Friday, October 31, 2008

Back in the Maritimes

Trina and I are safely back in the Maritimes. It was hard to leave the 80-degree, constantly sunny weather of Sedona, especially since we've come back to a cloudy, blustery, 40-degree day here by the ocean! It's a good time to spend a few hours catching up with paperwork and to re-focus on some outstanding projects. One project is the book, and I'm happy to say it is done. Tomorrow, November 1, it'll be available for sale. Watch for a special blog post!

In the meantime, I thought I'd post this little piece I did before my fall travels began. I decided to try to not do what I usually do, which is to push color. I wanted to capture the color as accurately as possible, without exaggeration or interpretation. I think my experiment worked pretty well!

"Island Reflections"
5x7, oil

Monday, October 27, 2008

Sedona Plein Air Festival - Day 6 ... And Beyond

I'm now in the Phoenix Sky Harbor airport, where they have free wi-fi, catching up on the blog. The Quick Draw on Saturday ended up being a relaxing time for me. I found a nice sycamore along Oak Creek to paint, got into the "zone," and spent two quiet hours bringing the painting up to a level that satisfied me. Unfortunately, I didn't have the camera with me to take a photo!

After the Quick Draw, Trina and I went back to our casita to finish up a painting I'd started the day before for our host. Here's "View from the Lodge" (9x12, oil), plus a view of me painting:



By 5 pm, the artists had to wander over to the L'Auberge ballroom to vote for the Artists' Choice before the Patrons' Gala. After that, the patrons began to arrive. (Tickets were $125 each! I'm glad I was one of the artists and could get in for free.) Selling was fast and furious, accompanied by music with William Eaton and hors d'ouevres by L'Auberge. Here I am in front of my top three choices:

Saturday and Sunday were the two "public sale" days. It was a great opportunity to chat with fellow artists about techniques, materials and business ideas. I don't get a chance like this to network with artists every day! During the week, the artists were so busy that we didn't have much time.

It's hard to believe the week is over. But, I'm looking forward to being in Sedona again in just a couple of months. As many of you know, Trina and I will be in Sedona for the winter, where I plan to teach several workshops. I've heard winter is lovely in Sedona.

Next time - news about Backpacker Painting: Outdoors with Oil & Pastel.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Sedona Plein Air Festival - Day 5

We headed off soon after dawn for Red Rock Crossing. I had one painting left to do, and I decided I wanted something with water and a tree. I'd painted my share of red rocks this week, and it was time to move on to a different subject. I found a quiet spot, and my only companions were a pair of fly fishermen who arrived at about the same time I did. I was tempted to include them, but I knew they'd make my 9x12 too busy. (Sorry, guys!)

Here's the painting. I've made it my number one choice for the show:

Once back at our casita, I put out all the paintings I've done this week so I could choose my top five and frame them. For the Gala, we're supposed to pick three to display and two for backup. How does one choose? Everyone has a different strategy. One artist in the event says that paintings of red rocks simply don't sell. He's local, so he probably knows best. However, I really like my red rock paintings. I decided to include one in my top three. My other two are the scene of Jerome and today's painting of the cottonwood. My backups are the painting of the buggy at the museum and the first piece I did at Red Rock Crossing with Cathedral Rock in the background. It'll be interesting to see what does sell.

Tomorrow - the Quick Draw at L'Auberge de Sedona! The gun goes off at 10 a.m., and we'll paint furiously for two hours. The painting needs to be framed and delivered by 1 p.m. L'Auberge occupies a little oasis along Oak Creek and is surrounded by Arizona sycamores. It's a lovely spot. I can't wait!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Sedona Plein Air Festival - Day 5

We headed off soon after dawn for Red Rock Crossing. I had one painting left to do, and I decided I wanted something with water and a tree. I'd painted my share of red rocks this week, and it was time to move on to a different subject. I found a quiet spot, and my only companions were a pair of fly fishermen who arrived at about the same time I did. I was tempted to include them, but I knew they'd make my 9x12 too busy. (Sorry, guys!)

