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Friday, December 30, 2011

Why I Don't Do Giclées

"Doe Mesa Afternoon" 9x12, oil 

It seems that many painters, as well as the galleries that represent them, are turning to giclée prints.

Well, a giclée print is little different from the poster you hung on your college dorm wall.  Sure, it's more (much more) expensive and made with archival inks.  But it's still just a printed reproduction.

They are not the same as monotypes, limited lithographic prints and the like, all of which are made through a printmaking process.  Wikipedia defines printmaking thus:  "Printmaking normally covers only the process of creating prints with an element of originality, rather than just being a photographic reproduction of a painting."  I don't care if the giclée is hand-embellished, numbered and printed on canvas - it's an expensive poster.

The point is this.  If you're thinking of buying something that will have monetary value down the road, it's not going to be giclée prints.  Those college dorm wall posters you had are worthless.  The only value they have is emotional and personal.  That poster I had of Van Gogh's sunflowers was a nice decorative piece but it's now worth about five bucks, new.

As an interesting aside, I just looked up Van Gogh sunflower prints on eBay.  The poster's buy-it-now price is $5.  A giclée version on canvas, framed, is $69.95.  Both of these are described as "rare" in the text.  But compare these with one of the original sunflower paintings, which sold in 1987 for around $39,000,000 and is today estimated to be worth about $89,000,000.

If you can't buy the original, you're better off buying an inexpensive offset print, not a giclée.  Giclées cheat the uninformed public, which is one reason why I don't do them.

In fact, I don't sell prints of any kind, other than on little notecards, because I feel my work is priced so inexpensively that almost anyone can afford it.  And wouldn't you rather have the original, anyway?  As a student, you can study it in a way you'd never be able to study a print.   As a buyer, you've got an investment that a print will never be.  Many of my sketches and demos are $100 and under - about the same as that giclée of Vincent's sunflowers - and my gallery pieces aren't that expensive, either.  (The painting at the top of the page is for sale.  I'll make you a deal - $100 +$10 shipping.)

I know the counter-arguments.  If you have one painting that you could have sold a hundred times, wouldn't it make sense to make prints?  Sounds good, but I think it devalues the original.   I've had patrons buy certain paintings precisely because I don't make prints of them.   Some artists will say prints increase the value of the original.  I don't think Van Gogh's original sunflower painting has a huge pricetag because of all those prints hanging up on dorm walls.  What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Why Give Away All This Stuff - and About Eliphante Village!

Eliphante Village Interior

At the same seminar where I was talking about social media and copyright, the topic of blogging came up.  Since 2005, I've written over 700 posts, many of which are about painting technique and other useful subjects for the working artist.  Someone in the audience asked, "And you give this information away for free?"  Yes, I do.

Why?  It's so easy to "monetize" things these days, thanks to the twin engines of consumerism and capitalism, you'd think I'd at least stick a Paypal "donate" button on the blog.   But I don't charge for this information.  There's a  long history of "paying it forward" among artists, and I like to think I'm part of that.  I've had many excellent teachers and mentors over the years, many of whom gave their advice freely.  I'm sure you've had people like that in your life, too.  One way of paying them back is by "paying it forward."  It's a nice gesture.

Of course, we all have to make a living.  That's why I paint, teach workshops and write articles and books.  The free information I give out in the blog hopefully results in people buying my paintings, taking my workshops, purchasing the magazines I write for and buying my books and videos.  The information in the blogs is useful, but it's only the start.  There's a lot more where that came from.

If you're a working artist who has something to share, I hope you do.  It feels good to share, and you'll be helping somebody else who can return the favor - by paying it forward.

By the way, yesterday Trina and I paid a visit to Eliphante Village.   You have to take a little boat across Oak Creek to get to it.  Crossing the creek to the Village feels very symbolic, and if you make the trip, you'll understand why.  The crossing is a passage to another world.  Eliphante is a little like Hobbiton - filled with strange-shaped buildings, glittery mosaics, colorful stained glass and sculpture.  It was built by artists Michael and Lida Kahn over a period of 30 years or so.  Eliphante was having an Open House and a potluck.  We were served mesquite bean pancakes, among other vegan delicacies.  I'm thinking it might be a fun place to paint.  You can see one of the building interiors at the top of this post.  Here's a link where you can find out more about this magical place and its history:

Another Eliphante Building

Monday, December 26, 2011

Mentoring for Plein Air Painters

As my loyal followers know, I offer mentoring workshops for outdoor painters here in Sedona as well as on Campobello Island.  (Visit and for details.)  "Mentoring" means different things to different people, so here's my take on it.

