Friday, November 14, 2014

Oksana, 10x12

Take a beautiful Russian model, throw in.....

......homemade potato soup, a glass of wine and excellent company.  All the makings of a delightful afternoon....and it was.

Since I had just driven back from Montana in some very cold weather and gotten back very tired late the night before I didn't plan on painting.   However, once I saw the cool lighting and backlit colors emanating from Oksana's face I couldn't resist.

Contre-jour lighting, meaning 'into the light', is hard on the eyes but great for color explorations.  Charles Reid does a lot of it, mostly in watercolor but also a few oils.  Shadows have a transparency about them allowing for transparent or semi-opaque color possibilities.  It feels like you can almost reach into them.

So I had some fun.

Come have some fun yourself in my Marker Workshop on Friday, November 21st.  Learn to draw in a different way using gray toned markers.  It is amazing how quickly you can make simple drawings come to life using these markers.  They are also great for planning out your next painting.

Join us.  We have a lot of fun!  Oksana might be there....    

Monday, November 3, 2014

Painting Pixies

Appeasing the Painting Pixies.....

Last Thursday I was talking with Pam Fermanis about a curious thing.  That's the day I get together with a small group of accomplished artists to paint portraits...and sometimes still life.

Pam was feeling that it was 'just one of those days' as nothing was really turning out for her.  Our conversation veered quickly to how one day can be so creatively different than even the day before.  Using the same paint, brushes, canvas and what-all, one day can be so successful that it almost feels like you could just walk away and let the tools finish the painting.  The next day, no matter how hard you try, or how mentally aware you are, nothing seems to work.

Same tools, same artist, similar subject....yet nothing works.  Sometimes it leaves me speechless....or swearing....or ready to quit painting for the 1,000th time.

Scientifically speaking, I've decided it's the Painting Pixies.  There is no other logical conclusion.  One day they like you and the next they don't care a whit.

While I felt for Pam, I was having a good day.  The PP's had blessed me with their magic.

The first painting I did was of my friend Francis and took about 2 1/2 hours to complete the 18x24 canvas.  He was in motion, making it fun to try and have it all work and still get a likeness.

Since I had almost an hour to go before we quit, I slapped on a 20x24 and did the still life in less than an hour.  See.  The Pixies were liking me that day.  I could have dozed off and it still would have worked out.

Two paintings in four hours.  I sure hope they don't expect anything in return.....

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Halloween Capitol, Anoka

I Come From the Halloween Capitol.....

..... of the World.  That's World.  Not just town, county, state, country or regional area.  The whole bloomin' world.  Our town is proud.  I'm surprised it wasn't the universe.  Being Minnesotan I guess we have limits on 'proud'.

Every year the school they still do this?....dress up in elaborate costumes and parade through the town.  One year my brother and I were two 22 foot white worms made from coils of wire and bedsheets.  Another we were robots....silver cardboard from head to toe.  Our parents were creative.

It was/is also the day of the Pumpkin Bowl where football was/is played with devotion, vigor and in protection of our sacred Halloween rights.  My sister collects memorabilia of Halloween's past from our innocent little town.  I haven't been back in years but without a doubt it hasn't changed much. 

So, every year I do my tribute with a painting or a drawing about the hallowed day.  Here are two from our island pumpkin patch.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

She Wore Her Party Dress, 11x14

She Almost Broke Her Face.

Sitting on the edge of a couch, her hands on the edge of the cushions to prop herself up, head canted and turned to one side and Smiling for several hours.....I was waiting for her face to develop fissures.  In all the time I have done portraits there has never been a model who could broadly smile and keep the same exact pose for hours without even a whimper.  Her name is Kathy.  Super Model.

So it seems I'm on another of my 'kicks' that I periodically go through.  This one is about painting using just three primary colors.  I think I'm trying to get a sense of color compatibility and possibility.  Cad Lemon, Cad Red Medium and Ultramarine Blue in this one.

Most three pigment painters I have seen end up with paintings that are somewhat gray, lacking in vibrancy, in my opinion.  I was looking through my library the other day and pulled out one of Kevin McPherson's books in which he talks about the three or four pigment palette.  His paintings weren't gray.  Zorn's paintings, using an even more limited palette, aren't gray.

