Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Lunch with Albert

By now, most people who read the art magazines have heard that Albert Handell turned 70 this year and has had a very important retrospective at the Butler Institute. He's had three articles on him appear at nearly the same time in the major journals. I've long admired his work, both oil and pastel, and he certainly deserves all the attention he's getting!

I am currently on my way back from the Sedona Plein Air Festival, but spending a few days in Santa Fe. The little casita I'm renting is only a block or so from Ventana Fine Art, where Albert displays his work in town. I didn't know, or perhaps I had forgotten, that Ventana has a large solo show of his work at the moment. Imagine my surprise, when I walked into the gallery yesterday and saw wall after wall of his wonderful work! (I've been back several times during my stay to study them.)

I have to stop a moment and explain my relationship with Albert. I took a workshop once from him several years ago. At one of the evening sessions, where he critiqued slides of our work, one of my pastel paintings suddenly flashed on the screen. My painting was of rocks. "Nice colour," he said, "but, Oy! those rocks!" I suppose that meant my rocks were frighteningly unbelievable. He suggested I go paint rocks for a year.

Since then, I've had a chance to communicate with him about one thing or another with some regularity in my capacity as writer and art instructor. When I saw the show at Ventana, it occurred to me that I might be able to schedule a visit to his studio -- if, that is, he was actually in town, wasn't busy and wouldn't mind a visit from a past student and admirer. That's a huge "if," since Albert has a full workshop schedule and an equally full painting schedule.

As luck would have it -- and Albert said that I was very, very lucky indeed -- he was in town, and although he was frantic before leaving on Thursday, he asked me over. I could tell he was raised in the big city, because when he asked where I was, he gave me extremely detailed directions. "See you in 15 minutes," he said, "maybe sooner!"

Visiting his studio is an inspiration. Albert is a very hard worker. One long shelf has file after file of photos or sketches, all organized by subject matter: "Trees," "Alabama," and so on. Other shelves have half-finished plein air pastel pieces stacked up in an orderly way, still with the masking tape holding the paper on the backing board. In the center of the studio, he has two set-ups, one for pastel, another for oil. I don't remember exactly, but the palette for his oil painting seemed as big as an office desk with little, neat piles of dried colours around the edge. The pastel table had hundreds if not tens of hundreds of pastels, all neat in their boxes. He reminded me how he chooses his medium. "I do oil only in the studio, never outside. I do pastel outside." Around the edge of the room were many oils, framed and ready to go to another show.

Seeing the paintings framed, I asked him how he paints for a show. "I don't paint for a show. I go through my inventory and pick what I like. Are you hungry? Do you want lunch?"

I explained I'd already had lunch. "How about coffee?" Sure, that'd be fine. "Good! We'll take your car."

Off we went, to a local cafe. I knew he was a regular, because the cashier called him "Alberto." He ordered two eggs with a bowl of black beans; I had some black coffee. "Have you tried these beans? They're great! Here, taste." He pushed a spoonful at me, and indeed, they were delicious. We talked about art, painting techniques, books, workshops -- the usual stuff artists may talk about. One thing I remember very clearly. Albert reminded me that he is very, very busy -- "But I am also very, very organized. " Besides his genius, I believe that his skill of organization is the real key to his success.

After lunch, we said our goodbyes, and I left with the good feeling that Albert is a sincere man. Why? At that one workshop I took with him, he explained his philosophy of teaching. He said something like this: "My teachers, who were very generous with their time, said they didn't want me to pay them back. They wanted me to pay them forward. They told me to be generous with my students, too. And that's what I am doing -- paying it forward." And that's exactly what he did by having lunch with me and letting me visit his studio, as busy as he was.

Due to copyright issues, I won't post any of his images here. But, you can see them on his website at www.alberthandell.com and also at the Ventana Fine Art Gallery site, www.ventanafineart.com. For a limited time, you can also view the solo show pieces here: http://www.ventanafineart.com/shows.asp?sid=27

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Sedona 07 - Framed Pieces

Before the galleries opened to the public in Sedona, I took snapshots of my framed pieces. I thought you might like to see them, so I've posted them here.

(I was not able to tune my camera's white balance adjustment as much as I would have liked, and even though I've made some adjustments in PhotoShop, the color is still off a bit. I just wanted to give you an idea of how the pieces look framed.)

These are all 9x12 oils.

