Workshops . . .

“Sonoma Vineyard”
22×30 inches
The painting above is from a series of photos taken while on a visit to Sonoma, California to spend a weekend with a dear friend, Mr. Dick Cole. As you may know, Dick is a fabulous painter and is the President Emeritus of NWS. The reason for my visit last year was that I was taking on the presidency of that same organization. So, being the pals we are, Dick and I, and our wives, during that weekend, sat about drinking the fine wines of the area, sightseeing, dining at a great restaurant and generally shooting the breeze about the directions and my vision for NWS.
I hadn’t accounted for the fact that my workshop schedule might be impacted by taking on the presidency of such an august body as NWS, but it has, indeed. I am disappointed that I must follow a more limited schedule than usual. Because priorities dictated that my NWS 2011 schedule be set first, I could make only a few commitments for workshops. Now that the schedule has been decided, I am fortunate to report that I have but two to three available time slots for 2011.
If you know of an organization that is seeking a lively watercolor workshop instructor to bring design and composition to life for a group of enthusiastic painters, have the organization email me at
I am expecting to be on both coasts of the USA more than once this year, so give me a shout!
Meanwhile, I will be “suffering” (while living the dream) with brush in hand at lush locations, such as Sonoma or California’s central coast to make some excitement come to life on a piece of paper or canvas. Rough life!! 😉
An exciting year is ahead and I plan on being right in the thick of the excitement!

Getting on the Horse

“Hobbie Horse Dreams”
Watercolor-18 x 24 inches
In a few days I am off to teach a workshop on composition. And I have not painted in a while. I am rusty . . .a little out of practice.
A few days ago (see last post) I went to the studio to ‘sling paint’ and loosen up. I did that and more . . .I started the above painting using a derivation of a shape I had used before in an abstract painting. I liked the shape, so, what the heck: Let’s build another abstract.
You might be thinking just have at it and see what comes, right? Nope! It is way bigger and more complex than that.
For me to do one of these takes days and often weeks. It is the best way I know of to get on the horse of painting again and put the brain into full gallup.
As I see it, any painting is about composing all the elements (line, size, shape, direction, color, value and texture) into a whole where the sum is greater than the parts. It is a process of choosing one or two large shapes and fitting them into the rectangular format in a pleasing way . . . . .but then the fun starts: Edges need to play off one another, textures need to be created, varied and changed yet be related in some way. Unity must be the result with contrasts and harmonies derived from all the parts: Hard vs soft, red vs green, dark vs light, etc. Value transitions and movements must be created in order to lead the eye on a path through the painting.
My rule is never do the same thing twice. For example, I may use a teal color (three times in this painting) but I force variation in each repetition. There are two small teal shapes and one teal line. One of the shapes has been lightened and made opaque while another is textured over with a tone . . . .so you see the teal shape, but know immediately it is different. The kicker is to drill one’s self to make each mark feel as though it has ‘membership’ or belongs to the others. When that is done well, interest rises.
I will grant that someone there in cyber land won’t like this painting. Maybe someone will say it is tooooo much! Too contrasty or too dark or too edgy or too something. That is okay by me. Every painting, successful or not, is a learning trial. That is to say, if the artist goes about making art via continuous experimentation and exploration to see what will happen . . . . .eventually that artist will excel at his or her art and most likely pass other established artists.
The trick is to get on the horse and ride like the wind. Put the spurs on and go as fast and as hard as one is able. The cool thing about getting on is this: If you fall off this horse, no one gets hurt!

Studio Busy News

“picasso” wet from the rain
No paintings today, folks. Just news.

It may seem as though nothing is happening in my studio, but quite the opposite is in play. It seems as though everything is coming at once.
First news is my entry to AWS was an award winning painting at NWS, but was turned away at AWS. Go figger that! Who knows why? It is always a crap shoot . . .luck has to play a part.
Second news . . . .my workshop season is in full swing! Am off to Reno this week, then to the Carolinas and beyond in the next 30 days. My studio is being used frantically as I prep for classes, exercises and examples for the participants . . . and the mess is stacking up. Any of you painters out there have difficulty keeping things in order in your studio? For me, the busier, the messier.
Third news . . . .I have a new “job.” This job is one full of honor and responsibility to tradition and prestige. I must answer to those who have gone before me as examples and it won’t be easy. However, I am hoping I will be able to bring new wisdom, new energy and lots of expansion to the post. I have been chosen as President of NWS (National Watercolor Society). I officially took office this last month. Busier!
If any of you out there have thoughts about the society or where you’d like to see it go, I would like to hear from you.
Many of you know of the other news . . . we have a new puppy. “Picasso” is his name. And, yes, he is very demanding and steals our attention constantly. (What were we thinking?? :p) ) Even busier!!!

