Monday, November 16, 2015

My blog has moved!

My blog has moved!
Dear Friends....
Thank you for visiting my Blog over these past 6 years.  I have been grateful for your visits and I sincerely hope that you will continue to come by to say hello.  I have enjoyed using Blogger.  It is a terrific service.  I extend my thanks to the folks at Google for this wonderful FREE platform; however, it is time for change!

In order to have a more integrated blog, art website and art shop I have created a completely new site.  My entire blog archive and all future posts can be found there under the menu choice "Artist's Journal."   Over more than six years on Blogger, my writings have taken on the look and feel of an illustrated journal, so that's what I've decided to call it.  The topic is always art, but the subject matter may range from my latest painting to a painting material or aid that I find particularly useful.  I have written about painting trips, art workshops, and art friends.  I've posted successes and not-so-successes.  I intend to continue sharing all those things and more with you. 

I sincerely hope you will come by the new site, browse around, leave a message and perhaps sign up for my Newsletter.  In any event, thanks for being a friend in art.  Hope to see you soon!


Monday, November 2, 2015

Catchin' Up!

I can't believe it's been a month since my last post!  Its almost scary how fast the time goes.  On second thought it IS SCARY!

Happily some of my delinquency is due to a great painting trip to Ft. Bragg and Mendocino with artist friends for about the 5th or 6th year in a row.  This time our luck finally ran out and we had mostly challenging weather, but that didn't seem to dampen anyone's spirits ... athough other parts might have gotten more than dampened!  It was a good trip.  I look forward to next year.

Unfortunately as soon as I returned from Ft. Bragg I had some health problems which required a little recovery time.  I tried to put that time to good use by beginning work on a new website!  Within the next two weeks I will have up and running with any luck.  The new site will combine my art gallery and blog into one interconnected entity.  It will also provide many tools for promoting and selling my work.  My gallery is currently at and my blog is currently on the blogger platform, which is where you are if you are reading this.  Both have provided yeoman service for several years but it's time to move into something that allows me to display, promote and sell my art more effectively.  In the near future when you try to log into either of my current sites, you will be redirected to my new location.  I  hope to see you there!!

Meanwhile, here are two of my plein air paintings from the Ft. Bragg paint-out.

Surf at McKerricher Beach   Oil on 12 x 16 linen panel  (SOLD)

A Gray Morning in Noyo Harbor    8 x 16 oil on linen panel  (SOLD)

My Art Site: Bruce Hancock Fine Art

Friday, October 9, 2015

Second Saturday Art Show!

October 10, 2015 is Second Saturday again!  And once again, I will have new artwork on display at the Patris Studio and Art Gallery,  3460 2nd Avenue, Sacramento, CA 95817.  Also works by Patris,  Abigail VanCannon ; Scott Martin, David Peterson and several other Sacramento area artists will be included.  I have four paintings in the show.  All are ready to hang in your home or office.  Three still life paintings are beautifully framed and the very large landscape is on a heavy cradled panel with painted edges. 

It starts around 6 PM and will include wine and live music.  See you there!

Late Summer Afternoon at Delevan  Oil on cradled panel  23 x 45

The Copper Kettle  Oil on linen panel 12x12
Late Afternoon in the Garden   Oil on linen Panel  12 x 12

Quiet Evening   Oil on stretched linen   16 x 12

My Art Site: Bruce Hancock Fine Art

Thursday, October 8, 2015

In the Manner of the Masters

2015-14PO Hancock Portrait 16 x 12 Zane  Oil on linen panel

This portrait of a young man, Zane, was done entirely from life.  I used a technique and process that I explored in a recent workshop with classical artist Michael Siegel.  One could spend a lifetime studying the techniques of the old masters so I have only scratched the surface, obviously.  

What I find very valuable is the paint application process, the use of mediums (in Zane, I used maroger pronounced mare oh-jay, I believe) and a very meticulous approach.  By that I mean the literally every brush stroke is planned and then executed with care and deliberation.  Certainly, careful execution isn't restricted to the old masters - I've become aware that many of the painters I admire are surprisingly measured and 'slow' in the process of painting - but it is a hallmark of the classic painters and their work, I think.  I've been conscious of my own process for the last year or so, and I've made very deliberate efforts to slow down!  It has helped enormously.  All I have to do is remember to remenber!

Zane was painted with a very limited palette, which is simply my own preference.  I believe it consisted of medium red, yellow ochre, alizarin crimson, black and white.   There may have been a touch of other colors including a trial attempt with raw and burnt umber.  I've decided I do not like either color and have scraped them off my palette for good.  

