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.

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?!! 🙂

Backyard Plein Air

“Backyard Plein Air”
oil on masonite, 9″ x 13″
Life is just too crowded with demands and requirements to allow time to wander off and find a terrific paint site on a frequent basis. So, that is why I paint still life paintings. The box of stuff is right there . . .always available . . .always ready . . . always convenient . . .and expedient. But my heart is with developing my skills outside.
In the first five years of learning watercolor painting, I went outside every Friday to paint. The learning about light and shadow could not have been better. The demands of getting the light and shadow captured before it moved was an incredible habit to acquire. But practice is what makes us really good at what we do.
So, I stuck my head out the studio door and set about making this piece . . .right in my back yard . . . .wellll . . .not quite IN, but certainly within sight. I look at these guys every single morning; the negative shapes, the warm golden light at sun up, the shadows, the textures, the shapes and the ever changing moods. There are days when they dissappear into the fog, or are blasted with heat and light. The dappled light on them is fascinating to look at. I find myself painting them in my head almost daily. So, it was time I did it!
Employing a temperature shift from warm at the bottom to cool at the top, I hoped to establish a sense of soaring height. Somehow the temeratures in this piece and the textures hasten my pulse a bit. I actually like this one.

Not Until I Paint Em!

“Pair of Pears”

oil on linen on panel, 6″ x 8″
You have to eat one of these for lunch . . .before they go bad, I heard her say. But I was lost instaring at the subtle shifts of light and color temperature on this pair of pears. I thought to myself, “Not before I paint em!” I was already visualizing a set up and how I was going to show off those subtle shifts of color.
You might note this is another departure for me. High key (all lighter values) and no dark darks. I have resumed thinner painting, but with more penache at the end of the hairy stick I hold in my hand. Bigger gobs of paint . . . flat brush . . . .and again paying close attention to the strokes. No more random action. After all, every plane shift calls for a different direction of a stroke. They may not be as evident here, because I also worked on more subtle shifts from one plane of light to another. Edges, in other words. Sable brushes help that aspect of the work when working with lighter paint applications. They are not the final answer, to edges if working thicker, though.
I caught myself hollering and jumping up and down (by myself!) as I painted this. I had fun with this one!
Now . . . . where did she put that Camembert fromage?

Edges, Strokes, Temperatures and more

“Bonsai Experiment”

oil on primed hardboard, 9″ x 12″
Usually, I carefully draw my still lifes before painting them. I have always had a burr under my saddle for this because it seems very much like “coloring book” activity when I am painting.
And it is! So, enough of that, already! I am changing that right now!
After yesterday, three big words were banging around in my head this morining: EDGES. STROKES. TEMPERATURE.
Okay. So that’s how the teacher put it out there yesterday. That doesn’t mean I am to copy his methods or the way he paints. I went there yesterday with big questions in my mind about those three things and got way more than I bargained for.
While this painting is sloppy in places, I was attempting a ton of new stuff all at once: If I was to paint a cool passage, I painted it warm first, then went over it with the cool color . . .which sets up a temperature vibration in the passage. (see the background in this piece).
Next, I realized this morning that I have not been using nearly enough paint on my palette or brush. Fixed thaaaaat!! 🙂
Next, when I touched the brush to the panel, I was thinking “which way, with what rhythm do I want these strokes to appear?” I don’t feel that I have this yet, but I do feel like there is a recognition and a gut feeling about it . . .and that is growing fast.
Finally, after a crit of six paintings yesterday, the comment was “Edges, edges, edges!!” And it was explained (I had never had and explanation before yesterday.) He was so right! So, I worked on those today, also. (After this writing, I will go back to the painting and fix a few . . .namely the one on the far right edge of the tall vase. Ugly! Sloppy!) And the one on the far left between the negative space and the box . . .it left a shape there I don’t like.
Here’s was I get from this practice piece: I am getting intermingling of colors that I adore! There is a huge improvement (and reason) of the edge work. I know where to look now! Also, instead of drawing with charcoal or paint first, I looked carfully at the shape and massed it in without line. I had done this with some drawing while in France and had not yet made the mental transer to my oil painting. DUH!! And, of course, letting the surface quality of the paint speak. This stuff is waaay more than making a pretty picture. This is about making paint look like PAINT not a tree or a vase or whatever. This is about making a piece of ART.
I may not be very good at it, YET. But I am determined to get there! More brush mileage! And more and more and more!

September 1 And The Tally Is . . . .

