Thursday, December 24, 2009

Koho, Santa Barbara Harbor

My Reference Photo taken abour a week ago.

I was trying to fight off the "boat bug" but that's not going well. Funny story, I always worked in pen & ink in my very early days doing horses, the occasional portrait and a lot of boats. During break at work I would sketch boats really quick and then add color using highlighter markers just for fun. Somewhere during all of that I thought it would be even more fun to learn to paint boat scenes using oil paint so I began to take painting classes in college. We never once painted water or learn that I ended up going with Walter Foster books. I have wondered many times if Mr. Foster ever had any idea of just how many millions of budding artists he helped with his series of art books. There just has to be a killer story behind those books and Walter Foster....I'll be off to Google soon.
Anyway, I decided to paint one of the fishing boats in Santa Barbara harbor. I wanted a cool looking boat with some of the dock in it. I didn't want an image showing too many boats because that would need a ton of editing by me and I'm so detail-retentive that I like to leave too much in. I've seen this boat a zillion times down there and I really like her looks. Learning to handle the water was fun and I think I'm getting better at it. So much of it is really just an illusion. I thought about leaving out the floating kelp but I need to learn painting that too so in it went. Not the best looking kelp but I could have done it much worse too, hahaha.
Up top is my reference photo. Here is my final painting. I sketched this directly on the 12"X16" canvas covered panel which I hate doing when it has to be detailed. Not much room for mistakes which causes a lot of erasing. One of these days I will try painting one of these boat scenes with no initial sketch...forcing myself to paint loose as a goose.

"Koho At High Tide"

12" X 16" Oil on panel

Details of the painting.....

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Chalk Hill

"Chalk Hill"
9" X 12" Oil on panel

This is such a familiar scene to me...this is the view once I pull out of my driveway. I see this seen everyday and have seen it in all sorts of weather. Those big clouds are a pretty common occurence most of the year. I really like the contrast they give the hillside with that one big eucalyptus tree. In summer the grasses are wonderful ochres which really pops the cloud formations. Here is my reference photo I worked from.

This one was done alla prima in a little over an hour. Christmas is almost here and it is really difficult to work on a larger painting. Too many errands popping up! I hate starting and stopping on paintings. I was in Santa Barbara a few times this past week which gave me time to run down to the harbor to snap some reference photos. I've been going through them and there is some really nice ones which will probably become paintings in the next month or so. I'm dying to paint another boat scene while I'm still in that Marine Art mode. I spend so much time throughout the year concentrating on landscapes I don't seem to find the time to work on things nautical.

I was speaking to an artist friend yesterday and the subject of seascapes came up. We both seemed to agree that they are very hard to sell. One of the gallery owners I know wouldn't even carry seascapes because she said they couldn't sell we are not 10 miles from the ocean and it is hard to sell anything with water in it. I remember once deciding to show my work in Morro Bay because I figured it would be the place to sell my marine work...the first year I was there I only sold one painting and it was a scene of the mountains behind Sana Barbara! There might be something to Marine art taking a back seat in sales to most other subjects. So, if you are a painter of seascapes living in Kansas and think heading to the coast would be the thing to do to sell your work you should think twice about that, hahaha.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Before Sunset

"Before Sunset"
9" X 12" Oil on panel
This painting was finished and left to dry before glazing a final layer of light orange tint. This process is something I have recently been toying with to achieve an overall color to the painting. I've done a few other paintings I had drying with a light Indian Yellow tint and it worked great. I'm now tempted to try it with a light pink tone using Alizarin Crimson and Titanium White. When sales are slow....experiment! Hahaha.
A couple of details of the painting....

