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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Sedona Plein Air Festival - Day 7, and Zion National Park!

"That's a wrap," as they say. For most artists, the painting was done with, and they rested before the Gala. (But I spent the day packing for my Zion event, about which I'll write more in a moment.) Artists gathered at the Sedona Arts Center at 4 p.m. to preview the show and to vote for Artist's Choice. SAC occupies two buildings with a parking area between them; artists and their work were split between the two. I made several rounds of the galleries looking at work. There were many excellent paintings, and it was hard to choose just one.

At five, the ticket holders arrived, and the celebration began. Rene at Tlaquepaque, one of the fancier restaurants in town, catered the event under tents set up in the parking area between the galleries. (Tickets were $100 the day of the Gala.) I was in the upper gallery with artists J through W, and I spent a nice time talking to some of my collectors and the other artists. Festivities ended at seven.

Today, Saturday, is the public sale, which runs from 10 to 3. If you're in the area, stop by and say hello - and buy a painting!

After the public sale, I'll head right home to resume packing for Zion. This is "In the Footsteps of Thomas Moran," the third annual invitational plein air event at Zion National Park. (For details, visit I'll get there Sunday evening with the event starting Monday and running through the following Sunday. There are several workshops and free demonstrations throughout the week, followed by a Quick Draw and auction on Friday. The event culminates in a Buyer's Preview Gala on Friday night and a public wet paint sale on Saturday and Sunday.

Invited artists include:
  • Mark Bangerter
  • Joshua Been
  • Arlene Braithwaite
  • Doug Braithwaite
  • Royden Card
  • Michelle Chrisman
  • John Cogan
  • Bets Cole
  • Bill Cramer
  • Cody DeLong
  • Dennis Farris
  • George Handrahan
  • Brad Holt
  • William Scott Jennings
  • Michael Chesley Johnson
  • Donal Jolley
  • Roland Lee
  • Gloria Miller Allen
  • David Nakabayashi
  • P.A. Nisbet
  • Sheila Savannah
  • Kathleen Strukoff
  • Anne Weiler-Brown
  • Seth Winegar

Friday, October 28, 2011

Sedona Plein Air Festival - Day 6

"Oak Creek Shadows" - sold!

The Quick Draw is sometimes seen as the ultimate test of the plein air painter.  In two hours, you are expected to create a one-shot masterpiece with bravura, frame it and then transport it safely to the display area.  This is hard enough when you're off on your own, but it's even harder with a vocally curious public at your elbow.  Imagine a ballet dancer - and now imagine that ballet dancer being pelted with questions about where she's from and where she got her training as she tries to execute a quadruple pirouette.  Luckily, my experience has been that most of the public has been well-trained and just watches.  I'm always happy to narrate as I paint, of course, and I do if someone is nearby.

I got to the Quick Draw location about an hour early.  Some artists go the day before to scope out locations; I'm familiar enough with the creekside area of the Los Abrigados resort to not have to.  But I did want to get there early enough to get my spot.  I had a couple in mind.  One was a large sycamore with a fantastic, Medusa-like collection of roots.  But the more I thought about it, the more I decided the complex root structure would give me fits.  (It might be something I'll tackle on a day when I'm painting for myself.)  So, I settled on a more calming scene with water and strong contrast.  The rain we had the day before has made all the creeks run red, and the red was a beautiful accompaniment to the yellowing greens.

The painting went well, and it sold during the sale following the Quick Draw.  I was happy about that, as it made up for the Main Street paintout day in which someone bumped into the finished painting with disastrous results.   Kevin Macpherson complimented me on the painting's strong color, and that made me happy, too.

I spent the rest of the day framing up pieces, and then we delivered them to the Sedona Arts Center.  The hanging is this morning (Friday), and tonight is the Gala Event.  It's time to get the paint out of my hair!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Sedona Plein Air Festival - Day 5

Jerome always comes up with the most interesting weather.  One year, we had snow squalls on "Jerome Day."  I remember Jill Carver bundled up and painting while the snow piled up on her palette.  We didn't have that yesterday, but we did have a terrific and sudden amount of rain.  There was even a tornado warning issued for Prescott, not too far away as the cloud flies.