Here's the painting. I've made it my number one choice for the show:

Once back at our casita, I put out all the paintings I've done this week so I could choose my top five and frame them. For the Gala, we're supposed to pick three to display and two for backup. How does one choose? Everyone has a different strategy. One artist in the event says that paintings of red rocks simply don't sell. He's local, so he probably knows best. However, I really like my red rock paintings. I decided to include one in my top three. My other two are the scene of Jerome and today's painting of the cottonwood. My backups are the painting of the buggy at the museum and the first piece I did at Red Rock Crossing with Cathedral Rock in the background. It'll be interesting to see what does sell.

Tomorrow - the Quick Draw at L'Auberge de Sedona! The gun goes off at 10 a.m., and we'll paint furiously for two hours. The painting needs to be framed and delivered by 1 p.m. L'Auberge occupies a little oasis along Oak Creek and is surrounded by Arizona sycamores. It's a lovely spot. I can't wait!

Sedona Plein Air Festival - Day 4

Wednesday began with a wildlife encounter. Although Sedona boasts of its high-end galleries, gourmet coffee shops and day spas, it has its share of critters. Nestled against the National Forest and wilderness areas, Sedona's streets serve as thoroughfares for nocturnal animals. When I went out of our casita at 5 a.m. to check e-mail in the gated courtyard where the wi-fi signal is strongest, I was pretty surprised to see a skunk! He didn't seem to mind, though, so I pulled down my mail quickly and retreated. Later that day, I spoke to a resident who said he'd seen bobcats, mountain lions and raptors in his neighborhood.

Wednesday was "Paint Jerome" day. Jerome is an old mining town perched on a mountainside overlooking Cottonwood. It once boasted 25 bars, but is now down to just two, which is probably plenty for the 300 inhabitants. It has lots of old buildings and classic vehicles in a variety of states of repair.

The town caught a bit of a breeze, so I didn't put up my umbrella. Although I kept my palette and panel in shadow, I was standing in full sun, and enough light bounced around to make it a little tough to judge the values and intensity of my paint mixtures accurately. I was happy to see later, when I re-examined the painting in a shaded spot, that the values were good. Here's my painting (9x12) of Jerome, painted from the mining museum and looking back at town:


Artists met for lunch at the Mile High Grill and enjoyed their burgers courtesy of Steve Vasari of Vasari Oil Paints. After lunch, Trina and I decided to head back to Sedona for some exploration. First we stopped at the galleries of two painter friends in Jerome, Cody DeLong and Mark Hemleben, both excellent plein air artists. Next, we stopped in Clarkdale at the Yavapai Community College gallery to see the work of Clive Pates. Clive is from the UK and is currently living and teaching in Jerome. I interviewed him recently for a magazine article.

After picking up a delivery of frames at the Sedona Art Center, we headed over to a friend's house for dinner, Carolyn Ensley, who is another fine artist and teacher. Carolyn arranged for us to meet Clive and his wife, Virginia, whom she also invited. I'd not met Clive before, and I really wanted to do so, as his plein air work is truly exceptional.

Dinner was quick, since Trina and I had to be back at SAC for a slide lecture given by Curt Walters. Curt has done very large plein air pieces over the years (60" and bigger) of the Grand Canyon and other locations. If anyone is Mr. Grand Canyon, he is.

Tomorrow is our final painting day. We will need to deliver 5 framed paintings by 6 p.m. on Thursday.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Sedona Plein Air Festival - Day 3

Another real work day, starting at 6:30 a.m. with breakfast for the artists at the Sedona Heritage Museum. It was a cool beginning with the temperature at 47 degrees, but the artists were up to the challenge.