I''m pleased with this portrait and with my journey into the style of the old masters.  I've learned a lot and that's what any exploration is about.  Personally I'll probably take a few tips away from this to be used on my own style of painting.   And just for comparison, here's the same model painted a few weeks ago in open session.  

2015-16PO Hancock Portrait 20 x 16 Zane's Braids   Oil on linen panel
Happy Painting! 

My Art Site: Bruce Hancock Fine Art

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Blue Vase - Continuing Still Life Exploration

 Still Life painting continues to intrigue me.  I've mentioned before that I enjoy painting still life subjects in the studio as a kind of therapy.  There's something very healing about the process.  One is painting from life, but without the pressures of working from a model or the challenges (should I say aggravations?) of plein air painting. With internet radio in the background and Dixie asleep on her pillow by the transparent plastic doggie door (so she can keep one eye out for squirrels who may have the audacity to venture into HER backyard), the studio is a wonderfully peaceful place. 

But more and more I appreciate still life painting as a chance to explore painting techniques and to simply practice what I learn in workshops and other studies.  Sometimes, I learn what NOT to do, which, if it is absorbed and remembered, is every bit as valuable as learning what to TO do.  As an example of this last point, I just completed a workshop conducted by a very accomplished painter who teaches and practices a 'classical' approach using old master techniques, colors, mediums and etc. (More on the workshop in another post.) Using what I had learned, I attempted to complete this still life and in particular the vase.  It was a disaster to such an extent that yesterday I spent about two hours completely over-painting and then re-painting the entire vase.  I did one other thing, I scraped burnt umber and raw umber from my palette forever.  I know that they are essential colors of the old masters, but apparently they knew how to use them and I don't.  And simply put, they are incredibly UGLY!   (And according to some experts found on the internet, one or both have some bad chemical properties from an archival point of view.  You can google it.)

In this painting I wanted a contrast of textures.  Against the smooth and reflective surface of the blue vase and the red apple, I tried very hard to create texture in the oranges and the table top by putting the paint down heavily and leaving it.  I think it was successful.

The Blue Vase    12" x 12" Oil on linen panel

My Art Site: Bruce Hancock Fine Art

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Painting from Life - And the Essential Homework

Since my (semi) retirement in July of this year, I've had more time to paint.  I can't say that I've taken full advantage of the increased opportunity, but as I make the mental transition from the regime of the past (sometimes very comfortable) to the freedom of the present (sometimes very disorienting), I begin to see new pathways and new ways of thinking about what I do and how I do it.

One thing that should have been clear all along, but strangely wasn't,  is that although increased painting time is invaluable to growth, particularly in the handling of materials and the resolution of painting problems, mere repetition isn't enough. Doing the same thing over and over - or to put it another way, making the same mistakes over and over - just reinforces current approaches both good and bad.  So for the last two months or so, I've begun to add a level of "study" to my painting efforts.

Among other "homework" I've spent some time reviewing Andrew Loomis's books on drawing the head and the figure.  Originally published in the mid- 1940's, both books have been reissued in very affordable editions.  They are treasure chests of information on the subject with wonderful and detailed information on proportions and shapes.  Studying and practicing this foundational information has helped my life painting sessions as I spend less time fixing drawing errors and more time trying to create an artwork.

I also continue my study of limited palettes.  "Gary" was done with the Zorn palette of white, black, red and yellow.  "Sassy" was done with something closer to the Kathleen Dunphy palette of yellow, naples yellow, red, and ultramarine blue, to which I added transparent oxide red.  These limited palettes are so wonderfully freeing.  You would think that it might be just the opposite, that not having 20 colors on your palette to choose from would be constraining,  but after a very small learning curve, I've found that the limited selection has many, many benefits.  But that's a subject for another post.

For now, here are two paintings done from life this month.  Both took about 2 to 2 1/2 hours. 

"Gary"    Oil on linen  11 x 8 1/2 

"Sassy"   Oil on linen   12 x 16 

My Art Site: Bruce Hancock Fine Art

Monday, August 17, 2015

Zane -- An Oil Portrait from Life

Lately I've had extra time to attend open studio events and to paint in my own studio.  I am beginning to appreciate not only the value of painting more frequently, but also the invaluable experience of painting from life, whether it is a model or a still life.  There's really no substitute.  That's not to say that painting from photographs is a no-no....I have to do it all the time, frankly...but simply that there is nothing else that matches painting from life.  Do it whenever you can.

