Wednesday, May 16, 2012

MY LAST POST HERE: moving to a new site

I'm moving to a wordpress site that combines a blog and website so this will be my last post here.

You can find my new site and painting adventures at

I'm closing in on my dream of the RV mobile studio and 2 year painting tour of the Pacific Coast, all of it will be on the new site.

Thanks to all who commented and supported me here, hope to see some of you at the new place when it's up and running JUNE 2012.

I will import all these posts to the new site, but leave this one up for any who are used to coming here or need it for ideas.

My Best to all and don't forget to walk barefoot in the sand, breathe in the salt air and enjoy who you are.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Rush of Plein Air

Plein Air is a fancy French term for painting in the open air. It's a current hotbed for artists, with many "paint outs" sponsored by big and small organizations, There are national level conferences in Las Vegas, and even a slick magazine called Plein Air with some great art in the inaugural issue.
A painting done plein air is a great challenge for the painter, The light changes very fast, the weather can be bad or near impossible, For me wind blows sand and that sticks in the paint, but in spite of all the hard conditions, nothing is so exciting to try, many of the paintings fail, even for the best oof artists. Most of mine go into a folder for reference to color and light. Some come out with a special flavor of the place that no camera or memory can hold like this small 6x8 oil of Portuguese Point with the wind and time coming in.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Becharmed by the Sea

Sometimes out with the sea a small thing keeps you spell bound, like the wash of a rocky point, At Portuguese Beach right at the South end are a group of rocks. As the tide comes in waves rush from several angles at once over the rocks, and make beautiful curves and flow lines. I know this was really a bit beyond me but got obsessed and decided to try it anyway, its only paint;-). I did lots of little drawings and several small studies then worked it out in an underpainting using a staining technique of very thin paint in local color and values, that I wiped off again until only the stain was there. Now I'm fully engulfed, really over my head, and hoping to come to some sort of finish that is satisfying, but I've a long way to go, At least the rocks are working, These Sonoma coast rocks are not really very paintable as is, great dark lumps of things and in the low light I love no details can be seen unless you are standing right on top of them. I have a few tricks up my sleeve, we'll see how it goes. The main color here is Prussian Green, not a color I use often, but very transparent, mixed with Greenish Umber, it makes colors just right for the waters here. Next to the work in progress, called a WIP is a plein air sketch I'm using to help, I also have about 10 photos of this place all with different waves. This one is made up from lots of them

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Big Wave Study

This was a massive challenge, I wanted the big wave to star, with all the wind and force, and the foreground to have a highly agitated feel of rolling movement that expressed the day I saw this. I wanted to do all of it with brushwork suggesting the details without getting out a rigger brush and putting it all in. This is part of Aspevig's idea of "knowledge gaps" that the artist suggests enough, but leaves gaps for the viewer to fill in from their own experiences. When a viewer does this the  discovery produces endorphins in the brain that leads to great pleasure and a very enjoyable viewing experience. 

It was hard to have the big wave star and not lose that to too much foreground competition. I scraped off the foreground 4 times and once got out a rag and took it back to canvas. I'm starting to learn that I can't do it all on one painting and to be happy if some part is there and to know the next ones I'll get more. 

I also created a lavender sky here gradating in warm-cool and in value r-l. I needed a lower value sky to get the blowing spray to show. There is a gentle S movement of light, (Rem naples yellow light, to carry the eye front to back) I used 2 whites a warm one and a cool one, something that is now part of my palette, with so much white in a seascape it helps to create more variety in the pale tones.

In the detail you can see how I'm using brushwork alone to make the suggested details. This work is  6x12, and if I eventually go bigger I can put in more with the space, working up some layers of glazing to enhance the depth.
the detail is nice by itself, its a good feeling when I get something into the painting that was felt the day I saw it.  