I painted an old buggy that had been moved out of storage for us. (There was a bright red fire engine, too, but I didn't feel up to such saturated reds today.) The buggy stood sentry before the apple-packing barn, which is a beautiful structure made out of the local sandstone. Some of the challenges with this piece included the stonework and the distant mountains, both of which I had to simplify to keep from competing with the buggy. I also took artistic liberty and moved a Toyota Highlander out of the foreground. Here's this 9x12 oil:


After finishing, I had to rush back to the Sedona Art Center to do a painting demonstration at 11 a.m. I'm one of two artists who were invited to demonstrate. I painted in oil today, and Clark Mitchell will do pastel tomorrow. SAC set me up with a portable PA system and a tent, so the spectators could listen and watch in comfort. I had a sell-out crowd. I also got a good demo, something we workshop teachers all pray for but don't always get. This is the view from the back of the Art Barn (9x12, oil):


The rest of the afternoon was spent on the porch of my hosts' house, adjusting the six paintings I've done so far. I've got a good crop, and I can't wait to see them framed!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Sedona Plein Air Festival - Days 1 & 2

Day 1

Trina and I arrived in Phoenix by mid-morning on Saturday and headed right up to Sedona to escape the heat. It was already in the high 80s before lunch! Sedona is a pleasant oasis, made so by a higher elevation and the cool waters of Oak Creek. This time of year, I always look forward to painting the cottonwoods, which edge the creek with golden hues. The trees seem a bit late this year, though, and have only just started to turn.

We crashed early Saturday evening. We didn't get much sleep the night before in our airport hotel in Portland, Maine, and we had to be at the airport by 4 a.m. Also, Campobello is a good four time zones away from Sedona, so when the sun dropped behind the red hills, we dropped, too. It'll take a few days to adjust to the new time. I'll probably do most of my painting in the mornings.

After a nice hike along the Broken Arrow trail with stops at Submarine Rock and Chicken Point, we headed to the Art Barn at the Sedona Art Center in town for orientation. We dropped off work they had brought for the Artists' Showcase, an adjunct show that starts Monday. Next, we had our painting panels stamped and then grabbed a seat so we could go over the week's schedule. Sponsors have invited us to paint at their locations and provide us with a meal to sweeten the deal, and we have a number of other events to go to. It'll be a full but fun week!

Orientation ended with the artists scrambling to find a location on Main Street for the afternoon paintout. The Festival has an educational aspect, so the goal was to give the artists and the Sedona Art Center a bit of exposure. I set up in the shade (smart idea) and near a coffee shop (another smart idea) to paint a street scene. Many people stopped by to chat. Some of them were artists themselves and others who were just interested in what I was doing.

Here's today's piece.



Day 2

This was a real work day. Up on Schnebly Hill by dawn, followed by two paintings, one at sunrise and the second a little later. (Tom Lynch was there early, too!) Then, Trina and I had a quick bite before heading out to Red Rock Crossing, probably the most photographed and painted vista in Sedona. It was 81 degrees today and hot at the Crossing. I was lucky to find shade! In the evening, we had the opening of the Artists' Showcase, which consists of pieces participants brought in to exhibit for the week. Some are plein air pieces, other are studio works.

Here, in order, are my three paintings for today. By the way, I'm shooting all these images with an old digital camera, so they're not the greatest. Once I'm home, I'll replace these with properly-photographed ones. All paintings are 9x12 and oil.




Wednesday, October 15, 2008

New Book Update - Layout Done!

Finally, the day has arrived! I've completed the design/layout for my new book, Backpacker Painting: Outdoors in Oil & Pastel. The proof copy is on the way.

So what's next? Once I've received the proof and have signed off on it, I'll make the book available to the world. I'm heading out to Sedona in a couple of days for the Sedona Plein Air Festival, but when I get back, I expect the proof to be in my mailbox. It shouldn't take long to review it. You should look for an e-mail or blog post from me in early November announcing the book's release.

In the meantime, here's the final cover. You can click on the image to see a larger version.

Thanks, everyone, for your patience! The book has been a long time coming. Trust me -- it'll have been worth the wait.

This will probably be my last post until I'm in Sedona. I'll make sure to post frequently so you can see what the other 29 award-winning artists do. Some of the luminaries I'll be rubbing shoulders with include Betty Carr, Coleen Howe, Frank Lalumia, Tom Lynch, Clark Mitchell, Niles Nordquist and William Wray. Stay tuned!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Acadia Workshop Center - Day 5

Our last day in Acadia dawned sunny and calm, but it didn't take long for the wind to whip up the whitecaps. After talking about career matters in the studio and final crits, we headed out to Jordan Pond. There's a trail that takes you out to a little marsh with a rock crossing.

