Painting Light

“Pepper and Pitcher”

oil on linen on panel, 6″ x 8″
I have an acquaintance in the UK . . .Paul . . .his link is here on my list (Learning to See) . . .look for him. He is a disciplined painter from whom I should take lessons. Right now, he is painting blocks . . .wooden blocks . . .and testing his skills at nailing values of light. He is very good at it, yet he studies more.
There is much to this idea of painting. Waaaaay more than making pretty pictures, that is for sure! Painting the right value and color of light (Not Things or places) lifts a painting into another world. This white pitcher was a great exercise for me this morning. That is an exercise in seeing. I am sure I didn’t nail it, but am getting closer and closer. It takes practice. Lots and lots and lots of it. Painting the shadows first, in the right value, I was convinced that the shadow portions on the pitcher were the wrong color and tooooo dark! As it turned out, they weren’t too dark . . .they were actually too light! One learns to trust one’s self in this game. When all the colors were on the canvas, I could see instantly that the relationships between colors and values were right enough to make the pitcher appear to be white. In fact, there is no pure white in this painting. Interesting, eh?
Tomorrow I won’t be posting until late, if at all. I am going on a weekend plein air ‘painting intensive’ to paint cliffs, rocks and surf in a workshop environment. I love being near that stuff, much less painting it. So, this weekend might produce a few nice pieces . . .then again, maybe not. If I get something out of the weekend, I will post on Sunday evening . . . hopefully.

Hurried Practice

“You’re So Transparent!”
oil on linen on panel, 6″ x 8″
This morning was rushed and I was panicked that I had not posted yesterday . . .or painted yesterday or today . . . . . .soooooo . . .I had to get busy!
A promise is a promise. Daily is what I signed up for, so Daily is what I have to do. Anything else is an excuse. I have to fold it in with everything else. My drive to create masterworks every time . . .and save embarrassment if I goof it up . . . .is huge. But I also know in my heart that this is just another practice piece. And, as I have said before, it still counts toward mastery at some point.
So here it is. Bad drawing and all. Serves me right for rushing through it. That’s another lesson I must learn . . . . .to remove myself from all else while I paint. It doesn’t pay to rush because what I get in the end isn’t what I am looking for in improvement. This time, as in others, it was those lousy douzy elipses!!! No scraping today. No time!

Color Harmonies

“Casino Dawn”
oil on canvas, 16″ x 20″
Today’s piece was a serious one. Not just practice, but one that I hope will be accepted into a museum show honoring the 100th anniversary of the “Boardwalk” . . .an amusement park here that boasts an old wooden rollercoaster . . . .and the site of several movies in the past.
I have been ‘working on’ this piece for over a ten days without ever lifting a brush. I mean it! Really! I looked at and sketched several points of view. Went to the site several times, but never in this lighting conditions. Then photographs were taken because there was no way I could paint from this angle without being squashed by a car or truck. It just wasn’t possible. So I had to use a photo . . .something I almost NEVER do. (I shall save that commentary for another post.) Once the drawing was done, color harmony and value emphasis had to be reasoned through before I painted it. I wanted the feeling of dawn with golden light, while the streets are empty and I wanted the emphasis to be on the building with the dome . . .the casino, as it is called. . . . .or the Coconut Grove. Reasoning wasn’t enough . . .I had to resort to a very abbreviated palette and force myself to stay in it so I could establish relationships between every single color in the piece. Cad Orange, Cad Yellow Medium, Violet, Cad Red Lite and Green and, of course white. Every brush load was a mix of at least two of these colors and most often of three to insure it would all relate. Frankly, as I worked through the painting, I was amazed at how many different colors I was able to arouse on my palette. Again, it seems I am gaining some ground in this new medium.

They All Count!

oil on linen on panel, 8″ x 10″
This weekend, while doing everything else, I went to a quickie workshop . . .just 3 hours . . .and made this fast piece with just a few intentions: focus on technique, paint quality and color. If I can pick up some of that stuff, the rest (design) will fall into place from my other painting and art experience . . . . . .well, at least, I’ll have a start on it. I am not sure anyone ever truly masters that stuff. We just get better than last year. In order to become better, we must build experience . . . . from that viewpoint, every painting we do as painters, good or bad, counts! That’s right. They all count. Even if they never see the light of day ever again. Even if they end up in a dumpster. Every painting counts toward getting better.
So this little guy was a ‘hurry up’ painting. I wasn’t concerned about making a great piece. Just deliver the paint, work on strokes, improve color.
Stay tuned. They will, eventually, get better. I just have to do many, many more. Life is great, isn’t it?!!!!

