Itching Continued

“Intersection at Walnut Ave.”
oil on linen panel, 8 x 10 inches
Yesterday, I scrambled to get to Walnut Ave. to paint the light and the tree covered street. This street is historical in that all of the homes are old Victorian “painted ladies.” The street is like stepping into a painting with neatly trimmed landscaping, blooming blossoms and dappled light everywhere.

I picked a difficult one, yesterday. Dappled light is something I have never done before . . . .so I can see I have much to learn.

This piece presents one of those interesting space division challenges . . . .and am not sure that it really works that well. What I have in mind is a much more subdued sort of lighting, but the way the sun was reflecting off the pavement yesterday was dazzling. I had to use every bit of the little I understand about aerial perspective and color, as well as edges, to make this little painting work.

I have resolved to visit again, perhaps today, to consider a different angle of attack and a different composition. I still itch to capture that which is in my mind. I may never quite get there, but the practice is most precious. I can feel a few gains in understanding from yesterday’s experience. I hope I can capitalize on that.

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 !!! 🙂

Big Mistakes . . . .Again !!

“Above The Rancho”
oil on canvas panel, 8″ x 10″
Uncorrected and Corrected
Two days ago I didn’t post. I had been plein aire painting with a friend in a new painting location that was beyond description. It was high up with a view for miles and miles in all directions. Huge, massive pieces of agricultural land that reached right to the sea. Clusters of dark trees surrounding a few farm houses stuck out and called for my attention. So, I climbed up, set up ‘camp’ and started in painting. I debated about putting up an umbrella because it was windy . . .not bad, but bad enough to say to heck with it. Biiiiig Mistake !!!

I was firing on all cylindars as I painted away . . .stuff was going together on the canvas rapidly. Within 2 hours, I was ready to call it quits, load up the car and head out. So, we did.

Getting to the car, I pulled the painting out to look at it in the shade. Wham !!! It hit me that my mistake was one I should have seen coming . . .in fact, I KNEW BETTER !

I had overdone the darks and mid-tones. So much so, that the dark shadowy areas were nearly black. Areas and shapes that should have been in a dark middle value had accelerated to the dark side, too! When you paint in the direct sun, the colors appear more washed out . . .the painter naturally compensates without consciously seeing that every mark is much darker than they should be. I have done this countless times and cuss myself for falling into the trap again.

The second mistake was not paying attention to color temperature as a means to show light and shadow. Again, I knew better. Instead, I was slamming the darks as pure value tones.

I awoke that night in the middle of the night and almost sat bolt upright in bed . . . .(why do realizations have to appear in mid sleep in the wee hours ? Why ?!!) . . . .I was visualizing what I should have done . . . .I should have used more blues to indicate shadowed areas . . . .cool out of the light and warm in the light (on a sunny day) ! sheeesh! How long does it take to make this a habit ??

The last mistake was to ignore the mistake. This morning I awoke telling myself to ‘git into the studio and fix it!” This little compulsion is the part of me that others call ‘self discipline.’ I don’t call it that. I HAD TO SEE if I was right in my mid snooze epiphany.

I think I was. I won’t again work sans umbrella . . . .and I’ll be more watchful of color temperature instead of absolute value. Clearly, Mistakes are the best teachers . . .if we pay attention.

Plein Air Quick Draw

“Walnut Avenue”
oil on cavas panel, 8″ x 10″
This last weekend, I participated in a plein aire event organized by the local art museum. It is a fun event and turned out to be nicely profitable in many ways for me. Not that you care about that part, but I did get to meet and talk with some very uniquely talented and thoughtful artists. . . . . . and that alone was worth the time spent. I sold five of my paintings and made a few solid contacts for future business. The event attracts a very knowlegeable and informed crowd who are not only interested in art, but willing and able to acquire pieces for their collections.
On the last day of the show, which runs Friday night, Saturday and Sunday, the museum holds a “Quick Draw” competition. I had planned not to take part, but in the end organized my stuff and went for it. Long story short, the artists check in to have their canvases stamped and signed at 8:30 AM. They are to choose a site, set up, paint and return to the museum with a finished painting by 11:00 AM. That is roughly 2 hours of painting time when one considers set up and take down of equipment. I actually had quite a few giggles in this little event . . . .and had an opportunity to step out of myself and see my real painting process.
As you can see by the resultant image, being rushed is not conducive to fine finished work . . . . . . . . . .which made me notice that I LIKE fine finished pieces. I could have spent another hour tweaking this painting and bringing out the aspects I wished to refine and show off. It also showed me that I could, do this and that in order to do so, I would just need to get used to “plowing through” to a conclusion . . . .what ever that was. I found it to be exciting! Moreover, it might be a discipline I should develop more in order to train myself to be more direct, less fussy and to refine my value and color perception so as to get colors and values correct on the first attempt.
A very valuable experience it was!

