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Saturday, April 24, 2010

A Feast of Recent Pastels

My bag is packed, ready to go - but not on a jet plane, alas! Trina and I have loaded the car for an early departure tomorrow morning for Points East. But before we go, I thought I'd leave you with this feast of recent pastels. Bon apetit!

"Morning Cliffs" - SOLD

"Cathedral Light"

"Chimney II"

"Park Path" - SOLD

"By the Banks"

"Cliff View" - SOLD

"Oak Creek Secret" - SOLD

"Red Rock Panorama" - SOLD

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Alkyds Again

"Kolob Canyon Snow" 12x24, oil

We are due to leave Sedona for Campobello Island this weekend, but I wanted to get one last painting in before cleaning up the studio and packing. I felt like doing a large studio piece that I could put in our new workshop space. Because the space will be open to the public this winter (read on!), the painting needed to be dry enough by the weekend to avoid being damaged - and that meant using alkyds. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am now using Gamblin's FastMatte colors.

The scene, by the way, is from the Kolob Canyons section of Zion National Park. I really liked that little triangle of snow between the cliffs, and I took many photos of it while we were there.

A moment ago, I promised to talk about the new workshop space. Pumphouse Studio Gallery ( will be my winter studio and workshop space. What about summers? you ask. It'll be the studio of Gerry Quotskuyva, a noted Hopi sculptor. I'm very happy to have Gerry holding down the fort while we are gone! He's in major art collections across the country. The painting above will be at Pumphouse this summer, and Gerry will direct interested parties to Windrush Gallery down the street. Windrush represents me in the Southwest, so if you're interested in "Kolob Canyon Snow," please contact John there at 800-323-0115.

My next post will be from on the road. First stop, Santa Fe!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Clouds in Utah

"Utah Clouds" 9x12, oil

We're back from Utah now and home in Sedona for a bit. Toward the end of last week, we began to have a few clouds. We even had a downright cloudy day! Clouds are always fun to paint, so I did the following demonstration showing how to keep things simple but interesting.

On the day we had overcast skies, I decided to do something fun. Students are always trying to mix the exact color they need for a shape, and this desire always seems to cause a certain amount of anxiety. So, I showed them how to be fearless! I blocked in the following piece with pure primaries and secondaries. For the sky, I used out-of-the-tube Ultramarine Blue; for the mountain, out-of-the-tube Cadmium Red Light; and for the foreground, I used a raw green mixture of Cadmium Yellow Light and Ultramarine Blue. It looked like something a five-year-old might do with poster paints. But then I went in and adjusted the colors and values, dragging thicker paint over the underpainting. They were surprised how easy it was to adjust these colors. I think I even inspired a student or two. (I wish I'd taken a photo of the underpainting - if anyone out there did, send me a copy!)

"Kayenta Clouds" 9x12, oil

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Snow Canyon: Shadow Temperature

"Snow Canyon Cliffs I" 9x12, oil - SOLD

We are back at Kayenta, near Ivins, Utah, teaching a workshop this week. Although we've had some weather the last two days that forced us in and out of the studio, today was ideal. Abundant sunshine ruled with pleasant temperatures and just the smallest of breezes.

We went out to Snow Canyon to focus on shadow temperature. Between the red rock walls and the strong, mid-day sun, we had some good warm shadows. Why? The light at mid-day tends to look cooler than it does during the earlier and later parts of the day. So, a cool light will invoke warm shadows - especially with red rock. On the demonstration above, you can see how the sunlit portions are a cool pink, while the shadows are a warm brown verging on orange.

The second piece (below), the light was shifting during the late afternoon and growing warmer. As the light warmed up, a cooler, red-violet worked its way into the shadows. Here you can see the warm, almost orange sunlit rock with the more violet shadows.

"Snow Canyon Cliffs II" 5x7, oil

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Visiting Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

"Escalante Sun" 8x10, oil

Trina and I drove out this week to explore the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Designated such by President Clinton in 1996, it covers nearly 3000 square miles and has terrain that is about as varied as you can imagine: high plateaus thick with spruce and blanketed with snow; maze-like box canyons with walls of red rock; low desert with tumbledown hills; meandering creeks and stupendous waterfalls. This translates into several lifetimes of painting.