So I'm giving the whole thing another look and working on my color vocabulary.         

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Back Street Montisi, 11x14

Rain, Sun, Clouds, Wind....

.....It was an afternoon that provided everything.  Marianne and I had wandered around our Italian town looking for an interesting place to paint that was a little protected.  This alley was IT.

I liked the way this little road disappeared around the corner and how a 'local' would suddenly appear, obviously taking the 'short cut'.  They weren't sure what to make of us but they were all friendly.

Since painting all those weather conditions wasn't going to work I had to pick one so whenever the sun peaked out I memorized the light pattern.  It is all just shapes and bit of color but I like how it all goes together.

Every town in Tuscany has it's own charm....and we will be going back in 2015.

Marianne painted that little door peaking out on the right.  I'm going to bug her to get it posted.  It was a nice painting.   

Monday, October 20, 2014

Running Into Fall, 14x18

It was an experiment.

I got some unexpected energy last week.....pneumonia recovery is I wondered what would happen if I painted a piece using only three colors.

There was an old plein air work hanging around that was done on a Montana autumn afternoon while deep in the forest.  It seemed a likely candidate to be put to the test.

In the Tuesday painting class I've been talking about using three primaries (red, blue, yellow), or colors close to primary, as a way to expand color mixing vocabulary.   On pieces I've done before like this the results have been intriguing.   For example, I like to paint in acrylic outdoors using only Thalo blue, Cadmium Yellow and Burnt Sienna.

Below is the original plein air sketch.  I've modified the scale, format and paint application to do the larger piece and I like the result.  Being a bit wider I think it better represents the sense of flow and the bottleneck caused by those two large boulders.

What colors?  Ultramarine Blue, Cadmium Red Medium and Quinacridone Gold. 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Afternoon Sketch, 11x14

There was just enough time.... squeeze in an afternoon painting if I worked fast.  Standing in the garden of the villa I could look out over the hills and fields and even see the next town in the distance.  I didn't know Italy was mountainous and I found it a pleasant surprise to be able to include that peak in the distance.

Simplifying all the fields, trees, shapes and colors was a challenge especially with the in and out changing light.  Like I said, a quick sketch.  It was equally hard to get it to adjust on the computer screen accurately....or at least almost so.

I'm looking forward to another attempt next year.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Montisi Nocturne, 11x14

The meals at the villa in Montisi were.......

.....incredibly good.  Thinking I needed a walk before tackling the endless courses of food, I decided to take a short walk.  About a block away I ran into this glowing tower and got a little feverish with a painting attack.

I waited a polite amount of time before bolting from the dinner table and heading back with my paint kit.  The streets are narrow so the only place to stand was on a darkened corner at the top of a stairway....well, my easel was at the top.  I was on the first two steps down looking over the edge of my palette and reaching up to apply paint.  

There was very little light.  I had to remember where the colors were on the palette and mix them as best I could.  What could I actually see on my panel?  Here is an idea.

Really.  Occasionally I could run down the stairs so there was more light on the panel but this was what it looked like most of the time.  The car and background were complete mysteries.

When I got back I was pleasantly surprised by the result.  With very little doctoring up this was what I got.  Reminds me of a couple pieces I did in Mexico in similar circumstances that turned out well also.  Wonder if I should always paint in the dark.....?

Thursday, October 9, 2014

A Villa Garden, 8x10

'Off the grid' have I been....

.....due to a dance with pneumonia.  I wouldn't recommend it.....but I'm almost 'normal', whatever that means....but  I guess it means I'm interested in painting again.

Anyway, this was the first demo painting I did at the Italy workshop  (plans are afoot already for another next year).  Wanting to do something relatively simple I decided on this.  OK.  To be honest it was the most comfortable seating area in the garden and THEN I decided what I could see to paint.

I taped a loose piece of linen to a board, toned it with some burnt sienna and talked my way through the stages.  It's a quick little piece but I like the way the colors came together.

Here is a pic one of the other painters posted on Facebook about a week ago.  I'm taking the tape off just prior to final touch-up....can't judge it as well with all that blue tape so the refinement takes place with it off.

