!  Sign up!!


"On the Edge"  12"x 16" Oil on canvas Panel with frame

"Pt. Cabrillo Morning" 16" x 20" Plein Air Oil on canvas Panel with Frame

Saturday, November 3, 2012

A Beautiful November Day in Locke

Our November weather has been astonishing.  While so many folks suffer in the aftermath of the storm on the East Coast, Sacramento residents have been bathed in bright sunshine and blue skies.  It's too good to pass up.  Today I traveled 35 miles south to the incredible little town of Locke, California.  If you've read many of my previous posts, you know it's a favorite location for painting and meeting up with artist friends..although I don't think I have been there this summer!  Today artists Martha Esch and Ernie Wester were on hand.

As sometimes happens to me in Locke, I could not settle on an subject.  There's something about the place that just overwhelms me at times.  There's just too much to choose from...and the temptation to bite off too much is as strong as it is intimidating.  After about 2 hours or wandering from spot to spot, making small sketches and then moving on, Martha challenged me and her son Charlie to a 10 minute "sketch off" of a hot rod '36 Ford that pulled up right in front of us.  That little exercise broke the ice and I made my choice, got the easel set up and was painting almost immediately afterward.  (We gave the sketches to the car owner.)

This is my 12" x 16" oil sketch of "Strange Cargo" a charming little shop in Locke.  I loved all the 'stuff' out in front and tried to capture that without falling into the trap of doodling detail forever.  It was a great day....So glad I went to Locke once again.

"Strange Cargo", Locke, Californin 12" x 16" oil on canvas panel.

Here's our sketches on the running board and tucked under the windshield wiper waiting for the car owner.

During the day, a busload of Chinese tourists came to Locke. Martha's painting and her personality soon had them swarming her.  She is a magnet for kids of any culture and shortly after this photo was taken, she had three or four of them sitting at the easel painting!  Amazing.  What a great day!!!

Martha and Chinese tourists in Locke, CA

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Carmichael Presbyterian Church

I felt antsy yesterday afternoon, and though it was getting late, I threw my painting gear into the car and drove a couple of blocks to the Carmichael Presbyterian Church on Marconi just West of Fair Oaks Blvd.  This stark white complex of structures is a real eye catcher.  This was the first time I've tried to paint it.

I used a lot of the techniques learned in the Terry Muira workshop, but this time I toned the canvas with a mix of yellow ochre and a bit of transparent oxide red.  I also did a relatively careful drawing of the building to establish the area I wanted to capture and to establish the perspective as carefully as I could.  Time passed very quickly and the sun light on the building changed faster than I could paint.  I tried to keep from "chasing the light", but it was a challenge.

This quick little sketch worked well in some places and fell flat in others but it was fun.  I'll return again when I have a bit more time. 

Carmichael Presbyterian Church  12" x 9" oil on canvas panel. 

More From Winters Workshop

My second painting was much like the first.  Again I tried to be as faithful as I could to the process.  I drew a fairly careful preliminary sketch with sharp and broad pointed markers.  They work so well for establishing the light and dark pattern in a painting.  I then began to establish the main features of the painting sketching directly on a white canvas panel (RayMar).  I'm still not sure I like painting on an untoned canvas, particularly with this light - touch style of paint application.  The white that shows through in sunlit areas works fine and even creates a brighter feeling, but in the dark areas, it's much less successful  Maybe it isn't so much whether the canvas is toned or not, but rather how the paint is applied in light and shade areas. 

One the location and shape of major areas is established, I blocked in the darkest areas of the painting with a mix of Rembrandt transparent oxide red and ultramarine deep.  I tied to keep the mix to the warm side and slightly lighter than it could have been.  I think now that I might have gone even lighter for the darkest darks.  The intensity of the sunlit day would have justified that as the more correct approach I think.  Finally  I used a very turpy wash for mid value areas.  At this point, the composition was very easy to see and the light and dark pattern of the future painting was quite apparent.  In fact, it was a temptation to stop right at this point!  Why is it that the bloc- ins so often look better, more exciting and fresher that the final???

