All Content Copyright © Michael Chesley Johnson
Saturday, October 31, 2009
Artists gathered on the banks of Oak Creek at the L'Auberge de Sedona resort for the morning's Quick Draw. It was cool, and some of the artists, especially those from California and warmer climes, put on their heaviest coats. But the sun warmed things up quickly, and when the starting time of 10 a.m. rolled around, the weather was quite pleasant and drew out the visitors. People were curious and kind, asking a few questions but mostly keeping their distance with the understanding that this was a timed event. The most critical of the spectators was a flock of ducks that L'Auberge maintains.
I painted the same sycamore that I did last year. I felt last year's wasn't up to par, so I wanted to make another stab at it. I must have succeeded, because the painting sold at the Patron's Gala. Above is the painting (9x12, oil) and below, a few shots of the other artists painting. I took a break toward the end of my session so I could see what the others were up to. Scott Prior had set up next to me and painted the same sycamore. Most, like us, had set up along the creek. At the Gala that evening, I counted six paintings featuring sycamores. I'll admit, they're an attractive tree!
After turning in our paintings, a few of us headed off for lunch at Oaxaca, a Mexican restaurant uptown. Along with Scott and me, we had Jill Carver, Joshua Been and his family, plus Cody DeLong and Bill Cramer. After lunch, some went off painting again even though the Festival was basically over - a true sign of a dedicated painter - while at least one went home for a nap. I went out looking at real estate.
At 5 p.m., artists reconvened at the L'Auberge ballroom to vote for the Artist's Choice award. The public arrived at 6, and then the party began. Several awards were given out to deserving artists. (I didn't win anything, but I was happy my Quick Draw sold.) Below are a few photos of the event. The room looks pretty packed - and it was.
Now the public sale begins. If you're in town, please stop by. I'll be at the Sedona Arts Center from 10-5 on Saturday and 10-3 on Sunday. Time permitting, I may even be out on the campus doing a little painting!
Friday, October 30, 2009
For the festival, I painted a total of 10 pieces, not including today's Quick Draw piece. Six of these made it into the show. The other four I deemed needing more work than I wanted to put into them. They've been stuck in a box awaiting future consideration - they'll either be adjusted or recycled. For the six that made the cut, I had to give them a number from one to six, with one being, in my mind, the best. (A very tough and somewhat arbitrary decision, once you've picked the six that deserve frames.) The staff will take my top three and put them in the Patron's Gala tonight; the other three will serve as backups as the top three sell.
I delivered the paintings to the Festival last night - what a relief! On your first day, you always wonder if you'll even paint three good ones, much less have ones good enough to serve as backups. I'm happy with the paintings I did this week. Now I'm getting ready for the Quick Draw event. The 30 artists will converge on L'Auberge de Sedona along Oak Creek this morning. A 10 a.m., a virtual gun will go off and the artists will start. We'll paint furiously until noon, and then we must frame and deliver the wet pieces to the ballroom by 1 pm. The public is, of course, invited to the Quick Draw.
The Patron's Gala starts tonight at 6. Tickets are $125 each. This is your chance to get first pick at the paintings, and to experience some really good food courtesy of L'Auberge de Sedona! Awards will be given out then, too. The Gala is at L'Auberge, down by Oak Creek. If you don't make the Gala, paintings that don't sell will be at the Public Sale, which runs Saturday (10-6) and Sunday (10-3). The Public Sale is at the Sedona Arts Center. I hope to see you at one place or the other!
Here are my six, framed, and then are closeups of each, from #1 to #6.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Last night, William Scott Jennings, a master at painting mountains and canyons, gave the keynote lecture at the Sedona Arts Center for the Festival. The topic was "From Plein Air to Studio." It was probably one of the most informative talks I've heard. Scott's an excellent painter and teacher, and I enjoyed listening to him. It was a multi-media experience - a slide show ran behind him as he spoke, and we also got to see some plein air pieces and larger, studio pieces first-hand. (See http://wsjennings.com for his paintings.)
Typically, he paints small in the field - 8x10, 9x12 - with the intention of gathering reference material for the studio. Rather than create finished paintings, he studies light and color. Rather than try to capture the entire length of a mountain range with all the detail, he paints just a small section. This will have enough information in it so that, supplemented with photos, he can create the whole range on a much larger canvas. Studio pieces typically run six or eight feet long, and he can finish such a painting in about three weeks.
Like most plein air painters, when he paints the field studies, he works quickly, eliminates as much detail as possible and keeps to large shapes. For each shape, he mixes what he sees as the average color and value. Then, he permits himself to "model" each shape by adding two more values, each a half-step from the original. Each of these new values must also be a different color. So, if the shape is a dark purple, he'll add perhaps a slightly lighter green and a slightly darker red. (Not his example, but mine. I'm not sure if he shifts the color in a color-wheel sense or chooses random color.)