By the way, my Fall 2014 painting classes begin this next Tuesday from 9:30 to 1:30 followed by open studio time.  Open to oil, acrylic, gouache, casein or pastel.  There are a couple of spots still available if you can make it.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Drawings from Italy

There was heavy thunder and lightning overhead....

.....yet bright low lying clouds in the distance.  It was only a short time before it would rain but I decided to try this one anyway.  I snuck in the last brush stroke just as the first drop of a deluge began to fall.  I hid in a doorway watching the water run down the old cobblestone streets, washing them clean.

I call this kind of thing 'painting with a pen' although I do use markers and some gouache on a brush plus a white pen.  All of my drawings begin with mentally picturing what it will look like on the page.  Then I figure out what is the simplest thing I can find that will form a structure for the rest of the drawing.

This one began like this:

1.  The top of the building....that narrow cornice outlined in dotted red....was the easiest thing to figure out.  I carefully thought through the size, picturing how it would look with the rest of the page.  To aid the composition it was placed just to the right of middle.   A couple of short lines came down from that small rectangle to set up for the next step.

2.  Then the sloping roof line (dotted blue) was done in the same thoughtful way.   The angles and lengths were slight different so I was careful to get it right.  Once the angle and length was in I could draw the overhang.

3.  Lastly, the height on the right side of the the building was placed (dotted yellow).  This was twice as tricky because the pharmacist who ran the shop I was sitting in front of parked her car right in front of me.  Getting it correct involved peering around, over and through the windows.  Fortunately she drove away soon.

After that, everything else could be determined by seeing where it lined up and intersected with what I had down.  The background building to the right, for example, neatly tucked in under, but not touching, the eave of what I had just done.  Kind of like TinkerToys after that basic structure was in.

You will notice that there is no pencil 'sketch in' before the ink pen.  There really isn't any reason not to....I just like the concentration and challenge of putting it down finished from the start.  I make mistakes but they generally get covered up.  Notice how that small bush in the foreground is drawn right over the rectangular box.  I like that stuff.  It says I'm not a robot.

Adding the gouache: I save the straight white paint for the areas that can draw me into the painting.  You know, darkest dark against lightest light, detail against calm.  That is used sparingly.  Most of the gouache is diluted with water to varying degrees.  It always looks intense when first put on but softens a lot as it drys.  Small white accents are done with the white pen.

Tools:  An extra fine point Sharpie permanent pen, a few gray scale markers, some white gouache with a half  inch brush, a white ink pen and a plastic cup with water for cleaning and another one cut off for a 'palette'.  Also a bottle of drinking water.  The toned paper I got at a may have been WMart but don't tell anyone.  Fifty sheets for about three dollars.

Here are some more of the drawings from the Italy trip.  It became easier and more productive to do drawings rather than paint, although I'll begin posting the paintings I got done in a few days.  In the first one you can see some of my color notes in the margin for doing a painting later.  More on that in a week or so.

Just Keep Drawing.....

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Blue Hydrangea, 18x20

As I should be packing for Italy....

.....this should be short and to the point.....or I'll get there without any clothes.  Paint supplies but no clothes.

It was painted last Friday, I think, at my friend Tannis' home.  She had a wonderful grouping of hydrangea and I wanted to do them all but I compromised.  The point of this whole piece is that one small blue flower stealing the limelight (literally) from the other blooms.  It was like this but I worked to make it more interesting than it was.

'Overstate, understate, but never tell the truth'  Charles Movalli

This next is a quick study done two days ago.  Nancy always feeds me when I go over so when other painters say they are  gathering at her house I have to 'stop by'.....for lunch.

I did it without sketching anything out ahead of time but if you go back a couple of blog posts you will see a drawing I did of the same scene.  It was still in my head.

I'll try and post from Italy.....but who knows if I actually can.  Later.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Travel Pochade

So many questions.....

.....after Kelsey posted a pic of this thing on I thought I'd share a few details to answer the queries.

Yes, I made it.....because the one I wanted to order from Ben Haggett in Missoula wasn't going to be available in time for the Italy trip.  In my spare time (chuckle) I whacked this together.  I've done others so a few of the ideas I swiped from my previous boxes.