Of course, we only saw a fraction of the park. To really get a sense of it, you're best off with a horse or, on its few roads, with four-wheel-drive and high clearance. We didn't have a horse, and although our Subaru Outback could have met the challenge of most of the dirt roads, the car does have to get us back to Campobello Island! So, we stayed on the paved roads. It was a beautiful experience. During our one full day (we stayed two nights at a B&B in the village of Escalante), we hiked up Lower Calf Creek and then drove down into Long Canyon.

Lower Calf Creek, a 5.4-mile round trip hike, is probably one of the prettiest hikes I've ever done anywhere. At the end, we were rewarded by a 150-foot waterfall that dives off a cliff into a crystal-clear pool. Because it was a bit of a hike to tote my painting gear, I took just the camera. (I'll post a photo of the falls here.) In Long Canyon, on the Burr Trail road, plenty of signs warn you about falling rock, and sure enough, we had to keep our eyes open to steer around all the debris. We drove all the way down to the Wolverine Pass turnoff (about 19 miles in), and then came back so I could paint near the Gulch Trail trailhead.

By the way, each fall Escalante has an arts festival, which features a plein air component. Here is a link to the website:

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Phthalo Green

"Red Hills" 9x12, oil

One of the new colors in my palette of Gamblin FastMatte alkyd colors is Phthalo Green. I've not used this color before, but when I was painting at the Grand Canyon recently with M.L. Coleman, he mentioned to me that he liked this color better than Phthalo Blue, which I do use. His argument was that the blue was too strong a pigment, and that the green could function as well in the landscape. Phthalo Green is a cool, blue-green, and one can see how it might sometimes be used as a blue.

For the painting above, I did exactly that. The sky I painted with Ultramarine Blue to give it that summer-time feeling of intense sunlight drenching the landscape. (If you've been to the Southwest during the monsoon season, you'll know what I'm talking about!) However, toward the horizon and on the left, I used Phthalo Green rather than blue. It worked perfectly to warm up that part of the sky. I also used the color in the areas of sunlit vegetation, neutralized a bit with Napthol Scarlet and Chromatic Black. I think Phthalo Green will now become a regular member of my traditional oil palette, as well.

By the way, you'll note I've put a new template on this blog. It's cleaner, and in the process of implementing it, I also cleaned up some of the links. Hopefully, it'll work well for you if you're trying to find something! As another bit of news, I've created a blog for our Pumphouse Studio Gallery, which will be located in Sedona. If you've not heard about our new studio space in Sedona, here's a link for that: Trina and I are looking forward to the new studio space.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Gamblin FastMatte Alkyd Colors

"Red Cliffs" 9x12, oil

Over the winter, I've had the pleasure of being a "beta tester" for Gamblin Artists Colors. I've been testing a new line of alkyd oil paints, which Gamblin will be releasing in the next few weeks under the FastMatte brand. Studio painters will like them because underpaintings and glazes dry quickly, allowing the painter to get back to work sooner. As a plein air painter, I like them because the paint "sets" quickly, letting me put down paint on top of paint without worrying about stirring up those first layers. This is especially useful when layering complementary colors or applying impressionist techniques. And of course, if you're travelling, the paintings will dry in a day.

Anytime I've referred to alkyds, I've been talking about the FastMatte paints. The palette I was given is somewhat different from my usual split-primary. It's close, but you'll note a few changes. I've enjoyed working with these colors, and found this palette worked well in the landscape. The painting above was done with them. The colors are:

Hansa Yellow Medium
Napthol Scarlet
Quinacridone Red
Transparent Earth Red
Ultramarine Blue
Phthalo Green
Titanium White
Chromatic Black

Monday, April 5, 2010

Snow in the Mountains

"Santa Clara Snow" 5x7, oil - sold!