This painting was done at an open studio at Patris Studio and Art Gallery.  I am more and more interested in limited palettes and today I used a "Zorn" palette of yellow ochre, cad red medium and Ivory black....with titanium white, of course.   I really like the result.

Zane    Oil on linen  12 x 16"

My Art Site: Bruce Hancock Fine Art

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Rob On The Road! - Oil Portrait

This week I was able to attend an open session at Patris Studio and Art Gallery in Oak Park. 

Our surprise model for the session was Rob Stewart, host of the very popular "Rob on the Road" television series seen on local public television station KVIE.  Now when I say very popular, the first thing I have to admit is that I have never seen or even heard of Rob's show, but the moment it was announced that he was to be our model, all the other artists went ga-ga!  As usual, I'm the last to know ANYTHING!  If you are like me but would like to know a little more about Rob's show, here's the link to KVIE and to the show's facebook page  (I'm sorry to say that I missed out on the group photo of the event that is posted on Facebook because I had to step outside for about 30 minutes to take a business phone call!  Bummer!)

Rob Stewart  Oil on linen panel,  9 x 12
Anyway, we had a great session and Rob was not only a good model, but he was a terrific sport.  These are the kinds of things that make Patris's studio so much fun and such a great place to enjoy and participate in art. 

Oh....and I'm pleased to say that Rob bought my portrait of him!  

Rob Stewart and my portrait of him.  Patris Studios, Oak Park

My Art Site: Bruce Hancock Fine Art

Thursday, August 6, 2015

My Paintings to be in a New Show at Patris Gallery

I'm very pleased to say that four of my paintings have been accepted into a new show opening this weekend at the Patris Art Gallery 3460 2nd Avenue, Sacramento, CA 95817.

The show is entitled " STUDENT/INSTRUCTOR ARTISTIC EXCELLENCE SHOW" and will exhibit the work of some of the notable instructors who have conducted workshops at the Patris Studio as well as those students who have benefited from their teaching.  I'm in the latter group, having taken workshops from Fongwei Liu ( ) and Qaing Huang (pronounced Chong Wong )  These are only a few of the very high quality artists and teachers that Patris has brought to Sacramento.  I can say without reservation that the two workshops I took were absolutely integral to my growth as an artist.  

The show will begin with a Second Saturday reception from 6 pm to 10 pm on Saturday, August 8th.  I look forward to the possibility of seeing you there.  The paintings below have been accepted for the show and are framed and available for purchase at the Patris Art Gallery. 

Home From the Sea   20 x 24 oil

The Lights of Noyo Harbor    18 x 36 oil

Carney   11 x 14 oil

The End of the Evening   12 x 12 oil

My Art Site: Bruce Hancock Fine Art

Saturday, August 1, 2015

"Late Afternoon in the Garden" Still Life in Oil

The shade is deep under the trellis on this late summer afternoon. 

Late Afternoon in the Garden    12" x 12" Oil on Linen Panel  

To purchase this original oil painting, CLICK HERE

My Art Site: Bruce Hancock Fine Art

Thursday, July 30, 2015

"Copper Kettle" oil painting is FASO Staff Pick!

 I am pleased to post this news!  My latest still life painting (as of July 28th) was selected by by art critic Brian Sherwin as a "Staff Pick" from all artwork recently submitted to the Fine Art Studio Online (FASO) website.  It's certainly gratifying to have my work noticed in this way and to be included in the company of two very fine fellow artists, whose work is included in the article below.  I thank Mr. Sherwin and the FASO Staff members.

My humble little copper kettle, recently purchased at the antique / thrift store only last week, is now famous!   Who wudda thunk it??

( if you are interested in purchasing the Copper Kettle in a beautiful frame, CLICK HERE )

Staff Picks from the FASO Daily Art Show: Bruce Hancock, Amanda Fish, Mark Farina

by FineArtViews on 7/28/2015 9:55:40 AM

This article points to recent artwork featured on the FASO Daily Art Show.  Our popular newsletter, FineArtViews is sent daily to more than 34,166 people. Our other newsletters, BrushBuzz reaches 3,555 and InformedCollector reaches more than 10,371. FASO artists who upload artwork each day are featured in these newsletters the following day. If you already have a FASO website (even if it is a trial version), you're set, just upload your art as usual, we'll pick one to display and link to your portfolio in our newsletters. The following artists were selected for Staff Picks -- a FineArtViews blog series -- by FASO staff members after viewing recent editions of the FASO Daily Art Show on the newsletters mentioned above.