Michelle Goodrich of Mandarin Design

In working on my blog today I was hunting down a website called Mandarin Design and an old online friend, Michelle Goodrich. Michelle's site had all sorts of codes for free to use on your blog or website...a site designers heaven. Michelle taught you the how to do's of creating a better site of your own with all of her knowledge. I discovered her website way back around 1998 when I was first building my website and trying to promote it. I wanted to leave a banner link on the links I was creating to my website and Michelle had a code to create a really nice banner. I had problems with it as I was still very much learning "computereeze" and contacted Michelle for advice. Michelle helped me figure it out and we kept in touch. She liked the site I had made and offered more help. We sent emails to each other and eventually she bought some of my notecards with horses I had drawn....or I might have just gave them to her for all of her help. Michelle also used my website in an article she had written for her website and offered a free link to my site in return. Naturally, I used the banner above to link to Michelle's website from mine.
It has been years since I last spoke to Michelle or had been to her website. While looking for it today I found that her site was offline and that she had passed away back in June of 2006. Terrible would be an understatement of describing how I felt. I spent the last hour or so reading through various blogs of the other people Michelle had helped over the years. Michelle's generosity was above and beyond that of most people. The closest I ever came to meeting Michelle was when she and her husband came down to see the Long Beach Grand Prix...back in the 90's. I only found out because I was trying to contact her with yet another problem or to ask a question and she mentioned they had just returned from that trip. So at one time we were just 30 miles away from actually meeting each other.
I feel bad that it took me so long to find out she had passed away from cancer, breast cancer I believe....You know, the thing about the internet is you have so many people you can meet in various ways, but more importantly, is that they are all very much real people. Michelle was as real and down to earth as you could get. Willing to share her knowledge which is the most beautiful thing about the internet. Beautiful things come from beautiful people. Michelle epitomized what the world of the Internet could be to all of us...a place to share, learn and teach without always expecting something in return for it. Helping your fellow man is always good karma. I will very much miss my friend Michelle.

Motor Lifeboat CG

Motor Lifeboat Training
18" X 24" Oil on canvas
Just finished up this painting that I will be submitting to the Coast Guard soon. This is a Motor Lifeboat training in the heavy surf up in Bodega Bay in Northern California. You've got to admire Coasties for their determination to train for the worst in their efforts to help out the stranded mariner. Who you gonna call?....the Coast Guard! My reference photo for this painting was taken by a CG member and he caught this ML in a great scene busting through a hugh wave that evokes the danger and the determination of these men to do the job they train for. All I did was try to capture the scene on canvas.
This type of painting is very different from my usual soft landscapes. Detail and crisp edges are best for this type of work and my training with pen & ink has long prepared me for detail and sharp edges. Using a brush is just a bit slower. Going larger, 18" X 24" made the detail work much easier too. I like doing these CG paintings as it fulfills my love of Marine art and gives me a nice challenge to learn painting water and waves. I admire the work of Blossom and Thimgan, both now gone. I also like contemporary painters Byron Pickering and Martin Clarke. Both have a unique way of painting the I actually know these guys! hahahaha. Marty was the first artist to help me out when I was learning to paint the ocean and has been a great inspiration and friend since those early days and I have a great DVD by Bryon who is a wonderful gentle soul.
Some details of the painting....

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Nocturne Verde

" Nocturne Verde"
6" X 8" Oil on panel
The title sounds like something you would order at a Mexican restaraunt. This is another painting done with that eerie green glow that the night is sometimes portrayed with by artists. Done for variation in the studio....I like the color and the change of doing nocturnes with my usual dark mix of Ublue, Acrimson and Twhite. Variety as they say is the spice of life. Ever since seeing this color back at the nocturne show in Los Olivos I've wanted to mess with it and so that's why green...I like it. I'm going to try a reddish tone soon (Nocturne Rojo!). I've seen that used a few times too so it would be cool to try that variation. By the way....that yellow area near the moon is barely perceptable on the actual painting. It stands out like a sore thumb here because my camera snags that color up like it was whipped cream. I tried to edit it down but I lose too much of the other colors up there when I do that so imagine that yellow much less than you see here....yes, you have to do some of the work on this Blog.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Foxen Canyon View

" Foxen Canyon View"
8" X 10" Oil on canvas
Painted this small 8X10 to capture the wonderful warm tones of the hills around Foxen Canyon. Foxen canyon is such a great canyon to take a drive through. The valley floor is lined with vineyards, farmlands and grazing cattle. It has a twisting 2 lane road that runs all the way up to the Santa Maria valley. I like the area due to the great colors it has in the summer and fall months. Wonderful varied ochres accented by the olive colors from the stands of oaks.

In Spring there will be California poppies and lupine scattered throughout the canyon. Alisos canyon connects to Foxen canyon and offers incredible meadows of lupine and grazing cattle.

Here are details of the painting....

Monday, November 23, 2009

Studio Tour 2009

Paintings on display at the entrance to the studio.