Dawn came with just a few clouds.  After visiting the hospitality tent for a cup of coffee and half a bagel, I headed up the hill to a little park that overlooks the Spirit Room.  This is a popular bar furnished with pool tables and ne'er-do-wells.  But at 8 in the morning, its doors are shut, the billiard balls quiet and, I assume, the ne'er-do-wells elsewhere.  What I like about the Spirit Room is its shape and color.  It's a building with doors that open on the corner, and it has some beautiful greens in the trim.  Shadows from the buildings across the streets change the color in interesting ways.  It is Jerome at its most picturesque.

About an hour into the painting, the sun suddenly vanished.  An ominous cloud, stained with Prussian Blue, loomed over the mountain behind me.  When the first drops came down, I thought I'd wait out the shower and stand over my easel with the umbrella.  But then the blue deepened, the wind picked up and I heard my first crack of thunder.  Since I was in a high, exposed place, I decided to pack up.  No sooner did I get in the car than the rain began.

And it kept on.  I finally got tired of sitting in the car and, with my umbrella, made my way back to the hospitality tent.  I joined some of the other artists - Will Tapia, Tracey Frugoli and Betty Carr -  in keeping the tent from blowing away in the gusts.  The rain, wind and lightning went on for a good half-hour, maybe more, and I was thankful I'd chosen to not wait it out in the open.

The rain finally ended, blue sky opened up, and I was able to get back to my spot and finish the painting.  The shadows had changed completely, of course, but I always get those down first,  just in case.  Afterward, I went up to the Asylum restaurant with a fine view of the Verde Valley.  The storm had hunkered down over Cottonwood and Sedona, and I could tell it was unleashing a torrent.

Spirit Room Morning, 9x12, oil

Today, we're off to Los Abrigados in Tlaquepaque for the Quick Draw.   Then, later this afternoon, we turn in our paintings for the hanging.

By the way, this day marks six years of blogging - 673 posts, a prime number.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Sedona Plein Air Festival - Day 4

Rain!  Not buckets of it all day, but lots of little "popcorn" thunderstorms that dropped rain at inconvenient times.  Overall, it was a challenging day with fickle sun and shadow.   But despite that, the clouds were beautiful to watch.  As I like to say, it was a good day for photography - but not for painting.

Due to the forecast, I headed out early to Doe Mesa.  A magnificent cloud was building up over Casner Mountain.  As I painted, it spread behind Bear Mountain as well, which wasn't far from my painting spot.  I heard the occasional boom of thunder but kept painting.  About two hours in, as I was finishing up, another cloud - complete with long veils of rain hanging from it - manifested itself near Coxcomb.  It was heading my way, so I packed up.  By the time I got to the car, the first heavy drops were slamming down.

I retreated to town and took my broken frame from the first day's Main Street event to Tony the Framemaker.   (Tony's prognosis was favorable.)  It wasn't raining in town, but I could see showers all around, so I went to Fresh Pita for a falafel sandwich.  By the time I finished, showers still looked imminent, so I started to drive home, pledging to myself that if I found an open window, I'd stop and paint.  I had my eye on a forest road that I liked south of town with good views.  By the time I came to the turn, sure enough, it looked like I had maybe one rain-free hour ahead of me.  I set up where I had a gorgeous view of the red rocks of Sedona.  The play of light and shadow was tantalizing.  As I painted, a cloud built up over House Mountain, just a mile away.   Thunder cracked once or twice.

Although I enjoyed the beauty of the day, I'm still not sure what the fate of these two paintings will be.  They're in the studio now, up on my viewing mantle, awaiting judgement.  The palette knife stands at the ready, happy to scrape them down if need be.  Scraping is actually a very freeing action, as it erases the past.  Everything becomes OK again.

In the evening, I attended Kevin Macpherson's lecture.  It was standing-room-only, so they had to bring in extra chairs.  Kevin, who spoke about his "Reflections on a Pond" exhibit, talked about how hard it is for him to find time to paint for himself.  What with traveling, workshops and events, life is busy, but for "Reflections" he gave himself an hour a day just to paint his pond.

Now - it's off to Jerome for Jerome Day.  As dawn breaks, I can see some thick clouds over the mountains.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Sedona Plein Air Festival - Day 3


Monday, as I mentioned in my last post, was a "free painting" day.  I chose to stay closer to home and visit one of my special spots.  It's along Spring Creek, and surprisingly, there's a good bit of early fall foliage.  The river willows have turned a beautiful yellow.

For the one above, I turned back to the painting knife.  Painting with the knife in a larger format - this one is 12x16 - always takes me longer, so it was good to work in a place away from people and other distractions.  The rushing of a waterfall behind me created a Zen-like space, and that made it all the more pleasurable.   You almost need that when painting with a knife because, for me, knifework consists of lots of little precise movements and very few large strokes.  I do start the painting with a brush, but once the initial block-in is complete, I turn immediately to the knife.

I also had some time to adjust the two paintings I did Sunday evening at my Cathedral Rock overlook.  Both of these were done rapidly because of the fast-changing evening light and had some rough edges that needed work.  I had fully intended to paint these with a knife, too, but because things were moving quickly, I didn't have time to make the switch.  Once you're on a fast boat in the rapids, you don't want to risk trying to get into a slower one.

Here they are.  Same scene, different light.  The small one (9x12) was done just minutes before sunset.



This evening at 7 pm, Kevin Macpherson will be giving a talk on his "Reflections on a Pond" exhibit, which is currently up at the Sedona Arts Center.   I admire his work a lot, and I'm looking forward to it.

Now it's time to head off to another location.  Today we have some beautiful clouds.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Sedona Plein Air Festival - Day 2

Sunday, as well are Monday and Tuesday, are "free painting" days.  That is, artists don't have to be anywhere in particular.  However, the Sedona Arts Center has asked all the artists to either text in their locations or to set their smartphones to send GPS coordinates just in case patrons want to visit with us.  Unfortunately, I haven't quite made it to the 24th century yet - I'm still waiting for Captain Kirk to come back for me - and I only recently learned to text.  Yesterday afternoon, when I got to my location, I faithfully tried to transmit my coordinates, only to find that my phone reported No Service.  Service is spotty around here once you go off the well-beaten path.

But before that, I dropped by Sedona Arts Supply to attend Scott Gellatly's lecture and demonstration.  In about two hours, Scott, who is the Product Manager for Gamblin Artists Colors, gave an incredibly informative talk on oil palettes, both classic, Impressionist and modern, and on painting mediums.   About 25 people attended, and several at the end said that the talk really cleared up a few mysteries for them.  I learned one of the differences between mineral and modern pigments.  It has to do with tinting strength and greying when white is added.  For example, Cadmium Red, a mineral pigment used by the Impressionists, and Napthol Red, a modern organic pigment, look very much alike when squeezed out of a tube.  They are both high in chroma.  But when you add white to Cadmium Red, not only does the color lighten, it also gets weaker or more muted.  This doesn't happen as much with Napthol Red.  The modern pigments tend not to lose chroma when white is added.  Scott demonstrated this with the reds, and it was fascinating to see.

Also, a new color "Sedona Red," which I had a hand in creating, was released to the public.   (Sedona Arts Supply sells it exclusively.)  Scott calls this a vintage color - like a wine, the next batch may be a little different from the last.  I had a chance to use it, because after the lecture, Scott and I went off to paint.

Painting by Cathedral Rock

Scott Gellatly at Work
It was getting late in the day, but the light was getting richer.  I started at 12x16, but as I was getting close to finishing, the shadows had changed so much on Cathedral Rock that I decided to put it aside for the next evening with good light.  I started a second, a 9x12, and found myself really wanting some Napthol Red to replace my Cadmium Red - I just couldn't get the rich, sunset light as rich as I wanted by adding white!  The Sedona Red worked really well as a base color, though.  It was very easy to push it cooler or warmer and hit the color notes just right.  I like this 2011 vintage.

Not Quite Done - 12x16
Afterward, several of us went to El Rincon in Tlaquepaque for dinner.  Now this morning (Monday), a new day is starting, but some weather appears to be moving in.  Time to get moving myself!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sedona Plein Air Festival - Day 1

It's that time of year again, and the 2011 Sedona Plein Air Festival has started.  About 30 invited artists attended orientation this morning, where rules were laid down and questions answered.  It was also good to see some old friends from past events.  I was especially happy to see an old friend who hasn't participated before, Lois Griffel.  (Lois included a couple of my paintings in her new book, Painting the Impressionist Landscape.)  Also at the orientation, Scott Gellatly, Products Manager for Gamblin Artists Colors, introduced a custom oil palette for the event.  I'm proud to say that I was the consultant for the palette and also worked with Scott on designing the new "Sedona Red" that the artists will be using.  Everyone got a full range of colors to work with.  Thank you, Gamblin, for being one of the sponsors!

After orientation, artists wandered off onto Main Street to pick a painting spot for the afternoon.  It can be a cruel thing, throwing artists to the lions so early in the game, but I found the public polite and interested in what I was doing.  I selected a shaded spot near a new restaurant, Taos Cantina.  Although I originally was going to paint the bright yellow umbrellas out front, I ended up focusing more on the bright blue exterior of the restaurant.  You'll note that it's a knife painting. I had so much luck with painting with a knife at the Grand Canyon event that I decided to do more for Sedona.  I do my initial block-in with a brush, though, to speed things along, as a knife can be rather slow.

At 4:00, all the artists had to stop, frame their work and lug it down with their easels to the Sedona Arts Center.  This was the first public sale of the event, and artists had to display their framed pieces on their easels.  Although I had mine well-secured, it didn't stop someone from bumping into the easel and sending the painting crashing to the pavement.  I'm always extremely careful with this, and I've never seen it happen at an event before.  The frame broke, and the painting smeared.  Kevin Macpherson, who was reviewing the paintings for an award he was due to give at 4:30, saw it and said, "You can fix it.  Go ahead, do it now."  So I did, and it was an easy fix.  (For the painting, anyway; the frame is going back to my framer for repair later this week.)  I didn't get a sympathy award, though.

For the record, here is the finished painting with a new frame:

"Taos, Sedona" 12x9, oil
Now we have three days of free painting ahead of us.  Sunday I'll be attending an event at Sedona Art Supply, where Scott Gellatly will be demonstrating Gamblin paints and mediums.  After that, I'll go painting with Lois Griffel, probably at one of my special secret spots.

By the way, here is a full list of the participating artists:

Joshua Been
Betty Carr
Bill Cramer
Cody DeLong
Linda Dellandre
Tracey Frugoli
Bruce Gomez
Lois Griffel
Maggie Hellmann
Carolyn Hesse-Low
Sterling Hoffmann
Hai-Ou Hou
Peggy Immel
Michael Chesley Johnson
Sibyl Johnson
Becky Joy
Raleigh Kinney
Mike Kowalski
Robert Kuester
Ann Larsen
Robert Lewis
Roger Parsons
Susan Pitcairn
Terri Sanchez
Stephen Sanfilippo
Dave Santillanes
Julia Munger Seelos
Will Tapia
Pat Woodall

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Memories of Ann Templeton

Ann Templeton (1936-2011)

Over time, I'm sure more artists and students of painting will offer their own memories of Ann Templeton.  I thought I'd take a few moments to share my own.  Ann was a dear friend and my mentor for many years.  I'll never forget working on her first book, Ann Templeton: A Step Beyond, her 30-year retrospective.  I stayed in her guest house - what she called her "apple house" - so we could work 24/7.  Ann was a night owl and would stay up until the wee hours pulling 35mm slides; I'd get up before dawn and start inventorying them.  In the times when we overlapped, I interviewed her and took many, many notes.

She had a great deal of advice to offer me, most of which I took, and some of which I wish I had.  You can find a lot of it in my book with her and also her second one, Color: A Step Beyond.  Here are a few words of wisdom from her:

  • You can't paint rich unless you start rich.  It's very difficult to make dull color rich.  (Ann loved color, and often started off with the most jarring oranges, yellows and reds you can imagine.  But, they were the foundation for many beautiful paintings.  Transparent Orange and Manganese Blue were two of her favorite paints.)
  • When you first start painting, you get better fast.  But then you level off, and progress is very slow.  (Ann had a full career as a housewife, raised a family, and only then turned to painting.  She studied under Sergei Bongart, Wolf Kahn and William F. Reese.  Bill was a particularly good friend of hers.)
  • Be careful of what galleries you choose.  Once you're in, it's hard to leave.  (Ann had galleries coast-to-coast.  She used to say that a working artist needed at least seven.  Many of her painting friends attended her opening receptions.  I remember that Walt Gonske came down one night from Taos to an opening in Ruidoso, New Mexico.  That was a big deal for her.)

Ann taught many workshops each year.  Two were her favorites.  One was an annual workshop she taught out of her studio in Ruidoso.  This workshop was more like a bunch of painting buddies hanging out together.  I attended one of these sessions, and it was such a positive, energizing week.  I remember painting with Don Getz, Ken Hosmer, Dee Wescott and many others.

But probably her most favorite was her annual workshop at Ghost Ranch, in Abiquiu, New Mexico.   This was always in October, when the cottonwoods turn a beautiful yellow along the banks of the Rio Chama.   She and Bob Rohm, another good friend of ours, taught parallel workshops during the week.  One year, when I was a student of  Bob's, it seemed like Ann got to all the good painting spots first!

It makes me sad to say that it has been two years since I last saw her.  Schedules kept us apart, but phone and e-mail kept us together.  The last time, she had just built a brand-new studio at her new home in the Hill Country of Texas.  I was putting together a magazine article on studios, and since I was passing through on my way west, I decided to interview her for it.  She really beamed proudly as she gave me a tour.

Goodbye for now, Ann, but your paintings and spirit will be forever with us.

Ann's First Book:  Ann Templeton: A Step Beyond

Ann's Pastel Studio Setup

Ann's Oil Studio Setup

Ann's Oil Palette

Ann's Oil Palette, After Painting

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Farewell to Ann Templeton

My longtime friend and mentor, Ann Templeton, passed away last night after a long bout with cancer.  She steered me on the path to becoming a painter and teacher, and she was an inspiration and guide to many other students and painters, as well.  Ann genuinely loved people and gave much of herself.

Ann also loved color.  Below are some of her paintings.  I'll have more to say about her in days to come, but this is enough for now.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sedona Plein Air Festival 2011

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

Now that we're finally back in Arizona for the winter and we're almost settled in, I thought I'd take a moment to remind everyone about the Sedona Plein Air Festival, which starts next Saturday.  It's hard to believe this is my sixth year as an invited artist!  Every year is different - different artists, and certainly different weather - so I'm looking forward to participating.  (Above is one of my paintings from last year.)