"Capitol Butte (Thunder Mountain)":


"Creek Whispers":


"Mitten Ridge Shadows":


"Peaceful Bend":


"Water Song":

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Sedona 07 - Day 8

It's over! I stopped by the Art Center just after dawn to park my car and go for a walk. The volunteers were already there -- this was around 7 am -- and were rehanging the art that they had moved from the Gala at the L'Auberge resort during the night. Some volunteers were fresh, others were clearly tired from the long days. I wandered out for a walk in Uptown to see the early morning sun on the red rocks.

After grabbing a cup of coffee from Ravenheart Coffee, I went back to the Art Center. I wanted to wash my brushes before the event started at 9. I haven't washed my brushes all week, which is a first for me. I was surprised that, after 10 paintings, the brushes were still pliable! I got everything cleaned up, donated my can of Turpenoid to the Center (I can't take it on the plane) and then joined the arriving artists.

I took a few photos of the show before the crowds arrived. Here are my paintings hanging in the primary gallery. I'm sandwiched between William Scott Jennings and Raleigh Kinney.

Here are my backup paintings, plus the Quick Draw, hanging in the second gallery. That's Tom Lynch doing some quick rehanging in his section.

The crowds arrived promptly at 9. There was little rest for the weary as we talked with patrons and potentional patrons. Pizza arrived around noontime for us artists. More talk...and by 3, it was all over.

There's not much more to add, except that it was a great week. I painted a lot of good paintings (some will be for sale on my website when I get back to New Brunswick), met a lot of really good artists, made some new friends, and enjoyed the hospitality of the workers at the Sedona Art Center. I would like to thank in particular my hosts, Janet and Peter Fagan, who really made this trip special.

Now that it's over, I'm heading for Santa Fe. I'll be spending a few days there, gallery-hopping, and renewing my acquaintance with that area. The weather looks like it'll be cooler there. I'll finally have a chance to wear all the turtlenecks I brought to Sedona!

Sedona 07 - Day 7

From the conversations I had with other artists, the Quick Draw is something to dread. It seems popular at these plein air festivals.

You're under the gun. Not only is there a deadline -- two hours to start and finish a painting, followed by one hour to frame and to get the piece to the gallery -- but you have the public. You're in a performance in which it is not just permissible for but expected that the audience interact with you. It can be a big challenge! Fortunately, as a workshop instructor, I have a great deal of experience with both. My demonstrations are usually under an hour, and I'm comfortable in having a dialogue with students while I paint. I think most of the other artists at the Festival are in this situation, and so these should be just minor points.

The real problem is that you have no chance to edit your work. You can't let it sit on a shelf for a day so you can analyze it at your leisure; nor do you have the opportunity to put a lesser painting in the "Let's Call This One a Study" bin; and for one that really went into the ditch, you can't just scrape it down.

After a short, mind-clearing hike on the Huckaby Trail at Schnebly Hill at dawn, I headed out. Parking is limited at L'Auberge, so artists were requested to park at a local church and take a pre-arranged shuttle to the painting spot. Since we arrived so early -- 8:30, with the Quick Draw not until 10 -- Betty Carr and I decided to park on Main Street and then hike down the 100-foot staircase to L'Auberge. (The L'Auberge resort sits on Oak Creek, deep in a canyon behind the shops you see on Main Street. There is a little-known funicular railway that can take you down in a small, 4-person car, but I haven't seen it operating all week. The staircase isn't bad at all, since the descent -- and subsequent climb -- is moderated by several switchbacks.) Once there, we found our spots, set up our gear and then wandered off to find coffee. I set up by what's called the "Wedding Tree". It's a giant Arizona sycamore that spreads its huge limbs over a lush lawn.

At 10, I started and was immediately beset by viewers. My location was right by L'Auberge's restaurant, and it was a spot with a lot of traffic. However, my painting went well, and I was quite pleased with it at the end. Comments were very favourable.

After delivering the framed piece to the gallery, I took off, grabbed a bite to eat and took a hike in Soldier's Pass. I didn't have much time, as we had to be back at L'Auberge, who was hosting the Gala, by 4 to vote for the Artist's Choice award. (In case you're curious, no, I didn't get it. It went to Michael Obermeyer, for a beautiful painting of a moonrise.) This time, I took the shuttle, as I didn't want to be hiking up and down the hill at night.

I was very impressed with this year's paintings. The quality, even with many of the same painters working, was a couple of notches up over last year's. There was some very exciting work, and much of it was inspiring. I think everyone felt this. Even though we were all tired from the week, it was re-energizing to see so much great art in one place. In fact, as the evening light lit up the red rock hills around us, several of us remarked how we felt like we wanted to go painting!