For this round of Staff Picks we had art critic Brian Sherwin (Editor of The Art Edge) select artwork that has been featured on the FASO Daily Art Show. We at FineArtViews encourage you to learn more about the following artists: Bruce Hancock, Amanda Fish, Mark Farina

Copper Kettle with Oranges and Strawberries by artist Bruce Hancock - selected by Brian Sherwin
(Oil on Canvas Panel)

Artist Bruce Hancock strives to capture the people, places, color and culture of America in oil. He captures the energy of a scene by utilizing bold marks and color. The expressive nature of his work documents a moment caught in time. Bruce notes that he is devoted to the study and practice of the art of painting. 

Fruit on Satin by artist Amanda Fish - selected by Brian Sherwin
(Oil on Hardboard)

Artist Amanda Fish has explored several directions in her art studio. However, she describes still life painting as her artistic calling. Amanda strives to capture the essence of traditional still life painting -- while at the same time upholding a fresh, painterly feel and application. Her dazzling collection is a joy to observe. 

Pears & Crock by artist Mark Farina - selected by Brian Sherwin
(Oil on Linen on Board)

Artist Mark Farina creates beautifully rendered paintings. Mark has explored numerous subjects in his studio. His still life paintings capture a sense of magic and reverence. The viewer is invited to observe extraordinary moments in these seemingly ordinary scenes.

My Art Site: Bruce Hancock Fine Art

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Copper Kettle with Oranges and Strawberries - Still Life in Oil

 This has been a disjointed week for various reasons.  The weekend passed without any painting getting done which left me feeling a bit frustrated.  On Monday I drifted over to a local antique store and shopped for still life subject matter.  I found this copper kettle and snapped it up. Yesterday I started on a 12 x 12 painting of it, adding some oranges and strawberries for color.  Today I spent a couple of hours pulling it together.

I'm going to let it sit for a couple of days and then add any last touches, but primarily I think this is done.  I love painting subjects like the kettle.  The antique store is huge with so many knick knacks and things like the kettle that it is impossible to take it all in on one trip.   I'll be returning soon!

Copper Kettle with Oranges and Strawberries  12 x 12

To purchase this orginal oil painting with frame, please CLICK HERE

My Art Site: Bruce Hancock Fine Art

Monday, July 13, 2015

I Once Fell In Love with a Beautiful Dancer --- Oil on canvas panel.

I once fell in love with a beautiful dancer   8" x 16"  oil on canvas panel

I have failed many times to capture this beautiful subject.  Finally I think I did and what do you know...the key was to find and then paint my own response.  

My Art Site: Bruce Hancock Fine Art

Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Lights Of Noyo Harbor Oil on Linen (UPDATED)

This painting was a learning experience, start to finish.  Unlike my first night scene of Noyo harbor, which had some fairly well lit boats and water-front buildings that could be painted with color and a little detail, this scene is from a greater distance.  As a result, all of the structures are shrouded in darkness and can only be suggested with subtle value changes. There's little or no opportunity for color notes except for a few places where the lights reflect on nearby buildings and other surfaces.  I've never painted anything with those restrictions.  It was fun learning my way around the concept.

I started with a small color study.  I am finding this a very important step when contemplating a lager studio painting that will require a lot of  time commitment.  The study not only helps to visualize the final painting, but it quickly reveals obvious problems and gives you an opportunity to think about them and eventually correct them.  The final painting is done on stretched oil-primed linen.  It was a very smooth weave.  I would probably opt for a little more texture if I had it to do over.  A lot of glazing went on in the areas of the water and more importantly in the hills.  It helped bring the values of the textures in the hills together to reinforce the lack of light, while at the same time allowing enough change to be able to keep the hills from being black slabs.  The final painting is 18" x 36".

This was easily the most difficult painting to photograph that I have encountered.  The surface is very smooth linen and it has a glossy varnish on top.  The hills do have value changes to suggest shapes and trees, but because they are still very dark, the camera wants to average them into the overall value.  Finding a way to capture the darkness of the painting yet also reveal the subtle value changes which give definition to the structures and the hills was a real challenge.  This photo comes as close to the actual painting as any I have taken.  I finally quit trying to put light on the painting and went in exactly the opposite direction.  I took this in a room with no lights on at all and with the blinds on the windows closed a tightly as possible.  I used shutter control and finally found the ideal at about a 1/4 second exposure, f/4.8, iso 400.  No 'adjustments' in photoshop were needed.  

The Lights of Noyo Harbor  Oil on linen   36" x 18"

Color Study Noyo Harbor 9 x 12
And this is the color study.  As you can see, I choose a more horizontal format for the final painting, which I believe captures the actual scene much more accurately.  I've mentioned many times before that a canvas size ration of 2 (W) to 1 (H) is ideal for painting almost any landscape.  It just seems true to the way we see such scenes. 

