Monday, March 25, 2013

Just For Fun...!

Well, really, ALL my paintings are 'just for fun' in the sense that they are never done for any other reason than the personal satisfaction and the learning experience.  A couple of weeks ago I was going through old digital photos (wow, do those things mount up in numbers after awhile!  Time for some spring cleaning of the hard drive.) and I came across a group of pictures I'd taken at a car show in Carmichael Park last summer.   One in particular struck me because of the aggressive in-your-face stance that the photo captured.  Some of it was probably the result of camera distortion, but that was OK with me.  I loved it.

And there was one other aspect I liked...the gray haired owner in the background.  My FatBoy friends and I often remark that all of the cool hot rods and customs are owned and driven by ol' 'gray beards' like us.  We all grew up in the 50's and 60's when cars were king and we never got over it.  My own adventures began in a metal flake blue '52 Chevvy, raked, scavenger pipes (If you have to ask, you wouldn't understand), dual strombergs, Dodge flipper hub caps and a white naugahyde interior.   Later craziness included a '66 GTO tripower and my first ever new car, a 70 1/2 Camaro Z28. (yes there was such a thing.  Not the classic '69 which has become legendary, but in my opinion, the best looking Camaro ever made.)

But I digress.  Those days are long gone, but the feeling that the cars of that era invoke certainly aren't.  I had an unusually large canvas panel sitting around in the studio, so I started in.  I had in mind that I wanted to paint a 'portrait' of the car, rather than a highly detailed rendering of every chrome reflection.  I also wanted that aggressive stance to come through.  I think it did...and with an almost 3-D effect.  The results are fun and a little different for me.  I call it, "The Price of Their Toys".   I'll bet that ol' graybeard loved driving that car home that beautiful, hot summer day. 

The Price of Their Toys    16" x 20" Oil on canvas panel
The block in stage...first session

Saturday, March 16, 2013

First Plein Air Outing of 2013

Spring is here and the weather is beautiful.  Trees are beginning to leaf out, the grass is green everywhere.  The gold country foothills are emerald green, but most of the trees are still barren. I traveled up to Amador City, a place filled with good memories for me.  It was in this very spot just behind the light colored building that I had my first plein air experience some 8 years ago.  It was a green, green day then and green is still a challenge!

It was a good day...not quite as sunny as I would have liked, but warm and comfortable.  While it wasn't actually my first plein air opportunity of 2013, it was my first "outing" to the foothills to paint with friends.  My painting was OK...but I'm still not where I want to be.  The bullseye continues to elude me.  I'm looking forward to the next time and trying it once again.

The Creek Behind Amador City   Oil on RayMar panel   12" x 9" 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

A Still Life - Pears and Grapes

Last Sunday I began this still life.  I decided to do an elongated format; in this case 10" x 20".  I had some rolled preprimed canvas which I had added an extra coat of Gamblin painting ground.  I was anxious to try out the surface prep so I bought some stretcher bars from Utrecht and stretched a canvas just for this painting.

In passing, I should mention that the Utrecht bars were very unsatisfactory.  I don't recall purchasing them from Utrecht before, perhaps I have at some time in the past, but I won't be doing so again in the least, not without checking the assembly in the store before purchase.  At least two of the bars had warps (twist) which caused a mismatch at the corners.  They still mated fine - that is the slots went together as they should -but they were not in alignment.  As a result, there was a corresponding protrusion at each corner.  If I had not been in such a rush to get painting, I would have taken them back.  But I went ahead and used them.  Hope they don't cause trouble when the picture is framed.  I'm a fan of Utrecht oil paint, and Utrecht brushes have been good, but these stretcher bars were inferior quality.

Anyway, I worked on this painting for about 12 - 14 hours over several evening and weekend sessions.  I wanted to refine it a bit more than I normally do, but also keep the brush strokes and paint thickness interesting.  Most of the paints are Rembrandt,with Transparent Oxide Red, Olive Green, Ultramarine Blue, and Lemon Yellow being the predominant colors used.  The canvas surface was wonderful.  The roll was a fine weave cotton...from Fredrix, I think...and the extra coat of oil ground made it even smoother and much less absorbent.  It was a delight to paint on.  My medium was walnut oil.  I used almost no OMS for anything, including brush cleaning.  I love the consistency and the sheen of the walnut oil, but beware, it is very slow to dry.