I had a great time, and I met some very nice patrons. L'Auberge did a superb job with the food and the venue. We artists were weary after the event. But we probably weren't as weary as the "schlepping team" will be on Sunday morning! After the event, volunteers were going to take down the entire show -- 120 paintings, minus the ones that sold -- and move it back to the Sedona Art Center for Sunday's Public Sale.

Tomorrow: the Public Sale, from 9 to 3. This will be the really big day. I remember when the doors opened at 9 last year, we had a flood of collectors from Phoenix, Scottsdale and even Manhattan who wanted the first crack at some truly great art. I'll definitely need a supply of coffee!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Sedona 07 - Day 6

Framing was the big order of the day today. This sometimes-arduous task was looming ahead, and until I'd dealt with it, I really couldn't see myself focussing on another painting. So, right after a short walk into the Soldier's Pass trailhead -- the sunrise lit up the red rocks that tower up on either side of the trail in a spectacular way -- I drove off to my favourite framing spot.

Framing requires a lot of space. Last year, I found the group picnic tables at the Sedona Community Center to be ideal. There's no one there most of the day, so you can have your pick of vistas. Big tables in the shade, convenient trash barrels and rest rooms, plus a view of the red rocks -- what more could you ask for? It's also a good spot for touch-up. I did a little touch-up on a few of the paintings, and then got to work framing. Here's me at work, plus a shot of a few pieces framed:

By the way, framing on the road requires not just space but also organization and planning. Before I flew out to Sedona, I made sure to pre-load my Fletcher Framemaster and to order screw-eyes and hanging wire with my frames. The one thing I didn't have was a Sharpie, which I use to sign the back of the paintings, plus to add title, date and the letters "e.p.a." (I put this on the back of all my plein air pieces -- "e.p.a." means "en plein air.") I picked one of these up at Basha's, where I went later to buy a salad at the deli for lunch.

After framing, I headed out to Red Rock Crossing. Although it costs $8 to enter the park, it's worth it, even for just a morning. (My framed pieces were due at the Art Center between 4 and 6 pm.) As with the day before, I loaded up my backpack and hiked in. I did some considerable hiking this time before I found a spot I liked. It was deep in the woods and by a stream. Here's the painting, although I did some minor touch-up on it later after taking this photo:

I finished up around 2, including framing this last painting. After driving back into town, I took a walk down to L'Auberge to scope out a spot for the Quick Draw event on Saturday. I made the mistake of sitting in a chair by the creek to watch the ducks for a moment, and nearly fell asleep. I was mesmerized by the slowing-moving water and the motion of little, fallen leaves travelling through the eddies. I suppose I was also a little tired from the week. A pair of ducks loudly mating stirred me out of my reverie. I then hiked back up to the main road (a steep climb of a 100 feet or so) and bought an iced coffee.

I delivered the framed pieces to the Art Center. The process involves picking out what you consider to be your top three pieces and then to number the remaining ones as "backups." I'll try to take good photos of these framed and in place during the Patron's Gala on Saturday.

The day ended with a dinner party at the Art Center's Executive Director's home, where we had not only excellent food but also excellent views. We watched the full moon rising behind Cathedral Rock. If only I'd had my camera! Or perhaps we all should have painted nocturnes.

Tomorrow: the much-dreaded Quick Draw, followed by the much-anticipated Patron's Gala.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Sedona 07 - Day 5

Another warm and beautiful day. After yesterday's mishap, I decided to go to a calm place where it would be quiet and lovely so I could regain my focus. I drove out to Red Rock State Park. It opens at 8 a.m., well before most tourists are up and about. I knew I could get a painting done before it got too busy.

I'd visited and painted the park last year. I remembered from one hike some beautiful, old Arizona sycamores that I wanted to paint. Reaching them required a hike, so I reconfigured my backpack and equipment so I could carry everything on my back. I never did find the sycamores -- I must have missed a turn -- but I did find a sunlit grassy field, a cottonwood in its autumn finery, and a backdrop of red rock. Painting this one was like meditation. Every brush stroke was as easy as taking a breath. This 9x12 oil will definitely be one of my top three for the week.

By the way, here are two photos I took at that spot. One is my easel set-up at the location, and the other a photo of this happy painter. (I have a very long arm.)


