Saturday, May 18, 2019

Taos Mentoring Workshop with Albert Handell October 2019

Taos, New Mexico - Painter's Paradise

I am pleased to be joining my mentor and good friend, Albert Handell, at his Taos Mentoring Workshop, October 6-12, 2019.   I've worked with Albert many times in the past, both as student and assistant, and I'm looking forward to working with him again.

If you haven't worked with him before, let me share with you a little about his mentoring workshops.  In these, he covers topics that aren't addressed in the all-level workshops, and he also covers the business of art.  What's more, he offers extensive critiques of participants' work.  I highly recommend this workshop to any painter who is serious about both craft and career.  This master painter, who recently received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2019 Plein Air Convention, has a great deal to offer the student.

Here is a description from his website on the workshop:
Join Albert Handell in this exciting 6-day indoor/outdoor mentoring/painting workshop. In the demonstration series you will see and learn what to select and emphasize and what to play down or even take out of your paintings in order to make a strong design statement, and work sensibly towards finish. It will be an opportunity to see how a Master Artist works in a studio setting and on location.
This is the 14th annual Taos Paint-A-Long mentoring program, Albert has painted there often and knows Taos and its area intimately.
The area has wonderful subject matter to paint, varying from the picturesque adobes; the farm/ranch museum at the Hacienda De Los Martinez; the thrilling road leading to the John Dunn Bridge at the base of the Rio Grande; beautiful, easy-to-get-to mountain streams; and the fantastic Rio Grande Gorge -- to list just some of the extensive subject matter available.
This will be an intense experience for everyone!  For full details on the Taos workshop, please visit

I've personally visited and painted Taos, New Mexico, several times, and it's always a treat, no matter the season.  (You can read about my previous adventures in Taos at this link.)  This workshop, in early October, should give us some good color.  If you've not been there before, I've included a few photos I've taken over the years. I hope to see you there!

The Rio Grande

Entry Gate to Mabel Dodge Luhan House

Rio Grande Gorge

Rio Grande near Pilar

Rio Grande Gorge

Taos Mountain

Mabel Dodge Luhan House

La Morada de Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe (Taos Morada)

San Francisco de Asis Mission Church

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Mindful Painting

Are you one of those painters who strokes repeatedly the same spot on the canvas?  Or one who continues to swirl the brush in a pile of paint on the canvas, blending a mixture that is already well-blended?  Chances are, you're just filling time with a pointless motion until the idea of what to do next comes to you.

When you paint, don't just pay attention to the subject before you but expand your awareness to include the thoughts that drive your brush.  I call this "mindful painting."  Mindful painting will help you pare down your process and make you a more efficient painter.  Does your stroking or blending have a purpose?  If not, stop and decide what will advance your painting.

The next trick, of course, is to become so mindful that you are no longer aware that you are so, and when this happens, the painting truly does become effortless-- and a joy.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Plein Air Painting Essential Tools: Sharpened Brush Handle

If you're like me, what you fear most about painting is having to sign your work.  You need focus and concentration, perhaps a mahl stick to steady the hand, and maybe even to practice first.  The method is prone to failure.  Many artists who paint their signature use a rigger (a long, fine-pointed brush) and paint made fluid with medium.  When I use a rigger, I usually go through several steps:

  • Darn, paint wasn't fluid enough (add more medium)
  • Darn, I added too much medium (add more paint)
  • Darn, signature is too light (or too dark) (wipe it off, tweak the mixture and re-do)
  • Darn, I messed up the signature (wipe it off and re-do)
  • Darn, I messed it up again ( wipe it off and re-do)
  • Darn, I didn't get quite enough paint in the "J" (repaint the letter)

And in the end, it looks like a third-grader made it.

My preference is to use the end of the brush handle to scratch in my signature—it's almost as easy as writing with a pencil.  I think many artists, especially plein air painters, use this method, too.  But I've improved on it.  I sharpen the end of my brush with a pencil sharpener, making for a sharper point.  This lets me scratch down through more paint, even if I've toned the canvas in advance, right to the ground.  So long as the paint hasn't totally cured and is somewhat soft, this works.  The ground shows up white (or nearly so, if the canvas was toned).

Here's a signature scratched in with the sharpened brush handle.

Worse comes to worst, and the signature isn't clear enough, I can still paint the signature over it.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Two Arizona Plein Air Painting Workshops

Yes, I know it's only May, and for parts of the country, winter is taking its sweet time saying goodbye.  (A few more inches of snow are expected today in the Sangre de Cristo mountains around Santa Fe and Taos, New Mexico.)  Even so, it's time to look forward—beyond summer, and into fall.  My summer plein air painting workshops are nearly full, but my two fall workshops at Grand Canyon and Sedona still have space.  If you'd like to paint some Southwest scenery with me, read on!

October 23-26, 2019:  Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

I can't speak enough about the sweeping beauty of Grand Canyon.  From the South Rim, where the workshop is based, you can see stunning vistas of the pastel-colored cliffs of the distant North Rim.  In the morning, as the sun rises, or in the evening, as it sets, the pastel colors give way to a deeper, richer palette.   Buttes and cliffs cast violet shadows across the pink and yellow cliff walls.  The Colorado River peeks out here and there along the bottom, a mile below.  Ravens play overhead, and the occasional condor soars alone over the deeper canyon where thermals help lift it ever higher.  Last year at the workshop, we were treated to a rare sight:  desert bighorn sheep, feeding and napping on a cliff a hundred feet below.

