Friday, December 19, 2008

Near Carpinteria Bluffs

"Summer Field"
9" X 12" Oil on panel

I started out doing a scene of a flowering field being farmed next to the bluffs in Carpinteria. By the time I got to the mountains my ref became more a less just an inspiration more than a ref. These mountains are very different in color to the ones down there since I started messing with them...not a bad thing, that's how you learn and it can get boring sticking to your ref for a scene anyway. What I ended up with a really just a generic, but pleasing, summer field of flowers. I'm happy with it.
I was going to paint this scene 3 times but never felt the flowers would hold the painting together subject wise. I finally just decided to go for it and see how much interest I could generate with just a field of flowers. I think it worked out ok especially considering I'm not the greatest painter of flowers at all.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Chalk Hill Evening

"Chalk Hill Evening"
12" X 16"

If I walk to the end of my street....1 house away, this is the view in the evening on most nights. We live on Chalk Hill and look over the top of Solvang to the Santa Ynez mountain range that seperates us from the coast and Santa Barbara. These mountains can look green, blue and grey in every shade you can thing of at various times. I'm always struck by the contrasting dark rows of trees on the other side of this field. It's actually a vacant lot that the owner has not built on yet so as long as he keeps putting it off I get the view! One day there will be some gigantic Spanish style custom home here hogging up the view and I'll have to find another lot overlooking these mountains.
Normally I would have added grey to the tree area to push the distance but this is an evening scene which had some really nice darks in that part of the painting. I debated it but I just could not see pushing the distance here since this group of trees are right on the other side of the field. I think anyone who lives here would say this is pretty much what it looks like without doing all of the "arty" things to it. Sometimes I just don't feel like succumbing to the rules of art...and don't let enyone fool you, rules they are. The first time you stray from them you'll hear about it. They say in order to break the rules you must first know what rules you are breaking...then it's ok to break them.

Below you can see the edge work on the distant mountains. Softening that hard edge along the mountain tops always gives a sense of distance to your paintings.

Lately I've been really paying attention to the edges of my trees that recede from the viewer. I'm trying to soften those edges up and keep the skyholes soft edged too. My older paintings have these rather sharp edges in these parts of them. These are just the fine little details that you try and fine tune to get your work to look better. I think on the nest painting I'll try letting these edges set up a bit and then dry brush the edges to give them a soft blur....not my usual technique but my technique is always evolving depending on what I learn and what I like.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Carpinteria Bluffs

I went down to drop off work to be juried into a show in Carpinteria not long ago. While waiting for the jurying I decided to do a plein air painting over at Carpinteria Bluffs. I hurriedly loaded up my pochade box and when I got there realised I forgot all of my brushes so instead I took pictures with my camera.
This scene is I believe called "Artists Trail" since all of the trails are named down there. The bluffs are just a large wild area set aside by the very smart people of Carpinteria to preserve part of the natural coastline for future generations...and would be artists!

I loved the shadows being thrown by a row of eucalyptus trees to the left and decided to try and capture their random patterns.

And a detail of the trees to the right.....

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Sycamore Tree

I'm still learning to paint sycamore trees. Here, I've concentrated on mainly the trunk area only because I was drawn to the dark shadows of the foliage along the ground at this meadows edge. I really like dark shadows in a painting and do that mainly with the lower portions of my eucalyptus trees.

This is the initial block in of colors. Normally I paint my sky and then everything working in order towards the foreground. For this painting I blocked everything in first.

Here you can see more of the blocking of the trunks. I grab a soft brush dipped in turpentine and basically draw the trees. This takes the paint off in those areas and I wipe with a dry brush to dry up the canvas. After that is dry I then paint in the trunk colors.

Here you can see the basic foliage taking place. I start with the darkest and work to the lightest.

Here the painting was done but I didn't like the tree I added another tree trunk using the same method as the other trunks. I also did not like the branch in front of the trunks so I took it out.

In the end, this is what my finished painting looked like. Trees further to the left and small foliage adjustments that I'm happy with.

Monday, December 08, 2008

The Painting Continues...