It was lunchtime when I finished, so I drove back into town to dine with the other artists at The Orchards, a restaurant that is run by L'Auberge, the Festival's main sponsor this year. Lunch was superb -- French onion soup, grilled chicken on a bed of lettuce with dried cherries and apples, followed by a huge slab of cheesecake. I sat with Cody DeLong and commiserated over Wednesday's efforts. Cody, too, had suffered Wednesday, and noted he'd actually scraped out one painting. This is not a bad practice, as it wipes the mental slate clean, too, and gives you a fresh start.

Although it was tempting to take a siesta after the big lunch, I headed back to the park. I wanted to paint water again -- it was 85 degrees -- and I had spotted a bridge wide enough for me with room for people to pass. This painting came easily, too, and it will also be one of my top three.

While painting, my paint box suddenly began to jerk left and right every time I laid down a stroke. Examination showed that a certain screw had loosened on the tripod's quick-release head. The manufacturer had given me a special wrench to tighten this. I had used it just once, back when I assembled the tripod for the first time. I'd put it in the tripod's carrying bag and never taken it out again. But when I looked for it, it was gone. My left hand has had lots of practice steadying the umbrella in this week's wind, so it was ready to steady my box, too.

On the way home, I had to track down a hardware store so I could buy an Allen wrench. I also stopped by the Sedona Art Center to pick up my frame order from King of Frame. Finally, I also did a load of laundry, since I was on Day Seven of a seven-day supply of clothes. By the way, I did not clean my brushes. In fact, I haven't cleaned them all week! That is a time-consuming task and hard to do when you're bone-tired at the day's end. All my brushes are either green or red. But you know, I've found it doesn't matter! I'm still able to lay down clean colour. This is an important discovery. The only issue, I suppose, is paint drying on the brushes. Painting every day keeps the brushes wet. Once I see a break coming in my daily routine, most likely after the Quick Draw on Saturday, I'll give them a good lathering.

Tomorrow: Framing. And then we drop off our finished, framed pieces at SAC between 4 and 6. I'm hoping to paint one more winner before I frame.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Sedona 07 - Day 4

Jerome, Arizona -- "Road Open 365 Days a Year" says the sign as you enter town -- reminds me of one of my old mountain haunts, Cloudcroft, New Mexico, but with more shops, galleries and restaurants. Whereas Cloudcroft sits on a plateau of sorts, Jerome occupies a hilltop, and it's a good idea to set your parking brake no matter where you stop!

I arrived in town around 8:30 and, having never been there before, I thought I'd scope out painting spots. However, the day was heating up quickly, and I saw all kinds of good stuff to paint. I enjoy painting old buildings, and Jerome has plenty of them. Before it got too hot, I set up my easel and went to work. Another reason I got started was the traffic. Most of the parking spaces were empty, but I sensed that they would fill quickly. Sure enough, by the time I finished, every space was taken. None of the vehicles, all modern-day sedans and pickups, made it into the painting. Putting them in would have spoiled the period of history I was trying to evoke. Here's my 9x12 oil, "Zip," so named because of the restaurant sign:

The restaurants of Jerome gave all the artists a free lunch. I had lunch at Haunted Hamburger in the Jerome Palace with Carolyn Hesse-Low and Michael Obermeyer. What did we artists talk about this time? Neither art nor the business of art. Because both Carolyn and Michael live in southern California, we talked about wildfire. Southern California is being ravaged by the fiercest fires in memory. Both artists have studios, homes and family that are being threatened. When I asked, they said it was indeed difficult if not impossible to focus on painting. I felt badly, because all I had to worry about back home was Trina and Saba getting lonely.

After a superb grilled veggie sandwich and nearly a gallon of ice tea, I headed out. My car thermometer read 84 degrees, so I thought I'd leave the sun and go to Oak Creek Canyon north of Sedona. Surely that would be cooler, I thought. I stopped at Grasshopper Point and found a shaded spot right by the water. However, it didn't seem cooler at all. The still air and the canyon walls trapped the heat. I was sweating even in the shade. I liked my scene -- aspens and an Arizona sycamore beside the sun-dappled creek -- but I just couldn't pull it off to my satisfaction.

I'll post the painting below, despite my sense that it's not quite right yet. Consider it education -- I certainly do! I believe my problem was that I was equally interested in the glowing oranges of the water, the bright leaves of the aspens and the near-luminescent bark of the sycamore. Instead of pinning down one center of interest, I think I tried to have three! (Should I blame it on the heat?) I do think the painting can be saved, though. I will put it aside and take another look at it later. Here it is:

By 5 pm, I was beat. This painting gig is almost like a 9-to-5 job! Tomorrow, I have a full day of painting ahead of me, plus the frames I ordered (from King of Frame) will be arriving in the late afternoon. I'll have to pick them up and start wiring them, in preparation for framing. Do people really think that this art business isn't work?