You can find a full schedule of events here, but here's a brief summary:
  • Saturday, Oct 22, 1:30 - 4.  Main Street Paint Out.  All the artists will be painting on Main Street in Uptown.  I'll be there, of course, so come by and say hello!
  • Saturday, Oct 22, 4:30 - 5:30.  Main Street Paint Out Sale.  If you liked the piece I painted on Main Street, this is your chance to buy it!
  • Saturday - Tuesday:  Open Painting Days.  Artists can paint wherever they wish in the Sedona area.  We'll be either calling or texting in our locations so you can find us.
  • Wednesday, Oct 26, 8 - 3.  Paint Jerome Day.  I'll be with the other artists painting in historic Jerome.  You never know what will happen this day - one year we had snow squalls!
  • Thursday, Oct 27, 10 - 12.  Quick Draw.  Once again, the artists will gather at Los Abrigados (next to Tlaquepaque) for a public display. The work we do in two hours will have to be framed and on the easel for judging by 12:30.  
  • Thursday, Oct 27, 12:30-1:30.  Quick Draw Sale. If you liked my Quick Draw piece, this is the chance to buy it!
  • Friday, Oct 28, 5-7.  Art Lovers' Gala & Sale.  This is the exclusive opening for the final exhibit.  Tickets are $100 each, but it's your opportunity to get first dibs on some really great art.  (Tickets are $75 now until Oct 22.)   I'll be standing by my work to talk about the week.  I hope you'll join us.  Catering is by the excellent restaurant Rene.
  • Saturday, Oct 29, 10-3.  Public Sale.  Whatever didn't sell the night before at the Gala will be available to the general public.  Artists will also have extra plein air work for you to consider, so don't despair if you didn't make the Gala.  I'll be there again, happy to chat with you about my work, my workshops and life here in Sedona and on Campobello Island.
To whet your appetite, I include some photos from last year below.  Hope to see you next week!

Me Painting at Slide Rock

Main Street Sale 

Cody Delong

Joshua Been

Me at a Remote Spot

Quick Draw Sale

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Scottsdale Artists' School Workshop in January

Tumacacori Jacal, 9x12, oil (sold)

As we work our way west across the country to Arizona for our winter Paint Sedona workshops, I thought I'd remind everyone about an upcoming workshop I have with Scottsdale Artists' School January 23-26, 2012.   For this workshop, I'll show you how to strip your gear down to a minimum and to get the most out of plein air painting.  Although the workshop is called "Backpacker Painting," we won't be backpacking - but having a backpack will help!  I believe all your gear should fit easily in one bag.  Also, I'll be showing you my method for "capturing the moment" quickly and efficiently but without sacrificing mood or magic.

The workshop will be based near Tubac, Arizona.  We'll be painting the scenery, both natural and historic, in the area.  Tubac is a  nice little art town with good galleries and historic buildings.  Some options include the Tubac Presidio Historic State Park and the mission at Tumacacori National Historic Park. I've included a few photos below to whet your appetite.

The workshop is for every level of student.  I'll be working in both oil and pastel, but you can work in whatever medium you wish.  Price for the four full days is $485.   For more details and to register, please go to:

Tubac Catholic Church

Historic Tubac

Tubac Pot Shop

Tubac Shop

Tumacacori Bar (great pool table!)

Tumacacori Mission Bell Tower

Tumacacori Mission Cemetary

Tumacacori Mission Grounds

Monday, October 3, 2011

Middlebury Studio School Workshop

This past weekend I taught a one-day oil-only plein air workshop at the Middlebury Studio School in Vermont.  Vermont has had a lot of rain, and it is still getting a lot of rain.  The school sits in the middle of town right next to Otter Creek Falls, where the water was rushing in a mad, muddy brown torrent.  Because of the rain, we stayed indoors, but the school has a huge window overlooking the falls, so we were able to set up and paint the falls from life.  (We were also able to use the downstairs of Edgewater Gallery next door, which has a similar window.)  Plein air painting doesn't get any better than that - no bugs, no wind, no rain, plenty of coffee, a bathroom and a great view.

We had such a good time and Middlebury is such a beautiful place that we've decided to do another workshop next fall.  This one, however, will run for two days and over the Columbus Day holiday weekend - Sunday and Monday, October 7 and 8, 2012.  It'll be for all media and all levels.  We'll also limit the workshop to only six participants.  Stay tuned and watch the Middlebury Studio School website for details - .  I bet this time we'll be able to get outside!

Now that the workshop is over, we are heading west again.  You'll certainly hear from me while I'm at the Sedona Plein Air Festival (, which runs October 21-29, and maybe even a little before.  Till then, wish us happy travels!