I had a great time at the California Art Club show this last saturday. Some really great friends of mine showed up and we all went to dinner afterwards. You'd have to know my friends to realise how much a group of people can laugh all through dinner. It is really an honor to have your friends show up to support you at one of these shows.
I was very lucky at the show and managed to sell one of the paintings before the reception ended. A major bonus there. I also was able to meet the woman who purchased the painting and speak to her for a good amount of time....another bonus, meeting the buyer. A very nice person.
The painting she bought was one I had sitting here waiting for a good frame and I must have stared at that painting a hundred times. I loved how that painting came of my best so far.
There was some really super paintings in this show. The judges I think had to go through some 200 paintings that were entered and whittle it down to 41. From seeing the work that made it in it must have been a tough job. Judging has to be a very tough job at times.

I was also able to speak with some of my fellow artists there which is really one of the best things about these shows. All artists have one thing in common...we all are trying our best to make good paintings. That can really be tough at times because you never know how a painting will look to others. The paintings I think are my best are usually not the ones that get the attention so sometimes you have to accept the ones you personally feel didn't quite make it and know that some of those are going to be the ones people rave about. I know other artists go through this and it is something we share. The ups, the downs, paintings that get in the show or don't...these are common experiences we go through so meeting artists, and knowing without even asking, that we share these experiences is really special. It bonds us together.
Painting, and knowing what you are painting can sometimes fool you. Recently, a person who really knows his art looked at one of my works and said it looked too much like a painting influenced by Eloy Espoy. The nice thing was that somehow one of my paintings looked similar to such a great painters work. The bad thing is that I didn't set out to do that. The scary thing is that I could do that subconciously without knowing it. I have seen Espoy's work and I really love his work but trying to do someone elses work is not a cool thing to do even subconsiously. I now look at that painting and wonder what I'm going to do with it. It has my trees. Poppies and lupine? Lots of people paint those....especially if you live in California. So, it sits here hanging on the wall until I do something one way or the other. I suppose going through this experience now connects me to a hundred other artists who have done a painting like this and sit at their Blog typing their thoughts about what to do with that sort of painting...which is probably hanging on their wall too!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

At The Foothills

Christmas is heading our way so I'm now trying to get as many paintings finished before the holiday arrives. Did this one today to work on some's a cool little painting and has some nice distance in there as well as those nice subtle pinks giving away the time of day.

This started out as a generic scene of the area up here but I think I subconciously painted the mountains down by Pasadena since I've been wanting to paint those mountains for a while now.

A detail of the trail area. I'm still working on painting trails...these are so fun to do in a painting. I'm really enjoying painting the grasses too. This was a fun little painting.

This painting was created using a pencil thumbnail sketch to work from...very basic sketch with no values in it which was ok....just something to work out a composition really...if I did this one again I wouldn't work thhe trees so close on the right side....on 9"x12" you can find things getting a little cramped anyway. It all worked out anyway and I'm pretty happy with it.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Studio Tour Finis