Artist Studio Tour 2009
Well, it has come and gone! A weekend of putting the studio and my work on display for those interested in art, artists confines and the info an artist cares to share with them. Preparation for this began way back in Spring as I began to paint specifially for this show which comes every November. Overall, I think I painted some really good pieces, desert scenes from the Carrizo Plain and Mojave desert, some additional nocturnes and some large Central Coast scenes. The studio looked great, the work looked great, framing was working and I was ready. Maybe I should have spent more time on preparing myself for the low sales this last year has produced.
The National and State economy are keeping patrons from enjoying art purchases. I knew this going into the show but maybe didn't expect it to be so severe this year. I have always done well in this show with each one being more succesful than the previous year. This year I was down more than 75% in sales. I actually shouldn't feel so bad as many artists on the tour had no sales at all. Not a good year. I could write much more on this but that is going to get totally negative and won't solve a bet! Still painting though.
Here are some pics I took just before the show started on Saturday morning.
Normally the drying wall, paintings were framed and ready for public viewing in the studio

My easels used for plein air painting in the studio.
I got some really nice comments and signatures in the old guestbook. Copies of my book were available and sales made of that.

Studio Show Painting

"Eucalyptus in Evening"
9" X 12" Oil on panel
During the lulls in our studio show I used the time to work on another painting. Time is not to be wasted so I jumped at the opportunity to use it wisely. This painting allowed me to work more on eucalyptus trees and pushing distance in my paintings. This painting is another in a long line of paintings working to paint better and I'm pretty happy that each painting in that line teaches me.

Details of the painting....
Nice rich darks which I love painting...not black, it's a dark mixture of French Ultramarine Blue/Alizarin Crimson/Cadmium Yellow Pale. The tree trunkss are simply Titanium White with a dab of FUB to add the shadowed color of the truck shaded by foliage.
Rock practice...that's right. I added these big boulders more for my practice than for the composition of the painting...they work and I'm a happy camper......a very fun painting!

Friday, November 20, 2009


I have somehow managed to start a new routine while getting ready for the show this weekend. In staying up late, drinking tons of coffee and after doing things for the show I have managed to do another painting before bed...I always loved painting at night anyway, hahaha. Actually, all the fuss in getting ready for the show causes me to feel guilty I'm not painting so I end up just staying up late to paint. This one was finished at 3:30 AM. I should call it "The Nightowl Eucalyptus".
Not from any reference photo, just painting away in hopes of completing another painting and brushing up on trees. I'm not a fan of the eucalyptus trees that look like this...I call them pom poms....but I have to try painting them anyways. I like the bushier ones that are commonly used for windbreaks on farms and ranches around here. So many little time.

"Near The Foothills"

9" X 12" Oil on panel

I really like the foreground in this one as well as the background...really fun parts to do. The tree was painted a little differently than I normally do these so it took me a little longer to paint. I think it will take me a few paintings to get used to seeing them this way...

Here are some details.....

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Trying the Pochade Box

Was up late last night readying for the show and decided I couldn't wait any longer to try a painting out with the new pochade box. I decided to get the easel setup and do a painting. I chose a ref photo I took of the oak scattered foothills below nearby Grass mountain. The easel worked great but I need to build an attachment to hold my wet brushes. Seems to be a good steady platform though so I'm looking forward to getting out before it gets too cold to do it.
How organized huh!?...Don't sweat it...a few paintings down the line and that area for mixing will be a mess that only I can make my way through. I took this photo right after the scene was blocked in and I had started working back to front.

Here is the finished painting before I took it down to get a good photo. Sorry for the glare.

And lastly the finished painting...I'm pretty happy with it and trying out the new pochade box was lots of late night fun.
"Oaks Below the Figueroas"

9" X 12" Oil on panel

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Evening Scene

"Near The Eve"
12" X 24" Oil on panel
I am readying for a studio tour and have been doing all sorts of things other than painting. You just have no idea how cluttered and unorganized your studio can get until you have to straighten it up for a studio tour....and then there is all of the framing and hanging involved too.
I decided to stop for a bit to paint a scene yesterday. I wanted wide and I wanted to do some trees again since I have been doing so many vineyard scenes lately. I needed the tree practice...still do! hahaha. A couple of months ago I did a scene of Santa Ynez looking across the valley at the mountains all lit up at sunset and decided to try that again but in a more muted way. I wanted the focal point to be on a trail I would add and not so much on the blazing mountain colors.

