Quick Color Experiment

“Sunset i”
oil on linen panel, 6″ x 8″
This is a quick color experiment. Just ten minutes and schmearing on the paint. It is reminiscent of a late afternoon plein air trip a few weeks ago. Looks yummy in a frame becasue the contrast of dark versus light is so strong. Fun to do. Am going to try more.

Who Could Possibly Resist?

The “Workstation”

Blocking it in . . .

More Progress . . .

The development of the final piece starts here . . . .color variation, edge management, texture, shape modifications, color saturations and temperature adjustments . . .until sunset.

“Field of Impressions”

oil on canvas panel, 12″ x 16″

The coast can be damp and cold at this time of year. Yesterday, that just wasn’t so! It was 75 degrees and gloriously sunny at the water’s edge . . .and I couldn’t wait to get out and paint. So, I drove 40 miles up the coast, made a dozen stops and took nearly 100 photos (for rainy days!. I finally landed in this little secluded field, freshly planted with artichokes that were so small I nearly stepped on them. And the light was shifting into afternoon, slanted, shadow producing light that was nearly blinding. In a Tee shirt, I was in a hypnotic state. Whadda day it was!!

Ala Peter Yesis, who lives in Omaha, I am offerring up some progress shots of the day. . . . . . . . …….Thought you’d be interested.

Toward sunset, my setup took a wind blast broadside. The umbrella did the expected and became a spinaker. In sailing, that is a huge bulging sail that collects wind and makes for speed. You can imagine what happened. I don’t need to explain. I will say, though, that I got some extra solvent and paint on me that I hadn’t planned on . . . .if you get my drift. 😉
I’d do it again and again. Who could resist a day like that?!!


This photo leads to . . .

These sketches.
Exaggerate height. Demonstrate warm cool contrasts. Play around with placement of cliff face.
. . . . . . . . . .
This painting.
22″ x 15″ Watercolor
I guess there isn’t much else to say, eh?
I have a sign in my studio that says, “When your work speaks for itself, don’t interrupt!”
Ssshhhhh! 😉

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!!

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!!


“Sur Sunday”

oil on linen panel, 8″ x 10″
This weekend was a blast. I spent most of it scootin’ around with my buddy Mark Mehaffey from Michigan. He came out west to teach a workshop here in my local watercolor society.
Since he had never seen the California Coast, we wove our way southward about 100 miles and nearly wore out our digital cameras taking photos. Great times, for sure!
This is one of the stops we made looking accross this bay of sorts to the hills of Big Sur. While I rarely use photos to paint from, this morning was an exception. It gave me the opportunity to try a few more things with the brush and paint. Incidentally, the bright red shapes are of a succulent that grows here called Ice Plant. It turns incredible shades of red during the early fall.


“Ipmpressions of a Yosemite Dusk”
Watercolor, 22 x 30
Every year at this time the crunch comes. That is to prep for open studio here at my house and studio. It’s a monumental task. Huge.

One of the things that happens is that I fall into a ‘discovery’ process. I open my flat files full of attempts and finished pieces (watercolor) from the previous 11 months. Usually, I find a piece that is in dire need of work. I had put it away because I could not resolve something in the painting. This is one of those. I pulled out the pieces and there, on the bottom was this. A morass of wimpy glazes with no commitment one way or the other. Today’s effort was the resurrection of this piece. It is an impression only . . .a dreamed up compostition which I had layed out prior to a painting trip to Yosemite last year.

Hope you like it. It’s a little more commited than it was, that’s for sure.

Breaking Old Habits

“Elkhorn View”
oil on stretched canvas, 16″ x 20″
There are ingrained, old, tested habits that keep raising their head and clucking at me.
After twenty years of developing my hand at creating fresh, crisp watercolors, I am finding that much of the color mixing methods (not principles) and putting it on the surface of the painting are terribly different from those demanded by oil paint.
I find that when a painting dries, I am disappointed in the thickness of the paint on the surface . . .Where did it all go?. . . .there isn’t enough to create the sort of textures I am after. Mind you, I am not making frisbees (thanks for that expression, Robin!) of them, but I am looking for thick, juicy paint. When painting alla prima, there must be a way to insure that I am getting it as thick as I want it. In wondering about this, I began to observe how I am picking the paint off the palette. What I see is that I am not slobbering the paint all over the brush.
So, determined to do so . . .and to handle the brush differently in the painting execution (another subject) . . . I set out for Elhorn Slough on Sunday to met two guys for some sunshine, scenery and painting. I had a 16 x 20 inch canvas with me that had been toned with a nice layer of acrylic paint . . .to (hopefully) seal the canvas and gesso and slow the paint absorption. Well, some of my goals worked. I am gradually tuning in to this process . . . .but I sure did enjoy the afternoon. The wildlife there is really incredible!
Elkhorn Slough is a salt water wetland. The yellow gray ‘stuff ‘ at the edges of the water is a moss and salt combination. It looks odd, but it certainly adds to the scenery.