Well, the Studio Tour for 2008 is a done deal. Good presentation, sold 5 paintings and lots of good comments made. I am bushed! 2 days of meet and greet from 10-4 plus an artist reception not to mention the 2 weeks of hussle before the show even arrived. I have even more respect for fellow painter, Les Lull, who did a month long show in Arizona! A month...YIKES!! It can really wear on you.
I am glad to do the show because it is great to hear the feedback on the work and gauge what the public really thinks about the progress I'm making. The public thinks very differently from artists and gallery owners. Each is valid and comes from a different perspective so it is good to get feedback from each of them. The economy is in the ditch so selling anything was a success in my book. I could have sold more but we had 10 paintings reserved for a gallery...but that's another story.
At last years show I learned through sales that smaller paintings moved more. During the summer I started painting a lot of 9"x12" & 12"X16" sized paintings. Good thing I did my homework because those are what sold. Buyers said they were buying for their homes, for gifts and for other homes they owned. The other homes and gifts are why the smaller sizes move. I do have a man interested in a large painting as a surprise Christmas gift for his wife, he took my business card and said he'd be calling in a few days, so I'm hoping that pans out.
The other thing I did was to drop my prices a little. A lot of the painters in this tour did fact, I would bet some increased them. The museum who sponsers this event only takes 20%. I've mentioned the economy being bad and that was more my reason. Sometimes it pays to entice sales and after a dismal summers worth of low sales I needed to do something. I think the plans we made behind this show helped move these paintings so I'm happy.
A studio tour is above all and a learning experience. It is where you get to meet and talk with the people who actually buy your art. You learn to self promote. By nature I think most artists tend to not want to talk themselves or their art have to. You will meet people who are more charged up about your work than you are. You will meet people who can even describe your work better than you can! As you paint you need to ask yourself why you are doing it and what inspired that particular scene. More importantly, you need to come up with the answers because you are going to be asked. You will need to learn to speak more objectively about yourself...not bragging or boasting. You have to be able to talk about your accomplishments, point out your strengths as an artist and let the buyers know that you are making progress on your road to being a working artist who is going somewhere. It sounds easy but for me it took a while to talk about myself as an artist and where I stand at that moment. You have to let the buyer in to some part of you that they can get a glimps of. They want to know who you are and how you connects them to your work and maybe how they feel about you and your work. Buyers are not purchasing art from Sears, they are buying from the artist and they want to know more about that artist. You need to give them some of that and in the end you make a sale and they got more than just a painting for their hard earned money.
If you are part of an art organization see if they have a studio tour and try it out...learn to promote your art and deal directly with your buyers....remember, if you can sell your art then so can a gallery. The hard truth....if your art isn't selling then you need to first look and evaluate your art. Be honest and if you need to get better then start painting. We all started somewhere in art and we all worked to get to the point of making sales. Listen to what people say about your work, it's important. Never stop learning and never once think you have "made it". I have learned 3 important things in painting......I am learning with each painting. Each painting is another attempt to get better at some particular part of that painting. All of my paintings will be better than the last one. That last one is a tough one but the most important goal I know of and goals are exactly that...goals. You don't really have to reach them everytime but you should be working towards reaching them everytime.
Some pics...Some of the munchies set out....

Some of the nocturnes...These went over very well on the tour.

Walking in to the studio...

This wall had a lot of the smaller pieces.

I'm now looking forward to next years show...feets don't fail me now!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Foxen Canyon Plein Air

A few shows ago I did this plein air painting. This summer was just horrible show wise which is why I didn't do many and this one was no exception. 3 days of no crowd whatsoever so I took my PA rig the second day and painted. This is a scene of one of the fields around the Tres Hermanas winery in Foxen canyon. Nice to have walked away with something out of 3 days effort.
A couple of detail shots....

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Nocturne A La Plein Air

I was wanting to get out and do another nocturne plein air before it gets to freezing at night where I live. I had just bought these small battery operated book lights to use for illuminating my palette as well as the canvas. The last time I did this I used a Coleman lantern hanging from a tree since I was in a field. That was a bad experience since it was hard to tell the differences between dark green and mid green...the same with blue and ochre. Trying to do a nocturne in the dark is just asking for a headache.
These lights work great and did a good job of lighting everything...could be better but too much light is worse than you think. You have to keep looking up at your subject and your eyes take a beating doing the constant's better to have the least amount of light you need.

If you want to try these lights you can buy them at any Rite Aid...they are just book reading lights so a lot of places will cary them and they only cost $11.00 each. The batteries will last about 30 hours. It took me 2 hours to get this one finished last night so that works out to about 15 paintings on a set of batteries. These just clip on to your rig.....
You can see how I clipped these to the lid of my painting box. Things are blocked in here and I'm starting to detail the grasses.
This is what my subject looked like in the's my neighbors field and I focused on the center tree there.

