Friday, December 26, 2014

Pricilla, 20x24

This is one of several paintings.....

..... that I'm giving away this month.  It is an affliction I go through periodically and, although not a boon to my pocketbook and against any marketing advice, it certainly makes me feel I will likely continue the practice whenever the mood strikes.

I loved painting this model, playing with brushwork and paint thickness during the three hours it took.  The palette was limited to Ultramarine Blue, Cad Yellow Light, Burnt Sienna and Cad Red Light.

It was her dress that pleased me most.  It was a complex cross hatch pattern of black and white that, if I had put it in as I saw it, would have made it a painting without movement.   Viewers need movement to maintain interest, I think.  Too much explained information and the mind doesn't get involved.  OK, Vermeer and Velasquez seemed to pull it off, but even their work is greatly simplified.

I'm going to show up at 'Pricilla's' place of work and hand it to her.  Should be fun.

Hope you all are having a great Holiday Season with friends and relatives! 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Scream Online

A Great Day.....

.....ends even better when you find out you've been published in an international online magazine for the arts, the SCREAM online.  Despite the fact I knew it was coming sometime it took me by complete surprise.  Check it out HERE.  Thanks, 'Scream'!

Marker Drawing, ever since the day I accidentally 'discovered' it, has just been a fun activity.  Pretty soon it led to a handout, then some workshops, then a longer class handout....and then a book which you can find a link to in the above menu.

Many artists use markers for quick sketches to study compositional ideas, and I do also.  But the pieces can go beyond that into sketching on toned paper, recording color notes, and even into printmaking in the form of monotypes and etchings.  I highly recommend it as a way to study painting without hauling around a lot of brushes and paint.

Here is one I did recently in Italy which uses white gouache to help separate values.  Give it a try.  If you are in the area I will be having another Marker Workshop in March 2015.  It usually fills up.  Find out about it at the Winslow Art Center, HERE.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Erica, 11x14

Usually there is a Goal.....

.....that I have in mind when I paint.  'Light effect' is always at the top of the list and I add one or maybe two other things depending on the subject.  Last Thursday it was 'brushwork', specifically that I wanted to end up with a piece that had identifiable brushstrokes and pieces of paint in an interesting design.

What do you suppose Erica does for a living?  Here are your choices: Manager of a Cupcake Emporium, runs Safaris in Africa, or is a mechanic on a Washington State Ferry.  Look at her, I'm sure you can figure it out.

Here is a closeup to buy some time while you decide......and to tell you how much I like the colors that can be found in shadows.  Those shadows are usually the first thing I paint, setting the mood and direction for the rest of the painting.  The reds, greens, blues and purples, subtle though they are, make the light struck portions sing.

OK.  You've had time to guess and if you picked 'Runs Safaris in Africa' you'd be right.  HERE is her website.  She has been doing it for over a decade and has some great stories and off beat adventures.  I didn't know there was an African version of the piranha with huge teeth that people actually like to fish for.

Off into another day.....

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Mountain Crossing, 10x12

It was a group effort.....
.....all of us in my class painting from the same photo.  If I had been sharper I would have taken some photos to show a room of ten paintings of orange trees, all slightly different but all successful.

This one is mine.  The misty clouds weren't actually there but it seemed to need a couple of subtle horizontals to add dimension and balance.  There are a few other inventions and deletions around the piece.  It's often good....often much depart the text.

Friday is the opening of the PAWA show (plein air painters of Washington) at the American Art Company in Tacoma.  It's on Broadway just off 11th.

I was down there last Saturday and the artwork is amazing.  It would be well worth the trip just to see the high quality paintings.  Jeremy Lipking will be there as judge.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Changes, 24x30

Life Changes

A Young Girl Just Beginning Her Turn....

.....around the next corner of life, leaving behind the stuffed animals and toys....but never to forget them.  Toy Story all over again.  I should have named this 'Don't Go Changing' but, really, the change is nice to watch and we all wish them the best.  Ah, I'm getting nostalgic.

I thought it was portrait day at our small painting group so brought a large canvas.  If I had remembered it was still life day I would have brought a canvas formatted differently....but I think this worked out.

I had fun with this, although it was hard to compose and I think I'd try something different if I did it again.  At least this one alludes to a story.  Someone once told me that illustrations tell stories, paintings play with color and shape.  That doesn't make sense to me but there might be some element of truth there.

With that in mind I can't help think of Jamie Wyeth's painting of pumpkins with carved faces being thrown over the cliffs of the island he lives on.  It is both story and that makes me laugh every time I see it.  There is something about the grotesque grinning faces cascading down that tickles me.

Maine painter Carol Douglas has an image of those freed pumpkins on her blog HERE.

How did I get off on all that?

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....