Saturday, June 22, 2013

Painting at the YWA

Yesterday was another of our fun Fridays at the YWA Portrait painting group.  Our model was Bridget, who has posed for us many times ~ but it's been a while.  Nice to see and paint her again, she's a great model.  Mostly today I was trying to keep myself from getting too detailed and fussy, so I used larger brushes than normal and my left hand more than usual.  These things, and a few other techniques that I'm trying to learn did help.  Still ... I wished that I had a little more time ~ ah, well, this time is supposed to be for practice ~ and it's a nice feeling, really, knowing that the paintings done here don't have to be "finished".

Thursday, June 13, 2013


Wow, I didn't realize that it's been so long since I posted here.  To those around me who have had to deal with my distractions ... I'm truly sorry.  The latest, and biggest distraction of the last few weeks has been my presentation at the ECCO facility ~ Evergreen Conference Centre Oakhurst. 

In the past I've taken great pains not to speak in public ~ a huge phobia for me.  But, in the last year and a half, I've had to get up and give a few demos in front of crowds ... along with monologues and such.  This last one was kind of a big deal and hung over my head for weeks ~ distracting me in so many ways.

My idea for the presentation to the "Road Scholars" (no, not Rhodes) was a little different than I've done before ... and a little different than I've seen, as well.  I wanted to show the audience ~ who were all non-artists ~ what it might have been like to have been one of Yosemite's Pioneer artists. 
So, after a brief introduction, I gave some history of the area and of the early painters ... plus a look at all of the things that contributed to the times ... such as the invention of the paint tube in 1841, gold being discovered in CA, the political unrest - including the little skirmish that they had out east which they called the Civil War, and so on.  All of these things occurred around the same time, influencing artists to paint out doors and people to move to the great western states in droves.

I then went into a demo from sketches that I'd done in the park ~ using a traditional method, much as the pioneer artists may have.  Obviously, since it was only an hour presentation, I couldn't do much more than an rough-in ... but then I unveiled a large version of what the end result would have been (using my big Stagecoach to Wawona painting).
It was very well received an I may just be picked up by ECCO to do a series of lectures each week.  Hopefully the Pterodactyls flying around in my stomach for weeks will be reduced to mere hawks or even hummingbirds ... I'm not going to hold out for butterflies, but that would be nice.
The funny thing is that, after I get over the first minute or so of stage fright (terror), I usually do quite well.  For some reason, my sense of humor increases when I'm up there and it helps me to make points that might otherwise seem droll.  For instance, when asked about how long it took to do a plein air sketch and what time of day was best, I went into a story about how the Hebrews were in a great battle that was going their way but would surely turn against them if the sun went down. Joshua asked God for a little help, and he stayed the sun for a couple of extra hours.  I told how my prayers, as yet, while doing plein air, have not been answered ~ in fact, the sun seems to speed up at times.  Okay, well ... you had to be there.
Next time, I plan to do a similar thing ... only I'm going to take them on a virtual tour on one of Yosemite trails ~ using the huge screen ~ and then set up and do a "plein air" painting for them ... with an unveiling of a finished work ~ so they get the whole sense of the adventure without having to help me schlep my heavy stuff up a mountain and then sit and wait for me to do my thing.
Hmmm ... I can already feel those Pterodactyls hatching in my stomach!

Friday, April 19, 2013

The Greeting Committee

A month or so ago one of my neighbors - Elizabeth - donated a paint box to me.  But when I say "paint box" - this thing is so much more than that ... it's like a portable studio.  It's not quite as compact and portable as a French Easel, but it's really cool.  I've never seen one like it before.  It's perfect for when I want to sit at the computer to work from photos ... or when I want to sit out and paint plein air.  It has lots of storage capacity - even has several drawers!

So, to thank her for it ... and for the frames that she gave me some months ago ... I did a painting of her dogs.  They have three dogs that greet me whenever I have to go up or down our shared easement.  They're beautiful dogs and I'd thought many times how I would like to paint them ~ so I already had lots of pictures of them (because I'm continually making photos of stuff).
Coming up with a design that was strong and yet showed off their distinct personalities was a nice little challenge, but I think it turned out well.  I always liked the way that Chris, the big white dog, looked in the evening light when he'd chase me along the fence-line ... the two little guys yapping away at a full gallop, too.  The long, dark pooch has such a difficult time keeping up with the others, that I sometimes slow down so that he can catch up.
Elizabeth, runs a local restaurant and we took the painting down there to deliver it to her tonight.  She was thrilled with the picture and we got a free meal, too.  They make a great veggie wrap.  It will be good advertising to have the painting in her restaurant, but, really, I did the painting because I felt that she deserved it.
Thanks again, Elizabeth, for the easel and the frames!

