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!