When I set up, the water was as flat as a mirror, and I could see some wonderful oranges and yellows in the bottom of the marsh. The submerged boulders looked like giant nuggets of gold. But wouldn't you know, as soon as I got the underpainting laid in, the wind came up, almost completely obscuring the rocks, save for the rich color.

If the wind had stayed calm, this would have been a much different painting, with the focus on the rocks. The wind forced me to shift the focus to the red maple in the distance. Fortunately, a painter can and should be flexible. Never let yourself get locked into a goal. Always be open to new opportunities.

"Jordan Pond Maple"
8x10, oil

Sold

Friday, Trina and I are heading out to Sedona for the Sedona Plein Air Festival! I'm really looking forward to the event. If any of you are in the area (Sedona, Phoenix, Flaggstaff), I hope you'll swing by for some of the fun. You can learn more at www.sedonapleinairfestival.com.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Acadia Workshop Center - Day 4

We thought a morning of rain would drive us into the studio, but by the time we finished our critiques of yesterday's work and my talk on color temperature, we were able to head out. A stray drop or two was still falling, so we painted right outside the studio just in case we had to dash for shelter. (Pastel painters especially appreciate this!)

The house next to the studio served as a perfect example to illustrate my color temperature discussion. The overcast sky threw a cool light on the subject, which allowed a good bit of warmth to creep into the shadowed areas. (The rule of thumb: Warm light, cool shadows; cool light, warm shadows.) The porch overhang allowed the warmth to really come through. I find that it helps to push the temperature in the shadow areas to enhance the effect of cool light.

Here's my painting for the morning:

"Chrysanthemums & Rain"
8x10, oil


Thursday, October 9, 2008

Acadia Workshop Center - Day 3

We're trying not to worry about the economy or the upcoming US elections this week. One thing that helps is going to a quiet location to paint. Today, we went to the public boat launch at Seal Cove. It has a few boats, a small dock and picnic tables. When they say this is the "quiet side of the island," they're not kidding! The crowds of Bar Harbor, just a few minutes away, seem to be on some distant planet.

This morning, I stressed how important it is to nail down our compositions. It's really the foundation of the painting. Those of us who have been painting for awhile tend to minimize the importance of making a game plan and often just jump right in, thinking the best possible composition will design itself. We forget that working out a simple, abstract design in advance can do so much for a painting.

Here's my sketch of two boats at Seal Cove. We had some wonderful backlighting on them, and they really drew my eye.

"Backlit Boats"
5x7, pastel


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Acadia Workshop Center - Day 2

The weatherman's "brisk" is simply a polite way of saying "windy as all get-out." That's how the morning greeted us, so we sought out a protected painting spot. Little Long Pond, over near Northeast Harbor, occupies a small valley between two hills, and we decided that it would offer us refuge. But as luck would have it, the valley was oriented just the right way to channel the wind to maximum effect. There was no way we could paint the long view of the pond with Cadillac Mountain in the distance, so we ended up painting short views from the more-protected woods.

Often, nature forces you into a situation that is better than the one you might have chosen on your own. For example, I wouldn't have painted this little view of the carriage road at the south end of the pond, and I have the wind to thank for it!

"Little Long Pond Carriage Road"
5x7, oil
SOLD


It was a good morning to talk about the benefit of working in smaller sizes on days when there's uncomfortable weather. If you can stand the weather for 30 minutes, you can do a nice, small sketch. Then, you can retreat to the car for coffee and prime yourself for another 30-minute session.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Acadia Workshop Center - Day 1

After a weekend of hiking in gorgeous fall weather, I'm now giving my annual workshop at the Acadia Workshop Center. This time, however, we've changed it to a mentoring workshop based on the half-day format of my Campobello Island ones. When we're not painting, we'll be talking about advanced painting techniques and the business of art. It's a great opportunity to work in a collegial atmosphere.