Finally, I added color carefully and with a light stroke.

Main Street, Winders CA   oil on canvas panel  12" x 16"

Given how bright and intense the sunlight was on this beautiful fall day, I think this painting just screams for a higher key overall and for some highlights here and there, but it's not bad.  I'll resist going back and trying to lighten it, although I'm dying to!

One the next day I crossed the street and painted a building on the corner directly facing my 'green awning' paintings.  This time, it was blue awnings!

Pizza Oven on Main Street, Winters CA   16" x 12" oil on canvas panel.  

I did one more small painting, but the workshop was winding down and I'd about done Winters.  It wasn't very good so I'll spare everyone.

It was a great workshop.  Thanks Terry Muira for all of your great painting tips and instructions.  I'm glad I made the journey to Winters!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Painting in Winters with Terry Muira

Once you've taken a few art workshops, you begin to learn that there are good artists who aren't very effective teachers and artists who are reasonably good teachers, but have a limited amount to teach.  Terry Muira is one of the exceptions to this general observation.  He is a very fine artist with so much to teach and with the the ability and personality to share it effectively.  I had the chance to learn that first hand this last weekend as I took my first workshop from Terry.  If you read Terry's blog Studio Notes ( ) you'll begin to understand, I think.  He is so generous with his time, information and lessons-learned on his blog, and that is reflected many times over in the workshop atmosphere.  Terry's book, En Plein Aire, is handed out free to all participants and it is a treasure trove of information for any plein air painter. It's just the first hint of the generosity and sharing to come during the rest of the workshop.

Terry Muira painting a demo in Winters, CA

We drove to the small town of Winters to paint urban scenes.  On Friday, we were there only for a half day and Terry did a demo.  It was very overcast and even slightly cold....a real change from our long hot summer.  The lack of light and dark shapes made the demo a bit more of a challenge, but Terry was up to it.

The next day was bright and sunny and I was chomping at the bit to paint.  I had been impressed with Terry's approach to the urban scene - in particular the care with which he approached each brushstroke - and I was anxious to get to it.  I painted two16 x 12 panels for the day.  At the moment, I have a picture of only the first.  The painting was my attempt to follow very carefully Terry's process for establishing shadow mass first followed by a careful and deliberate addition of color, shape and, of course, junk!  My success was spotty, but I had a blast! 

A Sunny Fall Day in Winters   16" x 12" oil on canvas panel

I'll be posting additional paintings from the workshop in the next day or so, along with additional comments on my experience and what I learned from Terry. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

More from Ft. Bragg and Mendocino Trip

It was three and one half spectacular days of painting with friends.

On the second day, we painted in Noyo Harbor, directly below the hotel where we stayed.  I did another 16 x 20 oil on canvas.  Again, I was striving for a more finished painting than is typical for me when painting plein air.  I think I managed it fairly well.

Final Rest in Noyo Harbor  Plein Air Oil on 16" x 20" Canvas

On day three we traveled down the highway a few miles to Mendocino.  I didn't want to do a seascape, although there is plenty of temptation everywhere you look in this lovely spot on the California coast.  Finally I walked down toward the sea and looked back up at the town.  The big crisp light on the building in the foreground captured my attention.  This picture was taken with my iPhone onsite. 

Mendocino Post Card   Plein Air Oil on 16" x 20" canvas
Our fourth day was also getaway day, so we only painted until noon.  For convenience we returned to Noyo Harbor.  For the first time, the morning was overcast.  I set up and begin to paint in a shadowless muted environment, but by 11 am, the sun was out again and I was painting in intensely bright light without an umbrella.  When I got it home, I was surprised at how very dark my painting was.  This is a lesson I should have already learned...since it's a mistake I've made more than once.  You MUST put up an umbrella to shield your canvas and palette in bright sunlight.  If you don't, you're likely to be amazed at how dark your painting is once it is returned to room light or defused sunlight.   I spent about 1/2 hour in my studio at home lightening the painting carefully.  Essentially, I added a bit of light in the foliage in the background and some light touches on the pier, selected pilings and a few objects in the foreground. 