I'd always wondered how someone paints a really big studio piece. Scott actually starts with a grisaille. After outlining the paintings few large masses, he blocks in the shapes with grey values and a brush. The early stages of the step-by-step progressions he showed us had only two or three values and very strong designs. This greyscale underpainting serves as a roadmap and keeps him from getting lost in the design. Next, he moves to color, applying paint almost exclusively with a knife and making sure to make his color mixtures match the greys in value. He says the knife automatically creates suggested detail through "random accidents" with the paint, something almost impossible to do with a brush. He also likes to build up the paint into impasto as he works the foreground, increasing the sense of distance in the painting. In addition, whereas in field sketches he limits himself to three values in a shape, in the studio piece he'll expand this to as many values as needed to model a shape.
Scott also addressed how to develop a style. Rather than try to change your natural tendency to handle brush and paint in a certain way, it's more effective to change your materials. For example, a knife will give you a much different style than a brush, as will working on smooth panels instead of stretched linen. In developing your own style, he says, it's helpful to analyze a style you admire as a product of the materials used. As an example, he pointed out how his work has changed since he started using a knife for the large paintings.
As I said, it was a wonderful lecture. Maybe Scott is working on a book.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
I painted one of the several bordellos in this old mining town. (For those of you who don't know Jerome, it is built on a 30-degree slope, and at one time it sported 13 hotels, 21 bars and 8 bordellos.) "La Victoria" had a store on the first floor and rooms on the second. Today, it's a beautiful ruin with a glass studio out back. (http://rakugallery.net/LaVictoriaGlass.asp)
While I painted, clouds swept in, and by the time I finished, the sun was gone. The wind threw a snowflakes across my palette. I packed up and found other artists packing up, too. The skies did look threatening. Several of us headed to the Mile High Grill for lunch. Here's a photo. From left to right: Ken DeWaard, Carolyn Hesse-Lowe, Scott Prior (behind Carolyn), Bill Cramer, Jill Carver, Joshua Been, Cody DeLong.
After lunch, it looked like the snow was going to pass. I headed down the street to set up my gear, and ran across Jill Carver, who was back at work on the piece she'd started before lunch. She'd very trustingly left it up on the easel while we ate. Here's Jill in her winter outfit, plus a photo of the painting. She continued to work on this beautiful piece after I left, and I'm eager to see it in the show.
I had just enough time to do an 8x10 oil before the snow really started coming down. I knew I didn't have long, so I used a palette knife, which made the work go much faster. As I write at home this evening, the light has gone, so I'll take a photo of it tomorrow. Tomorrow is my "tweak and framing" day. I have to everything done - tweaked and framed - and delivered by 6 p.m.!
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
I was a little puzzled as to what to do with the foreground. I wanted it soft and fuzzy so as to not detract from the sunlit peaks, but I didn't want it to be so soft and fuzzy that it looked like a three-week old peach. My friend Betty Carr (www.bettycarrfineart.com) set up her easel beside me, and I asked her advice. Betty's a teacher, too. "Betty," I asked, "if this were your painting, what would you do next?"
She liked the painting very much and was at the brink of saying "Nothing." But then the foreground caught her attention. One of the trees made an unfortunate tangent with a bit of light on the main sunlit peak, and she suggested I move it left. I did, but I can see now that I did so without success. So, this one will need some work still during my "tweaking" period.
After lunch, I watched Clark Mitchell (www.cgmitchell.com) give a pastel demo, and then I went over to Windrush Gallery (www.windrushgallery.net) to do a demo for John McCullough. The sun had totally vanished by then, the wind was gusting, but I did a nice little piece with a theme heavy in the violets and cool greens. I'll try to get a photo of that tomorrow.
I then headed home to freshen up for the Artists' Reception and the opening of the Showcase Gallery. Each artist brought a few paintings, either plein air or studio, to hang in this gallery, which will be up all week so the public can see samples of our work. I finally got to meet William Wray, an artist from California whose "urban blight" paintings I really admire. (www.williamwray.com).
So far this week, as each painting comes off the easel, I've been putting it right into the box, out of sight, out of mind. I have yet to critique them to see what adjustments need to be made. This is an essential part, in my mind, of the plein air process - reflection. But I have to invoke the right state of mind for this, a state of mind that can be created only by quiet and a cup of coffee. I'll do this on one of the bad weather days. If a painting needs a few tweaks, I have no compunctions against doing that in the studio.
By the way, tomorrow (Tuesday) at 2 pm is my painting demonstration at my Sedona gallery, the Windrush Gallery. It is in the Garland Building at the end of the bridge on 179, just past the Tlaquepaque plaza. Hope to see you there!
Sunday, October 25, 2009
I had a cloudy start to the day. Sometimes with these clouds, the sun will play hide-and-seek with the hills and play havoc with your painting. Fortunately, the lighting stayed consistent. The middle ground stayed sunlit while the nearby red cliff and the distant blue mesa stayed in near-shadow. I painted this first piece from 300 paces up the trail to Doe Mesa.