Here is the finished piece photographed this morning. All of it was painted last night except for the stars and maybe a stroke or two in the foreground grass this morning since it was windy and cold last night....a 2 hour beating was enough.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Studio Tour Progress

I've got an upcoming Artist Studio Tour put on by the Wildling Museum in Los Olivos. This is my second Studio Tour and I'm really looking forward to it. Last year we had a lot of people show up and sold paintings. Selling is really cool but meeting the people who come and hearing their thoughts on my work is really just as important. I received some good feedback last year so I'm looking forward to meeting this years crowd.
It's always nice to hear what people think even if it is more constructive than flattering and there was some of that last year. Constructive thoughts are important if your learning to paint and I'm always learning. A lot of the people who show up are long time locals so they know much more than I do about this area that I paint...that gives me additional knowledge on my subjects.

If you ever wondered what it would be like to showcase your work at some fancy gallery then being a part of a Studio Tour is the next best thing. The only thing I can think of that gives you the upper hand doing it this way is you get to choose what everyone sees and not some gallery owner only wanting to show what they believe would sell. I've got nothing against the gallery owners idea but there are certain paintings I have done that are more about painting than about being marketable and I want to know what others think about those. I think without those types of paintings you'd really feel nothing more than being a manufacturer supplying what the average consumer wants. Sometimes it is really about artistic goals.

Here is one I've just finished framing. It's a large 20" X 24" oil on Masonite panel. I first painted on masonite back in college and paint on it every now and then for the fun of it. I didn't learn much about painting back in that class but I learned a lot about preparing to paint on various media. I also learned some things about painting that I hated....not one to dwindle on things like that.

Monday, November 10, 2008

California Art Club Show

I've just found out I have 2 paintings that were juried into the California Art Club show "Concertos In Color". This will be my second time participating in a CAC show. These shows are very special to me since the CAC headquarters are in Pasadena, my hometown! The history of the club started in Los Angeles but soon moved to Pasadena for most of it's operating as the oldest art club in California. Too cool!

"Central Coast Poppies" & "Across The Santa Ynez Valley"

Here are the details in case you live close to Pasadena and would like to stop by at the Artists Reception...

Everyone is invited to attend the FREE Artist Reception.

Saturday December 6, 2008 --- 5-7 PM

The Blinn House, Womens City Club of Pasadena, 160 N. Oakland Ave.

Phone for details...626-796-0560

I will be there so stop by, have some food and drink and check out all of the art.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Nocturne...Night Trail

A couple of days ago I had to spend a couple of days at my parents home in Pasadena, California. I took my plein air rig but didn't have time to go out to paint so I decided to just work on a nocturne study and to practice up on a dark scene with highlighted foreground. On the drive down I was thinking of looking for a scene with a large foreground tree up at Eaton Canyon but they lock the gate at night. There is a trail leading down into the canyon but I needed to spend some time with my folks so I just painted in the backyard and will leave the Eaton Canyon idea for another trip....I painted the scene I had in my head so all is good. A night trail in a nocturne is a favorite subject of mine so I added that too next to the tree. I've been looking at trees at night and when there is no moon the edges of the trees are super blurry. I added a moon here so my edges are a bit harder and more defined.

At the recent nocturne show I went to I saw some paintings that were so dark it was almost impossible to make out what the subject was. I might try one of those some day. That's going dark! One big problem with the nocturnes we saw was the glossy varnish had you break dancing to see parts without all of the shine. Add museum lighting and it made the problem worse. I'm not crazy about matte varnish so I'm still trying to figure out what to do about that problem. Here are some details of this one....

Gold To Black - Frames

I received and Honorable Mention for one of my nocturnes down at the Carpinteria show. At the reception I met the judge, Thomas Van Stein, a nocturne painter himself from Santa Barbara. I like airplanes and he restores them so we had a nice chat. He will give a gallery talk in November on the show that I'm going to try and get down for. Van Stein is also going to do a 2 night workshop doing nocturnes in Los Olivos in late November that I'd love to take but I really cannot afford it. This is one of those deals where a year from now I'll be kicking myself in the butt for not being able to do it....don't ya just love life at times!

Before...orangy gold

Stain applied and ready to be wiped down

I bought a bunch of gold plein air frames a while back but was never crazy about the tone of the gold on them...kind of orange/gold. Some of the paintings did not look their best in them so I decided to just get some stain, paint and sealer and redo them in a distressed black leaving a small gold band near the opening. They came out pretty good and make the paintings look 500 % better. Putting the stain on and rubbing it off to give the distressed look gets a little messy but overall it was pretty easy to do this whole operation and saved me a ton of money by having to buy new black frames.