Resuming Life

En Plein Air at the Firehole

Yellowstone and Jackson Hole were simply mind blowing. The Grand Tetons and the light on or behind them never stopped jolting our senses. This little slice of the area included wandering Bison just to the right of the barn. In a coincidence encounter 100 miles away, we met one of the family who occupied this old homestead! That was a story by itself!
We arrived home yesterday after a three day jaunt cross country through Idaho, Nevada and California. This shot of me painting near the Firehole River in Y’stone park is revealing of the gear and the necessary protection from the trees I am hiding behind. The wind was whipping about, as mentioned in a previous post, which made a sun umbrella impossible. . . .the trees gave the shade and blocked the wind enough to let me work.

Now that I am home, it is time to resume a normal life (if normalcy is possible for me! ). I have to sandwich my art activities in among other things. No servants. No large bank accounts. No poking through the days wondering about what to do. There is always a list!

The other photo is a sample of the terrific wildlife encounters we experienced throughout Wyoming. This gorgeous Bull Moose was nearly oblivious to our presence . . . .or so it seemed. There are some 300 more photos which will make for some nice reminiscing this winter.
I thought you all might like to see some of what we saw and experienced.

Making the Best of an Emergency

“Afternoon at the Firehole”

oil on linen panel, 8″ x 10″
When travelling, I have the constant urge to paint. I suppose it is the visual adventures that occur around every corner that excites the urge.

We are in Jackson Hole, Wyoming and touring the area to include the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone. The internal summoning to the easel was gaining volume as was my frustration as the days have passed. I MUST PAINT ! Inside, I am thinking “If only for a few moments . . .!”

Yesterday, four of us (two couples) were driving through Yellowstone National Park, which is a doubly amazing place because there are so many unusual sights . . .erupting geysers . . . .steam bubbling from the ground . . . .magnificent rivers . . .Buffalo . . .Elk . . Moose . . . .Antelope. . . .gorgeous meadows . . . .waterfalls and much, much more. To top it off, it is the peak of Spring here. The grasses and wildflowers are lush and in full bloom. What an incredible time!!!

And so, I stopped to paint . . . .and you better paint FAST because there are other people who are waiting for you, Mike . . . . .so git r done . . .and don’t dawdle.

Standing in a 15 mph wind with gusts to 35 mph in the gorgeous light of the late afternoon, I opened my pochade box to find the paint had slid around inside of it and made a horrendous mess. There is paint everywhere but where it belongs. While cleaning the box and preparing it to paint, the wind is grabbing the easel and attempting to throw it into the meadow. There is buffalo fur all over the trees next to where I stand . . . . . .which means this is probably their bedding place . . .better watch out! The group is wanting to eat, to see other sites, but I must paint. So I did. Quickly, without remorse or reconsideration of a single stroke. Just get it done and do it quick.

What an absolute joy to look across the meadow, across the river and paint all that magnificent light !!! Even if it is nothing more that a fast arrangement of smudges and smears. I must shove the doubts away and take what I get in this emergency. Niiiiice! 🙂

Another Plein Air Attempt

“Rincon Cove”

oil on canvas panel, 12 x 16

Today held another plein air attempt.

I suppose I can always be counted upon to pick the most complex subject to paint. There are certain things I am drawn to . . . . rocks and water have never failed to hold my interest, but to smite me with their subtle lighting changes, striations and reflections. Here I am supposed to be making paintings to provide to the museum . . .and what do I do? I choose something that has challenged me since I began painting. Nope! Don’t pick an easy one. Go for the stuff that’ll beat me up if I don’t get it right.

Chalk up another one.

For some reason, the image does not upload. Maybe it broke the camera? Do ya suppose it is trying to save me embarrassment?

Finally got it to upload. Here is the effort. I had fun, but I didn’t get that delightful “kick” when a great one comes along.

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?!! 🙂

Caught Between Impressions and . . . .

“Ripples and Light”
oil on linen on panel, 8″ x 10″
Last night after work, I scooted out of the office and went directly to the yacht harbor here. This place probably contains over a thousand boats of all kinds. The working boats are my favorites. The problem with painting in the yacht harbor is the challenge of simplifying. There is such a twisted morass of shapes and lines and different whites that it boggles the mind . . . . . .especially if you are painting it!

I had only an hour and a half to get something down on canvas. We were to be dinner guests someplace, so I couldn’t fudge the time. The fog was rolling in and had half covered the harbor. I set up and went to work. 30 minutes later the fog lifted magically and the light was frying my eyes. I already had a grey sky and backdrop in silouhette . . .when suddenly there were contrasts and colors that weren’t there 20 minutes previous! The pleasures of plein air painting!!
This painting has good spots and not so good spots. I see now that I really need to work on my whites and the light and shadow therein . . . . . .not just on this painting, but any other that has a lot of white. Maybe that is why Ken Auster is so good at what he does. I should spend some time studying his work. . . . . .and making more paintings with a lot of white in them.
In one and one half hours last night I was able to make enough to walk away and make a few adjustments in the studio this morning. I think, however, the next adjustment should be done in the fireplace! In looking at this, I find I am caught between impressionistic brushwork and detail. I need to land at one place or the other.

The First Plein Air Oil . . .

“Late Shadows”
Oil on linen on panel 12″ x 16″

Here it is . . .Not especially the best technique, but a two hour effort to capture the light through the trees. I had an absolute BALL painting this!!! 12 x 16 inches, oil on linen on wood panel.