Alaskan King Crab for dinner made up for everything, though.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Sedona 07 - Day 3

After coffee and banana bread provided by my thoughtful hosts -- some lucky artists get more than just a bed! -- I drove out at dawn toward Oak Creek to the Little Horse Trail for a hike. This trail winds through a small canyon and then up into the hills where you have views of Cathedral Rock, the Courthouse, Bell Rock and the dramatic Chapel of the Holy Cross. After my hike, I drove over to the day's preplanned painting spot, the Sedona Heritage Museum.

The Festival organizers, in an effort to make the painters accessible to the public, have asked the painters to work in certain spots during the week. Not only will this help educate the public about plein air painting, it will also help sales. (We have a Showcase Gallery currently running with both studio and older plein air work; at the week's end, for art made during the week, we'll have the Patron's Gala and the Public Sale.) The Sedona Heritage Museum was one such location, and the volunteers who run it made a nice lunch to lure the artists in.

Although I've been to Sedona several times, both as a painter and as a "civilian," I've not been to the Museum before. I was impressed by the grounds. The Museum is the old Jordan farm, complete with a farmhouse and apple barn, both built out of the local red rock, plus antique farm machinery, and of course, great views. It was good enough to spend the whole day there.

Once again, the wind was an issue. For my morning painting, I really liked the house's sunlit porch, but to get the view I wanted, I had to paint in probably the windiest spot! Other painters enjoyed watching me paint with one hand and steady my tripod with the other. (I offered to pay $5 to have someone hold my umbrella for me, but I didn't get any takers.) Here's my 9x12 oil of the porch. By the way, all of these photos are taken with the painting still wet, so it's hard to avoid glare.
After lunch, I found a shaded and wind-free spot beside the apple barn with a view of the house and distant Mitten Ridge. More onlookers came by than in my morning session. I don't have a problem with this, since I give demonstrations regularly in my workshops. I like sharing what I've learned over the years about painting. Sometimes I think that talking while I paint, so long as the talk is about the process, actually helps me make a better painting. Here is the afternoon 9x12:

I was pretty beat by the time I finished this one. I packed up and headed home, where I had dinner with my hosts. (Some of us not only get a bed plus breakfast, but dinner, too!)

Wednesday will be a day in Jerome, 20 miles south of Sedona. Last year, several painters went to Jerome and returned with some good paintings of that historic mining town. I'm looking forward to seeing what I can catch!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Sedona 07 - Day 2

After a bowl of oatmeal at a Main Street diner, I headed out on Route 179 for the Village of Oak Creek and a road that turned to dirt and dead-ended at Oak Creek. We were having another day of wind, and I figured the trees around the creek would shelter me. Parking is not allowed at the end, so I had to park at the approved, official parking spot a quarter-mile up the road and hike down.

Just across the creek was the Crescent Moon picnic area and Red Rock Crossing, but both were inaccessible from where I stood, thanks to the creek waters. To get to that side of the creek, you'd have to take a different road out of Sedona (89A) and go in basically the opposite direction. I had a great view, though: the broad creek with yellowing cottonwoods arching over it, and Cathedral Rock rising up in the distance. Soon after I set up, two other painters arrived -- but on the other side of the creek. All we could do with the water between us was wave a greeting.

I set up on a broad shelf of flat, red rock with a view of a small waterfall cascading over an exposed rock ledge. Although I had a grand view, I chose this intimate one. I really liked the warm color of the submerged rock, especially where the sun hit it, and the cool purples of the reflected sky beneath the waterfall. I made the above 9x12 oil.

After finishing up, I took a hike on the Turkey Trail, not too far away. This year I'm carrying a cell phone, and I was surprised to find I had "three bars" in the middle of nowhere! I couldn't see a house, a utility pole or any sign of technology. (I called Trina in Canada and left a message stating this. It's amazing how technology can help us spend our idle time so wisely. I've observed this also in airports.)

At lunchtime, I went to the Basha's supermarket and picked up a veggie salad at the deli. I took it to the Community Center picnic area, which I found last year to be a great place to organize and frame. The place is empty during the workday, so I had it all to myself. I opened up boxes, framed a piece for my host (hosted artists give art in exchange for a bed), and looked over paperwork. Later in the week, I'll do all my framing there.