In some ways, mentoring is what you might look for when you don't know where to go next.  "Where to go" may mean where to go artistically, or where to go in a business sense.  One may satisify the soul, the other the stomach.

Plato & Aristotle - a famous mentor/mentee pair

Where to go in a business sense has a very concrete goal - to make more money.  Having been solely a working artist for over a decade, I feel I'm successful and that my experiences and insights can help you in a mentoring workshop.

Where to go artistically, however, is more difficult.  Imagine being the guru on the mountaintop, and everyone's climbing to you for advice.  It's easy to give everyone the same mysterious answer - "just keep painting," seems to be popular - but I like to give something more personal and useful.

Beginning painters don't need to climb the mountain in search of wisdom.  Just read the books, take the workshops, and practice the craft.  But those who have finally become fluent in their medium and are no longer beginning painters are in a different spot.  They need to learn the finer aspects of the craft and to receive guidance on satisfying the soul.

It is these painters who would make ideal students for the mentoring workshops.  They want to go somewhere, but they don't know where.  They want to become not just better painters but better artists.  An artist is someone who is using his craft to move along some path toward happiness and fulfillment, and my goal is to help you with that.

There's one more type of mentoring, and that's a retreat.  A retreat is a time for you to explore and to largely find your own way.  For retreats, I offer my services as a guide.  I'll show you the best places to paint and, if you want it, help with issues of craft.  But more importantly, the time is yours to explore the landscape - both the landscape outside you, and the one within.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Do You Want to Paint Good Art, or Paintings that Sell?

Sometimes you make a painting that satisfies your soul to the deepest depths, but it doesn't sell.  Sometimes you make one that you deem technically okay but uninspired, and it sells right away.  If you'd made giclée prints, you could have sold it a hundred times over.   Which would you rather paint?  Of course, we'd all like to paint ones that do both, and sometimes, we do.

But here's a secret.  I prize the ones that satisfy me and don't sell.  They satisfy me even more because I know they won't sell.  This is perhaps perverse, since I'm taking pleasure in what some consider a negative.   But knowing that I can keep it forever means that it's mine.  Sometimes you just want to keep something for yourself.

I think, too, that the ones that satisfy you but not the public have some mystery about them.  Something personally engaging that you need to listen to.  It may be trying to give you directions to a new and better place for you and your art.

Here's a little oil painting I did while at Zion National Park back in November.

"Blue Shadow" 5x7 oil

I doubt it'll sell because it's subtle with soft, muted color and is lacking in strong, visual impact.  But it's one of my very favorites, and I have it on the wall where I can see it from the bed.  So what about it appeals to me?  Exactly that - the subtlety, the muted color, the lack of visual impact.  It's so subtle, I'm not even sure it photographs well.

Now here's a painting that sold.  I could have sold it (or, at least, any painting of this boat) many times.  People are always disappointed to hear it's no longer available.  I do like the painting; otherwise, I wouldn't have put it out for sale.  I suppose I could make prints of it, but I won't.  And why is a subject for a future blog post.

"The Simone & Rachel" 16x20, oil
(By the way, I'd appreciate it if you'd go over and "like" my Facebookpage.)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Copyright and the Internet

"Grand Canyon Blue" 24x12, oil

The other day, I was speaking at a seminar about how the Internet and social media can help artists promote themselves.  One artist said, "I've heard that Facebook owns the images once you post them."   Another said, "But when you post them, don't you still own the copyright?"

Facebook doesn't own your images.  According to the most current terms of agreement,

"You own all of the content and information you post on Facebook, and you can control how it is shared through your privacy and application settings. In addition:

For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (IP content), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it."