 Noyo Harbor Memories  Plein Air on 12" x 16" canvas panel

Back to Ft. Bragg and Mendocino

For the second year in a row, I joined the Howard Rees Workshop in Ft. Bragg and Mendocino. 

The weather couldn’t have been more beautiful.  It was sun every single day.  We did not see a cloud or a fog bank until Thursday when it was gray in the early morning, but blue skies and fluffy clouds by 11 am.  The group was small, but all good friends from the previous workshop and many others: Rusty and Elaina, Andy and Cindi, Renee and Noni, Barbara and Mario and of course, Howard and Janey.

For this plein air excursion, I set the goal to push my boundaries a little bit and also to bring my paintings to a more finished state (I don’t want any more half- done plein air paintings).  For the first goal, I tried hard to loosen up in the beginning with very broad abstract lay-ins.  I think it helped…but I still have far, far to go.  I was most pleased with my results on the second goal.   I used 16 x 20 canvas and did only one painting a day.  Most days I was done early…probably around 2 pm or so…but I tried to take my time, relax, think and refine without overworking.   On Thursday, with only the morning to paint, I used a 12 x 16 panel.   With the exception of the Mendocino painting, I think all of them are finished right from the field.   I like the Mendocino painting, but it needs a bit more work in the middle and foreground. I'll wait until it sets a bit and then try to refine it a bit more. 

On the first day we went down to Point Cabrillo, about halfway between Ft. Bragg, where we were staying, and Mendocino.  It was a spectacular location with lots to paint.  I felt my painting on this day was very successful.  With some very good tips from Howard, I think I got a good plein air effort.  It has the looseness generally associated with plein air, but consistent with my goal, I think it is a bit more finished.  I tried to bring lights and darks into sharper contrast and to model forms more than I usually do, yet not lose the freedom of plein air work.  I'm pleased with the result.  

Pt. Cabrillo Morning   Plein Air Oil on 16" x 20" canvas
Howard and Andy
 UPDATE:  This painting was DONATED to the Sacramento Fine Arts Center for the "Ars Gratia Arts" fund raising event, November 2012. 

 Below are a few of the folks from the workshop.  Missing is Barbara.  I don't think I took a photo of her, but I don't know why!  Also missing are all of the patient spouses Janey (Howard), Cindi (Andy), Elena (Rusty) and Noni (Renee).  A great group!


Friday, September 21, 2012

Sierra Textures

This is painted from a photo snapped sometime in the past in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  There's something about the trees sort of hanging on the edge of the rock fall that appealed to me.  The painting was a nice challenge.  Finding a balance of loose painting with the need to catch the scraggly sentinals at the top and the texture of the rocks below was interesting.  I tried hard to keep from rendering every pebble, yet capture the texture of the rugged Sierra Nevada range.  Values was very important here as well.  It was easy to let the shadows in the rocks become too prominent, and I had to revisit them again and again to bring them back into the correct value range.  I'm not sure that I ever did get it right, but I'm satisfied that is is close.

On the Edge  Oil on Canvas Panel  12" x 9"

This is 12" x 9" oil on raymar panel.  It is painted entirely with flat and bright (chisel edged) brushes of only about three sizes....maybe four.  Total time about three to four hours. 

UPDATE:  Painting DONATED to the Sacramento Fine Arts Center "Ars Gratia Arts" fund raiser, November 2012.  

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Lesson Number 8, Edmondson Course (Updated)

Update 9/8/12):  As always I sent Dan the picture below for a critique.  That's a regular part of Dan's course offerings.  Dan replied with some nice words as well as the observation that my 'grapes' on the right side of the painting looked more like cherries, which they DO!  It's funny, but I knew that, intended to fix it, but just plain forgot.  Anyway, Dan then asked if he could use my painting in one of his "tips of the week" features, which he sends out to students and uses in marketing his course.  In this tip he discusses how the eye can be lead into a painting, using mine to demonstrate the two techniques that could have been used in this particular setup.  During his tip of the week video he made several nice comments again about my painting.  As I mentioned before, when I finally finish the Still Life Course, I plan to do an extensive review of the Dan Edmondson DVD course.  For now, I'll just say Thanks Dan!