My Art Site: Bruce Hancock Fine Art

Monday, June 22, 2015

Carny (Revisited)

Last year my friends and I visited the Amador County Fair, a trip that is coming up again in a few weeks.  It is a great little Fair...a page from the past when going to the Fair was a pleasant family experience. 4-H kids showing their beautiful steers and sheep and calves, art exhibits, a parade of antique tractors down 'main street', lots of shade trees for sitting under while having a corn dog and beer....well it just doesn't get much better than that.  And of course there is a 'midway' with all the rides and coin tosses and cheap prizes.

And there along the midway, I spotted this Country Fair Carny seeking shade under an umbrella while waiting for the next muscle man to come along and want to show off to his girl. On the very warm July day, the suckers were few and far between.

I painted this version of The Carny shortly after that visit....


Recently I was looking at the painting - one which I have always liked - and thinking about composition, focus and the challenge of the background.  As much as I felt this painting turned out pretty well, I also had never quite figured out the background. The Carny seemed a little lost in the  'confusion'.   In particular however, I wanted to play with how I might have made it a better composition...something with more impact from across a room.

I pulled the painting off the wall began to sketch a larger Carny right over the original, emphasizing the diagonal relationship of his body to the canvas.  I also played with how to suggest a background without allowing it to be a major part of the painting.  I wanted something to 'frame' the Carny, not compete with him.
Carny    Oil on stretched canvas  11 x 14 inches

The Carny is a much different painting now.  This is how I remembered him.  Although he was surrounded by midway "stuff" and by people walking by, he was quite alone.  His boredom was palpable in the heat of the summer day.  This is what I saw when I snapped the photograph.

My Art Site: Bruce Hancock Fine Art

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Meeting Roos Schuring Carmel California

On Saturday, I had the chance to meet and paint with internationally known Dutch painter Roos Schuring.  Roos (pronounced Rose) was in the US to participate in the Carmel Art Festival, a plein air event attracting some of the most well-known and talented plein air artists.  Roos is obviously one of that group.  If you don't follow her blog, you are missing out on experiencing an incredibly dedicated and gifted artist.  Watching her paint on the beach in Holland in the most challenging circumstances is an inspiration.  Plus you are also missing her very generous videos and other painting and marketing resources for the plein air artist. Click HERE to visit'll be glad you did.

The opportunity to meet Roos came about after I purchased one of her fantastic plein air paintings.  During a back and forth email exchange about the purchase, she mentioned that she would soon be in the US to paint at the Carmel festival.  She invited me to come and paint with her, an invitation that she extended to other American friends as well.  Since Sacramento is only about 200 miles away from Carmel, I knew I couldn't miss it.

What a great afternoon it was.  Meeting Roos was a thrill and to paint with her was just the icing on the cake.  She was as charming and fun as I could have imagined, all the while speaking perfect English with a slight accent and a dry and wonderful sense of humor.  I won't forget the experience of painting with Roos Schuring for a long time, I can assure you! What a treat!

Roos Schuring, Dutch painter, and Me   Carmel California

Roos Schuring taking time to offer suggestions on my painting.   Carmel California
Roos Schuring  Carmel

Trying not to embarrass myself!!! 

My Art Site: Bruce Hancock Fine Art

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Old Shadows - Plein air During Kathleen Dunphy workshop

In my preceding post, I talked about my great experience attending a workshop with Kathleen Dunphy in Murphys California on the last weekend in April.  We had a few weather challenges, but the intensity of the workshop and the learning experience was never interrupted.

On the second day, we finally got a break in the rain and I was able to get in one painting.  I tried very hard to use the lessons gleaned from Kathleen's invaluable teaching.   I think her guidance shows.

Old Shadows    Oil on linen panel    12" x 8.5"

My Art Site: Bruce Hancock Fine Art

A Fabulous 3-Day Workshop with Kathleen Dunphy in Murphys California

I've followed Kathleen Dunphy's excellent blog for several years.  I highly recommend it.
And if you've followed my blog for awhile, you know that I had an opportunity to meet her once when I was fortunate enough to receive her "Juror's Award" at a show in Murphys.  I later took advantage of her good nature by....well, it's a fun story and you can read it in an earlier post.
(Meeting Kathleen Dunphy, April 27, 2013)

I FINALLY was able to register for one of Kathleen's fairly rare workshops - they fill up fast!- and on the weekend of April 25 - 27, I spent a fabulous three days learning from the best.  It is hard to describe how impressed I was with Kathleen personally and as a teacher.  To say that she is charming and gracious would be understating it.  I couldn't get over her patience with all of us in the workshop.  She never stopped smiling and joking.  But she brought more than good humor to the classroom.