(Speaking of Facebook, I'd appreciate it if you'd go over and "like" my Facebookpage.)

Still, for any social media site or hosting service you use, you should read the terms of agreement before posting your images.  It may vary from service to service.

Unless you've expressly given it away, you do own the copyright to your images.  Even when you sell a painting, you retain the right to reproduce the image in formats like giclée prints and notecards - again, unless you've signed an agreement giving this right to someone else.

Of course, owning the copyright doesn't mean that an admirer won't download your image and use it for desktop wallpaper.  Or that a less sensitive admirer won't create a series of notecards with it.  Or worse yet, that the Chinese fine art industry won't sell "originals," made by slave-wage workers, to fancy hotel for decorating their rooms.

To make your images less attractive to theft, consider keeping your images scaled down to 1000 pixels on the longest side with a resolution of 72 dpi.  (You don't need more than 72 dpi for most display screens these days.)  If someone wants to see a larger version, you can always e-mail one or put it on a secure hosting service, such as Picasa.  I recommend against adding a watermark; they're distracting.  If it's important to you to mark your images in some way, consider adding an invisible watermark with a tool like Digimarc.  Digimarc also allows you to search the Web for illegal copies of your images.

Speaking of images, above is a large (24x12) oil painting I've been working on.  It's a thunderstorm in the Grand Canyon.  I resized it as 72 dpi with 1000 pixels on the longest side.  Below are two detail shots, same specifications.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Light and Evaluating Your Painting

Painting shot under 15 watt "full spectrum" lamp

Painting shot under 60 watt incandescent lamp

Painting scanned in a Canon MG5220
(closest to the way the painting should look!)

Light is both the blessing and the curse of the plein air painter.  It's a blessing, because it's the light that puts a beautiful glow on the world and prompts us to paint.  But it's also a curse, because it's the light that gives us trouble when we try to evaluate our works-in-progress.

In a previous post, I discussed having the proper lighting on your painting surface and palette when in the field.   But once you're back in the studio and inspecting your handiwork, you need the right lighting then, too.  So, what is the "right lighting"?

The wisdom that has been passed down from master to apprentice tells us to work by north light.  But north light, though consistent in quality and quantity of illumination, is too blue.  Any plein air painting that's predominantly warm will not have the warmth you thought it had, and if you adjust it under north light, it'll look right only under north light!  North light has a color temperature of around 7500°K.  No home displays work with that kind of light.  Incandescent lighting, a very yellow light, is around 3000°K.  Daylight, and daylight bulbs, are around 5500°K.  Museums may use bulbs that are in the 7000°K range with a CRI (color rendering index) of 100.

That's a pretty wide range to shoot for when you're trying to evaluate your paintings.  If you don't believe me, on an overcast day switch on an incandescent light in your living room and then compare the light outside with the light inside.  Your painter's eyes should show you how blue things looks outside and how orange things look inside.  Now look at the three photos at the top of the post to see how color temperature can change things.  (For the two camera photos, I used the same custom white balance setting for each, which was "fluorescent light" or  around 3500°K; for the scanned image I couldn't find out what the bulb temperature is, but my scanner usually gets the color pretty close to what I want.)

My best advice is to walk your painting around to different lighting situations in your house and see how it looks.  It's really impossible to adjust your painting perfectly for every lighting condition.   But I find that if a painting works in my living room, which has both natural, diffused light from the windows and incandescent lamps, the painting seems to work in most situations.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Pushing the Illusion: The Secret They Don't Tell You

I'm about to embark on the oil version of the pastel study I did a few days ago.  With that in mind, I thought I'd post a photo of my oil studio setup:

One benefit of working from my pastel study is that I have now moved beyond the literal representation of the scene presented in my photo and sketch references.  I can work hard at making all the elements in my scene work together harmoniously to create a finished painting.  In real life, it's rare for all the elements to work together like that.  You'd almost have to be painting in a landscape designed by Frederick Law Olmsted for that to happen.

When I'm in the field with my students and teaching them how to observe the landscape better,  the well-tutored ones will often recite the old plein air painter's maxim:  "Paint what you see, not what you know."  This is useful advice, but when I demonstrate in the field, I'll often say something like, "Well, I don't really see any blue in this spot, but if I add it, I know it'll help the viewer understand what's going on."  This goes against the wisdom handed down by the masters.

Now I'll give you the secret the masters don't hand down.

I do think it's very important, when you're first learning to observe, to "paint what you see."  But at some point, in order to turn those plein air sketches into well-crafted paintings, it's important to take the next step.  You may need to push, or even add, certain effects to create a sense of reality.  In this case, it's "Paint what you know, not what you see."

For example, I know that on a clear day blue skylight will spill down into the shadows, cooling them off and creating a temperature contrast with the warmer, sunlit areas.  Even if I don't see the blue, I may add it, just to help the illusion.  There are many cases like that.  Quite often, I will use what I know to help with the sense of distance and atmosphere.  I may not see it, but I know that if I add it or enhance it, it'll help my viewers understand what's going on.

So if that's the case, why do you still have to observe carefully?  Why can't you just paint the shadows blue, if you know they are?  Because you'll end up with a cartoon - blue shadows, yellow sunlight and rocks that look like something out of The Flinstones.  In order to get beyond the cartoon to something that looks real, you still must observe the details that define and distinguish the individual.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Second Edition: Paint Sedona - A Plein Air Painter's Field Guide to Sedona, Arizona

Breaking News!  Final Studio Sale Painting Posted!

We now return you to regularly scheduled programming, now in progress.

Over the last couple of years, I've found even more great spots in Sedona to paint.  So, I decided I needed to create a second edition of my guide for plein air painters.  The edition is now available, and it's available both as a spiral-bound paperback and as a PDF (Adobe Acrobat Reader) download.

The new edition has 43 pages plus 35 black-and-white photos.  Readers asked, Why black-and-white?  The reason is that it makes the book much more affordable - $10 for a hardcopy, $7 for a download - and as a painter, I'm more interested in design than color.  The photos give you a good idea of the subject matter and the layout of the land.  I find that's more important to me than knowing the red rocks are, well, red.

The book does include two versions of the map, full-color on the cover (which you also get with the PDF version) and black-and-white in the interior.  I've updated the map, too, to show all locations.

Each location has a photo of the terrain plus a description of the general subject matter, as well as information on parking, restrooms and when the lighting is best.

If you're coming to Sedona to paint, I hope you'll get the book.  It's a very handy reference.  Believe it or not, I actually use it myself to remind me of where to paint when I'm drawing a blank.

Here's a direct link to the hardcopy version of Paint Sedona:  A Plein Air Painter's Field Guide to Sedona, Arizona ($10).

Here's a directly link to the download version of Paint Sedona: A Plein Air Painter's Field Guide to Sedona, Arizona ($7.)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Final Pastel Study: Grand Canyon

Study:  "There Will Come Soft Rains", 18x9, pastel

This is the final version of the pastel study for my Grand Canyon oil painting.

Adjustments were few, but the cool blues, violets and red-violets in the distance were too saturated, so I greyed them down.  One can use a complement, of course, but sometimes the result is somewhat carnival-like, so I chose to use mostly greys to dull the color.  Also, to soften the viewer's fall from foreground cliff to the distant ones, I added a stepping stone - another cliff .  This intermediate cliff also gave me the chance to work a slightly cooler version of the foreground colors elsewhere into the painting; without it, those extremely warm colors would have been too isolated and given a disjointed feeling to the color harmony.  Below are a couple of detail shots.   (If you want to see a much larger version of any of these, right-click and select "open link in new tab".  Blogger's "lightbox" image viewer no longer lets you see the biggest image possible.)

By the way, I just saw a movie that should interest plein air painters, "Vincent and Theo."  Originally a mini-series shot in 1990 by Robert Altman for the BBC, it was re-edited for the big screen.  As much as I enjoyed it, one thing bugged me; every time a painter (actor) was shown painting, he held the palette incorrectly.   The palette wasn't supported by the forearm, but held out as if offering someone a plate of hors d'oeurves.  You can't hold a palette for several hours this way, not unless you pump iron regularly.  The movie is available from NetFlix (in the US) for instant viewing.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

How Far Do You Walk - Poll Results

The other day, I took a poll both here and on the WetCanvas forum.  I asked plein air painters how far they typically walk for a painting.  It's an interesting question, and beset by all sorts of variables.  A painter's mobility is certainly an issue, but so also is motivation and, perhaps, common sense.