This one is 11x14 inches with a 9.5 by 13 mixing area.  I like a tripod shelf and wanted some extra mixing space, but also wanted it to be light weight and thin.  This is 2" thick and the shelf and thumb palette nest together in the back.  A bungee loops on the one projecting knob and around the box to hold everything together.

The hinges are adjustable so they can hold the lid with the panel support in place when painting.  Just open the box and paint.  For larger panels (it will take an 18x whatever in landscape mode) I may add an additional support.....or just use a more robust easel.

I also wanted a way to video, both regular and time lapse, without having to lug an extra tripod.  Stealing an idea from James Gurney, I made a detachable iPhone holder over in the corner.  I haven't had a chance to use it on a painting yet but will post a video as soon as I do.  Italy will likely be my first chance to do that.

It weighs 3.5 pounds, is made of oak and baltic birch panel material and coated with one of my painting mediums of linseed oil, damar varnish and dryer.  The tripod is a Manfrotto lightweight version.  I've used my heavier 8x10 Openbox M pochade on it and it has worked fine for years.

So there you go.  I'll let you know how it works...but, no, I don't make them for sale.  Build your own or exchange a painting with someone who can.

Speaking of James Gurney, if you haven't gone to his blog you are missing something great.  He is now doing stop action animations that are amazingly creative and fun.  Gurney Journey   Do it......

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Ann's Farm, 18x20

I have admired this farm for many years....

.....but never stopped to paint until last week.
  The cows were out in the field wandering around, admiring or supervising I was never quite sure.

Backlit scenes are one of my favorite views to paint, called 'contre jour' I think.....into the light.  It is a bit blinding to look into the sun, especially on a hot day, but well worth the trouble for the colors that show up.

This was composed to include as much of the light and color on the field as I could.  I liked the barn silhouetted against those dark trees....but it was the field the shadow patterns that really got me excited.

If I did it again I think I'd crop out the top third of the barn to get in more of the field.  It would be interesting to try.

Rather like this one.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Marrowstone Morning, 10x12

First I saw the trees....

....silhouetted against the sky and decided to paint.  Then I got even more interested in the puzzle pieces in the sky and land that tended to mimic one another.

The trees are still the main actor but all those in the supporting cast are sure busy.  That distant hill and the trees are the calm parts.  The rest of the painting has 'ants in the pants'.

Like so often happens, I had a tendency to unconsciously 'organize' the scene, not paying attention to the necessary randomness needed to make it 'right'.  As a result, it got wiped out several times before calling it finished.

Warm and cool, warm and cool.....

Say.  I think I just saw a crocodile....see him?

Thursday, July 31, 2014

McNab Marina....and others

Failure, rejection and defeat....

                               (This post was added a few weeks ago but didn't show up on Blogger  so I'm re-posting it.  Sometimes the computer gods are mystifying.)

.....have been some of the best influences on me.  Just when I'm ready to throw in the towel forever and for good, something comes along that clicks me back into the game.  As long as I'm willing to say 'yes' to it, I get somewhere exciting.

This happened when I stumbled onto drawing with valued markers.


By simplifying form and detail, the markers allowed me to pay more attention to  design and story.  Using them I could 'paint' when I didn't have brushes....just some paper would do.   And then I blundered into toned papers and a white pen or gouache.....

So when I was casting around for how to teach a beginning artist how to see conceptually these techniques came to mind.  She is going on the Italy trip and I wanted her to experience loads of success in the easiest way possible.

Anyway, just when I needed inspiration in this direction, my friend Kathy Weber posted some recent drawings she had done, and I got what I needed.  Here is one of Kathy's drawings and I've linked her name to her blog so you can see the rest.  I hope she doesn't mind my sharing this pic.


Notice how simply and beautifully stated her shapes are and how economical her description of form.  Beautiful.  The strong feeling of light flowing into a quiet room is very nice.....but those foreshortened feet anchoring her to the floor are terrific.  Thanks, Kathy.

So, as examples, I did several more and here are a couple of them.

Just Keep Drawing.......

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Wall Flowers, 12x14

It began with eggs.

Specifically, our friend Nancy calling to see if I wanted some.  I said 'Sure', so she said come over and get them but I'll be gone and could you please let the dog out?