The Ultimate Challenge

Watercolor 22 x 30 inches
click on image to enlarge

After years of painting and trying to tackle all sorts of subjects, I came to realize that it wasn’t the subject that compelled viewers to be attracted to a painting and then to study it . . . .it wasn’t the subject at all. It was HOW it was painted.

Well, you say, that’s great news! What the heck do you mean?

In a few of the last many posts, I have mentioned the elements and principles of design. (elements: Line, Siz, Shape, Direction, Color, Value and Texture. Principles: Unity, Harmony, Dominance, Conflict, Repetition, Variation, Gradation and Balance.) It is in the paying closer attention to these principles, rather than the subject, in forming the marks (elements) that one arrives at a good painting (or not so good.)

We have all had the experience of painting places we know, or painting from excellently composed photos, or painting from life. In those instances, much of the work of composing the elements . . . .shape, texture, color, value, etc . . . .is done for the painter. More often than not, however, while we believe it to be the case that the photo or the model will lead us to a good painting, the opposite happens. Something along the way is forgotten, left out, or ignored . . . .and that comes from relying on the subject to lead the way. To be a great painter, one must reach inside to find that which makes terrific art. It is in our most creative state that we bring something better in our paintings to the world. But HOW do we DO that??

That is THE question. It is the stuff that isn’t obvious which brings a viewer to an excited state of examination. It is the contrasts, the harmonies and the surprises that we dream up to make that happen . . . . . .and it takes lots of practice, patience and many trials. . . .and the study of good design.

One must separate one’s consciousness from the world to force that reach into our authentic creative selves to produce visual answers to the question of HOW. The best way I know of is to paint non objective abstract paintings. In my opinion, that is the ultimate challenge.

That challenge, which is to create something not before seen, means there are no visual crutches or prompts. There is no script to follow. It is design in its purest form.

To do it well doesn’t come easily . . . .in fact, it is the most difficult thing a painter can attempt. It doesn’t occur by coincidence or by slinging paint and hoping for the best.

It happens through meticulous painting and cautious, examination and consideration of painting alternatives. This piece, entitled “Breakthrough,” is such a piece, which has taken months to complete. A few hours here and there. Rest. Look. Evaluate. Rework. Enhance. Rest. Think. Wait, Look, think . . . .and on and on and on. I began this piece in August. Here it is December . . . 5 months later. And I am still looking, thinking and wondering if it really is finished. Is it the best I can do? Do all the parts fit? Is it balanced? Is it interesting? Should it go public?

In the end, it is pieces, like this one, that teach us painters how and where to fill in the blanks when we are painting from life or photos. The challenge of creating something from absolutely nothing is the ultimate stretch. But it is also the place from which the NEW and DIFFERENT are born. It is the place which delivers the unavoidable authentic stuff that only you can make.

If you are interested in attempting this, you may want to consider a one week workshop in how to produce abstractions in work similar to this. It is well worth the investment, as the time spent will awaken even the most experienced artist to the importance of good design. As it turns out, I give such workshops. Interested? Drop me an email if it isn’t on my website.( I haven’t posted the dates yet)

A Workhop

I have been teaching a ten week long class entitled “Watercolor, Beyond The Obvious” for over ten years. It was a course I originated with the intent of lifting the students from focusing on photographs and tapping into their natural creative selves. In addition, the content of the class was to teach serious design. From the bases of design, the student could begin to come up with creative approaches to a subject and make original, creative paintings which were ‘beyond the obvious.’

Many painters have immersed themselves in the curriculum and made extraordinary breakthroughs in their painting style and the way they think about painting and design.

CWA, the California Watercolor Association, in Concord, California took the challenge of doing much of that coursework in a one week (five day) workshop. I have spent nearly a year devising ways to teach the information and have the artists walk away with new means of thinking and creating and composing their artwork.

The art of composing is to use a few recognizable shapes, arrange them within a rectangle format, devise a pattern of values, plan a color strategy then make the painting. None of these is an easy task when the subject is a mundane, non emotional subject. The charge to the painters was to remain playful and “Exalt the mundane to the Extraordinary” . . . . no easy task.

