Sunday, March 29, 2009

Wild Flowers

When the greys of winter turn quickly to the bright colors of spring, my portable outside easel and I are ready to go. There is something about springtime painting that lifts my spirits. The stark contract from greys and browns to brighter colors is undeniable. In Northern California, springtime brings the anticipated wild mustard flowers, lupins, and poppies. Like other artists and photographers, I look forward to this annual event.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Visit from My Daughter

I just returned from the airport dropping off Alexis who has been visiting for awhile. She has decided to move in permanently this June. I'm delighted as we have always been close. She has a creative side as well and enjoys plein air painting with me. Several years ago, I painted this painting of her and our Beagle, Bosco. It was called Eight Years Together, Bosco's age at the time. He is now 13 and loves living on Mare Island as much as we do.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Mare Island

I moved to Mare Island recently. It is located in the North Bay area of San Francisco. It is an ideal location for a plein air painter because its situated less than 30 minutes from Napa and I love to paint vineyard scenes. Within 45 minutes, I can be painting in Bodega Bay or the Russian River. When I don't want to drive, I can walk from the house and paint a local scene on the island. We have a marina, original military officer housing with unique architecture, one of the oldest churches on the west coast with Tiffany stain glass windows, our own golf course, sweeping views of the San Pablo Bay and beautiful 150 year old Euculyptus trees. When I lived in Southern California, I used to take paint trips to Northern California a few times a year. Each time, I dreamed of one day living in the area. Dreams do come true.
This old cottage and shed is just down the street.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

College Gallery Experience

In 1987, I was finishing by B.A. in Art at the University of Utah. I painted Windriver Trout, the 30 x 40 painting pictured above. I loved how I captured the movement of the fish caught on the red lure and thrashing in the water. Not knowing the proper protocols in approaching galleries, I dropped in to a Salt Lake City gallery and asked if they were interested in this piece. They agreed saying, "Don't be dissappointed as paintings of unknown artists usually take a long time to sell." When I went back to the gallery the next week, I was so happy to discover the painting had already sold.

In the small world in which we live, I received an e-mail a couple of years ago from the collector who had purchased Windriver Trout two decades ago. He is an avid fly fisherman and mentioned that the painting still brings him joy, especially on hectic days. He said it hangs behind his desk at his stock broker.

To me, every painting has significant meaning. I not only remember the surroundings of where I was when it was painted, looking at it also can refresh in my mind the sounds and other senses I experienced at that moment. Just like a child leaving home, it's heartwarming to hear about paintings that are in collector homes and offices.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Unfinished 20 Minutes Sketches

I've been attending weekly drawing classes. I learned in college that to become a better artist, you need to draw every day. I always carry a sketch pad in my car and pick it up often to sketch a scene. Robert Johnson said at his recent workshop that, "If you can draw the human figure, you can draw anything." Below are photos of recent 20 minute gestural sketches from recent classes. Most sketches are done for the exercise, not with the intent of being finished work.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Upside Down Painting

Many painters focus too much attention on painting an object in a painting as itself rather than as a shape. To help remind me of the importance of painting shapes, I sometimes turn both the photograph and canvas upside down. This practice forces your mind to see only shapes. For example, rather than seeing a tree while painting, you only see the shape of the tree because it is upside down.
Yesterday, I painted Picking A Bouquet in my studio. Throughout the entire time, my photo and canvas were upside down on my easel. It helped me focus on the large shapes, and light vs. dark (values) instead of thinking about painting a person, building or flowers. For you artists who read this post, I'd love to hear your experience with upside down painting.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Robert Johnson Workshop Thoughts - Portraits

Robert Johnson began Day 3 of his workshop with a demonstration using a live model. He is an amazing teacher as he is able to talk and paint at the same time. Something many teachers are less able to do. During the afternoon, I did my first portrait from the same model. My difficulty was being so far away from the model. He said it is best to be four feet away from the model, but with the size of the class, that was impossible.

I have been going to figure drawing classes on Thursdays for the last while which helped. I've always been afraid of faces, but know that it's all in the mileage you put on the canvas.

On Day 4, our model was an old Hollywood cowboy who had been featured in many western films. He was quite colorful and with my Wyoming upbringing, I really felt an affinity to the composition. The highlight of the workshop was a comment Robert made to me that I have a thick painterly style with clean fresh paint and decisive brush strokes.

Robert Johnson Workshop Thoughts - Still Life

I just returned from Robert Johnson's 5-day workshop at the Scottsdale Artists School. Our time was spent learning the importance of a strong, accurate drawing. Great emphasis was put on getting it right the first time. After watching a still life demo, we spent the afternoon on our own piece (pictured at right). My soft edges are dynamite, but I lost the accuracy of the flowers. I've always preferred a more painterly thick paint technique versus a realistic approach.

Before the start of Day 2, I went to the store and bought daisies. They were cute, but hard for me to paint without painting each pedal. I needed more variety and values in this painting. I used the same pot in the first two paintings. You can certainly notice an evolution of how I executed the pot on Day 2.

On Days 3 & 4, we worked on figures which will be a separate post. On Day 5 I bought more flowers before the workshop and was eager to tackle another still life. I was looking for a variety of colors and shapes in this composition and tried to be more creative with my arrangement than I was on Day 2. A common mistake artists make is putting too much thought in placing items in specific locations as it can look contrived. My goal was to create almost a haphazard approach in my final still life pictured below.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Blog Purpose

I have always enjoyed talking to collectors at shows, galleries and my studio. Discussing art with fellow artists is another highlight from art clubs and paint outs. Well, I thought I would start blogging in hopes of sharing my thoughts, past experiences and hopefully educate from time to time. I'll leave the selling of my work to my galleries and website and focus my efforts here on the art process, personal insights and hopefully evoking interaction from your post comments. Let's see what comes of it.