Some Days Are Just Better

“Beach Trap”
oil on linen panel, 8″ x 10″
Some days everything just seems to fall into place with ease. Today, this painting almost fell off the brush by itself . . .developed from another sketch. Do you suppose practice has anything to do with it? I do.
The way the light hits these cliffs and dances about is a constant source of delight to me. I hope you don’t get tired of them.
While cleaning my studio this last month ( a HUGE task, incidentally!) . . . . . .(why does it get that deep?) . . . . .I sorted through all of the last years’ panel paintings and culled out all of the unsuccessful ones . . .then painted over them with a light coating of orange paint and put them to dry. Those panels have been what I have been painting on for the last 7 paintings. I allow the orange undertone to peek through in a few places. It adds a nice ‘warmth and sparkle’ to the work. Also, I am testing a new medium as I paint these. . . . . Gamblins’ “Meglip” . . . . . . . . . . . . .I have never used it before, but I am noticing that the paint takes on a nice glow since the medium is nearly crystal clear. It will never yellow, supposedly. The paint also seems to shine a bit more than when I use “Liquin.” I will keep playing with it and see what comes up. . . . .and do some more research about it. Do any of you painters out there use it? Care to comment? I would appreciate any thoughts or guidance you might have.
Tomorrow, I open the studio to the public. I am ready! If you live in the Bay Area, or are travelling there this weekend or next, stop by. My address is on my website.
Whoops! It isn’t there like I thought it was! Best to email me if you need address and directions.

Facing My Difficulties

“Ice Blankets”
oil on canvas panel, 8″ x 10″
The colors of the ice plant on the sand dunes of nearby beaches has been a source of fascination to me for as long as I can remember. Vivid, intense colors combined with the near white sand and neutral decaying matter on the edges are a painters challenge for sure. Combining complementary colors (red and green) yields neutral grays. So, capturing the uniqueness of the comingling complementary colors in this ice plant makes for rich entertainment at the easel. I have attempted this subject many times in the past, but I come back often because of the difficulties I must overcome with the edges and colors.

Edges are key in this subject. Softer, lost edges don’t hold the eye. While sharper edges grab the viewer there must be a happy medium of the two. Blending the edges between colors is necessary ( I think), but, sometimes, I can get carried away and lose the brilliance I sought. It is all in the practice and learning, I suppose. When enough paintings have been done that one more doesn’t matter, then the artist does things without the worry of failure. That is why it is so important to paint often without concern for the outcome.

It seems I am gaining ground a little at a time. Sort of like climbing a sandy hill; up three steps and slide back two. Progress comes from repeated forward steps, each time with small (but significant) gains.

Foreign In My Hands

“Wet Island”
Oil on canvas panel, 8″ x 10″
This little piece was done in about 90 minutes after digging out all my plein air equipment following a 6 plus month haiatus . . .(izzat how you spell it?)
Last year I participated in the local museum’s sponsored plein air event to raise money for the museum. It is a lovely event, though I wasn’t able to help the cause at all . . .no sales last year. I promised myself I would improve and do much better this year, but, alas, I let time get away from me . . . .and lo! it is upon me again!! I am not so sure that it is because we artists are flakey by nature, or that it wasn’t until a few mornings ago that all the dates for the event firmed up. but one thing is for sure. I am NOT READY! That means it feels like I am the rankest amateur in the entire group of 31 artists!!
For the last few days I have been working hard (labor!) around the house . . . .a close by forest fire prompted the work . . . . .to try to make things less apt to catch fire if a windborn cinder fell upon us. That meant cleaning ALL of the various organic stuff off our roof (Many surrounding trees here.) Three days of labor . . .no kidding! . . .scraping and sweeping and cleaning between every wooden shingle!
Anyway . . .I HAD to go paint today. We are leaving on a ten day vacation at the end of this week and this plein air event is demanding paintings before I leave . . .and I can’t give them something I painted last year!! Nope! It has to be stuff painted THIS WEEK!! Yikes!! So, I went to work . . . .physically spent from the last three days work and not caring if I produced much . . .but I HAD to do it. To limber up, if nothing else! So, the brushes came out and I went to work . . . . .but it was as familiar as Greek worry beads in my hands . . . have never held them!! . . . . .after painting these tight watercolors for the last few weeks, oil brushes felt foreign in my hands!!
So, here is today’s efforts, dear readers. A long time ago, I promised myself I would post all my efforts, good or bad. I already know this is amateur as hell, but feast your eyes anyway and know that failures are actually necessary in an artists’ life . . .they spur us forward and help us learn on the way. Cheers to failures, eh?!! 🙂

