Thursday, December 03, 2009

Here's the frozen underpainting, even the brush froze after a few splashes and behaved more like a twiggy weed than bristles. After 30 minutes wandering around to photograph and drink coffee while waiting for the underpainting to thaw, I broke down the easel and walked over to where my painting buddy for the day was located. They weren't painting with ice cubes and were working in water colors. So it's all about location, location, location.

"Painting With Ice Cubes"

The usual gouache underpainting was not a good approach on this day and after the sun came up the temps dropped further. The top of the pond had ice and even the dribbles from my rinse container froze instantly.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Go to the Driftless6/10.blogspot site where I posted about some nice wool, fingerless mits a friend made for me. Tomorrow promises to be a good morning for painting with them and I'll photograph them.

She made them from felted old sweaters.

Tomorrow I paint a new site in town. It's near one I was working on last weekend. Both were passed along to me by a new painting bud, Doug D who I'll be joining tomorrow morning.

Last weekend, those funny spectators were out. The park has a well established frisbee golf course and regular players even at 8 in the morning. So I positioned myself in the middle of a lovely field and painted dead pines against the light.

After an hour and a half, a woman came trudging with her dog across the field, shouting "what are you doing?" I thought she was calling to the dog who could have used some management. But her discipline the dog voice was directed at me:

"What are you doing?"


"It's so ugly now, you should have been here in Oct...those trees over there were yellow ..."

And so it went for a while. She had posed herself in front of my view and the dog was yelping and lunging at me. I asked if she wanted to look at the painting.

"Oh, you added color that isn't there. Those trees are ugly."

And so on for a little while more until I asked if she'd like my card.

"Yes, then I can call you and tell you when it's pretty out."


Photos tomorrow.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

"Roaming Apple Tree" 8x10 inches, pastel over gouache on Uart.

Four painters roamed for four days over the Door Peninsula the third week of October this year finding it cold, cloudy and often wet. Fortunately there are many ways to find shelter and this painting was from within a row a trees against which the wind buffeted. 

The first morning I didn't set up due to continual rain that became increasingly dense. But the oil painters continued to work, some without cover, so it'll be interesting to see how that turns out. Being the only person working in pastels, I can't say if that was an advantage or no. 

That was the only day that I couldn't get going. After that, these wild apple trees continued to get my attention, seems like I did four or five paintings of various groups ... it says a lot about the former orcharding going on in the area.

This sample of Uart brand sandpaper worked well enough for me to want to try it again soon. The paper was mounted and nicely flat, a light tone to it to start, took the washes well and dried at least as well as Wallis which was slow only because of the really high humidity.

These old apple trees were a persistent source of sculptural forms, even holding their fruits which ranged from brilliant yellows with carmine tints to deep lipstick reds which had even darker blushes of burgundy.

I also need to announce that the group of painters on this trip and I have launched a blog for the group. Please give us a few days and then see what happens ... there is a lot of energy and with everyone so attracted to the Driftless area, or from that region, we've named the site after it. See the links to the right for the Driftless 6/10 Blog.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Wisconsin painting.
Mid October presents another painting week in Door County with my painting buddies, yahoo! It will be beautiful though I haven't painted there so late in the year. This also presents a chance to work with the GPS markers I've planted over the last six months as painting sites.

I'm particularly interested in the sites I marked after the competition in July, when one of my new friends there walked me around and pointed out likely places. Many of the other sites are terrific and well tested.

The group will be dynamic and interesting as the range of talent is broad. Paint, paint, paint, crit, art talk and the next chorus is the same.

"Green Begins in March" is a working title for this late winter painting done last year. 6x6 inches, pastel and gouache on sandpaper.

As usual, it is en plein air pastel on sandpaper and the location was a farm copse with a pond during the winter and spring. What was interesting was the bits of green, of course, which after a winter can seem dramatically strong. Also, the tremendous blue band of shadow which because the overall terrain was pale, dead grass, took up the reflection of sky deeply. A hazard here became apparent as I watchrd the foreground tree shadow sweep quickly to the right and change the composition to uninteresting ... another reason to be decisive at the beginning and design immediately.

During this season of painting, I was also chasing the blanched quality of light which also indicates winter and some other conditions. The damp, light absorptive tree trunks made a dramatic and graphic contrast with line-based statements.