As I near the end of the Daniel Edmondson Still Life painting course, I realize how much I've learned and how valuable the information Dan has shared has been.  I've already done the final lesson #10, but I'm holding it back until I complete Lesson #9.  At that point, I'll be done.  I'll be sorry to see it end.

I originally painted Lesson #8 in a smaller format (9 x 12) but I felt that it would be more effective if it was larger.  Dan also recommended a larger size when he ran into a bit of trouble in his 8 x 10.  There's a lot going on in this painting that is difficult to capture well in a smaller least for me, and apparently for Dan as well.  This weekend I tackled a 12 x 16 version and this is the result.

Asian Vase with Oranges and Berries   12" x 16" Oil on canvas panel.
As I did this painting, I was using Dan's photo reference of course, and I had his DVD playing on my computer as I painted.  However, I found myself beginning to do things my own way.  I think that's a sign that the processes that Dan uses are becoming familiar to me, allowing me to interpret and modify them as it suits me.  I also used flat synthetic brushes for most of this painting except for the block in of the vase and the foreground cloth.  From that point, I remembered Fongwei's almost exclusive use of flats and I dug out some synthetics I had...and a couple that I had purchased at Utrecht following the Fongwei workshop.  I loved them and virtually everything in this painting was done entirely or completed with one of three flat brush sizes.  I can say for sure I'll be using them a LOT more.  Thanks to Dan and to Fongwei for this painting adventure.  

Sunday, September 2, 2012

New Mexico Reservation Ranch House

One of the most memorable places I visited in New Mexico was the Acoma Pueblo Indian Reservation.  The Acoma Pueblo, sometimes called "Sky City" is perhaps the oldest continuingly operational 'city' in the Northern American continent.  After my visit to Sky City, my cousin Karen and I hiked down from the top of the Pueblo rather than ride the bus back.  (Non-tribal members may only visit the Acoma Pueblo as a part of a guided tour.  If you have a chance, don't miss it.  And don't be put off by the fact that you have to buy a photo license.  Buy it.  The photos you get will be spectacular....and the money goes to help the tribe.  A win-win for all.)

On the way down, we passed several abandoned (I think) ranch houses and small huts.  This was one of them.  The fence, the tree and the impressive rocks behind the ranch house made a natural painting subject.  

Acoma Pueblo Ranch House   12" x 16" oil on canvas panel. 
I painted this in the Fongwei workshop and published it in an earlier post.  I've since had a chance to revisit it and make a few changes Fongwei suggested and a couple of my own. 

I'd love to return to this spot again.   There's something about the American Southwest that is unique and unforgettable. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Workshop with Fongwei Liu - Day two and three

On the second day of the Fongwei Liu workshop, we adjourned to Miller park to paint.  I have to admit that this was a major disappointment for me.  I'm familiar with Miller Park and find nothing of interest to paint there.  I understand that a good artist should be able to find - or create - subject matter anywhere, but I'm afraid I'm not one of them yet.  I need to feel inspired and excited by my subject matter, and Miller Park leaves me cold.  I think even Fongwei had a difficult time finding something to paint, as he wandered up and down the narrow parkway for sometime before climbing down a steep bank to find a spot by the water.  He did manage to find a simple scene with some early morning light coming through the foliage and, as one might expect from a painter of his caliber, managed a decent plein air painting.  I struggled, tried in vain to make a clump of trees interesting and finally gave up.   I wiped the canvas down...those panels are too expensive to waste on a yet another bad plein air effort.

In the afternoon, we returned to the studio for a lecture on the essentials of a good painting.  Fongwei used examples of his own work and also that of many other impressive artists.  I wish I could have gotten the names of some of them...I would have like to see more examples.  I enjoyed the presentation...and once again, I found his comments and advice helpful and memorable.  But I have to say, the day was largely a loss for me and I left a little early feeling pretty discouraged.  Most of that had to do with my own short comings and the crisis of confidence I have found myself in lately and not in the workshop proper.

