Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Four Days In Muphys - Day Three and Four

On the third day of our painting trip and Howard Rees Workshop (http://www.howardreesartist.com/) 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!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Lesson 7 Blossoms and Apples *Updated"

As you know if you've been reading my recent posts, I've been taking a DVD still life painting course from Dan Edmondson.  I've really had a good time, and in the process I've learned a number of new techniques for handling paint, color and texture.

This is lesson 7.  I decided to go a bit bigger once again.  The first five lessons were all done on 9 x 12 canvas panel, but this lesson and the previous one (Daisys) are done on 16 x 20 canvas stretched.  I added two coats of gesso to the already gessoed canvas to get it smoother.  I've grown used to that now I find the very absorbent, rough surface of ready made canvas unsuitable, at least for studio work.

This picture has a bit more green tint to it than the original, where the main blossoms in the light are almost white.  I have a little more to to...particularly on the apple slices and on the shadows in the painting.  Perhaps the foreground needs some work too.  I'll give it a day or two before deciding.

Friday I head off to paint in the mountains with friends, Ruth Andre, Howard Rees, Vickie Chew, and Julie Trail....good artists all.  It should be fun!!

Blossoms and Apples  Oil on 16" x 20" canvas
Updated. July 7, 2012:  Today I worked on Blossoms and Apples for another hour or so.  My primary focus was to improve and finish the apples and to lighten the foreground.  I think both have been done successfully.  The green apples now seem to have form and the color is much better.  The table cloth was much too green.  I lightened it with yellow ochre and then added a suggestion of a pattern.  I like the result.  Finally, I worked on a few other details, including shadows.  Overall, I'm pleased with the painting now.  I'll call it done.