The gouache underpainting can be tough in winter weather, however, it pays off as a design tool for me beyond what a thumbnail can do. Thumbnails are great exercises and can produce good paintings, but my own do not excite me with the moment and the energy like an underpainting can. The potential handicap can be that I fall in love with the underpainting and am hesitant to obliterate it. Risk all to gain.

Here is another from that season:

"Forebearer to Spring" is likely to be another working title. 9x12 inches, pastel and gouache on sandpaper.

Working titles are a way to tie together the image and a word or two or three. Sometimes the title process can be the most difficult part of it all, or perhaps the organizing of that process is not yet well enough developed in my work flow. "Dead Pine with Friends" was a working title that was not going to do anything useful in the wide world, but still recalls the painting more thoroughly.

These two paintings remain labeled with working titles, at least until I sit down to do formal ones.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

"Indication of Spring" 6x6 pastel on sand paper.

Back in town for a few weeks between trips I have been working to wrap up pieces that were part way through and needed to be completed. This is one that I did out of my window one late winter morning and set aside for quite a while. The raking light and complexity of the distant houses made it interesting but since it is small I wanted to wait until the energy of the thing returned. It did and was an easy completion.

That's when I know the design was right, the purpose was right and the painting worth waiting for.

The underpainting was quite detailed and nearly a painting in itself. That can be a worry, too much commitment too soon and the risk of what happens in the rest of the painting process can cause all sorts of "avoidies". That is what I call the design elements, strokes or color I've become attached to.

What happens in the beginning of a painting is different from the end, so this too much too soon thing means there sometimes is not enough psychic latitude when I return to one of these to see it as a whole.

This one worked out and is a nice story of the oak leaf remnants, emerging grass among dead, dead winter sop. It's hopeful the way that sunlight can be after a long winter. It has a lot going on and is still relatively simple. Interesting too that the sand paper is a dark tone rather than the white I usually prefer. Dark and light, it's always about that.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Working title: "Dusk" 6x18 pastel on sand paper, Door County Wisc.
This piece shows quite a bit of underpainting and the delicacy that I most enjoy and with which I have wrestled over the summer to incorporate into larger pieces. It is a light touch that works well in the smaller pieces and was elusive as I changed subjects, format and size. 
Coolness but lightness in the shadows of this June painting were a direct contrast to the startling radiance of light striking the aspen. Deep dark pines in shadows with a few cedars also in shadow in the upper right. The scene is a long abandoned homestead, hence the irises in the sunlight area along with other garden flowers in a now weedy field. The large shrub left and background right of center were old, old lilacs long past their bloom and presenting an odd display of seed pods–a rangy color of rusty brown.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

"Wetland Jewel #60" 3x18 inches, pastel and gouache on sandpaper.

The colors of fall are showing up and the raking light emphasizes it much more.

"Reclamation Pond, Dusk" Detail 6x18 inches, pastel and gouache on sandpaper.

This detail is one of several underpaintings I set myself up with to work on later. The goal is to set down the initial structure and go back, speed and decisiveness practice. This was painted last week, about Aug 17.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

"First Light", 3x18 inches, pastel and gouache.

Another long skinny from painting at the very formal Victorian garden in town, this one is probably sold, maybe sooner than later since I have two entities vying for it. What was fun with this painting is that blanched quality of light when it's so angular and bright and contrasts strongly with the equally angular shadows ... all with light touches of roses, bar berry and blue shadow colors.

And with this painting, there is a "going in and in" that people have described with some of my work. What I understand that to be is an effective illusion of space, detail, atmosphere.

"Watching Fog Rise", 9x12 inches, pastel and gouache, 5:30 am during the Door County Invitational Plein Air Competition, week of July 19 thru the 28th.

Monday, July 27, 2009

"Shadows and Light: Perfect Moment" Pastel on Wallis with gouache underpainting, 9x12 inches.

The festival wrap up was yesterday so I'll post a summary to cover the week, photos here and there, therefore it'll be a longish one.

The painting above was highly energized, lots of interest while I painted it. It was done at the site I chose for my demo site. It's a real nice gallery in Sister Creek called Fine Line Designs and represents several of the artists invited for this competition. It could have sold five or six times this week – from the moment the preview opened at 5 pm on Friday until Sunday.

A very fun woman bought the piece at the preview auction and I'd had a lot of fun talking to her all week long, one of the palette sponsors who are an art committed group who purchased access to a number of extra events where we invited artists could talk and socialize with them.