On Sunday we went to Capitol Park in the morning.  I felt much better about this location as there are almost endless things to inspire an artist there.  I resolved to keep it simple in light of the very depressing experience of the day before.   I set up and painted by the fountain in the Rose Garden.  It was a beautiful day.  I discussed my idea for my painting with Fongwei and he approved my location and idea before I started.  He also suggested some changes to my approach before I had picked up a brush.  One of the things he stresses in his workshop is to have an idea, a plan, a concept of what you want to accomplish and how you will go about it.  This can be simple and broadly conceptualized, but it is critical.  It was morning and the light on the fountain and the roses was beautiful  Determined not to get into licking and messing and guessing again, I pulled out the 1 1/2" brush and laid in the background ad the major components of the fountain in simple strokes.  I was determined not to overwork and I forced myself to leave the strokes as they 'fell'.   I was very pleased with this simple painting and the feeling of the light that I caught. One interesting thing occurs to me as I look at this painting now.  As I discussed my concept with Fongwei before beginning, he pointed out that the two rose bushes framing the fountain could be somewhat static if not handled right.  He cautioned me not to make both bushes the same height even though they actually were...and he suggested exaggerating one.  I see now that I completely forgot that advice!  Oh well.  Next time.
Roses in Capitol Park  12" x 9"  Oil on canvas panel

Finally, back in the studio, I painted this colorful landscape from a photo reference I had on hand.  If I remember right it came from a Wetcanvas challenge in the Western Art forum.  Most of the references I have are my own photos, but I do have a few from Wetcanvas.  It's a good source for material and everything posted by members is done so with the condition that it be available to others to use.  No copyright problems.  I think I will work on this one a bit more. 

Aspens in the Fall   12 x 9 oil on canvas panel. 
With that, it was time to go home.  I said good bye to Fongwei Liu.  It was an honor to be able to listen and learn from this fine painter.  I will remember his gentle and scholarly approach.  I think my work will be a little better from the experience. 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Workshop with Fongwei Liu

Oak Park artist and gallery owner Patris arranged for Fongwei Liu to conduct a three day workshop at her studio.   I was excited to sign up...Fongwei is one of those Chinese painters who so intrigue me.  I've been following his blog for some time, so I couldn't miss the opportunity to meet him and benefit from his experience and skill.

We spend the first day in the Studio.  Fongwei gave a  lecture on the components of a painting....composition, value, edges, paint application.  After that we painted from photo references we brought from home.

Fongwei Liu (white shirt) at Patris Studio August 2012

My painting for the day was from a photo I took while in New Mexico several years ago.  It's 12 x 16 on a Raymar panel.  Time about 3 hours.  Early on in this painting, I felt I had lost it, but with some suggestions from Fongwei, I think I brought it back.  While I worked on this I was very conscious of composition and value.  There are parts of this painting that would benefit from additional work, which I may yet do.   Overall, however,  I was pleased with the outcome.

New Mexico ranch house 12 x 16 oil on canvas panel. 
I'll post additional paintings done at the workshop over the next day or two.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Back to the Still Life Lessons

Another of the still life lessons from Dan Edmundson.  This actually happens to be the 10th and final lesson, but I have not yet done number 9.  I'll get to that this weekend, perhaps.  Then it's on to the landscape lessons.  There's a lot of glare on this picture.  I need to get a better one, but for now this will suffice.  I like the chiaroscuro effect of the painting.  A difficult effect to paint.  A series of glazes would probably greatly improve this painting.  Another fun one, but challenging too.  

Flowers, Vase and Grapes  16" x 12" oil on canvas panel

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Mysteries (and challenges) of Painting ...