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Hard As A Rock

Rocks can be the downfall of a seascape, if they are not right it really shows, after all there are only 3 elements in a seascape, rocks, sea and sky, such a stripped down design means all of it has to work well, no fudging allowed.I'm not a huge lover of rocks, not like some, so I've had to do a lot of work, maybe some of it will be of use to other artists. Stapeton Kearns has a lot of good ideas on his blog, Here are some Ive gleaned from various books the best one is by Curtis, How to Paint Successful Seascapes. He suggests you start very thin and scribble the forms in. I use a lot f Spike of Lavender, or you can use turps or OMS ( odorless mineral spirits) and a tiny bit of paint I usually use a warm tone of Greenish Umber and Venitian red. Do not put any white into this color. Its very much like water color very liquid. Then with a synthetic flat or brigth brkush I scribble the mass, I let this set up a bit then go in with a darker tone and put in the shadows, all rought blocked in. Then I stop let it dry and work on the water, tthe same way very thin color, brushstrokes showing. This allows me to see the developing compostion of the two and if adjustments are needed, its so easy at this point to lift off color with a wet brush or a rag and wipe back to the canvas. Here is a small study with that process just finished, I will let this dry a couple of hours before starting on the impasto painting

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Fatal Attraction

Many seascape painters are happy to paint the rocks and crashing waves, I like that, other painters put in the view of the sea as a little piece in a landscape, I occasionally do those too, but my real affection and passion is for the small luminous moments that only last about 15 min. and are so subtle no photo can begin to capture it. Fog, mists, last bits of light after the sun has set, all these attract me more than the more iconic views. I say fatal attraction as they are exceedingly hard to paint,
the American Tonalist painters were the most successful.( will do a post on them later) Its very easy to just go for the flash and overdo it so it takes a sensitive brush and hand. Values are very close and color temperature( how warm or cool a mix) is critical. Also as plein air one only has a very short window of time. The only solutions is to try the same thing over and over until you accumulate enough memory and experience that you can work very quickly. Back in the studio I rely on that memory and my current method of making voice memos on my iphone to go with the photo, this reminds me of what I saw and I have less tendency to copy what the camera saw.

              The Land and Sea and Sky Are  One.    7x9" oil on shellacked paper

This is my first attempt, a studio work, on a very particular light that happens infrequently. There must be overhead clouds, mists and some clearing on the horizon to see this spectacular effect. It seems impossible when it happens and stops everyone in their tracks. Here at North Salmon Creek Beach there is a lot of wet sand to reflect it.  I will need to paint this many times to capture all the subtle color and edge changes, but I really enjoy the challenge, and I'm very pleased with this first try. It took me two days of mixing to discover just the right color of that lit cloud.  Of course this tone only lasts a few min. before it deepens more. I also love the seamlessness of the sky becoming sea becoming sand. It will take many paintings to master.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Brushwork where to start

I've mentioned before that all my university art school training was in abstract art, and until the last 7 years that's mainly what I did. Seascape is the best place for an abstract artist in representational work. The place where both collide like the sea on a rock. 
Todays topic is brush work. We've all heard the term, and I even have the book Brushwork Essentials which gave me some idea there was such a thing. Only lately have I begun to get it going in my own work.  Paying attention to it in yours it can help you to create higher level work.

First notice that each of us has a different "touch" our unique signature, we don't want that to change but to grow, on the other hand we want to make it conscious, to make our hand do what we intend, and not wander off unattended dabbing away. So the first step is to notice that you ARE mindlessly dabbing because you don't know what to do, or your mind has taken a side trip into the past or future. What to eat for dinner, or any other of the 60,000 thoughts they say we think each day. When you notice mindless dabbing just stop painting, redirect your mind to the thing in front of you, find your place and begin again. Staying present is easier if you use physical cues, the sound of the brush, movement of your arm, and then let go, your body knows how to paint if you let it. But slow down, you are not Bob Ross sloshing across the canvas( unless you want that rush of just slapping things on, it's ok sometimes, but seldom gets really great results in brushwork) You are the conductor of the music, choosing violins, here a crashing symbol there a pluck of the harp string, bringing out the music, you are not some dude on a platform waving your arms around, looking like a "painter" but not producing music. 
For the finest example of this watch a Richard Schmid vid. Here he is after decades of work still breathless with the beauty of a single brushstroke of just the right color in the right place. So inspiring, and watch how carefully he places each touch, no dabbing away there, yet still freely done, taking advantage of "accidents" ( room for the subconscious and right brain to work)

Next work make being aware of dabbing away your first priority, start to place your strokes and colors put them down and leave them, stop scrubbing one color into another ( except for the first lay in if you do that) and place them side by side, if you blend do it after they are down...See if that wakes up your work and starts to make not just objects but a beautiful surface as well.