Tagging Time

“Mirror At My Toes”
watercolor, 22 x 30 inches
Just finished this piece . . .but now it is time to honor those who have tagged me and to pass along the same honor. I must admit that I have procrastinated on this for some time, so now is the time.
Thanks to Faye Christian Phillips, Stacey Peterson and Milind Mulick for tagging me three times. Each is so very different, yet worth a ton of study. Their artwork is stunning!
I will be tagging some different artists this time and have reasons for doing so. Here’s the list and why I tagged them. There is a link in each of their names:
Diane Hoeptner for her playfulness and interesting perspective in her paintings.
Myrna Wacknov for her steady dedication to personal growth and perfecting her drawing skills.
Sandy Maudlin for her talent and desire to paint.
Peggy Stermer Cox for her creativity and willingness to explore spectacular abstractions. We could all learn something from this lady with her shape making talent!
Bruce MacEvoy for more than painting. Also look up his handprint.com and click on the little color wheel. I am tagging Bruce for multiple reasons. First, to acknowledge the incrdible contributions he has made regarding watercolor paints and the science of it. Amazing!! Secondly, Bruce must be the most insistently curious and analytical painter there is. And third, to introduce myself to him. Thanks for everything, Bruce!
Peggy Zalucha who began a blog last March and is one of the world’s finest watercolor painters. I hope this tag will awaken her blogging. We need to see more of Peggy and her work. If not me, the world!
Six is all I am tagging today.
Here are the required seven things about me
  • I am compulsive to paint paint paint and paint some more
  • There are eleven children in my family
  • Was once a roofer and a marketing VP for a few hi tech companies before being a painter
  • Am an avid cook. Much of my art is in the kitchen . . .I make sourdough bread.
  • Have a degree in Engineering and never once practised it.
  • Once lived on a lake in Wisconsin.
  • Father pushed me away from art as an occupation

Instructions for you who have been tagged:

1. Put a link in your posting to the person who tagged you.
2. List 7 unusual things about yourself.
3. Tag 7 other bloggers at the end of your post and comment on their blogs to let them know.

Letting Go Of What I “Know”

“White Blankets”
watercolor, 22 x 30 inches
I have often heard from other painters the question, “We want to know what you think about when you paint.”

The very first thing one must do . . . .and this isn’t the easiest to even recognize, much less actually DO . . . . .is to let go of what you think you know. That is precisely what I must do when I paint anything, much less a seascape like this.

First off, let’s look at the most obvious dangerous thought in this painting: “The foam is white.” Nope! Wrong! It isn’t just white. Believe me, there is a rainbow of color in there. So, one must THINK carefully about what color goes where to leave a ‘white’ idea but a visual which has complete impact. There is a range of violets, greens, grays, blues, oranges and an occasional red in all this white. It must all work together to read as ‘white’ but cannot actually BE white.

The same goes for all the color in the cliffs and hillsides. The reflections, too. It is a chorus or a concert, if you will, of multiple colors and values.

The biggest concern I had in this painting . . . .get ready for this! . . . . was how big is the ‘white’ (or very light valued colors that approach nearly white) versus how big were the medium and dark values. Yes. Failure to pay attention to size dominance (where one group of values is significantly larger than the other group) could have ruined this painting. A half and half split between sizes would have been most unsettling. One value group (lights or darks) must dominate over the other in size.

Those are some of the things I must pay close attention to in the act of painting. It would have been a large mistake to think “Water” and “Waves” and “Rocks” . . . rather than light, mid and dark value . . . rather than warm and cool . . . rather than soft edge versus hard edges . . . .rather than splash is white . . . .rather than paying attention to the edges, the temperature, the value and whether there is shadow or light on the splash.

It goes on and on from there. I suppose that is the reason I get so ensnared in the painting process. It is such a deep and revealing meditative state. For me, it is absolute euphoria!

Hard Weekend!

“Hydraulic Hammer”
Watercolor, 22 x 30inches
Friday morning I began this and was completely compelled by the compositional arragement of lights and darks. I worked on it Friday, Saturday and Sunday . . .from Sketches. This sort of subject calls up all the knowlege about color, light and shadow.
This is one I am very proud to post.