Later in the day, I caught up with Bill Cramer of Prescott. We drove out on the Vultree Arch road. This is a rough Forest Service road, and Bill kindly offered to drive in with his Honda CRV. We hit bottom a couple of times and ran into brush more than once, giving the CRV what Bill calls "Arizona pinstripes." (See Bill's site at www.billcramerpaintings.com.) Bill has rigged up the CRV with a platform on top that he can paint from. This allows him to get a view over the tree tops. How does he get up there? Bill's a rock climber, and it poses no problem for him. Here's Bill painting his scene.
I painted a slightly different view, since I had to keep both my feet on the ground. The light got better and better as the afternoon wore on. On the way home, near sunset, we stopped several times to gawk at the amazing light on the rocks.
Just as a reminder, tomorrow is my oil demonstration at the Sedona Arts Center from 11-1. See you there!
Saturday, October 24, 2009
The sun was intense, so four of us - Raleigh Kinney, David Haskell, Sara Lindy Poly and myself - sought shade. We found a nearly empty parking lot on the shaded side of the three-story Best Western. And it was a parking lot with a view! Life was good. We set up at the edge of the pavement by the lawn.
As I said, Life was good. But then the automatic sprinkler system went off. You'd think they'd have an alarm bell to give us a 10-second warning. Even though we were set up on pavement, we were just close enough to get sprayed.
I usually don't like to put manicured lawns and non-native trees in my paintings, but I did here. The scene I chose needed a vertical element, and the cypresses were perfect. The lawn added an element of intense color. I was pretty pleased with this first painting, especially considering that I was not just painting but also talking with visitors and moving my gear now and then to avoid the lawn sprinklers! (And can you see the crescent moon in the painting?)
Today, Saturday, is our first day. The 30 artists will meet this morning at the Sedona Arts Center to get canvases stamped. We'll also pick up maps, seek advice from the old-timers, and talk about the week ahead. Although the artists will have lots of time to paint this week, there are many events for us, some mandatory, some optional. One must-attend event today is the Paintout on Main Street. We'll be up on Main Street from 2:30 till 5. Look for the event tent next to the Joe Beeler statute. The coordinators there will know where I am. (Artists are supposed to paint on Main Street between the Arts Center and Ravenheart Coffee.)
If you're in the area for the week, you might be interested in a couple of other events I'm involved with. These are:
- Monday, 11-1 - I'll be giving a public oil painting demonstration at the Sedona Arts Center.
- Tuesday, 2 pm - I'll be giving another demonstration at my gallery, the Windrush Gallery. Windrush is located just past Tlaquepaque, at the end of the bridge at 422 Hwy 179.
Monday, October 19, 2009
Saturday, October 17, 2009
The first copy of my new 2010 calendar just arrived! I'm very pleased with the quality of the paper and the reproductions - thick, glossy paper and rich, colorful images. I've chosen 12 from this past year that reflect my travels. You'll see images of Sedona in the winter and then Campobello Island for the rest of the year. I think you'll enjoy each month. Friends and family might like it for Christmas, too!
Monday, October 12, 2009
Saturday, October 10, 2009
Friday, October 9, 2009
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
I'm proud to announce that my article, "Plein Air with a Purpose: 3 Goals for Maximum Results," is one of the features in the November 2009 issue of The Artist's Magazine. I don't normally announce my articles in this blog, since I write regularly for both TAM and The Pastel Journal, but this article features a topic particularly near and dear to me, outdoor painting. In it, I recommend that you go out not necessarily to create a finished painting but with one of three goals. Going out to create gallery-quality work is the surest way to freeze up and develop "painter's block"!
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Sunday, October 4, 2009
The wi-fi connection was down at the Bailey & Burke market yesterday, so I'm posting Day Two of our Vermont workshop a day late. This was a gorgeous fall day filled with peek-a-boo sun and shadows racing over the hills. We went up Darling Hill Road, which is in my opinion the best road in Vermont for seeing fall foliage, and parked near the Kingdom Trails trailhead. This trailhead is next to the Inn at Mountain View, which was once an old farm. It's got some wonderful barns that I've enjoyed painting, but I wanted to show the students how to paint the sunshine playing across Burke Mountain.The trick with depicting sun and shadow on hills is in controlling the contrast of light and dark. We are so pulled in by the brilliant patches of sunlight that they seem brighter than they are. But if you paint them too bright, they will merge with the bright sky and no longer seem to be part of the hill. Also, watch the color temperature. Although there were some rich spots of foliage, they were cooler in temperature than sunlit trees closer by. As you can see in my demonstration, these were more of a red-violet than red or orange. To further enhance the light on the hills, I kept the foreground dark and mysterious. (9x12, pastel)
This morning, we're heading off to Montpelier, where I am giving a demonstration to the Vermont Pastel Society. After that, we'll head to Jackson, New Hampshire, for the night, and then to Campobello Island on Monday. Look for our third and final day of the Vermont workshop once we get home.
Friday, October 2, 2009
Although it's uncommon to have temperatures so low that they are just nudging 40, that's what happened today. A cold front whipped through last night, even leaving a dusting of snow atop Burke Mountain. Our students braved the cold to paint the foliage, fortified by coffee and tea and a pot of steaming corn chowder Trina cooked up for lunch. I didn't think I'd need my down parka, but I'm glad I brought it!