Last week, I met with artist friends along the Mokelumne River above Jackson, California.  This is Gold Rush country and it seems there is something to paint everywhere you look.  On this day, we ventured away from architectural subjects and found ourselves facing a rapidly moving river and GREEN everywhere.  I won't go into the problems I have consistently had with painting 'pure' landscapes made up almost entirely of GREEN.  Suffice to say that on this day, I came away with no painting at all, having wiped down my very pathetic attempt in order to save an expensive panel.  That is always a bad feeling.  But I resolved not to let it remain simply an un-fun experience.  If I am to make progress, such outings have to be LEARNING experiences.

I followed up with several hours of study and experimentation with mixing greens which I might talk about in another post, but I also thought deeply about my mental state and how very important that is to a successful painting.  On this day along the Mokelumne River, I was not mentally prepared to paint.  It had been a busy week in the office with several challenging situations arising that remained unresolved.  I brought along my little dog Dixie Doodles for the first time.  She was a good girl all day, but this was an experiment on my part, and it was distracting and new for me.  I kept checking on her and worrying about shade and water.  I was very aware of my previous struggles with "pure" and green landscapes.  And finally, I compromised on what to paint, selecting a location that accomodated Dixie instead of one that I preferred for the subject matter.  The outcome was predicable.

The side of the Murphys Hotel, Murphys, California
I thought back to a successful experience and searched for contrast.  I remembered the first day painting in Murphys, which I have talked about in a previous post.  Of course the architectural subject matter was something I was more comfortable with, but my mental state on that day was wholly different than my day on the River.  On the evening of arrival I walked the town of Murphys and found this wonderful wall of windows with the balcony.  It's the side of the Murphys Hotel, in operation since 1856.

Just enough room to avoid being run over!

I knew as soon as I saw it that this was going to be my first painting of the trip.  In the morning, I set up along the street next to the scene.  I was fresh, excited and mentally focused on this subject.  I was clear on what I wanted.  I envisioned a bold painting with thick paint to capture the rustic, aging subject matter.
The final result and a happy painter!

In my opinion, the Murphys Hotel painting was my most successful effort of the trip.

So what were the lessons I learned by this comparison?

1.  Focus.  Painting isn't easy.  It requires my FULL attention.
2.  Know why I am painting a subject. What do I want to capture and record?  Go for that and minimize everything else. 
3.  Have a plan of how I am going to approach the painting.
4.  Have a vision of what the result will look like.  This doesn't have to be a perfect vision.  There should be lots of room for change and creativity, but I should still have a conceptual idea of the outcome.
5.  Be enthusiastic about my subject matter AND my concept.  If I'm not, it's going to be a struggle.
6.  Don't rush the beginning.  Take time to consider, study.  Make a sketch or two.  Get everything ready BEFORE starting.  Have the right colors, brushes, medium.  

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Four Days In Muphys - Day Three and Four

On the third day of our painting trip and Howard Rees Workshop ( we traveled a few miles down the road to Columbia.  This amazing little gold rush town is now a State Park with shady streets, restored buildings and lots of charm everywhere.  There's no traffic allowed in town, so it's possible to set up the paint gear virtually anywhere.  However, we found ourselves there on a very hot day with hundreds and hundreds of tourists.  While there were many incredible old buildings to paint, it wasn't as easy as it seemed to get a good vantage point, find some shade and stay out of the way of everyone else.  Several of us found a shady little park at the end of the main street right across from this building.

Columbia Store  Oil on Canvas Panel  12" x 16"
I did a second painting in Columbia, but it isn't worth posting.  I went completely astray on that one!

Finally, on day four, our little group returned to Murphys.  We gathered together at a small town park with a stream running through it.  Kids played in the rapidly moving but very shallow water all day.  Inner tubes were the vehicle of choice.  It took me a long way back to some great summers on the  Yuba River near North San Juan California. 

Shady Spot by the Stream (Murphys CA)  Oil on Canvas Panel  12 x 16
I was in the sun (overcast most of the day) and looking into the shade while painting this.  When I got it home, I was taken back at how subdued and dark it was.  However, I've grown to like it quite a bit.  A different painting for me.  Thanks to Howard for several suggestions that got me unstuck as I painted along.  And thanks to Ray, who painted a scene with the underwater rocks first.  I stole his technique!

