Saturday, March 29, 2014

Drytown and the Old Well Cafe

Drytown is a tiny town in the heart of the California Gold Rush countryside.  It's one of the first places I ever did plein air painting...and it is always fun to return there.  I'm not knowledgeable about Drytown's history, but I'm told that the name does not refer to any kind of 'prohibition'.  Quite the contrary.  In it's hayday, Drytown had 65 bars!  I have no idea where 65 bars could have fit into tiny Drytown....but apparently it was a bit larger than it is today.   The little white building is the Old Well Cafe.  I don't know its history either except it's been there forever, apparently.  Funky would describe it best, I think.

I painted in Drytown on Friday with artist friends Ruth Andre, Julie Trail and Howard Rees.  It was a nice day...a lull between welcome rain storms.   We painted all morning and then had lunch in the Old Well Cafe.   A good day. 

Drytown and the Old Well Cafe   Plein air oil on linen 9x12

My Art Site: Bruce Hancock Fine Art

Black Label and Roses - A Still Life Oil Painting (Sold)

I'm painting small still life as frequently as possible for awhile.  They are relatively quick to do...2 to 4 hours at the most and it's excellent practice.  This one was painted this morning and early afternoon.  I'm following the Qiang Huang process as much as I can.

Black Label and Roses    Oil on linen panel   9 x 12

My Art Site: Bruce Hancock Fine Art

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Wine with Oranges and Apple - Still Life Oil Paintting (Sold)

It was Sunday, the end of a very busy week.   I had spent three intense and amazing days in a workshop with master painter Qiang Huang and I had also spent a day with artist friends painting at a beautiful winery in the Gold Country.  Let me just say that the wine was a lot better than my painting!

So when Sunday rolled around  I was tired but still exhilarated with what I had learned in Qiang's workshop.  I just had to try another still life in my own studio.   I had to make do with a cardboard still life 'stage' which I sat on top of a storage crate which was in turn sitting on a table...all that to get the still life up near eye level.   I didn't have much in the way of props, but I did have a bottle of wine and two wines glasses (things aren't THAT desperate around here) and I located two oranges and an apple.  Finally I picked two branches off of a climbing vine that is taking over the trellis outside my studio.  With those props and a black sheet (a long story, but NOT what you think) I started painting.

I followed Qiang's five steps as closely as I could.   Within a bit more than 2 1/2 hours, the painting was done.  So much fun!  What a great painting exercise too.  Easy to set up and have a "live" model anytime I want.

Thanks one more time Qiang! 

Red Wine with Oranges and Apple    9 x 12 on oil primed linen panel. 

My Art Site: Bruce Hancock Fine Art

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Qiang Huang Workshop - Day Three

The final day of the fabulous Qiang Huang workshop arrived.  I felt refreshed after the previous day's struggles and I was ready to paint!  Once again Qiang started the day with a demonstration.  He picked a "high key" subject for the day's painting, with a light background and lighter colored objects.   He spent some time explaining the different approach that he would use.   Of course it would be the same five steps as before, but the lights and darks would be handled differently. 

During the demonstration, I had the distinct feeling that Qiang was struggling a bit.  He had already admitted that the higher key paintings were something he was still learning and growing with.  Although he never mentioned it, I felt that the day's painting was a battle for him.  I could be totally wrong...and his final painting was lovely .... but I found it very interesting to watch.  Again, I'm totally guessing, but I think his eventual success was based on well-earned confidence that he would win out in the end, and also on self disipline.  When I am in trouble on a painting, I start to "fix" things,going back to passages again and again.  He never did that.  He followed the 'rules', he put it down and left it, he NEVER reworked areas.  The painting stayed fresh and finally came together.  During the workshop I learned so much from Qiang, but maybe on that final day, I learned the most important lesson. Have confidence that what you know will see you through.
I have a front row seat! 

The workshop finally begin to wind down.  I got Qiang to sign his article in the latest Artists Magazine and we took a group photo.
Qiang Huang (left), Patris, (center in pink), me (reddish shirt) and a group of great ARTISTS!