I rested a bit in the afternoon, catching up on my stack of New Yorkers that I lugged along. I waited until 4 to go back out to where I had painted Sunday evening. As I mentioned in yesterday's entry, I had gotten only the block-in done, and I wanted to finish. This location sports a good view of Capitol Butte. But better yet, it has a dog park. By 5, dogs were already at play, barking, yelping and having a great time. Once in awhile, someone would play a little rough, and I'd hear a dog owner say something like "Hey, cut it out!" I kept thinking of my dog, Saba, and wondering how she'd like a dog park.

Here's my 9x12 oil of Capitol Butte:


We had a group dinner for artists at Los Abrigados Resort & Spa. Other than our orientation meeting on Sunday, this was our first group event. I sat at a table with Scott Prior, William Scott Jennings, Carolyn Hesse-Low, Doug Moran, Billyo O'Donnell, Brian Stewart and Jeannette LeGrue. What do artists talk about when they get together? Not about the proper use of Ultramarine Blue. Rather than craft, we talked about shows, awards and money -- the business end of art.

Before I forget, here is my painting I did at the first paintout on Sunday morning. I did this from the back of the Sinagua Plaza downtown. This 9x12 oil is a view of the Mitten Ridge:



So...what's your favourite?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Sedona 07 - Day 1

Sedona is one busy place this time of year. Apparently, Folks in Phoenix don't have much in the way of autumn foliage, so they drive up to Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon to see the cottonwoods turn yellow. I drove down the Canyon from Flagstaff on Saturday. Traffic was heavy and slow, but slow wasn't bad, because it gave me an opportunity to see just how well the colour is progressing. It looks to be nearly peak. Locals are saying it's one of the best foliage seasons they can remember. It'll be a great week to capture it on canvas.

This is the 3rd Annual Sedona Plein Air Festival (www.sedonapleinairfestival.com). In case you're not familiar with this prestigious event, participation is by invitation only. Once again, I'm honoured to be one of 30 invited artists. You can see a list of the artists here and visit the links to their websites. I'll be rubbing elbows with the best and brightest!

I didn't come right to Sedona, though. On Wednesday, I flew into Albuquerque, New Mexico, and drove south to Ruidoso to visit my friend, Ann Templeton. I also stopped by our storage unit -- after nearly two years, Trina and I still haven't completed our move to Canada -- to pick up some frames and other items I stashed there after last year's festival. It was good to relax a bit before what I'm sure will be an intense week.

Saturday was a long, 9-hour drive. From Ruidoso, I took the scenic route through old New Mexico towns with names like Datil, Quemado, Pietown (famous for its pies) and Springerville, Arizona. Once in Sedona, I checked in with my hosts, had a nice dinner with them and then went right to bed. (My body is still on Atlantic Time.) On Sunday, I met the other 29 artists at the Sedona Art Center for an orientation.

As you may recall, last year we had a leisurely start to the week. Our morning orientation was followed in the evening by a social at Red Rock state Park. Between the two, we had several hours to get our bearings. This year, though, we were put under the gun right away. Immediately following orientation, we had our first paint-out -- on Main Street, which was bumper-to-bumper with tourists!

As a teacher, I'm pretty comfortable with people watching me paint. What made me uncomfortable, though, was the gale-force wind. It was so strong that the folks running the sign-in tent decided not to put up the tent for fear of being blown to Oz. You can imagine what we painters were up against. I took a sheltered spot on a balcony with a view. The only drawback was that the shade, and what little breeze found me was chilling. I really could have used a bit of sun. (Warmer temperatures are due to return in a couple of days.) Because of the chill, I had to work fast. Visitors were amazed at what I did in an hour. (One remarked, "The others are still just getting set up.") Even though it was a quick one, I'm very happy with it. I don't have a photo just yet, as I'm waiting for the wind to die down a bit before trying to photograph it.

After the paintout, I took a drive to refamiliarize myself with painting spots. I found some good ones last year that I wanted to remember. I also wanted to visit some of the new spots that are on the "suggested locations" list the organizers gave us.

In the evening, the wind was still howling, but I wanted to paint the evening light. I found a bit of shade on the lee side of a juniper with a view of a formation near the Coffeepot. Sedona is famous for the odd names of these red rock formations -- "Coffeepot," "Snoopy" and "Battleship" are just a few. I don't know what the name of this particular hill is, but it will be important to find out the names for all the paintings I do this week. The most-asked question I had last year from potential buyers at the final sale was, "What rock is that?" Strangely, this seems to be very important to the buyer, and if you don't know, they are disappointed enough to move on to an artist who does know.