Making it Difficult

“Your Table is Ready”

oil on canvas panel, 8″ x 10″
Sometimes, I need a thorough head examination!
This daily practice piece should have been spun out the door before I began it. Why? Let’s just say that something this complex should not be in rhw queue for a daily trial. Just look! All sorts of angles, perspective changes, vague and subtle value changes (thru the windows), repeating patterns, textures and a ton of other things to entertain and dazzle any painter for more than a day. But I did it anyway. That’s why I should have my head examined!
Simplification is so necessary in painting, yet it is as though I go to sleep sometimes. Sometimes I just ignore the obvious and make it difficult. Go figger!

Still Searching

“Sometimes It’s Windy”

oil on canvas panel, 8″ x 10″
I am still searching for the ideal brush and painting surface. The last two paintings have been worked at the end with a sable flat. It has a nice feel and leaves a beautiful streak of paint . . .as opposed to bristle brushes that often leave ragged edges . . . .I still use the latter for much of the work but find the sable is a great brush for finishing a piece.
I recently obtained some Ray Mar canvas panels. The weave is made for landscape painting and seems quite absorbant. This painting, I took someone’s suggestion to coat the panel with a good coat of gesso. It takes a little while for the paint to soak in, so I will check later to see if the canvas drank everything or left signs of brushwork. Still so much to learn!
Today, I wasn’t in a rush. I think it made a difference. Looking at the photo, however, it looks different than the actual piece in a frame.

Backyard Plein Air

“Backyard Plein Air”
oil on masonite, 9″ x 13″
Life is just too crowded with demands and requirements to allow time to wander off and find a terrific paint site on a frequent basis. So, that is why I paint still life paintings. The box of stuff is right there . . .always available . . .always ready . . . always convenient . . .and expedient. But my heart is with developing my skills outside.
In the first five years of learning watercolor painting, I went outside every Friday to paint. The learning about light and shadow could not have been better. The demands of getting the light and shadow captured before it moved was an incredible habit to acquire. But practice is what makes us really good at what we do.
So, I stuck my head out the studio door and set about making this piece . . .right in my back yard . . . .wellll . . .not quite IN, but certainly within sight. I look at these guys every single morning; the negative shapes, the warm golden light at sun up, the shadows, the textures, the shapes and the ever changing moods. There are days when they dissappear into the fog, or are blasted with heat and light. The dappled light on them is fascinating to look at. I find myself painting them in my head almost daily. So, it was time I did it!
Employing a temperature shift from warm at the bottom to cool at the top, I hoped to establish a sense of soaring height. Somehow the temeratures in this piece and the textures hasten my pulse a bit. I actually like this one.


“Sur Sunday”

oil on linen panel, 8″ x 10″
This weekend was a blast. I spent most of it scootin’ around with my buddy Mark Mehaffey from Michigan. He came out west to teach a workshop here in my local watercolor society.
Since he had never seen the California Coast, we wove our way southward about 100 miles and nearly wore out our digital cameras taking photos. Great times, for sure!
This is one of the stops we made looking accross this bay of sorts to the hills of Big Sur. While I rarely use photos to paint from, this morning was an exception. It gave me the opportunity to try a few more things with the brush and paint. Incidentally, the bright red shapes are of a succulent that grows here called Ice Plant. It turns incredible shades of red during the early fall.

Not Until I Paint Em!

“Pair of Pears”

oil on linen on panel, 6″ x 8″
You have to eat one of these for lunch . . .before they go bad, I heard her say. But I was lost instaring at the subtle shifts of light and color temperature on this pair of pears. I thought to myself, “Not before I paint em!” I was already visualizing a set up and how I was going to show off those subtle shifts of color.
You might note this is another departure for me. High key (all lighter values) and no dark darks. I have resumed thinner painting, but with more penache at the end of the hairy stick I hold in my hand. Bigger gobs of paint . . . flat brush . . . .and again paying close attention to the strokes. No more random action. After all, every plane shift calls for a different direction of a stroke. They may not be as evident here, because I also worked on more subtle shifts from one plane of light to another. Edges, in other words. Sable brushes help that aspect of the work when working with lighter paint applications. They are not the final answer, to edges if working thicker, though.
I caught myself hollering and jumping up and down (by myself!) as I painted this. I had fun with this one!
Now . . . . where did she put that Camembert fromage?

