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鈥檛 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 !!! 馃檪

Absolutely Perrrrrr fect !!

“Academy Cliffs”
oil on canvas panel, 8″ x 10″
Omigawd! I came in from painting outdoors today in near perfect 80 degree weather with low humidity and a very teensy haze through which you could see 60 plus miles.
And we were in a little known place standing on the edge of a high bluff . . .80 to 100 feet high . . .right next to the beach . . . .now get THIS !!!! We were watching over a dozen pods of dolphins screaming thru the waves right next to the beach. Each pod had 6 to 10 dolphins . . .they were going crazy!! Then about 1/4 of mile out to sea, whales were breaching and spouting and flipping their big tails up in the air!! Pelicans were diving after fish and there were lots of gulls circling round to get the scraps from the pellies . . . . .It was a veritable circus!!!!

Normally, we don’t see dolphins because the water is consderably more cold here than in the southern states . . . .like Florida . . . .and the whales don’t usually appear until January . . .and they are generally further out to sea. But today, they were all cavorting and jumping out of the water and we were the only ones watching this show!

I guess that this really is paradise!! Today was perrrr fect !!!

The Power of Practice

“Golden Morning”
oil on canvas panel, 16″ x 12″
This scene, one I worked on over and over while in France, is out of the images left in my mind.

Yes. It was composed and painted completely from my thoughts about what it should look like. First, the pencil sketches came while mulling over my morning coffee without visual reference to any of the previous attempts done on site. Then there were the considerations that came with the sketches. Those considerations would never have come had I not painted similar scenes in plein aire while there. Here are some of my thoughts about composing this.

路 The hay rolls must provide direction for the eye to track into the composition and not become a subject in themselves.
路 Color !! Is GREEN the only color to work with?! Too much green is simply too obvious!
路 Color again! Why not use colors that wouldn鈥檛 otherwise be seen? Pump it up and see what happens. Look for impact and entertainment versus realism.
路 Those poplar trees! They speak to me. Feature them, not the sunflowers below.
路 As for the sunflowers, just make them one shape with minor color variation.
路 Put the color accents on the poplars and repeat those colors in the foreground for unity.
路 Texture in the foreground to indicate grasses, but without stating 鈥済rass鈥 explicitly. Imply!
路 Use the successful parts of previous paintings.

When I stand in a field and paint a subject such as this, my attention is focused on what is there and how the light is working. That focus makes memory connections that no photograph can make. That is why so many photos go unused after coming home. There just is no concentrated, laser observation at work.

Then there is the added benefits of painting the same subject from different perspectives or points of view . . . .which make for different compositions. The more I do it, the more there is to recall . . . .and the more clarity I find in my purpose. I suppose that practice does that. It helps eliminate the superfluous and aids in refining that which impresses me. In this case, those beautifully shaped poplar trees . . . .and, of course, the light.

In the studio, all this stuff comes into play and falls easily into place.

Practice does that. It makes every attempt clearer, more certain and easier to execute. Some artists call it working in series. It is very, very powerful!

Chasing the Perigord

“A Place for a Picnic”
watercolor on paper, 15″ x 11″

“A Roll in the Hay”
(whaddya mean, ‘corny?’)
watercolor on paper, 11″ x 15″
The Perigord, as it is called, is a region in the south west part of France along the Dordogne River. The area is a delight to any who would be interested in history ranging from Cro-Magnon man to the hundred years war to ancient markets, bizarre chateaus and citadels to the growing and harvesting of truffles, ducks, geese and other delights . . . . . . . not to mention some of the finest wine in the world.

I just returned from a stay in that region beginning with Bordeaux and its beautiful surroundings. Residing out in the countryside, near the small bastide village of Eymet, our mornings were filled with sights of enormous fields of sunflowers, rolling hills and lots and lots of vineyards laden with grapes waiting for the coming 鈥榗rush.鈥 Each little village in the area reeked of history and age and was turned out with all the French charm anyone could hope for.

Armed with camera, sketch book, pochade box, watercolors and every art supply known to man, I chased the perfect painting for three weeks. Trekking about with a number of other artists and good friends we gobbled up the sights and tasted the repasts of the region as though we had been starving and deprived most of our lives. To say that the food was wonderful would be understating the obvious. To say there was just too much to absorb in the way of visual stimulation and historical information would also be an understatement. But we did it anyway!

Just outside the door to my quarters were fields of rolled hay set against more fields rife with sunflowers. The light changed as quickly as my wristwatch changed time. We had clouds and skies that were more than worthy as a singular subject to back up all the gorgeous rural scenery. I gotta say that it was really, really tuff to handle! (read with sarcasm).

Here are a few hurried attempts at watercolor plein air painting that represent the sort of 鈥榰gliness鈥 we had to endure. To make matters worse, our feeble efforts at attempting to harness the beauty there on canvas or paper were rewarded nightly with wine and dinners most people would sacrifice a family member in order to partake. Yup! It was fabulous!!! (Except, now I have to redouble my exercises to de-expand my svelte self, if you get my drift.)

More about it later, But for now take the glimpse of the few painting attempts I brought back and try to imagine yourself enduring this form of hideous torture. Life is just toooo good, sometimes, folks. And I really do mean too good!!!!

Too Good To Be True !!

“Beach Pond”

oil on canvas panel, 12′ x 16″

Some days are just too good to be true. And today was one of 鈥榚m!

After sorting around in some of my painting haunts, I took a flyer today and knocked on the door of a property owner who had previously denied me access to their private beach and sprawling ranch property on the coast. Today, my buddy and I were welcomed and encouraged to go ahead and paint where ever we liked.

Mind you, in California there are VERY FEW beaches without human footprints on them. This place had N O N E ! What an amazing treat to be standing knee deep in native grass and actually not wanting to go onto the beach because it would disrupt such undisturbed natural perfection.

A small creek comes to a pond there on the beach and reflects the water and wind beaten bluffs. Mind you, the wind blows there all the time. So, it was paint with one hand and hold the umbrella and easel with the other! Save for the wind, my buddy and I decided that it would be a most perfect day if two naked women just happened along for us to gaze at while they sun bathed and we painted.

Like I said, some days are just too good to be true. What are the odds that our wishes came true? Today the lottery would have been in our favor, if you get my drift. We were blown away, but not by the wind, that is for sure!

And the painting came out well, too !!!! (Only in California, right?) HA!!!

Just Before Dinner

“Aspens Corner”
oil on canvas panel, 8″ x 10″
In the late afternoon, yesterday, I ran out of gas. I HAD to sit down and rest. We have been 鈥榯ouring鈥 through Wyoming . . . .driving, walking, standing, shopping, gallery looking, etc . . . .and I came to a physical halt. Just couldn鈥檛 do any more. I had to rest.

So, I found a stool, took my paints and went to our front yard to sit and paint for a while. This is what came out. And this is what it really looks like!! Rough neighborhood, eh?

I had taken about 15 photos with my digital camera (has an SD card) . . .and none of the photos recorded onto the card. When examining the card on computer, the numbers assigned to the images skip those numbers of the photos taken, but the images are no where to be found. Does anyone know why this might happen, or how to avoid it in the future?

Setting Up Color

“Misty Brilliance”

oil on linen panel, 8″ x 10″
Some days it pays to get up early. When it comes to painting, some days it pays to stay in bed. Or so it seems. Today was an excellent day!!
The title of this piece came after I had completed the piece. The process here was to set up the brilliance of the color. To play down value contrasts and surround the color with neutrals. It is the neutrals in a painting that make the saturated colors seem as though they are screaming . . . . . . . . .or at least singing.
Today as I pushed through this piece, I found myself paying special attention to diminishing values and contrast in depth. That threw the foreground out at the viewer and emphasized the subject . . . .my beloved ice plant and all its colors against the sandstone cliffs of the Santa Cruz County coastline. I learned more as I painted this piece . . . . .let the paint do the talking, not the details. Why does a painter have to relearn these simple lessons over and over and over and over???? I guess habit must take over eventually. Details and minutae do nothing to make a painting stand up and sing.
I can smell the air in this painting . . . . .I am smiling !!!!!

Oh Yeah! That’s Better!

“Ice Tower”
Oil on canvas panel, 12″ x 16″
Here on the California coast we have a succulent plant that grows along the cliff edges (and inland, too). It turns all colors of red, orange, rose, brilliant green and has beautiful yellow blossom. I am sure it has a latin name, but the common name is “Ice Plant.” I guess you might be able to see the reason for the title.
This piece felt soooo much better than yesterday. I think I might have been to tired to really do a good painting yesterday. I also remembered a few things today that I had forgotten yesterday. This painting was FUN! It went together nicely. I am always disappointed, however, in the photos. So, I guess I will need to begin studying photoshop so I can put these guys up in the way they really look. There are alot of subtle tones and tints which have disappeared in this photo, but you get the idea.

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?!! 馃檪