Well, Noelle and Bella are the best of buddies in a 'tear around the garden and get as dirty as possible' kind of, sure, I could do that. 

As they were enjoying themselves and the dirt I decided to do a painting, and here are the progression photos.  It's on Arches Oil Paper taped to a board.  I've been experimenting with some different blues and used them on this piece.

The subject plant and basket was just a source for inspiration so you'll see lots of differences if you are looking for a photographic likeness.  However, if you are instead looking for a painting, this is what it made me do. 

I hope to get a better photo later.

 Here is the source:

No pre-drawing on this one, just color block-in from the start:

 Beginning development of forms:
Tape removed to check color: 
 Refining the forms....almost finished:
 It took about 75 minutes and was entertaining to do.  The warm/cool color changes were fun.  The piece already has a new owner. 

That one spot available for the Italy trip is still hanging open....hint, hint....

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

John Deere, 24x24

When I was two I drove my first tractor....

....and I've loved them ever since.  My grandfather used to drive his around the orange groves visiting his Mexican neighbors and friends with me on his lap.  Those memories are vivid.

This one has sat in a Roslyn, WA field for at least the last 4 years or more.  It began as a field study posted below.  The buildings, the tractor and the bank in back weren't exactly canted as much as you see here but it seemed to work better with the raking shadows of those trees .....that you only see the shadows of.

Delivering about a dozen paintings tomorrow to the Roslyn Fest being held this weekend.  And after delivery we will find a cool mountain place and.....get this.....paint.

There is one spot open for the trip to Italy.  It's not too late to be adventurous and have a blast painting and drawing.....or eating and sleeping, take your pick.  Winslow Art Center has all the details.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Claudia's Roses, 14x18

Just outside of....

....her studio, fabulous painter Claudia McKinstry, has a most wonderful garden.  She is known for her extreme blowups of flowers and plants in which every nuance of color is  expressed in a big way.  She was working on a triptych that must have been 4 x 8 feet of lilies.  I don't know how long they take her to do.

Well, mine aren't as big or as nuanced or as impressive, but I am a bit faster.  This one took about ninety minutes to do standing in her yard, plus another fifteen back in the studio.  As I was finishing Claudia showed up with a bowl of home made rhubarb desert.  Little does she know that when you feed an artist they tend to return.  A bit like a stray dog.

Carrie Goller, another talented artist, took this shot of Mick and me....'tandem painting' someone called it..... using our Soltek modifications.

Villa Maddalena is where we will be staying in Italy.  Go HERE to their site and click on 'Photo Gallery' for a photo tour of the place.  Good food, grape terrace, a pool......  I think with my strong resolve and courage I will be able to survive it.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Pond Reflections, 12x16

Wednesday was sunny.... Mick, Linda and I headed back to the same spot we had painted the other day when it was heavy overcast.  Soon Rob Weiss surprised us showing up to paint the Japanese bridge again....and he did an excellent job but hasn't posted it yet.

The effect of sunlight changed the appearance of everything.  Color was bouncing all over and the light direction and shadows changed quickly.  It meant painting fast.

I wanted to see what the differences would be so I did a variation of 'Reflecting Magenta', posted a few days ago.  Gone was the reflected sky and the dull orange bank.  In the sun the magenta flowers caught a reddish glow.  A fun piece to paint but actually more difficult to orchestrate the values and colors.  I expected it to be easier.

This next week I think I need to go find some boats or large machinery....maybe some urban scenes.  Stay tuned.  I'll be back.

Ciao!  (I have to stay in practice for this Italy gig.)   

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Birch Forest Path, 12x16

The Birch Forest at.....

....the Bloedel Reserve was new to me.  There must be around twenty trees there growing out of the laurel hedges, not exactly my conception of 'forest' but I was game.

After I began composing, that pie slice of orange like path just had to be an important shape and a nice horizontal part.  I picked up the color in the branches of the trees....the warmth was there but got pushed just a touch.

I like the liveliness of the brushwork and the colors in the trees.  In my opinion, the best birch tree painters I've seen are Colin Page and Sonny Apinchapong.  When I see their birch paintings I'm tempted to take up golf.

Not really.

Montisi, Italy just got some award for best undiscovered hill town or something like that.  I'll find out and post more about it tomorrow.