With reluctance, I left Murphys and the Gold Country in the late afternoon and headed for hot, hot Sacramento.  A great painting trip!  Thanks again to Howard and Janey Rees.

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Sunday, July 22, 2012

Four Days in Murphys - Day Two

For our second day in Murphys, we were joined by two others who are often members of our group, but who were unable to come along for the entire trip.  We traveled a short distance to the Ironstone Winery to paint on their amazing grounds.  It's really hard to describe Ironstone.  If you are ever in Murphys, be sure to visit Ironstone, sample the wines and see the park-like grounds and exhibits.  Very well done and quite extensive.

Several of our group painted the lake and the beautiful wooded areas at Ironstone.  I'm always drawn to structures, so I painted a small miner's cabin located on the grounds.  Again I used a 12 x 16 canvas panel.  I went a bit overboard on the transparent oxide red, but it does make the painting glow even if it is a long way from the true gray of the old place.  At one point in this painting, I was struggling.  The background trees had gotten way too detailed and overworked.  In desperation, I got out my 1 1/2" flat brush recently purchased from Rosemary & Co and simply brushed the mess together in several big passes.  I then used the same brush to tap in some lighter values to represent closer sun-lit branches.  It worked.  Several people commented later on the trees.  Little did they know it was an act of desperation!  At the very end of the painting I used the big brush again to put in the road at the bottom after my friend Ruth Andre said the foreground lacked something.  I love that brush!

Old Miner's Cabin (Ironstone Winery, Murphys CA.)  12 x 16 oil on canvas panel. 

We didn't have a large group for this trip, but some old friends showed up to make up for it. Ruth Andre and Julie Trail came for just a part of the trip.  Ray and Gail journeyed from Carson City, Nevada.  Bob and Caroline Engle came from Thousand Oaks, CA, a long journey.  Bob and Caroline will be moving to Dallas - Ft. Worth in September, so this may have been the last chance I'll have to paint with this talented artist.  We'll miss your constant good humor and tireless enthusiasm for painting, Bob.  Good luck, good painting and happy trails to you and Caroline.  Stay in touch.  Also along were Vickie Chew, Sharon from Nevada, Andy and Cindy from Berkeley, and, of course, Howard and Janey Rees.  Good friends all. 

Ray (I've forgotten Ray's last name!  Will get it!)

Ruth Andre

Bob Engle

Vickie Chew

Julie Trail (Sorry for Lousy Photo, Julie!)

A Part of the Group...Bob E., Cindy N., Caroline E., Howard, Janey, Me

Photo by Andy N.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Four Days In Murphys - Day One

On Sunday July 15 I drove to the Gold Rush town of Murphys, California to meet up with friends for a four day plein air painting workshop.  We gathered Sunday evening to discuss the upcoming itinerary and several of us wandered the little town to explore possible painting subjects.  The evening was exquisite.  Summer was full on and twilight lasted until after 9 PM.  Murphys is often called the Queen of the Sierra.  

Murphys Historic Hotel  

  Scenes like these old buildings were everywhere.  A plein air painters paradise. 

We stayed in Murphys Historic Hotel.  Previous guests include  Mark Twain, Horatio Algiers Jr., John Jacob Astor, Thomas J. Lipton, J.P. Morgan, and former President Ulysses S. Grant. It's been in continuous operation since 1856. 

The next morning I set out to paint.  I had spotted my first location the night before:  the side of the Murphys Hotel, right where I was staying!  I set up along the side street, only a few feet out of the traffic and painted happily away.

Murphys Historic Hotel   Oil on 12 x 16 Canvas Panel 
I spent longer on the painting than I realized, but I was very happy with the result.  I managed to stay loose and use expressive brush strokes. I interpreted rather than copied, changing the overall color from a washed out pink to this much warmer and more dramatic color.  Perhaps most importantly, I resisted coming back and "fixing" things!  hallelujah!!  I'm learning!  

