Sunday, January 11, 2009

Faster, Bigger

"Little Elf Trailhead"
8x10, oil, en plein air

Last night, Trina and I had dinner with Michael Coleman ( at his home in the Village of Oak Creek. His home contains a wonderful studio gallery with "in your face" views of red rock cliffs. We got there around sunset, and the light on the cliffs was so stunning, I felt like taking out my paints and forgoing dinner.

I'm familiar with Michael's work mostly through the Sedona Plein Air Festival, and because of the time limitations of the Festival, the pieces are small. (As are most outdoor pieces by anyone these days.) I didn't know that he also paints quite large on location. He showed me one painting of Spanish daggers that was a good 6 feet tall.

I asked him about the process, and was surprised to hear that the large pieces are started and completed on location in a single session. "Years ago, Curt Walters and I started challenging ourselves to paint larger. We worked our way up to it." (Walters,, has been called by Art of the West magazine the "Greatest Living Grand Canyon Artist.") I noted that one can quickly run out of palette room when painting large. He answered that artists usually limit their palette to just a few colors to solve that problem.

One of my goals this winter is to paint larger. Maybe not 6-foot canvases, but certainly bigger than I usually paint. I'll need to paint even faster -- and I'm a fast painter -- if I'm to finish a large one in a single session. This means putting more paint on the palette and being less stingy with loading the brush; less fussiness with exacting detail or getting shapes just right; and leaving small mistakes alone with the plan on fixing them later. With that in mind, I painted the above 8x10 in about an hour at one of our nearby trailheads. The paint on it is quite thick.

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