A lot of painters are intimidated by the grandeur of this place.  To be sure, standing on the edge, looking north across ten miles of canyon with ten times that distance stretching out east and west, makes a painter ask:  "Where do I even start?"  After having painted there myself countless times, I've learned how to deal with it to my satisfaction and pleasure, and I will share my approach in this workshop.  Also, as part of the Grand Canyon Conservancy's annual "Celebration of Art" invitiational, I've hunted out and discovered many spots where we can get away from the crowds and have these stunning views all to ourselves.  I'd love to share them with you.

This workshop is very special in that it is authorized by the National Park Service and is sponsored by the Grand Canyon Conservancy's Field Institute.  We'll have access to spots the public can't drive to without a special permit, and better yet, we'll be transported by van to these locations.  The workshop fee also includes free camping at the Canyon, if you like to camp.  If you're not a camper, you have plenty of other lodging options, all the way from the world-class El Tovar hotel to more modest hotels and also private cabins, all right on the rim.

I am honored that this organization has selected me to teach this all-level plein air painting workshop.  I hope you'll join me.  You can find full details at

Here's a little video of the last workshop.  (Can't see the video?  See it on YouTube here - )

November 5-8, 2019:  Sedona, Arizona

My favorite time for painting the Southwest is fall.  Not just because the weather is cooler, but because the fall color can be spectacular, especially when seen against Sedona's stunning red rocks.  Having lived and painted in Sedona for ten years, and having participated in the annual Sedona Plein Air Festival invitational for nine years, I know every rock and crevice intimately within 20 miles.

If you've not been to Sedona before, you'll be overwhelmed by the beauty of its natural areas.  Trails wind through juniper and manzanita, with every turn revealing an unexpected vista.  Creeks slide with a whisper beneath smooth-skinned sycamores and rugged cottonwoods.  Although we won't be hiking more than a hundred feet or so from the parking lot, you'll see much that will inspire you.

In this workshop, I'll share my love of the landscape with you as we explore the area's vistas, canyons and creeks—and I'll also share my method for "capturing the moment" quickly and efficiently but without sacrificing mood or magic.  Each day goes from 9 to 1.  After a lecture and critique session in the studio, we'll head to one of my favorite spots where I'll demonstrate, followed by painting time for you.  As always, when our session ends, you can keep on painting—I'll gladly critique what you do the next day—or you can go exploring with friends and family or just on your own.  This all-level plein air painting workshop is a great introduction to painting the Southwest landscape.

There is plenty of lodging in Sedona.  Our studio also offers lodging to students, but the number of spots is very limited, so I urge you to sign up early.  You can find full details at

Here's a little video of some of the workshops I've taught there.  (Can't see the video?  See it on YouTube here - )

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

We Have An Opening - Special Plein Air Painting Retreat in Coastal Maine, August 2019

UPDATE: We've just had an opening in the Painting Retreat scheduled for August 11-16 this summer (2019).  If you are interested, please let me know right away, as this spot will be filled soon.  Do not contact West Quoddy Station for lodging just yet; contact me first at

I invite you to join us for a very special plein air painting retreat for experienced painters this summer. Unlike my usual workshops in Lubec, this retreat will be five luxurious days long, giving us plenty of outdoor painting time. Our base camp will be at the beautifully-renovated West Quoddy Station, a historic US Coast Guard campus right on the water. I have reserved the entire week for our retreat, with check-in on Sunday, August 11, and departure on Friday, August 16, for a total of five nights. (And of course, you are more than welcome to extend your stay!)

Here's a short video about the retreat:

(Can't see the video?  Here is a link.)

The Station offers many choices for lodging as there are several buildings. Some are apartments for singles or couples; others are cottages for one or two couples; the Station House has five bedrooms. (All units have kitchens.) Because of the variety, I urge you to bring not just yourself but your painting buddies. If you are a member of a painting group, please extend this invitation to your members. You can find full details and pictures plus pricing on the compound at

The Station is perfectly located for our retreat, as it is right next to Quoddy Head State Park with its trails and lighthouse. If you've never been to this park before, it offers stunning views of the Grand Manan Channel with rocky cliffs and rugged beaches as well as interior trails that wind through bogs and spruce forests. Like I tell my students, I could spend the whole week painting just there! The Station itself, of course, has many picturesque possibilities for us painters.

A short drive from the Station takes you to Lubec, a historic village with a working waterfront that includes fish houses and lobster boats. Lubec also has several restaurants and shops, as well as a nearby medical center and grocery store. (Check out for more information.) Beyond Lubec, there are several trailheads that offer painting opportunities, such as Hamilton Beach and Boot Head. You will need a passport, as we will visit my studio on nearby Campobello Island, which is in Canada, and also paint in the Roosevelt-Campobello International Park, which has 3000 acres of natural beauty. You won't want this retreat to end!

Each day will start at 8 a.m. with critiques of the previous day's paintings. Following this, I will give some helpful pointers on painting in the area. After that, we'll paint as a group for the morning. Although I won't be giving any formal instruction, I will be offering demonstrations to anyone who wants to watch, serving as your local guide to painting locations, and also painting along with you. After lunchtime, I will give you optional painting assignments for the afternoon. Or, if you prefer not to paint, you can explore—go on a whale watch, take a hike, or visit some of the other villages.

To hold your space for the retreat, you will need to send a $150 non-refundable deposit. The price of the retreat is $300, which does not include lodging or meals. Please e-mail me at first to make sure I have space, and at that time I will give you information about where to send the deposit. After I receive your deposit, I will send a confirmation letter with details. Final payment is due one month before the retreat starts.

I'm looking forward to this retreat, as it is so different from my usual workshops here in Lubec. I hope you'll join us!