September 1 And The Tally Is . . . .

“Woodside Afternoon”
oil on linen on panel, 12″ x 16″
“Woodside Morning”
oil on linen on panel, 12″ x 16″
Today is September 1. I celebrated that fact with a few other artists, but one in particular was none other then Elio Comacho . . . .in the flesh.
Elio and I have become sort of blog-buds in the last few months . . .he and I both being neophytes at this blogging stuf, but also we have found each other to be strong minded and informed painters who don’t mind a punch to the gut now and then. We both know syrupy crits are just that: sweetness and light. But they don’t do much to help one really look at what they are doing and attempt to grow above that. For that reason I have always welcomed his straightness . . .even when I don’t agree. The best painters I know look for peers or superior painters to help them sort out what they are doing.
When you just don’t know ‘what for’ or ‘how to’ or ‘why,’ its best to do the wise thing; grow by someone else’s experience and mistakes rather than your own.
So, today I drove a little more than an hour and spent the day with Elio teaching his workshop. If anyone out there has the chance to take from Elio . . .any instruction at all . . . grab it with gusto and hold on for the ride. He is a high engergy guy who NEVER sits down. After his demos, he is at every painter’s side coaching and critiquing. And today we had killer heat! He never faded the whole time. Believe me, this guy gives all he’s got and then some. High energy and totally in it for the improvement of the painters who come to his sessions.
Mind you, I am the sort of guy who likes someone who has a little mischeviousness behind their eyes! That is the sort of person I relate to the most. What I dug about Elio was I could confront him and he would take me on! And, he was most always right. I really enjoyed the twinkle in his eye, his energetic, all business ‘let’s paint’ attitude and his well earned painting wisdom.
He is like I am/was. He wants this stuff! And he wants it baaaaad! That means his whole life is about painting. Man! Is it ever nice to meet someone who cares that much! I don’t get to meet them often, but when I do, it is a complete connection.
So, I took as much as I could get from him today and tried to do all that he was attempting to show us. I am sure you can see him in both these pieces, but frankly, I needed to be shaken up and shown a way around the obvious. I will fool around with his style for a few paintings until I really understand the theme of what he teaches (color harmony, stroke energy and rhythm and mood) (Boy do I ever know about MOOD!)
Thanks, Elio, for a terrific day. It was strong, directed teaching with challenge and coaching. I say “Way to go!” . . .I’ll be back at the first chance I get.
Wait! There is more. These two pieces that I did with him up on that H O T moutain top were the last of the series I had set out to do on May 1. I committed to 100 by Sept first. Remember?
I didn’t make the finall tally of 100. I made 96. Four short. ‘Scuse me while I go whip myself!! 😉 As I told him, my next 100 (by March 1) will be with a goal of being more finished. I have enjoyed this little exercise and intend to carry on with daily painting. Compared to what Elio and his mentor did to reach their skill level, I am loafing at one per day.
So, enjoy these two pieces. I worked hard at 1. more paint and 2. strokes and 3. temperature progression. There is more to be done, but I sure had fun today with all the class members and skidding to the finish line with just a teensy bit less then I had hoped . . .but an honorable finish.

Mental Conflict

oil on primed hardboard, 12″ x 9″
Some time ago I made a promise to myself to open the doors to my studio and let anyone watch my painting process here on cyberspace. That also meant letting everyone who looked see my failures. Frankly, I don’t like it . . .showing my failures, that is. Who does? After all, I am a teacher. I am supposed to be the example, right? Well, I have decided to be just that. Be the example that people can follow and not look over their shoulder.
So, here you have it. I do show what I consider to be the poor ones . . . always have. And I will continue to do so. I think it shows those who are learning that failure, or mis-steps, or crummy results is not something only beginners have. Some of the best painters I know destroy as many, if not more than, as they put into galleries or sell. It’s just part of the game. No one likes that aspect, but it just is. And it particularly is if you experiment or try new things.
So, I tried a new type of ground on which to paint . . .to show the brush more . . .and agreed with myself to use ONLY a size 8 flat brush. The object was to remain loose and schmutz on the paint in places. Just to see what would happen. I used a subect I used earlier this week because I think it lent itself to the experiment. Petals and surfaces that splay all over the place. And many variations of one color combination . . .green and red. Again, I had fun. And I learned a little bit more . . . . .big chunks of light and dark and medium can be fooled with indefinetely until you ruin em. “Ruin” may not be the right word, but I can see a lot of places that I could take some serious direction from a master painter.