Saturday, April 13, 2013


Well, it's that time of year again ~ when everything blooms at the same time so that it's hard to decide what to paint first!  I had to work in the Timberline Gallery in Oakhurst on Wednesday, so I brought along a sprig of lilacs and a small vase.  When I was done with other projects that I had to do, I painted a little 8"x10" of the still life.
On Thursday I had to work in the Sierra Artist's Gallery in Mariposa.  I brought along the little still life, intending to fix it up a little, but only took a few pokes at it.  I was taking down another painting which had been up there for a little while when I realized that it was the same size as the lilacs.  Why not swap the frame out?  I thought.... so I did and then hung it up, still thinking that it wasn't done, and intending to take it home with me to finish it.  Only a few minutes later, a couple came in who were on their way back to Cor D'Alene, ID.  They ended up buying the painting.  Nice. 
Later that day I started the painting of the lilacs in the tea pot (also 8" x 10") ... inspired by my friend, Del Gish, who did his best to teach me how to paint lilacs ... and who regularly kicks my butt in chess.  It will be some time before I can paint lilacs as well as he does, and even longer before I can figure out this whole chess thing!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

At the Gertrude again

Yesterday, at our Friday session at the Gertrude, we had Sherry Bugg ... mother of some of our young models.  Beauties, all.  If I hung all of their portraits together, I could call it my Bugg collection!  Sorry, girls, couldn't resist.  I did a quick charcoal, a small oil painting, and a pencil sketch.  She was a good model - wish I could have done her justice.  Some day, if I ever have the attention span longer than a gnat's, maybe I'll actually surprise myself.  Thanks again, Sherry.

         Oil - 8" x 10".
           Charcoal  12" x 16"
              Graphite  5" x 7"

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Mini Update

My 3" x 5" painting of Big Sur took a 3rd place at the miniature show in Mariposa.  I'm thrilled that I won something, but I'm not convinced that it was better than the paintings that didn't win.  Some real stiff competition there.  Here's the link to the winner's page of the Sierra Artist's Gallery web site:

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Joshua Tree N. P.

 I just got back from a week in the desert.  The campsite that we stayed in at Joshua Tree National Park, was called White Tank.  It's right at the edge of the Mojave Desert, where it meets the Colorado Desert (as can be seen in the top painting) ... those distant mountains were down the long gradual grade going into the Colorado Desert toward Mexico.
 It was both fun and challenging to paint in the desert.  The winds kept me from setting up my umbrella most days ... and my choices of colour took some real adjustment.  Making compositions was somewhat different, too.  The choices are kind of limited to rocks, cactus, Joshua Trees, or other Yucca plants.
 Until a few years ago I had never spent much time in the desert and thought that I would never like it.  I have an aversion to heat ... and I always thought of the desert as so desolate.  And, in ways, I suppose, it is.  But I've really learned to like it.  It's just so different.
Nature still sings its song, it's just that the melodies are carried by different characters ... the rocks and sky taking up the major part of the melody ~ compared to places like Yosemite, where the granite may have a strong voice, it's harmonized by the trees, and the rushing waterfalls carry an answering melody all its own.
In the desert, though, one has to listen carefully to the whole orchestra; thrilling in the subtle accents of the violet brush, the darting rush of the cottontails and lizards, the counterpoint of the distant hills, the bold, cold notes of the cast shadows of boulders, and the accompaniment of the white and golden sands.
 Days flew by and the nights were cold and windy .... but I'll be glad to spend another week in those "wastelands" any time.  I just need to figure out how to stabilize my easel and umbrella better.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Mini Me

The last couple of years I've skipped the annual Miniature Show that the Sierra Artist's Gallery sponsors.  I'm not really a detail guy ~ I'm more interested in the light, colour, and value contrasts of stuff, really.  This year, since I'd been painting so many Christmas ornaments and small Yosemite paintings, I figured that I'd do up a few things for the miniature show.  I was having so much fun with it, actually, that I made waaaaaay too many.  The maximum entry number is six.  I'd made about twenty.  I was able to weed out quite a few of them right off the bat, though, because of the one-sixth rule.  The object in the painting can be no more than one sixth of the size of the object.  Some of the things that I'd produced were flowers. The paintings would have to be very small to be one sixth of the size of the flowers. 

