Planely Scattered

“Planely Scattered”
watercolor 30 x 22 inches

The title today relates to what my life is like at the moment: Lots of different things going on, very little of it to do with painting.

Scattered, for sure. Distracted, yes, but my thoughts, dreams and actions all are centered around moving pigment in a related way to cause a viewer to entangle him or herself in a visual conversation with a painting.
Decidedly, a painted appeals to us on very deep, often unidentifiable levels. Questions like, Why do I get a feeling in the pit of my stomach when I look at this? Or, What is it that makes me want to touch this painting? Why doesn’t this look like a ‘regular’ watercolor? This piece makes me relax. Why am I so curiously inspecting every inch of this painting?
These should be questions that us painters should be able to answer easily and create the visual stimuli necessary to ensnare them. We are the creators of the work, we should be able to steer the viewer to feeling something.
Often, in lectures to those who will listen, the ideas of what makes a ‘good’ painting are openly discussed and argued. There are three things by category, but those three things involve volumes of explanation. They are “”Content”” . . . .that which arouses our feelings and sensibilities, or a story . . . . .””Design”” . . . .The relationships between the marks on the canvas and/or paper, or how all the painting parts fit together . . . .and “”Technique”” . . . .how the paint is applied and is technique in concert with Design and Content. They are all inter-related in one way or another. That is, the technique and design must support the content. However, if the content is extremely strong, and the design equally as strong, technique can often take a back seat . . . or not be as important as the other two areas.
I am often asked what is necessary to be accepted into juried shows. These three items must be in concert to win that admittance. It may seem daunting to the novice painter, but the study of these aspects of making art is what this journey is all about. It really is much more complicated than just making a pretty picture. To grow and to learn about ourself and all that we can do with art is a high calling. It is a step into our higher self.
Not that there is anything wrong with ‘pretty pictures,’ mind you, but how many millions of them are out there? To put one’s self onto the track of learning all the above aspects about making art is to put our minds to the purpose of being our highest self. I would say that is worthwhile, wouldn’t you?

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.

Playing With Space

“Davenport Drop”

oil on canvas panel, 8″ x 10″

This weekend I spent a lot of time at the easel and on line studying one man’s paintings . . . . . Gregory Stocks . . .google him. His stuff is very well done. And it is well done because . . . .

In every painting there is a concise division of the picture space . . . .or division of space as it is called. I spent a few hours this morning wishing I could do the same . . .then with pencil in hand, I began sketching and **designing** some landscape scenes. What do I mean by designing? Well . . . creating from something already known but fitting something into a divided space. The horizon of the water in this little painting is at a very critical spot on the canvas. And not by accident. The right hand edge of the cliff is also dancing on another division. Notice that edge and the left edge of the painting make a square? Can you see it? (Look at the sketches above. The marks outside the edges of each sketch show the lines on which these lie. See the bottom center sketch.) There is another imaginary square whose lower left corner touches the upper right corner of the cliff. The large square and that little square were set up first before any “Things” or objects were put into the drawing. These two squares came from the GOLDEN MEAN. If you want to know more about that, Google it, too. Mr. Stocks uses it a lot in his paintings.

That space division seems to be a highly interesting set of proportions to us humans. I have no idea why, but the concept has been around since the ancient Greeks put it to use. Once you know of it, you will see it everywhere.

So, I did around 10 sketches this morning trying to put the golden mean to use . . .and force fit a subject into it . . . .then, with the challenge of using only a few simple colors . . . . . .Alizirin Crimson, Ultramarine Blue, Cad Yellow Medium and White . . .I set about avoiding the typical GREEN tree. I really like the freshness of this piece. I wasn’t concerned with details or things. Just colors and space and how I would fit it together.

It was fun! Yes, I did struggle a bit in the sketching. The trick is to not give up. The stuff is waiting inside of us. We just have to find the access to let it out . . . .and sometimes it takes a while.

Who Could Possibly Resist?

The “Workstation”

Blocking it in . . .

More Progress . . .

The development of the final piece starts here . . . .color variation, edge management, texture, shape modifications, color saturations and temperature adjustments . . .until sunset.

“Field of Impressions”

oil on canvas panel, 12″ x 16″

The coast can be damp and cold at this time of year. Yesterday, that just wasn’t so! It was 75 degrees and gloriously sunny at the water’s edge . . .and I couldn’t wait to get out and paint. So, I drove 40 miles up the coast, made a dozen stops and took nearly 100 photos (for rainy days!. I finally landed in this little secluded field, freshly planted with artichokes that were so small I nearly stepped on them. And the light was shifting into afternoon, slanted, shadow producing light that was nearly blinding. In a Tee shirt, I was in a hypnotic state. Whadda day it was!!

Ala Peter Yesis, who lives in Omaha, I am offerring up some progress shots of the day. . . . . . . . …….Thought you’d be interested.

Toward sunset, my setup took a wind blast broadside. The umbrella did the expected and became a spinaker. In sailing, that is a huge bulging sail that collects wind and makes for speed. You can imagine what happened. I don’t need to explain. I will say, though, that I got some extra solvent and paint on me that I hadn’t planned on . . . .if you get my drift. 😉
I’d do it again and again. Who could resist a day like that?!!

