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.

A Dog With A Bone

“Lonely Beach”

watercolor, 7.5″ x 22″
Click image to enlarge
Having finished my first cup of coffee at 4:45AM this morning, I was already at the easel and knew precisely what had to be done. After all, I had dreamt all night about it.
Yes, another painting of my beloved bluffs by the sea. This time it had to be a watercolor. Yesterday I painted a highly designed version of more bluffs. Before that I painted more bluffs and before that . . .etc. What it is that holds my fascination with this subject, I probably will never really know. It just does! I have been painting them for years and years . . .and not just recently . . . .my first versions were 17 years ago . . .and I have been doodling with them ever since. Maybe it is the shapes. Perhaps their directional movement. I don’t know. They just ring my bell. Can’t give ’em up. I am like a dog with a bone!
I am in the midst of preparing for open studio here at my home. The event will take place for three consecutive weekends . . . .it is a biiiiig job to get ready. This painting is part of that preparation. I am literally BUILDING a framed preview of my open studio event for the public to see. The frame will be 30″ x 30″ and will house seven matted paintings . . .six oils and one watercolor; this one. I plan to scribble on the mat a bit to draw attention and to inform. A marketing ‘trick,’ I admit. But it has to be done.

The Gears Turn Slowly

oil on canvas, 16″ x 20″
A few days ago, I went out painting with Elio Camacho and stood on the edge of these tall cliffs to paint an incredible vista. When painting with someone else, I am careful not to be too inquisitive about what they do and how they do it. I have my reasons for that, some of which have to do with sticking to my own style. The other reasons have to do with not invading something that the other artist may want to protect . . .such as the specific means to their ends in painting. That’s what I did last week. However . . . . .
Looking at what he did and the mess I had created for myself, I began to realize that he had not gotten caught in the details and textures as I had. The cliffs were just mere shapes. His strokes weren’t even representative of the textures of the cliff face as mine attempted to be. He just made shapes and created volume utilizing strokes, value and temperature. Something I should have heeded . . . . .after all, I know better than to get caught in the minutae!!!
Today I went to the studio with the expressed purpose to be conscious of these things. To consider temperature changes as planes shifted out of the light. To pay close attention to value differences. . . . . and to use my own palette of color. Each artist has their own signature in the colors they use . . . and I have mine.
Reflecting on this last week’s experiences, I realize that the gears are turning and gradually making me become a better painter. I can feel it when realizations suddenly turn on. I get excited when the bulb lights and an idea comes to life with these realizations. And . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .I just wish the gears wouldn’t turn so slowly. While that wish is present, I am living an exciting and fulfilling life every day!!


This is yesterday’s piece with adjusments made . . . .

For the life of me, I cannot get the colors correct in a photo of this piece. But there is enough of a difference to see some of the modifications I made.

First, I dreamt all night about the value of the rocks going accross the picture plane. They were waaaay to light and had to be changed. Next, I also realized that while the very edge of the rocks, as they enter the water are very dark . . .even black in places. There is a ‘water line’ up the rocks in another value until the value grades to the natural, dry color of the rock. This is due to tides wetting the rock in progressively higher water heights . . . thus leaving behind a near stepped gradation of color and value.
The rocks are alive with color . . .if one looks. And every surface reflects something back. (I have found rocks to be the most challenging, and the most fun, of any subject I have ever painted. I suppose that is why I keep going back.) So . . . .I had some major changes to make to cause the rocks and water to merge . . . edges, values and colors.
The big red cliff face was indeed a copper color with red highlights, which I have purposely exaggerated as the center of interest, but, no matter what I do in Photoshop, I cannot calm that intense red in this photo.
The foam along the edges of the rocks is in shadow and is a dull violet in the painting, but doesn’t show up here. Poop!
The fact is that I had a fantastic time painting this and making adjustments. As I have said before, this whole enterprise is about learning and trying to break through to a new level. I cannot imagine anything that would so entertain me as this is. Thanks to all you readers who make comments . . . even the negative ones (which are welcome here, by the way).
Not that there isn’t enough to do, but I can see that I need to learn more about Photoshop!

A Perfect Day !

“From the Point”
18″ x 24″
Wow! There are days when all conditions just seem to be purrr-fect!!!
Elio Camacho sent and email and asked if I wanted to go with him to paint at the coast. I live here, but don’t get out to do that often enough. Do you think I jumped at the chance? You can count on it!! We stood on a point 150 feet above the rocks . . .our easels would have been perfect sails had the wind come up. It didn’t. It was 72 degrees and we could see forever.
“E” is great company and took on a 30 x 40 piece that he finished in the same time I did this canvas. It was just one of those days when all the ions are in alignment.
Hey Elio!! Where is your painting? Let us see it!! [He posted it. Go see!]
WI watched it develop and I wanted it!!! It was gorgeous!
This photo, I have to apologize for, since there is so much glare. But you get the idea! I may give the photography another go. If it works well, I’ll post it in leiu of this one.

From Study to Larger

“Another Sur”
oil on canvas, 16″ x 20″
Click Image to Enlarge

I actually completed this piece yesterday, but didn’t have time to photo, correct and post it until this morning.
Two days ago, I developed a small study from a photo of Big Sur. Yesterday, it was painted 16 x 20 on stretched canvas. I notice that as things become larger, the painter is confronted with the challenge of imparting more interest into each shape via line or texture or color variation or some stroke manipulation (more texture). The last two weeks of work on strokes has benefitted this painting, though I am sure there is much more to learn and incorporate.
The rocks in the foreground look nothing like this. Creativity enters the process when the design calls for a lead into the image. These rocks were designed to draw (no pun intended) the viewer deeper into the image via a triangular shape and various directional edges with some interested opposition along the way. This is the sort of challenge I enjoy.
Again, I was reminded how great it is to paint larger work. I actually look forward to the day when I can do works 4 ft x 6 ft or larger. Now, thats painting!!