After...all finished up

Monday, October 13, 2008

A Large Tree!

I needed a large painting to go over our fireplace for an upcoming Artist Studio Tour. I decided on an image and then made the frame and stretched the canvas. This is a large 36" X 60" gallery wrapped canvas. To date, this is my largest painting. Large paintings come with a whole other set of problems to deal with. The biggest problem is trying to paint the image in your head to the much larger scale. I used a reference pic to work from but you have to translate all of that to such a large scale...think bigger, paint with much broader brush strokes...use larger brushes...sounds like it is no biggie but when you are used to painting smaller works going larger is way more work!

Here is the beginning of the whole process.
Here is the final painting....
To see how it would look on the wall I went ahead and snapped a pic of our fireplace and then added my ref image to it in Photoshop. Looked pretty cool so I grabbed the brushes and painted away. Below, you can see the photoshop image and final painting on the right. In the finished painting on the right the bottom and very top are washed out due to my excellent photography skills! Those areas are actually darker and resemble the reference photo on the left. Anyway, it was a good project and will work very well for the show in November.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Carpinteria Show

Carpinteria, California....this is a cool town to have an art show at. The artist community down there is one of the best group of people I have ever worked with. They are a close happy group with a love of being from a special small of those beachside towns that has kept it's small town look and feel....not an easy thing to do for most towns that "once were" on Californias coast. If Santa Barbara had hung on to what Carpinteria had that would be a great place to hang out. Parking in SB is worse than any part of Los Angeles and I have been all over the LA basin and all of the outlying cities.
Anyway....I have a painting in this show and the reception is tomorrow, Saturday 27, 2008. It is from 5-7 PM so if you are in the area drop on by. It's on 855 Linden Ave, south of the 101 freeway.
Atmosphere, Wind and Shadows
***855 at the Arts Gallery***
Sep 27 - Nov 10 2008
Tel - 805-684-7789

A Summers Day

An 8"x10" frame is usually very inexpensive which was the sole purpose of doing this painting at this size.....well, that and I don't usually do that size very much. I'm not crazy about those dimensions for landscapes and it is very limiting in how much canvas you have to actually paint on. The one good thing about an 8"x10" is it makes you really think in the planning stages. It also is fun to see how much of a scene you can squeeze into it. I went vertical with this one just wanting to do a tree and once again practise grasses.
This painting was done strictly from imagination. I suppose these scenes can be monotonous but I think if you want to get good at them you need to do them a lot. I've noticed some of the works of California painters, namely Grandville Redmond, and their backgrounds seem to have as much work in detail as the foregrounds. I tend to "diffuse" my backgrounds leaving the detail for the foreground. I think I'm going to begin to work more on the backgrounds with added detail but paying attention to aerial perspective. This should start happening in work to come.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Night Tree

This image was inspired after I saw a small detail from another nocturne I painted a few days ago. The detail image looked very much like it's own painting so I decided to go larger with just that detail as my reference. This experiments with a dark sky and low light below the tree. Nocturnes are done on so many light levels so it is fun to experiment with that aspect of a nocturne. The light adjusts the colors and shadows and you could really paint the same scene a dozen times and no two would look the same. If I painted this scene plein air I could move my easel 5 or 10 feet to either side and have very different paintings due to the dark shadows.

"Night Tree"

12" X 16"
There is a slight bluish glow right above the trees that my camera picked up but you can hardly see that at all in the original painting....the sky just looks very dark there. Here is a detail of the same painting. This is the foreground grass area which I think came out great...a little grass and a little dirt.

More foreground grass and some of that low light foliage work. Pushing the dark shadows on this one was too fun. Hoping to get better at the next painting!