After lunch, I wandered down main street to the Hovey Winery.  The owners were nice enough to allow us to use the grounds for our daily afternoon critiques.  And of course, we drank lots of their wine.  I set up on the walk just outside the grounds and painted a portion of their beautiful wine tasting room.  I like the sense of reflected light in this painting.  And the flag and hanging basket of flowers added just a touch of color.  I was pleased with the overall result.  The owners expressed interest in using my painting in their marketing.  We'll see.  That would be great. 
Hovey Wine Tasting Room at  Murphys   oil on 12 x 16 panel 

Our first full day in Murphys could hardly have been better.   I'll include pictures of the others who attended the workshop in the next post.

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Best Brella and the EasyL Come Through

I wish I had to ability to create little "sidebar" comments in Blogger for items like this post, rather than interrupt the flow of the main posts.  However, I wanted to comment on how my EasyL and my Best Brella performed in a strong wind at Silver Lake.  Here's a picture of my setup as the wind came up....
You can't see much of the Best Brella in this shot, but believe me, it worked well.  In the afternoon a very stiff breeze came across the lake as I was painting.  Normally I would have immediately taken down my umbrella to prevent having a painting go into the dirt jelly-side-down, but I was impressed with how both the umbrella and the easel stood rock solid and I painted on.  The Best Brella is a expensive version of a regular easel umbrella, but there's a reason...or several reasons for the cost.  The clamp that holds the Best Brella to the easel is amazingly solid and strong.  Nothing is going to move it once it is fastened. Also the umbrella has wind vents and they work.  But if the easel isn't steady, even those features might not be enough. The EasyL has a hook on the tripod that holds a weight, such as a bag with rocks in it.  You can see in this picture how I hook up the backpack that I use to carry the easel and supplies to the painting site.  The weight holds the easel in place impressively during normal painting and, of course, in the wind.  The combination of the well designed industrial strength Best Brella and the hook feature of the EasyL made for a rock solid platform when the strong gusts came up.  There was never even a hint that it all might go over.  I recommend the Best Brella....and of course, I've recommended the EasyL in an earlier post. Quality equipment pays off.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Painting With Friends

What a great day Friday was!  I met with friends Ruth Andre, Howard Rees, Julie Trail, and Vickie Chew at a beautiful mountain lake west of Jackson in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  Even though it was in the mid 90's in Sacramento, it was beautiful and mild at the 7,000 foot elevation.  In the afternoon, a stiff breeze came up for awhile, but even that was invigorating and refreshing.  It was a marvelous day. 

I painted two 9" x 12" paintings during our stay.  I purposefully chose a smaller canvas because I have been struggling with my plein air paintings and it seem logical to go smaller and see if I could get better results.  I'm not sure the strategy worked, but it sure was fun.

Silver Lake Friday   9" x 12" oil on canvas panel
 This was my first painting.  It didn't start well, and about an hour into it, I was strongly tempted to put it aside or wipe it down and start over.  However, I pushed ahead and I think it came out OK eventually.  As we were leaving this gorgeous setting I was comparing my painting to the identical setting done by Julie Trail.  I thought her's was much more successful and said so.  She suggested that my foreground trees might be improved by additional darks.  Today I spent about 5 minutes in the studio adding them. She was right!  Much better!  Thanks Julie!!

Silver Lake Beach  9" x 12 " oil on canvas panel

I has spent so much time on the first painting that I was concerned that I might not have enough time to do another similar effort.  Instead, I got the idea of painting the bathers and kayakers that had gathered on the beach across the lagoon from where I was already set up.  I just suggested a background to save time and then set about trying to capture some of the figures and colors that made up the groups on the beach.  It's a fun little painting done in about 1 1/2 hours or less.

It was a great day.  Everyone had a good time and about a dozen paintings resulted among the five of us!  Not Bad!  Here's the crew....

L to R: Ruth, Howard, Vickie and Yours Truely

Vickie Chew:  Two beautiful paintings!
Julie Trail:  3 Large Paintings!  Can you believe it???

Howard Rees:  Two large paintings!
Ruth Andre: 2 beautiful paintings for the day!