“Woodside Afternoon”
oil on linen on panel, 12″ x 16″
“Woodside Morning”
oil on linen on panel, 12″ x 16″
Today is September 1. I celebrated that fact with a few other artists, but one in particular was none other then Elio Comacho . . . .in the flesh.
Elio and I have become sort of blog-buds in the last few months . . .he and I both being neophytes at this blogging stuf, but also we have found each other to be strong minded and informed painters who don’t mind a punch to the gut now and then. We both know syrupy crits are just that: sweetness and light. But they don’t do much to help one really look at what they are doing and attempt to grow above that. For that reason I have always welcomed his straightness . . .even when I don’t agree. The best painters I know look for peers or superior painters to help them sort out what they are doing.
When you just don’t know ‘what for’ or ‘how to’ or ‘why,’ its best to do the wise thing; grow by someone else’s experience and mistakes rather than your own.
So, today I drove a little more than an hour and spent the day with Elio teaching his workshop. If anyone out there has the chance to take from Elio . . .any instruction at all . . . grab it with gusto and hold on for the ride. He is a high engergy guy who NEVER sits down. After his demos, he is at every painter’s side coaching and critiquing. And today we had killer heat! He never faded the whole time. Believe me, this guy gives all he’s got and then some. High energy and totally in it for the improvement of the painters who come to his sessions.
Mind you, I am the sort of guy who likes someone who has a little mischeviousness behind their eyes! That is the sort of person I relate to the most. What I dug about Elio was I could confront him and he would take me on! And, he was most always right. I really enjoyed the twinkle in his eye, his energetic, all business ‘let’s paint’ attitude and his well earned painting wisdom.
He is like I am/was. He wants this stuff! And he wants it baaaaad! That means his whole life is about painting. Man! Is it ever nice to meet someone who cares that much! I don’t get to meet them often, but when I do, it is a complete connection.
So, I took as much as I could get from him today and tried to do all that he was attempting to show us. I am sure you can see him in both these pieces, but frankly, I needed to be shaken up and shown a way around the obvious. I will fool around with his style for a few paintings until I really understand the theme of what he teaches (color harmony, stroke energy and rhythm and mood) (Boy do I ever know about MOOD!)
Thanks, Elio, for a terrific day. It was strong, directed teaching with challenge and coaching. I say “Way to go!” . . .I’ll be back at the first chance I get.
Wait! There is more. These two pieces that I did with him up on that H O T moutain top were the last of the series I had set out to do on May 1. I committed to 100 by Sept first. Remember?
I didn’t make the finall tally of 100. I made 96. Four short. ‘Scuse me while I go whip myself!! 😉 As I told him, my next 100 (by March 1) will be with a goal of being more finished. I have enjoyed this little exercise and intend to carry on with daily painting. Compared to what Elio and his mentor did to reach their skill level, I am loafing at one per day.
So, enjoy these two pieces. I worked hard at 1. more paint and 2. strokes and 3. temperature progression. There is more to be done, but I sure had fun today with all the class members and skidding to the finish line with just a teensy bit less then I had hoped . . .but an honorable finish.

Just Color Spots

oil on linen on panel, 8″ x 10″
Wow! I went to the studio this morning with my wife’s table centerpiece of a hydrangea in a glass block. This flower has held my attention every time I sit at the table . . .the mauves and odd magentas reveal greens mixed in with them in every petal!
So, this morning, I am thinking “Loose smudges of mixed color . . . forget the detail.”
And so I did. I had fun!! This flower (actually two of them) is so full of small shapes and angles of so many different colors, I didn’t dare try to represent. Just make impressions. What fun!
This one gives me more ideas.
(Don’t they all?)

Size Matters!

“Blue, Orange and Silver”
oil on stretched canvas, 16″ x 20″
A big Epiphany hit me this weekend!
I began this painting Saturday afternoon, late, on a 16 x 20 stretched canvas. Using charcoal and a fixative to sketch before I began painting, something felt easier. As I progressed through the piece on Sunday morning, I could feel a freedom with the brush I hadn’t felt in a while. Then it struck me; this painting was bigger than the others I had been doing by at least four times!!
Now, mind you, when it comes to ‘big’ 16 x 20 is still considered small in my book, but by comparison, this painting was much bigger . . . . . . . . .I could moooove!! . . . . .my arm was in the action . . .not just my finger tips on these little guys I had been working on. A stroke now was much more than a tiny smudge. I had room to work color variation. I could P A I N T ! As you can see from the quality of this work versus some of the previous small ones, this painting is an order of magnitude better. Size does matter. . . .at least for me. While this painting looks like it was done ‘tight’ I could feel a looseness as I was massing in the subject that I am not able to do on very small stuff.
I have some more thoughts about this and the small, daily work. I am going to think those ideas through a little more, beginning with the type and sizes of the brushes I have been using on those lil rascals. But that is another subject.

Cobalt Blue Light

“Cobalt Blue Light” Oil on linen on panel, 8″ x 10″

Today I got a late start. After attempting to paint this cobalt blue vase and all of the light going through it, it had gotten later than I planned. This li’l bugger was a challenge.

Am starting to have pangs about being outside now, so I better git busy and wip my plein air gear into shape. I haven’t done any of that in oils for over a month.

There is a shade of blue violet that I just could not come up with. I figure that I needed the warm blue of ultramarine, but transparent. Of course, I don’t have anything like that , so I improvised. Why the read block? Well? Doen’t it fit nicely? After all, this is painting practice, isn’t it? It must be, because I learn something every time I do it!

Nearing a Goal

“Tea and Spritz”
oil on gessoed masonite, 6″ x 8″
“Waiting for Tea”
oil on linen on panel, 6″ x 8″

I feel good today. I have reached something most would think crazy and impossible. Since May 1, I made a committment to paint daily, save Sundays and to have at least 100 paintings completed by Sept 1. Today, I painted numbers 80 and 81 ! With 19 left and a return from outta the country on August 7, I should have enough time to reach the 100 without strain.
Moreover, looking back just two months, I can see a lot of growth . . .which is the very reason I took this idea on.
To all of you who visit regularly, Ed, Elio, Robin, Nava, Chris B, Ev, and of course, Silvi . . . . . .TTFN! Or ta ta for now! We are on our way. I am putting together the last of the household details and we are gone. Check in once in a while. I’ll be lookin in here via internet cafe a few times per week . . . . I just guess I can’t be without yall fer very long! It must be all the support you guys are throwing my way!
OH!! I almost forgot! Bye, Mom! :p)) (Can’t ferget her!!!)