Summer Meadow Nocturne

" Summer Meadow Nocturne"
9" X 12"
Being on the nocturne craze lately I did this one last night in record time, (for me), about 2 hours tops. All I wanted to do was do another nocturne with a lighter sky and that's how it all happened. Not much planning at all. The nocturnes I'm doing all teach me things and they really are experiments on variations not so much being painted to be paintings at all....makes sense??? I did this one for varying the sky colors....the one below was done to splash light in a nocturne....the next one was to go with a darker sky and throw shadow/contrast more. These are all lessons self taught to me by just painting them and seeing how it goes. In the least it is damned fun!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Nocturne...A Splash of Light

"Santa Ynez Nocturne"
9" X 12"

This nocturne was painted for the purpose of 1) having fun with another, and 2) wanting to practise adding a splash of highlight in the otherwise usual dark nocturne. Well, I guess it makes must first learn to paint the night and then comes the part of starting to have fun with it. Adding visual interests...spicing it up...making it pop...adjusting the mood or light. Soon I'll start to play more with color in the sky.

a detail....
I am starting to do grasses better I think. Grasses are funny, my best grasses seem to be when I am almost just throwing the paint on there with a knive stroking vertically. After that I just sweep up in short strokes with a fan....scumble in some dirt patches again with a knife. It seems the more haphazard I do them the better they look. If I approach them with some sort of planned pattern or concerted effort they suck and in the end I go back to my "could care less" sort of method and BAM! Good looking grass. I've seen some artists who do grasses so lifelike it is amazing! I'd love to learn that method but it looks like it is done in that preplanned method and feels like a ton of dissapointment coming on, hahaha. I'll stick with my careless method for now. It has a more impressionist and painterly feel to it anyway.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Morning in Green and Gold

"Morning in Green and Gold"
16" X 20" Oil on canvas

The season is going to change and the trees are starting to show it. This large sycamore is close to where I live and shows some of the leaves just starting to turn brown. I love the trunks on these sycamores. Sometimes white, blue, pink, brown, and a huge assortment of greys. They are dusty and have bark flaking off at times...awesome textures too. I could probably paint oaks, sycamores and eucalyptus trees for the rest of my life and never tire of doing it. These are the trees I can remember growing up with in Pasadena. Many were here before I was and will be long after I'm gone. You have to respect that!
Trees are like huge ancient elders put here on earth to watch the trouble us humans get ourselves in! Imagine the stories a tree could tell us if they could speak.
some details....

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Wine Label

A year ago I was approached by a local vineyard to do their wine label for the 2007 wines they would produce. I thought that was totally cool since at show receptions I had heard suggestions to do this with my pen & ink work. Trouble was I didn't know much about approaching a vineyard to do their label. I knew an artist who approached a vineyard to do their label but they were having them made by an artist in Italy and they were sold on his work. I figured I'd just keep working to get better at painting and not worry about it.
The winery owner and I tossed some ideas back and forth and in the end agreed on adding their sheep they were raising and training to mow the grass that grows between the rows of grapes. It was Winter so I had to borrow grape leaves off of reference photos I had taken at another vineyard the summer before. It all worked out and I handed over the label drawing in about a week. I was told they would not bottle the wine until August of 2007 and I could get some bottles for myself then. They sure look cool and I got a big kick out of doing the commission.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A Morning Sycamore Tree

" Morning Sycamore"
8" X 10"
Oil on canvas covered panel

I usually toss between two trees, eucalyptus and oak, which is a bad habit but in my defense I love both trees and they are plentiful where I live. Still, if Lennon & McCartney only wrote love songs we'd have never heard Sgt Pepper, I Am The Walrus or Glass Onion right? So, it was off to paint a Sycamore tree for me.
This one was found close to home in the local mountains. There is a stand of trees of mostly sycamore and oak right before one of the valleys. It's my favorite part of that drive and I've stopped there many times to get reference photos or just drink my coffee and enjoy a very special place. All of the land off the road belongs to local ranchers and No Trespassing signs line the gates on dirt roads that go in. It must have been a much better world back when ranchers did not fence in cattle on their land...have you ever wondered how many very cool things must be on private property that the public will never see? Not that all of the public would want to but there are those that would. Artists, writers, poets, photographers...all stop at the No Trespassing sign. Maybe there is a good point for trespassing to begin with.