Down here in Kayenta at 3400 feet, there's no snow to speak of. In fact, they get rain if anything. But go 36 miles out of town up to Pine Valley (6600 feet), which is where we drove yesterday to explore, and you'll find snow. I thought I was done with it, now that it is April!

Drifts of snow two feet deep hugged the banks of the Santa Clara River, which winds out of the hills and down into town. Elsewhere, the ground is bare. I worked my way to the water and out of the wind to do a quick 5x7 study. I worked about 30 minutes on it. I could have painted longer, but I'd wasted some time taking photos and I knew that Trina, who had gone off on a walk with Saba, would be back soon. Both of us had had a light mid-morning meal and were getting a little hungry. I don't like to paint when I'm hungry, but I had the opportunity, so I took it. When Trina came back, I was just getting set up. Then I hurried, because both of us knew the Branding Iron Steakhouse was waiting for us.

Because I had little time, I kept this piece very abstract. I was aiming to capture a sense of light and shadow, rich color and dull, rather than to get the shapes precise. Once back at home, I spent about 5 minutes cleaning up the edge of snow over the water and deepening the shadow right beneath it.

At the top is the painting; below is a photo I took of the scene.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Lanelle's Garden

"Lanelle's Garden" 8x10, oil, en plein air

Our guesthouse in Kayenta has a great view of mountains and desert. Kayenta, a planned "green" community," prides itself on low-profile homes that blend in with the landscape. From our guesthouse, we can see very few neighbors, and it's easy to gaze past them to the beautiful views. No three-story McMansions with ostentatious walled gardens and parapets here!

There's a pathway that goes from our place to our host's. It winds through a garden of native desert plants - something very appropriate for a "green" community. There's nothing like an early morning walk through it. Your only companions are the quail, chasing one another with thoughts of spring.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Utah: Art Sale

"Art Sale" 9x12, oil

Earlier this week while exploring, I stopped by Blue Raven Studio at Coyote Gulch Art Village in the center of Kayenta. Blue Raven is hosting my week-long plein air workshop starting April 12th. While visiting, my workshop host invited me to paint Saturday afternoon on the patio with some of the other artists connected with Blue Raven. Coyote Gulch is a complex of studio galleries, and a good bit of traffic comes in to visit the painters, potters and sculptors at work. Blue Raven makes the patio painting session a weekly event to take advantage of the traffic.

I set up with a view of the umbrellas and some of the artwork for sale. I don't often paint this kind of scene - I am here, after all, to paint the landscape! - but since I was working with alkyds, something else I don't do very often, I thought I'd just go for it. I enjoyed the alkyds because they allowed me to lay in a colorful, thin underpainting that dried very quickly. I was able to overpaint this with more "real" color without stirring up the wild color and muddying the paint. A good deal of the underpainting still shows through, making for some very exciting color.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Utah: Snow Canyon

We managed to get from Sedona to Ivins, Utah, in advance of a predicted storm. While the wind whipped across southern Utah and the top of Arizona, we toured through some beautiful country: Glen Canyon and nearby Page, Kanab and the edge of Escalante National Monument, and finally right through the center of Zion National Park. The wet weather held off, but not long after we checked into our guest cottage, the rain rushed in on a gale. So, we hunkered down for the evening and studied our maps and guidebooks. (I say "we" because Trina helps immensely with this initial research.)

This part of Utah is new to us, and since I'm teaching a plein air workshop here in a little over a week, we've got research to do! Well, we've found many choices for painting spots. But how good are they? I'll have ten students, and that requires restrooms and plenty of parking. Also, I need to get a handle on "time of day" issues - how the shadows will work, and this requires me to do some advance painting. Morning dawned clear and cold, promising a good day to check out the closest and most obvious choice: Snow Canyon State Park. It's a rich location. One could easily bite off more geology than one can paint, so I decided to do just one morsel, an outcrop of Kayenta sandstone.

By the way, I am painting this week with some new alkyds. For the workshop, I'll switch back to traditional oils.

"Snow Canyon Sketch I" 5x7, oil