Tagging Time

“Mirror At My Toes”
watercolor, 22 x 30 inches
Just finished this piece . . .but now it is time to honor those who have tagged me and to pass along the same honor. I must admit that I have procrastinated on this for some time, so now is the time.
Thanks to Faye Christian Phillips, Stacey Peterson and Milind Mulick for tagging me three times. Each is so very different, yet worth a ton of study. Their artwork is stunning!
I will be tagging some different artists this time and have reasons for doing so. Here’s the list and why I tagged them. There is a link in each of their names:
Diane Hoeptner for her playfulness and interesting perspective in her paintings.
Myrna Wacknov for her steady dedication to personal growth and perfecting her drawing skills.
Sandy Maudlin for her talent and desire to paint.
Peggy Stermer Cox for her creativity and willingness to explore spectacular abstractions. We could all learn something from this lady with her shape making talent!
Bruce MacEvoy for more than painting. Also look up his handprint.com and click on the little color wheel. I am tagging Bruce for multiple reasons. First, to acknowledge the incrdible contributions he has made regarding watercolor paints and the science of it. Amazing!! Secondly, Bruce must be the most insistently curious and analytical painter there is. And third, to introduce myself to him. Thanks for everything, Bruce!
Peggy Zalucha who began a blog last March and is one of the world’s finest watercolor painters. I hope this tag will awaken her blogging. We need to see more of Peggy and her work. If not me, the world!
Six is all I am tagging today.
Here are the required seven things about me
  • I am compulsive to paint paint paint and paint some more
  • There are eleven children in my family
  • Was once a roofer and a marketing VP for a few hi tech companies before being a painter
  • Am an avid cook. Much of my art is in the kitchen . . .I make sourdough bread.
  • Have a degree in Engineering and never once practised it.
  • Once lived on a lake in Wisconsin.
  • Father pushed me away from art as an occupation

Instructions for you who have been tagged:

1. Put a link in your posting to the person who tagged you.
2. List 7 unusual things about yourself.
3. Tag 7 other bloggers at the end of your post and comment on their blogs to let them know.

Letting Go Of What I “Know”

“White Blankets”
watercolor, 22 x 30 inches
I have often heard from other painters the question, “We want to know what you think about when you paint.”

The very first thing one must do . . . .and this isn’t the easiest to even recognize, much less actually DO . . . . .is to let go of what you think you know. That is precisely what I must do when I paint anything, much less a seascape like this.

First off, let’s look at the most obvious dangerous thought in this painting: “The foam is white.” Nope! Wrong! It isn’t just white. Believe me, there is a rainbow of color in there. So, one must THINK carefully about what color goes where to leave a ‘white’ idea but a visual which has complete impact. There is a range of violets, greens, grays, blues, oranges and an occasional red in all this white. It must all work together to read as ‘white’ but cannot actually BE white.

The same goes for all the color in the cliffs and hillsides. The reflections, too. It is a chorus or a concert, if you will, of multiple colors and values.

The biggest concern I had in this painting . . . .get ready for this! . . . . was how big is the ‘white’ (or very light valued colors that approach nearly white) versus how big were the medium and dark values. Yes. Failure to pay attention to size dominance (where one group of values is significantly larger than the other group) could have ruined this painting. A half and half split between sizes would have been most unsettling. One value group (lights or darks) must dominate over the other in size.

Those are some of the things I must pay close attention to in the act of painting. It would have been a large mistake to think “Water” and “Waves” and “Rocks” . . . rather than light, mid and dark value . . . rather than warm and cool . . . rather than soft edge versus hard edges . . . .rather than splash is white . . . .rather than paying attention to the edges, the temperature, the value and whether there is shadow or light on the splash.

It goes on and on from there. I suppose that is the reason I get so ensnared in the painting process. It is such a deep and revealing meditative state. For me, it is absolute euphoria!

Finding Balance

“Flotsam
Watercolor, 22 x 30 inches
This painting kept me challenged for the best part of 2 days. Admittedly, it gave me fits. The angst came from building the value contrast from left to right with the strong, dark reflection on the far right shore of this beach pond. The brilliant light on the left opposing that reflection on the right caused serious balance difficulties. The rivulets at the bottom of the painting took a few hours to design in order to lead the eye into the painting and provide an interesting abstraction. You wouldn’t believe how much eventually was scrubbed out of this piece in order to get it to behave . . .it may take me a few days before I actually decide if it is a show piece or not.