Although I was tired from the intense learning and painting experience, it was sad to see it all draw to a close.  I would love to paint with Qiang and all these painters again.  Thank you Patris!!
Brass Bowl with Oranges   Oil on canvas  9x12

My Art Site: Bruce Hancock Fine Art

Qiang Huang Workshop - Day Two

We started our second day of the Qiang Huang workshop bright and early on Tuesday.  Many of the participants were in place and working on their still life paintings from the day before well ahead of the official starting hour.

One the second day, Qiang again started a demonstration, but this time he had everyone return to their own paintings after each step in the process.  We set up a new still life arrangement for the day.  Honestly I didn't feel comfortable with this arrangement.   In particular I didn't like the lone flower and the foreground seemed a bit scattered to me.   I know a better painter would have made these 'shortcomings' work, but I struggled.  It might have been also that I felt a bit of a come down after the first exciting day of meeting Qiang and finally getting started.   Whatever the case, I was out of rhythm all day. It seemed I forgot everything I already knew and everything I had learned the day before. 

Once again, there were many really beautiful paintings done by classmates.  I was impressed as I struggled along with my own battle.  Qiang's instructions and guidance were as solid as the day before and he gave me suggestions that helped pull my painting out of the abyss even if it came up a bit short in the end.  When I got home I felt mentally and physically exhausted, but I couldn't wait for the next day to begin.

My painting for Day Two.   I have done a little bit of work - on the flower in particular - in the studio but because I didn't have a good photo of the set up, I was unable to do much. However, as I look at it now, it doesn't seem as lost as I had originally thought. 

Red Flower, Orange and Apple   Oil on panel (Ampersand)  9 x 12 

My Art Site: Bruce Hancock Fine Art

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Qiang Huang Workshop - Day One

Last August, when I saw that Patris, owner of Patris Studio and Gallery in Oak Park, Sacramento had managed to sign up Qaing Huang for a workshop in March of the next year, I signed up immediately.  I've followed Qiang's blog for several years and in that time I not only found a painter to admire and emulate, but a very extraordinary individual whose writings on his blog reveal a special soul...artistic and otherwise.  You can follow Qaing Huang (pronounced Chong Wong, by the way) here if you aren't doing so already.  You are in for a treat.
And you can find more about Patris and her active and energetic studio and gallery here:

It was a wonderful three days full of art, laughter, learning and atching a fine artist at work.  Qiang demonstrated a complete still life painting everyday, and I never tired of watching and listening to him explain and teach.

Day One:
After introducing himself and his wife Song, Qiang spent the morning instructing us on his five step process for still life painting. With his engineering background (he is a doctor of optical physics!), he has naturally spent some time breaking down and studying the art process and he has developed an easy to remember and follow road map for still life, and I suspect, any other subject matter.  It's too involved to explain here....not to mention that it's HIS process....but during his demonstration on the first day, he literally showed us each and every step from accurate placement of objects to establishing values and final modeling and refinement.

I followed his demonstration in the afternoon with my own effort.  Patris had established enough 'stations' that we each could set up our own still life subject with only one other painting partner.  I found that the process Qiang taught and demonstrated was a very natural progression.   Some of it I had already been doing thanks to the outstanding online instruction I received from Dan Edmondson.  Taking that background from Dan and adding Qiang's own processes and insights felt comfortable.   I don't mean to say it was easy or that I had instant success....far from it!  But it all made sense and was easy to follow the concept.

This is my still life from day one....

Green Wine Bottle with Oranges  12" x 9" Oil on RayMar canvas panel 

At the end of the day, I felt tired and elated at the same time.   What a special day it was!  Thanks Qiang and Patris!

 More on the workshop will follow in the next day or so. 

(Painting is SOLD. )

My Art Site: Bruce Hancock Fine Art

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Along Railroad Avenue - Plein Air

I joined the David Peterson Third Saturday Meetup of the Sacramento Plein Air Painters in Roseville.   This was my first time painting in Roseville.  We met at the center of the "old town" area.  There were several fine old buildings there but nothing really struck my fancy on this particular sunny day.   I wandered down a block to Railroad Avenue, which runs parallel to the enormous Roseville rail yards.   (OK.  I found out it isn't Railroad Avenue, it's Vernon Street.  I don't know about you, but I like the sound of Railroad Ave. a whole lot better.  It SHOULD be Railroad Avenue, so that's what I'm calling it!)  Most of the interesting things were quite far off, but I found this small string of gondolas and one box car on a siding with some interesting brick structures in the distance.