Beginning on Sunday with stamping and ending the next Sunday at 2:30, the painting was full on, the events were full on and the people were full on...I didn't have time to see the other work until I walked the final two on Sunday!

Sales were good, I painted 16 or 17 paintings, even though working with an equipment handicap from Tuesday on. (Best laid plans.)

Kudos to the volunteers, staff, director and board members of the Peninsula School of Art, this event was incredibly complex, intense and entirely well organized. When the Tuesday disaster struck my equipment and I was without a working easel the school stood behind me and ordered a replacement along with helping me get back on my feet to paint. A really incredible group of people dedicated to art.

"Solitude" 12x16, pastel and gouache on Wallis. This painting was done the first evening and remains one of my favs though you're seeing it here as the photo on site which has shadows of grass across it. There are many incredible painting locations here which I didn't get to yet and will likely return to paint sometime late in the year – both winter and fall are said to be stunning.

This really was incredible and it really was intense – so much beauty and work.

I'll be staying with another host tonight and return home tomorrow. After that more info and photos from the event when I settle back in at home.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

"Ripening" 9x12 pastel on Wallis with gouache underpainting

Morning prior to getting stamped, this was a great blue barn and a fun story goes with my working on it. After a half hour, a woman on a bike stopped and we had a fun conversation about this location. She'd wanted to stop and photograph it and always found it attractive. Very fun and interesting conversation, sweet person. While talking to her, the owner of the farm came out and stopped to chat too. All before picking up the bright red t-shirts, name tag and red flag we are asked to wear, display and fly while painting.

Let the fun begin.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

"Baileys Harbor"

... and a detail.
Initially I was attracted to the clouds, but in the end focused lower down and let the clouds play a small role.

I'm here in Door a few days before the Plein Air Competition and have done a bit of scouting yesterday and today. There are so many beautiful locations here, lots of nature and big trees, but also lovely old buildings like the one that was a stage coach stop, ancient trucks, cranes and excavation equipment.

Stamping and registration begin tomorrow, time in the a.m. to evaluate another site. Problem is that the forecast changed radically this morning to nearly every day of the competition having a medium chance of rain. Weather is quite variable, so much for my hoping to plan out where and what and when I'm painting to make it easier.

The last two days I've hiked a good amount, but I think I'll end up painting near the car in most locations. My main concern is about rain scheduled for Saturday when the Quick Paint takes place.

Here's some of the sketches, orchards, water, buildings that could be interesting for Saturday, thumbnails all, but I cranked out a bunch.

Painting for the competition tomorrow, begins after stamping, noon to five.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

"Sand Road Park", Door County, WI
The weather on the peninsula is varied and with so many beautiful places to paint, it's pretty easy to work around whatever happens. I was interested in the light, the water effects and subtlety of color in this "widie". 

Painting in this area for the last week with a painting in the morning before my friend wakes up, and one in the evening is not nearly enough to satisfy my curiosity about all the magic here, the wilder areas are especially attractive, and even with the bloom of biting bugs in the last few days, call for extended work. 

Between painting we've toured around the peninsula, and done a bit of research for the coming invitational competition in this area about three weeks from now. Yikes, it's coming up quickly. 

One of the challenges here is the contrast of man-made and wild subjects. The wilder subjects are most to my tastes and style, but the human components function as anchors for the viewer – a way into the painting. As with gardens they dictate more and allow less free handling. 

Am heading out now to explore just such an opportunity.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

"City Sanctuary", plein air pastel on dark Wallis sandpaper, 14 June 2009.

Painting the garden has been a combination of fun and extraordinary challenge. Verbalizing the difficulty with fellow painters has raised the issues involved and helped pinpoint them. The design is already done. There is a wild variety of shape/color/pattern issues that both limit artistic interpretation and force compliance of some sort for there to be a rendering at all. The color swaths also add a potential compositional hazard but are required in order to anchor the subject in reality. There's a lot going on. Because there are so many shapes/patterns/edges, the effects of the sun traveling is much more apparent than when in nature a plant community is rarely isolated to a handful of specimens and also limited to a handful of species. There is a formalized aspect of the garden space that again is predetermined and limits/compells the design making artistic processing much more convoluted and risky for the final interpretation to be successful.

And, so, today I learned something important about getting the work done in a garden. Use the rectangles. Working in my currently happy format of very wide, and wider, I'm finding that the inherent rectangles of the garden can be used to structure the shapes in my painting compositions to my advantage. It is more geometric and much less organic, so be it. Leverage these things. 