Lately in my work I have been trying out thicker, impasto, foregrounds or around my center of interest. I really enjoy impasto work especially on these little trails. It brings a nice bit of realism to the painting and adds to the viewers interest I would think. I find it hard not to enjoy that thick texture. The composition on this one is really like a full circle-type comp. The eye should be led from one part to the next until it returns again. Well, that was the plan anyways.
A detail of the trail. I was dragging that shadow from the tree across the grass and decided to drag it across the trail too.
In the past I rarely did a lot of trunk and branch work...I'm pushing myself to add these more and more now. I hated my early results but they are coming along nicely.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Tres Hermanas Vines

" Tres Hermanas Vines"
9" X 12" Oil on panel
This is a plein air piece that was done out at the Tres Hermanas Vineyard in Foxen Canyon. I did a show out there a couple of years ago and thought I'd go back up there to try some plein air work...this is the third one I've done up there. It's a good spot because there isn't much traffic, no pedestrians and I can just pull off to the side of the road to set up my hiking! Bonus!!

I like the vineyards in the morning light because the tops of the vines get this great morning light and pop the heck out of the green against the dark undergrowth. I also like this angle of the vines too and my spot out there is right at the end of the rows.
A detail of the painting........

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Homemade Pochade Box

My Serrett Pochade Box
I've been wanting to build a pochade box much like the $300 models you can buy without spending the $300. Jim Serrett had built such a box, the Serrett Pochade Box, using simple contstruction methods and scraps of wood keeping costs down and making building the box as simple as you can get. I've got to admit the reason I kept putting this off is that I kept thinking the results would be very unprofessional and look it. I couldn't understand how the lid hinge would work without looking like some contraption from a Jules Verne novel. All of the ones I saw that were homemade really looked homemade. Jims looked pretty good so I decided to just build it and make it work but keeping it as affordable as possible.
I downloaded Jim's instructions and worked from those. I couldn't find the piano hinge he used so I used normal brass hinges. The table hinge that I bought was different and I had to cut off a bracket on mine and hammer part of the other end to make that work but it works great and looks good. Both of these parts came from Home Depot. I used a piece of hardwood (oak) for the mounting block underneath that holds the T-nut for mounting the box to the tripod. I'm not a fan of this though and if I did this again I'd probably use the Judsons mounting plate that costs around $19. It's an all-welded aluminum plate that would last longer than the box itself. I'll give the T-nut a try and see how that goes. I also added a strip of wood to accomodate my longer hinge screws for the lid. No biggie there.
The lockable hinge worked out excellent. I was worried about the single bungy cord holding the panel to the lid...looked kind of weak but it actually works great. The panel is snug against the lid and not flopping around at all. Simple and effective and the wind won't blow it loose at all.

Overall, if you want one of these types of pochade boxes and don't want to part with $300 you can build it for hardly nothing. I don't think I paid more than $20 for all of the material. I used an air powered brad nailer but you could do this with small finishing nails and a hammer. I have a table saw too but all of the wood can be cut with a hand saw. It's a great little box and can handle anything up to 9"x12" panels.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Falkner Vineyard Retouch

This was my 3rd painting in the Falkner show. In the image above you can see what it looked like near it's completion. I thought it looked pretty good but later seeing it hanging I felt the foreground was all wrong. I was going for a more loose plein air look to that part of the painting and it looked like it at the time. Yesterday I decided to go back in and do some touching up...finish the foreground to a more finished look and touch up a few other areas while I was at it.
Here is the finished version...and yes, the colors are more accurate in the final camera loves blue and green and picks it up way too much.
Some details....