Kathleen Dunphy, Artist and Teacher   April 25, 2015
This is the hard part to relate.  Maybe just telling how her teaching open a door for me will do it best.  On the first day of the workshop, we spent most of the day in lecture and demonstrations by Kathleen.  At about 3 pm, we went outside to paint.  It wasn't until later that I truely appreciated this approach.  I mean we are in a painting workshop to paint, right?  Well....

I finished my only painting of the day about 6 pm.  I felt the feelings of frustration and disappointment that are almost a hallmark of plein air painting for me.  When I returned to my hotel room I began to reflect on Kathleen's lecture during the day.  In particular I thought about her comments that as artists we can "fix" painting problems with logic.  We don't have to be ruled by emotions, particularly the negative ones.  Fighting down the feelings of futilitythat threatened to defeat me again, I found Kathleen's class handouts and my sketchbook and I began to analyze my painting, LOGICALLY.  Realizing that I might have settled too quickly on a design, I drew a few new thumbnails exploring other ways I could have composed the painting.  Using Kathleen's guidelines,I wrote notes about what I felt went wrong during the painting process, and then what I will do specifically to correct that next time.  And when I was done, the frustration was gone. Gone.  Imagine that.  I couldn't wait for tomorrow and another chance to paint. That was when I realized the power she had given me.  And why in a painting workshop, sometimes painting isn't the first order of business. 

It's up to me of course.  To be a painter, I have to paint.  A lot.  But I don't have to paint the same way I have always painted and HOPE to magically improve somehow.  For the very first time - amazingly enough at my age - I understand that improvement isn't about luck or about taking the right workshop or buying the right easel.  It's a logical process.  Every painting is an opportunity to study and learn, even the ones that eventually go in the burn pile.  (And hopefully, those will be fewer and fewer over time thanks to people like Kathleen.)  I seems so simple when I write it now.  Why of course, what did you think?  But that is the whole point,isn't it?  I didn't.  But I will....that's my promise to myself. 

My only regret about taking Kathleen's workshop is that I didn't do it long ago. 
Kathleen Dunphy, Artist   Demonstrating at Ironstone Vineyard lake
Do the days get much better than this????  I don't think so. 

My Art Site: Bruce Hancock Fine Art

Saturday, April 18, 2015

A Spring Morning in Capay Valley -- Oil on Linen

A Spring Morning in Capay Valley  12" x 36" oil on linen

In a previous post, I talked about painting a study of this beautiful scene in Capay Valley, not too far from Sacramento.  My plan was to paint a diptych for the final version.  During the study, I felt as though the left hand side of the painting needed more interest - particularly in a diptych - and so I painted in a wooden entry gate.  It did add interest and I liked the result.

However, I recently decided to do a single elongated canvas for no particular reason other than I had the stretcher bars handy and I liked the scene.  I continued with the plan of adding a gate at the left side during the start of the painting, but as I progressed I felt less and less strongly about the need to do so, particularly given that I was back to a single canvas.  In the end, I laid in the grove of trees at the left with a palette knife and then pushed the paint around with a stiff bristle brush trying to get a lot of texture.  I also added shadows to the left to add "weight" and balance and also to move the eye to the lighter areas of the painting.  I think it works OK.  The texture definitely adds interest and the painting seems balanced to me.  When I do the diptych version, I'll reconsider the gate.

This is oil on oil primed classen's linen.  It's the first time I've used this particular brand.  It isn't hard to see why it is so popular.  The texture is just right and the paint stays on the surface of the oil priming beautifully.  Eventually I will have to re-stretch this painting.  I did not have a center brace for the stretcher bars and the inexpensive brand I used has no provision for one.  As a result, the stretching process bowed the stretcher bars along the 36" width. I'll order some good quality bars with a center brace and redo it when the paint drys, which is going to be a little while!

My Art Site: Bruce Hancock Fine Art

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Attitude in a Pink Cap - Oil Study

Sometimes you just paint something for the heck of it.  The 'artistic value' may be lacking, but the fun quotient makes it worthwhile.  In this case I harbored the idea of doing a larger painting of this subject, so I decided to do a 12" x 12" study first.  At this point, I doubt I will go any further with the idea...maybe. 