As Robert Genn has said many times about showing up for the work and finding one's way, today's painting showed me how to wrangle the rectangle into a subordinate position that helps the composition rather than hacking away at it.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

A few minutes to tune these up and they may work nicely, though standardizing is still only partially settled – the long lovely format is too much fun and a great challenge to compose with. The 9x12s are working, but many other formats are way too ordinary for my tastes at the moment.

Here are a few pieces from the last week or so...

"Peony Pop", Cooley Gardens in peak peony form. This is 4x18 and will go into the exhibition for the July 11 sale and auction. I'm heading out again in a moment to paint there now, rain likely later so one moves with the weather and bloom.

First things first; posting from on location is proving to be difficult. A week in Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore we stayed at cottages without wireless and so, the focus remained on painting rather than blogging. All well and good since the body of work now has another boatload of plein air and a new subject. 

"Peterson Road Lakeshore", nice little 9x12 done one chilly morning before the tourist season hit. Though painting among the crowds is part of the training for the upcoming Door Competition (see the right sidebar or prior posts.)
"Overshadowed", Betsey Bay Lighthouse Nature Conservancy property, lovely dunes that were saved before much impact had occurred to their natural order. Another 12x9 with gouache ... a couple of falls into the sand and I have enough debris in the gouache palette for another year!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Socks for my easel

The trick legs on my trick easel began having trouble after two years of working it hard. The manufacturer suggested that I pull off the feet and wash water up the legs to remove dirt. Did this twice but one leg still didn't hold it's position and was difficult to retract. 

We took the worst leg apart, wiped it down, removed the worst offender – the screw used as a stop for the rubber foot – and it worked again. That aperture at the bottom of the leg is necessary, but what a hazard! The screw must have been just loose enough and the leg tilted just right. the screw had to roll just so and the easel carried in such a way for it to get in, stay in and work its way up to where it lodged. 

I made some socks to protect the legs openings from dirt. Painting outdoors there will always be dirt. Problem solved.

Painting for others

Amazing to do, this painting for a target event or for other external objectives. My work will be featured at a fundraiser for a destination garden. This involves all manner of contract, aesthetic and painting issues. Good for learning, but I think the painting is suffering.

Looking forward to travel, next stop Sleeping Bear National Park

Three days staying with friends and painting, then four or five days working with my painting buddy in Sleeping Bear National Park ... after the holiday. 

There's a swamp on my radar which will be a first choice. And, there are always the classics: beach and beach goers, shoreline, cedars, drive in theater and a few nocturnes. It all should keep me busy and get the painting back on track.

Other problems solved:

SPF clothing, rated 150 SPF and comfortable, hoping it also resists biting bugs – ticks are a bane but so is sunburn! And, painting for the Door Plein Air Festival will be in late July so the systems are being tested during the next three trips.

Friday, May 15, 2009

"Bullfrog Pond" plein air without the guilt.

Just paint, that's the real deal. What a great way to paint. To avoid influences to paint like a hundred other people. A painting of "no second guessing" and no attachment to outcome, not trying to paint larger, or to a predictable venue, or even to accomplish a "keeper". Just paint.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

"Hidden Valley Rain" Near Warm Springs Virginia

It indeed rained every day I was in this area but I snuck a couple of paintings in by setting up under a tree. The trip was to deliver paintings to my new gallery but hoping to paint the perfection of budded trees, Southern Magnolia, red bud and honey suckle, I tromped around every day. Photos will do, along with sketches back in the studio, to paint this lovely area in the Allegheny Mountains.

Warm Springs Gallery

The season is on and it's a juggle to get the business stuff tucked in between the painting work, there will be more posting now – the weather is on and the several painting trips will make for a painting intensive.

Here's my Mea Culpa for not publishing more frequently:
Included in the following shows:
•Emerald Spring Juried Exhibition at Emerald Art Center, Springfield, OR
•International Association of Pastel Societies Juried Exhibit at Ventana Gallery, Santa Fe, NM
•Pastel Painters of Maine Juried Exhibition at the Saco Art Museum, Saco, ME
•2009 National Juried Exhibition at Long Island Beach Foundation, Loveladies, NJ

Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Mackerel Sky show made YouTube!

This is a lovely gallery and fine craft store whose owners are deeply kind, aesthetically and professionally savvy. You can see the video here and a link to it in the links section right. Oh, yes, the show is selling well, three more since the opening.