The Gears Turn Slowly

oil on canvas, 16″ x 20″
A few days ago, I went out painting with Elio Camacho and stood on the edge of these tall cliffs to paint an incredible vista. When painting with someone else, I am careful not to be too inquisitive about what they do and how they do it. I have my reasons for that, some of which have to do with sticking to my own style. The other reasons have to do with not invading something that the other artist may want to protect . . .such as the specific means to their ends in painting. That’s what I did last week. However . . . . .
Looking at what he did and the mess I had created for myself, I began to realize that he had not gotten caught in the details and textures as I had. The cliffs were just mere shapes. His strokes weren’t even representative of the textures of the cliff face as mine attempted to be. He just made shapes and created volume utilizing strokes, value and temperature. Something I should have heeded . . . . .after all, I know better than to get caught in the minutae!!!
Today I went to the studio with the expressed purpose to be conscious of these things. To consider temperature changes as planes shifted out of the light. To pay close attention to value differences. . . . . and to use my own palette of color. Each artist has their own signature in the colors they use . . . and I have mine.
Reflecting on this last week’s experiences, I realize that the gears are turning and gradually making me become a better painter. I can feel it when realizations suddenly turn on. I get excited when the bulb lights and an idea comes to life with these realizations. And . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .I just wish the gears wouldn’t turn so slowly. While that wish is present, I am living an exciting and fulfilling life every day!!


This is yesterday’s piece with adjusments made . . . .

For the life of me, I cannot get the colors correct in a photo of this piece. But there is enough of a difference to see some of the modifications I made.

First, I dreamt all night about the value of the rocks going accross the picture plane. They were waaaay to light and had to be changed. Next, I also realized that while the very edge of the rocks, as they enter the water are very dark . . .even black in places. There is a ‘water line’ up the rocks in another value until the value grades to the natural, dry color of the rock. This is due to tides wetting the rock in progressively higher water heights . . . thus leaving behind a near stepped gradation of color and value.
The rocks are alive with color . . .if one looks. And every surface reflects something back. (I have found rocks to be the most challenging, and the most fun, of any subject I have ever painted. I suppose that is why I keep going back.) So . . . .I had some major changes to make to cause the rocks and water to merge . . . edges, values and colors.
The big red cliff face was indeed a copper color with red highlights, which I have purposely exaggerated as the center of interest, but, no matter what I do in Photoshop, I cannot calm that intense red in this photo.
The foam along the edges of the rocks is in shadow and is a dull violet in the painting, but doesn’t show up here. Poop!
The fact is that I had a fantastic time painting this and making adjustments. As I have said before, this whole enterprise is about learning and trying to break through to a new level. I cannot imagine anything that would so entertain me as this is. Thanks to all you readers who make comments . . . even the negative ones (which are welcome here, by the way).
Not that there isn’t enough to do, but I can see that I need to learn more about Photoshop!

Sunday . . . .

oil on linen on panel, 8″ x 6″

Oh, I know. I am not supposed to paint today. But what if I wanna paint anyway?

Old habits never die. I did four sketches of this flower and vinegar vase in my sketch book trying to decide on a good layout. I like every one of them. So here is another.

I used a neutral background on this painting to set off the tints in the flower. A little bit of Naples Yellow in the foreground and graded back provides a warmth and adds depth, too.

Thursday . . Already!

oil on linen on panel, 8″ x 6″

We are headed for the doc for a follow up visit today . . . . .it’s beginning to look like Diana will be permitted up and about. That’ll be good! Obviously, still life painting is nice, but being outside is even nicer. I gotta see my girl through this, in spite of the cabin fever.

Today’s painting is another glass piece. Ed Terpening commented yesterday about how fun glass is to paint. He’s right! There is something about painting glass which really shows up . . . .one MUST develop the skill of truly looking and seeing shapes, values and colors. Then one must paint what is seen . . not what we think is there. And it ain’t easy. Never having done glass paintings before, I really admire those who do it well. My sense is that painting glass is a terrific training ground for learning to see other subjects well.

The challenge for today’s painting was the constant aroma of onions in my studio . . .which added to the “realism,” I suppose. 😉

That Insistent Little Voice

“Hiding Jalapenos”
oil on linen on panel, 6″ x 8″

Well, it showed up again today. That little voice which says, “Don’t paint thaaaat. You don’t have the skills for that. Impossible! Pick something else. You’ll never be able to make this work. Etc. Etc. Etc.”

I battle the voice day after day. Every day. It comes in shouting and is as unwelcome as an escaped felon into my house. But it comes anyway.

This is one of the reasons I believe art to be a great avenue to ‘finding one’s true self.’ By standing up and not listening to the ever present doubts . . .and gradually overcoming ‘the little voice’ . . . .one begins to develop a confidence . . . .an attitude of “Shuddup, already! I can do this!” We all have the voice. That is to say we ALL have one; The nay sayer who sits back and tries to sell the idea of accepting failure. The difference between people is how they respond to the dark sniping negative that chases us everywhere, no matter what we attempt.

Here’s my response to the voice: Shun it and do it anyway!

This morning’s painting said a thing or two to that voice. Nuff said!

Staying True To The Reason We Paint

“Still Life #63″
Watercolor on Arches Cold Press 15″ x 22”

Last weekend I had a chance to do a demo for a good sized art group about watercolor painting. My philosophy is simply this: Have fun doing this! That was the reason we all started doing this to begin with, right? So, I have fun in the demo . . .and get everyone laughing and teach techniques and design ideas at the same time. This piece took 90 minutes with a 15 minute break half way through.

The painting is (I think!) number 63 of a series I have been working on of the same still life set up. There will be more about that in future posts. In short, series work is designed to open creative doors that the artist would not otherwise access if just painting one painting. Working in series allows us to take chances to find out what will happen if . . . .

The mood of the piece came out fun . . .eh?