Today, one of the things we talked about was going out to paint with a specific purpose. You really don't want to paint without direction, because that's the surest way to go in no direction at all. There are three reasons to go out painting:
  • To create a finished work or a piece that can be finished either in the studio or in one or more additional outdoor sessions;
  • To gather reference material for a studio piece; or
  • To build your painting skills.
The first one requires the most energy and focus. It's almost impossible to do this unless your head is clear, and you have plenty of time (and coffee!) The second can be the most relaxing, since you are painting without critiquing your skills. The third falls somewhere in-between, but it's also relatively pressure-free. Even so, sometimes these last two can give you a real "gem" that can be considered a finished piece.

For this 9x12 pastel, I was most interested in capturing the sense of light. It was a warm, bright morning, and the shadows containing bounced light were almost hot! This is one of the many private piers around Bernard.


"Bernard Pier" 9x12, pastel

Friday, October 3, 2008

Lois Griffel Workshop - Day 5

Our final day dawned clear but brisk and windy. We sought a place protected from the wind and ended up in Somesville, which is at the north end of Somes Sound, the only true fjord in the northeastern US. Somesville has a unique, white bridge next to the Museum, and it's surrounded by some spectacular foliage. Although the bridge is probably one of the most visited spots on Mount Desert Island, we got there long before the first tourists arrived with cameras.

Lois gave us some clues on how to keep the white bridge in shadow and how to make the sunlit accents truly sunny by using complements: violet in the shadows, lemon yellow in the lights. And to keep the foliage spectacular, we used pure color without white. Most of us, though, could have used clues on how to engineer the bridge! I found myself redrawing it time and time again, often doing so right over a good half-hour's worth of painting. Here's my "start":

My bridge didn't come out too badly. Still, beginners often think that this loose, painterly way of applying paint is great for hiding poor drawing skills. Although drawing wasn't the point of this week's workshop, Lois noted - and I whole-heartedly agree - that drawing is a fundamental skill for any painter, Impressionist or otherwise. You simply can't hide poor drawing.

It was a great workshop, and Lois worked us hard. I can't wait for her new book, which will pick up where the old one left off. The book is still in the proposal stage, but I do hope it comes out soon.

So, she's off to Arizona, and I'm taking some R&R by hiking this weekend. I'll be teaching my own workshop here on MDI next week. Stay tuned!

Lois Griffel Workshop - Day 4

At the Acadia Workshop Center (www.acadiaworkshopcenter.com), large windows provide a view of the natural seawall and the wetland behind it. Because rain forced us indoors on Thursday, I decided to paint our rainy-day view using Lois' approach of creating greys with complements and broken color. Below you can see my "start." I was a little uncertain about including the road sign that lets you know you're entering the National Park, but it seems to work. I painted this one entirely with a knife:

Later, Lois did a demonstration from a photo to show us how she moves beyond her "start" to a more finished piece. She stressed that both Hensche and Hawthorne and even Monet rarely worked wet-into-wet; they were more inclined to let a painting dry between stages so that the next layer would go down with rich, unsullied color. Of course, a five-day workshop doesn't allow for this approach, so she made sure to use thick, fluid strokes in the later stages. She also emphasized procedural items, including scraping out any passage that gets muddy and cleaning the palette thoroughly between first notes and second notes. Here are two photos, one of her painting and a close-up of the painting in the final stages.


In the afternoon, we all worked from the same photo, in which she showed us how to handle a landscape in which the flat planes are lighter than the sky. The photo depicted an overcast day with cool light. As always, she gave us guidance for our starting colors. In this case, our first notes consisted of violet for the dark tree masses, pink for the sky and blue for the rocks. Here's my "start" in its final stage, again, painted with a knife:

By the way, I want to thank Richard McDaniel (www.richardmcdaniel.com) who sent me a correction on a typo I made in yesterday's blog. A piano has 88 keys and not 66. At least I didn't type "666"!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Lois Griffel Workshop - Day 3

The fall foliage can be near-incandescent in Acadia National Park this time of year. I know of many good painting spots on the carriage trails, which were constructed and landscaped by Rockefeller a hundred years ago, but they can be difficult to reach unless you're on a bike or, like Rockefeller, in a horse-drawn carriage. The north end of Eagle Lake, which is one of the best spots right now, is just a short hike from the car.