Friday, February 20, 2009

"Twist and Shout" Plein Air, 9x9 inches, Williamston MI...

This painting is from the favorite swamp for a couple of years spanning 2006/07. The painting was an opportunity to isolate and simplify, something I didn't find easy when I initially was confronted with this subject.

The swamp was packed with mature trees and had been initially a woodland that was wet, became boggy and later was flooded as part of a county drain commission project to direct farm runoff.

Beautiful light on the tree forms, from the period of my peak painting here...

This information was given me by locals over the course of the first few months of painting there.

A condo project very nearby and a small subdivision within a half mile leads to walkers and bikers along the adjoining roadway. When painting here, my set up is highly visible me accessible to the local exercise gang.

I eventually heard the pieces of history that explained why there were so many large trees in such a wet location as well as why the trees in the far half of the swamp had been "topped", their upper third broken off – tornado.

This close looking and seeing, which are a large part of painting en plein air, and what a friend of mine says would make me a good biologist, also feed my curiosity in ways that distinguish me in conversations – people simply do not notice the world around them.

But I've found that folks do notice when the details of beauty are present in a familiar subject but interpreted, focused upon. Reading how the brain works, how the nervous system functions, and the tracks of evolution and perception's biases, leads me to see an artist's successful isolation, composition and deployment of their materials as far more complicated than I would have thought...the things we do easily appear less complicated.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

"Daybreak Lotus Beds At Trempleau Reserve" Plein Air, Near Lacrosse, WI 9x12

This is a painting from my Mississippi River trip last August. Painting at Trempleau Reserve was remarkable. Oak savana on the way in, then these dense interfaces with the Mississippi River and lushness everywhere. Trees filled with Egrets, the surface of the water sparkling with pelicans, lotus, other waterfowl. We listened to Sora Rails giggle and painted as the sun came up.

Using my usual approach, it was a hard painting to start, a distracting amount of beauty. The gouache underpainting was lively and had a light touch, so I proceeded slowly and ultimately left quite a bit of it showing.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

"Beyond the River's Edge" Plein air, 11x14 inches, salmon running through the river, big ones – thirty pounders, and fishing bodies drifting along trying to seduce the monsters onto a hook...

This is a painting I did on the Lower Platt River in Sleeping Bear National Park Lakeshore. The weather was unusually warm, in the high seventies, and painting was therefore fun. So many beautiful spots that one could spend more time than the four days I was there. However, considering how much I ate it's surprising how much I painted! Could be the other way around too. At any rate, I painted from dawn to dusk for four days and then was wined and dined every evening. I couldn't ask for more than that, and the painting was really satisfying, a delight to do.

Here's a photo from that trip, taken by a friend from across the pond. They were on the Betsey Rail Trail, a popular walking and biking trail. It seemed like I was somewhat concealed, but apparently not since there were a number of walkers and riders pointing, gasping, whispering, and casting furtive looks...maybe it was the location or the trousers.

Friday, February 13, 2009

"Three Swamp Sisters" Plein Air, favorite swamp...

The show is hung, wheew! Web site is updated and finally I get time for the blog updating...and for developing a system that makes my posting more regular.

"Endlessness" Plein Air, clouds are always available and they teach me to be decisive...

The title of the show is "Jewels in the Landscape: the delicacy of form, color and spirit". My lesson from this show is Standardize or Die! Still, I fell in love with several of the unusual formats such as an exaggerated landscape format, very long and skinny.

Here are several of the long skinny clouds I've included in the exhibit.

"Fleeting" Plein Air, fast moving weather in April demanded play and resolve...

"Door County Bay and Sky" Plein Air, done last May, I'll be back for the Invitational Door County Plein Air Competition, see below...

This last year was a good year, I hit a lot of target goals, so I was remiss in blogging, but below are highlights. You can check out my site for more info, events and publications will soon have links to more Door County info:
• Selected invitee, "Door County Invitational Plein Air Competition, Auction & Exhibition" 07/09
• Solo Show, Mackerel Sky Gallery, East Lansing Feb/March 09
• Featured artist "Art As Response", magazine 07/08
• Honorable mention, "HHAL National Exhibit" Hilton Head SC, 05/08
• "Jack Richeson's 75 Small Works" book Fall/08
• "Workshop Scholarship Award", Scottsdale Artists School 03/08
• "Jack Richeson's Artist Choice" book, due summer 08