Itching To Get Out Again

“Live Oak Farm”
Oil on linen panel, 8 x 10 inches
Friday, I went out to paint . . .on a cold, foggy day. I discovered this old little farm, just like a small island, right in the midst of our town. It seems the same family has owned the land for over 100 years and the ground is still being worked. So, I painted it. As I was doing so the fog bank rolled back and the sun came out briefly.

After coming home and putting the painting in a trial frame for a few days, it gave the paint a chance to dry and me a chance to look it over with new eyes. So, yesterday, I spent a few nice hours making adjustments and revising a few things. I so enjoyed myself that I am going out again today. I think Walnut Avenue will be a good place for the day.

One of THOSE Days !

“At The Edge of Walnut Ave.”

Oil on canvas panel, 8 x 10 inches
(a better photo injected a day after posting)
On balance, most days are just fine. I mean there isn’t much that I have to complain about, if anything. But some days seem to stand up and scream they are so good. Today was one of those!

A few weeks ago I wrote an article and submitted it to a magazine . . . .and it was accepted. Nice!! Then they wanted hi res images. No problem (I thought). Boy!! Was I ever wrong!

LSS: (that is Long Story Short) I ended up buying a new camera . . . . .wellllll, it was for the magazine article!!! It WAS! Really!! (Yes I am a gadget nut.)

I have spent the last two weeks at the computer learning Photoshop at a breakneck pace and all sorts of stuff about color spaces, workflows, color gamuts, calibration of monitors, cameras, printers and all sorts of non painting stuff in order to be able to send flawless photos of my work to accompany the article. Okay! I am learning something . . .and not just a little bit. I am learning a ton! And I have hardly had the chance to truly investigate my camera.

The plan today was to get out of the house with a great friend to paint en plein air. Oh! The weather was sweeeet. We had lunch together and talked of our younger, sillier, days of lechery and debauchery. The light was uplifting, the shadows gorgeous and the company was almost splitting my sides from the laughter.

Standing on a sidewalk on busy Walnut Avenue, I painted this little lane of a street. Ho Hum, you say? For me, this was a biiig step. I have a tendency to slam my darks and to overdo them so my paintings become overly moody. So, today, I set out to hold down the darks and work in a higher key and depend upon temperature and intensity of the color more than value. I had an absolute ball while I was doing it, too!! I love plein air oil painting!! Every smudge of paint can be felt. Today was one of THOSE days !!! 🙂

Still on the Easel

Awaiting Final Color Decisions
I began this larger piece yesterday because I have been craving larger work. This piece is 24 x 30, which still comes up ‘small’ for where I want to go . . . .I want to push 60 inches eventually.

But . . .that is not what I came here to discuss . . . this time it is color. As you can see I have been doing some color gymnastics in the last few weeks and am excited about making some unusual color choices. However, I am concerned about this piece and the colors I chose . . . .that is why it is still on the easel. So, I am stirring this one around in my head . . . .and pacing . . . . and scratching my head. I think the colors in the cypress trees, in this case, are wrong. I am not sure if it is the value of the small, bush like cypress in the foreground, or the violet / ‘periwinkle’ color of those in the back ground.

I am attempting to set up some extreme aerial perspective here . . . .and much of it is working . . . . .but this painting is rattling inside of me for some reason. . . .and I can’t quite put my finger on it yet. I would be most interested in your toughts.

On Working Challenges

“Sharks Tooth Rock”
Oil on canvas, 16” x 20”

One is honored when another person of like mind and soul will drive nearly 100 miles to be with you, or to be part of what you are doing.

Yesterday, again, Elio Camacho did precisely that to see my studio, my work and to paint together en plein aire.

This guy is all about mastery, as am I. Mastery is what we both seek . . .I may never reach it, but it is the reason I exist. To be with someone who eats and sleeps and works hard to reach that same goal is a rare privilege. I don’t want Elio to get a big head or to think I am ‘in awe’ or acting like a groupie. No! We both know that it is a rare thing to be with another person of like mind and motives.

We went to “Sharks Tooth” beach up the coast from my studio and home. And stood apart and furiously attacked our respective canvases or boards. A wise crack here, a glance there, or an expletive or a laugh is all we need to connect. We watch each others’ methods and processes without comment and proceed down each of our respective processes. Two paintings as different as night and day came out of this session, yet, again, I gained knowledge, encouragement for myself and a larger degree of respect for him and his work.

Is he a master? I don’t know. I think mastery is familiarity. It has to do with brush mileage, or how many acres of canvas one has painted. At any point in the process, one holds mastery over their previous work, but what lies ahead? How much work is one person willing to expend to reach a new level? And that is why he and I connect, I think. We both are willing to stretch and reach and work every day.

Yesterday was exactly that. Each held a little challenge, or a plan in our respective minds, before putting brush to paint, to tackle something new. For me, it was using a different set of colors on my palette and to see what I could derive from that. . . ..and to push the color in places where nature was offering bland, neutral tones.

What did he have in mind? Maybe you should go see what he did and if he’ll tell you.

Trying to Restore Rhythm

“Knuckles & Strands”
oil on linen on panel, 8″ x 10″
After nearly a month . . . .actually, it HAS BEEN a month! . . . .of breaking the habit if daily painting, restoring the rhythm has been difficult. Especially, since I have a JOB, too! Sometimes, the demands of my occupation as a realtor simply make daily painting impossible.
Yesterday, after a full day with a client, I shot out of the house to a place called “Lighthouse Field,” which is very near the bluffs over the sea, for a return to plein air painting. I could hear the seals barking and the gulls calling. (nice!) The fog had come in, which took all shadow and highlights out of my painting subject. (not nice). And it was cold . . . . . and this is August!!!! . . .
I stuck it out . . . .or should I say I struggled it out. I can always tell when I am not in the zone if I get lost in textures . . . .and get lost I did!! In the end, I found that there wasn’t enough value contrast between the top edge of the old log and the grasses behind it. So, I had to resort to some alternation and value changes along that edge to bring it to life this morning. Overall, I think I chose a tough subject and should probably go back for another attempt . . . and take a jacket with me!
In the meantime, I am settling back into routines that are more conducive to a painting every day. Diana is up and around and back to teaching and other distractions of the summer have settled down. I am ready to move ahead!