Lois had us line up along the shore and gave us suggestions for painting the fall colors. Most helpful was to paint the most brilliant trees just as dark as the duller ones around them. That is, although you underpaint them with rich color, you keep the color dark, saving the light for later. It's so tempting to make them not only rich but also very light - and usually too light -- right off the bat.

Here is my morning "start":

And here is Lois':


I should mention the palette that Lois has us using. As many of my readers know, I use a limited, split-primary palette of six colors. Lois recommends something like the following. I say "something like," because the exact colors aren't as important as the temperatures. So here's what I have on my palette this week: Cadmium Lemon Yellow, Cadmium Yellow Light, Cadmium Yellow Deep, Cadmium Orange, Cadmium Scarlet Red, Thalo Red Rose, Alizarin Crimson, Thalo Violet, Ultramarine Blue, Cerulean Blue, Viridian, Thalo Green Light, plus two earth colors, Yellow Ochre and Burnt Sienna, plus white. That's 14 colors! The palette of my little 9x12 Guerrilla Painter Box barely has enough room. Here's a photo of the palette:

As I paint, I don't really care what the name of the color is so much as I do the temperature. If I need a warmer color, I just move clockwise around my palette until I fight the right degree of warmth. This "color wheel arrangement" of color has 14 steps of temperature change, whereas my usual palette has only 6. Think of the difference between playing scales on a piano with 88 keys, and then on a piano with, say, all the white keys removed, leaving you only the black keys.

By the way, it's important to clean the palette thoroughly between "first notes" and "second notes." First notes are your first lay-in of color. Second notes, which typically consist of complements to the first notes, are the second application. (There are also "third notes" and beyond.) You don't want the second notes contaminated by any remnant of first notes on the palette. Cleaning the palette between first and second notes helps minimize the mixing area required for the painting.

I have one more comment regarding application of paint. I find that I may use a brush on one painting but a knife on the next, mostly out of frustration with the brush. Hawthorne and Hensche had their students use only the knife, mostly because the knife makes it is easier to apply rich, clean, complementary notes over wet paint. I found this to be very true. Laying down these notes with a brush requires constant cleaning and, if the paint is stiff, lots of medium, plus the delicate skill of a surgeon.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Lois Griffel Workshop - Day 2

Despite showers moving in for the night, dawn came clear. It was cool enough for me to wear a down vest in addition to a fleece jacket and turtleneck shirt. Lois took us out right away to a rocky beach in nearby Bernard, a perfect place to talk to us about the use of greys and browns.

After all of that vibrating color on the first day, it was a relief to be allowed to use neutrals. But Lois doesn't use the term "neutral." Rather than "neutralize" a color with the addition of its complement, she likes to "calm" it. I agree that this is a better term; "calming" implies that the color is still very much there, only quieter. "Neutralize" indicates that the color goes away altogether. I would rather calm a barking dog than neutralize it.

For our rocky beaches, she had us start with an underpainting of Cadmium Orange and then overlay it with blue. (As always, matching values is critical.) I found this very difficult. Even though I'm pretty adept at "frosting the cake" - putting wet paint over wet paint - my blue kept mixing with my orange and making, believe it or not, a green that actually seemed a value darker than either of them. It had a slight green cast to it. Lois suggested I use a cooler blue. The cooler blue didn't seem to make the green as readily, but I still had trouble keeping it from mixing with the orange. I don't seem to have this problem with other complementary color combinations. Here is the result of my morning's "start":

After a tailgate party lunch, we went up the road a bit and painted a swamp that was full of lovely fall color. She gave us free rein to put into practice the last two days' instruction. I was pretty happy with my piece, but I do think I wandered off the Impressionist path a bit and in places forgot to use "vibrating colors." It's hard to break old habits, but since my goal this week is to try something new, I'll remember better on Day Three! Here's my afternoon "start":

Finally, I leave you with a few photos of Lois and one of her "starts".

Lois demonstrating:

Lois' painting, step 1:


Lois' painting, step 2

Our group hard at work: