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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sedona Plein Air Festival Wrap-Up and Pumphouse Studio Gallery

"One Way" 9x12, oil (Jerome, Arizona)

The Sedona Plein Air Festival has come to an end. The Friday Night Gala event was well-attended with a lot of excitement and energy. The Saturday Public Sale was a beautiful day, and I took the opportunity to set up my easel outside and do a little pastel painting. (There's nothing like a little free entertainment to draw in the crowds!) The wind got up, though, so I'm glad I did only a small piece. Here are some photos of the final events, including my section of the gallery. (In the photo with me, that's artist Stuart Shils in the shadows.) I had such a great time and a great painting week that I hope I'm invited again for next year.

Now that the Festival is done, I'm looking forward to fixing up the new workshop space for Paint Sedona ( As you may recall, last year we bought a commercial space in Creekside Plaza (, across the road from the Tlaquepaque plaza, to hold my small workshops in. This week, Trina and I will be getting it ready for my first Paint Sedona workshop, which starts in a couple of weeks. I'll also be doing monthly demonstrations in the space, which is called Pumphouse Studio Gallery ( I'll write more about this in the near future.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Sedona Plein Air Festival 2010

"Doe Mesa Bluff" 9x12, oil

Quick Draw Sale

Many of you have wondered why I've been silent since Texas. Well, immediately after teaching my workshop there, I jumped into the 2010 Sedona Plein Air Festival. I arrived in Sedona Friday night and had to start painting Saturday morning. It's been a busy week!

But now, we are at the tail end of the Festival. What's left is tonight's Gala event and tomorrow's public sale. Here are the details copied directly from the web site,

Art Lover's Gala
Friday, Oct 29, 5 pm to 7 pm (Sedona Arts Center)
15 Art Barn Road in Uptown
The Gala event of our Plein Air Festival. Preview the Best of the Fest and be there to choose from award-winners presented during the evening. Savor Arizona Stronghold Dala and Tazi wines and Perfection Chef Dan Martin's exquisite Hors doeurves while making your selections. Tickets, $100.

One Day Only! Plein Air Public Sale
Saturday, Oct 30, 10 am to 5 pm (Sedona Arts Center)
15 Art Barn Road in Uptown
The award-winning artists will be on hand to talk to you about their paintings, giving you insights into each piece and to help you select the painting that is perfect for your personal collection. Artists will be demonstrating on a rotating basis throughout the day. Open to the public - no admission charge.

If you're in town or even within hailing distance, I hope you'll stop in and visit. On Saturday, I'll be demonstrating in pastel outside the Arts Center. Although I painted in oil for the Festival, I thought it'd be neat to do some interpretations of the landscape around the Arts Center in my second medium.

Now, to bring you up to speed on the story.

The Festival began last Saturday with the paintout on Main Street. I set up near the Best Western where I had a great view of Camelhead and Snoopy Rock. When we were all finished, we framed our work and then set the paintings up on our easels in front of the Arts Center for a public sale. On Sunday, I painted a nice view of Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte, and then later went over to one of my favorite secret spots to paint Cathedral Rock. That evening, we had the opening reception for the Artist's Showcase, in which artists were invited to hang pre-event work. Monday, I headed up to the West Fork (also known as "Call O' the Canyon") to paint with pastelist Christine Debrosky. We ran into some serious drizzle that forced us to seek shelter down in Slide Rock State Park. The manager of the Slide Rock Market graciously let us paint on his porch and warmed us up with coffee.

By Tuesday morning, the rain had departed, and I hiked up Doe Mesa to paint with Cody Delong, Joshua Been, Bill Cramer, Tracey Frugoli and Scott Lloyd Anderson. Doe Mesa has a vast top, so there was plenty of room for us to paint in without tripping over tripods. After lunch, I went down to Grasshopper Point and hiked Allen's Bend Trail to a favorite waterfall. That evening, I listened to Stuart Shils lecture on perception and painting. (I'd love to paint like him, but doubt I could get away with it.) Wednesday was Jerome Day. Jerome was a ghost town, a remnant of its mining heyday, until it was recently resurrected. It is now filled with artists. I did a sweet little scene of Verde Avenue with the old storefronts. In the afternoon, I hurried home to tweak and frame, so I could get back to the Arts Center that night for a talk by Shils. He is the Festival's Keynote Speaker, and he gave a retrospective of his work.

Thursday morning we had the Quick Draw event at the Los Abrigados resort, near the Tlaquepaque shopping plaza. Some of us painted the Mexican-style buildings of Tlaquepaque, while others, me included, went down to the creek to paint sycamores and water. At the end, we set up our easels with the finished paintings, just as we did on Saturday, for a public sale. In the afternoon, we turned in the work we'd done during the week so the Arts Center staff could hang it for tonight's Gala event. Everyone I spoke with yesterday seemed pretty beat, but also up-beat. We did some really good work this week, and we're looking forward to tonight's Gala and the Saturday sale.

I'll post again soon, but for the time being, I offer a selection of photos from the week.

My painting from the Quick Draw

Painting near Grasshopper Point

Bill Cramer on Doe Mesa

Joshua Been on Doe Mesa

Cody Delong on Doe Mesa

Me, Painting at Slide Rock

Main Street Painting Event and Sale

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Waxahachie Workshop

"Waxahachie Lake View" 9x12, oil

This week, I'm teaching in Waxahachie, Texas, for the Ellis County Art Association. Waxahachie means "fat wildcat" in the Wichita language. I haven't seen any wildcats, fat or otherwise, here in this beautiful country. The town sits just south of Dallas, and is nicknamed "The Gingerbread City" for all the old Victorian homes here. The ECAA is a vigorous, vibrant group that keeps the local arts scene hopping.

It's a nice time of year to be here. A touch of autumn color is in the oaks, but you can still see roses blooming. The temperature has hit the mid-80s each day, but it's a "dry heat" as they say, and quite comfortable. In this three-day oil workshop, we've had the opportunity to paint a nice variety of subjects - rustic storefronts, barns and even lakes.

Some of the ECAA members are avid knife-painters, and they challenged me to do a little knife-painting. When I paint with a knife, I like to tone the canvas first. This time, however, I first used a brush to lay down a monochromatic underpainting in brown - something like a "bistre," but opaque rather than transparent. I did this to cover up the white of the gesso, which would be difficult to cover completely with a knife, and to establish a foundation of correct values. I used my knife to then apply color over this brown underpainting. Because using a knife is rather like frosting a cake, it didn't stir up this still-wet layer of brown. It kept the color clean.

The Sedona Plein Air Festival starts this Saturday. This will be my fifth year participating as one of 30 invited artists from across the US and Canada. I'm honored to be a part of this, and I'm very much looking forward to it. For more information, visit I hope to see you there!

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Bit of History - and a Commission

"Treat Island View", 12x24, oil

A visitor came to my gallery here on Campobello Island at the end of the summer and said her father bought half of Treat Island back when he just got out of college. I don't remember the exact amount she said he paid, but it wasn't very much. From the Heirlooms Reunited blog, I found out more about the island:

The island's most famous resident was Colonel John Allen, a member of General George Washington's personal staff. He was appointed Military Commander of the Eastern District of Maine and was tasked with organizing colonists in the area and working with area tribes to keep them neutral in the Revolution.

After the Revolution, he opened a store on the island and continued his friendship with area tribes, who hold him in high regard to this day. His records show that he traded on occasion with Benedict Arnold, who lived for a time on the neighboring island of Campobello.

My visitor's father passed away not too long ago. She, along with her siblings and the other family who owned the island, decided to make the island available to the Maine Coast Heritage Trust. The Trust purchased it last fall. Here's a Bangor Daily News story on it.

Having recently created a commission for a similar organization (the Nature Trust of New Brunswick), I was delighted at the opportunity to capture a view of another piece of preserved land. Above is the view from Friar's Head on Campobello, looking out toward Treat Island. The foreground is full of late September color.

Color Abstraction

"Seawall Colors" 9x12, oil

This is an unusual painting for me in that it has lots of unmitigated color. Often, I'll work at getting the colors pretty close to what they are in the landscape before me. But sometimes, especially when I'm working quickly, I'll forgo precision and go for effect. I wanted to "push" the colors, keep things abstract, and above all, get the feeling of bright sun on the middle-distance rocks and surf. (Painted on untempered hardboard prepped with two coats of Gamblin PVA and two coats of Golden Acrylic Gesso. I painted this on-location at the seawall in Acadia National Park.)