I didn't finish this painting. I got as far as the block-in and capturing the feeling of light and the quality of the colour when shade got just too cold again. The temperature drops fast in the desert when the sun starts to go down. My plan is to go back this evening around the same time to finish it off.

Finally, after dinner, I went right to bed. Monday, I have most of the day free to paint and explore. Our only planned event is dinner for the artists at 7 at Los Abrigados. I'll see if I can stay awake that long!

I'll be posting daily entries to my blog as the week progresses. I'll post photos of the paintings I do plus photos of some of our group activities. I'm sorry I don't have any photos just yet, so I leave you with this photo from last year:

Sedona 07 - Day 1


Sedona is one busy place this time of year. Apparently, Folks in Phoenix don't have much in the way of autumn foliage, so they drive up to Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon to see the cottonwoods turn yellow. I drove down the Canyon from Flagstaff on Saturday. Traffic was heavy and slow, but slow wasn't bad, because it gave me an opportunity to see just how well the colour is progressing. It looks to be nearly peak. Locals are saying it's one of the best foliage seasons they can remember. It'll be a great week to capture it on canvas.

This is the 3rd Annual Sedona Plein Air Festival. In case you're not familiar with this prestigious event, participation is by invitation only. Once again, I'm honoured to be one of 30 invited artists. You can see a list of the artists here and visit the links to their websites. I'll be rubbing elbows with the best and brightest!

I didn't come right to Sedona, though. On Wednesday, I flew into Albuquerque, New Mexico, and drove south to Ruidoso to visit my friend, Ann Templeton. I also stopped by our storage unit -- after nearly two years, Trina and I still haven't completed our move to Canada -- to pick up some frames and other items I stashed there after last year's festival. It was good to relax a bit before what I'm sure will be an intense week.

Saturday was a long, 9-hour drive. From Ruidoso, I took the scenic route through old New Mexico towns with names like Datil, Quemado, Pietown (famous for its pies) and Springerville, Arizona. Once in Sedona, I checked in with my hosts, had a nice dinner with them and then went right to bed. (My body is still on Atlantic Time.) On Sunday, I met the other 29 artists at the Sedona Art Center for an orientation.

As you may recall, last year we had a leisurely start to the week. Our morning orientation was followed in the evening by a social at Red Rock state Park. Between the two, we had several hours to get our bearings. This year, though, we were put under the gun right away. Immediately following orientation, we had our first paint-out -- on Main Street, which was bumper-to-bumper with tourists!

As a teacher, I'm pretty comfortable with people watching me paint. What made me uncomfortable, though, was the gale-force wind. It was so strong that the folks running the sign-in tent decided not to put up the tent for fear of being blown to Oz. You can imagine what we painters were up against. I took a sheltered spot on a balcony with a view. The only drawback was the shade, because it made what little breeze found me chilling. I really could have used a bit of sun. (Warmer temperatures are due to return in a couple of days.) Because of the chill, I had to work fast. Visitors were amazed at what I did in an hour. (One remarked, "The others are still just getting set up.") Even though it was a quick one, I'm very happy with it. I don't have a photo just yet, as I'm waiting for the wind to die down a bit before trying to photograph it.

After the paintout, I took a drive to refamiliarize myself with painting spots. I found some good ones last year that I wanted to remember. I also wanted to visit some of the new spots that are on the "suggested locations" list the organizers gave us.

In the evening, the wind was still howling, but I wanted to paint the evening light. I found a bit of shade on the lee side of a juniper with a view of a formation near the Coffeepot. Sedona is famous for the odd names of these red rock formations -- "Coffeepot," "Snoopy" and "Battleship" are just a few. I don't know what the name of this particular hill is, but it will be important to find out the names for all the paintings I do this week. The most-asked question I had last year from potential buyers at the final sale was, "What rock is that?" Strangely, this seems to be very important to the buyer, and if you don't know, they are disappointed enough to move on to an artist who does know.

I didn't finish this painting. I got as far as the block-in and capturing the feeling of light and the quality of the colour when the cold got to me again. The temperature drops fast in the desert when the sun starts to go down. My plan is to go back this evening around the same time to finish it off.

Finally, after dinner, I went right to bed. Monday, I have most of the day free to paint and explore. Our only planned event is dinner for the artists at 7 at Los Abrigados. I'll see if I can stay awake that long!