I like the painting and think the touch ups help the painting more. I don't like to really touch up painting that were painted plein air. I like the idea of going out and painting a scene and bringing it back to the studio to set it aside to dry, varnish and frame. I like the plein air pieces to really speak for themselves as a record of my plein air progress. No, I'm not a plein air purist who feels it has to be 100% painted plein air. I just like to see how far I have come to getting a better finished look when painting outside. We all have our own self imposed goals to follow and that's one of mine. With this one though that foreground was screaming for a finished look.
That reddish foreground was a steep hillside filled with these reddish/black looking tumbleweed shaped plants splattered across it. A lot of the painters at the show were not happy with that area too. Something like that has to be ignored, replaced or dealt with. I chose to deal with it to learn how to paint it. Other painters down there did too so it's good to see I'm not the only glutten for punishment, hahaha. It's how you learn....paint what you've not done or what looks really hard to you. Most painters look at a scene and visually paint it in stages in their heads before ever attempting to actually break out the real paint and brushes. That's what I do when choosing a scene. Sometimes you run across stuff like this hillside and decide "how am I going to do this". One of the best ways to deal with it is to pick your distance. If you back up and paint it from afar it gets easier. Mountains are always like that with me. I can paint them much easier from a distance than close up. The San Gabriel mountains above Pasadena are totally like that. Easier than sin to paint a half a mile away but get closer and man you are going to go through some pain painting those guys. I love those mountains but they can really knock a painter on his butt at times.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Falkner Art Invitational

The show at the Falkner Winery was so much fun. I painted with some good friends and despite low sales due to the economy I had a blast. There were some really good artists out there who I had never met nor painted with, Rich Gallego, Steve Curry, Marla Baggetta, Michael Alten to name just a few. Stunning works coming out of all of these artists. We had 2 beautiful days to paint and by the end of the show there were some seriously good work hanging.

I ran into fellow artists Bruce Boycks, Karen Winters and Laura Wambsgans and had a great time talking with them. These are some really good artists themselves.
Here is a pic of my 3rd painting in progress.

Some of the work being hung during the show. That's Laura Segal from the Segal Art Gallery in Monrovia.Here I am trying out my new french easel during the show. It's pretty good but unless you scrape off the paint from your pallette it is very easy to get paint smeared onto the drawer and lid. Once you begin to fold the legs and rest it against yourself you end up with paint on your clothes. I never had that problem with my trusty pochade box. Friends Bruce Boycks, Rich Gallego and myself at the start on Saturday.Rich Gallego and Steve Curry before the show reception started.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Plein Air Weekend Show

Just a reminder to those who live in Southern California. I will be plein air painting this weekend down in Temecula at the Falkner Winery. The public is welcome to attend this big wine shindig and there will be several artists painting away both Saturday and Sunday. There will be an artists reception on Saturday so please come by and hang out, talk shop and enjoy some wine!

Monday, November 02, 2009

Thomas Van Stein Lecture

Under The Hunters Moon
I had the good fortune tonight of attending a lecture on Nocturne painting with Thomas Van Stein. The lecture was at the Wildling Museum in Los Olivos, CA. I had been waiting for over a month to go to this event. The wait was well worth it. Van Stein spoke about the history of nocturne painting while presenting a slideshow of nocturne images, some of which I had not seen, images by Turner, Whistler, Van Gogh, Frank Tenny Johnson, Rembrant, Remington, Granville Redmond and a host of others were shown. Van Stein also presented images he had painted in France and along the California coast.

Thomas Van Stein with demo painting on the left and one of his framed works on the right.

After the presentation was finished we all went outside where Van Stein had his easel set up for a demonstration of nocturne painting. This was great and allowed us to see how Van Stein works his magic. Van Stein chose this night as it would be under the Hunters Moon. Earlier in the evening before sunset the moon had risen and was quite the sight to see. I took this photo from the backyard shortly before heading over to Los Olivos for the presentation. The Hunters moon was showing it's dominance over the landscape and why so many of us artists are drawn to painting it in our nocturnes.

Van Stein was very gracious and allowed us to ask any questions we wanted while he painted. The painting was completed in about 30 or so minutes to a level he deemed enough to finish off the small details later in the studio. I was amazed at how fast he was able to block in color and then refine the painting all with a minimum of light. Van Stein uses two book lights mounted to the easel and a Maglight mounted on the cap he wore. After the demonstration we all went back into the studio to see the painting in better light. Here is a close-up of the Demo painting...not a very good photo because you can't see the detail and color work in it. Sorry about that.

It was a beautiful brightly lit night that was perfect for this demonstration. I had a great time and was able to speak to Thomas who is a very cool guy. I learned a few things and saw some deadly nocturne paintings in his presentation so it was a very good night. I wish I had remembered my camera in the car to show more pics but I was busy drooling over the nocturnes.
Click here to see more of Van Steins Work