An Update

“Greyhound Rock”
oil on canvas panel, 8″ x 10″
This painting is of a landmark north of here called Greyhound Rock. I have, as you probably already know, a fascination with the vivid colors of ice plant. On this day, however, the foreground ice plant was green . . .almost kelly green. So, taking artistic license, I chose to use different colors to help throw the focus up onto the rocks and sea. (By now you must be getting bored with this, but I can’t help myself!)

On another note, I should say THANKS to all who came to my open studio. Many artists, including myself, often measure the success of such an event in the numbers of paintings sold and the dollars brought in. I must take pause, however, this year for the obvious reasons relating to the economy, and make sure that I don’t drift too far into the mercenary mire of revenue versus artistic success.

Considering the financial climate we are all suffering, I had a fabulous open studio. The first weekend averaged about 130 visitors per day. The second wasn’t quite as well attended, but still, very worthwhile.

The studio was set up with several lessons that the lay person and artists alike would find to be interesting, such as a simple still life set up painted in 9 different color strategies to show how mood is often determined by the artist’s color choices. There was also a large board onto which I collaged (loosely) around 20 plus pencil sketches of preliminary studies. This board was next to two watercolor paintings (posted a few weeks ago) which were derived from those sketches. People found these displays fascinating . . . and the studio, too. ( Art studios are where mystical magic happens!) There was something for everyone from over 100 framed, original paintings on display around the property to the studio to the informative displays.

Open studios, as I reflect on it, are exciting and fun, like ‘open house’ kinds of parties . . . . . . . . .where friends and neighbors drop in, munch a little, chat, visit, update each other and eventually wander out refreshed and glad they came. This is similar, but there is much that happens in the way of expanded networking and being introduced to other artists and art events. In short, it is a function from which many new challenges and activities grow. Aside from selling nearly thirty paintings, this was a rich and enlivening experience. I could go on and on about the value (priceless!) of such events, but I shan’t bore you with my verbosity. Just know that with all the complaining about the amount of work, I will do it over and over again.

Thought you’d like to know how it went. If you came, thanks for coming. If you didn’t, I hope to see you next year!

Some Days Are Just Better

“Beach Trap”
oil on linen panel, 8″ x 10″
Some days everything just seems to fall into place with ease. Today, this painting almost fell off the brush by itself . . .developed from another sketch. Do you suppose practice has anything to do with it? I do.
The way the light hits these cliffs and dances about is a constant source of delight to me. I hope you don’t get tired of them.
While cleaning my studio this last month ( a HUGE task, incidentally!) . . . . . .(why does it get that deep?) . . . . .I sorted through all of the last years’ panel paintings and culled out all of the unsuccessful ones . . .then painted over them with a light coating of orange paint and put them to dry. Those panels have been what I have been painting on for the last 7 paintings. I allow the orange undertone to peek through in a few places. It adds a nice ‘warmth and sparkle’ to the work. Also, I am testing a new medium as I paint these. . . . . Gamblins’ “Meglip” . . . . . . . . . . . . .I have never used it before, but I am noticing that the paint takes on a nice glow since the medium is nearly crystal clear. It will never yellow, supposedly. The paint also seems to shine a bit more than when I use “Liquin.” I will keep playing with it and see what comes up. . . . .and do some more research about it. Do any of you painters out there use it? Care to comment? I would appreciate any thoughts or guidance you might have.
Tomorrow, I open the studio to the public. I am ready! If you live in the Bay Area, or are travelling there this weekend or next, stop by. My address is on my website.
Whoops! It isn’t there like I thought it was! Best to email me if you need address and directions.

Seeking Drama

“Cliffside Dusk”
oil on linen panel, 8″ x 10″
Every artist is confronted with the problem of entertaining the viewer. Entertaining is something that takes more than a mere glance. There must be something other than the usual, mundane descriptions of what ever the artist is painting. This is especially true when there is little more than two shapes in the painting . . .one light and the other darker.

I have been playing with the same motif of the cliffs and bluffs along our coast for as long as I have been painting. Against the sky or the sea, the cliff is nothing more than a severe bump or rise out of a flat area. What makes a “bump” entertaining? Go on, tell me ! what?

The answer is not in the reality, but in what the artist creates. The more we copy what we ‘see’ as reality, the more mundane it can become. So the artist must do something to arrest the viewer and hold his attention. Or, the painting must hold some degree of shock value, I suppose. The artist only has a few tools to play with: Value, Shape, Color, Texture and Line. That is it. Value, shape and color hold the greatest potential for developing that ingredient of ‘shock’ or ‘visual stimulus.’ (Notice that details are not mentioned! . . .or considered . . .it is NOT details that matter.)

So, here is my shot at value, shape and color to carry the day with a ‘bump.’ I long ago let go of the photos and the actual subject to help me. Sketches from memory and establishing a strong compositional design (value sketch) before doing any painting is the basis for a strong, bold painting.

A Return to Normalcy

“A Sailor’s Delight”
oil on oil primed linen panel, 8″ x 10″
At last, most of the preparations for Open Studio are finished. I hung the show yesterday outdoors . . .over 80 paintings out there!! . . . .and because it is outside, every painting and hanging spot had to be coded so we could take down all the pieces then, on the day of the show, replace them in minutes. It is an arduous task, believe me, to arrange the show in a cohesive way and to get all the positions just right. Now, it’s clean house and do a few small details and we are ready! Yay!!!!
With the extra time now, I can putter away at the easel . . . .wellllll, sort of! I have a gallery show coming up in November, so now it is time to prep for that. Then another show in January of just watercolors. Busy!
This little fella was fun and interesting to work with color and values. I apologize for the slight glare on the painting . . . .I can’t see that in the camera . . . .it happens.
Normal is back!! 🙂

Under the Gun

“Balls!”
Watercolor, 15″ x 22″
I am deep into preparations for my annual Open Studio show. This is my 19th year holding it and it seems the work beforehand is overwhelming.

It must be an escape mechanism in my personality that rears its head at this time of year. When I need most to focus on completing these daunting tasks, my mind is racing about possible paintings. I awaken from sound sleep dreaming about it. It seems the more I am around the framing and puttering in the studio to clean up and get ready, the more I want to paint!! It literally becomes a feeling of imprisonment! Eventually, I must cave in and dance with my easel.

Today, I awoke at 5 AM thinking about a certain sketch I had done last week . . .what color here? What value there? How should I handle the backdrop? Dry into wet or wet into dry? Calligraphy? Where? How shall I combine the light valued shapes? And what about making stimulating shapes? And on and on and on. Finally, I threw off the blankets and headed directly to the studio at 5:20AM. I was painting by 5:45 AM and finished around 7:30 AM.

After my playful easel shenanigans last week, I couldn’t get the method out of my head. So, I went after it again: dry into wet paper and building layers wet into wet. The painting always lacks something till the very end when the calligraphy is put in (line work). The trick with line is not to let it become to tight. Just lay it down with one stroke. If it is a little off, so be it. It really adds excitement to the piece . . . .oh! I forgot the birds!! That’ll bring more life to it also. I’ll have to put those in after I post.

As a last comment . . .my sense of humor carried me away this morning. I just couldn’t help making the title a little bit tongue in cheek.

A Reconciliation

“Ice Plant Droop” Reconciled
oil on stretched canvas, 24″ x 30″
This painting has been under attack daily since I first posted it a few days ago.
There was much to resolve . . . . . .”It is hard to drain the swamp when you are up to your ass in aligators!” says the silly proverb . . . .but it is true. When attempting to correct something which has to do with design, one needs to not be distracted by subject. But, alas, I was once again.
Then again, I needed to resolve some significant color issues so that all parts of the piece related. Here are a few items I modified;
  • Gathered together some of the big “blotches’ of ice plant to form a single large shape.
  • Attempted to create more of a green dominance in the ice plant to set up the red contrasts.
  • Worked on temperature variations throughout the entire piece.
  • Related one cliff face to the other via color and value.
  • Reduced the sweetness of the background trees by graying them considerably.
  • Attemted to set up more of an atmospheric sense in the entire painting via gradations, intensity modifications and reduced value contrasts as the viewer moved back into the picture space.
  • Warmed up the forground cypress bush from cold alizirin crimson to a warmer harmonic of colors using alizirin as a base and adding yellow and green for warmth.

There are plenty more things . . .and I noticed that I don’t think particularly clearly when I am unsure of what to do next . . .this painting was entirely from a sketch without photo references or being on the site.

This one has been waking me from slumber, too. I just had to get it done!

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 !!!!!

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.

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.

On Painting “Gracefully”

“Point Lobos Environs”
oil on linen panel, 8″ x 10″
Someone (Connie in the Comment Section) recently mentioned that my paintings were becoming more “graceful.”

I was taken aback by that comment because it says so much without saying anything. I had to think about it and wondered what she meant, exactly. It seems it was a supreme compliment because it suggested growth of an unnamable sort. But let me see if I can connect my painting process thoughts with what she meant . . . .

This painting may or may not reach that quality, but there are aspects that point to what I think she means. For example, the gesture is used instead of the description. The green bushes in the foreground are but mere brush marks instead of well defined “bushes” . . . . . . . .those marks suggest without calling attention. The foreground field is more of a shape of a variety of similar valued tones . . . .there is a sense of something growing there without saying it directly. (at least I hoped for that!) And the rocks at the edge of the water at the ‘island’ really are not painted

r-o-c-k-s. They are just somewhat less than haphazard brush strokes that imply the presence of rocks. Is that what she meant? Is she saying I am getting closer, but not there yet? Or, is that my own thinking?

I find myself bridling my impulses . . . .holding back from making illustrations of some “thing” . . . . . .I want to leave something to the imagination and not be explicit. What I seek is to offer the viewer an opportunity to have a visual conversation with the painting. Conversation? The viewer will look at the painting which offers a hint of something, the viewer asks, the painting answers . . . . and so on. It is that quality that I seek . . .for the painting to be engaging to the viewer. And to do it by implication not replication.

Do you suppose that is what she meant by ‘graceful?’