Pears and Grapes  Oil on Stretched Canvas  10" x 20" 

Friday, March 8, 2013

Suchitra's Model

Another challenging yet so rewarding session with Suchitra Bhosle today.  I didn't catch the model's name, but she was an attractive young lady and novice model.  Suchitra had a pretty full house and I had a head-on portrait view.  I used a raymar linen panel with one coat of oil primer.  Honestly I didn't care for it that much.  It felt a little rough to me, and the early brush strokes dragged and the paint seemed hard to apply.  More and more I'm becoming aware of the painting surface.  I think an additional coat of oil primer would probably make the panel more suitable for my tastes.

Once again, I struggled with Suchitra's method of working with subtle values, but after a rocky start I felt it beginning to come together.  By the end of the session, I was feeling more comfortable with the process.  There is much to learn from Suchitra, and I look forward to many more sessions with her.

Suchitra's Model  Oil on linen panel  9" x 12"

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Ironstone Winery Art Show

The Ironstone Winery near the gold rush town of Murphys in the California foothills held its 16th annual "Spring Obsession" art show reception last Saturday.  As I mentioned in earlier posts, I spent several days painting in Murphys last year with a Howard Rees workshop group. ( )  On one of the days, we visited the Ironstone Winery to paint on their beautiful grounds.  I was not aware of the art show at that time; however, this year my artist friend Vickie Chew who lives in the area gave me the details and, at the last possible moment, I decided to enter. ( )  I entered five paintings into the juried show and four were accepted, including one of my paintings of a small miner's cabin on the Ironstone grounds done during the previous year's visit.  

On Saturday night I was honored to receive a merit award for the miner's cabin plein air painting.  The judges for the show were Kathleen Dumphy, Craig Nelson, and Anamarie Nelson.  Kathleen is a nationally known plein air artist, Craig Nelson is a well known oil painter (I have two of his dvds) and Annamarie Nelson is a faculty member of the Academy of Art University in San Francisco (as is Craig Nelson).  Certainly a very distinguished panel.  There were three blue ribbons and three merit awards given in the open competition.  One merit award was awarded by each of the judges individually.  It was an honor to have Kathleen select my painting.

Of the four paintings I had in the show, this was probably the last one I would have expected to be given an award.  But I do remember the beautiful day painting at Ironstone Winery with my friends, and that in itself was a very special "prize".  

My thanks to Ironstone Winery for putting on this show.  If you are ever in Murphys (which is well worth the visit) be sure to visit Ironstone.  It's very impressive.

PS:  Thanks to Ted Smith, another gold rush country artist, who framed this painting for me at literally the last minute.  I picked it up from Ted on the way to Ironstone!  ( You can find Ted at Gallery 10 in Sutter Creek )

Friday, March 1, 2013


This afternoon, I joined Suchitra Bhosle and several other painters in Suchitra's studio.  Our portrait model was a very beautiful young woman named Kiersten.  This was my second session with Suchitra, and this time I felt that I began to understand her approach.  She emphasizes "true' values and their intrinsic interrelationship.  It's hard for me to put into words...and for awhile, even harder to capture with a brush, but slowly I begin to understand.  At first, the painting seemed dull, with a gray cast to the skin that was very difficult to accept.  But I resisted throwing in my traditional skin tones and stuck to the program.  I tried to meticulously judge the value and temperature of each brushstroke to the preceding brushstroke, and to my utter amazement, it began to work.  I'm very pleased with the result. 
Interestingly, for me at least, was that the 'value approach' also changed the way I painted this portrait fundamentally.   Normally, I make a fairly detailed brush drawing on the canvas and then begin to put in darks, midtones and lights.  In this case, I did nothing more than establish a general oval of the face, and a vertical and horizontal 'cross' to get the tilt and placement of the eyes.  At that point, I started putting down values once by one, in essence drawing with the values rather than with lines.  The head grew outward from the eye sockets, in a sense.  Very different for me. 

I can't wait for the next session with Suchitra.

Kiersten   Oil on stretched canvas   12" x 16"