I had nearly 100 respondents.  Only 10% said they usually painted from the car or the parking lot.  Nearly 25% were willing to walk 100 yards.  Another 25% were willing to walk up to half a mile.  Surprisingly, 20% were willing to "walk as far as it takes"!

Here are some of the comments I received from the "as far as it takes" group:
It varies, but up to 15 miles - usually by accident.  I am lured on for too greater distance by the prospect of a better view 'round the corner, then realise I have gone too far to walk back comfortably, so I get back to the car footsore and dog tired. Coast paths and river paths are the most dangerous for this.
I voted "as far as it takes!" I lose track of how long I've walked sometimes - or how long I've snowshoed. My gear is heavy, but I get used to it after a while. Though I'm often sore when I get back home! 
My maximum in the mountains was 3 1/2 hours (& 3000 feet higher.)  The problem is - if you are going too fast you have to change your wet clothes (sweat) before painting.
If I have time, I've driven 3hrs (each way,) hiked 8 miles (each way,)  plus elevation gain. I love the places I've gone, but all that effort getting there really saps the energy levels to actually paint.
What puzzles me is that when you are going out further and further on a day looking for a subject and nothing seems to be good, but coming back when you have no time left and sore feet there are great pictures in every direction you look.
This made me count the times I've gone out only to sweat up hill and back down again for a painting spot. I've gotten bee-bitten, poison-oaked and nearly skunked in my efforts and they are the more memorable ones at that!
Frederic Church wouldn't have made those great paintings of the Andes if he hadn't travelled all the way there to make a few color sketches.

By the way, the latest issue of Plein Air Magazine has my picture in it.  Because you'll have to hunt for it, I've imaged the page below with my picture outlined in red.  It's the ad for the Plein Air Convention & Expo coming up in April 2012.  I'm honored to be one of the painters in the program.

And the studio sale continues!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Working Toward a Studio Painting

Rain Storm Study, 18x9, pastel

I can you hear saying, "But this is supposed to be a blog about plein air painting!"  And you're right.  But here's the connection:  I'm in the process of creating a studio painting for a plein air event, using plein air sketches and photographs.

As part of the Grand Canyon 2012 "Celebration of Art," I need to create a studio piece that will be hung in the exhibit alongside the plein air work created during the week.  Faithful readers of my blog know that I had some pretty dramatic weather this past year - hail, lightning, torrential downpours.  This made for some really great sketching and photography.  And as I was mulling over the studio piece, it occurred to me to do something other than the usual "sunlit rocks at dawn/dusk" painting.  Sure, there's nothing like the near-incandescent glow of the Canyon at the "golden hour" - but I like something a little moodier.

Although I plan on doing an oil painting that's 24x12, a tall vertical, I felt it'd be better to solve composition and color problems early on in a smaller format.  I chose an 18x9 format, which has the same proportions.  I also decided to do it in pastel.  Pastel is better because I have a harder time making mud with pastel, and thus the color choices will be clearer to me when I refer back to the study.

At the top of this post is the 18x9 study.  I'll let this sit for awhile on my "viewing mantle" before moving on to the oil version.

Oh, and the studio sale continues!  Only 12 days left till Christmas.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Walkabout - a Poll

I'm curious to know how far a plein air painter will usually walk from the car to the painting spot.  There's a poll in the right column for this, and I hope you'll take it.  (If you're reading this through your newsreader or via e-mail, you won't see the poll; click here to go directly to my blog.)

Some of us like to paint right out of the car; others of us may walk a mile or more to get the right scene.  The farthest I've hiked was a day hike in the San Juan range near Ouray, Colorado; I threw a box of pastels and some paper in my backpack and went up, up, up.   I don't remember exactly where I stopped - it was years ago, and I had more hiking stamina then - but it was at least a couple hours in.  Experience has shown me that I don't have to hike anywhere near as far to find a good scene.  Sometimes the best ones are right under our noses.