I'll be posting daily entries to my blog as the week progresses. I'll post photos of the paintings I do plus photos of some of our group activities. I'm sorry I don't have any photos just yet, so at the top is a photo from last year.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Grand Manan Island

Back in September, I led a painting workshop on Grand Manan Island, the "Queen of the Fundy Isles." My group stayed on Ingalls Head, near the center of the island, where we had easy access to a number of excellent painting spots. If you haven't been to Grand Manan, it's an island bigger than Campobello and farther removed from the mainland. In fact, it's a 90-minute ferry ride. But once you're there, there's no end of painting! We had bold cliffs, historic fishing villages, lighthouses -- everything you'd come to expect in the Canadian Maritimes. (See some photos here.)

The workshop week was modelled on my Campobello Island workshop. That is, it consisted of five half-days. If you're not familiar with my Campobello workshops, briefly, you learn in the morning with the group and then have the rest of the day free to explore or paint on your own. Since I was removed from my normal environment, I found myself with idle time in the evenings. So, I instituted an evening event -- an optional, "paint-along" session without instruction, to which everyone was invited. All seemed to really enjoy these bonus sessions! I did, too, since we were able to witness and capture some beautiful evening light.

My paintings are finally dry, and I've scanned them in. Here are five of them, all 9x12s, oil on panel. (By the way, they are also for sale. If you're interested, please drop me a line.) You can click on the thumbnails for larger images.

I'll be doing this workshop again next year, June 15-20. Please go here for more information.

Tomorrow, I'm off to Sedona, Arizona, for the 2007 Sedona Plein Air Festival. Thirty artists from across the US and Canada have been invited to this prestigious event. I'm just as excited as last year, because I'll get to paint some spectacular scenery and work beside top-notch artists such as William Scott Jennings, Jeanette LeGrue, John Poon and others. Stay tuned!

"North Head Wharf"
"Seal Cove Fish Houses"
"Southern Head"
"Southern Head Cove, Fog"
"Swallowtail Light, Evening"

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Upcoming National Exhibitions

I thought I'd share some exciting news with you. First, my painting, "Low Tide, Roses," has been juried into the 2007 Pastel Society of New Mexico National Exhibition. I'm also happy to note that this qualifies me for signature status in the organization. The show runs November 2-25 at the Hispanic Arts Center in Albuquerque. Here's the painting.

"Low Tide, Roses" 9x12, pastel, en plein air


Second, "Con Robinson's Point, Fog" has been juried into the 2007 Oil Painters of America Eastern Regional Exhibition. The show runs November 24-January 5 at the Weatherburn Gallery in Naples, Florida. Here is this one:

"Con Robinson's Point, Fog" 11x14, oil, en plein air


(As always, you can click on the image for a bigger version.)

I'm honoured to be juried into these two events. If you're in Albuquerque or Naples during the show times, I'd be delighted for you to drop by and see the paintings in person.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

About Commissions

Commissions can be both a painter's dream and nightmare. Always a source of welcome income, they also can be a source of unwelcome trouble. Having a patron buy a painting that's already completed and hanging on a gallery wall is one thing, but having him tell you what he wants painted and how and when is another. Suddenly, you're no longer an independent craftsman working for your own pleasure, but a hired man working for someone else's.

The patron may ask that things not be painted exactly as they are. A lake that has been drained by a long drought should be filled to the brim; monotonous, August greens should be charged with the electric reds and oranges of autumn; a mountain should be moved or diminished to improve the view. The plein air artist may be requested to perform magic usually done only by master illusionists and Photoshop experts.

But a successful commission can also be immensely fulfilling. A good patron will listen to your advice, and in the end, he will truly enjoy your accomplishment and appreciate your wizardry. And you will enjoy having done the near-impossible -- and not just to your own satisfaction but to someone else's, too.

I recently had the opportunity to create a series of three paintings for one of my long-term patrons. My patron is one of the best kinds, since she values an artist's opinion highly. Originally, she wanted a traditional triptych, but when I went out to her proposed location, I discovered there was no place from which I could create a traditional triptych. (A traditional triptych consists of three paintings that form a panorama, with each image capable of standing on its own as a complete painting.) We agreed that I would simply do three paintings and incorporate as much of her subject matter as possible. To ensure a consistent look among the paintings so they would make a good grouping, I used the same palette for each and painted each in the late afternoon.

Here they are, all 8x10 oils painted en plein air. (Click on the image to see a larger version.)





By the way, I've been on the road a bit -- workshops on Grand Manan Island and in Acadia National Park -- and I have a couple of more events to attend, including the Sedona Plein Air Festival. You can look forward to more regular posts from me in the future!

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