The far shore is what this piece is about. Every thing else in the painting is supposed to lead the eye to that point. Click on the painting to expand it so you can see what’s happening there. Hopefully, the monitor resolution is good enough to make out the color detail there. The stark value contrasts there and the edges keep the painting in balance (I hope!). It took nearly six different attempts and glazes to dial it in.

I have been on a tear to paint lately, since I have another show coming up, which has a theme of water flowing to the sea. So, I am painting big, strong pieces in hopes that a few will be show worthy. This is a welcome break from the web work on my website last week. If you haven’t seen the new site, check it out here.

Who Me? Bored ???

“Soup Kitchen”
watercolor, 22 x 30 inches

Yesterday, My wife asked if I was ever bored being at home alone.

I have been working on this painting for a few days. The idea seized me while I was working on “Sand Slick” earlier in the week.

As I progressed through the painting, working from memory without the aid of photos or sketches, I was struck with a lot of questions about how water ‘works’ in close to the shore . . .against rocks, along the beach and most especially, AFTER the crash of a wave. Why ‘after,’ you ask? The answer is that while one wave is forming and building to a crescendo, another wave is finishing its erosive action and reversing its flow backwards toward the incoming wave. Not knowing just how all of this works to form visual patterns that I could paint, I set out to study and discover ‘what’s up with wave action.’ I took my trusty digital camera to the shore and took over 200 photos to study on my computer.

Digital cameras are just the best! In short order, I was at the computer studying the images to see what happens in the movement of the water. I could never have had such prompt (or inexpensive !) results with film. Had I used film, the images would have cost me close to $100 to develop and I may well have been distracted by something else by the time the processed photographs were received days later.

There are all sorts of cross currents and opposing forces at work that throw the water’s surface into seeming chaos. At least it looked as though it was chaos. It isn’t at all. One just needs to watch and observe and study carefully what is happening and what causes the water to move. Obstacles such as big rocks and beaches all push the water back in the direction it came sending opposing waves and currents to the incoming wash. The result is fascinating to watch.

Then there is the pattern of the foam on the surface. Wow! Is it random or does it follow some sort of predictable pattern? Try to figure that out!! The dazzling dark / light patterns and line are just mind numbing! I tried to give the sensation of the foam in this piece. It looks like I have soooo MUCH MORE to learn . . .both about water and painting.
I just cannot imagine EVER being bored !

A Time to Do The Familiar

“Sand Slick”
watercolor, 22 x 30 inches
I am still smarting over the last post. While the “picture” is okay, as a painting it fails on a few counts. I am going to tackle it again, but first, I just HAD to do something for the sheer enjoyment.

Understand that I am always up for a challenge, but there are also times when it feels good to just whistle a melody and sling paint. I have done enough landscapes and sea paintings in my experience to feel very comfy in their execution. Some good music in the background, a rainy day, a cozy studio and away I go!!

So, here’s the latest. Don’t get your feet wet!

An Update

“Greyhound Rock”
oil on canvas panel, 8″ x 10″
This painting is of a landmark north of here called Greyhound Rock. I have, as you probably already know, a fascination with the vivid colors of ice plant. On this day, however, the foreground ice plant was green . . .almost kelly green. So, taking artistic license, I chose to use different colors to help throw the focus up onto the rocks and sea. (By now you must be getting bored with this, but I can’t help myself!)

On another note, I should say THANKS to all who came to my open studio. Many artists, including myself, often measure the success of such an event in the numbers of paintings sold and the dollars brought in. I must take pause, however, this year for the obvious reasons relating to the economy, and make sure that I don’t drift too far into the mercenary mire of revenue versus artistic success.

Considering the financial climate we are all suffering, I had a fabulous open studio. The first weekend averaged about 130 visitors per day. The second wasn’t quite as well attended, but still, very worthwhile.