Last Day of Event

“From The Stairs”
oil on canvas on panel, 12″ x 16″
This is my last painting for the plein air event here in town.
Having never tackled urban subjects much, I figgered (yes, I know how to spell it) I’d give it a shot. The cool thing about this piece is that it is a very unusual point of view of the town center. As paintings go, it is hardly a prize winner, but the light and the subject will have great local appeal.
As you might guess by now, I don’t care to paint comfortably. It just isn’t my style to crank out paintings without challenge . . .even when the painting is going to a show. I’d rather put it all on the line in favor of forcing myself to overcome the next painting challenge. I learned a bunch with this piece and will paint it again and agin. Next time, I intend to exaggerate sizes more and add some lively activity to the intersection. Meanwhile, I will prolly fix the windows and clean up the center of interest on this one before Monday afternoon.

South County . . .

“Thompson Road”

oil on linen on panel, 8″ x 10″
This was one of those days that when we drove round the corner, the voice in my head screamed YES!! Right here!!! We had the glorious shade of a biiiig oak tree, a pull out on the road and perrrrfect light. We could **smell** the mist lifting off the hills!!

Don’t Back Up!

“West Cliff, 9 AM”
oil on canvas panel, 12″ x 16″

I live in an unbelievably scenic place. Deciding where to paint is a major decision. Being in the local plein air event here has been fun and completely compelling. Suddenly, I have shifted from making simple, daily practice pieces to paintings that have to be shown. Performance anxiety lurks about my heels and occasionally nips me. So, I am prone to take on more complex pieces . . .and thus occupy my thoughts until the paintings are completed properly. Sometimes these pieces require a little bit of studio manipulation for me to concede their public freedom.

This painting was done standing on the high rocks a mere 40 feetstraight down to the surf and jagged rocks. Being the compulsive, completely focused painter that I am, I sometimes find myself backing up from the easel in order to ‘see’ it better . . . . .not a good idea here!!! One must keep one’s wits tuned when on the rocks.

I must apologize for the color balance in this photo. The lit surface of the mid ground rocks is not as orange as it appears here. My photoshop skills need development, for sure!

If you are ever painting in Santa Cruz, or standing on the rocks, remember this admonition . . .(it really is fair advice for living too): Don’t Back up!! 🙂

Nearly Wet Feet

“Pelican Truck Stop”

oil on linen on panel, 8″ x 10″
Yesterday afternoon, my old friend Bill and I painted on the rocks while the surf was busting at our feet pushing the tide inward. I know of no greater pleasure than to be out there in the fresh, salty air and watching the light fly about as it reflects off every wave and every ripple. The white foam can be mezmorizing. . . to the extent that the waves surprise you. Wet feet on the rocks can be a big problem.
I have a question about pthalo blue . . . .if you know the answer, please comment . . .and, yes, only for oil paint. Last evening before bed I looked at the painting once more. I thought it was my imagination, but the white appeared to be tinting bluer in the foreground and loosing value. When I awakened this morning, only the thickest white showed up! I was shocked. I used Pthalo blue in the water. Does it creep into the white and stain it progressively? Or could it be the quality of Titanium White I am using (Utrecht)?
In watercolor, Pthalo blue is evil! Extremely high tinting strength and a vicious staining power that will ruin all the other paints in their wells if they are contaminated with this blue. Gotta be very careful with it!


“The Edge of Morning”
oil on linen on panel, 12″ x 16″
Sometimes, to make a painting behave, you don’t have to be talented. You just have to be stubborn.
After finishing this piece, I found (by surprise ) that I had divided the picture plane exactly in half and had two different paintings. Arrrrgggggghh!! I had painted this en plein air and never saw the division until I put a frame on it to critique the piece. I had a problem that had to be fixed before the paint dried. In between weddings, out of town visitors, plein air affair meetings and household stuff, I was being squeezed. But it got done. I had to be stubborn!

No time today!

Yes, I did paint today. In the early morning, in the beautiful, bright sunlight outdoors I painted. I am participating in week long plein air event . . .my first ever . . . .and it seems this one is a strange one because it stretches out over 5 weeks to a finale sale and gala for the museum that is staging the event.

I didn’t finish the piece, though I am close. Real Estate business, family business, social engagements and plein air painting all came together at once! Crazy! I have nearly finished the third pinapple, too. So, while I will have to wait a day or so to finish today’s painting (making very necessary corrections) (and not show that here) I will, at least give you an idea of the beginnings of the pinapple piece and ask you to wait until Saturday to see it . . .and maybe the plein air piece.
Believe me, it doesn’t show you much!

Can you wait? 😉