A few things that I did were simply things that I want to do large compositions of, but thought that I'd try them as miniatures first ... like my "Morning Steals Through" ... which is a stile that I pass frequently and it always makes me wonder about doing a composition of it.  I really liked the way that it turned out ... now I'm going to have to go and do a plein air of it.

Other subjects that always catch my eye around here are the farm animals.  There's a pasture of sheep in particular.  One afternoon, near dusk, I got some good pictures from which to work.  Perhaps I'll try to do them from life one day, too.

I also did a miniature version of the large charcoal that I did of Ben's cats last fall for his birthday.  The charcoal was 22" x 30" ... this painting was only about 5" x 7".  I about went cross-eyed trying to paint the details.  Oy.  It was a blast -- and made me rethink about doing details.  Just because I include a lot of details, doesn't mean that I have to make the painting look stiff and niggled.

There were three other pictures that I submitted ... but I'm not going to include them in this post.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Attempting Intimate Atmospheres

I did a sketch of Belinda and Meecah on the couch some time ago.  While I was drawing, I thought that it would make a nice little painting ~ but, due to time constraints, etc, I had to settle for taking a photo.  Here it is, almost two years later, and I finally got around to the painting (I accidentally ran into the photo on my computer and had the same reaction to the image ~ a soft, intimate moment in time ... like a poem lingering in the mind moments after reading it).
I've been trying to go a little deeper lately with my work ... it's not just about the image or the light ... but that extra dimension ~ the quality and handling of the paint itself.  Not just blurting out "here is my subject"  ... nor a great description of the subject ... but all of the adjectives and superlatives necessary to paint a piece of poetry about the ideas and feelings involved with the object ... and their time and space. 
Okay ... it sounds corny ... but I've been thinking about this for a long time and trying to get my head and paintbrushes around it.
In Sergei's book he describes paintings in terms of poetry (I can't remember the exact quotes, though).

So, this is my attempt at a poem in paint.  The light gave me some problems ... a cool light with very subtle shadows becoming warmer and almost esoteric in its moody dreaminess.  Okay, that was a whole can of corn.  Anyway ... it's still a work in progress ... it needs to be softened and lots of edge work, but it's getting there.  I'd like to thank Del for his support and input.  He gave me some advice that both steered me in the right direction, and cracked me up at the same time.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Mail Boxes

Last evening, while on a walk, the late afternoon sun hitting these mail boxes really struck my eye.  Beautiful light ~ and I just had to paint them.  I had intended for it to be a 30 - 45 minute sketch -- one of my "green" paintings ... but I ended up having so much fun that it only seemed like 30 minutes, but was actually about 3 hours.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Friday painting

Today, at the Gertrude Schoolhouse ... YWA Friday Painting Group, Kori posed for us ~ one of my favorite models.
Seems like time really accelerates when I'm concentrating so much.  Wish I could keep that level of concentration at the studio. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013


I should consult with my cats, I suppose, when it comes to doing still life paintings. They seem to know better than I what compositions are best.  Pfeffer was always rearranging things for me and inserting herself into paintings in ways that I hadn't imagined.  Kiah has taken over for Pfeffer (who is no longer with us - and so it goes), and is the subject of many of my sketches and paintings. 
Today while I was setting up a simple still life, Kiah hopped up onto the platform and put herself into the composition as if to say "what this picture really needs is a cat!"  And she was right.  She posed perfectly for about ten or fifteen minutes, letting me get a good gesture of her before putting her head down and going to sleep with her very loud purrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. Oil on canvas, mounted on illustration board - 6" x 11"

I was going to put some dried and dead sunflowers in the vase, but Kiah thought that they would be excellent to play with and wouldn't leave them alone ~ so, I left them out ... at least for now.  Maybe when she's not around I'll put them in.  Or was she trying to tell me to leave them out?  Wish I spoke cat a little better.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


Last Saturday I gave a demonstration at the YWA (Yosemite Western Artists) monthly meeting.  Mostly it was a motivational speech with a painting demonstration.  I talked a lot about painting daily ... not just working on commissions and whatever work was going on in the studio, but a daily exercise of 20 minutes to an hour.  I used my "green" paintings as an example ... several of which are represented here.

The presentation went very well.  I'm always surprised when I can get past that first few minutes of absolute terror, to a point where I'm completely at eas speaking to a crowded room.