The studio was set up with several lessons that the lay person and artists alike would find to be interesting, such as a simple still life set up painted in 9 different color strategies to show how mood is often determined by the artist’s color choices. There was also a large board onto which I collaged (loosely) around 20 plus pencil sketches of preliminary studies. This board was next to two watercolor paintings (posted a few weeks ago) which were derived from those sketches. People found these displays fascinating . . . and the studio, too. ( Art studios are where mystical magic happens!) There was something for everyone from over 100 framed, original paintings on display around the property to the studio to the informative displays.

Open studios, as I reflect on it, are exciting and fun, like ‘open house’ kinds of parties . . . . . . . . .where friends and neighbors drop in, munch a little, chat, visit, update each other and eventually wander out refreshed and glad they came. This is similar, but there is much that happens in the way of expanded networking and being introduced to other artists and art events. In short, it is a function from which many new challenges and activities grow. Aside from selling nearly thirty paintings, this was a rich and enlivening experience. I could go on and on about the value (priceless!) of such events, but I shan’t bore you with my verbosity. Just know that with all the complaining about the amount of work, I will do it over and over again.

Thought you’d like to know how it went. If you came, thanks for coming. If you didn’t, I hope to see you next year!

Absolutely Perrrrrr fect !!

“Academy Cliffs”
oil on canvas panel, 8″ x 10″
Omigawd! I came in from painting outdoors today in near perfect 80 degree weather with low humidity and a very teensy haze through which you could see 60 plus miles.
And we were in a little known place standing on the edge of a high bluff . . .80 to 100 feet high . . .right next to the beach . . . .now get THIS !!!! We were watching over a dozen pods of dolphins screaming thru the waves right next to the beach. Each pod had 6 to 10 dolphins . . .they were going crazy!! Then about 1/4 of mile out to sea, whales were breaching and spouting and flipping their big tails up in the air!! Pelicans were diving after fish and there were lots of gulls circling round to get the scraps from the pellies . . . . .It was a veritable circus!!!!

Normally, we don’t see dolphins because the water is consderably more cold here than in the southern states . . . .like Florida . . . .and the whales don’t usually appear until January . . .and they are generally further out to sea. But today, they were all cavorting and jumping out of the water and we were the only ones watching this show!

I guess that this really is paradise!! Today was perrrr fect !!!

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.

Seeking Drama

“Cliffside Dusk”
oil on linen panel, 8″ x 10″
Every artist is confronted with the problem of entertaining the viewer. Entertaining is something that takes more than a mere glance. There must be something other than the usual, mundane descriptions of what ever the artist is painting. This is especially true when there is little more than two shapes in the painting . . .one light and the other darker.

I have been playing with the same motif of the cliffs and bluffs along our coast for as long as I have been painting. Against the sky or the sea, the cliff is nothing more than a severe bump or rise out of a flat area. What makes a “bump” entertaining? Go on, tell me ! what?

The answer is not in the reality, but in what the artist creates. The more we copy what we ‘see’ as reality, the more mundane it can become. So the artist must do something to arrest the viewer and hold his attention. Or, the painting must hold some degree of shock value, I suppose. The artist only has a few tools to play with: Value, Shape, Color, Texture and Line. That is it. Value, shape and color hold the greatest potential for developing that ingredient of ‘shock’ or ‘visual stimulus.’ (Notice that details are not mentioned! . . .or considered . . .it is NOT details that matter.)

So, here is my shot at value, shape and color to carry the day with a ‘bump.’ I long ago let go of the photos and the actual subject to help me. Sketches from memory and establishing a strong compositional design (value sketch) before doing any painting is the basis for a strong, bold painting.

A Return to Normalcy

“A Sailor’s Delight”
oil on oil primed linen panel, 8″ x 10″
At last, most of the preparations for Open Studio are finished. I hung the show yesterday outdoors . . .over 80 paintings out there!! . . . .and because it is outside, every painting and hanging spot had to be coded so we could take down all the pieces then, on the day of the show, replace them in minutes. It is an arduous task, believe me, to arrange the show in a cohesive way and to get all the positions just right. Now, it’s clean house and do a few small details and we are ready! Yay!!!!
With the extra time now, I can putter away at the easel . . . .wellllll, sort of! I have a gallery show coming up in November, so now it is time to prep for that. Then another show in January of just watercolors. Busy!
This little fella was fun and interesting to work with color and values. I apologize for the slight glare on the painting . . . .I can’t see that in the camera . . . .it happens.
Normal is back!! 🙂