Looking For New Stuff

“Imported Olives”
oil on linen on panel, 8″ x 10″
As a painter looking to grow, I am always seeking ways to get the paint on the canvas in a more appealing way. I find myself browsing in places I otherwise would not . . . .such as the Good Will store . . . .to find interesting objects, too. Yesterday, I found a few things. These came from another store. I found them interesting because they presented new challenges. A ball of string . . . .very interesting texture and the size appealed to me as a possible interesting contrast object in a painting. This lop-sided, goofy shaped dish with its unusual markings and colors offerred some other possbilitities in the area of shape and pattern. Then, as if I had come to this market with this purpose in mind, I found myself looking for something tall and slender that would offer a compositional balance. When I saw it, I immediately knew it. But what a dumb thing it was!! A jar of olives? Fer gawd’s sakes!! And a ball of string? What possible relationship could these two things have? Welllllll . . . . . .the colors of the label offer great interest against the warms of the olives and the ball and bowl. And the rectangular shape of the label in the painting will make a nice counterpoint to the curvilinear shapes in the rest of the painting.
“What the heck!” . . . .”Go ahead and paint it. The only thing I have to lose is a small piece of linen . . .and I can always paint over that, if I want to.”
So I did. It is in a frame in my living room (where most of these end up to dry and to continually watch and re-evaluate). And I can’t take my eyes off it!!

Puttering Day

“Surf Stump”

oil on linen on panel, 8″ x 10″
Big family events are afoot. Today we are meeting our daughter’s future in laws and entertainting them. As well, Daughter and mom are out seeking wedding locations for a not so far off date. I got stuck with tidying up. Stuck might not be the right word. Shall we say ‘elected?’ 😉
I know what will happen this evening. Everyone will want to go to the studio to see what goes on there. And it is a big mess. I gotta git bizzy!
Today’s painting really isn’t done today. It has been held back for a few weeks waiting for a day like today when I simply cannot paint. I almost got my feet wet doing this one. I was perched on a rock with my easel and the waves were lapping at my feet while I tried to characterize this ‘stump’ of a rock and how it is being clobbered every single minute of every day.

Why Fascinated?

“Nearing Sunset”
oil on linen on panel, 10″x 8″
Sometimes there are subjects that defy logic or conventional formulas . . . .like rocks and broken faces of cliffs . . .and evidence of layered strata in cliff faces with all the random planes. I suppose that is why this subject held my interest in watercolor for so many years. And, I guess, it is the reason I keep going back and back and back and coming away less than satisfied.
In short, it is a tuff subject to paint. The painters who do the Grand Canyon amaze me. Those who do Sadona and Zion, etc make me stare in wonder: How do they do thaaaaat?
All this work in the past few days has been in answer to that constant fascination. Each day, it seems to get a little easier. Today, some things fell into place. Light and shadow is the part which complicates matters. Separating the two and keeping them separate is a big part of it. Another is working with color relatives inside those areas . . .or so I think. Cools and warms. Value and color transitions. Edges. Sheesh! This gets complicated! Oh, but there is more! I won’t go into it now, but you get the idea.
And you are bored with looking at this subject? Okay. I’ll take a break. But not for long.

Macpherson Was Right!

“Try Another Path!”
oil on canvas, 36″ x 24″
Kevin Macpherson was right. The power of doing little studies outdoors, then using them as reference in the studio is the only way to go.

This is the largest piece to date . . .and I itch to get really big . . . .at 36″ x 24″ I had to reach to get at it (okay, I’m a short guy!) . . .

Those studies I did over the weekend in the wind, and the photos I took set this piece in motion. I used the photos for a few minutes to get a general idea . . .then in the drawings, stretched the height of the big cliff to exaggerate the feeling of altitude.

Then I buried the photos. Yup! Totally hid them so I couldn’t be tempted to get near them. This painting had to come from the heart. I propped up the studies (the three posted paintings from the last few days) . . .looked at what I liked and didn’t like and set some small goals for this studio piece. I let the plein air pieces be my guide then improvised from there.

We can always improve on everything we do, but I think this painting says what I wanted it to say. It is loose in areas, tight in others, the colors are harmonic and there is a sense of space and atmosphere that works. Could it be better? Of course! But considering the few pieces I have done so far to date, I am happy with it.
Now, of only Macpherson would say the same thing!! :-))
(P.S. I wonder what I’ll say a year from now!)

Some Days Are More Difficult

“Before the Wind”
oil on stretched canvas, 16″ x 20″
Sunday was the same as Saturday. Wind, Wind and more wind!

I have terrible difficulty seeing the colors on the palette in bright sunlight. So, with the wind, I couldn’t put up an umbrella in the wind. It was a struggle. Then, I got caught in the details . . .and I know better!!! So, an hour in the studio this morning, tweaking values and reducing the details helped immensely. Not that a night’s sleep and rest from the wind had anything to do with it!!

This piece might be a little too illustrative, but what the heck! It’s a workshop piece. One thing I did notice is that I hit the right values and colors early in painting then, stupid me, I painted right through it! Serves me right for not stopping soon enough.

I could stand on those cliffs and paint for weeks on end! In fact, I could make a career out of the 50 mile stretch of our coast line! What a place we live in!!!