The 16 artists who took this workshop had no idea what they were in for. My hat is off to them for taking a workshop from a relatively unknown teacher (me) not knowing if they would get something from it, or not. Moreover, I doubt they had an idea of the speed or the amount of information (and work) that would transpire in a short week.

They Jumped into the water (over their heads) and swam from the very first day !!! They flew through the course matter as fast as I could throw it to them. Language schools call this teaching method “total immersion.” It wasn’t long and everyone was speaking the language of design and using the principles.

Without disclosing everything here, I will say the lessons were dense, extremely pertinent and fast. There was little time to paint, but paint we did and made five paintings in five days. Each day the paintings improved and grew in stature and creativity . . . .from virtually EVERY student. Amazing results !!

It was a pleasure to be among this highly responsive and intelligent group! I had a wonderful week with them and they showed me what was possible. Ladies and gentlemen of CWA, take a bow !!!

Still Life #83

“Still Life #83”
watercolor 22 x 30 inches
Life offers few surprises, if one lets it become boring. The same is true in art. One can let the same subject become boring . . .or not. I have been working on this series of still life paintings off and on for two to three years. And it wasn’t because I loved still life paintings. It was for a challenge and to learn something about what my creative muscles could do when confronted with the same subject to be painted in a long series. I have been surprised by what I have learned about design, what is art and what lies inside of me. Certainly not boring.

This is the 83rd pass at it. I never dreamed it would come this far . . . .nor that I would be painting it in front of 220 artists. But here it is. I painted it last Monday evening at the Kanuga Watercolor Workshops in Hendersonville, North Carolina. I completed most all of the painting, with a few errors, in about 40 minutes and introduced the audience to this series process and what benefits and surprises it has brought into my studio. One and a half days later . . .and quite a bit of thought . . .I finished the piece.

This project was what I have been working on so much these last weeks . . .and the reason for being so quiet here. This project was exactly the reason for my last post . . .the Rainbow Connection . . . .

To be introduced to such an august group of painters from all over the east coast . . . .and some of the finest painters in the world today . . . . .was a very high honor. If you were there, you know it was both humbling and exciting. This ‘confab’ of artists and the workshops were the finest I have ever seen and it was run with an expert hand . . .first class all the way . . . .if ever you thought you would like to learn from the best, rub elbows with the most committed and expert painters or just go to such an event for the adventure, this annual workshop is a must. Check it out at this link.

My Two Cents Worth

watercolor, 30 x 22 inches
This painting came as the result of an invitation from David Lobenberg to join his watercolor class last Friday for some joint teaching and demonstration. This was the demo.
David’s entire class has been working on this truck . . . no easy subject! . . . . and all were excited to watch Dave and I sling paint and attempt to come up with some sort of painting. What a wonderful time we all had! His class is enthusiastic, energetic and talented! Lots of laughs and plenty of conversation about painting and art. I wish I lived closer. If I did, I prolly would be making a pest of myself!!
Thanks for the great welcome and lively participation to all the members of Dave’s class! You made me feel very much at home!


A Typical Market Day in The Perigord Region of France

Le Petit Rousset . . . a 17th century farm house located near Eymet, France will be our headquarters.


Experience the genteel and relaxed life in the Perigord region of France (Near Bordeaux), with Mike Bailey and friends, late this summer when the tourists vacate the area.

There is room for but 12 more people to share in the delights of this magnificent country side. We will be painting and touring almost daily for the entire time through one of France’s premier areas which offer gorgeous vistas, medieval castles and villages, wineries, shopping and a cuisine that will arrest most anyones’ attention. We welcome non painters, too! Because we are off on small day junkets nearly every day, the non painters find much to entertain themselves while we remain slaves to our pigments and paper. Evenings at the 17th century farmhouse are filled with good wine, laughter, art discussions and plenty of comraderie to post this trip into your eternal memory books.

Here is a link where you will see more details of where we will be and our itinerary. On this same site are photos of the charming and comfortable accomodations. Most meals, save for a few lunches, are provided as well as ground transportation. Leave your concerns at home! We handle all those little details that cloud otherwise perfect vacations.

If you would like to join us, or learn more about the trip, let me know immediately via email (click on small envelope below) as we are accepting deposits now.

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.