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?!! 🙂

Catching a Goal

“Terracotta and Cobalt Blue”
oil on linen on panel, 8″ x 6″
That little voice is going off in my head about 100 by Sept 1. I am close, but I don’t have much time left . . . and I have been out of the ‘zone’ for a while.
It is time to double up and make up for missed days of painting.
After fixing (yeah, Mike! You fixed it, for sure!! 😉 ) yesterday’s painting this morning, I returned to the studio to quickly make a little still life study from my still life box of goodies. None of these goodies is particularly valuable, but the little pottery piece in the foreground of this painting was made by my oldest daughter. To me, it is a treasure. It is one of the few things I have of her ‘doings.’ She is an artist in her own right. Brenis Thompson is her name. Give her a click. She is doing some very cute stuff. You’ll be surprised, I am sure.
As for this piece. It is more practice. Aren’t they all? I am curious to see where this will be leading in another year. I can see changes already . . .even though I slop through some of them.
Now it’s off to work!

Tropical Mosaic

“Tiled Pineapple”
oil on canvas, 20″ x 16″

First, I made the underpainting with Cad Orange and Cad Red and made a mental note that this would be a blue green painting lots of tropcial colors.

The idea was to make a painting design built upon the pattern on the skin of the pineapple. Looking closely, there is almost a spiral upward of rows of small pentagons. Within them are protrusions, and spikes and dents and all sorts of repetitive tracks.

You can see immediately why it was so labor intensive.

Someone out there has a home in Hawaii or has a tropical decor and would like this painting in an honored place. Please contact me via email if you would like to consider acquiring this piece.

Still Concerned With Simplification

“Quail Hollow”
oil on linen on panel, 10″ x 8″
Good Morning! I am reeling a bit from my plein air outing yesterday.
While I believe I captured the feeling of the place, I am still a little cranky about how I manage to paint Eucalyptus trees. These guys are magnificent labyrinths of light and shadow and have a personality all their own. The traditional California Landscape artists painted these gorgeous beauties in a way that completely mystifies me. The shapes alone are enough to arouse! They stand close to our roads here and I sometimes nearly drive into the ditch while staring at them. Scary! There is a mezmorizing and dazzling array of light coming from inside the tree and the long, slender silver-ish trunks and branches.
I am trying my darndest to paint them . . . .with simple strokes. But I am not following my own teaching . . . .”Don’t paint things! Paint Shapes, Textures, Color and Values.” Instead, I catch myself trying to paint “trees” not spots of color or making strokes of light and shadow. Yesterday, I came closer . . . . .but I am still cranky about the attempt. See for yourself.
Oh, and there is more to say. But I fear there will be no readers if I go on. I’ll save it for another day.

Last Night’s Class Lecture

oil on linen on panel, 6″ x 8″

Last night, I spent 90 minutes jumping through hoops, showing charts, wheels, paintings and scribbling on the white board about the four aspects of color: Hue, temperature, intensity and value.

It is always amazing to watch the looks on peoples’ faces as the truth unfolds that few painters are willing to face: It takes work and study to fully internalize these aspects and be able to mix colors well. The blank looks and twisted brows say much about wanting the ‘quick secret.’

There are countless hours under my belt doing these studies about intensity and how that differs from value. There is as much or more study about how temperature changes imply light and shadow and can reveal depth much more so than a simple value change. I received an email from a long time friend this morning which said, “To be a great artist you have to work harder than other artists. . . .and that isn’t so difficult! Most aren’t willing to put in the work.”

I have much more to master with color and much more work to do to really make it become second nature. As I painted this subject, two hours into it and nearly done, I happened to actually see some new colors in the shadows that I hadn’t noticed all morning. A small little dark shadow edge, right under the edge of the carrot, showed up as violet suddenly! Why didn’t I see this two hours ago, I asked? It must be that my observation powers click into gear after spending a LONG time looking. Or is it that after almost 30 paintings . . .and a dozen more practice workups . . . .I am beginning to see? It that possible?

And someone in class, last nite, said that shadows were gray! I wish they could have seen what I saw this morning!

The Creative High

“Facing West”
oil on linen on panel, 8″ x 10″

Aaaaah!! A nice dose of vitamin D was gathered yesterday. I got out into the beautiful day and painted en plein air! Whooopppeee! It has been three long weeks!

What is it about the successful painting experience that gives us artists such a high? After a day standing at the edge of our lovely town, looking at the waves and foam, breathing the fresh, misty air . . . and making a painting that sings when in a frame, I am so high I can hardly sit still!! And that is no exaggeration. I feel like singing at the top of my lungs!!

I can remember when I was first learning to paint and how I carried frustration most of the time (this is years ago) . . . . but when I got one that spoke to me at the finish, I was high for a full week. There must be a huge endorphin release when we have a successful experience. Maybe that is why we artists are on a continual chase for more paintings!

This little painting took but 90 minutes and really feels like the conditions of the day . . . .a slight mist hanging over the cliffs as the sun penetrated in and the glare from the water bleached all color from everything near it. Wooo Hooo!! I feel good!!

More Schmutzing on Canvas

oil on linen on panel, 6″ x 8″

Schmutz? Whaaaat? You don’t know what schmutzing is? Well, doesn’t the sound of the word sort of suggest what I’m doing? Making little schlimey schpots! 😉

Well, after yesterday’s vow to go out and paint, the world caved in here. Never made it out. Maybe today. Nevertheless, I rose early to insure that today received its creative beginning.

I am feeling more comfortable with the paint and the techiques, but I still have a long (and exciting) journey of discovery ahead. Glassware is a major challenge of observation and subtlety of paint. Jeff Hayes arouses envy in the way he makes use of color and value in his glassware paintings. I have much to learn!

Also, thanks to Ed Terpening for the suggestion about photo images. The shine is driving me nutz! I’ll have to explore that, Ed.

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.

There Has Never Been . . .

oil on lined on panel, 6″ x 8″

Today, I caught myself looking at a geranium blossom and admiring the colors. “I should paint that,” I said to myself. Then I heard a whisper, “You can’t! it’s too complex!” Having never painted a blossom like this before, much less in oil paint, I listened to the whimpy little bugger who lurked back there somewhere talking to me. I picked another, less complex blossom. Then, I thought to myself, “I just caved in to That Insistent Little Voice!” (here after to be known as TILV.)

As I walked into the house with the lesser, and less colored, blossom, I found myself hearing some voices from my class participants last week: “I can’t” . . .”if I wasn’t here I wouldn’t” . . .. “It’s always been that way. I just can’t.” That attitude of giving up before trying . . .or giving in to TILV . . .just gets my goat! And here I was falling for it! Right on my own turf . . .where absolutely nobody was watching.

“Enough Already,” I chided myself! It isn’t that I C-A-N-T . . .it is that I don’t have the experience, YET! And how does one gain experience?” Well . . .I guess there is only one method . . .and I sure as hell know better than to fold before the game is played!

To my knowlege there has never been a painting, or any monuments, or any statue, or bronze plaques, anywhere in the world, dedicated to the victory of the CAN’TS ! . . . . EVER!

Personal Symbolism

oil on linen on panel, 8″ x 6″

This piece speaks very loudly to me on a sentimental level. The wine vase belonged to my parents and was an always present ornament in our house when I was a child, fifty years ago. The other piece was made by my daughter while in high school. The two vessels, side by each, hold generational symbolism for me. . . . my oldest daughter and her grampa caring for each other. For you, maybe these are just different pieces of pottery. For me? Well, I know you understand.