Do you think it works? I'd be interested in your comments.

This kind of painting should also look interesting when seen upside down. Turning the painting upside-down breaks the communication link between one half of the brain and the other, so the shapes aren't quickly recognized for what they are. This lets us see the abstract pattern, which should "work" no matter which way it's oriented. (I'm sure you've all heard this before.)

Tomorrow, I promise to return with a more typical piece.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Painting at Extreme High Tide: A Tale of Adventure

"High Tide Moment" 9x12, pastel

There's a little point, Con Robinson Point, that I've painted at frequently over the years. The tide can come up pretty high along the beach just below the bluff. A long staircase leads down from the bluff to the beach and the cobblestones below. Winter storms have continued to erode the bluff, dumping wheelbarrow-sized chunks of turf down to the beach.

This past week, I went out painting below the bluff. It was nearing high tide, and I was surprised at how high it was. I imagine we must have been at a new moon, since I remember seeing a little sickle moon rising just ahead of the sun the other morning. (New moon and full moon coincide with spring tides, which are the highest tides of the month.) Still, there was a good 20 feet of beach to set up on.

I always poke a stick in the ground at the water's edge so I can judge how fast the water is coming in during flood tide. As I got into my pastels, my warning stick disappeared pretty quickly - and then so did the next two I put in.

I should also mention that a storm had passed through just the day before, and we were having a good deal of blow. My painting partner, David, and I had set up on the lee side of the point. Still, there were some dramatic waves crashing in. David was painting behind a 30-foot weir stake the last storm had cast up on the beach. This stake was more like a massive utility pole. When one wave bounced it up a few feet in the air and toward David, we began to wonder if maybe we shouldn't pack up.

I checked out our escape route - around the point and back to the staircase - and saw we had about a foot of dry land remaining. We quickly evaluated our position. We decided to stick it out, seeing that we had a little bit of height behind us we could scramble to should the tide get beyond the last high tide mark. (You can see where the last tide stopped by looking at the wrack line of seaweed. That doesn't necessarily mean the next tide will stop there!)

By the time we finished our pieces, my eyeglasses were misted with sea spray. I think my pastel gives some indication of the vigor of the moment - that little bit of seaweed at the bottom was just a few feet from me. You'll need to imagine the soundtrack of crashing surf.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A Panorama - and a Calendar!

"Noon at Liberty Point" 12x24, oil

I've been wanting to do a panorama of Liberty Point for some time. Even though we're busy packing for our trip to Sedona, Trina pushed me to get out to paint it. It was a beautiful day - windless, warm and sunny - so there really was no excuse except the packing, which I'm making progress on. The fellow I went painting with looked at the piece as I was finishing and said, "Trina should task you more often." Sometimes we need just a little push, even those of us who are genetically motivated and disciplined.

(The image is a tad dark on the right due to lighting. Once it's dry, I'll re-shoot it properly.)

Today I also put together my 2011 calendar. It's got 12 all-new paintings from this year. The winter months feature Sedona, Arizona; summer features Campobello Island, New Brunswick, and Lubec, Maine. If you'd like a preview or to order it, please follow this link to my Lulu store:

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Nocturnes and Civil Twilight

"Hilltop Nocturne" 8x10, oil

I've got a whole boxful of paintings from my two recent workshops that I'd like to blog about. However, they're still too wet for the scanner. In the meantime, here is a nocturne that I did one evening at the Goffstown (NH) workshop. It is just barely dry enough to scan.

Several blogging artists have written about nocturnes lately. This inspired Pat LaBrecque and me - Pat's the maker of the Art Cocoon - to try our hand at capturing the full moon one evening.

I hopped on the Internet Highway and looked up the moonrise time. I also looked up the end of what's called "civil twilight." If you want to do nocturnes right, you need to have either a good headlamp or booklight. We had neither. So, we had to rely on natural light. One definition of "civil twilight" is that time after sunset when useful work can be done without artificial illumination. It lasts about 30 minutes - not long in which to paint a nocturne!

To my disappointment, I determined that civil twilight would have already ended by the time the moon rose over the treetops. I had to give up the idea of painting a harvest moon. Instead, I went for the last rays of the setting sun playing over the hills. Still, it was a magical moment.

(By the way, I wrote an article on painting nocturnes in The Artist's Magazine a few years ago. Click here to read it.)