I was drawn to the darker figure on the right: her 'attitude' intrigued me and it was what I tried to catch.  I also wanted capture the sense of intense light which is the essence of summer days on the beach in California.
I painted this on Ampersand Gessobord, a very smooth surface with very limited absorbancy.  I am intrigued with this painting surface and I've done a few small paintings on it, but I still have a learning curve to climb. 

And I love that pink ball cap.

Attitude in a Pink Cap  STUDY   12 x 12  oil on Ampersand panel. 

My Art Site: Bruce Hancock Fine Art

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The End of the Evening - still life

End of the Evening   Oil on 12" x 12" linen panel

Sometimes paintings seem to flow almost effortlessly, but far more often, they have to be pushed and pulled into being.  This is one of the latter.  Right from the start it was a struggle: from the setup to the block-in to the massing and color notes, I fought with it every step of the way.  In fact, I feel that the one thing I did right during the whole battle was not to give up.  I'm very aware that one of the most common mistakes that an artist can make is to quit on a painting too soon.  The temptation to wipe it down, scrape it off or just plain toss in in the failure pile can be very strong.  And while there are times when that is definitely the right thing to do, it's important not to give in to the temptation without a fight.

Midway through this painting, I felt completely lost.  I knew that along the way, I had skipped right over many of the lessons I have spent so much time and energy learning, and now I was starting at the resulting mess.  But I did remember one piece of advice I learned from Dan Edmondson: when you've completely lost a painting, do this: pick ONE piece of the painting and concentrate entirely on it.  Forget the rest.  Don't let the totality overwhelm you and confuse you.  Pick one thing and bring it out of the chaos using the techniques you know...paint application, color and value and modeling.  When you have that piece "recovered", move on to the next piece of the painting and repeat.  Eventually, the painting will come back under control and suddenly it isn't so crazy anymore.

And that's the story behind "End of the Evening."  Now if I can just remember it next time!
(Thanks Dan!)

My Art Site: Bruce Hancock Fine Art

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Amador City Shops - Plein air

Yesterday my friend Howard Rees and I met in Amador City to paint.  It was a wonderful spring day with a clear blue sky and temperatures in the low 70s.   I tried to remember my last plein air outing.  I think it might have been with Howard and a group of painters in Ft. Bragg and Mendocino last October!  Wow, could that be?  If so, that's far too long between outings.  I've mentioned here in the past that I have a love / hate relationship with plein air painting.  I find it so frustrating at times, and yet it is always invigorating and inspiring to get outside, set up the easel and just absorb it all.

After we were done, Howard and I had pizza and beer in a favorite place in Sutter Creek and we talked about plein air painting and the need to shake off constraints and accept that some - many - paintings will not be successful in their own right.  That's always easy to say and difficult to accept, but learning and growing is as much about what you do that doesn't work as it is about what you do well.

On this wonderful bright day, I picked a simple subject.  Perhaps I should have tried some of the more picturesque old western structures in Amador City, but I found these dark shaded shop doorways against a brightly lit building front to be interesting.  As I painted I experimented with a palette knife for texture and interest.  As I did so, I was thinking of famous artist Tibor Nagy and my friend Ruth Andre for inspiration.  I admire the palette knife work of both. (Ruth was going to join Howard and I but had to cancel due to not feeling well.)  I was judicious in my palette knife use - 'letting go' is still a struggle for me - but I think the texture created with the knife saved this painting and gives it some character. I'll be taking a workshop with Kathleen Dunphy in April, so I used her limited palette of cad yellow lemon, naples yellow deep, permanent red medium, ultramarine deep, gold grey and white.  It's a palette I use more and more anyway, with some variations, so this was a good time to stick strictly to those colors only and get in a little more practice. 

Back in  the studio I restated the darks using a knife and lost some edges using mostly my fingers and then signed it.  It was a super day.  Howard and I vowed to get out again soon.

Amador City Shops   Oil on 12 x 12 linen panel

Setting up in Amador City on a gorgeous Valentine's Day

My Art Site: Bruce Hancock Fine Art

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Morning in Capay Valley - A Color Study

Recently I took a short morning drive through the Capay Valley just Northwest of Sacramento.  The weather was beautiful and winter sun was still low in the sky.  I specifically wanted to take photos for future art projects while using – and learning – my new DSLR camera.  On the way, I stopped in Woodland long enough to take some pictures of the downtown area, and in the process I was reminded that there are a LOT of plein air painting opportunities in this neighboring small town.   I’ll have to go back there soon with my Easy-L at hand. 

One photo I captured was a very picturesque view of a distant barn and animal shed across a purple tinged field surrounded by green hills.  The early light cast long shadows across the bright green hills creating beautiful contrasts.  I knew I wanted to paint this scene with the intent of capturing that light and the sense of peace and timelessness in this little valley.