On the other hand, there's nothing like having a good story to tell about a painting.  As you can tell, I still like to tell the one about hiking into the San Juans to paint.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Not Painting the Obvious

"Bear Mountain View" 6x12, oil

One of the problems with painting in truly spectacular places is that it is so easy to paint the obvious.  Especially if it's a famous spot, the chances are you'll paint a hackneyed view, something that's been on hundred of postcards and in thousands of family photo albums.  Sedona is a bit like that.  Everyone likes to photograph (and paint) Cathedral Rock with the waters of Oak Creek shimmering in the foreground.  I'm guilty of dozens of such photos and paintings.  But it is a pretty scene!

What is the obvious?  I'm speaking more about design than anything else.  Even if Cathedral Rock weren't famous, it'd still be an obvious scene.  The creek provides a great lead-in for the viewer, and the rock itself is a perfect center of interest.  Frederick Law Olmsted couldn't have designed a more visually pleasing landscape.

But it's too easy.  Plant a dozen painters in front of it, and they'll paint virtually the same design.  (Granted, media and style will be different.)

When you're confronted with the obvious, turning around 180 degrees and painting something else will force you into discovery mode.  Discovery mode is something we should all stretch for.  It's what makes us grow as painters.

There's one place where I've never been able to find the obvious.  Compositions are frustratingly hard to come by.  It's the old town dump, now overgrown with prickly pear, creosote bush and juniper.   You do get views of the Sedona red rocks, but they are distant.  What a great idea it would be to take a group of students there and tell them to find something to paint.  They'd probably scratch their heads, ask me why we just didn't go to Cathedral Rock where there is something to paint.  Someday, they'd understand I was doing them a favor.

Above is a sketch I did there yesterday.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Outdoor Painting Sizes

Last week I ran an informal poll among my blog readers and WetCanvas forum participants.  The question was, What size do you most typically paint in outdoors?  I was curious, because I'm in the process of writing an article for The Artist's Magazine on large format outdoor painting.

I limited the poll to certain sizes.  I suggested to participants that they find a size that is close if they didn't see theirs listed.  Over 130 painters responded, and if you're one of them, thank you!

Here are the percentages:

Remember that these are what respondents typically paint in.

Here are some observations:

  • Nearly three-quarters of the respondents typically paint either 8x10 or 9x12
  • All but 4% typically paint 12x16 or smaller

I suppose a follow-up poll might ask, What do you consider to be a large format?  But, if one were to postulate that a large format is anything that most people don't paint in, anything over 12x16 would be large.

By the way, there are still several shopping days left till Christmas!  The studio sale continues a bit longer.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Eve, the Little Mermaid - Sedona Arts Center Fundraiser

"Eve, the Little Mermaid" 6x6, oil - $100 (see below)

The Sedona Arts Center ( has embarked on a fundraiser to help with repairs of the historic barn, which houses it.  The barn was an apple barn in days gone past, and so the title of the fundraiser is fitting:  "Apples for the Art Barn."  It's a worthy cause, since SAC does a huge amount to help with local arts education.

From the website:
All artworks will be sold at the set price of $100 with a goal of raising $10,000. This will be combined with the existing funds and will be used to replace the siding, insulation and windows of the Art Barn to preserve the historical building of Sedona Arts Center.

The show, which runs until January 4th, consists of little paintings, all 6x6, with "apples" as the theme.  

My contribution is pictured above.  My grandfather, for some reason, had a little collection of ceramic mermaids, each stamped with "Made in Occupied Japan" on the bottom.  I suspect they came from my father, who served in the Marines in the Pacific in World War II.  (He was one of the few who made it back alive from Iwo Jima.)  After my grandfather died, this collection came to me.  I really like the juxtaposition of this saucy lass with the apple.  Was there ever a mermaid named "Eve"? 

The support is coarse-textured canvas, and as such, one can't put much detail into a painting.  I used Gamblin's FastMatte alkyds, partly because of the quick dry-time, but also because it allowed me to paint loosely and with a pastel-like finish. 