I moved a few things around and added some stuff that wasn't there and came up with this.  

Along Railroad Avenue    16" x 12" Oil on linen panel.  

My Art Site: Bruce Hancock Fine Art

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Foundry - Sutter Creek Plein Air

On a whim early this morning I called my artist friend Howard Rees to see if he was free for some plein air painting.  Fortunately he was!  And to add to my last minute luck, at an art event the evening before, Julie Trail had told Howard she would be painting at the Foundry in Sutter Creek.

We met there in the most incredible spring weather....I think it reached at least 80 was calm and the skies were clear and blue.  Wow, what a day.  Amazing.

The Foundry is actually a collection of buildings.   It is no longer in operation, but I think the history dates back to the Gold Rush, when the Foundry built mining implements.    It's a great collection of wooden buildings.  Unfortunately, they are pretty neglected...and in a decade or two, I'm sure they'll be gone.  But in the meantime, what a wonderful plein air subject.

We had a great time painting and then repaired to Pizza Plus in Sutter Creek for some absolutely delicious pizza, and, of course, an ice cold 24 oz beer.   Things don't get a lot better than that.

The Old Foundry - Sutter Creek  Oil on linen panel  12"x16"
When I got home this afternoon, I took the painting into the studio for some final touches.  As often happens when I paint in bright light, the painting overall was a bit dark.   I lightened the side of the building, which .helped define the structure a little more clearly and also reduced a large dark area.  I also added a few suggestions of greenery above the roof line.  I had originally painted some very light -almost white - sky there to separate the roof from the burnt umber tone I had previously applied, but it was too intense and distracting.  Adding the green and gray tones calmed it down and allowed the building to come forward.  Finally, I added some interest and texture in the near surface of the road and around the painting in general.   All in all, the time in the studio was probably less than 20 minutes.

I'm pleased with the painting.  Again I tried to plan before I started by doing a small sketch of the composition and the lights and darks.  I wanted to resist painting and then correection, painting and correcting, painting and noodling.  I blocked in everything with Transparent Maroon and Ultramarine Deep.  After my first block in, I did not like the size and location of the building, so I wiped out most of it and blocked it in again.  That's a real advantage of blocking in with transparent color line and wash on a non-absorbent oil primed panel.  Once I had it as I wanted it, I began to add color and to define shapes with restated darks as much as possible.  There was a lot of jumble and junk around the area.   I felt it was critical to capture the feeling of that junk without getting caught up in rendering it.  It's interesting how much you can suggest without really painting anything specific at all.  Those intense darks in the foreground junk also made for some great contrast with the light areas in the foreground as well.   I love the effect of that gives such life and energy.  This painting was a lot of fun. 

My Art Site: Bruce Hancock Fine Art

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Jill - Oil Portrait Sketch

Friday I joined several other artists at Patris Studio and Gallery for a 3 hour "open studio" session.  Our model was Jill and she posed in a beautiful dress, but I decided I wanted to try a portrait.  I keep the canvas size small so I wouldn't get overwhelmed in the brief time we had.

The block in was done entirely with W&N Transparent Maroon with a bit of Rembrandt Ultramarine Deep added for darks.  The transparent colors like this one and Rembrandt Transparent Oxide Red are wonderful to work with and mix well with other colors.   They serve particularly well for laying in line and wash when you are establishing shapes and the light and dark areas of a painting.  Very forgiving, easy to paint over and easy to wipe off and redraw a passage when necessary.

My goal was to think "art" during this painting.   I tried consciously to think about each brushstroke: to resist the urge to paint on auto pilot.  I forced myself to step back stop and look and consider for a few moments before continuing.  And in the end, when I found myself making the first 'blending' stroke, I put my brush down for the day.  It's surprising how good that felt after the initial anxiety!

"Jill"    Oil on Raymar Panel,   9" x 12"
"Jill"    Oil on 9" x 12" Canvas Panel 


My Art Site: Bruce Hancock Fine Art