Capay Valley Farm Original photo format.  
I started out by cropping the photo in a couple of different ways.  This is a very effective way to visualize possible compositions, and it is made so easy with modern photo manipulation computer programs.   I use Adobe Elements, which is a junior version of the very pricey Photoshop, but very good free programs such as Gimp are readily available and do an excellent job.  For landscapes I really like an elongated composition and I often paint with 6 x 12 or 8 x 16 panels.  There’s something about the 2:1 width to height ratio that seems very natural for landscape painting.  In this case however, I was intrigued by an even more elongated 3:1 ratio.  I cropped the photo to that size.  The change in the feeling of the picture is dramatic, in my opinion!   
Capay Valley Farm photo cropped 3 to 1
At this point the idea of a diptych (2-panel) painting occurred to me.  I’ve never done one and this elongated concept lent itself to that idea.  So I settled on two 12 x 18 panels to maintain the correct overall ratio, got the required stretcher bars and stretched some oil primed linen canvas to end up with the final panels. 

First, however, I wanted to paint a preliminary color study in oil. Recently, I’ve had very good luck with doing studies before starting a larger painting and this project seemed like another very good candidate.  (In fact, I should have done it before stretching the canvases for the final painting.)  I found a piece of the same linen canvas I intended to use for the final painting and taped off a smaller version of the two panels, being careful to maintain the 3:1 ratio. 

Here is the first study.  The scrap linen is simply taped to a drawing board and then the tape is used to mark the correct ratio for each of the two pieces of the triptych.  I separated the two panels with a strip of tape to keep in mind that there will be two paintings, not one painting split in the middle.  Of course, they have to relate and flow together, but I felt that keeping the physical separation in mind was important.  

Capay Valley Color Study WIP   Oil on linen   approx size 5 x 16
Looking at the study, I was more and more conscious of something that I was aware of even when I was just cropping the photo, but which I had been ignoring.  The left panel, when viewed alone, has no center of interest.   My first thought was that I could put enough detail and variation in the trees in the middle ground and the hill in the background to overcome the issue.  That might still be the case, but now the study painting made me wonder.  If this were a painting on a single canvas, I felt it could work, but if it was to be a diptych, maybe not.  Of course the panels would always be together and hopefully would work as a cohesive whole, but the left panel would not work alone.  Did that matter? The more I thought about it, the more I was concerned that it would.

But this is a study, and the very purpose of a study is to expose problems or allow exploration of alternate approaches without a big commitment of time and expense.  With that in mind, I began to think about what I could add to the left panel that would add interest yet also be a harmonious piece of the whole.  I thought of cattle or horses grazing just forward of the tree line in the bright morning light.  I'm pretty sure that could work, but getting the right scale would be important.  Again it's a study, right?  And then I remembered a photo I had snapped on the same day at a gate going into a different farm.  I found and printed the gate picture and tried to visualize how it would fit into the painting.  

Capay Valley Oil Study -  with gate photo, sketch overlay to position gate

This photo shows the photo of the gate.  The perspective wasn't quite right - too straight on - so I used tracing paper to do a pencil sketch overlay to figure out how the perspective of the gate, how it might fit and what scale would make sense.  I also decided that I like the dead tree next to the gate in the photo, so I used it as a kind of boundary to the painting.

Capay Valley Oil Study - with gate added to left panel  WIP

Here's a closer look at the "finished" study.  The wonderful part of doing a color study is that you can’t really screw anything up so have at it!  I decided to paint in the gate as sketched and see how it would look.  I used a Q-tip dipped in OMS to “draw ‘ the gate structure by removing the existing wet paint.   Oil primed linen is allows you to lift off wet paint right down to the bare white canvas and start clean.  The gate works exactly as I had hoped. 

In a sense, I now have two studies...and both can be the basis of a larger painting.  At this moment, I think the 'gate' will be included in the diptych, but I may do another single panel landscape and follow the first study...and my first inclination.  For some reason it has more of the sense of space and time standing still that first drew me to the scene.  Unbalanced?  Maybe, but I still like it. 

In either case I see that I will need to emphasize the light and shadow on the hills more and to find some areas in the middle ground for intense light such as the face and roof of the barn and the shoulder of the rise just below the barn in order to bring attention to those focal points.   But I don’t feel the need to correct or add to the study at this point.  It will serve as a guide both for what I want to do and what I want to improve on.   Now on to the next stage!

My Art Site: Bruce Hancock Fine Art