Finding Balance

“Flotsam
Watercolor, 22 x 30 inches
This painting kept me challenged for the best part of 2 days. Admittedly, it gave me fits. The angst came from building the value contrast from left to right with the strong, dark reflection on the far right shore of this beach pond. The brilliant light on the left opposing that reflection on the right caused serious balance difficulties. The rivulets at the bottom of the painting took a few hours to design in order to lead the eye into the painting and provide an interesting abstraction. You wouldn’t believe how much eventually was scrubbed out of this piece in order to get it to behave . . .it may take me a few days before I actually decide if it is a show piece or not.

The far shore is what this piece is about. Every thing else in the painting is supposed to lead the eye to that point. Click on the painting to expand it so you can see what’s happening there. Hopefully, the monitor resolution is good enough to make out the color detail there. The stark value contrasts there and the edges keep the painting in balance (I hope!). It took nearly six different attempts and glazes to dial it in.

I have been on a tear to paint lately, since I have another show coming up, which has a theme of water flowing to the sea. So, I am painting big, strong pieces in hopes that a few will be show worthy. This is a welcome break from the web work on my website last week. If you haven’t seen the new site, check it out here.

A Time to Do The Familiar

“Sand Slick”
watercolor, 22 x 30 inches
I am still smarting over the last post. While the “picture” is okay, as a painting it fails on a few counts. I am going to tackle it again, but first, I just HAD to do something for the sheer enjoyment.

Understand that I am always up for a challenge, but there are also times when it feels good to just whistle a melody and sling paint. I have done enough landscapes and sea paintings in my experience to feel very comfy in their execution. Some good music in the background, a rainy day, a cozy studio and away I go!!

So, here’s the latest. Don’t get your feet wet!

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!

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.

Fun to Just PLAY!

“Harbor Hallucinations”
watercolor 15″ x 22″
Some days there is just no substitute for play at the easel! And this was pure FUN!
I absolutely LOVE this look in watercolor, but it is a look that too many artists over the years have attained . . . .and I want my own look that will be recognizable. Even so, this method of working is a thrill for me.
The method involves soaking the paper first. Then wringing it out by rolling a dry rolled up bath towel over the paper (firmly) . . .then painting into the wet (Moist) paper. The trick to success using this method is to carefully monitor the amount of water in the brush. Too much water and it blooms on the paper. Just enough causes the marks to have softer edges, but the paint stays put. The artist has but one hour to get it all blocked in before letting it dry completely. Once dry, a few calligraphy strokes here and there make for visual excitement and balance.
Years ago, I painted a lot like this . . .and it is really fun to ‘digress’ a bit and just play for the sheer sake of play.

Back At Last


“Elkhorn Wetlands”
oil on canvas panel, 8″ x 10″
As you may know, I have been busy preparing and teaching a color workshop in San Jose, California. The energy and preparation for such an enterprise is no quickie deal. So, I have not been posting . . .and with a family wedding and guests here, also.

At last, I am back at it . . . into the great outdoors and painting.

Yesterday, I spent a wonderful afternoon with a friend wandering all over the county looking for a painting site out of the coastal fog and wind. What we ended up doing was painting the wetlands of Elkhorn Slough. This is another location where one could spend a lifetime painting for all the light changes, scenery, color, wildlife etc. But, we spent so much time talking we barely had enough time to paint.

I put my trusty EASYL, by Artwork Essentials, and an 8” x 10” canvas panel to the task in a slight breeze and went to work! As we began to paint, the sun came out of the fog and the colors began to dance. It was a great day!

What’s an EASYL, you ask? Look at the link. It is a terrific pochade box that every oil painter should own . . . .even watercolorists would like this guy!

I spent a good part of the painting forcing myself to consider temperature as a device for showing volume and depth. From a bad experience a few weeks ago, I learned a tough lesson . . . . color temperature is much more exciting than extreme value contrasts. I tend toward the latter aspect of color and must force myself to think in the terms of warm and cool. It just doesn’t come naturally to me. My wonderful wife, Diana, loves the painting . . . . . .which is a testament to my efforts. (She is surprisingly perceptive!)

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?!! 🙂