If you're interested in this little piece, please let SAC know.   They'll gladly help you with the purchase and will ship.  You can reach them at 928-282-3865.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Thoughts on Teaching

Photo by Ruth Ann Sturgill

Over the centuries, most painters have taught.  Back during Leonardo's day, painters took on apprentices to help with the dirty work of grinding paint and cleaning the hearth, but they also took care to teach the apprentices a thing or two.   This happened in the French academic period, too, but instruction was more formalized with a curriculum that lasted several years.  In the last century, plein air painters like Charles Hawthorne and William Merritt Chase set up schools that became very popular.  You may have seen some of the historic photos of students lined up like lemmings at the ocean.  And today, of course, you'll find many excellent plein air painters who teach, some only in their home town, but others who range across continents.

Hawthorne Class
Teaching, if you are serious about it, can take a lot of time away from painting for yourself.   It involves lecturing and, quite often, doing lengthy demonstrations in which you may paint to illustrate a point and not to make a fine picture.  You may paint to show how the temperature of shadow differs from that of light, or how a rock can be depicted as a series of interlocking planes.  If the stars are properly aligned, one of these demos may turn out well enough that a couple of brush strokes applied in the studio may turn it into something to frame.  But you're not often that lucky.

Someone once asked me, When do you paint for yourself?  Although I schedule a great many workshops, I also make sure to schedule long periods of time for myself.  It's during these times that I'm researching techniques, exploring and trying to grow as a painter.   Those weeks are precious to me, and I wouldn't give them up.   I want to continue to be painter who teaches - and not a teacher who paints.

Painters teach for two reasons.   First, to butter their bread when painting sales are down.  Second, because they enjoying sharing the craft and their vision.  But I've found a third reason to teach.  I also teach for friendship.  Over the years, a number of students have become not just good painters but good friends as well.  There's a camaraderie that develops when students come back again and again, getting better each time.  And it's very rewarding to have students follow me in my teaching travels.

Don't forget that I'm teaching in Sedona this winter:  I have other workshops, too, so click here for a full schedule.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Scottsdale Artists School Workshop in Tubac, Arizona

"Yellow House, Tubac" 9x12, oil
I have a plein air workshop coming up in Tubac, Arizona, that I'd like to spread the word about.  This will be through Scottsdale Artists' School, and I am, quite frankly, tickled pink that they asked me to teach a workshop.  SAS is one of the premiere art schools in the country, and I'm proud to be part of it.

The workshop runs January 23-26, 2012,  (that's a Monday-Thursday) and will be based at Amado Territory Ranch Inn.  (That's about 8 minutes from Tubac.) The workshop is for all levels and all media, although I will be working in oil and pastel.   Space is limited, and so is the lodging, so don't delay in signing up!

You can register here at the Scottsdale Artists' School site.

Here's a little about the workshop:

Join Michael Chesley Johnson for a mid-winter retreat in historic Tubac, Arizona. Tubac is one of the earliest settlements in Arizona and is home to the Tumacacori Mission, which was established in 1691 and is now a National Historic Park, and the Presidio, a fort founded in 1752 and now a State Park. Besides historic buildings, we'll paint Tubac's colorful streets and its mountain views.

For the student not yet comfortable with plein air painting, this workshop will show them how to get out in the field with a minimum of fuss and baggage. Holding to the concept that everything a painter needs should fit into a backpack, students will learn to strip down their gear to the essentials. In addition, they'll learn an easy, step-by-step process to capture the moment without sacrificing mood and magic. 

During the four-day workshop, students can expect to do at least one painting a day. They can expect daily demonstrations plus some studio time for initial lectures, critiques and wrap-up. Portable easel and transportation necessary.

I hope you'll join me!  Below are some photos to whet your appetite.

St Ann's Catholic Church

Historic Storefront in Tubac

Local Color in Tubac

More Local Color in Tubac

Historic Tumacacori Bar (great pool table!)

Tumacacori Mission Courtyard

Tumacacori Mission Courtyard

Tumacacori Mission Bell Tower

Demonstration at the Mission